Apr 032012
 

I like Intel. They helped Apple escape the slow, sweaty thumb of IBM/Motorola and their PowerPC chips and helped them usher in the OS X era. Inside every Mac beats a tiny Intel heart.

But as far as Intel’s business interests are concerned, Apple is a minor player. As witnessed by their stickers adorning their chassis, Intel has hearts beating inside myriad PCs as well. Like Google, Intel realizes the future is going to closely resemble whatever Cupertino does, especially in regard to mobile computing. Once all the critics came to their senses and confessed that the MacBook Air was indeed the future of laptops, Intel seized upon Apple’s success and began its “Ultrabook” campaign, starting a $300 million capital fund to foster innovation in the category of light and thin laptops – or MacBook Air clones. But if the crop of Ultrabooks that debuted at this year’s CES is any indication, what constitutes an Ultrabook is a very slippery slope. The consensus defines an Ultrabook as a 3-ish pound laptop that eschews the hard drive for an SSD, forgoes a physical media drive and has a non-swappable battery.  Some companies’ CES entries subscribed to the “knock off the Air as closely as possible” school, while others tried to shoehorn fat, thick laptops into the category and call them Ultrabooks. And then there’s the prices. The ones that are comparable to the MacBook Air (the Acer Aspire S3,Dell XPS 13 and Asus Zenbook UX31E) have fatal flaws: crappy screens, cheap materials and/or flaky trackpads. The ones that compare favorably (the Hewlett-Packard Envy 14 Spectre, Samsung Notebook Series 9 and Toshiba Portégé Z830) start at $1,500. So despite Intel’s good intentions and $300 million fund for – whataver – the market hasn’t quite caught up to the Air.

But the lack of success of a product never stops their pimps from running their mouths. Intel’s bout of verbal diarrhea comes from Anand Kajshmanan, a Ultrabook product manager Alison Wesley, a media relations rep, who sat down with PC World to talk about their wares. I have a strange feeling that Wesley did most of the talking.

PC World: Can you tell us a little about Ultrabooks and what makes them different?

Intel: “Ultra” means pinnacle, and we wanted the Ultrabook to be the pinnacle of everything that users have come to expect from their computing device. So we did extensive research into what users’ expectations were for their mobile computing devices, and there were four things that really stood out.

Users want ultra-responsiveness in their devices (you turn it on and it just works, with no interruptions); the ability to take their devices everywhere, with great battery life and connectivity; devices that just look cool and feel great; and products they don’t have to worry about when it comes to security.

Great start, guys. Four things stood out when we did our “extensive research”. Let me list six. And how do you work a parenthetical into an interview? Is that a part of the answer that was whispered?

When we came up with this category, we wanted to deliver all of these things in one device–and not only one device, but a plethora of choices, so each person can pick [the right Ultrabook].

Translation: we put up a bunch of money for companies to throw shit at a wall.

PCW: Many Ultrabooks look a lot like Apple’s MacBook Air. How are Ultrabooks different from the Air, and why would a person choose an Ultrabook over the more popular Air?

Intel: The MacBook Air is a great product, sure. It has the Intel Core processor, it’s a great choice for someone who wants to invest in the Mac operating system, and it offers some of the things we talked about. But really, with the Ultrabook, it’s about offering all those things in the same device–the great responsiveness, the great battery life–and with an operating system that people have come to love over the years, as well as all the legacy applications that they would like to run.

Except the Air runs “an operating system that people have come to love over the years”, by which I have to assume they mean Windows, along with all of those “legacy applications”. You can do it virtually via VMWare Fusion or Parallels or if you’re a real masochist you can use it exclusively as a PC via Apple’s Boot Camp. As an aside, I love that Apple named the product that allows them to turn their machine into a Windows box “Boot Camp”. Who is your squad leader, scumbag?!

And they want to do all this at mainstream price points, which is where we think one of the biggest key differentiators is, and the biggest value that Intel can bring to this space. We can actually get the ecosystem to move to an extent [that it will] bring all of these great features in a laptop down to mainstream price points.

