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Dialectical Materialist

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  • Apple's iCloud: 'It Just Works' [View article]
    You can't get rid of the file system any more than you can get rid of the need to put a fuel and air mixture into the cylinder of a gas engine. But you can take the "user serviceable parts" out of the equation and make the whole thing run automatically. Apple has released a great number of iCloud API's which will allow developers to manage data in the cloud at the application level. When you start Pages, on any device your docs are there just how you left them down to the cursor placement regardless of what device you last accessed the document from.

    So, no, your right. I will still be able to get to my file on my mac and copy it if I want to. But Apple is headed in the direction of taking this responsibility and control away from me. The "it just works" model requires a necessary dumbing down of the process. That will take old salts a while to get used to (if they ever do) but new users will quickly grow to expect that whatever they were working on will be available at all places and at all times.

    One interesting thing from the presentation was that they are saving "delta's" not file versions. This means there will not be multiple versions of the same file floating around, just one version and a history of all the changes it went through from version to version. This will allow you to take elements out of older versions and incorporate them into the new one without managing version numbers or backups or anything. If this is not a radical rethinking of the file system, I don't know what is. I also wonder about little details like the ability to purge previous changes. (I may not want anyone to look back and see previous versions of my work, for example.)
    Jun 9, 2011. 02:46 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Fail: Apple's New iCloud Service Won't Let Users Stream Content From the Cloud [View article]
    And, oh yeah, just for fun, here's a quote:

    <<And while there are plenty of Apple fanboys who will run out to get an iPad as soon as they can, anyone who thinks this device will have the reach the iPhone or iPod did is crazy.>>

    -Dan Rayburn Feb 4, 2010 on Seeking Alpha
    Jun 9, 2011. 02:33 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Fail: Apple's New iCloud Service Won't Let Users Stream Content From the Cloud [View article]
    It is unclear to me how this actually works in detail. Lets say I have more songs than will fit on my iPad. Do I get a placeholder that shows me I have the song? When I hit play, does it stream it or download it and then play it? Or do I get a device full warning when I buy the song (seems unlikely)? I have no idea how this will work, and I don't think I'm alone.
    Jun 9, 2011. 02:25 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple's iCloud: 'It Just Works' [View article]
    "The 'cloud' as a paradigm shift that replaces existing technologies still has to prove itself."

    This is an important point. And this is why I thought it was interesting that Jobs said they had been trying to get rid of the "file system" for ten years. In his mind, this is where the average person doesn't get it or finds using computers difficult. In many years of helping others with their computers (and I know I'm not alone among the computer literates of the world) I have found this to be the case. The difference between the file and the desktop short cut (or alias), the meaning of the message that the computer can not find a required file, heck even the very notion of creating backups all require a conceptual understanding of the file system. The change to "folders" instead of "directories" was an attempt at making the whole thing easier to comprehend.

    So it was interesting to me that (as explained in this article) the whole idea is to just make it go away. If you don't need to move a file from one device to another you don't need to know what a file is. Jobs indicated he has wanted this for ten years. If the cloud produces this sea change as he anticipates, then the paradigm shift will be assured.

    I like to use automobiles as the analogy for this kind of technological incorporation. In the early days most folks who were responsible for a car had quite a bit of mechanical knowledge. They needed to be able to change tires, fix the engine, and address a host of issues to keep the thing running. By the 1950's and 1960's there were a great many "shade tree mechanics" who still enjoyed tinkering and could fix their car and others' if they wanted too (and importantly to Android fans, they could customize the engine considerably if they wanted to take the time to do so). By the time integrated circuits made their way into the car, the shade tree mechanic's days were numbered. (You can't use your years of experience to adjust the carburetor by sound and feel if in place of the carburetor there is a computer controlled fuel injection system!) So today's car owners are almost entirely blissfully ignorant about what happens in their cars to make them work. That is sad for the few who had the aptitude and interest (not unlike those among us who enjoyed partitioning their hard drive). But it completes the transformation of the technology into the mainstream. Mobile computers will mostly be used by folks who have not even the slightest understanding of hexadecimal notation, cache refresh rates, or the file system. The cloud will be the fuel injector of the computer, making obsolete a whole bunch of knowledge once proudly used by hobbyists.
    Jun 9, 2011. 02:13 AM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Has Finally Stuck a Dagger Into SMS [View article]
    Rather than speculate about what the malware "probably was" you could read what it actually was. It was Safari malware that prompted you to "download MacDefender" because (it said) your system had a virus. It was not couched in other permissions. It required specific permission from the person browsing the web and it went on to capture credit card data when the person tried to pay for the "software". It was basically a credit card phishing scam that exploited websites. It detected when the person was using Safari to surmise they were on a Mac.

    I have never had a hard drive fail on a Mac, but it doesn't surprise me to hear that it happened to you. Hard drives fail. That is why backing up is important. I have had several hard drives fail while using Windows machines, but I'd never claim that was the reason not to get a PC. Sometimes reformatting a drive brings it back to life because the sketchy areas of the drive are labelled bad and no longer used for data. It doesn't have to have anything to do with a virus.

    Regarding the long term health of Apple, only time will tell. But they have enough future sales in the iPad and iPhone to last them quite some time. I can't say whether there will be a next big thing any time soon (or ever), but the iPad is a next big thing that has just gotten started. Tablets will be the laptops of their era. Apple could sell 100 million of these in a year by 2015. They are that important.
    Jun 7, 2011. 10:30 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Has Finally Stuck a Dagger Into SMS [View article]
    Apple has enough cash to continue operations for three years if no one bought another iPad, iPhone, or song on iTunes ever again. This is just to illustrate how silly your statement is. Apple would not be dead in five years even if it chose to sell nothing but delicious cupcakes in the bakery aisle.

    And in case you actually thought it was a virus that was appearing on Macs (as is being erroneously reported by some folks like the NY Times), it is actually Malware. Malware is not a virus. It does not install itself and it does not spread to other computers. All malware gets permission from the end user by fooling them into thinking they should install it. In this case the irony is that the malware used the notion that the Mac had a virus in order to scare folks into installing it. As if.

    As someone else pointed out, blaming this malware on the security of the Mac would be like blaming the lock on your front door every time you invited a salesman into the living room.
    Jun 7, 2011. 08:23 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • The Number One Reason to Buy Apple Right Now [View article]
    Just to be clear, you are saying it will hit $311 before... when? $311 sooner than $350 for example? Only if there is a sudden announcement about Jobs. Otherwise I think we are darn close to seeing the lows for the year right now. They will announcing their 3Q results in a few weeks. That doesn't give much time to drop another $20. And don't get me started on $275... Part of me hopes it goes that low. October $300 calls would be ridiculously cheap.
    Jun 7, 2011. 08:08 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Moves the Digital Hub From the Mac to iCloud [View article]
    And the fact that it will work on any PC running iTunes is also a big plus, I think. So anyone who needs or wants to keep his PC for gaming or work or whatever other reason he is attached to the machine, needs not "convert to Apple" to take advantage of this. I know lots of folks who have iPhones or iPods and run iTunes on a windows machine. This feature will be popular for a great many people who would never consider themselves part of Apple's "walled garden".
    Jun 7, 2011. 05:26 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple's Answer for a Distressed P/E [View article]
    I certainly agree that we will all need to stay tuned to see how this plays out. Integration has historically been a strength for technologies. The wintel/apple story has a lot to it that I am not prepared to revisit. It doesn't always happen that the proprietary system loses. If it did, the iPod wouldn't have become synonymous with "mp3 player". But you are right that generic and open and flexible has real market advantages in the long run in many circumstances. So this is really a story to watch unfold.

    The Apple TV, just to clear up the point, allows a user access to iTunes content from a local mac or other Apple device, the iTunes store, special content like NBA league pass, YouTube, and all that. But it also works like a Roku Box or other Netflix streaming device. So while I used to have a Roku box, I could not watch on my TV any of the content I had purchased through iTunes. With the Apple TV, I can buy or rent from iTunes, watch content I've already bought, or -- most commonly -- watch Netflix. So I don't think if you have another means to watch Netflix, you need an Apple TV. But Apple smartly made sure that if I wanted to get one, I would not also need another device to watch Netflix.

    Currently iOS has a larger installed base than Android. 200 million devices. That does not mean it will always be this way. What it suggests to me is that the user base and potential market are enough to support a robust integrated system. If the interoperability of iOS devices with the iCloud becomes useful, it will slow defection of Apple users to more generic frameworks and will even draw in some folks who like the simplicity.

    There will always be a role (thank goodness) for more "open" and customizable and mix-and-match technology. I used to enjoy building my own computers from parts I chose for specific performance and price point reasons, so I would never argue that a generic "out of the box" ecosystem should be the only game in town. But I think there is a huge market for technology that works well enough without thinking about it and is easy to marry to other devices. Apple's walled garden will not be for everyone, but many folks who don't want to be bothered with the details of how it all works will be glad it is there.

    I used to be a proud and poor tech-nerd. Now I am a busy and tired and more comfortable Apple-phile. So I know first hand that sometimes you don't care about how many settings you have available or how there is a way to get something to act in a very specific fashion or accomplish something more cheaply. I just want to buy the darn thing, have it work with all my other devices and not worry about it. Apple is profiting from the exhaustion of so many of us who just want the thing to do all the work for them.
    Jun 7, 2011. 05:19 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple's Answer for a Distressed P/E [View article]
    Clicks, I respectfully disagree. I think the only share of the tablet market that Apple will not dominate is the simple tablet -- the email and ebook reader like nook. The full blown tablet market is essentially the iPad and no one else. Yes there are others and yes companies have plans, but many have scaled back on their production plans or rethought their tablet strategy. In fact it has yet to be proven there even is such a thing as a tablet market and not simply an iPad market. Apple will rule this space for a long time, due in part to what they are doing with iOS and the cloud.

    I have an Apple TV and I don't pay for anything available on Netflix. I watch it on Netflix through my Apple TV. This space is a little less mature, to be sure, but Apple is well positioned to claim turf here as part of their "garden".

    Defending the idea of an uploadable cloud locker because a lot of music is illegally obtained is certainly not the strategy of Amazon and Google. iTunes in the cloud is compatible with any PC running iTunes, so the only incompatibility is really non Apple mp3 players (yeah right), non Apple tablets (again, not an issue), and Android phones. So the only person who thinks a non Apple cloud is needed is the user of an Android phone. And it remains to be seen whether these folks want to spend money at Amazon to upload a whole bunch of files. Since Apple will provide access to all iTunes music for free, it actually becomes a reason not to get an Android phone more than anything else.

    To really leverage the capabilities of the cloud, the approach needs to be seamless and consistent. Apple's "walled garden" approach is especially suited to this. The access to the remote hardrive in the sky will be available to anyone, but real cloud services that take place automatically and make the cloud an actual value add require a very organized approach. Apple's lead will only grow in the post PC era, I suspect.
    Jun 7, 2011. 03:23 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News [View article]
    Apple is winning the platform war so far. 200 million iOS devices, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, all working together. The Android "lead" is only a lead if you count in a very specific way.

    Also, the iTunes cloud features will work on a PC running iTunes. So the need to have all of one's products be Apple devices is overstated. No it will not work on an Android phone. No surprise there.

    Far from being a risk, Apple's use of the cloud is informed by the advantages of knowing everything they need to know about the target devices. (This applies to other app writers using their cloud services as well.) So having the whole system share consistencies will allow developers to utilize the cloud in ways that would be very sketchy across random devices. This means Google and Amazon will have difficulty providing the same functionality that will evolve on Apple's end. It may look like an opening for the competition, but it is really not.
    Jun 7, 2011. 11:17 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple's Answer for a Distressed P/E [View article]
    Clicks, you are overstating the case. Apple has no real competition in tablets. Google TV is not even the mild success Apple TV is. The cloud has just been owned by Apple as of this afternoon. Whereas Google and Amazon provide a "locker" which requires you to upload files, only Apple is providing the more sensible service of matching songs by title. Their document retrieval and photo stream are similarly set-it-and-forget-it models. The cloud is more than just "a hard drive in the sky".

    Apple has very little real competition in several of the areas you cite.
    Jun 6, 2011. 04:00 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Quickchat #181, June 4, 2011 [View instapost]
    Personally I think there are a lot of contributors on SA and many people hosting websites that already do a good job of making the case for collapse. Perhaps folks could simply provide you with some links to those who are already making the regular case about the dire straights we are in. Zero Hedge. Harvey Organ. John Mauldin on SA. Those are a few who come to mind. None are necessarily selling seed packets and batteries, but all paint a pretty bleak picture of the financial system...

    But if you had the time to collect or summarize these sources, then that could make a compelling case along the lines of what you are describing.

    Myself, I am always balancing the conflicting notions that we're clearly screwed and yet things are never as bad (or as good) as we think. I think that odds that I will be alive the day the dollar collapses are small. Not impossibly small. I will never say "it won't happen", but my gut tells me that should not be the sole financial plan anyone puts into place.

    As any intellectually honest investor should do, however, I always try to keep an open mind. Your project sounds like a lot of work, but it could be very fruitful.
    Jun 6, 2011. 01:51 AM | 8 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Quickchat #181, June 4, 2011 [View instapost]
    On disasters and disaster planning:

    I think this is neat because it requires no belief in any particular doomsday scenario to work. The rationale goes like this. Take a look at where you live. What does a 100 year flood look like in your area? What about a 100 year fire? Nuclear Accident? Earthquake? Ice storm? Hurricane? Tornado? The concept of the "100 year event" is artificial of course, but it is useful shorthand and it is used by, among others, the Army Corps of Engineers. The idea is that each event of some magnitude will only happen on average once every hundred years.

    Now this is where it gets interesting. If you live to be 75, there is by definition a 75% chance that you will witness a 100 year event in your lifetime. If you live to be 80, there is a 40% chance you will see a 200 year event, and a 16% chance you will see TWO 100 year events. These stats apply to EACH type of event. So if you live in the same area for 75 years (for example) you have a 75% chance of seeing that region's 100 year ice storm, 75% chance of Fire, 75% of earthquake, and the same for flood, hurricane, etc.

    So the odds of each of us witnessing a 100 year event of some type is rather large. Fortunately the odds of being directly impacted are somewhat less, but not so much so that no one would want to be unprepared.

    Now take a very serious event. The 500 year event. If you live to be 75 there is better than a 1 in 7 chance or your witnessing each type of 500 year event. That means if you can think of 7 events that might threaten your region, there is even money that you will live to see one of them in the 500 year magnitude. Think about that a second. There is nearly a 100% chance that you will witness (up close and personal) one natural or man made disaster that comes along only once in 500 years.

    What does a disaster look like? Most are eerily similar. Communications are down. Food and water are scare. People are left either trapped in their homes or displaced from their homes. There are injured and dead and missing.

    We are lucky enough to have tremendous community support (usually) in times of crisis. The odds of starving to death for most people is small (Katrina really should fill us with shame, however, as there was uncharacteristically high unmet need for too long in that event).

    But even given the great odds for eventual community support, the entire event can be made either much safer or much more comfortable with some forethought and planning. I won't re-cap the supplies needed, but they are all the obvious things you would want if you were camping for two weeks.

    And here is the point. Prepare yourself for one disaster and you are better prepared for ANY disaster. Financial armageddon? I don't lose sleep over it. But questioning why anyone would want to plan for a chaotic event? I don't see a point in that. Whatever your pet disaster is, get your stuff together. Get a plan. Make a list. Get some supplies. Then get some sleep.
    Jun 5, 2011. 03:38 AM | 6 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Number One Reason to Buy Apple Right Now [View article]
    Datadave, there is no doubt AAPL has been range bound, but I wouldn't say it is killing anyone who has bought it this year. If you call up a YTD chart you can see there have been plenty of times the stock could have been purchased for below its current price. If you bought at the absolute peek, you'd be off about 6%. Not great, but hardly a crime scene.

    What's more is that there is a growing consensus that this range bound period will be ending soon. It can simply not remain at its current level for two more earnings calls. Probably not even one more. The stock price is simply not reflecting the money Apple is making. When the price catches up to the balance sheet, lots of folks will wish they had been greedier at 340.
    Jun 5, 2011. 03:04 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment