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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Replacing Your Powerbook Hard Drive?

Have you been considering replacing your old 20GB hard drive in your Powerbook? You might want to think twice... or three times.

One thing you may have not considered when you went out to buy your aluminum Powerbook G4 with its ample 20GB of hard storage and huge 256 MB of RAM (which if you were smart you immediately upgraded to at least 512 MB so you'd never have to upgrade again) is that it would not be enough space for all your digital life in 2008.

In fact, if you have a handy program like Whatsize from ID-Design, you will find that if you have a digital camera or a iPod that needs to be fed, massive amounts of your storage is taken up in your iPhoto and iTunes folders with digital images and songs. For the average user who have embraced the digital worlds of music, video, podcasting, and photography, these will be the biggest space eating culprits. In a very short period of time you will find 20, 30, 40 and even 60 GB of storage space an impossible space restriction to your wildly expressive urges.

My good friend "Buy a Mac" Mike has an expression, "...hard drives are like home car garages, no matter how much space you have, you'll always fill it up..." Mike says this to encourage organization, thrift and off-loading to backup archives. And as a warning when entering his garage.

I hear ya bro, and I have lots and lots of firewire storage devices that archives tons of old files, images and media. I also have a 500 GB hard drive connected to my Airport hub for off loading current working content. But truth be told, in order for your laptop to have the effective amounts of data to do tasks like update the blog, load digital images into iPhoto, feed the iPod music and movies, sync with .Mac... I could go on and on, you must have a baseline amount of storage space to stay alive.

And then there is another aspect no amount of connected, networked and archival storage can help with: With Apple upgrading the operating system every 6 months and new applications taking up considerably more space, you do not have enough storage AND platter space just for your necessary applications. Apple's new operating system Leopard wants 12 GB and then add to that iLife, iWorks and.or Office 2008 for the Mac and you're screwed.

Okay, so you made the decision that you don't have enough space on your laptop OR life made that decision for you. What do you do about it?

Friends say, especially around tax return time, buy a new Mac! Bigger, better, faster, newer, smaller, thinner, a new operating system... blah, blah, blah... That urge is tempting I must say. Love the packaging and holding in my hands the newly manufactured Apple product for 2008 but... a $3,000 thin Mac with 64GB hard drive. No Way! A 64 GB or 80GB hard drive is just the problem I am trying to get away from, not buy into. In today's market, new computers must have >100 GB of hard or solid state storage. Easily, many of the off-the-shelf computers will be weighing in a 1/2 terabyte of storage or 500GB.

The prospect of a hard drive upgrade to the Powerbook is a sane and reasonable alternative. So what then? Take it to the Apple Store talk it over with the Apple Genius and get a new drive replacement? Not. Unless you like to throw your money away and pay Apple a ridiculous four times more than you need to pay, stay away from Apple Store for this type of computer expenditure. You can always go back and get sucked into their vortex for other types of purchases.

With hard drives and memory getting cheaper and cheaper on the internet suddenly you start to feel very handy with screw drivers and torx L-wrenches. A great big new 2.5 inch hard drive with five, ten and twenty times the space can be procured for between $100 and $150 dollars. At these prices, it is very tempting to think of yourself as Super Mac Repair Man.

Can't be that hard, after-all, it is a Mac, right?

Well, the Macintosh may have come onto the market as a kind of VW people's simple tool for the masses, however, that analogy did not extend to under the hood operations. A Macintosh computer, once inside, is a very complex and touchy piece of engineering. And that is doubly true for the Powerbook, iBook and MacBook lines. It holds triply true for iPods. And if you want to break the iPhone, Apple has a team of lawyers for you and if they could, they'd like to put you behind greybars. Apple absolutely does NOT want you messing around inside their boxes. Backyard mechanics NEED NOT APPLY. If you go in there with your screw driver at the ready, you will void the Apple warrantee and Apple employees will start treating you bad. You may even get band from the Apple Store.

But that's where your dark side starts to come out. Am I right?

Being told you cannot do what needs to be done, especially by a big powerful corporation and their shark lawyers fills your with tool lust doesn't it? A man (or in many cases a woman) needs to be a man and take destiny into their grasp. We all remember the dangerous and sexy James Dean, the rebel, the black hat, the hacker. Afterall, the two Steves (Woz and Jobs) began their lives as phone-freaks (felons) while Gates and Allen were mainframe hackers who loved to bring the Sperry-Univac down to its knees (anti-corporate terrorists) when they were in Jr. High School.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Crowdsourcing Bush False Statements

The crowdsorucing concept has to spread into other realms of information identification and social community on the internet. This time it is being used by journalists to dig deeper and track information further than just the day-to-day, as it happens nature of hot-press journalism.

According to the research web site The War Card, Bush and his administration carefully orchestrated a misinformation campaign to mislead the public and drive America into a war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

To account for this The Center for Public Integrity, an organization dedicated to investigative journalism along with Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith has set up a database of words to track Bush Administration misinformation. For two years following 9/11, their data tracking shows, four administration officials: President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Condolezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld made 935 false statements about national security threats.

Of course, we all know the biggest false statement by the President regarded the "weapons of mass destruction" the administration asserted that it knew Iraq had and that these words became the primary motivation for the invasion of Iraq. In fact, by their own later admissions, they did not know and according to American forces on the ground, intelligence, and UN inspectors there was no WMD. But that Lie (is lie too strong a word - is it lying if you really believe it yourself as George Costanza on Seinfeld would say) was only the beginning. The administration went on to make what it knew were false statements to the American public and world bodies.

We know that then Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the U.N. with carefully orchestrated (by Cheney's office) misinformation that the White House later blamed on faulty intelligence by the CIA. This carefully orchestrated misapplication of facts became the rational for the world that the American government gave for using force against Iraq and moving beyond U.N imposed inspections and sanctions.

You may search the database of 380,000 Iraq-related public pronouncements by top Bush administration officials here:

http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/

Crowdsourcing American History

Recently the U.S. Library of Congress posted over 3,000 non-copyrighted images from its collection to the popular photo-sharing web service Flickr. According to a statement on the LOC's web site, the reason for uploading is ""enhance our metadata."

Crowdsourcing, following on from social networking concepts like wiki communities, has become the latest phenomenon in web-based knowledge sharing computing. According the the LOC crowdsourcing is working.

By this method the national resource for images and history wants to improve the information attached to the photos, for the benefit of historical researchers and cultural posterity. The LOC figures if they throw the images out into the big wide electronic cloud hovering about us all, viewers will step up and offer particular knowledge about the people, the locations and the moment captured in those images.

"We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves," the LOC web post explains. "For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured."

To visit the LOC Photo set on Flickr go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress

Monday, January 21, 2008

Defeating Edge

One of the first questions I had about the iPhone, prior to owning one was, "Can you turn off Edge?"

Edge is one of the two receiver/transmitter protocols the iPhone uses to conduct phone calls, receive email, surf the web and get information to populate Google maps with streets, traffic congestion, satellite views, etc. Edge is the slow one nobody likes. The other protocol is Wifi.

Now Apple built into the iPod a setting for users just to turn off Wifi because it can be a drain on battery when you are not in a wifi zone and its not being used.

"No, why would you want to turn off Edge?" was the initial answer I got from a friend.

My answer was because there are places I don't want the iPhone to start receiving calls and ring up excess charges on my AT&T bill, like when we go to Brazil, Prague, or travel in other foreign countries where Edge is extremely expensive. Edge is the metered pipeline into your iPhone. Since it is my pocketbook, I want to be able to take control of all charges. Another iPhone owning friend answered the question with a more cynical accusatory answer, "Apple and AT&T want you to be in a position where you cannot turn it off so you run up charges and they make more money off you."

