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  • Newsletter Issue #406

    September 9th, 2007

    ANOTHER MILESTONE

    It may seem as if our Web updates are never ending, and not because I have that obsessive-compulsive urge, in the fashion of the famous cable TV detective, “Monk.” No, it’s because we are always trying new things and adding features to make it easier for you to visit these sites and get more information faster.

    In recent weeks, traffic has begun overwhelming our present system, which is known as VPS (short for Virtual Private Server), so I talked to our friendly, neighborhood Web guy, Denis Motova, and he put us on our own dedicated Web server.

    What this means is that all our content is housed on its own computer, which will mean better performance, and a lot more capacity to handle the increased traffic. Not only will the sites display faster in any browser, but your comments and forum posts will appear quicker as well.

    But it also means that we’ll need a little extra help from you readers to foot the bill. To do that, just click the Donate button on our site, in the sidebar at the left to assist and, no, we won’t turn down advertisers either.

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    We knew Apple would release new iPods, but that notorious $200 price cut on the iPhone came out of left field. But that’s Apple’s way.

    So, on this week’s all-star episode The Tech Night Owl LIVE, our outspoken Special Correspondent, David Biedny, returned to provide the “Monday morning quarterback” analysis of Apple’s new iPods, and the unexpected price reduction of the iPhone. Indeed, it still looks like he’ll never buy one. Not now, not ever. He gave up his mobile phone last year.

    You’ll also heard commentary from one of those who attended the Apple briefing on the new gear, Bill Palmer, of iProng, a popular news and information site for iPod and iPhone owners. The industry reaction came from my long-time friend Ross Rubin of the NPD Group.

    In addition, Denis Motova returned to explain the ins and outs of trademark infringement issues on the Internet. On next week’s session, we’ll talk about tech support and what you need to do to get the help you need without jumping through hoops and navigating through shark-infested waters.

    This week on The Paracast, you’ll meet Stephen Bassett, Executive Director of the Paradigm Research Group, who is lobbying for UFO disclosure and anticipates positive results over the next few years. You’ll also learn about the special event he sponsors, X-Conference 2007.

    In addition, prolific paranormal author Brad Steiger discusses the “Shadow World” and other provocative subjects, and David reveals another paranormal experience he has never previously discussed in public. By the way, I didn’t expect David to reveal anything knew — it just came out, totally unexpected (at least by me).

    Coming September 18: UFO investigator Frank Warren will discuss the controversial Walter Haut affidavit concerning the Roswell case and other subjects.

    Now just to remind you again: In previous weeks, I’ve presented a sample of my regular commentaries for listeners to The Paracast here, but that’s going to change from here on. If you’re a listener — or a potential listener — to the show, you’ll want to subscribe to our weekly issues of The Paracast Newsletter to get more of the same, plus regular information about the show. To sign up, just pay a visit to our Paracast Home Page, enter your email address and click the Subscribe button to join.

    APPLE CONVERTS ROCKS INTO GOLD ONCE AGAIN

    When Apple decided to drop the price tag of the iPhone by $200, a lot of people wondered what Steve Jobs was “smoking.” After all, if a product is truly successful, you’d expect them to milk the profits from their new gadget for as long as possible before chasing after maximum volume.

    But Apple is anything but predictable. While it’s true that new wireless phones frequently drop in price over the run of a specific model, having it happen in a mere 10 weeks would seem surprising. Indeed, Wall Street pounced on this development as evidence of a possible fire sale, that the iPhone wasn’t selling near as many units as Apple predicted, so they had to reduce the price sooner than expected.

    Apple’s stock price took a small bath as a result, but does that make any sense at all?

    Steve Jobs, for example, proclaimed last week that Apple was still on track to move one million iPhones before the end of the quarter, on September 30. But they have, as of Monday, already reached that milestone, according to a company press release. Third party sales reports for July indicated the iPhone was an unexpectedly top seller in the smart phone category, and on a par with the other hot-seller among “feature” phones, the LG Chocolate, which is sold through Verizon Wireless.

    Worse, Apple took a huge public relations hit for their expected price cut. In his apologetic letter to Apple customers, Steve Jobs talked of receiving hundreds of email complaints in a single day, and having read them all. That estimate sounds conservative; some figures say Apple got thousands of messages voicing complaints, though perhaps only a portion of them landed in Steve’s Inbox.

    Regardless, Jobs said his company had to do right by its customers, particularly the early adopters, many of whom waited for days or hours in lines to be the first to get an iPhone. So he announced a $100 rebate program, which would apparently involve coupons that could be redeemed towards the purchase of other Apple gear.

    This may seem self-serving. Minus some lost profits, Apple still keeps your money, although that $100 applies even to folks who bought the phone from AT&T. In addition, if you acquired your iPhone up to 14 days prior to the price reduction, you are entitled to a refund if you return an unopened unit, or just the cash difference. Either way, the policies make perfect sense, although I suspect some Apple and AT&T outlets are a little confused about how to handle customer requests under these circumstances.

    Assuming all the problems work themselves out, you have to credit Apple for not stonewalling, and coming up with a sensible solution so quickly. At the same time, I agree with Steve Jobs that people who are first onboard to acquire new technology will pay extra, at least until the initial R&D expenses are covered.

    The technology lifecycle is also incredibly short in the scheme of things. Within months, the new improved model will be introduced at the same price as the one it replaces, or even less. That’s just the way things are, and you have to accept the situation.

    How a company handles that situation, of course, is just as important. Jobs first felt that simply telling you “too bad” that you bought an iPhone too soon was sufficiently truthful, but it was a little too blunt.

    Now I don’t normally agree with Apple about a lot of things. In this case, however, if I walked in his shoes, I probably would have reacted in much the same fashion. What’s more, his public mea culpa didn’t read as if it were composed by a crew of public relations hacks. The writing style was both simple and direct, and it smacks of having been penned by Jobs himself. In other words, for once, you actually had an up close and personal look at his real feelings about the situation.

    Of course, in the wake of Apple’s 24-hour turnaround, Wall Street still kept Apple on its “sell” list, and that situation may not change all that much until they come to their senses, or until Apple’s quarterly results demonstrate whether their expectations about iPhone sales are correct.

    What they fail to realize, however, is that Apple’s sales guidance has always been extremely conservative. We now know, for example, that the sales estimate for the iPhone will be comfortably exceeded. Now that the issue of price resistance to the iPhone has been largely vanquished, the sky may indeed be the limit.

    That is, if you believe that buying any wireless phone at $399, plus the two-year contract, is cheap. I don’t, but I’m far more tempted to buy one than I was just a few days ago. And you?

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: ISN’T IT GREAT WHEN THINGS JUST WORK?

    Years ago, there was actually a weekly newspaper that was devoted to reporting strictly good news. But that old journalistic adage, “If it bleeds it leads,” still dominates, and so most of the news you read in print or online involves controversy and tragedy. Wouldn’t it be nice to learn that, more often than not, some things work just fine without forcing you to navigate endless and frustrating phone menus or reach Tier 2 support?

    So, without further adieu, I am going to talk about some things that, in my experience at least, have simply functioned without need of complaints. In the rare circumstances where I’ve run into a problem, it was solved with little delay. You may have different experiences with these same firms, but my encounters are of sufficiently long duration, I feel, to show positive trends.

    • Amazon: In the early days, those misguided Wall Street analysts continued to rant on as to how Jeff Bezos and his company would never show a profit. It took a while, but his vision was right on. I have ordered stuff from Amazon for years. Most of the purchases were books, CDs and DVDs, although a 23-inch Apple HD Cinema Display was included on my shopping excursions. In each case, the product was delivered in good condition, and on time. I never had to write to Amazon to ask why a shipment went astray. Nowadays, although I usually rent DVDs, when I learn of the forthcoming release of a movie I really want to own, I simply order it from Amazon, knowing full well it’ll be here within days of its release. No muss, no fuss. That’s the kind of service I love, and that’s why millions of people depend on Amazon. Now maybe I should have invested in the company before the dot-com meltdown destroyed my finances.
    • Netflix: Nearly two years ago, I decided to take them up on one of those free 30-day trial offers I’d been receiving and gave them a try. I stopped visiting the local Blockbuster soon thereafter and never regretted it. Nowadays, as soon as a movie that interests me appears in a local multiplex — and I don’t intend to buy it — I put it in my Netflix queue. Yes, we still go out to the movies, but only a couple of times a month. In any case, I know full well that, when that movie is released, it’ll be mailed to me, except in a few rare circumstances where they underestimated demand. Since joining, there have been two instances where DVDs with a little mileage on them wouldn’t play, and they replaced it right away without requiring the defective disc to be returned before sending another copy. On one occasion, a DVD got delayed by the post office due to the holiday load, and they still rushed a replacement. When the original DVD finally showed up a month later, I returned it, and I also returned those defective discs. You see, Netflix is trusting its customers to do the right thing, and I’m sure they watch out for people who take advantage of their honor system. Yes, I know Blockbuster is gaining on them, forcing Netflix to add phone support and cut prices. Great! That’s what competition is for, but Netflix has also mastered the online rental process, and they will keep me as a customer so long as they continue to do the right thing.

    Indeed, I’m happy when things work the way they are supposed to, which is precisely my day-to-day experience with my Macs and our Web host. In passing, I’ve also had wonderful experiences with the pharmacy department at the nearby Sam’s Club. Sure, you don’t expect a warehouse discount store to provide decent service, but the pharmacists at that establishment run it with a home-spun approach. They know their patients, and they show special care and attention to their needs. On one occasion, Kathy, one of the two main pharmacists, called my wife several times and coordinated dispensing a prescription with her doctor to make sure there would be no allergic after-effects. In a world where the neighborhood pharmacy is a rarity, and most of the chain stores regard you as an entry in a computer rather than a person, this is a healthy change. I don’t know if other pharmacies in the Sam’s Club chain are as well run, but this particular branch is a jewel. Absolutely!

    Oh yes, Chris, the pharmacy manager, is a big Mac fan 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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