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Three Easy Steps for Apple to take on Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft

August 26th, 2010

Here’s how Apple gets into the gaming console market:

Step 1: Launch the Apple Game Center as part of iOS 4.1

Step 2: Put iOS 4.1 on Apple TV

Step 3: Uh . . . there is no Step 3.

Okay, so it is highly unlikely that an A4-powered Apple TV (or iTV or however they brand it) is going to offer much that is desirable to the Call Of Duty-style hardcore gamer, but the Nintendo Wii and the Facebook/Farmville combo have already proven there’s a huge, under-served market of casual gamers drooling for interactive games that don’t involve getting pwned by a 14-year old with Mountain Dew-fueled catlike reflexes.

Plus, the iTunes media empire puts the media capabilities — and catalogs — of traditional gaming consoles to shame. And, if, as rumored, the price point for the new Apple TV offering is a very attractive give-away-the-razor $99, then the game console big boys might be scrambling to try to get into a new market segment they’ve ignored for decades.

And if Apple wants to really bring the unicorn tears, my secretest, bestest wish is that Apple TV bundle a TiVo app.

Apple, Gaming, Technology & Internet

OMG, OS X soon available for non-Apple hardware!!!!

June 6th, 2008

Or not.
Okay, so there really should be question marks, not exclamation points, at the end of that headline, but if you’re trying to start a Mac rumor, you just can’t go with question marks. It’s all about projecting the confidence. ;-)
John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes that Apple had dropped the “Mac” from the name of their operating system. Evidence is this photo of the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference 2008 hall, all geared up for next week’s conference. It pretty clearly shows banners that say only “OS X Leopard” and “OS X iPhone” — no “Mac” branding to be found anywhere.
That’s a contrast to the last two WWDCs where all the branding was “Mac OS X Leopard.” You can bet that Apple’s marketing team doesn’t make big glaring mistakes like “Oops, we left out a major part of the brand from all the conference signage,” so it’s a safe bet this is a new branding strategy. The question is why?
The easy and most expedient answer is given by the other banner in the photo, the one for OS X iPhone. Now that OS X is the underpinning for the desktop OS and the mobile OS, calling it Mac OS X is a bit bizarre since, well, the iPhone isn’t a Mac.
However, they could just as easily have left “Mac OS X” as “Mac OS X” and called the iPhone flavor “iPhone OS X” or (better, IMHO) “Mobile OS X.” No real pressing need to drop the Mac from the OS X brand.
The other factoid contributing to my rumor-mongering is the rumor that broke two days ago that Apple will announce OS X 10.6 (code named “Snow Leopard”) at WWDC and that OS X 10.6 will be the first Intel-only release of OS X, i.e. the first version that does not support the now-legacy PowerPC processors.
Dropping the Mac-specific branding from OS X plus announcing the first Intel-only version OS X — seems like things are nicely set up to allow for licensing of OS X to third-party hardware vendors.
OMG, OS X soon available for non-Apple hardware!!!! Extra bonus exclamation points: !!!!!

Apple

Seriously, RIM, have you no shame?

March 31st, 2008

Does the shape, coloring, and body design of RIM’s new Blackberry 9000 look vaguely similar to any other product to you guys, too?

Apple, Technology & Internet

Apple, you done me right.

August 5th, 2007

One of the few complaints I’ve had with the iPhone is that it failed to work with the Kensington iPod FM Transmitter/Auto Charger that I bought just about two months before I bough the iPhone.

But the good news is that the 1.0.1 iPhone firmware update last week that fixed a recently discovered security flaw, also included several other (undocumented) fixes. Among those, is a fix to allow the iPhone to “now play music through many previously incompatible car
adapters and other external speakers originally designed for the iPod.” Including my Kensington FM transmitter. After reader the above post, I ran outside to test it. Sure enough, I can now listen to the music and podcasts on the iPhone when I drive to the office and take a road trip.

