AMITIAE - Wednesday 4 July 2012

Cassandra - Wednesday Review - The Week in Full Swing

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

4 July in some parts of the world is a normal working day although for some reason news was a little slow this week. Apple Quarterly report 24 July. Industry reshuffling and repositioning. Apple and Proview settle: the iPad is the iPad. But that won't stop the blackmail. Apple and Samsung: motion denied. No one has seen a Surface, but the reviews of the Nexus begin. Microsoft OEMs begin to show displeasure. Microsoft to make a massive loss this quarter. UK Government to support theft of your online photos. Singapore collaboration with IBM.

Apple Stuff

The next quarterly earning s report from Apple will be on 24 July we are told by Steven Sande on TUAW who then wonders if Mountain Lion, the next version of OS X, will follow on 25 July: it had been expected around 19th. Nonetheless, time to do some housework on the Macs and back up the data. Also time to start playing spot the analyst as the speculation begins and the share prices fall and rise.

After months of wrangling and holding out on both sides, Apple and Proview finally settled under a court's direction over the iPad name that Apple had thought it had already bought. There were several report on this including the one from Electronista.

What was interesting to me was the reaction to the result which some users in China calling this "a thuggish way to earn a payout," Sam Oliver reports on AppleInsider.

One of the reasons Apple did not want to cave in on this was the threat from others who might make such claims. And this was mentioned in the It did not take long of course as Matthew Panzarino reports on TNW, with a chemical company in China claiming that Apple infringed on its Snow Leopard trademark.

Apart from the time this has taken, and the coincidence of appearing within a day of the Proview announcement, the two companies are not in the same field, which is why Apple settled a long time ago with the Beatles and both continued to use the name: albeit for different purposes. On the same theme, at least Proview and Apple were in the same field (computing) so there was a claim, even though the dispute was over whether the name was lawfully Apple's to use. The court in Shanghai has accepted this suit and the company is after about $80,000 which is not that much. We shall see.

Apple may also have problems in Italy as it declines to change the warranty length, to 2 years, thus putting it into conflict with Italian consumer law Electronista reports. There are already threats of large fines which Cupertino will shrug off, but also the threat of total closure which it cannot. In most countries Apple has a 1-year warranty with the AppleCare top up, but the Italians want Apple to comply with their ways.

Over the last week we have mentioned the 5th anniversary of the arrival of the iPhone. TJ Luoma responds to one article in the New York Magazine that was, as he writes, Link-bait: "Happy Birthday, iPhone: You're Ruining Everything." Well not here it isn't and not for Mr Luoma who calls Kevin Roose out on a claim he makes concerning Steve Jobs. Anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection is an IT expert these days.

The iMac has been going for a while and has had several design changes, although the flat screens have been with us the longest, but there has been no change to the line-up for over a year and rumours, as reported on Electronista and other sites, suggest that production is starting for an iMac with Retina diisplay.

And another rumour that has surfaced again (no pun here on the Surface) is the mini iPad. Electronista reports that industry sources/analysts/seers claim that a 7.85" iPad with a screen from Sharp (IGZO - indium gallium zinc oxide) priced at around $250+ is coming soon.

Testing continues on new versions of iOS 6 and part of that is integration with iCloud. Steven Sande (and others) reports that new features have been spotted in a developer version: Reminders and Notes.

A company that had a successful IPO last week was ServiceNow and it is reported by Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW that the company is happily announcing that it is "wall to wall" Mac: iPhones, notebooks, laptops and all.

I had an email from Apple on Tuesday morning confirming that the final day for rescuing data from Mobile Me was 31 July; and when I opened Aperture later, there was another warning telling me that the albums I had uploaded were done and asking me to move the data within Aperture. When I clicked "OK" all 13 albums were brought into the application, although I will probably dump these later as I already have the images in other albums.

Those of us of a certain age will remember the great Ronnie Barker, whose comedy appearances over the years were a delight. One pilot series gave us 6 separate sit-coms, including Open all Hours and the long-running Porridge where Barker played old lag, Norman Stanley Fletcher ("Fletch"). Tony Smith on The Register reports that within the Apple Cocoa API reference library, is a reference to Fletch in the way the discussion of the code is set out. As Smith suggests, someone has a sense of humour at Cupertino. There are several other examples of such humour or other examples of wit throughout Apple's productions, including some of the icons.

I had a nice reply from Topher Kessler to a technical question I posed last week concerning the new disk in the iMac. This may be with me on Wednesday, but I have no idea what will be on the disk when I get it. A clean install is the best answer, whatever is on there, and Topher confirms that I will be able to do this from the rescue disk I have and download a new version from the Mac App Store. I checked one part of the reply concerning the Apple OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive. I am not sure if these are available in the iStudio stores, but the Online Store lists them for 2,200 baht (actually slightly cheaper after taxes than the US price)

I mentioned earlier in the week about the new version of Slo Pro 60 which has some exceptional new features. Over the last few days I have been running this and looking at the new bits. I am really quite impressed. I wrote a new review on Tuesday as it was no good just referring people to the original one I wrote in April. The app is free. However some features are limited and there is watermarking on output, so this is a test version for users to try out: highly recommended. If you like it like I did, the $1.99 upgrade (this is all of 60 baht -- a couple of bowls of noodles) that adds the restricted features and removes watermarking is well worth it.

Half and Half

Microsoft is so convinced of the infallibility of their approach to tablet computers that Bill Gates is saying that Apple may need to rethink its approach (what shell has Bill been hiding under since 2010?) and shift the iPad strategy and make the iPad full-strength desktop style (Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider).

Of course, you would need a mouse and a keyboard and perhaps a stylus; and another bag to carry all this in. Perhaps Gates has not noticed that the iPad is fairly successful and only the cloned Samsung -- itself using Android which is not a desktop OS either -- has made any real inroads, with all the others falling by the wayside. Making predictions like this when all Redmond has is a semi-working version that has not hit the market is typical of Microsoft and the only reason people still listen is because of his residual fame.

As was reported earlier in the week, the judge in the case put a ban on the import of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and despite an appeal by Samsung the ban remains, Foss Patents reports.

With the Apple-Samsung litigation looking good for Cupertino there is a possibility that Google may step in and offer to help, Electornista reports. Much of the troubles are down to Google's execution of Android so it is not completely a surprise.

There were reports this week that Samsung has bought into some companies producing displays and may be hoping to corner the market. As part of that Corning is said to be on board with Samsung.

Apple is unlikely to be willing to be held to ransom by Samsung, so the moment there is a hint of this or contract problems, the iron fist will come down. With Tim Cook's expertise on supply problems, there is also likely to be a search for alternatives and investment in other suppliers.

If Corning has painted itself into a corner with its part in the deal, then Apple will examine alternatives there too, which will affect that company long-term.

A side note to the use of Samsung as supplier is that as well as screens, Apple also buys chips from the Korean company. However, we read on MacDaily News that a company called Micron is buying Elpida: a Japanese chip maker that supplies Apple that is in financial trouble. They are also taking a 24% stake in a Taiwanese chip maker. I wonder where they got all that money.

Other Matters

In a note on Tech Crunch Colleen Taylor tels us of a story that is to run in the August issue of Vanity Fair magazine by Kurt Eichenwald.

The piece is promised to be an unflinching deep dive into the past ten years at Microsoft while Steve Ballmer has been at the helm - specifically, I'm told, Eichenwald uncovers the stifling bureaucracy and "astonishingly foolish management decisions" that have held Microsoft back while Apple ascended to dizzying heights in the eyes of global consumers and the stock market.

Haven't we all been saying some of those things for a while now?

Ms Taylor also mentions the difficulty of faxing, especially from an aircraft (another story perhaps) and is sort of desperate to get hold of a pre-issue version of the story. I would be too. Although there has been criticism of Ballmer before, recent events like the Surface which is upsetting OEM manufacturers partly through Redmond's apparently tactless approach and a predicted loss in the next quarterly results announcements, may do him more damage than the normal water off a duck's back can cope with.

I have commented a fair amount recently about how bad things look for RIM and also for Nokia. Most of my opinion is based on longer term observations and the feel of things: it does not take much to see that these companies are no longer the bright sparks they were a couple of years back. To put things more into perspective, let me refer to the work of Horace Dediu whose careful analyses are sought out by those who wish to back opinion with some facts (useful in most cases of course, but not always obvious to some writers these days). There it is on the Asymco pages in black and white. And blue and yellow and green and grey and brown.

On the other hand, Thorsten Heins who is now RIM's CEO said on a radio interview as cited in a Reuter's article that there is nothing wrong with the BlackBerry make. There were a number of snorts of derision when that got out. It is not in a death spiral, it is just reporting losses, shedding the workforce and delaying its flagship device.

With Google and Microsoft producing tablet devices in the last couple of weeks, it is useful to have a closer look. We can't with the Surface as there have been no review versions, so this may be another example of Redmond vaporware, which in the meantime has pissed off a lot of other people, except Stan Shih of Acer who is sure it is not going to happen. Maybe he is right after all. Bryan Chaffin on The MacObserver notes that HP has walked and may be going for an Android-based tablet. They did have a tablet and their own OS for it once.

With mixed reports on what the Surface is and what Redmond intend to do with it, the company reported that it was taking a one-time hitcharge of $6.2 billion -- hardly chump change -- "to offset the lack of revenue from aQuantive, an ad service it purchased," Electronista report but then wonder if this is a warning that there will be a quarterly loss reported, something that will have tongues wagging and should be a massive loss of face.

Google however whose master plan for world conquest is still a little fuzzy do have working versions of their Nexus and one of those who has looked at this is Joshua Topolsky on The Verge. He likes it, likes Jelly Bean and thinks it is pretty good all round. Nokia is less impressed and has hinted that there are some patents being used that it owns according to Josh Ong on AppleInsider. iFixit managed to get their hands on a device and rate it highly for repairability (they did not for the recent MacBook Pro release, remember). Matt Brian carries a report of the iFixit results on TNW.

While we are on Google, Sarah Perez on Tech Crunch reports that Mountain View is announcing it is shutting down five more of its services including Google Video and iGoogle. At the end of the article, Ms Perez lists more than 25 services Google has now dumped.

Reducing its reliance on hardware a little more this week, we are told by Sarah Perez on Tech Crunch that Dell paid $2.4 billion for Quest Software that makes enterprise management software. As well as expanded capabilities in capabilities in "systems management, security, data protection and workspace management" there are other key components that tempted Dell, including (I would think) its solid income.

Also making a purchase is Xerox who picked up Lateral Data for $30 million, a company that deal in electronic discovery services: enabling corporate legal departments and law firms to manage the entire e-discovery lifecycle using a single, in-house solution the Xerox press release tells us.

The UK has a funny relationship with the internet. I am not sure that the governments either blue or red (or yellow and green) understand what it is at all and for that reason make all manner of stupid decisions on what to do about it. We have been following the urge they have for greater surveillance laws so that everyone's communications may be checked just in case the half of 1% that do break laws accidentally send an open message. This was quickly supported by the UK's Echelon partners and by the spooks both sides of the Atlantic.

Now another nefarious piece of legislation is rearing its gross and ugly head once again and it may concern anyone -- not just those in the UK. And the beneficiaries will be people like Rupert Murdoch who will be able to steal your online images (orphaned, they are called) and put them in their own publications with no hint of a fee for a pic well done. That could include all your Facebook and Flickr photos and those on other similar sites unless the owner specifies that the pics are not for use: and some wonder why I put hefty watermarks on some of my online photographs. This nasty bit of law, like the surveillance laws, were killed off once before after much protest from those who would have been affected, but like some people, British Governments do not know the meaning of "No" unless it suits them of course.

Details of the impending legislation and how it came about, as well as its implications are in an article by Andrew Orlowski on The Register who explains that the beneficiaries of the proposed law will not be the government of course but its masters in the news organisations who have apparently been running things for years.

UKPLC are not the only ones using odd methods to grab things as Facebook is reported to be reaching into people's iOS and Android address books and changing users addresses. This sounds too fantastic (and dangerous for Facebook) to be true, but Bill Ray on The Register explains what is apparently happening in some cases. I rushed to mine as soon as I read that but it was OK. At least it was then.

Local Items

I spoke to someone I know at True this week who said she had not noticed the lack of channel numbers in their TV guide. Never reads it she said, the print is too small. Nonetheless, the problem is being passed on.

We are told in a Press Release from IBM that

The [Singapore] National Environment Agency (NEA) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a three-year research collaboration and signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) under which IBM researchers will work with NEA to develop advanced modelling and predictive capabilities to address key environmental concerns in Singapore such as air quality, extreme weather events, dengue outbreaks and food poisoning incidents.

The collaboration will enable researchers from NEA and IBM's mathematical experts to harness the wide capabilities of advanced analytics including the ability to capture data in real time and turn this unstructured information into intelligence, or even predictive insight that facilitates smarter decisions. By enabling accurate forecasting, proactive measures can be taken to prevent unwanted events instead of simply reacting to events as they occur. For example, the forecasting capability will help NEA to better inform the public in advance of changes in air quality.

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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