Last week, a couple of big events took place. Right after the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) let Apple off the hook for stock option problems, several ex-Apple employees ratted out Steve Jobs.
In addition, while much of the news surrounding Windows Vista has been anything but good, the product came through — along with Office 2007 — allowing Microsoft to blow the roof off its financial numbers, surprising pretty much everyone. That suggests that Vista is ready for you — but when should you buy?
Finally, this installment of gifts for dads and grads focuses on creating HD videos on the cheap and includes a couple of products that I’m using that seem to work well.
Guilty or Not: Should Steve Jobs Go to Jail?
Apple has been doing an amazing job protecting its CEO, but with its ex-CFOpointing the finger solidly at Steve Jobs and the ex-general counsel expected to do the same, the base of information now seems to support civil — and probably even criminal — action against him.
So, assuming the various folks are mostly telling the truth — which Jobs’ defense team would likely challenge — Steve Jobs publicly took US$1 a year as salary, but he was receiving millions for hisprivate jet and big blocks of options. At Jobs’ direction — and after receiving advice from the CFO that he not do this — he caused falsified documents to be drawn up, which allowed him to get options that were then not properly reported.
The stock price of Apple fell below the strike price for the options, and they were canceled and replaced by options which, because the stock price continued to fall, were also underwater — and eventuallythey were replaced by stock worth nearly $100 million. The only things in contention are who ordered the falsified documents to be created and whether Jobs knew about it.
Now, I’m making this look a lot more simple than it actually is, but let’s add to this the fact that many, if not most, people currently believe Applecouldn’t survive without Jobs (I would probably include Apple’s board with this group), and that with Al Goreon the board, any action against Apple by a Republican executive branch could be positioned as dirty politics and made part of what will likely be an incredibly nasty presidential election.
Now, while the damages to stockholders could be in the tens of millions of dollars, pulling Jobs out of the company could result in lost income in the billions. Finally, Steve Jobs is alreadyplaying this out in the media and has already apparently hiredMark Pomerantz, a top criminal attorney (he represented Frank Quattrone successfully), to represent him. That increases the odds that he will either get off on a technicality or receive what amounts to a hand slap.
This makes for a rather ugly decision for the federal attorney who has to prosecute the case. If I were in that position, I wouldn’t do anything until after the trial of Apple’s ex-chief counsel is over. Then, I would either hope that enough information came out of that trial to make the decision easier, or hope to be reassigned before Jobs would have to be charged. The delay might also get me past the elections; handling this outside of an election year would seem vastly easier.
This issue does not reflect on Apple products or whether you should buy from the company, but it is interesting to watch. What do you think the federal attorney should do? What would you do? How we answer that question probably says a lot about our ethics, and how well we balance risks and rewards.
Vista’s Looking Better All the Time
Vista was kind of a disappointment when it launched. Much of the news since then has covered aspects of the system that weren’t working properly, as well as application and driver issues. Gamers were particularly upset; they were promised a great experience and didn’t get it.
Still, as I suggested, the first 60 to 90 days are when problems like this are sorted out, and we are now exiting that window. Coverage is starting tobecome more positive, and an increasing number of gamers appear to like the product now.
This was reflected in Microsoft’slatest financial results, which blew away quarterly estimates to surprise the stock market with unexpected strength. (Yes, Apple was even stronger in this regard.) Office 2007 and Vista are now not only selling well, but also, apparently, making a hit with users.
While this is great news for the company, the question is should you buy Vista now yourself?
Vista is best on new hardware and, having installed it myself now over 10 times, I would recommend that as the path you should take. In addition, the hardware that Vista seems to like the best is hardware that supportsDirectX 10 and a huge flash buffer like Intel’s Robson or an embedded ReadyBoost.
While there was a lot of hope that hybrid drives — combining flash and traditional magnetic media — would make a big difference, the truth is they didn’t. They apparently only improve initial boot and, with Vista, you typically don’t reboot — only suspend. Dell is the first tier-one vendor to bring out anotebook flash drive, suggesting there is more of this coming. Capacity will go up and price down for this drive over the next few months.
I’ve now seen the back-to-school lines from most of the vendors, and they are a huge step forward from the hardware we have today in terms of performance, appearance and price.
In addition, the entire line of ATI DirectX 10 products will be on the market shortly. For notebooks, those with Robson or built-in ReadyBoost drives are also expected in the back-to-school timeframe.
In June, you’ll get a look at Leopard, and some of you may prefer to hold off and buy it when it becomes available in October.
August will therefore be the best time for you to make your purchase decision, because you’ll not only get the best choices, but also — thanks to back-to-school sales — most likely get the best values.
If you want to go early, some of the Vista-designed desktops have already started to show up. TheeMachines line from Gateway was just refreshed and provides a lot for a little, and HP just refreshed itsconsumer desktops as well. There are a number of design improvements, but laptops are still coming. There will be some stunning choices come August — and most of you will probably want laptops.
Dads and Grads Gift Ideas: Inexpensive Personal HD Video
A few months ago, getting into high-definition video with a good set of tools and a camera would set you back well over $4K. Now, you can get started for much less than that with tools that are professional grade but affordable.
Memories for dads or grads are precious, and given we are moving to HD and memories might have to last generations, it just makes sense to get a little ahead of the curve.
Camera: It took me a while to research this, but I finally landed on theSanyo VPC-HD2. It is a 7.1 megapixel (720P) HD camera with excellent low-light capability and a 10x optical zoom. It records on SD flash — max is 8 GB now but will go up to 16 GB later this year and 32 GB the following year. It’s easy to use, and it is small enough to fit in a coat pocket or in a belt pouch. It even has a built-in light. I was able to find it for around $500, but with the SD card and accessories, it came to a total closer to $650.
For editing, Corel’s Ulead division just releasedVideoStudio 11. This is a stunning product that comes in two forms. You want the “Plus” version to do high-definition video. You get a series of choices. A two-step process will turn your recorded video into a professional-looking high-resolution DVD. If you want to do more, there is an option to go into more-detailed layout and thematic creation.
If you really want to go into a semi-pro editor, then you can take make the result massively more creative and unique. Output ranges from playable HD disks and hard drive files down to phones and iPods — even Zune is supported. This is one of the first products in this class to be designed for Windows Vista.
For watching videos, you can use your phone, iPod or laptop. However, you’ll find the screen limiting for the first two, and lugging your laptop everyplace can be a pain. Plus, if you use any of these to watch videos, you’ll burn through the batteries quickly.
I like theArchos 604. It plays DVD quality, has a nice big screen, and you can find it for under $300 online now.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.