AMITIAE - Monday 19 December 2011

Cassandra - Monday Review: It Will Soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks



Opening Gambit:

Apple likely to have blow-out quarter and some Wall Street analysts want their share of the cake. Sales of iPads keep rising, so everyone hates the iPad (everyone except the users). Walter Isaacson to take 2 bites of the cherry. Zynga IPO not as stimulating as their games. Samsung backs off one patent, adds four more. British Telecom sues Google over 6 patents. Microsoft and Novell may need a rematch. Seagate and WD cutting some warranties from 5 years to 1 year. You can't give them away: thieves steal 5,000 BlackBerry PlayBooks in Indiana ironically heading for Canada. A Siri clone for Thailand?

Apple Stuff

Ah, here we go again. The analysts who insist that Apple must pay a dividend are at it again. This time, Tiernan Ray on Barron's is arguing for this change in the way the finances are handled. The stock is rising while all those around it are falling; and he thinks it could be much more, so investors could really have their cake and eat it too. Ray cites the work of Sanford Bernstein research analyst Toni Sacconaghi to support the idea and in some ways it makes sense. It does until you look at the stability and growth that Apple enjoys, including the way it has the cash to make massive purchases to continue its position in the market. Take that away for some investor short-term money in the pocket and you have a recipe for a bubble and eventual collapse. Look at the list of blue chip companies in the US and elsewhere who are now worth nothing.

It was interesting therefore to see on a site named Bullish Cross that the next quarterly earnings report from Apple (Q1 2012) could be "the biggest earnings blowout in the history of the world" and they are expecting an earnings growth of 84%. Some of this is due to the iPhone 4S sales -- and we note on Sunday that some outlets are reporting these sold out in Thailand, although the True sales jamboree in the exhibition area of Siam Paragon was still ongoing Sunday afternoon (it started midnight Thursday). Apple is also expected to deliver in the following quarters too. No wonder Tiernan Ray and others want Apple to make payouts.

It is not just the iPhone of course, the iPad is driving a lot of Apple sales. I saw this at a couple of iStudio outlets this weekend with the benches that have the tablet computers displayed packed out with people. While Siam Discovery had people in their 20s and 30s looking, the iStudio in the Mall Bang Khae was full up with teenagers. Let me make another point here.

Years ago I suggested to those in management positions in the Apple distribution system (not Apple in those days) that the west side of the river was rather under-represented and a retail outlet would do well. No reaction. Eventually, an iBeat was set up in Central Mall; and then after about a year or so, an iStudio (Com 7). Now there are two outlets with a Copperwired iStudio outlet in the PowerBuy section, which is part of Apple's strategy to try and reach customers who might otherwise be daunted by the idea of walking into a recognisable Aplpe outlet. Tell that to the teens in Bang Khae.

As well as Thailand last week (and now) we are told by Electronista that the release was carried out in some 20 countries: including Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam. No wonder there are shortages here and the shops in Siam are reporting "iPhone 4S -- Sold Out."

Mike Egan writing on Cult of Mac tells us that the iPad us the most hated gadget ever, which is a headline that caught my attention: as it was supposed to. Not the consumers of course, they have made it clear that the device and its infrastructure are what they want and even when other companies make an attempt to bring out an iPad killer -- risible as that thought is -- they all fall short. It is the manufacturers that hate it and Mike Egan thinks they have good reason. He goes through the competitors (RIM, HP, Amazon -- doing OK in a way -- and Android tablets), the toy makers and the PC industry and seems to think that Apple is wrong with the success. Rather it is up to the others to come up with a product that either competes, or is a decisive leader in another area. There is not much point (or mileage) in blaming Apple for getting it right. As an addition to the information here (and I suppose to the figures news above), Don Reisinger is reporting that the shipments of iPads in the 3rd quarter of this year have risen 264%. Not many other companies could report that.

Lots of sites last week had a rumour that, despite the comments, warnings and dismissals of Steve Jobs, an Apple iPad with a screen size in the region of 7" was in production. Brooke Crothers tells us that the rumour makers in Taiwan (hmmm, same place as Acer) are citing the success of the Kindle Fire as the reason for Apple to start production. I have my doubts, especially with the idea that Amazon's apparent success (we really only have Amazon's word for this) would make Apple begin production of such a device.

We know the next version of Lion, 10.7.3, is in developers' hands, but we were told on Friday by Chris Rawson on TUAW that another build has been released and that this addresses issues with Address Book, iCal, Mail, Spotlight, and Safari.

At the weekend there was some worry in some quarters about a new iOS 5.0.1 release that was found by some. Electronista tells us that this was for owners of the iPhone 4S who had reported problems with the SIM card not being recognised. I made a check in iTunes and my installation on the iPhone 4 I have was shown as up to date.

We reported last week that iTunes Match had apparently started in some countries, but it looks to have been so popular -- remember everyone turned their noses up when it was announced -- that Apple have had to shut the gates we are told by iPodNN.

Having bought the book, read it and reviewed the version on my iPad, I was a bit disturbed to hear that Walter Isaacson is thinking about a Version 2 with expanded information: an addendum we are told by Mike Schramm on TUAW. Isaacson is calling the current issue a first or second draft and not the final version. While it is common to have a revised text for some biographies or histories, this is usually if new information comes to light, not if it is held back. It has become one of the best selling books this year -- it is even on sale in local iStudio outlets -- and I think the public might have been told that it was in an unfinished state. Or is this just a way to milk the situation?

While Samsung has now backed down from its earlier claims against Apple concerning 3G patents, it seems that there are now some more patent claims it is throwing into the fight according to Florian Mueller of Foss Patents, who explain all the ins and outs in his usual clear way.

