iPad prediction checklist

The Apple event has come and passed, and it time to man up to my previous predictions. How did I do?

What I was right about:

  • Retina display (It was a given)
  • Same form factor (Again a given)
  • Same battery life (no more no less)
  • Apple TV 1080p (got it right)

What I was half right about

  • Higher quality cameras (only back camera got a boost and I was wrong about the mpx’s)
  • Siri (only dictation)
  • Cheaper entry level iPad 2 (spot on except color choice) and 128GB option (dead wrong)

What I was dead wrong about

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Norwegian media slams the new iPad (3rd gen) for lack of 4G support

Bilde

As a citizen of Norway I am constantly annoyed whenever Apple releases their new iThing. Not because of Apple, but because of the Norwegian media’s tendency to be overtly negative. Granted all technonlogy features take a long time to trickle down to such an unimportant market.

To the point: the first article in mainstream media in Norway says: “iPad’s 4G-technology doesn’t work in Norway”

Just to drive the point home, not a single device on the Norwegian market today (save usb modems) support 4G LTE. Its like saying “The new BMW won’t work in Antarctica” without mentioning that its because the lack of roads. Only one of the two major players in the Norwegian cellular space has even lauched its LTE network, marketed only as an alternative to broadband.

All in all Norwegian media comes off as an Apple hater in my experience.

Luckily not all Norwegians believe what they read in the newspapers…

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App Store or Game Store?

BildeApple has published its selection of All-Time Top Apps in its iconic (no pun intended) app store. What strikes me is the overwhelming number of paid apps that are games.

A total of 21 out of 25 of the top paid apps are games. That’s a solid 84% for you. Over on the free side it is more nuanced with 9 games (36%), and a selection of social networking, utilities and reference apps. But that is still a majority of 60% of the top apps being games. Has the App Store turned into the “Game Store”?

Something to think about is the idea that every game is (with notable exceptions) unique, while other apps   may have 20 competitors covering the same functionality. How many sports score or flashlight apps do you really need? People that have invested in some utility app will be less likely to download another of the same kind, whereas with games the opposite is true. If you really liked Angry Birds for instance, chances are you will enjoy Angry Birds: Rio as well.

It just goes to show that if you are making a utility app, you’d better be ready for some serious competition. We see people passionately argue for and against instapaper vs readability, but who is going to have a shouting match over Fruit Ninja vs Cut the Rope?

Source: Mac Observer (via Daring Fireball)

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Mac Pro, the twilight years

20120307-003332.jpg

Intel finally ships a new Xeon to the cheers of millions… Wait, make that thousands or maybe just hundreds of Apple fans.

Electronista (via MacNN) writes:

Apple has been giving signs that the Mac Pro is near an update, although it might not necessarily update in March given the imminent iPad refresh and problems with publicity and logistics it launches create.

The logistics? Really? I get that some of the “power users”, like Ars Technica’s John Siracusa, really wants a new Mac Pro, but come on. The Mac Pro doesn’t have a significant audience. If and when the Mac Pro will be updated it will happen relatively quietly.

It will merit a “new” tag on the online store page but nothing else. Don’t expect Apple to dedicate any precious apple.com front page real estate for this one, even if there was no new iPad in the same timeframe, let alone a single mention at an Apple event.

The time of Mac towers have long since passed. It is after all an age of cars, not trucks

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iPad 3 predictions

The time of year has come again, the time when apple geeks count down the days until the big day they have been waiting for. It’s the new iPad event of course!

So the rumor mill is in overdrive and it is near impossible to say what exactly will happen. That is if you don’t use common sense and look at what Apple has done in the past. So without further ado here is my predictions:

