25
Aug
2010

It’s that magical time of year again when Apple is set to unveil its new iPods and make all of us cry a little over the ones we already own.

For the past several years Apple has held an event in Sept. to announce the new line-up of iPods.  It is pure coincidence this happens just shortly before the holiday shopping season, I assure you.  The invites went out today to the media for the event to be held on Sept. 1st, and not a lot else was said except for the picture of the invite you see to the right clearly indicating that this year’s event will include information on the iChisel for all of your wood carving needs.

Something I’ve always wondered about Apple and its events is that the invitations always go out about seven days before hand, and yet all of the media is expected to be there.  (Note: I have never received an invite, nor any of the blogs I work for, apparently we aren’t cool enough)  Does everyone realize how expensive it is to book a flight this close to departure?  I know companies cover it in their expense account, but seriously, unless you are a video-based site, just stay home and follow the umpteen live feeds of the event.  You’ll get the story out faster, you’ll save yourself the money and you’ll be free of a lot of stress.

As much as I would love to go to one of these, my practical side would win out pretty darn quickly when I figured out the costs of getting me there at the appointed time.  Am I really going to get enough traffic to make in revenue what I just lost in expenses?  Doubtful.  Just a big old mystery to me.

All that being said, expect the big announcements to be the iPod Touch getting video chat via the FaceTime app, and possible the relaunch of Apple TV as the iTV.  I’ll be covering everything that day over at TechnoBuffalo.

27
Jan
2010

At last the Apple Tablet rumors can die, but was it worth the long wait?

Steve Jobs finally lifted the veil of secrecy around the Apple Tablet today and revealed it as a device named the iPad. The unfortunate name choice aside, is it going to be worth the purchase?

The answer to that depends entirely on what your needs are going to be with such a device.  Unlike other items in the market, the iPad does not solve an existing problem.  The iPhone made smartphones truly smart, netbooks solved size problems for those that didn’t want to lug full sized laptops around, the iPod solved music issues, but the iPad … solves nothing.  There is no doubt that it is intriguing, and the implications of this device could be far reaching for years as other device manufacturers try to come up with their own solutions to answer this new challenge.

What you have could easily be described as over-sized iPod Touch, but at the same time it isn’t.  Yes, it will run the majority of the current 140,000 iPhone/iPod Touch applications, but due to its 9.7-inch screen, it will be able to handle a lot more.  App developers were able to download a new SDK (software development kit) that will allow them to develop for the 1024 x 768 resolution and the 1GHz processor.

Beyond the usual iPod Touch features, the iPad will also run the iWork office suite which means you can do word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, and although the screen will have a robust touch keyboard, writing a full document that way could quickly get tiring.  That’s why Apple is releasing a keyboard dock that allows you to plug the device into a physical keyboard, and to me that is where this device gets interesting.

Unfortunately no price was mentioned for the keyboard, but as a professional blogger I see where this could have a fairly large impact on journalism.  Yes, laptops are portable, but say you go to a news story, quickly pound out some notes on the screen keyboard, and then get back in your car, plug into the dock, and you can write up your full story on the fly.  You can then transmit the story via Wi-Fi or 3G depending on the model you purchased.

As a blogger, I am really intrigued by the possibilities here.  Could I blog easily from anywhere without carrying around a much heavier laptop?

Where this really gets complicated is when you look at the new iBook e-reader app.  You have a full book store you can purchase from, and while the Amazon Kindle better be quaking in its boots, the true star of this is the potential down the road.

Text books.

The game changer the education system has been waiting for may have just dropped into their laps.  A full-color e-reader that could properly display any type of text book.  Art?  No problem.  Statistics that needs to show all sorts of graphs?  Go for it.  Every college book store better start thinking now about what their futures will be like without … well … books.  There is no way that textbook publishers aren’t going to study the heck out of this thing and analyze that huge costs they will be able to cut in materials, printing, transport and so on.  I would say within 3 to 4 years you will see the first text books that have no print counterpart.

And don’t even get me started on what this could mean for comic books.

So, down to the business part of this:

iPad Specs

So, what is under the hood of the iPad?  What will be powering this newest entry from Apple into the consumer market?

