Apple, Microsoft in Mobile Phone scandal. Film at 11.

Wednesday, April 14 2010

I don’t really see why people are so surprised that Apple approved Opera for the App Store. Various tech pundits were convinced that, since it duplicates functionality in Safari, by being a web browser, it would be rejected. And yet, if one looks in the App Store, and searches for “Web Browser”, there are actually a number already available. Including iCab, a browser I used for some years on the Mac, and a variety of others promising “Full Browsing” or “Private Browsing”. (After all, the web experience is nothing if you can’t watch porn.) One wonders why not one pundit or journalist reporting on the story noticed this. Did none of them look? (Maybe it’s a self-selecting thing. The only people who thought it worth remarking on were the ones who couldn’t be bothered checking their facts before publishing.)

So it seems that Opera really had nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s probably a bit of a let down in marketing terms. They can’t claim to be a champion of the people oppressed by the almighty Jobs.

Of course, the question remains, which browsers have been rejected, and why? I suspect there was a reason other than “duplication of core functionality”. (Security, perhaps? Or it was just crap?)

In other news, you have no doubt heard about the big mobile phone announcement in the last week. Sure the critics have had a lot to say, but I’m sure the lack of features will be made up for by the ease of use and smooth interface.

I am, of course, referring to the finally announced, long anticipated “Pink” project from Microsoft. Microsoft announced this week that they were releasing a “social” phone platform, with two MS branded handsets, the compact Kin 1, and the Sidekick-reminiscent Kin 2.

No doubt, the blogosphere, and the pundit-verse, are full of the hate already. After all, neither device runs Flash, or even MS’s own Silverlight, there’s no e-mail, and 3rd party apps aren’t supported. Also, as I can’t find reliable technical specs online, the battery life must suck, and it must be really slow. We know from experience, that these are the things people care about in a mobile phone.

Or maybe it’s just what people expect from an Apple branded mobile phone. Still, it’s interesting that less than a week after the much anticipated announcement of multitasking on the iPhone, MS have announced two “feature phones” (ie phones with very few features). It’s an interesting move from Redmond. While not a direct competitor to Windows Mobile Phone Seven Series Phone Series 7, it does compete against products made by companies that manufacture Windows Mobile handsets.

Perhaps more intelligently, it’s also not a direct competitor to the iPhone. Apple make one handset with one set of features. The iPhone is a smartphone, and is designed to do many things. It seems that “Pink” or “Kin” or whatever, is aimed at the sort of people who used to have a Sidekick (before the…unpleasantness), who aren’t necessarily after the functionality of an iPhone or a Blackberry.

Of course, the lack of features will be the kiss of death. Plus tying it to one carrier in the US, and not even one that uses the same network as the rest of the world (thus requiring two sets of hardware, a CDMA one for the domestic market, and GSM/3G for the rest of the world).

I look forward to further developments in these stories. Just not very enthusiastically.

iPad to about 1500 words

Tuesday, April 6 2010

I don’t have an iPad.

Let me clarify, for those of you who have no real idea who I am, if there is anyone out there reading this who doesn’t know me personally. (There must be, otherwise who’s leaving those weird comments about penis enlargements and smuggling money out of Nigeria?)

I live in a small, inland city in Australia called Canberra. It happens to be the nation’s capital, but that’s not strictly relevant. I suppose neither is the name, but I just wanted to provide some context. Unlike those of you in the US (assuming you exist), the iPad hasn’t been released in Australia as yet.

The Apple Australia page lists it as being available in late April, which is not only vague, it’s also at least 3 weeks away. To date, no pricing has been announced, even for the WiFi version, which is presumably the version that will be available in late April. So I don’t know when it will be available, or how much I will have to fork over for it as yet.

The upshot of all this is that I am currently being bombarded with tech reports from the US about the pros and cons of the iPad, but can’t really verify any of them for myself. For instance, I was listening to one person complain about how heavy the device is (700 grams? Heavy?), while a friend has said it’s no heavier than a hardcover book.

