Particle Debris (Wk. ending 6/24) Heroic Thinking

It’s been awhile since anyone explored the uncomfortable question of why, in 2011, Macs are still so expensive. Of course, we know that Apple has always been a premium brand and that served Apple well in the past when commodity PCs were both poorly built and had an embarrassingly insecure OS named Windows XP.

Nowadays, things are different. Apple is a fantastically successful company, loved by its customers. Apple is making a lot of money from iPhones and iPads. Apple cannot do anything wrong. So why is the Mac’s market share still a paltry 8.5 percent in the U.S. and 4 percent world wide? If Apple is such a great company and is doing fabulously well, why isn’t the Mac more popular? Sure, Tim Cook points out every quarter, for the last 20 quarters, that Mac sales growth is outpacing PCs, but the effect isn’t showing up in dramatic gains in overall market share. Could Apple do better?


If you also consider that Apple has over US$65B in the bank, you might conclude that Macs don’t need to be quite so overpriced in 2011 — compared to when Apple was slugging it out against PCs without iOS in 2001-2006. In fact, a lot of people want Macs, but can’t afford them. Is Apple in such a hurry to put the PC/Mac behind them in this post-PC era that they’re passing up the opportunity to make big market share gains? These and a boatload of other uncomfortable questions are addressed at length by Dario D. in this long but thoughtful article: “Apple’s Problem: Selling Macs.

In the Star Trek, TOS, episode “City on the Edge Forever,” Mr. Spock (my hero) constructs a primitive Tricorder with vacuum tubes and gets it working for a time. Could you build a working 8-bit computer from Radio Shack parts and a small CRT? (I admit that I could not.) But Jack Eisenmann did. With a soldering iron no less. It has 256 bytes of RAM, so it’s “Pong ready.” “This 8-bit computer is hand-made, down to the motherboard.

Spock's Tricorder

Spock’s makeshift tricorder

Would you like to learn to play chess? Why not learn it from International Master and Arizona state champion Dr. Mark Ginsburg who has written an iPhone app to help you. Here’s the story: “Educational chess software ‘Chess U’ introduced on iPhone.” It’s free. I hope to review it soon.

Have you ever done creative work for hire? Have you been stiffed? I forgot who told me about this video, and it’s not current. But something came up this week that reminded me of Mike Monteiro’s charming presentation on how to protect yourself and run a grown-up business that gets paid. If you don’t mind his low-key profanity, check it out. And even if you’re not a developer or creative artist, you’ll enjoy his words of wisdom. “F*ck You. Pay Me.” Get paid; be a hero.

With the discussion this week of whether Apple might get into the HDTV business, here is a timely article that updates us on the Plasma vs. LCD/LED TV competition. I have been an unabashed fan of Plasma for many years, but Will Greenwald at PC Magazine argues that LED backlit LCD TVs are outpacing Plasma. I don’t agree, but the article is still chock full of technical details that will bring you up to date on the technologies. “Plasma vs. LCD vs. LED: Which HDTV Type is Best?“ 

One issue he doesn’t address is that of array LEDs vs edge-lit LEDs. So far as I know, array LEDs are better, but more expensive. I think edge-LEDs are inferior because they don’t have the fine area control of the backlighting, but the advantage may be that they can be thinner. And with today’s LCDs, black levels are better, negating, perhaps the advantages of array LEDs.  In any case, I liked the article because it’s chock full of numbers for future reference.

Jason Hiner is one my favorite writers, and this article shows why. In “White iPhone debacle shows why Apple is winning,” Mr. Hiner nicely explains how Apple does so well by saying “No” and not rushing out products. The white iPhone is a case in point. We knew that Apple was looking out for us, and that earns our loyalty. If only other companies had so much sheer courage.

The Apple spaceship design for the new headquarters looks really cool, but in addition to the architectural issues, there will also be significant ecological, physics, energy, structural, lighting, security and thermal issues. That’s all behind the scenes stuff, and we know it will be taken care of. But, on the surface, one can have a little fun thinking about some of these issues, and Discovery does just that in: “Is Apple’s ‘Spaceship’ Campus Too Far Out?” The issue isn’t whether the author, Ms. Conger, has thought of everything in a virtual Ph.D. thesis. Rather, it’s that she was astute enough to bring up the basics for our consideration.

Apple Proposed HQ

Apple’s Proposed Spaceship HQ in Cupertino

If you like comparison articles with lots of technical charts, you’ll really like this heroic evaluation of the iPad’s display from Displaymate. It compares the iPad display to the Moto Xoom and Asus Transformer. It has it all: the specs, assessments, reflection analysis, brightness and contrast, photometrics, viewing angles, power consumption … everything — in beautiful color tables. There’s even a wrap-up of the current rumors for future iPad displays. “Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out.

Did you know that Netflix has quietly introduced a user preference for the data rate? Just in case you’re a victim of bandwidth caps. Here’s the scoop: “Got Bandwidth Caps? Netflix Has You Covered.

The possibilities for the mobile phone market in China are staggering. “China already accounts for around 10 percent of Apple’s revenues, and this is growing insanely fast,” according to Jonny Evans as he lays it all out in “Apple-crazy China will become biggest iPhone market.” Now you know why Apple’s Tim Cook was in China this week.

My own opinion is that the only company left that has a shot at competing successfully against the iPad is Hewlett Packard with its TouchPad and webOS. Ryan Faas, in his typical thorough style, fills us in and tells us everything we can know right now about the TouchPad in “Can HP’s webOS and TouchPad slow down the iPad?”.

Apple needs this kind of heroic tablet competition, and HP is just the company that can supply it.

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad ships 1 July 2011