Opinion

The iPad 2 Rant

The thing that I haven't seen in any of the Android tablets, however, is a compelling reason to buy them instead of the iPad. The only people I know who've bought Android tablets also own iPads. Other than a strong aversion to Apple's products or Apple as a company, what would compel somebody to pay $800 for a Xoom or Tab rather than going out and getting an iPad? Maybe there's a reason, but I can't see it. While both the Xoom and Tab had some specs that were better than the original iPad, neither offered a comparable experience let alone a better one, and neither could do anything that the iPad can't, despite higher price tags.

Then came yesterday.

Two days ago, the Xoom looked like a decent, almost finished and slightly overpriced tablet. Two days ago, it had a couple of quantifiable advantages, including native CDMA support and a better GPU. Two days ago, you could make the Xoom look better than the iPad on paper. Though marketing based on tech specs hasn't proven to be a very effective strategy in mobile computing space, at least they did have that for them. They had grounds for claiming you should buy the Xoom instead of an iPad. The arguments were thin, but two days ago they existed.

Today, simply put: The Xoom is f**ked.

Comments on Gruber's "The Chair"

Far be it for me to presume to correct, debate or rebut John Gruber but one of his articles, The Chair, has me putting fingers to keyboard.

Gruber starts off with "Yesterday’s iPad 2 introduction felt like a repeat of last year’s event for the original iPad. Same place. Same pace and structure for the presentation..." It almost seems as if he is giving the details a more mystical quality than they deserve. Of course it was the same in most regards - that's the way Apple does things.

He says, "Have you ever noticed that Steve Jobs is not introduced at Apple’s events?" Minor correction here: Jobs is *no longer* introduced at these kinds of events. As a matter of fact, during this past Macworld Expo, I spoke to the last guy to introduce Steve Jobs at an event like this. He told me that moments before he was about to go on stage to introduce Jobs before a Macworld Expo Keynote, Jobs said he didn't need an introduction - and he's right. So Jobs not being introduced isn't much of a mystery.

"The ovation that greeted him yesterday was loud, almost raucous. We were, simply, happy to see him." I get the idea of showing respect to Jobs but "dispassionate observer" in me took issue with it. There's something a little off-putting about journalists tasked with covering Apple and Steve Jobs leaping to their feet, unbidden, to shower him with such obvious affection. I understand why they did it - I just don't agree with the doing.

Dear Apple: You’re not “Post-PC” until You Cut the Cord

On Wednesday, Steve Jobs took the stage and announced what he called “Apple’s third post-PC blockbuster”, the iPad 2. Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving everything I’ve seen about the iPad 2 and I plan on grabbing one next Friday when they become available, but watching the event from Wednesday, the use of the phrase “post-PC” was just blatantly incorrect.

(Shawn's Comment: While I disagree with the writer's last line ("If you don’t (cut the cord), I fear that Google is going to eat your post-PC market."), I do agree that calling the iDevices "Post-PC" is just marketing speak and hype.)

Apple gets Back to Basics in Mac OS X Lion

Apple gave us another sneak peek at what’s in store for the next major release of Mac OS X, dubbed Lion, due out this summer. Between the iOS-inspired features we saw in the first Lion preview in October and the new features the company revealed today, it’s clearer than ever that Apple isn’t merely getting Back to the Mac. With Lion, Apple is getting back to basics, making significant changes and adding new features that are all focused on making the Mac easier to use and more accessible to both new and longtime users.

Apple has always touted the Mac as the “computer for the rest of us,” wearing its reputation on its shoulder for designing intuitive interfaces and great experiences. But there have always been parts of Mac OS X where those claims just don’t hold up. Remember the last time you tried to explain to your parents or non-technical friends how to download and install Firefox from a Disk Image—or for that matter, what a Disk Image even is? With the meteoric rise of iOS and the iPad changing our perception of the personal computer, Mac OS X can sometimes look downright Windows-y by comparison.

Lion is designed to fix that.

Inside Intel's Next-Gen Core Processors

Intel rang in 2011 with its second-generation Core processors, promising vastly superior performance, better graphics capabilities, and improved energy efficiency. How much of a difference can a new CPU generation really make? The new processors (formerly code-named Sandy Bridge) deliver stronger performance than their predecessors did, and at palatable prices.

Intel's integrated graphics have come a long way, too, with support for 3D Blu-ray and smooth playback of 1080p content. But video game fans shouldn't toss out their discrete graphics cards just yet—the graphics processors built into the new CPUs stumble on many modern titles.

The second-gen Core launch was not without hiccups. In late January Intel issued a recall of Sandy Bridge's 6 Series chipset due to a design flaw. According to Intel, this flaw in the motherboard chipset would cause performance of the SATA ports to degrade eventually. An Apple representative told Macworld that the new MacBook Pros are using the updated chipset that does not have the flaw.

Despite those concerns, Intel's new hardware remains a force to be reckoned with. If you're considering a new desktop or laptop with an Intel processor, chances are good that it'll be a Sandy Bridge model. We'll help you understand the strengths and weaknesses.

Apple's Strategic Advantage

When you think about Apple's strategic advantage over competitors, the fact that it has the brains of Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ives and other top visionaries usually lands at the top of the list. It's true that having this type of brainpower at the head of the company gives it quite an advantage over its competition. But it would be a mistake to think that only these few are the only driving force behind all of Apple's products and long term strategy. Indeed, as I understand it, the visions that drive Apple are a collaborative effort.

A few years ago, during a talk with an Apple executive, he mentioned that Apple's goal is to always stay at least two years ahead of the competition. Since then, I have observed that to do that hundreds of people inside Apple spend thousands of hours doing something that most of its competitors don't do, which is to visualize what customers will want in two to five years and architect every detail of that vision across all of its devices. And the operative word here is details. Apple sweats the details across its entire ecosystem of products to make sure that they fit into this broader vision it has of the future.

A good example of this is the iPhone development.

Photography for Beginners: Spring is Springing

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little bit optimistic in hoping that Spring is around a (hopefully) short corner. But my optimism is due to all the great shooting opportunities Spring brings. As a photographer, I’m always looking for shots that are easily captured and within the capabilities of both myself, my camera and my budget. Spring makes that easy.

First of all, Spring brings longer periods of sunshine and warmer temperatures, encouraging us to go outdoors and enjoy the season. And, with the flowers, plants and trees coming into bloom, your opportunity for some great shots multiplies tenfold.

Even if Spring hasn’t quite made it to where you live, you can still get ready for it or at least, pretend it’s here.

Why iPad is untouchable while iPhones were beaten by Android

Over on Techcrunch it’s fun to watch the comments come in after it ran yet another “Apple’s iPad still has no competitors” rant. The Android fans are saying “just watch, Android will beat your iPad just like it beat your iPhone in market share.”

No, this time won’t be the same. First of all, ALL THAT MATTERS IS APPS. Let’s keep repeating that until you get it.

(Shawn's Comment: Scoble is another in a long line of pundits who equate "winning" with "market share". Which would you rather have - 60% market share and 10% of the money or 10% of market share but 60% of the money?)

A New Kind of Hello

In November 2010, Forrester published the results of an e-book survey, “eBook Buying is About to Spiral Upward”. The full report is available for $499, and author James McQuivey offers a helpful summary that can be downloaded for free.

The survey first tried to establish how readers get books today. Asked “In which of the following ways have you acquired a book in the past six months?”, those responding most often said “A friend gave/loaned me a book” (50%).

The next most frequent answer was “Got a book from the public library” (38%). Chain bookstores (38%) and Amazon (28%) were third and fifth on the list, with “Found an older book in my personal collection” (28%) coming between them.

So three of the four most likely ways someone gets a book are: loan, borrow or revisit – not buy. This got me thinking about digital books.

iTunes may Upgrade to 24-bit Files, but Why Bother?

In the age of highly compressed music files playing on iPods and even lower-quality Pandora streams playing on iPhones, some artists, music producers, and others in the music industry are apparently pushing for iTunes and other digital download services to adopt higher-fidelity 24-bit files. But while a small niche of audiophiles might appreciate the move, it seems unlikely that the necessary sea change in hardware and software will happen in order to support such a move, nor do we see consumers flocking to 24-bit files in order to it economically viable.

While some audiophiles can discern the difference between AAC tracks compressed at 128kbps versus 256kbps, or compressed tracks versus an uncompressed CD source, there's evidence to suggest most listeners can't, especially on low-end audio gear like iPods, cheap computer speakers, or compact home theater systems. Much like expensive Super Audio CDs (SACDs), the extra sound quality would only be of appreciable benefit to an extremely small niche of audiophiles with very expensive audio systems. While those customers would likely appreciate a higher quality download option, the music industry already provides them with higher-fidelity uncompressed formats, such as CDs, SACDs, and vinyl albums.

For the vast majority of listeners—many of which are satisfied with low-bit rate streams from the likes of Pandora—a transition to 24-bit audio would be superfluous.

Apple, Google's Mobile Rivals must Play Catch Up

All cell phones can talk to each other and handle the same websites and e-mail systems, so winning means making products that function more effectively and appealingly. That sums up Apple's success.

Steve Jobs figured out long ago that when people spend their own money, they'll pay for something a lot nicer than the unsexy gear the cheapskates in corporate procurement choose. While others competed on price, Apple focused on making its products reliable and easy to use. Once customers buy an iPhone and start investing in iTunes songs and apps, they tend to stick with the system and keep buying - even though there's no proprietary lock on the proverbial door.

Apple's huge sales volume makes carriers and suppliers more likely to agree to its terms. The software that powers everything Apple makes - all variations of the Mac operating system OS X - is as intuitive to developers as Angry Birds is to app shoppers.

The result is economic leverage of staggering power.

App Store Subscription Plan demolishes the Appeal of iOS

The broad application of Apple’s new App Store subscription guidelines to everything from magazines (sensible) to Kindle books (questionable) to Readability (delusional) to Tiny Grab and possibly DropBox (downright silly) could end up being the single-worst business decision the Cupertino Colossus has made in the last decade, for one very simple reason: it seeks to maximize App Store revenue at the expense of making iPhones and iPads the most attractive hardware platforms on the market.

Getting 30% of Readability’s revenue cannot possibly justify the risk of making the iPad sell a few hundred thousand fewer units.

(Shawn's Comment: The author is prone to hyperbole ("demolishes"? Not even close. The iOS store is just as attractive to average consumers today as it was before this new policy) ) and probably needs a Econ 101 Course in capitalism (he tells Apple to "...remember what business you’re in". Apple is in the business of making money. Full stop) but what do you think - will Apple's 30% policy help or hurt the company and it's bottom line?)

Why Nobody can Match the iPad’s Price

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad last January, the biggest surprise wasn’t the actual product. (Many shrugged and called the iPad a “bigger iPhone.”) It was the price: Just $500.

Nobody expected that number, perhaps because Apple has traditionally aimed at the high end of the mobile computer market with MacBooks marked $1,000 and up. And perhaps we were also thrown off because Apple execs repeatedly told investors they couldn’t produce a $500 computer that wasn’t a piece of junk.

But Apple did meet that price, and the iPad isn’t junk. The iPad is still the first, and best-selling, product of its kind. Competitors, meanwhile, are having trouble hitting that $500 sweet spot.

Motorola’s Xoom tablet is debuting in the United States with an $800 price tag. (To be fair, the most comparable iPad is $730 — but there’s no $500 Xoom planned, and the lack of a low-end entry point will hurt Motorola.) Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, with a relatively puny 7-inch screen, costs $600 without a contract.

