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How Apple’s Going to Fix The Next iOS Update

Monday, February 16th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

9to5Mac has the story:

For 2015, iOS 9 is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements. Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a “huge” focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions. Apple will also continue to make efforts to keep the size of the OS and updates manageable, especially for the many millions of iOS device owners with 16GB devices.

It’s unclear whether this might be accomplished by limiting iOS 9 support to relatively recent devices. If the iPhone 5c, original iPad mini, and fifth-generation iPod touch are discontinued by the end of 2015, all of Apple’s “currently available” iOS devices would be using 64-bit A7, A8, and A9 processors. This could simplify iOS development for both Apple and third-party app developers.

Like Snow Leopard, iOS 9 will be pitched with stability as a tentpole component, but under-the-hood enhancements will not be the only feature.

All I can say is: It’s time — and I hope the do the same thing for this year’s OS X 10.11 release.

Apple’s annual release schedule makes for a great big splash, debuting new iPhones and iPads each fall, running the very latest version of iOS. But that schedule has taken its toll on the operating system, which still “just works,” but really needs the latest and greatest hardware to just work well in some cases. My iPhone 5S never even ha a hiccup, but my early-2012 iPad with Retina Display chokes on Javascript-heavy webpages.* You can turn off Javascript, and I usually do, although that limits the functionality of many sites.

The annual release schedule could easily take a breather for Macs, which are slaves to Intel’s schedule, rather than to the autumn iDevice reveal. As the story notes, Apple kinda-sorta took a release cycle off with Snow Leopard. Instead of introducing big new features, Snow Leopard focused on stability and bug fixes, as well as completing the move to 64-bit architecture. Much as I love Yosemite, something like “Snow Yosemite” would be welcome.

Operating systems, even mobile ones, are big, complex beasts. Apple would be smart — Microsoft and Google, too — by moving to a “tick-tock” release schedule like Intel does with CPUs. The “tock” generation of chips introduces a new architecture, but the next “tick” generation is just a die-shrink. Some automakers do much the same thing. An all-new model might come with an existing engine, then two or three year later, an all-new engine goes into the mid-model refresh. Engines and models are each on, say, a six-year replacement cycle, but staggered. This year’s iOS/OS X/Android/Windows has big new features, next year’s version concentrates on making it “just work.”

It would be bad for the sales brochures, but better for Apple, Windows, and Android users to get off the annual BIG NEW FEATURES annual cycle and on to a “tick-tock” biannual cycle.

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What Is Apple’s Next Big Move?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

Before we get to that the cutesy headline to this post would have been “iHealth,” but with the introduction of Apple Watch last year, it’s clear that Tim Cook is moving away from Jobsian “i” branding of its products. The i moniker will likely stick to existing products, but the direction is clear. iPhoto is being replaced with the new cross-platform Photos app, and the iWork branding is rarely used to describe the company’s productivity suite. Also note that it’s “Apple Pay” and not “iPay,” which sounds tacky. What I’d really like to see is the iMac name dropped from the next redesign of the all-in-one Macintosh. A fresh design with a name hearkening back to 1984: “The Mac.” (“Mac Pro” would remain for the Xeon-class workstation.)

Anyway — what’s the Next Big Thing for Apple? Matt Richman says it’s health care:

Though we’re still in the early stages of Apple Pay, I think Apple is planning to leverage those same strengths to create another uncopyable billion-dollar service. Consider what else Tim Cook mentioned during his prepared statement on last week’s earnings call:

There’s also been incredible interest in HealthKit, with over 600 developers now integrating it into their apps. Consumers can now choose to securely share their health and wellness metrics with these apps, and this has led to some great new and innovative experiences in fitness and wellness, food and nutrition, and healthcare. For example, with apps such as American Well, users can securely share data such as blood pressure, weight, or activity directly with physicians. And leading hospitals such as Duke Medicine, Stanford Children’s, and Penn Medicine are integrating data from HealthKit into their electronic medical records so that physicians can reach out to patients proactively when they see a problem that needs attention. With HealthKit and the iOS Health app, we believe we’re just at the beginning of amazing new health and wellness solutions for our customers.

In other words, Apple is laying the requisite foundations today to announce a healthcare service tomorrow. It’s building relationships with key players, enabling third party hardware innovation through HealthKit, getting people comfortable with iPhones as health repositories, and in the secure enclave and Touch ID, Apple already has a method to store and share healthcare data securely.

Over the next few years, Apple will add more sensors to the iPhone and Apple Watch that can be used to measure your health, and third-party medical accessories designed for use with iOS devices will continue to grow in popularity. The healthcare industry will salivate for the resulting data.

As Richman notes, healthcare is a $2,900,000,000,000 industry. Anyone who can make a device to function as the front man and facilitator for that industry stands to make a lot of money.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Apple is Certain, Once Again, to Garner the Biggest Quarterly Profits in Corporate History

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 - by Stephen Green

rev-eps-q1-15-copy

Apple reports last quarter’s profits at market close today, but Fortune says the company will surpass even the most optimistic forecasts:

Apple told Wall Street to expect total sales somewhere in the range of $63.5 to $66.5 billion — representing, at the midpoint, 15% growth from fiscal Q1 2014.

Analysts aren’t buying it. They saw the lines for the new iPhones. They’ve seen IDC’s Mac numbers. They know iPad sales haven’t totally died. They watched Apple shift production to meet demand for the larger — and higher margin — iPhone 6 Plus.

They’re expecting a big quarter.

The consensus among the analysts Fortune polled — 20 professionals and 15 amateurs — is that Apple’s total sales for fiscal Q1 2015 will come in at about $68.3 billion, up 21% year over year.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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How Many iPhones Did Apple Sell Last Quarter?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

iphone-ipad-iphab-phablet

Best estimate is “lots.” Read:

Expectations for the iPhone on Wall Street are high, as hardly a day goes by without another sign that Tim Cook made the right call when he decided to go after the oversized phone market that Samsung once owned.

On Wednesday, for example, Counterpoint Research reported that Apple’s market share in November grew to 12% in China, 51% in Japan and 33% in Korea — Samsung’s home turf.

“No foreign brand has gone beyond the 20% market share mark in the history of Korea’s smartphone industry,” said Counterpoint’s Tom Kang in the company blog.

So it really is true that everybody loves the big phones other than me. But not once when I was slipping my phone into my pocket did I think, “You know what? This could be bigger, maybe even lots bigger.” And don’t get me started on phablets, which seem like either buying a Subaru Brat when you need a full-size pickup truck, or like strapping a grandfather clock on your wrist to tell the time.

What’s the appeal of these beasts?

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Why Amazon’s Fire Phone Failed

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

FIRE

The best tech article I’ve read in weeks is Fast Company’s behind-the-scenes report on the development of Amazon’s Fire Phone — which was thoroughly rejected by consumers and caused an embarrassing $170,000,000 write-down for the retailing giant. So what went so wrong?

The short version might be: Jeff Bezos thought he was Steve Jobs.

Read:

Bezos drove the team hard on one particular feature: Dynamic Perspective, the 3-D effects engine that is perhaps most representative of what went wrong with the Fire Phone. Dynamic Perspective presented the team with a challenge: Create a 3-D display that requires no glasses and is visible from multiple angles. The key would be facial recognition, which would allow the phone’s cameras to track a user’s gaze and adjust the 3-D effect accordingly. After a first set of leaders assigned to the project failed to deliver, their replacements went on a hiring spree. One team even set up a room that they essentially turned into a costume store, filling it with wigs, sunglasses, fake moustaches, and earrings that they donned for the cameras in order to improve facial recognition. “I want this feature,” Bezos said, telling the team he didn’t care how long it took or how much it cost. Eventually, a solution was discovered: Four cameras had to be mounted at the corners of the phone, each capable of identifying facial features, whether in total darkness or obscured by sunglasses. But adding that to the phone created a serious battery drain.

And team members simply could not imagine truly useful applications for Dynamic Perspective.

On the Fire Phone, Bezos forgot all about his laser-like focus on the customer’s needs, to pursue a feature his own design team didn’t know what to do with. Has Bezos reached that point of success where nobody can tell him No anymore? As a happy Amazon customer, I certainly hope not, although Amazon could fiddle around with more failures like the Fire Phone for years before it negatively impacted its retail operations. But here’s the bit which should have investors worried:

Bezos has said that his job is to encourage more “bold bets” and to embrace failure inside the company in pursuit of the big successes that “compensate for dozens and dozens of things that [don’t] work.” That drive and willingness to experiment has made Amazon a formidable competitor; Google chairman Eric Schmidt, for one, has said he considers Amazon to be the search giant’s most dangerous rival. For Apple, too, its ambitions with e-commerce, iCloud, and now, even devices, all run headlong into Amazon’s initiatives. But will all of Bezos’s risk-taking ultimately pay off? “They make no money!” former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer exclaimed in a recent TV interview. “In my world, [that’s] not a real business. I get it if you don’t make money for two or three years, but Amazon is, what, 21 years old?”

You get the feeling the profits just aren’t a part of Amazon’s business model?

UPDATE: An unfair thought just occurred to me. If you want to expand an existing business into profitable new fields, Ballmer is not the person you call on to help. But if you want to squeeze extra billions out of existing products and services, there might not be anyone better than Ballmer. Maybe Bezos should make him an offer he can’t refuse…

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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‘What’s Holding Back iCloud’

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

icloud

No one, apparently:

While Apple is known for providing a top-notch integrated software and hardware experience, its ability to provide services, particularly those that run remotely, has been scrutinized in recent years. Apple Maps was a fiasco on its own, leading to a shakeup of the company’s executive team, and the company hasn’t fared particularly well since.

According to the report, iCloud Photo Library has been in flux because of the lack of a “centralized team working on core cloud infrastructure” at Apple. iCloud Photo Library also lacks a project manager to lead the initiative at One Infinite Loop, leaving developers responsible for working on “nearly everything on their own.”

“One person close to the company says Apple is taking some steps to build some common cloud technology but has moved slowly in part because it’s used to projects residing in isolated teams,” the report claims.

iCloud usually works just fine at what it does; the problem is it doesn’t do enough. That’s why millions of otherwise happy Apple customers still use third-party solutions like Dropbox and Google’s services. One of the smartest things Tim Cook has done so far as CEO was to eliminate Scott Forstall’s iOS silo, and force development across hardware and software lines.

It’s past time to do something similar for iCloud.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Haunting Melissa 2 Arrives in iTunes Store Thursday

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Dark-Hearts-642x558

Dark Hearts:  The Secret of Haunting Melissa, should be available for download from the iTunes store this Thursday, the 20th, tomorrow as I write. This is the sequel to the innovative ghost story in an iOS app, created by Neal Edelstein and scripted by me. I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but I’ve seen a lot of it and I can say without reservation that it looks absolutely terrific. Neal did a fabulous job with the material and so did the cast from the beautiful Kassia Warshawski — Melissa — on down.

Take a look at the trailer below, then get the app. It’s free though there are in-app purchases. If you have an Android…  dude, buy an iPhone.

YouTube Preview Image

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Who Pays for Apple Pay?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

apple-pay1

It seems so simple: Plug your credit card information into your smartphone, which anonymizes your data, then uses your thumbprint and a “tap” at the register to authorize retail purchases. This should be win-win-win. You get added security and convenience, retailers get simplified payments, and banks get extra protection from fraud.

