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  • Newsletter Issue #705

    June 3rd, 2013

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Sometimes I think that the responses to the things Tim Cook says are just plain dumb. Sure, he’s very controlled, and never veers from the company line. But he, the supply chain guy, clearly loves the products and doesn’t miss an opportunity to tell you how good Apple is, and how bad the competitors are with their me-too gear.

    But that doesn’t let Cook off the hook. The critics want to see something more than efficiency, something with which to distinguish himself from Steve Jobs when it comes to product introductions. But the critics fail to realize that anything Cook will introduce this year, and perhaps for the next two or three years, was likely approved by Steve Jobs before he passed away. Sure, Apple’s design team will make changes, but the core products will likely be the same.

    In his appearance before an AllThingsD event this past week, Cook made headlines while saying nothing of importance. Rather than just remark, “we don’t talk about future products,” he used other words, or dropped hints. So the future of Apple TV is part of a “grand vision” to modernize your TV viewing experience. He used to say Apple remained very interested in that market, but the end result is the same. There’s nothing to announce.

    That Apple plans on introducing some great gear starting this fall doesn’t tell you what they are, beyond the expected updates to the iPhone and iPad, and, as you’ll see in the next article, Apple may introduce new stuff this month. But some wonder: Can Apple turn another market on its head? Should they? Does it matter except to some financial and tech writers who have nothing to do than complain? Where’s Samsung’s ability to revolutionize anything?

    Now on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, veteran tech author Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, discussed the plans for Google to bring their gigabit Internet service to the city in which he lives, Austin, TX, the news, or lack thereof, from Tim Cook’s interview before an AllThingsD conference, and some new gear he’s recently reviewed, including a waterproof speaker system.

    You also heard from Laptop magazine Staff Writer Daniel Berg, who listed eight important questions that weren’t asked of Tim Cook during his AllThingsD interview, and whether he said anything of importance. Daniel also detailed what he expects to see when new versions of the iOS and OS X are unveiled at Apple’s WWDC, and why he likes Windows 8.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris explore the UFO abduction enigma with Kathleen Marden and Denise Stoner, authors of “The Alien Abduction Files: The Most Startling Cases of Human Alien Contact Ever Reported.” Kathleen is the niece of the late Betty Hill, whose abduction experience with her husband Barney has been regarded as one of the most credible such encounters. Denise and her family, including her husband, report that they have been abducted repeatedly by strange entities.

    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 huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show, along with a redesigned storefront.

    SO DID TIM COOK LIE ABOUT APPLE’S NEW PRODUCT ROLLOUT SCHEDULE?

    Apple fans and Wall Street were clearly disappointed when Tim Cook announced, during April’s quarterly conference call with financial analysts, that Apple’s new product rollout would commence this fall? Why should it take so long? Isn’t something missing?

    Well, it seems that Apple appears to have different plans in mind. It is already known that Apple will demonstrate new versions of iOS and OS X at the WWDC, which begins on June 10. It also appears that these will be major upgrades, with a number of interface changes shepherded by chief designer Jonathan Ive, who took control of the software division last fall.

    While the new operating systems won’t change as drastically as Windows 8, and that’s a good thing, the early predictions have it that there will be a flatter look, free of fluff, frills and skeuomorphisms. The real question is whether Apple will come up with another 100 or 200 changes over and above the interface redesign. But the changes do not appear to be minor.

    But that’s just the software. What about the hardware? That’s what generates most of Apple’s business. I suppose it’s likely that the most significant hardware intros will arrive this fall, but there are reports of reduced stocks of the MacBook Air and the Mac Pro. This would appear to indicate that new models are pending.

    When it comes to Apple’s note-books, Intel’s latest chips, known as Haswell, will reportedly power the refreshed products with the usual higher performance, improved battery life, and more respectable integrated graphics. Just popping the new components into existing MacBook Airs an MacBook Pros would be sufficient, but a published report quoting KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a good track record about such things, indicates that there may be larger improvements in the offing, with a possible exception.

    So the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display may get a slimmer case and a FaceTime camera with 1080p resolution, considered “full HD.” But not the 15-inch model. The MacBook Air will reportedly gain a dual-mic configuration similar to the Retina display models, meaning better voice quality for Skype and FaceTime connections.

