Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Siri Can Help You Buy Movie Tickets - Think About It, This Is Huge

After getting the last iOS update, which brings it up to 6.1, I was kinda "meh" except for the security plugs that were long, long overdue.  I was "whatever".  But having a couple of days to digest this now, I'm very excepted about one update:  Siri can now buy movies tickets for you.

First, you have go to download Fandango but that's a small issue. As with any Siri services, you have to download the associated apps as well.  No big thing.

What's big is mobile commerce for Siri just started.  Siri is moving beyond provide some searchable answers to user questions to starting to make money for Apple.  You can bet that any deal with Fandango in the case of buying movie tickets or other deals that Apple is likely to agree to will include Apple getting a piece of the action.  Whether it's a simple transaction fee or Apple getting a percentage of the transaction.

I would love to be able to order pizza through Siri.  Had Apple sealed a deal with Pizza Hut or Dominos, Siri's ability to order pizzas for users would be a huge deal for Superbowl Sunday.

Other services I can think of right off the top are other venues where tickets are are required - amusement parks, sporting events, or museums.  Certainly, any restaurants that provide takeouts.  In fact, Apple should integrate iTunes into Siri.

Suppose I want a movie with some Chinese food because I'm going to have friends over.  It would be awesome to ask Siri to set the whole night up.  "Siri, I want to rent Bourne Legacy and Ted and download them to the Apple TV.  Also, order some Mongolian beef, sauteed spinach, vegetable chow mein from the closest Chinese restaurant to home."

I mean, how awesome would that be?  What's more, Apple is going to make a boat load of money through these kinds of mobile transactions.  A fleet load.  If you're an Apple investor, this is the future you have to look forward to financially.

As a mobile user, you can't help but be excited about what Apple has planned for Siri.  It's not going to happen overnight.  It could take a couple of iOS upgrade cycles.  Even more.  But it's already happening and it'll only get much better.

Blackberry 10 And Z10 Reviews Are In: Good OS, So-So Hardware

Blackberry is no longer just a phone.  It’s not the new name of the former company called RIM.  And today, Blackberry unveiled to the world it’s latest and, hopefully, greatest mobile OS and flagship device.  Blackberry 10 and Z10 respectively.  I said hopefully because as I’ve mentioned before, we need more competition in the mobile market, not less.

Having said that, there is a decent summary of review from WSJ on Blackberry’s new OS and device.  A couple of things.  Yesterday, I wrote about Palm and the Pre.  In the WSJ summary, they brought up Palm as well.  And there is no doubt that the feeling about Blackberry’s latest and quite possibly last effort to get back into the mobile game.

From the reviews, it looks like Blackberry managed to hold serve and the new OS, services, and hardware is just enough to stem Blackberry fans from defecting to iOS or Android.  At this stage, however, anyone remaining with RIM, sorry, I mean Blackberry, are rabid fans so it probably would not take much effort from Blackberry to get them to stay.

The question is if this is enough not only stem losses but actually grow the Blackberry base.  Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.  Like Palm, the new Blackberry OS has a few neat touch tricks.  It even has a few native apps that do things better than the iPhone and matches what Android offers.  On the hardware front, it has a handsome looking device in the Z10 but the iPhone 5 still looks like a better build.  Upcoming devices from Nokia and Sony’s Xperia Z are very nice hardware too.  There just isn’t anything in the hardware that is innovative or even remotely different.

And one of the main themes in my Palm post yesterday was timing.  It appears Blackberry will be able to ship out the Z10 faster than Palm managed to do with the Pre and it has a global reach Palm did not.  Having said that, the Z10 is still going against a strong iPhone 5 and there’s nothing you can do about that.  It’s the new Android devices like Google’s X Phone and Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 on the wings that has me concerned about Z10’s chances.

The Z10 will retail for $200 after subsidies but I think Blackberry would be wise to lower that to free or $99 because that’s where Microsoft’s Windows Phones sit and they’ve done decent enough this past Christmas.

