Opinion: Tail Wags the Dog

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 12th, 2007, 13:55
Category: Opinion

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At the WWDC keynote today, Steve showed off the new look of the Finder. I have seen the future, and that future is… iTunes.
That’s right: the Finder is becoming iTunes. Well, no, not literally the app, but it’s going to look and work just like it. The side bar is now a blue field just like on the left of iTunes, and in it, instead of big icons, is text and small icons just like, well, iTunes uses. The top is a Unified header with icon/list/column/coverflow buttons and a search bar; there’s a big content area in the center with 6″ icons on a black field with partial reflections below them. It’s iTunes for the Finder.
Seems to me like the tail wagging the dog. The OS is inheriting a look and feel from an app; isn’t that supposed to go the other way around? I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad design choice, but I’m far from convinced that it’s a good one. Personally, I still hide the frames on Finder windows to get rid of the clutter, and so long as I can do that and have windows without the left bar and with a title bar (but no header), I’ll be happy. But still, I’m left with an uneasy feeling as a designer that this isn’t the way you go about design progressions. I mean, I like iTunes as much as the next guy, but it’s not that good. It doesn’t feel good enough to me to extend over an entire OS. But it looks like it will.
Now, later in the keynote, Steve also announced Safari for Windows, leveraging the 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows that there are out there, and several things hit me. First, Safari 3 is not redesigned like iTunes, and if they’re doing this, Safari should look as much like iTunes as it can, but it still looks a little more like Safari 2.0 than iTunes. It does have a Unified header and the side frames are gone (both welcome changes), but I think they can go a little further.
But the second thing that hit me was this: if there are 500 million copies of iTunes for Windows out there (and if you’ve not seen it running on a Windows box, it’s totally Aqua), that means there are at least 500 million Windows users at least somewhat familiar with the iTunes UI… maybe substantially more, if people share a computer at home, say. And now Steve wants to go further and release Safari – also free – for Windows. Pretty soon those Windows users will be pretty accustomed to the iTunes UI, and Safari… and then, they’ll encounter a
Mac, which looks and works just like iTunes, and, as Steve is so fond of saying, boom.
So it’s not just the iTunes UI tail wagging the OS X UI dog, it’s the iPod division wagging the entire Macintosh division. They’re leveraging the wild popularity of the iPod to get iTunes in front of people to get them used to a good user experience and the iTunes UI, and then somehow get them in front of a Mac running Leopard, and the barrier to switch will be almost invisible. It’s brilliant.
Well, just so long as I can still hide it on mine.
Steve Abrahamson

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Opinion: Kudos to the New Apple Web Site

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 11th, 2007, 16:59
Category: Opinion

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During Steve’s keynote for WWDC this morning, the Apple.com store went
offline with their now-familiar “We’ll be back soon” stickie. In the
past, this has been a guarantee of new toys – er, sorry – hardware from
Apple, as they take the store offline to revise the available lineup.
But Steve introduced no new hardware today. But when the store came back
online, the entire web site was redesigned; the header, which has used
the horizontal grey-on-white striping and large tabs that we had in OS X
10.0, has finally been replaced with a clean, stoic header brushed metal
header, and the Apple logo is chrome like might be found on an XServe.


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It’s about time.
While Apple has been criticized for having several UI schemes running
through the OS for a while now, it’s nice to see that they’ve finally
retired the last bastion of the original – and by today’s standards,
clunky – OS X theme and replaced it with something entirely modern.
Kudos, Apple. Nicely done.
Steve Abrahamson

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Little Green Apple

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 11th, 2007, 08:21
Category: Opinion

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.

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PC World: 10 Things We Hate About Apple

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Date: Monday, May 7th, 2007, 10:10
Category: Opinion

Hear, hear on #1 guys. Love ya :)

The company formerly known as Apple Computer and now called simply Apple, Inc. is unique in many ways–including in its ability to drive even folks who admire it positively batty. It makes great products (usually), yet its secretiveness about them borders on paranoia, and its adoring fans can be incredibly irritating.

Of course, its fans have to put up with some irritations, too: Simply being a member of the club still means you must endure unending jabs from the other side of the socio-political-techno aisle. But do they have to wear their suffering as a badge of honor?

PC World – 10 Things We Hate About Apple

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Played

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 6th, 2007, 12:53
Category: Opinion

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.

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Apple TV: Your Opinions So Far

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Date: Thursday, March 29th, 2007, 17:41
Category: Opinion

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We asked for your opinions on the newly-released Apple TV yesterday and you guys had a lot to say, most of it pretty positive as well.
The biggest complaints reported were fan noise, heat from the Apple TV itself and a current lack of high resolution content from the iTunes Store.
Oh, and one of you lunatics managed to replace the original 40 gigabyte hard drive with a 160 gigabyte hard drive.
Not bad for the first week of a new Apple product being on the market
Click here for the full story…

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Why Apple’s AirPort “Extreme” is No Substitute for the AirPort Express…

Posted by:
Date: Monday, March 5th, 2007, 08:00
Category: Opinion
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Contributed by Michael Long
While browsing around at my local Apple store I happened to see one of Apple’s new AirPort Extremes sitting on a shelf. Needless to say, I whipped out my credit card and snapped it up.
Why? Mostly for the USB disk drive sharing. I use a 17″ Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro as my primary computer, and I’m forever dragging a hard drive out of the closet and plugging it in my computer to do backups, then unplugging it and putting it away again. As such, being able to schedule automated wireless backups–and at 802.11n speeds–sounded like just the ticket. Not to mention that I’d be set for Leopard and Time Machine when they’re released this spring.
I’m no stranger to wireless networking. In fact, I already had an Airport Express in my office and used it as a wireless substation, as my primary printer connection, and even had a set of “Creature” speakers plugged into it for streaming my ‘tunes. With everything plugged into the Express, the only wire sneaking across my desk was the notebook’s MagSafe power cord. I even had a wireless Bluetooth Mighty Mouse. Life in Apple-land was sweet, clean, and uncluttered. Dock? Who needs a dock?
Now, some of you already may have picked up on the problem but I, unfortunately, was still oblivious. I unplugged my Express, plugged in the new Extreme, plugged in a USB hub so I could use both the hard drive and the printer, and then started to plug in my speakers…
Only to find out that the AirPort “Extreme” doesn’t have a mini-phone jack for audio. Power, USB, WAN, LAN, that little slot you use to make sure someone doesn’t steal it… but no headphone jack.
Click the jump for the full story…

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Rolling Stone: Is Apple the New Evil Empire?

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Date: Monday, February 12th, 2007, 09:50
Category: Opinion

AppleThe signs are all there: The technological superiority. The ruthless march to galactic domination. The musical devices that from a fashion standpoint would be the perfect accessory for any Stormtrooper uniform. Once but the student (see their classic 1984 ad, their PC vs. Mac ads and oh, everything else that’s ever come out of their mouth), it seems that little ol’ Apple finally could be turning into the Master.

It sounds ridiculous, we know. Apple? Really? Don’t only a couple of loser bloggers and the hopelessly out-of-touch publishing industry (ahem) use those things? Well, consider the recent evidence that goes well beyond the limited world of desktop computers:

Rolling Stone > Blog Archive > Is Apple the New Evil Empire?

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State of the Apple: The Big If

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 8th, 2007, 23:35
Category: Opinion

So here we are, post-Macworld Expo drifting off into rueful looks at iCal and thinking “when can I get my hands on an iPhone?” Apple’s release of colored iPod shuffles hardly satisfies a growing desire to see the new product. It makes me wonder how much MacBooks and MBP’s will actually change in the near future – will they morph into touch-screen tablets too?
As Apple prepares to embark on its post-iPod world I wonder whether the bravado it employs has not grown a little too big. After all, the iPod emerged slowly over 18 months and wasn’t really touted with a fraction of the iPhone’s hype at the outset. Its massive success (and this is true of all great Apple products) was due to the fact that they locked everything down including the hardware, software and the selling of music.
The big “if” in this new iPhone era is how Apple will work with a cell phone provider when they’re accustomed to owning the entire process.
It also bothers me, for example, that I won’t be able to download iTunes music OTA (over the air) to iPhone. Although I understand that this may be a contractual limitation with the record labels, Apple sure hasn’t said much on the topic.
Also, although the polycarbonate shell is supposed to be harder than the iPod’s, is anyone else worried that iPhone’s ultra high gloss enclosure may get as scratched as the original iPod nano inside a bag or with a bunch of keys on the way home from the bar? Surely Apple’s thought of this, haven’t they?
For the price they’re demanding, the least Apple could do is to include a decent case with iPhone. Although with Apple’s track record on this, I’m not holding my breath.

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The Browning of Greenpeace

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 12th, 2007, 08:00
Category: Opinion
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Lately Greenpeace has been targeting Apple with a “GreenMyApple” campaign, including the infamous “Greening of Apple” publicity stunt in New York a little while back. OK, point made, good to be aware that Apple, like many, could do better.
The problem is, they’re going too far. Way, way too far.
They claim that they’re targeting Apple because Apple should be better because they’re, well, Apple. But like a teenager who’s crushed upon learning that their parents are imperfect and only human, Greenpeace doesn’t seem to want to accept that Apple is a corporation like any other, that they try to do their best, and they’re not perfect. Greenpeace is running the risk of alienating people who support them. And they don’t care.
How do I know? I called them. I spoke to someone about the GreenMyApple
campaign, and explained to him, in the most rational way possible, that
while I sympathized with their goals, there was a backlash going on;
that when I read about their activities I found myself thinking badly of
Greenpeace, not of Apple. I may as well have been talking to my iPod; he
told me about the validity of the campaign, and even said, “we alienate
people with every campaign we do. That’s just how it goes.” He couldn’t
have been less interested.
Hmm. Nice. Chalk up one more alienated person.
Of course, there’s plenty of holes in Greenpeace’s story, too. You could read Roughly Drafted who wrote After spending at least $50,000 on expensive lab work, Greenpeace ignored the data they discovered, or AppleInsider who reported Greenpeace admits placing Apple under more scrutiny than any other electronics manufacturer. But that’s facts, and Greenpeace prefers factiness.
Like that teenager seeking attention by whatever means necessary, Greenpeace seems hell-bent on trying to cause Apple problems, from unruly protests (that get them kicked out of Macworld Expo) to botched “greening events” – but not out of high moral ground; they do it purely because they know that attacking Apple gets them publicity.
Here’s the problem with that…. Read more after the jump…

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