Particle Debris (week ending 8/14) Corporate Struggles, Slides and Snafus


It's always interesting to read one tech writer's analysis of another. Dan Frommer wrote, "King of the Geeks," and spoke of John Gruber's full-time gig as a Macintosh analyst over at the Daring Fireball. Frommer described how Mr. Gruber may have lit a fire under Apple executives, perhaps possibly even the legal department [my take], and elicited a formal response from Apple V.P. Phil Schiller. Oh, and a juicy tidbit was included on Mr. Gruber's estimated annual income.

Recently, I wrote about how the iPod has become a smaller and smaller percentage of Apple's total revenues. That's because hardware always gets cheaper as volume goes up. That's why it was wise for Apple to plan a move from the iPod to the iPhone and iPod touch -- which is really just an iPhone without a 2G/3G radio. In time, smartphone prices will also come down, and it's already starting to happen, according to PCWorld. That's why I believe Apple will have to offset diminished profits on the iPhone, in the future, with a tablet or some other next generation product.


Then Mr. Frommer followed up with his take on the Apple TV, in "Apple TV Keeps Getting Worse." Mr. Frommer pointed out that while the Apple TV has languished, Apple can still catch up. However, it's the cable company that owns the Internet pipe into your house, so "that's who Apple should be thinking about disrupting," according the the Silicon Alley Insider writer in a companion article.

The major music labels keep looking for ways to kill the iTunes Golden Goose. This time, it's an initiative to develop a new music file format, according to The Guardian. It's called CMX and is being promoted by Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI. The format is designed to contain both music, lyrics, liner notes and album art.

The goal is to get customers to buy complete albums instead of individual songs, a practice introduced by iTunes and long a thorn in the side of the labels. Unfortunately, they just don't seem to get that people don't want to buy albums, just the songs they like. But greed and living in the past endure. Apple has rejected CMX -- but may be cooking up its own scheme.

Microsoft wants to make sure we all have some version of MS Office on our smartphone. The problem for Redmond is that the popular, emerging smartphones don't run Windows Mobile. In what appears to be a stab at shoring up the situation, Microsoft is seeking a partnership with Nokia to get its office software on Nokia phones. We'll see how that goes, but, it seems to me, getting MS Office software onto smartphones isn't the answer to Microsoft's problems. In fact, it smacks of the old-style techniques that are no longer working for a company that's Whistling in the Dark. (See below.)

Theatrical movies are "filmed" in various ratios, but one of the popular ones is 2.4:1. Of course, that's a much higher ratio than HDTV which uses 1.78:1. That's creating a problem for some movie directors.

The reason is that when just about any movie was shown in the past on an NTSC TV, (1.33:1), whether broadcast or home DVD, it had to be letterboxed. People didn't like letterboxing, but generally recognized it was necessary. However, when they switched to their HDTV, many thought, incorrectly, that letterboxing would go away, magically, as part of their upgrade to high definition TV. After all, HDTV is the same as a movie, right? Wrong.

As a result, most theatrical movies still need to be letterboxed to display properly on an HDTV with its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. But because the broadcast studios believe that HDTV viewers hate letterboxing, they're cropping those 2.4:1 movies that are broadcast to fit on a 1.78:1 screen. Sometimes this deletes visual material that the director considered important to the experience of his movie, and one famous director, Steven Soderbergh, is speaking out about the desecration of theatrical movies.

What do you think? Do you mind watching letterboxed movies on your HDTV? Even if it's a Plasma, an occasional two hours of black edges aren't going to harm it.

Market cap is defined as the stock price times the number of outstanding shares. While that's the monetary value of a company, and some focus on it obsessively, it's not necessarily the real value of a company. Peter Burrows, who always writes terrific stuff for Business Week explored the topic and explained that, while Apple has inched above Google in market cap, its real value is much greater.


I like simple charts that tell a compelling story. Here's a good one from Silcon Alley Insider that shows the smartphone market share of Nokia, RIM, and Apple. It's a chart that writers love to reference thanks to its simplicity in showing a trend. (Remember, the smartphone market is a small percentage of the total mobile phone market. As I recall, about 15-20 percent.)

We've been reading a lot lately about the eventual demise of Microsoft. There are a lot of signs that, when looked at in sum, would suggest that Microsoft is in trouble. Worse, even if they're aware of it and not in denial, the company is probably powerless to change its fate. The best analysis I've seen to date of Microsoft's problems were summed up by Robin Bloor at Seeking Alpha in "Microsoft: Whistling in the Dark." Even if you're convinced Microsoft is doomed, this article will add some insights and put a fine point on the whole issue. Highly recommended.


With Snow Leopard almost upon us, it might be worth reviewing what the essentials of Snow Leopard are all about. Here's a nice overview by Erica Ogg over at CNET. Of course, as the ship date looms closer, TMO will also be ramping up its own coverage of Snow Leopard. Stay tuned.

This last item is one that was published on Aug 6, but just brought to my attention on Friday. Some Mac users, typically Unix professionals, but not always, have an affection for open source applications. Here's a nice four page description of some of the best in "Open source stars for Mac OS X: Part 1." Messaging, e-mail and productivity are covered. One that hasn't been covered yet is my favorite RSS reader, Vienna. Maybe the author will cover that in a future article.

Technical Word of The Week

Twitterati (n) The Twitter elite, whose tweets attract thousands of followers. Or Twitter power users. Analogous to digerati and glitterati.