John McCain is an Idiot.

I’ve never been a fan of John McCain.  I can appreciate his service without blindly following his philosophy.  And nothing proves to me that the man is an absolute idiot more than his current attack on Apple, Inc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Apple fan.  I’d like to think I’d feel the exact same way if McCain attacked any other corporation the way he is attacking Apple, but I may not have the information about those companies that I do about Apple.

That said, McCain is just way off base in his thinking about the mega tech company.  In statements he made in the Senate hearing about Apple’s alleged tax evasion, an evasion in which it has never been asserted that Apple violated any laws, McCain claims that “It’s time for Apple to invest in America.”

Funny, that’s EXACTLY what Apple was trying to do when they pulled the alleged shenanigans that got them called before the hearing.  Here’s the back story.

Over 30 years ago, back when Steve Jobs was in charge the first time, Apple started to expand into overseas markets.  They developed a holding company to handle the overseas business, Apple International Operations (AIO) and looked for a tax friendly country to set up shop.  Ireland came to the rescue and offered AIO a sweet deal on corporate tax income if they set up shop on the Green Isle.  Apple accepted, and AIO has operated out of Ireland ever since.  Starting with the iPod and moving on to the iPhone and iPad, Apple has seen it’s overseas market skyrocket.  Two thirds of their sales and three fourths of their revenue is now from selling products and services overseas.

During all this time, the one thing Apple has always kept in the good old USA is research and development.  As such, Apple has a mammoth campus in California, and is building an even larger building.  The giant ring shaped “Campus 2” will be the home of Apple’s R&D for decades to come.  This is a multi-billion dollar investment in America that McCain flat ignores.

Since 2001, and I’d argue that the change really started in 1998 with the colorful iMac and Steve Job’s return to the company, Apple has seen revenue skyrocket.  Completely free of debt, Apple has amassed a fortune in cash.  While Apple often pays generous dividends to shareholders, and buys companies and technology from that stockpile, many shareholders have complained that Apple was under leveraged with its lack of debt, and over hoarding on their cash.  Apple listened and decided that over the next year, through dividends and share buy backs, Apple would return $100billion to shareholders worldwide.

Except the vast majority of shareholders are in the United States.  So despite the billions Apple is investing in America building Campus 2, Apple plans to return $100billion to the US Economy.  But to do that, Apple was about $17billion short.  AIO, however, was not.  AIO could have transferred about $26billion to Apple and after Apple paid $9.2billion in taxes it would have the $17billion it needed for the $100billion investment.

However, since that represents a 35% tax payout, Apple looked around for another way.  And when Apple walks into your bank, with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and asks for a deal on a loan, banks listen.  Apple swung a sweet deal on a $17billion loan on the strength of the billions in cash and the yearly income of tens of billions it currently makes each year.  As a result, Apple will be paying 2% on $17billion rather than 35% on $26billion.

It was this huge loan that caught the eye of McCain.  For a sense of scale, this is roughly the same amount of money the Bush administration ultimately gave the Auto Industry during the bail out.  No matter how you cut it, $17billion is a huge sum of money.  What upset McCain isn’t that Apple took out a massive loan, but that they did it to avoid paying $9.2billion in taxes.

Again, $9.2billion in taxes versus the $100billion in American Investment in the form of share buy backs and dividends.  After Apple already paid billions in taxes last year, and will pay billions in taxes this year.

Again, Apple didn’t break any laws.  And the accusations that Apple lobbied for tax loop holes is ludicrous.  Apple pays far less than other tech companies in lobbying.  While that is about to change, historically Apple has been a small player in politics.

But like a typical politician, when McCain sees a pot of money, he looks to figure out how he can tax it.  McCain desperately wants to get the governments hand into Apple’s cash reserves.  So accusing Apple of evasion makes sense… even though the money didn’t come from American consumers or American sales.

