More Rantings of the Tech Media’s Lunatic Fringe

August 19th, 2009

All right, so the latest craziness to emerge from some elements of the text press suggests that in a post-Jobs Apple, the company would somehow find “synergies” with Google and would contemplate a merger. You can take that to the bank, they feel, but I think it would have to be a bank that’s failing.

In any case, you have to wonder why two wildly successful companies that, in some respects, compete with one another, would need to combine into a single entity. I suppose you can find reason to suggest that Microsoft and Yahoo!, having both failed to topple Google, have reason (valid or otherwise) believe they can succeed together.

In the world of personal relationships, do people who can’t get along make good marriage partners? Aren’t those difficulties clues to potential problems later on?

This isn’t to say that Microsoft and Yahoo! don’t or can’t get along. But they are right now direct competitors for the very same customers. Pooling their resources doesn’t necessarily mean the sum is greater than the parts. Indeed, the reverse may be true, because glitches encountered during the merger process may turn off customers who therefore will seek other search and online advertising vendors. In that case, Google stands to benefit most from this marriage of desperation.

In any case, why on earth would Apple and Google need to combine anything? Apple is not in the search business, nor the search advertising business and has no reason to enter those markets. Their existing business relationships with Google — and Yahoo! for that matter — are quite beneficial to both parties.

Operating systems? Well, Apple has created OS X for the Mac and the iPhone. Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS may be thought of as a potential competitor, but their real target is Microsoft, which makes a big share of its income selling overpriced software licenses to businesses, including PC makers. It will be the eternal argument of free versus paid, and how much Microsoft would have to cut prices to compete with the former. Well, that would certainly be good for the industry, and having some more competition might force Microsoft to actually try something new — innovation — in order to maintain a successful business model.

Smartphones? Well, I suppose you can say that a phone preloaded with Google Android is an iPhone competitor, so that would indeed be one way in which Apple and Google might find themselves seated at opposite ends of the table. But why does that make a compelling argument for a merger?

Is there any such argument, anywhere, that can be made to justify such a thing?

Besides, do you really think the newly-awakened antitrust regulators in the U.S. and the EU would condone such a thing? The chances are little to none. Indeed, that’s the beginning and end of it. Governments will say no, and there are no synergies or benefits that benefit both sides.

Now you can see why I’m not providing links to those articles suggesting the possibilities that such a silly transaction might occur. They clearly don’t deserve the hits. But since this is the silly season, I suppose it might be fun to talk about it anyway, if only as an example of the extreme measures some take to create lurid headlines and spread unfounded rumors.

Then there’s the story that the quality of Apple’s tech support declined slightly in a recent survey, to the tune of about 1%, whereas some PC makers managed similar improvements. Worse, one headline, based on this information, stated that “Apple Loses Customer Satisfaction Points,” indicating the title’s author didn’t understand the distinction between singular and plural.

In the real world, the thrust of this story reveals its absurdity. Surveys traditionally allow for small errors in the results, call it the noise instead of the signal. I would venture to say that 1% is well within the noise spectrum. What this means, basically, is that little has changed one way or the other. Now if the difference was three or even five percent, there would be reason for concern on Apple’s part if support quality declined that much. Otherwise, the real story is that tech support quality by PC makers is mostly unchanged. That, however, makes for poor headlines, thus intimations of a change, however subtle, are emphasized.

Or maybe it is true that our educational system has suffered greatly in recent years, so far too many students lack proper reading, writing and arithmetic skills. That may be one reason why you encounter any of this nonsense. Yes, they believe it. So sad!

Another possibility is far more sinister, that the media, in its search for more circulation (online or print) and ad revenues, remains willing and able to sacrifice credibility and accuracy in order to create a story where no such thing exists.

But as long as people like me are around to shout the morons down down and demonstrate the falsity of their claims, I suppose yellow journalism won’t dominate. But it’ll never go away.

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One Response to “More Rantings of the Tech Media’s Lunatic Fringe”

  1. DaveD says:

    With so much garbage posing as news items out there, the tech media along with the mainstream media seem to be quite satisfied. Do we have too many writers pretending to be journalists? Too often I experienced after reading a piece and wishing to have my ten minutes back.

    I would regain my sanity by going back to my trusted sources of good, honest reading. My short list has Jason Snell and the great group of writers at Macworld/Macuser, Daniel Eran Dilger of RoughlyDrafted Magazine, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, Adam Engst and the group at TidBITS and hopefully to see John Siracusa at Ars Technica do his classic thesis (enormous, in-depth review) of Snow Leopard soon. Solid tech writers on Macs like Charles Moore at many sites and Dan Knight at Low End Mac.

    A big tip-of-the-hat to you, Mr. Steinberg of TechNightOwl, for putting out quality, thoughtful writings daily.

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