When News Corporation and Apple announced the arrival of The Daily, an interactive newspaper, on the iPad, it was thought to be the start of a great revolution. Maybe the newspaper industry could be saved as a digital alternative. You wouldn’t be able to clip supermarket coupons from each edition, but surely there would be some sort of online alternative.
But the initial response demonstrates that the first official attempt at a subscription product may not have set the online world afire. For one thing, The Daily has a cumbersome, slow interface according to those who have tried it. The content could use a little work, since it consists largely of snappy feature articles, rather than the hard news of the day. And what about coverage of local events in your city? Well, maybe they’ll get there some day, or local publications of this sort will arise to fill those needs.
But The Daily was only part of the content on week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, explained what made him decide to ditch his AT&T iPhone and get the Verizon version. He then told you why that recent agreement between Nokia and Microsoft covering mobile technology was definitely not a marriage made in heaven.
Author and commentator Kirk McElhearn began his visit on the show discussing Apple’s new subscription service, and what’s wrong with News Corporation’s The Daily. He dealt with all the problems in extensive detail.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast, co-host Christopher O’Brien joins Gene to present James Carrion, a former International Director of the Mutual UFO Network, who explains the curious circumstances behind his departure from the organization, and his disenchantment with the state of UFO research.
Coming February 27: The Paracast is five years old, as we gather together three of our co-hosts to talk shop, and answer your questions about the state of paranormal research, and whether, if ever, solutions will be found. Joining the session are co-host Christopher O’Brien, guest co-host Greg Bishop, and former 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.
The online world of Mac rumor sites is filled with speculation about the expected updates for the MacBook Pro. They’ve even unearthed possible placeholder catalog listings from Best Buy and elsewhere to confirm these stories, with a possible release coming later this week.
I suppose, as speculation goes, this seems reasonable enough. The MacBook Pro had its last upgrade in the spring of 2010. Intel has released a new processor family, Sandy Bridge, that’s supposed to offer the usual enhancements of faster number-crunching capability with improved power management. Integrated graphics, not a strong suit for Intel, are said to be much better at delivering at least adequate frame rates for games.
As you may have heard, the launch of the new Intel parts has been somewhat rocky. Some of the initial production suffered from a hardware bug that might impact long-term performance on certain SATA peripheral ports. With workarounds, and new parts now shipping, that issue appears to involve a trivial delay.
The second brand of speculation is about Light Peak, a brand new fiber optic connection scheme that’s supposed to provide much greater speed for networking and peripherals. Said to have been developed with a huge push from Apple, Light Peak could allow you to connect stuff to your Macs using a single type of cable. On the short term, there will be adapter plugs, I suppose, and the usual glitches until the industry embraces the new protocol.
While Light Peak seems tailor made for a Mac or a PC, another rumor has it showing up on the next iPad, or perhaps the iPad 3, whenever that arrives. Maybe, but it would seem more sensible to find ways to untether an iPad from the need to connect to your computer for syncing and other purposes.
Freeing the iPad, and perhaps the iPhone, of dependence on a personal computer would also require a powerful cloud-based server system that would allow you to access and update your stuff. Yes, we know about Apple’s large server farm in North Carolina, but its purpose is filled with speculation. Apple hasn’t said anything officially about what those servers will actually do. At the minimum, Apple’s online capacity for iTunes and the Mac and iOS App Stores, will be greatly enhanced.
With much more storage space available, it may well be that MobileMe will be changed. That was hinted at in one of those pithy one-liners from Steve Jobs a few months back, in response to a customer who complained that MobileMe wasn’t very good.
At $100 per year, MobileMe hasn’t been a terrific success. Yes, the online email interface is an attractive alternative to Mail for Mac OS X. You get online storage, the ability to sync data between a Mac, a PC, and Apple’s mobile gear. The Back to My Mac feature lets you take control of another Mac online, and it works after a fashion. The ability to find your missing iPhone is useful, and that has even become free.
But critics point out that many of MobileMe’s features might be found for less elsewhere, if you’re willing to do a little searching, and put up with multiple interfaces. No, not online syncing, or locating lost or stolen iPhones, but it’s clear MobileMe’s potential hasn’t been realized.
The latest brand of speculation has it that this service might become free, and would perhaps serve as the hub of an online storage system for all your Apple gear. I’m curious as to how that hint from Jobs actually plays out.
