7 anti-Apple cliches that need to die

PC vs. Mac flamewars are older than the web itself, but it seems like the more popular/successful Apple gets, the more heated the argument gets on both sides. Almost any debate about the relative merits of one platform or another is guaranteed to degenerate into an all-out shouting match.

In the midst of all the fighting and name calling, the oddest thing happens: almost every time, you'll see a lot of the same points being raised by both sides again and again. Some of these points are so tired and worn out, they've reached cliche status.

In online debates, there's an informal rule known as Godwin's Law, whereby if you invoke references or comparisons to Nazis or Hitler, you've automatically lost the debate. I say the items on this list have become so worn out they've reached automatic rhetorical failure status on their own. I know that every time I see one of these points appear, I immediately stop any serious consideration of any other arguments from the person who brought it up.

I'm focusing on Apple haters and their cliches for this article, but don't get the idea that Apple users aren't just as guilty of cliche-ridden arguments when they argue against using Windows. If, for example, you're an Apple user and you do any of these things:

-- Cite the Blue Screen of Death (or BSOD, as he's known to his closest friends) as a point against Windows
-- Insert a dollar sign into Microsoft's name (Micro$oft, M$)
-- Use "clever" alternate spellings of Windows (Windoze and other less family-friendly revisions)
-- Call Internet Explorer "Internet Exploder"

you're employing a heavily-cliched, Godwin-esque talking point, too.

Read on for the seven deadly cliches of anti-Mac attacks.

1. Fanboy

Long ago this word actually meant something, as you can discover in this excellent article from Technologizer, but it's become so overused in the past few years that it's become meaningless. Once upon a time, "fanboy" as an insult meant someone had an overweening and maybe even creepy obsession with something or other. Maybe you had a Klingon-themed wedding, complete with uniforms, makeup, and vows in the Klingon language? That would have made you a Star Trek fanboy (we prefer the term "Trekker," good sir). If you spray-painted a big number "3" on the side of your Ford and had an entire set of Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates in your den, that meant you were a NASCAR fanboy.

But "fanboy" has been used so much in Apple vs. PC wars that it's lost its flavor. "You're just an Apple fanboy," is a dismissive debate tactic, used to imply that someone is so blinded by their love for all things Apple that they'd say or do anything to support the company and its products. I don't deny that there are Apple users like that out there, but "fanboy" has been spread so thin that almost anyone with a positive opinion of Apple's products is saddled with that label. It's even reached the mainstream press now, and as all internet veterans know, once something goes mainstream, it's played out.

"Fanboy" is so tired that I've started something new: if I see any anti-Apple argument longer than a couple sentences or so, I start scanning for that word first. If I see "fanboy" written anywhere, I don't even bother reading the rest. The worst thing about "fanboy" is it's really just the pot calling the kettle black. If you're willing to dismiss someone else's opinions because you think they have some kind of cult-like obsession, there's a good chance you've got one, too.

2. Kool-Aid

Speaking of cult-like obsessions, I've lost count of how many times I've been accused of "drinking the Apple Kool-Aid." This cliche got its start after nearly 1000 members of the Jonestown cult drank poison-laced Flavor-Aid back in 1978. It's meant to imply blind devotion, with the idea that Mac users are all members of some kind of crazy, wide-eyed commune with Steve Jobs as its inspirational but depraved leader.

I'll admit we don't help matters much ourselves: lots of Mac users turn into platform evangelists, sometimes to an irritating degree, and we've even adopted the term "Cult of Mac" to describe behaviors that really could be described as "fanboyism." But just like "fanboy," the "Kool-Aid" thing gets said at least 100,000 times a day on the internet, for the same reason as "fanboy" -- a means of dismissing the other side's points because you think they've been brainwashed.

Guys, "Kool-Aid" has lost its punch. Besides, I prefer the Apple Colt 45. It works every time.

3. No games

Ever heard this one? "Good luck playing games on your overpriced Fisher Price laptop, oh wait, there aren't any, hahaha." My copies of Civilization IV, Bioshock, and now Portal say otherwise. Macs do have far fewer games than Windows-running PCs, and even though Valve just launched Steam for the Mac, PCs will probably always have more games than Macs. That said, things have improved since the early- to mid-2000s -- the last time this argument had some merit. Fewer and fewer AAA titles are PC-only these days, and considering how successful Steam for the Mac has been so far, the days of the Mac as a neglected gaming platform are over.

Besides, show me how many PC or Mac gamers only game on their computers. I've got a PS3, Wii, DS, and iPhone, with a grand total of over 150 games between all of those platforms. Gaming on my Mac is kind of an afterthought; until Portal came out for the Mac in early May, I think the last time I did any serious gaming on my MacBook Pro was in December of last year.

My consoles are for games, my Mac is for work, and my iPhone falls somewhere in the middle. But that doesn't mean I never game on my Mac because there's "no games" for it -- there's now more games for the Mac than I even have time to demo, much less play.

4. One-button mouse

This one is older than dirt and only half as tasty. What's funniest about the "one-button mouse" argument is that Apple's Magic Mouse and trackpads now essentially have no buttons, so we should be talking about a "no button mouse" instead, right?

