Sunday, 6 December 2009

The truth about the App Store crisis: there is no crisis

For months now, the blogosphere has been up in arms about Apple's App Store admission policies. The argument goes that Apple is too draconian, arbitrary and cynical in exercising its rights to control what it sells on its own store. Supposedly, App developers are deserting the store in droves as a consequence. The truth is, one might describe this exodus, if there is one at all, as nothing more than a flight to quality (in the sense that quality remains, whilst the rest departs).

Every so often, a moderately notable iPhone developer story occurs - such as the departure of a lead developer at Facebook, or the grumbling of a long time Mac developer who produces apps that facilitate piracy. Bloggers everywhere get hot under the collar, and eventually Phil Schiller, or even SJ himself, steps in with some soothing words to calm the waves in the tea cup.

Each time we go through this little set piece, some bloggers subsequently muse over the puzzling fact that the mainstream media don't seem to get this story. But there is no real mystery here. It simply isn't a story at all. The whole value of the App Store proposition is predicated on the vast number of apps it offers - and this in turn is indicative of the remarkable diversity and quantity of app developers. The idea that the App Store lacks developer support is plainly absurd. That is an accusation far better levelled at Android or Web OS. A few smaller developers may be grumbling, but the truth is that these departures have negligible impact on the bigger picture.

If anything, the departure of a few small-fry app developers may have a positive impact on the overall quality of what is available. I for one sometimes suffer from a "can't see the wood for all the trees" problem with the App store, and I know I'm not alone.

Whilst some smaller developers may be off to the supposedly greener pastures of Android, larger developers who have fallen afoul of Apple's policies - such as Google, with their Google Voice app - have simply picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and carried on. They might not agree with Apple's policies, but they'd be cutting off their noses despite their faces to desert the App Store altogether. Lesser developers may simply be too small to see it that way.

Despite the protestations of TechCrunch and others, for mainstream media like the NY Times, the App Store story will continue to be about the remarkable range of apps available - not their shortage.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

What epistemology has to tell us about Apple's rumored tablet

Epistemology is the study of knowledge - how do we know something, and how sure are we that we're right? It is a subject that the Apple blogosphere pays even less heed to than our intelligence agencies, and one that deserves greater attention.

If we claim to be absolutely certain that a piece of intelligence is true, what we mean is that it has a 100% probability of being true. Equally, if we claim that a the piece of intelligence is absolutely false, then we mean that there is a 0% probability of it being true. In reality, of course, most intelligence lies somewhere in the middle. (And from a philosophical perspective, all knowledge lies somewhere in the middle - but that's a separate topic!)

Acquiring intelligence, is a complex business, involving endlessly changing probability. As new information comes to light, the probability that a piece of intelligence is true may increase (if the new information corroborates the intelligence) or decrease (if it contradicts).

So how does this all relate back to Apple rumors? In the Apple rumosphere, we acquire knowledge in one of three ways.
  • Sudden revelation: Like an unexpected product announcement during a Stevenote - something leaps to a 100% certainty in as much time as it takes to say "one more thing".
  • Uncorroborated prediction: An analyst or blogger makes a prediction, citing an anonymous source. These events move the probability up a few clicks - how much they push dial is dependent of the past track record of the analyst/blogger and this is a pretty weak form of indicator.
  • Creeping determinism: This is where hype steadily builds within the blogosphere, in a relentless feedback loop. It starts with idle speculation. Others misinterpret speculation as prediction, and anticipation escalates. An analyst here or there may pour fuel onto the fire by making a prediction based upon uncorroborated chatter, but implying that they have a separate source. Steadily probability builds.
But why should the probability increase in the creeping determinism scenario? After all, where no reliable sources are cited, the chatter is built upon nothing more than idle speculation.

To answer this question, we should note that in epistemology, the absence of information is also intelligence, or as Donald Rumsfeld famously once put it, the "known unknown." In the creeping determinism scenario, the absent information is any comment from Apple. Where the rumor community gets ahead of itself with speculation, Apple usually finds a way to discreetly damp down expectations. Phil Schiller, Apple's VP for Global Marketing, will make a remark to a friendly journalist, for example, saying that the product line up for the holidays is now set. Therefore, each day that passes with growing speculation and no expectation management from Apple, this known unknown increases the likelihood of the intelligence being accurate.

So, what hype has being feeding the rumor mill of late, with Apple giving no word to manage expectations? The fabled Apple Tablet, of course. Indeed, since the speculation has now reach mainstream publications, and still no word from Apple, the probability has practically reached 100%. When something becomes a certainty through sudden revelation, you can't miss it. But with creeping determinism, it is a gradual process - like the hands of a clock - you can't see any change, even as they're moving before your eyes.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Aluminum remote finally released

I'll have more to say on today's announcements soon, but for the time being, I'm pleased to see that MacPredictions' aluminum mouse prediction has finally come true (sort of).

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Is Microsoft playing possum?

This week’s critical drubbing of Windows Mobile 6.5 may give Redmond something to smile about.


Back in the day, Microsoft used to get it in the neck from the Feds, from the developer community and from the industry at large. It seemed that whatever they did provoked ire. From their heavy handed negotiations with PC manufacturers, to their wilful bundling of useful new features into their market dominating operating system.


How times have changed. These days, it just doesn't seem sporting to bait Microsoft. They appear to have lost the search engine wars (with Bing proving to be more of a Blip); they've lost the digital music wars (with Apple enjoying Windows-like market domination for their ubiquitous iPod & iTunes ecosystem); and then there's the sorry tale of Windows Mobile - a product that is hard even for Steve Ballmer to love.


