Friday, November 21, 2008

AAPL hits new 52-week low

Today AAPL hit a 1-year low of $79.14 intraday, the first time in a very long time that the stock has been below $80. (On Thursday AAPL fell to $80, but never went below it.) However, at the end of the day the stock rallied with the rest of the market, and closed up 2.6% to $82.58 from yesterday's close of $80.49.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Author of Fake Jobs Heart Attack Story Found

The author of the fake report of Jobs having a heart attack has been located, and it was an 18 year-old. We still don't know why he faked the story however.

What a world we live in. All it takes is just one random fake post for a stock to drop $5 billion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

iPhone outsells Blackberry

Yesterday was Apple's financial conference call, and it didn't disappoint. Apple blew past analysts' expectations, announcing that 6.89 million iPhones were sold last quarter, 50% higher than consensus analysts' estimates.

That was more than what RIM sold in the same quarter. For good reason too. The iPhone is a triumph of interface design and feature integration (including the iPod). The Blackberries, not so much. Research In Motion is releasing its much hyped Blackberry Storm this quarter to compete with the iPhone, but I'm not convinced it will rise above the mediocrity that has characterized RIM hardware and software up until now. Perhaps Jim Balsillie should focus more on RIM's products than on acquiring a hockey team.

Steve Jobs went on to brag that in terms of revenue, Apple is now third behind Nokia and Samsung. Apple has already bested the ailing Sony Ericsson.

Apple still has no debt, and has about $25 billion in cash. That means that for every single share of AAPL out there, Apple has $28 sitting in the bank. To put it another way, about 30% of Apple's market capitalization at yesterday's close of $91.49 was in cash. And to put it yet another way, Apple could buy Dell in cash today, as Dell's market capitalization is under $25 billion. Maybe it's time to shut down Dell?

Guidance for the following quarter was unusually vague, as Apple provided a very wide range of possible outcomes, all conservative. The after hours market didn't seem to mind though, as AAPL was up to over $103 at one point, before settling back to a little over $97 at market open today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Steve Jobs disses the Blu-ray Disc Association

As usual, Teh Steve does not mince words. He said:

“Blu-ray is a bag of hurt."

"The licensing is so complex, we're waiting until things settle down before we burden our customers with the cost of the licensing and the cost of the drives."

This is perhaps not surprising. The Blu-ray licencing requirements for an OS are said to be draconian, and I'm sure Apple doesn't want to mess too much with the underpinnings of OS X just to support a costly format that is still languishing in the market.

What makes this criticism especially biting is the fact that Apple sits on the Blu-ray Disc Association's Board of Directors.

No backlit keyboard in lower end aluminum MacBook

Just a word of warning for those interested in the new aluminum MacBook: The lower end model does not include a backlit keyboard.

This is a disappointment. Besides the new trackpad, the one very enticing feature of the new design is the backlit keyboard. Hopefully the next iteration of the AluMacBook will include the illuminated keyboard.

Who knows... Maybe by that time Apple will also add FireWire-over-Ethernet support to the MacBooks. That's unlikely though.

The Apple Store is very misleading. Although Apple's website confirms in multiple places that the low end 2.0 GHz aluminum MacBook does not include a backlit keyboard, the Apple Store order page says it does.

No new laptop for Everything Apple [Update: New laptop after all!]

Apple released new MacBooks and MacBook Pros today to great fanfare, and my read of the press is that they were underwhelmed. The new clickable trackpad is nice, as is the new (laser cut) form factor, but it seems rather odd to exclude the 17" MacBook Pro from the party. Hopefully we'll see an update to the 17 incher sooner rather than later.

The loss of Firewire on the MacBook is a big loss for us old-timer Mac types, although I can understand it from Apple's business perspective. I betcha the vast majority of MacBook owners have never used a Firewire device. However, in my case, I've grown very fond of Firewire target mode, and I own a lot of Firewire devices, too.

I was just about to purchase a Firewire-endowed refurbished white MacBook for CAD$899 today, but was too slow on the trigger. They're all gone now. I'll have to just stick with my slow G4 800 iBook for now. I actually prefer its footprint over the MacBook anyway.

[Update 2008-10-14]

They're back! I just ordered one of the refurbished white MacBook units:

2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo
3 MB shared L2 cache
800 MHz bus
1 GB 667 MHz PC-5300 DDR2 memory
13.3-inch glossy widescreen display
Intel GMA X3100 GPU with 144 MB shared RAM
120GB hard drive
Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
Built-in iSight camera
Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n wireless
Firewire and USB 2
5.0 lbs

Not bad for CAD$899. At today's exchange rate, that's only US$770. With 4 GB of RAM, I'm all set. Fortunately, 4 GB RAM is much cheaper for the white MacBook too, as compared to the newer MacBooks. I should be able to pick up 4 GB for under $60.

Maybe in 2009, I'll get a new AluMacBook to add to the collection after Apple drops its pricing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

AAPL says Happy Thanksgiving!

Is the worst behind us? On this Canadian Thanksgiving day, the US market had its highest point gain in history, and AAPL joined in the festivities. The stock was up $13.46 to $110.26, a rise of nearly 14%. AAPL beat the 11-12% gain of the market indices, but despite its upgrade to outperform, strangely enough it was merely good for a day like today. It wasn't outstanding by any means, as the screengrab below illustrates.

Dell, Google, and RIMM also beat AAPL's rise today, as did AT&T. On the other hand, this gain for AAPL was on top of Friday's 9% gain. In fact, it closed 28.7% higher than its low less than a week ago.

I sold the batch I bought at 108.30 for $109. Ironically, I made over 8% profit, during that two week period, the Canadian dollar dropped precipitously, following oil prices. The US dollar buys a lot more Canuckbux today than it did last month.

Tomorrow we will see the effects of the MacBook announcement, and next week we'll get the quarterly earnings report. Revenues and profits are likely to be very good, but who knows how conversative Apple will be when it comes to guidance.

AAPL was up to $113.75 in after hours trading.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

October 14 MacBook event confirmed

The long rumoured MacBook release for October 14 has been confirmed. MarketWatch reports: Apple sets up to release new notebook PCs

Apple Inc. on Thursday e-mailed invitations to media members for an event on Oct. 14 at the company's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters where Apple is set to rollout new models of its Macintosh laptop computers. The invitations, which read "The spotlight turns to notebooks," featured a partially obscured notebook PC coming out of shadows with a light upon the Apple logo.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

AAPL closes below $90

Wow. Just wow. AAPL closed down 9% at $89.16 today. It hasn't been this low for a year and a half.

I wonder if they still have that $20+ billion cash or if it's shrunk somewhat after the market meltdown. If intact, then approximately a quarter of Apple's market capitalization now is cash.

Apple has 17% of the consumer smartphone market

According to NPD data, the iPhone now holds 17% of the iPhone market.

That's huge, but the stats can be misleading, as they do not include corporate sales.

Green Monday?

Monday saw a huge ripple in the fabric of the finance world, with our Canadian S&P/TSX dropping 11% and the US Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 7.7%, before both finally pared the losses late in the day, to 5.3% and 3.6% respectively.

AAPL also dropped severely to $87.54 (almost 10%). I just about pulled the buy trigger yet again, but ultimately held off this time. To everyone's surprise, it later rallied so much that it actually ended up $1.07 at $98.14, for a gain of over 1% for the day.

Earlier in the day, some in the media were already calling this Black Monday, but it certainly didn't work out that way for AAPL. Perhaps a few of the supposed short sellers that Steve Jobs blamed are finally getting spooked enough to leave AAPL alone.

P.S. For some reason, the iPhone stock quote gadget has the wrong percentage drop for the TSX and the S&P 500.

Rogers & Fido 6 GB $30 data plan may still be valid

iPhone in Canada reports that the 6 GB $30 smartphone data plan has been extended, although that plan no longer is documented on their public website.

The (new) official iPhone plans seem reasonable, but if you already have a good voice plan you don't want to part with, this $30 data plan is a great addition, especially if you want to tether your laptop with it (either using a jailbroken iPhone or another smartphone).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Apple stock plummets on false Jobs rumour

Is somebody trying to manipulate the market?

A CNN iReport blog post claimed Steve Jobs had a heart attack. The stock dropped precipitously to $94.65 before rebounding, as it proved to be completely false.

One wonders if it's some overzealous investor out there who has shorted AAPL or wanted to buy in cheap. Whether it's illegal rumour mongering or honest mistake, there are going to be a lot of mad investors, as I'm sure many had (stop-loss) sell orders just below the $100 mark.

[Update 2008-10-03]

AAPL closed down 3% to $97.07, the first close below $100 in over a year. So perhaps the rumour mongering did not make that much difference anyway in the greater scheme of things. It would seem that although the bailout bill was finally passed by Congress, investors still weren't much impressed, and the market slid in general. Nonetheless, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the false report about Steve Jobs.

Besides the close below $100, this marks another milestone for AAPL. The stock has lost more than half its value for the year. I'm going to hold of course, but may just have to buy some more if it drops even further to below $90.

October Rogers & Fido iPhone plans

After initially offering poor iPhone plans, Fido & Rogers offered us a 6 GB data plan for $30 to appease us geeks. That unfortunately is no longer available, but October also brought us new iPhone plans that seem much more reasonable:

250 weekday minutes
Unlimited evenings and weekends
Unlimited with Fido/Rogers customers
No long distance minutes
75 text messages (sent)
1 GB data
Visual voicemail

400 weekday minutes
Unlimited evenings and weekends
Unlimited with Fido/Rogers customers
Unlimited long distance with Fido/Rogers customers
100 text messages (sent)
2 GB data
Visual voicemail

I personally generally use less than 0.3 GB per month, but that's because I rarely use audio streaming applications with my iPhone, and I don't use YouTube much either. However, if Apple finally allows us those data tethering applications (again) so that one can surf on a laptop through the iPhone, then I would use a lot more data in certain months. Rogers' and Fido's 6 GB data plans specifically allow tethering.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

AAPL hits $100

For a new 52-week low, AAPL hit exactly $100.00 today, with a close of $100.10. (I guess there were tons of buy orders at that psychological threshold.) That's less than half the nose-bleed level of nearly $203 not so long ago. That has pushed Apple's market capitalization below the $90 billion mark, which is notable given that it has $20 billion in cash or cash equivalents. It also pushes their price earnings ratio below 20.

Everyone seems jittery about the bailout vote in the House of Representatives, despite the Senate's endorsement yesterday. Good luck tomorrow to all of us who own AAPL (or anything else in the stock market).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

AAPL - Back in again at $108.30

Because I'm such a masochist, I decided to chance it again right after the crash. I'm in again at $108.30, which was the price at open. Following the market, it's up today to around $112 so far (which means that Apple's market capitalization is still just under $100 billion), but the real test in the immediate future will likely be Thursday/Friday, and will depend upon what the US government comes up with in terms of a bailout.

[Update 2008-09-30]

That was amusing. Yesterday Morgan Stanley downgraded AAPL to a target price of $115. One day later, that target price was achieved intraday, with a close of $113.66.

