The Macalope Weekly: Opinions are like iPads, everybody has one

Opinions come in all flavors. Some are fabricated for personal gain. Some are honest but, alas, bass-ackwards. And some are much ado about nothing.

The other shoe

A few weeks ago, after hedge fund manager Doug Kass told us all about the imminent doom headed to our favorite fruit-themed company (including a kick at Apple’s customer base), the Macalope wondered how being mouth-breathingly wrong about Apple made a great advertisement for your investment business.

Philip Elmer-Dewitt has the answer:

If he was correct in mid October, it would follow that he was even more correct this week, when Apple—which was trading for $674 a share when Kass started his campaign—traded for as low as $533.74.

But no. Having helped knock more than $130 billion off Apple’s market valuation, Kass on Friday cheerfully announced that he is buying Apple again.

Ahhh, so that’s the pitch! “First I’ll help downplay Apple, then when the share price is low I’ll buy!” Well, that does make more sense. Nicely played, Doucheolo Machiavelli!

“Hey, I never said it was a forbidden fruit,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Hey, I never said I wasn’t lying through my teeth!

Then he preceded to tick off five reasons he’s turned bullish on the stock.

All of which can be boiled down to “I’m pretty sure myself and others can’t talk it down any more than we already have. And I know it’s going to go up, so … cha-ching!”

It’s sleazy work if you can get it!

It is, of course, hard to gauge just how much Kass’s manipulation “analysis” might have affected Apple’s stock. But it is a rather huge coincidence that he thought Apple was dead a few weeks ago, after playing with an iPhone 5 for “about a minute,” and now thinks that there’s still life in it.

Elmer-DeWitt:

Here’s the thing: None of his five reasons for buying Apple now address the fundamental concerns he raised in October. Steve Jobs is still dead, Apple’s products are still more expensive than the competition, etc. etc.

Owning stocks is all about growth. You don’t buy a stock just because it went down and is now relatively cheap. If it’s not going up, it’s not going to do you any good unless your only other option is to spend it developing another Ghost Rider sequel. And the Macalope suspects a guy like Kass has other options.

Years ago the Macalope bought a very small amount of Apple at about $20 (since sold). Years later he did, of course, wish he’d bought a ton. Sadly, he doesn’t have the facilities of guys like Kass to actually make that happen in retrospect, to just make the stock go back down to a price he’d want to buy some at.

Or the moral ambiguity.

Mini doom

For your general information, pundits have not stopped writing “Steve Jobs never would have…” pieces, in case you wondered if they experience shame the same way normal people do.

Dave Winer, writing for Gizmodo, joins in the fun, wondering aloud “Is the iPad Mini the Beginning of Apple’s Decline?” (No link but tip o’ the antlers to HK.)

Dave Winer is a smart guy. A smart guy who has frequently been very wrong about Apple (other than owning shares in it). Winer likes to talk about history and how you darn punks don’t get it, so let’s look at his.

Here’s his take on the iPhone:

…it’s a chickensh** device, from a company that used to be a daring hell-raiser.

A chickensh** device that reinvented the smartphone industry.

Here he is two years ago on Flash not being on the iPad:

…it isn’t working.

On how Apple faked the original demo of the iPhone:

I’ve heard from people who were at the Jobs presentation this week that there was a wire connecting his cell phone to something.

Right. It was a “smoke and mirrors” technology called “video out.” (The Macalope doesn’t know how he missed that one back in 2007.)

But enough history. Let’s get to Winer’s current iPad mini complaints, which have him thinking about selling his Apple stock:

Anyway—here’s the thing. I bought an iPad Mini. It was too cheap not to give in to curiosity, to see if it’s more compelling or useful or whatever, than the high-end iPad that I already have. Executive summary: It is not.

Here’s the list of problems.

Yes, it’s another case of pundit as bellwether! “This product is no good for me, therefore it is no good for anyone!”

1. I already had a great iPad.

Uh, you do know that Apple wins if you buy any iPad, right?

2. I could use the iPad Mini, but I don’t. People say they don’t mind the grainier screen, but I do.

Good for you. The Macalope, however, has been stunned by the number of fussy pundits who have repeatedly told us that Retina screens are soooooo much better OMAGERD U GODDER GIRT WUN who are now saying “You know, the iPad mini screen doesn’t bother me that much. Huh.” Turns out the best screen is the one you have with you.

3. What about as a traveling computer? Well, there too I go for the larger iPad, because it has LTE.

If the fact that the LTE version of the iPad mini didn’t arrive until two weeks after the Wi-Fi-only model has you considering selling your stock, maybe you just don’t deserve nice things.

4. But here’s the verdict, the reason why I think this product is making Apple’s stock dive. Steve never would have shipped it.

DING DING DING DING DING!

I know people have been saying that about all kinds of things ever since he died. Steve wouldn’t have done this or that. I’ve stayed away from saying that…

You should have stuck with that.

