AMITIAE - Wednesday 13 February 2013

Cassandra - Wednesday Review: The Week in Full Swing

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Greenfield Capital: the litigation speeds up; Tim Cook replies. Rumours on the iPhone and the iWatch: another device that Apple must build according to pundits. Dual pricing: Adobe, Apple and Microsoft; differences between the US and Australia (and elsewhere). Adobe drops prices 20% in Australia: too late, you were found out. Dropbox and iCloud. Apple updates and problems. Did Samsung try and turn the world upside down? Bill Gates says Bing and Windows 8 are wonderful. He said that about the Zune too.

Apple Stuff

The litigation that Greenfield Capital boss, David Eindhorn set in motion last week has taken on a larger life as comments from outside and movements by Apple have occurred. While we mentioned Jim Cramer's dismissal of Eindhorn's move on Monday, others still think there are points to this; and Apple wants it settled before the shareholder's meeting nearer the end of this month. The article adds that "Greenlight [is] expected to follow up with its comments by Friday in the US Court for the Southern District of New York."

A request by Apple to speed up the schedule for the case was granted, "given the affect an outcome could have on the company's upcoming shareholder meeting" Mikey Campbell reports on AppleInsider. Randy Nelson on TUAW later reported Apple's intention to respond to the action by Wednesday - coincidentally the day Tim Cook adresses the Sachs Conference on the Internet: a time that was brought forward for some unknown reason.

Along with that news was the surprise information that Tim Cook was invited to the President's inauguration ceremony by Michelle Obama. He will sit next to her, Mark Gurman reports on 9to5 Mac, and there is some speculation that Apple will be mentioned as this is traditional for those who sit in the First Lady's box.

Tim Cook was due to speak at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference at 10:15 am NY Time, but as this was 10:15 pm here. I did listen to the first few minutes, but the stream began to break and the answers were not understandable, so I went to bed. However, I did hear Cook call the Greenlight Capital lawsuit, "A silly sideshow" and I wrote down a number of his comments about the reasons behind the proxy change that Eindhorn is trying to oppose. Jim Cramer last week said the same things: there seems to be a (deliberate?) misunderstanding.

In the morning I found a number of sources that covered Cook's comments, like MacNN that had a reasonable overview that included a comment concerning a cheapo iPhone: "We wouldn't do anything we don't consider to be a great product" which is neither a Yes or a No. Comments adding to this, with a lot more on the Q&A sesion were reported by Lex Friedman on MacWorld. There were positive comments on the Apple stores reported by Jordan Kahn on 9to5 Mac.

I also found a link from Jim Dalrymple on The Loop that took me to a transcript of the session, provided by Erik Slivka on MacRumours. Another useful source came from MacWorld.

There are several rumours this time, mainly concerning the next iPhone and the device some have called an iWatch. There was much excitement on Monday when some photographs were circulated that were said to be the new iPhone 5S or something. I saw this first in an item by Jordan Kahn on 9to5Mac. This information went round the world three times before someone noticed the smaller battery and an SD card among other things.

The biggest rumours this week were reserved for what some are calling an iWatch. This gained a lot of currency when it was picked up by the Wall Street Joural and the NY Times. In my mind that pretty much finished it off. Christopher Breen on MacWorld puts together an analysis of the state of play on this device which some are demanding Apple make, with some saying Apple must make, just like the noises over the cheapo iPhone a couple of weeks ago. On that device, Kasper Jade on AppleInsider has a report suggesting that insiders are confident the new lite iPhones are to become reality. We shall see.

I do not see it appealing to such a wide cross section of the consumer population unless it has some Dick Tracy like properties and makes tea. There is also the problem that not everyone wears a watch. I haven't used one for years, so it is unlikely an Apple watch would find its way onto my wrist. An Apple fob watch?

Apple is also being questioned in Australia along with Microsoft and Adobe over pricing strategies. I must admit, this is about time too. Outside of the US, prices are sometimes a lot higher and the Australian online experience - while not as bad as it is here - does highlight the differences. An item by Steven Musil was the first report I saw on this. He tells us that,

The Australian Parliament's House Committee on Infrastructure and Communications said Monday that it wants the companies to appear before the committee as part of an ongoing probe regarding disparity between prices charged in Australia and in overseas markets.

Adobe appear to be the real bad boys here. While Apple charges a few US dollars more in some cases here, Adobe "announced that Australians would be paying several hundred dollars more" which is crass and bound to get the attention of politicians waiting to make names for themselves. And a bit of late news from Sharif Sakr on Engadget tells us that Adobe just cut the prices by 20% a day after being summonsed. A bit too late methinks: why have them so high in the first place? That is the question.

Another article on this by AppleInsider also mentioned that the three named companies were "just a few firms that have continually defied the public's call for answers and refused to appear before the IT Pricing Inquiry".

And that Adobe difference: Creative Suite 6 was on sale in the US for $1,299, compared to nearly $2,700 in Australia. Now chickens have come home to roost. All of which takes me back to the times when in the US software could be bought for what were called "street prices" but if applications were ever made available here, the price was full retail (and some): and you wonder were piracy came from?

As well as the devices, Apple has a pretty good business in various forms of software, like apps, music, as well as its own applications. But there are also invisibles: the stuff that keeps giving and is rarely considered. iCloud is one example and as this expands, so more and more income will come in from that: not a great rush but enough to make a small ripple. Other invisibles are search and an item by Kevin Bostic on AppleInsider points out that despite its weird love-hate-hate relationship with Google, search referrals from iOS devices bring in around $1 billion a year: pure profit, with zero outlay.

I just mentioned iCloud and although I use this to keep my devices synchronised, and I back up the iPhone to iCloud as well, for a lot of my text work, I rely on Dropbox, and particularly the way this works with WriteRoom. Ted Landau on MacWorld has some comments on this service and why he hopes Apple never buys this. He also explains why iCloud is not really a match for Dropbox: "Apple intends for you to access iCloud only via Open and Save dialogs": which is really restricting.

It is not only iCloud that does not work as users want. I have awful problems with Aperture - probably due to insufficient RAM these days - and Mountain Lion does have some shortcomings, particularly the way it leaves me waiting for things to happen, while other processes are being run behind the scenes. Rob Griffiths on MacWorld explains why he was reluctant to move from Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) and is particularly critical of invisible scroll bars and the "natural scrolling" which I must admit I am used to and never give a thought to these days.

As well as expanding with its data centers in the USA, Apple is following up on its earlier investments in Israel and has now opened its third R&D center in Israel, Michael Grothaus writes on TUAW: in the city of Ra'anana. It will be staffed by 100 to 150 former Texas Instruments employees.

A couple of weeks ago a local user who has contacts in US service establishments asked me if I knew a way to strip URL code from PDF files. Not at that time, was my answer, but I looked around, then thought of Animator: roll your own. I put a one-step process together in a short time as a proof of concept, but it was a bit messy. This week I saw an item by Matt Tinsley on TUAW who had (also) used Automator but created a 3-stage process that was much closer to what was wanted as it extracts the text and formats it in a RTF file.

On Tuesday morning I saw that an update to iOS 6 was available and I soon had 6.1.1 on my iPhone. The reason for this update - 3G problems for some iPhone 4s users - was outlined in an item by Jordan Kahn on 9to5 Mac. However, when I arrived at work and mentioned this, two of those in the office with iPhones did not have this shown. One was the 3GS and another the iPhone 5. These both took the 6.1 updates ok but the later update was not shown as available for them. Megan Lavey-Heaton on TUAW also had some information on this.

Also having a reversal was the update to Airport and Time Capsule which broke IPv6 tunneling on various devices. Jordan Kahn reports that the fix is to downgrade and explains how this may be done.

Half and Half

I was alerted to an article by Daniel Eran Dilger late Tuesday who has one of his useful pull-it-apart analyses of a Bloomberg article by Jun Yang, Anand Krishnamoorthy and Jungah Lee that he says bends the facts somewhat in its praise of Samsung and dismissal of Apple: "Samsung Girds for Life After Apple in Disruption Devotion".

I wonder about Samsung and their motivations. It is rumoured that they have more power than the government in South Korea, and some from that part of the world who feel they have been wronged do not often take things lightly.

Odd then isn't it that a lawsuit that has just come Apple's way from a company called OSS, may actually be sponsored (backed - call it what you will) by LG. Patently Apple wonders if this may be the start of a wider battle by the South Korean Company against Apple. Odd timing, no?

Another silly, silly comment from Bloomberg reporter Betty Liu is available in a video via MacDaily News, which has some suitable comments on what she said: "Is there a product that can save Apple?" How many times can you say "Samsung" in an item on Apple? And the iWatch. Again. And the cash. Again. Some people are not paying attention: or maybe have an agenda.

Other Matters

Once in a while, Bill Gates leaves his day to day attentions of the Foundation he runs and comes to the defence of Microsoft, which needs all the help it can get methinks. Donna Tam reports that the former CEO of Microsoft, made some comments on Reddit about Bing and about Windows 8, saying that "Bing is the better product at this point" and that "Windows 8 is "a huge advance for Windows which people will see even more as the great applications and hardware come out.""

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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