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  • Newsletter Issue #866

    July 4th, 2016

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    All this for a headphone jack. First comes the claim that the iPhone 7 must be a minor update because, well, the case will look pretty much the same as the current model. Such reports are apparently based on alleged prototypes that strongly resemble the iPhone 6s.

    Perhaps that’s true. There’s no way to know right now because, even if the prototypes are real, they may not represent the final production configuration. Things change, although it’s probably close enough to final production that those pictures, again if they’re genuine, ought to more closely represent the finished product.

    On the other hand, the critics who insist Apple ought to just follow what Google or Samsung does are missing the point. Google has not been successful at premium smartphones, not in the least. Samsung moves far fewer Galaxy smartphones than iPhones. Samsung’s advantage is in low-end gear that earns little in the way of profits.

    But even if the iPhone 7, or whatever Apple calls it, doesn’t look much different, what about the components and features? Even if the headphone jack goes away, Apple will offer a speedier processor (presumably the A10), perhaps a better camera, and other goodies that the media hasn’t even tried to predict. You shouldn’t dismiss anything until Apple launches it. Right now it’s all about rumors feeding rumors with the usual dose of fear-mongering.

    In any case, on this weekend’s episode of  The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured columnist and podcaster Kirk McElhearn, also known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy.” Topics included the rumors that Apple will ditch a proper headphone jack on the next iPhone. Is this true, or just another tall tale, and why would Apple make such a move? The discussion also included Gene’s troubling odyssey in updating his Logitech Harmony universal remote to recognize new devices, which came to a dead halt because of a conflict with OS X El Capitan. We offered the official Logitech workaround, and there was also a brief discussion on “Internet of Things” home automation.

    You also heard from prolific author and commentator Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, who offered his skeptical viewpoint about Apple’s rumored move to set aside headphone jacks on future iPhones. The discussion moved to Apple’s “head fake” policy, where they will deny or deride a product, only to come up with their own version a short time later. Bob also offered his reaction to the news that Siri is making its debut on Macintosh computers starting with macOS Sierra, due this fall. The discussion also focused on Amazon customer service and Gene’s Harmony remote odyssey.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest co-host Goggs Mackay present author Robert Robinson, who will take you on a fascinating “journey to adventure outside the box. Enter the exciting world of myths and monsters, the paranormal, extraterrestrials, lost treasures, and strange places. Enter the world of Legend Tripping and go on the ultimate family adventure.” According to Robert: “In my new book Legend Tripping: The Ultimate Adventure, I talk about going on day legend trips which are nothing more than visiting places that you only need a day to visit and explore like a museum or historical place.” This will be a fun-filled journey where you’ll also learn how to prepare for your excursions to explore the unknown.

    RECASTING APPLE MUSIC

    When Apple Music debuted in June of 2015, I joined millions to take advantage of the 90-day free trial. What I confronted was a messy interface, poor recognition of my musical tastes, and not enough in the way of compelling features to keep my business. Besides, I prefer to own music, and having access to millions of songs won’t change that. I don’t want to feel that, if I cannot afford the fee next month, or forget to pay it, most of my music library will be history.

    As it stands, I have CDs dating back 30 years, and dozens of  albums that I purchased from iTunes. I’ve imported most of the former, at least the ones to which I listen fairly regularly. I am not so much involved in those alleged remixes and digital masters, except where the original digital releases were really bad. It’s not worth paying full price for a slight improvement, which mostly benefits the artists and recording companies. Whoever devised this scheme, to sell you the same recordings over and over again, was really smart.

    So I probably won’t be ordering the forthcoming Traveling Wilburys’ remix.

    Now Apple Music, the company’s response to the success of Spotify, was the main reason behind the $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics in 2014. It wasn’t strictly about selling premium-priced headphones, though I won’t dispute the possibility that Beats technology will turn up on future iPhones, iPads and Macs. Don’t forget that Beats licensed its audio technology to other companies, such as HP and HTC, before Apple took over.

