The Macalope Weekly: Repeat offender

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[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

This week the Macalope takes on a pundit who would have long since been thrown in jail if misleading coverage of Apple were a three-strikes crime. Sadly, the government does nothing about these reckless jackanapes! These miscreants with keyboards roam our streets, flouting the laws of logic and defying all decency! And has this repeat offender infected a bastion of the Apple-covering press?! Will nothing stop this madman?!

He hates our freedoms!

Over at MarketWatch, Brett Arends wants you to hear the story about how the iPad 2 could cost you more than the Xoom…the story that Steve Jobs doesn’t want you to hear!

What’s the equivalent subsidy on the iPad 2? Nada. Zip. Squat. There isn’t one.

That’s right! Now, many would consider that a feature, not a bug, because with the “subsidy” comes the contract. If you like long-term commitments to giant corporations, then the iPad may not be for you. But as the Macalope explained last week, there’s a reason off-contract phones cost more. It’s called freedom. Arends has apparently never heard of these “freedoms” of which the Macalope speaks.

Read more…

You didn’t hear that on stage in San Francisco last week. And you haven’t heard much about it since either.

You’re probably not reading the same set of jerks that the Macalope is. That’s alllll they talk about.

But the Xoom has something the iPad 2 doesn’t: A micro-SD slot.

That doesn’t work. But until it does, it’s a great place to store knick-knacks. Doesn’t Steve Jobs want you to store your knick-knacks?!

Despite what Jobs would have you believe, the picture is more mixed.

Arends is shocked—SHOCKED!—to find there is marketing going on here!

In terms of technical specifications, the Xoom is heavier, but it has a better screen. It will run Flash…

Hey, Brett! Did you know there’s a cost to running Flash? Please point the Macalope to the iPad competitor that runs Flash with the same battery life as the iPad and doesn’t make the user experience so miserable you just turn it off anyway.

That’s rhetorical, Brett, because it can’t be done.

The iPad won’t, partly, at least, because Jobs wants you to pay money to watch programs through iTunes.

“Partly” meaning the smallest part. The biggest part being how badly Flash sucks, both in terms of battery and general sucking. But go on.

Later this year the Xoom will also run on Verizon’s “4G” network, dubbed LTE. A spokeswoman explains that this runs 10 times as fast as current 3G networks.

Gosh, for someone who just devoted a thousand words to questioning Apple’s marketing, Arends is remarkably quick to take the word of a Verizon spokesperson.

The Macalope contacted Macworld Senior Contributor Glenn Fleishman, who probably knows more about wireless technology than Arends and Verizon’s spokesperson combined. And Fleishman’s response was that if Verizon’s 4G network is 10 times faster than its own 3G network it’s only because its 3G network sucks so bad. In fact, its network is so bad, it could be more than 10 times faster! But it’s probably only 3 or 4 times faster than AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G networks.

Still… faster! Yes, for the one-third of the people in the U.S. who have access to it (Flash site warning). Verizon says it’’ll cover two-thirds of country by “mid-2012.”

This reminds the Macalope of when the original iPhone was rolled out. The pundits laughed at the major fail that it only ran on EDGE, but that’s what everyone had access to at the time. And the horny one seems to remember the original iPhone doing pretty well.

Apple makes products that are going to provide the optimal user experience to the most people. Not products that check off the most boxes on a feature list, regardless of whether they’re usable or not.

The point Fleishman left the Macalope with, though, was one he hadn’t even considered:

In reality, of course, why do you need more than a few Mbps? For video. But video only needs a few hundred Kbps to maybe 1.5 to 2 Mbps for a tablet device. If that. And service plans are so data limited, you’re not going to be routinely streaming huge amounts of video anyway when you’re on a 3G or 4G network. You’ll only do that over Wi-Fi. Who cares if the network is faster if it’s fast enough?

Well, Glenn, silly pundits like Brett Arends with an axe to grind against Apple care.


Fleishman notes that Verizon does—for now—have an unlimited data plan… which uses throttling, curtailing and downsample transcoding. Enjoy.

But back to Arends! He’s not done being a jerk yet! And Macworld doesn’t give the Macalope a word limit! (Sadly, they don’t pay him by the word, either.)

The best news for Apple investors? The company’s amazing marketing magic continues, unabated. Regardless of whether the iPad 2 is actually better or cheaper, the Wizard of Oz has successfully wooed the world to think it is.

Magic! Wizards! Wooing! Shorter Arends: “I have no idea why people like Apple products more than the other options and I’m too lazy to try to figure it out!”

And in the age of the Internet, where there are no facts, only opinions, isn’t that what matters?

That’s right. This from the same guy who was just—in the same paragraph—using terminology more suited to Middle Earth than reality. This from the same guy who ignores the serious drawbacks to the lower “subsidized” price and the Flash experience.

Might the Xoom be better for you? Maybe! If you live somewhere where there’s 4G coverage, don’t mind parting with your tablet for a week to someday get it upgraded, absolutely need to run Flash no matter how crappy the experience is, want to someday expand the storage of your tablet (not to store apps, of course, because the stock storage will be more than enough for that), and you really, truly hate yourself.

OK, not necessarily that last part. But it probably doesn’t hurt.

Trail of tears

Remarkably, that wasn’t the only dumb piece Arends wrote this week. Arends’s second oeuvre was a piece for the Wall Street Journal that describes the many advantages of rooting a Barnes & Noble Nook to run Android compared to an iPad, Xoom, or Galaxy Tab (tip o’ the antlers to Jim Dalrymple).

Well, one advantage, really: cost.

Arends opines that if Barnes & Noble wants to make the Nook a blockbuster, the e-reader should run Android like his does now: badly.

It doesn’t have any cameras. It has a slower processor. It’s not for power users. The video support is pretty limited. A few Android programs still won’t run on it. And dedicated gamers will doubtless find it frustrating.

Sounds like a winner, Brett.

But it’s cheap! And people love cheap! How cheap was it?

…$190 plus tax from a temporary online promotion, down from the usual $250…

Arends, of course, compares this to the base iPad price of $500, not the $399 price for a clearance first-generation iPad. Price breaks are only to be used on the products you’re comparing an Apple product to, in order to make the Apple product appear more expensive.

The Macalope would be inclined to advise Brett to pace himself in his jackassery, but his atrocities go way back.

Collateral damage?

Now the brown and furry one is somewhat concerned that the rays of stupidity that emanate from Arends’s body might have winged the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg. In an ostensibly positive review of the iPad 2, Mossberg’s list of “Drawbacks” seems to be trying too hard.

As John Gruber notes, Mossberg phoned in his complaint about the iPad 2’s cameras. Probably literally. He phoned Apple and they wouldn’t tell him how many megapixels the cameras were and he decided not to figure it out for himself.

Finally, there are two big omissions, one old and one new. The old one is that, like Apple’s prior phones and tablets, the shiny new iPad 2 still won’t play Adobe’s Flash video in its built-in Web browser. This is a deliberate decision by Apple, and puts its devices at a disadvantage for some users when compared with Android tablets, which can play Flash, or say they will soon, albeit not always well.

Well, delivering a sub-standard user experience is still, technically, delivering an experience!

The other omission has to do with cellular data. The iPad 2 can’t use, or be upgraded to use, the new, faster 4G cellular-data networks being rolled out.

The chances this is relevant to you are one in three. Unless you’re in the market for a Wi-Fi iPad, in which case it’s zero in three.

Mossberg’s main complaint doesn’t seem to be that the iPad 2 isn’t better than the competition. It’s that it’s not more dramatically better than the original iPad. His other complaints suffer from the same checklist-style reviewing philosophy that Arends employs.





SD card slot?



In reality, these items will be of questionable practical value… when they finally arrive.

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