Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos chatted with Charlie Rose last night, touting the new $139 Kindle and speaking in great detail about how his company’s device is different than Apple’s iPad. Bezos made his point by arguing that the most popular application on the iPad right now is a game called “Angry Birds” in which players throw birds at pigs. That compares to the Kindle, whose best seller is a book by Stieg Larsson.
Thought exercise: how many people bought that Stieg Larsson ebook on an iPad, iPhone, Droid or other non-Amazon device?
A quick note to people observing that the ruled paper background didn’t line up with the text in posts in a way guaranteed to drive the kind of people who notice that sort of thing nuts: I’m sorry! I didn’t create the theme. I’d only switched to it late last night, and while I thought, “Hey, that’s kind of annoying,” I didn’t have time to investigate a fix.
A few people offered suggestions on how to realign things correctly, which I appreciate, but I decided to just remove the ruled background from posts. I don’t really need to have my posts look like they’re on high school notebook paper, theme designer, thanks. I may switch back to the old theme later, which will fix the issue. After a fashion.
Also, sorry about the amazing disappearing comments: no clue what’s happening with Disqus there. (It started happening just after the theme switch, too. Hmm.) I haven’t deleted a single comment, and they all show up on Disqus’ control panel. Just, you know, not on the post. I have a ticket open.
I’ve received the following email—exactly—about twenty times in the last two months.
We are a recruiting firm based out of Washington DC assisting our clients to meet their staffing requirements.
I came across your profile on the web and would like to know if you are interested in the below mentioned position.
Full time position with a excellent salary, and excellent benefits.
Position: Web Developer/Engineer
Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 2 years of professional experience; or no experience required with a related Masters degree. Considered experienced, but still a learner
Short, polite “I’m not interested” messages haven’t been working, so I tried to explain myself in more detail today.
You know, I’d actually thought that perhaps Axiom Sources had actually decided to pay attention to one of the dozen email messages I’d sent in response to this very job listing asking you folks to stop sending things to me. You hadn’t sent me this same message for a whole week! Over the last month, that’s been a record.
Of course, I’m pretty sure it isn’t a real job listing at this point. It’s too generic, the “Req.2008” suggests you’ve been sending it out for two years, and it has very little to do with my skill set. You’ve just got my name in a database somewhere. By “you” I mean “Axiom Sources.” I’m pretty sure there is nobody named “Ivan” or “Alex” or “Dildo” or “Moron” or whatever you people keep sending me.
I mean, it’s very clear that nobody at Axiom Sources should be trusted to do something as complex as recruiting new employees. Anyone with the brains God gave a turnip would have taken me out of your contact database now. I mean, when I say I’ve sent you twelve emails about this, I’m not exaggerating. Twelve. Really. And one voicemail message. I tried to go to your astoundingly ugly website and find contact information there, but your astoundingly ugly website is, in addition to being astoundingly ugly, broken. (You’re a recruiting company, right? Surely you have contact information for web developers somewhere?)
In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s actually anyone at Axiom Sources at all. I’ve never gotten a response to anything sent to you. Ever. Were you all wiped out in a plague? Did anybody ever actually work here? Have I actually been attempting to correspond with a .NET script? I can’t possibly believe you’re a real recruiting company at this point. Recruiting is all about communication and it’s pretty obvious there’s no one at this email address who could find the “Reply” button using Google Maps.
I’ve been angry about this, I admit. I used the word “harassment” in one message to you. (I’m pretty sure I used the word “fucking” at least once by now, too. I apologize.) But at this point, you guys are so unresponsive it’s just fucking (oops!) funny. Seriously, I’m never going to work for you, or with you, or through you. I hope I’ll never work near you. I may ask future employers if they’ve ever tried to use you, and walk out of interviews if they say “yes.” Unless they follow it up with “…but it was the weirdest thing, we never heard from them!” at which point we will both laugh heartily and do Jäger shots together.
But seriously, I feel like you — by which I mean “Ivan” or “Alex” or “Moron,” it really doesn’t matter, right? — you and I are kind of close now. If I’m ever in the DC area, let’s hook up. Let’s do lunch.
I’ll mock you publicly for a half-hour over a Five Guys burger, and you’ll just sit there, motionless, and say nothing.
It would be possible for for Apple “to deliver solutions for parallel development tasks.”
Apple is known to like HTML5.
Does Xcode 4 actually have any web development features at all? No. Is there a hint that Apple is interested in providing these? No. For all the evidence we have, Xcode 4 also portends Apple is going to be getting into the frozen pie business.
And holy hell, the man manages to get three pages out of this. With illustrations.
(And I apologize for another “what is Dilger even thinking" bit, but this seemed to set a new record for vapidity.)
So I’ve been thinking about “Antennagate.” First thought: stop fucking calling every scandal “-gate,” for Christ’s sake.
Next thought: so what’s the scoop here? Biggest problem in the history of all of mobile phones, or minor issue blown way out of proportion by the tech media? Neither, of course. It helps when you paint opposing positions in extreme terms, granted—but the media really does have a bias toward sensationalist reporting. And by “the media,” I mean all the media, full stop: television, papers, magazines, bloggers, from tech to sports to politics. As we’ve heard ad nauseum, the way you hold any mobile phone that doesn’t have an old-fashioned external antenna sticking out will affect the reception.
Yet claiming that the situation on the iPhone 4 is exactly the same as it is on other phones is at best disingenuous. On other phones, the problem is simply that your hand is interfering with reception; on the iPhone 4, the “death grip” bridges two antennas. It’s fair for Apple to point out that every phone with an internal antenna experiences a drop in reception quality based on the user’s grip, but the dB drop in reception sensitivity on the iPhone is measurably much greater than on the other phones.
Even so, Apple’s correct in pointing out, however sulkily it may come across, that it’s not as if people are returning the phone in droves. The iPhone 4 gets better reception overall than previous models; the new antenna design has at least a few good points to it as well. If this had happened to any other phone, it might have been remarked on—and that’s all. It’d be a bullet point in the “cons” listing of reviews. Done. No days of front-page headlines, no press conferences for national media, no jokes on late night talk shows. Only Apple gets this kind of attention. (As a pundit quipped a few years ago, can you imagine Dell making headlines when they introduce a damn Bluetooth mouse?)
So the question is really why. Why does Apple get this kind of attention? Why do they inspire that kind of loyalty from users and inspire this kind of hatred from critics?
Apple has always implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) asserted you should use their products because they’re better than the competition in the ways that matter to users. Apple’s products frequently don’t win on a feature-by-feature comparison, to which Apple fans tend to reply that sealed batteries have turned out to be not so bad in practice, that we can actually find all the software we want for our iOS devices no matter how philosophically objectionable the App Store is, and that we really don’t care that the iPad has no USB port and that the iPhone cannot be used as a wifi hotspot, HD projector and five-speed blender. There is a large subset of tech users who go into apoplectic fits at that, seeing it as proof that we’re brainwashed morons. So be it.
Every recent consumer electronics product from Apple—definitely the iPad, but all iterations of the iPhone including the initial one—has been greeted with rounds of articles crowing about what an arrogant, foolhardy mistake it is and how this will finally, finally, be the moment the emperor is revealed to have no clothes. And ultimately this is what’s so infuriating about Apple: that’s not what happens. Ever. The critics are eternally playing the part of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, and Steve Jobs always yanks it away at the last second. Nobody talks about making a “Nexus One killer” or an “HP Slate killer” or a “Zune killer”; Apple’s consumer electronics products become the reference points for their fields. The Mac isn’t an exception here, either. While it’s by no means a market leader, Windows became far more Mac-like over the years than the Mac became Windows-like.
And I think this is what makes critics so giddy with delight over the iPhone 4 antenna issue: no matter how it’s spun, it’s a genuine problem. Apple took a chance on a new antenna design and it has a high-visibility issue which could likely have been mitigated by a different design. Has the issue been blown way out of proportion? Yes, absolutely. But it’s still a genuine problem, and one that Apple has been handling pretty gracelessly. The emperor still has clothes, but he’s been pantsed.
[Mike Loukides, writing about Google’s App Inventor, conflates] “creativity” with programming, and “passivity” with, well, everything else. Mike isn’t the first to do this—I think my friend Cory Doctorow is responsible for the meme. I’d argue, in fact, that the history of computing teaches us the exact opposite: the less people are required to learn programming in order to be creative with computers, the more creative work you get.
Loukides compares iOS devices to the “crafted experience” of a cruise ship tour, saying that “you won’t find out anything about the local culture” that way. Betteridge retorts:
I’d argue that the approach he’s taking, which encourages users to get deeper into the hardware and software to “find out about the local culture” is actually more like requiring the passengers to do their stint maintaining the engines of the ship. The price they pay for getting on the ship in the first place is to become engineers.
Betteridge suggests, with gentle acid, that a lot of the wailing from technonerds like Doctorow and Loukides—and, as much as I respect him, Loukides’ boss Tim O’Reilly, when Tim gets on board with John Battelle's NMDish ranting about Apple’s nefarious plots to control the web and lock out poor little put-upon Google—boils down to fear: fear of no longer being treated like high priests of technology.
I’ve been quietly banging my head, er, the drum about the notion that you—the consumer—are not Google’s customer, and that Google’s idea of “open” is not like the Free Software Foundation’s idea of “open.” It’s like the BSD idea of open, except possibly not quite so, you know, open.
But, see, this is a point that often gets left out in the “GPL vs. BSD” license wars all the hip cats have been fighting for the last, what is it, 75 years? Whatever. You can accuse the FSF of being fascist jerks all you want, but all those fascist elements of the GPL mean that there will be no modifications that lock it down or close it off in any way. The BSD license—and the Apache license, what Android is actually licensed under—allow you to make any modifications you want and leave those modifications proprietary.
Like, say, new UIs. Entire new applications. Great! And, oh yes, features that keep you from putting new UIs and new applications on the phone if the company that shipped you their custom version of Android doesn’t want to.
So, we get the amazing Droid X that, unlike an iPhone 4, will let left-handed people make calls without losing reception. Okay, that is a good thing. But this bastion of good and open technological triumph over the evil and closed iOS devices does one other thing the iPhone doesn’t: self-destruct if you put a new OS it.
Now, granted, there’s nothing that prevents Apple from making the iPhone self-destruct if you jailbreak it, and God knows Apple certainly makes it difficult to jailbreak their hardware. (To be fair, jailbreaking relies on exploiting security holes in the OS, and it’s not entirely realistic to expect Apple to say, “Okay, some people really want us to leave this security hole open, and really, what could possibly come back to bite us in the ass if we don’t fix it? Have fun, kids.”)
But this is supposedly the Very Very Important Philosophical Difference between Android devices and iOS devices. And as I wrote in March, that difference is only as meaningful as Google’s partners want it to be:
[Android] can be just as locked-down as an iPhone. There’s nothing to prevent it from being more locked-down than an iPhone. […] There’s no guarantee there won’t be other Android “appliances” released that are sold without the ability to load any third-party applications onto it, or that will only talk to a manufacturer-specific application store.
I hadn’t considered the possibility of “locked in hardware to make sure you only put carrier-approved OS releases on the device,” though. It’s good to see that Verizon is thinking outside the box.