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Newsletter Issue #760

THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

Leave it to Apple to leave out a few critical details when introducing new OS features. So we have OS X Yosemite’s Handoff, which allows you to, say, begin a document or a message on your Mac, and move on to your iPhone or your iPad and pick up right where you left off. It was a tantalizing demonstration at the WWDC to be sure.

Until the other shoe dropped.

You see, it appears that this feature only works with Macs that have hardware that supports the Bluetooth LE standard, which leaves out most Macs built before 2011 and 2012. The nuts and bolts aren’t important. But after some confusion about this troubling limitation, it was reportedly revealed by an Apple engineering manager during a session with developers. Not stated was whether it might be possible to simply install one of those $4.99 USB adapters to make it happen.

While this may have been the only way for Apple to get this feature to work — and it does encourage some to consider buying a new (or newer) Mac — it’s unfortunate that the terms and conditions were not officially listed, though that ought to change. But it would be nice if a third party solution worked.

Still…Apple made a huge deal about Handoff. I would think it is possible to devise a method to support Macs without compatible hardware. But what do I know?

In any case, on the latest episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured commentator John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer and a columnist for The Street, who held forth on such topics as the disconnect between what happened at the Apple WWDC and how some journalists misinterpreted the event. He also covered the hit piece about Tim Cook, which masqueraded as a balanced story, in The New York Times, why the iPhone is Apple’s new hardware platform, and what happens if you buy the wrong PC.

You also heard from Computerworld’s “Apple Holic,” Jonny Evans, who covered some of the features in Apple’s OS X Yosemite that you didn’t know about. He also explained why a number of Mac users, with computers otherwise compatible with Yosemite, may not be able to use the tentpole Handoff feature. He also discussed Gene’s suggestions about a possible Google conspiracy theory, and Apple’s recent purchase of Beats Electronics.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris welcome veteran UFO researcher and author Kevin D. Randle, to discuss his latest book, “The Government UFO Files: The Conspiracy of Cover-Up.” Randle will explore the ints and outs of alleged government secrecy, whether it’s due, in part, to “government incompetence, and, potentially, malfeasance.” What about Area 51? What, if anything, is the government hiding? Can we do something about it, or has that train left the station? Randle also answers to listener questions from our forums.

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.

ARE YOU WAITING FOR THE iWATCH?

Contrary to what the Apple critics say over and over again, a lot of the things Apple is doing are innovative. From Swift, a new programming language, to the HealthKit and HomeKit features in iOS 8, there are huge improvements in Apple’s software capabilities.

Even better, there are rich opportunities for independent developers to create new generations of apps for iOS and OS X, not to mention innovative hardware that supports HealthKit and HomeKit. From a practical standpoint, developers ought to be salivating over the new ways to build products and earn comfortable livings. Nothing wrong with that, except for the silly complaints that the WWDC — a developer event — didn’t include any new hardware.

As people wonder just what new hardware Apple may release come fall, the iWatch, Apple’s variation on the smartwatch theme, is getting heavy-duty attention. Without going into unproven details, the new gadget may actually be going into production shortly. There may be multiple screen sizes, and as many as 10 (or more) onboard sensors to measure your physical condition, the position and placement of the device and things we haven’t thought about yet.

The new ability in iOS 8 for apps to “talk” to one another may allow apps on an iWatch to communicate with related or fleshed out apps on your iPhone or your iPad, so they can work together to provide a wider range of capabilities. It does appear that some of the stuff at WWDC does pave the way for a wearable device.

Indeed, so-called industry analysts are taking the prospects of an iWatch so seriously that they are already predicting tens of millions of sales for the very first year. To Apple’s bottom line, it won’t seem to have a huge impact, but if the iWatch catches a wave, tens of millions could grow to hundreds of millions in just a few short years.

True, there are smartwatches out there already. They may have tiny health and fitness apps, and can receive notifications and engage in limited interactions with supported mobile gear. Most seem to exist in a limited range, though, depending completely or almost completely on an external device to actually do anything beyond perhaps tell the time. In that, you wonder what happens if someone forgets to bring their smartphone or tablet with them.

One thing often overlooked is the fact that Apple seldom invents a new product category. Instead, problems with existing gear are often resolved in a smart and elegant fashion. That explains the overwhelming success of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. It also explains that, what passes for innovation in the tech business, is all-too-often to imitate an Apple product and maybe add a few different features or product size ranges to convey the illusion of innovation.

It’s not that Apple doesn’t copy or adapt features from other platforms. There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by others and expanding the concepts in new and different ways. That’s quite different than just using a copying machine.

