May 19, 2012
Applesauce: All Things Apple
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
Pull up a groove and get fabulous, hip kids. It´s time for your weekly serving of Applesauce.Does a new, cuddlier, friendlier, greener Apple exist? Without giving way to the notion of “Steve´s gone, everything´s different now,” I think it´s possible Tim Cook is finally making this his Apple, the way he wants it to look. After all, Steve´s Apple never would have been (allegedly) willing to settle with Proview in China. Steve´s Apple would have never given dividends to stock holders. And Steve´s Apple would have never allowed a government agency to strong arm them into changing the branding of their products.
Perhaps Apple´s top brass had worked together as a team for so long under Steve they are now able to grab the wheel and drive in the same direction Steve would have wanted to go, only choosing the smoother, paved roads as opposed to barreling down whatever rocky path Steve would have chosen.
This week, we saw a bit of the struggle between Steve´s Apple and Tim´s Apple, as the company bent to the requests of the ACCC, but also gave Siri a firm talking to and made her change her tune.
Plus, why did we all think the CEO of Foxconn would actually divulge information about Apple´s Rumored Television?
Oh Apple, how you´ve changed. Remember the golden days of yore, when Apple would relentlessly pursue those who infringed upon their trademarks with a damn-it-all spirit and fight tooth and nail to protect their brand image? Now, some of Apple´s recent actions have shown that they might, in fact, have a softer side.
It´s no secret as to why this is happening. Steve Jobs – may he rest in peace – was a great leader, innovator and visionary. He also had a hot streak a mile long and knew how to battle and claw and fight his way to whatever he wanted. As such, we´ve seen Apple relentlessly go after the Clone makers, Fake Chinese Apple Stores, and most notably Google and Android.
Now, Tim Cook is sitting in the captain´s chair, and while he isn´t any less effective than Jobs, he certainly seems to know when to let go to protect Apple´s gleaming white and brushed aluminum image.
Take, for instance, the case of the iPad and Australia. Apple had branded their latest 4G-capable iPad “Wi-Fi + 4G.” When it launched in countries without 4G, like Australia and the UK, some users began to complain that they couldn´t access the 4G speeds.
Whether or not these customers were right to believe purchasing something with the words “4G” on it would magically give them the powers of high-speed wireless connectivity is another issue. Regardless, agencies such as the ACCC sided with the customers and took umbrage with Apple´s branding.
How far would Apple bend before they broke? They started off by offering refunds to any customers who might want one (even though a spokesperson said they didn´t think many people would.) They added some disclaimers to their websites which cautioned customers to check if their carrier offers 4G before they bought a new device. They even began to email every Australian customer who had bought a new iPad to let them know they wouldn´t be able to access 4G on their network. Then, in a move typical of the “old” Apple, they told the Australian courts that their definition of 4G was different from everyone else´s, and therefore, the new iPads were, in fact, 4G ready.
Now, Apple has given in and decided to change the name of their wireless ready tablet to “Wi-Fi + Cellular,” hopefully appeasing both the Australian and UK consumer agencies. In a statement, Apple explained their move: “Carriers do not all refer to their high speed networks with the same terminology. Therefore we´ve decided to use ℠Wi-fi + cellular´ as a simple term which describes all the high speed networks supported by the new iPad.”
Bravo, Apple, for knowing when it´s best to cut your losses. I´m curious, however, which hurts Apple more deeply: Changing the name of their product and the way it´s branded, or placing an ugly warning sticker on their pristine white boxes, as the ACCC had previously asked?
No Woman No Cry
Apple hasn´t yet made a complete 180 degree turn, however. There´s still a good bit of tenacity and secrecy behind those glowing orbs of awesome.
Last week, some very bored people began playing with Siri to see what kind of cutting remarks they could get from her. Of course, they just had to ask her “Siri, what´s the best smartphone ever?” It´s likely these people expected her to say something about herself, hoping to catch her in a moment of pride and vanity.
Imagine their surprise, then, when she directed them to a Wolfram Alpha entry listing the Cyan colored Nokia Lumia 900 as the Best Smartphone Ever. Of course these individuals had to tell the world. Siri had just said another phone was better! What´s going on at Apple?!
Apple has never claimed to be completely in control of Siri, telling her what to say and when to say it. In fact, when the ACLU made hay over the fact that Siri could hook you up with Viagra and escorts, but not an abortion clinic, Apple mentioned Siri was still in beta and pulled her information from the internet and other sources. In other words, Apple wasn´t pushing any pro-life agenda as the ACLU was suggesting.
So now, when Siri mouths off once more and tells the world she favors another phone more than herself -- so modest! -- Apple suddenly has the ability to change her response to something more cunning. Now, when you are feeling the mood to test wits against Siri, she´ll tell you the best smartphone ever is either “The one you´re holding,” or answer “You´re kidding, right?”
Oh Siri, you lovable ol´ so-and-so.
Nokia, of course, was none too pleased that their brief stint of free, Apple branded advertising had vanished. “Apple position Siri as the intelligent system that´s there to help, but clearly if they don´t like the answer, they override the software,” said Nokia spokeswoman Tracy Postill in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Now it´s time to find other embarrassing questions to ask our digital personal assistants. Perhaps we can ask Siri when Apple will be releasing their new Apple TV?
Stir It Up
To be frank, the CEO of Apple´s largest manufacturing partner is just as likely to admit to an as yet unannounced Apple product as Siri is, and I have a feeling both Terry Gou AND Siri would soil their collective shorts if they were to let a secret like that slip. But the rumored Apple TV is big news, and every news organization wants a part of any possible announcement or leak. Therefore, when English-language newspaper China Daily released an interview with Foxconn CEO claiming the company was gearing up to make Apple´s television sets, the world went crazy.
There were a few aspects about the original story which smacked of crazy talk. First, the majority of the piece was dedicated to an announcement of Foxconn´s branching into distribution and e-commerce, shipping out some of their parts to other manufacturers., Then, at the very end of the article, the big news about Apple´s rumored TV is casually slipped in, all in less than 60 words.
Ever seen a little kid try to reach their hands into the cookie jar, knowing that their parents are looking and that if they get caught, they´ll be in trouble? Still, they just have to see what they can get away with. That´s what the last 57 words of the China Daily piece felt like: A little kid trying to get away with something they knew was wrong.
Secondly, China Daily quoted Gou as saying the team at Foxconn was getting ready to make the device even though they hadn´t received any direct orders as of yet. Ok, that almost makes sense, but only if the executives believe the rumors and have been kept in the dark by Apple. Kind of a “Hey, we´re just sitting here for, you know, whenever you´re ready“¦” kind of deal.
Finally, and this is the most obvious, glaring error of the entire piece. Why would the CEO of Apple´s largest manufacturing partner, a man who stands to make himself and his company millions upon millions of dollars, give away a trade secret to some random Chinese newspaper, especially when he´s never done something like that before? If Apple really is planning on building one of these TVs, -- it's all still a wild rumor, after all–Gou would possibly know about it. He would also know that if he opened his mouth, he would be ruined forever and lose his biggest customer. And all for what? So some random Chinese newspaper can break a story? The tech journalism circuit being what it is, the story made waves for a day until some brave souls stood up and called the story out for what it was: Bunk.
Of course, no weekly recap of Apple news would be complete without some Apple v Samsung action.
Last year, Old Apple began throwing some suits Samsung´s way, saying they had “slavishly” copied their designs. As a part of these suits, Apple sought an injunction against Samsung, prohibiting the sale of their Galaxy 10.1 tabs. Apple got as far as prohibiting the sale of the aforementioned Tabs in Germany and Australia, while here in the States Judge Lucy Koh (the same who is asking the two to slim down their charges) denied their request, allowing Samsung to proceed unmolested.
