All posts by Baron Cannon

About Baron Cannon

Baron Cannon hails from San Jose, California and is a Senior at Boston College (Class of 2011). With specializations in Economics, English and Media Broadcasting (Radio), he will graduate with Honors as a Philosophy Major and History Minor. He is a regular contributor for TheRealMacGenius.com and BlowBackONLINE.com, a news and politics publication, as well as a free lance journalist for Boston College's newspaper, The Heights. To contact him, email to [email protected]

Too Old for Apple?

San Jose, CA – In today’s edition of the San Jose Mercury News (5/31), reporter Pete Carey, a discerning Windows PC user, wrote that owning the Apple iPad is “Absolutely the Last Upgrade” he would require. He came to this title, begrudgingly, after telling his family he did not need or require an iPad. They, to his appreciation, DID get him one anyway, and he’s been using it even more than his PC.

With my own father (nearly 60) more frequently borrowing my iPad, Carey’s experiences spawned an unorthodox question: can someone be too old to own an Apple product (iPad or otherwise)? Or, in another way, can one “grow out of” Apple?

Well, I shall start by pointing out that Apple is not the same as a pair of slacks, or that hideous Christmas sweater your grandmother gave you those many years ago. I do not believe one can grow out of, or can become tired of, Apple. Apple, to my continued surprise, is a dynamic company, constantly reinventing itself, with the implicit help of its patrons. It, somehow, seems to tap into the baser instincts of our technological psyche and shapes its products to suit us best: technology perpetually tailor-made.

How does Apple do all of this? I believe I have narrowed my answer down to this:  Apple maintains a legacy of simplicity, a commitment to elegance, and a responsibility to the person and the personality.  By these few guidelines, Apple remains relevant to the techie and the layman, the young and the old: me and you.

By creating an interface that appeases the lowest common denominator and rejecting the esoteric, Apple provides more capability to even the most technologically illiterate. By minimalist elegance and removing colloquial clutter, it maintains public appeal. And, by doing all of this and more, it keeps us informed, educated, and entertained, not to mention connected to one another. Apple supplements our person and personality.

Call me what you will, but my father once called Apple “a toy company,” and Pete Carey thought he only required his Windows PC. Now that they both have used the iPad, their tones have changed. The “toy company” fascad has melted away and Windows has been sloughed off. The curtain has lifted, the mistro has tapped his baton, and the show has begun. Come, young and old, to the greatest show on Earth – the one you hold in the palm of your hands.

Department of Justice to Investigate Apple iTunes Store

Department of Justice

San Jose, CA — According to many prominent news outlets, including the New York Times and CNET news, Apple is going under the microscope of the US Department of Justice regarding the pricing and promotion of digital music on Apple’s iTunes Stores.

Reports have indicated that DoJ investigators are looking into allegations that Apple used its superior market clout to pressure record labels into refusing Amazon.com exclusive access to pre-released music.

Sources told CNet that Apple threatened to pull promotion of any albums that were a part of Amazon’s “Daily Deal,” and at one point complained to Sony Music about an Amazon deal involving new music from Alicia Keys. CNet’s sources added that the the investigators are more interested in Apple’s overall place of dominance in the digital marketplace than just their issues with Amazon. CNET has more here.

According to an interview conducted by the New York Times, Daniel L. Brown, an antitrust lawyer at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton was quoted as saying, “Certainly if the Justice Department is getting involved, it raises the possibility of potential serious problems down the road for Apple. Without knowing what acts or practices they are targeting, it’s difficult to say exactly how big a problem this is. But it’s probably something Apple is already concerned about.” The New York Times has more here.

According to FMQB radio news, sources noted that this inquiry is still in the very early stages, and that the DOJ often does such research before any formal investigation is launched. FMQB News has more here.

Meet the iPhone OS 4!

It’s difficult to tell who won MORE with Apple‘s newest release: the iPhone OS 4. With increased capabilities for both users AND developers, the iPhone OS 4 has not only answered the prayers of many a mac head, but also has given more tools to the common programmer. With a release date of late spring for the iPhone and fall for the iPad, developers are scurrying to download the newest Beta SDK and begin taking advantage of the newest additions to the iPhone OS.

Now, let’s compare the major innovations, first for the user, then the developer.

USERS:

The greatest addition to the OS and one for which users have been begging for since 2007 is MULTITASKING. Since that time, Apple has said that they have not wanted to sacrifice precious memory space and battery life for multitasking. However, they have reportedly found out how to implement third party multitasking, making the dream a reality. On their website, Apple elucidated how this will change the user experience: “You’ll be able to make a Voiceover IP call while playing a game or checking email, find a restaurant on Urbanspoon while listening to Pandora, and more.”

To my dismay, however, multitasking will only be available with iPhone 3GS and the third-generation iPod touch (32GB and 64GB models from late 2009). That means if you have an iPhone (3G) or 1st /2nd Generation iPod Touch, you’re out of luck on this feature. Apple says the hardware just doesn’t support the new software.

