Category: Apple

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Microsoft tries to trump Apple

Timing is everything, particularly in business marketing tactics. Surely it’s no coincidence that hours before Apple’s big developer conference, where questions about iPhone’s future and product innovation loom large, that Microsoft announces plans to buy social network LinkedIn.  Oh, the next Xbox reveal is planned to coincide with the WWDC 2016 keynote, too. Hehe, how do you like them apples?

The merger will split tech news and analysis coverage this fine Monday and spill over to tomorrow, robbing Apple of attention it needs now to subdue rising negative perceptions about the future. Global smartphone sales are slowing and iPhone accounts for 65 percent of total revenues. Meanwhile, the fruit-logo company hasn’t perceptually lifted the innovation meter since before cofounder Steve Jobs died nearly five years ago. Apple needs to deliver wow and have bloggers and reporters giggle with glee all over the InterWebs. 

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Tim Cook’s Last Stand

Washington Post reporter Hayley Tsukayama asks, following up on a commentary by software developer Marco Arment: “Is Apple really at the risk of becoming BlackBerry?“. The answer is absolutely “No”. But the concept is right. The fruit-logo company’s dire straight is much more profoundly catastrophic. The risk is becoming Nokia, and the path to that destination is already well-trodden.

Marco calls BlackBerry “king of smartphones”, referring to its market position before Apple released iPhone nine years ago in June. The description is apt enough. “BlackBerry’s success came to an end not because RIM started releasing worse smartphones, but because the new job of the smartphone shifted almost entirely outside of their capabilities, and it was too late to catch up”, he asserts. But smartphones were a niche category in 2007, so insignificant that analyst firms lumped the devices together with PDAs. iPhone’s disruption was far, far greater—Nokia lost its perennial global handset lead; for many of the reasons Marco identifies. Nokia, and not BlackBerry, is the metaphor, and it is frighteningly foreshadowing. 

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Apple Store Then and Now

Fifteen years ago today, the first Apple Store opened at Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. I was there, covering the event for CNET News. Four days earlier, then CEO Steve Jobs briefed journalists—bloggers, bwahaha, no—across the way at upper-scale Tysons Galleria. Most of us thought his scheme was kind of nuts, as did analysts, and news stories reflected the sentiment. Recession gripped the country and rival Gateway was in process of shuttering more than 400 retail shops. Timing was madness.

But companies that take big risks during economic downturns are most likely to reap rewards later. Retail would be Apple’s third walk across the tightrope during 2001. The others: iTunes (January); OS X (March); iPod (October). I’ve said before that these four are foundation for all the company’s successes that followed, including iPhone. But 15 years ago, battling the Wintel duopoly with less than 2 percent global PC market share, Jobs figuratively walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon carrying original Macintoshes in each arm. 

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A Few Bad Apples Shouldn’t Spoil the Whole Bunch, Mr. Cook

Listening to Apple’s fiscal second quarter 2016 earnings conference call yesterday was like attending a funeral—where the eulogy is for someone whom you know has gone to Hell. There’s no way to sugarcoat that the good days are over and an eternity of burning flesh awaits. I kid you not. Haul over to iTunes and download the replay. You’ll feel the grim reaper looking over your shoulder while CEO Tim Cook talks as joyfully about Apple’s performance as a man granted last words before the gallows.

And I wonder why? So what that Apple reported its first revenue decline in 13 years, or that iPhone sales fell for the first time ever, or that Q3 guidance is a few billion short of Wall Street consensus? This friggin’ company still mints money, and that ain’t changing anytime soon. Revenue reached $50.6 billion—more than Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, and PayPal combined. Apple’s $10.5 billion net income exceeds that of Alphabet and Microsoft together. Oh, and iPhone generated more revenue ($32.86 billion) than either competitor’s total sales. Apple ended the quarter with a $232 billion cash horde. And we get a wake, not a celebration? 

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The End of the iPhone Empire Begins

The spotlight shines on the world’s most-valuable company this fine Tuesday, as Apple revealed results for fiscal second quarter 2016. Wall Street expected the first revenue growth decline in more than a decade and iPhone’s first-ever sales retraction . Is the sky finally falling? Eh, not yet. But the sun slowly sets over the vast smartphone empire.

Ahead of today’s earnings announcement, Wall Street consensus put revenue down 10.4 percent year over year to $51.97 billion, with earnings per share down 14.2 percent to $2. Apple actual: $50.557 billion sales, $10.5 billion net income, and $1.90 EPS. Three months ago, the company told the Street to expect between $50 billion and $53 billion in sales. You read the numbers correctly: Apple uncharacteristically missed the Street’s targets and came in on the low end of its own guidance. 

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MacBook is a Great Carry-along That leaves Something Behind

Earlier this week, Apple finally updated its svelte laptop that launched 13-months ago. I am awe-struck by the company’s design-audacity—not for brash innovation but bumbling compromises that make me wonder who needs this thing. The 12-inch MacBook offers much, wth respect to thinness, lightness, and typing experience (the keyboard is clever tech). But baffling is the decision to keep the crappy 480p webcam. These days, not late-1990s state-of-art, 720p is the least a pricey computer should come with, and is it too much to ask for 1080p or 4K when modern smartphones can shoot just that?

This shortcoming, and two others, glares because the little laptop otherwise offers so much, for its size. Thickness is 13.1mm, while weight is 2.03 pounds (.92 kilograms). The 12-inch IPS display delvers 2304 x 1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch. This thing is tiny: 28.05 by 19.65 centimeters (11.04 by 7.74 inches). Apple’s redesigned keyboard provides surprising travel, given the keys’ shallowness. By these measures, MacBook is a great carry-along. 

