eXtensions - Saturday 29 July 2023

Saturday Comment: Q2 2023 Earnings this Week; Health Tech; Internet Use and Problems; TV Notes; Vision Pro Developers

By Graham K. Rogers


Apple Q3 2023 earnings this week. Twitter becomes X. Hospital surgery slowed me down and illustrated reliance on technology. Internet woes and online ordering. TV notes: Series 2 of Silo, Foundation, Invasion; Ghosn documentary; Heartstopper, Monsters Inside and The Crowded Room.

This week Apple will report its Q3 2023 earnings. With high sales of iPhones in China and more than 50% of the smartphone market in the USA, some pundits are expecting good results. Whether Apple lives up to the analysts' predictions is only known by Cupertino. However, at the end of the week, shares of Apple hit an all-time high of $196.62, before easing back a little at close ($195.95).

In the continuing destruction of Twitter, it has now been renamed X and the new icon was downloaded to my devices on Saturday with the latest update to the app. I have Threads but I am not quite ready to move over totally to that: still wait and see. Many others may be tasking the same approach as despite reaching something like 100 million downloads initially, about half have now left (MacDaily News).

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Heart rate I spent a few days in hospital last week: not cheap; but Thailand is lower-priced than the USA and medical tourism has been a thing here for a number of years. It is also clear in the wards, offices and operating theatres that technology has seen a big leap in the last few years. Electronic thermometers and machines for measuring blood pressure that synchronize with smartphones have been around for a few years, but the whole health industry has seen evolution. That is evident in the devices consumers have access to which improve measuring and the ability to evaluate data.

During my stay, the nurses cooperated willingly when I asked for temperature and blood pressure readings. The Apple Watch recorded heart rate and other inputs and the Health App did warn me that my patterns of exercise had changed. That is just the sort of input I want to help me make judgements. When I returned home, the Withings app provided input from my scales and showed a significant weight increase. I remember in 2016 meeting Dr. Milani at a medical conference in Bangkok, who told me that after surgery a weight increase caused by liquid retention was an indicator of a potential problem.

The Apple Watch that his patients used could send back data to the hospital with an installed app and if they noticed a change, the patient would be asked to attend for a consultation. In my case, my doctor (who had been one of my Engineering students - he re-entered the university) had already discussed with me the swelling in my leg, so that a weight increase was not a specific problem. I am monitoring my weight carefully and hope to see a decrease as the medication takes effect.

fiber optics

While at home I was more than usually dependent on the Internet which works fairly well most of the time. For a couple of days I just ignored it - tech that is working properly should just work and not need constant tinkering. On Thursday evening, I was looking at messages on the iPhone. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that one of the three lights on the Philips bridge connected to my WiFi router was flashing. That sometimes happens after a power cut. I then saw that a (normally) green light on the internet provider's fiber optic connection was showing red. I checked to make sure I had paid the bill and restarted the whole system a couple of times. The AIS device was still flashing red.

I was just about to contact AIS when a SMS message arrived: Your AIS Fibre No. xxxxxxxxx is currently unavailable due to fiber optic difficulties. The service is expected to be resumed normally on 28/07/2023 by 00:00:00. So for the rest of the evening I would have to rely on the Personal Hotspot, which usually works fairly well, but that means the iPad Pro rather than the larger TV. At least AIS lets users know.

Bless them, it was back by 21:00.

On the other hand, because I am having walking difficulties right now I decided to try a local chain supermarket delivery again. The last time, they delivered to the wrong building (despite having been successful before). This time, they sent a message at 15:07 - "Order HSxxxxxxxxxx is packed and ready for delivery process. Your schedule time is 2023-07-28, 14:00 - 15:00" [my underlines]. The delivery arrived at 15:47. I am glad I was not going out.

supermarket produce

With Silo just ended and Foundation series 2 now showing on AppleTV, we were told that the next series of both (2 and 3 respectively) have been put on hold due to the strikes of writers and actors in the USA (Stephen Warwick, iMore), which has also affected some awards ceremonies. There was some good news this week, however, when several sites, including Cult of Mac (David Snow) reported that Invasion series 2 is soon to arrive. "The 10-episode second season debuts with its first episode on Wednesday, August 23". The rest follow each Wednesday after.

Heart rate Two days later, Apple is scheduled to debut a mini-series on the former head of Toyota, Carlos Ghosn (Mike Wuerthele, AppleInsider) who had stood down as the CEO and was later removed from the board. He was arrested for financial crimes, but escaped to the Middle East in a box.

The series includes interviews with Ghosn and the former Green Beret, Mike Taylor, who engineered the escape. "Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn" is available from Friday 25 August. Also coming (in September) is season 3 of The Morning Show. Patently Apple (among others) outlines some information about this and includes a trailer.

Before this, over on Netflix, Series 2 of the popular Heartstopper arrives on 3 August, with a trailer already available on the Netflix site. Also on Netflix is a mini-series documentary, Monsters Inside: the 24 Faces of Billy Milligan. This is the real life character on whom The Crowded Room, with Tom Holland, over on AppleTV is based.

That finished this week: not with a bang but a well-balanced whimper. Tom Holland and the supporting cast deserve much credit for this series. It is clear that Holland put so much into the role and his decision to take a year off from acting (Chris Murphy, Variety) is hardly surprising.

The day I left the hospital I saw that Apple had released several updates to its operating systems. I updated the iPhone and iPad Pro while at the hospital. Once I had returned home and established some sort of order, I began to install the rest. As iOS 17 is not expected for at least 2 months, we could see a couple more updates to iOS 16 (now at 16.6) and macOS (13.5, Ventura) before the release of the next major version of each OS.

AirTag As I had expected, Apple is to start distributing Vision Pro headsets to developers, similar to how they did with the developer Mac mini when Apple silicon was announced. However, with the nature of the device (and the competition), there are several rules that developers must follow, particularly about access and even family members who are not involved in the developer process directly. Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac) examines the "very short leash" that Apple allows.

In addition, Oliver Haslam (Redmond Pie), notes that these developer kits will be tracked by AirTags so that Apple will know where they are at all times. A normal AirTag attachment is fairly easy to remove so Apple must have come up with some design that is impossible to remove (or will show that there has been tampering), perhaps like Customs seals on trucks, although probably more sophisticated.

Haslam's article includes a screenshot of a Tweet (X?) from Mark Gurman that includes part of the form developers must complete when applying for a Vision Pro headset: demanding, exacting, finicky.

In recent months the tech world - followed belatedly by politicians - has had several reactions to the wider availability of AI. Some have been enthusiastic about these new tools, while others are skeptical on a couple of fronts. I have already seen examples of output from my students who have used some of the tools available and I am not impressed, particularly as submitting a piece of work that has come from an unchecked online source is not their work. They have the ability to submit apparently well written work that has been checked or paraphrased by these services, but they learn nothing.

With Microsoft and Google both rushing out their responses to ChatGTP, some commentators have suggested that Apple was falling behind. You need to look at history. If a product is not ready for release, Apple will not normally release it, but when they do it works quite well: compare the rush to tablet computers and then the later release of the iPad which has higher sales than other manufacturers. The classrooms are now full of these devices. I have to fight to make students use paper for notes and writing as they always adapt to technology quickly.

iPad - out of the box

Apple announced the iPhone in January 2007. Although it looked as if the device worked faultlessly, the presentation was carefully engineered. The consumer release date was a few months down the line so that Apple could ensure that the device would work correctly in users' hands. The early announcement of Vision Pro was a little different. The hardware will probably need some more development, but what was important was that developers were aware of the device and would start to built dedicated apps for the device (see above).

With all the fanfare of AI releases and problems, Apple seems to have been working behind the scenes to develop its own "AppleGPT", Oliver Haslam (iMore) tells us. It seems that it is being used internally (at Apple) currently, "by a limited number of people who receive special access". That sounds just like the iPhone, the Apple Watch and other devices. When it is ready for the street, we will know, but not before.

Willen Lake
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes

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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