In fact, the commentary, which is the only part of the iPad experience I’ve been able to share in, has been fascinating. Admittedly, it shares a lot with the commentary on the iPhone before its release, but it’s worthy of independent assessment.

Firstly, everyone is complaining again about Apple’s “walled garden”. I have to admit the App Store worried me when they recently got rid of all the content deemed “Adult” in nature. (Although, Wobble iBoobs doesn’t strike me as a very “Adult” concept.) I don’t want Apple telling me I can’t download porn on my iPhone any more than I want the Minister for Communications telling me I can’t download it on my computer. (Whether I actually do so or not is irrelevant.) Still, it’s their product, and their distribution system. In a capitalist society, that enables them to do what they like, and if people don’t like it, then they won’t buy the product. This isn’t a monopoly, there are other phones available. In any case, despite claims of vague criteria, and petty vindictiveness, it seems that in most cases, Apple has only stopped apps that either didn’t follow the developer guidelines, or would cause a problem for their US telecoms partner – AT&T.

Consider, for example, the news last week that the mobile version of the Opera browser had been submitted to the iTunes App Store. The general mood of the blogosphere and, more specifically, the punditsphere was that it would be rejected out of hand for “duplicating core iPhone functionality”. This is allegedly the excuse for banning Google Voice, and a few other apps. However, if Apple is so against other web browsers, why is iCab available in the App Store? In fact, do a search on “Web Browser” in the App Store, and you’ll notice a dozen or so browsers available, some of them for free. (There’s also some other apps that include browsing functionality while not actually being web browsers themselves.) Does this mean Apple will approve Opera? Not necessarily. They may actually find some other reasons for stopping it. Maybe it’s buggy, or leaks memory like Windows on a rainy day. In any event, it sounds more like people are assuming that Apple is being capricious because it suits their world view, rather than for any real reason.

This is possibly related to the surprise many expressed on discovering that the Kindle app was available on the iPad. I don’t see what the surprise is. Apple wants to sell iPads. Amazon wants to sell books. These two objectives are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they each stand a better chance of succeeding if Kindle is available on the iPad. What you may not see any time soon is iPad books on a Kindle. At least not without a lot of fiddling.

Finally, there have been a lot of complaints, as per usual, about the perceived lack of features of the iPad. The iPad doesn’t run Flash. Personally, I could care less. Flash is overused, and, despite claims to the contrary, is a processor hog. However, a lot of people seem to think that Flash is vital for the device to be worthwhile. Meanwhile, content providers who previously used Flash to deliver their content, are moving towards HTML 5, and other alternatives. Including native Apps made available in iTunes. Personally, I see anything that moves us away from so-called “de-facto standards” which are actually proprietary formats (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Office) is a good thing. Having such a large amount of the internet dependent on the whims of a single company (yes, I appreciate that some of you see the way Apple is behaving as being exactly that) is a bad thing. Of course, Adobe still has a stranglehold on document formats with the widespread use of the Acrobat Portable Document Format (.pdf), but there are alternatives that will read and even create PDFs. With Flash, it’s a closed Adobe shop. (Remember how upset people were with Apple for that sort of thing?) I could be wrong, but I don’t know of an alternative to Adobe’s products for creating Flash content, or of alternative Flash runtime environments.

And then there are the perceived hardware deficiencies, like the lack of camera, USB ports, user-changeable battery, and even a kick stand. I’m not entirely sure why a device like an iPad needs any of these things, but there are people out there who seem to think it’s their God-given right to demand these things on Apple’s new device. I suspect, however, most of them haven’t given any real thought as to what they need them for, other than just because they “need” them. And they’re all rather self-defeating inclusions, anyway. A good camera would have driven the cost up. A cheap camera would be criticised for being a cheap camera. Anyway, people would no doubt complain that it was in the wrong place. Put it on the front of the device, and people will complain they can’t take pictures with it easily, put it on the back, and they’ll complain they can’t video conference with it. Put two in, and your nice, simple device just got a lot more complicated.