If McCain was serious about trying to get American companies to repatriate their cash reserves, maybe he should try to be more like Ireland.  Or any other tax haven country.  Allow these companies to repatriate their reserves at a reasonable rate, say 2%-5%, and they will do it.  If Apple could return money from overseas sales (the sole reason for AIO to exist) at the same rate as Ireland, there would be little reason for AIO to continue to exist.

But ultimately McCain is an idiot because he truly believes Apple doesn’t invest in America.  So let’s see exactly what Apple DOES invest in this country.

Apple employs 50+ thousand people at highly competitive wages.  Besides being a massive employer of American talent, all those employees pay income tax, taxes collected by Apple FOR FREE as a service to the government (and another issue for another blog). Apple imports, and pays import taxes, on millions of units brought back from manufacturing in China (and don’t think that Apple hasn’t looked elsewhere for manufacturing, they have.)  Apple has a billion dollar campus in California and is expanding it on a massive scale to increase R&D space.  Apple has routinely HIRED during the recent recession while other companies in their sector have been laying people off.  And, perhaps most importantly, Apple created an entire economy with it’s App Store, a marketplace that didn’t exist 5 years ago and has paid developers around the nation over $9billion in sales.  And don’t forget the upcoming $100billion in payouts to shareholders.  All of which will be TAXED.

Furthermore, Apple did absolutely nothing different than what John McCain does every year. McCain has accountants that file his taxes and make sure that the Senator has the smallest tax exposure possible.  That’s all that Apple has done.  Perhaps we should be asking McCain what he has done to “Invest in America” instead.  Can he boast as much investment in America as Apple has done?

The iPad. How’d I do?

Alright, so I put myself out there and made my own predictions on Apple’s new tablet, the iPad.  Here’s how I did.

  1. It will be under $900 dollars.  Most likely $799 and $899.
    1. I’m claiming correct on this one.  The iPad pricing is as follows:  $499 for the 16gig model and $599 for the 32gig and $699 for the 64 gig.  Adding 3G is another $130. The 16gig model is kinda small for what all it is designed to do, so really for the iPad I was envisioning, the pricing is $729 and $829.  Not bad, Mike.
  2. It will have a 10″ screen that blows the iPhone screen away, which is saying something.
    1. Okay, it’s a 9.7 inch screen.  Which for all real purposes is a ten inch.  I’m claiming victory here.  It looks nice a big for a device without a keyboard.
  3. It will be full of gesture driven technology.
    1. No brainer.  Okay so that one was easy, but seriously…  What Jobs showed on the stage makes this device look amazing.  Like using it would be absolutely natural… even more so than the iPhone.
  4. It will run all of the iPhone/iPod touch apps out of the box.
    1. Bingo!  Nailed it!  In fact, it can run them one of two ways.  In native view mode, where the iPhone app looks just like on the iPhone in the center of the screen, or in double pixel mode so that the app fills the screen.  Both look great.
  5. A new store will be developed to support it
    1. I’m not sure about this one.  It’s a 50-50.  The iTunes music store is “built in” so that just like the iPhone, the store is based on that.  But there is clearly going to be a app store and content just for the iPad.  So yes, a new store inside the old one.  Just like the iPhone.
  6. New content agreements will be announced with the device, further expanding the store.
    1. Not only was content agreements announced, but displayed.  Books available via the iTunes store.  Newspapers, Major League Baseball.  More to come.
  7. It will have wifi, cellular and bluetooth, but not be connected with a carrier like AT&T.
    1. Oops.  It will have WIFI.  It will have Cellular with G3.  It will have bluetooth.  But it will be only AT&T.  But the plan with AT&T is no contract and affordable.  $29.99 for unlimited.  $14.99 for limited.  50% here.
  8. It probably won’t have a camera built in.
    1. It does not.  SCORE!  So this is the first portable computer from Apple in a while that can pass security at Army Bases.  And won’t freak out corporate security.
  9. It will have an amazing battery that is hardwired into the unit like the iPhone, iPods and MacBook’s.
    1. Right again!  10 hours of active use, weeks on standby.  Outta the park!
  10. It will revolutionize the way tablet computers will be used.
    1. I suppose this is yet to be discovered, but I’m thinking I’m right.  This raises the bar on how people will use the internet.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions.  For one, I haven’t read anything on handwriting recognition, and I had really hoped that the ability to do handwritten notes would be there.  Also, no mention of business apps.  I know that the Apple retail stores now have iPod Touch with credit card readers for point of sale.  This iPad could  become a fantastic point of sale machine that doubles as ad display and lots of other devices.

