The Macalope Weekly: Gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

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HP folds like a cheap card table while RIM says “Maybe you’ve hit bottom, but I haven’t hit bottom yet! I got a ways to go!” Google just put a lot of money down, but is there anything in its hand? Finally, the Macalope asks a couple of pundits to cut out the penny-ante crap.


What a week! First Google buys Motorola and now HP is spinning off its hardware business, killing the TouchPad, and possibly looking for a buyer for webOS. What’s next? Microsoft reveals Steve Ballmer is actually a woman? The Macalope’s not sure he can handle that.

Boy, it seems like just the other day we were laughing at how badly the TouchPad was selling. Hey! It was just the other day! (The Macalope loves that bit.) Apparently HP noticed that, too. And freaked the hell out.

This is great, though. Now we have an experiment group to match our control group. Because, when it comes to the mobile business, RIM is kinda like HP—just without any shred of self-awareness. While HP’s covering its face and crying “Uncle!”, RIM’s doubling down like a gambling addict. Now the company is apparently trying to build its own music service.

RIM, honey. Don’t.

Read more…

This really is a study in contrasts, isn’t it? One company faces defeat and offers its complete and utter surrender. The other decides to continue down a destructive path that can only end in a dumpster at a rest stop outside Calgary, waking from an alcohol and drug-fueled binge, with a novelty store Mountie costume around its ankles.

Now the question on everyone’s mind is “what’s next for webOS, the little OS that couldn’t?” (Twice, for those keeping score at home: Once at Palm, once at HP.) Nicholas Carlson, Dan Frommer and MG Siegler think Facebook should buy webOS. The Macalope supposes it could work: Web operating system, Web-based social network. Personally, the horny one’s not real into Facebook because he has no desire to reconnect with people from grade school (kids can be so cruel when your antlers start coming in). But he would hate to see webOS simply die on the vine while there are other less deserving operating systems still on the market.

Still, as with Google, the Macalope doesn’t understand why these companies—whose core business is not operating system and hardware sales—think they have to make operating systems and hardware. It’s pretty questionable whether or not this has actually worked out for Google. As Horace Dediu notes on the latest episode of The Critical Path, Android is strictly a defensive move, and protecting your existing business model isn’t as interesting as building new businesses. You know what they say the best defense is.

Saturday Special: “Do no evil” is a cookbook!

Rebecca Lynn says we should expect Google to offer free Android phones because of its Motorola acquisition (tip o’ the antlers to Daring Fireball).

Since mobile is undergoing the most rapid technology adoption in history, Google needs to own the “last mile” to the eyeballs.

Does it? Microsoft never got into the computer hardware business, and yet it somehow still owns the desktop operating-system market. Of course, it’s easier to switch search engines than it is to switch operating systems.

The Macalope remembers being roundly lectured, five years ago, about how operating systems would soon be dead because the Web was the new operating system and soon we’d all be connected all the time and it’d all happen in the browser, dude, and Apple and Microsoft would be swept away by this new paradigm. And yet here we are in 2011, and the biggest name in doing it all on the Web is not only pouring dollars into developing an operating system, it’s getting into the hardware business. Weird.

But here’s what I believe. Google’s business is search advertising. Everything they do is an effort to grow search.

So, just developing a free operating system wasn’t enough. They have to develop an operating system and hardware and give both away for free (which is sure to make their Android OEM partners real happy) in order to make $10 to $20 on each Android owner over the two years they use their device.

Sounds like an awesome business. Good luck with that.

The thing is, though, some carriers are already giving away Android-based phones for free. How much more free does Google think it can make them? Are they going to start paying us to use them?

Owning the consumer interface means having control over future monetization opportunities. Search, maps, and Google Wallet alone would give the company a treasure trove of data including personal, location and shopping data. The more data Google has, the more they will be able to algorithmically target consumers with advertising. … With purchasing information, Google could target ads based on purchase history.


Is there a name for this insidious corollary to Apple’s “walled garden”? If not, the Macalope thinks “enslavement surprise” has a nice ring to it.

Phoning it in boys

In a normal world, writing favorably about Apple would just be common sense, as the company is doing pretty well. In this world it makes you a “fanboy.”