    While Apple Music had been highly anticipated for months, when the rumors about the Beats acquisition first appeared, the end result seemed to be a rushed job. I understand that Apple wanted tight integration with iTunes. It makes perfect sense from the user’s standpoint, and it makes it easy to convert a free music download to a purchase. But the release deadline was just too tight. Maybe they should have followed the Siri approach and called it a beta.

    But would customers be willing to pay for something regarded as a beta? Perhaps Apple should have offered a six month trial to give it time to get the glitches out.

    Now one of the key promises of Apple Music was some level of live curation. That means that real people decide what you can hear. In addition, the For You section supposedly adapted itself to your musical tastes. You had the power to dismiss an artist or album from the listing, so the system would be able to adapt itself from your initial selection of musical genres. At least that’s the way it was supposed to work, but there are loads of complaints that Apple Music never seems to adapt itself to one’s tastes.

    So it took two months for Apple Music to realize that I didn’t care a whit about Barry Manilow and similar pop artists, though I would accept Frank Sinatra and perhaps Steve Lawrence. But the latter is partly due to the fact that, as a kid in Brooklyn, NY, he use to hang out outside of my late uncle’s store. I actually never met him, though.

    I won’t discuss the reports of vanishing music libraries. It didn’t happen to me, though I grant it did to some of you, but the jury is out on whether that was a user error, an Apple error, or a combination of the two. Apple has updated its information prompts to reduce the possibility of the former.

    By the time three months had passed, I realized I hadn’t listened to anything from Apple Music in several weeks, so I opted not to renew. I have not since been tempted to change my mind, despite seeing occasional promotions for the service.

    After a year, Apple Music has gained 15 million paying customers, which makes it fairly successful. The chief rival, Spotify, boasts 100 million users, of which 30 million are paid. That’s a reason why I recently applied to Spotify to have my two radio shows listed on the service.

    However, it took a decade for Spotify to hit those numbers. At the same time, the company hasn’t found a profitable formula, as it continues to burn through investor cash. Some day, something has to give. Apple, of course, can operate Apple Music at a loss if it wants to, but since the cloud infrastructure was already there, and growing, I would not be surprised to discover that the service is more than paying for itself. Spotify, in turn, had to build out from scratch.

    Apple Music 2.o will arrive this fall. Based on the news from last month’s WWDC, the biggest changes are to make it easier and more intuitive to use. The key forward-facing features appear to be the same, however. So the service still lists five tabs for Library, For You, Browser, Radio and Search. But the way content is displayed is designed to work better.

    So For You reveals a Discovery Mix that you can consult to check out new music in which you might be interested. You’ll also see a selection of curated playlists that are updated daily, plus a page sporting posts from your favorite artists.

    The Browse tab reportedly includes New Music, Curated Playlists, Top Charts, and Genres to help you refine your quest for the music you want. The Radio tab now works in over 100 countries, but the main focus remains on Beats 1. Now Playing is also improved, with a simpler structure, making it easier for you to locate and enjoy your music.

    According to Apple, the revised version of Apple Music will debut this fall on iOS gear, Macs, PCs, Apple TV and Android. The latter continues Apple’s initial foray into attracting subscriptions on the majority mobile platform. Compare that to when Apple released a Windows version of iTunes.

    Clearly the intent is to acquaint Android users to Apple’s services and maybe gain a few converts to the “walled garden.” At the very least, Apple isn’t going to reject subscribers even if they choose to keep their Samsungs or HTCs — or whatever.

    Apple obviously isn’t considering the Windows 10 mobile platform, and the reasons are obvious. The user base is too small to warrant an investment.

    None of this tempts me. It doesn’t make it any more likely that I will subscribe to Apple Music, though the family plan has its attractions. It’s $14.99 for six users, and it would give my son a chance to satisfy his eclectic musical tastes should he care to use my Apple ID. But my wife spends most of her online time advocating for animal rights, and my musical pursuits are usually satisfied with my own playlists. I also listen to music on the radio from time to time, though I realize that’s become old fashioned.

    So maybe it’s just not worth it for me after all. It’ s not that Grayson is begging his dad to sign him up. But I do hope the improvements will help Apple Music to eventually become more popular than Spotify. I won’t make a guess, though, as to if or when Spotify will figure out how to turn a profit from its service.

    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
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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