Archive for the 'Tech News' Category



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’’

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13
Apr
09

20 Reasons Why I’m Leaving My iPhone for the Palm Pre

Having been an iPhone owner since it launched in June of 2007, many who know me assumed that I would be upgrading to future releases of the iPhone.  (After all, isn’t that what an Apple Fanboy would do?).

I skipped the iPhone 3G.  And although there are some pains associated with not having some of the features, I am sure that I made the right decision.  There are few differences between the iPhone 2G and 3G.  The cases are slightly different — the 2G shedding the silver backing for a shiny plastic one with the 3G.  The only other differences are a GPS radio, connectivity to the AT&T 3G network, a 16GB version and a non-recessed headphone jack.  Everything else is practically the same.  Same processor, same architecture — same everything.  None of these additions were tantalizing enough to make me consider extending my AT&T contract another two years.

In December when Palm sent around teasers to the technology press inviting them out to experience “Palm’s Newness”, I was intrigued.  But I never even considered the thought that anything they would have to say would make me consider leaving what has been a great experience with my current iPhone.

That was until I watched the keynote.

I watched the entire hour long keynote when I got home after the presentation – twice.  At first, I was simply impressed.  I didn’t expect much from Palm and any device that pushes the envelope and gives other competitors a reason to stay on their toes and not play it safe benefits us all.  And certainly with the announcement of the Pre, Palm was doing just that.

In the weeks that would follow after watching countless hands-on videos and imagining the possibilities, I began to consider the phone more and more.  (I’m at the point now where I can probably do the demo that they have scripted for the press myself.)

Make no mistake about it — barring any monumental announcement made by Apple between now and June 29, the Palm Pre will be my next phone.  And having made that decision, I realize that potentially there’s a lot that I’m losing.  But for me, there’s so much more that I believe I’ll be gaining.

Before I get into the reasons why I’m probably going to buy the Pre, I want to state that it has nothing to do with some flaw or huge dissatisfaction in my iPhone experience.  There are areas with my iPhone where I feel that I could have been better served.  But overall, I have never had as seamless an experience as I have had with this device.  All of my data (provided I have a connection to the web) is in one central location.  My music, pictures, emails, contacts and calendar are all replicated from my PC on my phone.  The battery life could be better, but considering how much I use it as my primary media player, I really can’t complain.

Also, before reading the list, please consider the fact that I would be coming from the 2G version of the iPhone to any 3G device (Palm Pre or iPhone 3G).  There are some benefits that I’d gain by simply buying a 3G device.  But casting aside the iPhone 3G, everyone knows that the smart money says between now and June, Apple will announce the next version of the iPhone.  So this is a decision I’m making having not seen the next iPhone.  If Apple addresses many of the benefits I outline here having observed the Pre, my decision could change.  However, looking at the iPhone 3.0 press conference, I don’t think it will.  Regardless of how improved the new iPhone’s hardware is and whether it has twice or three times the existing memory or a forward-facing camera or any of the other rumors I’ve heard, my concerns are largely with the software and the overall experience.  The 3.0 press conference didn’t impress me at all.  The benefits discussed were largely targeted towards developers, with a few bones tossed out to consumers like “Cut and Paste” and “Search”.

But I need to preface this discussion by saying that I am rather pleased with my current phone.  The iPhone is still a revolutionary device when compared to other phones, and this is without any of the benefits brought in by the App Store.  The addition of applications last year has really expanded the ability of the device and I would recommend the iPhone to almost anyone looking for a great multimedia phone.

So why the switch?  (So glad you asked.)

Continue reading ’20 Reasons Why I’m Leaving My iPhone for the Palm Pre’

15
Oct
08

So About These MacBook Announcements…

Apple Netbook The MacBook Pro will always have a special place in my tech treasure chest.  Strangely, it was the first Mac I purchased (in 2001 – back then we called ‘em PowerBooks.)  And for a long time I thought that’s where my computing dollar would be spent: continuously upgrading from MacBook Pro to MacBook Pro.  Perhaps I wouldn’t upgrade each year, but I’d certainly get in on major revisions and every other cycle.  And strangely enough this would be the cycle that would make sense.  (I bought my MacBook Pro in 2006.  I’m loving it, but somehow it’s really starting to show it’s age.  My backspace key is missing.  It’s got a few scratches.  And since it’s the primary machine that I use (right in front of my television) it would certainly make sense.  But that was with a 2006 mindset.  A lot has changed in the world.

