Dec 202011

As common as the articles telling Apple what to do with its cash or making out Apple users to be members of some kind of cult is the story bitching about how the company defends its intellectual property. They usually travel from “Steve Jobs said great artists steal” to “Apple’s patents have no merit” in under 500 words. These articles just stop short of abolishing the practice of defending intellectual property and the current patent system, although every other word seems to say exactly that. These hit pieces pop up every time Apple files a lawsuit, so it wasn’t shocking to see it exhumed once one of Apple’s claims actually got some traction, which happened yesterday. The International Trade Council agreed that HTC infringed on one of the 10 patents subjected to the body in 2010 for “data detectors” – the hyperlinks that allow your iPhone to recognize dates and phone numbers and forward them to the appropriate apps – and gave HTC until April 19 of 2012 to engineer a workaround before its phones face an injunction in United States.

Mat Honan’s “If Apple Wins We All Lose” is an archtype of this kind of rhetoric, and it’s no surprise that it came from Gawker Media’s Gizmodo. It’s surprisingly worse than most of the word count published on this topic, which makes it kind of fun to take apart.

Yesterday’s news that courts had ruled against HTC in favor of Apple was a tidy little victory for Apple. But HTC is just an initial skirmish in a much larger fight. The real war is against Android, and if Apple wins that, we’ll all lose.

Apocalyptic topic sentence echoing apocalyptic byline: check.

The iPhone was like nothing that came before. And Apple should be able to protect its innovations and intellectual property. But the Cupertino Crew doesn’t just want to do that; it wants to kill Android. It wants Google’s mobile OS to go away. No settlements. No licenses. Dead. Jobs said as much, very explicitly.

This philosophical “middle ground” between the ability to protect one’s intellectual property and not having a patent system has to be restated several times throughout pieces like this. It’s what I like to call the “standard disclaimer”. Even though every other word in the article is going to be a slam against both the patent system and of Apple’s claims within the system, because the author doesn’t want to come off as a (bigger) moron, he’s obligated to pay it lip service.

There are two avenues Apple can take to achieve this victory: the marketplace and the courts. I’d be all for Apple winning fair and square in the marketplace. It’s okay for consumers to decide the victor in this fight. But it’s not okay for a handful of judges and lawyers to dictate the direction of technology. For Apple to win in the marketplace—and I mean total dominance here, the kind of thermonuclear war that an apoplectic Jobs described in Walter Isaacson’s biography—it would require both innovation on a massive scale, and real price competitiveness. Realistically, that’s not going to happen. It’s already impossible, at least in the next three years. Android’s foothold with consumers is already too strong. Its phones are too inexpensive, and Google and its device manufacturing partners are too committed to Android for it to fail completely.

So the marketplace and the courts are mutually exclusive venues–the only 2 options for companies to achieve market dominance? Interesting. I always imagined the marketplace as a complex organism subject to many axes of competition, both quantitative and qualitative – price, quality, design – to name a few. Some of these axes can be protected by intellectual property law. The details of how this property is protected will always be up for debate, but you can’t make an argument that no system is better than a broken one. Apple is a company with a history of being fucked over on the intellectual property playing field. Their biggest mistake was made with Microsoft, a mistake that was exploited during the absence of their leader. That mistake factors largely into how Apple perceives the value of its IP and the lengths it is willing to go to protect it.

So that leaves the courts, where Apple keeps pressing its case—largely against device manufacturers. That’s not okay. The patent system is broken. Deeply, and profoundly so. The system that was created to foster and protect innovation, now serves to strangle it dead. Apple has real innovation. And real invention. So why act like a cheap patent troll, taking advantage of a body of under-qualified legal professionals to make decisions about which technologies consumers will be able to use? Does that bother anyone else?

Again, Apple is not responsible for how “broken” the patent system is in this country. Its only choices are:

1. To defend its intellectual property.
2. Not to defend its intellectual property.

If Apple does not defend its patents, it will forfeit future rights do so. This is common knowledge in all businesses that are can be governed by patents, and it’s certainly not “trolling”. It seems as though Honan saying that because the system is, in his opinion, broken, that Apple has no right to defend its innovations. This rhetorical masturbation has become the trademark of Gizmodo’s writing.

Granted, the iPhone was a sea change. So was the iPad. And Apple ought to be able to protect the innovations and intellectual property that set those devices apart. If Apple was only competing on iron-clad patents—if it was just forcing its competitors to think way out side of the box, that would be great for innovation. But it’s not. Apple is playing the same stupid games everyone does in the patent wars today.

Here we go again with the Apple deserves to defend property/Apple doesn’t serve to defend this property. Apple subjected 10 patents – patents that were granted by the USPTO – for consideration by the ITC. One of them was found to be infringed upon. Is Honan’s stance that none of these patents merit protection? Apparently they don’t rise to the “iron-clad” standard that is the foundation of…oh, I guess this “iron-clad” proviso doesn’t exist in any of this country’s current patent law. Could it be that Mat Honan is making up legal terms in an attempt to generate interest on a topic that has been beaten to death, resurrected and beaten to death again about 500 times?

A little bit about patents: For something to be patentable, it must be (or at least it should be) novel and non-obvious. You should not be able to find existing examples of it in prior art—in other words, when you look at the history of similar products, whatever you’re patenting needs to be unique.

I admit I laughed out loud at that. Mat Honan, obviously an officer of the USPTO, is going to educate us about patent law. Allow me to secure my bifocals and Number 2 pencil.

Now, certainly, some of Apple’s good stuff is novel. No one had ever seen anything like the iPhone prior to 2007. Yet clearly some of the things Apple is gunning to protect are, well, obvious.

Oh wait – you mean that’s it? That’s your entire lecture? Jesus and I thought I needed to go to school for this. I thought there was an entire government agency dedicated to this – one which apparently didn’t share Dr. Honan’s opinion about what’s patentable.

What Apple won the rights to in this most recent HTC case, was basically a patent on the act of recognizing patterns and acting on them—like when you tap on a phone number in an email to launch your dialer and make a call. Thing is, Google was recognizing numerical strings (including phone numbers) and tailoring search results to them long before the iPhone came out. Dating back to at least 2006 (maybe earlier) you could enter a UPS tracking code into Google, and it would parse that number, ping UPS and return tracking information at the top of the search results. It would do the same thing with phone numbers. It basically did everything the iPhone did, short of make calls. Was it non-obvious for a mobile phone to do what a search engine was doing? I don’t know. I certainly think it’s debatable, yet this is the issue that Apple just beat HTC on.

Actually, some people that know what they’re talking about when they get behind a keyboard provided a concise history of the ‘647 patent, one that predates whatever Honan thought Google was doing with UPS tracking codes. As a matter of fact, it was granted in 1999. If journalistic integrity was valued in the blogosphere, this catastrophic misstatement of fact would put a site like Gizmodo out of business. Sadly, the “durrrr Google did something like this first” smoking gun is as factual as the author gets.

Likewise, the iPad also had many novel features—like that genius subtle backside curve that makes the device so easy to pick up off a flat surface. But if you look at what Apple wants to get Samsung to drop—the bezel and the rounded corners and the rectangular shape and even the color—it’s clear that Apple wants Samsung to try to make something that goes against good design principles established well before Apple rolled out the iPad.

This is not what Apple did. It is what your site’s flametarded editor said, illustrated by flametarded Photoshops to depict Apple in the worst possible light at the expense of the facts. If you’re interested in what Apple was actually trying to do when it made recommendations to Samsung about how it could change the design of its tablet so that it didn’t infringe on the iPad, you would know that if Samsung had decided to do one thing differently, it would not be infringing. The Xyboard? Not infringing. Apple did not say “do all of these things at once”. I swear Gizmodo is trying to make the internet stupider one post at a time.

I think a lot of this can be blamed on Apple’s past history. It lost big in the courts once before. And it’s determined not to do so again. In some ways, Apple is becoming the George Wallace of technology companies. In 1958 George Wallace lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Alabama to his opponent John Patterson, who campaigned on a more virulently racist pro-segregation platform than Wallace had. In response, Wallace said he’d never be out-segged again. Nor was he. In 1962, Wallace stormed into the Governor’s office and national stage on a campaign of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Apple’s Wallace moment came in 1994, when it lost a massive legal battle after the courts ruled that it could not prevent Microsoft and HP from shipping computers with graphical user interfaces that used the desktop metaphor. Apple argued that its copyrights were being violated, but the court decided Apple’s copyrights weren’t afforded patent-like protections.

This paragraph actually elicited a verbal response from me. That response was “Wow”. It’s like the entire universe of comparative anecdotes compressed into an infinitely small point and then exploded with the intensity of a billion novae. What the fuck does a racist politician’s segregation platform have to do with a company defending its IP? The best I can come up with is that Apple is supposed to be riding an unpopular practice (defending Honan’s “softer than iron-clad” IP) harder the second time it had the opportunity to do so (the iPhone) after not having the opportunity the first time (against Microsoft).

(Of course, it didn’t help that Apple wasn’t the first company to ship a computer with a graphical user interface, mouse and a desktop metaphor. That was Xerox, which had all that on its Alto. In fact, the original plan for the Macintosh business unit was written surreptitiously on a Xerox Alto during off-hours at Xerox PARC. So it goes.)

