Jun 302009
 

latika2

When you’re exposed to a lot of fanboy rants about Microsoft‚ you eventually get to the point where you question reality. Did they really rip off the original iPhone design for the Zune HD?  Did they really agree to strike IE8 from Win 7 for EU customers‚ then fist them by making them perform clean installs?  Most days I just marvel at a company who would be laughed out of a competitive market were it not for the legacy of their OS market land grab and the army of IT zombies protecting their interests.

This is one of those “/shrug” moments.  Some Windows 7 guided tours appeared today on the Borg’s web-like cyberpresence to sell some of the more “Wow” features of their new operating system.  The tours are hosted by an Apple Retail Store employee Latika, a Microsoft engineer. Because at Microsoft‚ it’s all about the people.   Latika also happens to be the Product Manager for Internet Explorer‚ which means that if I didn’t have Flip4MacWMV installed‚ I wouldn’t know how fucking ironic that was.

As flyers of the Redmond flag proclaim in their Engadget comments “Apple didn’t invent the product walkthrough‚ fanboys.”   Neither did they invent the GUI‚ the MP3 player or the touchscreen-based cell phone.  But if you don’t there’s something a little derivative here‚ you should have your head examined.  If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t keep a good idea in your head for more than 5 minutes‚ it’s because Microsoft’s satellite array can pick up any brainwaves containing good ideas‚ pull them out of your skull from 3 miles up and turn them into something like Microsoft BOB at a cost of $3 billion.

 Posted by at 4:35 pm  Tagged with: ,
Jun 252009
 

Actually‚ my headline is only tangentially related to what I’m going to write about.  But if you’ve read the tripe from the AP about how money influences the organ transplant game‚ you’re already familiar with the practice.  In three easy steps‚ the game of rigging news works thusly:

  1. Game a headline to suggest something unseemly that would make the blood of the average reader boil.  In this case: “Jobs’ liver transplant shows power of wealth”
  2. Use your opening paragraphs to pull a 180 away from your seedy‚ eye-catching headline (wouldn’t want the power of wealth’s attorneys knockin’ would we?) and state clearly that no one can “officially” game the system‚ setting up the reader for the dirty little secret about the relationship between money and undue influence you promised in said headline.
  3. Drop your payload.  “Here’s where money comes in.”  If you’re rich‚ you can buy a home anywhere in the country‚ so when the hospital makes that life-saving call to you‚ you can be on the operating table within hours.

Fucking. Awesome. Journalism.

You could also rent a home‚ or an apartment.  Or stay with a friend or relative.  But that wouldn’t be seedy and poor people might also be able to do that.  That might drive people to other sources for their sensationalistic news fix‚ a category that the Associated Press is apparently now happy to populate.

Jun 252009
 

Microsoft has finally announced shipping and pricing information for its highly-anticipated Vista SP3 Windows 7 options. Because this is Microsoft‚ you not only have feature-based options‚ you also have a “limited time only” discount if you pre-order before…whenever it is the offer expires. More on that later. Here are the basics:

Buying a PC now (actually starting tomorrow)‚ your upgrade to Win 7 is free when it’s released on October 22. What you get depends on what version of Vista your OEM stuck you with:

Vista Home Premium -> Windows 7 Home Premium
Vista Business -> Win 7 Professional
Vista Ultimate -> Win 7 Ultimate
Vista Home Basic -> Suck It

Buying any boxed version of Vista not tied to a PC?

See “Vista Home Basic”‚ above.

But Redmond has some further incentive for you to act now! For a limited time‚ if you order Windows 7‚ you can get “Special Offer” pre-order pricing:

Windows 7 Home Premium – $50,
Windows 7 Professional – $100
Windows 7 Ultimate – Suck It

So how do we know when the “Special Offer” ends? From Gizmodo:

“What’s this about a limited time? Mike Ybarra, general manager of Windows Product Management, told me that the pre-order deal will go away when a certain undisclosed number of licenses is sold. ‘We have enough quantity,’ he said, adding that the magic number was ‘equivalent to a year of Vista sales volume at retail.'”

Nice. Another asshole marketing trick from the masters of insulting the customer’s intelligence. Problems with Vista? Nah! Stick your head in this “Mojave Experiment” booth for 10 minutes and we’ll prove it’s you‚ dumbass customer‚ who are too ignorant to appreciate Vista’s greatness! People who design these sleight of hand offers should have their balls tazered.

Speaking of extreme disrespect to genitalia‚ European Union countries won’t have the option to upgrade to Win 7. Sure‚ they’ll have the same pricing and even the same “Special Offer”‚ but because the EU went and made M$ chop their web browser from the install‚ you’ll have to do a clean install of the operating system in order to use Win 7. “What about my apps?” you might hear a poor French person exclaim. “Va te faire foutre” would be the response to that one. See what happens when you fuck with Microsoft‚ EU? YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Update: apparently M$ is going to stick EU customers for the full price of the software‚ behind the reasoning that a clean install requires the full version. Pricing until the end of the year £80 ($112) for Home Premium‚ £190 ($267) for Professional and £200 ($280) for Ultimate; after that £150‚ £220 and £230‚ respectively. Yet another reason for Euros to hate America.

In closing‚ I’d like to remind readers about Mac OS X Snow Leopard pricing tiers once it is released in September:

Snow Leopard Premium – $29
Snow Leopard Business -$29
Snow Leopard Ultimate -$29
Snow Leopard Basic – $29

Jun 232009
 

A lot of Apple fans are whiners. I suspect that spoon-fed sense of entitlement gets reinforced when your computer does what it’s supposed to do without having to have an advanced degree in comp sci. It breeds a sense of getting what you think you deserve‚ even when the average company would tell you to get fucked. That’s why Apple wins customer service awards every year. It has to appease some of the bitchiest customers on the planet.

I try not to whine about things like the AT&T subsidygate (I know the Macalope thinks it should be called a loan. Love for the horny one‚ but I’m going with convention here). When the first torrent of hellfire was unleashed by the panty-knotted crybaby contingent‚ my first reaction was “get fucked”. You got a subsidized phone while still in your 2G deal‚ ergo you should get one every time one’s released? AT&T said I’d get my $199 16GB model in December. I shrugged and moved on.

Then AT&T backtracked on their upgrade policy and the tear-soaked halls of Bitchhalla rang with song. I gave myself the mandatory facepalm.

piccardd

Then I thought to myself: “I think they’re retarded‚ but I’m all for cheap shit.” Being the Apple lemming I usually am‚ I got a 3G the first day it was available. Despite what the Apple upgrade site said‚ I was sure a call to AT&T would rectify my status as a loyal‚ upstanding AT&T customer (via their exclusive agreement with Apple‚ but being enrolled in autopay = loyalty‚ so shut it). I’ve been with AT&T/Apple since the release of the original iPhone and I’ve even been able to inflict an Apple product on my wife. The straightforward exchange between myself (TMA) and AT&T:

TMA: “Hi. I’ve been an AT&T customer for 2 years and purchased the 3G the second day it was available. There seems to be a mistake regarding my eligibility for a fully-subsidized 3 GS”

ATT: “I see here you’re not eligible for the full subsidy until December”

TMA: “I too have the knowledge required to navigate the pages of your arcane web presence‚ hence my use of the word ‘mistake'”

ATT: “The full subsidy is available to people whose upgrade would have been in July‚ August or September”

TMA: “We’re apparently both familiar with the nomenclature. I’m not sure how much earlier I could have bought the 3G‚ given that it was the second day it was available. Is there another population who would benefit from your company’s revised upgrade policy that I’m missing?”

ATT: “You also have to spend over $99 per month on the line for which the full subsidy is requested.”

TMA: “Ah. Well‚ thank you. Now‚ it’s time for something I call ‘manager time’. It’s where you and I agree to disagree and you hand me over to someone with more power. Nothing personal.”

At this point I was put on hold for about 5 minutes. Instead of a manager (apparently they were all engaged with other loyal‚ satisfied customers)‚ I was transferred over to a “Resolution Specialist” who would “clarify the policy” for me. My immediate thoughts were 1. This person was diverted from the Gaza Strip just to deal with my issue? How flattering! 2. “Clarify policy” means “use smaller words on you and regurgitate the same thing”. Hang up now and spare yourself the surge in blood pressure. So now you know I’m sticking around‚ because I’m stupid.

ATTRS: “Hi TMA. I see here that you’ve been a loyal AT&T customer for 2 years and we appreciate that.”

TMA: “What can I say? I’m very brand loyal.” I explain briefly that both my wife and I are with AT&T and have spotless payment histories. If we’re doing the math‚ we spend close to $200/month with AT&T. LOYALTY.

ATTRS: “As a consumer‚ I understand where you’re coming from with the upgrade issue‚ but as much as I’d like have latitude on this‚ Apple provides zero wiggle room. You have to spend $99/month for the fully subsidized price”

TMA: “Why does Apple care how much I spend for service?”

ATTRS: “It was part of the revised subsidy agreement.”

TMA: “Oh. Thanks for clarifying. For a minute there‚ I thought you were trying to lay off a monthly minimum on the party in the agreement that couldn’t care less about how much I spend a month for service.”

With my understanding now complete‚ and my desire to insert a couple of gratuitous sarcastic comments satisfied‚ I concluded our call with kind words and thanks for the explanation. And a feeling that even though I had not thought that AT&T was the fucktarded company that everyone was bitching about before I talked to them (aside from the obvious stuff like shitty call quality‚ lack of tethering or MMS)‚ a firm belief that they were once I hung up.

If only they hadn’t double-clutched in the first place.

Jun 222009
 

The Street once again undershot a number related to the performance of an Apple product‚ this time it was the number of iPhone 3GSs that would be sold over this past weekend.  Depending on who you were‚ you were either in the “right section‚ wrong aisle” or “does your head being up there affect acoustics?” camp.  We all know “accurate” and “analyst” are as likely to appear in the same sentence as “Microsoft” and “innovation”‚ so it’s pretty much par for the course.