I wrote about a year back about how excited I was that the industry was moving towards these small and inexpensive desktop experiences.  The newly coined ‘netbooks’ are getting old in the tooth according to some.  But I think they’re just about the most exciting thing in technology.  Why?  Well, for one, the conventional wisdom (if you spent time in a Best Buy or J&R Computer World here in Manhattan over the years) is that the smaller the laptop you seek, the more you’re going to pay.  It used to make sense.  (Smaller diodes, more careful manufacturing process, more expensive and hard-to-manufacture parts.)  But something about that logic never completely made sense to me.  So the netbook’s arrival as a major new tech category was a welcome trend.

The main reason why I’m so excited about the prospect of the netbook as a serious option is that it fits in with my life (and I would presume most consumer’s lives) perfectly.  I always get frustrated when people ask my about buying a laptop vs. a desktop.  People never consider the higher cost and lower performance that you’ll get in comparison to the actual amount of times that the machine will actually be moved.  I’m the ‘computer fix-it guy’ for a lot of my friends and some acquaintances and I’ll tell you – they get strange looks from me when they approach me with a Dell Inspiron and complain that it’s ‘making a noise’.  (Probably just the hard drive, but if it isn’t, they’re SOL for sure.)  For the majority of folks that I consult, a netbook is a wonderfully elegant solution for so many reasons:

Continue reading ‘So About These MacBook Announcements…’

01
Jul
08

I Dream of Kindle

Kindle I remember being a bit cynical last winter when Amazon announced their “revolutionary device” that would change the game.  As a tech enthusiast, I’m probably one of the folks that they should hope gets excited about this.  Then again, I’m not a big reader, so perhaps I’m not quite in the center of their bulls-eye.  When I first laid eyes on the Kindle, my exact thought was, “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  It really doesn’t say “2008”.  I’d argue that the Sony eBook Reader is a bit more sexy than a device where about a quarter of the precious real estate on the front of the device is dedicated to a physical keyboard.  (I know, I know – version 1.0).

Being the resident techie in most of my circles, it wasn’t long before the questions started… “what do you think about that new Amazon book thingy?”  “So when are you getting a Kindle?”  My answers were always pretty smug.  Don’t get me wrong.  I understood what Amazon was trying to do.  However, I thought they could have spent a little bit more time designing something that was lust-worthy instead of a device that looks like it was designed in 2000.

Time passed… and I had forgotten about the Kindle.  Regardless of how many times I’d go to Amazon.com and see the thing staring me in the face, my eyes would move somewhere else. 

But then a funny thing happened.  I stopped thinking about the design, and started thinking about the usability.

The time that I spent not paying attention to the Kindle caused me to miss out on the key selling points.  I would pick up random features listing to Leo Laporte’s TwiT podcasts.  And the more that I’d hear, the less cynical I got about the device…

Recently, (and I can’t quite explain how I’ve arrived at this…longing) I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kindle.  I don’t know if an Amazon guy spiked my iced tea or if they flashed a subliminal message while I was reading reviews on iPhone cases.  How it happened doesn’t really matter.  The fact is that I’m starting to see the advantages.  And I want in.

So what’s the big deal?

  • I carry around two copies of the Holy Bible.  (Please don’t judge – sometimes I’ll need to reference the King James version and other times I just want to get closer to the intent via my Student Edition of the New International Version).  By no means is it a heavy burden.  But there might be a more elegant solution.  Perhaps there’s a way to keep that and several other versions of the scripture by my side.  Not to mention the hymn book that I’d like to carry, but because it’s rather big I always leave at home.  Yes, this could be the answer…and for several reasons…
  • The Kindle is searchable.  Rather than wonder where in the book a character was introduced or when a certain thought was uttered, you can simply search through the text.  (How nicely that works is another matter altogether.)
  • The Kindle is online.  Via EVDO (i.e. fast 3G speed Internet Access).  And it’s free.  (Well, you pay for the device, but they’ve committed to free online access.  Never before have I seen that kind of commitment to just giving away 3G access.  This is the stuff Verizon makes you pay $59 bucks a month for.  And yes, it’s only useful on the Kindle, but that’s not a tremendous limitation because…
  • The Kindle has a built-in web browser.  OK, so I’ve heard that it’s so poor in displaying data and rendering pages that they might as well not have included it.  But this might be enough for me.  Many times when I’m traveling home on the bus or to work, I’d like to just pull down a full page of Engadget.com and just peruse the stories.  Nothing sexy.  Just stored.  Not sure if this is going to allow me to do that, but it might be better than the iPhone experience that I have now.  Most of the time, Safari will crash as I’m scrolling through a page like Engadget.  Also, until I get a 3G phone, it’s just a bit slow.  I don’t need a great web experience.  I just want to stay up to date while I’m driving.

