The iPad’s big moment

August 25th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Aug
25

Apple’s dug itself into a hole with the iPad, but now is the time to change everything (again).

ipad-mini

We’ve got a big fall ahead of us. New versions of iOS and OS X. As ever, a new iPhone (or iPhones). A new Apple TV. But for the first time in a while, it’s the iPad that seems to be getting a lot of the attention and rumormongering.
Part of that is the tablet’s contentious place in Apple’s lineup. The general perception is that the iPad isn’t doing well, with dwindling sales growth, an increasingly unclear niche, and lackluster improvements. I agree with my esteemed colleague Mr. Snell that many of these problems are overstated, and the iPad isn’t about to tank.
But in some ways, Apple has dug itself into a hole with the iPad. It’s not a bottomless pit, or even a chasm with walls so steep that the company can’t clamber out, but it does present some challenges.

The long now

The upgrade cycle has been repeatedly suggested as one of the major reasons for declining growth in iPad sales. Either users of older devices aren’t buying new ones yet, or they’re not planning on buying new ones at all.
Case in point: The other day, I got into a discussion with a friend, who lamented that his iPad 2 running iOS 8 wasn’t good for much, even when all he wanted to do was browse the web or view PDFs. He was disappointed that, for all he had paid for the device, it could no longer function the way it used to, which he attributed to “forced obsolescence.”
Thing is, there’s nothing “forced” about it. It’s just genuine, good old-fashioned, straight-up obsolescence. The iPad 2 was the second generation of a brand-new product category that was set for rapid evolution. (Remember the iPad 3, whichwas replaced a scant six months later with the fourth-generation iPad?)
The heart of the problem for users of those older devices is that surprising longevity of Apple’s products. The company continues to maintain software support for its long-in-the-tooth devices—but just because you can install the latest and greatest operating system on a device doesn’t mean it will work well. And it’s not surprising that Apple isn’t going to spend the time ensuring that its newest software runs smoothly on hardware from four or five years ago. From a purely business perspective, those customers have already made their purchase.
Of course, there we enter a Catch–22 scenario. Because if you don’t update to the newest OS, you won’t just be missing features—you’ll also increasingly encounter apps that simply won’t run on the older OS. Apple pushes developers to embrace its newest technologies, which often means raising requirements to the most recent OS. So even if your older device works, it may not do everything you want it to do, whether you update the OS or not. But replacing the entire device can be prohibitively expensive, since you can’t get subsidies on iPads.

Stuck in the middle

It’s also clear that the iPad, originally pitched as the future of computers, has stagnated in a no-man’s land, lacking both the convenience of a smartphone and the power of a Mac, the best of neither world.
To borrow a sentiment from John Gruber, the iPad has a tough time because in some ways it’s competing both with the iPhone, a truly blockbuster product, and the Mac, which has a strong, devoted user base and a long history. That’s a tough channel to navigate.
I suspect that a big part of why we’re hearing so many rumors about the iPad Prois that Apple is trying hard to find a way to broaden the appeal of the iPad andreduce its competition. Because a 12-inch iPad doesn’t compete in the same space at all as an iPhone, so it becomes merely a comparison between the tablet and a laptop. (Granted, the slim and powerful MacBook will provide stiff competition.)
It also helps explain why, as rumors suggest, an iPad Air 3 may not be immediately forthcoming. The iPad Air 2 is already an extremely powerful device that’s ahead of the curve for what it’s being asked to do—developers I’ve talked to have been impressed by just how much it’s capable of. Introducing a new iPad mini that comes closer to the Air 2’s specs and an iPad Pro with a larger screen not only makes those devices stronger contenders on their own, but also potentially spares Apple from getting too much flack if it skips a year of “standard” iPad updates.
I think Apple would like to be freed from feeling that it has to update the 9.7-inch iPad—or any iPad, for that matter—each and every year. That trap has exacerbated the speed of obsolescence for preceding generations, while often providing only meager updates, like the iPad mini 3.
So don’t be shocked if October comes around and the iPad lineup isn’t quite what we’ve grown accustomed to. Apple’s not about to kill of the iPad, but it does need to put the product line’s best foot forward if it wants to present a truly compelling argument to customers.

