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The Northern Spy: How reads the glass?


By Rick Sutcliffe

The Spy spotted an article this month (which he won’t loan credibility by providing a link) suggesting Apple was becoming the next Blackberry, doomed to fail because it is falling behind the times. Perhaps so, but that doom seems a long time off yet.

The good news is that WWDC, upcoming in two weeks, is likely to see a plethora of incremental upgrade announcements to please the faithful (though the Spy is giving it a pass again this year, as he’s not expecting any blockbusters). Here’s his list, in order of likelihood:

° New editions of both iOS and (rebranded) macOS (guaranteed);

° Incremental updates to Swift and Siri (almost certain);

° New products and alliances in medical, home automation (a must to retain a foothold);

° New Apple Pay alliances (also necessary);

° At least one new iPad;

° Bumps in Apple TV and consumer Mac models (one or two for sure);

° A bump in the networking line (probable, but see below);

° An improved file system to replace HFS (coming, but this year?);

° An improved iWatch (announcement at most, no product);

° An emulation box to run iOS apps on the Mac (well, maybe, but…);

° A bump in the MacPro with a price reduction (maybe; see below)

The non news swirls around what Apple cannot, will not, or may choose not to do.

If there is no Mac Pro movement, that may signal Apple has written it off, and with it both the loyal graphics pros who still use such machines, and the North American manufacturing experiment. Too bad. Despite some ridiculing desktops as obsolete, there’s still room for more powerful computers for tasks beyond those the portable toter dreams of. Apple having invested so much, the Spy believes the existing Pro is good for one more iteration, provided the price comes down substantially to boost sales.

The Mac mini sees another candidate for abandonment. True, it’s all some people need, especially when migrating from something else and wishing to retain keyboard and monitor, but has it ever sold all that well?

Will we see an ARM-based Mac? Yes, eventually, but the Spy doubts that it will be this year. However, this could be one of the better candidates for the “big surprise” Apple has often sprung.

Apple TV, as always, is a special case. Last year’s model introduced apps and a store for same, but streaming is a crowded field, and Apple’s content seems pauce. It occurs that Cupertino could purchase a studio, a library of old films or shows, even a few old TV series, and make some of said content free to attract more owners, who, once hooked, might be willing to shell out for paid content–if it became sufficiently attractive. The Spy can’t see this year’s upgrade being significant, however much touted. Until there’s a lot more content, including significant free attractions, the Spy passes.

Something we won’t see till later in the year is the iPhone 7. Apple must tread this ground carefully. As noted here last month, sales have levelled off. In particular their markets in India and China seem weak. Moreover, India won’t allow Apple to sell refurbished phones there and also wants the company to source a significant fraction of components from its own vendors, which would fragment iCook’s tight supply chain.

OTOH, Apple needs a blockbuster new product for its next phone to re-ignite sales worldwide, so any perceived shortcoming is going to hurt. Double lens cameras seem a well substantiated addition. One deliberate shortcoming is rumoured to be the headphone jack, and one should therefore expect to see Lightning to 3.5mm adapters hit the market, perhaps in anticipation. What else? Good question.

The Spy gives a half-nod for plausibility to the all-glass iPhone 7 rumours as seeming slightly credible, but perhaps still be a stretch. Does iCook see the glass as half full or as half empty? How risk averse is he?
As for the watch, The Spy cannot work up much enthusiasm for a pure geek-gadget product he can’t see ever buying in anything like its present form. Sorry, but…

The negative news is, of course, never lacking where Apple’s critics are concerned.

Networking has suddenly become an issue. Apple uses Broadcom’s Wi-FI chips to power its 802.11 n and ac products (practically everything they make). These in turn employ encoder/decoder circuitry to improve efficiency and transmission rates. But on May 30, Caltech filed suits claiming these routines infringe its patents, asking an injunction against sales of affected products, plus unspecified remedies.

One would hope Apple’s agreement with Broadcom insulates them from this suit, that the Caltech lawyers are merely piling on, but this could be a nasty one, and Broadcom seems likely to suffer more, as its revenues are heavily dependent on Apple. Put a watching brief on this one.

And feel free to put a watching brief on the Spy’s award winning Alternate History Science Fiction. in The Throne series, and The Interregnum series. If his reader reviews any of these, a copy of the review would be appreciated, and will be posted on his book site with a link to said reviewer’s own home page. Professional review sites may contact the publisher, Writers Exchange, for courtesy copies.

–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, 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 alternate history SF 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 or Rick’s SF? Check out the Arjay blog at

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
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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 resources mentioned in this column
Writers Exchange Author site:
Rick’s Author site:

WCCCE 2016:

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