Monday, September 29, 2008

AAPL now below $120

AAPL's wild ride continues. With all the uncertainty in the market, everyone (except me) is pulling their money out of the market. Today, AAPL dropped below $120. This is not just about the greater market, however. Investors didn't like the downgrades to AAPL by RBC and (the beleaguered) Morgan Stanley, to $140 and $115 (ouch) respectively.

AAPL is currently down over $10, trading at $117 and change.

[Update 2008-09-29]

As of a few minutes ago, AAPL hit $109. Impressive drop, especially considering that the rest of the tech sector seems to be holding on with only mild drops.

[Update 2008-09-29]

After Congress rejected the bailout bill, AAPL briefly touched the $100 (plus change) level today, and closed just over $105, down nearly 18%. Maybe it's time to buy again soon. Or not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Laminar Research confirms Apple's ad placements in movies

We've always suspected that Apple actively pushes its hardware through strategic TV show and movie placements, but it's nice to finally get confirmation from an insider. (No, so many Macs are not in movies just because all the directors think they look good.) Laminar Research (the X-Plane guys) confirms that Apple keeps stashes of its hardware in storage specifically for this purpose:

When we need a bigger monitor to do the ARTWORK for the iPhone version of X-Plane (for example), all we would do is say the word and huge cases full of Quad-Core desktops and 30-inch monitors were rolled into our office. Why the huge cases to hold this stuff? As it turns out, we were given the SAME computers that are shipped off to Hollywood to appear in movies! Apple has a reserve of the latest and coolest hardware to appear in movies, and they lent THOSE computers to us to do the X-Plane for iPhone development.

By the way, their description of their time at Apple (including the above quote) has disappeared from their site. I guess Mr. Jobs didn't enjoy seeing his company's secrets all over the web.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

iPhone 2.1 kills 3rd party AV cable support for 3G

Recently I purchased a third party composite AV cable to use with my iPhone 3G, so I could watch my DVDs encoded with Handbrake while on the road, without having to take the DVDs with me. The cable worked perfectly, and the video quality was actually quite good on small to mid-sized TVs despite the fact that the source was composite video. The reasonable quality was likely because I use relatively high bitrate H.264, at over 2 Mbps for the video alone.

That all changed with iPhone 2.1. After the update, the cable no longer works. Apple has now locked out that cable. Well, not completely. The cable still does work at times, for about 10 seconds, before kicking us back out of the video. It's almost as if Apple is teasing us.

According to reports, iPhone 2.0 also removed compatibility of other 3rd party cables for owners of the original iPhone. Those cables worked perfectly with iPhone 1.1.4, but suddenly stopped working with 2.0.

Conveniently, Apple sells its own AV cables which are endowed with authentication chips . Sorry Apple, I'm not interested. $49 is simply horrendously overpriced, even if it does include an AC USB adapter (that I don't want). Maybe if I can find it cheaper I'll bite, but not at this outrageous price... especially when the $10 cable I had worked absolutely perfectly before.

Friday, September 19, 2008

AAPL's wild ride - Summer 2008

AAPL has been down in the dumps of late, along with the greater market. Having sold at $167 months ago, I vowed to wait until it got back into the $120s before I bought back in. It then proceeded to get to about $190 before a pull back, and then again to $180 before starting on a sharp decline.

I decided to buy back in on Wednesday, right in the middle of all the market crash chaos. I bought at a then low price of $131.87, thinking my prediction of $125ish might not materialize. Of course, the falling knife got me, and another 11 bucks was shaved off the price the next day, a drop of 8.5% to $120.68. However, just before close the market rallied, and AAPL ended the day at $134.09 with an intraday high of well over $135. That was a remarkable show of volatility, with 55 million shares changing hands too.

Now at 9 am on Friday premarket, AAPL is sitting pretty at $143.36, over 9% higher than yesterday's close. Let's see if she can hold that value, and then some.


AAPL closed at $140.91, for a gain of more than 5% for the day.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

iTunes 8 HD video - Requires Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz

Apple's new iTunes 8 has hefty requirements. If you want to watch iTunes HD on a Mac (or a PC), you need at least a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU. That means that all Mac minis except for the latest top of the line model are excluded. In fact, Apple's entry level Mac mini being sold now doesn't even meet these requirements. Some older MacBooks, Intel iMacs, and even some MacBook Pros don't meet the requirements either.

Fortunately, I sold my old 2.0 GHz Core Duo MacBook (not Core 2 Duo) last month. I am using a G4 800 iBook for the time being. I'll probably buy a new MacBook in 2009, but I won't rule out buying a new one in 2008 should Apple release a super-duper new model this year.

Let's Rock - a letdown, but Jobs still alive

Apple's "Let's Rock" media event was a rare misfire for Apple. The press seemed universally underwhelmed by the event, as predicted by analysts.

Apple released a bunch of new iPods (including a volume button-endowed iPod touch... finally), iTunes 8 with HD media (including from NBC), ear canal headphones, and not much else. The markets were pretty much indifferent to the announcement. Yesterday AAPL dropped in anticipation of the event, the opposite direction of the general market. Today AAPL fell in-line with the greater market, and closed at 151.68, down almost 4%.

There was one highlight to the event however, and that was Jobs' succinct statement about his health: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Bloomberg's obituary for Jobs was just a little premature.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

iTunes has been blocked in China

A few days ago a friend of mine in Beijing started having problems with iTunes. He said that it kept on resetting for no apparent reason. Strange as it may seem, he even called me across the pond on Tuesday for technical support. I had no idea what was wrong so his friend went to the Apple Store in Beijing, and they told him that iTunes had been blocked in China as of Tuesday morning (August 19, 2008).

It turns out that iTunes was blocked for political reasons. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Olympic athletes have been purchasing pro-Tibetan iTunes songs while in China. Obviously, China wasn't too impressed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Simplify Media adds iTunes sharing to the iPhone

Simplify MediaSimplify Media has had an iTunes sharing application available for the iPhone for months, but only for jailbroken iPhones... until now. It is finally available at the iTunes App Store.

Finally we have iTunes sharing the way it's supposed to be, just like we had with iTunes 4.0 in 2003.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Netgear HDX101 Powerline Ethernet Adapter Review

Last year I moved into a very large house. It's a great house, but internet access has been an issue for some parts of it. The house was built in two phases, and despite the fact the second part of the house was built just a few years ago, the previous owner neglected to put in Ethernet cabling. I do have a wireless router, but the signal from it is too weak provide reliable wireless coverage for my Xbox 360 and Mac Cube in the new part of the house. For this reason, I had been toying with the idea of setting up a WDS network using multiple pieces Apple Airport hardware.

I purchased an Airport Express for testing, only to discover that Leopard's Airport Utility doesn't consistently detect the unit on the network. After much strugging to get it set up right, I decided that Apple's implementation of its wireless access points and associated software leaves much to be desired. (Much to my surprise, the 802.11n Airport Express unit I got won't see my wireless network with hidden SSID, despite the fact that all of my many Macs and even my iPhone connect to it just fine.)

That's when I decided to try out powerline networking. There are multiple standards, but I chose to try Netgear's HDX101 Powerline HD Ethernet Adapter hardware. This adapter is not compatible with the HomePlug standard, but I don't care, because I don't own any HomePlug hardware. Plus, to get two refurbished HDX101 adapters only cost me just under $90 including shipping, so it wasn't a big chunk of change I was risking. The documentation claims up to 200 Mbps speeds, but as we all know, that's theoretical speed, and real world speeds are always going to be much lower.

However, I was very, very pleasantly surprised. The equipment was truly plug and play. I plugged the two units into the wall and attached Ethernet cables to them, one connected to my DSL router, and one connected to my Mac. In less than 30 seconds I had my very first powerline network, and it was fast. Mind you, that was on the same electrical circuit in the same room, but what really surprised me was when I went to the other side of the house.

From the opposite side of the house, a file transfer of one Toast disk image from my iMac to my MacBook moved 680 MB (over 713000000 bytes) in less than 186 seconds. That's roughly 30 Mbps, for a signal that had to go through two separate fuse boxes. (When the second part of the house was built, it got its own electrical panel, separate from the one that my home office is on.) That's Category 5 speed, without any need to lay any new network cable at all, and without the finickiness of wireless. I even got good speeds using the power outlet in the shed in the backyard. Truly impressive.

What's the catch? There are a few problems, none of which are huge problems in my case:

1) Cost. I got refurbished units so they were relatively cheap, but usually the price of new ones is about twice as much or more.

2) Configuration of the units on a Mac. They all come with the same default encryption password, so if a neighbour got the same adapter he might be able to access your network through the power lines if you don't change the password. (As I said, I had full access to my network from my backyard garden shed.) The software they provide to configure the units is much more reliable than Airport Utility with the Airport Express, but the problem is it only runs on Windows and would not work with my Parallels Windows XP installation. Fortunately, I have a backup XP box which I pull out of the closet for emergencies like this. An Apple Boot Camp installation should also work fine.

3) Quality of the electrical system. When I put the adapter on the same pair of outlets as where all my home theatre equipment resides, I got fairly slow speeds. I then moved the adapter to another plug in the same room which I know to be on a separate circuit breaker, and suddenly my speeds increased dramatically. It was on this plug where I got the 30 Mbps performance. (One should also avoid putting the units on power bars, as they are known to reduce performance.)

4) Heat. These run quite warm, but don't seem to be suffering for it. However, I don't know if the heat may affect the life of the product.

In summary, if you're in need of networking support to the far corners of your house, and you dread the idea of pulling Cat 5e cable or setting up a wireless network with multiple base stations, then give powerline networking a shot. I'm glad I did, and will be purchasing two more adapters to add to my network.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Carmack: We could spend $10 mil on an iPhone game

John Carmack, that guy who gave us the revelatory Wolfenstein 3D seems enamoured with the iPhone, and goes as far to say the iPhone is on par with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in some ways. That's some mighty gaming friends. In fact he says that if the market supported it, he could easily drop $10 million developing a game for the iPhone.

That might just be a little premature, but things look good for the future of the iPhone as a gaming platform.

In the meantime I'll go back to playing Labyrinth on my shiny new iPhone 3G.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Here we go again: AAPL down 10% after hours

Apple posted its 2008 Q3 results today. Apple shipped just under 2.5 million Macs, just over 11 million iPods, and over 0.7 million iPhones, for the best June quarter in Apple's history.

Despite this, AAPL dropped 10% in after hours trading to $149.70. This was due to their very conservative estimates for the next quarter, well below analysts' expectations.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Video: iPhone 3G GPS

If you're in the mood for a double double, you might enjoy this video of the new iPhone 3G in action, which includes a look at its GPS functionality among other features.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fido caves: Offers 6 GB $30 data plan

In a stunning move, Fido has caved in to protests and has offered a new and much improved promotional data plan, just two days before the much anticipated launch of the iPhone 3G in Canada. This plan offers 6 GB of data for $30 which in terms of price is in sharp contrast to their current $30 / 300 MB plan. The catch is that the new plan is only going to be offered until August 31, and will require a 3-year contract. Furthermore, it requires an "in-market" voice plan, which likely excludes special retention plans and maybe grandfathered plans as well.

