Scripting News for 1/13/2007

Paul O’Brien wonders if he has to obey a lawyer that works for Apple. I am not a lawyer, but Mike Arrington is.  

You don’t need to lock us in 

On The Media segment looking at Apple’s ability to turn marketing into news.

This is what I was trying to say yesterday. Carrying Apple’s product announcements as if they were news is probably not good for reporters and bloggers, ethically. We’re making a big mistake if we accept the news about iPhone, for example, only from Apple. There are other companies already in this market. How about taking a close look at their products when Apple asks us to look at the category? When Apple boasts of patents, as if that were a feature for users (imho it’s a feature that’s actually against them), this begs for a closer look as well.

Now, that’s starting to happen, and that’s good.

Another example. I took my friend Rex Hammock, who was in town for the Expo from Nashville, to Fry’s in Concord, for a cultural exchange. When I visited Nashville a couple of years ago, Rex took me to a great BBQ place. Fry’s is the closest we come to culture here in the Bay Area (I also took him on a drive up Grizzly Peak Blvd, the roundabout way to Walnut Creek, with great views of the Bay and the city). Rex, who had attended the Jobs keynote the day before, suggested I might get one of their new fast routers. I took him to the part of Fry’s where they had a whole shelf full of “Pre-N” routers, all of which were exactly as fast as Apple’s (and cheaper too). This fact had not come out yesterday, in the rush of all the press coverage. To be fair, the router was almost an afterthought in the panoply of marketing that masqueraded as news, but it should have been mentioned, right up front — there probably isn’t anything special about Apple’s product.

We have a lot of catching up to do here. Apple has received an unfair advantage from the press, and also from bloggers. I’m not saying that we should give Microsoft a free pass, because they still control who gets their news, and that’s wrong, it compromises the integrity of every reporter that takes their offer. It can be hard for reporters to say no, but they must, if they want to deserve our respect.

Many companies have lost their businesses, and customers have lost a lot of choice because of this system. Well-intentioned people inside the companies are led to believe that their products don’t have to be competitive because they have the press in their pocket, and lawyers to protect them with patents. James Plamondon, a good guy for sure, should never have been able to think of developers as pawns. The only way it makes sense is for them to think of developers as competitors. That’s where respect comes from. When we get there, vendors will make products that we use, they will not be thought leaders, or gurus. This is what they demand in order for us to have access. But we’re not doing them any favors by giving them what they ask for, and we’re sure not doing any favors to the users, and to ourselves.

I don’t believe for a minute that Jobs’s closed-box approach to cell phones is the right one. Growth is driven by choice. The Internet grew because, for the 80th time, it was the platform with no platform vendor. The Apple II won, the Mac won, the PC won, even Windows won, because you could install any software you wanted on them. The iPod is a wonderful product, but damn it’s time we made one that could run our software, could run any software, so users have choice, and so you don’t have to buy new hardware to get software features, and so the market can grow at the rate of innovation, not at the whim of one marketer.

Apple is now bidding once again to become the total control platform vendor that they have always been inside. When they introduce the phone software to the Macintosh (seems inevitable, doesn’t it?) will they shut down developers there too? I am writing this on a Mac, because it’s much better than Windows. Apple didn’t need any patents to get me to buy their system. I don’t even like the company, I think they’re brats, small thinkers. Even though I don’t have to, every year I spend thousands of dollars on their products. That says all I need to know about what kinds of locks you need on users. The only lock you need is to create a better product. The rest of it is nonsense.

Smoke and mirrors 

Sylvia Paull, who worked at a Mac software developer when NeXT was rolling out, explains how they fooled reporters into thinking that there was working software for Steve Jobs’s new computer. Great story.

She invited reporters to look under the table where there was a Mac that was actually running the supposed NeXT app, but they wouldn’t look. If they reported the fiasco, they’d lose access. This kind of deception is the rule, not the exception, in Silicon Valley.

