The Macalope Weekly: Zombie arguments

[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.]

That’s right, the “Android versus iOS is Windows versus the Mac all over again!” argument is back! It’s the zombie argument that won’t die! It keeps coming back to eat your brain! After trying to beat it to death with a baseball bat (we must have forgotten the double tap), we’ll take a look at how the RIM PlayBook is doing. And we’ll laugh. Ohhh, how we’ll laugh. Finally, the Macalope refuses to talk about that person again this week! You know the one!

Assumes facts not in evidence

Another week, another piece about how iOS is doomed because Android is your new boyfriend now. This time, it’s thanks to the fact that Android’s market share increased by 7 percent in the three months ending in February, while iOS’s only went up 0.2 percent. Take it away, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget!

Are Apple bulls right that Apple has an insurmountable hold on the “premium” segment of the market and that it doesn’t matter who has the other 75%?

Are the fanatical religious zealots—who’d buy a box full of deer ticks and put them in their ears if Steve Jobs told them to—right that it’s profit that companies run off of instead of market share? It’s a puzzler!

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To answer Blodget’s rhetorical and stupid question, it certainly doesn’t matter to Apple. At least not until 1 Infinite Loop becomes so stuffed with cash that it’s hard to move around. And to Apple’s customers it only matters if developers start ignoring iOS. You know, the developers who keep saying time after time that it’s better developing for iOS and that the iOS versions of their software have a better return. Those developers.

Other than that? No, market share does not matter. As a matter of fact, as Mac users know, a smaller share might even be better, since malicious coders tend to target the platform with more users.

So these Android gains should scare the bejeezus out of Apple bulls -- and Apple itself.

Why?

According to Blodget, developers will flock to the platform with the largest user base. Apparently despite the fact that those users don’t buy as many apps.

The Android gains matter because technology platform markets tend to standardize around a single dominant platform (see Windows in PCs, Facebook in social, Google in search).

As has been pointed out by several people, this is just wrong. Yes, it happened in PCs and search. And video cassettes. And mayonnaise when Best Foods bought Hellmann’s. However, there are plenty of counter-examples, the most appropriate being game consoles.

But, as they don’t fit into the narrative, let’s just discard them!

(If you include iPod touches in the calculation, Apple’s share has actually fallen).

Blodget’s comparing apples and oranges a bit; the timeframe in the Dan Frommer piece he links to is year-over-year, not the last three months, which is what the comScore numbers look at.

But it’s true: If you throw in the iPod touch, iOS’s share does fall year over year. How can that be? Because while iPod touch sales did grow a whopping 27 percent (or “only grew 27 percent” if you work at Business Insider), Android sales grew more.

Hmm. Why might iPod touch sales growth fail to keep up with Android in the last year? It’s almost like Apple introduced something else with outstanding growth. Something with the same development platform, just with a larger screen. Hmm, what could it have been? OH, WELL.

Yeah, so, if you include tablets, iOS increased its market share from 26.95 percent to 27.49 percent (assuming a fourth quarter tablet market share of 75 percent for the iPad and 22 percent for Android, which may overstate it for Android since Samsung, the bulk of the Android-based shipments, subsequently backtracked on its figures). Still, there were about 1.87 million more Android-based devices shipped in the quarter than iOS-based devices.

GigaOM’s Charles Jade points out that the most recent comScore numbers—the ones Blodget is trying to make hay with—only include the first three weeks of Verizon iPhone sales, which seem to account for a decent uptick in the iPhone’s numbers. Further, Apple’s increase was the largest of any hardware manufacturer. So, while iOS may not have accounted for as many units sold as the amorphous and somewhat unwieldy blob colloquially referred to as “Android,” the iPhone saw a bigger increase than any other phone.

Look, don’t take any single comparison too seriously. Because things change, people change, hairstyles change, interest rates fluctuate. Market share is only an indicator. What matters is not being marginalized to the point where you don’t get developer attention—and it hardly seems like that’s going to happen to iOS any time soon. Quite the contrary.

Of course none of this will stop Blodget and the rest from continuing to make the same zombie argument.

Sucks to be RIM

The Macalope hates making predictions. He’s not very good at them because, well, they’re hard. The technology industry has a lot of moving parts. OK, fewer now that solid state drives are gaining popularity, but you know what he means.

That’s why he’s relieved to see that one of his predictions for 2011—that the RIM PlayBook would be delayed—has already come to fruition.

As it turns out, some of the delay may be due to Apple having put down some of its gigantic piles of cash—you know, the cash some people were saying the company should pay out in dividends—to secure supplies of key components, such as touchscreens.

What?! Apple’s not playing fair! They’re hogging all the screens! And they totally grabbed the rope that time on the tetherball court, which is like an instant out, but they didn’t take an out, and UGH! SO UNFAIR!

Yeah, well, tough beans (except about the tetherball thing—that is totally an out). This is how the game is played.

But, let’s be honest. How many screens does RIM need? Like... five? Would that be good? They can probably get those. Even the super-awesome iPad-killing Xoom may have only sold 100,000 units. Admittedly, it didn’t include cool features like not having e-mail. Hey, RIM’s just giving you Inbox Zero right out of the box!

Anyway, it may not all be mean ol’ Apple’s fault. Because, soft! What light through yonder screen-RIM-can’t-find-a-supply-for breaks? It is a stuttering Flash video, and Adobe is the fail!

Oh, dear, dear, dear. This is pathetic. It’s like watching two dinosaurs climbing over each other trying to get out of a tar pit.

Except less tragic and more funny.

“It’s all marketing.”

Now, a lot of people are probably hoping that the Macalope is going to talk about Google’s “course correction” on how “open” Android is (read: “Open, now with 100 percent more approval required!”) and Andy Rubin’s defense of this as “pff, no big deal, business as usual, nothing to see here, move along (just remember to get your TPS reports in on time).”

But if he did that then he’d have to talk about a certain Android apologist who’s apparently not committed enough to real open source to call Google on its lax use of a word that’s supposed to mean something.

And, after the last two weeks, he’s frankly tired of talking about that person so he’s not going to touch this one.

Other than the three paragraphs above.

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