THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
So let’s not forget that Apple has announced new MacBooks and the release date of Apple Watch. And, oh yes, that the price of the Apple TV is now $69, but don’t expect a refund if you already have one. However, Apple is never far from the headlines, and the hunt is always on for a new story about the company, any story.
We’re still waiting, for example, for news of an alleged iPad Pro, the presumed 12.9-inch or thereabouts version that’s written about from time to time, but this past week it was about an expected Apple subscription TV service. Supposedly it’ll debut this fall along with a new Apple TV with A8 processor, more storage, and Siri support. But not much is said about gaming capability.
Lest we forget, there have been reports about an Apple TV service since 2009, off and on, so take it all with a grain of salt.
In any case, on this week’s episode of the The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we covered the latest rumors about the Apple subscription TV service. How will Apple turn its service into a game-changer? We examined the potential downsides of yet another cord-cutting scheme, such as your ISP’s bandwidth cap. Our topics also included the two-pound MacBook and Apple Watch.
Our guests included Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer, who also focused on the subtleties of the luxury watch market and the prospects for an Apple Car. You also heard from Kirk McElhearn, known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy,” who also wonders why Apple’s HealthKit is not yet capable of tracking a female’s menstrual cycles.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: This week Gene and Chris focus the conversation on precognition and remote viewing. Can you take a trip via your mind to another location, and can you predict the future? Our guest, is Marty Rosenblatt, said to be an authority on precognition from a scientific and applications standpoint that includes Associate Remote Viewing (ARV) and other methods. He has worked with many of the most prominent names in remote viewing that include: Joe McMoneagle, Dean Radin, Russell Targ, Skip Atwater, Stephan Schwartz, Ed May and Paul Elder. The focus of the organization that he co-founded, Applied Precognition Project (APP), is to educate society about precognition by making money using Associative Remote Viewing (ARV). Curious? We also plan a “great experiment.”
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’ve got swag! We’re taking orders direct from our 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.
THE NEW “OPEN” APPLE
So the image of Apple after Steve Jobs took over the company in 1997 was of a place where secrets were kept. While rumors were always present, Apple didn’t spill the beans until the right time, usually shortly before a product was set to be introduced. Sometimes it would happen earlier, if there was no previous version of a product or a service.
During the 2005 WWDC, Jobs displayed a satellite image of a building on the Apple campus where they were developing an Intel version of OS X. The existence of such a project had been rumored for a while, and no doubt Apple kept up parallel development in case something had to give. And it did since development of the PowerPC chip had failed to meet Apple’s needs. There was no notebook version, the most powerful Power Macs required liquid cooling, and Intel was rapidly moving ahead.
The arrival of the iPhone had come long after Jobs decried existing cell phones. It was first demonstrated at a January 2007 Macworld Expo, giving the media plenty of time to speculate on what it all meant. Long and short of it was that there was plenty of skepticism and anticipation about the product ahead of its release. So the revelation clearly worked to Apple’s advantage.
Nothing was said about an Apple tablet, but plenty of new products of that sort were demonstrated at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. No doubt rumors of an Apple tablet were sufficient to freak the industry, and so they delivered their proposed alternatives. But the obvious solution, a form factor similar to an iPod touch, only far larger, with specially optimized apps, evidently didn’t compute. Tablets in those days were usually PC notebooks with touchscreens. And, as you may have noticed, that’s still a common form factor for the PC tablet even though its success was never proven.
Even after Steve Jobs died, Apple kept up the “top secret” routine. Unfortunately, the expanded supply chain created the opportunity for far more rumors of new Apple gear, and quite often those rumors were pretty close to the mark. It became harder for Apple to keep the lid on those leaks, but it’s not as if they can just fire a company in which they have invested millions to set up custom production lines. So the situation is tolerated, but it creates more opportunity for secret information to be revealed.
However, such rumors are complicated by the fact that Apple may indeed test all sorts of gear that reaches prototype form, but is never green lit for manufacture. We’re still awaiting an Apple TV set, though it’s clear the rumors were thick in the months after Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs came out. Even Lenovo, a major Asian PC maker, once announced a smart TV set at a CES, though follow up reports are nonexistent.
The latest talk of Apple’s reach into the living room is more about a subscription TV service, and the revised Apple TV set-top box. Does Apple even need to build a TV? Does Apple see an opportunity to transform the TV industry, highly saturated with commodity sets at very low prices, and how do they make a difference?
Or is it worth the bother?
