Jul 302012
 

For Apple nerds, this has been a pretty exciting week leading up to the Samsung v. Apple trial. In Samsung’s desperation to show that they’re anything but shameless copiers of Apple’s designs, Samsung sought to introduce into evidence a boatload of sketches, CAD drawings and prototype photos showing how Apple’s design for the iPhone and iPad have evolved. While educational, this latest sleight-of-hand shows us nothing besides how thorough Apple’s design process is, judging by how many form factors got junked on the way to the products we use – and Samsung can’t help but rip off – today.

Samsung’s intention was to show that some of the designs were reminiscent of “Sony-style” design, which would be compelling if any of the process leading up to the iPhone’s final design were relevant to the product that shipped. It may be lost on Samsung (it’s not), but the reason they’re going to be lining the defendants’ seats with their asses this week (and for the foreseeable future) is not because of what Apple sketched on the way to a shipping product, but the design of the shipping products themselves. Maybe if Samsung left some of those details on cocktail napkins instead of making them integral to the design of their products, they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in. One could also easily argue that they’re the only profitable Android OEM for the exact same reason.

In a ruling that shows that common sense is indeed alive in the U.S. patent court system, judge Lucy Koh threw out Samsung’s bid to distract jurors with something that has nothing to do with the facts in evidence.

“We are very disappointed by the court’s decision, which bans the use of evidence critical towards proving that Apple’s design is neither new nor unique,” a Samsung representative told AllThingsD, totally ignoring the fact that Apple’s actual products don’t resemble Samsung’s “smoking gun” at all.

But these are the gambles taken by the blatantly guilty on the eve of their judgment. I hope for the sake of Samsung’s defense that their evidence rises somewhat higher than these laughable submissions.

 Posted by at 2:21 pm
Jul 252012
 

So for the second time in a year, the Street’s analysts were sad pandas because they couldn’t predict APPL’s earnings for its 3Q 2012. The engine driving Cupertino’s rocket ship – the iPhone – was the main culprit, due mostly to the fact that analysts don’t consult a calendar when making their predictions. Sales led by the 8 month-old iPhone 4S fell about 3 million units short of Street consensus estimates. Apple’s own guidance, which analysts are starting to ignore more frequently, was beat on every metric.

It’s bad enough that the institutional analysts are essentially throwing darts at a board when it comes to AAPL predictions; it’s even worse when the reporting after the fact gets it wrong.

“AAPL sags as Apple buyers go with cheaper iPhones, iPads” claims The Associated Press. Here I was thinking that it’s because consumers didn’t buy enough iPhones, since Apple blew the doors off iPad sales to the tune of +80% YoY.

“The sheen is off the apple: It was a miss, no question about it,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer at Wedgewood Partners Inc., no doubt grinning through the delivery of his super-clever pun. Rolfe must have spoken too quickly for the reporter correctly note that he said “our miss” instead of “a miss”. Rolfe does recover somewhat, saying “We became too confident in our expectations, that Apple had literally a perfect pulse on end demand throughout the globe… and quite simply, that wasn’t the case this quarter.” I think he could have left off after “expectations” if he was really gunning for accuracy, since Apple’s pulse, as reflected in their guidance, was just about perfect. Maybe that’s why Rolfe works for Wedgewood Partners, and not some firm included on Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s list of institutional analysts.

In case you were wondering if the “cheaper iPhone/iPad phenomenon” was based on anything tangible, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer did say that “part of the reason was that consumers bought less expensive versions of the devices.” He also said a lot of other stuff, but you don’t differentate yourself as a news entity with headlines like “Analysts Ignore Apple Guidance, Feign Disappointment When Their Numbers Don’t Match.”

I’m hoping analysts get their shit together for Apple’s 4Q announcement, because iPhone sales, barring some huge carrier sign-on that no one sees coming, are going to be lower still in anticipation of the new iPhone (yes, it’s just iPhone this time, ZD “iPad HD” Net). But as the illustrious MG Siegler would say, once that happens, look out.

