Apr 252013
 

Google’s Eric Schmidt fancies himself a tech guy who can also sling politics. You can check out his parlor act at any one of the numerous Senate Subcommittee meetings he has appeared at, where he is able to spin plates for hours on end while never really saying anything. He’s been expanding his political ambitions to tech ambassadorship, having already visited North Korea, much to the delight of the U.S. State Department. His message seems to be “teh tecknologees iz gud”. It’s too bad he knows so laughably little about them.

In what may be my only use ever for WikiLeaks, the site recently published a transcript of a conversation Schmidt had with Julian Assange about Schmidt’s upcoming book “The New Digital World”, which he is co-authoring with former advisor to Hillary Clinton Jared Cohen. I assume the co-authorship deal is meant to dull the edge of the knife you’d want to plunge into your eyes were you to read something penned by Schmidt himself. There were a bunch of other government and former government staffers present, but by far the most entertaining presence was Schmidt’s, probably not for the reasons he intended. I’d encourage people to cringe through the whole thing, but I’d like to share my personal highlights.

Schmidt the Technology Savant

Eric Schmidt: Can we start… I want to talk a little about Thor. Right. The sort of, the whole Navy network and…

Julian Assange: Tor or Thor?

ES: Yeah, actually I mean Tor. Uh…

JA: And Odin as well.

Bonus points to Assange for delivering the Odin kidney punch after Schmidt’s vinyl-scratching gaffe. That guy may not be so bad after all.

JA: When we were dealing with Egypt we saw the Mubarak government cut off the internet and we saw only one – there was one ISP that quite few of us were involved in trying to keep its connections open, it had maybe 6% of the market. Eventually they cut.. eventually the Mubarak government also cut off the mobile phone system. And why is it that that can be done? People with mobile phones have a device that can communicate in a radio spectrum. In a city there is a high density… there is always, if you like, a path between one person and another person. That is there is always a continuous path of mobile phones, each one can in theory hear the radio of the other.

ES: You could form a peer to peer network.

JA: So in theory you could form a peer to peer network. Now the way most GSM phones are being constructed and others is that they receive on a different frequency to that which they transmit…

ES: Yes.

JA: …and that means that they cannot form peer to peer networks. They have to go through base stations. But we’re seeing now that mobile phones are becoming more flexible in terms of base station programming. And they need to do this because they operate in different markets that have different frequencies. They have different forms of wireless output, and so … and also, even if there is not sufficiently flexible mobile phones, we are seeing that in the mobile phone aspect, maybe WiMax is coming along which will give them greater radius for two way communications. But also it is getting very cheap to make your own base station. There is software now which will run a base station.

ES: Right, right.

I CAN HAZ PEER TO PEER? Actually, no, you can’t. And notice how the Mole falls in line after his ignorance of mobile device security is laid bare. The “Right, right” line is actually where Schmidt spends most of his time: either agreeing with or parroting Assange (who I have to admit acquits himself disturbingly well throughout the interview). The high probability of Schmidt’s shoe jamming into his mouth with every third word out of it makes silence and deference his best shots at not sounding like an idiot.

Winner of the Award in the Field of Explicit Godwinning: Eric Schmidt!

ES: We went to Berlin, there is a place where they signed the final order, what’s it called?

Lisa Shields (Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations): Final solution. Wannsee.

ES: Wannsee, and these are Germans. So they documented everything.

LS: Fascinating.

ES: So it’s exactly your point, so that in order to kill six million Jews, you actually have to write it down.

Because nothing stimulates the appetite like Holocaust statistics. At least he got the number right.

Schmidt as the Early-onset Alzheimer’s Philosopher

ES: Here’s an aside for you. A few weeks ago I was with Warren Buffett… who’s 78. And I said What are you up to? And he said ‘This next year will be the best year of my life. And I thought ok…

[chuckles]

Scott Malcomson (long-assed title, some kind of bureaucratic ghostwriter): I need to go the rest room. Upstairs?

“I’m hoping Eric will get more interesting once I take a couple of belts from this flask I brought for exactly this reason.”

ES: So I thought ok. He’s obviously playing with me, and then I figured it out that if you’re 76, then the next year is going to be the best year of the rest of your life. Because at some point there is going to be a year where it’s not going to be so good. And then you are going to be dead. And so, I love that, right. This next is going to be the best year.

76, 78 – whatever. Maybe Schmidt hit the bathroom 10 minutes before Malcomson.

Schmidt as the Gifted Public Speaker

Number of times [inaudible] appears after Schmidt’s initials: 9. I’m sure whatever didn’t get picked up by the mic was wrong anyway.

