The Macalope Weekly: The bloom is off the rose

The Macalope’s so old that he remembers when the devices that are now being thrown onto the bonfire of the tablet vanities were touted as “iPad killers.” But things change. Take Siri, for instance. Like a freshman romance that didn’t make it to winter break, it appears that the bloom is off the rose and THERE ARE SEVEN FLORISTS NEAR YOU. WOULD YOU LIKE DIRECTIONS TO THE NEAREST ONE? Ugh! This relationship is so suffocating, Siri! Finally, consider, if you will, the madness that can occur between the time a writer finishes an article and then writes a headline that gets it all wrong.

You know, it’s not easy pulling these pieces into a unifying theme. You try it some time.

Welcome to the dung heap of technology!

Congratulations to the Dell Streak 7 and the BlackBerry PlayBook, the latest losers in the Laff-A-Lympics that is the rest of the tablet market!

To tell the truth, the Macalope had thought that the Dell Streak had been killed back in August, but apparently that was only the Dell Streak 5. Hey, cut the horny one some slack! It’s hard to keep up with which crappy tablets have been cancelled! At any rate, if you danced prematurely on the Streak 7’s grave, go ahead and bust out another jig. With the amount of practice you’re getting, you’re probably turning into a regular Michael Flatley.

Like HP, Dell is believed to be putting most of its faith in Windows 8 tablets for the US market.

“Faith” is a good choice of words here, as it implies adherence to a belief system rather than making decisions based on empirical evidence.

Speaking of delusional, how are our friends north of the border doing?

Among other bad news, BlackBerry maker RIM announced today that it would take a $485 million write-down for its November quarter because it has too many unsold PlayBook tablets in inventory.

Ooh. That doesn’t sound good. Please feel free to make your own “amateur hour” joke.

Morgan Stanley estimated RIM was writing off 1.4 million PlayBooks while Jean-Louis Gassée thinks it could be more like 2.4 million.

2.4 million? How could they be stuck with so many? And can you imagine what the smell must be like?

Read more…

A possible explanation lies in the way “sales” were reported in previous quarters. Perhaps these transactions weren’t totally final, meaning they shouldn’t have been recorded as revenue because the buyer had the right to return Playbooks to RIM. Faulty reporting of revenue could spell trouble with shareholders, the SEC and hungry attorneys.

POPCORN. THE MACALOPE IS GOING TO NEED SOME POPCORN OVER HERE, STAT.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, seems to be doing quite well, although it’s still not cause for concern over at Apple.

In an investor’s note released Friday, analyst Mark Moskowitz said that Apple expressed “confidence” in its ability to continue to lead the market and appeared unconcerned about lower-cost tablets. Even further, the company seems to believe that such rivals could steer more business its way.

“If anything, we think that Apple views the Kindle Fire as a device that stands to bring incremental consumers to the tablet market, and here, these consumers could gravitate to more feature-rich experiences,” Moskowitz said.

Those are pretty big “coulds” there. Still, Apple’s “coulds” are money in the bank compared to Dell and RIM’s “didn’ts.”

The honeymoon is over

Siri’s gotten a fair amount of grief in the past week as users have had a chance to kick the virtual tires and found that, to their chagrin, the emperor is wearing no tires.

Mat Honan has a not atypical privileged rant about Siri that boils down to “We expect better from Apple.” And, frankly, this is true.

Come on, Apple. This sense of elitism doesn’t build itself, you know.

Still, the Macalope thinks Honan’s double-dipping.

If I wanted a half-baked voice control system, I could snag an Android phone for $49 at T-Mobile. Instead, I waited, and gladly plunked down hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone in October—because it promised to be flawless (or close enough), like everything before it.

“Promised to be flawless”? Really? It would seem pretty odd if a company promised its beta product would be flawless. That might have raised some eyebrows.

Now, the Macalope can see how your average consumer might think Siri would be flawless after more than a month of iPhone 4S advertising. But if Gizmodo’s Mat Honan thought it would flawless, well, then Gizmodo’s Mat Honan should take a picture of himself in the bathroom mirror with his iPhone 4S and look at it long and hard to find out who’s to blame there.

I’m sorry. Beta? Beta is for Google. When Apple does a public beta, it usually keeps it out of the hands of the, you know, public. It typically makes you go get betas. It doesn’t force them on you, much less advertise them.

