Three Guys and a Podcast: Apple News & Analysis
It may be the last day of calendar year 2010, but it's Apple, Inc's fiscal Q1 2011, and it looks to be a pretty hot one Jobs and company. The December quarter may very well be a record for many of Apple's devices:
What calendar year 2011 may hold?
Many analysts and inside-the-beltway tech journalists believe Android is going to be the new Windows that dominates and controls the world as we know it - Don't count on it.
Android is exploding on eBook readers, tablets, phones, HDTV's and probably quite soon, refrigerators and hairdryers. So long as the buzz word "Android" is on a device, that's all that'll matters and Google seems more than fine with that approach. But will that make Android a winner? And what is a so-called "activation" anyway?...
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has become the trade show for new computing products to the latest in remote control vacuum cleaners. To summarize, CES is an absolute circus, but it's a must-attend show for any business serious about the the markets in which they play — unless that business is Apple, Inc.
Since Apple exited MacWorld Expo in 2009 it has shunned industry trade shows and opted to conduct their own media events. Why share the stage when a spotlight can be had? Last year Apple waited for CES to blow by — with all the half-baked tablet announcements. Then on January 18, Apple issued invitations to their special event: "Come see our latest creation". This special event took place on January 27, where Apple amazed all with the iPad. This year proves to be no different. Apple will not be holding a special event prior to CES.
The iPad can do most of the things the average consumer wants in a computer. It is great at email, calendar, contacts, and web browsing for sites like Facebook and Flickr. The iPad excels at watching videos and playing games. It makes a great photo display device, but it has no built in management tools. Most people now have a camera phone or point-n-shoot and they want to manage those photos. It is common to have thousands of photos these days and the iPad needs more tools to help organize them.
With the release of 4.2, the iPad gained the ability to transfer photos with their meta-data between applications. This data was not transferred in 3.2, which was a major draw back. Meta-data consists of Title, Caption, Geo Location, Date, Time, and many more. It is essential when organizing pictures in iPhoto or Aperture. Now, developers are able to add meta-data editing tools to their apps. Most of the developers for the iPad have still not updated their apps to take advantage of the new OS, but hopefully they will soon. Given Apple's track record with software like iPhoto and Aperture, a photo manager should be coming from Apple soon. Until then, we have to look at other developers to fill in the gap.
Not too long ago Apple started building a new sales model. Apple made a shift when selling a new iPhone, as they continued to offer the dated version of the iPhone, but at a lower price point. The forthcoming iPad 2 launch is believed to be no different.
Apple first started this sales model with the release of the iPhone 3GS at $199, while the iPhone 3G stayed in the lineup, dropping to $99. Apple repeated this product positioning with their iPhone 4 launch, slotting the iPhone 3GS to $99. How successful has this sales model been? Apple never reveals a breakdown of iPhone sales by model, delivering only a total number of iPhone sales per quarter, but iPhone 3GS is AT&T's third best selling smart phone (coming in behind a Samsung Android and the number one selling iPhone 4).
One of the advantages of having an iPhone or iPad is to stay connected while away from the computer. Out of the box, the iPhone comes with email, calendar, and a web browser to help. There are many more ways to make the iPhone or iPad more valuable. Here are some essential iOS applications that can be used to stay in touch while out and about. All of these have both an iPhone version and an iPad version.
One thing not found at One Infinite Loop is mediocrity. Since Steve Jobs returned to Apple their success has been built upon designing and executing excellence. Excellence is found in the iOS — an OS designed just for touch systems. Excellence is found in the Mac Book Air with its super thin sleek design, long-lasting battery life and solid state drive. No matter what Apple product you consider, that product has excellence built-in.
Another way to state this is that Apple does not manufacture commodities. A commodity is an item that can't be distinguished from a competitor's product except for by price, delivery or something that has little to do with the product itself. For example, the Windows PC quickly became a commodity. Speeds and price were the only real differentiators, but in essence, one Windows PC was just like the next one. This commoditization significantly reduced the value of the PC Manufacturer while it raised the value of the Operating System. Apple was able to avoid being seen as "just another PC" by making its products different — better and special — through hardware innovation, design and software integration.
Trying to fit a desktop operating system in the tablet will never work. These tablets require a new operating system built around its touch display and power sipping processors. Microsoft has been trying to fit Windows into a tablet since 2001. Each time they have tried and failed. The last Windows tablet was the HP Slate, which topped out at 9,000 units sold. These HP Slates could not compete with the iPad three months ago, why does Microsoft think that these new ones will? It may still be up for debate whether Windows belongs on a desktop, but we know that it does not belong on a tablet.
The New York Times is reporting that Microsoft will be coming out with new tablets next month at CES. Before the iPad was released, Microsoft had almost no competition and they still failed. Now these new tablets will have to compete against the iPad. Apple has sold more tablets than anyone else combined. When these new tablets are released, the failures of Windows on the tablet will be obvious when compared to the iPad.
In this day and age parents are extremely cautious when letting children use computers. Most computers are connected to the internet and for curious children whose nature it is to explore and discover, it doesn't take long to find something inappropriate or dangerous — either intentionally or unintentionally. However, who would have though letting a child use an iPad to play a game — downloaded for free — would end up draining your bank account?
That's what Kelly Rummelhart of Gridley, California found out the hard way. According to the Washington Examiner, Kelly let her four year old son play a game on her iPad called "The Smurf's Village". While the game is free to download, the game allows (and encourages) the purchase of "Smurfberries" and other virtual items to help you do better in the game — with real money! This is all possible because of Apple's updated SDK that allows developers to create In-App purchases. This SDK enhancement makes it easier for App developers sell more features inside their App with just a couple of taps.
The biggest weakness of the iOS platform right now is the lack of a user accessible file structure. Without a file structure or Finder app, iOS devices can not be a complete mobile platform. Right now, Apple tells us that files should be stored in applications on the iOS. This may be fine in the short term, but over time Apple's current file strategy will turn into frustration as users try in vain to access all their files. There needs to be a place to store, edit, and transfer those files from application to application. Organizing files into folders is a must on any computer platform. Without a directory structure, all those files will turn into a mess. Even Google's Gmail, which was supposed to be all about search, now has folders. So, we all must hope that the current app file storage is only a stop gap until Apple comes up with AirFinder for the iOS. This new AirFinder must be designed specially for today's mobile user. You don't just create, edit, and store your files on a single iOS device anymore. The files need to move with you as you go from device to device. This new Finder needs to sync between all of you computer platforms seamlessly, in the background. AirFinder will allow you to access these files at anytime and anyplace.
The strongest crop of productivity applications in the App Store right now have either added Dropbox or are planning to add it. Why is Dropbox so popular on iOS? It allows seamless transfers between your iOS devices and any other computer or device you have from Macs to PCs. This is exactly what a mobile user is looking for. With Dropbox, you don't need to sync your iPad or iPhone with iTunes to get your latest files. All your latest files will be accessible via the Dropbox cloud service. This turns the iPad into a major productivity device saving tons of valuable time. It is not only good for productivity, but also for application preference syncing as well. I use 1Password by Agile Web Solution for password and private data storage. Dropbox allows me to sync that data between all my devices in the background. I no longer have to manually sync my valuable data between devices or even remember which device has the latest files. The list of uses for Dropbox can go on and on. Since Dropbox is not part of the OS, it does come with many disadvantages. One of those being, you have to add it your apps to use it.