The Macalope Weekly: Loss of perspective

If it’s Saturday, it must be another collection of pundits who go off the deep end! First we’ll look at what happens when you take rumors and analysts’ comments too seriously. Finally, the news out of Redmond this week was not good, so it’s time for some reflection on the Surface.

Rumor insanity

Abu Bakr Hussain has been smoking a little too much of that wacky tobacky. By which the Macalope means shredded copies of printouts of Apple rumors.

“The iWatch Debacle Is Due To Apple’s Low R&D Spend.”

Debacle. It really says that. About a product that no one knows anything about. That’s some pretty amazing logical parkour there.

This week, the Financial Times released a story stating that Apple’s (AAPL) iWatch would probably not be launched until the second half of 2014.

And you can take that “news” to the bank and deposit it for imaginary money on which you can then write imaginary checks. The people at the bank will ask you to leave, of course, because nobody wants a weirdo filling out deposit slips that say “iWatch, 2014” hanging out in the lobby.

On the surface, this seems like a remarkable slippage of time.

No! On the surface it seems like another ridiculous rumor about a currently fictitious Apple product!

Back in February, Bloomberg reported that the iWatch, with 100 product designers on board, was “beyond the experimentation stage” implying that they had created functional prototypes which could soon be ready for market.

And if you’re the kind of person who blithely believes everything they read, well, you’re Seeking Alpha’s key demographic!

Then in July, we read both The Verge and Bloomberg report with supposedly corroborating sources that the iWatch would be ready by the end of 2013.

Stop! Enough! The Macalope is already driving away in the imaginary car he bought by taking these rumors to the bank!

This slippage …

No.

No, no, no, no, no. There is no slippage. These are rumors. Any one of them could be wrong. All of them could be wrong. And you don’t even know what the product you’re calling an “iWatch” is! Gah!

… isn’t due to problems with the iWatch, it is only a symptom of a deeper underlying cause. Simply put, Apple doesn’t invest enough in R&D.

Q. E. ridiculous D.

So, let’s step through this particular game of Candyland, shall we? First comes the rumor of an “iWatch.” Nobody knows what it is, of course, but it’s this year’s big Apple rumor, so let’s all just chase after the mouse like a bunch of catnip-addled felines who aren’t sure if it’s the real or wind-up variety. Next comes news that it could come later this year! Oooh, excitement! But, then, alas … “DELAYED.” So, the moral of the story? Don’t read Apple rumors? Get off the damn Internet and read a damn book?

No: Apple doesn’t spend enough on R&D.

Well, you can’t argue with that logic. Because it’s not actually logic. It’s a mix of glitter, meth, and pudding, fired out of a confetti cannon.

Alas, we shall have to cut Hussain short as the Macalope declined to sign in so that he could have the pleasure of reading the second page of analysis on what unconfirmed rumors teach us about Apple’s business. Surely it was full of equally erudite insights because, heck, it’s not like “UNANNOUNCED APPLE PRODUCT DELAYED” is anything that’s ever been reported about another Apple product with astounding regularity.

Cough.

Those old familiar favorites

The Register’s Jasper Hamill is much more rooted in the here and now than Hussain is. He’s not worried about future Apple products that are doomed. He wants to tell you about current Apple products that are doomed.

“PEAK APPLE: ‘iPhone sales STALL’ at first sniff of fresh droid competition” (tip o’ the antlers to John Parkinson).

First of all, “droid” is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and is licensed to certain Android handset manufacturers. “Android” is the word you’re looking for. Second of all, is this really the “first sniff” of competition? Because the Macalope’s been hearing about iPhone killers for years.

Apple is experiencing a brutal slowdown in global iPhone sales as rivals wolf down an increasing share of the smartphone market, it’s claimed.

