An interesting discussion on Twitter last night got me thinking. It started with a tweet by Shel Israel (co-author of with Robert Scoble) asking if anyone actually had a good word to say about Vista.
Now, I must be one of the lucky ones. As on Twitter I've never really had any problems caused by Vista itself. I've always liked it from the early betas (even the Longhorn alphas but it was a different animal back then) and think it's a shame that Microsoft have had to cave in over things like removing the search from SP1 etc. Yes, I experienced issues during the beta with the installation of SP1 but that's _why_ it's a beta right? The only other major issue was due to Lexmark not sorting out their printer drivers (which I still get lots of hits on even now!)
Shel went on to say that Vista has done more for Apple than anything else but I disagree. Vista itself is a good product but with a bad rep and poor (or almost non-existent marketing), . In my experience consumers hear a couple of horror stories and everything becomes a bit like chinese whispers. The tales of woe are recounted by ever increasing circles of people without any of them actually installing Vista (). How is a product supposed to compete with the likes of that when no-one is actually standing up to say that it's actually pretty good.
The problem is, however, not just the fact that Microsoft just but that we have the likes of Apple putting the PR train in to overdrive. Yes Apple make nice products and they capture the imagination but I think we can all agree that their advertising sails very close to the wind.
Take the MAC vs PC ads for example.
Apple have made an art out of bad mouthing the competition that would make a politician during an election campaign cringe. Microsoft may have been described as arrogant in the past but the torch has been well and truly passed on. people seem to respond to the smug arrogance employed by Apple in their ads - this may make them entertaining but they are definitely not entirely accurate. In fact, they are blatant exaggerations. Is this ?
Turn things around for a moment. Would people cry foul and demand for heads to roll if it was Microsoft bad mouthing Apple? Most likely. It seems to be one rule for one and one for another. Whatever happens, Microsoft really need to make a point of upping their game when it comes to marketing. They may still be in a monopoly position but they need to be talking to the man on the street, the consumer and not just those organisations that will be signing the big deals.
What's your take? Do you think this is all fair game or should the playing field be levelled when it comes to advertisements?
Opinion: Mobile Zune portal and EU zunes in 2009 - too little too late?
The recent news that Microsoft will be launching a mobile portal for the Zune Marketplace and also bringing their version 3 device to Europe is, on the face of it, good news but as these are not due to happen until some time in 2009 is it going to be too little too late?
The mobile portal is set to coincide with the release of devices running Windows Mobile 7 and it appears that Zune users will be able to download content directly to their Windows Mobile device as well as directly to their Zune (presumably Microsoft will be opening up the Wi-Fi connection for more than just squirting tracks between Zunes). What we don't know yet, however, is exactly what type of content Windows Mobile users will be able to put straight on their phones but I would suspect that music will not be included unless Windows Mobile 7 uses a Zune based player instead of WMP.
Regardless of what form the v3 Zunes take you have to ask if the iPod will have become too embedded for a 2009 release to have any great impact, especially now that we have the iPod Touch which will only keep getting better and better. Microsoft are playing catch-up here in a big way and may not be able to establish the sort of market share that they need.
I do sometimes wonder if there is an iPod backlash on the way, though. Travelling to and from work I am seeing more and more people using other branded MP3 players (such as iRiver and Creative) or just using their mobile phones to listen to music (no, not iPhones) so perhaps there is room in the market for the Zune or even a Zune based Windows Mobile phone.
What do you think?
Opinion: will exchange on the iPhone kill Windows Mobile?
Over at ReadWriteWeb a poll asks if Microsoft made a mistake licensing Exchange ActiveSync to Apple for use on the iPhone as it could sound the death knell for Windows Mobile.
As some rightly say in the comments to this poll Microsoft had little choice. EAS is available for licensing to anyone who wants to pay for it, refusing to license to Apple would not be seen favourably by the courts. Support for Exchange on the iPhone, however, could be an additional selling point for Exchange should businesses choose to adopt the iPhone as a supported device. Whether this will happen is the big question.
In my previous post I suggested that the move by Apple may make a lot of people think seriously about moving to the iPhone but individual "people" and the decisions they make are radically different, and usually based on different criteria, to those made by organisations.
