Friday, July 2, 2010

iPhone 4 reception problems: Apple's fault or AT&T's?

So, Apple just put out an open letter to iPhone 4 owners (and a skeptical public) admitting that the iPhone 4 has reception issues.  Except, they claim the reception problem is not with a faulty antenna design, but rather a software flaw.  Specifically, they claim that their algorithm that determines how many "bars" of signal to display was flawed and over-estimated signal strength.  They say they'll release a software update "soon" to address the problem.

Honestly, such a claim baffles me, because I see no reason why they'd ever have to change that algorithm between versions of their iPhone operating system.  But that's neither her nor there.

From this scenario, there are two possible outcomes:
  1. The software update works and iPhone 4 users are once again happy iLemmings.  
  2. The software update does not work and people get their pitch forks ready for a trip to Cupertino.
Oddly enough, the first scenario interests me more.  What possible motivation could Apple have to over-estimate the signal strength of their phone?  As we've seen, signal issues tend to get blamed on the hardware unless people understand that the carrier is to blame.  And, as everybody knows, AT&T has a pretty poor track record of coverage.  

The only motivation I could see for this software "error" (if it indeed is the case) would be AT&T colluding with or bribing Apple to adjust their "bars" algorithm.  After all, AT&T centers their advertising campaigns around the number of "bars."  My friends and I always compare signal strength between carriers when somebody loses reception or drops a call.  Artificial inflation of signal strength would be a very powerful and effective direct marketing tactic.  It also sounds sooooo AT&T.  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big Coffee: The Next Generation's Big Tobacco

I enjoy coffee every morning.  Well, it's more than that; not only do I enjoy it, I require it every morning.  A morning without coffee basically adds up to a wasted day.  If I don't get my morning fix, I'm spacey and slow for the duration.  Coffee after the fact does not solve this problem.  I need coffee in the morning to function.

But, I digress.  Coffee amounts to billions upon billions of dollars in trade each year.  It's safe to say that it's one of the most important crops and commodities in the world.  Coffee's most important ingredient and its purpose for existence, caffeine, is a drug.  It affects the mind and body, and those effects happen to be, for the most part, positive.  (See above paragraph).  That said, coffee's influence on society is eerily similar to that of tobacco say, 80 years ago.  It seems that every month or so, some new "study" is cited by the major news outlets which describes the health benefits of drinking coffee.  These studies postulate that, despite the fact that caffeine is a mind-altering drug, its consumption isn't merely harmless -- it's beneficial.  And that the consumption of coffee has side-benefits such as lowering blood pressure, etc.

Again, cigarettes were promoted in the same manner in the 50's.  Hell, doctors were featured in ads and were known to prescribe them.  My point is this: It wouldn't surprise me at all if in, say, 30 years, coffee was found to be seriously detrimental to our health.  Perhaps it could be identified as a cause of Alzheimer's disease or some other nefarious unexplained illness.  I know that this postulation sounds the kind of speculation that some conspiracy-minded luddite would spew on a talk "news" show.  All I'm going on is a hunch and recognition that things which appear to be harmless to us now can often be wolves in sheep's clothing as medical technology advances.  And, quite honestly, the fact that I'm addicted to a drug and depend on it for my day-to-day existence certainly feels wrong.

Will this cause me to quit drinking coffee?  Hardly.  But, when it's uncovered in 2040 that Starbucks has been fabricating health benefits and hiding the deleterious effects on a drinker's well-being (especially over the course of a lifetime), don't blame me.  Instead, join me in the inevitable class action suit filed against Big Coffee.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wal-mart, Target Think Small as They Grow as Grocers

I want to expound a bit on my comment on Digg earlier today.

Wal-mart has no business getting involved in smaller stores or expanding their grocery option. They do one thing and it's worked very well for them: Buy retail products from producers in bulk, at discount, and sell to the masses at a discount. The name of the game is volume. Groceries are, at their core, a local and regional affair. This is the antithesis of what Wal-mart does. Yes, I know, they carry some local products in their stores, but that's not where their bread is buttered and it is at best a cynical gesture to the legendary Wal-mart Haters Club.

They might bully their way into the grocery market, but it will be at great expense. Sacrificing what they did to get them big to try to enter a different market will punish their share price and make investors (and more importantly journalists) question their viability as a company. It's so formulaic: Big corporation maxes out in their core competency, tries to expand to other markets to appease the investor's insatiable need for growth, fails and takes a hit, returns to "core business." If this sounds like a short opportunity for Wal-mart, it is. Not quite yet, but soon.

About This Blog

I'm tired of reading articles or seeing things on the news and knowing exactly what will happen later on. This is not due to mystical powers or incredible insight; Simply a healthy dose of cynicism combined with a rudimentary understanding of history. I don't care if this thing has any readers, I just want a time-stamped record of my prediction so that later on I can link to it and say "I called it, just sayin'."