Friday, August 26, 2016

Why consumers and shareholders should punish Apple for removing the headphone jack.

Apple is waging a war against usefulness. Under design chief Jony Ive's regime, Apple's hardware has suffered continual regression that makes it less useful with every iteration.

I'm not talking about power users, either; I'm talking about the general public. And right now I'm talking about the iPhone.

You see it every day: People squatting in the corner of a coffee shop with their iPhone plugged into an outlet... and that's before lunch, when no battery should be dead. People carrying power bricks and wads of wire around, begging the bartender to plug their iPhones in. Or crawling under tables to do so themselves. This is what Jony Ive says you want. And it's pathetic.

Apple's excuse is its continued, baffling, and unasked-for mania to make things "thinner." As internal components shrink, Apple doesn't use the space for battery. It just makes the phone "thinner" (but not really, because the camera lens sticks out). Yet Apple wants us to use MORE battery power; for Bluetooth to communicate with the Watch, or stream music over the cellular radio, or use GPS-based apps and games. And the thinner phone is less ergonomic and more prone to being dropped and broken.

But we already knew that the majority Apple's customers have condemned the iPhone's design as a failure. How do we know? By simply observing that the vast majority of them have buried the "thin, elegant" iPhone in a bulky, tacky case. Because they believe it can't withstand being used for its primary purpose, and they simply can't reliably grasp it. And a growing number of those cases are even bulkier and tackier, because they must also serve as the phone's battery.

Even Apple felt compelled to introduce an embarrassing battery case for its so-called mobile phone.

But that's not the worse aspect of all of this. Now Apple has removed the audio output from its primary music players. Let's consider the stupidity of this move, which should anger every user and shareholder. Starting with a quote from MarketWatch (

"With sales of iPhones stagnating, Chief Executive Tim Cook has focused on software and services as a growth engine for the world’s most valuable company"

Apple's aggressive promotion and spending on Apple Music prove that it considers music to be a major part of that "growth engine." So why on earth would Apple impede the public's consumption of that service by deleting the music output from its music players? To sell a relatively few clunky headphones?

That's extremely poor strategy, as the market has reached maturity and people are simply bored with the iPhone.

Every investor should take Apple to task for this irresponsible and inexcusable step backward. Not only will Apple lose iPhone sales to this (yes, they will), but it undermines Apple's future business by hampering consumption of its services. This kind of gross misstep should also be punished by the stock market; another loss for investors who are already part owners of Apple.

All the excuses for this blunder are laughable at best. Let's dismantle a few:

1. You can use an adapter.

The asinine adapter isn't the answer, because (aside from having to carry yet another piece of crap around everywhere with your "thin, elegant" iPhone) you can't charge the phone while using it. Want to listen to music on that long road trip while navigating? NOPE.

And good luck replacing that adapter when you lose it on your overseas trip. And if you can, it'll be $30 (or more; we don't know yet).

2. The headphone jack is outdated, like floppy disks and physical media.

This may be the dumbest one. Your ears are analog, and that's not going to change. To hear music, it must at some point be converted from digital data into an analog waveform by a digital-to-analog (D/A) converter. That waveform is used to electrically move a piece of material that moves air against your eardrum. If the music player has a speaker (like every phone), it must contain a D/A converter. So that's not going away; Apple's just denying you the connection to it.

Now Apple wants everyone else to put redundant D/A converters in every listening appliance. Every headset, earbud, car stereo,  home stereo, boombox, hotel-room clock radio, TV, portable amp, PA system. Yeah, this isn't just about headphones. It's about an entire planet's worth of sound reproduction equipment that does and always will have to deliver an analog waveform to your ears.

So no, this is not comparable to abandoning an obsolete format.

3. Removing the headphone jack will allow Apple to make the phone thinner.

This is a crock. The Lightning port is 3mm across. The headphone jack is 3.7mm across. And the iPhone's thickness will be dictated by the protruding camera lens.

We already covered this excuse above, and nobody is campaigning for thinner iPhones. To continue to push this played-out marketing gimmick embarrasses Apple and lends credence to the claim that they're out of ideas.

4. Almost everyone uses wireless headphones, proven by the fact that more wireless ones are sold now.

Lame strawman that only a shut-in would believe. Look around you in the real world. Even at the gym, the vast majority of earphones in use are wired. The sales-figures argument is invalid, because music players and iPhones have come with earbuds, so most people (sadly) will simply put up with them and not buy anything better. It stands to reason that those who do buy additional headphones are likely to buy wireless ones (because they already have wired earbuds, in case I need to spell that out).

But that doesn't matter anyway: The headphone jack doesn't prevent anyone from using wireless or digital headphones.

In the end there simply is no excuse for removing the headphone jack. There are only lame attempts to explain why we shouldn't care.

Friday, August 5, 2016

NBC continues to rip off the public and screw Team USA at the Olympics.

NBC, a broadcaster granted a portion of our public spectrum to transmit content for profit, is once again denying United States viewers access to coverage of their Olympic athletes online. And its excuses embarrass the network and insult the viewers.

So much wrong here. From

Q: What do I need to watch video on
A: In order to watch any video on, you must install the latest version of Adobe(R) Flash(R) (supports v10 and above). Adobe(R) Flash(R) will provide you with the best NBC Olympics viewing experience including HD quality video, DVR controls and much more.

That's right people: NBC is still using Flash. That's pathetic by itself, but it also screws mobile users. Oh well!  Don't worry about moving into this decade anytime soon, NBC.

Q: What is required for access to view "Live Streaming" video content?
A: You can access live streams of EVERY NBC Olympics event by authenticating with a cable, 
satellite or telco TV subscription through your service provider.

Ah yes, the big lie of NBC's proud claim of "streaming every event." Does a bear shit in the woods? Maybe, but if you can't see it, who's to say? Now here's the most insulting part of NBC's fraud:

Q: Why is authentication being required?
A: Authentication supports our ongoing investment in sports programming for all of our platforms and is consistent with industry trends. Digital platforms require significant investment, and authentication allows us to capture the value of that investment, which in turn allows us to continue to provide cable/satellite/telco customers with high-quality sports coverage wherever and whenever they want at no additional cost.

This is absolute bullshit. First off, "consistent with industry trends" means, "other providers are ripping people off, so we're going to try it too."

Then there's "digital platforms require significant investment." Hey NBC, broadcasting went digital a decade ago. What analog distribution are you doing?

Finally, and most damning, there's the fact that NBC sued Aereo, a company that would have expanded NBC's viewership (thus increasing its ratings and the value of its content) by building online infrastructure free of charge to NBC. So NBC is whining about "significant investment" after idiotically attacking a company that was set to do that investment free.

More historic NBC stupidity.