• Newsletter Issue #394

    June 17th, 2007

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    I suppose this week’s show was pre-ordained, considering the events on June 11th, what with the Steve Jobs keynote at the WWDC. So on this week’s all-star episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we looked over the newest details of Mac OS 10.5 Leopard and some of the side issues from that event.

    First up on the guest list was cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran of Roughly Drafted Magazine, who gave his insights into the proceedings. We then brought on noted author Ted Landau, who had his own slant on the WWDC.

    Finally, there was industry analyst Ross Rubin of the NPD Group, who expanded the topic list to include consumer electronics in general. We even got into HDTV towards the end.

    On this week’s episode of The Paracast, we had a return appearance by alien implant researcher Dr. Roger Leir, who brought us up to date on his latest investigations.

    We also presented UFO experiencer Jeremy Vaeni, author of “I Know Why The Alien’s Don’t Land!” and co-sponsor, along with UFO Magazine, of the forthcoming “Culture of Contact” convention, which is scheduled for June 22-24, 2007 in New York City.

    Coming June 24: An evening with veteran UFO investigator Dr. Bruce Maccabee.

    Back in the early 1990s, when I was working (or slaving) in the online forums at AOL, I was subjected to some vicious attacks on the part of people who simply hated AOL and all it stood for.

    Well, during this period, I was part of a small group of people who were victimized by a spammer’s attempt to subscribe all of us to thousands of mailing lists. It took about a week to clean up my mailbox of all that junk, by the way.

    Well, one of the victims of that escapade was the Science Editor of Time magazine, so I found myself quoted in that publication. Within days, one of the AOL haters of that era devoted pages slamming me for the simple reason that I got my name in a national magazine. Oh well.

    It’s been years since I was engaged in depending myself from the online flame wars. But some people won’t let sleeping dogs lie. There is one particular character, who has written a couple of UFO books through the years, who has made it his “divine” mission in life to attack David, myself, and some of our friends and colleagues.

    I wrote the person in question exactly one letter asking him to stop. In exchange, I got two lengthy letters purportedly written under his email address by one of his “assistants.” Strange that all of his alleged helpers use the same peculiar syntax in their letters as he does. Strange indeed!

    Now I gather he wants to expose us on some sort of TV reality show. Good luck to him, but I think you know where this is going, which is that no such thing will ever happen. But some people will never learn, and so they just carry on, whether we pay attention to their aberrant behavior or not.

    IS APPLE TAKING US BACK TO THE 1990S?

    Do you remember the first great browser war era of the last decade? In this corner, there was Netscape, and in the far corner, coming up faster than anyone expected, was Microsoft. At the time, Microsoft actually did a smart thing. They built a better application, so it wasn’t just a matter of tying it irretrievably to the Windows platform. Even Mac users benefited from the competition.

    It didn’t take long before Netscape became big and bloated, something that’s said about Microsoft nowadays. On the other hand, Internet Explorer was the lean and mean fighting machine that justifiably deserved its leadership status.

    Of course, none of this takes into account Microsoft’s ruthless marketing tactics that got it at the wrong side of the Department of Justice. But it didn’t hurt having a better product.

    However, owning the browser market didn’t serve Microsoft well, as it essentially set its browser development efforts aside, resting on its laurels. That created the vacuum filled by a number of lesser browsers, and then, from the ashes of the failed Netscape company, came Firefox.

    Depending on whom you ask, Firefox today has 15% of the browser market and maybe as high as 20%. Apple’s Safari, while restricted to a single minority computing platform, garners 5%. Opera, which is available on several operating systems, doesn’t come close.

    I suppose the browser market is shaking out nicely with only a minor contribution from Apple. Microsoft is down to roughly 78% or even less, despite releasing a major upgrade to Internet Explorer that mostly catches up to the competition. And despite the fact that its standard issue in Windows Vista, and available as a downloadable update for all XP users.

    After all that, you wonder if it’s really worth it for Apple to enter the fray, but they have bigger fish to fry. Alright, browsers are mostly given away free, but there are income opportunities. For example, those search fields, which are paid for by the likes of Google and Yahoo, depending on traffic of course.

