Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guessimating Apple's Netbook Strategy

We know Steve Jobs will never release a netbook for the sake of doing it.  Nor is Apple's answer to the netbook the iPhone.  A couple of weeks or so ago, folks started comparing iPhone shipments to netbook shipments.  You'll have to excuse those people.  It's the Holidays.  We're in a recession.  We were all dying for news, rumors...anything from Apple or Mac related (little did we know that last week, Apple would stir up controversy with their Jobs-no-show-at-Macworld announcement).

If you're looking for a netbook running OS X, MSI Wind remains the best solution.  For those will are willing to wait, this is Apple's $600-$700 netbook (I've reduced the price by $100 since November - but I can't go lower to $500 because it will be too close to the iPod Touch 32GB model).  Let's call it "iDevice".

  • iDevice will take the form of a tablet.  Not clam shell like netbooks.  No keyboard.
  • Run iPhone/iPod Touch OS.
  • It'll do what it's suppose to:  play movies, do 90% of all Internet and computing related tasks adequately (e-mailing, surfing, writing, runs apps.  It will be able to do everything an iPhone can do.  But there should be applications specific also to iDevice.  
  • 6-8" screen size.  Possible a 10" model as well.  If it looks anything like a bigger iPhone, it'll be closer to 8" and/or 10" model (I had previously stated there will not be a 10" model.  I have since changed my position).  $600 for the 6-8" model and $700 for the 10" model.  
  • Battery will not be user-replaceable - this is one is obvious.
  • iPod
  • There will be accessories specifically branded for iDevice.  As with anything Apple, it will cost you.  For example, an Apple specific keyboard  may cost $100 even though it's not much more different from the wireless Bluetooth keyboard for the Macs.
  • Runs on chips related to Apple's recent acquisition and investments in chip companies.  I'll be honest in saying that I don't know much about chips beyond Ghz and cores.  But from the talk of graphics performance and power efficiency, it does make sense.  We are no talking about Intel's Atom.  And given how powerful the iPhone is, there is might even be a need beyond using what is already powering the iPhone.
  • This may be wishful thinking on my part but it's possible Apple may allow for e-ink to save power for reading.  I doubt this since Apple has yet to made a move on ebooks.  
  • Wi-Fi.  Maybe 3G for tethering with iPhone but it's possible that a deal in the making with ATT for a special rate for Apple.  However, may people will be happy with Wi-Fi so I think 3G access is not likely.  After all, Apple has not offer it in the Macbooks.  Of course, with 3G, ATT may be willing to subsidize Apple's netbook
  • 32GB.  Maybe more.  64GB.
  • Additional Multi-Touch gestures.
Now, let me get back to iDevice accessories.  This is where Apple clearly has an advantage over other device makers and brands.  It can command a premium and leverage it's popularity and cool factor in creating a micro-economy for the iDevice very much the same way it did with the iPod brand.  With likely millions to be served, iDevice accessorizing will help Apple add hundreds of millions into its already big cash pile.  
And if we see the iDevice at all, I'm putting it closer 2nd quarter of 2009 (or maybe just before the back-to-school rush) than the first quarter of 2009.  Apple is going to be busy next year with the Mac refreshes, a new OS (Snow Leopard), and potentially more Macbook updates (bring the Macbook Air and 17" model closer in line to the new unibody Macbooks), and third generation of the iPhone.  
So, no netbooks as some analysts hope but something even better.  iDevice, like my dream Mac, the Mac Hybrid , are just my own speculations and please to do attribute this to anything more than not.  I did not get the specs above from a "secret source" or off some Chinese accessory maker's site.  It's just fun guessimation on my part.  
There you have it.  Apple's answer to the netbook craze.  Let me what you think.

Note: WSJ's All Things Digital also believes it'll be closer to $600.  It's entirely possible.  It's not a Mac but the iDevice is an exension of Apple's current mobile platform.  They've got a clam-shell looking device in their post.  And they still believe it'll be at Macworld 2009.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Reality of an iPhone Nano

There is an iPhone Nano.  There's also an iPhone Flip, flip phone for the iPhone.  With that out of the way, let's talk about the reality of such a device, the iPhone Nano, Nano for short in this post

The iPhone 3G screen is just the right size, making the case easy to hold in your hand.  Now, with the Nano, we would naturally have to believe the screen is going to be quite a bit smaller.  The iPhone sports a 3.5" Multi-touch LCD screen. 

Many other devices on the market with some sort of touch technology vary in screen size but one will never identify them as being small due to bulk and thickness.  Not to mention weight.  But coming from Apple, mobile users would have to consider a smaller screen, about 2.8" and just as think as the iPod Touch.

First the screen.  Why 2.8"?  I did a basic search into Verizon's touch screen offerings from LG,  HTC, and Samsung.  They fall between 2.8" to 3.2".  The T-Mobile G1 also has a 3.2" screen.  And dispite smaller screens, most of these phones have comparable body sizes to the iPhone 3G.  Given the attention Apple is expected to give to the Nano, we're likely to see a smaller and more elegant body if they decide on using 2.8" screens.  I almost want to say the Nano would be a smaller version of the iPhone.  I can't sure with any certainty because we're just making educated guesses here but I don't think we're too far off.

Could Apple possibly use a smaller screen?  I'm sure they can but given their aversion to buttons, I don't think it makes sense to have too small a screen for typing, given critics more to complain about.  However, I can't say with any great certainty but Apple may one day come out with an iPhone that has a physical keyboard like the Blackberries if they really want to push deeper into the enterprise market.  The touch will get them only so far.  A smaller screen with physical QWERTY keyboard is possible but not likely going to happen.

Here's another argument against screens smaller than 2.8".  Watching videos.  The iPod Classic has a 2.5" screen.  It is just good enough.  But try watching on the iPod Nanos.  When the action moves too fast, you can easily get motion sickness. 

iPhone Nano Body.  As I've mentioned above, if Apple uses a 2.8" screen, you can bet that Apple is going to make sure it's also thinner than the iPhone 3G.  It makes sense.  Go down to Best Buy or, if you're lucky enough to be close to an Apple store and check out how thin the iPod nano is.  Thin as heck.  I'm more certain about the 2.8" LCD screen size for the Nano than I am about the thinness but it sort of make sense.  "Nano". 

Apple will likely shave an ounce off the Nano.  If at all possible, under 0.4" thickness.  That's what I'm hoping for.  Keep in mind that iPod Touch is 0.33" thick.  I've allowed for more thickness in the Nano for added battery and other wireless chips.

The Nano will definitely be shorter length and width.  I'm going to go get into how much.  Apple will still have to fit in the 3G chip. 

Oh, and of course, it'll run iPhone OS along with all the apps in the App Store.  It has too.  Can you imagine the number of pissed off users and developers if the apps do not work properly?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Best Scenario For Macworld

This is just something I made up while chatting with Dave the Mobile Warrior on Skype last night about Apple's unexpected exit (unexpected from the standpoint of folks who were not graced to insider information). 

But when Apple VP Phil Schiller takes the stage as the keynote speaker traditionally reserved for Steve Jobs, just what kind of position is he being put it?  So, we dreamt up a cool scenario for the last Macworld Apple will participate in.

Schiller goes on stage and goes through his routine.  Great Christmas.  Great quarter they just had.  Billions made.  Then he tells folks the iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pros will all be updated.  Though it all, Phil gets forced ethusiastic applauses because of the impossible situation he's put under.  He knows it.

But then he says, "we've got a special guest I like to bring out to talk about the next revolutionary product from Apple.  You all know him.  Steve Jobs!".

Crowd goes wild.  A couple of live blogs go offline because their bloggers fainted.  Steve comes on and thank the Apple family for years of great memory and products.  Then says, "one more thing..." and blows away the crowd with Apple's answer to the netbook.  Apple's own TV.  The Mac Hybrid I've been advocating.  Something else awesome because Steve says it is.

That would be the perfect end to the Macworld as we know it. 

There are a number of theories about why Jobs won't be at Macworld in 2009 and Apple leaving Macworld permanently. 
  • Some believe this is related to Jobs' health.
  • Some believe there is a changing of the guards at Cupertino. 
  • Some believe this is Jobs being pissed off at something.
  • Some believe Apple at its words that trade shows like Macworld are a thing of the past and Apple stores, the Internet, and smaller events are just as good at creating hype and better to reach out to customers and converting new folks to Mac and the iPlatform.
  • Some believe its about expectation.  Macworld is the only event where there's expectation that an announcement is coming year after year.  Again, it's about expectation.
  • Some believe this was made for financial reasons.  Stop the bad stock movements. 
What do I believe?  I'm inclined to believe it's not health related.  As for mobile warriors, we going to be fine regardless of whether there is a Macworld or not.  It's the passing of time.  While I for one will miss one, I wouldn't mind having those smaller special events.  In fact, I believe this will likely be the scenario for future announcements.

I'm going to make one prediction here.  Future product introductions will be made live through Apple Stores.  It can be at a venue in SF, in an auditorium on Apple campus, or just about any Apple store if they chose.  But wherever the product launch is being held, it'll go live to all Apple store worldwide.  You'll get live blogs as usual for these events but for those who can make it to the stores for these live broadcasts, they'll feel closer to the action.  For Apple, it'll bring in tons of foot traffic. 

That is how future Apple announcements will be made.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Konami Turns iPhone and iPod Touch Into Serious Gamers

I had planned on posting some updates about portable gaming over at Onxo but that's on hold for a bit as we absorb the great news about Konami's mobile plans for Apple's mobile platform.

You read it correctly.  Four games from powerhouse Konami.  Big bad KONAMI!  What are the games?
  • Silent Hill:  The Escape
  • Frogger
  • Dance Dance Revolution
And here's the big one:
  • Metal Gear Solid Touch!
No word on when these games will be coming to an app store near us.  But this bit of news makes up for the sadness I feel from Apple pulling out of Macworld and knowing that Macworld 2008 was Jobs' last keynote.  Back to gaming.
Sega's presence with Super Monkey Ball was a great coup for Apple.  But since then, we haven't had a lot of power house developers from Japan joining the iBandwagon.  And these games aren't just any lowend games.  These are legacy titles we're getting from Konami.
This new development does help Apple make the case that the iPod Touch and iPhone are contenders in the mobile gaming realm.  I wonder who's next?

Links:
Note:  For some reason, I thought Frogger was already available on the app store.  It might be from Atari.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Netbooks at Macworld: Not Likely

Who to believe?  Some analyst believes there will be a netbook at Macworld 2009 or some facts that point to the contrary?

Well, Computerworld is reporting an analyst who admitted that he has no fact to back up his assertion that there will be Apple-branded netbooks next month at the annual Mac event in San Francisco.  Backed up his line of reasoning well though.

It's a lot alone the line of what Onxo (me and my fellow mobile warriors) believe about what Apple's answer to the netbook will be. 

However, we're not likely to see anything new when Philip Schiller, Apple's senior VP gives the keynote, as indicated by Appleinsider. 

You read it right. 

Philip Schiller.  Get to know him.  Steve P. Jobs will not be delivering the keynote this year.  And that is exactly why it's very unlikely Apple will be introducing a new product line.

Again, we believe desktop Macs, iMac, Mini, and Pro, will be updated.  And that'll be about it.  But do expect a surprise visitor, Jobs, who might pop in to support his subordinate.  Look for the keynote script to remain the same for Schiller as Jobs' keynote deliveries in the past.  Fanastic Christmas quarter.  Numbers for iPhones.  Numbers for iPods.  Numbers for Macs.  Maybe apps and iTunes sales.  And then on to new product intro. 

Oh, and one more thing.  When the curtain closes, this will be Macworld Apple  participates in. 

It was good while it lasted.

Source:  Appleinsider, Computerworld

Note:  As usually, facts are facts but we do hope like hell we're wrong and we'll see something revolutionary.  Also, there could be evidence that no new products from Apple other than freshing product lines as Adobe and others will curtail their participation at Macworld.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mac Sales Contracted in November

If a report from WSJ is correct, that may indeed be the case.  According to November computer data from NDP Group Inc. 

Mac sales lost 1% compared to November of 2007 while the PC market grew 2% from the same period last year.  WSJ is reporting this as evidence that Apple has begun to suffer from the recession US consumer are going through and there is worries that this will carry into 2009.

So, should be we worried for out favorite fruity consumer electronics company?  Well, my initial reaction was to think that WSJ was likely wrong in its reporting.  Something about the data they nickpicked to make Mac sales look bad compared to the rest of the industry.  Well, this is WSJ so I'm doubting that to be the case.  This isn't Marketwatch's Dvorak after all.

Anyway, the official numbers from Apple is what count in January.  But given that Apple refreshed the Macbooks for Christmas (and the Holidays) but not the iMacs, that could have had an impact on anyone who was looking to hold off their purchase until the consumer desktop line was refreshed.

Recall that in the midst of a lot of wild rumors and speculations from Mac centric sites and supposedly responsible financial analysts (who I'm very close to putting into the same group as lawyers - not a compliment by the way), Apple specifically announced that there would be no more updates on any Apple products for the rest of 2008. 

So far, the anti-Apple forces have yet to pick up on this nor have the Apple fanboys mounted any sort of defense.  I'm sure this is only a matter of time.  Let's see if this WSJ article stands up to the coming Mac-centric onslaught.

Source:  WSJ

Note:  A virtual standstill as far as the NDP data shows, we are likely to show Mac share of the dollar increase in percentage as Mac prices have largely remain the same while PC prices have decreased a noticeable 35% to 45%, according to WSJ.

Another note:  This is retail sales.  Doesn't seem to include online sales.  How much of these retail sales are actual PCs and regular laptops and how much of these are netbooks will be interest for bloggers and FAs. 

Impact:  I've noticed a bigger discount from a larger number of Mac online retail outlets like Amazon, Maconnection, and others.  Could these discounts have moved buyers online instead of through brick-and-border stores?  Plus, with some Macs discounted by as much as $400, I'm interested in see if these discounts are extended beyond 2008.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why Apple's Answer To the Netbook Won't Be Just Another Netbook

I have a MacWind, converted from the 10" MSI Wind Dave the Mobile Warrior helped me with.  He has one too although he's not too wild about it anymore.  I like it but there's nothing like working with a real Macbook.  

More than that, after using the MacWind for a month, I realized Apple is not likely going to follow what everyone else is doing.  NOT just another netbook to run OS X.  Why?  Before I get into it, I really would like to hear from everyone about about.  Particularly other folks with a MacWind or MacEEE PC.
  • Keyboard.  Imagine how little those keys are going to have to be now that Apple has gone completely with the new layout first seen in the Macbooks.  
  • Small real estate.  One of the great experiences about using a Mac is the great resolution and the desktop.  On a 6-8" (I'll go on record now to say Apple will not come out with a 10" netbook) LCD screen, it's just too small.
  • Battery life.  I get 4.5 hours running OS X on the Wind.  That's with a 6-cell battery.  Heavy stuff.  Not Apple's style.  Form is a very import equation in Apple products and designs.  Jobs will not allow any part to protrude.  Heck, it even isn't going out on a limb to say Apple's answer to the netbook will not have a user-replaceable battery.  
  • Slow processing speed on the Wind.  I mean I can use it for everyday work just fine.  The Wind is a huge upgrade from my Powerbook but it's not Macbook or even Mac Mini fast.  Jobs will not tolerate folks from the blogworld or media to say how slow it is.  
Battery life.  Performance issues that may arrive from running a full-sized OS X.  Display and interface issues.  It's looking less and less like a Macbook Nano and more like something else.

Next post:  How Apple Can Make a $500 Mac That Isn't Crappy (I have a feeling there will be an "i" in front of it)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Time

I finally pulled the trigger.  I stopped thinking and acted on it.

I got a new Macbook.  Which one?  Just the Macbook or the Macbook Pro?  Or the Air?  I will say this right now.  I like the Air or MBA to some.

However, I don't like the fact that the battery isn't user-replaceable.  At least, not without a screwdriver.  Also, 1.86Ghz is okay with the new Nvidia GPU but I think I want to go with something faster.

So, that leave the MB or the MBP.  I currently have a 15" Powerbook (1st gen Mac Mini, a power horse by the way, and MacWind), but I didn't think it was as portable as I like.  Coming in at 5.5 lbs, it a bit hefty when I've got keys, G1, a notebook, and miscellaneous items in my backpack, it can come out a bit heavy.

On the other hand, the new MBP has a dedicated GPU.  And it can come in handy for games.  More importantly, it is future-proof when Snow Leopard comes out and OpenCL is implemented and prevalent (that is my hope) in many day-to-day applications and tasks.  Plus, the MBP chips have 6MB of cache.  In my book, it's a very good upgrade from what I've been using the last few years.

And so is the Macbook.  I like to think of the new unibody Macbook as Macbook Pro Lite rather than a regular Macbook.  The white Macbook, now that's a regular Macbook that we've known for the last few years.  But it has some compromises that I not willing to work with.   The unibody Macbook with the new Nvidia 9400M, it has four to five times more graphics muscle, making it a convincing alternative to folks who want more portability without too much compromises.

The new unibody Macbook with its more robust features is no accident.  And it's meant for someone like me.  I don't know if it's future-proof with its integrated graphics processor.  However, it's lighter at 4.5 lbs, LED screen, and its memory is expandable to 4GB.

Now, the CPU is no upgradable.  No Apple laptop has had an upgradable CPU since the Powerbook 1400 series.  So, what did I go with?

A mini review will be forthcoming as well as come game specs.  It's what the 9400M is for, isn't it?

Macbook and Gaming

Given the strides that the new unibody Macbooks has made in the graphics department with the Nvidia integrated graphics process, it is suffice to say that we should also see a change in the specs of some games to reflect the update.

However, that has not been the case.  Checks on gaming sites like Inside Mac Games, publishers, and online stores that offer Mac games offered nothing.  In fact, no mention of Nvidia's 9400M at all. 

I do a little gaming.  I used to play a lot of LAN games.  As someone who is on the sideline waiting to get into the market for one and can't decide on which model best suits my needs as far as some gaming, video editing, and a mix of writing, e-mail, and everyday Web work, I would like to know how today's gaming requirements compared to the Macbooks. 

Resorting to Googling and combing through Mac-centric forums have helped but all are quite subjective due to the settings and tolerance of Macbook owners.  Some want settings really really high.  Others won't consider gaming good if they can't get 100+ FPS.  And still others don't mind play at the rate of a slide-show. 

I'll be making a call and buy in a few days.  I'll let you know what I decide on what the reasons behind my choice.  And if I do go ahead and update this time around, I'll try and set up a page for games that I've tried so everyone can have a better idea how the Macbook stack up to today's games.

Note:  I won't be talking just about Mac games.  I'll also be talking about running games via Bootcamp.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Apple's Answer to $500 Junk and Netbooks

There is a flurry of new Apple speculations with the Internet going wild as one blogger or analyst talked about the CPU that will like going into the coming netbook from Apple.

I don't know what it'll look like, what it can do, or what CPU will be powering it.  Suffice to say, Atom chips, from Intel and powers the millions of netbooks in the market, will not make it into Apple's answer to the netbook.

So, let's go this new exciting (potentially revolutionary) mobile device called Access.  I wanted to call it iLife but then you'll asking isn't a suit of Apple applications called iLife?  So, Access it is.  Access because of the following reasons:
  • Fully integrated with iLife version running on the OS X.
  • Fully integrated with MobileMe.
  • With Wi-Fi access and may be offered with 3G access from ATT.  Now, it is also entirely possible this may be subsidized later on.  It's is also entirely possible we may see LTE, WiMax, white spaces versions.  Steve Jobs has indicated in recent memories that Apple should learn from Microsoft in forming alliances and partnerships.  
  • This will help Apple sell more mobile devices, introduce more people to OS X, sell more Macs.
  • This would go for $500. 
And how will Apple make something insanely-great at this price point without turning Access into another piece of $500 junk?  Stay tuned.  I've got more idle speculations to offer on that point.   And it's only Apple who will be able to pull it off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

MacBook GPU Debate

Well, not so much a debate but more about what to get.  Macbook with its integrated GPU but still much more powerful than anything we've seen for the Macbook line or go with the Pro version and the 9600 dedicated GPU.

I spent some time over the weekend with both units as I haven't decided which works best for me. And the GPU played a big part as I also considered future-proofing my mobile investment.  Here is a post from Linden LAN from October (not long ago) that discussed the 9600M, 8600M, and the 9400M.  As you may already know, the 9600M is the flagship GPU in the MBP, the 8600M was the GPU in previous iterations of MBP, and the 9400M replaced the underpowered Intel IGP x3100 (Apple has passed on the current generation, x4500).

There's a lot of debate over the Macbook with the 9400M, in good ways, not bad.  People generally love it and, yet, people also like numbers.  This GPU versus that GPU versus something else.

Based on LL's way of looking at it, the aluminum Macbook's GPU is 82% of the 8600M.  Not bad.

However, no matter what you go with, I have to say you can't go wrong with any of the selection on the market, from the new MBP and MB to the previous generation MBP.  I don't think you can go wrong.

As for me, I am still in love with my MacWind and I've yet decided when I'll pull the trigger.  Suffice to say, I am leaning towards the Macbook with the newer mobile system, GPU, and looks.

Source:  Linden LAN

iPad and WWDC Prediction: Apple Will Upgrade Siri And Users Will Not Be Able to Choose Between ChatGPT or Gemini

At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple is set to unveil major upgrades to its virtual assistant Siri. These enhanc...