USB ports? Why? To connect peripherals that will drain the battery faster? The iPad, in many ways *is* a peripheral. You transfer files to and from it via iTunes on your computer. The Kindle doesn’t have a USB-out port, and no-one seems to mind. Admittedly the iPad is a bit more than a Kindle, but still, you have options.

Removable battery? Apple haven’t been putting removable batteries in anything for years. As has been pointed out elsewhere, a non-removable battery means a longer battery life, since there’s more space for actual battery. It also means the case can be slimmer, and stronger, since a large opening in the case would be a weakness in the structure. Also, the battery itself would need to be more rugged so that it wasn’t damaged when being removed or inserted.

Last of all, there’s the kickstand. Leaving aside why anyone needs a stand (there are legitimate reasons for it, I accept), why is $40 for a case that doubles as a stand such a big deal. Also, wouldn’t including one make it harder for case and accessory manufacturers? Trying to make a cover that fits over the stand, or even lets you use it without removing the cover would be awkward. Plus it’s preventing the accessory manufacturers from making money by supplying the stand for the people that feel they need it, and it would annoy the people who don’t want one. Again, I note no-one complains about the absence of a stand on the Kindle.

Anyway, the iPad is here. Well, not *here*, but over there. And it is what it is. There is no doubt that it will change the IT market in ways we don’t fully understand yet, just as the Macintosh did for computers, the iPod did for music players, and the iPhone did for phones. (Not to mention the Newton and the PDA market it created.) If there’s anything about the iPad you don’t like, then maybe you should wait for something else to come along. The great thing about IT is that it accommodates a wide range of people with different tastes. If one manufacturer doesn’t make what you want, someone else will. Complaining that the iPad isn’t exactly what you want just means you shouldn’t buy one. You should buy the one from Dell that comes out next year. Or the Chrome-based Google pad. Or maybe something else entirely. Meanwhile spare a thought for those of us who do want one, and are willing to live with its “shortcomings” but can’t get it yet. (If Apple Australia are looking for people to review it prior to release, I’m available. Although I would like to test the 64GB 3G version, if at all possible.)

MacWorld 2010: The Ultimate Survival Guide

Monday, February 15 2010

So, the final day of the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, and after I’ve been hanging around here for the past three days, the question on everybody’s lips is “Did MacWorld survive?” (Well, that and “Are you Andy Ihnatko?”, “Where did you get that pastry?”, and “Do you work here?”)

They are, of course, talking about whether MacWorld has survived the absence of Apple, the move to February, and a severe downsizing in terms of exhibitors. Not whether MacWorld survived me hanging around here. At least I hope that’s not what they mean. After all, it’s not like any of these people actually know me, so they’re probably not so judgmental.

My answer to the original question is “Probably”. Sure, the show floor is much smaller than in previous years (so they tell me), and the absence of a really big product announcement seems to have taken some of the edge off, but it seems that the show is actually doing OK. Of course, you can’t really tell much about the long term life expectancy until a) IDG get the numbers in, and b) we see who turns up next year. Many people may have turned up in the hope that it would still be worth attending, but decided it wasn’t.

In fact, that may be reflected in the day-to-day attendance patterns. Thursday, the floor was fairly busy with people rushing in to find the latest iPhone case, or MacBook back up battery. There were some of those here, but not as many as at CES last month. The initial rush may have been why Friday and Saturday were quieter.There are, of course, considerations other than disappointment at the show floor. Kevin Smith gave his speech on Thursday, so there may have been a lot of people who just turned up for that, while the sort of crowd that would go to a Guy Kawasaki or Leo LaPorte event would probably turn up anyway. (I missed both, due to poor planning on my part. And I wasn’t really interested in the Smith event.)

So, what was the show floor actually like? Well, it was small. With a lot of empty space. Which is a bad thing for a trade show. The organisers should have made sure there were no empty spaces by shuffling around the exhibitors, and putting in more seating space, because as it was the show looked like a whole bunch of people didn’t turn up. The show didn’t even take up all the space in the North Hall, so around the actual exhibition there was even more empty space.

