Daniel Eran Dilger
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Forbes’ Fake Steve Jobs Is Also Fake On Apple

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Daniel Lyons is the author of the Fake Steve Jobs blog and a columnist at Forbes. After developing a reputation for attacking bloggers, open source, and any alternatives to Microsoft, Lyons has shed his skin to escape from one scandal while at the same time squirming into position to choke the truth out of his next victim: Apple.

Reader Marc Elson sent in a link to Lyons’ “Snowed by SCO,” an article Lyons wrote to both apologize for and marginalize his years of articles in Forbes that misrepresented the issues in the SCO Groups’ attack on Linux. He blamed his reporting on bad information he’d been fed by SCO.

It’s easy to backtrack now that SCO is toast; in fact it’s rather impossible not to. However, neither Lyons nor Forbes can erase the years of false information and misleading spin they published, which not only idealized SCO but also lambasted any individuals critical of the company. He described anyone supporting Linux as religious folk “convinced of their own righteousness.”

While fighting for SCO, Lyons also attacked “bloggers” in a front page article in Forbes that screamed, “they destroy brands and wreck lives. Is there any way to fight back?” as if everyone who writes on the Internet operates as a class that can be summarily judged and dismissed at once.

[Snowed By SCO – Forbes]

Forbes Attack Of the Blogs

Daniel In the Lyons Den Again.
Lyons’ lack of hesitation in throwing out poorly conceived attacks is getting him into trouble again. He seems to be working frantically to spin together a bizarre new tale of how Apple is going to simultaneously be torn apart by the can-do-no-wrong Microsoft while also turning into a shadow of the evil monopolist itself, threatening us with its fearsome dominance.

Lyons resurrected the identical, wholly illogical conundrum of a paradox posited last year by Windows Enthusiasts, principally Paul Thurrott, who spoke in fear of a threatening monopoly position achieved by Apple’s iTunes while–puzzlingly–also describing Apple’s music business as a pitiful failure that could never withstand the market dominance of Microsoft.

Is it part of a new Forbes campaign? Lyons’ new work echos other regular articles from Forbes writers, all attacking Apple and reality in the same breath:

Presenting Apple TV a supposed flop, despite its profitably outselling the TiVo this year without incurring the tens of millions in losses TiVo has suffered in the last quarter and in every one of the last several years.

Promoting MusicNet Digital’s failed Microsoft partnership in selling music against iTunes and describing the Zune as something other than a spectacular failure. Even the most giddy Zune fan sites are appalled by Microsoft’s lack of support in providing updates and fixes for the Zune’s major failures. How is Forbes framing it as some kind of sleeper hit?

[The iTunes Monopoly/Failure Myth]
Scott Woolley Attacks Apple TV in Forbes, Gets the Facts Wrong]
Forbes Prints Insanely Self Serving Attack on iTunes by MediaNet CEO Alan McGlade]

When Cost Is No Object: Microsoft Media Center.
Reader Robert de Bie forwarded a link to Lyons’ breathless accolades over Microsoft’s Media Center software, which opened with the line, “Guess who’s got the slickest software for handling TV, movies and music? Not Apple.”

Lyons compared using a Mac and Apple TV with a PC running Vista Ultimate with Media Center features and an Xbox 360 to relay content to a TV. He raved that the Microsoft solution “can do things with digital media that even Apple can’t match.” That’s true, as Media Center is principally a DVR, a software version of the TiVo; Apple doesn’t sell anything the works like a TiVo to record TV.

However, Lyons only noted in passing that “Microsoft charges $400 for Vista Ultimate–$300 too much,” failing to add up that a Mac comes with free Front Row features.

Apple TV hardware costs $300; it supplies ultra fast 802.11n wireless and, at a minimum, a 40 GB hard drive.

In contrast, an Xbox 360 with a 20 GB hard drive costs $350, and another $100 for slower 802.11b/g wireless. So as a wireless media extender, the Xbox 360 costs $450 (50% more), but gives you half the disk capacity and slower networking.
Media Center Apple TV

Additionally, the required Media Center software that costs another $400 in Vista Ultimate doesn’t magically provide you with a TV tuner, so you still have to buy one.

