The Macalope Weekly: Perspective


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Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where Obi-Wan says “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Remember how he just glossed over the fact that he told Luke that Darth Vader “betrayed and murdered” his father?

Yeah, sorry, Obi-Wan, but you can’t Jedi mind-trick away objective truth. Not that these pundits know that. As far as they’re concerned, perspective is all that matters, and from where they’re standing Apple (and only Apple) is doomed, others will magically succeed where it has failed, and people who buy Apple products are dopes who spend too much.

Doom is a one-way street

And it only heads toward Cupertino.

Which is kind of weird. You’d think there’d be some zoning rule against that but, nope, big stretch of one-way highway headed toward Cupertino.

Writing for the Motley Fool, Sam Mattera tells us why “Dr Dre’s New Service Threatens Apple and Pandora.”

Well, of course it does. Oxygen probably threatens Apple.

Beats Music made its debut on Tuesday, launching on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

But there’s not anyone missing from that headline! Oooh, no.

The service, part of Dr Dre’s Beats brand, is the latest in what has become a crowded market—the list of subscription-based, on-demand streaming music services is long, and includes Spotify, Rdio and Google Music All Access, among others.

So, presumably a new entrant would threaten all of these. Wouldn’t that be true, Sam? Sam? Hello?

With Dr Dre’s backing, Beats could emerge as a dominant service. If it does, it could take a toll on both Pandora and Apple.

Dr. Dre’s backing is a powerful force to be reckoned with. The man is a doctor. Apple’s backing, meanwhile, is the equivalent of any of the characters Simon Pegg plays in the Cornetto Trilogy. Although, possibly the cop in Hot Fuzz has too much influence.

Both Spotify and Google Music All Access have built-in song recommendation services, but as they aren’t the primary focus of the service, they may not be as good as Pandora’s.

Because they suck, they’re not at risk. Well, that makes sense.

Apple’s ecosystem depends on digital music sales

That was sort of true when the iPod was king but now it depends on app sales. And Apple’s app ecosystem still kinda seems to be doing OK, inasmuch as new services like, oh, Dr. Dre’s Beats service, launch on iOS on day one.

Beats Music—and the trend toward subscription-based music streaming services—has the potential to weaken Apple’s ecosystem.

Because only Apple is vulnerable.

… if you’ve spent a lot of money buying things on iTunes, you’ll be naturally reluctant to give up your Apple-made smartphone or tablet.

Music is one thing that’s actually portable.

Now, watch this logical mumbo jumbo, and please note that at no time do Mattera’s feet leave his mouth.

But if you subscribe to a service like Beats, you won’t have much reason to buy songs from iTunes. Indeed, there’s evidence this trend is already playing out—digital music declined for the first time ever last year.

Ohs. Noes. Mattera’s prediction is already coming to pass. The doom is already looming large over Cupertino, like an alien mothership set to lay waste to Apple’s ecosystem with its death ray.

Although Apple has seen other iTunes related revenue grow in recent quarters, music sales continue to make up the bulk of iTunes revenue (according to Asymco’s Horace Dediu).

Buhhhhh? So, in the face of the proliferation of streaming services, iTunes revenue is actually increasing. And the bulk of it is music sales. But Apple’s threatened because there’s another streaming service. In other words, never let reality get in the way of your argument. It really slows down the writing process.

It’s little wonder, then, that Google introduced its own music streaming service last year.

Boy, you’d think that Apple doesn’t even have a streaming service of its own.

Any subscription revenue these services bring in is likely to have little effect on Google’s bottom line, but from a strategic perspective, the initiative makes sense—the less iPhone users spend on iTunes music, the less dependent they are on Apple’s platform.

Google’s moves are always smart plays, aren’t they? Apple’s are doomed to failure. Even while the company makes gobs of money.

If Beats Music does catch on, and attract millions of subscribers, it should be seen as a negative for Pandora and Apple.

Of course. That’s a given.

Apple TV killer on life support

Turn your clocks back, if you will, to the end of 2012.

No, not literally. What’s wrong with you? It’s just a figure of speech.

But one of the big buzzes leading up to CES 2013, as we all know, was Intel’s television effort. We know that because it went on to redefine television as we know it, elevating the viewing experience and hahaha nooo, that didn’t happen at all.

But Kelly Clay’s write-up for Forbes at the time was so full of sugary-sweet optimism for Intel that it was not so much glowing as it was glistening.

“Why Intel’s New IPTV Service Will Do What Google, Apple, and Microsoft Can’t” (The Macalope’s breaking his no linking rule for Forbes on this one as the statute of limitations hasn’t run out and she can still be penalized 10 yards for excessive pie-eyed optimism.)

