The Macalope Weekly: Missing the point

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Take it from someone who lives in one: sometimes things seem to make sense if you don’t see the forest for the trees. This week one silly pundit wonders why people even buy Apple products when they’re so fraught with problems! (Seriously, he wrote that.) The Wall Street Journal thinks an Amazon tablet would be bad news for Apple, but it’s really worse for someone else. And HP pushes aside a former Apple exec and puts a jargon-speaking suit in charge of the TouchPad. Yeah, that’ll work.

Byte me

Younger readers probably don’t remember Byte magazine but the Macalope, being timeless, does. Well, now it’s back, apparently, and one of its first shots is across the bow of Apple. Because nothing kicks off a debut like link-baiting Apple fans!

Demetrius Mandzych’s piece titled “A Sobering Look At Apple” makes a very serious point that’s never been made before: Apple customers is dumb.

In all honesty, I don’t know why people buy products from Apple.

Well, gosh, then you’re the perfect person to write about Apple! Please, go on! The Macalope has no reason to expect that this won’t be a fair and even-handed piece.

Read more…

Apparently, you see, Apple products are all busted and the company has only managed to sell so many of them because it has “fooled its customers”.

I submit to you: Antennagate. …

Coined by Apple CEO Steve Jobs…

Wrong. The Macalope isn’t going to bother to try to figure out who first used the term but he can categorically state that it wasn’t Steve Jobs because Steve Jobs is not an idiot.

The word diverted people from what was a real problem.

Wait, comparing a situational antenna attenuation problem to the largest U.S. political scandal of the last 100 years is some kind of sleight of hand on Apple’s part to distract people from the situational antenna attenuation problem?! What kind of crazy Jedi mind trick is that?! Adding the -gate suffix is implying the situation is a scandal. Does Mandzych seriously not know this?

After this nonsense, Apple announced a program to remedy the problem by giving their “bumper” cases to those customers affected by the antenna problem. Interestingly enough, this was the first time that Apple had produced its own case for the product. It suddenly appeared.

The fact that it’s made of glass probably had nothing to do with it. Oh, sorry, that’s an additional -gate that Mandzych also wants to rehash. Is Byte going to go through all of the supposed scandals they missed while on hiatus? It’s certainly easier than trying to think up new things to write about.

Ask yourself. If Apple knew, why didn’t it change the design from the get-go? Beyond the fact that it is another means to make a profit off of case sales, the root of this problem—as well as the problem with the company as a whole—is it values form over function.

Wow! We’ve never heard that before!

In about three years Mandzych will come up with the brilliant idea that the smartphone wars between the iPhone and Android are just like the PC wars between Apple and Microsoft!

The Macalope knows that some people have a problem with the iPhone 4, but the fact of the matter remains that a) they are in the minority and b) any number of phones from other manufacturers have the exact same problem. We went through this dance all last summer and almost everyone decided it was much ado about nothing. Now Byte wants to do the time warp again.

Now consider the issue of cameras. Apple wants you to forget, but try to remember.

Try to remember, you stupid useless-Apple-product-using saps.

The first iPad lacked a camera of any sort. People accepted this and even rationalized it by saying no one would [sic] a tablet camera and so on.

The Macalope’s wracking his be-horned head but he’s having a hard time recalling the other $500 tablet for sale at the time that ran a tried and tested operating system, had a breadth of applications, and also had a camera. Mandzych seems to think people who bought the original iPad would have been better off sitting at home and staring at a blank wall while waiting for some magically perfect tablet to appear. What does he recommend people buy? A TouchPad? A PlayBook? A Xoom? Oh, he doesn’t recommend anything, because those are all flawed devices—but we’ve just come to expect them from companies like HP, RIM and Motorola.

Of course, the cameras in the iPad 2 aren’t good enough, either.

Fact is, the quality of the still image from the rear camera is less than a megapixel at 0.7MP, while the FFC is VGA (640x480) for both video and still shots. For a premium product launched in 2011, this is simply unacceptable.

Unacceptable. Compared. To. What? A better camera on a buggy piece of junk with lousy battery life and no apps? Who are these people who think they can declare that Apple doesn’t have to compete with other manufacturers, it has to compete with their personal fantasies of what the product should be?

Consumers need a wakeup call.

Byte needs to hit the snooze alarm.

Like a spoiled child, Apple will do exactly what you let it get away with. Vote with your dollars.

Mandzych doesn’t say where customers should spend their money instead. Probably because finding a cell phone or tablet that isn’t open to other more glaring criticisms is impossible. Being a pundit is easy if you just harangue people who like stuff and don’t feel the need to provide alternatives!

