"I don't have a problem with Apple, really" →

The Chromebook? The Galaxy Tab? The HTC One? You’re telling me that any comparable Apple product is waaaaay better than any of those?

It depends on how much value you put on each “a” there. Maybe the comparable Apple products are merely “way better” rather than “waaaaay better.”

Somewhat more seriously: dude, don’t just pull random product names out of a hat here. The HTC One is, from what I can tell, a terrific product—actual LTE, actual Android 4, and only two-thirds of the unremovable carrier-installed bloatware we’ve all come to love. But yes, I’d say the iPad 3rd Generation is at least one or two a’s way better than a Galaxy Tab unless you have a specific use case the Tab is better at. (For instance, being 7″, which some models of the Tab are unquestionably better at.) And there are no Apple products comparable to the Chromebook. This isn’t a knock against the Chromebook, per se. It’s just that if you think the Chromebook and the Air are in the same product category, I’d like to know what color the sky is on your planet.

I don’t want to accuse our friend at “Blogging With Typewriters” of being a hipster, but y’know, if the obscure band T-shirt fits and all that. The thing is, hating Apple to be hip is so 2010.

There are a lot of reasons to buy iThings, and sure, “because it’s the in thing” is one of those reasons. So is “I’ve tried them and like them more than the competition” or “I want to use iPhone-specific things like iMessage1" or "they work most easily with the stuff I have." But Apple products are way, way, way too popular to be hip. You can’t be hipster smug with an Apple product. In 2012, you buy an Android product and unlock the bootloader to be hipster smug, and use phrases like "iSheep" while you pretend that you actually like the taste of PBR.

  1. In a coffee shop the other day, I overheard high school students using iMessage as a verb. This may be an under-the-radar Apple advantage, but it’s a real one and it’s a big one. (So is that annoying proprietary dock connector that everybody seems to be hoping they’re going to replace.) 

MG Siegler: “Why I Hate Android”

MG Siegler:

Believe it or not, I actually don’t hate Android. That is to say, I don’t hate the concept of Android — in fact, at one point, I loved it. What I hate is what Android has become. And more specifically, what Google has done with Android.

This is a brilliantly-written piece. Anyone who’s actually read more than a few articles by Siegler has learned that the criticism of him as “always pro-Apple” is misinformed; he’s been critical of Apple at times, and he’s certainly loved non-Apple products. It’s that, like Gruber (and for that matter, me), Siegler thinks that Apple is making best-in-class products. As Churchill might have said, iOS is the worst mobile platform out there, except for all the others.

And if you don’t agree with Siegler’s assertion that Apple, for all their warts, has more of the end-user’s interest in mind than Google does, I’d just like you to do one simple test. Go into an AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint store and set out a few Android models along with an iPhone and maybe a couple “none of the above” smartphones they sell. One and only one of those phones is going to be entirely free of the carrier logo. Don’t be under the illusion that’s merely an aesthetic issue.


Apple’s vision for the future of computing versus Microsoft’s vision for the future of computing.

Any questions?

Yes. Thanks for asking. Isn’t this a wee bit reductionist? If we take Microsoft at their word, their vision of the future of computing seems to heavily rely on the Metro Design Language. Conversely, there’s a lot of programs on the Mac, including ones from Apple, which are modern, fully down with all the new features in Lion, and don’t look a goddamn thing like an iPhone.

I understand MG’s point here, but I think going for the dramatic effect here does something of a disservice to Microsoft and possibly even Apple. I don’t see Macs “merging” with iOS any time soon, and while Microsoft’s announced strategy is to try to push their desktop OS down onto “pads” rather than push their phone OS up onto them, it seems pretty clear that they’re not trying for a repeat of what happened with Windows for Tablets or whatever the hell it was called. And I think when Apple nerds sneer “Windows running on a tablet will never work,” we’re being a little glib given that we have phones that were described by Apple initially as “running OS X.” What if Windows 8 on a tablet is like OS X on a tablet?

Sure, I’m giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here. There’s an excellent chance that they will screw up the Windows 8 tablets, particularly if they really do plan to have it run apps intended for the desktop in addition to tablet-specific ones, and an even greater chance that even if they pull everything off pretty well that nobody will actually care in practice (cf: Windows Phone 7). But let’s be fair: it’s a little disingenuous to claim that Microsoft’s strategy is “put Windows as we know it on an iPad-sized touch device.”

Markdown OS X Services

Like a lot of blogging nerds I’m a huge fan of John Gruber’s Markdown. If you’re reading this you’re likely familiar with it, but if you’re not, it’s basically a way to write content for the web as plain text, including links and basic formatting like these italics, and have it converted to nice (X)HTML. The last paragraph looked like this in its original Markdown:

Like a lot of blogging nerds I'm a huge fan of John Gruber's
[Markdown][md]. If you're reading this you're likely familiar with it, but
if you're not, it's basically a way to write content for the web as plain
text, including links and _basic formatting like these italics,_ and have
it converted to nice (X)HTML. The last paragraph looked like this in its
original Markdown:

[md]: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/

Some blogging services—like Tumblr—support Markdown directly, and there are some editors like TextMate which come bundled with Gruber’s Markdown script. Once you get used to Markdown, though, you find yourself wanting to use it everywhere. That’s where OS X’s Automator actions come in. I’ve set up services for three different things: Markdown to HTML, HTML back to Markdown, and copying Markdown to the clipboard as formatted text.

(If you are not an OS X user, or you are not interested in this level of nerdity, I will not be offended if you stop reading now.)

To do this, you’re going to need to get three Unix scripts:

You’ll want to save Gruber’s scripts somewhere on your local file system; I have them in /usr/local/bin (the canonical “Unix stuff I’ve added to my system” directory). You can save Swartz’s script there, too, although I actually have it saved as part of the service.

In Automator, create a new service. At the top of the service’s action list, set “Service receives selected text in any application” and check the box for “Replaces selected text.”

The service has only one action: “Run Shell Script”. You can leave the default shell selected (for me that’s /bin/zsh but for you it may be /bin/bash or /bin/sh), and set “Pass input:” to “to stdin.”

In the box for the shell script, type:

/usr/local/bin/markdown | /usr/local/bin/smartypants

Save this as Markdown to HTML. This should look something like this when you’re finished:


Now create a new service and follow exactly the same steps as above, but uncheck “Replaces selected text” and in the box for the shell script type

/usr/local/bin/markdown | /usr/local/bin/smartypants |
/usr/bin/textutil -stdin -stdout -convert rtf -format html |

(That’s all one big command, so don’t type it with line breaks.)

Save that as Copy Markdown as RTF.

Now, create one more service, and follow the same instructions as the first one, but this time, select /usr/bin/python as the shell in the Run Shell Script service. “Replaces selected text” should be checked again for this one). This time, paste the whole html2text.py script right into the box for the shell script. Save that as (yes) HTML to Markdown.

To use these services, select the text you want to convert and then select the appropriate command from the Services menu. The Markdown to HTML and HTML to Markdown services replace the selected text. The Copy Markdown as RTF service converts the text and then puts it on the clipboard, so you can then go to your favorite word processor (or whatever) and paste the formatted text in.

Apple’s Kindle Problem

A lot of the defense of Apple’s moves seems to come down to two points:

  • Most iOS app developers have been perfectly happy with the 70/30 split. Apple provides a lot of services for those 30% that the developers don’t have to worry about and content publishers should be happy to have the same things provided to them.
  • One way or another it’s Apple’s sandbox and if you want to play in their sandbox you have to play by their rules.

For the second point: yes, absolutely, but there’s an elephant in the room that we need to circle back around to in a moment.

The first point has its own elephant: the underlying premise that an issue of Wired is fundamentally the same as an “Angry Birds” level pack. Just because the 30% deal is great for app developers does not mean that it’s a great deal for all kinds of content developers.

Apple’s rules tacitly recognize this by allowing publishers to continue to sell content elsewhere. Nobody sells iOS apps elsewhere; there is no web site that sells me the ability to turn off ads in Twitterrific for any price, much less a discount. In practice this isn’t a big issue for consumers because it has always been thus.

But with books and videos and music and magazines it has never been thus. Most of what I have in iBooks didn’t come from Apple’s store. As Marco Arment noted, “forcing all app publishers with purchase systems outside of in-app purchase to suddenly and completely adopt [Apple’s IAP] in parallel has no apparent practical or pragmatic justification.” Content publishers are not being required to pay Apple a fee for handling a lot of work for them—instead they’re being required to pay Apple a fee for getting content delivered onto iOS devices if they supply their own reader/viewer app. This is a very different proposition.

It’s still possible to purchase the content outside the app, yes—but the rules are explicitly designed to add a lot of friction to the non-Apple buying experience. If I’m browsing for content in the app, I’m almost certainly going to buy it in the app; the only way to prevent that is to not have any “store browsing” capability in the app at all. The Kindle app already works that way, so Amazon can be in compliance just by removing the link to their web store.

Or can they? Computerworld reported that Apple’s Trudy Miller “confirmed that [the subscription rules] apply not only to newspaper and magazine publishers, but also to content sellers like Amazon.com,” and they write, “Amazon must also implement Apple’s single-click in-app purchasing of content; Apple would skim 30% of the top of all such purchases.”

And this is the elephant in the room. If Computerworld is right—and while their track record is spotty, other more Apple-savvy pundits like Peter Cohen seem to agree—then this changes an implicit rule Apple has been playing by since the start of the App Store. Apple plays gatekeeper for apps, but data is open. Just because Apple doesn’t sell porn apps doesn’t mean there’s no porn on iPads. Now, though, Apple seems to be asserting that they have a right to play gatekeeper for content delivered to apps if that content is being sold. I know, cue “draconian control” chorus, but it’s an unavoidable implication—if everything I sell outside IAP has to be sold through IAP, then if Apple tells me I can’t sell a given title through IAP, I can’t sell that title in a way that makes it available to my iOS app at all.

Set aside histrionics about potential censorship, though—the really big cans of worms are technical. My favorite angry podcast mocked the notion a couple episodes ago with something like, “What’s Apple going to do? Stop you from putting your own files in GoodReader?” Well, y’know, if they really do force Amazon to make Kindle books available through Apple’s IAP or get off the iOS app store, then all sorts of stupid questions have to be asked with a straight face. Cohen referred to the new deal as “closing a huge loophole.” Okay, Peter, but my iBooks shelves full of books that I bought directly from publishers. Isn’t that also a huge loophole?

I’m not asking this facetiously; it’s a big Catch-22 for Apple’s position. If it’s okay for me to get an ePub I purchased elsewhere onto my system—something Apple makes very easy—then it’s tough to argue that what the Kindle app does should be verboten. What’s the practical difference? If Apple’s position is really “you can’t sell content that goes onto an iPad without giving us a ‘fair chance’ to take 30% of the selling price,” then they have to stop me from putting books I can buy somewhere else but not from them on my iPad.

Cohen’s headline of “Apple’s subscription service: great for customers, not for content creators” stops being true if Amazon pulls the Kindle app. And Amazon will have to pull the app if this is enforced: with several major publishers, Amazon gets 30% of the selling price, and the publisher sets that price. If Apple required Amazon to include the Apple IAP system and “skimmed” 30% of the selling price of anything bought that way, Amazon makes nothing. And while my evidence for this is admittedly anecdotal, I’d bet the Kindle app actually sells iPads. If there is any third party that Apple genuinely doesn’t want to drive off the platform, it’s probably Amazon. (Netflix likely runs close.)

This is so much of a sea change that I doubt Computerworld and Cohen are right—or at least, I doubt Apple will stick with it if they are.

Apple's subscription service →

"Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. "All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers."

Translated: “Our philosophy is simple—we want money. All we require is that you make it as attractive as possible for your customers to choose the option that gives us more money and you less.”

Is it fair for Apple to ask for a cut if you use their in-app subscription service? Of course. But mandating that you must include their in-app subscription service and must not sell subscriptions to your content for less money elsewhere? These terms are great for Apple, clearly, but not so appealing for publishers. And they’re not good for customers, either. If you want to argue that I should appreciate the “clarity” Apple’s provided by making sure I can’t get a discount by subscribing outside the app, I want to argue that you are the kind of person we need crotch kick over IP for.

Also, it’s confirmed that Apple is now mandating that you can’t put links to external content stores in your iPhone apps, although you can still get content in from those stores. So this doesn’t actually affect the Kindle’s “read anywhere” strategy at all; you’ll still be able to go to Amazon and send purchases to your iPad or iPhone, and since those purchases aren’t subscriptions there presumably doesn’t need to be a corresponding in-app purchase method. Amazon’s just not allowed to let you know how to buy a Kindle book inside the Kindle app. So instead of being anti-competitive on Apple’s part, it’s merely petty.

Market Share and Mind Share

Disclosure: I work for Nokia. I don’t speak for them, they have no input into what I write here, so on and so forth. I usually avoid mentioning them, but on this particular topic, they’re very much the elephant in the room.

So there’s been kerfluffle recently about relative “smartphone” market share between Android-based phones and iPhones. First we had one report from NPD that Android was ahead in market share, and then one from Gartner that no, they weren’t. The Loop reported on this with “New Report puts Apple’s iPhone OS ahead of Android,” which is true. But Jim Dalrymple opens this with, “a new report by market research firm Gartner says Apple is winning the race.” This is less true than, uh, truthy. This particular bit of truthiness has some interesting things to say about the difference between mind share and market share.

Quoting Dalrymple:

The IDC report places the iPhone OS in third place with 15.4 percent market share in the first quarter of 2010. This is up from the same period last year where Apple had a 10.5 percent market share. Google’s Android grew from a 1.6 percent market share in 2009 to 9.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

So: yes, worldwide the iPhone is beating Android. Android is growing much, much faster, though, which is definitely important to note—but the interesting bit is the word “third.”

Nokia’s Symbian OS and RIM were number 1 and 2 with 44.3 percent and 19.4 percent market share, respectively.

In all the “Google and Apple in a fight to the death!” reporting that goes on in the tech press, we tend to overlook that right now—and for a year hence, more than likely—we’re talking about a fight for third place. “Apple and Google are fighting to take over has-been RIM’s position on the top of the hill,” the story goes, “with Windows Mobile 7 Phone Mobile 7 Series 7 Phone 7 7 7 as a possible dark horse contender.”

Symbian isn’t even mentioned. Who cares about them, right? After all, their share of the smartphone market—not overall mobile phones, but just smartphones—is only… uh… greater than Android, iPhone and RIM combined.

"Eh," you say, "nobody really thinks about them. They’re irrelevant." Maybe, maybe not. They could coast for years and still be #1—they’re just that far ahead in terms of units shipping. And despite what the complete absence of U.S. coverage of them makes it seem, they’re not coasting. The Nokia N8 appears to be a damn sharp product. The Nokia application store moves about 1.6 million apps a day, and given they only opened a year ago, that’s not bad at all. Nokia’s higher-end phones have terrific cameras, GPS and great turn-by-turn navigation (for free). They have pretty solid syncing and “cloud” capability.

Yet—at least in America—pretty much nobody gives a shit.

