October 24, 2013

Carl Icahn’s Letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook

Just a few days before Apple’s Q4 report, billionaire investor Icahn gave his input to Cook.

We want to be very clear that we could not be more supportive of you, the existing management team, the culture at Apple and the innovative spirit it engenders. The criticism we have as shareholders has nothing to do with your management leadership or operational strategy. Our criticism relates to one thing only: the size and timeframe of Apple’s buyback program. It is obvious to us that it should be much bigger and immediate.

I have no doubt that Icahn has strong confidence in the executives at Apple. His issue is with the board of directors. He continues with:

As we proposed at our dinner, if the company decided to borrow the full $150 billion at a 3% interest rate to commence a tender at $525 per share, the result would be an immediate 33% boost to earnings per share, translating into a 33% increase in the value of the shares, which significantly assumes no multiple expansion. Longer term (in three years) if you execute this buyback as proposed, we expect the share price to appreciate to $1,250, assuming the market rewards EBIT growth of 7.5% per year with a more normal market multiple of 11x EBIT.

While, this in theory will boost AAPL shares to a new high of $1,250 per stock. Is this really what needs to be done? Shouldn’t Apple be using this large amount of cash to acquire companies and new technologies? Or at least a combination of both buyback and acquisitions?

Finally, a bill to end patent trolling

The bill would require patent holders to lay out details about their infringement case early in a lawsuit, and would require the loser of a patent suit to pay legal fees unless they could show that the case was “substantially justified.” It would expand a program to allow for the review of “business method” patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, a key request by CCIA that has not been without controversy. And the bill would also allow customers or end users of a technology to stay a lawsuit while the patent holder and the manufacturer battle it out. That would prevent patent trolls from pulling moves like one last month, where a judge let Lodsys dodge Apple’s lawyers— while it continues to threaten iOS developers.

The patent system is broken. No question. Hopefully, this will end all of the wasted sums of money, time and energy by these companies. And maybe they can get back to doing something more productive.

HTC One Max Fingerprint Scanner

The new technology is a major feature of HTC’s behemoth phablet, and it mostly performs the way the company intended. But HTC failed to take into account everyday usability, which is a huge shame—planting it on the back is just plain awkward; it’s a huge oversight that greatly diminishes a stand out feature.

This is a prime example of what separates Apple from the rest. The design of the scanner on the new HTC device is so terrible. Why would anyone in their right mind place the camera lens right above where users are supposed to slide their fingers?

Google breaks 2005 promise never to show banner ads in search results

Google’s decision to start showing banner ads is a repudiation of many of its founding principles. The company gained attention when it started in 1998 because its opening search page, and following results page, was uncluttered by adverts and other elements – and especially banner ads. In 2000 Google’s founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin were offered $3m by Visa to display an ad for the credit card company on the site homepage – and turned it down, even though the site was losing money at the time.

Promises are meant to be broken eh Google? Eventually people are going to just be sick to their stomach with all the garbage plastered over the content they want.

Samsung fined $340,000 over faking negative web comments about competition

Throughout last year, Apple-friendly web sites were infested with an avalanche of ugly comments by anonymous posters concerning the iPhone, iPad and the Apple brand in general. While website owners were reluctant to publicly point the finger of blame at the South Korean conglomerate, many had suspected it was no coincidence given Samsung was riding high on its anti-Apple ad campaign.

I can only make fun of Samsung so much more…

Why Android first is a Myth

The reality is that platform constraints at the engineering and financing levels tell a much different story. “Android-first” faces structural and financial barriers which are unlikely to be overcome. iOS will remain the primary platform that startups develop for regardless of how much more quickly Android grows share.

Steve Cheney goes on to list a lot of outstanding and strong points on this position. I agree with all of them.


October 23, 2013

How Apple Makes the Mac Pro

Apple has elevated a relatively low-precision/low-tolerance process (deep draw stamping) used to make my dog’s water bowl and toilet brush canister into the creation of an aerospace grade piece of desktop jewelry.

So, there is a lot of talk about from yesterdays October Special Event by Apple. An unexpected iPad Air, the long awaited iPad mini with Retina display, updated MacBook Pros and the one I was most interested in, the radically new Mac Pro. I absolutely loved seeing their “how it’s made” video. It is a must watch. And for further in-depth analysis on how its assembled, check out the atomic delights link above. Brilliant.

OS X 10.9 Mavericks: The Ars Technica Review

There are many great improvements in the latest operating system upgrade from Apple. And it’s free! The major benefits are in power and memory management with even more security. Additional updates to the iWork and iLife suite are all free as the new Maps app.

Apple clearly realizes this, as it continues to pour resources into Safari in release after release. Safari 7 is a standard-bearer for many of the flagshiptechnologies in Mavericks, and its focus on stability, security, and energy-saving is a microcosm of the whole OS. I came very close to switching to Chrome as my default Web browser during the reign of Safari 6. Safari 7 has pulled me firmly back into the Apple camp.

To me, the entire system feels snappier. My MacBook Pro only gets better over time with these amazing software updates. I cannot say the same for any PC that I owned.

