The Northern Spy: much ado about something
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: much ado about something

By Rick Sutcliffe

… but, what are those somethings?

Rumours continue to swirl about Apple and its certain/probable/possible/mythical/impossible product introductions for 2014 (some may be all five at once). Given Apple's recent history, and that we've made it this far into the year without any major introductions, the Spy is convinced (has managed to convince himself—Nellie) that WWDC will be the venue for some significant product announcements.

Our reader may recall that by delaying two minutes after 0900 on ticket sale day in 2013, he missed by nearly half a minute the "sold-out" state for the 5000 tickets. This year, he put in his name on receiving Apple's kind invitation to do so, and was astonished to receive approval to buy after a random draw a few days later, so is one of the favoured ones--his first WWDC in several years. He anticipates interesting days in early June San Francisco. In what respect?

By all appearances Apple is focused these days on hardware rather than software, though the Spy opines that this perception is due to supplier and partner leaks on the hardware side providing the meat for a kind of speculation for which Apple's high-security cloister on the software front throttles the fuel for any such rumours before they can exit the campus.

Immediate focus should be on new MacBook Pro models (likely introduced before WWDC and showcased there), a new and larger iPhone/iPod Touch (to be announced there but not available till later) the iWatch (mentioned tongue in cheek last month, and a definite maybe to join an increasingly crowded field in the next few months) and a new TV product--almost ready, and the best candidate for a blockbuster hardware announcement. Call it an iTV+/pro/s.

The Spy recently purchased one of the current models to supplement his video centre--not that he is even connected to a TV network, but as the only available window on the iTunes store videos. Not withstanding that Apple has made a billion dollars on these little boxes in the past year, they still are a hobby--as indeed appears to be the entire genre. Selection is limited, the interface unimaginative and awkward, there is no live programming, little older TV or movies, and some services, like Netflix, are available in many other ways (through the receiver, TV, or Blu-ray player software). It's nice to have, it's very fast, the store connection of course exclusive to it, and the iPod app remote convenient, but it won't get used a lot here. Neither will his subscription to Netflix once the free month runs out. The Spy supposes one could stretch a point and call the offerings content, but like most television programming it's repetitious, thin, hackneyed, and dull. You'd think there would at least be live news.

So a new TV product must be much more to be worthwhile and to fit iSteve's enthusiastic descriptions--not likely just a software upgrade, but a whole new approach in a set top box and/or full blown large screen TV. However game-changing the interface and hardware, however, content is the key, and tie-ins to movie studios, TV networks, and/or cable providers to stream their content through Apple's hardware the only way this product category is ever going to be more than a hobby--and it would take extreme doses of all those to persuade the Spy to open his wallet. More, he believes the delays in bringing the concept to market are due to a paucity of content agreements, not of engineers to instantiate Jobs' concepts.

No doubt the current box would be downgraded to an iTV Jr/-/v1, though possibly with some of the new feature set so as not to antagonize the billions of dollars already spent. But unless Apple indeed raises the art to something far beyond the entire current set top box niche tools, the company is better off not bothering. Ditto very many more models of the iPhone or even a first model of an iWatch--Apple needs to give its imitators something genuinely new to copy rather than run merely to catch up with them.

Besides being more opaque the software side of the Apple machinery is perhaps more interesting. It's been a truism for some decades that software utility lags far behind hardware capability, and this remains true today. Indeed the lag grows yearly.

That leads one to ask what, besides the obvious iOS 9 and OS XI, the legions of Apple's software gnomes are mining behind the multiple closed doors at One Infinite Loop.

Apple's iWork is thus far kin to iTV--a moderately lucrative hobby for the home market, but scarcely a marketing threat in the professional workplace. The Spy, for decades an avid reviewer and consumer of word-and number-smithing products, uses none of its components except Keynote, a true upgrade on the Office suite, whose other components earn first, his best overall software product award (all categories) for Excel--he uses it a lot--and second, his worst of category raspberry for Word--never, never, never open it! There is, by the way, no single best-for-everything writing product. BBEdit and Alpha have their strengths for code, Nisus Writer Pro for general writing, and the incomparable Scrivener for books and scripts. This is probably the way it must be, though an alliance among the three could produce something amazing in a componetized product.

OTOH, FileMaker Pro is a superior product, OTOH the MS offering--what's it called again?--not worth accepting even as free. The Spy is baffled over this. MS must know they have an eviscerated turkey (bad metaphor considering it never had any vis) in this category, yet never does anything about it. Why not? Because they can't?

The bottom line on the number crunching front is no new opportunities, unless Apple decides to do an accounting product that includes fund accounting--a category not currently available on the Mac, and not well done elsewhere thus far either.

Now you would think that with WWDC showcasing the overwhelming plurality of Apple ecosystem developers over all others, Apple's development software would be a shining example of how to do things right in enabling programmers to do things righter. Not. xCode could use considerable work. Indeed, the pre-OS X MPW, though primitive in some ways, was easy to use, more versatile and more customizable, especially when it came to dropping alternate languages into the environment.

The ideal programming environment has superb file handling (including multiple-user version control), program editing with multiple language keyword highlighting (think BBEdit or Alpha), has all the back end tools for building end products, low-end libraries of procedures and constants for binding, comes with a choice of two or three languages and plenty of current examples for starters, and allows for simple, easily integrated alternate language drop in support.

Apple's XCode has Objective C. Nothing else. Worse, it makes it difficult (not impossible) to integrate other language packages, and increases that difficulty by changing and removing functionality from version to version instead of adding to a solid base. The Spy gets that this is supposed to be in the name of consistency, a closed ecosystem, and their ease of support. But convenience, versatility, and appropriateness are all being sacrificed. Apple does not get that no language is ideal for every problem solving domain--all have their strengths and weaknesses; some are better for some things, others for others.

For instance, the Spy would never dream of teaching beginners in either C++ or Objective C. Far too steep a learning curve, and too many inconsistencies in the language designs. Python and Modula-2 (the latter despite being older) are far better. Modula-2 can be made to run in XCode, but not easily. A combination of the commercial p1 compiler, the open source Alpha editor, and the RSMP/RASS back end utilities with gcc seems best, but without XCode's unnecessary awkwardness. Coming up: Modula-2 R10, which incorporates many new programming paradigms and may turn out to be the easiest-to-use high level notation yet. (Disclaimer: The Spy is one of the designers.) And, on the gripping hand, many people in numerical analysis still prefer to use Fortran. Still others overlook the complexity of Ada for its elegance. Further examples abound. Why not encourage multiple language use. The linker doesn't care. This could have been done much better, Apple.

But there is a software category for which a dramatic re-think is possible, one Apple could exploit to move way ahead of the curve (again). Computers are touted as having the potential to make all aspects of life, community, and work simpler, faster, easier, better, and the Spy has been one such prognosticator for decades. Mind, he has worried equally long about the potential to empower destructive behaviour, but it is important to note for both evil and good, that computers are mere tools. They add no meaning, have no intentionality--both, for whatever purpose and end, reside entirely in the user. A hammer can both build and destroy. Computers are no different.

To some extent (though the tools are primitive compared with what they could and will be, this promise has been fulfilled by word processors, spreadsheets, database management and accounting software--all of which do make many work tasks far easier than they once were. However, the whole communications sphere is primitive and fragmented--one-purpose tools like social media, texting, instant messaging, notification, email, and voice telephone have their use-strengths, but the collection lacks the kind of integration and unity that would make it truly a communications game changer that even present day hardware could enable, were the software up to it. What we need, and someone will eventually supply, is a one-stop communications shop with all tools integrated into a single user experience. An iPhone goes partway there, but Apple can do better--much better--and it is unlikely anyone else could, except by way of slavish imitation.

And, as the Spy has mentioned more than once in this space
Tim Cook remarked to him at a previous WWDC that Apple had not yet figured out how to do a textbook reader right, and wouldn't release a product until they did. The Spy knows as well as anyone that textbooks are not novels, and cannot be properly read in the same simplistic way. However, the clock is ticking, iTim. The first company to do it will hand the entire paper textbook publishing industry an instant death sentence and take over what is left. Why should a student pay $350 for an Abstract Algebra or Principles of Compiler Writing textbook instead of downloading it into a suitable reader for a mere $10.

WWAD? WWDC will tell much of this year's story, but the Spy anticipates the majority of the announcements will be hardware related. And, the Spy will be there. Thus, the June column will appear a couple of days late, and will be written on the floor of the convention hall as revelations are made. Indeed, as in previous visits, much of it may be written ahead of time, and only polished there. Likewise, there may be a second column later in the week. Stay tuned, and remember, you read it here first.

--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 community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine 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
The Fourth Civilization--Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed.): http://www.arjay.bc.ca/EthTech/Text/index.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
p1 Modula-2: http://modula2.awiedemann.de/
ETH RAMSES/RASS project: http://www.sysecol.ethz.ch/RAMSES/RASS.html
AlphaX programming editor: http://alphatcl.sourceforge.net/wiki/pmwiki.php/Software/AlphaX
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 
AAPL
$102.50
Apple Inc.
+0.25
MSFT
$45.43
Microsoft Corpora
+0.55
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
+2.40

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

pwSafe 3.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
StatsBar 1.8 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
VueScan 9.4.41 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
SlingPlayer Plugin 3.3.20.505 - Browser...
SlingPlayer is the screen interface software that works hand-in-hand with the hardware inside the Slingbox to make your TV viewing experience just like that at home. It features an array of... Read more
Get Lyrical 3.8 - Auto-magically adds ly...
Get Lyrical auto-magically add lyrics to songs in iTunes. You can choose either a selection of tracks, or the current track. Or turn on "Active Tagging" to get lyrics for songs as you play them.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwi...
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwide Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dodo Master Review
Dodo Master Review By Jordan Minor on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEST EGGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Dodo Master is tough but fair, and that’s what makes it a joy to play.   | Read more »
Motorsport Manager Review
Motorsport Manager Review By Lee Hamlet on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MARVELOUS MANAGEMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite its depth and sense of tactical freedom, Motorsport Manager is one of the most... | Read more »
Motorsport Manager – Beginner Tips, Tric...
The world of Motorsport management can be an unforgiving and merciless one, so to help with some of the stress that comes with running a successful race team, here are a few hints and tips to leave your opponents in the dust. | Read more »
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Add...
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Adds Lots of New Stuff Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Are We Now In The Post-Post-PC Era?
A longtime and thoroughgoing laptop aficionado, I was more than a little dismayed by Steve Jobs’s declaration back in 2010 when he sprang the iPad on an unsuspecting world. that we’d entered a “post-... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more
A&D Medical Launches Its WellnessConnecte...
For consumers and the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for them, A&D Medical, a leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices and services, has launched its... Read more
Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech
Anand Lal Shimpi, whose AnandTech Website is famous for its meticulously detailed and thoroughgoing reviews and analysis, is packing it in. Lal Shimpi, who founded the tech site at age 14 in 1997,... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini, Apple refurbished, in stock...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2.5GHz Mac minis available for $509, $90 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.