So why did drug store giants CVS and Rite Aid block Apple Pay (along with Google Wallet and Softcard) over the weekend? Here’s the story:

Objections to Apple Pay aren’t actually about convenience, reliability, or security—they are about a burgeoning war between a consortium of merchants, led by Walmart (WMT), and the credit card companies. Rite Aid, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy (BBY), and about 50 other retailers have been working on their own mobile payments system, called CurrentC. Unlike Apple Pay, which works in conjunction with Visa (V), MasterCard (MA), and American Express (AXP), CurrentC cuts out the credit card networks altogether. The benefit to the merchants is clear: They would save the swipe fees they now pay to the credit card companies, which average about 2 percent of the cost of transactions.

I feel for the CurrentC coalition on this one, since that 2% which is currently going to the giant ATM-issuing banks could easily double some of their retail profit margins. Retailing is a tough business even in the best of times, and these are certainly not the best of times.

Apple had this to say:

The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.

Somebody was going to put all the pieces of smartphone payments together. Google has been trying valiantly, but Android fragmentation hasn’t helped them, nor has Android’s main customer base of owners who use their Android smartphones merely as really nice feature phones — they just aren’t the vanguard users to establish new technology. Apple probably has a better shot at this, with a generally tech-savvier user base and with all those credit card companies on board, too.

The CurrentC coalition has… well, let’s just say I follow this stuff for a living, and this is only the second or third time I’ve read anything about CurrentC. And this time, they’re making what looks like a desperation play of blocking the competition, without having their own system ready to go as a real competitor. In fact, CurrentC looks like it’s too convoluted to ever catch on.

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The Yosemite Mini Review

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

YOSEMITE

Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.

My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.

I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.

Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.

And that’s about it for complaints.

My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.

The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.

I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.

Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.

UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Should You Upgrade To iOS8 on Your Old iPad?

Friday, September 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ipad-with-retina-display-1

As promised, I installed iOS 8 on an older iOS device to see if it bogged down, lost functionality, or just became a pain to use. Actually, I installed it on two devices — an iPhone 4s and a first-gen iPad with Retina Display. Both devices use an Apple A5 processor, except that the iPad’s is up-armored with a better graphic coprocessor.

I didn’t do any sort of extensive testing, deciding instead it would be more useful just to mess around with them like I would in normal day-to-day use for most of a week.

The short version? Go ahead and upgrade your iPhone 4S. Mine (my four-year-old’s, really) runs just fine. If load times take longer, they didn’t take noticeably longer. Nate still plays Angry Birds just fine.

Results were less clear on that old iPad, however.

iOS 8 feels like it’s ramped up multitouch sensitivity, which in and of itself is no bad thing. And the touchscreen doesn’t have any problems handling the increased sensitivity. But the display itself does sometimes have trouble keeping up — on occasion I get very un-iOS-like hesitations, instead of the instantaneous reactions I’m used to getting. As a result, I sometimes try the same action twice, only to have initiated a second action instead.

It’s not a huge deal, and I don’t know for sure if iOS 8 really does increase touch sensitivity. But that’s how it feels, and the A5X CPU is just a little too old and slow to pump 2 million pixels as quickly as iOS 8 demands.

If that’s a concern to you, don’t upgrade — and I’ll post on this again when the inevitable 8.1 release comes out.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Open the iPod Bay Door, HAL

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

LOCKED DOWN

I’m sorry, Dave, Apple can’t do that:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

It will be difficult for Google and Microsoft not to follow suit, which is good news for consumers everywhere.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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iPhone: To Upgrade or not to Upgrade?

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

JUMP

That is the question for iPhone 4S owners, and opinions differ on whether it can properly handle the load of iOS 8:

So yes, it’s entirely possible for you to download the brand new iOS on your brand-old iPhone. And by doing so you’ll get a lot of goodies like more keyboard options (finally) and fun widgets. Ars ultimately concludes that it’s a trade-off you should go ahead and make.

But to us, cramming that shiny new software into the 4S’s cozy yet slightly musty house is a tight fit that will leave phone and user alike groaning. New features like widgets and alternate keyboards are nice, but not at the cost of so much screen space and speed.

