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  • They Forget that Things Change

    June 27th, 2013

    As many of you no doubt recall, Apple received lots of negative publicity in 2010 amid complaints that there were serious defects with the iPhone 4’s external antenna system. Touted as a unique feature, there was one critical defect: If you held the phone in a way that covered the lower left side of the unit, reception quality took a nosedive. Under optimal signal conditions, it might not mean much, but in marginal conditions, not uncommon on the AT&T network, for example, you might lose your connection.

    When Steve Jobs, perhaps responding early in the morning without thinking about the consequences, said you should just hold it differently, that sarcastic comment was the last straw. Well for some. It didn’t even matter that all mobile handsets exhibited similar problems in different ways. It was all Apple’s fault, and the company had to hold a press briefing, and allow a few journalists to visit their state-of-the-art antenna testing facility to understand how things really worked. But not Consumer Reports, which refused to recommend the iPhone 4, and continues to rate other smartphones higher than Apple’s for reasons not always backed up with facts.

    Yes, other handset makers put warning signs in their user guides and sometimes with stickers on the device itself warning not to hold them the “wrong way” because of the possible impact to reception quality. Yes, subsequent iPhones had a revised antenna system, a diversity system similar to what you have on cars, where the antenna that gets the best signal receives priority. But Antennagate will not be forgotten.

    First impressions count.

    Take Maps for iOS 6. It surely had teething pains, resulting in some heads rolling over at Apple Inc. and a promise to make things better. Indeed, published reports indicate that Apple has fixed many of the ills for which they were rightly criticized. But the initial missteps aren’t being forgotten. The tech media still treats the Maps app, and the potential for the one that will debut in OS X Mavericks, with the same level of disdain. Once broken, never fixed and frozen in time.

    It doesn’t matter that Google’s mapping apps come with beta notices, and warnings that they aren’t responsible if you get lost while using their navigation instructions. Google has been working on mapping longer than Apple, and thus they have to be better at the game. They seem to be, but the gap has narrowed. Things have changed, but some still believe it’s the fall of 2012 when Apple’s mapping troubles were discovered and viciously attacked. Curious that the existing problems with Google’s mapping service are seldom mentioned, even though they can be annoying. I’ve seen problems even when getting directions to nearby locations in a fairly large metropolitan region, where up-to-date mapping software really shouldn’t screw up.

    These days, it only takes a casual rumor about something going wrong at Apple, whether real or imagined, for the stock price to fall. Apple surely met expectations during the WWDC keynote, and most of the announcements were praiseworthy. Sure, the new interface of iOS 7 has been regarded as controversial to some. After all, it looks a lot different, even though the basic functions should work mostly the same. But maybe there is a developer revolt, because Apple must set things in stone and never, ever change. How dare they? This comes after Apple was criticized for having an aging and boring mobile OS that never changed. You can’t win!

    Well at least you don’t hear as many complaints about OS X Mavericks except, of course, that it doesn’t seem to be near as significant an upgrade. At least the Finder is getting some sorely needed attention, what with tabs and all, though it’s not certain if the inconsistent behavior, such as frequently failing to remember resizing and positioning, will ever be fixed.

    Then there’s Tim Cook. He’s the operations guy so therefore he knows nothing about products, and therefore is not regarded as a right and proper replacement for Steve Jobs. What about Jonathan Ive, the designer, who has never demonstrated the ability to manage an entire company, despite the brilliance at what he does? Did Cook just arrive at Apple on the day Jobs resigned as CEO? Obviously not, since he had been an acting CEO on several occasions and clearly demonstrated his ability to run the company. Besides, he’s been working there since the mid-1990s.

    But it all comes down to the products and, aside from the refreshed MacBook Air and the forthcoming Mac Pro, the questions aren’t answered yet. The “real” rollouts will happen this fall, with the promised arrival of iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and no doubt new iPhones, new iPads, and maybe a few more Mac upgrades to accompany the 2013 Mac Pro. But what about the iTV or the iWatch? Do such products exist beyond the test labs? Is Apple going to release some “real” game changers? Then again, what about Samsung? Where’s their game-changer? Doesn’t anyone ever ask that question? Does anyone even care?



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    8 Responses to “They Forget that Things Change”

    1. Ted Schroeder says:

      Maps and Final Cut Pro X were, as they say in sports, unforced errors.

      On the other hand, I’ve heard people complain about iTunes Match when much of the problem there lies, I think, with the content providers. It’s hard to get the songs and the artwork right if the content folks don’t help make it work 100% right.

      And similarly, I’ve heard people complain that video on iTunes cost too much and that Apple is being too greedy. Not Paramount Pictures, but Apple.

      As far as Samsung introducing game-changers – clearly the bar is set differently for them.

      And isn’t it odd that during this whole NSA scandal that few ask the question, not what the government is doing with the data, but what are the companies that own the data doing with the data?

