Posts in category apple - page 17

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

Apple adopt Windows? Inane drivel from Dvorak

John C Dvorak believes Apple may ditch OS X in favor of Windows.

His rationalization for such a belief? A professor has noted that;

  1. They stopped the switch campaign Well duh, all ad campaigns stop eventually
  2. They dropped FireWire on the iPod Mac’s have USB, PC’s have USB so go with USB and save a few bucks
  3. Apple switched to the Intel chip Had enough of not being able to follow the industry’s MHz race?

Okay, not even Dvorak can be that gullible so what other evidence has he got;

Drivers

Dvorak now believes that having an Intel chip in the box means they can’t possibly control the hardware any more and Mac owners will expect to be able to stick any old card in and it just work.

The Mac has had PCI slots for over 10 years and USB for almost as long but users don’t just expect to plug in any old “for use with Windows” device. Anyone buying a Mac is quite aware it is not Windows even if it uses an Intel processor.

Dvorak also fails to notice that Apple are using EFI – Intel’s BIOS-replacement. EFI lets you load EFI-aware drivers before the OS starts much like DOS and Win16 used to do with the BIOS.

What this means is that as EFI takes off device manufacturers could, in theory, write a single EFI driver and have it work on any EFI compliant OS. That could be Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD… It’s some way off but it’s a brighter future.

Apple is a hardware company

Dvorak states that Apple is a hardware company and now they have the iPod they can afford to drop OS development.

Creative is also a hardware company and had an MP3 player out long before Apple. So in fact did Rio, another hardware company.

What gave Apple the edge to trample over the competition and wrap up this lucrative market? Is the iPod hardware much better than the offerings from Sony?

No, not really… it’s the software. Without iTunes the iPod would never have been such a success.

Could Apple have achieved this without years of experience in developing operating systems and applications? No chance. Sony has some experience with software and a music label under its belt and it still couldn’t achieve what Apple has managed.

Being both hardware and software gave Apple the chance to own an entire new industry while the hardware vendors and Microsoft couldn’t get their respective software and hardware acts together to deliver a unified solution. You have a problem? Is it the store, maybe it’s the music software… or maybe the device. Who’s to blame? Who’s going to help?

Preserve the experience

Only somebody who has not used Mac OS X extensively could believe that the experience could be easily replicated by another layer on Windows.

Third parties go to great lengths to mimic the appearance of the UI and the dock on Windows. And that is just skin-deep.

The Mac uses a development system called Cocoa that works though a system of messages to discover and extend the user interface and controls. Windows has no such low-level capabilities.

Right-click on any text box in OS X and you’ll see options for spell checking or any other service that has been registered for handling text. On Windows you’ll be treated to the same cut-copy-paste menu Windows 3.1 had.

Vista is not due out to the end of the year. Two features slated for delivery are the hardware accelerated UI and the searchable file-system. Both arrived on the Mac last year – or was it the year before?

People fed up with Windows and trying to keep it spyware and virus free consider and switch to the Mac. Having an x86 processor in your Mac means that porting just became a bit easier…

Flies indeed

Dvorak notices that the Apple fan base will not be happy. Most of them have tried Windows and come here to escape. They’d destroy their existing niche and semi-protected user base to grab some of the Windows user market-share.

Which part of that market-share? Those prepared to pay a good few extra notes for a smarter well-built machine loaded with additional system utilities, shell extensions and media tools.

Right, so that’s the Sony Vaio market-share which is already less than Apple’s in all markets bar international notebook sales where they have an extra 1%.

In the mean-time Mac sales are up to 29% as part of the iPod halo-effect.

Sign-off…

Apple’s Market share is increasing and it has removed perceived negative performance by sticking to Intel.

Success with the iPod shows it to be the only company out there capable of delivering a whole package of slick hardware, software and content delivery.

Apple is in a unique position to take new markets with its integration of software and hardware. Who would give that up to compete with tens of established Windows hardware pushers?

[)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