Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Russia: Capital Control Likely To Happen, Keep The Pressure On Putin

That's right.  Make it hurt.  It looks like the Russian central bank may adopt controls to keep capital from leaving Russia and plunging its economy into a deep recession or worse.  This stemmed from the sanctions imposed by The US and the EU over Putin's ego trip into Ukraine.  If anything, this further damage the former KGB colonel's legacy and won't do squat to reintegrate his Soviet empire pipe dream.

So, what's next?  For the West, we keep the pressure on.  We give him wiggle room so the dude can save face but that's the least of his worries as he'll soon face pressure at home as the Russian economy further falls into a recession.  Just how far it'll go depends on whether Putin cares more about himself or his people.  You and I know what the answer to that is.

Furthermore, it may push Russia into China's arms.  And China itself faces some difficult decisions over the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.  Two repressive regimes deserving of each other. 

However, Putin has done the political math.  Look weak in the short-term but turn Russia around and join the West or become a second-class citizen in China's hegemony.  Because believe me, Russians will not be treated as equal partners by the Chinese.  And Beijing would be just fine with that.

Source:  Bloomberg.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Politics Of Selling iPhones in China - Record 10 Million iPhone Sales Forced Beijing To Lose Face

Assuming you follow everything Apple either as a financial analyst (you guys suck by the way), Apple fan, or a general mobile tech fan, you know that Apple has not yet begin to sell the latest and greatest iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.  Why is that?  Didn't Tim Cook say that China is one of Apple's most important market? 

Yes, but see with the Chinese government, as bad as they are, they really are worse than one might imagine because not only is it a biggest apparatus in the history of mankind at suppress freedom and truth, justice, and the American way (yes, to me, Superman still stands for that - DC, grow one, please), they really like people to respect them.  Fine, I'm okay with that.  But what they hate more than freedom is losing face.

Now, recently, Beijing has been bully foreign companies around. Why are they doing this?  Because many of these companies including Apple and Microsoft are American companies.  And spying scandals aside, Beijing is really trying to foster its own home-grown companies to compete better no only on its home turf but globally as well.

However, to think that Xiaomi, an even better copycat of all things Apple than Samsung is, will ever be a high-end player against Apple is laughable.  But Beijing is trying hard.  And that means if it can delay the sales of the new iPhones by a few days or weeks, it will.  Plus, I'm sure Beijing is also attempting to extract additional concessions from Apple.

However, Beijing did lose face today and big when Tim Cook, Apple CEO, announced proudly that Apple has sold more than 10 million iPhones since it went on sale in select countries on Friday, Setpember 19th (pre-sale started on the 12th).  While the number of 10 million is impressive compared to the sales figure of the 5S last year, there is one major difference.

Last year, Apple launched the iPhone 5S in China the same time it did in the US.  Let me repeat:  the sales of 5S and 5C during opening weekend was 9 million.  Without the Chinese market, Apple still managed to top that by 1 million. 

While, Apple only cares about making the best products it can, without actively participating in Beijing's political game, it for the Chinese government to lose a lot of face.  Beijing overplayed its hand with the iPhone sales. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Space: Take That, Putie (Putin)! NASA Looks To SpaceX and Boeing For ISS Missions

It's about time.  NASA has just awarded SpaceX and Boeing provide transportation to the International Space Station.  The contract is around $7 billion. 

If development and testing goes according to plan (which something like this almost never does), blast off is set for the end of 2017.

I can't tell you how important this is.  Right now, the American and Western space programs like NASA is at the whim and mercy of Putin, yeah, the same guy threatening to destabilize eastern Europe in order to bring back the old USSR. 

How we got here today is another example of the myopic nature of politicians who allowed the space shuttle program to end without a viable alternative. 

iPhone 6 Plus Case and 5S

My iPhone 6 Plus case for here moments ago. Here's a quick snapshot of it and my well-worn 5S case.

Yeah. It's big.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Mobile: Surface Is A Threat (Eventually) To the iPad

Surface RT is long gone. It never had a chance. And many that the Surface Pro would follow soon after - how much longer its miserable life is prolonged depends on Microsoft's pride and how much it was willing to lose before it throws the towel. But something strange had happened a long the way that made me believe the Pro offers something no tablet, including the iPad, provides.

The Surface represents the need to have a laptop in a tablet form factor. As much as the pure tablet-experience makers like Apple, Google, and Samsung believe or want us to believe otherwise, there is a niche market that the Surface is catering to. And for Microsoft, it has found a backdoor into what many believe to be a stagnant tablet market that is no longer innovating and growing at the pace it was a few years ago.

And this tablet market as we currently know it is only about 4.5 years removed from when Steve Jobs first introduced the original iPad on January 27, 2010.