Armed with Machiavelian suspicions, I went to the Apple Store and asked a sales clerk in the iPhone section, "How do I turn off Edge?" The Apple Store answer I got was you cannot turn off Edge but you can turn off Wifi. Again, the clerk asked me why I would ever want to turn off Edge.

Of course, my answer in part is the one given above but also, as a version of the iPod there are times when all I want is to listen to music, show my relatives a slide show of photos, or watch a movie, for instance, on an airplane without being interrupted by Edge. Bingo, this lead me to the answer. And I was surprised the clerk at the Apple Store didn't know to tell me about this feature.

There is no direct setting for defeating Edge as there is with Wifi so their answers aren't completely wrong, however, at the top of the Settings menu there is an item called Airplane Mode. Basically, Apple put this setting on your iPhone so when you get into an airplane and the steward announces you must turn off all cell phones and wifi devices, you have one simple setting to do so. This setting also defeats Edge by turning it off.

If you turn the iPhone to Airplane Mode ON, your iPhone will send all incoming phone calls to AT&T voice mail automatically and you can use all the other client features of your digital media device without being connected to the "cloud" as they like to say in the valley.

The downside is when you turn Airport Mode on, you will defeat both Edge and Wifi at the same time when perhaps all you wanted to do is stop Edge from communicating. This is not the same as giving iPhone users a desirable setting that would just turn off Edge but it works for now.

Now, when in Brazil or traveling to places were cell phone activity is charged a premium by AT&T, I can put the iPhone in the Airplane Mode, play music, take photos of friends and family, takes notes, use the calculator, check my calendar, and when I find a free wifi zone, I can turn Airplane Mode off and connect to receive my email without having to be pushed to the Edge.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Reality Distortion Shielding Hat

Post 1/15 and we all could use a dose of reality distortion protection (RDP), especially of the heals of a disappointing Macworld San Francsico. We were all a little let down, not because Apple threw a bucket of cold water on our smothering hot expectations (they didn't) but because are field of distortion exceeded Job's willingness to meet the demand.

Take this guy for example. Suffering from a severe case of RD, he makes the case for iSight Pro and it is pretty compelling, however, slim-to-little chance the YouTube compatabe device will ever become an official Apple product. Are you listening Belkin? Newer Technology? Griffin?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Striking Balances


As certain as Steve wearing his black turtle neck and blue jeans, pacing the Moscone stage with his palm sized remote and his strategically executed sips from his bottled water is that Apple for two decades has walked a tighrope between coolness of design, ease of use and power, and ultimately price. The patterns of emphasis and granularity of magnification with how Apple decides to execute its computer and electronics products - what to leave out, what to include and at what price - is the high-drama guessing game.

When Apple gets it wrong it is because the balance is not reached. When Apple is at it most brilliant and revolutionary is when almost perfect harmony is obtained. Making a great consumer retail product is not very different than producing a great movie - the beauty and brilliance is in the details. Last year Apple obtained sheer acuity with the release of the paradigm busting iPhone.

MacBook Air
With the MacBook Air, its life began as an intensely improbable design mission. MacBook Air did not originate as a challenge to make an incredible inexpensive laptop and to undercut to price of a Dell. In fact, just the opposite, the MacBook Air was going to be designed for the high end market and compared to the most expensive Sony laptops.

Instead, MacBook Air had to be designed to occupy the smallest or thinest space profile or any portable computer running a full fledged modern day operating system. The allure has to be its sexy slim profile and almost nothing else. And as Steve revealed in his presentation, Apple did not want to compromise the size of the LCD screen or keyboard. One could argue the entire playing field has been changed for keyboards and perhaps they should be designed out not around but those were the specifications Jonathan Ives was given for design.

Given those specs, you'd have to quickly get rid of the optical drive. There is no space for an optical drive inside a less than one inch high box. One item missing. Add the DVD drive externally and you pay $99 more. Also, with respect to the components inside any computer, you'll have to radically change the battery compartment and this traditionally volatile and undependable unit cannot be easily replaced [Apple is offering a replacement MacBook Air battery for $129 and they will install it for free if you take it to an Apple Store). And there is a limit in this amount of thin space to putting standard ports or jacks for input and output jacks for monitors and firewire. Apple ditched a lot of connectivity for this design spec, although they do provide adaptors to make back some ground.

And a major unknown going into design had to be the type of drive the machine would use. It is almost a given that the future of mobile computing and fast, energy efficient design are solid state drives that use less battery power and increase speed. Much of the speculation before today's keynote was if Apple would use the 80 GB Samsung 1.8 drive or 64 GB flash drives and they decided to go with both although at a huge cost to the consumer.

If you think about it tje MacBook Air has a hard drive (at 80 GB) that is half the capacity of the largest iPod Video. And the flash drive version, priced at $1200 more that the hard drive version, has even LESS storage capacity at 64 GB.

In order to reach this incredble design mission, having to leave out an optical drive and limit the storage capacity to 80 GB, I think Apple, talked themselves into hoping users will be happy to off-load functionality to non-present optical and wifi backup to compensate for missing storage capacity inside the ultra-thin MacBook. This decision to cripple the MacBook Air could be a break deal for Apple.

Did all these stringent requirements lead Apple Away from just the perfect balance? Is the MacBook Air just the Mac Cube 2.0? The verdict is still out.

Classic Jobs Keynote

As they like to say in the business world, there is no one better than Steve Jobs at selling both the steak and the sizzle. The Apple CEO has been tagged the ultimate pitch-man for his ability to impart passion, insightfully depart information, and induce mania for Apple new products.

As CNet's Tom Krazit says, Apple is the most influential technology company at the start of the 21st century. Least not forgot, Apple was also the most influential company in the early 1980s, supplanting IBM and effecting the future of computing at every step thereafter.

In many ways, the 2008 Macworld keynote was classic Steve Jobs. You can tell he loves the technology, he truly thinks Apple is the most incredibly innovative company in America and its design teams led by Jonathan Ives surpasses everyone else in the industry. Steve is right and he has every right to believe it and be passionate about Apple's future.

I am often in conflict with friends who take a cynical view of Apple and how it releases its technology. For instance, I find myself in disagreement with almost anybody who says Apple limits its technology and services to the user base simply to make more money. Developing hardware and software is an immensely complicated business and precise process. Making products that package a range of engineered components involves negotiations between very powerful interests and often restrictive technology benchmarks.

And precisely because Apple motive for making products isn't simply to make money, it makes their risk and adventure much more dramatic.

WIRED's recent article on the obstacles Apple faced in designing and launching the iPhone into the marketplace is a case study in modern business in the time of Moore's Law. It was Moore's law that long ago calculated computing power per unit cost. Roughly stated Moore, a Caltech professor who never saw a personal computer nor a retail store selling them, said computing power increases by a factor of two every year. Since 1965 when Moore made this claim, it has become applied widely to transistors, hard drive storage capacity, flash drives, optical disc, and clock times of CPUs. And while capacity doubles, it also drops in price significantly.

When designing products, companies like Apple, Intel, and Microsoft are trailblazing in a constantly changing river of fleeting numbers and calculations. A SDD flash drive with 64GB of space might be extremely expensive today but in six months a 128GB drive costing half as much could well find its way onto the market. That's the danger with being on the technology leader. Raging cost conscious consumers assume Apple is ripping them off because it charges a premium when, in fact, when you apply Moore's law, Apple is at the higher edge of the curve with leading edge technologies.

