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  • Newsletter Issue #559

    August 16th, 2010

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    While nobody can really know what goes on behind the scenes when a corporate executive leaves a company, that doesn’t stop the speculation, particularly when it involves a high-profile tech company such as Apple. So on The Tech Night Owl LIVE Saturday night, columnist Jim Dalrymple, of The Loop, discussed the recent departure of Apple iPhone executive Mark Papermaster and whether it’s due to the Antennagate scandal.

    Industry analyst Ross Rubin, of the NPD Group, was on hand to explain reports of a possible downturn in PC sales and how 3D TVs are doing in the marketplace. The former comes on the heels of reports that sales of netbooks are tanking in the wake of the arrival of the iPad and its unexpected success. Suddenly there are loads of would-be iPad killers on the horizon, although none of them brings to the table a compelling original idea. It’s all same ole, same ole.

    Microsoft’s Amanda Lefebvre joined us to outline all the new features in the forthcoming Office 2011 for the Mac, which is due to be released in October of this year.

    And prolific author and commentator Joe Kissell, author of “Take Control of Working with Your iPad,” gave you guidance on mastering the tablet computer that has turned that market segment around. A key point in Joe’s presentation was that you can actually get real productive work done on an iPad. It’s not just a consumption device, although you may have to relearn a few skills and be a little tolerant of the various changes in the way things get done.

    This week on our other show, The Paracast, co-host Christopher O’Brien presents Leslie Kean, cofounder of the Coalition for Freedom of Information, and author of “UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record.”

    Coming August 22: Co-host Christopher O’Brien presents a rare interview with Louis Jarvis, focusing on such topics as comparative prophesy, how some possible religious miracles can be looked at in a paranormal context, and conspiracies about a New World Order.

    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.

    WILL THEY EVER START ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS?

    I have long been a critic of elements of the mainstream media who repeatedly fall down on the job when it comes to tech companies, particularly Apple. Some of the assumptions so-called expert commentators make would seem downright funny, if it wasn’t so tragic. I mean, how are the interests of a public who wants to be informed being served?

    Yes, I do understand the problems they confront, having worked in the mainstream media, as a broadcast journalist, for a number of years. And, now, as the host of two radio talk shows, I have to toe the line between letting someone just talk and asking serious, sometimes critical questions. There’s a fine distinction between being responsible and just plain becoming insulting. Some hosts of mainstream interview shows fail to see the distinction.

    At the same time, I have to wonder why far too many members of the press just let things slide when it comes to some of Apple’s critics, even though they are quick to lambast the company for real or imagined ills. If I had a penchant to believe conspiracy theories, I might even suggest some of Apple’s competitors are deliberately feeding some of these stories strictly for their own benefit.

    But I’m not about to accuse members of the media of being bought and sold by certain companies, although that likely applies to some alleged industry analysts, such as Rob Enderle. Since he has contracted with Microsoft and other PC companies, you simply cannot take anything he says as accurate, let alone worth a single second’s attention.

    You just assume people like Enderle are wrong and just ignore them, except that some members of the press are just too lazy to properly vet their sources. If someone has a title, and some past credentials as an alleged expert, fine and dandy. They are allowed to say their piece without being asked serious questions. The reporters who publish that junk are behaving as nothing more than copying machines.

    This is why the one and only Consumer Reports routinely gets a free pass. The magazine is incorruptible, since they buy all the products they test from regular retailers, they don’t accept ads, and don’t even allow a company to quote their reviews. The parent company, Consumers Union, is non-profit. How can they possibly be wrong?

    But good intentions do not translate into attention to detail and factual accuracy. When it comes to the usefulness of CR’s reviews of tech gear, they often fail big time. When it’s not ignoring the known distinctions between the Mac OS and Windows, it’s simplifying the contents of feature articles in a way that impresses you as dumbing down.

    Without the facts you need to make a purchase, just what purpose is CR serving? While I’m not about to attack their reviews of multivitamins and laundry detergents, they are clearly out of their element when it comes to consumer electronics.

    When CR decided not to recommend the iPhone 4 because of that infamous “death grip” problem, they duplicated it in a weird laboratory setting, not in the real world where regular people use their mobile phones. More to the point, they failed to make a genuine attempt to duplicate those symptoms on other phones, even though we know they exist. They never mentioned warnings in the user manuals about holding those devices the wrong way, nor the warning labels sometimes fixed to such products, particularly on Nokia smartphones.

