Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tim Cook: About Those Dividends...

Dear Tim,

When a company decides to pay dividends it is essentially saying, “Look, we’re just fresh out of ideas around here and have no concept of how to turn this money into something valuable. So here, take the money and maybe you guys can figure out what to do with it.”

Please don’t tell me that Apple is out of ideas.

Your pal,


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Samsung's Super Bowl Commercial

Short take: Self-absorbed, mindlessly identical hipster dudes and dudettes are bored stupid standing in line for some (apparently) Apple device. Cool frood with a Samsung Galaxy Note walks buy, shows them it has a stylus and they immediately launch into some hybrid Bollywood / Skatetown song and dance number. Stupid line-sitters become dynamic and excited because they switched to Samsung...

So who exactly is the Samsung ad meant to persuade, and what are they trying to persuade them of?

Taking the second question first, I guess the pitch is that people who stand in line to buy an iPhone--implying, of course, that they are typical of all iPhone users--are a bored and boring group of mindless, faux hip followers who are only awaiting something better (a Stylus!) to snap them out of their delusion. Maybe I’m missing something but that seems to be about it.

So, on to the first question: Who is Samsung trying to reach with this message?

Is it the tens of thousands of people who do stand in line for Apple products now? If so, I think Sammie just scored a giant miss because these people do not see themselves at all like those portrayed in the commercial.

Could it be that Samsung is aiming at Apple users in general? I sincerely doubt that. An enormous percentage of people in art, music, literature, entertainment, science and education are, these days, pretty avid Mac users. They also happen to be some of the most interesting, independent, dynamic and creative people around. Not saying Windows users can’t be cool as well, but I can pretty much guarantee that the bulk of Apple’s customers would not recognize themselves in that commercial and, at most, it would just piss them off.

What about the average potential customer weighing whether to buy an iPhone or a Galaxy? Does Samsung figure that this hypothetical average person can be shamed into not buying Apple by association with the brainwashed crowd in line for the iPhone? Doubt it. People who don’t hang out on tech blogs--which is 99+ percent of the population--simply aren’t in on the joke. The Apple hate we read about online accounts for such a pathetically microscopic piece of the general public image of Apple and its users that the stereotyping will simply be a giant non-sequiter.  “Who are those people again, Ethel?”

Perhaps Samsung is aiming at the group that may already see Apple users as sedated line-sitters--intensely loyal Android fans--who might be otherwise inclined to buy HTC or Motorola or something. But sheesh, convincing a prospective HTC buyer to go to Samsung by bashing Apple users? Might work. Maybe. But a Super Bowl commercial wasted on that? Besides, the concept that because someone likes an Android phone they will surely mock Apple and its fans is a pretty juvenile idea limited, again, to the tiny fraction of people that get worked up over stuff like that.

Now some might say that the Get A Mac ads with Justin Long and John Hodgeman were similar to Samsung’s recent ads. But no, Hodgeman didn’t play a PC user, he played an actual PC. And the character he played was witty, likable and fun; if perhaps a bit desperate. But the ads never made fun of PC users. No PC users were harmed in the making of those ads.

In fact, the worst Apple commercial ever aired is widely acknowledged to be the famous “Lemmings” commercial of the last century. In it, Apple compared the users of IBM PC’s to lemmings, mindlessly following each other off a cliff. It turned out that this was so insulting to the users of IBM compatibles that it actually cost Apple users.

So I can’t figure out who this commercial is for and what it is really trying to accomplish. It is a vague insult aimed at an obscure group for the benefit of a public that by and large doesn’t care about techie sub-culture put-downs.

My guess is that the ad was dreamed up by an ad agency manned by a bunch of self-absorbed, self-styled hipster techies who are plugged into the tech culture just enough to know about Apple hating, and just self-absorbed enough to think that they are representative of America at large.

Two  thumbs down.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Cellphone Hustle

Scene: [Miss Android Handset Manufacturer is out on the street, leaning against a lampost. She's got a tight, lacy,  midriff revealing top, a slit-skirt, fishnet hose and a six inch heels. She's wearing lipstick the color of blood. She's approached by Android User--a young, awkward fellow.]

Android User: [breathing heavily] Say, Miss Android Handset Manufacturer, I’d sure love me some of that there Android goodness you got baked into those phones of yours. How about you give me a freebie?

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: I sure do appreciate your attentions...but, you have to start paying for my fine Android assets. No more freebies.

Android User: But, but...why would you start charging me more? I mean, your operating system is free, isn’t it?

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: Well come on now, these phones and operating systems don’t grow on trees, you know...well actually Android does grow on trees but a girls gotta maintain a lifestyle, you know. I have to invest in customizing Android anyway to differentiate my handsets from all the other Android handset girls and since the carriers all demand we make a gazillion models to cover all their insane marketing goals and to cover every OS in the whole fucking world; not to mention we need a new model every three months because our customers get tired of the old models since we can’t get a new version of Android on it.

And we have to cover the costs of creating our own operating system from scratch (well, actually we need to graft an iPhone clone user interface on to some Linux instance and call it new--still, that’s hard for a girl) because we don’t want to be Mr. Google’s bitch forever you know. Besides that iPhone hussy is making me look bad and costing me some serious coin. I want more money because I need it...I mean, because I’m worth it.

Android User: But Android is free! And Open! And you should be cheap because free and open means cheap.

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: Fuck off.

Mr. Google: [Barging in. Wearing full pimp bling.] Harummphh! Son, just step aside for a minute while I take care of your issues with this young lady. [Mr. Google, making soothing noises to Android User, forcibly shoves him into a nearby ravine.]

Mr. Google: [Turning on Miss Android Handset Manufacturer] What the hell are you telling him? As long as he thinks he’s getting free, open and cheap you can sell him phones all day at the same price as Miss iPhone and he doesn’t even notice. So now all of a sudden you think you’re high class? What do you think you’re doing?

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: [Dryly] Losing a lot of money at the moment. And dignity. Why do you ask?

Mr. Google: [Looking hurt] Hey don’t blame me, we’re giving you a free and open operating system and free and open means cheap and...

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: Oh shut the fuck up. You promised me wine and roses but since we’ve been together, my reputation, and pocketbook, has gone to hell. That horny little Android User just wants me because he thinks I’m open and cheap. And I’m getting poorer everyday. [Wailing] What’s a girl to do?

Mr. Google: [Placatingly] Never mind that, Baby, we can fix this all up. As I was telling our friend Mr. Reporter just the other day after Miss Motorola moved in, that we...

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: You did WHAT!

Mr. Google: Oh...uh, yeah. That. Hey it’s not like it seems, she’s just a friend you know. Platonic. Yeah, that’s it, Platonic.

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: You bastard. You’re sleeping with her aren’t you?

Mr. Google: Well, yeah, but, uh...no really, I mean, I did it for you! [whispering] And keep it down will you, we have to keep up appearances here. If Mr. Carrier finds out were not together he’ll dump us both like a year old feature phone. Remember what happened to ol’ Mrs. Featurephone? 

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: Oh, yeah! Well I got news for you Bub, [fanning herself Scarlet O’Hara like] Mr. Carrier has always loved me and has supported me with the most generous subsidies...

Mr. Google: Oh crap!

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: It’s too late to be sorry now, you cad.

Mr. Google: [scornfully] Not you, Ditz! It’s your best friend Mr. Carrier. He coming our way and it appears he HAS. A. FRIEND.

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: [Spinning around hopefully and then shrieking] AAUUUGGHH! He’s got that little tart Miss iPhone on his arm. And look at the size of the diamond on her finger... Oh God! First you, then him. I’m all alone. I’m doomed!

Mr. Google: [Taking her by the shoulder and cooing gently] There, there; it will be alright. A little bit of an Apple makeover and slide on some of those sexy Miss iPhone clothes and nobody will know the difference.  Just close your eyes and keep saying “open and free.” In time I think you’ll even come to like Miss Motorola.

Miss Android Handset Manufacturer: [Stomping off angrily] Fuck off asshole. I'm looking up Mr. Microsoft. HE knows how to treat a lady.

Mr. Google: [Despondently] How am I going to explain this to the kids?