Feb 242011

With the announcement of Apple’s new MacBook refresh came the debut of another revolutionary transport technology: the semi-awesomely named ThunderBolt. Developed in partnership with Intel the I/O is dual protocol (supporting both video and data transfer) and allows for bi-directional transfer rates of 10 GB/s. This is big for a couple of reasons:

1. It’s fucking fast. As in “transfer a BluRay movie in 30 seconds” fast; 20x faster than USB 2.0, and 12x times faster than FireWire 800.

2. Its supported by 2 tech super-heavyweights who are committed to its implementation across its product lines. This ain’t Apple’s implementation of FireWire in 1995.

3. Its support for multiple I/O’s and its support for daisy-chaining means fewer cables and ports – if you’re into that kind of look.

There’s a little something going on in North Carolina, however, that’s going to have a less obvious but nonetheless huge impact on Apple customers. You can bet there’s enough ThunderBolt running through Apple’s new server farm to string up the entire IT group of your average Fortune 500 company. When Apple’s glut of storage comes online, ThunderBolt will provide PCI Express interconnects much easier, cheaper and more energy efficiently. The geektastic description for such a use case from HPCWire here.

As usual, when Apple does something as big as introduce an entirely market-untested protocol like ThunderBolt, it’s not just one application they’re shooting for. My dream of ubiquitous content counts on it.

Feb 222011

Microsoft has been stamping their wares on silicon longer than the Gizmodo editorial board has been alive, which is to say that they should know what they’re doing. Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s way-late entry into an already-crowded smartphone arena, so you’d figure the seamless execution of its first software update would be the company’s top priority. Unfortunately for Redmond, despite the centuries of experience and the pressure to get everything right for any shot at a foothold in a market dominated by Apple and Google, Microsoft fucked up their first update – bigtime. How big? According to Ars Technica:

“For lucky individuals, the process merely hangs on step seven (out of ten); rebooting the phone resurrects it, albeit without the upgrade. For a minority of unlucky users, the process fails at step six, and corrupts the phone’s firmware. What’s worse is that for some of them it appears to be bricking the phone completely, rendering it useless.”

I also found this bit about how to find out if your smartphone is going to implode when updating entertaining:

“Figuring out which firmware version you have is a somewhat awkward procedure. From the phone’s dialer, type ##634#, then press the call button. This will start up Samsung’s Diagnosis application.

In the Diagnosis application, type *#1234#. This will show a screen of detailed version information. It’s the first three version numbers (for “PDA”, “Phone”, and “CSC”) that are relevant here. If the firmware versions are older (JIx, JJx) then the update probably won’t work; if they’re newer (JKx) it probably will.”

Sounds a lot like a troubleshooting procedure for a certain desktop OS. To all you IT dickheads who stood by your man and sold this bag of turds as the enterprise solution to your company, please commence sucking it.

In a way, I wish Microsoft would throttle back on the cock-ups, lest parties concerned about the direction of the company become alerted and attempt to seize control. To date, it appears that investors and the all-star board of directors are content to watch this flaming car wreck unfold in slow-motion frame by hilarious frame.

Feb 172011

Despite the fact that competitive individualism is a founding principle of this country, many people have come to equate making money with being evil. Granted, from Madoff to Microsoft, there are a number of examples of “evil” moneymaking, but this derision of success coincides more closely with human nature’s schadenfreude: that innate satisfaction many of us feel seeing successful people and endeavors fail. Apple has all the makings of a company that people want to depict as evil. Apple is incredibly successful; the most headline-dominating brand in technology. They make buttloads of money. They have a CEO who speaks a little too straightforwardly for some sensitive souls. In a sector filled with dweebs that like to tinker, Apple builds its products for everyday people and separates its user experiences from the neckbeards who want to hack them. Apple is a company that some people love dearly and some hate passionately, which provides a whole shadow economy for jackasses to profit from by pitting one group against the other.

So TMA was not at all shocked when the Engadget hordes got wind of Apple’s new subscription model policy. Negative comments (yes, I know I’m an idiot for reading them, let alone responding to them) boil down to:

-30%?! Don’t they make enough money?!
Does anyone know how much it costs Apple to maintain a subscription through iTunes? Apple’s iTunes/App Store infrastructure cost billions to set up – do you think hosting and maintaining subscriptions should be free? And anyway: if the service stays in the AppStore, why the fuck do people care how much Apple takes? Do you think Netflix would pass the savings onto you? As an aside, I don’t agree with all of Apple’s “30% across-the-board” policy. It strikes me as fairer when Apple is doing the hosting and subscription management, as will be the case with periodicals, but Netflix? Notsomuch. If there’s any part of the policy that will end up segregating itself for renegotiation, it’ll be for that portion of content for which Apple is responsible for only managing the customer information.

-If Apple loses Netflix/Amazon/Sirius/insert your possibly-effected-but-still-too-early-to-tell app here, I am so never buying an Apple product again
First of all, do you think Apple just dropped this policy bomb on companies without at least notifying them first? I’m not saying they agreed with it, but you can’t think Apple didn’t approach a cornerstone app like Netflix and say “Listen, we’re starting this subscription model for periodicals and we have to apply it across the board – including you”. And if they didn’t give them a heads-up, shame on them. If individual apps start disappearing from the app store, you can bet your ass Apple will renegotiate the terms. People who think Apple is in some throne-sitting position where it can dictate unreasonable terms without repercussions need to schedule their head-from-ass-ectomies ASAP. Remember Apple’s insistence on the $.99 song, despite the labels’ whining? Well, now there’s variable pricing for music on iTunes, so you can pay for the full value of that Lady Gaga song.

