MacBook Pro Retina - why it is a bad product
Last week, Apple updated the line of its products and introduced a new version of MacBook Pro: the Retina version. This version brings to the personal computers’ woröd the concept of ‘higher resolution’, with its display of 15.4” at a maximum resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, for a sum of 5 Millions of pixels. Cost of solution: 2199 € or,with accessories from the store, 2999 €.
This feature is really impressive and interesting for the so-celebrated ‘User Experience’ Apple wants to give to its clients, but here we demonstrate this feature is just an excuse for a new money-making product.
As AnandTech reported, the resolution is amazing, but the quality of the display isn’t as good as the normal one, used on the MacBook Pro (no anti-glare), because offers darker colours and sometimes bad contrast. The interesting detail comes from the 3D benchmarking. With a game such as Diablo III, at the Retina’s resolution, the MBP Retina suffers and offers just only 20 fps. This fact should be just an alarm for those who want to use this kind of machines for 3D works at the maximum resolution: absolutely this isn’t the product good for you!
The reason of this slow performance comes from the Nvidia Optimus technology which combines the Intel HD4000 (offered by the 3rd generation of Core i5/i7) and a Nvidia Geforce GT650M with 1 GB of VRAM. For this problem, a better graphic card would be nicer.
Another problem is the impossibility of repairing or modifying the hardware of MacBook Pro Retina, as iFixit reported: RAM benchs are soldered on the motherboard, disallowing users to make upgrades or changing the benchs with faster ones, and the SSD drive isn’t compatible with the aftermarket ones, blocking the users’ choice towards faster and cheaper drives. Also the battery is soldered, so, if it will break, basically you can’t change it. The unique way of safety for this product is to buy the (in)famous Apple Care Protection, not so cheap (around 300€) for an extension of the warranty for 3 years. Really, this is the worst commercial strategy from a Computer company as Apple is, because forces users to refer directly to their Apple Stores and disallows them to use aftermarket products. It looks like a car-vendor, who disallows you to change the tires with other types, cheaper and better: stupid or whatever?
The last, bad consideration, is about the choice of hardware: the top configuration of MacBook Pro Retina is slower than the top configuration of the MacBook Pro ‘normal’: funny, really? Why don’t they used a better hardware for the Retina model? The normal model uses an HDD at 5400rpm (old fashioned!!!), while the Retina uses SSD. The normal model uses a Core i7-3770, while the Retina ones uses a Core i7-3670 (less cache and speed).
Of course, comparing this model with the older ones, it is faster, but why none is comparing yet this model of notebook with the other vendors’ ones?
Siri, what is the best smartphone ever?
When iPhone 4S owners ask Siri which smartphone is the best ever made, the obviously disgruntled virtual personal assistant responds saying it’s the Nokia Lumia 900 4G running on AT&T’s network. It goes further, stating that the Cyan-colored Lumia 900 stands above all others.
Although it may seem a bit odd that Apple’s own service would recommend another phone, it actually makes sense. Siri looked for the answer on Wolfram Alpha, which points to the Lumia 900 when users type in “what’s the best smartphone ever?” The high rating is delivered based on “customer review average” across the Web.
The Lumia 900 is certainly no slouch. CNET’s review of the device gave it four stars out of five and deemed it “excellent.” CNET reviewer Jessica Dolcourt called the Lumia 900 her “favorite Windows Phone yet.”
So, this is a SuperMegaFail for Apple!
Apple rejects Dropbox-integrated apps
Apparently, Apple has been rejecting some iOS apps with Dropbox integration lately (at least during the past week) for linking to the Dropbox website through the login/sign up process. The Next Web has a rundown of the “issue”.
Apps that integrate with Dropbox, in fact, can either authenticate through the installed Dropbox app, or, if not installed, open a web view to let users log in with the browser. The alleged problem with Apple is that the Dropbox mobile login page contains a link to go back to Dropbox’s main website/account creation page, and possibly purchase a subscription bypassing Apple’s App Store (and thus 70/30 revenue split).
Of course, this isn’t new. In its App Store Review Guidelines, Apple has been enforcing for years a policy that doesn’t allow developers to visibly link to external websites that contain links to subscriptions sold outside of iTunes
Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.
In the past, a number of developers and services that included buttons/links to external websites containing subscription options were forced to update their apps to remove such functionalities. The most notable example to date has probably been the official Kindle app, which removed a button that linked to Amazon’s Kindle Store (where books can be purchased with an Amazon login, and saved into Amazon’s cloud locker). The list goes on, and the core issue at hand seems to be just how visibly developers are linking to external websites featuring ”external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions”. There doesn’t seem to be a “visible” link to purchase additional Drive storage on Google.com, but you get the possible irony of this scenario. In the past few days, if these forum posters are to be believed, Apple decided to reject some apps that offered “an external link to Safari to create a Dropbox account”.