 Posted by at 1:24 pm
Jul 242012
 

AT&T announced their earnings this morning and with it confirmed the iPhone’s dominance on the U.S.’s second largest carrier. Of the 5.1 million smartphone activated, the iPhone accounted for 3.7 million, or 73%. This is an eight month old phone giving proctological exams to over a dozen Android knock-offs, most of them sporting 4G connectivity.

I don’t know where all Andy Rubin’s activation numbers are coming from, but it’s sure not this country. Or planet.

 Posted by at 9:33 am
Jul 202012
 

Oh that wily Google. As the proud new owners of balance sheet sucking wound Motorola Mobility Inc., Google has also inherited a company embroiled in a number of patent suits with Apple and Microsoft. To defend itself, MMI has been using a number of standards-essential patents, which is a laughably hypocritical tactic for Google to permit as champions of open source. Governments have not been blind to MMI’s Google’s bullshit; in both its home country and overseas, the company is being investigated for the practice of abusing FRAND patents.

So Google is taking heat for abusing patents they shouldn’t and their Android OEMs are getting slapped around the court system while Apple continues to accrue headshot patents for things Android is ripping off. What is Google to do? How about reframing the issue? How’s this sound: What if Apple’s popular, thoroughly-patented Multi-Touch technology was subject to standards-essential terms by virtue of its sheer popularity?

I shit you not: this is what Google’s Kent Walker tried to argue in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Walker’s letter, as quoted by AllThingsD:

While collaborative [Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs)] play an important part in the overall standard setting system, and are particularly prominent in industries such as telecommunications, they are not the only source of standards. Indeed, many of the same interoperability benefits that the FTC and others have touted in the SSO context also occur when one firm publishes information about an otherwise proprietary standard and other firms then independently decide (whether by choice or of necessity) to make complementary investments to support that standard in their products. … Because proprietary or de facto standards can have just as important effects on consumer welfare, the Committee’s concern regarding the abuse of SEPs should encompass them as well.

In other words:

…Google’s view is that just as there are patents that are standards essential, there are also patents that are commercially essential — patents that cover features that are so popular as to have become ubiquitous. The latter are just as ripe for abuse as the former, and withholding them is just as harmful to consumers and the competitive marketplace. Viewed through that lens, multitouch technology or slide-to-unlock might be treated the same way as an industry standard patent on, say, a smartphone radio.

You have got to be fucking kidding me, Kent.

Standards wouldn’t exist without fair terms for their use. If a company proposes a technology to be adopted as a standard, without the promise of licensing the technology fairly, reasonably and non-discriminatory, no one would agree to make it a standard. That’d be stupid. Once you accept the responsibility of licensing the technology on fair terms, you benefit from wider adoption and you’re allowed to be compensated for its use, but you’re not allow to extort adopters – well unless you count the dipshit injunction the Mannheim regional court granted Motorola Google against Microsoft in May.

Of course, you can choose not to make your technology a standard. You’re not likely to have a lot of people using your technology because that’s the fucking point. Apple wants to maintain a competitive advantage for the stuff it invented. If Apple wanted to make Multi-Touch a standard for all tablets, it would have proposed it as such.

The lack of respect for the intelligence of the Senate Judiciary Committee indicated by Walker’s comments is mind-blowing. By virtue of their hard work and conscious decision not to submit their technology to a standards body, Apple should still be made to adopt a standard’s terms because the fruits of that labor turned out to be commercially superior. The patents Apple has don’t work like that, Kent, as much as your rich fantasy life wishes it could be that way.

