The Macalope Weekly: Spin city

Apple’s got 99 problems, but not having Google Maps is no longer one of them. Also, turns out all 99 are actually either fabricated out of whole cloth or are problems that pretty much every other company has. Who knew?!

Spin, magic wheel of baloney, spin!

Apple’s horrible what?

Are you ready to get ridiculous?!

In Latin?!

“2012: Apple’s annus horribilis”

The Macalope’s deconstructed a lot of dumb arguments over the years, but never one in Latin! So, caveat your emptors and fiat your luxes, we’re diving into this piece by Computerworld’s Jonny Evans.

It should have been another great year as Apple [AAPL] emerged from mourning the loss of its great leader, Steve Jobs, equipped with a raft of exciting new product ideas—but sadly 2012 became Apple’s annus horribilis.

In the imagination of tech pundits.

Even this morning the company’s mapping service is under fire as Australian police warn that its inaccuracies can place lives at risk.

Ah! A perfect example! Because a couple of days later, back here on planet Earth, Australian police are issuing another warning:

“Police warn of safety concerns from Google Maps”

Yes, you read that right. Google Maps. But that’s absurd! We know through our vaunted corps of tech pundits that only Apple Maps is flawed. Or is it possible that Mapgate is overblown, like Antennagate before it?

The Macalope has no doubt that the data Apple is using is worse than Google’s. That much seems obvious. But no one really knows how much worse it is. If it’s been quantified, the Macalope’s never seen it. But, whatever, the zeitgeist has spoken! It is infinitely worse!

Litigation between Apple and Samsung continues, with Apple winning one major victory against its foe—but even that win went wrong, as Samsung quickly challenged the objectivity of the jury foreman, bringing the case back to the court as it attempted to cast the verdict as invalid.

There is literally no Apple win that cannot be cast as a loss if you try hard enough.

Apple’s litigation against Android has been going back and forth for years and will likely continue to do so for years to come. This year the company actually won pretty big; sorry if that doesn’t fit your narrative.

Following months of reports detailing poor labor practises across its Asia-Pacific manufacturing partners, the company eventually bowed to the criticism and took major steps to address these problems—even publishing more transparent data on working conditions than available from anyone else in the industry.

It’s a good thing no one else uses Chinese suppliers with questionable labor practices.

Some good news …

Ah! “Some”! And here the Macalope thought Apple’s bad, awful year of high sales and profits was just a huge downer.

… iPhone 5 has held to family tradition and quickly become the world’s biggest-selling smartphone. This isn’t enough—Android market share now utterly eclipses that of iOS on phones.

Aaaaaand … what? What does that mean? That’s bad news for Apple because why?

Alas, we will never know. It just is, OK?

When constructing an argument about how bad Apple’s year was, everything is just bad. It just is. It’s in the title, didn’t you see? Latin for “bad.”

It is difficult to predict what any beleaguered force might do when it finds itself trapped in confined space.

“Beleaguered.” He wrote that. He really did.

Oh, here we go again. Look, you can go see for yourself if you don’t believe the Macalope, but he’s telling you he copied and pasted that right from Computerworld’s page.

Fine. Don’t believe him. Go look. Go on. Go. Off with you. The Macalope’s tired of this.

See? Now who feels silly? Well, you do for not believing the Macalope, but by all rights it should be Evans for writing that.

The challenge for [Tim Cook] and his company is to remain focused on that vision even as the slings, arrows and critics of outrageous fortune assail it from all sides.

Certainly there is no more apropos quote than Hamlet’s soliloquy on his own existence when talking about Apple, because Apple clearly faces an existential crisis.

[eye roll]

If we’re going to go with the Hamlet metaphor the Macalope will note that, while the Prince of Denmark dies in the end, he does take out Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Claudius, and Laertes along the way—a pretty decent collection of back-stabbers and misguided nitwits. Feel free to assign your own interpretations of who might be playing those parts if we’re casting Apple in the lead role.

The craziest time of year

If it’s December, it must mean that Google’s Eric Schmidt is saying craaaazy things again (the same can also be said of the other 11 months). A year ago this month, Schmidt dropped two whoppers on us, saying that developers would ship first for Android and that most televisions would include Google TV by mid-2012. Much like the Mayan apocalypse, we’re still waiting for those to come to fruition.

