The Northern Spy: Unintended consequences
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: Unintended consequences

By Rick Sutcliffe

The great shift in the computing devices market is well under way, with sales of desktop units tanking, even of laptops flattening out (sic), while those of iPads (there is no tablet market) boom. In this milieu, there are some interesting byplays.

First, sales of Windows machines have been hit far harder than those of Macs, and Windows 8 has not helped either Microsoft or the generic box assemblers. Indeed, uptake appears worse than that of Vista, when it first came out. From a technology market point of view, we are still in the 2008 downturn, and the Spy's predictions on that market when the recovery comes (2014-2015?) remain valid. The large installed base of computers is aging, but corporate replacement decisions have been repeatedly postponed pending economic clarity.

Those decisions will now be made in a vastly different technological and economic landscape than were the original purchases. Then, people bought Windows machines on herd and emotional instinct, without weighing the alternatives, without weighing the Windows tax on total cost of ownership. No more. The Spy is confident that the longer the uptick is delayed, the more informed purchasers will be, and the less likely to re-purchase in the Windows ecosystem. Look for a doubling of Apple's market share in computers over the next few years, and keep that deathwatch on Microsoft active. The company isn't the new RIM, it's the new Smith Corona.

Second, the continuing increase in Apple's computer sales and the high probability of a new and sharp uptick increases the likelihood iCook will do something for the professional user sooner rather than later. But the Spy does not expect the next iteration of something like a Mac Pro will be a conventional tower. Rather, anticipate something externally resembling an existing product with enhanced connectivity facilities to add optional professional enhancements, perhaps via a Thunderbolt PCI chassis, or even something bigger, newer, and better. Think a dockable iPad running Mac OS, a Mac Mini with ultra-connectivity, an iMac with slots, or any and all of these with ultra-fast external connectivity instead of an internal expansion bus.

Third, just as we teachers had come to take for granted all students would demonstrate literacy by handing in word-processed and spell-checked assignments in a professional-looking layout, as their job market requires every day, many households now will not have access to conventional computers--only to pads and pods. Consequently, we must now expect students as a whole to be deskilled in word processing, and in need of both computer access and training in things we have been assuming.

Dust off those abandoned computer labs and word processing lesson plans, for the 140-character, one-finger typists are going to need them. And what are they going to do when faced with a demand for a three thousand word essay as university freshmen, ten times that as seniors? Literacy, thy definition is fickle.

Fourth, the application landscape needs to be re-thought. Browsing, mail, texting, and gaming have become the realm of the pad/pod crowd. Expect the related applications to become moribund on the larger computers, and for word processing, spreadsheet, database, accounting, graphics arts, and the like (all better done with the handier input devices available for desktop and laptop use) to get more serious attention than in the recent past.

Despite periodic cosmetic makeovers, most of these application domains have seen little creativity but considerable code bloat in recent years. It's time for at least some of the people who really sell computers -- talented software designers and coders--to return to their bread and butter. Given the dearth of ideas from Microsoft these last several years, leadership is almost certain to come from elsewhere.

Fifth, although cloud and web app modes of work are much touted and may be adopted by some, the Spy sees too many security and continuity obstacles to storing sensitive documents off site at service vendors' machines. The recent Barnes and Noble decision to deep-six prominent eBook retailer and subsidiary Fictionwise highlights this problem. Once the platform on which purchases were made and stored is gone, so are the purchases. Only local, multiply backed up storage options are reasonably long-term secure and reliable. Note that the Spy does not say "absolutely secure". The first time a large cloud SAS operation goes down, taking with it the corporate document base of several hundred entities, the howl for government regulation will reach the moon.

Colour the Spy shy of the whole idea. Cloud may be good for backup and sharing of non-sensitive documents, but until the concept is very much refined, surely no IT manager in her right mind will take the risk. ('Course, those same people made the bad decision to purchase Windows machines.) Expect localized cloud products (firewalled home and office NAS) to become ubiquitous.