    But Apple didn’t deliver a Windows version of Safari just to earn some extra cash from search engines. For one thing, there’s the burgeoning iPhone platform. For now, third-party applications for the iPhone will simply run as applications on the embedded version of Safari. Since Apple’s new gadget will be available for both Mac and PC users, it makes perfect sense to have the browser on both operating systems.

    There’s always the stealth fighter element too. With both iTunes and Safari available for Windows users, the elements of the Mac user interface are being exposed to a larger user base.

    Indeed, Safari for Windows is surely rough and unpolished. But it does render pages quickly, though I haven’t really gone the extra mile to confirm whether it’s truly faster than Internet Explorer and Firefox.

    Although superficially confirming to the Windows interface, it’s clearly a Mac port. You can see that when you check the preference panels, and realize you can only resize a browser window at its lower right.

    The Safari beta also highly unstable, just as the critics say. I didn’t have to use it for very long under Windows Vista before it stopped responding. And this was the 3.0.1 update that supposedly addressed some serious security bugs.

    Based on the speed with which Apple responded to those problems, however, it’s clear they are fully committed to building a state-of-the-art browser for Windows users.

    The fact that there were all of a million downloads the first few days clearly demonstrates the power of Apple’s hype machine. Or perhaps there are lots of curious Windows users who are aching for something better but aren’t yet ready to ditch Microsoft’s operating system.

    Certainly, if the Safari 3 experience proves positive, by and large, it may indeed encourage more Windows users to tell Microsoft to take a hike and switch to Macs.

    On the other hand, if Apple fails to get a handle on the various early-release bugs in a reasonably prompt fashion, Safari may end being just a curiosity and not much more.

    Regardless of the outcome, it’s nice to see the browser wars play out with renewed vigor. That’s for sure.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: IS BIGGER ALWAYS BETTER? A COUPLE OF FIRST LOOKS

    This past week, the overnight carriers who visit me almost daily must have put me on their hate list. First there was that c780dtn printer from Lexmark, which, all told, resembles a washing machine and weighs near as much. You see, my home office is on the second floor, and the delivery person hoodwinked me into helping him take the box up the stairs.

    Well, actually, it was three boxes. The printer came in the larger container, and the smaller boxes had the duplex adapter and the extra 500-page tray. I fervently wished for help when setting it all up, because the printer has to be seated atop the two accessories to make them all play nicely together.

    The other new addition to my testing roster was also big in its own way. After using 23-inch and 24-inch displays for a number of years, I felt it was time to commit to a 30-inch variety, since I frequently run out of screen real estate when juggling various application windows.

    The decision was made easier when I got a letter from Dell suggesting that it was time to send back that 24-inch UltraSharp 2407WFP display that had sent me for review, and exchange it with one of their new 30-inch UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC displays. According to Dell, the newest model, which is currently available for $1,269, offers superior color rendition compared to its predecessor.

    So what’s there to say about these big newcomers to my testing roster?

    Well, the Lexmark printer certainly is an imposing device, with room for 1,100 sheets of paper, and claimed output speeds of 35 pages per minute for black and white, and 31 pages per minute for color. This is the level of performance you used to get with top-of-the line workgroup printers, but this model occupies the middle of their product line, at lists for $1,399.

    It’ll be compared with the somewhat cheaper Oki c6100dn, and may the best printer win. For now, let me just say that the c780dtn has superb text quality, down to the smallest sizes. Color reproduction is clean, with just a shift towards red. I’ll have more to say in a few weeks.

    As to the Dell display, it’s surely humongous, nearly overwhelming my desk. It will probably take a little time to adapt to all that extra screen real estate. I remember when I first went from my trusty 13-inch Apple color monitor years ago to a 20-inch. It seemed that it took forever for the cursor to travel from one end to the other, and I wondered how I’d comfortably navigate all that extra space.

    But it wasn’t long before it became second nature. Then there was the migration to 23-inch and 24-inch widescreens, which was a fairly quick process. After a couple of days, though, I realized I could never tolerate anything smaller, except on a note-book of course.

    On my first evening with 30 inches, I wondered about a neighbor, a day trader, who boasts of having two 30-inch displays on his desk. The better to examine his vast holdings, I suppose.

    In any case, the Dell is a welcome addition to my desktop. Mrs. Steinberg finds it somewhat overwhelming, but she’ll get used to it, and I will too.

    THE FINAL WORD

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

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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    16 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #394”

    1. […] Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter. […]

    2. Michael says:

      "Microsoft is down to roughly 78% or even less, despite releasing a major upgrade to Internet Explorer that mostly catches up to the competition."I'm not sure what you'd mean by "catching up". There was the addition of tabbed browsing, which is attractive to users, but aside from that the only only major catching up I can think of is improved CSS support.  That's nice for web developers, who don't have to use workarounds to do what they could otherwise do easily with CSS, and who are now closer to being able to write a page that'll work in any browser without CSS-hacks and conditional comments. But it doesn't mean a thing to users, who still get their page whether it takes a developer longer to write and gives him more pain or not.I guess there's the addition of RSS — not sure how much people are looking for that.But I wonder how much of the impulse to use something else has been down to IE's security record. It's been a conduit for some pretty nasty attacks. AFAICT, binding it into the the OS and getting it to run ActiveX were both very bad for security. (In both cases these were presumably commercial decisions  — c.f the DOJ case you mentioned — and MS must have thought "and never mind the security implications".) I'd think some of the most important changes in IE7 have to do with security (although it still runs ActiveX) but even if it is as secure as the alternatives, even if it has leapfrogged them, I'd guess many people won't recover confidence in it for a very long time.

    3. irri says:

      The fact that there were all of a million downloads the first few days clearly demonstrates the power of Apple’s hype machine. Or perhaps there are lots of curious Windows users who are aching for something better but aren’t yet ready to ditch Microsoft’s operating system.

      I would bet most of that million downloads came from Mac users who either have a Windows machine at work or have a virtual Windows machine in their Macs. Let’s be honest, Windows-only users do not really follow Apple events up to the minute (specially a not consumer oriented WWDC type of event) and are not really compelled to download a beta piece of software they don’t need

    4. Steve W says:

      It’s not a war until the empire strikes back.

    5. Not a comment, just a question. When and on what radio station is your weekly broadcast?

      Thanks,
      ebw13

      Yes, I can hear the John Williams theme music even now 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. Hammer of truth says:

      Apple has stolen a page out of Microsoft’s playbook. The whole reason why you are seeing Safari for Windows is because of the iPhone. I guess that there will be a lot of people who do not own iTunes and want an iphone and therefore download the bundle that comes with Safari. Remember you need an iTunes store account to setup an iphone. Plus it would help those windows users who did buy an iphone to get used to the built in Safari browser. The revenue from the searches would help the bottom line. It’s pretty much the same play they used for the iPod, except this time they are going against IE7, and it might work or at least put a serious dent in Explorer’s marketshare.

    7. Ernest Wilson says:

      Not a comment, just a question. When and on what radio station is your weekly broadcast?

      Thanks,
      ebw13

    8. On June 18, 2007 at 12:48 pm, Ernest Wilson said:

      Not a comment, just a question. When and on what radio station is your weekly broadcast?

      Thanks,
      ebw13

      OK, The Tech Night Owl LIVE is available online from our site. This show streams live each Thursday from 9 to 11 PM Eastern.

      The Paracast is available online and via KLAV-AM in Las Vegas. The live stream online occurs Sundays from 9 to 11 PM Eastern. The terrestrial station carries the show Sunday, from 9 to 11 PM Pacific.

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. Moctod says:

      [Do you remember the first great browser war era of the last decade?]

      Well, more like genocide, no?

      [In this corner, there was Netscape, and in the far corner, coming up faster than anyone expected, was Microsoft.]

      Yes, the MS harpoon that ‘killed’ Netscape, was actually Spyglass “” which was actually Mosaic. Netscape was Mosaic. Interesting.

      [At the time, Microsoft actually did a smart thing.]

      Uh, cunning more so than ‘smart’.

      [They built a better application,]

      Well, they bought a better application…

      [so it wasn’t just a matter of tying it irretrievably to the Windows platform.]

      Just mostly.

      [Even Mac users benefited from the competition.]

      If by benefited you mean “” left on the vine to rot “” then yeah, benefited it is.

    10. Jeff says:

      Safari on Windows has little to do with “letting the world have one more browser” and more to do with “getting more beta-testers for WebKit”.

      Apple have open-sourced WebKit to ensure that they get the maximum number of friendly eyes looking through their renderer which is useful in more than just Safari. After all, its used in OmniWeb. (Surprising its not used in iTunes. Yet. But by having it in the Windows environment for a while, they can prove its maturity before migrating iTunes to using it)

      Elsewhere on the Web, people would have you believe that this is Apple attempting to lock up the web, but the fact that they are locking it into an open-sourced-browser-engine pretty much proves the reverse. If Apple get website developers focusing on one platform that they know is 100% compatible across Windows, OSX and iPhones, the web *must* become a better place.

    11. Michael says:

      “Well, they bought a better application”¦”

      They also threw a lot of development effort at it. Here’s Roughly Drafted today:

      “Microsoft invested significant resources into IE, outpacing Netscape both in development and marketing. It not only bundled IE with Windows–in violation of its earlier consent decree–but also used its marketing clout to push ISPs to distribute IE instead of Netscape.”

      An attack on many fronts. It involved deliberate deviation from the standards but also more support for some of them than Netscape 4.x had. What perhaps people don’t realize now is that at one time web developers used to moan at NN4 the way they now moan at IE6. Here’s an interesting fossil:

      http://realworldstyle.com/

      It’s an early attempt at writing pages whose layout is done with CSS, not tables. The challenge, each time, is to come up with a CSS design that will work in NN4.

      Internet Explorer also has pretty much unrivaled error-handling. XML parsers are supposed to stop parsing when encountering syntax errors, but HTML parsers are more forgiving and are supposed to be. You can make errors in an HTML page, but a browser will still, in many cases, display something for you, and will go so far as not to give you what you asked for but second-guess you as to what you meant. It’s debatable how far that should go, and some deliberate tightening up has been hinted at, but all browsers do this. And there’s no doubt that people at MS must have put a tremendous amount of work into ensuring that whatever mistakes you’d made your page would still look as you’d intended it to.

      Once Netscape was off the scene, Microsoft seem to have pretty much mothballed development on Internet Explorer, but there’s no doubt that they threw resources at it when they wanted to push Netscape out of the market.

    12. I think Daniel’s presentation in Roughly Drafted about the original browser wars should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the background in more detail.

      You can check out the article directly at: http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q2.07/12C0979F-82C7-4952-898A-55051A2D3897.html

      Part II examines the rise of Firefox and Safari and sounds, to me, like required reading for anyone who wants to understand the current state of browser development.

      Peace,
      Gene

    13. Moctod says:

      Wasn’t there an interview by a german newspaper where Gates brags how IE cost a billion dollars to develop.

      So, after spending a billion on development, he gives it away for free “” screwing Spyglass and NCSA out of royalties.

    14. Moctod says:

      Wasn’t there an interview by a german newspaper where Gates brags how IE cost a billion dollars to develop.

      So, after spending a billion on development, he gives it away for free “” screwing Spyglass and NCSA out of royalties.

    15. Michael says:

      “Wasn’t there an interview by a german newspaper where Gates brags how IE cost a billion dollars to develop.”

      It’s possible. A journalist at the _Register_ writes of:

      “… the claimed absence of any accounting system to track expenditure on Internet Explorer, thought to exceed one billion dollars.”

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/03/30/gates_interviews_more_rewrites/

      This is all interesting stuff, and a close reading of what was going on would be “undeceiving” (To use C. S. Lewis’s term) indeed. There’s a lot of information out there, but pulling it all together and making sense of it is the thing. I guess the history of all this is yet to be written. Perhaps Daniel is the man to do it.

    16. Apple entering one more browser into the market is crazy. Yep, crazy like a fox.

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