AMITIAE - Wednesday 19 December 2012

Cassandra - Wednesday Review - The Week in Full Swing

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

So much utter rubbish being written about Apple. Rumours, doom, astrology; but not much in the way of facts. Cheap iPhone: another unsubstantiated rumour. Wall Street analysts: the push back. The iPhone Lobster case: so bad taste it is wonderful. Apple doesn't get a Samsung ban; Samsung doesn't get a retrial. Instagram owns your pics and you have no rights: we are the product. Three wise men of Gotham, went to sea in a sieve: or was that a leaky old Samsung? Raspberry Pi app store. If the Mayans were right, goodbye.

Apple Stuff

An early Wednesday heads-up from Josh Lowensohn tells me that there is an update to iOS with the 6.0.2 release reported to be fixing wifi issues. He has a screen shot, but when I tried the Software Update section of my iPhone it indicated that 6.0.1 was the latest version. I will check again later: maybe I have to wait for the Thai technicians to have their first coffee and cigarette. Or it may be just for specific devices like the iPhone 5 and iPad mini.

There is such a lot of rubbish written about Apple daily that it is so hard to keep up. As part of the process I have stopped subscribing to Seeking Alpha feeds on Apple as the whole output seems based on panic with a major intent to push down the shares. They have done quite well there and there are plenty of helpers who want to find the gloom, then spread it. Most don't look at Apple as a whole, but the bits and pieces, making major presumptions on the flimsiest of evidence.

A great example came my way on Tuesday with a headline from the Register that told us of gloom, despondency and disaster in the Chinese market. I blinked and downloaded this to see if I had missed anything. Anna Leach (one of the Register's Retina display girls -- they thought it was only for pretty flowers) article headline suggests that Apple somehow had a weakness in China, but does note that 2 million sales of the iPhone 5 in 3 days is not that bad. Not bad? What other manufacturer is reporting such figures?

Apparently, because the penetration in China did not match that of Europe or the US, this means that Apple is somehow failing and that people are going for other handset makers' products. Of course they are: few of the population there have the sort of buying power that people in the west do, so most will be limited (because of their disposable income -- more on this in a moment) to the lower end of the market. If you want this drivel, find the link yourself.

If people just thought for a moment before writing such ridiculous stuff, we might be spared an awful lot of rubbish. Thailand is a wealthier country than China, with a much smaller population of course, and the average income is in the region of 8,500 baht I saw this week, or 23,500 baht per household: about $750. And in the rural areas, it is much lower. With those figures, few are going to be able to become owners of the iPhone, so outside of the west, sales figures are expected to be lower. Indeed, 2 million may well be better than expected. And yet, Leach shows this herself in the text, but still manages to make a case against success for Apple.

She is just one of many writers these days that rush into print with nothing much original to say. A lot of the sources I see are merely rehashed (poorly rehashed) reports from other sources who themselves may not be original. Lord, save us from the hit-whores.

One of the rumours going about with no proof whatsoever is the clear knowledge that many analysts have been displaying that the iPad mini is sure to cannibalize sales of the iPad itself: Apple, doom, again. That successful launch was part of the reason the share prices began to fall, pressed by the many analysts who apparently don't know squat as Steven Sande reports with a survey from Morgan Stanley (solid figures, some facts for once) who prove -- not speculate -- that far from cannibalizing sales, the sales of the iPad are pretty much unaffected, but also the iPad mini is being bought by new customers in 47% of cases, which also adds another to the list of lies from the pundits.

Also bringing the share prices down was the sure knowledge from the analysts that there had been cuts in the supply chain, which would lead to fewer iPhones, hence lower sales. Well actually that is not quite right (now that the shares have been marked down -- some people are going to make a lot of money of course) as Philip Elmer-DeWitt is reporting on Fortune that one careful observer has gone over the figures and notes that while December figures were a bit lower, the previous months were pretty healthy so there should be no cause for alarm. Or for making analytical errors.

It is not just me who thinks that the analysts are wrong and for very wrong reasons. Rocco Pendola on The Street is also raging about them: pathetic, know-nothing Wall Street analysts, he writes. He comments on the way several significant sources downgraded Apple stock: "They're all doing it on the basis of what they call weak demand. And they're certainly not doing it independent of one another."

That weak demand is based on the low turnout for the iPhone in China -- one or two people at the stores, when Apple had changed the ordering methods because of scalpers and public order problems. If there were two million sold, I don't think that was to the 2 guys outside the Beijing store; but this is what they base their thinking on and Pendola is right to call them out. My source for that item was MacDaily News.

Rocco Pendola follows that article up with another saying that the analysts should be ashamed of themselves and even suggesting that "The SEC needs to step in and review how Wall Street analyst hacks do their jobs". The anger comes through here.

So let me add to those points about the sales in China and the analysis of Wall Street. Joel Mathis on MacWorld also makes the same points that Rocco Pendola does. If this is so obvious to them, why can't (or won't) Wall Street see it: other interests methinks.

Using the same information -- the same facts and statistics -- Chris Foresman reports on Ars Technica that the iPhone 5 launch was a new weekend record for China; and the phone is not available yet through China Mobile. Dara Kerr too: "a sales record is set"

So Chris Foresman is enthusiastic over record sales of 2 million, Anna Leach makes snide comments about Apple being weak, while the analysts are looking in the wrong direction and see only doom (or profits when the shares do rise). As Lance Whitney writes, fading or rebounding, pick your analyst. He looks at some of the ways in which sales and prospects are being reported and interpreted at present. Chris Rawson on TUAW goes further and has a roundup of some of the analysts pet worries right now, also making the point that some of the bloggers make too much of the rumours. He redefines (rightly I think) analysts as "astrologers". Perhaps there is some alchemy mixed in there too. Note particularly the comment on the iPhone 5S that was due in June with all manner of bells and whistles: "His proof? Trick question, because he doesn't have any".

We also have a rumour: actually a rehashed one, but as it is now put out by Gene Munster, everyone thinks it must be serious, despite his track record. We are told by Neil Hughes on AppleInsider that Munster is predicting the iPhone Lite again, suggesting it is inevitable. He thinks that Apple needs to develop this device to fill a gap in its market strategy. So, if he thinks this, then Tim Cook must be in his starting blocks already.

I tend to avoid the many press release reports of new cases for the iPhone and anything like that. However, this week, my eye was caught by a headline, "Lobster iPhone case is delightfully impractical". Amanda Kooser writes about, and has a picture of, a totally ridiculous -- no, a wonderfully ridiculous -- case for the iPhone that really does look exactly like a lobster. It is apparently a deterrent to use (I approve) but has not yet been released. I can't wait.

Apple has not come out of the maps situation too well as far as PR is concerned and I bet there are some angry execs up at Cupertino. They must continue to improve their own app with better data, even as Google has released its own app with lots of out of date information for us here: concrete slabs when I can see a station outside my window; and one industrial estate shown as being under water (flooding over a year ago). As part of Apple's strategy, Dara Kerr reports that there may well be a tie up with Foursquare, hopefully to integrate user data into the app.

Half and Half

More news on the Samsung v Apple patents trial in California. Josh Lowensohn reports that the judge is not going to allow a ban on Samsung products, despite patent infringement. However, Samsung did not get the retrial it wanted. Steven Musil also reports on this.

There are lots of stories that delight in the idea that Android is somehow winning. As if there was a competition. It would of course be rather lopsided as there are many handset makers that use the Android systems (note the plural) and of course, many of the phones are far cheaper than the iPhone, so of course it will sell more. Another area in which Android is winning (perhaps has won) is in the area of malware, Kate MacKenzie writes on PixoBebo. She picks up on a comment from Jeremy Kirk on Computerworld who explains a weakness (bloody great hole actually) that Samsung has left for its users.

Kate adds that, like Microsoft, this area is another where Android is winning.

There was more on the Samsung hole in an item by Steven Musil who tells us it lies "in Exynos 4, the ARM-based system-on-chip typically found in Samsung smartphones and tablets. . . " The "exploit. . . bypasses the system permissions, allowing any app to extract data from the device's RAM or inject malicious code into the kernel." It WHAT? Lots of happy Samsung users this week, I bet.

And people moan about the Apple walled garden approach?

The BBC is not my favourite organisation these days: not to be trusted like it was in days gone by. I get frustrated if I try to look at a video on its website and there is still that Flash connection that asks me to provide memory on my computer -- how badly written is that -- but if I decline, as I always do, I may be asked again and again during the course of a 2 minute clip. The result: I avoid the BBC.

Their tech man, Rory Cellan-Jones, who has never convinced me he knows that much about what goes on these days, writes on the BBC site about the way the developers there were required to produce versions of the iPlayer for different platforms. He explains, with the help of another tech man, why the BBC had so many problems putting out the Android version. And how much quicker it was to develop for the iPhone.

Other Matters

I am so glad I never used this, but Instagram, bride of Facebook, now says it has the right to sell your photos, Declan McCullagh reports. No notification. No payment. No way to opt out. I suggest either not using the service any more (as some have already indicated they are doing) or an ugly watermark.

Even Mark Zuckerberg's sister weighed in, Donna Tam reports, with a Like on a posting that was marked as "Instagram's suicide note." And in another comment, Nathan Bransford writes that this move by Instagram, which is being objected to by many, many users, is a reminder that We are the product for sale. There is an update in this item too, on the way that the founder is to address some of the problems. This is another confirmation that the Internet as a conduit is not to be treated lightly.

And for those interested, Allyson Kazmucha on iMore has a way to download all your photos from Instagram and delete your account.

We were impressed over the weekend with the way that a short Facebook and Twitter campaign, that began almost by accident, managed to reverse the two-tier pricing policy for the big wheel at Asiatique. After denial and censorship, there was a massive climb-down and the FB page disappeared (back now, but with no Big Wheel). Madame Tussaud's was also approached but they suggested their dual pricing was OK because others do it. More to come here, methinks.

It is clear from this, and the way news is distributed so fast, that the internet and social networking have changed the ways in which people pass their information around: local gossip on a grand scale. As an interesting example of how companies and even governments can be embarrassed so easily is a situation that developed in Bharain this week when the well-know NYTimes columnist Nick Kristof arrived there, hoping to write about human rights abuses, but was not allowed to enter. So he set about Tweeting live from the airport. Sree Sreenivasan has some of the Tweets, and in some Kristof put links to abuses that he knew about. See, now far more people know.

Having bought it for $500 million, Cisco is apparently putting Linksys up for sale, Dara Kerr reports, as it looks like the company is trying to exit the consumer networking market. Its experiment with Linksys and other companies has lost lots of money and jobs.

I mentioned on Monday how Google was reported to be shutting down its Google Sync, and this caught Microsoft by surprise, Don Reisinger reports. They comment that think GMail users should switch to Outlook. Actually, Microsoft have a real opportunity here.

And from little acorns. . . Raspberry Pi computing may grow. I was sent a link by a reader to a PC Mag article by Angela Moscaritolo who reports that the Raspberry Pi now has its own app store. OK there are 23 free titles so far, but we all have to start somewhere. I have yet to get my Raspberry Pi running and no students wanted the challenge, so it sits in a box in my office.

And if that Mayan prophecy is right, this could be the last Cassandra. All the best. At least we will be spared any more reruns of 2012.

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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