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Friday, October 29, 2010

Will Apple build more "cars"?...

Steve Jobs once compared iDevices to"cars" as apposed to traditional PC's and Macs which he called "trucks".  Trucks refer to professional computers, while cars would be personal computers.  Many people call the iPad the computer for their parents or other people who are afraid of the complexity of the personal computer because it is so intuitive and easy to use.  The iPad and iOS obscur some of the complexities of the computer, such as the file system.  Is it possible that Apple will build more iOS type of devices beyond just the iPad/iPhone products?

With Mac OS X Lion, Apple is brings some of the features of iOS back to the Mac.  Apple could take this even further and build a true iMac, an all-in-one computer based on iOS instead of Mac OS.  The first thing they need to do is come up with a new way to interect with the UI.  Apple has already pointed out that they considered a touch screen for the MacBook Air, but that it just didn't work for prolonged usage.  So this new iMac may use a keyboard and trackpad, but still use a simple interface like iOS.  This concept could also be extended to the Apple TV or a Mac Mini replacement, just supply your own keyboard, trackpad and display.

The Mac OS based computers will not go away, we will always need trucks.  But there will be a large number of users out there who don't need a truck to do what they need to do.  I see Apple eventually splitting into 2 lines of computers, the cars, which would be consumer oriented iOS based devices and the trucks, which would be the Mac OS X line of professional notebooks and desktops.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why the new MacBook Air makes the need for the iLife Home Server even greater...

OK, so we didn't get an iLife Home Server product announcement last week...  What we did get was the MacBook Air, which is the future of notebook computers, and I contend, the future of the Mac platform in general and even greater justification for the iLife Home Server.

As the Macintosh and iOS devices start to converge, and everything moves toward flash based storage, the need for a single place to store all of your files (documents, photos, music, videos...) becomes more obvious.  Storing everything in "the cloud" (or as Apple may see it, in a huge data center in North Carolina) may be a good ultimate end goal, but the internet infrastructure just isn't there yet.  Why should I be shackled by slow internet speeds when accessing my data from the various devices I am using around my home?  What if my internet service goes down just when I need access to an important document?  If all of my files are stored on my Home Server device, I am not bound by my internet connection.  Apple has been doing a good job of isolating the file system from the users, and for good reason.  Most users don't really care where their files are stored, as long they there when they need them.

Imagine if you will... a little white box with an Apple logo on the top and a couple of terabyte hard drives inside, that all I have to do is plug it into my network and tell all of my Macs and iDevices, this is my primary storage location.  All of my files will be stored here and then synced to the cloud and/or my individual devices for use when I am away from my network, without any interaction by me.   When I am not at home, but I want play a song, my iPod knows whether that song has been synced locally, or needs to be streamed from the cloud.  If I need to edit a document on my MacBook Air, it knows if that file has been synced or if it needs to retrieve it from the cloud.  If I want to watch a video on my iPad, well, you get the picture... 

The OS on my device would control what files are kept locally, similar to the way a DVR manages its drive space.  New files are stored locally and synced back to the server, as files age, they are automatically archived and kept only on the server until you need them again.  There would also be a way to mark items that you always want to have available on your device similar to the way iTunes manages your iDevices now.  Using a MobileMe account, you could also choose to store some things in the cloud for access when you are away from home, or technology like Back to my Mac could be used to access your server directly from anywhere you have access to the internet.

This could be the future of computing.  Who needs a desktop computer with everything stored on it, that you leave on all of the time so that you can access your media?  With an iLife Home Server and a number of different iDevices, you can access your media where ever you are, with the device that is most appropriate at that moment in time.

What does "Back to the Mac" really mean?

In last week's Back to the Mac event, Apple explained that they were bringing some features from iOS back to the Mac, since iOS actually originated from Mac OS X.  Some of the specific features coming back to the Mac are the new Mac App Store, which will be like the iOS App Store and allow users to easily purchase new applications for the Mac; a LaunchPad Application launcher, complete with pages and groups; and full screen applications to name a few.  These are all elements of Mac OS X Lion (10.7), but there were some other things brought from iDevices back to the Mac in the form of the MacBook Air.  This model may serve as a sign of things to come for the Macintosh.  Two new features of the Air are the new instant on feature and flash based storage instead of hard drives.

Apple has been selling way more iDevices than Macs, and they are selling them to users who do not already own a Mac.  One of the key benefits to making iDevices for Apple was the "halo effect", or the hope that people who bought an iDevice would later buy a Macintosh as well.  This seems to be working as Mac sales are up while the PC market as whole seems to be trending down.  Therefore, if you take the features your users know and love in their iDevices, and bring them back to the Mac, they will be more familiar to those users when they go shopping for a new laptop or desktop computer.  When they see a new Mac, that works more like the iDevice that they have been using than they do to a traditional PC, they will be more likely to choose the Mac, thus bringing more users "Back to the Mac"!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Verizon Data Plans, are the iPad plans a trial for future smartphone plans?

On October 28, Verizon will begin selling the iPad bundled with a MiFi mobile hot spot.  The prices for the bundles will be the same price as the iPad WiFi+3G models ($629, $729 and $829).  The big difference will be the pay as you go data plans Verizon is offering.  For $20/mo you can get 1GB of data, for $35/mo you get 3GB of data and $50/mo gets you 5GB of data.  If you exceed your data usage you will be charged $20/GB on the $20 plan, but only $10/GB on the other 2 plans.  This pricing structure looks more realistic than AT&T's 2-tiered plans.  While the cheapest AT&T plan is only $15/mo, you only get 200MB of data, the $25/mo plan gets you 2GB of data usage.  Any plan less than 1GB of data just doesn't seem like enough to me.  I hope the carriers move towards more tiers with more options, like Verizon's offering.

I just wonder if maybe Verizon isn't using the iPad data plans as a test market for future smartphone data plans?  There have been rumors that Verizon will be moving to tiered data plans, probably when the Verizon iPhone is released.  I, for one, would welcome a pricing structure more like this for smartphones... but only if they allowed me to use that data for tethering and mobile hot spots without charging an additional fee.  If I am paying to have access to 1GB of data / month, what device I use that data on shouldn't matter.  Extending that thought even further, they should allow me to share my data plan with all of the phones in my family plan the same way minutes are shared.  It is very hard to justify $20/phone/month for data plans, put $20/mo for shared access to 1GB of data, that would be reasonable.

Now that Apple has gone "Back to the Mac", what's next?...

With the conclusion of Apple's Back to the Mac event, where they released iLife 11, new MacBook Airs and previewed the upcoming Mac OSX 10.7 Lion; what is next on the agenda?

The two most likely candidates are the Verizon iPhone and new iPads.  Based of AT&T's better that expected iPhone activations and Verizon's lower than expected subscriber adds, I think the Verizon iPhone will be next and will be announced sometime in January.

The new iPhone will probably be in the same form factor as the current iPhone 4, the primary difference will be its ability to work on the CDMA standard used by Verizon, and other international carriers.  The big question is, will it use the new dual mode chip from Qualcomm that will allow it to be used on either CDMA or GSM networks?  This would be a big bonus for Apple if they only needed a single hardware platform that supports both Verizon and AT&T.  I highly doubt this first CDMA model will do this, and even if it does, will the carriers allow Apple to sell a phone that allows the users to change carriers at will?  Although Apple probably does have the clout to pull this off.  If this iPhone is not dual mode, I would expect the next version will be and may even support LTE as well, though it is likely Apple will hold off on LTE support until 2012 when it is more widely available and load tested.  Remember, 3G was rolling out with the original iPhone, but Apple chose to hold off 3G support for the next model.

And what about the next iPad?  I would not expect the iPad to be updated until spring, and this will probably be a minor update.  I expect a front facing camera for FaceTime and maybe a new dual core version of the A4 processor as well as some minor cosmetic and/or material changes to make it lighter and easier to hold, maybe some form of liquid metal enclosure?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The new MacBook Air?...

The general consensus around the web is that Apple will announce a new MacBook Air at the Back to the Mac event tomorrow.  The big question... what will the specs and pricing be?  Here are my predictions:

MacBook Air

Good - $899
11.6" Display at 1366 x 768 (720p)
1.2 GHz Intel Core i3 CPU
Integrated Graphics
USB (2)
SD Card Slot
Mini Display Port

Better - $1199

Best - $1699
13.3" Display
2.x GHz Core i3 CPU or Core2Duo?
nVidia GPU

I also think it is possible there will be changes to the white MacBook to add Core i3 chips and the 13" MacBook Pros to move up to Core i5 chips.

Apple needs an iLife Home Server, will it happen tomorrow?

Apple needs a product to tie everything together, we all have iPods, iPhones, iPads, AppleTVs and of course Macs.  The consensus has been that all of this will happen sometime via the cloud and MobileMe, probably once the Data Center in North Carolina comes online at the end of the year. 

I propose another option to do this that will work with the cloud and MobileMe, but not require it.  I call it the "iLife Home Server".  This would be a box that would be like a hybrid of a Mac Mini Server and a Time Capsule.  It would be small, have multiple hard drives and run a stripped down, headless version of OS X server or maybe even a server variant of iOS.  The key component of this would be server versions of iLife applications like iTunes and iPhoto that would act as central storage locations for all of your media files (music, videos, photos etc...) and documents.  There would then be a way to sync that data to each individual device on the network and to the cloud with a MobileMe subscription.  Syncing to the cloud then allows all of your portable devices access to your data wherever you have an internet connection as well as acting as an offsite backup of your media files and documents.

Apple iLife Home Server

Mac Mini Server / Time Capsule Enclosure
500GB/1TB HD
GBit LAN Port (3)
GBit WAN Port
802.11N(A/B/G) wireless
USB (2)

Integrated Router
Time Machine Backup
AFP/SMB File Sharing
USB Printer Sharing
iTunes Server
 - Streaming over LAN and Internet*
 - Syncing via network to Local iTunes Library
 - Syncing via Network to WiFi capable iDevices/AppleTV
iPhoto Server
 - Syncing via network to Local iPhoto Library
 - Syncing via netwrok to WiFi capable iDevices/AppleTV
 - Slideshow streaming over LAN
 - WebGallery Photo sharing via Internet* (MobileMe w/o uploading to cloud)
iWeb Server
 - Browser based server admin (accessable via Internet*)
 - Publish iWeb sites to Internet* (w/o uploading to cloud)
 - WebDAV folder sharing to Internet* (like iDisk)
 - Personal Domain Name* <MobileMeAccountName>

*Internet based capabilities require MobileMe subscription.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Welcome to my blog about Apple and all other things tech.

Who am I?  I am an IT professional and software developer by trade.  Even though my primary work is web development using Microsoft .NET, I have been using Apple products both personally and professionaly since I got my first Apple ][, which was eventually replaced by an Apple //e then an original Macintosh in 1984 and so on...  I also have Windows and Linux machines that I use as well.