Archive for May, 2010

 

Several Days Ahead Of The Big Name Blogs

Friday, May 28th, 2010

So engadget says today that the new appleTV is going to be based on the iPhone OS:

The new ATV will do away with its current OS X-lite variation as a operating system, and will instead adopt the iPhone OS for the underlying experience. There’s no word at this point on whether apps and the App Store will be coming along for the ride, but it makes sense given the shared platform. Of course, scaling iPhone apps to that 52-inch plasma in your living room isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Perhaps not surprisingly, Apple won’t deliver the ATV news at the upcoming WWDC — that event will be focused on the capabilities of the new iPhone — but development on the product is most definitely full steam ahead.

They also mention that the device will only have a power in and a video out port, that it will put out a full 1080p and it will be priced at a $99. This doesn’t sound at all quite right. I have trouble imagining that any device meant to stream video at full 1080p wouldn’t come equipped with a gigabit Ethernet port. And while $99 strikes me as a low target price, it’s doubtful that apple has already established a price for a product that does not yet exist.

Furthermore it seems to me that the existence of an appleTV based on the iPhone OS is the best explanation as to why iPad apps are referred to as “HD”. My guess is that the resolution of the iPad is enough to display an app on an HD television screen. Moreover, if it weren’t then it would almost be required that apple announce the device in advance so that developers can get started working on apps for it. The only reason not to announce it early is that apps already work on it. Which I suspect they do.

More curious to me is the absence of a video-in port. This tells me that the device is not meant to act as a pvr. Could it be that they plan on selling streaming television provided directly from cable networks and other producers? Remember, Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder in Disney which owns ABC, who made an iPad app that basically throws all of the network’s content online Hulu style. In fact, only Comcast owned NBC seems to be resisting the move at this point. I think this device may be designed from the outset to make both broadcast and cable tv obsolete in one fell swoop, all the while facilitating the purchase of more content from the iTunes store and enabling the streaming of iTunes content from your PC. If that’s the case then it’s a bold move, and one that makes Google TV look like Child’s play.

I just wonder if Apple isn’t opening too many fronts against too many competitors at this point. Let’s just list briefly who apple will be competing against if the appleTV is delivered as described:

  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Adobe
  • Nintendo
  • Sony
  • Comcast
  • RIM
  • Nokia
  • Motorola
  • HP

Am I missing anybody?

Finally I wrote this entire blog entry on my iPad using the web interface of WordPress. Not ideal, but it worked. I’d rather have had a dedicated WP application, but I really can’t stand the stretched iPhone versions of apps. I should hope that an iPad specific blogging tool is developed relatively soon, and if it already exists, plea keg me know what it is.

UPDATE: just discovered the WordPress app for iPad. Must have just been released because I looked for this a few days ago. Anyhow, looks decent so far. I’ll Include a review when I write a thorough review of my iPad, which I’ll do in late June after my vacation.

 
 

A Tweet Worth Posting On The Blog

Thursday, May 27th, 2010


Google: stealing your info over wifi, sharing your contacts via buzz, taking pictures of your house. But they’re “open”, so they’re good.less than a minute ago via Echofon

 
 

On the iPhone “Openness”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Is the iPhone “open” or “closed”? In a sense it seems like a silly question. Clearly it’s both, the iPhone has a proprietary layer built on top of an open source core, FreeBSD. The fact that its API is published and that they let 3rd party developers write software for it makes it open as well, though not open source. Which is really the only critical difference between it and Android. Android makes the layer they build on top of Linux open source. But this really shouldn’t matter anyone other than network operators.

The real question is does Apple support open standards, and it’s hard to argue that they don’t. HTML5 is fully integrated, and developers are free to build HTML5 apps and have users install them with shortcuts on their iPhones and iPads. In fact, when the iPhone first came out, that was how Jobs wanted all development on the iPhone to occur. AT that time, the iPhone really was a closed platform since it had no public API to write native applications to it. But Apple changed direction, and now it’s hard to say that the iPhone isn’t an open platform in that sense.

But what about Flash? Well Flash is a proprietary standard, and Apple has no obligation to develop a Flash plug-in or executable for it. They do prevent Adobe from developing a version for the iPhone, but this is largely due to battery life and CPU issues. Which brings me to my next point.

Mobile devices have constraints that desktop devices do not. Constraints include battery life, storage, and CPU. An application that hogs the CPU, runs down the battery and eats up all your memory is going to ruin the mobile computing experience. And the party that will get blamed for that is the brand name on the device. Just witness the row over tethering. The iPhone has had tethering since iPhone 3.0 was announced over a year ago. iPhone tethering is available internationally, but AT&T forbids it. But who gets the blame for a lack of tethering in the US?

Apple.