  1. High Resolution “Retina” Display
    This is the safest prediction, and will also be the major selling point
  2. Higher quality cameras
    This is also a typcial move by Apple, you would almost think that the iPad 2 cameras were low quality simply to be able to tout better cameras this year. However don’t expect iPhone 4S-like 8Mpx rear facing camera. expect 720p (thats 1Mpx) front facing camera (for facetime HD), and 2.1Mpx (1080p) rear facing camera. 
  3. Siri digital assistant
    This is a no brainer, and a selling point for iPad 3 over iPad 2. 
  4. Battery life no more, no less
    This should come as no surprise, but with reports of a bigger battery one might think that the iPad 3 will have even better battery life. well one might also think that a “Retina” display would drain more battery. Also it is not like Apple to accept a lower battery life so expect the same.
  5. Cheaper entry level iPad 2 and 128GB iPad 3 option
    These two go hand in hand. Apple likes to keep the ASP (average selling price) the same so a cheaper option would be balanced by a more expensive one. Wifi only and Black only 16GB iPad 2 for a reduced price starting at $399 with a new 128GB iPad 3 option for $799 (Wifi). I predict a both or none here. 
  6. No LTE
    iPad 3 will ship with a combined GSM/CDMA chipset but no LTE. Apple ships its products worldwide, and LTE isn’t a big enough market yet. And we are not even talking about the power drain issues of current LTE chips. 
  7. Same form factor
    Most people believe the iPad 3 will be slightly thicker. Me, I just don’t see Apple doing that. Expect same external dimensions. The leaked part may well be from a prototype.
  8. Apple TV 3
    No, not the TV set, but an updated version of the diminutive black box. Now capable of Full 1080P HD. 
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The Best iPhone Car Mount Ever Made

I have been on a quest, and I am happy to report that I have found the holy grail…

the Holy Grail of iPhone car mounts that is.

Ever since getting the iPhone 4 and now the iPhone 4S I have been thinking that a separate car GPS was a waste, with its inaccurate resistive touchscreen and scam-like-priced map updates. With iPhone GPS apps aplenty there is no reason not to sell your old GPS before everyone realizes the same thing.

So which car mount should you get? Well, I have just found the perfect one. It is made as if to be able to resist Armageddon itself without flinching. the suction cup is strong enough to be able to hold onto nearly any surface you can think of – its not going to lose its grip on a hot summer day like some other mounts I have tested. Not only that, you can even change the cradle when you get a new device (read new iPhone) by just buying a new cradle part from these guys. All in all, for me at least, it is the perfect package.

So what is it? Drumroll…. It the “RAM Mounting Systems Suction Cup Car Mount for Apple iPhone 4″. Apart from the long (though admittedly descriptive) name it is offered by what is apparently THE gadget mounting company, RAM Mounts. Apparently I have been living under a rock because prior to researching this I hadn’t even heard of RAM Mounts. I can assure you though that this is the last mount you will ever need to buy for your iPhone GPS needs.

Amazon Affiliate link:
RAM Mounting Systems Suction Cup Car Mount for Apple iPhone 4

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Apple’s Siri and the Uncanny Valley

Almost everyone seems to like Siri a lot. Apple’s new humble digital assistant, though somewhat limited at launch really hits home with the tech crowd. Will it do the same for the masses? Apple seems to think so.

Apple recently posted their first iPhone 4S ad, featuring none other than Siri:

Amazing as it may be some people have wondered why Apple shipped Siri with such a clearly robotic voice. By comparison to some of OS X Lion’s new voices, Siri seems more original Macintosh-like in nature.

So why didn’t Apple include a more human-like voice for Siri?

My guess: To avoid the Uncanny Valley

Uncanny valley is the hypothesis in robotics that almost perfect, but not 100% there, human imitation is viewed as creepy by humans. Of course this usually attributed to physical objects, such as a prosthetic hand or a japanese style “human” robot. But could the same be the case with robotic voices?

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What would Steve do?

Apple under Steve Jobs has always kept it’s own council. From Michael Dell’s recommendation of shutting Apple down way back in ’97, to more recent “good advice” saying Apple had to get into the netbook business, Apple has always ignored the pundits.

Now that Steve Jobs is no longer behind the wheel of the vehicle that is Apple, will it stay on the highway, or will it waste a lot of time driving down side roads? One thing is clear though; there is no stopping people who think they know what Apple should do.

Analysts J. Gerry Purdy and Tom Wheeler of Mobiletrax think they have the answer:

  • Rename iTunes
  • Make iHome (Basically, make any and every electronic device that is located in any given house)
  • Buy Tivo
  • Make iPhones in different form factors
  • Make a 7″ iPad
  • Change iPad aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9
  • Publicly support Adobe for capitulating in the flash wars
  • Allow non Apple products to use iCloud

Renaming iTunes

I get the seemingly simple logic behind this. iTunes no longer is just about music. Rather it is both storefront, player, organizer and syncing software for music, tv-shows, movies, books and apps. It is a behemoth application that ties iOS and Mac OS together.

Apple itself is of course aware of this as well, and has taken steps, some would say, in redefining what iTunes is by changing the icon from a CD to a more generic “musical note” icon.However it is something different entirely to abandon a brand that is as recognizable as iTunes. Few pieces of software has a similar position. The Microsoft Office suite is the only one that comes to mind.

