Why Is So Much Stupid Being Written About Apple?

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Stupid!Stop the hurt! For the love of all things rational and pretty, can someone please stop the hurt? It seems that everywhere I look today there's something stupid being written about Apple. I'm not saying the people doing the writing are (necessarily) stupid, but the nonsense being bandied about by pundits far and wide could fertilize a vast amount of farmland.

OK, I apologize for that tortured metaphor, but my point remains.

So what am I talking about? Articles about Apple having problems, about Tim Cook's "failures" as CEO of Apple, about expectations, about the decline of Apple, and most recently a spate of articles about what Apple has to do to correct these and other supposed problems.

These aren't death knells, they're just proud proclamations of ignorance, and I decided today I was going to round up a few and make fun of them.

Let's start with Scott Martin, writing for USA Today:

Apple has failed so far to deliver an encore to its iPod, iPhone and iPad. This is critical for new growth, because the iPhone makes up the bulk of Apple profits — trailed by iPad — as competitors gain. U.S. markets have become saturated with iPhones.

This meme that Apple is somehow late with a disruptive product boggles my mind. It's not that folks are saying Apple needs a new product category—that would be great—it's the idea that the lack of something new today somehow indicates Tim Cook's inability to deliver such a product that is irrational.

Everything near to being shipped today had Steve Jobs blessing to one degree or another. It will be two or three years before you make any conclusions one way or another about Mr. Cook's ability to shepherd a market disrupter to market.

There's also the (usually un-articulated) premise underlying this meme that Apple disrupted markets on a seemingly yearly basis and that everything Apple released under Steve Jobs was a knockout hit (Cube? MobileMe?).

Mr. Martin also wrote:

As a result, Apple appears ready to head down the path of price competition. The launch of its iPad Mini last year was evidence of its need to offer a tablet to compete with Amazon's smaller Kindle tablets and Google's Nexus 7, which are selling briskly. The device is also expected to make less money as it eats into sales of higher-margin iPads.

You know, the iPad mini is Apple competing on price. The iPad mini, the same device that everyone and their brother said was too expensive because it's priced significantly higher than every other 7-inch tablet on the market.

There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that Apple is going to start competing on price, not one iota or scintilla of evidence. To say otherwise is stupid.

Let's move on to Sarah Cohen, who penned Apple's M&A skills as murky as iPhone 5 prospects for Forbes. How ominous! ZOMG! Apple's merger and acquisition skills are murky! The iPhone 5 is doomed, too!

Her premise appears to be that Steve Jobs was awesome and that without him Apple will have to become like other big tech companies to continue to succeed. She wrote:

Without Jobs, Apple might need to adopt a more aggressive M&A strategy to remain on top. But success won’t be easy.

Why is that exactly? She doesn't explain. She didn't even bother to trot out the meme that Tim Cook is a failure at innovation. She just argued that Apple is going to have to buy its innovation in the future and mentioned an unnamed analyst who gave her a list of companies who had M&A down to a science.

Devastatingly, Apple wasn't on that list. Oh noes!

That's an open and shut case if ever I've heard one.

You Can't Fix StuupidI've been writing about Apple for 16 years now (14 of them as cofounder and copublisher of The Mac Observer). During that time, there has been no end of pundits and analysts who have said that in order for Apple to be successful, it must follow in the footsteps of other companies.

Apple has to stop making hardware, Apple has to license OS X, Apple has to compete on price. There was a constant drone of noise about Apple having to adopt Microsoft's model of open licensing. Clearly that's the only way to sell computers, right?

That one about competing on price has been the most frequently repeated bit of nonsense. The very first thing Steve Jobs did when he came back to Apple was to change the rules so that Apple was competing with the iMac on lifestyle rather than price. His ability to do that is what has fueled Apple's massive profits, and those profits are what allowed Apple to create iPod, iTunes, iPhone, App Store, and iPad.

