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An ode to Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and Linux zealots

We all know they exist and some of us are tired of them. Don Reisinger highlights the top five fanboy groups and explains why they should all break up.

As I'm sure many of you are aware, there are a number of factions in the technology world that seem to share extreme love for one company and severe distaste for another. Some side with Bill Gates and his buddies in Redmond. Of course, that group is met by a fierce resistance that genuflects at the altar of Steve Jobs. On the other hand, there is a cadre of individuals that believe Sony is the greatest company in the world, and still others that put Shigeru Miyamoto and his gang of creations on a pedestal. And yet, no matter what you say, every group will believe you're a member of the competing zealot faction. After a while, it actually becomes quite comical.

Take for example, this article I wrote just yesterday about Sony's desperation. You'll notice that in the comments, I was called all kinds of names. And while you get used to this as a writer, some really blow your socks off. For example, one commenter went so far as to say that I and the rest of the CNET writers are "typical." Why you ask? Because the commenter needed to ask us if "Gate's butt smells fresh today." In essence, I was a Microsoft fanboy for a day -- at least in the words of the cadre of Sony fanboys.

Unfortunately, my love for Microsoft must have been fleeting. For if you read the comments from readers on this day, I am nothing more than an Apple zealot that hates Microsoft. Even better, we even got some extra "typical CNET" comments which, for some reason, didn't reference the same smelling analogy. Can I be both? Can I be all five? Can everyone be all five?

No. And this is the issue we're left with today -- why can't everyone stop being zealots and realize that we all want the same thing -- the very best performance out of every tech company. We shouldn't be apologists -- we should be asking for a company's level best.

Microsoft Zealots

Microsoft zealots are one of the most under-appreciated factions of tech lovers the world has ever seen. Generally speaking, it's this group that gets beaten up most often and it's on them to protect the value of Microsoft and Bill Gates. More often than not, you'll find this group is controlled by security experts and IT professionals that use Windows regularly. To them, Apple is just another loser company that can't stand up to the power of Microsoft and its minions. Worse, Linux distributions are crap, Office can take Google Docs and OpenOffice for a ride anytime it wants, and if people start calling on Microsoft for its security issues and poor software craftsmanship, they can always revert to the classic line, "is that all you can say? When do you ever say anything different? Macs have security problems, too!"

This faction has come under fire most frequently as of late and surprisingly, it hasn't been as vocal as it once was. That said, you'll typically find that this group knows more than the others because it does its homework more than any other group. It knows how to fix errors in a registry and because it takes flak so often, it needs to be equipped with all of the weaponry it needs to take on the onslaught of bad press.

I was a member of this group here, here, and here.

Apple Zealots

Ah, yes -- the industry's most faithful and forgiving faction -- Apple zealots. Currently holding their breath in case Steve Jobs ever needs air, this group is best known for its united front in the face of any kind of adversity. Apple zealots tend to annoy those in the group above and typically find themselves in battles that, to be quite honest, don't really make that much sense. In fact, you can typically find this group fighting a war of words on topics such as iLife, the Mighty Mouse, and (if you're lucky) whether or not Steve Jobs really is a nice guy.

Years ago, this group was made up of a relatively small number of people that were even more vocal than it is now. Nowadays, the Apple zealots come from all ages and can typically be found reading half of an article, picking quotes to take out of context or generally getting upset over things they shouldn't. If you've ever battled this group, you know that there are reserves always waiting to get in on the action.

I was a member of this group here, here and here.

Sony Zealots

Sony Zealots are quickly becoming a thinning faction. After years of disappointment and issues, Sony's following has dried up faster than Enron's. Regardless, there is still a cadre of individuals that espouse Sony ideals and do so without regard for the true essence of the commentary. More often than not, this group will get upset with you if you call the Playstation 3 a flop or say that it's not the company it once was.

Other than that, Sony zealots tend to be a bit soft spoken when compared to Apple zealots, and more often than not, they stick to the topics they feel most comfortable with -- gaming and HDTVs. To be entirely honest, this group is one of my favorites -- it develops coherent thoughts and doesn't go overboard by saying the Wii is the worst thing ever made. Sony zealots realize who their company is and that's all they really need.

I was a member of this group here.

Nintendo Zealots

In recent years, Nintendo Zealots have made quite a comeback. During the dark days of the Gamecube, this group didn't have too much to say when its favorite company would be beaten up in editorials. In fact, this group even chimed in on some of these arguments imploring Nintendo to get with it and make something out of its popular franchises.

Which brings me to another topic: never pick on the Nintendo franchises. Regardless of what you say, this group will always hold on to Mario, Luigi and the gang for all they're worth. If you pick on the Wii's poor game library, they'll say you're wrong and point out that Mario Kart, Metroid Prime and Super Mario Galaxy are right around the corner. With the release of the Wii, this group has a whole new lease on life and to be quite honest, it could become the biggest (and baddest) group in town.

I don't think I've ever been a member of this group -- it scares me too much.

Update: I forgot the Linux Zealots!

Maybe it was subconscious that I forgot the Linux Zealots. After all, that group is the most boisterous in their beliefs and especially their hatred of Microsoft. A word of caution -- never (ever!) say that the open source movement means free! In a matter of seconds, this intelligent group of people will be quick to point out that open source does not mean free, but means the code is available for the taking.

The Linux fanboys continue to grow and their ranks are stronger than ever. In fact, I'd love to see an all-out battle between the Apple and Linux zealots to see who can light a fire under their base quicker. My guess? This group.

And please don't forget Linus Torvalds. If you don't know who he is, well, you may want to read up on him before you go after this crowd.

So there you have it -- an ode to the top five company fans. Now, before some read into this more than they should, please realize that this article is meant to point out one alarming fact in this world -- everyone thinks you're a member of another group, regardless of your true beliefs.

Am I an Apple fanboy because I think Steve Jobs is the world's smartest CEO? Am I an Apple hater because I believe the company may lose its following if it's not careful? Am I a Microsoft fanboy for saying Halo 3 will sell Xbox 360's or a Microsoft hater for saying the company should abandon Vista? Just because I believe Sony controls the market because of its stranglehold on market mind share, does that make me a Sony Zealot? And if I point out its errors, should I be considered a Sony hater? Finally, should I be considered a Nintendo fanboy because I think the console is the most innovative we've seen in years or a hater because I don't think it has enough good games?

Do you see what I'm getting at here?

In all honesty, I truly believe that Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Apple are fantastic companies that have made our world just a little better. In fact, without those companies, my job probably wouldn't even exist. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have an open discussion highlighting areas where these companies have performed well, or below-par.

The time has come for the term "fanboy" to be thrown out the window. In fact, there shouldn't be any fanboys or zealots because we should all realize that no one company is perfect and each will make mistakes.

I love technology and I enjoy discussing this industry with every one of you. With that in mind, I don't consider myself a "fanboy" of any one group.

Neither should you.