CategoryAnalysis

‘Hello again:’ Apple event scheduled for October 27th

As expected, Apple announced an October event, set for Thursday the 27th, and likely to be the last held in its Cupertino Town Hall.

The company is widely anticipated to announce updates to the Mac lineup, which has grown long in the tooth. The invitation for the event reads “hello again,” a clear nod to the message that introduced both the original Macintosh as well as the first iMac. The use of that phrase would suggest that Apple is presenting something similarly important — something similarly worthy of an “introduction.” Using that special phrase for anything less would be disappointing.

The question is: How many Macs will be updated. The Mac Pro and Mac mini have gone especially long without a refresh and Apple’s attention to these products will likely be viewed as indicators of how seriously the company takes the markets they serve — especially the pro market.

Also to watch: Will new Macs follow the iPhone in getting rid of the headphone jack? (Almost certainly not.) Will they trade in the MacSafe connector in favor of a USB-C port? (Probably.) Will the function key row be replaced by a dynamic LCD or e-ink panel? (Maybe.) Only time (and Tim Cook) will tell.

The event will be streamed live on AppleTV and from the Apple website.

How my Apple Watch saved my life (really)

I had a health scare a couple months ago. I haven’t talked about it to many people, not because I want to keep it secret, but because that kind of sharing just doesn’t come naturally to me.

Writing about it is a different story, however; like any journalist worth his salt, I can’t resist a good story — even if it’s my own. So I wrote about it for Macworld, and I’ll share it with you all that way.
For the record, I feel great. I have no restrictions on what I can do, other than take one little pill every day. That’s a small price to pay for remaining upright.

I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me to have my wonderful family through all this — especially Judy, who for some reason I still don’t fully understand, wants me to stay alive as long as possible (despite my reminder that I’m worth a lot more dead.) She is — as always — my rock, my center and my soulmate.
Anyway, if you want to know the story, here you go.

BTN Mac Show: ‘Greenie’s Arse’ (and content blockers)

On the latest episode of The British Tech Network’s “Mac Show,” host Ewen Rankin was kind enough to wait for my return to discuss a topic I really wanted to discuss: Content Blockers. New to iOS 9, content blockers prevent ads from loading and stop websites from tracking you — among other things. It’s a fairly controversial subject, with advertisers (and some content creators) calling foul. I sympathize with the content creators, but increasingly obnoxious and intrusive ads have made this day inevitable. Ads that cover up what you’re trying to read and make it intentionally hard to close make reading some sites feel like a bad game of whack-a-mole. My hope is that this will be a wake up call to the ad industry, but I fear it’s just the next round in a game of cat and mouse.

There’s a lot more to the conversation — it’s worth checking out.

On Macworld: How to set restrictions on the new Apple TV

The new Apple TV provides lots of options for bringing all sorts of content to your television, but not all that content may be suitable for everyone in your home. To deal with that, Apple gives you tools to control what can be downloaded and displayed on your TV. Unfortunately, those tools aren’t consistently applied across all content sources yet and don’t always work as expected. Even so, it’s better than nothing. Here’s a walkthrough of how these features work.

Read the full article on Macworld.

On Macworld: Five iOS apps to make your next road trip smoother

My latest Macworld article talks about five free iOS apps that could help you out on your next road trip. It focuses on apps that help save you time, money and frustration on the road by making it easier to find things like gas stations, food stops and hotels.

It was a fun one to write, based on a lot of real world experience. It was also inspired by a family trip to bring my son to his first year of college, so naturally, he wants a cut.

The article is on the Macworld website — I hope you check it out.

BTN Mac Show: ‘Trimming Back’

I was remiss in putting the word out about the latest Mac Show on the British Tech Network. I’d be lying if I said I remembered what we talked about, but I do recall it was a lot of fun as usual. Oh, right — I do remember talking about how I now have an Apple Watch.

My “Cool Thing” was the innerexile Glacier iPhone 6/6+ case — a slim, self-healing case that’s very, well…cool.

If you haven’t listened to The Mac Show, give it a try. It’s a fun, lighthearted conversation about some of the coolest things happening in the tech world today — and you don’t need to be an uber-geek to follow along.

