Feb 102011

A while back, I wrote about a sad panda Steve Ballmer who, months after poking an HP/Windows conflagration called “Slate” at CES 2010, had HP announce they were yanking the device from production in favor of developing their own OS via their Palm acquisition. Whereas in the past, this kind of betrayal would have led to scorched earth in 5 mile radius around HP’s Palo Alto headquarters, in 2010 all Microsoft could do was tear up quiver-lipped and choke on the new normal: that Microsoft was no longer a player and can’t afford to burn any of its partners, no matter how overtly or spectacularly they embarrass the company. In a huff, Microsoft spitefully fired Robbie Bach, grabbed a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry’s and passed out on the couch during a “Drop Dead Diva” marathon. So I hear.

It looks like HP is making good on its emasculation: enter the HP TouchPad, a 9.7” tablet (*yawn*) running a jumbo version of Palm’s WebOS. It will be available this summer, meaning like every Palm product, it will be competing with the newly-minted version of Apple’s product – in this case the iPad2 – which means it’ll bomb.

But I appreciate HP taking one for the team to make Ballmer look like a bigger douche. Not that he needed any help.

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Jan 142011

Free shit will buy you all kinds of goodwill. Why do you think they give you toasters when you open checking accounts? Apparently Google is looking to cash in a chunk of it by announcing that they will be phasing out support for H.264 in its Chrome browsers and throwing its development muscle behind WebM, a codec they bought with OnM last year. Ars Technica’s Peter Bright lays out a number of reasons why this is bad for the Open Web, and a minor consistency problem Google seems to have with their application of “freedom”:

“At the very least, there appears to be a significant inconsistency between the company’s actions regarding video support, and the rest of its browser. If it’s going remove features for poorly-articulated ideological reasons, it would surely make sense to apply that ideology consistently.”

That would include removing support for Flash, MP3, AAC and H.264 support for its Android devices – to name a few. Or Google could just admit this is an attempt to stymie the use of HTML5

And I’m sure the timing of the announcement: basically simultaneous with the Verizon iPhone. You know, the thing that will crush Android’s market share in the U.S? Anyone who thinks Google’s announcement to ditch H.264 is about the “Open Web” and not about making a power play against Apple’s mobile devices has their head up their ass.

Dec 012010

Paul Thurrott reminds me a lot of Charlie, the main character from “Flowers for Algernon”. If you’re one of the 8 people who didn’t have this short-story-turned-novel inflicted on you in the 7th grade – or never made it to 7th grade – the story is an allegory about how life is enriched through the acquisition of power (in this case intelligence) and its subsequent decline when the lights go out. Through an experimental operation, Charlie temporarily acquires super-intelligence, transforming him from retarded (the technical term, not the nonchalant descriptive term TMA uses to describe Windows UI elements) menial worker to someone with an almost godlike level of consciousness. Written as a series of journal entries, Charlie’s progress is tracked from retarded to super genius – and back again – after the effects of the augmentation procedure dissolve.

The thin analogy here is that Thurrott’s entire career is derived from Microsoft’s artificial ascendancy through its theft of intellectual property and abuse of monopoly power, followed by an inevitable and seemingly never-ending fall. As long as Microsoft’s star shone brightly, Thurrott’s career blossomed. He was a speed dial call for several tech news outlets, enjoying numerous television appearances, paid speaking engagements, podcasts – you name it, Thurrott did it. But as the source of his prolificacy was exposed again and again as a company as likely to produce cold fusion as anything remotely attractive to customers in a competitive market, his defense of Redmond  became evermore nonsensical screed, sounding more like it came from someone who needed to wear protective gear to keep from hurting themselves than from a respected member of the tech journalism community. Some selected gems from the mouth/fingertips of Charlie:

“The New York Times asks, “With so much going for them why, eight months after the iPad’s release, is the design of so many of those apps so boring?”
To which I answer: They’re boring because the iPad is boring. Rather than create an environment that was specially tailored to the unique iPad form factor, Apple instead chose to simply stretch the iPhone UI out to meet the size of the new device, making only small changes to accommodate the additional onscreen real estate.”

“When you go out and about with just an iPad, you’re sending a message that you’re not going to contribute. You’re just there to consume. This is why the iPad is, to my mind, uniquely unsuitable in the workplace. Knowledge workers don’t just read documents. They comment on them, edit them, send feedback. They contribute…The iPad is not a business tool. In fact, for most people, it never will be. (And those who contort their workflow to make this possible are, of course, simply trying too hard to justify their vanity purchase.)” Ed. The use of the ellipse here is not to hide the part of the quote containing its compelling logic, as is the case in most tech blogging, but simply an attempt to staunch the hemorrhaging stupidity.