Apple and Google have been attempting for years to entice customers to ditch cable television for set top boxes that deliver TV shows, movies and more via the internet. For the past year or so, Intel has also quietly been working on a top-secret set-top box that could not only be better than what Apple, Google, and even Microsoft offer today, but also kill the cable industry as we know it.

Yes, Intel, the company known more for defacing consumer devices with its stickers than making ones people like to buy was going to lead a glorious consumer revolution, overthrowing our oppressive cable overlords.

Who said fan fiction needed to make sense?

This set-top box, said by industry insiders to be available to a limited beta of customers in March, will offer cable channels delivered “over the top” to televisions anywhere there is an Internet connection regardless of provider.

Uhhhh huh. Right. How was Intel going to be able to pull off this feat, one that has caused many a company to stumble and fall face-down at the intractable feet of industry executives?

While Silicon Valley measures investments in tens of millions, Hollywood often drops more than $100 million into a single movie. Intel came to the table knowing this, and so was able to negotiate the licensing agreements with Hollywood that other tech giants have never been able to.

Wow! The powerhouse that is Intel was simply willing to spend more money than those weaklings at Apple, Microsoft, and Google! Well, looks like Intel’s got this one wrapped up. In the bag. It’s a done deal. Stick a fork in it, and other clichés, some of which are too off-color to mention on a family-oriented technology site like Macworld.

Weeeeell, suffice it to say, Clay’s piece might have been a tad over-enthusiastic.

Now let us turn the clock forward to today where a slide whistle, a prat fall, a seltzer squirt, a cow bell, and three beeps on a clown horn later we see this:

“Intel sells Internet TV business to Verizon”

Intel Media launched to much fanfare in early 2013, promising to begin service by the end of the year. However, the service never came to fruition.

Oh, dear. Who could have seen that coming?

Seriously, comedy doesn’t usually happen that fast.

Only working one side of the equation

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh, so what better time to reflect on all the money you numbskulls have wasted on Apple products over the years?

Take it away, Reuters’ Beth Pinsker.

“YOUR MONEY: The cost of being an Apple fan can add up” (tip o’ the antlers to Shawn King).

This is, of course, literally true inasmuch as costs can be added into an aggregate figure. But that’s not what Pinsker means.

Apple Inc’s Macintosh computer, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Friday, has attracted many fans who have gone on to buy lots of other devices from the company.

It’s weird. Creepy, even. It’s almost as if they like the company’s products. Or … or … Apple has laced its products with some sort of addictive substance, like nicotine or heroine. It would irresponsible not to speculate.

Pinsker details the amount that some people have spent on Apple products over the last 30 years because BIG NUMBERS. Her examples of how much people have spent on Apple products stand in stark contrast to all the other computer companies who simply give their hardware away for free.

Over a few decades, the cumulative price tag of new iPods, iPhones and other Apple products can get very big, as some aficionados can attest.

Pretty soon you’re just looking for the next fix. A faster machine, more features, a more productive user experience, better design … where does it all end?! A bitter spiral of anger, addiction, and nights spent sleeping in a dumpster outside Hoboken, New Jersey, that’s where.

The unspoken assumptions in this piece seem to be:

1) Apple products cost too much.
2) What kind of idiots keep buying stuff from the same company?

TUAW’s Mike T. Rose, for example, has spent as much as $20,000 on Apple products! Outrageous! When will the government step in and do something about this modern-day tithing?!

But, wait, that’s less than $1000 a year, judging by Rose saying his first Mac was a IIsi. Is that a lot for a guy who focuses on technology? Doesn’t really seem like it. Because, surprise, computers are big ticket items. Shocking, the Macalope knows. It’s a good thing Reuters is on it. 30 years later.

One wonders how much each of the people Pisnker talked to spent on automobiles over the last 30 years. Or housing. Or healthcare.

The Macalope added up his Apple total and it came to almost $35,000! Aaaaaaiiiiiieeeeee!!! Think of all the sweet, leafy alfalfa he could have bought with that money!

Uhhh, wait a second. Because that’s actually the point. He’s also made money using these devices, from the graduate school papers he wrote on them to writing this very column right now. In fact, just like many of the people on Pinsker’s list, the Macalope’s current livelihood is based on his familiarity and history with these devices. Seems like there’s a side to this equation she might have missed. Because if these people weren’t getting a benefit out of these devices that they felt outweighed the cost, they would have stopped buying them.

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