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9.7-inch iPad Pro First Take

The more I use Apple’s smaller Pro tablet, the less likely I am to reach for the larger one. I have tested the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch tabs side-by-side since March 31st—and the bigger one is my primary PC (most days). Unquestionably, the behemoth is capable of replacing a laptop, as Apple CEO Tim Cook asserts. The smaller-size model is a fine notebook companion, and certainly can substitute sometimes. But more than two weeks using this surprisingly satisfying kit, I can’t yet (and may never) recommend it as your next PC.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which screen measures like all its forebears, falls into a category I griped about in September 2015: Apple products without purpose—or none that’s easily obvious to majority of shoppers. Don’t misunderstand. The technology under the hood is quite innovative, and I really, really, really  enjoy using this tablet. But I’m not most people, and looking at the broader consumer marketplace, I see the device as being more for the few than appealing to the many; that is until the next release cycle, when current prices decrease. Now, putting aside these caveats, 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the device I most often grab first. Many of the benefits have purpose that is subtle. The question: Are they good enough for you? 

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Sizing Up 12.9-inch iPad Pro

April 3, 2016 marks the first day that I truly could use Apple’s over-sized tablet to replace my laptop.  But I had to spend another $84, before California tax, to do it. Gadget reviewers who say that iPad Pro cannot be your computer are wrong. The apps, performance, and utility are there, Anyone creating content should consider this device as compliment to, or replacement for, an existing PC. The problem with 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn’t what it can do but how much it costs to assemble what you need. This kit is far from budget-friendly, which also can be said of Microsoft’s competing Surface Pro 4.

I started my iPad Pro sojourn on Groundhog Day, planning to use the device as my primary PC for 30 days. The objective: Apple CEO Tim Cook says the big-ass tablet can replace a personal computer, I want to see if he is right. The experiment isn’t my first journey like this. I tried something similar during summer 2011 with one of the first Chromebooks. The path was a dead end. But Spring 2012, when new commercial models released, I started down the path again and never looked back. Google’s Chromebook Pixel LS was my main computer before adopting the iPad lifestyle. 

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Apple Turns 40

Summer 1984, Chapel Hill, N.C., I learned something about prejudice and discrimination in America and saw my first Macintosh. Strangely, looking back at Apple, which celebrates its 40th birthday today, the two things connect.

As I reflected in Jan. 18, 2004, post: “Racism and Naiveté“, I never thought much about skin color growing up in a region of America where most everyone is Caucasian. Northern Maine is a white wonderland for more than abundant snowfall. Strangely, though, my best friends had last names like Chung and Zivic. The local Air Force base, Loring, added color to the populace, and when it came to people I was decidedly colorblind. 

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Too Many iPads is Good for Apple, Bad for Competitors

Something surely seems missing from this week’s Apple Event. A year ago this month, Apple introduced the svelte, 12-inch MacBook. That makes the little laptop ripe for refresh, but it is MIA. During a media hoopla where the figurative fireworks failed to light, everyone should ask: What is Apple doing? The new 4-inch iPhone is little more than the 5 model introduced in 2012 with fresh internals. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro fits into a crowded category where Apple is mob in the room. Where’s the innovation?

After watching the live stream, carefully reviewing what Apple executives said, and looking over device sales trends, I must say this: Either Tim Cook is stupidest tech CEO on the planet, or one of the smartest. The event’s big takeaway is this: Apple is trying to corner a faltering computing category on the presumption it’s the next big thing. Cook takes great risk in search of greater rewards. If he’s right, Apple may come to dominate the next personal computing platform—even as Android armies spread across the planet. Everything hinges on these: Will tablets replace PCs and can Apple become the overwhelming market share leader, regaining dominance held six years ago? 

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The Apple Event to Sleep For

Editor’s Note: I wrote this for Frak That!, where nothing should be taken seriously.

“The snoring was so loud, I couldn’t get any work done”, Maybell Lindsey says about the March 21st Apple Event that introduced nothing. She is among a handful of litigants planning to sue the company for failing to fulfill its longstanding obligation to wow watchers with exciting new products—or, in the parlance of deceased cofounder Steve Jobs, present “one more thing”. “One less thing, actually and a lot of `em”, Lindsey heckles.

Litigants largely fall into two categories: 1) Those suffering emotional trauma for being denied the “got to have it now” exhilaration that makes the product launches must-see events. 2) Those tormented by snoring coworkers lulled to lala land by the oppressive focus on energy efficiency and recycled product packaging rather than earth-shaking new tech. 

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The Rally Against FBIOS Begins

Microsoft will join Apple against the FBI and U.S. Justice Department, filing a friend-of-court—amicus brief—in a case going to court tomorrow. The government wants Apple to create a special version of iOS, referred to by critics as FBIOS, to break an iPhone 5c security features. The device manufacturer argues that compliance would set a precedent that would give law enforcement carte blanche with other mobile devices.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal counsel, says the company “wholeheartedly supports Apple”—a statement the eradicates any potential confusion caused by cofounder Bill Gates. In an interview with Financial Times two days ago, Gates supported the government’s demands. I responded, calling his position a “catastrophic occurrence that demands current chief executive Satya Nadella’s official response. There needs to be clear policy about government backdoors and the position with respect to the San Bernardino shooting iPhone”. The company’s position is now unequivocally clear—presuming the legal filing fits with “wholeheartedly”.

Smith publicly disclosed Microsoft’s plans during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee today.