Why Mac Zealots Need to Chill


By Charles Haddad Heaven forbid. Guy Kawasaki, Apple Computer's former chief evangelist, was recently sighted giving a presentation in London to a bunch of IBM loyalists using -- gasp! -- a ThinkPad. Such a blasphemy could not go unpunished. The self-appointed Ayatollahs of the Mac world set out to clip Kawasaki wings, flaming him on bulletin boards and chat rooms across the Internet. You would have thought 46-year-old Kawasaki had sacrificed one of his own children in public rather than giving a presentation on the dot-com bust.

Sure, Kawasaki saw the irony in it all. "If Steve Jobs could only see me now," he joked to the 4,000 IBMers and customers gathered to hear him speak at PartnerWorld 2001. But even the thick-skinned Kawasaki was stunned by the angry response among some in the Mac community, according to an interview he gave online shortly after the presentation.

AGE OF DARKNESS? Now, I'm not saying anyone should shed a tear for Kawasaki. He's a big boy and has made a pretty penny over the years humorously pillorying windbags at Microsoft, IBM, and Apple. I'll never forget the joke he used to begin his presentations in the early 1990s. "How," Kawasaki would ask in a Keatonesque deadpan, "does Bill Gates change a light bulb?" The answer: "He doesn't. He declares darkness the new standard."

Sometimes I wonder if too many of us in the Mac community are ready to declare darkness the new standard. What I mean is this: The true believers among us are too quick to hunt down dissenters and then extinguish them with the blowtorch of righteousness. You all know what I'm talking about. Such intolerance really gets my dander up. It makes anyone who owns a Mac look like a zealot, scaring away potential new users. This much I'm sure of: If we don't attract fresh blood, our community will fossilize as surely as the trees in Arizona's Petrified National Forest.

It's especially true when we wield lightning bolts for small offenses such as Kawasaki's. Come on, the guy made a clean break with Apple and is just trying to make a living out of his new consultancy, Garbage.com. It wasn't his fault that his cherished PowerBook wouldn't work at what was basically a Windows users' conference.

JUST A COMPUTER. Plus, who among us in the business world hasn't been in Kawasaki's shoes? Mac enthusiasts are either forced to use PCs at work or choose to use them because they do a better job at certain tasks, such as communicating with the rest of the business world. By condemning Kawasaki, the Mac Ayatollahs are condemning many, if not most, of the rest of us.

And where is it written that you've got to love a Mac to use it? Sure, the Mac is cool. But gentle reader, I try never to forget that as much as I love the Mac, it's still just a computer. Oh boy. Now I've done it. I can already feel the heat of the flaming e-mails that are sure to come my way this week.

But those who would scorch me, please, hold your fire for a moment. Let me add a thought that will really tick off you Ayatollahs out there. I suspect that Kawasaki's real crime was not in publicly using a ThinkPad. What put him on the Ayatollahs' hit list occurred months earlier. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Kawasaki said: "The bigger challenge for Apple is that they have to make a computer that kills the Macintosh. Right now, they're milking the Macintosh. But what they need to do is jump to the next curve."

I couldn't have said it better myself. To me, this is just the kind of message the Mac community desperately needs to hear -- but is so afraid to acknowledge. Ironically, I think Apple has gotten the message. That's what OS X, the new operating system scheduled for release later this month, is all about: Navigating the next curve in the road. If Apple is willing to welcome change, then, perhaps its more fanatical users should, too. Haddad, Atlanta-based correspondent for BusinessWeek, is a long-time Apple Computer buff. Follow his weekly Byte of the Apple column, only on BW Online


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