Monday, 14 April 2008

So long DVD, bye-bye Blu-Ray

Remember when the Apple dropped floppies and introduced USB on the original iMac? The launch of the MacBook Air could augur a similarly bold and radical move.

Mac Predictions thinks that the time might be right for Apple to drop optical drives from all their notebooks, in order to reduce volume, complexity and cost. The launch of the MacBook Air may just have been a start, to test the waters. Apple likes to be bleeding-edge with their design decisions. The original iMac was not just influential in its use of colorful transparent polycarbonates in consumer electronics - Apple’s abandonment of ADB in favor if the then new USB invigorated an entirely new category of USB peripherals, and the rest of the industry eventually followed. At the time, people scoffed that the iMac had no floppy drive, but what self respecting PC manufacturer ships machines with them today?

So it seems altogether plausible that Apple would be the first computer maker to kiss the optical drive goodbye. It would be a fitting coda to the resolution of the whole HDDVD/Blu-Ray nonsense, and what fun for Steve Jobs to present Sony with such a hollow victory!

Of course, it wouldn’t do any harm to sales of movie rentals and downloads on the iTunes Store either…

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Entire MacBook lineup (13.3”, 15” and 17”) to get Air-styling [Mockup]

Mac Predictions has been saying for some time now that Apple is likely to redesign the MacBook Pro to follow the styling of the new MacBook Air. Apple Insider provided support for that view this week, citing a source that claims the entire MacBook line including the 13.3” MacBook will receive the new look, which reflects both the Air and the new iMac.

Whilst the 13.3” MacBook enclosure is not showing its age to the same extent as the MacBook Pro, it certainly feels like an Apple-style move to go for a bold revision of the entire line in one fell swoop. Here’s a speculative visual to see how that might look. As you can see, we’re guessing that the new MacBook and MacBook Pro will take their cues more from the Air than the iMac.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Apple Analysts and the 3G iPhone

Company Analyst Reason to believe Time Frame Details
Gartner Ken Dulaney "he has heard from Asian sources" "As soon as possible" Apple has ordered 10 million 3G iPhone with OLED
Citigroup Rich Gardner Overseas meetings with members of the Taiwanese PC and consumer electronics supply chain April - June "The enterprise smartphone market will, for the foreseeable future, be dominated by RIMM and Nokia."
UBS Nicolas Gaudois various checks, and particularly an HSDPA design win by Infineon April - June Apple may not intend to have EDGE-only options in
future iPhones
Piper Jaffray Gene Munster Supply problems in NYC, discounts in Germany May-July 3G model to be sold alongside 2G
Bank of America Scott Craig "Channel check" June 3 million will be built in May, to be followed by another 8 million in the third quarter of the year
Current Analysis Avi Greengart Electronista June Coincide with the iPhone 2.0 firmware
American Technology Research Shaw Wu Checks with supply chain sources Late June - Early July The current "2.5G" iPhone could remain on
the market, using a newer case
RBC Capital Markets Mike Abramsky Wall Street Journal September - December

In our ongoing mission to keep an eye on analysts, we’ve put together this chart of the prognosticators, for a considered view on when we can expect the new 3G iPhone to emerge.

The majority verdict seems to point to some time in June, perhaps alongside the 2.0 Firmware launch… perhaps at WWDC. We still have one pessimist – last we read, Mike Abamsky at RBC was citing technical problems pointing to a delay until after the summer. If this turns out to be true, RBC gets extra kudos for standing out from the pack.

Another popular view that is emerging is that Apple will sell the existing Edge model alongside the new 3G model, although UBS’s predictions seem to contradict this view.

We’ll keep you posted as the analysts tell us more about how we should “think about” Apple, and give us “additional color” on developments. Or alternatively, if you struggle to tell your Gartners from your Garders, please feel free to just skip these analyst posts ;)

Monday, 7 April 2008

“Pixel Studio” - Apple-branded Photoshop Elements killer

Last month, this blog speculated that Apple might consider putting its savings to good use and purchasing Adobe. So far, they haven’t taken our advice on this one. So here’s an alternative strategy…

Isn’t it time that Apple developed their own image editing application? After all, they have Logic for audio, Final Cut Studio for video, but nothing for image editing. Sure, there’s Aperture, but this is more for organising digital photography, rather than editing images. We’re talking about a program that Web developers, print designers and desktop publishers would use. Yes, we’re talking about that elusive beast – a Photoshop competitor.