I truly believe, at the end of the day, Jobs and his team at Apple just want to make really cool objects and tools. That is the bottom line for them. And as numerous attempts in the past have shown, Apple has failed with the Newton, Mac Classic, Motorola ROKR with iTunes, Mac Cube and even Apple TV built into the old Performa line.

AppleTV

In this years keynote, Job's owed up to the fact that AppleTV last year failed. Why? Mostly because he felt they were trying to use the device to move content from the computer to the TV. Now, it seems Apple is more committed to Movies. Apple's answer to this opportunity is to create a relationship between the movie industry and the home viewing of film a direct one in the form of rentals. The key here comes at the beginning of Job's talk about iTunes, where he says, Apple found people wanted to own their favorite music because they will listen to their favorite song hundreds or maybe thousands of times during their lifetime.

However, in the world of films it is completely different than music. We all have our favorite films but, with the exception of extreme cases (Rocky Horror Picture Show, little girls watching The Princess Diaries or The Wizard of Oz) we only see them once, maybe twice, over the duration of our lives. The rental business is better suited to these habits of the average viewer.

Therefore, Jobs believes AppleTV (which might be better called AppleFilm or AppleRental) should be a direct conduit for its owners to go out and search for movies from the major and indie distribution companies, pay a fee for temporary possession and then have them delivered directly to AppleTV and onto your HD TV. This doesn't answer the question of DVR but it does give current AppleTV owners more features and no additional cost.

What Apple, the studios, and distributors needed to devise to get here is a set of rules under which the content would be viewed that comfortably suit the consumer. All of this when added to AppleTV's already existent capabilities is great. The message should be keep adding new capabilities for your customers. And as long as Apple gave this software upgrade away to AppleTV owners for free -- all the better. We really can't complain.

If Apple and the studios start to execute and quickly provide home viewers with top notch films without the bother of having to go to the rental store or receive and send DVDs in the mail, this could be a big break through in the way we see our first run movies and VOD in the future. The content is available by cable and satellite, however, the cable service providers are so poor at designing the user interface, so bad at customer support and indifferent to the needs that there is a big opening for Apple and the distributors.

If there is a huge outcry of disappointment with Macworld San Francisco 2008, it is not because of what Apple showed us as new, it is what they left out. There was such a loud hue-and-cry for an iPhone upgrade to fix its drawbacks and deficiencies, for Apple to address problems with its withering Mac mini and long denied Apple monitors. Many wanted Apple to give them a home media device far more encompassing than the AppleTV with DVR and DVD capabilities and thus a wave of post-MWSF disappointment has swept over Apple-nation only equal to the level of anticipation and excitement going into San Francisco on Monday.

Jobs keynote lowers all expectations


Low. low, and lower expectations...

Dig the price for the 64GB SSD drive version of MacBook Air. Yow-sah! That price is one quick way to throw a very wet blanket over all Apple's smoldering hot success in 2007. I'd say Apple stock price should drop [at last check this afternoon UBS reported that Apple stock dropped $16 a share after Job's keynote and by the end of the day the share value dropped 15%].

No new hardware boost for the iPhone. Apple is deliberately holding back on technology they know they can deliver NOW, like for instance, 16GB iPhones and one might arguably say 3G. The argument against Apple putting 3G in iPhone is the hit the battery takes and not enough bandwidth but all that is rendered bad excuse when other handset manufacturers make 3G phones and 3G is standard in other countries.

Only new iPhone software and even then Apple's software upgrade are some lame tiny configurations to the icons, multiple SMS addressing and Google maps. There is nothing included for text selection, copy and paste, flip screen orientation in apps other than Safari (mail would be a good candidate) or the ability to delete multiple messages. This list of improvements were things that are broken with the iPhone and needed fixing from day one.

I'd say this is a classic case of Apple resting on its laurels and not giving way to a beacon call for improvements from the loyal user community. I just hope someone in the mainstream Mac-media has the balls to call Apple out on their lame refusal to upgrade iPhone hardware.

Thank goodness for Apple customers that Google made their pro-iPhone announcements yesterday, otherwise, there is not much of anything substantial for iPhone users at 2008 MacWorld.

A thin MacBook. Very thin. It's not something to rush out and buy. But it is very thin. Apparently its best feature is that you don't need a computer case because it ships in a yellow inter-office envelop. The worst feature is a very high price tag for inferior technology missing basic elements all portables have like optical drives, fast CPUs, multiple input and output ports, and bigger storage drives. At $1,800 and $3,000+ the ultra thin MacBook Air will take a lot of thickness out of your wallet and hand you back just a bunch of air.

An external hard drive for Time Machine priced at above the going rate for external storage. If you're happy with that offering I have some old Blue & White G3s I can sell you. Apple screwed a lot of Airport owners who over the course of the last year went out and bought the Airport extreme and a 500 GB external USB drive for $150 or $200 hoping that when Time Machine arrived on their desktop, they could back up their desktops and laptops using Time Machine and the beauty of storage connected to their hubs.

When Leopard was finally released, the fact that Airport couldn't accomplish the Time Machine task, it was attributed by Apple to be a bug. Now, Apple specialists on the floor of Macworld, in light of wanting to make sales of their new Apple device, saying the bug will not be fixed for the foreseeable future. Apple wants $299 for a 500 GB drive that does work and $499 for a one TB drive.

AppleTV with nothing to add to the hardware. Movie rentals. As the gonzo roving reporter Robert Cringley said, without DVR and the ability to easily rip DVDs to AppleTV its crap and will never become a part of mainstream America. That's all folks! Goodbye. Hello Randy Newman...

Read Cringley's humorous 'Fear and Loathing" parody here:

http://weblog.infoworld.com/robertxcringely/archives/2008/01/apple_macworld.html

In their assessment, Businessweek said that at the prices Apple has set for the MacBook Air, visitors to the Apple Store will not buy it, however, they will go in to the store to see it and maybe they'll buy a $1,000 MacBook on the way out thus it won't be a complete loss.

The Hour of Steve has Arrived

They've come from all over the world, waitied all night and now, ladies and gentlement, at 9:00am PST it is the hour of Steve...



Karen Swisher and iJustine and their MacWorld sleepover.

A reporter for Valleywag, Jordon Golson left the Ars Technica party early last night and decided to stop down at Moscone and see who was waiting online. To his complete surprise after 9:00pm he spotted Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience for Google. The Google VP was waiting on the sidewalk to get a ticket for Steve Job's keynote address this morning. Apple is very lucky to have the innovative support of the programmers at Google and for that they get to sit on the sidewalk.

Apparently 40 to 50 Google employees go down to Moscone and wait on line to make sure Google gets prime seats for the keynote. Golson also found Chrix Finne, Associate Product Manager for Google Reader; Nick Baum, Associate Product Manager for Android; David Murray, Associate Product Manager for Gmail; Fernando Delgado, Associate Product Manager for Search Quality dressed in fleece ready for the all-nighter.

When Golson asked why were they waiting in line so early? They answered, "The man gives a great presentation. Hopefully we can learn something."

Monday, January 14, 2008

MacWorld Keynote Bingo

This year, as last, there will be MacWorld keynote Bingo. Simply study this Bingo card and go to the Ars Technica web site for explanation:

http://arstechnica.com/staff/fatbits.ars/2008/01/06/mwsf-2008-keynote-bingo



You will also be able to download a PDF of the Bingo Card so you can play along at home!

