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  • Newsletter Issue #666

    September 3rd, 2012

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    So can it possibly be true that Apple’s victory against Samsung in a California Federal courtroom will somehow hurt innovation in the smartphone business? Well, I suppose if you equate the word innovation with imitation, the answer is yes. But if handset makers are forced to find workarounds to avoid stepping on Apple’s toes, it’s quite possible they will, in turn, try to actually invent something rather than run their copying machines overtime. The smartphone market will benefit, assuming the efforts at innovation are actually meaningful. I suppose we’ll see in the next few months.

    Meanwhile, there’s a published report that Apple CEO Tim Cook is talking with Google CEO Larry Page about all those lingering patent issues. Now talking doesn’t mean some agreement will come anytime soon, but a few phone conversations carries a much lower price tag than paying high-priced lawyers to fight it out in the courts. Sure, Cook’s hourly wage is probably more than any of those lawyers get in a week, but it’s still a more efficient use of his time. But that assumes, of course, that something comes of it. Perhaps Google has, in the wake of the Samsung verdict, come to realize that they need to play nice with Apple. I’ll have more to say on this subject in the next article.

    Meantime, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, cutting edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, presents detailed comments about the fallout from the Apple/Samsung trial, where Apple was awarded over a billion dollars.

    Michael Prospero, Reviews Editor for Laptop magazine, talks about some of the latest developments in Windows 8 tablet-oriented computers and smartphones, and also covers the results of the Apple/Samsung trial.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a special roundtable discussion covering one of the most important on-going cases of location-specific phenomenal events on record: The Uintah Basin/Sherman Ranch (Skinwalker Ranch) case. This episode will feature new information and up-to-date analyses of these enigmatic events that continues to baffle scientists and researchers of paranormal events. UFOs, crypto-creatures, cattle mutilations, portals, native legends, a shadowy billionaire, melted dogs and rumors of fire-fights with aliens. Our guests include investigators David Weatherly and Ryan Skinner. We’ll also present “Chip,” a Sherman Ranch insider, who will offer exclusive details.

    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.

    CAN APPLE MAKE UP WITH ITS ENEMIES?

    According to published reports, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Larry Page are talking. But it’s probably not about exchanging family recipes or the state of the election campaign in the U.S. Most likely, Cook and Page are trying to come to some sort of agreement to stop the patent lawsuit mess that is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees for tech companies around the world.

    Yes, Apple beat Samsung in a California courtroom. But, aside from the possible loss of face, it’s not going to put Samsung out of business, or even hurt the company’s revenue potential all that much. Sure, I suppose Samsung phones may lose popularity for a short time, and it has been reported that lots of people are selling them to dealers who buy up smartphones and other gear.

    No doubt the arrival of the iPhone 5 — or whatever Apple chooses to call it — will boost the company’s share of the smartphone market. There won’t be so much talk about the next Galaxy handset for a while. But Samsung didn’t become a major manufacturing conglomerate by accepting failure.

    No doubt there will be more updated models that are designed to work around Apple’s patents in one way or another, such as avoiding the iOS bounceback effect. The curves and rectangles will have a less obvious resemblance to an iPhone or an iPad. Samsung knows how to imitate, and that’s how they become a major presence in the tech business.

    In fact, the other day I read a piece about Samsung indicating the scope of the company’s worldwide operations, which include making the tech gear most of you are familiar with, appliances, and lots of other merchandise. In fact, it’s hard to find something that’s not built by one of Samsung’s sprawling divisions. In large part, however, Samsung rode to the top of the tech business by basically imitating existing products, such as flat panel TVs, making them more affordable, and producing new models faster than most any other company. No wonder Sony is a shadow of its former self.

    So when Samsung decided to build Android smartphones and tablets that closely resembled the iPhone and the iPad, that was business as usual. But this time, they confronted unexpectedly (to them) strong opposition for doing what they’ve always done. They went ahead without considering that Apple might win in the court. Besides, there are always workarounds in the hopper ready to be released as soon as the alleged infringing products are ordered off the market.

    It’s true that Apple has tried to negotiate with Samsung. It happened twice under the order of Federal Judge Lucy Koh in an effort to reach a settlement before the case went to the jury. Certainly, the details of those negotiations are secret, unless Samsung opts to disclose something, and the court isn’t going to take too kindly to that maneuver.

    But flush with a surprisingly robust victory, Apple is busy adding more gear to the endangered gadgets list. Samsung is busy making excuses as to how such lawsuits are restricting customer choice, as if choosing between a real and a faux iPhone or iPad somehow gives the customer more choice.

    On the other hand, Apple buys billions of dollars of components from another Samsung division. You’d think that factor alone would be sufficient to force a settlement. Yes, the divisions may be run separately, but there is a way out for Samsung, and that’s some sort of sensible cross-licensing deal and perhaps showing a little more creativity in building tech gear.

