A New, Unforeseen Threat to Apple Appears

Apple retail stores are preparing for long lines ahead of today's "hello again" product announcements

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week of October 23rd
The Future of the MacBook and MacBook Pro

Very often, the value of an article is in the details of the discussion: the observations, nuances and references. This article by Jason Snell at Macworld sounds overly critical, but invokes a good dialog about Apple’s thinking. “Three MacBook mistakes: Will Apple correct course?

2016 MacBook Pro, 13 and 15.
MacBook Pro, 13 and 15. Image credit: Apple

After all, two of the criticisms refer to the MacBook, a Mac that was designed in the Mac’s dark years, 2015-17. I agree that it would be good to have an extra USB-C port on new MacBooks, but I disagree about the original butterfly keyboard—which I love. So what do you think?

It could well be that as part of the re-thinking of the Mac lineup, one that is more practical and functional, with less focus on design that interferes with instead of enhances functionality, Apple will make some welcome changes to the future MacBook and MacBook Pro models. We shall see.

More Debris

• Microsoft has given up on the Kinect technology. A very good story at co.design details the rise and fall of this Microsoft technology. “Exclusive: Microsoft Has Stopped Manufacturing The Kinect.

Manufacturing of the Kinect has shut down. Originally created for the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s watershed depth camera and voice recognition microphone sold ~35 million units since its debut in 2010, but Microsoft will no longer produce it when retailers sell off their existing stock. The company will continue to support Kinect for customers on Xbox, but ongoing developer tools remain unclear.

This is a great story about the forces that act on evolving technology. It also seems to fit in with a new kind of thinking and focus by Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella.

Brydge 12.9 aluminum keyboard for iPad Pro
12.9-inch iPad Pro with Brydge keyboard.

• If you have access to a server to do your (non-GUI) code development work, an iPad Pro and keyboard can be a pretty nifty terminal for access. “The iPad Pro as main computer for programming.” This should whet your appetite:

In the summer of 2017, I wanted to know what it would be like to use an iPad Pro as my main computer. I found out that it can actually work, thanks to an iOS app called Blink, an SSH replacement called Mosh, iOS 11 and running stuff on a server.

• Finally, we know that Apple is developing original TV content. But one of the things I have written and podcasted about is that Apple as a corporation will be harshly judged by the character of that content. I thought it would be unwise for Apple to jump in with the same levels of sex and violence as everyone else. Really great, high caliber content doesn’t need it. And so I was pleased to see this missive by Peter Kafka at recode. “Apple’s new TV shows will be nipple-free.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weekends.

19 thoughts on “A New, Unforeseen Threat to Apple Appears

  • @pjs-boston:


    It’s the greater and not the lesser arc of time, which has seen an overall expansion in human rights, women’s rights, child protection laws, education and access to health care over the past century that gives me hope and optimism about the future, episodic societal fevers of the mind and soul notwithstanding.

  • There might be something of the game “King of the hill” and Americans’ love of the underdog in this. Could it be that there is a point where someone or something, a business, makes too much money? Or has too much control of a marketplace? – perceived or not.

    After reading this column, I went back and read E.A. Robinson’s “Richard Cory” (1897). Cory’s death doesn’t elicit any upset or remorse from the narrator, just a simple telling of fact. More than sadness, the poem seems a warning about envying the wealthy. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

    Americans have gone from the occasional visit to the dollar store to it being a regular activity. Everything is on sale, no average (formerly middle class) American pays retail if they can help it. Apple is no longer the underdog it used to be and its CEO is a CFO at heart. I count myself among those that think Tim Cook allegiance is to profit first, then Apple – he’s greedy, that’s my perception. The ranks of people with the same perception may be growing.

  • John:

    The issue regarding popular perception about Apple and how that is shaped through the interplay with social media is complex and not without relevance to Western partisan politics, particularly in the US. As troubling as some of the Verge’s poll findings might be for Apple, they should not be surprising, neither should they be seen as inherently bad prognostic indicators for Apple. Both Neil Cybart’s article on ‘Apple facing a double standard’ and John Gruber’s piece on ‘Face ID FUD’ provide excellent dissections of the many issues at work that help to both shape popular perception and fuel social media frenzy. The latter doesn’t just rapidly consume public opinion, but can dissipate as abruptly as it began.