5. Some features are just features, like a camera, but the resolution of a display isn’t a feature. It’s integral to the product. It’s like trying to sell a car with a fuzzy windshield.

APPLE CUSTOMER CRASHES IPAD MINI INTO STREET MARKET, KILLS DOZENS. FILM AT 11.

It’s not like that, Dave. At all.

6. The new Apple is willing to compromise.

Oh, right. The old Apple never compromised. Like shipping an iPhone that only worked on the EDGE network of a single carrier.

By the way, this is why the orchestrated reviews of products are often worthless. I invite Mossberg, Pogue or Gruber to re-review their iPad Mini now, a week after their initial reviews, and let us know if they’re actually using it.

The Macalope doesn’t really know why Winer doubts these guys are still using their iPad minis. If Winer were paying attention, he’d know that Gruber, at least, is more convinced about the mini than ever:

Another week in, though, and I’m more convinced than even a week ago that the iPad Mini is the best size for most people.

To return to history again, Winer was, not surprisingly, one of those chastising Apple for not shipping a netbook back in 2008. Instead of shipping a low-cost piece of junk, Apple squeezed netbooks almost out of existence by shipping a low-cost tablet and moderately-priced lightweight laptop.

Winer is welcome to use whatever device he prefers, of course, and he’s welcome to sell his Apple stock whenever he sees fit. If he’s had it for a while, he’ll be making a handsome profit off of it. But predicting doom and gloom for the company because he, yet again, doesn’t understand the appeal of its products?

Scripter, please.

Saturday Special: Stop the presses

The Los Angeles Times shows us the difference between low-hanging fruit and dumb-hanging fruit that might just be up high.

“Report: Kindle Fire HD to outsell iPad mini 2:1 in holiday season” (tip o’ the antlers to The Loop with a foul-language warning … again!).

Ohs and noes! And this is the Los Angeles Times, a respectable newspaper, so you know that the source for this is rock-solid, vetted thoroughly, and …

On Thursday, the folks behind CouponCodes4u.com…

[record scratch, slide whistle, loooong Whoopee cushion exhalation]

Um. Uh. Buh. OK, hang on. Let’s just make sure we got that URL right. L. A. T. I. M. E. S. Dot. C. O. M. That look right to you? The Macalope didn’t accidentally put in Business Insider or Forbes or CrackpotAntiAppleTheories.com did he?

No? Whew. OK. Let’s … uh, let’s do this, then, LA Times.

On Thursday, the folks behind CouponCodes4u.com made a bold prediction: They say the Kindle Fire HD will outsell the iPad mini by 2 to 1.

Interesting! Strange that a site that thrives on traffic would make an outrageous and attention-grabbing claim like that. Very odd. And bold.

To back up that claim, the coupon clearing house website cited data collected from its website that shows nearly twice as many searches for the words “Kindle Fire HD” compared with “iPad mini” in the last three weeks.

Bold … and idiotic.

Allow the Macalope to outsource the evisceration of this logic to Jim Kubicek:

According to server logs on whatthef*iswrongwithmykindlefire.com Kindle Fire has been outselling the iPad 35 to 1.

Look, every so often these “clearing house websites” come up with ridiculous “polls” or “studies” or “data we pulled out of our butts” in order to swat the hornets’ nest and gin up a bunch of hits.

Do Apple’s typical customers seem like the kind of people that would go to a site named “CouponCodes4u.com”? No. So let us presume that perhaps their visitors skew away from Apple’s demographic.

It added that it saw more searches for the Kindle Fire HD in the week after it was announced than the iPad mini saw in the first week after its announcement.

Uh-huh. And which device generated a metric crapton of rumors and speculation for more than a year before it was introduced? Which company has an actual rumor industry dedicated to divining the slightest tidbit of information about its upcoming products? Which one would that be?

Conclusive? Not really. But still an interesting piece of information to store in your brain…

No! It’s not! The Macalope lives in constant fear that his brain is going to get so full of these “interesting pieces of information” (read: meaningless drivel posing as scientific data) that it’s going to push out something important.

Like how to breathe.

“Hey, did you know that a recent survey of Android device owners showed that more than 75 percent of them owned Android devices? Total Apple fail.”

“Oh, God, are you kidding the Macalope with thi- ACK! ACK! CAN’T… BREATHE!”

The iPad mini still has the sexy Apple association…

Paging Mat Honan. Mat Honan, please pick up the white courtesy phone. (Rare Gizmodo link because Honan “nails it” as the kids who are too old to be called kids say.)

…but the Kindle Fire HD’s starting price of $199 is pretty seductive.

Yes, cheap is certainly, uh, seductive.

OK, we’re getting into a weird area here.

The Macalope recognizes that sometimes it’s just a slow news day, but rather than rewarding these sites for their shenanigans, maybe the Los Angeles-fricking-Times might find a better use for its time. Like, say, starting a fire and then reporting on that. As long as no one gets hurt, it’s almost the same thing.

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