I’ve heard from people who were at the Jobs presentation this week that there was a wire connecting his cell phone to something. I can’t tell you myself, because I am not allowed to attend Apple press events. If I were there, I would tell you.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on January 13, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Apple is now bidding once again to become the total control platform vendor that they have always been inside. When they introduce the phone software to the Macintosh (seems inevitable, doesn’t it?) will they shut down developers there too? I am writing this on a Mac, because it’s much better than Windows. Apple didn’t need any patents to get me to buy their system. I don’t even like the company, I think they’re brats, small thinkers. I don’t ooh and ahh at product demos, people who do make me want to puke. Even though I don’t like them, and I don’t have to, every year I spend thousands of dollars on their products. That says all I need to know about what kinds of locks you need on users. The only lock you need is to create a better product. The rest of it is nonsense. “Dave

    Exactly Dave, that’s why I prefer to have a windows Machine and really enjoy Vista, while I can see some prefer open source and some form of Linux, I prefer the middle ground with a well supported OS that doesn’t force me to pay for albeit pretty hardware that’s priced 30 to 50precent higher than everybody else and doesn’t show the same kind of durability as a good Dell or Thinkpad.

    I do like Apple, but it’s the arrogance of the fans and the company that just turns me off , I refuse to even buy a Mac untill Apple shuts down their reality distortion field and comes back down to earth with a little humility.

    The iPhone is a perfect exhample, where’s the objectivity, why did Apple announce this project almost 6 months before delivery, why only Cingular and thier painfully slow 3G edge network, by having an exclusive deal with Cingular and locking out Sprint and Verizon and EVDO,thay have basicly locked out about 100 million phone users who have chosen not to use Cingular for one reason or another.

    And the price, 499 or 599, it’s obvious that Apple doesn’t want to let phone carriers subsidize the phone to get buyers in the door, but why in my right mind would I pay this when the cell phone industry constantly cherns out new and updated phones every few months, what’s great today is old news and just about useless in 6 months.

    Apple has entered an indusrty that is extremly competitive and creative, and I beleive that only the most diehard of Mac fans will concider this Phone to be the last word in this field.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Steve on January 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Oh, one more thing Dave, is the battery in this new iPhone replaceable? probably not, and thats a no no,.

    I buy extended Batteries all the time for my Phones and like to purchase new phones and just swap them out when I need to.

    Once agin, nobody seems to be really asking these questions.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jeffrey Jones on January 13, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Hi Dave,

    I believe the media is totally under the control of the companies that own them and bribe them. All objectivity is lost, not only with Apple and Microsoft, but with political coverage as well. There is a great documentary on this topic (available on NetFlix) titled “Orwell rolls in his grave”. Well worth the time.

    -Jeff

    Reply

  4. Dave as always make a good point.

    But…

    Every product is a tradeoff of choices. The question is, do the positives far outweigh the negatives and lead me/us to a buying decision. In the argument of closed vs. open platform choice, the answer for me due to the iPhone features that are known today, let alone, possible tomorrow, is a resounding yes.

    Reply

  5. Thanks Dave.

    I’m glad someone else gets it too.

    Reply

  6. Posted by j james on January 13, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    you can clearly see the wire in the keynote video.

    i imagine it’s just sending display output from the phone to the large screen. there are a few split screens that show him working the phone at the same time.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Wes Felter on January 13, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Or the actual software is running on a Mac behind the scenes and the cable is sending the display data *into* the phone over the cable.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Jeremy on January 13, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Or the actual software is running on a Mac behind the scenes and the cable is sending the display data *into* the phone over the cable.

    What would be the point of going so such lengths? Such a scheme would still require the demonstrated touch screen interface to be functional and the phone software to be ready. Presumably one might resort to your scenario if Apple’s engineers had not produced working iPhone software and only had prototypes that ran on Mac/Intel OS X, but this would be highly doubtful.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Diego on January 13, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    If you watch the keynote, Steve explains that the wire is simply there to run video to the big screen. Just so that you can see what he’s doing. No conspiracy theory there.

