Mike Elgan pops his head in over at Cult of Gizmo…err…Mac from time to time, serving as their adjunct troll. Some of his greatest hits include “How the Mac Will Die”, which netted him what I believe was a personal record of 137 comments telling him what an idiot he was. His Apple-Samsung reporting was also the stuff of legend. He wrote “Why the New ‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence Doesn’t Prove Samsung Copied Apple” and “Why Apple Is ‘Losing’ the Samsung Lawsuit So Far”, 3 weeks before a jury handed down a sweeping verdict of willful infringement against Samsung along with a billion dollar damages tab. Solid work there, Mike.
Not one to let an Apple announcement go unmolested, Elgan’s latest drone attack (TMA: topical and edgy), is titled “Apple’s Announcement Left Us With 6 Unsolved Mysteries”. Read more at http://…whoa there Cult of Mac! To think I was going to give you some link love – until you tried to throw your little site plug into my cut and paste operation. I should know better than to ever question my “no links for hitwhores” policy. Now CoM gets the treatment more befitting its content – like the time they gave Mike Daisey an open mic on their site to bash Apple right before he was outed as a liar and a fraud. Didn’t think TMA would forget something like that, did you Leander?
Actually, Elgan’s burning mysteries are more like easily-answered questions. Because I’m the type of blogger who likes to help people, I’m going to do my level best to demystify Apple’s bizarre ways for him.
1. Why won’t Apple add NFC? The benefits of near field communication (NFC) are myriad and overwhelming.
Such as provide a cardless payment system that’s plagued by security issues, has zero traction in the market and demanded only by a small group of pale, antisocial Engadget commenters. Everyone watch the train marked “Apple without Steve Jobs” jump the tracks of consumer electronics dominance and explode into a million fiery pieces.
It’s not expensive or space-consuming to include.
One of these things is true and irrelevant, the other is simply not true.
Apple could use it to speed up the digital wallet revolution (right now I’ve got Starbucks awkwardly scanning a QR code on my iPhone screen when I buy caffeinated beverages.
Apple speeds adoption of standards that make sense for itself and its users, not half-baked technology that looks good on some neckbeard’s feature list. And who submits to a QR code scan of their phone? Who uses QR scans at all? But Elgan won’t be able to complain about his Starbucks service in a week when iOS 6 goes live, so he needs to get his kicks in while he can.
It seems like a no-brainer. Apple already has our credit cards, mailing addresses and all the rest. Why not just add NFC and enable mobile payments? I’m sure they have a good reason. It’s just that nobody has any idea what that reason is!
I assume by “no-brainer” Elgan is referring to the person asking the question as opposed to the answer to the question itself. To Apple and just about everyone else, if it ain’t cooked, it don’t make it to the buffet table. If you want to pay via NFC, grab an Android phone on the Verizon…oh wait – never mind.
2. Why did Apple kill the Nano wristwatch? Two years ago, Steve Jobs announced a new, tiny iPod Nano with a screen, apps, the works. Jobs intimated that it was so compact, it could even be used as a wristwatch.
It launched a micro-industry of watchbands made for the Nano, some of which are even available from Apple.
Because Apple’s design direction doesn’t pay any attention to the army of 3rd party accessory-makers, even if those manufacturers include Apple? In what universe would they? Maybe these companies would be happier designing kit for the bazillions of Android form factors? What’s that, 3rd party manufacturers? I can’t hear you.
Then, last year, Apple rolled out a series of watch faces, such as a Mickey Mouse watch.
This last week, Cult of Mac rolled out a series of articles, including one Mickey Mouse article.
It became obvious where this was going: The Nano is a wristwatch. The expectation was that Apple would make it thinner and lighter and smoother, and possibly add Bluetooth and other features that would make it an even better wristwatch, and an awesome companion to the iPhone.
Mike Elgan: Vice President of Industrial Design, Apple. Anyone paying attention to the evolution of the Nano knows it has weathered the most version-to-version design changes of any of Apple’s consumer electronics, hands down. Thin, then fat, then small, then thin – it’s been all over the place. Of all the Apple products Elgan could bitch about, he chooses the one that hasn’t maintained the same form factor for more than a year.
Then, in one of the few surprises at the announcement this week, Apple announced that a new Nano that could not possibly be used as a wristwatch. They appeared to be walking away from a market with huge potential. Why?
The fucking wristwatch market? The words – they burn! Oh my God they burn!
One possibility is that they’ll roll out an actual wristwatch, possibly at the October event.
The other is that the Elgan occupies a place on one end of the “knowing what the fuck they’re talking about” spectrum and Apple’s actual product design intentions exist on the other.
But at this point, Apple’s termination of using a Nano as a wristwatch is something of a mystery.
To someone with no sense of the Nano’s design history or Apple’s general disregard for the wishes of accessory-makers, maybe. To anyone else with 2 firing neurons in their braincase, it’s really not.
