Saturday, January 28, 2012

Apple Should Tackle Privacy

The iPhone 4S just went on sale in China. I am sure it's selling like hot cakes, regardless of what possible shortcomings Apple might have put into place to keep Beijing happy.

For instance, I about my friends in China are able to sign into Twitter since the microblog site is essentially blocked. (I just sent out an inquiry on Weibo about Twitter what what possible replacement Apple might have or have not offered Chinese customers.)

And while Facebook or twitter being blocked in China, Iran, and the likes, this is more of a censorship issue. Dealing with foreign censorship is something that Washington or the State Department should deal with But I like to see Apple tackle the privacy issue.

I started using a new search engine called Duckduckgo. It's an alternative to Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others that make it their mission to track our travels across the Internet and sell that information essentially to their advertisers.

Now, Apple has already put the stop to the newspaper and magazine publishers from wholesale access to its iOS users, I like to see Apple go a step further.

It's already been suggested that with Siri, Apple has positioned itself between its users and those services that are collecting information through conventional Internet means.

One of the things that Apple lack is a social network. Apple took a stab at it with Ping and we know how well that turned out. Even Apple's Game Center isn't quite where I like it to be. There is no direct interaction between users.

In iOS 5 with the inclusion of Twitter and iMessage, Apple may be taking its first baby step toward building a social network in the sense that its native apps like iMessage could act as the top layer overseeing other social networks like Twitter and maybe even others like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and others even Microsoft's Xbox Live.

This could potentially give iOS users greater control over which network they like to share with and how.

See, part of the failure of Ping was that Facebook wanted greater access to iTunes information that Apple was unwilling to share.

It was a bad move on Apple part in trying to deal with Facebook at that point. But I reckon that Apple has learned from that. And today, things are much more different.

Apple has sold over sixty million iOS devices in the last Christmas quarter and shows no sign of slowing down. Apple may enter the living room war with an assault on the traditional television in one form or another.

Social networks would be foolish not to deal with Apple if Tim Cook comes calling even if Apple has restrictive terms that social networks and even search engines must comply with to protect iOS user privacy.

We won't know for sure until Apple shows its hands with future product and OS updates so there is a lot of uncertainty in just how Apple will mother over its users and the information it has collected.

Personally, I like to see more of what Siri is capable of once it's out of beta and whether iMessage expands beyond being a SMS killer.

And it is entirely possible that Apple guarding the privacy of iOS users are accidental. Nevertheless, it's definitely better than how Facebook, Google, and other companies that profit off information they collected from their users.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

iPad Selling On The Road, Will Other Tablets Join?

Here is a very pro-iPad GigaOM post but if you step back you can appreciate just how tablets in

general has already changed how mobile warriors, particular mobile sales forces are able to accomplish more.

The instant-on feature, long battery life, wireless connection, and essentially a laptop replacement are features that have the iPad going for it.

On top of that the light-weight of the iPad is definitely a plus. Furthermore, all of what is the iPad allows the worker to accomplish its tasks more efficiently and spend more time away from the office.

Obviously, tablets running on Android, Blackberry OS, or the forthcoming Windows 8 should be able to do the same. The question would be just how efficient they will be compared to the iPad.

Another matter I like to bring up which the post didn't not address is the size of the iPad or other 10" tablets relative to productivity of the sales force.

That is definitely something worth analyzing when smaller tablets go on the road in this capacity.

It'll be interesting to see if Apple is right on its conviction that the 10 in-ish screen is truly optimal for tablet use.

- Posted using BlogPress

Friday, January 27, 2012

Apple Will Put Its $100 Billion To Innovate and Disrupt; So Shut Up About Dividends And Stock Buybacks

More than 46 billion in revenue, 13 billion in profit, and, now, we learn that Apple has close to $100 billion in the bank in various cash and short-term investment vehicles, there has not been a shortage of what Apple ought to do with all that money "in the bank".  I know this much:  there will be no dividends or stock buybacks.

It's not Apple's style.Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer told analysts during its financial call that the Apple board was in active discussion about what "constructive" ways Apple can use its cash, it gave folks hope that Apple is headed towards rewarding shareholders in one way or another.  Despite that, it's not happening.

If Apple wanted to distribute money or buyback shares, it would have done it a long time ago.  A year ago even.  

This is why I think Apple will put that money to work in ways that will solidify its future in mobile and ecommerce.  This will happen in such a way that even some of its cash rich competitors will not be able to do.  After all, its closest competitor has about $30 billion in the bank but that is still quite different from having $100 billion in the bank that Apple has.