I'm starting to see a little bit of that again. We've been hearing since at least 2009 that Apple can't sustain industry-high carrier subsidies. That's four years of that crap, and the reality that Apple still commands those subsidies has never been enough to shake the faith of these folks.

In any event, Ms. Cohen's suggestion that Apple's future lies in M&A is more of the same, that Apple has to do what everyone else does to succeed. It's nonsense.

At CNet, Eric Mack told us The iPhone 6 won't wow: 6 reasons why. He argues that the iPhone 5 is on the skids. You know, the device that captured 50 percent of the U.S. market in November, according to some estimates (we're waiting on numbers even now).

Yep, the iPhone "has jumped the shark," he wrote, and he's not afraid to stand up and crow that he told us so!

He didn't leave it at that, however:

My gut tells me the iPhone as we know it will be done at that point. I have a hunch there will never be an iPhone 6, because Apple will be forced to move into a significantly different form factor to keep people interested and compete with the movement toward bigger phablet-like thingies and emerging wearable electronics (lots of us have fat thumbs, after all). Or, there will be an iPhone 6 and it will disappoint.

That's right, there might not even be an iPhone 6. Or there could be, but it's going to be a dud. Way to CYA, dude.

Writing for Fortune, Cyrus Sanati told us this week that Apple risks repeating the 1980s. His argument is two-fold. The first is that Apple makes it hard to develop for iOS like it did on the Mac in the 80s. Or maybe 90s. He jumped around a bit, and it's nonsense anyway.

Plus, Apple is a dick to accessory makers. He's right there, but his suggestion that this will drive away those accessory makers is nonsense. He did find some app developers who went with Android first—I also found a developer who went with Android first at CES—but the problem here is that as long as more money flows to iOS developers, those developers will continue to make stuff for Apple.

Any suggestion otherwise—any anecdotal evidence of finding a developer pissed off at the way Apple controls its ecosystem—is just that, a suggestion based on anecdotal evidence. I can find plenty of developers who eschew iOS, and I can find plenty more developers who prefer iOS. As long as the money lies in iOS, most of the best developers will be there.

Mr. Sanati wrote:

If it weren't for the iPhone, Apple today would be a niche computer maker. The iPhone has turned Apple into a distributer of content, making it richer than anyone ever imagined. But its rigid adherence to its arbitrary rules and its secretive and closed culture is beginning to threaten Apple's profits.

No it's not. Apple's profits are not being threatened. There is no evidence of that. At all. Not even a little bit. It's a stupid thing to write.

The stupid didn't stop there, however. He also wrote:

There are a number of things Apple could do today to ensure it doesn't relive its 1980s meltdown. It could for one open up its iOS so that other manufacturers could integrate it with their phone. This will bring a new line of customers into the iTunes orbit. It could also create a larger line of phones to fit a multitude of price points. After all, the iPhone is simply a delivery device for content—the more people you have on your network, the larger your revenue. If Apple continues on its current path, it could lose—a lot.

That's right, his advice is for Apple to embrace open licensing for iOS! That way Apple can make all the money from selling apps and content!

It's so stupid, it physically hurt! Seriously, I have a headache from writing about this crap.

There has been an unending onslaught of articles like this in the last 6 weeks or so, and I don't expect it to end any time soon unless Apple offers forward guidance next week that ends the speculation about iPhone and iPad demand.

In the meanwhile, if any would-be pundit out there wants me to do a stupid-check on their piece about Apple, I'm happy to do so. Contact me through the link in my byline above. We can get together, maybe have some coffee, and chat about this stuff.

I promise I'm a really nice guy in person.

Stupid graphic courtesy of Shutterstock, as is the road sign.

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Comments

geoduck

I do expect it to end fairly soon, or at least be cut way back. I see this as a not so subtle way to drive the stock down. Then assuming Apple announces a gazonga quarter at the upcoming Financial Report they can profit when AAPL bounces back up. It’s called stock manipulation and it’s an ugly thing. OTOH if Apple only has a average quarter then they can crow about how they were “right” and get more for the drivel they publish. Either way they win.