Couldn’t come at a better time, since after attending the wedding of my friends Tim & Sharon in San Francisco next weekend, I’ve rented a Mustang convertible to drive down Pacific Coastal Highway to spend a few days sitting on a rock in Monterey staring at the ocean until my mind goes blank.

The only downside is you still have to switch the iPhone into Airplane Mode while listening to music piped through the radio, which means you can’t make or receive phone calls while using the FM transmitter. Apparently the GSM signal and FM signal don’t get along too well. Oh well. At least while I’m on vacation, I really don’t want to make or receive calls anyway. :-)

Apple

Gratuitous

August 1st, 2007

Dramatis Personae:

  • Me, your trusty blogger
  • Bug, co-worker and friend. Also a wealthy, crazed Mac devotee. Buys and supports his own office hardware so he can have Macs instead of Dells. Also, I share an office with his wife.
  • Anjin-san, co-worker and friend. Shares an office with Bug.

Scene:

Bug & Anjin-San’s office. My workstation is in the process of being mangled by our IT department, so I’m wandering around pestering co-workers.

Bug: I think the fan in the MacBook Pro isn’t working. It’s overheating like a bitch. I’ve been trying to get a Genius Bar appointment, but it’s a pain. So I’m wondering: can I just buy another MacBook?

Me (puzzled, knowing he has the means to buy another): Can you? Of course you can

Bug: No, no, I mean they appear to be sold out. I’ve checked the Apple Store in Arlington, the Apple Store in Bethesda, the one in Tyson’s. Nobody has them.

Me (jesting): Oh, I just though maybe the wife wouldn’t let you buy another.

Bug: Please. Like I would tell her.

Anjin-san: What about online?

Bug: Seven to ten days before the order even ships. I need one sooner than that.

Anjin-san: The 15″ and the 17″ models are sold out?

Bug: I just searched for the 15″ ones.

Me: So buy a 17″.

Bug: Please. That’s just crazy talk.

I pause. I point to Bug’s desk where his three — yes, three — 30″ Apple Cinema Displays sit.

Me: Dude, you have ninety inches of monitor on your desk, and you’re going to say that a 17″ laptop is crazy talk?!?

Anjin-san: He has a point.

Bug: . . .

Bug: Yeah, I’ve got no response to that.

Me: Just think — if you buy the 17″ and get the 15″ repaired you could put them side by side and have 27″ of laptop screen.

Bug’s face lights up at the idea
.

Bug: I like it. But how did you come up with 27?

Me (Levers are pulled. Gears turn. The hamsters run round and round.) : . . .  15 plus 17 is . . . oh. 32. What the hell. I majored in English.

The three 30″ monitors simultaneously turn off as they go into power-saving mode.

Anjin-san: Did it just get dark in here?

Apple

Self Control

July 8th, 2007

I really want one of these stylish stands for the MacBook Pro.
 

But at just over $300 (holy crap!) I don’t think I can justify it. It’s not even a docking station, just a stand. Plus, I’d have to go out and buy an external keyboard and flatscreen display just to make it usable.

For all those people who thought I was crazy to buy the iPhone, please note: I’m not spending three hundred bucks on a laptop stand just to make my desk at home (which is only seen by me 98.5% of the time) look cooler.

See? Self control!

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Apple

iPhone Review, Part II: the Cons

July 3rd, 2007

In the last post, I got a little fanboy and gushed openly about the iPhone. However, like any piece of software or technology, it is not without it’s frustrations. In order of most to least frustrating:
Yesterday, the iPhone locked up on me. The touchscreen got flaky and unresponsive. It would take five or six tries just to operate the slider that unlocks the phone, and once I got in the touch interface was sluggish and erratic. Don’t know what was taking place, but a reset solved it. (Reset = hold down the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button simultaneously for a few seconds until the phone reboots. Cf Apple’s iPhone Support). Scary, but that’s first generation technology for you.
Other than that lock-up, the top complaint would be that none of my existing iPod or phone accessories work with the iPhone. This includes:
My Sony MDR-EX71SLA headphones. I’m not too broken up about this one. These headphones fit well and sound much better than Apple’s standard headphones, but the “neck-chain” style cord on them is a miserable disaster. I’ve been shopping for new headphones anyway. They actually do function with the iPhone, but because of the headphones’ L-shaped plug and the iPhones recessed jack, they won’t stay seated in the jack — the slightest jostle pops them out. The recessed headphone jack is by far the biggest design flaw on the iPhone.
My Kensington iPod FM Transmitter/Auto Charger. Now this one does burn me. I just got this Kensington FM transmitter a month or two ago to replace the Belkin FM transmitter that some crackhead broke into my car and stole. (Seriously, who steals an iPod FM transmitter? Can you even pawn that?) I specifically got the Kensington because it’s a hardware solution (e.g. does not require installing management software on the iPod, like the Griffin iTrip does). However, when I attempt to use it with the iPhone, the iPhone just plays music through it’s external speakers, not through the FM transmitter. Grr. There’s some indication I might be able to get it to work by putting the phone in Airplane mode — but they I can’t receive calls. Which might not be a problem because . . .
The iPhone never discovers my el-cheapo Mustek MBT-H120 bluetooth headset. Again, not too torn up about that. I had the bluetooth headset for two reasons: 1) to use while driving and 2) to use during my regular early Tuesday morning status calls with my team in India so my hands are free to look up issues in the bug-tracking system. I knew the Mustek would be a piece of crap — functional, but still crap — when I bought it for 20 bucks off Woot.com. Since iPhone headphones have a mic built in, I can use those, but it’s frustrating that my old Sony Ericsson phone found the Mustek headset easily and the iPhone can’t.
Three times the music has stopped playing suddenly while i was simultaneously surfing the web, each time on a different website. Once or twice, i’d take as a coincidence. three times seems to indicate a bug. I’m expecting there’s some Javascript or something on the website that’s colliding with the iPod-functionality on the iPhone.
Gmail on the iPhone is pretty useless, IMHO, but that’s the fault of Gmail’s POP implementation, not of the iPhone. Even though I’ve never used POP on Gmail, when I enabled it there were 862 messages in my POP mailbox. Why 862? I don’t know. There’s far more messages than that in my Gmail account. Maybe there’s a size limit on the Gmail POP mailbox, I don’t know. Either way, I really don’t want the last 862 Gmail messages downloaded to my iPhone, because there’s no bulk delete of messages on the iPhone. Hell if I’m going to individually delete 862 email messages. Turned off Gmail and went with my Yahoo account (which is not full of hundreds of messages). Any mail account, whether it’s Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or your POP/IMAP account all use the same Mail interface on the iPhone, so you don’t get any UI advantage using Gmail over Yahoo like you would through a computer’s browser.
The big beef of Blackberry users is the iPhone doesn’t connect to Microsoft Exchange servers. Well, actually it will, but your IT team has to enable IMAP which ours won’t do, and even then it’s not “push” email. The iPhone just polls the server every n minutes. It would be nice to access my work email through the iPhone, but neither am I broken up about this. I’ve never craved a Blackberry. I spend the vast majority of my time at the office or at home, and in either of those cases I’m never more than 50 feet away from a computer where I can check my work email. When I’m not at the office or at home, I’m almost always someplace where I don’t want a device attached to my hip buzzing every time I get another spam from the Marketing team. The exception is business travel, in which case I can access my email via Outlook Web Access on the iPhone’s Safari web browser. Very clunky though. Or I could just set my work email to forward to Yahoo Mail when I’m out of the office.
A lot of people bitch about AT&T’s EDGE data network, and yes it’s significantly slower than WiFi, but I’ve never had a 3G-capable phone, so it’s still a wonder to me, not a downgrade. I’ve been an AT&T customer since ‘99, and have always had terrific coverage, world-wide, with their mobile network, so the single carrier for the iPhone was never an issue for me.
There’s no way to get photos you take with the iPhone off of the iPhone except to email them to yourself. Annoying!
There doesn’t seem to be a way to access the iPhone as a hard drive which puts the kibosh on using it to transport files. Not something I did often, since I must have a half dozen USB thumb drives, but it would have been nice. Also probably would have given a way to get photos off the dang thing.
A lot of these complaints stem from the “convergence” not quite converging as much as I want. The good news is that all of these complaints, except the recessed headphone jack, are software related. Since the iPhone can receive software updates through iTunes, I can hold out hope that many of these complaints might be resolved over the coming months.

Apple

iPhone Review, Part I: the Pros

July 2nd, 2007

Dude, it’s sweet!
First, some minor cool stuff.
I’m loving the keypad. Lots of reviews have griped about the on-screen keypad, but I was wailing away with two thumbs in just a few hours. The trick is to trust the software-based correction, which is really good in almost all instances. (Matter of fact, as I type this I’m griping to myself, because Movable Type isn’t correcting my typos on-the-fly like the iPhone does.) The one place where the iPhone’s auto-correction bites me is when I’m typing in usernames on websites. My username is frequently “gritter” which the iPhone always wants to interpret as “gritted.” I’m hoping there’s a way to train it or update the dictionary or something, else I’m going to curse while logging into dozens of websites.
Contacts integrate beautifully with Address Book on the Mac, and Calendar integrates wonderfully with iCal. The Alarms feature is super-easy and works well — I’ve used it several times already in the last few days. YouTube and Google Maps are pretty sweet, and pretty equivalent to the user experience on the web. Actually the Google Maps experience is a little better, since it has additions to Driving Directions meant to be used while you’re in the car. It’s not a GPS, but it beats having to print out directions before you leave home.
The camera is better than I expected for a 2 megapixel camera. I took several photos of quickly moving toddlers at a friend’s brunch this weekend, and it did a respectable job of capturing the action. I suspect in a dimly lit setting, it might be more problematic, but it’s a fine camera for quick snapshots and party pics.
Most importantly, though, the iPhone just works. It’s hard to explain how easy, intuitive, and natural the iPhone is.
The only way I can think to explain it is by comparison. Two weeks ago, I bought my mother a new mobile phone. Her six-year old phone had finally gotten so out-dated that AT&T told her it was no longer going to be supported on the current network. Buying a phone for a sixty-something woman who is pretty uncomfortable with technology more complex than a microwave is tough. I wound up getting a Samsung Sync, not because she needs the built-in MP3 player, camera, Bluetooth, 3G network, etc., but because it was the only affordable phone I could find with big buttons and big numbers on the display. After rebate and a new contract it was free, so she got a bunch of features she’ll never use. Whatever. The thing is it took me — a fairly technical, geeky guy — about 30 minutes just to figure out how to add contacts into the Samsung Sync’s address book, never mind figuring out any of the advanced features she’ll never use anyway. I was ready to tear my hair out trying to configure her phone; I can’t imagine what a painful experience it would have been for her on her own.
For that matter, I’ve had a Sony Ericsson T637 for the last several years, and although it (theoretically) syncs with Address Book, can surf the web via WAP, etc., I’ve probably used those features less in the last three years on the Sony Ericsson than I have in the last three days on the iPhone, because on the iPhone, it just works.
I was showing the iPhone around the office today, and demonstrating for Janhow to add a contact, make a call, take a photo, add the photo to the contact so it appears when someone calls, etc. All of that took 15 seconds and I’d never done any of it before (except take a photo). I asked Jan to call me from her six-month old Blackberry, so I could show her the visual voicemail (a very useful feature), and as she started she said “You’ll have to wait a bit, because finding your number and calling is going to take me a good fifteen clicks.” And it did.
Apple’s emphasis on human-computer interaction design pays off in spades on this device. The user experience is by far the best part of the iPhone.
Tomorrow: the Cons (and, yes, there are cons).

Apple