Tag: Steve Jobs

Supremes tell Apple to shut up and face the music

The_Supremes_-_The_Supremes_Sing_Holland-Dozier-HollandThe highest court in the US has told the fruity cargo cult that Steve Jobs really was a monopolist who set up price cartel and it is going to have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

The Supreme Court officially declined to hear Apple challenge to an appellate court decision that it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $450 million as part of a settlement.

The Supreme’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a June 2015 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found Apple liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.

Apple trotted out its usual line saying that it didn’t do anything, and even it it did it should be allowed to do what it liked otherwise “chill innovation and risk-taking.”

The 2nd Circuit’s ruling followed a 2013 decision by US District Judge Denise Cote that Apple played a “central role” in a conspiracy with publishers to raise e-book prices.

The Justice Department said the scheme caused some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from the $9.99 price previously charged by market leader Amazon.com.

Bill Baer, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division said that Apple’s liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all.

Publishers that the Justice Department said conspired with Apple include Lagardere, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan.

Apple and the publishers agreed on an arrangement in which Apple would get a 30 percent commission and publishers were allowed to set the prices for their books, a tactic known as “agency pricing” that prevents discounting.

The publishers also agreed they would charge all outlets the same amount, meaning Amazon was forced to raise its prices. E-books that had cost $9.99 suddenly cost $12.99 or $14.99.

Amazon said in a statement it was “ready to distribute the court-mandated settlement funds to Kindle customers as soon as it is told to do so.”

Fanboys turn up to view iWatch

WatchEnthusiastic followers of the Apple cargo cult have apparently been queuing up in droves to get their mitts on Apple’s iWatch, which is available to pre-order today.

The watches, which some people have described as overpriced and underspecced, will actually go on sale in many countries on April 24th.

Reuters reported that a hundred people were queuing outside the Apple Store, Paris before it opened this morning and excited about the prospect of wearing a fashion item from the firm.

People weren’t able to reach into their capacious wallets and dole out a watch which can cost as much as $17,000 or as little as $350 for the cheapest version.

The jury is still out whether Apple’s iWatch will be the ultimate spod fashion accessory. It is the first item produced since founder Steve Jobs’ death that he had nothing to do with whatever.

To use an Apple iWatch, you have to have bought into the Cult. It only works in conjunction with an iPhone.

In addition to telling you the time, the iWatch also monitors your heart rate and it will be interesting to see what the heart rate is when putative buyers look at their credit card bill.

Steve Jobs’ Easter egg ban is catching on

Easter Eggs - Wikimedia CommonsIt seems that Apple’s Steve Jobs’ ban on programmers installing “Easter eggs” in code is becoming an industry wide move.

In 1987 Apple Macintosh included photographs and names of the designers squirreled away as Easter eggs. But Jobs forbade them when he returned to Apple in 1997.

According to the BBC ,Warren Robinett created the first bit of code to be called an Easter egg in his 1979 Adventure for the Atari 2600 was the first action-adventure video game. Atari did not name its programmers so he coded it into a secret room which was hard to find.

Microsoft had them until 2002 when Microsoft’s principal software design engineer Larry Osterman wrote on his blog in 2005 that “nowadays, adding an Easter egg to a Microsoft OS is immediate grounds for termination, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see another.”

Dr Diomidis Spinellis, a Greek computer science academic and author of The Elements of Computing Style told the BBC that now the smaller companies are following suit and Easter Eggs are being purged from programming history.

“As programming becomes more corporate, more official, one cannot appear to have code that is not officially sanctioned,” he says.

Part of the problem is that Easter eggs have not undergone the same levels of scrutiny of the rest of the code, he says, and there may be vulnerabilities attached to them.

While Easter Eggs have been removed from code, they have been replaced with a trend of hiding them in web pages. But it really is not the same thing.

Nokia readies Abu Dhabi tablet launches

Microsoft subsidiary Nokia will introduce six products at a conference in Abu Dhabi in a bit to spoil Apple’s expected launch of an iPad tomorrow.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the six devices includes a tablet computer and some “phablets” – what a horrid word.

Stephen Elop – tipped by some as a replacement for CEO Steve Ballmer – will host the event.

The tablet Nokia will show off is expected to include LTE and that might give it a chance to compete with Apple.

Nokia, Microsoft must be hoping, will give it some momentum in the market for tablets following its disastrous launch of the Surface RT.

