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The Macalope Weekly: Occam's electric razor

o The Macalope
25.02.2012 kl 15:59 | Macworld.com

Sometimes the simplest answer isn’t the right one, but it sure is faster than having to think! Why would Apple announce Mountain Lion now? Must be trouble! Does boycotting Apple over Chinese working conditions make sense? No, but at least we’d feel like we’re doing something! And Amazon released a $199 tablet? Well, then, Apple should, too!

 

Sometimes the simplest answer isn’t the right one, but it sure is faster than having to think! Why would Apple announce Mountain Lion now? Must be trouble! Does boycotting Apple over Chinese working conditions make sense? No, but at least we’d feel like we’re doing something! And Amazon released a $199 tablet? Well, then, Apple should, too!

A sure sign of weakness

Some are apparently viewing Apple’s surprise announcement of Mountain Lion last week as if it were that needle of Apple weakness they always knew was there, but just couldn’t find in the haystack of cash.

Some guy at some site with a truly terrible icon wonders “Is Microsoft Making Google and Apple Nervous with Windows 8?”

A .Net developer that BetaNews decided was the perfect person to turn to in this situation says “Steve Jobs is gone, Windows 8 is coming and Apple panics.” Seriously, you could almost replace BetaNews with a video of clowns honking horns and spraying each other in the face with seltzer bottles and no one would know the difference. (Read this week’s Saturday Special below to see why the Macalope is forced to say “almost.”)

Into this august company flies Robert X. Cringely who thinks “OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is damage control.”

Which leads the Macalope to wonder: What, exactly, is this “damage” of which Cringely speaks? It must be lying under all that tremendous profit share and those phenomenal quarterly results.

Cringely and some others strangely seem to believe that the announcement of Moutain Lion now means it’s going to be the basis for the mythical Apple television everyone seems to have decided is already named iTV.

It’s my belief OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion doesn’t represent an Apple triumph but is more damage control and preparing us for iTV.

Certainly Apple will be rolling into Mountain Lion all the cool touchscreen, digital media management, and distribution features along with hardware support for iTV and other new hardware platforms. This virtually guarantees, I guess, that the TV is on its way for Christmas 2012.

Is it just the Macalope or is technology coverage really weird? None of these people should ever be allowed to disparage astrologists.

The Macalope supposes it’s possible Apple would use Mountain Lion in a television, but after it went to the trouble to switch the Apple TV’s operating system from OS X to iOS, he doesn’t see why a television would need OS X.

Cringely goes on to disparage Lion which he says “still feels like beta software,” a charge he levies without supporting evidence.

Further, I’ve heard that customers have complained about iOS features they don’t see in Lion and wish were there.

What, Siri? Slide to unlock? A phone? People want all kinds of things—it doesn’t meant that they’re reasonable.

While these pundits seem to see the Mountain Lion announcement as reactionary, the Macalope thinks it and the move to a yearly update schedule is just good business. Ever since shipping Windows XP, Microsoft seems to keep finding itself playing catch-up. Apple’s squeezing Redmond on price and now on timing. Get a Mac and you’ll get your new OS releases faster and cheaper.

That certain people still view things from a lens of “Microsoft always having the upper hand” probably shouldn’t be surprising. It does make you wonder what fight they’re watching, though.

Easy answers

Boy, it sure would be nice if we had a silver bullet that would magically improve working conditions at Chinese factories.

Well, good news, everybody! InfoWorld’s Bill Snyder’s got one!

Boycott Apple until it fixes its China labor problem

In the space of a few months, Apple has gone from being the recipient of cloying, over-the-top adulation when co-founder Steve Jobs died to being the victim of furious attacks for its labor practices in China.

OK, we’re one sentence in and you’re already wrong. Apple’s been criticized for months, if not years, about working conditions at its Chinese suppliers, and Apple didn’t receive the supposedly “cloying” adulation, Steve Jobs did.

I’m neither a fanboy…

BZZZT.

…nor an Apple basher…

Oh? Really. You just write negative reviews of products Apple hasn’t even announced yet. That’s a rather interesting and self-serving distinction you’re drawing there, Bill.

The China issue arose again on Tuesday when ABC’s “Nightline” aired a 17-minute segment based on a visit to the Foxconn factory in Shenzen, China, where many Apple products are made and where workers have been known to jump off the roof in despair. (For the record, the Foxconn factories in China are owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai. Taiwan doesn’t tolerate such working conditions in its own factories.)

For the record, the suicide rate at Foxconn is lower than the national average in China.

For example, the Times wrote about an explosion at another Foxconn plant in Chengdu, China, caused when a cloud of aluminum dust ignited, killing four workers. You simply can’t see dangerous conditions like that during an escorted tour.

Right. Because they schedule all the accidental aluminum dust fires for when they’re not conducting tours.

We already knew that conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzen, China, are dehumanizing, to say the least.

News flash to Bill Snyder: Conditions in China are dehumanizing, to say the least.

We also knew that for many Chinese workers, the factory—as tough as it is—offers a big step up from grinding rural poverty; in fact, Foxconn pays its workers 20 percent more than the national average in China. But that’s a low bar.

This is the maddening part of this incredibly ignorant dialog. What is the bar here? First it’s working conditions and now it’s also wages? Is Apple supposed to demand western standards for Chinese workers across the board?

What also gives me pause is the fact that the FLA calls the Foxconn plant that Apple uses “first class.” If so, I shudder to think what a second-class plant in China—the kind of facilities where much of our consumer electronics are made—is like.

But instead of finding out which companies are sourcing things from second-class plants and advocating a boycott of their products, Snyder finds it easier to hit the broad side of the barn that has a better paint job.

The issue remains: Is Apple any worse than its competitors, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, that also use Foxconn as its contract manufacturer? I doubt it.

Actually, there’s a lot of evidence that Apple is better than its competitors. Some of which Snyder himself notes! Yet, we’re still supposed to boycott Apple because it’s supposedly the only actor that can do anything about Chinese labor conditions.

Could a boycott work? It could. American consumers helped put an end to Nike’s use of child labor in Southeast Asia.

And put an end to child labor in Southeast Asia forever.

What? Oh, it didn’t?

Well, whatever, let’s just go on treating symptoms like the short-attention-span sufferers we’re always accused of being LOOK A SQUIRREL!

Until Apple convinces me it is doing everything it can to markedly improve those conditions, I won’t buy either [a new iPhone or a new iPad], at any price. How about you?

So, is Snyder going to buy a competitor’s product instead? One sold by a company with a worse record on pressuring its Chinese suppliers? Does that make any sense? If he’s just going to take up Luddism, though, more power to him. Or, well, less, as the case may be.

Apple is already doing more than other companies, and has promised to do even more. What is it, exactly, that Snyder wants? He doesn’t really say. More than more. From this one company and no one else. This simply isn’t a serious proposition, it’s just throwing spitballs.

Not that it’s any different than his iPad review.

Saturday Special: Strange bedfellows

How bad have things gotten when the Macalope is forced to agree with Joe Wilcox? Pretty bad.

Yet such is the state of affairs at eWeek, which continues to foist these vacuous “top-ten” lists on us, attempting to pass them off as analysis while seemingly blind to our continued mockery. But, God as his witness, the Macalope will one day shame these lists from his sight!

Hey, he was instrumental in getting Katherine Noyes to stop talking about Apple, wasn’t he? We’re making progress, people!

Now, in addition to his brain-sucking top-ten lists—like this week’s, which says Apple should ship a $199 iPad—we can add “forcing the Macalope to agree with Joe Wilcox” to Don Reisinger’s list of crimes. This may be the deepest cut yet.

Take it away, Joe.

I don’t often go for another reporter’s jugular, but Reisinger is the king of top-10 lists and this is among his worst.

It’s admittedly hard to tell, given the body of his “work.”

Top-10s are the purview of pagevew whores. … I’m not a traffic slut; I just have a bad reputation.

You got that right.

Wilcox doesn’t necessarily deconstruct Reisinger the way the Macalope would have, but he does it ably enough. Not that it’s really that hard. The salient point Wilcox hits is one that doesn’t seem to enter Reisinger’s head no matter how many times we wad it up and throw it at him.

Apple’s business model is very much not what everyone else is doing.

Well said, Joe.

Blech.

You know, even though the Macalope’s an ungulate it doesn’t mean that he likes throwing up into his mouth.

Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.

Keywords: Software  Hardware Systems  
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