Things are in flux, right now, a real sea-change in the entire computer industry, from top to bottom, has been in play since the middle of 2006.
- At the top, general purpose servers are giving way to appliances. Storage appliances, firewalls, DNS appliances, mail appliances, loghost appliances, web proxies, load balancers – when someone starts selling turnkey RDBMS and webhost appliances, it’s all-fucking-over for the big iron and the megabuck software applications that run on it.
- At the bottom, Netbooks rule. Linux owns this space in the long haul. For the moment, Microsoft ships on more of them, but this will no longer be true as the price keeps going down. You can get a Dragon processor powered netbook for $200. Pegatron (a spin-off of ASUS) is planning on Freescale-based netbooks in the $150 range, that get 8hrs of battery life, and run cool to the touch. In a return to the Amiga days, they will have specialty chips that offload stuff like HD video from the processor made possible by a special, paid-for Ubuntu distro. Microsoft will have to sell its OS for a few bucks to compete, at which point the Obama DOJ sharpens its anti-trust knives. No can has loss-leader under consent decree. Not yours. ( And speaking of the Amiga, did anyone else see the eee Keyboard? Dude. ASUS out-Appled Apple with this little unit. A full pc, with wireless HDMI out, in a keyboard that looks a lot like Apple’s aluminum one, and, oh yeah, the touchpad is a secondary color LCD display the size of a numeric keypad.)
- In the middle, Apple sold ten million Macs last year. A lot of that was driven by frustration with Vista, and my PC-weenie brother has declared Windows 7 to be the next coming of Windows2000 (without having actually been able to download it yet), but still – momentum is hard to shift. Every one of the hard-core IT nerds I work with owns a Mac at home, now… they’re all nervous and evasive around me when discussing this, because they’re afraid I’ll hit them over the head with “I told you so” smugness. (I’ve grown past that, and am now Nostalgia Guy, waxing poetic about my old Mac Portable, the Powerbook G3, Cyberdog, Burning Monkey Solitaire and how awesome window tabs were on the old MacOS. This might be an equally valid excuse in not discussing your Mac around me, come to think of it.) Steve Ballmer sneers that away with a claim that there were 300 million PCs sold… but he’s wrong. Intel, AMD and Via sold 300 million x86 chips. Nowhere near all of that was used in a Windows PC. In terms of Safari, around 9% of all web traffic is generated by this one, Mac-specific app. Considering the popularity of Firefox, Camino and Opera, it’s a safe bet Apple’s market share is closer to the 15% mark than further… and this is in the middle of a recession!
- In the pocket. Apple’s iPhone changed everything – Blackberry and WinMo are flailing madly, and failing badly, in the face of the New School. Even so, assuming that Apple had a mortal lock forever was a mistake. Google’s Android is generating warm-fuzzy love despite being saddled with a crappy phone… and better, much better, hardware is on the way. And now Palm comes out swinging, hell-bent on doing to the iPhone what it did to the Newton. Palm has been a sleepwalking zombie for the past seven years, and now, the sleeper has woken! Palm’s back, and back in a big, bad way… app store and all. (Despite the unfortunate name, which already has slash-fiction afficionados snickering mercilessly) Oh, and this is Palm, so expect full disclosure of its API and hardware to any and all interested developers, in stark contrast to the Apple Way.
The big buzz on the Internet these days is the imminent release of iPhone 2.0. I am not sure if I would go that far. If you are familiar with Mac OS versioning Lexicon, we would call it iPhone 1.0 version 2.0. But we haven’t blogged for a while, so we can’t complain about the naming conventions passing us by.
Tech bloggers all over the place point to iPhone shortages, which started when Carpone warehouse said they were out of stock of the 16GB model, but the chatter really started hitting the fan when the US Apple Store reported they were no longer in stock. Diminished stock of hardware has always been a way that the Mac rumor industry has keyed in on product updates. The conventional wisdom said that iPhone 2 would be out in June, approximately a year after the initial release of the phone. But if the company is out of stock now, somebody would have to do a lot of explaining to rationalize why Apple might go a month without selling an iPhone.
Back in January, some pundits speculated that Apple might be stuffing warehouses with excess iPhone stock to boost its sales numbers. If only that were true, Apple wouldn’t be out of stock now! We laughed at the shoddy analysis then and this being the Internet, we couldn’t resist another opportunity to call out the analysts once again.
— Joe Fahs
Apple has revealed that many of the Enterprise-class functions on the iPhone are Exchange-friendly. This is great news for companies which have Exchange servers, but it doesn’t address the standards-compliant ways it seemed that Apple was approaching to satisfy some of these demands prior to this surprise announcement.