Apple cultists aim to raise $50k for monstrous Steve Jobs statue

Dedicated apostles of Apple’s fruity cult have taken to the crowdfunding website IndieGogo to raise cash  for a monstrous Statue of Liberty-sized homage to the dead chief executive.

“The memory of Steve Jobs is a source of inspiration,” the campaign starts. “His humble origins, personal imperfections and the turbelence of his career make his story relatable; his prolific, world-changing career make his story admirable”.

The entrepreneurs behind the project say they saw the Jobs statue in Budapest, Hungary, but are convinced the world could do with more than one, and that a building in the USA would be more fitting for the executive.

Pledging $666 – the Mark of Jobs and the launch price for the Apple 1 – will give contributors the rare opportunity to be directly involved in building the personality cult of Jobs. 

Investing $1,955 will get you a VIP invitation to the statue’s unveiling.

Those behind the campaign identify themselves as “young entrepreneurs living in San Francisco,” for whom Steve Jobs is “a role model for us”. 

So far, the IndieGogo page has raised $427 of its $50,000 goal with 31 funders, but still has 57 days to go to make Jobzilla happen.

Larry Ellison signals Apple's doom with topsy-turvy finger motion

Friend of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, flamboyant Oracle chief exec Larry Ellison has suggested Apple’s in trouble without its arch salesman. In a CBS interview, Ellison gives Apple without Jobs the thumbs down and finds room to say Google CEO Larry Page did “evil”.

CBS’ Charlie Rose asked Ellison what happens to Apple without Jobs steering the ship.

“We already know, we conducted the experiment and it’s been done,” Ellison responded. He points a finger in the air and says “we saw Apple with Steve Jobs”, then points it down and says “we saw Apple without Steve Jobs”.

Ellison raises his finger again, says “we saw Apple with Steve Jobs,” lowers his finger and says, “we’re going to see Apple without Steve Jobs”.

In the same interview, Ellison also said the only guys he has trouble with “are the Google guys” – “Larry [Page] specifically”.

“No one else runs that company,” Ellison said. “When you write a program for the Android phone, you write it, you use the Oracle tool, Oracle Java tools for everything, and at the very end, you press a button” that says “convert this to Android format”.

Google and Oracle had a long running patent spat with a jury ultimately declaring Google innocent of violating Java patents in Android.

He believes what Google did was “absolutely evil” and that he blames Larry Page “100 percent”. “I don’t see how he thinks you can just copy someone else’s stuff,” Ellison said, adding “it really bothers me”.

DoJ starts Apple antitrust ebook trial

Apple is experiencing the nightmare of a PR own goal based on its own arrogance and stupidity. The company has been dragged into court by the US Department of Justice – charged with illegally running a pricing cartel with some of the big publishers.

It is hard to see how the company can escape. Not only have the publishers admitted running a pricing cartel, Apple’s messiah Steve Jobs boasted about it in his biography. The evidence against Apple is so overwhelming that the DoJ has not had to call in the biographer as a witness. It reportedly has piles of emails penned by Apple’s senior executives where they say something similar.

Yet, for some reason, Apple insists it has done nothing wrong and will fight to the last bullet to defend its actions. The only reason for this is that it arrogantly believes its own line.

Jobs’ logic was that by running a pricing cartel and pushing the price up on ebooks the publishers were sticking one to Amazon. The relationship between Amazon and the book publishes is tricky at best, and they all wanted to take some of the control away from the retailer. Jobs’ alliance of the major book publishers based around his iToys was seen as a way forward. At the time, ebooks were just starting to take off.

Apple conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books in a scheme costing consumers “hundreds of millions of dollars,” a US government lawyer, Lawrence Buterman, said.

As the case opens, the DoJ is seriously damaging the view held by many Apple fans: that the company cares about its users. It is forcing open a closet which contains more skeletons than the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception.

The trial has three weeks and quotes like “Apple told publishers that Apple – and only Apple – could get prices up in their industry” could tarnish Cupertino’s image.

What is even stranger is that Apple could have settled. All the DoJ wants is for Apple to sign an agreement saying that it will not fix the price in the future. It seems that Apple believes that it, not government, makes those sorts of decisions.

Orin Snyder, an attorney for Apple, insists that the case is “bizarre”. He said that Apple acted in its own business interests in negotiating deals with publishers in the run up to the debut of its iPad in January 2010. He claims that the government wants to reverse engineer a conspiracy from a market effect.

