Time for Walt Mossberg to hang it up?

“Walt Mossberg has a 500-word section on ‘Drawbacks’ in his review [yesterday] of the iPad 2,” John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball. “The whole thing is a crock, an example of trying to be fair/balanced/objective by bending over backwards to find negative things to say about the device. No one is arguing that the iPad 2 is beyond criticism. But almost nothing in Mossberg’s list of drawbacks is valid.”

One of Mossberg’s so-called “downsides,” is “that battery life for movie playback — with the brightness set 25 percent higher than Apple’s factory default — exceeds Apple’s stated 10 hours by nine minutes,” Gruber writes. “Apple says you can play video for 10 hours, Mossberg gets 10 hours and nine minutes, and it’s a downside? You can argue that it should be a ‘downside’ because he got over 11 hours on the same test with an original iPad, but none of the other reviewers seem to be seeing a 10 percent drop in battery life for video playback between the original and new iPads. I saw nearly identical results between the two. Josh Topolsky at Engadget saw better battery life from the iPad 2 than the original. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a review where a product that exceeds the manufacturer’s stated specs for battery life gets dinged for battery life.”

Now we get to the good stuff:

“Finally, there are two big omissions, one old and one new. The old one is that, like Apple’s prior phones and tablets, the shiny new iPad 2 still won’t play Adobe’s Flash video in its built-in Web browser. This is a deliberate decision by Apple, and puts its devices at a disadvantage for some users when compared with Android tablets, which can play Flash, or say they will soon, albeit not always well.” – Walter S. Mossberg

Gruber writes, “So the Xoom doesn’t play Flash but promises to eventually, the Galaxy Tab does but often not well, and the iPad 2’s lack of Flash is a disadvantage? No mention that there are clearly trade-offs in play. Like that Flash Player might have some sort of effect on battery life. Or that the lack of Flash on the iPad is an impetus that motivates developers to write native iPad apps.”

“Mossberg’s entire review is only 1,500 words; measured by the word, a full third of what he has to say about it are these ‘drawbacks,'” Gruber writes. “By contrast, his 1,200-word review of the Motorola Xoom — a tablet nearly everyone, including Mossberg, agrees is inferior to the iPad 2 — contains one 62-word paragraph of ‘downsides.’ Stating the plain truth, that the iPad 2 has no serious competition as a mainstream consumer device, doesn’t make you biased. It makes you accurate.”

Read more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s nice to finally have some company on this. For years now, we’ve been discussing such things as Mossberg’s “Android Tourette’s” (dropping Android randomly into Apple product “reviews” for seemingly no reason other than to concoct the appearance of being “fair and balanced”) among other inconsistencies (see Gruber’s full piece for some nice examples). And, it’s not just Android, either. Mossberg’s issue simply seems to be Apple. (See: What’s wrong with Walt Mossberg? – MacDailyNews, October 22, 2009).

If we had to guess, we’d say that for many years Mossberg was properly reviewing Apple products objectively, but somewhere along the line he was accused of being an “Apple fanboy” by someone that mattered to him. (His employer? Apple competitors? His dog? Who knows?) Regardless of the reason why, Mossberg, in some quixotic quest for appear objective, has for some time seemed compelled to gin up “negatives” in his “reviews” of Apple products while also overly praising what are clearly inferior wares from companies that stamp out Apple product derivatives. What Mossberg still doesn’t seem to grasp is that the end result is that he appears to be biased against Apple and/or a cheerleader for any company attempting to compete with Apple.

Maybe the addition of Gruber’s criticism will help Mossberg to wake up. Regardless, in our eyes, Mossberg’s hard-earned reputation for accuracy, objectivity, and independence has been severely tarnished and irretrievably squanderd. And that’s sad, for we used to hold him in the very highest esteem.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jax44” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Mossberg reviews Apple iPad 2: Moves the goal posts; lighter, thinner, more powerful – March 10, 2011


  1. Mossberg, like other technology writers has a real problem. Imagine that Apple drives everyone else out of business. Or that everyone finally comes to realize that Apple products provide incredible value and are simply the best products at any price. What would Mossberg write about? What would any of the tech journalists write about? They understand and fear the reality of an Apple dominated world. So to keep their jobs and to keep things interesting, they do what Android device makers cannot do, they manufacture “competition” for Apple products in the form of overly “fair” product reviews and comparisons.

      1. In the end, Walt’s boss is Rupert Murdoch, who we know is buddy buddy with Steve Jobs.

        Could that be the problem – that Murdoch is already aligned with Apple, so Walt has to make these blatant attempts at “balance”?

  2. Agree with Gruber (and MDN) on this. The Goatberg has been eating from Thurrott’s garbage. Goat used to be thorough AND accurate. Now his reviews are often disingenuous, misleading and just plain wrong.

      1. I heard that story as Greenpeace is down on Apple because Apple will not pay them for their opinion. The other companies mouth the words and pass over the check.

  3. Apple should immediately remove Mossberg from their very exclusive preferred reviewer list. No more early access to highly-anticipated Apple products. We’ll see how much The WSJ values Mossberg once that happens.

    Apple will do just fine without Walt Mossberg’s stamp of approval – especially when it’s rapidly becoming worthless.

  4. If the iPad2 drawbacks described Mossberg are false, then go ahead and set the record straight. If you don’t agree with the way he values or weights a particular feature of the iPad’s, be sure to let us know

    But would Mr. John Gruber please stop claiming to understand the motives of Walt Mossberg — who Gruber says is “trying to be fair/balanced/objective by bending over backwards to find negative things to say” about the iPad2. Understanding what motivates others is best left to psychologists. As a reader, I know no more about John Gruber’s motives than those of Mossberg.

    A column is not a news story; it is supposed to express the opinion of the columnist. That’s what Mossberg did, in his own unique way.

    1. Shut the hell up.

      Mossberg’s “Drawbacks” section was over 500 words. The Xoom, a device that got much more significant criticism from other reviewers, got just over 1/10 of that.


    2. One needn’t have a degree in Psychiatry to see through Walt’s charade. Mr Gruber is a bright and observant individual, though one needn’t even be that to see a new pattern emerging in the way Walt’s reviews are being structured.

      Given that one only need the most elementary intelligence and observational skills, I’m not sure what it says about you that you CAN’T see it.

      1. Yes, I can see that Mossberg spends a significant amount of space discussing what he called drawbacks of the iPad2.

        But I can NOT see Mossberg’s motives, his reasons for writing what he did. And neither can *anyone* else. Anyone.

        Contrary to your claim, “elementary intelligence and observational skills” are not nearly enough to interpret with any accuracy what other people are thinking.

  5. If Mossberg told the whole truth like saying the xoom is trash manufacturers would stop giving him products to review. That’s why all the reviewers bent over backwards to find no fault with the Palm Pre (no one talked about the plastic screen, the shoddy workmanship, the lack – and total unlikely-hood of more – apps and the fact the company was going bankrupt).

    But perhaps all these guys glossing over the xoom has it silver lining for apple: anybody buying a xoom – with its non functioning components and constant crashing – ain’t going to buy another android device. If reviewers gave accurate reviews then they would have steered the droideks away from the bad to the (very few) sort of OK droid devices and consumers would think droids are great.

    By the way Toshiba has given up on current honeycomb and launching their new pad with Android 1.6 (what does that tell everyone?)

  6. WSJ has been bashing apple every chance they get. Bet you it is all about the derivative players out there milking apple. Only way to stop this is if management comes out and gives an updated earnings forecast that is close to the truth. This will burn all those SHYSTERS.

    1. And what draws more page views: A glowing review of the iPad 2 (or any other Apple device), or a review “trashing” the iPad 2?

      Yup, fanboys flock to sites which contain any negative remarks about an Apple product, so they can post comments about how crappy Flash is and why it is not needed, or whatever.

      The fact is the company makes more money from advertisers when it publishes negative remarks about Apple. So, Think Before You Click, as MDN would say.

  7. Walt Mossberg like an average wine is pass his time. We know even without having one in hand yet, that the iPad2 is not perfect.
    It is still the best thing out there, and Mossberg is now just nit picking to finding fault with the iPad2. My big question is why does the Wall Street Journel allow such an old fart to do reviews? No wonder there is no jobs in US when people like Mossberg is not put out to pasture.

  8. Here’s my take: we all expect Apple products to not meet our expectations, but to exceed them. Other products, the bar is different. So think about the iPad 2: battery life is the same as before, and the cameras are not great. Those two specs either meet or fall slightly below our expectations.

    Now, imagine the Xoom’s hardware was exactly the same as the iPad 2: reviewers would be all over themselves talking about how awesome it is, because their expectations for non-Apple tech products are lower. Apple’s become a bit of a victim of their own success.

    Were I a reviewer, I would have likely expressed disappointment at the lack of a Retina Display. (For me, the Retina Display is the new black: once you’ve had it, you won’t go back.) Is that an unreasonable critique? Probably, but I’ve become so used to Apple products wowing me, that if they don’t, I get all cranky.

    Overall, Mossberg’s review isn’t bad: he still says it’s “comfortably” the best tablet on the market.

  9. Flummoxed MAC puppet jumping ship? Say it isn’t so Moss-man! I suspect the ole Moss-meister is only basing his scathing review on his admiration for his pre-review HP TouchPad he has most certainly fell in love with. Unfortunately he is under NDA, so he can’t quite come out and say it yet.

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