Effective July 11, and as a limited time promotional offer for customers who activate until August 31, 2008 on a three year contract, a data-only offering of 6GB of data for $30 per month is being made available that can be added to any in-market voice plan. For example, with 6GB of data, iPhone 3G users can visit 35,952 web pages, or send and receive 157,286 emails, or watch 6,292 minutes of YouTube videos each and every month.

There is no word yet on Rogers.

[Update 2008-07-09]

Now on Rogers too.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rogers relents, sweetens deal for iPhone 3G.

In apparent about face, Rogers has updated it's iPhone 3G webpage to include information about alternate plans (including getting the iPhone without a data plan at all), and free bonus minutes for 3 months.

Price Plan Downgrade Fee
If you have subscribed to an iPhone Voice & Data Package or a Voice Price Plan with a Monthly Service Fee of more than $30, then a Price Plan Downgrade Fee of $50 will be applied to your invoice if, for any reason, you change to a Price Plan with a Monthly Service Fee of $30 or less at any time during the Service Agreement Term.

They have conveniently worded it so that the plethora of people out there with a $30 voice plan must either upgrade to a higher-cost voice plan or else pay a $50 downgrade fee.

Rogers spokesperson Liz Hamilton claimed consumers were just confused about the plans, but there was never any mention before on Rogers' website of allowing alternate plans, and several people have reported that Rogers customer service agents told them otherwise.

It is not clear yet if Fido will have the same policies, as this information has not yet appeared on the Fido website. If it does, I may get an iPhone after all.

In the meantime:

1. has gotten well over 20000 signatures, but unfortunately their website now seems to be down.

2. Joy of Tech's comic summarizes this mess quite nicely.

Sunday, June 29, 2008 gets almost 11000 signatures

Just a few days after the website went up (initially as ****, has almost 11000 signatures. This has gotten the attention of media outlets around the net, including CNNMoney/Fortune.

Rogers probably didn't expect the backlash, but I think it's well deserved.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No iPhone 3G for me

Rogers yesterday announced its iPhone 3G pricing, and unfortunately as some had predicted, their plans leave something to be desired. The details for both Rogers and Fido are as follows:

$60/mo: 150 anytime min, unlimited evenings/weekends, 400 MB data
$75/mo: 300 anytime min, unlimited evenings/weekends, 750 MB data
$100/mo: 150 anytime min, unlimited evenings/weekends, 1 GB data
$115/mo: 150 anytime min, unlimited evenings/weekends, 2 GB data

While the plans include unlimited received text messages and some sent text messages, note that these prices don't include Caller ID or the $6.95 system access fee. On top of this, a 3-year contract is mandatory, "evenings" start at 9 pm, and data costs 50¢ per MB if you go over.

An average user might want the 2nd plan:

$75 for voice and data
$15 (or $7?) for Caller ID
$6.95 for System access fee
$0.50 for 911 emergency access fee

Total (depending on cost of Caller ID) would be:

$89.45 ($101.08 including tax in Ont.)
or $97.45 ($110.12 including tax in Ont.)

No thanks Rogers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

iPhone 3G: On both Rogers and Fido.

Rogers Communications (along with Apple) is really going after the Canadian market with the 3G GPSiPodphonePDA. Instead of limiting the iPhone 3G to Rogers alone (like it has done with some other phones in the past), Rogers has decided to offer it on both its brands, Fido and Rogers Wireless, starting July 11. These two brands represent the only two major 3GSM providers in Canada, both running off the same HSPA network.

iPhone 3G will operate on Rogers’ High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) wireless network, the fastest mobile network in Canada. HSPA is nationally available in the top Canadian urban centers from Vancouver to Halifax, covering more than 60 percent of the population. iPhone 3G will also operate on Roger’s coast-to-coast GSM/EDGE network, proven to be the country’s most reliable wireless network. More details on pricing and availability will be available soon.

The question now is how much they will charge for the iPhone ($199 for the 8 GB model?) and contract (two years?), and most importantly, the data plan. The iPhone 3G represents an excellent hardware and software update, but much of the benefit of this speedy new unit may be lost to the masses if the data plan is not reasonably priced. Rogers and Fido both have a $7 unlimited data plan, but it is likely that this plan will not apply to the iPhone.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Japan's SoftBank announces iPhone

Japan's SoftBank Mobile Corporation today announced that they are getting the iPhone in 2008:

SOFTBANK MOBILE Corp. today announced it has signed an agreement with Apple® to bring the iPhone™ to Japan later this year.

SoftBank Mobile supports both Japan's PDC 2G technology, as well as 3G UMTS, the latter of which has long been the rumoured technology to be used in the 3G iPhone.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rogers in Canada to get iPhone in 2008

Not a big surprise, but Ted Rogers, CEO of Rogers Communications, has finally confirmed that the iPhone will come to Canada this year. He was tight-lipped on timing though, and there are still eight months left this year.

I suspect Rogers may launch with a 3G model, as it has a strong HSPA network, and the 3G iPhone may be announced by WWDC. I'm not optimistic that Fido will get the iPhone at all this year however, despite the fact that Fido is a subsidiary of Rogers, and uses the same network.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Apple buys semiconductor company P.A. Semi

Apple has purchased the fabless chip design company P.A. Semi, for a rumoured $278 million. This alone is interesting, but what is doubly interesting is the fact that P.A. Semi designed the dual-core 64-bit PowerPC CPU that some had thought Apple could have used for a new Mac laptop (although Apple had already announced the switch to Intel).