Source: www.macworld.com

Pebble Time Steel smartwatch goes up for pre-order as early reviews roll in

August 15th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Aug
15

Pebble is now taking pre-orders for its high-end Pebble Time Steel smartwatch, though it won’t ship until late September at the earliest.

pebbletimesteel

The $250 timepiece includes a leather band and stainless steel chassis, either in gunmetal black with a black band, silver with stone leather, or gold with red leather. For $50 more, you can get a matching stainless steel link band instead.
Pebble is currently estimating a six- to eight-week shipping window for the Pebble Time Steel with either band. Those who already backed the Pebble Time Steel on Kickstarter will be getting their watches this month (though Pebble has delayed the shipment of metal bands, which are included for Kickstarter backers.)
Aside from premium design, the Pebble Time Steel is 1 mm thicker than the Pebble Time, and advertises 10 days of battery life instead of seven days. Otherwise, it’s identical to the Pebble Time—at least on paper. According to some early reviews at Gizmodo and The Verge, the Pebble Time Steel’s display is brighter and closer to the surface glass, making it much easier to read indoors. Having used the Pebble Time myself, I believe this alone could be reason enough to buy the Steel instead.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Pebble Time, think of it as a low-maintenance alternative to the Apple Watch and Android Wear watches, compatible with either operating system. It’s not as powerful, it lacks a touch screen, and its display isn’t as vivid, but you don’t have to worry as much about charging it or keeping it dry, and the always-on display means you don’t have master a wrist flick gesture to check the time.
Why this matters: While Pebble is already selling the Pebble Time in retail stores, the company hadn’t previously said when it would start selling the Steel version to the general public. If you recently bought a Time and are having second-thoughts about the display readability, sending it back and sticking it out for another couple months wouldn’t be a bad call at this point.

Source: www.macworld

The real Apple Watch party starts this fall

August 8th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Aug
08

“The Apple Watch is available on April 24,” Apple CEO Tim Cook declared on stage during Apple’s March media event, officially setting the launch date for Apple’s highly anticipated new product. And yet when you consider all the facts, it’s hard not to conclude that the Apple Watch truly arrives this fall, and its first six months have been merely a prologue.
I wear my Apple Watch every day, and I enjoy it. The fitness features have made me more active, and I enjoy being able seeing notifications from my iPhone and responding quickly when I feel the need. But as with so many new Apple products, the early users are on the shakedown cruise, before all the regular passengers come aboard. This was true with the iPod and the iPhone, and it feels true about the Apple Watch, too.
“Now, our objective for the quarter wasn’t primarily sales,” Cook said during hisconference call with financial analysts last week. If not sales, then what?
First, consider that most entirely new Apple product suffer from shortages, and not just because of pent-up demand. Building a new piece of high technology in large numbers, especially with Apple’s specifications, can be fraught with difficulties. So part of the objective of the first few months of Apple Watch production was to increase manufacturing volume. First came fulfilling demand in the Apple Watch launch countries; then as the initial demand has been met, Apple has added in new countries with their own initial demand and rolled the watch out to Apple’s retail stores. The goal is to reach the holiday season with an ability to accept every Apple Watch order that’s made, and to have enough watches to sell at Apple Stores (and other retail establishments).
Then there’s watchOS itself. The version on the Apple Watch today is so new, it doesn’t really even have a name. It’s an impressive piece of work, but software–unlike hardware–is a constant work in progress. Apple needed the Apple Watch hardware to be rock solid on the launch date, because once that watch hardware is out in the world, it’s never going to get any better. But the software, that’s a continuing story.

