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The Macalope Weekly: Just asking

o The Macalope
09.02.2013 kl 17:34 | Macworld.com

Hey, there's nothing wrong with asking a question, right? The Surface Pro is nigh and it raises a few. The Macalope brings in his pal the Winotaur to answer "Is it any good?" and then Ed Bott asks "Where did all these lies about the Surface Pro come from?!" Surprising answer! Finally, Reuters asks, "How doomed is Apple? Majorly doomed or exponentially doomed?"

 

Hey, there's nothing wrong with asking a question, right? The Surface Pro is nigh and it raises a few. The Macalope brings in his pal the Winotaur to answer "Is it any good?" and then Ed Bott asks "Where did all these lies about the Surface Pro come from?!" Surprising answer! Finally, Reuters asks, "How doomed is Apple? Majorly doomed or exponentially doomed?"

Breaking the Surface

Reviews of the Surface Pro are coming in, so the Macalope and the Winotaur have assembled to play review tennis!

MACALOPE: "It's too big, too fat, and too reliant on its power cable to be a competitive tablet, and it's too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do."

WINOTAUR: "This is the first tablet that can truly replace your tablet, notebook and desktop if you want. No compromises, no new apps, and no waiting for Flash to die and HTML5 to take over."

MACALOPE: Ha-ha, OK, sorry. It's just ... you said "Flash". Uh ... OK. "Surface Pro doesn't prove that one computing device can do everything well. Instead, it makes clear that there's no such thing as no-compromise computing."

WINOTAUR: "Surface Pro is magnificent. A classic. It's the Windows experience you longed for but were denied."

MACALOPE: "As a tablet, the Surface Pro is not as strong..." Wait, did you just quote Joe Wilcox?

WINOTAUR: Uh ...

MACALOPE: Seriously?

WINOTAUR: OK, fair enough, let me find another one. You go.

MACALOPE: "As a tablet, the Surface Pro is not as strong as its competitors."

WINOTAUR: Ha! Trick comment! It has no competitors! One of a kind, baby!

MACALOPE: Just. Like. You. Thank God.

WINTOAUR: Oh! Oh! "In short, the Surface Pro is so good that it could drive Windows 8 adoption with enough force to make people reconsider Microsoft's odd new OS."

MACALOPE: "Odd new OS." That's one of your "pro" statements?

WINOTAUR: "So. Good." Did you miss that part?

MACALOPE: OK, this isn't really getting us anywhere, so the Macalope will meet you halfway. It's not like the iPad got nothing but stellar reviews when it came out, either. So ...

WINOTAUR: Did ... did you just suggest the Surface Pro might sell as well as the iPad?

MACALOPE: What? No. Nooo. That's not what ...

WINOTAUR: OH, GOD, THAT'S SO NICE OF YOU. [*sob*]

MACALOPE: Ack! No, no, no! No hugging!

WINOTAUR: I'VE BEEN UNDER SO MUCH STRESS ...

MACALOPE: Ugh. You smell like the men's room at a Subway.

WINOTAUR: We should hug it out more.

MACALOPE: N-no. We should not.

Incendiary titles are fun!

Guess there hasn't been much Mac malware of late because we haven't heard from Ed Bott recently. No matter! Ed is here to lay down some truths and maths.

"Surface Pro versus MacBook Air: Who's being dishonest with storage space?" (tip o' the antlers to Nick Heer)

Short answer: no one!

The Macalope's not sure why Bott uses the word "dishonest" here. Presumably he thinks people were complaining that Microsoft was dishonest about the amount of space on the device, but that's not it at all. What people were complaining about is that Microsoft seemed incapable of shipping a device not filled with bloatware.

Microsoft has been pummeled by critics this week over supposedly inadequate storage space in its new Surface Pro. But those criticisms are horribly flawed. Big surprise: when you do the disk space math, Surface Pro and MacBook Air are practically twins.

Actually, when you re-do the math, they're less twins than just siblings, but let's let Ed carry on, because he has a point:

But is that criticism fair or even valid?

Yeah! What crappy deli did this baloney even come from?!

A company spokesperson has confirmed to The Verge that the 64GB edition of Surface Pro will have 23GB of free storage out of the box.

Oh, right. As it turns out, people are repeating this questionable claim because it came from Microsoft. Now, you could say that people should check for themselves but, jeez, you'd think Microsoft would know.

Apparently not, as Bott notes:

Forget what you've read in the past week. The widely reported number that Microsoft mistakenly confirmed (83 GB of free space for the Surface Pro 128) is not accurate. In its Reddit AMA yesterday, the Surface team confirmed that those numbers were wrong:

"Initial reports out regarding available disk space were conservative (eg. 23GB available on 64GB and 83GB available on the 128GB system), however our final production units are coming in with ~6-7GB additional free space."

Ah-ha! And, as Bott goes on to show, Apple and Microsoft calculate disk usage differently. So, you can't just compare numbers straight across. Bott ran the numbers on Thursday to compare them fairly and came out with 92.2GB of free space on a 128GB Air and 89.7GB of free space on a Surface Pro! Not much difference, haters!

And ... and ...

But one big difference is that the Windows 8 Recovery partition can be transferred to a USB flash drive and the disk space can be reclaimed.

This gives the Surface Pro 97.51GB of space! Advantage: Surface Pro!

Well, except, as it turns out, you can do that on the Mac, too, and free up about the same amount of space.

Also, it turns out that Bott was a little stingy in his estimate of how much free space a 128GB MacBook Air ships with, having found the estimate in a forum (in his defense, it's a remarkably hard number to find). The Macalope noticed this because he has a 128GB Air and, while he couldn't remember the exact number, he felt certain it came with more than 100GB of free space.

How much was Bott stingy by?

Are you sitting down so you don't hurt yourself?

6-7GB.

That's right, exactly the amount of the misreported number Microsoft gave and that dumb ol' reporters ran with for the dumb, dishonest reason that it came from the company that makes the device.

Bott has since corrected his piece, giving the MacBook Air 99.5GB of free space on an even scale, meaning the out-of-box difference between the Air and the Surface Pro is about 10GB.

Now, 10GB doesn't seem huge on a 128GB device, but it is kind of a lot on a 64GB device, which is really what the grousing was about. It's a full third more than the free space the 64GB Surface Pro ships with (according to Microsoft's new numbers).

So, after complaining about people taking Microsoft's word for how much space the Surface Pro has, Bott took the word of some low-ballers (don't) on a forum somewhere. OK.

Now, Bott has uncovered an interesting fact about how Apple and Microsoft calculate drive space differently. And it's worth noting that the 64GB MacBook Air doesn't come with a huge amount of space, either. However, the 64GB Air comes with substantially more than half of its drive space free, while the 64GB Surface "Pro" comes with more than half of its drive space used.

Did Apple get a free pass because no one complained about it at the time it shipped? The Macalope thinks that's a stretch since the situations are so different. Airs had been shipping for years before the 64GB flash model was released, so it wasn't as big an announcement. The Surface Pro, meanwhile, is a whole new product line.

Also, branding tip: Using words like "Pro" and "no compromises" might have set some expectations the device was, ahem, not prepared to meet.

To sum up, Bott makes a fair enough point, but goes overboard in making it. Which is getting to be a pattern with him. But, hey, at least his point isn't complete pimento loaf. Read on if you're peckish for some overly processed animal lips.

How low can you go?

As the Macalope's smart and sassy readers well know, this furry beast is a taxonomist of Apple detractors, and he thinks it might be time to add a sub-classification to the Apple Doomsday Cult: the Subvalue Stock Sect.

No, the Macalope's not wedded to that name. He just thinks we need to classify people like Reuters's Bethany McLean.

"Should Apple be a $200 stock?"

Sure, why not? Makes as much sense as anything else Wall Street does.

Heck, why stop there? Why not a nickel? A penny? What if the company owed you money for just thinking about buying its stock?! Now we're getting somewhere.

Apple now trades at just over 10 times last year's profits and roughly eight times Wall Street's estimate of next year's earnings--well below the average of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. Plus, Apple is set to begin paying a dividend of $10.60 a share, well above the yield on Treasuries.

But get set for some devastating one-sided spurious evidence!

But scratch beneath the surface, and there is an argument that Apple isn't so much a great bargain as it is a classic "value trap"--a company whose stock price is depressed for good reason.

"There is an argument." Made by utter loons applying standards that are applied to no other company--cough, Amazon, cough--but there is an argument. Hey, you know, there are people who hang out in front of the 7-11 at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday who make arguments, too. You should get in on that.

Although Apple did hit estimates for iPhone sales in its last quarter, the stock declined in part because of intimations that the age of the iPhone might be coming to an end.

Intimations that proved to be false, but what's important is that there were intimations.

But built into Wall Street's stock price targets was the expectation that the iPhone would rule the world. And for a while, it looked like it would.

Really? When was that, exactly? And what happened between last summer when Apple's share price was at its height and now that would disprove that notion?

In addition, if the iPhone is no longer the single must-have product, then Apple may lose some of its clout with carriers.

But it is the single must-have product. Ask T-Mobile. Would the carriers love to get rid of iPhone subsidies? Sure! They'd like ponies and kittens, too, but when the iPhone makes up 63.2 percent of Verizon's activations, it's still kind of a big deal.

Some stellar new product, like a full-blown Apple TV or an electronic payment system, or something we haven't even imagined, may be about to explode on the scene. Maybe.

Yeah, whatever. It's not like Apple's ever introduced anything cool and unexpected before.

As a company, Apple doesn't talk about what's next, and anything is possible. But the evidence isn't promising.

You really don't even hear yourself talking, do you? "We have no evidence. But the evidence isn't promising."

In Apple's case, its retail stores could become a millstone around the company's neck if huge sales of high-margin iPads and iPhones no longer pay for all that premium real estate.

Let's go to Macworld's coverage of Apple's most recent conference call with analysts.

Revenue from Apple's retail effort was $6.4 billion--an all-time high and a 5 percent increase over the 2012 first quarter. The company says that revenue is largely due to iPad and iPhone sales.

This during a quarter when Apple was unable to satisfy demand for iPads and iPhones. So, sorry, what were you making up?

Too dire? Quite possibly.

Translation: "The mescaline is wearing off and I'm reading back over this and, oh, my God, what the hell was I talking about?"

Is there such a thing as a stupid hangover? Because if there is, McLean probably woke up with a huge one the day after writing this.

Keywords: Hardware Systems  Consumer Electronics  
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