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Cool vs Cool
Apple is clearly perceived as cooler than Microsoft.
- Eliot Van Buskirk
We received a letter from someone who wondered why we don't think Microsoft Windows is cool. (True.) That's a tough question, but the fact of the matter is neither Microsoft nor Windows are cool.
What is cool? Maybe it's easier citing examples.
The Hives are cool: the current (August 2004) issue of Spin calls them very cool - and 'the best live band on the planet'. That's cool.
[You should buy this issue of Spin because it is cool to own a copy, and you should buy all The Hives' records because it is very cool to own them all, and you should listen to them even when you sleep.]
Knowing then what the correct definition of 'cool' is, can we say unequivocally that Microsoft and Windows are not cool? Of course we can. Windows is one of the most derided pieces of software on the planet and anyone purporting it is cool is simply not cool. Look at Paul Thurrott - he's not cool, he's the king of asskissing, still trying to make money off his symbiosis with Redmond. How cool is that?
Here we have freaks saying 'Microsoft Windows is cool' and they can't stay online for ten minutes without getting the shit clobbered out of them by some very cool Russian hackers, and people are losing their life savings to criminal gangs, and all of this is because they are very stupid: they are running a piece of software that is anything but cool.
And as for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, how cool are they?
At Comdex 2003 in Las Vegas they tried to do a mock-up of The Matrix in the roles of Neo and Morpheus - if you saw it you'd know they're about as uncool as they come.
And look at all these idiot shots of Microsoft employees: most of them weigh over 400 lbs and how cool is that? They have necks wider than a drag racer's back tyres - can you call that cool?
Let's jump the fence. Let's go over to the other side. What's the name of that guy running things over there? Isn't he the one always looking slim and healthy and he always wears jeans and sneakers? That's pretty cool.
OK, now let's look at accomplishments, and let's start with the uncool people at Microsoft. What could possibly make them cool?
Microsoft have given us:
- MBASIC. This was so simple IBM fit it in their ROM chip.
- The backslash. Hey, that is not very cool.
- MS-DOS. How uncool can you get?
- Windows. No comment.
- Visual J++. Even the name stinks 'uncool'.
- Visual J#. Adds insult to injury.
- C#. More like Cb.
OK, that's enough. Anything else Microsoft have given us has been stolen and we know it. Even their asinine leader Ballmer distinguishes between 'innovation' (he claimed the DOJ needed to let Microsoft continue with 'innovation') and what he now calls 'de novo innovation', which he defines as 'innovations created by Microsoft'. So if that's what 'de novo innovation' is, and ordinary 'innovation' is different, who is he kidding? Can people really buy this stinking crap? Ballmer cool? Forget it, just forget it.
OK, back over the fence. The dude we're looking at is Steve Paul Jobs. What has he given us? Let's take a long look, because it's likely people have not taken such a long look in a very long time.
Together with his colleagues, Steve Paul Jobs has given us:
- Apple Computer. He's one of the founders and the only one of the founders still on board.
- NeXT Computer. The most revolutionary commercial computer company ever.
- Pixar. Currently the leading (some would say the only) animated film factory.
- Finding Nemo. The best selling video in the history of the Universe.
- Apple ][. A revolutionary computer which paved the way for personal computing.
- The mouse. Yes, he gave us this, for even if PARC had a prototype, they couldn't put it into production. It was Jobs and company who ran through hundreds of test models to find the one that would work for the general public. This in itself is quite the feat.
- The Macintosh. Came out in the wake of the IBM PC, which itself was nothing but an 'off the shelf component' based box. Very much the 'dent in the universe' Jobs claimed it was. Even the way Jobs organised the Macintosh project was revolutionary.
- The NeXTcube. This was a delicious piece of machinery if ever there was one.
- NeXTSTEP. The basis of OS X, a system so ahead of its time even today it's not funny.
- A record deal many still cannot believe. Jobs actually got the 'Big Five' behind the RIAA to go along with a good music download system. This took years of work and pestering the bastards before they gave in. To this day, Jobs fights their attempts to raise the prices of downloads to the astronomical. Musicians world-wide think Jobs is cool - how can he then not be? For the unveiling he had Bono from U2, Mick Jagger, and SARAH on stage hugging him - how much more cool can you be?
