Apple’s iPhone 3.0 update: the good, the bad and the still missing

iphone_3-0Apple held its iPhone 3.0 event today and unveiled a slew of new features, but no real surprises. Cut and paste is finally here, Flash is still not, and Push Notifications are apparently here for real this time.

Perhaps the biggest news — or at least the news with the most far-reaching consequences — is related to commerce. The iApp store will now have support for “in-App” purchases along with subscriptions. That means you can buy new furniture within The Sims, buy new books within an eReader app, or subscribe to a magazine or online financial service. The “one-and-done” method of purchasing iPhone apps could well be over. As I “semi-live-Tweeted” the event, I called iPhone 3.0 the “Monetization” update and noted that it would be interesting to see how the inevitable attempts by developers to “nickel and dime” the iApp buying process would fly in the face of the existing 99¢ per app mentality that seems to be dominating the market.

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Macworld keynote reaction on MacVoices TV

macjuryI joined a great group of Mac pundits for a session of Chuck Joiner’s new MacVoices TV podcast. It’s a 20-minute or so round table discussion about Apple’s last Macworld keynote and Phil Schiller’s performance as a substitute for Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The panel included Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, Mac author and columnist for the Houston Chronicle and The Mac Observer, Terry White of Adobe, Adam Christianson of the MacCast and of course, Host Chuck Joiner.

I like the video format and I think Chuck Joiner’s onto something here. Video’s bound to have a different set of obstacles, especially once the panelists are no longer in the same location, but the production values so far have been pretty good and improving. While podcasts are likely to remain a commuting activity (and therefore audio-only) for me, seeing the panel is a lot more compelling than just hearing them. It will be interesting to see how the format works over Skype, but given Chuck’s track record, I’m optimistic that he’s got another hit on his hands. For the video-resistant, the show is also available in an audio-only version through the MacJury feed.

RandomMaccess appearances at Macworld Expo 2009

mw_logo_4colorI suppose it’s close enough to the show that I should let those interested know where I’ll be this year. From Tuesday through Thursday, I’ll be presenting a Macworld “Supersession” entitled “The Ultimate Mac Starter Class.” If you’re a reader of this site, you’re way overqualified to attend, but please pass the word on to anyone new to the Mac who might benefit from a little “compressed experience.”

On Wednesday night, I’ll be performing in the Macworld All-Star Band at “Cirque du Mac” at an undisclosed location. The party is free, but invitation only. Like the Mac The Knife parties it replaced, “if you have to ask about it, you can’t go.” Unless you see me, that is. I’ll have a limited number of tickets to hand out to people who are especially nice.

On Thursday night, I’ll be stopping by the “Mac Mingle 2009” party, at Jillian’s on 4th St. Host/Mac speaker and author Deb Shadovitz was nice enough to invite me and silly enough to think I was worth including on the list of “Mac Celebs” who are attending. If you see me there, please say hi.

Finally, it’s likely I’ll be participating in some MacJury panel discussions that are slated to take place during the show.

If you’re interested, you can check here for updates and additions.

MacJury: Apple’s new laptop announcements

I stayed up past my bedtime last night to be part of a great MacJury panel, which included Jean MacDonald of SmileOnMyMac, podcaster Adam Christianson, blogger Dan Pourhadi, RadTech’s John Grzeskowiak and, of course, host Chuck Joiner. The topic, naturally, was the Apple media event where the company unveiled updates to its laptop line and introduced new cinema displays.

On the podcast, I referred to the event as the “Snow Leopard for hardware announcement.” By that, I mean that the new offerings don’t offer a ton of new features or improvements (the processor bumps are so insignificant they weren’t even mentioned, for instance.) The only true new feature I can think of is the glass the-whole-trackpad-is-a-button trackpad. Even the “unibody” construction is a process enhancement, not a new feature, and like its software counterpart, what’s new under the hood is essentially designed to make what’s there better, not provide new capabilities.

The laptops are also remarkable for what’s not there: no more matte screens, no more Firewire on the new MacBooks (although it remains on the “remaindered” $999 white MacBook) and, as mentioned, no more button on the trackpad. For the first time in a long time, the laptops’ hard drives are easily upgradeable. The RAM is less accessible than in some recent laptops, but for a good reason: Apple’s shipping them with enough to start with (2GB on the new MacBooks, MacBook Air and lower-end MacBook Pro; 4GB on the higher-end models. The $999 MacBook still ships with an insufficient 1 Gig.)

