AMITIAE - Friday 7 December 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Dave Brubeck RIP. Apple share prices, speculation and the analysts' muddled thinking. Rumour time: iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone Lite. Apple to invest $100 million in US production of Macs: Cook interviews with NBC and Bloomberg. Comment on the folding of The Daily. Updates: OS X (coming), iWork and iTunes. A couple of interesting hints. Patent trial news. Another definite Nay vote for the Surface. John McAfee arrested in Guatemala. IBM program to help students and technology professionals prepare for jobs of the future.

Dave Brubeck

It is not often that I slip in something not from the world of Apple or interesting associated news, but the death of Jazz pianist, Dave Brubeck this week, at the age of 92, minus 1 day, is especially sad. A great article on his passing and on his influences, by David A. Graham in The Atlantic is well worth a look at, not the least for the links to a Miles Davis track and Brubeck's own Someday My Prince Will Come. For right or for wrong, he will always be associated with Take 5, itself a shift in music composition. He and his musicians played this at the launch of Microsoft DOS 5 -- almost the last Redmond product I bought. But I have bought Brubeck records and continue to enjoy them.

Gangnam style? Gimme a break.

Apple Stuff

One of the biggest news items in Apple land the middle of this week was the massive fall in the share price experienced on Wednesday: apparently the largest drop ever. Several sources reported on this including MacNN. To me this signifies little more that panic when many have bought Apple shares to follow trends and also tells me that few actually understand what Apple is. I wish they would buy all the shares back and be done with the stock market as it only injects confusion into the equation.

I wonder about some analysts as an article on this from David Alton Clark on Seeking Alpha gets some of his argument really wrong in trying to explain about Apple's falling share price. In his first main section he explains that Apple missed earnings the last two quarters, but fails to point out properly that far from missing its own guidance, Apple exceeded the figures. What it missed was the analysts guesses, which many real Apple-watchers think may come from little more than casting chicken bones, like the ancient Romans.

On his second point, where he explains how "the 50-day sma passes below the 200-day sma" I just glazed over. This is apparently the Simple Moving Average (I did bother to look it up): the average stock price over a certain period of time. So by a matter of mathematical jiggery-pokery, a company that is seeing record sales of its products is doomed by the corporate investors. See, no wonder I think Apple should withdraw from the stock exchange.

On the third point he is forgiving as this is also a mechanism of the stocks and shares adjustment processes that work because of speculation (more guesses); and then we have this Fiscal Cliff stuff again, which may explain why some of the Apple execs sold shares recently: to make sure they were not lumbered with massive tax bills: hardly Apple's fault.

And to conclude, he sees this as a buying opportunity. Hooray: up they go again, until the next disaster pulled out of the hat by analysts, who may have other broths to brew.

Talking of which, another commentator on Seeking Alpha, Paulo Santos seems to come up with a slightly different set of reasons for the fall in share price this week, although his does make more sense to me by virtue of its simplicity: the earlier speculation has brought about volatility. He concludes, "Once this temporary excessive-sentiment related phenomenon is over, Apple will be able to go back to reflecting its own fundamental prospects, namely those affecting the iPhone 5 and the iPad."

So it is not just what goes up must come down, but there is a see-saw effect in play too, with the downs often triggered by minor events and led by computerised, automatic sell-offs.

And to put it all in a slightly better context it was reported this week by Sam Oliver on AppleInsider, as well as several other sources, that a former trader was charged in a wire fraud case involving $1 billion in Apple stock. He was asked to buy 1,625 shares, but made a gamble and bought 1.625 million; and then Apple stock dropped.

This week it is reported on several sources, including from Roger Cheng that there is confirmation that T-Mobile will be carrying the iPhone 5 next year, although the CEO claims that there will be a "dramatically different" experience", but was tight-lipped about what this might mean,

Earlier on in the week we reported on changes to the iTunes stores, with several countries now joining the party, including Russia and South Africa. There have been some initial problems with access, iPodNN reports, and even a hint of porn in Russia. How exciting.

It is all connected to those data centers that Apple has, for example in North Carolina where, Electronista reports, Apple is about to double the ca[acity of the fuel cells, to 10 megawatts of power production, making it the largest installation of fuel cell technology not run by an electric utility.

It is silly rumour time again, with the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and an iPhone Lite all making appearances.

To start with (without shooting the messenger) Neil Hughes on AppleInsider reports on the comments of Barclays analyst, Ben A. Reitzes, speculates that Apple will produce a low-end iPhone to hook customers, which shows how little he knows about Apple: note to Barclays, put this man on lite duties, more suited to his imagination.

Now that the iPad had a half-point update, there is speculation that the iPhone itself could see the same sort of evolution, which would not go down well in some quarters. Electronista carries a report that claims to include photographs of the iPhone 5S which has some subtle changes to it, particularly the back.

MacWorld has the same pictures, but David Price is not sure if this is the iPhone 5S or the iPhone 6, but does add, "Sorry about the watermarks and straw-clutching rumourmongering". Or maybe something under development for next year? No point asking Apple of course.

It seems that the excitement is due to the perceived change in the position of screw holes in the backplate.

Well, now, here is a rumour that we can believe in as it comes from Tim Cook, albeit by way of Don Reisinger. This may also steady the helm after all those share fluctuations and manipulations. Cook told Bloomberg that some Mac production is moving to the US (delighting some politicians and Donald Trump, no doubt). Apple is investing $100 million to produce Macs in the U.S., although it will not be by Apple. Foxconn? And right on cue (or at least overnight), Tim Culpan on Bloomberg reports that, indeed, Foxconn is seeking to build in the US.

The full Bloomberg interview is also available online.

The information about the production of Macs in the US also appeared in the TV interview that Cook did with Brian Williams on NBC (I wonder if we shall see that here), Ronnie Polidoro reports on RockCenter (NBC News). There is a 2:23 section of the interview on that page in which Cook talks about the US manufacture of Macs and Apple components, giving a very diplomatic answer about the skill sets that have been lost. Cook also makes the point that many commentators ought to take on board (but so far have not) that Steve Jobs told him to never ask the question, "What would Steve have done?"

That was only a small section of the full interview as Neil Hughes reports on AppleInsider that Cook also hinted a little about the TV system that Apple has been rumoured to have been working on for a while.

In a later report on the interview, from Jacqui Cheng on Ars Technica, we were told that among the subjects that were discussed was the ouster of Scott Forestall: Cook apparently made "a carefully even-handed comment about the value of collaboration at Apple." Now I really do want to see this TV interview, or at least a transcript.

I had a thought about the US-manufacture of Macs last night and wondered what it might be. I initially thought of the Mac Pro as Cook had made promises about this last year, but for an investment of $100 million (albeit this could be both for the future and a political statement), I do not think the volume numbers are there for this model. Alexander Hoffman on MangChutney thinks this is possible, and he also thinks it is not a political statement, but that the control aspect (I agree on that) is important.

If not the Mac Pro, what else? The Mac mini is not a contender in my view as the size makes it a good candidate for transportation; while the iMac is possible, especially as there have already been a few of these seen with a MAde in America label. With the all in one motherboard, the glass made in Kentucky and other components more easy to handle, this could work. But then there are those MacBook Pro computers that often have some newer technology inside that Apple would prefer to keep quiet. . . .

The earth experienced a minor ripple this week when it was announced that the News Corporation interpretation of a newspaper on a tablet, The Daily, was to fold. In the context of other changes announced at News Corp this week, and the wake of the Leveson Report, this was small beer. Nonetheless it deserved some comment as it had been a brave attempt and a vote of confidence in the iPad. Or so it seemed. I was never convinced. Don't get me wrong, I thought the Go-for-it decision by Murdoch was great, but the execution never got it right. I put some words online on Tuesday to cover my ideas. I have not been the only one of course, and MG Siegler on Tech Crunch (always worth reading even when he is wrong) has some harsh words on the magazine content that appears on the iPad, although he does start with mention of The Daily. This time, Siegler is right on the button.

It was not unexpected to hear that Apple has seeded a second build of the next update to OS X (10.83.) although what is new is that it was sent out via the App Store, MacNN reports, among others.

While on updates to OS X, Steve Sande reports on a survey done by a company called Net Applications that looks at operating system and browser adoption rates by checking stats. It was found that "Apple's OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion) and 10.8 (Mountain Lion) have been adopted by Mac users at a rate about three times that of Windows 7. And Windows 8 is apparently way behind that (as long as you don't ask Ballmer).

I read about an update to iWork this week and went hunting on the Apple downloads pages, only to find that the Mac App Store had identified this as being ready for me. As I bought registered copies of this (and Aperture) before the App Store came into being, these do not normally show up. Well, hooray.

One of the early reports I saw was from MacNN which explains about some of the changes, most notably, improved compatibility with Microsoft Office. I am not sure how that works as my students cannot even get their work printed properly when going from one PC to another using different versions of Word. If Pages did that there would be uproar. The article also details several of the changes to the component parts of iWork.

Also looking at the Office compatibility comments is Jacqui Cheng on Ars Technica, who notes that "Pages can now perform Word-compatible Track Changes," as well as details on some of the changes to Numbers and Keynote.

There has been some more information on the new version of iTunes that I am still getting used to. Kirk McElhearn on MacWorld reviews the new version, and points out that although there are a lot of user-friendly bits, older users may not be finding things as good as they expected. Things are sometimes not where they were before, or simply not there. One of the features missing, for example, is the duplicate song search, but AppleInsider reports that this may well find its way back soon in an update. Some other problems or bugs should also be fixed soon.

A useful tip from OS X Daily for those who are putting images online. Most photos straight from a digital camera contain a lot of metadata -- useful in its own way -- but it does increase the size of the image in terms of byte-size. The article introduces a utility called ImageOptim and explains about its use.

Also on OS X Daily is an item from William Pearson that gives readers 9 command line tricks that users should know. I am not sure that this is what everyone will want, but there are some useful commands in there.

And Apple has posted updates for Final Cut Pro and its components, as well as an update to OS X Server.

Half and Half

With all the mixed signals coming out of patent trials, the Federal Trace Commission has made its position clear with a filing to the court that Motorola Mobility should not be allowed to stop the sale of Apple products that may be infringing on FRAND patents, Electronista reports. This complements the view held by others.

Also on patents, the recent settlement between HTC and Apple has been made public, except for a couple of rather important parts. Details of pricing and royalty rates for patents from both companies are to be kept under wraps from public view, Steven Musil reports.

And it is reported by Josh Lowensohn that Apple and Samsung are back to court this week: Damages, sales bans and a possible retrial are all on the card.

Other Matters

There have been a number of comments on the Microsoft Surface since the initial euphoria (all somewhat dishonest when one looks back) which have not been positive. Geoffrey James on INC. is another who is looking in a negative light at the device, which he says is doomed. He is advising businesses who are thinking about purchasing one or more, "Don't", and outlines several areas in which it has definite shortcomings. My original link for this was MacDaily News.

Well, here is an admission to rank with the comments of Ballmer on the original iPhone and iPad. Lenovo president, Gerry Smith is reported by Shara Tibken as admitting that the industry underestimated touchscreen demand. Well, not all of it: that little bit just out of Silicon Valley with the fruit-style logo seems to have got it about right. Smith should also note that Steve Jobs did have an iMac made with a touch screen and it was too much of a strain on the arms for users: over at Redmond they really have not got that at all.

He has apparently been on the run for a few weeks, and has been teasing the police in Belize with online postings, but that may have been the spur to finally track down John McAfee (the former virus software man). Steven Musil reports he has been arrested in Guatemala for illegal entry, although he may have been trying to negotiate with Belize. All very weird.

IBM has outlined information in a press release about a program designed to help students and technology professionals prepare for jobs of the future. "The initiatives include new training courses and resources for IT professionals, technology and curriculum materials for educators and expanded programs to directly engage students with real-world business challenges." If it is anything like the free offers that the iTunes-U offers to academics and students, it will be largely ignored here.

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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