- The iMac. This was a design by Jonathan Ive from 1992 that the then board of Apple refused to look at. When Jobs took the helm five years later and asked if anyone had any cool ideas, Ive took the wraps off and showed him. Jobs recognised talent and he recognised good ideas, and you can't get much cooler than that.
- He obliterated the diskette. This is very cool.
- The Titanium PowerBook. It had small foibles but in terms of cool there has rarely been better.
- The Anodised Aluminium PowerBook. This is a turbo version of the Titanium PowerBook which corrects most of the small foibles of the latter. He got Yao Ming and Mini-Me to do the adverts. They were very cool. Doing business like this is of course very cool.
- The iBook. At first a toilet seat, it later became in its second incarnation one of the most durable, impregnable, indestructible notebook computers ever. For every student on the planet, just ask them: you can't get cooler than this. And pound for pound it's still the best computer deal on the planet.
- The statistically most reliable (and coolest) personal computer hardware on the planet. Apple computer hardware has the by far lowest return rate, the by far best quality control, and an incomparable 'out of the box experience'. Cool? There's a definition if there ever was one.
- MACH, Objective-C, Project Builder and Interface Builder. MACH is totally cool because it adds a thick layer of stability to an already stable Unix. Objective-C is about as cool as you can get, what with it being the only pedigree descendant of Alan Kay's Smalltalk and what with it being lightning fast as well, and what with it respecting the language it's built on and what with it being so unbelievably easy to learn and to work with and what with it just being cool. Project Builder and especially Interface Builder are extremely cool because if you've ever done GUIs anywhere else you know this to be true. And Jobs didn't invent these himself, but he brought them to the world. And that's very cool.
- An operating system with as yet no exploits. OS X has had its potential holes, but none have been exploited. Waiting for an exploit of OS X is like hanging around in the park waiting day after day for a solar eclipse: if people knew what you were doing, they'd say you were very uncool.
- The iPod. Another good definition of 'cool'. There are five models in two generations and they're all so cool Jonathan Ive was voted cultural icon of the year in the UK - ahead of JK Rowling - how much cooler can you get?
- Cover stories on all the big news weeklies. The press love Jobs and Apple because they are so cool. The only time Gates will make a cover is if his company is in trouble, and that's because everyone hates Gates. The only place Ballmer will get his picture in public is at US post offices.
- The iTunes Music Store. With over 100,000,000 downloads and a 70+% market share, the store has revolutionised the music industry and injected life into a business the RIAA seem content to let fall apart. And when the 100,000,000th downloader made his purchase, who was watching on his own computer screen? That's right: and Jobs called the dude straight away to say hello and congratulate him. How much more cool can you get? Can you imagine how you would feel if Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer ever called you, for any reason? You'd want to throw up! No, Jobs is very cool here too.
- The cheapest, most efficient supercomputer in the world. Look at Virginia Tech. Look at the guy running the show there. If he isn't cool, what is? He didn't even ask Apple for a special deal: he asked them for a special afternoon. He flew out to Cupertino to see the G5 Power Mac first hand, then flew home and ordered his armada online! At regular prices! How much more cool can it be? And the grid placed in the top 5 of all supercomputers in the world and to a fraction of what any of the other supercomputers cost. This is so cool it can give you frostbite.
- The AACG - the Apple Advanced Computing Group. These guys are in the same company as the guys who make the iPod remember. And they're real rocket scientists. If you haven't seen what they're up to, check them out. With people like this onboard, it is no wonder Jobs has to be cool.
[You can also see a good record of all this here.]
OK, that's enough. That list could go on forever. And for the record, you can download all of The Hives' songs off iTunes - even if you're so uncool as to use Microsoft Windows. Maybe if you listen to their music long enough you will slowly begin to understand what 'cool' is all about.
And then you won't wonder anymore why some people don't care what happens to Microsoft or Windows.