Feb 292012
 

I’ve been running the Windows 8 developer build in VMWare Fusion and while I like some of its more ambitious features, I soon realized what I liked probably won’t appeal to anyone who currently uses Windows in their core setup. What I liked was Metro, with its multitude of gestures and enhanced sharing options. I spent very little time in the true Windows environment which, unfortunately for 90% of future users, is going to be where they will spend their time. Taken as a whole it struck me, as it did several people, as a stapling of a touch UI on top of Windows 7. Now that the Consumer Preview is available and the “first look” reviews are streaming in, the criticism of the Two OSs, One Cup device approach is continuing to stick in craws. From Engadget:

Now, as we creep closer to a likely release near the end of this year, we can’t shake a sense of doubt. Windows 8 still feels like two very different operating systems trying to be one. The potential is hugely alluring — a single OS to rule both the tablet and the desktop — and with each subsequent version we keep hoping this will be the one that ties it all together. Sadly, as of the Consumer Preview, we’re still seeing a lot of loose threads.

As it stands, Windows 8 is a considerably better tablet operating system than any previous version has managed to be. However, it’s still a clumsier desktop OS than Windows 7. That’s a problem Microsoft must fix before release.

Microsoft needs to enter the world of touch-enabled devices. Microsoft is due for a refresh of its desktop operating system. For the company to provide the same answer to two different questions is not the approach that Apple is taking, and I don’t think it will bode well for either endeavor.

Feb 282012
 

Looking back through the roster of shitheadedness that is Douchebag’s Row, I’ve noticed a trend that may explain my particular level of contempt for its inductees: all of these guys are old enough to know better. By my logic, once you’ve been banging a keyboard on the tech scene for awhile, ignorance is tantamount to trolling. The latest bust to be carved is that of Jesus Diaz, Senior Contributing Editor for Gizmodo and a person who proves that experience does not necessarily require advanced age when it comes to being an asshole.

Diaz represents the next generation of blogger, one who has consistently shown that he’s learned much from his elder hit-whores. In addition to a less-than-perfect grasp of English diction and grammar, Diaz’s prose is possessed by the slap-worthy self-righteousness common to countries that lie between the Prime Meridian and the former USSR. His ubiquitous presence in the comment sections of not only the articles he writes, but on most of the articles on the site, throws the window into his douchebaggery wide open. So much so that the site actually banned him from commenting temporarily because of how abusive he was (“no link for hit whores” policy suspension due to sheer hilarity of the incident).

No DBR induction ceremony would be complete without a sampling of Diaz’s stylings, so here are some of my favorites:

About the decline in Steve Jobs’ health being the reason for his cancellation of a Macworld appearance in early 2009:

“According to a previously reliable source, Apple misrepresented the reasons behind Macworld and Jobs’ keynote cancellation. Allegedly, the real cause is his rapidly declining health. In fact, it may be even worse than we imagined”

The source, of course, was anonymous, but it didn’t keep them from dolling up the entry with some classy artwork to go with their unsubstantiated story:

Dicks...again

About the tight security surrounding Apple’s products, likening their tactics to those of the Nazi Gestapo (an excellent critique – and use of TMA’s douchebag trademark – from DED here).

“No, Tom (the story’s source) never lived in Nazi Germany, nor in East Germany, nor in the Soviet Union, nor in Communist China. He lives in the United States. For sure, he has never been scared of losing his life nor the ones he loves, like thousands of millions in those countries. But he knows how it feels to be watched, to always be considered guilty of crimes against another kind of state. He knew how it felt to have no privacy whatsoever when he was working right here, in a little Californian town called Cupertino, in a legendary place located in One Infinite Loop.

Tom knew about all that pretty well, back when he was working at Apple Inc.”

Lesson for junior link-baiters: few things bring in the link love better than comparing something trivial to the greatest atrocity of the 20th century.

His objective review of iPad app ecosystem:

“The iPad app store is now showing more than 100,000 apps available. That roughly means about one hundred apps that are actually awesome. Which, mind you, it’s about 97 more than everyone else. I don’t give a damn about the rest.”