Angela Ahrendts: This is the entry into the brand

“I grew up in a physical world, and I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world, and they speak social.”

Apple’s new SVP of retail and online stores defintely has the vision and attitude that the folks an Apple want in their culture. I would have hired her as well.

And before you think this it all good news Tuesday…

Hey Apple, where’s your 4K Thunderbolt display?

But at this point, Apple hasn’t even hinted at a 4K monitor, and the company’s even using a picture of Sharp’s 4K beast, the PN-K321 on its site. Apple’s last Thunderbolt display announcements were way back in 2011. The last non-Thunderbolt Cinema Displays were released in 2010.

In other words, they’re overdue for an update. And a 4K display to go along with the Mac Pro’s 4K-friendliness sounds like a perfect reason to do that.

Maybe it’s still because of pricing. That 4K Sharp display is about $4K USD (pun intended). So, one can imagine how much an Apple branded one will cost. I bet we will see one before this time next year. However, I hope its a non-glossy one. It better be.


Argument: When Losing is Winning

Cohen says, “If we want to think of new kinds of arguments we need to think of new kinds of arguers. Think of all the roles that people play in arguments: there’s the proponent and the opponent in an adversarial, dialectical argument; there’s the audience in rhetorical arguments; there’s the reasoner in arguments as proofs. Now, can you imagine an argument in which you are the arguer but you’re also in the audience watching yourself argue? Can you imagine yourself watching yourself argue, losing the argument, and yet still, at the end of the argument saying, ‘Wow, that was a good argument.’ He continues, “I think, if you can imagine that kind of argument where the loser and the audience and the jury says to the winner, ‘Yeah, that was a good argument’ then you have imagined a good argument. And more than that, I think you’ve imagined a good arguer, an arguer that’s worthy of the kind of arguer you should try to be.”

This is also a fantastic way to look at the human ego. If one always has to and does win battles or arguments, that person will never actually learn anything new. Additionally, it will just blind the arguer to new perspectives and in the long run will eventually lose out.


October 21, 2013

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

While Android is open, it’s more of a “look but don’t touch” kind of open. You’re allowed to contribute to Android and allowed to use it for little hobbies, but in nearly every area, the deck is stacked against anyone trying to use Android without Google’s blessing. The second you try to take Android and do something that Google doesn’t approve of, it will bring the world crashing down upon you.

This the modern technological definition of a flip-flop.

Windows 8 support will end in two years

Windows 8.1 falls under the Windows 8 lifecycle policy, which ends on January 10, 2023. However, the company also states thatWindows 8 customers will have two years to move to Windows 8.1 starting this Friday.

Well, 8 isn’t going to last that long. Hopefully in version 9, Microsoft clearly goes down the road of the desktop or tile world.

Why does Windows have terrible battery life? 

I have a Surface RT – the first generation – and as such, I know why. Windows 8 might have Metro running on top of it hiding a lot of it, but Windows 8.x carries just as much baggage, cruft, and outdated shit with it as previous versions of Windows have. Windows 8/8.1 – and Metro in particular – simply suck. Slow, clunky, jarring, cumbersome, battery-sucking, restricted, and limited, with a crappy selection of rush-job, rarely updated applications. You know how resizing windows on Windows 7 or OS X is all nice and fluid? Why, then, is it a slow and jittery operation that brings Windows 8 Metro to its knees?

It’s simple: just like battery life, it’s a symptom of Microsoft’s Windows team not having the balls to truly go for a clean break, as the Windows Phone team have done. And lo and behold, Windows Phone – even WP8, which runs on the same NT kernel – has none of the slowness and crappiness issues that continue to plague Windows 8 Metro (although WP has its own set of issues unrelated to these).

Again, I have no idea why Microsoft is confusing customers with two completely different UIs in the same device. They must know that it also drains the crap out of battery life. Pick one!

IBM’s Watson is better at diagnosing cancer than human doctors

According to Sloan-Kettering, only around 20 percent of the knowledge that human doctors use when diagnosing patients and deciding on treatments relies on trial-based evidence. It would take at least 160 hours of reading a week just to keep up with new medical knowledge as it’s published, let alone consider its relevance or apply it practically. Watson’s ability to absorb this information faster than any human should, in theory, fix a flaw in the current healthcare model. Wellpoint’s Samuel Nessbaum has claimed that, in tests, Watson’s successful diagnosis rate for lung cancer is 90 percent, compared to 50 percent for human doctors

Working in the health care and medical field, I can say that there is nothing like the human-factor of caring for a patient. Yes, machines will be able to compute and call up data and information way faster than humans, but it will miss out on emotional and psychological symptoms. On the other hand, human-error is to blame for a lot of misdiagnosis in the world. Only time will tell.

BBM for Android and iOS now available, but there’s a wait list

But unfortunately it appears that BlackBerry is still very much concerned about an initial surge of users. It’s implementing a registration wait list; upon opening the app, you’ll have to enter an email address to reserve your spot. Anyone that signed up for information about the mobile apps at won’t have to wait, but new signups will have to deal with the virtual queue.

I still care a little. But does the vast public?