The Macalope Daily: Not that interesting

You’d think that if Steve Jobs called you “a slime bucket” for talking out of school about his cancer, you might have the good taste to not presume to lecture on how Apple would be doing if Jobs were still alive.

Well, then you’re not Joe Nocera!

Writing for the New York Times, Nocera asks “Has Apple peaked?” (tip o’ the antlers to pretty much everyone).

Wasn’t the Macalope just complaining about people not doing the required reading? Come on, New York Times! We thought that time you don’t spend putting a comics section together was put to editing and research and being respectable! Now we have no idea what you’re doing.

If Steve Jobs were still alive, would the new map application on the iPhone 5 be such an unmitigated disaster? Interesting question, isn’t it?

No! It’s not! If only because it’s been asked by every Apple-hating rube who can string two sentences together for, oh, 35 years. Steve Jobs’s death is just another in a continuing series of imaginary brass rings on the merry-go-round of Apple doom.

But more importantly, it’s asinine.

As Apple’s chief executive, Jobs was a perfectionist. He had no tolerance for corner-cutting or mediocre products. The last time Apple released a truly substandard product—MobileMe...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop right there.

MobileMe. Which was released under... who? Yeah, right. “Steve Jobs never would have released a product as shoddy as this product released under Steve Jobs!”

No one read that at the Times and thought “Wait a minute...”? Arrgh.

No doubt, the iPhone 5, which went on sale on Friday, will be another hit.

Yes! And the Maps issue will fade with time like Antennagate, Glassgate, HandicappedParkingSpotGate, and JobsWithAMustacheGate.

So, to answer your question again, no, this is not an interesting question.

Apple’s halo remains powerful. But there is nothing about it that is especially innovative.

Sadly, it has become a cliché to say one is typing slowly so the slower students can understand but the Macalope hopes Nocera will take the time to read this next part slowly and digest it. Apple reinvented the personal computer with the Mac, it reinvented the music player with the iPod and it reinvented the cell phone with the iPhone. It did all that over the last 28 years. To expect the company to come out with another product as ground-breaking as those in the year since Jobs died is simply absurd.

You can argue that the iPad should be included but the Macalope doesn’t put it in quite the same pantheon of products. As pundits at the time were so fond of pointing out, “It’s just a big iPod touch.”

In rolling out a new operating system for the iPhone 5, Apple replaced Google’s map application—the mapping gold standard—with its own, vastly inferior, application...

Vastly inferior at some things—albeit very important things—and better at others.

...which has infuriated its customers. With maps now such a critical feature of smartphones, it seems to be an inexplicable mistake.

If you find it inexplicable you’re either not paying attention or being willfully obtuse. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Apple and Google aren’t exactly on the best of terms these days. Sitting down to a negotiation over mapping data right now would take someone with the patience of Job, something Jobs with an “s” certainly did not have.

And maybe that’s all it is—a mistake, soon to be fixed. But it is just as likely to turn out to be the canary in the coal mine.

Once again the Pundit Ouija Board is pressed into action! Not surprisingly, the board has well-worn grooves to the “APPLE DOOMED!” answer.

How long do you think it takes to come up with a new maps app, from soup to nuts? The Macalope doesn’t really know, but he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it takes more than a year, particularly if you’re starting without any data. The point is, Jobs probably not only knew they were going to do this, he was probably a proponent of it.

Apple’s current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but it’s just not the same without the man himself looking over everybody’s shoulder.

Uh, yeah, but the real problem with the app as it stands isn’t so much the part that Apple built as it is the data. Jobs may have been a very intimidating presence standing over your shoulder and slowly strangling a kitten or whatever pundits like to fantasize about, but he could not magically make map data appear from thin air.

It’s interesting that Nocera doesn’t get at the one thing Jobs might have done better, which is selling it. But even Jobs couldn’t fool all of the people all of the time. (See: Apple’s original “sweet solution” for iOS development.) Still, as Jean-Louis Gassée notes, Apple should have done a better job on communicating how there would be problems.

Now it is Apple’s turn to be king of the hill—and, not surprisingly, it has begun to behave in a very similar fashion. You can see it in the patent litigation against Samsung, a costly and counterproductive exercise that has nothing to do with innovation and everything to do with protecting its turf.

Counterproductive?! In what wacky alternate timeline is forcing your biggest smartphone competitor to hand over $3 billion and getting a ban on its products counterproductive? Oh, you can say it’s a waste of time, you can say it’s beneath them, but counterproductive? No.

“Oh my god,” read one Twitter message I saw. “Apple maps is the worst ever. It is like using MapQuest on a BlackBerry.”

MapQuest and BlackBerry.

Exactly.

Uh-huh. Well, let’s not let “anonymous Twitter guy” have the last word. Let’s let this guy on Twitter have the last word:

FLOWCHART:

Should I write an article about what Steve Jobs would have done?

No.

Exactly.

[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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