To give you a sense of the kind of respect that Diaz’s posts elicit, the post was promptly followed by a flood comments listing awesome apps. Even now, Apple’s lame app store continues to hinder the iPad, evidenced by the fact that the company can’t seem to make enough of them.

His scintillating review of Apple’s latest OS, Lion:

“It breaks my heart to say this, but Mac OSX Lion’s interface feels like a failure.”

Another critical mistake on Apple’s part that has crippled Mac sales – oh wait – I mean the mistake that’s encouraging Macs to sell like crazy in a PC market that’s turned to shit. Almost had me there, Diaz.

His continued work reviewing the developer preview of Mountain Lion, an OS that won’t ship until this summer. That didn’t prevent him from giving it 3 stars, or for continuing his whiney detractions summarized thusly:

“It’s the antithesis of Jon Ive’s minimalistic design, all essence devoid of artifice.”

Maybe you meant “substance” instead of “artifice”? Or maybe your incorrect sentence structure mangled your point and you meant Ive’s design was “essence devoid of artifice”? Maybe I fell asleep 3 times trying to decipher the shitty writing that is your trademark.

And his latest contribution, a questioning of Apple’s tactics in acquiring the trademark for the iPad from a bankrupt troll:

“Proview—the former owners of the iPad trademark in China—is suing Apple in California for “fraud by intentional misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, fraudulent inducement, and unfair competition.” Are they right? This is how Apple tricked them. You be the judge”

If you were at all concerned that based on “You be the judge” that the evidence presented would be balanced, you need only look to the piece’s graphic – and the fact that the words were written by Jesus Diaz – that the facts would be somewhat tainted with an already-drawn conclusion.

Diaz does away with any illusion of objectivity in his summary: “Oh Steve, you dirty rotten scoundrel. How much I miss your ways (seriously). Between this and Mountain Lion’s Don Corleone approach to App Store features, you keep stealing my heart even after you are gone.” The practice of having a third party secure trademarks to prevent no-worth companies like Proview from milking the value of words is common, but don’t let a well-known business tactic jam the gears of your hate machine. That last sentence had a chance at some resonance if people didn’t already know you sold your heart for pageviews, just another Gawker whore holding onto his post at Gizmodo in the face of withering unpopularity (check the number of banned comments accompanying anything he writes) long after his co-contributors realized that there was life after penning lopsided anti-Apple screed.

So after what seemed like an eternity watching Jesus Diaz peg Apple for hits, TMA welcomes him into the hallowed halls of Douchebag’s Row, where Luddites and petulant children are embraced with equal warmth. Perhaps some day, during one of his SEO tantrums, Diaz will hold his breath long enough that we’ll all be free from his mangled, amateur, straw-man prose.

Feb 262012
 

Hot off the heals of the announcement of their combination pico projector/shartphone, the Galaxy Beam, Samsung has just announced the first hybrid tablet/fax machine: the Galaxy Fax.

Also runs Flash for THE FULL INTERNET

Like the Galaxy Beam, the Fax will run the latest version of Android 4.0 released in October Android 2.3 and support the latest V.92 transmission standard. A Samsung senior executive interviewed at Barcelona’s Mobile World Conference had the following to say about the potential of the Fax:

“We’ve heard from users that they want devices that don’t compromise. They don’t want to use one device to call their pharmacy and another device to transmit a paper facsimile of their prescription. The Fax represents the future of telephony AND the future of faxing. We predict this device will make fax machines obsolete in 5 years.”

The Fax will be available in March at retailers everywhere. Paper rolls and toner not included.

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Feb 232012
 

Well that didn’t take long. Scrappy upstart Proview sure talked a good game, but when it came time to enter the ring in Shanghai with an iPad injunction on the line, we all knew what was going to happen.

