Masters of the Obvious

Frank Rich:

Having sold itself in 2010 as the uncompromising champion of Tea Party-fueled fiscal austerity, the enhanced G.O.P. caucus arrived in Washington in 2011 to discover that most Americans prefer compromise to confrontation and favor balanced budgets in name only.

A CNN poll this month found that just one American in five regards deficit reduction as pressing enough to justify cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Only one in four would choose balancing the budget if it meant reducing education programs. Indeed, a new Gallup poll reveals that there’s exactly one category of government spending that a majority of voters favors slicing — foreign aid (which amounts to some 1 percent of the budget). Incredible as it sounds, even current government outlays to science, the arts, farmers and antipoverty programs still enjoy 50 percent-plus support.

I’m wondering why liberals weren’t able to figure out this obvious truth until after the election.

How Important Is Steve Jobs to Apple’s Product Development?

There’s always been a lot of guessing about Steve Jobs’s role in Apple’s product development. Does he come up with every idea himself? Does he oversee every hardware design, every software feature, every icon placement and color? Is he primarily a visionary that hands of most of the execution to others? Or is it something else?

Jobs gave a hint during his interview with Walt Mossberg at the D8 Conference last year. Mossberg asked Jobs about the genesis of the iPhone and the iPad. Jobs answered, “I had this idea of being able to get rid of the keyboard and type on a multitouch glass display. And I asked our folks, could we come up with a multitouch display?” Here’s the clip:

The key here is that Steve Jobs uses the first-person singular pronoun “I” when describing the original idea for what became the iPad. Anyone who pays any attention to how Steve Jobs speaks knows that every word is deliberate. He would not have used the word “I” if he didn’t mean it.

That’s at least one clue that Steve Jobs personally plays a very critical and direct role in product development.

I wonder: if someone else inside Apple had come up with the idea of building a tablet with a multitouch glass display, how hard would it have been for that person to get six months invested in building prototype hardware and several weeks invested in building prototype software to validate the concept? The answer to that question may say a great deal about how Apple may change once Steve Jobs retires (which, to be clear, I believe will be a long time from now).

Glenn Beck managed to lose roughly a million of his Fox News viewers in 2010, and his slide has continued into 2011. Beck’s viewership numbers have gotten so bad that he has been only able to top 2 million viewers three times in the month of January. Beck has seen his ratings decrease by half, and there seems to be no end in sight for the viewer exodus from his program.

Google ‘not happy’ with Android Market purchase rates, many changes coming

Having a Market full of apps is a very good thing for owners of Android handsets, but those owners buying few premium apps is a bad thing for developers who keep that Market full. That, of course, is also bad news for Google, which is making a variety of changes to appease devs, some of which Android Platform Manager Eric Chu outlined at the Inside Social Apps conference yesterday. After already nuking the 24 hour trial period Google is now working on an in-app payment system, which would enable the direct-selling of add-ons, costumes, and enough other bits and bobs to ensure you’ll never buy a fully-featured app again.

Google is also negotiating with more carriers to allow users to have app purchases appear on their bill, rather than using a separate payment system, as is already possible on AT&T. Finally, a team of honest to gosh humans is working on helping to weed out apps that violate the company’s terms of service, sifting through the Market to find bogus downloads, perhaps an admission that the “open and unobstructed environment” ideal isn’t working out. We wonder if they’ll also be looking for free apps that quite capably provide the functionality of premium ones. Those, it seems, are the greatest threat to the paid apps – and perhaps the greatest asset of the Market itself.

Lots of original ideas here.

This is serious attention to detail. It’s not something people will show off to each other on the bus, or something that you can put on an advert or trumpet on a feature list. It just makes the app a bit quieter and a bit more well behaved. The addition of this extra detail has made the app less visible than if the detail wasn’t there. Lovely.