It's not clear what Apple will do with this purchase. Right now in 2008, this 14 Watt 2 GHz dual-core chip seems inappropriate for most of their current products, although it's possible a derivative could be used in products like AppleTV (and theoretically a low power laptop), or other products that have not yet been announced. The benchmarks of this chip are listed below:

At 2 GHz, each core achieves a SPECint2000 score of 1,000 and a SPECfp2000 score of 1,500. Running SPEC benchmarks, each core dissipates around 7 W max; a SPECint/W of 142.8, about four times more power efficient than a Core 2 Duo processor.

Those speeds roughly are equivalent to about a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 and a 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 Extreme for SPECint2000 and SPECfp2000 respectively, for each core of the PA6T-1682M.

Forbes postulates that Apple intends to use in-house chips for the iPhone (and iPod) platform, and I would agree that is a strong possibility, especially since the acquisition was led by Tony Fadell, Senior Vice President of the iPod Division. It would take a new chip design for this purpose, but it's plausible that P.A. Semi already has some such low power designs in progress, also based off the PowerPC architecture. It's of note that the founder of P.A. Semi had his roots in the design of very low power StrongARM microprocessors. Another notable piece of trivia is Apple helped develop the ARM architecture and put an ARM chip in the Apple Newton.

This news comes the day of the Apple earnings call, which will occur after the market closes. So far AAPL is up to $163 in pre-market trading this morning, up from a close yesterday of $160.20.

[Update 2008-04-23]

EETimes says Apple doesn't actually care much about P.A. Semi's chips.

P.A. Semi customers were told the acquiring company was not interested in the startup's products or road map, but is buying the company for its intellectual property and engineering talent.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No more AAPL for me

I divested myself of AAPL on Monday afternoon, at $167.02. It had a great run up in the last few weeks, and closed at $168.16 on Monday. However, with all the various Wall Street analysts increasing their estimates for the quarter recently, I had become less optimistic that Apple will wow investors in their earnings call on Wednesday.

I hope for Apple's sake and the sake of its investors that Apple does blow past earnings estimates and provides better than expected guidance for the coming quarter. If so, AAPL should see a nice increase after hours on Wednesday. However, if they only meet (the new) expectations and provide very conservative guidance, it's quite possible that AAPL will drop in the short term by quite a signficant amount.

In the meantime, I will watch with interest... from the sidelines.

AAPL opened on Tuesday at $167.41, and as of 10:04 am was $163.81.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Apple captures 6.6% of US PC sales

AppleInsider has given us details of a report released by Gartner indicating that Apple has hit 6.6% US market share for PC sales. This places Apple in 4th place, after Dell, HP, and Acer, and puts them ahead of Toshiba. The 6.6% market share represents a significant increase over the 5.2% in the same quarter last year.

What's really remarkable about this is the number of units shipped. Last year they shipped 0.76 million units in Q1. In 2008 Q1 it was up 32.5% to 1.010 million. Even more remarkable is the fact that this quarter's shipments are only slightly less than the 2007 Q4 quarter, when they shipped 1.035 million units. To put it another way, in this traditionally slow quarter, Apple shipped 97.6% as many units in the US as the most recent red hot Christmas holiday quarter.

What we don't know is the worldwide sales numbers. There has been talk of a 2 million Mac Q1, but given the remarkable US numbers released by Gartner, it makes us wonder if Apple can beat even that. Perhaps 2.1-2.2 million? Either way, if the analysts are right then this would represent the first time Apple has shipped 2 million units in the calendar Q1 quarter.

Apple reports its quarterly results on April 23. The (less than inspiring guidance) for the last quarter was revenue of $6.8 billion, with earnings of 94¢ per share. Undoubtedly Apple will beat that, and the Street is predicting earnings of $1.06 per share on revenue of $6.95 billion for the quarter. Expected guidance for calendar Q2 2008 is $1.10 per share on $7.14 billion in revenue.

AAPL closed today at $153.70, up $5.32 (3.59%), and then ended the day up another $1.37 after-hours to $155.07. That's $6.69 over yesterday's close, up 4.5%.

[Update 2008-04-17]

Here is a summary of analysts' earning estimates.

Note that the article talks about Apple's financial Q2, which is the same as calendar Q1.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

iPhone SDK: Next iPhone will be 3.5G HSDPA

According to ZiPhone's Blog, the latest beta iPhone software development kit makes reference to Infineon's S-GOLD3H PMB 8878. This is a 3.5G HSDPA chip, which maintains backwards compatibility with GSM EDGE and GPRS networks.

Now that we know "what", we just need to know "when".

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Apple number 1 music vendor in the US

For the first month of 2008, Apple took the crown of #1 music vendor in the US, from Wal-Mart. NPD notes that Apple had 19% of the market, noticeably ahead of Wal-Mart's 15% and Best Buy's 13%. Amazon and Target rounded out the top five at 6% each.

Everyone knew that legal digital music downloads would eventually become dominant in the market, but some of us (ie. me) are surprised at just how fast the adoption of this technology has been.

It has been a good week for Apple, with analyst estimates just two days ago indicating that Apple's US consumer computer market share was a whopping 21%.

AAPL closed over $150 today for the first time in months, up $4.12 to $151.61.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hi-def disc creation improved in Toast 9.0.2

Just in time to mark the dissolution of the HD DVD Promotion Group, Roxio has released Toast Titanium v9.0.2. With this new update, my HD DVD creation problems are now partially fixed.

I was able to create an HD DVD using the default "Best Automatic" setting using some of the clips that were problematic before, and the disc plays in both a Toshiba standalone HD DVD player and in Apple's DVD Player application. However, I was still unable to create the same disc using a custom 20 Mbps H.264 encoding setting. With this setting, the disc creation fails with a -50 Error. The discs that do work still don't work in my Xbox 360 HD DVD drive, as I cannot navigate beyond the menu on that player. However, as I mentioned before, this may in part be due to the player itself.

