Time for last minute pre-announcement predictions

The App Store is down in preparation for the Apple media event later today, and I realized I had not yet published any of my thoughts on what was coming. Well, time to fix that!

On the docket for today:

Think this is obvious. It won’t be released today, developers don’t even have a GM version yet. The reason, they can’t release the phones without the new OS and there are still a couple things they have not publicly announced. So the doors will be opened and we will get a full demo of what is in-store for iOS 7. Developers will likely get the GM and the application submission process will begin, the final version will likely take another week and will come along side the new phones [with new features].

New iPhone
Again, expected. The question then comes down to specifics. There seems to be too much smoke for a lone phone announcement, so I think there will be two, possibly three. Expect the high-end 5S with a new camera, updated processor, etc. Will come with more battery life, better screen, more durable and will be incredible.

The question really becomes, what about the second device. Think the common perception is that the 5 will be discontinued and the 5c will takes its place. And there is merit to this thought. I can see them replacing the 5 with all the same internals but reverting to the previous 4S screen size, cutting price from the device. Basically, just a smaller iPhone 5. Add new color variants and and a plastic or carbon fiber back with more texture to prevent slip in the hands.

Another thought is that they also leave the 5 as is, and release a lower cost 4S with the updated internals and new case design – intended to hit the base of the market. But that does not seem as likely, unless the current iPhone 5 gets an upgrade (new processor) at the same time – thus making a three phone announcement.

Last year Apple surprised everyone by talking iPods at this time, and I think they will again. These have become more accessory items and not big news, but they are often reflective of the iPhone concepts. Here I am expecting a new, updated iPod Touch – to match the upgraded iPhone 5S though likely without the high-end features such as the rumored finger-print scanner. I continue to hope that one day they will add GPS and a data plan (a-kin to the iPad), but I won’t bet on it.

My expectation is that the iPod Touch will get replaced, probably next year, with a iPad Nano 5″ display, at which time it will get the data plan – for some reason I feel the data plan is tied to the iPad brand

We will likely see the end to the iPod classic as the SSD is likely cheap enough to takes its place. An updated iPod Nano will likely be show-cased, possibly running iOS 7 (though without the App Store). The bundled apps will then match those found on the iPod Touch and iPhone, just smaller, something that is possible due to the auto-layout feature Apple has move towards. This also might then allow for things like WiFi integration and notifications to be included. A couple surprises possibly here, heres to hoping.

The iPod Shuffle might get a rebranding a bit, think this will become what is through of as the iWatch. And since we have not heard a lot on it – this is probably whats in the rabbits hat. My thoughts are that it includes a smaller high-res screen, and the screen will be flexible to some degree. It will come on a wrist strap – like a watch – that would house the batteries for at least a 24 hr run-time. The shuffle will include WiFi, Bluetooth and a pedometer (GPS is just too power hungry).

Suspect it will get notifications, mail, and connect to your iPhone to allow more data communication, possibly voice calls and Siri integration too. However, I think primarily it will be used to send and view tweets, reminders, time, and music. Expect Nike+ integration, though don’t expect much from the touch screen, it will be too small for much more than just swiping. My thought it that there will be some way to display the date and time with the screen is in power-saving mode. Might be nice to have a vibrator built in for notifications, though no speaker.

Later this year…

Later this fall we will see an iPad refresh, which will all be standard upgrade news regarding new iPads and iPad Minis. I do expect a retina iPad Mini at a premium cost, and a non-retina version at a lower cost. During the same show they will formally release the Mac Pro (possibly leading off the show). But I believe it will be then that they take the wrapping off the upgrade to the Apple TV as well. New form factor, updated internals to match the latest chips available, a remote (would be nice to get as a software update to the iPod Nano), and the long awaited SDK — again possible from Apples move to apps designed with Auto-Layout.

As for what they have up there sleeve for next year, not sure – possibly I am still too early with some of these thoughts. But, this could be a big fall for Apple. iMac and Macbook updates might only be annotations in events moving forward, though I can see then doing a “Mac” announcement in February around MacBook Air updates.

