Some More Thought on What Apple Should Do Next

I hasten to point out that the thoughts are other people’s. I wouldn’t presume to tell Apple what to do. Oh, no. What we have here is Gene ‘Mac Night Owl’ Steinberg’s thoughts, as spurred by an article entitles “Apple: A Product Plateau?” by Arik Hesseldahl in Business Week. Each tackle the malaise which often effects the Mac community: that we are in unequal parts spoiled and neglected by Apple. There comes the occasional game-changing product announcement which makes the more usual announcements of product evolutions seem dull and lifeless by comparison. And the lows between insanely great fixes just seem to get lower.

I’ll get Gene out of the way first. He makes the case for the HTPC AppleTV replacement, comparing the current state of the market to that of the media player market pre-iPod. I don’t doubt that Apple could shake things up, but I don’t think that this is how they would chose to do it. As I’ve written elsewhere, TiVo functionality and DVD/Blu-Ray players would eat into iTunes Store revenue.

Arik Hesseldahl reprieves the idea of the iPhone Nano, saying:

“The iPhone nano, for example, might appeal to those who think the current model is too big or too expensive.”

While I’d agree that that market exists, I doubt that Apple will choose to tackle it. Arik mentions the many iPod iterations as an example of Apple cornering different niches of the same market. I’d point out that Apple keeps moving forward. Why is this important? The original iPod was a simple device: basically just a music player. As it evolved new features were added. And new products were added to the line, but with the exception of the shuffle’s screen, none of them did less than the original. When the mainline got photo and then movie playback, the Mini and Nano lagged a little behind.

The iPhone is a smart phone. It is indivisible from the Touch OS and the large screen you need to run it. If Apple were to introduce an iPhone Touch — maybe modelling it after the new iPod Nanos, with a similar click-wheel driven interface — it would be a step backwards for the line. And perhaps more importantly, it would be just another music-playing mobile phone.

Arik then returns to a rumour which hasn’t been heard from for a while: the all-in-one AppleTV.

“Apple could take the features of AppleTV and pack them into an actual TV set—but that’s unlikely. Selling TVs is a cutthroat, low-margin business better left to the likes of Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp.”

While I agree that, yes, this is unlikely, I’d argue with Arik’s reasoning. Sure, the TV business is cutthroat, but so is the PC business, and Apple seems to be doing okay there. They sell PCs at good margins by having a differentiated product. A TV set + AppleTV would be another such product. If consumers are only going to buy one TV then why not favour the set with the unique extra features, especially if they were already considering an AppleTV and the price of the combined unit was the same or less.

It’s just a shame it’s not going to happen. I’d certainly buy one.

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Have Yourself a PureDarwin Xmas

We’ve been following the efforts of the PureDarwin team for a while now, as they attempt to get Apple’s open source OS layer up and running, with the eventual aim of producing an easy-to-install live CD, equivalent to the popular Linux distributions. They’re coming along in leaps and bounds, and on Christmas Day team member probono announced on the Apple Darwin mailing list the availability of PureDarwin Xmas, the first developer preview of a fully working Darwin system.

PureDarwin Xmas is available as a VMWare virtual machine from the puredarwin.org site (link below). The 200Mb download decompresses to a 784Mb VMWare Fusion 2 bundle. Users of Fusion v2.0.1 will require a 64-bit Core 2 Duo to run it. Those of us with 32-big Core Duos — ie. first generation Intel Macs — will need to downgrade to Fusion v2.0.0, which is still available from VMWare’s Fusion download page.

Being a developer preview, functionality is limited. Most obvious is the lack of networking and user accounts, both of which appear to rely heavily on closed source portions of OS X. However, given the mess that the Darwin code was in as released by Apple — many individual projects would simply not compile, and many of those which did were beset by dependency problems to the point where they were unusable — it is hard to overstate what an amazing job the team has done getting to this stage. The Darwin kernel now boots and launches an X session — the choice of the NeXT-like WindowMaker window manager is a nice touch, although apparently won’t be the future default — from where the few bundled X applications can be run. It’s still early days yet, but there’s every reason to feel enthusiastic about the future of the PureDarwin project.

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The Undercover Genius: First Week on the Job

[Æ has its own man working inside Apple: the Undercover Genius started work last week at one of the Central London Apple Stores. Here in his own words are his impressions of his first week on the job.]

So I’ve started working at the Genius Bar of the [—] Apple Store, which isn’t a real bar but reminds me a bit of one. The whole shop reminds me of one of those really expensive places up Fulham way where you can’t get a proper beer and the drinks are tiny and mostly ice and cost £10 each. It also reminds me of the inside of the spaceship in this really boring space movie me and a couple of mates watched once, only we were all off our tits so we didn’t think it was boring at the time. There was this evil computer which kept trying to kill the spacemen and then there were all these swirling lights and an old man and a baby, although I think I may have imagined those last bits.

The first day was really dull. We watched some films about how great Apple is and how nice we have to be to the customers. Some of it was interesting because I don’t really know much about Apple Macs — I’ve got this well-rad Alienware rig at home with like water cooling and these glowing red lights. Then they gave me this stack of T-Shirts which is like our uniform, which I guess is kind of cool only they itch like f—. I’m going to get my Mum to nuke them with the Fabreeze or something. Also, If we want a smoke we have to change out of them before we go outside because it’s company policy not to be seen smoking in them, but Matt [not real name], who’s one of the sellbots but is OK really, said he was surprised that it wasn’t required to be seen smoking Gauloises at all times (goolwars? ghoulwares? He said it was a type of French fag [Don’t worry, I’ve got your spelling back]).

The rest of the staff are mostly OK too, although some of them are a bit weird, like Dave [again, not his real name] who’s got this really big beard and runs the Genius Bar and is really old, like in his 30s or something. Then there’s the concierges. They wear orange T-Shirts to show that they’re better than us. (Dave said that there used to be a whole lot of staff who wore red T-Shirts, only they kept getting killed, which I guess would explain why we have to have these massive bouncer guys stood at the doors all day.) One of the concierges — his name’s Calvin — he reminds me of this really snooty waiter I met once. I used to have this bird, Maggie, and she really thought a lot of herself because her Dad was a financial advisor for the Halifax and they had off-street parking. And she was always on at me about how I never took her anywhere nice, so this one time I decided f— this and took her to the Nandos out Balham way, which is where I got all this grief from this waiter who was right up himself just because I only wanted a starter because they charge you an arm and a leg for a big meal. But anyway the other concierge is called Famke and she’s foreign and quite nice and really rather hot (even though she looks a bit like a man).

So this week I’ve mostly just been learning the ropes and that and I think it’s going OK apart from the bit on Tuesday where I was helping them clear away all the old stuff for this AppleTV thing — which is like a small Sky digibox or something — only they meant “only throw out the posters and stuff” so I had to go through the bins getting them all out again. And I’m sorry I haven’t been texting you [posting to undercov_genius at Twitter] only I was up all night Tuesday playing Mass Effect and then I fell asleep and when I woke up I thought I was going to be late so I trod on my phone but I’m getting a new one this weekend. It’s one of those cool N95s so I can do you pictures and films and everything if you like.

This is about 1000 words, right?

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Louis Vuitton iPhone Case Makes Us Very Sad

Were you thinking of bidding on that solid gold iPhone but are a little worried it might get scratched as you hop in and out of your Escalade? Then Louis Vuitton — bag-maker to the rich and famous — has just the thing for you. It has Armagnac leather lining and costs $290. What more could you want?

My verdict? It reminds me of my Nan’s glasses case.

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News Roundup for December the 15th

After passing a bill, you can visit Neteller to find superb casinos in your location. You are bound to have lots of fun.

I must have blinked for the entire few second on Friday between the entry and surprisingly abrupt exit of EFi-X US from the Mac clone market. It seems the US distributors of the EFI-enabling dongle — which is a snip at just $200 for what is basically a 21st century BIOS on a USB stick — got a little carried away and needed the European mothership to step in and slap them down. If only Psystar had such great parental supervision.

Our ‘University of the Week’ award goes to Cologne, which has decided to give each of its 45,000 students an iPhone. Good thing my alma mater didn’t think of this. They’d have given us all Zune phones. But what great academic applications are the good students of Koln going to run on their super phones? Well, the choice has increased a little with the miraculous entry into the App Store of the previously-denied Pull My Finger. Some Biblical scholars are interpreting this as one of the first signs of the impending apocalypse. Still, it’s not as if Microsoft is writing apps for the iPhone, is it? What? Bugger. Oh, well. At least we can still look forward to next year’s Stevenote. Pardon? Okay, now I’m retiring to the bunker until all this blows over.

I need some good news. Ah, this should do it: Amazon isn’t nearly as good at selling MP3s as Apple. I feel better already.

Okay, back to talking about apps which should be in the App Store but aren’t. We’ll mention Peeps the innovative diary and whore contact browsing prog which looks like it uses private APIs but doesn’t but still got kicked out by Apple because it looks like it does. Terrible, I know. I mean, who do these developers think they are? Google? Now everyone pop over to The Apple Blog and tell Tom Reestman he’s a jerk. And then check out the wonder-to-be which is the Slingbox iPhone app.

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Great October Apple Calendar from Abroad

Are you an Apple fan? Do you like to know what day it is today? Or what day it will be tomorrow? Or next week? Then foreign (what is that? Spanish? French?) site Mac Blogs at iBlogr has got a treat for you. Click across, download, print and you’re good to go. Okay, it may not quite compare to the fare our friends at Macenstein serve up, but it’s way more suitable for a mixed work environment.

You can also click through their archives and check out the wonderful designs for previous months. (Warning: may not be much use as actual calendars any more.)

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Bob Blames Democracy for Apple’s Problems

You can ask anyone who knows me — if you can get any of the buggers to answer their phones — and they’ll tell you that I’m not democracy’s biggest fan. Yes, it all sounds very nice in principal, but then so did Gil Amelio, and we all know what a total cock-up that was. Most of the blame can be placed on the incompetent and/or avaricious c—s who infect our political systems. And since you are no doubt asking, yes, thank you, I could do a much better job of running the world than either Calamity Bush or our own dear dour one-eyed Jock (and for the benefit of our American reader, “dour” is Jock-speak for “miserable f—ing c—”). And don’t get me started on Boris f—ing Johnson. The withered remains of my right teste would make a better Mayor of London than him. I speak as someone who still has 20-year-old games of Sim City happily ticking over. I bet I also speak better Latin than him, too.

A pointless sham version of democracy seems to have crept into about everything these days. I can’t turn on the television without being cajoled to phone in and vote for something. The talent show dross I can understand: after all, the Caesars twigged a couple of thousand years ago that there’s nothing like a little public blood-letting to keep the plebs happy. No, the one that really go my goat was the one with Griff bloody Rhys bloody Jones. Which dilapidated pile do you want to see get a lick of paint? Now, if the one which got “voted off” each week had been flattened live on air, then I might have watched. Might even have considered paying the licence fee.

This malaise has spread to the democratisation of skills. I can still remember the time when doctors were respected — for their training, their prowess on the golf course, their ability to hide massive drink problems. Now any git can spend five minutes on Wiki-f—ing-pedia and think that 1) they know better than the quack, and 2) that they are obviously being lied to if said quack doesn’t agree that a herbal poultice is the optimum cure for little Johnny’s leukaemia. The general feeling is that everybody can do — and should be allowed to do — anything, and that all you need is Google and a positive attitude. Which explains the f—ing mess the economy’s in.

Time was stockbrokers fell into one of two groups: they were either chinless Public School tossers who had a few family connections but were otherwise indistinguishable from turnips, or they were East End barrow boy types who’d be out stealing cars and mugging grannies if the City hadn’t taken them off the street. But now thanks to pervasive democratisation and the network, anybody can trade stocks. All any little Herbert needs is five minutes alone with his mother’s MasterCard and he’s got his own little share dealing operation up and running. And what share will he trade? Don’t expect any kind of research — he’ll trade what he knows. Cue a couple of minutes looking for the ticker symbol for “iPod” — no luck — let’s buy Apple instead then. What’s this here on this blog? Steve Jobs is dead? Better sell Apple quickly then. The world would be in a much better state if he’d just kept wanking over Girls Aloud torture porn instead of playing at being Gordon Gecko.

After reviewing a certain bill, you can play casino games at http://pocketcasino.ca to relax. There’s plenty of cash to be won.

And while I’m on the subject of democracy, where the f— did this f—ing stupid idea that Apple was one come from? So now the iPhone NDA has been lifted and you have to at least of heard of an App Store app before you can comment on it and all of a sudden every little Apple blogger is patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Apple listened to us. We caused regime change. Oh just f—ing shut up.

Apple is a dictatorship. We should take the same immorally pragmatic approach to it as Western governments do to whichever murderous little regime happens to have some resource it really can’t live without. If Apple wants to waterboard the entire MobileMe team we should just turn a blind eye, lest the stream of new iPods dries up. If it makes you sleep better at night you can pretend that Jobso is a benevolent dictator. We can send Alex Lindsay in and let him report that everything is just hunky-dory and that everyone is happy and driving around in Mercs. (May I just digress for a moment and say that if I have to listen to Lindsay talking bollocks about Zimbabwe on one more MacBreak Weekly I shall fly to Petaluma and firebomb the TWaT Cottage. Doesn’t it occur to this smug cretin that everyone’s swanning around down-town Harare without a care in the world because they’ve got all the money they’ve stolen safely stashed in numbered accounts in the Alps?)

This week we’ve seen the problems which face a dictatorship with an ailing leader. My fear is that somewhere in Cupertino the Politburo’s handbook is being carefully pored over. It would be a catastrophe for the company if Jobso is seen to die. Luckily with modern technology it’s easier than ever to hide the unpleasant fact of his passing. Remember that Apple has close links to Pixar. If they can’t whip up a virtual CEO then no one can. And if all else fails they can do what they did to poor Ollie Reed when he pegged it on the set of Gladiator, ie. stick a broom handle up his arse and work him like a Muppet.

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An Apology On Behalf of Apple Eclectic

Earlier this morning, Æ ran this article concerning the iPhone’s prowess in the e-book reader market. We ran it under the title “Please Stop Reading on the iPhone, You’re Breaking Steve’s Heart” — as Editor (and acting Sub) I was personally responsible for composing this particular headline. The subsequent effects my actions would have did not occur to me at the time, and it was certainly not my intent to cause such disturbance and distress. I can only offer my unconditional apologies for so totally Blocking Apple’s stock price, and promise that I will take ever step necessary to ensure that it does not happen again.

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Liveblogging the Keynote with Paul Thurrott

When it comes to ways to enjoy the Philnote, we Apple fans are really pretty spoiled. While I missed the fun over at MacRumors, I was having a great time following along via Twitter. I particularly enjoyed the play-by-play provided by Paul ‘being a git worked for Dvorak so I’m going to make it work for me’ Thurrott. I’ve reproduced his stream below. Now, if I were a fictional character like the Macalope I might indulge in some line-by-line name calling. Instead I’ll just make the observation that this guy is an even bigger dick in realtime.

“So… iPhoto 09 has features that Facebook, WinLive Photos/Photo Gallery, and Picasa have had for months. That’s what I’m seeing here right?”
“So … iMovie 09 fixes the wrongs of iMovie 08. Good. But who EDITS video, really? And this is the 2nd of three new products he’s showing?”
“And speaking of applications targetting a seriously niche audience … GarageBand. 09. Oh my.”
“There’s nothing like playing to an overly-friendly house. You can get copious applause just by showing up.”
“Yep. I expect the NYT to trumpet Apple’s “invention” of photo face detection any moment now.”
“Oh, i see … iLife was product #1. iWork is #2. They still make iWork? 🙂 JK”
“What kills me about apple: They have 1 year to prepare for macworld. and iLife is *still* not ready to ship today. Late Jan.? What the heck?”
“Aside from iPhoto, every product they’ve shown today is cool but limited in audience scope. Why do they focus so much on things noone uses?”
“Case in point. Keynote. For those people who a) use Macs and b) give presentations. This is a seriously limited audience.”
“After the passing of a certain bill, you can search for the best online casino to have some fun and win some cash.”
“Actual comment from random Apple live blog: It will show your slide and your notes – VERY COOL APP!”
“Um, right. That’s what presentation programs DO. 🙂 Geesh.”
“Actually, I should apologize. Pages makes Keynote look like a best-seller by comparison. :)”
“Mac Box Set is a good idea: Leopard, iLife 09, and iWork 09 for $169. Microsoft should bundle like that. Oh, wait.”
“iWork.com should be about as useful as Zune to Zune music sharing. In fact, there are probalby more Zune users than iWork users. Nevermind.”
“And I was just thinking that we needed another Google Docs/Acrobat.com/Office Live. :)”
“[crosses fingers] And please tell me iwork.com is based on me.com technology :)”
“Apple guys will always buy the Apple stuff, even when free things are out there. They’re just wired that way”
“And the final cherry on top of iWork.com: you will have to pay for it. Thank you Apple. I was looking for another way to shovel money at you”
“#3 – new Macbook Pro”
“17-inch MacBook Pro that is. I wonder if that means no new Mini?”
“And does that mean no Snow Leopard discussion? No DRM-free music at iTunes?”
“[crosses fingers again] I hope they show another unibody manufacturing video!”
“One last thing … iTunes”
“BTW, it’s “one MORE thing” Phil. :)”
“Apple folds on variable pricing. That actually is kind of a shock. It’s also what they should have done years ago.”
“My guess: Variable pricing was a requirement in order for Apple to get DRM-free music. I guess they’re not omnipotent after all.”
“Yep: By end of Q1, all 10 million songs on iTunes will be DRM free. I’m guessing they won’t be MP3, however.”
“Final recap on Macworld. Mostly “eh”. Exception: Battery on new 17-in MBP is interesting, unless they start catching on fire 2 mos from now.”

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What? You Mean There Really is an iPhone Nano?

Well, it could just be an elaborate marketing ploy for the LittleSnapper screen capture software and its companion website, but the above image — captured and Twittered about by Realmac Software’s Danny Greg — from the official Apple iPhone 3G product page suggests that the iPhone Nano may actually exist. Maybe. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

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