I think all of this is related to how Apple will take iOS and the iPhone into a new direction.  And it could happen with iOS 5.  

One quick example I can come up with is this.  Suppose Apple comes out with such an innovative HDTV that will cost in the range of $4000-$5000.  Not many folks can pay that kind of money right off the top.  So perhaps, Apple could use its money and create sort of a credit line for anyone who wants to own such a TV.

Apple can also give users financial deals on Macs and iOS products.  The same can be done for schools where Apple can set up funds to help students finance iPad purchases.  

Certainly, Apple will continue to invest in supply lines and innovate in new manufacturing processes.  

All of what I mentioned are likely on the table for Apple regarding what it wants to do with its cash.  The point is $100 billion is an opportunity, not a burden as some on Wall Street would like us to believe.  Apple is a company that is in an unique position to make the most of this opportunity.

During President Obama's state of the union address on Tuesday, a term that is likely going to be a corner stone of his reelection campaign is "build to last".  Most would agree that Steve Jobs' legacy isn't the Mac, iPod, or the iPhone but Apple itself.  

Giving $100 billion back to the shareholders just isn't something helps an enduring Apple.  But using it to further innovate and implement new technologies and disrupt new markets will continue to buiid on Steve's legacy.

Note:  It's possible the Apple board of directors might offer some token stock buyback to satisfy some Wall Street critics but I doubt it'll be anything meaningful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple's Cash: Forget Dividends/Buybacks Or TV - Tim, Put A Few Billions Into Artificial Intellgence

Siri is where the future's at. So this Su where I suggest where Apple should put its nearly $100 billion in cash and short-term investments: AI.

As in artificial intelligence. And I'm not just talking about giving Siri an even more dazzling personality. I'm talking about robots. Androids. Sorry, I don't mean Google's mobile OS.

See, this is where the future OS is at. Not OS XI or iOS 7 or 8 but a totally revolutionary OS that is intelligent all around.

Something like Siri 5.0. One that can carry along a more natural conversation and truly act as a personal assistant.

Eventually, it could be Apple's AI that power our homes and lives.

That's where I would put a few billions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Twenty Percent of Kindles Unloved By Their Owners?

According to Telegraph, 1/5 of Kindles are left unused after their collective unveiling at in Christmas morning.  I think this is an example of shady reporting, regardless of which reader or tablet you use.

First, the post says nothing about the type of Kindle it is referring to.  It made it sound like they include in large part, the Kindle Fire. Now, you might suspect that this was a hit piece from an Apple or iOS fan. In the past, I would have thought that to be the case. However, with the forking of th Android platform, the writer could be a fan of just about any platform.  

This includes Apple, even Mincrosoft, and, also very likely, a pure Android fan.  

But 1/5, or 20% of all Kindles sold not bring touched ain't bad. Not good ad definitely not great but not bad either. Amazon has to do more to entice users and even educate Kindle owners what their devices can do. 

I reckon that more of these abandoned Kindled are of the e-ink flavor and not the Fire.  

It's still early in the game for Amazon and even the number of millions it sold, I think Amazon is rather content with the response it has bottom from the market.  

Source: Amazon Kindles 'go unused' after Christmas - Telegraph

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Siri Coming To Other iOS Devices? How About Macs?

Siri could be coming to other iOS devices.  Now, I'm not talking about iPad 2S or 3.  Nor am I talking about the future iPod touch update.  Rather, I'm referring to the current gen iPod touch, which happens to be the same as last year's version and the iPad 2.

Here is an image capture via Cult of Mac with references to both the iPod touch and the iPad.  Now, it's a given that one day, Siri will propagate throughout Apple realm, even Macs.  That isn't the issue.  It's whether current hardwares on the market now, outside of the iPhone 4S, will also be Siri-capable.

There is more at CofM on this.  The above pic is for the iPod as you can see on the top left corner.  

It makes sense and also it's important that Apple begin to get Siri out of beta and to support more languages. This is most certainly a daunting task.  And it's just as urgent for Apple to get Siri into as many users of its growing hardware profile as soon as possible.

This is a race to control the future of mobile computing and change the face of UI.  Siri, as I've declared in the past, is a brand new plattform that has given Apple another opportunity to disrupt the markets.  That's right.  Markets.  Plural.  That is because we are in an increasingly connected world where our gadgets, appliances, and devices will one day be connected to clouds or private networks.  

It's up to Apple when Siri, or even just simple dictation, becomes available to non-4S users.  I cannot argue the technical merits of whether there is a hardware reason why only the iPhone 4S has Siri.  However, I figure this is more of an artificial reason, like the fact that Siri is in beta, than anything else.

