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The Northern Spy
November 2009

Follow the Money Trail

Rick Sutcliffe

Money Coated Apples

seem the order of the day, following recent financial reports from Cupertino. The self-appointed pundits, particularly of the Wall Street variety, were astonished by the earnings report for Apple's most recent quarter. Record profits, a forty plus percent increase over last year, huge increases in both Mac and iPhone sales, and new record highs for the stock--all in times where general computing sales are slow. "Of course," retorts the Spy, "and $10B+ revenues per quarter will soon be the norm. Didn't you read it here months ago?"

Apple is just cashing in mindshare from a couple of years ago for today's marketshare, as he predicted. The "street" just doesn't get it yet. The ordinary Josephine is buying (or being gifted for school or Christmas) a Mac, not a PC--this on the strength of the iPod or iPhone that has been in successful service for two to three years. The majority of businesses now have at least some Macs, and they are partners in the enterprise. Today's mindshare (cashable in 24 months or so) is greater than ever. When the recession ends for business next year, the older machines that have been allowed to languish longer then usual are more likely in many cases to be replaced by Macs than new PCs. The Spy's main concern: whether Apple can keep supplied with parts as even more people come into the fold, and marketshare climbs from just under 10% to over 16%.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced a few product upgrades, perhaps most notably the Magic Mouse (touch top, and requires Mac OS 10.5.8+; W*nd*ws users need not purchase.) There are of course more such bumps and refinements to come (towers, servers), but these ones were announced when they were to hogtie the official launch by Microsoft of their new OS, Longhorn, er, ...Vista Service Pack. Oh, wait. It's called Windows 7 now. One tends to forget what the minor players are doing, especially when they don't seem to know themselves. Supposedly Win7 is better than the original Vista, though that doesn't seem much of a bar to clear.

However, given that an upgrade requires a "nuke and pave", if the old machine is even capable of running this turkey, wouldn't it make more sense to switch from a cheap, imitation counterfeit to a real Mac? The Spy notes in this connection that the media is lapping up the balloon boy fraud, patting itself on its collective back for not being taken in (for more than a day or two). Why can't it see Win-PC for the rounding error it is?

Apple certainly isn't on the shrinking W*nd*ws bandwagon, as its Boot Camp will only be supporting Win7 on the most recent Macs, probably only under Snow Leopard, and not for a few months yet. Case of ignoring a niche market?

Turning from the vista to the horizon, the Spy notes a phone company by a similar name advertising a new "droid" phone that is supposedly an iPhone killer (why the Apple and Google boards have gone their own way?). More likely the new kid will itself end up as roadkill on the information highway, but that doesn't stop enthusiastic forecasts by Apple-is-doomed pundits who haven't even seen this new device and know nothing more about it than any of us unwashed.

Apparently the AT&T results have been looking good too, with the pundits warning that AT&T could get too dependent on the iPhone gravy train. After all, with the monopoly ending soon, the lolly will be spread around. Not, says the Spy. There is more than enough gravy to smother everybody's potatoes. Competition will increase sales.

Meanwhile, Nokia has launched a lawsuit against Apple for patent violation on a number of cell phone technologies. Too soon to say whether this is legit, or is just a case of suing in lieu of competing.

As a last note on money issues, the Spy notes that Apple Canada has this week reduced $Canadian prices on a range of Mac models. Changes run to $300 in some cases. One could presume that the cause is the recent surge in the Canadian dollar, which appeared about to reach par again before pulling back a couple of cents. That it will go to par and above in view of the strengths of the respective economies seems a slam dunk to the Spy, who does, however, hasten to remind his reader that he is not an economist or a financier, nor does he give advice on such matters, just opinions. Course, he's been more right about Apple than the analysts for some time now. Meanwhile, it is nice to see Apple not participating in the RO (rip off) factor that affects most prices on goods crossing the border between us and the Excited States.

On other Apple-related matters

the Spy notes that the next logical step for the iTunes store would be a makeover into, simply, the iStore, complete with eBooks for Apple's reader (whoops, they won't announce that for a while) and applications for the Mac. For that matter, go all the way, and sell hardware under the same virtual umbrella.

