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Newsletter Issue #551

THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

I’ve got wonderful news for you. As you know, I worked in traditional radio for a number of years, but never expected to return to that field. However, what goes around comes around, as the old cliché says.

So when I was given the chance to do a weekly tech show online in 2003, I jumped at the opportunity. In the fall of that year, The Tech Night Owl LIVE debuted online.

My son, Grayson, took upon the duties as co-host and comic foil, and demonstrated a natural affinity for the mic. Even then, we featured the movers and shakers of the tech industry, and we actually had an Apple VP on one of the early episodes.

When Grayson went off to college, he took upon the title of “co-host emeritus” and made a rare guest shot during the opening segment. Now a resident of Madrid, he has since recorded the introduction and closing portions, which were recently updated and mixed with our new theme music, composed by Kevin MacLeod.

You’ve heard me drop hints, but here’s the final word: Beginning Saturday, July 10, 2011, The Tech Night Owl LIVE will be syndicated to terrestrial stations in the U.S. via the GCN network. In other words, we’ll be available on regular AM and FM channels, perhaps in your city. You’ll still be able to hear the show online, and download from iTunes, and there will be a network-based iPhone app to hear us and their other offerings.

There will be a few changes to accommodate the new setup. We’re expanding to three hours to make time for hourly news slots and local announcements, both part of the lay of the land when it comes to commercial radio. However, the show will not change. We aren’t going to sacrifice guests or content to “go commercial” as it were. We were picked up by the network because of who we are, not on what they want us to be.

But now I do have to ask a favor: Please contact the programming people at your favorite talk station and ask if they want to carry our shows. If they express interest, send me their contact information and I’ll have GCN’s people get in touch with them directly with the particulars.

Now on last weeks episode, we returned to the WWDC and the official launch of iPhone 4 and iOS 4, but there’s a lot more afoot. First, we heard from columnist Jim Dalrymple, from The Loop, who recounted his hands-on experiences with the latest and greatest iPhone. Later in the episode, cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine, provided not just his analysis of the WWDC’s announcements, but a thorough look into the issues the FTC is exploring in considering a possible legal action against Apple.

With the unexpected release of a newer, faster Opera, version 10.60, Web evangelist Molly E. Holzschlag explored the new features and give you an overview of what you can expect in your real world online experience from HTML5.

This week on our other show, The Paracast, co-host Paul Kimball presents the dean of UFO investigators, Stanton T. Friedman, and Kathleen Marden, co-authors of “Science Was Wrong: Startling Truths About Cures, Theories, and Inventions ‘They’ Declared Impossible.” It’s not just about UFOs folks, since there’s a lot of ground to cover that takes you out of that topic.

Coming June 27: Co-host Greg Bishop presents filmmaker Bob Wilkinson, director of “Shades of Gray,” a documentary about the amazing life of UFO researcher and provocateur Gray Barker. Along for the ride are two of Gray’s close friends, Jim Moseley, editor of Saucer Smear and T. Allen Greenfield. And don’t miss a special cameo from co-host Paul Kimball.

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.

CAN THEY REALLY BE SO DUMB?

It seems that some members of the media and the industry research business never miss finding ways to top themselves when it comes to abject stupidity. You have to wonder whether their readers actually believe such nonsense, or become attack dogs, hoping to knock a little sense into their thick skulls.

One particularly lame pronouncement came from one Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester Research, who avers with a straight face that some 3.5 million tablet-based computers will be sold in the U.S. in all of 2010. Does anyone find something seriously flawed in this pronouncement?

You see, most of the two million sales of the iPad reported in the first two months since it went on sale come from the U.S. I suppose the skeptics would assert that these are early adopters, and once that demand is satisfied, sales will inevitably tank.

But, you see, the sales momentum has yet to stop, or even slow down for that matter. If you want to buy an iPad today here in the U.S., you might be lucky to find one at an Apple Store or perhaps a Best Buy. But I’d call that a fluke. Apple’s online store still lists delivery times as between seven and ten business days for all models. This clearly indicates that demand continues to outstrip supply, so unless Apple has suddenly stopped building near as many iPads as they were just a few weeks ago, Forrester has it all wrong.

Even worse, their sales estimate covers all tablet computers, not just the iPad. That would appear to indicate that the promised competitors will fail miserably.

Epps states, “Consumers didn’t ask for tablets.” Maybe so, but how does that explain the ongoing demand for iPads? Or maybe her research focused on the wrong set of consumers, or those who were just expecting a clumsy PC with a tablet swivel screen, the sort of junk that’s failed to catch on over the past decade.

However, the actual would-be iPad killers are all pretty much taking the same approach as Apple in terms of form factor, a thin, rectangular gadget with a big touchscreen to run most functions. Some will use the Google Android OS or Chrome OS, others will struggle with some form of Windows, while HP is expected to use their newly-acquired intellectual property from Palm to power one of these devices.

(Update!) Regardless, even if iPad sales unexpectedly fell to half their present rate, Apple would itself do far better than Forrester expects, even if you restrict sales just to the U.S. marketplace. As a matter of fact, Apple this week announced sales of three million iPads within the first 80 days of availability. So much for believing industry analysts.

Still another moronic statement comes from someone who is posting a claim on Twitter that Apple’s stock is fated to fall to $45 a share. Just to remind people of where they stand: Apple’s current market cap is second only to Exxon, and their lead over Microsoft continues to lengthen. They have over $40 billion cash in the bank, more than enough to keep them going if sales were to fall precipitously, and there’s little indication of that happening anytime soon.

