I had hoped that the stories about the Apple dust-up with the FBI would die down, but it’s only getting started. Tim Cook has not only been outspoken in expressing Apple’s opposition to a court order to create a backdoor for an iPhone 5c used by a terrorist, but his opposition has gotten lots of coverage.
Unfortunately, the cable news chatter on the topic is mostly simplistic, with few commentators actually understanding the facts or the implications. It doesn’t help that certain commentators also gloss over the issues in demanding Apple comply.
Regardless, the first hearing on the matter happens in late March, the day after an expected Apple media event. But this matter may take months to resolve, with a Supreme Court filing possibly in the mix. In the meantime, expectations of what’s on that iPhone may be overwrought. It was, after all, a work phone, and it’s the fault of the owner, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, for failing to use Apple’s Mobile Device Management system, which would have afforded full control over the device. Thus, none of this nonsense would have been necessary.
That, however, is not something the media has dwelled on. Still, since the terrorists were smart enough to destroy their own computing gear, why would they leave incriminating evidence on a work phone at the risk of that information being retrieved? Do you really believe that plans for possibly future terrorist acts were stored on that iPhone? Really?
Meantime, it has become quite clear that the FBI is using this request as leverage to make it possible to force Apple to recover data from other encrypted iPhones. This is only the beginning, just as Tim Cook said. No, it’s not a marketing posture. It’s a matter of weighing the rights of privacy of hundreds of millions of iPhone users against the needs of a few.
In any case, on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we took a common sense look at the brouhaha involving Apple and the FBI. We covered the issues from the standpoints of our two guests, a noted tech commentator, and a noted security expert.
Our guests include publisher/editor Adam Engst, of TidBITS and Take Control Books, and security guru Dr. Timothy C. Summers, President of Summers & Company, a cyber strategy and organizational design consulting firm. In addition, Dr. Summers provided a brief look at the security situation on iOS, Android and Windows 10.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: We observe ten years of The Paracast with a special roundtable featuring two of our guest co-hosts over the years, Greg Bishop, of “Radio Misterioso,” film producer Paul Kimball, and long-time forum participant and moderator Goggs Mackay. We talk about the state of paranormal research, how our views have changed over the years when it comes to individual cases, such as Roswell, and the possible causes of the UFO phenomenon. The panel also discusses things that might be done to make research more productive; what about the evidence contained in those UFO databases, what about free and transparent evaluation of all the evidence? The discussion also includes the plight of the experiencer, how their lives have been impacted by their experience, and where UFO abductions may fit in. And what about “panic in the woods” and the “Oz Factor”? The discussion continues on this week’s episode of After The Paracast.
As many of you know, there are certain news outlets that have a lock on getting interviews and advance information from Apple. If they ask to speak with Tim Cook, more than likely he’ll respond favorably. When journalists are brought in for background briefings — where Apple reveals future plans without direct attribution as “informed sources” or “sources close to Apple” — they will be included.
This special access extends to new products. A handful will ship to reviewers ahead of going on sale in order to create a buzz. Other reviewers not on this preferred list are considered later on in the food chain, if at all. But Apple is entitled to make its own decisions about such priorities.
So there’s a report from one of those reporters close to Apple, Kara Swisher of Re/code, that a media event will be held the week of March 21 to introduce some new Apple gear. A previous rumor pegged the date at March 15, but since it was never confirmed, it doesn’t matter. And rather than rent a special auditorium in San Francisco, it would be held at the Town Hall in Apple’s Cupertino, CA campus, which may indicate the announcements are not necessarily significant.
Then again, the launch of OS X took place at the Apple campus in 2001, so maybe not.
So, assuming this event occurs as predicted — and again it comes from news outlets that are well connected when it comes to news about Apple — just what is to be expected? Well, one of the products may be the rumored 4-inch iPhone. If true, it would be a welcome development, particularly for people who are not happy with Apple’s decision to mostly focus on larger handsets. For many people, 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches is just too big. I think of the tiny purses my wife normally uses, and I can tell you that even putting her 4-inch iPhone 5c in one of them is difficult.