Why is it so hard to get to a lower starting price? And how was Apple able to get there?

It’s not Apple’s Fault the Publishing Industry is screwed Up

The publishing industry and the media have been up in arms since Apple introduced its new subscription service last week. What I don’t understand is why publishers think it’s Apple’s responsibility to make them successful.

Let’s face it, the publishing industry has been going downhill fast for many years. In some respects, they have nobody to blame but themselves. The Internet changed publishing forever and many publications were very slow to capitalize on the opportunities, instead choosing to stand in front of an oncoming freight train. That didn’t work out so well for them.

Now we are on the cusp of another publishing revolution and the industry is again standing in front of that freight train.

Verizon iPhone Sales rumored to be Underwhelming

The Verizon iPhone launch at stores last week came and went rather quietly. Lines were short to nonexistent at Apple and Verizon stores, though we still don't know how many phones were sold over the first few days. Verizon said it plans to sell more than 10 million iPhones by the end of the year.

We still don't have official totals, but we do have one purported snapshot of what launch sales looked like at a handful of Apple stores. Boy Genius Report says it snagged some data from someone at Apple who said sales of the Verizon iPhone are "performing a little under" the two companies' expectations. If true, the following is more than "a little" underwhelming, considering the long wait by Verizon customers to get the iPhone, and the vociferous threats by unhappy AT&T customers about jumping to Verizon.

Is Mobile Affecting when We Read?

Printed media used to allow us to read in the places we found most comfortable. When you imagine yourself reading the newspaper it’s probably in your favorite chair, at the breakfast table, or at the cafe with an orange mocha frappuccino in your hand.

Unfortunately, as news and media moves online, it moves us away from these places and into our desk chairs. Even worse, consuming content is no longer on our own schedule. The flood of content disrupts us all day as if we have an maniacal paperboy throwing new editions on our doorstep every 15 seconds.

However, after studying Read It Later’s own data, it seems that this trend is being reversed. I’ve found that as devices become more mobile, it’s not only changing where we read, but when. Today, I’d like to show you some of the data behind this movement.

Why The Daily is So Yesterday

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I received personal email from someone at Rupert Murdoch’s just-announced iPad app and national news publication, The Daily, encouraging me to post “info, images, video, and more” from their news release. Those who aren’t interested in the inside baseball of new publishing ventures probably missed or ignored the announcement—after all, we’re talking about just another iPad news app, which isn’t exactly news beyond the publishing industry.

So why am I telling you about it? A few reasons.

The Daily App: New Technology, but Old News?

Announced on Wednesday, The Daily was touted by its creators at News Corp. as a rethinking of journalism for a new audience and new technology. There’s just one problem with the hype: Rupert Murdoch’s new iPad newspaper closely resembles other—often unsuccessful—attempts over the last decade to “reinvent“ the news. The only difference, from a user perspective, is that a few semi-new digital flourishes have been thrown into the mix.

This isn’t a problem with the platform, per se. The Daily is well-designed, and as my Macworld colleague Jason Snell said: “I can see the $30 million they spent.” The app’s carousel menu makes navigating the news a tactile, pleasurable experience, and there’s plenty of multimedia—audio versions of stories, videos to accompany stories, and stunning 360-degree panorama photos from major news events. There’s even a nifty story commenting system that lets users express their opinions in 60 seconds of audio, recorded directly from your device. (Having moderated comments for a daily newspaper Website, though, I pity the poor News Corp. employees who will have to wade through all the audio files reported as “abusive” by other users.)

But we’ve seen most of this before.

Apple introduces Paid Subscriptions for iOS Apps

The big story out of News Corp’s press event Wednesday morning was, of course, its new publication for the iPad, The Daily. But a less discussed feature potentially has much wider implications: Apple’s introduction of paid subscriptions.

