The Macalope Weekly: Remember Microsoft?

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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.]

Hey, you guys! Remember that company from the ’90s that made Office for the Mac? Well, apparently it’s still around and is now into desperate and possibly self-destructive attempts to get attention! It’s true! Not just that, but it’s so far out of the cell phone business that it can’t even get invited to lousy parties thrown by the U.S. Senate. But don’t worry, several analysts who’ve been in a sensory deprivation tank for 10 years say the company’s set to make a big comeback in the tablet market.

A fool and his money

Microsoft acquired Skype for an eye-popping 8.5 billion quatloos, which the Macalope knows is not a real form of money, but, let’s face it: Microsoft’s not treating it like it’s real either. Every time things get wacky in Redmond, the Macalope calls his old friend the Winotaur.

MACALOPE: Congrats on the big snare.

WINOTAUR: Oh, that little thing? Pff. No big deal. You know what happens to those who wander into the Winotaur’s maze, my friend.

MACALOPE: They get bought up and their technologies wither and die a slow death, either from neglect or from you trying to make them everything to everyone?

WINOTAUR: Ri-wait, what?

Read more…

MACALOPE: Here’s the thing that confuses the Macalope. Don’t you have about eight technologies just like Skype lying around already?

WINOTAUR: I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.

MACALOPE: Windows Live Messenger? Office Communicator? Any of these ring a bell?

WINOTAUR: Oh, ding-dong! FaceTime! Ding-dong! iChat!


WINOTAUR: Face it, this is a key strategic move that makes Microsoft the leader in VoiP. We own the market now. Because we just bought it. See how that works?

MACALOPE: Seriously? You don’t get the idea that Google and Facebook are rupturing internal organs laughing over this? You just spent $8.5 billion to stay relevant.

WINOTAUR: Heh, well, if you know a better way to stay relevant I’d like to hear it.

MACALOPE: You’re so delightfully un-self-aware I just want to hug you.

WINOTAUR: I… I could use a hug, actually.

MACALOPE: The one thing the Macalope will say is that at least people are talking about you again. Being laughed at is sort of like being talked about, right?




MACALOPE: Uh…looks like Skype crashed. You know, maybe they were meant to be together.


While Microsoft stayed home, ate a tub of ice cream, and wrote a big check, Apple and Google got to rub shoulders with members of the U.S. Senate. Well, technically, Apple spent some time with them and Google paid some schmo in a suit to fill in for them. That’s right, Apple sent a company legend—Bud Tribble—and Google sent a lobbyist.

Jeez, Google, they’re like one step above mimes on the “most widely despised while still nominally being human” scale.

After everyone shuffled into their seats, it was time for the uncomfortable questions to begin. Google got hammered on current app approval practices as well as some of its older Wi-Fi snooping shenanigans. Unlike the brain trust at PCWorld, the members of the U.S. Senate were not impressed by the “Yay, open!” explanation, particularly when it comes to privacy. Google might have actually wished it had sent a mime after this exchange with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):

Davidson: We’re trying to increase openness, but it’s not no-holds-barred. We do have a content policy in our market. We don’t go after trucking companies for carrying faulty goods, you go after the manufacturer. There’s a balance.

Whitehouse: You do go after the trucking company if they know what they’re carrying. Google’s in a better position to know what’s going on than a seventeen year old that wants to try a cool app. I don’t think that’s a comfortable analogy for you to rely on.

Apple had its own uncomfortable moment when Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-“Chuck”) asked why the company would pull an app with a crude joke, but keep one that helps people drive drunk. Google, of course, allows both, but when Apple declares that curation is a feature, it’s up to the company to take responsibility for that feature and have a good explanation about how it’s applied. Apple’s still working on that.

While Schumer’s point about the checkpoint-evasion app was a valid criticism it was also entirely off-topic. Apparently, U.S. Senators don’t have the courtesy to stick to simple Internet forum guidelines. Which isn’t surprising. It’s even worse in the House of Representatives. It’s like YouTube comments over there.

For analysis, let’s turn to 1997

IDG News Service’s Agam Shah says the new Intel tablets could slow the iPad’s enterprise appeal.

Well, the Macalope’s cynicism about corporate IT buying decisions is on record, but give them credit. After years of Microsoft trying to shove Windows-based tablets down their throats, at lot of them recognized what they really wanted all along when it finally showed up, even though it had an Apple logo on it.

Apple’s iPad is the poster child, but Intel’s Oak Trail processor could bring a new wave of tablets that are more closely aligned to security, software and hardware needs in enterprises, analysts said.

Oh, analysts! Is there anything you won’t say?

By supporting the Windows 7 OS, Oak Trail tablets will blend more smoothly than the iPad into IT environments relying on Windows.

Right. Look, new hardware isn’t going to solve this problem. If users liked Windows-based tablets, why haven’t they been buying them? The tablets have been available for years. Why would users suddenly change their minds? “Uh, well, they’re faster now! With more Windows!” Uh-huh. And that’s supposed to make people forget that those tablets are still running an OS that’s not optimized for touch. Sure.

“There’s a security story that plays well in corporate. IT managers will be much friendlier to a Windows tablet than to an iOS one,” said Roger Kay, president at Endpoint Technologies Associates. “Windows tablets will likely appeal to commercial customers, who, for compatibility reasons, want to stay with Windows,” Kay said.

That’s so awesome the Macalope isn’t even going to deconstruct it. He’s just going to roll on it like a dog on a dead bird. (It’s just a thing we animals do. If you need to have it explained to you, you won’t understand.)

This is the same Roger Kay who, three years ago, insisted that Mac viruses were on the rise and predicted that developers would eschew the App Store because of the 30 percent revenue sharing. Why we’re supposed to take him seriously about anything is anyone’s guess.

It’s also three years later and Roger’s Website is still rockin’ the same Yahoo SiteBuilder template he probably picked while listening to Alanis Morissette on his Rio 500.

The Macalope is constantly amazed by how many of these analysts whose opinions we’re supposed to take seriously have Websites that betray their ’90s thinking. Of course people will pick the Microsoft tablet! Compatibility! A proven market leader! That Chumbawamba song will never go out of style!

Will some IT shops buy these things? Sure. Probably. A lot of them still really hate their users. But a slightly faster crappy solution is still a crappy solution.

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