THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
Apple couldn't stay out of the news this week, but it wasn't just about a certain media event. It was about a trifecta of troubles, starting with the report that Find My iPhone was vulnerable to brute force attacks, where Internet criminals keep trying to login to a site or service till they get in. That vulnerability has been fixed, but there was that long iTunes outage, and the release of nude photos from celebrities that were supposedly stolen from their iCloud accounts.
I suppose the real issue is whether people have any privacy anymore. Anyone who gains notoriety of some sort is a target, and the vultures are out there to find out anything and everything about them, especially the bad or embarrassing stuff.
Well, on this week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we focused on that very unpleasant week for Apple. Some Apple skeptics said the company must be in disarray as a result. It was an outrageous claim, as Apple isn't the only company whose customers have been hacked. Far from it. In addition, Tim Cook announced that the problem wasn't due to a security problem with iCloud, and that the company will nonetheless be more proactive in sending out warnings when an iCloud account is changed.
That does seem to be a way to attempt to get ahead of the message, which more or less leaves this coming week clear for the expected new product announcements. Indeed, as the weekend arrived, the chatter about Apple's alleged security issues had begun to disappear from the blogs and airwaves.
Along to discuss these and other topics, including the latest speculation about the iPhone 6 and an iWatch or other wearable gadget, were Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer and author Jeff Carlson, Senior Editor for TidBITS.
On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris once again switch gears, as we announce the return of everyone's favorite "good natured" skeptic, Benjamin Radford. During his last visit to The Paracast (April 17, 2011 — Benjamin Radford), we talked about his excellent book Tracking the Chupacabra. This time around we'll be discussing his latest book, Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment. We all know that New Mexico is the "Land of Enchantment," but what does Ben really think? Inquiring minds, like yours, will find out as we focus on all sorts of strange legends about possible unusual events, including the alleged Aztec, NM UFO crash.
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.
HAVE APPLE'S ANNOUNCEMENTS REALLY BEEN SABOTAGED?
As the media begins to recover from bashing Apple about the purported online leaks of nude celebrity photos, an iTunes outage and other ills, speculation turned again to just what will be revealed on Tuesday, September 9th (The Night Owl's birthday). There are certainly more clues than usual that it's about more than a couple of new iPhones and the release of iOS 8.
There was, for example, the report that some fashion reporters are among those invited to the media event. That implies far more than smartphones and operating systems, and such mainstream newspapers as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have offered information from the usual "informed sources" that a wearable, perhaps the rumored iWatch, will also be on the agenda.
Now with the iPhone 6, we may have already seen it, in the form of a procession of leaked photos and movies. One report claimed that Apple's announcements were thus "ruined" because of information posted on a Chinese site. But it's not as if such things haven't happened before.
Last year, for example, the basics of the iPhone 5s, and the plastic-clad iPhone 5c, were pretty well known before an Apple media event. There's just no way to prevent leaks from the supply chain, as Apple knows only too well. Even the Touch ID fingerprint sensor was revealed, but it was long known that Apple had acquired AuthenTec, a company that built such components, so this came as no surprise.
Now videos and photos of the case and the insides of the new iPhones may reveal a fair amount of information, though some of it is not so obvious. So you can see a larger battery, and many of the components on logic boards are readily identified, but there are some question marks. So amid stories about Apple lining up mobile payment deals with credit card companies and a few vendors, some suggest that they have seen evidence of an NFC chip on the new gear.
In the past, it has been rumored that Apple would finally relent and include NFC, but things haven't worked out that way. In 2012, Apple VP Philip Schiller dissed both NFC and even wireless charging; the latter is something that's been rumored for the iWatch.
Schiller's argument was that Apple's digital wallet app, Passbook, would do the trick, but it may also have been all about Apple not being confident in NFC because standards were inconsistent. It's also true that Apple isn't always the first to jump on a new technology. Consider the fact that LTE wireless networking began on other smartphones first. Apple waited for the chips to become more power efficient, so they wouldn't suck the life out of an iPhone's battery.
Still, NFC is widely used for public transportation and other mobile payment setups. Having Apple adopt the technology with their own solution could make it far more popular. Don't forget that USB wasn't widely used when it first originated on the PC platform. When the original Bondi blue iMac supported USB in 1998, it didn't take long for support to spread, and for all sorts of USB accessories to go mainstream.
So it's easy to think that most everything is known about the iPhone, except for whether the rumored 5.5-inch phablet version will ship in quantity from Day One, or be constrained for a few months. But Apple no doubt still has some cards to put on the table, so what was expected may, in part, be unexpected.
The real fear would be, of course, news that the iPhone 6 isn't very impressive, which is never a good thing. There's so much run up to the media event that it's hard to think that Apple can satisfy everyone, but you never know.