    While all of this has immediate relevance to Apple, there is a more profound (as in the Latin for ‘deeper’) theme here, namely the relationship between a literate society and its applied use of knowledge, specifically a science literate society. By science literacy, in this context, is meant a society that has a general grasp of how things work, and which can appropriately attribute causality to everyday outcomes without invoking either magic or myth.

    Bear with me a moment, and we will circle back to Apple.

    Scientific literacy is important, not simply for its explanatory power, but for of two critical features. First, it offers a system of thought, an analytical framework for taking knowledge and effectively applying it to explain observations and solve problems. Second, perhaps even more important and relevant here, is its impact on our relationship to facts, and seeing these as a gateway to knowledge and ultimately truth. There is nothing more powerful in freeing an enslaved mind than truth, and its foundation, knowledge and fact. Knowledge is not only liberating, but empowering.

    There’s more. In science, one learns that there is both an individual and a collective process for finding the truth. Individually, one has to have a knowledge base independent of others. However much one individual may know or understand, that knowledge and understanding is limited, and by definition, imperfect. To extend and perfect that knowledge requires collective effort, which means not simply a sharing of ideas, opinions or facts, but challenging and discarding those that do not bear scrutiny or testing. The more we know, the more we realise that we do not know, that knowing more requires the help of others. One comes to welcome challenges to one’s understanding as harbingers to greater understanding and knowledge, and therefore, freedom and power.

    The implications of this are more than intellectually aesthetic. Facts and knowledge are a conduit from a fanciful or imaginary world to reality, with the key difference being that knowledge of the real world enables us to change that world, and in so doing, protect ourselves and extend our survival. This is real power. Idle fancy’s only power is the imprisonment of its devotee.

    What does this mean for Apple and perceptions about Apple? Two things. First, popular opinion fed by social media or otherwise is ephemeral and lacking in substance. It can affect us one if we choose to act on it, but it cannot alter reality. Second, no human or enterprise, including Apple, exists in isolation but rather in the context of dynamic relationships with a client base that define both. Those relationships are based on real experiences, can vary by product, are complex and ultimately are what sustain the company. These relationships create real data or observations. If Apple and/or their base want to take control of a narrative, it will ultimately rest on facts derived from these relationships, which can be investigated, scrutinised and even independently verified.

    For some, popular opinion is what matters because that is the fanciful world in which they live; for others empirical evidence and personal experience will take precedence. As powerful an engine as is social media, one major flaw that may weaken it over time is the knowledge of how susceptible it is to manipulation as a means to affect public opinion, particularly as its current user base matures.

    At the end of the day, the fortunes the company will rest on which of these is the principal driver of product uptake and a sustained user base. That equation, in turn, ultimately rests on the relative value that an emerging global client base assigns to both anonymous public opinion and evidence-tested knowledge. At least there is a trend of expanding global literacy and science.

    1. Sadly, even if irrational group-think is transient by nature, it can last long enough to cause great damage. Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s comes immediately to mind.

  • The Democrats have a habit of taking over institutions like schools and newspapers. They turn them into compromised spam servers for liberal messaging. People continue to trust them because they still bear the same name as they did in the past.

    This was being expanded to businesses under the guise of “millennials trust companies that are activist.”. And activist stockholders were pushing for it.

    But this coincided with a sort of “great awakening” to fake news, and distrust of elitists. So now it was stopped mid-track.

    Similar to NFL, the compromising of the server was stopped half way. Apple surely didnt gain any customers. Like the NFL, in terms of business, there is only downside to alienating half your customers.

  • Most of the tech elite billionaires are liberals. Look at how there is almost no diversity of political opinion among tech billionaires. All of these billionaires are fervent Hillary supporters:

    Bill Gates
    Tim Cook
    Jack Dorsey
    Sergei Brin
    Larry Page
    Elon Musk
    Mark Zuckerberg

    Peter Thiel demonstrates this. He’s a tech billionaire who didn’t support Hillary, and he became notable as the only one who didn’t.

    Hillary Clinton is synonymous with these billionaires. Instead of being politically neutral, these companies has made themselves a conceptual part of Hillary / DNC. That means they stupidly put themselves into a position where half the country hates them for political reasons.

    Apple has entered politics and loudly aligned itself Democrat politicians. Therefore, for many people, opposing and not trusting “Crooked Apple” is part of opposing Hillary.

  • Lately, the tone of reporting at The Verge has turned decidedly anti-Apple. Their recent Apple product reviews show a strong anti-Apple double standard and the tone of their Apple coverage in general is sneaky and dismissive.

