Randall Stross attacks the iPhone in the NYT using shills
December 14th, 2009
Daniel Eran Dilger
The New York Times has again violated its own no-shill policy by paying Randall Stross to amplify Roger Entner and a variety of other mobile company clients who are all struggling to portray the iPhone as the reason why AT&T’s network is terrible in New York and San Francisco, a bizarre denial of the simple reality that AT&T’s networks in those two cities are simply “performing at levels below our standards,” as AT&T’s CEO Ralph de la Vega recently told the Wall Street Journal.
This all happened before
Back in 2007, the New York Times first instated a ban on shills like Rob Enderle, who purport to be independent analysts while actually serving as paid mouthpieces for the firms they represent. In the words of Times spokeswoman Abbe Serphos, this supposedly included any “analysts who have an obvious business relationship with a company.”
It’s no secret that Enderle has been paid by both Microsoft and Dell to say bad things about Apple. It eventually became embarrassing for the Times to realize its sloppy journalists were stooping to quote him as a shortcut to performing actual investigative research, hence the ban.
Immediately afterward, Randall Stross made a mockery of the Times‘ stated policy by advancing an avalanche of fear, uncertainty and doubt from Roger Kay, another life-long shill for Microsoft. At the time, Kay was warning the world that Apple’s decision to postpone the release of Mac OS X Leopard by six months to focus on the iPhone would result in catastrophic problems for the company.
How Vista destroyed Apple, by Roger Kay
“They’ve shaken people’s confidence in their ability to execute!” Kay insisted of Apple’s Mac OS X team at the time to Stross, while also bemoaning the then-new iPhone to NPR by saying, “You have to squeeze your fat fingers onto this fairly small, glass surface and hope to hit the right key. That could be quite challenging.” Kay had come up with that line before the iPhone was even released and before he had ever touched one. It wasn’t analysis or informed opinion, it was shill fear-mongering and completely ridiculous.
Stross’ 2007 article was focused on how Apple’s Leopard was about to be crushed by Windows Vista. Kay had informed him that the problems of Vista were only temporary and that Microsoft’s “thousands of certified supporting hardware vendors and the two million device drivers” for Windows make up “an enormous flywheel.”
“It takes a lot of energy to spin it up,” Kay said, “but once it gets going, it’s virtually unstoppable.” In hindsight, Kay was clearly spewing delusional garbage to flatter his client, and Stross was incompetently presenting Kay’s message as a one-sided propaganda piece masquerading as a real piece of journalism. Two years later, Kay and Strouss look like idiots, and the Times looks less than legitimate for allowing such obviously slanted, paid opinion to be printed as news.
Second verse same as the first
This time around Stross is aiming his attack of the iPhone. Given that everyone knows that AT&T’s data network is not the best in terms of coverage in the US, and in particular is problematic in New York and San Francisco (as the company’s own CEO has publicly admitted), creating a story to publish in the Times to argue the exact opposite of what everyone knows to be the truth would require some creative sources of pseudo-evidence.
John Gruber of the Daring Fireball expertly dismantled Stross’ shaky sources, all of which were assembled to suggest that AT&T’s network is really ideal in every way and therefore the iPhone itself is causing all the problems that iPhone users on AT&T’s network are experiencing. Gruber didn’t mention Roger Entner, however, who in this Stross article plays the part of the Rob Enderle/Roger Kay shill.
Readers will recall that Entner was the Verizon shill who said, also back in 2007, “There’s a lot of rejoicing at Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile [supposedly because the iPhone didn't sell 1 million units on its first weekend]. By not selling out, it is still a solid success, but it also proved that not everyone in the country is willing to drop $600 on a new phone. [...] For the other carriers, it’s not a game changer. It’s business as usual again.”
We have always been at war with Eurasia.
The same source who claimed that the original iPhone was not a “game changer” and that business was “as usual again” and that everyone should just forget about the iPhone, is now, two years later, serving as Stross’ primary witness in claiming that iPhone users on AT&T in the US who experience problems are suffering from issues in the iPhone rather than problems related to AT&T’s coverage area, problems that AT&T actually readily admits and claims it is working furiously to address.
Stross then frantically attempts to shore up these specious claims by citing data compiled by analyzing the performance of AT&T’s network compared to its rivals. Even ignoring the questionable legitimacy of this data and the companies who collected it (as Gruber has already focused upon), a simple look what they’re actually saying makes it clear that Strauss either doesn’t understand basic ideas or is purposely misleading his readers.
One company reports that, according to its tests and as a client of AT&T and Verizon, “AT&T’s data throughput is 40 to 50 percent higher than the competition, including Verizon.” but even if that’s the case it’s simply relevant. These tests were not performed solely in San Francisco and New York City, they were compiled around the United States in areas where where fewer iPhone complaints are occurring. Additionally, AT&T’s problem is not that it’s lacking in throughput, but rather that AT&T’s network has problems related to coverage quality.
iPhone users are not complaining about connection speeds, they’re complaining that they can’t get a signal, or can’t maintain a call, or can’t reliably access 3G service within an area like San Francisco, where AT&T indicates in its 3G coverage maps that the entire city is completely blanketed in 3G service, when this is not the case at all.
If you can obtain an AT&T 3G signal, it is indeed likely to be faster than Verizon’s 3G because AT&T’s UMTS technology allows faster communication speeds compared to Verizon’s dead-end CDMA/EV-DO. That is not even controversial. The problem is that AT&T’s network has more areas where users simply can’t get a reliable 3G signal, and in some places, not even a decent 2G GSM/EDGE connection.
Lie is the new truth
This doesn’t mean the iPhone is completely perfect and cannot be improved upon. I reported last year about how Apple and AT&T were working together to deliver updates that improve the reliability and efficiency of its mobile 3G communications. The iPhone continues to evolve and improve.
However, for Strauss to suggest that the iPhone is primarily to blame for AT&T’s problematic service is either grossly ignorant and incompetent, or an intentional effort to mislead his Times readers. The iPhone is working in scores of other countries without similar problems comparable to AT&T’s issues in the United States. At the same time, other data-heavy cell phones on AT&T’s network have reported similar problems, including RIM’s BlackBerry models.
If the New York Times wants to stop looking like an illegitimate rag, it has to stop publishing the one-sided garbage Randall Stross accumulates as he salvages propaganda treasure from the trash receptacles filled up by various industry shills on his route. Shame on Stross, the Times, and his illegitimate sources, starting with Entner.