Consider this year's WWDC, where it simply overflowed with announcements about the new stuff in iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and, mostly unexpected, the release of Swift, a new programming language for developers to chew over. Still, some members of the media dismissed a developer event as being just about software, which is the usual way it goes except for an occasional hardware launch, so some will never be satisfied.
With the expanded number of journalists in attendance, though, I expect the forthcoming Apple event will cover a wide range of material beyond what you expect. It will even be streamed online and via Apple gear, including the Apple TV, if you want to see it happen live on your HDTV.
When it's all over, however, you can rest assured that some members of the media will say it was all just a huge letdown, and that Apple failed to deliver on the promise of new stuff in new categories, that Tim Cook's defining moment left you wanting a lot more. It's also true that Apple isn't going to put too many items on the agenda, because that simply dilutes the message, so there will likely be another media event in October, as usual.
The negative comments may have already been written, or maybe they will complain that Tim Cook didn't properly reassure you that your personal stuff was truly safe on iCloud, as if it's any safer on any other online system. The media will also bring out the usual crowd of professional Apple haters with which to support their claims.
WHAT ABOUT DIRTY TRICKS?
In the world of politics, the game isn't always played fair and square. Statements from opponents will be taken out of context, so watch what you say. There may also be robocalls to likely voters sending you to the wrong location to cast your ballot, and don't forget the talking heads who go on talk shows boosting their candidate and claiming their opponents are just bad people, possibly traitors to their country, and thus not deserving of your vote.
Sure, politics is a dirty game, and I wonder why anyone would ever get involved, even with the best of intentions of representing the people and trying to do good things. In fact, in my days as a broadcast journalist, I knew some of those politicians, and I was saddened to watch them kowtow to the prevailing winds in their parties.
But it's not just politics where dirty tricks happen. You can expect that not all companies in a field will compete fairly. Some will stretch the rules beyond the breaking point, or pull stunts to gain a leg up on a market. And it's not just someone sending out people holding signs in front of a competitor's store to promote their own businesses. In the social media, it may involve quietly paying bloggers for favorable reviews, which is not an uncommon practice.
Most of the time, though, those bribes aren't cash. They feed bloggers with free gear, with no written quid pro quo, but the message is clear regardless. If they want to continue to receive the perks of the business, they have to play ball. True, Apple routinely reaches out to a few favored journalists that have a lot of influence, but it doesn't appear they demand a favorable review. Some of those journalists do clearly describe problems with an Apple product or service, but they nonetheless don't lose their access.
In other cases, a so-called industry analyst may receive consulting fees for one company, but still be recognized as an authority by the media when they criticize other companies.
One notorious example is Rob Enderle, who boasts that he is one of the most quoted analysts in the tech industry. But his bio clearly states, "For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens."
So since he has received checks from all these companies, many of whom are Apple competitors, how does one give him any credibility when he says anything unfavorable about Apple? Besides, his negative comments are almost always shown to be just plain wrong. Even forgetting who funds his lifestyle, why are supposedly knowledgeable reporters and bloggers making him a go-to person for sound bites? Understand that I found the incriminating information about Enderle in 30 seconds flat when I checked his site.
I suppose he could hide this information, but not if he's seeking more business from those companies and others. At the same time, it doesn't hurt to check the backgrounds of his colleagues, be they individuals or companies, and see who pays their bills. That the news media fails to perform such simple checks, or at least put up a notice about one's affiliations as part of an interview, shows to me that they are utterly failing at their jobs.
But what about companies secretly pulling dirty tricks against competitors? Well, Microsoft might create misleading ads about the competition, particularly when that competition is Apple, but it's not as if that's a dirty trick. It may just be more of the usual exaggerations that appear in product-to-product comparisons. It's nothing to take seriously.
On the other hand, is there any evidence any of these companies are doing nasty things behind the scenes? I've read reports about some of the things pulled by Samsung over the years, and the way the company fights tooth and nail when it comes to paying patent royalties, or even the ongoing skirmishes with Apple, which clearly indicates that being ruthless is part of their corporate DNA.
Now when you look at what happened with Apple this past week, particularly the disclosure of nude celebrity photos that purportedly came from their iCloud accounts, you wonder sometimes if the timing was just a little bit suspicious. After all, it all happened the week before one of Apple's most important launch event ever, a week when such companies as Motorola and Samsung were introducing new gear to compete.
I wouldn't expect Motorola Mobility, recently sold to Lenovo by Google at a huge loss, to be guilty of any unseemly behavior. Lenovo appears to all intents and purposes to be a very responsible company with a reputation for building high quality, reliable gear. Samsung? No idea. Maybe Apple's troubles were all a part of things, good or bad, sometimes happening in threes, a matter of the wrong timing for a spate bad news, and little else. I'd rather believe that, but still…
THE FINAL WORD
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