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  • Tech and the Mainstream Media

    March 13th, 2015

    At one time, a number of newspapers featured tech columnists. I was one of them for the Arizona Republic, before we were declared obsolete in the endless rush to reduce expenses. True, there are some tech writers who still labor away on their columns at local papers; more so on national papers such as USA Today. Some are quite capable of handling the subject, while others convey the impression that this was a hand-me-down position when other jobs weren’t available.

    On cable TV news, the quality of tech reporting is usually worse. Sometimes they do bring on a representative from a tech publication who knows their stuff. At other times, they make do, and not always so well. Or they bring aboard someone with known axes to grind without being aware that they have a built-in bias that may make them not very credible.

    So we have a longtime industry analyst, such as Rob Enderle, who evidently has rarely met an Apple product that he honestly believed to be a success. He’s denigrated them with silly fear-mongering claims, which I shall not repeat here, since they have no resemblance whatever to the truth. He also has a near-zero batting average; in other words, what he says is rarely correct, yet some members of the traditional media continue to assume that he must be an expert.

    He has also received money to do work with some of Apple’s competitors. At the very least, that’s something that should be acknowledged in introducing Enderle, but it doesn’t happen. Compare that to presenting Karl Rove, a former political advisor to President George W. Bush. What they forget, or ignore, is the fact that he runs a political action committee that funds Republican campaigns. It doesn’t mean what he says should be ignored, but you have to have the full picture of where he stands and what influences his comments.

    Indeed, if the mainstream media actually did a little research to see whether a news source delivers accurate information, or projections that bear a resemblance to reality, they might be shocked and surprised. Ahead of just about every introduction of a new Apple product, be it a refresh or the first of its kind, you can assume it will be declared a failure. It doesn’t matter that Apple rarely fails, and has a solid record of revenue growth. It doesn’t matter at all. The new product must be a failure.

    How often do you hear the interviewer ask the so-called expert to explain why he or she should be believed if they are almost always wrong about Apple? Fact is you never hear of such a thing. You never read about a reporter asking such basic questions about a so-called expert’s bona fides to demonstrate they are to be taken seriously.

    It’s very easy for a lazy reporter to just look at a contact list and call up someone who is supposed to be an expert or go-to person on this subject or the other, without once checking whether that person will make sense. There is no government test for an industry or financial analyst, and anyone can hang out a shingle and try to make a go of it. I suppose if you’re skilled at pithy and provocative comments, and you land an interview or two, you might leverage that to signing up some clients, and you’re on the way to fame and fortune.

    I suppose. But I haven’t tried it, even though I think my modest track record is better than most of them, but I’ll let you readers decide.

    So we just know that Apple Watch must be an egregious failure, simply because existing products haven’t gone far beyond the tech geek universe. So maybe Pebble sold one million smartwatches, but don’t expert many people will wear them as pieces of jewelry. It’s a tech toy, and possibly useful to some, but it exists in a different space than Apple Watch. From the TV ads, you know where Apple is reaching for sales.

    I have no guesses to make here, no predictions except to be on the lookout for early sales reports from Apple. Since Apple Watch is rolled into other numbers in Apple’s financials, you won’t know how well it’s doing, after it goes on sale next month, unless the most popular models are sold out and you have to wait weeks or an Edition, s0 real numbers are publicized. This will happen if Apple Watch meets or exceeds Apple’s expectations, but no numbers won’t necessary presage failure.

    You might also want to look at Mac sales for the current quarter. Intel has already disappointed the financial community by announcing revenues will be less than projected, simply because PC sales aren’t meeting expectations. If Apple pulls off yet another decent increase in Mac sales despite the headwinds, that will be significant. But remember that the new MacBook won’t be available until April, the next quarter. But the other new Macs are shipping now.

    And, no, I will not charge for delivering these humble estimates, and I won’t quit my day job, whatever that is.



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    4 Responses to “Tech and the Mainstream Media”

    1. DaveD says:

      I will only write out the name of the so-called analyst as Mr. R.E. The Macalope at Macworld the other day brought out his name again for more laughs.

      Though I’m not in the market for the Apple Watch, what concerns me after reading John Gruber’s Daring Fireball on others’ early reaction to the watch interface is seeing words like confusion and complication. Is the software side of the house of Apple losing its focus on simplicity and ease-of-use? That thought had come to mind after using OS X Yosemite.

    2. Kaleberg says:

      I don’t wear a watch, so I can’t really judge the sales prospects of the Apple Watch, but I do remember the old Bulova Accutron which was a real hit back in the 1960s. It was the watch of choice if you were going to the moon. Apparently, they are still (or perhaps again) being manufactured and sold for $450 and up. A steel band model costs $650. I don’t know if they still use the little tuning fork or a modern quartz crystal for accuracy, but I doubt they have WiFi, Bluetooth, a touch screen and so on. Suddenly, the $350 Apple Watch looks like a bargain, especially if you already have an iPhone as so many people do.

      The sheer number of Accutron options was surprising. I assumed it was out of production after maybe 50 years. If it had been revived, I expected perhaps a few classic models to be available, like the see through one. Instead, there was a whole ecosystem of watches with all sorts of bands in a variety of colors. I can’t guess how many are being sold these days, but I imagine a fair number. As with the Apple Watch, there are a few basic central components that are customized as to face, hand, case and band color and materials. Based on this I expect the Apple Watch to be a success.

      For now, the Apple Watch is a phone accessory, like a rubber case or fold up keyboard. In five or maybe ten years, I expect it to be a standalone device with its own access to some cell phone system, though this will require disrupting the cell phone companies’ business model. The cost per line and the complex set up are stifling the technology. Of course, this kind of disruption is something that Apple is surprisingly good at.

    3. dfs says:

      DaveD: Within the watchmaking industry “complication” is the technical term used to designate any function on a watch other than display of the time: stopwatch, day and date, phases of the moon, etc. etc. etc. As such, this term bears no necessariiy perjorative connotation.

    4. DaveD says:

      @dfs, Thank you.

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