“There’s been a lot written about Apple’s iPad, but little of it, to date, has reflected the very real problems with this device. I’d like to correct this, not because the iPad is horrible, but because the iPad is simply good. And this is not what those in the lamestream media would have you believe. Instead of actually reviewing the iPad objectively, they have opted to ape Apple’s marketing mantra, calling it “magical” or “innovative” or, worst of all, “a game changer.” It is none of those things. It is just good.”

This is all on one topic. Paul’s entire body of mystifyingly bad analysis is probably the largest on the internet.  You might be tempted to feel sorry for Paul, much like the sympathy one would have for the intellectually challenged protagonist in Keyes’ book.  It’s much more likely, however, that Paul’s position as the last person religiously fluffing Microsoft and bashing Apple is nothing more than garden variety hit-whoring schtick as opposed to the expression of below-average intelligence. OK: well below average intelligence. The tip-off is that he spells most of his words correctly.

And so concludes TMA’s induction ceremony for our third member of Douchebag’s Row: Paul Thurrott. Welcome to your place among the internet’s elite FUDruckers, Paul: you should feel right at home.

Sep 282010

So you’ve read about the financial difficulties of running a newspaper because of competition from lazy, incompetent news aggregators that don’t check sources and don’t provide much critical value. Print media is struggling to find its way in the digital economy, even though their role of honest broker is one of the most important in all of media. Bloomberg gives us a good example of what we’re losing.

The premise of “Sprint Lures AT&T iPad Users With Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots” is that the introduction of AT&T’s tiered pricing for 3G data and the exclusivity of Apple’s contract has created an opportunity for Sprint. For only $59.99 (or $30 more than AT&T’s 2 GB/month data plan), you can have unlimited data back. Tell me what these statements would lead you to believe, or risk stupidity blindness by reading it yourself:

Sprint’s palm-sized Overdrive 3G/4G hotspot device allows users to connect to the lower-priced Wi-Fi-only iPad from anywhere the carrier has coverage.

Sprint Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse has said the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier has no plans to end unlimited data plans.

(Portland resident Bob) Morgan said he’s found the Overdrive to deliver 3G speeds where other carriers don’t reach, such as on 11,300-foot Mount Hood in Oregon.

You’d think that coverage would be universal across their entire network. Well, as “universal” as coverage gets on a network shittier than AT&T’s anyway.

Well, nowhere in the process of regurgitating the mindless drivel from the PR flacks at Sprint did it occur to Greg Bensinger that he should ask about the universality of this great deal. Because it only applies to Sprint’s 4G network, which makes for one of the most hilarious coverage maps in telecommunications. Seriously, see if you can discern one 4G coverage area on Sprint’s website when you zoom out to the U.S. view.  3G is capped at 5GB/month. This restriction is mentioned a total of zero places in the article. It’s not even implied.

Oh – and about those intentions of keeping data unlimited? If Sprint really had the balls required to steal customers from AT&T, they’d stop being grossly disingenuous with their media enemas and either open up their “unlimited” plan to include 3G or guarantee that 4G would be unlimited for life for those signing up. Because these great sounding proclamations about unlimited data sound an awful lot like AT&T and Verizon did last year.

Sep 142010

I threw up 5 times this morning to fit into this bikini!

You may have seen Amazon’s cute ad for its Kindle e-reader recently. It depicts a dork with an iPad and a bikini-clad model with a Kindle, both reading from their devices poolside. One is struggling to read his glossy screen while the other is breezing through her electronic copy of Self magazine  (oops – that’s not available on the Kindle) Pride and Prejudice. And at $139, our model quips “I actually paid more for these sunglasses”. Check and mate Jeff Bezos!

The problem is that Amazon just laid out the entirety of its differential value proposition in that commercial. Sort of like the shitty movie with the awesome 2 minute trailer, that’s as good as it’s going to get. For $139, that might be disposable income for some, but if you’re in the market for devices that can read books, are you really going to drop $139 when you could have a device that does video, email and has access to a quarter million apps for twice as much? Book nuts will buy a Kindle to read to their 5 cats. Anyone who has thought about doing more with their device won’t.

Oh, and people who fry themselves poolside in 2010 with the regularity that would make the Kindle a clear “buy” should be making arrangements for their skin grafts now.

TMA is now at 100 posts. Thanks to all you comment spammers for giving me something to do with my free time. Try clicking through some ads.

Jul 202010

After Apple’s “Antennagate” press event on Friday left the tech press J-School flunkies murmuring about having no carcass left on the horse to kick, there was still an air of apprehension going into Tuesday’s earnings conference call. Would the 3 day window between the release of the iPhone 4 and the end of the quarter significantly cut into sales? Would iPod sales continue to flag? Would the desktop Mac models continue to pull their weight, or would the spike from the refresh have run its course?

The answers: hell no, meh and hell yes, respectively.

Oh – and Apple destroyed the most bullish of estimates for what seems like the 20th quarter in a row. Seriously, Street: when are you guys going to get a fucking clue?


