Is Apple Lost? by A. Michael Noll

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Is Apple Lost?

A. Michael Noll

December 29, 2016

© 2016 AMN

Has Apple been too successful – and overly arrogant in believing only it knows what is best for its customers? Will Apple become the next Yahoo, slowly sinking into oblivion?

Has innovation for Apple become abandoning things, such as leaving out the audio mini-jack in its iPhones? The original iPod was a great music player with its fabulous click-wheel interface – ingenious. But Apple abandoned the iPod click-wheel, rather than updating this product with solid-state storage. Will Apple soon abandon all its iPods? If so, it would be a great opportunity for Sony to acquire the iPod product line and continue to innovate with new features and storage.

The iTunes program tries to do everything: music player, iPhone synchronizer, and iTunes store access. It is challenging to do all these well in one huge program. The different purposes should be different programs, but with sharing across them.

The iWatch promised much – but what did it deliver? I have yet to see someone using one. And the need to recharge it every day is a big chore. The iWatch seems to be just an extension of the iPhone.

Apple has become a one-product business: the iPhone. It is challenging to survive today as a one-product company. Apple’s complete product line (other than the iMac) would easily fit in a backpack. Apple is not a diverse product company – it has become a niche company.

Amazon, meanwhile, is innovating and expanding, such as its new voice-activated Echo product. This clearly is the kind of innovative product I would have expected from Apple. Meanwhile Apple’s iTV remains a challenge to discover what it actually does and how to use it.

Has the Apple that was the past innovator become today a copycat, such as the rumors that it too is working on a driverless car? More significantly, is Apple itself driverless and has it lost its way? Apple possibly needs new directions – a return to innovation – or a re-invigoration of the current paths.

Apple should renew a commitment to legacy products, such as the click-wheel iPod, updating them with newer technology and enthusing their original excitement. Give consumers more control over how things are displayed and used; and change the attitude that Apple knows best.

A. Michael Noll

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Apple vs. the US Government by A. Michael Noll

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Apple vs. the US Government

A. Michael Noll

February 21, 2016

© 2016 AMN

Recently, Apple was asked to assist in breaking into the iPhone of one of the terrorists responsible for the San Bernardino attack – and Apple refused, citing privacy concerns.

What a difference today in how industry responds to a request for assistance from the government. Decades ago, when I worked at Bell Labs, the government sometimes asked Bell Labs for assistance in analyzing audio tapes from emergencies. One that I recall was from the Apollo 1 disaster, but there were others, such as a shooting in an airline cockpit. Bell Labs accepted its broader responsibility to the Nation.

The government is asking for help from Apple for this one specific iPhone – not the creation of a general backdoor to gain entry to encrypted data and thus risk unwanted intrusions into our privacy. Apple claims that this one iPhone will risk possible future intrusions if the software somehow escapes Apple. This claim amazes me, since Apple is such a control freak with strong controls of its software. I would imagine that software to crack this iPhone could be made specific to only that iPhone with a simple patch – not all iPhones in general.

I would not be surprised if Apple already knows how to bypass password protection and gain access – but does not want to admit this capability. Perhaps that is why Apple is refusing to honor the government’s request. Or, as some have suggested, is it just the profit motive?

If I were Apple, I would want to do what the government is asking – and what the court has approved. The alternative is that the government will itself discover how to write its own software to break into this specific iPhone – and possibly other iPhones in the future.

A. Michael Noll

A. Michael Noll

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Signs of Google’s Global Ambition for Project Nova

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In a post yesterday I discussed the disruptive potential of Google’s Project Nova. Having just discovered an article by Christopher Williams published last weekend in the UK’s Telegraph, I thought I should add an update on international aspects of Nova’s ambitions and potential impacts.

Williams reports that, according to industry sources, “Google is in talks towards a deal with Hutchison Whampoa, the owner of the mobile operator Three.” He also notes that “Google and Three declined to comment.”

The two giants are discussing a wholesale access agreement that would become an important part of Google’s planned attempt to shake-up the US mobile market with its own network. It is understood that Google aims to create a global network that will cost the same to use for calls, texts and data no matter where a customer is located. By linking up with Hutchison, it could gain wholesale access to mobile service in the UK, Ireland, Italy and several more countries where the Hong Kong conglomerate owns mobile networks. Sources said Hutchison was a natural partner for Google in the plan, because it has also sought to eliminate roaming charges for Three customers.

According to CNET:

Hutchison Whampoa would be a potentially powerful global partner to help Google cut roaming fees. It operates the UK’s Three network and is trying to acquire the UK’s O2 network from Telefonica. It also operates networks in Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland.

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