• Newsletter Issue #552

    June 28th, 2010


    The rush to acquire an iPhone 4 hasn’t abated, despite reports of a possible bug in the design of the side-mounted twin antennas that might cause poor reception if you hold it in a particular way, usually with your left hand. Since sensitivity issues appear to also occur with other handsets under certain conditions, this may be an issue that may ultimately peter out.

    Then again, with rumors of an impending software fix for at least some of the problem, you never know where it might end, and I won’t presume to second guess Apple on this score. But if there’s a product defect, they’d have to fix it pronto if there’s a danger of a public outcry and perhaps lost sales.

    But I don’t really believe Apple allowed the new iPhone to ship with a serious design flaw. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

    Meantime, on last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, veteran Mac commentator Ted Landau joined us to explain why Apple hasn’t changed the basic look of new Macs in recent years, and, no, it’s not because they plan on giving up on Macs anytime soon.

    Columnist Kirk McElhearn, a fan of mystery and science fiction novels, told us why he likes Apple’s iBooks e-book reading app and speculates about some of the issues involved in electronic publishing. During this segment, Kirk suggested that Apple ought to release a version of iBooks for other smartphone platforms, although I countered that Apple creates online stores to sell hardware, and allowing a competing platform to offer the same features would not be a wise move.

    Macworld Senior Editor Dan Moren has examined Apple’s iOS 4 inside and out, and, along with his verdict on the new mobile OS, gave you some sage insights on some of the features Apple might improve in future versions.

    This week on our other show, The Paracast, 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.

    Coming July 4: Co-host Greg Bishop presents a return visit from former government operative Walter Bosley, who expands not only on his personal experiences, but on a whole range of paranormal subjects. He also responds to some of the comments about his encounters from The Paracast Community Forums.

    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.


    Despite having loads of loyal customers, it’s hard to say that Apple has consistently received good press over the years. Sure the products get high marks, but there are always “killer” gadgets from competing companies that are sure to take over the market, or so they say.

    Of course in the old days, there was that notorious “Apple Death Watch” stories, where some media commentators with a more morbid bend — or who may have been influenced somehow to favor Microsoft — kept suggesting Apple was over and done for. It was only a matter of time before the company ran out of steam and bought the farm.

    The truth is that the naysayers were frighteningly close to the truth at one time. Steve Jobs has revealed that, shortly after he took over as CEO (his title was then iCEO), Apple was within 90 days of closing down.

    Say what you want about the immense Jobsian ego and his mercurial ways. He found a way forward to save the company, by cutting out unproductive product lines and focusing on Apple’s core competency, which was to make great personal computers.

    The turnaround didn’t happen overnight. Although Apple bought Jobs’ company, NeXT, to bring onboard a state of the art operating system, it took several years to turn the promise into a reality. There were loads of obstacles along the way, with the most difficult being the refusal of the main Mac OS developers to totally rewrite their products to be compatible. Apple had to compromise and create Carbon, a simpler way to make apps Mac OS X native without having to start over from scratch.

    In passing, only recently have you seen such major publishers as Adobe and Microsoft begin to finalize the transition to the “native” Mac OS X language, which is Cocoa. It took them a decade to make it happen, and there’s still lots of work to be done.

    In any case, Apple’s true resurgence didn’t become readily apparent until the iPod took over the digital media player marketplace, again despite the skeptics who couldn’t possibly believe that Apple’s “closed system” would succeed against an open market. In the end, Microsoft double-crossed their PlaysForSure partners and built the Zune, a closed system, which still didn’t make a dent against Apple.

    With the arrival of the iPhone and the iPad, Apple was on a roll, soon exceeding Microsoft’s market cap to become the wealthiest tech company on the planet. But didn’t the critics say that Apple couldn’t possibly succeed with either product.

    Although Microsoft still earns somewhat more income than Apple, that, too, might change in the coming year. So it makes sense that those who hated Microsoft for its position of dominance and its overly aggressive and sometimes illegal tactics towards competitors are now treating Apple as just as bad — or perhaps worse.

    However, Apple has also pissed off some people along the way. Adobe still makes loads of cash from the sale of Mac software, but efforts to get Flash on the iOS have failed, and there appears to be no turning back. This hasn’t stopped Adobe from using a wagon circling strategy, by feeding the latest Flash to other mobile operating systems and crying crocodile tears to the FTC.

    Between Flash, a new iOS developers contract that prohibits the use of most third-party compiler tools to build product for the App Store, and the latest terms and conditions for their new iAds service, the U.S. government will no doubt have a field day looking into Apple’s affairs. Whether they will hit pay dirt is anyone’s guess. They might simply give up the investigation or coerce Apple into signing a consent deal agreeing to play nice. Or at least nicer.

    The arrival of iPhone 4 caused a frenzy as demand far exceeded supply, but there may be a few rough spots. Southpaws may cause signal loss if they touch both antennas at the same time, although such reception shortcomings allegedly afflict other mobile handsets in one way or another. There’s also that rumor that perhaps a near-term software update will address some of the shortcomings.

    But for a while at least, Apple’s critics might feel justified in reporting some bad news, at least for the short-term. But they counted Apple out once and they were wrong. A little antenna glitch and an ongoing FTC probe won’t do Apple in, even if some people are hoping and dreaming for a bad outcome.


    After last year’s record box office, topped by the unexpectedly high numbers for “Avatar” and the potential success of 3D fare, the movie industry no doubt felt overconfident. How could they lose in 2010? And certainly yet another 3D flick, “Alice in Wonderland,” convinced them they were on the verge of immortality.

    A sequel, “Iron Man 2,” did reasonably well with less favorable reviews than its predecessor, but there was also an endless procession of losers as box office receipts began to decline.

    Ridley Scott’s reimagining of “Robin Hood” had both tepid reviews and box office. What should have been a thrilling romp ended up dark and violent. Yet another pathetic TV remake, “The A-Team,” also did mediocre numbers. I mean, the original TV show was fun and all, but we have the reruns on cable TV. Can’t Hollywood find a property with a large fan base to desecrate?

    Even Tom Cruise, struggling for a comeback, couldn’t connect with the loud action comedy, “Knight and Day,” although I’ll probably watch it as a Netflix rental. I suppose there are worse ways to waste a couple of hours of one’s time without busting your budget.

    Well, they did do pretty well with “Star Trek” last year, so maybe all hope for TV remakes isn’t lost. But you’ll have to wait until 2012 to revisit Captain Kirk and crew.

    Meantime, there have been few shining lights along the way, such as “Shrek Forever After” and “Toy Story 3,” which goes to show that animation can often save the day. The “Karate Kid” remake is also doing good business, thanks to critically acclaimed performances from Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.

    All right, the summer isn’t over, and maybe there will be some more hits along the way. Then there’s 2011, with the promise of more sequels and the début of some new Marvel comic book action heroes. You’ll even see “The Green Hornet,” that legendary action hero who became famous in the days of radio drama, although the early trailers don’t show very much promise.

    Then again, maybe they’ll resume production of the next James Bond film. Even the bad ones are usually loads of fun, and highly profitable for the film industry.


    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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