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  • Newsletter Issue #499

    June 21st, 2009

    THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    It's fair to say that all of Apple's announcements at the WWDC had far-reaching impact. The price cuts on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air may portend greatly improved sales, for one. Also the skeptics will be debating whether including an SD card slot and ditching the ExpressCard interface, except for the 17-inch MacBook Pro, was a smart move. Certainly the folks who use ExpressCard devices must now feel orphaned or betrayed.

    With the iPhone 3.0 software and 3G S upgrade, the question is whether these advancements are sufficient to boost sales. Well, if there are any doubts, maybe the $99 iPhone 3G will be more than sufficient to convince customers who might otherwise have passed this product by simply because it was too expensive for them.

    Then there's Snow Leopard, and a $29 upgrade price that makes getting a copy a non-brainer. That is, of course, if you have an Intel-based Mac. But maybe it is time to replace that old PowerPC Mac or hand it off to the kids or the parents. Regardless, on last week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE. , we opted to continue exploring the impact of those WWDC announcements.

    Along for the ride was cutting-edge columnist Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine. Though it came one week later than we expected, we also took a journey into " The David Biedny Zone," where our Special Correspondent continued to express his skepticism about mobile phones, and tell you about the things other product reviewers are afraid to touch.

    You also learned about a new online meeting solution for Mac and PC users from Andrew Donnelly, of BeamYourScreen.com.

    This week on our other radio show, The Paracast, meet John Burroughs, former member of the Air Force stationed at Bentwaters Air Force Base, who was an eyewitness to strange events at Rendlesham Forest during the classic 1980 UFO incident. Also on board for this special event is Peter Robbins, co-author of "Left at East Gate." During this discussion, Burroughs will discuss the results of submitting to hypnotic regression with regard to his memories of the incident.

    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." You can get them for $14.95, each, plus shipping, and you can select from most popular sizes.

    THE LATEST iPHONE ROLLOUT SHOWS APPLE HASN'T LOST ITS MOJO

    Although the crowds weren't quite as large this weekend, it does seem as if hundreds of thousands of new iPhones were sold. AT&T along claims several hundred thousand preorders, and there were unknown numbers from Apple before the 3G S was released on Friday. By Sunday, however, the truth was out there. Steve Jobs himself, still Apple's CEO, reported over one million units sold, way ahead of analyst estimates.

    This time, Apple and its wireless carrier partners acted in an intelligent fashion. By taking preorders, they didn't force customers to wait hours in front of the store in the hope they wouldn't be too late to get a spanking new iPhone 3G S.

    For the most part, the activation issues that plagued customers last year didn't occur, although there were some instances where the final activation process seemed to take far longer than it should and Apple gave a $30 iTunes gift certificate as compensation. However, the overall number of complaints shouldn't be near as voluminous.

    When it comes to the iPhone 3.0 software update, Apple was smart enough to make it available two days earlier, to give the early adopters plenty of time to clog Apple's servers. Well, it really wasn't so bad. I downloaded my copy not five minutes after it became available, and there was no delay in retrieval. The update was uneventful for the most part.

    Since installing the new iPhone software, I've definitely seen some marked improvements, although it required a second restart for email retrieval to be fully functional. After that, I did notice that app switching was clearly snappier. More to the point, those occasional bouts of application quitting seem to have virtually stopped, but it's still early in the game.

    The promise of the new software seems mostly to be focused on those 100 new features, such as cut, copy and paste. Sure, they work pretty well. I mean getting a common point and click function to work on a touch interface was clearly no mean trick. I'm still skeptical about Apple's excuses for its delay, but no sense arguing about it anymore.

    Being able to type an email in landscape mode is also a plus, although I've gotten so used to the portrait method that I probably won't bother with the alternate technique, at least for now. Not that I'm necessarily against experimentation. When I was busy writing computer books, I was expected to know everything about about the subject and then some. Tips and tricks were supposed to fill the pages to keep the reader from getting bored.

    I'm not as deeply involved in such matters nowadays, but I don't think I've lost my curiosity or my quest for better ways to accomplish things.

    In any case, the promise of improved Safari performance has been partly realized. I can't say all sites come up noticeably faster, but some do, and the ones that would occasionally cause the application to crash no longer create that effect. I also like the ability to, at long last, store a password (rather than just have it remain in a site's cookie), which surely speeds up accessing those sites regularly. Good move, but basically that's just a feature that the Mac and PC versions of Safari already have.

    I haven't been able to give Push Notification a whirl yet. I am awaiting a new version of AIM that will sport that capability, and it should be out shortly according to my friends at AOL.

    The reviews for the iPhone 3G S show a fair amount of promise. I haven't played with one yet, but, due to an improvement in AT&T's eligibility requirements for existing customers, I should have one shortly. No, this time I wasn't going to wait online to get one. It's not as if my 3G is such a poor performer that I'm aching for something better right away, but soon.

    I am seeing one exceedingly positive development, and I suspect it is the result of Apple cutting the price on a basic 3G to $99. Up till now, the iPhone has been a luxury purchase among the various products available from wireless carriers. These days, it only costs a little bit more than a regular handset as far as upfront costs are concerned. Yes, I know about the extra cost data plan and all, but I suspect most prospective customers examine the initial purchase price and don't consider the monthly charges seriously, as long as they're affordable.