PCW: What do you mean by “mainstream price points”?

Intel: We say “mainstream price points” rather than exact figures because it differs for every market and depends on your perspective. For example, [we were speaking with] a Korean businessperson at a trade show who said that $1000 was a very low price point for them. But $1000 might be high from your perspective, so we say “mainstream price point” to mean what the market will bear.

It’s curious that Intel thinks it can have an influence on pricing, given that it supplies one or two components among the hundreds that make up PC hardware. Maybe that’s why the Ultrabooks that have hit the market so far are either crap or priced hundreds more than the Air. But as Intel will tell us, pricing is “relative”. $20 may not be a lot to you, but $20 U.S. in China is a lot of money! We’re big fans of “perspective pricing”. Initially, we said “mainstream” like we meant “cheaper”, but if you’re going to ask us to be specific, we’ll have to backpedal and say “mainstream” means “whatever manufacturers are going to charge”.

The interview goes on to talk about the possibility touchscreen Ultrabooks, with Intel saying “For example, if there’s a touchscreen Ultrabook for $800 versus one without for $700, at least the option will be there. Again, it’s all about choice.” LOL. None of the current Ultrabooks cost $800, and touchscreen models will be $100 more? I guess Intel was talking about “choice” as a way to pick arbitrary numbers out of the air with no real-world correlation. They then poo-poo the iPad as a work device citing the customer input “‘We love touch, but don’t touch our keyboards.'”, then go on to say they look forward to incorporate iPad technologies like “sensors and accelerometers” in their keyboardy creations. We want it to be like a MacBook Air and an iPad – for $800.

These Intel guys must have gotten their speaking tips at the Jim Ballsillie/Mike Laziridis public speaking course.

Mar 162012
 

I wish I could say that I had pre-ordered and was gleefully poking away at a New iPad, but going 3 for 3 on Apple kit in consecutive years at $600 a pop is not something this person of limited means can boast. I have, however, been treated to a plethora of reviews and the occasional retarded “x reasons why you shouldn’t buy an ipad” list. It’s hilarious that they still make these.

One person from whom I expect – neigh demand – to see a glowing review is Dave Pogue, someone who has always been more pro-Apple (read: reality-based) than some of the other guys on the tech beat. Imagine my surprise to see a less-than-gushing review. And this is a device that has Joshua Topolsky gushing. Dave appears to be stifling a yawn:

That’s exactly what’s going on with the new iPad. Its technical improvements keep it at the forefront of desirability — just ahead of the snapping jaws of its Android competition — but don’t take it in any new directions.

I especially liked the part about Android competitors’ “snapping jaws”. I have this image of a toothless granny chasing Tim Cook around with her cane. I guess it’s good that Pogue got his review in on time with the rest of the technorati instead of having people speculate on the Times’ deteriorating relationship with Apple, which is what happened with his late-to-be-posted Mountain Lion review.

And then Dave had a question about Siri. And he used a phrase I never thought Dave Pogue would write (emphasis mine):

Weirdly, though, speech-to-text is the only piece of Siri, Apple’s smart voice-control software, that the new iPad inherits from the iPhone 4S. You don’t get the rest of Siri’s features: the ability to set alarms, send text messages, look up calendar appointments and snag facts from the Web just by asking out loud. That the full Siri isn’t available smacks more of a marketing department holdback than technical limitations.

Guuuuuh. Dave: Apple does not sacrifice at the altar of pure marketing. It will make a number of decisions based on the experience of the brand, however. Maybe that’s how some people define “weird”, but I didn’t expect Pogue to be one of those people.

The reason for no Siri is simple: Siri is an “always on” feature. On the iPhone 4S, Siri is a feature backed by a ubiquitous (read everywhere but in New York with AT&T) network connection, accessible by holding down the home/earbud mic button. Looking across the iPad line, there’s no guarantee of a data connection. Faced with a decision about whether to limit Siri based solely on network availability or to limit the capability of Siri to dictation (which still requires a network connection), Apple made what I feel is a logical decision for their iPad lineup. Apple’s implementation of Siri on the iPad is a mic button that appears on the on-screen keyboard only when you have a network connection.

