An Andalusian Mac OS X (11/2/01)

[NOTE: After the production of this episode, CNET clued in and discovered that Apple doesn't let people buy one copy of Mac OS X and install it on a million machines for free, so the results have been changed to reflect a tie. Many thanx to faithful viewer Brian for the heads-up.]

During CNET's last two "OS Death Matches," we admit that we were a little flummoxed by the results. After all, CNET isn't exactly known to be the most Mac-friendly media group out there, so while we'd expect any sane and rational entity with an ounce of taste to rate Mac OS 9 over Corel Linux and Mac OS X over Windows 2000, let's just say that CNET surprised us with its final results. This time around, though, we've finally figured out what's going on: CNET's third OS Death Match (which pits Mac OS X against Windows XP) is strictly an exercise in surrealism and Dadaist incongruity. CNET championing Apple over Microsoft? Hello, Dalí!

Indeed, when faithful viewer Jef Van der Voort pointed us towards the great X vs. XP throwdown, we discovered that embracing the absurd was the only way to make sense of the results. Sure, there's a reasonable dose of rationality, such as the judges ruling Mac OS X the winner in the Installation round 6-0, but it's clearly just there as an artistic counterpoint to the bizarre and ridiculous; just when you think the judges are going to make sensible rulings, they turn around and unanimously declare Windows XP to have a better interface than Mac OS X. Sheer genius!

We won't spoil all the surprises, but there are a couple of twists we just have to mention. The first is no particular surprise: Mac OS X wins. While that's not exactly a plot twist given CNET's previous rulings in these head-to-head battles, it is still pretty incongruous considering CNET's long-recognized anti-Apple slant. But here's the really goofy bit: Mac OS X won on a tie-breaker-- and that tie-breaker was price. Yes, kiddies, by way of turning the old "Macs are more expensive" belief on its head, CNET actually rated an Apple product over the Wintel option because it was cheaper. How's that for a masterstroke of surrealism? (For additional weirdness points, it's worth noting that CNET apparently considers Mac OS X cheaper in part because it's easier to install illegal unlicensed copies; correct us if we're mistaken, but stating that Mac OS X is $129 per household and requires "no additional cost for more than one computer" is just plain wrong, isn't it?)

Anyway, this latest win is Apple's third in CNET's series of death matches-- fourth, if you include September's Apple vs. Microsoft tech support rumble, which was officially ruled a tie, but which Apple clearly won when the scores were totalled. Conspiracy theorists may detect a pattern, here-- Apple's victories are always very close calls, and CNET always provides a ton of caveats about how the contests are purely "entertainment," not actual product reviews or endorsements. So CNET gets a ton of traffic from beaming Mac users, while Microsoft apologists are assured that the results don't mean anything anyway. It's Controversy Lite™, and everyone lives happily ever after-- especially CNET's advertisers. The end.

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The above scene was taken from the 11/2/01 episode:

November 2, 2001: Word leaks that a Taiwanese manufacturer is producing 600,000 PDAs for Apple; too bad it's not true. Meanwhile, CNET scrapes together yet another "OS Death Match," this time pitting Mac OS X against Windows XP, and the Justice Department agrees to a "Redmond Justice" settlement that's less of a slap on the wrist than it is a big, sloppy kiss on the... well, you get the idea...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3370: Apple PDA: Give Up, Already (11/2/01)   Man, what is it with Taiwanese manufacturing subcontractors and Loose Lips Syndrome? Frankly, we wouldn't mind so much if their leaked info ever turned out to be true, but usually they're just yanking our collective chain...

  • 3372: Settlement, Shmettlement (11/2/01)   The fat lady may not be singing, but she's definitely running through her vocal warmups right about now; according to a Reuters article, the Department of Justice has officially announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft, thus marking the imminent end of the long-running "Redmond Justice" drama...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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