Another report shows however that the increased load times aren’t exactly intolerable, with the worst offender (Safari) jumping from 1.25 seconds to 2.16 seconds. The other apps tested measured increases of just small fractions of a second — and the inevitable 8.01 or 8.1 update might tweak those times down a bit.

My boys, ages 4 and 8, are plenty happy running iOS 7 on Melissa and my old 4S phones, but I’m curious to see how well the new iOS really does work. It’s a risk though, since you can’t roll back to the previous version.

So I’m going to be a naughty dad and install iOS 8 on the younger boy’s phone and hope he doesn’t notice if it sucks. He doesn’t use it much, anyway, preferring the big screen on my ancient iPad 1. I’ll report the results back to you in the next few days.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Gentlemen, Start Your Profit Engines

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

DEMAND

Wow:

“Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October,” the company added.

On Monday, Apple said it had received a record 4-million pre-orders of the iPhone 6 in the first 24 hours, exceeding expectations in what the company described as an “incredible” response.

One report estimates Apple is on track to sell a record 60 million iPhone 6 models in the December quarter for yet another sales record for any phonemaker.

I won’t be joining the party, however. There’s still a year left on my perfectly fine iPhone 5S, and the bigger phones just aren’t my thing. Judging by sales though, people love big phones.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Resolution iPhone 6 Displays?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_105432542

Want to know the resolution of the new iPhones due to be announced next month? John Gruber did the math — all of the math — to come up with the best educated guess I’ve seen:

But after giving it much thought, and a lot of tinkering in a spreadsheet, here is what I think Apple is going to do:

4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x
5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x

@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.

I could be wrong on either or both of these conjectured new iPhones. I derived these figures on my own, and I’ll explain my thought process below.

It’s a fascinating and extremely detailed (Ha! Get it?) report, explaining the difference between pixels and points on an iOS screen, and how simply increasing the pixels wouldn’t necessarily lead to fitting more stuff onto a larger screen — at least not in a sensible way, and not at resolutions other than the ones he determined.

My only hope is that the rumors are wrong, and that Apple continues to produce at least one model with the same size screen as the iPhone 5 and 5S. For me it’s the perfect size for easily sliding in or out of a pants pocket, without making too much of a bulge. This trend towards bigger phones goes against everything that was once cool about electronics, where small & light should rule the day.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image illustration via shutterstock /  alphaspirit

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This Is Not the Mac You’re Looking For

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

iMac

Apple announced a new “budget” iMac last week, starting at $1099 for an Intel i5 machine with Apple’s gorgeous 21.5″ IPS display. But there’s a catch:

As you can read in our full benchmark report, there is now a wide performance gap between the low-end iMac and the next step up the product line. The new $1099 iMac was slower across the board, and 54 percent slower overall, than the $1299 21.5-inch system. One thing to note: We weren’t crazy about the $1299 model when it shipped. It offered just modest speed improvements over the October 2012 system and most of that was due to the $1299 iMac’s use of Iris Pro graphics—which are not included in the new $1099 system.

Back when I was buying bleeding-edge Windows machines from various vendors, the sweet spot on the price/performance curve was to buy Intel’s second-fastest CPU and match it with the second-fastest GPU from whoever was the hot name at the time. I always aimed above the sweet spot, which is how I ended up with a 200mhz Pentium Pro with a Number Nine video card (remember them?), which at the time was the absolute fastest all-SCSI beast you could buy.

Within months, Intel debuted MMX multimedia instructions on their regular Pentium chips, and GFX put Number Nine on the curb with affordable 3D graphics. Sometimes, top-end buyers get burned.

But bottom-end buyers always get burned, if they’re looking for any kind of performance. For about 17% more money, you can buy yourself more than 50% more performance. Maybe you don’t need a screaming gaming rig, but even just a little future-proofing can go a long way.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Apple Going After Search?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Well:

While users will still look to Google when searching in their web browser, the role of search in the modern operating system is more than the browser. It can be evoked in almost any application, and global search is generally a key-press or a touch gesture away.

