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Inside CES 2012: the Copycat Electronics Shitshow

Daniel Eran Dilger

Mac users can be forgiven for thinking that the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show is essentially the PC version of what was once Macworld Expo. But that’s not really the case, here’s why.
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CES is actually a preview aimed at electronics resellers, not consumers. That’s because the primary market for big electronics manufacturers outside of Apple is retailers, not consumers.

Apple once sold products to retailers, but things changed after the world shifted to Windows; Apple had to target end users directly, appealing to their needs and desires rather than the interests of resellers. That’s a subtle difference, but evident in every electronics market from mobile phones to personal computers to TVs.

Retailers want devices that are cheap and easy to sell. That means big numbered specs and lots of bullet point features. Your product doesn’t have Adobe Flash? No USB 3.0? No removable battery? No HDMI port? That’s not going to sell!

Unless, of course, you are Apple and selling it yourself. Apple creates its own weather in the tech market, defining features based on utility, usability and design in ways that simply aren’t compatible with the checklist of features used by everyone in the tech industry to compare products, from gadget blogs to Best Buy.

Finding facts to support fiction

Reading the work of PC enthusiasts trying to describe Apple is like listening to creationists try to describe the scientific method. They want to believe they are intellectual and understand things, but there’s simply certain things they desperately want to believe regardless of the facts and evidence available, which makes it impossible for them to see past their imaginary trees and recognize the reality that the verdant green forest they think surrounds and protects them simply doesn’t exist.

Now that Apple is demonstrably taking over the most valuable segments of tech markets ranging from PCs to smartphones to tablets to digital downloads, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to blow off the company and its achievements as an aberration of reality, a delusion of some cult of worshipers of a foreign god, outlying data that can be discarded because it only represents a few percentage points of market share.

We are now at the point where Apple has become, like the world’s scientific community, the norm that runs the world, while those wishing only for increasingly cheap access to megahertz and megabytes, who harbor contempt for clever design and the option of paying a premium for a finished, polished experience, are the backwater holdouts of an ideology that simply isn’t supported by the available facts.

A disastrous decade of descent for CES

CES is a revival for the PC faithful. Every year over the past decade, throngs of Windows enthusiasts lined up to hear Bill Gates and then Steve Ballmer deliver a rambling diatribe of where Microsoft would be leading the PC industry that year. Every year, that keynote grew increasingly irrelevant as Steve Jobs would deliver, in parallel or shortly afterward, his own vision for Apple at Macworld Expo.

A vision that would actually be implemented in a way that would actually shift the industry. A vision Microsoft would eventually follow several years later. Here’s a recap of how CES has proven to be a graveyard of Microsoftic milestones:

2000 – Microsoft appeared to be stomping the remains of Apple and its Macintosh into the ground as it announced initiatives to expand Windows everywhere, first with WebTV and Microsoft TV, and then to smartphones with its new role for WinCE (still two years out) and tablets with Tablet PC. Apple announced the PowerMac G4 Cube, previewed Mac OS X’s new Aqua interface, and debuted iTools, the beginnings of its cloud services it has never been credited for (and which were later renamed .Mac and then MobileMe).

2001 – Microsoft launched the initial Xbox, relaunches Microsoft TV as Ultimate TV, and coins “Windows Powered,” an umbrella term for various WinCE devices. It’s starting to look desperate and ineffective. Apple released its new Titanium PowerBook, iTunes, iDVD, and shows off Mac OS X 10.0. Steve Jobs introduces the Digital Hub, with the Mac in the center, attached to digital devices like MP3 players, mobile phones, PDAs, and DVD players via Apple software and hardware integration.

2002 – Microsoft launched Mira Windows Powered Smart Displays and Freestyle (which would become the Window Media Center PC). Where’s the Microsoft TV thing? and Where is its answer to the iPod that Apple released the previous fall? No matter, Apple releases the flat panel iMac G4, the 14 inch iBook, and the new iPhoto, giving Macs something else graphically intensive to do so users would need a faster one.

2003 – More Media Center PC, more Tablet PC, SPOT watches (remember that?) and a video-capable answer to the iPod with Media2Go, albeit delayed until the middle of 2004. Still no worthy iPod competitor, as its Windows Media DRM is still MIA. Apple launched 12 an 17 inch PowerBooks, Final Cut Express, its new Safari browser, Keynote, and the new iLife suite.

2004 – Microsoft rolled out Media Center Edition 2004, enabling users to recognize that the product had been updated, along with showing the Portable Media Center players it had introduced earlier but wouldn’t have ready for several more months. Tying the desktop monopoly to new mobile devices didn’t work, leaving a gaping hole for Apple to continue selling iPods to Windows users and making iTunes the default music player for PC users. Apple focused on its new Xserve, iPod mini, Finals Cut Express 2, and the new GarageBand included in iLife 04.

