Three Guys and a Podcast: Apple News & Analysis
Apple's iPad 2 has a hidden advantage over its competitors, and that is their supply chain. This supply chain gives the iPad access to parts its competitors can't touch and at prices they can't reach. With Apple's war chest of cash and high volume production, will their competitors be able to compete?
Steve Jobs has greatly improved Apple's supply chain management since his return to Apple back in 1996. Back in 2000, Dell was viewed as having the best supply chain management. They excelled in a commodity driven computer industry. Apple replaced Dell when the iPod Nano was released by cornering almost the entire flash memory business. Flash memory production increased after that, but by then is was too late for Applecompetitors. Apple was the second best supply chain management back in 2007, with Nokia being number 1. Now Apple is continuing its success with the iPad and iPhone.
Piper Jaffray delivered some interesting survey results over the weekend. The analyst firm conducted a poll from people standing in line to purchase the iPad 2 during Friday's launch event. While many are focusing on how many people the survey claimed were new to the iPad (roughly 70%), there is another statistic that reveals Apple's true genius — the number of people buying higher memory configurations.
Apple has an entry-level $499 iPad, but it's not model that's selling in the majority, at least not this time around. There was rumor as to whether Apple would bump the base model iPad to 32GB and scale north from there. This seemed plausible considering Peter Oppenheimer's remarks during last quarters financial conference call, claiming margins on iPads were very strong. Many companies, if having the chance, would have jumped at including more storage in order to win the specifications game, but not Apple.
This weekend Apple added a Japan Tsunami donation page to iTunes. Apple claims 100% of your donation will go to the Red Cross. Last week social media giant Facebook announced the rental of Warner Bros. movies through Facebook. In response Netflix stock took a 5.8% hit on the news. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos fired back (in fear) "Nobody goes to Facebook to watch movies." Ah,... yet. I remember no one was going to watch movies on their computer when Netflix first started their online streaming services too. There really is no reason Facebook can't do what Netflix did by integrating their movie service into the AppleTV, XBox 360, Wii and more.
These are just two examples (iTunes donation, Facebook movies) of giants walking about and running out of room, so they start bumping into one another.
Earlier this week we prominently posted that we would be bringing you our Apple iPad 2 vs Motorola Xoom with side-by-side testing report. Unfortunately, we Three Guys and a Podcast took a bit of advice from our "good friend" Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray.
The advice he gave all of us? Gene explained we shouldn't expect any long lines for the iPad 2, as it was available at many retailers verses last year. Perhaps Gene missed the fact that the original iPad was available for pre-order, while iPad 2 was available for pre-order for less than 24 hours before retail launch.
Google's Android OS fragmenting into a death spiral may be overblown at times, but it certainly won't be overstated in the tablet arena - assuming of course, one of these years PC hardware vendors will be able to compete with Apple's iPad and its pricing.
Android's appearance in the tablet market is currently minimal, but as PC vendors are forced to get in the game due to shrinking netbook and notebook sales, Google is going to witness Pandora breaking out of her box, with no quick fix on how to remedy the situation. The issue I am speaking of is one that is (or soon will be) staring every Android tablet developer squarely in the face — Android's complete lack of attention to hardware vendor's screen resolution, aspect ratio and pixel density. Mind you, this is no trivial problem.
The search engine Apple uses for the Mac is called Spotlight. It is a good search engine, but it is on the slow side and does not include any power user features. If you are looking for something more, look no further than LaunchBar by Objective Development. Once installed, it is accessible by using the spotlight or user definable shortcut.
LaunchBar is significantly faster at bringing up search results than Spotlight. It also has an extensive list of options to customize the search index. This allows users to specify which folders or file types to be included or excluded from LaunchBar's search. Customizing the search index is another way to speed up and improve the search results.
Apple refreshed their Macbook Pro line-up at the end of January 2011. The big news out of this update was an announcement of a new data port called Thunderbolt and the move to Intel's Sandy Bridge micro-architecture. Apple also switched from Nvidia's integrated graphics processors (IGP) and discreet graphics processors to Intel's IGP and AMD's (formally ATI) discreet graphics processors. With this move, Apple changed the Macbook Pro 13" graphics chip to the Intel HD Graphics 3000. Intel's Sandy Bridge main processor is a big upgrade from the previous version, a Core 2 Duo, but is the graphics processor an upgrade or a downgrade?
Intel has been known in the past for producing very poor graphics processors. This lack of a good graphics processor from Intel is the main reason why most decent desktop and laptop computers come with a discreet processor. Nvidia built a graphics processor into the supporting chipset for the Intel x86 main processors, which was used in the previous MacBook Pros. Nvidia's IGP performance was substantially better than anything Intel came out with and provided a huge upgrade in performance.
It was January 2010, and front and center at CES was Steve Ballmer who "demoed" for us three (he really only used one) "slate" products running Windows 7. Well, "demo" is really an generous description. Ballmer picked the slate up, did a few things with it and then put it back on the shelf next to the other two "slates". We were told that 2010 would be a year full of slate product introductions — and it was going to be exciting!
Ballmer got his prediction half correct. On January 27, Apple launched the iPad — a real tablet that ran a sophisticated OS and it began shipping in mass in April. If you had an iPhone or iPod Touch, you knew how to use the iPad right out of the box: download software, sync with your computer and everything else. Even better your iPhone/iPod Touch software could be used on the iPad. Developers also were in luck as they didn't need to do much to adjust their apps for the iPad either.
Intel's Light Peak technology (also known as Thunderbolt) was first introduced on Apple's MacBook Pro line-up last month. Thunderbolt is set to race across the Mac platform, spreading across Apple's entire lineup by the end of 2011.
The next Mac product to include Thunderbolt is the Mac Mini — via a product update due this month. Following the Mac Mini will be updates to the iMac and Mac Pro towers. That said, both systems update timelines have varied greatly in the past few years. What is not known is how many Thunderbolt ports each system will receive.
Steve Jobs took center stage this week at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, unveiling Apple's new iPad 2. Some bloggers, such as Paul Thurrot, mention Jobs physical appearance, while others left Steve Jobs health off the table. Clearly, Wall Street dinged Apple's stock price on the news that Jobs would be taking another leave of absence. However, his appearance, along side the iPad 2 launch, gave investors confidence to once again to pour big dollars back into the company.
But where is the line in commenting on and covering Steve Jobs health? Is it any business of yours? Is it any business of mine? The answers are diverse and it could be situational.