Yet it remains curious that so many of Apple’s detractors accuse the company of losing its edge, yet they praise other companies that wouldn’t understand real innovation if it hit them in the face. One might consider the conspiracy theory that some of those critics are funded or overly influenced by the competition. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for legitimate criticism, of course. One has a right to complain if only 25% of the Macs currently in use can use Yosemite’s Handoff feature because the rest, at least those that can run OS 10.10, don’t have built-in Bluetooth LE hardware.

As to the iWatch itself, I still think it’ll be a hard sell once the early adopters and power users have one. People don’t necessarily buy watches as much as they used to, and Apple will need to find a way to build a product that would pass as an attractive piece of jewelry as much as a useful gadget that will do things they never imagined. This may explain why fashion industry people have been hired in recent months.

It is possible, then, that an iWatch or whatever wearable gadget Apple devises may be somewhat of a hard sell. At the very least, it’ll have to perform many functions as a standalone device, and not depend on the near presence of an iPhone or an iPad to do its thing. That may require all sorts of feats of miniaturization and new technologies to accomplish in a sensible way.

Sure, we can argue over possible screen size, the use of OLED, a flexible display, or what processor an iWatch might contain. There’s also the question of pricing, and an entry-level model that’s over, say, $199, might confront huge resistance in the marketplace. If an iWatch can act as a standalone telephone, however, there’s the advantage of relying on carrier subsidies and finance plans to reduce the purchase price. All the gear and technology that Apple might pack into such a device seems to argue in favor of this solution, for otherwise the price of admission may just be too high.

At the end of the day, though, I have to wonder whether I’d buy one. I’ve been wearing a watch of one sort or another since I was a preteen. If affordable, I’d consider an iWatch quite seriously. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be placing an order on Day One, even if there is room on a credit card to finance the purchase.

THE SLOW AND CERTAIN DEATH OF PRINT

When I first started paying attention to computer magazines in the 1980s, they were usually thick affairs. Some contained several hundred pages, and came across almost as a large-sized book. But it was the best way to stay current on technology. By the time a book appeared in print, something new went on sale. But a print publication was hardly instantaneous.

Each computer platform brought with it its share of magazines, it seemed. So with the arrival of the Mac, several titles appeared, but only two mainstream magazines are still being printed in the U.S. — Macworld and Mac|Life. One of the original Mac publications, MacUser, folded into Macworld in the mid-1990s during Apple’s worst days. The name still exists as a Macworld blog, but that hardly honors the magazine’s history.

In the Internet-connected world, print magazines have all suffered. Some, such as PC Magazine, abandoned print and went completely online some years back, and now there’s a new casualty. So Computerworld, heavily oriented towards power users and IT people, first got its start in 1967. With the June 23rd issue, the print magazine will vanish, as the editor-in-chief, Scot Finnie, promises a digital edition for tablets and desktop computers, and an expanded online presence.

But even ahead of this predictable change, computer magazines have slimmed down and moved more content online. Print versions may contain long feature articles, but reviews are kept brief, with ready references to the online version for more details. The long deadlines of the print publication also mean that news is kept at a minimum. If you want to know what really happened at that Apple, Google or Microsoft event — and I hardly classify anything from Samsung as worth more than a single article — you can get all that information online along with commentary covering all the bases.

But the computer publications are merely following an inevitable trend. Traditional newspapers have been suffering from flat or declining circulation and ad revenue, as struggling publishers continue to attempt to figure out ways to monetize the mainstream media. Some rely on online ads, while others hope that digital subscriptions will help pay the bills. Some offer combo deals, where you get the print and digital versions at a special price.

So it only goes to show that Computerworld is doing nothing that’s not predictable, and I wonder when some of the other publications from IDG, such as Macworld, will join them. But even without the online revolution that’s taken over the publishing industry, you’d expect tech publications to embrace ones and zeros. It’s only natural that they’d be in the forefront and perhaps devise more compelling methods to attract eyeballs.

Unfortunately, some online publications, which shall go unnamed, are setting up sites in ways that actually work against attracting traffic. It’s not just the hiring of often-uninformed bloggers to sensationalize hot topics and fear monger about some companies, such as Apple. Even visiting one of these sites may sometimes become painful, because they thrust interstitial pop-up ads in your face before you can actually read the content. These are the sort of ads that traditional pop-up blockers rarely touch.

I’ve straddled both worlds, and there was always something special about print. With digital content, you can’t collect your favorite material unless you make a special effort to bookmark or archive, or just use expensive ink or toner to print your own copy. With a print publication, just stick your favorite issues on the bookshelf or the closet. It’s hard not to think that, having printed material around makes the research process more efficient. I can’t help but feel that the level of accuracy in the media has declined as quickly as print has vanished.

THE FINAL WORD

The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

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Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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