THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
This week Apple's SSL bug, in part, took center stage. Yes, Apple fixed the bug, one of the most serious to impact the iOS and OS X platforms, but some of the usual offenders weren't satisfied. It should have been fixed faster, maybe it was discovered months ago, but Apple deliberately ignored it because…
They really cannot explain why Apple would allow a bug to exist that could allow owners of compromised iPhones, iPads and Macs to be victimized by Internet criminals. But there is no evidence that Apple delayed release of critical updates beyond the normal testing period to make sure that users could get their gear fixed quickly.
At the same time, we have the head of Google's Android division admitting he didn't care about platform security, only freedom. He did not address lingering security leaks in Android that will apparently never be fixed, some of which have existed for a long time. I know that, during the time I spent with two Android smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, I made it a point to have security software installed and kept up to date. While anyone with a computing device should observe, as someone once said, "safe hex," with Android, it's clear you're just on your own.
In any case, on this week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, gave you the ins and outs of the controversial SSL verification security bug that turned up in iOS and OS X. He covered the curious belief on the part of some media pundits that one company buying another, for whatever reason, is innovation. He also responded to the comment from the head of Google's Android division that appears to indicate the company is definitely not focused on making the OS more secure.
You also heard from Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer, whose bill of fare included Apple's SSL bug fix, comparing Apple's innovation to other companies, the U.S. House's cellphone unlocking bill, Apple's appeal of an antitrust verdict over eBook price fixing, and the drive for patent troll reform in the European Union.
On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: It's "shop talk" 2014, as Gene and Chris present an episode where we catch up on recent developments in paranormal research, and we give you our own unvarnished opinions. We'll be answering your questions about our favorite cases, researchers and books, along with future plans for the show. This is the sort of episode we like to do every few months so we can speak directly, from the heart, and tell you what we really think about a variety of issues.
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." We've also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.
THE GROWING STATURE OF APPLE TV
As some wonder just what new product categories Apple plans to enter in the coming year, assuming CEO Tim Cook keeps his oft-repeated promises, you wonder whether one of those products may already be there. But it is sort of flying below the radar, because Apple consigned it to hobby status.
But how can a gadget, with annual sales now hitting one billion dollars, be considered a hobby? A number of companies would only be delighted to receive that much revenue from most any product, and would praise the results to the skies.
Now Apple TV has surely become more mainstream in recent days, and now has a featured place on Apple's online store, rather than being relegated to the accessory department. Based on the figures produced by Cook at last week's Apple shareholders meeting, it's been estimated that Apple sold 10 million units. I wonder, in passing, how many units Roku sold in the same year, or all years.
Apple is also making a push to move more product this week, witness an offer of a $25 iTunes gift certificate for folks buying the $99 accessory/hobby/set top box, or whatever it's supposed to be. The offer expires March 5, and some suggest it was made to push unsold stock ahead of a possible impending product upgrade. But it may be more about selling movies that have received Oscar nominations.
In any case, news about a possible next generation Apple TV has been confusing. The current model was introduced in 2012, and the only change has been use of a smaller version of the A5 chip, which doesn't change functionality or performance.
Since then, Apple has added more and more channels to the exiting product, but they amount to dozens and not the hundreds you can find on a Roku. Apple's offerings, though, are more highly focused on fare that customers might actually care about. I went through the channel listings for Roku recently, and found loads of offerings with limited potential audiences, some of which may be there just to — well — be there.
But when will the next Apple TV arrive? One report says there will be an April launch, with actual release in the fall. But Apple doesn't do that with product refreshes. A first generation product, yes, and ditto for a new OS, since developers will need time to be able to work with prerelease seeds to make sure their apps are compatible.
So would it really make sense to introduce an Apple TV and not release it for a long while? I suppose that would be possible in the event of the introduction of an Apple TV set, something that's been rumored for several years, but never seems close to reality.
As for the Apple TV box, one suggestion has it that Apple will open up the app ecosystem to allow for additional content, and another suggests support for game controllers. Certainly making an Apple TV a credible gaming platform would clearly allow the company to go up directly against Microsoft and other makers of gaming controllers, trying to beat them at their own game perhaps?
Other rumors talk of a built-in Wi-Fi router, which would add a substantial sum to the basic purpose price. I wonder, in passing, whether Apple is would prefer to focus on retaining that $99 price, and allow accessories and services to provide larger profits to the platform.
It may also be possible that Apple hopes to offer direct access to your cable or satellite connection, and not just for premium channels such as HBO. This would mean that, for example, Time Warner Cable (now involved in a pending merger with Comcast) could deliver its interface courtesy of Apple. Or maybe not.
But as channels increase, how does Apple address customer confusion in dealing with that potential mess? When I look at the Apple TV interface today, it comes across as messy because of the multilayered approach you have to take to locate the content you want to watch.