  • Memory capacities of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • 1GHz Apple A4 chip
  • .5-inches thick
  • 1.5 lbs
  • 9.7-inch screen, 1024 x 768 resolution
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Speaker & microphone
  • Accelerometer & compass
  • 10 hour battery life, one month standby
  • 3G connectivity for $30 a month via AT&T without contract.

iPad Price

And then comes the price.  The prevailing rumor leading up to today had been that we would be seeing a price of $1000, which Steve Jobs made mention of on stage at the introduction, and then he floored us with the following price chart.

16GB

32GB

64GB

Wi-Fi

$499

$599

$699

WiFi + 3G

$629

$729

$829

So, what say you? Is it going to be worth it?

Check out my other posts from today on the iPad:

25
Jan
2010


All I have to say is, “It’s about ******’ time!”

Word has been circulating all day today that not only will Apple be unveiling the long-rumored Apple Tablet on Wednesday as its press event, but that it may also finally be announcing that the iPhone will be available on multiple carriers, breaking the exclusivity with AT&T in the United States.

Can I get a, “HALLE-FREAKIN-LUJAH!”

According to BusinessWeek, it would break down as:

  • Verizon – summer
  • T-Mobile & Sprint – fall
  • Clearwire Corp. – Sometime in 2011

Being a Sprint subscriber, I’m over the Moon at the prospect that this may finally becoming a reality, but most of all I am happy for consumers and, yes, even Apple.  As I wrote recently on TechnoBuffalo in “Why Isn’t The iPhone On Every Carrier Yet?“, the continued exclusivity makes no sense on any front at this point.  For the consumer this will spur competition between the carriers to get the iPhone customers to be on their networks, and could possibly result in customers making a mass exodus from AT&T.

On the other hand, Apple is set to make more money than most people can even count.  In the quarter report that just came out from Apple for the three month period ending Dec. 26th, the company sold 8.7 million iPhones combined from all territories, and combined with its record number of Macs sold (and an eight percent decline in iPod sales), it walked away with a profit of $3.38 billion.  Now imagine the iPhone being sold across all four major United States carriers, and it is easy to see why it is time for Apple to cut the exclusivity from AT&T.

The time for a freed iPhone has come, the only question is if Apple will actually follow through with the idea.  My gut tells me this is actually going to happen because it is about the only thing that makes sense at this point for the product.

… and if true, thus will begin my cursing the fact I just bought a BlackBerry Tour this past August.

10
Dec
2009

nook


So, yeah … I canceled my order for the Barnes & Noble nook.

Back in November I informed all of you that I ordered a nook and I was looking forward to reviewing it for all of you.  I knew I was going to have to wait a while before I got it, but that was fine with me, I was prepared for it, but I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

… then the reviews started coming in.

I read one fairly harsh review somewhere last week, but I laughed it off and still felt secure in my purchase.  Then the AP wrote a pretty harsh review, but I’m not a huge fan of the AP so I took it with a grain of salt.  What I wasn’t ready for was the absolutely scathing review from The New York Times.

The review was so scathing it almost felt over the top, and then I got to to this segment on the second page:

So O.K., the Nook is a mess, clearly rushed out the door in hopes of stealing some of the Kindle’s holiday cheer. “We want to optimize everything quite a bit,” a product manager concedes.

When a product manager is saying “we want to optimize…”, that’s when I go and hit the cancel button on an order.  If someone whose livelihood depends on the product, and they are saying that it needs to be “optimized”, they basically have just spoken code for, “Look, we know it sucks and we rushed its release, but it is what it is.”

I admit it, I got sucked into the hyperbole, and even with one friend warning me (Hi, F … feel free to say “I told you so” at lunch this week) to wait for the reviews, I jumped in feet first, and this is what I get.  At least I was able to cancel it and I’m out from under what appears to be a beast of a device.

Sorry Barnes & Noble, I thought you had won me over, but then people actually touched the device.  Perhaps you should have made no one got to play with it prior to shipping?

7
Dec
2009

cbpodcast

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven and I have a chit chat about the CrunchPad the JooJoo tablet announced today by Fusion Garage.  If you have no idea what that it, you can check out my historical post from earlier today about the history of the JooJoo, but really Steven and I are talking more about the circus that surrounds the device than anything else.  It boils down to being the Web 2.0 soap opera to end them all … with a $499 hunk of plastic at the end for anyone silly enough to buy it.

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

21
Nov
2009

nookAs I am sure as with everything else in my life, now that I have chosen the Barnes & Noble nook as my e-reader, it is doomed to failure.

My parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and of course I decided on the Barnes & Noble nook just in time for it to be sold out for Christmas … because that’s how I roll.  I’m scheduled to get mine in early January, and at long last I will be entering the new age of books.

My decision on the nook was based mainly on three things:

Free books – There are 500,000 free books accessible on the nook, that should be enough to keep anyone entertained for eons.  I’m sure I’ll end up buying some books, but for at least a while I’ll just be working my way through the free ones.

Wi-Fi – I’ll take Wi-Fi over 3G from AT&T any day.

LendMe – While I have no clue what other friends of mine will have a nook, I love the idea we can lend each other books.

Considering how long Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and I have been podcasting about e-readers and how they will impact the market , I figured it was time one of us finally gave in and got one.  Mark has been in the same boat as me trying to figure out which one was the best choice, and honestly I don’t know if this will be the perfect one, but it’s the one I’ve decided to go with.

Now, why do I think this dooms the nook?  On Nov. 23rd, 2007 I picked HD-DVD over Blu-ray, and, well, we all know how that turned out since HD-DVD was officially declared dead on Feb. 19th, 2008.  There have been numerous examples of me picking the wrong “horse” over the years, so the nook isn’t 100 percent doomed, but me backing a gadget usually does add to its chances of failure.

I’m sure I’ll post a full review after I receive my nook in January, until then … start the countdown clock to Barnes & Noble pulling the plug on it!

21
Oct
2009

nookWhy is it writers have become obsessed with the word “killer”?

“Such-and-such gadget is a this-and-that gadget killer.”

This is a refrain I have seen endlessly since I joined the tech blogging world back in July of 2007, and it is getting tiresome.  David Coursey over at PC World is just the latest offender with his piece entitled “B&N’s Nook Is A Kindle Killer: 5 Reasons Why“.

Mr. Coursey isn’t to blame, it has become an accepted trend, but that doesn’t mean it is one that should continue.  It has actually become a joke amongst professional bloggers that every new gadget or app released is either a “killer”, somehow “pwns” an existing tool and so on.  Whatever happened to words like “supplant”?  “Replaces”?  “Threatens”?  How about a headline along the lines of “B&N’s Nook Threatens Kindle’s E-Reader Dominance: 5 Reasons Why”.

Guess the word “killer” just sounds more serious, but whatever.

As for the nook, will it overtake the Kindle?  Well … it could.  This isn’t too big of a surprise as the Kindle was the first big name in the space, and it had become synonymous with e-readers, so that is always hard to knock out of that top spot.  (Think how “Googling” has replaced the word “searching” and you get the idea)

The nook has several legs up on the Kindle in the way of Wi-Fi, access to over 500,000 free e-books from Google, a color browser for shopping and so on.

One of the interesting aspects to me is the LendMe feature which allows one B&N users (be it on th nook, iPhone, computer, phone etc) can lend a book to another account holder on any device for 14 days free of charge.  While I’m not sure this is a feature I would ever actually use, it is a small way of capturing the experience of reading actual books.

You can read more details on the Barnes & Noble nook on StarterTech, but I have to say I was never tempted to buy a Kindle, but I am very, very tempted by the nook.  I like the look of the device, I like the advances in the user friendliness of the device (replaceable battery!), access to free books and so on.  Will I buy one for sure?  I’m still not sure, but I’m giving it some serious thought.

However, you will never hear me refer to it as “a Kindle killer” …

10
Feb
2009

Someday I may get excited about the Amazon Kindle, but it still hasn’t happened yet.

Over at StarterTech I wrote up about how the Amazon Kindle 2 Got Official on Monday, but I tried to keep my general personal opinions out of that article.  In general I just don’t get the excitement over the device, and over the weekend I recorded a video cast with Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins about “Kindle 2.0: Is It the iPod for Books Yet?“.  I have embedded it below for easy viewing, but essentially I take the line that I think the Kindle is a bit silly compared to the iPod, and in no way as an essential piece of every day life.

As I say in the video, I just don’t see the point to the Kindle. It’s a nice concept, but at $359, it’s just too expensive.  They boast about how the new Kindle 2 can carry up to 1500 books in its 2GB memory, but do you really need to carry around 1500 books with you?  Yes, the same argument can be made about an iPod, but you can use your iPod as you work, the Kindle not so much.  An iPod you can put on shuffle play, want to try reading random pages from books on the Kindle?  There is also these concepts called the library and used book stores where you can either check books out for free, or buy them incredibly cheap.

kindle stupidityI also have the problem with the idea where they show people sitting around outside, or on subways, reading their Kindles.  iPods you can hide under your clothes you use them, you can even disguise the earbuds and no one will know you’re using it.  With a Kindle, you care holding a high end gadget in plain sight, just asking for someone to rip it from your hands or mug you for it.  Now, if you have a tattered paperback in your hands… you get the idea.  Never mind the fact you can use an iPod as you walk/run/exercise… try that with a Kindle.

I really have nothing against the device or other ebook readers, but it just isn’t for me, and I don’t quite understand the market demographic.  Amazon reportedly sold 500,000 units last year, but I would love to know the demographics of who these people were.  Besides the $359 they are laying out for a special reader, they are laying out $10 on average per book.  In this economic climate, who can afford this thing?

As Mark said in the video, the iPod solved an actual problem, the Kindle solves a problem no one realized even existed.  I’m afraid you’ll have to leave me in the unconvinced column.

9
Sep
2008

Normally I go all crazy for the new iPods, but this year… this year they have left me totally cold. I’m not tempted to buy a one of them.

I already wrote New iPods For 2008 over at StarterTech, but I figured I can always talk more bluntly about them here.

iPod Shuffle

While nothing new was done to them, they did drop from $79 to $49. I finally can see a point to them and they would make a great stocking stuffer for a kid.

iPod Nano

This got the biggest changes this year with a whole new look, new colors and better pricing.  They doubled the capacity and kept the price points the same as last year.  You can now get an 8GB for $149 and a 16GB for $199 with the added ability to turn them on their side for landscape video and image viewing.  Again, I can see these being great for kids, but heavy iTunes users and music collectors will scoff at the capacity.

iPod Classic

This one worried me. Last year the iPod classic came in a “thin” 60GB and a “thick” 160GB. As loyal readers know, I went for the 160GB, and documented How long does it take to load 119.41GB of music on an iPod?, meaning the 160 was my only choice.

So, this year we are seeing the “thick” eliminated and the “thin” bumped up to 120GB. While 120GB is great for most people, this tells me that the Classic is on its last legs.  I still haven’t filled my 160, all I can hope is by the time I hit that barrier that they have come up with something of a higher value.

iPod Touch

This was probably thebiggest letdown.  The made it thinner, they lowered the price, but the upgrades consisted of an external speaker for casual listening and they added external volume controls.

Whee?

Sure I’ve wanted an external speaker, but it isn’t worth me buying another one this year just for that.  They did drop the prices, but it still doesn’t change it enough for me to want to run out and buy another.

In Conclusion

For once I am going to say Steve Jobs blew it, and he blew it badly.  The reason they have sold tens of millions of iPods is people such as myself that have constantly upgraded.  With the exception of the Nano, which is at best a casual user’s device, they essentially did nothing this year.  There may be some chance of new users hoping on board with the new lower price points, but they sure aren’t going to get their normal upgrade business this year.

While I don’t think this spells utter doom for the product line, it makes you wonder if they are possibly finding the limits of what such devices can do.  Why didn’t the Touch get GPS?  There are numerous apps that use this function, they could have sold more of those apps and still not cut into their iPhone sales.  Why didn’t the Nano go to 32GB?  16GB is still laughable by most people.  Why didn’t the Classic get landscaping?  There are more questions than answers this year, and that is highly unusual when it comes to this product line.

8
Jul
2008

iphone 3g canadaWhen I first talked about the iPhone 3G, I mentioned as long as the phone was exclusive to AT&T, I wouldn’t be getting the device for myself.  Well, it seems things could be far, far worse… I could have to deal with Rogers in Canada.

It seems that Rogers of Canada went so overboard with their pricing, raising so much ill will that over 53,000 people have signed a petition at RuinediPhone.com stating they will not purchase an iPhone under the Rogers plan.  Unlike American contracts that run for 2 years, Canadian contracts run for 3 years, and the current contract runs $60 for 150 minutes of daytime minutes, and 400MB of monthly data transfer.  As much as I dislike AT&T, at least their $69.99 plan gives you 450 minutes with unlimited data.

So, in light of people being angry with Rogers, Apple has decided to cut supplies to the Rogers’ stores, and they have also announced that the Canadian Apple stores will not be carrying the phone, so Rogers won’t receive any contract sign ups from that venue.

I understand why Apple signs these exclusive deals, better revenue sharing for them, but do they not check out the pricing plans before they sign the contracts?  How could they let Rogers be the exclusive carrier when they are offering such horrible pricing?  This reflects poorly on Apple as well as Rogers.  And, I’m sorry, but 150 minutes for that price is just highway robbery in my opinion.

Hopefully Apple will learn some lessons from this, such as when going exclusive with a company, make sure you read what is going to happen to your customers before you sign on the dotted line.  Sorry, Candians… you got screwed.

29
Jun
2008

apple logoWho are these analysts, and how do I get their sweet job?

Craig Berger at FBR Research has issued a report that he expects an iPod line refresh in the near future, especially on the iPod Classic and on the iPod Touch.  This is something akin to saying, “the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.”

According to my records, for the past two years the iPods have been updated on September 12th, 2006 and September 5th, 2007.  Gee… any one thinking September again?  Maybe that’s just me.  Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, likes to do it then because then it gives time to ramp up for the holiday sales.  Well, okay, that’s my “analysis” of why he does it then.

For years now, I’ve been hearing these proclamations from “analysts” about new Apple products coming down the road.  “They’ll update the MacBook Pros this year.” er… Yeah, they will, what’s your point?  “The iPods will be getting a line refresh soon.”  Yes, they will… and the Earth will continue to rotate.  What I found amusing, and shows that they truly are guessing, is how many times they have predicted the death of the Mac Mini.

mac miniPretty much every time an Apple event comes around, someone will say, “Well, they’re going to kill off the Mac Mini this time, and replace it with such-and-such.”  Take this post from AppleInsider on May 24th, 2007 as an example.

Ladies and gentlemen, AppleInsider believes in all sincerity that the Mac mini is dead.

True, this is an Apple blog I am quoting here, but it is just one of many examples of people thinking the Mini was dying off.  Well, funny, the Mac Mini is still here, and has even been updated in the past year.  It may very well die off, most products usually do, but it is still here, and analysts keep saying it’s doomed.  Doesn’t this tell us something about the value of their “analysis”?

Essentially analysts are doing nothing more than making educated guesses, and yet people act like it’s some sort of message from on high.  Mr. Berger’s report is burning a path across the blogosphere with people reporting on it, and I just have to scratch my head.  We all know the iPods will be updated, it’s a given, so why give so much free publicity to some guy stating the obvious?

To be honest, I think it’s a little disingenuous on the part of the analysts who make these types of predictions about Apple.  It’s almost as if they take a look at the clock on a Friday, and say to themselves, “ugh… I didn’t get any predictions out this week, I need to get an easy one out… new iPods are coming!  Brilliant… let’s go hit the bar!”  It’s a softball prediction, there’s no risk in it, and yet they are able to spin it into coverage all over the Internet because it’s about Apple.  Sure, it’s their job to make predictions, and maybe they should be thankful there is the occasional no-brainer such as this one, but it just comes across silly when it makes it out to the general public.

In short, yes, new iPods are coming, and trees will continue to produce oxygen.

20
Jun
2008
Written by  |  under Gadgets  |  1 Comment

applecareWell, I just had my first encounter with Apple customer support, and I have to say I’m impressed.

After my hard drive failure a few weeks back, I had to put my iPod Touch apps back on the system, which I had luckily backed up.  Well, last night I had some issues with the Touch, so I did a reset, and went to sync the apps back onto it and… no luck.

I tried everything under the sun, and today I finally gave up and called them.  The first rep walked me through all the basics, staying with me on the phone the entire time.  After about 30-minutes he knew it was beyond him, and passed me up to a senior tech, Rick.  Rick spent about 15-minutes working on it before he determined he was also stumped.

This is where I got impressed.  Instead of just giving up, he said he was going to pass this up to an engineer, and that they would be calling sometime over the weekend, and if they didn’t, I was to call him directly.

What the…

All the way to an engineer?  A call back… on a weekend?

I had always heard how good their customer support is, and considering I bought this Touch used from someone else, I am even more impressed.  It may be that it can’t even be fixed due to the hard drive crash, and Rick was very blunt about that, but you can’t fault them for their effort and concern in this manner.  Major kudos to them.