MacOS KenDensed: The iPad 3 is Coming & AT&T is Choking Your Data

Ken Ray: He's not just for breakfast anymore.Apple kicked off a media feeding frenzy with media invitations for what’s likely to be the iPad 3 announcement next week, AT&T doesn’t think “unlimited data” means what you think it means, which led one customer to take on the cell carrier, and some companies aren’t stepping up to take responsibility for factory working conditions like Apple. All that, plus FaceTime turns into a new incentive for plastic surgery. Big surprise: Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray has a few opinions on this week’s news.

iPad 3: The Media Frenzy
Like a boy asking a girl to prom, Apple sent out invitations to select members of the press yesterday for its iPad 3 event next week.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch,” reads the invitation… which I believe is how I invited my date to prom.

March 7th, as had been predicted. San Francisco, as is the way. Yerba Buena Center because, come on, where else?

“Something you really have to see,” would seem to hint at the retina display a lot of people are expecting for iPad 3, while the part about “touch” indicates that this iPad may sport some kind of touch interface.

To be clear, it doesn’t actually say “iPad” anywhere on the invitation, though there is a picture of a thing that looks like a close up of an iPad.

And no, I didn’t get an invitation. Again.

I said a couple of times this week that I thought Apple would send out its invitation this week to dampen noise coming out of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Maybe it’s coincidence, maybe it’s not, but a piece from The Unofficial Apple Weblog says news of invitations hitting inboxes came during Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Intentional? Not? Either way, kind of funny.

Think the next iPad will have a Retina Display? Wanna bet on it?

Well, you can’t now, but early on Wednesday there was a site up in the UK taking real live risk-the-house bets on various next-gen iPad features.

CNET says SkyBet — an arm of Britain’s Sky Network — was laying odds on such questions as Will the iPad 3 feature a carbon fibre backplate, will the it include an SD card slot, and will it actually be called iPad 2S?

The ability to bet on the next iPad was pulled from SkyBet, so you’ll have to settle for gambling on footie, ruggers, and the ponies, and just making gentlemen’s wagers on whether the iPad 3 include a Thunderbolt port.

My pretend money’s on “no.”

AT&T’s Limited Unlimited Data Plan
So AT&T is trying out this technology that should make cellular data more reliable and could even make the company’s throttling practices a thing of the past. Oh, I’m not saying it will, but when you hear about it, it sure seems like it should. Not that I think it will.

GigaOm has word of the Death Star putting Intucell’s Self-Optimizing Network, or SON, Technology through its paces.

The piece says SON technology turns “cells into the networking equivalent of an organism. Rather than meekly pass subscribers back and forth, AT&T’s 4G cells will become aware of the network as a whole, expanding and contracting to meet the capacity needs of its subscribers as they move throughout.”

Intucell’s tech “uses a distributed network intelligence to track the network’s health and levels of congestion,” so it can increase capacity where needed, reduce it where not… it can even make networks self-healing, according to the piece. “If a cell site is down … the surrounding cells can expand their radius to fill the hole in the network. When the site is repaired the cells retract to their normal size.”

AT&T has been very open about the fact that the trials have led to a 10 percent reduction in dropped calls, though they’re not saying a lot about what it’s done for data since how can you justify throttling and jacking rates going forward if you say how much more robust what you’re doing behind the scenes is?

I mean, the cynical among us might say AT&T is “not saying a lot about what it’s done for data since, how can you justify throttling and jacking rates going forward if you say how much more robust what you’re doing behind the scenes is?”

Intucell, by the way, is fine, just fine, talking about how awesome its tech is on the data side, saying “the technology can reduce cell congestion anywhere from 10 to 40 percent depending on the configuration of the network, allowing operators to pack more capacity onto less infrastructure.”

AT&T plans to have SON technology running across its entire network by the end of this year, and while neither it nor Intucell were willing to disclose financial terms of their deal, Intucell’s CEO has said in the past that “a U.S. operator could add basic SON functions to a nationwide network for around $50 million.”

And then it’ll be a marshmallow world with lower data rates and no more throttling, I’m sure.

I may be one of the cynical among us.

Don’t Throttle My Data, Man
While we wait for the future, sing a song of Matt Spaccarelli. Don’t know any? Then write one and sing it.

The Mac Observer says Spaccarelli has found an exhaust port — no bigger than a wamp-rat — which he’s used not to blow-up the Death Star, but to dim its lights for a fraction of a second at least.

