Posts in category apple - page 17

Gloomy long-term future for Apple?

Steve Jobs’ vision and leadership has turned Apple around from a great-promise but minimal market share in the computer business into a media and fashion darling envied by the likes of Sony, Dell and Microsoft.

Under his watchful eye they have put out a friendly computer called the iMac that redefined what computers could look like, a powerful Unix based OS with a simple but gorgeous user interface and practically took possession lock-stock-and-barrel of the portable music player market.

Now they looked poised to go even further forward with TV & movie downloads ,the video iPod and the apparent initial success of the Intel switch.

What could possibly go wrong?

Steve Jobs

Sure, there are a lot of bright people working at Apple. They engineer the great products you see but what you need is a guy at the top to put the best of it together. To decide the strategy, what ships what doesn’t. What’s ready. What isn’t.

As Jobs has proven he’s definitely the man for the job but does he still want it?

Steve celebrated his 51st birthday this February not long after brokering the deal where he sold his other venture, Pixar, to Disney for the tidy sum of $7.4 billion dollars. Jobs owned more than half the company. He steps down as Pixar’s CEO but takes a chair at the board of Disney.

A couple of days ago Jobs disposed of about half his Apple shares – those awarded to him by Apple in 2003 as a bonus – to pay his taxes to the tune of $295 million dollars.

Less than two years ago Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of life-threatening pancreatic cancer that put him out of the Apple driving seat for over a month. While the operation was a success it might be a reminder about taking time out to enjoy a less stressful life.

If Jobs wants to relax a little now may very well be the best time to do it.

If he wanted financial security for himself or Apple that’s done. If he wanted to prove his baby is better with him than without as happened in the 80’s that’s a big tick. If he wanted to point Apple in a positive direction that’s happened.

Maybe Apple Chief Technology Officer and brains behind the Mach kernel inside OS X Avie Tevanian knows something because at the end of March he leaves Apple to “pursue other interests”. He’s been with Jobs since the birth of NextStep.

Senior vice president of the iPod division, Jon Rubenstein, is also departing this month albeit to entire retirement.

Who on earth could possibly take over after Jobs?

Whether he’s leaving or not Jobs needs to find somebody to imprint his ideas, perceptions and desires upon. With at least a Jobsian imprint Apple might last beyond their CEO’s term.

Found this quote from Fortune, dated Feb. 23 2004;

“Why would I ever want to run Disney? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to sell them Pixar and retire?”

[)amien

Mac Mini Intel isn’t my digital life

This week Apple unveiled their new Mac Mini powered by the Intel Core Duo processor and using Intel’s core graphics, effectively giving it a significant boost whilst still retaining the attractive £400 price point.

Apple are now saying “Live the digital life” and implying that the mini belongs as part of a home entertainment system. They’ve even gone so far as to bundle it with their Front Row media center and an Apple Remote control.

Problem 1: Capacity

The mini, in order to achieve mini sizes, uses laptop hard disks which currently top out at 120GB. My iPod is 60GB and although it’s nowhere near full of music I can easily imagine adding my photo library and some video content will soon max out that 120GB. Then you’re having to use external USB drives.

Problem 2: Content delivery

If you have satellite or cable TV you may well be expecting this will be your primary source of video content but the mini and Front Row do not support external media devices, let alone TV guides or PVR/recording functionality.

Some people are putting Front Row against Windows Media Center which is quite amazing when you consider that Front Row lacks such basic video-feed functionality. Companies like TiVo have proven there’s certainly a market for it.

I can’t help but worry that Apple’s view of TV broadcasting is the same as it’s ideas on radio, i.e. it’s obsolete and that they should offer the content themselves.

Perhaps when they launch their updated iPod Video with bigger screen they’ll launch their fabled movie download service and expect users to acquire video and audio content exclusively through their store.

I’d be interested in knowing how they’ll squeeze high-definition content down my broadband line and onto a 120GB hard disk even with H.264 encoding.

Or maybe they’ll expect users to watch low-resolution iPod encoded video on their home TV’s. At 320×240 it’s quarter the resolution of existing TV.

On a high-definition system at 1280×720 you’d be utilizing about 8% of your systems resolution capability compared with 44% utilization on a PAL DVD.

