Aug 312011
 

When Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple, you could almost tap out the beat (…2, 3, 4) before the first career hit-mooch would take to his keyboard and announce that the spell had been broken – that the “reality distortion field” that causes all Apple product users to make irrational purchasing decisions – had dissipated. I had a short list of pundits who would pick up this mantle, and I’m happy to say one of them came through. It’s long past time he was duly honored for his body of work.

Joe Wilcox is a garden variety anti-Apple troll who ambidextrously fluffs both Microsoft and Google at Apple’s expense. Like all DBR inductees, he’s also incredibly shitty at what he does, if you assume that thing involves “intelligently talking about trends in technology”. How bad is he? Let’s allow Wilcox to shine the light of his intellect on a couple of major technology stories and see where he comes out.

On Steve Ballmer’s leadership of Microsoft   

After firing a number of long-time senior executives at Microsoft, Ballmer’s actions justifiably came under fire from the tech press as short-sighted sacrifices made by an incompetent CEO. Not according to Wilcox: Ballmer’s doing it to show everyone who’s boss. Joe took to his favorite venue, Betanews, to set the record straight. From the section of the piece titled – I shit you not – “Captain, My Captain”:

Ballmer has something to communicate here to other Microsoft executives, employees, partners, Wall Street analysts and investors: He’s in charge and will do whatever is necessary to make Microsoft more competitive in the decade 2010.  No Microsoft leader is sacred enough; anyone can and will be sacked if they put personal agenda or perceived Microsoft agenda ahead of the company.

It’s certainly a good thing Ballmer chose the decade 2010 to jam a rocket in his ass, because the last one didn’t look so good. Here’s Ballmer’s “decade 2000” from an investor’s perspective – compared to another tech company with modest growth:

Yes, those are thousands of percent

That blue line should look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. When you’re looking for vital signs, it’s what you see when something’s dead. But that was “the flaccid 2000’s”. How about the first year of that rocketship decade?

Pff.

OK: so maybe Wilcox isn’t so good at spotting great leaders. Let’s try out some good old fashioned prognostication. When the tech press buzz was building about the rumored product that turned out to be the iPad, how did Joe feel about its prospects?

“The world doesn’t need an Apple tablet, or any other” By Joe Wilcox

I know what’s going on here. This is one of those “Brutus was an honorable man” articles – you know: the ones that throw you with the title but conclude 180 degrees away from it?

“So I’ll assert what should be obvious to anyone thinking rationally and not emotionally: Tablet is a nowhere category. For all the hype about an Apple tablet , it is at best a niche product. The world doesn’t need an Apple tablet, no matter what the hype about rumored features or regardless of what actually releases (if anything).

/prints out picture of Wilcox

//laughs maniacally in photo’s face

To his credit, Wilcox did publish an article in June of last year – after 6 months of the iPad kicking the shit out of his “nowhere category”. Of his original claim, he says “Yes, I was wrong. I admit it. Flail me in Betanews comments or other blogs. Surely Macheads will peck away even my bones. Go ahead. I won’t often give you such opportunity.” Then he went and published “iPad Cannot Win the Tablet Wars” a year later, asserting that Apple could not possibly keep its edge on Android’s offerings, while also proving that he can indeed provide future opportunities to be flailed – on the same topic no less. Of course, for people who have no shame about how fucktarded the things they say sound, opportunities for flailing also provide opportunities for pageviews. Turns out there are some people on the internet who love telling misinformed people how wrong they are. Go figure.

Which brings us back to Wilcox’s induction-tipping article “I Lost My Passion for Apple”. Let’s take her for a spin:

“Earlier this month I sold my 11.6-inch MacBook Air (using Samsung Series 5 Chromebook now) and iPhone 4 (switched back to Google Nexus S).”

I can almost fathom Wilcox getting a Nexus S to prove how thoroughly un-Apple he is despite having used their kit, but he’d have us believe he traded an Air in for a Chromebook? The hardware universally panned as too big and too expensive to make a decent netbook powered by Google’s wet fart of an OS?

Without Apple Chairman Steve Jobs driving innovation or inspiring passion — the oft-called “reality distortion field” — my Apple enthusiasm is gone. Perhaps it’s return to sanity.

Jobs retired on August 24. Wilcox wrote his article three days later. Is he claiming that “innovation and passion” is now retroactively missing from products released when he was still CEO? Was his returning the Apple products some sort of protest or does he honestly believe that every Apple product contains a whisp of Jobs’ soul – as long as he’s CEO, that is.

But on reflection, I now see how much simplicity, one of Apple products’ best attributes, is giving way to complication creep. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iTunes 9 and 10 are glaring examples of increased complexity, as are iOS 4 (and soon v5), Safari 5.1, iLife `11 and most other Apple software.