The message is clear: if you’re interested in taking advantage of all the new features that OS 4 has to offer, it’s time to part with your out-dated device.

THAT MEANS MY 3G HAS TO GO! It seems my decision to trade in my iPhone 3G for the iPad 3G makes even MORE sense than before. (Read that article here: Trading in my iPhone for the iPad.)

Another new feature that Jobs premiered today is FOLDERS. If you have pages and pages of apps on your iPhone, iPod Touch or new iPad, Folders will enable you to, as Apple says, “Organize apps into folders with drag-and-drop simplicity. ” This also means that you’ll get faster access to your favorite apps and browse and manage up to 2160 apps at once – many more than the current limit of 180 apps.

The next new feature is an app, namely iBOOKS – the iPad’s little brother app for the iPhone. While some consumers have recently complained that iBooks is only available for the iPad, Apple revealed this app for one last “In your face!” or, as Ali G might prefer, “BOO-YAH-KA-SHA!” According to Apple, the iPhone app, like the iPad version, will allow users to flip through the pages of a book they’ve downloaded from the iBookstore. In the new iBookstore, released in conjunction with the iPad, users can browse tens of thousands of books – many of which are free. You can even check out reviews and read sample pages before you buy.

The last major update is ENHANCED MAIL. Apple has coalesced email accounts making the mail client even easier to use. They report users can now “see messages from all their email accounts displayed together in a unified inbox, switch between inboxes more quickly, organize messages by threads, and even open attachments in third-party apps.”

Summary of updates for Users:

MULTITASKING
FOLDERS
iBOOKS (already available on iPad)
ENHANCED MAIL
BLUETOOTH KEYBOARD SUPPORT, and with SPELL CHECK (already available on iPad)
USER-DEFINED WALLPAPER
TAP TO FOCUS when recording VIDEO & 5X DIGITAL ZOOM for the Camera
PLAYLIST CREATION
GAME CENTER – iPhone game achievements, leader boards, and match making (think like Xbox Live!)

DEVELOPERS:

The new Beta SDK will be available to developers, starting TODAY (4/8)! What will be available to them in this new OS, you ask? To start, the iPhone OS 4 has 1,500 new APIs and, thanks to the new multitasking feature, developers can utilize background audio, VoIP, location data collection, and local notifications (no more “push” notifications).

For applications, one of the most innovative changes comes with the new iAd. iAd is Apple’s answer to more interactive mobile advertising that can be integrated directly into the app without needing to shut the app off. This comes compliments of Quattro Wireless, consolation prize and competitor of AdMob, who, though initially in acquisition talks with Apple, was stolen away by Google. The irony here is that, now, the Federal Trade Commission (the people who OK  or stop companies from a merger that would create a monopoly) has blocked the acquisition fearing monopolization of the mobile and internet ad industry. It’s as though, “if Apple can’t have them, no one can!” What a jealous lover Apple can be!

With this new iAd integration, free apps will feature rich media ads that will “combine the emotion of TV with the interactivity of the web.” Therefore, while iAd will keep you in the app, it will take over the screen and even add interactivity — using HTML 5 for video. For developers, Apple will offer a 60 / 40 split on revenue, and users can even buy apps straight from an ad.

Summary of updates for Developers:

Thanks to the new multitasking feature:
BACKGROUND AUDIO
BACKGROUND VoIP
BACKGROUND LOCATION DATA, both with live GPS for background turn-by-turn, and cell tower-based
FAST APP SWITCHING
LOCAL NOTIFICATIONS including “push”-like notifications but from the app itself, bypassing the need for a “push notification server”

iAd (it’s a big one, so it gets its own line…)

IN-APP SMS
MAP OVERLAY
“QUICK LOOK” to preview documents
PHOTO LIBRARY ACCESS
CALENDAR ACCESS
FULL CAMERA ACCESS
VIDEO PLAYBACK / CAPTURE
“DATA DETECTORS” for dates and address
AUTOMATED ANALYSIS: performance / power testing

In the Q&A section, Jobs and Scott Forstall (SR. VP of iPhone Software) took questions regarding the new multitasking. When asked how one closes the applications when multitasking, Forstall responded “You don’t have to. The user uses things and doesn’t ever have to worry about it.” Jobs added, jabbing at the netbook computer culture, “It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager, they blew it. Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it!”

Thanks for looking out for us, Jobs! You’re the man!

Comcast Wins Web Traffic Authority Over FCC

Julius Genachowski, head of the FCC, at a hearing last month

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled to limit the power of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) over internet traffic. What makes this extraordinary is that the decision will allow ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites to deliver their content faster to users.

Under the banner of “net neutrality,” the FCC was poised to require ISPs to provide equal speed coverage to all users. However, the service provider giant Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA) contested that the FCC had no jurisdiction in the matter and that ISPs should be granted the ability to increase control over the content of the internet they provide.

Comcast’s concerns for their content speeds came after increasing network congestion from users of a file sharing program called BitTorrent, which is infamous as a major source of pirated media and software.

Conservative supporters have weighed in on the ruling saying they are philosophically opposed to granting further power to the FCC who are already famous for their control of other media including radio and television. Moreover, they argued against the government’s interjection saying that ISPs should be free to set their own policies and the prices for their services.

After the decision, however, Comcast released that they have since changed the management policies that lead to restricting access to BitTorrent and originally brought this case to court. Yet, despite Comcast’s claims that they will remain “committed to the FCC’s existing and open internet principles,” this court decision leaves the possibility for abuse open with only the guarantee of an oligopolist for protection.

This is especially unsatisfying for consumers with the impending Comcast majority stake acquisition of NBC Universal, which currently owned by General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Vivendi (EuroNext: VIV). With NBC Universal, the temptation to favor NBC cable channels and discriminate against other broadcast groups would be greater and make Comcast more likely to take advantage of their position as an ISP. In practice, for example, Comcast could prioritize NBC video streaming services over competitors.

Some consumers fear that without FCC oversight, such abuses could occur indiscriminately. However, until the FCC is granted control over internet traffic, it is the opinion of this publication that the only protection the general public would have would be in the competition of the free market.

In February, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced that it would begin testing its own fiber optic system, connecting homes, schools and business, in an attempt to one day become an ISP itself. Boasting speeds of 1Gbps (Giga bites per second), Google would be poised to compete with Comcast if it could find ways to make its system affordable. Google’s entrance into the ISP market without ulterior motives would represent better assurances that ISP providers will remain honest suppliers of the world wide web.

Ironically, Google has earlier “net neutrality” to thank for its success, foremost, as the most widely used web-based internet search engine. Google stock went public in August of 2004 and closed Wednesday at $563.54.

Trading in my iPhone for the iPad

Before you write this off as the psychotic ramblings of a raving mad man, hear me out!

Because I am a radio hobbyist, I feel this is the best way for me to explain this, as it was also the immediate thought I had right before this revelation. In 1996, the F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission) released its famous Telecommunications Act which lifted restrictions on radio station owners limiting the number of stations they could own in each market. This lead to a buying frenzy in a period of, what is known today as, “consolidation” where leaders in the broadcasting field began buying stations in each market by the crate load. This widened the profitability gap between large commercial owners and individual owners. Thus, out of the fray, companies like CBS, Cumulus, Citadel and Clear Channel (owning the most with 1,190 of the 13,660 total stations in the US) changed the landscape of the radio industry with their nearly monopolistic hold over it.

In recent years, however, the radio industry has begun hemorrhaging money — losing their most profitable demographics to streaming radio (i.e. Pandora and Last.FM). This was due in part to a stagnation that occurred because of their contentment with mediocrity. In short, they did not search out new content like they had before when they were in ardent competition, each looking for an edge. This provided a chink that outlets like Pandora and Last.FM have happily filled. Since this time, radio industry leaders have slowly begun to deconsolidate — realizing that their most profitable structure is not particularly in owning as many stations as possible, but in most efficiently utilizing their already present infrastructure and matching up with content think tanks. In fact, in our home of the Bay Area, this is the case with Channel 92.3 (once Channel 104.9) who, after moving to the stronger 92.3 FM frequency, was put on the chopping block by owner Clear Channel who had deemed it a profit loss. When I last checked, they were put into a Trust, with Clear Channel poised to sell them.

Now, what does this have to do with my move from the iPhone to the iPad? Well, it has to do with this realization of what is most “profitable” (I use the word liberally). Should I, like the radio giants did, consolidate as many of Apple’s products as possible? To what end?! Specifically, I couldn’t wrap my head around the necessity of having an unlimited data plan for the iPad 3G on top of my current combination phone and unlimited data plan on my iPhone 3G.

As I compared and contrasted the iPhone and iPad, I realized something: “YES! WHAT PEOPLE SAY IS TRUE! The iPad is a GIANT iPhone!” So, instead of not buying the iPad, I shall sell my iPhone, buy some cheap phone through AT&T and have the iPad for everything I’ve always wished I could do with my iPhone!

What are these things, you ask? THE ANSWER IS IN ITS SIZE! The iPad’s size offers more usability! I don’t want to watch movies on the puny Nano or my iPhone! Throw it away! I don’t want to play games which require my two thumbs that take up two thirds of the screen! Throw it away! I don’t want to type notes and contacts with that tiny keyboard! Throw that iPhone away — and give me the iPad instead!

You thought THIS would happen? fo' realz?!

I have believed for many years that, while man’s technological innovation up to this point has been defined by building things smaller and increasingly more powerful, there would come a point when his creations would stop decreasing in size when they began detracting from his maximum capabilities. For me, that time has come.

What else can I say other than, anyone wanna buy an iPhone? Other wise, I’ll give it to the “Will It Blend?” guy…