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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Show Big News

Probably the biggest news going into MacWorld San Francisco is not what insanely great new product Steve Jobs is going to seductively wave in front of everyone, The big news is Jobs won't be there. The infamous Jobs keynote that has as legend would say launched a thousand ships will not launch new products anymore.

This is an end of an era.

As much as Apple or Jobs himself want to play it down -- this is HUGE. Oh yeah, Apple is going to say they have leaders who can make Apple's case before their software developers and third-party partners as well as the loyal Apple base but no one inisder the company or outside is as important to Apple products, their design, and has the ability to articulate with such pitchman skill was Steve Jobs.

Add to that fact, Apple is saying it will not attend show like MacWorld any longer and you have a significant change in the culture of how Apple releases new products to the public.

With all the speculation about what Apple would reveal next week, a few things seem to be coming clear: there will be no Netbook (rumors are it might be unveiled in fall 2009) and the thrust of Apple announcements will be focused on updating the Mac-Mini line of computers.

An Nano-iPhone still remains uncertain, although, case manufacturers say they have orders for a new phone form factor - not an accurate indicator of Apple announcement. More than likely, we will see small changes: a 32 GB iPhone, a 64 GB iPod Touch and a upgrade to the iWorks suite of applications putting more of its functionality in the cloud.

This incrementally reflects a more conservative nature of Apple, the slowed pace of its R&D, and its increasingly reluctance to jump out and lead the industry with new category defining products.

The biggest news of the new year is Apple has chosen not to show up at the biggest Apple show of the year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Next Apple Wave



What will Apple unveil next?

Obviously, the retail consumer-drive Apple has swung into the Holiday season trying to move its inventory of iPhones, iPods, MacBooks, iMacs and MacPro Towers so we will not be hearing any new products for the remainder of 2008.

Then comes MacWorld SF and the speculation has already begun about what the new year will bring.

A favorite prediction is the iPhone Nano, a $99 iPhone with 8GB of memory designed to be sold in WalMart stores. A few weeks back there was a twitter all around that Apple and WalMart had made an agreement to sell a cheap iPhone with stripped down fearures of a phone and iPod MP3 player with Apple ease-of-use interface (illustration above). This would be too easy for Apple and, although they might want to take advantage of the price point to expand their share, this solution seems to the answer market managers look for rather than product innovators.

There are a lot of questions being asked about what will happen to the Mac-Mini, the tiny box that works for many desktops and pushes the bottom price of Apple's CPU line. Will Apple announce changes to the line of mini's or discontinue them?

A Mac Netbook would be a small sized cross between a tablet, a notebook and a laptop. The talk is Apple will want to come into the line of products with this priced at $599 and replace the Mac-mini or, at least, compliment the Mini with a much more mobile and touch interface device. As you might know, here at Apple Tech Blog, we've been advocating for a keyboard-less mobile tablet for over a year now and had hoped it would be announced at MacWorld SF 2008.

What Apple discovered in 2008 was the huge potential of the online Apps Store for selling software via the air waves. this sales and marketing model might now be in place for a Netbook to reap the benefits of sales in software downloads. An army of new software developers have profitably written and produced a huge number of apps for the iPhone and it could be good business and good will for Apple to turn this army in a new direction

The critics of the Mac Netbook say that the size of the Netbook market (just a little over 5 million units have been sold) is way too small for Apple to become interested and hope to see a ROI, however, Apple is in good shape to invent the category and with the App Store and iTunes drive tens of millions of new buyers into a new product category for the computer innovator.

Then, as usual, everybody else will follow, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Google Android to Launch Sept 23rd



The International Herald Tribune headline reads "Google's Android no match for iPhone - Yet". As Google is a company, much like Apple, with a corporate culture that encourages outside-the-box thinking, incredible innovation and wiz-bang design, we've all been enthusiastically waiting Google's unveiling of Android.

The handset being previewed is the HTC Dream, a gold or beige touch screen with a slide out tiny keyboard that all together has a retro-70s look and feel. The software desktop design doesn't make its own statement, instead choosing a file folder metaphor and a flat blue one-dimensional viewing plane. From what I've seen, it is unimpressive from a visual design standpoint.

Android is a mobile phone and computing platform to rival the Apple iPhone. Google's designers have promised that the Andriod will being using some of the best iPhone break-throughs such as touch screen technology, built in accelerometers, open platform and a developer SDK, with a user-interface that maximizes ease-of-use and graphics. Android also presented the possibility of a rich cloud-based computing set of tools integrated with Google's web storage and interactive applications.

Significantly, the Android promise was that a smart phone with a clever software interface could be purchased and owned without an excessive AT&T exclusive contract.

While searching for more information on Android I came across the presentation (video above) given by a Google engineer. Presentations like this one boggle the mind. In his demonstration, things don't work, the connection and loading of pages is slow, and his claims of coolness are not matched by what he is showing. His demonstration of how Android works could not have made me more uninterested in the handset or less impressed with the software. I was excited about Android but this guy almost killed the joy I had built up in my mind for a Google phone.

And I am always astonished that companies like Google and Microsoft never seem to be able to surpass Apple design. I want them to break the mold because it is good for us as end-users. And they have the sample product right in front of them to analyze, dissect and improve upon. Google says they don't think they can match "the consumer experience" of the iPhone. I ask: "Why not?"

There is much to be improved upon with Apple's iPhone. If Google says it cannot surpass it then they are not seeing it clearly as a consumer device and how it integrates into mobile computing and the users needs. The iPhone was a paradigm shifting innovation in smart phones and mobile computing but it is far from perfect. Apple has left out critical functionality and not delivered on performance specs that exist out there in other devices.

Why do we have to be disappointed with the Android launch on September 23rd?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Banned by Apple" A Status Category

This week Apple banned another third-party iPhone application from distribution through the Apple Apps Store.

Podcaster is an app like Diggnation On The Go and Mobility Today, that allows iPhone owners listen to podcasts directly on their phone. Apple banned Podcaster because, as they explained in a letter to the developer, it duplicated the functionality of the podcast features in iTunes.

Let's make it absolutely clear that Apple in all its developers forums and public announcements of the rules governing placement in the apps store, namely software that could be called: “Porn, privacy, bandwidth hog, unforeseen, malicious, illegal,” that "duplicated the functionality of iTunes" was not one of those rules for developers to follow.

Alex Sokirynsky, the developer of the rejected application, found Apple's explanation confusing since many small applications available for the iPhone duplicate and expand upon existing functionality of the iPhone.

A host of applications that do calculator functions, weather apps, expanded notes, calendar, etc. would confirm Sokirynsky's observation. Other bloggers and computer publications speculated that Podcasters function of allowing iPhone users to download multiple podcasts directly to the the iPhone and iPod Touch by-passing iTunes was of greatest concern to Apple.

Expressing outrage with this reasoning, blogger John Gruber accuses Apple of anti-competitive behavior stating: ""Let's be clear: forbidding 'duplication of functionality' is forbidding competition. The point of competition is to do the same thing, but better."

In my estimation, Apple has made a bad decision by banning Podcaster. First, Podcaster cost $9.99 and wouldn't likely gain much pentration that Apple would notice a shift in its podcasting traffic on iTunes.

Coming as the next in a line of developer rejections -- NetShare (an application that allows you to use the iPhone as a modem) Pull My Finger (an silly app that makes 18 sounds of flatulence) and "I am Rich" (a $1,000 application with a picture of bling) were all pulled by Apple over the course of the past few months -- banning Podcaster has raised the ire of Apple iPhone developers.

From an end-user perspective, Apple's ban of Podcaster undermines the demarcation between legit reasons for keeping Apps out of the App Store and anti-competitive behavior. Apple has every right to protect users from Apps that crash or unstable, apps that don't play well with either the operating system or other apps, and apps that do nasty, unwanted, and unintended things to its users. But what Apple has done with both Podcaster and NetShare is increased the level of suspicion and cynicism about its corporate behavior.

