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Applesauce: All Things Apple – February 25, 2013

Feb 25, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – February 25, 2013

OH NOES! APPLE WAS HACKED!

No one can accuse Apple of following the crowd, but just like Facebook and Twitter before them, the Cupertino Kid was hit with a “sophisticated cyberattack” this week.

It’s hard to tell which is more surprising; the fact that Apple became a victim to this kind of attack or the fact that they felt the need to admit it. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s a little recap.

Some hackers (the bad kind) infected an iPhone developers’ online forum with a little piece of malware that takes advantage of (you guessed it) a security flaw in Java. When these Apple employees visited “iPhonedevsdk,” (Though the site owners say the site is clean, its better safe than sorry. No link for you) this malware took advantage of the Java exploit and boom…hacked computer.

“We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network,” said Apple in a statement to a bewildered press.

“There is no evidence that any data left Apple. We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware.”

The Next Web did a little sleuthing to get to the bottom of this. Apple/Facebook/Twitter hack and found that none of these companies contacted the site’s administrator to let him know that, hey, by the way, your site is infecting our computers.

“We were alerted through the press, via an AllThingsD article, which cited Facebook,” said Ian Sefferman, administrator for iPhoneDevSDK.

“Prior to this article, we had no knowledge of this breach and hadn’t been contacted by Facebook, any other company, or any law enforcement about the potential breach.”

Of course, Web sites like the Cult of Mac took this opportunity to fault Apple for not reaching out to Mr. Sefferman about this attack and leaving it to the press instead. It would have been nice for Apple to give Sefferman a heads up, but I think if anyone should have the blame finger pointed at them it should be Twitter or Facebook.

I digress…

Apple doesn’t admit fault or bad news readily, thus it was surprising when this news suddenly popped up on Tuesday. It’s always better to err on the side of caution, of course, but if Apple truly believed that no information had been compromised and no other systems had been affected, they could have kept quiet about this.

I’m glad they didn’t. If they were wrong…if something turned up months later about Apple being hacked or some private user data got dumped across the Russian hacker forums, Apple would have some serious ‘splainin’ to do. That makes this apology even more special. There’s the Maps-type of apology, which is more of a “Yes, I know…we screwed up, and we’re very sorry. We’re making it better. Please buy our product.”

Then there’s this example, which, for the life of me, I can’t think of a single instance before when they announced bad news that hadn’t really affected anyone.

Either way, the main take away from this story is this: Have you disabled Java yet?

Not Javascript, mind you, which is a completely different. The fact that no one has scrambled to have the name changed completely amazes me. Apple is already looking out for you Java hold-outs with their XProtect system and their automatic Java blocking for those who haven’t used it in 35 days, but as it’s been said before: it’s better to err on the said of caution. Just go disable Java now.

Right now.

Don’t wait.

Your children’s children will thank you.

 

At the risk of showing my ignorance to the ways of Wall Street and high finance, I can’t help but wonder: Is Wall Street just waiting for Apple to come crashing down? It seems that recently whenever any sort of news which may or may not directly affect Apple is enough cause to sell stocks and send analysts to say: “I told you so!”

On Wednesday, Foxconn (the company who makes iPhones and A LOT OF OTHER STUFF for other companies) said they wouldn’t be hiring any new help for a while in any of their plants.

And once again, Apple stock took a dip.

Because, as your completely logical and reasonable brain can tell you, any announcement made by Foxconn is a bad omen for Apple.

(Actually…that might not be completely untrue, given recent controversies.)

The trouble here began when the Financial Times reported this news with an extra little tidbit: “Human resources officials at Foxconn’s largest factories, local government officials and external recruiters working with the company said there had been internal notices on Tuesday and Wednesday to halt hiring until at least the end of March, in response to reduced orders for the iPhone 5.”

Later, likely after Foxconn execs received a call from that special phone that only dials the offices of Tim Cook and Terry Gou, another spokesperson gave an interview with Bloomberg to correct the whole mess.

As it turns out, China has been celebrating the New Year holiday for the past few weeks, meaning Foxconn and other factories have been working with a shoestring staff while the others went home to be with their families. Foxconn normally has to hire workers at the end of this holiday, as apparently many people simply stay home and don’t come back. The company was reportedly “surprised” that so many people actually wanted to come back that they didn’t need to hire any replacements.

Seems to me that something right is going on at Foxconn. It was only 2 years ago that we began hearing tales of workers committing suicide, cramped living quarters, and explosions in the factories. Now, when given the chance to leave, these workers are coming back to make Apple products. Investors and Wall Street did over react to this news, but it’s easy to see why. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard stories about a sudden lack in demand for the iPhone 5.

Of course, we have seen numerous reports about a strong 4th quarter showing for the iPhone 5 and how Apple’s smartphone sold more units than any other smartphone in the world. Strategy Analytics figure Apple sold 27.4 million units of all kinds of iPhones during the 4th quarter.

Nevertheless, there are those who are just waiting for the bottom to drop out with their finger on the “sell” button for when the inevitable happens.

 

I don’t mean to be too hard on those with a financial interest in Apple, even if they are much more wealthy than I, which they almost certainly are. I think Apple really needs to step up their game this year. It took them 5 years, but Android and Samsung have finally created a device which both works really well and has some sex appeal to it. Its one thing to build a phone which out performs the iPhone, and it’s another to build one which people want to buy.

Apple isn’t just the iPhone of course, but this has become what they’re known for by many people as well as an insanely profitable portion of their business. This needs to be the year that Apple shocks us, wows us, reminds us why we fell in love with them in the first place. So will a watch be the thing that does this? Can a watch really show us that spark of innovation we’re used to seeing from Apple?

The latest watch rumors stem from a patent application (red flag numero uno) which describes a “BI-STABLE SPRING WITH FLEXIBLE DISPLAY,” or in other words, a slap bracelet with a screen. Apple applied for this patent in August 2011 and mentions using it in several different ways, mostly as an accessory to other devices, like an iPad or iPhone.

This little wrist device could come with a multi-touch display which “can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, or reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display.”

And because, why the hell not, this application also calls for the possibility of using kinetic and solar energy sources similar to those found in other wristwatches. Apple even mentions the device being able to detect how large the wearer’s wrist is, adjusting the screen to that size, thereby preventing an enormous display on an itty-bitty wrist.

That Apple has tinkered with watches before is completely plausible. Such prototypes could have possibly inspired such a patent filing, which means this thing may only exist on paper.

Yet, this patent application just so happens to have arrived at precisely the right time. The tech world is now looking for a watch. We’ve almost completely forgotten about that TV thing, (well, everyone except Gene Munster) and we’re ready for a wearable device from Apple.

If I may speak candidly, I would be disappointed if this was Apple’s big thing this year. Granted, one never knows how great an Apple product is until they feel it, touch it and use it, but based on what I’ve heard, I’m not sure a watch would be such a huge hit.

So many people are looking to Siri as the killer feature for this watch. Some are even saying this is what Siri was born for, to direct our everyday lives while living on our wrists. Yet, how many people do you see using Siri out in public right now? I only use Siri when I’m mostly alone, partly because she’s more likely to misunderstand me in public (it’s noisy) and partly to avoid looking like That Bluetooth Guy.

Perhaps Siri would be easier to talk to on our wrists, but I think a watch would need to have a little more to offer than Siri and Bluetooth 4.0.

A slap bracelet approach could definitely have some very retro-cool appeal to it, however…

 

Finally, what’s to be made of Google’s Pixel Chromebook?

It’s an interesting choice of names, for sure. After all, who names a product after the very same thing they don’t want you to see? Google, that’s who.

By the numbers, the touch screen on the new Pixel has trumped Apple’s Retina display, but not by much. Google’s new 12.85-inch screen has a resolution of 2560 x 1700 with 239 pixels per inch, or ppi for all you cool cats out there. Apple’s 13.3 inch Retina, in case you’ve forgotten, ships with 2560 x 1600 and a 227 ppi.

It’s a minor improvement, to be sure, but it’s also the second time this week that a product has been released with a better screen than Apple’s Retina. Perhaps we’ll be seeing that new IGZO display later this year?

Elsewhere, the Pixel costs about the same as a MacBook, but is relatively less equipped with a slower processor and, in some cases, less RAM and memory. It’s Air-like solid state setup will make it extra zippy, of course…but topped out at 64 gigs, this laptop looks like a very— very— expensive tablet with a keyboard.

There’s also the fact that Chrome is made for a very special type of user; the one who’s completely bought into cloud computing and doesn’t mind either paying for multiple gigs of storage or spreading out their data between the cloud and a few hard drives here and there.

To be fair, Google is offering 1 Terabyte of free storage in their Drive cloud, but only for 3 years. Assuming the prices remain as they are today, Pixel owners will have to pay $1,800 every year to have access to the same amount of storage. The Pixel looks like a very expensive proof of concept, one that nobody really needs and only those digital daredevils or punishment gluttons would be seriously interested in buying.

Then again, the purchase of a Pixel could be the best kind of middle finger to the rest of the computing world, a way of saying: “Suck it, Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Microsoft, Acer and the rest! I’m pushing all my chips towards Google, and don’t you dare say I’m doing it all out of spite!”

Yeah, that’ll show’em.

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