    Simultaneously, The Verge ran a large number of exclusive ‘First Look’ articles about Google’s fall product offerings. These articles featured extensive behind-the-scenes interviews with Google staff and pre-launch access to the new products. It’s no surprise that these articles read more like long form advertisements than journalism.

    More troubling, The Verge’s recent coverage of Google’s post-launch problems reads quite a bit like FOX News coverage of Donald Trump. They seem to be bending over backwards to give Google the benefit of the doubt.

    As such, I am very skeptical about this survey from The Verge. Their reporting of late seems to have little journalistic integrity. I’d want to know more about the methodology of the survey before I’d give it any serious credence.

  • As we are irrelevant to the market especially if you are over 50 and 60 – the kids are smarter and less prone to the BS that Apple and Microsoft flaunt, the news is ubiquitous – ALL tech has it’s share of problems – Apple releases bug fixes every day for security it seems, the Cloud services have all been hacked right? Yahoo, Gmail iCloud the Credit bureau – and Apple has destroyed a great computing OS because of their myopic iPhone fetish probably because kids don’t buy computers anymore I dunno. (can anybody find “delete messages from the server” pref in MAIL on Sierra?) Dropped the ball on home AI, AR, VR, cars, drones, bikes – nope Apple is lucky they nailed the Phone despite their typical sandbox baloney. Plus, they keep their Billions of Dollars overseas!!! Thankfully, like Tesla stock – the market is not based on reality today….. I’ll be dead by the time I have to worry about AAPL ever going back to my purchase price of $15 a share.

    1. No, they aren’t. If anything, they are more susceptible. In my experience (and I have reasons to believe my experience is broad in this area, which I can’t elaborate on here) most young people will accept anything, they question nothing, and they have no desire to make the effort to questions anything. It is just the way they have been raised. This notion of the über- conscious 21st century youth genius is pure myth – seriously: forget the fact that 17 year-old kids don’t know how to tie off a balloon, and consider that their technological literacy is at about the same level. A phone is something you check SnapChat on and text your friends with, take selfies, that’s it. Apple’s recent ‘innovations’ do little to dispel that myth or discourage that behavior.

      Social media had so much potential to be truly egalitarian, but the opposite has happened, and the more we consider anyone’s ephemeral, in the moment responses to the world around them to be representative of anything whatsoever but their individual perception of their experience in that moment, the worse off we will be. Combined with mobile technology and people’s lack of restraint, it is the perfect storm for something truly ugly, which we all experience to varying degrees on a daily basis. The things that Apple is doing right (protecting user privacy, for example) are lost on the masses. This survey is indicative of a broader and much, much bigger problem with far-reaching implications, and by and large, no one wants to talk about it, because $$$. Good luck with that in the future when all productivity has effectively ground to a halt.

      1. Social media had so much potential to be truly egalitarian, but the opposite has happened,

        That reminds me of the opening sequence to movie Idiocracy where nature rewarded the most prolific breeders and not the brightest among us.

  • There’s been a number of stories in the news about the perceived threat from big tech companies. Usually they’ve been in the form of inaccurate reporting and a failure to filter from Amazon, FaceBook, Twitter, Google and Apple. Apple? Apple makes computers. They aren’t a social platform or a place that published articles. It’s all just felt more than a bit weird.

    I’ve seen a lot of this Apple bashing online. One comment that I literally found funny was the guy that proclaimed that the iPhoneX was a complete flop. The display was crap, the notch was beyond annoying, and FaceID was awkward and unreliable, and because of that though they may sell a lot of them initially, most would be returned within a week. Really? You don’t even have one, what makes you think any of that is true?

    1. It’s weird, the level of anti-Apple vitriol seems to coincide with the coarsening of public discourse and the rise of Trump.

      I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t something scary happening to society as a result of excessive use of social networks on mobile devices.

      1. Sadly yes, society has become quite scary. And I do put it up to Social Media giving a platform to the crazies. There was a story on CBC yesterday. Apparently people who were shot a month ago in Las Vegas are now getting online abuse, even death threats from idiots who are convinced that it was faked. In their mind Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, and all the rest of these shootings never happened. They believe that anyone who posts their experiences are “crisis actors” and are part of the conspiracy. While we always have had “that crazy guy on the edge of town” with social media these people can find each other and reinforce their delusions. It gives them a platform to preach their hate and a way to strike out at the real victims.

        I honestly don’t know what the answer is.

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