So, in short, the organisers need to make it at least look like they’re using all of the space. Some empty space around the outside is OK, but it was almost as much as the actual show floor. If they’d enlarged the central stage area, and the music “studio”, included a larger seating area for the cafe…anyway, they could have made better use of the space.

Another thing I found annoying was the iPhone app show guide. As with the CES one, it wasn’t really as useful as it might have been. The map was too small, and the app too sluggish to make zooming in worthwhile. And given the size of the floor, it was just easier to navigate by feel. What really needs to happen, is that someone needs to set up infrastructure to give triangulated location information to the app. Probably only need a bunch of off-the-shelf WiFi repeaters, and location information stored for the MAC addresses. (Getting the precision down would probably take some work, but it ought to be doable. Someone write the software, and give me a cut.) The point is, that this would make these iPhone (or Android, or whatever) guides useful in so many ways that they aren’t now.

Another issue, to my mind, is cost. The conference tracks are about typical for this kind of thing – about US$295 for one of the light tracks, to US$1295 for the full access – which is actually a bit too steep for your average user. Even the show floor cost of US$45 is kind of steep for the casual attendee. Especially when you consider that it’s easy to get in for free, if you know in advance that you’re going. Obviously you can’t make it free for people to walk in, and make those that are planning in advance pay. That would be stupid. But, perhaps you could provide a single-day registration at a lower cost (more than US$15 would be too much, so that might mean rethinking the US$45 for all three).

Another serious consideration should be whether to continue to call it “MacWorld”. Increasingly, especially with the departure of Apple, the main focus is on the iPod and iPhone. And even the iPad (Targus had cases, Gelaskin had transfers, etc…). Apple’s product focus is shifting from the Mac, and it seems the show, particularly without Apple’s presence, is increasingly about the iPhone/Pod/Pad. Maybe it should be “AppleWorld”. Maybe it should become “iWorld”. Maybe it should stay “MacWorld”, but I think it needs to be discussed. Maybe it has. I don’t know, it’s not like they call me about these things.

So, what was at MacWorld? Well, the big new market seems to be gloves that let you use your iPhone/Pod Touch/Pad without getting cold fingers. This is apparently an issue, with people in South Korea even using sausages to operate their devices without taking their gloves off. So expect more of those. And decals to stick on your device are still common, with one company providing software to let you cover your iPhone in such a way that the picture is continuous from the cover to the desktop image. Headphones were also big. Shure and Sennheiser seemed to have the two largest booths, with only Targus and Western Digital really competing.

In terms of software, the big word was…”iPhone”, oddly enough. There were a lot of small companies with one or two iPhone apps being demonstrated. The Mac software seemed restricted to Microsoft (selling Office), IBM, Rogue Amoeba, and one or two others.

So what of the long-tern survival of MacWorld? Well it has at least one year left in it. Apart from the banners proclaiming next year’s show in the last week of January (better for me, at least), the release of the iPad should mean an influx of content creators, including (potentially) book publishers. Now, I wouldn’t expect too many of the big names, but it could provide an opportunity for smaller publishing houses to market their books directly to the consumers.

Anyway, this probably won’t be the last MacWorld, and hopefully won’t be the second last either. But if they want to continue to be a social hub for MacUsers, they may need to look at the pricing of the conference tracks, or at least access to the show floor.


Unspecified Apple Product Announcement Pre-Report

Wednesday, January 27 2010

We here at the department of pre-announcement, well…OK, I’m actually going to be travelling during Steve’s big announcement tomorrow, so I thought I’d get in early with what I think or maybe hope will happen.

Everybody is talking about Apple’s big event tomorrow, with most people concentrating on the announcement of the rumoured tablet device, allegedly an iPhone with a 10 inch screen. Some of the speculation seems grounded in credible reports from content partners about negotiations with Apple, while much of it seems to be people making stuff up on the spot. (Hell, that’s how I do most of my analysis. It’s not like anyone pays me for it anyway.)