Revenue: $15.7 billion (vs. $14.75 billion predicted)

Earnings: $3.25 billion or $3.51/share (vs. $3.11/share predicted)

iPads: 3.27 million units sold (tough for analysts to blow that one since Apple has been announcing sales)

Macs: 3.47 million units sold (vs. 3.2 million predicted)

Lowlights (courtesy of WSJ Marketwatch):

Francisco Jeronimo, a mobile analyst with IDC, said Tuesday that the antenna issue may still impact results for the fourth fiscal quarter. His firm’s research indicates that 66% of current iPhone owners were delaying their upgrades until a solution was announced.

My research indicates that IDC is a shill rag and 66% of Francisco Jeronimo’s family thinks he’s a jackhole. I don’t know the compensation basis for IDC analysts, but being right is not among them.

Just goes to show despite the efforts of frothing media putzes and characteristically clueless analysts, Apple just keeps printing money.

Jul 152010

On June 7, John Ciancutti, VP of Personalization Technology for Netflix announced the availability of Netflix for the iPhone “this summer”. A month later, not a word more about the port. The topic’s discussion thread on the Netflix board is filled with “where is it?” posts with nary a peep from management in reply.

So what could be the holdup? I mean, the app exists for the iPad; it’s essentially the same port. These announcements are usually followed by a product in relatively short order. What could be responsible for the delay?

Unlimited. Data.

You see, there’s a shitload of iPhone users out there (present company included) that didn’t think a $5/month savings on their AT&T bills was worth it – especially when 3G streaming media options were in still their infancy.

There are 14 million Netflix subscribers and over 35 million iPhone users. This is in no way scientific (and doesn’t account for Microsoft’s Silverlight abomination, which doubtless adds overhead) but while monitoring my Netflix stream on my laptop, the smallest pull I could achieve was about 250kb/second. If this is even close to what an iPhone app would pull, AT&T’s network would be toast.

AT&T may be stonewalling until more people switch to capped plans or new users join (unlimited data is no longer an option for new accounts); it may have no intention of allowing the app it at all. I don’t believe the company is in any position to allow its network to be jammed up any further, and that’s exactly what Netflix on the iPhone would do.

Update: On August 26, Netflix finally released their iPhone port. In my testing, it played flawlessly over WiFi and just about as flawlessly over the black hole of 3G also known as Manhattan (there was a 2 second period of stutter when I first started “Objectified”). The only 2 drawbacks in my limited experience: you can’t manage your DVD queue from the app and for some reason the “Resume” button means “Start me over”, which is annoying. All in all, a great addition to the iPhone and a huge win for people who decided to stick with unlimited data on their AT&T plans.

Jun 302010

After much speculation, Hulu announced Hulu Plus – its pay service that will run on multiple platforms, including the iPad, iPhone 4 and iPhone3GS. For $9.99/month, you get a deeper reservoir of TV show content, both current and past as well as access to a limited (as in, “High Fidelity” is the only movie I recognized at a glance) pool of movies.

The good:

-It runs on all current Apple devices. As a bonus, it tweaks Adobe, who is constantly dropping the Hulu name as the major reason iOS devices need Flash. Suck it, Narayen.

-Most content is in 720p

-There’s a lot of network TV to watch?

The bad:

-Still has ads. Seriously.

-It’s a little less than a basic cable subscription and $9.99/month more than over-the-air HD. A basic Netflix account will give you streaming access to one metric buttload of movies (as current as the “Surrogates” vintage) and season after season of TV shows (including BBC content) for a buck less a month. It’ll also give you access to first-run DVD titles by mail.

Now you may have guessed that I’m not a huge network TV guy. Maybe it’s because I like swearing too much. Maybe it’s because seeing Meredith Grey’s terrible complexion in HD combined with her incessant on-screen whining is a recipe for an instant aneurism. I also understand that this is the Future of Television (bold to denote major scary paradigm shift) and therefore the networks have to price this as aggressively as they can get away with before they back down to something that a rational person would pay. But $9.99 ain’t it. Also, with regard to including advertising in your pay service model: get fucked.

I do appreciate your tweaking Adobe, however. So there’s that.

May 182010

There’s a few different profiles for Windoz apologists, but one common trait in their writing that’s hilariously easy to spot is what I like to call the “yes, but”. “Apple product x is great, but there’s a few things that make this similar product running Windows CE better for you”

Mike Elgan is a veteran FUDster. We know this because he writes for Computerworld. Roughly Drafted Magazine’s Daniel Eran Dilger awarded Elgan the prestigeous Zoon Award for “…his disingenuous, desperately sensationalist, and outrageously disgusting (Apple) misinformation campaign.”

