The CES, held as usual in Las Vegas, is normally the showcase for brand new electronics gear except, as usual, from Apple which has never attended that event. From new technologies to prototypes for forthcoming products, loads of stuff was on display the second week of January.
So if you’re looking to buy a new TV, or a washing machine for that matter, you’d have a chance to see the latest and greatest for 2018 and beyond. If a clever gadget is your cup of tea, you’d find those too.
But to me at least, the most memorable thing about this year’s CES was a two-hour power outage, during which the entire proceedings came to a halt. Try as I could, I could not remember any specific product that really caught my attention. TVs, for example, only deliver incremental updates from year to year except when something really fancy appears. Take the introduction of uber-expensive OLED sets a few years back, but while they are becoming more affordable, most of the action is still focused on cheaper and cheaper sets with LED, 4K and sometimes HDR.
True, more advanced technologies were on display. LG showcased an 88-inch 8K OLED TV. It’ll be hugely expensive if it were to go on sale, with a five-figure price tag. But the technology is still migrating to 4K. Broadcasters are working on implementing a new broadcast system, ATSC 3.0, which will deliver 4K and HDR broadcasts from traditional channels and from the Internet. Starting all over again with 8K hardly makes sense for the foreseeable future, especially since you’d need a huge TV — and 8K content — to see a difference, and then it probably would require a screen that’s 88 inches or larger.
In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured writer/editor Adam Engst, of TidBITS, who delivered an update on the CPU bug and Apple’s ongoing fixes to “mitigate,” but not eliminate the problem. Adam briefly explained the Meltdown and Spectre bugs, as Gene briefly bantered about the connection of the latter name to one of the James Bond villains. There was a brief discussion of CES, which involved the usual presentation of gadgets that most people will forget soon, or will never actually go on sale. And what about the DNS Attack, malware that was recently discovered on the Mac platform? What does it do? Also discussed: Apple’s HomePod, which is now available for preorder, as Gene mentioned how TV makers have licensed such technologies as Roku, Amazon and Google Chromecast to replace their usual clunky interfaces.
You also heard from outspoken columnist Jonny Evans, Computerworld’s “Apple Holic,” who talked about reports of an “iPhone addiction,” in which people supposedly pay too much attention to their smartphones. Gene mentioned the well-known phenomenon of lines and lines of people walking about looking down at their mobile gear. Apple’s CarPlay was briefly mentioned, along with the 2018 CES in which, again, many of the announcements involved perfectly silly gadgets that will never see the light of day. Jonny brought up privacy in connection with Amazon’s Alexa, about the world’s largest online retailer’s interface turning up on some TV sets. After Gene listed the connection cables he needs for his TV and his iMac, Jonny made a strong pitch for “cable free,” in which all your gear can be connected without the need for wires and endless wire clutter.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest cohost J. Randall Murphy present former CNN correspondent, writer and producer Bryce Zabel. A winner of the prestigious Writers Guild award for screenwriting, Bryce has created and produced five primetime television series, including fan favorites “Dark Skies” and “The Crow.” He is developing “Unidentified.” about the race to break the Roswell story, and “Captured,” about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. His book “A.D. After Disclosure” with Richard Dolan is considered a classic of UFO literature. Zabel is a featured speaker at the 2018 International UFO Congress in Phoenix, speaking on the topic, “Fear and Loathing on the Trail of the Saucers.”
With Apple’s quarterly financials due on February 1st, you can bet that analyst predictions will intensity. Did the iPhone X meet its alleged sales goals — something Apple never actually discloses — or was it an also-ran that’ll be discontinued this fall?
Or does all that merely mean that there will be a 2018 version, but last year’s model will not be kept on sale at a lower price? It’s way too early to guess at Apple’s upcoming product strategies, but the rumors will intensity going forward.
But one of the stranger articles I caught online was one suggesting Apple has “everyone confused about its looming earnings report.”
Really? That implies that Apple is doing something deliberate to befuddle the media and industry analysts about what they’ll reveal. Is this part of a “deep state” plot to generate publicity, or just to show the skeptics who’s boss? Or maybe it’s just a foolish click bait headline that has very little connection to the facts, which is all-too-typical.
Even when an analyst quoted in the article suggested that Apple sold a decent number of iPhone X units, there had to be a downside. The analyst suggested that, since Apple quickly ramped up production to meet demand, sales will be even lower than expected this quarter. That’s because many of the people who already wanted one were satisfied. There are fewer buyers out there, but it’s also true that March quarter sales would be lower anyway.
The real clue will be Apple’s guidance for the current quarter, not to mention the average sale price for the December quarter, which will indicate whether more expensive models held a greater share of the product mix. Apple may deliver platitudes about iPhone X sales regardless, but don’t expect any details.
So far I’m not seeing anything about Apple’s plot to confuse Wall Street.
In fact, other than quoting a small set of analyst estimates about iPhone sales — mostly lukewarm — there was nothing about Apple doing anything to alter perceptions, or inhibit analysts or confuse them when it comes to doing their duty.
In other words, it’s yet another hit bait article, based on a small cross-section of expectations.
Now I’m not about to make any predictions about iPhone X sales — or overall iPhone sales for that matter — because we’re just days away from getting the actual numbers. Maybe the iPhone X didn’t quite realize its potential, whatever that was. Maybe people were put off by the high price, though it’s not much more than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
Maybe the iPhone X exceeded expectations.
Well, it is true you’ll see more discount offers from the wireless carriers on Samsung gear. Maybe they buy them for less money, or feel the need to be more aggressive about moving product. I won’t make any guesses either because I see no reason to dwell on the subject. It appears that industry pundits and analysts aren’t obsessed with costly smartphones unless they have the Apple logo on them. Same for personal computers and other gear.
What is curious is the fact that the iPhone X has been the subject of endless fear mongering and suspicion since 2016, when the iPhone 7 arrived. That, to me, is peculiar, since I’ve rarely if ever encountered suggestions not to buy an Apple product that wasn’t expected for a year or more, hadn’t even been announced, even while a totally different product was available.
I’m sure you recall how some alleged bloggers were suggesting that you shouldn’t purchase the 2016 iPhone because a much better one was due the following year to honor its 10th anniversary. But over the next year, every little expected feature of the iPhone X was attacked for one reason or another.
So there was the claim that, since Apple couldn’t embed Touch ID beneath an OLED display, they “rushed” to complete facial recognition. That Face ID was evidence of a multiyear development project didn’t seem to penetrate the closed minds of the skeptics. They also seem to have forgotten that Apple has no qualms about dropping an older technology if something new and better comes along.
That’s quite unlike what other companies will do, which is to just pile on old and new features in order to fill up bullet points. So you have the Samsung Galaxy S8 with fingerprint, facial and iris sensors. If Samsung decided to focus on one biometric and perfecting it, the handset’s shortcomings might not be so obvious. Lest you forget, both the facial and iris sensors can be easily defeated with simple digital photographs. It takes a whole lot more effort to bypass the iPhone X’s Face ID, but since it’s not perfect, it can’t possibly be any good, though customers clearly think otherwise.
In any case, there will be lots of attention focused on Apple’s financials and what every nuance actually means. Bad news will be expected by some, and maybe iPhone sales weren’t quite what some hoped for, but Apple often surprises the skeptics. Let’s see how it turns out.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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