2005 – Microsoft gave up on specific product introductions, talking only about a nebulous new Digital Entertainment Anywhere initiative laced with new brand names, including PlaysForSure and Windows Media Connect. Bill Gates’ keynote suffers significant technical problems, but nobody cares because nobody is even listening anymore. Apple debuts the Mac Mini, iPod Shuffle, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Final Cut Express HD, Pages with Keynote 2 in iWork 05, and iMovie HD in iLife 05.

2006 – Microsoft unleashes Xbox 360, a money pit that would eventually break even after consuming around $8 billion of the company’s profits. It also relaunched Portable Media Center in an effort to take on the iPod, although it would subsequently abandon that ecosystem by the end of the year to go it alone with its new Zune device. Apple launches its Intel-based new MacBook Pro and iMac, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger for Intel, iWork 06, and iWeb in iLife 06.

2007 – Microsoft launches Windows Vista and the Windows Home Server. Apple introduces Apple TV, AirPort Extreme with 802.11n, and of course, the iPhone, which sucks the oxygen from CES in an unprecedented way, leaving pundits and rival executives struggling for words.

2008 – Bill Gates announces his retirement from Microsoft. Apple launches Time Capsule, introduces new iOS updates, movie rentals in iTunes, Apple TV “take two” with HD rentals, and the ultra thin new MacBook Air, with an aluminum unibody construction that would trickle down into the rest of the MacBook line later that year.

2009 – Steve Ballmer took over Microsoft’s keynote, debuting Windows 7 with multitouch stuff that never materialized. Palm takes over the show with the new webOS Pre, which it says will trash the iPhone. On Apple’s side, Phil Schiller took over for Jobs, presenting new iLife’s new geotagging and face recognition in iPhoto and new Learn to Play lessons in GarageBand. An update to iWork was paired with new cloud collaboration features in iWork.com. Apple also launched the new unibody 17 inch MacBook Pro with an integrated battery design, completing the transformation of the MacBook line.

The only break CES and its attendees got from this annual cycle of humiliation was when Apple announced that the trade show was now now obsolete, and wouldn’t be exhibiting at Macworld anymore. Even since then, Apple has managed to derail Microsoft’s feeble attempts to lead the PC faithful, in 2010 with its iPad Apple Event and last year with a double whammy the Mac App Store event and then an iPad 2 introduction.

2010 – Microsoft rushes Slate PC to market in an attempt to head off the rumored Apple tablet. Shortly after CES, Google builds upon Verizon’s Droid inertia with the release of its Nexus One. Apple doesn’t participate in Macworld Expo, but does reveal the iPad, which shuts Slate PC out into the cold and delays competitors’ plans as they scramble to catch up in sophistication and in price.

2011
– Microsoft talks about the future of Windows PCs, tablets and smartphones, offering so little that Apple can hijack the entire event with nothing more than the announcement of the Mac App Store. Then Apple dropped the iPad 2.

Google inherits Microsoft’s CES Curse

Last year’s CES began looking for a replacement for Microsoft, with the mainstream media gushing about Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb and how it would usurp Microsoft (and of course Apple) in leading the industry. The media politely focused on Honeycomb tablets because Google had asked that nobody talk about or show off the disaster surrounding Android’s failed launch of Google TV a few months earlier.

Hilariously, Google led the industry by following in the grandiosely arrogant footsteps of Gates and Ballmer. No need for humility when taking on Apple, because Google knows that all it has to do is license its platform broadly; hardware makers will take over and deliver innovation the same way they did under Windows… and Windows Mobile, and Windows Media/PlaysForSure, and Windows 7 Slate PC.

This year, Microsoft and Google are jockeying for attention as the Anti-Apple, with one promoting a dead platform that failed to take off last year, and the other doing the same.

Meanwhile, back in reality

This year, Apple has iPad 3 in the wings, along with what appears to be a killer app for it: a new development regarding iBooks that appears to target textbooks and education, something that promises to wed the iPad to school buyers even tighter than the Mac OS has been linked to education since the late 80s.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “aren’t all books literally ‘textbooks’?” Well yes, but one of the core problems with education in America is that first, “textbooks” exist as a ridiculously expensive component of higher ed that simply involves too much paper and weight compared to the slight bit of value they contain, and secondly, there is a cabal that keeps textbooks from flirting too closely with offering American children access to a rational, scientific education.

A textbook drive by Apple to create an open market for digital educational content in the pattern of iTunes music and App Store software is an obvious and natural development. Conversely, it’s something that neither Microsoft nor Google nor Samsung nor anyone else in the tech industry has the drive, the gumption, the vision nor the capability to deliver.

Microsoft and Google take on Apple

All the companies exhibiting at CES know how to do is to produce devices with similar or slightly better hardware specs to those that are already selling, and to license software from Microsoft or Google that gives them a checklist of features the purport to approximate the functionality of whatever Apple is designing. That’s actually quite sad.

It’s almost as sad as if there were only one university on earth teaching science, and every other school simply kept busy churning out Spartan warriors that feverishly believed in the pantheon of gods, and the Spartan warriors they were producing were all being programmed to see it as their mission to kill all the scientists they crossed paths with, lest intellectual, rational thinking might end up evaporating away their own notion of heaven and their cherished gods along with it.

The fans cheering along Samsung as it builds disposable, expensive iPhone clones aren’t doing so because Samsung is building great products. It’s simply because they don’t think Apple deserves the success it has created for itself, and that they don’t understand that the value Apple created in the iPhone wasn’t in assembling chips together with a certain amount of RAM while forgetting to include enough megahertz and arrogantly insisting that users not watch YouTube videos via a Flash plugin.

So there you have it: there is a rational, simple explanation for why the tech industry is failing in comparison to Apple, and why no amount of spin and pseudo-scientific rationalization will turn delusion into reality. What needs to happen is that the greater industry adopt the approach of Apple, not just continue their individual ideas of how to copy Apple in a non-Apple way. Because that clearly isn’t working.

What if Apple goes bad?

Pessimistically, one might say that the worst case scenario for the future would be that Apple is in danger of forgetting what makes it unique and valuable, and could start doing the same things that have turned Palm and HP and Nokia and RIM and Microsoft from winning leaders to lost losers.

At the same time, there’s reason to believe that Apple now knows how to keep itself true to the vision of Jobs. The reason for that optimism is that Apple has clearly articulated what makes it work. It’s no mystery: Apple is a company driven by people who are building the things they want to use, rather than simply being a corporation collectively looking at the market and trying to determine how it can make products that people are already buying a little faster, cheaper and more attractive to buyers. That’s simply the definition of Samsung.

Apple has successfully maintained the same outlook as a group of master brewers or bakers who are passionate about making great tasting beer or bread. Samsung and its CES ilk are like the food conglomerates who make food-like products using such innovations as carbonation to artificially deliver frothy malt-flavored beverages and loaf-shaped units of white foam. They don’t see a difference.

No amount of marketing will convert people who have tasted real food from resorting back to corporate pseudo-food, at least not the population interested in health, taste or quality, which heavily overlaps the population that isn’t extremely price sensitive and is willing to pay a premium for better quality products.

Major CES exhibitors know they want that premium, they just haven’t realized they need to adjust what they’re doing if they want to stop continuing down the same path of failure and start earning it.

35 comments

1 TheMacAdvocate { 01.09.12 at 11:39 am }

Best re-purposed abbreviation ever?
Best re-purposed abbreviation ever.

2 exceptionhandler { 01.09.12 at 12:59 pm }

“Reading the work of PC enthusiasts trying to describe Apple is like listening to creationists try to describe the scientific method. They want to believe they are intellectual and understand things, but there’s simply certain things they desperately want to believe regardless of the facts and evidence available, which makes it impossible for them to see past their imaginary trees and recognize the reality that the verdant green forest they think surrounds and protects them simply doesn’t exist.”

That is a poor analagy rife with logical fallacies. Im sure there are analogies that better describe the situation. This one doesn’t quite fit given the below articles.

Scientific method was developed by European Christian men. Also, be sure to check out the table citing SECULAR textbooks:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/ee/what-is-science
http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n3/science-or-the-bible

[That site is a good example of logical fallacies. Yes, western concepts of the scientific method did originate among white Christians, but as discoveries increasingly conflicted with the religious dogma some of them had been taught, scientists had to either liberalize their faith or abandon it as literal, true explanations of the world around them. There's no way to mix the two; you have to give up science or give up belief in things that are scientifically incorrect.

In the past few centuries, western civilization has gone from believing creation myth and flood legends to knowing without a glimmer of doubt that these stories are simply not true. They simply do not make any sense. There is a very clear explanation of why they don't: they were written by people who lacked a real understanding of biology, genetics, engineering, physics and so on.

By the time the US was founded as a nation, it was well known that the logic and reason is simply not compatible with superstition, faith and fairytales, which is why the country wasn't created as a theocracy or even as an explicitly Christian one. You're free to believe whatever you want, but no handwaving can make non-scientific myth into a credible, true account of history. It isn't, and there isn't any controversy about that fact outside of a faction of US religious revivalists who have sought to turn back the clock and make their contrived religion into something that can contort science until it fits what they want to believe.

That's harmless if you want to ponder spiritual things with your family, but really a big problem if you are trying to force science to obey some mythical "hand of god" that simply smashes anything that contradicts what it proclaims to be the case (such as trying to make specific religious beliefs into public policy)

That clear and unambiguous case of one group of people letting their desired beliefs contradict the clear reality around them is therefore a fitting analogy for people today who are trying to write off the reality of Apple's success simply because they don't want to believe it. - Dan ]

3 iQuack { 01.09.12 at 1:10 pm }

Should the title reflect 2012? not 2011?

4 garbi { 01.09.12 at 1:43 pm }

Brilliant! I love your prose: it is well written, well documented and soooo true!

5 BluOwen { 01.09.12 at 1:50 pm }

Steve Jobs understood the concept of a device being a bicycle of the mind. All the rest seem to think a tricycle with training wheels will always catch consumers attention first. Can you say clueless?

6 iQuack { 01.09.12 at 1:50 pm }

Agreed Garbi, very well written, as always!

7 adobephile { 01.09.12 at 2:49 pm }

Wow, DED!

This is one of your best postings, ever! You really nailed to whole state of the industry here!

When I saw the iPhone, I wondered back then how any other company could come up with anything even as good, much less better.

That insight proved to be true in an even broader sense as affected by Apple’s subsequent products, announcements, and even the apparently smooth transfer of power upon Jobs’ death.

So what ARE these companies going to do? Just give up, roll over, and die? Perhaps one or two. But I think those that do actually have earned that fate because of their respective arrogance and ineptitude. And they won’t be missed.

8 gctwnl { 01.09.12 at 3:16 pm }

Vintage DED. Hard hitting and effective prose. Entertaining read. “Reading the work of PC enthusiasts trying to describe Apple is like listening to creationists try to describe the scientific method.” – brilliant. Too bad there might be even some that do not understand it is a negative description.

9 robroberts { 01.09.12 at 3:26 pm }

Daniel — thank you so much for you clear-headed slaughter of the misinformation promulgated by religionists. The fact that you actually have to defend Western rational thought and science against the lies of the sky-fairy believers is an incredibly pathetic and depressing commentary on our contemporary culture.

Your insight about Apple’s presumed textbook revolution being a blow against the anti-rational thought cabal is most eye-opening. Perhaps there is hope yet for humanity, and hopefully Apple will keep delivering the tools that unshackle us from the fear, hate and ignorence that defines religion.

10 kakil { 01.09.12 at 5:23 pm }

I absolutely love the article and analysis of CES. Even better I love the well written response to exceptionhandler.

11 mscabot { 01.09.12 at 5:37 pm }

Dan,

You are the the head of all pondits, if such a thing could exist. Why can’t they use historical fact to come to conclusions the way you do? If someone were to come by this site at random they would think it is an apple bent site of nonsense. But after many years of following tech as it is, your accounts of what has happen, and what will come, have been the most accurate of any site or individual. I nominate you as the leader of all pondits. Before the pondits at large get to post anything, it has to go through you for historical fact checking. On second thought maybe that is a bad idea, it would give you less to write about.

12 jmfree { 01.09.12 at 6:13 pm }

I speak as one who only recently “tasted real food,” in early 2011.

It seemed like a daring purchase at the time: a single MacBook Air, which promptly replaced my overpowered, yet still mysteriously wheezing, Windows 7 machines – desktop and laptop.

That experience (coupled with a pleasing Android-to-iPhone conversion) was revelatory enough. But this particular column, Dan, supplies yet another.

I have now realized how the tons of intentional bullshit that has flown from the mouths of Ballmer and Gates also made me also utterly disbelieve Jobs or Apple. All were stained by Bill and Steve’s lies. Not just “puffery” or “hype.” But complete insincerity with their nearly every utterance. For decades. They’re not the only ones, of course, just exemplars.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the door to my happy defection first appeared with Apple’s adoption of the Intel chipset. I failed to understand this for years, still brainwashed by DOS/NT fundamentalists who dismissed all this fine hardware and software as “toys” for people who don’t know what they’re doing. Hey, we know what we’re doing: we spend all our free time tweaking the Windows registry, trying to get USB hubs to work, chasing more megahertz, and waiting for Internet Explorer to implement tabs. Kill the false prophets who would take this away!

I started to get really tired of this around the time of Portable Media Center. Wow, Bill. Now I can have a center for… all my media. And it’s… portable. Exciting. Does it work? No? OK, well, you tried. How’s the family? And the stock price?

Your summary above of the latest CES decade is an indelible record of broken promises and cowardly manipulation by people whose real intent all along was to impose a universal “tax” on computing and anything involving it. A tax, like emperors do.

However, I am not so enthused as to believe the world will be rid of these evils because a few inspired people abhor them, build their business on genuinely pleasing customers, and make authentic promises. Microsoft, like so many mediocre corporate entities, is only going for the deceptive end run. Let others take all the risk; that pays pretty well too.

That’s all 99% of the business world cares about, and they point to Microsoft as proof in the pudding. It is their chief moral failing, and makes everyone dream a lot smaller.

13 rmaynard85 { 01.09.12 at 9:09 pm }

The idea that ‘polished, finished’ Apple represents the scientific method – undoubtedly the messiest, most unpolished, and fundamentally open-source project of all time – and PC users are creationists, a group whose worldview is fundamentally ‘polished and finished’, closed off from further input, and walled inside a ‘verdant green forest’(??) – is a perfectly oblivious inversion of concepts, worthy of kudos.

Personally I think it’s a little strange to attach claims of philosophical richness to supporting one business over another. It’s a little over-the-top to claim enlightened reason is what’s motivating your imagery and rhetoric, condemning people who don’t buy what you buy as basically less civilised. I’m totally down with that kind of impassioned language when it comes to the subjects you’re actually referring to – science, religion, politics.. but buying stuff? Really?

Perhaps a more historically appropriate analogy would be to consider the rise of Roman Christianity – a polished, cohesive package of beliefs, codified and regulated by an insular priesthood, out-competing the disparate, outdated traditional pagan belief systems which prevailed throughout the Roman Empire and beyond for centuries. The old beliefs resisted, they clung to their own minor tyrannies and charismatics while claiming to be more free, but ultimately they lacked organisational power, and most importantly, their credibility and authority waned in the eyes of the broader culture.

The difference between the above analogy and how you’ve been writing, is that it makes no claims as to the truth or intrinsic value of either ideology, it merely mirrors the competitive fitness of Apple versus the scattered, weakening personal computing market.

After all, at the end of the day, they’re all brands. They’re all flags, teams, churches. Apple is a corporation – it’s one of the best and most innovative ones in the computer industry, but it is not the Library of Alexandria, besieged by futile barbarian hordes. My impression is that you’re not comfortable thinking about this company with that kind of detachment. Doubt is for the enemy. There is no truer indicator of belief and faith trumping reason.

[Your comments would likely be very convincing to anyone who knows nothing about the tech industry, because you make all sorts of broad sweeping generalities without offering any real evidence. Sort of like a creationist brushing a preponderance of scientific details under the rug and dismissing other realities due to the simplicity of finding solutions via deus ex machina.

While I clearly tend to endorse Apple's actions as the "correct" way to achieve the results that are desired in the market, my opinions in that regard have been pretty well vindicated by the stock market's unbiased long term judgement. Apple isn't successful because I said it would be. It's successful because it has been doing many of the right things, as I simply have noted over the past few years.

Next time you decide to offer an opinion on my work, I wish you'd at least bother to do what I do when I create it: supply some real world examples and back up your ideas with evidence anyone can else pick and and examine on their own.

Also, when you flat out lie about what I write, saying that I am "condemning people who don’t buy what you buy as basically less civilized," well, it just serves to undermine your intent of making me look bad, because everyone reading that knows you are a phony who has to make up fiction just to deliver any criticism at all. That's really quite pathetic of you.

Surely there are actual mistakes and errors you can point to in my work that deserve criticism or comment.

Also, if you actually think about it, your attempt at mocking sarcasm in saying that Apple isn't really "the Library of Alexandria, besieged by futile barbarian hordes" really ignores the reality that Apple, in the last 5 years, simply took over the smartphone market, reformed it in its own image... while at the same time simultaneously created the world's first functional tablet business in an open market saturated with entrenched incumbents that were larger and far more experienced than it... while at the same time built the Mac into an increasingly important player in the PC industry, without cannibalizing its profitable PC sales just to build tablets/netbooks, as everyone else seems to be doing.

If anything, that's far more impressive than maintaining a library in a world surrounded by the uneducated and uncultured, because RIM, Nokia, Microsoft, HP, and the rest have the same access to talent and capital that Apple does. - Dan]

14 airmanchairman { 01.10.12 at 8:07 am }

Brilliant and insightful as ever…

Yes, hindsight reveals the dichotomy of ideas and motivations that gradually shifted both poles of the gigantic global hi-tech industry further and further apart, with spectacularly clear consequences: awesome rewards and absolute, cataclysmic failures… well-catalogued here as usual, possibly only because for years and years before these stupefying, odds-defying events, you DED saw all this coming, not through blind faith as many thought and expressed here (“what is this dude smoking?” is still a frequent, hackneyed phrase here in the comments section) but via cold and calculated projection (“and here’s why:”)

On the subject of Faith however, one small, minuscule (or maybe not-so-small) quibble: your analogy using Faith and Creationism as opposed to Science and Rationalism to explain the OEM – Apple dichotomy:

Creationism is, though apparently very popular and visible nowadays, only a primitive and poorly-assembled subset of Intelligent Design (the latter being a concept that actually sounds like it originated in a Cupertino R&D lab! :-))

Not for nothing was the High Priest of All Things Apple a devotee of esoteric concepts like Ma, the Tao, the spontaneity and minimalism of Zen, the convergence of Science, Technology and the “Liberal Arts”. These are concepts that are not foreign or unfamiliar to “Christian Scientists” as you will find if you search the inter-webs for discourses between Eastern and Western schools of esoteric thought and their relevance to Logic and Science.

The magical (!) thing for me about Apple’s approach (whose followers, me included, have ironically been likened to RELIGIOUS zealots by SCIENTIFIC studies, no less) is that it is ever so gradually and inexorably turning Science and Technology away from merely being a tool for quickly gratifying the physical senses of the consumer, and on to a means of serving the higher aspirations of their inner selves to allow the leading of more productive and subtly pleasurable (i.e. HAPPIER) lives. I genuinely hope that the material success of Apple in this approach will filter through to the “Don’t be Evil”, “Embrace and Extend” and “knock-off Nigel” hypocrites in the Eastern and Western conglomerates to usher in a meaningful and prosperous global economic boom in the future.

In fact one could summarise Steve Paul Jobs’ philosophy with several Biblical axioms, one of which is “Seek ye first the Kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you”. In a nutshell, Science and Religion are clearly several steps away from perfection – the former needs to acquire a soul and truly serve society’s deepest needs, and the other needs to shed its pretensions of doing so while failing abysmally.

15 OneGeV { 01.10.12 at 10:50 am }

I think the analogy with Creationism is very apt. As Daniel replied to exceptionhandler, there is no problem with someone being both religious and a scientist. (The Vatican and European Protestants do not see any conflict with the theory of evolution.) The problem comes when trying to use faith as evidence for a scientific argument, which is what US Creationism is trying to do. (The reverse is also true. How can experiments be used to prove or disprove something which could fudge the laws of nature at whim?)

16 kilroywashere { 01.10.12 at 1:07 pm }

heh. I bet your knowledge of science rivals your knowledge of politics!

Why I bet you could even explain the difference between a legendre polynomial and the quadratic formula!

imagine that…an atheist calling other people delusional.

17 gus2000 { 01.10.12 at 1:36 pm }

Dan, you’ve taken shots at Christianity before, but now you’re going after the Pantheon Gods? That’s crossing a line.

@jmfree: The act of pre-announcing the delivery of an imagined product became so commonplace in the tech industry that a term was coined to describe it: “vaporware”. This is likely why Apple’s announcements are frequently dismissed by the PC Enthusiast crowd as simply being too good to be true. (“They put the Mac OS on a phone? gtfo”)

18 gctwnl { 01.10.12 at 1:45 pm }

@gus2000: Dan has not taken a shot at Christianity. He has taken (again) a shot at stupid. Which he often does. Kind of reminds me of Jobs himself, who also could be pretty unkind towards ‘bozos’. Kindred spirits.

19 nextguy { 01.10.12 at 6:05 pm }

Ya know, CES is more than just Microsoft or PCs or even tablets, for the 50th time. If you want to lump microsoft failures into CES where new HD Video cameras, new games for the console industry, new phones are demoed, go right on ahead. Why you have to hate an expo and call it a shit show is beyond anyone. You hate home expos too where Emerson shows off new a/c compressors?

” They want to believe they are intellectual and understand things, but there’s simply certain things they desperately want to believe regardless of the facts and evidence available, which makes it impossible for them to see past their imaginary trees and recognize the reality that the verdant green forest they think surrounds and protects them simply doesn’t exist.”

This applies to everyone, including me. Apple is making a crap load of money and makes great products. There, I said it.