3. Why won’t Apple ship a TV? Apple’s “hobby,” the Apple TV box, is getting old. To the best of anybody’s knowledge, there are no technical reasons why Apple could ship a big TV with Apple TV built in.
And Elgan softballs one right into TMA’s wheelhouse. I appreciate that. To rational people, the reasons not to release a television are as myriad as Elgan’s imagined reasons to use NFC – with the difference being these reasons actually make sense. To recap briefly:
1. The TV market is shit. No television maker has been profitable for at least the last 4 quarters. Not. One.
2. Apple already makes a device that can transmit content to a television – the AppleTV.
The limitations appear to be bound to the politics of Hollywood studios and cable company licensing deals.
Which has nothing to do with hardware, but please continue.
So why not ship a TV anyway, and start iterating. The existence of such a product would probably help Apple strongarm the powers that be into agreeing to Internet-delivered live TV.
Again with the “why not take Google’s tact of vomiting kit into the market with no content to support it and no reason to use it” approach to product development. For someone who writes about Apple, Elgan displays a remarkable tone deafness when it comes to how the company operates.
Nobody knows what Apple is waiting for.
Where “nobody” consists of you and Gene Munster.
4. Why does Apple work so hard to advertise a beta feature? I’m pretty sure that more money has been spent marketing Siri than any other “beta” product in history.
Mike Elgan, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Apple. With the prescient commentary Elgan makes about so many facets of Apple’s business, it’s amazing the company hasn’t contacted him regarding executive employment.
It’s not just that Apple labels Siri “beta” with an orange beta graphic on its web site. The feature is clearly rough and unfinished. Response times are slow. Words are often unrecognized. Even when Siri correctly recognizes the words, it responds with the wrong thing.
It’s not just that Apple labels the feature as a beta, it’s just that the feature exhibits signs of a beta feature. This is what happens when you inject logic into a Large Hadron Collider.
Fine. Nothing wrong with beta services. But Apple is spending unknown millions of dollars, often building entire prime-time TV campaigns around Siri as the sole selling point for the iPhone.
Unknown millions, but Mike’s pretty sure it was the most millions ever laid out by Apple for an ad campaign.
Why does Apple work so hard to build up consumer expectations about an unfinished, rough-around-the-edges beta product?
Because the feature is a revolutionary way of interacting with your phone? Because it can transcribe casual English into actual, useful commands? Because for more users than not, it adds more than enough functionality to justify Apple’s promotion of it? Maybe Apple can include untested technology in its products only if it doesn’t spend any money to advertise it.
5. Why did Adam Cheyer leave Apple? Cheyer is the main guy behind Siri, and joined Apple when his company was acquired.
Whenever high-visibility people leave a company, whether they quit or were fired, they always say it’s for “personal reasons” or to “spend more time with my family.” Cheyer went with “personal reasons,” which tells us exactly nothing.
OK, so Elgan doesn’t know why an acquired company’s head left the acquirer’s company. That’s never happened before in the history of acquisitions. We must be getting to the end of the list. Surely we can’t extrapolate anything from such a lack of information – or can we?
What we don’t know is if Siri’s founding team don’t like the direction Apple is taking Siri. We also don’t know if people like Cheyer think they can do better with a non-Apple alternative.
So we jump from Cheyer leaving Apple to “the founding team” possibly being dissatisfied with Siri’s direction. Maybe Cheyer is going to try to do better somewhere else! With a better partner than Apple! As deductive tea leaf-reading goes, this is about as fucking terrible as it gets. Did someone slip Elgan a roofie at the end of reason four (OK – before he started writing)? Try taking your index finger and flicking it against your lips while humming, then re-read Elgan’s previous 2 sentences and tell me they don’t sound identical.
6. Why didn’t Apple announce the new aspect ratio at the developer’s conference? There were very few things about the iPhone 5 we didn’t already know months before the event.
We certainly had an unprecedented level of knowledge from Apple about the iPhone 5 prior to their announcement. Actually, it was the combined efforts of every tech site on the planet to scoop an Apple product announcement that gave the public this detailed view. It’s a testament to how hugely popular any Apple product iteration is – especially the iPhone.
One of them, was a consensus that the new iPhone would be taller, with an extra row of icons, and a very sensible aspect ratio of 16:9 — the same as HD movies.
As a result of this change, hundreds of thousands of apps will appear bogusly centered on the screen until developers get around the upgrading them.
Why didn’t apple just go ahead and announce the new aspect ratio, roll out the required developer materials and let the process of upgrading begin three months ago?
Maybe because that would have been more information than Apple ever provided prior to a major product launch? I mean, really: does Elgan honestly think it reasonable for Apple to tip off the most anticipated – but still unconfirmed – feature of its most iconic product? It must require an will of iron to force this level of stupidity into a column when the obvious is begging to be stated. For Elgan, not only should Apple be adding hardware features that no one uses – like Google, they should pre-announce all the features of their products months before they’re available – like Microsoft.
And the burning returns…