Short of some as yet unforeseen issue,
it seems that most Apple rumors these days agree that sometime early
next year, Apple will be releasing a "tablet-like" device to the
The rumored specifications include one
or more devices of varying screen size (between 6 to 10 inches) with
multitouch support, a screen resolution around 720x480, an Apple
designed ARM-based Processor, WiFi and a long-duration battery.
Rumors also include a built-in 3G HSDPA
chip for accessing the Internet, away from WiFi hotspots, via a cellular carrier that supports
the same data standard.
The cellular data support begs the
question, will Apple's new device be sold by AT&T with a price
Why do I ask? Well, the current rumors
put this tablet device at anywhere between $600 - $1000. Now ask
yourself, would you pay $1000 for a device that could get lost or
dropped easily? If your going to spend that much would you just
purchase a Macbook? Even at the $600 price-range would you by Apple's
tablet, a cheap laptop or a netbook?
However a price subsidy could drop the
upfront price for the consumer from $600 - $1000 to $250 - $400.1
But that subsidy would no doubt require a 2-year contract for data
service from AT&T.
Or, given the high price and resulting
subsidy that AT&T would need to make back, it would suggest that the unlimited data plan for the new Apple device would
be more than the $30 per month rate for the same plan on the iPhone.
That in turn suggests the preclusion of being able to share the
iPhone's data plan between devices. Will people accept that?
And of course would said device be
exclusive to AT&T?
Lots of questions. Not many answers,
fact AT&T already offers two netbooks for $199 after rebate.
Continuing on a theme, Appleinsider
estimates that "nearly half of all iPhone users ... jumped at the
opportunity to enhance the functionality of their handsets by
installing the free iPhone Software 3.0 update" within the first
week of the software update's release. However, the very same
software update that iPod Touch users can also apply has seen
extremely limited adoption.
According to Appleinsider's sources,
within four days of the software lease, 44% of iPhone users applied
the 3.0 software update while only 1% of iPod Touch downloaded and
installed the very same software update.
The difference? Apple uses different
accounting methods for the iPhone and iPod lines. As a result, since
the initial release of the iPod Touch, Apple has charged a nominal
$10 price tag on software updates.
Considering that I rationalized that
consumers, much like a business, preform a rough cost-benefit
analysis when considering if they should preform a software upgrade
or not, this bit of evidence presents something different, that
consumers will consider adopting a software upgrade when there is no
direct cost associated with the update.
Apply this bit of information to the
Windows world and well, it shouldn't shock anyone that Microsoft
recently announced that the upcoming Windows 7 release, set for this
fall, for consumer versions will be less expensive than similar Vista
Microsoft will also eschew the
traditional limitation that to qualify for the upgrade pricing a
user must be upgrading from the immediately preceding software
version. That is Windows XP users and Vista users will qualify for
the upgrade price, whereas traditionally only Vista owners would
And if that wasn't enough, for a
limited time Microsoft has cut the price by 50% for those who
pre-order their upgrade before July 11th.
The other day I came across a blog post from a non-developer at Microsoft complaining about the "fan" mentality of users (notable in this case users of Apple's iPhone) who feel the need to "upgrading every 20 seconds." Said poster goes on to note that, at least in the Windows world, upgraders are more cautious, "prefer[ing] to give a major upgrade a couple of months to bed down."
Naturally this post resulted in a bunch of comments around the theme of "well if initial releases of major Microsoft updates, such as Vista didn't suck, users won't have to wait months before updating"
My first thought, along the lines of the comments made by others, suggests that perhaps the two companies approach software development in different manners, resulting in software releases with different levels of stability and usability and thus resulting in the difference in why one set of users - Apple iPhone users - might differ in upgrade behavior from another set of users - Windows users.
Specifically, while the stages of software development are pretty straightforward; Planning, Design (specification and architecture), Implementation (coding, testing and documenting), Deployment and Maintenance the actual implementation of these stages varies. There are numinous methods for implementing these basic development stages.