Anyway, at this stage I’m really hoping that Steve has something else up the mock-turtleneck’s sleeve (had to make a reference to that, didn’t I?) that not only isn’t a tablet, but that will make people forget about tablets as an entire product class. This is mostly because of the wild speculation about a tablet device. It’s like I feel at this point it would be a let down.

Whatever it is, we can be sure that other vendors will be trying to match it. Arguably, this started already with the launch of numerous tablet PCs at (and around) CES. Apple has moved from setting trends in the industry with its products, to setting trends in the industry with wild rumours about products that not only haven’t been announced, but that cannot actually be verified as existing in the first place.

Let’s face it, there have been no credible pictures, no leaks with details specific enough to be believable (hearing vague statements about Steve’s feelings on the product hardly count, no matter how many times you hear them from how many different sources). Now, Apple have been cracking down on their leak problem, but still, we had much better information on each of the iPhone versions by this time before the launch. Where are the blank forms for the accessory manufacturers? Where are the photos smuggled off the assembly line in China? Even people who swear blind to have held one in their hands provide us with conflicting reports, and none of them have pictures to back them up.

“The greatest trick Apple ever pulled, was convincing the world the tablet didn’t exist…”

One source of wild speculation has been “sightings” by analytics firm Flurry of 50 iPhone OS 3.2 devices that don’t leave the Cupertino campus. The only thing they know for sure is that they stay on campus, and they don’t report as iPhones. Therefore, they must be a tablet, right?

Well, Apple have been known to run their OS on non-Apple hardware in the past as a proof of concept. Project “Star Trek” (Where no Mac has gone before) was one in a series of projects to run Mac OS on Intel hardware long before they moved to the Intel platform. It’s a way Apple makes sure that, if necessary, they can make major changes in architecture quickly and seamlessly. This raises another possibility for the 3.2 devices Flurry have detected. Who is to say that they haven’t ported the iPhone OS to a number of other platforms, such as the Droid, the Palm Pre, the Nexus One, or even the Blackberry, just to show they can? After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a new tablet device running iPhone OS 4.0?

Of course, that doesn’t explain what Steve is going to announce tomorrow. MacPaint X? Socks for the iPhone 3GS? The Apple HiFi 2? Any of these will be a complete letdown, of course. Everyone wants a tablet. Anything less than a tablet will be derided as a failure. Even if it runs on sunspots, and reverses climate change.

There is another possibility, that frankly troubles me. It may turn out that, as many have suspected for sometime, Steve Jobs is a Super-Villain. And tomorrow’s announcement is where he will reveal his plans for world domination. And, after talking about Apple’s performance, and how many iPhone Apps have been sold this week, there will be one more thing. And Steve will put on the gas mask…

Something’s been bothering me…

Saturday, October 24 2009

I’ve heard a lot of people recently refer to Windows 7 as a service pack for Vista. I didn’t really think this fair, particularly as the same criticism is often made of Mac OSX releases. However, after using it for some time (only because I get paid to, not for fun or anything), I’m starting to come around to this idea.

Without going into the whole Mac OSX release schedule, and what counts as an upgrade and what is a service pack, I’m beginning to realise that, at least with respect to the UI, Windows 7 is not really much different from Vista. It has the same version of the Start Menu and task bar, it has Aero, has a few extra interface features (Shake a window to hide others? Who is actually going to be able to do that reliably enough to use it?), and otherwise, looks just like Vista. So, is it just “Vista done right”?

I’m not convinced there, either. Vista’s chief problems seemed to be the change in the security model, with the Windows Firewall, and particularly UAC. Maybe I’m looking at it from too much of an enterprise perspective, but that is where I use Windows, in a large enterprise, and part of my job is doing the sort of thing UAC tries to stop, without UAC trying to stop it. Vista’s security model was a significant factor in our organisation not upgrading. (The others were a lack of funding, and the fact that everyone else was avoiding it.) It was just going to be too much effort to bypass all of the bits and pieces we needed to so that we could install software and/or hardware without bothering our users. So we made a decision to wait for the next version.