DamenS

“I’m not saying the people doing the writing are (necessarily) stupid”. 

Neither am I.  I believe that the majority of them are (necessarily) stupid, and the rest are malicious crooks and liars aligned with Hedge Fund managers who are either shorting, or looking for a fast “run-up in price”, or members of the gutter press who will seek out sensationalist garbage (and later redact numbers listed in their article, as those numbers prove the article to be less than sensational) in order to sell more Journals on Wall Street.

It is essentially a combination of “Tall Poppy Syndrome” mixed with people’s narcissistic (and often self-promotional) desire for the greatest coverage of their words and thoughts.  Apple sells.  So do stories about selling AAPL.

Kanwar

Fantastic bashing of stupidity. Apple is doomed (sarcasm)


Thank you for the read.

b9bot

Your right on Brian! The Stupidity is all over the place and the stock Anal-ists are eating it up, driving Apple stock down, down, down for absolutely no intelligent reason!

Andhaka

Thank you, Bryan. It heartening to still be able to read someone with a bit of perspective and common sense.

Cheers

wab95

Bryan:

I feel your pain. Indeed, sitting here in the safety of my SE Asian digs, I note the outbreak of one of the worst seasonal flu epidemics years (influenza A (H3N2 to be precise); however said outbreak is second only to this epidemic of stupidity amongst the chattering pundit and analysts that seems to have also ravaged the ranks of the thundering investor herd, who seem to have developed a form of ‘hoof and mouth’ disease in which stupidity erupts from the mouth and the hooves are sent flailing uncontrollably in fear. Stupidity at such staggering proportions threatens the human gene pool should it insinuate itself into our DNA. A cull may be in order.

I differ in one respect from your assessment. There are different kinds of stupidity: essential stupidity (i.e. one is born that way - and you know who those analysts are), and acquired stupidity (as seen the spread of stupid remarks in the ranks of the pundit mass). The former is unfixable, and perhaps a case for enforced sterilisation programmes, but let’s defer; and the latter is remediable, at least if the recipient is willing to exercise a modicum of rational thinking.

A few lessons stand out, at least to my thinking. Forgive the length.

The first is that Apple should stick to their primary principles, which are about ‘best in class’ user experience. Apple should never allow critic censure to spook them into deviating to address some ‘problem’ identified by arm chair advisors. Case in point, the iPad Mini. A plethora or pontificating pundits proclaimed Apple derelict for not having a smaller form factored iPad. Indeed, the Apple community itself caught the same bug and diagnosed themselves incomplete and ill equipped without said Mini. Meanwhile, every original iPad ever shipped had a shelf life measured in minutes (okay days, but not even months), with plants running flat out to meet demand. Apple then ships the iPad Mini, and to what effect? Were the pundits quieted? Were investors assured? Nay, rather critics were quick to point out that Apple were desperate and late to the game, playing catch up to Google and Android, etc. ‘Blood in the water!’, proclaimed investor sharks. Then came the voodoo analysts with their Ouija boards predicting ‘cannibalisation!’ of the original iPad and MacBooks, perhaps even [gasp] iPhones - all to be sucked into the Mini black hole, where margins are thin and prognosis grim.