However, as far as I know, there has been very little written, case studies or otherwise, about the adoption of any specific software development method at Microsoft for Windows or at Apple for OS X development or how the two compare to each other. And in any case, while stability and reliability are important when it comes to the adoption of software updates, any short comings that may or may not exist in Microsoft's (or Apple's) development methodologies are hardly to blame.
When considering a software update a user, consumer or business, is going to determine the cost incurred by the upgrade and the benefit from adopting the upgrade. Pretty straightforward right? All most too basic to even mention.
Now, a consumer considering the latest software has to consider the cost to purchase the upgrade in terms of time and money. What is the cost of purchasing the new software? Does the software upgrade require a hardware upgrade as well? All of which gets compared to the the benefit the update brings to the consumer's computing chores.
Same of a business, but in their case their cost includes having to pay for their IT staff to update numinous devices within the company and teach the users about the benefit of the update, thus adding an additional significant cost.
Now I break up users into consumer and business types because one might argue that the percentage of iPhone users falls heavily in favor of the customer-type of user, while there is a significant percentage of businesses dependent on Windows and a business might sit and wait to test an update to verify the update's stability and benefits1 once released. Hence the difference between Apple iPhone user's quickly adopting the latest 3.0 software release and Microsoft Windows users who wait.
However, in reality, even before the release is fully available businesses will already have a copy of the update in hand for testing2 since software companies such as Apple and Microsoft have developer programs which allow those dependent on their software insight to what's coming down the road, while also providing feedback about potential concerns and issues with adoption.
So then, why the difference?
In the case of the iPhone 3.0 update the cost is $0 and 30 minutes to apply the update to one phone. The update does not require an additional hardware upgrade and provides significant improvements to productivity compared to previous software versions.
Windows Vista however starts at around $130 per update copy and can require significant investment in new hardware parts as well. Add to that various issues Microsoft has had in communicating requirements and potential benefits of Vista against various complaints about stability and performance and it becomes clear why iPhone users are quickly adopting their latest update, while Microsoft Windows users are waiting for Windows 7.
1 Which, I suppose could also be considered an additional cost to upgrading for a business.
2 Which in my mind puts this cost of testing and revewing in terms of normal operation of the IT infrastructure, instead of the cost incurred by the adoption of a new IT project for updating
Note As with others, after Apple announced the new iPhone 3GS last week at its World Wide Developer Conference, I considered my options on upgrading from my iPhone 3G to the iPhone 3GS. What follows in the post below is a review of my concerns about AT&T's service and why I was planning on staying with the iPhone 3G.
Between scheduling this post for publishing and now AT&T has release an open letter to their iPhone 3G customers addressing some of the same concerns I note below. Specific to my criticism about determining my upgrade eligibility and the pre 1 year service contract anniversary of the 3G's release, AT&T has clarified that while "customers who spend more than $99 a month per line with [AT&T] generally are eligible for an upgrade between 12 and 18 months into their contract ... and since many of our iPhone 3G customers are early adopters and literally weeks shy of being upgrade eligible ... we're extending the window of upgrade eligibility for a limited time."
As such, those, such as myself, who purchased the iPhone 3G within the first three months of its release can upgrade with the full upgrade discount on the first day of the iPhone 3GS release this week.
I still think AT&T could do better job communicating its upgrade policy online. Plus my MMS criticism still stands. None the less, nice job AT&T.
Original Post One of my initial concerns about adopting the iPhone was was with AT&T Wireless and its customer and network service. As I noted when the iPhone was first introduced, "I'm quite happy with T-Mobile. I spent hell on earth for many years with Sprint [and] I don't want to switch providers [again]."
When the 3G iPhone came out a year later, I made the jump, despite my concerns about service. I felt the phone itself, with its adoption of faster voice and data service as well GPS was well worth the switch.
Since then one of my biggest issues has been with the iPhone's approach to Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). The lack of ability to send multimedia, such as a photo, as a text message from one phone to another is frustrating. With the latest version of the iPhone's OS the fundamental support of MMS will finally be added to the iPhone. Case close, right?
Nope, AT&T won't be supporting MMS on the iPhone with the new software release, at least not right away. Support will arrive "in late summer." Why the delay? Supposedly because AT&T has to manually enable all iPhone accounts for MMS service.
Wow, that's some service operation AT&T has there...
This might not be all AT&T's fault if the iPhone supported MMS from the start, but it has been suggested that both "Apple and AT&T had initially resisted support for MMS messaging as a protocol, calling it 'ugly'."
I'm not sure I quite buy that, if Apple can develop a new feature, Visual Voicemail, and work with AT&T and other provides on its adoption, why couldn't they do the same for a MMS protocol replacement if MMS was so "ugly?"
Well because the iPhone has built in email support. Why use MMS or build a whole new communication protocol when one can email an image as an attachment to anyone, Right?
If you're trying to send a photo to someone "on the go" that only works if they too can access their email account from their phone. More to my real frustration with how MMS has been handled, if someone elects to send me a MMS, I get a message from AT&T saying that I received an image and, using a randomly generated username and password, have to log into an AT&T website within a specific timeframe in order to see the image. Not exactly the most time efficient method of keeping in touch with people while "on-the-go", even with iPhone's Safari web browser. If AT&T and Apple felt email was the answer, why did AT&T just forward the MMS message to my email account? It's not like they don't already have that information on file.
AT&T also leaves the upgrade process a lot to be desired.
Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that AT&T is a business and is looking to turn a profit. I understand, that if AT&T offers a phone, any phone, at a subsidize price they need to recoup that loss some how. That is why they bind customers to a 2 year contract.
I also realize that the new iPhone 3GS is being released before the 1 year anniversary of the 3G release and while a customer's 1 year anniversary is not necessary the break even point for AT&T, AT&T certainly hasn't made their money back just yet on iPhone 3G customers such as myself.
So with the 3GS release, 3G customers have the option to what? Upgrade by paying the full price of the new phone? Upgrade with at a lower discount? No option at all?
Accessing my account online and using the "Check upgrade option" feature I am told that "as a valued AT&T customer" AT&T can offer me "a discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price, along with a 2-year commitment and an $18 upgrade fee" and that if I wait, I "may qualify for a full discount on a standard iPhone upgrade on 12/13/2009."
A discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price?" What is a high priced discount? Can't you just say a "lower discount?"
"I may qualify?" Are you not sure?
Come on AT&T, you know your break even point. You know what your discount rate is. You know what your qualifications for discount are. You can certainly build that logic into your online system, so that instead of some vaguely worded statement, the customer knows exactly what their options are and what it will cost them.
Oh and an $18 upgrade fee? I guess that's one way to make sure the customer service operation is cash flow positive for this financial quarter.
Today Apple previewed their next major software update for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). Apple is touting "100 new features" for this summer, when the update is made available for existing users. But off the top of their list we get:
Search your iPhone
Cut, copy, and paste
Send photos, contacts, audio files, and location via MMS
Read and compose email and text messages in landscape
For each one of these features all I have to say "It is about time." Why? Well:
Expanded Search: Existing Search capabilities will be expanded, allowing customers to search within Mail, iPod and Notes or search across all key Apps from a single location.
Honestly, I didn't even know that a search function existed already. And while a global search across "key Apps" isn't something I'm dying for, a decent search feature for the Mail App will be quite welcomed.
Cut, Copy and Paste: With this new version, dubbed 3.0, users will be able to cut, copy and paste text in and between iPhone Apps.
Why the wait for something as basic as Cut, Copy and Paste? According to Apple they had an engineering challenge on their hands in dealing with the security implications of this. How can moving text around present a security issue? Well Cut, Copy and Paste basically works by writing some highlighted text into a memory buffer and then reading from that buffer. In theory an App could create a buffer overflow by writing more text than the memory buffer could handle, leading to either the iPhone or App crashing or to the potential unrestricted access of personal information residing elsewhere on the system. Hence the delay.
MMS Support: Soon the iPhone will support Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).
MMS is the standard method for sending messages with photos or videos between cell phones over the phone network. It's texting with pictures basically. I have yet to hear why this hasn't been support since day one, and frankly, this has been the biggest issue to date I have with the iPhone.
How the heck could Apple develop such a media-rich device and not support such an obvious feature is beyond me. Add to the fact that AT&T's web interface for accessing MMS messages (provided to those unlikely enough to have a phone that doesn't support MMS, you get a text message that says someone sent you a MMS message go login using this temporary username/password) is a joke and well, well...
Expanding Use of Landscape Mode Coming soon as well, the ability to read and compose email and text messages in landscape mode.
Another one of those, well duh missing features that must come only after the fact of rushing to release a "killer cellphone." One of the iPhone's key features is the ability, if the App is designed for it, to switch between "portrait" and "landscape" modes. Many Apps lock you into one or the other, depending on how the developer wishes to use the screen "real estate", but others, Safari being the obvious, allow the user to choose based on what they are focusing on.
I can't tell you how many times I've turned my iPhone while trying to read an email only to realized that, "oh, yeah the Mail App doesn't support landscape mode, how dumb."
What's not on the list? Flash support, which is fine with me. While YouTube and other websites offer content via a Flash player, the iPhone skips the player and supports H.264 video streams. YouTube and other Apps use this for delivering video to the iPhone. Which works fine for me. I suppose the only issue is for those websites that don't have an iPhone specific App but do have Flash content (video or animation of some sort) on their site, that could be accessed via Safari, that won't be seen.
And on the rumored coming soon list? Tethering, using the iPhone as a modem for a laptop, is coming. Apple is working on the software for the iPhone, no doubt software for Windows and Mac laptops as well. The real question is how will the cellphone providers deal with this option. Will AT&T, here in the States, keep their "unlimited" data plan in tact? Or will one have to "upgrade" their wireless plan, for an additional monthly fee? That's the real question.
If you spent your time while watching the above "music video" trying to name all of the various software applications on that Mac instead of watching the lovely lady, you probably need to get out more.
Yes, I was playing "name that app" the first time I watched it, but I'm married....;-)
More to the point of 3G, last year Apple announced that as part of its worldwide rollout for the iPhone, Asia would see the iPhone in 2008. While that technically gives Apple till December, it does raise the point that Japan (and I think South Korea) use at the minimum 3G backed networks. Thus to release the iPhone in Japan, as part of an Asia rollout, Apple will need to have a 3G capable phone. Recent rumors also include "wish list" items such as VoIP and video conferencing, which on a 3G network (or WiFi in the case of Voice over IP, why would AT&T allow you to bypass their voice network?) might not be too bad.
But my question is what will come of those older iPhones? Apple has a sales goal of 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Why completely stop production of perfectly viable models that can be sold at a lower price point with AT&T or, dare I hope, unlocked for use with other networks? Thus I think the supply issue is just a bump in the road for Apple, perhaps an issue with an upstream supplier? Perhaps, an issue with its flash memory supplier, which is working in tight market conditions as it and other manufactures ramp up to meet demand for ever increasing memory capacity in various devices (phones, cameras, USB drives, portable media devices, et. al.).
As for the unlocked iPhone executives at Apple have mentioned that they are "not wedded" to the locked-networked bundle method. Other cell phone makers have "exclusive" contracts with service providers that don't completely preclude them from selling unlocked models. The question here, which I can't answer, is what does AT&T's 5-year exclusivity mean for Apple? Could it mean AT&T just gets exclusive dibs on new models? Does it mean feature set?
After all I suspect Apple can easily make its 10 million mark if it sold the current 2.5G models in 8, 16 or perhaps 32 GB variations at less than the current $399 price point and a "premium" model with Visual Voicemail, iChat video conferencing, 32 GB or more memory and 3G data network capability exclusively for AT&T customers at the same time. As a bonus, with an unlocked phone and SDK release Apple would deliver and one-two knockout punch to the underground iPhone market
Why not fanatical in my Macworld prediction? Well Rupert Murdoch as a celeb on stage with Steve Jobs is just a wild and crazy (but funny if you ask me) guess. If I really had to say who would be on stage with Mr. Jobs it would be Jim Gianopulos/Tom Rothman, co-chairman-CEOs of Fox Filmed Entertainment or John Lasseter