Santa Barbara’s a small town, but there’s always room for another pundit. Indeed, we have quite an enviable concentration of writers willing to bullshit (in the technical sense) in our local publications. If Sharon Byrne is our city’s Thomas Friedman, putting forth an incoherent pragmatism divorced from truth or morality as a solution to our political conflicts, then Cheri Rae is our very own David Brooks and Craig Allen is Rob Enderle.
Rae and Allen both have written recent columns that are admirable in their pursuit of truthiness. Rae’s column is a lovely wistful meditation on the necessity of cars. She mocks the idea that we should promote alternative modes of transportation with this chunk of hard data:
When the 16th birthday dawns, it’s finally time to earn the Golden Ticket to Freedom and Adulthood: the Driver’s License. Some, as my own son did, make their appointments for the first moment of the first day they can officially take the driving test. Others, like my own daughter wait a year or two, but the idea of not driving—ever, or rarely—never enters their minds at all.
Truth is, driving is high up there on the list of teen essentials, along with smartphones, texting and hanging out. Just take a look at the completely packed student parking lots at our local high schools—and the fine luxury cars so many kids are driving from home to school and all over town.
I could counter with nostalgic anecdotes of my own, telling the unique life histories of my several friends in their 20s who have yet to get a license, but I’m bored and I found this by typing “decline in teen driving” into Google and clicking the first result:
Let’s move on to Craig Allen, who wrote an equally ignorant and ahistorical thinkpiece on Apple’s prospects. He starts with a complaint so deep and important that it has been uttered by every Wordpress blogger since late 2011: that “in the time since Jobs died, Apple has released numerous evolutionary products—new versions of the iPhone and iPad, but has not released any truly new, revolutionary products to rival its current lineup.” This insight derives its force from the scientific principle that since the three “revolutionary products” usually recognized by pundits—the iPod, iPhone and iPad—debuted in 2001, 2007, and 2010, the next revolution should surely have occurred sometime in 2011 or 2012, even though Jobs has only recently ceased to be the subject of shitty cartoons set in Heaven.
Allen can be forgiven for overlooking the arcane scholastic doctrine of “incrementalism” that some Medieval theorists believed better explains Apple’s history. It is a much more complicated thesis than the one Allen and most of his contemporaries rely on, which is the single word “INNOVATION” written in 72pt Impact font.
Allen is correct, however, to bemoan the apparently increasingly-desperate efforts to fool investors into valuing Apple highly. Pitiful revenues last quarter and increasingly dismal brand recognition support his assertion that “Apple’s management team must produce real revenue growth.”
He is also correct to compare Apple to another dedicated cellphone manufacturer that failed when its only product was made obsolete:
As great as Apple has been, its trajectory is similar to many other companies that were once high-fliers and eventually tanked. BlackBerry is probably the best example. Not too long ago, Blackberry had a cult-like following, so much so that people referred to the device as a “crackberry.”
The analogy here is very good; neither Apple nor RIM are willing to cannibalize their own marketshare by coming out with better stuff and then diligently improving it. Allen’s closing statement is therefore deeply troubling:
The market is sending a clear signal that Apple is in its twilight as a major market leader.
But not for the reason he thinks.