Here is this list what you will be looking for to check off your Bingo squares:

New Mac Pro - A new Mac Pro. Though new Mac Pros have already been announced, you may still mark this square if the new Mac Pros are mentioned in tomorrow's keynote.
New displays - New Apple external displays.
HD video somewhere - High-definition video appears on some piece of Apple hardware or software. It must be explicitly described as "HD" or "high-definition." HD video for sale in the iTunes store counts.
MacBook Thin - A new subnotebook from Apple, regardless of its actual branding or product name. What's a subnotebook? Use your own judgement. The only restriction is that to be a MacBook it must have a hardware keyboard.
New MacBook Pro - Any revision to the MacBook Pro product line.
Multi-touch Mac - Any Mac with a feature described as "multi-touch" or even just "touch." It can be a screen, trackpad, whatever.
"Wouldn't it be great...?" - Steve Jobs begins with his favorite rhetorical question.
MacBook Thin has flash - The subnotebook (described in the "MacBook Thin" square above) contains some nontrivial amount of flash RAM.
"One more thing..." - Steve Jobs says there's "one more thing." A slide containing the phrase is also acceptable, even if Jobs does not actually say it.
New Apple TV - The moribund Apple TV is revised or replaced with a new product that does the same sort of thing.
Movie Rentals - Apple rents downloadable movies from the iTunes store.
"Boom" - Steve Jobs says the word "boom" during keynote.
Existence of Xserve acknowledged - The Xserve or Xserve RAID is mentioned by a presenter, listed on a slide, or even just appears in a photo, illustration, or screenshot.
Blu-ray - Sony's Blu-ray disc format is mentioned by a presenter. (Text or a logo on a slide does not count.)
iPhone SDK details - Significant new information about the iPhone SDK.
New displays have cameras - New Apple displays with built-in or otherwise attached cameras.
New iPhone - New iPhone hardware. Even minor revisions count.
Mac market share touted - Good news about the market share of Macintosh computers is presented.
Optical drive sold separately - An Apple-branded external optical drive is introduced and is available for individual sale.
Schiller - Phil Schiller appears on stage or in live video. (Pre-recorded segments do not count.)
Leopard vs. Vista - Mac OS X 10.5 is compared to Vista in some way. Showing one of the Mac/PC TV ads does not count. The comparison must be part of the live presentation.
Dockable Mac - Some hardware product that runs Mac OS X docks to some other piece of hardware.
Native third-party iPhone app demo - A demonstration of an OS X application written by a third-party, or written by Apple as an example of what could be written using the new iPhone SDK.
No new displays - No new Apple external display products are introduced. (Rioting optional.)

One of the funniest wished for announcements was Steve Jobs to launch a Gen 3 Newton. Now that would be a huge surprise to all those predicting new Apple products.

Google Apps Get iPhone Makeover

Good news for iPhone and particularly iPod Touch users, the first to come out of MacWorld San Francisco, is Google's announcement of their web apps makeover for iPhone. Among the Google group of apps being madeover are Gmail, Calendar, iGoogle, Picasa and more.

While I posted earlier Apple .Mac needs to take a more aggressive position to support iPhone, iCal, iPhoto, iGroups, blogging, and .Mail, the fact that Google sees the need and is seizing the opportunity to support iPhone can only make Apple more responsive to customer needs.

One of the biggest features iPhone users will get is push email, in other words, the new Google email will automatically show up on your iPhone without having to hit a refresh button. New messages can arrive in 25 seconds or less. Google is also offering web apps written for the iPhone Safari browser to bring PC computing capabilities to the mobile device.

In the search area, Google's search entry box offers word selections, when you type the first few letters of the word it automatically builds a pop down menu (see photo above) of options filling out the word you are beginning to type. Using these quick find features increases the speed when using the touch screen interface of the iPhone and iPod touch devices.

Google is also working to make Android work on iPhone and we can expect to see Google Gears, their application to make web based work possible even when not connected to the web, being adapted and launched on the iPhone during the course of this year.

A Favorite Apple Ad


Here's to the crazy one's...

Lame Predictions : : Blu-ray

As the speculations leading up to MacWorld San Francisco's keynote address tomorrow continue, there are a bunch of web sites, blogs, and financial analysts jumping in with their big rumors about what Jobs will announce.

Amongst these predictions is that Apple is going to announce it is supporting Blu-ray. This is lame. First, Apple was one of the first tech companies to become a member in the blu-ray alliance and Apple has made announcements before supporting the standard. However, secondly and most important, just making that statement is not NEWS. Embracing Blu-ray does not come up to the standard of a keynote announcement.

OK, I am making the rules now. In order for an item to be considered worthy of a keynote announcement, it cannot be some technology parameter or the use of a binary set or a particular video bus. The "thingness" of a announcement is that you have to significantly utilize the technology, distill it down and offer it to consumers as a product.

For instance, if Apple is going to come out with a new AppleTV hardware that has a read/write blu-ray DVR drive in it than it is a product announcement worthy of note in the keynote. Short of that, a discussion of Apple using blu-ray or embracing the standard is old news and kind of a snugger or a safe easy guess without any risk, if you ask me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Send in the Clones

A few weeks back I wrote about the Verizon LG Voyager clone and its superficial shortcut touch screen cover that hides the fact that it is an old-school clam shell phone with a tiny QWERTY keyboard.

But there are a hosts of iClone's jumping into the market after, as WIRED magazine described it, Apple blew the doors off the cell phone industry. Prompted by ABC News analyst Michael Malone's question "Can Apple stay ahead of these guys?" I decided to investigate the impressive iPhone killers as he called them.

Prada is probably the most elegant and beautifully designed of the iClones but it has serious short-comings. Without Wifi and no on-screen QWERTY keyboard, it is out of league with the user experience of iPhone and other iClones trying to be a phone, MP3 player, web browser and email handset. Prada also is one of the few iClones more expensive than the original iPhone it is trying to copy. And the GUI on Prada is practically non-existent. Nothing impressive here.

The LG Voyager (picture in previous post) has some impressive features that the iPhone does not. For instance, you can use it to connect to Verizon's real-time TV service (for an additional $13 a month) VZ Navigator GPS ($13 a month or $3 a day) and in a pinch the phone will work as a modem. A serious drawback in this feature set is the lack of wifi. The Voyager has two color screens and a tiny keyboard, which some reviewers seem to think is an advantage. But why? Only poor design would force so much investment in screens and a QWERTY keyboard 4.5 inches wide is like trying to cook dinner for 12 with your daughters easy bake oven. It's all a waste.

But more importantly, the Voyager fails basic usability tests when it comes to syncing contacts and calendars to your PC. It has trouble, like many PC managed devices, setting up playlists and consistencies with managing music. I've always found that it is much worse to have a whole bunch of features that fail to work 50% of the time that a narrower set of features you know you can count on working. As I stated earlier, you can over-design and under-implement by simply trying to put stickers on the cover (shortcuts) but not make them a useful and simple way for the user to get their tasks accomplished.

CECT P168 is an iClone from China that truly tries to re-engineer the iPhone and is deceptively an eye-match. When you first see it you wonder, what the hell is that thing attached to his iPhone but upon closer examination to come to see it is not an Apple product at all. The reason this phone looks so much like the iPhone is the proportionality of the screen, the black touch face and silver rim and strategically located main menu button. Even the wallpaper and start up screens are complete iPhone imitations.

Meizu's M8 also cuts an astonishingly beautiful design profile with a clean and simple look that causes Apple lovers to do a double-take. You might easily catch yourself thinking upon first glance it is an iPhone but then snap your neck back saying it can't be. The M8 runs a tricked out version of Windows CE 6.0, dressed up to look like the iPhone OS. But, M8's biggest drawback is that it is still vaporware with no release date in sight. By the time it comes out, they must fear, the train will already have left the station and the next generation will be playing a different song.

In design terms Samsung's F700 is lame. It form factor is chunky and doesn't effectively use the entire area of the 2.7 inch screen (that falls short of the 3+ inch edge to edge screen of other iClones and the original iPhone). But in hardware terms the 5 Megpixel camera is twice the resolution of Apple iPhone. The F700 sports HSDPA (but no Wi-Fi) so we'll see if it can get traction outside the channel.

HTC Touch is smaller than all the other iClones, limits its screen size and takes up valuable surface real estate with hardware buttons as opposed to touch screen. This handset tries really hard to be iPhone-like, yet it has all the markings of a Windows product -- too much text standing in for a graphical interface and general design confusion where simplicity and spareness should be respected especially in small spaces.

The HTC Touch looks and feels a bit too much like a remote control device for your garage door opener in form but not iconic enough to work that factor well. For ham-fisted or chunky fingered folk, using it becomes difficult as a touch screen device which the designers realized and ship a stylus in the box to make up for it.

So there you have it. The iClones. Mild-mannered half attempts at copying, with limited success, with the exception of the Chinese who boldy re-engineered the iPhone.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

iPhone, let's get serious now...


There is bluzz all in the air about Apple announcements and what products they will be improving. Yesterday, at CES in Los Angeles, Apple announced hardware upgrades to it Xserve and Mac Pro lines. Why not wait until MWSF next week?

As close as I can figure Apple will have so much to unveil and wow their Moscone audience with that small items like speed increases to their servers and Mac Pro's just aren't exciting enough to make it into Job's keynote on Tuesday the 15th.

But too many of the Mac web sites have set their sights low and have salivated over tiny incremental improvements came out with the firmware 1.1.3 leak. My thought, "You got to be kidding me, multiple SMS messaging, a customized home page, and Locate Me in Google Maps is nothing to boast about nor fill the hour of Steve."

Posted on Wikipedia is an alleged outline of Job's 2008 Keynote. This is a joke and a poor attempt at imitation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Macworld_Conference_%26_Expo#Leaked_2008_Keynote

There is no mention in here of any of the new products being widely discussed like a touch screen MacTablet, 3G iPhones, iTunes with movie rentals, or improved features to the iPhone operating system like copy and paste or the quasi-GPS in Google maps. The outline would make Jobs sound like he'd taken Quaaludes and had given up on the whole notion of Apple being an innovator in mobile computing, laptops and music/entertainment. But we know it is not in Jobs character to give up on innovation.

Here is a wish list of absolute essential iPhone improvements we'd like to see announced at MacWorld next Tuesday:

• syncing calendars and contacts to .Mac on the fly without docking
• text selection across the operating environment
• ability to use the landscape-oriented keyboard in applications like Mail other than Safari
• copy and paste in all apps
• search capabilities
• multiple selection
• move photos from Mail to the Photos app,
• e-mail multiple pictures at once
• add spam filtering to Mail
• provide a way to delete a bunch of Mail messages
• create To Do lists on the iPhone
• retrieve them from iCal
• improve iPhone connectivity directly to .Mac groups, tech support boards and calendar

Wish List for MWSF that we likely will NOT see happen next week:

• iPhone is officially unlocked or Apple will sell unlocked version
• iPhone gets Java and Flash
• iPhone camera can record video and be used with iChat
• iPhone can play video and slideshows to TV/s-video devices
• iPhone gets 32 GB and 64 GB flash storage models

WIRED magazines excellent Untold Story article* on the development of the iPhone just underlines the incredible hurdles Apple had to jump over the break the rules of convention and change an entire industry. The article also explains why huge compromises often have to be made with Gen One products like using Edge as opposed to 3G and make exclusive agreements or backing out of them when trying to get established in the marketplace.

However, now that Apple has established itself firmly as a leader in wireless hardware devices, it is time to get serious and make an iPhone 2.0 tailored more to the needs of its consumers than the needs of contracts, lawyers, and inter-corporate relations.

* copy this text and paste it into your browser (if you are not on a Gen One iPhone without copy/paste):
http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/16-02/ff_iphone

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Uncle Fester's Big Plans

Last spring, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (a.k.a. Uncle Fester) as so cocksure of the Window's Mobile phone that we was snickering at Apple's entry into the market with a $500 "fully-subsidized" (the notion of subsidized handsets is all smoke and mirrors) phone and even boasted at the idea of taking the iPod on with their newly upgraded brown Zune.

Boy, a lot can change in a year, I mean, six months.



Ballmer dismissed how serious the iPhone could be for business users without a keyboard.

Now, in light of iPhone's overwhelming success, Microsoft has adopted its historic fallback strategy -- copy the hell out of it. Picture Ballmer pumping his fist in the air pacing back and forth on the stage shouting "Infringe! Infringe! Infringe! Infringe!"

According to InsideMicrosoft and MacDailyNews, internal memos show Microsoft's about-face and a redesign of Windows Mobile version 7 almost a direct replica of iPhone. Oh yeah, the tiny keyboard you have to use a knitting needle to pluck at the keys is gone. Microsoft has decided to go with a touch screen keyboard.


But, as Job's said at the iPhone launch, Apple has over 200 patents covering the touch screen technology and will vigorously defend those patents in court. Do you think Ballmer is ready to say, you cannot patent an interface design -- a computer user interface is like frequency slashes on the radio tuner dial?

At CES this year a number of handset manufacturers have been scrambling to "catch-up" with the popularity of the iPhone. Motorola, in its attempt to stop the bleeding of its profits, has redesigned its entire line of upper end devices including the ROKR E8, a buttonless modal face on its candy-bar design, what Motorola refers to as "ModeShift morphing" to switch from phone to camera to mp3 player.

The problem with many of these new iPhone killer handsets is the manufactures still fail to understand the change to the overall human interface design and they simply try to put a superficial band-aide over poor software/hardware integration. Taking the lazy way out, they simply adding icons next to buttons and call it a iPhone clone or killer. They miss the point entirely because they are not industrial design forward thinkers, they are bean-counters with too much say over the design of a phone.

However, there is no question the competitive companies are attempting to capitalize on iPhone's biggest negatives. First-and foremost, the backlash to Apple's locked phone strategy with ATT Mobile. Anyone measuring the market can see Apple is accumulating huge negatives from not only the ATT exclusive contract but also to the brutal attempts of Apple to brick unlocked iPhones and erase applications loaded on phone and iPod Touch that have been jailbroke. This is the soft-underbelly to Apple's success in 2007.

And in recent days the Guardian business pages have been reporting that, according to Bill Gates, Microsoft will not launch a product to compete with Apple iPhone. First rule of business reporting, never trust Microsoft when they say the are not going to do something they are strategically up to their neck in. That's just plausible deniability. Secondly, if you take Ballmer or anyone else for that matter at Microsoft on their word, they are already competing with iPhone with Windows Mobile and consider themselves to be in competition with iPhone.

Bill Gates Last Day @ Microsoft



'...Who just doesn't believe in paying more than $7.00 for a haircut..."

This funny video shows a lot of Bill Gates personality and for those of you who think he is evil, provides enough candor to maintain his god-like status in the geek-coolness category.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

David Lynch iPhone Ad


Hilarious spoof on an Apple iPhone ad with film director David Lynch. Will Apple play this during the MacWorld SF keynote on January 15th? Don't touch that dial...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Predictions for MacWorld SF Unwrap

What will Steve Jobs be unveiling to the faithful gathering on January 15th and MacWorld San Francisco? Apple normally reserves this home base venue and first of the year all-Mac conference for announcing big new products and recapping the successes of the last year.