Continue reading ‘I Dream of Kindle’

24
Feb
08

…And Why Exactly Do You Still Need that DVD/CD Drive Again?

I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the MacBook Air, but one thing I do appreciate — they left out the optical drive. The Air is way too expensive and the form factor is still too big for me (I need it smaller in dimensions and I’d be willing to sacrifice some of the “thinness” they felt was so important.) But the fact remains that leaving out the CD/DVD drive is a trend I certainly hope continues.

I often chuckle inside when working with older PC users who insist upon having a 3 1/2 inch floppy drive in the machine. When I show them a USB drive that fits on a keychain and mention the fact that one keydrive can hold over a thousand floppies of info, they seem completely disinterested. They want their old tech. Like their bank books and their china closets, they want what’s familiar to them. But upon hearing the response that the tech community had to the absence of the CD/DVD drive in the MacBook Air and the simultaneous praise of the Lenovo X300 because of it’s inclusion of one, I had to shake my head in discouragement.

Why are we still attached to these old, familiar ways of doing things??

It’s completely not lost on me that it’s convenient (particularly in business) to have the ability to drop a CD or a DVD into the machine. I’m sure there are tons of situations where an optical drive saved the day. Perhaps they’re handing you a contract and they only have it on a CD. Maybe you need to install drivers. But when you really think about the possible reasons and then consider the fact that we have the web, I just don’t understand the attachment.

The primary need for a CD/DVD drive is to install applications. But how often are we installing applications?? And particularly in this day and age of application releases being done through the web, do we really need these drives on the road? Even the iPod shuffle doesn’t come with a CD, and with that device you need iTunes to get the benefit! (Not sure — perhaps they put iTunes on the iPod?) Regardless, I just don’t see this immense need to install applications all the time. What are all these apps? I need to meet these people who are doing so many installations. Continue reading ‘…And Why Exactly Do You Still Need that DVD/CD Drive Again?’

22
Feb
08

So the Format War is Over…. (or at least the physical format war)

OK, so it’s finally official: HD DVD is dead and Blu-Ray has won. (You know it’s become a mainstream story when my mother talks about it.) I’ve been surveying the tech pundits and listening to them weigh-in on the situation now that the so-called “High Definition DVD Format War” is over.

Much of the tech community agree (and have always agreed) that a war like this wasn’t good for the industry. (At least on the surface, it wasn’t.) The mainstream public is already confused enough about the difference between plasma and LCD….720P and 1080P….Dolby True HD vs. DTS….and now add the fact that they need to choose between high definition DVD formats? While it’s true that having a single format from the start would seemingly make for a clearer choice for consumers, Ben Drawbaugh of Engadget HD had an interesting take on benefits gained from this “war”. On the podcast this week, he talked about the fact that a lot of the progress that both formats have made has been the result of competition. Had it not been for the fierce competition between both the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD camps, we probably wouldn’t have seen player prices get below $400 this quickly. We also might not have seen the same intense effort from studios cleaning up the quality of the film transfers (early Blu-Ray discs were notorious for their poor quality transfers.) And we also might not have seen this many high-def titles released “day and date” alongside their standard definition DVD versions. So, I guess the competition was healthy somewhat in helping to bring us lower cost players and better releases.

So now, the so-called “war” is over. After Toshiba (HD-DVD’s biggest champion) announced that they are no longer supporting the format, Blu-Ray was officially declared the winner. But what does this really mean? I’ve spent a few long bus rides thinking it over and I think that it means a lot less than people may realize.

Here are a few reasons why:

Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice…. – I remember back in 1999 when I bought my first DVD player. (I’m embarrassed to admit how much I paid.) My first movie was Alien and I must have watched it about five times in two weeks. Man — looking at the quality of DVDs vs. non-digital cable television or VHS tapes at the time was amazing. So I bought a few more titles. It got addictive. Before I knew it, by 2006 I realized that I had amassed a collection of more than 350 titles (not discs…titles. Some titles have multiple discs).

Now, don’t get me wrong — I enjoy my collection. Wouldn’t dream of trading it. I appreciate the fact that I can just go over to the library and watch Ronin or The Godfather or Notting Hill or any other disc that I own on a whim without having to go to the store to rent or wait for it to come on television.

But the fact is that we’ve been here before. I’ve lived through several media switches. I remember looking at my LPs in disgust and deciding to move to the new hot thing — cassette tapes. Didn’t take long to figure out that cassettes were flawed and I moved on to CDs. And now it’s certainly the case that the majority of teens and young adults are “acquiring” their media through digital means…where the only limits are your disk space and how high you’re willing to encode your audio.

When it comes to movies, I was a fool again. Spent hours upon hours recording movies from television onto VHS tapes. (I wish I knew then what I know now). I even collected VHS tapes for awhile (but not nearly as many as my DVD collection).

And now, looking up at a wall of almost 400 unique movies (many of which I’ve only seen once — and some which embarrassingly I’ve never seen) I am sure that I’m not alone in taking a step back and considering how foolish yet another physical format purchase would be. (I know I’m not alone in looking at my collection and wondering what $15.99 times 350 would look like in my wallet. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to realize that if I can get a DVD quality download now, in five years I’ll be able to get a better-than-Blu-Ray quality movie via download.

You might have fooled me in the past, big studios…but you won’t get me this time. Continue reading ‘So the Format War is Over…. (or at least the physical format war)’

21
Nov
07

Dear Sony: I’m Tired of the PS3 Online XMB System Updates…

OK – I was silent for awhile. As much as Sony has been in this gaming industry strong since 1995 (and some may argue even longer), they’re really learning (and in some cases stumbling) their way through this whole online experience. As much as they profess that the “PlayStation Network” experience is thriving, I’m hoping these are the beginning stages of what will eventually become a mature online community. I don’t feel connected to anyone when I’m on the PS3 (unless I go to the PlayStation Store).

But honestly… these online updates every few days has got to stop.

Microsoft’s business is in software and they’ve been through their share of headaches, but they’ve learned. Two years ago, you’d log into Windows and every day there would be an update of some sort staring you in the face. However, somehow they understood that it’s a completely disruptive experience to the end user and as a result, now we have “patch Tuesdays”. (The Tuesday every month when Microsoft sends out its patches and OS updates. And unless there is a dire emergency or critical vulnerability in the wild, you won’t hear from them again until next “patch Tuesday.”) Xbox has leveraged this mechanism and taken it to an even more mature level. Understanding that the Xbox 360’s interface and OS is a lot less critical and sensitive than a full PC’s OS, they only provide updates twice a year — the Spring Update and the Fall/Winter Update. They too will break that schedule if necessary, but only in the most dire circumstances. What’s more, the updates are much less intrusive. They alert you that the game or the Dashboard has an available update. You click “OK”…. you wait for the download to complete…and 2 minutes later, you’re back to playing.

Sony has the most disruptive and bothersome method of making updates to the OS. You have to navigate through accepting an agreement — just to update what you already own. You’ll then need to go about 3 or 4 clicks and sometimes multiple restarts to get back to the XMB. And worst of all is the frequency of the updates. This has to stop. Last week everyone ran the update for version 2.0 of the XMB. Less than a week later, we’re being asked to update to 2.1. Clearly there’s some sort of issue with managing these updates, or perhaps not properly testing ones like 2.0 before they launch.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve owned my PS3 for less than one year and right now I’m starting to question some things.

Initially the PS3 was designed to be my “lead system”. This would be the system that I’d use to buy titles if they were available on all other systems — the rationale being that the PS3 version would look better (and because I prefer the Dual Shock, so the playing experience would be a bit better for me.) I’m almost 180 degrees in the other direction. For a lot of reasons, the PS3 is starting to cut away at that confidence I had. I’ll talk more about this in subsequent weeks, but Sony is definitely losing my confidence and the 360 is starting to look like the system I’d recommend without hesitation to any gamer looking for the best game selection, connectivity/online gaming experience and the best end user experience overall.

Sony: It’s time to get serious. Price is not the only area where we needed to see improvement.