After Apple hit estimates of its quarterly earnings out of the ballpark, we decided to devote a portion of the October 19th episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE to a discussion of Apple’s and Microsoft’s prospects in the near future. Our featured guest, Joe Wilcox, a senior industry analyst for JupiterResearch, is nothing if not circumspect on the subject, however. Rather than criticize anyone for faulty guesses, he tried to focus on the facts and his analysis of same.
In another segment on the show, we talked to MacCompanion’s Robert Pritchett about the future of his online publication. Among other things, he is looking over various methods of distributing content, including a print-on-demand technology.
On Sunday’s episode of The Paracast, David Biedny and I interviewed Richard M. Dolan, a member of the investigative team on the new Sci Fi | Investigates cable TV show. The discussion covered a wide range of subjects, including UFO crashes, conspiracies, and even parapolitics, a New Age term that covers election fraud and other compelling matters.
In the other half of the show, we interviewed author of “MAJIC Eyes Only,” an elaborate hardcover book that is devoted to reports of UFO crashes through the years. He is also conference chairperson of the forthcoming 4th Annual Crash/Retrieval Conference, scheduled for November 10-12, 2006 in Las Vegas.
It seems that almost anyone these days with the title “analyst” can go ahead and make a downright absurd claim and have it taken seriously. Take the Gartner Group, which is now suggesting that Apple should stop building Macs and hand off that assignment to Dell.
I remember what that fellow named Forrest Gump said in that famous movie: “Stupid is as stupid does,” and to call Gartner’s pronouncement stupid is an understatement.
Gartner’s theory, such as it is, is that Intel is giving Apple a sweetheart deal on processors to allow it to keep prices low. It also claims other suppliers are doing the same, which is why Macs are priced so competitively in today’s marketplace.
Well, at least Gartner is not repeating the silly claim that Macs are more expensive than comparably-equipped PCs, or is that really their excuse? At the same time, they provide no evidence as to how much Apple is being propped up by its suppliers, or even that it happens at all. That is, first and foremost, one of the biggest faults in this argument, but there are others.
Lest we forget, Dell isn’t doing near as well as it used to. Although they still holds the number one spot in PC sales in the U.S., they have surrendered that lead to HP worldwide. Sales are down, profits are down, which means Dell’s sales strategies clearly aren’t working. That’s the reason for the promised “Dell 2.0,” a change in direction that promises better products, better support, and bigger returns to stockholders.
Despite that uncomfortable reality, Gartner wants us to believe that a highly successful company, Apple Computer, which has demonstrated that its marketing and pricing strategy is working, should team up with another company that’s clearly troubled these days. Does that make sense to you?
Gartner also wants us to believe that farming out manufacturing of Macs to Dell will provide better products, lower prices, and greater market penetration. At the same time, Gartner seems to forget that Apple tried something of this sort a decade ago, by licensing several manufacturers to build Mac OS computers from reference logic board designs. The biggest of these cloners, Power Computing, was actually headed by a former Dell executive and used something akin to Dell’s online marketing expertise to actually steal sales from Apple. Indeed, cloning nearly killed Apple, yet Gartner wants us to believe that doing it again, with the company that comes closest to Power Computing in the PC world, will somehow deliver huge gains.
In passing, don’t forget that, when Apple cut its ties to the cloning program, it paid $100 million to Power Computing to acquire, among other things, its online sales operation, which formed the basis for Apple’s online storefront.
Gartner clearly hasn’t learned the lessons of history and wants Apple to repeat its mistakes. Besides, if Apple needs to license others to build Macs, why pick Dell? It’s not as if Dell makes the most reliable PCs. In fact, its quality control has dipped way below Apple and other PC makers. For the most part, Apple still rates at the top of the list, although its note-book reliability has fallen somewhat to just about equal its competitors.
So we are left with the logic-stretching concept of letting a builder of clearly inferior products take over building Macs.
In the real world, of course, neither Apple nor Dell build much of anything these days. They actually assemble most of their stuff in Asia, using contract factories. In fact, it’s safe to say that some of the same electronics assemblers build both, and that Apple and Dell often use components from the same parts bins.
Perhaps the most important lesson Apple has learned through the years is not to listen to analysts. For a long, long time, they were urged to allow Mac clones, and see where that went? In recent years, Apple has been told to license its iTunes DRM so other players could use it. Here, Microsoft has found that such a scheme simply doesn’t work, which is why it is double-crossing its “PlaysForSure” partners and pushing a closed digital media ecosystem, known to one and all as Zune. In other words, Apple was right all along, and Microsoft has finally accepted that “awful truth.”
What’s more, Apple’s products are selling at record levels. Profit margins and earnings are up, it has plenty of cash in the bank, and the market share of Macs is increasing far more than those analysts ever expected. People from Gartner and other companies who think they have better ideas ought to be ashamed. Or maybe they just wanted to make a few headlines, and so they have, although it may not be the sort of headlines they want.
In my review of the Bose Quiet Comfort 3 headphones last week, I avoided giving it a star rating, since I didn’t see it as terribly different from the Quiet Comfort 2, except for the changed form factor and a higher input sensitivity — and, of course, the higher price. Forgetting both factors, I regard both products as virtually identical, and quite good for that matter.
But they are primarily consumer products, not oriented towards businesses where high noise levels are part of the job, such as an airport or the trading areas at a stock exchange. In such environments, if you were forced to listen to those ambient noises without protection, your hearing would be no better than the veteran rock star who has endured too many hours in front of loud amps and the deafening din of the screaming masses who attend their concerts.
You’ll find a more industrial-strength solution at $274.99 in theBoom Quiet, from UMEVoice, which I’ve been using for a while in the radio studio area of my home office. While I haven’t needed its noise-canceling feature, I’ve found the audio quality to be pretty good, close to the Bose in fact.
The advantage of theBoom Quiet is that noise-canceling is optional, which means you don’t have to waste battery power just listening to music. It’s also a more complete package than the Bose, with a detachable boom mic that reduces background noise, so you can actually be heard in such surroundings. Audio quality is optimized for sharp, clear reproduction of the human voice, which is both a plus and a minus, as I’ll get to later.
To give the product a fair test, I also requested the $19.99 USB adapter, which works on both PCs or Macs. But any USB adapter, such as the Griffin Technology iMac, would work as well, although theBoom version is smaller and tailored to UMEVoice’s own products.
The standard package, however, is remarkably complete, and, like the Bose, it comes in a handy carrying case so it travels well. The cables are, by the way, labeled so you don’t have to figure out which works with your cell phone, and which connects to your iPod. The headset also has a handy volume control, so you can easily cope with low-input devices. In contrast, the Bose Quiet Comfort 3 has no level adjustment, and the Quiet Comfort 2 only has a two-position switch for that function.
With noise-canceling activated, other than voices, you exist in a sea of silence. The effect seems to also boost the treble somewhat when you’re listening to music, and you may or may not appreciate the added “transparency.”
Taken strictly as a cell phone, VoIP or dictation mic, the detachable boom is well-designed. Your voice remains understandable to the listener even in an environment where background noise is high. It’s not a mic you’d pick for your next podcast, however.
On most fronts, theBoom Quiet is a compelling alternative to the Bose. And if you’re not enamored of the legendary Bose “sound,” you’ll probably find the UMEVoice alternative a better buy.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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