Apple doesn’t makes technical decisions purely to push people to other products. Apple makes technical decisions that yield the best experiences with their products. Sometimes, as in the case of Siri, this involves leaving features on the table. If Apple said Siri was available on the New iPad, people would expect to always have it and would be disappointed with its  functionality being limited to the times it had network connectivity. Instead, the device’s speech capabilities are being billed as dictation, a bullet point buried in the feature list, so that expectation goes away.

Apple doesn’t just succeed at creating superior consumer experiences by creating great kit, it does it by controlling expectations. This is a just another case in point.

 Posted by at 7:47 am  Tagged with: ,
Mar 072012
 

The iPad 3 rumor mill is red-lining, with T-minus five hours remaining before Apple’s keynote. Engadget picked up a rumor (that they may have picked up from The Guardian – rumor forensics blow) that the device may feature a technology that allows you to physically interact with your iPad via the manipulation of an electrostatic charge (CNET demo video via Engadget here). The rep from the company that makes the technology, Senseg, said they’d like to see applications within 12 months – and this was a year ago (DUN DUN!). Further, if you read into Apple’s event invite ““We have something you really have to see. And touch.”, it does lead the door open for this kind of feature, if you’re the kind of douche that reads something into everything Apple writes.

You really have to see the video demo to understand the potential of this technology, so I guess I’m encouraging readers to head over to Engadget to take a look. Words I never thought I’d type.

 Posted by at 9:18 am  Tagged with:
Mar 062012
 

In anticipation of Apple announcing the third version of its iPad this week, everyone bucking for a pageview is speculating – or regurgitating someone else’s speculation – about the device. The latest is that the device will be called the iPad HD. The source is a big one: ZDNet, so it has an air of credibility to it. At the risk of eating a giant turd, I’m calling bullshit.

First there’s the source. For those of you with short memories, ZDNet is a member of the Apple reporting axis of evil that has been shitting on Apple since 1991. If ZD wasn’t forced to kiss the ring like the rest of the tech press, I have no doubt I’d be reading about the 10th anniversary of Apple’s bankruptcy banged out on the World Domination Edition of Windows XP 15. And if I were Apple (muhhaha), I’d take particular joy in leaking something credible-sounding to ZD for the express purpose of not doing it.

Which leads me to my second point: the HD suffix is stupid. Windshield wipers these days come with HD branding. It’s one notch above “Extreme” on the scale of retarded marketing buzzwords. Apple doesn’t co-opt other peoples’ douchy branding apparatuses; it makes other peoples’ douchy branding apparatuses. And what are you going to call the next one? The HD 2? You may as well have Motorola name your fucking product. But leaking HD makes the perfect plant for stooges like ZDNet. “Extreme” may have drawn a buck-toothed “Hey wait a minute” from a suspicious editor, but HD plays into most peoples’ stupid mainstream notions for naming products, so it’s almost perfect.

Which can only mean that I’ll be taking this all back via Twitter about 20 minutes into the keynote.

Update: From what I can piece together, the “exclusive” actually comes from CNET, not ZDNet. So substitute “Don Reisinger” for “Mary Jo Foley” and you basically have the same site.

Update 2: Amazing what 6 oz. of common sense can accomplish. iPad HD my ass. Nice scoop, guys! I do find naming the device “The New iPad” is a bit strange, though. Probably because Tim Cook is a religious reader of TMA and made a last-minute decision to pull “HD” from the name based on my post. That’s probably what happened.