So what's eating Microsoft? They have some of the best and brightest minds in the world cooped up in their Redmond campus, and yet, time after time, they appear to fail to deliver, ceding one sector after another to an arch rival… Or do they?


Superficially, Microsoft may not seem much like a possum. After all, possums are cuddly-looking and cute, whilst Microsoft is testosterone-charged and sweaty. But perhaps they have more in common than meets the eye. North American possums (or technically "opossums") have developed the remarkable ability of feigning sickness and injury to evade a predator: they "play possum", exhibiting the unsavoury behaviour of looking and even smelling like a sick or dead animal, thus repelling their enemies.


Could Microsoft be employing a similar strategy? Certainly, their predators’ attentions are elsewhere. President Obama's new antitrust czar at the Department of Justice, Christine Varney, is famously quoted as saying "For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem." Instead, the U.S. economy will see problems "potentially with Google."


The truth is that Microsoft's high profile failures mask their rude health and notable success. It's a significant but oft-overlooked fact that Microsoft earns money on the sale of every iPhone, through its Exchange ActiveSync Licensing Program. As Apple, Palm and Blackberry battle it out for domination of the emerging mainstream smartphone sector, you can rest assured that Microsoft will win regardless the outcome, since interoperability with Exchange is a prerequisite for the success of any handset. And that means a healthy Microsoft tax on every handset and server sold. That poor old possum, Microsoft, must be weeping all the way to the bank with Apple's recent success.


Far from losing sleep over the poor reviews garnered for Windows Mobile 6.5 this week, perhaps the folks at Redmond were uncorking the champagne, as another brilliant, yet dastardly strategy reaches fruition.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

iTunes Loaded and Genius Fill

Posted by Martin Algesten, 6th October 2009

Surely Apple is not going to sit and watch idly as a small European upstart with a bad logo eats its market share? Week by week, update by update Spotify adds literally thousands of new songs, which means Apple's current lead in content is gradually eroding and eventually may result in a significant amount of customers opting for the flat fee as-much-as-you-can-eat style service. With Spotify's recent iPhone killer app, (Apple approved) and sold off the iTunes store, which introduced elected playlists offline, a first step is taken to conquer the portable music market, which means one of the last arguments to buy your music is also going away. Incidentally, the iPod Touch and iPhone may be the reason Spotify has a chance to succeed where other similar services have failed - portable players are key.

Interestingly, shouting about DRM shackles is nowhere to be heard amongst the Spotify crowd - is it, perhaps, that Spotify is a black box - we never get to see the individual files, so there's no feeling of right to own them? Or are we mentally relating to the service as a rental, akin to Blockbusters, so we accept the non-ownership?

Seems to me Apple would be foolish to just sit back and watch as this little company grow stronger. Spotify may not be returning a big profit yet, but the mere resonance amongst the hip young crowd, may indicate a market space, and surely Apple would want this one too, and they are in a prime position to grab it: The iTunes store has already got the songs; people have accepted that you must use iTunes to access it; Apple has complete control over the iPods (Spotify will never run on a Shuffle); the payment systems are in place; the regional markets are there; they have the existing commercial relationships with the media owners. Enter: iTunes Loaded.

iTunes Loaded comes in two versions. One free version that is powered by iTunes Genius, and a paid for version where you are in control. In the free version, Genius Fill will help you load up your iTunes with fresh tracks you probably like based on your current library. The tracks are not burdened with ads, but you can't chose which tracks you want or when they expire.

The paid for service puts you in control. You can still let iTunes Genius find new tracks, but you are free to keep, reorganise or remove. You mix your favourite tracks into playlists, chose to access these playlists offline and synchronise them with all your iPods. You can also share your iTunes Loaded playlists over Bonjour or any way you want with your iTunes Loaded friends (Email, Facebook, etc). Your iTunes Loaded playlists will of course also sync with your Mobile Me account and be available on all your Macs.

One potential stumbling block is if the media companies don't want to license the music to Apple in this way. The owners are already concerned that Apple has become a too strong player, dictating the terms in the agreements, and they may see Spotify as a way to counter Apple's dominance. I wouldn't be surprised if Steve is battling this point in endless meetings already.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The battle for the iPhone

Why Apple, Google and the Government are fighting for control of your phone

If you owned a shop, would you expect the government to tell you what products you should sell in it? Recently, America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked Apple to explain its decision not to sell Google Voice in its iPhone App Store. Their interest was presumably piqued by online protests from those challenging Apple's policy of vetting 3rd party apps.

Protests have focused on Google Voice, despite the fact that few people know what the service does, and fewer still actually use it. The two most common allegations against Apple are that this decision is anti-competitive and that it infringes iPhone owners' rights. But is there any merit to these allegations?

The iPhone is not the only gadget with built-in constraints upon its functionality. Devices such as games consoles and DVD players are similarly limited, (try skipping one of those tedious copyright warnings at the start of a movie). Whilst we may be free to use the electronics that we purchase as we see fit, manufacturers are free to determine the scope of functionality for the gadgets that they sell us. And if you choose to make your own modifications (such as installing Linux on your Xbox, or jail-breaking your iPhone) you only have yourself to blame if the manufacturer informs you that your warranty is now void. There may also be legal limitations in your right to customise. For example, in America, you are not free to modify your equipment if this results in a circumvention of copyright protection technology, in which case you will have committed a criminal offense under the DMCA. (Apple is currently arguing that this is the case in relation to iPhone jail-breaking).

Which brings us to the second allegation - that Apple is being anti-competitive in not selling the Google Voice application in its store. In the tech world, the term "anti-competitive" inevitably brings to mind the US Department of Justice and the European Commission's cases against Microsoft. However, there is a key different here between the iPhone and Windows. The iPhone may be popular, but it is far from a monopoly. At best, it represent 20% of the smartphone market, and competition is very healthy, with new entrants, such as Android and Palm's new Web OS emerging all the time. Whilst many consumers have no option but to use Microsoft Windows on the desktop, there is a great deal more choice when it comes to the mobile sector.

In other words, if you don't like Apple's policy of rejecting some 3rd party applications, you're free to buy a competitor product instead. And since the iPhone was never marketed as a device suitable for using Google Voice, then iPhone owners can hardly complain if it is not fit for that purpose. They could always purchase a competitor product that does support Google Voice, like Google's own Android OS. Apple's customers are not locked-in to iPhone OS in the way in which Microsoft's customers are locked in to Windows.

Apple has, this week, responded to the FCC, offering an explanation for their policies. It remains to be seen whether their response will satisfy the FCC, and what remedial action the agency may take if it does not. Either way, what sense can we make of Apple's position here? By limiting their users' freedom, aren't they committing a PR own-goal, without any obvious benefit? After all, few people are likely to use Google Voice anyway, and even if they do, wouldn't Apple prefer that they did this on an iPhone, rather than on a competitor's device?

The answer goes to the heart of Apple's uniqueness and its recent success. Whilst companies like Microsoft and Google sell software, and companies like Sony and Dell sell hardware, Apple's position as a true hybrid is practically unique. The remarkable success of the iPod and iPhone is due in no small part to their trademark ease of use, and this is achieved by a tight integration between hardware and software. Apps such as Google Voice allow the user to swap out core features of the device to be handled by third party software, and Apple's concern is that the seamless user experience will suffer as a consequence.

It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out. Apple is hedging its bets, claiming that it hasn't rejected the Google Voice app, but rather, it simply hasn't accepted it yet. They would doubtless prefer to reject it, but are, at this stage, testing the water with the Feds, to see how far they want to take this. If the FCC acquiesces, then Apple will presumably never get around to approving Google's pesky app. Then it will be down to the consumer, rather than the government, to decide whether they favor the stunning simplicity of a functionally constrained iPhone, to the flexible utility of an clunky, unintuitive Android handset.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

New blue iDisk icon replaces pink... was predicted by this blog in April


Last year, I questioned Apple's aesthetic judgment, regarding their choice of pink as a color for the new iDisk icon, with the switch from .Mac to MobileMe. Well it seems like someone at Apple is listening (to good sense, if perhaps not to me personally).


With the release of 10.5.8 earlier this month, the iDisk icon has switched to a far more attractive shade of blue. Now if we can just get rid of the hideous pink-stars default desktop, we really will be getting somewhere.


It's a minor point, but I have to add that the new blue iDisk icon was predicted by this blog in a mockup we produced way back in April.

CultOfMac.com features my book

More blatant self-publicizing for my new book, Secondomics...


Leander Kahney over at CultOfMac.com has run an interview with me about Secondomics, and how it relates to Apple's business. For a brief moment, I felt like Chris Anderson there ;)


Check it out: Cult Of Mac Interview


(Coughs humbly) ...the book is available from Amazon.com, priced $16.00, and you can read more about it at www.secondomics.com

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Could the new iTablet actually be an iPod touch HD?



With the rumosphere buzzing once again about Apple's much rumored tablet, and some analysts chatting like excited school girls, it's time for MacPredictions to gear up the SVU (special visuals unit) and crank out another mockup.


The tablet is a bit of a riddle. Why would Apple release one? They sat out on the whole pen-based computing thing, with Jobs pouring scorn on Gate's pet project (the Tablet PC). On that occasion, Apple's instincts proved correct. So what has changed now?


Earlier this year, most speculation focused on the idea of a touch-screen device as Apple's answer to the growing netbook category. The problem with this picture is that netbooks are cheap to manufacture, whereas Tablet PCs are quite the opposite. Something didn't add up.


Add to this the strange idea that Apple may be prepping Snow Leopard as a touch-based OS (based upon rather far-fected speculation about supposed touch-friendly features such as Dock Exposé). This blog has never subscribed to the idea of a touched based version of Mac OS X. It would just be too confusing for developers (both within Apple, and 3rd parties). Apple has just one touch-based platform - the iPhone OS, and that's plenty enough.


Fast forward a few months, and reflect upon the awesome success of iPod touch combined with games on the app store, and things become a little clearer. All that Apple needs to do is introduced resolution-independence to the iPhone OS (which will surely have to come at some point anyway), and they can then launch a true PSP/DS killer in the form of an iPod touch HD - a big brother to the regular iPod touch.


It would be compatible with all existing iPhone games, plus a whole slew of new HD games. It could also play HD movies - and completely undermine Microsoft's upcoming Zune HD in the process.


Suddenly the idea of a tablet from Apple starts to make more sense.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Chris Anderson "Free" spoof

To readers of this blog, (who are almost exclusively Apple-fans), Wired editor Chris Anderson's argument in his new book, "Free," will probably not ring true. After all, when has Apple ever released a free product? (OK, so there's iTunes and Safari/Webkit, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule). Heck, Apple even charges for MobileMe.

It's this strange habit of producing killer products, and then having the temerity to charge top-tier prices for them, that in part inspired Wired to argue that "Apple got everything right by doing everything wrong."

Renowned writer and all-round polymath Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers) waded into the debate with a somewhat challenging review in The New Yorker. This, in turn, prompted a "friendly" response from Anderson.

I've just finished reading Free, and whilst it's a great read, I do see Gladwell's point. So, for kicks, I posted a parody on my other blog, Secondomics.com, entitled "How can buses be free?"

