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.

Nov 192012
 

MG Siegler used to write for TechCrunch, started to do a whole bunch of other stuff while humor ing the site with intermittent submissions, then announced he was going to start writing for them again. This will only be great for the site, which had turned into a ghost town when he and a bunch of other respected TC writers hit the bricks.

The 2 things you can count on when MG does something for TechCruch are 1. a million comments and 2. the most seething caldron of hate bubbling from these comments the likes of which I rarely see. You can almost hear the throbbing of a thousand forehead veins as you scroll through the strained cries of “Fanboy!!!” Of course, this makes for absolutely fantastic reading.

So what would happen once MG got his hands on RT and reviewed it for TC? Would he present his journalistic belly to the people waiting to pounce on anything he writes – softening his negativity like Pogue or Mossberg have for the sake of an appearance of even-handedness? I’ll let you read for yourself. Hint: he may have induced double-digit aneurysms by the time you read it.

Apr 262012
 

Writing in his parislemon blog:

Probably around late summer every year going forward, iPhone sales will dip ahead of the expected new device and some Android manufacturer will find a way to capitalize, rising the entire ecosystem’s share as a result. But it will always be short-lived. The new iPhone will come along and crush it.

I also said that Verizon was the only thing keeping Android competitive in the U.S. When you looked at markets where the iPhone was on more than one carrier at the time, it was obvious.

People are over Android, and Android’s ecosystem has as much to do with this as the quality of the iPhone’s offerings. Google can’t push its latest operating systems to devices even 6 months old, their market is a malware minefield, and their manufacturers offer undifferentiated hardware and software that only differentiates itself from the next guy by the way it worsens the user experience compared to stock Android.

People are over the gimmicks like HDMI out and Beats(off) Audio. Consumers never gave a shit about “free and open”; when they were stuck on Verizon’s network, they settled for a phone that was pitched as being just like the iPhone. They no longer have to settle for “just like an iPhone.”

Between Oracle and Apple, Android is starting to look a lot like the middle segment of The Human Centipede.

Feb 142012
 

Disclaimer: I love MG Siegler. I think he’s one of the best writers on the Apple beat today. He’s smart, has access, quotes popular movies to make his points and uses foul language. He’s the complete package. That said, I have a beef, which started taking shape a couple of weeks ago.

When the Times ran its hit-pieces on Apple’s China manufacturing, I was plenty pissed. I waited for other tech writers I respected to vent their speen, but the outcry from people I expected to go after the Times didn’t happen. Gruber’s response didn’t really shock me. He linked to some stuff by Krugman about how people who criticized Apple didn’t understand how global manufacturing worked. I guess for him to step out against a news source largely identified as “left-leaning” would have resulted in some kind of Directive 4 shutdown. I also looked to Siegler and got something, but it was not the profane, knife-twisting that would provide my point of view with vindication. It was decidedly weak tea. After some delay, I began banging out some screed, but I was largely disappointed that the big names covering Apple had apparently phoned it in.

Fast forward to the recent Path fiasco. Straight up: I don’t give a shit about Path’s purported jacking of my address book. There’s a lot more profitable companies with some pretty mediocre products jacking my personal information. I think the practice in general is shitty, but I’ve been conditioned to the point where unless the jacking is balls-to-the-nose obnoxious or done by an app that exchanges it for no value, my sentiment is anecdotal and mostly based on how well it’s executed. Path didn’t execute its jacking very well. It didn’t allow users to opt-in and it got outed by a geek Carrier IQ-style. Path double-clutched, people got mad, Path relented and did the right thing. Case closed, right?

That’s where things break down a little for Siegler. For context: MG moved from mostly-writing to sometimes-writing and mostly VCing, which is great for him. I thought his talents were largely wasted by pointing out the obvious to Apple naysayers.

/sigh

Anyway, he now spends a lot of his time with Michael Arrington managing CrunchFund, which is a VC fund started when Arrington still headed TechCrunch, but is now autonomous. I thought the fact that TC created a vehicle funded by and sponsors of businesses in the sector about which TC writes was stinky cheese, but I threw my feelings in the big bucket labeled “Michael Arrington”, shrugged and moved on. Until Path, that is.