And now the developer community is expression anger at Apple for their capricious actions. Apple's apps bans bring more attention to the applications than they deserve. And the ban creates ill-will among a developer base Apple certainly wants to cultivate rather than alienate. These developers might easily run to another platform such as Android to build their apps.

On its face, with a ten buck download charge, Podcaster is not a winner but Sokirynsky now enjoys the status of being "Banned by Apple."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Apple "Let's Rock" Announcements

Tomorrow's "Let's Rock" show marks another big Apple iPod product upgrade announcement when the company is expected to upgrade the iPod Touch, iPod Nano, and new versions of iTunes (8.0) and QuickTime 7.2.2.

Many of us are hoping for an iPhone upgrade to 2.1 in hope that it will fix the crashing, dropped calls and bad battery performance we've been experiencing since the big July roll out of the 3G iPhone, MobileMe, and the Apple Apps Store. And it would be nice if they can fix MobileMe to work as one would intuitively expect it should work.

Friends who are still sitting on the fence before jumping off and buying an iPhone have said they would like to see the iPhone upgraded to 16GB and 32GB models, boosting the hardware capacity just enough to live out period of the terms of their excessive 2-year AT&T contract.

And it would be nice if Apple could fix the really annoying constant problem with upgrading Apps from the Apps Store. I've gotten to the point where I am untrusting and apprehensive when upgrading Apps since it crashes the iPhone (everytime) and it erases all the settings and writes over all the files in those apps. It just doesn't act like you would expect stable and user friendly Apple applications to act.

You can read in various regions of the internet people expecting a sub-$100 iPhone. Ain't gonna happen my friends.

Apple has become increasingly conservative and more corporate in the past year. Their upgrades and changes to technology, I think one can safely bet are going to be creepingly incremental and piece meal. While the iPod Touch will become sleeker and skinny, you should not expect to see added features like a camera, a microphone for voice recording or dictation or hardware improvements that might justify paying more for it than an iPhone.

One feature Apple is hoping to thrill us with is it Genuis Bar the only new feature being added to iTunes. This is rumored to function something like Pandora or a new app in development called Stitcher, whereby the application learns your song and radio preferences and then suggests or puts together playlists from your iTunes library and the Apple Store. While this feature will certainly be welcomed, it is not a radical new idea or approach to digital media devices. It's not going to Rock Your World as tomorrow's event suggests it might.

Apple seems to want to position the iPod Touch as a pocket gaming machine and to keep the Touch from overlapping in capabilities with their iPhone, presumably because Apple now more fully enjoys the revenues coming from the AT&T contract kickbacks than it does giving its customers awesome features.

I can tell you the one big feature I want for my iPhone is the ability to use my iPhone without an AT&T contract. Right now it is the only feature I want Apple to be working on.

Plain and simple: I should not be bound to undesirable terms and conditions, terrible service and a corporate culture that cares little for its customers in order to own an Apple product.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

TIP: iPhone Email Batch Delete

With the iPhone 2.0 upgrade you will find that Apple has added the ability for users to delete or move multiple message from your email inbox to a folder or delete them. In the original version of iPhone, you have to perform these basic functions with messages one at a time.

When you are in your email inbox and you press the Edit key in the upper right hand corner a blue/gray bar will appear across the bottom with two buttons: Delete and Move. Down the left side of the message summary, you'll see round buttons and if you press them it will place a check mark next to the message you wish to act upon. You may select consecutive messages or intermitten ones and then either press the Delete button to remove them or Move button to store them to another folder.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jailbreak Apple TV

Often what happens when consumer technology doesn't live up to its potential is hackers, open communities, and hobby enthusiasts jump into the void and began writing personal solutions to their hardware/software needs.

We saw it with the iPhone when an instant community of programmers and open source developers jumped forward and jailbroke the iPhone and iPod Touch so they could load their own applications and break free from ATT contracts. Then, last month Apple opened the platform and the iPhone coupled with the Apps Store is a revolutionary new device in the world of mobile computing.

Now, let's hope this same process occurs with Apple TV. As it is the Apple TV is a woefully inadequate device as a closed system. In the world of set-top boxes and digital media devices, it is non-finisher even after its upgrade to include movie rentals and purchased downloads.

Apple enthusiasts will say that Apple is hamstrung by a film and entertainment industry that restricts its ability to innovate and provide the solutions its users are asking for and even demanding. If so, it is time for the hackers to step up.

For instance, Apple has a USB port in the back of the Apple TV that is terribly under-utilized. Why can't this port be used to connect a backup hard drive or accept a flash drive for load your home movies directly into Apple TV? What can't this same USB port be used to connect 3rd party hardware like EyeTV? or a $99 DVD player like the one Apple makes for MacBook Air?

Why can't the Apple TV communicate with the web directly using a Apple TV specific redesigned version of the Safari browser just like your iPhone? (Actually, it can with an easy fix.) Why can't I run iTunes direcly on Apple TV and purchase music I don't want filling the hard drive on my Mac? Why can't Apple create a platform for developers to write entertainment, news and information, health and fitness apps as well as games for the Apple TV?

There are so many kludgy things broken with Apple TV that Apple programmers refuse to fix (just try typing URLs or word searches on Apple TV) that the hacker community must now step forward and change the terms of the game and improve the concept.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

TIP: Smart Keyboard for URL Completion

When I got my iPhone 1.0 and grew accustomed to using the touch screen keyboard, I thought it was really smart of Apple to add context sensitive keys to the keyboard.

For instance, when you are in Safari browser and want to type a URL, it adds a key .com to the keyboard to shorten your typing task. However, I found that not all URLs end in .com and was frustrated with .net, .org and other endings. With 2.0 Apple has made the keyboard even smarter.

Now in Safari web browser, when typing a new URL, hold down the .com button to get a selection of other domain name endings for the url: .net .edu and .org. By tapping on one of the endings, it will append it to complete your URL. The iPhone is even smart enough to understand if you are outside the U.S. and offers domain extensions appropriate to the country you are in.

Another new keyboard trick added with iPhone 2.0 allows you to get .net .edu or .org domain name endings along with .com by holding down the period (.) button in the compose email screen.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

TIP: Making Your Own Currency Converter

An item missing from the core set of Apple iPhone utilities is a Currency Converter app built-in. As you can see from this iPhone screen capture, using the Stocks app you can track daily currency fluctuations just like stocks:

1. Go to the stocks app
2. Add a new stock
3. Use the format Currency symbol 1 plus Currency symbol 2 (without space between) =X (example to convert US Dollar to Canadian Dollar would be USDCAD=X or for the Euro it would be USDEUR=X)

A nice thing about this approach to tracking currency information is daily rates will be listed with other stock market information and you will see the daily +/- change, a day/month/year history of the currency plotted on a graph just like other stocks in the Stocks app.

Add as many world currency entries as you want. You can get currency symbols here or do a search for world currency symbols in Yahoo or Google.

TIP: Capturing Images Off the Net

A long awaited and much anticipated feature of iPhone 2.0 is the ability of the phone to capture an image off the internet and save them to the phone. Apple has made this process very simple and elegant.

This is how it works: find an image on a web site you want to capture, hold your finger on the image in iPhone's Safari Browser for a longer time than usual, a pop-up dialog will appear giving you options "Save Image", "Open Link" and "Cancel". Hitting "Save Image" will save the image in your Photo Gallery.

Now, just add copy and paste feature for text, address, and calendar items and we'll be happier!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TIP: iPhone Screen Capture

One feature added to the new iPhone 2.0 operating system is the ability to capture whatever is on your screen at the moment with a button combination. Hold down Apple's Home key and then the Sleep/Awake key on the top right corner of the iPhone (the same key you tap to start up your iPhone from sleep).

