Top 10 Myths About Apple

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Apple's iPhone took the tech world by storm when it debuted back in 2007.

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Top 10 Myths About Apple

Like many other successful tech companies, Apple, Inc. is a myth magnet. There's a simple reason for this: The Cupertino, Calif.-based company is shrouded in secrecy. Press and social networking Web sites are always rife with rumors about Apple's next big product release -- a secret guarded more closely than "The Hobbit" film production.

The mystique surrounding the company is both justified and hard-earned. Apple was founded in 1976 and found success quickly with the invention of the Apple I Personal computer (PC). However, it was the advent of the Macintosh in 1984 (and the classic television commercial that launched it) that would make Apple famous. It wouldn't last, though, as tensions between co-founder Steve Jobs and president and CEO John Sculley would lead to Jobs' departure the following year. Jobs wouldn't return to Apple until 1997, when the company was in the midst of a steep decline [source: The Apple Museum].

That decline may have been fortuitous, as no one saw the iMac coming. No one predicted the revolutionary impact of the iPod, iPhone or iPad, either. As a result of these insanely successful products, Apple faithful await the annual MacWorld conference with great anticipation, speculating about what new product announcements will be made.

For all Apple's rock-star status in the tech world, there's still a lot that we don't know about the company. Here, we'll debunk 10 myths about Apple, in no particular order. Mystery solved -- or is it?

10: Apple is Going Out of Business

The biggest running joke in tech circles is that Apple has been going out of business for 33 years. For decades, it was the remote outlier of the personal computing world, grabbing a miniscule share of the Microsoft-dominated market whenever it could.

Many of Apple's product releases have been met with derision from the tech journalism establishment. A lot of that ire was directed toward the Newton, the first commercially produced, writable tablet PC that turned out to be a critical and commercial bomb. Innovation can be costly, and in the minds of some journalists, Apple is always one (false) step away from bankruptcy.

One example of this rumor in action happened in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone. Today, the iPhone is the most recognized name in smartphones. In 2007, though, critics dismissed Apples' new iPhone (and its price tag) as "nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks" [source: Lynn]. In the fourth quarter of 2008, several months into an economic recession in the U.S., Apple sold 4 million iPhones, representing an 88 percent increase over the same quarter a year before [source: Apple].

Critics have also long predicted that Apple will be pushed out of the computer hardware business, forced to focus instead on software or electronics. In 2006, forecasts said Apple would stop making Macintosh computers by 2010 [source: Siebold]. Those speculations, of course, proved false.

Meanwhile, Apple shipped 25 percent more Macintosh computers in May 2009 than it did one year before. By comparison, the personal computer market in general only increased shipments by one 1 percent over the same period [source: Gonsalves]. In 2009, Macs account for a solid 9 percent of the American PC market, compared to 6 percent only two years prior [source: Cheng].

Even Apple's toughest critics would have a hard time finding anything to criticize about those figures. The next item in our list, though, has some people keeping an eye on Apple no matter what the numbers look like.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is considered the driving force behind Apple, Inc.

Lester Cohen/WireImage

9: Without Steve Jobs, Apple is Finished

Steve Jobs is synonymous with Apple's success. When he returned to the floundering company in 1997 as interim CEO after being ousted in a boardroom coup in 1985, he led a mythic Apple resurgence that still continues today [source: Cheng].

Jobs was the black-turtleneck-and-jeans-clad tech guru who, year after year, took the stage at MacWorld to introduce the world to some of the most innovative computing and electronics gadgets of the past two decades, including the original iMac, iPod and iPhone.

When Jobs stepped down in January 2009 for a six-month leave of absence due to serious -- and undisclosed -- health issues, the man and his company made headlines around the world. Could Apple possibly survive without its charismatic genius of a CEO? The question lingered after Jobs returned to work, especially when he eventually resigned from his chief executive role in August 2011. He passed away on Oct. 5, 2011, at the age of 56.

In spite of the natural grief and uncertainty tied to his death, most experts believe Apple will have no trouble carrying on without Jobs. For one thing, it's easy to overlook the fact that, in spite of his charisma and influence, Jobs didn't conceive of or design many of Apple's greatest hits. Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design, gets credit for the original iMacs, the click-wheel iPod and the iPhone 3G [source: Arthur]. What about all those memorable Apple commercials and marketing campaigns? Remember the "Switch" and "Mac versus PC" ads? Those were the brainchild of Phil Schiller, senior vice president of globel marketing [source: Dannen].