So far, there has been no way to charge subscription fees in iOS apps. It’s a feature that developers and publishers have been requesting for some time, and only more vocally after Apple introduced the iPad.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet services, came on stage to announce the The Daily’s subscription model. After its initial free trial period of two weeks (sponsored by another Apple partner, Verizon), the publication will cost $1 per week or $40 per year. Cue didn’t offer many more details at the event, however, but a change to the iTunes Store’s terms of service shed some light on the feature and Cue said an announcement about subscriptions for others would be coming soon.

Apple changes the In-App Purchase Game

Is Apple's approach to how goods are bought and sold on iOS devices changing? That seemed to be the case Tuesday, as a developer accused Apple of rejecting its app in a money grab. The frustrated developer in question is Sony, which went public (an act Apple warns developers against) over the rejection of its Reader for iPhone app, a front-end to Sony’s e-book store.

But it turns out that Sony may have been a canary in the proverbial coal mine. Numerous media organizations, including Macworld, contacted Apple and received a comment from Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller. Here’s Muller’s statement:

We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines. We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.

The statement seems a bit contradictory, but what it seems to be saying is that although terms and guidelines haven’t changed, Apple is now enforcing them differently.

Macworld 2011 Successful, but needs to Keep Evolving

A decade ago, Macworld Expo was a barometer of the health of the Macintosh industry, and by proxy, of Apple Computer. But as Apple shed the word “Computer” from its name, Macintosh from its core focus, and eventually the trade show itself from the company’s schedule, any analysis of Macworld Expo has become indicative only of its own health, and the health of any trade show in an Internet-driven world.

After all, while Apple is almost literally on top of the world, by some measures, Macworld 2011 (still commonly referred to as “Macworld Expo”) in San Francisco has shrunk precipitously from the show’s heyday. Long gone are the days when Macworld Expo occupied the 440,000 square feet of Moscone South and Moscone North; this year’s exposition was housed in less than 100,000 square feet in Moscone West, with the conference sessions occupying parts of the second and third floors.

But don’t be fooled.

Macworld without Apple focuses on Add Ons and Enhancements for its Products

Now that Apple no longer attends Macworld, the once-huge event focuses on add-ons and enhancers for iPads, iPhones and iPods as well as the venerable Mac, and still features great sessions taught by the top experts on everything Apple.

Apple is enjoying its greatest levels of success, and customers are buying record numbers of products in almost all of its major categories.

So why isn't Macworld 2011 — more commonly known as Macworld Expo — commensurably larger and more successful than the fairly small show that ran this week in San Francisco?

Apple COO: We're "very confident" in Apple's Future

The two questions on the mind of anyone who follows Apple are "When is Steve coming back?" and "What happens if he doesn't?"

Yet on the earnings call with financial analysts today, no one asked any direct question about Jobs' medical leave announced yesterday or a possible future without him. However, Apple COO Tim Cook--the company's de facto leader in Jobs' absence--anticipated both questions.

He turned his response to an analyst's question about Apple's timeline for planning future products into an subtle assurance that Apple is a well-run company at the top of its game.

"I will tell you, in my view, Apple is doing its best work ever. We're very heavy with product pipeline. The team here has an unparalleled depth and breadth with talent and a culture of innovation that Steve has driven in the company," said Cook. "Excellence has become a habit. We feel very confident in the future of the company."

Will Apple Survive without Steve Jobs?

With Steve Jobs taking another leave of absence due to health issues, the question coming up is whether Apple can survive without Steve Jobs at the helm.

Jobs has been the face of Apple and has represented the persona of Apple for decades. As a chief spokesman for Apple, he would be irreplaceable. When he gets up to speak, he projects his legendary status as an industry pioneer and visionary. Within the company, he is chief cheerleader to the troops, and since he has the final say on products, he sits as the heart of Apple's final decisions about what comes to market.

But, Jobs will be the first one to tell you that Apple couldn't be where it is today without the hard work and dedication of a powerful executive staff and thousands of workers inside Apple who put in long hours to create their great products. While he clearly has major input on products and business decisions, Apple has become so large and so successful that the overall decision process and execution no longer rests just on Jobs' shoulder alone.

iPhone User? 90% you’re on the Latest OS. Android User? 0.4%

As a member of the media, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Nexus S running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” a few weeks ago. It’s great, easily the best version of Android yet. I hope one day soon you all get to try it out. But the likelihood of that is pathetically small. In fact, don’t be surprised if Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” is out before most of you even get a chance to use Gingerbread — maybe even for phones as well as tablets.

With the iPhone, it’s a much different story. The likelihood that you are already running the latest version of the iOS software is much, much higher. In fact, it’s something around 90 percent, if some numbers shared by the CEO of Bump are to be believed.

A Deep Bench of Leadership at Apple

No one expects Apple to suffer in the short term, as the company has a long product cycle. But some raise questions as to what will happen over the long term if Mr. Jobs does not return.

“The problem here isn’t the operations of Apple and their ability to execute and keep doing what they’ve been doing,” Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, said. “As far as what they’ve got in place, no doubt they can deliver, but as far as inspiring products you haven’t thought up yet, that’s what you’re going to lose.”

“The problem, really at the core,” he said, “is that Steve Jobs’s inspiration is irreplaceable.”

Ten Changes We'd like to See at the Mac App Store

It’s been a week since the Mac App Store flung open its virtual doors, giving Mac users another avenue to shop for and download software for their computer. Apple hopes to emulate the success it’s enjoyed with the iOS version of the App Store, and the company just might do that when all is said and done—after all, it took just 24 hours for the Mac App Store to ring up 1 million downloads. But after eight days worth of hands on time with the Mac App Store, we’ve noticed that there are a few things Apple could stand to fix.

Why You should always Encrypt Your Smartphone

Last week, California's Supreme Court reached a controversial 5-2 decision in People v. Diaz, holding that police officers may lawfully search mobile phones found on arrested individuals' persons without first obtaining a search warrant. The court reasoned that mobile phones, like cigarette packs and wallets, fall under the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

California's opinion in Diaz is the latest of several recent court rulings upholding warrantless searches of mobile phones incident to arrest. While this precedent is troubling for civil liberties, it's not a death knell for mobile phone privacy. If you follow a few basic guidelines, you can protect your mobile device from unreasonable search and seizure, even in the event of arrest. In this article, we will discuss the rationale for allowing police to conduct warrantless searches of arrestees, your right to remain silent during police interrogation, and the state of mobile phone security.

Apps with Maps: 11 iPhone GPS apps compared

The world of iOS-based GPS navigation apps has matured since we last reviewed this category, and the situation has improved. These apps are designed to mimic standalone navigation hardware, those dash-mounted or in-dash devices that guide you to a destination, navigating with the aid of visual cues and maps and often complemented with spoken directions and street names. Both standalone devices and iOS apps can integrate live traffic information for alerts and active rerouting, too.

In this round-up, we revisit 11 apps (dropping one that’s no longer available for sale). Testing was done in and around Seattle, Washington.

Understanding Mac App Store App Restrictions

Apps you install from the Mac App Store (MAS) are different from other applications on your drive. Even if an MAS app is an apparent duplicate of a program you previously downloaded from the Web or installed from a disc, the apps are not exactly the same.

As such, the Mac App Store app can recognize if an app was acquired from the Store. The Store app will offer to update MAS-acquired apps but not the same app acquired outside of the Store.

Mac OS X can similarly tell if an app came from the Store or not. For example, using the Finder, you can copy a non-App Store app from one drive to another and it will work the same in both locations. Not so with Mac App Store apps.

How exactly are MAS apps different from other apps? How do the App Store and Mac OS X treat the distinctions? What Mac OS X software handles recognizing these differences? Perhaps most importantly, if you have a choice between an MAS and non-MAS version of the same app, which should you prefer? Read on…