Mossberg: Apple’s new MacBook surprisingly inexpensive, offers vastly superior Mac OS X

“I reviewed the MacBook Pro earlier this year, and lately I’ve been testing the new MacBook, a handsome machine that packs a very good screen and keyboard into a fairly thin enclosure and is surprisingly inexpensive,” Walter S. Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal. “There’s a lot to like about the MacBook. It’s a very good choice for anyone considering a Mac and operating on a tight budget. Like the other Intel-based Macs, it can even run Windows alongside Apple’s own Mac OS X operating system.”

“Perhaps the most surprising thing about the MacBook is its price. Despite Apple’s reputation for charging more, the MacBook is actually less expensive than its closest major Windows competitor. That would be the Sony Vaio VGN-SZ240, which also has a 13.3-inch screen with the same resolution, includes a built-in camera, and is available with the same processor and the same memory and hard-disk capacity as the MacBook,” Mossberg writes. “When configured to match the major specs of the base model of the MacBook, the Sony costs $1,629, over 60% more than the MacBook’s $1,099 base price. But the MacBook is much heavier than the Sony. It weighs 5.2 pounds, 37% more than the Sony’s 3.8 pounds.”

Mossberg writes, “Like all Macs, the MacBook is vastly superior to Windows machines in terms of bundled software and security. Apple’s operating system is better designed, more stable and more modern than Windows XP. Its built-in iLife suite of multimedia software can’t be matched on Windows. And it has — so far — been attacked by only two viruses, compared with the more than 100,000 viruses and spyware programs that plague Windows. Those qualities are worth hundreds of dollars, in my view.”

“Like all Mac laptops, the MacBook lacks a right-click button, even though Apple’s own software displays right-click menus. To emulate a right click, Mac users typically must hold down the Control key while clicking the sole button. But the MacBook has a new way to do this that’s simpler: Place two fingers on the touch pad and click with a third. It works well. The MacBook also has Apple’s very cool scrolling feature, which allows you to scroll any screen by moving two fingers over the touch pad. It’s better than any Windows laptop scrolling feature I’ve seen,” Mossberg writes. “But the MacBook lacks two important hardware features that are nearly ubiquitous on Windows laptops. It has no slots for the flash memory cards used in digital cameras, smart phones and other devices. And it lacks a card slot for the adapters that can provide laptops with many add-on features, including flash memory sockets and cellphone data modems.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Another excellent review for Apple’s MacBook; this time by the world’s preeminent tech journalist who, regardless of his status, we simply must ask to identify the “two viruses” he mentions that have “attacked” Macs and the total number of users each of Mossberg’s so-called “viruses” affected. We expect more accuracy from Mossberg. His readers will think that an untold number of Mac users have “been attacked by two viruses.” That is incorrect.

In fact, back on May 11, Mossberg addressed just such questions to a concerned WSJ reader, writing, “There is no sudden security crisis on the Apple Macintosh platform. In fact, for average Mac users, there isn’t a security threat of any significance, at least not yet. It is laughable to compare the real, massive and burdensome security problems on Windows with the largely theoretical security problem on the Mac… As of today, there have been exactly two documented, successful pieces of malicious software — viruses, trojan horses, worms — that affected users of the Mac OS X operating system, since it was released in 2001. And these two failed to spread much, affecting probably a few dozen people, and doing no harm. I expect there to be a small number of additional Mac viruses this year… Security firms are saying that the discovery of these vulnerabilities in the Mac has increased sharply lately. They say that based on past patterns, this should yield a sharp increase in the number of Mac viruses in coming years. But even a ‘sharp’ increase could well mean under 50 viruses by 2008. So my advice to Mac users is that at the moment, I see no reason to buy and run security software, which is in itself costly and can degrade your computing experience… Just turn on Apple’s built-in firewall and relax. There is one exception: If you are running Windows on one of the new Intel Macs, you are just like a Windows user, and you must run Windows security programs when using Windows.”

What’s with the lumping together of “viruses, trojan horses, worms?” Does Mossberg sound a bit confused about what constitutes a “virus” to you, too? Can a piece of malicious code that affected “probably a few dozen people” really be described as “successful?” And how many of these “few dozen people,” if any, work in the labs of antivirus software peddlers?

By the end of 2005, there were 114,000 known viruses for PCs. In March 2006 alone, there were 850 new threats detected against Windows. Zero for Mac. While no computer connected to the Internet will ever be 100% immune from attack, Mac OS X has helped the Mac keep its clean bill of health with a superior UNIX foundation and security features that go above and beyond the norm for PCs. When you get a Mac, only your enthusiasm is contagious. Learn more here: 114,000 viruses? Not on a Mac.

As for the lack of an ExpressCard/34 slot: if you need one, get a MacBook Pro. That’s one of the major ways that Apple differentiates their consumer portables from their professional models. As for media readers, get a USB reader (MacBook Pro owners can slide a media reader into their ExpressCard/34 slot) or, better yet, use a newer digital camera that connects directly to USB. Apple doesn’t suffer old tech gladly. And, lastly, regarding the weight differential between the lighter Sony that Mossberg mentions and the MacBook, you’ll have to weigh for yourself whether the $530 you save to have the world’s best consumer notebook that can also run Mac OS X and Windows natively is worth the extra 1.4 lb.

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CNET writer won’t buy Apple MacBook because it lacks 2nd mouse button (uh, two-finger right-click?) – May 30, 2006
Personal Computer World review: Apple MacBook – May 22, 2006
Amazon offers US$100 and $150 rebates on Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro models – May 22, 2006
Ars Technica reviews Apple MacBook – May 19, 2006
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PC World: Hands on with Apple’s new black MacBook running Mac OS X and Windows – May 17, 2006
Analyst: Apple’s new MacBook costs a bit more than iBook, but will sell strongly – May 16, 2006
Close-up Apple MacBook photos (keyboard, glossy screen, and more) – May 16, 2006
Apple debuts new 13.3-inch widescreen MacBook; replaces both iBook and 12-inch PowerBook – May 16, 2006
Mossberg: Apple’s MacBook Pro gives users a ‘much better OS with vastly better built-in software’ – March 02, 2006

Apple: ‘Get a Mac. Say ‘Buh-Bye’ to viruses’ – June 01, 2006
Apple Macs and viruses: Fact vs. FUD – May 26, 2006
Mossberg: Is there a virus threat for Apple Macs? – May 11, 2006
Macs and viruses: the true story – May 02, 2006
FUD Alert: Viruses don’t catch up to the Mac – May 01, 2006
Gartner: Boot Camp won’t expose Mac OS X to Windows viruses or worms – April 13, 2006
The Idiot’s Guide to Mac Viruses For Dummies 101 – February 24, 2006
Atlanta Journal-Constitution asks: Is ‘Mac virus’ all just propaganda from Mac haters? – February 20, 2006
FBI: Viruses, spyware, other computer-related crimes cost U.S. businesses $67.2 billion per year – February 01, 2006
Microsoft apologists and why Apple’s Mac OS X has zero viruses – October 24, 2005
Hackers already targeting viruses for Microsoft’s Windows Vista – August 04, 2005

52 Comments

  1. MDN,
    Mossberg is wrong only if you get fussy about your terms – and he should know better. But there were two bits of malware that hit the Mac, and a couple of folks who should have known better got bitten. Saying “two viruses” uses fewer column inches than saying “a worm and a trojan”.

  2. MDN is correct to expect Mossberg to be more accurate. This kind of sloppiness is exactly why I get questions about nonexistent Mac viruses from those contemplating a switch from Windows to Mac.

    Mossberg should know better and MDN is right to call him on it.

    Mac OS X has zero viruses to date.

  3. More Points!
    Some folks are thrilled to pay a few hundred dollars to cut the weight of their notebook by a third – they haul it everywhere and need it to snuggle into their corporate briefcase without stretching their arm too much on trip to the customer’s HQ.

    Ask George Ou or CERN … OS X has more theoretical security flaws than any version of Windows – and more of them are rated “critical” and many of those have been “known” for longer than many Windows flaws. Of course, having a firewall on by default and requiring that an Admin approve any installs both tend to make exploits based on those flaws less likely to actually get anywhere.

    You really need to try to be less picky when a respected voice like Walt Mossberg’s says nice things about things you care about from such a prestigious pulpit as the WSJ – a forum attended by the guys who make corporate decisions.

  4. I couldn’t believe how much of a deal Walt made about the missing media card place. What percentage of regular shmoes need a slot for their media card? I am a grad student studying biology and physics, and I have never needed anything that the macbook does not promise. (except for a dedicated graphics card for 3d games. Oh well, games aren’t worth another 500 bucks for the mbp)

  5. If the 2 viruses are not really viruses, how many of the 114,000 viruses are also not really viruses?

    I don’t know the difference between viruses, trojan horses, and worms either, and I think alot of us are using the terms interchangably. Still, it’s nice to worry about none of the above, whatever the proper term is.

  6. I certainly don’t want my MacBook littered with media card reader slots, all but one or two of which I’d ever actually use ! They give media card readers away in cereal packets these days – and I can choose the one that I actually need.

    Same goes for ExpressCard slots – the only time I have ever needed a card slot was back in the days of my Powerbook 1200, when I used it for some archaic device called a ‘modem’. Go figure.

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