The Macalope Weekly: The Jerk Store

So far, 2010 has been dominated by non-stop iPad speculation and Macworld Expo, but it’s time to get back to basics: jerks! Now, the Macalope’s stylish and happenin’ readers know that jerktastic commentary is drawn to Apple like red wine to a white shirt.

There’s a school of thought that says “Ignore them!” but the Macalope believes that only ridicule can shame them and, well, sometimes shooting fish in a barrel is just good Saturday morning fun!

Handicapping

Adobe’s John Dowdell has a wish list for how Apple should “use its words.”

1. Get your CEO to either talk, or not. Put some skin in the game, put your rep on the line with attributed statements.

What Dowdell is likely talking about here are the comments Steve Jobs was reported to have made to the Wall Street Journal about how Flash bites the big one. Look, regardless of whether or not Steve Jobs said the words that were attributed to him, the Macalope can assure Dowdell that that is exactly what he thinks about Flash. Does that help?

2. Can that “controlled leak” strategy.

Yeah, c’mon, Apple! Fight with one hand behind your back! It’s not fair the way you’re swinging both your arms like that!

Is this capitalism or T-Ball we’re playing here?

3. Let your employees speak.

Secrecy does make the life of an Apple employee hard, but it sure works for the company. Which, of course, seems to be the point of Dowdell’s post: to attack the things that work for Apple but that no one else can bring themselves to do.

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4. Urge your external evangelists to speak with attribution, and put their own personal rep on the line.

This one seems to strike a little close to home, but Dowdell’s talking less about your Fake Steves and Mosspuppets and Macalopes and more about anonymous blog commenters. When you’re complaining about the devastating power of blog comments, you know you’ve hit about rock bottom in the complaints department.

Urge your fans to avoid acting as marketing interns would.

The link is to a Microsoft Bing search on astroturfing, which is the act of faking grassroots support with hired hands. So, here Dowdell asks Apple to encourage its actual grassroots supporters not to act like fake grassroots supporters. One wonders if he’s clear on what the real criticism of astroturfing is.

5. Reduce the unprecedented contractual secrecy; let partners speak as freely as they speak of other initiatives in the industry.

Who does that benefit other than Apple’s competitors? It might benefit its customers somewhat, but secrecy is one of the things that’s made the company sustainable again. If Apple goes out of business, that doesn’t help its customers. It certainly doesn’t benefit the company’s shareholders and, again, we are talking about capitalism here, aren’t we?

For its part, Adobe would like to portray Flash as some noble gift that it has graciously bestowed upon the world, leading to a utopia of ubiquitous porn clips, time-wasting tower defense games, and artsy “web sites” where you can’t link to anything specific. But it’s really about them trying to be the content gatekeeper instead of the content being in an open format.

Unlike Dowdell, the Macalope’s not going to issue a manifesto asking anyone at Adobe to talk about that.

Small is the new big

VentureBeat’s Paul Boutin and CoolTechZone’s Gundeep Hora are both lamenting the results of an AdMob survey. Boutin says it shows iPad demand is “sluggish” and Hora that the device “may not be successful.” Devastating, really. After all, the survey showed that only one in six iPhone users intend to purchase an iPad so…

Wait. Only one in six? Uh, guys, do you know how many iPhones Apple’s sold? About 34 million. One sixth of that is around 5.5 million.

In technical terms, 5.5 million is a really big number. And that’s just iPhone users! People who already have a mobile Internet device! The Macalope’s no statistician, but the survey’s sample was of 960 online respondents, which doesn’t seem particularly large or complete to him.

Boutin, on the other hand, sees DOOOOM for the iPad.

The results, from an opt-in survey of 960 respondents that AdMob ran in January, strongly suggest that the iPad lacks the iPhone’s gotta-have-it hotness.

Boutin doesn’t provide anything to back that up; he just says it’s so. The only thing the Macalope could think of that might be comparable is if someone had polled iPod owners in 2007 and asked if they intended to buy an iPhone. But the Macalope can’t find a poll like that and Boutin apparently didn’t either. It’s like these guys just saw the number was lower than 99.99 percent and decided that it meant demand was weak.

If you factor in the inevitability that not everyone who intends to buy an iPad will actually make the purchase, the numbers don’t look good for the device that Apple chief Steve Jobs is said to have called “the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

“Intend to buy” is the strongest response you could have! Sure, some of those people aren’t really going to buy one, but some of the people who said they were only “iPad-curious” (and maybe even some who said they were “iPod-hostile”) are.

AdMob is pretty good about pointing out the limits of its research. Maybe Boutin and Hora should have similar disclaimers about the limits of their “analysis”.

Apple also crushed the Boxer Rebellion. True story.

Don Tennant’s got a bee in his iPhone bonnet.

I have an iPhone, but if I had it to do over again, I would never have bought one.

Oh, no. What’s up, girlfriend? Talk to the Macalope.

It works just fine; I haven’t experienced the problems with AT&T that a lot of iPhone owners complain about, and I like a lot of the apps. But at the time I bought it, I wasn’t fully aware of Apple’s blatant, unapologetic contempt for its employees, its suppliers, the media and its customers.

From zero to hyperbole in 3.5 seconds. Does your neck hurt when you do that?

Reuters reported on Wednesday that one of its reporters had been roughed up by security guards outside the factory of Apple component supplier Foxconn in Longhua, China. It was yet another outrageous display of the extremism Apple has promulgated in its obsessive demand for secrecy.

Don acts like Steve Jobs caught a red-eye to China and roughed up the guy himself. But what’s more likely: that it’s Apple’s emphasis on “secrecy-or-else” that caused this or the fact that Foxconn is located in a country where freedom of the press simply doesn’t exist and reporters are routinely roughed up or worse?

Is Apple diligent about keeping its intellectual property secret? Yes. That’s its right. Does the company sanction roughing up reporters? No. Does China? Yes.

Could Apple do more to pressure Foxconn to be a kinder and gentler hardware manufacturer in a highly repressive country? Maybe. At least it does try, though not to hear Tennant tell it. Maybe Dell and all the other companies that use Foxconn could pressure it more, too. Maybe Tennant could also—say by boycotting products made there, for example.

Of course, if he’s going to be pure about it, he should probably completely stop buying things made in China. The country's track record, as you may remember, is slightly worse than Apple’s as it involves an actual body count.

The Macalope’s not sure where Tennant would get a phone then, but it’s a moot point. He’s not going to do that. Because that’s hard. He’s just going to rail against Apple. That’s easy!

Is Apple part of the problem? Yes. So is anyone who buys stuff from China. The biggest part of the problem, however, is still simply China. When Tennant types “it’s Apple that creates the secrecy-or-else environments at Foxconn” what the Macalope reads is “I am unable to unravel anything beyond the most simple of causal relationships.”

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