The Macalope normally wouldn’t care about this, but twice in the last week he’s seen the same shorthand of lazy punditry applied to TechCrunch’s MG Siegler, and he thought it was odd. It’s like that old joke where the woman goes to the psychiatrist and says “Doctor! My husband is a pervert!” and the psychiatrist says “That’s ridiculous! It’s absurd! He can’t be!” The woman says “How do you know?” To which the psychiatrist replies, “Because I’m one! And he’s never at any of the meetings!”

Just like any slur, it means the writer has turned his brain off and is just phoning this one in. When Siegler questioned whether or not Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman didn’t just have his password hacked and was being overly sensitive about the wording of Apple’s emails, Bott called it “the canonical Apple fanboy post.” When Siegler suggested Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobile had left Mountain View with its various parts dangling in the wind in terms of patents, Dan Lyons called Siegler an “ultra Apple fanboy.”

Dan’s a professional writer, so he went with “ultra” instead of “to the max” or “extreme” because he can make those tough calls.

But it appears the fix is in. As John Gruber says, Siegler is:

…one of the top writers on the Apple beat, period. Good sources, smart analysis, and he’s been right way way way more often than he’s been wrong.

Which means he makes life uncomfortable for people who like to focus on Apple’s relatively small number of problems, so they prefer to just brand him an “Apple fanboy” and call it a day. All that thinking makes their heads hurt.

Siegler doesn’t need the Macalope’s protection, of course. He’s fully capable of taking care of himself.

This all raises the question: over the past two years, would you have gained more knowledge by reading Lyons, or by having your head up your own ass?

Tough call.

Indeed. Because other than Lyons, Google’s move here doesn’t seem to have been very well received. S&P’s Scott Kessler just told clients to sell Google and Asymco’s Horace Dediu, writing for the Harvard Business Review, doesn’t see this as part of some master strategy by Google. But they’re probably both “Apple fanboys” too. As is everyone at S&P and the Harvard Business Review.

When it comes to both Lyons and Bott, their histrionics about Apple’s problems are what show off their biases. As Siegler points out, Lyons claimed Apple should be in a “panic” over the iPhone 4’s antenna problems. Bott, on the other hand, was somewhat more responsible in his coverage of the Mac Defender virus. All 8 kajillion words he wrote about it. Still, his predicted flood of Mac malware has yet to materialize (keep hoping for bad things, Ed!). On Twitter, Bott’s more off-the-cuff, hence MG Siegler is not a journalist or blogger, he’s just a “canonical Apple fanboy.”

Newsflash for Lyons and Bott: The reason people like Siegler and Gruber and this furry beast so often write favorably about Apple is because the company is, by every measure, astoundingly and almost unprecedentedly successful. That should be obvious. In fact, it should be weird to be obsessively writing about the company’s flaws.

Bott chose to make himself an expert in one of Apple’s rare flaws, which is fine and perhaps even helpful. What’s not fine is hurling names at others who dare to suggest Apple nay-sayers are making mountains out of molehills. It’s nice that you’re spending time on this one issue, but try to look up from time to time and see the forest full of Ents storming the castle for the few trees with Dutch elm disease.

Lyons, his Fake Steve gig having been shuttered like a knockoff Apple Store, can no longer play a visionary jerk, so he seems content to play a jerk with blinders on. Why he would do that under his own name is beyond the Macalope.

These guys, and others like them, are dying to be the first to call Apple’s decline. For some reason, Apple’s popularity seems to irk them, as seen in Bott’s sarcastic follow up tweet.

Surely Apple can have no problems. You are holding it wrong.

Of course, Siegler never said that. The Macalope doesn’t want to be too hard on Bott for a couple of flip comments on Twitter. His posts on Mac Defender have been more reasonable. All 97 of them.

He does, however, want to be too hard on Lyons because, like Siegler, most right-thinking people question how dumping your last two years worth of profit on an also-ran OEM with dubious patents could be a sign of brilliance.

But the flip disregard from both Lyons and Bott is the crux of the Macalope’s complaint about the term in question. It attempts to reduce anything the person says to the dismissible rantings of a lunatic. If Bott doesn’t have the time to address Siegler’s arguments at length, maybe he shouldn’t address them at all. If Lyons can’t keep up with Siegler’s arguments, maybe he should finally shut up about Apple.

[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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