June 7, 2011

Why Apple didn’t introduce the next iPhone model at WWDC

Filed under: Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 17:28

Charles Arthur thinks he’s cracked the mystery over when the next iPhone will be introduced, and why:

This might seem blindingly obvious, but lots of people were hanging on to the hope that Apple would launch the iPhone 5/4GS/4G on Monday. The fact that it hasn’t — unlike the past two years, when it has announced new versions of the iPhone at, guess where, WWDC — indicates that Apple is shifting its strategy in phones.

Presently, Apple’s phone market segmentation strategy is to sell the newest model (the iPhone 4, now around a year old) at the highest price, and the second-oldest model (the 3GS, two years old) at a lower price. Hence you can find carriers such as Orange selling the 3GS for free with a £25 per month contract, while the iPhone 4 is still has an upfront price plus a £30+/month contract.

Presently this is as much segmentation that Apple is able to achieve, because it was locked into the yearly release schedule. That’s not surprising; Apple was a comparative newcomer to the mobile phone industry. Remember how the original iPhone couldn’t forward SMS or send MMS? How we laughed.

Now Apple is a serious player. And (we’re hearing from the supply chain) it is shifting the release date of the newest phone to September/October, which means a lot can change.

I’m still waiting on the next iPhone announcement, as I’m still at the tail end of my three-year contract (yes, Canadians only had the choice of a three-year contract when the iPhone 3G came to town). It’s running a very old version of iOS — 3.1.3 — as all the reports from the early adopters said that iOS 4 was a total pig on the 3G. Newer versions of iOS 4 don’t run on the 3G at all.

After August, I’ll (in theory) have the choice of going with the new iPhone or switching to an Android smartphone of some description (provided I can find good functional equivalents of the software I use on the iPhone). Hence, my interest in what Apple is doing for the next iPhone.

Instead, look to Apple to consider iPhone updates on a six-monthly basis. One model in September/October; another in March/April. That allows for incremental differences between versions which provides the updraft for sales, which carriers will like. But it also means that Apple doesn’t have to sweat too hard on how different to make the next handset — unlike the present situation, where every new model has to blow the bloody doors off.

Yet it also means that it will have a wider range of handsets to offer over time because of the natural segmentation of age: the iPhone 4, iPhone 4GS, some time next spring, the iPhone 5; in the autumn, the iPhone 5G (or whatever). And so on. The ages of the devices will create the tiers, which will allow it to slice the market into different price tiers and compete with Android — and more importantly RIM, which Apple clearly has in its sights as a rival to be crushed (why else introduce iMessage, which looks like a clone of BlackBerry Messenger?).

So that’s it: if you’re wondering where your iPhone 5 (4GS/4G) is, it’s being built in a factory in China. And Apple is getting ready to unveil a completely different way of slicing and dicing the phone market.

Charles Stross previews Rule 34

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:17

It’s due in the stores soon, but if you want a quick preview, Charles Stross has posted the first chapter of his new novel Rule 34 on his personal website:

“Rule 34” should be showing up in shops in 33-35 days (depending where you live). By kind consent of the publishers, I’m able to give you a sneak preview of the first few chapters. So I’m going to roll them out on consecutive Fridays. Here’s the opening. (Note that this is carved out of the final manuscript; there will be some minor differences from the published text — typos fixed in the proof stage, mainly.)

Intolerance of educational experimentation

Filed under: Britain, Education, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:07

Brendan O’Neill surveys the range of responses to the proposed establishment of a new private for-profit university in London:

It is ‘odious’, ‘repugnant’, ‘parasitic’, ‘hypocritical’, a ‘travesty’, a ‘money-grubbing’ scheme, and ‘it would be better all-round if its doors never opened’. Wow. What is it? A whorehouse? A Satanic church? A junk-food chain that specialises in feeding fat straight into children’s veins via a drip? In fact it’s a proposed new London-based university, called the New College of the Humanities, which says it will teach students the best of literature, culture and history for a fee of £18,000 a year. And yet judging from the unhinged coverage, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone had proposed opening a Ratko Mladic fanclub in Islington.

The response to Professor AC Grayling’s educational experiment, for which he has recruited other ‘star’ professors such as Richard Dawkins and Niall Ferguson, has been extraordinarily intolerant. No sooner had the press release about the new university been emailed than Grayling and Co. were being accused of selling out working-class students and the ideal of ‘education for all’ by opening an institution that only the wealthy (and those lucky enough to secure a scholarship) will be able to afford. As one journalist summarised, the initiative has met with ‘universal scorn from commentators in the national press’. Journalists have described the university as a ‘disgrace’, ‘nauseous’ and ‘disgustingly elitist’. The Twittersphere, always keen to ape the pronouncements of its heroes on the op-ed pages, heaped 140-character fury upon Grayling’s vain/pathetic/evil/doomed initiative.

Not to be outdone, members of the University of London Union and other radical student groups called an ‘emergency meeting’ last night. Not an emergency meeting to discuss the corrosion of liberty and free speech in the West or the future of the Arab uprisings — as radical students might have done in the past — but an emergency meeting to discuss how to crush this new uni. ULU’s vice president called for it to be blacklisted, insisting that the University of London refuse to recognise or work with this ‘repugnant’ institution. There was a serious debate about how to shut it down before it had even opened. One left-wing group said we must ‘stop Grayling’s sham university’ because it’s the ‘thin end of the wedge [of privatisation]’. Without so much as a whiff of self-awareness or irony, it went on to describe New College as ‘an attack on free education’. Yes, that’s right — this educational institution must be smashed in order to defend ‘free education’. Perhaps we should also burn its books in the name of defending book-reading.

Of course, if the quality of teaching at the New College of the Humanities is not up to an acceptable standard, it will fail and the university will close. That does not appear to be any part of the motivation for all the screaming and wailing. It rather implies that they’re actually afraid it will succeed, which might start raising questions about the existing university system.

Not funny: Germany tops another international poll

Filed under: Europe, Germany, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:00

Some national stereotypes are apparently more accurate than we think:

Now an international poll appears to reinforce the humourless national stereotype after concluding that Germany is the least funny country in the world.

More than 30,000 people in 15 countries were asked to rank the nations with the worst sense of humour and Germany came out on top.

But before Britons become too smug, the survey did not rank the UK a great deal higher, placing us fourth behind Russia and Turkey.

Countries including Canada, Holland and Belgium all performed better than the UK when it came to demonstrating wit.

The UK boffins are scrambling to find an answer, as Lester Haines points out:

As the Telegraph notes, humour doesn’t translate too well, so it’s a bit difficult for the average Johnny Foreigner to understand just how complex and advanced we are in this most challenging of fields.

Having said that, the pollees were spot on about the Germans.

QotD: The Bill of Rights on federal government property

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:36


There’s been a hassle on FaceBook about what civilians and cops can or can’t do on “government property”, with some saying the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply there. I wrote this in response:

A little civics lesson, gentlemen, if you will allow me. The Bill of Rights is misnamed. It is not a list of things we are “allowed” to do, it is a list of things that government is not allowed to do, principally to trespass against certain natural liberties that are ours simply by virtue of our having been born.

The Bill of rights, therefore, is actively in force any time, any place that there are human beings. If it were metaphysically possible (it is not) it would apply even more on so-called government property than anyplace else, since it is specifically government that is constrained by it.

Moreover, since it is not just Americans who are human beings (contrary to what many seem to believe) it puts a whole new face on the legality — or illegality — of war, and in particular the treatment being accorded to the political prisoners at Guantanamo and similar places.

L. Neil Smith, “Letters to the Editor”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2011-06-05.

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