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Media kit for reporting on Steve Jobs & Apple: Understanding & Spinning Rants

Daniel Eran Dilger

This media kit is being made available to keep your staff writers on message when reporting on Apple Inc, as opposed to every other tech company. Please do not stray from these guidelines, or Apple’s competitors might be induced to actually fight to contest in a competitive market, rather than being lulled into complacency while making meaninglessly trite responses.
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Part 1: Intelligent, rational discussion by Steve Jobs is a “rant,” while childish ranting and name calling by other CEOs is professional discourse.

It’s official: Jobs’ comments during the earnings report was a “rant.” Google it: Every tech blog from the Huffington Post to the SAI Business Insider to Engadget to TechCrunch to Ars’ TUAW referred to Jobs’ comments as a “rant,” perhaps because they don’t know what this word means.

To rant is to “speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.”

In reality, Jobs’ comments were not that long (albeit perhaps a lot to follow the MTV generation), were not exactly wild, and while perhaps driven by passion, were actually articulated as a rational explanation that laid out unequivocally why Apple expects RIM to be unable to catch up, why Android is performing so poorly as a software platform, and why the company thinks 7“ tablets are not going to fly.

Since when have tech CEOs laid out similar, cogent explanations of where the industry was headed and why?

RIM’s rants are not

For example, what does the leadership at RIM have to say about the future? This spring RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis dismissed the importance of touchscreen phones, saying that while it’s important to give customers what they want, touch-only phones like the iPhone aren’t that popular. Lazaridis claimed that most of the people buying touchscreen phones are going back to phones with hardware QWERTY keyboards, like those that made RIM ‘famous.’

That’s an irrational rant, but don’t call it that.

Google’s rants are not

What about Google? Its VP Andy Rubin, tweeting in response to Jobs’ comments on ”openness“ in Android, typed out, ”the definition of open: ‘mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make.“

The problem is that all that geekness doesn’t actually provide an answer to anyone apart from those to whom such a line is completely opaque. The truth is that you can’t simply compile Android apps to work on any Android-based device, which is what Jobs’ point was.

There isn’t one Google phone, there are hundreds of different models and scores of different software versions and distributions, each of which must be tested against. So Rubin’s response was trite bullshit, but the tech media gobbled it up with a grin, apparently unaware what it actually meant, as if they were admiring the emperor’s new clothes.

Android developers rants are not

TweetDeck’s response to Jobs’ comment that developers on Android have to spend their time testing rather than delivering features, insisted, ”Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn’t. It wasn’t.“

Again, the reality is that Jobs didn’t ever put those words into the mouths of TweetDeck’s developers. He only pointed out the truth: that developing for Android is a lot of busywork that doesn’t result in commercial success, in part because developers have to focus on testing rather than innovating.

The response wasn’t, ”No Steve Jobs, we’re actually making lots of money on Android, and it’s as easy as Rubin’s tweet to deploy apps on this wonderfully open platform.“ That would be a lie, which is why TweetDeck didn’t say that.

Rants R US

Instead, we have ridiculous spin that doesn’t take on Jobs’ comments and critique or refute them, but rather just blows hot air in the style of RIM. Distractions, tearing up straw men, saying incomprehensible leet speak to distract from the reality that everything Jobs pointed out was brutally honestly true in a way that nobody can refute unless they lie or distract on a wild tangent rant.

Oh wait, but don’t call it a rant. Only Apple rants. Because the only company that needs to ”rant“ is the leader. Those falling behind, scrambling to have a finger in everything while making a flurry of incomprehensible acquisitions, are lauded just as Microsoft once was, before it was obvious to everyone else that the company had no real direction, just an insulating layer of media fawning blubber that enabled it to appear substantial and healthy long after it beached itself.

Good job media darlings. Your audience will never see it coming.

22 comments

1 Conrad MacIntyre { 10.19.10 at 12:43 pm }

Why is it that what seems terribly obvious to me (and you) is so gleefully overlooked by everyone else. Dan, did you see what FSJ had to say about it? Hilarious in an infuriating way… http://bit.ly/cZpGeg And people accused the REAL Steve Jobs of having a reality distortion field!