    Just a few hours before I wrote this article, I did some routine errands, and ran into a surprising number of people who sported iPhones, even the young men who were busy washing the windows of the family auto at the local car wash. I don't expect that's a high paying job, but the income was clearly sufficient to allow them to get an iPhone, and in each case it was a 3G bought since Apple cut the prices.

    This is the sort of thing that bodes well for Apple. If you thought the iPhone has been a smash hit up till now, that's clearly only the beginning. Already it appears as if the initial sales will be far higher than those analysts expected, even before the entry-level model is considered. It will be fascinating to see how Apple breaks out the numbers in their next quarterly financials.

    Combine that with the potentially positive results from the recent MacBook Pro and Mac Book Air price cuts, and there may be some really strong sales to report, far higher than previously expected.

    Oh and just one more thing: Apple won't say whether or not Steve Jobs had a liver transplant, as first reported in the Wall Street Journal, but now that he's quoted in a corporate press release, it does seem he's back. Whether or not he'll cut back on some of his duties isn't important to most Apple fans.

    LIFE AFTER THE BUNDLE

    One way for telecom and cable companies to get new customers in a saturated market is to offer a bundle. That simply means combining more than a single service, and offering you a discount for your patronage.

    At the very minimum, it may mean getting both TV and Internet service from your local cable company. That's an area where the telecoms have jumped in the fray, and the most significant entry is Verizon's FIOS service, where they actually give you an all-fiber connection right to your home. The biggest benefit of FIOS is Internet speeds of 50 megabits and more, bringing us closer to what is being offered in other countries. In turn, AT&T offers fiber to the node or network junction, and then a traditional copper cable connection to your home, but they can barely match cable Internet speeds these days.

    The ultimate bundle adds telephone service to the mix, for even more savings. However, beyond the money you might save, choosing this option usually makes sense only when the quality of all three services is superior. If one that you depend on, such as Internet performance, is subpar, the package becomes less of a bargain.

    When I first chose the Cox bundle three years ago it made perfect sense. Ahead of getting sufficient satellite capacity for large numbers of high definition TV stations, both Dish Network and DirecTV fell behind the curve. I had two local phone lines with Cox (the third was connected to an VoIP provider) and their high speed Internet service.

    After Cox's own HD offerings fell way behind satellite, particularly for the channels we watched regularly, without an early solution, I opted to return to satellite. That's why, as I said in the previous two issues, I'm using Dish Network all over again. So far the experience has been quite good, with both HD and standard definition (SD) stations showing up with picture quality superior to that offered by Cox. The only oddity encountered so far involved a chronic "Acquiring" message on the Dish VIP-722 HD DVR device, which was fixed by a simple reboot. For those who care, our signal strength is usually in the 97 range, which is regarded as more than sufficient for good reception.

    I also have begun disassembling the remaining portions of that Cox bundle. One of our two landlines has just been transferred to our current VoIP provider, ITP, which has easily passed the test for good audio, consistent connection quality and excellent customer support. The remaining phone number will get minimal options, sufficient for faxing and our home alarm system.

    Cox's Internet has been a mixed bag lately. I upgraded to their new Premier Plus service, promising up to 28 megabits downloads, but have never achieved that plateau, not once and never close to the ideal. The reason is that the neighborhood node is overcrowded, and they promise to expand capacity in the next few weeks. Well, at least they are offering liberal credits until the level of service approaches a satisfactory level.

    If there was a superior alternative, I'd take it in a heartbeat, but I doubt whether Verizon is rushing to install systems in Arizona. They are too busy expanding their systems in the states they traditionally serve. I'm also mostly optimistic that Cox will get its act together as it improves support for the new DOCSIS 3.0 cable protocol. They have already shown they can deliver over 50 megabits in other cities, and it's quite possible we'll see that here before the end of the year.

    But however Cox enhances it services, I don't expect to dump Dish Network unless they foul up real badly, and my previous experiences with them show they are quite capable of delivering satisfactory service. But again that assumes that the lawsuit over patent rights between Dish and TiVO doesn't force the former to disable its current DVR boxes. That would be a sure deal breaker, but I rather expect there will be a settlement before the cows leave through the barn door.

    If anyone cares, my feeling is that Dish's outspoken founder and CEO, Charlie Ergen, won't let his loyal customers down. At the last minute, faced with no more appeal options, he'll either license TiVO's technology or just buy the company outright.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #499”

    1. Tom Cooper says:

      I pre-ordered my iPhone and received it Friday. As of Sunday night, it is still not activated and I have spent 6 hours on the phone with tech people from Apple and AT&T. AT&T told me that others had similar problems. When I tried to activate my phone, the activation screen shows the wrong phone number. So far, nobody has fixed that. I see CNET is reporting that Apple is giving a $30 store credit to people who have had activation problems. So far, we don't know how many have had problems, but the release of the new phone has had at least three people with this problem. (Me, the person who owns the wrong number I got, and the other person that AT&T knew of.) Today, Apply acknowledged that this problem was ongoing and it could take up to two days before I get my phone activated.
      AT&T also told me that this only had occurred for people who pre-ordered the phone from Apple. I thought, wrongly as it turned out, that I would avoid a trip to the Apple store.

      Reply To This Comment

    2. @ Tom Cooper: Teach you to preorder from Apple or anyone. :)

      In any case, I hope they get this fixed. I won't buy mine till I know it'll be activated promptly.

      Peace,
      Gene

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