Recently in Apple Category
Brand loyalty is the marketing term used to describe a customer's
attitude toward a brand (or company) which is exhibited through the
consumer's behavior. The most desired behavior being turning a
customer into a repeat consumer, but brand loyalty can also be
exhibited in other ways as well.
For my two cents, there are a few good reasons why I follow Apple and their products. To be sure Apple, as a tech company, has been wildly successful in recent years. They have succeeded with their recent product innovations, from the iPod to the iPad. But they have also taken great pains to reinvigorate and enhance their "traditional" line of computers along the way. To work in the industry, even if it's in a different segment, and not take note of Apple would be foolish.
But for me it's more than that. Apple isn't just great in the here and now with a tantalizing promise of the future. Nope, for me Apple is also about the past. Any computer first you can think of for me occurred on an Apple computer, specifically, the Apple ][ series of computers.
Sure the first home video game console I ever played would have been an Atari 26001. But the first "computer" would have been an Apple ][. The first computer my family owned, an Apple //e. The first computer I learned to program on? You get the drift.
I mention all of this because a few days ago, while rummaging through some old computer stuff I found a form letter from Apple thanking me for a submission to a programming contest. I don't remember much of the particulars of the contest, but judging by the letter as well as the printouts paper-clipped to the letter, it looks like it was a contest designed to build on Apple's then strong connection with education2.
Aside from the brand building, the community Apple built and sponsored
helped me decide that computers and programming was an interest of
mine that I could do "in the real world."
Who wouldn't be "loyal" to a "brand" that helped defined what they do for a living?
Now comes a rumor that Apple's media event this week will include an updated MacBook Air. This rumored update includes a 11.6 inch screen and use of the same solid state storage in the iPad to help make the Air more price competitive. One rumor that I don't believe has been linked directly to the Air, but has been out there for a few months is that Apple is working on bring touchscreens to the Mac. A MacBook Air with solid state storage, multitouch abilities and long battery life becomes an interesting hybrid mobile device. Not quite a tablet, but not quite a laptop3.
In other words, the Air becomes the bridge between the iPad (and iOS) and the MacBook Pros (and OS X), leaving the $1000 white MacBook the odd man out.
Now Apple wouldn't make the same mistake as Microsoft. They won't just slap a touchscreen on a Mac and call it done. A touchscreen, more over a mutlitouch screen, changes the user experience and the operating system will need to adjust accordingly. Yes, OS X already has multitouch features, but those features are more or less limited to gestures assigned as shortcuts to a specific action, similar to keyboard shortcuts.
OS X is still a mouse driven graphical interface. This of course brings us to the obvious part of the upcoming "Back to the Mac" media event this week4; Apple will be making public their vision for the next version of OS X5.
What will they announce? More multitouch support would seem to be a strong possibility6. But in what form? Moving OS X away from the mouse all together? Or maybe simply adding in compatibility for iOS (or just iOS apps) to run as an instance in OS X?
All of this leaves me in a quandary. I know I need a new personal computer and that machine will most likely will be a Mac Pro. But having a personal mobile device with a larger screen size than my iPhone would be nice. Should that device be a second generation iPad, which will come sometime early next year, or a revamped MacBook Air?
The Mac Pro can be the heavy lifting workstation (software development environment, virtual machine host) and the iPad/Air a thin client for everything else (email, web sufring, news reader). It's trivial to setup a Mac for remote access. So the Pro can also be accessed "remotely" (from on the road or on the couch) when desired.
Of course if I'm thinking about a Mac Pro, where part of my time using it is remotely, a simple question might be, why sink the money on a Mac Pro and large desktop monitor when I could move to an Xserve and set it up with decent bandwidth at the data center next to my web server? Sure I would still need a local machine to sync my iPhone (and possbile iPad) with, as well as serve media on the home network. But my Mac Mini already does that quite well, and it's a five year old PowerPC G4. If and when Apple drops PowerPC support for iTunes I could easily swap it out with a new (or used) Intel based Mini.
Given the multiple purposes I use a computer for, my next computing setup isn't exactly obvious to me at the moment. Then again, given the current transition and diversification of personal computing devices as a whole, it seems that any solution I choose will incorporate a combination of different devices. The question seems to be, which combination is best suited to my various uses for the next few years?
This week, while trying to edit some
video I took with my iPhone 4, I was reminded of how out of date my
Mac Mini G4 is. To be fair, my Mini hasn't been my main computing
device for a few years now, for that I've been using a Lenovo
ThinkPad R61i running Fedora. I have a few nitpicky issues with
Fedora and traditionally Linux distributions are not super laptop
focused. But, again, to be fair running Linux on a laptop today is
nowhere as painful as it was say 10 or even 5 years ago.1
In any case, the Mini for the most part has become something of an
iTunes dedicated machine, providing a home for my iPhone at night as
well a place to manage tunes to listen to via AirTunes.
Which brings me back to my video issue, even before the new iPhone 4 my Mac was the machine I preferred to use to manage video and photos, along with music. The new phone of course adds lots of reasons why to continue and even expand using my Mac, but, alas, the G4 just isn't up to the challenge anymore. Of course, I knew this day was coming. In fact, given that Apple is no longer supporting OS X on the PowerPC chipset, I'm kind of surprised they haven't "gone native" with iTunes by now.
So the obvious, cheap and easy solution would be to replace my Mini with the 2010 model Apple released in June, right?
It is, but I recently purged a whole
lot of papers from my desk in the home office and while there are
still a few boxes laying about the place, the desk actually looks
The problem now isn't miscellaneous papers, it's miscellaneous
computers: the Mac Mini, the Lenovo ThinkPad and a Dell Optiplex 320.
It just so happens that Apple this week completed their desktop updates for 2010. So now I'm wondering if I want to move on and do a little digital consolidating as well.
As I previously stated my Mac is my media station right now, my Lenovo is my workstation and the Dell is a home server running SuSE Linux and handles fileshare/backup, website development environment and virtual machine host duties.
So the main question I find myself asking is do I go whole hog with a Mac Pro or do I go for the high-end Quad Core 27'' iMac?
Nor, am I the only one apparently asking this question. John Gruber suggests this is "a really good question" when quoting a blog post by Marco Arment.
Interesting, Gruber stops there and doesn't note that in Arment's own post he comes to the conclusion that while the Pro is priced with a " $1200 premium" over a similarly configured iMac, the Pro has a higher resell value on Craigslist and eBay. More important to me,3 the Pro provides greater flexibility, since obviously, the Pro is not a consumer focused machine with a limited upgrade path.4
In Arment's own words, "while the Mac
Pro costs a lot more up front, high-performance users also get a lot
more value and versatility over its lifespan, which is likely to be
much longer and end much more gracefully."
Wait did I just talk myself into getting a Mac Pro? Great, now how am I going to afford the damn thing?
1 Yes, really I tried using a version Linux on a laptop over 10 years ago...
2 And not just because the chair is no longer playing host to escapees
4 Again that whole reuse/repurpose thing
In the wake of Apple's press event announcing the latest software update to its mobile platform due out this summer, John Gruber and other suggests that, with an interesting modification to the developer agreement, Apple is trying to increase the quality of applications created for their growing family of mobile multi-touch devices.
Specifically the new agreement, which developers must accept in order to use the latest development kit, bans the use of cross-platform compilers in creating applications for the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch.
That is to develop software for the upcoming iPhone OS release a developer has one of two options; use Apple's development environment, complete with compiler and programming interfaces to develop an application specifically designed for the iPhone/iPad/iPod or target multiple platforms by building a web app that can also run in the web browser, Safari.
However, the restriction goes, you cannot develop using, for example, Adobe's pending Flash update which is designed to enable the building of an application in one environment, Flash, and in turn, recompiled for multiple, "less powerful" platforms such as the Android or Windows smartphones.
Yet, as other commentators have noted, Apple already reserves the right to review apps submitted to their iTunes store and that hasn't stopped the store from getting bogged down with lots of crappy apps.
Thus, their logic goes, Apple is really trying to lock in developers. If you want to develop for the iPhone, which everyone has, you can only use our toolkit. Oh and you have to pay us $99 to get a copy of the developer kit. Oh and the software developer kit only runs on a Mac, which only we make, so that will be another $1,000. Mahhhaaaa, we're so evil....
Compared to the number of Windows developers or web developers out there, few have developed using Cocoa or Objective-C given the Mac's market share compared to other computers. Few individuals or companies have looked to develop Mac-only or Mac specific applications.
But now the iPhone and iPad are the toast of the town. Everyone wants to get in while the getting is good. Naturally, Apple wants to capitalize on this.
Now, it just so happens that Xcode, the software development kit for the iPhone, is the exact same development kit Apple provides to Mac developers. Objective-C the exact same language. Cocoa Touch, a variation of the Cocoa framework for the Mac.
All these new iPhone developers have everything they need to develop for the Mac.
Apple isn't looking to lock in these iPhone developers, instead Apple is looking to open up the number of Apple developers out in the wild, be it iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac.
See, a few years ago, when the iPod was growing in popularity, there was a lot of talk about the "halo effect." The idea that consumers, who for whatever reason had ignored Apple and the Mac, but now wanted an iPod, would in turn take a second look at Apple when looking for their next computer purchase.
By all accounts the halo effect is real. While the PC industry has been in the dumps during the recent recession, Apple has sold record numbers of Macs.
But the Mac still doesn't command the market to demand individual developer's attention. The iPhone, however does.
By getting developers to use only Apple's software development kit for the iPhone, Apple gets a chance to say "See how easy that was to develop for the iPhone? Now just imagine what you could do for the Mac! You already have everything you need to write a killer Mac application. Go on, we dare you!"
The only other option, developing a web application, still works overall in Apple's favor. Since the framework for Safari on the iPhone, Webkit, is the same that drives the Safari web browser on the Mac.
In other words, Apple is looking to grab the attention of developers, who for whatever reason had ignored Apple and the Mac, but now want to develop for the iPhone/iPad/iPod, and in turn might take a second look at the Mac when looking at their next software project.
Since before Steve Jobs revealed the existence of the iPad to the general public, there were rumors about a tablet-like device from Apple that would revolutionize the print and newspaper businesses just as the iPod did to the music industry.
Sure enough, back in January, Apple was joined by a number of high profile book publishers, including HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group with the announcement of iBooks, an iPad specific app for reading books. Jobs demonstrated the application, which features a virtual bookshelf containing the user's personal collection of books noting "If you've used iTunes or the App Store, you're already familiar with this."
But what about self-publishers and bloggers?
Consider that in the iPod world, many indie artist are on near equal footing with major record labels. In fact, Apple even provides an "Indie Spotlight" section in the iTunes Music Store, which only features music from independent artists.
Or that the iPod prompted the term "podcasting" which, while not specifically meaning to broadcast via iTunes to individual iPods, is most certainly enhanced by the existence of the two and a simple way for many beginning self-broadcasters to get noticed.
So then what does the iPad provide for those who focus on symbols instead of sounds?
Smashwords, a site that enables authors to publish their own eBooks, recently notified its authors via email that it has signed a distribution deal with Apple which allows writers to offer their works for sale to iPad owners.
Smashwords already publishes eBooks for independent authors in nine formats and can distribute to a number of sites including Barnes & Noble and Kobo. So inking a publishing deal with Apple certainly makes sense and no doubt signals the beginning of numerous other independent and self-publishing services targeting the iPad's iBookstore.
Meanwhile, for bloggers and readers of various news feeds, Glasshouse Apps has developed what the Next Web is calling a "Gorgeous iPad RSS Reader." The app, called The Early Edition, arranges stories on the screen just like newspaper, but allows the user to customize which news sources to pull from and where to place individual stories.
These two early entries provide an interesting glimpse into what may indeed be not just the revolution of the print and distribution business, but an evolution of the writer as well.
What do you think? Will the iPad be a boon to independent and mainstream alike?
As announced last week Apple has begun taking pre-orders from United States customers for its upcoming Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G model iPad.
Customers are being limited to pre-ordering no more than two devices, but Apple is including free delivery where possible.
The Wi-FI only model is due to beginning arriving in homes and stores on April 3rd while the Wi-Fi with 3G model iPad won't beginning shipping until sometime later in the month. Both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be also become available in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Japan, Span and Switzerland late April.
The iPad starts at $499 for the 16GB model with Wi-Fi. Two additional Wi-Fi models are available with greater memory, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB.
While the iPad will initially release with a updated version of what is known as the iPhone OS, AppleInsider is reporting that Apple is working on a major summer update that will introduce a multitasking solution of the mobile multitouch platform.
Citing sources "with a proven track record in predicting Apple's technological advances" they report that development is in full swing, but that "the iPhone Software 4.0 remains under development and reportedly has a quite 'way to go' before it's ready for prime time."
AppleInsider then goes on to speculate on some the issues Apple will need to address, including security, user experience, battery life and other optimize resource conservation issues before the feature is released.
It is unclear if the given summer time-frame is from the reliable source or AppleInsider speculation. None the less, Apple annually holds its World Wide Developer Conference during the summer, and the past two years of the conference have brought refreshes of the iPhone OS.
Meanwhile, not to be left behind, Microsoft made news this past week in regards to their own tablet-based computing initiatives. Engadget last week, shorty after Apple announced the iPad's April 3rd availability, broke with news from its "extremely trusted source" that Microsoft's Courier will be a folding 10x14 "digital journal" that is built on the Tegra 2 mobile processor and will run the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows Mobile 7 Series smartphones.
But while the iPad is the could-be hit of the summer, one will have to wait until fall or winter for the Courier.
No matter what, it seems that in some form or another the must-have-gadget of 2010 is going to be a tablet.
Today Apple has announced that their recently introduced iPad tablet will be available for purchase starting Saturday April 3.
While this initial release will only include the Wi-Fi model in the Unites States, Apple is planning to have the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi with 3G models available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK by late April.
In addition to the products' availability in April, Apple will begin allowing customers in the U.S. to pre-order either model from Apple's online stores starting March 12.
Introduced in January, Apple announced to the world its evolution of the widely successful and innovative iPhone. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds, has a 9.7-inch color display and a custom built dual CPU and graphics chip. The 16GB model, without a 3G radio but with Wi-Fi, will cost $499, and 32GB and 64GB models, also sans 3G, are priced $599 and $699, respectively. Models with 3G radios will cost an extra $130.
While this latest announcement has finally set a firm date for the product's release, it is still to be seen how successful the initial release of the iPad will be. Recent rumors have suggested that Apple has run into manufacturing issues that could limit the number of first available iPads to some 250,000 devices.
While some issues should be expected with bringing a new device to market, the reliability of these rumors, which vary the severity of the issues being dealt with, cast some doubt on a smooth and orderly rollout for Apple's new mobile computing device.
However, one thing is certain: no matter how many initial units will be made available for purchase on April 3, one can expect long lines of individuals camping out in front of their favorite Apple store the last week of March and every weekend in April.
Now that the dust has settled a bit and
everyone else has either praised or condemned Apple's latest hardware
offering let us take a look at a few interesting points...
The Beginning of the End Or The End of the Beginning?
A number of people see the end of open, multipurpose computing devices should the iPad find significant traction, such as Jim Stogdill. While comparing the iPad to an Toyota Prius1 he lets known his fear that the closed hardware platform coupled with the high barrier to entry (pay for software developer kit (SDK), wait for approval) will significantly detour the next generation of programmers from playing around and innovating.
Yes, I am of the generation that learned programming, first hand on Apple IIe. It is part of the reason why Apple holds quite a hold on my attention. As a kid I playing with the machine for hours at a time, learning what it could do thanks in part to the built-in BASIC programming language. Heck even as an adult I've found that old computing platform useful.
However, I can't stop thinking, just because transistor radios can't be easily fiddled with, didn't mean people stopped fiddling about with electronics. Sure, there might be a bit more ignorance about electronics in the general population than my liking, but that's easy to take care of. I mean, I didn't take auto maintenance in high school to become an auto mechanic. I took to in part to prevent that high barrier to entry as a road block from getting the most out of my vehicle2.
Moreover, the conditions that exists today are by no means the end-all-be-all. When the Mac first came out the SDK was priced quite high. Now a days it's free, anyone can start playing around on a Mac by simply using the second DVD included with OS X to install Xcode. Nor did the high entry point stop innovation, I mean just look at Adobe.
Which of course brings me to the overall point about the iPad, it might contain the DNA of what could be - being able to access content at anytime, from anywhere no matter if that spreadsheet resides on your iPad, on your computer or on a cloud - but that doesn't mean what it is limited to now will also be true later.
In fact, I would suggest that, as time goes on Apple with open up the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform more and more as new opportunities arise. That goes double for the iTunes store.
To take just one example, personally, when I see my iPhone 3G pause for a handful of seconds just after it receives new email in the background I'm glad Apple hasn't allowed multitasking applications. From my vantage point the hardware is just barely able to support one or two apps running at the same time, let alone dozens.
About That Hardware
After all that additional computing power comes with a tradeoff, responsiveness and battery life.
The two most power hungry elements of a laptop are the LCD display and the CPU. A 10-inch screen requires quite a bit of power just to keep the screen backlit and readable. Require more computing power for something like multitasking and down goes the battery life drastically.
So I'm not sure why people are surprised that Apple has yet to enable multitasking given that the iPad is reported to get 10 hours of battery-life. Plus, everyone who has had time with the iPad thus far has commented on it being wicked fast. Again no doubt in part because of the lack of overhead required for managing a dozen apps at once.
Apple has obviously made some key decisions about what to focus on for the here and now.
Of course not a lot
is publicity known about the custom processor, but I'm sure Apple
will be using variations of the chipset in devices to come and has an
overall roadmap for the next few generations, leading us back to the
conclusion that it is probably only a matter of time until more
complex features such as multitasking make their way onto this
growing mobile platform.
What About the MacBook Air?
Speaking about Apple's growing mobile platform, has the iPad killed the MacBook Air? I mean I haven't heard much from "the experts" about how the MacBook Air now fits into Apple's overall strategy.
Sure some people are proclaiming the death of computing as we know it which should make one wonder, where does the MacBook Air fit these days?
While I don't know for sure, it doesn't seem hard in hindsight to see the MacBook Air as an evolutionary branch of Apple's long running development of tablet. Or for that matter as an experiment: Are people looking for slim, fast, lightweight laptops, such as what the Air represents or something different?
Given that Apple last quarter sold millions of iPhones and that while iPod sales are decreasing, iPod touch sales were up 55 percent it isn't hard to spot the trend line of where the market seems to be leading.
So given that Apple now has the lightweight go anywhere category covered from the pocket-size mobile device (iPod touch), a smartphone (iPhone) to the tablet (iPad) at various price points as well as the more traditional laptops with the MacBook and MacBook Pro, one has to wonder, what's going to happen to the MacBook Air?
2 Ack, more stupid car analogies...
Calling it "way better than a laptop, way better than a phone," Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled his company's long-awaited iPad tablet-style multi-touch device Wednesday.
The device weighs just 1.5 pounds, has a 9.7-inch color display and a custom built dual CPU and graphics chip. The 16GB model, without a 3G radio, but with Wi-Fi, will cost $499, 32GB and 64GB models, also sans 3G, are priced $599 and $699, respectively. Models with 3G radios will cost an extra $130.
The WiFi-only models will be shipping in 60 days worldwide, while the 3G included models ship in 90 days.
Alongside their new iPad dubbed tablet device, Apple introduced a number of iPad specific applications and service to enhance the productivity and usefulness of their new mobile device.
Some of these new applications, such as an eReader for books and a mobile productivity suite have been circulating along side the tablet rumors itself for the past few months. Here is a quick run down on the new tablet's features:
iBooks is an iPad specific app for reading books with the mobile device's color display, similar to Amazon's Kindle.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated the application, which features a virtual bookshelf containing the user's personal collection. Users can also sample a number of books, such as those available on the New York Times bestseller list, before purchasing. From there, the books are downloaded and placed onto the iPad's virtual bookshelf for reading.
"If you've used iTunes or the App Store, you're already familiar with this," Jobs said.
Published content will initially include books from publishers HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group, with more to come over time.
iWorks for iPad
Apple also announced a mobile, multi-touch version of iWorks, their productivity suite, that includes Numbers - a spreadsheet application, Pages - a word processing application - and Keynote a presentation application.
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, gave a hands-on demonstration of the new iWork which provides users with the ability to work on important documents on the go.
The three applications will be available for download from the iPad App Store for $9.99 each.
While Apple CEO Steve Jobs said there are no international plans to reveal yet, the company did make an announcement about US availability. Specifically, Apple is continuing its partnership with AT&T, which will offer two data plans for the iPad; 14.99 for a limited 250MB data plan, and a $29.99 unlimited plan with free access to AT&T's nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots.
Moreover, while the data plans, as announced, are limited to AT&T, the data plans themselves are contract-free and can be purchased -- or canceled -- at any time directly from the iPad.
However the 3G-enabled version of the iPad does increase the base cost of the iPad itself, starting at $629.
One rumor that didn't come true was a TV subscription plan in which people could watch all their favorite TV shows for a flat $30-per-month fee on the iPad.
According to The New York Times and AppleInsider, a number of networks passed on Apple's proposed plans. In fact, Apple has had a rocky relationship with a few networks, including NBC-Universal, which at onetime pulled all its content from Apple's iTunes Store.
Now that national cable provider Comcast owns NBC, relations may become even more strained as Comcast's perspective of alternative distributions methods, such as iTunes, are viewed as a threat to the company's core business.