Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apple Java is dead

Apple has deprecated its version of Java.

What this means is that Apple's Java will not be bundled with OS X 10.7 Lion. Interesting. I'm not sure why they did this, but perhaps it was too much of a headache, or maybe (like with Flash) they just wanted that third part technology out of Macs. I wonder if Sun/Oracle will pick up the slack to have a good version out by summer 2011, when Lion is released.

Could Blu-ray implementation in Lion have anything to do with this? Maybe not, but one can hope...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple has first $20 billion quarter.

Apple has achieved a remarkable milestone, with its first ever $20 billion quarter. Along with that was a record profit of $4.31 billion, beating IBM's $3.59 billion. Little brother IBM?

In true market form though, AAPL dropped over 6% to below $300 in after hours trading, on lower guidance and news that the iPad has sold lower numbers than expected by the street.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Will there be an 11" MacBook Air?

There are lots of rumours swirling that Apple will release an 11.6" MacBook Air on October 20. Personally, I'd like to see this happen (and I've been wanting one for a long time), since in my view the expensive 13" Air never made a whole lot of sense. It has the same footprint as the 13" MacBook Pro, has no optical drive, is slower, has fewer ports, yet costs a lot more. In other words, Apple provided a severely dumbed down 13" MacBook Pro for a heluvalot more money.

My favourite Mac laptop form factor of all time is the 12" iBook/PowerBook. Sure it was a bit bulky and it wasn't super light, but it had a much smaller footprint than my current 13" MacBook Pro. Remove the optical drive, swap in a widescreen 11.x" 1366x768 monitor, make it thinner, and you've got a winner… but only if the price is right.

With the PowerBook line, smaller and less feature rich meant cheaper. With the Air, Apple reversed direction and declared thinner (but with the same footprint) and less feature rich means more expensive. In fact, lots more expensive.

One theory is that any new 11.6" MacBook Air would only have an SSD, with no option for a conventional hard drive. If this decision is made, then the machine could be one of the smallest ever made… but could also be horrendously expensive for that category.

What I want is an inexpensive machine that's lighter and easier to use on the plane than a 13" laptop. SSD is nice, but for most people (including myself) not really worth the price premium at this time. If Apple gives us another overpriced Air, just in a smaller form factor, I may just end up getting a Windows 7 11.6" machine instead. However, that's assuming that AMD can come through with its low power but reasonably performing and inexpensive Ontario APU, or else Intel can price one of their low power but high performing chips competitively.

By the way, I have been playing with an older Windows 7 dual-core Atom machine, with NVIDIA ION GPU. I'm pleasantly surprised. It's reasonably responsive, and even plays Blu-ray smoothly. I'm enjoying the machine more than I thought I would, and that's why I'm considering a 11"-12" Windows 7 laptop for 2011… unless Apple can provide us with a smaller but decently priced MacBook Air.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

iOS 4 is very, very slow on the iPhone 3G

After a brief test period with iOS 4 on my iPhone 3G, I have reverted back to iPhone OS 3.1.3. Using iOS 4 on the 3G was utterly painful. Everything was laggy, and certain basic functionality like listening to music or even just answering the phone was problematic with iOS 4.

When I would listen to music and surf the net over 3G data at the same time, the music would sometimes skip. Completely unacceptable. Other applications would often have a few second lag too before I could interact with them. This even was true for answering the phone. If I was for example reading email and a call came in, the phone would go to the call screen, but wouldn't allow me to answer it right away. The swipe-to-answer finger gesture wouldn't work as the screen would be unresponsive for a few seconds. If the caller didn't stay on the line long enough I'd miss the call. Very irritating. This was never a problem on the 3G with previous versions of iPhone OS.

So, I downgraded back to OS 3, following these good instructions.

While reports of lag with the 3G are common, people have not been reporting it with the iPhone 3GS. While the iPhone 3GS has a faster CPU, I suspect it has more to do with memory. The 3G has 128 MB RAM, while the 3GS has twice that, at 256 MB. That's a huge difference, presumably saving on page-outs to flash memory. (The iPhone 4 has 512 MB RAM, which is actually twice as much as the iPad.)

I don't know if Apple will be able to address this performance issue on the 3G with future iOS 4 point updates. Hopefully they will, but no guarantees. At this point the iOS 4 features are not a big loss though, since multitasking of third party apps isn't offered on the 3G anyway, and folders as currently implemented in iOS 4 aren't something I will miss much. However, in the future, iOS 4 will be more of a necessity, as applications will eventually start requiring iOS 4 or higher to function.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

iPhone 4 in Canada factory unlocked from Apple

My globetrotting friends are pleasantly surprised to see that in Canada, we will be able to get the iPhone 4 unlocked straight from Apple.

An iPhone 4 not subsidized by a carrier contract will be costly, but it still actually is cheaper for those who spend a lot of time out of the country. They will be getting the iPhone 4 sans contract, and will use local service in the countries they visit, either through a regular wireless account or through prepaid SIM cards. Well, if they can find local micro-SIM cards that is.

