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ATPM 13.02
February 2007


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Mac About Town

by Mike Chamberlain,

“A rose by any other name…”

Macworld Expo has come and gone. Did you hear that Apple has some new “iPhone” or something? Yeah, me too.

I have anticipated the iPhone eagerly, as I long ago tired of my Toshiba 9950 and Palm T3 combination. Watching Steve work his magic at the keynote was exciting, and I immediately posted my e-mail with Cingular. I will have to change carriers—but having no current obligation, at no cost. Now that a few days have passed, however, the concrete details are beginning to sink in, as are the questions.

I, for one, am unlikely to use an iPhone as a music device apart from playing with ring tones or background hold music (features that are not yet promised or certain). Further, I doubt that I will use the video iPod features. I would be most likely to use video while traveling, but that is also the time I need a phone charged and ready to go. Others have already noted that arriving at your destination with a low battery warning is a real problem. Don’t get me wrong, the design is beautiful, but without an improved battery or other charging option, video is a non-starter for me. End result: I will keep my 4G iPod for the moment and look forward to getting a new video iPod sometime after the next revision.

The two devices that I want to merge are my phone and PDA, so it is those features that I have looked at most closely. Let’s hasten to say that we don’t know everything there is to know about the iPhone. Some of the features it will have were not demonstrated. Indeed, some of the icons on the device were merely placeholders representing software that was not yet ready for prime time or which had yet to be developed. That having been said, there is a minimal set of capabilities that I need. Calendar, to-do, address book, and note-taking constitute the basic set, and Apple surely has these in hand, but PDA users know that though these are the essential applications on their devices, they are not the ones that use the most battery power. I am an avid eBook reader because no matter where I am, I want a book with me. I also sync AvantGo for news—yes, I saw the New York Times, but if you’re not in a WiFi area what will the data connection cost be on Cingular? Prepare yourselves. These are the additional applications that one might have suspected from a host of third-party developers but which Apple will, evidently, shut out of the iPhone. We’ll see. I’m still keeping my name on the list.

The other products that Apple rolled out at Macworld Expo were Apple TV and an improved AirPort Extreme Base Station. My immediate frustration with both was in realizing that my new MacBook Pro, being a Core Duo, was not going to be able to effectively utilize either product because it is incapable of supporting the 802.11n standard. It was a factor I had not considered when deciding to buy a late Core Duo this fall instead of waiting and getting a Core 2 Duo. Had I considered it, I think I would have done it differently.

Much of the initial buzz about Apple TV has been of the “it doesn’t do enough” variety. This stems, it seems to me, from an expectation that Apple TV would be a media center. Visions of Front Row controlling the whole of an AV system danced in many heads. The more accurate view would be to see it as another input into the system rather than as a hub. If one thinks of it like a satellite or cable box and realizes that it brings media from another source into the mix, it is easier to understand what it does, and does not, do. In the end, the efficacy of Apple TV will depend on the amount of media each user stores on his computer (I’m sticking with feature-rich DVD’s rather than downloads at the moment) and the physical reality of their individual AV components and architecture.

So, what haven’t we mentioned? Oh, that’s right—computers!—or, more specifically, the Mac. Of course Steve didn’t mention the Mac much either and that, in combination with a change in the name of “Apple Computer Inc.” to plain “Apple Inc.,” garnered some attention. Was Apple recognizing that it had become a “media” company rather than a computer company? Did this shift signal the slow but inevitable slide away from producing computers? Was this the beginning of the end for Macs now that the OS is running on Intel chips and Apple has moved into a broader line of consumer electronics?

The short answer, of course, is that no one can know for certain. Steve Jobs himself can’t forecast with absolute certainty where things will be in twenty years. However, the rush to worry about this seems a bit overwrought to me. In the first place, speaking of a computer company versus a media company misses the point. Central to both is a processor and the coding to make it functional. Apple brings to the market what no one else brings: a coherent, integrated, and user-friendly solution to the needs that it perceives. And who could argue that they have not done that with style and excellence? Attending to media market in a way that detracted from the Macintosh would be a senseless strategy, as it would destroy the core of the strength of Apple’s efforts. Steve Jobs signaled as much in the keynote when he quoted Alan Kay saying, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

Sitting here typing on my fourteenth Apple, I can’t imagine what #20 will look like, but I am confident that it will be there when I get there…and it will just work. I don’t care what Steve calls it. A Mac by any other name….

Best wishes—and call me in June!

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Reader Comments (1)

Grover Watson · February 5, 2007 - 10:56 EST #1
I use my iPod almost daily. I've been looking forward to a new iPod with a bigger screen and @ least 40GB of on board storage. I just signed up for two more years with Verizon and got a new V3M Razor for my primary line and moved my LG VX7000 to my wife's line. We have been Verizon customers for over ten years now and I'm not switching to get a piece of hardware that has redundant features I don't want.

I'll probably just go buy a 80GB iPod and wait out this madness. It looks so good but I refuse to pay a $175 cancellation fee and then pay $1200 for being an early adopter. I've got an 22" Cinema Display I paid $2500 for when they hit the market. Less than a year later, Apple cut the price by half and phased them out.

Once burned, twice shy. I don't think Steve Jobs is thinking about the tens of thousands of hard-working, loyal Apple Customers when he tells you that you WILL buy a two year deal from Cingular and $500-$600 for his newest gadgets.

Some of us save all year for that new Mac Pro Desktop or Macbook for our small businesses and don't own $1000 cell phones. I think the little guy is out of luck this go-around. You remember him? he bought over 70 million iPods from you.

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