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Newsletter Issue #524

THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

First of all, I want to thank those of you were able to step up to the plate and help us out during our most recent financial appeals. I know that times are tough, and that many of you are confronting your own serious issues among your circle of family and friends. I heard from people who gave us donations despite having to deal with health insurance crises and other woes. Indeed, we are facing a serious problem with the insurance company we are contracted with, Humana One, over the extent of coverage and whether they should pay for recent surgeries and ongoing medication, a sad and familiar story.

That raises a host of politically-charged issues that I do not wish to address right now, since this just isn’t the forum for such discussions. In any case, I am pleased that some of you were able to help, hopeful some more will assist, and encouraged by the recent response from some advertisers that indicate that we’ll be getting some new signups early in the new year.

Meantime, we definitely won’t refuse your donations if you care to send them.

Now let’s get to the shows themselves. On last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, John Martellaro, Senior Editor Analysis and Reviews for The Mac Observer, joined us to talk about whether the quad-core iMac is a potential Mac Pro replacement, the possibility that Apple might build a large screen TV and why some of the ads attacking the iPhone just don’t add up.

As you realize from my commentaries in recent days, I’m actually quite encouraged by the prospects of the quad-core iMac. It is clearly a computer that raises above the consumer level, and maybe that explains why all 27-inch versions remain backordered. The only saving grace is that Apple tends to be very conservative about shipping estimates. Many customers find their new iMacs will arrive days before they expect.

In another segment on the show, Macworld’s Jason Snell discussed a number of subjects that included the iMac versus Mac Pro equation, the controversy over Apple’s policies about approving products for the App Store, the newly-released Mac beta version of Google’s Chrome browser, and his favorite TV shows for the current season.

This week on our other show, The Paracast, we probe the controversial contactee movement. Have Earthlings already met ET? We discuss that issue and the potential impact with UFO and paranormal researcher Nicholas Redfern, author of “Contactees: A History of Alien-human Interaction.”

Coming December 20: UFO researcher and talk show host Don Ecker and Robert Kiviat, writer and producer of “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?” and other TV shows on paranormal topics, join us to talk about new Moon discoveries and the lunar/astronaut connection.

Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt. We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

MORE ABOUT THE GREAT APPLE/GOOGLE BATTLE TO THE DEATH

When Google CEO Eric Schmidt left Apple’s Board of Directors several months ago, you just know it was the final stage of a process that had begun to play itself out much earlier. Although Apple and Google seemed to be working in lock step to fight Microsoft’s dominance, the playing field has clearly changed.

These days, more and more financial and tech pundits are suggesting, with a fair amount of justification, that Apple and Google are beginning their great war over a number of products and services.

Now this doesn’t mean that Apple is going to enter the search engine business anytime soon, or that Google will build personal computers, but there are a load of areas where they are clearly going to compete head on. Indeed, potential competition appears to extend to areas way beyond the obvious.

When Apple recently acquired the Lala streaming music service, it was widely reported that Google was another suitor, but Apple simply got in there and made a better deal. On the other hand, Apple allegedly had demonstrated interest in acquiring a mobile ad service recently. However, Google was the victor when they bought AdMob, a mobile display ad specialist.

Of course, big companies acquiring smaller ones is perfectly normal. Indeed, both Apple and Google are awash with billions of dollars of cash, and are working to expand their technological portfolios in ways that may be both expected and otherwise.

As I’ve said before, when a company is purchased, the reasons may not be obvious at first glance. It may well be more about getting ahold of technology or specific employees than actually continuing that company’s product or service. Yes, we all know Apple is building a huge server farm in North Carolina. Certainly the fast growth of the App Store and iTunes would make that investment perfectly logical. But it doesn’t mean Apple has plans afoot to enter the streaming music business now or at any time in the near future.

Indeed, Apple may grab ahold of a company strictly because they don’t want someone else to get there first. They have more than enough cash to make discretionary purchases that may not necessarily pay off with an immediate product or service.

With Google, the intent is usually pretty clear at the outset. They buy a fledgling Internet phone service and suddenly there’s Google Voice. You just know why they took over AdMob and why it perfectly suits their product and service portfolio.

On the long haul, let’s not forget that Google’s main business is selling ads. They deliver targeted ads via searches and through their various applications. When you click on one of those ads, the vendor is charged for that click. Google’s cash registers ring, and billions of dollars in profits are generated.