20 The Mad Hatter { 01.10.12 at 6:19 pm }

That’s a common problem in a lot of industries. Build your product for the dealers/distributors rather than the end users, than wonder why it won’t sell.

Wayne
http://madhatter.ca

21 jmfree { 01.10.12 at 6:35 pm }

@gus2000: You are, of course, correct.

And Daniel went into the subject in an in-depth post back in 2006, describing how the terms FUD and vaporware were both synonymous with Microsoft, who proved that these disinformation techniques work well on both customers and competitors alike in the consumer industry.

It’s part of an outstanding series of posts on “Why the World Went Windows”, and can be found here:

http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/3EC02E78-FD4D-4CDF-92A0-9C4CBDFAB3D2.html

22 nextguy { 01.10.12 at 7:12 pm }

“At the same time, there’s reason to believe that Apple now knows how to keep itself true to the vision of Jobs. The reason for that optimism is that Apple has clearly articulated what makes it work. It’s no mystery: Apple is a company driven by people who are building the things they want to use, rather than simply being a corporation collectively looking at the market and trying to determine how it can make products that people are already buying a little faster, cheaper and more attractive to buyers. That’s simply the definition of Samsung.

Apple has successfully maintained the same outlook as a group of master brewers or bakers who are passionate about making great tasting beer or bread. Samsung and its CES ilk are like the food conglomerates who make food-like products using such innovations as carbonation to artificially deliver frothy malt-flavored beverages and loaf-shaped units of white foam. They don’t see a difference.”

Samsung makes plenty of “premium” products, but just try convincing someone they *need* a Samusng LCD/plasma over a Vizio one, whether it *needs* to be razor thin vs a normal thickness. As someone mentions on your sister site, the enemy of great is good enough. And the majority of the time, those great products carry an exponential premium that more often than not is simply not worth it, and the reliability of those products is either the same or most likely worse due to their complexity.

I may love my Mazda3, and it drives great and it also was a premium over the other cars of its time, but that doesn’t matter one bit to all the people who buy Corollas.

23 nextguy { 01.10.12 at 10:45 pm }

“Well yes, but one of the core problems with education in America is that first, “textbooks” exist as a ridiculously expensive component of higher ed that simply involves too much paper and weight compared to the slight bit of value they contain, and secondly, there is a cabal that keeps textbooks from flirting too closely with offering American children access to a rational, scientific education.”

How is apple going to change any of that with digital distribution? Seriously, how? This:

“A textbook drive by Apple to create an open market for digital educational content in the pattern of iTunes music and App Store software is an obvious and natural development. Conversely, it’s something that neither Microsoft nor Google nor Samsung nor anyone else in the tech industry has the drive, the gumption, the vision nor the capability to deliver.”

Makes no sense whatsoever. That, and apple colluding with the top publishers to raise prices is NOT something I would be cheering for.

24 nextguy { 01.10.12 at 10:56 pm }

“That site is a good example of logical fallacies. Yes, western concepts of the scientific method did originate among white Christians, but as discoveries increasingly conflicted with the religious dogma some of them had been taught, scientists had to either liberalize their faith or abandon it as literal, true explanations of the world around them. There’s no way to mix the two; you have to give up science or give up belief in things that are scientifically incorrect.”

The problem with either of those sites is answering genesis is a creationist site and the other side consists of people with a prior commitment to materialism. Neither one of them actually fits the facts that science has uncovered and thus BOTH sides are guilty of denying reality.

25 vanfruniken { 01.11.12 at 3:21 am }

Well-written article, Dan. But what I am entirely missing is the coming and going of netbooks. Weren’t they promoted in CES?

26 gus2000 { 01.11.12 at 3:00 pm }

“The textbook market does not operate in exactly the same manner as most consumer markets. First, the end consumers (students) do not select the product, and the product is not purchased by faculty or professors. Therefore, price is removed from the purchasing decision, giving the producer (publishers) disproportionate market power to set prices high…This situation is exacerbated by the lack of competition in the textbook market.” – Wikipedia

Electronic distribution of textbooks would offer many benefits:
– reduce publishing/printing cost
– allow for frequent corrections/updates
– lower the barrier-to-entry for publishers
– minimize the impact of volume/bundling pricing

These all seem like good things.

27 enzos { 01.11.12 at 8:06 pm }

Great stuff, Dan!

