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  • The Wacky Apple Theory Department Revisited — Again!

    May 23rd, 2014

    It's a sure thing that Apple Inc. is hit bait. So if you have something to say, anything, regardless of whether to not it makes any sense, finding an Apple connection, however tenuous, can generate extra traffic. While one hopes that online commentators and reporters are mostly concerned with facts and reasoned speculation, that's not always the case.

    Take that report that Apple's alleged "brand value" has dropped, only to be overtaken by Google as the most valuable brand on the planet. Supposedly this is blamed, in part, on Apple's failure to deliver new products in new categories. But if you take that as the benchmark, just what has Google produced in the past year? Can you name the trendsetting gadget or service from Google that has set the tech industry and the marketplace on fire?

    That's right, I didn't think you could.

    Android has undergone minor revisions over the past year or two, but nothing sufficient to even warrant a full version number (from four-something to five). Google Glass, a costly prototype product that remains in beta, hasn't suddenly taken off, except to cause more and more people to be exiled from restaurants and other public places. Or just put off people who regard someone wearing that silly gadget as just a little too strange for comfort.

    At the same time, Google has sold off the failing Motorola Mobility handset division for fire sale prices to Lenovo. Tests of driverless cars are continuing, but it's not as if you can expect one to be available at a local car dealership anytime soon, or ever. And, in a recent SEC filing, Google envisions putting ads in such places as car dashboards and home appliances, among other things. But the head of Nest, former Apple iPod guru Tony Fadell, which was recently acquired by Google, was therefore forced to assure one and all that the company will continue to operate as a separate division. You won't find ads in their thermostats or smoke detectors.

    So this is, once again, the Apple double standard revisited. A market research report explaining the decline in Apple's brand ranking states, "Whilst Apple remains a top performing brand, there is a growing perception that it is no longer redefining technology for consumers, reflected by a lack of dramatic new product launches."

    It's not as if Apple hasn't promised those "dramatic new product launches" but not till later in the year. At that point, if nothing about new product categories is announced, they'd have a point. But not now.

    Besides, how does that explain Google's status? Where are Google's "dramatic new product launches," and I'll even amend that to include some amazing new online service, but that hasn't happened either. Google is just doing what Google does, which is to put a bunch of products and services in endless public betas, and to earn most of their income from targeted ads.

    Sure, Android is the number one mobile platform on the planet, but Google's earnings from that OS don't count for very much, since it's given away free. Google Glass? How many people are actually wasting $1,500 for one? A few thousand maybe? And how does that redefine a market other than to demonstrate products that probably have no reasonable prospect for success?

    Remember, it's not above Google to start something up, support it for a few years, and then ditch it when it fails to generate sufficient income to make sense. You wonder what would happen to Android if Samsung made a wholesale switch to the Tizen OS. At a recent industry trade show, Samsung had a Tizen-equipped smartphone, one resembling a standard Galaxy handset, in a far away location off the beaten path. Published reports indicated it worked about as well as a standard Android handset, and didn't look a whole lot different.

    Right now, one reason Samsung sticks with Android is no doubt because of the huge app ecosystem. If there was a way to run Android apps with good performance on Tizen, how quickly would that change? If Samsung dropped Android, would it make sense for Google to keep it going? What about all those other mobile handset makers who can't generate a profit from Android smartphones? Remember that Microsoft is now giving the Windows Phone OS away. If a handset maker adopts Windows Phone, they won't be coerced into paying Microsoft fees because the company allegedly owns certain patents for Android features.

    At the end of the day, however, being labeled the most valuable brand in somebody's survey doesn't mean very much if a company's sales and profits aren't impacted in any noticeable way. It might be useful for bragging rights, but not much more. And downgrading a company because of a double standard about the lack of alleged innovation makes even less sense.

    This is why I'm not identifying the market research company, or even providing a link. Those links are not deserved by companies who continue to cover the tech industry in such an inconsistent and unfair fashion.

    And so it goes.



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