If Apple isn't careful and Microsoft manages to gain any sort of momentum with the Surface, Apple could suddenly find itself looking like it had been standing still as far as user-experience is concerned and subject itself to arguments that Microsoft is making about how users want a tablet that can also perform as laptop.

Of course, Apple will continue to innovate and improve on the iPad. However, it does need to make bigger jump soon, if not to deal the Surface a knockout blow, but to give users reasons to consider the iPad as their primary tablet choice.

There is talk about new features such as windowed apps where two or more apps can simultaneously be used at the same time. Gimmicky but some would consider that to be improvement enough. There is also the possibility Apple will release its own iPad Pro with a bigger screen that professionals will find appealing.

Apple has to be weary that Microsoft often does its best work when it has its back against the wall. And it is willing to spend and lose a lot of money to compete. Look at the browser war as well as the console market. And even now, Microsoft continues to pour energy and money to Bing year after year with nothing to show for.

And with the Surface Pro 3, it does appear Microsoft has at the very least demonstrated that it can leverage its Windows brand and provide itself as an alternative to some users who want more than the iPad experience Apple now provides.

Without providing actual sales figures, Microsoft claimed the third edition of Pro has outsold precious versions. And you can bet Microsoft will continue to improve upon Surface Pro 4 and beyond and address shortcomings of precious models and give customers what they want. And this is something Microsoft is very good at.

Apple cannot dismiss the Surface. And I do not believe it will. Just as Apple appeared to have ignore the big screen segment of the smartphone market, it addresses that last week with the 4.7" screen iPhone 6 and 5.5" screen iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple will address the Surface threat as well. When and how is anyone's guess but the sooner Apple can address the Surface issue, the faster it show the market it can continue to innovate the iPad while proving critics wrong and even move further into Microsoft's lucrative stronghold, the enterprise market and wipe out any chance the Surface has of resurrecting its chance of gaining meaningful share of the tablet market.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mobile Gaming: Microsoft Said Minecraft To Continue To Have Cross Platform Support, Why the Buyout Now?

I'm not a big Minecraft player.  I barely know what's going on in the world there.  However, after seeing my nephews automatically figure out how to pay it and link their games together, I began to give it a deeper look.  Then I found out that Microsoft was buying out Minecraft maker, Mojang.

And yes, while Microsoft has pledged to continue support the game across the various platforms, I can't help but think about Bungie and Halo.  Microsoft bought Bungie and Halo support for other platforms including OS X and other consoles stopped. 

So, you'll understand if I don't believe Microsoft.  Here are a few questions and notes regarding this purchase.

Why now?  My first reaction was that it would help solidify Windows platform among the Minecraft mobile players.  The game would be exclusive (eventually, support for other platforms would dissipate) and if you want to play Minecraft you'll have to buy a Windows phone or Surface tablet. 

Still, that makes no sense.  It's possible that Microsoft saw Minecraft as a chance for it to own a very popular brand and there was a way to monetize it in ways much like Lego has - movies, TV shows, toys, etc.  I think this would help Microsoft evolve and expand into other products and services.

Really?  Cross-Platform Support?  I'm dubious - as much as you are when Microsoft or any other companies make this kind of pledge.  At best, I reckon support with continue but at the cost of a windowed period or degraded game play for non-Xbox or Windows platforms.

At best, we can be looking at exclusive content for those residing within the Redmond ecosystem. 

What are mobile gamers looking at, really?  I'm tell you the forecast is dark and stormy.  It doesn't look good.  At best, Microsoft's pledge actually holds water.  Android, iOS, Sony, and other platforms will get the best Microsoft will offer.  But this isn't likely to happen.

You'll see high turbulence inthe coming year with Minecraft support.  In this scenario, current versions of Minecraft will get supported.  Newer versions will roll out along to all platforms but you'll be sure they will also work on Windows platforms and Xbox.  That means if they're not ready, we all will have to wait.  Then over time, Microsoft will drop some platforms.  Sony will probably be the first victim.  Microsoft will degrade some versions with lame excuses and more promises it knows it'll will break.  It's not for the sake of the gamers but PR.  After that, subsequent Minecraft updates will be windowed with those coming out for Windows/Xbox first.  Even more degraded versions for Android and iOS will eventually be released and by then, gamers will not have bother with them.

And at the end of the day, anyone who will want a meaningful Minecraft game play will need to own an Xbox or have bought into the Surface or Windows ecosystem. 

Opportunities for Others.  Lego, anyone?  I think there will be others to replace Minecraft if Microsoft thinks shafting mobile gamers not on Windows is a worthy gamble.  I would be excited to see a Lego competitor to Minecraft.  I also see an opportunity for other studios to shine in this arena.  That Minecraft has already sold out is a dire warning for users to begin looking else where for their virtual world building fixes. 

So, what do you think?  Does my experience with Bungie and what Microsoft did with it warrant my dire prediction about what Microsoft will do with Minecraft? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Privacy: Apple, Please Give Me Two-Step Verification For Logging On

I love two-step verification.  I want it and I know a lot of folks do too.  I've been using it for Google and other cloud-based services for years now.  While Apple does offer it for some app purchases, it's time that Apple brings it to logging into iCloud.

Right now, I just get a lame e-mail like this.

This is useless in more ways than I can think of.  First, if I'm not in front of a computer that allows me to log into a desktop based browser (it's not that I can't use it on my iPad or iPhone Safari.  It just isn't optimized for them) to do get into the Apple ID page, it's useless.  Second, there is no option for me to do something about it within the e-mail.

It's nice that I get a warning but doesn't help if I'm in no position to stop an unauthorized log-in.

By the time I log in, the hacker could have already log-in himself and have already changed my password and other credentials.

Now, the main impetus for me writing about this now is largely due to the celebrity photo dump on darknet that was likely done through some sort of social engineering or phishing on the part of the scumbags who perpetrated those crimes.

Most objective observers will come to the conclusion that while Apple is not at fault if Jennifer Lawrence wanted to naked selfies and use weak passwords, Apple could have done more to beef up security in the first place.

So, I think a two-step verification scheme is a good start.  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Galaxy Note 4: Who Should Ugrade? Anyone And Everyone Who Does Not Have a Note 3

Today, Samsung unveiled their latest and greatest phablet, the Note 4 with specs that really should have also been on the Galaxy S 5 but for some reason, Samsung went with mediocrity.  So, who should consider getting or  upgrading to the Note 4?

Just about anyone on the planet who wants a high-end mobile workhorse. 

  • 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 millimeters at only 176 grams
  • 5.7" screen with 2,560 x 1,440
  • 2.7 Ghz 4-core or 1.9Ghz 8-core
  • 16 MP back camera and 3.7 MP front camera - selfie addicts will love this
  • 3 GB - I had hoped for 4 GB
  • 3,200 mAh battery.

It comes with an assortment of accessories that I won't go into because we have such a wide range of taste when it comes to accessorizing our mobile devices.  I tend to like what Samsung makes and that's good enough for me.  Keeping it simple.

Samsung also released an innovative (I'm still out on whether it's really practical in real world use) is the Galaxy Edge with Note Edge that has a curved edge on one side that is also part of the display.  I'm gonna go with a "no" on this one for at least six months until we see how other folks actually use it.

However, Droid-Life has hands with both the Note 4 (Droid-Life hands-on) and Note Edge (Droid-Life hands-on).  You will have to decide whether my recommendation is the right one.

To be sure, when I said everyone should consider the Note 4, I mean even iPhone users.  I just want to make sure mobile fans on the other side also keep an open mind to what Samsung has to offer.  For instance, you probably will never get a stylus from Apple.  Or from Microsoft/Nokia or Blackberry.

And yes, while Samsung's stylus use is limited (in my opinion), as someone who writes a lot, I have a use for it. 

And my recommendation extends to even those who bought the Galaxy S 5.  To me, the device no longer has the rights to be considered a flagship device.  Upper-mid tier at most.  The future of high-end for Samsung is the Note 4.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Apple: Possible Reason For No iWatch or 5.5" iPhone Leaks

So, why is that?

This is a wild guess but I think I might know why.

Both the 5.5" iPhone and the iWatch are going to be premium devices out of the gate.  So, what? Well, first let's go over what an $500 or more iWatch or $800-$1000 5.5" iPhone means.

More at On Apple.

Social Privacy: Guy Who Leaked Nude Pics of Celebrities Is Now Public Enemy No. One

According to the Los Angeles Times, the FBI has joined the hunt for the culprit or culprits who leaked nude pictures of mostly female celebrities.  I didn't say actors because I have no idea who a couple of the names I read are.  Maybe they were sports figure.

Anyway, if this could happen to them, it could happen to anyone - opening us up to potential blackmailing or other sorts of crime.  At best, just embarrassment.  This is a kind of sexual predation. Privacy is a big deal to me and I think we need to keep any eye out on this.

If companies are not being careful about our cloud privacy and security, a large scale and very public case like this should.  So, let me go back a bit and explain in a couple of sentences what happened in case you like myself was away from the Web or television for this Labor Day weekend in the US.

Apparently, someone hacked into an online photo account, with iCloud being named as the source of these pictures (there was talk that some of the pics were taken on Android and Blackberry phones), of a celebrity or others and leaked them online.

I watch movies that I like and there are few actors or actresses that I really know by name.  So, I don't know who some of the victims are but their names are familiar.  Also, I don't want to name sites that some of these pictures were uploaded to.  This is a despicable act and I hope these guys are found and put away forever.

Apple Should Prepare to Leave China (There Is Still Time To Execute Such A Plan)

At first glance, you might think that the title of this article is a clickbait considering that China is the second biggest economy in the w...