What Is Apple Up To? Beats Me

Shooting Down Trial Balloons

On Thursday, May 8, 2014, a strongly supported rumor stated Apple was preparing to purchase Beats Electronics for 3.2 billion dollars. As the news flooded the technosphere, it seemed as though most every pundit felt the need to float a trial balloon in order to keep their virtual heads above the virtual flood waters. As I wasn’t able to generate enough hot air to inflate even a trial balloon of my own, I spent an enjoyable weekend sniping at others and shooting down their poorly constructed balloons instead.

What fun.

[pullquote]What if there were no hypothetical questions? ~ George Carlin[/pullquote]

I mean, after all, what’s the point of being an analyst if one can’t be anal once in a while, right?

But now it’s time to get back to the serious job of analyzing the Beats purchase…

…or is it?

CAPTION: The Beats Rumor Turned The Tech World On Its Head

Opining Is What We Do (Even When We Know We Don’t Know What We’re Doing)

Of course, the real expert opinion on why Apple would buy Beats is something like “damned if I know.” ~ Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken)

Speculation, Speculation Everywhere But No One Stops To Think

Kontra – as usual – has put his finger on the problem:

You can buy a lot of theories for $3.2B. ~ Kontra (@counternotions)

[pullquote]I think I am, therefore I am.  I think. ~ George Carlin[/pullquote]

When Apple spends 3.2 billion dollars to buy something, we feel we need say something — even when we have nothing to say.

Informed Speculation vs. Uninformed Speculation

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between informed speculation and the uninformed speculation is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Premature Much?

[pullquote]Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you. ~ American Proverb[/pullquote]

Did Apple buy Beats yet? ~ Matt Rosoff (@MattRosoff)

I’m 1,596 words into my Apple/Beats article; it would be really nice to have official confirmation before I publish! ~ Ben Thompson (@monkbent)

Analyzing The Analysts

So far the Beats deal has told us a little about Apple or Beats. But it’s told us a lot about analysts.

The Beats deal is a tech Rorschach Blot: no-one can see what it is so everyone projects their own view of Apple onto it. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)


You came to us, hungry for knowledge. Now, some ~2,000 pointless articles later, you are fed up.

To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

[pullquote]What is left out…is as important as, if not more important than, what is put in. ~ Katherine Paterson[/pullquote]

The analyst’s job (like God’s, but with far fewer resources than God had) is to bring order out of chaos. Creating more chaos is not the way to get that job done. Sometimes one simply has to accept the fact the best analysis is no analysis at all. This is one of those times.

Which reminds me of a story:

Ted Koppel interviewed William F. Buckley on ABC’s popular Nightline show. As the show drew to a close, Koppel said to his famous guest, “Mr. Buckley, we have only a few moments left. Could you sum up in ten seconds?” The loquacious Buckley startled Koppel but endeared himself to viewers when he replied:


Google’s Purchase of Zagat Proves They Are A Content Company

As a serious foodie and a fan of Zagat’s Restaurant guides, I was rather intrigued by the fact that Google has decided to buy this popular product. Tim and Nina Zagat have worked tirelessly for decades to create what has become one of the best restaurant guides available. And to us foodies, they are rock stars.

Now, Google has bought them to presumably serve as the cornerstone of their local services and almost overnight they have become a serious competitor to the likes of Groupon, Yelp and Open Table in the local markets for offering specials for local dining.

But this move is important for another reason. For a long time, Google has denied that they had any interest in being a content provider. But this purchase suggests just the opposite. Sure, Zagat can be used as a vehicle for offering deals but Zagat content and the legion of personal restaurant reviewers becomes a powerful model for Google to add even more related content and tie it to their search engine and localized social services in the future.

In fact, it most likely will serve as a model for what else they do in content. What is interesting about the Zagat guides is that they, in a sense, were one of the first real social networking products. They started out only in print, but recently moved much of their guide online. They tapped into the interests of a particular crowd-people who wanted to review their meals and the eating experience and then allowed them to rate them using a Zagat dedicated rating system.

This same idea can be used anywhere there are people of like minds who want to connect. This can be applied to broad areas of interest such as sports, news and finance, but that may not be where they go with this. Instead, as the Zagat purchase may suggest, their content play may be a more focused vertical one for other areas of like-minded individuals, such as those with hobbies, specific things to sell around these hobbies and any other interest group where content and commerce can be applied to their search engine and a local scene.

While Google may somehow spin this to say this is not a content acquisition and that they are still not a content company, I beg to differ with them. To me this signals a strong interest in finding ways to add content perhaps in not conventional ways to their product mix and use “content” of various sorts to bring more people into their various Google properties.