Mar 202015
 

Among the things Eric Schmidt has contributed to Google, his push to have the company invest in government lobbying is by far the most valuable. In fact, if you don’t count the embarrassing silences and talk-overs you get whenever someone puts him in front of a microphone, the Walking Retraction hasn’t contributed much else.

Witness the report from the FTC that was “leaked” to the Wall Street Journal as part of one of their FOIA request (oopsie!) detailing the serious misgivings the agency’s bureau of competition had with Google’s abuse of its monopoly power and how close the agency was to prosecuting Google.  The bureau of competition had serious issues with some of Google’s business practices, such as scraping reviews and product rankings from sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon and repackaging it as its own. In the words of the report, Google “use(d) its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations.” These complaints were made not just from known griefers like Microsoft and Yelp, but tech giants such as eBay and Amazon. The Journal report describes four categories about which the bureau expressed concern: bias Google showed in its search results, the aforementioned scraping and repackaging of others’ content, the restrictions Google placed on advertisers own data which made it difficult to work with other advertisers and Google’s practice of punishing content providers in its rankings for cutting deals with other search engines.

Even though the bureau of competition has historically had great influence over whether or not the agency pursues further legal action against a company, the five FTC commissioners for some reason voted to close the investigation in 2013, much to the delight of Google. Contrast the grave concerns cited in the report with with the public statements made by Google’s chief Shylocks Kent Walker and Dave Drummond about the inquiry:

Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”

“Speculation about potential consumer harm turned out to be entirely wrong,”

“It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect, which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down (from initial complaints about their content being stolen and used as Google’s).”

“The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”

There seems to be a small disconnect. Not that anything that’s ever fallen out of the faces of that dynamic duo has smelled of anything but horseshit.

So why would such a damning indictment from within the FTC fizzle into a wet fart when it came down to a vote? It might have something to do with Google’s $16.8 million lobby spend in 2014, which ranked it 9th out of any company in the nation and the clear #1 in the tech sector. Or maybe it’s because they were the second-largest corporate contributor to Obama’s re-election campaign.

Nah. I’m sure all those millions were thrown at government to ensure a free and open internet with Liberty and Justice for All.

wank

Well-played, Google. I guess the difference between getting away with using an actual monopoly to bend the likes of eBay, Amazon, Microsoft and Yelp to your will and getting railroaded by the DoJ for introducing competition into the ebook market is a few million dollars in the right coffers.

Is it any wonder people in this country despise politicians?

 Posted by at 6:07 pm
Mar 122015
 

It’s been 4 months since I’ve gone into the “Edit Post” section of the WordPress CMS and I’m sure several of my loyal readers were wondering when TMA would be back banging on his keyboard – or if he was just going to go full-on Roughly Drafted. The issue I’ve been having with writing is strongly related to the topic of this post – namely that the tech universe covering Apple is so rife with friction-generating prostitutes that flailing logic against their stupidity felt a lot like attempting to dispel a cloud of mosquitos with a hatchet.

It’s not that I expected this site to have any effect whatsoever on the people who seek to profit from their irrational anti-Apple takes, but watching the entire landscape of tech writing gradually slide in that direction after every successful Apple product announcement or earnings call made the whole exercise feel pointless.

As I continue to debate the merits of running the red ink operation that is TheMacAdvocate (calls to Surojit Chatterjee about his coping strategies remain unanswered), let me regale those dozens of active readers who aren’t botnet nodes with my thoughts about the Apple Watch.

When Tim Cook first announced the Watch, my reaction was mixed. Obviously a segment of the market ripe for disruption – after Samsung’s multiple entries, which were just “ripe” – Apple seemed to be the company to lead the charge into wearables. But a watch seemed to be a device that has defied additional complexity. The mobile phone market was young and flawed; the market for watches was one of the oldest technology markets on the planet. The addition of fitness tracking devices only created a niche sub-market. Maybe the failings of numerous other manufacturers should have been viewed more as a harbinger rather than a lack of execution. My confidence in the device was bolstered mainly by the ability of Apple to design and execute something that broke radically from the status quo.

