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    DOWNLOAD — GCN Version: We present noted industry analyst Stephen Baker, Vice President for Industry Analysis at the NPD Group. He provides an extensive discussion about the arrival of 4K TVs, their success so far in the marketplace, Will enhanced color features, such as the Ultra HD Premium standard, continue to push sales? What about the lack of 4K content? Stephen also discusses flattening sales of iPhones and other smartphones, and whether one key reason is the longer upgrade cycle?

    We also present commentator and talk show host Kirk McElhearn, also known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy.” He offers a change-of-pace discussion about the technology of dealing with autoimmune diseases. The discussion moves to why iPad sales are falling, and have fallen for several years. Is it much, again, about the fact that people who buy them see no reason to upgrade? Kirk goes to explain that the older iPad actually works fine other than some possible performance issues with games and other software. He also cites an article, from tech columnist Jason Snell, about the rise of Chromebooks against iPads in budget-conscious school systems. And what about competition from cheap competitors, such as a $50 tablet from Amazon? What about Apple buying BMW? Are we serious?

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    Newsletter Issue #845: Is Apple Losing Its Ability to Make Us Upgrade?

    February 8th, 2016

    On occasion, I’ve read articles suggesting that Apple deliberately wants to make its gear obsolete, as soon as possible, so you’ll rush to buy the latest and greatest. Certainly the upgrade cycle is an important way of doing business. A company cannot always depend on attracting enough new customers, but selling more gear to existing customers — or services — keeps the business going in grand style.

    Now with Apple, the upgrade message has been mixed. If you have an older Mac, from 2007 to 2009, you can still install OS X El Capitan and get pretty decent performance. There are some hardware features that won’t work, such as Metal graphics support, and we already knew that the Handoff feature of Continuity was a non-starter on older hardware. It’s not that Apple will hold back new features because older gear, long out of warranty, isn’t supported. That equipment still otherwise works, however, which is a change.

    The same holds true for the iPhone and the iPad. iOS 9 supports the same gear as iOS 8. Not with the same features, and I wouldn’t shout about performance with the oldest models. But it does show in unusual commitment, although some might suggest that tepid performance may force customers to replace their iPhones, if that’s the hope.

    Continue Reading…

    The OS Update Dilemma

    February 5th, 2016

    Editor’s Note: I missed a few deadlines due to a nasty flu virus, so I’m playing catch up. I’ve got lots to write about, though, so stay tuned.

    Now we know that Windows 10’s upgrade pace has been  slow but steady. Sure, Microsoft claims that over 200 million PCs were upgraded as of January. It sounds like a huge figure, but don’t forget that the Windows user base is 1.5 billion. So it’s not nearly as compelling as you might think.

    It’s not that Microsoft isn’t doing everything possible to push updates. It’s free for consumers, at least until the time when it won’t be. They even downloaded the installer in the background on an unknown number of PCs, without your permission, so you’d take the hint. More recently, they claimed that many PC buyers of equipment with the new Intel Skylake chips must use Windows 10 for full compatibility even if they prefer Windows 7 or, perish forbid, Windows 8/8.1. But they’ve also distributed a list of products that can escape that requirement.

    Continue Reading...

    So Was the iPhone 6s Refresh Not Compelling Enough?

    February 2nd, 2016

    That Apple sold over 13 million new iPhones the first week the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus went on sale last September seemed promising enough. It fed the expectation of continued rapid sales growth for the iPhone. But after the needs of the early adopters were met, it appears that sales growth has stalled. The iPhone barely grew in the December quarter and sales are fated to fall in the current quarter.

    So was something wrong with the iPhone refresh? Was it not significant enough?

    That’s one argument, but it doesn’t hold up so well. You see, Apple has upgraded the iPhone on an alternate-year basis since the beginning. One year, it’s the same case design with new hardware features, and the following year the case is changed. In the case of the former, the critics routinely claim that, since it looks the same, an iPhone refresh isn’t refreshed enough regardless of what’s changed.

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    Newsletter Issue #844: The Nature of Getting TV Right

    February 1st, 2016

    Apple is interested in the living room. Apple wants to conquer the living room. That appears obvious from what Tim Cook has said on the subject. As soon as Apple expresses interest in anything, you know that loads of money are being poured into development for — well, something or other. But what that something might be has been the subject of plenty of guessing, and only one product has been released, at least so far.

    When the late Steve Jobs boasted of having cracked the secret of the best TV interface ever, an Apple “Smart” TV set was widely expected, and expected. But it never arrived despite the rumors of prototypes and possible configurations. Eventually stories appeared that Apple decided to give it all up. All this about something whose existence had never been confirmed in the first place.

    So just how was Apple planning to conquer the living room? Just another Apple TV? Well, that may have seemed the case in light of the release of the fourth generation model last fall. But in large part, Apple seemed to be playing mostly catch up with a more expensive product. So there were apps, and there was voice command, courtesy of Siri. But that wasn’t especially unique. What’s more, two other streamers, the Amazon Fire TV and Roku 4, supported 4K video. But not Apple.

    Continue Reading…