Why should Apple change this? The iPod generation has come to know and love/hate iTunes, and it is part of even the average Joe’s vocabulary. Apple has a long history of abandoning or changing technology that other companies and people have seen as indispensable (see floppy disk, optical media, Final Cut Pro), but not Apple marketing has never been as fickle. One exception to the rule is that AirTunes changed to AirPlay when the service started to support more than audio, but AirTunes was never the brand that iTunes is.

The iHome

Apple has played this game to some degree before, when Steve was not at the helm. It is a game several other companies play: be everywhere, make everything. Sure Apple could manufacture stereos, printers, tvs, radios, dvd players, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, digital photo frames and so on. Samsung does, after all. And if they really wanted to all of these devices could be made to work beautifully together, in typically Apple fashion. But as Steve Jobs said at the All Things D conference in 2004: “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do”. The active choice that Apple makes about to what it will an will not do is, what I think, what makes Apple able to make the things they do be really great.

Buy Tivo

Why would Apple gain from buying a company stuck between a rock and a hard place? Disrupting the TV content industry has been a long time coming. Tivo had it’s shot, but in the end wasn’t able to crack the nut. Why buy Tivo when Tivo has already failed? I am not saying that Tivo is a bad company, or has bad product, but the industry changing disruption that Apple has pulled off time and again is out of Tivos reach. I agree that TV needs disruption. But the Tivo angle of attack is not the solution.

The more general advice of this bullet point was acquisitions in general, which remains a valid point. Apple is after all sitting on a pretty big (growing) pile of money. But in many cases, why buy a company when Apple can compete in the marketplace with it’s own products instead?

iPhones in different form factors

This one we have heard before: “Why doesn’t Apple make an iPhone with a physical keyboard? No way Blackberry users will ever put up with this touchscreen crap”. Fast forward a couple of years and we all see what happened.

To be fair the different form factor argument now is more about a possible smaller screen iPhone. The iPhone Nano if you will, and changing the iPod touch into iPhone without voice or messaging, but with data plans. Frankly I don’t see either of these being done.

The iPhone Nano would mean a serious fragmentation of what is arguably the iPhone’s greatest strengths; it’s application ecosystem. To force developers to adopt a third screen size (after iPhone and iPad) for their apps just to make a smaller/cheaper phone is a lose/lose/lose proposition for Apple, developers and users. I would rather see Apple keeping around an entry level iPhone at increasingly cheaper levels when the hardware reaches a “good enough” threshold. I believe this year might be the start of exactly that.

When it comes to an iPod touch with a 3G/4G radio I can see the appeal. However does it make sense financially for Apple to do this? I don’t think so. iPod touch is the gateway drug to the iPhone. It is also a catalyst for iOS platform adoption. And it is dirt cheap. The actual price of an iPhone seen from Apple’s perspective is around $600. It is the carrier subsidies that hides most of the cost. iPod touch pricing starts at almost a third of that, at $229. Obviously Apple would prefer people to buy iPhones. As such, why not reserve some killer features for the iPhone? Mobile data being the biggest killer feature of them all.

Also the iPod touch in itself has some advantages over the iPhone. It is thinner, and has options for more storage capacity than the iPhone has.

Make a 7″ iPad /Change aspect ratio to 16:9

Apple made some deliberate choices when it made the iPad. 9,7″ screen, 4:3 aspect ratio. It all comes down to what it was made for. Is the iPad a portable video player? Yes. Is the iPad an ebook and digital magazine reader? Yes. Is the iPad meant to be held in landscape or portrait mode? Both. Yes, watching videos would probably be better with a 16:9 device. However it would suffer whenever you wanted to hold it in portrait mode when reading a book for example. It would also suffer in both orientations when surfing the web for example. Apple did not choose the 4:3 ratio by accident.

Even if you strongly disagree, and believe that 16:9 is the better choice it is simply too late. All apps for the iPad would have to be redesigned for the new aspect ratio and essentially set Apple back to february 2010 when it comes to the iPad app ecosystem. Even worse during the hypothetical transition period where both 4:3 and 16:9 iPads are in use, where developers would need to support both formats.