      Google is good at Search and Maps because this is the heart of their business model – selling eyeballs. People don’t seem to get it that just because it’s free doesn’t mean that they’re not paying a price for it.

    2. DaveD says:

      All eyes are on Apple.

      When Apple sneezes we all come down with a fever?

      In hindsight, Apple has been there before. Whether it were the Apple ///, the Lisa, the bad handwriting recognition of the Newton, the flaming battery of the Powebook 5300, the clueless CEOs, the lawsuit fight with Microsoft, the beleaguered years, and the return of Steve Jobs. It would be followed by years of new products and services with more hits than misses.

      The problem with stock valuation of today is that it became warped. A certain “A” company can make little or no profit and have a high stock value for a decade and most likely longer. Another “A” company is Apple with bills of money bursting out of every pockets and years of profits has a stock valuation acting like a pogo stick. Profits don’t matter. Huh?

    3. Articles you should read (June 27) …. says:

      […] “They Forget that Things Change: As many of you no doubt recall, Apple received lots of negative publicity in 2010 amid complaints that there were serious defects with the iPhone 4′s external antenna system.” — “The Tech Night Owl” (www.technightowl.com) […]

    4. winc06 says:

      I disagree. It is not that they forget that things change. They do not care whether things have changed. Haven’t you noticed that the negative campaign against Apple is politics just like the ant-Obama campaign? The same “party” that forecast the demise of Apple in the 80s is still writing or editing those writing about Apple. They are mostly old PC guys who bought into that hate Apple mentality. They hate the brashness. They hate the perceived cockiness. They hate the good design. They hate anything that reveals the irrationality of their attachment to the PC. They lie in wait for an error from Apple. They are not going to change. It is too much fun.

      I used to think they were just talking stock prices up or down to benefit their portfolios, but now I think it is like the guys of my youth who collected bad Ford or bad Chevvie stories, true and untrue, depending on which brand they preferred. Those guys did not have the internet.

    5. Still have to be a Maverick to own AAPL.

    6. Usergnome says:

      Hi Gene,
      Ted Schroeder says: Maps and Final Cut Pro X were, as they say in sports, unforced errors. I’m concerned we may have to and the new Mac Pro to that list of unforced errors. Time will tell.

      But I was very pleased and surprised by the news for OS X Mavericks. Despite the horrid new name, I was excited by the semi-reversal of iOSification. Although it’s not big in the overall scheme of things, I think the new touches for the finder are very important. It looks as though, and cross your fingers about this, they are changing course and not obsoleting the file system. I am very pleased by that.

      I am also a Totalfinder user and am a big fan of a tabbed finder.

      If it is implemented well I think that tags could also be really big. (One of the few things I really like about Final Cut X is the ability to create and sort folders by keywords. One of the most difficult paradigms to absorb about FCPX is to start thinking about collections of clips as a database rather than as a bin – Some of us started editing when there were actual bins with cloth liners and racks across the top holding many lengths of film hanging down.)

      Bringing Apple maps to the Mac may prove to be a good way of spreading the word about improvements in the app.

      I’m not a big iOS user (I’m still working with an iPhone 3G) but what I see of iOS 7 seems to me to be an advance. I particularly like making it easier to get at airplane mode since I live in an area with spotty cell coverage and it is useful to turn airplane mode on frequently so as to not waste battery power searching for a signal. Most of the objections seem to be a matter of taste. I think time will heal those wounds.

      I do think many commentaries miss the area which really is of grave concern, and that’s iCloud. I think iCloud is crippled in concept. They don’t seem to have set out to make the best cloud services possible. I think they have set out to make a cloud service that excels at lock-in. Which is not at all the same thing. Certainly an app-centric storage system is useful only to iOS users. And not even to all of them. I get it, Mac users are not that important in Apple’s current scheme of things. But even for a tablet and phone-based cloud system, iCloud is excessively prescriptive. It is just completely uninterested in allowing you to use it the way you want to use it. It’s Apple’s way on apple’s gear, or the highway. And then there is the problem that core sync apparently core sank sometime ago.

      I would dearly love to see them steal a bunch of Googlers to work on the technology and let Eddie Cue concentrate on negotiating with the content holders. I don’t think you can do good cloud services with the kind peculiar disregard for users needs that mark some of Apple’s other activities.

    7. Usergnome says:

      And BTW – in Maverick’s, Dictation is going to be available while off-line. And, it is going to type in the words as you speak. I have not used speech to text on Windows, but with the addition of these two features it appears that Apple dictation is now at par.

      I use dictation all the time, and curiously, it seems to perform better than Dragon NaturallySpeaking which I also own. I had thought that dictation did not learn your individual voice, but I have recently seen information on the Apple site to the contrary. I understand that Apple uses Dragon technology, but somehow I find it easier to use.

      Now that I have gotten used to using dictation, I hardly type at all. It almost always needs needs at least a single correction inside a paragraph. But it’s more than good enough to give my aching rotator cuff’s a rest.

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