Gus: your Wiki quote partly answers my quibble with Dan’s article (“there is a cabal that keeps textbooks from flirting too closely with offering American children access to a rational, scientific education.”). As a science educator, I’d like to know more about this “cabal”. The textbooks we use, in chemistry and physics at least, are carefully chosen, well written (although invariably American), reasonably priced (all things considered) and rather good (in spite of the spine-crushing mass [bring on the iPad editions ASAP!]). That is to say, a committee of faculty professors choose textbooks based on curriculum coverage and merit but price is definitely a consideration (as is compatibility with older editions so students can buy second-hand). And also contrary to the Wiki quote, the textbook market for mainstream courses is crowded with competent alternatives: there are, e.g., scores of texts to choose from for general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, general biology, maths, etc.. Is there perhaps some perverse education policy in the USA I’m not aware of (?).

28 OneGeV { 01.12.12 at 10:00 am }

@enzos: He mentioned “children”, so I’m guessing he means grade school, rather than college. (Not too many junior high students taking organic chem!)

There have been quite a few newspaper articles about state or local education committees where the Creationists (sorry, “intelligent design”) people tried to steer the textbooks towards something faith-based. Check out the Nova program on the Dover, PA trial.

Even with faith being taken out of the equation, there are still other problems. For example, check out this chapter from one of Richard Feynman’s books. (He stretches the truth in some of his tall tales, but I suspect most of this was true.) http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm

29 alansky { 01.12.12 at 1:20 pm }

The state of the electronics industry goes hand-in-hand with the state of the American consumer. The dumbing down of America has produced, among other things, relatively mindless consumers who will buy what’s on store shelves regardless of merit. Their willingness to buy shit dovetails perfectly with the retailers’ desire to sell the shit supplied to them by electronics manufacturers. Any product (e.g. the iPad) that deviates significantly from this model is bound to be reviled in some circles because it exposes the poor quality of its competitors. C’est la vie!

30 The Mad Hatter { 01.13.12 at 10:36 pm }

@gus2000

“The textbook market does not operate in exactly the same manner as most consumer markets. First, the end consumers (students) do not select the product, and the product is not purchased by faculty or professors. Therefore, price is removed from the purchasing decision, giving the producer (publishers) disproportionate market power to set prices high…This situation is exacerbated by the lack of competition in the textbook market.” – Wikipedia

Electronic distribution of textbooks would offer many benefits:
– reduce publishing/printing cost
– allow for frequent corrections/updates
– lower the barrier-to-entry for publishers
– minimize the impact of volume/bundling pricing

These all seem like good things.

But who would that be good for?

I’m not being facetious. I know people who write text books for a living. They are totally and utterly terrified of this.

My sometime sparring partner John Degen for example. I like John. He’s a nice guy. He also is totally technologically clueless, and is terrified of what technology could do to his income stream.

I’ve tried to explain to him that his problem is actually with the distribution system, but he doesn’t get it.

Wayne

31 enzos { 01.14.12 at 4:33 am }

Thanks for that, OneGeV! Most enlightening. Coincidentally, my Honours thesis was on an application of QED (Feynman’s towering masterpiece – the most precise and well-proven scientific theory/model in the history of Science.. as well as one of the weirdest. See the WikiP article on QED).

I hadn’t realised the whacky-go-backy ID/Creationist crew were still a factor in US education. Heaven forbid!

Enz

32 Mike { 01.15.12 at 5:11 am }

So far the only two companies that can compete with Apple is Microsoft and Sony. Microsoft with their Windows Phone OS have done fantastic work and I think that Apple will have to copy them in upcoming years. The same applies to Windows 8. First developer builds show that Apple will be in shame this fall.
The same with Sony vaio computers, their design are cool and they are not trying to copy Apple.
The rest of the competitors really struggle right now.
Will see what will happen during next few years, but I think that much will be changed.

[Interesting comments Mike. Do you have any specifics on what is fantastic about WP7 and Win8, and how these will "shame" Apple?

I would say that Microsoft is finally making software that is interesting, and Sony has long been capable of making cool hardware, but neither has mastered the skills of the other; MS' hardware didn't work out well, and Sony makes awful software. That is a major reason why Apple's ability to do both really stands out. - Dan]

33 gctwnl { 01.20.12 at 3:20 am }

@robroberst and others: now the wait is for the first creationist textbook on iPad….

34 Neil Anderson { 01.21.12 at 6:48 pm }

Siri.

35 RobLewis { 01.31.12 at 12:56 pm }

Years ago I worked for a large consumer electronics manufacturer and attended more CES shows than I care to think about. Your observations about CE retailers are spot on: for the most part they were sleazy greaseballs who had so little actual understanding of the products that feature checklists were as deep as they could ever go. And it seemed the more successful they were, the worse they were.
Apple absolutely did the right thing in doing an end-run around these gatekeepers, who wouldn’t know “elegance” if it bit them. Every other manufacturer was stuck with the reality that these creeps controlled the industry.

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