I am reminded of an episode of Star Trek Voyager, ‘Alliances’, in which first officer Chakotay tries to convince Captain Janeway that adherence to Starfleet principles in the Delta Quadrant (a hostile environment to be sure - not unlike the current tech climate) was no longer tenable and that Voyager required more a ‘practical’ approach. They should form alliances with one or another factions of the Kazon for protection. A sceptical Janeway gives this a shot, but finds the whole thing unpalatable when, suddenly, a more attractive potential ally appears in the Trabe, who also happen to be blood enemies of the Kazon. Janeway is prepared to set aside her Starfleet principles to make this alliance when it becomes apparent that the Trabe are using her to create an opportunity to eradicate the Kazon leadership. A chagrined Janeway closes with the observation that, in a place like the Delta Quadrant, which seems to have few rules and shifting alliances, it is all the more important to hold to those of the Federation. I see this as a metaphor for Apple in this current hostile environment of rapidly shifting alliances, opportunities, strategies and global economic uncertainty. Apple are definitely alone in their own version of the Delta Quadrant and need to adhere to core principles of end user experience. Not to say that this was not the case, but if Apple are to do another Mini Manoeuvre, it must steer clear of even the appearance of reacting to perceived deficit, lest it create panic.

This leads to a second lesson. While neither analysts nor investors are looking to Apple’s competitors for annual innovative bomb-shelling, the next big thing, or anything in particular, and while these analysts permit Apple’s competitors to react to each other without penalty for ‘being late’ (merely responsive - amazing that), Apple are not treated like any other company because Apple are like no other company. Let me repeat that for emphasis. Apple are like no other company. Full stop. That acknowledgement comes with risk, to be sure, like being alone in the Delta Quadrant, but it is also liberating, freeing Apple to rise above the din of confused product and service strategies, and remain consistent and oriented to their own true north.

One key difference between Tim Cook and Steve Jobs is that SJ did not hesitate to tell the chattering classes and the thundering herd that they were stupid. It may now fall to the Apple client community to take up that mantle.

Jan

Stockmarket manipulation is the thing here. Analysts are driving the stock down for their clients to buy, and when the stock pops back up again they recommend sell. It’s so much easier to do this with AAPL than any other stock at the moment.
Analysts always have clients to please.

Good story, thanks Bryan.

Lee Dronick

I wonder how much of it is deliberate misinformation fomented by Apple’s competitors. Of course much of it is just click bait.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Come on Bryan. The comScore rolling numbers don’t support the contention that iPhone had 50% of the US sales in November. You’re relying on numbers from a firm that’s a new entrant to the smartphone numbers game who doesn’t even bother sampling all the important channels.

At any rate, all the speculation on one side or the other is posturing until we get the results this week. My guess is that they won’t be definitive on either side, but will necessarily raise a lot of questions about direction and momentum. My theory is that Apple does well as a first mover, but that its controlled approach makes is both easy and necessary for competitors to surpass Apple in relatively short order. Rinse and repeat.

AKjohn

Bryan,

You said: “During that time, there has been no end of pundits and analysts who have said that in order for Apple to be successful, it must follow in the footsteps of other companies….”

And could have ended it by adding:  “...who are not leading the tech universe in profits, style, customer satisfaction, or most importantly mind-share!”

As I read it that statement just seemed to fit so well there. Turn the knife when you’re skewering meat. It helps disperse the heat inside the meat too!

John in North Pole

Bryan Chaffin

Funny, AKJohn. smile

Hey Brad, I linked to a story about Kantar’s numbers, but I think you were describing them and just mistyped comScore. comScore’s measurement of subscribers is complementary to sales numbers and more a measurement of device lifespan (and usefulness) than anything else. Kantar could well be wrong, or right. We’ll know more on the 23rd or later as the more established firms do their thing. Even Apple’s own numbers as a comparison to Samsung’s announced numbers will be illuminating.

You are utterly right that we just don’t know yet, which is kind of why all this doom and gloom annoys the crap out of me.

As for first-mover benefit and other folks catching up, that was true with the Mac, and it was true with the iPhone. I still maintain that the killer app on smartphones is merely access to the Interwebs, which even the cheapest smartphones can do just fine.

It was not true with iPod, however, and has yet to be true with iPad.

I was off the mark when I said iPad would maintain iPod-like numbers, but iPad’s numbers have been closer to iPod than iPhone. Judging by how little competing tablets seem to get used, I believe this will continue to be the case for a while.