Well, that is sort of what a price cartel is, and what it does.  Apple insists the DoJ has its tinfoil hat on, seeing conspiracies where there are none. However, in this case, it is as if the conspiracy theorists have got the signed confessions of the CIA, FBI, Cuban government, the Mafia and Lee Harvey Oswald all admitting they were acting under orders of alien lizards to form a world government with the Queen at its head.

What’s worse, Apple is going into this trial with Judge Denise Cote offering a “tentative view” at the last hearing that the government will prove Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books. 

Unsinkable Apple starts to flounder

Tomorrow Apple is going to announce its results and it is starting to look like there will be few who will be cheering.

Ever since the shine came off Apple in September, the news from Cupertino has been becoming progressively worse. Not only has it lost far too much ground to rivals such as Samsung, it is also being accused of running out of ideas.

Shares which were expected to be $1,000 by the end of 2012 are now selling for $400, stripping $280 billion from the value of the company.

Apple’s fall has also given its suppliers a good kicking. Some, which used to get a rise in their stock price just for the rumour that they were taking part in some Apple product, have had enough of the company. Some told Reuters that they were looking for more reliable customers.

In Japan the industry often jokingly refer to the company as “Poison Apple” because of its hard-to-meet high standards and low price expectations, Reuters wrote.

So what went wrong?

While some corners of the press might tell you that it is all due to the death of Steve Jobs, this is based on the myth that it was the Apple co-founder who came up with ideas.

Memos from Apple suggest that the company has been following a glorious five year plan set up by Jobs before his death. The iPhone 5 and its successor were all effectively signed off by Jobs before he croaked.

New CEO Tim Cook has been stuck by the fact that he does not dare alter it, even if the plan is clearly going wrong. As far as Apple is concerned Jobs’ prediction is much like those made by mathematician Hari Seldon in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. People attribute religious accuracy to them until they are proven unable to cope with a random element.

In this case Apple’s random element should have been incredibly predictable and it was one that Jobs was well aware of before his death.

Apple’s iPhone and tablet model assumed that it would repeat the success of its iPods. There people paid to be locked into a Walled Garden of Delights and never leave it. iPods were also fashionable at the time, and Apple managed to knock aside competition with some slick marketing. Once customers were locked into the iPod it was jolly difficult for them to get out, and besides, there were few products which were up to the iPod’s standards.

But the phone market was a different animal. Although smartphones were not as extensively used, the technology Apple used on the iPhones was not unknown to the rest of the world. There was a highly competitive industry with the potential to roll them out if it needed to.

Apple rolled out its iPhone and it took off, thanks mostly to deals with the US telcos. It looked like Apple was about to repeat the success of its iPods and then something predictable happened. The telephone industry started to produce smartphones based around Apple’s ideas and the cheap Android operating system.

Suddenly Apple was on the back foot. Previously people believed that its phones were innovative and high tech because they looked that way. Actually, the technology was not new and was available to anyone in the telephone industry. The fact that others could produce such phones without being sued indicated that it was open season. To make matters worse, Google’s Android was getting better and produced a much more flexible model for the telcos.

At this point Jobs was sick, but still in the game. The company should have been going all out to come up with innovation. Apple was sitting on a cash mountain and that money should have been poured into the R&D so that the company would be ready for the day when it had some serious competition.

It needed new products that could keep customers locked in to its Wall Garden, much in the same way as it did with the iPod. However, it didn’t, it sat on its cash mountain and some of its innovations that it did create were disasters.

Jobs had reasoned that to win the market, you only needed to have one headline stopping technology for each machine. Under pressure, Apple failed to deliver.

Unlike Google, which had a huge range of tested products which it could stuff into Android, Apple had very little that it could get to work. Siri was a disaster and only worked in the US, and Apple Maps was simply a joke. Both these products were supposed to be reasons for new customers to buy the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5. In fact, the only reason to buy an iPhone 4S was because the iPhone 4 was broken and dropped calls.

Meanwhile Samsung had all the advantages on its side. It had Google’s software expertise and its own access to cheaper technology. It was always going to beat Apple at its own game – it was just going to be a matter of time.

Meanwhile, the iPhone market had killed off the iPod cash-cow and Apple did have a crack at playing out its time and tested a business model with tablets.