Here we’re in complete agreement. The Macalope doesn’t think you can both fault Apple for releasing a beta product and for it not working perfectly. Pick one. And it seems the right one to pick is “releasing a beta product and advertising the hell out of it.”

Yes, yes, the ads say “beta”, but Apple’s clearly positioning it as the biggest reason to get an iPhone 4S and it’s an unarguably unfinished product. Yes, yes, even as it is, it’s pretty amazing, but it’s still not something you can or should try to rely on. Yes, yes, there’s kitsch value in having it, and it’s kind of fun to play with, but that’s not how it’s advertised. It’s advertised as working.

(Ugh, you’re being really argumentative today, imaginary representative of a Macworld reader.)

The Macalope doesn’t have Honan’s degree of problems with getting Siri to understand the words he’s saying, just with getting it to understand the meaning or doing something useful with the meaning. You only have to have it perfectly get the name of a place in your address book, but then fail to be able to give you directions to it to realize it’s still in the “novelty” stage.

Were this Google, or Microsoft, I’d shrug. But it’s not, it’s Apple. And Apple is the company that sells perfection. It’s a company that usually keeps its promises, and in its Siri ads, it promises far more than what it actually delivers. That’s not what any of us signed up for.

The Macalope doesn’t agree with the last sentence—we who talk about technology to the degree that people ask us to please stop bothering their children while they’re trying to watch the funny puppets should have a pretty good idea what a beta is—but the rest is 100 percent spot on.

Still, you have to admit that even as a beta Siri’s a step up from MobileMe or Ping.

Lol, remember Ping?

No?

Actually, the Macalope doesn’t either. He was kind of hoping you did.

Did it have something to do with TCP/IP?

Saturday Special: The annals of bad headline writing

Sometimes something funny happens on the way to a headline. In ye oldene dayes when a man could walk from coast to coast on superfluous trailing e’s and newspapers were king, copy editors would skim a story and slap up a headline that fit in the layout. Now, though, it’s just a mix of exaggeration and utter lunacy that makes headlines.

Case in point, this headline by Larry Dignan over at CNet:

Apple iPad feels squeeze from Fire, Air

Oh, no! The iPad’s on the ropes!

[doug henning voice] The ropes of imagination! [/doug henning voice]

(Kids, if you don’t know who Doug Henning is, look him up on YouTube because you won’t believe such a thing was ever possible. You’ll say, “Mr. Macalope, you’re making this up. The hair, maybe. But the hair and the suspenders? Surely you jest, sir.” But, no, it’s true. A creature both more wonderous and terrible than the Macalope himself once roamed this land.)

Dive into the piece and you’ll see that Dignan leads a rich fantasy life.

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said in a research note that the iPad is seeing competition from two areas—the Kindle Fire and the MacBook Air. As a result, Wu cut his December quarter iPad sales estimate to 13.5 million from 15 million.

Tip to CNet: The headline should have been “Analyst alters made-up number.”

Are sales of the iPad being affected by the Kindle Fire and the MacBook Air? Maybe. Probably. Some of them. Sales of the Kindle Fire and the MacBook Air are also being affected by the iPad. But even at 13.5 million iPads, that’s a 22-percent increase on the previous quarter and an 85-percent increase over the prior year’s quarter. There ain’t nothing but 100-percent juice coming from that squeeze.

More egregious is this headline that the Macalope noticed after Google’s third quarter conference call.

Android generating $2.5bn a year for Google

Wow! Is that was Google said? Actually, as even the article points out, no.

“We’re also seeing a huge positive revenue impact from mobile, we just grown 2.5 times in the last 12 months, to a run rate of over $2.5bn.”

“Mobile” does not equal “Android.” Some Android fan sites also got this wrong, but “mobile” means ad revenue from all mobile operating systems. Further, because we know that about two thirds of Google’s mobile ad revenue comes from the iPhone we can figure that Android is generating at most $833 million in ad revenue a year for Mountain View. That is, of course, chump change compared to what Apple makes on the iPhone. Still, Android’s winning. Somehow.

The Macalope’s not sure how you solve a problem like bad headlines. He’s hoping the answer involves wooden stocks and throwing fruit, though.

[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.]

Subscribe to the MacWeek Newsletter

Comments