After Spring Forward, I am more cautiously optimistic. The Watch seems to occupy the most personal space of any Apple product, and not just because it can track your heart rate. It’s the ultimate companion in that it is literally bound to your person. Think about this way: your Mac, your iPad and your iPhone are on a spectrum of availability from least to greatest, but even your iPhone gets left on the counter, in your coat, etc. The Apple Watch will persist through your showers, your sleep cycles, your workouts. It represents ultimate availability. The Apple Watch is the final pole in that spectrum. Although the Mac/iPad/iPhone-like functionality of the device will (appropriately) scale down because of its size, it will always be with you. Earlier I mentioned the excellent hands-on by Rene Richie. In comments (where, with Twitter, has been where I’ve been leaving my “contributions”), I had this to say:

I really like the representation of Apple as “staging convenience and complexity.” There is a trade-off between accessibility and productivity – one that companies like Microsoft continue to fail to understand. For them, it’s doing all things on all devices; for Apple it’s about terracing the experience and putting the device you *need* in front of you with pointers (and tethers) to the device you want. That device used to be on your desk or in your laptop bag. The Apple Watch completes the continuum of “pure productivity” and “pure accessibility” in a way I think few people understand today. Great take.

So how did the technorati react to the event? By defining the same dichotomy present after every Apple product announcement. The reasonable vs. irrational reactions all had one thing in common: whether or not the person was actually present for the hands-on portion of the event. Some of my favorites:

Kevin Rose thinks “The Gold Apple Watch Is Perfect for Douchebags.” Kevin believes because the Apple Watch Edition doesn’t appeal to the collector, the technologist or the gold lover (whoever the fuck that is), that it has no appeal. Who is Kevin Rose? Ten years ago you’d be laughed out of a room for asking. Rose, you see, founded Digg, which was a hugely popular community-moderated news aggregator. You know: like Reddit is today. After leaving Digg once a site redesign decimated its user base, Rose built on that success with…actually, nothing really. He founded a mobile application development company called Milk, then shut it down a year later. In 2012, he signed on with Google as Legacy Early-Internet Founder Dude a Senior Product Manager for the red-hot social networking site Google+, then moved over to Google Ventures. He also runs a site called “Watchville,” because he has boundless time, a fetish and several remaining zeros in his checking account from early investments in small start-ups like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Sadly, Rose’s ancient tech-cred is more than many others’ qualifications to speak on the Apple Watch.

Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar thinks you shouldn’t buy the Apple Watch because it’s the first version. Aside from being guilty of one of the most hackneyed tech tropes out there (“Never buy version 1!”), he cites the original iPhone and iPad as evidence of v1 suckiness. Apparently Mario forgot how far ahead of anything else these devices were when they were announced – probably because he was 7 years old at the time. He does stay away from the rank stupidity of DBR cornerstone Jesus Diaz, however, which suggests the site may be 3 steps into a 12 step troll recovery program. And Aguliar’s colleague Sean Hollister actually posts a decent, if not terribly reflective hands-on piece. The real news here is that Apple is unfortunately not shitting on Gizmodo anymore by locking them out of their events. Sometimes Apple’s high road makes me sad.

Finally, Rob Enderle doesn’t have very nice things to say about the Apple Watch. Of course, his concerns contain a density of stupid that you’d see if you put Diaz’s stupid through a black hole. I’ll hand this one off to the Macalope, who has had much more fun skewering Apple idiot-seeders than I have lately. Rob’s already earned his place here. The amazing/tragically depressing thing is that he still finds an audience, which should tell you everything you need to know about why I haven’t been writing.

 Posted by at 2:45 pm
Mar 112015
 

After a looooong Winter, I’m definitely due for some word count and the Apple Watch seems to be as good an entry point as any. In the meantime, Rene Ritchie has an excellent, concise take on the Watch’s place in the Apple product line from his time at the Spring Forward event hands-on:

That’s the advantage of Apple staging convenience and complexity. You can do more with an iPhone than ever before, but you still can’t do everything you can do on Mac, and some things you certainly can’t do as efficiently. You can do a lot of very important things, however, and do them even more conveniently. And that means you don’t have to go running back to your Mac as much as once did.

 Posted by at 10:51 am
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