• Newsletter Issue #581

    January 17th, 2011


    It’s hard to believe how a fancy cell phone, or smartphone, has become so important, that the mere fact that it will become available via one more carrier is sufficient to garner headlines, particularly here in the U.S.

    Since we’re in the business of covering the latest tech news and views, on the latest episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE we explored the forthcoming arrival of the iPhone on the Verizon Wireless network, what it means for Apple, and whether current AT&T customers can expect a better deal. And what about Sprint and T-Mobile? Will they again play second (or third) fiddle in getting their hands on Apple’s iconic smartphone?

    Along for the ride were Macworld Senior Editor Dan Moren, and commentator Peter Cohen, of the “Angry Mac Bastards” radio show and The Loop.

    Continuing the analysis of the forthcoming Verizon iPhone was Nic Vargus, Associate Editor for Mac|Life. He also covered some of the most interesting product introductions as last week’s CES trade show in Las Vegas, and expectations for the next iPad.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast, co-host Christopher O’Brien joins Gene to present UFO historian Jerome Clark, author of such works as “The UFO Encyclopedia” and “Hidden Realms, Lost Civilizations, and Beings from Other Worlds,” delivers a fascinating overview of UFO research and some of the related mysteries.

    Coming January 23: Co-host Christopher O’Brien joins Gene to present MUFON’s International Director, Clifford Clift, who explores the history of the UFO research body, their approach to investigations, and some of the most significant cases they’ve explored.

    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.


    As you know, Apple Inc. has never made its presence known at the Consumer Electronics Show, which took place, as usual this year, in Las Vegas the first week of this month. So if you could take yourself away from the gambling tables for a few hours, you’d get to see some of the latest and greatest examples of consumer technology.

    However, once again it didn’t play out quite that way.

    Last year, everyone was talking about the possible arrival of a tablet computer from Apple. Never mind that nobody had, up till that point, demonstrated the potential for success of tablets in the mass market. The few that were sold were consigned to vertical markets, such as medical practices.

    But it didn’t matter. Sure, a few prototype tablets were on display. Microsoft’s beleaguered CEO, Steve Ballmer, again tried to tell us how tablets featuring Windows 7 were the next great thing, but it still didn’t ring true. Not for a minute.

    A few weeks later, at a special press event, Steve Jobs trotted out the iPad, and the tech universe changed yet again. The companies that had promised their own tablets were suddenly sent scrambling in the hope that they’d be able to get a piece of the market.

    After all, wasn’t the iPad just an overgrown iPod touch? Maybe it seemed that way at first glance, but clearly millions of customers thought otherwise, at the expense of the then growing netbook market. In its second quarter on sale, the iPad was already outselling Macs. If PC analysts dared to include the iPad along with regular Macs in their total PC sales figures, Apple would find itself near the top of the heap.

    This year, there were the expected iPad killers in evidence, though it didn’t seem as if the competition had any new ideas to offer. Just add some cameras, because the iPad didn’t come with them, perhaps an SD card slot as well. No matter that the next generation iPad will likely include both when it comes out later this year. There were also variants on the 3D TV theme, and other gadgets, existing or confined to prototypes with uncertain release dates.

    But you didn’t hear much about them, because Apple chose the occasion to open the Mac App Store. Now you could buy many of your favorite Mac apps — and titles you never heard of before — in a safe, secure, relatively trouble-free environment similar to the iOS App Store. Yes, I’m aware there are limitations in the types of software, not to mention the management of apps bought elsewhere, but this is still a version 1.0 service.

    Also hanging over the CES was the growing rumor that a version of the iPhone for Verizon Wireless was soon going to be revealed. That, in fact, hung like a pall over the introduction of smartphones featuring the Android and Windows Phone 7 operating systems. It also represented potential salvation for potential buyers who didn’t live in areas well served — or served at all — by AT&T.

    It didn’t matter that the Verizon iPhone turned out to be just a regular iPhone 4, with some hardware alterations to support the CDMA protocol. Well, maybe that new antenna setup will help the alleged “Death Grip” problem, but that won’t be certain until the gadget is tested in a variety of situations by reviewers. Unfortunately, the fact that you can’t talk on the phone and use the data feature at the same time represents a severe limitation for some, touted to the skies by AT&T in pushing its own service. But I haven’t heard many complaints from Android smartphone users, or maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to try a GSM product, hence they have no real perspective.

    The actual media event, held by Verizon in the heart of New York City, received almost the same level of attention as a typical Apple press meeting in California, even though Steve Jobs wasn’t present. Instead, he sent along COO Tim Cook, and Marketing VP Phil Schiller, along with some of the lesser lights in the Apple corporate hierarchy.

    A half hour later, and the headlines were written, the articles begun. By the weekend, the talking heads on 24/7 cable news channels, whether left-wing, right-wing, or somewhere in between, couldn’t stop talking about what the iPhone’s arrival on Verizon’s network would mean to Apple and it’s new partner, or to AT&T.

    And what about the iPhone 5, or the second generation iPad? The CES, it seemed, had become a distant memory, but it’s clear the public in large part just didn’t care.


    So I heard yet another of those annoying radio ads telling us how Dish Network was poised to free you from cable tyranny, if only you’d sign up for one of their special packages. To be sure, Dish’s rival, DirecTV, has similar ads attacking Dish and cable in one breath.

    So what is cable doing wrong? Well, they are, of course, cable, which means that you can’t depend on them to provide picture perfect TV reception, and deliver good customer service. So far as cable operators are concerned, it’s satellite that delivers poor service, and non-competitive pricing.

    In the real world, customer service can be mediocre regardless, and, if you are able to bundle your services with Internet and perhaps telephone, cable and traditional telecom companies might actually give you a better deal.

    What the satellite companies often forget to tell you, except in the fine print, is that those super cheap prices are for a limited time only, and require you to sign a 12 or 24-month contract. If you quit early, there’s an early termination charge, shades of those dreaded cell phone carriers. Of course, cable companies can give you contracts too, but the one I use here, Cox Communications, is strictly month to month. That gives me the chance to experiment, and they are only too happy to welcome me back with an ever better bundle.

    In the Mac versus PC world, Microsoft is the evil empire, and Apple, in the person of his majesty Steven Paul Jobs, wants you to become part of their “walled garden” collective. “Resistance is futile!”

    Actually, Apple and Microsoft are simply two companies that have, for better or worse, become cultural icons, but are really just in business to make money. They have different visions, different business plans, but at the end of the day, if the sales and profits are good, they’re happy. But it sure is fun to attack the incoherent rantings of Steve Ballmer, who controls what used to be the world’s largest tech company, but doesn’t seem to have figured out what to do with the gift bestowed upon him by his pal, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

    Now when you make other companies your enemy, little harm is done, really. If you don’t like someone’s product or service, you simply try another, assuming there’s no contractual restriction, and there is real competition. But that’s not always true when it comes to broadband Internet, or if you live in a place where cable (or satellite) isn’t readily obtained.

    Unfortunately, this approach is most infamous in the political worlds, where the opposition isn’t just a party or organization with different ideas of how to run a country, a state (or province), or a city. If you elect the wrong candidate, you will be putting evildoers in charge, intent on your destruction.

    And that, my friends, is a subject that I won’t touch, at least not here.


    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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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #581”

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