Joe Wilcox

Apple's 'lump of coal in your stocking' Christmas

Santa Coal

Apple sure knows how to keep its store stocked for the holidays. Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug. The shelves are bare, and you can get your must-have pretty thing some time next year. If you're lucky. Let's start with the delayed AirPods, which went on sale online last week. They arrived in stores on Monday, and whoosh were gone before the waiting line ended. My local shop had about 30 pairs. If you want them, first available retail pickup date is—cough, cough—February 8th. That is 2017. I had to confirm not 2018, because you never know with these dumbfounding delays. Straight-to-ship orders move your way in six weeks. Donald Trump will be president sooner!

Perhaps you're pining for one of those pricey MacBook Pros—you know, the ones with Touch Bar that no sane person knows what to do with. Apple will miss Christmas, but you can still beat Martin Luther King's birthday, with orders made today delivering sometime between January 4-10 or available for in-store pickup on the tenth. God Bless America and Made in China!

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DirecTV Now is a bargain -- for NOW

Woman watching TV television

From the day I received the Oct. 14, 2016 letter about billing changes, AT&T U-verse and Internet cancellation was inevitable. I had auto-pay set up to a credit card, but the service provider wanted access to my bank account, which I didn't want to give. "Beginning in December, your credit card will be charged eight days after your Bill Cycle date", the correspondence reads. The change meant AT&T would take payment on the 8th of the month rather than the 21st. Since the company bills a month in advance, the new date would work out to about six-weeks in fees paid ahead for future service. On principle, being an independent-minded "don't tell me what to do" Mainer, I considered other options.

Ironically, the launch of another AT&T service, DirecTV Now, on October 30th, made the decision to cancel super easy. After several starts and stops, the Wilcox household has finally cut the cord for good. DirecTV Now is the nudge, but other streaming services make a big difference, too. Much has changed since the last cord-cutting effort, in November 2015, which we abandoned after about 7 weeks. The quality and quantity of original programming from Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix is greater and hugely enticing 12 months later.

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iPhone should replace Chromebook in the classroom

Students and iPhpnes

Many educators won't agree, but perhaps students will: The PC, whether desktop or notebook, is obsolete in the classroom. This reality, if accepted for what it is, presents Apple opportunity to retake the K-12 market from Alphabet-subsidiary Google's incursion and sudden success with Chromebook among U.S. schools. If the fruit-logo company doesn't seize the moment, a competitor will—and almost certainly selling devices running Android.

Chromebook's educational appeal is three-fold: low cost, manageability, and easy access to Google informational services. For buy-in price, and TCO, no Apple laptop or tablet running macOS or iOS, respectively, can compete. Think differently! Providing students any kind of computer is shortsighted, by narrowly presuming that schools, or their parents, must buy something. I suggest, in this time of budgetary constraints, that educators instead use what the kids already possess (or want to) and what they use easily and quickly: The smartphone.

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Chromebook's future is bleak

Chromebook Pixel LS

A few days ago, one of my Google+ followers, Steve Kluver, commented on an August 2014 share: "I am shopping for some more Chromebooks this Holiday Season, and found this post via G+ hashtag #chromebook search. How current is your ebook now?" He refers to Chromebook Reviews, which is available from Amazon for sale or for free reading with Kindle Unlimited. I apologized that the tome, published more than two years ago, is "way out of date". If I'm not going to revise, I really should remove the title.

I offered to give him buying advice, which got me to thinking about Chromebook as a concept and computing edifice. While a big fan, and owner of both generations of Google-made Chromebook Pixel, my primary laptop was a MacBook Pro for most of 2016. Measure of commitment: I bought the new 15.4-inch Touch Bar model just a few weeks ago. I've moved on, and got to thinking about why in crafting my response.

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I chose MacBook Pro with Touch Bar over Surface Book

MacBook Pro 15 with Touch Bar

Water smacked the windshield -- a torrent of heavy droplets -- as my wife struggled to feed money into the tollbooth machine. Pelting rain is uncommon during November in San Diego, but we had purpose for driving 36 km through the downpour to Chula Vista and the Otay Ranch Apple Store, where I had never been before. The shop was the only one around that had the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in stock.

