AMITIAE - Wednesday 6 January 2016

Cassandra: Midweek Review - Bleeding Edge

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I was caught by surprise on Wednesday morning by a couple of things. The battery in the Mac was flat; the release of the Apple Watch in Malaysia; and another update to Twitter on the Mac.

I had to wait a minute or two for the charger to do its stuff and allow me to start work. Wednesday morning is when I load up my weekly Bangkok Post article, so the power was an annoyance. It must have been low when I put it to sleep Tuesday evening and when I pressed a key, nothing happened. I tried the Power key and a low battery symbol appeared. That will teach me.

Of course, then I had the displeasure of having to enter the Google password once more - every morning this week. When I use a browser (Google Ads, YouTube), it is entered automatically. And the settings are fine for other email accounts. Just Google.

Apple Watch - Product (red) The news in an item by Chance Miller on 9to5 Mac that the Apple Watch is being released in Malaysia today (Wednesday), months after it arrived in Thailand was a surprise. I had thought it was available there already. Later this month, the device will be available in Portugal and the Czech Republic.

There are some new Apple Watch models and among them the Product (Red) Apple Sport is to be in Malaysia this week. The new models released for the Chinese New Year (8 Feb) and available until 22 February have yellow gold and silver aluminum color options with dark red straps (Alicia Tan, Mashable).

Later there was an error of sorts when for a brief while a black version of the Milanese Loop strap appeared on the Czech Apple web site, but the AppleInsider page that had this, also disappeared with an odd 404 Not Found page.

As well as Twitter updates for OS X, there had been one for the iOS version on Tuesday morning, along with a load of other apps: the start of the post-holiday rush. Some also reported that a new beta of iOS 9.2.1 (build 13D14) was made available. But the rumours circulating of a 10,000-character limit will totally kill what Twitter was. The 140-character limit made it essential that anyone frame comments really concisely. Even the no-limit option for direct messages creates unnecessary wordiness. Better would be to reduce the character limit to 125 (say) and make people focus.

On Monday, in the context of another new Apple store opening in China, I sort of made a wish that Apple would open one here. Not going to happen of course: too many special interests to deal with. Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider reports that Cupertino is about to start a "major retail push into Latin America" with the first store opening in Mexico City. Apple is also looking at Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and perhaps Chile.

In a heads-up about recently updated OS X apps, MacNN included VueScan which I use for scanning negatives from my camera using a Canon flatbed device. I had version 9.5.22, but when I started it, saw that 9.5.35 was available which I downloaded.

Film camera

Although the indexes (NASDQ, Dow) fell along with all stocks, including Apple, on Monday, by Tuesday morning Apple was in the green ($105.35), with everything else still showing red, including those indexes. By Wednesday morning, Apple was down to around $102. What prompted the massive drops was the new year fall in the Chinese stock market. Tuesday morning all the losses there had been erased and the market was on a buying spree. I guess a lot of money was made yesterday.

Apple's Wednesday fall was a whole different game and was due to a Nikkei report that Apple may cut orders for iPhones by 30% to deal with stock adjustments and that production will return to normal by April. The report cites "lackluster sales" - we will find out about that for real in a couple of weeks. Mind you, there is not the same sort of golly, gosh, gee, when it is found that Samsung sales are stagnating [Source: MacDaily News].

Many sites had the news on Tuesday morning (here) that Apple will announce its Q1 2016 earnings on 26 January (2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET) and there will be a live audio feed at the conference call. The Nikkei report appeared a few hours after Apple made that announcement. What a coincidence.

On the question of what there will be, in a Tweet linking to his article, Benjamin Mayo commented on the confusion that exists concerning iPhone sales: up or down? He writes that "these results will cover the holiday shopping season, we should expect strong numbers from Apple, adding that this is the first full quarter for sales of the latest models.

And right on time, one of the early Apple-is-doomed articles appeared. Honour this time goes to Matt Margolis, writing on Seeking Alpha: "Why Apple's Best Days Could Be In The Rear-View Mirror" and I just saw a Tweet that suggested some major surprises. I am collecting these.

Reporting on Fortune, Don Reisinger looks at positive reports from Daniel Ives of FBR as well as a number of others who are still picking over the dead remains of that Katy Huberty rumour of reduced output, ergo fewer iPhones, and asks the question, Is Apple Heading Into a 'White Knuckle Period? As any article with a question mark can be answered with a No (or Yes) he backs both horses and answers "Maybe. Maybe not.?


When there are rumours that iPhone sales could be down, investors react to that. When there is information that suggests this may not be the case, the same investors ignore that. Neil Hughes on AppleInsider also writes about the report from FBR who suggest that the fears are "overblown". I guess that means that having forced the share prices down, the investors are ready to make profits as they rise again, although the Q1 results are no guarantee as many analysts predict figures higher than Apple guidance, then complain when Apple fails to reach their guesstimates, even if Apple reaches its own numbers.

And on that, there is an interesting comparison from Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Fortune of the top 5 companies (Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple) which looks at P/E (share price, divided by earnings). Amazon is fantastically high (912.59) and Apple low (11.43). However Elmer-DeWitt turns the tables (literally) by producing another chart comparing the same five by the billions of dollars in cash they generated: almost a reverse of the P/E chart. But on that, he reports the words of venture capitalist Fred Wilson who expects Apple will falter this year. See, Apple is doomed.

However, I was out in Bangkok with my niece when an email arrived with a press release from Apple about sales at the app store: phenomenal, apparently. One paragraph sums it up and we should remind ourselves that, despite what the analysts insist, Apple is not a one-trick pony. There is more to this act than the iPhone:

In the two weeks ending January 3, customers spent over US$1.1 billion on apps and in-app purchases, setting back-to-back weekly records for traffic and purchases. January 1, 2016 marked the biggest day in App Store history with customers spending over US$144 million. It broke the previous single-day record set just a week earlier on Christmas Day.

As part of the information there was a comment on the jobs that Apple has created, partly indirectly, "Apple is now responsible for creating and supporting 1.9 million jobs in the U.S. alone" and "Apple has previously reported that the iOS app economy has created 1.2 million jobs in Europe and 1.4 million jobs in China."

Apple can expect to see a lawsuit over its use of heart rate sensor technology in the Apple Watch. Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider and Juli Clover of macRumors (among others) cover the accusation from Valencell who accuse Apple of "patent infringement, deceptive trade practices, and breach of contract".

Apple had a look at their sensing technology in 2013 and collected information from the Valencell website. There was later contact between the two including the use of "technical samples for testing and analysis". The allegation is that Apple's light-sensing solution was lifted from Valencell and used four of their patents.

A late note from Jon Fingas on Engadget reports that Valencell has added Fitbit to the list and is to sue them for the same claims on the same 4 patents. Fitbit plans to fight back.

The most exciting product for me at CES was LG's OLED display than can be rolled into a cylinder (Nick Statt, The Verge). I was going to link to the BBC page that had this, but - for Heaven's sake - it has Flash content and that won't load on my computers. Get with the program. That same BBC page does display video content on the iPhone, so they are capable of using the <video> tag, just not for desktop users.

I think the most head-scratching moment of CES was the announcement from Kodak that it was to release a Super 8 film camera that it hopes will revive the technology (Devin Coldewey, NBC). Now I use a camera with film for stills, but this is slow and it is simply the pleasure (and difficulty) of producing a good shot - composing, shooting, developing and scanning - that I find satisfying. I had 8mm and Super 8 cameras years ago and do not think the same satisfaction comes into this: digital video works fine for most users.

We should expect to see some Home-Kit-capable devices in te next few months. I did see a version of the Nest that hit the headlines a few months back, then was taken over by Google (read Android - customer data), but to start the new year Benjamin Mayo on 9to5 Mac reports on a 2nd generation thermostat from Honeywell, but it is a bit expensive and Mayo also links to the ecobee. I don't suppose I will need one here: hot, hotter, not hot, are all we worry about.

Other HomeKit stuff from CES was outlined in an item by Dennis Sellers on AppleWorld Today.


A nice little solution for owners of MacBooks came from Griffin who have produced a USB-C Magsafe connector, which looks something like the Magsafe 1 to Magsafe 2 connector I have for my office: at least in principle (Chance Miller, 9to5 Mac). This is definitely a sensible accessory and I wonder why Apple didn't provide something like this.

Another product from Griffin is the Travel Power Bank, which is a charger for the Apple Watch, but as Nathan Ingraham (Engadget) found, that is about all it can charge.

vehicle technology

As well as Home-Kit we are also thinking this year about the car market. I wrote a long article speculating on options in October. This week, Horace Dediu on ASYMCO analyses the sales of electric and hybrid cars, against the phone market, in the light of the Cook Doctrine: "We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution."

With current figures, it would not seem to be an attractive market to enter, but if there were a "modular alternative" that could make a significant difference. He quotes Toyota as a company who made such a difference.

Life mirrors Art? I am currently reading a real book. I found a Thomas Pynchon novel Bleeding Edge in Kinokuniya just before Christmas. I have only read ebooks in the last few years and reading this was a pleasant experience. I have always liked Pynchon since reading Gravity's Rainbow for a course in the USA, and have read all but a couple, although Mason & Dixon (1997) was hard work.

This work, Bleeding Edge, looks at the period around 9/11 and the growth of internet-related companies. There are several interesting reminders in there, including Enron. One of the main characters, Gabriel Ice (whom I see as a sort of proto-Zuckerberg - at least so far) has a theory about moving server clusters to the north and using the excess heat to help communities there.

This week, Andrew Tarantola on Engadget, writes about the Q.rad home heater, which "harnesses the waste heat generated by its onboard microprocessors to warm your house" mentioning that major companies have been doing this for a while in industry.

On Monday I mentioned the possible replacement of the 3.5mm headphone jack that uses analog technology for Lightning-connected headphones that could make iPhones thinner and work with Apple's soon to be released improved digital audio solutions. Benjamin Mayo on 9to5 Mac has some more on this and there is growing evidence from China that this will happen. This is overdue, and I am hoping this is one rumour that is true, although some sources suggest wireless and not Lightning will be the solution. The 9to5 Mac page has a survey and I clicked on "Good idea". When I did this 44.% thought the same, while 35% thought it was a bad idea. 21% were indifferent.

While we are on headphones, this is something we might lose if there were a switch in the technology, but somehow I expect this would be carried over. Justine Figueroa on OMGFacts has a list of 11 things we can do with the click buttons on the cabloe for the ear buds. I know a couple of these but I did not know that there is a triple click; and more.

headphone technology

One of the features of Apple that is hidden in full sight, is the way services are becoming an essential part of the experience: photos, iCloud, iTunes, payments (in some places). There are a couple of data centers, but Apple must be expecting more need as Chance Miller reports on 9to5Mac that Apple will build a second data center in Reno.

Among those services we may include ApplePay, even if it is not here, and not fully working in places like Australia where they have funny banks anyway. However, Joseph Keller reports on iMore that another 58 banks and credit unions in the USA have signed up, brining the total to 913.

We have heard many arguments from governments, particularly the US and UK who have a thing about secrecy and openness. They want your data accessible (nothing to fear) while theirs is locked away; and if anyone asks for it, like some asked for Teresa May's browsing history, they are refused with the reason that this was "vexatious." Now the Dutch government has a different line and thinks that encryption is essential and that there should be no back=doors for police or security services. Not only is it going to ensure that this remains so (at least in Holland) but is providing half a million Euros to invest in an Open Source project.

Part of the translated document reads, "Self-development is only possible if you feel free to look at different sources of information and opinions." The document is in Dutch, but the Google translation for once makes sense.

Perhaps as an indication of the paranoia that exists in some circles, Mike Masnick reports on TechDirt about the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the UK, Pauline Neville-Jones, who complains that "people looking at their mobile phones or listening to music/podcasts in public are a public nuisance, because they're not watching out for terrorists." Once again, I apologise for being British.

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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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