The Macalope Daily: Pundit flail

Instapaper creator Marco Arment has really rattled a number of cages in the few days since he wrote a piece titled “The Android tablet problem, nicely summarized by one review’s conclusion.” And that’s an appropriate metaphor, as these counter-arguments belong in cages. The Macalope’s not sure what siren’s song this piece sent out, but he’s wondering if we could somehow harness it to lure these pundits into a car to send them off to live on a farm in the country somewhere without Internet access where he’s sure they’d be much happier. Or, at least we’d be a lot happier, which is really more to the point.

The thrust of Arment’s argument was that, while better hardware is nice, it’s not enough to make people run out and buy iPad competitors. People buy iPads because of the ecosystem and, so far, Android hasn’t been able to build the kind of compelling software ecosystem the iPad has. Hardly controversial, right?

Oy.

Even the Macalope’s ancient nemesis, George Ou, felt compelled to respond. Some of you younger readers may not remember George Ou. Count your blessings. George used to blog over at ZDNet before he left to go work for a series of think-tanks, possibly as a public service so fewer people would have to read his work.

The thing that stuck out about his review of a review is that it spends so much time frothing at the mouth because someone said something nice about a competing Apple product that’s true.

George is a very serious person who would never froth at the mouth.

When you get to the bottom line, Mr. Arment’s conclusion like so many pundits is that the tablet wars are over and Apple owns the market due to its dominance in app support.

Of course, Marco never said the tablet wars were over. What he said was that tablet vendors without fruit-themed logos are going to have to come up with a more compelling offering if they want to convince people to buy their products instead of an iPad.

So far, competing tablets have been an utter failure with the exception of the Galaxy Tab, but George knows how to fix that: price.

That puts Windows 8 tablets in the $350 to $500 price range which is very compelling to the stingy PC shoppers who aren’t going to buy Apple.

Like… George Ou.

We’ve talked about this before. Yes, there’s likely a set of consumers who are priced out of the tablet market right now. Whoever can get prices down low enough will capture them.

Back over at George’s old stomping grounds (he did a lot of stomping over there) Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, while not addressing Arment’s piece, makes the same price argument by way of agreeing with Robert Scoble.

Well, pardon the Macalope for saying so, guys, but dur-hey. This isn’t startling. This is the main reason Android smartphones have a higher market share than the iPhone. Despite Ou’s contention, no “Apple blogger,” Arment included, is saying otherwise. In fact, this is exactly what the horny one said back in January.

The iPad 2 will be sexy and slim and have two cameras. OK, that’s not much of a prediction, but Android and Windows-based tablets will continue to fall in the iPad’s shadow until they’re able to undercut it on price.

But George loves his straw men, so what are you going to do?

Time for Apple to give up

The Macalope’s not sure what it is that Joe Wilcox loves. Making arguments that fly in the face of reality? That’s the best the Macalope can get out of his response to Arment (tip o’ the antlers to Lessien). Arment can’t figure it out, either.

His title doesn’t even make sense: “Apple cannot win the tablet wars”. Joe, it’s winning it right now. Quite handily. There’s this technology-punditry imperative to have one ultimate winner in every arena as if time stops once someone gains critical market share, but even the desktop operating system wars aren’t completely over. If anything, Apple’s changed the rules of the war.

Sorry, Joe. Go ahead. You were about to make no sense.

Arment’s reasoning is fatally flawed, making applications more important than they really are for a mobile platform to succeed. I won’t bother with a point-by-point but get to the one that matters most: iPad has no killer application(s). There is no software application that people are pining for that makes Apple’s tablet must-have over any other.

Then why is Apple kicking every other tablet maker’s butt up and down the street, Joe? No, there’s no one application people need. There are thousands of them people need individually and, where they’re also on Android, they’re just better on iOS.

Wilcox repeatedly says developers will inevitably be drawn to develop for Android tablets because they want to “make money”. But we’ve covered this territory, Joe. Developers, by and large, prefer iOS because they make more money developing for it. iPhone and iPad users just buy more apps.

Again, there’s only one way these tablet competitors are going to make their products more compelling than the iPad and that’s by undercutting Apple on price. Enjoy your low-margin business, Android and Windows 8 OEMs! You deserve every half-penny of it.

[Editors’ Note: 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.]

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