I personally will probably still sign a contract to get a subsidized iPhone 4. However, given Fido's annoying stacked contacts, I'm also considering going to a new carrier for my iPhone 4 after my current 3G's 3-year contract runs out, but only if they can offer decent voice and data plans. Fortunately, the big three in Canada - Rogers, Telus, and Bell - all offer the iPhone now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Apple is bigger than Microsoft

Today, Apple has a higher market capitalization than Microsoft. Currently AAPL is just a shade over $227 billion, and MSFT is just a shade under.

[Update 2010-05-26]

AAPL closed at $244.11, for a market cap of $222.12 billion.
MSFT closed at $25.01, for a market cap of $219.18 billion.

The last time Apple was bigger than Microsoft was 20 years ago. At the low point about a dozen years ago, Apple was worth about 1/100th of Microsoft.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rogers offers up $20 iPad data sharing deal... and then retracts it.

Apple and Rogers today seemed to announce an iPad data sharing plan, which was advertised on That plan would have allowed iPad users to share their existing Rogers 3G smartphone data plans with their iPads for an add-on fee of $20. Although that added $20 was not a terribly good deal, at least it would avoid having to get an additional 5 GB $35 plan just for the iPad.

Oddly enough, that offer was quickly retracted, and there now only remain a 250 MB $15 plan and the 5 GB $35 plan.

As expected, the folks over at Howard Forums are rather disgusted with Rogers right now. I'm sure everyone is now looking to see what Bell and Telus will offer.

Rogers seems have to have an unusual knack for screwing up Apple 3G launches.

In the meantime, 3G data tethering continues to be a free add-on for those of us with the GB+ iPhone plans, so that's a pretty strong disincentive to get an iPad. The iPad cannot tether at any price since the machine is simply incapable of that functionality, but a laptop can "share" that data usage at no extra charge.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Clash of the iPad

This is a month old now, but I'm only getting around to posting it now. It's just an amusing chance placement by the Toronto Star of two pictures, for reports on the iPad launch and the Clash of the Titans movie.

27" iMac Core i7 as a monitor

Monday, May 03, 2010

US FTC & DOJ considering antitrust inquiry into Apple

The New York Post and Reuters are reporting that the US Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice are considering a formal inquiry into Apple's new very restrictive iPhone 4.0 developer requirements, which are essentially designed to exclude third party development platforms such as Adobe's Flash.

The New York Post first reported regulators' interest in Apple's policy, which essentially requires people who write apps to choose between writing them only for Apple or for Apple's rivals.

The agencies are expected within days to make a decision on which would handle the investigation, the Post reported.

"What they're (Apple) doing is clearly anticompetitive ... They want one superhighway and they're the tollkeeper on that superhighway," said David Balto, a former FTC policy director.

This will prove interesting if the FTC/DOJ does move forward.

[Update 2010-05-03]

The Wall Street Journal is now also reporting the interest from the FTC/DOJ.

Also mentioned in the WSJ article is the FTC's interest in Apple's new ad service for iPhone OS 4.0, called iAd.

Apple's new language forbidding apps from transmitting analytical data could prevent ad networks from being able to effectively target ads, potentially giving Apple's new iAd mobile-advertising service an edge, executives at ad networks say.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Steve weighs in new developer requirements

Voicing his concerns, Greg Slepak at Tao Effect wrote to Steve Jobs about the harsh new programming requirements for iPhone 4.0. Here is Steve's response:

We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.

The second statement does have merit from the business perspective, as for example, allowance of third party cross-platform development tools can slow down widespread adoption of new features introduced by Apple. Third party tools may not be as ready to incorporate those new features as Apple would, especially if other targets cannot support them.

As for sub-standard apps, banning third party tools does little to address this issue. Many apps created with Apple's tools are absolutely terrible, but similarly bad apps in iPhone 4.0 will win a free pass simply because they were created with Apple's tools.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apple slaps draconian iPhone 4.0 requirements on developers

Evidenced by the shock and dismay out there, Apple's new draconian new iPhone OS 4.0 programming requirement seems like a big blow to independent developers. I can't claim to be an educated coder or anything like that, but even as an outsider, this sends shivers down my spine.

IANAL, but I have to wonder if the regulators could consider this anti-competitive.

P.S. Until today I had no interest whatsoever in Android. Now I think I'll have to take a closer look at Google's baby to see what all the fuss is about.

Monday, April 05, 2010

iPad hands on

A colleague made the trek down south to the US of A and braved the Apple Store crowds to buy an iPad this weekend. As expected, the machine is sleek and feels well built, and really does look like a giant but sexier iPod touch.

Of course, the larger screen is a massive improvement for its functionality, as compared to the iPhone and iPod touch. Things are easy to read and the width in portrait mode is perfect to fit most standard documents and email messages. iPhoto's Multi-Touch capabilities are excellent, and are really sleekly implemented. The machine is responsive for surfing and email and in its current form factor could easily replace a laptop for this purpose. Embedded video in sites such as work fine, but unfortunately, the lack of Adobe Flash support is still a major impediment on many other popular sites. For example, videos on my favourite news site, The Globe and Mail, are dependent upon Flash and therefore are not viewable on the iPad. Ironically, the first video I tried (and failed) to view was the Globe's iPad review.

