Posts Tagged ‘ Apple ’

EYE Chart Radio

Eye Chart RadioDespite my knowledge, interest, and background in Microsoft products, I’m a Mac. And I listen to Mac OS Ken daily for my fix of Apple-related news. When Ken started EYE Chart Radio, a weekly news analysis show with Mike LaPlante, I was all in. Well Ken’s now moved on to new adventures, and Mike has carried the show forward with a rotation of guest hosts.

I was thrilled to be this week’s co-host (and on Mike’s bench of rotating hosts now for) EYE Chart Radio. In this episode, I posit that now would be a good time for Apple to buy Sonos, we discuss some of the recent departures from Apple to Tesla, and I get all frustrated by yet another lawsuit that Apple could soon face.

So if you’re curious about my Mac side, give this latest episode of EYE Chart Radio a listen. And if you like it, subscribe to the show at iTunes or at this Libsyn site.

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Talking HomeKit on the Daily Tech News Show

Daily Tech News ShowI join Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont on this episode of Daily Tech News Show to talk about Apple’s latest moves to bring HomeKit front and center as the method of choice for iPhone users to manage and control their connected home products.

This episode of DTNS is available in audio or video.

HomeTech Podcast #116 – HomeKit Take 2

Screen+Shot+2014-04-13+at+8.09.56+AMAs listeners of the HomeTech.FM podcast are aware of, Jason is in the midst of a move. And things can go wrong when you move. Hopefully we’ll hear Jason back at the mic soon, but in the meantime I was happy to stand in for Jason and discuss the latest Apple WWDC announcements with Seth.

Remember those predictions we made about HomeKit the last time I was on this show? Yeah, we were all way wrong…and glad to be! This year, HomeKit was front and center in Apple’s keynote presentation, and there’s a lot to parse through. No #SiriInaCan, but we do get HomeKit on mobile, watch, and TV.

You can find the episode at HomeTech.FM in iTunes, or at Technology.FM.

Ritual Misery beta 41

The Ritual Misery PodcastWith Kent away last week, my friend Anthony (aka Amos; aka Ethan) asked me to co-host the latest episode of The Ritual Misery Podcast with him. After discussing the dangers of wireless headsets, I share my frustration about a disappointing TED Talk from Nest CEO Tony Fadell.

Our conversation about the recent supreme court decision on marriage equality (i.e., marriage for same-sex couples) leads to the bigger questions of “why is the federal government involved in this?” and “WHY DOES ANYONE CARE?” Finally, Amos likes Apple Music, but I’m not so impressed.

You can find the episode at RitualMisery.com or in all the usual places, including iTunes. As always with The Ritual Misery Podcast, this show is explicit and is not safe for work. Oh…and if you’re [any segment of the human population], we may offend you.

Feedback for Apple on the iPad Orientation Lock Switch Change

The following is feedback that I left for Apple regarding the recent change in functionality of the iPad’s orientation lock switch.

I am just baffled by Apple’s decision to change the function of the orientation lock switch on my iPad. I used that switch all the time, and it was very useful. An equally accessible alert mute function is far less useful to me. I’ve heard that the reason was to make the experience more consistent with other iOS devices, but why? I’ve never thought, “gee, I wish this switch on my iPad worked like it does on my iPhone.”

What I don’t understand is that if a segment of users believes this is useful or necessary, then why not make it a setting that users can change? Everyone I’ve spoken with about this has the same feeling that I do here. They don’t understand the change, but further don’t understand why it can’t be software selectable.

This feature change alone will keep me from updating my mother’s iPad to iOS 4.2, because this is a feature that she uses regularly. She’d never use the other features of 4.2, so she’d never grasp double-clicking the home button, then sliding over to reveal the new orientation lock control.

What a terrible, terrible feature decision.

Apple Does the Tablet Right with iPad

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, you probably can’t have helped but notice that this Saturday marked the release of Apple’s new mobile tablet device, the iPad. With the iPad, Apple tries to break open a market segment that major market forces, like Microsoft and Intel, have been unsuccessfully trying to crack for years. Microsoft alone has made no fewer than four attempts at defining mobile tablet/slate platforms, including the Tablet PC and the dead-on-arrival UMPC (“Origami”) devices.

So what makes Apple think that the iPad will succeed where so many others have repeatedly failed? There’s a vocal contingent that believes a market for this type of device just doesn’t exist. There’s also a contingent that’s intensely opposed to the closed model that Apple typically imposes on its products and services. And, of course, there’s the sin-of-all-sins: it doesn’t support Flash (a shared character flaw that the iPhone and iPod Touch have somehow endured). With all of this stacked against it, things don’t look so good, do they?

I don’t think I can remember any product that’s been so divisive and polarizing as the iPad. The haters and the fanboys alike have been all up-in-arms, way before anyone had actually seen or used the damned thing! Professional colleagues of mine—people I greatly respect—have been nastily slamming the product on Twitter and on their blogs. When I asked Molly Wood, one of my favorite CNET editors and tech pundits, whether she’d be buying one, I believe her response was, “Hell, no.” Meanwhile, others claim the iPad will change everything.

Having tried (and ultimately retired) several early tablet devices, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be buying an iPad. The only question was “which model?” I deliberated for weeks over whether I’d be buying the WiFi-only version released on April 3 or the WiFi+3G model, which wouldn’t be available until “Late April”. After much personal waffling and some poignant feedback from the Twitter community, I pre-ordered the one with 3G.

Then, last week: the media frenzy. News reports, reviews, magazine covers, and even an entire episode of Modern Family heralded the new device. My clients were talking about it and posting links to review sites. My mother—who’s never used email or the Web in her life—was asking me about it. Then the lines started forming. In Palo Alto and New York City, people were queueing and preparing to camp overnight. I just couldn’t take it anymore—I had to have one, and I couldn’t wait until “late April” to get mine.

Buying the iPad

There’s a secret to buying a new Apple device on the day it’s first available: arrive at the Apple Store a few hours after the store opens. While my local Best Buy didn’t have the product available in time for their store opening, the Bethesda Apple Store had enough stock to still be selling to customers arriving at 11:00 a.m. It’s not that there wasn’t a line—there was. But the Apple Store staff was friendly, organized, and efficient. They served breakfast bars and snacks while customers waited, regularly surveyed the line to see if their supply would meet with the demand, and let people know which models were still available all the while. I arrived at 10:30, I was in the store by 10:45, and I left the store at 10:49 with iPad, dock, and case in tow. Meanwhile, the Geeks at Best Buy were claiming that they didn’t get their 30-unit shipment.

Surveying the iPad

There’s a common (and not necessarily inaccurate) belief that the iPad is just a big iPod Touch. People accuse the product of this quality, as if it’s a bad thing. Why is it a bad thing? With an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can surf the web better than on most mobile devices; read and compose email; manage your calendar; find nearby restaurants with available seating; get directions; listen to music; buy and watch video and movies; control your a/v and home automation system; read books; and thousands (maybe millions?) of other things.

Imagine all of that on a larger screen. Imagine scrolling through web pages at their full resolution. Imagine reading email on a full-size screen and composing messages with a full-size virtual keyboard. Imagine reading maps or watching movies and TV shows on that same screen. Imagine the iTunes Store looking like, well, the iTunes Store. Imagine the pages of an eBook that look and behave just like their analog counterparts. Then think about what else you could do with all that real estate….

You could edit documents, slides, and ledgers; you could draw…or paint; you could play board and table games; you could read the comics or the entire newspaper; you could blog; you could present; you could play a musical keyboard; you could use it as a digital picture frame. With more than double the screen space in both dimensions, the possibilities are likely an order of magnitude greater than on Apple’s earlier, smaller mobile products.

