AMITIAE - Monday 26 November 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Fallout from the US Thanksgiving weekend: a fallow period - wait till next week. Meany Samsung stops supplying batteries to Apple. Why we ought not to trust oft-quoted analysts on Apple. New accessories for the iPhone 5. Devices running iOS dominate online sales. Nokia lose another exec.. The Register's silly headlines and sillier Apple tilting. Charlie Demarjian on Microsoft's death spiral. The Leveson Report on press and privacy released this week: who will be the losers? TrueVisions: three and a half misses, and a hit. A former student writes some sage words.

Apple Stuff

I am hoping/expecting that one of the releases when the IT world lurches into post-holiday action is the new version of iTunes which we have been waiting for, for a while. In the meantime, Jacqui Cheng on Ars Technica examines how the application has evolved from its digital jukebox beginnings (doesn't that sound old?), through the iPod, iPhone, videos, the app store and the missing Ping. She has also a screen shot of the developer release of the new version (presuming it has no changes) and the new themed appearance (sounds dreadful) that we should expect.

Along with the other problems Apple has with Samsung (and Samsung with Apple) is the balancing act each has to do with the supply of components. So far the two problems -- legal and supply -- had been separated. However, according to a report on Patently Apple, the vindictiveness in South Korea may have risen a notch as Samsung has stopped supplying Apple with batteries for (at least) the iPad and MacBook Pro. Apple is switching to alternative sources in China. There is no reason given for the changes by Samsung.

I moan bitterly about analysts here as most of what they put out is doom-laden, based on fiction and uses figures that are often wildly optimistic. Peter Oppenheimer states projections ever quarter which Apple exceeds, while the analysts pitch their gambles higher and are critical when those guesses are not attained. Likewise, Apple product estimates are conservative and are not aimed at gaining massive market share: take the first iPhone for example, Steve Jobs said Apple woud be happy with and was aiming at 1% of the market. They sure beat that.

One of the most quoted analysts is Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray who claims -- according to an item from Joe Svetlik -- that Apple are to produce a cheap (or "inexpensive" as corrected by MacDaily News) iPhone for the masses. I would suggest this indicates that for all the time Munster has been following Apple, he may not get it. Cupertino has never been into any market share pissing contest and produces quality items with a high margin: selling lots is useful of course.

Also not following carefully may be Henry Blodgett whom we have mentioned before in a similar vein. Brian S Hall complains bitterly about the misleading headlines that he puts out. Linkbait he calls it; I have used a stronger term. But he also comes on stronger in the criticism and what he calls Henry's wilful stupidity. A later comment, "Apple will always choose margin over market share", needs also to be examined in the light of my comment on Gene Munster above.

A couple of Apple-related reports appeared on Friday about new accessories for the iPhone 5. I had earlier been looking for an iPhone 4 case in the shops and these have almost all gone. Also arriving new (online at least) is the olloclip lens system that was necessarily updated. There was information on this in an article by Steven Sande on TUAW where there is also a giveaway of one of the sets. When I bought my olloclip for the iPhone 4, it soon became clear that a tripod was a must, and after hunting around, the Glif was my choice. I had email from them on Friday and put my own comments online about the iPhone 5 version of this late that evening.

I commented in Cassandra last Friday when talking about the iPhone 5 cases on sale locally that it was not usually my concern and prefer the iPhone as-is although tend to protect it while in my pocket with the simple iPod sock. I can only buy these from the online Apple store and if you ask in the iStudios you get a "madman warning" look from the staff. These make great Xmas presents too. I am glad to see that Jeff Benjamin on the iDownloadBlog has followed my lead (One I have had since I had the iPhone 3) and that of John Gruber: I am in good company. My link for this item was from MacDaily News.

As well as looking at the Glif tripod mount for the iPhone 5, I took time to re-examine [S]edition Art after an early morning classroom session: I had time to run some of the items I had bought from [S]edition using a projector and a large screen. While I usually look at the art using apps on my iOS devices, I have used a browser on the iMac; and I also connected the iPhone to a LCD TV.

While looking at [S]edition, I tried an app they are investigating called Aurasma. I had a look at the site and downloaded the app to the iPhone. A good idea but it may need more investment and a wider availability of usable images. That website also needs a look at.

On Sunday morning I decided to look at repairing permissions as I had not done this for quite a while. When I entered the Admin account on the MacBook Pro, I was offered an update to the SMARTTReporter utility, then a link to a new download of an updated and far more feature-rich version of this.

Half and Half

An interesting snippet arrived overnight concerning the trademark of Lightning: the new Apple connector. According to Steven Musil (and others) this was owned by Harley-Davidson and has now been partially transferred to Apple: limited uses. That sounds like the partial use agreement they had with the Beatles over the Apple trademark.

Over the holiday period, Daniel Eran Dilger writes on AppleInsider iOS dominated shopping with a massive 330% over Android. A sort of grab you by the eyes headline, but broken down, tablet sales were 2.4% for the Kindle, 1.8% for the Galaaxy, 3.1% for the Nook and 88.3% for the iPad. The report originated with IBM.

Other Matters

Still having problems is Nokia with Iain Thomson of The Register reporting that its Imaging chief, Damian Dinning has made a sudden exit. IT executives are falling like flies at the moment.

Another report from Iain Thomson explains about an apparent power grab for the Internet that is taking place in Europe at the moment. The International Telecommunications Union wants to seize regulatory control of the internet which immediately looks to me like the fox in charge of the henhouse. However, the politicians and EU commission bureaucrats have passed a resolution protesting the plans, which sounds about as useful as bursting a balloon. They need to stamp the collective foot, not wave a finger.

I guess the Register's silly headline writer was off for the weekend.

Also having a good time this weekend was Rik Myslewski on The Register who tends to find Apple problems in all manner of nooks and crannies. He should look in a mirror and ask himself why Apple fails to invite the Register to its events. Nonetheless he has an item on historical PCs "as seen through" the medium of print. It starts with Time's naming of the computer as the Machine of the year in 1983 and works its way through some of the historical releases in a 7-page item that must have been cooking for a while. Some interesting historical references and facts are here. This is worth a look (not often I write that about Myslewski output).

However, it was business as usual in a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot item from Paul Kunert at the Register who seemed to be just beside himself with the news that Barclays had ordered 8,500 iPads. In his attempts to diminish Apple, Barclays and unnamed clients, he made some sweeping comments, asked some pointed questions and used innuendo when the real answers were already starting him in the face: after all, he wrote them.

He starts with the "no less than" modifier, as if everyone should be incredulous at the stupidity being shown here, then switches to the disparaging, "A PR mouthpiece at Barclays" who revealed that staff "had demanded the reassuringly expensive pad over any other shiny devices" suggesting his own editing skills were at use with the verb "demanded" and "reassuringly expensive" coming to the conclusion that - "clearly there are a lot of fanbois in the bank's ranks." Which does not appear to be supported by what he writes next from the PR person: "we concluded that iPads were the best solution for their specific needs".

And then a ridiculous sentence that provides an answer in the second clause to the implied criticism in the first. After writing, "Barclays did not provide any detailed explanation on why it opted for Apple as opposed to one of the also-ran devices" he adds, "it is planning to use an app called Mortgage Brain that was specially designed for the iPad" which over here on the west and wet and windy side of Bangkok seems like a perfect reason. Unless the main point of his writing was not to spread facts but to tilt at Apple.

A fairly devastating analysis of Microsoft and its death spiral appears on a site called SemiAccurate. Charlie Demarjian has a long analysis of what brought Redmond to the parlous state it is in now and suggests that the inevitable is not going to be pretty. I took about 10 - 15 minutes to read through this quickly (one or two grammar errors) and note that some of the arguments have appeared here; but all together there is a far larger picture of what has happened and who is at fault (clue: it was not Steve Sinofsky).

Later this week (Thursday), the Leveson report into press freedom (or is that Press abuses) will be released in the UK. The inquiry was set up as a result of telephone hacking by News International reporters where things had got out of hand. The revelations caused the closure of one newspaper (scapegoated some feel), resignations of several executives, some of whom were arrested and charged; and scores of other sackings and arrests within newspapers, the police, army and other public organisations.

The thirst -- the greed -- for news as a sellable commodity, led to many in the industry taking unprofessional shortcuts and many gross invasions of privacy. It may only be a short time before the US authorities also take a look at the Group's activities: perhaps they already are.

The Leveson Inquiry was set up to find out about the invasions of privacy and interviewed a large number of people, some of whom may have been economical with the truth. Many in the UK feel that some told outright lies. The report will have recommendations concerning the balance of press freedom and privacy. The press has always policed itself, but what was set up in the past was found to be mainly toothless. However there does need to be that balance between freedom and censorship, but there are some lines -- like hacking the phones of murdered girls or of terrorist victims -- that are clearly beyond the pale.

If Leveson recommends legislation, there is a chance, writes Jane Merrick in The Independent, that these "will be cast aside by government and Parliament." Press regulation is a balancing act, and legislation is a dangerous path to take; yet so is the disregard for the personal freedom that was shown by reporters.

Local Items

I was annoyed by a technical problem that the set-top box for the TV service developed on Wednesday that did not fix itself by Friday. Every time I turned it on, it needed a reboot; and then after about an hour, it tried to download an update to software and remained at 0%. It repeated this over and over, Wednesday and Thursday. As I was watching a movie on Friday, it did it again so I phoned True. They offered to send a technician in the morning -- I wanted the TV then -- but as Saturday is a shopping day, I said, No. It would have to be Sunday, which I hate as that is my slumming and working day.

Saturday night as I was watching the movie Contagion off it went again. I was used to this and knew that a reboot would take one minute. Only this time, instead of rebooting to the TV, it went back to the download screen: a moment of panic. But then the download began (four days I had been watching 0). When it was done, the TV picture returned and has not gone off since.

On Sunday morning I phoned True to cancel the technician. I did not even have to say who I was as the system there identified me right away. The visit was cancelled in about a minute by the polite operator.

One of my former students -- I first taught him privately when he was 7 years old -- now lives in the US and is a programmer, having graduated from UCLA. He has (always did have) a refreshing way of looking at things and I read a blog post of his last week -- Made Simple -- in which he examines productivity systems. A few more of the people I know need to look at this reduction: distillation of ideas to their essence.

Late News

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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