Feb 152012
 

Proview Shenzen is a company that is financially one clockwise revolution away from the sewer pipe. Its only asset is a name, a name for which Apple has a licensing agreement with the company in 10 different countries, including one with China under a Taiwanese affiliate. Proview claims that the agreement is not valid, and at least for now some judge in China agrees. Proview is lobbying the Chinese government for Apple to either pay them off or use the infringement on their trademark to not only block the flow of iPads into China, but also block their export from the assembly facilities that Apple (and no one else) so famously utilizes in-country. Proview’s claims have allegedly prompted Apple to pull the iPad from some Chinese retailers, such as Amazon (this is according to a spokesperson from Amazon, a company that in no way competes with Apple and would totally not have a reason to pull it off their site prior to Apple asking). For something that I guarantee will turn out to be a non-issue, variations of this story have been popping up in blogs everywhere for the last month. But that’s the core truth of what constitutes 99.9% of Apple “news”: bullshit that is guaranteed to blow over repackaged in semi-titillating headlines. Let me give you a sense of what’s going on in China regarding Proview, ripped from the pages of my latest screenplay titled “Make Linkbait Hay While the Media Sun Shines, You No-Value-Added Little Bitches” (it’s a working title):

(phone rings)

Chinese government: “Hello, Chinese government”

Tim Cook: “China? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was Brazil”

CG: “No, China here. Who is this?”

TC: “It’s Tim Cook over at Apple. Listen, I’m sorry, I meant to call Brazil. I’ve got a shitload of business to discuss with them…”

CG: “Business?”

TC: “Yea, boring stuff, really. I guess they don’t have as many bankrupt assclowns wanting to fuck with our supply chain or cash in on moo shu wrapper-thin IP. That reminds me – I have to catch up with you later to talk about demobilization phasing. Anyway, gotta go!”

(click)

GC: 

Jun 012011
 

Imagine all the hand-wringing and chair tossing in Redmond since Apple released the iPad in 2010. First the iPhone, now this? We’ve been poking our fat fingers at tablet PC’s for a decade to choruses of laughter and Apple swoops in with another touch-based product? Such embarrassment. Now imagine all that frustration being channeled into the next version of Windows “codenamed” Windows 8 and this video will make more sense to you.

You wanted touch? Windows 8 has touch, goddammit!

I can honestly say that some of the features debuted look like a fresh take on a mobile OS. Some sensible gesturing, a cool way of interacting with 2 apps simultaneously. Here’s the problem: this UI is a response to the iPad. There’s a reason why Apple segregated iOS and OS X. In classic Microsoft “Windows everywhere” fashion, they’re attempting to layer a touch-based interface with yummy buzzwords like “HTML5” and “JavaScript” over the top of a desktop and file system. How will people using a keyboard and mouse interact with this layer? How happy will people be swiping and tablet-typing in Excel?

If this is the trajectory Microsoft is going to continue on, they’re headed for head-on collision between their legacy users and their desperate 3-years-too-late attempt to enter the touch OS market.

Apr 282011
 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Google’s Android OS for mobile devices will doom Apple’s iOS soon. Witness the impending savage brutality:

The analyst’s conclusion: Android will overtake iOS by July of this year. Looks pretty obvious from this graph, right? Not really.

1. Where did you people learn statistics?

Wanna hear something awesome? I will be a millionaire by the the time I retire and I have the statistics to prove it. You see: I found $100 bill on the street today. If you assume that I will find $100 on the street every day for *cough* *ahem* *cough* years, and allow for compounding at a modest interest rate, I will be a millionaire around 65. Screw the IRA!

Distimo used the February-March 2011 month-to-month data to project the June numbers. I know this because they say so in their write-up. Taking month-to-month growth of an app ecosystem and extending a line from it is as meaningless an exercise as taking any 2 short-term data points and extending a trend line from the segment formed. And speaking of drawing…

2. Where did you people learn to draw?

Maybe it’s me, but do you see the line come off a little “flat” for iOS in March and get a little goosed for Android around mid April? You guys know something we don’t? Wanna let us in on it?

3. Try looking up “ringtones” in the Android Market.

Wanna guess how many of these apps are conduits for pirated, copyright/trademark-violating properties? If you guessed “a shit-ton”, you’d be correct. People used to joke about how many fart apps were in the App Store. The Android Market wishes it had apps as valuable as the worst fart app ever put up. Distimo does note that Android now has more free apps than the App Store. Nothing screams “make money here!” to app developers as effectively as having more stuff not worth paying for in your market.

4. So I guess the iPad doesn’t count now?

We’re comparing OS markets, but we’re leaving out devices that make up part of the market ecosystem. I guess if you want a graph that fits well in landscape orientation, you have to cut some corners. Like not drawing our lines straight. Or making that ziggy line on the y-axis between 50,000 and 100,000 on a graph that spans 0 to 400,000. Hallmarks of a company that should be taken seriously.

If you’re banking on Android overtaking iOS in the near future, you’d feel a lot better if you sought out analysis that actually makes sense, as opposed to getting it from another no-name firm with zero track record looking to make a quick buck by using shitty statistics poorly.

Apr 122011
 

Gartner is one of the most recognizable names in IT research. TMA doesn’t concern himself with most of what they do, because all consultants are useless people you pay to tell you what time it is by having them look at your watch.  If their smartphone market predictions are any indication, you’d be better off throwing a dart at a board. Seriously: it’s like their firm is populated by Scott Moritz clones.

Anyway, Gartner’s most recent forecasts for Apple’s iOS devices are a lot like their past predictions. Let’s take a look:

Continue reading

Mar 122011
 

At the height of Android tablet fever, right before people got their hands on the iPad 2, Motorola’s Xoom was considered the device that would give Apple a run for their money. Once the price points were introduced (they were the same as the original iPad i.e. cheaper than the Xoom) and the thickness and weight specs were unveiled (making the Xoom look like a last-call at the pub hookup), a lot of the enthusiasm was sapped from the Motorola camp. But the Xoom still had that sweet 1280 x 800 display and awesome Tegra2 dual core processor, so there was still optimism that the raw performance of the device would at least be able to hang with the iPad.

Well, they were half right. The Xoom is indeed faster than the iPad in most of the graphics tests run by the good folks over at Anandtech. But unfortunately the new A5 chip used by Apple in the iPad 2 absolutely buries it. Like turning-away-a-little-embarrassed-because-I-feel-badly “buries”. Full coverage of the carnage here.

Mar 022011
 

Since just before Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 3Gs, TMA has felt a twinge of anxiety every time Apple introduces a new mobile device. It goes something like this: Apple breaks ground with an innovative new device that sends the competition to their photocopiers for 9 months or so. The first run-offs get laughed out of the marketplace, but like a blind sniper ranging his target, manufacturers’ offerings land ever closer to the original, their shots approaching the same zip code around the time of the Apple event. Some hardware specs start nudging into Apple’s offering. Pundits shift from the “Apple is great, but” mode they use to bitch about the company’s manufacturing processes or App Store approval policies – because no popular Apple-related news survives without some antagonism in the title – to “Apple needs to respond to legitimate competitive threat” mode. Knowing that Apple only does one of these things once a year, the niggling sets in: will Apple miss a beat this time? Will they improve their product in too small an increment to survive this year’s onslaught of knock-offs?

Then, of course, Apple releases an update that stomps the wannabes back into their developmental stone ages for another 9 months. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Today, the latest beam of vermin-scattering illumination came courtesy of the iPad line, delivered by an on-sabbatical Steve Jobs. The iPad 2 is faster, lighter and packs front and rear-facing cameras and a couple of snazzy new peripherals. A couple of things I found interesting:

  1. Jobs made a point of mentioning that the iPad2 could stream video in 1080p. Because Apple hasn’t historically been one to offer a feature that isn’t supported by its media, this suggests that 1080p content could be coming to iTunes.
  2. We got a preview of the iPhone 5 processor: the A5. Sporting dual cores, its 9x faster than the A4.
  3. Just when you thought cases couldn’t be interesting, Apple finds a way to turn a protective covering into thinly-veiled sex. The use of magnets in the iPad’s bezel and the minimalism of the new Smart Covers is classic Apple.
  4. I was rolling my eyes for the first 30 seconds of the Garageband demo, but by the time the “Touch Instruments” came around, I was intrigued.

So once again, Apple has driven the majority of the tech press back to their holes with a superior mobile device update. Not to worry: they’ll be right back at their keyboards as soon as Jobs says something too candidly for their sensitive ears or does something a for-profit company would do to succeed.

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