AMITIAE - Friday 21 December 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review: The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Tim Cook runner up for Time, Person of the Year. iOS 6 uptake grows by 29%: China, not Google Maps responsible. iPad mini 2 rumour. University of Western Sydney to use 11,000 iPads in a real tablet program. Oh, those Wall Street analysts: even the pundits are complaining. Flying toasters reappear. RIM report another loss: Blackberry 10 to the rescue? Who gets the Kodak patents; and other patent news. Instagram backdown and the power of the consumer. Boeing use potatoes to check wifi signals: better than humans.

Apple Stuff

Tim Cook did not make the Time Person of the Year, although he was named as a runner up. As such, Lev Grossman has a 3 page interview and profile on Cook which is worth taking a few minutes over. Person of the Year is Barack Obama.

Corporate Apple continues with its march, ignoring most of the gnats that buzz around in the online press these days. Part of the onward progress is the opening of new buildings and campuses. This week, Katie Marsal on AppleInsider reports on the beginning of construction at the 39-acre campus in Austin, TX. This is hoped to bring 3,600 jobs to the area. One of the reasons for the decision to build in Austin is the more than $30 million in tax breaks. And why not? Apple is still going to spend over $300 million on this site.

I need to redress the balance over iOS 6 and Google Maps, perhaps. It was thought that the release of the Google app would create a rush to update from those who had been waiting. However, this was soon shown to be wrong and in the immediate aftermath of the release, only 0.2% of users were updating to iOS 6. Now, however, there has been something of a swing and Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW reports that the adoption of iOS 6 has now grown to 29%. However, in the meantime, a rather large number of users in China joined the iPhone 5 party.

Another update recently was that of iTunes which is now at version 11. As this version has several new or changed features, some users have had a problem or two getting used to it. As a result there have been a number of articles on the changes. Kirk McElhearn on MacWorld has a look at this, basing his article on the questions that readers have been asking.

OK, let's have a rumour. This time the iPad mini, version 2. AppleInsider reports that an analyst (more on these guys below) suggests that component suppliers are already making preparations for the new device. We shall see.

Also stoking the fires is The Onion, who in their satirical fashion report on an iPhone 5C for College girls who apparently drop their iPhones a lot. Rick Broida outlines this and the follow up iPhone 5D which is "geared toward dads, and is preprogrammed to call you anytime they have a question about the iPhone."

On a more serious note (sort of) there has been a lot of noise about the Apple TV, especially since Tim Cook mentioned they were working on "something" in his recent televised interview. Now Patently Apple has some more on this and reports that Apple HDTV tests are apparently underway at Hon Hai: Foxconn to you and me. What it is, however, and why it is different are not known. Different it must be, otherwise what would be the point?

I will put this in my wishful thinking category. Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider is reporting that the University of Western Sydney is to provide something like 11,000 iPads to faculty members and students. This is to "help facilitate a curriculum overhaul across the university's six campuses" he writes. With words and phrases like "revolutionizing", "custom-designed apps", "interact", "flexible study options" and more, this seems like what a properly thought out tablet program could be.

CNET also carried this item in an article by Steven Musil; as does Electronista who add that these will "be used to renovate the curriculum, unify it across six campuses, and give the students better study opportunities". Ah right. And in a side-note to the idea of tablet use, Mike Wehner reports on TUAW that research shows that some 19% of US consumers now use tablet computers. There is no information on the share of those who use the iPad.

We have had a look at the work of a number of analysts in recent weeks and most of them seem intent on forcing the price of Apple stock down, down, down. Perhaps they intend to make a killing. The reasons are not clear as several other have demonstrated that the pundits are basing their predictions on incorrect figures, false suppositions as well as a degree of smoke and mirrors.

There must have been a lot of smoke (and maybe some other substances too) in the report - carried by Mike Wehner on TUAW - of Edward Zabitsky, who seems to be Pincipal and CEO of ACI Research. He is predicting that Apple stock will fall to $270 in the next 12 months. Good luck with that one.

A number of commentators took up the gauntlet and threw it back at Edward Zabitsky, beginning with Philip Elmer-DeWitt who comments on the use of Zabitsky's information (albeit as an outlier) by CNN. The article has a number of Zabitsky specials: it seems he makes a habit of being wrong when it comes to Apple. However the article has been graced by comments in which the man explains himself.

On the theme of falling stock prices, Kate MacKenzie of PixoBebo has a few words and she seems to be taking up a point that was made by Rocco Pendola on The Street the other day. Kate takes up the point that he made concerning the borderline ethics of some of the analysts and their recommendations, suggesting too that the SEC needs a look.

She also points out that Apple is not in dire straits at all with healthy sales, healthy balance sheets and a continued performance above expectations. Forget the guesswork of the pundits, Apple are the only ones who can accurately predict their future and the speculation -- then disappointment - of these commentators should be dealt with for what it is: so much garbage.

Also taking up the theme that Rocco Pendola began is Jim Cramer who apparently came out angry at the Citibank downward re-think on Apple's shares that was followed really quickly by a lot of other rethinks: what a coincidence. What a pot of cash. Philip Elmer-DeWitt not only comments on the Jim Cramer anger but has a link to the video too.

I also have the link to the CNBC video (it has one of those nasty Flash panels that you need to click). Cramer is not the easiest person to understand with his accent and he does talk a little fast, but his comments are clear: the research was poor and this was "a lamentable call." The link for this part of the lamentable story was from MacDaily News.

A bit of back to the future appeared this week when MacDaily News reported that the flying toasters - the screen saver that has not been seen on the Mac since Intel processors arrived - are back with us again.

Also from the past is information about the very strong presence of the NeXT OS inside OS X. Just start up the Terminal (in Applications > Utilities) and revel in the Unix that underpins the Mac. Chris Foresman on Ars Technica has a look at how NeXT came to be with its Unix core and the used of Objective C. This 2-page article is a useful reference for anyone looking at what makes OS X - the Mac and the iPhone and the iPad - tick.

Half and Half

As had been expected, as part of the way to dig itself out of the hole that it has fallen into, Kodak - once a massive and respected corporation - has sold patents to Apple and Google for a knock-down price of $525 million. Electronista reports that as well as those two companies receiving the benefits, others included are LG, HTC, Adobe, Amazon, Facebook, and Samsung. Also reporting on this are Jonathan Skillings and Jim Kerstetter who do mention that it is not clear how the patents are to be divided up.

In other patent news Chris Foresman reports on Ars Technica that an ITC judge has ruled that Apple does not infringe the last remaining Motorola patent under investigation. Apparently Motorola may have shot itself in the corporate (Google?) foot as Judge Thomas Pender found that the patent in question was invalid due to prior art: an earlier Motorola patent had similar claims.

It is hardly a surprise, but Samsung sells more phones than Apple. Bear in mind that Apple only has its high end iPhone, while Samsung has models in the high, low and middle ranges, so the products are bound to appeal to a wider share of the buying public. Nonetheless, Patently Apple reports on the rise of Samsung (and the corresponding fall of Nokia). Profits, of course, are a different ball game.

And while we are on Samsung, Don Reisinger reports that the EU is expected to charge the company in an antitrust case, after "a year-long investigation into Samsung's patent practices." These are the FRAND patents and we have mentioned before that the company has an expectation to licence them to all manufacturers and at reasonable prices: not to hold some to ransom.

If you have got this far, it is time for the lawsuit of the week. Josh Lowensohn reports that a Texas suit (Tyler again - the Rose Capital of the World), "targets both Apple's software services like iTunes and the App Store, as well as devices that connect to those services" and he mentions AppleTV, iPod touch, iPhone and iPad.

Other Matters

A note on MacDaily News tells us that RIM - the BlackBerry people - posted a $114 million loss, on sales that were 47% lower; and the last quarter they lost 1 million subscribers. Never mind, the BlackBerry 10 is coming soon, but it is probably a year too late.

Earlier in the week we reported on a backdown by a local company when a small internet campaign got too hot for them. We also reported on Nikolas Kristof Tweeting from Bahrain as he was refused entry to the country to report on human rights abuses. Then we also read of the new terms of service for Instagram users which were interpreted as Your photos belong to us. Several people closed their accounts and a lot more were on the edge, including NatGeo who might have had a lot to lose. There was a hasty backdown and some apologetic words: not what we intended to do at all.

The comments on the reactions, and how some get it wrong have also been interesting. Nicole Nguyen on GeekSugar for example who examines the reinterpretation, or what they really meant to say, if they had thought it through a bit better.

Also commenting with an article entitled "How to prevent and respond to a user revolt" is Ben Parr who mentions a whole Who's Who of those who have gone up against the Court of Public Opinion and had to do a hasty retreat. The last of his "Do's" is Be Transparent which is something that might be noted here. But probably won't.

I saw it first on a Facebook page: a video showing a child being snatched by an eagle. Dramatic in the extreme - scary - and a friend wondered if the eagle had mistaken the child for a rabbit. The video was actually a rather clever fake and this was proved by a company called Fourandsix, an imaging forensics specialist, Stephen Shankland reports. The main clue: the shadows. If the sun is the source of light, the shadows do not match.

The move to wifi in the air is growing and while it is expensive now to check your email while on a flight, this may improve in the future. Boeing is testing new technology and Amanda Kooser reports that they are trying to get the figures right by using potatoes. It sounds odd of course, but she writes, "the vegetables' interactions with radio wave signals mimic those of the human body" so it saves a lot of people the need to sit around in planes while wifi systems are being tested.

In a move which, Peter Bright on Ars Technica tells us, has raised eyebrows, Microsoft is making an offer to help everyone. The company "has submitted a patch to the WebKit project to extend the open source rendering engine with a prototype implementation of the Pointer Events specification that the company is also working on together with Google, Mozilla, and Opera"

And just so we understand that, he also writes that "Pointer Events is a draft specification that provides a unified event model for multi-touch, pen, and mouse input." Over to you Apple.

And if you have got this far, the Mayan prophecy may not actually be true. Or maybe they got the date wrong and it is really tomorrow.

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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