People don’t buy the iPhone 4 and the iPad because they’re perfect. They buy them because they’re better than the alternatives. It’s like Mandzych has no idea how a market economy works.

The Macalope remembers the old Byte, and the one thing he liked about it was that it was platform-agnostic. If we’re to judge by Mandzych’s post, the new Byte is apparently platform-antagonistic, at least where Apple is concerned. Way to appeal to today’s technology consumer. Good luck with that comeback.

Saturday Special: Unintended results

The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is set to release its own tablet by October. According to the paper, Amazon will be producing a low-cost iPad alternative.

Unlike the iPad, it won’t have a camera, one of these people said.

Someone alert Byte! A tablet without a camera is “unacceptable!”

While the Journal positions this as a “battle” with Apple, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler thinks the one really at risk here is Google (tip o’ the antlers to Daring Fireball).

That’s why Google should be scared [whimsical synonym for “poopless”] of this Amazon tablet. Thanks to the “openness” of Android, Google has handed Amazon the keys to the Android kingdom. Amazon is going to launch a tablet that runs Android, but it will be fully Amazon’d. It will use Amazon’s Appstore, it will use Amazon movies, it will use Amazon books, it will use Amazon music, etc. Google will have no control over this, even though it will be the seminal Android tablet. That would be terrifying for any brand.

The Macalope is a little tired of the “company X should be scared [whimsical synonym for ‘poopless’] of company Y’s unannounced product” construction. For all we know, the rumored Amazon tablet could be a flop. The Macalope thinks there’s very good reason to believe it won’t be at all, but Apple’s still the only one who’s had any success making tablets so far, and we haven’t even seen Amazon’s offering yet.

However, Siegler has a very good point. The horny one knows it’s a very good point because it’s one he’s been making at least since Verizon choose Bing as the search engine on some of its Android phones. Siegler notes the same.

Sure, you could argue that an Amazon Android tablet will still benefit Google because it will lead to more Google searches. But who says that will be the case? If I were Microsoft, I’d go all-in when negotiating with my Seattle technology neighbor to get a Bing search deal done for this new tablet.

What’s Google’s game plan in putting so much time and effort into an open-source operating system? If the idea is to control your own destiny, then control your own destiny. Seems like Google would have been better served buying webOS. Seems like webOS probably would have been better served by it, too.

In the presence of marketing genius

What do you do when your launch flops, as happened to HP’s TouchPad? Just declare it a “soft launch” (presumably the soft part was the sales) and yell “Do over!” Flip the board!

The Macalope, like many Apple followers, actually wants the TouchPad to succeed. webOS is pretty cool, and if someone other than Apple’s going to succeed in the tablet space it might as well be the guy who oversaw the creation of the original iMac and the iPod, Jon Rubinstein.

Except Ruby’s not the one directly in charge of webOS anymore—now it’s this Stephen DeWitt mook.

Well, now, wait, let’s give the guy a chance. Take a look at Engadget’s interview with suit boy.

Are there any specific products that you’ve worked on at your time at HP that you can point to as successes?

It’s not just products. It’s really experiences more than anything. I’ll give you an example—in the last 24 months, we’ve opened nearly 275 HP stores. You don’t see any of them here, because all of them have been opened in places like Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. We have dramatically overhauled our online experience. We’re in the process right now of moving from a transactional model to a relationship model. Our support systems—literally everything around the products—is moving to a model of elite support 7 / 24 / 365.

Look what we’re doing with the Butler system surrounding the TouchPad. We know people are going to get excited when they come home and tear that shrinkwrap off. We want to make sure that experience is flawless. That Butler paradigm is extending across everything we do. Our transformation comes in lot of different sizes and shapes.

Sooo…no. Great. 146 words to say “no.” You could have just said “no,” you know? Players of the buzzword-bingo drinking game should be careful when clicking through, because you’ll be drunk by about the third paragraph. DeWitt comes from “the server appliance space,” where he redefined Sun’s “Edge computing strategy.” At HP he’s helped “transform what has historically been a business defined by the gross margin and transaction… to a relationship-driven model.” He has a “passion for experience and global reach.” He’s an Aquarius who likes long walks in the rain, romantic comedies, and the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln.


It may be completely unrelated, but the day after the announcement of DeWitt’s appointment to the head of webOS, HP announced the next version of the TouchPad, which will have 4G and a faster processor and will be coming “in time for back to school.” That’s right, less than two weeks after the TouchPad’s “soft launch,” they’re already telling customers about the next version.

Brilliant. Good luck with that second “hard” launch, HP! The Macalope’s sure it’ll be gangbusters.

[Editors’ Note: 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.]

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