    Surely among the tens of thousands of Samsung employees, there are many who have creative sparks that, if encouraged by management, could build something that is unique, compelling, and won’t infringe on someone else’s intellectual property. Or perhaps Samsung will look closer at expanding the Windows Phone lineup. The forthcoming Windows Phone 8 is getting good advance buzz, and perhaps with a reasonable marketing push, Samsung might be able to replace Android handsets with gear that won’t set Apple’s lawyers rushing to file briefs.

    And it’s not that Apple is against making settlements with competitors. They already have cross-licensing deals in place with Microsoft, Nokia, and other companies. So why not Samsung and, in fact, Google? I’m sure customers would rather read about the latest and greatest gadgets rather than the contents of someone’s latest legal brief complaining about possible patent infringement. It’s not as if the shortcomings of the patent laws around the world are going to change anytime soon.

    A MEMO TO APPLE ABOUT USABILITY

    Dear Tim,

    I realize that you will sell tens of millions of copies of the next iPhone this year. You might even exceed the estimates of financial analysts, and make more record profits for Apple. That’s wonderful, but I wonder about a few things.

    What about fixing some of the tiny ills that inflict the iOS and OS X while you’re at it?

    Take, for example, the way the proximity sensor works on an iPhone. So the screen and touch capability shut down when you bring the iPhone to your head to make or receive a call. It works pretty well, although I had problems with the iPhone 4. However, what about the consequences of putting it in your pocket? As it is shaken but not stirred in your pocket as you go about your business, the iPhone will come into contact with the wallet and the material of your pocket. All right, that’s normal.

    But what about those actions causing an email to be tapped, and a reply containing gibberish being prepared. A few random taps is enough, so when I take my iPhone 4s out of my pocket, I have to delete the bogus message before I go about my business checking email, or launching some other app.

    Yes, I could get a case that shields the cover, but I expect that millions of iPhone users made the same choice I did, so they use bumper cases or other accessories that cover the sides, perhaps the back, but not the face. Can’t a proximity detector be made sensitive enough not to confuse leather and cloth with your hand? Well, maybe Apple is considering the possibility you might wear gloves in cold weather, and still want to use the iPhone without taking them off.

    Sure, it’s possible to lock your iPhone, so it will not sense random taps until unlocked. It may add one step to the process of restoring it to operation, except for answering a call or taking a picture. You can even shorten the Auto-Lock interval to compensate. But if you frequently insert and remove the unit from your pocket, this extra step can get old real fast.

    All right, it’s a minor quibble. But isn’t Apple the company that sweats the details, so maybe they can sweat this one.

    Also consider how Safari bookmarks are handled on an iOS device. If you select a site from a bookmark, and return to choose another, for a brief time, the list will be in same position as the previously-selected entry. But after a few minutes, the bookmarks management seems to forget that location, so you end up having to scroll the list from scratch, even if the site you want is listed right next to the one you just visited.

    All right, that’s another tiny quibble.

    In iPhone 6, the Phone app receives a few tweaks for handling an incoming call, such as having the option to Answer, Decline, Reply with Message, or Remind Me Later. But what happens if you miss the call, or lose the connection? Certainly either can happen, and no wireless carrier is reliable enough not to occasionally drop a call. So what about a Redial button?

    Actually, there is a “secret” Redial function. If you tap Call from the keypad, you’ll see the number you just dialed. Tap again and that number is dialed. Two steps for a hidden process that can be easily addressed with another button. Or did I miss something?

    Worse, the existing Redial feature only works with numbers you actually dialed. If you just selected a name or number from the Recents list, the redial function won’t store it. It will still only recall numbers that were physically dialed from the keypad.

    The rest of my quibbles, Tim, are also feature oriented. You should be able to reorder your email accounts on both the iOS and OS X. You used to be able to do that in Mail for OS X, but that capability doesn’t seem to exist in Mountain Lion. Or did I miss the secret handshake?

    And don’t get me started about Save As. In the old days, if you want to fork a new document from the original, Save As would make a copy. All well and good. If you made changes to the document and didn’t save them, Save As would store those changes in the duplicate version of the document, but not the original. But since there’s an Auto Save feature in Mountain Lion, the changes you make are stored in the original document too, whether you want them or not.

    Yes, I realize some apps do have working template functions. But when you altered a Mac feature when restoring Save As, and didn’t explain the changes, you ended up confusing Mac users. They expect it to work one way, but Apple made it work differently. Indeed, under Mountain Lion, Save As is basically a relabeling of the Duplicate function and little more.

    Thanks for your time and attention to these trivial requests.

    Peace,
    Gene Steinberg

    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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