More importantly, the Apple that Jobs left behind in 2011 was very different than the Apple that Steve Jobs saved in 1997 [source: Harris]. Thanks to Jobs, Apple has a clear vision, strong branding and an unflaggingly loyal following. Even as it moves on following Jobs' death, the company will be on sure footing -- or as sure as things get in the tech industry -- for a long time to come.

Our next myth has caused potential Apple customers to hesitate, but let's see why it's all just a misunderstanding.

Actors John Hodgman and Justin Long starred in several TV commercials during Apple's "Get a Mac" ad campaign.

Screen capture by Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

8: Macs and Windows Computers are Incompatible

One of Apple's biggest marks on pop culture was its "Get a Mac" ad campaign featuring actors John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac. The "Mac versus PC" TV commercials prompted both serious debates and numerous parodies. With all that hype, it's easy to assume that Macs and Windows PCs are so different as to be utterly incompatible.

It's true that Macs and Windows PCs run on different operating systems. Macs use the UNIX-based OS X while Windows machines use, well, Windows. But that doesn't mean that the two operating systems speak completely different languages.

For starters, just about every common software application runs on both Macs and Windows PCs. That includes Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook), most major Web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari), Adobe Photoshop and even iTunes. This means that Mac and PC users can share almost every type of document or file. What's more, Macs and PCs can easily run on the same home or corporate network.

For users, the major difference between Mac and Windows comes down to cosmetics and semantics. A long-time Windows users might look at a Mac and ask, "Where's the Start menu? Why don't applications close when I click the X? What the heck is a Finder?" One other notable difference is games, with some PC games appearing for Mac after the title's initial release, or not at all.

Part of the confusion comes from the different ways that the two systems approach menus. On a Mac, the main application menu is always on the top of the screen, separate from the active application windows themselves. So, even when you close your browser windows on a Mac, the application you were using is still running. You have to select "Quit" to close the application completely.

The great thing is you don't have to choose between Macs and PCs anymore: Apple offers an application called Boot Camp that lets you run Windows on your Mac. When you use Boot Camp, you can select whether to switch between OS X and Windows when you reboot the computer. Apple ensures that Windows has all the hardware drivers it needs for the Mac you're using, though it does limit you to the 32-bit version of Windows even if you have 64-bit Mac hardware.

Now, let's look at a myth that could hit you right in the wallet.

Minimalism is a hallmark of Apple's design philosophy, as indicated by the iPod.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

7: Apple Products Aren't Overpriced

This is a myth perpetuated by Apple's talented public relations department and echoed by Apple fans around the world. Apple does not quibble with the fact that, on average, Apple products cost more than similar products made by other manufacturers. Instead, it argues that its products are so superior that they're worth the price hike.

Compare the minimalist perfection of the iPod to the clunky MP3 players that came before it. Consider the intuitive touch-screen magic of the iPhone and the baffling menus on other smart phones. Remember when you saw your first iMac? It knocked those beige boxes right out of the park, didn't it?

Of course people are willing to pay a little more money for superior design and a more satisfying user experience. How much more are the willing to shell out, though? You can't put a price tag on style, but you can put a price tag on hardware.

In 2009, given a MacBook Pro and a Dell laptop with nearly the same hardware specifications, the Mac cost $675 more [source: Wildstrom]. Opinions vary on whether it's worth it to pay more than 50 percent more for the MacBook to get your hands on the OS X operating system. Microsoft calls this the "Apple Tax." Apple calls it just another myth [source: Fried].

Apple's prices have also prompted creative hackers to invent their own Mac knock-offs. For example, PC hackers at Hackintosh.com maintain steps on how to run Mac OS X on cheaper PC hardware, even though OS X is not supported on hardware other than a Mac. For our next myth, we'll look at why these efforts to tweak or clone Apple software isn't as easy as it might seem.

6: Apple is a Friend of Open Source

In computing lore, Microsoft is the monopolistic beast who crushes the creative and entrepreneurial aspirations of small, open-source (or non-proprietary) developers. Apple, on the other hand, is one of the "good guys." It would certainly seem to be true, since OS X is built upon the community-coded FreeBSD kernel and Safari uses open-source technology called WebKit [source: Cubrilovic]. Also, the application programming interface for Apple iOS is available for anyone who wants to dabble in creating their own apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The irony is that Apple, the friend of open source, is now viewed by many techies as more proprietary than Microsoft [source: Asay]. The complaint, echoed by many open-source software developers, is that Apple builds its products by using the very best open-source technology and then closes them off to the public behind hermetically sealed cases and teams of lawyers.