A Digital Trinity

After weeks of rumors, it seems like a deal has been put together to buy back Dell from its current shareholders and return it to a private company – not a move that has been common in the tech industry, and not common for companies of this size.   And of interesting note to myself was the fact that Microsoft is one of the buy-out partners, along with CEO Michael Dell and the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, by loaning $2 Billion dollars to help finance the deal.   This is not the first time Microsoft was invested in similar situations, back in 1997 they invested $150 Million in Apple as Apple struggled to find their footing.

However, more recently, I am more intrigued by the relationship between Microsoft and Nokia as they, together, attempt to gain some traction in the mobile space.  While the Windows Phone 8.x does not seem to be exclusive to Nokia, they do seem to be the premier brand for that platform.  While Windows 8 does not seem to be threatening the leaders in the market I do think together they can position themselves well against Blackberry (formally known as RIM).

This brings us to what was historically a strong point for both Microsoft and Deal, the traditional computer market.  Neither company has faired well as the world transitions to this “Post-PC” world.  Dell attempted and failed to gain any success with the Dell Streak – which you could best describe as an iPod competitor.  And MSFT has thus far failed to transition to the new computing environment, instead clinging to their successes of Office and Windows for the desktop.  However, you can see the market forces at work as the latest version of Windows features a far more touch oriented interface.  Though you can also see the struggle as not all the software has yet made the transition and their focus seems split between the traditional keyboard/mouse computers and the “new age” touch-based computers.  Add to that a lack of hardware manufacturers to build products that showcase the new Windows platform.  HP has essentially dropped out of the tablet market after failing in their bid with WebOS and after a promising CES 2012 many have stopped production due to low sales.  This resulted in Microsoft taking the lead in design and branding of their new Surface product – however, while they have designed and developed hardware before, this has not been an area of focus which is something I think Dell could fix.

Dell brings to the table a respected name in the industry, especially in the profitable server rooms.  But they also have been one of the leaders in digital consumer products and could provide Microsoft the hardware to showcase their new computing platform – just as Nokia has done for mobile.

In essence, this is a collaboration that makes sense; Microsoft = software, Dell = PC-type/Tablet hardware, Nokia = Mobile .  And it is a collaboration that I am not sure could happen with Dell remaining a public company.  Also keep in mind, the future is uncertain and Microsoft does not have the chops to just buy companies like they did in the past – they have to be more cautious.  If the relationships bears fruit, expect to see Dell or Nokia or both rolled up into Microsoft.  It remains to be seen if this trinity of past giants can, working together, take on the likes of Google and Apple.

Personally though, I think this is a good thing for Microsoft while I am not sure it is as positive for the likes of HP, Acer, Toshiba, or any of the other traditional PC manufacturers.  I do know that the days of the traditional PC are behind us as we steadily move toward more flexible and mobile devices for our computing needs and if OEM based companies are not moving with the times they will continue to fade into oblivion.  I actually expect that many will move towards “Chrome OS” or Android as consumer low-cost solutions as Google seems to be taking the angle that Microsoft did with Windows, with one modification – the open source nature allows each manufacturer to create their own brand of Android (ala Kindle).

Transitional Technology

John Gruber recently discussed his opinions on why Apple should buy Dropbox. And while I agree that this would probably be a good purchase, it won’t happen since Dropbox represents the “old world” where as iCloud is looking to build the “new world”.  Picking up Dropbox would thus be a defensive move today, ensuring they protect the current workflow of many customers and remove it from the options of competitors (read: Android).  Though as a nice bonus it would snag a number of talented individuals.

Dropbox is about the past. It represents a technology we are moving away from: Files and the File System. The core of Dropbox is a cloud drive used to store files and make them readily available on different systems (iPad to Desktop to iPhone to … etc). And it is incredible useful … today, however, computing is moving away from the files and more to cloud-based objects of data.

What I am seeing is a move towards the cloud service where the data is just data, not represented by a file, but a reference to associated information.  If you want access to the data then you integrate with the ‘service’ APIs, and display that data as you (or the app) see fit.  The idea of the “photo stream” is probably a prime example; you snap a picture, put it in the stream, see it everywhere that is pulling that stream (thinking Flickr). Google Docs follows this principle to some extent but falls short by still referring to everything as files – where there isn’t any need other than to provide a name to the object.

