For once, John Gruber channels me on something

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column in the Gdn called “iPhone is more than the sum of its parts” which looked at the peculiar way in which iSuppli, whose purpose seems mostly to be to tear stuff apart and price it using metrics nobody quite understands, had priced the iPhone’s components even before the iPhone had been released.

[iSuppli] reckons that the hardware and manufacturing costs for an 8GB model is $265.83 (£131.97) – meaning that at the retail price of $599, a whopping 55% is pure profit. All depending, of course, on the meaning of “pure” and “profit”.

In January, iSuppli had estimated – without even dismembering one – that an iPhone’s hardware and manufacturing costs were $264.85. That’s only 0.3% variation in its estimate, which means it’s either brilliant or that these analyses completely miss the point.

I concluded: The problem with these analyses is that they assume that these products fall out of a clear blue sky, their design realised by morphic resonance (where everyone suddenly understands something simultaneously), and that Apple – and other companies, for Toshiba’s creation of the miniature hard drive for the original iPod accounts for a lot of the product’s rocketing success – just sits around deciding where to buy advertising spots. That’s rather like saying that the bodies that medical students practise on have all the same content as live ones. It’s obvious that isn’t true, because when alive, those bodies had that something extra, the gestalt, which made them alive, not dead.

Now, John Gruber has laid into iSuppli:

Searching in Google News, I’ve found several dozen stories from the past month about Apple’s supposedly exorbitant iPhone margins, but not one citing a source other than iSuppli.


The total cost of a product’s physical components is not the total cost to produce the finished product. Build quality, packaging, shipping, warranty costs – none of these are taken into consideration by iSuppli.

For once, it’s nice to feel I kept ahead of Gruber on at least one part of the curve, which is more like a manifold when it comes to figuring out what is going on in the Uniappleverse.

Next, to figure out what this “product transition” thing coming up next quarter is. Except – damn, Gruber’s already been there. [Thanks, TechnicolourSquirrel for pointing out the need for a better link]


  1. TechnicolourSquirrel

    Friday 27 July 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Hey, shouldn’t your link with Gruber’s name in it actually link to his site? Just wondering if you accidentally pulled in the wrong URL…

    P.S. I really don’t get the whole “every opinion about a tech issue is not worth stating after its already been published anywhere once’ thing. No offence, but this ‘One view, one blogger’ rule that seems to be developing is ridiculously insular. As in, this is the way this opinion will be stated on the internet. Got another way to say something similar? Too late, you’re an also-ran — how gauche. And how was this particular ‘favoured’ iteration of this opinion chosen? On the merits? Nope. First come, first served. Welcome to the blogocracy. How small must you make your world in order for Gruber’s words to seem to be instant universal knowledge? I am a huge Mac geek, and spend hours a day online reading about tech, and I don’t have the time to read even half of what just the ‘important’ Apple bloggers write. I think you have to make your world so small in order to see things this way that it basically includes only rival bloggers. Time for a perspective check?

  2. Charles

    Sunday 29 July 2007 at 11:01 pm

    1) – yes, it should. Updated, thanks.
    2) this is quite a subtle and also important point, which is worth reexamining. Journalists, in general, are taught that if something has been covered by one paper/media outlet, then there’s no point in reprinting “yesterday’s” news. (Where “yesterday” may mean anything from 48 hours to 4 minutes old.) You have to “move the story on”. Similarly, why have exactly the same opinion as someone else already did – or if you do, why post it? It’s the equivalent of “me too” in a newsgroup posting – a waste of your and everyone else’s time. One thing that journalism does have at least is efficiency.

    When someone does have a different way to intepret the facts – if that interpretation stands up to examination – then yes, it is worth writing, and even making a noise about. Though of course some people then make their name by being contrary, knowing it will bring people flocking to see their contrarian views (*cough*Dvorak*cough).

    Now, the meat of your question is How small must you make your world in order for Gruberís words to seem to be instant universal knowledge?

    Not too small, really – Daring Fireball has a shockingly large readership, certainly among Mac web readers; I’ll certainly lean on stuff he’s posted to see if it merits following. It’s all part of the prism of information out there. If he writes it and I can’t see a better way to say it, then I might as well point to it (as I have done on a number of occasions). No point pretending to have invented the wheel.

    But the general thing of “it’s been said”? That’s a journalist thing – don’t write yesterday’s paper, write tomorrow’s. Find out something new, and if you can’t do that, then think of something that hasn’t been thought of yet.

  3. TechnicolourSquirrel

    Monday 13 August 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Interesting response, with a lot of food for thought, thanks. I’d like to point out however that your entire view of this rests on the blogger = journalist equation. In almost any other type of opinion writing (movie reviews or product reviews, for example), none of your ‘move the story forward’ logic holds. And even in the world of journalism, the more your articles are like editorials (and most bloggers are even more editorial than editorials), the less this logic holds. The New York Times doesn’t avoid stating a certain opinion in an editorial simply because the LA Times has the same opinion. They put their view on the record, anyway. Your characterisation is only applicable to the very narrow case of investigative reporting, something that much as bloggers would prefer otherwise, does not resemble what most of them do, particularly not technology bloggers. This is one of the reasons that I find the whole ‘also-ran’ fear to be an unfortunate self-censoring symptom of a certain affectation. Maybe I don’t like the way Gruber states his opinions. Maybe I’d prefer to hear the way you put it. Maybe it would not come out as exactly similar as you think. None of this, admittedly, applies to a pure investigation and reporting of the facts — but this is not what you do.

    I think the blogging world is kind of confused about itself and there is a lot of pretense going around that clouds the issue.

  4. Charles

    Monday 13 August 2007 at 4:05 pm

    @£ – interesting point. But for the journalist for whom time is money, writing the same opinion as someone else has already done feels like a waste of time. Is an editor going to pay to read something she could have seen in another paper yesterday? (In the UK, all papers are pretty much instantly available. At least that’s the assumption.)

    Sure, a lot of tech bloggers are happy just to say the same thing as others, later. Maybe that’s a way to distinguish them from journalists…

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