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The Apple Armada - Still worthy of the Jolly Roger?

Steve gets his F

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Mac Report Card, Part Two In August 1983, Steve Capps of Apple's original Macintosh Division famously hoisted a pirate flag over his team's Cupertino building to embody Steve Jobs's dictum that "It's better to be a pirate than join the navy." From that day forward, members of the Mac community have been a little feistier, a little more insular, a little more picky, and a little more self-righteous than other computer users.

Five months after the flag went up, Jobs, Capps, and Co. unleashed the first Macintosh with that iconic "1984" Super Bowl ad, and after 25 years, their symbol of rule-breaking innovation is still on the market. The question is whether Apple is still the pirate it once was.

Last week, in honor of the Mac's upcoming quarter century anniversary, we unloaded Part One of our Apple Report Card, grading the company/cult on everything from sales to CEOs. Now, we give you Part Two, which dares to ask if today's Apple is just another money-hungry tech biz. How does it score on innovation? The environment? Corporate philanthropy?

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Over the last quarter century, books like The Cult of Mac and magazines like MacAddict spoke to Mac users' often-defensive fanaticism, and websites such as Mac Rumors, Apple Insider, SpyMac, LoopRumors, and Think Secret have reported, analyzed, and argued about even the smallest product gossip. Your Mac was your membership into an exclusive club that had its own rules, quests, and secret passwords. If you know that Clarus says "Moof!," you know what we mean. If you don't, well, fuggedaboutit.

Being a member of the Mac gang also meant defending your turf. The Ford versus Chevy arguments of the 50s and 60s were small potatoes compared to the Mac versus PC bickering of the 80s and 90s. Web discussion groups and user forums bristled with invective and trash talk. It was Sunnis versus Shi'ites sans IEDs and mortar rounds - with the Linux-using Kurds keeping a safe and peaceful distance.

But those scrappy days are drawing to a close. To be sure, Apple's current "Get a Mac" ad campaign produced by TBWA's Media Arts Lab plays on the old antagonism, but scruffy-but-adorable Justin Long as "Mac" and cuddly John Hodgman as "PC" are to the Mac/PC wars what Hogan and Klink were to World War II.

The platform wars are over. Windows won the office and the gamer's garret, and the Mac won the home and the content-creator's studio. Sure, there are plenty of infiltrations by one platform into the other's territory and plenty of scuffles on the borders, but the Balkans remained unsettled after WWII too.

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