AMITIAE - Wednesday 28 December 2011

Cassandra - Wednesday Review: The Week in Full Swing.

apple and chopsticks



Opening Gambit:

Apple production growing. Redesigned iPad 3 coming soon. Acer coming to its senses? Not just yet. Microsoft and RIM criticised. Gambling is illegal in the state of mind I'm in. Warranties in Italy: Apple fined $1.2 million. No iPhones or BlackBerry devices in Argentina: it's the economy, stupid. Apple care for the iPhone in Thailand: forget it. Thailand off the radar again: thanks a bunch, Modahaus, for nothing.

Apple Stuff

We did put this out on eXtensions on Tuesday morning, but Julie Kuehl on the MacObserver is reporting about more phishing attacks on us poor Mac users, this time purportedly using a false Apple Billing Information mail. Beware. This one actually looked false, but there are plenty more that come out that have just enough to catch the unwary user. Even when I have legitimate emails (such as from PayPal or Apple) I rarely click on the links unless I am sure they go to who they claim to be.

That the iPhone continues to be a success is not much in doubt, although making comparisons between it and (say) Android or Samsung is not accurate as this is like Apples and Oranges: Android being installed on many different brands of handset; while Samsung makes lots of phone models: I even have a cheapo one as a spare which cost me about 800 baht. For one iPhone 4S that is 33 cheap Samsungs.

We are told by Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider that Foxconn -- a company that makes a lot of toys for Apple -- is expanding and one of its plants in China is have a $1.1 billion makeover, doubling its size. Also mentioned is Foxconn's expansion in Brazil. If this company can take these steps, we may presume that Apple is expected to continue to do well.

We wonder, however, if this might be for something else. There have been several rumours of late concerning this television that Apple is supposed to be working on: perhaps Steve Jobs' last big project. Josh Ong on AppleInsider tells us that the supply chain is getting into gear for this product and with the timetabling, it may be that the TV itself arrives (at least in the US and other favoured markets) in the latter half of the year.

Rumours this week suggest that the iPad 3 (which some may think will be out on Steve Jobs' birthday in February) is about to go into production and that some of the changes have been spotted, like a Home Button redesign and a smaller layout for the back side Electronista write. Apparently the number of Home buttons that have already been made is large. I guess if you count the home buttons that would tell you how many iPads will be made

Bad news for Apple in Italy this week, Matt Brian reports on The Next Web. The authorities in Rome have fined Apple $1.2 million because of misleading warranties. European law on electronic goods requires a warranty of 2 years, but Apple was publicising one year and pushing its AppleCare 3 year insurance. These devices, we are told, include the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and iPod devices. Now here's a point, that I covered some months ago (I will put this below), the Europeans may have 2 years, plus the AppleCare if they want it, the US has 1 year plus the AppleCare, but in Thailand, and a number of other countries, if you have an iPhone, the warranty is one year only and AppleCare is not available.

Even worse news for would-be iPhone owners in Argentina. The government there has blocked sales of these and BlackBerry phones because of the economy we are told on Manuals.WS (a new one for me). The economy there is so bad, that users are only allowed to buy phones made in the country, at least for a while. RIM is frantically searching for an Argentinian partner, but Apple may not bother as sales are stil quite high in the rest of the world. With the number of sales of both of these products in Argentina, I would suggest that the move is just a drop in the ocean (and I am resisting jokes about Don't cry for me Argentina).

So they won't get the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4SS or whatever it is called when it is released (so they say) come Fall next year. According to a report on Electronista, that is the supposed date the new iPhone will be out and there are some points about the new design included in the report, like the bezel and the back.

But the current iPhone (the 4S) is finally headed to China we read in a report by Megan Lavey-Heaton on TUAW now that it has received the necessary certification from the authorities there.

Half and Half

We had wondered how the FAA was going to balance its total ban on devices when taking off and landing with the exemption that it gave to American Airlines pilots to replace their heavy bags of books and charts with the iPad. Either these devices cause a problem or not. Chris Ziegler on The Verge comments on this nonsense and refers to both the recent case that involved Alec Baldwin and his iPhone and the criticism from Nick Bilton (NYTimes), but he comes over as not convinced that a ban should be overturned.

Well, here's an odd one if you know your recent tablet history. Stan Shih, founder of Acer, whose response to the success of the iPad was "They will come to their senses", has had a sobering readjustment by turning that all round -- Electronista reports -- and becoming a tablet computer maker too, but the conditions are not optimal right now he opines. Either that or they still haven't got what it is that makes the iPad sell, so that even a low price from others cannot shift those boxes clearly marked "Not iPad". It is teething troubles he says (2 years later than Apple who hit the ground running) and their strategy is now to focus on quality, which may make a refreshing change. And that integration with the rest of the products? Maybe we will get some more news (or BS) at CES in the next week or so.

There are reports this week that the PC may be getting access to Thunderbolt early next year, about a year after Apple of course. While Apple cooperated with Intel to get the technology standardized, so the full rollout has been approaching, Josh Ong on AppleInsider tells us.

Other Matters

On Monday we discussed the number of site owners who were leaving the GoDaddy company to be hosted elsewhere after GoDaddy's stance on SOPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act. We referred to several sites who had the news of the abandonments, and one that tried to put it in some perspective with the numbers leaving compared to those joining GoDaddy. However, Declan McCullagh tells us that some other would-be hosts of those leaving are crying foul about the documentation that GoDaddy appears to be dragging its heels over, thus delaying domain transfers. GoDaddy denies all of this and says they were not contacted in a press release but there are all manner of accusations and denials being thrown about.

Microsoft are often an easy target and Alex Wilhelm on the Next Web does not disappoint by his criticism of Redmond's stance to online activities. Not SOPA, we see, which Microsoft actually does not support (in an inert/passive way), but another piece of legislation: the Protect IP Act (PIPA). It is similar to SOPA but is from Congress not The Senate. So that's all right then? Shame on Microsoft, says Alex. Shame, indeed. We also read another report concerning this control of the board, by Dieter Bohn on The Verge.

We despair also of RIM at times and they may have a similar problem that seems to beset Microsoft, in that the board does not really control the CEO or the Company; in RIM's case the twin CEOs are too controlling of the board and this, claims Electronista, may be why the problems that RIM has are not being fixed and why the panel that was set up for changes to be implemented, may not be able to do a thing.

Taking a Gamble

Hypocrisy from the US: surely not? We note in a Reuters item by Jim Wolf and Nicola Leske that we found on Huffington Post, that the current US Administration is helping states legalize online poker. This all rather odd as many of the online sites that handled these sorts of gambling games have been shut, with those running the sites arrested by the US for various offences concerning gambling and banking, even though the sites were not within the US so, presumably out of its jurisdiction: not if the players are in the US, is one argument used; even if they use foreign banks.

The Daily Mail reported earlier this year that the FBI had sent out warnings to users concerning some of the biggest sites, shutting down some, seizing the domain names and issuing warrants. Large sums of cash were expected to be lost by some of the players. Reuters also have some information on this and this report suggests that the sites were in the US although other reports (see below) place the companies in other countries, like Antigua and the Isle of Man which are certainly not flying the Stars and Stripes.

The last time I checked, Antigua was not part of the US, but this did not stop Uncle Sam shutting down gambling sites that were based there and prosecuting their owners we read in an item on Business & Law. Antigua and Barbuda took the matter to the World Trade Organisation which the US likes to do when it wants to get its way and sell its own goods in countries that don't always want them (thank you very much), and Antigua's legal adviser was quoted as saying, "I don't think there's another country in the world that puts people in jail for engaging in trade that's lawful under international law". Nicely put, I thought.

On VegasClick, Michael Bluejay examines the rules starting with, "There is no federal law against gambling online", and explains some of the laws that may come into play despite this lack of a law. This is interesting as this parallels an argument we have put forward several times concerning the use of special laws to regulate internet actions, when the existing laws, if properly applied, would do the job adequately. Focussing on the US he also lists a number of ways that laws have been applied and who has been prosecuted.

So why is it that, when the US has played hardball with others who were running gambling operations -- and I think more fool you if you do want to gamble -- and accused them of racketeering and money laundering, that they want to make it legal? My bet (if you excuse the pun) is that this will bring tax dollars into some of the states that run these operations. Of course, with the opposition all shut down and their owners in jail, on bail or on the run, the field is clear.