Apple did score a win with tablets. For a while many in the industry made the mistake of trying to copy the Apple model, not realising that the way to win was to cheaper and smaller tablets. Once they twigged on, the tablet market took a similar course to the iPhone.

Tomorrow’s results are expected to be explained away on the basis that Apple will have a new phone out in June, which its legions of fanboys will buy automatically.

But there are rumours that the mass production of the next iPhone will slip beyond June, the sources said. The killer app is expected to be a fingerprint sensor to provide additional security. This technology is a bit of a yawn and might be the system’s Achilles’ heel. Sources in Asia say that Apple is trying to find a coating material that does not interfere with the fingerprint sensor. In other words the killer app might not work yet.

Apple is hoping that it can come up with a cheaper model, which can appeal to lower-income buyers in growth markets such as China and India. The risk here is that it is a market that Apple knows nothing about. The new cheap and cheerful version of the iPhone is expected not to have the fingerprint technology and sport a cheaper plastic casing.

Apple’s next iPhone will already be on the back foot when Samsung begins selling the Galaxy S4 smartphone with a sharper screen and plethora of software-enhanced features.

Tomorrow Apple is expected to report a mere eight percent increase in revenue in its fiscal second quarter, among the weakest showings in years. Net earnings are expected to inch up just two percent as the intensifying competition compresses its margins.

All this is karma for those on Wall Street who ignored warnings that Apple was a bubble waiting to burst. As late as last year it was impossible to find an analyst who would talk sensibly about Apple. With the share price at $700 there were those who were convinced it would be $1,000 by Christmas.

It is fairly unlikely that Cook can do much to turn the company around for a while. It is likely that Apple will go into the sort of slow decline it experienced before. This time Jobs can not come back and rescue the company either. But then again, this mess is all about Jobs, and it is unlikely, had he lived, that he would have come up with anything different. 

Ex-Microsoft COO thinks Apple lost its vision

Former Microsoft chief operating officer Bob Herbold thinks Apple might be losing its vision. Now that Steve Jobs is gone, so is the magic, apparently.

In a Forbes article, Herbold concluded that Apple’s stock slide should be attributed to analysts, who merely looked at the numbers and did not want to take a look at the wider picture. Sadly though, Jobs’ death has left a big pair of shoes to fill at Cupertino, and it doesn’t appear as if Apple will get a new visionary leader any time soon.

Herbold stressed that such a leader does not have to be a tech wizard. He does, however, need to be a visionary, not a mere administrator. The trouble with Apple is that such a demigod would have to live up to unrealistic expectations. He would also need to show an exceptional level of personal involvement and get personally involved with the details of upcoming products. Jobs was quite famous for this, and it worked.

Lastly, a new Apple messiah must have the guts to lead. This is a lot to ask. Not only does the new leader have to live up to high expectations, but he also needs to take a lot of responsibility.

Apple’s market cap is still north of $400 billion, but the company lost quite a bit of value over the past two quarters. Taking any radical steps at this point would be bold to say the least and not everyone has the guts to make decisions that could cost the company tens of billions of dollars. However, bold decisions are exactly what Apple needs at this point. 

HTC wins battle against Apple

A British court has cleared HTC of pinching ideas from Jobs’ Mob, saying that Apple didn’t invent what it claimed and just developed other people’s ideas.

According to Bloomberg, judge Christopher Floyd ruled that HTC had not infringed four technologies that Apple had claimed sprang from the genius of Steve Jobs fully formed.

He said Apple’s slide-to-unlock feature was an “obvious” development in the light of a similar function on an earlier Swedish handset.

Apple has also cited the patent in disputes against firms using Google’s Android.

HTC launched the London-based lawsuits a year ago as part of an effort to invalidate European patents Apple had referred to in a German court case. Apple subsequently countersued.

The judge ruled that the first three patents were invalid in this case, while the fourth did not apply to HTC’s devices.

The judge said that HTC’s “arc unlock” feature,  which also involves a predefined gesture along a path shown on-screen, would have infringed Apple’s technology had it not been for a device released in 2004.  This indicates that it was not the genius of Steve Jobs which came up with it after all.

The Neonode N1 showed a padlock on its screen with the words “right sweep to unlock” when it was in its protected mode. A later version replaced the text with an arrow.

The judge said it would have been an “obvious” improvement for the developers to have offered users visual feedback in the form of a “slider” in the way that Apple later used.

The judge said that the “slider” was nicked from Microsoft’s CE system.