Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Tuesday, July 31st, 2007, 08:00
OK, I was the last PowerPage editor to succumb and drove to the Christiana Mall in Delaware on the 4th of July to wait in line for 10 minutes with about a dozen folks for the 50 remaining iPhones at the Apple Store there.
Most bought two.
As an existing AT&T customer, I had no problems activating and for the most part the iPhone is everything I expected and less. It took me about 20 minutes to investigate and use every last nook and cranny of the iPhone. It is that good an interface. Does it lead me to conclude that it falls short in terms of what it can do? Sure, but one can always hope for a bit more in a software update or two and even more in the next generation.
Am I disappointed?
Click the jump for the full story…
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Monday, July 2nd, 2007, 13:15
If the iPhone is version 2.0 of the Macintosh computer, then the 4GB iPhone is the second coming of the original 128k Macintosh. Product reviews seem to bear this out: The iPhone is phenomenal, while falling short. A vision of the future, hampered by the constraints of current technology.
The iPod was doomed to the same slow death as the PDA. Almost everyone carries a mobile phone and increasingly, they can do it all. Horrid little convergence devices that live in your pocket. Connected to a network with operating systems that remind me of the screen menus built into my TV set.
Enter the iPhone: iPDA, iCamera, iWebrowser and iPod. It is the handheld computer that Microsoft could not envision. Just like the original Macintosh, it is running well out on the edge of the curve teetering on a technological reality that barely meets the requirements. Cellular network speed, fixed battery and memory all stretched to the limit. It’s the screen baby, supported by an intuitive touch interface and slick animated graphics. Crack one open and it is nearly one third battery. The remaining two thirds are just pure magic.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Tuesday, June 26th, 2007, 14:47
The carnival comes to town on Friday. Round and round she goes and where she stops, nobody knows. Be certain of just one thing, initial stock will sell out. Come Monday, after all the cotton candy and fireworks are gone, what will the iPhone business look like?
The Good: Industrial design and ease of use. Forget about the touch screen vs. micro keypad debate. The iPhone itself will be a killer gadget and price will not be an obstacle. As an object and a tool, the iPhone will set the bar, just like the iPod.
The Bad: The iPhone could have problems. Apple kinds of problems. Touch screens that don’t work or that crack. Unacceptable battery life. Basically design and quality control issues that come with secrecy or rushed development. Rapid deployment and aggressive damage control is the only way to handle a glitch with a product that has seen this much hype.
The Ugly: AT&T. They were lousy at wireless, I know, I was once a customer. After selling the mobile business to Cingular they have bought back the baby and the bath water and are in the midst of re-branding. Apple did not have the clout to break the mobile phone model that plagues the US market. Supposedly “free” phones linked to two year contracts “locked” to a single provider. Wireless with strings attached. At least the iPhone will not be customized and crippled by AT&T, as are most handsets. If all phones were sold independently and unlocked, the iPhone would be bigger than the iPod. Look to be pushed towards the high end service package at $100/month. It really hinges on AT&T, unless or until another Apple handset becomes available with an alternate service provider.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Thursday, June 14th, 2007, 10:56
The killer app for the iPod was iTunes. The killer app for the iPhone is Safari. The iPhone will be first and foremost a web browsing machine.
How can that be? It uses the lame Edge network to connect! OK. What does the iPhone do best? Its the screen baby. The whole face of the thing is a screen and it will orient itself. It will presumably leave the expensive and slow AT&T network in favor of a wifi hotspot as soon as it sniffs out a signal. Lots of fast free and pay hotspots out there including your own home and work. Nobody else had the clout to negotiate this kind of user friendly behavior with a telco. This is where the iPhone will shine. It is first and foremost a computer with an intuitive interface and great graphical display. Everything else is either a vegetable or the spice in the stew. The iPhone relies on Safari in many ways.
Secondly, its an iPod. Like a super graphical nano. It has limited capacity like the nano and its even smaller. Smaller? Presumably you need to carry a phone anyway so it takes up no room on your person.
