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August 3, 2005

Frothing at the Mouth with Doom

The Mac media have all lost their minds lately. Accuracy and facts have been eschewed in favor of wild-assed guessing and shocking attempts at driving readership with fear and bullshit. Apparently they've taken a page out of the American news media's playbook.

What's the latest awful example? The Mighty Mouse. Yesterday, Apple launched a sleek new multi-button mouse with a scrollball. Publications are pissing all over themselves with nonsense like "OMG, it's the end of one-button mice!" and "APPLE IS DYING!!!1one" to draw in ad clicks.

It's not the end of one-button mice; it is a one-button mouse unless you want it to be a four-button mouse. Apple could replace every shipping Pro Mouse with it tomorrow and nobody would notice (except for the scrollball).

Two choice quotes from the dumbest Macworld UK article I've ever read:

Apple's latest product, Mighty Mouse, has a tiny secret - it's another Windows-compatible product from the Cupertino company.

Ugh, no. It's not like the engineers and designers at Apple sat around and said "Hey, let's make a Windows-compatible mouse!" This is a base misunderstanding of how one designs USB mice and keyboards. I'll give you a hint: every other Apple mouse and keyboard to this point has been PC-compatible too! Run for the hills, they're going to make you all use Windows!

When you make a USB keyboard or mouse, you make it comply to the USB Human Interface Device (HID) spec. In the absence of any more advanced driver, a base USB HID driver takes over and any compliant device will just work. This is why any multi-button USB mouse works in Mac OS X. This is why the Mighty Mouse works on Windows; this is also why it only works as a multi-button mouse on older versions of Mac OS X lacking the special driver that lets you program the extra buttons. (The lack of drivers for older versions of OS X isn't going to stop anyone; USB Overdrive will undoubtedly easily fill the same programmability niche Apple's own drivers do.)

Same goes for Bluetooth. When you design a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard, you design it to comply to the Bluetooth's HID protocol. Hence it's no gigantic surprise Apple's Bluetooth keyboards and mice work just fine in Windows.

NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin told the San Francisco Chronicle: "We've seen a pattern of Apple introducing Mac-only products and modifying them later to make them more broadly compatible. But now, the trend is to make them compatible out of the box."

And what products would that be, ya idiot? I can think of the iPod, and... um... err... the iPod. Except the iPod was introduced as a Mac-only product and was later modified to be more broadly compatible.

You could argue AirPort base stations, but they've been Mac- and Windows-compatible from the administration side for a long time. The fact they allow any computer to connect stems from the fact it's a standard communications protocol, not some master plan at 1 Infinite Loop to make every product Windows-compatible.

This bright "analyst" could also be referring to Apple's redesigned Cinema Displays, I suppose, but that's bunk too. The Apple Display Connector (ADC), which Apple previously used, was expensive to produce and grew to be only rarely available on after-market video cards. It was also on the market long before DVI LCDs appeared in any quantity; in fact, ADC was initially used to connect CRT displays.

ADC never caught on outside Apple (particularly as many pro users still swear by CRTs still using a standard DB-15 VGA connector) and they were able to cut costs and get up-to-date by switching to DVI. Again, there was no conspiracy at Apple to make Cinema Displays usable on Windows PCs. DVI's a standard and monitors don't need drivers. You hook 'em up, they work.

Wait, wait, I've got it! The increased number of cross-platform products is -- get this -- the iPod mini, the iPod shuffle, and the Mighty Mouse! Oooh, three products, two of which are an extension of an existing line that was already dual-platform, and one which is Windows-compatible by the fact it has to be!

Holy crap, Apple must be going out of business. Call up The Mac Observer and increase the Death Knell Counter; Apple's becoming a peripheral company!

Not.

Is being as stupid as Rob Enderle a requirement to be an analyst these days, or what? Seriously, I would never make an investment based on what some analyst for a research group says. They're so far from reality these days I'm not sure they're within the earth's gravitational pull anymore. Don't let facts get in your way, kids, just make something up to earn that paycheck. "Analyst" and "Analyze" are related for a reason; the idea is to analyze facts and come to a conclusion, not just fart out whatever makes a nice sound bite.

Posted by Colin at August 3, 2005 8:17 AM

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