We should know by the next iOS update or two about Siri's status.  

Source:  Cult of Mac.

Note:  I can't wait for Siri or even just dictation to come to the Macs.  I'm hoping the dictation portion for the Macs will not require a network connection as Siri needs now but I'll settle for anything.   I imagine the day when I can dictate posts like this.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Apple Tie-Up With Target Means Mobile Payment?

Apple fans, especially if you’ve got an iOS device or mobile phone, rejoice. Looks like Apple could be coming to a Target store near you. And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this. Apple could slow and surly be putting into place the means for users to not only buy Apple gears more easily but could also more easily allow iOS users to buy things with their iTunes accounts.

You’re thinking “dude, what are you smoking” right about now. Here me out. Store within a store for Apple isn’t something new. In fact, it goes all the way back to ancient history: CompUSA. Yeah, like in the 90s. And then we have the Apple stores but Apple kept their little corner in Best Buys as well. But Target is uniquely different. It’s a general consumer retailers – food, consumer goods like clothes and furniture. Yup, Target does sell electronics and to my knowledge, I’ve never seen a Target selling computers before. And this could be an opportunity for Apple. More than that, a while back, it was Starbucks that partnered with Target to test out its mobile payment plan that has now grown to most Starbucks and Target stores. It’s Target’s willingness to strike this kind of deals that has me thinking that maybe Apple could be thinking beyond just places its Macs and iOS devices in general consumer stores. And it could mean that Apple is looking at expanding – oh, say…TV? Furthermore, when you buy Apple gears, apps, or other accessories for pickup in Apple stores, you’re pretty much signing in with your iTunes account for the most part. There is a credit card but it’s about the ease in which it’s done and really blurs the line between what an Apple or iTunes account is. Imagine being able to buy something from Target’s app on your mobile device and picking it up at the store. Awesome, no? Source: Gigaom - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Barnes & Noble To Spin Off Nook - Maybe Apple or Google Should Save The Whole Company

One of the saddest moment, and not just for mobile, was when Borders shut down its stores and went dark, literally, in the retail arena.  And now, it looks like Barnes & Noble could be going down that path.  Essentially, the news today is that B&N is looking at spinning off the Nook and digital business.

Right now, the stock is down by much and its investors’ sentiment confirms my fears – I’m afraid I could be taking another hit in the nostalgic department and see my local Barnes and Noble store go the way of the Borders stores.

I used to study at Borders and B&N when I was in college and I still frequented them a couple of times a month.  It's there where I bought books, have coffees, and met up with friends.  Lots of terrific memories.

And it brought me back to a conversation I had with a B&N employee over the Christmas season.  We chatted about how BN’s retail business was doing and how confident she seemed because they had the Nook business while Borders was too late to the game.  I did not exactly buy what she was saying but, hey, it was Christmas and I didn’t want to push too hard on that matter.

There is hope though, no matter how foolish it might be.  I hope that some tech giant like Apple or Google could come in and take over the company.  Use the retail stores to their advantage as Apple had done with its Apple stores.

Apple could renegotiate for better retail terms and use the bigger retail spaces to expand its grown consumer and iOS product line.  Gonna need room for them iTV sets that they could be selling soon.

Google can use it to showcase and sell Android and Chrome devices.  Heck, Google also has some TVs that it wants to sell to folks.  And sure, Microsoft could bring its Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox under one roof.

One thing is for sure:  I don’t want to see a private investor come in to snatch up Barnes & Noble in the name of “unlocking its value”.

More at CNN.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Apple Could Be Plotting Game Changer on E-Commerce

Apple could be launching an attack on e-commerce. 

You probably don't know this unless you following the daily in-and-outs of Apple news. On New Year's Eve 2011, an app called GameStore was accidentally published and let lose in the App Store. 

Really, there was nothing to GameStore other than that it was meant to allow users to buy things, fconceivably, in-app purchases. However, there was nothing to buy. And moreover, GameStore costs $0.99. 

Now, Apple has informed buyers that they will be issuing a refund for the purchase. Macrumors has tracked this back to 2009 when it was iOS 3 that dominated the landscape. 

You might think that it was a mistake. Well, it was and Apple has acknowledge it so. However, the official explanation from Apple was now what everyone expected. It certainly was not what I expected. 

According to Apple, the app was prematurely launched and "was made available for sale prematurely".  