Moving away from a File based approach has its costs, but gains in convenience. You no longer truly “own” or control your data, it is stored in some server in some far off place.  However, the “system” can offer you built-in data protection with system backups become less a concern for “Mom and Dad”, integration and inter-operation are based on the apps and no longer do users need to manage files.  Searching, sorting, filtering, organizing can all be taken to a new level and focused on the application you want to work in and allow the combining of many different data sources.

Simple fact is, when I start development of an application today my first questions are “Will this application be sharing data between devices? and will I be wanting to share it with others?”,  then I move to “Is there a service out there that provides that data storage and organization out there? and can I integrate with that?”

That is essentially where I think iCloud is going. Providing the abstraction layer between the application and the data. You don’t see a file and you are not suppose to see a file – instead applications handle that interaction and management.  However, we are in a transition period and right now people expect files, need files. Changing that is going to take breaking some habits, and providing that transition service might just be a crutch that enables users to hold onto that old world to longer than Apple wants and inhibiting the future as they see it.

The problem is, iCloud is not ready. I think iCloud needs to offer a better means of allowing integration between applications – much like it does with the Photo Library and Contacts Library. I could see this happen by allowing 3rd parties to offer integration frameworks to their datasets – or gateways. I believe iCloud also needs to allow and facilitate web-service API access so that web-apps and other platforms can also integrate with the iCloud service. One of the main reasons I have looked off iCloud for my ongoing projects have been due to the simple fact is I don’t see a way of integrated with a companion web-app, and Android app.

If Dropbox was determined to continue on their own, they should looking at providing some of these services and grow into a bigger platform on which application data is based.  Amazon would be there biggest competitor here.   My thought is really that Yahoo will buy Dropbox and continue to live outside the realm of the “big 3” of Apple, Google, and Microsoft – and more in competition with Amazon.

Speed of Innovation

A recent post on Daring Fireball where he discusses a piece on how Apple is doomed and specifically a piece by Dan Crow got me thinking. Dan made a similar comment to ones I have heard several times now and I felt it was time to explore it a little deeper.

It [Apple] hasn’t introduced a truly new product since the launch of the iPad nearly three years ago; instead it’s making incremental and overhyped improvements to its current lines.

Now, I understand where these thoughts and emotions are coming from, first so many of us are emotionally tied to the company and/or the products Apple creates. Second, we are impatient and often don’t understand the time and effort it takes to create these new and innovative products. And third, as Gruber mentions, we often don’t recognize innovation when it first appears as it appears as nothing dramatically different or “new” – or if it does it often doesn’t make sense to us at the time.

Generally, I think we all need to take a deep breath and realize that there is nothing odd going on here. We know that things are in Apple’s product pipeline – rumors and leaks talk about the Apple TV the way that tablets were talked about in 2001. Though, I can’t imagine that that is all that is in the Apple R&D department. However, the best way to predict the future is to review the past.

Original Apple Computers
Apple I – Released April 11, 1976
Apple II – Released June 10, 1977
Apple II Plus – Released June, 1979
Apple III – Released May 19, 1980

Here we see the original edition replaced a year later after “Apple Computer, Inc” was formed and they could move to a more polished, production quality system. However, we also see that it ran for three years before getting replaced by the Apple III. They did a product an upgrade to the Apple II, but that took 2 years, followed by two more for the next revision.

The Mac
Macintosh – Released January 22, 1984
Mac II and Mac SE – Released 1987
Mac LC – Released 1990

Here the biggest update to the Macintosh computer came after another three years of it being on the market. The Mac was truly a major innovator in the technology marketplace and changed the path of computer forever – but it took 4 years from the last Apple III update, which sold poorly. At the time the company still depended on sales of the Apple II.

The portables
Mac Portable – Released 1989
PowerBook 100 – Released 1991

Again, a major change to the computing world came with the portables which followed the original Mac II by two years and the original Mac by five.

Newton Messagepad – Released 1993

While not popular, the Newton is probably the most loved failure out of Apple. A product that was ahead of its time as seen by the PDA market that became huge in the late 90s and early 2000s.

