The Macalope Weekly: Running amok

Every once in a while things get away from people and snowball out of control. That frequently happens with Apple rumors and may be one of the reasons we love them so much. eWeek lets another top 10 list get away from them and finally ZDNet makes a recommendation that may cause more harm than good.

Saturday Special: Please accept this consolation prize

The Macalope loves Apple rumors. Really. There’s something wild and liberating about them. They’re where dreams hit the open highway of the imagination. And run into other dreams headed the opposite direction and go careening over the guard rail of reality and into the ravine of, uh, truth, or something.

Like the latest on the next iPhone.

Our sources are saying that not only will there be a newly designed iPhone coming in the fall, but there is going to be a new entry into the iPad family as well. As hard as it might be to believe, the new tablet is said to sport a double resolution screen (2048 x 1536), and will be dubbed the “iPad HD.” The idea behind the product is apparently that it will be a “pro” device aimed at a higher end market — folks who work in video and photo production possibly — and will be introduced alongside something like an iPad version of Final Cut or Aperture.

Well... the Macalope’s not saying the device isn't going to be released because he really has no idea, but the idea of marketing it to the high-end video market, whose heroin they just replaced with methadone, seems a tad far-fetched.

Still, you never know! That’s what makes Apple rumors so addictive!

Speaking of methadone, what’s this weak junk the Wall Street Journal's pushing? The next iPhone will be “thinner and lighter with an improved eight-megapixel camera?” You couldn't get a fly high with that. Come on, Wall Street Journal! Daddy needs his fix!

List padding

About that upcoming iPhone... were you aware that the not-yet-announced iPhone 5 will face “competition” and that these “competitors” represent different “choices” for “consumers,” who may “choose” to purchase other options in lieu of the iPhone 5? It’s shocking! But, according to another insipid slideshow from eWeek, it’s true!

Let us now turn, dear readers, to this painful exercise in stretching the boundaries of plausibility to get a top-ten list, brought to you by eWeek’s Don Reisinger.

Apple iPhone 5: 10 Rival Products That Could Harm Sales

The first competitor? The iPad 2.

Kind of a weak start there, Don. It’s like he just discovered the idea of opportunity cost and he’s going to apply it to everything.

Considering the economy isn’t turning around and many people are on a budget, some folks might opt for the iPad 2, which they might perceive to offer more value for their money, rather than go with the iPhone 5.

The Macalope thinks Reisinger’s been banging out these lists for so long that he doesn’t even see what he’s writing anymore. If you’re assuming these people don’t need a phone, the more obvious alternative would be the iPod touch. But then, if you’re assuming a fair portion of the market for the iPhone 5 consists of people who aren’t even interested in a phone per se, then you’ve pretty much given yourself artistic license to say whatever you want. From here on out it’s just performance art.

Alternatively, the Macalope has considered the possibility that eWeek has a slideshow engine that just randomizes a bunch of images, which its writers are then forced to try to assign some kind of logic to. Because not very much of this list makes any sense.

Another competitor is the RIM BlackBerry Torch. Well, at least that’s a phone. Reisinger says:

The iPhone 5 will have trouble competing in the corporate world as long as BlackBerry smartphones, including the Torch, still appeal to IT decision-makers.

OK, sure, there are going to be some IT managers who are going to go down with the RIM ship as its two captains continue to shout nonsensical orders. But the point is that every day more and more of them are jumping overboard. The Torch might stop a few from bailing, but at best it’s only going to slow the exodus, not stop it.

Also putting the iPhone 5’s sales at risk according to Reisinger is the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Now, hang on. Aside from the obvious fact that the PlayBook isn’t exactly a hot ticket, isn’t that double dipping? You just lauded the BlackBerry Torch for being cheap at $50, but the PlayBook costs $300 more than an iPhone and requires you to already own a BlackBerry to get email. Usually when looking at relative competitiveness we only consider rational purchase decisions, not crazy ones.

Here’s eWeek circa 1905: “You know what could prove faster than these newfangled auto-mobiles? Why, the old favorite, the horse! Did you know that a horse can be had for just a tenpenny coin? It’s true, friend! You know what else might prove faster than the auto-mobile? Carriages! Uh, yes, you have to buy the horse first to pull the carriage but… er… Say, look over there! Is that Honus Wagner?!”

Back to the present, one more time.

If the iPad 2 could cut into sales of Apple’s iPhone 5, there’s no reason to suggest the top Android tablet on the market, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, won’t do the same.

Totally! Heck, why stop there? There are so many things that could compete with the iPhone 5, if you just use your imagination! The Kindle! The original Nintendo Game Boy! A box of used motherboards! A stretch of gingham cloth!

Some of the items on the list have some merit (the Nokia hardware is terrific), but eWeek needs to get off this top-ten list thing. Particularly when there aren’t ten items that make a lick of sense.

Cutting off your face to spite your nose

Did you hear the one about the PDF bug that allows a web-based jailbreak that then lets you install a patch that fixes the bug? Phew. All this story needs is a traveling salesman and a farmer's daughter.

Yes, a zero-day PDF bug in iOS allows you to jailbreak your phone and the jailbreak community already has a patch for the bug that you can apply after the jailbreak. It’s a real stretch, though, to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’s contention that jailbreaking can make iOS devices more secure.

OK, Adrian, there’s a clause missing from your title. Because jailbreaking can make your iPhone device more secure from certain kinds of attacks. In the current instance that has Adrian suggesting his readers jailbreak their iPhones for the security, a zero-day PDF bug that can be executed through the browser.

One of the reasons given by Apple for locking down the iOS platform is security. A locked down OS is more secure than one that isn’t because it doesn’t allow unsigned code to be run on the platform. But what happens when a zero-day vulnerability is discovered that allows the security system to be bypassed that will take days, maybe weeks, to be fixed by Apple has already been patched by the jailbreak community?

Hey! Terrific! You can get yourself a couple of weeks of security against a threat you’re unlikely to encounter! And all you have to do is void your warranty. Adrian neglects to mention that small and unimportant tidbit of information.

Of course, it’s easy to restore your phone to factory conditions so Apple would never need to know, but here’s the other thing about Adrian’s suggestion: What’s the first thing this jailbreak installs? Cydia. What’s one of the major security benefits of the iPhone ecosystem? The fact that Apple curates the apps.

Who curates all the apps you can get through Cydia?

[crickets]

Now, the Macalope has no data on how secure apps available through Cydia actually are, but even Cydia’s creator advises against using sources other than the ones he’s confident are safe. But what’s the big malware problem on Android? It’s not zero-day browser exploits. It’s Trojans. You could be fine if you jailbreak your iPhone and move Cydia to the back page or only use the default sources. But then comes a day when you get curious, as people do when they’re alone in the dead of night. A couple of taps later you’re installing that app that promises to be full of celebrity nipple slips and all of a sudden you’ve got your pants around your ankles literally as well as figuratively.

Still, as irresponsible as Adrian’s post is, it isn’t really hyperbolic enough for the Macalope. Take it over the top, ExtremeTech!

JailbreakMe highlights just how vulnerable iOS users are

Compared to what? Certainly not to Android. Possibly not to any operating system.

Look, the Macalope doesn’t really have anything against jailbreaking. If you want to use your iPhone on another carrier or you want to install apps that aren't on the App Store and are willing to take responsibility for your own actions, knock yourself out. But don’t do it for security. Apple’s already said it's working on a fix. Just try to resist the continued recommendation of ZDNet pundits that Apple customers set their hair on fire right now for a few days. As tempting as it may be.

[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.]

Subscribe to the iOS Tips & Trends Newsletter

Comments