So here’s the lesson: market share and mind share often have damn little correlation. I have a lot of friends who have Android phones and a lot of friends who have iPhones, but off the top of my head I can only think of one friend who has an Android phone who I wouldn’t describe as a geek (although she’s computer-savvy). The Android store has by far the highest percentage of free apps versus paid apps, and that’s very likely because they’ve been beating the free and open drum more loudly than anybody else, and it seems that a lot of the “buzz” about Android in the tech community is focused on development philosophy.

Outside the tech community, though, the sales seem to pretty much be driven by Verizon’s “buy one, get one free” push. I believe that’s in fact why my non-geek Android user friend has a Droid. I’m not knocking this strategy, but it remains to be seen how many mainstream phone users are buying Android because they specifically want Android. Apple has done an extremely good job of making people want an iPhone, not just a “next-generation” smartphone.

It’s pretty likely that Android’s market share will eclipse the iPhone’s market share, even with a new iPhone release around the corner. There are more vendors making Android devices, and more carrier availability in the States. (I think comparing iPhone sales and Android sales this quarter will prove a little misleading; after all the widespread reports of the next iPhone’s feature set, the sales of current iPhones is likely to be depressed as people decide to wait a few more months.) But this leaves a few questions unanswered.

  • Will Android devices be as profitable for their manufacturers as iPhone devices are for Apple?
  • Will selling Android apps be as profitable for developers as selling iPhone apps?
  • Two years from now, will non-geeks be explicitly looking for Android devices because they love its UI and want to run all those cool Android apps? i.e., will it expand its mind share, not just market share?

Android fans right now are probably pretty confident that the answer to all three questions is “yes.” Maybe so. But you can be selling a lot of hardware without creating a lot of brand loyalty, and without creating an ecosystem that people take much notice of. Before popping the champagne corks, you might wanna talk to the Finns.

Translating Adobe’s “Thoughts on Open Markets”

The genius of the Internet is its almost infinite openness to innovation. New hardware. New software. New applications. New ideas. They all get their chance.

If only you morons had adopted SVG.

As the founders of Adobe, we believe open markets are in the best interest of developers, content owners, and consumers. Freedom of choice on the web has unleashed an explosion of content and transformed how we work, learn, communicate, and, ultimately, express ourselves.

Flash is installed on around 98% of desktop and laptop computers in the world, and when we bought Macromedia it was a completely closed system. Go ahead and choose that instead of SVG, will you?

If the web fragments into closed systems, if companies put content and applications behind walls, some indeed may thrive—but their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force.

Although we hasten to point out that the many ways Adobe supports DRM across our product line—encrypted Flash video, encrypted PDFs, and for that matter all our software registration—is all about encouraging creativity and innovation.

We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs. No company—no matter how big or how creative—should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.

Sure, there are vendor-neutral ways to deliver this right now that don’t require our technology. But we don’t get paid for those. Sure, we could make a design program that does most of what Flash does using Javascript. But let’s be honest—given how long it’s taking us to deliver an actual working version of Flash on any mobile device, we’ll all have our goddamn flying cars before that happens. So it’s in our best interest to keep you all pissed off at Apple.

When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end—and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

When you think “innovation,” you think Adobe. And Flash. Right? But we complained to the FTC just in case.

That, certainly, was what we learned as we launched PostScript® and PDF, two early and powerful software solutions that work across platforms. We openly published the specifications for both, thus inviting both use and competition. In the early days, PostScript attracted 72 clone makers, but we held onto our market leadership by out-innovating the pack. More recently, we’ve done the same thing with Adobe® Flash® technology. We publish the specifications for Flash—meaning anyone can make their own Flash player. Yet, Adobe Flash technology remains the market leader because of the constant creativity and technical innovation of our employees.

See, we learned from PostScript® that it’s really easy to Out-Innovate® The Pack® when you’re the only contributor to your Openly-Published® Specification® and can ensure that you update all of your products before the spec itself is updated! You’ll notice we’re not talking about making Flash an ISO standard the way we did PDF. Of course, even then we left in a loophole: the ISO standard for PDF is equivalent to PDF 1.7, but it has “extensibility features” which we can go on to use to still “innovate.” We gave the creative employee who came up with that technical innovation a nice bonus, you betcha.

We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web—the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time.

We would like to strongly encourage you all to keep confusing the Apple app store and the web, and to see it as a great contradiction between keeping the former locked down tighter than a chastity belt and advocating the latter be based on vendor-neutral standards. The more you believe that, to paraphrase the great Kris Kristofferson, “freedom’s just another word for Adobe being able to put Flash everywhere there’s money,” the more we love you.

In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody—and everybody, but certainly not a single company.

Although if you don’t mind, we’d like to keep as much control of it as possible.

CSI: Cupertino

There are some stories you feel obligated to say something about, even though you don’t have much to bring to the conversation. So it is with the lost iPhone prototype story.

The facts are these:

  • The phone was lost or stolen at a bar in Redwood City.
  • Gizmodo talked to the person who “ended up with the iPhone,” who was the one who discovered the phone belonged to Apple engineer Gray Powell: he referred to having seen Powell’s Facebook page on the phone before it was (apparently) remotely bricked.
  • Pictures of the phone showed up on Engadget before Gizmodo broke the news that they had the phone.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading Sherlock Holmes stories recently, but it strikes me that there’s a few things to be deduced.

  • Anyone who loses something at a bar will call upon the bar to see if they found it. If you find something at a bar and you are honest, you will almost certainly give it to a worker at the bar, knowing the person who lost it will undoubtedly call again. But this didn’t happen.
  • The finder by his own admission learned the original owner’s name. He knew who owned the phone, yet his effort to return it consisted of describing it to Apple’s customer support line, not calling up the front desk and saying, “Gray Powell, please.”
  • Together these do not form an image of someone who made a good faith effort to return the phone to its proper owner. It makes no sense to call Apple’s customer support line in order to return the phone to its owner.
  • However, it does make sense to call Apple’s customer support line if you are interested in confirming whether the object in your possession is something Apple currently has for sale.
  • Next, the pictures Engadget published. We can safely assume those pictures were not provided by Gizmodo, which leaves the “finder” as the photographer.
  • Plausible conclusion: the finder supplied photographs of the phone to both Engadget and Gizmodo to gauge their interest in purchasing the phone.

That last point is corroborated by none other than Nick Denton of Gawker Media himself when speaking to Andy Ihnatko yesterday. Denton claims that they didn’t know the phone had been lost by Powell until Monday afternoon, but Gizmodo had already published the article stating that the “finder” knew Powell’s name. Either Denton is lying, or Gizmodo didn’t ask very many questions of their source until after the story broke.

I’ve seen people get upset at pundits describing this as theft. But it seems painfully obvious that the finder had some idea what it was when he found it, made no serious effort to return it to its proper owner, and after inquiring with Apple, sold it to the highest bidder. You have to keep coming back to the act of the sale: bluntly, the value of the phone depended on it being a prototype that any reasonable person would know belonged to Apple and that they would want back.

The question is how much culpability Gizmodo has in this. Sure, they apparently returned the phone to Apple when they confirmed what it was—well, after publishing all their exclusives—so their defense against accusation of buying stolen property is, in effect, that they didn’t know it was stolen when they bought it. All well and good, but the only reason to pay $5K for the thing was the chance that it was what the finder represented it to be. Apparently in Nick Denton’s world, the following is perfectly plausible:

A: Hey buddy, wanna buy this cocaine?

B: Sure, but how do I know it’s cocaine and not talc powder?

A: You don’t. Take it or leave it.

B: Okay, I’ll take it.

Police: Dude, you just bought cocaine! That’s illegal!

B: Hey, I didn’t know it was cocaine until I got it! No harm, no foul.

What actually drive me to write about this, though, is Gizmodo’s pious epigraph to this whole affair, “It’s Not About the iPhone,” when they write,

It’s always just been Apple. And now that we’ve garnered a peek inside, the once secret society of magicians, assassins and melancholy artists looks like any another tech company.

Apple will continue to do business—great business—following the leak of their most prized commodity, the next iPhone. But as Steve Jobs prepares for his next magic show, we’ll never forget seeing the strings. An unparalleled era of surprises has come to an end.

We’ve just lost one of our few self-indulgences of wonder. Christmas morning will never, ever be the same.

You know, this may be the most hypocritical horseshit I’ve seen in two decades of tech punditry. It’s written as if this is something that just happened, as if an Oz-like curtain had happened to blow open for an instant, revealing a tired old man inside, and Gizmodo is out in front mourning the terrible loss of wonder to us all.

First: get over yourselves. We’re talking about the next model of an existing smartphone here, not an anti-gravity sled laden with cures for cancer. “Secret society of magicians?” Now One Infinite Loop is Hogwart’s, and tomorrow you’ll describe them like the SS. If anyone ever believed Apple wasn’t just “another tech company,” it’s because people like you write breathlessly histrionic fanboy-vs.-hater bait like this all the time.

Second: you’re the guys who pulled the curtain back. Don’t insult our intelligence by pretending that you care about Apple’s desire to keep what they’re working on secret, that you’re oh so sad that we have more proof that Apple is staffed by fallible humans. Jesus Christ. You mate the journalistic ethics of William Hearst with the intellectual rigor of Parade. Just bask in the glory of your ten million new page hits and shut up.

Dan Dilger and the Case of the Exploding Head

I know I often bag on people who write stupid anti-Apple things; in part that’s because Apple brings out a lot of stupid. But far be it from me to pretend that stupid only happens on the anti-Apple side.

Submitted for your consideration: Daniel Eran Dilger, proprietor of the aptly-named Roughly Drafted. (He uses all three names to distinguish himself from all those other Daniel Dilgers out there.) I passed through a few stages in my reading at RD after discovering it:

  • Long, well-written and well-researched articles! Cool!
  • Hmm. Maybe just long and well-researched.
  • Just down to “long,” aren’t we?
  • This diagram looks like an explosion at the flow chart factory.
  • Wait, what orifice did he pull that out of?
  • My brain is crawling out my ear to get away

For a typical RD piece, peruse his frenzied rhapsody “iPad, the Destroyer: 19 Things It Will Kill,” which include DVDs, Microsoft Office, DVRs, and “idle moments.” Anything Office does that iWork doesn’t is clearly unnecessary; we no longer have time to ourselves because our shiny glass overlords demand otherwise; we watch video exclusively on 9.7″ screens. (Dan’s next Superbowl party will be killer.) Oh, and netbooks, which he asserts “already killed off the desktop PC,” because… uh… you can replace… ∗headexplode∗

Dilger has now taken on Mac pundit John Gruber, host of Daring Fireball, because Gruber is a big meaniepants. To wit, on April 8th Gruber quoted an AppleInsider article by “Prince McLean,” a pseudonym Dilger writes under:

Those familiar with the design of iPhone 4.0 said that the user interface will resemble Apple’s desktop Exposé feature, in that a key combination…will trigger an Exposé-like interface that brings up a series of icons representing the currently running apps, allowing users to quickly select the one they want to switch to directly. When a selection is made, the iPhone OS zooms out of the Exposé task manager and transitions to that app.

As the iPhone OS 4.0 task switcher is not very much like Exposé, Gruber mocked them for that:

Where by “familiar with the design,” they meant “making shit up,” unless by “Exposé-like,” they meant “not at all like Exposé.”

This makes Dilger a sad and angry blogger. He’s upset that Gruber “purposefully omitted” the part that said, “the new mechanism currently presents just each app’s icon. This renders the feature more similar to the basic Command+Tab app switcher than Exposé itself as a desktop feature.” Dilger feels that explanation is correct “because the final implementation is indeed very much like the Mac OS X app switcher.”

