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  • Newsletter Issue #662

    August 6th, 2012

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Here’s the issue. Safari 6, now available for Mountain Lion and Lion, has loads of security fixes, designed to shore up Apple’s browser and make it more resistant to malware. But the same version isn’t being offered for users of older versions of OS X. This may impact people who have Macs who cannot run OS 10.7 or 10.8, because the hardware is incompatible, or they need to use apps that will not function with Apple’s latest and greatest OS for various reasons.

    Well, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented Paul Wagenseil, of Security News Daily, who suggested that Mac users who aren’t running Lion or Mountain Lion not use Safari unless or until Apple delivers an update. Now, in passing, it may well be that Safari 6 depends on OS features that aren’t available in Leopard or Snow Leopard. It’s also not at all certain that running an older version of Safari will present the any real risk that your Mac might be compromised. Other than the Flashback malware epidemic, which involved Oracle’s Java, there doesn’t appear to have been any problems of note that Safari users need concern themselves about.

    Yes, Paul is entitled to his position, and because of his position with a publication focused on security issues, he certainly has some authority to make that suggestion, though I think it’s going a bit too far. In any case, during his segment on the show, he also discussed security issues on the Android OS platform, where you really are best advised to use a security app to protect yourself against any potential problems. In passing, today’s Android may be very much in the same position as Windows XP a decade ago, and that is definitely not a good thing.

    Jim Dalrymple, Editor in Chief of The Loop, gave his take on predictions for Apple’s expected September media event, where the next iPhone is expected to launch, plus platform comparisons between OS X Mountain Lion and Windows 8.

    Adam Engst, from TidBITS and Take Control Books, joined Gene to talk about possible early bugs in Mountain Lion, along with a solution or two, plus possible usability issues that might arise in Windows 8.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris feature long-time researcher Kevin D. Randle. We’ll be focusing on his pointed criticisms of the recent book about the Aztec, NM incident from Scott Suzanne Ramsey, “The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon,” his response to the National Geographic TV reality show, “Chasing UFOs,” his sit-down with abductee Travis Walton, his ongoing Roswell UFO crash investigations, and a lot more stuff.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt — Now with New Design! 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, along with a redesigned storefront.

    HOW WOULD WINDOWS 8 DO ON ROTTEN TOMATOES?

    If you want to get the early buzz about a new movie from both audiences and critics, you might pay a visit to Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s name is based on the old practice of people throwing rotten tomatoes or vegetables at the stage during a bad performance, and earning a green or rotten tomato is the unkindest cut of all for a new movie.

    An especially low rating from critics may not keep the audiences away, but if the people who actually see the movie agree, you can bet it will fade fast from the multiplexes.

    Now when you look at the reviews of the public beta releases of Windows 8, you can really see that Microsoft may be in a heap of trouble. Even reviewers who tend to give Microsoft a pass are very skeptical, reminiscent of a bad Rotten Tomatoes rating. Yes, the Metro look and feel may seem attractive and responsive at first brush, but actually getting work done, and coping with the abrupt transition between Metro and a slimmed down traditional Windows interface, can be downright annoying, not to mention confusing.

    Over the years, Microsoft has been accused of simply stealing features from other companies. That charge may even apply to the interface’s name. Indeed, when Windows 8 arrives this fall, Metro may be called something else, because Metro AG, a German retailer, is objecting to the use of their name by Microsoft.

    Now Apple has never allowed nasty little things like trademarks to prevent them from using whatever name they wanted. So, even though Cisco used the iPhone trademark first, Apple simply wrote a large check, and that, as they say, was that. But it’s not at all clear whether Microsoft could get rights to the chosen name for a computer interface, or even whether Metro AG would sell it to them.

    Microsoft even has an excuse, claiming that Metro was simply a code name, and that the “real” name of the interface, whatever it is to be, will soon be announced. Says Microsoft: “We have used ‘Metro style’ as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.”

    This appears to mean that Microsoft is even now struggling to find a catchy name that isn’t already taken, and that may be difficult. When it came to Microsoft’s tablet, they simply used an existing name, Surface, which previously represented a large device from Microsoft, the size of a coffee table, which features a touch-based computer.

    Regardless of what you call it, there seems little evidence that customers are ready to rush out to buy Windows 8 when it arrives. This 2D tile interface was tried on the Zune music player, and the product failed. Even though AT&T spent a reputed $150 million to promote the Nokia Lumia 8 smartphone, with the similarly-designed Windows Phone look and feel, customers were lacking.

    So why does Microsoft believe that they’re not facing a third strike when they give the user interface formerly known as Metro another try? Consider that Microsoft is throwing billions of dollars into replacing, or partly replacing, the traditional look and feel of Windows. This risky decision comes at a time when an estimated 43.6% of PC users are still running Windows XP, first released nearly 11 years ago.

    Yes, Microsoft has an understandable dilemma, what with smartphones and tablets — lead by Apple — taking on a greater and greater percentage of the tasks that used to be the province of the PC. Rather than move in a similar Post-PC direction, Microsoft has doubled down with their vision of PC+, where the interface formerly known as Metro will be used on every computing product that runs a Microsoft OS.

