Monday, April 26, 2010


The Biggest Apple Leak Ever

A part of me hates giving this story more press than it already has because it's kind of blown out of proportion at this point, but the fact remains that this is a pretty historical event. Apple is an extremely secretive company and this is probably the biggest leak in its history. This is one of the biggest leaks in technology in a very long time (possibly ever) precisely because of Apple's often criticized techniques for keeping things under wraps.

What am I talking about? In a nutshell, a guy found the next iPhone in a bar and sold it to Gizmodo for $15,000. It's highly reliable given that Apple has asked for it back. Some people think this was cleverly orchestrated, but this is not the time Apple wants people to know about the new iPhone. Aside from cannibalizing sales in the short term, it deprives them of being able to jump start Apple interest at a time when it's likely to be low in the middle of the summer when the honeymoon with the iPad is over.

Briefly: much like the last iPhone update, there's not a whole lot here to get excited about. It follows in the footsteps of some ideas from the Nexus One, like a secondary mic, it has flash on the camera, probably better battery life (bigger battery), and it has a front facing camera. Any updates to the OS are still a mystery since Apple bricked it once they found out it was missing, but there's probably some interesting software there for at least video conferencing.

Given that Apple fired a guy for showing Steve Wozniak the iPad for 2 minutes before its release, it's surprising that they let this guy walk off the campus with this device. At the center of all this is a big debate about if Gizmodo is in the wrong here. They purchased a device that they knew didn't belong to the guy selling it and then offered to return it after posting all its details. To top it off, they exposed the guy who lost the phone and he's literally become infamous overnight shooting up on Google's most searched terms. Should they have exposed him?

I'm pretty sure that Gizmodo is actually in the clear here. I believe they're protected from being responsible for buying stolen merchandise and they did eventually try to find its rightful owner (Apple). Should they have broken the story? They feel that they had a journalistic responsibility to do so. As dirty as the situation seems, I think I kind of agree with them. Much like a corporation has to do what's in the best interests of shareholders, even if it's unpopular, a news organization must not withhold valuable information from its audiences. Of course, they've destroyed their relationship with Apple and may have ruined the career of the guy who leaked the phone. Even though it looks like Apple hasn't fired him given that Gizmodo has exposed who he is, any time he goes to apply for another job he'll always be known as the guy who lost a giant trade secret. I personally don't think they had the right to make the decision to reveal who he was. If the guy asked them to to protect him, then I think that'd be fine. They took it upon themselves though to make that call and really squeezed everything they could out of the story, so I thought that was kind of sleazy. Given that Gizmodo was banned from CES for using a TV blaster remote on the show floor, I don't know that this really does wonders for their reputation.

Things took a really interesting turn on Friday when one of Gizmodo's reporters had his house searched by the cops. According to Gawker's COO, this was an invalid search warrant, but no update on whether he got the stuff back that was confiscated during the search. I'm still unclear on what they thought they'd find by doing the search, but I'm sure we'll hear more than we need to hear about this as the week wears on.

Hitler Parody Videos Taken Down

They actually weren't taken down for why you may think - they were taken down for copyright violation. There was a pretty big meme on YouTube where people took a climactic scene from Downfall, the foreign film depicting the final days of the Third Reich, and added their own subtitles. Someone from the EFF actually made their own parody video portraying the producer of the movie as Hitler. It is kind of funny and tragic since they're being oppressive about fair use regarding a movie telling the story of the world's most infamous oppressor. It's definitely worth checking out and is another gentle reminder that fair use is still an implicit right granted in spite of the DMCA.

Paid Hulu Service

Amidst modest revenues compared to what NBC, News Corp, and Disney would like, Hulu is giving a paid model a shot. For $10 a month they're going to add the ability for you to watch episodes older than the last 5 for its shows for $10 a month. I think this would be a great idea if they were to also get more television shows in the process. With its current lineup though, I just don't see them making any money. Especially given that Netflix already has plenty of shows on DVD plus movies that you can rent from them for the same price (but obviously not all of that is available for streaming). I think it'll be a great experiment since they're not going to be taking away from what people get for free right now. If it'll get more companies to come to the table and let Hulu serve their content then I hope it works out.

Palm Loses Another Exec

I still feel bad for Palm. Even though they developed a great product in the Pre and botched its launch, they're still a worthy adversary to Apple and it's too bad that they're still lagging so far behind. They lost another executive last week (their VP of carrier marketing) and investor confidence continues to dwindle. The CEO made an appearance at the developer's conference Palm was running last week to combat rumors that he was going to step down. Good to see that someone is still sticking through things in senior leadership.

ACTA Made Partially Public

I haven't spoken nearly enough about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), but it's a very important issue to be aware of. In a nutshell, it's an agreement being negotiated amongst multiple countries in secret with the purpose of creating international standards for conterfeiting. The problem is that it's negotiated in secret and has had leaks of very predatory clauses, like 3 strikes where 3 accusations of digital theft, whether founded or not, could result in you not being able to ever get Internet access again. Fortunately, it has backed away from this provision.

In being made public we've discovered that it threatens to remove ISPs' safe harbor protection (i.e. protection from liability from illegal activity they're not aware of) if they don't actively police their customers. The EFF has posted their preliminary analysis and it's actually a pretty thorough breakdown of exactly what's wrong with it. It's definitely not good that it contradicts American laws and strengthens the DMCA. This is definitely the kind of issue to write to your congressman about - it could really hurt people that don't intentionally break copyright law or even people that are totally innocent. It's gestapo justice for content creators.

Microsoft Losing Money on Bing

Microsoft revealed a pretty good Q1 because of Windows 7, but saw net losses at over $700 million in its online services division, which focuses on online advertising and Bing. Even though Bing has grown, it's taking market share from Yahoo instead of Google, which isn't quite what Microsoft wanted. I was recently in a short discussion with someone about whether Bing makes sense. They argued that Microsoft should innovate instead of trying to compete where there's already a good solution. The point of our economy is to challenge good solutions to get better and better through competition. Google is a very real threat to Microsoft's online future, which is going to be very important to Microsoft as the trend continues against shrink wrap software. They definitely need a strong online brand so I respect them sticking it out with Bing, but I'm also hoping they have a strategy to cut these huge losses in the long term.

Closing Stories

I was on pager duty last night so I'm now at the point of my eyes involuntarily closing on me. Last week happened to be a big news week, but there are some stories that I don't want to close without mentioning.

Apple filed a patent for what looks like a way to buy digital concert tickets via iTunes. Not tremendously creative, but definitely makes sense for Apple.

Engadget received a leak that Dell is developing a phone known as Lightning on Windows Phone 7 for release in Q4. It has a Snapdragon processor, a 4.1" OLED screen, full Flash support, all the standard iPhone gadgets (accelerometer, compass, GPS), and, oddly enough, FM radio. What's with Zunes and FM Radio (I know it's not a Zune, but similar UI). Oh, and it actually looks nice:

Why are more computer science students caught cheating than in other disciplines? Better technology. Theoretically, that means there are more honest software developers out there than most other industries. I kind of hope that isn't true though, especially with things like building airplanes or practicing medicine.

If you use Windows 7, you must read this article from Maximum PC listing really useful tips and easter eggs in Windows 7. I learned a few nifty things from it, my favorites being the magnifying glass and the multiple-monitor settings.

Office 2010 is finally RTM!

Mashable has a couple of really cool videos showing off Ford Sync's integration with Android and Blackberry applications. It gave me one of those "wow the future is now" moments, as corny as that sounds.

We're running out of IP addresses!

Amazon isn't selling out people to North Carolina tax collectors. Just a heart-warming story to end with.

Stay dry this week, everyone!

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