eXtensions - Tuesday 16 March 2021
Tuesday Notes: Industrial Espionage at Apple; AI at Facebook; EVs and Apple (Updated - caption correction)
By Graham K. Rogers
New Apple products - M1 Macs: secrets until announced - Image courtesy of Apple
In some situations, like a pre-release view of a version of OS X, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), while with other product releases, such as iPhones that were lent to me, there was an embargo. Ignore at your peril. One famous source did. Once. They never had another invitation and are still bitter years later. There was some pragmatism with the embargo however. I was allowed to use it openly in the street, or at work where smart students would see I had something new. They could look, but no information was to be put in a public forum or similarly shared.
I kept to that and while writing my columns, reaped the rewards, which included several trips to the USA: know which side of your bread is buttered. I guess, according to the information about Simon Lancaster and his alleged use of Apple's information, he saw a different side to the slice of bread, and his priority sounds as if it was centered on leaving Apple, setting up a new venture and taking as much out of the previous job as possible.
Several of the articles have the PDF of the court filing and I read through that. Although Lancaster is named, the person with whom he communicated his privileged information is only ever referred to as the Correspondent. A point made in the report by Joe Wituschek, (iMore) is that some of the contact was discovered because Lancaster used an employee device. He also attended at least one meeting that he was not listed for and had to be told to leave, although by that time he had more important information. As he was leaving, he managed also to download lots and lots of files almost as if he wanted to be caught. While reading I was reminded of Crime and Punishment, the great Dostoevsky novel, in which the murderer, Raskolnikov, keeps putting himself in direct view of the investigator, Porfiry, which leads inevitably to his interest and the subsequent conviction.
None of the articles I read made any comment about why the Correspondent, who used information from Lancaster to write published articles, is unnamed; nor about who this might be. Not naming this person might be because he or she could be a witness, or a defendant in future litigation. I tried to use some of the breadcrumbs in the articles to bring up a potential Correspondent, but may need to dig further, although there are one or two names at the back of my mind.
New Apple products - iPhone 12: a secret until announced - Image courtesy of Apple
I tend to ignore much speculation as the articles seem little more than click-bait: Apple will do this or that; or even, Apple must do this. Perhaps the most notorious example was from Trip Chowdry who wrote that if it did announce a Watch within 6 weeks, Apple would be doomed. With that a career was demoted to an eternal footnote although it is worth looking him up for entertainment value. One comment on a forum questioned what it was that he was smoking, "I've heard this guy speak on conference calls - and I'm frequently shocked by what he comes up with. But the most recent takes the biscuit, hits the ball out of the park in terms of non-sensical, over-ambitious, total inane rubbish - from a WALL STREET ANALYST."
Apple Watch 6 - Not doomed just yet
With that positive speculation, and bearing in mind the comments of Katy Hubert, above, another report, as outlined by Tyler Lee (ÜberGizmo), from Nikkei now has a negative look at the anticipated MacBook Pro releases. Delayed they say. We shall see, say I. The site has a habit, it seems to me, of throwing out a couple of wild speculative articles on Apple, then seasoning that with just enough negatives to throw doubt on the ability of the company. This doubt worries Wall Street analysts and selling off shares may happen. Then when the product, or a new idea is announced, share prices rise and everyone is happy, especially those who bought at a lower price. This is why I tend to ignore most speculation, especially from sources like Nikkei as they do not have access to Apple's entire supply chain so may not have the full picture.
Other analysts see Apple in a rosier light these days, especially now that Mac sales have grow with the enforced move to work at home, but the arrival of the M-series chips, with much more to come has also improved the chances of increased sales. I still have the MacBook Air I bought last June along with a Mac mini of a few years which just keeps going, but the MacBook Pro with the M1 chip is delightful. Barclays, as reported by Joe Rossignol (MacRumors) expect Apple to report record Mac shipments in the 2021.
Keeping with the rumor mill, another report that also has some potential, particularly with the purchase in mid-2019 by Apple of the Intel modem unit that was having problems. A new Apple 5G modem rumor, as reported by Joe Rossignol (MacRumors) suggests that a custom-designed 5G cellular modem will likely debut in all iPhone models in the future. Apple must have done the work to make the Intel modem chip work.
Car in a Bangkok Street - Edited in Paper Camera app
This week, Harley Davidson announced a new appointment to oversee its electric motorcycles (Micah Toll, Electrek). Ryan Morrisey will be its first ever chief electric vehicle officer. Over at Rivian, the company announced that every buyer of a vehicle will have a personal guide who will serve as a single point of contact and who will be able to put the user in contact with a company specialist.
I have worried about Facebook and Google for a while now because of the way they harness user data. I use these companies as examples in my Morals and Ethics classes. The way Cambridge Analytica used Facebook user data to target political ads was a line that should not have been crossed. Google also targets ads, but these are for products and services. In the light of the way advertising uses our data, it was interesting to see warnings about the way AI is being harnessed to provide disinformation. This can change people's opinions on subjects like vaccination, or has been used in some countries to sway opinions about responsibility for acts. This week a couple of articles on this came my way: by Mathew Ingram (Columbia Journalism Review); and Karen Hao (MIT Technology Review).
The former has a deep look at how AI algorithms are being weaponize through the eyes of a number of experts in the field. There are also some related links. The other item focuses on the work of Joaquin Quiñonero Candela who was in part responsible for Facebook's position as an AI powerhouse after its Cambridge Analytica problems. However, "The algorithms that underpin Facebook's business weren't created to filter out what was false or inflammatory; they were designed to make people share and engage with as much content as possible by showing them things they were most likely to be outraged or titillated by."
An additional comment, again worth reading, and closely related to the difficulties with Facebook, comes from the respected Tim O'Reilly (MIT Technology Review). He wants the companies to shift from using our data to manipulate us, which enhances their market power, towards the use of such data to provide benefits for users
Apple Maps for Bangkok showing ice factory in the middle of the River
I agree. I would prefer to know the right way of pronouncing the products I use. I changed the way I say Gouda (the cheese) years ago after I heard a Dutch friend pronounce it. And why would make Brie sound like Bry? I take great pains to ensure that I pronounce various foreign words correctly when I am teaching; and the BBC also has a specialist department helping those who read the news use the correct pronunciations for names and locations in broadcasts.
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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