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  • Google, Samsung and Cheating

    August 1st, 2013

    In recent days, there have been published reports that clearly indicate some survey numbers are being fudged to make it seem as it Samsung is doing better in some areas than Apple. So we have that widely-quoted claim that Samsung earned more profits from the company’s mobile handset division than Apple earned with the iPhone.

    This, of course, was not true. The most blatant error was listing Samsung’s profits before taxes, and Apple’s profits after taxes. To add insult to injury, the Samsung mobile division also includes tablets and PCs. The equivalent for Apple would include the iPhone, iPad, and Macs. Since that’s most of the company’s profits, they’d be way higher than Samsung reported regardless.

    It has also been revealed that Samsung may have messed with the software code on the Samsung Galaxy S4 to produce better benchmarks. Evidently, the processors were being pushed faster while benchmarks were run just to look good, while regular users couldn’t achieve anything near that performance level running regular apps. Imagine an athlete, for example, taking those infamous enhancement drugs. In other words, Samsung is gaming the system.

    In fact, in my personal experience, I find that the Galaxy S4 smartphone seems hardly faster in real use than the Galaxy S3, despite scoring twice as high on those canned speed tests.

    To be fair, Samsung denies the charge, but has yet to explain away the code changes evidently made to boost the results in various benchmarking utilities.

    Despite pulling these silly stunts, and perhaps others, Samsung is a huge, successful conglomerate, one that has a high revenue stream and respectable profits. Indeed, Samsung and Apple own pretty much all the profits in the mobile space. Just about everyone else is barely breaking even or losing money. HTC is reporting a loss, Google’s Motorola Mobility division hasn’t shown a profit in years, and Microsoft took a $900 inventory write-down because very few people want to buy a Surface tablet.

    But it’s not just Samsung with its hands caught in the cookie jar. Google has come under criticism for allegedly falsifying sales results in Japan to claim the original Nexus 7 was outselling the iPad mini. This scheme was perpetrated using stats that omitted the seven Apple Stores in Japan, Apple’s online sales division, and other vendors. In other words, most of the key sources of iPad sales were simply ignored. Google is also notorious for playing fast and loose with Android activation numbers. Seems they include all devices running some version of Android, even if they are not Google’s version, such as the Amazon Kindle and Kindle Fire. This includes the forked versions of Android that are used in Asia on tens of millions of cheap mobile gadgets.

    In recent years, as more and more iPads were sold, some industry analysts tended to place the stats in a separate category from PCs, which lessened the apparent impact on the industry. So we had such things as “media consumption tablets,” based on the theory that a tablet, including an iPad, is not meant for any productive work but for relaxation. In the real world, there are loads of productive apps for iOS and Android, and some use these gadgets in place of a traditional PC.

    Indeed, as time marches on, this trend from PC to tablet is apt to increase, meaning that the definition is wrong. Besides, Microsoft has been pushing tablets for years, only to them a tablet is just another PC form factor that, all things being equal, will continue to run Windows. That hasn’t quite worked out the way they planned, but that’s a matter of poor execution, rather than having a bad idea. Indeed, it appears Apple went with the concept in developing the iPad as a new-fangled personal computing appliance.

    Maybe Microsoft would have done better to make a larger effort to actually imitate the iPad, developing a custom OS optimized for low-resource mobile gear, rather than just delivering the same crappy Windows 8 interface. It’s not that this game plan has worked for them. And, by the way, Microsoft has been pulling a few stunts in ads that promote the Surface tablet. Notice, for example, the spots in which they reduce the size of the iPad to make it seem to have the same depth as a Surface when tilted horizontally. That is designed to make the Surface, which has a widescreen display, seem noticeably larger than it really is. But it really hasn’t helped, since Surface sales have been extremely poor compared to almost any major competitor out there.

    Now in the real world, cheating isn’t all that unusual, although you hope that a business would choose to compete honestly, one great product against another great product, and let the best one win. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for hype and aggressive marketing. Certainly, you can find ads from Apple that might be a tad misleading, such as those TV ads in which Siri was always obedient, always accurate, even though user experiences in the real world tended to be hit or miss. Or maybe it only worked with famous people.

    But when a company attempts to make a product look better than it really is with blatant fakery, the media needs to call them out on it. Too bad most of the issues I’ve mentioned here have only been outed by a small number of journalists. Most of the rest are little better than copying machines, simply quoting press releases regardless of accuracy.

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