The Macalope Weekly: Friends and enemies

“Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and stay away from crazy pundits,” is what the Macalope’s mother always told him. Why didn’t he listen? WHY?! Instead, here we are on another weekend, dissecting lazy arguments, backwards arguments, and … arguments made by friends?

Look back at the Apple Store in anger

Seeking Alpha has never been a collection of the sharpest bulbs in the drawer. Indeed, after all these years, they’re still only seeking alpha. They haven’t found it yet. The clarity and refinement of the arguments made by Russ Fischer seem to indicate why.

“Apple Is Its Own Worst Enemy” (tip o’ the antlers to Srini Addepalli).

Aren’t we all, Russ? Aren’t we all?

You certainly are.

A couple of major “right” things were the development and continuing evolution of the iPod to the point where it finally became an iPhone that couldn’t make a phone call.

The Macalope’s not sure which is worse: Fischer’s knowledge of Apple products or his knowledge of evolution. Well, at least he got the gratuitous nonsensical jab about iPhones not being able to make phone calls in there. That’s what’s important.

One other very smart thing Apple did, whether intentionally or not, was to offer only one model of the iPhone. No consumer confusion, just order the color and memory size and forget it.

SIR, COME BACK, YOU FORGOT YOUR IPHONE.

It appears that much of the “must have” innovation of Apple is over.

Which we know because Apple does all of its innovation out in the open like a bunch of street performers.

It seems that Apple has been successful even in spite of some incredible blunders.

How about having Eric Schmidt of Google (GOOG) sit on your board of directors?

Well, that’s actually a fair point.

Using Samsung as the supplier of application processors, memory, screens, batteries, etc.?

What if Samsung’s were the best?

It doesn’t stop there. There was AntennaeGate [sic], an engineering blunder of the first magnitude that was at first covered up …

Yes, we’ll never know how many people Apple disappeared to cover up the problem that basically every cell phone at the time had but people only noticed it on iPhones and reported ad nauseum.

How about the Maps debacle? Apple management was so intent on revenge against Google that they shot themselves in the foot over Google Maps.

Did they? As Charles Arthur points out, Google lost 23 million mobile users in the U.S. by no longer being the guts behind the default map app on iOS. Apple may have lost some customers over it, but it sure wasn’t that many.

When was the last time that anyone made a Facetime [sic] call?

Well, at least last week, when Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor FaceTimed a fan suffering from stage 4 colon cancer live from the stage.

The fingerprint sensor? Does anyone use that?

Are you literally high right now? Do you need a safe place? Stomp your foot twice for yes.

Because so many of these diatribes stem from a personal anecdote, Fischer goes on to recount a tale so incredible that one wonders if he didn’t wander into a Build-A-Bear by accident. Fischer says he was told by an Apple Genius that he couldn’t buy a new iPhone because he didn’t have the password to his Apple ID and Apple couldn’t restore it and please enjoy his new Samsung Galaxy S4. Now, assuming this story is true and being conveyed accurately, then that is a ridiculous experience and the Genius should not only be fired but honey-roasted.

Apple has parlayed a few smart moves into a large and very profitable business.

“A few smart moves.” A small handful. A modicum of smart moves. A soupçon. Like, say, turning iPods into iPhones.

They have also made some company-killing blunders along the way.

And they are dead now. A moment of silence, please.

Inquiring minds want to know

Writing for 24/7 Wall Street (which gets picked up by Yahoo Finance), Douglas A. McIntyre comes up with an argument so bass-ackwards it must be read to be believed.

“As Apple iPhone 5S Wait Time Drops to Three Days, a Demand Problem?” (tip o’ the antlers to @publicfarley).

McIntyre is no stranger to Apple hyperbole. Back in 2009, he speculated that people buying iPhones on their credit cards could cause a new recession. Like there was something wrong with the old recession.

When Apple Inc. (AAPL) released the iPhone 5S, the time buyers had to wait to get new phones lasted as long as two weeks. The figure has dropped as low as three days. Apple is not telling whether the change is based on supply or demand.

Whatever the answer is, the fact that people are having to wait fewer days to get iPhones can’t be good news for Apple. It can’t, because otherwise this article can’t be full of hand-wringy goodness.

Most analysis of the iPhone 5[s] claims that the smartphone has been a runaway success, while the new iPhone [5c] has not.

That’s probably a fair assessment of “most analysis.” Most of it’s wrong, of course. The Macalope would say that opening weekend sales in the millions for both devices is a success by any measure.

An alternate theory is that Apple has always manipulated supply and demand. It was a trick Steve Jobs played well. Make the consumer believe that demand is great by constraining supply.

