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  • Newsletter Issue #677

    November 19th, 2012

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    It is becoming more and more possible that there will be a rush of developments that will lead to Apple settling with a number of companies over ongoing patent issues. First came the news that Apple and HTC settled their differences last week. A few days later, it was reported that both Apple and the Motorola Mobility division of Google had requested arbitration to deal with their dispute over industry-standard patents. Sure, Samsung is saying no way, while at the same time demanding a copy of the Apple/HTC agreement just to see what provisions they might eventually have to follow. But that attitude might just be posturing ahead of a real effort to make a deal.

    Now on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, discussed the recent departure of Steve Sinofsky, the President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, and the problems the company may be facing with Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.

    Adrian Hoppel, who writes a weekly column for Mac|Life called “Law & Apple,” talked about Apple’s recent patent licensing settlement with HTC and how that deal might impact ongoing lawsuits involving Samsung and other companies.

    You’ll were also introduced to a powerful new Mac diagnostic app, Checkmate, in a special interview with Micromat’s Jeff Baudin.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present author PMH Atwater, who has engaged in an extensive study, spanning four decades, of near-death experiences. The discussion will include her three near-death experiences dating back to the 1970s, how her life changed as a result. We’ll also cover some of her books, including “Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story,” and “The Big Book of Near Death Experiences: The Ultimate Guide to What Happens When We Die.”

    Special Sci-Fi Update! Earlier this month, our second sci-fi novel, “Rockoids II: The Coming of the Protectors” was released. The novel continues the exciting adventures of the unique characters introduced in the first novel in the series, “Attack of the Rockoids.” Rather than retread the same ground as some sequels do, the story moves forward in unique directions. My son, Grayson, and I had lots of fun writing the story, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It’s available in both print and Amazon Kindle editions. Why Amazon? Well, since Kindle software is available on various platforms, we only had to make one version to satisfy as many readers as possible.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present author PMH Atwater, who has engaged in an extensive study, spanning four decades, of near-death experiences. The discussion will include her three near-death experiences dating back to the 1970s, how her life changed as a result. We’ll also cover some of her books, including “Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story,” and “The Big Book of Near Death Experiences: The Ultimate Guide to What Happens When We Die.”

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt — Now with New Design! 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 huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show, along with a redesigned storefront.

    APPLE AND MICROSOFT: UPS AND DOWNS

    Some interesting news tidbits have appeared this week, and, despite the sharp drop in Apple’s stock price, there are clear indications that situation won’t last for long. Now I’m not about to try to get involved in Wall Street matters; I’d do better predicting the odds at making money with the slot machines in Las Vegas, which means there’s no chance whatever.

    But here’s what I’m talking about: According to recent published reports, sales of the iPad and iPad mini are actually doing better than previously expected. One of the recent estimates comes from industry analyst Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley, who surveyed so-called supply chain sources in Asia, and concludes that,”Key suppliers into iPhone and iPad noted above seasonal March quarter order trends, stronger than expected December quarter revenue, and the potential to further upside before year-end.”

    She is estimating sales of 46 million iPhones and 23 million iPads for the current quarter. Don’t forget that Apple sold five million iPhone 5s the first weekend in September, and the device has been seriously backordered since then, though the situation is reportedly settling down. In turn, some three million iPads were sold on the weekend they first went on sale, though Apple doesn’t break down the actual numbers for each model.

    If you check out Apple’s online store, you discover that can get the fourth generation iPad for immediate delivery. The iPad mini still has a two-week delay, and the delay is two to three weeks for the iPhone 5, although, as I wrote in the previous paragraph, you should actually find the situation far better if you shop around a little.

    Contrast that to reports that sales of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet, which shipped on October 26, as “modest,” according to Steve Ballmer. Now it was reported that Microsoft was out of stock on the cheapest model, but without knowing how many units were actually built, that means little to nothing. Modest sales also mean that demand is not near as large as Microsoft might have hoped, despite spending a bundle on noisy, confusing TV ads.

    In case you haven’t seen those ads, the one familiar to me depicts someone attaching a cover to the Surface with a click, followed by clicks in rapidly escalating succession among the spot’s cast, and then everyone breaks into a dance. How this actually helps people figure out what the Surface might be beyond a thin netbook-type device is a mystery. But maybe that’s what Microsoft expects, since the Surface is touted as an all-in-one tablet that’s meant to not just replace an iPad, but a traditional PC. A jack of all trades, I suppose, but whether Microsoft has mastered anything is a huge guess.

