THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE
When was the last time you bought a computer book? For me, it might be never simply because I used to write them myself. It started when I responded to a request on AOL — where I was a forum leader — from a publisher seeking authors for some new titles. I had already begun to write for Macworld magazine — in the days when there were real computer magazines — and I welcomed the extra work.
My writings went back to my teenage years, but I only managed one project that bore any resemblance to a book. After taking that assignment, for an AOL book in fact, I wrote several computer titles each year through the mid 2000s. It certainly kept me busy enough, although the rewards were seldom worth the labor. But most people now know what I was writing about without the help. Although some computer books are still being published, the intended audience, nontechnical people who need to discover the basics about their Mac, PC or an individual app, has to be far smaller than it used to be. Or maybe they got a lot older.
That takes us to this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where columnist and blogger Kirk McElhearn talked with Gene about the future of technology books. Are printed computer books dead? What about sharply targeted eBooks that focus on the topics tech savvy people are interested in. What about magazines devoted to Apple? Is Apple now too mainstream to require separate publications? The discussion also covered the end of the platform wars, and the hazards of running beta software on your computer.
You also heard from Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who did this interview on his new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, using the mic from Apple’s AirPods wireless earphones. There was a long discussion about the value of the iPad as a productivity tool, as Josh explained why the apps he requires for his job are not all available on Apple’s tablet. So he has to use his Mac instead, and Gene explained the problems he has in using an iPad for his work. Microsoft’s move into PC hardware, the Surface, was also discussed. The interview wrapped with a long discussion about the future of Apple TV, and the tepid updates being offered in the next version of the tvOS operating system. Will the next Apple TV support 4K and HDR, the latest technologies used on TV sets? Should Apple build its own TV set, or did the ship sail years ago? Gene and Josh also talked about the possibilities of Apple’s set-top box and whether such gadgets are needed in light of the fact that new TV sets already offer popular streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
So although Amazon Prime Video is coming to the Apple TV this year, does that mean things will change much for Apple’s set-top box? Well, it also means the gadget will once again be available on Amazon, and that is a key source of potential sales. Apple TV was removed from Amazon nearly two years ago, reportedly because the two companies couldn’t work out a deal about access to the video service. So clearly the new pact is about money, and it will provide another entertainment source for Apple TV. But while Amazon’s announcement mentions “all” Apple TVs, it’s not quite clear if it’ll only show up on the 4th generation model, or will also be available on 3rd generation gear too.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and documentary filmmaker Ron James are in debate mode. Ron is an accomplished figure in the field for his award-winning films and his TV Show “Bigger Questions.” He also runs MUFON television as an independent joint venture with MUFON. According to Ron: “There is a vision for the organization and the important role it can play in moving truth forward. MUFON is still the largest organization dedicated to the scientific understanding of the ET phenomenon in the free world.” With MUFON in the crosshairs, dealing with several recent controversies, the group’s future and the possibility of solving the UFO mystery are front and center.
THE iPHONE 8 OBSESSION
For a product whose expected launch is nearly two months from now, one potential Apple gadget is getting an awful lot of publicity. Not all of it is good. In fact, quite a lot of it is quite negative for one reason or another, about it being buggy from the get-go, or destined to become a big fail.
Now with all that chatter about the iPhone 8, you’d almost think it’s been around of a while. Or that Apple has been making a huge deal of it, but that’s obviously not so. True, Tim Cook did blame somewhat tepid iPhone sales for the March quarter on speculation about the next model. But he avoided actually saying anything about it because, of course, Apple doesn’t discuss unreleased products.
Well, at least when an advance announcement doesn’t serve their marketing plans. So we know that an iMac Pro is coming in December. But that merely fulfills a promise Apple made during its roundtable with several tech journalists in early April, about forthcoming pro features for the iMac. In fact, Apple exceeded expectations. Some tech pundits, including yours truly, speculated about a few options with more powerful processors and graphics, not an all-new model with with the parts you’d expect in a Mac Pro.
That takes us to the iPhone 8. Again, there is no such product. Nothing has been officially announced. It’s all about ongoing rumors that Apple will do something real special to honor the 10th anniversary of its most successful product ever.
Why a 10th anniversary iPhone? I suppose, because. But it will also be a way to invigorate the product as its second decade begins. There has been the perception that recent upgrades have been tepid at best. The last three models have mostly resembled one another, except for more powerful parts inside. If you put them side by side, it will be real hard to tell an iPhone 6 from an iPhone 7, for example. Not that there are no differences. There are plenty, but you have to look at the camera lens (or lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus) and perhaps play around with one a little, so you’ll notice that there’s no longer a physical Home button.
It may well be that the rumored iPhone 7s will also mostly resemble its predecessors with a few internal enhancements. At the same time, Apple is supposed to be building a new premium model as the flagship, and thus bearing a different name. So far, iPhone 8 has been mentioned, but maybe it’ll be the iPhone X or the iPhone Pro.
Now when I look over the online chatter about the goings-on at Apple, I see plenty of material about the iPhone 8. That’s the product name the media has settled on, and I suppose Apple could really freak them out by using a different name.
With all this, as I said, you’d think the product had actually been announced long ago.
So there’s speculation about its price. Since it’s going to be a premium model, it must have a premium price. Not so many weeks ago, an industry analyst suggested it will cost over $1,000 for the entry level model. But before your lungs take a long pause, don’t forget that a top-of-the-line iPhone 7 Plus, with 256GB storage, lists for $969. So even if the high-end model costs $1,069 similarly configured, that’s not much of a jump. You just have to put things into perspective. Or perhaps that model will have a “mere” 128GB storage, and you’ll pay even more to max out capacity.
If you’re buying via a monthly lease/purchase deal, it’ll cost only a few dollars more. So maybe it won’t seem so expensive after all. But cash buyers are apt to be unhappy.
Past the price speculation, there are claims that the presence of yet another iPhone will somehow dull demand for the cheaper gear. Since Apple may not be able to produce enough of them to meet demand, total sales may actually drop. But that’s just idle speculation.
But is it true that prospective buyers will ignore a cheaper iPhone because the iPhone 8 will be so much better? That depends. The “tiny” iPhone SE, with its four-inch display, was said to be surprisingly successful merely because lots of people really didn’t want the big handsets after all. That it had an aggressive starting price, for an iPhone at any rate, surely helped.
This is not to say that an iPhone 8 won’t be any good. If the speculation is accurate, or reasonably accurate, it’ll sport an edge-to-edge OLED display with the usual Apple enhancements. Battery life may be longer because OLED uses less power. But I won’t detail the rest of the chatter about wireless charging, the fate of Touch ID (it’s a lock!), possible 3D facial recognition and other rumored features.
Only Apple and its supply chain — and perhaps a handful of people outside the company who are seeing prototypes — know for sure. Besides, if the speculation about its feature set is mostly accurate, it will make for a pretty compelling product.
Sure, it’ll be compared to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and all its stuff. But Apple won’t release an iPhone with broken biometrics, unlike Samsung, nor an enhanced version of Siri that doesn’t work in most countries. While I suppose it’s possible a feature or two might await a software update, such as Portrait Mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, mission critical features will work on Day One.
This is Apple after all.
So you can expect to read lots of verbiage about the next iPhone. It’s very possible a fair amount of that verbiage will be close to the mark, largely because it’s based on genuine supply chain leaks with perhaps a little nudging from Apple’s marketing people. There will also be plenty of fear-mongering, in the spirit of the unfounded criticisms Apple has confronted for years.
So if some of it turns out to be untrue, don’t be surprised.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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