The Rotten Apple Flu: How to Get it & How to Cure it

In a celebrity culture, Tim Cook has committed the cardinal sin. He's failed to adequately entertain us. The result? Writers who follow Apple have the Rotten Apple Flu and are grousing for bucks.

That's why there's so much negative writing about Apple. This Rotten Apple Flu exists not because Apple products have changed or Apple has made any serious business mistakes. It exists because writers who cannot think for themselves are eager to make a few bucks and grab some attention. After all, being negative is the same as in-depth, critical, informed analysis. Right?

Over at Harvard Business Review, Dan Pallotta analyzed this malady. "The Market Wants Apple to Unveil a Time Machine." He pointed out that critics are impatient, lazy and that Steve Jobs suffered from some failings similar to the ones being leveled at Tim Cook. The difference is, in my own experience, Steve Jobs would typically respond to criticism with a smug, "You're an idiot." Humbled, the tech columnists would figure out something else to write about -- where they wouldn't be embarrassed and would look better.

Sometimes Mr. Jobs's Reality Distortion Field (RDF) was nonsense, but often it was a way of shocking people back to the fundamentals of Apple.

Back to Mr. Pallotta's article ... here's a key section.

The critics that are screaming right now are intellectually lazy. They're throwing temper tantrums instead of looking at the big picture. Like two-year-olds, they don't really know what they want. And they're not happy when they get it, anyway. Apple could unveil a new car and they'd say Apple's days are over because it's just bet its future on an industry it knows nothing about. Not unlike, say, Apple's entrance into the mobile phone industry. I bet that if Apple did unveil a time machine, they'd claim it wasn't fast enough."

Basically, because Mr. Cook isn't baby-sitting the columnists, entertaining them with Hollywood style, guiding them at every step, they don't know what to think. Bored, left without entertainment and thrill, mired in A.D.D., not grounded in Apple fundamentals, they grouse for bucks.

Readers, steeped in winter ennui, continue to click on all this nonsense. When you see one of these lurid headlines about what's ailing Apple, don't be fooled. It'll just be another rant, a waste of your time. My recommendation? Think before you click.

You'll feel better in the morning.

If you're looking for some thought provoking stuff, I recommend these: Ron Galloway's "Is Tim Cook the Man to Lead Apple?" and Bob Cringely's "Apple’s challenges require leaving Steve Jobs behind."

These aren't Pollyanna articles, but at least they're a start on thinking things through.

"I want my entertainment!"

Tech News Debris

I don't normally talk about new products here, but this one is worth noting because it solves a long-standing problem that affects most everyone. It's simple, and it's genius. A GPS tracking device that tells you where your luggage is. Here's the Mashable article: "Trakdot Uses GPS to Make Sure You Never Lose Your Suitcase Again." It will certainly change the nature of the discussion with the airline personnel when your luggage is lost, especially as you pull out your smartphone and show the agent your suitcase winging its way across the Indian Ocean.

When it comes to designing a product, a company has to balance the investment cost of advanced technology and features against the gains to be made by marketing those features -- all within the context of the customer expectations and experience. That may be why Phil Schiller recently said about NFC: "It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem."

So I couldn't help notice two contemporary articles this week. The first extols the virtues of HTC's new flagship smartphone, the HTC M7 with some guesses about it's features, namely a larger (perhaps 5-inch) 1080p display, 1.7 GHz quad-core processor and a 13 megapixel camera. Impressive. Indeed, HTC needs to make a splash to get some mindshare, and specs are a popular way to earn the geek's attention.

Then, right after that, I read this: "HTC posts poor Q4 results: Loses Android mojo to Samsung, Apple." I'm not an expert follower of HTC, and I'm cautious enough not to draw too strong a correlation here, but it seems to me that when you're behind and need a marketing splash, specsmanship can be a dangerous, expensive way to play the game. And that, in turn, can explain why Mr. Schiller said what he did and why, in certain technical areas, you won't see the very latest, bleeding-edge, half-baked technology in Apple's iDevices.

Just a thought.

Along those lines, Operating Systems need care and feeding by the developer. There are endless internal details: bug fixing, coherency, making sure it works the same way in different contexts (orthogonality, if you will) file integrity, self-repair, security, the UI and User Experience (UX). Adding features that leverage the underlying power is always good. But when attending to those many details becomes tiresome or difficult in a corporate context, then the OS starts to wear on the customer.

Here's a good example of how a smart, experienced Mac user got frustrated because some of those details weren't attended to. "Apple Is No Longer Easy: A Mac Mini Tale Of Woe."

Another OS question is: How does the developer of an OS balance absolute security against realistic goals for OS design and the customer experience? That comes out in this interesting article: "Microsoft's Security Essentials Fails Major Antivirus Test." Actually, the headline doesn't begin to explore the nuances of OS engineering. Between the lines, you'll find a perennial argument: Absolutism for the sake of marketing by a third party product and balance when you're the OS developer. Fascinating.

That issue, in fact, also comes to bear on the recent Java security problem. While TMO's initial articles were focused on the facts and what to do as a Mac user, there remain the intriguing details. If you want to read the scary details, here they are: "Why fixing the Java flaw will take so long."  The dust hasn't cleared on this one.

Finally, here's an interesting tale of global wireless competition, high tech intrigue, positioning, "dumb pipes," and protecting your flank. "Samsung's secret weapon in the mobile wars: Tizen." It's dizzying in its portrayal of of the global competition in this market.


Stage mic and flu victim via Shutterstock.