The Macalope Weekly: Incomplete data

There are lots of ways to react when you don’t have complete data. Acknowledging the gaps and making best guesses about them is probably the best. Which is exactly what these three pundits seem incapable of doing. Our first two decide that the data in question simply doesn’t exist, while the third is VERY ANGRY ABOUT NOT HAVING IT.

Horror story

Prepare yourself, Appleista, because the New York Times’s Brian X. Chen brings us the tale of how “Samsung May Have Passed Apple in U.S.—for Now.”

You swirl. You swoon. You feel the Earth dropping away from you. All that your Apple-loving mind can do is reel from the impact of the news that Samsung has beaten Apple on its home turf. Canaccord Genuity’s Michael Walkley has turned your world upside down.

Samsung Electronics may have surpassed Apple to become the top smartphone maker in the United States in May, according to an analyst’s report. Sales of Samsung’s new flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, combined with its bigger-screen Galaxy Note II and the older Galaxy S III, lifted Samsung’s sales above Apple’s last month, the report said.

“How can this be?!” you cry. “I was just reading about how Apple lead Samsung in U.S. market share by 39.2 percent to 22 percent!”

Your mind cannot process the information and you clutch at outdated facts that slip through your fingers like sand through a … uh … a … thing that sand slips through. Like a colander, maybe, with, uh, really big holes. Maybe one specifically for tortellini and ravioli. Do they make those?

“Will you stop talking about colanders?!” you scream, your frustration at the magnitude of Apple’s failing now bubbling to the surface. “What about this report from some other analyst that sales of the iPhone are ‘still strong’ despite the recent phones from Samsung and HTC?”

Yes, well, that analyst is, uh, dumb. And this one is not. Or something.

Anyway, now you watch and scream silently in horror as your belief system crumbles.

“We believe Samsung on the strength of strong Galaxy S4, S III, and Note II sales surpassed Apple to gain top share of the U.S. smartphone market for the first time since the iPhone 5 launch,” said Michael Walkley, the Canaccord Genuity analyst who conducted the survey.

NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Hey! The Macalope said “scream silently!” Sheesh. What’s the matter with you?

But you find it hard to breathe. You feel as if the warmth of the air has been stolen away. You claw at your face, like a big, stupid monkey thing. You have nothing left! It’s over!

But wait!

That may look like a milestone, but the report should be taken with a grain of salt.

Huh?

The survey doesn’t include Apple’s retail stores, where many iPhones are sold.

Uh … what?

So here, a little over a third of the way through the piece, we find that it’s all a bunch of baloney. Nay, not baloney, which stems from bologna, the journeyman of the processed lunch meats, which at least some people actually enjoy. More like pimento loaf. Everyone hates that.

What is the name of this? Fraud? Malpractice? Bait and switch? The Macalope has no idea, because he’s never seen such a ridiculous display of half-assery. You cannot claim that Samsung has overtaken Apple in the U.S. and then leave out what is arguably Apple’s biggest distribution channel in the U.S. Well, you can, as long as you’re not serious about what you’re doing, as apparently Walkley and Chen aren’t.

To make this easier, we’ll assume Apple does nothing

That’s the Macalope’s problem with predictions like this one from Canalys, which says that Windows Phone will overtake the iPhone in market share by 2017, as reported by ZDNet’s Matthew Miller (tip o’ the antlers to Brad Skidmore).

Windows Phone has taken nearly three years to get to about 3 percent, but with things like Halo for Windows Phone, flagship devices on major US carriers, and low cost, full-featured phones Microsoft is doing the right things to position themselves for success.

Apple, meanwhile, will do nothing to improve the iPhone.

Writing up the same Canalys report, Minyanville’s Sterling Wong at least questions whether these forecasts can be trusted:

“Apple’s growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smartphone market is coming from the low end, and Apple is absent from this segment,” said Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee in a statement. It appears, however, that Canalys did not factor in the possibility of Apple releasing a cheaper iPhone later this year in its forecast.

Right, Canalys just decided to assume Apple sits on its ass for four years, doing nothing but eating bonbons and watching its stories, growing ever fatter and more complacent until flies are literally constructing maggot daycare facilities in its slack, drooling mouth. Because that seems realistic.

In the mean time, Kwee is betting that a platform that’s had severe trouble getting traction will grow faster than it’s grown over the past three years. Because now Microsoft is serious about it. Unlike before. Or something.

Look, do you want a prediction or not? Jessica Kwee doesn’t have all day!

This isn’t the first slightly optimistic prediction of how well Windows phone would do. Here’s the Boy Genius Report back in 2011:

Pyramid’s Senior Analyst Stela Bokun explains that Windows Phone is poised to overtake Android’s massive market share much earlier than that—as soon as 2013, in fact.

Overtake Android. This year. Hmm, that seems a little far-fetched considering it’s June and Windows Phone is at 3 percent. And we don’t live in crystal fairy candy land.

Here’s how fast these things change and how pointless it is to try to estimate future market share, particularly when you only consider one side of the equation. On Friday, Samsung lost $12 billion in market value over concerns about sales of the S4. One of the other factors?

“With Apple widely expected to announce an older iPhone trade-in programme and also a new cheaper iPhone, overall growth prospects for (Samsung’s) smartphone business have dimmed,” said Kim Hyun-yong, an analyst at E*trade Securities.

To paraphrase the immortal bard, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Jessica Kwee, than are modeled in your dumb forecast.

Tantrum-throwing is kinda like analysis

Writing for the Motley Fool, Jon Friedman has had enough of the snake that is Tim Cook on the plane that Steve Jobs built!

“Apple’s Tim Cook Is Trying My Patience” (tip o’ the antlers to Michael Ferenczy).

That’s weird. He doesn’t say anything about you. Is he sitting behind you kicking your seat back or something?

When Tim Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as the chief executive officer of Apple, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Macalope’s sure Cook really appreciated that. You wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. If not your actual giving him the benefit of the doubt, which we haven’t yet ascertained that you did.

His accomplishments would inevitably be traced to Jobs and Cook’s failures would be a result of his own poor performance.

Apple? Receive criticism? On the Internet? Well, the Macalope supposes there would be a first time for everything.

But now I am running out of patience with Cook.

Well, we can’t say you didn’t think about giving him a chance.

Like much of the rest of the civilized world, I am waiting for Apple to come up with a new “wow” innovation, something that was a hallmark of the tenure of Jobs, who passed away Oct. 5, 2011.

Hey! He was right! His accomplishments would inevitably be traced to Jobs! Wow, what an uncanny prediction! And it only took two paragraphs for it to come true.

Cook has chosen to recycle existing successes.

The Macalope supposes pundits have to get these stories in before fall comes, which is when Cook said Apple would be shipping new product categories. Why they blithely choose to ignore those statements, however, is quite beyond understanding.

It’s also a fair point to say that Cook deserves more time than just a few years to make his mark. After all, Jobs didn’t present the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad overnight.

No! It actually took five years. It’s only been three since the iPad’s introduction, but let’s flip some tables!

Friedman’s gripe for the rest of the piece is mostly that Tim Cook won’t reveal what Apple’s working on.

I just wish he would tell us what’s on his mind. He would help the shareholders, the company—and, yes, himself.

Only in the short run. In the long run what helps Apple is delivering terrific products and not telegraphing its punches. Not that Wall Street ever really understood that.

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