apple_watch

Getting to version 2

With the announcement at WWDC 2015 of watchOS 2–finally, a name!–we can see how the Apple Watch will function beginning this fall, and how holiday watch buyers will experience it. The big story is support for standalone watch apps, but there will be plenty of other feature tweaks as well, exactly what you’d expect after six months of continued development of a brand-new product. (Not to mention, watchOS 2 will benefit from what Apple has learned from the first users of the Apple Watch outside Apple. The company tested the product extensively in house, but there’s nothing better than hearing from real customers about what they desire and what disappoints them.)
This fall’s Apple Watch will also benefit from six months more consideration and experimentation from third-party app developers. The first wave of Apple Watch apps were created largely on spec, without much idea of how the Apple Watch would really be used by regular people day to day. The second wave came whendevelopers used their apps on real Apple Watches and realized that their initial approaches weren’t appropriate for the actual product. This fall we’ll see a third wave of apps: Some will take great advantage of the new features of native apps on watchOS 2, some will be improved versions of existing watch apps, and still others will be first releases from app developers who have been watching the mistakes and successes of other developers and waiting for the right moment.
“We’re more excited about how the [Apple Watch] is positioned for the long term,” Cook said in that analyst call. “We’re convinced that the watch is going to be one of the top gifts of the holiday season.”
I’m enjoying my time with the Apple Watch, but it seems clear to me that the real starting gun for this product will be fired this fall with the release of watchOS 2. Its success as a product won’t be measured this summer, but after all the tinsel and ornaments have been taken down and Apple’s reviewing its numbers from the holiday quarter, which is traditionally its best quarter by far.
The Apple Watch: Coming this September.

Source: www.macworld.com

Report: Apple and BMW started talking about an iCar collaboration last year

August 6th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Aug
06

Tim Cook and company have shown interest in how BMW manufactures its i3 electric car, but want to go at it alone.

apple_car

The Apple Car is taking another lap on the rumor circuit, with a new report from Reuters that Apple execs visited BMW last year to find out more about how BMW makes the (very cool) i3 electric car.
“Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too,” an unnamed source at BMW told Reuters.
According to the report, Tim Cook visited BMW’s headquarters in 2014 and asked the carmaker’s board members very detailed questions about production of its i3 electric vehicles, which BMW manufactures using lightweight carbon fiber. BMW execs were willing to provide the parts for the Apple Car, according to Reuters.
Talks about a potential collaboration between Apple and BMW, however, ended shortly after that. Sources told Reuters that the reason was because Apple decided to try to build a car on its own. As for BMW, the carmaker started getting worried about revealing its manufacturing secrets and becoming just a mere supplier of car parts for the tech company. BMW denied the claims of a potential collaboration, and Apple declined to comment.
”We need to get away from the idea that it will be either us or them. We cannot offer clients the perfect experience without help from one of these technology companies.”
“We do not collaborate to open our ecosystems but we find ways, because we respect each other,” BMW’s head of research and development Klaus Froehlich told Reuters.
When it came to speculating about Apple’s plans for a future car, the Reuters report referenced Steve Jobs’s infamous a-ha moment after visiting a Xerox research center in 1979 and getting the ideas for the first Macintosh. Could Tim Cook have gathered enough insight from visiting BMW last year to have a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles on the road by 2020 without help from a major carmaker? Doubtful. But this year alone Cupertino has hired a lot of talent from the automotive industry, including Tesla.
Why this matters: With over $200 billion in cash as of its last earnings call, Apple certainly has the resources to take a few risks and enter the auto industry. These deep pockets could be why the Cupertino thinks it can go it alone. As for automakers like BMW, they seem to understand their need to partner with a tech company to develop next-gen vehicles. Building cars from scratch is hard, yes, but so is creating the mapping software that recalibrates in real time.
“We need to get away from the idea that it will be either us or them,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW’s management board member in charge of digital services. “We cannot offer clients the perfect experience without help from one of these technology companies.”