But let’s not quibble over who was right about things they said a year ago and who was wrong (it was Schmidt who was wrong, for the record). Let us instead move forward together, hand-in-hand, Apple Maps user and Google Maps user, toward a bright new future of squirrelier obfuscations about the state of the technology world.

“Google Chairman Says Android Winning Mobile War With Apple: Tech” (tip o’ the antlers to bazza clarke).

Google Inc.’s Android is extending its lead over Apple Inc. in the mobile-software market at a rate that compares with Microsoft Corp.’s expansion in desktop software in the 1990s, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said.

Actually, it seems to be happening faster but with less finality, as iOS has managed to increase its share, albeit only slightly.

“This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago—Microsoft versus Apple,” he said. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.”

WINNING!

Forget the fact that more developers still code for iOS first (or only) and the fact that iOS device users simply use their devices more, Android is winning because it’s on more devices. Which are apparently sitting in pockets relatively untouched, except for making phone calls. Winning.

By giving away Android, Google cedes revenue to hardware partners, such as Samsung Electronics Co. Schmidt is willing to make that sacrifice because it drives demand for ads and other Internet-based services that benefit Google over time.

Is that geologic time? Because when last we heard, Google still made most of its mobile revenue—a sum that is chump change compared to what Apple makes from hardware sales of its mobile devices alone—from iOS. Apple made almost as much last quarter as Google did in all of 2011.

There’s one area where Google is clearly winning, though, and that is in avoiding being the poster child for the ills of modern society. Apple always gets that honor, even if Google does exactly the same thing (see: Maps, Australia).

The company avoided about $2 billion in worldwide income taxes in 2011 by shifting $9.8 billion in revenue into a Bermuda shell company, almost double the total from three years before, filings show.

And, yet, the Macalope doesn’t remember seeing the company’s name plastered across the front of the New York Times.

“It’s called capitalism,” he said. “We are proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this.”

Indeed, Schmidt is right about this. You can’t set up the rules of the game and then complain when the players follow them. The Macalope wishes people would stop grousing about corporations that take advantage of a broken system. Don’t like it? Fix the system. Stop expecting corporations to behave better than you would given the legal option and ability.

Of course, Schmidt isn’t so capitalist that he doesn’t want the government to socialize airwaves (tip o’ the antlers to Glenn Fleishman):

As a member of a White House advisory group, Schmidt backs a proposal that encourages federal agencies and commercial users to share airwaves.

After all, we’re all in this together, aren’t we? (Actual togetherness not included, void where prohibited, please send all user data to Google, Inc.)

What was that all about?

Google’s own map application hit the App Store this week, just in time for Leonard Kraposki of Terre Haute, Indiana, to stop driving around in a circle, as he’s been doing for the last two and a half months (hybrid).

So, let’s get this straight: Apple wanted vector-based images and turn-by-turn navigation, but Google wouldn’t add them without getting more user data, which Apple wouldn’t go for.

You can’t swing a Lightning cable without hitting someone with an opinion about who won this. Not that the Macalope advocates whipping people with opinions about the tech industry with Lightning cables.

Well, OK, some of them. Just a little. But not these guys.

Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis thinks Google got the better of the deal, at least from a PR perspective:

Before the original deal with Apple ended, Google was supplying data, but had no control over how it was used. Since iOS 6 came out, Apple has faced backlash for the flaws of the new Maps app, and Google has left Apple twisting in the wind. Now after a few months of bad press for Apple, Google can ride in to the rescue with their own superior third-party app. They look like heroes, and they also gain control over their own maps app, with the ability to insert ads or generate revenue however they like.

There’s no doubt that’s how it’s playing out in the general coverage.

Dr. Drang, however, thinks it tips more in Apple’s favor (tip o’ the antlers to Daring Fireball):

iOS now has a free maps app that’s every bit as good as what’s on Android. Google Maps is almost certainly collecting more user information than Maps was before, but it isn’t nearly as much information as it would be if Google Maps were a system app. Also, because it isn’t a system app, whatever data Google Maps collects, it isn’t getting it by way of Apple.

Sounds to me like playing hardball got Apple most of what it wanted.

True from a technology perspective, although Apple probably didn’t want the bad PR from cases like Leonard’s. Luckily there was an Arby’s drive-through on the route or … phew. Could have been ugly.

Apple could have and should have done better. The company should own that. But while Google may enjoy playing the hero, it isn’t one. It helped make this problem, too.

Subscribe to the iOS Tips & Trends Newsletter

Comments