AMITIAE - Friday 4 May 2012

Cassandra: Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit

Apple Rumours. Apple malware using 3-year old flaw in MS Office (a hint there?). Apple charged twice, so sue for $5m. Parliament agrees to spend $420,000 on iPads (the UK Parliament, silly). Movie parodies of and by Apple. More open season: Apple destroying jobs to create them. Embarrassing histories. Google and Google again.

Apple Stuff

More rumors about possible impending hardware updates appeared on Thursday with a flurry of noises from international transport sources concerning paperwork -- lots of it -- for something new apparently from Apple. I saw it first on the normally calm MacNN who tend to stick to the facts. Speculators went into high gear panic immediately, all trying to be first to the top. For those who have seen all this before, it will come when it comes. And as Pixobebo says, whatever it is it may be a surprise or may disappoint (remember iPhone 4S and the latest iPad), but the only people who seem to care are those who have online blogs, especially latecomers to the Apple scene.

Rumours have been floating around for a while concerning Apple's possible use of Liquid Metal for its next iPhone or next line of Macs. Not going to happen says the inventor (whom I guess should know), AppleInsider reports.

On current hardware, Matt Brian writes that the UK parliament has approved spending $420,000 on iPads for MPs who are currently allowed 2 laptops. They will have "one and one" and will need to agree to receiving e-documents, so there will be several ways to make savings in the long term.

Just before I went to bed on Thursday, there was an email notification to tell me that The Daily was now available for the iPhone. About time too. I downloaded it and will have a look later to see if there has been any improvement on the US-centric content.

A little more solid than a rumour is news on Patently Apple about a muti-tiered Haptics sytem apparently filed by Apple who have long been interested in this method of giving touch feedback to users. The article has a look at the history of haptic technology as well as some of the specifics of this filing. And PA is really excited by this.

Scott Forestall, who has been so, so quiet since Tim Cook took the reins at 1 Infinity Loop decided to get rid of all his Apple shares recently, thus putting some $38.7 million in his pocket, Katie Marsal reports on AppleInsider. Nothing to worry about really as Apple execs do this all the time knowing that as long as they stay in their jobs, some more will be coming their way in a year or so. Perhaps better to spread the cash a little wider and buy some toys.

There have been a number of reports in the last week or so that have (gleefully almost) told readers how Samsung was top of the pile now and had beaten the iPhone. Well, that is all very well and misses what Apple is really about. Follow the story of the Mac for example and it has never been about volume sales. Daniel Eran Dilger reports on AppleInsider that with the relatively small sales of iPhones globally, Apple is earning most of the profits: 73% apparently.

We have looked at a number of reports concerning malware of late which is not so bad or a disaster in the making depending on who is telling it. Topher Kessler whose sensible reports on Apple technical matters writes about a new threat which is nothing to worry about (although it may be in a file) if you are using OS X 10.7, Lion, or if you are not using Microsoft Office (safe on 2 counts here) as the threat uses a "3-year-old flaw which has been exploited by several different malware attempts in recent month". Glacier speed from Redmond. Topher has details on how to find it (if you have it) and what to do about it. I would suggest an upgrade to Lion and dumping Office. I strongly suggest bookmarking Topher Kessler and/or the feeds to his items.

Not that it has happened to me on the iTunes app store, but a claim that Apple has sometimes charged twice for items (on the iTunes music store) has at least a ring of a possibility to it with the millions of transactions that occur daily. Robin Wauters on TNW writes about a man who claims he has had double bills (as we say, possible), but is a bit miffed that when he wrote to Apple nothing was done and the credit was denied. Actually, he is very miffed so claiming "breach of contract, breach of faith, unjust enrichment, unfair competition and business law violations" he is suing Apple in a class action suit for $5 million. As Wauters reports, Apple does not provide refunds for promotions, but charging twice is not the same. More to come, he adds.

It only seems like a couple of weeks ago that everyone I knew on Facebook was sending out pictures created in Draw Something, which seemed like a fairly interesting idea to me for those who like the idea of sharing simple ideas or in this case sketches. It was riding high as an app and there were comparisons to Instagram (and the $1 billion paid). Then Zynga stepped in and in what might be its second mis-step in recent times (the first being the IPO), its use "dropped from more than 14 million daily active users in early April to a little more than 10 million today" Steven Musil reports. Despite a request, there was no response from Zynga. Another useful item on this was written by Dashiell Bennett on The Atlantic Wire.

In a brilliant parody of an Apple product intro, Brad Leong took Tim Cook up on the comments he made about convergence, especially the idea of a toaster-fridge, or is that a fridge toaster. In the video which is available at Vimeo, the magic is maintained by the deadpan delivery despite the obvious problems with the product, perhaps inadvertently proving that Tim Cook was right. I have watched this a few times and found it hilarious every one of those viewings.

There is also a longish in-house video of the Apple team in a parody of its 1984 ad with Steve Jobs playing FDR (Roosevelt). It is a bit long and a bit old (Ridley Scott did it better), but it is not meant to be taken seriously and was never officially circulated. Paul McNamara on Network World has links to a short clip and the full version. Treat it as a bit of fluff with some interesting moments.

We are rather keen on some of the hints that come from OS X Daily but this week they surpass themselves with the hint (image included) that it is possible to open a bottle of beer with an iPd power adapter. Could Apple have built this in secretly? . . .

More pain will be felt with the announcement that tablet sales have dropped because of Android weaknesses, but iPad sales are still strong, Don Reisinger reports.

I was ready to file the next item along with the other "Open Season on Apple" articles that have been appearing recently. These have made points that apply to many companies, but only Apple is named: they get more hits that way. I sent the link to Mac Daily News as several other gobsmacked people did, then went back for a closer read later, as I usually do.

The headline on Business Insider caught my eye first (as it is meant to do): "EXCLUSIVE: Apple Has Destroyed 490,000 American Jobs". Alongside was a picture of Tim Cook with his face shaded red. The writers, Eric Platt and Ben Duronio, were incensed that Apple claimed half a million jobs had been created as they tell us that in reality 490,000 were destroyed.

I ended up writing a separate article on Economics 101 (not that I ever studied the subject) and uploaded that last night.

A lot of the information used by Eric Platt and Ben Duronio (above) was handed over by Bloomberg and we wonder why there is this move from the Wall Street mafia -- if one dare use such a term -- that was intended once again to do damage to Apple. having forced the share prices down before the good figures, maybe they want to bring them down again for the next time. As a reminder of the fallibility of such sources of information that many investors rely on, we found a link this week to a 2007 article by Matthew Lynn on Bloomberg with the headline, "Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move" which was just one of many such negatives being banded about by those "in the know" you know? Except they didn't and even Ballmer has to admit he was wrong.

We are also told (by Jan Libbenga on the Register) that the half-CEO of RIM (now TRIM?) Jim Lazardis had a field day deconstructing the idea of a touch keyboard, claiming the iPhone "won't be a threat to the success of BlackBerry's smart phone" and we all know how that is ending up. Note also Nokia shares at Junk value the death of Sony Ericsson and the end of Palm: all reacted too late or ignored the warnings.

After the resignation of Nokia's long-time chairman, a late note on TNW from Robin Wauters (who is suitably sarcastic) tells us that the incoming chairman claims that There is "No need for a strategy change . . . and Nokia's current plans will succeed and that [he] will foster an "entrepreneurial spirit". Well, that's all right then.

You do see my point about management unable to see the problem. That is usually because it is the management itself that is the problem.

One of the companies mentioned in that article was Yahoo!. You know, Apple is responsible for its downward slide because they chose Google as default search engine (change it back in Safari preferences). Nothing to do with bad management. Jerry Yang was forced to move aside after the Microsoft takeover attempt and a new CEO, former PayPal president Scott Thompson took over. Andrew Webster on The Verge reports that Yahoo! has had to admit the Com Sci degree Thompson claimed was actually a degree in Accounting: not the only one either.

Half and Half

With the acquistion of Instagram by FaceBook and Draw Something by Zynga, it is not a surprise to read in an item by Steven Musil that Twitter too gave this some thought and its possible target may have been Camera+. Heavens I hope not. That is a great little app and would recommend it to anyone as a way to work with iPhone images. Like many similar apps, it is possible to share an image created in the app via Twitter as well as Facebook and Flickr

Other Matters

As an additional note to the above Economics 101 section, we see that target is to phase out all Kindle branded products, Ross Miller writes on The Verge. Conflict of interest. But it will continue the Nook (and the iPad?).

Mid-Thursday, a heads up from Foss Patents suggested that the jury in the Oracle v. Google case were likely to produce a verdict later in the day although there were indications that Google was to be found to have infringed on the copyrights, which is not really surprising from where I sit.

In a comment on Friday morning, Rachel King reports that the jury is still out and as they keep coming back to ask questions, may not be close to the quick verdict that was expected.

In a sort of confirmation of that arrogance that has become evident during the trial and through other means, Charles Arthur on The Guardian writes that "Google's problem is that it now believes itself above others - even governments". Shades of Rupert Murdoch here? Arthur hits the nail right on the head (in what I see is another parallel with News Corp) by writing, "It's never the offence; it's the cover-up" as he goes through the Street View problems that we reported on in Wednesday's Cassandra and asks is there more to come? What else can Google glean from the ways it links to your data?

Widely reported on Thursday was the sale of the iconic Edvard Munch painting, The Scream for $120 million. The image is as recognisable in its way as Hokusai's In the Hollow of a Wave off the Coast at Kanagawa and both are used to make points, often in cartoon adaptions. Reports were all over the web on Thursday. I link to the BBC as that is one of the first I saw and it shows the picture.

I hate to see stuff that I want (or more "covet") and cannot afford. LensBaby have produced a range of three tilt and shift lenses for both Canon and Nokia. The pack (they are about $330 each, sold separately) is on sale for $750 plus shipping and includes accessories. The LensBaby page detailing the new items has some useful text and three 4-minute videos explaining each lens.

We reported on the comments that MPs included in a paper on Rupert Murdoch earlier in the week: "not a fit and proper person," etc. The BBC Business unit writes that the board of News Corporation says it has full confidence in Rupert Murdoch. Well, they would, wouldn't they?

Another report on BBC Business tells us that Ofcom, the TV regulator that has the last word on who can control what (although the current government hates it) says that it will not be rushed into any decisions concerning News Corp, the Murdochs and BSkyB. News Corp currently holds only 39% of the company, but wants more. Whether the company will be able to have the licence if the Murdochs move in is up for speculation; and for decision by Ofcom.

Something I would love to get started here -- except the academics guard their course materials and research so jealously -- is contained in a report by Tamar Lewin on NYTimes concerning a collaboration between Harvard and M.I.T. to offer free online courses. This project follows others, such as one by a Stanford professor. There are also many courses available on iTunes U -- so much work provided there, that teachers could just download whole courses: which is the point. Of course, with all these free courses, it might become difficult for some universities to keep milking the cash cow that higher level education has become in some countries.

Local Items

We read Friday morning on iPodNN that Apple has added 10 more languages to iTunes Connect, including Thai. Others added are Norwegian, Turkish, Finnish, Danish, Indonesian, Malay, Vietnamese, Greek, and traditional Chinese. iTunes Connect is a suite of web-based tools that allow you to submit and manage your apps for distribution on the App Store and Mac App Store.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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