Eric Schmidt: Google representative to the U.S. Government – and now to all the world. No wonder the rest of it hates us.

 Posted by at 12:36 pm
Apr 232013
 

Getting pretty bad out there isn’t it? All of the faux-anxiety preceding Apple’s earnings call this afternoon brought out the usual caste of knuckledraggers, hit-whores and never-rights, and they were working hard for your pageview. The stench was overpowering. Is Apple looking for a replacement for Tim Cook? In what ways does Tim Cook resemble Steve Ballmer? The lead-up to Apple’s announcement has sunk the trolling hook to new depths. If only the line would catch on a sunken wreck and drag all these idiots to a watery grave.

So how did it get this bad?

One of the biggest obstacles in this here information age, if you’re a supposed purveyor of said information, is getting your message out. This especially applies to companies that are both wildly successful and wildly secretive – like Apple. Sources delivering insider information are hard to find, which is why you see EXCLUSIVE splashed across such content like a banner for free nachos at a Dollar Store Grand Opening. Decent analysis of a news item takes time and resources – and there’s always 50 other blogging houses willing to compromise a story for the sake of time. And this only applies to the stories resembling actual news, which leads me to the other category of writing about Apple and how the current crop of short-order manure cooks try to monetize negative attention. But first: some behavioral psychology 101.

When you’re 5, you don’t have a highly-developed sense of causality between the attention you crave and the behavior that attracts it. If you’re raised correctly, it’s your parents’ job to associate certain kinds of behavior with positive attention. As a toddler, that boils down to doing what your parents tell you to. If you had shitty parents or perhaps were competing for attention with 7 other siblings, another way to garner a reaction from your parents was to act inappropriately – seeking negative attention. In my childhood, seeking negative attention resulted in a swift smack in the ass. Nowadays, if you’re a decent parent, you put your kid in a time out. The message is the same: there are rules for what is acceptable and consequences for breaking these rules. If you suck at parenting, or are suffering from a momentary lapse, you ignore the behavior, or worse, address it as something worthy of the kind of attention you should be reserving for positive reinforcement. This confusion makes it tough for the child to discern the behavior that is generally acceptable from that which isn’t, which can result in longer-term issues such as a goth lifestyle, seeing your daughter on the back of a motorcycle or your son getting a ride in the back of a patrol car.

The state of reporting about and analysis of Apple largely resembles the relationship between a shitload of bad parents – the readers – and how they respond to a shitload of negative attention-seeking brats. It’s not really the readers fault. The internet is powered by the response to negative attention. If you’re restrained, you don’t engage. If you indulge your very human instinct to point out that which is (not even close to) correct, you visit the site, comment on the site and reblog or retweet the article. Hell, 90% of my writing – along with those myriad others that rationally cover Apple – is dedicated to telling these Kassholes off.

Where does he get all these great scoops?

From my Gnome, high above Westchester, “You’re a fomenting…asshole” #fuckyourself #helloSEC?

The form of attention that in our personal lives is designed to admonish has been turned on its head by the economics of the internet. I’ve said it before: outraged readers make the pageview money wheel turn. While it has always been a problem with Apple, it’s quickly devolved into the worst kind of tabloid journalism. Those articles I mentioned in the opening? The first is from Forbes, which has weathered the transition from print media by transforming itself into a poster child for spontaneous fecal evacuation. The second is the Gray Lady, which I’ve previously aired my grievances with.

Back in the real world, Apple announced earnings and gross margins that were almost perfectly aligned with their guidance for this past quarter. YoY they made slightly less profit on slightly more revenue. QoQ they fell off like every consumer electronics maker does after the holiday quarter. Overall, they beat the analyst consensus predictions for both revenue and EPS. Tim Cook wasn’t fired, nor will he be.

Because that would be fucking stupid.

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
Apr 162013
 

Is there a company that illustrates its mindset as hilariously as Microsoft when it comes to updating their software (I mean, besides Adobe, but their Acrobat updates are at least only annoying in their sheer number)? I have the ill fortune of having to use Office 2008 to cater to the will of the other 95% of the enterprise – mostly because I have yet to figure out how to unregister and transfer my Office 2011 license from an old machine. I guess if Redmond made that easy, Microsoft’s Office division might start posting Entertainment and Device-type earnings.

Check out this sequence I had to follow to update 2008’s updater…so I could update Office.

  1. Get prompt to update Microsoft Office Updater to version 2.3.3. This must be done by copying and pasting a URL to Microsoft’s website instead of, you know, using the updater to do it.
  2. Highlight URL in prompt, hit Command-C to copy, go to Safari, hit Command-V in “Omnibar”.
  3. Notice that keyboard shortcuts for some reason do not compute, as the last thing I copied before the URL is pasted into the Omnibar.
  4. Go back to update prompt, highlight URL, right-click and manually select “Copy”.
  5. Paste into Safari Omnibar.
  6. Install version 2.3.3.
  7. Run Office Updater version 2.3.3 (again through an Office program’s “Help” menu).
  8. Get prompt to download another “latest” version of Updater, 2.3.6, which is thankfully available through the Updater itself.
  9. Download version 2.3.6 of Office Updater.
  10. Install version of 2.3.6.
  11. Go into a Microsoft Office program and go to Help -> Check for Updates because Updater is not an application available via Spotlight search for whatever reason.
  12. Download update to Office 2008 12.1.0.

It’d be a lot funnier if I didn’t have to use this dog.

Additional bitch: Microsoft also apparently doesn’t believe in combo updaters. 12.1.0 prompted the install of 12.2.0, which prompted the install of 12.3.6. Three separate updates totaling over 1 GB, three separate admin authorizations, three separate installs.

Shit. Show.

 Posted by at 1:41 pm
Apr 162013
 

You remember the New York Times piece that portended to scrutinize Apple’s labor practices in China? The one that featured a metic buttload of unsourced quotes and passed it off as legitimate journalism? The chilling exposé that was launched in no small part by lying fraud Mike Daisey’s one man show “Slanderous Bullshit I Made Up About Apple So I Could Make Money Off of Steve Jobs’s Name”? The Times even thought enough about Daisey’s work that they gave him an op-ed a week after Jobs’s death to bitch about his crappy legacy, which was as grossly inaccurate as it was classy.

(In defense of the Times, they did retract a whole paragraph of Daisey’s lies after This American Life – real journalists that ask tough questions – exposed him for the dishonest charlatan he is. They did however, manage to preserve other unsourced allegations like “Foxconn, a firm made infamous for…widespread beatings”. I guess the Times thought it would be better than a 404 page.)

The Pulitzer Prize committee has just proven that not only will that kind of reporting sell you tons of copy, it will also get you some (formerly) legitimate accolades. Your 2013 winner in the category of “Explanatory Reporting”: the New York Times staffers contributing to the “exposé” on Apple’s supply chain in China. You can see the announcement here.

Judging by the Pulitzer Board’s taste in journalism – which is as out of touch as their Netscape Navigator 1.0-compatable website – it’s safe to say that the Pulitzer has become as relevant as the Time Person of the Year.

 Posted by at 9:09 am
Apr 112013
 

John Kirk over at Techpinions has an excellent piece dissecting Google’s sleight of hand when divulging its Android numbers. When Google wants to represent its dominating presence of total “activations”, it uses the number of Android devices that check into Google’s servers; when it wants to tell a feel-good story about the climbing percentage of devices running the latest versions of its OS, it switches the metric of how many devices connect to Google Play store.

I’ve probably written this a hundred times: Google is a supremely disingenuous company, one that could give Microsoft from 15 years ago a run for its money. Whether we’re talking about the company’s laughably dishonest economic impact report, its incredibly hypocritical views on patent abuse or how it represents the strength of its ecosystem, they have no problem telling people what they want to hear – regardless of its basis in fact.

Apr 102013
 

Right out of the gate, I have a confession to make. I agree with Ed Bott on something. Feel free to stop reading (I would). He thinks the numbers spun by the Gartners and IDCs of the world are fantasyland dart throws. So do I. But why would predictions from analysts that have always supported the Windows feel-good story of global market dominance suddenly fall out of favor with Microsoft pundits like Bott? Because some of their story lines are starting to deviate from narratives that have kept PC advocates smiling contently for years. That must not stand.

Bott’s response to the latest Gartner atrocity – intimating that the Windows share of computers with form factors people want to buy (Ultrabooks, aka MacBook Airs) is contributing to the demise of Windows form factors people don’t want to buy (desktop PCs) – is to take to his ZDNet pulpit and explain why Gartner’s numbers are being misinterpreted and Windows actually looks pretty good in Gartner’s out year of 2017.

Which, true to his arboreal roots, ignores the forest entirely and focuses on the bark of one particular tree.

First, the set-up: here are Gartner’s numbers for computing devices, formatted in the classic 4-year panel of past year, current year, next year and … 4 years from now.

Screeny Shot Apr 10, 2013 9.30.31 AM

Bott laments that pundits have used this information to declare Microsoft’s imminent demise in relevance which, even as written, doesn’t do that. Bott takes particular exception to the 2017 partition between PCs and Ultrabooks, which shows a continuing erosion of the former and a corresponding explosion of the latter.

But even if you take their numbers at face value, you need to actually understand them. With a few exceptions, most of the quick-and-dirty rewrites of Gartner’s press release got the story exactly wrong.

And that’s the second problem. All those reports focused on one shiny thing and ignored everything else in the report. Here, I’ve used my virtual yellow magic marker so you can see Gartner’s data as superficially as all those bloggers did.

Bott proceeds to very helpfully highlight the first row in yellow, an exercise I’ll allow my readers to imagine instead of invoking my right to be a pedantic asshat.

So to Bott, the logical counterpoint is not to make the mistake that every other blogger made and to combine the first 2 categories to show that Microsoft’s outlook isn’t so bad after all. Instead of falling over a -20% cliff in 2017, there’s actually 5% growth! Disaster averted!

As a brief aside, when I first started writing this piece, I was intent on showing that the ultraportable market, now currently dominated by the MacBook Air, is going to seriously bring down Bott’s fist-pumping in 2017. You see, although Apple doesn’t break its sales of products down to the level of granularity in its earnings summaries that show MacBook Air versus MacBook Pro sales, for 2012 it did break out desktops and laptops or “Mac Desktops” and “Mac Portables”; the latest summary only lists total units for both categories. From the 2012 data, if one looks at the average Portable sales of 3.26 million units per quarter, or 13 million per year, and conjectures that Airs made up 1/4 – 1/2 of the sales, that’s between 1/3 and 1/2 of Gartner’s 2012 total for the category. Impressive. But when you look at the 2017 figure of 96 million units shipped, you’d have to live in a fantasy world to think that Apple could sell 24 – 48 million Airs in a year. Fanboy as I am, I don’t think the company is capable of pumping out that kind of volume. After all that math, I was going to scrap the post. Then I realized how inconsequential the first 2 rows of Gartner’s chart were (insert your quip about the general worthlessness of Gartner data here), and saw that which Bott will not name.

Bott may come to the conclusion that PC + Ultrabook sales will mean a 5% gain for Windows in these product categories (at least if we’re talking about units shipped, which is something Gartner/IDC/Microsoft/Everyone Else specializes in), but despite Bott’s assertion, that’s not the important part – and it’s not what is prompting bloggers to proclaim that Microsoft is doomed. Microsoft’s problem is that as a percentage of all connected devices, their share doesn’t dip 20% of a small number, it falls 4% of a much bigger number. Think about the products Microsoft currently has in the Tablet and Mobile Phone categories: Windows RT and Windows Phone. If the hilarious current state of affairs continues, which Redmond is doing a pretty good job maintaining, one could easily defend Microsoft not squeezing 1% out of these markets in 2017. If you assume that Microsoft had about 15% of the connected device market in 2012 by virtue of its IT drone/enterprise desktop phalanx, and one (reluctantly) assumes that it will ship 2/3s of the “Ultraportable” category in 2017, that number drops to 11% of the connected device market.

That’s the picture Bott should be focused on, but I’ve never known a Microsoft shill to be aware of the forest being ablaze when the bark on one particular Acer circinatum is so exquisite.

Update: As if on cue, IDC just announced that PC sales tanked a whopping 13.9% this past quarter compared with 1Q13. But Microsoft totally has nothing to worry about.

Apr 072013
 

Android got another smash to the piñata that is its cohesiveness as a mobile platform administered to it by Facebook this past week. Mark Zuckerberg introduced the HTC First and its Facebook Home overlay of HTC’s Sense…errr…overlay as a way of getting users to turn to Facebook instead of Google to spend all their time. The phone will be cheap – $100 with 2 year contract – and its specs won’t move blood to any freetard naughty bits, but that’s obviously not who the target market for this device is. Facebook currently has twice as many mobile users as the United States has people. Some fraction of those 680+ million are going to be interested enough to buy a phone based on Facebook being the predominant input. Even more are going to download and use it: Facebook announced that Home will be available as a stand-alone app on the Google Play store.

As many people point out, Facebook Home isn’t an outright fork of Android in the spirit of Amazon’s Kindle HD devices. Siegler says Facebook is “spooning” Android, but that’s a snappy play on words that belies the truth of what this move actually is: a blatant attention grab away from Google’s own services. And let’s be clear: attention is a zero sum game. It may not have the same devastating effect on these services as an official fork, but judging by the hands-on I’ve seen and reviews I’ve read, it’s much more obtrusive than a skin and a serious problem for Google. The reason is that the same demographic where Google is realizing success with Android is the same low-to-middle end device market that’s going to be interested in Facebook Home. The HTC First (and other devices with Home pre-installed that will be announced later this year) won’t be a factor for people looking at an S4 vs. an iPhone 5, but it will be for people deciding between Android models like the Droid RAZR HD and Spectrum 2. Then there’s all the rest of the people who will download Home to their mobile devices.