I'll admit that Apple's obsession with killing off buttons is a little weird, but it's had zero effect on my workflow. My MacBook Pro's trackpad is configurable to an almost excessive degree thanks to multitouch and tools like BetterTouchTool. Right now I can click, right-click, middle-click, scroll, three, four, or five-finger swipe in four different directions, pinch, expand, rotate, four-finger tap... and those are just the options I've enabled. With multitouch, my trackpad can recognize up to eleven different points of contact, meaning the possibilities are nearly endless. All of that on a trackpad with only one button.

Say what you will about Apple's war on buttons, but I've played all the way through both Bioshock and Portal using just my MacBook Pro's built-in trackpad, with no external mouse. That's not something I'd even attempt to do on a non-Apple trackpad, no matter how many buttons it comes with.

5. Any reference to 1984

Ever since the App Store launched, with its draconian and often Byzantine rules on what is or is not acceptable in the store, roughly 574,892 articles have come out retreading the 1984 theme. Apple kind of brought this one on themselves with that Super Bowl ad 26 years ago; iconic as it was, you just knew people would someday jump at the chance to get all "ironic" and say that Apple is now the "Big Brother" they once decried. Which is exactly what's happened, of course, because not a week goes by now without at least five articles mentioning Steve Jobs and Big Brother in the same sentence.

Here's a quick challenge: name the protagonist, or any other character besides Big Brother, from Orwell's novel... without using Google or Wikipedia. If you can do it, then kudos to you: go right on using that epic cliche of a comparison. Although last time I checked, nobody's going to storm your house, put a gun to your head, and direct you to and force you to buy anything it sells. Additionally, Apple still doesn't have an equivalent of Room 101 at the Cupertino campus. Maybe they'll announce it at WWDC.

6. "Apple is the new Microsoft"

Apple isn't the new Microsoft. You know why not? Because other than Windows 7 and Office, the "new" Microsoft doesn't know how to make a successful product. The Zune tanked. The KIN will tank. Windows Phone Blake's 7 (or whatever they're calling it this week) is going to tank. The Xbox, for all the market penetration it has, is a loss leader for Microsoft even after five years on the shelves. Internet Explorer's market share, which was overwhelming ten years ago, is inching downward toward 50%. Apple's market cap just surpassed Microsoft's, and the reason why had just as much to do with Microsoft's financial free-fall as it has Apple's ascendance.

If anything, Apple is more like the old Microsoft. So fat with cash it can buy just about whatever it wants. Dominance in at least one industry, thanks to the iPod. A tight grip on public mindshare of what a smartphone is and is capable of doing, because of the iPhone. And yes, I'll admit it: a growing overconfidence, bordering on arrogance.

Apple isn't the "new" Microsoft. It's got far more in common with the Microsoft of the mid-90s, when it was on top of its game and had yet to be smacked down by regulators or competitors. But the comparisons run thin when you look at the numbers behind them, because unlike mid-90s Microsoft, Apple doesn't have a monopoly on anything. Worldwide Mac marketshare is near 5%. The iPhone's worldwide marketshare among smartphones is about 16%, and something like 2-3% when we're talking about cellphones as a whole. iTunes Store sales account for about 27% of music sold in the US. The iPod is the closest thing Apple has to a monopoly, but even that has a 70% or so marketshare -- not the massive dominance of Windows or Office.

Mid-90s Microsoft was a colossus, capable of steamrolling the competition into dust. Its reputation was earned and deserved -- I mean, it got to the point that Bill Gates even demolished Homer Simpson's half-baked little startup. The Apple of 2010 wields a lot of power, and it sometimes does it in a very heavy-handed manner... but name one thing Apple's done that even comes close to what Microsoft did to Netscape Navigator.

7. Smug Mac users

This last one needs to die for a different reason: because unlike any of the others, this one is often true. Mac geeks, you're all guilty of this. So am I, right now, in this article. There's me, something like 700 words ago: "I'd never try to use the trackpad on one of their laptops, hur hur hur." We look down our noses at Windows and computers without Apple logos on them. We justify paying a little more for our Macs by talking about build quality, reliability, and the ability to run OS X with the same borderline snooty tones as BMW owners describing the merits of their cars versus a Ford. "Macs never crash," we lie. "OS X runs so much better than Windows," we say through clenched teeth, right before adjusting our ascots.
The "Get a Mac" ads didn't do our image any favors. I'm glad those ads have been retired, because I hated them for the same reason a lot of Apple haters did. John Hodgeman's PC character was a loser, but he was a loveable loser, the kind of character a lot of us geeks can identify with. Justin Long's Mac character, whether intentionally or not, radiated smugness. I may be a Mac user, but I'd rather have a beer with "PC" than frappuccinos with "Mac" any day.

I think this smugness, whether it's perceived or actual smugness, is what fuels most of the anti-Apple hatred these days. If you don't own an iPhone and have no intention of buying one, then it's no skin off your back if Apple runs its App Store like "Stalinist Russia" or "Nazi Germany" or "North Korea" or whatever bit of hyperbole is in vogue this week. If you don't own a Mac and don't want to, then why does the opinion of a measly 5% of the computing world even matter? I'm willing to bet it's in large part because of the Smug.

So there you have it: six cliches that need to die because they're inherently dumb, and one that needs to die because it's sometimes true. Go ahead and keep using them if you want, but at this point it's like busting out the "cabbage patch" in a dance contest: may be good for laughs, but no points awarded. As always, feel free to disagree with me, because what do I know? I'm just a smug, Kool-Aid drinking fanboy, who never gets to play any games on his one-button computer thanks to Big Brother Steve and the New Microsoft.