MacOS KenDensed: Apple, iPhones & Investigation-palooza

| MacOS KenDensed

Mac OS Ken's Ken RayIt’s investigation week with the Feds looking into Apple’s ebook pricing, Foxconn looking into worker conditions, analysts looking into phone screen sizes, and Apple looking into Path’s data collection practices. Of course, Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray looks into all of it. That’s what he does.

Tag Teaming Apple Investigations
Word this week that the European Commission’s antitrust arm is working with the US Department of Justice on the whole eBook price fixing case with Apple and five of the world’s six major publishers. I’ve gotta say this worries me. The two organizations working together smacks a bit of collusion.

Somebody should call somebody.

Macworld UK had the news of the two government bodies working together, though that doesn’t seem to have been the thrust of the story. The big bit of news was the EC’s Competition Commissioner saying that “the case over so-called ‘agency pricing’ would only be closed if the accused resolve all concerns that have been raised.”

Isn’t that pretty much how law enforcement investigations work?

Maybe I’m missing something.

Foxconn’s New Watchers
Whether because of findings of the Fair Labor Association or just general pressure from the public, Foxconn is apparently making a few changes for the portion of its workforce dedicated to production of Apple products. Bloomberg says the contract manufacturer is hiring “a safety and security officer, a lifestyle services manager and two fire chiefs for a China unit that supplies Apple.”

And the people who build stuff for HP, Dell, and everyone else can apparently go suck it.

Choosing to not say too much, one Foxconn exec did acknowledge, “Yes we are hiring these positions.”

Bloomberg says “The lifestyle manager will be responsible for conditions at the company’s dormitories, canteens and health departments (…) The safety and security post requires a college degree in criminal investigation or legal-related disciplines,” and “the fire chiefs must have at least four years of related experience.”

Apple’s Samsung Smackdown
Apple’s scored a big win against Samsung in the Netherlands this week. Macworld has a court in The Hague ruling that Phone 4S does not infringe on four 3G patents held by the Korean electronics maker.

According to the piece, “Apple need not pay Samsung royalties on the patents because the patents are already covered by Samsung’s licensing deal with Qualcomm,” an argument Apple has made throughout the case.

Apple signed its deal with Qualcomm in 2009, so the new ruling takes iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, probably iPhone 3GS and any 3G iPad off the table. What’s unclear is whether the ruling applies to earlier iPhones; potentially iPhone 3GS, depending on when in 2009 the Qualcomm deal was signed, and iPhone 3G, which was released in 2008.

But that’s for later arguments. The big news for now: the ban on product sales Samsung had been seeking is dead. According to the court’s ruling, “Samsung has no right to ban, recall or order the destruction of Apple products.”

Size Matters. Or Not.
Strategy Analytics is out with a new study with which I want to take a wee bit of issue.

Electronista has the firm finding that most smartphone owners in the US and the UK think 4 to 4-and-a-half-inches is the perfect size for a smartphone screen. That, they say, is the “sweet spot,” though they’re likely only guessing since 90 percent of survey respondents picked an ideal size that was bigger than the screen size of their current smartphones.

What Strategy Analytics did not ask was how many people would actually buy a phone with a larger screen next time. And therein lies the rub.

The top selling smartphone at AT&T is the iPhone. The top selling smartphone at Verizon is the iPhone. The top selling smartphone at Sprint is the iPhone. The iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen.

So what is it that people want really?

Maybe it depends on who you are and what you have. Quoting the piece,

Certain truisms about smartphone habits appeared to hold under scrutiny. Women were more likely to consider a slightly smaller device than a man. Likewise, current Android phone owners were more likely to want a larger device than iPhone owners.

The Path to Cooks Office
Apple, by the way, is doing some questioning of its own. A Bloomberg piece says that after Path’s iPhone data skimming was discovered, company co-founder Dave Morin “got hauled into Apple’s headquarters to be grilled by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and other executives.”

Those aren’t my words. That’s what Bloomberg says, citing the usual “people familiar with the meeting but not authorized by Apple to discuss it.”

All we hear of the Apple/Path meeting is that it was said to have happened. The rest of the Bloomberg piece is sort of a rundown of changes Apple has made to stop various sorts of “gaming” the app store system, and an explanation as to how things like the Path/Hipster/Twitter data-skimming thing can happen.

Quoting the piece

One former Apple manager who asked not to be named while discussing his ex-employer, said thousands of new apps are submitted every month, and each gets reviewed for only about 15 minutes.

Hard to find data skimming with that little time.

And yet, the piece asks, “If apps can skirt Apple’s rules in the name of profit, what’s to stop a hacker with malicious intent from doing the same?”

Hey, have a good weekend.

On Siri, Betas & Lawsuits
And finally this week, you’ll have to forgive me if I start yelling. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just having one of those “I hate people” moments. So I guess, actually, it may be you.

A blog post from the Wall Street Journal says a New York City resident is suing Apple for false advertising related to Siri, saying Apple’s ads on the service convey a “misleading and deceptive message” about its capabilities.

Quoting the suit: n many of Apple’s television advertisements, individuals are shown using Siri to make appointments, find restaurants, and even learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs or how to tie a tie. In the commercials, all of these tasks are done with ease with the assistance of the iPhone 4S’s Siri feature, a represented functionality contrary to the actual operating results and performance of Siri.

When the plaintiff in the case asked for directions or for a store location, the suit says “Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or, after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer.”

The suit seeks unspecified damages, and says Siri is “at best, a work-in-progress.” Well, the service is in “beta.”

And if you don’t know what that means, try asking Siri. Maybe.

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