It’s curious how, after claiming to have read Steve Jobs’s biography, Honan could misstate the Xerox PARC anecdote so egregiously. Misrepresenting the PARC story is fundamental to those wishing to dismiss any claims Apple may have on its intellectual property. After all, didn’t they rip off poor Xerox?

But something changed in between the time the Macintosh was released in 1984 and when the iPhone rolled out in 2007: software patents. They weren’t widely applied until the 1990s. This happened to co-incide quite nicely with Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. And by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, it was game on. And so, in 2007, when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, after scoring big points with the crowd on the iPhone’s features, he did a little endzone dance for the competition, crowing that the company had patented the Bejesus out of its fancy new phone. It had learned its lesson in fighting Microsoft on copyright rather than patents, and was clearly determined to out-patent anyone else in the then-nascent smartphone market. Now we’re seeing the fruits of those patents. They’ve afforded Apple some significant victories. But if you look at the past as prologue, as Apple seems to be doing, I don’t think it’s so clear that it would ultimately be good for Apple to kill Android in the courts. And it certainly won’t help consumers.

In other words, Apple felt it had been duped and out-maneuvered by Microsoft, so it wanted to take whatever legal measures were available to defend its intellectual property with the iPhone in 2007. I guess Honan gets paid by the word. At least I hope he does.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine Apple had been successful in its suit against Microsoft. Imagine Microsoft had been prohibited from shipping Windows 2.0 or Windows 3.0—or, by God, Windows 95—without licensing the hell out of it from Apple. Where would we be? Without Windows there to pressure Apple to Build Something Better, things would be very different in Cupertino today. After it lost its case with Microsoft and saw its market share dwindle to nothing, Apple had to innovate like crazy. Had Apple won, it never would have had to transition from the System 7-era to Mac OS X. It never would have had to buy NeXT. It never would have had to bring prodigal son Steve Jobs back into the fold. Without Mac OS X, there would be no iOS. And without iOS, no iPhone, no iPad.

/takes massive bong hit

So you mean, like, intellectual property rights actually kill innovation? I mean, that’s like totally the opposite effect of what the people designing the system want it to have, maaaaaaaan! Imagine that…under my fingernails…a tiny universe might exist! Thought experiment maaaaaaan!

George Wallace used segregation as a bludgeon, quite effectively, to win elections. But today, it’s clear that he ultimately injured himself, Alabama, and the nation as a whole for very many years to come.

Keep banging that drum, Mat. I know your totally relevant recounting of an obscure southern election jammed into the mold of IP defense tactics is going to make the Harvard Business Review any day now. Or Worst Fucking Analogies Ever Quarterly. One of those two.

I’m all for seeing Apple defend its intellectual property. But Android is a healthy force in the marketplace. If Apple can destroy it there, more power to Tim Cook and company. But if Apple beats Android in the courts rather than the marketplace—if it out-segs Google instead of out-innovating it—that may be great for Apple, but it will be bad for society, bad for technology, and ultimately bad for Apple.

Third time’s a charm, I guess. You’re not for Apple defending its property, Mat. You’re for a generalized defense of intellectual property based on some criteria you don’t even define very well. But please, feel free to squawk like a racist Eric Schmidt with your “patents are the antithesis of innovation in the marketplace” horseshit.

And of course, the great irony is that so much of the amazing innovation that Apple pulled off over the past three decades can be traced back to its willingness to swipe ideas from Xerox. Steve jobs was fond of quoting Picasso, saying “good artists copy, great artists steal.” If Apple does succeed in crushing Android in the courts, where will it get its next great idea? My guess is that it won’t come from a lawyer.

So there’s your wrap-up, which touches on the mandatory “iron-clad” talking points present in any piece that slags Apple for defending its patents: a misrepresentation of the Xerox PARC story and the standard out-of-context quote from Jobs about Picasso, wrapped up with a quip about how ironic it all is.  Where will the next great piece about Apple, Android and the intellectual property landscape in this country come from? My guess is that it won’t come from Mat Honan.

Oct 072011

To earn a place in the hallowed halls of Douchebag’s Row usually requires a career’s worth of hit-whoring, but for our latest inductee, I’m going to make an exception based on a single piece. As inevitable as the thousands of articles praising Steve Jobs – as inescapable as the thoughtful words of people such as President of the United States, countless Silicon Valley icons and leaders from every industry on the planet – some one-off classless scrawling about how Jobs was really not that big of a deal and that people should get over it was equally likely. I could tell you I was surprised that it came from Nick Denton’s Gawker Media, but that would be bullshit. In addition to severely compromising its users’ personal information and using stolen goods to blackmail people, Gawker methodically produces this kind of excrement with the frequency that a farmer milks a cow. It’s the entirety of their business model. Hamilton Nolan’s piece “Steve Jobs Was Not God” has no doubt generated hundreds of thousands of hits for the blog network that includes some of my personal favorites like Deadspin and Lifehacker. I, for one, will continue enjoying them, but from this point forward, I refuse to give them a single hit.  Whether through RSS reader or other means, I will scrape the shit out of their content, but I will not allow Gawker Media in any way to benefit from my presence. I’d encourage everyone reading this to do the same.

I don’t link to scum like Nolan, but I want to expose my readers to the full context of what’s got me so hot. To save you from having to visit the site yourself, here is the article in its entirety, which will be followed by a section where I swear a lot. If Nick Denton doesn’t like me scraping his content wholesale and dumping it into my blog, he can thoroughly and vigorously fuck himself.

Steve Jobs Was Not God

So, Steve Jobs is dead. A tech genius has passed on. Sad. Certainly a devastating loss to Steve Jobs’ close friends and family members, as well as to Apple executives and shareholders. The rest of you? Calm down.

Among my Facebook friends yesterday, more than one wrote publicly that they were “crying” or “can’t stop crying” or “teared up” due to Steve Jobs’ death. Really now. You can’t stop crying, now that you’ve heard that a middle-aged CEO has passed on, after a long battle with cancer? If humans were always so empathetic, well, that would be understandable. But this type of one-upmanship of public displays of grief is both unbecoming and undeserved.

Real outpourings of public grief should be reserved for those people who lived life so heroically and selflessly that they stand as shining examples of love for all of humanity. People like, for example, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who—along with his family—was bombed, beaten, and stabbed during his years of principled activism in the US civil rights movement. Shuttlesworth died yesterday, the same day as Steve Jobs. He did not die a billionaire.

Death, of course, is not a competition. All deaths are sad for the living. Everyone deserves to be mourned, and well-known people will inevitably be mourned more loudly than others. But it is actually important to keep our grief in perspective. When we start mourning technocrats as idols, we cheapen the lives of those who have sacrificed more for their fellow man.

Steve Jobs was great at what he did. There’s no need to further fellate the man’s memory. He made good computers, he made good phones, he made good music players. He sold them well. He got obscenely rich. He enabled an entire generation of techie design fetishists to walk around with more attractive gadgets. He did not meaningfully reduce poverty, or make life-saving scientific discoveries, or end wars or heal the sick or befriend the friendless. Which is fine—most of us don’t. But most of us don’t provoke such cult-like lachrymosity when we pass on. When even the journalists tasked with covering you and your company are reduced to pie-eyed fans apologizing for discomforting your insanely powerful multibillion-dollar corporation in some minor way, some perspective has been lost.

I’ve never owned an Apple product. Yet here I am, talking on phones, typing on computers, and reading the internet every day. If you like Apple products, fine. They are products. They do not have souls. They are not heroes, and neither is their creator, no matter how skilled he may have been. Let’s mourn Steve Jobs as we mourn the passing of any other good man—modestly, privately, and quietly. Those of you whose remembrances have already taken on a quasi-religious tone: seek help.

Let the sentiment wash over you. Read it again if it helps. Ask yourself if the condescension of a blog hack telling you how to express your grief over the death of another human being is worse than the casual talking-point diminishment of Jobs’s contributions to the way we interact with technology. How do you feel about being gamed into feeling guilty about Jobs’s death when you didn’t mourn a civil rights activist who died of natural causes after a long life? What does the phrase “fellate the man’s memory”, one that I’m sure got Gawker 100,000 clicks alone, do for you? Nick must be so proud of you, Hamilton.

Here’s my wish for you, Hamilton Nolan. That some day, you’ll be sitting across from a potential employer talking about your work and that he’ll come across the putridness that you will – by that time, if not already – regret having written. My wish is that he’ll ask you about it and that you’ll know, in that moment, as your heart creeps up into your throat and your brow explodes in perspiration, that you’re fucked. I hope this piece is the only thing that keeps you from a cushy writing gig and that it happens at a juncture in your life when you can least afford it. I hope that your interviewer tells his friends who you are and that the experience repeats itself, humiliatingly, over and over and over. My hope for you is that you’ll be condemned to life writing the literary equivalent of crackwhore blowjobs, scraping the bottom of the barrel for hits while your 15 year-old band of starred commenters cheer you on.  Welcome to Douchebag’s Row, dickhead. Everyone else here would be revolted to be in your company.

And no one will remember you when you’re gone.

Oct 042011

Man do I love when the tech press falls into the categories of stupid I’ve laid out for them. Remember the interrogative headline –the one I told you to avoid clicking through at all costs? Well, BGR, one of the most-read tech blogs on the Internet, has posted a doozy: Sprint scores iPhone 5 exclusive thanks to $20 billion deal with Apple? Oh, the humanity.

Let me just lay it out right now: there is no way, in 100 million fucking years, that Apple would partner exclusively with anyone–let alone the also-ran carrier of choice. Period. This makes zero sense on every possible level.  I refuse to even outline the obviousness of why this makes no sense, as I neither want to expedite the onset of carpal tunnel nor risk an aneurysm. Putting a question mark at the end of your link-baiting headline only alerts everyone unfortunate enough to have landed on your site of what you’re up to. This is possibly one of the most transparent, ridiculous pageview grabs in the history of Apple reporting and I seriously hope this comes back to bite BGR directly on the asscheeks–hard.

Apr 252011

It’s getting so that I don’t even have to mark the date Apple announces its quarterly earnings on my calendar anymore. Every quarter, the retarded tech press does it for me by “supermodeling” (a.k.a. binging-and-purging) a sensationalized anti-Apple story that either is hyped exponentially beyond its intrinsic value or regurgitated news with a new spin. I imagine because Apple was due to announce the utter destruction of all estimates on Wednesday (even more so than usual), we managed to get a story that was both hyped exponentially and regurgitated. The story? Apparently, there is a file on your iPhone that tracks your general location, and has been doing so since the upgrade to iOS 4.

/cue sinistermusic.aif

The internet is more efficient than technology reporting is thorough, so the anatomy of all “I knew it all along, you Apple scumbags” stories take some time to come full-circle. Your average timeline looks like this:

00:00 – The story breaks from the source. In this case a discovery that was leaked by two researchers from O’Reilly.

+00:00.000014 – Every news outlet, blogger – basically any human being who was ever written about the technology space – cuts and pastes the source’s press release in the hope of monetizing some of the hatred that people are drawn to comes to Apple. Comment sections fill up like the Port-a-Sans at a St. Patrick’s Day parade with “AHA!”/demands for official Apple fanboy responses/pantomimed hand-wringing posts. Jacqui Cheng gleefully gets to exercise the “aggressive” half of her passive-aggressive relationship with Apple and post 500 words of complaint.

+01:00 Some camera hogging politician will hold a press conference, write a letter, or hold a press conference about the letter they wrote attempting to grill Steve Jobs on the topic. Apparently Chuck Schumer was either relinquishing his well-known role, on vacation or in the hospital because Al Franken actually scooped Schumer on “Datafilegate”.

+06:00 Apple never says squat in reply to stories like these, so it’s left to other people to get to the bottom of it. After about 6 hours, the first rational people who know what they’re talking about step in and qualify or otherwise debunk the Apple claims as either irrelevant or sensationalized. Everyone starts to get back to their knitting, the torches are extinguished and the pitchforks are put away. The first article TMA saw came from Alex Levinson and basically said the file is not transmitted to Apple, has been around forever and would appreciate it if the researchers would credit other people’s work on the topic. Then it came to light that Apple actually addressed elected officials’ concerns a year ago when they replied to a letter sent by two senators. Apparently Franken couldn’t be bothered to read a document that would’ve answered 90% of his questions. I can just see Schumer giving Franken a sincere congratulations on getting in front of this important story. And doing it using his best Stuart Smalley impression. Apparently Al has a little bit to learn about pandering to the camera on popular issues.

TMA isn’t naïve, but the only thing marginally bothersome about this whole charade is that the location file on your iPhone is unencrypted, which I guarantee will be resolved with an iOS update. Unless somebody physically has your phone, or has access to your computer and you didn’t encrypt your iTunes backup, there’s no chance of getting at your information anyway. TMA calls this the “Pwn2Own Phenomenon”: every year when neckbeards mockingly decry OS X’s browser as “insecure”, they don’t make a lot of mention that the person has possession of your machine when he’s “hacking” it. Possession is 9/10 of the law whether you’re talking about the hundred dollar bill you dropped or the information contained on my consumer electronics device once you lose it. Somehow that still comes as a shock to some people. It also comes as no surprise to TMA that Android devices send location data back to the mothership approximately 500 times a day. But no one ever had an 100,000-hit day on their website bashing Google. And Google does a pretty good job hiding unflattering press about itself, but that’s another post…

Oh–and I hope those researchers didn’t do anything stupid like short Apple stock in anticipation that their “breakthrough discovery” would have some effect on its price: it’s still up over $10 from before the call.

Apr 082011

One of TMA’s major gripes about Apple’s media coverage is how really horribly malformed the technology press landscape is. If you combine the high-turnover nature of the consumer electronics industry – where major product announcements happen literally every day – with the general decline of journalistic standards for reporting them (another fine benefit of the pageview model of monetization – big ups, Google!), you can find yourself quickly immersed in an environment that makes you stupider with every word seared onto your retina.

Some habits are more awful than others. As a consumer (and sometime regurgitator) of copious amounts of bad tech writing, TMA has distilled the five most blood pressure-challenging writing habits in tech:

The “What company x can learn from company y” article

When a technology company does something right, it’s only a matter of time before some master the obvious points out that a company that does something poorly could benefit from doing that particular thing well – as if it were some transferable skill for which the failing company could go to night school. The reason so many people writing about technology companies don’t work for them – or for any company for that matter – is that they don’t understand what it takes to change behavior on a company-wide scale. Thank goodness they can oversimplify it and provide facile recommendations in their blog.

The interrogative headline

What does it mean when you read an Apple headline that ends with a question mark?

More than half the time, some asshole is trying to keyword his post in an attempt to drum up page views, yet cannot commit to a declarative statement in the headline. It’s almost like the writer thinks he’s invoking some trick of the trade designed to protect him against a lawsuit from Apple if he did, in fact, make an outrageous claim. These articles without exception are absolute crap. When I encounter a title in my RSS feed that contains a question mark at the end, I quietly answer “no” and move onto the next one.

What Apple needs to do with their cash on hand

There’s no more predictable activity for an Apple beat analyst than to call for Apple to do something with their cash reserves the day after they announce how much they have. I’m starting to think Apple may actually keep so much in reserve just to host a quarterly company-wide drinking game based on all the stupid suggestions that invariably come out of the woodwork. Here are some of my favorites:

  • “Apple will buy Time Warner Cable” by Robert X. Cringely. Rest assured, Cringely: you’ve already got one of those “Reserved” table placards to hold your seat for the inevitable induction into Douchebag’s Row. Quick visual aid: what does this website header make you want to do?

If you answered “throw haymakers until I pass out from exhaustion”, you are correct.

Nice PS2 keyboard, BTW.


  • “Apple is in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter and is hoping to announce it at WWDC in June” according to “a normally reliable source” by Mike Arrington. TMA has no doubt that the source was Google Analytics, who had notified him that his site hadn’t produced any eyeball-catching excrement in at least 14 minutes.

Here’s what Apple will do with their cash: continue to secure components like Flash RAM and LCD panels in bulk, which will allow them to beat competitors on price and help freeze the development of copycat products for a couple months. Oh- and they might buy TiVo.

Anecdotal sample sizing

Picture the image of the journalist from 20 years ago: determined, resourceful and quoting studies that are statistically significant. Possibly donning a cool fedora that didn’t make him look like a middle-aged man who for some reason started wearing a fedora (I’ve been seeing these people everywhere in NYC lately). Now contrast that with your average tech blogger: high word count, Wikipedia-driven and content to ask their three best friends’ opinion to substantiate a pivotal point in the article. Nothing says “I suck at journalism” as efficiently as the use of “everyone I asked” and “numerous people I talked to”. You’re writing about an industry made up of precision instruments – stop supporting your claims like someone who freelances for the National Enquirer, not that the two are mutually exclusive .

Asinine predictions to drive pageviews

If I could use one phrase to summarize the state of Apple’s coverage in the tech media, this would be it. I suppose it’s the biggest downside of being simultaneously super-successful and uber-secretive: every asshole’s sensationalistic projection for your products has a chance of seeing the light of day. Whereas Microsoft uses this tactic to play sites like Engadget like a fiddle to stifle competition with a product they have no intention of releasing, the constant generation of unrealistic expectations for companies that actually ship things could eventually lead to consumer disappointment. Thankfully, no one really listens to them. The sources of these predictions are usually “one and done” analysts/bloggers with a “strong connections to a reliable source” but many of them *cough* Scott Moritz *cough*remain bulletproof after several incorrect guesses fall squarely on their faces. Some of these asinine mouthforms are actually antithetical to their corresponding real-world events. Yet they persist. Guess TMA will have to keep writing.

So those are your top 5. I’m sure you can think of your own. I’d love to hear about them in comments as I’m in the market for a new drinking game.

Feb 172011

Despite the fact that competitive individualism is a founding principle of this country, many people have come to equate making money with being evil. Granted, from Madoff to Microsoft, there are a number of examples of “evil” moneymaking, but this derision of success coincides more closely with human nature’s schadenfreude: that innate satisfaction many of us feel seeing successful people and endeavors fail. Apple has all the makings of a company that people want to depict as evil. Apple is incredibly successful; the most headline-dominating brand in technology. They make buttloads of money. They have a CEO who speaks a little too straightforwardly for some sensitive souls. In a sector filled with dweebs that like to tinker, Apple builds its products for everyday people and separates its user experiences from the neckbeards who want to hack them. Apple is a company that some people love dearly and some hate passionately, which provides a whole shadow economy for jackasses to profit from by pitting one group against the other.

So TMA was not at all shocked when the Engadget hordes got wind of Apple’s new subscription model policy. Negative comments (yes, I know I’m an idiot for reading them, let alone responding to them) boil down to:

-30%?! Don’t they make enough money?!
Does anyone know how much it costs Apple to maintain a subscription through iTunes? Apple’s iTunes/App Store infrastructure cost billions to set up – do you think hosting and maintaining subscriptions should be free? And anyway: if the service stays in the AppStore, why the fuck do people care how much Apple takes? Do you think Netflix would pass the savings onto you? As an aside, I don’t agree with all of Apple’s “30% across-the-board” policy. It strikes me as fairer when Apple is doing the hosting and subscription management, as will be the case with periodicals, but Netflix? Notsomuch. If there’s any part of the policy that will end up segregating itself for renegotiation, it’ll be for that portion of content for which Apple is responsible for only managing the customer information.

-If Apple loses Netflix/Amazon/Sirius/insert your possibly-effected-but-still-too-early-to-tell app here, I am so never buying an Apple product again
First of all, do you think Apple just dropped this policy bomb on companies without at least notifying them first? I’m not saying they agreed with it, but you can’t think Apple didn’t approach a cornerstone app like Netflix and say “Listen, we’re starting this subscription model for periodicals and we have to apply it across the board – including you”. And if they didn’t give them a heads-up, shame on them. If individual apps start disappearing from the app store, you can bet your ass Apple will renegotiate the terms. People who think Apple is in some throne-sitting position where it can dictate unreasonable terms without repercussions need to schedule their head-from-ass-ectomies ASAP. Remember Apple’s insistence on the $.99 song, despite the labels’ whining? Well, now there’s variable pricing for music on iTunes, so you can pay for the full value of that Lady Gaga song.

-Apple’s anti-competitive practices are going to land it in anti-trust land
Probably not. I know I’m going against the wisdom of several dozen TechCrunch commenters, but you have to have a controlling interest in a market before you can abuse that market. Last I checked, there’s not a specific market called “good tablet computers”; even the sub-category of devices that Apple’s iPad dominates is populated by a few other knock-offs like the Galaxy Tab. Now that Apple has shown the entire tech sector that there is a huge market for these devices as well as what size the device should be, 2011 is going to be flooded with iPad wannabes.

-Google’s devices and One Pass system is getting my business now
Leave it to Google to take advantage of a sucking wound, or in this case the howling maws of publishers and pundits complaining about Apple’s 30% cut. Google recently announced a subscription maintenance plan that would charge publishers a low, low 10% fee. If you act now, Google will even give subscriber information for free. Apple, on the other hand, makes people opt-into allowing publishers access to customers’ information, something that protects the customer, but pisses off publishers. Google, obviously, has no such qualms about whoring out having users’ information parsed in exchange for a better deal and a knock-off product. It’s a big part of their current business model.

As usual, this whole brouhaha boils down to a small number of irate freetards and pundits that are paid to pit fanboys and freetards against each other talking down a policy by Apple that makes businesses pay to use Apple’s infrastructure and doesn’t let them have their way with your data unless you choose. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

Jan 202011

If you want an indication of how obsessed the tech media is with Apple, take a look at some of the things they pick up as news. Apparently, Apple has been seeding a new type of screw, dubbed the “Pentalobe”, into its hardware, ostensibly to deter people from messing around with the guts of the iPhones and MacBook Airs. Keeping people from monkeying with Apple’s user experience is not exactly a new development, but it you look at how eagerly an iFixIt video bitching about the issue was picked up, you’d think it was. To give you a flavor for the latest scathing controversy, and to give into my temptation to send-up this retardery, I’ll excerpt a piece written by the Register with my comments. Trust me when I say it’s a par hole.