Sorry, but phrases like “Exposé-like” set up an expectation that it will look like—I trust this is not too bold a claim—Exposé. A fair reading of what AppleInsider wrote is that double-clicking the iPhone home button would use the same visual effect with application icons that the desktop version uses with windows. It’s nothing like that at all. And it’s not very much like Command-Tab, either.

Yet Dilger not only denies this is a valid point, he claims Gruber’s deliberately lying:

Gruber knows that Apple’s original user interface design for iPhone 4.0 multitasking was originally more like Exposé than the task switcher design the company ultimately unveiled. So when we reported that sources had described the new system as similar to an element on Mac OS X, and specifically that it would resemble Apple’s Exposé feature, he knew that was accurate, if outdated, information from a source familiar with Apple’s plans.

Gruber was not only wrong in saying we made the information up ourselves, but he knew he was wrong and he knew he was not accurately nor honestly presenting what AI had actually reported.

But Gruber didn’t say that AI necessarily made the information up themselves; he snarked that “Those familiar with the design” should be read as “those making shit up”—i.e., the informant was full of shit. Dilger’s response is that the informant was describing an earlier state correctly, so it’s not fair to call it wrong. But for those of us who are not unstuck in the space-time continuum, it doesn’t work that way. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was at one point Hetch Hetchy Valley, but you’re still giving out bullshit information if you tell someone about how lovely it is to hike these days.

You’d figure that Gruber would have had to do a serious hatchet job to get Dilger that frothed up, but in fact, the “Where by…” sentence is the entirety of what Gruber wrote. In Dilgerworld, that one snarky sentence is tantamount to “completely fraudulent journalism hypocritically masquerading as insightful critique.”

Gruber also wrote about Mobile Multitasking on April 14th and quoted Dilger again:

Other platforms have enabled multitasking by simply allowing any number of other apps to run. This results in a mess for users because it’s up to them to manage which apps are running out of control or needlessly chewing up resources in the background. Android and Windows Mobile are both notorious for needing TasKiller or some other sort of manual process manager to keep battery life and performance in check.

And Gruber went on to write, “Dilger is flat-out wrong about Android.” This also made Dilger sad and angry. First, because while Gruber wrote, “I believe [Dilger] is right about Windows Mobile,” he didn’t think it mattered going forward as Windows Mobile is, you know, kind of dead. But Gruber also wrote, “Dilger is flat-out wrong about Android,” and Dilger gets the vapors again:

Since all I said about Android in this context was that it was “notorious for needing TasKiller,” I can only assume that’s what he thought was in error.

Except that’s not all he said. Dilger described what “other platforms” did, explained why that was bad (“needlessly chewing up resources in the background”), and named two operating systems that needed a “manual process manager” to handle the problem he just described. The logical reading of the sentence is that Android does in fact allow any number of other apps to run. If that isn’t the conclusion Dilger meant for a reader to draw, then why did he write it that way?

And the really amazing thing here is that Gruber spent only three sentences referring to Dilger in the article. Dilger spends hundreds of words defending his original sentence about Android needing a task killer and lambasting Gruber for saying that it doesn’t. Never mind Gruber’s linking to an Android kernel engineer describing how it actually works. (Something one can’t help but notice about Dilger’s writing is that he tends to link almost exclusively to his own past articles, very rarely offering any reference backing up what he’s saying.)

So let’s review.

  • Writing articles for different sites under different names and linking them for mutual support, the very definition of sock-puppeting: assuredly the highest ground possible when judging the ethics of others.
  • Getting snarky about reports presented as news, containing falsifiable information, that indeed turn out to be false: completely fraudulent and hypocritical!
  • Accusing someone in public of dishonest reporting without offering a shred of evidence to back it up beyond your own long-winded pontification: good, honest and upstanding work.