Owned: Chinese government edition

Of course, Proview insists that this isn’t the end of the story, as the reason given for the denial of the injunction is that Apple’s appeal of the original Guangdong provincial high court decision – the one that got the iPad pulled in some Chinese cities – is pending. Staring down the barrel of bankruptcy, Proview is now willing to settle for a mere $400 million for the iPad trademark, as opposed to the reported $3 billion they were originally seeking. By the time the company’s creditors pull the plug on this fiasco, I have a feeling they’ll settle for a couple of Apple t-shirts.

Feb 222012
 

/crickets

No one? Well, as a mindless fanboy, it’s my duty to throw out some irrelevant facts in an attempt to obfuscate the reality of Apple’s horrible labor practices in China.

One of the arguments upon which the current toxicity of anti-Apple venom is based is that Apple releases products that are so utterly compelling (yet not really, but we’ve all been duped into main-lining whatever the company produces) at such a breakneck pace that we can’t help but toss our old kit in favor of the One More Thing. If that’s a strike against Apple, it’s a game’s worth of outs against their competitors. In 2011, Apple released the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2. Apple’s competitors were a little more aggressive: both HTC and Motorola released 5 shartphones; Samsung released 12.  HTC released the Flyer tablet, Motorola introduced 2 versions of their XYBoard tablet, while Samsung put out 3 major versions of the Galaxy Tab.

2011 also marked major operating system releases for Android and iOS. iOS 5, released in October, will run just fine on a 2009 iPhone 3GS. Google also released its v4 of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, when it announced its third “Google phone”, the Galaxy Nexus in October. Adoption of the Android 4.0 has somewhat lagged  behind its iPhone counterparts: 40% of all iPhones run iOS 5; around 1% of all Android phones run Android 4.0. But all the manufacturers and carriers have plans to upgrade…most…of their phones, so that’ll totally change any day now.

So on the one hand we have a manufacturer that releases one version of its smartphone and tablet offerings per year and offers OS upgrades instantly to phones they made over 2 years ago. On the other hand, we have manufacturers that vomit multiple versions of their shartphones and tablets into the market every year. The vast majority of these phones and tablets ship with out-of-date operating systems and the total adoption of their most current version is a rounding error.

I guess you don’t get to be a focus of scrutiny if your shit doesn’t sell, never mind all the models you fling at the wall in an attempt to get them to stick. But maybe all the criticism is directed at Apple because all of these other manufacturers do such a good job monitoring their supply chains. Let’s take a look at Apple’s chief competitor, Samsung.

Forging through Samsung’s “About Us” pages to find anything about supply chain reporting – the kind with actual numbers – was kind of an adventure. To Samsung’s credit, the pictures are much prettier than the ones you’ll find in their financial reporting. They have an “ethics charter”.

It comes with its own emblem, which should be standard for all Ethics Charters, IMO:

Samsung Sells Shartphones Assembled by the Seashore

What it doesn’t present is a lot of data about its third-party suppliers. One document  that does look promising is its comprehensive Sustainability Report (pdf), especially the part about “Major Questions” that lists the categories of queries made of the company from stakeholders.

 Looks like we’re getting to the heart of the tough issues Samsung has to address on a regular basis. Let’s see…where’s page 28?

So…how about Foxconn? China? Guess that’s not really a focus of the report – at all.  Of course, this only reflects one reading of the 88-page report. It could be in there somewhere. There’s also no mention of a partnership with the Fair Labor Association. Guess we’ll have to trust that Samsung makes sure its partners do the right thing, despite there not being any quantitative evidence supporting it. But hey: if pretty pictures and socially responsible corp-speak do it for you, Samsung totally nailed it.

It’s also rather telling that in an industry that seizes upon any strategic advantage it can get against Apple (the XOOM offers the FULL INTERNET with FLASH!), the other companies using Foxconn have been strangely silent regarding Apple’s labor practices. Wouldn’t you want to milk that black mark for everything you could? Well, I guess you would if you wanted people to start asking – in ways that can’t be answered with colorful charts and mission statements – about your commitment to supply chain ethics.

As is the case with a lot of issues – from user privacy to responsible management of the supply chain – Apple’s success makes it the subject of an inordinate amount of scrutiny. One of these days, maybe there will be some room under the microscope for other companies that use human capital in China to face more of the breathless accusations that seem to be reseved exclusively for Apple.