More specifically…

Oh. I guess Wilcox doesn’t need to be any more expository than putting a bunch of Apple products in a list. What the fuck is “complication creep”? How piss-poor of a writer do you have to be to run off a list like this and not even drill down on one item on it? Wait: you do have an example, Joe?

Still, where Steve Jobs’ influence still touched so did simplicity remain, which iPad 2, MacBook Air and Mac App Store imbue. But other recent attempts at simplicity have failed, with Final Cut Pro X example of increased complexity coming from an attempt to make video production simpler. Many of Apple’s elite customers complained about the product, and there was even a petition to bring back the old version! Could such a thing really have happened with Steve Jobs hands-on at Apple?

So, aside from nonsensically returning a product he claims is still “imbued” with Jobs’ characteristic “simplicity”, Wilcox cites people complaining about a new version of an Apple product as evidence that Jobs no longer cares. Maybe Joe doesn’t peruse the Apple Discussion Boards, like say someone who was preparing to write something about which they wanted to appear knowledgable. How about the clamor over the introduction of glossy screens? iMovie ’08? As an Apple product user, I can attest that there are no bitchier end-users on the planet. Final Cut is just another example of Apple doing something that some users don’t like. If anyone’s attitude towards change has been “not a big deal”, it’s been Jobs. If anything, knee-jerk responses to every user gripe would be characteristic of Apple without Jobs, not the other way around.

Apple feels quite different to me now in 2011 than it did in 2008. It’s all corporate now.

How exactly does that feel, Joe? Does it feel like someone has pulled a Ziploc over your head while your hands and feet were bound, because for some reason, that image of you is really sticking with me.

 Just dollars and cents on a ledger.

And ubiquitously best-in-class products and services, as reviewed by every respectable outlet in existence, but go on…

What Jobs imbued already is gone, at least for me.

Except for the MacBook Air, but I returned it anyway, because my writing has the continuity of someone still learning cursive.

I predict it will fade for many technophiles.

And I’m awesome at predicting things.

But not anytime soon for the mass market of buyers, who are more influenced by what their friends and family use than by the aura of Steve Jobs. His legendary “one more thing” was one last thing long ago.

I confess I don’t even know what that closing means, but the trickle of blood from my left ear suggests I should leave Wilcox’s prose before one of my anterior lobes implodes.

So: Joe Wilcox. Stunningly ignorant blatherer of things anti-Apple, relentlessly incorrect interpreter of technology trends, clueless prognosticator, archetypical hit-whore: welcome to Douchebag’s Row. There is no one who writes so much about Apple that knows as little as you. In the rare air you now share, that’s saying something.

 Posted by at 12:33 am
Aug 302011
 

Reported in April:

I'm sure it just needs a little spit 'n polish

My favorite is on the top right – “Select none”. Brilliant.

This just in:

OK - maybe just spit

I have to agree with Daniel Eran Dilger on this one: it is a radical departure from OS X. In fact, if you follow the flaming skidmarks about 50 yards from the radical departure, you can see where it radically wraps itself around a telephone pole.

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Aug 302011
 

I don’t think Apple will release an HDTV, but I’m in the minority. My reasoning, as reductive as I can present it: regarding media, 90% of Apple’s value to consumers is content. This content can currently be accessed through the AppleTV set-top box.

Steve Jobs used the term “bag of hurt” to describe the BluRay format; I think he might use similar language to describe the HDTV television landscape, but to hear “making an Apple-branded TV” spout with certainty from the ballwashers of some analysts, you’d think Apple could just shove the existing AppleTV into a high-end HDTV. But that won’t work, and I’m going to swallow a little vomit to explain why.

The GoogleTV Didn’t Suck

I know, I know: I busted this thing’s balls when it appeared on the market, and in the end it panned out just like I – and a number of other people – knew it would: on a greased rail being shot off the TigerDirect clearance rack. But those who ignore their history are doomed repeat it, so let’s see what it did right, where it went wrong and think about what  the GoogleTV’s failure could mean for an Apple HDTV.

The list of things GoogleTV does that AppleTV doesn’t isn’t long, but there are a couple of ambitious features that, on their face, make it a better TV-integrated device.

An Integrated UI

When you’re watching TV, you can use the GoogleTV remote (the 2-hands Sony version or the “LOL” 2 hands + lap Logitech version) to not only control the TV, but access the GoogleTV options. These options are overlaid in such a way that you can still see what’s playing on current channel. The “type to search” interface allows you to looks for any media content – whether it’s on TV now or available for sale, rental or on the Internet.

Not TOTALLY shitty

Some of GoogleTV’s functions allows you to use picture-in-picture – say to Tweet while you’re watching House. If you’re a DISH Network subscriber, you also get access to your DVR functions. All these functions co-exist with your HDTV without the user having to change inputs (related note: how is it possible for the high-speed HDMI standard to be so fucking slow to change inputs). This “always on” capability is one major way GoogleTV distinguishes itself from Apple’s offering.

The Internet

In my opinion, this feature isn’t as much about capability as it is about scale. The AppleTV does offer access to non-cable content such as Netflix, MLB/NBA TV, YouTube and Vimeo, for example. GoogleTV offers access to any content that isn’t tied down (which ended up being part of its demise, but more on that later). In addition to Apple’s non-iTunes content, GoogleTV offers access to Amazon, Napster, Pandora, not to mention network offerings from HBO, TNT, CNN and Cartoon Network, to name a few. The Chrome browser also comes baked-in to the GoogleTV, so you can surf the web right from your television.

So What the Fuck Happened?

So you have a device that plays nice with your cable box, providing you with access to its content along with a buttload of Internet video and music content and the Internet itself. Why did the GoogleTV faceplant?

Price

The first and biggest obstacle. When introduced, the set-top version of GoogleTV, the Logitech Revue, retailed for $299. Sony’s bundled TVs, which are already at the high-end of the market price-wise, added a premium to the HDTV’s and Blu-Ray players that baked-in GoogleTV’s functionality. $299 is a fair price for a Blu-Ray player/DVR/cable box, but not for something that lays over all of these devices and provides nothing but redundant functionality, a web browser and some connected content.

Access to Content

Definitely the biggest misstep Google made when crowing about the value of the GoogleTV prior to its release. Imagine this: access to all those network and cable stations you could only get on your laptop’s browser before! Imagine ABC, Hulu and Comedy Central on your HDTV: the way it was meant to be viewed! Now imagine the networks and cable companies slamming its doors on the dicks of people (yes, they were all men) thinking they were going to bask in free episodes HDTV – one by one. Far be it from Google to actually secure any of the relationships that would have been required to keep that from happening. Those episodes of Lost that cost millions apiece to produce want to be free!

Google promised me free Hulu, but all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Apple Didn’t Make It   

It pains me to say that the GoogleTV UI/UX didn’t totally suck, but it did suffer from the characteristic lack of polish that comes from having engineers outnumber designers on your campus 400 to 1. It’s basically Android on a TV. Inconsistencies, glitches and some flat-out labyrinthian UI quirks doomed a product that was already crippled on several other fronts.

#FAIL

How Does This Apply to an Apple HDTV?

To ask the question (as I have) another way: what’s the difference between Apple building the AppleTV UI into a high-end HDTV and stamping their logo on it and Apple continuing to produce the  AppleTV the way it does now as a standalone device? To my mind, the only things that could justify such a move would involve at least one of the following:

Integration of the UI

An Apple HDTV could work just like Sony’s GoogleTV. For that to happen would require Apple to mesh its UI with your cable provider’s, on the same plane as Apple’s own iTunes content to make it a “input one device” – the device you turn on to watch TV. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

A Feature That GoogleTV Didn’t Have

DVR integration, broader access to cable channel and network Internet content or a blow-your-mind UI that ties it all together. Again, not out of the realm of possibility.

A Reasonable Price

This is a little bit fungible, especially if Apple hits it out of the park on the first two items. There aren’t too many things hardware-wise that you can do to really differentiate yourself in the HDTV market, and this is a mature, saturated, commodity-good market as it is. Remember: in relative terms, the AppleTV at $299 was a flop; at $99 it was a success.

If Apple can break new ground with the “iTV”, I could imagine a universe where it makes its own HDTV. But when I break it down to the fundamental question: “What can Apple do with an HDTV that it can’t do with the AppleTV?”, I do not see it happening. Sorry, Gene.

Aug 292011
 

I never got into the “Farmville” or “Mafia Wars” social games, mostly because my attention span couldn’t keep a cactus alive, nevermind an agrarian enterprise or a ruthless drug cartel. There are, however, millions of people for whom these games are a big deal. I imagine these people also own lots of cats and have Lifetime and Oxygen on their favorite channel list, but I could be wrong. One thing’s for sure: if you fuck with their time sinks, you’re gonna hear about it.