Eleven days earlier, Nov. 15, 2016, I received the 13.3-inch model that was ordered on October 27th. While first impressions were wow, the laptop felt slow compared to my previous MBP, and the battery drained in about half the time as specs stated. I worried that Apple produced a defective unit. No store in the area had the smaller laptop in stock, should I want to take advantage of the 14-day return policy. Deadline approached, so I considered as alternative my first 15-incher in more than a decade, tempted in part by quad-core processor and discreet graphics.

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Would a Trump administration allow Google to sell Motorola to Lenovo?

American Flag What's Next Question

I don't want to start an argument about politics. My sentiment this lovely day derives from what the incoming White House is, not what so many people here in California want it to be. I wonder: If Google bought Motorola during a Trump presidency, rather than Obama regime, would later sale to Lenovo be allowed or closing of the Texas phone-assembly factory about 18 months after opening?

The question arises from a pique of sadness as I look at the FedEx tracking information for two Motorola phones purchased directly from Lenovo. City of origin: Wuhan, China. My last Moto came from the Lone Star State, here in the USA. I pine for what might have been, remembering my excitement about Google's $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility acquisition, in August 2011. My opinion expressed then remains: "The acquisition is bold for its risks, which are no less great than the benefits". I was no fan of the later sale to Lenovo.

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IDC was so wrong about Windows Phone

Mime Surprise Shock

I laughed so hard and so often at IDC's smartphone forecast, my response took nine days to write -- okay, to even start it. The future isn't my chuckable -- that data looks reasonably believable enough -- but the past. Because 2016 was supposed to be the year that Microsoft's mobile OS rose from the ashes of Symbian to surpass iOS and to challenge Android.

In 2011, IDC forecast that Windows Phone global smartphone OS market share would top 20 percent in 2015. The analyst firm reiterated the platform's No. 2 status for 2016 in 2012 as well. Not that I ever believed the ridiculous forecasts, writing: "If Windows Phone is No. 2 by 2015, I'll kiss Steve Ballmer's feet" and "If Windows Phone is No. 2 by 2016, I'll clean Steve Ballmer's toilet". The CEO's later retirement let me lose from those obligations had I been wrong. I was confident in my analysis being truer.

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Google OnHub Soars, Apple AirPort Crashes

Google OnHub

We all make mistakes. The challenge is recognizing and correcting them quickly enough. So comes admission: I bought Apple AirPort Time Capsule to replace Google OnHub—what a bad decision.

My tale starts with a chance sighting on Kinja Deals for the 2TB Apple WiFi router on sale at Amazon for $199; one-hundred bucks off. I ordered on Nov. 16, 2016, and the device arrived two days later. At the time, I had 45Mbps AT&T Internet (which has changed since). Placed in the same location where OnHub had been, about 3 meters away from my desk in the same room as the router, throughput consistently came in at 15Mbps, occasionally a little more, as measured by Fast.com or SpeedTest.Net. By contrast, Google's router wirelessly pumped 40Mbps or more. Ah, yeah.

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For the audiophile: Grado Labs RS1e [Review]

Grado RS1e

Late last month, I sold my beloved Grado RS1e headphones, which get my highest recommendation. Parting ways, time is long overdue for a review, even if post-mortem. I let go the cans mainly because my lifestyle changed. Being tethered by wires is too confining; I listen to music more on the move now. As such, fine-fidelity Bluetooth cans—Master & Dynamic MW60—give great sound with more flexibility and mobility.

I purchased the RS1e direct from manufacturer Grado Labs in late July 2014, soon after release. Grado is a family-owned/run Brooklyn, New York-based business that opened in 1953 offering turntable cartridges. In 1990, the company started selling headphones, which are hand-crafted and tested for the distinctive, sound signature that defines them. Founder Joseph Grado passed away in February 2015 at age 90.

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Meet Master & Dynamic MW50 Wireless on-ear headphones

MW60 Wireless Headphones

I am a big fan of on-ear headphones, which attitude bucks the noise-cancellation trend. The design is a nice compromise between over-ear and open-back styles—the latter of which can present the best soundstage. Cans that rest on the ears, rather than cover them, tend to be lighter and confer airier, more natural sound. However, they also leak noise both ways, which makes them less appealing for commuter trains or air travel.