The market seems to be struggling with the good news/2-year-old bad news dilemma.  Everyone knows about the WSJ article on the liver transplant that Steve Jobs allegedly underwent 2 years ago (great piece by Gruber here).  Against the backdrop of a pretty shitty market opening‚ AAPL is down slightly this morning.

Jun 192009
 

Environmental Steward Dell‚ Inc. got a little knotted up about Apple’s claim that they have the “Greenest family of notebooks in the world”‚ according to the Times. So they complained to the BBB’s National Advertising Division. According to Dell‚ “family” could be taken to mean not just MacBooks‚ but all of its notebooks.  It could also be taken to mean “a group of close blood relatives who you enjoy the company of and are infuriated by simultaneously”.

Apple replied:

“…

That’s kinda what we meant.”

Dell‚ the company that also got Lenovo to drop “World’s Best-Engineered PCs” from its advertising‚ also complained that Apple fails to establish superiority over all other brands in terms of “recyclability, reduced packaging, less toxic materials and increased energy efficiency”.  Anyone who’s ever opened a box from Dell can attest to the company’s never-ending quest for minimalism.

In the end‚ Apple played nice with the NAD (giggity) and changed the word “family” to “lineup”.  Aren’t you glad you live in a world where advertising is policed so effectively by the market?

Jun 172009
 

One of the big draws of the “Find My iPhone” feature of the new iPhone 3.0 software is supposed to be the ability to track the location of your phone in the event that it’s stolen.   Even if you’re not going to out and out Charles Bronson the punk, you can at least send threatening messages with the phone’s location via the MobileMe web portal or give the information to the police so they’ll have a general idea of where to look for it if they gave a shit.

But if the thief accesses your MobileMe account under the “Mail, Contacts and Calendar” portion of “Settings” and simply toggles “Find My iPhone” from “on” to “off”‚ there goes a lot of the utility of “Find My iPhone”.

Hey Apple: how bout locking the toggle with your MobileMe password?  I realize we can send threatening messages…

“…I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you give my iPhone back now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Sorry.

I realize we can wipe the phone remotely.  But allowing any moron to deny me the benefit of that extra information especially when it would be easy to password protect it, isn’t too much to ask.

Jun 152009
 

First off‚ in the interest of full disclosure‚ I own an XBox 360.  Despite Microsoft’s involvement‚ developers have managed to take a hilariously deficient piece of hardware (my personal RROD hit about 8 months after purchase) and build a gaming library that allows me to swear at 10 year-olds a couple of nights a week.

Now at E3‚ Microsoft pulled one of its game-changing-breakthroughs-for-which-we-have-no-release-date announcements.  Haven’t I seen this kind of thing before?  Tell me if this doesn’t look familiar:

-Is the product being pounded into the dirt by competition that is either better-in-class (PS3) or through the use of innovative technology (Wii)?  Check and check.

-Does the announcement have a delivery date?  Not really.

-Is the speculated release date for the product make it look less like vaporware?  Ummm…late 2010?  18 fucking months? Jesus Christ: that’s the tech equivalent of 10 years!

-Despite not having any official release date for a real-world product‚ has that prevented from demoing the non-product as something that looks pretty goddamned finished?  Or having it announced by an academy-award winning director (by the way Spielberg‚ after what you did to the Indiana Jones franchise‚ shilling M$ vaporware was a natural next step for you)‚ pimped by celebrities and hyped on late-night talk shows?   Nah.

-Are said demos staged‚ if not downright choreographed?  You tell me.  (Please make a note of the camera time depicting actual gameplay vs. the time spent on everything else.  I get 4 seconds.)

This is a classic M$ vaporware setup.

1. Announce something that looks like you have a shread of creativity.

2. Do not give a release date or imply a date so far out in the future that hybrid hovercars stand as good a shot of coming to market.  That way the product might be out in 18 months‚ but it could be 6!  OMG – which one is it?!?!

3. Enjoy the benefit of having frozen purchases of your competitor’s superior products indefinitely.

4a. Turn 18 months into 3 years‚ then shrug your shoulders and claim the product was “a concept”.

4b. Release something that has 10% of the utility (or as they like to say in Redmond “Teh Wow”) intimated by your breathless initial demos/celebrity knob-gobbling.

I have to give the company credit: they work this bit more effectively than anyone out there.

Update: Gizmodo reports that Ballmer has confirmed 2010 as the availability…year.  And we know that Steve the Less never misses a projection, right?

Jun 152009
 

The guys over at Anandtech have completed their battery benchmarks for the new 15″ MacBook Pros. My favorite line: “Eight, freakin, hours. I couldn’t believe it…There’s no way this could be right.” This was for non-Java webpages (20 seconds per page) with iTunes songs looping simultaneously.

I have a feeling the people bitching about the replaceability of the battery might pipe down a bit.

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