The Macalope Weekly: It all comes out during the holidays

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The holidays are approaching, with their requisite stresses brought on by time pressure, visits with families, booze, and people saying things that maybe they shouldn’t. A CNet blogger thinks he’s got Apple “fanbois” figured out while Acer chairman JT Wang lets loose. Again. Finally, some loose words spark an argument around the dinner table of technology coverage.

Cut on the bias

CNet’s Brooke Crothers has startling new insight into an easy way to debate Apple blogs: Oversimplify their arguments and reduce them to straw men. You’d be surprised at how much easier it is to belittle them if you do!

The Apple blogs vs. Android

Apple-centric blogs play an important role in disseminating information about what is probably the most important consumer-electronics company in the world. But the coverage is hardly neutral.

Well, that’s true. The Macalope has always considered himself to be “chaotic good” rather than “neutral.”

Take the blog Daring Fireball. It offers some solid analysis. But in the end it’s a fanboi site.

Say, Brooke. What’s that link to?

Oh, it’s to a piece about a jerktastic pseudo-science stunt “study” that shows Apple fans are nothing but blind religious zealots? That is neutral-riffic!

And the Fire has been called lame by the usual suspects because, in essence, it’s not an iPad.

Well, yes, in the sense that the iPad is actually demonstrably better in almost every regard, other than price. The iPad has a better build quality (see second picture), a better user interface, better performance, twice the capacity, longer battery life, a larger screen, and front- and back-facing cameras.

Oh, and the iPad wasn’t attacked by early adopters for its poor user experience.

Read more…

So, in the sense that the Kindle Fire doesn’t really compare to the iPad, yes, we don’t like it because it’s “not an iPad.” Personally, the Macalope finds the quality issues to be unacceptable at any price—he’s not willing to put up with an aggravating user experience no matter how cheap the device—but he’s recommended the Fire to friends who are unwilling or unable to afford an iPad, or who just want a smaller device.

The horny one was actually looking forward to the Kindle Fire before it came out; he was even thinking of getting one for the vivacious and supple Mrs. Macalope, who’s an avid reader and a big fan of the Kindle iPhone app. But five minutes with the Fire’s user interface and we’d be having four-letter words that you wouldn’t use with friends.

And what about the new Honeycomb-based Motorola Droid XyBoard (aka Xoom 2)? Not even close to the iPad, right? Wrong. I think it’s iPad-2 good.

But the XyBoard/Xoom 2 won’t sell in numbers that even come close to the iPad. The Xoom is too expensive, no apps. Blah, blah. On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to pay $629 for a 3G iPad 2.

Probably because the world is full of nothing but Apple zealots that apparently control everything.

The one thing that Crothers neglects to mention is that the Xyboard, in addition to having a name that sounds like a futuristic virtual torture practice (“Take his avatar to the digichamber and begin the Xyboarding!”), comes with a fantastic feature no iPad has: a two-year contract.

That’s right. In addition to having a base price right in line with the iPad, the Xyboard (“NOOOOOOOOO! I’LL TALK, JUST STOP THE XYBOARDING!”) gives you the benefit of getting into a long-term relationship with a needy cell phone carrier. But who doesn’t want that?

Clearly, CNet has no bias. Well, other than the bias for conventional wisdom.

Crothers, it should be noted, famously declared that the iPad had “met its match in the [HP] TouchPad”. If this is the analysis that a supposed lack of bias brings, give the Macalope bias every time.

Look, it’s not hard to see the Macalope’s bias, given that he has a head shaped like a Mac Classic. It’s a little harder to tell what Crothers’s bias is, but right now it seems to be the need to find equivalencies where none exist.

Go away

Acer chairman JT Wang is at it again, and you know what that means! That’s right: wackiness.

Acer: Apple share to weaken in two years, Android to be flat

Go, JT, go!

Frequently outspoken Acer chairman JT Wang in statements Wednesday once again insisted that Apple would go away in the near future.

Wang is as outspoken as Steve Jobs. But without the ability to execute.

The comments continue a pattern from Acer executives, most of all Wang, of insisting that the pre-iPad, Windows-heavy mobile computing market favorable to Acer would return.



Just because, OK?! Acer’s getting the band back together and this time no one’s gonna stop them from rockin’ as hard as they want! And they’re gonna get in the car and drive and drive and drive until they’re far away from you!

[sobs, runs to room, slams door]

Wang seems to have been stuck in the “denial” stage for a while now. The Macalope thinks this might be some kind of record.

Well, OK. OK. Let’s not be too hasty. Let’s give Wang a chance. How have his previous predictions turned out?

Acer’s JT Wang told Chinese language newspaper Economic Daily News (EDN) that Apple’s virtual monopoly on the market could drop to just 20 percent after the market for such devices stabilizes.

That was in August of 2010. Presumably this stabilization will be arriving on more of a geologic time scale than one humans will notice over their limited lifetime. Perhaps Acer should invest in carving an obelisk on the lunar surface so that whatever species is dominant when the stabilization occurs will have some forewarning.

By the way, JT, how’d that whole netbook thing work out for you, anyway?

Acer is going to pin its hopes on the ultrabook.

And it’s going to stop peddling affordable but poorly made hardware.

Dell, apparently, has learned the same lesson (tip o’ the antlers to The Loop).

Who could have predicted that a race to the bottom would end badly for PC makers?

Oh, that’s right. Silly Macalope with your rhetorical questions you already know the answers to! It was Apple that predicted it and wisely stayed out of that death-spiral party. Now, after seeing their profits tank, PC OEMs like Acer and Dell are sure they have a solution: Do what Apple’s doing.

Good luck, PC OEMS! Good luck with turning perception of your brand from cheap, under-powered, poorly-built pieces of crap to something like the MacBook Air.

There’s one thing the Macalope’s unclear of, though. Wang and Michael Dell seem to keep wanting Apple to “go away.” But if Apple goes away, where are they going to get their next business strategy?


You might want to pay attention to the argument, since it’s a classic of the genre—and one you’re likely to encounter as drunk adults and sugar-addled children sit down around the table this holiday season.

Well, if your family’s anything like the Macalope’s.

See, first MG Siegler said something about Android users in a review of the Galaxy Nexus, and then John Gruber agreed with him, and then Joshua Topolsky got all mad, and then MG fired back, and now Dan Frommer's chimed in to note that iPhone users are more educated and wealthy (NOT HELPING, DAN) and ugh, are we having pumpkin pie or not?

Here’s the part of Siegler’s review that got Topolsky hacked off and spewing turkey:

Unfortunately, the system still lacks much of the fine polish that iOS users enjoy. The majority of Android users will probably think such criticism is [expletive], but that has always been the case. I imagine it’s probably hard for a Mercedes owner to describe to a Honda owner how attention to detail makes their driving experience better when both machines get them from point A to point B. As a Honda owner myself, I’m not sure I would buy it — I’d have to experience it to understand it, I imagine. And most Android lovers are not going to spend enough time with iOS to fully appreciate the differences.

When the Macalope saw Siegler’s comment, his first thought was simply that it was a terrible analogy. The Mercedes costs twice as much as the Honda while the Galaxy Nexus is actually more expensive than the iPhone. iPhones really don’t have a cost disadvantage anymore; you can get one for free. All they have is a distribution disadvantage, because you can only get the free one on AT&T.

What the Macalope didn’t think was “Ah, yes! Quite right, old chum!” before throwing another serf on the fire and eating a poached Fabergé egg. Which is apparently Topolsky’s view of it:

This doesn’t get under my skin because I have some kind of allegiance to one brand or another. It doesn’t get under my skin because I fundamentally disagree that Android 4.0 lacks the polish of iOS.

It gets under my skin because it is a pompous, privileged, insulting, and myopic viewpoint which reeks of class warfare — and it is indicative of a growing sentiment I see amongst people in the tech community.

So… we’re not having pumpkin pie.

OK, the Macalope’s a little tired of these car analogies—people have been using them about Apple since the Yugo was a current cultural reference—but maybe a truck/sedan version would be more apropos and less likely to be interpreted as class warfare.

Siegler’s defense seems to be that the analogy doesn’t hold up when talking about price, so he obviously couldn’t have meant it that way. Well, if it doesn’t hold up when talking about price then it’s probably a bad analogy.

Ultimately this fight, just like any holiday fight, generated lingering bad feelings (in this case over Topolsky’s perceptions of the elitism of Apple fans and Siegler’s belief that Topolsky won’t give definitive opinions about which phone he thinks is better) that were sparked by some perhaps ill-chosen words.

Not that you’ve ever seen that around the dinner table.


[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.]

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