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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Should Apple Do About Pro Users?

With Apple's business moving more and more towards the consumer segment, what should Apple do to keep supporting their professional users that have supported them through thick and thin?  Clearly, recent moves by Apple have upset their professional user base, take for example the recent Final Cut X debacle.  Lion's new features are clearly aimed at the consumer user as well.  And add to this the current rumors of the possible demise of the MacPro and the possible "airification" of the MacBook Pro line.  Apple is risking alienating some of its most loyal and core users.  So what should Apple do to continue to support this smaller segment of the user base without slowing down the momentum of it new growing consumer business?

I think Apple should spin-off the professional business from the main company.  Basically, make a new company that focuses on the needs of the professional market, that is not hampered by the traditional closed and secretive consumer products company.  This new company would be the first (and maybe only) licensee of OS X and would build desktop and notebooks for high end users at high end prices, kind of like Dell's Alienware division.  Since this new company would still be controlled by Apple, there would be no risk of them building machines that would hurt the sales of iMacs or MacBook Airs, but would still give the high end professional user the option to stick OS X instead of forcing them to Windows or Linux because there isn't any Apple supported hardware that does what they need.  In fact, at some point, maybe OS X would be forked into a consumer and professional version or transferred over to the new company all together as it becomes less important to Apple.

This new company could also choose to re-enter the enterprise market and would be more friendly to enterprise IT departments and actually have long term road maps and maintain support for legacy hardware and software.  They could bring back products like the XServe if there is a demand for it.  They could make enterprise software products for OS X and iOS.  As a separate company, they would be responsible for their own R&D and product designs as well as their own profits and losses.

I think separating the two markets allows Apple to focus its energy on its new consumer focused products while allowing the professional market to still be served without resorting to a full blown OS X licensing strategy right now.  Maybe in the future Apple will license or even open source OS X, but this would allow them to move towards that in a slower, controlled manner, while continuing to support pro user that has always supported them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What can we expect from Apple's upcoming iPhone announcement?

On Tuesday October 4th, Tim Cook will deliver his first key note (Cook Key?) as CEO of Apple.  From the invitation, we can pretty much assume he will be introducing the latest addition to the iPhone family.  So what will this new iPhone be?  There have been rumors ranging anywhere from a speed bumped version of the iPhone 4 (being referred to as the iPhone 4S) to an all-new thinner tear-drop shaped iPhone 5 with a larger screen and a wider, capactive home button.

What do I expect to see?...  My money is on the speed bumped iPhone 4S model.  This new iPhone will come in the same form factor as the current iPhone 4 and be equppied with an A5 processer, an 8MP rear camera and work on both CDMA and GSM networks (including AT&T, Verizon and now Sprint as well) but will still only be a 3G phone (except for maybe support for AT&T's HSPA+ pseudo 4G network).  It will come in 16GB and 32GB models priced at the same $199 and $299 and be available in both black and white.  There will also be a new iPhone 4 model with 8GB priced at $99, replacing the 3GS as the budget option.

The big question is... how will this be received?  The iPhone 4 is now almost 16 months on the market and we are used to new models every 12 months.  I can't help but think many people will be expecting much more after waiting an extra 4 months, especially Verizon customers who have been holding out for the new phone.  Many Verizon customers (myself included) may have held off upgrading to the CDMA iPhone 4 back in March expecting a new model in June or July.  Then they had to wait another 4 months, only to get a minor speed bumped revision of the same phone.  This will be a big test for Tim Cook, will he be able to invoke Steve's famous Reality Distortion Field and convince the masses that this new phone was worth the wait?  Will there be a big surprise or "one more thing"?  And if so, what will it be?...

There are a couple of possibilties.  One could be that they are doubling the storage capacity on all of the models.  The entry level iPhone 4 will have 16GB and the new iPhone 4S will come in 32GB and 64GB models at the same $199 and $299 price point.  Or maybe the entry level is still 8GB, but there will be 3 models of the iPhone 4S with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.  Another possible surprise could be the rumored addition of a voice controlled assistant built-in to iOS 5.  This was rumored to be announced back at WWDC, but Apple may have been saving this as a last minute addition.  What do I think?  I think the voice assistant may be announced and demoed next week, but more likely as a feature of an upcoming iOS 5.1 realease to be delivered early next year.  I would think this would need at least some time in a developer beta before being released.