Looks like Front Row and the mini won’t be part of my media center any time soon.

[)amien

Why I haven’t yet ordered a MacBook Pro

My aging Dell 8100 is struggling with the recent demands of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 mostly due to the fact it only supports 512MB RAM. Paging is bad enough on a desktop but on a laptop with slower drives and battery drain…

MacBook Pro

Apple’s first x86 laptop is based on the Intel Core Duo processor and will be available later this month. The enclosure is very similar to the previous aluminum PowerBooks with some changes to the socket line-up but retaining the backlit keyboard and wide-screen aspect ratio.

Connections include a new magnetic power connector, FireWire 800 has been dropped and PCMCIA makes a departure to be replaced by ExpressCard/34. Optical digital output makes an appearance too while wireless connectivity is suited by both Bluetooth 2 and 802.11G networking.

Familiarity ends on the outside with the internals sporting a 667MHz front side bus equipped with DDR2 memory sitting round Intel’s latest chip which curiously Apple only supply up to 1.83GHz despite Intel having a 2GHz part. The hard-drive has gone SATA with Apple offering 120GB 5,400RPM or 100GB 7,200RPM drives.

Apple are now offering the 2.16GHz processor option (14/07/2006).

But what about Windows?

There is no way at the moment to run Windows XP on this at the moment. Apple went with Intel on their new replacement for the aging BIOS called EFI. EFI isn’t all-new having already made its début as part of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium platform but at the moment Windows XP doesn’t boot on it.

Microsoft have always claimed they are about shipping software and they don’t care about the platform but I can’t see them bending over backwards for Apple on this one. If Intel are pushing other OEMs to use EFI Microsoft could be pressured into back-porting the EFI support from Vista into a Windows XP service pack or EFI edition.

Virtualized Windows?

Dual-booting would be good but speedy virtualization like Virtual PC or VMware would be even better… but the Mac’s number one x86 emulator for the PPC, Virtual PC, was brought out by one Microsoft a couple of years ago.

For Microsoft this was a win-win-win deal; it gave them control over the Mac’s entry into the Windows world, gave them virtualization software for Windows and a code-base to work from for getting their x86 based Xbox games running on their PPC based Xbox 360.

The situation for Apple was much more bleak. The PPC G5 processor came from IBM and as such didn’t have some of the Motorola G4’s features that Virtual PC used… and Microsoft wasn’t quick in coming out with a new version although they eventually did.

There is of course the possibility somebody else will deliver that virtualization. I can’t see Apple itself compromising by providing it but VMware is one option although that would need substantial porting.

Another option might be Transitive who provided the technology behind the PPC emulation in OS X x86 called Rosetta although their product line-up currently consists of emulated processor and virtualization, not just pure virtualization as would be required.

While we’re on the Apple subject check out the responses to the original iPod announcement over at MacRumors forums.

[)amien

Apple to the Channel Islands – Get lost

Last week I was at the Apple Store UK ordering a universal dock connector for my iPod. Unexpectedly the the shipping address was not accepted – it claimed they were unable to accept orders from my post-code.

This was a strange turn of events – I’ve ordered a PowerBook G4, iLife, Apple Pro Keyboard, 20GB iPod and various other accessories in the past. I’ve not changed address or post-code for over a year so what’s the problem?

One telephone call and 6 Apple staff later I’m finally told they are no longer delivering to the Channel Islands. Apparently this is a new policy introduced in the last few weeks, perhaps I missed the big announcement or maybe they kept it quiet. They couldn’t tell me the reasoning why or just where I should now take my business.

Luckily for us here in Guernsey we have a local Apple authorized dealer called Guernsey Computers and their prices are quite reasonable. About an extra 5% on top of the non-VAT Apple Store prices. Our friends in Jersey aren’t so lucky and 20%+ is quite common – in fact the “Technology Store” here in Guernsey tends to put this sort of mark-up on their Apple goods too.

This does of course mean no more engraved iPods, no more education store or refurbished store pricing.

I guess the success of Apple’s iPod means they can just tell customers in minority regions to get lost.

Never mind the fact some were helping keep them afloat before they hit the iPod goldmine.

[)amien