 Posted by at 8:44 pm
Jul 182012
 

Apple’s had a weird couple of weeks. First it flipped the bird to EPEAT by pulling all of its previous submissions – which had earned its Gold rating – from consideration, ostensibly because of the design of the new Retina MacBook Pro and its glued-in battery was incompatible with EPEAT’s recyclability standard. Then Apple’s Bob “Meatloaf” Mansfield said “my bad” and re-submitted all of Apple’s kit – including the RMBP – to EPEAT. For their part, EPEAT said it’d take a look at new thinner devices like the ones being created by Apple (and copied by everyone else), hinting that maybe their standard could use a shave and a haircut.

When Apple first pulled out of EPEAT, the level of righteous indignation punctured a hole in space-time. Apple hates the environment! Then Mansfield owned up to jumping the gun (probably after uttering “fuck it – I’m out of here anyway”). We’ll leave it up to EPEAT to decide if Apple’s latest Pro laptop is worthy of the Gold rating hanging from the metaphorical necks of the rest of their lineup. Won’t we?

Of course we won’t. Because included in the “we” are a bunch of jackasses who either won’t let go of their 5 minutes of Apple news glow or who want a piece of their own sweet, sweet Apple-bashing attention. Fortunately for all of us, Chris Forseman at Ars has gotten opinions about how recyclable the RMBP’s battery is from people who are actually going to recycle them. That’s journalism, people.

First we get to hear from the iFixit bunch (yes, again), whose business model depends in large part on being able to take apart your kit yourself, so you know when they bitch about replacing the battery for purposes of recycling, a little piece of their business (along with a kitten) dies. Our next contestant is Barbara Kyle, from the Electronics Take Back Coalition (ETBC). She thinks the RMBP shouldn’t get any EPEAT rating. Why? Because the battery can’t be removed with simple tools. How does she know this? From iFixit, of course.

The best part of the piece – and kudos to Foresman for culling this – is that recycling entities said they’d have no trouble at all extracting the battery from Apple’s new machine. I think their opinion may count for something because they actually do the recycling. Let’s hear from one of them: this is ECS Refining CEO Jim Taggart, who apparently employs people that can pull a battery from a housing without mangling it like iBrokeit did. Here he is speaking in broad terms about Apple products and their recycled value:

Typical Apple devices last about twice as long as other devices, and users use them much longer. To me that’s ‘philosophically’ better than having to recycle it in the first place. Whether it takes one minute or two minutes to separate the battery makes little difference in the end. If gluing it in makes it last twice as long, that’s an overall plus than if it falls out when you take it apart.

Specific to the battery, neither ECS Refining nor Sims Recycling Solutions America (the recycler that is under contract by Apple for their kit) think the battery will pose any issue. Of course iFixit and their new best friend from ETBC disagree about how big an issue that is. Fortunately for the hecklers, neither will be involved in the actual reclamation process – you know – the thing EPEAT is concerned with. We’ve heard (and heard and heard) from iFixit. Now we’ve heard from the people who will actually be responsible for recycling Apple’s RMBP and they don’t agree with you. I’m sure that won’t stop iFixit and their tag-alongs from sounding off on an issue they’ll have nothing to do with, but when has being faced with an obvious truth ever discouraged Apple-bashers?

 Posted by at 11:05 pm
Jul 182012
 

There’s a saying in the Beltway that the shortest distance ever calculated is that which exists between Chuck Schumer and a news camera. People who read me know I don’t care for Schumer. He’s a grandstanding demagogue who panders to the least common denominator on sound byte issues designed to maximize his exposure. Imagine the surprise waiting for me in my RSS feed this morning. After immediately checking outside for signs of what I thought was surely the apocalypse, I’m ready to declare that Chuck Schumer is on the right side of an issue.

The issue is one of my personal bugaboos: the Department of Justice’s looming case against Apple and three publishers for allegedly colluding to fix the prices of ebooks. On its face, the case is ridiculous. After declaring unequivocally that it was not in the wrong, Apple proceeded to wipe its ass with the DoJ’s filing, dismantling their accusations point by point. Because I’ve already broken my Schumer embargo, I guess it’s OK to quote him on the issue. From the folks at paidContent:

The administration needs to reassess its prosecution priorities. Justice Department officials currently have comprehensive guidelines in place to determine when they should challenge mergers, but they have no such guidelines for non-merger investigations. It’s time to come up with some.