7″ iPads would face many similar problems. Why introduce a third screen size when it will lead to fragmentation? Apple didn’t choose the 9,7″ screen by accident. It did so because it believes that a 7″ screen doesn’t give users a significant better experience than simply using an iPhone or iPod touch. So far the market seems to have proven Apple right. People simply aren’t buying 7″ Galaxy Tabs or Blackberry Playbooks in droves. They are buying 9,7″ iPads. Some people would attribute that to the so called Apple “Reality distortion field”, but you cannot completely discount Apple’s internal testing for this, and consumers response to the iPad compared to the slew of 7″ competitor tablets.

Publicly support Adobe

Why? Adobe has thrown in the towel to stay relevant for web publishers, but what is there to gain from making a public show of it? Flash on mobile is dead. Apple knows it, Microsoft knows it, anyone who has tried to watch flash video on android knows it. And now Adobe apparently does as well.

Sure, at this point Apple could say that flash sites that uses Adobe’s new HTML 5 conversion technology to remove one bullet point in Apple haters’ list of iOS flaws. But I think most people have put this issue behind them. iDevices sell phenomenally well and there is less focus on this issue as more and more sites choose standards based solutions (read HTML 5) for their interactive content.

Allow non Apple products to use iCloud

iCloud is the cloud integration that Apple device owners have been waiting for. PC-Free, seamless access to documents, pictures and media. In the increasingly competitive landscape of mobile computing, why give your competitors access to a killer feature? Doing this would effectively negate any “leg up” Apple will have from iCloud. You could compare it to Microsoft Office, a software suite which is available not only for Windows, but for Mac OS as well. However there is a disconnect here. Office is a separate, highly profitable, product. It also gives Microsoft market share, if you will, in the area of file formats. As in when all your co-workers, business contacts, fellow students etc. sends you .doc (MS Word) files you are at a disadvantage if you are not using the same software.

iCloud however costs nothing*, and the purpose is to add value to Apple’s hardware business. Giving the same capabilities to a competitor does not make sense.

They could potentially licence iCloud to the likes of HTC and Samsung, getting an income through licence fees. But being both a licencor and a licensee is not without it’s flaws. As Horace Dediu of asymco puts it:

“The lesson (and warning) was that a licensor that is also a licensee makes other licensees uncomfortable. The supplier is also a competitor. This is classic channel conflict and never ends well.”

All in all, I think the cons weigh out the pros on this one.

Conclusion

A lot of speculation has taken place concerning how much of Steve’s philosophy has been ingrained in Apple itself. Myself I believe it has in a big way. As Steve’s protege Tim Cook takes the wheel he, and many others at Apple know the road that has been planned out. Some analyst “besserwisser” is not going to change Apple’s vision.
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Apple Changes App Store Pricing Internationally

Macrumors reports that Apple has changed the App Store pricing for several international stores.

In most stores the prices go down, in some they go up and in one store Apple sets down the price even though it gets more expensive for consumers.

Let me explain,

The low .99$ price point apps have until today cost 6 Norwegian krona (NOK) – Now they cost 7. This despite the fact that in the last year the NOK has strengthened about 10% compared to the dollar.

So what gives? Well the thing is that Norwegians have until this month been lucky enough to avoid taxation for digital services and goods. Well no more. Since July 1. 2011 we poor Norwegians must pay 25% VAT for all electronic goods.

6 NOK – 10% +25% = 6.75 NOK

So there is logic to the madness. And when I say that I mean Apple’s pricing, not the Norwegian tax system…

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How Google has redefined Beta

Google’s new foray into the world of social, Google+, seems to have hit the right tune with testers so far.

Notice I don’t call them beta testers. According to Google, I should probably call the field triallers. That is what Google calls this limited rollout; “a limited field trial”. Any other company would probably just call it Beta.

To Google however, the Beta designation is reserved for more mature products. For example even Gmail got out of “beta” as late as in 2009.

Is Google redefining the definition and people’s expectations of beta software?

You don’t have to look any further than to California rival Apple for proof of this. Since the iOS 5 beta arrived there has been a lot of negative reviews in the App Store for apps that don’t work properly with the Beta software. The mentality seems to be that these beta-testers expect more of a beta release then what traditional norms would indicate.

Will this development continue? Probably.

In this day and age Google sets the agenda for online services. They also cater heavily to geeks and early adopters; people likely to try a beta release. But when you have used a beta product daily as the primary form of online communication for 3 years (i’m talking gmail again), without a hike, the beta brand becomes meaningless.

So, if you are an internet start-up you might reconsider that beta-launch. Call it a limited field trial instead. You wouldn’t want people to think your beta product is not 100% complete, do you?

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