It’s also fairly obvious that some of the rumors of future Apple products are, in fact, fed by Apple representatives who speak on deep background to selected members of the media. Often this appears to be done to gauge reaction. You hardly think that such Apple favored outlets as Re/code and the Wall Street Journal or just making things up to boost their hit counts.
Over time, however, Tim Cook’s Apple has become more open in various ways. iOS, for example, isn’t locked down quite as much. With iOS 8, Apple permitted third-party extensions to provide extra functionality to an app and have it apply to other apps within certain constraints. You can add third-party keyboards to your iPhone or iPad and have them work system wide.
No doubt the more open operating system is a symptom of its natural evolution going forward, but it is a change that gives developers more opportunities to build apps, and helps Apple compete better with the more open Google Android OS. Is it enough? Apple continues to specify limits, so it’ll never be enough for some of you.
Apple executives have also been, on the surface at least, more open to the press. So in response to the claim that Isaacson’s biography of Jobs portrayed the man in far too negative a fashion, there’s yet another biography, “Becoming Steve Jobs,” by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, which had actual participation from people who knew Jobs, including present day Apple executives. In the past, authors had to find former Apple employees who’d be willing to talk, and not always publicly.
The book, due out this week, is clearly designed to repair Jobs’ reputation. He’s still evidently portrayed as the mercurial executive who could yell at or fire an employee in a fit of pique, but there was also the caring family man who, knowing his time was short, wanted to live long enough to see his son graduate from high school. Tim Cook tells the story of offering Jobs a piece of his liver to save his life, only to be rebuffed because Jobs evidently didn’t want to put anyone though such a serious operation on his behalf.
Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, mostly in the background when her husband was alive, has become a more public person. Of course you have to realize that, as someone with an estimated $19.5 billion fortune (according to Forbes) she has the opportunity and power to assert her beliefs in advancing policies about education, immigration, social justice and the environment. And her life is also the stuff of gossip, with claims that she is dating a younger man, former D.C. major Adrian Fenty.
Of course, we should all agree that she should not be fated to remain alone, and she deserves to enjoy her life.
While Jobs seldom granted interviews, and most were short and carefully controlled, Tim Cook has been almost effusive in his comments to various members of the media. While pretty much everything he says is also carefully scripted, he is providing more insights into Apple, and helping to spread the word about the company’s philosophy and products. His soft-spoken demeanor radiates calm, and his performance at media events is far more polished than it used to be.
So maybe he’s received training.
Regardless, the media outreach is far wider. In addition to Cook, there are interviews with chief designer Jonny Ive and other executives. The media outlets to be honored with these press availabilities are no doubt carefully selected, and it’s clear the Apple executives are experts at messaging. The questions tend to be softball, so the media criticisms and concerns are often dealt with in passing. Apple gives the prepared response, and there are few follow-ups.
As with politicians these days, there’s always the fear that if a reporter asks the hard questions insistently, there’s the risk of losing access. So Apple is able to get its message across unfiltered. The new “open” Apple may provide more copy, but how often is it just the same things being repeated ad infinitum?
Yet we are seeing more of the inner workings of Apple. So ABC News recently ran a feature that revealed Apple’s secret facility for health and fitness research. The cameras revealed employees wearing high-tech gear, engaged in a two-year project to monitor their exercise routines. The results of this research have found their way into Apple Watch.
The ABC story focused as much on the lab and its 18,000 hours of data as on the Apple Watch and how the results of that research would advance the forthcoming smartwatch’s capabilities. The executives who managed that lab were interviewed, and their slick responses advancing Apple’s goals clearly indicated they had been properly instilled with the company’s DNA. A key focus of the story was ResearchKit, Apple’s new open source technology that allows medical science to quickly sign up people to participate in various projects that may ultimately develop the cure for a disease, or ways to improve our lifestyles.
When you watch the video of this short report, you almost think that Apple bought a long-form ad for broadcast on a major TV network. The reporter even briefly became part of the research, running on a treadmill as she asked questions.
Now this more open attitude clearly fits with Apple’s claim that it’s not just here to rake in profits, but to change the world, to improve our lives in various ways. Clearly HealthKit and ResearchKit are solid moves on that direction. And don’t sell ResearchKit short as a gimmick. Medical researchers and major institutions around the U.S. are already beginning to use it for their medical studies.
By making it open source, ResearchKit doesn’t remain a tool from which to derive profits. Consider that even a single eureka moment may help provide the cure for a previously incurable disease.
If ResearchKit can accomplish anything, I would hope it would allow medical researchers to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. It claimed the life of Steve Jobs, and I’ve seen two close relatives die shortly after being diagnosed with that condition. So I have a personal stake in seeing Apple’s new open attitude bear fruit.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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