Schumer also said “Rarely have I seen a suit that so ill serves the interests of the consumer”, which, as blindingly obvious as it is, is still nice to hear from someone people listen to.

I’m hoping that this represents a new direction for Schumer and not some blind squirrel nut that he just happened upon because it’s a popular issue. Who am I kidding – of course that’s his motivation. Still, I’ll take it.

 Posted by at 9:53 am
Jul 112012
 

In my 2+ years blogging on the Apple beat, I’ve come to understand a number of things. I understand that there’s tremendous upside to reporting anything Apple does, especially if that thing can be further monetized with a negative spin. I understand that there are finite reporting resources, especially on the Internet where the pressure to post far outweighs the pressure to report something thoroughly. But sometimes the realities of reporting Apple news just can’t justify some of the stupidity that sites vomit with an air of authority.

If you spent more than five minutes on my site, you know that Gizmodo is a steaming pile of Internet shit. In addition to their lucrative Lego news reporting operation and the poorly-written caterwauls of Jesus Diaz (mostly about Legos, which is intellectually age-appropriate), like all the good trolls, they manage to devote half their ink to slamming Apple with baiting headlines. Let’s talk about Apple’s withdrawal of its products for EPEAT certification.

None of Apple’s Computers Are Environmentally Friendly Anymore (no links for trolltards)

The headline lets you know exactly what you’re in for; any illusion you may have about objective reporting is quickly jettisoned out the airlock. Apple withdraws from EPEAT, therefore solely responsible for “rubbing shit all over the polar bears” (see C.K., Louis). This is Gizmodo at its finest. In their haste to minimize their copy to post time and maximize the story’s linkbait appeal, their headline is both journalistically pathetic and wrong. Pathetic in that it panders to Apple fanboys and haters in equal measure, and wrong because it’s factually incorrect. First of all, equating EPEAT to environmental friendliness is laughable. EPEAT is one yardstick. Second, all of Apple’s lineup, with the one exception of the Retina Display MacBook Pro, has the same level of  “environmental friendliness” that it had before the withdrawl from EPEAT.

Maybe they lost the Zombie Steve Jobs .jpg in one of Gawker’s periodic user data breaches

The purpose of EPEAT is to lessen the negative environmental impact of making electronics by requiring companies to meet eight different environmental-focused categories like a product’s lifetime, toxic materials, recyclability, etc. It’s a good thing. And it’s a pretty big thing that Apple doesn’t care about EPEAT anymore because all of its computers since 2007 have been EPEAT Gold Certified.

2007 also happens to be the year anyone touched the EPEAT standards. They don’t even have a category to qualify mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. Sadly, this is pretty standard for any standard backed by a government agency, which is the case with EPEAT’s EPA backing.

For its part, Apple did respond to the shitstorm of panty-knotting that follows anything potentially critical of Apple, but not before your first knee-jerk reaction was recorded by the tech press. Apparently, San Francisco’s city services has already stated that it will no longer purchase Apple’s products due to their EPEAT withdrawal. Who is the spokesperson making this pronouncement? Why the CIO, of course. From the Techspot article on the topic:

John Walton, when speaking to the Telegraph…said the purchase of Apple computers amounts to around $45,000 of the $200 million IT budget.

Oh snap! It looks like that .0225% of John’s IT budget has been revoked! I’m sure your Windows-dominated shop’s stance about Apple spending is going to cost the company tens of thousands more in copycat solidarity statements like yours! But back to Apple’s response to its EPEAT withdrawal from Kristin Huguet, courtesy of The Loop:

Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2,” Apple representative Kristin Huguet, told The Loop. “We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.

