Jul 252011
 

Handicapping Apple products is now considered to be a national past time. Unfortunately for the overwhelming percentage of prognosticators, they don’t know how badly they suck at it. Because a new wave of asinine Apple product rumors roll in every new moon, it’s tough to dissipate the stink from the last one before the next is upon us. As much as I’d like to think tech bloggers and analysts are that stupid, it’s far more likely that the culprits are playing loyal enthusiasts (and the freetards who hate them) as part of the quest for the almighty pageview.

As someone utterly immune to and sometimes inspired to respond to such ridiculousness, I’ve decided to call out some of the latest rumors casting stinklines across the interwebs and drag them into the light of logic – well, my logic anyway – in the hopes that you, dear reader, will find the moronitude of said rumors to be self-evident.

A New iPhone to Address the Pre-Paid Market

Because I’m a U.S. consumer and purchase my phones with a fat brick of a contract that brings the up-front cost down, I’m not sensitive to the fact that most other countries don’t operate that way. The truth is that the pre-paid smartphone market is both growing – because more mobile phone purchases are smartphone purchases – and largely unexploited. This would appear to be an opportunity for someone like Apple to significantly grow their global market share – you know, that number that means a lot to Android users – by producing a lower-cost version of the iPhone.

The thing is: Apple already makes a lower-cost version of its current smartphone. Every generation of iPhone provides a buying opportunity for prior generation hardware. As of now, you can get an iPhone 3GS for around $450. That price will likely go down when the iPhone 5 is announced. So it’s entirely possible that Apple will make the 3GS more widely available as a cheaper alternative for the pre-paid phone crowd. But there are also some problems with thinking the 3GS is going to be Apple’s global pre-paid phone. First, it assumes that Apple will continue to produce them in mass quantities. It also assumes they’d be willing to drop the price of the phones below $300 or so. Both of those strike me as cutting into the possibility of it happening significantly, but I think the most biggest detriment to the argument is that the 3GS will be 2 generations removed from currency, which I don’t think would reflect well on the Apple brand. So why not the possibility of Apple releasing a “stripped down” version of the iPhone with – or about the same time as – the iPhone 5? No friggin’ way.

For this to be the case, there has to be failure on one of two axes that make successful Apple products: price and features. A”stripped down” version of the iPhone 5 is what? The iPhone 4? If that’s the case, there’s no way Apple offers it for below $300. Does it share the form factor of the iPhone 5 without some killer feature? It’d have to do without a shitload of killer features to bring the cost below $300, at which point it’d again reflect poorly on the brand.

Earth to pundits: Apple makes healthy margins on excellent hardware vertically integrated with a superior platform. While I’m sure the pre-paid market is a goldmine for some companies who can subsist on razor-thin margins, Apple is not – nor do they want to be – that company.  And speaking of non-margins…

The Apple-branded television

I honestly can’t understand the resilience of this one, but it’s an absolute zombie (a plodding Romero zombie, not the wicked-fast Return of the Living Dead kind). I tried taking apart an enthusiastic analyst; I even tried smug allegory. Apparently there are those who still believe in it, so I’m going to boil my objection down simply: what advantage does Apple gain by having a TV with an apple on it versus any TV hooked up to an AppleTV? Margin? If Apple releases a 42″ TV at an Apple margin, the cost of a Vizio + an AppleTV is guaranteed to be hundreds less. So what does Apple do then? Discontinue the set-top box? Not likely. For pundits who don’t “get it”, Apple’s success in studio and broadcast media is and will continue to consist of 9 parts media, 1 part hardware. The value of the hardware has already been captured in a set-top box; further integration would only add a cost barrier while decreasing consumer choice. The only way to add value to the proposition is to add content, which is where Apple will focus, but not by…

Purchasing Hulu

I’m inclined to think this one sprang from a collision of the “Google is rumored to be talking to someone, so Apple must be talking to them too” and the evergreen “Apple has so much cash; they have to spend it on something” streams. Aside from Apple already hosting a bunch of Hulu’s content, Apple already has a model for a streaming media relationships. Look at what Apple did to Netflix on the AppleTV. They managed to keep all of their content, but Netflix didn’t even get their splash screen on the AppleTV interface. That’s the kind of relationship Apple will have with Hulu, if it even has one. Personally, I don’t think Apple’s interest in a catalogue consisting of 90% decades-old TV shows and movies I’ve never heard of is that high.

Update: Macworld’s Dan Moren wrote an article on why Hulu would be an attractive partner for Apple. Even though I agree with very little of it, it does present the most compelling argument I’ve seen on the issue. The best part: Macworlder Chris Breen takes his coworker’s argument apart in the comments section.

So there’s the view from my comfortable naysayer’s perch about things I feel have little to no chance of happening despite the increasing number of articles appearing to the contrary. Comment are open to those who think I’ve grown too pessimistic about Apple’s ambitions (as well as to those pointing out my poor spelling and/or diction).

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