Lies, damned lies and statistics

This week’s Macworld piece sums up the Macalope’s Retrevo survey criticism and looks at a claim made in new Apple ads as well as some of Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’s analysis of the ads.

Survey results

Astonishing! Macalope readers prefer the MacBook over netbooks by a bazillion to one! And it’s completely science-riffic!

Please take this short survey!

Unsatisfied with the results of the Retrevo survey on back-to-school laptop purchasing, the Macalope has decided to conduct his own competing survey.

Please take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to complete this highly important and completely scientific survey.

Remember, we’re particularly interested in back-to-school shoppers (hint-hint).

Click here to proceed.

UPDATE: Oops! Survey is back online. (Apparently there was a free limit of 100, but what’s $20 in the name of science?)


“The dawn of the netbook” is the new “the year of desktop linux”.

Cameron Hunt (one of the makers of Birdhouse)

Apple losing sales to netbooks?

The Macalope has seen this Retrevo survey linked to a number of places and has some real questions about it.

First of all, Retrevo is not a research firm like Gartner. They’re a conduit to online sales. Do they get a cut of the sales from affiliate fees? The Macalope can’t tell from their web site.

Second, it’s interesting to note that one of their partners is HP, maker of netbooks. Maybe Apple is a partner too and they’re just not listed. Doubtful, but possible. HP is also specifically mentioned in the press release as one of the low-cost netbook alternatives to a MacBook. As a matter of fact, they’re the only other laptop vender mentioned. Hmm.

Third, what “trend” does their latest press release show? The title of their press release is:

Retrevo Survey Says Apple Loses Back-to-School Laptop Shoppers to Netbook & PC

Yet the press release says nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, it says very little.

Retrevo, the consumer electronics marketplace, released today a new Gadgetology study indicating 34% of students buying laptops are planning on purchasing small, lightweight netbooks. Another 49% are buying full-sized PC laptops. The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Assuming the second number excludes Macs, 34 + 49 = 83. Does that mean 17% of those surveyed are buying Mac laptops? What was Apple’s market share last year? How many sales or how much market share has Apple supposedly “lost” compared to last year?

They don’t provide that data. They just go on to castigate Apple for not having a low-cost laptop. It’s certainly possibly that netbooks are stealing the low end of the market where Apple doesn’t compete and it’s possible they’re growing that end of the market, but there’s absolutely nothing in their press release that show that Apple is losing sales to netbooks.

The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Uh, yeah. Apple has a market share below 10 percent. Of course the majority of even student laptop shoppers aren’t considering them.

Fourth, is an online sample size of 300 really statistically valid? That seems awfully low to the pointy one, but he’s no statistician.

This just seems very dubious.

ADDED: As TC points out in comments, this is only going to tell you something about what visitors to their site think (the survey was only of site visitors). And isn’t that an important bit of selection bias right there? What Retrevo does is pull together the prices from various online outlets. Their visitors are already self-defined as low-cost shoppers. They’re trying to find the lowest price. Don’t most Macs get sold through Apple’s online store and retail outlets anyway? How many people are ever going to visit Retrevo with the thought of buying a Mac?

MORE: Look at their “value map” for Apple laptops. Only three – the three cheapest – rate a “fair value”. All the others are rated “low value”. Ask yourself if that’s a fair assessment of Apple laptops. Again, it certainly appears that people who visit Retrevo’s site have some pre-conceived ideas about Apple’s laptop offerings. To these people low price = good value. To the Macalope, that describes a group that would rarely buy an Apple laptop in the first place.

1964 all over again

This week’s Macworld piece looks at the Beatles rumor, tablet rumors and your relationship with the iPhone.

The hook

Neven Mrgan on the specialized device

But while we wait for that future, the tablet doesn’t have to be a weird half-solution. See, about a year ago I said of tablets that they’re “small enough that you can take them anywhere, and big enough that you won’t take them anywhere.” As in, you always have your phone on you, and if you need something bigger – that is, big enough to need a carrying case or bag – why not just grab a laptop? But then I heard a few comments about certain special cases where a tablet would actually be the total bee’s knees; cooler and more useful than a laptop.

Special cases such as digital sketching and painting.

Or take the cases of professional photography and medical imaging…

But Apple’s not really really the kind of company that’s going to make a specialized device. Apple generally makes things that have broad market appeal, so the Macalope think there’s a hook we’re missing here.

The Macalope likes to imagine an Apple pitch meeting like something out of The Player in which every movie was pitched as a combination of two previous movies. “It’s Prizzi’s Honor meets Turner & Hooch!” etc. One thing is something Apple already makes, the other thing is something they’re not involved in yet.

The iPhone was phone meets Mac. The Apple TV was Mac meets TV. Maybe the tablet is Front Row meets iPod (phrased like that it doesn’t sound like it’d win approval – maybe there’s a better way to put it) or Mac meets book or newspaper. Or Mac meets hand-held game device as Neven alludes (although, the iPhone and Touch already fill that scenario).

Whatever it is, it seems to the horny one that a simple way of phrasing it exists, whether they actually use it overtly internal to Apple or not. We just don’t know what it is yet.

The anecdotal tempest

This week’s piece on Macworld looks at some silly punditry and asks “How big is this so-called ‘iPhone revolt’ anyway?” And who likes Twitter feeds that tell iPhone complainers to stuff it?! We do!

Ball of confusion

This week’s Macworld piece looks at three pieces of silly punditry, the Windows 7 upgrade process and the App Store angst.

How hard could it be?

Walt Mossberg asked Microsoft for a Windows 7 upgrade matrix and here’s what they sent him.

Yow. That’s a lot more custom installs than even the Macalope envisioned.