Once the button combination has been struck, you will notice the iPhone screen flash white. After it does that, go to your photo gallery and you will see the last addition is your screen capture.

Next, in the lower left hand corner of your photo gallery screen, you'll see a box with and arrow coming out toward you. Click on it and you can send this photo to your email or if you have MobileMe, you can send it to your web gallery. This is awesome!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Browsing in the Apps Store

Free Applications Worth Checking Out:

#1 Remote - an iPhone remote to control iTunes and Apple TV. If you own Apple TV is this a MUST HAVE app and its free. In simplest terms it turns your iPhone into a remote control for Apple TV and also iTunes running on your desktop or laptop computer. Couple your devices with the iPhone and you will get menu lists of songs and video by artist, title and type and you can search just like with iPod music and video selestions.

#2 AOL Radio - an application powered by CBS that allows you to listen to live radio over the internet. The interface provides lists of stations by genre (country western, jazz, talk radio, news, etc) and you can stream favorite shows like KCRWs The Business, Design and Architecture or This American Life. Drawbacks - battery eater.

#3 Save Benjis - with Save Benji's the idea is to find the cheapest price available on the web for all kinds of products. You can browse by category or enter the bar code into a search box and Save Benjis goes out to the web and finds the cheapest prices for that product. For results it not only provides a list of the cheapest prices and places to purchase but also a product description and reviews other buyers have written for the item. Drawbacks - it should have a build in bar code reader for the iPhone camera to read.

#4 Currency - a one trick pony app that lists the current exchange rates for countries and major currencies around the world and it is free. Drawbacks: a currency converter could be added but simplicity does have its virtue.

#5 Whrrl - a really cool concept, mapping, social networking, location and friend tracking free app that (like video iChat) is most useful if you have a bunch of friends or family and everybody buys into contributing to its premise and, did I mention, its free.

#6 Pandora - a streaming music service that provides free music for your iPhone based on picks (thumbs up/thumbs down) preferences you make while listening. Pandora was created on the web first and this little free app for iPhone provides a clean and platform specific design. The company claims CD-quality audio and the streaming works well even on edge. Drawbacks - it is a drain on battery, however if you have a docking station or one of those docking stations mounted in a case with stereo speakers, you are golden.

#7 Box Office - this free movie finder app is also a bit of a one trick pony, however, doing a simple yet very useful iPhone app seems to be the key to the kingdom. You can browse either by movie or by theater and it uses the current location finder to assist you with knowing where you are. You can configure the settings to open the geographic range or distance from home. The app also lets you read reviews from Rotten Tomato and purchase tickets through Fandango

#8 vSnax - basically a news and entertainment aggregator of video content, vSnax provides clips from CBS, VH1 MTV, E! and others. While you might find much of the content gossipy, aimed at the Brangelina twitters, and for guys and girls who want to ogle Ford Models, the service seems to work smoothly on both Edge and Wifi and its free.

#9 WeatherBug - this weather app adds additional features to the temperature and weekly forecaster that comes installed in the iPhone. Those added features are live heat index, humidity, dew point, rain amount, wind speeds and wind direction. There is also a button for radar which didn't work when I clicked on it and according to internet accounts was broke for other reviewers as well, But its free and if you are a weather buff, you'll want to check it out.

#10 Jott - Jott records voice memos and converts them into text notes. Swipe a task after you complete it, and it strikes through the words. If you don't like tapping words in on the keyboard or need them converted, Jott can be useful. Drawbacks: they need to improve speech recognition and recording length, add more of the features offered in their phone-based service, and send crossed out notes to the trash. Free.

#11 eBay Mobile - I have never purchased anything on eBay and just like I don't go to garage sales or buy things out of the back of a plain white vans on the backstreets of Chinatown in New York, I don't plan on buying things on eBay. However, if you are an eBay auction denizen, you will find this mobile eBay app indispensable for searching, bid, check on sold items, monitoring your accounts and this elegant interface makes viewing items on the fly super easy.

#12 Shazam - A clever idea to a obscure problem: ever been in a cafe or coffee-shop and your hear a song playing on the music system and its killing you because you can't name the song or the artist? Pull out your iPhone, launch Shazam, click he "Tag It" button and the little app will listen and name that tune in 15 seconds. Once it is tagged it will keep it on a list and you can then buy it from the Apple iTunes Store, view rock-vids or send track info to friends via email.


LESS THAN $10

#1 City Transit - this is the BEST NYC Subway map available and at $2.99 one of the cheapest (don't bother with the $15 one) In addition to the maps of NYC underground system, it has Long Island Railroad (LIRR), and Metro North Commuter lines as well as an antique map for aesthetic pleasure. The app captures service advisories that keep you up to date and links to Google maps and "where am I" features for finding the nearest stop that make app this a must for native New Yorkers and tourists alike. I no longer live in the City but having this app on my iPhone gives me the vicarious thrill be being back on the streets. Drawback: The screen res for the maps is fairly low and while you can make out the station names and lines, it is bit-mappy and quality should be improved.

#2 GuitarToolKit - a guitar tuner that uses the iPhone mic to detect sound that has a metronome and cords feature. $9.99 is the lowest price for a basic standalone guitar tuner from the local music store, so having this on your iPhone is a plus and a bargin to boot.

#3 Comic Touch - another simple unadorned app that adds comic strip bubbles (speak, thought, whisper, exclaim) and alllows you to write captions under your iPhone photos. Turn your life into a comic strip then you can email episodes to friends for $5. Drawback: If this App catches on, it might become cute email round-robin spam that you hate getting from friends and family.

#4 Mobile Flickr - a full-featured Flickr app developed by Karl von Randow that allows you browse photos by sets, tags, search for photos, read and make comments, or see photos from other Flickr members. Uploading to Flickr over wi-fi is fast but it can be slow taking pics and saving them, the $3 charge is better than the $9.99 (w/o ads) for the competing Exposure app that has no upload feature and poor user interface.

#5 MLB at Bat - MLB at Bat has to be a mobile app on the iPhone that sets the standard early for sports applications. $4.99 will get you wireless score access and in-game video highlights for every game on the MLB schedule. MLB Advanced Media has scaled the app to stream video to Edge phone smoothly at lower resolution and higher quality video to 3G and wifi connected iPhones. At this point MLB is selling at the $4.99 price through the end of this season and it will not be known if they will require a new sale/upgrade for next year and if the price to will remain the same. A similar service has been available on the web for a $3.99 month subscription.

Drawbacks: MLB stripped down this mobile version and could have easily provided box scores, team and division standings and player stats to make this window into baseball full-featured. As it is you will have to couple this app with another like the free SportsTap or Baseball and you might want to hold onto them if MLB decides to stop their service after the World Series. NOTE: MLB has issued a cease and desist order against the baseball enthusiast who wrote the amazingly detail rich Baseball App because he used team logos to frame all his stats and historical data the MLB app fails to provide in At Bat.

If the name of the app appears in italics it means the screen capture next to the description is for that app.

iPhone Most Desired Feature: FREEDOM!

After all is said and none, and we've all picked over the bones after the new platform release (iPhone 2.0), the Apple Apps Store, and the upgrades to the MobileMe network and the 3G iPhone... you kind of feel like the savagers at a warehouse remnants sale. We had our shot at the entrails but where is the meat?

What I've found after the July 11th release is a universal shared feeling among iPhone owners, iPhone potential owners and those who hold out against getting one. We want freedom from ATT contracts. And with this new release the dislike of ATT only intensified. Why? Because ATT thinks along the lines of the old business paradigm: Establish a monopoly then screw the customers with excessive rates, fees and special charges outside the basic plan.

When you look at the computer industry you think of Moore's Law. The technology gets faster, the capacity bigger, while at the same time the price drops due to increased acceptance and growing market. With ATT the moment is opportune to simplify their billing, lower their prices, increase the number of features they are offering, speed their services and by dropping their prices exapnd their share of the cell phone users market.

Instead what will happen with this growing dissatisfaction is developers (black hat, gray hat, and white hat) are going to find a way around the ATT calling plan.

The Apple iPhone is just the type of category redefining, paradigm shifting product that can propel a massive growth in customers switching and finding happiness with their service. Instead, everybody hates ATT and is struggling to break free.

We want freedom from ATT.

Friday, July 11, 2008

3G iPhone Launch Nightmare?

The verdict is in and the buzz around the internet is Apple is in the middle of a roll out nightmare. According to the New York Post (not normally a reliable source for anything) early in the day the iSNAFU has arrived on the streets of New York. The story reports that new 3G iPhone users have been experiencing problems getting the phone to boot out of the box.

A more reliable source Arstechica is reporting iPhone Parousia into activation apocalypse with customers in AT&T stores unable to activate their new iPhone due to the servers being down.

Also, the Apple MobileMe servers have been down all morning for us in the Midwest and persumably all over the world.

Inforweek is reporting Apple servers were overwhelmed by the huge surge in attempted activations of the new iPhone. Not only did the iPhone go on sale in the U.S but buyers in 21 other countries also drew down the capacity of Apple's servers to respond to phone activiation, software downloads by old iPhone users seeking to upgrade, and MobileMe initiates.

One Apple tech specialist explained that the Apple servers did not go down, they've just slowed to the point that it takes much longer than the patience of the iPhone users seeking to upgrade. When old iPhone users start to download the 2.0 upgrade and feel the stress of the duration, they stop the upgrade and then find their iPhone has been bricked and will not function for naything but emergency phone calls. Apple has designed the iPhone to work as a crude handset even if all the other software such as contact lists, voice mail and the operating system itself is not functioning.

CNET is calling the 3G launch one of the clumsiest product launches ever with Apple refusing to sell the new iPhone to "foundation" accounts, red lettered in their Apple Store computers as PLU. Those accounts, according to Matt Asay who found himself locked out of buying the 3G iPhone, must buy a iPhone from an AT&T store and not an Apple store.

Our advice to current iPhone users is to not upgrade until the surge is over.

iPhone Things Still Broke

There is a reason I got kicked out of the Apple Store! Friends tell me it sounds like a Seinfeld episode and it was like when Elaine got kicked out by the soup Nazi when the peach faced Mall of American assistant night manager booted my butt from the store yelling "...and don't come back!"

You see, I am not happy to buy into the blind loyality of the Apple faithful. I think there is still room for improvement wiht their products. I feel insanely great is still possible and that new products often fall short.

Items still not fixed in iPhone 2.0

1) voice input for notepad -- okay this is another opportunity for the 3rd party developers to shine (Jott for iPhone is on the way) however, why hasn't Apple make this feature a built-in to iPhone 2.0?

2) lack of Flash and JAVA support -- a friend said to me this wasn't Apple fault it is Adobe's for not making their software iPhone capable. Still, it is a pain in the butt when you go to a site and you get s stupid looking blue cube, I don't care whose fault it is!

3) copy and paste -- iPhone users and Apple faithful have been screaming about the lack of the feature from DAY ONE on the iPhone. Apple must be taking pleasure with each upgrade telling themselves, na-na-na, we still didn't listen (tongue stuck out)

4) improving the predictive text feature -- it is totally cool when it is right but a complete hassle and pain in the ass when wrong. I f Apple lets us turn it off or if its predictions were better we'd love touch-screen typing even more

5) video camera -- video is still mysteriously absent without leave from the iPhone. Although, I've heard 3rd party developers are uploading their video capture software to Apps Store and certainly the current iPhone camera is always in moving picture format, why doesn't Apple provide video software on the platform?

6) portrait mode keyboard in ALL applications (especially email and notes)

7) MMS messaging -- although I am not a text messaging kind of guy (other means of communication are far more effective and efficient) MMS is a standard in the world of mobile devices and this is a big barrier to widespread iPhone adoption by the finger bangers.

8) Bluetooth -- providing iPhone owners with bluetooth capability would introduce a range of accessories such as printers, wireless bluetooth headdsets and even short range communications and content sharing potential

9) 5+ Megapixel still camera -- there are other phones on the market providing more pixel depth with their cameras than the current iPhone and with the emergency of web 2.0 photosharing and geotagging capabilities the need for better quality with quickly become obvious


With this current iPhone 2.0 release and the newly established Apps Store, I think we can expect huge improvements with the functionality of the iPhone but it doesn't excuse Apple sitting on its hands and not make improvements to its hardware/software platform.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

iPhone & iTunes 7.7 on Apple Servers

Anxious to get started with iPhone 2.0 in advance of the official software update release?

A 225 MB download of the iPhone 2.0 firmware update has been found on Apple servers by ferreting Mac community members.

In addition to the push-pull mail, calendar and contacts features Steve Jobs revealed at the WWDC, the new iPhone software is reportedly capable of supporting full iWork document support so that you can view Pages, Numbers, and Keynote created documents.

Apple is also offering full support for Microsoft Office docs for Powerpoint, Word and Excel viewing. Improvements to the iPhone user interface include bulk-delete and move capabilities, the ability to save images from e-mails into their Photo Library, as well as settings for Parental Control.

Download and install at your own risk an you should be running iTunes 7.7. Reviews of the new features and reports of new application downloads are starting to come fast and furious now on the web.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

.Mac Servers are Down


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In preparation for the migration to MobileMe, the .Mac servers have been out of service for most of this morning, Wednesday, July 9th and will not be available thru Thursday. Judging from the message screen, it appears the shut down is world-wide and Apple promises to restore service as soon as possible after the switch over has been accomplished.

MacWorld is publishing a link to the Mobile Me software download for updating your desktop and laptop Macs if you are a .Mac user.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Apple App Store Opens Friday

In Apple's usual secretive fashion, imposing a silence pledge upon 3rd-party developers, the long anticipated App Store will unveil itself on Friday July 11th.

The big question waiting to be answered is how will iPhone 3G compete with the simultaneous weekend release of Eddie Murphy's MEET DAVE, Ellen "Juno" Page in THE STONE ANGEL or HELLBOY2? Will Apple be able to bring 3G into the Apple Stores like a massive fireball from space and explode onto the market with its "camp in line" rollout tactics? Who will win the weekend box office purse sweepstakes?

In the mean time, there is no button on Apple's iTunes Store for new iPhone applications. Thrill seeking-geeks discovered that by typing "Twitterrific," "TypePad" or "ShoZu" in the Search iTunes Store box, the Apps content will appear in the results and you will be able to browse and read about free and for sale apps and utilities that will be launched at the end of the week.

However, if you don't have an iPhone running version 2.0 (in others words a 3G iPhone that goes on sale at 8:30am on Friday in Apple Stores) you will not be able to install and use the applications you find with your searches until Apple makes iPhone 2.0 update available to all iPhone owners.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Apple Doldrums


Apple didn't wait until August when we go into a lingering state of inactivity or stagnation as many businesses do.

A lot of the inactivity came in June after the WWDC where Steve Jobs made a series of non-announcements -- a 3G iPhone that people had wanted in January at MacWorld SF, another follow-up announcement of the forthcoming results of the iPhone SDK and new apps on the way, and the long anticipated iPhone 2.0 upgrade.

One phrase mysteriously missing from Jobs cannon of keynote punctual was "Shipping today!"

