Bugs, not features: new media edition or why the punditocracy is useless, every last one of them.
Because Steve Jobs is mortal. Also, because Jobs and Apple have a walled garden (sort of) approach to content and apps, while “techno-utopians are confident that Google Android, with its more open approach, will eventually win out.”
Also, Jobs is mortal.
Therefore, says Salam,as “Apple won’t be able to defy gravity forever,” the only prudent response is to obey this imperative:
“Short it now.”
Actually, I kind of hope that the Newt Gingrich wing of the techno-utopian GOP follows this advice.
It’s not that Salam is necessarily wrong in the long run: AAPL, like every publicly traded company, has its ups and downs (h/t Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter). There will no doubt come a time Apple misses a target or botches a launch or whatever. It nearly dried up and blew away once (at least); it could do so again. Where’s DEC, or Osborne, or … you know the drill.
But two points:
First, there is no consolation in being right if the market thinks you’re wrong. (I.e., going short doesn’t help you if it takes too long for the stock price to fall; you’ll be broke before you’re right). Betting on a naked short because what goes up must come down is indeed one way to get rich — if you’re the sucker’s broker.
Remember the old saying — if you don’t know who the patsie is at the table, it’s you.
And second, who is Salam, and what is his knowledge either of consumer computing or stock trading to give such confident advice?
He is 30 years old, did undergraduate work at Cornell and Harvard, and has since opined for a living at lots of well-known venues; he is a self-described conservative, with an interest, his New America Foundation bio tells us in “how radical technological advances are changing the way we live and think.” He slings really deep thoughts for a living.
What else? He’s co-written one book with another member of the conservative welfare-receiving crowd, and he’s talked a lot about lots of stuff in lots of places.
In other words, he is a member of the “often in error, never in doubt”** diaper brigade rising into the in-group of Village pundits.
That is: nothing in his stated training or body of knowledge makes him a reliable investment advisor…which isn’t my point; if you can’t figure that out simply from reading his hash of conventional wisdom you deserve the results you get.
What I’m actually trying to say is that this kind of half-assed hack job serves as a low-stakes assay of the quality of thought in what is supposed to be one of the sharpest quarters of new conservative intelligentsia. And if this is characteristic of the depth and analytical sophistication to be found in that neighborhood, then Houston, we have a problem.
But you knew that.
*Sullivan picks up on Salam’s brief digression into a muddled expression of concern that Apple’s success is built on catering to the carriage trade, and not to the much broader customer base that, say, Walmart serves. There is an interesting line of inquiry there. Salam doesn’t pursue it.
Similarly, while a bit of fishwrap like this doesn’t deserve the full trademark John Foster Dulles response, it’s worth noting, at least, that Salam builds his premise on pretty clearly false premises: Apple “might be America’s most beloved company,” and its avatar, Steve Jobs, is “possibly the world’s most charismatic man…”
With insight like this, you could build a Bush administration. I mean seriously — it takes affirmative commitment to produce deep thought like this: a willed laziness in the writing, a determined refusal to consider whether that which is easiest to say is, you know, even remotely connected to reality.
**A line I steal from Lord Martin Rees, who used it to me to describe himself and his fellow cosmologists.
Image: Georges Croegaert, ‘The Winning Hand’ 1880.