Tech analysts, bloggers, and users have been debating whether Microsoft is slowly slipping into irrelevance for years, and the primary competitor that most turn to for proof of this claim is the software giant's faster-moving rival Apple. But Microsoft thoroughly outperforms Apple in several crucial areas, including its business, server, and cloud-based offerings. And if I were to pick a single area in which Microsoft simply owns Apple, I'd have to pick security.
That's right: Security.
Apple's security laziness can be easily explained: Because of the relatively tiny size of the Mac market, Apple never really had to address security concerns with its one-time primary platform in a timely manner. So it never did. Still doesn't, in fact.
But Microsoft had a different experience and its far more popular PC desktop and server OSs were the primary hacker target for at least two decades. In the midst of escalating electronic attacks in the early 2000s, then, Microsoft simply stopped making software for a few months, retrenched, and emerged on the other side with its Trustworthy Computing initiative, in which all of the software solutions it creates are pushed through an ever-improving, ongoing security review process.
As a result, Microsoft's software is more secure than ever. In fact, Microsoft's OS software is so secure that it's no longer the primary avenue for electronic attacks on PCs. Now, hackers are going after popular third-party software, like that made by Adobe, instead. The reason is simple: These applications don't benefit from the same hardening as do Microsoft's products.
And then there's Apple. Even when Mac OS X was the company's major focus, Apple pretty much ignored security, claiming that the system's underlying UNIX core made its OS offering more resilient than the competition. It routinely waited months and even years before fixing security bugs. (Microsoft releases security fixes on a predictable 30-day schedule and releases very important fixes as needed.) And now that OS X is on the back burner thanks to the incredible success of Apple's mobile devices, it shouldn't be surprising that Apple is still ignoring security issues in OS X.
This ignorance has never really bitten Apple or its users, of course. But this month, a new Mac malware threat has emerged. And Apple's response—lack of response, really—is troubling, because this one could be for real. But it shouldn't be surprising if you know anything about the company.
Without getting into the specifics of the hack—a Trojan usually called Mac Defender—let's just say that it's raised some old pain points between Windows users and those who advocate the "Think Different" mentality. Windows expert Ed Bott has come under withering fire from the iCabal for having the temerity to raise this issue and then not let go of it. And he's since published internal Apple documentation in which the Cupertino company instructs its support representatives to not even acknowledge let alone help fix the problems. "We're not supposed to help customers remove malware from their computer," one anonymous Apple support rep allegedly told Bott.
Surprised? Again, you shouldn't be.
Apple's culture—"arrogant superiority"—prevents it from admitting there is a problem, let alone addressing it. This is very similar, actually, to the Soviet response to "Western" problems in its society in the 1980s: Since such problems were impossible under Communism, they didn't exist. Problem solved.
You think I'm exaggerating? Then you know nothing about Apple.