So, only time will tell.  Personally, if I can get a Z10 for $300, I would not think twice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mobile: Remembering the Palm Pre and Timing

First, let me say that I’m not sure anyone is all that concerned about what RIM is going to do with Blackberry 10.  As a mobile fan, I like to see it take a few shots at Apple and Google from a competitive perspective.  I want Blackberry to thrive again.  I mention all this because, well, remember when the Pre was released and how excited everyone was?

Yeah, not many remember Palm, the Pilot, or, especially, the Pre now but it was huge news at the time when the newly energized Palm packed with former Apple executives and engineers were ready to go head-to-head with Apple’s iPhone.  At the time, Apple had the iPhone 3G on the market for about six months and Palm’s Pre was fresh.

And WebOS made Apple’s iPhone OS (wasn’t called iOS yet I think) looked antiquated. In some respects, WebOS is even more innovative than iOS 6 is now.  And let's not forget, the Pre had a physical keyboard.

Great timing.  Sure, it’s great timing as far as setting up a media event for the unveiling of the Pre and WebOS.  Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only thing Palm did right.  See, the Pre would not go on sale until June.  To be exactly, June 9th.  Going up against the iPhone 3G, right?

Well, just a day before the Pre went on sale, Apple announced the iPhone 3GS and the new iPhone stormed onto the market with 1 million sold in its first weekend.

Ah, timing.

Well, I think Apple’s competitors since have learned about timing.  Samsung has never released a device around the time Apple does.  I think Samsung is the smartest of the bunch.  Ask Microsoft about Zune release timing - all releases save one went up against the iPod.  Ask Google and Motorola about Xoom going up against the iPad 2.  No one walks about the Xoom no more.

Imagine what it would have been like had Palm released the Pre for sale months before the 3GS when its competitors was the 7-, 8-, or even 9-month old iPhone 3G.

The reason I’ve decided to touch on this now is because Pre could have been a contender the way Galaxy is now.  And for 2013, new hardware and mobile features aside, timing is going to be critical for those looking to solidify their positions in the mobile market and those looking for a second act.  Or a third act.

Apple's 128 GB iPad sends Messages To Rivals and Market

As you may know by now, Apple just released a new iPad.  Not one with a new form factor.  It looks exactly like the iPad 2, 3, and 4 (give or take a few ounces).  What is new about this iPad is that the top line storage is now 128 GB, minus whatever Apple takes for iOS and its apps.


What does this mean?  It means that if you're in the market now for a new tablet with 9.7", you get it now.  It also means a couple of other things.

It means come March or April, there will not be a media event to introduce the fifth generation iPad.  Why?  Because Apple just told the world that this is their new iPad and you'll probably have to wait until later this fall if you want a new iPad.

It also means that the 128 GB iPad is going to go head-to-head with whatever Surface Pro or other Windows 8 tablets running ARM or Intel chips.  Apple is saying to the market that the tablet market is its own and no one else's.  No one messes with its top end territory.

It also means that Apple has finally gotten a handle on some production issues relating to the iPad.  Hopefully, that means the iPad mini supply should come more into line with what consumers can expect from Apple.


Having said that, here's where I get to have fun speculating on the iPad 4 and its strange refresh timing just before Christmas.  Maybe it was about trying to stifle Microsoft's big splash into the tablet market with Surface.  That would be my bet.

Just as the iPad mini was a way to punch in the guts and take the wind out of competitors like Amazon's Kindle, Google's Nexus 7, and to lesser extents, Barnes and Noble's Nook and Samsung's various screen sized tablets.

Here's the thing.  If people were going to buy a larger size iPad, they were going to buy it regardless of whether it was an iPad 3 or iPad 4.

So the faster chip with better graphics in the iPad 4 puzzled me a bit.  My guess is this:  iOS.  We could see some major changes to iOS with the next revision, iOS 7.  Because it likely will be able to do a whole lot more, it may require much more processing and graphics power that is inside the current iPad.

