AMITIAE - Friday 20 April 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Apple and the DoJ - will the Feds fail at a trial? Tim Cook on Time's 100 most influential list. MobileMe to iCloud: some users may upgrade free to Snow Leopard. Rumours of liquid metal for the new iPhone back. Greenpeace dishonesty. Lost interviews from Jobs' Wilderness Years. Does MG Siegler have a secondary objective? Google execs may be on another planet. Microsoft silence. Nokia mega-losses. My Raspberry Pi gets nearer. Fun in the Thai parliament.

Apple Stuff

The last week or so has seen a lot of news about the way the US DoJ is taking Apple to court over what it suggests was a price-fixing conspiracy, although if this is successful, it could leave Amazon with a monopoly position, thus backfiring on the DoJ in a big way. They do not really do this sort of thing all that well, and in other cases have been forced to back down, or have lost. Even against Microsoft, the end result was a dilution of what they wanted. It is not a surprise to read on Electronista that, while some publishers threw in the towel the moment they were confronted, Apple did not and is upping the ante by insisting on a jury trial. It is believed that it is "not an appropriate case" and Apple wants to prove itself in court.

Apple's new CEO has been quietly proving himself, despite the suggestions by many when he first stepped officially into the post (which was actually for the third time) that he was not up to the job. Some do not look past the surface. Rene Ritchie on iMore (among others) reports this week that Cook has been named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. He is actually at Number 57, although as the list only has bullets, I had to count down. He is 4 above Barack Obama while many of the names above, I have never heard of.

Last week there were lots of reports that Tim Cook had visited the HQ of Valve which was considered unusual and a possible precursor to a product announcement or even a takeover. Just as excited by the rumour were those at Valve and there were questions internally about whom Tim was meeting. No one apparently. Steven Musil has a quote from Valve CEO Gabe Newell who says that there were no meetings.

Meanwhile, Phil Schiller is reported by iPodNN to have quit his Instagram account because of the Android release.

And as a footnote to that, Graham Cluley on Naked Security reports that a fake Instagram app is infecting devices with malware. Ahh, yes, Android, Open, Good. iOS, closed, no freedom, bad.

Earlier in the week we were slightly pleased to finally have an official date for the late arrival of the iPad in Thailand and 20 other countries, but as Megan Lavey-Heaton points out on TUAW, China is notably absent from the lists. It is thought this may be due in part to the pressure concerning the iPad name in China.

Despite a couple of losses (such as Keychain Access syncing) I moved to iCloud almost as soon as I updated to Lion, and am fairly happy although will need to expand my use to get the most out of it. As I mentioned not long ago, reading between the lines of comments from people like Tim Cook and Phil Schiller, as well as looking at the expansion of the data centers, iCloud is to be a large part of Apple operations in the future.

Not everyone has access of course, so there were a number of reports on Thursday concerning the way that Apple is trying to push more customers towards iCloud, including giving away Snow Leopard. One of the reports was by Steven Musil and he has information about this and a screen-shot. The catch (if it is a catch) is that Mobile Me ends on 30 June and so you have to update and ask for the free Snow Leopard by 15 June. There is not much other information about this, but following a link to the original article by Joshua Schnell on MacGasm has a couple of user comments and it appears this may be only for US customers.

Apple works on a lot of new technology and sometimes a patent is filed. This week we see, on Patently Apple, that there has been a filing for a method to create and use a digital signature, using a device's camera. The article has full details and some useful images. When I saw this it struck me how similar this was to the signature method that I have access to in iWatermark from Plum Amazing.

The Genius Bars in the US Apple Stores are where people go for help, although locally the iStudios have something that is slightly familiar, I have never been able to get a proper answer on anything from the staff, presuming I can drag them away from their gossip sessions. There are reports that Apple is to add iOS sync hubs to the Genius Bars. This is for the times when users have a replacement phone or other iOS device and would be able to sync data. Joe Aimonetti has some information on this, as does Electronista.

A new iPhone is on the cards later this year and there have already been several rumours concerning screen size. Another rumour I found on AppleInsider concerns the glass back of the iPhone which some have broken (glass is brittle and will break if dropped). The report, citing rumours out of Korea, suggests that instead of Gorilla Glass, the new iPhones will have backs made of liquid metal, although it is not sure if this is the Liquid Metal that Apple already uses in some products (like the SIM card key).

There were a couple of developer updates released this week. AppleInsider tells us that Safari 5.2 (Update 3) was seeded with a few new features and bug fixes. I hope one of those tackles the infuriating way opening a tab reveals a blank page and a long wait while it finds the data again, often leaving me twiddling my thumbs for ages, or even restarting Safari in extreme cases. This was a new feature with OS X 10.7, Lion and one I could do without.

We were also told by MacNN that a third review of 10.8, Mountain Lion was seeded to developers this week. They report that it "is still saddled with a number of known issues, including several related to FileVault." Other problem areas include Mail, iTunes, Time Machine, Java, and QuickTime.

We reported on the latest Greenpeace hit on Apple this week, claiming that its data centers would use dirty fuels, but Apple issued a rebuttal on the Greenpeace figures and it may be that the real reason for the low score that Greenpeace gave Cupertino was because they did not disclose the information quickly enough for the tree-huggers. I have a concern for the environment and watch aghast as Thais cut down all the trees they can see, especially in housing areas when a tree can make a difference to temperatures; or in the depleted forests can prevent landslides after heavy rain.

I love whales of course and the manta ray and lots of furry things, but I would not join Greenpeace because of its tactics and attempts at strong-arming. As well as the report this week, we saw another publicity grab from the tree-huggers (and I really have hugged the trees in my garden of my last house) when they scaled the buildings at Apple's Cork HQ in Ireland, we are told by Matt Brian on TNW. This mut have been part of a worldwide attempt at embarrassing Apple, in the same way they did in 2007 in San Francisco, but no one mentioned the smelly, noisy generators they used to power projection equipment outside the Apple store.

I read and reviewed the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs at the time of the Bangkok floods (on an iPad in the dark) and there were some interesting points that filled in some points about the missing years from when he left Apple until the return. We knew some of the facts concerning Pixar and NeXT, but this week, Dara Kerr tells us that a number of interview tapes have emerged and there are some possible gems here. Brent Schendler, who has put an article on Fast Company, had recorded the interviews with Jobs and has now come up with an article that Dara describes as "expansive".

Also reminiscing about Steve Jobs is Ken Segall who had some insight to the Noah Wylie keynote appearance in 1999, Steve approved the script including a saucy question that was a reflection of what was in The Pirates of Silicon Valley. An interesting point is that Steve approved this, although he claimed that the original question was a fiction of the movie and never happened.

Let's end this section with a laugh, I thought. I remember the way that the iPhone was dismissed by people like Ballmer, Rob Enderle, Paul Thurrott, et al, but MG Siegler has reminded people this week of the comments that Matthew Lynn made in January 2007. Hopelessly wrong.

But then I wondered why someone like Siegler would make such an undisguised attack on a Bloomberg writer, and I cast my mind back to the problems with Path (which Siegler invested in) and Dan Lyons, "Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool" which many IT writers agreed with. The comments are there including one from Kara Swisher. One commentator called Siegler, "the Karl Rove of tech-blogging." An attack like this did not come out of the blue.

Other Matters

It looks either if Google's adjustment of the truth has been found out, or they have been telling porky pies. I am going to vote for the latter as I have been following this for a while and cut them no slack on the way they have produced Android, walking all over patent holders, perhaps misinforming handset makers, and not being open to the public.

There have been a number of revelations this week concerning the use of Java -- which was acquired by Oracle when Sun was bought by them -- and the way that Google probably knew they needed a licence, but tried to brazen it out. Part of that was in what is called the Lindholm email, which I have reported on here a number of times in the past. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this email is that Google tried 7 times to have it suppressed. You only do that if you know it is a smoking gun. Florian Mueller on Foss Patents has his usual clear outline of the court events and the probably wilful infringement by Google. There are some interesting examples that imply wrongdoing, like "I'm done with Sun [...] They won't be happy when we release our stuff, [...]" or (2008) "Please don't demonstrate to any sun employees or lawyers" and (in 2010) "We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need."

As well as outlining Google attempts to deal with the licensing, Mueller also reports on the "evasive" Larry Page, whose testimony made a lot of people sit up this week: in disbelief. As did comments in and corrections to the Guardian interview by Sergei Brin. My conclusion is that these guys and the other main Google man, Eric Schmidt, are detached in a certain way from reality.

One item I read was on Electronista where it is reported that Larry Page is not sure if Android was a critical asset for Google, which is sure to surprise (and alarm) a lot of people inside the company as well as a few outside. Added to that was the idea that "Android was ultimately a vehicle for Google services like ads, not an end into itself." Iain Thomson on The Register looked at other aspects of Page's second day on the stand, and made fun of what is called his "James Murdoch defense over smoking email" -- he did not remember the email and had not asked Lindholm to investigate the issue.

Earlier in the week we reported on and linked to an interview that another Google exec did with the UK Guardian which seemed to have a rather lopsided view of what others did with the internet and what Google should be able to do. Note that comment above, "ultimately a vehicle for Google services like ads". With the criticism that the article produced, Brin has had to go through a process of walking some of the comments back, we read in an item by Jamie Keene on The Verge, and suggests that the interview report had been distorted. He of course luvs Facebook and Apple and adds that (a Paul Thurrott touch here), he wrote the post on an iMac while using an Apple keyboard. So what?

I used to have so much fun with Microsoft. Not the software, but the comments, the decisions, the chair-throwing, the on-stage dancing. As John Martellaro comments on The MacObserver, this largest of software companies, whose multiple operating systems are on the majority of computers worldwide (although not always paid for, despite the best efforts of Redmond) has been uncharacteristically quiet of late.

Some Nokia news now.

Tom Warren reports briefly on the financial state of the company which has reported a loss of 590 million Euros for Q1 2012. The CEO is happy with sales of the Lumia, that some European carriers have a certain distaste for, in the US.

There was another report concerning the Nokia finances from Matt Brian on TNW who enlarges on the above Q1 figure with a report of an operating loss for the year of $1.76 billion. That Stephen Elop sure showed them how it should be done and the relationship with Microsoft is paying dividends big time, eh? Brian reports, "Nokia puts its losses down to 'greater than expected competitive challenges and seasonality'" The others sell more.

Nokia's head of sales (what sales?) has stepped down after 20 years with Nokia. Aaron Souppouris reports on The Verge that under his leadership, the number of mobile phones sold by Nokia has decreased by 24% over the past year -- did he jump or was he pushed. It strikes me that here we are seeing a RIM-like movement. As the company diminishes, so more top management are going to be jumping ship.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is set to move east. Like RIM, no need to worry about diminishing markets in the US and EU, Asia will buy the stuff if we paint it pretty colours and use some snappy advertising. Tom Warren on The Verge reports that it will arrive in the "Philippines in the last week of April. Additional markets such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam will also get the Lumia 610 in the following weeks." And no mention of Thailand where Nokia used to be the brand that everyone wanted. Well, not everyone. . . .

I ended the last Cassandra column by wondering about my Raspberry Pi. Late Wednesday evening here I had an email from the developers, to explain about the state of orders. It may well be that, later this week, or next, enough supplies will be available and that as orders are filled in the order they were received, we may be getting nearer to the top of the pile.

Local Items

I caught this first on the BBC site, and copied the link quickly in case the reports disappeared. During a debate in the Thai parliament on Wednesday, a picture of a naked woman appeared on the screen. Lots of shouts of outrage halted the proceedings, which struck me as being a touch hypocritical. Local news did have the pics, as well as others of MPs taking photos of a notebook with the pics displayed, while another MP was spotted with his own provocative woman on the mobile phone, which he said a friend had sent him and he opened it without checking.

I expect the MPs will be able to discuss this at the late night restaurants and saunas they frequent. There is one near me and I was intrigued to see several limos from the Justice Ministry parked outside for hours a while back, with lots of officials in identifiable Ministry jackets all stood around outside waiting for the boss (or bosses) to finish what they were doing inside.

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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