    Curiously, Kuo claims that the regular MacBook Pro won’t receive the upgraded Intel hardware, presumably because Apple hopes to phase them out eventually. But the price penalty of the Retina display model still puts off some potential customers, not to mention the lack of an optical drive and the ability to upgrade memory. Nothing is being said about adding a Retina display to the MacBook Air, which would, for now, probably mean a higher price, and no $999 entry-level configuration.

    I also wonder about the cost of solid state drives and whether they will come down to the point where even the cheapest MacBook Air can ship with a decent amount of storage, say 128GB. Apple still charges a shopping $600 to add, for example, a 512GB SSD on an iMac, but third-party solutions, which are basically not compatible anyway, are sometimes significantly cheaper.

    The real question is whether the promised Mac Pro upgrade will debut at WWDC. According to published reports, Intel’s new generation Xeon server-grade chips apparently won’t debut until September, and it wouldn’t seem logical for Apple to announce such a product three months in advance, unless…

    In the past, Apple has gotten ahold of new Intel chips ahead of other companies, which might allow a new Mac Pro to go on sale weeks earlier. Maybe the next professional Mac will be an entirely new model that will, for a while, exist alongside the present Mac Pro until supplies of the latter are depleted. But it’s not as if Mac Pros sales are terribly high to begin with.

    The other question is whether the next Mac Pro, or whatever it’s called, will be Apple’s promised Made in the U.S.A. model, or another Mac, such as the Mac mini, will have that honor.

    Now new Macs would once have been a huge deal for Apple. But with growing demand for tablets, particularly the iPad, it still appears that Mac sales will remain flat, and PC sales will continue to decline. Since Macs have become a less significant, but still important part of Apple’s revenue stream, new models are rarely considered to be major events, so maybe Cook’s fall promise is still accurate in a sense.

    Those other new products will begin to show up by fall in the form of the next generation of iPhones and iPads. But the critics will continue to hope for something altogether unexpected, whether it’s an enhanced Apple TV, a smart TV set, or some sort of wearable device such as an iWatch. Or something nobody is predicting — at least not yet.

    Regardless, of how you parse Cook’s statements about Apple’s future product pipeline, it’s clear that the draught is about to end.

    MICROSOFT’S WORST ENEMY IS NOT APPLE

    In the old days, Microsoft competed against one surviving competitor from the early PC era, and that was Apple. That’s a war that Microsoft won early on when it came to market share, although Apple kept on coming in ways few expected.

    With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft hoped to gain relevance in an era where more and more people depend on tiny mobile devices to perform basic personal computing tasks. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s long-held belief of a world with “Windows everywhere” hasn’t panned out. The Windows Mobile OS powers a tiny percentage of smartphones. It’s not a bad system, but the public mostly cares about iOS and Android. When it comes to traditional PCs, buyers are avoiding Windows 8.

    Microsoft’s efforts to become a PC maker with the Surface tablet are mostly stillborn. Sales have been pathetic so far compared to iOS and Google. Even Microsoft’s excuse that the Surface was meant as a “design point,” the forerunner of what they hoped would be scores of innovative designs from PC makers, doesn’t seem to have panned out.

    Indeed, the PC companies who once fawned over Microsoft as the source of inspiration and operating systems have begun to rebel big time.

    Consider high-flying Samsung, which has expressed no interest whatever in building a Windows RT tablet. But Microsoft also has to worry about Acer’s outspoken CEO JT Wang, who hasn’t been shy about his concerns over Microsoft’s moves.

    As you might recall, Wang warned Microsoft to “think twice” about building hardware when the Surface was first announced. Apparently, Microsoft designed the Surface, flaws and all, in secret without letting their hardware partners in on what they were doing. That clearly raised the threat that Microsoft was planning to compete in a big way with their own presumed partners, and it wouldn’t be the first time. Lest we forget, Microsoft built the Zune music player when OEMs were unable to create a credible competitor to the iPod. So maybe Microsoft, in developing the Surface, was telling PC makers they weren’t happy with existing approaches to building tablets, which were mostly convertible PCs.

    To add insult to injury, some PC companies appear to be moving to Google’s Android, instead of Windows, to power some of their new hardware. That, of course, means fewer OEM license sales for Microsoft. Since Android comes free, a PC maker can save licensing costs. Android is also optimized for mobile hardware, which would appear to allow PC makers to build cheaper PCs that will still perform credibly. This is quite unlike netbooks, which mostly ran Windows with hardware that clearly wasn’t up to the task.

