Security is first and foremost when it comes to handling your money during the holiday season. Whether it’s your credit card, debit card, or bank account, you’ll want to avoid the Internet criminals who want to separate you from your cash in every way they can. Sometimes it happens with a phishing email, a message claiming to be from your bank, which, in fact, takes you to a bogus site where they capture your login information and go right after your money. The easiest thing to do if you get such a warning is go direct to the financial institution’s site, rather than click on a link in the suspected email. Don’t even try to guess whether the email is genuine. If you’re not sure, contact the bank’s customer service line and ask.
My family has encountered troubles of this sort over the years. Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my bank asking if I had contacted them to dispute a financial transaction. The answer, of course, was no, but after talking with them, it appeared someone actually did attempt to contact the bank, claiming to be me.
Fortunately I didn’t lose any money, although the account was frozen for several days to investigate what went on. But during that time, I had very limited access to funds, so it wasn’t a very pleasant time. I still don’t know how it happened, since there was no evidence my Macs, iPhones and iPad were in any way compromised. The bank itself, however, has been hacked in the past, and maybe that’s the actual source of this intrusion.
Meanwhile, on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured Dr. Timothy C. Summers, President of Summers & Company, a cyber strategy and organizational design consulting firm. This week, Dr. Summers talked about how to protect yourself from hackers and identity theft during the holidays. He focused on credit card safety, how to avoid phishing emails, whether to sign up with a financial security service, why you should say “credit” instead of “debit” when using your bank debit card, the value of a “designated mailbox” and why it might be a good idea to use prepaid credit cards.
We also presented Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. The discussion focused on the iPad Pro, and whether that or other iPads are suitable as possible PC replacements. We also talked about Apple product proliferation, and the possibilities for an Apple Car. Bryan explained that he’s convinced that Apple is working on such a product, and we speculated about how the Apple Car might help overhaul the industry. Bryan also offered an update on his Apple Watch. Has it become an indispensable gadget, or can he just return to his mechanical watch?
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: We cover the forthcoming UFODATA project that is designed to create a worldwide network of surveillance stations that would be designed to detect possible UFO activity. You can read more information on the project in an article published by The Huffington Post: (Very) Local SETI: The Launch of a New UFO Science, Our guests include Mark Rodeghier, Ph.D., the scientific director and president of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies and Leslie Kean, an investigative journalist and author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record. We’ll also cover Chris O’Brien’s San Luis Valley Camera Project.
Some stories never go away. There are still bloggers, both financial and tech, who proclaim Apple dead and buried, or designated to fail real soon now. They’ve been saying that for years, prompting The Mac Observer to post occasional “Apple Death Knell” articles from time to time. What is clear is that the company must follow a different, tougher set of rules. Every single product or service must be an instant success or that’s it. Kaput!
Of course, just about every company has its failures. How many products and services has Microsoft cancelled or relaunched because they didn’t do so well? Yes, Windows and Office remain pretty successful despite the PC sales slowdown. The Xbox may not be the number one game console nowadays, but it does well enough, even though Microsoft suffered from multibillion dollar losses before it became profitable. But how many people assert Microsoft is doomed? Well I have, half seriously, written installments of my own “Microsoft Death Watch” from time to time. But I recognize the successes and the failures.
Yes, it is true that, some day, but probably not very soon, Apple will fail big time in launching a product or service that might cripple the company. The decline of the PC market may really hurt Microsoft going forward, which is why they are trying to focus on products and services that also embrace other platforms. So there are really good versions of Office for OS X, iOS and Android. It only makes sense not to depend fully on operating systems, and certainly not on mobile phones. And I’m sure Apple is looking at the time when the iPhone isn’t such a significant factor in quarterly revenues.
It was once claimed that Tim Cook could never do as well as Steve Jobs because he was not a product guy. He was a supply chain wizard, a number cruncher, and thus didn’t have the vision to execute amazing products and services. It didn’t matter that he relies on much the same product design team as his predecessor, headed by Sir Jonathan Ive.
What’s more, it’s not true that Jobs didn’t confront occasional failures on his watch. It’s clear from his public comments that he adored the Power Mac G4 Cube, first introduced in 2000. When rumors arose that Apple planned to discontinue that overpriced and underperforming museum piece, Jobs roundly denied those rumors. I heard him do it during the Q&A portion of the original OS X rollout event at Apple headquarters. He told the questioner that he didn’t know what he was talking about.
But weeks later, he accepted the inevitable and realized that the Cube hadn’t quite performed as Apple hoped, and it was time for it to be retired. Nowadays there are still people who have held onto their Cubes, but it was nonetheless true that it was a troubled design from the get-go. It was hostile to upgrades, and presented nothing, other than a sexy design, to choose it over a regular expandable Power Mac. Apple did reduce the price, but it came too late to stop the inevitable.
And let’s not forget a product that Apple didn’t create but influenced, the Motorola ROKR. Released in 2005, the ROKR was meant to be the forerunner of a line of mobile phones that supported iTunes. Jobs made a huge deal of it, but when it failed miserably, he made a huge deal over lousy cell phones.
Two years later, the iPhone arrived. So was the ROKR just a stalking horse, something to test the waters, or something to buy time until the real product arrived? And don’t get me started about MobileMe.
Another complaint is that Apple is essentially a one-product company, with the largest portion of sales devoted to iPhones. But what about the years before the iPod when Apple was mostly a PC company? At the time, Macs were regarded as niche products destined to fail.
While the Mac and the declining iPad still represent a pretty compelling revenue stream, the critics suggest that when iPhone sales plateau, and you can’t dispute the fact that it must eventually occur, Apple will be left without a Plan B.
Before I go on, that assumption means that the critics believe Apple is run by fools who cannot judge market trends, and are not busy developing new products and services to amaze us. But one report I read recently actually was written by someone who did a little math, and came up with a pretty compelling figure of Apple’s revenue with the iPhone removed. It would still be in striking distance of Microsoft, and larger than Google. So much for the dire consequences of the decline and fall of the iPhone.
More to the point, over 90% of Google’s sales come from just one thing, and that’s ad revenue. Prices for individual ads are declining although it’s made up in volume, at least for now. The online ad market is difficult, and publishers are finding it more and more difficult to charge fair prices for advertising. Of course, it doesn’t help when advertisers deliver messages that jump out at you even when you block pop-up windows, or, after a few second, start playing a video, or just overwhelm the content you want to read until you manage to locate a nearly invisible “X” button to dismiss it.
So if Google’s main source of revenue were to decline, would the critics try to find excuses, or admit the logical conundrum in which Google finds itself, that no other product or service has produced a compelling income base to replace the ads? So if you want to call Apple essentially a one product company, what does that make Google? What happens to Microsoft if sales from operating systems and Office really suffer? The Xbox might be doing reasonably well, but it won’t sustain the entire company.
I’d just like to see a time when Apple isn’t a victim of double standards.
This doesn’t mean there is no pressure on Apple. Maybe the iPad Pro will really jumpstart iPad sales and cause it to increase — eventually. It won’t happen this year because the product arrived too late in the season, and it’s more for businesses and content creators than consumers anyway. The tablet market remains a work in progress. The jury is out over whether existing iPad customers will, at long last, decide to upgrade to newer models or rely on other gear, such as an iPhone, a Mac, or somebody else’s computing machine.
For Apple, it really doesn’t matter which of their products you buy. There are no concerns about product cannibalization, particularly when the alternative comes from the same company. Besides, the iPad market is still highly profitable. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Apple earns the lion share of profits for tablets, smartphones and personal computers.
How can those pundits claim that a company that’s sucking the air out of three markets with high profits is still failing?
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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