eXtensions - Tuesday 2 May 2017
Cassandra: Tomorrow Q2 2017, Security Problems - a Fix for Mac Users, a Gasp for Intel users (except those with Macs)
By Graham K. Rogers
As a reminder, Apple's guidance has revenue for the quarter at between $51 - $53 billion. The announcement will be at around 5am here and I will be asleep.
Wall Street cannot abide the thought of several billions of dollars just sitting in Tim Cook's vaults doing nothing, which suggests a failure of imagination on their part. Apple invests and reinvests the money, depending on where it is (Ireland, China, Singapore) and what the company needs to purchase: materials, companies. The idea that the cash is stagnant is wrong.
It might be put to better use for shareholders if some could be repatriated and this has been a bone of contention for a long time, with the US tax man as desperate as Walls Street to take Apple's money away and its masters in the Senate and Congress complaining when Apple uses the laws Congress wrote to protect their friends. As Tim Cook explained to a patronising Sen McCain, Apple sticks to the laws on taxation as they exist. Change them and we will comply.
In a month, those invited will be off to San Jose for the WWDC. I am not expecting to go this year. As I am no longer writing for the Bangkok Post what would be the point for Apple to invite me? I am realistic enough to understand this, so will follow as closely as I can from afar.
To be fair, Siri does not work well for me and often misunderstands what I have requested; and I did see an accidental activation when someone from Apple was outlining the iPhone 7 when it was new and said, "If I say, Hey Siri, Phone mother. . ." at which point she stopped and frantically tried to stop a phone call going through to Singapore. I was actually impressed. Amused too, but impressed.
I was a little incredulous at this and dropped a note to someone I know at Apple. I am now ensured that this will be passed to those who need to know so that the situation can be monitored. A word in the right ear might be needed as the suggestion that users, sellers or those installing would have to register may cause some unease.
Dire problems were predicted, but the hoops a user had to jump through to make this go live were such that most of us would be OK. It was a phishing attack that needed a ZIP file opened: and for me it would already be in the trash. It has been fixed by Apple, Glenn Fleishman (Macworld) reports.
The article explains how it was discovered, what it does and how Intel buried their corporate heads in the sand but have now issued an advisory notice. They will update firmware, but Charlie Demerjian examines this (the site may be slow - patience) and suggests that, with older machines and certain box makers, this may not happen and the vulnerabilities are putting thousands of users at risk.
I picked this up in a direct message on Twitter and it was pointed out to me that Apple computers seem to be less at risk. While the article (above) does not cover this, I was told that this was mentioned by The Register. As I rarely read this nowadays with its puerile and smarmy attacks on Apple whenever possible, the mere fact that the Register (Chris Williams) backs Apple gives this some credence.
He writes that "if you're using a machine with vPro and AMT features enabled, you are at risk", adding, "Modern Apple Macs, although they use Intel chips, do not ship with the AMT software, and are thus in the clear." The article, like the original by Demerjian is a little complex but really is worth working through.
The implications here for Intel are not clear, although I would not be surprised to see a fall in the price of its shares: a vulnerability is one thing, denying and concealing it is a whole different matter. And if some companies have lost data, or otherwise been put at risk, there could be grounds for litigation, especially as they had been told over and over and in Demerjian's words, "disagreed" with the expert analysis. Not laughing now, I wager.
Of course, I can pull my "get a Mac" comment with my students this week, but in all seriousness, Apple will have to consider their position too and this may be the push that they need (I know several will be hoping for this) to make the move to ARM chips: its in-house designed A-series. They might also consider AMD as that company had some setbacks this week with lower server chip sales and the share price is a bit lower, perhaps making it a soft target. Not as low as Intel might go, however. . .
What they have down there currently are resellers in the same mode as the iStudio stores in Thailand, which are closely linked to an older distribution system that may not be in the best interests of the customer or Apple. While Apple has some influence in Singapore with its long-time links there, the idea of having a real Apple shop in Bangkok, although it has been floated many times as a wish item by consumers here, may never get off the ground.
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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