• Newsletter Issue #867

    July 11th, 2016


    So why are some people upset if Apple creates a new feature that doesn’t interest you? I thought about this after I made a few derogatory comments about the decision to include Siri support in macOS Sierra. Sure, it’s not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tens of millions of Mac users who are chomping at the bit to give it a try.

    And, yes, I did experiment with Siri after installing the public beta. I requested the location of a folder labeled “Rockoids Manuscripts,” which is the repository of the material Grayson and I wrote for our sci-fi series. I suppose it might even work someday, after I somehow train Siri to accept the title “Rockoids.”

    Other tentpole features of the new iOS and macOS also are also focused towards a narrower audience. So Apple made a huge deal of how you’ll be able to use Messages in a flashier fashion. As someone used to simple text and basic formatting, it’s no big deal. But If I were a few decades younger, I might be impressed, and Apple still wants to capture the hearts and minds of young people to embrace the platform in greater numbers.

    What does Google offer for young Android users that’s in any way comparable? The possibility of some AI enhancements in future versions of the mobile OS may seem promising. But Google often demonstrates features that don’t really work so well, or will never appear in products you can actually buy. In contrast, a smarter Siri is something hundreds of millions of Apple customers will be able to try this fall. Well, if you care about having more meaningful conversations with Apple’s personal assistant.

    In any case, on this weekend’s episode of  The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured columnist John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer. During this interview, he explained why people who feel the iPhone is just a cute phone with Internet access are wrong, with the focus on the fancy new Messages app for the next versions of iOS and macOS, why he plans to buy the iPhone 7, the possible reasons Apple killed the Thunderbolt Display, the fate of the Mac Pro, and the new file system Apple plans to introduce on all their devices some time in 2017.

    Now when it comes to the Mac Pro, some will no doubt wonder why Apple has not announced an update to its flagship workstation in three years. Does Apple plan to retire the Mac Pro, or is a new version under development? What about giving it more space for internal expansion? While I am no longer a target user of this product, it is a criticism I have had. Surely there’s a way to keep it relatively compact, but allow you to install several drives and peripheral cards inside. It doesn’t have to be a big and ugly tower computer to allow you to install more stuff.

    You also heard from columnist, podcaster and show regular Kirk McElhearn, also known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy.” Before getting to the meat of the discussion, Kirk told the story of how he helped out with props for a skit during an episode of “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s. The discussion moved to Gene’s ongoing odyssey with an office chair that keeps breaking apart before talking about the public betas of macOS Sierra and iOS 10. Kirk offered what he feels are some of the best things about the macOS beta, and his early experiences running the Siri voice assistant on his Mac. He also briefly commented on the enhancements coming in iOS 10. Apple released public betas of both on July 7th.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris take a long and hard look at U.S. Presidents, and what they might know about UFOs, with author Grant Cameron. His new book, “The Clinton UFO Storybook; ET Politics in the White House,” is certainly a perfect title for today’s highly charged political environment. What about the promises made by Bill and Hillary Clinton to get to the bottom of the UFO mystery? How did their close aide, John Pedesta, influence their decision to look into the subject? Podesta has a long interest in UFOs, having written the foreward to Leslie Kean’s best-seller, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record.” Cameron will also explore possible whistle blowers, and the prospects that we’ll see UFO disclosure in our lifetimes.


    Although mostly in line with expectations, Wall Street freaked for a time when it was announced that iPhone sales dropped in the March quarter. It was the first time since Apple’s smartphone debuted in 2007. After a steady pace of growth, a pace that few competitors could match, the tide had turned. To some, it was the beginning of the end of Apple’s rise to the top, that reality was setting in.

    In essence, predictions that Google’s Android platform would grind iOS into niche status only grew. Of course, it’s hard to call a platform niche when tens of millions of units are sold. That’s true even if sales are lower than historic levels. With regular declines in iPad sales, and lower sales reported for the Mac, where’s Apple’s next growth segment?

    Some speculate it might be the Apple Watch, which continues to expand and remains the number one smartwatch on the planet by a huge margin. Of course, critics try to squeeze it into the same “wearables” category as the less expensive Fitbit, which still outsells Apple. But putting the Fitbit in the same space as an Apple Watch would be similar to comparing an iPod, at its peak, with the iPhone. This scheme might also be similar to the decision, by some, to deprive the iPad of a PC label, thus reducing Apple’s apparent overall sales in that category.

    Apple’s services are also growing by double digits. That includes iTunes and App Store sales, including Apple Music. As more and more offerings are made to the people using those one billion activated devices, revenue grows accordingly. It also comes at a good time, where the Apple Watch, though successful in the scheme of things, might not have near the potential of a smartphone. Well, maybe not now, but adding cell phone capability, something I expect to see in a year or two, might really boost the market.

    Undertand that I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t own an Apple Watch. Forgetting about budget considerations, I am quite satisfied with my $12.88 stainless steel Walmart watch. It had its second battery installed earlier this year, and if it continues to keep relatively accurate time for another year, I’ll be perfectly satisfied. I’ll also be able to replace it by the time the current battery is exhausted without feelings of guilt.

    I actually did try out an Apple Watch for a short while a few weeks back, when I visited an Apple Store to replace an ailing wireless keyboard. The Apple Genius on hand let me try out his Apple Watch without expressions of worry as I put it through its paces. To me, it felt sluggish, and, while its fitness features were without doubt quite useful to a baby boomer, I didn’t feel I would need one even if I had a spare few hundred dollars burning holes in my pocket.

    That, too, might someday change. I wasn’t much of a smartphone fan until I had extended exposure to an early iPhone. Up till then, I actually used a mobile phone for as a phone and not an information or computing appliance. How times have changed!

    Now expectations about the next iPhone are modest. It will supposedly still be called, as expected, the iPhone. 7, but it won’t look altogether different from the current iPhone 6s. No doubt it will have a more powerful processor and graphics capability. The camera will improve, and perhaps the display will be improved with the same True Tone capability as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Having better color reproduction makes a visible difference and is the best possible improvement beyond a Retina display. It made a similarly distinct difference on the 2015 iMac with 5K Retina display.

    Indeed, TV makers have begun to use enhanced color to better differentiate the better 4K sets. It may be the difference between experiencing any visual improvement. While having four times as many pixels seems impressive enough on paper, unless you are close enough to a 4K set, or have one with a really large display, it mostly looks the same as HD.

    Adding lots of extra stuff on the iPhone 7 might deliver improved sales. But people with iPhones that are two or three year old may be aching to upgrade anyway, and the new model may be a huge improvement regardless. If the new model is also somewhat waterproof, that might be a plus. It would come at a time where Samsung has been stung by the sad news that its supposedly certified waterproof Galaxy smartphones are anything but. Both SquareTrade, the extended warranty company, and Consumer Reports, have posted test results that reveal the problems. That is not a good thing.

    Past the iPhone, there’s a published report from The Motley Fool — which doesn’t actually have so stellar a record with Apple material — that iPad sales might have stabilized or slightly increased in the June quarter. That assessment is based on the estimated number of iPad Pro sales. That assumes, of course, that the newest iPads didn’t cannibalize that many sales from other models.

    But it’s also true that people with units three or four years old might finally be getting ready to upgrade. That such models as the iPad 3 aren’t compatible with iOS 10 might represent yet another reason. The same may be true for older Macs now that macOS Sierra has abandoned some 2009 and all earlier models. While it may not be that serious a problem in the real world, having a product certified as obsolete by Apple might be a great way to boost sales.

    Some will argue that Apple abandons older models strictly to sell new gear. While that may, in part, be true, it’s not helpful to install a new OS and confront unacceptable performance. Expecting Apple to sacrifice new features to allow your gear have a longer useful life is unrealistic. Besides, your vintage Apple gear won’t stop working because it can’t a new OS, but it’s bound to fuel some sales growth in the months ahead.


    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
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #867”

    1. James says:

      I can actually answer that: it isn’t the features themselves, but the fact that it was the main emphasis. The new Messages is impressive work, but it and iOS 10 seem to be aimed squarely at a particular group of people. That’s normal enough in marketing, they have to sell phones, but this will realistically only be of real use to a certain generation of users, and historically Apple would create paradigms, not chase fads (these young people are not going to care about their hard work in a year anyway). Chasing fads seems to be their vision these days. Call it what you will, but it’s coming at the expense of those that also historically would actually like something to use for work, and the Message kids will also grow up one day. It may not be entirely Apple’s fault, silicon valley has become one big and useless teenage playground where the only way to prosper is to check your maturity and good sense at the door. It can’t and won’t last forever.

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