For Apple this means Spotlight. In the new versions of their operating systems, Google results will be removed from Spotlight and replaced with Microsoft’s Bing. Of course Apple is going to offer searches through iTunes, the App Store, Apple Maps, iBooks, and more, but the prize of web searches in Spotlight now goes to Redmond.

One of the features of OS X Yosemite due out this fall is how much Spotlight has been moved front and center — literally — and how much more power it’s been given. I’ll likely be opening up far fewer search tabs in Safari, and I suspect that’s exactly the point.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Reports of the Death of the Tablet Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Galen Gruman has a good Infoworld column on why Windows tablets aren’t selling, and why the new Surface Pro 3 is unlikely to do much better — although there’s nothing there that Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ haven’t known since the first model was introduced two years ago. But something still stood out:

The iPad is four years old this year, and in its short life it has taken the world by storm, creating a new class of computing device that has sold well over 200 million units. Everyone is trying to copy it, with many Android tablets and a bunch of Windows tablets all trying to ride the iPad’s coattails. Never mind that the iPad itself seems to be running out of gas, and it’s unclear whether Apple can refill the tank.

A big part of last quarter’s decline in iPad sales was nothing more than adjustment, not in sales, but in the sales channel. Tim Cook had overshot the year before, making the same quarter this year look worse than it actually was. But overall, sales were down slightly after a phenomenal Christmas quarter.

What it looks like from here is that the tablet market is already a mature one, after just three years. And just like the smartphone market, you have Apple sucking up most of the profits, Android generating tons of sales to people who don’t much use the things, and Windows in a distant third place wondering what the heck just happened.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Is ‘The Apple Experience’?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

The first Apple Store opened 13 years ago yesterday in McLean, Virginia. What’s remarkable is how little Apple had to sell at first.

There was no iPad until 2010, no iPhone until 2007, and even the iPod didn’t debut until months later in October of 2001. Pretty much all Apple had at the time was the four Mac product lines — iMac, iBook, Power Mac and PowerBook. None sold in any great numbers.

Watch the video and you’ll see what Apple did have to sell — “the Apple experience,” for lack of a better phrase. Buy a Mac and you enter the world of the Mac as your digital hub, and the Apple Store was the place where they’d teach you how to put it all together. The hub is now cloud-based, but the experience customers buy into is the same — great gear which comes with well-trained “geniuses” to help you get the most out of it.

Other companies make great product — maybe not insanely great, but still — but they can’t duplicate Apple’s experience from purchase, through training, and, yes, through the inevitable problems and eventual upgrades.

Tech geeks who look at price and specs without ever actually shopping at an Apple Store, or talking to people about why they do, suffer from a very bad case of Just Not Getting It. And that’s OK, because price & specs is all that many people need when making a buying decision. But for millions more, there are now 424 stores in 16 countries — and they generate more profit per square foot than any other retail store anywhere, ever.

Not bad for a company which had no prior retail experience and had been weeks away from bankruptcy just four years before opening its first store.

******

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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iPad Sales Already Peaked?

Monday, April 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Question: Will PC-like upgrade cycles keep iPad sales flat? I can tell you that here at Casa Verde, the answer is an unequivocal Yes.

Four years ago, Melissa and I bought two of the first-generation iPads. I upgraded mine to the original Retina Display model in 2012, because I do a lot of photo editing on the thing. Melissa finally upgraded to the new iPad Air late last year, but only because two of her favorite apps would no longer upgrade on a 2010 model. But that’s not to say we threw the old ones away. Mine is now armored in a very strong Fisher-Price kid case and is one of my three-year-old’s favorite toys. The other is mounted on a fold-away arm under a kitchen cabinet, where it runs our favorite recipe app, Paprika. Our older son has a first-generation iPad mini from 2012 which has taken all the abuse an eight-year-old can dish out, and then some.

Of the five iPads purchased by the Greens over the last four years, all five are still being used. I don’t have any reason to upgrade, since the A5X chip in the 2012 Retina model can still handle anything I throw at it. Melissa got three years out of her iPad 1, which was a slow beast even when new. She should get five years out of her Air. Preston’s mini has essentially the same CPU as my Retina, so he should be good for as long as I am.

So after an initial burst of purchases, we’re covered for a few more years — just like the broader market.

This might be a good time to mention that PC upgrade cycles aren’t what they once were, either. Before I switched to Mac, I’d buy a new top-of-the-line-everything Windows PC about every 30 months. And in between, I’d upgrade pretty much anything upgradeable. But my first iMac lasted more than four years, and is still in service for the kids. My first Mac Pro lasted five years, upgraded just this month to a new Mac Pro I expect will stick around even longer. (Damn fool trashcan-looking thing has no moving parts; it had better last longer!)

Thirty months became four years became five years will become six years? Seven?

I dunno, but if my buying habits are any indication, then the slump in the PC and tablet markets* might be a long-lasting trend.

*Don’t talk to me about explosive growth in Android tablet sales, because those are almost entirely Crackerjack models people don’t actually use for anything, as usage statistics bear out. Even Samsung got caught lying about its Galaxy Tab sales figures.
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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Apple’s Hideous and Disturbing Steve Jobs Memorial Statue

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Feast your eyes on how Apple hopes you remember its visionary founder, Steve Jobs.

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That thing is a scale- model of the winning design, which was selected from among 10,000 entries. Were they all this ugly?

It’s memorable, for whatever that’s worth. It’s also nothing like anything Jobs would have probably approved. He was all about clean design that made intuitive sense. That statue has Cyrillic letters sticking out of the side, because the designer is Serbian. Also, it has a tiny, pitted pinhead. It is basically a disturbing Pez dispenser, but without candy. The full-size 10 to 15 foot version will be built and stand outside Apple HQ in Cupertino, CA, where it will frighten children and impressionable adults for generations to come.

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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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New Mac Pro Goes on Sale Tomorrow

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

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My 2009 Mac Pro is still running fine and fast, and I really have no need for the absurd power of the new Mac Pro.

But my Amex feels itchy, anyway.

Replacing the massive 47-pound milled aluminum tower under the desk with a small, sleek, and nearly silent cylinder which would fit comfortably and stylishly next to the Drobo on top of the desk?

The gotta-have-it-factor is out of this world for a workstation.

Want!

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Here Comes the Maxi iPad?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

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Mac Rumors has the report:

Following a September report stating that Apple may be working with Quanta Computer to develop a larger-sized iPad, Digitimes is now reporting that the Taiwanese-based manufacturer has landed the contract to mass-produce the tablet for the second half of 2014. Just last week, a report had claimed that the larger iPad was being targeted for an early 2014 launch.

The article also mentions that Quanta is expected to face difficulties when assembling the larger iPad because of its unique industrial design and assembly, which could also lead to constrained supplies:

Quanta is expected to encounter several challenges in terms of industrial design and assembly when making the large-size iPad. And since the size is not the mainstream specification, order volumes are expected to be limited, the sources said.

Leaving aside Digitimes’ (ahem) uneven reputation, that last bit doesn’t really pass the sniff test. Apple is hardly known to expand a product category just to fill a niche with low-volume sales.
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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Grave Unhappiness Wrought by the Failure of the iWork Pages Update

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 - by Roger Kimball

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Even as the world careens from crisis to crisis—will Iran get (and use) The Bomb? Will the euro finally fail? Will ObamaCare put the nail in the coffin of the U.S. economy and America’s tradition of self-reliance and individual liberty? No one’s crystal ball is sharp enough to say. But even as the world conjures with these and other pending catastrophes, there are still local tempests to conjure with. In the somewhat rarefied world of word-processing software, the corporate giant Apple has precipitated a category five storm in the teapot inhabited by users of its iWork suite of software: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Word, Excel, and Powerpoint of the Apple eco-system.

