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.

Feb 082012
 

I’ve gone on record about how much sense it makes for Apple to graduate from making a set-top Apple TV to Apple making an actual TV. Several times. But the evidence keeps piling up – if by “evidence” you mean “totally unsubstantiated rumors and bullshit ‘supply chain checks'”. But after much digging, I’ve finally uncovered some data that makes a strong case for Apple to make a television.

*source

This is for all of you who haven’t been tracking the recent financial performance of TV manufacturers, a group that apparently includes Gene Munster. Every one of the top five have experienced a drop in sales in their most currently reported quarter compared to the previous year. Seems like a business you’d want to get into.

Some people contend that this is only evidence of a market ripe for the kind of breathtaking innovation that Apple brought to mobile phones. I contend that these people will never be involved in the decision-making at Apple, Inc.

Oct 282011
 

Imagine my semi-surprise when the “market research firm” Strategy Analytics released its numbers for global smartphone vendor shipments and stated that Samsung had shipped a whopping 370% more smartphones this past quarter (3rd quarter) than they did in the same quarter in 2010. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because these statistics are as impossible as “market research firms” are credible.

Samsung actually produced a useful document which seriously calls into question this wonderful 370% number: its financial reporting presentation for this past quarter, which I pulled from their “Investor Relations” webpage.

Quick aside – check out the Samsung Investor Relations website landing page:

No, take a good look at it:

It must be oddly comforting to Samsung’s investors that the same shitpile design aesthetic was applied to both Samsung’s web presence and their shartphone operating systems.

Back on point. According to the 2nd slide labeled “Segment Information”, 3rd quarter sales (in trillion Won) only increased 37% YoY.

Created in Windows Paint

So Strategy Analytics is saying that the number of smartphones shipped is greater than the increase in sales by a factor of 10 when compared to Samsung’s own information. Where’s that skeptical baby .jpg?

There he is!

Of course it’s entirely possible that Samsung shipped every one of those alleged 28 million phones in the 3rd quarter and most of them are still hanging out in the channel. The strategy, sometimes known as “stuffing the channel” is what I call “beating off into a dirty sweatsock”. It feels good when you do it, but it kind of sucks when you have to dispose of the evidence. Let’s see how Sammy deals with that in the 4th quarter.

Oct 182011
 

So get this: Apple has beaten Wall Street estimates for earnings 14 quarters in a row. That’s over 3 years, which is insane. How did analysts manage to pull this “why do you keep hitting yourself?” routine for so long? Aside from hilariously underestimating the popularity of Apple’s offerings, they also pretty much ignored Apple’s product cycles, most notably for the iPhone and iPad. Question for all you high-paid Street analysts: what is going to happen to iPhone sales the last quarter before the introduction of a new model?

I’ll give you guys a minute…

They’re going to go down relative to the prior quarter, especially when that quarter is enjoying a bump from the introduction of a new carrier. Makes sense, right?

So why the freak-out when Apple missed the Street’s estimates of $7.22 per share (by $.17) and revenue of $29.5 billion (by $1.25 billion)? Because analysts picked this quarter to froth their loins over Apple with absolutely no good reason. After the catastrophic passing of Apple’s CEO (the Street’s sentiment up until the day it happened) and mere days before the release of the newest version of their flagship device, this is the quarter they choose to ignore Apple’s guidance and blow out their estimates?

Stupid.

Sep 292011
 

I’m surprised it took this long for the first “how the Amazon Fire is better than the iPad” post to be expectorated onto the interwebs. I thought the wait would be spent on authors coming up with myriad reasons that the touched-by-barely-anyone tablet would be better than Apple’s dominant entry, but alas, ExtremeTech (no linkage for flametards) could find only 5. Five separate pages to maximize page impressions, obviously.

1. Amazon has more content

Touting something like 18 million discrete, downloadable or streamable songs, movies, and TV shows, Amazon definitely has a comparable amount of content to iTunes — but when you factor in e-books and magazines, Kindle Fire simply stomps Apple into the ground.

Having more books should be an Apple-pulp-smashing game-changer, all right. I mean: Amazon’s 7″ multi-touch IPS display with 1024x600p resolution at 169 ppi just screams to have books read on it. Didn’t they even make a commercial about it? And that full 8GB of space will allow users to jam their Fires full of the media that it can’t stream when it’s out of range of WiFi. And isn’t there a Kindle app for the iPad?

2. Portability; Kindle Fire fits in your pocket

The Kindle Fire is just 4.7 inches (120mm) wide — skinny enough to fit in your pants pocket or purse — and the iPad 2 is 7.3 inches (185mm), far too big for anything other than always-in-your-hand, or in a proper bag.

Reason number 2 is that it’s smaller? This has to be some kind of slideshow 60-0 braking record. And check this shit out:

Fits...*uhh*...in...*grunt*...your...*hmmph*...POCKET! /exhale

I mean: why even use that image? When people think “fits in your pocket”, people aren’t thinking “1/6 of the devices can be lodged in your back pocket with a shoehorn”.

