Archive for December 9, 2002

Monday, December 9, 2002

MDJ on the WSJ and “Cult of Macintosh”

As setup for its upcoming debunking of Leander Kahney’s Cult of Macintosh, today’s MDJ examines the role of the press in Apple’s misfortunes.

Press Watch begins a double-length feature today with a look at how the “Cult of Macintosh” came to be. You probably never joined a cult or think of your decisions as irrational, but lots of reporters and at least one book author are eager to portray you as such to make a quick buck. It’s important because when the press decides something about Apple Computer or its customers, it tends to stick for years and may not be reversible. We look at the Wall Street Journal’s 1993 decision that Apple Computer was in business trouble as a primary example, leading into why the press is so fond of “cult” characterizations. All this sets background for why a certain new book is not only insulting but, in the end, unbelievable, as you’ll see in part 2.


History is a funny thing. The biggest crisis Apple Computer faced in the last decade was not the mismanagement that led to over US$1.5 billion in losses in a two-year period, but rather the sales drop-off that came from months and months of daily stories wondering about Apple Computer’s future. Whether the reports listed dramatic sales collapses that didn’t exist or dramatic software sales fall-offs that didn’t exist, the major press found a reason almost every day to speculate that Apple Computer might be bankrupt in a few months. The losses and write-offs to fix the company hurt, but what hurt more were the billions in dollars annually from customers who, thinking they saw handwriting on the wall, “moved on” to Windows. Apple’s market share has not yet recovered from that eighteen-month attack.