History, Redux Edition

What follows is an opinionated rant, feel free to browse elsewhere.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.  –Ben Franklin

As Mozilla finally gives up on the iOS platform, the question that must be asked is who is next?  The constraints that Apple puts on browser developers (straight out of Microsoft’s wettest dream) leads to the crippling of alternatives to mobile Safari.  Apple uses Safari’s webkit browser engine but only allows other browsers to use a crippled and slower version.  Despite this handicap, Google’s Chrome is not only competitive with Safari, but bests it in most usage scenarios.  Apple is just not that savvy when it comes to coding software (hence the need for restrictions to prevent real competition).

As developers begin to abandon the platform we need only look at Apple’s history to see where this is going.  Once Apple made the most advanced personal computer.  But after its release, they sat on their laurels and stopped innovating.  When competition arose, Apple still did not innovate, instead they hired lawyers and attempted to use the courts to stifle the competition.  They eventually lost and the platform languished, never to recover.  While the competition went on to rule the desktop roost.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and Apple had the most innovative phone platform.  But as the competition moves ahead of them, Apple fails to grasp the lessons of history and again fails to innovate.  Once again they attempt to use the courts to stifle the competition.  Attempting to stifle Android’s rapid innovation through a global thermonuclear patent war has so far had the same effect as round one.  One major win (which still can’t be counted due to not being finalized and under appeal) and an entire series of losses and pyrrhic victories which has done little but tarnish Apple’s own brand.  Innovation wise, Apple trails badly.  Still the kings of gorgeous hardware, Apple struggles with mediocre software and even worse web services.

The only thing keeping Apple’s iOS at current levels is consumer lock-in.  People have invested in the app store and they are loathe to abandon that investment.  But, sooner or later, they will cut their losses and move on; and history will have made another revolution.  More important is that teenagers, the bellwether of what’s cool, are fleeing the platform.  When Apple was the small underdog they were cool (well, at least hipster cool if not truly cool), but with their popularity and ease of use they now appeal to the elderly.  Can a device really be cool if your grandmother has one?

A recent report suggested that 96% of all mobile malware is targeting Android, still 7 out of 10 consumers choose that platform.  Apple’s share is falling rapidly and now rests at around 20%…history redux, indeed.

Which brings us back to that Franklin quote above.  It would seem that most people agree with Franklin.  Most would rather have a little in-security in exchange for the freedom that Android offers over the closed, locked down, proprietary, and innovation stifling platform offered by the  fruity company.

Just like in the platform wars of old, Apple’s supporters are loud and rabid.  They will gnash their teeth and claim to be superior (just like they did last time around), they will claim that Apple has somehow been cheated or even stolen from.  And still, their platform will slide into irrelevance.

Perhaps Apple will have better luck with watches.


1984 Redux: A Cautionary Tale

…or; Why You Can’t Trust the Gatekeeper

Go read this article, then come back.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

While this post is mostly directed at Apple, it also applies (albeit to a lesser degree) to other platforms; MS, Google, and Amazon come quickly to mind.

For those who find the above linked NY Times article too long to read, I’ll briefly sum up the controversy.  A developer submitted an app to Apple for inclusion in the iDevice store.  The app tracked US drone strikes around the world and presented them to the user in an interactive map.  Nothing overly controversial here, many newspapers periodically publish such maps.

Apple rejected the app allegedly due to not being “useful or entertaining enough”.  The developer worked some more on the app, adding more useful and/or entertaining features and dutifully resubmitted the app.  This time Apple rejected the app for sullying the iPhone interface with a Google logo.  Back to the drawing table went the developer, he refactored the Google logo, finding the balance between giving credit to the maps provider and not sullying Apple’s devices.  He then resubmitted the app to Apple, fairly certain that his app would soon be published to the app store.

Only it wasn’t…and it never will be.  Apple’s censors rejected the app for having “excessively objectionable or crude content.”

This raises the question of whether technology companies should be the gatekeepers of what is news, what is objectionable, or any other question of societal import.

And if it was just Apple we could dismiss it as just one mega-maniacal corporation exerting undue control over what news and information its users are allowed to consume.  But app stores are fast becoming the norm.  Google’s Android Market, while much more open and transparent than Apples, still has control over what gets into the market.  Amazon has a similar store, closer to Apple’s in its control freakery, but still a fairly niche affair, thus attracting less scrutiny.  Microsoft also has a mobile store, also fairly tightly controlled.

These mega-corporations will tell you that mobile is special, that the user experience must be tightly controlled to maintain the carrier’s networks, maintain battery life, preserve user experience, etc…ad nauseum.

Then they move onto the desktop.  No relaxing of control, still the same harsh censorship of their mobile stores brought home to the desktop.  And that is when the facade crumbles.  The store censoring has nothing at all to do with the stated reasons.  When all else has been stripped away, we are left with the true reason, control.  Control of the information and data that a user can take in.

Apple and Microsoft together account for more than 99% of desktop computer usage.  While both of their desktop app stores are in their infancy, it is no challenge to see where they are going.  The trend is there for all who willing to open their eyes and see, tighter intertwining of the mega-corporate tech companies and the State.  “Keep your regulations soft and ineffective, and I will deliver the populace to you in a way not even imaginable in the most dystopian of novels.”

And that is where you arrive if you take recent trends and project them to their logical conclusions.  A sort of self-chosen soft-fascism.

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
–Joseph Goebbels

To the press we can also add our gadgets and other technological wizardry which can increasingly monitor and/or report our likes, dislikes, location, preferences, associations, political ideology, entertainment choices, communications and virtually every single thing that we do.

It is truly a brave new world; the question is who we are going to allow to control it.

Apple Wins, Everybody Else Loses

Microsoft is probably the big winner in Samsung’s defeat by Apple.  Well, Microsoft and Steve Job’s ghost.

Unless overturned on appeal, Apple now owns both tap to zoom and pinch to zoom.  I guess Android devices could be distributed with magnifying glasses.

When an issue is too complex to understand, I generally turn to a trusted expert to help me decide which side I should support.  In this case, Groklaw and EFF are the experts I turn to.  While neither side supports Samsung, they both oppose Apple.  The apologists for the fruity patent company will now have ammunition to further pollute discussion (as if we didn’t already have enough of that).

This isn’t an Apple v Android war.  This is an Apple v the future of mobile war.  While free and open will inevitably win in the end, there will be dark days until then.

Samsung has at least given the appearance of “protecting the record” which will make an appeal likely to succeed on at least some merits.  But unless the entire judgement can be vacated, it is indeed a somber day.

Update: The jury took 21 hours to answer 700 questions.  If they never yawned or stretched or got sidetracked, they spent just 1 minute 48 seconds on each question.  Some questions required math equations, these probably took longer…so some probably got less attention.  It will be interesting if any of the jurors go public just to hear the rationalization of how this meets due diligence.

Update 2: Groklaw is reporting: “The [jury] foreman told a court representative that the jurors had reached a decision without needing the instructions.”  If this turns out to be true, then we should get a ruling as a matter of law or a new trial.  A jury can not ignore the judge’s instructions.

Consumer Reports, Bitten by the Apple Bug?

When iPhone 4 was first released, Consumer Reports issued a buy recommendation. Now, a few weeks later, they finally get around to testing it. Oops. It has a design flaw, don’t buy.
I expect this sort of behavior from the tech press. But to see Consumer Reports taken in by the Jobsian Big Fat Lie is pretty depressing…I expect more from them. If anyone is going to avoid the hype and give you an honest assessment, one would expect it to be Consumer Reports. Unfortunately, they were not paying attention.

Some choice quotes from the new blog post:

Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4’s signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that “mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.”

The tests also indicate that AT&T’s network might not be the primary suspect in the iPhone 4’s much-reported signal woes.

We did, however, find an affordable solution for suffering iPhone 4 users: Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material. It may not be pretty, but it works.

Ha Ha!  Put a piece of duct tape on your $600+ device??  I would imagine clear nail polish would also do the trick.  This is a pretty basic thing for a new antenna design, it seems unbelievable that Apple would not think to test it.  And Apple’s response to the issue is the biggest joke of all.  To sum up (and paraphrase) Apple’s response: There is no problem, we’ve been lying to you for years about signal strength, we are preparing a software fix to change that.

I must confess that it is a joy to see that pompous ass, Steve Jobs, getting the much deserved face smack, I am equally disappointed in Consumer Reports for being bowled over by the hype.  I trust CR as an unbiased observer in almost every case, I dismissed the antenna problem when CR did because I trust them.  That trust got a little weaker today.

Edit: That’s gotta hurt, CNNs current front page:

From Drop Box

Apple, Gizmodo: Redux

The Christian Science Monitor has an oppinion piece up entitled: iPhone, Gizmodo, and moral clarity about crime

Following is a comment that I sent the Monitor concerning the essay.

Stuart Green provided interesting commentary on the ongoing Gizmodo iPhone outing and its aftermath.  In his essay Green asks, “what explains the apparent sympathy” for Gizmodo “and hostility toward Apple and the San Mateo police”? I would like to provide another possible answer to the 4 conjectured by Green.
To my understanding, neither Apple nor Hogan[sic] reported the phone stolen until after it was returned. Weeks after it had lost the phone–and after the phone was returned to them–they reported it stolen. The next day the San Mateo police broke down the door of the Gizmodo editor’s house while he was out and about. It has been widely reported that the computer crime unit, REACT, led the raid. It has long been known that Apple sits on the steering committee of the REACT Task Force. (See http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2009/05/18/story2.html).
More likely than Green’s conjectures, is that people are reacting to the disproportionate response and to the appearance that the police are taking their orders from Apple Inc. While Apple may not be directing police behavior, it is clear and evident that they are getting special treatment. Many, myself included, reject this as outrageous; this rejection is then interpreted as sympathy for Gizmodo.

You can’t make shit like this up…

Got a laugh out of an article on Apple Insider. Evidently only Apple’s own apps are allowed to use multi touch. It isn’t like AI is a detractor, they are the ultimate Apple fan boys.  Still they report on an app being rejected from the only source of apps for Apple’s phone OS devices.  The developers of Web Albums evidently dared to implement a pinch to zoom feature in their app and it was summarily rejected until that feature was removed.  I guess when you are Apple Electronics you have to maintain any edge that you can manage, even at the expense of those developing for your own platform.  Like the title says, you can’t make shit like this up, my Nexus One has better multi touch support than Apple’s own products.   I guess HTC shouldn’t feel too bad about attracting Apple’s wrath…they even eat their own children.

Apple: Suing is Easier than Innovating

Have we been here before?  Is this a case of electronic deja vu all over again?  Apple, already embroiled in a patent war with Nokia, has now opened a second front in its rear guard action to maintain (mind share) dominance in the smart phone sector.

Too cowardly to confront Google head on, Apple chooses a war by proxy by going after HTC.

Three years ago Steve Jobs unveiled the iphone to collective oohs and ahs.  It was cutting edge and innovative.  Now, three years have passed and many have caught up to and even surpassed the iphone in features, looks, and functionality.  Does Jobs continue to innovate?  Does he choose to take Apple into new endeavors?  No, and nope.  Instead, Apple breaks out the lawyers…hey it is cheaper than R&D on improvements.

This should come as no surprise, Jobs has been threatening law suits since he introduced the jesus phone.  He made blanket threats against any and all at the unveiling, last year he specifically called out a threat to Palm.  Is this what passes for innovation in Cupertino?

Apple’s corporate lawyers must think HTC is the weak link in the chain (and Android has become the main threat to beat back).  It will be interesting if they ever go to war with Palm, Palm has been in this business much longer than Apple and has a major patent portfolio that Apple infringes on.  So we probably won’t see a move against Palm–the cowardly always bully the weak, it is pretty much the definition of bully.  It remains to be seen how deep HTC’s patents run, but they do have Google in their corner.  And make no mistake, this action is all about Google.

Android is a much better platform than the jesus phone.  I make this assertion after reading the various lists of reasons to jailbreak your iphone, and realize that I do not need to root my Nexus One to achieve any of those.  It is the difference between open tech and a locked down proprietary piece of kitsch.  So Apple is up against a superior competitor, this must be the case or they would let the court of customer decision making run its course.  Instead of letting the best phone win, they break out the lawyers.  Yep, been here before…and we all know how that turned out.  I expect no difference this time around.

It is time to treat Apple as the pariah that they are.  Shun them as a threat to our collective well being.  Media Monkey is a better iPod manager than the steaming pile of poo known as itunes.  Safari is becoming nothing more than a rip-off of Chrome but still lacking many basic features.  Quicktime is a historical relic, no need to install it as it harkens back to a darker time in tech.  Nope, there really remains no reason to use any of Apple’s software for anything.  They are a technological pariah, and deserve to be–and should be–shunned.

Edit: More reasons to dump Apple.    Remember when the (max)Ipad was revealed?  Apple conspired with the publishers to put an end to Amazon’s $9.99 cap on best sellers.  And it worked, to at least some degree.  Now the asshats are at it again, this time with music.  Ars is reporting that Apple is now pressuring the labels to end Amazon’s Daily Deal promotions.  There is nothing for Apple to gain, they are simply being dickweeds for the sake of being dickweeds.

For whatever reason, Apple does not seem able, or willing,  to compete on their merits, they have to use this sort of back room dealing to keep their position.

There is a dead person in Tennessee who died because he/she could not get a liver because Steve Jobs bought it.

Last time Apple suffered major setbacks, there were people there to mourn…who will be there next time?

Edit 2:  So where does Google sit in all of this.  They are not mentioned in the suits, but are certainly at the center of it.  Does Google sit back and watch HTC get dinged by crApple?  Then what, is Motorola next?  And if HTC gets dinged, who will be the next company to release an Android phone?  If HTC loses, Google loses…there can be no doubt about that.  HTC is Google’s number one Android partner, they can not throw them under the bus.

I am going to assume that HTC does not have a deep patent portfolio…they’ve spent most of their existence building other folks’ products.  I would guess that their patents run more to the manufacturing process type.  It also seems clear that Apple isn’t interested in making money off of a licensing deal, they are out to shut down competitive phones.

This will take some time to play out.  In the meantime….has anyone registered boycottapple.com? (that was rhetorical, of course they have…)

After the Hype

After months (years?) of speculation and hype, the veil was finally removed, Steve Jobs showed off Apple’s newest schlock.  I am going to withhold judgement on the device.  Nothing seems over whelming about the device, but it is early.  I will wait until it is out in the wild before judgement.

When the iPhone was released, I had two initial comments, 1) $500  is a lot of money for a phone with a 2 year contract, and 2) I doubted that Apple had the ability to make light weight software.  The price soon fell into line with other smart phones and Apple showed that it had the ability to write light weight software.  The iPhone still is nothing that I would desire, I like my computing open and free.  Still I can respect that it turned out to be a good and solid entry into the phone wars.  Even though I would not get an iPhone, everyone benefits from it being out there and setting the bar.  I am a certified geek, but Apple’s gadgets and kitsch do nothing to incite the lust that so many other gadgets do.  I guess that the thought of a gadget that I must jailbreak to make usable, just doesn’t do it for me.

It is not clear that Apple will make more sales from this device, or just cannibalize the existing iPod touch.

Not much more to add…other than that god-awful name…the iPad?  Who thought that up?

If I was into a $500 tablet, I would look to Asus.

Edit: Rarely do I find a thoughtful person who sums up what I believe, without hyperbole or sarcasm, just the unvarnished truth, check out this blog on Silicon Valley.

Obligatory Apple Hype Post

Once again the iTablet release is said to be imminent.  Yeah, we’ve heard it before…maybe it is real this time.

The folks at Xconomy have a story up about Apple today.  The story explores how a closed cloistered company like Apple can foster the openness of creative professionals.  They refer to it as the Apple Paradox and basically sum it up as a benign dictatorship led by Steve Jobs.  I really have nothing to add…but I would like to explore a personal experience I had last week.

My house mate goes to Expression College, a top school for creative professionals.  Last week he took me on a tour of his school.  During our walk I noted 9 computer labs full of Power Mac towers, nice shiny gleaming, top of the line.  What I found interesting is that of the 9 labs I checked in on, 7 of them were running Windows XP.

With this incite, I have to wonder how long Apple will be seen as the choice of creative professionals.

Speaking truth to statistics…

An interesting article at xbit labs.

Be sure to read the first comment too.

Certainly, Apple is a trend setter.  Just look to the impact they have had on the smart phone market in such a short time.  But they are a trend setter in the same way that Mercedes or BMW are trend setters. Not really designed or marketed for the common folk…mostly aimed at the elite of the planet with a trickle down of second hand stuff for regular folk.