Monday, March 30, 2009

Macbook Mini: Love It But Hope It's Not True

Is this Apple's netbook? I've always said On Apple will not traffic in rumors but I'm making an exception here. You'll understand why in a bit.

This image was part of a post from Gizmodo.

For weeks (months) now, tech pundits and bloggers have begged Apple to release a netbook. Wall Street have preached doom for Apple because of the opportunity Cupertino is missing in the netbook segment of the laptop market.

Steve Jobs said the iPhone and iPod Touch was Apple's answer to the netbook. More recently, Apple has stated that they've go ideas on where they want to go with their answer to the netbook but has not commited to anything.

Let me just say I hope it's not what we're seeing in the Gizmodo post. Honestly, it's beneath Apple's reputation as an innovator. Don't get me wrong, I think there is a market for Apple with a $900 laptop but not as an answer to the nebooks in the market.

I'm still of the opinion that Apple's answer to the netbook will not be a netbook.

According to the post, this laptop (that's right, it's a laptop, not a netbook) will sport an Intel Atom and NVidia 9400M. It will also have a 10" screen with generous resolutions. What this is is a Macbook Air mini. If that image and specs are real, it's likely an extension of the Macbook Air rather than Apple's answer to the netbook market. At $900, it satisfies folks who thought the 13" Macbook Air was too big to their liking.

Will folks be interested? Sure. I think there is a large market for a MBA mini. A big market. And for folks looking for a netbook answer from Apple, keep waiting. This ain't it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This Is Why Rumors Are So Bad (But Delicious)

Apple rumors are like junk food. We all love it and it's so good when you're eating it. And so addictive. Well, that's what Apple rumors are like. While Apple rumors don't do any bodily harm, it hurts folks on other ways. Stock manipulation. Earnings.

This is why I don't traffic them but I do read them. Maybe that's the problem. We read them and some (not all) bloggers are willing to believe their "sources" just to feed us.

Now, the hottest rumor going around is by Boy Genius Report (sorry, you'll have to find the link yourself). A lot of it are simply stuff we already know based on past Apple launch schedules. June or July is when we'll see the next iPhone. We know that much. It's what else BGR spiced up their post with that has traveled around the world many times over by now.
  • Slide-out keyboard - let's start with the most plausible of the two implausible rumors. It may happen as I've noted before that Apple may come out with just such a device to satisfy power users unwilling or unable to type on a screen keyboard. Such an iPhone device exists. As prototypes. As for these QWERTY iPhones actually becoming a product is highly improbable.
  • $99 netbook - no freaking way. BGR states that it won't run Windows. However, it was purposely vague about it. I've long advocated and expected wireless providers to subsidize laptops or netbooks with wireless plans and this is likely another step in that direction, san an Apple netbook. We've said it before: Apple's answer to the netbook won't be just another netbook.
I wouldn't say that BGR has a bad track record. It has been right on more counts than most. It's just that it is willing to be fantastic with its posts when it should be able to sense BS when it sees it. Still, I'm an Apple rumor junkie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

iPhone Tether Is Coming

I don't have a network of secret Apple devotees who feed me information but I do want to put one issue to rest now. This one of the issues going around now is iPhone tethering.

According to Apple, tethering is build into iPhone 3.0 but it's up to individual wireless providers make the service available. Here in the US, there have much anticipation since the brief appearance of Netshare last year. Since then, tethering requires some jailbreaking and tinkering.

The news of tethering was not presented during the preview and it was only offered up by Apple execs during the Q and A session. So, what does it mean in the summer when the iPhone 3.0 is finally available?

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that when the new iPhones, service plans, and iPhone 3.0 are launched, tethering from ATT will be available as well. It may require a separate tethering plan. Tethering may also be available in some countries.

So you can bet that in June or July, Apple will make a big deal about it once the pricing and plans are finalized. Apple is not used to providing information half-baked so the answer they gave, essentially it's up to the providers, is the best one they can give at this time.

It would have been terrible to announce that tether will be available. There will be questions of when which will ultimately get out of control. As it is now, Apple rumors run rampant. Imagine availability of a tethering plan that goes out of whacked and leading to speculation about iPhone release dates.

So tethering is coming along with new rate plans and new iPhones. And it'll come this summer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

iPhone 3.0

Wow...a whole lot of nothing but there still was a "wow" factor. Well, first. A lot of the features we expect a modern mobile platform should have. Cut and paste. Some sort of background processes. File transfer (wireless or otherwise). Took a while for us to get them (officially, we still don't have access to them).

But that never came with the original iPhone. Nor did they come with iPhone 3G. So today's presentation of the iPhone 3.0 is really a lot of catching up.

At the same time, we were shown today of the potential of the iPhone platform because of Apple's unique perspective on mobile computing, attention to details, and design. For example, the new video player can distinguish between bandwidth connection to allow the content provider to deliver the best media for the user. It's personal touch and attention that has made iPhone and the iPod Touch so unique as a platform.

Instead of creating a mobile platform from a smartphone, Apple has created a mobile computing, and now gaming, platform from the ground up.

I'm sure a lot of what we were shown today, as far as the demos highlighted today are concerned, is only a small part of what developers will be able to bring to the market in the next few months. Summer is when iPhone 3.0 will be available. Imagine another three months after that, in six months, we will see incredible new apps and accessories that take advantage of the new features.

In fact, I am sure we'll see cool accessories when the next iPhone is launched.

The next couple of months is going to be very exciting. There will be a lot of rumors. Hopefully, we'll hear traditional iPod and iPhone accessory makers come out and make announcements on what they've got planned. I'm sure folks will be able to come up with more than just bluetooth speakers and glucose monitors.

Note: These are just random thoughts - still working through the features and possibilities. As I've said above, Apple gave us features that should have came with the original iPhone (this proves that we were all willing and paying beta testers) but they did dumped quite a bit on us today.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Preview of Apple's Preview of iPhone 3.0

We are less than 48 hours away from Apple's planned event to preview iPhone 3.0 to the media and bloggers at large. So, what are we expecting?

Honestly, there is no way to know with certainty. There are tons of rumors on the Internet and I'll let you sort those out yourselves. And anyone out there claiming to know what's going on is pulling a Jim Cramer.

What you're likely to read about iPhone 3.0, usually more than 12 hours out, are rumors and, likely, wish lists of what people to see in iPhone 3.0. Here's the problem. I want everything that I can imagine in iPhone 3.0. Everyone wants that. Every blogger, every iPhone user, and every Apple fan.

But that's not going to happen. One reason is a lot of features take time to develop, test, and deploy. Two, Apple isn't going to give us features unless it's critical to the success of the iPhone. And even with the complaints about certain lack of features (voice dialing and cut/paste quickly times to mind), the iPhone is still wildly successful.

So, let's be realistic on Tuesday (March 17) morning. I'm going to offer you a bit on how this is going to go down based on past iPhone events.
  • iPhone Intro - how cool the iPhone is and generally the acceptance.
  • We probably won't get iPhone sales numbers but we might get app downloads. One billion, anyone?
  • Next we'll see the new features in iPhone 3.0. I can surmise what they might be but the features are no different from the wishlists from the other bloggers and tech journalists.
  • We might also see different companies get shout-outs and get highlighted to come on stage to show how they've implemented the new features.
  • We might get some geek talk on the underlying changes to the iPhone 3.0 and as it is related to Snow Leopard. This is something I am interested in. In particular, I would like to hear something new on battery efficiency.
  • Then the new Apple CEO will come on stage and give us the new iPhone. Okay. Sorry. Scratch this one.
Now, my wish list:
  • Cut And Paste
  • Background app
  • IM integration - folks do a lot of messaging. I really would like to see IM given an "always on" status with option to turn it off. Twitter integration would be terrific.
  • Notification - stocks, weather, headlines, e-mails, mesages.
  • Better use of the bar at the top of the screen. There is space for weather or stock updates.
  • Additional MobileMe features.
So there you have it. The main focus I want from Apple on Tuesday is a focus on mobile life and computing beyond simple granting features and updates. Of all the products that Apple has truly come out with and improve to everyone's appreciate over the years is iLife. MobileMe was suppose to be that but we know how that has been. Let's hope Apple provides us with a mobile vision much like what Google is trying to develop.

iPhone integration with the Mac, MobileMe, and iTunes is great but Apple mobile warriors want more. Give us iMobile Life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big iPhone App Moves - And Kindle App

In the last week, we saw some major moves by big companies getting into the iPhone app business. Obviously, I'm talking about CBS's app and the just released Kindle for iPhone app.

Slow but surely, folks in the upper echelon of the corporate realm are beginning to realize that mobility, fortunately for us the iPhone, is how people will get their information, video, and other forms of entertainment.

So, what does the future hold? A month down the line? Six months? A year from now?

Frankly, both of these apps surprise me. Not the apps themselves but the fact that Apple allowed them to be released into the wild just blew me away.

First, the app. CBS, by offering albeit limited quantities of full episodes of videos to be stream free to iPhone and iPod Touch users, therefore, potentially bypassing the iTunes stores for some of its offerings was "okayed" by Apple's store sentries. Recall not long ago, the biggest news was that Apple was rejecting apps left and right that it deemed to be a competitor to the iTunes store or a duplication of iPhone functionalities.

With the release of the app, much has changed. Honestly, I don't think anyone knows just what has changed and to what extend. And that's the interesting part as far as observers, bloggers, and Apple critics are concerned.

Now, the Kindle app. When we learned that Kindle books would be offered on other mobile platforms other than the Kindle, admit it, you probably thought we'll see it on Android or anther mobile platform before you see it on the iPhone. In fact, some folks went as far as to say that Apple will soon offer their own digital book library for its millions of users.

I'm happy to say I wasn't one of them but it didn't keep me from thinking that Apple would ban Amazon because of Kindle and the perception that Amazon may be a competitor in the digital entertainment market. After all, you don't see an app for Amazon to sell its music on the iPhone. And if you used the Kindle app, you'll also note a page that advertises the Kindle. In this case, Apple obviously doesn't see the Kindle as a competitor. Yet.

So, what's next? Well, we've got Youtube. I've been able to find television shows if I look hard enough (or before they're taken down). There's TVU which streams live television. Lots of radio apps. Now, we have offering another source of television videos (limited). Right off the top of my head, I can count four ebook apps and that's not counting the hundreds of individual book apps.

Given's move, we'll have to see if they increase their offerings and what others like NBC, ABC, Fox, and, more specifically, Hulu may or may not duplicate CBS's app. Do keep in mind that CBS has always been more liberal about embracing digital entertainment than all of the other networks.

The app I'm waiting for most is Hulu. I don't whether we'll ever see it but after the launch of and Kindle apps, I'm much more hopeful now. In fact, I am venturing, putting my neck out if you will, and say that Apple may eventually offer a streaming service not unlike what Netflix is doing on the desktop and Xbox 360. Subscription based and all you can eat.

It would not go against two of Apple's core business directives: selling hardware at a premium and retaining control via iTunes.
Note: I think any video that streams to iPhone, iPod, or the Mac will need to be encoded without using Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight. Given that there are videos available from Youtube, TVU, and, any entity out there that wishes to offer video on the iPhone will need to encode them according. We should know in the coming months if that'll happen and whether Apple is lending a hand.

Another note: Offering streaming video subscription isn't going to be easy. I'm sure Apple TV is figured heavily in the equation. If it ever happens, we'll see it for the Mac and Apple TV before we see it on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Third note: We deal with mobile stuff on Apple but I just want to say that Apple TV is no hobby. But that's alright. I'll wait until it's Jobs-ready.

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