The Macalope Weekly: Vacation interuptus

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The Macalope was supposed to have this week off to rest and recuperate from the cavalcade of dumb he has to put up with day in and day out. But here we are.

First we’ll examine some tools of the silly punditry trade. Then it’s time to face it, friends: The Surface is pushing the tablet category forward and proves Microsoft is back, baby! Apple must surely respond to this move Microsoft hasn’t played yet. Finally … finally … it’s the piece that forced the Macalope to take time off from his vacation.

You’re not going to believe it but … Android is winning.

Tools of the trade

The Macalope, as you know, has long been an observer of the fine art of technology punditry. Today, he’s spotlighting three tools of the trade in this, the dumbest of arts.

Tool number 1: The online poll. Any time you see the word “poll” in a headline, you are guaranteed there will not be one iota of value in the piece.

Case in point: Dan Rowinski’s piece for ReadWriteWeb titled “[Poll] Has Apple Gone Too Far?”

Has? Apple? Gone? Too? Far?

Wait, is “not far enough” not an option?

To many, Apple can do no wrong.

They think that every decision is right, every mistake is someone else’s fault.

Rowinski shall light the way to the truth by burning an entire field of straw men.

But the courtroom battles are straining the affections of buyers and the trade media. Comments on Apple/Samsung articles that we have published are more vitriolic than usual even if Apple still has phalanxes of staunch, vocal supporters.

Comments.

You must be new here on the Internet, Dan.

Yet more people are questioning Apple’s motives and whether it is still a mobile innovator.

Tool number 2: The supposedly proving link to something that proves nothing of the sort.

That link is to another piece by Rowinski, which shows Android smartphones gaining overall market share on the iPhone, but does not indicate any actual reason for this gain.

One wonders why—if so many people are turning against Apple because of its legal challenge to Samsung—the iPad actually gained market share last quarter. Well, one wonders as long as one’s name is not Dan Rowinski.

And then Rowinski finishes off by inviting readers to fill out his totally scientific online poll, the two extremes of which are “Apple Can Do No Wrong” and “Android For Life.”

The poll has a margin of error of infinity.

Tool number 3: Asking questions in the headline that are specifically refuted in the piece itself.

PadGadget’s Jenni (no last name given) asks “Is the iPad Hurting Children’s Brain Development?”

Dunno, Jenni. Maybe we should read your article, which says that while one doctor has only begun to study its effects …

…preliminary findings have reportedly shown that for some children, touchscreens appear to motivate and enhance learning rather than hinder it.

Maybe it’s just the Macalope, but wouldn’t a more accurate title have asked the question the other way around, since that’s what the current—albeit minimal—evidence shows, rather than parroting the tired accusations of the usual Luddites?

Seriously, people, the Macalope’s impending vacation cannot come too soon.

Fan mail

What happens when ostensibly smart people write stupid columns? That’s the question Anil Dash inadvertently answered by writing this Wired piece, entitled “With the Surface Tablet, Fist-Swinging Microsoft Jumps Back Into the Ring.”

In a world where Apple’s white logo glows angelically in our shopping malls and Google exhorts us not to be evil…

You really just wrote that, didn’t you.

…I’m ready to embrace a big tech company that’s not afraid to get mean.

Because Microsoft, which has chosen to sit on its great fat laurels for ten years, all the while in abject denial, is the tough businessman, while Apple and Google are sissies. Or something. It’s hard to make sense of what Dash’s point is here.

Over and over, [Microsoft] used brilliant technical judo to neutralize competitors so effectively, it probably could have succeeded wildly without ever crossing the lines of legality.

But you know how it is, girl! Sometimes you just gots to cross that line! Awww, yeah, baby!

The government meddling was necessary, given Microsoft’s history of stretching/flouting the law, and it forced the company into some valuable concessions—like giving users more choice over their default browsers and supporting open standards for webpages. But it exacted a heavy toll on Microsoft’s ability to adapt and innovate.

Did it? Dash places the blame for Microsoft’s “lost decade” on its settlement with the government, but if there’s something in that settlement that precluded Microsoft from making hardware, the Macalope’s not aware of it. And, to be fair, there’s a lot in there he’s not aware of, because reading an antitrust settlement is up there with watching a salt lick dissolve in the rain on the “riveting activities” list.

