Sunday, 15 June 2008

Since when did the four-legged chair become a three-legged stool?

“We've got two strong legs on our chair today — we have the Mac business, which is a $10 billion business, and music, our iPod and iTunes business, which is $10 billion. We hope the iPhone is the third leg on our chair, and maybe one day Apple TV will be the fourth leg.” 
Steve Jobs, in USA Today

Apple TV Take Two has been out in the wild for a while now, and what a force for good it truly is. With the recent European launch of movie rentals, and the massive expansion of TV shows on iTunes in the UK, even users on this side of the pond can finally get the benefit.

Trouble is that despite Apple’s excellent efforts with Take Two, they clearly don’t have much interest in promoting the service. Competitors in the UK, such as BT Vision, Virgin Media and Sky are spending big bucks on advertising. Apple TV is conspicuous by its absence. And this comes at a critical time - the UK is about to switch off analogue terrestrial TV, in favor of digital. Consumers are out there right now, shopping for set-top boxes. Many of the PVRs, DTRs and IPTVs that they may purchase will take them off the market for subsequently acquiring an Apple TV. It’s now or never - where is Apple?

Apple’s US-centric focus is in part to blame. Whilst Virgin Media are doing an excellent job in leveraging their (bizarre) exclusivity with the BBC iPlayer, Apple has failed to do a similar deal - despite the British-broadcast-monopolist’s publicly professed interest in the platform.

At last week’s keynote, Steve Jobs showed us a three legged stool, where once there had been a chair. The stool has three legs, representing their three businesses (Mac, iPhone and Music). There once was talk of a four-legged chair, with Apple TV as the fourth leg. And yet, Apple TV is nearly invisible on Apple.com, and Apple appears to be making no effort to hold their own against substantial advertising investment from their competitors. Historically, this area of marketing has been one of Apple’s strengths.

Even more bizarrely, the UK Apple TV website has been broken for days. Is no one managing this division of the company? Did Apple just rip off the fourth leg of their chair and hurl it away, deciding that a stool would do just as well?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A serious thought (for a change)

When someone is not well, the last thing they need is a lot of people making a fuss about it. And if someone chooses to keep their health matters to themselves, that's entirely their own choice. No one has a right to know about anyone else's medical condition.

Discussing someone else's heath status in public, and speculating about their ability to do their jobs is insulting, and unnecessarily negative.

On a personal note, last year I went through cancer treatment. Thanks to the excellent work of my hospital, I recovered. I was even able to continue my day job as managing director of a business whilst I was undergoing cytotoxic chemotherapy.

What made this possible for me was the strength, positive thinking and encouragement of my family, friends and colleagues around me, who were open-minded enough to focus on what I could do, rather than on what I could not.

None of us are immune from occasional sickness. All of us need to be given the space to get well, in our own way, and with the help of qualified medical professionals.

If you know someone who is not well, the best way to help them is to focus on the positive, give them the space to tell you as much or as little as they choose, and be open minded about what they are able to achieve.

Monday, 9 June 2008

iPhone 3G Keynote Washup

Almost a month ago, MacPredictions posted our predictions for this keynote. And at the risk of sounding smug - we did pretty well - here’s a summary:

Right
  • One model, not two
  • Front looks the same as previous model
  • No front-camera for video calls
  • Fakes were fake!
  • .Mac push service for iPhone

Wrong
  • GPS
  • Metal enclosure
  • Thinner (it looks a little thinner because of the new shape, but it's actually a bit thicker - doh!)

Way back in December last year, we speculated that the iPhone’s price was an obstacle to international sales, and somehow Apple would have to budge - it’s taken them a while, but we believe the new, more aggressive pricing, combined with the 3G functionality will finally start delivering the kind of stratospheric sales that this device truly deserves.

There’ll be more than a little disappointment on the Mac Rumors forums that no new Macbooks were announced. That’s perhaps not such a surprise, given Intel’s recent delays. We can still expect to see the new family of Macbooks showing up at some point this Summer.

It will be interesting to see what this afternoon’s session on 10.6 “Snow Leopard” brings. (Oh yeah, we were wrong about that one - can’t win ‘em all!)

UPDATE: Very interesting that the newly updated UK Apple website features a different headline to the American site - it says "The iPhone you've been waiting for." This seems almost a tacit admission that sales in the UK were disappointing, and that this is due to price and lack of 3G support.