For example, Apple's lawyers recently pressured a small group of Linux programmers to stop online discussions of reverse engineering iTunes to figure out how to make iPods work with software other than iTunes. Apple says that's illegal [source: McMillan]. Apple only wants iPod to work with iTunes and it only wants iPhone users to download new applications through its own online App Store. This is frustrating for developers who have to win the approval of Apple before they can distribute their software to consumers.

Software rights aren't all that Apple's fighting for. In our article Why has Germany blocked sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab? we take a brief look at Apple's lawsuits against Samsung and other tablet PC manufacturers for copying both its hardware and software designs. Thus, Apple isn't just protecting its own products, but it's making sure others can't benefit from cloning the features that made those products successful.

You may not be able to clone Apple products, but would Apple clone one of its products to create another? We'll answer that question in the next myth.

The iPad is wildly popular, but is it just a large-screen iPod Touch?

©iStockphoto.com/Yunus Arakon

5: The iPad is Just a Big iPod Touch

Following the iPad launch, critics looked beyond the dazzling demos to see what the device was all about [source: Fox and Albro]. Their conclusion? It's just a larger version of the iPod Touch.

On the surface, this certainly seems true. Both devices run the Apple iOS and, thus, can run any of the apps available from the App Store. The look and feel of the operating system is identical on each devices, as is the sleek, minimalistic look of the silver edging, black frame and single button. Between the two, the iPad gives you the larger screen for an easier experience reading e-books or watching videos.

The devices do have some important differences on the inside, though. First, the iPad can function as a larger iPhone, too, if you purchase a model that works on a supporting 3G mobile network (AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.). This is useful for people who want the convenience of wireless Internet when there isn't a convenient WiFi network available.

In addition to the 3G option, the iPad features a 1 GHz dual-core processor. This means it will better support the apps you run, especially for tasks like watching videos or playing graphic-intensive games.

Finally, the iPad supports full HD video. Apple indicates that the iPad can play video up to 1080p, with 30 progressive frames per second. The iPad can also display video up to 1080p when attached to larger screens using Apple's proprietary adapters.

Speaking of proprietary adapters, the next myth separates fact from fiction when it comes to whether you're better off buying Apple accessories for your computer.

4: Macs Work Better with Apple-brand Accessories

If you visit an Apple retail store, you can't help but notice how every component they sell is designed to look great together. Every Mac desktop is paired with a matching monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers. Even the adapters and cables are shaped and colored to complement the Apple aesthetic.

While matching peripherals and accessories might help you feel good about your purchase, don't believe the myth that you're better off purchasing them. If the accessory uses USB, WiFi or Bluetooth, you have a lot of non-Apple options on the market since these are industry-standard ways to connect devices.

For instance, the Apple Magic Mouse is a wireless mouse using Bluetooth and powered by two AA batteries. Besides having proprietary Multi-Touch that resembles the MacBook touchpad, it's just a wireless mouse that will set you back $69. By comparison, a Logitech V470 Cordless Laser Mouse for Bluetooth retails for $49.99, and Logitech and its retailers across the U.S. often offer discounts of $10 or more for this product [sources: Apple, Logitech].

If the accessory requires a proprietary connector, you may need an adapter, but you might not need to buy the accessory itself. For example, a current MacBook offers a Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP) for connecting to a separate display. If you use a non-Apple display with an industry standard technology, like DVI or VGA, you'll need to purchase an adapter from Apple to switch between connectors. An adapter will cost around $29 [sources: Apple, Apple].

As a disclaimer, though, we should note that some accessories offer little or no reliable alternatives. For example, MacBooks use a proprietary MagSafe power adapter, and it's staunchly defended its exclusive rights to produce MagSafe adapters. You could purchase a MagSafe knock-off, but that's risky. If the power adapter doesn't work properly, it could cause serious damage your computer that might not be covered under warranty [source: Apple].

Now let's look at a myth that's caused a lot of hesitation for prospective iPhone buyers.

Adobe Flash Player is required to view Flash content, a proprietary technology used on many interactive Web sites, but don't expect to see its icon on your iPad or iPhone.

©iStockphoto.com/Remus Eserblom

3: Apple Hates Flash

Flash is a proprietary media file format created using Adobe Flash software. To view Flash content, your Web browser must include a plug-in provided by Adobe. Flash is supported in most Web browsers, but it isn't available on any Apple iOS device, including the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

The myth behind Apple's decision is that the company just hates Flash. This started when Apple released its first iPhone without supporting Flash. Ongoing updates to the Apple iOS platform signaled that Apple had no intention of supporting Flash on its mobile devices. It seemed as if Apple was waging a silent war against Adobe. Bitterness increased in the media, from both industry critics and Adobe, following the iPad's announcement in January 2010 [source: Dilger].