The use of “it’s claimed” is just adorable. Yes! Many things are claimed! Not all of them are true. Like, for example, this thing.

iPhone sales are not experiencing a “brutal slowdown” in “sales.” Last quarter’s results showed a slowdown in sales growth. The Macalope hates to have to be the one to point out that words have meaning, but …

Wait, he doesn’t hate that. He loves it. Carry on.

“With the next iPhone model not expected until the second half of the year, there is a real possibility that the full-year 2013 sales volume of the iPhone may be essentially flat at around 150m units, compared with 134m units in 2012.”

Sure, because 12 percent growth is “essentially flat.”

Wayne Liam, an IHS analyst …

No, you’re thinking of will.i.am the musical artist. The IHS analyst is Wayne Lam.

… said an “astounding” number of smartphones hit the market this year, including the Google Android-powered HTC One and refreshed Samsung Galaxy S4, and the Blackberry Z10.

Sandwiched in between a rock and a hard place in that sentence is the Galaxy S4. Say, how’s that doing?

“Verizon: Apples aging iPhones outsell Samsungs new Galaxies.”

“Samsung Slides Equivalent of Sony as S4 Sales Disappoint.”

“The possible slowing growth of the iPhone …”

Wait, “possible”?! What happened to the confident tone of the headline that, if you can remember all the way back at the top the page, said iPhones sales had “stalled” at the “first sniff” of competition?

“… and the rapid pace of competitive smartphone releases speak to the ferocious nature of the handset business, especially now as the market continues to pivot from a market dominated by lower-end handsets known as feature phones to one that is increasingly smartphone-centric,” he said.

So, all the competition going forward is going to be for the low-margin part of the business. Gosh, Apple’s probably really crying into one of its auxiliary piles of hundred dollar bills over missing out on that action.

Put a bridle on it

Skepticism about the success of current and future Apple products runs high, but where Microsoft is concerned the future is always bright. Sadly, that future is also always a day away.

Given that Microsoft just took a $900 million bath by writing off Surface RT units no one wanted to buy, this might be a good time to look back and reflect and point and laugh until we rupture something that probably would have been useful at some point or other.

Consider this piece by VentureBeat Tiger Beat in the Valley’s John Koetsier, from the Surface launch last June:

“Microsoft. Kicks. Ass.”

Alas, it was apparently kicking its own ass.

I’m a Mac user.

Koetsier often starts his pieces by touting his Apple street cred. Which seems odd from a guy who’s made his homepage up like Windows 8 (tip o’ the antlers to Kontra).

But Microsoft knocked one out of the park yesterday. Completely. Hit. A. Home. Run.

Ever been to a baseball game and noticed how the people sitting behind home plate think every high fly ball is a home run?

“Oh! Oh! OH! Awwwwww …”

Surface is a quintessentially Microsoft take on the “post-PC” tablet revolution. It’s got a new industrial beauty—one that’s less Italian design and gorgeous models, and more industrial. More use-me, work-me, make-with-me.

And Microsoft is bold with it.

Koetsier spent more than 500 words gushing over the Surface and never once mentioned a single specification or compelling purpose for it. Which, let’s face it, Microsoft wasn’t completely clear on either. But that’s why an ounce of skepticism might be warranted. Just a dram. A soupçon.

Non?

This is the only way it could have been done: a seamless melding of hardware and software.

Sadly, consumers didn’t see what Koetsier saw through eyes that may have been literally smeared with pie. Now, The Verge’s Tom Warren wonders if the Surface RT isn’t the Zune 2.0.

Microsoft still doesn’t have a compelling case to make for the Surface RT, as Surface general manager Brian Hall demonstrates.

“For us we need more people using Surfaces, so that they can explain the benefits.”

Wait, isn’t that your job?

CUSTOMER: “Why should I buy a Surface RT?”

MICROSOFT: “Uh, why don’t you buy one and then tell us why?”

CUSTOMER: [backs slowly out of Microsoft Store]

A year in, Microsoft still has more questions than answers with the Surface RT. And that’s not a good place to be. Koetsier’s unbridled enthusiasm notwithstanding.

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