The Macalope Weekly: Low expectations


Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

The Macalope’s not sure what happened to the outlook for the future of technology, but whether the pundits know it or not, they seem to have lost faith in it. For not having introduced revolutionary products on an imaginary timeline, Apple is done. If the company’s not completely done, then it has only until the next iPhone iteration. And then it’s done! And an iWatch? We’ve seen other smartwatches and have no idea how one could be better! The Macalope’s not sure what limited world these pundits live in, but he sure doesn’t want to live there.

Lemme tell you about Steve Jobs’s legacy …

Pundits are still rocking the Apple-double-standard genre. Here are some phresh new moves to the dance that’s sweeping the nation, brought to you by Bianca Bosker at the Huffington Post:

“How Apple’s Losing Its Monopoly On Magic” (tip o’ the antlers to Harry Marks).

On October 19, 2011, 14 days after the death of its celebrated founder Steve Jobs …

Uuuh, boy. Heeeere we go.

Isn’t it delightful how pundits are there to tell Apple what Steve Jobs’s legacy is all about? Whatever would the people who actually knew and worked with him do without their insights?

“Just figure out what’s next.”

Nearly a year and a half later, Wall Street and the technology world seem increasingly convinced that Jobs’ company has failed to heed that advice, surrendering some of its aura as a supposedly limitless purveyor of brilliant new inventions along with billions in stock market value.

Yes, the masters of the universe have not been amused that it’s taken Apple more than a year and a half to completely remake another market. The Macalope’s just not sure how many more “Steve Jobs used to remake five markets before breakfast” jokes he’s got in him.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

No. Way.

“Apple is going from a great company with unprecedented products to a good company with good performance,” said George Colony, chief executive of Forrester, a research and advisory firm. “The products are still very good, but not highly innovative. That’s different from a few years ago.”

Actually, no! Apple always had lulls between major product announcements. What market did Apple remake in the six years between the iPod announcement and the iPhone announcement?

No one is writing the company’s obituary.

The Macalope knows a thing or two about Apple punditry, Bianca, and he’s pretty sure someone out there is doing exactly that at this very moment.

Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak worries that Apple may be surrendering its touch.

“Apple’s kooky uncle says kooky things about Apple” is no longer news.

Apple shares precious little about its current and future state of affairs, but the outside world senses trouble …

And the outside world’s never been wrong about Apple before, right?

The company’s uncanny grasp of consumer taste has lately seemed on the wane.

Forget the fact that more people are buying Apple products than ever before!

“The Apple user is an adrenaline junky,” noted Howard Anderson, a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.


Despite Apple’s impressive sales under Cook’s watch …

Yes, despite the increasing sales and profits and vast wads of cash and the best management team on the planet, investors are worried. Isn’t it possible that says more about investors and less about Apple?

Help us, iPhone 5S! You’re our only hope!

Sometimes the Macalope wanders onto a site he’s never heard of before and sees something that causes him to roll his eyes, sigh loudly, do a spit-take, or take up drinking early in the morning. Like this piece by Mike Schuster on Minyanville.

“Why Apple’s reputation depends on the iPhone 5S.”

Uh-oh. That could be a bit of a problem, since the iPhone 5S may not even exist.

But if the Macalope’s never heard of the place—and that’s not necessarily a jab, he doesn’t know every Internet outlet—he leaves it alone. In this case, however, Minyanville content is apparently republished by other outlets, such as Yahoo and USA Today. Now suddenly this is a “thing,” and the Macalope has to put down his drink and get out of bed.

OK, USA Today isn’t exactly up there with The Economist or the Financial Times or Corn Weekly, The Corn Industry’s Premier Industry Newsletter. But it does have a substantial readership, particularly at hotels, airports, and senior centers.

When it comes to technological critiques, especially in the mobile sector, there is no gray area: You’re either a fanboy or a hater.

