The Macalope Weekly: Slippery Surface

Welcome, Microsoft Surface! Well, not really welcome, since it doesn’t come out for months. More like “Please accept this promise of being welcomed some time in the future!” Surely this will bring nothing but disaster for Apple products, from the iPad to the MacBook Air to iPod Socks. But competition is good! So is choice! What’s not good is some of this analysis. Yeesh.

iPad? DOOOOOMED!

Even before the Surface was announced some pundits were trying to deliver a pink slip to the iPad.

According to PCWorld’s Kathryn Noyes, a recent survey says Android tablets are “beating out” the iPad in business and IT.

Oh, no! Our iGod has iFailed us! Once again we see that there is nothing we can possess that Open Source software cannot take away! DAMN YOU, ANDROOOOOOOOOID!

Well … uh … should we bother clicking through to the survey to see what it really says? No. Right? Seriously, there’s no way Katherine could be making open-source mountains out of survey mole-hills, right?

[click]

Oh, wait, that’s exactly what she’s doing. Let’s watch Noyes’s personal echo chamber build to a deafening crescendo of reverberation!

Apple’s iPad may still be considered the king of tablets in many quarters, but new research data casts a shadow of doubt over how long that will continue.

Dun-dun-DUNNNNNNNNN!

Read more…

In fact, a full 44 percent of first-time tablet buyers in business and IT plan to purchase an Android device in the upcoming 12 months, compared with just 27 percent planning to go with an iPad, according to a new study from IDG Connect (IDG Connect is part of IDG, which owns PCWorld.com).

MOAR ANDROID WINNING. Yes, of all the people who’ve so far resisted buying a tablet for fear of angering their corporate information technology gods, 44 percent said they were going to buy an Android device instead of an iPad. This is truly devastating, and the year of the open-source tablet is now unquestionably upon us. QED.

A few lines down in the piece, Noyes lets the open-source devil on her shoulder get the best of her:

For future purchases, though, Android was clearly the preferred choice, with 44 percent of respondents saying they’d choose a device that uses the Linux-based operating system.

Actually, no! Katherine got it right at first and then couldn’t resist exaggerating it. It’s not “future purchases,” it’s “first-time” purchases. And we all know how solid surveys that predict future purchasing behavior are, right?

Cough.

Let’s check out what IDG actually said, since Noyes seems unclear:

Results show that 71% of respondents own a tablet, 51% of these have an iPad, but more first time buyers will opt for Android over the next 12 months:

— 44% will buy an Android tablet

— 27% will buy an iPad

— 3% will opt for Windows 8

— 21% aren’t sure

(Emphasis the Macalope’s.)

In other words, of the 29 percent that haven’t yet bought a tablet, 44 percent said they were going to buy an Android device. That’s 399 of the 3124 surveyed.

In Noyes’s defense, the IDG press release about this survey also makes heady claims not supported by the evidence.

IDG Connect’s study of 3124 worldwide IT and business professionals demonstrates a startling move away from iPads, especially in developing regions.

The only way you could show there was a “move away” is if you showed that they previously favored the iPad. The Macalope downloaded the white paper and it offers no historical survey results at all, just historical market share. Somehow, though, whoever wrote it had no compunctions about making grand assumptions that favor Android:

Now that a majority (71%) of business and IT executives around the world own tablets, the market’s centre of gravity is shifting toward buyers who regard Android as their preferred option.

IDG seems to assume that people who have purchased tablets will never purchase another again, and that from here on out the only game is the people who have been waiting this whole tablet thing out, on account of how it might just be a fad. Let’s look at IT professionals, who are more anti-iPad than the business professionals they support:

49% of IT professionals currently own an iPad. 42% own an Android tablet. However, among IT professionals who don’t yet own a tablet, 49% say they will buy an Android tablet. Only 26% say they will buy an iPad.

49 plus 42 is 91! You’re getting all excited about at most 9 percent! And the iPad’s already owned by a plurality of IT professionals? These people hate Apple! This is possibly the group in the world least inclined to buy the company’s products! You buried the lede!

And this is what Noyes calls Android “beating” the iPad.

Even if Android captures half of the “IT professionals” who don’t own a tablet yet, that’s still not enough to catch up to the iPad.

The Macalope doesn’t make market-share predictions because this stuff moves too fast to hit with any accuracy. But suffice it to say that the overblown reaction to a subset of numbers from a survey of the flighty preferences of buyers not curious enough about tablets to already own one—in a slice of the market notoriously hostile to Apple—doesn’t leave him concerned about the future prospects for the iPad.

Surface impressions

New rule: No one ever gets to talk about Apple’s “reality distortion field” anymore.

Why?

Let’s take a look at some of the fawning reaction to the announcement of Microsoft’s Surface on Monday. You might want to have a barf bag ready.

By the way, it turns out the Macalope was right back in January of 2010.

[Microsoft has] already used up surface, tablet and slate. They’re running out of flat things.

So it had to repurpose one of them.

Now, the Macalope actually thinks the Surface looks interesting and could be a very smart move by Microsoft (although reaction from its OEM partners is going to be Thanksgiving-at-John-Edwards’s-house kind of interesting). The problem is that there’s so much we still don’t know about the Surface—price, battery life, keyboard functionality, etc.—that it’s kind of hard to judge the device on its merits (or flaws).

