Thursday, October 21, 2010

WTF? Apple made a netbook!?

And it's the most expensive one in the world.

What many thought was impossible, unfathomable, and only come to be once hell hath frozen over... Well then, button-up your parka on the way down, because Apple hath created a netbook.

Well, they kind of made a netbook. That all depends on what your definition of a netbook is. If you say small, then yes, Apple created a netbook. But if you say cheap, then Apple is still way off.

Netbooks are generally considered netbooks under a screen size of 12 inches, are comprised of cheaper, slower components, and are held together by cheap plastic in a questionable design. But that's how Dell, HP, Acer, and friends can sell them cheap (as if I couldn't use the word "cheap" again) -- by making compromises. Apple's new MacBook Airs, which come in 11.6 and 13.3 inch flavors, have both the industrial design elements that make them visually striking while still being powerful enough to accomplish more traditional and advanced PC tasks -- traditional and advanced in the sense that they run a desktop operating system.

Of course, great stuff has a price.

In the end, however, the netbook market is all about budget. Although I believe the new 11 inch MacBook Air is more a netbook physically than anything to have come from Cupertino, in terms of the market, they do more damage to netbook sales with the release of the iPad. The iPad is priced just low enough to grab the attention of a few potential netbook customers and herd them in to Apple-town. So, in that sense, because the new MacBook Air starts at $999, it will do nothing to substantially affect the general netbook customer.

But look at it!! Ever since the media caught wind of the growing popularity and sales of netbook PCs, everyone poked Apple over and over again to eventually make one. If you dreamt about something tiny and shiny and appley, then your wish has come true.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Does this mean world domination by a fruit?

So, basically Apple dominates the friggin world. Latest earnings are ridiculous. Breaking records again and again, this has become the largest kool-aid drinking party ever.

Via Gizmodo

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another reason I absolutely love the Mac

On a PC, the mouse cursor always gets in the way of what I type.

Think about it -- you use your mouse to click inside a text field, but unless the cursor is intentionally moved aside, it interferes with your ability to read what you type. And good luck if a tooltip happens to pop up under the cursor; that blocks pretty much everything. It's like trying to drive a car when all of a sudden someone splashes black paint all over the windshield. Not cool.

On my Mac, as soon as you type, the cursor disappears. Move the mouse again, and voila! It's back! What a simple, nice freaking touch!

However, every time I'm forced to use a PC, either for work or when I use bootcamp for miscellaneous causes, I'm confronted with this horrible oversight in basic design flaw in user experience.

Geez, Windows has been out for thirty some odd years now, and nobody at Microsoft realizes that pointing and clicking has nothing to do typing...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yay! Apple holding a Mac event Oct. 20!

Alright! I get excited about new Apple events. Especially when they have to do with the Mac.

For a while now, folks in the Mac community have been upset about all the attention and focus on iOS, as Apple seemed to neglect their firstborn, the Mac, for the past year. But it made sense, however, because iOS devices now make up the largest portion of Apple's revenue. Either way, being a Mac evangelist -- it was my first love -- its great to finally hear something out of Cupertino, that they haven't forgotten us.

Apple event is scheduled for Oct. 20, and the tagline reads, "Back to the Mac." A graphic promoting the event depicts a 3D Apple logo with tiny sliver of a lion on the back of the Apple. So, I surmise they will be discussing the next version of the Mac OS operating system, 10.7.

The current Macintosh operating system, called Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, was released Sept. 2009. And Apple generally releases a new version of the OS at least every other year. I would guess the event might make some announcements about their Mac business, provide some updates and details on the sales and landscape of the desktop operating system, describe some new features planned on in the next release, and if we're lucky, might even announce a few hardware updates.

As it stands in the current lineup, the Mac most neglected would be the MacBook Air. Never considered a supreme player among laptop elites, its price tag and lack of features make it, while an extraordinary design, not fit for most of the laptop-toting market. However, those that find a place for the MacBook Air in their lives, say like a college student or traveling businessman, generally love the device for the sleekness, slimness, and the ability to carry around the capabilities of Mac OS X in such a tiny package.

As far as other updates, I'm really hoping on the announcement of a new version of iLife, which now that I think about it, must come along with some type of hardware announcements, seeing as how iLife is considered a free software for new Macs (that makes sense, right?). Of course you can purchase iLife as a standalone product for older machines, but that doesn't seem like Apple's style to make newer software not also available with newer hardware. Or maybe I'm just crazy...

Some people have pondered on the possibility of seeing some iPhone stuff, like even the notion that we might hear something about a Verizon iPhone. But usually, when Apple and Steve Jobs say their keynotes will cover a specific topic, they rarely go off course, declining to mention really anything else in their product lineup. Look at the past couple of keynotes: iPad was all about iPad and nothing else, iPhone 4 was all about iPhone 4 and nothing else new, and the September keynote was, as usual, all about iPods and Apple TV, and nothing else. So, Macs will prevail at this upcoming event, I believe, as it should, given the fact that other than quietly updating their Macintosh products, we haven't heard much out of Cupertino about their plans for Mac.

What features will the new OS contain? There's not much a Mac user can complain about, at least nothing I can think of off hand. I only see good things coming, so keep your eyes and ears open for whats next...

It's like my Mac is a baby, and Apple is the school system, and all I want is to send my Mac off to school so it can grow up big and strong and learn a whole bunch of new tricks. Come on, OS X Lion!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Windows Phone 7 is cool, just a couple years too late

In New York this Monday, Microsoft finally held its Windows Phone 7 event, officially introducing the new operating system along with 10 different handsets that will run it. The entire time I watched the keynote, however, as excited as I was for a product that looked to be extremely tight and polished, I also couldn't help but kinda pity Microsoft for one main reason: they needed this platform and these devices two years ago.

After watching the hour-long, slow-going keynote, which, while not an Steve Jobs presentation, was at least as informative as it was entertaining, I found myself continually nodding my head. Microsoft really has something here with Windows Phone 7. And having used Windows Mobile in the past, everything I saw up on that small stage was a complete rework of a struggling mobile strategy that now has the fit and finish to slide in among the big names already in the field. If only this event was held a couple of years ago, where would the industry be now?

There's no doubt that Microsoft is late to the game. While remaining somewhat relevant among smartphones, Windows Mobile 6 just didn't have the vigor to compete against the shine of the iPhone and iOS, as well as the slew of phones coming from handset makers adopting the Android platform.

So, why has it taken Microsoft this long to get on the bandwagon, to put something on the market that actually has a chance? They are a big cat in the industry -- they make freaking Windows for heaven's sake. How can the makers of the most popular software in the world not create something on the cellphone to turn consumer heads?

You might say the Redmond-based software giant suffers from managerial issues. Hell, when the iPhone was first announced, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughed at the notion of the iPhone becoming popular, ignoring not only how drastically different it was, but also how the iPhone was exactly what the industry needed: a jumpstart on serious mobile computing design and applications, and a handset-to-carrier relationship that worked for the consumer. I have no idea what's really going with Microsoft's board of directors, but I imagine their meetings might look like a scene from "12 Angry Men."

From my perspective, instead of having a clear mindset of "We need to make a better product now," the ideas around the heads of Microsoft decision makers, or lack thereof, were seemingly fruitless. For too long, waiting on the market and riding on WinMo 6, they appeared to not be able to make a decision about anything. All the while, iPhone was having one hell of a party. Vision and motivation in taking an idea, even those outlandish, is what was lacking from the spirit of leaders. Numbers and figures in the face of art, business suits in the face of fashion, maybe... As Chris Ziegler of Engadget writes about Microsoft senior vice president Andy Lees, "Lees -- like most Microsoft execs -- is a no-nonsense numbers guy" (Link). Maybe they only felt comfortable playing a sure thing.

Lack of vision and leadership. Case and point: Two Windows Phones, which were doomed from their conception, somehow made it to market only to be discontinued in less than two months. The Kin One and Kin Two, called project "Pink" before they were released, apparently had the same problem with project management: too many chiefs, not enough indians. Or maybe more appropriately: too little chiefs with vision, plenty of indians. This is an excellent story by Ziegler of Engadget on the whole Kin debacle: Life and death of Microsoft Kin: the inside story.

The point is, if Windows Phone 7 was ready and released this time in 2008, the time when phone manufacturers really started to get behind and drive the market share for Android (the only other viable touchscreen smartphone platform -- sorry Blackberry Storm), I do believe that Microsoft would be next to, if not overtaking, the iPhone in terms of market share. But, alas, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, though the Android platform had already been conceived, most companies in technology had their thumbs up their butts wondering what to do next.

So with the worst days hopefully behind Microsoft on the mobile front, lets imagine a world without Windows. Or not.. that'll never happen. But well see just how Microsoft fares on their new offering, and if it will gain any traction. I predict by this time 2011, Microsoft will have regained a good position in terms of both mindshare and market share, but not enough to constitute overtaking the market any time soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Patiently waiting on iLife '11

I understand that Apple has had a busy, busy year. We've seen a lot in tech in 2010. With the iPad, the iPhone 4, new MacBooks and iMacs and Mac Minis, iPods, software updates, and the notion that Apple as a software company is always working on the next greatest and latest thing on both the Mac OS X and iOS platorms, one can only expect so many goodies at a time. So, in the case of iLife, which is in my opinion already a much better suite of digital life applications than any other free offering available, I can deal with a year skipped.

Changing gears for a minute, it's quite funny to me that Windows still does not offer much in comparison to the free iLife applications that ship with Macs. As a user of both Windows 7 and Mac OS X, I have used and adapted to both platforms. Windows offers a couple of different programs that work similarly to Apple's iPhoto and iMovie -- Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker -- but what they offer in features just doesn't make up for the unfriendly user experience and polish that makes iPhoto and iMovie so desirable. Sure, all software has its own laundry list of problems, but what it boils down to for me is how enjoyable the software that I have to use everyday is to use. Other than the fact that neither of these Windows programs actually come with a new computer (you have to find and download them off Microsoft's website), I find that through using them, they aren't exactly brag-worthy on Microsoft's part, can be extremely buggy, and are not being promoted by Microsoft at all, even though a common software suite offered free by them would be really helpful in selling more computers.

My guess is that Microsoft, as they reiterate constantly, wants to leave as much as they can up to third part hardware and software vendors. They supply the operating system and let the community fill in the gaps. That's all great, as a common software suite like iLife might shut out a lot of possible paid application developers. But at the same time, everyday users like your mom may need a comprehensive photo organization environment and are not going to search for alternatives like the nerd that lives in the basement.

Either way, Microsoft, in their position on top, doesn't need to do any of that. They say, "hey, we've got something similar if you need it, just so we can say we do, but we're not really going to let you know about it. That way we can keep the doors open for developers to fill in the gaps" (not an actual quote).

Apple fanboys, as myself, use the iLife application suite as nothing more than ammunition against the Windows machine (figuratively speaking). And yet, it holds so much weight to the average computer user when they get to see first hand the awesomeness and easiness of iPhoto, iMovie, or GarageBand.

For example, just recently I visited a family gathering with my father, my uncles and grandfather. We had just come back from playing a round of golf, where I had taken my iPhone 4 and shot some video and pictures of the game. As we all sat around talking and chilling, I pulled out my laptop and hooked up my iPhone to transfer everything over and do some video editing. One of my uncles, who has a somewhat elevated interest in technology -- more so than any of the others -- looked over my shoulder and watched. Like most people, he is a PC user. But as he watched how easily I opened everything up in iMovie and started cutting, he was amazed at what he saw. I explained to him what I was doing and the software I was using, and after about a minute, his first question was: "And how much does that cost?"

Of course, being a fanboy, I immediately turned into a commercial and walking, living advertisement. "It comes free with every Mac. It's called iLife. Pretty cool, huh?"

A little later, my little cousin pulled her guitar out and began strumming a few poorly-held chords. My uncle and I were showing her a few chords when I thought about the lessons on GarageBand. So, I opened up my MacBook, clicked the GarageBand icon in the dock, and pulled up a couple of lessons that come free with the software. My cousin and uncle sat and watched as the interactive experience unfolded. Again the tagline was "cool" and "free" to my uncle, as he questioned about where he could get something like that for his PC. I told him that I'm sure there was something out there similar, but it wouldn't be anything like what Apple had done, nor would it include a lesson with Sting.

He didn't run out and buy a Mac, of course. Frugal is a frugal does, you might say, but in the short time he had spent with me, my MacBook and the iLife suite, he understood the appeal and necessity to having something that powerful and fun built-in to the computer you choose. In this age of digital everything -- photos, videos, music, etc -- if you don't have the proper setup to organize and produce your content correctly, then all you have is a mess of folders and documents that nobody can enjoy.

That's where iLife '09 shines. I love it. But what about iLife '11? What could be done to make the newer applications better? Well, the rumors is that iPhoto will get better social networks integration, there will be a totally rewritten iWeb (awesome, because iWeb as it stands now is not that great), no iDVD (which is okay, because it's not that useful anymore, and also because Apple will eventually get rid of optical drives altogether in their machines), a new mystery application, and everything will be in 64-bit and iOS compatible (whatever that last bit means).

That's all beans and gravy, but what about iMovie? GarageBand? If you have used iMovie at all, then you know there are certainly some bugs to be worked out. Moving clips around sometimes don't work at all and might require an entire restart of the program to get them to function again. You Mac users out there, try and nudge some voiceover clips around on the timeline using the keyboard, and you'll see what I'm talking about; it doesn't work at all. While iMovie '09 is an amazing improvement from iMovie '08, with much more added functionality, the application overall still feels like its missing some more professional touches. I'd like the functionality to use more video formats and to be able to import any audio and content from anywhere on my Mac, rather than just what cane be found in my iTunes or iPhoto library. This just seems like a given in my book, but as is Apple, wants everything tightly wound and knit it a perfect ball of closed-offness (which works for them, so whatever).

This post went a little long; rambling is my style. But to wrap up my ideas about the importance of these types of applications in today's world, Apple is on the right track with this. They've know it and have been doing it for years -- since the first iMacs, if I remember correctly. The iLife suite wasn't a suite yet; it had iMovie, but ever since then, iLife has been a very useful tool in the average consumer's digital arsenal. Let's hope that the 2011 version, thought to be called iLife '11, will keep up with growing trends and bring the functionality and awesomeness we've come to expect.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blackberry Playbook - here's hoping

I pray to all things good in the universe that this Blackberry Playbook tablet is in the least bit competitive against the iPad. I'm sick of Apple being the only company able to pull much of anything off correctly. I want an iPad, but I tired of only wanting Apple stuff; I have too much Apple stuff! Please, please, please, wont there be another company to make something as cool as or better than Apple's offerings?

To be fair, I love the Palm Pre and WebOS design. And I hope (again, hoping) that HP will make something great out of the investment (the purchase of Palm). But I'm tired of companies taking the "wait and see" approach to new markets and/or to revolutionize/reinvent markets. Apple does that; they did it with the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad. They have a philosophy, advanced by Steve Jobs, that says, make something great, know it's great, know it works great, and know it looks great, and spend as much time as it takes to accomplish that, and screw everybody else that gets in the way.

That's right! These tech companies need to grow some!

Microsoft, in its horrible marketing and management disarray, having already failed with the Kin One and Kin Two, is finally set to release Windows Phone 7 upon the world next week -- their new, supreme touchscreen and modern mobile OS competitor to the iPhone. But the iPhone was released July 2007! It's October 2010! This is how long it takes for somebody to do anything to keep up with Apple and the Jobs-man.

Research In Motion (RIM), in the case of the PlayBook, isn't too far behind the iPad; its been only a few months now since the iPad's release. So, I'm sure RIM has been working on some type of tablet offering for a while now, possibly even a few years as far as the operating system infrastructure goes. I'm willing to bet, however, that as soon as the iPad was announced back in January, they went full-steam ahead to ramp up development for what we've seen introduced last week.

They claim this tablet computer is for the "professional" -- like businessmen. But if you think like me, when something now is claimed for the "professional," I'm thinking that it's more along the lines of "hard to use" and "not streamlined for smooth user experience." So, regardless of how great their promotional videos are on this tablet, I'm not getting my hopes too far up, though I sure would like for it to work just as smooth and seamless as they make it seem: