THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
While Microsoft searches for a workable strategy, Apple clearly has one. And the deal with IBM only extends the presence of an iPhone and an iPad in the enterprise. It's the closest thing you can get to official business approval of Apple's iOS gear.
Indeed, on this week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we talked about the landmark marketing and services deal between Apple and IBM. Is this just another failed initiative between the two companies, or a venture that will not just confirm Apple's cred in the enterprise, but sell lots of iPhones and iPods? You also heard our fearless views about Microsoft's announced bloodletting, where 18,000 employees will be fired in the coming months, and the potential impact to the company. After the pink slips are issued, what will Microsoft do to fix what's wrong with the company?
Joining us to talk about these and other topics were: Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer, and Jonny Evans, Computerworld's "Apple Holic," You also heard discussions about the newest member of Apple's board of directors, insights into Tim Cook's Apple, the rumored iWatch, and what we might expect when Apple releases their financials for the June 2014 quarter.
Now, just days away from Apple's meeting with financial analysts to talk about their June quarter numbers, I'm not really going to make any projections. With Samsung's ongoing problems in the smartphone space, people are looking to Apple once again for answers. Will the numbers point in the right direction, give hints to the future, or just represent an average result that demonstrates nothing?
But at a time when the price for ads on Google is declining, despite growing revenue, I wonder why the financial community isn't seeing the potential for trouble with that company's financial model. They won't suddenly gain huge riches from Google Glass, and the Nest thermostats and smoke alarms aren't going to suddenly bring in enough revenues to make the ads less relevant. And what about the TV strategy du jour? Aren't tech pundits going to wonder when a viable game plan, other than a $39 TV streaming appliance, is going to be presented? Evidently not.
On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present James Carrion, a former Director of MUFON and author of a new book about what is called "The Greatest Deception in History." "The Rosetta Deception" is a fascinating piece of detective work explaining how "a master group of magicians" found ways to, among other things, unearth Soviet spies in the U.S. But it doesn't stop there. What about the early UFO cases, such as the Ghost Rockets, and were they real events, or the products of a carefully crafted program of deception and disinformation? And do such activities continue to the present day, and how do they impact research into UFOs?
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We're taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: "Separating Signal From Noise." We've also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.
WRITING ABOUT APPLE IN IGNORANCE
The other day I read an article at a major newspaper's site about ways to extend battery life on a mobile device. When the iPhone was mentioned, I paid attention, and the suggestion to reduce brightness made sense. After all, the display consumes a hefty portion of power, and a dimmer screen, if you can tolerate it, will keep the battery running longer before current peters out.
But when I read the directions on how to change the brightness, I wanted to scream "Control Center" loud and often. You see, the writer in question, who hosts a weekend PC-oriented talk show, was either resurrecting an old advice article, or was simply ignorant of how things changed in iOS 7.
Inasmuch as some 90% of iOS users have upgraded to the newest iOS version, why repeat the slightly indirect process of going to Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness to make that change? What about a single swipe from the bottom of the screen to get instant access via Control Center? Why take the roundabout route?
Worse, the columnist somehow confused locking the screen with actually shutting down an iPhone in recommending that the Auto-Lock interval be shortened to save power. Curious indeed. Worse, iOS 7 was specifically mentioned through the article, so I wondered how the silly mistakes could be made unless the writer is, in fact, totally ignorant about the subject.
Yet another article from this columnist recommended one of the commercial malware detection and repair apps to deal with possible security problems on the Mac platform. Forgotten was the fact that most of the malware issues on Macs have been the result of using older versions of Java. After some embarrassment over the late response to the Flashback outbreak, Apple took proactive steps to switch off Java in Safari, enforce upgrades to the latest version from Oracle and block the malware.
All this can be done without buying anyone's security app.
To be fair, I wouldn't presume to suggest that the article was written at the suggestion of the security company mentioned. But it was curious that other apps from other companies weren't discussed.
While I have tried some of these security apps for review from time to time, I don't actually use one in my day-to-day use of a Mac. But I do make sure I'm running the very latest version of OS X to take advantage of the latest security fixes. And just the other day, I received an upgrade notice about Java — I use the Oracle build — and made sure it was promptly installed. Earlier this week, I received a notice that a new version of Adobe Flash was available, and I took care of that as well.
Potential security problems on a Mac are often solved simply by being careful about clicking links in email or checking out obscure sites at random and not paying attention to the potential warning signs. This doesn't mean security software should be avoided. If you work in an office, the IT admins may have enforced a policy of installing one of those apps on Macs too. Maybe Macs won't catch a virus, but the best of the breed will also eliminate Windows malware, so you won't accidentally pass along something to your friend or colleague who is still using a Windows PC. Nothing wrong with that.
Of course, the largest amount of ignorant commentary about Apple comes from tech and financial pundits who should know better. They repeat old and unproven memes about the company, and cannot seem to understand what's really going on. There is no historical perspective. You wonder why some of them won't do actual research.
So those who criticize the Apple/IBM deal will remind you that IBM was the opposition in the 1980s, but they forget the AIM (Apple/IBM/Motorola) alliance that produced the PowerPC. This was, for a number of years, quite a successful deal that really boosted performance on Macs. Only when development of the chips for Macs stagnated in favor of embedded devices did Steve Jobs look for a better solution — the off-the-shelf chips from Intel.
The current agreement between Apple and IBM is more about the latter selling the former, along with building apps for the enterprise. Since Apple has already taken steps to make iOS business friendly, it's a natural outgrowth. The real impact, however, will be to BlackBerry, which continues to lose its status as an executive plaything. But Google is going to have more troubles than ever making Android an alternative choice for business use.
And what about Microsoft? The company continues to struggle to find a strategy going forward, and will probably be overwhelmed with getting the corporate bloodletting out of the way for a while. Microsoft can no doubt make a case to adopt Windows Phone, but it's also true that Office came to the iPad first.
Clearly, we won't be able to judge the ultimate success of the Apple/IBM deal for a year or two. But it's not something hatched out of desperation or without careful planning. Besides, despite what one hysterical pundit suggests, Apple is able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
WAITING FOR GIGABIT INTERNET?
So the other day I noticed a sticker attached to a copy of the local paper, the Arizona Republic, touting "Gig Life" from Cox. The sticker listed a site where I could sign up to get an early alert about the arrival of Cox's gigabit Internet service, which is expected to hit the Phoenix metropolitan area this fall. The initial rollout also includes Omaha and Las Vegas.
By the end of 2016, Cox expects to launch gigabit service in all of their covered areas, which makes the closely-held cable and broadband provider the third company to push high performance Internet in the U.S. The others are Google and AT&T.
Now you can bet Cox will be extolling super speed Internet to the skies. They are already touting speeds up to 100 times faster than current offerings, but that merely assumes an average download speed of 10 megabits, which is pretty basic as broadband offerings go. What's more, the price of the service was yet to be announced. Right now, Cox's highest tier in the Phoenix area is Ultimate, offering up to 150 megabit downloads at $99.99 per month (they presently have a $79.99 per month offer for new customers for the first 12 months).
According to Cox, the two lesser packages are the most popular: The $62.99 Prefered service, promising 25 megabits, and the $73.99 Premier, promising 50 megabits. These two are also eligible for lower prices for the first year. In passing, it's curious there's no linear relationship between price and speed, except that these two lesser tiers will offer doubled speeds at no increase in price once Gig Life is available. But I still expect the price of gigabit will be higher than Ultimate, perhaps $150 or so, which may be a bit much for most people despite the undeniable performance advantages.
To be sure, getting faster Internet is a good thing if you can afford the price of admission. I'm currently using CenturyLink's 40 megabit DSL service, which offers 20 megabit uploads. But my neighborhood appears to have better equipment, since the actual uploads are closer to 50 megabits. I also have an extra-cost static IP number, which is useful for accessing my web servers. But the monthly bill is still less than $38 because of various incentives to keep me as a customer. Once those incentives expire, I'll have to rethink my options.
As with most ISPs, you get lower prices if you bundle, but in my neighborhood CenturyLink offers an expensive landline phone service and merely resells DirecTV; they offer a Prism TV service elsewhere in their coverage area.
In a sense, I'm lucky. I realize that most of you live in areas where there may be only one broadband provider, and the price is apt to be higher than I pay for far slower speeds. If you live in a rural area, you may also be saddled with satellite as the only choice. Prices may be affordable, but upload speeds and latency will be big issues. The latter makes online voice chats somewhat inconvenient, not to mention the initial wait for a site to load.
I haven't even considered the bandwidth cap. Cox is offering up to 450GB depending on the package. This may be sufficient for 150 megabits downloads, but definitely not for gigabit where customers are being encouraged to take advantage of the ability to "download an HD movie in less than 60 seconds."
In contrast, CenturyLink's cap is 250GB, but they claim it's only for downloads, so supposedly I can upload with abandon and not hit those limits. But I suspect I've already come close anyway due to recent email upgrades that involved downloading and uploading tons of data, not to mention those OS X Yosemite developer releases from Apple.
In the current cord-cutting environment, however, you wonder how ISPs will handle those limits going forward. If a streaming service, such as Netflix, were to make a deal with an ISP, as they've done with Comcast, presumably your binge watching won't count against your bandwidth cap. How could it be otherwise?
Now I'm really looking forward to the promised arrival of gigabit Internet in Phoenix. I also wonder how CenturyLink can respond, since they are still relying mostly on old fashioned copper wires to hook up their services to your home. They claim to be working on 100 megabits, but Cox will soon overwhelm them unless the prices are too high.
By the way, Cox is also promising to launch a Metro Wi-Fi service, which will offer broadband at restaurants and shopping malls. In any case, the dream of instant online access, or near instant, regardless of the amount of stuff you want to download, is coming ever closer, at least for those of you lucky enough to live in the right city at the right time.
That is, if you can afford it.
THE FINAL WORD
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