Nothing he announced was shipping immediately after they keynote. No Apps Store. No iPhones in the stores until July 11th and no MobileMe. No iPhone 2.0 software update. Nothing appears to have been ready for WWDC, so Jobs made announcements of products that would be released on a future date. Apple stock, that had been surging toward $200 a share with predictions by analysts it would bound as high as $215, slipped back to $172 as of end of day Friday.

The following day, Fake Steve Jobs posted an hilarious spoof on the WWDC keynote called Holy Crap, I forgot to announce the new MacBooks in which he reports that the new MacBooks were ready to go and it completely slipped his mind to introduce them from the stage. "And I just spaced it. My bad," he blogs as first person Steve.

At the same time Apple has been remiss in addressing some of the major drawbacks to the iPhone software interface and hardware that was expected to be fixed. For instance, there has been no mention of remedy for problems such as no copy-and-paste function; the inability for the iPhone to read Flash or Java; upgrades to the camera and improving the keyboard functionality on the iPhone touch-screen. These are no brainer fixes that apparently just announcing a 3G iPhone (without shipping it) Apple feels will distort the reality field enough for the tougher questions to go unanswered.

MobileMe was probably the biggest surprise announcement, although, on this blog we had it covered the week before. Still, we have yet to see MobileMe roll out to the old .Mac account holders.

And so we sit in early summer doldrums brought on by Apple's meager menu of product roll outs and basic software fixes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

dotMac Web 2.0 Coming?

If you have read my previous blogposts about Apple and its products, you know I've been humping Apple for some time to improve its .Mac service. At least, I've ranted, make it Web 2.0 in scope and potential.

Well, my frequent feedback comments to Apple on the web and often deleted posts in the .Mac tech discussion groups might finally start to bare fruit. Rumors abound on the Mac rumor sites that one of the big announcements planned for Steve Jobs June 9th keynote is a wholly-designed .Mac under the banner MobileMe.

In previous posts I pointed out Google Gadget's energy in software development is around online applications, and this would a no-brainer evolution for Apple’s iLife and iWork software. But since the first day I bought the iPhone, I've was immediately aware that iPhone and iPod Touch are particularly suited to services that blend small local applications on the handset with storage and other processing handled on the .Mac server. The best answer to iPhone's internal flash memory limitations is saving desktop states, applications, and media to "the cloud" as Jobs himself would want to word it.

When a person wants to do project management on-the-fly it is absolutely essential that you have the push capabilities to update calendars, address books, and integrate with maps without having to sync the iPhone via USB. Add to that, an ability to link a document or possibly a stripped down spreadsheet with an overall budget for your project and store it on .Mac and access it at the time and place it is most needed -- often not while you are seated in the cradle next to your host CPU for the iPhone.

Recently, it has been reported by MacWorld, Apple has filed for a number of domains in the new “.Me” top level domain. Some of the geeky sites started digging around the new 10.5.3 version of the Apple operating system and found what is called placeholders where the .Mac strings would exist, suggesting that Apple is also going to change the name of the service. All this points to a big redesign of .Mac.

It is long overdue!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Peek at iPhone 3rd-party Apps

In June iPhone owners can expect an avalanche of new capabilities being added to their iPhones with the new 2.0 operating system, an apps installer and the officially sanctioned Apple Apps Store. With all the talk and excitement building for the new iPhone, Apple stock prices have soared and analysts have set new targets in excess of $215 a share.

One such new application in development is iControl, a software application on your iPhone that will allow you to monitor the critical security devices in your home -- cameras, thermostats, heating and air-conditioning, lights and locks. On your iPhone, you will be able to monitor remote-access systems via broadband internet rather than on telephone lines as many smart home systems today require.

Another application in development with funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers iFund is Whrrl by Pelago, a Seattle based company located in the WaMu Tower. Whrrl is an internet 2.0 social discovery service that allows iPhone users to discover places "through the eyes of your friends and poeple you trust." The designers of Whrrl say that you will be able to "track the places you've been and the places you want to go." A beta version of the Whrrl is currently available for download from the Pelago web site

Apple has also acquired a Chinese third-party handwriting recognition application that will give iPhone 2.0 users the ability to write text by hand that will then be translated into text font on their touchpad screen. The application developed for entering Chinese characters is already available under the name HWPen for jailbroken iPhone and iPod Touch.

GigaOm and Wired magazine have been reporting that the new iPhone to be released in June will have true GPS chips onboard. The rumors started to fly fast and furious when geotaged code was observed in the iPhone SDK. The Google maps application on the iPhone using wifi cell tower triangulation technologies has been very popular on the iPhone, however, with 3G and the new GPS technology it will become much more accurate and powerful as a platform for new application development.

iCall is a new application being developed for the iPhone that will allow its users to make and receive phone calls using the internet rather than the exclusive contract Apple has with AT&T in the U.S. and with other providers in foreign countries. The features of the new third-party app will allow you to integrate with your address book, customize voicemail options all while calling using a wifi connection. Also, the application encourages you to move away from using your expensive cell network plan minutes and move your calls to VOIP. As Walt Mossberg commanded, "Break the Lock!"

Loopt, a free social mapping application that uses location finder API in the iPhone to let you combine a GPS like searching for entertainment, restaurants and coffee-shops with social networking to hook up with friends, AIM buddies and contacts.

eBay has announced a client-side application that allows you to sign-in, search, preview photos of items for sale, monitor the bidding, and bid on items at auction on their service. It will be free on the Apple Apps store as soon as it opens.

TypePad Mobile is a free photo blogging service that allows you to take a photo on iPhone, upload it to the TypePad, and text and make mobile blogging much easier.

Associated Press has built a free mobile news network using location API it knows where you are and in stores information based on your location and it combines text, images and video directly to the iPhone and it allows you to send new images and stories to AP and they will weave it into the news after review by their editors.

Pangea makes games and Enigmo and Croman Rally are two of their games that use the iPhone itself as the controller will be for sale on the Apple Apps store for $9.99.


Mark Terry' application for MooCowMusic for the iPhone Band creates music on the iPhone itself using virtual instruments (Keyboard, Funky Drummer, 12 Bar Blues, and Bassist) allows an iPhone user to play instruments on their phone with simple touch user keys.

MLB.com has developed "At Bat" which lists all the days games and up to the minute line scores and even video of all the games as being played with a few minute time delay. At this time it is not known if the app will be sold or if you'll need to subscribe to the service but for baseball fans this is a "gotta-have-it" app.

Modality is a medical learning applications with illustrations of the complex parts and structures of the human body with instant mobile access and also search the web for additional information outside what the app provides. All these apps are indications that a huge variety of new programs and tools are coming to the iPhone and it has become a operating platform to rival Windows and Mac OS.

Other big news that seems to have made its way from the Apple rumor sites and now out into mainstream news services (BBC) is that Apple could drop the price of its new 3G iPhone to compete with the rift-raft of imitators and handset manufactors like Motorola and Noika who have begun to feel the heat Apple design has brought to the world of cell phones. That price has been rumored as low as $199 for the entry level 8GB iPhone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apple iMac Touch



Rumors are flying again as we approach yet another big Steve Jobs keynote in mid-June. 3G iPhones to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the most revolutionary cell phone in history are pretty much a given.

The new Apple Store Apps and version 2.0 with an applications installer are a certainity with a multitude of new 3rd-party iPhone applications. Talk is that Apple might announce a video camera/iChat capability for the iPhone but this is more speculation than confirmed.

But how about the Apple iMac Touch - Apple's possible foray into touch displays that remove the keyboard and mouse and utilize Apple's incredible touch screen technologies. Fact or fantasy? - you decide.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Captain's Beard-off


According to CNN Money, there are a number of Silicon Valley mogals artfully engaged in a beard-off. Beards are back bigtime dude. Included in the ranks of the execs taking on the pirate look are Oracle's Larry Ellison, Pixar's Ed Catmull, Flickr's Stewart Butterfield and Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales.