More Speculations

If Apple begins to meet iPad mini demands, it doesn't mean is that Apple won't come out with an updated iPad mini this spring.  My money is still on a fall fresh but I hope I'm wrong here.  The reason has to do with demand.

On top of that, a fresh in the spring likely means Retina Display.  And if you thought demand is crazy now ro the iPad mini, wait until Apple releases one with a Retina Display.  That'll just send demand through the roof. Apple isn't going to do that when they're just beginning to get a handle on things.

If Apple does refresh the mini in the spring, I think Apple could just release a mini with some improved chip, better graphics, maybe even a better camera, and a 128 GB version.  And for this alone, there won't be a media event that we are used to.

What I think is possible is Apple might go back to its pattern of introducing the new iOS version in a special event in March/April and a final release in the summer.  Initially, I thought this would be ludicrous.  However, if you think about it, not so much and here's why.

Last year, Apple gave some of its biggest supporters and bloggers special copies of the Mountain Lion weeks before everyone else saw it.  Then it was later touched upon again at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June and then released.

So, it's not impossible to believe that Apple has not already slipped iOS 7 into the hands of the trusted and that we won't see a preview event for both iOS and OS X soon, a refresher of both OS's at the WWDC and a final release soon after.

Again, there are speculations on my part.  I don't have sources, I don't deal in rumors, and I make stuff up as best as I can based on what I see in the mobile market.  It's just for fun.  So, what do you think?  I'm off-base or is what I'm saying even remotely plausible?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mobile: Maintaining Margins, Demands, China Are Reasons Why You Should Not Expect A Cheap iPhone

It’s not for us to be talking about Apple’s stock prices here and its value as a company in fiscal terms. However, what’s going on in the stock market could lead to certain mobile expectations that I would like to dispel now. Here is one that I want to dispel now. There will not be a cheap iPhone coming out any time soon. There. You have it. No cheap iPhones that cost $99 or $199 without contract. Why do I believe this? In order to do that, we do have to talk about Apple’s earnings and profit margins a bit in order to do that. See, one of the reasons Apple’s stock is getting killed is the perception that growth is slowing. Sure, it’ll happen eventually but growth is still there if you don’t look at the last financial quarter as a whole but on a week-by-week basis. And Apple is killing it by growing more than 25%. However, what some investors are concerned about is the drop in profit margins from a low forties to high thirties. This is largely due to the fact that Apple introduced a lower margin iPad mini as well as refreshed just about every product it sells for the last Holidays quarter. There are cries for Tim Cook’s head despite the fact that even with lower margins, Apple made more money than ever before. There are also cries that Apple has to release a cheap iPhone to compete in the emerging market. What these idiots don’t realize is that by releasing cheaper iPhones, it would put a squeeze further the valued high profit margins that Apple is appreciated for and lower the average selling price of the iPhone. There are two classes of pundits here who are trying to pull Apple in two directions. One is the tech pundits who wants Apple to increase iPhone market share with a cheap iPhone. On the other side are investors who wants to maintain high profit margins. You can’t expect Apple to do both. Having said that, China was the highlight of Apple’s last financial quarter. Tim Cook said China will eclipse the US market as the largest market for Apple. That means a couple of things. Apple is growing and will continue to grow by selling even just its current lineup. And demand for Apple’s iOS devices and Macs have not reach any point the point where those in China who can afford Apple’s higher price gears are being met. Apple is still looking to open up more stores and places where its products can be bought locally. On top of that, Apple still isn’t selling iPhones and iPads on the biggest mobile network in the world: China Mobile with its 600 million subscribers. You can bet there a few tens of millions of subscribers who can afford iPhones and iPads haven’t jumped ship to other networks will be eager once Apple’s products are available on China Mobile’s network. On top of that, Apple just introduced a payment plan that allows users to buy an iPhone and pay for it over time. Seriously, folks. This is huge and not enough bloggers are picking up on this. What Apple’s doing here isn’t different from most Americans buying cars on installment plans. By doing this, Apple has instantly made its products much more affordable to hundreds of millions of Chinese who do have not the ability to buy an iOS device outright on day one. So, demand in China for Apple products are still at an all time high. Installment plans have made the iPhone available to millions more. Apple is still opening up stores. Anything else to dispel the need for Apple to produce a cheap iPhone? There’s also another market where Apple is just starting to turn its laser focus on: India. Apple may ship a cheap iPhone someday. I’m not ruling it out. It’s not going to happen until iOS devices has so saturated the market that Apple has no where to go but to try to steal its competitors’ lower-end market lunch money. Note: Apple’s last quarter was “bad” for another reason. It could not make enough to meet demands.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Apple Just Starting to Sell Apple TV To South Africa – Maybe Newer Apple TV Not Coming For A While

Apple will start selling the $99 Apple TV in South Africa.  It’ll probably cost more so the $99 price is US only.

There is a bit more information at Macnn.  What can we take away from this?  Well, it’s probably unlikely we’ll get an update to the Apple TV any soon then.  The reason is because if Apple is just starting to sell the Apple TV in a new region, an update would make the current model just beginning to go on sale already obsolete.  Of course, Apple could be looking to stagger sales of the device but that’s not likely the situation here.  This isn’t like the iPhone.

I’m hoping that I’m wrong.  Still, what can Apple update to the current Apple TV other than the OS that would give us more apps or features?  I don’t see a major hardware update to the Apple TV (like being able to display 720p to 1080p video) unless Apple has decided to add a major feature like being able to handle major 3D video games or something like that.

Plus, I’m comfortable with what I can ready do on mine for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Apple 2013 Prediction: Very Sensible Predictions With Comments

Here is a list from an analyst who offered very sensible predictions on what Apple may do on 2013 with respects to its product update.  It's all hardware so nothing about software, services, or cloud updates.  I think both should continue to go hand-in-hand as far as updates go.  That's Apple's claim to innovation and ease of use after all.

It's from Macrumors.  I'm not in the biz of regurgitating rumors but since this is only a prediction, which is as good as any I've seen or I can come up with, I'm willing to pass this along to ya'll.  Having said that, I do have some comments.

  • iPhone: I don't know about iPhone getting a shorter update cycle or colors.  Even fingerprint sensors.  I think we will definitely see an updated CPU.  It's also time for new camera sensors as well as smarter iOS that brings Apple's mobile apps and services more in line with its competitors.  Though I don't know if it'll happen, the battery life issue needs to be addressed.  The iPhone and iPod touch is thin enough.  No need to go thinner and sacrificing battery.
    • Fingerprint sensors - unlikely
    • Colors - unlikely
    • Camera Update - 50/50
    • Better battery life - 50/50.  It's time the iPhone battery get attention that the Macbook/iPad has been given.  30-Day standby time and 10 hours of use like the iPad.  
    • iCloud/iOS update - likely
    • Cheap iPhone - unlikely.  No way.  Apple might not have Android-style market share but it does have Apple-style shares in terms of profit.  Being able to control 70% of mobile profit with only 20-25% of the unit sales ain't too shabby.  I'd settle for profit like this over market share any day.  Apple can sell certain iPhones like the iPhone 4 at low prices for some markets as a testing ground but don't expect it to flood the markets with it.
  • Macbook Pro:  I don't know if Apple is ready to go all Retina.  Certainly, better Intel and GPU chips should be in order.  I doubt we'll see and update in the second quarter like the analyst says.  I think a summer update around the time of the WWDC is more likely.  It could be updated in June, which does fall in the late 2nd quarter time frame.  But getting rid of non-Retina Macbook Pro is not gonna happen given the cost associated with it
    • Macbook Pro With Retina CPU/GPU update - likely
    • Getting rid of non-Retina displays - unlikely (unless much of the associated capital expenditure is associated with preparing for this.
    • Battery Life Increase - 50/50 (it's about time it happens)
  • Macbook Air:  definitely getting a better update via Intel but nothing more.  Nothing to talk about it.  
    • Retina Display - unlikely
    • Battery Life Increase - 50/50 (it's about time it happens)
  • Desktop Mac - the analyst mentioned nothing about the Mac Pro but CEO Tim Cook did mention an update was coming.
    • Mac Pro - DEFINITELY.
    • iMac - late 2013.  Likely just see new CPU.  
      • Retina Display - 50/50.  I only mentioned this because I do see Apple move Retina to the desktop display.  I believe when it happens, it could be related to the Apple HDTV that everyone and their grandmothers is predicting is coming.  
    • Mac Mini - late 2013.  Nothing to write home about.
    • Display - likely.  The question is if it'll be Retina or not.  Apple may come up with a special Retina unit that costs two to three times more than the regular display just to make first adopters absorb the cost just like what it has done with the Retina Macbook Pros.  
  • iPod touch/Apple TV - likely.  There isn't too much to say about either product.  Apple TV is a "hobby" that Apple has a lot of interests in.  The 2012 iPod touch is a very neat device in and of itself and its pretty much for kids.  I don't see a need for Apple to update it in 2013.  
    • Seriously.  What can Apple do with the current Apple TV that won't tip its hands on what its future plans are.  Apps?  Some of kind updated audio and video streaming service?  Siri?  In fact, any Apple TV update will likely come from updated iTunes/iCloud services and not the hardware.  After all, the Apple TV already can display 1080p video, an update over the previous 720p capability.  4K?  Not in 2013.  
      • If there is an update, we could see FaceTime camera that can be hooked up wireless
New unknown devices - unlikely.  People are all over the place on what Apple should do to this or that.  This is what's floating out there.

  • Watch
  • Motion remote like Wii's controllers or something like what the Xbox has.
  • HDTV
  • Car
I can tell you all those above are preposterous.  At least in 2013.  I like the watch idea.  I am sure all those have been considered and may see the light of day one day.  Remember, Steve Jobs said that they're just as happy and proud of products they've decided not to bring to the market so those four mentioned items may exist.  

What I like to see is a FaceTime alone camera that could work wireless, either with the Apple TV or not.  Bring back the iSight camera.  If this happens, I like to see the ability to support FaceTime conference.  If Apple offers this feature, we would have to change some of the predictions above.

Anyway, this post ended up being longer than I expected.  But that's what's so fun, isn't it?  Just predicting/speculating - not rumor-mongering or stock manipulating as Wall Street does.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facebook's New Social Search And Privacy

Source:  Engadget.

On stalker skills scale, I think I'm about a four, maybe a five if I use Google instead of Duckduckgo.  And I don't use Facebook anymore so if I wanted to stalk someone, I would be kinda shut out. But if you're a stalker and you're on Facebook, I reckon today Facebook's new social search engine would benefit you greatly.

So far, I have only heard how people and see what you're doing made all the more easier but nothing about not having what you posted kept from any search results.

And Mark Z claimed that ads displayed will not be influenced by the search.  I don't buy that.  Maybe he's telling the truth about this today but if investor pressure keeps up, FB will eventually turn on that switch and, believe me, there is such a switch.

What's interesting in today's press event is that someone asked FB about working with Google since Microsoft's Bing is involved.  FB nicely threw it back and said that it was willing to work with Google so long as they honor privacy of Facebook users.

Nice parry.  Still, I trust FB even less than ever.

What's interesting is that from a mobile perspective, I see this benefit users greatly if they're willing to be part of Facebook's sphere of influence.  I see apps such as Apple's Siri being asked "what is that Indonesian restaurant that Bob visited last month in Washington?" and the result would come up.  Of course, Google can implement something similar with Google Now too.

All in all, I don't see this as a game changer.

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them.  First, let's a...