But I doubt it.

Feb 222012
 

I was a little concerned about the piece that ran on Nightline Tuesday night documenting conditions inside Apple’s Foxconn facility, especially when the ABC got through all of its disclosure about the intersection between Apple and Disney’s interests. I thought “they have to slam Apple just to appear impartial”.

In the end, I think it was fair assessment, one that included not only conditions within the plant, but those of the villages outside the plant where a number of its employees come from. Context like that will probably only make student groups and assorted slacktivists howl about smoke and mirrors. Where are the 12 year old workers?! Where are the 15-bed cement tomb dorms?!  I guess they can rest assured that when it comes to Apple, someone will always be looking to cash in off of their westerner guilt or get them to sign another online petition. Keep doing your parts, guys. And by that I mean the parts that do nothing besides make you feel better that your parents have money.

Via Nightline*

*Updated with link to full report.

Feb 172012
 

Maybe something representative of the user experience. Maybe something that depicts how the user will feel once they realize they’re essentially running iWindows OS on top of Windows 7 for no good reason. Let’s show people what that would look like against all of our previous logos to give them a sense of how it evolved.

Hmmm…needs more fire.

Feb 172012
 

As much of a resource as Gizmodo is for the latest Lego news, it’s part of Gawker and, well I guess I can put a period after that. Because they make a lot of their money writing dick things about Apple, the company stopped inviting them to press events long ago. When Gizmodo bought a stolen prototype of the iPhone 4, they were dicks to Steve Jobs when he asked for it back. Their site went on to register millions of pageview from stories about Apple’s stolen phone. The editors involved escaped prosecution for the crime, apparently because they were under 18. The San Mateo County DA had this to say about their journalistic integrity:

“It was obvious they were angry with the company about not being invited to some press conference or some big Apple event…We expected to see a certain amount of professionalism-this is like 15-year-old children talking.”

Unsurprisingly, Gizmodo also reads like 15-year-old children writing. So why would the highly-esteemed Gray Lady share anything with populist hit-whores more interested in pageviews than actual journalism?  For acting like populist hit-whores more interested in selling copy than actual journalism. That’s right: it looks like the New York Times has been Gizmodoed, which can either mean having Apple bitch-slap you with your press card or having your trade show pranked. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other things it could mean, but I’m only halfway through my first cup.

The real victim here is Times tech guy David Pogue, who was locked out of the Mountain Lion preview given to dozens of his tech press peers, and – how do I say this kindly – some people that were not. He was reduced to pulling impressions from other writers before he could get his hands on the developer preview, which was made available to all the unwashed through Apple’s Developer Center yesterday ($99 annual membership to ADC required). The shame is that Pogue’s reviews do right by Apple and he had enjoyed a Mossbergian level of access prior to the hilariously unsourced singling-out of the company for its labor practices with Foxconn in China. He should check in with those Business Section guys and thank them for “breaking out the gimp” on his career.

Update: Gruber confirmed what commenter Spade mentioned: Pogue had the same level of access as the rest of the technorati. Apparently he was next in line for an interview with Schiller.

Feb 162012
 

I’m a big fan of Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” video series, which explores how the evolution of different types  of media is actually pretty incestuous. The premise of the series is something that appeals greatly to common sense: most everything that we come to enjoy is derived, repackaged or otherwise morphed from one or more ideas that came before it. If you listen to anything on the radio nowadays or look at what’s playing at your local multiplex, you’re quickly made aware, to a nauseating degree, how little original content exists. Original ideas are hard to come by, and even harder to transform into anything of value. One could argue that in today’s society, no idea is truly original at all.

The first three installments of Ferguson’s series were hard not to like because they didn’t judge the act of taking or “borrowing” from ancestral work to make something new and sometimes better. I got a chuckle seeing all of the ways Quintin Tarantino pulled from dozens of classic films to create his work, right down to the camera angles. It seems that this unfettered sourcing of prior work could do nothing but add to the value of the original, except in the case of remakes like “The Last House on the Left”, which was horrible by any account.