You see, in the course of all the gang-stomping Path was bound to take, most of it warranted, Arrington called out the Times’s Nick Bilton for drawing out Path’s transgressions in all of the comically one-sided and selectively factual style that I’ve come to expect from them (minus the dozen anonymous sources leaned on in the Apple-Foxconn articles). The fact that CrunchFund is an investor in Path made it a little inappropriate. Then MG piled on, and in that bless-his-soul writing style I’ve come to know and love began a piece that ripped Bilton a new one, then proceeded to rip the tech writing practice in general a new one, in summary: “Most of what is written about the tech world — both in blog form and old school media form — is bullshit”. As someone similarly sick of the phenomenon, the words were directed straight at the choir, but in the context of his new role, belied an obvious conflict of interest. It got worse. He went after a Gawker’s Ryan Tate, something I’d normally celebrate naked, but did it in defense of Path. A perfect opportunity to char-broil the blog network guilty of the most legendary mishandling of user information in recent memory (which cost me money just last week –  #fuckyouNickDenton) was squandered. Meanwhile, the people who might take exception to Siegler’s screed – and that boy had compiled quite the list – now had a 50′ strawman to light up. While numerous writers nibbled around the juicy center, the writer who ended up wielding the torch was none other than Dan Lyons. He got ahold of the issue and – strike me dead for saying this – wrought a piece of damning firebrand that had me nodding my head with respect and self-loathing in equal parts. MG, who is the only person I’ve read who possibly hates Lyons more than I do, retaliated. Arrington tried to high-road him, which is just about as funny to actually read as it is to envision reading. To channel Siegler, this was about the time in Animal House when Belushi yells “Food fight!” and the cafeteria explodes into a cloud of flying lunchgoods.

To me, MG Siegler represented one side of Apple’s coverage: informed, aligned with reality, speaking truth to stupid. Lyons was firmly entrenched on the other side: almost always contrarian (where the establishment is represented by “logic” and “facts”) and one of the most articulate pure click-baiters in the blogosphere.  I’ll continue to read Siegler, but I’m a little disappointed that he’s letting his current involvement with Arrington and CrunchFund compromise his attempts to righteously crucify idiots like Lyons. By definition, he can never be right about Path. Every word used to take down those who want to pile on will be another squirt of gasoline on the fire, no matter how smart, astute or funny they are. The smartest thing he can do at this point is to stop writing about it. I hope it’s a lesson he carries with him in his future VC endeavors. Let Arrington wave his hand dismissively at those pointing out the inappropriateness of mixing self-interest and content – no one expects more from him. Let other hacks walk into punches like this.

And screw you for making me concede anything to Dan Lyons.

Feb 032012
 

I admit, when I peruse TechCrunch’s articles about Apple, I don’t expect to agree with what’s written (unless its penned by every TC commenter’s least favorite fanboy, MG Siegler). John Biggs submitted a short piece today, however, that outlines something in between the screed of bombastic Michael Moore wannabes and the see-no-evil rationalizations of robot fanboys:

To go into the Foxconn factory is to see a place staffed by college-age kids and engineers who work 10 or so hours a day building electronics. There is no great Dickensian work house nor are there sad-eyed madonnas of the assembly line chained to the soldering irons. This isn’t the mundanity of evil – this is just mundanity.

Tim Cook is a supply chain guru. You don’t get to be exceptional at it without knowing what’s going on inside the companies that assemble your kit. Apple has – and will continue to – improve the conditions of the people who work on its products. And God have mercy, I think the Gawker commenter quoted in the article sums it up well: ““I believe Tim Cook will do more good for those employees (and already has, in point of fact) than Mike Daisey ever will.”

Jan 112012
 

I’m starting to love MG Siegler almost as much as I love Daniel Eran Dilger. His explanation of why he hates Android gives some nice historical context, and I only disagree with one clause:

Because Google sloppily decided to do the Motorola deal (driven by the full-on patent war, for which Apple and Microsoft, and not Google, are largely to blame)…

Microsoft has a nice business collecting license revenue from Android OEMs. That’s not Apple’s motivation. Apple “started” the patent war – and yes, may have escalated it, in some cases unreasonably – because Android was such a blatant rip-off of the iPhone.

Maybe it’s the use of “blame” in a sentence structure that seems to exonerate Google – I don’t know. Other than that incredibly shallow gripe, I heartily recommend it.

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