Category Archives: Apple

Apple’s Sep 9 — 1-2-3 Punch

iPhones_FrontI’m one of those who was extremely pleased by Tim Cook’s Apple this week. We already knew about iOS8. That’s was a really strong sign of good things to come. I will tell you why I am high on iOS 8 as a linchpin for Apple’s future, then move on to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and finish up with the Apple Watch and finally to Apple Pay.

iOS 8 Unleashes iOS

In developing iCloud Drive and Extensions, Apple has removed the barriers to growth for the iPad.  I’ve railed against the limitations of iOS on the iPad that have stopped me from using it as a full-fledged post-pc computer. With iOS 8, which is due for release next week, you’ll be able to search your entire device for files no matter which app created them. Lack of full device search has been a giant-sized missing on iPad on the order of missing copy and paste on iPhone in the early days.

Extensions solve the other major problem iPad has had which is inability to freely share information and functionality between apps. Yes, it is all well and good to have specialized apps that do one thing well. But, it’s not OK, when you have to go through hell to get a job done copying files from one app to the other. And only when you get lucky and app A has been modified to be able to work to some degree with App B. Yes you can do email and web surfing without that, but knowledge work and creativity suffer and are frustrated.

The iPad mini with retina and iPad Air are very powerful and will be able to do so much more without having to operate with one hand tied behind their backs. Removing these constraints opens up new fields of opportunity that Apple needs to capitalize on. The iPhone 6 party is about to start and we haven’t seen what the 2014 iPad(s) will look like. We’ll get to it all in a minute but lets start with what will be available to preorder tomorrow.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

iPhone 6 is a Worthy Upgrade to the iPhone 5s

Increased screen size is more than welcome on the iPhone and it seems to have been achieved with minimal inconvenience. The 6 is thinner. It has these nice rounded sides so you won’t find it harder to hold than a 5s. Being thinner and rounder helps it fit into your pocket as well. If you can deliver more screen real estate without penalty, why would you not?

iPhone 6 is the Incremental Entry though. The iPhone 6 Plus has other virtues I will get to in a minute but both 6s deliver:

  • Even more gorgeous screen
  • Faster than the 5s
  • Better camera
  • Beautiful design
  • Extra iOS features to make it easier to operate a larger device one-handed

iPhone 6 Plus is the Topper

The iPhone 6 is big. I was surprised when I learned it would be 5.5″. That’s at the upper end of the scale for a <cringe> phablet. I’ve been wanting a bigger iPhone and even I was a little scared this big guy would be too big. But I didn’t anticipate that Apple would do all sorts of good things to make it work as an iPhone. If you can make it work, you’ve done the impossible and given users the chance to have one device to rule them all. I wanted the original iPad to be 7″. Instead we got a 10″ iPad. Then last fall we got an 8″ iPad which many flocked to.

I’ve got a 6″ Kindle Paperwhite but the touch and gray is so inferior to an iPad retina it only gets to come out on special occasions – outdoors mostly. However, that 6″ screen is more than big enough for eReading and the 8″ iPad mini is still too big for comfort though useable. This new 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus fits the eReader size to a perfect T as it is less wide and thus better for single handed use. It’s brilliant.

Strategically, the iPhone 6 Plus seems perfect. Being an iPhone it has a much higher margin than the iPad mini which it will cannibalize to some degree. So, you raise the iPhone price $100 and you solve the issue in an instant.

When iPhone started it had to be a good phone first a foremost. Those days are gone and the new 4.7″ and 5.5″ sizes are spot on for these touch computers that happen to be phones too. Other smartphones have migrated into these spaces and now Apple has answered decisively. See my blog post Ten Reasons to Go Big with the iPhone 6 Plus for details.
AppleWatch

Apple Watch

I was shocked at the innovation I saw in the Apple Watch Tuesday. I was hoping that Apple would somehow pull a rabbit out the hat and make the Apple Watch compelling. And they did — much more than I expected.

Wow Impeccable All the Way Around

What I saw on Tuesday was jaw-dropping. I didn’t realize there was so much to do and so much that can be done in reinventing the watch as a mobile computing device/platform. Beyond the watch, it is clear that Apple is taking on wearables as a major new category. They didn’t just do an Apple watch like they’ve done computers and iOS devices to date. They decided the Apple watch is a uniquely personal device and personalization is imperative. No one size fits all here.

Options Galore

The sheer volume of options is not something we’ve seen from Apple up until now. Having 2 iPhone 6 models was the first surprise of the day. The Apple Watch is a landslide in the personalization and options department. Two sizes. Three models. Beaucoup straps. Customizable watch face content. Lots of app support — already.

Unique Opportunities with a Watch

This is what I didn’t count on. Fitness and health, yes. I knew Apple could up that compared to the iPhone. But the communication stuff. Taptics! What is that? Allowing you to signal your partner at a party with all sorts of options. I can’t wait. The little fish drawing wasn’t bad either. The Digital Crown to control zooming is perfect.

Will the Apple Watch be a Hit?

It sure looks like it. I want one and plan to buy the v1 Apple Watch that comes out Q1 2015. This is one of those times when Tim’s warning, “Don’t bet against us” seems particularly prescient.

Apple Pay

This is a giant category waiting to happen, so its scale Matches Apple like a glove. They can easily wheel and deal at this level. Apparently Japan has already proven that this kind of thing can work. I didn’t see anything not to like, but I will defer to those who are fascinated by commerce. I’m a little more idealistic and interested in knowledge and creativity. I have no doubt Apple Pay will roll some heads and be a viable entry to this category. But I’ll leave it at that.

Conclusion

Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Craig Federighi and those on the iPhone and iWatch teams did themselves proud Tuesday. Tim wasn’t kidding when he said Apple would continue to blow our minds!

State of the Apple in 2014

Jony_Ive_Book_CoverApple: too Big to be a Growth Company?

From a Stock Investment point of view, maybe. It’s a well known fact that the bigger you get, the harder it is to grow fast because your base is such a large number. Big successful companies like Apple can also become complacent.

With Stock troubles the last year and a half, though, Apple has had some time to introspect and get the house in order to fight the competitive battles they need to fight. The biggest immediate challenge is that Smart Mobile is peaking. Most of Apple’s target market — knowledge workers, professionals and creatives already have iPhones and iPads. Now what?

The first thing Apple has done is put out 3 great versions of their 3 stellar products: iPhone 5s, iPad Air and iPad mini with retina. All three are based on Apple’s new best in class A7 chip and are incredibly responsive. The 2013 retina MacBook Pro is also a great machine. Jony Ive has taken over software design now and iOS7 has  a fresh new look and is better than ever. Their current product portfolio including OSX Mavericks is peerless!

Growth and Innovation

Let’s grant that Apple has one arm tied behind its back as a Growth company due to its decade-long rapid growth and enormous sales and profits. But Innovation, design and excellence are Apple’s proven strengths. How can Apple not innovate? That’s what they do. I’m not the only one impressed with Tim Cook’s competence, intelligence and commitment. Steve Jobs is gone. But intensity, vision, aesthetics and creativity are alive and well in Apple’s secret sauce man — Jony Ive.

Jony Ive Has the Goods

I’ve just finished reading the new Jony Ive book by Leander Kahney and it is quite enlightening. Ive’s father taught him design, curiosity, craftsmanship, observation and innovation from the cradle. His father led the development of design education in England and helped Jony get into the best design schools and firms. Jony was winning prizes for design and turning heads while still in high school. The best part might be that he is just as driven as Steve Jobs was. And Jony isn’t working alone, he has handpicked an amazing team of designers.

Ive joined Apple in the early nineties and designed the 2nd version of the Newton. His team also did a Newton mini-laptop that looked a lot like the translucent Bondi Blue iMac a few years later.  It just got better from there.

Tim Cook Makes it Happen

Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs but he kicks ass and gets stuff done like no one I’ve ever heard of. He’s not even a product guy but he is super competent and obviously loves being the guy running Apple. He will do whatever it takes to keep Apple in a leadership position in technology.

Angela Ahrendts is Coming

I’m cheating a little here as Ahrendts hasn’t even started yet as Apple’s new Retail chief, but I’m super excited just from seeing Angela’s Ted Talk on The Power of Human Energy. She is inspired and inspiring and I’m glad to have her on the team. She’s done wonders at Burberry and is pretty geeky too. She’s done stuff with retail at Burberry that Apple could only hope to do until now.

In the area of computer software and hardware and now Post PC smartphones and tablets, Apple is the innovator. No one else is close…

The Future Unfolding

New Product Categories

We’ve been hearing rumors of a real TV or a much cooler Apple TV for years now. More recently there’s the iWatch rumor. I’m guessing these both are going to happen. Cool stuff is starting to show up in Cars. It is safe to say Apple will address the digital home and car near term. But we will have to wait a little longer to see the results of their efforts.

Sapphire Glass Plant in Arizona Looks Promising

I like this new development. First Apple is manufacturing the Mac Pro in the US. Now they are building a Synthetic Sapphire plant near Phoenix.  My take on this is that Tim Cook is on the move. I think he wants to build up Apple’s manufacturing capability in the US. He says he is just getting started on this.

What About Google?

Google is Apple’s number one rival. They have shown themselves to be good at search and cloud services. Android’s 80% global marketshare in smartphones is nerve-wracking to say the least. Google CEO, Larry Page, plays big and will help the industry move forward rapidly in the coming years. Lots of their innovation is vaporware from my perspective, though. Self-driving cars and Google Glass are innovative but ideas are a dime a dozen. Let me know when you sell those cars and a few regular people adopt Google Glass.

Apple doesn’t pre announce their innovations, so every time there is a gestation period, people start questioning whether they still have it. See my August 2013 post on Apple’s Strengths and Weaknesses for more on Apple and Google.

That said, Google is a great spur to Apple to keep innovating. Just lately Google bought Nest the hip digital home thermostat and smoke alarm maker founded by, Tony Fadell. And Google sold Motorola to Lenovo. I can’t tell whether they are scarily great or just shaking things up.

I’m Optimistic

Google is out there and Apple has to play its best game to do exactly what it wants to do in the technology space. But Apple has lots of cards to play in this undertaking. They have the money, passion,  people,  design leadership and cutting edge engineering and manufacturing. I can’t wait to see what is coming down the pike next. It’s going to be good!

Apple Strengths and Weaknesses 2013

iPhone_iOS7_reclining

Apple’s stock price has been battered since last September. Growth and profitability have not been the usual off the charts this last year. Are Apple’s glory days over or is this a pause in Apple’s ascent to greater heights? What are Apple’s key strengths and weaknesses going forward?

Weaknesses

Let’s go straight into the thick of the weaknesses first. Then I’ll tell you what I like about Apple’s prospects.

Online Services

iCloudApple is first and foremost a hardware and software company. The cloud is not Apple’s first love and not their native language like it is at Google and Amazon. Google, Amazon and Facebook are all in on the Cloud and it shows. Apple is playing catch up and hasn’t gotten everything right with iCloud. iTunes is aging.

As communications and whole industries have gone digital, the Cloud has grown in importance. If Apple doesn’t keep investing heavily here, they can’t stay competitive. Apple’s ill-fated introduction of Apple Maps and stumbles with DotMac, MobileMe and now iCloud show they are persistent and committed to success in the Cloud. They know it’s a deal-breaker. I don’t see any reason they can’t master this area. But I do believe we will see Google stay ahead of Apple overall in the Cloud.

The Cloud is not ruling the world yet, though. During the heyday of Web 2.0 back in 2005 and 2006, there was a growing consensus that “everything is going to the Cloud”. Not so much. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and native apps and Apple’s App Store in 2008 made web-based apps seem limited. Users have spoken. They want snappy and powerful native apps that benefit fully from being optimized to the hardware of an iPhone, iPad, smartphone or tablet with all their powerful sensors. At minimum, Apple has bought itself a chunk of time here to play catch up in the Cloud. The jury is still out on which side will dominate when the dust settles. Will the Cloud resurge or will native apps sustain their current lead? Sooner or later the cloud with HTML 5 and beyond will be cool. That it will make device-optimized apps obsolete is questionable at best right now.

Nexus7_gen2Premium Pricing in a Bad Economy

Apple has carved out a position in the market as a premium quality producer. As Apple says, “We don’t make junk!”. Apple has it made selling to the affluent because they are viewed as the maker’s of the best quality devices and the best user experience. If price is no object, most go for iPhones, iPads and Macs. That’s fine but eventually you run out of rich people and have to sell to the rest of the economy and the world. Apple has done pretty well to date on this front by leveraging their economies of scale. However, Samsung, specifically has the same scale as Apple and isn’t limited to producing for the top tier. There is plenty of evidence in places like China and India especially, lots of phones are going to the Android side. The problem is much worse where there is no subsidy for phones like there is here in the US.

Sometimes Bigger is Better and One Size Does Not Fit All

Competitors, especially Samsung, have had a field day producing gadgets that are bigger or smaller than what Apple makes. There have been large wins with larger phones all the way up to the 5.5″ Samsung Note 2. The biggest win there is in price sensitive markets where people have been sold on the bigger screen of the iPad, need a phone and can’t afford 2 wireless devices.

GalaxyNoteIIvsiPhone5There are very good arguments to be made for a single device to serve as both an always connected internet phone and an always connected tablet. It’s cheaper and you get that lovely 24/7 connectivity we all prefer. Bigger screens are more impressive. You might occasionally regret the size when holding it with one hand or trying to fit it in a tight pair of jeans, but content and web pages sure look good with more screen real estate. Big phones have got to be great in the showroom!

Apple’s Strengths

What about the other side of the coin? Apple has demonstrated excellence in design, innovation, quality and customer service. Yes. These are Apple’s core strengths. How are these holding up in the face of fierce competition especially from Google and Samsung?

Design

The competition’s imitation keeps improving and HTC has created a great looking and feeling large Android phone with the HTC One. The top three contenders, Samsung, Google and Amazon are well beneath Apple’s dazzling designs but, as we’ve said, a low price does wonders to smooth over that deficiency. Not everyone cares that much about great design. Here’s hoping Apple keeps finding ways to use all that money they have in the bank to secure the best deals on components. Apple makes the iPod touch which is a super cheap iPhone almost, so they know how to cut corners on costs when they want to. A cheap iPhone would be an iPod touch with a cellular antenna. With a subsidy, Apple would be giving them away free.

Apple still has a large lead here but Google has upped their game (thanks to Matias Duarte) making the stock Android user interface and Nexus devices look and feel much better. The top contenders are all playing the design game now. We think this competition will continue, but now Apple is striking back with iOS 7 a bold and arresting makeover that may be what the doctor ordered for reviving their lead in the design space. Those who are intimately familiar with actual use of the iOS7 betas have come away impressed. iOS 7 will very likely be a hit with its unique multilayered, translucent experience. Anyone getting bored with iOS as we’ve come to know it will be wowed all over again.

Innovation

Yes, we think Apple has been slacking a little in the innovation department but then that’s what it always looks like before they blow us away with their big new things that come only every few years. We all waited year after year for a smaller laptop and finally got a MacBook Air and an iPad. Both have been way cool but they didn’t come out as fast as we would have liked. Chalk it up to greatness.

I think iOS 7 looks super innovative and the new Mac Pro shown off at the World Wide Developer’s Conference in June looked off the charts amazing! TV seems to be taking awhile and that hurts Apple’s image a bit. I also love OS X Mavericks because it addresses a lot of longstanding issues in OSX brings them up to the level of excellence we expect from Apple. These aren’t earthshaking improvements, but they will be well-appreciated.

Apple is still clearly the leader in computer and mobile hardware and software right now. To a point, everyone else is still playing catch up. I do want to acknowledge that Google has a mind of its own, has lots of money and does interesting things with it. Also, Microsoft’s introduction of the Surface tablets is innovative in its own way. Lets not forget the Metro UI and Windows Phone which are legitimate innovations too. One of the differences between how things are going now and how they went with iPod dominance is that the industry sees that mobile phones and tablets are to a large degree replacing desktop and notebook computing as we’ve known it. There is a sense of urgency along the lines of innovate or die that wasn’t present back in the iPod days. It took a few years to develop but there is a true creative ferment that Apple has to contend with.

Quality

Quality is how Apple rolls. They aren’t going to change in this regard and the competition will undercut them when they can and cut corners in doing so. In a sea of products and advertising, quality stands out. Samsung and Amazon have shown that quality isn’t everything in their smartphone and tablet offerings, though. In price sensitive markets, a lot of people just want to get into the game.

Tim Cook has his hands full, but as he says, don’t under estimate Apple. They have lots of cards to play. It’s clear they have a good chance of staying on top.

State of the Apple 2012

A lot has happened in the world of Apple this last year. Apple has released new Macs including powerful MacBook Airs, OSX Lion, iCloud, the iPhone 4S with iOS 5 and just announced a strong OSX Mountain Lion release coming for Summer.

Along the way, Steve Jobs died – on October 5. A tragic loss to millions around the world. Even so, Apple is on a roll of immense proportions and is showing no signs of slowing down. Its stock valuation is larger than any other corporation in the world, but you know that already.

If you’ve been here before, you know that Apple is a passion of mine. I bought my first Mac in 1986 (the Mac Plus). That was a big commitment at the time. Back then, I was an up and coming computer professional just starting my own business. The question was do I go with my strong attraction to the Mac or go with the already dominant and rapidly growing IBM PC? I went Mac then and have stayed the course. At the time it looked like the innovative and easier to use Graphical User Interface of Macintosh would overtake the PC, but that didn’t happen. Even now, Mac represents only 10% of the Desktop PC market.

What has happened for several years now is that Mac is growing at 25-30% per year and PC sales are flat. The reason for Apple’s success has not been the Mac, but the introduction and massive success of the iPod, then the iPhone in 2007 and now the iPad. We live in a world swimming in mobile devices with people bumping into each other as they pay much more attention to their phones than their whereabouts. Mobile has begun to dominate the market and looks hell bent to take us all into a Post PC world where the PC is more of an after thought (actually, the PC as we know it may become part of the scenery literally as walls and glasses become screens). Just last week it was revealed that Apple sold 155 million iOS devices in 2011 which exceeds the total number Macs sold in its 28 year history (122m).

Even though Apple lost the battle between Mac and PC, they drove the computer industry forward, even in the Eighties and Nineties. Bill Gates could see that Apple’s Macintosh technology and graphical user interface was the wave of the future. So Microsoft created Windows using the Mac as a point of reference. Microsoft’s dominance systematically drained Apple and by the mid-nineties Apple’s future was in doubt. Steve Jobs returned to Apple after a hiatus of over ten years and revived Apple and led it to where we are today.

I’ve been doing blog posts here on the state of Apple for several years now. I’ve predicted Apple’s success, but no one could have predicted the current situation. Apple has been moving computers forward by leaps and bounds and taken computer tech far beyond the graphical interface, desktop/laptop into whole other categories. With Apple’s rise, the computer and associated technology industries have exploded into uncharted territory. We’ve gone from a computer on every desk to a computer in every pocket.

So, where is Apple with Tim Cook at the helm, without Steve Jobs to drive it forward? So far so good. Apple has not stopped innovating but I don’t think anyone expected it would. Apparently Steve Jobs worked with Jony Ive and other Apple executives on at least a four year product timeline. I’m hoping those four years will march like clockwork to not only improve the Mac, the iOS platform and devices, but create whole other platforms and initiatives. We know from the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson that Apple is working on major initiatives in education (iBooks Author) and the Living Room (Apple TV). From the looks of Mountain Lion and iCloud, lots more is in store.

As a technology professional, my job is to invest my time (R&D) and efforts (software development, consulting and writing) in the right places so I can, through early adoption, R&D and experimentation, stay ahead of this unfolding curve. I have acquired Apple’s latest technologies early including the first iPod, the first iPhone and iPod touch. The first iPad. I’ve since upgraded first thing as advances in these tools were made. I don’t buy every model, but have purchased every iPhone model on its first day, the Nov 2008, Nov 2010 and July 2011 MacBook Airs. I’m on the case and study the iPhone and iPad apps as they pertain to my target users: designers and the broader group of professional knowledge workers like myself (see my Independent Knowledge Professional blog that evolved from my Tech Ronin blog started in 2003).

The Mac, iPhone and iPad are #1 in their categories (the latter 2 are number 1 in sales, while Mac is agreed as the better desktop/laptop machine for those who have a choice. They are going gangbusters and I see no reason to doubt that will continue for the foreseeable future. Of course, nothing is forever, so Apple will have to find it’s way on its own (without Steve Jobs) to continue its success as time goes on. It’s not easy to do what they’ve done and it won’t be a slam dunk to continue it. IBM has done pretty well. Microsoft has seen better days, but I wouldn’t count them out by any means.

With Apple’s size now, they have to make big markets. I have no doubt that iBooks Author will succeed (and have written a recent blog post about it over at my Independent Knowledge Professional blog). Same for Apple TV. Who can do it better? They have all the money in the world ($100 billion at last count). They have Jony Ive as head of design which is a central, defining role at Apple. They have the ultimate Operations guy in Tim Cook. This should be fun to watch — and participate in.

My bread and butter work is the development of custom FileMaker Pro database applications for businesses – I call them decision support systems. I’ve built a FileMaker-based software product called Studio Manager for the creative services industry so do most of my consulting there, but I do a certain percentage of my work with a variety of other businesses from solopreneurs to corporate work groups.

Technology consulting comes along with the territory. I advise on what hardware and software to buy as part of my help in developing solutions to business challenges. I’ve had a web presence since 1995, so do a little consulting re blogging and social media. I’m a big Twitter fan (I’m @tokerud) but could live without Facebook. I love the Kindle and have recently acquired a Kindle Fire. It’s pretty good. Amazon is the other A company I believe in.

My generic advice to you without a personal consultation? Get a MacBook Air if you don’t already have one as your main computer (it’s OK to have a larger desktop machine when needed but such a machine is rarely versatile and mobile enough to be your primary machine). Get an iPad 3. Use an iPhone. Right now these are your best bets for hardware/software technologies to use in your knowledge work. Use them for staying current, managing, creating content, communicating, thinking.

You need to place bets with your hardware and software investments, and most importantly with your time. Every minute spent with these devices is know-how acquired – progress along key learning curves. Technology investments elsewhere will have smaller returns. Obsolescence and the avoidance thereof is a reality any knowledge worker must take seriously and manage him or herself to.

Apple Everywhere, Where Next?

I follow Apple closely every day. I own multiple Macs, an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2. The biggest chunk of my income comes from building software and custom systems with FileMaker Pro – also owned by Apple. I was pretty thrilled last July when FileMaker announced FileMaker Go for iPhone and iPad. The latest upgrade to my Studio Manager product supports iPhone and iPad access.

The second biggest chunk of income comes from advising and consulting with my Mac clients on technology decisions. Apple is my home team. I’ve been writing about Apple since System 7 came out in the early nineties. Here’s what’s going on now:

1. iPad 2. The iPad 2 and enormous success of the first iPad last year is the biggest thing. The iPad is the third big industry-changing new device after the iPod and iPhone. This triple play puts Apple in the catbird seat in the technology scene. They are making truckloads of revenues and profits and their biggest problem is figuring out what to do with all the cash they are accumulating.

I love the iPad and and am on cloud 9 with the new thinner, lighter and faster iPad 2. The iPad is such an easy device to use. iPhone delivered the wonders of multi-touch in an exquisite little package. iPad raises the ante by expanding the screen to handle most digital documents at full size and doesn’t do half bad with video. There’s plenty of room for controls and content.

Apple is building for the future though. Things we are used to like USB and the Finder aren’t in iOS. Apple views the iPad as a game changer. They are reinventing the PC and are very serious about it. Expect to see better replacements for these standards as they get completed to the satisfaction of Steve Jobs. Apple made a judgement call on how far they could get us to stretch into new territory with the iPhone (no copy and paste?) and now with the iPad. They gave us all sorts of inducements to make the missing pieces worth waiting for. See more on this in yesterday’s post Have iPad, Will Travel on my Independent Knowledge Professional blog.

You may want to get an iPad just so you can start the new multi-touch *pad* learning curve. Gestures are in and they are being phased in over time. It helps to get on board so that you don’t have to learn 15 gestures all at once 2 years from now. There are rumors of a possible, more cloud-based iPad 3 this Fall. I’m so happy with iPad 2 that I don’t care one way or the other. But, of course, you would probably find me waiting in line then too. Apple hasn’t disappointed me for quite a few years now.

2. iPhone 4 and 5. Apple finally delivered a Verizon iPhone in February. The iPhone 4 is a killer device with its absolutely gorgeous 960 x 640 pixel screen. The early hubbub about the antenna had little to no negative impact on this juggernaut. However, the iPhone 5 may not be released in June. In fact, it seems pretty clear that an Autumn release is the earliest we can expect. I guess Apple isn’t done yet with whatever they are cooking up. So far we are hearing more cloud-based, a very powerful voice control component based on Apple’s acquisition of Siri. Apparently Apple wants to keep ahead of the pack so expect more on this next iPhone. By the way, the iPod touch should continue to gain iPhone features as time goes on and be an incredible wi-fi-only device. As free wi-fi spreads further, which it has been doing quite nicely lately at places like Starbucks, Peet’s and even MacDonalds, the iPod touch increases its value.

3. OS X Lion is nearing completion. We’ve already seen a preview and it will be morphing closer to iOS, taking on various inventions there. More gesture-based. An app store already out. A bunch of little icons on the home screen too. And more. The Mac and OS X look to be in a great position to continue their long upward climb in marketshare. It’s getting to the point where some people are starting to think that adopting the Mac platform is a step on the way to the future rather than a step off the path onto a niche OS. Many are saying Microsoft’s days in the sun are numbered. I think OS X and Mac will continue to grow. That’s all that matters from my perspective. If the PC platform is plateauing and Mobile and Cloud are ascending, it may not matter too much which way that goes.

All these three initiatives are selling like hotcakes. Apple’s massive multi-billion dollar server farm facility in North Carolina may be completed this Spring. Rumors of a new, much-improved MobileMe are afoot. Rumors of iPhones and iPads that depend more and integrate with an Apple Cloud are gaining traction.

There used to be a solitary Macintosh platform that worked pretty well with Windows. Now we have a different ball game with the two new iOS offerings on iPhone and iPad. I think it is clear there is room between the Mac and iPhone and that spot is being forged with great promise with the iPad and now the iPad 2. You need to be thinking in terms of all three working together. Apps need to be purchased in that context in many cases. Prefer the App that can interoperate all else being equal.

I didn’t mention the continuing success of Apple stores. The 4 in China have proven exceptional. It seems that retail presence is one of Apple’s strategic advantages vis a vis Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

And what about the livingroom and Apple TV? That’s still a hobby as Steve calls it. Apple is probably going to find a way there as well. The latest moves look like they may hold promise. Things like Apple TV 2.0, iPad 2 mirroring to HDTV, home sharing and streaming between iDevices, Macs and Apple TV 2 look good. There are serious obstacles on this front. Google TV ran straight into them in the Fall. Sooner or later things will open up here or a mitigation of differences will be struck between Cable and Digital. Don’t hold your breath but keep an eye out.

Microsoft/Nokia Fight for #2 Spot in Mobile Market Against Android

Nokia’s new alliance with Microsoft and adoption of the Windows Phone 7 smartphone platform has little relevance to Apple. Microsoft and Nokia are fighting for 2nd place against Android. Android has the lead now with its free OS and endless accommodations to carriers and manufacturers. Android has no enterprise presence.

Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch and now iPad usurped the old cell phone and PDA markets and created a third pad market (otherwise known as tablet). Apple is delivering better tech than anyone else. They market hard. They are incredibly efficient and single-minded. Their aesthetics and design are awesome. Apple has nothing to worry about.

But Android hasn’t distinguished itself as a great OS. It’s just the 2nd entrant, free alternative to Apple/iPhone. Both Windows Phone 7 (simpler and more polished) and WebOS (better at the web than Android) are better tech. Google knows that Android is *old* tech cobbled together – that’s why Chrome OS is around — it’s future leaning but has no marketshare at all except as a browser. The Android market is a mess with its openness, lack of app sales, incompatibilities, bloatware etc.

There’s some truth to Google Gundotra’s 2 turkeys don’t make an Eagle tweet. It will be hard to gain traction. But these are still early days in mobile and digitization.

Windows Phone 7 is cool software (maybe not as cool as WebOS but certainly no worse than Android). MS has a great developer program and lots of good feelings from developers — way better than Apple’s rapport with developers.

MS has the sprawling Windows market and a solid Windows 7 OS. Windows has utter dominance in the enterprise. MS even has cool tech and technologists which they can demonstrate when not hampered by having to stay compatible with legacy technologies – see Kinect.

Nokia has great hardware design. Incredible European loyalty. Amazing distribution channels for cell phones. This alliance boosts Microsoft and Nokia in Mobile.

These are early days for great mobile devices. It won’t be easy, but if Microsoft can really focus and Nokia can work with them and play well with others, they can carve out a spot for themselves leaning towards (1) enterprise and (2) simple for ordinary consumers — the silent majority who don’t want to load their devices with endless apps.

Why Samsung’s new Bada OS is a good move

bada

Samsung is a big player in the cell phone market. But, they excel in the feature phone space. The writing is on the wall and feature phones are rapidly losing ground to smartphones. Samsung has to get into this game with their own OS.

Bada can come in all about the lower end of the smartphone market and match up well to feature phone users who are thinking of switching to a smartphone.

Samsung has developed bada to make these exclusive smartphone experiences available to everyone. – Samsung

If you are one the biggest companies in the world, you can afford to make the effort to create a niche for yourself that favors your agenda rather than forever playing second fiddle to Google, Microsoft, Nokia or Apple.

Apple has shown all the other players the way. Half the battle with software development is seeing how something can work. Everyone gets to play with an iPhone and all the accompanying iPhone apps and see for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

Apple paid for all the prototyping and market testing and made smartphones worth having. Now Samsung can imitate, extend and perhaps favor both Samsung and the Asian market — which, by the way, it going to be huge.

Why not? Consider the resources they have. They can afford to do their own OS to control their own destiny in this increasingly mobile, constantly connected world. Don’t run out and buy the first Samsung Bada phone, but eventually all the big phone makers will learn to play in the mobile web space.

And, yes, I’m sticking with my iPhone for the foreseeable future.

State of the Mac (and iPhone) Nov 2009

Time is flying by as usual and it is time to give you my take on what’s up at Apple. This is easy since they are doing so well. I’ve been writing about Apple in one way or another since the early nineties. Back then I was writing a paper newsletter once or twice a year.

Snow Leopard has been great for me. The only hassle was that quite a few things broke and weren’t fixed for a few weeks. Apple had said Snow Leopard in September and all the developers thought that meant September 30. Apple got crazy and introduced Snow Leopard on August 28. How rude!

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The main thing to know about Snow Leopard if you haven’t upgraded yet is that (1) it makes your machine noticeably faster and (2) the screen pops and dazzles in a way Leopard doesn’t. Apple rewrote the Finder in Cocoa and put the full horsepower of their core graphics engine under it. Now windows pop like you’ve never seen them. As soon as you install Snow Leopard there’s no going back. It’s too lush and enjoyable — and did I say fast!

Then in September we had the new iPod touch and iPod nano. I covered them in my last post, so will skip those here. I still think the Nano makes a fantastic Christmas gift for anyone who likes music or gadgets the least bit. The iPod touch is for all those people who can’t do iPhone due to contracts, crumby reception or exhorbitant data plan charges. iPhone-less college students are perfect mates for the iPod touch because wi-fi runs rampant on a college campus and money isn’t all that plentiful in most cases when you are a student.

Then came a *mightier* Mac mini upgrade, a fast, battery-laden $995 white Macbook with everything but firewire and a crazily ginormous iMac 27. Apple rocks! They do not let up. They drive the tech world.

I only have two tiny complaints at the moment. I wish Apple had knocked Mac prices down a little more somewhere to increase Mac marketshare. But if they did, they could not wow us as well with things like the 7-hour battery life of the white Macbook. Second, where’s my iPad? Lots of people have shiny little netbooks and I want a mini-tablet as an alternative. Lots of Apple owners *had to* go out and buy netbook PCs. Since I have a Macbook Air, I held the line. I highly recommend Apple’s video about the new iMac – there’s a lot of Apple’s amazing industrial designer, Jonathan Ive, on there.

Windows 7 is here. As an after thought, I’ll mention the big W from the North country. I haven’t seen a screen with Windows 7 on it. I go by my tech reading. What I see is that Windows 7 is a great boon to Microsoft’s bottom line. Since a lot of the good things about it are already in OS X, Mac lovers need not be concerned. We know who the innovator is between Apple and Microsoft. Since there is an incredible inertia in favor of Windows, Apple will have to hustle. Glad of that.

Steve Lives and Back in the Saddle

steve_lives_gizmodoWe are disappointed with Apple’s decision to leave the camera out on the iPod touch. On the other hand the 64gb model looks pretty nice. The little nanos with video cam, microphone and fm radio look like great Christmas gifts this year.

Lots of goodies in iTunes 9 – finally better design so you can find what you want faster and a wishlist! Being able to organize your iPhone and iPod touch apps in iTunes looks really good.

Couldn’t resist this pic. I’ve got iTunes 9 running and both iPhone and iPod touch running OS 3.1.

Photo compliments of Gizmodo.

State of Apple – July 2009

I see AAPL is at about $147 per share today. Not too shabby for a deep recession. Steve Jobs is back at the helm after a successful liver transplant! That was a surprise for everyone but seems to have come out for the better. I’m relieved and hope to see him live a long life. He’s only 54 after all.

While Steve was on a leave of absence, the Apple machine showed no signs of distress. Perhaps this is because, Steve remained involved on major decisions and he’s hired an amazing team to carry out Apple’s groundbreaking initiatives.

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The new iPhone 3GS is looking to be a big success. I absolutely love mine. The improved camera hardware and software was worth waiting for. I don’t feel bad leaving my point-and-shoot at home anymore. The increased speed and extra memory mean you can flip between web pages and apps without a pause in the action. Voice control and the new compass add even more to the package. Don’t get me started on iPhone OS 3.0 which works on all iPhones and iPod touches. Did I mention the App store?

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The Amazing new Macbook Pro 13″ was a wonderful surprise. Starting at $1199, this Mac can’t be beat. And they gave us back the Firewire they took away when the unibody MacBook was released last October. Plus much increased battery life and a better screen. If I weren’t in love with my MacBook Air, I would have run to the Apple store for this one.

In spite of some credible initial efforts from the Blackberry, Android and now Palm, Apple seems close to attaining the crown in the Smartphone space. That’s not bad after only 24 months in the market. Keep in mind that mobile is the next computing platform.

We have Snow Leopard and new iPods coming in September. Rumors of a mini-tablet in October tantalize. Really glad to have these amazing technology treats to look forward to in these challenging times.