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  • Newsletter Issue #443

    May 25th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    So what’s all this “Net Neutrality” talk all about? Well, it means that an ISP shouldn’t be charging a content provider for speedier access to their network. Such a situation, the critics say, would separate the haves and the have-nots, meaning the small company wouldn’t be able to afford to pay extra to get their stuff to appear on your Mac or PC faster.

    While it would seem logical for broadband services to charge the customer for higher speeds or excessive bandwidth usage, the ISPs would rather squeeze customers at both ends of the network, and that’s what’s being debated in Congress and by the FCC. At least when political campaigns don’t intervene.

    Indeed, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we returned to “The David Biedny Zone,” where our Special Correspondent held forth on the future of the Internet and whether the “gatekeepers” are capable of keeping up with our growing demands for video content. Capable? Well, with more and more movies becoming available online, is it possible that the telecoms may soon run out of bandwidth unless they do a lot of expensive upgrades over the next few years?

    Industry analyst Ross Rubin, of the NPD Group, came onboard to deliver a PC market update, including Apple’s incredible success in selling personal computers above one thousand dollars.

    Our favorite security expert, Rich Mogull, presented an up-to-date Mac and Windows status report, and Alex Ulloa, of iSobre, described a novel product that can be used as a sleeve for both the MacBook and MacBook Air. As you probably discovered when you accessed their site, iSobre stands for “envelope,” and that means a suede or leather manila-style envelope as a proper sleeve, particularly for the MacBook AIr.

    Moving to another front, on The Paracast this week, enjoy a Special Veteran UFO/Paranormal Researcher Roundtable, featuring Jim Moseley, editor of “Saucer Smear,” and T. Allen Greenfield, author of “Secret Cipher of the UFOnauts” and “Secret Rituals of the Men In Black.”

    During this free-wheeling session, you’ll travel through 50 years of UFO history and, in addition, get an exclusive insight into an amazing prediction about possible future UFO activity.

    DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR OR READ!

    On Thursday, May 21, Apple’s stock took another nosedive, and it’s clear that facts and logic weren’t behind this not-so-anomalous event.

    You see, everything should be coming up roses over at Apple Inc. Industry analysts claim to have data showing that iPod sales are up, despite expectations to the contrary, that Mac sales are through the roof and the iPhone sold out ahead of schedule because of the unprecedented demand.

    Despite that, Wall Street seems to live on a constantly wavering tightrope, and the vaguest intimation that something is wrong is sufficient to send a stock tumbling. In this case, it was a rumor that the 3G version of the iPhone, widely expected to be announced on June 9 at the WWDC and available shortly thereafter, would be delayed for up to 30 days for some unknown reason.

    As a result, billions of dollars were shed from Apple’s market value, at least for that one day. However, there was absolutely no foundation whatever to this rumor.

    It was all a fantasy.

    However, Wall Street evidently reeks of paranoia, so all it took was an unconfirmed claim that something had gone wrong to send stockholders scurrying to their brokers yelling “sell, sell!”

    Strange as it may seem, however, despite a gradual run-up in Apple’s stock price in recent weeks, there was no corresponding jump when the news appeared that Macs had 66% of the U.S. retail market for personal computers costing more than $1,000. That, to me, should have caused a virtual avalanche of sales for Apple’s stock, but it just didn’t happen.

    So does it mean that Wall Street simply craves bad news, and cannot stomach information that may lead sharply in the other direction? Well, perhaps not, because it’s true that Apple’s stock price has tended upward from the lower levels reached earlier this year. With analysts claiming that the optimum level may be somewhere between $225 and $235 a share, surely that would be enough ammunition to cause the price to spiral.

    But I suppose far too many people evidently believe Apple is in a bubble sales wise, and that it’s going to burst real soon now. So they take baby steps to jack up the stock price, but are ready to bail at the slightest inkling of trouble.

    It’s not that Wall Street prefers MIcrosoft. Their stock has been relatively flat for years, and I don’t think many people believe the latest rantings from Steve Ballmer or the soon-to-be-retired Bill Gates about their alleged innovations for our tech future.

    Certainly Microsoft’s unfortunate and unexpected bid to acquire Yahoo must surely have smacked of supreme desperation on their part to catch up with Google. You see, Microsoft was forced to confront a huge competitor that it couldn’t defeat with smoke and mirrors. This time, they would only succeed with superior services and superior marketing, and that’s just not something that’s in their DNA.