Local Items

I mentioned on Monday that I had tried to buy online what was billed as a portable photo studio. The site advertises Now with Free Shipping Worldwide in large red letters. However, the button for the country on the customer's address entry page did not have Thailand as a selection. I wrote email questioning this. On Monday evening I had a terse, one-sentence reply: "I'm sorry, we don't ship to Thailand." Worldwide commerce versus parochial Edinburgh with no apparent desire to open markets or to find out anything else about what lies over the horizon. I am not going to wish them luck: they can make their own.

In the next section I mention Maccenter who cover Apple's warranty work in Thailand. One of their offices is in the Siam Discovery centre on floor 3 near Asia Books, but it is a bit small. Up on floor 5, where Italia Print used to be, a new Maccenter office is being prepared, we would guess for opening in the new year.

AppleCare for the iPhone: Not if you are in Thailand (and several other places too)

As we have the idea of different warranties in Italy and elsewhere in mind, I am revising the item I wrote back in February on how this affects iPhone users here. . .

I had a question from a reader of the former eXtensions columns in the Bangkok Post [back in February]. He lives in Thailand and wanted to buy an iPhone. His query concerned AppleCare and if it existed here. Unlike others who ask occasional questions, he had looked hard using Google and asked at retail outlets where, experience shows, you may simply be given the answer they think you want.

While warranty work in Thailand had a suspect flavour to it several years ago, perhaps fueled more by rumour and anecdote than fact, I have found it works quite well these days. All such work for the main range of Apple products now is carried out by Maccenter. My own MacBook Pro was fixed under warranty and a new hard disk installed, while when I checked on the battery for my previous MacBook Pro, it was found to be out of the warranty period. I picked up a new battery on my next trip to San Francisco.

Other users have reported satisfactory service in the main, but some fail to remember it is not a free repair service: dropping a computer, spilling Coke and other self-created disasters are not covered under the terms of a warranty. Any warranty. If I were to move my Toshiba TV and have it fall on the floor, damage to the screen -- sad as it would be -- is not covered under the warranty.

The iPhone is different. When I spoke to one of Maccenter's owners a while back and mentioned the iPhone, he simply told me they would not touch it. As users now know, an iPhone bought in any country can only be serviced in that country, while in Thailand, the iPhone can only be serviced by the carrier, True, although other carriers (DTAC, AIS) have staff to carry out basic maintenance and simple fixes.

I experienced this late last year while an iPhone 3Gs, registered in my name, but used by a friend, was having problems with the Home Button. In we went and a young lady examined the phone for a minute or so, then said, nam -- water. The indicator had changed to red and this meant that the warranty was out of the window. As anyone who has lived in the region will confirm, humidity is quite high here: in early days of computing I lost data as a box of disks were covered in green mould. Apple later recognised this and the water test has apparently been relaxed, but of course, my friend's iPhone is now out of warranty: AppleCare could have been the answer.

Following the reader query, I began to look online at forums (not always reliable) and at the online Apple Stores. There is a link at the bottom of the page to change country. The US and UK stores offer this; not the Philippines, nor Vietnam, nor Finland (home of Nokia). Germany, France, Ireland do, as does Switzerland. So, it is not anything to do with the EU, as Finland is in the bloc [with the article above, this situation may have to change], while the Swiss are not. Hong Kong, Yes. Taiwan, No. S. Korea, No. Singapore, Yes. Malaysia, Indonesia, No.

I will not try to speculate as to why some countries offer AppleCare (this is in the online stores, remember) and some do not, but I needed to confirm by physical means. A few days later I went into one of the iStudio outlets in central Bangkok. Three staff members were having a gossip and were a little put out that I wanted to disturb them, but that is what I do. I was able to confirm that there is no AppleCare for the iPhone offered to consumers in Thailand. This is available for the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPod Classic, the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle. But not the iPhone.

Ordinary users like myself are not likely to be privy to the agreements that Apple makes with the different carriers it deals with worldwide, but the nature of this exclusion for many users throughout the world gives me a sense of dissatisfaction and a feeling that (not for the first time) Apple treats me less well as a user because of where I live.



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