The Macalope Weekly: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

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Are netbooks beating up MacBooks and stealing their lunch money? Don’t believe everything you read. The Macalope also has two different looks at two new Apple ads as Apple makes some loose claims and a blogger makes some loose interpretations.

Survey does not say!

Late last week the Mac Web was all aflutter as a survey showed that Apple was losing back-to-school sales to netbooks.

Oh! No!

Oh! Yes! According to Retrevo, “the majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.” Clearly Apple is done and someone should stick a comically oversized fork into the side of One Infinite Loop to indicate as much.

Well, before you start calling giant-novelty-fork rental outlets to get some quotes, the Macalope has a few questions about this survey. Like, who said what now again? Okay, the horny one hasn’t visited all of the Internet yet (getting close, though!), but he had never heard of Retrevo before. Now all of a sudden they’re telling him his laptop is out of fashion with the kids.

Second, note that the survey was not of the general public (or even of the ’80s New Wave band General Public), but of visitors to Retrevo’s site. What does Retrevo do? They’re a shopping comparison site that shows the prices of products at various Web outlets. So one would expect that visitors to their site are, by nature, low-cost shoppers. As Apple doesn’t compete in the low end of the market, you might also expect them to be pre-disposed to buy something other than a MacBook.

Somewhat dissatisfied with the results, the Macalope decided to conduct his own survey and the results were startlingly different! According to the results—which are highly scientific, just take the Macalope’s word for it like everyone did Retrevo’s—a full 97 percent of back-to-school laptop shoppers are buying a MacBook! Now, some might say that there’s a selection bias in only surveying visitors to a site with a clear disposition in one direction.

But those people apparently would not be Retrevo employees.

Look, the Macalope isn’t saying that Apple’s not actually losing sales to netbooks. He really doesn’t know. What he is saying is that this survey provides little to no predictive value of what Apple’s share of the back-to-school market is, relative to netbooks.

But it sure did drive a lot of links to Retrevo’s site. Mission accomplished!


Ad nauseam

Apple’s got some new ads out this week, at least one of which is likely to rub some people the wrong way.

By the Macalope’s recollection, the ads to date had mostly stated that PCs were plagued by viruses and malware while Macs were not. Which, of course, is true. This ad, however, states that Macs are “more secure”.

Hmm. Are they?

Okay, you could argue that “more secure” means the same thing—that they’re not subject to viruses and malware.

You could also argue that “more secure” is a relativistic term based solely on individual perception and is perfectly logical within a Jungian paradigm as humans are flawed beings and such differences are ultimately unknowable.

Or you could argue “more secure” means “Macs are protected by a magical fairy pony princess so shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!”

But the Macalope would argue that “more secure” means “better implements security technologies and methodologies.” And, sadly, Apple’s somewhat behind the game in that department. While Macs do both “taste great” and are “less filling,” they have not so much been “more secure” as “less attacked.” Snow Leopard makes some steps in the right direction—stack overflow protection for 64-bit apps and some kind of anti-malware protection—but the Macalope’s sources tell him that it still doesn’t fully implement ASLR (library randomization). If true, that’s pretty disappointing since developers will now likely have to recompile twice: once for 64-bit and then later to take advantage of ASLR. Meanwhile, both Vista and Windows 7 have already fully implemented ASLR.

Low market share continues to protect the Mac but, no matter how nice the neighborhood, you can only leave your houses unlocked for so long before something bad happens.

Ad hominem

Over at ZDNet, our old friend Adrian Kingsley-Hughes saw the same ads and asked Is Apple worried by Windows 7?

The Macalope loves this kind of title. It takes a company of 35,000 employees and reduces it to one simpering Dr. Smith or C-3PO running around squealing “We’re doomed! Doooooomed!”

But it is interesting after so many months of trashing Vista than [sic] Apple is now focusing on the PC platform rather than Windows.

With the vast majority of PC users running Windows, the Macalope asks: is there a difference? And remember, pretty much each ad starts like this:

Mac: Hello, I’m a Mac.

PC: And I’m a PC.

The Macalope took a look and the ads haven’t mentioned Vista since last year. Anyway which version of Windows would you mention right now? The most recent release that was a flop (Vista), the eight-year-old operating system that most people are still using (XP), or the supposedly decent release that hasn’t come out yet (Windows 7)?

Maybe the Windows 7 brand is too strong to go up against and that Apple realizes this and is changing tactics.

Or maybe it’s just the brand that most people don’t even know about yet. Apple didn’t start really attacking Vista until it was at least available on the shelves. The Macalope himself gave Windows 7 some credit above, but it still forces a lot of users to make some uncomfortable choices. If you need any help writing those ads, Apple, just give the pointy one a call. (They don’t need any help.)

Adrian closes by sagely noting:

Expect to see more ads!

You think?

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