Apple seems to have done a really good job this time not tipping their hand.  The rumors have been flying like crazy and no phones have been lost in a bar and sold to a tablog for them to reveal to the whole world.  But I really think alot of people are going to be let down when their favorite rumor does not turn out to be reality.  All we can do now is wait and see...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What should Apple do with all of that cash? Here's my "Pipe" Dream...

With repeated record breaking quarterly earnings, Apple has been building up quite a stash of cash.  Wall Street has been repeatedly asking Apple what it plans to do with all of that cash, to which Apple always responds that it saving it for strategic investments.  One such investment could be for Apple to build a nationwide wireless network to deliver all of the content it hopes to store in its North Carolina iCloud data center.

Think about it, what is Apple's biggest problem that it has with its iCloud strategy?  Apple has the data center infrastructure in place to house all of the music, movies, TV shows, pictures and other data we could want.  They have the best devices for us to consume that media and data on.  What is missing?  The network to deliver the data from the cloud to our devices.

We are all at the mercy of the cable companies, telcos and cellular providers and their over-priced broadband and wireless data plans with ridiculous data usage caps.  Why are these companies putting caps on they data they provided us?  Because they want to control the content we receive and over-charge us for that as well.  The cable companies don't want to give up their $80/month TV packages, the phone companies don't want to give up their $50/month local and long distance plans and cell phone companies want to continue to charge $70/month for some ridiculous amount of voice minutes plus text messaging (probably the biggest price gouge of all)!  These companies don't want to give in to the the fact they all they are now (or at least should be) are data pipes, that we use to purchase content from the providers of our own choice.  This is where Apple comes in and pulls off it's ultimate disruption...

Apple needs to build a nationwide (and eventually global) wireless network using some new technology like super wi-fi or low earth orbit satellites or maybe something we haven't even heard about yet.  It needs to be a technology that can blanket vast areas of earth with high speed data.  I would have a single internet connection for all of my devices, regards of where I am, at home, in the car, at work, wherever.  Then I could access all of my content stored in my iCloud anywhere that I am on any Apple made device I happen to be using, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, AppleTV or whatever they come up with next.  No more paying the phone company for a landline and/or DSL line.  No paying a cable company for TV and DVR service or shared broadband connections and no more high-priced low bandwidth capped cellular data plans with more voice minutes than I need and ridiculous fees for 140 character text messages that use almost no bandwidth at all!

Could Apple pull this off, or is this just a big "pipe" dream (pun intended)?  If anyone can do it, Apple can...

Friday, June 3, 2011

What will we see at WWDC?

Apple's annual developer's conference, WWDC, is coming up the week of June 6th. The last few years, this has been the venue Apple has used to introduce the next iPhone to the world. But this year is shaping up to be a little different. All of the rumors have the iPhone not being released until sometime around September along with iOS 5.  So without a new iPhone to show us, what will we be seeing in the SteveNote?

  1. Mac OS X Lion - We should be seeing a nearly complete version of Lion, the latest incarnation of Mac OS X. I would guess that everyone in attendance will receive a copy of the release candidate and we will get a date for the release of Lion.
  2. iOS 5 - We should also get a preview of the upcoming iOS 5 release and probably availability of the first developer previews and a release date probably in the September time frame.
  3. iCloud - This will be the big announcement, Apple's revamped and renamed cloud service, replacing MobileMe.  Not much is known about this new service other than it is going to include some kind music locker and streaming service that Apple has already secured some kind of agreements from the 4 major record labels for.  I would also expect that this service will be highly integrated into both Lion and iOS 5.

And what about the infamous "One More Thing"?  Here are some of my ideas for what we may see...

  1. iPhone 4s - This is a long shot for sure, but maybe all of the hype around the "delay" of the next iPhone was a smoke screen.  I think Apple has 2 or more plans for the next iPhone and things just aren't aligned yet for the iPhone 5 and even Fall of this year would be a lofty goal, so Apple's fallback plan could be a revamped iPhone 4 with the A5 chip, GSM/CDMA combo chip that will allow it to work on all 4 major U.S. carriers and will come in 32GB and 64GB variations, leaving the existing iPhone 4 16GB model in the line up as a $99 option.
  2. AppleTV update - Also a long shot.  With the new a5 chip, 1080p output and when upgraded to iOS5 later this year, an App Store.
  3. MacBook Air Update - Possible, but not likely.  New versions based on Intel Sandy Bridge chips and including a Thuderbolt port.  Another long shot could be a new LCD display panel released along the the new Airs that would connect via Thunderbolt and have USB, ethernet, etc... ports built into the display so you would only have to make 2 connections when you dock your laptop in the office or at home and all of your devices would be connected through the display.
  4. Time Capsule update - More likely.  An update to the Time Capsule that would work like a Home Server and be connected to your iCloud.  This device would act as a local cache between your devices and the cloud, storing local copies of recent and heavily used files so that they would be readily available when connected to you home or office network.

We will just have to wait until Monday to see what Steve has in store for us...

Monday, April 25, 2011

When will the new iPhone be out?

Apple is working on a new iPhone for release later this year, but what will it be and when will we see it?  The current rumor mill is suggesting that we will not see a new iPhone this June as in the past.  This appears to be true and the current consensus is that we will have to wait until at least September.  I do believe this to be the case.  Here are some of the reasons why I don't think there will be a new iPhone in June:

1. There has been no preview of iOS 5 and it doesn't appear there will be one until WWDC in June, suggesting a fall release.
2. Why release the white iPhone 4 now, if a new model is coming out in a couple on months?
3. Verizon customers just got the iPhone in February and maybe Verizon had some kind of no new phone for 6 months clause in the deal.

So, when will we see a new iPhone and what new features will be there?  I think we are going to see a slight revision of the iPhone 4, similar to the iPhone 3GS.  The phone will have the same form factor, but will be upgraded to include the new A5 chip.  Other features may include a slightly larger screen, with the same 640x960 resolution, a single phone with support for both GSM and CDMA, better camera and more storage (32GB and 64GB).  This new phone will be priced the same as the current models, with the current iPhone 4 with 16GB moving down to the $99 price point.

So, if the changes are so minor, then why the delay?  There are a couple of possibilities.  It could be a supply problem with one of the components, a contract issue with Verizon or maybe it requires iOS 5 which is taking longer than usual to get finished, with many resources working on getting Mac OSX Lion out the door.  Or, it may be a combination of things.  We already know the CDMA iPhone 4 uses the new Qualcomm chipset that is capable of working on both CDMA and GSM.  It may be that Apple is working on an antenna design that will allow a single iPhone that works on all 4 U.S. carriers.  And maybe, Verizon got a 6 month, no other U.S. carrier exclusive in the deal?

All we can do is wait and see...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Apple to expand iPhone and iPad offerings this year?

There have been numerous rumors flying around about smaller and/or larger iPhones and a device somewhere between the iPad and iPod Touch.  Here is what I think Apple may be planning...

The iPad 2 will be coming this spring, however, it will basically be the same form factor as the current unit, with a faster dual-core chip, front and rear cameras and a new lighter-weight enclosure.  This unit will come in the same 6 configurations and price points as the current iPad, except that the 3G models will support both GSM and CDMA networks.

Then, in the fall, the iPad line will expand, with Apple adding a smaller model as well as an "HD" model.  I think the new smaller model will be aimed at the K-12 market and branded something different, like maybe "ePad".  The "HD" model will add a retina-like 2048x1536 display and maybe even a 4G/LTE data option.  The existing models will be re-configured to fit between the ePad and the iPad HD.

In between the iPad releases, will be the annual summer update to the iPhone.  I don't really see Apple releasing a smaller form factor iPhone, but I do see them wanting to release a lower cost option.  They have done this in the past by simply lowering the price of last year's model.  I don't think that will work this year, as the difference between this year's model and the current iPhone 4 won't be enough and most people will opt for the cheaper iPhone 4 model.  I think we may see 2 iPhone models.  A lower cost model, with specs somewhere between the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 and an upgraded version of the iPhone 4 with the new dual-core A5 chip a maybe a slightly larger screen, with the same resolution as the current Retina display.

This will allow Apple to better compete with the many other form factors out there, without having to fragment their products too much.

ePad iPad iPad HD
7" 1024x768 Display 9.7" 1024x768 Display 10" 2048x1536 Display
Apple A4 Chip Apple A5 Chip Apple A5 Chip
16GB Flash 16 or 32GB Flash 32 or 64GB Flash
Front and Rear Camera Front and Rear Camera Front and Rear Camera
Wi-Fi (3G) Wi-Fi (3G) Wi-Fi (3G/4G)
$399 ($499) $499-599 ($599-699) $699-799 ($849-949)
iPhone Lite iPhone
3.5" 320x480 Display 4" 640x960 Display
Apple A4 Chip Apple A5 Chip
8GB Flash 16 or 32GB Flash
Front and Rear(3MP) Camera Front and Rear(8MP) Camera
$99 w/contract $199-299 w/contract

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Should Apple buy MySpace?

Newscorp is looking to unload its MySpace property, which has had its staff cut by almost 50% and seen many of its users flock to FaceBook.  There have been many rumors of possible buyers.  The most often named is FaceBook, which would make sense as they could then move the remaining hold outs over to FaceBook and shut down MySpace, but might have trouble gaining regulatory approval.  Another obvious buyer could be Google, as they have been looking for a way to get more into the social scene and compete with FaceBook.  Also mentioned have been AOL, Yahoo or private investment firms looking to grab the brand cheap and revive it.

But one name that has not come up is Apple.  With MySpace being big into music, it might play well with Apple's recently announced Ping service.  This would be a good way for Apple to boost the number of bands and users of their Ping service quickly.  Apple has been looking for a social strategy and at one point was rumored to be interested in acquiring FaceBook.  Also, Apple has been working with Rupert Murdoch and Newscorp on an iPad magazine and an acquisition of MySpace would hardly make a dent inApple's pile of cash on hand.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Verizon iPhone!

The iPhone is finally coming to the Verizon network.  Announced today by Lowell McAdam fromVerizon and Tim Cook from Apple.  It will be available for pre-order for existing customers on February 3rd with general availability on February 10th. 

As I expected, this initial Verizon iPhone is basically the same as the current iPhone 4, but works on Verizon's CDMA network instead of a GSM network like AT&T.  So why just release the same old iPhone 4 on Verizon without some cool new features, like LTE support?  There are a few reasons.  First and foremost, as Tim Cook pointed out, they wanted to get this out on Verizon as quickly as possible and sticking with the existing design allowed that to happen.  Also, when the new iPhone 5 comes out (presumably this summer) the new features will be available for all carriers and Verizon will have something to offer at a lower price point, assuming the iPhone 4 will drop to $99 when the iPhone 5comes out.

There was one surprise in the announcement and that was Verizon's inclusion of their Mobile Hot Spot feature.  Many Verizon smart phones offer this feature which allows the phone's 3G data connection to be shared with up to 5 other wi-fi connected devices.  Pricing for this option was not announced but is typically an additional $20/month for 2GB of data.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year! Predictions for 2011...

Here are my predictions of what is coming out of Cupertino this year...

January - Announcement of Verizon iPhone, same as current iPhone 4 except CDMA instead of GSM.

February/March - iPad 2 comes in same form factor as current, only slimmer.  Adds front and rear cameras with FaceTime.  Available with wi-fi only or wi-fi and CDMA/GSM 3G data.  May include new dual core A5 processor.

April/May - New iMac.  Additional smaller model with a lower price point.  If history holds true we will also get a sneak peek at what's coming in iOS 5.

June/July - iPhone 5 and iOS 5.  The iPhone 5 will probably still not be an LTE phone, but more likely use a Qualcomm chipset that supports both CDMA and GSM, so that only one base model is needed.  If the A5 chip happens this year, it will be included as well.  This may be the year Apple introduces an iPhone "lite" instead of pushing the iPhone 4 down to the $99 price point, we may see a second iPhone model with less features.

August/September - New iPods, MacBooks and ePad.  The usual iPod updates will come in the fall as well as new MacBooks that will be more like the Air, with integrated SSD and without optical drives.  The big surprise could be a 7" iPad, I call the ePad, aimed at the K-12 market.

October/November - MacOS X Lion, New AppleTV. MacOS X Lion will finally be shipped and possibly even a minor update to iOS 5 adding some minor new features that didn't make the cut for June.  These features may revolve around the AppleTV which will finally gain an App Store in time for the holiday shopping season.

Also possible this year are the much rumored iTunes Cloud Service, TV and movie subscription services, improvements to MobileMe and I am still holding out for some kind of home server product.  We'll just have to wait and see...