Archive for the 'Apple News' Category

29
Jan
10

Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad

It’s been about 24 hours since the long anticipated keynote address and unveiling of the Apple iPad.  I’ve had some time to reflect on what this announcement will mean for Apple, for consumers and for my own personal use. 

Mixed Reactions
On Wednesday morning, it seemed like even the least tech savvy folks knew that ‘Apple was announcing a tablet!’.  (Major props to those sites that were gracious enough to cover this event via liveblog – it made the situation easier to follow.)  Getting bits and pieces of information and trying to digest them while on the telephone and working with customers, I found it difficult to process the facts.  A lot of what Steve Jobs says gets lost in translation in the liveblog.  I was in a room filled with tech savvy co-workers and just about everyone was underwhelmed.  While the announcement was, in fact, a “tablet-shaped device,” the details were significantly less impressive than the grandiose expectations that analysts and random tech followers (like myself) had ascribed to it.  Nobody I spoke to seemed genuinely excited and as I collected feedback (most of it unsolicited), it largely consisted of exclamations about the poor marketing behind the name and what the iPad couldn’t do.  Overall, people seemed generally confused about what makes this product offering so special.

It’s important to point out that after years of speculation about what an “Apple Tablet” would look and behave like, the expectations were almost impossible to meet.  (It was actually a bit anti-climactic to actually see and hear this announcement since it was so much fun to pontificate over the years about what such a device might be.) 

The Keynote is the Key
The key to understanding this product lies not in reviewing the specifications and comparing it to other offerings in the market.  For those who are considering the iPad, my best suggestion is to actually invest an hour and half of your time before you spend $499 – $830.  Watch the keynote and observe how Apple is marketing it to consumers.

Unlike many other product unveilings, Apple devoted almost the entire hour and a half to explaining just one product.  (The keynote is long – if you can’t watch the entire thing, check out just the first 15 – 30 minutes of it.  (It’s available now on the homepage at Apple.com or via iTunes via podcast.)  But for the benefit of those that will only read this, I’ll do my best to share Steve Jobs’ sentiment.) 

The most critical piece of information during the keynote was explained in the first 15 minutes.  Steve showed a slide with an iPhone on the left, a MacBook on the right and and empty space in the center.  He talked about the thought that went into deciding whether there was room for a product between those two devices.  The philosophy he outlined was, ‘If we’re going to announce a product in between these two offerings, it has to be better than the phone and better than the MacBook at some things.’  He then hypothesized about whether the netbook fits in this category.  (He actually put the word “Netbook” in the empty space between the MacBook and the phone.  He explained that the company’s conclusion on netbooks is that they aren’t better than laptops or phones at anything.  He dismissed them as “slow, cheap laptops”.  It was only after going through this explanation that he unveiled the iPad that almost everyone has seen by now.

Continue reading ‘Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad’

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30
May
09

Don’t Expect Much From the “New iPhone” – Apple has to ‘Play it Safe’

Capture Now that I’m less than a week away from, excluding any unforeseen product shortages, adopting a Palm Pre as my primary mobile device, my peers keep prodding me with questions.  Many of my tech friends haven’t really been following the Pre and WebOS that closely.  Actually, it’s surprising how many haven’t been following it.  Even Leo Laporte (whom I consider to be kinda close to the cutting edge when talking about tech) is only now starting to pay attention to the Pre.  And he seems to be doing it in a very apologetic way.  (‘You know what, I think I’m gonna check out the Palm Pre…’).  The truth is that he’s probably following the Pre because he has to – as a tech correspondent, he has to stay on top of what the current focus is, and right now that’s the Pre.

Having read message boards and talked to other tech fans, what is most surprising to me are the number of people who are anxiously anticipating the announcement of the next iteration of the iPhone.  Okay, so it’s not that surprising – any Apple announcement these days (and particularly one where Steve Jobs might take the stage – and it’s about a 75% lock that it will happen in my book) will get tech journalists pens moving.  But this time around, I’m much more interested in the other stuff that Apple might talk about.  For people who know their tech, there should be almost no excitement for the iPhone this go round.  And there are a few reasons for it.

About two plus months ago, I was buzzing around my office at work.  Apple had announced that they would be previewing some of the features of the forthcoming iPhone OS 3.0.  While I thought the Pre was intriguing, innovative and sorta tempting, I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the folks at the Apple Campus at Cupertino.  I knew (or, at least, I thought I knew) that whatever they announced would make me forget about the multi-tasking, cloud synching, synergetic phone that Palm revealed two months earlier.  Upon reflection, had I been able to take a trip up to the ‘wisdom mountain’ and really clear my head, I would have seen the obvious. 

Continue reading ‘Don’t Expect Much From the “New iPhone” – Apple has to ‘Play it Safe’’

30
Jul
07

iPhone: Review

Preface

This is probably one of the longer reviews that I’ve written — and purposefully so. My intent is to give the reader a complete, full and fair account of my experience as a tech enthusiast who’s experimenting as the owner of a new iPhone. (This is one reason why I’ve waited almost a month after picking up the phone to complete the review. If you’re going to make an educated decision about whether or not to own this very different and very expensive piece of technology, you need to understand how it stands up under normal use.)

If you want a quick no-frills, “bottom-line” account, I don’t think you’re in the right place. We’re talking about a $600 phone that you’ll probably be using until 2009 (2-year contract) — I think it’s worth the investment to know what you’re buying.

I think one of the major challenges with a device like this is that it makes you completely rethink some of the ways that you are accustomed to using a phone — and not always in a good way. It’s like getting a next-generation stove. There are going to be some phenomenal features, but what good is it if heating up left overs turns into a chore. While writing the review, I was trying to contrast this experience with that of using a traditional Nokia or Motorola-interface mobile phone.

I hope what I’ve written makes your decision to buy (or not to buy) the phone one that is based more on fact and less on impression and speculation. (Cause there’s certainly a lot of that going on these days.)

. Continue reading ‘iPhone: Review’

12
Jul
07

AT&T and Apple: Strange Relationship?

There seems to be quite a bit of murmuring around town from folks about the fact that Apple chose AT&T as their wireless partner for the iPhone. As a disclaimer, I was an AT&T Wireless customer way back in the mid-early 90s when mobile technology was just starting to come into it’s own, so to say that “there were problems with the network” probably wouldn’t be a terribly meaningful criticism since just about every carrier had problems in the early stages of the technology. I do question whether the current Cingular-now-AT&T has the best wireless network. I had Verizon and despite the fact that they were ridiculously and needlessly expensive and always nickel-and-diming me, they truly did have the best network. I can’t say that there was ever a time when I was complaining about conversations disconnecting. My reasons for leaving Verizon (already well documented) had to do with their lethargic response to new devices (and their need to control the phone’s interface.) Which brings me to why I believe Apple chose the folks from AT&T…

It’s simple. Apple had a vision for a mobile phone experience — and AT&T agreed stay out of the way.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to this obvious conclusion. Going with multiple partners would not have given Apple the control over the interface that they desired. The huge market for mobile phone carriers is with the network downloadables. The ringtones. The games. The extra stuff. While lucrative, these downloads detracted from the vision. For one, they decrease what may prove to be an already unstable experience on a fairly new and untested mobile platform. One thing about the iPhone is that from the start-up menu to the shut down screen, the experience screams ‘Apple’. From the font to the icons. Everything. Opening the phone to multiple carriers means that everyone wants their little “store” application on it.

Another big issue is branding. Try to find a mobile phone that doesn’t have a Verizon or Cingular or Sprint logo somewhere stamped on it. Imagine an iPod with a huge T-Mobile icon on it. It detracts from the simplicity.

Most importantly, the reason why this phone has people as crazy as it does is largely due in part to the quiet hype that was created. You had Stephen Colbert doing a sketch begging Apple to send him one. We saw “iPhone sightings” on tech rumor sites. Most of the buzz had to be created around just wanted to experience this thing. AT&T was probably the only company trusting enough of the company that created the iPod to let them just run with their vision and not interfere with the experience they were after. It’s widely known that until the very last stages of design, even Cingular/AT&T executives didn’t have any details about the device design, interface or even a mock up. They were handed the info on a need-to-know basis. And look — it worked. Even the most prying of Apple conspiracy theorists were blown away by the announcement of a phone.

And so after we understand the “why”s, it’s natural for people to speculate as to whether this was beneficial decision. And if so, for whom. Continue reading ‘AT&T and Apple: Strange Relationship?’

02
Jul
07

iWait….and iBlame

Well, it has to be all over the news now… The iPhone is launched. Loads of people went out to buy it. However, many of them can’t use it because of activation issues. It’s funny — this is the thing that concerned me and a lot of other folks the most. How is Apple going to sell all of these phones and activate them? What I didn’t understand at the time was that the plan was for the user to activate the phone at home — pretty good plan….. if it works.

AT&T was the most malleable of the mobile phone partners that Apple could have chosen. They probably were selected largely because they agreed to let Apple do what they wanted with the phone’s design and integration with the network. However, the fact remains that AT&T is still a mobile phone company and don’t really have expertise in delivering a good customer service experience.

The iPhone doesn’t unlock any of it’s features until you activate the phone under a mobile service contract. For those establishing new service, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. For those transferring service from one AT&T phone to another, that seems to be slightly less of an issue. But for those brave souls like myself and so many others who decided that wherever Apple goes must not be that bad and I shall follow…..well, we kinda are getting screwed a bit. You start the activation in iTunes and it gets to a point where they take your existing information for your mobile phone provider and attempt to activate your new iPhone. I thought this was a bit dodgy when I first heard about it….. Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon just handing over a ton of customers without a fight? But then I watched the video on Apple’s homepage. The guy with the Steve Jobs outfit who demos the phone said that it would be an easy conversion. Ummm, OK. If you say so. But clearly after waiting…(let’s see…..) almost 12 hours, clearly that isn’t the case.

So Who’s to Blame

There’s a lot of blame to go around here. Let’s start with AT&T.

AT&T

If you’re AT&T, I must say, you have to be a tad embarrassed. I mean, after all, this is your business. This is the only thing that you do in the equation. You didn’t design the phone. You didn’t design the interface. All you had to do was make sure that people would be able to use the devices, and you couldn’t quite make that happen. Not a great way to start a relationship. I had AT&T Wireless many years ago, but I don’t even count that experience because my phone was about the size of a VHS tape and the battery lasted about 5 hours if I didn’t use the phone and 1/2 an hour if I decided I might want to talk on it. But nonetheless, after 10 years, it seems like the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Continue reading ‘iWait….and iBlame’

02
Jul
07

iPhone Line at Short Hills

It’s been a long night… first off, I’m happy to report that my experience in acquiring the iPhone was pretty ok….

Got to the Short Hills, NJ Apple Store at about 12:30 and there were about 60 people hugged around the wall and snaked around the mall in front of me. Brilliantly, I picked up a chair that I was going to use for the PS3 launch (you know, one of those expandable things) but I felt sort of elitist watching everyone else standing up and sitting down (and then laying down as time dragged on) but I’ve been through this before (Xbox 360, PS2, Dreamcast, Nintendo Wii, PSP, etc.)

The best thing about waiting was that two of my best buds from my old job came down and spend some time with me. You know you have good friends when they’ll stand and talk with you on line for an hour while you wait on the geek line — and they’re not even getting the phone themselves. Dwan, Alf – you guys are the best.

Very interesting group of folks that I waited with. I was in a bit of a ‘don’t-feel-like-chatting’ mode on Friday, so I just kinda observed. One thing about Short Hills is that it’s located in a very posh area of NJ. Put it this way — there’s no food court. You just kinda have Au Bon Pan and other upscale and overpriced places to dine. But it would seem that this was the best place to wait because combine the Mac-ish 60s culture with rich folks who can’t conceive of taking something that isn’t yours and you have probably the exact opposite of the 5th Ave. Apple Store experience. Lots of people were leaving their laptops unattended while they went to the bathroom. Very cool atmosphere in Short Hills.

Very bohemian atmosphere, but what else would you expect from the Mac culture. It was actually kind of annoying. They spend their time trying to explain everything to you as if nobody else reads the rumor sites…. I stood next to a kid and his dad. The kid was cool — had a Dell XPS 17″ (the screen was incredible) and he connected to the wi-fi and played World of Warcraft right there next to me. (Now I know why I’ll never play — it looks nice, but I spend my life wasting time in enough ways — no need to add yet another thing to the list.) I saw tons of MacBooks and MacBook Pros. And lots of people bending the hinge on the screen back a bit too far. (No wonder there are so many folks in line for the Apple Geniuses).

One thing I observed was the number of children and parents waiting in line for children. Crazy. A $500-$600 phone for your kid — and you have to sleep in line for it?? (I guess I’d do it for my kid too, but it’s amazing to think about the lengths to which parents will go). And of course, you just know kids are gonna end up getting em stolen or some other careless thing and then you’ve waited and spent $600….for nothing. Anyway…

The store employees would come out and hand us “Steve” waters. What’s that? Oh, a “Steve” water is the Vitamin Water bottle that Steve Jobs caries around and swigs off of during MacWorld keynotes — usually during the demos. (“…and you just click on it…and then…boom! <siiiiip.>)

When 6pm hit, they did a countdown and everybody gathered their crap and started moving up. They let about 15 folks in the store at a time and they roped off all of the stuff and directed you straight to the phones. “4 Gig or 8 Gig?”. They even had sales people with wi-fi registers to ring you up right there in the middle of the floor. Eventually I came out of the store with one — (thanks to God. Truth be told, I probably didn’t deserve to. Not because the phone is supposed to be so great. It’s just that God has been really good to me despite some of my actions.)

I will give my impressions in a bit, but there’s one small problem that’s in my way….. (read the following post….)

08
Jun
07

…And Why NOT to iPhone

In my previous post, I ran down a list of the reasons why I’m thinking of donating a kidney for the promise of being able to get an iPhone. I’ve gone through the list of pros and cons for months — and the pros come out on top. But there are a significant number of questionmarks that stand out in my mind and keep me from wholeheartedly giving this phone my absolute endorsement. Let’s take a second to explore some of the things that could tarnish this launch a bit. Simply put, these are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider handing your $499/$599 over to the snarky kid in the black shirt with the white logo.

1. Cost – The iPhone comes in two flavors – the $499 model with 4GB and the $599 model with 8GB of storage. And there are other phones (like the Nokia N95) that are at that same price point. But even at the $500 level, this is a sizeable investment. Considering the fact that a full featured smartphone like the Moto Q or Samsung Blackjack can be secured for less than $150 right now, I’m not sure that the experience will be $350-better. (I think it will be, but anyway…..) You have to really consider whether you’re going to make use of the Internet-based features or if you really need the iPod functionality. You can pick up an iPod with Video for $249. Or perhaps the more popular iPod Nano for $149/$199 depending on which configuration you’re looking to get. So the sum of those two items (a phone and an iPod) would still leave you money left over.

And let’s not forget the fact that if you do pick up this phone you almost have to get a data plan. (Or perhaps you can just use the phone on Wi-Fi if you have access?) Cost is definitely a huge factor to consider here.

2. Theft Target – I’m hearing that only 4 million of these will be available at launch and who knows how many throughout the rest of the year. I can just see the news story about people getting robbed when they pull out this attractive toy on the train ride home. And you thought the white earbuds said, “rob me, please”? Wait until people start flipping their fingers across the screen. You may want to consider how safe the environment is before whipping one of these babies out in public. And if it’s that much of a theft target, is it really worth the risk?

3. Synching? iTunes to Manage ALL Content? – I am a big fan of iTunes (although it has gotten a bit bloated over time). Yet and still, I’m not quite sure that this is the right application to manage the kind of data that I want to share with the phone. During the Keynote, Steve said that iTunes will manage the sync. Sure, iTunes is cool to manage the music. But I’m not sure how the rest of the content is going to work. Will it just go to each application to pull down the respective data? (Photos from iPhoto, Music from iPod, Contacts from Address Book)? Probably not, since Windows users will need to synch as well. Personally, I’d like to see a simple synching application released separate from iTunes that can be used to determine what data synchs to the phone. Perhaps this can be covered in a tab or a view on the iTunes menu. I don’t know for sure. But I have my concerns. Continue reading ‘…And Why NOT to iPhone’