In other words, all the money you throw at Microsoft only gives you software that is otherwise free. Without having to pay for all that software licensing, you can go buy whatever TiVo-like TV tuner for the Mac fits your needs, and solve the problem for hundreds of dollars less.

Of course, what Apple wants you to do is go without a TV tuner and an expensive cable subscription and simply buy the TV and movies you want to watch from iTunes. Of course, that’s not necessary to use Apple TV; you can also rip your own DVDs or even use it to manage your home movies and free podcasts, something Media Center isn’t really designed to do because there’s no money in it.

Don’t forget that there are more fees involved with Xbox Live services, and that TV downloads are more expensive. You’ll also need to pre-purchase Microsoft’s points, converting your cash into Microsoft Live currency that’s subject to change. And once you buy Xbox Live TV shows, don’t expect them to play on your Zune or Windows Mobile phone the way iTunes content plays on Apple’s iPods and iPhone.

Of course, when Microsoft sends writers all this equipment to try out for free, then it’s easy to gush over how great it all works and report, “No crashes, no reboots, no blue screen of death. Stunning,” as Lyons did. Had he actually been forced to pay the $840 premium to actually use Microsoft’s system, perhaps he’d sing another tune.

While Lyons is certainly entitled to his opinion, he should at least present the facts correctly. Outlining any Microsoft product without a consideration of its true cost is always a mistake, because the true cost is almost always hidden. Lyons also wrote “Microsoft’s system supports high-definition video; Apple TV does not,” a line that isn’t true.

Content from iTunes isn’t yet available in HD, but the Apple TV does support HD video from other sources and comes equipped with support HDMI, which only the newest Xbox consoles have. Considering that Microsoft has barely sold any new Xbox 360 units this year, fewer than 20% of installed Xbox users even have HDMI outputs.
Apple TV vs Media Center

Windows XP Media Center Edition vs Apple TV]
Forrester Research: Epic Terror of iTunes and Apple TV]

Big Brother Says: Apple is the New Microsoft.
Since publishing that “Media By Microsoft” article a couple weeks ago, Lyons has ramped up his attack on Apple into a web of false information that approaches his SCO shilling. He even exploits his popular Fake Steve Jobs blog for dramatic effect.

Lyons starts his newspeak reporting, ironically enough, in an article titled “Big Brother,” with a comical juxtaposition of Apple’s 1984 Macintosh ad and a modern screenshot of Jobs presenting the new 3G iPod Nano against a huge video screen of his own image. Lyons had earlier published the images on his Fake Steve Jobs blog after a reader had submitted them.

This is funny stuff, because in both images, there’s a greying white man with glasses on a huge TV screen talking. But in 1984, the man is talking about universal ideology to a numb audience, while in the modern scene, Jobs was talking about changing the market for mobile video with a 6.5mm device, and the crowds were enthusiastically applauding.

There was one other amusing similarly however: shortly before eating the hammer thrown by the Macintosh girl in orange hotpants, the 1984 Big Brother screen says, “Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

In 2007, Jobs has said some similar things about Microsoft, but the Macintosh hammer is actually being thrown at Vista. So while it’s not exactly the same thing, it is a funny coincidence. Along those lines, Lyons provided some examples of how, as an enemy of Apple, he can talk himself to death and be buried in his own confusion.

[Big Brother – Forbes]
Forbes Big Brother

Here’s What You Believe.
So far, we’ve just covered the photos on the article. Once Lyons started writing, it was like SCO all over again. He says early iPhone buyers “were threatening to take to the streets again–only this time with pitchforks and torches. They were furious because Apple Chief Steve Jobs slashed the phone’s price to $400 from $600, making early adopters look like suckers.”

If Lyons really wants to make up garbage and rewrite history, he should confine himself to Wikipedia where he can’t do any damage. The people complaining about getting what they paid for were a whiney minority amplified by a desperate press trying to find something wrong with the most successful electronics product launch in history.

Anyone who thinks buyers who paid $600 for the iPhone to get the hottest new device available–and who ended up with a phone that cost less overall than even the $99 Motorola Q, and further got a $100 refund credit–are “suckers” needs to reevaluate what being a sucker might mean. Perhaps paying Microsoft $850 for the equivalent of a $300 Apple TV with less storage and a slower network, and then still needing to buy a TV tuner is a better example of being a “sucker.”

