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  • Newsletter Issue #958

    April 9th, 2018

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    It’s not unusual to see at least a touch of fear mongering added to something about Apple, even if it’s supposed to be a good thing. Take the recent hire of search and artificial intelligence guru John Giannandrea, formerly of Google. Apple clearly needs some help with Siri, and an executive with a stellar track record for achievement would appear to be just the ticket.

    But don’t be surprised that some of the critics out there are also claiming that the presence of a former Google executive assigned to, among other things, help fix Siri’s flaws, will mean sacrificing Apple’s reputation for privacy. Why? Because Google regards you as the product. How does that translate to Apple? Would the addition of new executives somehow infuse Tim Cook’s company with the DNA of their former employers? Is it some kind of Google-bred contagion?

    Does that even make sense?

    Well I suppose it could if Apple decided that maybe it could sacrifice some user privacy in exchange for improving Siri. But I do not at all believe that’s going to happen. It’s just another story from people who like to tell stories.

    In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented author and commentator Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who devoted a heavy portion of this segment to focus on the inconsistencies of the two HDR formats for 4K TV, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. He cited instances where it doesn’t seem to work even on sets where it’s supposedly compatible. Gene and Josh also discussed Apple’s recent decision to hire John Giannandrea, former chief of search and artificial intelligence for Google. Will this new employee help Apple fix Siri’s problems and advance its AI and VR efforts? Gene expressed his concerns about the quality of the first batch of TV shows reportedly scheduled for production by Apple as part of its expanded entertainment roster. And will it be a value-added feature of Apple Music?

    You also heard from Ben Williams of Adblock Plus. Ad blocking has experienced a lot of activity over the past year, especially since Google entered the fray with its ad filter for Chrome. There are still battles between publishers and ad blockers, and payment systems to publishers from users are being talked about with more frequency. Gene and Ben engaged in an extended dialogue about the value of online advertising, and the long history of making it as offensive as possible. There was also a pop culture discussion, about ads that build branding images focusing on a well-known personality, such as Oscar winning actor J.K. Simmons, known for Farmers Insurance commercials and loads of movies and TV shows, including the recent comic book film, “Justice League,” where he played Commissioner Gordon. You also learned how ad blockers can be configured to allow ads that have been approved for content and presentation.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene and special guest cohost Don Eckerpresent Rev. Dr. Barry Downing, author of two works on the presence of alien visitors in ancient times, “The Bible and Flying Saucers,” (1968) and “Biblical UFO Revelations,” (2017). He has been a consultant in theology for the Mutual UFO Network since 1972, and has published a number of articles in UFO publications. He is listed in “Who’s Who In Theology and Science,” and has appeared in several of the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series. Dr. Downing is pastor emeritus of Northminster Presbyterian Church, Endwell, NY. He earned a degree in physics from Hartwick College, a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

    APPLE’S EXTREMELY POPULAR UNPOPULAR SMARTPHONE

    The iPhone X has taken an interesting journey, more convoluted than most Apple products. When the first rumors about it arose, it wasn’t even referred to as an iPhone X. It was the iPhone 8. Why? Well, it was assumed that the successor to the iPhone 7 must be the iPhone 7s, in keeping with Apple’s previous tradition.

    Now maybe that was Apple’s original plan, and they changed the names just to be contrary. That comes across as a Steve Jobs-type move. Or maybe the new names were byproducts of the decision to add a third flagship model to the mix. Take your choice, but does it really matter?

    Well, yes, because iPhone X really separates itself from the pack as product identities go.

    Early on, it was settled that the iPhone-whatever would have an edge-to-edge OLED display. But the question of biometrics reared its head, because Samsung couldn’t make a front-mounted fingerprint sensor work. Thus Apple must confront the same design limitation, although that was not necessarily true.

    So would Apple adopt the solution devised by Samsung, which was to place Touch ID at the rear? It’s an awkward reach for a Samsung Galaxy, so why would Apple inconvenience you that way? One silly suggestion had it that Apple would just ditch biometrics for its most expensive smartphone, which was about as absurd as a fake Apple story can get.

    Later in the speculation game, the possibility of facial recognition came to the fore. But that left room for new brands of speculation. So how would your privacy be impacted if you used your face rather than your finger to unlock your phone? Several articles made one huge deal about the danger of the loss of privacy, although it hardly made sense that Apple would eliminate the secure enclave and state-of-the-art encryption.

    Remember, this was going to be a premium device, to be sold at a premium price (we’ll get to that shortly). Why make it less capable? Sure, Samsung’s facial recognition wasn’t so good in the Galaxy S8. You could defeat it with a digital phone. It may be better on the Galaxy S9, of course. So how would Apple make it near foolproof — could it? It did of course, but Face ID required several years of development and Apple’s purchase of yet another company for its technology, Israel’s PrimeSense, who once-upon-a-time built Microsoft’s original Kinect for the Xbox.

    Apple didn’t just add it out of desperation.

    Don’t forget that Apple didn’t just use an off-the-shelf solution for Touch ID. It bought an entire company, AuthenTec, whose technology was already used with other companies, and merged its capabilities with its own technology to make something better. Or something Apple hoped would be better.

    So where does that take us?

    Well, the iPhone X appeared in early November 2017 amid fears that it would be so back ordered, so you’d wait weeks or months to get one. Give up on the hopes for holiday delivery, so maybe buy something else? Well, Apple’s competitors would’ve loved that, except that wasn’t exactly what happened. Over the next few weeks, the backorder situation was reduced to no more than a couple of days. No problem getting one by Christmas Eve.

    But rather than assume Apple was just good at what it did, stories arose about sharp cutbacks in the supply chain. Thus, the iPhone X was a flash in the pan, demand had collapsed. It was a failure, and along with it, Apple’s great experiment.

    Until the truth got in the way.

    So according to Apple’s December quarterly numbers, the iPhone X was the top selling smartphone on the planet during the weeks it was available, including the day those financials were announced.

    How well did it do in the March quarter? Well, Apple’s conservative guidance disappointed analysts, even though it predicted a double-digit rise in iPhone sales. So terrible! So disappointing — not!

    Is the iPhone X still doing well? Those numbers won’t be revealed until May. For now we have some clues, such as a recent survey indicating that the iPhone X remains the most popular smartphone in the UK. Number two? The iPhone 8.

    These figures come from a survey from GlobalData, based on customer responses when asked to identify the phone they planned to purchase in the first quarter of this year.

    Now let’s put this in perspective. This is a survey of buyer intentions, not a sales estimate. It can be wrong, very wrong, but it does demonstrate the iPhone X’s enduring popularity, coming at a time when demand has allegedly fallen big time. I was about to say “bigly,” but something caught my fingers after the third character thank heavens!

    I also suppose it’s always possible that the new Samsungs are hot sellers, though they don’t seem altogether different from the previous models. Or maybe the two-for-one sales that arrive with new Samsungs will move product. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the real world.

    THE FINAL WORD

    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
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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