So what the fuck is Google thinking by allowing this? It’s a good question. I think the answer is two-fold. First of all, Google already allowed Amazon – and currently allows OEMs – to manipulate Android in ways I imagine you’d have to date a gymnast to fully understand. For them to draw the line with Facebook – especially Facebook backed by an existing Android OEM – would put them in a weird spot. Secondly, Android, as we know, is a virus that needs a legion of carriers: more carriers = more money. 30% mobile engagement of Google services with a Facebook overlay (of an HTC overlay) is better than the 0% engagement Google would be sucking if Facebook were to engage Windows Mobile as a partner instead.

Samsung and Facebook are just the most recent examples of an unsettling phenomenon for Google: Android is becoming bastardized to the point of total brand dissolution, with fewer and fewer people showing an interest in digging through the OEM cruft to get to the things that make Google its money. Now Google has to contend with Facebook stealing their customers’ attention while riding Android right up Avenue B. Must really suck for some parasite to be siphoning coin off the work you put into a mobile OS, huh?

Karma’s a bitch.

Apr 072013
 

On April 3, E!’s Talk Soup handed out its prestigious 2013 Soup Awards, celebrating the best of the worst talk show clips from the past year. Now you’d suspect the group consisting of people “analyzing Apple” and the candidates for this award, who stand out by making jackasses out of themselves, would have some degree of overlap, but until this year that hasn’t been the case. Ladies and gentlemen: it is my distinct honor to introduce The Soup Award winner for 2013, in the category of “I Had No Idea We Were Going to Talk About Fraud Allegations”, Henry Blodget.

Hanky Spanky

I’m sure this was more about Henry wanting to come off as a lovable, smiling on-air personality when the camera light went on, but having to switch to “contrition mode” after Matt Lauer exposed Blodget as a blacklisted market manipulator. Another more fantastic possibility is that he legitimately didn’t see the intro coming and that Lauer’s words smashed into his ego with the force of a Mack truck.

“Watch this Lis: you can actually pinpoint the second where his heart rips in half.”

You can probably tell which one I’m going with. It doesn’t matter: one of the largest Douchebags in the Row just got a parody award for getting his beanbag stomped on the nation’s 2nd rated TV morning show. I guess this humiliation is going to have to serve in lieu of the fact that Blodget gets to keep fomenting as editor of a site called Business Insider – after the SEC supposedly banned him from the sector as the part of his settlement that didn’t involve millions of dollars. The Soup’s bit that follows Blodget’s Nazi face melt footage is just delicious icing on the cake. There’s one other nugget of bonus hilarity: The Soup couldn’t even be bothered to spell his name right on the award.

Insult, Meet Injury

Insult, Meet Injury

Someone once told me there’s no such thing as bad press. I think we’ve just found the exception.

Apr 052013
 

Facebook just had its turn in the fisting Google queue by joining hands with HTC to deliver a lariat to Android. I’ll have some more thoughts about that later, but I just wanted to say a few words about Microsoft’s pissy response to the news. The adorable Frank X. Shaw delivered a predictable “Yea, but we did it first” tantrum via The Official Microsoft Blog, citing the Microsoft’s Window Phone launch event in 2011 as being similar to that of the HTC First. Just like Bill Gates invented the iPad in 2001.

For a moment let’s set aside the premise that its antics in the 90’s should effectively shut Microsoft up about anyone copying from them until the end of time. There are some caterwaul-specific aspects of Shaw’s post I find particularly hilarious. First is that Microsoft was hardly the first OS to “Put People First”: they borrowed that metaphor pretty heavily from WebOS’s Synergy. Second, and perhaps more galling, is the fact that Facebook was pretty much the cornerstone of Microsoft’s strategy. Without Facebook integration, Windows Phone would have weaker legs than it already does.

One bonus bit of hilarity: Shaw’s choice of video to exemplify the fact that Facebook chose the same three words to launch their phone that Microsoft did in 2011 depicts Windows Phone 7.5 – aka “The Road to Nowhere“. Fitting that Shaw would brag about “Putting People First” by linking to a promo for an OS that upgraded buyers of Nokia 900s by making them grab their ankles 3 months after they bought their Windows Phones.

Then again, hasn’t that always been Redmond’s way of “Putting People First”?

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