Unless you have the rose-colored glasses of these folks, that is! For them, everything’s comin’ up Ballmer!

For Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, it was love at first sight:

I love the Surface. And that’s true even though I know very little about it.

…I was allowed to spend only about 90 seconds with Microsoft’s new tablet device. Even that brief time was circumscribed. I was only permitted to touch the device while the machine was powered off. Microsoft representatives were happy to show off the device, but they didn’t let me actually use the new tablet.

And yet you love it. So much for the critical mind of the technology pundit.

That should be embarrassing to you.

At long last, the PC industry has some real hardware competition. And whether the Surface wins or loses, Microsoft is finally in the game.

Uh … will be in the game. In the fall. Theoretically. You do know Microsoft didn’t actually ship these things yet, right?

Did the future tense up and die and no one told the Macalope?

Then we have Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz (no link because Gizmodo, but tip o’ the antlers to HK) who says “Microsoft Surface Just Made the MacBook Air and the iPad Look Obsolete.”

It was four years ago that the Macalope said this but it still holds true:

It’s amazing how future Microsoft products beat current Apple products time and time again, isn’t it?

Gizmodo’s Diaz proves the point:

That weapon is Microsoft Surface. And it is beautiful. Beautiful and functional and simple and honest.

Boy, you can tell a lot from 90 seconds with a product you haven’t actually used, can’t you?

[Microsoft’s VaporMG] also allows for a built-in kickstand, which is invisible when using the product in tablet mode.

No, it’s not “invisible.” That would be impressive. It’s just flush against the back.

If Microsoft doesn’t fumble the execution…

To quote Han Solo, “Well, that’s the real trick now, isn’t it?” And Microsoft’s track record of late has been less than spectacular.

VentureBeat’s John Koetsier piece is so over-the-top that he feels he has to give his Apple street cred—yeah, he’s “a bit of an Apple fan boy”—right at the top (tip o’ the antlers to Matthew Panzarino).

But Microsoft knocked one out of the park yesterday. Completely. Hit. A. Home. Run.

To continue the baseball metaphor, it’s almost three months into the season and Microsoft has yet to actually field a player, but Koetsier thinks the company is winning the game.

Microsoft needed this for Microsoft.

Barf.

This one is for them.

Barrrrrf.

And Microsoft is bold with it.

BARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRF.

Even if it does work as advertised—home run? Maybe a double into the gap. Now the only question is if the runner will score or if Microsoft will go one-two-three from here, as is traditional for baseball teams from the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday Special: Can’t stand the heat

Turns out The New York Times’s Nick Bilton is into recycling!

Recycling tired old tropes.

“Microsoft Surface Allows People to Create”

As opposed to…?

The iPad, for all its glory, suffers from one very distinct flaw: It’s very difficult to use for creation.

Wait, we did this one. This is covered material. If you’re not going to do the required reading, Nick, the Macalope’s not sure why you’re taking this class. And are you arguing with Martha Stewart? She’s an ex-con, dude. That may not be a good idea.

Many people find the iPad just fine for content creation. If you’d like to argue that a tablet supported by a kickstand at a fixed 22 degrees (no compromises!) and physically attached to a keyboard that no one’s used yet is going to be better, that’s a different discussion. But it is not “difficult” to use an iPad for content creation for many, many people.

And mythical beasts. When the Macalope journeyed to WWDC earlier this month, he took his iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard and somehow managed to keep writing his column. With hooves, no less.

The keyboard on the screen, although pretty to look at, is abysmal for typing anything over 140 characters. There isn’t a built-in pen for note-taking, either.

Perhaps because he’s a writer Bilton seems somewhat blinded to the idea that there are other kinds of content.

The Surface tablet also comes with built-in applications from Windows 8 that will allow people to write or create fun spreadsheets. (O.K., maybe not fun, but spreadsheets nonetheless.)

Maybe not fun? The Macalope will submit that, since the dawn of computing, the percentage of spreadsheets that can be considered “fun” is so de minimus it shares a pair of underwear with zero.

A number of people took issue with Bilton, as people on the Internet do, and Bilton responded by retiring to his fainting couch, as oversensitive writers for major media outlets do when they’re called names.

Then he tried to re-couch his argument.

As a journalist who writes in all shapes and sizes—tweets, blog posts, print features and books—I’ve tried on numerous occasions to rattle out narratives on my iPad, but I personally find it impractical at best.

OK, but you didn’t say that. If you had said that, that would have been fine. You personally find it impractical. That’s too bad. But that doesn’t mean everyone does.

Microsoft is betting that people really want a keyboard with their tablets. And, apparently, a trackpad. And possibly tweezers and a corkscrew. And that’s an interesting bet.

Rumors have the pricing of the Surface with a keyboard cover comparable to the same capacity iPad. But the iPad comes with a better display, and since you can get any number of keyboards for an iPad, this supposed advantage is currently ethereal.

Sorry some people on the Internet were mean to you, though, Nick.

Have you been on the Internet before or is this your first time?

[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.]

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