-Apple’s anti-competitive practices are going to land it in anti-trust land
Probably not. I know I’m going against the wisdom of several dozen TechCrunch commenters, but you have to have a controlling interest in a market before you can abuse that market. Last I checked, there’s not a specific market called “good tablet computers”; even the sub-category of devices that Apple’s iPad dominates is populated by a few other knock-offs like the Galaxy Tab. Now that Apple has shown the entire tech sector that there is a huge market for these devices as well as what size the device should be, 2011 is going to be flooded with iPad wannabes.

-Google’s devices and One Pass system is getting my business now
Leave it to Google to take advantage of a sucking wound, or in this case the howling maws of publishers and pundits complaining about Apple’s 30% cut. Google recently announced a subscription maintenance plan that would charge publishers a low, low 10% fee. If you act now, Google will even give subscriber information for free. Apple, on the other hand, makes people opt-into allowing publishers access to customers’ information, something that protects the customer, but pisses off publishers. Google, obviously, has no such qualms about whoring out having users’ information parsed in exchange for a better deal and a knock-off product. It’s a big part of their current business model.

As usual, this whole brouhaha boils down to a small number of irate freetards and pundits that are paid to pit fanboys and freetards against each other talking down a policy by Apple that makes businesses pay to use Apple’s infrastructure and doesn’t let them have their way with your data unless you choose. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

Feb 152011

I remember my first generation iPhone, newly minted from Apple for the super-reasonable price of $599. I marveled at Apple’s native apps, messed around with some pre-SDK web apps. The iPhone was obviously so much better than anything before it, its shortcomings were camouflaged by a backdrop of Apple ease-of-use. Having every third call drop in the metro NYC area was a small price to pay for privilege of having access to the next generation of mobile computing.

Every iteration of iOS came with some set of features that distracted me just enough from the reality that my carrier sucked. First came native apps, then cut and paste, then multitasking. Even as AT&T’s network continued to burn while Ralph de la Vega played his violin and asserted that data-hogging iPhone users were the reason; even as tethering and MMS remained absent while every other smart (and dumb) phone user laughed at me, I stayed loyal to Apple, which meant being tied to AT&T. When the legitimate Verizon iPhone rumors surfaced, it took about 14 nanoseconds for this particular AT&T customer to make the decision to switch. There are some memories I’ll always cherish, though:

Remember that time I dictated 3 pages of inspired prose into Dragon Dictate and your network – without my moving an inch – passed me from 3G to EDGE and I lost it all?

How about that time I was on vacation and couldn’t get to a computer and you dropped 5 consecutive calls to the bank, then choked on the purchase of their 12 MB banking app that would have saved me a hunker of a late fee on my credit card?

Or the times you were showing me 2 or 3 bars, but couldn’t complete a phone call for 20 minutes at the train station, right before my battery ran out?

Yea, good times. It’s with a heavy heart that I take delivery of my new Verizon iPhone 4. Yes, I know there will probably be an iPhone 5 in half a year. I don’t care. When you do manage to find a decent connection on the mean streets of Manhattan, you don’t even have the faster data rate you brag about. I’m sick of knitting every 3rd word of a conversation into a sentence and habitually jamming my finger in my ear to have the best chance of doing so. My new iPhone and I have many more good times to look forward to. Don’t think of my defection as a snub, Ralph. I’ll be one less data burden dragging down your otherwise super-robust 3G network. So in the end this is really a win-win.

Feb 102011

A while back, I wrote about a sad panda Steve Ballmer who, months after poking an HP/Windows conflagration called “Slate” at CES 2010, had HP announce they were yanking the device from production in favor of developing their own OS via their Palm acquisition. Whereas in the past, this kind of betrayal would have led to scorched earth in 5 mile radius around HP’s Palo Alto headquarters, in 2010 all Microsoft could do was tear up quiver-lipped and choke on the new normal: that Microsoft was no longer a player and can’t afford to burn any of its partners, no matter how overtly or spectacularly they embarrass the company. In a huff, Microsoft spitefully fired Robbie Bach, grabbed a couple of pints of Ben and Jerry’s and passed out on the couch during a “Drop Dead Diva” marathon. So I hear.

It looks like HP is making good on its emasculation: enter the HP TouchPad, a 9.7” tablet (*yawn*) running a jumbo version of Palm’s WebOS. It will be available this summer, meaning like every Palm product, it will be competing with the newly-minted version of Apple’s product – in this case the iPad2 – which means it’ll bomb.

But I appreciate HP taking one for the team to make Ballmer look like a bigger douche. Not that he needed any help.

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Feb 022011

TMA and Microsoft have their differences. Hell, it’s the biggest tag on this site – and it’s not close. But even Redmond is wise to Google’s nonsensical move to yank support for H.264 as an HTML5 standard. In a blog post, Internet Explorer’s chief Dean Hachamovitch, a man whose last name is a microcosm of IE’s usability, weighed in on Google’s beneficence, calling it “a red herring; a tactic in their war with Apple”. TMA said “Anyone who thinks Google’s announcement to ditch H.264 is about the “Open Web” and not about making a power play against Apple’s mobile devices has their head up their ass.”

Even Microsoft is calling bullshit.

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