And, of course, who could overlook the exec with the biggest lead in voting for the best beard Steve Jobs. Vote for yourself here but the judges will say otherwise... Michael Copeland, a editor at Fortune, credits Jobs with doing more than any other executive to forward facial hair among his peers among other innovations.

Fake Steve Jobs credits his masterful beard with Arafat-like salt and pepper perfection to Annalisa his colorist.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apple TV 2.0 Still Far From Being a Media Star

Apple excels in personal media, communications, and computing devices because their user interface and integrated hardware/software platform serves up the best experience for its owners. For that reason, I've found Apple TV is a surprise disappointment since the linearity and deeply embedded menu user interface in Apple TV is retro early 80s computing, albeit with nice fonts. With this media device they have fallen short of the standard they have set in personal computing.

Almost everything with Apple TV is an embedded text menu. Okay, there are some non-interactive pictures and icons but you really cannot point and click, drag-and-drop or more effectively organize with them. When you start up the Apple TV, you get a text list of seven items and moving the selector (or might as well be a cursor) down the list will produce a cascading list of items you can access with the right arrow on the remote to select yet more text.

The style of this interface reminds me of DOS in 1982 or the various shell programs (like Peter Norton's shell) you could install on your IBM XT to make it a more user friendly text menu system of navigation. It was slow and arduous back then and still is today.

Add to that the fact that searching is a one letter at a time process in .Mac galleries, Flickr, or YouTube that is slow and painfully unforgiving - push the wrong button and your back to letter "A" and the drawing board - this interface seems positively anti-Apple. It is almost as if a neophyte group of old Microsoft DOS programmers invaded Apple and said they would write the AppleTV interface.

The embedded linear menu system is almost forgivable on a TV but the spelling out of words in search one letter at a time is unforgivable. It neither embraces the advancement Apple makes with touch screen technology nor does it employ "ease-of-use" concepts the basic GUI Apple introduced more than 20 years ago.

One of my main objectives in buying 160GB Apple TV was to create Web Galleries where my family members and friends could go view and possibly download and print my photographs. I thought surely Apple will use its rich integrated environment between iPhoto, .Mac, Apple TV, iTunes and even iPhone to deliver ease, fun, and an awesomely simple viewer experience. Not so.

We are given few options for presenting the photos in the web gallery, no templates to speak of and I couldn't preview the final design. You have to anticipate what the outcomes will be while they are neither explained nor easily offered during the assembly and uploading process. The first few attempts at Web Gallery produced bad captions, random viewing order and "Ken Burns" that slaughters the cropping for pictures. Apple needs to figure out a "smart Ken Burns" effect in iPhoto. iMovie, and for Apple TV.

Then, when it came to viewing my web gallery on Apple TV, the apparent default was for Apple TV to randomly select music from my iTunes Library. And not just music but podcasts, audio books and sound effects. It makes no sense. I simply wanted to assign a song to a particular web gallery that was appropriate for the subject matter. Randon in this case makes non-sensical chaos of image and audio.

When I pointed out this randomizing problem to friend who is also a Apple TV owner, he said, well you have to set up a special folder in iTunes with just one song, sync Apple TV to iTunes then go to settings in Apple TV and pick that folder to play that song "randomly" and that's how you are suppose to do it. Suppose to? That sounds like a kluge and not a thoughtful design implementation made easy for the consumer.

Clearly, Apple has a lot of fixing to do here before Web Galleries and My Photos are useful.

Most of Apple's effort with their web software and Apple TV hardware efforts have gone toward getting you to rent or buy their content from the iTunes store. And thus, that is where you will find the graphical eye candy. Movies have their standard DVD box covers and posters to lure you to buying them but it is all very linear and multi-threading of downloads is still not possible. And it is slow as molasses in Mississippi in the summertime.

Apple obviously has voided the users chance to use the Apple TV as a jukebox for the movies Apple TV owners have purchased over the years on DVD. By some strange and weird definition, they've come to characterize ripping a DVD (not unlike ripping your CD collection to iTunes and your iPod) as a criminal act. Boy, it is funny what can be construed today as criminal.

Apple has limited the users ability to record and store TV programs and timeshift them off cable or broadcast stations. I think most people today are looking for their digital media devices to converge but with Apple TV, they've missed by a mile.

Another huge drawback to the Apple TV is that you must be able to sync your media content to a hosting Mac laptop or desktop. Under this arrangement, the hard drive on the host computer becomes a bottleneck for the media content you will be amassing for Apple TV. In most cases, a person with a 60, 80 or 100 GB hard drive on their host computer will never use even half of the capacity of a 160 GB Apple TV. And from a technology perspective the limiter Apple places on giving the user direct access to store, capture, and back-up Apple TV directly without have to duplicate huge amounts of space on a host computer is severe.

Expansion? It seems Apple TV remains a closed system. You cannot add hard drive capacity or link it to other useful devices to enhance its limited capabilities. I look at the back of the slender sleek box and see a USB 2.0 port but what is it there for? It would be great if I could use it to plug in a huge backup drive, and enhanced remote device that would speed the navigation between the deeply embedded menus, or even better a EyeTV USB device that would allow me to record digital broadcast programs onto my Apple TV drive. But there it sits with nothing to feed it. Why?

The potential with Apple TV is there but the question is what is holding Apple back for making Apple TV an insanely great product?

Monday, April 14, 2008

PsyStar Mac Clone: An Emerging Trend (or Prank)?

A Florida based PC maker has begun manufacturing a Macintosh clone called "OpenMac" at the retail price of $399. The machine has a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, a 20X DVD+/-R SATA drive, a 250 GB 7200 RPM hard drive and comes packed in a tower styled white case.

The open hardware comes with an OSX operating system written by an open project community and is widely available on the internet for Intel PC users to download. However, PsyStar says you can buy Leopard separately and install it on the Open Mac. Certainly, PsyStar would further provoke action against itself if it installed Leopard itself on this clone.

A Mac clone? Some might remember the days in the mid-1990s when the Macintosh was cloned by StarMax, Radius, DayStar, UMAX, and Power Computing. One huge difference between the Mac clones of that era was that Apple licensed these other companies to try and expand the Mac user base. The Apple brand was in trouble and clones were viewed as a way for Apple to stay alive. And then Steve Jobs came back to Apple and canceled or bought out all contracts with the cloners.

Since Jobs return Apple has taken the position, as Phil Shiller says, "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac." Jobs and Schiller knew that Apple needed to sell hardware and software to recover the cost of R&D. Apple being a technology innovator has heavy R&D costs and the only way to recoup their investment in innovation is by selling hardware and software at a slightly higher price than PC hardware.

When Apple decided to make the transition to Intel in 2006 they opened the doors to a new cloning threat and modified versions of OS X 10.4 and 10.5 or Open Mac projects to run on generic PC hardware. Since Apple moved to Intel, a number of hardware manufacturers including Michael Dell of Dell Computers have indicated they would like to make and sell PCs with Mac OSX installed as the operating system.

Many expect Apple to take tough measures against PsyStar and the news today reported that their web site where a person can purchase a OpenMac had been shut down for unknown causes. While Apple might avoid going to court to protect its copyright there are many options open to rendering this machine broken with system updates as they did with jailbroke iPhones. But actions Apple takes to disable users machines remotely comes at a price to their reputation as a company concerned with "customer satisfaction."

The question PsyStar raises is with the success of devices like iPods, iPhones and the widespread adoption of Apple software on PC computers, will we start to see an emerging new Mac clone industry?

UPDATE NOTE: One day after the story appeared, PsyStar brought its site back up and had changed the name of its computer from Open Mac to Open Computer. Then just as quickly PsyStar disappeared completely and attempts to visit the companies offices in Miami were found to be non-existent and PsyStar a faux vendor. I cannot believe how many of the mainstream tech media publishers were reporting this story with no names, bad phone numbers, web site down and no actual office location. Was this all some kind of weird late April fools joke?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mossberg Confirms 3G iPhone in 60 Days


At about 6 minutes and 53 seconds into this video, WSJ Tech columnist Walt Mossberg discloses his knowledge that Apple will sell a 3G iPhone in June.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Future of Publishing

I think some publishers have got it right and others terribly wrong when it comes to the future of magazines and newspapers. Isn't that always the case with future predictors?

Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins, the first woman police reporter for our StarTribune said before she died in 2007, and I paraphrase, that it wasn't so much the impact of the internet on newspapers that is devastating to the industry as the response of newspaper publishers to the rise of the internet.

Newspapers downsized staff writers and got rid of much of the perspective that made them an unique experience to online media. These daily sources for news, like Ivins former employer the StarTribune, redesigned themselves to be unreadable and pushed most of us to the internet for our daily bread.

The most successful (although it has yet to prove itself out completely) were those newspapers like the New York Times and San Jose Mercury who leaped forward onto the internet but branded their image and internet pages with their distinctive imprimatur on this new medium. The Times still looks incredibly similar on the web as it did at the turn of the last century in print. Both publications succeeded in taking their brand to a wider national audience and I'd say younger demographic than their print versions. That's boldface confidence and smart positioning of the brand. And they understand it is about brand and not instant face-lifts and shallow make-overs at the last minute. The NYT's was quick to get its content positioned for the iPhone and the other smart phones with web browsing capabilities coming to the market.

Many other newspapers made huge strategic errors in repurposing themselves for the internet. Case-in-point, again, the StarTribune that locked its content beyond registration barriers and timed their content to a pay-to-read scheme that violates most internet readers the sense of freedom the net provides. That's what is termed, not understanding your audience.

When I search and get down to the level of a StarTribune article from 2003 or an obituary, when the site asks me to register, sign in, or pay to read I am gone in a New York minute. It is almost as if publishers wanted to punish internet surfers out of a resentment for change the new medium represents. Punishment, however, will never win hearts or build readership.

The other ones who have it wrong are the Kindle "electronic book" advocates (see my March 3rd blog about Kindle when it came out), like Graydon Carter from Vanity Fair, believe we will all be carrying around an electronic gadget and get their pages, picture, and movie content we will pay to download off the internet. Nobody wants to haul around yet another electronic device or reader like Kindle especially with its retro-tech rice button keyboard across the bottom of the screen (Did Amazon miss the memo that touch screen technology is going to change the face of all our tech-devices?). We have our phones, our laptop computers, and some even have a PDA or Blackberry. Add a device just for reading news and magazines and news? No way.

Breaking daily news content has to flow to our mobile devices where people do seek electronic convergence. Yes, I believe the instant news will no longer find its home on the multiple edition inky cheap newsprint of my youth. However, the high quality magazine with a distinct perspective will not evaporate off the pages any time soon. The experience of reading a magazine for leisure, relaxation, and entertainment will not be replicated in digital form on the internet or with Kindle. And ultimately, publishers need to see what the use scenario is and fulfill the readers experience in rewarding ways.

In the 70s and 80s, we'd rush to the comic store and could not wait to get our hands on MAD Magazine, National Lampoon and later British Spy (political satire magazine) or the New York Review of Books simply because there was nothing like these publications in terms of the content, comedy or intellectual standards they set. These magazines became icons in their day, not because of the quality of the paper they were printed on. I have very little sympathy for those who preach that we must buy newspapers when those who run them make terrible decisions that drive me away from their pages.

It is still all about the quality of the content and the internet can't change that fact.

image provided by Uh... Bob

Apple Leopard Shows Great Promise, Needs Fixes

The top-billing with Apple's new operating system, code named Leopard or OSX 10.5 is the backup system given the marketing name Time Machine. Backed up with space age style graphics, Time Machine zooms you back and forward in time on a space continuum that makes you think your documents, images and movies stretch out into the galaxy.

Without going into Time Machine at great depth (many other sites and blogger have been writing about it since last year when Apple previewed it), Time Machine lets you restore documents going back to a specific day, week or year and does so with the speed and simplicity to make other back up systems seem old and outmoded.

Apple still has some fixing to do with Time Machine. It has yet to work with the Airport Express USB drives and prefers Apple's touted Time Capsule -- a Airport hub with 500 GB or 1 Terabyte drive built right into the wifi router.

Many Apple faithful who bought Apple's marketing back in the summer of 2007 to buy Airport Express with USB port for a backup hard drive have been mightily angry that Apple uses its programming failure to market a new device of their making. Their chant is "fix Time Machine to work with third-party USB devices." I agree.

STACKS & SPACES

Over time Apple has been transforming the Mac Finder and Desktop to make it more configurable to different use scenarios and assist the user with organizing and keeping their desktops clean. Stacks and Spaces are Apple programmers recent additions to this never-end effort to bring order to a chaotic universe.

Stacks throw all your download and desktop cluttering documents into a menu bar stack that expands out like a geisha's fan and flutter out before your eyes when you click and hold on the stack. It is a pretty cool solution to the way our desktop tend to become a litter box of document icons.

Spaces has the similar quality of organizing for the clutter-prone and seem to match Steve Job's zen-like obsession with neatness and orderliness. Employees of Pixar often noted that Jobs office was like an Oriental rock and sand garden where the only thing a CEO should do in there was meditate. Spaces is the desktop and finder equivalent, allowing you to order your workspaces, save them and flip spectacularly through to each. Spaces is almost an Andy Herzfeld type application, allowing you to flip the cube and view different Finders from different angles of the prism. Again, totally stylist and cool in that Apple way.

Often Apple's best advances are in the little areas of the operating system that let you do things more easily or do things for you that are laborious yet routine. I've owned a personal computer, specifically a Macintosh, since 1984. In all those years I have a mantra playing in the back of my head that says, "The computer should be able to figure that out so I don't have to."

Back in the 80s and 90s I wanted the computer to simply know what ports I had my printer or scanner connected to without having to tell and configure the operating system. I wanted my desktop simply to sense it was connected to the network and show me the volumes I could access. Most recently, I want my laptop or iPhone to sense and know when there is a wifi network I can connect to and prompt me to select it and authenticate.

DATA DETECTORS

One of the greatest and most mundane (DOH) features added to Leopard is data detectors. This is the feature that you've always wanted when you say to yourself "why can't the computer figure it out." Whenever Leopard sees text that resembles an address or date it gives you a pop down menu next to that data with the option to add it to iCal or Apple's Address Book.

Taking this a step further Apple has given applications like Pages the ability for you to draft a letter in a template and then go to Address Book select 1, 5, 10 or any random number of people in your address book and then drag the names into the address space at the top of the letter and it simple performs a mail merge with one complete letter per name you've dragged.

The data detectors even figure out that if you have a salutation, it will place the persons name in the appropriate spot at the top of the body text. No more of the stupid double brackets - field name coding to achieve a mail merge. Let the computer software figure out the details. That's what computers are for right?

iCHAT THEATER

iChat has gotten considerably better with Leopard. In the past, some of the ideas Apple built into iChat were cute but not too useful. Thus iChat hasn't caught on like other Web 2.0 technologies that improve IP communications. Now, with iChat Theater you can share photos, movies and Keynote type presentations across the internet with family, friends and business partners. If you are in front of the camera, iChat Theater makes a small window for you to live in and a big theatrical window for your picture, movie or slideshow.

While this concept is great and could bring more people to use the iChat feature of Leopard, my experience trying to use it with an Leopard upgraded Powerbook laptop and iMac have been mixed. The slideshow were slow, the audio failed and it seemed to be CPU heavy and brought all functions to a stuttering halt. Let's hope Apple works on fixing iChat and making it more stable and reliable because they could have a winner here.

SYNCING

Syncing has gotten some changes with the recent Leopard release. In the past, Apple has been all over the board with iSync, iTunes, .Mac and I think it has driven many Mac users to resignation with trying to sync across their desktop, laptop and mobile devices like iPhone and iPod. I know I've been frustrated and flustered with it and still in Leopard, syncing the Address Book between laptop and iPhone contacts -- is really funky. The sync feature likes to mix up the photos of different contacts just to confound you. So my friend Diane's picture got randomly assigned to my lawyer John contact on the iPhone. Go figure.

I hope this isn't one of those creeping Microsoft sloppiness problems -- where getting feature to work is successful only 35% of the time.

Within the Leopard Address Book preferences you will find setting that will allow you to sync your address book with Yahoo and Exchange mail servers. This ability to communicate and sync outside the world of Apple apps will be a big boon to the "switch to Mac" market and enterprise computing where Active List and other company served mailing capabilities are necessary.

The coolness of these and a bunch of smaller features makes Leopard well worth the price of upgrade, However, Apple has some fixing it needs to do to iron out the odd imperfections with this system version.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Apple Fanboy Command + A (Attack)

Recently, I read about how vicious the Apple fanboys have grown on the web. First, lets be clear of the utopian misconception that the internet would connect us all, enlarge our communities, be egalitarian and make us better people. Peace, love and understanding hasn't actually arrived by digital download nor streaming.

In fact, reading the anonymous comments on Huffington post about the 2008 campaigns, or any political blog for that matter, can assure all Americans we have pathetically lost all sense of proper behavior and civil society. Talk about ad homonym attacks and bloodthirsty adversarial behavior -- that's just between fellow Democrats -- it is out of control.

But the thing I find so ironic is the attack mentality of Apple fanboys. Case in point has to be David Pogue. If anyone has a history of reading Pogue over the years you will know he has been one of Apple biggest advocates in print journalism alive. If anyone, Pogue deserves a Apple Fellow status and a shrine in the Apple Hall of Fame.

Yet, after Pogue wrote a column for the New York Times in which he mentioned that Microsoft might have implemented something better than Apple in their OS, Pogue was barraged with hate email. One reader accused Pogue of "hating Apple" and another of "Licking Bill Gates balls."

It's not hard to find equivalent behavior that harms Apple owners and prevents Apple itself from making honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses. Criticism of Apple improves the company and its products. It is the bread and butter for upgrade input. On the .Mac support forums, users are encourage to post the technical problems and discuss Apple products, but users are frequently censored and often attacked by fanboys and even the discussion moderators.

Unreal. Apparently the Google employee motto "Don't be evil" has no sway over them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Apple TV Plus Coming?

Obviously, I ranted at the beginning of the year about what Apple needs to do to not only improve upon Apple TV but make it a serious media center convergent technology. It is a no-brainer: ADD DVR. Wrongly, I predicted Apple would announce they were adding DVR to the Apple TV in Steve Job's 2008 MacWorld keynote.

But I wasn't the only one. All kinds of Apple Rumor pundits were clamoring for an improved Apple TV that would eliminate all those shiny odd shaped boxes surrounding their new thinner, smaller footprint HD LCD and Plasma TVs. Everybody wants convergent technologies and since Apple saw fit to give us a web browser, email, GPS-like maps and iTunes music and video on our cell phone, why wouldn't they provide a comparable media center device that would eliminate the need to buy four boxes when all you need is one?

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) has been routing around Apple patent filings and found they have filed for an Apple TV device that has DVR capabilities included in a new box. Finally, I say, what is taking Apple so long to seriously get into the media center market?

Hopefully Apple will find the courage to stand up to the corporate lawyers who continue to set the standard for technology development or lack thereof. These lawyers know nothing about great industrial design nor could they care less about the users ability to use it easily. The industry moguls who insult the consumer will/are destroying their own businesses.

Many of the Apple products I own in my home are hamstrung to the point that I am unable to effectively and easily capture, store, organize and view my digital content. And it is MY content since I either created it myself or I PURCHASED it. Last time I was at an Apple Store I was given a unwanted lecture about "stealing" movies simply after asking how a person can transfer and store digital media onto the Apple TV. WTF! Apple Genuis' are amateur lawyers -- at BEST!

We are your consumers. We buy CDs and DVDs and it seems more like Apple wants to control the way we engage the content rather than give us as consumers the tools to manage our digital media. The situation has never been this bad whether it be broadcast recording to VHS or Beta tapes, cassette tapes from albums, CDs and digital ripping of them and the treatment of the customer by Apple and the industry has never this low. It is a disgrace Apple is involved with this sham against its loyal customers.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

iPhone 2.0 is a Leap (Spring) Forward

Reset your clocks. When all the dust settles after the iPhone SDK announcement, even with all the concerns about Apple's control over the platform, one thing is very clear -- the iPhone experience will change radically with the release of iPhone 2.0 in June.

While many questions remain, Apple will promote development on the iPhone both with consumer level applications and with implementations of enterprise software tailored to individual companies and institutions.

No doubt museums and art galleries will be using the platform as a place to launch interactive media such as the Walker Art Center has already began to do in a limited fashion. Hospitals will find the handheld iPod or iPhone invaluable to searching and locating records. Schools, collections and libraries can be incredibly interactive and mobile inside their wifi domains.

We are also likely to see the iPod Touch become a much more popular tool as owning and using one will not require a AT&T cell phone contract and developers can use wifi to send and receive vital data. The iPod Touch running 2.0 might even become a way out for Apple to sell iPhone equivalent technologies without AT&T being party to the purchase or contract with users.

Using an iPod Touch inside a corporation for capturing and sharing data such as with doctors in hospitals, inventory in retail operations, or point of sale and service has huge potential for the Touch technology, where not having the cell phone capabilities becomes a plus on a mobile device.

In Apple's Thursday announcement they invited a number of developers on stage to preview versions of the games, data base tracking applications, and messaging clients for the iPhone. It was abundantly clear that the prospects on this platform are immense with robust development and will be enjoined by enthusiastic programmers.

And despite developer concern about the Apple Apps Store being the sole distributor for iPhone and iPod Touch applications, Apple will be partner with thousands of developers and enthusiastic about getting new tools and entertainment to iPhone users through this huge direct sales network and free distribution channel. As Wired said in it recent cover story, FREE is the future of business. All-in-all that is an advantage to the developers, iPhone owners, and Apple itself.

In Apple's defense, inside the IT departments I've heard many say that Apple should control the distribution of applications on the iPhone very tightly because he users don't want their cell phone riddled with poor designed and programmed applications that will destroy the iPhone experience and functionality. They often point to the wide-open nature of the PC and how it has become riddled not only with bugs, worms and virus' but also low functioning software by amateur programmers.

Adding to the excitement of the SDK package release was the announcement of the iFund, a one hundred million dollar capital investment fund by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. A chief partner in KPCB, John Doerr in founding this fund saluted Apple entrepreneurs as revolutionaries and called Steve Jobs the supreme commander who started Apple and the personal computer industry. He said $100 million is enough start-up money for "four Googles."

Apple's upcoming iPhone 2.0 will continue to jettison their cell phone business far ahead of any other smart phone company in the industry. Apple says the upgrade to 2.0 will be free to all iPhone owners (iPod Touch owners will need to pay for the upgrade) but this assures all of the millions who bought iPhones this year -- we can still look forward to one hell of a fun ride.