According to TMO, “a small claims court has ordered AT&T to pay [Spaccarelli] $850 for throttling his data.”

Spaccarelli sued the carrier after it throttled his data connection after he hit 1.5 gigabytes on his unlimited plan… he was awarded 85-dollars for each of the 10-months left on his contract, according to the piece.

Next stop… class action suit, right?


TMO says,

The case was being held in small claims court, because AT&T has a clause in its customer contracts that prohibits those customers from taking their complaints to a class action or to a jury trial. Instead, its customers agree to take complaints to arbitration or to a small claims court.

I’m guessing we all read that at some point, right?

Will Matt Spacarelli get his $850? Second verse of the Song of Spaccarelli goes like this: Paid Content says AT&T is appealing the decision. Seriously. $850, and AT&T is appealing the decision.

If I had to guess — and I don’t but I will anyway — I’d say AT&T is appealing because they don’t want you and me and everyone we know to get the idea that winning is as simple as, you know, winning.

Next time around AT&T can use lawyers, according to the piece, and who knows whether Spacarelli can afford one of those.

Even if Spaccarelli wins round two that means nothing for the likes of anyone else since, according to Paid Content, “victory in small claims court doesn’t create a legal precedent that others must follow,” and of course AT&T customers can’t all get together and sue because they signed something giving up the right to do such a thing so they could have their RAZR or Treo or whatever phone got them to throw in with the dark lord of the cell.

Quoting the piece again, “AT&T’s ‘no class action’ rule helped to stifle consumer lawsuits, but a wave of small claims filings could open a new can of worms. To stop this, the company will likely go all out to shut down Spaccarelli as a way to deter others.”

So sing a song of Spaccarelli and his long, hard road ahead.

Sharing in the Accountability Pie
In the wake of Apple’s supply chain issues, and the attention garnered by SumOfUs,, and The New York Times over worker treatment at Foxconn, a number of electronics makers are taking very public stands on worker treatment. Companies like… um… none of them.


Quoting a Bloomberg piece, “Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s rivals aren’t rushing to emulate the iPhone maker’s decision to subject supplier factories to audits by a labor group. Instead, they’re sticking to internal checks that may leave room for violations — and negative public relations fallout.”

Except for the part where all PR guns seem to be trained on Apple, not Dell or HP or any of the other companies that employ Foxconn to build their, well, almost everything.

HP, Dell, Microsoft, Samsung and others are members of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, and they check the supply chain themselves using an EICC checklist that they say is enough to prevent abuses. Thing is, EICC members don’t have to make their findings public. And neither does Apple, except it’s a member of the Fair Labor Association, which is conducting independent audits of Apple’s supply chain, and which does make its audit findings public.

The CEO of telecoms-equipment maker Infinera says he’s never bothered joining the EICC because, in his opinion, “They are absolutely toothless,” and he doesn’t “think they do meaningful work.”

Meanwhile Wendy Dittmer, a spokeswoman for EICC, says she knows of no case where a factory lost business, permanently or temporarily, for not living up to the group’s code of conduct. Then again, the group doesn’t require companies to share such information, so I’m not sure that that statement means anything.

In fact, Bloomberg says the EICC “doesn’t require companies to stop using suppliers or manufacturers regardless of their record on treatment of workers.” It dictates only that “members commit to continuous improvement,” which depletes the value of the “nobody’s lost business for not living up to our code of conduct” statement by a decent amount.

Expect the new petition drives against Dell and HP from SumOfUs and any second now.

Or now.



Fixing Up Your Face… Time
And finally this week, technology can bring about so many unintended consequences. Warcraft Widows. Pac-Man Fever. And now, FaceTime Facelifts.

Forbes has heard word of Dr. Robert K. Sigal, a plastic surgeon in the Washington DC-area, who says people are seeing themselves on Apple’s video-chat app and they’re not liking what they’re seeing.

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on  FaceTime,” says the… well, part of me wants to say “good doctor,” but I think I’ll just stick with “doctor.”

The doctor continues, “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that. I need to do something.’”

Maybe hold the phone differently? See, that’s my thinking, but I’m not a plastic surgeon.

It’s mostly younger people bringing the complaints because it’s mostly younger people using FaceTime. And because of their age Sigal says “many times (doctor and patient) can get away with a lesser procedure” such as liposuction.

Forbes, by the way, says holding the phone differently does not seem to be one of the doctor’s suggestions.

I think that would still be my suggestion, though. Very little chance of accidentally ending up looking like The Joker with that one.

In other news though, people are using FaceTime.