    In other words, the incorruptible CR was guilty of poor research and poor testing. Do they want us to believe that they never read manuals or check warning labels in reviewing products? If that’s the case, they need to be dismissed like a hot potato. But far too many members of the press take them seriously, and that’s unfortunate.

    I don’t, and I think most of you readers agree with me.

    What bothers me the most is that a fair number of so-called journalists seem to be rooting for Apple to lose big time. Nearly every competing mobile gadget is a potential “killer” that will unseat Apple from its high perch. It doesn’t matter if the products are total crap; they are designed to go up against the iPhone, the iPad or the iPod and thus are destined to succeed.

    We are also told that Apple’s so-called “closed” ecosystem, where hardware and software are carefully integrated, is a bad thing. We need openness, even if it brings with it instability and security leaks. So some root for the FTC (and now the European Union) to beat the big bad Apple and force them to allow third-party developer tools to build inferior iOS apps.

    Worse, they are expected to somehow force Apple to allow Adobe to deliver a Flash plugin too, ignoring the fact that no such thing actually exists. If it did, Adobe would stage a highly publicized demonstration and shout it to the skies. Apple would be forced kicking and screaming to allow Flash, despite the objections from Steve Jobs.

    Certainly the success of Google’s Android OS has made it seem inevitable for Apple to lose. They can’t grasp the fact that there’s quite enough room in the smartphone industry for several successful players. It’s far too large for one company to suddenly grab a dominant share. We’re not witnessing a replay of the Mac versus Windows platform wars.

    And, no, I’m not about to comment on Oracle’s patent lawsuit against Google over the Android OS. That may take years to resolve.

    Then again, the press also fails to explain why Apple’s sales continue to soar. But the best way to see how far they’ve come is to look at the last quarter of 2000, when the Cube was the latest and greatest Mac. Apple sold 380,000 Macs then. In the last quarter, if was 3.47 million.

    And Macs don’t even comprise the largest share of Apple’s sales anymore. The world is very different from what some members of the media choose to portray. So I urge you all to treat what you read with supreme skepticism, and this newsletter is no exception.

    HOW DISH NETWORK WANTS TO LOSE MORE CUSTOMERS

    My strange odyssey with Dish Network hasn’t quite ended. As you recall, I ran into serious problems when I tried to watch an On-Demand movie over the July 4th weekend. Dish’s customer service people, if you can call them that, were seriously inept when it came to actually resolving the problem.

    In fact, I can’t exactly say there has actually been a workable solution. You see, it all comes down to Dish actually admitting a problem exists. From there, perhaps they’d be able to figure out why it’s happening.

    But let me bring you up to date.

    Just the other day, I got a surprisingly high bill from Dish, reflecting an unordered On-Demand movie and the alleged balance due on that unworkable DishComm device they sold me to fix the problems dialing out from their set top box.

    Now when I complained about the useless DishComm, someone in their “advanced” tech support department had the decency to apologize and assured me I would be fully credited for the wasted purchase and, indeed, I didn’t even need to return the gadget. End of story.

    Unfortunately, billing didn’t get the message, and my account had no entry — at least so they say — that I ever communicated with a support person who made that promise. Worse, there was a charge for an On-Demand movie allegedly ordered on a Wednesday.

    Without going into the details of my family routine, we normally watch movies, via DVD, a Netflix stream, or from our satellite receiver, on the weekends. Since you have to go through multiple steps to order a movie via Dish’s remote control — the only way an On-Demand movie can be obtained — the purchase couldn’t have been made.

    Well, the billing rep was nothing if not patronizing, saying they’d give me a “one time” credit, and warning me that they’ll never do it again. They refused to admit for a second that the billing entry was wrong, that I never ordered the movie and, in fact, I have been unable to use the On-Demand feature.

    After getting this same insulting treatment from a billing supervisor, I took it to the executive suite, where a support manager gave me all the credits I requested, plus three Pay Per View coupons for my time and trouble.

    Unfortunately, Dish Network has my business by default. An attempt to install DirecTV failed, because the incompetent installation technician didn’t bring the proper equipment, and the other TV alternative, Cox cable, has fewer high definition stations and inferior picture quality.

    But the options are now looking more and more tempting.

    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
    Business Development: Gil James Bavel
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #559”

    1. John Jira says:

      Gene,

      Regarding Cox, you may be want to know that Cox and TiVo have sign an agreement:

      http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/news/article.aspx?Feed=MW&Date=20100812&ID=11870475&Symbol=TIVO

      John

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