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Pathetic Ways to Upstage Apple

Certainly, Apple’s upcoming iPhone media event has been telegraphed in the media for a while. When the rumors first arose, well-connected bloggers, such as The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple, were quick to say it was true. But the timing is essentially in step with last year’s iPhone 5 rollout, and was thus predictable.

Now anytime Apple holds a press briefing, it’s pretty doubtful that any other tech company will be able to find a way to get some press. So what appears to be happening is that other companies are trying to divert this week’s conversation to their own products or services.

So, after tech pundits were busy dissecting the lame excuse that Steve Ballmer’s planned departure as Microsoft CEO was voluntary rather than forced, the company made more headlines this week. But you wonder if it was really worth the effort — and the money!

Since I’ve already weighed in on Microsoft’s deal with Nokia, clearly an act of utter desperation, I won’t bore you with any further comments, except for the timing. The questionable move got headlines this week; next week, there would still be headlines, but Microsoft would be competing with Apple for prominence, and that’s not something that would not have worked in their favor.

On Wednesday, Samsung made an expected announcement about the $299 Galaxy Gear smartwatch, yet another attempt to gain a leg up on the non-existent wearable device craze. All right, CNN is calling it, “the hottest trend in tech,” but that pronouncement is hard to take seriously, since there is no evidence that customers are lining up to buy them. In any case, Samsung clicked all the expected checkboxes for this new gadget, but the hardware ends up being low rent compared to full-fledged smartphones and tablets. They couldn’t even come up with a memorable name that isn’t a tongue twister.

Indeed, I wonder why Samsung even bothered to mention the specs at all for something that would be a poor stepchild to the mobile devices to which it would link. Even there, the only compatible gear, so far, is the Galaxy Note 3 (a phablet) and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which therefore forces potential customers to buy two devices to use one.

One might think that Samsung would, at the very least, have made their smart watch compatible with the best selling gadgets, rather than handicap the thing so severely. It doesn’t matter which apps are supported, or even that there are some health oriented apps available along with an onboard pedometer.

Worse, battery life is just one day, which further restricts the usefulness of this gadget. I would expect that, with hard use, it would be even less, and imagine having to recharge your watch every few hours Indeed, The Verge had a brief hands-on, where they said the interface lagged, and, by the end of Samsung’s media briefing, “the cameras on most of the demo units were refusing to turn on due to the watches running low on power.”

All day? Sure, right! Clearly Samsung rushed this device to market without considering the fundamental problems of battery life, flexibility, or even the ability to pair with a large number of devices to actually work.

All right, the Gear’s looks aren’t so bad for a tech toy, though it doesn’t seem to veer so much from the current crop of smart watches. No doubt Samsung felt they could get a leg up on Apple, which is widely believed to be crafting a wearable device dubbed iWatch. But you can bet that, if the iWatch is meant as a companion to an existing iOS device, it would support all current and recent models, and that battery life would be at least several days under normal use.

Also, I am still not convinced that Apple would want an iWatch to require hookup to another device, although that feature would be offered. A better solution would be to offer full standalone capability, including the phone, so you didn’t have to take two gadgets with you to use just one. However, something of this sort would require at a high level of creativity along with design and engineering expertise.

To Samsung, it’s easier just to throw together an ill-conceived gadget, and hope that customers will be fooled into buying them. To be sure, I expect some of the tech publications will lavish high praise on this misbegotten product. Regardless, Samsung might bask in the glow of publicity for a short time, until Apple delivers the news on the new iPhones at the September 10 event.

As to Google, they have now confirmed that the next version of Android will not be version 5 Key Lime Pie as many expected. Instead, it’ll be 4.4 KitKat. I don’t know about naming operating systems after candy, particularly the kind that makes those annoying clicks when you break it apart. Indeed, the incessant clicking on those ever-irritating ads for the failed Microsoft Surface tablets at first reminded me of hundreds of people with Kit Kat candy bars on hand. Now Google is taking it to heart. Worse, Google isn’t revealing the feature set just yet, though you expect that, with just a minor number upgrade, it won’t be changed all that much from 4.3 Jelly Bean.

By next week, talk of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, and the next version of Android, will be largely forgotten. I also expect there won’t be too much chatter about who the next CEO of Microsoft might be, unless Ballmer’s successor is suddenly announced. But you can bet the critics will be ranting about Apple, and how the new iPhones aren’t innovative enough. Oh well!