    Microsoft’s biggest problem will be with the enterprise, which is only now moving to Windows 7 in larger numbers. Windows 8 is destined to fail simply because a lot of employee retraining will be required. And that’s before the issues of compatibility with a company’s workflow are considered. I suppose it is possible that consumers will take advantage of cheap upgrade prices to give Windows 8 a try, but it’s not as if people will be rushing to buy today’s largely undistinguished PCs to use the interface formerly known as Metro.

    This unfortunate state of affairs opens an even larger opportunity for Apple to jump in and sell lots of hardware. As you might have heard, when you count the iPad, Apple last quarter regained the position of the number one PC maker on Earth, ahead of HP. Add an iMac and Mac mini fall refresh, plus a possible iPad mini, and Apple could clean up the market in the remaining months of 2012 and even beyond.

    Does Microsoft have a Plan B that does not include the interface formerly known as Metro? It doesn’t seem so. Having already taken a six billion dollar bath for failing to gain traction in the search market, how will Microsoft handle yet another huge failure?

    DOES SAMSUNG NEED A NEW LEGAL TEAM?

    The news reports emerging from a certain intellectual property lawsuit involving Apple and Samsung in California don’t paint an encouraging picture of the defense. Apple appears to be making a powerful case that demonstrates that Samsung clearly copied the basic look and feel and key design elements of the iPhone and iPad.

    Apple has brought forth a powerful lineup of witnesses, including VPs Philip Schiller and Scott Forstall. The testimony has revealed an amazing amount of insight into Apple’s usually secret design process, particularly for the iPad and the iPhone, which basically derived from the iPad project. While understanding how Apple’s creative process works won’t necessarily give other companies ammunition to deliver similarly innovative designs, it is very clear that Samsung is having a really hard time poking holes in Apple’s presentation. Sometimes it seems desperate.

    But the biggest problem Samsung has to overcome can simply be portrayed by photos of their smartphones before the iPhone arrived and after. In 2006, a Samsung smartphone very much resembled a BlackBerry. You almost wonder why Research In Motion didn’t sue. But after the iPhone arrived in 2007, Samsung’s engineers began to abandon smartphones with physical keyboards, and came up with an endless procession of what comes across as iPhone also-rans. This cause and effect situation doesn’t look so good when Samsung protests that Apple’s inventions are generic and obvious.

    Samsung’s attempted counter-arguments haven’t gone well. They tried to use the 1968 sci-fi movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” as evidence of early realizations of the tablet concept. The judge said no. But why not “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” where Captain Picard regularly used a handheld computing device that also fits the tablet description? I suppose one reason is that these gadgets were just movie props, not actual functioning computers. Samsung even tried to produce the Bang & Olufsen Serene phone, which they built, as possible evidence that Apple stole something from them.

    But, during his testimony, Forstall reminded Samsung’s lawyers that Apple has never built a product or prototype with a clickwheel-style number pad. That is the one key feature of the Serene, a product that’s no longer produced and, when it was available, had questionable success. You’d think Samsung’s lawyers would have done real research in search of ammunition rather than grasp for straws. Or maybe that’s all they have.

    Of course, the trial isn’t over, and it’s always possible Samsung will pull a few rabbits out of their hats to successfully counter Apple’s slick and compelling presentation. But it is not going to happen with smoke and mirrors, and pathetic attempts to change the subject.

    This doesn’t mean that Samsung will necessarily be ordered to pay Apple billions of dollars for patent infringement. But maybe they should start figuring out how much it’ll take to settle this case. Yes, they already had that opportunity, but Samsung’s CEO couldn’t come to an agreement with Apple’s CEO.

    You also have to wonder why Google has yet to file a friend of the court brief, or show up to defend the world’s largest Android OS licensee. Maybe Google hasn’t seen handwriting on the wall. Perhaps they are hoping that Apple might, at best, achieve a hollow victory, a small amount of money that won’t block Samsung’s allegedly infringing products from the market once the case is over.

    Or will the verdict simply force Google’s hand? I suppose changes can be made in Android that would differ more from the iOS. Maybe they could dump those familiar icons for a collection of flat tiles that seem to spread across the screen. Instead of Metro, they could call it Underground or Subway.

    No, that wouldn’t be such a good idea either.

    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: Sharon Jarvis



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    5 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #662”

    1. Nick says:

      There is one aspect of the debate about a 7″ iPad that no one yet has commented on and that is the use of it in cars. The iPhone screen is too small and the iPad is too unwieldy to integrate with dashboards. Maybe 7″ is the sweet spot…

    2. Kaleberg says:

      Now and then Apple does back down on trademarks. For example, the name of Apple’s local network discovery protocol, Rendezvous, was changed to Bonjour. Of course, they don’t back down on anything important, but this was considered too minor to worry about.

    3. Ron says:

      Easy on the hyperbole.

      There are no significant revelations about Apple’s creative process coming from the trial that were not previously detailed in the Lashinsky or Isaacson books or Jony Ive interviews.

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