Whither Darwin Calendar Server and CalDAV for Calendar Sharing? What of extending IMAP for To-Do Tasks and Notes? IMAP IDLE for “push?” How about MacOSX Server’s Open Directory for Contacts?
Hopefully, come June, we’ll find that the hooks into all of the mobile applications which allow ActiveSync support have analogs for configuring them to get data from CalDAV, IMAP and Open Directory.
— Tom Ierna
Last night marked the 80th edition of the Academy Awards, but more importantly, it was the first time any Oscars had been awarded since the introduction of the iPhone. The iPhone made it’s debut yesterday at the Academy Awards when Jon Stewart pulled out his iPhone to watch Lawrence of Arabia, and even turned it sideways, commenting it looked better in wide screen. The iPhone wasn’t the only bit of trendy consumer electronics featured on the stage, however. Later in the evening, Stewart played the Wii with August Rush star Jamia Simone Nash.
We know the Lawrence of Arabia thing was a gag, but if Stewart really was watching the movie, he would have had to rip it from the DVD, as it is not yet available on the iTunes Movie Store. Otherwise, it was a nifty bit of product placement for Apple. During other segments, when showing footage of writers working at their PowerBooks, the Apple logo was edited out, and that can only mean one thing – new MacBooks coming soon! OK, so that may not be the best indicator of an impending hardware update, but of all the reasonings given for a product refresh, it is not the worst. Close, but not the worst.
— Joe Fahs
In the latest round of software updates, Apple released version 7.6.1 of their QuickTime multimedia software. The has no new features, but fixes some bugs and improves compatibility with Apple TV 2.0. The change that has been making people feel happy in their pants is the introduction of a discounted “Pick of the Week” at the iTunes Movie Store. The pick of the week costs $0.99 and a new selection will be available every Thursday. This week Apple offers up The Hours (highly recommended).
I like the Apple TV hardware and software interface, but I am already paying for content from enough other sources that the Movie Store and Rentals aren’t compelling enough for me. For example, I installed VMWare Fusion on my computer specifically so I can utilize the Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature and it works like a charm. The Hours is one of the available choices, so I can watch it for free any time I want. It’s not playing on my 42” LCD, but only because I don’t have an Intel laptop to use in the living room.
On top of that, I get 3 movies any time from Netflix, plus I get HBO and Showtime in HD as well(in better quality than what I saw from Apple TV, although I haven’t tested it in my own home theater). When I get a BluRay player, my rentals will be in HD, etc. I maintain that Apple has ways to end my frustration, but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.
— Joe Fahs
For those of you who have not been around this Internet thing for very long, DVD Jon is a legendary hacker. While he may be knowns as the father of DeCSS, the breakthrough decrypting software that paved the ways for DVDs to be copied, he has also kept his trained on Apple and the DRM in iTunes. It started with QTFairUse, moved on to PyMusique and is now at DoubleTwist.
DoubleTwist media’s aim is to “liberate” your digital media. Basically, it converts purchased iTunes music to MP3. And once you have it on MP3, you can use it anywhere your heart desires, including music players not named iPod and cell phones not named iPhone. Go get it while it’s hot, or until Apple’s lawyers start circling the waters of Norway.
— Joe Fahs
Interesting product news out of Apple today as the company announced the second version of it’s Xsan SAN filesystem product for OS X. Xsan 2 boasts a new administration interface, support for multiple SAN volumes, and support for 3rd party RAID hardware. We’ll have to check in with our production and post production peeps to see what they think of the upgrade, but we do know a few locations that will make the upgrade for the multiple SAN volumes alone.
The other bit of news in this story is the disappearance of the Xserve RAID. As MacDailyNews reports, it is no longer available from the Apple Store and Apple appears to be promoting the Promise VTrak RAID instead. The Xserve RAID was a good product, but it hasn’t been updated very often. It does make one wonder if Apple has spread itself too thin, but the people at Promise might actually be better equipped to sell and support high-availability storage, perhaps making it a better deal in the end.
— Joe Fahs
Last month we mentioned that we were not too concerned about the 1.4 million “missing” iPhones. One analyst, who we dubbed Toni Sacc went so far as to say that Apple might have stuffed the channel with phones to pump up its sales numbers, much like console makers do. The press, who apparently couldn’t sit back and think about this issue for more than 30 seconds, picked up on this, and suddenly the iPhone was a big disappointment. We have always maintained that there are areas where the iPhone can improve, but we still believe it is a very strong product overall.
Over the last few weeks, news outlets have changed memes. No longer is Apple stuffing some Area 51 warehouse with half a million iPhones. Instead, people talk about the iPhone black market. BusinessWeek interviewed the creator of TurboSIM and even the New York Times wrote an article about it.