Apple’s approach is not only comprehensive, it’s the most transparent in the industry. I defy John Walton – or anyone for that matter – to point to any major consumer electronics company that does more in terms of tangible environmental considerations than Apple. Specific to recycling, ostensibly the reason Apple pulled out of EPEAT, one can easily find this nugget on the Apple and the Environment webpage:

Apple has instituted recycling programs in cities and college campuses in 95 percent of the countries where our products are sold, diverting more than 115,504 metric tons of equipment from landfills since 1994. Our goal in 2010 was to achieve a worldwide recycling rate of 70 percent. (To calculate this rate, we use a measurement proposed by Dell that assumes a seven-year product lifetime. The weight of the materials we recycle each year is compared to the total weight of the products Apple sold seven years earlier.) We met and exceeded that goal in 2010. This far surpasses the last reported numbers from Dell and HP, which were each lower than 20 percent. In 2011, Apple global recycling once again exceeded our 70 percent goal, and we are confident that we will maintain this level through 2015.

But Apple doesn’t care about the environment because some iFixIt thugs can’t pry the Retina Pro’s display apart.

In addition to being woefully under-recycled, Dell’s computer lineup (which I’m sure is a staple of SF’s city services kit) isn’t even Energy Star compliant. Contrast that to Apple: every single one of their products meet Energy Star’s guidelines. It’s this simple: Apple doesn’t want its future products’ designs to be tied to an out-of-date standard, so they preemptively pulled out of a program that represents the EPA’s vision of sustainability – as anachronistic as that is.

But hitwhores like Gizmodo don’t want to focus on the quality of the program from which Apple is withdrawing, nor do they want to do an in-depth piece based on Apple’s well-documented efforts to minimize its environmental impact. That would take research. And that’s hard. So they do what Gizmodo always does: sit in a seat of almost perfect ignorance and expectorate the most factually-defective, inflammatory article they can.

 

 

 Posted by at 3:38 pm
Jul 102012
 

Lucy van Pelt has nothing on Steve Ballmer.

“You just got PlaysForSure’d, bitch”

 

After assuring the tech press that Microsoft would not let a single market be left without one of their embarrassing consumer electronic offerings, Stevo took his football on stage at Microsoft’s Battered Spouse Support Group Worldwide Partner Conference to tell his OEMs that the tablet Microsoft designed and commissioned to compete against them was not that big of a deal (tip of the hat to reader @brianmmonroe).

Surface is just a design point. It will have a distinct place in what’s a broad Windows ecosystem. And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have that design and produce Windows computers will not diminish.

This is what OEMs should have heard:

Despite our having thousands of partners, when we chose to (finally) enter the market that many are saying is the future of computing, we couldn’t trust one of you to design something yourselves that wasn’t a total shitpile with all the corners cut. By pulling the Surface’s manufacturing under Microsoft’s umbrella in an attempt to copy everything Apple does, we are competing directly against you. But since we still need you to carry out our Windows 8 schizophrenic deathwish of an OS, we need to tell you some bullshit fairy tale while we’re fucking you with a bone saw. Not only did we not think enough of you to tell you what we were doing, once it’s launched, the Surface will enjoy an unprecedented level of support (since we made it), will be the darling of Microsoft’s tablet marketing push and will be featured in all our retail stores.

But really: what other choice do you have? Ubuntu? (maniacal laughter)

I imagine they had to haul the monkey out of his cage to say something, but that doesn’t make his actually mouthing the words any less hilarious. Using the term “reference design”, maybe Fester meant “reference device”, something that Google uses to push its molestation-free stock Android experience with devices like the Galaxy Nexus. The difference obviously being that Google gives Android away for free, while Microsoft makes OEMs pay for the privilege of squealing like a pig. I wonder if Microsoft passed out Surface-branded donut pillows to soothe the thoroughly ravaged backsides of OEMs while they got their “pep talk”. I bet a lot of them still have their PlaysForSure pillows from the 2007 Partner Conference.

 Posted by at 10:03 pm
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