THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
I’m guessing that most of you who heard about the planned departure of Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s CEO do not believe that he just wanted to retire, that he wasn’t forced out because he just wasn’t doing his job very well. However, a company isn’t going to necessarily admit that an executive has been let go for incompetence. There are certainly potential legal repercussions, unless the executive did something blatantly wrong, such as being convicted of a crime or being involved in another major scandal, and the company’s reputation needs to be repaired.
With Ballmer, well he certainly was a good salesperson, and the company made huge profits during his tenure, but Microsoft failed to adapt to the 21st century. Ballmer didn’t have the right vision, or any vision, of how the tech world might be if Microsoft was no longer the center of the universe.
One serious question is what Microsoft does for the second act, and whether a new executive will have the vision to realize what went wrong, and do what’s necessary to right the ship. That will be no easy task for any executive, and staying the course would be a waste of money. It would be no better than allowing Ballmer to keep his job.
Now on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, gave you his reaction to Steve Ballmer’s decision to step down as Microsoft CEO within the next 12 months. He also covered the possibilities for Apple TV, whether it will be part an effort by Apple to create a new gaming platform, and whether there is an Apple TV set in our future.
Outspoken commentator Bryan Chaffin, Co-Founder and Co-Publisher of The Mac Observer, also presented his reaction to Steve Ballmer’s departure from Microsoft. He also covered the latest rumors about the iPhone 5s and 5C — the alleged low-cost plastic model — and reports of alleged scratch tests to see how the cheaper iPhone fares under use and abuse. You’ll also heard Bryan’s reactions to the continuing developments in the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Apple over e-book price-fixing. Are the proposed DOJ and judicial remedies against Apple too stringent?
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris welcome former Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent and FBI counterintelligence specialist Walter Bosley, who has engaged in a lengthy research project involving a series of strange and frightening deaths, possibly murders, that occurred in the San Bernardino Valley in 1915. Bosley’s recent book, “Empire of the Wheel II: Friends From Sonora,” covers such topics as “the unexpected fingerprints of a group of aviators who allegedly built secret airships in California before the Civil War and may have been responsible for the widely reported but mostly forgotten Great Airship Mystery of 1897.” And what about a possible connection to Butch and Sundance?
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.
THE MEDIA FAILS TO CORRECT APPLE FALSEHOODS
Among mainstream news outlets, PolitiFact has gained a reputation as a site that does fair and balanced reality checks of news stories, particularly when a politician makes an important and sometimes controversial claim. Call it a reality check on political spin, although it’s true that politicians aren’t believed very often anyway.
PolitiFact’s team of fact checkers will publish their results in a Truth-O-Meter, which rates a statement as True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, or, for the most blatant offenses of all, Pants on Fire. Having won a Pulitzer Prize, the site has a high level of credibility, though some will dispute specific ratings.
Regardless, it’s also true that even politicians who get large numbers of Pants on Fire ratings from PolitiFact rarely if ever own up to their deceptions. They usually hope that the audiences they intend to reach don’t pay attention to fact checkers.
In passing, The Washington Post also does its share of fact checking, awarding up to four Pinnochios for a particularly egregious falsehood, or what their reporters conclude is false. But again, the guilty parties rarely own up to their lies.
So you have the unfortunate situation where claims proven all or mostly false continue to be made over and over again, assuming, I suppose, that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will be accepted as the truth. Well, at least among the intended audience who may not be aware of ratings of Pants on Fire, Four Pinnochios, or similar conclusions from other media outlets that are done in a less formal fashion.
In the universe of Apple watchers, there are a number of bloggers who try to provide regular reality checks of the apparent blatant falsehoods made about the company. AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger (a frequent guest on my tech radio show) does his share of fact checking, as does an anonymous but fascinating character who writes for Macworld under the name Macalope. Certainly regular readers of my columns over the years will find a number of reports that are designed to clear the air, so to speak.
Yet despite all these corrections, you seldom see the chronic offenders admitting their misdeeds. Sure, maybe they aren’t stealing your money or doing anything else illegal when they lie about Apple, but they do it nonetheless. Maybe it’s just to be controversial, or to increase a site’s hit count. After all, when the misstatements are made, you can bet that thousands upon thousands of Apple fans will be there to correct the record. It fills the comments pages all right, but how often does the blogger say, “I’m sorry”?
Not terribly often if at all. It’s too easy to simply repeat tired talking points, knowing full well some will agree and some won’t. But to paraphrase what someone once said, they are entitled to their opinions, but not their facts.
While it does seem that some investors talked down Apple’s stock to boost their own wealth, it’s not that the authorities have considered prosecuting anyone for such possible crimes.