3. Cost; Kindle Fire is less than half the price of the iPad

This is the clincher: the Kindle Fire is $199, and the lowest, “equivalent” iPad is $500.

Got me there. It does cost less. I may have taken the wrong message away from Bezos’ introduction of the Fire, but I think that was the point.

 4. Comfort; You can use the Kindle Fire with one hand

/checks reason 2.

I guess we’re trying to separate the quantitative from the qualitative here.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, can be gripped in a single hand *as opposed to the hundreds of documented emergency room visits by people attempting this with an iPad* — you can grasp both the left and right edges with thumb and forefinger *??*, it has softer (plastic) *just in case you thought the Fire was using some kind of soft metal, balsa or talc* edges, and it’s even grabably chubby *there’s something that ends in “that’s what she said” here* (11.4mm vs. 8.8mm for the iPad 2). As a result, you can easily whip your Fire (that name is going to get old soon) out of your back pocket *with assistance*, comfortably read or watch something on the train (even while standing up and holding a rail!) *because you can use one hand, GET IT?!*, and then pocket again *with help from a stranger* when you alight *writer’s workshop word alert* at the station.

5. Web; Amazon Silk will blow Mobile Safari away

If I twack you in the balls with both hands like this, you're going down. I'm just saying.

Not only is the Kindle Fire a cloud-backed OS — everything you do, download, or watch is mirrored with the cloud — but it also has a browser that promises to redefine mobile surfing. For the most part, Mobile Safari and Android’s stock browser are just cut-down versions of a desktop browser. The Fire’s browser, Amazon Silk, is a brand new re-imagining of what a mobile browser can be.

I’ve already commented that I’m impressed with how Amazon is leveraging its EC2 presence with its browser, but let’s not get carried away. First of all, the iPad trounces the Fire’s RAM and processor, so it’s not like the comparison started off even to begin with. Second, Apple created WebKit – the engine that powers a bunch of different browsers, including the Fire’s – so I think the iPad’s implementation is going to be about as good as it can be done. Let’s see how a side-by-side comparison between the two shakes out before we declare a winner. There’s also that small issue of Amazon having to know everything you browse in order to serve up whatever speed benefits are realized. I’m sure no one will have a problem with that.

The Fire costs less than the iPad – that much is obvious. Saying that the Fire “beats” the iPad stinks of the kind of linkbait bullshit I’ve come to expect after the announcement of something resembling an Apple product. Regurgitating Amazon’s marketing and slapping it in a slideshow doesn’t make it so.

Sep 222011
 

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Sep 222011
 

Six months ago, I took apart Gartner’s “analysis” of the tablet market direction, calling particular attention to their absolutely insane predictions for Android tablet performance versus the iPad and the insertion of a 2-year gap in their estimates between 2013 and 2015. I assume this gap was so they wouldn’t have to revise 2 more years worth of “predictions” once the reality of what was happening in the market slapped them upside the head repeatedly.

Gartner’s latest numbers reflect such a reality:

Gartner’s research VP Carolina Milanesi explained the numbers for Android were revised because of “high prices, weak user interface and limited tablet applications”, conditions that will inexplicably reverse themselves by 2015. They also predict a 10% share for Microsoft’s Windows tablets by 2015. Might be time to change the bong water over at Gartner HQ.

Let me offer a possible alternative explanation for the revision: your analysis is constrained by your not knowing what the fuck you’re talking about. Let me also paint a picture of future analyses for anyone thinking of shelling out thousands of dollars for Gartner’s market blindness: every quarter, the only numbers that will be in the ballpark of actuals are the ones reported for quarters past. Gartner will continue to use current market data to incrementally revise numbers for the current year, every quarter, ad infinitum.

I just saved you five grand, so do me a favor and take 5 seconds to click on an ad.

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.

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).

May 182011
 

Ed Bott is a garden-variety ZD Net Windows shill that TMA has run into before. His speciality is one common among Windows enthusiasts. As John Gruber illustrates, it involves periodically talking up a Mac virus threat that never seems to materialize. Ever. Well now Bott has incontrovertible proof of an impending outbreak.

He spoke to an Applecare rep.

One.

Anonymously.

Nevermind that the “infestation” that Bott is going on about is a trojan horse that explicitly requires you to input your administrator password. It’s not a virus – you know – those thousands of different things lurking in every registry that costs Windows users billions of dollars a year?

Now, even for a shameless hack like Bott, recounting a conversation with a nameless “Apple rep” is thin. But reading his “interview” is downright laughable. I won’t give Ed the link because of TMA’s “No Linkbacks for Hitwhores” rule, but trust me when I say the melodrama is as thinly veiled as his receding hairline.

The best thing that could happen to bottom-feeders like Ed Bott would be for viruses to run amok in the wild on the Mac platform so they can finally, after decades of assuring Mac users it was a certainty, be right. If only the facts would cooperate.

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