    In the real world, the Surface has received fairly decent reviews, although some early adopters are complaining that the cover has a tendency to split apart. But Microsoft is not immune from serious hardware defects. Some years back, they allocated over a billion dollars to repair hardware breakdowns on the Xbox gaming console. That figure alone exceeds all the profit margins made on that product so far, although the media hardly, if ever, mentions that troubling issue nowadays.

    As far as Windows 8 is concerned, Ballmer claimed that some four million upgrades were ordered during the first three days on sale, compared to three million copies of OS X Mountain Lion in four days. In contrast, don’t forget that the Mac still has a fraction of the Windows market share, and that Mountain Lion adoption is not considered exceptional.

    Even the devout Windows fans are worrying. Consider Paul Thurrott, proprietor of the “Supersite for Windows,” who claims that “Sales of Windows 8 PCs are well below Microsoft’s internal projections and have been described inside the company as disappointing.” Now Thurrott blames the hardware rather than the OS, claiming that PC makers are just not building product that will attract droves of customers.

    Yet the endless and useless progression of split screens, convertible screens and reversible screens continues unabated. Even the Surface, such as it is, doesn’t seem to have yet inspired hardware makers to follow Microsoft’s “design point.” If few are buying, the quality of the OS doesn’t matter. But the reaction to Windows 8 is definitely decidedly mixed.

    Now I have made a real effort to attempt to become accustomed to Windows 8. Yes, I have it installed under a Parallels Desktop virtual machine, but I still have plenty of opportunity to put it through its paces. Performance is also quite good, but the “in-your-face” character of Windows 8 impedes productivity in my opinion. OS X may seem a tame in comparison, but at least it allows you to focus on the apps rather than the OS, which is the way it should be.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft’s stockholders and board members seem all too ready to roll over and accept a situation when trouble arises. But how many failures will they tolerate before they demand their pound of flesh, before the board of directors requires a new CEO and some critical changes in company policy?

    WINDOWS 8 AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR APPLE

    As you can see from the previous article, Microsoft’s holiday sales — and PC sales in general — may be far less than hoped for. Loads of customers may decide they don’t need a new PC right now, and forget about upgrading to Windows 8.

    There’s also a recent survey being widely quoted from Avast, a publisher of antivirus software, in which some 135,329 U.S. Windows users were asked about their upgrade plans. While polls do have margins for error, that sample size surely reduces the fudge factor to insignificant levels.

    The conclusion is that, of those looking to upgrade their PCs, 12% plan to buy a Mac. Another 30% appear more interested in getting an iPad. Yes, that means that 68% of those who want to buy a new computer would consider a Windows 8 model. This is the figure some sites are touting, but they miss the larger picture, which is that only 16% of all the users polled are looking for anything new. That Apple can grab 42% of would-be Windows buyers is extremely bad news for Microsoft.

    The situation is even worse in the enterprise. Yes, Microsoft boasts of a small number of companies embracing Windows 8, and even refers them to the tech media to make it seem as if the new OS is more popular than it really is. But most businesses who want to upgrade PCs these days are actually looking at Windows 7. Many of them are, surprisingly enough, still running XP, which is why that 11-year-old OS is still so popular.

    To Microsoft, a sale is a sale, and selling 10,000 licenses for Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 will still reflect well on the bottom line. But as the years pass, you wonder if Windows 8 will carry a stench similar to Windows Vista, meaning that Microsoft will have to hope that Windows 9 will change minds.

    Meantime, a fair number of people who have switched to Windows 8 are even now embracing third-party answers to the loss of the traditional Start menu. It appears that Start8, a $4.99 shareware utility (after the 30-day free trial) may be best of the bunch, according to some of the reviews I’ve read.

    But you have to wonder whether Microsoft will continue to stubbornly insist that customers will just adore Windows 8 once they become used to the changes, or just rush out fixes beginning with the first service pack. One of those fixes could perhaps be a native solution to the loss of the Start menu.

    On the other hand, if Microsoft continues to remain tone-deaf to Windows 8’s most serious problems, they only have themselves to blame. It’s not as if the media and beta testers of the preview versions never alerted them to the serious problems ahead.

    I am reminded of the infamous Word 6 debacle on the Mac, back in the early 1990s. Microsoft wanted to align the look, feel and code base for Word on the Mac and PC platforms, but they messed up big time. I remember using a beta version while writing a book, complaining about the slow launch times and the lack of a true Mac OS interface. Microsoft ignored me, and others who had received prerelease versions. All right, the tepid performance was eventually addressed in a maintenance update. By the next version, Microsoft decided that Mac software, more or less, should inherit the look and feel of the platform and not resemble a poorly developed Windows port.

    That was then. This is now. Will Microsoft get the message, or blame the PC makers for their lack of innovation if Windows 8 tanks?

    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: Sharon Jarvis



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