Jan 042011
 

Happy New Year to the TMA readership. My resolution: 2560 x 1440.

/boom-tish. Try the Salisbury steak.

With a new year, writers across the land feel compelled to make a bunch of baseless predictions and tech is no exception. I came across some from Google employee Tim Bray in his “ongoing” blog. I didn’t find any of the prognostications in “Year-end View of the Mobile Market” particularly insightful or interesting, but they do speak volumes about how Google thinks. Mercifully, Bray does prepare readers for how patently obvious many of his predictions are. I’ve taken up the challenge of summarizing each of his “things that seem obvious” in 5 words or less. You can click through to see how I did.

In 2011, the smartphone market will/be/continue to (OK, I cheated a bit):

  • Sell a lot of phones
  • Further squeeze “dumb” phone sales
  • Apple, Android > RIM, Nokia, Microsoft
  • Windows 7 Phones: Verdict Unclear

Then he says something about a $500 contract free phone being less than a $199 phone with a contract and wonders when someone will offer financing. Like they have for appliances. Really.

So what are Bray’s not-so-obvious things?

  • The major barrier for tablets replacing laptops? “High-speed low-friction text input”. Translation: the opposite of Android’s touchscreen input.
  • “I’m increasingly coming to think that people buy phones based on the quality and volume of old-fashioned advertising put behind the products. Not coincidentally, not only are the iPhones and iPad excellent devices, they have what is to my eye probably the best advertising in the mobile industry.” Ladies and gentlemen: our first moneyball. The difference between Apple’s and Android’s relative success is marketing. You can see this theory expanded on over at Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite.
  • Apple is going to do a 7″ device. That’s certainly not so obvious. In fact, that’s about 3 colors of the rainbow into Fantasyland. Why will Apple do a 7″ device? “(It) still fits in one hand and you can use for four hours in a row sitting up.” Does Bray mean you can’t use an iPad sitting up for 4 hours? I certainly can. Does he mean having a device that can be extended at arm’s length for 4 hours? Try doing that holding nothing. He concludes emphatically with “This argument is over“, and by the italics you can tell he means it. They should bring Bray in for closing arguments. He could be a Mariano Rivera-esque consultant to defense attorneys. James Spader’s character in Boston Legal just peed his pants a little.

But Bray is at his most compelling in the section titled “Apple vs. Android”, where he pits the advertising powerhouse in Cupertino against the Open Source champions in Mountain View. Who wins?

“I think Apple will sell a ton of devices because they’re good, and superbly marketed. I think a bunch of people will sell a ton of Android devices because they’re good and there are so many options for different needs and networks and price-points.” Emphasis mine

Both are good devices, but that goddamn marketing – those fucking unicorn tears – that’s what lands Apple those insanely high margins EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE ON ONE CARRIER IN THE U.S.!

Let me break it down for you, Tim. The difference – that most obvious of obvious factors you allude to but don’t quite concede – is Verizon. Here’s an illustration of Verizon’s current smartphone unit sales, a period of time I like to call “Before iOS” or “BiOS”, or as you’ll come to remember them: the Salad Years.

This is what will happen at “Zero Hour”, which is immediately after the iPhone becomes available on Verizon. This is also the beginning of “In the year of our Jobs” or “AiOS”.

Finally, once most people are able to rid themselves of their existing contracts and avoid cancellation fees, the landscape should be pretty-well stabilized. Until the iPhone 5…

To wrap up the piece, Bray waxes optimistic about future of the Android platform”

“And there’s nothing fundamental in Android that would get in the way of a industrial-design and user-experience rock-star team, whether at Google or one of the handset makers…”,

And there’s nothing fundamental in the way of my becoming the next Justin Bieber. I can inflect my speaking voice in a way that qualifies as singing, even though I’m not something you’d pay to listen to – or stick around for long if it were free. I have a blog, so there’s really minimal distance between, say, an entry in Douchebag’s Row and some hit single that makes sane people claw at their eyes. I can play chopsticks on the piano, so I am musically inclined – fundamentally. Everything between here and the Top 10 is details.

“…testing the hypothesis that these things are central to Apple’s success.”

Testing the hypothesis that something besides the snappy songs in those ads are what make Apple the most valuable brand in the technology sector. Because – you know – they’re engineers. They need to test all hypotheses, no matter how unlikely.

I’m picturing the Android team’s faces when smartphone unit sales are announced for the first and second quarter of 2011. The genuine looks of befuddlement will be the best part.

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.

Apr 052010
 

Lets take a look at some of the wisdom injected into Mr. Thurrott’s impressions:

“The power plug is the bigger, uglier old-style plug, not the new small, square one you get with iPhone.

It’s because the iPad draws more charge. For that 10+ hour battery. Dickhead.

The box it comes in is oddly thick, given Apple’s penchant for thinness. Most of the box is just air, and that part is below the device. Weird.”

It’s the exact same thin: air ratio as the iPhone 3GS packaging. Dickhead.

Fucking gems, Paul. If you read the bottle, it’ll tell you not to try and double up the dose you missed.

After the devastating critique of Apple’s power brick heft and packaging weirdness, he concludes that “Anyone who believes this thing is a game changer is a tool. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.”

Don’t apologize, Paul. To people who know tech, your first impression is pretty much the same as the 2nd, 3rd, 56th and last impression people have of you. In the pantheon of “people who get paid to write shit about tech”, you’re a caricacture – on a good day. You’re a shill for fail. At least you could be like Lyons and throw a laugh in once in a while.

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