Source: www.macworld.com

Inside the Macworld Vault: A hidden collection of vintage Macs

July 30th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Jul
30

A hidden collection of vintage Macs

A lot of Apple hardware has passed through the halls of Macworld. Over time, old hardware gets donated to charities and schools. But sometimes an item is put into storage, thinking that there might be a use for it down the road. More often, though, that item is forgotten about.
I was recently asked to sort through Macworld’s storage, and I ended up taking a fun trip through memory lane. I documented much of it on my Twitter andInstagram feed, but we’ve also decided to post pictures here.
Sit back, relax with a tasty beverage, and enjoy the photos. More importantly, share you Mac stories in the comments section. Also, if you enjoy coverage of vintage Apple products, be sure to check out Christopher Phin’s Think Retrocolumn.

Pyramid of Mac towers

This is a combination of G5 Power Macs and 2008 Mac Pros. Apple used this basic tower design for over seven years. Apple is so focused now on lightweight, small computers, and the aluminum tower was everything but lightweight and small.
With that in mind, here’s a disclaimer: Do not attempt to build your own pyramid of aluminum Mac towers. They are heavy machines, and lifting one above your knees is a difficult task. That tower up top? It nearly fell on my head when I tried to place it there. (The things I do for you people.) I really don’t want to hear about Mac enthusiasts inspired by this picture who were crushed by an avalanche of G5 Power Macs and Mac Pros. Don’t do it.

pyramid-of-mac-towers

Wallstreet PowerBook

This Macintosh PowerBook G3 was code-named Wallstreet. Two things that struck me about this laptop as I inspected it some 17 years after its release: I really like the feel of its keyboard, and the six-color Apple logo under the screen (which, according to Wikipedia, was the last time Apple used this logo on its hardware).

MacBook Air and Wallstreet

Sitting on top of the Wallstreet PowerBook G3 is a 13-inch MacBook Air (which wasn’t in storage). I wanted to see how many MacBook Airs I could stack before it equaled the height of Wallstreet. But I got distracted by the next laptop…

Pismo PowerBook

The Pismo PowerBook came a generation after the Wallstreet PowerBook G3. It was the last G3 laptop.

Titanium PowerBook G4

See the broken hinge on this Titanium PowerBook G4? This laptop was in bad shape. I used a similar machine during my stint as a MacAddict/Mac|Life editor. Good laptop.

iBook G4

This one is white. Or it was white.

Macintosh SE FDHD

No vintage Mac collection is complete without an original Mac 128K. But we don’t have one, so I guess that makes our collection incomplete. We do have a Mac SE FDHD, though. My first Mac was a SE FDHD, which I bought while in college.

Graphite iMac

The graphite iMac was part of the third generation of the iMac line. This was the first model to have a slot-loading optical drive.

Flower Power iMac

There’s a Bondi Blue iMac in storage, but I was too distracted by the Flower Power iMac to take a picture of it. I did not find a Blue Dalmatian iMac, however.

eMac

The flat-panel iMac made its debut in 2002. The CRT-based eMac was released soon afterward. It was a more affordable all-in-one made available through education channels.

iMac (Flat Panel)

In 2004, I was hired as Reviews Editor for MacAddict. During my first month there, I attempted to upgrade the RAM in a 17-inch flat-panel iMac. (I never liked calling it the “sunflower” iMac or the “iLamp.”) I re-assembled it improperly and ended up destroying the computer—which was on loan from Apple. My boss was furious and I thought I was going to be fired, but Apple forgave me.

white imac
iMac G5
I was never a fan of the look of the iMac G5. To me, it made the computer look too much like a kitchen appliance. I still see one or two in public schools today.

Apple mice

I’ve never been a fan of the Apple mouse. It prioritizes style and sacrifices function. It’s a very personal piece of hardware, so everyone has an opinion. Whatever works for you.

Source: www.macworld.com

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