The five days of Sept. 10-14 was a newsy fall IT kickoff week here in blue-sky, 72-degree Silicon Valley. September is the real start of the year. Schools are back in session; new cars, football and television shows debut, and all the new IT devices begin to hit shelves for the holidays.
Leading off the Big News last week was the annual launching of the latest Apple iPhone, the "5." This is a sweet smartphone, no question about it. It's light, thin, powerful and pretty. But the fact is that this is merely an incremental update over the 4S, which brought us Siri a mere 11 months ago.
iPhone 5 has better cameras, a faster processor, an updated operating system, new apps, and one extra row of app logos. But if the iPhone 5 had a Sami to go with Siri, for example, then we might have more than an incremental update.
iPhone 4 Now Worth Zero Dollars
One other thing, taking into account a bit of historical perspective: The iPhone 5 pricing ranges from $199 to $399, depending upon storage capacity and wireless carrier. That shoves the iPhone 4S -- should you still want to buy one -- way down to $99.
Most disturbing of all is that now the iPhone 4 is now rendered so worthless as to now be given away for free. Yes, free. This is the same phone that was so super-secret two years ago that Steve Jobs blew his stack when one was left behind at a Redwood City, Calif. beer garden and a tech journalist got a hold of it. How far the mighty have fallen.
Rumor has it that Apple will actually pay you if you want an iPhone 3.
Sudden thought: In 2014, you'll be able to get an iPhone 5 for free, so you might as well just sit tight for a couple of holiday cycles and wait for the company to throw one at you.
A few other observations from the iPhone 5 launch event.
- Al Gore was there, ostensibly to determine Tim Cook's carbon footprint from his clunky Army boots.
- What is it with Apple executive fashion? Every guy who went onstage dressed exactly the same, with jeans, comfortable shoes and an untucked long-sleeve shirt. This really looked orchestrated, like they all texted each other before leaving home. ("Don't forget to NOT tuck in your shirt, OK?")
- CEO Cook and chief marketeer Phil Schiller, in extolling the new features and capabilities of iPhone 5, never once talked about if the actual voice quality of the phone was improved, if at all. In fact, little no nothing was said at all about the iPhone's telephone capability; all that was mentioned was that there are now three microphones on the unit and that it is LTE-enabled. There was zero/nada/nothing said about whether a user can better understand what someone is saying.
- Finally, Apple spent as much, if not more, time describing the updates to its popular iPod music player lineup. It's no secret that iPod sales have slipped, but, um, don't iPhones also serve as music players? The word "cannibalistic" comes to mind.
Zuckerberg Surfaces at Disrupt 2012
In other IT news this week, Mark Zuckerberg came out of his foxhole and faced the public for the first time since Facebook stock starting going down and to the right, instead of the other way. Interesting that he chose TechCrunch's Disrupt 2012 event, which was crammed with 28-somethings like himself and few, if any, IT industry veterans. He could have chosen the Intel Developer Forum, the Apple event (Facebook is now native app is on the new iPhone 5), or another event. Obviously, he felt more comfortable in his own peer group -- and who wouldn't?
To his credit, Zuck came clean and admitted that he is disappointed in the stock's performance in its first four months, and that Facebook has made some errors of judgment in its operation. He also acknowledged that Facebook has to get much better at mobile and in search to compete with Google and get that stock back up.
This was a good move for him. He seemed more human, more real than your usual 28-year-old billionaire. Stockholders probably would have liked it better had he come out sooner with these revelations that everybody already knows but wanted to hear come from him personally. Why? Because as soon as he told them to Michael Arrington onstage, the stock started climbing back and ended 7 percent up on that day.
Perhaps Zuckerberg should make a public appearance every day. Then, in about a month, the stock will be back up to $50 with a bullet, and all that pressure will melt away.
Zuck and his people are all smart folks. They'll find a way to improve the app and the value of the company. It may take them a while, but they've got a lot of money and people working on it. Somehow it doesn't appear to be another MySpace.
Whitman Talks to Fox
Finally, Meg Whitman told Fox News that Hewlett-Packard will consider making a smartphone. This is disturbing on at least three levels.
No. 1: HP has failed numerous times with tablet PCs and with Palm's old-gen phones. What makes it think it can compete with Apple, Google, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson and a zillion other companies that already have loyal smartphone buyers?
No. 2: HP has jumped its strategy around so often in the last couple of years that shareholders and IT observers don't know what to expect next from what used to be the world's second-most predictable and reliable IT company.
No. 3: Why on Earth, Ms. Whitman, are you telling Fox News this news? Don't they specialize in politics? Oh, right: You were in politics once upon a time. And, yes: You are a Republican.
Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz