Is Vic There?

UPDATE 9/14: Victor Keegan responds in comments.


Dear Victor Keegan of The Guardian:

The Macalope knows we haven’t met before, but he felt compelled to respond to your recent column entitled Every Empire Crumbles.

There are some notable errors and an overall paucity of critical thought. The Macalope knows a little about how newspapers work in the U.S., but in the UK is it common for columns to be handed out like tuppence to a busker performing “God Save The Queen” in the Covent Garden Underground station on a guitar that hasn’t been tuned since the Falklands War?

It looks as though Steve Jobs, boss of Apple, might need a charisma download after what many people thought was a lacklustre performance – by his own high standards – at the company’s much hyped developers’ jamboree in San Francisco yesterday.

The Macalope thinks you must be confusing WWDC – which is for developers but was in August – with yesterday’s Special Event which was for members of the media. In your defense, developers are somewhat like reporters in that they’re sullen, ill-tempered and often look like they slept in their clothes.

Actually, since he had hardly anything new to say, he didn’t make a bad fist off it.

It’s been a long time since the Macalope has seen Quadrophenia, so forgive him if he isn’t “hip” to your “funky lingo”. But he thinks he at least understands the first part of that and wonders what it would take for you to think Apple had announced something “new”. Jobs announced a new movie download service, new iPods across the board – including the first digital music player the size of a postage stamp – and a new set-top box that has the technology world abuzz.

The Macalope hates to break it to you, but he thinks Crazy Apple Rumors is just kidding about the whole sexbot thing. Here in the real world, yesterday’s announcements are pretty big.

But, Vic, Vic, Vic. Would that were the only point that causes the Macalope to think you’re just the latest in a string of columnists that attended John Dvorak’s summer program on How To Increase Your Web Traffic Through Apple Bashing.

[The iPod] simply can’t maintain the phenomenal growth of recent years (indeed sales have dropped for two successive quarters).

Mmm. Yes. It’s always shocking when people don’t buy iPods as much in the first two calendar quarters of the year as they do in the quarter that includes Christmas.

Hey, you know, maybe that’s why serious analysts always compare quarters year-over-year. Just for fun, let’s take a look at that.

Wow. Both quarters were above the same quarter from the previous year, the first calendar quarter by 60% and the second by 32%.

If you’re looking to pass yourself off as a serious analyst, Vic, the Macalope suggests you might criticize the decline in sales growth quarter over quarter, but even then it’s hard to knock a company for failing to sustain 60% growth.

And, Vic, buddy, it just gets worse from there.

Leaving aside the question of why we need an extra intermediary to get films to our television sets…

Hey, if you want to drag your tower over to your TV every time you want to watch a downloaded movie, be the Macalope’s guest.

…the mere fact that he announced it at all, was a sign of weakness. It was done to prevent people buying a rival device from Microsoft. Or whoever.

Who sells a comparable device that works with a movie download service out of the box with a minimum of configuration (this is Apple we’re talking about, remember)?

And is there a lot of chafing when you pull things out of your ass like that?

Meanwhile, Apple is hoping that its user friendly iTunes infrastructure will enable it to be a natural host for the video revolution. It may. No one should ever write off Apple’s amazing ability to reinvent itself. But this time it is leading from the rear.

If by “rear” you mean “front.” Yes, Apple doesn’t have as many studios as Amazon. But every single iPod owner already has iTunes loaded on their computer reminding them to update to iTunes 7. Amazon faces an uphill battle to try to entice people to come download their intrusive client software (antler tip to Daring Fireball).

And one other thing: Amazon’s service isn’t available yet. [Macalope: the Macalope saw the pre-release last week and missed the release on Friday. Apologies. He also assumed that based on the reports of buggy software, that it was still weeks away from production.]

Then you link to yourself to try to make the point that cell phones are going to crush the iPod.

It is no coincidence that in the first quarter, when Apple suffered a sharp drop in iPod sales…

Yeah, that 60% year-over-year growth is a killer.

… (blaming it, implausibly, on seasonal factors)…

Yeah, cyclicality is such bullshit! The oil and gas industry has been milking that crap for years!

… the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said that half of all digital music sold in 2005 went directly to mobile phones (including ringtones).

Ringtones.

Right. [Macalope: In comments, Victor Keegan says the only ringtones included were full tracks, but the Macalope still contends there’s a world of difference between phones that are “music phones” and those that play a handful of ringtones of varying quality.]

Nokia alone, a late entrant to music, plans to ship 80m music phones this year (almost double last year’s iPod sales).

Wow. That seemed like an awful lot to the Macalope. He was curious, Vic, whether or not you were still including phones that just play ringtones.

According to a July 12th MP3.com article:

Nokia said today that its own music phone has sold more than 1 million units in less than four months.

Uh-huh. So… yeah, unless you’re expecting them to have a really monstrous second half of the year, you’re still including ringtones. Okey-doke.

There will always be lots of people wanting dedicated cameras or iPods, but the majority of people in future will opt to have all these functions on one device rather than two or three. They already are.

If you include ringtones!

But if you don’t, not so much (at least yet). And here’s why.

Nokia’s 3250 sells for $350 and comes with 1 GB of space for music. A 1 GB iPod is $79, leaving you $271 to spend on a phone that doesn’t play music but does a whole lot of other stuff and probably doesn’t cost nearly $271. Or you could just get the free phone that comes with your plan and use the $271 pay for a whole year of calls.

MP3.com also says:

According to market research firm Ovum, an estimated 27 percent of the mobile phones sold globally this year will be able to store and play music and will jump to 69 percent by 2010.

Note that MP3.com doesn’t seem to include ringtones in the group of phones known as those that “store and play music.”

According to CNet, mobile phone sales were projected to be about 850 million this year, so 230 million will be what most people think of as “music phones.” That’s still a lot and probably more than 5 times the number of iPods Apple will sell, but it’s from all vendors, Apple actually sells music for some of those phones and buying a music phone and buying an iPod are not mutually exclusive.

Some of those music phone purchasers also own iPods. The kind of person who buys a $350 cell phone that only holds a smattering of her music collection may very well also have a higher-capacity iPod that holds all of her music collection.

But let’s get back to yesterday’s Special Event and your alternate-reality interpretation thereof.

The only people who will definitely clean up are the lawyers. Apple’s decision to call its new device iTV may just possibly produce a thundering legal letter from a certain television company in the UK.

Oh, dear.

Now Vic, let’s be honest…

…you didn’t actually watch the presentation, did you? Because if you had, you would have heard Steve Jobs clearly say that “iTV” was a code name and was going to be replaced when the product ships.

Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, Vic, VIC!

It’s not the Apple-bashing the Macalope detests so much.

It’s all the lying [Macalope: meant as hyperbole but the Macalope will withraw it at Victor Keegan’s request].

The Macalope understands if you have yourself a comfortable gig over there at the Guardian where they – for whatever reason – pay you to write your desperate cries for attention.

But the thing is, your cries aren’t very compelling when they’re so bad.

The Macalope would suggest you look no further than your previous column for guidance:

Feeling in need of literary refreshment this morning, I dipped into the 1851 edition of the Sentences and Maxims of the Duke of La Rochefoucauld, the great seventeenth century cynic, who ought to be compulsory reading for all who take themselves too seriously. One of the Duke’s aphorisms, “It is a great folly to wish to be wise all alone,” would sit well on every blogger’s desktop.

Physician, heal thyself. Next time you sit down to write about Apple, do a little homework.

Fondest regards,
The Macalope