Friday, July 30, 2004

2.5 GHz dual G5 shipping... barely

Some people today have received retractions to yesterday's G5 delay emails, and a few today have even received notifications of shipping dual 2.5 GHz G5 Power Macs. However, judging by the numerous posts around the internet, the units shipped are limited and represent a small fraction of all orders.

At least we can expect to see some dual 2.5 reviews beginning next week.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

2.5 GHz G5 Delays

Scores of people who ordered the 2.5 GHz G5 as early as the day of its announcement received emails today from Apple stating that their machines won't ship until or before August 20. The machines were supposed to ship tomorrow.

This seems to be a recurring theme for Apple: Pre-announce a wonderful new product, give a shipping date, and then fail to meet that date (save for a few units here are there).

However, not everyone has received an email notification of a shipping delay. Hopefully at least some of the units do ship tomorrow, and the August 20 date is the worst case scenario for the rest of units on the waiting list.

6 GB Hitachi MicroDrive in Q4 2004

The DigiTimes has an interview with Pete Andreyev, VP and GM of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, for the Asia-Pacific region.

He states that in the fourth quarter of 2004, they will introduce a 6 GB version of the Hitachi MicroDrive, which is a 50% increase from the 4 GB size of the previous largest MicroDrive. This drive is the one found in the iPod mini.

We can be sure that Apple will be one of the main customers for this drive. We may see new 6 GB iPod minis in early 2005, if not by the 2004 Christmas holiday season.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

ATI releases Mobility Radeon 9800

ATI Technologies announced today the release of the Mobility Radeon 9800.

Despite the name, the Mobility Radeon 9800 is in fact a cut down AGP version of the X800 series chips, with added power saving features. Performance is said to be a marked jump over the Mobility Radeon 9700. Unfortunately, power utilization is also markedly increased, at least at full tilt. Hopefully during standard 2D application usage however, power utilization does not show the same increase.

Assuming the power dissipation of this GPU is acceptable, we can expect the 9800 to make an appearance in the next PowerBooks, which likely will use the G5 as well. Thus, one can predict that the next 15" and 17" PowerBooks will look something like this:

G5 970FX 1.8 GHz
450-600 MHz bus
AGP Mobility Radeon 9800 with 128 MB (and 256 MB option)
DDR333 single-channel

This will make for quite an update to the PowerBook line in 2005, especially since the 64-bit OS X 10.4 Tiger will likely be released within a few months of the G5 PowerBook release, too.

iTunes mobile = iPhone?

Scott asks: "I've heard comments on both sides of the argument, but what do you think? Does this make it more or less likely for apple to release the fabled iphone?"

I don't think Apple will release an iPhone any time soon, mainly because there are so many good phones on the market these days already. Products like the iPod filled a hole in the MP3 player market. Up until the iPod, everything was just mediocre. The same is not true for the (GSM) mobile phone market. Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, etc. all make excellent top end phones already, and these companies have an excellent range of phones too, from everything from the top end to the ultra low end.

BTW, Forbes provides more details on the Motorola/Apple iTunes mobile partnership. Of most importance is that although the Apple software will be bundled with future Motorola phones, it will not be exclusive to Motorola. Apple is free to licence it to other phone makers. Conversely, Motorola is not bound to Apple's software either. Motorola will be able to bundle music software from others as well.

One may ask what is the point of all this. I think the main purpose of this deal from Apple's point of view is to further solidify the lock Apple has on the legal download market. There are a lot of iPods out there, and the numbers are growing astronomically. However, there is no such thing as a very low end iPod. There are a lot of low end MP3 players, but none of them play Apple's iTMS files. On the other hand, mobile phones are ubiquitous, and the technology has now advanced to the point where it's feasible to have a cross-platform software applet like iTunes installed on these phones. Furthermore, people actually always carry their mobile phones with them. The same is not true for low end MP3 players. In other words, mobile phones with iTunes have the chance to largely displace the low end MP3 player market. Instead of dealing with this low end market with its own hardware, Apple gets to dominate here too through software.

As I said before, mobile phones are ubiquitous... and soon mobile phones with iTunes might just be ubiquitous, too.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Apple & Motorola announce iTunes for mobile phones

In a surprise announcement today, Motorola and Apple unveiled the iTunes mobile music player, which Motorola will include on its mobile phones. This announcement represents the first product besides the iPod that will be able to play copy protected iTunes Music Store songs.

Interestingly, this announcement coincides with the preview of Motorola's new V3 Razor phone, which has some very Apple-like design features, like a Titanium body and an ultra slim profile. It's unfortunate that this phone won't be able to play very many songs due to its small memory size, but one might suspect that copy protected ring tones, etc. will also be available for (paid) download from the iTunes Music Store.

I wonder if Apple will also licence the player to Nokia and Sony Ericsson. If not then Nokia is left out in the cold. As for Sony, I wonder how interested they would be in it anyway, since they have really tried to pushed their ATRAC format, although I'm not sure Ericsson would want to back ATRAC (for good reason).

RealNetworks and iPod work in Harmony

RealNetworks' Harmony software will allow songs from its own store to work on Apple's iPod and iPod mini. A pre-release version of Harmony will be available for download this week.

The method seems like a kludge however. The Harmony software keeps track of what audio player the user has, and then converts the native song format to the appropriate format for the player. RealNetworks already uses AAC, so that isn't an issue for the iPod, but the songs have their own form of copy protection that the iPod does not understand. It seems that if the Harmony software detects an iPod, it will change the copy protection to a reverse engineered version of Apple's FairPlay, which the iPod can read.

RealNetworks use higher bitrate AAC files than Apple does, and thus RealNetworks does have an advantage over Apple in this regard. However, iTunes is rated to be the superior software.

Since Apple has not licenced FairPlay to RealNetworks, expect to see some strong legal statements from Apple in the very near future. Earlier this year, RealNetworks had offered to pay for FairPlay licencing, but Apple refused.