Last week, in the course of a big Apple event in San Francisco, The Corporation announced, to considerable fanfare, new versions of iWork. There were smiles everywhere as a couple of Corporate officials took to the stage and demonstrated that, at long last, users would be able to collaborate on the same document simultaneously over the internet, on their Macs and/or their iPads and iPhones, even on PCs. This is a feature that Google has offered for some time, but Apple’s implementation was supposed to be more elegant (if less robust technically). The software had been rewritten from the ground up, they announced, adding many new features. It was a particularly welcome announcement for those who use the software because the last major update to the iWork software was in 2009, eons ago in the chronology of software. Patience was about to be rewarded. A new Apple triumph was about to be born. The new software, which Apple was offering for free, would make serious inroads into the hegemony of Microsoft’s Office suite, which is a de facto world-wide standard.

The celebratory mood lasted for about 15 minutes. Then a few people downloaded and started using the software. Uh oh. In its effort to make iWork compatible with the version that runs on the iPad and iPhone, Apple decided to neuter the desktop version of its software. “Big deal,” you say. “Use Microsoft Office.”  More and more people will do just that, I suspect. But in the meantime, there is high drama at the Apple support site and App store, where the hostile comments about the software vastly outnumber the positive comments. One independent reviewer summed up the verdict: “Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster.”

I’ve been using Pages myself for a couple of years. I’ve never liked Microsoft Office, and I’ve always harbored a particular dislike for Word, which I find bloated and unwieldy. Before using Pages, I wrote using a DOS- and then Windows-based programmer’s editor. It was a bare bones approach, but I liked the simplicity of the software and the control it offered over text manipulation. Together with a DOS-based PostScript layout tool, I was good to go.

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Leave the Nikon, Take the iPhone

Saturday, October 19th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

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A nature photographer takes his iPhone 5S to Patagonia — and no other camera. The results are pretty impressive.

No fooling, the 5S might be the best camera ever for taking pictures of the boys. I can snap ten frames a second, choose the best one, delete the rest with a single swipe — and all in camera. The big Nikon still gets hauled out for portraits and (linked story not withstanding) nature trips, and any time I’m shooting in low light. But otherwise, it’s all iPhone, all the time.

Here’s a snapshot I took just this morning of some of the fall colors coming into our back yard. I haven’t edited, retouched, or cropped this at all — just used the phone’s built-in (and instantaneous) High Dynamic Range. Click for the full-size image and enlarge in your browser window if you need to, and you’ll see the sharpness is pretty impressive.

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That’s as much detail and more color than I used to get out of my then-current Nikon D200 just six or seven years ago. The only thing my current Nikon D7000 does better is shoot in low light, provide more megapixels, and change lenses. It can shoot only 4.5 frames per second to the iPhone’s ten, with a buffer limit of about 15. If the iPhone has a buffer limit, I’ve yet to hit it. It seems to be able to shoot 10FPS, every second, until you completely fill the memory.

Hot-dam, but if you’re chasing kids around that’s the greatest thing ever.

Even the front-facing camera produces decent results under crappy conditions. Since I take the boys to school most mornings, I cram the three of us into the frame for a three-man selfie to text to Melissa. The sun is coming in at a bad angle, everybody is trying to squeeze down to the level of Nate’s car seat, we’re in a rush — but the phone still does a passable job.

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This shot is also unedited — just cropped to square and resized for your browser.

Then there’s the iOS version of iPhoto. It’s hands down the best general-purpose photo editing software for mobile, and plenty powerful enough for editing the kinds of pics you’ll take with your phone. That means I spend way less time alone at my desk, poking around with Aperture or Photoshop.

If I were Canon or Nikon, I’d be getting plenty worried about what cellphones are going to be doing just a couple of years from now. With phones this good, there’s no reason for anyone other than pros and dedicated hobbyists to own an SLR. And you can forget about point-and-shoots. They were always pretty lousy; now they’re also redundant.

Me, I’m going to enjoy hardly ever having to carry a camera bag around, and missing fewer shots of my overactive kids. And I’m going to enjoy it with one of these.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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