Windows 7 launch: Will Apple rain on Microsoft's parade again?

Windows 7 launched today, and its early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. But get ready for a battle of the titans, because Apple will be gunning for the Redmond giant and its follow-on to the ill-fated Vista operating system. But wait a second. Weren't most of the early reviews of Vista positive, too? Will history repeat itself, with adoration and high praise turning to near-universal loathing?

Vista had a rocky release. While its glassy Aero graphics were widely admired, its resource-hogging hardware requirements, dearth of drivers for dozens of devices, and constant nagging of users in the name of security were a widespread turnoff. It had its weaknesses, many of which were fixed in its first service pack.

By then, it was too late. Apple's masterful PR machine had already pounced, cranking up its "Get a Mac" campaign with the dopey Windows guy vs. the hip 'n' trendy Mac dude. The ubiquitous ad campaign berated Windows Vista at every turn. Vista was accused of being a virus magnet, crash-prone, difficult to use, and accompanied by a load of crapware. Some of those charges were true. Most were overblown.

This Is War

Don't get me wrong — I think Apple is the most innovative company of the past 25 years, and maybe ever. But Apple would never have gotten traction from its attack advertising unless it had an army of rabid fans to amplify its message. Commonly called "fanboys," these people go far beyond merely liking Apple and its world-changing products. This volunteer army is ready to do battle with any fool who would dare disagree with even a sliver of the Apple message.

With Apple's groundbreaking 1984 commercial, there was a big face on the screen in a spooky auditorium, preaching to ranks and files of unquestioning slaves. They're all worshiping the notion that they are all "one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause." Now, here we are 25 years later and Apple, a multibillion-dollar corporation, has managed to enlist the unquestioning support of an army of drones, marching in lockstep to every order they receive from their masters in Cupertino. Oh, the irony!

Sweet Freedom

Apple fanboys, stop shilling for that gigantic corporation, which cares nothing for you whatsoever. For starters, it's not going to return your love. All it wants is your money. Let Apple pay for its own advertising.

Next: Think for yourself. Be skeptical when Apple's ads pound home the point about how horribly difficult it is to upgrade an XP machine to Windows 7. Question how dangerous viruses really are, and at the same time, consider that Macs are not immune from the pests anymore. Consider whether the few crashes encountered in current operating systems really are more frequent on one over the other.

Finally, forget about the operating system and its associated culture wars. What really matters is the applications. Most of the best apps, such as Photoshop, are available on both Mac and Windows. Increasingly, the browser is handling the tasks, thrusting the operating system further into the background. If this trend continues, soon, it won't make much difference at all which OS you're running.

Mud Flaps

In the end, admiring an inanimate object like a computer operating system from one adored company doesn't have to translate into hatred of its competitors. If Windows 7 is judged on its own merits, it'll be apparent why it's being so widely praised. For a company such as Apple, which just reported blockbuster earnings during an economic downturn, slinging mud is really beneath it. But if it chooses to wallow in the muck, do we really all have to jump in? Let's stay clean this time, fanboys included.