The only difference is that Lyons didn’t get a free iPhone from Apple, but did get a bunch of Microsoft Media Center stuff to try out without having to pay for any of it as the rest of us would have to do, were we inclined to let Microsoft control our TVs.

[Ten Fake Apple Scandals: 1 – Phony Rage About iPhone Price and Profits]

The SCO Shill Lines Up Behind Microsoft, AT&T, and the RIAA.
It might not be a surprise that a writer who identified SCO as safe to cheerlead for because of its seemingly legitimate corporate position would similarly jump at the opportunity to weep crocodile tears for some of the other most reviled companies doing business on the planet. Lyons is apparently not very smart about picking corporate favorites.

“It looks like an anti-Apple backlash has begun,” Lyons wrote, noting that NBC Universal pulled out of iTunes to partner with Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM-based Amazon UnBoxed store. He didn’t mention that NBC also partnered with Fox in setting up a joint Microsoft store, and then went solo on its own website trying to offer ad-encrusted, Microsoft DRM-ed, exploding content. No doubt all of those efforts are going to work out well for NBC.

Lyons also said “Vivendi’s Universal Music Group also reportedly won’t renew its contract with Apple,” without clarifying that only refers to its long term contract; Universal music hasn’t budged from iTunes. He also cites unhappy noises from Hollywood about Apple’s desire to lower prices to make content more desirable to consumers, who can already obtain movies and TV programming free over the air or via unauthorized downloads.

Omitted from Lyon’s one-sided overview of the iTunes Store is CBS executives’ comments that they are very happy with its deals with Apple, and that both CBS and Fox are offering free season premieres through iTunes.

And what about Viacom billionaire Sumner Redstone, who was recently cited by BU reporter Jessica Ullian as saying that “iTunes has ‘resurrected the music industry’ by creating a legal, affordable, instantly gratifying purchasing system for fans. The challenge now is for the film industry to catch up, he said, and for competing companies to work together to establish new standards and practices.”

[CBS and Fox offer free TV through iTunes US – iPod/iTunes – Macworld UK]
How iTunes Saved the Music Industry – BU Today]

Pity the Poor AT&T.
Lyons wrote that “Jobs isn’t known for treating partners well,” noting that the iPhone doesn’t sell AT&T’s worthless media services or overpriced ringtones. That’s really an example of Jobs treating the customer well, and the Fake Steve Jobs should know that. Why repeat the “Apple can’t partner myth?”

AT&T is making a major turnaround, funded by record numbers of headlines fawning over the iPhone. Apple has propelled Cingular from a middle of the road brand into its new AT&T name, which the company purposely rolled out in conjunction with the iPhone to benefit from the excitement surrounding it. Should we be aghast that Apple declined AT&T’s own overpriced MEdia Net TV clips and ringtones? Is AT&T even worried about it?

The service provider reported that the iPhone has outsold any phone it has ever introduced. Does that make Apple a bad partner? Would it be better if Apple really was the New Microsoft, extending its support and then yanking it back in a PlaysForSure/Zune style move? Does Lyons really have the extra credibility to burn in making such ridiculous comments?

[How AT&T Picked Up the iPhone: A Brief History of Mobiles]

More of the New Microsoft Meme.
After noting some of Apple’s recent successes, Lyons wrote, “the flip side of Apple’s success is that Apple has started to seem scary.” Scary, uncertain, and doubtful!

“No longer is Apple the plucky underdog out to save the world,” Lyons fears. Oh really? Has evil been vanquished? Is there not still the inky black bile of Windows Media DRM dripping from every alternative store in the universe? Does not Microsoft still have the remains of that $50 billion it took in last year from its monopolies–real monopolies, not the imagined fantasy kind pinned on iTunes by the media?

You know, the monopoly in PC desktop operating systems held by Windows, the monopoly in servers, and the monopoly in desktop Office software? The monopolies that earn Microsoft overall profit margins as high as 81% on products that are over a half decade old?

