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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > Editorial: WSJ stoops to clickbait with silly anti-Mac article

Editorial: WSJ stoops to clickbait with silly anti-Mac article
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NewsPoster
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Jun 16, 2015, 12:24 PM
 
In case you haven't heard, the Wall Street Journal has run an embarrassingly blinkered editorial called "Why Apple Should Kill Off the Mac" which is, on the face of it, nonsensical. We expect this sort of asinine fodder from the logic-averse scrawls of established nitwits like your Dvoraks, your Enderles -- but the Wall Street Journal was once a respected, legitimate newspaper (at least until Rupert Murdoch bought it).

If it were the guy next to you in Starbucks, you might smile out of politeness -- but your attention would be gone again before he got on to what the Red Sox should really do to fix their batting average and bullpen situation. If it were someone in your office, you'd stop listening. If it were your boss, you might start looking for another job, because you're in a firm that isn't sticking around much longer.

Yet this nonsense is in the Wall Street Journal, and it's behind a paywall. You have to pay to read 1,000 words of an overly-simple argument that we can repeat to you in 10: Apple makes more from iPhones, so it should ditch Macs. Sure, we can say it in 10 words, but not without laughing.

Honestly, I guffawed. Partly at the idea, but chiefly at the bald-faced chutzpah of the WSJ running a piece with no purpose but to get a rise out of readers and ultimately, therefore, a rise in page views. To be able to get a few hundred words out of a premise that falls apart the moment you ask yourself what computer Apple employees would then use if the Mac weren't around is, one presumes, the result of writer Christopher Mims' apparent belief that if you publish enough wooly thinking, you can knit a sweater out of it.

Okay, let's play the WSJ's game. Nobody wins here today, but the Journal is getting its life-giving oxygen of publicity. Still, the more people know this is the level of analysis on offer, maybe the fewer will pay for it. Maybe I'll just feel better for getting it off my chest.

Certainly you should rub your hands and dive in on the comments below the original article, if you can access them. If you're a Windows fan, well, thank you for reading this far, and you're definitely welcome: this is not about Apple per se, this is not about Windows being better or worse. This is about saying something utterly stupid in the sole aim of getting people to talk about it -- and then it's about talking about it.

Whether you take the 10- or the 1,000-word version of Mims' argument, it boils down further to about two points. One of them can be batted aside in a blink: he says that Apple made a mere $6.9 billion from selling Macs in the final three months of 2014, which is (relative) peanuts next to its iPhone revenues. It's easy to bat aside, not just because that's even more money than I make in a year, but because Mims himself doesn't just say "made," he says "raked in" $6.9 billion. He then points out it would be crazy to say any other company should stop making a product that brings in that much cash.

So why is it not crazy -- or at the very least unbelievably bad business advice -- to say that about Apple? Should McDonald's get rid of soft drinks and coffee because it makes most of its money on burgers and fries?

The reason for saying Apple should ditch Macs is the other of the two points: Apple cannot do two things well, says Mims, before insisting that it should concentrate on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and "plus, you know, a car." You could forgive Mims, perhaps, for not understanding that without Macs, you can't make iOS software -- he clearly knows as much about technology as he does about running a business -- but this is why you have editors to stop you embarrassing yourself in print. Apparently the WSJ has laid off their sanity-checkers.

Sorry to harp on about how the paper only ran this as clickbait, but as funny as it seemed at first, it is increasingly angering me -- because rebutting it is somehow elevating it. You can go through point by point, you can entertain yourself reading one of Mims' paragraphs contradicting another one, you can effortlessly make the case against each of his ideas. Yet what you're doing is playing on his turf. It's ground where he says these parts of Apple are separate, and you're agreeing because you're debating the value of the parts instead of looking at the whole.

Apple is one company. More than most, it is a startlingly consistent company -- and has a coherent plan which it does not, and has not ever, shared with us. Doubtlessly the company shifts and turns, it has certainly floundered in the now-distant past, but right now the most we see is a hint of a big plan.

WWDC revealed iOS 9's multitasking and OS X El Capitan's Split View, which both make use of technology Apple brought into Yosemite, iOS 8, and the iPhone 6. It's the classic elephant example: not the elephant in the room, but what it's like when one person can only see the trunk, and another can only feel the flapping ears. Users, journalists, and competitors are all trying to figure out what they can from these bits, but what Mims should have figured out before starting his article is that it's one elephant.

Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches are parts of the same being. What Apple adds to OS X El Capitan is informed by its iOS work -- such as bringing Metal to the Mac -- and what it develops for the desktop becomes crucial on the phone. It's called iOS now, but it was originally OS X on the iPhone, and the development of both boosts the overall growth of the Apple eco-system.

It's not as if this is news! Apple gets derided for how it locks you into its eco-system, and Google does too for the same reasons (if not necessarily to the same degree or effect). Apple gets praised for it too -- I take phone calls on my Watch now, Captain Kirk style. I do start a sentence on my iPhone and finish it on my Mac.

I'm one person, and I am using one thing, it's just split out into iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. I'm one person, and Apple is one company.

I'd like to argue that there is more than money in this too, that Apple won't toss aside the Mac because it fails to reach some financial goal. I could be wrong there: MacNN managing editor Mike Wuerthele argues that Apple would kick puppies if that were what made it money. Apple is big business, it isn't your friend, and it does exist (but not solely) to make money -- even if the money is then used to make better products.

I buy the line that Apple consistently says about it being dedicated to making the best products it can -- but the key thing to take away from this is not that I buy PR lines, it's that I buy. I buy Macs and iPhones and the rest, I buy them because they are the best things I have found for my work. That's certainly true of each individual part, but for me it's geometrically true of the entire Apple system working together.

The Mac will die. Apple will cease to be the biggest company in the world. It's going to happen at some point, and that's true whether Apple does stupid things or some other company does the same things better.

But it's not going to happen because the Wall Street Journal had no other ideas for a click-bait analysis column.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Jun 16, 2015 at 12:24 PM. )
     
slapppy
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Jun 16, 2015, 12:48 PM
 
Another great establishment losing journalistic integrity. Click baiting articles will be more prominent on WSJ to keep up with the tabloids. lol
     
climacs
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Jun 16, 2015, 01:49 PM
 
Another fine institution ruined by a Murdoch takeover. The WSJ op-ed pages were always a nest of far-right propaganda pushers, but its news pages were always first-rate and independent of the op-ed side. No longer.
     
climacs
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Jun 16, 2015, 01:53 PM
 
Airlines frequently fly routes that make little or no money (they might even lose money for all I know), because those routes feed passengers to their hub airports where they can go to other destinations. A blind bean counter would simply advise that all routes that don't meet a profit margin of $X be scrapped.
     
DiabloConQueso
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Jun 16, 2015, 01:53 PM
 
I find it fascinating how many people in this world think their opinions on what the second most profitable company in the entire world should be doing have any kind of credibility.

It's simply a wonder Apple's not beating down their doors begging them to come work for Apple and save the company.
     
robertdupuy
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Jun 16, 2015, 02:11 PM
 
If only it was just clickbait, this is how people think. They think in terms of margins and averages.
They do not think strategically, nor do they think in terms of overall profits.

They will kill lower margin business to claim a higher average margin on the remaining business - there is no wonder whole industries were shipped to China.

And this margin religion is still the prevalent religion on wall street.
     
robertdupuy
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Jun 16, 2015, 02:13 PM
 
climacs - an article suggesting killing the mac line is still an opinion piece, however, and not a news article.
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 03:57 PM
 
Some of the commenters should actually read the WSJ. The article in question was in the Business and Tech section not on the opinion page. I found it no more objectionable than fawning over everything that Apple produces regardless of it's utility. (The Apple watch comes to mind when you're already carrying an iphone). But this is only my opinion as the article was only the opinion of the writer.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jun 16, 2015, 04:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by mbzimmermd View Post
Some of the commenters should actually read the WSJ. The article in question was in the Business and Tech section not on the opinion page.
That's the problem. It should have had both editorial control, and have been labeled as opinion, and not featured as a news article.
     
Inkling
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Jun 16, 2015, 04:45 PM
 
Actually, it's MacNN that's playing the click-bait game. Christopher Mims point is that Apple's major strength, creativity, is stretched thin and that, if it must discard anything to keep growing, it should discard the least profitable and least innovative brranch, meaning the Mac. Actually, I disagree with him on that. It seems clear to me that Apple has already lost its creative edge with Mac hardware. All you need do is detail what's changed in recent years. With laptops: 1. Fewer ports, creeping slowly toward one. 2. Thin, as if that mattered. And across all Macs: Making them virtually unrepairable and upgradable. None qualify as innovation and most are downgrades from a users perspective. The same is true of OS X. Most recent changes are cute gimmicks that at best save a few seconds. Eight years into the mobile device age, moving documents between my Mac and my iPad still requires various clumsy kludges. Recently, when I needed to display an ebook I'd finished on my iPad, I had to resort to Dropbox, a third-party app.
Author of Untangling Tolkien and Chesterton on War and Peace
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 04:50 PM
 
Walt Mossberg has written numerous articles for the WSJ expressing his opinion on tech products including those of Apple. Not one of these article has been on the opinion pages of that of The Journal. You may disagree with the contents of any article you like but it was obviously and opinion piece in the Business and Tech section. You might benefit from looking at some of the readers comments on this article on the WSJ's website.
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 04:54 PM
 
Walt Mossberg has written numerous articles for the WSJ expressing his opinion on tech products including those of Apple. Not one of these article has been on the opinion pages of The Journal. You may disagree with the contents of any article you like but it was obviously and opinion piece in the Business and Tech section. You might benefit from looking at some of the reader comments on this article on the WSJ's website.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jun 16, 2015, 05:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by Inkling View Post
Actually, it's MacNN that's playing the click-bait game. Christopher Mims point is that Apple's major strength, creativity, is stretched thin and that, if it must discard anything to keep growing, it should discard the least profitable and least innovative brranch, meaning the Mac. Actually, I disagree with him on that. It seems clear to me that Apple has already lost its creative edge with Mac hardware. All you need do is detail what's changed in recent years. With laptops: 1. Fewer ports, creeping slowly toward one.
You call this article clickbait? Yeah, okay.

With LAPTOP. The MacBook. Singular. The MBPs have plenty of ports. You've made it clear in other posts that the MacBook is not for you, but that does not equal not for everybody.

2. Thin, as if that mattered.
Not to you, but to most of Apple's customer base, it does.

And across all Macs: Making them virtually unrepairable and upgradable.
I don't know about that. I managed to replace the keyboard and the SSD in my 2012 Retina just fine.

None qualify as innovation and most are downgrades from a users perspective.
From YOUR perspective. Neither you nor I speak for the majority of Apple's new customer base.

Eight years into the mobile device age, moving documents between my Mac and my iPad still requires various clumsy kludges.
What? This makes no sense. It takes me three seconds to move what I want.

Recently, when I needed to display an ebook I'd finished on my iPad, I had to resort to Dropbox, a third-party app.
Why? What prevented you from moving it?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jun 16, 2015, 05:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by mbzimmermd View Post
Walt Mossberg has written numerous articles for the WSJ expressing his opinion on tech products including those of Apple. Not one of these article has been on the opinion pages of that of The Journal.
They should be.

You may disagree with the contents of any article you like but it was obviously and opinion piece in the Business and Tech section. You might benefit from looking at some of the readers comments on this article on the WSJ's website.
What makes you think we didn't read the comments?
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 05:43 PM
 
Agree with Inkling. Some may have taken their dislike for Rupert a bit too far.
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 06:00 PM
 
"In case you haven't heard, the Wall Street Journal has run an embarrassingly blinkered editorial called "Why Apple Should Kill Off the Mac" which is, on the face of it, nonsensical. We expect this sort of asinine fodder from the logic-averse scrawls of established nitwits like your Dvoraks, your Enderles -- but the Wall Street Journal was once a respected, legitimate newspaper (at least until Rupert Murdoch bought it)."


You protest too much!!
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 06:02 PM
 
and very obviously don't read the WSJ
     
Charles Martin
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Jun 16, 2015, 06:44 PM
 
mbzimmermd: welcome, new poster! Or perhaps an old poster, eh?

In any event, this is hardly the first article the Murdoch-owned WSJ has printed that could be interpreted as anti-Apple, but we don't even address that in our story -- because that's not what we object to. It's that Christopher Mims has written something incredibly stupid, and stupid should be called out wherever it occurs. We cover Apple, and so something stupid said about Apple will generally be remarked upon by people who know better, either here or, as you yourself point out, in the comments from paid subscribers.

Change Apple to Microsoft, and change "Mac" to "Xbox" -- which was never MS's most profitable product, and a complete departure from their core business -- and the ignorance of Mims' position stands. But more to the point, Mims doesn't even understand the role of the Mac as the foundation of iOS (and, indeed, the only way to write software for iOS). But even putting that aside, advising any company to drop its core product -- and everything Apple does stems from the Mac in one way or another -- is fundamentally dumb business advice.

As one of the WSJ commenters you claim we didn't read says, "Does anyone say this about DEC or HP?" They make many dozens of products, but you seem to think they can handle it. I guess since "mediocre" or "average" is easier to do than "excellent," HP is in no danger of being "stretched thin" anytime soon, eh?

Given the success of Apple, I have a hunch that Tim Cook and the rest of the executive team, while not immune from making errors, may have a tiny bit more insight into how much Apple can handle -- at least more than Mr. Mims, who (again, from the numerous comments) is poorly regarded by regular WSJ readers (we have a subscription, incidentally) for his previous poor writing with regards to tech columns. Indeed, quite a number of the comments bemoan the general falling quality of the WSJ's reporting and features, and suggest that the subscription rate should be cut due to the declining worth of what's presented. Remarkable how many of the WSJ's own readers "protest too much" about the paper's owner ...
Charles Martin
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mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 07:04 PM
 
I guess from your prospective you can't be too "pro-Apple". Opinion is just that. You can take it or leave it without being hostile which is obviously what the original post is, as are the follow-up posts from the MacNN editors. You can observe a lot just by watching.
     
msuper69
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Jun 16, 2015, 08:27 PM
 
I don't see how it can be click-bait when you have to subscribe to see the article.
Yes. It's a ridiculous article.
     
mbzimmermd
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Jun 16, 2015, 10:18 PM
 
BTW

all featured on MacNN

http://www.macnn.com/search/mossberg/

Not once did anyone from MacNN say these should have been on an "editorial" page unlike Mike Wuerthele
     
Charles Martin
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Jun 16, 2015, 10:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by mbzimmermd View Post
BTW

all featured on MacNN

Apple, Macintosh, iPod and iPhone news | MacNN

Not once did anyone from MacNN say these should have been on an "editorial" page unlike Mike Wuerthele
So you don't understand the difference between a reviewer and someone making idle and ill-founded editorial remarks? This explains a lot about your defensiveness.

Once again, this has nothing to do with being pro-Apple. This has everything to do with blinkered nonsense. And with that, I bid you good evening.
Charles Martin
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benj
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Jun 17, 2015, 07:18 AM
 
Boy the political discussion here really detracts from the content- isn't there a moderator? WTF?
"Merrily, we roll along."
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Jun 17, 2015, 08:08 AM
 
Benj, staff is a little light at 3AM.
     
   
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