    Yes, Microsoft has tens of thousands of brilliant people on their employment rolls. But management clearly hasn’t a clue how to do anything but produce the same old buggy, bloated software and hardware initiatives that reek of last year’s technology.

    All right, Microsoft is doing fairly well with the Xbox 360, but you wonder why their stock didn’t tank when they took a write-off of an estimated $100 for every single unit sold to cover the costs of repairing or replacing failed game consoles. In fact, Wall Street seemed scarcely to have noticed, even though this was a genuine catastrophe that should have caused serious concerns.

    I mean, if Apple Inc. said they’d allocated the same amount of money — and remember this is theoretical — for each iPhone sold to cover similar production deficiencies, you just know that the stock price would collapse virtually overnight.

    Does this sound like a double standard to you? Or has it just reached the point where nobody takes Microsoft seriously anymore, and so long as they continue to report decent profits, the stock price will stay relatively the same or move within an extremely narrow range.

    Of course, when it comes to Apple, double standards have been legion, but sometimes the doubters had a point. Back in the 1990s, when management’s stupidity resulted in a proliferation of semi-functional products, and confusing and almost non-existent product distinctions, a lot of tech pundits predicted Apple’s imminent demise.

    There was even the infamous comment from Michael Dell that Apple ought to close shop and return the money to their stockholders. Today, of course, Dell is struggling and Apple’s market cap is considerably higher.

    Steve Jobs, however, isn’t suggesting that Dell close up, and that wouldn’t be a fair thing to say anyway. But some people still think that only Apple deserves to be criticized, fairly or otherwise. 

    CAN A CASE IMPAIR iPHONE RECEPTION?

    It will take a bit for me to get to the point, so bear with me.

    As I’ve said on a number of occasions, my experiences with AT&T Wireless have been surprisingly positive over the six months I’ve used the service. I say “surprisingly” because the number one wireless carrier in the U.S. has long possessed a mediocre reputation for service and support.

    So why did I pick them? Well, after encountering a sharp deterioration in customer support from Verizon Wireless, the number two carrier, I began to look for alternatives. Sprint, now losing customers in droves, was out of the question. I had them once before and their customer service was toxic. It was sometimes impossible for me to keep from yelling at the consistently stupid responses I’d get from them on the most mundane issues.

    I could have selected Alltel or T-Mobile, both of which have decent reputations, but I chose AT&T because of, naturally, the iPhone. If Apple found them successful, maybe they changed their ways.

    That takes us to leather case that I bought with the iPhone. I wanted the holster to allow me to carry the gadget on my belt. But the plastic belt clip would only survive six or eight weeks of normal use before the spring on the mechanism would severely loosen.

    AT&T’s local factory store happily exchanged the first unit with another, saying management wouldn’t allow me to select a different model. All right, maybe I was unlucky.

    When the belt clip on the second case loosened in the same fashion as its predecessor the other day, and I nearly dropped the phone when the case slipped off my belt, I returned to AT&T and got another replacement. This time I suggested they’d do better to get me something else rather than engage in costly bi-monthly replacements, but the manager was out for the day and I was told to call back when he returned.

    Instead I telephoned AT&T’s support people directly and a pleasant young man named Rocco (from New York City, by the way) located a simple one-piece leather holster that he said would be a superior alternative. I accepted the replacement and received it via overnight carrier the very next day. No, they didn’t ask me for a credit card number or even offer an RMA to return the other case.

    Indeed, it may be that Rocco had just the right solution for another issue, but one he probably didn’t realize.

    Although my iPhone worked great, there was a small area near my home where reception was, according to AT&T, “moderate,” which means I might run into quality and connection issues in a car. This tended to be true, of course, but otherwise, I had no problems of note.

    I assumed that I’d have to tolerate that reception shortcoming until AT&T got around to adding or enhancing cell towers in my area — and a news report says they’ve allocated $80 million to make service improvements in Arizona over the coming year.

    However, maybe that wasn’t the full cause of the problem after all. You see, the original unit includes a thick leather-clad metal sleeve that extends around the area where the iPhone’s internal antenna is located. The sides of the replacement case are fabric, so could it be?

    Well yes, indeed, after replacing the busted case with the Belkin, I observed more bars on the iPhone when driving through that troublesome region and reception was audibly better.

    In addition to building cases that self-destruct, maybe the manufacturer in question does things that hamper reception. Oh well, there goes another potential advertiser. But frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

    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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