Whatever else, this is the beginning of the redefinition of portable computing.  I’m not convinced yet that Apple hit it out of the park, but it is a standing triple.  And if the rest of the computing world does like they did with the iTunes music store and the iPhone/iPod touch…  Apple will be stealing home.

BTW, my final score?  9 out of 10.  Not bad.

Apple’s Tablet

I decided to get in on the hype and talk a bit about Apple’s rumored upcoming tablet.  I have absolutely no inside information on what the tablet is, if it is really coming, or anything else.  But I have a few ideas about the tablet, and am going to make a few predictions.

I’ve read a good deal about how the new tablet is going to be an iPhone on steroids, and frankly I don’t buy it.  While plenty of people, myself included, have nearly replaced there generic computer needs with an iPhone, such as simple web browsing, email and social networking, the iPhone isn’t a computer replacement.  Not even close.  The tablet has to be something more.

It’s going to be big.  No, not Cinema display big, but no one is going to replace the small, sleek iPhone with a ten inch screen version, no matter how much beefier the OS.  Nor will such a large device replace an iPod.  The iPhone is of a size to make the need for both an iPod and an phone, and I use it this way.  So, in a sense, the iPhone is already an iPod on steroids, so the idea that the tablet is an iPhone on steroids is unlikely to me.

It’s not just going to be an e-reader of some sort.  Amazon has the book market sewn up.  I’d be more likely to believe it will work with Kindle, or have a Kindle app, like the iPhone.  But if it is an e-content device, it will be something new.  More than just a book/newspaper replacement.

It’s going to be cheap, at least in terms of Apple pricing structure.  From everything I’ve seen, this is not going to be a full on computer, so it won’t be competing with the MacBook line.  It’s going to be “something different.”

And that’s what I think is important to remember.  Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, they invented a whole new market niche with the iPod.  They didn’t invent the simplistic computer, but they revolutionized it with the iMac.  And we all know they didn’t invent the cell phone, but they sure changed the game with the iPhone.  So whatever the tablet from Apple is, it won’t be something already out there.   It will define a new market.

With that said, here are my predictions.

  1. It will be under $900 dollars.  Most likely $799 and $899.
  2. It will have a 10″ screen that blows the iPhone screen away, which is saying something.
  3. It will be full of gesture driven technology.
  4. It will run all of the iPhone/iPod touch apps out of the box.
  5. A new store will be developed to support it.
  6. New content agreements will be announced with the device, further expanding the store.
  7. It will have wifi, cellular and bluetooth, but not be connected with a carrier like AT&T.
  8. It probably won’t have a camera built in.
  9. It will have an amazing battery that is hardwired into the unit like the iPhone, iPods and MacBook’s.
  10. It will revolutionize the way tablet computers will be used.

And finally, and most importantly, it will “just work.”

I have one fear.  While the iPhone was an amazing device from the gate, it really wasn’t “finished” till the iPhone 3G with OS 3.0 came about.  Prior to that, the phone was crippled.  I hope that Apple doesn’t repeat that with the tablet, and releases a “finished” product.  No one else has anything nearly as revolutionary coming down the pipe.  Everyone is too busy playing catch up with the iPhone.  So the time is ripe for Apple to introduce a new game-changing device.

Here’s to hoping.  I’ll revisit this after the announcement and see how well I did.

Apple Comes To The Rescue

I don’t know if this is a “Apple” thing, or just a human thing.  But I can’t imagine being in a “Microsoft” store and having the same thing happen.

The day after Christmas I went to the Apple Store.  I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and wanted to use it.  I took my 6 year old son with me, and he headed straight to the little table in front of the Genius Bar where Apple had set up a couple of iMacs with games.   My son seemed happy, so I started looking over the software and other low end items I could afford with the card.

It should be said that the place was fairly packed with people spending their Christmas money on iPods, iPhones and accessories.  I couldn’t find any must have item on the software wall, and was moving to the iPhone accessories…  but my son wasn’t at the computer.  I looked around the best I could and he wasn’t in the store.  I’m about to freak out, when I go up to the Genius Bar and had them page him.

No luck.  Now I’m pretty upset, and I head out front where it was a bit quieter and called the wife to get her to come down to the store and help.  As soon as I’m out front, a group of about 10-15 people joined me.  All had their iPhones out.  “Send me a picture,” the first one said.  “I’ll help you look.”

You read that right.  10-15 people I did not know stepped outside, all wanting me to text or mail or bluetooth them a picture of my son, and they were all ready to go looking for my son around the outdoor mall.  I pulled up a recent photo and was getting numbers to text the picture too, when one of the women asked “Is that him?” and pointed down the way.

There was my son returning from the other end of the mall.  He saw me and ran and grabbed me.

Seems he couldn’t find me and thought I’d left.  He knew his mom was down on the other end, and thought I’d gone down there to her.  But he couldn’t find the store she was in, and was coming back to the Apple store to try and me.

These strangers and their iPhones were ready to come to my aid and find my missing son.  I was moved beyond words.  I’m sure they think that I’m an ungrateful git for not saying more, but the relief was overwhelming.  Needless to say I had a long talk with my son explaining that I would never leave a store without him, and that instead of leaving himself he should have gotten help in the store.  He understands that now.  (In fact, he’s done that in the past, but I think the loud crowd scared him and he felt “safer” out of the store.)

So while I was EXTREMELY nervous for a while, it all turned out great and I saw just how wonderful iPhone users can be.

I do want to stress something, though.  At no time did I think my son had been “taken.”  I didn’t feel the need to rush and grab a cop, or call them, at that time.  I was worried, more worried that he’d fallen in the lake at the mall or stepped into traffic, than that he had been abducted.  For one thing, he’d scream bloody murder, and for another that just so rarely happens.  My fear was finding him before he got so scared or worried that he got hurt.

In fact, he was nicely calm, and taking care of himself.  While he made a “bad” decision, I’m ever so happy he made a decision and acted on it, instead of being unsure of what to do.  Yes, it meant he wandered the length of an outdoor mall all by himself, but he acted.  He made a plan and went with it.  Find Mom.  Can’t find Mom, go back to where Dad was.  Overall, not a bad plan.  Just not the best.

And I got the chance to see how many people still give a damn.  And that was worth the worry.

The “New” Mac

Well, for those who hadn’t heard…  A friend accidently spilled hot tea on my Mac.  Killed it dead.  But they sent it off for repair and it came back.  Here’s the skinny.

It got sent off on Friday.  It came back today.  Only a look at the timeline didn’t make sense.  It arrived into the repair facility on Monday at 8pm or so.  It left the repair facility, which is in Memphis, at 10pm.  That’s two hours from check in to packaged and shipped out.

I found it hard to believe that in two hours they managed to completely gut my MacBook Pro and replace everything inside, including cloning the hard drive.  According to the repair form, everything was to be replaced.  Everything.  Logic Board, Drives, Display, memory, fan, speaker, everything.

I got a call this morning and was told the new machine should be delivered today.  So I started tracking it.  When I found out how little time was spent at the repair facility, I figured something was wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, a talented tech could get it done pretty darn quick.  But two hours from check in to check out?  Come on.  That’s insane.

So I left my Father-in-law to sign for the delivery as I ran errands.  But I downloaded the FedEx app to my iPhone to track it.  At 3:45 I noticed that the package had not been delivered, but returned to the distribution facility because no one answered the door.  Don’t know if my father-in-law fell asleep or what, but there is no way the driver rang the bell and he didn’t hear it.  So I imagine the driver knocked, waited a split second, and hurried on with all his other deliveries.

So I called and found out where I could pick it up.  I rushed out there (If you’re wondering, it’s out in Madison) during rush hour traffic to get the thing.  I have SOOOO missed my Mac.  I needed it back.

I picked up the box, rushed back to the car and opened it straight away.  And the first thing I noticed is there was no way it was my Mac.  Dread filled me.  It was NOT my Macintosh.  How’d I know?

Two things.  My son dropped a flashlight on the top.  Small dent, little scratch, but no damage to the insides.  The dent wasn’t there.  Okay, they did say they were replacing the screen, maybe they just replaced the whole thing, cover and all.  Makes sense.  So I flipped it over to where the serial number was etched onto the bottom.  My mac had a 6 inch scratch, a serious deep one, across the bottom where I slid it someplace once.  I hated it, but hey, it didn’t effect the operation at all so what do you do.

The scratch is gone.

So there is no way that this is my mac.  They shipped me the wrong unit.

But wait…  the serial number matches.  That’s right, my Mac’s serial number is on this Mac’s case.  Missing scratches and dents and all.

So I check the battery meter, and it’s got a full charge.  So I open it up and fire it up.  Bong.  That lovely Mac sound.  Then up pops MY user log in screen.  Mine.  With the two accounts set up on it.  So I log into my account, and presto.  There’s all my stuff.

All of it.

Just like it was prior to the “Tea Incident of 2009.”

Except the screen is pristine.  The keyboard is immaculate.  There is still tape on the footies.  THIS IS A BRAND SPANKING NEW MAC.  Wow!

So It’s like the day I bought it.  Beautiful.  Pristine.  A Mac.  Oh how lovely!  It’s perfect… only with ALL MY STUFF ALREADY ON IT.

I’m happy.

Here’s what I figure happened.  They ripped the old hard drive out and sent the rest to recycle.  They grabbed a blank MacBook Pro, and they cloned my drive onto it.  They knew my configuration, they already had it.  So pulling in a new blank MacBook was easy.  Clone my drive, power it down, box it up and ship it back.  Probably took the tech longer to pull the old drive out than to clone the new drive.  Heck, maybe they put the old drive in.  Doesn’t matter.

Apple tends to know how to treat customers.  I’m happy, heck I’m blogging about it ain’t I?

Now, about the “dark days” between Friday and now, when I got back on my Mac.

I kind friend (Thanks Russ!) lent me a laptop he wasn’t using.  It was a top of the line Lenovo ThinkPad.  Really sweet machine.  Loaded with bells and whistles.  And Windows Vista.

Now this isn’t an anti-windows post.  Windows is fine, really.  Vista even was stable and usable.  But it just wasn’t my Mac.  I had to think to much to accomplish anything.  But I have to say, for a PC laptop, this one was well thought out.

First, the keyboard was awesome.  Had I not spent months getting used to this silly mac keyboard, with the miles of space between each key and the very short throw each key has, I’d have fallen in love with that keyboard.  It was like an old IBM keyboard, with nice clicks and full sized keys.  I loved that keyboard.  Except…

It wasn’t backlit like my Mac.  Didn’t realize how much I used that.  Now it did have an interesting feature to make up for it.  It had a little light right next to the camera at the top of the screen that was angled to shine right on the keys.  It was okay, as far as it went.  In a truly dark setting, like I tend to compute in, instead of helping the shadows from your hands obscured the keys.  Now I’m a touch typist usually, but I do glance down more than occasionally to check my fingers.  That bothered me.  I really began to miss my Mac Keyboard, with all it’s other shortcomings.

And the applications on that thing.  Even with installing firefox (I’m happy to say I never once fired up IE) all it did was make me miss my Safari.  Yea, I could have installed Safari on it, but somehow I don’t think it would have been the same.  I just missed the feel of my Mac.  I’m sure it is a comfort thing, as I’m sure that I could have gotten used to and even learned to enjoy the PC.

Even with the larger screen (The Lenovo was a 15 inch, I’m happily on my 13 inch now) I just missed my Mac.  It’s the perfect size.  Small enough to be really truly portable, large enough to be comfortable.  And the trackpad!  So large and useful, and with the finger gestures built in.  Not to mention iLife, my apps, and my videos…

So yea, I guess I’m sold on Macs.  It would be almost impossible to send me back to the PC world.  Not impossible, since I happen to know there is a 10.1″ netbook under the tree with Windows 7 on it I’ll be taking care of, but while my wife will be happy on her netbook, I’ll stick to my Mac.

To each his (or her) own, I say.  If you love your PC, and it does what you want…  more power to you.  Me, I’m so much more productive with my Mac.

Life Changing Technology

Technology can be lifechanging. In medicine new tech could be a matter of life or death. But forget all that heady stuff, here is my list of the most personal life changing tech of the past twenty some-odd years.

Everything from Apple:
Okay, this is a big topic. Apple computer has certainly changed my life over the past couple of decades. From there revolutionary computers (which Is why we all have mice in our hands) to the iPhone I’m using to write this blog, Apple impacts my life more than any other technology on the planet.

Before I am labeled a MacEvangelist, although I am, let me say this: I use PCs to and even like them. This isn’t about which is the better computer but which impacts my life the greatest. I use Final Cut Pro daily. I love my iPhone. My home has 20 Macs, with most of them working including a Mac 128, with the signatures in the case. (for the uninitiated, that’s a really old mac) Apple permiates my life in a way no other company does. If I was richer, it would be even more in my life. I want a big screen tv with an apple tv box.

Microsoft Office:
Love it our hate it, Office dominates much of what we do on a computer. Word has all but eliminated the idea of a secretary while powerpoint has addicted more executives than meth. I don’t think I go through a day without dealing with some sort of office document.

DVR:
The digital video recorder has become the main way I watch television today. I would never have kept up with Michael and Fiona (Burn Notice, I love that show) without it. I watch very few shows with any regularity. All of them are watched through the DVR rather than “live.”

Cellular Telephones:
I know I’ve recently become enamored with my iPhone lately, but I’m talking cell phones in general. For nearly two years I have been a part of a growing number of Americans who have given up landlines in favor of going compleatly wireless. My first phone was a massive contraption in a bag back in 1988. Today it Is this tiny iPhone that can do things that bag phone couldn’t dream of. But it has the same phone number. That’s right. Twenty years this christmas.

Fingerprint scanners
Okay, I don’t really know if that technology I’d new or not. And frankly I hope I never need it again. I adopted both my kids and in Alabama you need a background check. Usually one goes to the local sheriff and gets one the old fashion ink and paper way. That gets sent off and scanned and a few weeks later you get a report. Only it didn’t work that way for us.

With a court date looming and my wife’s fingerprints rejected we needed drastic measures. So my wife drove to Montgomery and had her fingerprints scanned directly into the system. The result was a report on the judges desk in minutes. And a new baby in or home.

Now that is truly life changing.

New phone

So I got a new iPhone today. I am just now figuring it all out, but so far I am totally in love with it. Typing on it I’d getting easier and quicker and the correction feature makes it nice when it does figure out what you meant instead of what you blondered with your giant fingers.

I even managed to post this via the phone. Cool huh?

The photo below is the boy last year at this time.