AMITIAE - Tuesday 4 June 2013

Cassandra - A Tuesday Comment: WWDC and Other Delights

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit

WWDC rumours and fact. New products: did Tim Cook lie? He said "the company won't introduce a new product category before the fall", not No New Products. MacPro, new MacBook Pro, MacBook Air: all possible. iOS and IOS X for sure. Still the analysts amuse us. Obama to fix patent trolls. The incredible shrinking Microsoft. Ballmer reorganising. Executive leaves (more to follow?). Zynga shrinking too - 500 job losses.

Apple Stuff

With the countdown to the WWDC and its keynote presentation on Monday, the rumours and news have picked up some pace: both realistic and silly. Not so silly is the release of Apple's own WWDC app that will have some useful information for those attending (and for those not there) Sam Oliver reports on AppleInsider.

One of those who comments on Tim Cook's sugestion that there would be no new products before Fall, is Gene Steinberg on TechNightOwl, who notes that there seem to be lots of movements that suggest new products are imminent. However, as the Macalope pointed out on 18 May, Cook actually said that "the company won't introduce a new product category before the fall" adding (perhaps rightly), "It's still possible we'll see new products at WWDC next month." At least someone was paying attention as most seem to have missed that crucial detail.

A number of sites note certain inventory changes that are beginning to appear which is a sure sign that there will be something new, although just what may be open to some speculation. Electronista notes that four new MacBook models seem to be identified and these appear to be different configurations of the same model.

The theory is that the MacBook Air or the Retina display MacBook Pro could see a change, especially as inventory of these is low. This rumour was also seen on AppleBitch who have the numbers and also report on a second batch of numbers for an unidentified product.

A rumour on the long-promised MacPro from Josh Lowensohn is not wholly credible as what he suggests is a negation of all that the MacPro users want and need. He suggests, It will be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt, there will be no internal expandability and it will have support for dual GPUs with three-monitor support right out of the box.

There are some other points and indeed that last item is a useful addition to the standard specification, but the idea of no internal expandability is a no-no for professionals and makes this little more than a superannuated Mac mini.

I did say there might be some silliness. Brooke Crothers reports on the predictions of an analyst at Deutsche Bank who presumably is paid thousands of dollars each year to come out with gems about the expected updates to iOS and OS X - stuff that we and many others have been reporting on for weeks now.

It is also noted that "we don't anticipate any meaningful iOS hardware announcements at WWDC" . . . Hold tight and see what happens. I also recommend a change if you are with this bank as he is mainly recycling old rumours, many of which are unsubstantiated: you do better by staying with me for free.

Not on the silly side, we are pleased to see the first of the links to a live feed of the keynote by Josh Lowensohn on CNET. We can join them - he writes - from 10 am on Monday, which in my reckoning is about midnight here. I will have a look at the news the next morning (here) when I wake up.

One of the rumours that will not lie down concerns the iWatch that everyone is sure Apple will introduce, although I have never been convinced of this and listening to Tim Cook at AllThingsD last week, he did question the number of people who actually wear watches, also saying that he only wears glasses because he has to. Also doubting the idea is Chris Matyszczyk who asks if wearing a watch is natural.

I do not agree with Matyszczyk's reading of Cook's comments, so I checked the video again. Cook said, "There's nothing that is going to convince a kid who has never worn glasses or a watch to wear one," adding that there are lots of things to solve, but an area that is ripe for exploration. Will Apple be one of the players, Walt Mossberg asked, which Cook deflected with, "I don't want to answer that one. . ." We shall see.

The internet heated up a bit at the start of the week with the news (or strong rumours) about the solving of iRadio. This is something that has apparently been planned for a while, but Apple had not been able to bring the record companies on board. That may have happened now with, among others, Seth Weintraub reporting on 9to5Mac that deals were being closed and that this could see some announcement at WWDC.

Not long after, Paul Sloan was reporting that Apple and Warner had signed a deal, so it looked as if this was about to lift off having already signed with Universal. Sony is a major holdout.

This streaming music service is likely to be a global pay-for music service and it is likely to be a competitive area, but Apple has a couple of aces with the spread of iTunes and the availability of iOS devices. Advertising revenue is also likely to be a key factor and there have been noises about this too in recent days.

A report from Richard Devine on iMore suggests that a revised AirDrop wireless sharing system may be integrated into iOS 7. This allows files to be transferred between devices.

Related technologies which will probably not find their way into the next release of iPhones include developments by Motorola and Apple who Patently Apple writes are both looking into new authentication methods. Perhaps the fingerprint scanner idea that has been rumoured for a while could be coming soon - but there are no ideas how soon. Motorola are also looking at authentication tattoos. How crass. While it may be fashionable for many young people to adorn themselves with these pictures, once on, they never come off.

An interesting note came from Nick Arnott on iMore who spotted Apple's new Bug Reporter over the weekend. This is aimed at developers, but suggests that Apple is taking some of the criticisms of its reporting system to heart and that improvements are on the way.

A report appeared this week that appears to suggest that there is a vulnerability in iOS devices that allows a charger to be used to add software to the device. Electronista reports that this is to be demonstrated at a the Black Hat security conference in July. They have contacted Apple but as yet there has been no reply.

Half and Half

We have written often here on the problems that face many companies - not just Apple - from what are called patent trolls. Now it appears that, recognising the patent system may be in need of some fixing, Seth Weintraub on 9to5Mac reports that the Obama Administration has outlines a 5-step plan to curb these abuses, some of which "often take place in courts in Eastern Texas, where judges are notoriously friendly to trolling interests".

Other Matters

We looked earlier this week at the way some computer manufacturers, long loyal to Microsoft, were hedging their bets with Asus particularly looking towards Android (see below). With the iPad and other tablet computers taking away some of the more traditional consumer base, Microsoft has to wonder about shrinking revenues. Can it survive? Dan Farber reports the work of Horace Dediu who has done some calculations and decided that if just 20% of devices run Windows, Redmond would still make it.

It is reported by Kara Swisher on AllThingsD that another reorganisation is going on at Microsoft with expected changes to executive positions. The possibility here is that, after all these years as a software company, Redmond is beginning to embrace hardware; and there are also news features with services that are coming more to the fore. Don Reisinger also reports on this restructuring.

By sheer coincidence, Steven Musil reports that Tony Scott, chief information officer for Microsoft, is leaving the company to "focus on personal projects". That has a familiar ring about it.

Also reorganising is Zynga who are shrinking rapidly and Peter Cohen reports on iMore are to cut their workforce by another 500 employees.

There are some more details of the Asus Transformer Book Trio released this week that doesn't just run Android as was suggested earlier but Android and Windows simultaneously, John Chan reports. It has both Atom and Haswell processors and this allows it to run both systems at the same time. My main question here is, "Why?"

While that Asus has a Haswell processor, Acer is also coming out with a similarly-equipped computer that Scott Stein says means Acer jumped the gun. He also outlines a number of other Acer computers including the Aspire S3-392 ultrabook that "borrows from the design of the super-slim Aspire S7 released last year". If he were a little more honest he might also admit that this is a MacBook Air clone. He does add that he finds the whole release of these computers, uninspiring.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. 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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