Apparently some of the Blu-ray problems have been fixed too. Roxio states that Toast 9.0.2:
* Resolves a number of encoding issues related to high-definition source content and creation of Blu-ray video discs
* Resolves situation where high-definition DVDs would not play back on PlayStation 3
However, I have not yet tested Blu-ray creation as I do not own a Blu-ray player, and Apple's DVD Player does not support Blu-ray.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Further Roxio Toast 9 HD DVD testing: Incompatibilities

I've been doing some more testing of Toast 9's HD DVD creation and have run into a few more issues:

1) I mentioned before that H.264 encoding doesn't work. This continues to be the case.

2) Even with MPEG2 sources, Toast 9 sometimes crashes when making an HD DVD, albeit infrequently. The good news is that Toast 9.0 is more stable than Toast 8.0 was.

3) With MPEG2 sources, even if Toast 9 finishes the burn process, the disc may lock up in certain parts of the video. This is not a media problem, because even if I save the image to the hard disk, playback will lock up in the exact same spot. If I do burn the image to disc, playback will stop in the same spot on both my Toshiba standalone as well as in DVD on my iMac. However, if I start over and make a different encode with same source material, the resultant HD DVD may work fine.

4) My Xbox 360 HD DVD does not like these discs. The disc will load and go to the menu, but I cannot navigate out of the menu to play the content. I tried using both my Logitech Harmony Xbox 360 remote as well as the Xbox 360 controller.

I have not tested Blu-ray because I do not have any Blu-ray playback device at my disposal, and DVD does not work with Blu-ray. I will likely buy a Blu-ray player once there is a Profile 1.1/2.0 player below about $200-250, but I fear that may not be until 2009.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roxio Toast 9's H.264 encoding doesn't work

I've now installed Roxio Toast 9 Titanium (with the HD/BD Plug-in) and have burned a few HD DVDs on DVD-R. It does work, but with some serious caveats.

1) With the default encoding settings and with the advanced H.264 setting, it doesn't work at all with any of my files. Toast claims there are problems with the source material, but all of them encode to MPEG2 just fine in Toast. Obviously Toast has no problems reading the files. It just can't re-encode them to H.264 for some reason. (All the clips I tested are QuickTime HD files downloaded off Apple's website.)

2) I made my first MPEG2 HD DVD disc on DVD media with the video bitrate set to Toast's maximum of 26 Mbps. It starts to play on both my iMac and my Toshiba HD-A2, but skips on both. It seems to be a problem with the bitrate, in that the iMac's laptop drive and the Toshiba likely can't read the data fast enough off DVD media. If I put the disc into an external Firewire desktop DVD drive, the iMac handles the disc perfectly and playback is smooth. I also tried an 18 Mbps MPEG2 disc, and it still skips on the iMac if I use the internal laptop drive.

What this means for us is that we need to severely limit the bitrate on HD DVDs when using DVD media, for maximum compatibility with some DVD readers. I suspect a reasonable bitrate would be approximately 10-11 Mbps, but unfortunately, this is too low for MPEG2. MPEG2 is too inefficient a codec for good quality hi-definition material at that bitrate. At 10-11 Mbps, H.264 would be greatly preferred, but that is also not an option, since H.264 encoding in Toast does not work properly.

In short, Toast's hi-def disc support is problematic with DVD media at this time. Hopefully these issues will be corrected soon in a software update.

[Update 2008-03-20]

The skipping issue appears to be related to the DVD media type.

My iMac's Pioneer DVR-K06 and my Toshiba HD-A2 do not like Sony +R media (SONYD21). (These were burned as the +R booktype, not -ROM.) At 18 Mbps, both still skip. At 15 Mbps it plays smoothly on the Pioneer, but it still skips on the Toshiba. However, if I use Maxell DVD-R (RITEKF1) it plays perfectly with both machines, even at 26 Mbps.

Unfortunately, MPEG2 uses up too much space, and H.264 encoding still doesn't work properly.

The good news is Roxio is aware of the problem:
We're working on this... but I have authored AVC discs on DVD media.

I'll post an update when we have more information to share, right now we're gathering test files and working on a solution.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Roxio Toast 9 Titanium burns HD DVD & Blu-ray on DVD-R

Roxio's new Toast 9 Titanium has an HD/BD plug-in available to allow it to burn both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, even on DVD media.
The new HD/BD plug-in for Toast 9 gives users the ability to author high definition video content on to Blu-ray, or even standard DVD discs! Take high-def video footage from AVCHD camcorders, TiVo and EyeTV and create Blu-ray discs that can be played on any standard Blu-ray set top box or Playstation3 game console. Did you invest in HD DVD? The HD/BD Plug-in even supports HD DVD formats and disc players.
This is a very nice addition for those getting into Blu-ray, and those who already have the (now defunct) HD DVD format players. It's now that much easier to play your HD content on your TVs. This is especially true now that standalone HD DVD players (which also make very good upscaling DVD players) can be purchased at a bargain-basement $70, and Xbox 360 HD DVD drives can be purchased for $40 in some places.

Furthermore, Apple's DVD Player application supports limited HD DVD playback, and it's possible that some of these HD discs created in Toast will work in DVD Player. I will do some testing once I have gotten Toast 9 and the plug-in.