The PowerMacs
PowerMac 6100/60 – Released 1994

The PowerMac computers were the next major step forward in the desktop computer lineup for Apple and really stepped into a product catalog nightmare.

The iMac
Bondi Blue – Released April 15, 1998 [followed by several minor upgrades]
The iMac G4 – Released 2002 was the first major design shift. From that point we saw a design change every two years, though after the iMac G5 (2004) the designs were really more shifts than dramatic changes.

Classic – Released 2002
Mini – Released 2004
Shuffle – Released 2005
Nano – Released 2005
Touch – Released 2007

1st Gen – Released 2007, followed by yearly “updates”
iPhone 4 – Released 2010 offered a major design transition

1st Gen – Released 2010
Mini – Released 2012

So what can pull from this; if we take the Apple II as the first major innovation of Apple it took from 1977 through 1984, or 7 years, to develop the Macintosh. Then another 5 to push that concept into a portable variant. The Newton was truly a new product innovation, but that took 9 years from the Macintosh release.

After Jobs returns and trimmed the product lineup we were first introduced to the iMac in 1998. Apple’s next product, the iPod, was not released until 2002 or a full 4 years later. From there it took three years for the iPhone to come out in 2007 and another three for the iPad in 2010.

So if recent history is any indication, we should see a new product or major product shake-up in 2013. Though Apple now has multiple active product lineups: iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro/Mini, iPod, iPhone, iPad, plus a number of software and service suites. So it could be longer before we see another major lineup change, but I would not be surprised if there was something to for Spring 2013.

I have two guesses:

(1) A non-hobby Apple TV – which is already a defined product with a following so would be easier to move into production.


(2) A revolutionary change to desktop computers and the Mac Pro lineups which would leave the current Mac Mini as the traditional desktop computer.

Either way, Apple is not off track according to their history. They have a lot of runway with the iPhone and iPad lineups, might be interesting to see what they do with the iPod lineup as it enters its second decade. I am still excited about the future.

The Hidden Surface

This morning a friend received an email from Microsoft announcing the pre-order availability, starting at 9am Oct 16 2012, of their upcoming Surface tablet. However, when attempting to click on the link to “surface.com” mentioned in the email it received a 404 error on the Microsoft website. The link seemed to be fixed within the hour, and at least 15 minutes prior to the 9am scheduled pre-order time mentioned in the email. However, this seems indicative of their whole tablet project.

Now, I love to bash Microsoft and have fallen into the Apple fanboy category for much of my life, however, I am interested in technology and well designed products. Google always seems to be on the cusp of having something, but never quite makes the shift from the cool idea into the usable daily. Adobe has a ton of potential that I don’t think they utilize, opting instead for leaning too much on their history and legacy products. And Microsoft seems to be doing much of the same today despite having some great ideas, a smart and hardworking staff, and almost endless capital.

Microsoft is plagued with no focus – their biggest advantage, being the Xbox, seems to not be the driving force within the company. Their other products don’t seem to meld into that. Windows, their product from the early 90’s, is still the King – when in fact is has been dropping public mindshare steadily. You can see the company is trying to grow out of this chaotic period, but they are stumbling

They haven’t seemed to be able to ouster Google from Search or Maps, though Googles business practices are forcing partners to look at Microsoft as an alternative. They were not been able to bump Apple from the iPod and Music market and succumbed to the advancement of the iPhone in the smart phone market – only recently pushing back with Windows Phone 7 which was late to the party and has not made a dent in marketshare. And while they have the Xbox already in the living room, they cannot seem to make inroads into providing a competitor to Apple TV.

Now, almost three years behind in the Tablet space they are trying to gain a foothold that has eluded other Apple competitors. The ideas they are bringing to the tablet are compelling, but they still can’t let go of their past. They cannot, or will not, just push into the future and say follow. Even after Apple has shown that a good product will drag even the enterprise crowd along.

Instead, they leave us with a compatibility layer and a product lineup that is confusing. The new devices look close to the same – but won’t share the same software and won’t share the same feature sets. A legacy Windows world is left available, but is not geared towards touch input – while the new “Metro” Windows 8 style is being introduced to the desktop world where is fails as it IS designed for touch and smaller screens. Of course this new style is built off their Windows Phone 7 designs, however, software is not compatible and devices built only a year ago will not be supported in this update. Drop “Windows” already – move on! It is not the brand you think it is.

To make things worse, Microsoft has run several dog-and-pony shows introducing the new tablet family but has yet to let reporters gain access to the new devices. So, they are now announcing pre-order availability – but for what? Don’t count me in on buying one.

Lots of marketing, lots of hype, but no product is indicative of practices back in the 80’s and 90’s where both IBM and Microsoft would announce and sell a product in order to stave off competitors who were able to get to the market first. The difference then was that MSFT, and IBM in their day, were the big boys on the block – today they are dwarfed by Apple. Very, very few people are going to hold off buying a third generation iPad for a new, unproven, and un-reviewed Surface from Microsoft.

I understand that Microsoft can’t stay quiet, Google and Amazon have both released new tablet devices and Apple is rumored to be releasing an expansion to the iPad family later this month. However, I think the choices, or lack of choices will lead to product confusion in the market and the marketing hype without solid reviews backing it up does not give me much hope in seeing long lines outside the Microsoft branded stores awaiting the product availability.

And all that is actually kind of depressing for me, as I like the ideas the Surface presents. And the newly announced pricing is very competitive – Starting at $499 and topping out at $699 for 64GB w/ Touch Cover. Though I think it is lacking the cellular data plan options and GPS support (also feel the same about the Google Nexus 7).

We will have to just wait and see – which apparently won’t be too much longer as shipping dates appear to be Oct 26th.

Case of the mini iPad

With October 23rd coming up fast and the rumor mills suggesting that Apple is going to be hosting a media event to introduce a new member to the iPad family I thought it was my turn to throw my thoughts out there. The anticipated iPad “mini” (or “air”) is widely regarded as being a 7.85″ screened little brother to the current iPad, an attempt to share in the success of the Kindle and Nexus 7″ tablets.

A change in the name

To me, the most obvious indication that the product family was increasing came with the release of the latest iPad back in March. At the time Apple chose to move away from the naming schemes of the iPhone, and shift back to the naming strategy for the iPod. The iPad would not be referred to as the iPad 3, but just “the new iPad”. Using a number to represent revision is a easy way to allow consumers to value a new product release, however, it breaks down completely if you have more that one product edition – in the case of the iPods; the shuffle, the nano, and the classic. By dropping this from the iPad it allows the iPad family to grow.

7″ tablets are DOA

However, reducing the size of the screen seems to fly in the face of the contention that Steve Jobs put forth back in 2010, “The 7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad, are going to be DOA.” Now at the time some of this was true, but most of it was just marketing – as he had done so often previously (see iPod video playback). [NOTE: whenever Jobs took an aggressive against a particular product feature, you were to _expect_ it in a couple years]

Digging a little deeper into the time period I want to note that Jobs’ theory was not totally without merit within the context of time. The release of the iPad ushered a new wave of computing, a “post-PC” era – but it has not come without a fight. The last few years Apple has constantly fought against a tide of perception that the iPad was for consumption only – couldn’t be used for anything other than reading, watching, or gaming. For the most part Apple has won this fight showing off practical applications in the areas of art, eduction, healthcare, etc. Today you would be hard to find too many areas where the iPad is not being used.

A smaller iPad would have only made the task harder. Take a look at what is reported as most successful 7″ tablet, the Kindle Fire. Its primary intent is to act as a eReader, yes it has other options but the users primarily turn to it to read books. Apps have not yet been made popular and web traffic is far lower than what we see with the iPad. Primarily it is a consumption device, at least until apps start to take advantage of the opportunities available. I propose that a 7″ iPad, back in 2010, would have been viewed as a large iPod more than an entirely new computing environment. So, the 10″ screen made the best product back in 2010 but the world has changed. I don’t think consumers are as stuck with the older perceptions that smaller devices are to be used for consumption only – just no one has done it yet. I believe that the iPad has grown iOS out of a ‘mobile OS’ and onto equal footing with Mac OS and Windows. Now when developing new “desktop” software, the iPad is one of the devices I wonder if I should target. Which is what I think Apple wanted. Now it is time to expand and take in the market previously held by the old PDAs (dare I say Newtons).