The latest service to feel the Google axe blade was Slide, a social apps company that was acquired for about $200 million last year. One of Slide’s offerings, a game called SuperPoke! Pets, was…well…Super Poked.  As MG Siegler reports for TechCrunch, the players were none too happy about it:

If you look at our post about the Google killing Slide from Thursday, you’ll find 230+ comments right now. In the Facebook comments era of TechCrunch, this is a ton. In our pre-Facebook comments era this would probably equate to over 1,000 comments. And nearly every single one of these comments is in response to the killing of SuperPoke! Pets.

One of the most contentious aspects of the kill-off was that people paid real money for “gold items” in-game.  It’s very common to use real money in these “cultivation” games to enhance pets or plots of land – or whatever. What isn’t so common is to have the service yanked out from under 2 million+ active players. Then again, this is Google we’re talking about – not exactly the most emotionally available company on the planet.

What Google chooses to do with the millions of pissed-off former SuperPokers remains to be seen, but it underscores how little Google cares about killing off something under its care  – whether that thing be of their own creation or something they’ve acquired. Little wonder no one takes their enterprise offerings seriously.

 Posted by at 4:46 pm
Aug 282011
 

Too bad for Larry, the $500 million didn’t buy silence. From the Wall Street Journal:

Behind Google Inc.’s decision this week to settle a U.S. criminal probe into ads it carried for unlicensed online pharmacies lies a previously undisclosed factor: Justice Department investigators believed company co-founder Larry Page knew of, and allowed, the ads for years.

Sorting through more than four million documents, prosecutors found internal emails and documents that, they say, show Mr. Page was aware of the allegedly illicit ad sales. Under this week’s $500 million settlement, those emails won’t be released, avoiding the possibility of disclosure at trial.

I don’t hear a lot of the “Do No Evil” mantra anymore from Google. Think they know we’re on to them?

 Posted by at 7:47 pm
Aug 252011
 

This being the day after Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple, the deluge of  farewells and remembrances is in full swing. So when Vic Gundotra posted a personal anecdote about Jobs in his Google+ stream, you’d think it would be something about how Steve showed remarkable poise in his decision-making when dealing with mobile carriers, or how he shrewdly negotiated agreements with labels and studios that changed of how people interact with media.

Turns out it was about how Jobs called him on a Sunday to complain about the color of a letter in the Google logo. Cool story, bro.

Of course, Gundotra talks up the moral of the story  as “every CEO should have this level of attention to detail” – like knowing when your company is helping to advertise the sale of illegal prescription drugs – for 6 years.  Everyone knows about Jobs’ fanatical attention to detail. Does this story really flatter Jobs? Maybe I’m still suffering from withdrawl, but to me it comes across as a left-handed at best.

Maybe my problem is with Gundotra’s track record of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

 Posted by at 11:11 am
Aug 242011
 

It was only mere hours before the stories about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO went from pleasant farewells to fear-mongering clickbait. Congratulations to Gizmodo on reverting back to classic Gawker form in record time.  Our link-licious headline? “Apple without Steve Jobs Scares the Shit out of Wall Street”. The evidence? A 5% drop in Apple’s stock price in after-hours trading. Let me try to put that in perspective for you:

Even if we assume a 5% discount on today’s closing, the company that made an absurd $12.5 billion acquisition with no discernible upside “scares the shit out of Wall Street” a little more than a company losing a CEO who is the most respected and intimately-involved of any in business.  If anything, a 5% after-hours dip is an extraordinary testament to the faith investors have in Apple as a company.

So do us all a favor, Giz: wait until the market opens tomorrow before you start slinging your shit. Maybe throw up a few more of those Lego posts that so appeal to your 13 year-old reader base.

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Aug 242011
 

Today, Apple announced that Steve Jobs has tendered his resignation, effective immediately.

The inevitability of today’s news makes reading it is no less surreal. I remember the first time I imagined it was possible that Jobs could be anything but Apple’s CEO. It was the commencement address he delivered to Stanford in 2005.

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.”

In the halcyon days of a career that produced the greatest second act in business history, the man at the podium at Stanford was a man that was grateful for a second chance at life. Every day that followed that morning with his doctor was gravy to him.

The coming days will produce millions of pieces about what Steve was to Apple, to the technology sector, to the creative world. All of them will be thankful, most of them will be eulogic, some will be apocalyptic. Even though Steve’s own parting words are terse and somewhat somber, I’m hopeful that as Chairman of the Board, he’ll continue to influence the greatest company in tech for a decade or two more.

For however long Jobs continues to do what he does, one thing is indisputable: in a world where revisionist history tends to distort the achievements of mediocre leaders, it’s not possible for any exaggeration of Jobs’ accomplishments to be that far from the truth. That’s as close to a definition of “unique” as I can get.

Be well, Steve. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And thanks for everything.

 Posted by at 8:44 pm
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