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  • Apple's iPhone 6: It's Not About The Specs, It's About Usability [View article]
    Samsung's over emphasis on specs has led to a serious mismatch between display and graphics processor capabilities leading to sub par graphics performance. This is what happens when products are designed for specs in an advertising piece vs actual device performance:

    "Samsung Galaxy Note 4 delivers poor graphics performance vs. Apple iPhone 6 Plus"
    http://bit.ly/1vDwqyF

    Its like spending thousands of dollars on high fidelity sound equipment that goes beyond the ability of the human ear just to have higher advertised performance. It is waste of money for both the consumer and the manufacturer and it can lead to inferior products due to lack of focus on the right priorities. Never buy a product solely on claimed performance as measured by specifications. Always read reviews and understand what performance is of best in terms of benefit to you. The highest and best benefit is achieve by products based on device performance as measured by human experience, at least to the extent possible. Product reviews by experts like Walt Mossberg are a good starting point.
    Oct 12, 2014. 03:08 PM | 12 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    @J. M. Manness I like reading your articles a lot. They are very far sighted and credible. By way of one difference, I never said that anybody was swindled here, not even close. When companies push the state of the art with an immediate production goal, the risks are huge. In this case I would say they were monumental with the possible exception of using sapphire a watch crystal. However I would never buy a watch with a sapphire crystal until there was convincing evidence that the crystal would not shatter by what most would consider an accidental direct tap with a hard object like a belt buckle (that is how I managed to shatter my iPhone 4S display glass).
    Oct 12, 2014. 02:54 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    Laminating layers of glass and sapphire for a commercial product sounds like wishful thinking and a university research project to me. This adds many additional layers (no pun intended) of complexity and opportunity for failure. I do need to say that I am not an expert in the advanced research in this area. In addition there are too many other great investment opportunities that need attention that would successfully compete with researching such a topic.

    I also totally agree that the Gorilla glass being used in iPhones is highly scratch resistant. Improvements here do not make any sense to me. The Apple watch however may be another matter. I have never ever had a scratch on any iPhones but I have had plenty of scratches on high end watches I have owned. I also have had two iPhone displays crack catastrophically due to my mishandling. I would not like anything that fractures as easy as sapphire in any iPhone I own unless some miracle of materials science research can be used to change what appear to be fundamental properties of this material.
    Oct 12, 2014. 02:41 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    I believe Johnny Ives is the best consumer electronic device designer in the world bar none but I doubt he is in depth in the materials science issues raised here and I doubt Apple had in-depth experts on the problems in making large sapphire single crystals for iPhone displays. There are probably only a handful of people in the world who understand all the process challenges and technical details involved.

    I would submit Apple's investment in Liquidmetal has similar problems with the exception they have yet to be picked as a supplier for any parts in a production Apple device, at least that I know of. So far only their original investment is at risk. This far sighted Appleinsider article pointed out some of the concerns last June:

    http://bit.ly/1yqrQYQ

    And indeed I agree that Apple was attempting to trust the expertise at GTAT, but thay also knew they may be dealing with a management that was a little naïve and/or overly ambitious and thus the normal and maybe even more stringent business worthy contracts were put in place. And of course maybe GTAT should have renegotiated the terms or said no way, but they took the chance anyway. Unfortunately if there are fundamental technical problems that cannot be solved in the agreed to time, you can write all the contracts in the world but they cannot guarantee success. And unfortunately this is painful for investors and the business entities involved when failure occurs. No one wins except the lawyers.

    My advice to investors regarding high risk situations is to make a small play in call options that you can afford to write off. Venture caps know the rules here. You invest in multiple and different high risk situations that may pay off. The high leverage created by using this model can make for very high paybacks on a RELATIVELY small investment. However you bet wrong consistently or place to much money in one high risk situation, you stand to lose big time.
    Oct 12, 2014. 02:24 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    It should be noted that glass is an amorphous material without any long range crystal structure. Simplistically, the components are melted, mixed and cooled under controlled conditions. The conditions are much more "casual" than for single crystal formation. Surface properties including scratch resistance and fracture toughness can be adjusted by the controlled introduction of certain species into the glass surface by using fairly simple diffusion techniques. This occurs at well below the glass melting point and usually requires a third relatively simple step commonly called heat treating. Duck soup compared to making single crystals.