    BTW, you can download the keynote from iTunes:
    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=212293773&s=143460&i=13433123

    Reply

  10. Jobs explained the wire in his keynote, it was to relay the video from the phone for the projected images. He also explained the early announcement–he wanted to announce it before the info was public via the FCC.

    People are excited about the phone so they talk about it. Isn’t that what blogging is about? Isn’t that what you’re doing here too, writing about it? The device is news worthy–some issues yes–but the first consumer use of a multi-touch screen has legs beyond hyped marketing. And I want one too, and plan to talk to firends and family about how cool I think it is. What’s the big deal?

    And there actually IS an open development platform for writing apps for the iPhone. it’s called the web. Not as cool as writing Cocoa apps, but the web-apps you could write for the iPhone easily beats out anything you could write for other mobile web-browsers. It comes with an interface that gives you a reasonable way to use all the existing apps on the web… um. that’s pretty damn cool.

    It’s like “is Google evil?” talk. People are asking Apple to keep to a much much higher standard than the rest of the providers in this space. The ring-tone and mobile-app industry is very surprisingly HUGE. Apple is a tiny fish swimming with fat sharks–careful moves are appropriate.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Mark on January 13, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Dave,

    The cable in the demo is for video out. Pretty standard in the keynotes. Okay to be suspicious, but the news videos of both Phil Schiller and Greg Joswiak demoing devices for reporters on the floor have no wires and clearly show the features of the device without any smoke and mirrors…at least for what they were showing. So tell the whole story if you’re going to raise suspicions here. Thanks. Keep up the great work.

    Reply

  12. >>And there actually IS an open development platform for writing apps for the iPhone. it’s called the web.

    yippie…like we don’t already know how bad web-browsing through a mobile phone is. Its like the guy answering my post yesterday…”Yeah, but you can run your own server,” my paraphasing.

    >>People are asking Apple to keep to a much much higher standard than the rest of the providers in this space.

    no we’re not. We’re asking for access so we can make it the best platform and push Apple into the mainstream, and other markets, like business.

    Everyone already knows that if it can’t sync to an Exchange server for email; and you can’t customize it; then businesses will not adopt it; and it will remain a fan-boy toy…then die like the Newton, which was ahead of its time but lasted cause you could dev for it.

    maybe Apple’s target market is the “Paris Hilton” types, rich and stupid; but, oh, a diamond encrusted version doesn’t exist yet.

    >>The ring-tone and mobile-app industry is very surprisingly HUGE. Apple is a tiny fish swimming with fat sharks–careful moves are appropriate.

    I just wish people would stop providing excusses. Size does not matter. Most phone companies/providers suck…huge mindless companies doing everything to squeeze their customers. Everyone wants Apple to succeed. You either enter a market with a mind set of kicking-ass or just don’t bother.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Michael Gartenberg on January 13, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    The wire was explained in the keynote as a video out so he could project what he was doing. I spent some time with two units post keynote and they worked as demonstrated (Mossberg, Levy, Pogue and others also got time with units).

    Reply

  14. Posted by chris on January 13, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    with regard to the pre-N wireless router, the Apple model does something most of those faceless models don’t — it gives you a USB port for a printer OR a disk (or both). see http://www.apple.com/airportextreme/sharing.html Seems like a step up from the run-of-the-mill wireless router to me, no?

    Reply

  15. Maybe the battery life is really bad…. (just kidding, I think)

    Seems likely to be the video out (does the iPhone support video out? seems unlikely).

    That said I’ve worked for plenty of valley companies that did “man behind the curtain” demos of forthcoming products.

    Reply

  16. Don’t tell Dave the wire is there for innocent, functional reasons like so the audience can see what he’s doing on a 3.5″ screen. That wouldn’t help his yellow journalism/blogging.

    The problem is that Dave likes and owns a bunch of current Apple stuff. But he’s bashed Apple for so long, he doesn’t know how to reconcile these. He has to continue to hit ‘em hard on any minor thing he can dig up. He’s convinced there’s something evil going on under there, yet they have so many customers who have stuck with them since the early years. Whatever Apple is doing this whole time, it seems to be working in the end-user’s interest. And these people have decided this stuff is worth the price they pay.

