I am very interested in self-driving. Not because I’m ready to rush out and buy a Tesla, or a vehicle with a less sophisticated autonomous motoring feature, such as an expensive Cadillac with a fancy (or at least overpriced) cruise control scheme. Forgetting the high price, I’m not yet convinced that such systems are good enough for prime time.
There’s clearly going to be a long shakeout period with accidents, perhaps a fatality here and there, before it’s possible to enter your spanking new “Johnny Cab” and have it do your bidding without the possibility of a mishap. But I am not getting any younger, and there will come a time when I am too old to drive.
I like to think I’ll know when that time comes. I can certainly see that my physical abilities aren’t as fine-tuned as they used to be, but my reactions remain pretty quick. My vision is good enough with correction to be able to see what I have to see, and there are no symptoms of failing hearing.
When I’m ready to turn in my license, I would hope I could hail a Lyft or Uber or acquire an affordable vehicle that will eliminate the need to drive. Then again, self-driving Lyft and Uber vehicles threaten to put hundreds of thousands of drivers out of work in the space of a few years. As someone who earns money from both, I just hope I’ll be too old to care when it happens.
In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we were joined by tech journalist Derek Kessler, managing editor of Mobile Nations — who also leads their coverage of the Tesla. The owner of a Tesla Model S luxury sports sedan, Derek offered sage insights into recent reports of problems with self-driving vehicles, such as Tesla’s Autopilot. He cited fatal accidents involving self-driving vehicles, one from Tesla, another from Uber. Are self-driving features ready for prime time, or will it take longer, much longer, for them to become fully dependable? What about drivers being lulled into a false sense of security when exposed to such systems? Derek also discussed his experiences with his Model S, and the prospects for the company’s Model 3 mid-sized vehicle. Will production of the latter hit acceptable targets before the company runs out of cash? What about widespread charging stations, and what about all the incompatible systems?
You also heard from commentator Rene Ritchie from iMore. During this episode, Rene talked about the recent Google I/O event, focusing mainly on a controversial AI demo. What about the fact that Google seems more focused on flashy demos than user privacy? What about published reports that the AI demo may have been faked? He also discussed Apple’s ongoing problems with Siri, which hasn’t advanced all that much since its introduction in 2011. What does Apple have to do to make it comparable to digital assistants from Amazon and Google? Did the introduction of the HomePod reveal Siri’s limitations in a way that convinces Apple to fix what’s broken? You also heard Rene’s reaction to all those fake news stories that the iPhone X was a huge failure, even while it became the best selling smartphone on the planet for two straight quarters. He offered a possible reason why investors have continued to spread false rumors about iPhone sales over the years.
It never ceases to amaze me how the tech media often takes such stories seriously without perspective, without mentioning that this nonsense happens on a regular basis with the same result. The stories are false.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest cohost Goggs Mackay introduce long-time paranormal researcher Brent Raynes. He is the editor of an online monthly magazine entitled Alternate Perceptions, and the author of “Visitors From Hidden Realms” (2004) and “On The Edge of Reality” (2009). Raynes has a third book coming out later in 2018, to be published by Visionary Living Publishing and tentatively entitled” John A. Keel: The Man, Myths and Mysteries.” Raynes’ journey into paranormal research was heavily influenced by John Keel early on. They shared correspondence that began back in October 1969. He was also heavily influenced by Jacques Vallee and Brad Steiger.
My waking hours are not consumed wondering what sort of goodies Apple will reveal on June 4th, the date for the WWDC keynote. Last year’s announcements were more voluminous than than many expected, so it may well be there will be lots to predict, lots to talk about this year too. So it’s natural that the tech media is getting set to talk about it.
Last year, we had the predictable demonstrations of iOS 11 and macOS 10.13. While the superstitious among you might have felt a letdown that Apple didn’t succumb to the unlucky 13 stigma, such as it is, High Sierra still wasn’t such a compelling release.
It has worked all right for me, but I’m somewhat disappointed that the “future update” promised by Apple to add support for the Apple File System (APFS) to Macs with Fusion Drives has yet to arrive. Indeed, after the initial claim that it would come, there has been little or no discussion about it. The option to convert the Fusion Drive on my iMac to APFS is still grayed out.
Maybe something will be said when macOS 10.14 is launched, or maybe it will become one of those features that will never be implemented. Some day SSDs with multiple terabyte capabilities will be cheap enough so it own’t matter, and maybe Apple developers are biding their time, or maybe I’ll be surprised by news of its imminent arrival. Maybe nobody else cares.
So what’s going to be in the next macOS? CNET points to more security because of some especially dumb glitches in High Sierra, but being more stable is hardly a selling point. So I would look for some fancy new features. APFS, even if support expands, isn’t terribly fancy as tentpole features go.
After some updates to iOS 11 that were more featured than one might expect, there are reports that Apple might take a breather with iOS 12, push off some features till next year and focus mostly on refining what’s there, while making it snappier and more stable. Then again, it’s not as if Apple has much to fret over with Android P, which will only reach a teeny tiny percentage of users this fall. Indeed, some of its major features actually mimics the added gestures from the iPhone X, which will require new generations of smartphones to support.
Last year was heavy on Mac refreshes. There were new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, iMacs, and a demonstration of the iMac Pro workstation. Although it didn’t ship until December, the iMac Pro turned the original image of the iMac, in 1998, on its head. Over the years, Apple’s all-in-one computer had morphed into a powerful mainstream Mac. The iMac Pro, put it right at the high end of the workstation class.
For this year, regular Macs will likely get speed bumps, but it’s probably too early for any changes in the iMac Pro. I’m also hoping for news about the next Mac mini after a long draught, and it’s possible Apple will take the wraps off a brand new Mac Pro, with a promise to ship in early 2019, along with a new 5K, or perhaps 8K, display. Perhaps the Touch Bar will spread to all Mac notebooks.
On the iPad front, now that sales of Apple’s tablets are growing once again, there might be refreshes for the Pros, but will Apple consider adding Face ID — maybe edge-to-edge OLED displays, in a specialty high-end model that’ll become a companion to the iPhone X? Or just release a simple processor upgrade with some minor feature updates.
Since iPhone upgrades generally arrive in September, there’s little point in mentioning them. The rumors will hasten as we get closer to the release date. But what about a replacement for the iPhone SE, the sole 4-inch model in the lineup? Time for Apple to give it a shave and haircut, and reduce the price another $50? Or wait for a fall intro? A June launch would seem out of place since most of the focus will likely be on other hardware.
One area that needs a solid presentation is Siri. The promise that machine learning and a new voice would turn Apple’s digital assistant into a more compelling contender didn’t quite pan out. The new voice was all right, but it still didn’t perform as well as it should. Its limitations were most compelling with the HomePod. At least you have an alternative when Siri fails to deliver the goods on other Apple gadgets. With a speaker system, when you can’t do something, there may be no alternative.
Just being able to adjust the EQ outside of Apple Music and iTunes may be enough to satisfy the people who aren’t so happy about too much thumpy bass.
Early rumors about Apple TV and Apple Watch aren’t so compelling. There’s a report that a future version of the latter will have a round face, but expanding fitness and health capabilities may be more than sufficiently compelling. Besides, it doesn’t have much competition anyway, and if Apple stays the course of steady improvement, sales might continue to grow in the double digits. And, no, I’m not ready to trade in my $12.88 Walmart watch.
Apple TV is no longer on my radar. Maybe Apple should consider bundling tvOS with TV sets in the fashion of Amazon, Google and Roku. Otherwise, despite some neat features, it’ll become more and more irrelevant. I don’t want to apply my experience to everyone, but it’s been five months since I last used my Apple TV — and counting. Sure, it’s a third-generation model, but nothing tempts me to buy its successor.
But, yes, I will mention tvOS if Apple introduces any compelling new features.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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