True, Steve Jobs headed up what is arguably the most remarkably innovative decade of any company in history. But it’s worth noting that Microsoft was handcuffed that entire time.

By incompetence.

Sweaty, sweaty incompetence.

If anyone questioned whether Microsoft could get back in the fight once the cuffs finally came off, Surface should put those doubts to rest.

If you’re the kind of person who puts their blind faith into buggy demos of products the attendees were not allowed to use.

The gorgeous PC/tablet hybrid is the only example in recent memory of a company clearly and emphatically going toe to toe with Apple on the industrial design front.

Who cares if it works or the user experience sucks?! IT’S GOT A KICKSTAND!

The iPad will have to improve. Android tablets will have to improve. Surface isn’t another me-too device—it moves the entire category forward.

Or sideways into a ditch. Which is kind of like forward. Just to the side.

It’s pieces like this that prompted the Macalope to say it’s high time to put the “Apple reality distortion field” myth to bed. The horny one’s been saying this for four years: “It’s amazing how future Microsoft products beat current Apple products time and time again, isn’t it?”

And with Surface, Microsoft is taking on more than Apple; it’s swinging its fists at all of its PC partners who’ve been churning out dull tablets and laptops for years.

Well, that’s the real potential for disruption that the Surface presents. Why couldn’t Microsoft have done this eight years ago? The settlement with the government was about software bundling and access to APIs, not whether or not Microsoft could make its own hardware.

The Macalope is really looking forward to the Surface’s arrival. It’s either going to be an interesting sea change in the market … or a lot of pundits are going to be wondering which white wine goes best with crow.

(Crow’s actually kind of dry, so something on the sweet side is best.)

Every time I think I’m out

… they pull me back in!

Look, TechCrunch’s Matt Burns. Is it too much to ask for the Macalope to take just a week of much-needed vacation?

“Android is Winning”

Seriously with this? We did this already. When you’re recycling tired tropes from Henry Blodget, you know you should seriously question the life choices that have led you to this moment.

The latest numbers are in: Android is on top, followed by iOS in a distant second.

Yes. This is undeniable. No one is denying it. Not even the “Apple fanboys” you speak of.

What we’re arguing about is the definition of “winning.”

This word comes from Gartner, a top research firm for these sorts of things.

Ed Bott:

Ha ha ha… Wait, TechCrunch is serious?

Apparently. It is a thing of beauty, though, when Apple fans and Microsoft fans can come together to laugh at the credulity of Google fans. Almost brings a tear to the Macalope’s eye. Still, while Gartner is not the final word on, well, anything more complicated than pudding, no one is arguing that Android isn’t ahead globally.

There is no denying Android’s dominance anymore. There is no way even the most rabid Apple fanboy can deny that iOS is in second place now. Android is winning.

Keep saying it, because it keeps getting funnier every time you do.

Consumers are simply (and wisely) not buying iPhones as much right now when it’s clear a new one is right around the corner.

So true! iPhone sales were only up 28 percent year-over-year last quarter!

In fact iOS’ market share only improved nominally year-over-year.

But it did improve. And, as we keep pointing out—though none of you want to talk about this—Apple continues to rake in the largest share of the profit, and its developers consistently make more money. Oh, and then there’s the iPad, which Burns conveniently neglects to mention.

During Apple’s best iPhone quarter, Q1 of 2012, the company moved 33M iPhones—an impressive feat considering there are only three models. Now, during Android’s best quarter, there were 98M units sold. There is simply no comparison.

Sure isn’t when you don’t note how many models of Android phones there are.

This war is starting to heat up. It’s no longer just a playground fight between fanboys. Developers cannot ignore Android.

Actually, they can and probably will. In addition to leading in units sold, Android also leads in malware and users who simply don’t pay for apps. What Android has done is to get more people to replace their old “feature phones” (actual features not included) with cheap Android phones. These users aren’t interested in a mobile platform, they just want to make calls and send texts. This is why Samsung’s best-selling phone is a prepaid.

The old mantra of releasing on iOS and then eventually hitting Android needs to be rethought.

Uh-huh. Tell you what, why don’t you hold your breath until that happens?

Google Play is a mess and Android has a very big problem with piracy. Android the ecosystem still sucks, but Android the mobile platform is winning.

Perhaps it’s your definitions of “winning” that needs to be rethought.

OK, now the Macalope is really on vacation. Totally.

Just … stop writing stuff, OK?

[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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