Hence the App store, ostensibly. Apps which would ruin the mobile experience are essentially forbidden from being installed on the device. And that includes anything that would run down the battery quickly or hog the CPU. For that reason, runtimes are not allowed. This much I understand.

What I don’t understand is the censorship. What does stopping porno have to do with assuring a decent mobile experience? I agree that such apps are a stupid waste of time, that there’s more porno to be found using Safari than anyone could ever want from buying iPhone apps. But still, why ban them? It only creates confusion as to what the App store is about.

But what’s worse in my mind, what’s truly unforgivable, is the fact that there are no shortage of apps out there that have bad reviews not because people didn’t enjoy the app or anything, but because the app crashes or is buggy. That I do NOT understand. If Apple isn’t testing these apps to see that they work, to see that they don’t ruin the mobile experience, then what the hell are they doing? In fact the opacity of the App Store approval process is the only element of the iPhone ecosystem that truly is closed.

So Apple needs to do two things, pronto. 1) they need to provide a clear set of guidelines as to what is being tested in the App Store approval process. That set of guidelines should be published somewhere on apple.com for everyone to see and understand. And 2) they need to stop censoring for content. If that means they need to open an adult section of the app store, so be it. But censorship can never be a black and white, open affair. Just look at the legal definitions for obscenity for an example.

I think if they take those 2 steps they can end this “open vs. closed” debate and put it behind them. But so long as the app store approval process remains opaque and broken, this openness question will continue to dog Apple.

 
 

Google vs. Apple

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

I have to admit that I’m deeply confused about Google’s moves right now. It seems to me that a war with Apple can only be destructive towards Google’s ends. Google appears to be letting the acquired Android division lead the company, rather than vice versa. I do not see this ending well for Google.

Google bought Android in 2005. That’s 2 years before the iPhone came out. The logic at the time was sound. Namely, Google is in the advertising business, and since nobody had hitherto come out with a smartphone that could display mobile advertisements in a reasonable way, Google would just go ahead and build the platform for that to happen, and then give it away to anyone who wanted it. It held a certain logic.

Even after the iPhone was released, it acted as a certain insurance policy. It in effect said to Apple, “Don’t mess with us, because if you don’t let us put our services and ads on your device, we’ll release our phone OS to the world…” And Apple seemed to make every effort to integrate the iPhone into Google’s services, like maps, email, and search. So there really should have been no conflict.

But now Google has declared war on Apple, over principles that really, make no sense. Google has always been about open standards, and yet they choose to take a stand over supporting Flash, a proprietary standard if there ever was one? They choose to support Flash despite the obvious battery life problems it causes? Just to stick their thumb in the eye of Apple? What?

They call their platform open because they release the source code? But then they tell developers they shouldn’t use undocumented APIs? How is that open? They have an app store, just like Apple, which 99% of installed apps come from, and yet they’re open because of the 1% that come from elsewhere? What?

In reality, the issue for consumers isn’t the phone and how open it is or isn’t to developers, it’s the network, and the extent to which they cripple the hardware that they sell and try to funnel users into using bullshit “Vcast” type online music services and whatnot. Apple’s biggest coup with the iPhone wasn’t just the hardware and the software and how well it all works (though that is no small achievement). It’s that they got AT&T to let them sell the phone that they wanted to sell. From all accounts, Verizon wouldn’t let them do that, so intent on selling Vcast crap they couldn’t abide by a phone that let people install stuff (like music even) not bought from Verizon. So no iPhone for Verizon.

None of what Verizon is up to benefits the consumer in any way whatsoever. The consumer wants a phone as designed by the phone engineer, not as crippled by the network. And Apple was the first to deliver that. Now an open source phone will have appeal to a network operator, because it will allow the network to build their Vcast crap right into the OS, and to cripple 3rd party software and whatnot. But that doesn’t appeal to the consumer. To be crystal clear about this, consumers, myself included, would rather have phones built and designed by the likes of Microsoft that are sold as originally conceived and designed than have the best phone ever built that was crippled by the network operator.

Google’s open source “advantage” is that it lets the network operator cripple the phone. Good luck with that business model.

Meanwhile, Google pisses off Apple, and throws away the ability to sell ads on the iPhone. Google may not strictly speaking be forbidden from doing so, but they will never get the well-oiled integration that Apple provides. What’s more, Google may well be thrown off the iPhone in every other capacity. I’m predicting that maps and search will be gone within a year. And will Google even be allowed to sell ads on their own Android phones? I wouldn’t count on it. I would think that Verizon and company will get into that business themselves. “V-ads” they’ll call them.

I don’t quite see how this ends well for Google. I suppose their strategy may work better in the international market where carriers can’t dictate which phones are allowed on their networks, and thus crippled phones are not an option. But domestically, I think Google is hanging themselves for the sake of glory for the Android division. Seems really foolish to me.

 
 

Amityville Horror

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Boing Boing points out that the house from the Amityville Horror is up for sale again. The last owner paid $310k for it in 1997, and is now asking $1.15 million. That calculates out to a 11% annual compounded rate of return. And they say the real estate bubble has crashed.

The horror.

 
 

Misdirection

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

When magicians use the term “Misdirection” they are referring to the practice of directing the audiences eyes to one location, while the trick is actually being performed elsewhere. Misdirection is precisely what Apple is doing now.

I simply can’t believe that all these leaked iPhones are accidental. Yes, the front facing camera is cool, and it looks like there will be a white iPhone. But other than some minor difference in form factors, what else is there? Frankly, Apple already released the big news in announcing iPhone 4.0, which will have multitasking. The front facing camera is interesting, but really, what else is there? We always knew that the next iteration would be faster with more memory, so who cares?

No, Apple is intentionally leaking images of the iPhone at this point. They may have figured the jig was up after a prototype was stolen some weeks back, but I suspect that these leaks were always in the works. Because Apple has something much bigger they’re announcing.

Now what that is I don’t know. But I can guess. And I suspect it’s that AppleTV will cease to be a hobby. I suspect that the new AppleTV will be based on the iPhone OS, and that it will run iPad apps beautifully. It will probably come with a new touch screen remote that enables you to “touch” your tv screen from a distance. And it will put Google’s TV efforts to shame, and put Apple and Nintendo on a much more direct collision course.

The new AppleTV may be a PVR or may even provide some sort of streaming TV service over IP. It will be offered in a stand-alone box, but it could be integrated into a television set sold by Apple. Whatever it is, it won’t be on sale until the fall, and dev kits for the new Apple TV will be distributed at WWDC.

I have no inside information obviously. But Steve Jobs himself is saying that something big is coming down the pike. Which leads me to wonder what it is that nobody is looking at. And I think the answer is AppleTV.

 
 

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Today is the day. Here are a few links for you:

I didn’t draw anything, but if anybody has anything they’d like to post, let me know. My personal favorite so far is this one here.

 
 

And….. We’re Back!

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Server was down. But now we exist again. Woo hoo!

 
 

Verizon Part V

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Meant to post this earlier, but as expected, Verizon delayed their installation date, BY THE ENTIRE SUMMER!!!

Dear Robert Sama:

We can’t wait to bring you blazing-fast FiOS Internet and an overall experience that will blow you away! This e-mail confirms your revised installation appointment for Verizon FiOS Internet Service.

* Scheduled Installation Date – 08-31-2010
* Scheduled Appointment Time – 8:00AM-12:00PM(Hrs)EST
* Product Package – Verizon FiOS Internet Service
* Verizon FiOS Internet Service Order Number – XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Don’t forget to visit What’s Next to learn everything you need to know to have a successful FiOS installation! We look forward to revolutionizing your home with Verizon FiOS.

Please don’t hesitate to call our customer service support center at 1-888-553-1555 should you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your order.

Verizon

Nice.

 
 

The samaBlog: One Year Ahead of Stanford University Professors

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Rob Sama, April 2009:

The corporate income tax code isn’t just insidious because of its corrupting effect upon congress. It’s insidious because it constitutes a double tax on earnings (capital gains being the other tax) and it discourages capital accumulation. A business that is retaining earnings to reinvest in its operations should be encouraged to do so.

But our current tax regime encourages businesses to spend money on any and all expense items possible (meaning not physical plants), including interest payments. In other words, the corporate income tax encourages businesses to finance their operations with debt instead of equity. This may be good for the banking industry, but it isn’t particularly good for business. And we can see the effects of an economy built on debt instead of equity today, namely that in a downturn the debt cannot be rolled over and businesses fail.

Best to eliminate the corporate income tax, and tax distributions made from dividends.

Stanford University professor in the WSJ today:

President Obama has put tax reform on the agenda, but surprisingly little attention is being paid to fixing the most growth-inhibiting, anticompetitive tax of all: the corporate income tax. Reducing or eliminating the corporate tax would curtail numerous wasteful tax distortions, boost growth in both the short and long run, increase America’s global competitiveness, and raise future wages.[...]

This complex array of taxes on corporate income produces a series of biases and distortions. The most important is the bias against capital formation, decreasing the overall level of investment and therefore future labor productivity and wages. Also important are the biases among types of investments, depending on the speed of tax vs. true economic depreciation, against corporate (vs. noncorporate) investment, and in favor of highly leveraged assets and industries. These biases assure that overall capital formation runs steeply uphill, while some investments run more, some less uphill. It would be comical if the deleterious consequences weren’t so severe.

I’m one year ahead of what gets published in the WSJ. Don’t you forget it.