AMITIAE - Tuesday 3 September 2013

Cassandra: Apple and Tectonic Shifts (Updated with a useful link to Macalope comments; and the Apple Announcement)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

While Microsoft is beginning to evolve into a hardware and software company, many commentators are looking forward to expected product releases from another hardware and software company: Apple. While most are sure that a new iPhone will be in the offing, there may be more - and more integrated - products coming soon.

Earlier today it was confirmed that Microsoft was to take over Nokia: a hardware company; and specifically one with a large presence in the mobile phone business. When the news came out, I wrote a brief comment on the possibility that this would also affect the succession at Microsoft and that Stephen Elop (who is not now CEO at Nokia apparently) must now be considered a front runner.

With Ballmer only recently having announced that he was to retire, the timing seems a little more than coincidental. My speculation was pretty much on the ball as Brian Heater of Engadget reports that Ballmer too has suggested that Elop has now moved from an external candidate to an internal candidate. News reports suggest that, Elop appears to be an extremely hot candidate. Ladbrokes have him now at odds of 2/5 (Sheryl Sandberg, 7/1; Steve Sinofsky, 12/1).

But what will the outcome be? Nokia shares went up, Microsoft shares went down, and a Tweet made by a local user claimed that the BBC referred to this marriage as "two drunks propping themselves up." I am unable to find that reference on the BBC site, but it seems a fairly apt opinion.

Other news from the mobile front today came from the direction of Android. We are informed that the fragmented system that Android has become does have some constants. Writing on Ars Technica, Ron Amadeo explains the workings of the Play Services app (which is not really an app at all).

One nice feature is that it runs inn the background and can "give itself more permissions without the user's consent". It apparently "has its own silent, automatic update mechanism that the user has no control over. In fact, most of the time the user never even knows an update has happened."

With all the criticism levelled at Apple's closed garden the iOS approach now seems somewhat more attractive, especially when the keeper of the Android estate appears to have the keys to all the houses.

Apple will be having some new features with iOS 7 when that appears: perhaps some time in the next week or two. While some have seen this in action, trying to level criticism at a system that is still in beta testing is somewhat premature. That has not stopped several commentators jumping the gun. We will see the full version when it is released, but (as ever) many features will only be available for the new iPhone: whatever that is.

In the last few months, there has been considerable speculation concerning Apple's next smartphone. Much print has been wasted on the name, with the favorite being the iPhone 5S. There is also a suggestion that there may be another version: the iPhone 5C. Some think that this is to be a cheaper version, although "cheap" is not the normal Apple approach.

On the other hand, the largest market that Apple is interested in, is China. It would not be beyond the bounds of possibility for Cupertino to produce a special phone for the Chinese market, which has special requirements. Gold, of course, is particularly favoured in China, as is red (luck). White (dry and withering) or black (cold and dormant) have a different significance.


As for the iPhone itself, whether it is called 5S or 6, or even something else, is fairly immaterial. Previous updates to the device would make it a fairly safe bet that there will be improvements. Just what they will be is open to some speculation.

It may be safe to assume that the processor will be updated and it is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that this will make it faster. Previously, the camera and its features have usually been improved, so a 12 MP camera could be on the cards.

The problem with the S update (to Phone 5S) is that many critics only look on the surface (no pun intended). Actually, while I am on the Surface, do you notice how everyone raved about that, and the Galaxy (and other stuff), while every time Apple releases a product there are howls of derision. But it is the Apple product that sells: no near-$1 billion write-offs at Cupertino.

When the iPhone 4S was announced, it was greeted as if it were some kind of dud, despite the considerable improvements in the specifications, the antenna configuration and the software that appeared at the same time. Critics looked at the iPhone 4S and only saw the iPhone 4. Expect more of the same with even allegedly faithfull followers of Apple, like Gene Munster, pronouncing it dead in the water before it is out. That sounds like an analyst whom one should not follow closely, unless it is in the vein of Steve Ballmer's friend, Rob Enderle.

Update: See also the Macalope on comments about the failure of iOS 7 beta.

With the announcement of the iPhone, on 10 September (now confirmed - See The Loop), it will probably go on sale about 10 days later in the USA and other favoured countries: usually at least Japan, UK, Australia; although perhaps France will be substituted for Britain this time. A bit late in the day for that, however.

Fridays (20 September) are good days to open the doors to software updates as well as new hardware, so users might be looking for the update to iOS 7 around that time. Not all features will be available on the older phones as this is aimed at the newest model, whatever it may be. However, a number of the known features will also interact with new features announced for OS X 10.9, Mavericks.

When OS X is to be updated is not wholly clear, but as well as the new versions of iBooks and Maps for Macs, there is rumoured to be an update to iPhoto. Some users are keeping their fingers crossed - with the number of other software updates coming - for a new version of Aperture. There are some long-standing problems with this for some users. iTunes is also expected to have a refresh with the arrival of iTunes Radio at least in the USA, but other changes are bound to be made.

iCloud iWork

The iWork beta is up and running with most iCloud users now having access to that. My word, this is a gem. The exact date for the release of this is not known, but when it comes, it should coincide with releases of iWork for iOS and a version for Macs.

Mac Pro

Apple has already begun to release certain updates for Final Cut Pro and there may be a new approach for Pro users. The Mac Pro is due for release in the Fall, and it would be sensible to have a full suite of programs for the various uses to which this may be put. Aperture (above) may be one candidate, but as well as Final Cut, there is also Logic Pro X which was recently updated.

This week, Apple was sending out emails to some users extolling the virtues of the MacBook Air. This was updated not so long ago, and now runs with Intel's Haswell processors. All models currently use the 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, with an option to update to the 1.7 GHz i7 processor. While the external design may not be ready for any changes right now, it is feasible that a processor upgrade could be in the wings.

The MacBook Pro is a little longer in the tooth and updates are expected for this range. Haswell processors are expected which would bring some improvements in battery life and also some reshaping: making these Macs a little thinner. Some are suggesting that the 15" versions will move entirely to the Retina display, with the 13" having both display options.

As many pro users have external displays, and Mavericks will handle these better, there may still be a case for the non-Retina display to be retained for the 15" models too. For the higher end models, we could expect either flash drive as standard, or the Fusion drives (or both, as options), improving speed for those users willing to pay the higher prices. Fusion drives are not currently offered as option for the MacBook Pro.

The iMac is also at a time when an update would be possible and again, Haswell processors have been suggested as a possibility for these. With the wider market that the iMac has, there may also be a number of hard drive options. Currently a 1 TB drive is standard, but this could easily be upped.


A feature of the MacBook Air, that was also announced for the Mac Pro, was the latest IEEE Wi-Fi standard of 802.11ac. It is almost certain that all new hardware products will have this installed and for users with a suitable router, transfer speeds of data will be much higher. While some suggest that the iPads are not likely to be updated right now, this would mean that these were almost the only devices in the current range that were not capable of these higher (802.11ac) speeds, so there is a case for an update to these devices too.

The higher data transfer capacities are sure to be used by Apple as part of a strategy that will make full use of new synchronisation features in iOS 7 and OS X. It may also mean that we will see a new version of the Apple TV, although what form that might take is sheer speculation right now.

apple tv

The selections of hardware and software from Apple - and their integration - likely to become available in the near- or mid-future is fairly wide, suggesting that the next few months may be quite interesting. And for Apple, quite profitable too.

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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