But doesn’t Apple already have one legacy model, the iPhone 5s, with a 4-inch display?
Well, yes, but that’s an older model with an older processor lacking Apple Pay support, and the more advanced camera parts of the newer iPhones. While it may make sense from a price standpoint, why should people who want a smaller iPhone be forced to give up on the newest features?
So the stories about this 4-inch handset are referring to it as an “iPhone SE,” which would be curious since it lacks a number in the model name. However, it would be equipped similar to an iPhone 6s with an A9 processor. What may be lacking is 3D Touch support, possibly to keep the price down. Again, I’d wonder why, other than the fact that it’s not a must-have feature by any means.
At a time when iPhone sales may be lower this quarter than in the year-ago quarter, pushing a new model out before the end of the month might restore sales to the previous level or boost them slightly. It’s not that customers would be waiting in line around Apple Stores worldwide to get one, but it should earn a fair amount of sales.
One report suggested pricing would be in the $400-$500 range, which would allow this new iPhone to compete with mid-priced gear from other companies. Right now, an unlocked iPhone 5s is $450 from Apple, so this appears to make sense. Another report suggests Apple will slash the price of the iPhone 5s to clear inventory, or, at the very least, to appeal to potential customers in developing countries for whom the current price is a step too far.
So much for the iPhone SE, or iPhone 6c, or whatever it might be called. This prediction makes plenty of sense, filling in a significant product gap in the current iPhone lineup. It would be the equivalent of releasing an 11-inch MacBook Pro as far as innovation is concerned, however. In other words, it’s mostly about the packaging.
The other product is said to be a successor to the iPad Air 2. As you might recall, when Apple introduced the iPad Pro last fall, the existing 9.7-inch iPad wasn’t updated; it was first introduced in the fall of 2014. Now maybe an earlier introduction would have failed to stem hemorrhaging iPad sales to any degree, or maybe Apple planned such an update, but ran late finalizing the larger iPad and had to set it aside for a few months.
Yes, I realize Apple is quite capable of developing more than two products at the same time, so maybe it was more about priorities.
In any case, the rumors suggest this ew iPad will be similar to the Pro with support for Apple Pencil, an A9x processor, and four speakers. The form factor otherwise doesn’t have to change all that much, except for adding a Smart Connector to allow for a smaller version of the Smart Keyboard that debuted with the Pro. The existing design is already pretty thin and light, and a slight change for either or both would have little or no impact on sales. The update would be more about bringing the mainstream iPad in sync with the larger tablet.
But would it be called an iPad Air 3, or would it have an iPad Pro moniker? In other words, the iPad Pro will become the new family name for the line? It would emphasize that this new iPad had been upgraded to provide more productivity features, but just adding Apple Pencil support with speedier performance would cement that status.
The new iPad is expected to ship with iOS 9.3, which adds a handful of features, but doesn’t change much of anything otherwise. While that may not make so much of a difference, it is a key negative on the 12.9-inch iPad, simply because Apple isn’t really taking much advantage of all that extra screen real estate.
So is that all there is?
Some of the chatter also mentions minor refreshes for the Apple Watch. Indeed, it may be time to introduce an Apple Watch 2 with some hardware enhancements and perhaps some power efficiencies to get you more battery life. It may not look any different from the original Apple Watch otherwise, but it would begin to address some of the shortcomings of the previous model with better performance and maybe more efficient sensors. In other words, a modest refresh that would, nonetheless, slightly advance the platform.
It’s possible there will be some Mac note-book updates, to take advantage of the availability of Intel’s Skylake chips. I suppose we might witness the arrival of an upgraded MacBook Air with Retina display, for example. Well, maybe.
Maybe there will be a “one more thing,” something Apple rarely does these days, but that opens speculation to more possibilities without much support. It’s not that there is much or any chatter about it. In fact, most supply chain reports, such as they are, are largely about the smaller iPhone.
So all in all, this would be one of the lesser Apple events, at least according to current rumors and speculation.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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