This is quite different to our move to XP. That started out as a plan to move to Windows 2000, and a lot of work was done to prepare for that. When it was changed to XP, most of the work was already done, the only difference was the client operating system.

The problem is that we abandoned all the work (which was not much) that had been done on Vista before Windows 7 was available (because of the funding problems), so we hadn’t been able to work out many of the issues prior to our current plans for Windows 7. (And, now we’re rushing through it for a number of reasons, including the fact that our OS has fallen significantly behind our hardware.)

In any case, my point, and I do mean to get back to it, is that Windows 7 might actually be a service pack release for Vista, but I don’t think it counts as Vista “done right”. At least not from an enterprise perspective, and shouldn’t Microsoft be more concerned about their enterprise clients? Especially if they’re going to give us 7 different versions of Windows including Business and Enterprise?

Recent telephonic developments

Thursday, June 11 2009

I just lost a brilliant diatribe on Copy and Paste on the iPhone, thanks to the network authentication at the National Library, which is a load of crap. Auto save said it had saved the drafts, but apparently it didn’t.

In any case, my point was that Copy and Paste, and also background applications, were difficult due to Apple’s attempts to prevent memory overflows or protection faults from being a vector for viruses or other nefarious purposes. This seems to have eluded most people, who have been complaining about how they “need” these things.

Be that as it may, I am more interested in the potential for tethering that the new iPhone OS provides. I am constantly frustrated that I am not able to make the most effective use of my 3G data allowance because of what seem to be QoS restrictions put in place by AT&T. Very few podcasts, for example, are less than 10MB, so this limit makes the ability to download them directly to the iPhone less than useful. (Being able to “Refresh” a podcast feed from the iPod application would be even better, but one step at a time.) It is possible that my local carrier has placed similar restrictions on the network, but I’ve not heard anything from them about it.

In any case, I look forward to being able to use the tethering feature, unless of course my provider doesn’t let me. While Virgin Mobile is a wholly owned subsidiary of Optus (itself owned by SingTel), there is a warning that such use of a mobile phone may violate the Fair Use Policy (under the clause that prohibits using the service with a device that automatically retrieves data or something, it’s not entirely clear). Plus, Virgin Mobile have not yet updated their website with any information about the iPhone 3G S (I’m also interested in what they might say about upgrades, although I’m still not sure if I want to bother; I’m sure I could use 32GB, and the new camera sounds good, but I could just wait to upgrade at the end of my current contract instead). Of course, if they do allow it, there’s the matter of whether it will be an additional cost, or whether I will be able to just use my existing data allowance with it.

In closing, I’ll just quickly go back over the comments I made about the Pre before they were lost. I don’t want the Pre to fail, unlike some people. Although I don’t expect to ever use one, myself, I do see a place for it. Then again, I think there’s still a place for a normal “phone” phone, which doesn’t have a camera, or play media, or do any of the ridiculous number of things that the iPhone, the Pre, Android, or Windows Mobile allow you to do. Conversely, I also see a place for a device that does all of that, but doesn’t necessarily make phone calls. I hardly ever call anyone on my phone, but I’d be lost without SMS, e-mail, web browsing, and an IRC client.

This was a lot better when it had my 600 word diatribe about memory protection and security in it. Damn you WordPress! Damn you to Hell!

Who is he, and what is he on about?

Thursday, May 7 2009

Where I work, we get this interesting little tech newsletter called Computer Daily News. The most interesting thing about it is that it seems to be put together by someone working out of their garage. It has no web presence to speak of, and the contact e-mail account is the editor’s personal e-mail from a service provider. The best explanation for this is that it is a subscription service, and the editor wants to avoid having people just read it from the website for free. (And he clearly has no idea or interest to set up a website with the appropriate restrictions.)

The newsletter is not necessarily the greatest source of tech news, but it does give more coverage to local events and news, which is probably why my work subscribes to it.

However an odd note turned up in relation to their speculation on the anticipated Apple tablet device.

New iPad a goer, says Powell

SYDNEY – Apple’s handheld reader/media pad – reported to be nearing release after the design was worked on by CEO Steve Jobs while on sick leave (CDN yesterday), definitely exists, says CDN special reporter Gareth Powell who adds he’s seen, and held, a prototype.

CDN had noted a Business Week report that said the device – larger than an iPod Touch or Kindle, but smaller than a notebook – would be called the “iPad”, and reckoned they were probably guessing.

Writes Powell: “They may well be, but it exists already in prototype as I have had one in my hands. Think Newton only larger. I think it a certainty – it will kill the Sony market and hammer the Kindle market — and I want one. For the record, I read Hornblower and the Hotspur on a demo version inside a factory where they were ironing out the bugs of making it in quantity.

“Which is well down the line from concept but well away from certainty of launching. But mate, it does exist, and I will be the very first customer. And possibly the very first Australian/Welsh user.”

Now Gareth Powell is something of a bete noir of many in IT in Australia. This gives some background on it. Or you can try looking up the FAQ for aus.flame.gareth-powell. I was somewhat alarmed when I found out that he wrote for CDN regularly, but kept reading it and just tried not to take his contributions too seriously. This aside, there are a number of interesting things about this report.

Firstly, Gareth Powell, despite being a “Technology” “Journalist”, has no discernible web presence, like CDN itself. He has a column in The Australian’s IT section, but that’s it. There is a web site for a Gareth L. Powell, but he’s a British Science Fiction novellist. This absence from the tubes makes it hard to verify anything he’s said.

Secondly, how did Gareth get access to a prototype device from Apple. He was well known for his dislike of Apple back in the day, and he’s a barely recognisable writer from Australia. Was the factory he used it in Sydney? Singapore? China? San Francisco? Cupertino? Which Apple employee is to blame?

Thirdly, what the hell is he (and David Frith, editor of CDN) doing violating a Non-Disclosure Agreement? He’s unlikely to get further access to equipment from anyone, if he goes blabbing his mouth off at the drop of a hat. An experienced journalist should know better than to bite the hand that feeds him information. If he didn’t sign an NDA, we’re back to how he got access. Was he visiting a plant in China that has been making the units for Apple? And isn’t blabbing about what he’s seen putting his source at risk?

Finally, where is the other coverage of this story? I personally forwarded it to AppleInsider and CNET (including the contact information for CDN), and have heard nothing back. Neither has either of them used it. I suppose without a website to link to, it might be difficult for a modern organisation to credit such a rumour. Or it could be that they are all in the know on the device but have signed NDAs and are honouring them. Or it could be a well-known fake that’s been doing the rounds, and I (and probably Powell as well) have been suckered. Be nice to get some acknowledgement that they got the e-mail, though. Maybe they didn’t get the e-mail, in which case they need to update their contact information.

In any case, I hope Gareth is right about the device, although it sounds exactly like what I wanted before I got my iPhone. (Hell, I still want it, but I won’t be buying it before my iPhone contract is up, or if my MacBook dies.)

Macworld, CES, VMWare Fusion, and Windows 7

Sunday, January 11 2009

Of course, the big news this week has been the two huge tradeshows. The last Apple attended Macworld, and the first post-Gates CES. The big question is: Was the Phil-note better than the Monkeynote?

In previous years, I have attempted to watch both the Steve-note and the Bill Gates Keynote. Usually, the difference was clear. Steve has on-stage presence which Bill doesn’t. Plus, in 2007, everyone was agog over the iPhone, while watching Bill demonstrate a Windows Bus Stop was hardly thrilling. (It’s a bus stop! And it runs Windows!)

I dare say if Steve had given the keynote at Macworld, he would have clearly given a better presentation than Ballmer could hope to. (Or is that my bias showing? Maybe it is.) But it was not to be a battle of the Steves. Perhaps Steve was worried about being compared to Monkey-boy. Maybe he felt that Apple didn’t have the product to compare with news on Windows 7. Or perhaps he was, as they said, ill and just not up to it this week. (Although, in a bit over a week I expect to see him on stage at Cupertino. Probably wanted to conserve his strength.)

Anyway, I haven’t actually watched either keynote (although I have seen the edited highlights), and I will thus reserve final judgement until I finally get around to it. I’m in no rush. I often feel that you should actually be at a keynote, or at least watching live to make it worthwhile. If it’s actually going to be worthwhile. I regret I will never have been to a live Steve-note, and will never get the chance now (unless I maybe get to WWDC, but I’m not actually a developer, so not much point in spending the money).

Anyway, what I did do as a direct result of the announcement at one of the keynotes, was download a copy of VMWare Fusion and install the Windows 7 beta on my iMac. As an IT Professional, I have some experience installing copies of Windows on PCs, even Virtual PCs. I have to say that Microsoft have been (slowly) getting better at the OS install process. Windows 95 was horrid. You had to sit there and constantly reassure it and pick things from menus, then wait for it to fall over, reboot and recover. (Well, we did because of a hardware issue with our PCs, but it was still a pain.) XP wasn’t nearly as bad. (I don’t remember 2000 much, and never had anything to do with 98 or ME.) It seemed with XP they’d finally realised that you could collect all the information up front, then let the user go away for a bit. Plus we started using disk images to deploy instead of having to run Setup every time.

The Windows 7 install, as it now stands, seems to be fairly straightforward. It possibly ran slower than normal since I was installing on a virtual machine with limited resources, but it ran without much interference on my part. And what I’ve seen of it so far looks to be an improvement on Vista.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I need to work in the morning. I wish to examine the whole Windows upgrade paths and installation issues thing further. Maybe I’ll remember to do that soon-ish.

And now the end is near…

Friday, September 5 2008

Final day of MS TechEd. Last night’s party was, perhaps, a failed effort. Unless free beer and wine appeals to you, I suppose. (It wasn’t all bad, but I think some of the acts were lost on the audience.)

Last night was more interesting from the viewpoint within my own organisation. Some of the topics discussed at the bar afterwards, to my mind, showed up typical biases between the various branches of the organisation.

But, as for the conference, it continues. Not many interesting sessions today, so hopefully I’ll get a bit of wandering done.

TechEd 2008 Day 3. Or is it 2? I lost count.

Wednesday, September 3 2008

I’ve been meaning to keep this more up to date, but the fact that I am this disorganised is the main reason that I haven’t been too active as a blogger before.

So, I’ve been wandering around TechEd, going to sessions on the relevant topic, and sitting through talks that are more about selling products than solving problems. Throughout the whole thing, I have been encountering what I see as being Microsoft’s problem since the early 90s, if not the mid 80s.

Microsoft don’t actually seem to get on board to anything until they see where it’s going. This gives them the appearance of following rather than leading. They used to lead, once, some might say they still lead today, but really, they’re following other companies, and also the open-source and online communities.

For instance, I sat through a presentation in the keynote, where they went on about a new asset management and workflow tool. It looks really impressive, except that I’ve seen more or less the same thing from 3 other vendors in the last year. And some of them are much more mature. Of course, as per usual with Microsoft, theirs offers “seamless” integration with Exchange, Office, etc… but they give no clear idea how it might integrate with other extant systems, such as those in use at my organisation. We already have substantial investment in HP and Symantec products, and we’ve started looking at their offerings, so Microsoft are a bit late to the party, but they are going to tell us how we it is part of Windows Server.

Of course, this brings up the touchy subject of anti-trust, which I’ll go into somewhere else, but that’s not really the point. The point is there’s no real innovation here. Or if there is, they’ve kept it secret too long. Of course, many people will see this for the first time here, and assume they’re ahead of the curve, and Microsoft will be safely ensconced in organisations around the world. (Remind me later to go on about Monocultures as well.)

Keep up with me on my Twitter (Anome), Plurk (Anome), Tumblr (Anome), or any other social networking site you can think of. (If I’m not Anome or Anome17, I’m Hazinf.)


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