From that perspective, Apple could really turn evil over the next twenty years and still not compare to the wrongs we’ve suffered from Microsoft. Even so, Apple really isn’t doing wrong by its consumers. If the best Lyons can do is to suggest that some RIAA labels and Hollywood executives are miffed by Apple’s push for low prices, he’d better scramble to find something more problematic than that. I like low prices in content. I don’t long for access to AT&T’s expensive ringtones.

iPhone Price Problems.
Apple’s iPhone was a better deal at $600 than Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Motorola Q at $99, because Apple twisted AT&T’s arm to provide lower priced service, making the iPhone around $200 cheaper across two years of use. Apple then dropped the iPhone’s price by another $200, making it now almost $400 cheaper than the nearly free phones on the market.

Is this wrong? Did Apple harm those of us who recognized value in the iPhone back in June? Did Apple defraud a million people who bought the iPhone at a good price when it lowered the price afterward?

[Apple’s iPhone Price Cut Unleashes Complaints]

Apple TV Only A Flop For Forbes’ Frauds.
Lyons repeats in passing–without any factual backup–that the Apple TV is a flop. Oh really? Is that because it profitably sold a quarter of a million units with little advertising?

Incidentally, that’s nearly double the number of new customers TiVo signed up, as reader Timothy Bandy pointed out. He noted that “TiVo-owned subscriptions totaled 1.71 million, up 136,000 on an annual basis compared to the year ago-period.”

If Apple sold 250,000 units of the Apple TV, “it’s already doubled the amount of new customers Tivo made last year,” Bandy wrote, “or to put it another way, they already have 1/7th of Tivos’ customer base without hardly trying. And as you pointed out, I doubt they’ve lost several million bucks in the process.”

TiVo lost $19 million in the last quarter, and $50 million last year. Apple sells the Apple TV at a profit, although not much of one. That’s because the company is working to sell content that works on the Mac, and Apple TV only serves as a contributing part of that strategy. Apple is working to expand the market for fair priced Internet downloads, in opposition to high-DRM, high-priced alternatives.

Microsoft has lost billions in its consumer electronics products, including the Xbox 360 that Windows Enthusiasts like to compare against the Apple TV. Microsoft also stomped on efforts by Linux users to recycle the old Xbox as a media playback system. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the “suckers” blubbering? Where’s the reporting that “Microsoft regularly betrays its partners?” It’s certainly not in the pages of Forbes.
Brent Schlender Apple TV FUD

[Brent Schlender’s Apple TV: Fortune Dud or Fortune FUD?]

It’s all Downhill From Here.
Lyons then complained that iPhone sales must be fading because Apple dropped the price, neglecting to account for the fact that Apple met its million unit sales goal three weeks early.

“The next version of OS X, called Leopard, has suffered delays,” Lyons wrote, again failing to compare its 6 month delay to the six year delay of Vista. I guess Apple isn’t the New Microsoft after all.

Lyons begged for forgiveness after beating on Linux users for years and glorifying a bunch of greedy SCO investors trying to exploit intellectual property rights the company didn’t even own. In describing his partnership with Rob Enderle, I downplayed his SCO role after he pleaded for evenhanded coverage of his past, noting that he did publish some correct information after the writing was on the wall for SCO.

However, for his shameless attempts to present the same kind of one-sided, half-truth, negative-spin that praises the worst corporations on Earth while reviling the only company that seems to share any interests and values in common with its customers, Lyons has lost the bits of credibility he begged to retain. Shame on him, and Zoon on Daniel Lyons‘ head.

[Daniel Lyons: Fake Steve Jobs and the SCO Shill Who Hated Linux]

Thanks to John Schmidt for the “Big Brother” link.

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1 faddah { 10.09.07 at 1:50 pm }

dirk diggler … err, i mean, daniel eran dilger. look, bud, previously i’ve appreciated you as a more technical fellow apple fanboi like m’self. sometimes you wave the pro-apple pom-poms a little too much for even my taste (and i’m an old-time apple user, the type that used to say, under Classic OS 9, that if you cut us we bleed six colors, like the old apple logo), and i felt you were upholding the apple party line long past the point we should have admitted, yeah, but the consumers and industry want something else, but eh, what the heck. i figured that’s your right to your opine, and tho’ you defend it rather overly stringently, i figured that’s what a free and open internet and blogs are all about. but on attacking your fellow blogger who is also an avid apple fan, dan lyons, a.k.a. “fake steve,” as some sort of microsquish/borg shill?? oh, man. i’m sorry, daniel, but this is just way, way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark. like somewhere beyond pluto.

so by some convoluted ultimate nuclear mobius strip pretzel logic, “fake steve,” a.k.a., dan, is actually surreptitiously promoting a closed system, all microsoft agenda?

what are you suggesting next? that mother teresa was secretly a calcutta “sweeney todd,” and actually slitted the throats of the poor and then baked them into pies to sell to support her nunnery and lavish lifestyle???

dan loves apple technology and how the whole (melo-) drama of silicon valley life, news, events, and markets play out. that is his *job,* man, as a reporter for a business magazine on a tech beat. yes, he’s been critical of stallman, the FSF and other things where the linux and open source community try and get all self-righteous and political about their OS. say what you will about apple, but their forays into making their OS political have been gracefully few and far between (besides what we don’t know about who pays off who on K street in DC, but that’s another kettle of fish to fry). and you know what? dan is right in what he points out are the indefensible wastes of time the FSF and their legal arm try and subsume over existing copyright law, such as the current debacle of the GPL v.3 which many are not even adopting because it is so ridiculously arbitrary in its restrictiveness (see ——>> http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/070925/20070925006182.html?.v=1).

here’s a little story you and no one else i’ve seen not even say word “boo” about in the way of news stories or blogging in the tech community. FSF and their legal arm are all about securing the rights of GPL v.3 as if that is the big story this year. yet you, daniel and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE trumpet about the REAL elephant in the living room — ballmer and microsoft making claims of linux stealing MS code in their source, and yet FSF, their legal arm, the open source community, etc., have done ABSOLUTELY SQUAT about challenging this threatening legal claim (no matter how bogus it may actually be, and yes, both “fake steve” and i think it probably very bogus) to the linux and open source communities.

yes, i am aware, because as i said, i do mostly like your column and its content, that you have contested this claim yourself. but the story you and others are utterly **missing** is why FSF and the open source community have done *nothing,* zero, zilch, nichts, nada, null – the empty set, big goose egg about challenging microsoft and ballmer head on about this ridiculous claim. novell/suse caved, other major linux distro’s are cow-towing to signing their souls to the redmond devil, but FSF and the open source community have remained shockingly mute, seeing how they are so prickly about people doing anything to offend their software anarchistic political aspirations otherwise. why, daniel? why has FSF done nothing to say to microsquish/ballmer/redmond — “put up or shut up! show us the code in question or go home!”? why?

it’s the job of people like “fsj”/dan to report on stuff like this and speak truth to both the powerful and the self-righteous software anarchist. as far as i see, he does both very well and with a lot of a savvy, hilarious wit. i’ve chatted quite a bit with “fsj”/dan on e-mail as a long-time, unabashed fan of his blog, both before and after he was “outted” by the new york times. he is quite accessible (when not very busy, as he is, essentially, holding down both his editor position at forbes, writing this blog, and was finishing up the “options” fsj satire book for his publishing house) and friendly on e-mail. as to the situation about OSF, FSF & SCO, i’ve chatted with him on e-mail about this and he takes a very journalistic stance about how now it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. i do not find this disingenuous nor facile, i find it the correct, non-involved stance for a true journalist to take as regards a continuing story. yes, he has his opinions and preferences. yes, he *is* an apple fan and has said he finds the “character” of steve jobs, and how he’s painted in the media (and yes, even by you, daniel) amazing. he’s culled a zeitgeist of these various and often conflicting views of jobs’ history and personality to create one of the most hilarious and full characterizations ever achieved in a blog or, i feel, elsewhere for that matter. and has done so with a lot of wit and style. he also is, believe it or not, an occasional linux user and thinks that OS and some of the basic tenants of open source are great. just not the self-righteous stuff that hinders rather than connects more. and what is so wrong about pointing out? is the open source/linux community just another version of self-righteous anarchists/liberals whose goals are so pure and lofty that they cannot be in the least bit criticized, even if the purpose is to urge them on to be better?

which brings me to another point — dan lyons/”fsj,” as i said, is *very* accessible. his e-mail at forbes is published on-line at the forbes site, and everyone can write him at “fakestevejobs at gmail dot com.” did *you,* daniel, take the time to really do due diligence and let dan/fsj know what you were about to plop out here in the blog and give him a chance to respond or counter your claims, or give his own take on how he has been unjustly shouted down for his analysis criticisms by the “freetards,” *before* you hit the “send” button on this blog? i think for someone who claims to want to counter media & microsquish FUD about apple, you yourself should at least try not to spread too much FUD about a fellow apple fan/blogger who is quite obviously trying to encourage the platform, albeit satirically, based on a lot of FSF grumbling about him without much research back-up.

in short, fsj/dan, i feel, is doing more to really promote and show a more jocular, friendly and accessible side of apple/mac/ipod fandom than anyone else out there. if anything, you should be lauding and supporting someone like him who bring more fans into the apple fold from out there in the cold with hearty laughter and humor about both what’s can be wrong but also what’s so right about the apple way than anyone else. you do it through rather layered product manifest directions, legal and technical analysis. he does it with a light touch of that, but mostly the irony and humor, and a willingness to open up and say, yeah, apple’s off the mark on this point here but are a far better choice than anything else going out there still. yes, he does point out when FSF, linux or apple miss the mark. guess what? — that’s the credo of a truly responsible journalist, not merely to snark them for what they get wrong, but to point out where they really should be going to get it right. that, for me, bring far more folks into the fold than apple bloggers taking ridiculously unfounded pot-shots at each other. go look at the comments section of the “fsj” blog, you’ll find 90% of folks there, like me, are die-hard apple fans, who, at the same time, can readily and realistically admit the mis-steps by apple in order to point them out and hope apple gets it better next time around. that *is* what the dialogue should be about, not falsely accusing a fellow blogger of being an SCO or microsquish shill.

what is sad here is the missed opportunity where you two could really be harmonic trumpets to rally the apple/mac/ipod/iphone fan base into a really unstoppable force — him being the more jocular and business acumen side, you being the more technical history side. but instead, you’ve kind of really thrown this down the toilet with this post, and called a lot of your previously well-researched and well-written work into question. the logic by which you twist dan/”fsj” into an SCO and microsquish shill is so utterly ridiculous that even wing-nut conspiracy theorists who think the u.s. gov’t. themselves crashed the jet-liners during 9/11 and are still hiding the passengers & crew of one them, would read what you wrote here and go, “oh man, that just doesn’t fly!”

bad form, daniel eran dilger, bad form indeed. and again, way, way, way, way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark.

did i mention it was off the mark? it really is. way off. way.

2 danieleran { 10.09.07 at 4:35 pm }

For the record, I exchanged emails with Dan Lyon when printing my earlier articles on SCO and the history of Microsoft. Dan presented that he had opened up his criticism of SCO and its attorneys–after years of playing down Linux users as religious nutcase fanatics.

I toned down my own criticism of Lyons for that reason. At the same time, FSJ can’t write wrong information in Forbes without getting fact checked. Using his FSJ blog to court the attention of Mac users, and then bashing them with sloppy, one-sided coverage–using the information his FSJ audience forwarded him–is particularly bad form.

As for my own writing, I appreciate being called out when I’m wrong (because I don’t like being wrong, and am happy to correct things as soon as I can), but I don’t like being taken to task for being a one-sided fanatic who says anything to make Apple look good.

That is a common characterization, but it is not true. I do not follow any “party line” and am frequently ostracized by more commercial flacks for tilting against populist opinion. I have frequently called out Apple over things I think need to be fixed or changed, even challenging Steve Jobs in public over .Mac, the open iPhone, and Mac OS X licensing.

Calling me a talking points repeater is inane.

At the same time, I also recognize that a lot of what Apple is being criticized over is either in my opinion wrong, or is just manufactured outrage.

3 johnnyapple { 10.28.07 at 12:11 pm }

You’re welcome for the “Big Brother” link. I was going to post it in the forumn but thought you might make better use of it as a whole story and you did. Thanks!

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