[Update 2008-03-19]

Reports are coming in and HD DVD on DVD-R is confirmed to work on Toshiba standalone HD DVD players as well as Apple's DVD Player application. I have not yet seen confirmation about compatibility of Blu-ray burned on DVD, but hopefully some reports will surface soon. I was under the impression that Blu-ray formatted discs needed AACS to be fully compliant with the Blu-ray specification, but I am not clear on that. For this reason it would be good to have reports from more than just the Sony PlayStation 3.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Apple captures 25% dollar share for US computer sales

Reports state that new NPD numbers have Apple's total personal computer unit share hitting 14% in the US market in February 2008, an enormous jump over February 2007. Even more impressive is Apple's 25% dollar share last month. It would appear that Apple's iPod (or iPhone) halo is continuing to do its job, and well.

AAPL closed up $6.09 today to $132.82, an increase of 4.8% (which reflected the 4.2% rise in the Nasdaq and S&P 500, with the Fed's 0.75% rate cut).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aperture 2 released - $199 in both Canada and US

Apple finally released Aperture 2 yesterday with a long list of new features, not the least of which is a new plug-in architecture for third party image editing plug-ins.
Apple has added the ability to create editing plug-ins for Aperture, which will, over time, revolutionize the program. Having an edit plug-in interface means that Aperture users will be able to do just about anything to their images. It’ll be possible to create plug-ins that replicate film effects, add borders, allow for selective edits like dodging and burning—the possibilities are pretty endless. For the purist who only wants to focus on Aperture’s image editing tools, there’s no need to ever add a plug-in, but for those who have been hankering to extend the program’s capabilities—your wish has been granted.
This is a huge addition to the program, and one that will likely make it much more popular with professionals. The support of third party developers will go a very long way to help solidify Aperture's place in the market.

Other important additions and improvements include things like tethered camera support, background exporting, improved speed, and a whole host of others.

Also big news is Apple's new pricing structure. It's only $199 now for the full application, and $99 for the upgrade. Just as importantly, the Canadian dollar is treated at par, and the pricing is the same in Canada, reflecting the fact that the Canadian dollar is essentially now worth the same as the US dollar. This is even better than the comparative pricing on the new 32 GB iPod touch, released last week. It's $499 in the US, and $519 in Canada, a 4% difference. That's not quite at par, but close enough, especially considering the Canadian dollar was worth a few cents less a couple of weeks before the 32 GB iPod touch was released. It appears that the US's low dollar isn't raising prices much for Americans, but is helping to lower prices on Apple's products elsewhere in the world.

The educational pricing in the US isn't particularly impressive in comparison however. Aperture 2 is $179 for education individuals, just $20 less than the full retail price. The educational pricing in Canada has not yet been posted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jobs weighs in on the AAPL rout

AppleInsider has gotten its hands on an internal memo from Jobs to Apple employees commenting on the recent large drop in AAPL's price.

Not surprisingly, he didn't really say anything specific, but obviously he felt the concern about the stock price was enough to warrant speaking out and providing assurances.
"...we have outperformed many other blue-chip tech companies, including Google. I continue to believe that our fundamentals - our remarkable people, our clear and focused strategy, our new product pipeline, our 200+ retail stores, our $18 billion of cash in the bank with no debt, etc., will serve us well in the coming months and years."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MacJournals rants about Wall Street analysts

It has been an interesting week for anyone in the stock market, just about anywhere in the world. It has been an even more interesting month for anyone with stock in Apple. After hitting hitting an intra-day high of over US$200 on Dec. 28, AAPL has been in a steady decline, settling to just over $161 at the end of last week.

Then, on January 22, 2008 while Americans were celebrating Dr. King, markets around the world crashed. Apple had the pleasure of holding its Q1 2008 financial conference call the very next day, in the context of very jittery markets, with American indices also showing mini-crashes for the day. AAPL closed down 3.5% to a respectable $155.64 on Tuesday.

Shortly after market close, Apple announced that its last quarter was the best sales quarter in company history, with results blowing past all analysts' expectations. The after-hours crowd promptly reacted... by shaving 11% off AAPL's value. Why? Largely because despite Apple's stellar results for the last quarter, their guidance for the following quarter didn't meet Wall Street analysts' rosy expectations.

I lost a few bucks that day, but judging by their response, it seems the people over at may have lost more. They have published a scathing analysis of "irresponsible" Wall Street analysts.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

MacBook Air SuperDrive not supported on other Macs

Apple says the MacBook Air SuperDrive is made specifically for the MacBook Air and is not supported on any other Mac.

That is a disappointment. However, we don't know yet what that really means. It could work on other Macs even if it is not supported.


Several have now confirmed that the MacBook Air's external USB SuperDrive does NOT work on other Macs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MacBook Air released. It's tiny, and it's feature poor.

Apple today released its much anticipated MacBook Air. It comes in a very spiffy new design. It's tiny! Yet it still sports a full sized 13.3" screen and full sized keyboard.

The specs are as follows:

Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz (or a 1.8 GHz for $300 more)
80 GB 4200 rpm 1.8" drive (or a 64GB flash drive for $999 more)
13.3" 1280x800 LED-backlit LCD
GMA X3100 graphics
2 GB RAM (non-upgradable)
802.11n + Bluetooth
Multitouch trackpad
Full sized backlit keyboard
Aluminum enclosure
No optical drive (or an external drive for $99)
DVI/VGA output (via dongles)
1 USB 2.0 port (but no Firewire - no target mode?)
Audio port (analogue only, no optical)
Speaker and microphone
Non-removable battery
No Ethernet port (but an optional dongle is available)


In other words, it's gorgeous, it's tiny, it's feature poor, and it's very expensive. Is this the Cube all over again? Well, maybe not, but I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be one of Apple's worst selling laptops in its current line.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dashboard translator can't count

It would seem the Dashboard's Translation widget needs a little work, even for just numbers.