So clearly I like the idea of a big iPod Touch. Enough so that I bought the iPad. I think it holds promise and opportunity. I think it’s useful—far more useful than the tiny, clunky netbook sitting in the corner of my TV room. I don’t have to unhook the iPad from it’s charger (it docks); I don’t have to turn it on and wait for it to boot or resume; I don’t have to struggle with its tiny track-pad; I don’t have to recharge it after just three hours of use; I don’t have to dig it out of my bag at airport security (or do I?).

Using the iPad

Spend five minutes with the iPad, and you’ll find that it delivers everything it offers. The screen is clear and beautiful. I was leery of the seemingly low 1024 x 768 screen resolution, but it delivers bright, crisp, clear images. Get over the somewhat reflective, glossy finish (because that’s just how screens are designed now), and you’ll find that the LED backlight is more than adequate to adjust for both interior and exterior lighting conditions. Slide, flick, and pinch with your fingers, and you’ll notice graphic processing that is immediately responsive unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a mobile device. In fact, you may not notice it at all—it just works and reacts like you’d expect it to. If you know how to use an iPhone or iPod Touch, then you’ll know how to use the iPad. But it’s bigger and faster.

The built-in applications take advantage of the iPad’s impressive processing speed and large display area. Viewing and manipulating maps, including Street View, is smooth and instantaneous. Calendars look like they belong on your wall or desk. And video…I’m not even quite sure how to describe video playback on this thing. It’s gorgeous. HD video can be purchased on or synched to the iPad, and the display quality and rendering is flawless.

The iPad’s virtual keyboard may take some getting used to if you haven’t used an on-screen touch keyboard before. While I aspire to touch type on the keyboard in landscape mode, I’m finding the portrait-mode keyboard easier for hunt-and-peck typing. If you’re familiar with the iPhone’s soft keyboard, you’ll be pleased to find that the iPad adds basic punctuation to the main keyboard. And if you’re thinking of doing any heavy-duty typing, you can add a docked or Bluetooth keyboard—a feature missing from the iPhone and iPod Touch.

In addition to everything else, the iPad is a book reader—an excellent reader. Both Apple and Amazon have released free reader apps, giving you access to a vast library of eBook content for purchase, including your existing Kindle library. And, of course, you have access to your entire Audible library in iTunes as well.

Using the Apps

What makes the iPhone OS devices most useful and exceptional is the enormous collection of applications available in the App Store from Apple and third-party developers. Out of the box, the iPad can run and sync with most iPhone apps, but don’t get too excited about that. While they may technically function on the larger screen, iPhone apps running in the 1X and 2X magnification modes are far from ideal. At 1X, apps seems sorely lacking, while the 2X mode looks blocky and over magnified. And unlike all other iPad functions (including the OS itself), iPhone apps won’t work in landscape mode unless the app is written to support it.

So what about apps specifically designed for the iPad? Well, there’s good news and bad news there. Technically, Apple has only been accepting iPad apps for a little over a week, so the store and the apps it contains are pretty young right now. And that’s the nicest possible way I know how to say that I hope (and expect) it will get better in the coming weeks. Apple’s own iWork apps are quite impressive, and at $10 apiece, they seem to be setting the baseline against which all other heavy-duty iPad apps will get measured. Meanwhile, the Omni Group introduced OmniGraffle for the iPad at nearly $50 in the same week that WolframAlpha was re-introduced for iPhone and iPad at just $2. Clearly the market will need to work out an optimal pricing model, just like it did for iPhone apps. I bought WolframAlpha, and I’d buy OmniGraffle at $10, but there’s no way in Hell that I’ll spend $50 for it. Period.