So what do I expect

I would expect most of what I am hearing out of the rumor sites. A 7.85″ screen iPad with the new dock connector and data plan options – smaller and lighter, but essentially the iPad. Expect an A5 chip, much like the iPod Touch in an effort to keep heat and costs down and battery life up. I would also expect the base model to be non-retina, also in an attempt to keep costs down.

Base cost I would estimate at $299 – though I think Apple would be smart to push to the $249 if possible. A high-end $349 model is likely expected to make a showing with a retina screen.

The winners here: education. This brings the cost of a personal computer down to something affordable for schools and manageable for students. It also brings enough power to make it useful for the classroom. Though I do think it will be popular across the board.

The name, I like Grubers proposal of the ‘iPad air’ though I don’t think Apple will dilute the “air” brand – keeping that for the MacBooks. The “nano” is used by the iPod family, so count that out. The most obvious is “mini”, though I hope they can do better.

I almost expect an update to the standard iPad, moving it to the new dock connector and possibly upgrading the processor to the newer A6. I have not completely convinced myself of that yet, but it makes sense and it has been almost 9 months since that last release. It could just be a dock connector change, it could be just an introduction of an adapter – but I don’t count out Apple’s desire to break rules to do something they deem right and go for a full product update. I am not sure they want to do a minor update now and another larger update in March ’13 – think they will just combine them – just a choice between now or later.

Where I think Apple missed

Now, I like the idea of the iPad family of products and think a smaller iPad makes a lot of sense, as does the larger iPad. However, I think Apple missed an opportunity with the iPod Touch. As I have mentioned in the past, I don’t think the iPod Touch fits as an “iPod”, today it seems more in line with the iPad (phone without the phone) – and that was what I was expecting. I think the product is really just lacking an optional data plan – WiFi and 4G LTE options. Could be size? Could be heat? Could be battery? — but I do continue expect this at some point soon.

Trims and focuses the iPod lineup again on pure musical devices, and I think simplifies the iPad family to three categories: pocket, mini, note pad.

I can see that they held the iPod announcements with the iPhone to fill that out that presentation – and will let the iPad mini stand in its own spot light. The iPhone is now a mature product and doesn’t need the same attention, which I think was shown this year more so than any previous year – thinking back to the iPod in year 5, we had a complete family line-up to announce.

I expect the transition of the iPod Touch to the iPad family lineup to occur next year. At which time I am also hoping the iPod nano to take on the actual iOS interface with GPS, Maps, and more additional Apple controlled apps – though no App Store. One day this could turn into a iPhone nano?

iPhone Event

Ok, so I am sitting here working through some final iOS 6 changes leading up to the expected release today and I have been thinking about some recent conversations that I have had about what else is coming today.

The obvious is the new iPhone with an updated design and slightly larger screen. This is coming and it will cause developers a “little” pain, but not as much as changing the screen sizes of the iPad. It will also come with a new dock connector – which I would generally expect it to be in line with the Thunderbolt connector since Apple has been pushing that across their product line up and provides a lot of advantages in moving data. However, it was argued that it would just be USB 3 – which would make sense since you have a large none-mac install base – though, you still have a large crowd that is not on USB 3 yet so the problem of different cables or adapters still exists. I would like to see them move forward with Thunderbolt as it would help push that technology forward – since syncing is wireless the cable options are not as big of a deal. We will see.

A new phone and a new OS are a big deal – however, neither are unexpected and neither are really jaw dropping. iOS 6 has been presented previously, and I think twice with a lot of the WWDC talk on it. Yes that was oriented towards developers like me, but the keynote is a public event. I expect them to present it, announce availability, and move on. The phone, yes a big deal (the iPhone revenue segment is larger than the entire revenue at Microsoft (via CNN)

However, the iPhone is old news and I don’t believe is going to offer much more than standard evolutionary enhancements – more memory, faster processor, better antenna, and increased battery life. And while I think that makes for enough for a standard keynote I think a dedicated media event might be a bit much, though they have done it before. From a marketing perspective, I don’t think they want the headlines to be “Apple Underwelmed”. While they have done it before I think it did not turn out the way they wanted, and it could have been due to a last minute pull of a signature announcement that was the “wow” factor.