Sixth, the general market (not pro and business) move away from the larger general-purpose, heavy-duty computer to the small, light, limited purpose portable pad is likely to spur the only genuine hardware innovator (Apple, who do you think he could mean?) to put even more effort into creating new markets. An Apple Dick Tracy wrist gadget (iWatch), iTV, Apple sports gear (iShoes), Apple home automation (iHouse), an Apple tricked-out automobile or bicycle (iCar, iBike), and other products that go beyond conventional computing (iStylus, iGlasses, iThroatMike) all have to be in the mix down at the Cupertino Skunk Works. Does that sound like the Spy believes wearables are the next big thing? Indeed, and where are foldable, rollable computers? He needs one with a forty centimetre touch screen that will fit in his pocket.

Some fifteen years ago, the Spy's Alternate History SF already had characters using a PIEA (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliance). Think an iPad-like device (nano-diamond coated) with a throat microphone and eye implant/glass and either ten-finger or five finger grip for text and interfaced to his early-1980s postulated world-spanning hyperlinked Metalibrary. The latter has come to pass in the Internet, excepting two-way automatic dynamic linking and micropayments for content, and the former is only a few of the above gadget enhancements away.

Seventh, all this can only be good news for Apple's shares, which by any reasonable measure appear seriously undervalued. (Warning: The Spy is NOT an investment advisor.) The Spy suspects that when the fiscal cliff is either driven over, driven around, kicked down the road (the latter the worst possible outcome, by the way), or some combination of same (what seems to have happened) and year-end tax selling comes to an end, we'll see dramatic increases back at least to the 14 P/E ratio. And given E is likely to increase more this year than last (on first half new iPhones and iPads alone, especially in the Asian market), P could double or more in 2013--barring unforeseen developments (and all developments are essentially unforeseen). After all, the only market in which Apple has lost mind share is the stock market, and frankly, it doesn't count.

The "Something ought to be done" department is this month, not too surprisingly, devoted to a very specialized piece of technology--the gun. Unlike computers, these little marvels of destruction have only one exclusive narrow purpose -- to kill. And, when built as automatics or semi-automatics equipped with large capacity magazines, to kill as many people in as short a time as possible. An assault rife, even a semi-automatic, is irrelevant for hunting -- or if it is, there's something already wrong with the shooter's brain. How many bullets in how few seconds does it take to demonstrate one's skill as a mighty hunter by shredding a deer? How many slugs must you put through a rabbit before you're sure it's dead?

The mantra "guns don't kill people, people kill people" has, like all propaganda, a ring of pseudo-truth. The fact is that world's most gun-happy nation also has the largest proportion of gun killings. It would be more accurate to say that "people with guns kill people."

Arming grade one teachers cannot prevent a maniac who's stolen his mother's gun collection from a surprise attack on her classroom unless that teacher has her gun loaded, cocked, and in her hand before it happens, ready to react instantly to perceived threats. What's likely then to eventuate is that a grade six boy who's brought an urgent message from the principal in an excess of enthusiasm will get gunned down before the teacher can properly assess the situation. Or, if she does take said time, or has the gun in her purse or drawer with the safety on, it's already too late. Armed guards? Maybe they would deter, but most schools are large buildings with many possible points of entry, and a single guard is easily evaded. What if an undiagnosed psychopath becomes one of those guards?

No, just like the war between copy protectors and the hackers that break their every iteration, there is no solution to gun deaths in simply arming more people. The contrary outcome is more likely.

How can the situation be altered? Either by changing gun equipment, changing use availability, or changing the people in question. On a combination of the first two points, a simple partial remedy would be to deny any civilian licenses for military hardware -- assault weapons and large magazine clips for starters. There is no other conceivable civilian use for such armament. If the large clips were required at a licensed target range, they could be dispensed there in a controlled manner.

On the people side, screening potential licensees for psychopathy is insufficient. Would-be mass killers need only steal their mother's or sister's guns. We could imagine imagine a technological solution (straw man warning here). Suppose every firearm were equipped with a biometric interlock that prevented the gun from being triggered by other than the registered licensee, and this were combined with psychiatric screening for licensees. This could go partway to a solution.

Then return to reality. There is almost no possible way such a solution could be safely implemented, and not simply because of the logistics of retrofitting hundreds of millions of weapons. Rather, because of the impossibility of getting buy-in from the disparate interests. After all, who decides what sanity is--those who want to be armed to the teeth, or those who want controls?

The Spy believes this problem, except in stopgap measures of limited value, cannot be solved in legislation. The only real solution is changed people. And who among us can change the heart of a man or woman bent on destruction?

And, this leads into the broader observation that the modern world is increasingly fractured into multiple solitudes whose members can only talk past each other. The Mac vs PC divide is a harmless such debate. Religious differences, papered over in Western Civilization because of a "gentlepersons' agreement" on behaviour, have come to the fore once again, and threaten to destabilize much of the modern world. Political divisions, once hammered out to consensus or compromise under "civilized" rules of order have become sharply polarized, threateningly nasty.

The gulf between the rich and the poor, the advantaged and disadvantaged has reached a width that history tells us will soon destabilize our very society (ask Marie Antoinette). Fewer people understand or care about honour, rules of order, fiduciary duty, or the law, and more act entirely in self-interest, and self-justification, certain to the point of violence that they are absolutely right about everything.

Decades ago, the Spy observed in this space and in his books and talks, that the coming Metalibrary (Internet), by putting more people in touch with more ideas, situations, cultures, religions, and peoples than ever before in history, actuated two possibilities--greater benevolent tolerance of disparate ideas, and greater reinforcement and deepening of intolerant prejudices (or the redefining of "tolerance" to mean "only for my actions and views"). After all, the global village empowers information and wide-scale cooperation in both positive activities and in profoundly anti-social behaviour.

He also noted long ago that the ages-old tug of war between big brother government and all us little brother and sister individuals would be empowered on both sides by the new technologies--greater possibility for control on the one hand, and universal information to "out" ill behaviour by politicians on the other. He predicted a saw-off.

Our reader my judge for herself the degree to which these old worries are still a concern, or the validity of the Spy's own observations, but his hope and prayer is that we can all have a better 2013 in these many respects than we had in the old year.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several organizations, including in the corporate sector, and participated in industry standards at the national and international level.

He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and six novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns?

Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net
General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:
Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html

 
AAPL
$99.02
Apple Inc.
+1.35
MSFT
$43.97
Microsoft Corpora
-0.53
GOOG
$590.60
Google Inc.
+1.58

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OS X Yosemite Wallpaper 1.0 - Desktop im...
OS X Yosemite Wallpaper is the gorgeous new background image for Apple's upcoming OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This wallpaper is available for all screen resolutions with a source file that measures 5,418... Read more
Acorn 4.4 - Bitmap image editor. (Demo)
Acorn is a new image editor built with one goal in mind - simplicity. Fast, easy, and fluid, Acorn provides the options you'll need without any overhead. Acorn feels right, and won't drain your bank... Read more
Bartender 1.2.20 - Organize your menu ba...
Bartender lets you organize your menu bar apps. Features: Lets you tidy your menu bar apps how you want. See your menu bar apps when you want. Hide the apps you need to run, but do not need to... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.2 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
Vienna 3.0.0 RC 2 :be5265e: - RSS and At...
Vienna is a freeware and Open-Source RSS/Atom newsreader with article storage and management via a SQLite database, written in Objective-C and Cocoa, for the OS X operating system. It provides... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.1.5 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.7 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click... Read more
TinkerTool 5.3 - Expanded preference set...
TinkerTool is an application that gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.0 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Intermission 1.1.1 - Pause and rewind li...
Intermission allows you to pause and rewind live audio from any application on your Mac. Intermission will buffer up to 3 hours of audio, allowing users to skip through any assortment of audio... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Traps n’ Gemstones Review
Traps n’ Gemstones Review By Campbell Bird on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CASTLEVANIA JONESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fight mummies, dig tunnels, and ride a runaway minecart to discover ancient secrets in this... | Read more »
The Phantom PI Mission Apparition Review
The Phantom PI Mission Apparition Review By Jordan Minor on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GHOSTS BUSTEDUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Phantom PI is an exceedingly clever and well-crafted adventure game.   | Read more »
More Stubies Are Coming Your Way in a Ne...
More Stubies Are Coming Your Way in a New Update Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Great Prank War Review
The Great Prank War Review By Nadia Oxford on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PRANKING IS SERIOUS BUSINESSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Though short, The Great Prank War offers an interesting and fun mix of action and... | Read more »
Marvel Contest of Champions Announced at...
Marvel Contest of Champions Announced at Comic-Con Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] Announced over the weekend at San Diego Comic-Con was the fairly exciting looking Marvel Contest of Champions. | Read more »
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review By Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DULL SWIPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The pizza power is weak when it comes to this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.   | Read more »
Exploration Focused Puzzle Game Beatbudd...
Exploration Focused Puzzle Game Beatbuddy Set to Make Transition from PC to iOS this September Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
PlanetHD
PlanetHD By Nadia Oxford on July 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SPACE MADNESSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad PlanetHD will keep players busy for a while, though its unpredictable physics are a handful to deal with.   | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: July 21-25, 2014
Another Week of Expert App Reviews   At 148Apps, we help you sort through the great ocean of apps to find the ones we think you’ll like and the ones you’ll need. Our top picks become Editor’s Choice, our stamp of approval for apps with that little... | Read more »
Reddme for iPhone - The Reddit Client (...
Reddme for iPhone - The Reddit Client 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: News Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Reddme for iPhone is an iOS 7-optimized Reddit client that offers a refreshing new way to experience Reddit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

U.K. Hospital Using iPods and iPads To Record...
British news journal GazetteLive’s. Ian McNeal notes that the old “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” proverb is being turned on its head at http://southtees.nhs.uk/hospitals/james-cook/ James... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $1099,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $1099.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $100 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Roundup of Apple refurbished MacBook Pros, th...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. Their prices... Read more
Record Mac Shipments In Q2/14 Confound Analys...
A Seeking Alpha Trefis commentary notes that Apple’s fiscal Q3 2014 results released July 22, beat market predictions on earnings, although revenues were slightly lower than anticipated. Apple’s Mac’... Read more
Intel To Launch Core M Silicon For Use In Not...
Digitimes’ Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai, report that Intel will launch 14nm-based Core M series processors specifically for use in fanless notebook/tablet 2-in-1 models in Q4 2014, with many models to... Read more
Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion: $100 g...
 Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion includes a free $100 App Store Gift Card with the purchase of any new Mac (Mac mini excluded), or a $50 Gift Card with the purchase of an iPad or iPhone,... Read more
iMacs on sale for $150 off MSRP, $250 off for...
Best Buy has iMacs on sale for up to $160 off MSRP for a limited time. Choose free home shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Prices are valid for online orders only, in-store... Read more
Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP, starting...
Best Buy has Mac minis on sale for $100 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup. Prices are for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: 2.5GHz Mac mini: $499.99 2.3GHz... Read more
Global Tablet Market Grows 11% in Q2/14 Notwi...
Worldwide tablet sales grew 11.0 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2014, with shipments reaching 49.3 million units according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation... Read more
New iPhone 6 Models to Have Staggered Release...
Digitimes’ Cage Chao and Steve Shen report that according to unnamed sources in Apple’s upstream iPhone supply chain, the new 5.5-inch iPhone will be released several months later than the new 4.7-... Read more

Jobs Board

Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Sr. Product Leader, *Apple* Store Apps - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.