Oh, that Apple! Always so tricky! Funny—and true—story: The Macalope stood in line to play with the Microsoft Surface when it launched last year. The doors opened and despite the fact that it was raining and that everyone in the line could have fit into the Microsoft Store he was standing in front of, the line moved at a glacial pace. Why? Because Microsoft was making people buying a Surface go through the setup process in-store with a sales associate. Essentially, each sales associate was serving one person every half hour. Long lines, few sales.

But tell the Macalope again how Apple is the Loki of technology.

But Apple has a problem with playing the supply game now. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy are considered as good as or better than the iPhone.

Then why don’t they sell as well as the iPhone? They do sell well, but they don’t sell better.

Of course, the biggest challenge Apple faces has nothing to do with the Jobs trick or constraints in supply. It is that the three-day wait for the iPhone is a sea change. People no longer rush to get the phone.

The phone has been out for two months and people still have to wait to get one. Somehow that’s a sign of how no one buys iPhones anymore. Too popular. Or something, it’s really hard to discern a point for which all the evidence presented directly refutes it.

Apple will not say, but its next round of earnings will. In the meantime, it only takes three days to get an iPhone. Where are the lines for that?

Is it possible that McIntyre does not understand the meaning of the word “line”? If you are waiting to get an iPhone, you are in a line. There are people ahead of you in the line who will get their iPhones before you.

To state the obvious, this is not analysis. It’s Apple smash.

Expecting better

The Macalope could have taken on yet another in a continuing string of pieces that Rob Enderle inexplicably gets paid to write. Instead, it’s time to exercise that clause of his Macworld disclaimer!

Which clause is that? This one:

… the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.

OK, Lex Friedman is no longer a Macworld employee, but he still appears on its pages from time to time. Now, Lex is a pal of the Macalope’s. They’ve worked together in the past and will work together in the future. As a matter of fact, they’re both in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible right now, driving over a cliff together. That’s just how close they are.

That’s why the Macalope’s letting him have it with both antlers.

Hey, if you can’t gore your friends, who can you gore?

“Can’t trust this: Inconsistencies shake faith in Apple” (tip o’ the antlers to @JonyIveParody).

OK, let’s dissect this title a little. Friedman did not write the title. No, the title was written by the Macalope’s editor, [NAME REDACTED].

DAN MOREN! You stop that, Dan. Now, see, this really chaps the Macalope because Dan’s another good friend. Why these guys don’t run everything by the horny one first … well, is kind of obvious.

Anyway, back to the title. First of all, an MC Hammer pun? It’s not exactly farm fresh, but it’s OK. Second, however, is the use of the word “faith.” It’s not over the top, but the Macalope goes to a lot of trouble to disabuse people of the notion that Apple is a religion. And then you kids come tromping through the house in your muddy boots.

I just cleaned this floor!

There is nothing wrong with any of Friedman’s individual complaints about Apple. Siri, removing features from the iWork apps, and iCloud dependability—all of these are valid criticisms and should be made. They’re not entirely on the mark, however.

Microsoft doesn’t cull features; Apple does.

This isn’t completely true, but it’s more true than false. But is that a bug or a feature? The Macalope has used Microsoft’s Office applications for years and it can be a maddening experience trying to find something or just having to bypass all the junk you’d never use in a million years that one guy at Kaiser Permanente needs because he uses Word as a customer contact database.

But the criticisms are fine, really. The problem the Macalope has with Friedman’s argument is this:

Apple isn’t alone. Microsoft (PlaysForSure!), Google (Reader!), and every other tech company of any size will break users’ trust over time.

But I’m a big Apple fan. When Google betrays my trust, I’m frustrated but not surprised.

Turns out there are two sides to the Apple double standard: There are the people who hate Apple who use it to bash Apple and there are the people who like Apple who use it to bash Apple. It’s a win-win!

Unless you’re Apple, of course. Then it’s not a win at all.

But it’s problematic for Apple that when I want calendar, contacts, and email services that I can rely on, I instead turn to Google.

Sure. It’s also problematic for Google that when you want the best hardware, ecosystem, and user experience you turn to Apple. Implicit to your argument is the fact that you’re turning to a company who you’ve relieved of any responsibility. Why is trustworthiness only a requirement Apple has to fulfill in order to use its products?

“I think I’ll only eat at Applebee’s from now on because then my expectations will be so low I’ll never be disappointed.”

Apple can coast with this undercurrent of untrustworthiness for some time thanks to its fantastic products and its focus on design. But continued long-term success will require that Apple take a hard look at what it doesn’t do right, and work on fixing it.

Will it? Apple’s redone its applications before and it’s always kind of sucked at Web services and it apparently didn’t stop its devices from becoming popular.

The Macalope’s point is not “LEAAAVE APPLE ALOOOOONE!” By all means criticize Apple for its flaws. But why give other companies a pass?

Also, are we still on for squash next week? Assuming we survive this car crash?

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