The Macalope Weekly: Reactionaries

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The actions of Apple sure can provoke some people to fabulous flights of fancy. The iOS 6 announcements this week, for example, have one ZDNet pundit spotting Android a few yards, while a CNet pundit lets his imagination run away with him. Unfortunately, not so far that we can’t hear him. Finally, what’s Microsoft reacting to? Hard to tell!

False equivalencies

ZDNet’s Matthew Miller has seen the future of iOS and—are you sitting down?—he’s not all that impressed.

“Android ICS already offers more than what is coming in iOS 6”

It looks like Apple’s days of blowing people away with new features and functions has cooled now that solid platforms like Ice Cream Sandwich and Windows Phone exist.

Yes, Apple merely reinvented the smartphone five years ago, setting the standard by which others are still judged. But what has it done for you lately?

Apple officially announced iOS 6 yesterday and while it is a welcome update for iOS that I look forward to installing on my iPad 3, most everything Apple revealed can already be done today on Ice Cream Sandwich Android devices.

You don’t say? And when the Macalope says “You don’t say?” he means “You don’t say without a big fat asterisk?”

Read more…

Because despite the oh-so-solidity of Android, Miller can’t help but provide his smartphone platform of choice a few mulligans. See if you can spot the sleight of hand in this list. Watch the lady! Watch the lady!


 Apple iOS 6Android Ice Cream Sandwich
Maps Turn-by-turn, 3D Turn-by-turn, walking/biking/transit, 3D, offline coming
Voice control Siri 3rd party apps, Google Voice Actions, S-Voice on SGSIII
Travel and reward card management Passbook 3rd party apps

We’re three items in and already Ice Cream Sandwich has been given the benefit of relying on “3rd party apps” twice. In fact, third party apps are featured on the Android side for three of the eight items compared, but not once for iOS 6. Truth of the matter is, if you add third party apps, iOS 5 compares favorably to Ice Cream Sandwich. And it’s installed on a heck of a lot more devices.

As Apple noted in Monday’s keynote, 80 percent of iOS users are running iOS 5, the latest release, compared to the just 7.1 percent of Android users running Ice Cream Sandwich. And when iOS 6 is released in the fall, you can bet it’ll sail by Ice Cream Sandwich as well.

Perhaps some time next year this comparison will make sense, but while you can get a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich on it, the chances that you have a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich on it are only slightly better than having one with iOS 6 on it.

The universe where Tim Cook has a goatee

WWDC is winding down, so it’s time to back up and make sure that we didn’t let something dumb that someone said get lost in the shuffle of fabulous announcements, free food, and oh, the Macalope’s aching head, the drinks.

Oh, yes, here we go.

CNet’s Eric Mack tries to tell us “Why we would’ve been better off without the iPod.”

Stay tuned for Mack’s follow-up Christmas piece entitled “How Bedford Falls would have been better off if George Bailey had been hit by a bus as a teenager.”

[The original iPod] would cost you $400 in 2001, and that first model didn’t quite remake the industry overnight as legend might have you believe.

Wheeee-haaaw! Straw-man arguments sure do burn purty don’t they? Throw another one on the fire!

So, for the sake of an argument that I’ll never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, let’s pretend all that never happened.

Translation: “I’m just going to pull a bunch of arguments out of my butt. Enjoy.”

Mack uses a courtroom theme, but if the Macalope were the opposing counsel he’d have the whole thing thrown out of court for assuming facts not in evidence.

…at some point a big name in consumer electronics makes a digital music player that combines the three critical elements [Apple used in making the first iPod] of marketing, design and storage space that Apple hit on in our world.

Mack lists Sony, Microsoft, and Samsung as the contenders that would have made the iPod if Apple had not made the iPod. None of whom, in this universe, could find their musical butts with the help of a team of hard-bitten roadies. Why Mack thinks that the iPod somehow prevented them from making a device that people wanted to buy is beyond the Macalope. They couldn’t do it because they’re incompetent, not because Apple somehow cast a magical spell over the world.

Samsung was thinking of a single device to rule them all before Jobs fast-tracked a digital music player project in California. The huge Korean company may not have been able to pull off the same elegant design or euphoria-inducing marketing that our-world Apple excels at, but…

No. No “but.” That’s exactly the problem. That’s it. Their devices sucked and people didn’t want to buy them. End of story.

In other words, while folks in our timeline spent six years dazzled by a string of iPod iterations until the iPhone changed everything again, I believe many more folks in no-iPod world could have been consuming all kinds of media on their phones years earlier. Heck, maybe we’d even have better wireless networks as a result of that pressure.

It has become a cliché to translate a paragraph like this as “I am as high as a kite,” but the Macalope believes that Mack may, in fact, be as high as a kite.

Prior to the iPhone, the carriers had all the power, not the manufacturers. A realistic vision of this alternate and completely crappy universe would have carriers plodding along offering one lousy, incomplete store after another, forcing you to buy music you hate in order to get the songs you want. And then they’d shut down the store a year later and force you to re-purchase your songs on another store.

Oh, and believe it or not, but Mack gets through the whole piece without mentioning DRM once. Sounds like someone’s already living in an alternate universe.

Saturday Special: 14th time’s the charm

The Macalope’s lost count. How many times has Microsoft “introduced” tablet computing? Well, whatever the number is, you better buckle up, buttercup, because it looks like the company might do it yet again.

Microsoft has a mysterious and somewhat secretive event planned for Monday, and tonight rumors about just what the company will be announcing are starting to fly. They began with The Wrap reporting that it heard the company would be announcing a Microsoft-manufactured tablet, All Things D followed with its own sources saying Microsoft wanted to take on the iPad directly, and finally we have analysis from Mary Jo Foley pointing in a slightly different—but still intriguing—direction. She suggests that Microsoft may aim not for Apple, but Amazon.

Knowing Microsoft, it’s probably a tablet aimed at the iPad, the Kindle Fire, actual stone tablets, and the See ‘n Say, which has had an iron grip on the portable farm-animal-noise-generation market for far too long.

No compromises!

A 7-inch tablet running some variant of Windows Phone could make more sense than a full-on iPad competitor running Windows RT if only because it would be less likely to offend PC manufacturers.

And after reportedly charging them between $80 and $95 for a tablet operating system, PC manufacturers have probably been offended enough by Microsoft.

So, let’s see, there was the original “let’s slap Windows on a tablet and go get some beers” announcement about ten years ago, there was the “leak” of Courier, then there was the iPad-killing whatever-it-was right before the iPad. And then there were about ten others.

Microsoft hasn’t been larger than Apple for a while now, at least by market capitalization, yet it still thinks it has to have Windows for Workgrouped Toaster-Ovens or its identity is somehow shattered.

Success requires focus. That pretty much sums up why Microsoft hasn’t been very successful for a long time, and why Apple has.

Well, OK, other than the focus on naming everything “Windows.” That’s more like a compulsion disorder.

[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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