What those words mean is that an app will be forthcoming. However, a dedicated in-app app for apps in general makes very little sense unless Apple includes other forms of goods along with it. And I am not talking about ebooks, music, or videos since there is iBooks and iTunes for that. 

With hundreds of millions of accounts with active credit cards in its database and continuing talk over the last couple of years about mobile payment, I surmise Apple is close to launching a bold mobile commerce plan and will revolutionize e-commerce. It seen since Amazon came out and changed book buying during the dotcom boom. 

Whether Apple will charge to process transactions or take a percentage, what is really going on is that Apple is looking to monetize its legions of iOS and Mac users who have demonstrated over the years their collective willingness to spend.  

So to recap, an app for commerce is forthcoming. And we know Apple has designs on those iTunes accounts. And we know Apple has patents for mobile payments. 

Put all of that together and you are looking Apple for people to buy "things", just as the description says. On top of that, it has placeholders for SKU and picture for product. 

I am pretty sure I am right. Question is when this will happen and to what extent is Apple going to put itself between its users and stores or restaurants. 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod touch

iPhone 4S Available Jan 13th: Start Of Chinese Influence On Mobile

Apple to begin selling the iPhone 4S officially in China on January 13th, 2012. I said officially because the black market has already had their fill of the 4S for months since the introduction of the 4S in the US back in October.  Furthermore, more than twenty countries and territories will be also be getting the 4S on that Friday.

While the iPhone 4S going on sale isn’t typically something most read unless its your turn to get it, this is China after all, the Middle Kingdom with its hundreds of millions potential smartphone users – not the typically 2 or 3 hundred million users like the US or the EU.

I’m talking about big as in like 700 to 800 million users.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Things I Like Siri To Do - Integration With Apple Apps And Work Less As A Standalone App

Siri seems to be a standalone app on the iPhone 4S that requires the user to activate it in order to use it.  What's interesting, however, is that Apple will likely allow some sort ot third-party support on it.  Before that happens or concurrently, I like to see Apple integrate this further.

How about integrating Siri into its own apps?  Right now, if you're using Siri to make calls, conduct searches, or making appointments, you're fine but once you get into the mail, calendar, or browser apps,  you lose Siri.

I like to see Apple find a way to integrate Siri into its own apps.  Mail search via Siri quickly comes to mind. Also, I like to see Siri populate mobile Safari that allows the user to quickly access a website or search.  

I know that some will argue that there is the new voice-to-text function but I want to see something more than that.  I want to be able to say "go to CNN" and Siri takes the browser there.  Or "open new tab for the Apple Store" and a new tab will open taking me to the online Apple Store page.  Heck, if I have the Apple Store app installed, Siri should just take me there directly; launching an app within an app.

That example I've outlined above is merely a small function of what I imagine is possible with Siri.  Another example I like to be able to do is say "mail this page to George" and Siri will open up a mail page for me with "George's" email already there and I'll have to do is say send or dictate any message.  

All of this is done via voice command through Siri.  

Is this something that Apple needs more time to develop into Siri?  I'm not so sure that they cannot do it right now.  My guess about Siri still in beta status has to do with Apple's peculiar and welcoming need for perfection.  And I don't mind it.  

Apple will make what I'm talking about above happen – if not iOS 5, maybe iOS 6 or 7.  But it'll happen.  As I've said in previous posts on Siri, it's a brand new platform that Apple is developing, not just an app.

And it's time people see Siri in that light.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Siri - The Start Of The Spoken Platform

It's time that we realize what's going on. For the record, Apple did not invent voice command or even showed much interest in it on the Mac. However, with the release of iOS 5 along with Siri in beta, Apple has once again showed just how much foresight into the future of mobile computing for years if not decades to come.

At this moment and this time, we could very well be looking at a voice platform and trust me when I say that others from Google, Microsoft, Nuance, and others will soon follow.

On top of that and more importantly, we are at the cusp of a new AI implementation in Siri that will only become more intelligent with each passing version. One that will truly become a mobile assistant that augments our human abilities and expand our horizon.

Now, I am not saying that Apple isn't going to dominate this new AI platform but Apple has opened the door for other companies to pour billions into researching, innovating, and, for some, copying to develop their own intelligent assistant.

The equation for such a AI will require balance that few will be able to implement. Many will fail but those who bet on this big and is successful could rule a whole generation of computer user interface.

With intelligent voice control and interaction, Siri and others like it could spread its influence across multiple markets. And not just PCs, smartphones, or tablets but also the home, auto, and countless other industries.

Be prepared to be wowed. The future has already started.

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them.  First, let's a...