Since I reviewed MW60 Wireless last week, I simply must point out that Master & Dynamic launched MW50 on-ear Bluetooth headphones today. Yes, I plan to review them in the near future. The company says the Fifty is one-third lighter than the Sixty, while adhering to the same, retro-design ethic and modern materials—aluminum, lambskin, leather, and stainless steel.

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Is Apple Halloween 2016 Trick or Treat?

Halloween Pumpkins Jack O Lanterns

That's the question to ask if you're considering ordering the new MacBook Pro unveiled last week or wondering whether or not to cancel an already placed purchase before it ships. For fervent fanboys who drink Apple Kool-Aid like water, "treat" can be the only answer. But for the thinking public, the response depends on several factors, such as budget and whether or not buyers believe that the fruit-logo company advocates a rational design ethic.

Let's start with the latter. Apple is finger-obsessed and has been since before the first Mac shipped, as I explained in March 2010 post: "What 1984 Macintosh marketing reveals about iPad". The company lags behind Google getting to the next user interface, which is more contextual and immediately responsive: Voice, meaning touchless interaction, rather than touch, supported by artificial intelligence. By contrast, Apple isn't ready to abandon the finger-first motif, as Touch Bar makes so obviously apparent.

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If you're a recent MacBook Pro buyer, Apple just did you a HUGE favor

MacBook Pro 2015

People wanting a shiny new MacBook Pro are in for sticker shock. The entry-level for the cheapest, newest 13-incher is $200 or $500 more than its predecessor, depending on whether or not opting for the newfangled TouchBar and TouchID. That's $1,499 or $1,799. Yikes. MBP 15 is a $400 price hike, $2,399, for current tech.

But if you already own MacBook Pro, particularly the 13-incher released in March 2015 or the larger model two months later, Apple increased the laptop's value by not accelerating its depreciation. No kidding. That's because the new entry-level SKUs are the same as before.

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Could Apple make Mac laptop buying any more confusing?

confused-confusion

The Mac laptop line, following today's new announcements, looks lots less like Apple and more like Compaq—where Tim Cook worked much earlier in his career, incidentally, long before the original IBM PC clone-maker's demise. Confusing. Complicated. These are apt descriptions that might just send the ghost of Steve Jobs skyward on either—take your pick—Halloween or Day of the Dead.

Among Apple cofounder's first tasks when returning to the chief executive's chair in 1997: Simplifying product families. Jobs cut the deadweight, surprising many people by killing off Newton, for example. Complex product lines define Apple under successor Cook, by contrast.

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Apple fiscal Q4 2016 by the numbers: $46.9B, $1.67 EPS

apple_logo_glass_building

Two days before Apple's next media event, where long-overdue new laptops presumably arrive, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant released fiscal fourth quarter and full-year 2016 results. You could feel the anticipation after the Bell closed on Wall Street today—and, honestly, it had been palpable for weeks. Shares closed $118.25, up .51 percent.

The drama is a TV thriller: Release of iPhone 7 and 7 Plus set against a backdrop of saturated global smartphone sales; launch of Apple Watch Series 2 into an already declining market for smart timepieces; analyst data showing calendar third quarter to again be bad for PC shipments—with even Macs losing momentum. So everyone wants to know: What was the quarter's financial crop?

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Say, what's going on at Intel Capital Global Summit 2016?

Question

San Diego, Calif. As a general rule I never connect to public WiFi networks, which is fine except when attending an event at a hotel ballroom where T-Mobile cellular is like an apparition dancing around a Halloween grave. So as Wendell Brooks, CEO of Intel Capital, begins his speech, I sit typing narrative offline rather than tweeting live. There’s irony, I suppose, reporting old style, about investments in new innovations.

Welcome to the trials and travails of the Intel Capital Global Summit, which kicks off today and goes through October 26. Looking at the lineup, I expect to hear about newfangled tech that would make news reporting so much easier if available—although 4G cellular data would be good enough for today.

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