2 ChuckO { 10.19.10 at 12:54 pm }

Everybody love’s a beautiful loser like Apple used to be but when the under-appreciated genius turns into a juggernaut of success that drives page views everything’s different.

or as Morrissey said “We hate it when our friends become successful”.

3 gus2000 { 10.19.10 at 1:54 pm }

“Lazaridis claimed that most of the people buying touchscreen phones are going back to phones with hardware QWERTY keyboards…”

That’s absolutely 100% true. But only if your field of vision is limited to RIM’s offerings, as Lazaridis’ clearly is. I’m sure every RIM customer that bought one of the fail-based, touchscreen Blackberry devices were clamoring to get their mechanical keyboards back.

4 LuisDias { 10.19.10 at 1:56 pm }

Where is part 2?

And please, engadget never said that Jobs went on on a “rant”… or if they said that or something similar, they were kidding, they always are. Fact is, they love jobbian snark remarks. And for instance, whenever a CEO says something snarky, they do call it out, with their feature “CEOh no he didn’t”.

And engadget is always referring to android fragmentation (its even on the “Engadget Podcast Bingo” game). It may appear that I am defending eng because I love it or some such, but the fact is that I don’t read all the others you are quoting.

5 LuisDias { 10.19.10 at 1:57 pm }

btw I loved Gruber’s comment about Andy’s tweet:

That’s a compelling argument for about 0.01 percent of the population. (Via MG Siegler.)

ROFL. Talk about “openness”! Open only for those who get it.

6 gus2000 { 10.19.10 at 2:21 pm }

Daniel, you forgot several key bullet points:
– you can easily identify a ranter by his mock turtleneck
– 70% year-over-year growth for the 2nd-largest US corporation is “disappointing”
– creating a new product and cornering that market segment within a single quarter is inadequate if the product demand exceeded the manufacturing capacity, thereby exceeding all sales predictions but missing the super-secret “whisper” number
– mentioning a competitor without gushing amounts to “trashing”
– despite $20B in sales, Apple must suck up to Verizon before it’s too late
– anyone defending a rant is dismissed as a “fanboy”
– if a rational point is made in Apple’s favor, harp on “antennagate”
– stop calling Apple “beleaguered”, that is SO 2007!

[And most recently: "Apple is telling customers what to think! And they're tired of hearing it!" - Dan]

7 gctwnl { 10.19.10 at 2:25 pm }

You know, with Apple/SJ being as open about what drives them, it is surprising to see how few people pick it up. SJ says they do not look at price, but at user experience. He just gives it away, but most commentators and analysts are so much in a tunnel vision about money, marketing, etc. that they are unable to see that Jobs just (passionately) beliefs that user experience is what is fundamental, the rest, including market and profit share is just a result.

8 luisd { 10.19.10 at 2:31 pm }

Dan, you will be now accused of making a rant yourself ;-)

[Nobody has ever not accused me of not ranting.]

9 enzos { 10.19.10 at 3:08 pm }

Juggernaut, ‖ Jagannāth
1.1 Hindu Myth. A title of Kṛishṇa, the eighth avatar of Vishṇu; spec., the uncouth idol of this deity at Pūrī in Orissa, annually dragged in procession on an enormous car, under the wheels of which many devotees are said to have formerly thrown themselves to be crushed.

Howzat !!

10 TheMacAdvocate { 10.19.10 at 4:58 pm }

I prefer “1337″ to “leet” when I’m droppin’ my geek knowledge.

If the lame tech media wasn’t able to generate some kind of tension between SJ and those sucking his jet wash, their readership would dwindle even faster.

11 brew57 { 10.19.10 at 8:08 pm }

Well, Steve Jobs is a business genius of our times for sure. But that earnings call speech felt a bit unlike him and somewhat out of place for the venue. So the press picked up on that, I think. Rim, as lame as they are, had to respond. So did Google. Also Steve didn’t do himself any favors by using Twitter as an Android fragmentation victim, only to have Twitter basically contradict him on that…something just felt odd about that talk on the cc.