    Bottomline: couldn’t every product be better? Yup. And if someone else one-ups them, the consumer will choose that if they feel it’s better. No one company is ever going to make every product please every customer in every way. Would it be awesome if the iPhone could take any app we wanted? Absolutely. But we won’t know with certainty what the the iPhone will or won’t do until June, when it’s released. If you want to say “hey, it would make the product so much more valuable to me if it did x, y, z” on your blog, do so! That’s what its there for! And Apple wants to know, because they want to sell as many as possible. But to cut them down and call them evil because you’re fairly certain a product that’s at least 4 months from release is ridiculous. Sensationalist, even. Be constructive, or be just like the MSM: who either blindly praise or condemn everything. “OMG, my phone doesn’t run the bash shell! Those bastards!” Unnecessary. If it doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other phones out there.

    An its plain stupid to criticize Apple for taking as much free publicity as possible. You’d do the exact same thing. And in this case, I think it is news worthy, because this device is an enormous step forward in the mobile space. If for nothing more than the UI, which is downright humane. What a concept.

    And by the way, I could be wrong, but I’m not aware of any routers on the market that are a/b/g/draft-n/4-port hardwired (too bad its not gigabit, but i won’t cry). Let alone any that allow you to run printers and hard drive with per-client access controls and the awesome setup software and bonjour for windows! I haven’t seen that on any store shelves. Like the iPod, this product is not the first in its space.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Diego on January 13, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    “there probably isn’t anything special about Apple’s product.”

    So you hadn’t looked in to the details of it? Just got the blurb of it from somewhere, someone and ran with it? Same with the cable coming out of the iPhone.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Reg on January 13, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    NeXT used Macs to prototype their cubes, no secret there. It had the same Motorola 680×0 processor.

    Did you know Microsoft used Power Mac G5s to prototype the Xbox 360 and run the development SDK?

    http://www.anandtech.com/tradeshows/showdoc.aspx?i=2420&p=5

    (Scroll down to the 8th and 9th pictures.)

    Because, again, the G5s had the PowerPC processor needed to simulate the not-yet-in-production Xbox 360 hardware.

    As for the “closed system” comments. Well, yes, as a developer I’d very much like to be able to write an app for the Apple Phone. But also as a HP iPAQ phone with Windows Mobile 5.0 running, I know just how unstable installing apps makes it.

    My phone can and does actually CRASH, requiring a restart (pen tip in hole type thing). A phone is meant to “just work.” Mine “just crashes” and only part of it is the OS fault. The Win32 API on it leaves a lot of possibilities for memory leaks and infinite loops. Inevitably, some of the apps I like to use probably have a few holes, bringing it down.

    I can understand Apple, at least for version 1.0, wanting to present a better experience. Chances are they’ll open up the Cocoa APIs and loader for future iterations, once the phone kernel is protected enough.

    But as for the iPod itself… surely the software it runs is music and podcasts and video? It’s open enough.

    If there was really compelling app, it could be written under uClinux and the user prompted to install that first. http://ipodlinux.org/ A better approach might be to offer the killer app to Apple for a large sum, and they could install it as per the EA games on the 5th gen iPod.

    The fact that only hardcore geeks do the former that do that suggests it’s a hardcore geeks’ problem only. And though it’s certainly possible, as yet there have been no killer apps to emerge for running on a Linux’d iPod.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Michael G. Brandon on January 13, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    “When Apple boasts of patents, as if that were a feature for users (imho it’s a feature that’s actually against them), this begs for a closer look as well.”

    Actually, patents CAN be a feature for users.

    I don’t own a cell phone but I am looking for one. And when I look out towards the entire market I see nothing but a vast sea of copycats. To me they all look alike. In fact when I was watching Steve Jobs display those four smartphones during his keynote what really struck me was just how much they looked like each other. And that’s really part of my problem in finding a cell phone, the similarities, features and choices are totally overwhelming for a cell phone newbie like me.

    So along comes the iPhone. Now, when Apple brags that they have 200 patents on it (And I’m assuming these patents are legitamate patents and do not violate prior art) what that says to me as a potential iPhone buyer is that the iPhone has 200 features on it that no other cell phone currently has or will have until the patents either expire or are licenened out to potential clients. That sounds pretty good to me.

    I’m a hardcore Mac user, a 17″ Macbook Pro is my main machine. I don’t have to buy an iPhone, but I have to admit the features, all potentially 200 of them are sure convincing me to buy an iPhone.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Jim Armstrong on January 13, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    OK,

    I just have to throw my nickel into the ring. (inflation)

    1. I’ve have a couple of martinis tonight, so I have given myself the right to speak.

    2. The iPhone is really cool up close. (Bob LeVitus tells me it is even cooler to touch, than it is from 6 inches away. The colors are really vibrant, the UI is really cool.

    3. After seeing it from 6 inches away, I thought this was the coolest products ever made. When you compare it the the original Macintosh, it has better features, and performance, because of Moore’s Law. It is also better than the Newton and the iPod.

    4. My disappointment is that the iPhone is 5 months not 6 months away, and that only Cingular – (rather ATT wireless will be selling it exclusively for 18 months).Weren’t they broken up as a Monolopy years ago?

    5. iPhone or Apple Phone as a name doesn’t matter much to me. Apple Phone is already an Apple tradename from the 300 baud creation from John Draper (aka Capt’N Crunch).

    6. I’ll think of a few more points in a couple of minutes.

    Reply

  21. Posted by Tom on January 14, 2007 at 10:45 am

    One must realize that there’s very little “news” out there, it’s mostly information as entertainment. Apple for a long time was the little guy and they’re obviously good at marketing and pretty good at producing popular products (iPod) that look cool, so that fits in well with an entertaining “news” segment. Plus, Apple has a love/hate relationship with the tech community and high passions always result in more attention from viewers/readers of those “news” segments. Apple’s ability to turn marketing into news is simply their understanding that news is entertainment.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Al Willis on January 15, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I wrote something on Mark Pilgrim’s blog that’s appropriate here: http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/01/12/sharecroppers#comment-7769

    Short answer: I’d swap my Treo 700p in a heartbeat for an iPhone. I don’t need lots of mediocre programs, just a few excellent ones.

    I can’t resist: a leap in technology is newsworthy, regardless whether or not it’s an Apple product. Don’t blame Steve and Apple just because most of the rest of the industry doesn’t understand how to get the most bang for the buck with the media. This is a genuinely exciting product.

    The difference between Gates’ keynote and Jobs’ is literally night and day. The contrast between the reaction to the Zune and the iPhone shows the difference in reaction between a “me too” product and a breakthrough product.

    I suspect that when it’s all said and done, the iPhone will be open enough for most savvy users. As Steve said, the killer app for a phone is making phone calls and it’s already better doing that than any cell phone I’ve ever seen.

    Reply

  23. Speaking of iPhone criticism, I suspect that the most-talked about downside to the iPhone won’t reveal itself until sometime in mid-to-late June. I’m referring to the fact that it’s carrier-locked.

    A that point many people will have either realized 1) they shouldn’t have switched to AT&T for the iPhone because of poor coverage/service, or 2) that they can’t buy the iPhone because Cingular doesn’t serve their area.

    While I understand that Apple had its reasons to partner with Cingular (read Pixar/Disney), I believe that Apple missed a huge opportunity to redefine the US handset market, thereby gaining a larger share than will a locked iPhone.

    To have a product like the iPhone back by the brand recognition that Apple has, to offer it unlocked in a country where unlocked phones are a rare breed (and where very few customers like their provider and virtually everyone hates contracts), all this combined would have produced far different results for Apple than will the Cingular-locked iPhone.

    In fact, an unlocked iPhone would be the ideal substitution for the Macintosh in Apple’s 1984 commercial.

    Reply

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