• Newsletter Issue #355

    September 18th, 2006


    As most of you heard, Apple updated its iPod line last week, added movie downloads, such as they are, and introduced a new product that promised to extend the reach of those movies to a flat-panel TV. That is, when what is now called iTV is released next year.

    To put things in perspective, I brought two of my favorite guests on The Tech Night Owl LIVE to the table. First up was David Biedny, as we paid a visit to “The David Biedny Zone” for plenty of provocative commentary. Offering a somewhat different point of view was Macworld writer and author Kirk McElhearn. In fact, Kirk and I have a “friendly bet” on just what wireless technology Apple will offer on that iTV when it’s released. Kirk says it’ll be based on existing technology, such as 802.11g, just like AirPort Express, while I said it’ll require something much faster, such as the proposed 802.11n standard. May the best speculator win.

    In addition, Benjamin Rudolph of Parallels was on hand to talk about the latest updates to Mac version of their flagship PC virtualization software, and Paul DiComo, Marketing Manager of Polk Audio, helped us sort out the ins and outs of the newest radio formats, such as satellite and HD.

    Coming up on next’s week’s show is Michael Wray, President of Mariner Software, a company that recently released new Mac screenwriting and blogging software. Bob Crane, of C. Crane Company, will add his unique viewpoints about those new radio formats, and whether they can really gain traction in the long haul.

    I’d also like to invite all of you to visit our new Tech Night Owl LIVE forums and check out a special section we’ve added covering Apple War Stories. You’re invited to participate with your own tales of woe or even your positive experiences.

    Our other radio show, The Paracast, had a busy night Sunday, as we featured former Air Force intelligence officer Robert M. Collins, author of “Exempt from Disclosure, 2nd Edition,” who talked to David and I about about government UFO conspiracies and what they really know about those strange objects in the skies.

    We also presented an expert on the mysteries of remote viewing, the ability to see things in your mind that are happening in other locations and other times. The guest was Paul H. Smith, author of “Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Inside Star Gate — America’s Psychic Espionage Program.”

    On September 24th, we’ll feature UFO abduction researcher Dr. David M. Jacobs and Dr. Nick Begich, an expert on mind control.


    The other day I received a letter from a reader wondering whether he’d get a discount on Mac OS 10.5 Leopard if he bought a new Mac for Christmas. He hadn’t been following the news lately, so he wasn’t aware that it won’t actually ship until the spring of next year.

    Here’s what I told him, even though I don’t like the answer: Apple is very stingy in its operating system update policies. If you buy a new Mac after an Mac OS X upgrade ships, you can usually get the upgrade for a modest shipping and handling fee. Otherwise you pay the full price, even if you bought the previous operating system version the day before.

    To be fair, Apple has occasionally instituted a somewhat more liberal policy, where the mere announcement of an actual shipping date is enough to trigger the upgrade discount, but I don’t see things moving in that direction.

    In fact, I fully expect Leopard will cost more, partly because I expect you’ll get a lot more bundled applications. I’ll get to that shortly, but I am certainly not happy about the whole thing.

    Now this isn’t to say that Apple doesn’t deserve to make a fair profit from its investment in R&D. In fact, they do, but I think they’d make more money in the end if they would just loosen the requirements a little bit.

    You see, as Leopard approaches, I rather suspect there’s the danger of some folks setting aside their plans to buy new Macs because they hope to buy a computer with the new operating system preloaded. Regardless of the price, they’d feel cheated, as they did before, if they had to spring for the full retail upgrade just a month or two after investing in the computer itself.

    It wouldn’t seem fair, would it. Of course, I have to be honest about it, and that is that it doesn’t appear that sales have been hit that much on previous occasions, but things are different now. Leopard is likely to appear some time after Windows Vista hits the street, unless there is some last-minute delay, and I’m just not sure there will be. Microsoft appears to be rushing headlong into getting something out early next year, even if it requires a subsequent service pack or two to handle the most serious bugs.

    Microsoft will, of course, be charging a lot more for the fully-decked out version of Vista. The “Ultimate” version will list for $399, but there will be an upgrade version for $259 for XP users.

    That’s a lot more than Apple ever charges for a single system version, of course, so the issue of a sensible upgrade path may not be such a compelling matter. On the other hand, I rather suspect it won’t be $129 again. It all comes down to the number of bundled applications.

    I do not believe that only Boot Camp, Front Row and Photo Booth will accompany the standard Mac OS X roster of Dashboard, iChat, iCal, Mail, Safari and the rest. That’s not the complete picture, and the presentation at Apple’s WWDC implied there will be more. More? Yes, and that may very well be iLife ’07. That may seem like a radical idea, but it begins to make sense.

    You see, everyone who buys a new Mac these days gets the current version of the iLife suite at no extra cost. You can buy them separately, of course, but those new versions tend to work best with the most recent operating system, which may force you to upgrade both. For example, iLife ’06 can run on Mac OS 10.3.9, but 10.4.4 or later is “recommended.”

    More to the point, Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate will include their own bundled lifestyle applications, which will include Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker, clearly designed as direct competitors to iPhoto and iMovie. There will also be “integrated DVD burning and authoring,” which seems to be reminiscent of iDVD.

    That would surely give Apple some incentive to make a corresponding move, which is to make its digital lifestyle apps standard equipment too beginning with Leopard. At the same time, you should expect to see the price Leopard to increase somewhat because if will offer a lot more value. While it may indeed remain at $129, don’t be surprised at $149 or $179 price tags.

    The higher price ought to make it sensible for Apple consider an upgrade policy where anyone who buys a copy of Tiger or a new Mac up to 90 days before Leopard ships would pay a lower price. Not necessarily $19.95 shipping and handling, but something closer to $49.

    Would that make sense to you? It does to me, and while I’m not holding out much hope for it to happen, I remain ever optimistic, as always.


    This is a scenario that’s probably not unusual, unfortunately. But it may represent a severe downside to bundling all your telecom services, such as phone, Internet and TV. Yes, you save money, but you also don’t want to confront the problem one of my long-time friends has faced.

    You see, he lives in the heart of New York City, just a five-minute walk from the Empire State Building. But he’s not wealthy; in fact, he lives under fairly modest circumstances, but because he has occupied the same apartment for over two decades, he benefits from a fairly decent rent-controlled environment.

    In any case, after enduring some questionable customer service issues with Verizon, the local phone provider, he decided to subscribe to the full bundle of services from the local cable provider, Time Warner. Everything worked fine until the past weekend, when there was a total failure.

    Alas, telephone diagnostics failed to resolve the problem. The entire system was out; he had to use his mobile phone to contact technical support. It appeared that the problem was localized to his residence, but the earliest date they could send someone over to find the cause was Wed. Not a pleasant outcome.

    Now my friend runs his business from his home, as he’s done for years, so the loss of Internet access and telephone service at the same time is a real catastrophe. He can live without TV reception, since he has a big collection of DVDs and tapes.

    While I understand that it may be hard to roll out trucks in a timely fashion in a farming community, where homes are spread far and wide, a resident in the heart of Manhattan ought to fare better. More than likely, the service person can simply take a back pack with the essential repair tools and cables and simply walk to my friend’s home.

    In the larger scheme of things, a successful telecom bundle lives and dies by the quality of customer support. Having everything piped through a single wire can certainly create unsavory consequences if that line is accidentally cut, and construction workers do that on occasion. You lose everything! At least with separate phone, Internet and TV providers, if available in your city, something will continue to operate in the event of an outage. It would take a pretty major catastrophe, such as Hurricane Katrina, to interrupt all your services at once.

    This isn’t to say bundling is a bad idea. With the proper package, you can save a fair amount of money, and if customer service is really good, you know that service interruptions won’t happen too often, and when they do, they’ll be promptly repaired.

    As to my friend in New York City, well, I suspect he’s going to be looking for another provider real soon now.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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    5 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #355”

    1. Karl says:

      Commenting on the bundled telecom… I use Time Warner in Ohio. The customer service on the phone seems to be pretty good. But the quality of the tech that comes to the house is hit or miss. And with me having Macs makes the matter even worse. Don’t you hate it when techs cop-out with the line… “I don’t know ANYTHING about Macs?”

      Overall Time Warner’s bundle has been pretty reliable. But there was a time when it went out and thought that a back up using dial-up would of been nice, like I used to have before switching to Time Warner.

    2. Terry says:

      Apple has to put alot of effort and $$$ into new versions of the OS and each version is much better than the last. Given that fact I don’t think their prices are at all out opf line. I doubt this is a profit center for them.

    3. huxley says:

      One huge difference between Apple and Microsoft’s approach is that you don’t get full installers in the Windows upgrade version, you need to re-install the previous version and then install the new version on top of that. And if you don’t do everything right (and avoid upgrading your hardware too much), you have to phone Microsoft’s support line to get your copy of Windows authorized. Yay!!!

    4. Ed says:

      Microsoft will, of course, be charging a lot more for the fully-decked out version of Vista. The “Ultimate” version will list for $399, but there will be an upgrade version for $259 for XP users.

      That’s a lot more than Apple ever charges for a single system version, of course, so the issue of a sensible upgrade path may not be such a compelling matter. On the other hand, I rather suspect it won’t be $129 again.

      But MS charges that much once every, what, three or four years? Apple charges $129 for yearly updates with no upgrade pricing, so it ends up being as much or more than MS.

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