    Making single crystal sapphire involves the use of a small single crystal seed that is brought into contact with the surface of a white hot high purity liquid Aluminum Oxide bath and gradually withdrawing the seed at a very controlled speed and closely controlled cooling rates under very specific atmospheric conditions. Keep in mind that aluminum oxide is a ceramic refractory material used in furnace linings that has a melting point of 3,762°F (2,072°C). If done properly, > 12" diameter defect free single crystals of silicon for semiconductor manufacturing are made this way.
    Oct 10, 2014. 05:54 PM | 11 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    A FEW MORE COMMENTS ON THE DIFFICULT MATERIAL SCIENCE PROBLEMS INVOLVED HERE

    Even at best, and despite its almost diamond like hardness, this material is very fragile. It is brittle just like a thin sheet of glass and upon any minor impact it will fracture . For example accidently hitting it lightly with a metal belt buckle while dressing will result in a trip to the Apple store to have the expensive display crystal replaced.

    Any notch or scratch introduced in phone production or usage significantly reduces fracture toughness. Even undamaged the fracture toughness of this material is well below Gorilla glass designed by Corning for this specific purpose.

    By comparison it is relatively easy to make small circles for camera lenses and fingerprint readers and much less costly per sq. cm. It is a leap of some consequence to go to watch crystal size pieces and a monumental leap to go to high quality iPhone 6/6+ size pieces.

    Another historical related footnote: Gorilla glass was made production ready as result of a meeting with Steve Job. He semi-politely told them they could do it. In Corning's case he was right but only because glass is a much more robust and easy to manufacture material. And beyond that Corning already had an experimental glass in R&D that gave them some existence proof that they could do it before they agreed to try and long before they signed any contracts. As far as I know they developed it at their own expense.
    Oct 10, 2014. 05:27 PM | 10 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The GT Advanced Technologies Debacle: Where Does Apple Go From Here? [View article]
    GTAT took on a state of the art problem making defect free iPhone 6/6+ size totally transparent sapphire (single crystal high purity Aluminum Oxide, Al203) at what must have been, by any earlier standard, bargain basement prices. This was a very high risk project and well beyond what had been the current state of the art. It's pretty obvious that GTAT failed to meet the milestones that they had signed up for and therefore they missed the funding deadlines required. This money was needed to pay their bills and led to the bankruptcy filing. I would imagine that they were not ready for a manufacturing ramp.

    By way of due disclosure: I ignored all the exhortations to buy GTAT as a lucrative new Apple suppliers because of the potential problems involved. At least I was right on this decision. Not all are so slam dunk.

    I do not hear analysts, other pundits and what may be naïve investors discussing what probably happened here. I doubt if many, if any, of these understand the extent of the state of the art the material science problems involved. I have a Ph.D. in Materials Science and over 25 years of experience in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D. I have some sensitivity as to what may have happened here.

    It's quite possible that the GTAT and Apple relationship was doomed to fail from the outset. This should have been done as a research project without commercial production deadlines. No one could have accurately assessed how long it might take to deal with the high volume manufacturing problems associated with large sizes of this exotic material. The difficulty of producing defect free material goes up exponentially as the size increases. Its one thing to make relatively small camera and fingerprint lenses. Its another to make watch size crystals and much more difficult to make the iPhone 6/6+ size aluminium oxide single crystal sheets required to replace the work horse Gorilla glass covering the display screen. Both sides should have been heads up to these issues.

    I suspect Apple did not understand the potential difficulties with manufacturing this state of the art material, at least at these sizes, and took a flying leap thinking they could squeeze the problem solutions out of GTAT. Apple was most likely mislead by GTAT management and scientists as the project advanced as so often happens on industrial problems like this. The difficulties and downside involved was probably minimized in GTAT presentations. Apple's no mercy business relationships with suppliers that are having trouble delivering components probably did not help.
    Oct 10, 2014. 05:03 PM | 20 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • GT suggests it could sue Apple; sapphire plant to close [View news story]
    I do not hear analysts, other pundits and what may be naïve investors discussing what probably happened here. I doubt if many, if any, of these understand the extent of the state of the art the material science problems involved. I have a Ph.D. in Materials Science and over 25 years of experience in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D so I have some sensitivity as to what may have happened here.

    GTAT took on a state of the art problem making defect free iPhone 6/6+ size totally transparent sapphire (single crystal high purity Aluminum Oxide, Al203) at what must have been, by any earlier standard, bargain basement prices. This was a very high risk project and well beyond what had been the current state of the art. it's pretty obvious that GTAT failed to meet the milestones that they had signed up for and therefore they missed the funding deadlines required. This money was needed to pay their bills and lead to the bankruptcy filing. I would imagine that they were not ready for a manufacturing ramp.

    It's quite possible that the GTAT and Apple relationship was doomed to fail from the outset. This should have been done as a research project without commercial production deadlines. No one could have accurately assessed how long it might take to deal with the high volume manufacturing problems associated with large sizes of this exotic material. The difficulty of producing defect free material goes up exponentially as the size increases. Both sides should have been heads up to these issues.

    I suspect Apple did not understand the potential difficulties with manufacturing this state of the art material, at least at these sizes, and took a flying leap thinking they could squeeze the problem solutions out of GTAT. Apple was most likely mislead by GTAT management and scientists as the project advanced as so often happens on industrial problems like this. The difficulties and downside involved was probably minimized in GTAT presentations. Apple's no mercy business relationships with suppliers that are having trouble delivering components probably did not help.
    Oct 10, 2014. 04:56 PM | 17 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Microchip Technology: CEO Flubs A Warning Announcement [View article]
    Russ, thanks much for standing up and saying what needs to be said.

    I would add that you do have to wonder if stock manipulation is not at play here especially with other analysts chiming in in support of this BS:

    http://on.barrons.com/...

    There are major dislocations going on in the Chinese low and midrange smart phone market and manufacturers are losing money and there is no discussion of this significant factor in the Microchip announcement. Some are downsizing or even throwing in the towel. This likely base of Microchip customers is of course delaying and cancelling orders.

    One key factor that is also not discussed is the fact that Apple copycat Xiaomi is taking off at the expense of other manufactures in the Asian marketplace. It would be interesting to know if they are a major Microchip customer.

    If Microchip is a decently managed company, and many have questioned this, they should know these factors are going on and discuss this in their announcement. The fact they did not is highly suspicious or simply incompetent and at a minimum misleading.

    This by the way gave me an opportunity to buy some more Skyworks this morning at a >10% discount.
    Oct 10, 2014. 01:00 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Do A Television Set [View article]
    Thanks for your comments. TIVO is now going to be severely challenged by Comcast's Infinity X1 DVR with their iPhone and iPad Aps which provide well lighted remote that provides sophisticated search and voice command functionality. The DVR provides all of the other usual TIVO functions and even better has 500Gb of free on line cloud storage for all of the programs that you select to record and watch later or keep available for future repeat viewing. And even better than that you have instant world wide access to the stored programming replayed on your Apple devices using the Comcast Aps. I am having the X-1 system with DVR installed this afternoon and if it works as promised I will soon be retiring my 3 TIVO systems. Now Apple should be able to buy TIVO at a lower price as this new competition hits the bottom line.

    Too bad Comcast is such a poorly managed stupid company. It took two days and 3 hours of phone tree torture and endless holds to place an Comcast Infinity X-1 DVR order to upgrade my existing Comcast installation. In the process I received incorrect information from two different agents who were adamant that my existing TIVO would not work with the Infinity upgrade (WRONG AGAINST FCC REGULATIONS) and quotations that kept moving all over the map.
    Oct 7, 2014. 11:50 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • iPhone 6 Selling Poorly On China's Gray Market: Are Xiaomi, Lenovo Hurting Apple? [View article]
    This is all totally predictable. Scalpers took a chance as they only had guesses as to when the iPhone 6 would be cleared for legal sale in China. The amazing good news is that they are still at this point able to clear on their iPhone 6 inventory at a profit, or at least not lose gobs of money.

    The conclusions drawn by the author here are the only surprising part of this discussion. Take a few data points, extrapolate to the misleading, unfounded and ridiculous, and you have an SA article, just like an authentic Michael Blair copycat.
    Oct 6, 2014. 11:38 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Do A Television Set [View article]
    PS: What I did say is that streaming is far from ready to meet routine viewer needs. I did not say Apple should solve that problem. What I did say was that if Apple has a successful home entertainment device that is going into millions of homes, the content owners will want to work with Apple to provide the content on a free or fee for service basis as it meets their needs. Apple is all set up to process any fees with the entry of a password or fingerprint tap.
    Sep 30, 2014. 04:57 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Do A Television Set [View article]
    You can't and that is one of my frustrations with streaming. Its not ready for prime time! You just can't get what you want .
    Sep 30, 2014. 04:53 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Do A Television Set [View article]
    Please read what I say carefully. I said nothing about Apple getting into the streaming business on its own or going into competition with Netflix. I am talking about a TIVO like hardware-software-video storage device that has access to cable TV and streaming content of all types. Apple provides the search and video programming functions (what to capture of the available sources including streaming and cable) as well as user friendly record and storage functions. They also can easily provide a back lit hand held control interface (iPhone, iPad, etc)
    Sep 30, 2014. 04:51 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Michael Blair's Analysis Of Apple's 10 Million First Weekend Sales Is Way Off Base [View article]
    Michael Blair, the statement about management stock compensation is an unbelievably ignorant statement. If a company performs well, the stock goes up and the value of employee stock option grants and stock holdings goes up. Silicon Valley is a place where stock compensation is used to drive extraordinary employee. Maybe they did not know that at GE, or were you really a GE VP?

    Have you considered writing for a publication more appropriate for your musings? This is not the place to cast your FUD unless you enjoy all the negative feedback you receive.
    Sep 30, 2014. 03:19 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
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