However, in April 2010, co-founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs published his "Thoughts on Flash" statement as an official response to public criticism. This set the record straight on why Apple chose not to support Flash in Apple iOS. Jobs stated that while its own products are closed and proprietary, Apple felt that Web standards should be open. This means supporting standards like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript and avoiding the proprietary technology of Flash [source: Jobs].

Jobs also dispelled the assumption that the Web was unusable without Flash support. He reminded readers that while there is a lot of Flash content on the Web, much of that content is also available in H.264 format, which is supported on Apple iOS. Rounding out his explanation, Jobs also echoed sentiments from across the tech industry indicating an increasing lack of security and reliability in Flash technology [source: Jobs].

In short, though Apple clearly doesn't want to support Flash in Apple iOS, its reasons stemmed from business decisions rather than personal opinions. Coincidentally, the big tech buzz in November 2011 was that the silent war had ended with a victory for Apple. That's when Adobe announced that it was halting development of its Flash Player software for mobile browsers, effectively surrendering interactive mobile Web experiences to the newer and increasingly popular HTML5 technology [source: Finkle].

Apple may not be keeping track of Flash, but are they keeping track of you? In the next myth, we'll find out if iPhone users should worry about Apple spying on them.

2: Apple is Using Your iPhone to Track You

On April 20, 2011, startling news reports blanketed media outlets around the world saying that Apple was tracking users of its mobile devices without their knowledge. The rumor stemmed from an original report by tech researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, posted at Warden's Github.com site (called iPhone Tracker).

Warden and Allan explained that they'd found a hidden file in Apple iOS following its iOS 4 update in June 2010. They also reported that they couldn't find any similar tracking codes in the Android mobile OS. The news cycle continued for days without an official response from Apple, leading to the rumor going viral across the Internet and a legal inquiry from the U.S. Congress asking Apple to explain its plans and answer questions about it [sources: Arthur, Keizer].

A week later, on April 27, Apple finally released a statement to address these claims. In the statement, Apple denied it was tracking its users and stated that the data collected was anonymous, encrypted information about cellular towers and WiFi hot spots that the iPhone detects. Apple explained that it was using the data to develop a crowd-sourced database "with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years" [source: Apple].

Despite the statement, some critics were still unconvinced. Apple's statement did not explain why it concealed the presence of this hidden file, which stored the collected location data unencrypted on the iOS file system. It also described certain actions as bugs, including continued collection of location data even with Location Services turned off. Apple promised fixes to these bugs in the "next major iOS software release," meaning iOS 5, which was released later the same year [source: Keizer].

For our final myth, let's take on one of the big reasons many people give for choosing a Mac over a Windows PC.

1: Macs Can't Get Viruses

Perhaps one of Apple's biggest selling points for Mac OS X is its seemingly invincible barrier against viruses and other malware. Not so fast, though. No operating system is perfect when it comes to avoiding malware, including the iron-clad Mac OS X.

The difference is in how much and what types of malware affects Macs. First, there just isn't a lot of malware out there designed for Mac OS X. Malware developers are typically looking to reach the largest audience possible with their efforts, and Mac OS X is not a prime target. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the following:

  • PCs capable of running Microsoft Windows still account for nearly 90 percent of the quarterly market shares for new computer sales from U.S. vendors [source: Gartner].
  • Microsoft Windows is supported on a wide range of inexpensive PC hardware.
  • Server-optimized versions of Windows run on thousands of network servers worldwide while Macs are rarely used as servers.

Second, the types of malware that affect Mac rely less on OS vulnerabilities and more on the gullibility of the user. For example, one form of malware disguised itself as an anti-virus program for Macs. It advertised under the name Mac Protector, Mac Defender, Apple Security Center and other titles. The malware included everything you'd expect from a typical anti-virus program: installation, system scanning and even a prompt to register the product.

The best way to protect yourself from malware threats on a Mac is to keep the system up-to-date. Apple will likely find and address any Mac OS X vulnerabilities before they become a big problem. In addition, research any new software before you install it. That includes anything claiming to be an anti-virus program or a legitimate Apple product.

In our countdown, we've focused on 10 myths about Apple and its products. With the company's popularity, the increasing market share for Macs and the success of its mobile products, there will likely be more myths to come. In the meantime, check out lots more information about Apple myths on the next page.

Lots More Information

Sources

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