In the past, its been assumed that Apple wouldn’t dare to stray into this territory for fear of provoking Adobe into withdrawing Photoshop for Mac. But things are looking different these days. With the resurgence of the Mac platform, it looks unlikely that Adobe could afford to desert the platform. Instead, they seem to be heading in the opposite direction, by resurrecting apps such as Premiere for Mac to take on Final Cut Pro. We’ve also seen an emboldened Apple taking on Microsoft Office with iWork. Rather than driving Microsoft away from the Mac platform, competition from iWork seems if anything to have invigorated Microsoft’s Mac offering.

With Apple Insider reporting that Adobe plans to launch a 64 bit version of Photoshop CS4 for Windows, whilst leaving the Mac version at 32 bit, there’s all the more reason for Apple to consider offering Adobe some “coopertition” in this area. Apple could leverage their Mac-only technologies such as Core Image, Core Graphics and Core Animation – after all, a lot of the basic functionality for an image editing app is already built into these libraries. With a version 1.0 application, Apple could quickly give Photoshop Elements a run for its money. Subsequent versions could aim to take on Photoshop CS3 itself.

Whilst the most Apple-like name for this product would probably be “Image Studio”, this name is already taken by AutoDesk. So instead, Mac Predictions’ money is on “Pixel Studio.” But whatever it is called, we think it would be a hit – especially if Apple chose to price Version 1.0 aggressively, at say $79. As with early versions of iWork, customer curiosity alone would probably generate enough sales for the product to deliver profits whilst it approaches maturation.

Readers Predictions

Here are some interesting ideas that have been sent in by Doug Best...

"Just as the iPod lineup developed and branched out, so does Apple have plans for the iPhone lineup. Here's some of what is being considered:

"A "Pro" or "Max" model, that is noticeably thicker than current model (over 15mm, versus 11.6mm for existing iPhone), to incorporate a battery with almost triple the duration of the existing iPhone. This model is also the 3G model. It is targeted for power users and enterprise, meaning people who may use their phone 2-3 days in a row (on a business trip) without accessing a PC or having the time or opportunity to charge it.

"Existing iPhone stays the same, along with no 3G, just Edge.

"Also being considered, and with engineering and development basically done, is a new entry model, that is slimmer than the iPod Touch (an amazing 6.2mm versus iPod Touch's already amazing 8mm), and slightly less wide (58.6mm versus 61.8mm for iPod Touch). Screen size is the same; this width reduction comes from the casing. It does not offer video playback and has only 4GB. Could be as low as $159. Name to be determined, internally referred to as iPhone Shuffle, definitely not the final name. Edge, of course."

Scrap the stars, Steve

OK, so this is not so much a prediction as it is a wish – a wish upon a star, if you will.

When I first saw Time Machine, demoed at WWDC ‘06, words failed me. I was truly astonished that Apple would come up with such a tasteless user interface concept. Don’t get me wrong, I think that representing the historic state of an application window in 3D space as a metaphor for tracking archived changes is truly inspired (albeit some alternative methods of navigating Time Machine wouldn’t go amiss). No, I have no problem with the basic premise of Time Machine – my problem was with the Star Trek-style background visuals. I haven’t seen a user interface concept that intrusive and inappropriate since Microsoft saw fit to introduce a cartoon dog into Window XP’s search functionality.

At WWDC ’06, I wrongly assumed that since it was a sneak preview, the concept would be refined before final release and the stars would be toned down at the very least. Far from it. Instead, Apple saw fit to really go to town with the whole Star Trek motif. Not only is it on the Mac OS X product packaging, it’s even the default desktop pattern. That may not be such a big deal for Windows users, who are quite used to their default desktop “wallpaper” being polluted with intrusive marketing messages, but Apple used to have a tasteful default desktop image – so much so that I always used to stick to it.

As if the stars in themselves weren’t enough, Apple saw fit to include a gaudy pink nebulae – which oddly highlights the problem that MacBook Pros have with displaying millions of colours (check out that banding!)

The trekkies at Apple have come a long way from Time Machine and Leopard. Their work can now also be seen on marketing for Time Capsule and Final Cut Studio. There’s even a suggestion of a space theme on Apple TV (don’t even get me started on lens-flares). What happened to form following function; to Zen-like simplicity; to design being about how things work, not how things look? Please Steve, scrap the stars!