DMA TECH WATCH: Apple’s New Product Launch and Huge Court Case

By Phill Powell

Welcome to DMA Tech Watch, where we review the biggest news events and tech trends now on the radar. Here’s what we’re watching as of March 21, 2016:

APPLE, PT. 1: LATEST PRODUCTS UNVEILED

iPhone_SE
Apple’s iPhone SE: More phone, less body.

Monday at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., the tech giant held its Spring Event product launch. Thin was definitely “in”: shorter phone bodies, smaller screens, reduced prices. Here are the highlights:

  • The biggest release announced Monday was the iPhone SE, with pre-orders beginning this Thursday and units shipping about a week later. Basically an iPhone 6S offered in a slightly shorter body, the iPhone SE features LTE and Wi-Fi Calling. It also has live photo support, as well as 4k and 240fps slo-mo video recording.

    Powered by a 64-bit A9 chip, this smaller iPhone offers an abbreviated price. The standard 16GB model will go for $399, reflecting the lowest price yet for an iPhone. The 64GB version will cost you $100 more. (Want to learn how to make apps for iPhone?)
  • Also carrying a smaller price tag: Apple Watch, with the base model suddenly $50 cheaper than the old $349 price. (New woven nylon bands for the Apple Watch were presented today as well.)
  • Continuing the “less is more” theme, Apple also unveiled a new iPad Pro Monday that gives you all that functionality users love, but in a more manageable size – with a 9.7-inch screen instead of the 12.9-inch version.

    The new iPad Pro supports many cool new features, such as Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Also: The screen is less prone to glare. The 32GB version will sell for $599, with an 128GB model that costs $749, and a 256GB workhorse that will run $899. Pre-orders start Thursday.
  • Also announced Monday: iOS 9.3 is available for download. Among its new features is a Night Shift mode that changes your display to a more restful color palette at nightfall.

APPLE, PT. 2: LEGAL BATTLE HEADS TO COURT?


Apple’s Liam the Robot recycles old iPhones. He also manufactures good, positive press for Apple.

We’ve been talking about this story for weeks, for good reason. The Apple vs. DOJ standoff (“PhoneGate”?) is shaping up to be a real game-changer, and a case that could define the legal landscape for tech industries for decades to come.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told Time, “We’re in this bizarre position where we’re defending the civil liberties of the country against the government.” Monday, at Apple’s event, he spoke of understanding Apple’s “significant responsibility,” referencing the FBI case.

Tuesday would have marked a key round in this battle royal, with Apple facing off against the FBI (backed by the U.S. Department of Justice) in federal court in Riverside, Calif. For its part, the FBI has suggested that if Apple does not comply as ordered, the FBI might actually subpoena Apple’s source code for iOS.

But news later Monday night revealed that on Monday the Justice Department asked for Tuesday’s hearing to be postponed until April 5th. The DOJ alleged that on Sunday a third party (not named) had found a way to get into the iPhone in question. This postponement caused a flood of speculation. Some of it held that the DOJ feared it would lose and wanted more time to strengthen its case.

Other revelations from the Time cover story: Apple could be developing a new iPhone that absolutely could not be hacked – by anybody, including the U.S. government…or even Apple.

Also interesting: Cook’s Cupertino office is next to Steve Jobs’ office, which remains empty to this day, with Jobs’ nameplate still on the door.

MAKING ELECTRICITY: SHOCKING AND CURRENT NEWS


Wind turbines are about to go big…like, really large.

A couple of surprising developments from the world of energy production, where scientists are working overtime trying to engineer new energy solutions to an ever-increasing global demand for power.

The first involves nuclear power, which (despite its dangers) produces about 10 percent of the world’s electrical power. An upcoming report in the Physics Review Letters points out that some new metal alloys might last longer than the stainless steel typically used in nuclear reactors.

Researchers at the University of Finland have been working with high-entropy alloys, which are suspected to give more reliable performance than steel.

Now on to wind production, where researchers from UVA and other universities are busy concepting the next generation of wind turbines. In recent years, large turbines have appeared, but they are nothing compared to what could be coming.

We’re talking about turbine towers more than 1,300 feet tall – higher than NYC’s Empire State Building. And spinning on them? Fan blades more than 600 feet long – two football fields in length! And capable of generating enough electricity to power 45,000 average-sized homes.

There’s so much physics and engineering involved that all this may take decades. It will take three years just to get a scale model produced. If that goes well, the project will require another ten years.

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