UPDATEx2: OK, so it's a stupid detail, but as predicted, iCards will finally be discontinued with the launch of Mobile Me.

Here we go...

Steve Jobs is about to take the the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Soon the truth will be revealed!

We'll have a wash-up on how we did here later today.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

3G iPhone mockups are fakes

There are some images doing the rounds this weekend, claiming to reveal the new iPhone 3G. They’ve been sent to CruchGear, Engadget and MacRumors by an anonymous source. Whilst they are excellent speculative mockups, they’re not real - and here’s why:

Attention to detail:
  • The screens don’t feature a 3G icon top-left
  • Apple normally uses Johnny Appleseed in this kind of context
  • Video area is square (more likely to be 4x3)
  • iChat icon is for Mac app - should be square button-style
  • Apple is unlikely to use an Exchange logo in this context

Spelling and typos:
  • Wi-Fi is capitalized incorrectly, and missing a hyphen
  • Windows XP is capitalized incorrectly
  • (PRODUCT) RED is written incorrectly

Missing elements:
  • Red iPhone is missing it’s top button
  • Grey iPhone is missing it’s dock connector

Legal:
  • No take-down letter from Apple legal!

Having said all that, they are great mockups, and there’s a lot that rings true: Mac Predictions also believes that the front of the phone will look the same as the current model. The tapering shape at the back rings true - reflecting the bulging design trend that we’ve commented on before. It appears to be thinner than the current model - which we’ve also predicted. The absence of a black plastic area on the back is probably intended to indicate that Apple are exercising their zirconia mobile phone enclosure patent, which seems plausible. However, we still don’t believe the video conferencing rumor - and the image of Carlos in Times Square perfectly illustrates the problem. Despite Mayor Giuliani’s attempt to clean up the area, if you wave around a fancy gadget at arms length in mid-town Manhattan, you can expect to lose it in seconds! Plus, the positioning of the front-facing camera looks downright ugly!

All in all, we think it’s a great mockup, but we’re not convinced it’s the real thing.

Friday, 6 June 2008

WWDC Banners


9 to 5 Mac have posted a great photo of the WWDC banners that apparently went up at the Moscone Center in San Francisco today. As usual, the banners visible before the keynote don't give much away, although there are some clues to the wise.

Firstly, they show an iPhone that looks almost identical to the current model - perhaps the only change to the form factor of the 3G model will be that it's slightly thinner?

Secondly, they refer to "OS X Leopard" and "OS X iPhone" - which indicates a new direction in Apple's branding for OS X - not quite the departure that Mac Predictions had envisaged, but certainly an improvement. Prominent reference to Leopard also indicates that all this talk of 10.6 may be premature.

As usual, with these WWDC banners, we can play icon bingo, but it seems that most of the icons this year are easily identifiable, apart from an odd rectangular blue icon bottom-right. If anyone knows what that is, please post your thoughts in the comments.

Mac Predictions has edited the original image to adjust for perspective distortions, which should put pay to any rumors that the iPhone and Macbook Air are funny shapes - they're not.

UPDATE: Whilst some has speculated that dropping "Mac" from Mac OS X, combined with renaming ".Mac" as "Me.com" indicates that Apple may be preparing to release OS X for PC, Mac Predictions does not believe this. The repositioning of the Mac brand is simply to make OS X and .Mac platform-neutral so that they apply equally well to Macs and iPhones. Mac sales are doing so well that the moment, it seems inconceivable that Apple would at this point choose to undermine their hardware sales by licensing the OS to other PC manufacturers - OS X is Apple's crown jewels - Dell won't be getting their hands on it any time soon.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

me.com



Sorry to flip-flop on this one, but excellent detective work at Mac Rumors is pointing to Apple as the new owners of me.com. This would be a great name for an upgraded .Mac service - it’s short, and catchy, and it makes sense as a name for an IMAP push e-mail service, since users' e-mail addresses could end in @me.com. It has the potential to be a really big brand, which Apple could push in a similar way to Microsoft with their “Live” moniker. If Apple pursues this strategy, then “Mobile Me” is likely to be a constituent part of the overall Me.com package - specifically relating to iPhone services.

Of course, for Apple, .me (dot-me) might have been an even more tempting name (and who knows, maybe they’ll still may go with it) but since it’s the country code top level domain for Montenegro (CCTLD), it’s unlikely they’ll get hold of it any time soon.