On the free side, there are some good and bad entrants worth mentioning:

  • If there’s any doubt about whether Amazon prioritizes distributing content or product, the Kindle app for iPad should put that to rest. In fact, you can rest assured that your investment in Kindle content is safe and ready for your iPad in a reader that rivals Apple’s own iBooks app.
  • Netflix garnered significant attention last week for introducing an iPad app that would play content from your instant queue. The reality is that the Netflix “app” is nothing more than the Netflix web site, reworked to render video in a device-compatible format. It’s nice that it’s there, but it’s a rudimentary proof-of-concept offering, it’s buggy and sluggish, and some basic site features—like rating titles and reordering your queue—don’t work at all. Hopefully they’re planning something better for a future release than just throwing an HTML5-ish version of their site into a browser control.
  • The ABC Player is a gorgeous and intuitive portal to the network’s online streaming content. That’s the good news. The bad news is that every time I’ve tried to play a video in the app, it crashes.
  • The Weather Channel’s TWC MAX+ is an impressive, visually-engaging aggregator of weather information, including forecasts, maps, and local information. My only complaint is the entirely useless home screen that presents nothing but a top-level view menu.
  • Epicurious is a gorgeous and intuitive cookbook with shopping list features and another beautiful but otherwise entirely useless home screen.
  • BBC News delivers updated news stories and videos in an easy-to-use and easy-to-read format that’s optimized for the larger screen of the iPad.
  • The ever-present Evernote is now available for the iPad, and it looks and works pretty much like you’d expect. These guys get how Apple users think and work.
  • Now Playing is an iPhone movie information and showtimes app that’s been ported to the iPad platform. Their approach: make it wider. No, seriously…that’s all this app seems to offer over the iPhone version. They’ve done absolutely nothing to flatten their application hierarchy (as Apple’s iPad UI Guidelines recommend) or otherwise take advantage of the additional screen space.
  • HomeSeer’s HSTouchPad is pretty much what it sounds like—a touchpad app for HomeSeer home automation software. Unfortunately, it would seem that HomeSeer’s developers didn’t even bother to skim Apple’s iPad Human Interface Guidelines. Users would be better off running HomeSeer’s amateurishly-designed web app in Safari.
  • Google’s popular suite of web-based cloud applications—including Gmail, Calendar, Reader, and Docs—is iPad ready! Just fire up Safari and go.
  • My recommendation to the team responsible for the Zillow real estate app, recently rereleased to support the iPad: go back to the drawing board. Seriously.

Life Goes On…and Gets Better

So the iPad is here, and I have one. On initial inspection, it doesn’t seem to be an enormous failure, nor can we yet conclude it’s the game changer that many have suggested (and I believe). That’s the objective perspective. My more subjective opinion is that it’s a pretty damned amazing device, and I suspect that mine will become a common appliance around the house, on the coffee table, and in my travel bag. Some things seem clear: iPad v 1.0 makes many productivity, entertainment, and general computing functions simple and enjoyable—but there’s still room for improvement. Hardware alone cannot make this market segment successful. Developers must improve their software offerings, the app market pricing must rationalize somewhat, and Apple will likely evolve the iPad hardware over coming years. Frankly, I can’t wait.

Macworld Predictions Recap

OK, so let’s quickly review my Macworld predictions and see how I did….

  • Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac releasescheck; it wasn’t a surprise to anyone, but it happened today nonetheless. Of course, this was a no-brainer.
  • New features for existing iPhones and discussion about the iPhone SDKcheck; Apple pushed another iPhone (and iPod Touch) update today that adds great new features to the iPhone, including mapping, messaging, and home page improvements. Other manufacturers please note: this great platform doesn’t stagnate, thanks to continued software updates.
  • No announcements of new iPhones, except possibly for added memory for the existing linecheck; lots of news about the iPhone’s popularity, but no new product announcements. Sadly, no additional memory yet either.
  • No new iPod devicescheck; After a major refresh of the iPod line last fall, there’s no need for new devices yet. The iPod Touch, however, did get some additional functionality (for a nominal fee).
  • New life for Apple TV with movie rentals through iTunes and other new capabilitiescheck; With a firmware update in just a few short weeks, my Apple TV will become an in-home movie rental store–with titles from every major studio (even Universal!). And a music store. And a full HD/5.1 video playback device. Sweet! Want in? Get one yourself at over 20% off the original price!
  • A new addition and form factor added to the Mac computer linecheck; MacBook Air is a new 3-pound ultra-portable notebook that (according to Apple) is the thinnest notebook computer in the world. I just might have to get one.

Hmmm…considering I posted these over a week before the big event, I’d say I did pretty well! As an added bonus, today’s Apple TV announcements addressed 3 out of 4 of my earlier product feature wishes for that device.

Related posts:

My Macworld Predictions

As I’m packing to leave for CES, I thought I’d jump ahead a little and throw my chips on the table with my own predictions for Macworld announcements. Yes, you read it right–not CES…Macworld. Here’s what I think we’ll see this year at Macworld:

  • Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac releases
  • New features for existing iPhones and discussion about the iPhone SDK
  • No announcements of new iPhones, except possibly for added memory for the existing line
  • No new iPod devices
  • New life for Apple TV with movie rentals through iTunes and other new capabilities
  • A new addition and form factor added to the Mac computer line

OK, granted, some of these are no-brainers (e.g., Office is releasing on 1/15), but hey…I aught to get some of them right!

Five Months with My iPhone

Many of my friends who know I purchased an iPhone when it was first available have again been asking me how I like it, now that I’ve had it for a while. The short answer to that question is, “I love it.” Sure, it has its shortcomings, but it’s hands-down the best phone I’ve ever owned, it’s the best iPod I’ve ever owned, and it’s not a bad PDA. I love that I can carry just one device now. I don’t need to remember to take my iPod with me–I just need to remember my headphones (which I still sometimes forget).

I’ll answer some questions I get most often….

Have you hacked your iPhone? No. Hey, I spent six hundred dollars for this thing; you think I’m going to tempt fate like that?

Speaking of the price, are you sorry you bought your iPhone before the price drop? No. I tend to adopt interesting new technology early. There’s a cost associated with that. Sometimes that cost is an investment in a product that never really gets off the ground. Sometimes that cost is paying a premium for early access. I’d prefer the latter. I think the price drop, though earlier than anticipated, was the right thing to do. Plus, it makes room for next generation and higher-capacity devices in the line.

Speaking of capacity, do you find the 8GB of storage limiting? No. I use smart playlists to keep my iPhone up-to-date with new podcasts and my most recently-added and most-played music. I use standard playlists to ensure that I have a handful of tunes that I always want on hand and a couple of unwatched TV episodes. This way, I have exactly the right amount of content for traveling, commuting, or just sitting at my desk in an office environment.

Speaking of the office, I hear you can’t use your iPhone for corporate/professional communications. Is this true? Not necessarily. Have I tried connecting to an Exchange server yet? Yes. Was I successful? No. Luckily, that’s not my primary mode of communication. I’m in the fortunate position of working with an organization that uses Google Apps for Your Domain, which means that my corporate e-mail is Gmail. And now with Gmail’s new IMAP service, iPhone access to my e-mail account is better than ever.

Speaking of new stuff, what’s new on the iPhone since its release? One of the reasons I wanted an iPhone is that I knew it would be a platform that Apple could and would continually improve. Within weeks patches were released to address early problems. Then came the iTunes store, which is probably the cheapest mobile music store in existence: for the same price as on the desktop, you can buy and sync any songs from iTunes’ music collection. Apple improved messaging by adding the Blackberryish add-a-period-if-I-type-two-consecutive-spaces feature and improved iPod functionality by (finally) isolating podcasts from the Albums list. The home button has additional functionality, making it easier to manage songs in play when the phone is locked. In a nod to international travelers, they’ve made it easier to turn off all network communications to save on roaming charges. Finally, they’ve enabled video out from the iPhone connector, allowing me to playback video podcasts, TV episodes, and movies on external devices–on TVs, in hotels, in my car, etc.

Speaking of the iPhone connector, did you have to buy new cables and accessories for the iPhone? Yes, I did…and it infuriates me. For reasons that I can only attribute to greed, Apple has chosen to “chip” all iPhone connectors, ensuring that most existing iPod cables and accessories–despite using the same proprietary connector as your iPhone–will not work with the iPhone. This makes it necessary for you to buy new audio/video cables and accessories for your iPhone, even though there’s no technical reason why they shouldn’t work properly with your iPhone’s connector. Frankly, this is probably the only thing about the iPhone that really pisses me off.