‘It’s about time: Why watchOS 2 convinced me to buy an Apple Watch’

My latest Macworld article takes a look at why I finally decided to buy an Apple Watch. I told myself I would wait for version two — and I did. I just didn’t realize said version would come by way of a software update and not new hardware.

The article is here. I was thrilled to see how it resonated — it seems I’m not the only one who was waiting.

The iPad at five: How we saw it then

It’s been five years since the first iPad shipped (although the device was announced several months earlier.) Here’s a look at what we thought of the original iPad back then — in two articles for The MacObserver and one interview on Mac Voices.

Love It or Leave It: Extremist Views on iPad Obscure the Important Points

There were two predictions I made that didn’t materialize, though. The first was a front-facing camera. I was hoping Apple believes it’s time for mobile version of video iChat. But even more than that, I’ve come to rely on the camera in my iPhone for a host of utilities not having anything to do with taking photographs or video. No, the real power in the iPhone’s camera comes from things like “augmented reality” apps; apps like Red Laser that scan products and search the Internet for information and prices; apps that let you add a bottle of wine to a database — even apps that act as document scanners.

The second unrealized prediction was something much less tangible, but much more important. I said that the real key feature for Apple to include was something no one had figured out — something that we never knew we wanted, but — once Apple showed it — none of us would want to live without. Admittedly, that’s easy to say. It’s like the old joke about teaching someone how to become a millionaire: Step One — get a million dollars. But for me, it was crucial in order for Apple to make the iPad a truly compelling device. I was looking for something the iPad could do that I couldn’t do with either my iPhone or my MacBook Pro. Something that would make me forego the convenience of having a device that fits in my pocket; something that would sway me from just taking my laptop as long as I was going to have to carry something anyway. Without that, the iPad risks remaining a novelty — a very cool one, no doubt — but a novelty nonetheless, attractive to a niche market.

The iPad’s Killer App: It’s Not A Computer

That Apple never refers to the iPad as a computer is no accident. That Apple routinely refers to the iPad as magical is not being trite. Computers are scary, full of arcane commands and file systems and viruses. Technology is intimidating, reserved for younger generations and geeks with chin beards who speak of mega-this and giga-that. An iPad is friendly, inviting and — in spite of its capabilities — simple. A computer responds to commands. An iPad anticipates desires. And as OS updates and apps evolve, its abilities will expand ever further in empowering yet incremental and incrementally intuitive ways.

The iPad will not replace laptops — at least not right away. We geeks will use it as something that fits into a heretofore unimagined “gap” between the iPhone and a laptop, and the non-geeks who buy an iPad would never have bought a laptop anyway.

MacVoices #1009: Chuck La Tournous Delivers A Different Perspective on The iPad

Like the rest of us, RandomMaccess chief Chuck La Tournous has been waiting for the announcement of Apple’s iPad, but with different expectations. Chuck explains where the iPad fits (or doesn’t fit) in the Apple product matrix, and why he won’t be in line to buy one right now. While there are similarities, Chuck doesn’t see the iPad launch as the same as the iPhone launch, and discusses why this may make a difference as in the adoption rate. The discussion also covers the lack of Flash and why that isn’t as important as it once was, the ebook capabilities of the iPad and whether it will successfully challenge the Kindle, and more.

Watching the watch watchers

In just a few hours, the speculation about the Apple Watch will be over (at least most of it) and we’ll have cold hard facts, lots of finger pointing about who got what wrong, and lots of spinning to explain how someone may have gotten it wrong, but they really didn’t mean it that way so they were actually right. We’ll also get a few people blaming Apple for their own wrong guesses. (Those are my favorite.)

For me, the most interesting questions have been around how much the watch will cost in its various iterations and what kind of upgrade path there will be (if any.)

On pricing, I’ll take the under on pretty much any published speculation. I agree with a lot of what Kirk McElhearn had to say on the topic:

The Apple Watch Edition is not a luxury watch; it’s just a gold-cased version of the cheaper watch. There’s nothing exclusive about it, nothing special. It’s not like more expensive watches where you pay for complex machinery. Yes, there is gold; that will make it more expensive than the other models. But not that much. Estimates of the cost of the gold suggest that the metal would cost less than $1,000.

As such, I think the list price for the base model Apple Watch Edition will be $1,999. There will certainly be a price differential by size, and it could be a couple hundred dollars for this version. In addition, the watchbands will cost as much as several hundred dollars. There’s just no reason to pay more. I repeat, this is not a luxury watch; this is a smartwatch with a gold case.

I’ve been saying all along that the Apple Watch, for all its fashion focus, is still primarily a piece of technology. A Rolex doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars just because of the weight of the gold in it. It cost what it does because it’s a finely crafted, mechanically complex piece of machinery-slash-jewelry, and it has the Rolex name on it. It — and other luxury watches — are heirlooms, designed and priced to be handed down from generation to generation. An Apple Watch may be finely crafted and technologically complex, but it it will be obsolete someday — probably someday soon. There is no Rolex 1.0, but there will almost certainly be an Apple Watch 2.0.

That’s why I think Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is off base. I think he sees the Apple Watch as a luxury watch — the former on equal terms with the latter. I also have trouble with the sheer number of SKUs (price points) he sees. Between different prices for watch sizes and bands, Gruber estimates 16 different price points. That feels unwieldy to me. Although I agree that the different bands have to come at different prices, it doesn’t seem Apple-like to me to charge different prices for each size of the watch. And before you start pointing out the price differences between a 16, 64 and 128MB iPhone, I don’t equate watch size with something like storage capacity.

Who knows? Maybe my pricing speculation is more wishful thinking than analysis, but I sure hope Gruber is wrong this time.

What about upgradability? If the Apple Watch is indeed going to be seen as more of an heirloom than an iPad, it needs to have some protection from obsolescence. There are two ways to do that: Make the innards of the watch easily swappable with new versions, or offer a buyback program to soften the blow of buying that Apple Watch 2.0. The first solution works if you think the styling of the Apple Watch is set for a good long time. That seems a long shot, given Jonny Ive’s and the company’s propensity for better, faster, thinner. Swapping out new “watch guts” also seems like a logistical challenge: Would Apple Store employees have to be trained in watchmaking so they could make the upgrade on the spot? Would one simply trade in your old watch for a new one, with Apple doing the recycling later? Or would there be a delay involved: Drop off your old watch and wait for it to be shipped to Cupertino (or China or Texas), upgraded and sent back to you or your local store? All that hassle makes a buyback program make more sense to me, but would Apple even address such a far-in-the-future issue at this event? Maybe not.

And then there’s the question of battery life — not just how many hours in a charge, but how many charges in a battery’s lifetime. If Apple is going to charge a premium for the watch — if it is going to be something we pass down to our children, there has to be a reasonable process to replace the battery. A watch that has to be charged every night is one thing; one that has to be charged several times a day because the battery’s old? That’s just not workable.

Even beyond the cost questions, I’m looking forward to hearing more about what the watch can do. Did we hear about all it’s features last fall? I doubt it. I’m eager to hear more about battery life

In any case, we’ll have at least some of the answers in a few short hours. At $349, I’m almost certainly in the market — if for nothing else than to be able to write about it. But I’m holding out hope that the stainless steel version is within my reach, and that Apple will have the right answers to all these questions.

‘Hanging by a thread’

I was a guest on the British Tech Network’s Mac Show this week, along with Chris Breen, Josh Centers, Adam Christianson and Host Ewen Rankin. We had a great time speculating on what Chris will do as he leaves Macworld for that “fruit-flavored technology company.” We also talked a lot about the Apple Watch, what Pebble’s Kickstarter project for its own smart watch means for consumer appetites, Apple’s March 9th event and other assorted nonsense.

As usual, it was a tremendous amount of fun with a great panel of smart, funny people. The Mac Show has a bright Chat Room as well, and they add a lot to the program. It’s worth listening to (and subscribing) whether you’re interested in hearing my ramblings or not.

The show can be found on the British Tech Network’s website.

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