Before we march to Infinite Loop with our community pitchforks and torches, there are some necessary notes to be made about these rejections. First, the latest public version of the Dropbox iOS SDK is 1.2.1, available here, and I know at least two apps — Ultimate Password Manager and Drafts — that use it, and were approved today. Dropbox integration isn’t a central feature in these two apps, but they do have the Dropbox SDK built-in. On the forums — thus, not on the public developer page — the Dropbox team has already released a “beta” version of the 1.2.2 SDK, which removes the option to create an account on Dropbox.com. The beta SDK was seeded a few hours ago, and there’s the possibility Apple will reverse its decision on those rejections once they see the removal of the incriminated links. Right now, we don’t know.
Perhaps more interestingly, Dustin Curtis notes how some developers had also trouble linking to Rdio content inside their apps. It’s interesting, because Rdio came up with its own way to comply with Apple’s terms without losing money: they are offering subscriptions at a higher price through in-app purchase. But then again, the issue isn’t that Rdio does offer IAPs in its iOS app (the restriction on different prices was relaxed last year): it’s that the Rdio website still displays links to subscriptions users may potentially purchase through Safari (or any iOS web view).
As iOS apps become increasingly connected with third-party services and APIs, it’s going to be difficult for developers to keep track of websites and login pages that may or may not contain purchase mechanisms Apple doesn’t like. Sometimes, these mechanisms go unnoticed for months; other times, Apple decides to take action, such as in the (reportedly few) cases of Dropbox rejections this week.
Does this signal a change in Apple’s stance on Dropbox-enabled apps? We don’t know, though developers are naturally asking for clarifications and expressing their doubts. It may well be that Apple decided to simply start enforcing its old existing rule, and that they will be perfectly fine with the new SDK for newly-submitted apps. More importantly, while these few rejections are being talked about now, it’s important to note how, this week, other apps with the old Dropbox SDK have been approved.
Apple’s 11.13 rule isn’t new, and before we dabble in speculation about Apple wanting to “kill Dropbox”, I suggest we wait.
How Apple dodges billions in Taxes
Charles Duhigg of the New York Times has written another extraordinary article about Apple, this time focused on the heroic lengths Apple has gone to to avoid paying taxes to governments around the world.
All companies try to minimize taxes, obviously. And tech companies, it turns out, are ideally suited to skirting tax laws—because tech products can be “sold” from anywhere, regardless of where they’re designed or made.
But Apple appears to have been as spectacularly creative and successful in its tax-avoidance business it has been in its gadget business.
Last year, for example, Apple’s global cash tax rate was only 9.8%. It paid $3.3 billion of cash taxes on profits of $34 billion. This compares to a tax rate of 24% for Walmart, which, according to Duhigg, is about average for a major global corporation.
In the U.S. last year, Apple’s tax-avoidance schemes allowed it to save $2.4 billion in federal taxes alone, according to one study. The company likely saved millions more by avoiding state and local taxes.
Per Duhigg, here are some of Apple’s tax-avoidance tricks:
- Apple’s first major move has been to find ways to allocate 70% of its profits outside the U.S., despite the fact that most of its executives and product designers are located here. The U.S. tax code was supposedly designed to tax companies on where most of their value is created, rather than where the products are made or sold, but Apple has found ways around that.
- The cash generated by Apple’s U.S. business is not collected or managed by the company’s headquarters in California. It’s collected and managed by a subsidiary called Braeburn Investments located in Nevada. Why? Because California has a corporate tax rate of 8.84%, while Nevada has no corporate tax rate. Thus, Apple pays no taxes on profits generated by its cash. Braeburn also helps Apple reduce taxes in other states, which have lower rates for companies that manage their finances elsewhere.
- At the same time that Apple is avoiding California taxes by managing its cash in Nevada, it is getting tax credits from California for conducting “research and development” in California. Apple has benefitted from more than $400 million of R&D credits since 1996, Duhigg says.
- Internationally, Apple invented a tax-avoidance scheme known as the “Double Irish With A Dutch Sandwich,” which is now used by hundreds of other companies. This scheme routes royalties and profits generated on U.S. inventions through subsidiaries in Ireland and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. On an accounting basis, Ireland “generated” one-third of Apple’s revenue last year. Apple has also assigned some of the ownership of its Ireland operation to a subsidiary with no employees in the Caribbean, and routes the rest of the Irish profits through the Netherlands, which is also basically tax-free.
- Apple makes sure that salespeople located in high-tax countries are actually employed by Apple subsidiaries in low-tax countries. For example, a salesperson located in high-tax Germany might sell Apple products on behalf of an Apple subsidiary located in low-tax Singapore—and the sales in Germany are then taxed at low Singaporean rates.
- Apple has decreed that many global “iTunes” sales legally happen in Luxembourg, because Luxembourg offers tax incentives for companies that process transactions there. This dodges taxes in the U.S., France, Britain, and other countries that would charge much higher rates.
- And so on…
Now, all this, of course, is perfectly legal. And hundreds of other companies take advantage of many of the same sorts of tricks that Apple uses.
And Apple does still pay billions in taxes ($3.3 billion, on profit of $34 billion).
But while Apple is going to heroic lengths to set up subsidiaries in Nevada and the Caribbean, of course, California is going broke.
And so is Cupertino, where Apple is building its amazing new spaceship headquarters.
So, not surprisingly, many in California are angry about how much tax Apple avoids paying in the state. And so, presumably, are some folks in the federal government, Britain, France, Germany, and other countries in which Apple is following the letter of the law, but not the spirit.
And the answer is certainly not for the U.S. or California to suddenly “crack down” on Apple—if that happened, the company would immediately leave the United States altogether, taking the taxes it does pay with it.
The answer—if the goal is to force Apple and other companies to pay higher taxes—is probably for world trade organizations to come together and establish consistent policies across the world. But that’s easier said that done.
So, in the meantime, the usual adage applies: Paying taxes is for the little people.
Java makes Apple pain: another trojan attack
Recently, Russian Anti-Virus company Doctor Web, found that the Flashback Mac Trojan had infected more than 600,000 systems, further quashing the myth that Apple’s OS X is somehow immune to malware threats.
The Trojan exploited three Java vulnerabilities to gain remote access to the infected systems and likely included a keylogger capability to capture authentication credentials.
Now researchers at Kaspersky Labs have discovered another OSX backdoor that utilizes a Java exploit. The Trojan, dubbed “SabPub”, uses the an obfuscator to attempt to bypass antivirus protection.
"The Java exploits appear to be pretty standard, however, they have been obfuscated using ZelixKlassMaster, a flexible and quite powerful Java obfuscator. This was obviously done in order to avoid detection from anti-malware products," writes Kaspersky’s Costin Raiu.
Analysis leads Raiu to believe that the malware was designed for use in targeted attacks.
"This new threat is a custom OS X backdoor, which appears to have been designed for use in targeted attacks. After it is activated on an infected system, it connects to a remote website in typical C&C fashion to fetch instructions. The backdoor contains functionality to make screenshots of the user’s current session and execute commands on the infected machine," said Raiu.
SabPub, which may have been in the wild for about a month, is now known to connect to Command and Control servers hosted on a VPS located in Fremont, California, called “Onedumb.com”.
"Onedumb.com is a free dynamic DNS service. Interesting, the C&C at IP 199.192.152.* was used in other targeted attacks (known as “Luckycat”) in the past," Raiu wrote.
"One other important detail is that the backdoor has been compiled with debug information - which makes its analysis quite easy. This can be an indicator that it is still under development and it is not the final version," he continued.
Early analysis has not determined the exact mechanism for the spread of SubPub, but researchers suspect the use of emails containing a malicious URL as the primary method of delivery.
"At the moment, it is not clear how users get infected with this… Several reports exist which suggest the attack was launched through e-mails containing an URL pointing to two websites hosting the exploit, located in US and Germany," Raiu explained.
Apple Loses $1.2M from AppleCare in Italy
As outlined here, Apple lost an appeal of an Italian case that fined the company 900,000 euros, or roughly $1.2 million, for allegedly not furnishing an adequate amount of information regarding mandated product guarantees and warranty stipulations.
The fine is the direct result of a 2011 investigation into alleged “unfair commercial practices” that found Apple pushed its paid two-year AppleCare warranty on consumers despite acknowledging that EU laws require companies to offer the same protections without charge.
Apple must add a disclaimer on its packaging informing customers of the existing two years of mandatory coverage. The issue will be discussed at a separate hearing on May 9 along with other matters regarding the decision.
AppleCare goes above and beyond the standard one-year warranty (but in EU the minimum legal coverage must be 2 years) and is available for all of Apple’s electronic devices including the company’s line of Mac computers, the iPhone and the iPad. Cost differs depending on the product (the mean price is ~250€ for computers), but coverage includes over-the-phone and in-store repair support (not coverede: glass break, water accidents).
It looks like someone is opening his eyes in this direction: why does an important company such as Apple continue to cheat customers? If the products are so expensive, as they are, why don’t they give directly 2 years of warranty protection?
Apple unsatisfied customers
Last week Apple showed to the World the “new iPad”, one of the most ugly names it uses in the last years. It looks like a “definitive name” and brings this iDevice to a state of undefined model versioning: is it an iPad 3rd Generation or an iPad 2 enhanced? Well, this answer will come up next year, when Apple will decide to update “the new iPad” with “the newest iPad”.
On social networks, the dark side effect of this update opens the gates to unsatisfied (and maybe, dumb) customers, who just bought an iPad 2 some days/weeks before the “new iPad” announcement.
As you can see here, http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/sad-people-who-just-bought-the-ipad2, people is going mad because they spent over 500€ (the basic model costs 480€), getting an old device. It’s clear this is a fault of the customers, but Apple would not have to inform their customers of the forthcoming update and the relative cut of the price for the old versions of iPad?
Apple vs Microsoft
Microsoft: gives Windows 8 trial for free, to everyone.
Apple: gives MacOs 10.8 trial for payment, to a selected group.
Who is better?