    One of Acer’s first attempts at an Android-powered PC is a 21.5-inch all-in-one design with an inscrutable model number, the DA220HQL AIO, which is expected to retail in the $400 range. It’ll clearly be no iMac killer. Acer also sells note-books powered by Google’s Chrome OS.

    Even worse, HP is planning on releasing Android note-books.

    But what about the mobile-powered Windows RT, meant to run on the same ARM processors as smartphones and tablets? Well, aside from the Surface, there hasn’t been a lot of interest. Things haven’t quite worked out as Microsoft hoped.

    In the meantime, a modified version of Windows 8, known as Windows 8.1, will debut later this year, apparently as a free upgrade or service pack for the existing version. There are two key changes of note. One is restoring a sort of Start menu, to address one of the most serious complaints about Windows 8. The other is the ability to boot by default direct to the Windows 8 desktop. That move will liberate the user from the controversial tiled interface formerly known as Metro, and will provide a more traditional Windows user experience.

    Clearly Microsoft isn’t reverting to a more acceptable approach to Windows because the new OS has been successful. Windows 8 did nothing to stem the tide of declining PC sales during the 2012 holiday season, and the PC makers who aren’t just developing hardware with Android or Chrome have no doubt insisted that Microsoft do something, anything, to stop Windows 8 from turning off customers big time.

    It’s a curious situation indeed, as is the report that Apple appears to be uninterested in building a version of iTunes optimized for Windows 8. But it doesn’t seem that other software developers care about Windows 8, so Apple isn’t alone. What a peculiar predicament for Microsoft.

    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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    8 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #705”

    1. iphonerulez says:

      I personally don’t think there’s anything bad about Windows 8 or those Surface RT tablets. I think it’s more like the consumers saying, “Hey, we don’t really need Microsoft stuff anymore, so let’s try something else.” I recently saw some Windows 8 tablet being introduced and it’s claimed to have an 8-hour battery life. The tablet runs legacy Windows software and cost only around $450. I’d say that’s a pretty awesome device for those hoping to run Windows 8 on a tablet. However, I believe there are less and less people actually needing to run Windows 8 legacy applications. I’d be tempted to buy it just to keep as an occasional Windows machine. (I normally use Macs and VMWare Fusion with Windows 7) I think most consumers are happy using iOS and Android tablet devices. I’m sure there’s less need for consumers to buy Wintel desktops and not because there’s something wrong with Windows 8. A company just can’t force consumers into buying things that they don’t feel they need.

      I don’t think Microsoft can be blamed for consumers’ change of attitude. This “Windows everywhere” theme is really rather ridiculous. Only consumers can decide on something like that. They’re probably much happier using some simpler OS than some Windows desktop OS with the associated file management headaches that many consumers don’t want to deal with. Microsoft is going to have its work cut out trying to sell even good products that consumers don’t feel a need to have. There’s more than enough iOS and Android product choices to go around. Consumers probably don’t want to deal with a third wheel.

      • @iphonerulez, Microsoft can be blamed for continuing to misread what their customers wanted. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s “New Coke,” to cite yet another example of the needs of the public being ignored or misread.

        Talk about living in a tunnel.

        Peace,
        Gene

    2. DaveD says:

      would like to see a redesigned Mac Pro this coming September. A flagship model to honor the Mac platform. Macs kept Apple in the computer business producing hardware and software. After having the time to remake Mac OS into OS X, Mac sales went up aided by Apple’s good sense of the future, the Internet. Apple provided an additional Classic Mac OS environment to help in the transition to a more crash-resistant (it took a number of years) platform.

      Microsoft didn’t provide a lifesaver with the desktop Windows 8. It was sink or swim and most buyers refused to go near the water. Based on their history, some folks at Microsoft are paid the big bucks to mess up. What Microsoft has to face today that there are other viable platforms. Those who are tired of Windows at work and couldn’t afford a Mac at home can now find enjoyment using an iPad.

    3. Peter says:

      But it’s not as if Mac Pros sales are terribly high to begin with.

      True. But it’s not like the Mac Pros are a particularly good value to begin with.

      Keep in mind that the Xeons in the basic Mac Pro (Xeon W3565) is about four years old. The six-core model is about three years old. And Apple is still charging $2500.

      Produce a decent machine at a decent price and Apple will sell a bunch of these.

    4. cashxx says:

      Number one enemy for Apple and Microsoft is Google! And the public using Google’s crapware, all you do is make them money using their software and get sold to its advertisers!

    5. Maybe Apple can invest $150 million in Microsoft to save them. 🙂

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