The Macalope Weekly: Same as it ever was

[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

It’s a new year, but one PCWorld pundit isn’t writing “2011” on her checks. In fact, she’s still writing “1994.” She’s not the only one. At CES, Microsoft is still trying to pass off yesterday’s tablet as today’s slate.

Well, at least one thing is new this week: the Mac App Store! New like a stiff pair of underwear that may cause chafing. Chafing some people—and mythical beasts—might enjoy.

Don’t judge. Don’t you dare judge.

Out with the old, in with the old!

PCWorld’s self-styled “Linux Girl”, Katherine Noyes, shows that just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean we have to throw out tired, old arguments.

Whereas the very promising Macintosh computer could have provided much sharper competition to IBM’s PC, Apple’s decision to keep control of the device kept its market share small, I believe, and doomed it to a marginal role.

So it could go with the iPhone.

The Macalope likes to imagine that somewhere there is a club of silly pundits who have made the argument that Apple should have licensed the Mac OS, blissfully unaware of the counter-arguments, counter-examples and, well, history. They meet and drink and smoke cigars and laugh—HA-HA!—about silly Apple and how silly it was—and still is, HA-HA!—for not licensing its operating systems. Because companies apparently run on market share and nothing else. And in a quiet ceremony this week, filled with ritual and steeped in tradition dating back to the early 1990s, Katherine was given her club blazer.

It is rather rich to be lectured on which operating system has a “marginal role” by someone who says this is finally the year Ubuntu will become a “serious contender in the mainstream, even among non-technical consumers.”

Don’t stop believin’, Katherine. Hold on to that feelin’.

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Though it’s enjoyed a first mover advantage in the smartphone arena, the Android floodgates are now open, and promise to make the iPhone a niche device for Apple enthusiasts.

Dictionary.com defines “niche” as “a distinct segment of a market.” So we can assume that Katherine’s talking about the segment of the market where all the profit is.

The piece is a little odd because her impetus for writing it is a piece by Jean-Louis Gassée which specifically takes the air out of the “iPhone = Mac 2.0” meme. Katherine’s response to Gassée’s deconstruction appears to be, after some editing, “iPhone = Mac 2.0 times infinity.”

The Macalope’s having a hard time seeing how the iPhone ends up a “niche device” in the foreseeable future, but Katherine is entitled to her opinion, no matter how many facts seem to fly in its face, like bugs into the mouth of a driver careening down the Highway of Illogic (which, incidentally, is outside Phoenix).

Android is doing well, there’s no denying that. But these chickens remain, to date, unhatched.

The “big wrinkle,” [comScore senior analyst Mark Donovan] said, could come in 2011 if the iPhone moves to Verizon Wireless, after being exclusively on AT&T since its launch. “Certainly if it does, you will see an uptick in iPhone ownership,” he said.

“Uptick” may be understating the matter. As may “if.”

Competition aside, the market looks rosy for both platforms, as smartphone ownership overall increased by 64% from last year, comScore said. The iPhone saw an increase of 61% — a good number, although it was overwhelmed by Android’s astronomical leap of more than 1,000%.

The potential losers in all of this? Other platforms.

Exactly!

So while most of the tech industry thinks it’s Apple and Android fighting for smartphone dominance, the sales numbers suggest that Android’s main gains are coming at BlackBerry’s expense.

If this is a battle that’s just between Apple and Android, it’s been one that Apple’s been fighting with one arm tied behind its back—a handicap that looks to be ending soon. This fight’s just getting interesting.

Déjà vu

So, CES was this week and Microsoft used the show to re-re-re-introduce its slate/tablet/surface/whatever-word-they’re-using-this-year strategy. There’s an old saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If that’s true then it might be time to take the sharp scissors away from Microsoft.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes zings the company thusly:

Adding a stylus to a product only underlines the fact that Windows doesn’t work on tablets. OEMs might as well bundle a keyboard and mouse with each Slate.

Adrian’s cracking wise, of course. Add hardware? No, that would be absurd! Instead they’re adding software, in the form of custom interfaces that sit on top of Windows 7 on a surfslatelet and make the darn things usable.

Custom apps from Samsung will help optimize the touch experience…

Microsoft has apparently decided it’s not in the business of making the user’s interaction with surflatelets anything other than just like Windows 7 on the desktop, except with a stylus. The Macalope’s no billion-dollar software company with a sweaty, awkward CEO, but that seems like a pretty big mistake to him.

The party’s in your Dock and everyone’s coming!

The Macalope hopes you spent the holidays building up a resistance to shouty one-star reviews, because the Mac App Store is here! It’s got some technical glitches, it’s upsetting the natural order of things, and it’s probably in need of some fixing, but here’s how the horny one knows it’ll be a success:

Without lifting his furry butt out of the chair, he bought a pretty cool game for his Mac…for a dollar.

Is that good for developers? Well, Majic Jungle Software, probably hoping for an early ride up the Top 10 lists, must think so or they wouldn’t have priced it that way. On the bright side, the Mac App Store has given us something other than app bundles to argue about.

While there are legitimate complaints about the pricing limitations, that hasn’t stopped some from diving head-first into a possibly shallow pool. For Pixelmator, which has gone App Store-only, it’s probably an easy way to differentiate themselves from their pushy installer-loving competition.

Oh, Adobe Installer! We could never quit you!

Seriously. We hit Command-Q like 8,000 times.

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