I think this year is going to be interesting. smile

Lancashire-Witch

I don’t see Apple moving away from producing quality products at premium prices. I think any threat to that strategy comes from a global (yes, global) economic downturn. The bankers haven’t finished screwing up our wealth.

I guess things are quite tough on the upper floors in Cupertino - managing rapid growth is never easy.

Constable Odo

There are so many pundits out there hoping for Apple to fail.  That’s what happens when a company gets on top.  I doubt if the bashing will ever stop.  I’m happy as long as consumers continue to buy Apple products which should keep Apple relatively healthy and wealthy as a company.  I’m only looking at it from a shareholders point of view.  Apple should have a decent quarter.  It may be disappointing to Wall Street because it’s practically impossible to meet Wall Street’s expectations.  You’ve got a company like Apple making healthy profits and the share price falls because it’s not making enough profits.  On the other hand you’ve got Amazon barely making any money and the stock continues to rise because one day it might make profits.  That’s just the way the market works nowadays.  Somewhat backwards.

The best thing to do is just ignore the Apple detractors and hope that Apple makes whatever changes in products necessary to keep sales high.  I’ve pretty much given up on Apple going back up to former levels because there aren’t enough investors that can afford to buy the stock anymore.  They’re all sinking their money into stocks like Amazon and Netflix that rise constantly day after day.  Apple should just do a 10:1 stock split so individual investors will consider buying shares.  A $50 share for Apple would probably bring in a lot of small investors.

RonMacGuy

Bryan, you forgot my all-time favorite “Stupid Being Written About Apple”.

“The declining and mostly irrelevant iPad…”

grin

Just Me

I totally believe that all this “bashing” has to do with stock manipulation. Have people noticed the large purchase of Apple stock Al Gore just made?

Lee Dronick

“Have people noticed the large purchase of Apple stock Al Gore just made?”

He exercised stock options and bought them for $4.75.

llg4nlp

Hey Bryan, Good article.  Also note that Apple is currently in ‘Quiet period’, aka ‘silent period’, which restricts Apple’s ability to respond to the ‘ca ca’. 
http://www.f-secure.com/en/web/corporation_global/investors/governance/insiders-and-silent-period just before earnings are reported
We need a return of Crazy Apple Rumors; these people need to be made fun of, not just pointed out.

GaranceD

I think some of this utter nonsense is stock manipulation.  Not necessarily by the pundits themselves, but by the people whispering in their ears.  I also think that some of the pundits want to make a name for themselves by being the first to predict the big downturn for Apple.

And I think some of it is from people who want Android or Microsoft’s new Windows8+Surface to take a bigger chunk of the market.  So they look for any reason or rumor to support the result they want to see, instead of looking at all the facts and drawing conclusions from that.

It is quite irritating.

Bryan Chaffin

Talk of stock manipulation is also unfounded. I know it’s a popular meme with some folks, but it’s not how the markets work. It’s certainly possible for manipulators to engineer short pops in either direction for any given stock, but a sustained campaign to depress a stock would be counteracted by the smart money pushing the stock back up. The conspiracy of epic proportions that would be required to make the doom and gloom that has dominated mainstream Apple news coverage in recent weeks would require armies of manipulators who would soon be busted by regulators.

The market professionals I’ve talked to about this over the years—and this has been a popular conspiracy theory for many Apple fans for a long time, even while Apple’s overall stock chart has been up and up and up—have laughed when I asked them about it.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen a credible claim of $AAPL manipulation from anyone I would consider knowledgable.

Lee

Wow.  Butt-hurt much?  You claim that the people that wrote the other articles are stupid for saying what they said, that they are wrong, yet do nothing other than call them stupid.  Why don’t you do more than blow Steve Jobs and do some actual writing?  I’m not saying your wrong, but how about generating some actual content?

Bryan Chaffin

Hi Lee,

You may want to re-read the piece. I explained my reasoning for asserting this stuff is nonsense there.

Thanks for stopping by.

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