Apple Bakes Macs While Microsoft Fakes Flacks

It’s official: the Apple Mac is by far and away the most popular alternative to Microsoft Windows. Mac shipments were up 34% during the last quarter, the most successful period of computer sales ever for Apple. Overall, Apple sold 2.2 million Macs, 400,000 more than the previous record for Mac sales set just last quarter.

Despite press reports of the “halo effect” of people buying Macs because they like their iPods and iPhones, more Windows users are switching to Macs because their Windows PCs are out of date and Vista is just not that popular. Besides, people have finally figured out (after about a decade of it being true) that there is no penalty in switching from Windows to the Mac. Superior design, high-profile marketing, and the switch to the Intel common-denominator processor platform did far more to boost Mac sales than anything else.

Security is also a major reason. The worm, Trojan horse, and bot combination known as Storm has become the most successful piece of malware to date, having infected nearly 50 million PCs worldwide. It has been around for nearly a year (see Bruce Schneier’s report in Wired) and the anti-virus companies are powerless to stop it. While Storm has been associated with some pump-and-dump stock scams, not much has happened yet in the way of criminal activity, but rumors are circulating that Storm is only in a “phase 1” implementation and that “phase 2” will be spawn outrageously high criminal activity because Storm is already, or will be, leased to criminal organizations and perhaps terrorist groups.

This is not a joke, and it’s not going away. Scams designed to steal identities, data and ultimately money are on the rise. And of course, like all other malware, Storm affects Windows PCs; the Mac OS X seems to be immune, even as the Mac’s market share grows.

Blackfriars’ Marketing points out two security features of the new version of OS X (Leopard) that make it more secure than anything else on the market: tagged applications, and signed applications. Before OS X runs an app for the first time, it asks for your consent and displays when it was downloaded, what was used to download it, and what URL it came from. This run-time validation, combined with signed applications that ensure integrity, make OS X more secure than Windows.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working overtime to outflank the press with its flack onslaught about how “open” Microsoft is becoming. Microsoft’s supposed capitulation to the European Union is really a case of Microsoft dragging the legal fight out to its bitter end. The EU had already smacked down Microsoft’s appeal and the company really had run out of legal options.

Microsoft is now supposed to offer free and unfettered access to the Microsoft work group server protocols that will benefit open source developers. But patent lawyers are the only winners: Microsoft can still engage in patent litigation and can still collect royalties (though the royalties are a fraction of what they were before). As reported in the blog walking with elephants,

A careful parsing of the Commission statement makes clear, however, that the Commission may have obtained access to the protocol documentation from a copyright and/or trade secret standpoint, but the same cannot be said on the patent front. Noticeably missing from the Commission statement is any affirmation that open source software developed to implement the protocols will be free from patent concerns.

The net effect is that Microsoft has turned an unruly enemy — the European Union — into an unwitting PR flack. With the continued use of “open source” throughout the EU’s statements and help of the business press, Microsoft can now continue to insist it is open-source friendly when in fact it is not. The company essentially dragged out the legal process long enough to serve its PR purpose.

Imagine if Microsoft spent all that legal money on researching and developing better products.

So you want to develop open source software that interoperates with Microsoft’s protocols? Good luck with that.

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