The fourth (and perhaps last) installment, however, moves from the world where everyone benefits from artistic borrowing and focuses on the evolution of the system designed to protect the rights of the developer: the concept of intellectual property. He begins by pointing out that life on earth began as a single-celled organism that over billions of years spawned every living thing. By all accounts, that turned out pretty well. This used to be the case with ideas, but through a series of acts designed to make the act of creation more valuable than the act of copying, the ability to borrow has become compromised to such an extent that it’s hindering our progress. I agree with this generally, but Ferguson gets a little loose with some of the details. You probably won’t be surprised to read that the exception I take involves how Apple is depicted as using intellectual property, which he bundles together with the acts of patent trolls like Paul Allen, who uses a “suing to make a buck” philosophy to line his pockets while stymieing innovation.

He opens, as anyone who would want to lump Apple together with patent trolls, with Steve Jobs’s statement that “great artists steal”, then leaping to the Jobs quote that appeared in the Isaacson biography of Jobs wanting to go thermonuclear on Android because it was a stolen product, as if these are diametrically opposed viewpoints. I submit that the types of things “stolen” by Apple do not resemble those things “stolen” by Google. Jobs took the embryonic ideas from his (paid) tour of Xerox’s PARC research and rendered the first true consumer GUI. Google took an established, extremely successful product and swiped significant components of what made it a successful in the market. Unfortunately for Google, Apple had already been burned on the intellectual property playing field and worked meticulously to patent the parts of the iPhone (and later iPad) it felt were original. The inspiration and subsequent iteration of PARC’s ideas by Apple did not happen the same way that Google took from the iPhone, which leads me to my counterpoint: let’s look at a famous example of what happens if one cannot protect their innovations.

The history of Apple’s beef with Microsoft over the “look and feel” of the Macintosh OS is well-documented. Apple commercialized the modern desktop metaphor and Microsoft brought a very similar product to market. Apple unknowingly allowed Microsoft the legal right to do it, and I would argue that this turn of events, combined with Microsoft’s decision to license its OS to several manufacturers, led to its ascent and eventual dominance in personal computing at the expense of Apple. This inability to leverage any intellectual property framework to protect its investment almost led to the company’s demise. This is a case of the best product being pushed to the verge of obsolescence in part because they couldn’t protect their invention. Once taking back the reins at Apple, Jobs was able to radically innovate again, this time making a point to protect the company’s ideas to the greatest degree possible. His motivation was not to land lucrative licensing agreements with imitators, but to do what intellectual property was intended to do: protect the investments of the creators from hacks looking for shortcuts to success.

You can argue that intellectual property is the devil, but the fact of the matter is that its a tool. Paul Allen wants to use it to squeeze money out of its loosest interpretation without having an actual product in the real world to represent it; Apple wants to protect the stuff it makes. The “social evolution” that Ferguson speaks of in the final installment of “Everything is a Remix” is a nice concept, and the current state of intellectual property-based assaults by some parties makes the idea even more intriguing, but at its core, in a world where companies spend billions to bring their products to market and stand to lose that and more if those products are allowed to be “slavishly copied”, it’s a much more romantic than practical one. The absence of innovation protection can be as bad as its abuse.

Feb 162012
 

The Cult of Mac article Gatekeeper: First Step Towards App Store-Only Software On The Mac? has a slightly misleading title, but a site’s gotta eat, I guess. Let’s break it down:

Screenshot courtesy of The Verge

Mac App Store – our preferred method, at least until the one below becomes the standard.

Mac App Store and identified developers – because we care enough to verify what goes on your machine (which is more than we can say for some platforms), we want to make it easier for developers to achieve “trusted” status and we want a way to control installs from developers caught dabbling in the dark arts. Android apologists note: this is the default setting.

Anywhere – we don’t care where you get it from, but rest assured any response from us to your linkbait malware headlines will state that this was the setting you had on your machine when your bank called with the bad news. We think controlling which apps are installed on your machine is a good thing, but you have a right to disagree.

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