Now, a US appeals court has gone over Judge Koh´s head, giving Apple the go ahead to seek another injunction, if they so please. But would the new, softer Apple do such a thing? After all, when the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was prohibited from being sold in Germany in its current design, Samsung simply released another version of the tab, dubbed the Galaxy Tab 10.1N. A relatively minor hurdle for Samsung to leap over, but in the end, Apple got what they wanted: A tablet that looked different (and arguably uglier) than the iPad.
So, is it worth it to the New Apple to take some temporary heat from Android lovers in order to strong arm Samsung to create something original on their own for once?
Samsung would rather not have to jump through hoops to sell their devices, of course. In a statement to PCMag.com, a spokesperson has said, “Samsung intends to oppose vigorously any further effort by Apple to obtain a preliminary injunction in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. We look forward to a full trial on the merits of Apple´s claims in July before the District Court for the Northern District of California.”
In the end, this is just one more scuffle in the ongoing playground fight between Apple and Samsung. Will Apple decide to throw this case out when the two companies meet for their peace talks before heading into court?
Could You Be Loved
Gather together, friends, for your weekly dose of the Applesauce rumor-round up! (name pending)
While we may not know what the next iPhone will be called, we are pretty certain the next operating system will be called iOS 6, and this week we got some news into what the new OS could have in store for us.
Though Apple has always been in charge of how the Maps.app looks and operates, they´ve always depended upon Google for the backend heavy lifting and data. Now, they may be ready to take advantage of some of the acquisitions they´ve been making over the past few years and bring every element of the maps app in house.
According to 9to5mac.com and their stable of Trusted Sources Familiar With the Matter, the new version of Maps will be cleaner and faster than the current version, and will be outfitted with a 3D mode, allowing you to cruise the skies as you follow your route, or just look at the surrounding buildings. This 3D mode would likely be the product of Apple´s purchase of C3 technologies, who showed off their 3D mapping demos at CES last year. These 3D maps could also be displayed on a larger, 4-inch display when the new iPhone arrives.
Due to their impeccable track record -- which is, in turn, due to their close ties to Apple -- whenever the Wall Street Journal posts a rumor, they all but confirm it.
This week, the WSJ posted a story once again quoting Sources Familiar With the Matter saying the next iPhone will, in fact, feature a screen measuring 4 inches diagonally. The Journal also said Apple is sourcing these larger screens from Asian suppliers, with production set to begin next month. By saying production will begin next month, the Journal also all but confirmed a September-October time frame for the next iPhone release.
Interestingly, the loathed and revered John Gruber briefly mentions that starting production now for a fall launch seems early to him.
Could Apple throw us all for a loop and launch in August? Or are they simply expecting this new phone to be such a blockbuster they are starting early to give themselves plenty of stock when the inevitable hoards come rushing in?
Further suggesting a new phone is on the way, Best Buy has now cut their price on iPhone 4´s in half to $49.99. Such a move is often seen as a quick way to deplete stock and make room for new models, but wouldn´t that also be a bit early for a fall launch as well? Perplexing.
Finally, Bloomberg reported this week that China Mobile, the world´s largest cellphone carrier, is in talks with Apple to bring the iPhone to their network. With 667 million subscribers, China Mobile resembles America´s T-Mobile in one way: They don´t officially carry the iPhone and yet millions of people use their iPhone on their network.
According to a Reuters report, more than 7 million iPhone users have found a way to operate their smartphones on China Mobile. The two companies could really need one another. China Mobile is losing customers to other carriers with faster networks and who support the iPhone. Apple wants to beat Samsung, and since they're fighting a battle with 3 phones to Samsung´s mini-army of devices, Apple could use all of the users they can get. Any chunk of China Mobile´s 667 million ought to help them out. Like American carriers, China Mobile is also preparing for Apple to release 4G on the next iPhone by beefing up and expanding their 4G networks. Despite all other rumors, a partnership with China Mobile could be the biggest news of the next iPhone unveiling.
What will happen next week in the world of Apple? Will they announce a partnership with Facebook? Will we see a new Macbook Pro? Will Siri actually announce the long awaited Apple TV?
If any of these things happen, you can be sure to read about them here on RedOrbit.com!