Even if sales were to flatten — and that goes against even the most pessimistic of predictions — there’s little to indicate that the stock price would fall to less than 20% of its current level. If Steve Jobs were to leave the company, because he is just tired of the job or confronts a serious health issue, Apple will go on. There’s probably enough visionary stuff in the product pipeline to sustain them for years even if Jobs were no longer in the picture, and there were no suitably inspiring replacements among the over 30,000 Apple employees.

Indeed, the silliness is in high gear, and I can go on and on endlessly.

Just this weekend, I read a piece in a major national newspaper attempting to compare the iPhone 4 and Android-based smartphones. The column comes from radio talk show host Kim Komando, a really nice lady whom I met years ago when she was trying to expand her local fame to a national audience.

Unfortunately, Kim’s command (forgive the pun) of sophisticated technical and marketing issues is lacking. The best she can muster is one of those pathetic bullet point comparisons among the competitive models. If an Android smartphone offers better presumed specs than the iPhone, it must be superior. This is the same fuzzy logic far too many alleged tech experts employ when comparing anything from Apple to the competition. They never seem to understand that having a feature doesn’t necessarily translate to its successful execution. It’s all about the OS, stupid! And, no, I am not directing that particular label to Kim. She’s bright enough to know better than to write such drivel, however.

Yet another comparison pinpointed supposed hardware and software advantages between the iPhone 4 and iOS against Android-based products, dividing the categories into “five battlefields.”

Predictably for such lame analyses, the Android fared better when it came to raw specs. Android was also awarded a perceived advantage because the iPhone is restricted to AT&T, with the writer concluding that “if Android keeps growing quickly Cupertino may have to consider making its device available in the United States on more than one network.”

Evidently the author of that piece fails to comprehend that there may be a contract between Apple and AT&T that prevents making the iPhone available to other carriers in this country. It’s never mentioned, but I don’t think anyone will dispute the fact that, when the AT&T exclusive expires, you can be sure other carriers will be lining up trying to carry the iPhone too. Apple can’t simply break a contract without consequences, or maybe the author of that article didn’t notice.

The most curious conclusion, however, is the one that states the App Store has no advantage over the Android Market, even though Apple has many times more apps. The ill-informed author also seems to forget that the fact that different Android smartphones offer different OS support and features, and that makes it impossible for all or most of those apps to operate properly on that plethora of devices. And where are the games? So far, at least, Android has yet to prove itself as a potential gaming platform in the same fashion as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Indeed, other than a background task killer to prevent Android’s multitasking system from consuming too many resources and severely reducing battery life, where are the killer apps? What are they?

I won’t bore you by mentioning the iPhone’s superior support for the enterprise, which is second only to the BlackBerry. Such support, critical in the business world, is nearly non-existent on Android. But some people prefer not to be annoyed with facts.

DO YOU REALLY WANT A 3D TV?

There are several flashy ads in rotation on the networks these days from the big TV makers that extol the virtues of their innovative — and decidedly expensive — 3D TV offerings. If you can believe what they tell you, expect to give up a significant portion of your home entertainment experience if you don’t throw out your present television set and buy a new 3D version pronto!

Unfortunately as with most technologies of this sort, there’s not a whole lot of content — worthy or otherwise — to consume. With the huge and unexpected success of “Avatar,” both Hollywood and the consumer electronics companies decided that we were ready, at last, to accept 3D in the mass market. So they quickly adopted a 3D profile for Blu-ray DVD players, made a few content deals, and the TV makers rushed to push product into the marketplace.

Now when properly done, 3D is fantastic, immersive, and takes your entertainment experience to a whole new level. When done poorly, you get the silly ping pong effects as people and objects jump out at you, not to mention the headaches some people confront when watching too much content with those special glasses.

The reviews of those new sets from the likes of Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and others indicate stellar products, with wonderful pictures even when you’re saddled with 2D fare. However, the purchase price is generally one thousand dollars higher, and that’s for the less-expensive gear. You are also forced to buy a new Blu-ray player and wait for a promised firmware upgrade to make them compatible. I gather most existing products won’t support the new technology.

You’re also still saddled with those dreadful 3D glasses. The ones used by the TV makers cost about $150 each. Some sets come with two, other none. If you have a large family, expect to be fighting for those glasses, or you just have to buy several extras. Worse, what works on one set won’t necessarily work on another, since the TV markets forgot to get together to agree on a unified standard.

Even if you do invest in the hardware, just what will you watch? “Avatar,” the movie that started it all, won’t be available in 3D form until this fall. There are less than a dozen 3D movies available, and the roster isn’t expanding that quickly, since conversion of 2D content to 3D isn’t cheap, particularly if you want the process done properly.

Yes, there have been successful 3D movies in the marketplace, but having 3D doesn’t guarantee success, whether the conversion is done during the original filming or in post-production. Indeed, having seen “Avatar” on a high definition TV in 2D, I can’t say the experience was really less enjoyable than seeing it in 3D at a local multiplex.

While I gather there will be loads of customers with deep pockets who will be happy to acquire the latest and greatest, this 3D thing will get tired real fast until or unless the entertainment industry finds a cheap way to produce more quality content for both theaters and home viewers. That’s not going to happen soon, or ever.

Meantime, the tech industry is experimenting with technologies that eschew the glasses. If a movie is 3D, it’ll display that way without forcing you to reach for the proper instruments to view it properly. That, plus a less-expensive method to convert 2D to 3D, might indeed allow this grand scheme to come into its own.

For now, 3D TV may be just another technology that arrived way before its time.

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