Much has been made of the elimination of Firewire from the new MacBooks. While I may mourn its passing, the writing’s been on the wall for some time now: Firewire is considered a pro-level feature, not for consumers. The push to USB 2.0 has been going on for a while and the marketplace has chosen. My last couple external drives have been USB, in fact, because I knew it would give them a longer useful life. If you’ve got an old Firewire camcorder around, hang on to a Mac with Firewire, or choose a new MacBook Pro if it matters that much to you. Or, use it as the excuse you’ve been looking for to get a camera with USB or removable media. Go on, you know you want to.

Similarly, we fans of matte displays are going to have to just give it up, because the rest of the world (and now Apple too) seem to have decided that it’s a glossy world after all. While purists may howl, and pre-press designers may scramble for matte display shields, the out-of-the-box experience is going to be bright, saturated colors and highly reflective screens. Even the new Cinema LED Displays are going glossy. As of now, though, Power Mac users will not have to worry about the decision — the new displays are clearly and specifically intended for the new laptops only. They use the new DisplayPort connectors and are incompatible with the DVI ports on Apple’s desktop lineup. And while you can get a DisplayPort to DVI (or VGA) adapter for your laptop, you cannot (at least as of this writing) get a DVI to DisplayPort adapter for your desktop machine. You can, however, still buy a non-LED Cinema Display; the entire lineup is still available (and promoted on) Apple’s website.

The MacJury panel touched on a slew of other issues, as well, including the DRM aspects of DisplayPort, the blurring of the distinction between consumer and prosumer branding (Will that be plastic or metal?), and more. It’s a very engaging session from a podcast I’d recommend even if I wasn’t part of it. I’m a big fan of the show’s rotating panelist format and the concentration on one or two specific issues rather than the more generic “news of the week” approach.

You can listen to this episode directly from the MacJury website or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Rumors, leaked photos say new laptops will be evolutionary

For once, the rumor sites seem pretty consistent with their predictions and leaked photos in advance of Apple’s laptop-centric special media event.

According to the photos, the laptops appear to be aluminum, possibly forged from a single piece of metal, which, while not a first in the laptop market, could spell benefits in terms of production efficiencies, heat dissipation, noise reduction and even price. Daringfireball’s John Gruber has added a litany of specifications for the expected new computers, calling for the hardware equivalent of “Snow Leopard-style” changes — built for overall system performance improvements rather than new features. One exception is a new trackpad, that “is bigger and supports additional multi-touch gestures.” But, writes Gruber, the MacBook Pro’s new trackpad is made of glass, and is a physical button as well. “You just press and it clicks,” he writes. “This is not like the current software option where you can enable ‘Tap to Click’ in the trackpad preferences, but instead a glass trackpad that acts as a physical button, with a click you can feel. Sounds odd, but I hear it’s very cool in practice.”

More information is obviously forthcoming at today’s special event. I will be discussing the announcements — including any possible surprises — on the MacJury podcast.

MacJury: ‘Re-ordering Apple’s iPhone priorities’

In what may be the most pretentiously titled session yet, I joined a great panel of Mac and technology pundits for the latest installment of Chuck Joiner’s MacJury podcast. We discussed Apple’s financials for a bit, then launched into our thoughts on what should be next on the feature list of the iPhone. (Voice dialing was a unanimous choice.)

Please forgive some of the choppiness of the audio — we had Skype issues throughout the taping, none of which were helped by the fact that I was connecting from a Boy Scout camp in rural Pennsylvania.

It was a lively and typically fun session. I think the MacJury has found its voice with its lighthearted tone and the occasional joke interspersed with the punditry. This session’s panel was a pleasure to be with, and along with host Chuck Joiner, included Jeff Gamet, Galen Gruman and Terry White.

Under the wire: WWDC speculation on MacJury

MacJury 807The latest installment of MacJury went live on Friday. In it, host Chuck Joiner and a panel including Jean MacDonald of SmileOnMyMac, John Moltz of Crazy Apple Rumors and Macworld, Jeff Gamet of The Mac Observer and yours truly pontificate about what we expect to see and what we’d like to see announced at this year’s WWDC Keynote (scheduled for today as I write this).

It’s a show with a short shelf life, but in my opinion one of the most fun segments of the series so far. I mean where else will you hear ponies and pink MacBook Pros thrown out as possibilities for a Steve Jobs keynote?

If you’d like to give it a quick listen before the keynote, you’ve got just enough time to download it and hear it before Jobs take the stage. Even more fun, though, might be to listen to it after the announcements and see just how far off base we were.

My thanks to Chuck and the whole panel for making this show so much fun. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes or listen to the show directly from the MacJury website here.

MacJury 807: Microsoft v. Yahoo!; Office v. Everyone Else

MacJury 807I’m back on the MacJury for the latest session, along with Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica, Scott McNulty of The Unofficial Apple Weblog and Warren Williams of the AppleWorks User Group. We had a fun discussion on two topics: Microsoft’s abandoned attempts to acquire Yahoo! and “Can we dump Microsoft Office yet?” It was a lively discussion, with different points of view on both issues, which I always think makes for a better show. One of my biggest concerns on these panels (other than sounding like an idiot), is that everyone will be in complete agreement with each other — that makes for a really boring show. Luckily, we each had some good points to debate.

If you haven’t already subscribed, the show is listed in the iTunes store, or you can just follow this link.

By the way, I’m looking for recommendations for a decent podcasting microphone — preferably a USB condenser mic. Scott and host Chuck Joiner were both using Snowballs, but I’m looking for something a little less bulky and a little more old school.

Microsoft gives up on Yahoo! acquisition

Microsoft announced it was abandoning its attempted acquisition of Yahoo!, according to a statement from Microsoft. Steve Balmer, Microsoft CEO, said “Yahoo! will never know how good they could have had it,” “We continue to believe that our proposed acquisition made sense for Microsoft, Yahoo and the market as a whole. Our goal in pursuing a combination with Yahoo was to provide greater choice and innovation in the marketplace and create real value for our respective stockholders and employees.”

I think the marriage would have done more to hurt what had been Yahoo! than help the combined company. As I said in MacJury #802, there were too many not only cultural differences, but technology differences to overcome. Most Yahoo! developers probably didn’t even use Microsoft development tools, and it’s hard to see how Microsoft could have practically moved Yahoo!’s properties over to its development platform.

Apparently, now we’ll never know.

[Update: Yahoo! shares dropped over $4 a share to $24.43 in this first day of trading since the Microsoft announcement. Not too bad, though, as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, Yahoo! stock was trading at $19 when Microsoft began its takeover bid.]

What’s your verdict on the MacJury?

Back in the late-nineties, I produced what would now be called a podcast on the long-defunct “GiveMeTalk” Internet Radio Network. They were mostly 10-15 minute scripted shows, wherein I offered some analysis and commentary on the day’s news. Topics back then ranged from the introduction of candy-colored iMacs to the passing of legendary Mac journalist (when such a phrase could be used without irony) Don Crabbe.

I haven’t spent much time on-mic since then, although I’ve threatened to start up “RandomMaccess Radio” again every once in a while. This week, though, I finally return to the Internet “airwaves” as a member of the “MacJury,” Mac User Group guru and podcaster Chuck Joiner’s latest venture. The show joins his already excellent lineup of MacNotables and MacVoices. MacJury distinguishes itself by convening a panel (the jury) to talk in relative depth about two or three issues of interest to the Mac community, not to re-hash the week’s tech news.

I think this is a great strategy and fills a real void in the Mac podcast space. I like Chuck’s idea of rotating jury members, too–mixing up the panel should keep the discussion and interactions fresh. For episode two, Chuck’s panel included Steve Sande of Movable Beast, Red Sweater Software’s Daniel Jalcut, Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis and yours truly. We covered the future (and merits) of the Mac Mini, some of the possible consequences of Microsoft’s buyout of Yahoo!, and the iPhone’s dominance among mobile browsers. It was, I think, a good discussion and a fun listen (for geeks, anyway). I liked the way we interacted and had a few laughs along the way.

Panelist or not, I think it’s a good listen and a show with a lot of potential. Give it a try and let me know what you think. The show is now up and available for subscription on the iTunes Store. (Link via Chuck Joiner.)

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