Suddenly, 1.4 million bootleg iPhones is not really a stretch of the imagination. Of course, the story doesn’t stop there. Over at Seeking Alpha, Todd Sullivan describes the “real” problem with unlocked iPhones, namely that Apple is not receiving any revenue from AT&T or other official carriers when they are purchased to be unlocked. We have no real problem with Todd. It is troubling that he mentions that Apple cut component orders, not because it is a sign of slowed growth, but because the article he links to states Apple’s reduction in component is largely expected because they don’t expect to sell as many products after the holiday quarter.
While Apple’s loss of AT&T revenue might hurt the bottom line initially, the success of the iPhone is partly based on how large of an ecosystem Apple can form around the product. Apple really only loses when nobody is buying iPhones at all.
— Joe Fahs
Mac OS X 10.5.2 is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated dot releases of Mac OS X in the last few years. 10.5.1 was rushed out quickly in order to take care of some nasty bugs, and it seems that Apple is taking its time with 10.5.2 as it looks refine a number of features within the operating system including Time Machine and Stacks.
— Joe Fahs
As the news media focuses in on Super Tuesday and what all of those in-play delegates mean for the fortunes of the free world, Apple decided to sneak in a few updates to their lineup, adding a 16GB iPhone and 32GB iPod Touch. These updates are nice and show that Apple probably bought a generous portion of flash memory, but I think people would rather see the price come down than the storage going up.
— Joe Fahs
I am not one of the people who thinks that Mac OS X is so inherently secure that people using Macs will never have to worry about a virus. Apple, like every other computer manufacturer, has security issues, but I do think Apple does as good a job as any at identifying these vulnerabilities and taking care of them. However, it is annoying to read about how every new malware threat demonstrates how you have to be careful even if you are running Mac OS X. And more importantly, how you should think about buying some security software to make sure you are safe.
The latest report comes from Sophos, which takes things up a notch by stating that cybercriminals are finally starting to target Mac OS X. And we all know that one a cybercriminal gets involved, things are 10.736 times as dangerous because they are looking to steal your money, not just make life annoying for you. And it’s not just your Mac that could be vulnerable, but your iPhone and iPod Touch! And if you think Linux makes you safe, think again! The criminals are catching on!
Like we’ve stated before, you should take computer security seriously, especially with identify theft becoming such a huge problem. However, the same rules apply to most any computer user out there. Be careful with your names, passwords, credit card information, and anything you download from the internet. We do want to thank Sophos for being so concerned, but the next time they want to warn people about cybercriminals, they should quote some people besides their own software engineers.
— Joe Fahs
A new report from Websiteoptimization.com mentions how iTunes surpassed RealPlayer for the number of unique visitors during the middle of 2007. We file this under “Why Did It Take This Long”. With iPods being installed on so many PCs, iTunes is available to just as many users. Although it is nice that iTunes streaming media has growth, you can see from the numbers that stand alone streaming media player growth overall is fairly flat. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the real streaming growth is on the web, and Flash is still king in that arena. We hate to kick Real Networks while they’re down and their stock can be bought for less than some of the items at Starbucks, but we have to wonder how they plan on staying relevant in the future.
— Joe Fahs
During Steve Jobs’ keynote, we had some questions about Apple’s iPhone numbers. After all, saying Apple sells 20,000 iPhones a day is stretching the truth a little — a large portion of those were sold during the first week. Still, from the amount of iPhones we see every day, there is no reason to believe that Apple is missing its sales targets… or is there?
Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research is trying to figure out what happened to 1.4 million iPhones. That number comes from the discrepancy between the number of iPhones Apple has said it sold and the number of iPhone activations AT&T claimed for the quarter. Toni Sacc (writing Sacconaghi multiple times is going to get annoying and I miss the Sopranos) estimates that even if 20% of iPhones were purchased to be unlocked, that still leaves almost 700,000 uncounted for.
So, are the analysts on to something, or is this another case of Apple trying to kick people when they are down? Toni Sacc says that 20% of iPhones going to people SIM unlocking their iPhones is a “generous” number because the iPhone 1.1.3 jailbreak has been out only a few days. But anybody who follows the iPhone knows people have been trying to hack it since the first day. And in AT&T’s Q3 conference call the company estimated at least 15% of iPhones were being sold to be unlocked. Back in those days, hacking the iPhone was a much more dedicated affair, and the device was still new.
The process to unlock the iPhone is much easier these days, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of people buying one to unlock it has gone up significantly in the last three months. The percentage of people unlocking iPhones would have to hover around 30%, but we know there is a a huge black market in China as well as Singapore, India and a lot of other places. And, even though the iPhone has been officially blessed in several places in Europe, the exchange rate still benefits people who buy them here in the United States. All of those numbers add on to the “unofficial” sales numbers.
It is possible that Apple has a huge warehouse somewhere with a million iPhones, or they were counting units shipped to stores, but not yet sold (a method the video game console manufacturers like). We surely wouldn’t be surprised to see another iPhone price drop before the end of the year; some say a price cut is imminent. I am not going to buy into this conspiracy just yet, but I’ll definitely keep listening to what Tony Sacc has to say, and maybe that is what he really wanted in the first place.
— Joe Fahs
Yesterday, we told you it would be silly to get your panties in a bunch over Apple’s financials. Unfortunately, a lot of investors failed to heed our advice and Apple continued its free fall in after hours trading after the Fiscal Year 2008 First Quarter conference call results. It now seems like it is en vogue to dump on Apple for the slightly less than rosy outlook they gave for Q2, but some people out there are seeing through the madness. BusinessWeek wonders if if investors are being unfair to Apple and many analysts still list AAPL as a “buy”.
While the “herky jerky” types are going to be upset that iPod growth isn’t in line with expectations, one analyst sums things up perfectly: “I think this is an outrageous buying opportunity. It’s not a cheap stock, but you’re getting a company that can grow at 25% a year for who knows how many years, at 25 times earnings. To me, that’s a steal—recession or no recession.“.
— Joe Fahs
Steve Jobs’ keynote from MacWorld 2008 is only a week old, and while most of the world goes on about its business, those of us who live in the cult of Mac as well as the media that likes to follow, are still waiting for the next big thing after a MacWorld that only rated a “meh” on revolutionary scale.
Meanwhile, Jobs knows that criticism can come from every corner. Bloggers around the net came down on him after he brushed off San Francisco sex columnist Violet Blue and even though Macs are selling well and iPhones and iPods seem to be hitting their targets, investors are saying the first quarter results conference call could be make or break for AAPL stock.
We can understand why some people may be upset with the Violet Blue incident. I helped keep his company alive by buying Performas and dealing with things like System 7.5.2, so even though it was somebody else responsible for those messes, I would like to think it warrants at least a picture. I am not sure how long Violet Blue has been a fan of Macs, but maybe next time she should offer something to Steve Jobs first. As Forbes columnist Brian Caulfield says, “Steve Jobs is not a petting zoo.” Performa guilt might not be worth a photo opportunity, but perhaps a signed copy of The Adventurous Couples Guide to Sex Toys is worthy of a little more consideration.
As for AAPL itself, it may be getting hammered harder than the other Violet Blue, but if people haven’t noticed, the market as a whole has been taking it on the chin for a little while now. AAPL may be 20% off it’s all time high, but as the market prepares for a correction, recession, etc, Apple appears to be in a good position for continued profits, so we’ll wait to get our panties in a bunch for a little while longer.
— Joe Fahs
One of the big advantages of Apple’s move to Intel Processors for Macs is the availability of virtualization solutions allowing users to run multiple operating systems on the same computer. Granted, we have been doing this for a long time with products like Virtual PC, but the switch to Intel meant that operating systems could run without emulation, allowing software to run at near native speeds.
Microsoft has decided not to do much with Virtual PC for Mac, but both VMware and Parallels have done well with the desktop versions of their software. At this week’s MacWorld, both companies announced that their products would now operate with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Server.
To many, this is business as usual, but it does represent the first time Apple has changed its license to allow OS X to run in a virtual machine. Previously, you could only install virtual machines of other operating systems using VMware or Parallels, and the license is not available for Mac OS X 10.5 client, so the feature is disabled. With server, you can run multiple instances of Leopard (on Apple hardware, of course), which is often the best way to take advantage of processors with multiple cores. It is also essential for businesses who like the ability to test server software changes before deploying.
Apple surely hopes that its beefed up hardware will allow it to sell more XServes and RAID systems to the enterprise, but the most interesting part of this deal is the change to the license. VMware and Parallels can run OS X client just as well as server. Would Apple be willing to change their license a little bit more to allow OS X Client to run inside a virtual machine on non-Apple Hardware? It would open up the world of OS X to anybody who has Windows or Linux. We know that Apple’s margins are in the hardware, but as Apple’s market share continues to go up, it might be a good way to entice more Mac users into the fold. Apple can effectively allow OS X to run on generic PC Hardware, but never officially have to support it. That seems like a deal both sides can live with.
— Joe Fahs
Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is one of the most highly anticipated pieces of software to be released this year. It is the first version of Office that brings native Intel Mac compatibility, and brings the file format in line with Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows. Notably missing from Office 2008 is VBA, which means many people who depend on macros within their documents will be left to find another solution.
A recent note at TUAW says that Office 2008 for Mac will be available for “Enterprise” starting Feb. 1. They don’t describe what is in the Enterprise version other than some language translations and end with the caveat that your mileage may vary in terms of licensing, but we have been hearing some other things.
Our sources tell us that while you may need to wait localization, most licensees will be able to install the software right away; depending on how long it takes their provider to get it to them. Most companies and educational institutions are not going to pay extra for physical media that they will be receiving in the mail or by download for free after a short wait. Since many larger companies need to test software before deploying it, they will wait until their next software upgrade cycle to install anyway. Depending on how much your campus/business has allocated for computing support that could be a few days or several months.
If you are an individual looking for an educational discount, it might already be available at your campus book store, depending on how big your school is and how tight they are with Redmond.
— Joe Fahs
Yesterday, we warned against judging the greatness of any Apple announcements until you have left the reality distortion field the surrounds Steve Jobs wherever he goes. Today, we would like to call out the analysts who may have avoided the RDF, but then go on to decide how good a product announcement is based on stock price. BusinessWeek took time to outline why the Keynote bounce is sometimes a thump.
Since 2000, Apple has become a strong company, and its growth has gained it a lot of attention within the investor community. Many investors look towards Apple product announcements to gauge the Apple’s future prospects. But although AAPL has risen 2000% in the last five years, the stock often fares poorly after a Keynote. If you remove last year’s iPhone announcement, the stock has fallen an average of 3.9% after every keynote. There are a lot of people with things to say about the viability of Apple’s new offerings, but if they immediately point to stock price, you probably know they haven’t done their research.
— Joe Fahs
Steve Jobs said a lot of things in his keynote yesterday at MacWorld. It’s fine to get excited about the products Apple announces, but it is important to re-visit everything after giving yourself a chance to let the RDF wear off.
Time Capsule – Great product. You have up to 1TB of storage along with a built-in Airport Extreme base station, allowing you to share printers, etc, off the disk. It supports Time Machine backups, which is great for the people on Leopard who saw this feature pulled, but also sucks because it doesn’t look like Apple is going to ever build that support for those people who already have an Airport Extreme. I think an amazing feature to add in the future is built-in syncing of home directories, something some third parties already offer, but it is not seamless. And in our pipe dreams we would like to sync iTunes libraries across Macs as well.
New Software for iPod Touch – Apple is charging $20 for software some people should have been included in the first place. We know Apple is a business, and it’s not as bad as the 802.11n surcharge from a few years back, but Apple stopped nickel and diming early adopters, then fewer people would hold off for the Rev. 2 models of their products.
New Apple iPhone Software – This is a great, free upgrade. The customizable home screen and web clips are a great addition, and we can finally send SMS messages to more than one person. The Google Maps location field does a decent job finding your location, although using only EDGE data, I think Blackberrys are more accurate (could be my imagination). And directions can originate from the location Google Maps provided you. Next up, we need the ability to send MMS.
Updated AppleTV – Apple did a good job lowering the price, but the hard drive sizes are still only marginal, especially since you don’t need to use a computer to download content any longer. The improved interface looks nice, and the addition of flickr content to the picture items is a nice feature, although for such a hip company, they really should be offering stuff from facebook as well.
iTunes Movie Rentals – This is a nice addition that brings Apple more in line with other competitors out there, and Apple did good work to get all of the studios on board. The price is only average, and you should have more than 24 hours to play the movie. There are times when you see a movie and want to share it with a friend. 72 hours to view would be a good compromise and give Apple a competitive advantage over the cable companies that offer similar on-demand features. Also, it’s great to have HD content, but not all titles have 5.1 sound. AppleTV is getting closer, but I’ll stick with NetFlix.
One small item we liked is the addition of free iTunes content on 20th Century Fox Titles. This is a great way for Apple to promote iTunes and movie studios to encourage people to buy more DVDs.
MacBook Air – I am not sure, but I think jobs created this MacBook solely because he wants to make the people who say Apple will introduce a tablet look like chumps. As an exercise in design, the MacBook Air is a masterpiece. Once again, Steve is challenging the industry to think about what an ultralight laptop means. For Apple, that means a large screen, 2GB of RAM standard, and a full keyboard. What it leaves out are a lot of ports, and user replaceable RAM, battery, or hard disk. As products go, this is much better than the Cube, which some have compared it to, but we really hope the price of the SSD storage comes down. It looks like a good product, but we’ll have to see what a less free-spending market thinks. However, I like that the wide variety of intel chips has given Apple some flexibility to try innovative designs. Presumable, the MacBook Air is just the first step. Still, I really just wanted a 13” MacBook pro. Is that too much to ask?
Combined with the new MacPros from the week before, it has been a pretty good couple of weeks for Apple hardware.
— Joe Fahs
If Steve Jobs puts his mind to it, there really is nothing he can’t do. Truly the world has not seen such awesome power contained in one individual. After Chuck Norris, whose tears can cure cancer, he might be the most impressive man on earth. Jobs is busy with MacWorld this week, but BusinessWeek believes he can help put an end to the writer’s strike simply by existing. OK, that is not entirely true. Instead, BusinessWeek comments on the speculation that Apple will announce a more robust AppleTV to go along with a wider selection of iTunes Store offerings, including video rentals. They speculate that the announcement will help spotlight “the major issue separating the writers and movie moguls”, i.e. how to share revenue from television and movie downloads.
I know that many people listen when Steve Jobs has something to say, especially now that he is the largest shareholder in Disney, but if anything, studios have been trying to get away from letting any one voice have too much say in what they do. Movie studios will more likely take a page from the music industry, which is trying to find ways to make sure their move away from physical media does not depend on Apple. If there are any voices that can end this thing quickly, they will have names like Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch.
— Joe Fahs
Deep down inside the bowels of One Infinite Loop in Cupertino lies Apple’s Customer Torture Center, and they have done some great work ahead of Steve Jobs’ MacWorld keynote tomorrow. Last week, AppleInsider posted pictures of the Mascone center where Apple has foisted banners proclaiming that “Something is in the Air”, and since there has been no smug alert issued for the Silicon Valley, we must assume that Apple is having fun with their little play on words, all in an effort to keep the loyal Apple fanboys squirming and the PC lovers who hate them waiting to froth at the moment Steve “Monochromatic Jesus” Jobs takes the stage.
Gizmodo laid out some reasons why they think this year’s MacWorld could be bigger than usual, (something we hinted at weeks ago BTW), and now it seems like everybody is trying to figure out what Apple meant by “Something in the Air”, with some outlets suggesting that Apple is going to Save WiMax. Ummm, no. A slightly more creative take believes that this is all a cover for the rumored Apple ultra-portable laptop.
What do I think? At the latest MacEdition Editorial Board Meeting, I floated the idea that “Something in the Air” comes directly from Apple Board Member Al Gore Jr. As we know, Gore has done yeoman’s work in the fight against global warming, and carbon emissions, not to mention the hunt for the elusive ManBearPig. Therefore, my official prediction is that Apple will announce that all of their computers will now run on biodiesel. My second prediction is that Apple and Tom Cruise will partner to sell home faraday cages to prevent psychologists from reading our minds. I would have a third prediction, but after having finished one bottle of absinthe, another member of the editorial board put on some Josh Groban and I fell asleep.
— Joe Fahs
In the ongoing security pissing match between lovers of OS X, Windows, and Linux, many often cite OS X lesser installation numbers as a reason for a relative lack of exploits. The “security through obscurity” theory postulates that all of those hackers coming out of the Eastern Europe, Asia, and the like would rather focus on a big target than a little one. Oh, there are plenty of proof-of-concept viruses and exploits out there, but their effectiveness in the wild is thing for debate.
Well, with hopes of nearly 10 million sales in the first 18 months and ubiquity in pop culture, the iPhone is decidedly not obscure, so I guess there is no surprise that Information Week tells us iPhone has its first trojan. Sounds scary right? Well, not so much. To use the Trojan, one needs to download a file and install it manually on the iPhone. For the vast majority of people who get their iPhone updates through Apple’s official channels, this doesn’t affect them. What it does mean is that the lazy iPhone hacker should only jailbreak his iPhone from a trusted source. As of this post, the website offering the download is offline, so maybe Apple has figured out how to be obscure again.
In other news, Opera software announced that the Opera browser is coming to the iPhone. If you’ve used the iPhone, you know that the built-in Safari is a great browser, but we welcome the choice of Opera as well, since it has always proved to be fast on any other mobile device and as long as iPhone users are stuck with EDGE data rates, they can use all the help they can get.
— Joe Fahs
With CES in full-swing in Vegas and MacWorld looming just around the corner, Apple chose to sneak a few product releases on to the public by announcing new Mac Pros and xServes. It has been a little easier to estimate new Apple product releases since the company has moved their products over to Intel processors and so the revisions to the top of Apple’s line had been suspected.
Apple has held back from releasing new computer hardware at MacWorld in recent years, usually saving product announcements for special events spread throughout the year. Still, the timing seems kind of odd. Normally, The Steved One wants to make sure whatever he is talking about at MacWorld will be the focus, and so product introductions occur a few weeks after his keynote. Perhaps Apple was caught off guard from the Bill Gates retirement video (Et Tu, Bono?) and needed something to keep them in the news.
Taking a look at things a little less cynically, it might simply mean that Jobs has such a huge list of things in store for MacWorld, he simply couldn’t be bothered with discussing how his company is using the latest 45nm processor cores for their top-of-the-line products. It’s sort of sad, really, because we sort of miss the days when Phil Schiller would put his cheese danish down and do a bake-off, but it’s much better than when Steve would have “New Visualizations in iTunes” as a bullet point for his keynote.
— Joe Fahs
As we mentioned last week, we are sort of down on the Internet movie download thing. This week sees more speculation arising as Apple is working on movie rental agreements with more studios, after many reports had Apple completing a deal with Fox last week. As Apple looks to compete in the video download business, these deals make sense for them. Unfortunately, the movie rental business does not yet make sense for consumers.
The rumors are that Apple is looking to do movie rentals starting at $3.99 for a 24 hour rental. That should be enough to woo some people who are too lazy to go to Blockbuster, but at that price, Netflix allows you to have up to three DVD movies at once for an unlimited amount of time. Additionally, the Netflix price comes with 16 hours of the “Watch Instantly” movies on demand feature, not to mention a much wider selection. And if you have invested a lot into your home theater, NetFlix offers HD-DVD and BluRay rentals, serving up picture and audio quality Apple can’t match. So while Apple might be better at wooing the studios in, there is much more work to do before their sweet talk works on the consumer.
— Joe Fahs
As Apple prepares to report on its first quarter results in a couple of weeks, expect to hear a lot of things about iPhone and iPhone sales. Many say that Apple is looking good to meet their sales targets 10 million units by the end of 2008 having sold nearly 5 million handsets so far.
In order to meet its targets, Apple is relying largely on growth in new markets, including Europe and Asia. The iPhone has been on sale in Europe only a few months, and its success depends largely on who you ask. In early December people touted that the iPhone was doing better than expected but by the end of the month, some outlets reporting iPhone sales failed to meet their projections, at least in the UK. In France, the iPhone sold 70,000 units in line with projections, but almost half of those were in the first week.
Apple may still meet its projections, but if the iPhone is going to be continued success in world markets, there will probably be some changes needed after the initial contracts run out. Partnering with AT&T in the US made sense because consumers here are used to being locked into one carrier. In Europe, where people are used to plugging their SIM cards into whatever device they think is necessary, and where some countries outlaw locked phones, things are a little different. I think Apple could have gone into Europe without exclusive carriers, but without the same Apple Store infrastructure, they needed some sort of incentive to get their products on retail shelves.
The other big problem with the iPhone is the price. Although the iPhone price is similar to competing smart phones, various things conspire to make it a lot less of a good deal in most of Europe. In France, the price of 399 Euro would equal $589. In the UK, the price is equivalent to $531. To get an unlocked phone will run you even more. Yes, straight currency conversions are not a particularly good judge, and non-US customers pay the Apple Tax on all of their products, but with more handsets available from more carriers in the EU, they might have to change their strategy.
— Joe Fahs
Every year numerous computer and/or consumer electronics companies hail that the age of “Golden Convergence” is going to be coming any day now. Every year, consumers laugh at what the companies are offering, and for the most part reject what are really half-assed attempts to squeeze more money out of consumers without providing that much more value.
In the latest news, Apple is thinking about movie rentals, NetFlix is thinking about releasing a set-top box for their downloads, and Tivo is trying to get people to remember that they can download using Amazon’s Unbox. Which one will win? Probably none of them. There are flaws to the way each company has gone about doing things, and with so many people fighting for a piece of such a small pie, nobody is making any progress.
Therefore, I say that Apple buys NetFlix and Tivo and rolls together a bunch of content offerings and distribution methods. Why? I like the way AppleTV brings the content to your home theater. I like the way NetFlix allows you to get a DVD in the mail, and they already have a huge subscriber base to grow from. Finally, I like the way that UnBox and Tivo remember what you have ordered, so if you can’t make everything fit on your computer, you can download it again without a penalty.
Of course I am idiot for thinking anything this sensible can happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?
— Joe Fahs
Earlier this year, Steve Jobs wrote an essay saying that DRM should be abolished. Some people called it hypocritical because Apple has always been tenacious with protecting patents, but I think it shows a genuine frustration with the record labels and the growth of alternative forms of music distribution. Since Apple is the leader of alternative forms of music distribution thanks to their iTunes Music Store, any move that makes music more free seems to benefit apple.
A few months later, Apple partnered with EMI to release DRM-free downloads, but rumors are suggesting that Jobs will take things a step further by partnering with Hip-Hop Mogul Shawn Carter, who you probably know better as Jay-Z to form their own record label. Some people are going to look at this deal and wonder what Jobs was doing, because despite Jay-Z’s success as a business man and performing artist, there will be some negative connotations to his style of music. However, there is a lot of potential in this deal.
Taking a look at iTunes demographics, I think Apple made a savvy move. Although their new label might only be a drop in the bucket at first, there is a potential for Beyonce to join, and if they are successful, I could see other successful bands willing to do think differently about how they make their albums. In the meantime, Apple will be building their brand with some of the most recognizable names in pop culture. Even better, they get to stick it to Universal (Jay-Z) and Sony (Beyonce) at the same time.
— Joe Fahs
Over the holiday break, rumors began to fly about a new Apple iPhone update which would bring along several feature enhancements including a customizable home screen and the “Locate Me” quasi-GPS built into the Google Maps application. Since the original story came from a web site that did not have much of a record within the Apple rumor game, some people were skeptical, at least until more comprehensive video proof started to come out.
Since I have been a big wimp about hacking my iPhone, I am excited for a lot of this new functionality despite the glaring lack of proper MMS. Users of modified iPhones are already bracing for the update to break everything once again. Apple has promised to release a full SDK for the iPhone later in the year, so there is hope that the update-and-pray cycle will come to an end eventually.
— Joe Fahs
For many years, Apple’s growth has come on the shoulders of the iPod, which has dominated the portable music player market almost since its inception. This was great for Apple as a company, but Apple’s success at bringing people to the iPod did not always translate into success for Apple hardware. iPod and iTunes ruled music, but Apple was still kicking along at less than 5% market share, even as other computer companies were enjoying record sales. Now, at least one company is saying that Apple’s computer market share is making a comeback as well.
ComputerWeek reports that Net Applications, which tracks web statistics for over 40,000 companies, reports that Apple’s browsing market share finshed at just over 8% in 2007, which represents an increase of 28% for the year. Browsing statistics are not a perfect measure of how popular computers are, especially among businesses, but the numbers seem to mirror what Apple had to say in its 4th Quarter Financial Results. Still, this is good news for Apple fans, as many have wondered if the focus on the iPod and iPhone has hurt Apple’s innovation in computer hardware by spreading its engineers too thin.
— Joe Fahs
The end of the year may mean a slow down for many industries as people leave work and spend the holidays with their families, but this is the time of the year where Mac rumors really start to heat up, as people begin to anticipate what Apple may have in store for MacWorld Expo. MacWorld events were traditionally the place where Steve Jobs would drop hardware and software bombshells, but that has waned in recent years as Apple has incorporated more and more special events throughout the year to showcase new products.
Steve Jobs’ keynote is still over a month away, and the rumors are starting to pick up. Bloomberg anticipates a new ultra-thin portable along with a higher capacity iPhone, while Fortune wonders if flash storage will be coming to the MacBook line. We will be looking forward to the new announcements, but also guess that the most significant product releases will come later in the year. Best bets are that this year’s keynote is heavy on Leopard and iPhone, but 2006 brought us Intel Macs, 2007 brought us the iPhone, and so the possibility for something really big still exists.
— Joe Fahs
Mac OS X 10.5, known as Leopard to some, and “unholy piece of crap interface experiment” to others was released less than three months ago, but is already getting its second update. AppleInsider reports that recent seeds asked developers to test “iCal, iChat, Mail, Parental Controls, Quick Look, Rosetta, Safari, Time Machine, and Airport”. For those of you that have beta-tested Apple OS releases before (i.e. installed it before the first two bug fixes were available), you know this is par for the course.
A more interesting note comes from a source at Macenstein which reports that Stacks feature will be getting a number of interface improvements, most noticeably adding list view, but also providing an option to display your stack as icon, making it much easier to tell what your stack is all about in the first place. Now if they would only do something more about that damned dock.
— Joe Fahs
Last week, with little fanfare, Apple released GarageBand 4.1.1. Along with the usual promises of stability improvements, the update now allows users to create their own custom ringtones. Any song in GarageBand can be the source, so anything GarageBand will play can now be used on your iPhone, including songs from your iTunes library. Users on the Internet were surprised to learn Apple has allowed you to create ringtones from songs they have purchased from the iTunes Music Store. With this feature available, anybody who shells out for iLife doesn’t need to pay Apple an extra dollar to convert a song from their Library into a ringtone.
One can only imagine how long it will take for the RIAA to complain, but many phone manufacturers have allowed custom .mp3 and .wav ringtones for years, so we’re happy to see the iPhone finally catch up in that regard. Who knows, maybe MMS messages will be next.
— Joe Fahs