Why "Chrome OS" won't have Cupertino or Redmond quaking in their boots

As embarrassing as it may be for Google, there really is no need for Eric Schmidt, their CEO, to resign from Apple's board. After all, their recently announced Chrome OS is not their first attempt at an operating system, and by all accounts, it's even less of a threat to Apple than Android, their other free OS offering.

To understand why, let's look at what Google are proposing, which is essentially a stripped down Linux distro, bundled with the Chrome web browser. As a product, this is in no way comparable with either Microsoft Windows or OS X. Why?

There's a lot of confusion about what an operating system actually is, and this is not helped by Apple and Microsoft confusing matters by marketing their operating systems by focusing on the features of the applications that they bundle with them.

These days, an OS comprises of the following:
  • A kernel, which manages memory and controls processes (for Apple, this is the Mach kernel, for Google OS, this is Linux, whilst Microsoft have their own home-brew)
  • Various services running on top of the kernel, for things like the file system (Apple uses a BSD layer, called "Darwin," Google will presumably use GNU, whilst Microsoft, once again, do their own thing)
  • Device drivers that allow the software to talk to all kinds of different hardware (Apple and Microsoft invest an enormous amount in this area, whilst support is sometimes lacking in Linux distros)
  • Application frameworks & GUI - these are the crown jewels of a modern OS. They're what makes a Mac Mac-like (Cocoa), and Window the distinctive thing that it is. This is where Apple switches from open source to its own propriety layer. Chrome OS will apparently not provide an SDK for third parties to access this layer
  • Applications - these are core apps that you'd expect to come with any OS, such as a text editor and file browser. These days you'd also expect things like e-mail client and web browser, plus plenty more besides. Chrome OS will only come with a web browser, (ironically, this is based upon Apple's own Webkit rendering engine.)

In other words, Chrome is simply a bundle of existing technologies: Linux, GNU and Webkit. There will apparently be no support for 3rd party applications - taking a stand similar to that Apple initially adopted for the iPhone, where they said that they would not allow 3rd party developers access to the iPhone, recommending instead that they developed web applications to run in Safari. Imagine how things would have turned out for iPhone had they stuck to that line. We would never have had the App Store!

If anything, Android looks like a more promising technology than Chrome for netbooks - and that's really saying something. The sad truth is that Google will now have two OSs for low end computing, and apparently neither of them will offer serious competition for Apple and Microsoft. Seems like Schmidt can stay on Apple's board for a while yet.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Oops - what happened?!

As the dust has now settled on WWDC, and the new iPhone 3GS is out in the wild, it's time to reflect upon recent events in the rumorsphere, and consider what we've learned.

Firstly, I have to concede that this blog's predictions for WWDC were more than a little off the mark. This has led me to reflect upon what the purpose of this blog is, and how best to approach future keynotes.

So, to clarify things, moving forwards... There are two types of content that appear on this blog:
  • Analysis: what I think it would be neat if Apple did
  • Rumorsphere: what the blogosphere seems to indicate that Apple is going to do, often producing original mockups to illustrate
"Analysis" is very speculative - there's really no way of knowing if and when it will ever be announced, and just because it doesn't see the light of day at a given keynote event, doesn't mean it never will.

"Rumorsphere" is a synthesis of what the Apple fanboy hive-mind anticipates (I don't have any inside sources, and I don't claim to either). Whilst all the information is culled from 3rd party sites, the mockups are original, and are indicative of consensus prediction for an upcoming keynote. I'll do my best to help sort the signal from the noise. Whilst these rumors are often completely off the mark, they're still a lot of fun, and tend to be the most popular content on this blog.

I will take more care in future to flag which type of content each post represents. Any thoughts or ideas - please stick them in the comments thread.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

iPhone video - Multi Touch clickable area at bottom of handset


On June 4th, TUAW reported that the new iPhone would be called iPhone Video. It's worth noting that this blog predicted the name iPhone video way back on April 12th.


On May 28th, iFun.de reported that the new iPhone would have a black bezel. This blog predicted a black bezel on February 21st.


On June 3rd, iSpazio reported that the new iPhone would have a front-mounted camera - something this blog predicted on April 12th.


If all these things come turn out to be true, then MacPredictions will have had a rather good WWDC. Roll on Monday. In the meantime, here's a mockup of what the new iPhone would look like if the Chinese black bezel component turns out to be real. Of note, the home button at the bottom would no longer be round - it would be a giant clickable area that take up the entire bottom area of the phone. Perhaps it could even have Multi Touch, like the clickable glass trackpad on the new Macbooks.

New Nikeplus.com to be announced at WWDC

On 29th May, a post on the Nike Running blog revealed that "this summer" they would be launching a new Running site that incorporates Nikeplus.com, and features new features for Nike+iPod users. Initially, that post featured several screengrabs of the new site.


Whilst the post is still there, the screen grabs have mysteriously gone. Could someone - let's say, a notoriously secretive company - have asked for them to be taken down? Could they, perhaps, have revealed some functionality from the new iPhone, which is thought to support Nike+?


My guess is that the new iPhone will support two way syncing, so that run-data can be downloaded from Nikeplus.com to the iPhone. Any regular Nike+ users know what a cool feature that would be... That, and fixing it so that it never crashes and loses your run data, just when you've clocked your best ever time.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

New iPhone spyshots, in focus


Our forensic imaging team at the MacPredictions SVU (special visuals unit) has put together this mockup of how the new Compass app may look, based upon the spyshots currently doing the rounds. Enjoy!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Woah, Black Bezel, bam-ba-lam

Macrumors reports that the next version of the iPhone may feature a black bezel. Funny that - I seem to remember predicting just such a bezel, way back in February.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Secondomics - shameless book-plugging



I've just published a book that may be of interest to regular MacPredictions readers. It's called "Secondomics: How coming second can be a winning strategy."


The book features a mix of game theory, economics, evolutionary biology, and psychology to explore the phenomena of "second mover advantage". As a self confessed Apple fan-boy, I make a lot of references to Apple in my case studies.


You can download the first few chapters for free, and check out my new blog at www.secondomics.com. If you would like to purchase the book on Lulu.com, it's currently on special offer at $6.91.


I'd appreciate any feedback. Sorry for the blatent self-promotion - I'll get back to speculating about Apple again now :)

Affordable 12-inch Macbook



John Gruber of Daring Fireball recently speculated that Apple may be planning a minor rebrand of its portables, dubbing the entry level white model "Macbook," whilst renaming the 13-inch aluminum model a "Macbook Pro", making the entire unibody lineup "pros".


Currently, the white Macbook is all but forgotten - it's no longer mentioned on the main Apple site, and hardly featured in the Apple Store. But with recent changes in market conditions, combined with Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" campaign putting pressure on Apple's pricing strategy, now may be a good time to review the entry-level end of Apple's portable lineup.


The current white Macbook model is really a hold-over from the previous polycarbonate Macbook line. It doesn't possess recent Apple revisions such as the glossy black bezel, black keyboard and glass trackpad. In happier times, Apple may have been planning to phase this model out altogether, but the credit crunch, combined with the popularity of netbooks may well be causing the company to review this strategy.


An alternative option would be to introduce a more competitively priced entry level model, that differentiates itself from the Macbook Pro range (including the re-named 13-inch model). To do this, the new Macbook could sport a 12-inch screen, and white polycarbonate case. But it could still inherit some nice perks, like the glass trackpad, black keyboard and glossy bezel. At a price of, say $599, this could fly off the shelves, without excessive cannibalization of the 13-inch Macbook Pro's sales.


Such a machine could still be a decent computer, without the kinds of awkward compromises inherent in a netbook. It seems a more plausible entry-level play from Apple than the rumored 10-inch tablet.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Laptop hunters - the facts

Macbooks may be more expensive that PC notebooks, but consider this:

  • they use faster memory
  • they use faster processors
  • they have higher resolution screens
  • they come with awesome bundled software
  • everything comes as standard (e.g. webcam, backlit keyboard & Bluetooth)
  • they're not slowed down by virus software

The answer to Microsoft's laptop hunter ads is simple. Macbooks are more expensive because they're better, and if you were to make a genuine like-for-like comparison, you'd find that they represent incredible value for money.


I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but I couldn't resist the rant. If only someone from Microsoft would come up to one of us and say "you find it, you keep it."


(NB: the above is based on Sheila's choice of an HP HDX 18t series in preference to a gorgeous 15" Macbook Pro. Strange girl).

Saturday, 2 May 2009

iPod Tablet vs iPhone size comparison



Thanks to Scott, who suggested this visual in a comment on my previous post. Sorry it's a bit of a rough visual, but it gives you the idea. Also, doing this made me realize I'd got the home button too small on the previous visuals - oops. This is corrected in the above visual.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Many eyeballs, better mockups



Following Linus's Law, (with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow), here's a revised mockup of theiPod Tablet. Our mockup has been doing the rounds over the past week, cropping up on sites in Romania, Germany and Russia. Thanks to all the sites that have featured a link - and thanks to all the readers from those sites who posted comments. On the basis of this feedback, I've made the following corrections:

  • Removed the Phone app icon
  • Substituted the iPod app icon for Music and Videos icons
  • Added volume buttons to the side, and power button to the top
  • Added a camera to the back

For those who picked up on the Bluetooth icon, this is deliberately there, since Apple will be supporting Bluetooth for wireless stereo headphones on the iPod Touch with iPhone 3.0.


Sorry for all the mistakes in the previous version. Doh! the humanity :)

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Tim Cook says no to "Mac" netbook... perhaps an iPod instead?

I'll be posting a more detailed discussion on Apple's earnings conference call soon, but this is just a quick one to observe that Tim Cook was quite careful with his words when he said that there would be no "Mac" netbook from Apple. He goes on to say that people wanting netbook-type functionality ("a small computer for e-mail or web browsing") may want to buy an iPod touch or iPhone instead.

So whilst Apple is sticking to their previous doubts about entering the netbook sector, they're open to positioning their iPod/iPhone line as a challenger in this area - which seems to add some credence to our previous post on an iPod Tablet.

(Updated for clarification based upon comment from ChuckGee)

Saturday, 18 April 2009

iPod Tablet [Mockup]



WIth the imminent release of iPhone 3.0, Apple is introducing landscape mode to all of its key apps. MacPredictions believes that this gives us a clue to the format of Apple's much-rumored low cost tablet.


Imagine an iPhone in landscape mode with the keyboard active. Now imagine that the screen is twice as deep - so it becomes 480x640 (VGA format, protrait) rather than the normal iPhone 320x480. It's not such a stretch to imagine this, as the illustration above demonstrates. You end up with a tablet capable of presenting 42 iPhone apps on a single springboard screen.


What's the significance of this? Screen density. As technology moves forward, screens become increasingly dense - that is, more pixels are packed into the same amount of space. As a consequence, the user interface elements become smaller. This doesn't matter so much on a Mac, where for example, the high density screen of a 17" MacBook Pro shows everything much smaller than the lower density screen of the MacBook Air. But on an iPhone, the size of the user interface matters a great deal, since the widgets must be the appropriate size to be operated by fingers.


Palm once solved this problem by leaping to a double density format. With the Tungsten T, Palm effectively doubled the resolution of their display from 160x160 pixels to 320x320, whilst the physical dimensions of the device remained the same. They were even able to provide backwards compatibility to Palm OS 4.0 applications, by offering a lower resolution mode (effectively two-for-one pixels).


Apple could perform a similar trick with the new iPhone 3.0 software for its tablet offering. By doubling the screen resolution, they can enable their key apps to take advantage of the higher resolution screen, whilst providing support for lower resolution iPhone apps. Moving forwards, they could encourage their app developers to support both native resolutions (320x480 and 480x640).


The really nice thing about such a device is that it could be manufactured relatively cheaply, since it would run the lightweight iPhone OS, rather than a full version of Mac OS X. It could also be touch screen without the bother of trying to work out how to retrofit Multi-touch onto Mac OS X (a seemingly intractable problem).


Estimated dimensions 85 x 120 x 10mm


Don't forget to check out this visual in full resolution to get a feel for all its VGA goodness.


Monday, 13 April 2009

Sunday, 12 April 2009

iPhone Video with VoiceOver and iChat Video

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is two months away. The big news that we're all hoping for is that Steve Jobs will be resuming his regular duties as Apple's CEO. And what better way to hit the ground running than with a Stevenote at WWDC to launch iPhone 3.0 and the all new iPhone Video.

As the rumors are steadily leaking out, a clear picture is beginning to emerge. The two biggest themes for iPhone in 2009 will be video and voice.

Video
iPhone 3.0 will finally introduce MMS messaging (although Apple will avoid using the term MMS), whilst the new iPhone Video will finally offer a video recording feature (owners of earlier iPhones will likely be disappointed if they're expecting support for this via a software update). We may finally see the introduction of a video camera to the front of the phone, for use with iChat Video. This would, after all, be the most obvious way to differentiate the iPhone Video from the present iPhone 3G.

Voice
The new Shuffle has introduced VoiceOver to the iPod platform. This will inevitably find its way onto the new iPhone as well. We can expect it to come with the new headphones that already ship with the Shuffle, with integrated controls on the cord. However, VoiceOver will be extended further in the iPhone 3.0 software to support voice dialing and other voice commands.

Feature summary:

iPhone 3.0 software update
  • VoiceOver
  • Video messaging
  • Picture messages
  • Cut, copy & paste
  • Landscape mode
  • Stereo Bluetooth

All new iPhone Video
  • 3.2 megapixel camera
  • Video recording
  • iChat Video
  • 32GB
  • Headphone controls
  • Turn-by-turn directions (magnetometer - digital compass)
  • Matte-black back
  • Faster processor
  • 802.11n faster WiFi


Updates: Thanks to iPhones.ru for pointing out that the camera should be 3.2 megapixel (now corrected). Thanks to everyone who pointed out that the screen should show iPhone 3.0 - also corrected. Some people have suggested that the front-camera would be concealed in some way. I think the best clue to how this would appear is the camera on the new MacBook Pro, that is on the black bezel, under the glass - this is how I've attempted to make it look. Finally, for those commenting on roundedness of the corners, this is deliberate to reflect the shape of the leaked iPhone casing (don't know if it's genuine).

Friday, 10 April 2009

A look at Snow Leopard's top-secret Marble UI [Mockup]


As more is steadily leaking out a Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, it's starting to sound like it will offer significantly more than simply the under-the-hood improvements promised at last summer's WWDC. Not that these improvements aren't important and welcome, but they're not what deliver sales of a consumer-oriented desktop operating system.

MacPredictions was always curious about how Apple was going to market an OS revision that offered no new end-user features. In fact, this blog had previously concluded that it would be offered as a free update to existing Leopard users.

But recent talk of a brand new user interface skin called Marble, which would reflect developments over the last couple of years in iTunes, iWork, Safari and iPhone, starts to promise us a little more.

So here, for your consideration, we present a mockup of how 10.6 might appear. In the background is iTunes, the rosetta stone of all Apple UI speculation. In front of it, there's a QuickTime X window. Contrary to popular opinion, which suggests it has a translucent window bar, we've mocked it up as reflective menu bar - similar to the way that the controls in the iPhone iPod application reflect the album art above them.

At the front, the window with focus is the new, completely re-written Cocoa Finder. MacPredictions has published a similar mockup of this before - featuring skimmable folders. Here, it's been updated to reflect the subtly tweaked button bar on the Safari 4.0 beta, which has a lighter highlight, and sharper keylines. Plus, of course, the controversial new tabs. Tabbed browsing in Finder will surely be worth the $129 upgrade fee alone.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Landscape mode makes netbook tablet based upon iPhone OS X more likely

In today's preview of iPhone 3.0, Apple showed off their new landscape mode. What's particularly interesting here is that it's indicative of a more towards resolution independence, since all the key apps must now be capable of re-laying out to a wider format.

Maybe it's just the cool-aid talking, but I'm starting to believe this netbook tablet rumor.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

iPhone 3.0 to introduce notification screen?


On Tuesday 17th, Apple have promised us a preview of the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software release, which is presumably what the next generation iPhone, expected in June, will ship with. (And we'd better hope it will be a free update for existing iPhone users or there will be blood).

But what can we expect from the next version of a product that's already almost perfect? Most likely, Apple will finally introduce cut and paste, a feature that's been sorely missed, and has become the number one pet-peeve for most iPhone users. But this alone would hardly justify a media event - so what else can we expect to see?

The most obvious candidate is support for Apple's new iPod headphones with volume control. The new shuffle also suggests that we can expect the introduction of VoiceOver to iPhone - perhaps with genuine text-to-speech, rather than the more limited functionality offered on the shuffle, which is actually handled by iTunes 8.1.


But here's what MacPredictions thinks the big news will be:

Notification Screen (pictured above)
Many pundits are suggesting that Apple may be re-thinking their plans for push notification services. Apple may be thinking more broadly about how to present messages from background processes in the UI. The answer is surely some kind of notification dashboard, or status display, that acts as a home screen when you turn on the phone (with a button allowing you to toggle (spin) between this and the app launcher). This should be configurable, to allow the user to decide what apps appear, and what messages an app can present. At a glance, this screen would display missed calls, SMS messages, upcoming appointments and optionally messages from 3rd party apps as well.

Spotlight Search
Even the original Palm Pilot allowed you to search contacts, appointments and notes from a single search query. And yet, search was missed off altogether on the original iPhone, and even now, it's only available in selected apps. The Mac OS X Spotlight model is the obvious solution - a dedicated search app, with a modular API that enables both Apple and 3rd party apps to expose their data for indexing. So that when Steve Jobs does a search for Bono on his iPhone, he'll get all his latest e-mail correspondence bitching about the RIM deal, together with a quick link to U2's new album.

File Browser
Providing user-access to a shared file system for iPhone 3.0 files, with iDisk integration and Back to My Mac.

Safari Top Site's Screen
The new Safari 4 Beta for Mac OS X introduced the oddly concave "Top Sites" screen, which provides a handy launcher for your favorite sites. It's an obvious feature to introduce to the mobile version of Safari.

iChat
'nuff said.

Update: Just found this MacRumors post from last year, concerning a patent application from Apple for a feature not dissimilar to that pictured above.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

New shuffle doesn't have text-to-speech

It turns out that the new iPod Shuffle doesn't have text-to-speech functionality. It appears that the text-to-speech is handled by iTunes, which transfers the spoken song titles and play list titles to the iPod shuffle as audio files. (Evidence for this is to be found in the demo video, which reveals that the voice sounds different is you sync with a PC rather than a Mac).

This is perhaps not surprising, since it would be hard to jam sufficient computational power into the tiny Shuffle enclosure to support this. It does indicate that it will be a more complex task to add this functionality to the Touch and the iPhone, where tracks may be bought over the air, and text-to-speech will presumably be required.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Does the new shuffle mean that the iPhone will finally find it's voice?


It seems that Apple have really pulled one of of the bag with this new iPod Shuffle. Eliminating the controls, halving the size, and adding VoiceOver is inspired. In retrospect, all the clues where there. I'm just kicking myself for not having predicted it. Whilst I'm still fond of MacPrediction's previous shuffle idea (pictured above), this looks unlikely to see the light of day now.

The interesting question now is, of course, when will VoiceOver be added to the iPhone and iPod Touch? It's surely a little odd to have this feature only on the shuffle. It seems likely we will see it as part of the next iPhone OS update. And that's something that this blog has been predicting for years.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

QuickTime X Player UI Problems

Screengrabs of the new QuickTime X player in Snow Leopard are doing the rounds. Check them out before Apple's legal team does a clean-up.

Sad to say, Apple is once again moving away from the consistent UI principles that they introduced in Leopard. The new QuickTime Player sports a translucence black menu bar that appears superimposed over the video. I can't think of anything more daft than a menu bar that appears on top of the content that it frames. The menu bar then disappears when you move your mouse off the window, leaving the video playing, apparently outside of a window.

Problems? Where to start:
  • it is inconsistent with every other app in Mac OS X (even though it's an core app)
  • you can't see the close/maximise/minimise buttons, unless you roll over
  • it breaks the spatial window metaphor
  • it looks confusing if you have multiple movies open
  • it obscures the content
  • it echoes the style of QuickLook windows, which were supposed to look different to regular application windows
...and that's before we get onto the problem that all the QuickTime Pro functionality appears to be removed.

Coming so soon Safari 4 UI transgressions, it seems something's up with Apple's HCI team.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Apple copies Google and fails, Amazon copies Apple and succeeds

What I love about Apple is the way in which the consistently innovate. They're always coming up with new ideas, and they always do things their own way. Apple doesn't copy others - others copy Apple... Until this week, that is.

Perusing the Safari 4 Beta gave me an uneasy feeling that this kind of product might be what we have to look forward to without Jobs at the helm. People have said that it shows signs that Google's Chrome browser has got Apple rattled, and, reluctantly, I'd have to agree.

The best things about Chrome are its smart choice in adopting Apple's WebKit, its super-fast JavaScript engine, and its robust multi-threaded architecture. The worst thing about it is, once again, it illustrates Google's complete lack of visual sophistication. Like every Google product, the UI of Chrome is very ugly.

What a travesty then, that Apple should see fit to copy so many aspects of Chrome's UI in the new version of Safari - an app previously noted for its influential, clean looks. Gone are clever innovations like the progress bar integrated with the URL field, and the inverted tabs. Instead, we have the cluttered, confused messiness of tabs integrated with the title bar, which commits three key UI gaffs:
  • Confuses two functions: dragging the entire window, vs moving the tabs
  • Draggable handle looks more like a window re-sizing tools
  • Inconsistent with every other window in Mac OS X!
This seems unequivocally a retrograde step, and irony of ironies, from this point on, Apple, the company that has been the inspiration and driving force behind WebKit, will be perceived as following Google's lead in browsers.

The other piece of surprising news this week is what a great job Amazon appears to have done with the Kindle 2. Certainly, it picks up on many design cues from Apple - the uncluttered white front, the metallic rear panel, the integrated wireless store, and the stylish packaging. But unlike Apple's hapless competitors in other sectors, some of Apple's magic does seem to have rubbed off on this product. I think that Amazon may have a huge hit on their hands, and Jobs may rue the day that he (rather ignorantly) claimed that no one reads any more.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

All-black iPhone?


This mockup is just a riff on the previous post. The new matt-black back would be nicely complimented by a black metallic bezel on the front. Is it just me, or does this make it look a little like the new Palm Pre?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Aluminum iPhone 3G



iPod Observer has posted a very convincing spy-shot of what may be the next generation iPhone 3G, that has been carelessly leaving a trail of user agents wherever it goes.

The above visual from MacPredictions SVU (special visuals unit) extrapolates on iPod Observer's fragment to suggest how the entire phone might appear.

Notable aspects of the new design are its matt aluminum-style finish, and more generously rounded corners.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New 10.6 Cocoa Finder to feature iTunes-like list view with skimming? [Mockup]


Click on the image above to view actual size
Rumor has it that the Finder is (finally) being entirely re-written in Cocoa for 10.6 Snow Leopard. Whilst Apple's stated intention is to focus on improvements under the hood, rather than new features, do we really believe that they'll be able to resist adding new things, especially considering that they're doing a Finder re-write anyway, and Windows 7's release is imminent?

This blog has had some success with Finder predictions before - correctly anticipating the introduction of Coverflow. Here's what MacPredictions thinks is coming next:
  • Tabbed browsing (finally)
  • Search by people and locations (similar to iPhoto '09)
  • New list view with Quick Look skimming (list layout similar to iTunes 8, but with skim groups similar to iTunes 8 Grid view, or iPhoto Events)
As usual, this is all just speculation - I have no sources to support these predictions.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Apple.pro rumor adds credence to larger Macbook Air prediction

A couple of weeks ago, this blog predicted that Apple would release a 17-inch Macbook Air. Some scoffed at this idea at the time. Interestingly, however, today AppleInsider reports on a posting by Chinese-language blog Apple.pro, who are predicting the release of a 15-inch Macbook Air model.

Not such a stupid idea after all?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The new 17-inch MacBook Air [mockup]


Both 9to5Mac and MacRumors are citing sources claiming that the new 17-inch MacBook Pro will feature a non-removable battery. This is not an atypical design choice for Apple - it would be consistent with their approach to the iPod, iPhone and MacBook Air. What is strange, however, is that the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks have regular batteries. So why would non-removable batteries be reserved for the Air and the 17-inch Pro, but not the two sizes in between? It surely implies that they have something in common.

And it doesn't take much imagination to work out what that thing in common might be. Especially if you've spent much of your life lugging around a 17-inch notebook. They're just too heavy. Sure, it gives you a bit of a workout, but it can also give you burn marks where the shoulder-strap of your laptop bag has eaten into your flesh.

And introducing a 17-inch sheet of glass to the mix isn't going to do anything to help with the weight problem. So perhaps Apple has something else in mind for their 17-inch model - something to set it apart from its smaller cousins, and something that may explain why it's spent a little longer in development.

Adding a 17-inch model to the MacBook Air line would introduce yet another category of mobile product. Something that worked out very nicely for Apple with the original Air - seemingly growing the overall segment rather than cannibalizing regular MacBook sales. As svelte 17-incher could be very popular with creative types like myself, and showy business exec types who want something to flash around in the airport lounge.

This is just speculation of course. If Apple was to take this approach, they may choose to introduce the 17-inch MacBook Air instead of, or in addition to a new 17-inch MacBook Pro. Next week's Philnote just got a little more promising.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Could the new Mac mini and Apple TV be the same product? [Mockup]


When the first Mac mini was launched, it came with Front Row, which was not a part of Mac OS X at the time. The last major revision of Front Row then came with Leopard, which brought it in line with the newly launched Apple TV. Since then, Apple TV Take Two has been released, with major functional enhancements that have not made their way back into Front Row. Perhaps the launch of the new Mac mini will see Apple finally updating Front Row - if not for all Macs, then at least for the version bundled with the new mini.

And by merging two underperforming, but strategically important product lines, (the mini and the Apple TV), perhaps they'll finally hit upon a formula with some traction. As previously predicted, all that would be required in order to achieve this is the ability to set the machine to automatically boot into the Apple TV environment at startup.

As usual, click on the image to see it in all its high-res goodness.

Correction: Thanks to Paul for pointing out (in a comment below) that the first Mac mini did not come with Front Row. I should have said the first Intel Mac Mini, which did come with Front Row, before the release of Leopard.

iWork on MobileMe - read before you write!

9to5Mac published an intriguing rumor that they say comes from their "best source." Given that 9to5Mac has been a pretty reliable source of rumors over the past year, we should therefore pay close attention. (Albeit their predictions, like those of Cassandra, can be notoriously tricky to interpret).

This latest prediction concerns iWork and MobileMe. This blog has been predicting for some time that Apple would develop a version of iWork for iPhone, (and we still believe that will happen), but this idea makes a lot of sense as well. Adding Pages and Numbers functionality to me.com would add a lot of value to Apple's MobileMe package. Web apps like Google Docs have proved to be popular, and there's no reason to suppose that iWork for MobileMe wouldn't be a similar hit, enabling users to open, edit and save their e-mail attachments.

But in an uncharacteristic oversight, MacRumors misconstrued 9to5Mac's prediction, claiming that Apple would release web versions of iWork instead of the current Cocoa-based suite. Whilst web versions in addition to the Cocoa apps makes a lot of sense, scrapping the Cocoa apps would make no sense at all. And the limitations in terms of what might be possible for a web-based version of Keynote makes it hardly worth bothering, (beyond offering support for viewing presentation attachments online).

MacRumors messageboards are going crazy with negative votes and and doom-monger posts. Hopefully, when the MacRumors team recover from the night before, they'll update their post to clarify.

Update: MacRumors have now clarified their post