And They PAY Him For This? (12/9/03)

Great jumpin' lobotomized tree sloths, it's Enderle Time once again! Yes, Enderle Time, that joyous periodic occasion on which we celebrate the latest anti-Apple ramblings to spew forth from analyst Rob Enderle, who at this point is clearly just poking Mac users with sticks in hopes of stirring up a little web traffic-- but hey, since his drivel is so gosh-darn amusing, we see no reason not to give him what he wants. It's the least we can do to repay him for the belly laughs.

Faithful viewer sinjin notes that in his TechNewsWorld article this week, Enderle starts out slowly by making a series of borderline-reasonable statements, just to suck you in: true, IT people don't like Apple; yes, some Mac fans do "love the products but hate the company"; sure, plenty of people are upset that they're buying brand new Macs and finding that they still need to shell out a couple of sawbucks for a copy of Panther. We're even willing to concede that some people may, indeed, be balking at buying their music at the iTunes Music Store because the only portable player said music currently supports is the iPod.

And then, once he's got you fooled into thinking he's suddenly gone sane (albeit in a curmudgeonly sort of way), he grabs you by the scruff of the neck and yanks you soundly into the Land of Flapdoodle.

Check out this Enderliffic gem, folks: "This impression that Apple is out to lunch from an open-systems perspective is enhanced by Steve Jobs publicly saying that the Tablet PC is a niche product." Uhhhhh, well, considering that any Wintel manufacturer can build one and demand is so freakin' close to nonexistent that only about 100,000 Tablet PCs sold worldwide during the product's first eight months on the market, we'd have to wonder just what does constitute a "niche product" in Enderle's twisted world view. To put that number in perspective, during the same era, Apple (with its "inconsequential" market share) sold 133,000 Power Macs in just three months-- well under half the time. And this was during a period when Apple's Power Mac sales were in the proverbial toilet, having fallen 20% thanks to Motorola's mantra of "Clock Speed? What's Clock Speed?" and Quark porting XPress at the speed of sludge.

In other words, if the Tablet PC isn't a niche product, then last year's Power Mac G4 must have been a freakin' chart-topping blockbuster by this guy's standards. But logic holds no sway over He They Call Enderle, and he goes on to call Jobs's comment "sadly ironic, given that Apple gave up the PDA market to Palm and Microsoft as a result of one of his decisions. Apple has nothing like... the Tablet PC. The iPod is terrible as a PDA [and] the company has no smartphone." Why, it's a veritable tour de force of inane blather, and it just shines like a jewel, doesn't it?

Let's ignore the rumors that Apple has a tablet on tap for next year and assume that, despite the nagging presence of Inkwell in Mac OS X, Apple doesn't want to enter a market with less demand than that for pre-used Kleenex. Likewise, let's assume that the iPod is "terrible as a PDA" because it isn't one (we picture Enderle trying to enter contact info with a stylus on the iPod screen while saying "duh" a lot) and Apple doesn't have a smartphone because, as Steve has said on numerous occasions, it might be wise to let the phone companies make the phones.

Nevertheless, Enderle prattles on by saying that "like a lot of CEOs, Jobs seems to think it is more important not to admit he was wrong than to correct a mistake." Oh, right, of course! Just like Jobs never publicly admitted he was wrong about the Cube and corrected the mistake by pulling the award-winning but slow-selling product off the market. And just like he never admitted to the press that he was wrong to have underestimated the importance of CD-RW and digital music, or corrected that mistake by introducing iTunes, finally putting burners in Macs, eventually shipping a portable digital music player that redefined the genre, and finally getting the dinosaur music industry to step boldly into the mid-nineties and allow Apple to sell 20 million song downloads in seven months or anything.

Oh, wait-- it's exactly like that. Never mind.

So if we can grossly oversimplify for a moment by lumping Tablet PCs in as PDAs on steroids (what Jobs gets and Enderle apparently doesn't is that the only people buying Tablet PCs are the same people blowing $500 on tricked-out PDAs so they have something cool to carry into their meetings), the question before us is this: was Steve wrong to nix the Newton and keep Apple out of the PDA fray? Longtime viewers already know that we here at the AtAT compound mourned the loss of Newton as much as anybody, and whined incessantly for a new Apple handheld to replace it-- but looking back, we can't see Steve's decision as anything but 100% the right thing to do. The PDA market tanked just as Steve foretold; once the novelty wore off, people stopped spending hundreds of dollars on yet another clunky device they'd have to remember to lug around with them. And, again just as Steve foretold, people are using their mobile phones to do 90% of everything that they would have used a PDA for in the first place.

Steve's choice was not to build yet another phone or yet another PDA, but rather to support existing phones and PDAs in Apple's "digital hub" strategy via iSync, a low-risk strategy that's paying off by letting Mac users get the most out of their handheld digital devices. (We happen to be PDA geeks ourselves, and we're perfectly thrilled with our Treos and iSync; it's a solution that just works.) Yet despite Palm's stock dropping by a couple orders of magnitude and nearly getting delisted (believe us, we know firsthand-- ouch) and Handspring surviving only by ditching its Visor PDAs and transitioning to Treo "smartphones" (before getting bought by Palm, who said "oh crap, that's what we should have been doing"), Enderle still thinks that Apple needs to be in that business.

Enderle himself says that "there is often a thin line between thinking outside of the box and going completely bonkers." You know what? He's right. It's just that he's standing on the opposite side of that line that he thinks he is.

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The above scene was taken from the 12/9/03 episode:

December 9, 2003: Goofball analyst Rob Enderle's at it again, this time claiming that Apple's doomed because it doesn't make tablets, PDAs, or cell phones. Meanwhile, the iTunes Music Store has a long way to go before it comes close to overtaking sales of traditional CDs, and even as demand for portable MP3 players gets set to skyrocket, Apple may have a low-cost iPod waiting in the wings...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4380: Someone Get A Slide Rule (12/9/03)   Say, it's been a while since we last checked in with an iTunes Music Store sales update, and that used to be a mainstay in the Apple-flavored melodrama biz, so what say we scope the skinny on the millions tip?...

  • 4381: Soon: iPods For The Poor (12/9/03)   Okay, so iTunes Music Store sales may be shrinking a bit; don't let it bum you out. Remember, Apple probably loses a little money on every song sale-- it's only peddling tunes in the first place so that it can sell more iPods, which do make money...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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