Speaking of trailing prepositions, where’s your head at? [OK, well, nobody really asked me that, but…] If by “where’s your head at” you mean “overall, what do you think of the iPhone,” I’d say that I remain very pleased with this product and with my decision to purchase it–even at the introductory price. I now rely on the iPhone’s SMS, Maps, Phone, Mail, and iPod features every day for my basic personal and business needs. And despite my desire for Bluetooth stereo, wireless sync, notes sync, and some rudimentary form of positioning…it is undeniably the best phone I’ve ever owned.

What’s Next for Apple TV?

Now that I’m used to surfing through YouTube videos on the television with my remote, I have to wonder: what’s next on the horizon for Apple TV?

I’ve been a fan (and owner) of Apple TV since its introduction earlier this year. Just as the iPod completely changed how I consume media while commuting, at work, and on travel, Apple TV has transformed video viewing habits in my home. Apple TV makes iTunes a more viable option for buying movies and episodic television shows, but it also brings Internet video to my TV and remote. I hate sitting in front of my PC to watch video content, which only leaves air travel and car waiting time for catching up on Ask A Ninja, MacBreak, and other Internet short-form content. But with Apple TV, my Internet video subscriptions are in my Den, up-to-date, waiting for my enjoyment. Apple TV and iTunes sync automatically through my home network; it all happens seamlessly and invisibly. And with iTunes’ ability to note and share my last play position for video content, I can pick up where I left off if I want to finish watching a TV show in another room or catch the end of the movie on my morning flight.

Is Apple TV everything I want it to be? No. Will it be? Maybe. With this device, Apple has created a platform that it can expand with both hardware and software. Happily, the signs point to just that plan. A few months ago, Apple released a new Apple TV model that bumps its introductory local storage capacity of 40GB up to 160GB. Now we’re talking about some decent room for video content. Shortly thereafter, Apple introduced YouTube on Apple TV. It’s a good start, but hopefully it’s just that: a start.

What’s next? Here are some options I hope that Apple is considering:

iTunesHD. Apple TV has the ability to deliver high definition video and multi-channel sound to your television, but where is the content? While the Xbox Marketplace is offering movies for paid download in 720p, movies on iTunes are still limited to sub-DVD quality. I’m hoping we’ll see high definition movies and TV shows for purchase through iTunes before the end of the year.

iClick&Buy. Just how much can I do with that tiny little remote? Not enough. Yet. I’d argue that I should be able to browse and purchase content on the iTunes Store right from my sofa. Apple could take iTunes Top Movies and similar features on the Apple TV to a new level with just one little option: Buy this Movie.

Appleflix. Netflix and TiVo never managed to get it together, but why not go for the same effect with Apple TV? The Apple TV is the ultimate device for PPV content – be it movie rentals or special programming. Its iTunes Top Movies and Theatrical Trailers features demonstrate that direct-to-device streamed content is already possible, and much of the back-end storefront architecture is in place today to support iTunes.

iDVR. With added capacity and a software update, the Apple TV could be the perfect platform for a completely new type of flexible DVR solution. Stackable, add-on components that share the Apple TV’s footprint could deliver channel-specific single and multi-tuner cable, satellite, or IPTV content right to the device for real-time or shifted viewing. How do you get your TV: DirecTV? CableCard? Digital cable/QAM? With swappable TV modules, it wouldn’t matter. This kind of solution could make Apple TV the first fully-integrated provider-independent DVR. If nothing else, I’d love to see the UI they’d create for a TV programming guide.

So that’s what I hope to see out of Apple over the next year or so for Apple TV. Clearly, Apple has been heavily focused on the iPhone and the Mac hardware and software updates recently. My hope is that they’ll come up for some air when Leopard goes to market and focus their creativity on the largely unrealized potential of this new entertainment platform.