Apple picking season

tech_roadIt’s late October and here, in Massachusetts, leaves of red, green, and gold adorn the trees and brighten the landscape.

But the leaves are falling fast, reminders of the rapidly approaching New England winter.

Similarly, new stories are emerging across the tech landscape and piquing one’s curiosity—or bemusement, as the case may be. As is our promise, we do the legwork, so you don’t have to.

So, what seems interesting this week? Well, apparently, it’s Apple picking season. Read on.

HTC, that Taiwanese purveyor of elegant smartphones that look remarkably familiar, has a few words for Apple, and they’re not only not flattering, but really kind of…incredulous.

And Samsung. You’ve got to give the Korean behemoth its due. The company has found a roadmap it likes, and criticism be damned. Is it a problem that it’s someone else’s roadmap?

The United States Senate is about to vote on a controversial bill—CISA, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015. Is this a good thing for cyber security or another assault on our privacy?

Apple’s iTunes has long been a source of frustration for serious music collectors (and librarians). Well, now, a new website has popped up with some new ideas of merit regarding iTunes.

Speaking of Apple and music, how’s Apple Music doing? Now in its fourth month, depending on who you believe, it’s either a massive success or a disappointing failure.

And, finally, how’s the new Steve Jobs movie doing at the box office?

HTC shade

Earlier this week, HTC, a Taiwanese electronics company, announced its new flagship smartphone, the A9HTC-One-A9-opal silver

We civilians should be forgiven for noticing some—ahem—similarities to Apple’s iPhone 6.

But HTC not only demurs, but points the wagging finger right back at Apple.

HTC President Jack Tong was quoted to have said: “We’re not copying. We made a uni-body metal-clad phone in 2013. It’s Apple that copies us in terms of the antenna design on the back. The A9 is made thinner and more lightweight than our previous metal-clad phones. This is a change and evolution, and we’re not copying.”

OK, Jack, if you say so.

Samsung’s well-oiled copy machine

And speaking of copying, say what you will about Samsung, but the company remains true to its vision. Well, vision is, perhaps, not the right word. Procedure is better. Samsung has a procedure and keeps on following it, step by step by step.

samsungwatch-applewatchWhat is the procedure? Why, copy Apple. Product for product. Feature for feature. Service for service. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, watches, software, icons, color schemes—you name it.

Samsung Pay is one of the company’s most recent initiatives, and in some ways, it one-ups Apple Pay, working  with the vast majority of older credit card readers at stores and other commercial institutions.

For those who like to keep score, this website catalogs Samsung’s, er, product developments. Who needs imagination when you have a procedure?

Another assault on citizen privacy?

A bill that will soon come before the Senate for a vote is CISA, or the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015.

congress_gov_logo2Proponents say that it will enable companies and other organizations to better fight against cyber-crime. The bill, reportedly, would enable private companies to share data with the federal government, and each other, about information-security threats and attacks — without running the risk that they could be sued or prosecuted for breaking privacy-protection or antitrust laws.

According to the same report, opponents say that “CISA gives too much immunity to corporations, does not properly protect the private information of individuals, and paves the way for misuse of personal data and could justify mass surveillance.”

Apple, Dropbox, and other tech firms are coming out in opposition of the bill. A floor vote in the Senate is expected this week.

Reimagining iTunes

Those of us who are long-time Apple customers have watched iTunes, Apple’s media portal, evolve dramatically over the years. It started as an application to organize one’s digital music and to sync with iPods. It’s evolved into a bloated application that tries to do to much, it seems.

rethink-itunesApple updates iTunes fairly frequently. We’re now up to version 12.3 and counting, and sometimes when Apple releases a new version it causes problems.

For example, when Apple released Apple Music a few months back, it released a new version of iTunes. Some users found that it corrupted their massive and carefully manicured digital music collections, and Apple caught a lot of heat on message boards and from the tech press.

There have been a number of articles strongly suggesting that Apple needs to totally revamp iTunes, perhaps splitting it up into multiple simpler applications.

Now, some very passionate design students from a vocational college in Germany have built an entire website devoted to rethinking iTunes. The site promotes no fewer than 16 separate apps into which iTunes could be divided.

I’m not sure iTunes needs that much of a revamp, but I give the students high marks for their efforts.

Apple Music progression…or regression

Speaking of Apple and music, how goes it with Apple Music, the streaming service announced last June?Apple-Music-1

Well either really well or poorly, depending on the spin. For example, USA Today describes it as Apple lost millions of Music users when trial ended. That sounds pretty bad, right?

On the other hand, the Christian Science Monitor says Apple Music hooks 6.5 million subscribers: Should Spotify worry? That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

I don’t know about Spotify, but Pandora announced its quarterly earnings this past week, and admitted that its earnings and subscriber growth were impacted by Apple Music.

So here’s my spin: Apple now has 6.5 million paying subscribers. At $9.99 a month, that projects to a cool $780 million a year. And, by the way, about 70% of those revenues are going back to the music industry and artists.

Seems like a win-win.

Steve Jobs, the movie

Early accounts are that the intriguing, star-studded movie biopic of Steve Jobs is not doing so well at the box office.

steve-jobs-movieReviews are mixed, with some depicting the story as factually inaccurate, while revealing deeper truths.

Nonetheless, I want to, and will, see the movie. Steve Jobs, the person, by all accounts, was an extremely complex, mercurial, brilliant individual. He was loved. He was hated. He was admired. He had instincts and an aesthetic sense that others have tried to imitate, but rarely have succeeded.

And Jobs left behind a remarkable company that continues to make a huge impact on our culture.

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay based on Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs, described the film as “a portrait” rather than a photograph.

The other Steve (Steve Wozniak) described the movie as the “best depiction of Apple yet.” Michael Fassbender played Jobs in the film, and Wozniak said that his performance showed both the brilliance and the flaws of the man he knew.

That’s good enough for me.

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