The Macalope Weekly: Willfully obtuse


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Some pundits are trolling. Some pundits just don’t know any better. Other pundits just don’t care enough to figure things out, even after the Macalope has gone to great lengths to explain them. So rude! This week we’ll look at three pundits who seem to deliberately not get Apple’s business model.

Maintaining ignorance

The Atlantic Wire’s Rebecca Greenfield shows that those who can’t do teach, and those who can’t figure things out on their own “teach the controversy.”

“Is Demand for Apple Products High or Low? It Depends Who You Ask.”

Following yesterday’s Apple earnings report, the tech press can’t decide what to make of consumer demand for iProducts. “Demand Woes Bite Apple,” declares one major newspaper, when another writes “Apple Tops Expectations on Strong iPhone Sales.” So, which one is it? Further investigation doesn’t provide much enlightenment …

For Greenfield, “further investigation” means “reading a bunch of articles and scratching your head in confusion.”

Maybe iPhones are selling well, but everything else isn’t? Nope…

Digging into the articles doesn’t gives us a definitive answer either.

Hey, guess what?! Turns out you can actually figure this out! No, true story!

See, the demand for low margin products was strong. For some reason Greenfield doesn’t get that when Gene Munster says some consumers are willing to spend more for quality, he means they’re willing to get iPhones instead of competing products. While Tim Cook said in the conference call that the iPhone 5 is the best-selling iPhone, it seems that a larger percentage of people opted to buy cheaper iPhones this quarter than in previous quarters.

This isn’t Candyland, but it’s also not 12-dimensional chess. It can be figured out. Even the Macalope did it, and he’s part antelope. Half the time he just wants to bang his antlers agains things. And these articles don’t help.

During news events like these, in which everyone has access to the exact same financial statements of a big company everyone needs to find their own way of tackling the news. And, the third quarter earnings report of a company that hasn’t released a product all year isn’t really going to say much.

Uh, really? No, not really! That’s just a cheap shot. Apple has released new MacBooks this year; the Macalope wonders what products Samsung and Microsoft have shipped this year that are completely new.

While Greenfield doesn’t get what’s up with Apple’s numbers, she is totally down with rumors that Apple’s going to ship not only a cheaper iPhone but also a “phablet.” Hmm. Not only willfully obtuse, but willfully credulous. That’s a killer combination.

Pundit knows best

There’s some kind of collective amnesia about how Apple does business. Here’s how it works.

Under wraps, Apple works on a new product for years—one that will reinvent an entire market. To much fanfare, it’s shipped and competitors scurry to copy it. While the market slowly commoditizes, Apple holds on to the high-end and starts working on the next revolutionary new product.

Now, this process doesn’t happen overnight. Maybe that’s why it’s confusing to so many pundits.

Like Andrew Mayer who, writing for CNN, thinks Apple’s all done.

“Apple becoming a follower, not a leader” (tip o’ the antlers to the Jony Ive parody account on Twitter).

You know what irks the Macalope? We’ve covered this already. And still people refuse to do the reading. Did you even look at the syllabus, Andrew?

While we’ll never know for sure what he would have done differently …

… I’m going to devote more than 600 words to why the people at Apple who knew and worked with Steve Jobs aren’t doing right by Steve Jobs. Which I would know because I write steampunk books and consult on game-making, two things we know for sure that Jobs was super into.

… Apple seems to be in danger of becoming a wallflower. Instead of leading, will the company increasingly become a follower?

That is the great question of our time, isn’t it? Among people who aren’t paying attention, the Macalope means. Tim Cook said that Apple would be releasing new products—including some in new categories—starting in the fall and continuing into next year. He said this. The CEO of Apple. But, for some reason, all Mayer thinks Apple will introduce in the future is devices with different screen sizes. And CNN thinks that’s worth an opinion piece.

Apple has already put out a smaller iPad, the iPad mini. But every new screen size brings the company one step closer to the riot of sizes and resolutions that have made developing apps for Android devices far more difficult than for iOS devices.

Yeah, they’re sure real close to that.

Although Apple has modified its stance, it’s clear that the iPad mini is not quite the device we would have seen if Jobs was around today.

We’ve come a long way from “we’ll never know for sure what [Jobs] would have done differently,” haven’t we? Now it’s clear that he wouldn’t have shipped the products the company is currently shipping.

In the hyper-competitive mobile market, two years is a lifetime. Since Jobs passed away in 2011, the current version of iOS already seems dated and stale.

And it’s not like Apple has any plans to do anything about tha—wait, do you know anything about Apple at all?

What Apple needs most are bold new ideas, not bigger iPhones or iPads.

Ugh, totally, right?! Gosh, if only someone at Apple knew that! But they’re all like “Hey, let’s just tweak screen sizes forever and ever! That’s how we built this company up, right?!”

Well, at least we have pundits who remember what made Apple great. What would we do without them?


Moving briskly along with this cavalcade of clowns piling out of the tiny car of misunderstanding-Apple’s-business-model, here’s some folks who think that Apple is the next BlackBerry. Because, OMG, irony, right?!

Writing for the BBC, Sydney Finkelstein asks the Betteridge’s Lawtastic question, “Will the iPhone go the way of the BlackBerry?” (tip o’ the antlers to e.w. parris).

Sure, because a one-trick pony like BlackBerry is just like Apple, which has a proven track record of reinventing markets, a strong portfolio of devices, and the most vibrant ecosystem of any technology company.

Medical researchers love working with mice. The reason they love mice is because they die so quickly.

When they’re euthanized.

(The Macalope thinks you mean they have short lifespans, Sydney.)

It turns out that the world of business has its own lab full of mice, also known as mobile device companies.

Boom. It’s called an analogy, bro. Look it up.

The downward spiral at Research in Motion (RIM) …

It’s the little things like not realizing RIM is now BlackBerry that really make this analysis pop. Like a soap bubble.

A little history …

While Finkelstein is laying down a brief history of cell-phone sales, feel free to scratch any and all areas of you that might itch—it’s a more rewarding way to spend your time.

[scratch, scratch]

OK, he’s done.

I needn’t predict the demise of the iPhone—it has already started.

Right. Sure, Apple sells more of them every quarter, but totally dead.

Samsung’s global market share is now around 33%, versus Apple at 17%.

Which has been Apple’s global market share since about 2009.

Three years earlier customers were buying four iPhones for every one Galaxy.

Which says a lot about the rise of Samsung and absolutely nothing about Apple.

Turns out Finkelstein isn’t the only one getting Wendigo in his Cupertino.

The Motley Fool’s Ted Cooper asks “Will Apple Go the Way of BlackBerry?”

Seriously, guys, Betteridge’s Law. Read a book.

At least Cooper leans “no.” But the idea that people are even asking this question belies the old adage about there not being any dumb questions.

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