But despite all the litigation, Apple still uses Samsung as a major supplier and seems set to increase this as some of its orders will be made in the Samsung plant in Auston, TX. Brooke Crothers reports on this and adds some speculation as to how Samsung and Apple may use this facility, including processors for Macs: a post-Intel world.

A lighter moment now with a hint from OS X Daily who tell us this time how to add spacers to the Right side of the Dock. It will need some command line work.

Half and Half

If anyone has seen the approaching Facebook Timeline, a report on iPodNN suggests that this is about to hit the iPhone app as well. I must admit to being underwhelmed by this having just got (semi-) used to the last Facebook changes and find this less easy when I want to find information. Time to find something new perhaps.

Shares of Zynga were released on Friday and, as the analysts suggested, they dropped right away. Was the $10 share price too ambitious? Don Reisinger tackles this question and the overall picture concerning such web-related businesses.

I do not use a case for the iPhone -- just an iPod sock -- and most would not have saved my iPhone from my idiocy when I left it in my pocket and walked downstairs in my flooded house. However, John Martellaro on the MacObserver, writes a report on the Trident Kraken case for the iPhone 4S that might stand up to an earthquake. It is ugly in an appealing way: uncompromising. Martellaro likes it but thinks the Otterbox Defender is better. While over on TUAW, Steven Sande has a look at a Grace Eco Pod case for $49.99 that will work for the iPhone or the iPod touch.

We read about a 16-year old developer in an item by Paul Sawyers on The Next Web at the weekend. His earlier work had brought out the venture capital investors and he had come up with an app called Summly that summarised the content of web pages and put them into an easy to use format for social networking. The article did not review the software, but I started and gave up. The results were not summaries but condensed versions of certain selections of passages I selected. You can summarise on the Mac too. I ought to write that up as it is not obvious unless you know where to look.

The problems with the Carrier IQ monitoring installations on phones are still ongoing and we read in a report by Jeff Gamet on the Mac Observer that Al Franken does not appear to be totally satisfied with some of the answers to his many questions that he posed in letters and that consumer protections are being ignored.

Other Matters

And a new company to join the patent game (at least the higher profile ones we follow here) is BT, the former British Telecomm which has a lot of innovations to its credit, including the first analytical computer, Colossus, that was built at its Dollis Hill research establishment in World War 2 all from spare telephone parts. Foss Patents reports that BT is after Google for 6 patents and has the details. Alleged infringements include Google Search, Android, AdSense, Gmail, Google+, Google Docs, Google Music, and Google Maps (Nilay Patel, The Verge)

This smells like the flooding in Thailand has had some more effects on the companies that make the hard disks and the management are scratching to keep their expense accounts safe. Previously, hard disks had guarantees of a couple of years or more, but in an item by Adi Robertson on The Verge, we read that both Seagate and Western Digital -- each of which have a significant presence in Thailand -- are cutting hard drive warranties next year. And some are going to be as little as a year down from a current five. Others will be reduced from five to three (some from 3 to 2). The higher end enterprise drives will not be changing (or at least not yet) and users can buy extra warranty. Robertson speculates that this could be as so many drives are failing these days. Maybe they should make them properly in the first place.

The Hard disk problems in Thailand have led to increased interest in SSD technology and Nathan Ingram reports on The Verge that Monster Digital is about to start making a new line of SSD disks and they will be faster.

Also on The Verge was an item by Bryan Bishop on a move by KLM to let passengers choose their seats based on social media profiles of those near them. I cannot think of anything less desirable unless "fat" were one of the exclusion criteria, having spent one flight to Europe wedged between too generously built Australians. I think this will be earphones in and heads down for the entire period if it were me on one of these KLM flights.

Everyone is suing everyone else for patents and things but Novell has been suing Microsoft for years for locking it out (the disk that run Windows 3 installers for example apparently specified MS DOS, and so Novell's PC DOS would not load). A jury trial has ended as the 12 good men and true could not come to a decision and they were deadlocked. Jay Greene reports on the deadlocked jury and some of the effects: past and present (and future).

We read before the weekend that thieves were targeting iPhone users rather than those who used the BlackBerry, so with this in mind and thinking also about the results from RIM last week, including the delays to the new operating system, I was a bit surprised to read that a truckload of BlackBerry PlayBooks had been stolen. Adi Robertson on The Verge, tells us that while the driver was freshening up at an Indiana truckstop, the truck plus its load of 5,000 PlayBooks valued at $1.7 million disappeared. Ironically, they were headed for Canada.

There was a lot of news last week about the attempts by US lawmakers to bring out legislation to control parts of the operations of the net, with Disney and other movie makers lined up on one side; Google and other proponents of openness on the other. Jeff Gamet on The MacObserver reports that a last minute change in procedures meant the vote was delayed a few days. As a note, in a similar way to the ill-thought out Internet Law that was opposed in the early 1990s, this law seeks to penalise sites outside the US if they link to copyright-protected content. As a reminder, the articles I wrote at the time on that proposed Internet Law for Thailand are still on the eXtensions site.

We reported a week or so ago on the apparently unusual decision by a judge in Oregon that blogging was not journalism. In an analysis by Mathew Ingram on GigaOm, the question not of who is a journalist, but what is journalism is discussed and some details of the specific circumstances in the Oregon case were revealed. It would appear that the lady in question may have overstepped the bounds in several ways. Mathew Ingram's article is worth examining for a number of reasons, particularly on that core question of defining just what journalism is.

Local Items

I am sure that this was tongue in cheek but I read on a Tweet on Friday that local software developers are working on a Thai version of Siri called Chalerm. Because he knows the answer to everything the Tweet added.



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