Returning to hardware, we’re no doubt just a few weeks away from the introduction of the next iPad. As this mobile gadget overwhelms the PC world, the safe bets have it that iPad 2 will sport a front camera, and maybe a rear one. The case and LCD display might be thinner, with a few ounces shaved off the weight to let you actually carry it with one hand without suffering wrist pains after a few minutes of use. Naturally, there will be a more powerful processor, perhaps multi-core, enhanced graphics and maybe a little more battery life.
Some suggest Apple has reserved loads of high-resolution LCD panels to deliver the equivalent of the iPhone’s Retina Display on the iPad. But others claim the costs are too high for displays that large. Maybe Apple will just provide some reflection reduction enhancements, and leave the extra pixels to a later update.
On the horizon, there is also talk of an iPad 3 this fall, with a smaller screen, or perhaps a bigger iPod touch. But hasn’t Steve Jobs said that a 7-inch tablet is, well, useless? Would it make sense for Apple to move in a direction that supposedly provides a poor user experience?
When it comes to the iPhone, speculation for the fifth version, due this summer, covers minor enhancements, such as faster processors, cameras with more megapixels, and perhaps greater battery life. I’m not sure about all this talk of 3-inch and 4-inch versions. Maybe Apple will find ways to reduce the price, and produce an 8GB version for those on a budget. It remains to be seen if the controversial antenna will be redesigned to reduce that alleged Death Grip effect.
Of course summer also means that Mac OS X Lion will be arriving. So far, all we’ve seen are a few splashy special effect-laden carryovers from the iOS. That doesn’t seem to be near enough to sustain a major upgrade. And I haven’t begun to consider what might arrive in iOS 5.
It’s a sure thing that AT&T is the wireless carrier that people love to hate. Consumer Reports publishes regular reader surveys of the major carriers indicating that AT&T is dead last in most major cities when compared to Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. That’s not an enviable rating, and, despite my misgivings about CR’s test methodology, remember that we’re referring to reader responses here, not direct reviews.
I’ll assume for the sake of argument that those numbers are accurate, since complaints about AT&T in such cities as New York and San Francisco are legion. Indeed, commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, told me on my tech radio show that he has barely been able to use the telephone feature of his AT&T iPhone. To him, it’s mostly an Internet connection device, which is why he ordered the Verizon version as soon as it became available.
The reaction to the new iPhone has been quiet. Although Verizon sold out of their initial allotment of preorder product to existing customers in just two hours, there have been few reports of activation problems. The number of initial sales hasn’t been disclosed, but it does appear that Verizon’s network absorbed the new demands with barely a whimper. You can well understand why one of their new iPhone ads depicts their famous connection guy announcing, proudly, “I can hear you now!”
Certainly the pressure is on AT&T. They are reportedly going to introduce the Wi-Fi hotspot feature when support becomes available in the next iPhone update, said to be 4.3. That feature is already available from Verizon Wireless. But AT&T’s biggest problem is to resolve their lingering network issues.
Let me tell you about my situation. As I wrote recently, I had recently encountered poor connection quality and dropped calls in an area near Phoenix that I drive through frequently. Just the other day, for example, my wife said she could only hear every other word. This despite the fact that signal strength remained in the four to five bar level.
My initial service ticket with AT&T was messed up. They closed the ticket not because the problem was resolved, or they couldn’t confirm its existence. Instead, it seemed that the Level Two tech who handled the complaint failed to file the service request properly. One would think they would have simply refiled the request, or contacted me directly. But, other than a text message that the ticket was closed without an explanation, I heard nothing more. Until I encountered the same problem a day or two later, I actually believed they tried and succeeded in resolving the connection issue.
Boy was I naïve!
So I telephoned AT&T again, heard their lame excuse, and demanded resolution. I reminded them that my contract was up in a few months, and I could easily switch to Verizon Wireless.
After being asked for the location of the poor reception over a dozen times, and a description of the circumstances under which it occurred at least that often, they agreed to grant me a substantial credit on my bill for the next month. They also issued a new service ticket, and promised they’d stay in touch with me during the repair or diagnostic process. So far I’ve had two phone calls, but no final resolution. I can’t believe other customers aren’t having the same issues in the same area. Maybe they’ll even own up to the problem and explain how they intend to have it fixed.
I’d like to think that AT&T is working harder to keep customers, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to try to improve their network. I don’t see much hope for San Francisco, with all the alleged problems in adding cell towers there, but it’s clear AT&T has a lot of work to do elsewhere to counter the impression that their service is bad.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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