So … what else could be coming …

New iPods … possibly, but these will likely be nothing more than standard updates. The “iPod” is now so old I don’t expect any TV ads, and by old I mean still strong in that market segment and still a major revenue source but no longer exciting or offering something new. So the iPod is not dead, but no longer a showcase item.

The big news will be the the iPod Touch is dead. I expect this is probably the best selling, or close to, the best selling iPod today. But it is dead. Done.

The product never really fit in the iPod line-up, heck when it was first released it shipped with the ‘iPhone OS’ installed. It does so much more than the other iPods, yet it limited by them at the same time. But it is not a phone so it doesn’t fit in the iPhone family … but there is a new family that it does fit with. The iPad family … and I can hear you “there is no iPad family there is just the iPad”.

Keep in mind that Apple recently dropped the number from the iPad name, essentially rebranding it as just the “iPad”. Lot of questions as to why. The simple answer is because when you have a family of products you can version them in their names. You can’t have a new “iPad 4”, but the “iPad Mini 1” – well, you can but that is not Apple’s style. Instead I am expecting a new product line-up: the iPad (current, no changes) adding the “iPad nano” (rebranded iPod Touch), and the iPad Air (a 7.85″ model) [name stolen from Gruber].

The iPad nano will now include an option for GPS and a Data plan, will still sit at the size of the iPhone and will include many of those features. The iPad Air will be just like the iPad only slightly smaller – but I _do_ expect it to have a retina screen as will the iPad nano.

Pricing, I would expect to see the iPad nano in a range of $149 – $249, and the iPad Air $299-$499. This will overlap with the current “iPad 2” model pricing – which I don’t expect to go away – but I don’t think that will matter since it is a different model and screen size and thus a different customer.

Major other announcements, including a revamped iTunes and updated Apple TV, are coming but the Apple TV will dilute the press pages. And the updated iTunes fits more with managing content for the Apple TV than it does with the announcements today. Yes, the new iPads will dilute from the new iPhone but I believe that is a big enough to carry its own weight. The new iPad family will again push the market outside the bounds being defined by Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft – all of who are just getting products out to meet what Apple has today. This throws them off stride again and one more forces them to be playing catch-up.

Also, the iPod Touch is considered 4th generation … take a look at that invite again 🙂

Side note: The iPhone 3GS is also a dead product, replaced by the iPhone 4 which will bring all phones to retina screens.

Checks and Balances

Over the last couple months there has been much discussion into the Apple lawsuit against one John Doe regarding a yet unconfirmed future product, codenamed “Asteroid”. In an attempt to find the individual responsible for the ‘leak’, Apple is seeking information on the said individual through subpoenas and trade secret suits against several online websites; including ThinkSecret and AppleInsider.
My understanding of the argument defending these sites is that these sites are news outlets and thus should be under the same protection that traditional journalists receive in regards to disclosing informant information. The EFF, the group defending the sites, has a article up on why they fight Apple’s subpoenas. In that article they reference “Deep Throat”, the informant involved in the 1972 Watergate incident. This is where I believe the argument against Apple is critically flawed.
Apple is a public company. They have investors to protect, customers to woo, and employees to look after … and Apple does this by leading in the computer and electronics market. Their success depends on beating the competition to the market – hence the reason for all the money and resources spent on trying to keep products quiet before they are announced. Apple establishes a legal boundary on what its employees, partners, subcontractors, and even 3rd party developers can say about upcoming or unreleased products. If that trust between the two parties is broken, Apple then can take legal recourse against them.
But these websites did not break the legal agreement, they only published the information they were provided. Hence the query into who provided them the information. Now, we enter the grounds of informant protection. Here we have an individual that broke the law (or at least legal agreements), he then provided that information to a news outlet. The news outlet then, knowing it was trade secret material, published the information which, in turn, may have caused harm to the company and its investors.
The key here is that these news organizations, traditional journalists or not, knowingly assisted in the distribution of classified and confidential materials. Further, protecting the “informant” in this case is bordering on protecting a possible criminal. If this was a criminal case, say murder, situations like this would land both parties in jail. It is a harsh comparison but I believe valid.
I understand the need for protecting informants and whistle blowers. That protection is one of the ways we can keep our society in balance. But that protection can not be freely abused. In this case, confidential material regarding trade secrets were released without permission. This is not an informant passing on poor working conditions or illegal (or questionable) company practices. This is not an informant who is passing on information about an situation he/she witnessed. This is a individual who is suspected of knowingly breaking a legal agreement – and that is not a situation where the informant’s identity should be protected.
Seems the judge will be ruling next week … so we will just have to wait and see what the courts eventually decide.
Daring Fireball has a great discussion on the ruling. It was predictable … once again crimping the style of the rumor sites.