Of course, people are certainly entitled not to feel warm and fuzzy about Apple, or to prefer products from other companies, but I hope that they are at least making an effort to understand what’s true and what’s false. But it happens anyway.
So we are being told that Apple lost their stomach for innovation and revolutionizing markets with the passing of Steve Jobs. Even though Jobs had his failures, and those great products, such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, were introduced from three to six years apart, many still feel that Tim Cook can’t fill his predecessor’s shoes.
All right, that’s a matter of opinion, and Apple can prove the critics wrong simply by releasing great new products, and delivering sales results to prove the public still cares. Apple is too large to see missteps go unnoticed, so the pressure is on.
But one hopes that the critics will stop telling the same old lies, especially after being corrected over and over again. Sometimes repeating the same truths to people who aren’t listening becomes tiring, real tiring.
TV NETWORKS AND CHEATING THE AUDIENCE
At the end of a TV season, show producers often have to sit on pins and needles wondering if their programs will be renewed for another season. For a handful of highly rated shows, there’s no suspense. They will be renewed early, and so the producers and cast can get on with the job of filming new episodes.
But many shows are quickly cancelled. The producers know that the remaining episodes they are shooting will be the last, and sometimes, with a drama, they will alter the final scripts to provide a real ending for the audience. One example is “Zero Hour,” starring Anthony Edwards as the editor of a skeptical magazine who, along with his colleagues, are drawn into a religious conspiracy that challenges his beliefs.
Well, the plot sounds intriguing enough, but the confusing scripts failed to draw an audience, and so the program was quickly cancelled. However, ABC committed to the full spring/summer run, broadcasting the final “burn-off” episodes on Saturday. If you were sucked into the serialized drama, as I was, you were able to see a real conclusion in the final episode.
Not so for the lightweight procedural drama, “The Glades,” starring Australia’s Matt Passmore as a fast-talking homicide detective based in Florida.
Spoiler Alert! The show recently completed its fourth season for the A&E network, and, typical of many programs these days, the last episode ended up with a cliff-hanger. The lead character was shot twice while unpacking groceries at his new home just before he was to be married to his long-time girlfriend. So we see him writhing in pain as the credits roll. Unfortunately, A&E decided the show had run its course and gave it the pink slip, so this significant plot line will never be resolved.
Now none of this will make much difference to you unless you were one of nearly three million regular viewers of “The Glades,” in which case you have a right to feel cheated by both the network and the producers, although there isn’t much they can do unless the network changes its tune — which happens sometimes — or the show moves elsewhere.
With a show that has a close-ended story each week, it doesn’t matter if the hammer falls. But with many shows these days, producers want to rope you into the characters by providing ongoing back stories, or arcs, that may spread over several seasons. Will two of the lead characters finally hook up, as they did in ABC’s comedic police procedural “Castle”? Will your favorite protagonist survive a gunshot or a knife wound?
It harkens back to the days when people wondered “Who shot J.R.,” a marketing and plot scheme engineered by the producers of the CBS series “Dallas.” In the final episode of the 1980 season, the lead character, as portrayed with a cynical wink in his eye by the late Larry Hagman, is seriously wounded. Viewers had to wait 10 months to find out who did it, and the audience of that episode swelled to the tens of millions.
So it makes sense that TV producers henceforth wanted to keep you guessing until the next season. Unfortunately, few shows are granted renewal. Some don’t even survive more than a few episodes before the plug is pulled. In the old days, a new program might be granted a few months or even a year or two to shine. Nowadays, they must find an audience real fast or face cancellation.
What this also means is that the time an audience invests in a cancelled show may be a wasted effort, particularly if there’s a series arc or it’s a serialized show, where you have to wait until the end for the situations to be resolved. It’s almost like removing the last two chapters from a novel, and expecting readers to be satisfied.
Of course, some shows wrap in a questionable fashion even when the end is forewarned. So, for example, consider “Life on Mars,” the American version of a UK TV series about a detective who is wounded and somehow goes back in time to the 1970s and has to cope with what seems to him a totally different universe. It’s a neat idea and all, but the resolution had it that the detective was an astronaut who dreamed up the whole adventure while in suspended animation on a flight to Mars. So, therefore, a foolishly literal interpretation of the title.
And don’t get me started about the series finale of “Lost,” which the producers continue to attempt to explain.
The long and short of it that more and more viewers are naturally reluctant to watch new shows. What if they end prematurely, with the key plot lines unresolved? “The Glades” is only one of many examples. It’s not a significant show in the creative universe, but loyal viewers had a right to feel cheated by the decision the network abruptly made about its future.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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