Typing in portrait mode is somewhat annoying as it's too cramped for touch typing, but it's still a much, much better experience than on an iPhone. Touch typing in landscape mode is possible, but it would take some getting used to. I was constantly adding extra characters by accident, when my fingers inadvertently brushed the screen.

The iPad is light, but I would find it uncomfortable to hold in place like a book for hours on end. Not that I would anyway, since it suffers the same problems as laptop screens for reading. If you want an eBook reader you'd be better off getting a dedicated eBook reader. I personally prefer real paper though. Call me old school.

I did not have enough time to give iWork a good run through, but the apps look sleek on the machine. The iPad would probably make for a good on-the-road machine for Keynote presentations, but then again on the road I'd still be taking my MacBook Pro, making the iPad superfluous.

All in all, the iPad is a great start. I'm holding off for now though, and will adopt Microsoft's wait-and-see stance. In its current iteration, the iPad is not quite there yet (or the internet is not quite there yet depending on your perspective), so I see no need to drop a wad of cash on an iPad in 2010. Maybe later.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ING Canada releases iPhone banking app

ING Canada today released its banking application for the iPhone.

It is remarkably effective and easy to use, for accounts that have been previously set up online. Within minutes of installing the application I had already transferred some money from my ING account to a non-ING bank account. In fact, it was even simpler than online banking with some banks through Safari. No browser incompatibilities to worry about.

There was even an option for transferring either Canadian or US currency. I tried the Canadian $ transfer, but not the US $ transfer, as I don't have a US account.

There was one glitch where if I tried initiating a transaction with the "Later" date option using its built-in calendar, but instead chose today's date, it claimed today was a weekend day and would not let me proceed. However, choosing the option for a transaction "Now" worked fine. It looks like a quick update is in order to fix this bug.

There are a few other included options like the savings, GIC, and mortgage rate listings and fairly useless features like the Twitter posts and automated banking machine locator. There are all of 4 bank machine sites in all of Toronto according to the map.

CIBC has already had a banking application for months now too, but I hadn't been able to try it because I wasn't a CIBC client. I've heard good things about it though.

I hope the other big banks go this same direction soon. These apps are too simple and useful not to have. Royal, TD, Scotia, and BMO, where are you? To be fair, some of the others have browser based mobile pages, but it'd still be nice to get dedicated iPhone apps.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aperture 3 out, recommends Core 2 Duo

Apple yesterday released version 3 of Aperture. At first I thought a Core 2 Duo was required. Nope that's dead wrong. Core 2 Duo is recommended, but not required.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad: Not interested

So, it turns out it was just a giant iPhone after all.

Well, not quite. It's more like a giant tarted up iPod touch (since you can't call anyone on it) that can have 3G data support (from AT&T, for a bunch of $ every month), if you cough up extra up front for 3G support that is. The maxed out iPad is US$830, although a geek might get by with a 32 GB $730 version. It has no real functional USB port (and the camera adapter doesn't count), it doesn't support Flash (which isn't completely surprising given its Apple-owned PA Semi SoC heritage, plus the fact that Apple despises Flash), and it doesn't even have a front-facing camera (or any other camera for that matter).

On the plus side, it can run iWork. I like Keynote and use it all the time, because I create Keynote presentations myself for own use on my own Macs when I need to present them, so the iPad would work there. However, as any enterprise employee will tell you, iWork's Pages just doesn't cut it for a world based on Word. At least the iPad's external keyboard support is nice.

Up until the launch, I just couldn't figure out what amazing features and/or content Apple could have added to the iPad to make it stand out in the established iPhone & laptop (or even netbook) world. It looks like Apple hasn't quite figured it out yet either. Maybe more will come with time, but so far I'm just not that interested.

If anything, I'm more interested in what the iPad experiment will mean for my current and future iPhones. I'd like to see iPhone computing and media capabilities expand sooner rather than later, and external keyboard support would be very nice too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Impending Mac tablet: What is it?

Impending Mac tablet: What is it? Hell if I know.

Is it just a big iPhone? If so, then it would be too big to be a truly functional iPhone. It has to be more than that.

Is it just a touchscreen keyboard-less laptop? If so, then it would be a pretty limited laptop. It has to be more than that.

Is it just an in-between machine? If so, it could do neither well, requiring an iTablet owner to own all three. It has to be more than that.

I think one thing we should do, however, is to stop focusing on the hardware. What an iSlate really needs to get off the ground is proper media connectivity and content, all accessed through an intuitive OS. The hard part is getting all the publishing and media companies on board, along with a sleek content delivery system, but Jobs probably has a lot of that wrapped up into a nice easy to use iTunes package already. How encompassing will that "a lot" be, and will it be enough? We shall see tomorrow... and in the months and years following. The iPad could end up being as important as the iPhone, or it could end up being as irrelevant as AppleTV.

The other part of all of this I personally wonder about is whether or not all that media goodness will be available to us multitouch MacBook and MacBook Pro owners. I'm not really holding out a lot of hope there, but maybe Apple will surprise us there too.