Just a quick note

Returning from Vacation I noticed yet more updates to NewsFire (now up to v0.6). And what do I find in the release notes … but things like subscriptions groupings, feed hiding, and smartfeeds that can reference other feeds. All things I requested in The Paper Shuffle.
Thanks David for listening … even if these were already planned. I now can’t wait to get things organized 🙂

The paper shuffle

The digital age was suppose to elevate us of many of the frustrations we found in the ‘every-day’. Access to information was to be at our finger tips, communication barriers would be thinned, education would be available to everyone, world hunger would be a thing of the past … but it was not to be. In fact some would argue that the digital age has brought about more frustration, more confusion, and obscured much of that ‘information’ that we were to gain so much from.
The internet enabled regular people to share their own knowledge with everyone else … but what happens when 6 billion people share their thoughts at once? Anyone see Bruce Almighty as he tried to “manage” in incoming prayer requests?
Lately I have tried using the RSS subscription feeds to filter the incoming information bombardment. These feeds are generated by a number of different news organizations as well as a number of personal blogs that I attempt to read … somewhat regularly. The intention was: ‘I now will only have to wade through the “new” updates and ignore those sites that have not been updated recently.’ This was suppose to “save time”. What ended up happening was that I would be notified constantly of updates – and if I waited for any length of time the updates would be piled up. It almost became more of a distraction than an assistant … but it was still a more powerful way to sort the information than going to each web page individually. But the process did get me thinking … to the point of discussing some of it with Krishen over lunch a couple weeks back.
Today, with the release of NewsFire v0.3, I find some of my ideas in the wild (there goes the pet project). It brings a new feature previously seen in iTunes and iPhoto to RSS … Smart Feeds (aka Smart Lists, aka Smart Albums) . The feature is quite basic really, it is a stored search of your current RSS feeds that is constantly being updated (as if it were a feed itself).

Since I have been using NewsFire as my RSS client, I am not aware of this feature being available in any other RSS clients but those that don’t have it will be adding it soon. However, this feature is also only the first step – there are a couple future additions that I would like to see:
(1) Subscription categories – once you start adding feeds for all your favorite blogs, news articles, companies, etc … it becomes a mess to sort through them.
(2) Ability to hide subscriptions from the main notification systems. I don’t want to remove them as I still want them to be ‘searched’ by the smart feeds. And I would like the ability to ‘browse’ them once in a blue moon. This would help keep the distractions to a minimum while keeping you up-to-date.
(3) Ability to search other searches. This way I can combine searches more effectively. (This would benefit from the ability to hide feeds – as you may desire to hide some of the “builder” smart feeds)
(4) Ability obtain the search results from a remote computer — possibly connected to a service that maintains a subscription to hundreds of sites. This would allow you to gain access to articles and sites that you have never heard of before. (There would have to be a simple “block site” feature so you could quickly avoid future articles by authors you don’t enjoy reading)
(5) Most important, be able to base the ‘smart feed’ searches off the articles that you have “read” (possibly based on your click through to the full article). This way the RSS client can learn from what you are reading and thus keep the notifications relevant. Think of something like Mail’s junk mail filtering – just working the opposite way.
These are just a couple quick ideas on how to improve a maturing “killer app”. The best way to manage this new onslaught of information … filter it.