eXtensions - Wednesday 18 April 2018


eXtensions - The Wednesday File (53): Product Arrivals, Repeating Themes, and History Lessons

By Graham K. Rogers


As the next quarterly Apple financial report approaches, the rumors increase, but real news sometimes outweighs them, for example with an announcement about iPhone profitability, especially the iPhone X. Some new equipment for me in the last week or so: as well as a new Nikon D850, the iPad arrived along with an Apple Pencil.

When it was announced a short time ago that the Apple Q2 2018 financial results would be out in early May, I wondered how long it would be before the negative reports would start. Not long, of course. We might examine the comments on the iPhone X that for sure (we are told) is experiencing low sales, although I have seen more of these in Bangkok in the first few months of its arrival here than for any other model in recent years.

We may add to that the cause of these supposed low sales is of course the high price, although there was not much fuss when an Android phone make recently put out its top of the line, Porsche-designed model at more than twice the price of the iPhone X; and let us not forget even more recent rumours about next year's iPhone X, which is certain to come in standard and Plus sizes and will cost even more than this year (Jim Edwards, Business Insider). If you believe this, have a bridge you may be interested in. Ming-Chi Kuo - who is referred to as a "Renowned analyst and Apple expert" - (also see below) is predicting that APPLE could cancel the iPhone X (Sean Keach, News Com).

As a note, while Wall Street and these other commentators are looking to old metrics, like growth and sales, it was reported this week that globally, in the last quarter of last year, Apple increased its profits in the smartphone market to 86%, but more significant - particularly in the light of the hand-wringing that has been going on - Counterpoint Research reports that "the iPhone X itself generated five times the profit than the combined profits of over 600 Android manufacturers" (Mike Wuerthele, Apple Insider), taking 35% and it was only on sale a few weeks

Last week there were rumours, from Mark Gurman on Bloomberg that Apple is cutting production of the HomePod. This type of rumour happens regularly with Apple products, especially when the original sources are considered, I thought about how many markets the HomePod had not been made available in. That includes, Thailand, and a disturbing thought appeared: maybe the HomePod will not be available here. Local retail sources think it will be coming, although have no expected date; but I thought about one critical feature of the HomePod: Siri.

HomePod One of the annoyances about Apple products here is the lack of advertised features. Apple makes the comment that these may not be available in all regions and that invariably means users in Thailand are out of luck, while down the road there are lots of happy Singporeans. An example is the AppleTV, which has Siri control in the USA and certain other core countries, but not here. Likewise, Siri and Spotlight search are limited on the Mac, while News, which I have found a valuable resource on the iPad (I have it set up to view this), is only officially available in a few countries. [Image courtesy of Apple.]

But then everyone expects Apple to come out with products whose sales go through the roof. Some don't (Airport Express?) but still add to the experience of users Like the consumer software that Apple spends millions producing, but distributes for nothing, they are part of the customer experience.

As has happened with these rumours before, one source has parsed supply-chain data and come to the conclusion that the sky is falling again. This time, the source for Gurman's horror story is Slice who have come up with dubious predictions in the past. Others we have been wary of are Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, Sinolink Securities and my favorite, Ming-Chi Kuo (see above), whose predictions seem more aimed at dragging the share price down than providing useful intelligence. But Wall Street falls for this every time.

In comments on the HomePod rumours, in what seems to be part of a growing feud between him and Gurman, Daniel Eran Dilger (AppleInsider) tears apart the rumour, ending "Bloomberg has consistently been wrong in its portrayal of the future of the tech industry, from its cheerleading of Chromebooks that the enterprise soundly rejected, to bashing Apple Watch sales to its current assault on HomePod"

When I am introducing the idea of presentations to my students there are a couple of points I make, particularly that presentation is not teaching. They have not been taught to make presentations (or to write) and they are expected to be able to do this out of the box. They copy their teachers. As well as a lecture style presentation, in which I warn that teaching is not presentation and presentation is not teaching, I also run some videos to make certain points.

A couple of these points concern good quotes that Jobs used, like the famous Wayne Gretzky comment about Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been, which has been used over and over to explain getting ahead. The other one I particular liked - I wrote both down in my notebook - was from Alan Kay whom Steve Jobs revered: "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." This week, Kay writes in Quora. about that quote and about what he and Jobs discussed after the iPhone presentation. Take the time to read this and consider Kay's importance in history: without some of his early work, the path to where we are now would have been difficult. Perhaps the most interesting revelation is Kay's final sentence. . . .

When talking to my students I also mention the reactions when Steve Jobs outlined each of the Three Products (which we soon found was just one): the iPod with touch controls had a good reception; the Phone, of course had the audience ecstatic - me too; but it ever ceases to amaze me how muted the audience was when he announced the third - a breakthrough internet communication device. It is this third product that has made the iPhone (and its arriviste competitors) such a world changer.

Just to warm things up, I show the old videos of Steve Ballmer: Monkey-boy Dance and Developers, developers. I use these as examples of what not do do, but I make the point that Ballmer was trying to excite the crowd. I also use extracts from a couple of Apple videos, most notably the 2007 iPhone introduction, partly because I was there. I am able to guide students as to what was happening, particularly with regard to audience responses; and on the preparation needed.

This is also visible with any of the presentations made by Craig Federighi, who is so relaxed on stage and so well-prepared, that he is able to drift off making jokes about his hair, or responding to comments from the audience. Always, however, he comes right back to the points he needs to demonstrate and these video clips are good examples of the other requirement: knowledge, not memory. Our students do not always have the confidence to understand the difference. As I try to tell them, when I am teaching, presenting or lecturing, I make the words up as I go along. I already know what I need to get over, but the words are icing, and this gives me the freedom for asides.

Another Apple video is the 2010 introduction of the iPad, which is remarkable in that, after building up to the solution that has been created, the word iPad drops down onto the screen at exactly 9 minutes. I tell my students that this is only possible with careful rehearsal and that all such presentations (and those by 3rd party developers) are times exactly to the minute.

On Tuesday this week, my new iPad arrived, a couple of hours after the Apple Pencil: they use different couriers, which seems to be a flaw in the delivery process. Apple ordering may be easy and quick - I ordered these items in the app on my iPad Air 2 - but the sharp end that interfaces with the customer is not as nice as it should be, with some odd phone calls, and (in my case) products being delivered to the security guards without letting me know.

I will be writing about this separately, but this new iPad was really easy to set up, using the same Apple Watch-like moving code in the iPhone camera to link the two devices and transfer settings. I did have to enter the App Store password and that also needed a confirmation code from an SMS message. That takes a second or two and does make the process more secure.

iPad - Image courtesy of Apple

I downloaded a number of apps, but in the list of Purchased Apps, noted that several are no longer available for download to the new iPad as they have not been updated to 64-bit capabilities. As I was going backward through the list, more and more of these outdated apps appeared, although one or two from the earliest days of the iTunes App Store were there. Nice to see that some developers keep their apps up to date.

The new device also allows me to trim down the app collection. As I go through there are some that I am unlikely to use, but others are still must-haves. One of the early checks I wanted to make concerned RAW photography. By chance I opened DarkRoom first and saw a list of images, some of which were marked RAW, as I usually see on the iPhone. I then checked a couple of the RAW photo apps - Halide, Pure Shot - but was informed that the device did not have the capability to take RAW photographs. I had asked that question online a couple of weeks back, but now I know.

Both the iPad and the Apple Pencil feel different. The iPad is slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2. I was using that early Tuesday morning, and the difference was notable as soon as I held the new device. The Apple Pencil differences are slightly more subtle, although I had not used one of these for about 4 months. This is mainly apparent when removing the cap and inserting it into the iPad as the Lightning connector feels slightly more stiff. Maybe that is a first impression and it will change over time.

Nikon D850 Last week I also upgraded my camera equipment to the Nikon D850: a camera with a 47MP sensor that can take RAW images (NEF) that are quite large. Most of the images I took during a test shoot were about 95MB each and I will probably need to rethink my workflow, and my storage options. I wrote three extensive comments over the long weekend while I was finding out some of what this camera can do:

One annoyance was that the store I bought it from had none of the new XQD cards:a fast replacement for the old CF cards. In Siam Paragon only one of the new camera shops had these and this was a 64GB card for just under 7,000 baht. The 32GB SD card I am using will do for now. A friend had a look in Central Westgate but only found the 64GB and an even more expensive 128GB card. A professional might need these, especially using the camera's movie functions, but even with the large size RAW photos I am taking, SD is OK for now. The friend is going to ask with business colleagues in the photo business.

Nikon D850

One of the projects I have students do in my classes - English Communication for Engineers- is to make a movie. They visit places, sometimes interview tourists, and teach themselves about narrative, as well as the technical needs of video making. I usually show them clips of movies before they decide on projects, suggesting effects, like short clips, and other techniques. One video I show is "From Ande to Amazon", from the BBC. It opens with a scene taken from high above the mountains and I say to the students, "If you can do this, I will give you an A", adding, "but you will need a helicopter.

I may have to change that as one of the first videos I looked at from my second year Mechanical Engineering students, featured some quite good drone footage. It was only one group, but this was so well done, and so well-integrated, that they will certainly have high marks for this work.

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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