Its a camera. Not a useless VGA but 2 megapixels. But, with that big screen it is finally the photo album you needed to have in your pocket. It really is the screen that makes the iPhone. iPhoto could become the second killer app for the iPhone. I think iLife needs to come to Windows for lots of reasons.
Apple needs to do something more with iCal, maybe team up with Google to get the calendar function more useful. You can’t hit iPhone buyers with the high price of .mac on top of the purchase price and the two year service contract.
Oh, and it is a phone. Smartphone keyboards are horrid little things. Touch screen text entry is no fun. Pick your poison.
Seems like the battery problem will be the same as with the iPod. People seem to deal with keeping their iPods charged up, but as the device gets older the capacity drops and battery replacement is an expensive hassle. Apple needs to anticipate this and have loaners or a swap available for battery replacement at the stores. This applies equally to potential touch-screen problems.
Memory is the same old, same old. All iPods have fixed amounts and you always want more!
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Friday, May 11th, 2007, 08:21
Greenpeace has been putting pressure on Apple to go green for years and it appears to have finally born fruit. In a recent letter, Steve Jobs said that he was surprised to find out how much Apple was doing and that he was delighted to learn how far along Apple is in dealing with these issues. He is a very hands on guy, but this makes it seem as if he has been out of the loop. Think of him as a product guy, not a process guy.
So, LED backlights are coming to our displays. LED backlights are a great product and green, but in a relatively small way. The big fluorescent tubes in our workplace are the real issue because some contain mercury. While the tiny CCFL tubes in current LCD backlights may contain mercury, the amounts are minute, but good riddance to any toxic waste. To my surprise, LED efficiency has improved to the point that they are about 12% more efficient than CCFL tubes when used as a backlight.¬†This was not the case a few years ago. Why do I think they are better? Efficiency translates to longer battery life or smaller batteries. LEDs are trivial to dim compared to CCFLs. CCFL’s change color when they dim unlike LEDs. And, I am sure you have noticed that your LCD screen’s brightness falls off with age. LEDs promise longer life with little fall off in brightness. They are worth the money because they make your screen a better screen and more to the point, they make it better longer. Apple computers are reputed to stay in use longer than PCs, keeping them out of the waste stream and at work that much longer.
I think Apple did a significant amount of good when it helped lead the industry away from CRT monitors. Filled with toxic materials, they take a lot of energy to make, to run, as well as ship and introduced a significant volume of toxins and non recyclable material into the waste stream. They even emitted radiation at the user as an added bonus.
There is a lot of hype surrounding sustainability. The question here is whether Apple will follow through in a systematic way to reshape the way it does business. This is more process than product. There is a dark side to outsourcing in countries where there are little or no protections for the environment or even basic human rights for that matter. People will pay for better and greener technology like LED backlighting, but it is tough to tell your suppliers to do the right thing and then pass the costs on to the customer. It is clear that this has generated a lot of positive press and even a reactive Apple stands to win big with such an initiative. Steve may have shown little interest until now, but this is a hot button issue for Apple customers and he gets it. It appears that the Apple, Inc. settlement with the Beatles included the green logo from Apple Records.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2007, 18:32
Apple’s got momentum. Momentum like a freight train. Not just the iPod, but the core business of building and selling computers. Market share is up and sales are growing at a pace that is nearly three times that of the PC competition. Why is that? Because Microsoft is providing little added value while leveraging a higher and higher tax on PCs. Concepts like the media PC and tablet computing are not pushing any boundaries or have little impact on sales. It is a sort of stagnant commodity based sales model for moving servers, towers and laptops.
With the iPhone looming, where will this all go? Hopefully full speed ahead in a sort of harmonic convergence of personal computing technologies. The iPhone is the harbinger of the next personal computing paradigm. An ultra-portable wireless networked computer. Just as the laptop is supplanting the desktop PC, this form factor could replace laptops, PDA’s, phones, game consoles, GPS navigation, digital music players, and digital cameras while introducing functionality that no one has thought of yet.
What about using an iPhone to interface with home automation? Get to your front door and unlock it and identify yourself to the security system. Turn on the TV. Open the garage door. Set your alarm clock. Take your shopping list to the store. Scan the bar code of some product and read a review or find out that it is on sale at the other side of the mall.
At home, just slip it into your dock for connection to a large monitor, backup hard drive, wireless keyboard and mouse. On the go just press your thumb against the fingerprint scanner to unlock your world of information. Look up at the sky and identify that bright star on the horizon. All of your information at your fingertips along with the power of an internet connected Macintosh computer in the palm of your hand.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2007, 00:00
I have watched enough TV to know that when you catch a small fish you offer them a deal and get them to flip on the ring leader. Fred Anderson took a deal and has certainly implicated Mr. Jobs in the public statement issued by his attorney. It appears that Nancy Heinen will be taking her chances in the courtroom and she has a lot more to lose than Fred Anderson. Will she plead out and testify against Mr. Jobs or follow the code of omerta?
How did this happen? Apple management awarded themselves something like US$100M in options and then picked earlier strike dates that allowed them to say it was less, let’s say $80M. Management performance had been stellar and US$20M amounts to just peanuts when you look at the profits and performance this team delivered. If these laws were written in order to protect shareholders, where is the harm in all this?
Well, presumably they also told Uncle Sam the same story at tax time. Now I am only a “contributing” editor here at the PowerPage, but for the sake of argument, let us say that Jason started paying me US$100K a year to write this drivel. If I told the IRS it was only US$80K, where would the harm be in that? And if I did that a thousand years in a row, it would amount to just about the same thing. If subpoenaed and asked to testify at Nancy Heinen’s upcoming trial, I would suggest Mr. Jobs have a sit-down with Martha Stewart to find out what it’s like to do hard time or whatever sort of time it is you do in minimum security.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Friday, April 6th, 2007, 12:53
Steve Jobs is no friend to the music industry. He is just an astute businessman who knows a vacuum when it enters his reality distortion field. When he penned his open letter decrying DRM protection, few knew that this was part of an orchestrated move that might force the music industry to do something that is ultimately in its own best interest — sort of. When the man is right, he is dead on. CD’s are the primary source of pirated music. Rip one unprotected song from a CD and there you have it. It can be shared with friends or the entire planet, with nothing for the publisher or the artist. Compression and broadband conspired to make the iPod king of mobile music. Movies are somewhat different. DVDs have some protection built in and the file size is much bigger. Unlike an album full of music, you really want all of the scenes from beginning to end, unless it is just a great car chase scene in an otherwise dull movie. And that tiny screen.
We may be entering an era where the bulk of the value offered by music is provided by the artist and the cost of production and distribution is of little value. Look at the travel business. The Internet has stripped out much of the value added by agents. No longer do you have to sit in an upholstered chair while watching the travel agent peck at the keys and read the options off a CRT. The Internet is transforming the world of sales agents and distributors – real estate, cars, music.
If this move works, it is a huge win for Apple and for the consumer. No DRM limitations. Higher music quality. Near total interoperability. All for twenty nine cents more. What of the iPod? Losing the integrated vertical monopoly with iTunes and Fair Play could kill it you say. Ridiculous. The vast majority of music on iPods is ripped from CDs. Legitimate fair use as well as pirated. Death blow to Zune or boon? Death blow — what a lousy product. What of WMA and RMA? Footnotes. AAC is open source and better than MP3 without the onerous lawsuit that hangs over MP3. Long live iTunes and Quicktime. These technologies are at the core of future Apple success.
Already, the spotlight is turning from the perceived Apple monopoly in the distribution of digital music towards the record companies and their role in the variable pricing of songs for iTunes in Europe. Perhaps Apple could take over the music business by leasing iMacs preloaded with Garage Band to every potential new artist and just post the tracks on iTunes for a fee. Price songs by popularity. Ten cents each until they get popular. Then charge Fifty. Who needs a music industry when you can just put a do it yourself version of American Idol directly onto the iTunes Music Store.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Tuesday, January 9th, 2007, 20:22
I think we pretty much nailed the keynote more than 24 hours before it happened, so I’ve got enough rope to hang myself here at the PowerPage:
The iPhone, as presented in the keynote address at Macworld Expo 2007, just makes it into the realm of the barely possible, much like the original Macintosh. Barely enough memory, barely enough battery, barely enough screen, barely enough processor power, priced just a bit too high and almost too small. The original iPod was like this. Just 5GB because of the tiny drive, only working with Firewire Macs, not as small as contemporary flash based players and the most expensive MP3 player made. They eventually turned that big old 1G iPod into the 1G nano as the price slowly fell, the product shrunk and the feature set expanded over a five year stretch. Just look at how the sweetest Apple products manage to mature as the technology opens up without ever pushing the price too low.
They could not have done this phone any sooner and pulled it off. It is ground breaking in a way that integrates everything mobile computing has to offer. This product is a home run and they only want to sell 10 million of them to start, one percent of the market. Mark my words, in five years, the iPhone will come to define hottest segment of the personal computer market. The iPhone is first and foremost a wireless connected computer running a mobile version of OS X that supports iLife software. Eventually, it will also support iWork and become a full fledged connected PC.
Without some additional iLife software running on Windows, the iPhone could be a disappointment to many of the Cingular subscribers who will line up to buy it, so I think my prediction of an expansion of iLife for Windows is going to pan out before the iPhone ships in June. At least a version of iPhoto, as this could help widen the audience for Apple TV. As hot as Apple is right now, consumer electronic devices need to sell to a market that is much larger than just Mac users. Secrecy can really hamper product testing, so I hope all the bugs are worked out before the iPhone goes into production. Waiting until June to ship this phone seems about right. No need to repeat the Apple III.
Leopard was not featured in the keynote, so no surprise features were announced. I still think that something big is going to be slipped into OS 10.5 before it ships.
Posted by: Bob Snow
Date: Monday, January 8th, 2007, 08:33
Category: Macworld Expo
“The first 30 years were just the beginning
.” Does this bold statement portend a new iPod video with a full face touch screen? A set top box that can stream video content to your television? A wireless phone that is also a full fledged iPod with the slickest design and operation you can imagine? No, these products may all very well appear at Macworld, but this has got to be about the future of personal computing. Apple did ignite the personal computer revolution and then reinvent it after all.
I think Apple will introduce a nano-computer, masquerading as a smart-phone . Basically a tablet computer the size of a Treo or Blackberry with a far more clever input method, full face screen and some version of iLife running on it. Ideally it would be a stand alone wireless nano-computer running OS X. Think of all the capabilities of a MacBook combined with a phone. Dock it on your desk with a wireless keyboard, mouse and full screen monitor and it would be your home computer. Take it on the road and it would be your laptop. Put it in your pocket and it would be your phone, camera and your iPod. Take it to work and let the Xserves do the heavy lifting. I think this computer will not only be possible within the next five years, it will represent a paradigm shift bigger than the current migration from desktop computing to laptops.
Current technology would of course make this computer a brick, much larger than a Zune and more expensive than a MacBook. The Apple genius-phone will have to point the way to such a device with a mobile version of OS X and iLife. Much of your data and the programs that manipulate it might be located on the internet. Strip down the memory. Even sync it with your computer rather than replace your computer. Whatever it takes to put a placeholder out there to position Apple for the coming revolution. It might take a serious partnership with Google to pull this off. Phone service providers be damned.
Oh, or it could be that secret feature that Steve alluded when he last demonstrated Leopard in public. What better time to announce IT, whatever IT might be. Something like full support in Leopard for all Windows XP API’s would be cool! And, one more thing….. iLife for Windows.