The Macalope Weekly: I want to believe!

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

A favorite silly pundit goes fully Oliver Stone this week while closer to home the Macalope takes some exception to Jason Snell’s thoughts on opening up the iPhone. Finally, the brown and furry one comes to the defense of the company we all love to kick.

No, you don’t win anything for guessing it’s AT&T. How hard was that?


The Macalope knows some readers are tired of hearing about Rob Enderle. He’s crazy! We get it!

But it’s more than that. Rob works in crazy like other artists work in clay or pastels. The man is a master of the medium. And his latest piece, Apple Didn’t Beat Microsoft, Robbie Bach Did: Apple’s Secret 5th Column, turns the dial up to 11.

Sure, most of it’s just making lame excuses for why Microsoft and Dell—who just happen to be clients of his—have had none of Apple’s successes of late. But going so far as to suggest Apple has moles working in these companies bringing them down from inside? Wow! Even the Macalope doesn’t go in for that kind of elaborate rhetoric. Which is weird because he’s the one who admits to being mythical while Rob, we’re led to believe, is supposedly a real person.

Recalling the time Dell was going to make its own iPod-killing MP3 player, Rob says:

Information got leaked, and Apple’s supporters turned perceptions of the product so negative that Dell never released it.

Oh, way to go, Apple supporters. You probably saved Michael Dell $40 million dollars or something. Nice.


But when a firm screws up everything—a firm made up of people from Apple who should have learned from Jobs the right way to do things—you begin to wonder if there was a plan, and whether Apple was behind it.

Yes! You adjust your tin foil hat, add another tick mark to one of the many, many sheets of paper on the wall of your safe room that diagram the conspiracy in painstaking detail, complete with newspaper clippings and grainy photographs…and you wonder.

Like most nuts, Rob believes it’s the fact that he’s special that allows him to see what others can not.

At the time, I was working for ROLM, a company that Siemens had purchased from IBM (NYSE: IBM), in the competitive intelligence organization. This is the corporate equivalent of the CIA.

Enderle. Rob Enderle. He likes his juice boxes shaken, not stirred.

Probably because it’s really hard to stir them with that flimsy little straw.

However, I was also—as luck would have it—in charge of security for our division, and I was a sneaky SOB.

They don’t call Rob the Doug Neidermeyer of the technology industry for nothing. As an aside, did you know that the actor who played Neidermeyer went on to play the Master in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It’s true. And he now works undercover for Apple at Microsoft.

No, that last part’s not true. Or is it? How deep does this go?!

Microsoft’s Entertainment and Hardware Division: An Apple Fifth Column?

Wait, if that’s true then how come we never got Halo 2 or Halo 3 on the Mac?

Google tried something similar with the now killed Nexus One, which made me wonder if Apple has folks in Google’s camp.

Not Google, too! They were so young and full of hope! DAAAAMN YOU, APPLE!

Rob goes on to tie together the “evidence” that shows pretty much every mistake made in technology over the last 10 years can be tied into his Grand Unified Theory of Apple’s International Conspiracy to Steal Our Precious Bodily Fluids.

The Macalope’s a little concerned, Rob. What do you do for an encore after a piece like this? Demand the convening of a committee to explore sedition within the technology industry?

Why don’t we just cut to the chase and ask, “At long last, have you no sense of decency, sir?

Right answer, wrong inputs

Macworld’s Jason Snell believes it’s time for Apple to open up the iPhone by adding a simple switch buried in the preferences that would allow users to install apps from sources other than the App Store.

Jason’s a smart guy who wears nice shirts and the Macalope’s not going to argue with his conclusion one bit. He loves the idea and thinks Apple should do it simply because it increases the utility of the device.

What the horny one does take exception to, however, is Snell’s argument that Apple should do it to fight the perception—held by people who don’t know what they’re talking about—that the device is so closed you can’t view a PDF on it.

First of all, that’s not a technology problem; that’s a marketing problem. But second, it buys into the notion that Apple should create devices driven by the whims of ill-informed critics. That’s not the Apple that the Macalope knows and loves. If Apple were the kind of company that did that, we’d still be lugging around laptops with floppy drives and PS/2 connectors.

We, as Apple customers, do sometimes pay a price for favoring a company that thinks it knows better than you do what you want (the Macalope’s still looking to unload some DVD-RAM disks and blueberry-colored peripherals if anyone needs any). But vision is not created by committee.

Thanks for nothin’!

AT&T finally announced new data plans including tethering this week, but instead of being greeted as liberators, everyone whined and complained about them.

The Macalope loves to heap crap on AT&T—it’s fun and the company does at times seem like a real jerk—but in this one instance he’s going to come to the wireless provider’s defense. But just this once!

There’s no question that AT&T has rigged this game of 12-dimensional data-plan chess in its own favor, but that doesn’t mean it won’t also work out nicely for a lot of its customers. By creating an entry-level plan, AT&T cuts the price of a contract by $15 per month for light data users. And while unlimited data is gone, based on the usage charts that some people you’d consider to be heavy users are sharing, even their monthly fees will go down by $5. It seems unlikely that a lot of people are going to go over that 2GB cap.

Then there’s tethering.

About the $20 charge to “enable” tethering, John Gruber notes:

AT&T’s $20 charge just to enable tethering is bull**, but even combined with an iPad 3G data plan it’s a lot cheaper than a MiFi…

As a matter of fact, the end result is fairly competitive. Virgin Mobile, one of the lowest-cost alternatives to tethering, charges $40 a month for 1 GB of bandwidth. With AT&T you pay $5 more a month but you get double the bandwidth (which, admittedly, you have to share with your phone, but you also don’t shell out anything for a USB modem).

A lot of people—Gruber included—point to the Rogers plan in Canada, which does not charge for tethering. Why didn’t AT&T do that? Huh?! Why didn’t it?! Probably because it’s evil!

Yeah, the funny thing about that plan is that it’s not available in the U.S. It seems somewhat unreasonable to expect AT&T to match a plan it doesn’t actually have to compete with. You wouldn’t want your boss to come to you one day and say “Ted, we noticed that system administrators make a lot less in Bangalore so we’re cutting your pay to $18 a week.”

You wouldn’t like that at all. Which is why they’d never do it. They’d just outsource your job.

OK, maybe that was a bad example.

But the point is, we’d deride anyone who expected Apple to offer a better deal out of the goodness of their hearts, so why should we expect AT&T to?

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon