CategoryApple

Current C minus

Great catch from The Loop’s Dave Mark from Apple’s earnings call:

Remember the MCX Consortium, the competing transaction processing system from Walmart, et al? One of their high profile members is Best Buy. As a reminder, there was a lot of discussion when MCX started out about members being restricted from taking Apple Pay.

Now recall that Cook announced today that Best Buy is (present tense) accepting Apple Pay in its stores.

Mark calls it “a pretty solid crack in the consortium.” I’d say that’s a fair description.

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.

‘WonderCube:’ A multi-function keyring for your phone

Clever idea. It’s a USB/lightning cable, card reader, phone stand, light and emergency charger — all wrapped up in a 1″ cube that attaches to a keyring. It’s already over its IndieGogo goal of $50,000 (over $63.4K as of this posting.) At its retail price of $70, I’m less of a fan, but the $50 early bird price seems reasonable.

Especially clever is the emergency charging feature. A flip of lid reveals a 9-volt battery connector that the company says can provide 3.5 hours of talk time.

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.

Macworld Review: Vivosmart finds its place by not trying to be a smart watch

My latest Macworld article is a review of Garmin’s Vivosmart. It’s a fitness band that looks to differentiate itself from Apple’s offering by being a fitness tracker with smartphone features, rather than a smartwatch that also happens to track your activity.

I think it’s a smart move by Garmin: get a great fitness band with some useful features at half the price of the Apple Watch. And you don’t have to wait until April to get one.

You can read the full review on Macworld.com.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy: Chris Breen leaves Macworld for Apple

Veteran Mac journalist and author Christopher Breen has left Macworld to join a “fruit-flavored tech company sandwiched between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.”

Breen made the announcement on his personal blog, and confirmed it on Macworld.com.  “There are loads of reasons for the change, but blend them together and they add up to my desire to try something different before I don the large shorts and spend the bulk of my remaining days looking for my misplaced spectacles,” Breen wrote.

Chris has been a staple in Mac journalism for almost 30 years, and in that time earned a reputation as fair, honest, funny and smart. In addition to his work on Macworld, he’s authored several books, hosted innumerable podcasts and appeared on TV shows and user group meetings—all with a self-effacing, humble attitude that was as genuine as it seemed.

I’ve been a fan of Chris for more years than I can count, and have had the wonderful privilege of not only meeting him, but coming to count him as a dear friend, bandmate and colleague.

As a result of his new role, Chris will be retiring his tech persona. “I’ll be leaving the public stage as Chris Breen Technology Guy (though I may still pop up as Chris Breen Musician Guy at a saloon near you).”

As is typical of moves to that fruit-flavored tech company, Chris is mum about what his new role will entail. I can only hope that Apple knows what they have in Chris and that they take full advantage of his talents.

I couldn’t be happier for him and I wish him nothing but success in this new chapter of his life. It quite literally couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Beyond Cut and Paste: 20 keyboard shortcuts that will make you a more powerful Mac user

In my latest article for Macworld, I explain 20 (or so) keyboard shortcuts that can make using your Mac a lot more efficient. I like to think of these at “Mac 201” rather than Mac 101, since they go beyond the most basic keyboard commands.

I’m also thinking about doing a short video on the same topic—I think it might be a little easier to convey that way (and I want to try out my video demo chops anyway.)

The article is available on the Macworld website.

Audio Hijack 3 is a must-have upgrade that adds fun to a powerful utility

Rogue Amoeba released Audio Hijack 3, a major update to its audio capture and recording utility. The new version features a completely overhauled interface that makes creating and using recording workflows much easier and looks amazing.

The old: Powerful, but imposing
For years, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro has been an essential utility for capturing, mixing and recording audio traveling through you Mac. And when podcasting took off, Audio Hijack obtained legendary status, making it inexpensive and relatively easy to boost production values, making it possible for indy podcasters to sound like much bigger studios.

But all that power was somewhat hidden behind a skeuomorphic interface of dials, knobs and switches, and the program’s tabbed interface made it tough to get a holistic view of your workflow.

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iRig Mic Studio looks like IK Mulitmedia’s next big hit

IK Multimedia has been on fire lately, with a slew of high quality, innovative products for musicians and podcasters. Today, the company announced its newest product—iRig Mic Studio.

The mic itself is an “ultra-portable large-diaphragm digital condenser microphone” for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC and Android. It has a 1″ diameter condenser capsule into an enclosure smaller than an iPhone, targeted at musicians, vocalists, home producers, podcasters, broadcasters, voice-over artists and more.

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