So you just know that the Android mobile operating system wasn’t created so Google can make handsets, although there are rumors they might ultimately do just that. But the operating system and the apps that are adopted by cell phone makers pay off big time in ad revenue, and that’s what it’s all about.

The same is true for Chrome browser and its search feature, although other search engines can be used instead. Google is banking on the clear prospect that it won’t happen, simply because they still have way over 60% of the search market. Google is a verb for search, so that’s not likely to change anytime soon, despite the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo!

I could go on. Google’s Chrome OS is a showpiece for their browser and apps and thus for targeted ads.

Apple, on the other hand, sells retail products and services. The only advertising you see comes, in large part, as a result of using Google’s search in Safari for Mac OS X and the iPhone and the various Google applications available for both. Indeed, the end result is that Apple is generating a nice bit of cash for Google.

So it would seem that Google really isn’t competing with Apple. In fact, many analysts suggest their real target is Microsoft, and it’s only coincidental that Google is engaging in businesses that include products that Apple also delivers, such as browsers, mobile phone and PC operating systems.

On the other hand, nothing stops Google from selling operating systems. Indeed, there is an ad-free version of Google Apps that’s available for companies and individuals who opt for retail user licenses. If you don’t want the advertising, and the spidering of your documents and email for data on which to base ad display, Google is happy to take your check.

Once Google starts taking money for ad-free products, suddenly they are in direct competition with Apple in a different way. Yes maybe Google has Microsoft in its gunsights in most respects. But it’s also true that CEO Schmidt didn’t sit out those Apple board meetings for nothing. They involved areas where Apple and Google had competing interests. Indeed, some suggest Apple’s biggest competitor in the iPhone market is none other than Google.

This is another great battle of industrial behemoths, and I wouldn’t begin to suggest that we all understand yet just what areas it’ll cover and how it’ll play out in the years to come.

SECOND LOOK: VOIPO INTERNET PHONE SERVICE

In my never-ending quest to find cheaper and better telephone service, I recently switched back to VOIPo, a Texas-based Internet telephony company. For those who tuned in late, such services leverage your broadband connection to deliver cheap voice and other services.

Since the founding of such pioneers as Vonage some years back, lots of companies have entered this arena. While it was once thought that the major telecommunications carriers would soon supplant the upstarts, that hasn’t quite happened. AT&T’s entrant, CallVantage, failed after a frustrating few years. But it may also be that a wholesale move by many to ditch their landlines for mobile phones is what’s really at stake on the long haul.

That, however, didn’t stop Google from starting Google Voice and snapping up Gizmo5, a Skype competitor.

Today, VoIP services all offer a fairly consistent set of features. You pay a fraction of what you originally paid your landline provider, and you usually get extra services free. One, for example, called Find Me, will ring your selected numbers in sequence, in case the first number isn’t answered after a preset period of time. That basically means that you don’t have to worry about forwarding your calls. If your not home, after a few rings, your wireless phone will be dialed in turn automatically. This is a handy feature that I always leave activated.

VOIPo’s ace in the hole is actually the clear, robust voice quality, which stands heads and shoulders over every other phone service I’ve tried. Clearly the company’s talented engineers have strived to give them a unique place in the sun, although they don’t really make much of a deal over the superior audio.

I tried the service early this year, but left because many of the services I wanted, such as Fine Me, weren’t available, and others were in buggy beta form. They have, however, managed to get even the beta products working quite reliably, so I decided it was time to return.

Aside from a few early setup glitches, I am fully satisfied with my decision. Call quality remains extremely high, even when calling overseas, which is where other services fall down on the job. The network appears quite reliable, and the management is working hard to roll out additional features.

One of the services they plan to offer is something called Reseller, where you could basically offer private-labeled residential phone service to your customers, and just pay them a monthly fee and a special discounted rate for the clients you sign up. I’m not sure that I’d care to get involved in that crazy business, but I can see where some people might find this an intriguing plan to build some extra business or value-added services.

The month-to-month charge is a mere $15, which includes free long distance in the U.S. and Canada and 60 minutes to selected international locales. Yes, I know there are some companies that provide flat-rate overseas calling for not much more money. In making a decision of that sort, you’d have to see just how often you actually call overseas, and whether the extra charges some companies pad on is really worth the price. VOIPo’s adds a mere $3.00 to the pricetag, so I get two residential lines for a mere $36. If you opt for annual plans, you’ll pay a lot less.

So let me conclude: I’m still with VOIPo, and still thoroughly satisfied with their service. I recommend you check them out and see if they are worth considering as your next telephone company.

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
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