What about that magical, mystical interface that Steve Jobs touted in that authorized biography? Was Jobs, knowing his time on this planet was short, simply spooking Apple's competition, setting them adrift wondering what solution was in the offing and wasting time and money in an attempt to compete? Or are Apple's developers actually working on a unified and refined new look for Apple TV that will help you discover all the content without having to scroll through icons endlessly in search of something to watch.
Indeed, does the Apple TV with its present look and feel end up with the potential of becoming as confusing to navigate as a typical cable or satellite DVR? Well, at least they are meant to access a single service. Apple is offering many.
But one thing is sure. Apple TV has clearly exited the hobby status, and is now poised for a future of fascinating possibilities. We can only speculate where it'll take us, and whether there's also a real Apple connected TV at the end of the rainbow.
IS SAMSUNG'S ANDROID EXIT PLAN HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT?
It's no secret that Samsung has sometimes gone to great lengths to pretend that Android doesn't exist, even though its largest selling smartphones are powered by Google's mobile OS. Usually this situation manifests itself in loading the handsets with the company's own apps, while burying Google's, and perhaps not saying much about Android during product rollouts.
To add insult to injury, the latest version of Samsung's smartwatch, the Gear 2, uses a totally different OS, know as Tizen?
Now Tizen is an open source mobile OS, based on Linux, which Samsung and some other companies, including Intel, have been shepherding through development. It appears meant as an alternative to Android, and Samsung has promised to produce gear that incorporates the OS.
But it's not just for smartphones. According to the Wikipedia entry on the topic, the first consumer product using Tizen was a camera, Samsung's NX300M. A Tizen smartphone, the Samsung ZEQ 9000, is set for release this year, though it hasn't been announced in which countries it'll be available.
According to a published report from Ars Technica, a popular and highly respected online tech publication, the ins and outs of Tizen, and its possible intent, may have already been disclosed in an out-of-the-way booth at this last week's Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.
According to Ars, they had a chance to play with a real Tizen phone, evidently a prototype, which, according to the article and the photos, very much resembled the Samsung Galaxy S4.
But the resemblance was more than just the case. The user interface and the essence of the user experience made Tizen appear to be very much an Android clone. Performance was said to be similar to that offered by a typical high-end Android smartphone using Samsung's TouchWiz overlay, although there were some interface changes of various sorts.
Now this is the sort of thing that a company such as Apple would keep on the down-low. You wouldn't quietly find links to the next OS X, iOS, or some other OS, placed in the back pages on the company's site, and since Apple doesn't do trade shows, there would be no place in which to deliver subtle and not-so-suble hints of what's to come.
It may be curious that the presence of a Samsung booth showing prototype Tizen gear didn't get all that much publicity, but that may be that people just don't care. It's not that the OS offers a brash new interface for mobile gear. As I said, those Samsung smartphones on display looked and worked like Android handsets.
This may all be part of Samsung's plan, to drop in a new OS over which they, and their partners, have total control. For better or worse, it would be theirs to succeed or fail, but just being a close cousin to Android isn't enough. It's barely a start.
You see, Google comes with a huge app ecosystem along with a number of popular services that are accessed on many platforms. Any handset maker who embraces Android can deliver gear that already offers a decent selection of apps. Existing Android smartphone users, coming to a Tizen device, would suddenly find themselves without the apps on which they depend, other than the ones that Samsung already offers on their own gear. There would be no access to Google Play to buy more stuff. What about the Android apps they installed on other mobile handsets?
But for people in the third world who just want a cheap smartphone, and it's their first, maybe it won't matter. If enough people actually buy Tizen gear, those numbers would be sufficient to generate developer interest in supporting the platform. Simple cross-platform programming tools would hep help too, I suppose.
One possibility: Samsung might consider dropping a few billion dollars to provide "incentives" to Android developers to build Tizen versions of their most popular ads. It's not out of the question for Samsung to spend huge sums of money for dealer spiffs and promotional gimmicks to move product.
Indeed, if Samsung was willing to fund all or most of the development of Tizen apps in the early days of the platform — and maybe even offer special promotional packages — I suppose it would make sense for some key developers to deliver the goods. So maybe there won't be a chicken and egg situation.
But what about Google's own services on which customers depend, such as mapping, search and the cloud-based music store? I suppose Samsung could make a deal with Google — if they'd take it — to offer these services to deliver yet another revenue stream. Greed may be sufficient to make Google a little more comfortable about the existence of Tizen. After all, Google earns quite a bit of money from Apple, and will continue to earn money so long as there are apps and services for iOS and OS X users.
Indeed, if Google could earn just about as much money if Android never existed, would they continue to fund development?
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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