Apple and the Jaw-Dropping Grandmaster Chess Move

With regularity, in grandmaster chess, we see moves that take our breath away. We bow before the awesomeness of a move that is so bold that we would have never dared make it -- unable to see the deep implications of a Queen or Rook sacrifice. Yet, there it stands -- the winning move that crushes another grandmaster. Is such a move within the grasp of Apple and its cash?

Apple's Big Chess Move

There are those who ask why Apple hasn't yet figured out something smart, really smart, to do with US$50 billion dollars. Or $70 billion. Or some other sensible fraction of their current cash and investment assets of $137 billion dollars. Even as some ponder what kind of phenomenally astute thing Apple could do to help itself with a really grand, aggressive, shrewd expenditure that would justify the acquisition of the cash, they are noticing something else. The Silas Marner mentality is actually hurting people. "Apple's $137 billion burns a hole in someone else's pockets."

Personally, I would never presume to suggest how Apple should spend its money. I just wonder if the situation has changed such that spending a lot of money, smartly, has morphed from being intelligently aggressive into something else: fear. Or a technical and legal impossibility. And of course, that much money gets tangled with tax implications. Maybe it's just my personality: like chess, I appreciate the bold, unexpected, grandmaster move that takes one's breath away. In Apple's context, however, I am resigned to it never coming. I suppose we should just get over it.

Tech News Debris For The Week of March 18

One of the things that a company does when it can't figure out how to use its money is to conjure up a way for a lot of cash holdings to ... make more money. For example, General Electric and GE Capital. The Boy Genius Report explores the possibilities for Apple: "Apple’s billion dollar mobile payment magic trick."

Why are publishers trying to sell eBooks as if they were real, physical books? Because if publishers can insinuate into our minds a more favorable business model wrapped in a certain kind of old-fashioned but seemingly reasonable thinking, then they can seduce us into paying more. But an eBook is not a thing, it's software, so argues Beth Bacon, and so it should be priced like software. Here's a crisp essay on the whole matter, one that most publishers won't want you to read: "Ebooks are actually not books—schools among first to realize."

It gives me pause when companies exploit hidden features in our mobile OS to track our habits and thrust ads upon us. Then, when we discover what the industry is up to, they get into a snit when consumer advocates or consumer oriented companies like Mozilla slam the door shut. Then they scream bloody murder! We have a right to that data! You're hurting our business! Well, no, you don't have a right to that information about us, and no one granted it to you. So find another, classier way to present customers with products and services. Read more: "Firefox vs. 3rd-Party Cookies: Helping Or Hurting Browser Users?

Gentlemen, start your alcohol cotton swabs! Without further comment, I present this charming article about pressing iPhones into service as field microscopes to test children for intestinal worms. Euwww, you say. But it's actually quite a good story. "Scientists use smart phones to get the poop on worm infestations." I know at least one of our regular Particle Debris readers will be wriggling with delight.

The Colorado House has proposed a bill that would allow motorists to produce proof of auto insurance with a phone or other electronic device. That sounds cool at first -- you presumably wouldn't have to worry about expired proof of insurance documents in the glove box. On the other hand, there would be the implied necessity to hand your phone over to a police officer after a traffic infraction or accident. It gives one pause. "Colorado Drivers Could Use Phones To Prove Insurance." I'm thinking that a lot of people will opt for paper.

There have been some notable executive hirings by Apple in the past that didn't work out. For example, John Browett. Apple is a tricky place to work. If you don't have just the right mentality, if you carry into Apple too many quirky preconceptions or too much arrogance, and if your personality doesn't fit in just right, you'll fail quickly. So it's not at all assured that any particular hire will be a success. The Apple executive team and hiring managers go to extremes to make sure it'll work out, but there are hits and misses.

Blogger observations about the process can be all over the map. But in the end, it's not about being able to pin down something specific and arrogantly predict success or failure from a distance. It's about having an experienced, adult approach to discussing the whole affair in a way that informs the reader. In that regard, my very favorite article about Apple hiring former Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch was from Rene Ritchie, one of my A-list writers. You'll see what I mean about Mr. Ritchie after you read: "Swinging for the stars: On Apple's hiring of Kevin Lynch."

The wireless carriers, as we know, have customer plans that subsidize our phone. We pay less up front, but commit to a multi-year contract so that the carrier can fold in an extra charge and be assure they can recover the true cost of the, say, iPhone. But what if we keep the phone for longer than it takes to recover the cost? Do we get a reduced monthly bill? Dream on: "The Phone You're Paying For But Not Getting." This is must reading.

Like the eBook reference above, here's another example of how a cleverly arranged service, one that looks oh-so charitable, is really a way to collect information about us and exploit it. "Send To Kindle: Amazon's Land Grab For What's Left Of Your Attention Span." I suppose most people feel that the exchange of value is a fair one, or they wouldn't engage. Still... is it because no one is giving us the tools to do these things ourselves? I doubt it.

Finally, regular readers will know that Particle Debris is a place where I have been exploring wearable computing devices, including Google Glass. Also, when I wrote a separate article about the possibilities with, say, an iWatch, I discussed wearable devices that provide local authentication/authorization. "So, do I Actually Have to LOOK at an iWatch?" In that article, I wrote about such a feature that could be in an iWatch:

Encrypted authorization. The ability, by its electronic presence, to act as an electronic pass key, much like some modern car keys that allow you to simply press a "Start" button on the dashboard. Sit at your Mac, the iWatch talks to the Mac, and you never, ever have to enter another passcode. If the iWatch is removed, it has to be re-authorized using biometrics. No need for a nearby iPhone actually."

This seems like an idea whose time has come. Not only could our regularly worn jewelry, especially a hard to remove ring, authorize computer access, physical access and start our car, but it could also be tied to firearms in a productive way. I'm hoping this technology takes off, and perhaps a ring is a better way to do it than a smartwatch for these kinds of applications. See: "Google Wants to Replace Your Passwords With Jewelry." Note, the diamond ring image in the article about Google's concept linked to here is for effect  So is my own selected image.


Bloodied Knight via Shutterstock.

Hobbit ring via New Line Cinema.