Of course, Apple's biggest success in 2007 has been the iPhone. Even Apple's most avid critics and nay-sayers have come around to admitting the iPhone is one of the most successful tech products ever to be released. Jobs said last year their goal for 2007 was to sell 1 million phones and by now they must be approaching 5 million sold.

I know everybody is doing this now but here is my list.

iPHONE

I might be going out on a limb here but I am going to say Jobs will announce a 3G iPhone and retire Edge from all new iPhones purchased after 1.15.2008 with 16GB (at least) flash storage, improved Google maps, improved longer battery life, faux-GPS, editable icons and home screen and improvements to the SMS messaging. Copy and paste capabilites will be added and with good luck Apple and Adobe will be working hard to provide Java and Flash support.

Jobs will set the stage for iPhone SDK and hopefully they will be thinking about opening up the operating ecosystem to accommodate programers who will add capabilities that Apple won't brick with future firmware upgrades. Jobs will save some iPhone developments for the SDK unveiling in February but he should stoke the engine with basic tools for the developers.

APPLE TV

AppleTV was a non-starter in 2007 but it is clear Apple is preparing big announcements with partners in the movie industry to make it more of a movie viewing platform to rival Blockbuster and Netflix for home movie viewing. Although it would be much appreciated, I doubt Apple will truly bring the AppleTV up to the level of a TiVO type device for capturing and shifting broadcast and cablecast content or add serious DVR capabilities.

Apple is wrong to not to add the technology to make this a serious media device as they only hurt their standing in the home entertainment centers of the future. They could add the wow factor at Moscone Center if they make AppleTV a movie rental and Blu-ray DVR machine. Then, I'd buy one.

iTUNES

Apple will need to revamp iTunes for the film rental business they are entering into with the movie studios. While the record companies are letting down their DRM madness and loosing their harsh punishments, the movie rental business is a whole new kettle of fish. This upgrade will not be packed with features and new formats but will designate a new space for films and trailers to make it easier for Macs, iPhones, and iPods to find the new video content.

Trying to win an audience for movie rentals could be a hard nut to crack if Apple does not open the environment up and provide to restrictive terms of use. A lesson they should have learned from the emergence and wide-spread acceptance of the iPod is that most users of the mobile music player took their collection of CD's and loaded them into the their pocket jukebox without DRM or copy protection schemes that severely limited the use of the songs.

Putting a 24-hour use stipulations on movies and charging high rental prices will not lead to success either for the rental business on iTunes or the sales of AppleTV. In order to succeed, Apple will need to provide some easy avenue for current DVD owners to convert the movies they own to the digital format for use with their new HD entertainment centers.

MAC-MINI

Many have been predicting the demise of the Mac-mini, however, I think the entry level box is critical to Apple's increased marketshare for the MacOS. PC users want a box they can buy and still connect their old monitors and peripherals without buying the whole Apple package. Expect to see a hugely revamped Mac-mini. In fact, if anything, unlike previous MacWorlds devotd to iPhones and iPods this will be the MacWorld devoted to upgrading and clearly defining the Macintosh platforms both desktop and laptop first and foremost.

.MAC

The mystery with Apple is the lack of serious interactive capabilities .Mac provides its Apple subscribers. It is long past time that Apple improve this service especially to accommodate the serious needs of iPhone, iPod Touch users. .Mac has always been kind of cobbled together and very much behind the curve when it comes to giving Apple users interactive tools on the go. Google has truly kicked Apple's butt with making calendars, contacts, sechduling, groups and other social computing services, offering much richer and robust an environment for internet connectivity.

First and foremost, .Mac needs to drastically improve its ability to work directly with the iPhone so that project maangers can update their published iCal calendars on the fly. The .Mac teams motto ought to be "No docking required!" becaused docking and updating is such a pain and in today's compute of the fly world, you've got to be able to schedule, plan, and update as you go through the day and not just at the desktop.

Apple's exclusive contracts with ATT present major problems for international travelers and business people and Apple hasn't been thinking differently enough to service us but it is time. And it is time for .Mac to jump ahead ten years and get their head out of 1994 with .Mac.

ULTRA SLIM SUB-NOTEBOOK

I'm not sure if this will be classified as extending the iPhone platform or as an addition to the MacBook line but its coming. It might well be a new Apple platform, something akin to an iTablet. The one big product differentiation will be if it will use the verbless touch screen technology or a keyboard. I hear some critics complain that the iPhone needs a keyboard but they are still living in the 1970s. Keyboards are dead. Let them rest in peace. If you love keyboarding go get a job in the typing-pool.

As New York Times tech reporter John Markoff wrote about Jobs excitement of the touch screen technology in the iPhone "There are no “verbs” in the iPhone interface, he said, alluding to the way a standard mouse or stylus system works. In those systems, users select an object, like a photo, and then separately select an action, or “verb,” to do something to it." In the interview Jobs claims Apple has invented a whole new user interface with the iPhone. I think we can expect to see Apple extend this new approach to other Apple computing platforms.

Touch screen should become the future of mobile computing. If the new subnotebook has touch screen technology than it extends the iPhone and iPod Touch line, if it runs Mac OS apps seamlessly than it is a MacBook. Will it have iMac-like aluminum dock? Hopefully Apple will continue to push the envelop and make mobile computing a new category instead of just rekeying old concepts.

TIE-BREAKER: Some people say that Jobs hasn't use the "One more thing..." for awhile. However, he will announce the new Ultra-thin Subnotebook as the one more thing.

Apple Keynotes a Look Back

In this clip from the 1990 MacWorld Keynote, former Pepsi CEO John Scully tries to rally the troops for the Apple computers. Notice how perplexed Scully seems to be about what a computer really does...



The 1990 MacWorld keynote clip is not full length (5:55 running time) however, it feels like you are watching paint dry. During demonstrations, they cannot seem to get the Mac to work as they wish for the demonstrations. NOTE: The modified mullet and triple-wide kakis worn by the Apple programmer who explains cad workstation software and totally perplexes Sculley who stands mouth-agape.

Then, in 1997 Steve Jobs returns to heading Apple and delivers the "Bondi-blue" iMac and the Jobs-style MacWorld Keynote for which there is no rival in any industry. The contrast between these two keynote addresses is hilariously high-arch. NOTE: It is not without irony that the movie chosen is Wizard of Oz and the scene where Dorothy opens to door after the turmoil of being lifted by the twister out of Kansas into the wonderful land of Oz. Although Jobs appears casual, these keynotes are highly scripted and rehearsed with great attention paid to every detail include the choice of movie clips.

Malone Baloney

A tech reporter for ABC News. Michael Malone speculates on Apple's ability to remain competitive in the cell phone industry up against the big manufactures:

"And already, Nokia, LG, Samsung and every other cell phone maker is rushing to introduce iPhone killers, and the first wave looks pretty damn good. Can Apple really stay ahead of these guys?"

Who is raving about the new wave of iPhone killers being introduced? Tell me about one good iPhone killer.

So far, Verizon has put some icon-like stickers on the outside cover of their odd clam-shell phone with its tiny QWERTY keyboard inside, proving beyond a shadow of doubt these manufactures still think cell phone is merely a matter of trendy appearance and they still don't understand that the experience inside, when the user starts using the non-linear voice mailbox, integrated email, calendar, maps, and addressbook.

Smartphones, as much as they might be loaded with features it must be noted are pretty dumb to use. A great tool isn't complicated, it is one that gets out of the way when you want to get a particular task done quickly and efficiently.

The problem all these other phones and service providers have is software hardware integration. On the iPhone you have email, web browsing, voice mail, photo libraries (and a half decent camera), iTunes music, video and podcasting, Google maps, and YouTube and all function together with Apple operating system functioning as the glue.

Not-to-mention, the iPhone's touch screen interface that make relic keyboards, suffering with a stylus, and old deeply embedded menu and mode systems feel decades outdated after just a few days of use.

Malone goes onto write "Apple has enjoyed one of the most spectacular and innovative runs in U.S. business history. The question now is whether the company can keep going, pulling still more rabbits out of Steve Jobs' hat. The answer, I think, is probably not."

As I have posted here and read elsewhere, Apple makes great breakthrough products but also misses huge opportunities that still exist to make great strides in the future. The other guys, OEMs and software designers flounder because they can't control the ecosystem that propels new devices to a new level of functionality.

There is a ton of room for Apple to continue to pull rabbits and a huge gap for the competitors to try to make up.

Apple and Intel Menlow Chips

All indications that Apple is developing a new category of subnotebooks point to the work Apple is doing with Intel on low power consumption chips. According to Business week:

"The first chip of the Silverthorne family, code-named Menlow, is expected to arrive in the first half of this year, probably before June. A second, known as Moorestown, due in late 2008 or early 2009, will be built on Intel's 32-nanometer manufacturing process, which means it will be even smaller and more powerful and it will consume even less power than the Menlow. This will make it a contender for use not only in subnotebooks, but in a new generation of iPhone devices."

If Apple is going to be announcing a new Mac subnotebook on January 15th, the question is whether the Apple faithful will have to wait for its arrival in stores just like when Apple announced the iPhone last year at MacWorld but consumers had to wait until June 2007 for it to become available for purchase. If Menlow is scheduled to arrive in June 2008, maybe the Mac subnotebook will have to wait unitl after that date to ship.

The other question still up in the air about an Apple subnotebook are the counter rumors that it will have a flash drive with 32 GB of storage or, as ThinkSecret rumored, it will use the new Samsung 1.8 drives. Currently Apple is using the ultra-thin Samsung drives in their iPods. Getting solid state in and a mechanical moving hard drive out could be a huge advantage to Apple in their ultra-portable line of computers from the standpoint of low power consumption and low cost.

Business Week poses the question and then the answer to the verbless touch screen interface:

"But will this new mini-MacBook also get a touch screen like the iPhone's? Perhaps, but probably not. The bigger the screen, the more it will cost. I think that means Apple will skip the multitouch screen to keep the retail price manageable."

My thinking is that it would be a big swing and a miss if Apple doesn't not use the revolutionary touch screen interface of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Without the touch screen, who needs just another addition to the aluminum MacBook family. Not sexy enough for prime time.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Docking Station for Mac Portable

Digging through past patent records, Apple made application a few years ago, July 3, 2006 to be exact, for a docking station that would hold and ultra-thin portable Macintosh. In stories being reported around the web today from the London Times, Financial Times to MacDailyNews, this illustration portends the announcement on January 15th of a new Apple subnotebook.

US Patent Office # 20080002350

On another page, a newbie poster to the Mac Rumor forums claims to have a photo of the ultra-thin laptop being developed at Apple. The photo is actually hilarious to look at and looks like a comic satire of Apple design with its large track pad and fat click pad spanning the front of the keyboard.

Obviously, this is a poor photoshop job by an amateur but still very funny to see. One amusing aspect of the run up to MacWorld is obviously unintelligent attempts to mock up phony Apple products and claim they are leaked out from inside Apple.

Apple Ultra-thin Subnotebook Rumored

Apple is rumored to be revealing a ultra-portable 'subnotebook' less than 3 pounds, between 15 and 18mm thick, built-in iSight, flash memory, a detachable external drive capable of reading CD and DVDs and a 13.3 inch display.

According to the website MacScoop Steve Jobs will unveil the new subnotebook at the MacWorld 2008 in San Francisco in mid-January. A big question is whether the new device will be grouped into the iPod, iPhone or Mac laptop lines and if Apple is building their verbless touch screen technologies into their Macs or limiting it to the iPod Touch and iPhone products.

Speculators also suggest, according to trusted sources, that the new tablet will have satellite navigation capabilities built-in. Prior to its agreement to cease publishing ThinkSecret reported that Apple would use new ultra-thin a 1.8 inch hard drive in the new device rather than a flash drive.

MacScoop is also reporting that the next iPhone software update will add copy/paste capabilities, one of the most requested features by iPhone owners.

Without mentioning the Gear Live firmware update 1.1.3 leak by name, MacScoop suggested that version premiered on the web is not a full featured version planned for the final release this month.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Leak Management

What is the story with firmware, software and hardware info leaks?

Clearly, in the midst of a big Christmas sales push the "leak" from ATT senior executive and Apple partner ATT about a 3G iPhone coming in 2008 would be a cause of concern from a number of different offices around the country. A leak of that magnitude could slow unit sales during prime gift-giving rush. I know a number of friends who got the iPhone flyer in their stocking rather than a black box under the tree on Christmas morning.

Was this leak contrary to Apple's interests? In Apple's interests? Or simply an ATT move to signal to cell phone users who contracts were coming due to hold on or switch now to ATT because Edge is on its way out and 3G is coming?

And what about the iPhone firmware 1.1.3 leak that came out to the public during the holiday recess? Was this a Cheney-style managed leak from Apple? If you think not, maybe you don't know Dick...

There has been some speculation the Gear Live firmware leak was a managed leak to give Apple developers feedback on things that weren't working properly. Call the leak an unofficial beta test.

Apple chose to leak this pre-beta version during the holidays so their employees and quality assurance testers could go home to their families but the testing would continue on the internet. The holiday season is an excellent time for a public leak release since geeks are at home with nothing to do and will eagerly grab onto a story like this and run with it by asking questions and sorting out the answers.

For instance, during the video, when Andru tried to demonstrate how you could remove an icon from the menu bar and replaced it, the firmware crashed. This is a good thing to witness prior to MWSF come mid-month or before they send out a beat version to developers in advance of SDK release.

Apple also gets to hear all the feedback and shout outs "why not this feature..." and "Where is copy and paste?" etc. Is the level of these screams rises, Apple knows to raise its ranking in the order of priorities.

I still believe that Apple has a few tricks up it sleeve and we've haven't seen everything Steve Jobs will reveal in his SF Keynote as far as iPhone upgrades are concerned. If anything was revealed by the leaks, it is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Apple Misses in 2007


Friends often accuse me of being Apple's biggest cult follower. They've also, in the past, accused me of being an Apple apologist and a worshiper of Steve Jobs.

Let's be straight. I always level criticism of Apple when it is due.

So let me take this opportunity to list Apple's mistakes in 2007.

BIG MISSES IN 2007

First, Apple totally gutted iMovie '08. This was a huge disappointment from the company that really never made crippleware before in order to sell a "pro" version. Sure, make no mistake, Apple wants to sell Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express. I own all three products. But the pro products were clearly designed for professional editing users who sit in their multi-flat screen editing rooms cutting documentaries, features and TV shows all day long.

iMovie was designed for home movies -- editing for the rest of us. And while Apple added some cool features making it easier to capture, edit and publish directly to YouTube, a video prodcast, or your .Mac web site, they truly cut some essential features out of iMovie that are important to home users. They took away key audio editing functions so critical to decent home moviemaking.

For instance, you no longer have the ability to do an insert edit. If you want to take a series of images or shots and add voice over narration along with music or insert b-roll over an interview with Uncle Joe, you can't do it anymore in iMovie8. That sucks. This alone would be reason to stay with the previous version.

The editing environment for iMovie '08 has also radically changed. Apple has made the file management more like iTunes and the clip viewing more like iPhoto. This is not in itself bad because it looks cool. But by doing so, Apple has removed some of the precision editors need and opaqueness that users need to troubleshoot their applications and projects. iTunes file management is a lot like Windows file management -- you do not know where the actual files exist and their formats are obscured.

I must say I am in total agreement with the growing number of Apple faithful who are criticizing this release of iMovie '08 and let's hope Apple sees the errors in their ways and fixes them soon.

Second, another big miss for Apple has been Apple TV or iTV as it was previously known. AppleTV does little to compete with the everyday appliances we own to manage our content coming from broadcast and cablecast television. You'd be much better off buying a Elgato's EyeTV and plugging it into a Apple Mini and just skip the AppleTV altogether. Apple has made AppleTV to reliant on buying content off Apple iTunes Store while restricting our ability to record and capture and thus timeshift live and recorded programs off the airwaves and cable.

AppleTV is a product worth skipping and Apple seems to have little interest in advancing the concept beyond being an oversized video iPod.

Third, Apple attempted a really meek and undetectable upgrade to .Mac and this entire environment needs to be moved ahead ten years in light of the improvements Google, Facebook, Myspace and all the other online personal space and tools for organizing oneself online. In particular, Apple needs to support its mobile computing products with a modern space for scheduling, managing group and family calendars and appointments and keeping lists. iCal and .Mac groups consistently have been big swing and misses for the .Mac team. Let's get up to date! iPhone users need to be able to do these tasks on teh fly without docking their phones to the desktop.

Another big miss in 2007 that Apple quickly had to backtrack on was the $600 bleeding edge iPhone. Early adopters got slapped like a whore from her pimp. Eventually, that was appropriately seen as so wrong and bad company behavior that Apple was forced to send out rebate coupons to make up for the $200 screw job.

There can be no question that Apple's biggest miss in 2007 was the exclusive deals with ATT and other European service providers. Faithful Apple users bristled at being forced into a contract with ATT. The missed opportunity was that Apple could have been on the leading edge of change in the cell phone industry by making the iPhone an unlocked handset and even better giving it the capabilities to use wifi and the internet for making their phone calls.

The cries against the exclusive ATT contract were deafening from our tech Uncle Walt Mossberg calling for governments or disruptive technologies (hackers) to "break the lock" to the reports that nearing 25% of the iPhone sold in the first six months were being unlocked by hackers to EEC countries requiring Apple sell unlocked iPhones.

Google will unlock the stranglehold that the big cell phone providers have on the industry and innovation. Apple could have done it and been a leader but they balked, the man is on base, and all the runners advanced.

Apple totally collapsed on this issue and acted very Microsoft-like by forcing users into contracts and denying them choices. And then, when hackers followed Mossberg's advice by unlocking and jailbreaking their phones Apple abusively bricked them with firmware upgrades. Imagine if, back in the mid-70s, Ma Bell had decided to fry touch-tone phones when certain fone-hackers discovered by replicating tone sounds into the handset could earn them free calls. Well, let's just say Steve and Woz would not have been very happy.

And when it comes to Steve Jobs -- his only revival for the most secretive, paranoid, and most retribution against leakers is George W. Bush. And I'm sure he doesn't like being listed in that company of men and philosophy of power.

MW SF 2008 - 1.16.2008



MacWorld San Francisco 2008 is being widely anticipated for what is billed as iPhone 2.0. One web site, Gear Live claims to have obtained an advanced copy of iPhone firmware upgrade 1.1.3 and has posted a gallery of pictures documenting the new features in the operating system.

The upgrades detailed in this video appear meager to slim. One could say this is not a full version upgrade and just a few minor tweaks to iPhone version 1.1.2 and fixes. Gear Live has a Q&A answer board and gallery about this leaked version and most of their answers to iPhone owners questions about improved capabilities seem to be a resounding "No!" or "No, no and no."

Without question, if this is the final firmware release there are some missing features that boggle-the-mind. Number one being, why has Apple refused to program a copy-and-paste ability into the iPhone. Clearly, this simple and basic capability is one users have been screaming for since day one of the iPhone release back in June. Improved horizontal viewing capabilities in applications doesn't seem to be supported. Group email lists and foreign language keyboards are not options

Another swing-and-a-miss is the lack of software giving iPhone users the ability to visit Java and Flash web sites, although this might be an issue involving Adobe developing versions of their software in conjunction with Apple to provide both the network side as well as the client side capabilities to browse Flash sites.

The biggest feature upgrade that people are wating for an answer to is weather Apple will provide the hardware in the new iPhone for 3G as opposed to Edge connectivity. At the beginning of December, a senior executive at ATT "leaked" that Apple would provide 3G on the iPhone in 2008. What he didn't explain was whether 3G would come at the beginning of 2008 or the end of the year.

Some of the changes shown in Gear Live's video documentation of version 1.1.3 would suggest 3G is on its way sooner rather than later since using Google maps is a joke on Edge. As editors of InfoWorld said on their site, using Google maps on Edge is worse than surfing the web on a 14.4 dial up modem. And why would you ever use cell tower triangulation in Google maps in the hybrid view with Edge? You' have to wait a week to know where you are located.

And, the rumor mill has begun, under Apple's looming threats to send their pit-bull lawyers after blogger and rumor sites, we cannot be sure information we are reading is accurate. This is a sadists game Apple likes to play. Apple aggressive prosecution of rumor mills and their abusive treatment of hackers trying to make their deliberately crappled hardware and software more useful to those who buy it, might suggest the Cupertino based company has hugely abandoned the empowering people through technology culture and values on which it was founded.

In some areas of the internet people are speculating Apple is going to make a big Macintosh announcement. As I hinted at earlier (based on no rumor or leak from inside Apple) Apple's technology push, patents listings, partnerships with chip maker Intel, and the direction of their products would suggest that it is going to come announce a ultra-thin MacBook with touch screen technology. That's only a guess but a guess based on what would be smart for Apple to do if they want to continue to propel Macintosh as a leader in the laptop category of computers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

iPhone Clone?

The LG Voyager from Verizon is being pitched as a iPhone clone and a new generation of cell phone with a friendly user interface.

All this phone design proves is that the cell phone industry still doesn't get it!

The Voyager is simply a clam shell phone with an awkward tiny keyboard and the same old poorly implemented user interface. The only difference is that on the outside (the superficial cover) they put a bunch of icons (copied to look almost exactly like AppleiPhone icons) and called them "shortcuts."

I can only imagine the conversations between executives from Verizon and LG must have had to come to this handset. Certainly it was a discussion void of anyone who knows interface design or software engineering. These are guys in suits who'd rather look at a column of numbers than a Roman doric column.

V: "Yeah, what's this iPhone all about? Why is it such a big deal?"

LG: "Apparently people want icons on the cover of their cell phones."

V: "Icons?"

LG: "Yeah cute little colorful boxes to point at with their finger."

V: " Can't we make a handset for Verizon with icons on the cover? And I especially like the little calendar one with the read strip and big black numbers..."

LG: "You bet chief, we'll get out design and engineering department on it immediately."

How stupid does Verizon and LG think we are?