iMac


24
Oct 12

Reflecting on the iPad mini event

I’m still calling this the iPad mini event. But that’s only because it sounds much simpler than the MacBook Pro/iMac/iPad mini event. That was quite a boatload of technology.

Some observations:

Tim Cook. I thought he was much improved yesterday — compared to his performance at the iPhone 5 event, where he seemed overly coached and eager to hurl those adjectives.

The even-newer iPad. Surprise. The 4th generation comes only seven months after the 3rd generation. Never seen that before. Of course an update was necessary, if only to add the Lightning connector. Apple couldn’t very well be selling millions of iPads for the holidays sporting a connector that has no future.

The next new iPad? Taking iPad off its regular spring update schedule is a smart marketing move. By moving to a fall update schedule, Apple will enter every holiday season with a brand-new iPad. That’ll throw a bit more fuel on the flame. Continue reading →


6
Jan 12

Apple’s predictable unpredictability

First of all, welcome to 2012. Okay, so I’m a little behind the rest of the world, but I finally made it.

The new year actually makes a perfect topic for Week 1. As you probably noticed, this week we got a mini-flood of articles about what we can expect from Apple in 2012: iPad 3, iPhone 5, Apple TV, slim MacBook Pro. To which most of us would say:

Duh.

Of course that’s what’s coming. It’s hardly news. I’ll tell ya, secrecy just isn’t what it used to be.

Though Apple continues to be thought of as one of the most secretive companies on earth, the truth is, they’ve lost the ability to surprise us like they did in the good old days.

The products are still amazing. The announcement events are fun. We still get surprised by the details as they are unveiled. It’s just that we know in advance what the products will be.

It wasn’t always this way. When Steve returned to Apple in 1997, secrets were secrets. His onstage announcements were real surprises (for the most part). The look of iMac was a shock. You had no idea that Apple was going to enter the consumer electronics market with iPod. You weren’t sure which Apple technology would be the focus of each event.

Breaches of secrecy were a scandal. Several days before the introduction of the first multicolored iMacs, the official family photo of all five models escaped from a printing facility in Germany, where a version of the multipage insert was being printed. It took the steam out of Steve’s big announcement — which was a crime punishable by death. (Or something close to it.)

As Apple has grown, and more people are exposed to the deep, dark secrets at various stages of product development, that kind of secrecy doesn’t exist anymore.

People were talking about iPhone — and calling it by name — months before it appeared. The name iPad was a surprise, but the device wasn’t — it was also widely expected months before, and its features accurately predicted.

This isn’t a terrible thing. It’s just a different thing. The new “iTV” (or whatever it will be called) will get the same attention this year. There will be buzz for months ahead, because Apple shaking up a new category is a great story. Journalists will hang on every word at the announcement event, even if many of the details become known before.

The only difference between now and then is that we know it’s coming. At least in the broad strokes.

I do find myself wondering about one thing this year. What’s next for Mac Pro? While it has grown in power, no product in Apple history has gone this long without a major overhaul. Mac Pro can now be officially classified as a “workhorse.” We’ve come to expect internal improvements only, but no major conceptual rethinking.

Will Apple demonstrate a new commitment to the pro market? Or will Mac Pro get upgraded the way Final Cut Pro did? Does Apple still love the high-end pros, or is it really just focusing on different levels of consumer now?

While it may be easier to predict Apple’s hardware these days, predicting its intentions is a different matter.

Happy 2012.


22
Nov 11

Steve Jobs talks PC vs. TV

Fortune blogger Philip Elmer-DeWitt uncovered this gem recently — a segment of Steve Jobs’ appearance at the CAUSE 1998 Conference in Seattle.

The video quality is terrible, and the black turtleneck plays second fiddle to a shirt. But the clip is interesting on a few levels.

First, Steve gives one of his more animated performances. At certain points, it’s almost as if he’s trying out a comedy act — and the audience does its part, sounding much like a laugh track. The speech does have substance though. In it, Steve puts television in its place. “TV turns your brain off, PCs turn your brain on,” he says.

Few people would know this, but Steve didn’t exactly pull that thought out of mid-air. He was actually re-purposing the script from an iMac campaign that never saw the light of day.

Right after we signed Jeff Goldblum, we shot a number of iMac commercials in which Jeff repeatedly drove home the point that iMac was for turning your brain on, while TV was for turning your brain off. In one spot, Jeff walked a path littered with old TVs as he spoke. In another, he sat with a bunch of children on the floor, all gathered around an iMac. The theme of the campaign was “iMac. It’s not TV.”

Why did the ads never run? In the end, they just weren’t good enough. Fortunately, on our last shooting day, when we were beginning to feel like we might need a Plan B, we wrote a quick script and shot a test spot featuring Jeff speaking directly to the camera. It worked great. With Steve’s enthusiastic approval, we grabbed a new director and shot the Jeff Goldblum spots that ultimately did run.

I was unaware that Steve had ever used the “brain on, brain off” argument publicly until I saw this video. I’m glad he was able to find a good use for it — especially since it cost him a pretty good chunk of cash.

 


23
Jun 11

Sean Connery vs. Steve Jobs: post-game wrap-up

I don’t usually talk about Scoopertino over here. That’s just for fun, whereas this blog is devoted to matters of supreme galactic importance.

However, this week Scoopertino hit some kind of weird global nerve that’s worthy of a mention — since it says something interesting about human nature and reveals interesting attitudes toward Steve Jobs.

In case you’re not familiar, this week’s Scoopertino story was about Steve Jobs trying to recruit Sean Connery for an iMac ad in 1998 — and Connery replying with a blistering letter of rejection. Within hours, Connery’s imaginary dissing of Steve Jobs became a top worldwide trend on Twitter, getting more tweets than Wimbledon. From there it became a story in The Telegraph, Washington Post, Huffington Post and many more.

Most eye-opening, though, were the thousands of comments that appeared in all these places.

First and foremost, they reveal how easy it is to fool people. Keep in mind, this was not a “hoax” as it came to be described. It was a joke put up on a fake news site that’s clearly labeled as a fake news site.

It was when people started to spread the Connery letter alone, out of context, that things got out of hand. This also doesn’t speak too well for humankind’s perceptual abilities, since this letter was literally filled with language and visuals that were dead giveaways.

Second, a great number of commenters were clearly hoping and praying that the story was true. They were totally high on the idea that someone would so rudely put Steve Jobs in his place. Some proclaimed that their admiration for Sean Connery just reached a new high. And when they found out the whole thing was fiction, many said that they wished it were true.

Yikes. A little pent-up hostility there?

What makes Scoopertino fun (we hope) is that it exaggerates reality. Honestly, we never imagined anyone might actually want to live in that reality.

Well, the joke’s over now. Everything’s back to normal. James Bond has no hard feelings. But I did hear that Q is livid that Apple stole his whole iPhone idea…


7
Jun 11

WWDC 2011: the morning after

Ah, the joy of software. This really is the stuff that makes Apple Apple, and it was fun to see such widespread improvements in one fell swoop.

As usual, some random day-after thoughts.

Mac OS X

Full-screen apps. This is a personal favorite. Can’t wait to see it in action. I currently use full-screen with all apps that enable it, and always appreciate the focus it brings. We’ve got the screen space — it’s a shame not to use it all.

Auto-Save. I look forward to not repeating some of the more humbling failures of my past. Turning the window title into a pop-up menu to access past versions is a nice touch. Being able to copy and paste from old versions is even nicer.

The feature count. Poor Lion. Only 250 new features. Leopard had 300.

Lion power, kitty price. $29 is amazing. Snow Leopard was the aberration at $29, compared to all the $129 Mac OS X upgrades before. But there was a reason for that — Snow Leopard’s changes were mostly in the plumbing. Lion is as rich an upgrade as any upgrade in history, but the price stays remarkably low. Why? My guess is that (a) Apple wants to move the entire base forward, because (b) there is far more money to be made down the road with a new foundation. I’m not being cynical, it’s just good business. The more people shopping in the Mac App Store and purchasing future iCloud capabilities, the merrier.

Space travel. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of the current log-in star field and Time Machine theme. It wore out its welcome a long time ago, so I expected it to be replaced — but not by another space scene. Apparently, now we have a galaxy image. Apple has always delivered simplicity and elegance, and the space thing always felt like someone else’s idea of “cool.” Can’t we just pick our own backgrounds?

iOS

Feature count, revisited. Only 200 new features in iOS, compared to Lion’s 250 features. Obviously it’s harder to fit new features in a smaller screen.

The big payoff. To excite the crowd, Forstall showed off a slide stating that Apple has paid developers a total of $2.5 billion. It’s a great number until you do the math with the slide right before: customers have downloaded 14 billion apps from the App Store. Let’s see … 2.4 billion divided by 14 billion … that’s about 18 cents an app. Obviously, this says a lot about how many free apps are downloaded.

Notifications. Yippee! At last! It’s interesting that Forstall first confessed that there are problems current notifications, and then said, “We’ve built something that solves some of the problems…” Some?

Safari Reader. One of my favorite features. People may accept that ads pay the bills, but the ultimate reading experience will always be an ad-free zone.

Reading List. Love it. File away an article to be read later, and have that list appear on all your devices.

The geo-fence. Probably my favorite new term from the show (and very cool feature). In telling how Reminders work, Forstall talked about setting up a geo-fence around Moscone, so when he left the building he’d get a reminder. Hopefully, by winter we’ll have geothermal fences.

Camera. Despite talk about the quality of the iPhone camera, I rarely use it. One reason is the damn shutter button on the screen. Sorry, it’s awkward and just not the way we’re accustomed to using cameras. Using the hard Volume Up button as a shutter button makes me an instant fan. Photo-taking is also way improved by the new editing capabilities.

iMessage. It was presented as working across all iOS devices. What about the Mac? Wouldn’t I want to text people while I’m stuck at my desk?

iPhone 5 clue. With iOS 5 coming in the fall, the obvious conclusion is that it will come hand-in-hand with iPhone 5. I can hang in there that long.

iCloud

Demoting the PC. What a great example of Steve Jobs’ ability to simplify in the boldest way. He said they were demoting computers to be just devices, and moving the center of your digital life to the cloud. You get it in a second. And what PC company CEO on earth would say they’re “demoting” one of their biggest moneymakers?

Facing facts. When promoting iCloud, Steve paused to say: “Now why should I believe them? They’re the ones who brought me MobileMe … MobileMe was not our finest hour.” Say what you will about Steve, he dares to be honest.

DropBox killer? Nope. At least not yet. And I’m glad, because DropBox remains one of the greatest Mac utilities ever created. DropBox far out-iDisked iDisk, and its makers deserve to be rewarded, not obsoleted.

What about Me? Obviously the me.com site will ultimately be the icloud.com site. Do we still want me.com email addresses (did we ever?). Does the “me” word really have a place in the iCloud concept? We’ll soon find out…

Documents in the Cloud. Not the shortest name Apple has come up with. But it does have that “gorillas in the mist” meter going for it.

iTunes Match. Huge question mark. No one seems to know if this is a way to subscribe to iTunes versions of the songs you already own, or if your $24.99/year allows you to download the higher-quality versions of your songs to your own computer forever. So $24.99 is either one of the world’s great bargains — or not.

Antiquities. On one of the slides appearing behind Steve Jobs is a stack of CDs. Damn, they’re hideous. Did we ever actually use those things?

AAPL is down. It dropped five bucks yesterday. Down another $3.50 as I write this. Call this “iPad Syndrome.” Remember the industry’s reaction to the original iPad? “Just a big iPhone.” “No surprises, no new breakthroughs.” “Apple’s first dud.” The stock dropped. In broad strokes, just about everything we saw yesterday was “expected.” However, what’s expected can be the start of a whole new world. Like iPad.

The prognosticators. Not that we need to be reminded to take people’s opinions with a grain of salt, but… John Gruber’s pre-WWDC idea was “Think of iCloud as the new iTunes.” In fact, he’s still describing it that way after the show. It’s a good sound bite, but not totally accurate. In truth, iCloud is exactly what Steve Jobs said: the new hub of your digital life. Yes, that includes your iTunes content, but it also includes the things you create. For now, that includes the documents you create in iWork, but that capability will no doubt expand. iCloud is about your whole life — documents, photos, contacts, calendars, etc. — not just your entertainment. The Cult of Mac’s “exclusive” was obviously absurd, yet was quoted by many blogs and news services. They said iCloud would not be hosted in Apple’s new data center after all, but instead would reside on your Time Capsule (purchase required if you don’t already own one). Somehow it never struck them that Apple was signing contracts with the music companies for the rights to do something new with their music, not just store it on a personal hard disk.

All in all, good show. Let’s do it again sometime.


6
May 11

First iMac cut from the family album

Poor, original, bulbous iMac.

You blazed the trail. You were the first “all-in-one.” You taught us to think different and toss aside our floppy disks. Your Bondi Blue was an oasis in a desert of beige.

And how do they repay you?

They pretend you never existed. They shine a light on the sexy thin models — and avert their gaze from a full-figured beauty like yourself.

Oh, okay, I’m not really that distraught about it. But I was a bit surprised when I saw this graphic on the new iMac pages at apple.com.

Looks like history has been re-written. The “Evolution of iMac” no longer includes the original iMac — no doubt because it would just look unforgivably chunky next to the cooler iMacs that followed.

Clearly Apple did this consciously, as they went out of their way to qualify the language in the caption by saying, “The all-in-one design of the first flat-panel iMac cleaned up the desktop … put everything you need inside one simple enclosure.”

Correct. And so did the original iMac.

No, I think it’s more of an eyesore issue. Accuracy would only have made this image unusable.

So let’s have a moment of silence for our old friend. Photo or no photo, I know there’s a special place in Cupertino for that revolutionary first iMac … even if it is in the basement.