Uh, not really. Sure, if you're just hanging out in forums and comment sections that may be true, but look at the reaction to Andy Ihnatko's announcement he's switching to an Android phone. Above the “comment here” line, nobody really made a big deal out of it.

Take Apple’s most important product: the iPhone. Sleek, consistent, and—given the extensive development from Android—outdated.

Not “classic?”

Schuster, at least, is not a bad writer. That doesn’t mean he has a point, but at least it’s an improvement. If the Macalope had a handful of alfalfa for every silly pundit who was also a lousy writer …

Mmmm … hanful of alfalfa …

Sweet, delicious, crunchy alfalfa …

Mmmmmmmmm …

Sorry, what was the Macalope saying?

Oh, right. The iOS interface and the junking up thereof. Personally, the horny one prefers Nick Heer’s take on the issue:

For the sake of “freshness”, the progress of the iOS user experience is perceived to be virtually unchanged from when the platform was first shown in 2007. A cynic would say that this is a sign that Apple is stagnating. I think it’s a sign that Apple got a bunch of stuff right the first time around.

Indeed. Rene Ritchie also had a thoughtful take on the issue. The Android desktop image Ritchie uses in his piece is a perfect example: Simply vomiting more interface elements onto the screen is not innovating.

Schuster never says why these changes are so desperately needed. They just are. Desperately. Because Google’s junked up its interface, so Apple needs to, too. Pronto.

Apple needs to introduce something we never even knew we needed. Something fresh and essential.

Like a sassy teenaged robot or a smart-talking monkey in a fez!

Otherwise, Apple becomes something it hasn’t been since before the release of the iPod.

A follower.

Blogger, please. If Google designed an interface that jumped off a bridge, does that mean Apple should, too?

(No, the Macalope doesn’t know what that means, either.)

Here’s the thing: There is added functionality Apple could provide by updating the interface—it might be nice to see today’s weather without opening the Weather app or have the ability to turn certain systemwide features on and off without navigating through 12 layers of the Settings app. But if you can’t even articulate what those “fresh and essential” features are, it’s hard to take your complaint seriously.

This is not the best we can do

Look upon the rich state of the smartwatch market and despair, Apple iWatch-istas!

“The best smartwatch right now is the Pebble, but honestly, they’re all kind of crummy.”

Wait, what? That can’t be right. The Macalope feels sure he had previously heard that competition in smartwatches was simply too great for Apple and that there’s nothing Apple could bring to the table in this market. The arguments are “We already have the best there is to offer” and, because they suck, we know that “Smartwatches are dumb!” Given the state of this market, “no one needs an iWatch.” Q.E.D.

It’s constantly absurd to the horny one how he has to come out to “defend” the iWatch. It’s not even a device—fictional or otherwise—that he’s personally keen on. (Salt-lick technology, however, is ripe for disruption, Apple. Call me!) But defending the iWatch isn’t what he’s really doing anyway; what he’s doing is defending the idea that innovation means the opposite of accepting the status quo. How radical.

It doesn’t matter if Apple is actually working on a smartwatch; this lesson is reusable, and it’s not even necessarily a lesson about Apple. It’s a lesson about imagination. Michael Lopp once wrote:

You are underestimating the future. You are fretting about the now; worrying about little things that don’t matter. You are wasting precious energy obsessing over irrelevant details. You don’t believe that a better future is out there and can be built, that it can exceed people’s expectations, because you’re spending so much time considering the truth of the present and the seemingly important lessons of the past.

The Macalope certainly hopes Apple (or somebody else, for that matter) has something truly innovative up its sleeve, because this supposed passing of the torch of innovation to Samsung would be the biggest dumbing-down of a term in recent memory, had dictionaries not decided to include “virtually” in the definition of “literally.” Samsung makes some nice phones, but they’re not innovative in the way that Apple has innovated markets in the past.

Maybe innovation is dead at Apple. Maybe Tim Cook can’t do what Steve Jobs did. But stop having so little faith in the future. It’s depressing.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon