lovehate: Instead of a Genius Bar, I'd Rather a Snickers

There's been an awful lot of Applebashing going on recently and, while I'm not claiming it's undeserved, I want to make it clear that I was bashing Apple long before this most recent trend because a) it's fun to be an iconoclast, b) I enjoy taking potshots at the "cooler than you" crowd, and c) it's difficult to compliment for more than a couple sentences without sounding fanboy-ish. This said, my assault on the Appleverse or iVerse or Macverse today has little to do with joining the "Bashfest Club" and more to do with my original A, B and C tendencies.

Whenever one walks into an Apple Store (and I know you have, even those that don't want to admit it), if you can push your way to the back through the Birkenstock, hemp bags, and air that's thick with pretension, you'll notice the "Genius Bar". The Genius Bar is where you can bring your Apple products that you just can't figure out anymore. Your name goes on a list like you're lining up for headcheese and corned beef at the local deli and you stand around trying to look cool. You thought the DMV was bad, at least there if you have a lingering remnant of Taco Bell piquante sauce on your shirt you're still easily the best dressed in the place. At the Apple Store, if you're wearing a ringer tee, it better have cost $75 at a store with wooden shutters and lighting so dim you'd think you were in a Philip K. Dick novel.

Anyway, back to the Genius Bar. When Apple's famed 1984 commercial shocked the world, we thought we'd found a company that would be making products by the people, for the people. Products that were simple, elegant, and just worked. Let me offer up some full disclosure here: I've almost never had a problem with any of my iPod products. Other than some frustrating glitches when updating the iPhone/Touch OS, my experiences have been relatively good. Which is part of the reason I'm always shocked to see the Genius Bar TAKING APPOINTMENTS for the next day OR WEEK to fix problems with people's iPhones, Pods, and Macbooks. 

Is it really a good selling point for Apple products that the Genius Bar has to take reservations? Isn't this a testimony to product failings? And why should I have to be a genius to fix my Mac or iWidget? I understand that a catastrophic failure of a MAC PC may require some outside help, but why does Apple relish celebration of flawed technology (and let's admit it folks, those Mac v. PC ads are a bit ridiculous considering the Mac IS a PC). Forcing people to stand around like their in a refugee camp is something that boggles my mind. If you're standing in an Apple Store waiting to see a Genius or waiting for a Genius to deliver a push-hold button combination to your iPod in order for you to listen to John Mayer again, you have become a testimony to how Apple does NOT build technology for the people, but, instead, technology for the Genius.

Remember when we could open computer cases and fiddle around inside to add cards, RAM, or swap hard drives? How many Mac owners do that? Remember when you r first mp3 players could be popped open if the headphone jack ever got worn out for a quick repair? If I popped open my iPod Touch, I get the feeling I'd need a roll of duct tape and vice to cram it back together again.

Apple makes elegant, sexy, cool DISPOSABLE technology. What ever happened to the all-seeing Big Brother eyes that were supposed to be the evil overlord's intimidating the general tech-buying public? Have those eyes become Steve Jobs'? Is he the real Genius because he's convinced a population that technology is only good for a one to two year cycle before it should be discarded - hell, I'm not talking about technology just not being cutting edge any more, but how many people still tote around their 1st and 2nd gen iPods... before they were called Classic... and before the Genius playlists.

And if the Genius Bar is supposed to be, in any way, related to the Genius playlist generator in iTunes, then Apple has a lot to worry about, because when a list of ten songs out of a pool of a couple thousand, are completely unrelated but for an ID Tag that says "pop" or "rock", you've proved yourself about as much a genius as a sorted list in Lotus 1-2-3.

The real genius' are the consumers who have been bored of the PC/Mac ads for over a year, won't buy a PC unless they can get into it to do minor upgrades, and would completely ignore any mp3/multimedia player that requires you to install bloatware in order to load it up with media... with my iPod Touch securely in my hand, I may not be a genius - but two outta three ain't bad!

lovehate: Macolytes Drool for The Apple Strudle... I mean Tablet

Is everyone heading down to the Great Outdoor Sports Equipment Supply Depot to get their backpacks ready for a three week stint in a line outside their neighborhood Apple Store to wait for the new iTablet? Have you borrowed your sci-fi geek friend's Dune-inspired Fremen suit so that you can filter your own urine and sweat and not give up your spot in line? Why are people so excited for a fragile 11" piece of vaporware?

I just don't get it. I do have issues which make me question why I would EVER want one of these rumored devices and, by extension, why anyone else would.

First Issue: iPhone OS - I can't imagine having a big screen version that merely echoes the functionality of an iPhone. The iPhone OS is neat, but if this device is going to replace a netbook, I have the feeling people will want to run more than one application at a time. Notice how the iPhone commercials never say "there are Apps for that." To promote this as a slogan would imply that you could run "apps" and not "app". A tablet will HAVE to get a better version of the iPhone OS if it's going to be used for anything useful whatsoever.

Second Issue: form factor - Why on earth would I lug around an 11" version of an iPhone/Touch. The iPhone fits in my pocket. I would have to buy some sort of European carryall to accommodate this funky new device to do the same things I do with a pocket-sized gadget. And while I admit that I sometimes wish I had a bigger keyboard on my iPod Touch, larger screen buttons won't convince me to switch. In addition, think of one of the most popular additions to the iPhone 3GS: video. Picture yourself holding an 11" slab up in front of your face to take a picture or shoot a video. And I can't foresee holding this up to my head to answer a phonecall.

Third Issue: price - A high GB iPhone, without a subsidy from a mobile provider, can cost upwards of $699. A 10" screen tablet would have to cost, being generously frugal, between $1000-$1200. Assuming there's Bluetooth with the new device, a funky iEar could be packaged with the device in order to allow a mobile subsidy to apply. Maybe a $100 belt clip could be sold as an accessory and it would look like you had a digital picture frame hanging from your waist. I have a tough time justifying a $300-$500 netbook when I can buy a full laptop for between $500-$600. Apple never does things on the cheap, and I can imagine this might the most expensive Strudel... I mean Tablet... on the block.

If a netbook was originally meant for someone who didn't need a laptop, but wanted to stay connected to the net in a slightly larger form factor, who will the tablet be for - someone who really doesn't need an Macbook but wants to stay connected? Because from what I can see, the Macolytes who would buy the tablet would also own the Macbook Air and Apple TV and the iPhone and a black turtleneck and a polished aluminum MacMini with an etching of Steve Jobs profile. The iStrudel doesn't replace anything except cash from your wallet with air.

thinglets: All that's wrong about Tech Blogging

Straight out of the gate let me plead guilty - I have a soft spot in my heart for tech blogs and podcasts. I have, however, written several times on the ourobouros-like feeding of such blogs and podcasts on each other and often themselves. This humble blogger and podcaster feels that we've stretched the envelope a bit much when 390 words can be devoted to the headline: 

Deja vu all over again: Apple patent hints at tablet

Now I know that the writers at arstechnica and other like sites are prompted to pick up on even the smallest tidbit of minutae about the most arcane aspects of Apple, Microsoft or Google, but isn't a post where the optimistic highlight is "however, the company has indicated that it's at least contemplating how to best implement the idea, should the opportunity arise one day."

Let's deconstruct. 390 words that concludes, on the basis of a patent filing mind you, that Apple is "indicating that it's contemplating" a product that may be a possibility some day. I'm all for the "if/then" logic construct, but in this conclusion where's the "then"? I'm stuck with so many "ifs" in front of me that I feel like I'm at the "Obscure Films of Malcolm McDowell Festival."

The "news" of this story could be (and probably should be) started and finished with the headline. Everything else is supposition and subjectivity, which is fine, but doesn't inspire return visits. The article's tagline includes "Speculation about a Mac tablet refuses to die." Well of course it refuses to die, you keep bringing it up!

I don't mean to pick on this article or writer specifically because this post is symptomatic of a pattern that is creeping forward as more and more bloggers tend to be fighting for the same content. My thoughts, if you're going to go completely speculative and conditional anyway, knock one out of the park. How about:

"Apple was once again caught filing a patent for technology that could be used in a new tablet computer, but will more likely be used in building a spaceship capable of breaching the theoretical space/time continuum. If such a feat is accomplished, the Cupertino mindtrust could place Steve Jobs into the iStar and blast him backwards in time to the point where his current condition is/was not an issue. They would, however, have to ensure that should he interact with any Sleestacks along the way, his encounter would not result in any repercussion for the possibility of the development of the iPhone Clear which cannot be seen by the naked eye but does have cut/paste and Flash functionality."

mac tablet