“And now, says Wiens (owner of iFixit), iPhones are getting (non-standard hardware) too – a “diabolical” move, he says, because pentalobe screwdrivers are few and far better (sic), though he has managed to source some and will sell you one, and a pair of replacement philips screws, for $10.”
Good to see that someone is making money on this diabolica.
Wait a minute…

“…pentalobe tools, which have been creeping into the Apple product line since 2009…but didn’t become widely used until the new Air debuted in 2010. Now the iPhone 4 has them, it seems highly likely that so will the upcoming iPad 2, and probably future Macs as well.”
So the screw’s been out there for 2 years. And they won’t come to Macs. Apple has Knowledge Base entries on how to upgrade various components in Mac. There’s a conspicuous lack of such documentation for iPhones.
“Wiens beef with this is that the use of obscure screws makes Apple’s machines less easy to repair. That, in turn, reduces the hardware’s longevity, ensuring that more machines will end up in landfill.”
Less easy for iFixit – who probably makes 20% less than Apple but still a metric shitload of money – to repair. And lack of access to screw that’s been available for 2 years (and one which Wiens will sell you for almost no outrageous markup) is what will put Apple products in landfills.
“In fact, Apple machines – Macs particularly – (which the screws are not in) are notoriously long-lived, with owners passing them on to friends and relatives after new models have been bought. But eventually they will be binned and recycling will be harder (unless they’re not used in Macs, which, again, they are not).”

“Botched upgrades can lead to costly technical support, but other firms seem less concerned with this risk. Most of Apple’s rivals don’t feel the need to block tinkering to such an extent – Wiens maintains Apple has adopted pentalobe specifically to stop its gadgets being opened.”
Or maybe it’s because Applecare is approximately a billion times more comprehensive than the bullshit warrantees that come with your Toshiba? Maybe Apple doesn’t want to be saddled with repairs that users – and iFixit – shouldn’t have been attempting in the first place? Maybe Apple should just tamper-protect their screw holes so that any attempt to unseat them will invalidate the warranty/Applecare coverage. How would that solution sit with your business model, iBitchIt?

“Apple clearly thinks its kit shouldn’t be opened or changed in any way that doesn’t involve its mediation. While it continues to think that way, there will be plenty of people, like Wiens and like the coders dedicated to ‘jailbreaking’ iOS, to opening its products – physically as well as metaphorically.”
You forgot the “making a metric shitload of money doing it” part. They always forget that part.
Oct 192010

Both people who read TMA understand how much I love the tech press, whose thorough and groundbreaking reporting provides an evergreen opportunities for  snark. One of my favorite MOs is the “Ridiculous Hypothesis Phrased as a Question” headline. This vehicle allows the tech writer to assert something brain-dead retarded in the headline – assuring that some suckers will actually click through to their tripe and grant them the ever-valuable pageview – and then spend the body of the article disclaiming the inflammatory headline. As a service to the tech media, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to answer some of the question mark headlines taken from the aggregator that I can’t seem to get listed on: Apple Enthusiast.

The IPad Really the Savior Of the Newspaper Industry? -Mashable

Not as long as the newspaper industry doesn’t realize it needs to be saved.

Is Apple Running Scared of the 7″ Tablet?-VNU

Yes, They’re absolutely petrified that after 2 quarters of not being able to make enough iPads, a form factor that’s too small to be a tablet and too large to be a phone, which will be running some bastardized version of Android that Google wants nothing to do with will run them out of business. Idiot.

What Will Apple Announced Next?

A new MacBook Air and a preview of OS X 10.7 Lion. Tomorrow.

Costco Dropping iPods after Tiff with Apple? -CrunchGear

74.5 million people streamed through 317 (and counting) Apple stores last year. Target and Walmart are selling them. Put succinctly: Who cares?

Is the New MacBook Air the First Apple Netbook? -Technologizer

If by “netbook” you mean underpowered, underspecced, sub-$300 piece of shit, no (even though it has been fun to put “Apple” and “netbook” in the same headline since the build-up over the iPad).

If by “netbook” you mean the smallest laptop Apple has ever made, then quite possibly.

Apple in the Enterprise: Do the Extra Costs Justify the Value? -ZDNet (shudder)

I guess “value” is a matter of perspective. Even though end-users that, you know, actually use the products would doubtless find a lot of value in bringing Apple to the enterprise, I don’t think the drones that read your spray would think that being unemployed represents “value”.

Flush With Cash, Will Apple Go Shopping? – NY Times – Business

They are as likely to go shopping as they have been for the last 9 quarters that analysts have been 1. Noticing that Apple has a large amount of cash on hand and 2. Incorrectly speculating about what Apple should do with it. Stop trying.

Oct 132010

What would happen if a sociologist conducted a survey whose results stood to benefit him, his department or his institution? He’d probably be laughed out of academia.

What happens when a company that sells warrantees for iPhones finds that the iPhone 4 “is significantly more prone to physical damage than its predecessor”? It gets scooped up by the usual mongoloids whoring for pageviews. Here’s the article’s only relevant sentence:

Overall, the iPhone is still a very well constructed device, with a non-accident malfunction rate much lower than most other consumer electronics.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of conducting a survey of my mother, daughter and some homeless guy I gave money to this morning about how big a raise I deserve.

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.