12 gslusher { 10.19.10 at 11:12 pm }

@brew57:

Jobs didn’t say anything about Twitter, but about “TwitterDeck” (his word–it’s really “TweetDeck”), a Twitter client. The CEO of the developer of TweetDeck later came to the defense of Android, as Daniel quoted, though Jobs never said that they said that developing for Android was a “nightmare.” As I understand it, Jobs was referring to a chart that TweetDeck’s developers had posted, showing EXACTLY what Jobs said. Note that the developer did NOT quibble with Jobs’ numbers.

13 airmanchairman { 10.20.10 at 3:04 am }

One of the TweetDeck development team actually referred to the situation as a nightmare, but qualified it as a manageable one.

Check the comments section in this now famous URL:

http://blog.tweetdeck.com/android-ecosystem

14 airmanchairman { 10.20.10 at 3:08 am }

Correction: the guy who made the comment is not connected to TweetDeck in any way, but his anecdotal comments are interesting.

15 gslusher { 10.20.10 at 3:44 am }

@airmanchairman:

Thanks for the link. That was the chart I was referring to. Even if, as some comments contend, there is duplication in the data (and thus the charts), there are a huge number of different versions of Android OS around. The differences may be minor, but they could easily affect the way a particular app works. This reminds me of the halcyon days of PCs, when developers (especially game developers) had to contend with different video cards that performed differently, as well as ports that didn’t follow standards. Eventually, as I understand it, Microsoft cracked down, at least on the major manufacturers, setting requirements and standards for PC hardware in order to get OEM licenses for Windows. (The OEM license is purportedly MUCH cheaper than the typical consumer or even enterprise license.) There are still “computer shops” around who build custom PCs. (I interviewed an applicant to MIT–where I went–who had built at least 6 for his gamer buddies.) They have to take the responsibility to ensure that Windows and software work, though the young man said that the video cards, motherboards, etc, that are available generally meet Microsoft’s standards. He did have to download drivers and keep them up to date.

16 airmanchairman { 10.20.10 at 3:54 am }

gslusher
There is quite a bit of duplication, as to be expected in a list of that humongous size.

Funniest inclusions for me are an iPhone 3GS (iOS) and an HTC HD2 (WP7) – both possibly hacked to run Android, otherwise I wonder what they are doing in that list? :-)

17 airmanchairman { 10.20.10 at 4:00 am }

Wake me up when the plethora of variously-equipped Android devices can do this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAllFWSl998&feature=player_embedded

And here’s why they can’t just yet (aside from fragmentation, the OS has quite a ways to go – open platform my smooth round derrière!! :-) ):

http://createdigitalmusic.com/2010/05/20/android-2-2-badly-needed-improvements-to-audio-touch-more-whats-missing/

18 gslusher { 10.20.10 at 4:38 am }

@airmanchairman:

One of the comments in the blog does say that the iPhone 3GS can be hacked to run Android.

19 donarb { 10.20.10 at 1:45 pm }

I think Steve should have pounced on the second part of this reply (presumably by a TweetDeck programmer):

It’s not particularly harder to develop for Android over iPhone (from a programing standpoint). Except when it comes to final QA and testing. Then it can be a nightmare. (a manageable nightmare mind you)

I know of a major company having a multi million dollar project held up because of it. Project managers definitely prefer developing for iPhone over Android. Because there is less to worry about in final QA.

20 bumper3 { 10.23.10 at 5:52 pm }

Dan, we missed your writing so much!!!! Apple insider just isn’t enough.

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Europe.

Looking forward to a travelogue with a lot of jabs against the androids you met along your way. LOL.

21 hylas { 10.24.10 at 11:18 am }

I’ve got to say the increasing number of people noticing that newspapers, broadcast and blog reporters aren’t even approaching Journalism 101 standards is rising.
Bill Moyers, of course, Keith Olbermann, John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and then you, in your own “endearing” way.
I’ve found that if I’m correcting someone, even if they’re hostile, and I’m *obviously* correct, I can cuss all I want making my point – no one “shields their children” – I love to cuss.

22 hylas { 10.24.10 at 11:44 am }

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