Mind you, the iTunes App itself needs a little work. The Spy decided to sync his shiny new iPod Touch with a second machine, and discovered that unless one first "authorizes" the machine to work with the Store, it happily erases all the purchased and downloaded content on the Pod. Correct procedure: stop the initial sync, authorize the machine, then sync. Else, the backup on the machine that was originally authorized had better be in good shape.

Second quibble: There should be an exposed mechanism to archive such backups. This business of keeping only one and erasing it at every connection is for the birds--no backup fanatic would ever employ such a strategy.

Third: What's with Apple's excessive protectionism? Too tight a control, too many apps rejected for no good reason, functionality not enabled at the behest of the telecom pirates. None of this is necessary; all of it gains only ill will and ticks off customers and would-be developers. Don't forget another of the Spy's Laws--all copy protection is futile. The iPhone/iPod platform is not really locked down and forever uncrackable. It's only a matter of time before someone opens it up, so why not get on with it?

Fourth: What's with these earbuds? They might work in some people's ears, but the Spy must have inherited flaps the bud makers have never seen before, as they just pop out of his. Fix: plastic tips of various shapes to accommodate different ears. Is that so hard?

Snow Leopard gets its own headline

for, the Spy, once upon a time an early adopter, has heard too many reports of data corruption, Safari crashes, and other issues. Not wanting to afford such, he's now decided to sit this one out for another couple of months, consolidate his application updates, and install version three or four after the reports of problems stop. Getting old, and not wanting more injuries perhaps.

Mind, the Spy is paranoid about backups--why he is particularly distressed this morning to discover that the backup he made last evening at work was missing the entire "Comm" folder, with all his archived eMail for the last lo these many decades. But when checking the work machine from which the backup was made, he found the missing folder buried deep inside another group--testament to two things: first, that backup program Retrospect on which (and predecessors) the Spy has relied for a very long time now, has never once bunged things up, and second, that in his current operated state, the Spy must have become even more fumble fingered than usual to drop it there, along with the group of files beside it.

Elaborating on which,

the Spy may have mentioned here the injury he sustained falling out of an unfamiliar bed in Ireland a year ago last spring. By the time he had a diagnosis, two more injuries had resulted in a completely severed tendon in the rotator cuff system, and much reduced functionality in the joint. On June 6, he finally got the whole affair screwed back together (literally) and some damaged cartilage scraped off. Kudos to Dr. Albert Chan, the orthopedic surgeon, who seems to have done a fantastic job. (colour pictures of the work being done to prove it.)

So he works slowly now, and usually with one hand, while he awaits healing, and some five months of physiotherapy yet to come. Be nice to restore the lost functionality. In the meanwhile, it's reminiscent of the OS 9 to OS X transition. Short term severe losses for long term gains. Writing on the whiteboard with the left hand is easier than writing on the chalkboard that way, though. Hardest thing achieved so far: shaving with the left hand. Two tasks not: tying shoes and knotting a tie with one hand. Ah, well. A little bit of pain never hurt anyone.

Canon shots cross the bow

Not content with the recent release of the midrange professional 7D, Canon has bumped its flagship professional camera, the 1D to the Mark IV model. Sixteen-megapixels, 1.3X crop unit, twin DIGIC IV processors, 1080p video at 30 frames per second, WiFi, Ethernet, GPS tagging, still images at up to 10 fps, sensitivity to ISO 102K, and a 45-point autofocusing system that automatically groups points together to help select the right area--all make it droolworthy to be sure, with the body only kit expected to price in at a mere five grand. The Spy is only an photamateur, and still very pleased with his 40D, but with these two higher end picture crunchers, it appears Canon has regained the technical lead it seemed in danger of losing to Nikon. If you must have the very best (and you therefore own a Mac, too).

And with that, the Spy says QED (Quite Enough Done) for the month.

--The Northern Spy

Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor and chair of Computing Science and Mathematics as well as Senate Chair at Trinity Western University. He is also on the board of CIRA, operator of .ca. He's written two textbooks and several novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.


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Last Updated: 2009 11 02