Elgan’s take on the “yes, but” appeared in Macworld, of all places (note TMA’s prescient observation about lousy guest pieces). Entitled Why iPad Owners Need a Kindle Too, Elgan shares a number of compelling reasons why owners of a device that does 10 times what a Kindle does – still needs a Kindle. And by compelling, I mean puzzling. I don’t link to retards, but Mike’s “reasons” group nicely into themes, which make rebutting them easy.

Why I Don’t Take My iPad to the Beach (1. Reading in the Sun, 2. Overheating, 3. Security)

If you’re at the beach reading an eBook and you’re not under an umbrella, you’re a moron. If you’re at the beach reading an eBook, you’re probably still a moron.

Availability (6. Book Availability, 7. Magazine Availability)

6. There’s a Kindle app, so all of Amazon’s shitty dead-media replicants are all available on the iPad.

7. Reading black-and-white copy of old-fart cracker magazines like The New England Journal of Medicine and Foreign Affairs on your Kindle < reading magazines for people under 80 in color. The legitimate beef he could have mentioned – the retarded magazine app price points – is not mentioned. This is also classic apologist: leaving a legitimate Apple knock on the table when there’s a far less credible, but sensational point to be made.

Issues that Exist Only in Mike Elgan’s Bizarro Universe (4. Reading before Sleep, 5. Battery Life, 8. Weight, 11. Multitasking)

4. “…reading on a Kindle will probably help you sleep better.” I really can’t do it much better. Ladies and gentlemen: Mike Elgan.

5. My single-purpose device’s 2 weeks of charge beat your color, multi-purpose device’s 12 hours! As an aside, you don’t get 2 weeks of continuous use from a Kindle, but you do get 12 hours continuous use from an iPad.

8. You know people are reaching in their advocacy when they’re citing their devices 10 oz. weight advantage. It also assumes you’re using it exclusively as a reader, which I hope to god you’re not.

11. Macworld is one of those the 3 websites on the planet that doesn’t allow the cut-and-paste of their content. I’d give them props if this were to discourage people from easily dismantling their contributors’ embarrassing articles, but I actually think it has something to do with “Intellectual Property”. So to give readers the full flavor of Elgan’s logic, I’m going to have to quote #11 manually:

There are a surprising number of situations where two devices are better than one. If you’re a writer of any kind, it’s nice to have source material on the Kindle as you write on the iPad. If you’re watching TV on the iPad, you can also skim a newspaper on the Kindle. If you’re a fan (sports, movies – whatever), it’s great to watch something on TV (World Series, Oscars, Lifetime dramas, etc.) and look up trivia and facts on Wikipedia or the Internet in general or in your own book collection with the Kindle – without interrupting the show.

So…buy a Kindle if you don’t know how to use cut and paste on the iPad or must always have 2 simultaneous channels of data plugged into your head. “OMG – THIS REMAKE OF BURNING BED WAS MADE FOR CONNIE SELLECA! WHAT WAS THAT SUPERHERO SHOW THAT SHE WAS IN?!!”

Mike Elgan is a Sociopath (9. Multiple Users, 10. Peace)

You need a Kindle because you’ll be relentlessly hounded to share or speak about your cool device with others. I guess Apple should forget re-upping sold-out supplies of the iPad in the tri-State area; Mike just brought the wood, yo!

Non-Features FTW (12. Auto-reader, 13. Mobile broadband)

12. “I’ll just plug my Kindle into the speaker system and let the computer voice read to me and my 14 cats”. OK, I made up the part about the cats. I think.

13. You mean I don’t have to pay to check my email, watch YouTube clips, stream music from my house…wait…you mean I can only use Whispersync to buy shit?

By the end of the article, I had an epiphany. I think don’t think Mike is advocating buying 2 devices, although you’d think that by reading the title of the article. These aren’t reasons to buy a Kindle when you already have an iPad; they’re justification for keeping a Kindle once you have an iPad.

So I guess this article is actually taken from Mike’s prep for the conversation he had with his wife about buying an iPad. Glad to see it worked out for him.

May 102010

I’m enjoying v.2 of the iPhone gold rush as much as the next guy, but some of you developers are a bit too enthusiastic. The following are not good candidates for iPad apps:

  • Specialty calculators: “Hey, how much should we tip this waiter?” “Lemme whip out my 9.7 inches and find out”
  • Magazines at $5 a pop: Seriously – you people in print media are starting to look less like a group with your heads in your asses and more like an industry that has an assisted-suicide deathwish. I can get paper copies of your rags for half the price. I’m not saying it needs to be free, but the content and the price need to bear some relationship. Snap out of it.
  • Too much network-dependence: If I need to pull my content down with every opening of your app, you failed. The majority of iPad owners have Wi-Fi devices; even if 3G users become a majority, most of them won’t be of the unlimited bandwidth variety. Trust me: iPad owners will gladly trade disk space for the ability to use your app offline.
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