Oct 15

“The Man In The Machine”: an aimless rehash


I finally got around to watching Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine.

The verdict: two thumbs down. I only wish I had more thumbs to vote with.

I didn’t hate it because it’s a hatchet job. In fact, I’m not even sure it is a hatchet job. Much of it wanders aimlessly, exploring the good and bad sides of Steve Jobs.

It’s just not a well conceived or executed film — which is surprising, given that Gibney’s previous documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, was widely praised.

There’s a big difference between the two.

Going Clear explored a subject that is murky to most of us, and is based on a book that was extensively researched. The Man In The Machine is none of that. It’s simply a rehash of things that are well known about Steve, presented as if they’re news. Continue reading →

Sep 15

Addendum to the iPhone “S” argument

dice-6Earlier this week, I expressed a distinct lack of love for the S-naming that Apple has applied to iPhone every other year.

My point was that by choosing this path, Apple has actually trained the world to believe S years are “off-years” that feature only minor innovations. This, when some of iPhone’s biggest advances have actually arrived in the S models.

As Exhibit A in my argument, I now submit yesterday’s BuzzFeed article entitled 20 Minutes With Tim Cook. More accurately, I submit a single paragraph neatly tucked mid-article. Here, John Paczkowski illustrates two reasons why Apple’s S naming is a bad idea (though he did so unintentionally): Continue reading →

Sep 15

Apple’s pre-holiday festival of stuff: afterthoughts

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.40.38 AMThe pre-holiday Apple event was only part of a much larger drama that’s been played out many times before.

First came the rumors. Then came leaks with substance. Then came the presentation — less surprising because of the leaks — which disappointed Wall Street and dropped the AAPL stock price. Then came a frenzy of articles pro and con, followed by a day-after bump in AAPL stock when Wall Street (momentarily) came to its senses.

What else could there possibly be to talk about? I’m sure we can think of something…

Adjective Overload

A frequent complaint of Apple event critics is the excessive use of hyperbole. Hard to argue this. Then again, when one unveils brand-new products, hyper-adjectives are just too tempting for mortal men. That’s how we humans show enthusiasm. Continue reading →

Aug 15

iPhone’s annual cycle of advertising

By now, you may have noticed a pattern in Apple’s iPhone advertising.

When the new models launch, the ads blast out what’s new. (Like last fall’s ads for the bigger screens.) But by the time summer rolls around, the big news isn’t so big anymore.

That’s when we get the “filler” ads, which take us to the launch of new models in the fall.

Ad people have wrestled with this issue for eons. Creating launch ads is fun and exciting, while creating the ongoing ads is more of a challenge. It’s hard to be magical when the magic has faded.

In the summer of 2014, we got spots like “Strength,” which simply highlighted a certain aspect of iPhone. The year before that, we got a series of ads like “Photos Every Day.”

Now we have a new campaign to fill the space between summer and fall.

This year’s motif is logic. Apple has presented three ads that explain why iPhones are superior, all culminating in the line “If it isn’t an iPhone, it isn’t an iPhone.”

The problem is, a spot that’s high in logic is typically low in magic. Thus, the lukewarm response we’ve seen to the newest campaign. Continue reading →

Jul 15

Apple Watch ads: beautiful, classy & forgettable

Well, now we know why Apple went silent with the Watch ads after its initial flurry. They’ve been busy beavers over there.

Now we have four new big-budget ads featuring a cast of dozens acting out scenarios shot all over the world.

The only problem — they’re the wrong ads at the wrong time.

At a moment when many seem to be on the fence about the Watch, these spots are just sleepy. They’re lacking in fun and excitement, and not the kind of ad you rave to your friends about.

Even worse, they actually give credibility to the doubters. Among the unusually high number of negative comments on the Apple-centric sites are many along the lines of “They made me realize how little I need an Apple Watch.” Continue reading →

Jul 15

Apple doubters in a feeding frenzy

Wow. That was quite a spectacle. It was as if someone dropped raw meat into a piranha tank.

The raw meat was a report by a company called Slice Intelligence, claiming that Apple Watch sales were off a whopping 90% from launch week. The piranha were a few hundred news services and blogs who’d apparently been starved for weeks.

Sometimes I wonder if people understand how organizations like Slice work. They make money by selling their services to client companies, and they attract new business by sending out press releases that become “news.” The more shocking the story, the more PR they get — and, in theory, the more new clients they can reel in.

In this case, Slice got exactly what it hoped for. Its name was attached to one of the biggest stories of the week. But, in the absence of any numbers from Apple, just how believable is the story? Continue reading →

Jul 15

Revving up for the next Steve Jobs movie

Thank you, Aaron Sorkin.

The official trailer for the new Steve Jobs movie (release date: October 9) is out, and I have to say: it looks pretty rich.

We mustn’t get carried away — it’s only a trailer, after all — but the movie sure looks like it lives up to the Sorkin standard.

Personally, I can’t imagine a more difficult screenwriting task. How does one take such a complicated, important life and distill it into 90 minutes’ worth of dialog and images?

Sorkin’s job was to pick the moments that tell a story as they reveal the nature of the man. And historical accuracy isn’t exactly the highest priority — creating a great movie experience is.

I can already hear the knee-jerk reactions: “But Fassbender doesn’t look anything like Steve Jobs!”

Correct. And I, for one, am relieved by that. Continue reading →

Jun 15

Apple Watch & the killer app crisis

I’ve been quiet about my Apple Watch since it arrived in mid-May.

I was trying to honor one of blogdom’s most important rules: never be the last of a thousand reviews.

Fortunately, I’ve found a loophole. This isn’t a review — it’s an observation.

Of all the opinions I’ve read, positive or negative, one comment pops up more than any other: Apple Watch doesn’t yet have a “killer app.”

The latest came just three days ago, when CNBC posed the question Is interest in the Apple Watch dissipating?. The article offers not a shred of evidence that indicates a lack of interest, but it does offer one quote from an analyst, “It’s not clear what the killer app is. It’s nice to get notifications, but it’s a nonessential product.”

Well, here’s the stark reality: The Apple Watch has no killer app. And it will never have a killer app.

But anyone who hinges the success of the device on the idea of a killer app is living far, far in the past.

If you need any proof, just look at the iPhone. We can all agree it started one of the biggest technology revolutions of our time. So … what’s the killer app? Continue reading →

May 15

Apple Watch analysis run amok

After reading thousands of articles about Apple over the years, I’ve come to believe there are two kinds of Apple analysts in this world:

Those who have the intelligence and insight to offer up an interesting opinion based on some concrete evidence. And those who probably don’t even understand the preceding sentence.

See if you can figure out where this one fits.

I submit the sad case of Douglas A. McIntyre, co-editor of a site called 24/7 Wall St, which produces content for MarketWatch, Time, Yahoo! Finance, TheStreet.com and others.

Now, one would think that a person running a website devoted to business news might know a thing or two about business. But … never leap to conclusions.

Recently, Douglas wrote an article entitled, “Why does Apple bother to advertise its watch?” By headline alone, I assumed he was questioning the wisdom of advertising a product that will be sold out for many months to come.

But no — Douglas smells a fish. And he’s ready to lay it on the line. Continue reading →

May 15

One day they’ll understand Apple

Well, okay. Maybe that headline was a bit too optimistic. Let me re-phrase:

They will never understand Apple. Ever.

I suppose we can just chalk it up to human behavior. As the original Macintosh team at Apple liked to say, it’s more fun to be the pirates than the navy. In Star Wars terms, one could say it’s more fun to be the rebels than the Empire.

Given the size of the company today, Apple can easily be seen as both the navy and the Empire. So I get why the sport of finding the cracks in Apple’s armor is so popular.

That said, I remain amazed that so many fail to grasp how Apple thinks and behaves — though they’ve seen the same scenario play out time after time. Continue reading →