At present, distribution of the iPhone is limited with one network per country having the exclusive rights to supply it (O2 here in the UK). Windows Mobile devices, however, are available across the board and are still, therefore, a better alternative to the iPhone should you not wish to go the Blackberry route. In my experience, many organisations are with Vodafone as their business mobile supplier and I can't envisage then wishing to change contracts and refreshing hundreds, if not thousands, of devices just to switch to the iPhone.
It remains to be seen just how well the EAS support will operate on the iPhone (just look at how Nokia have used it). Apple have said that the iPhone will offer the full set of features: push email; push contacts; push calendar; Global Address List and remote wipe but still I feel that we are a long way off from Apple dominating the corporate mobile market. The new version 2.0 firmware and the SDK are going to have to bed down and prove themselves for a number of months before businesses will be willing to make a switch - IT departments never spend their hard fought budgets on technology just because of a "cool factor".
The majority of users still prefer to tap away on hardware keyboards so the BlackBerry and QWERTY style smartphones/PPCs are perfectly suited to life in the corporate environment. It will take a long time to persuade users that a virtual keyboard is the way to go. What may tip the balance, however, is third party applications built using the SDK but it remains to be seen how much control Apple will want to excercise in this area. We hear the comments that any third party applications will have to be approved and distributed via iTunes but will apple open up and allow businesses to develop their own in house apps and install them directly? If the iPhone wants to be taken seriously as an enterprise device it must be opened up to a greater degree than at present.
I think Windows Mobile is safe, certainly for the immediate future at least.
Opinion: the iPhone to change the mobile space, again.
There is no doubt that the launch of the iPhone really focused the mind not on what
you could do on your phone but how
you could do it. Apple did indeed change the mobile phone space overnight and forced is to change the way we think about how we interact with them.
GUI is king and the ability to do everything with your fingers rather than a stylus has caught the imagination - this is most apparent with Windows Mobile users designing iPhone UI clones in flash and projects such as PointUI
Apple are about to not only change the game again but also rewrite the rules while they are at it. The reason? The announcement of there version 2 firmware coming in June which will include Exchange ActiveSync and turn the iPhone into an enterprise class device.
The time has come for Microsoft and its partners to really up their game with the Windows Mobile operating system and the devices that run it.
HTC have made a start with the Home today plug-in and the TouchFLO system but once you get beyond this you are dumped right back in to the fiddly, stylus needing Windows Mobile interface. WinMo may be getting an overhaul come version 7 but this may be too late.
With enterprise capabilities the iPhone will be a perfectly balanced device appealing to both business users and consumers alike unlike WinMo which does not really cater for casual consumer use.
When the iPhone was first announced my two main concerns were the lack of 3G and Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). After the UK launch in November in my series of posts called "2g for a day" I proved (more to myself than anything) that 3g is not necessary for a working day - email over EAS is fine on 2g and it is only the more graphically intensive sites that demand 3G.
Now that the iPhone has EAS coming in June a lot of people are going to be thinking again, taking a long hard look at Apple's device and considering making the switch.
Happy Valentines day to my wonderful wife Sal
who puts up with more than she ought to.
I love you very much x
Why you've got to feel sorry for Steve Jobs.
After a fantastic few of years Apple products are even more synonymous with quality and style: MacBook Pros, the iPod phenomenon and of course the iPhone. MacWorld and Steve Jobs keynote speech have also become two of the most important things in the computing/electronics calendar so the pressure is really on to keep coming up with the goods.
After the iPhone it was always going to be hard to come up with that killer device and, obviously, the MacBook Air was Apple's attempt this time around. You can't deny that the Air is sleek, stylish, sexy and very thin with decent specs right out of the box but, as I mentioned before, this has all come at a price.
A lot has been said about the Air being a let down and the power users etc. won't buy them; I agree about the power users but disagree about the let down. The real beauty of the MacBook Air is that it introduces another element of choice, not just for Mac users but Windows users as well. If you are doing your homework then you buy a device that fits your usage pattern rather than try to make your usage pattern fit a particular device and I believe that there are a lot of moderate users out there who will really be able to make good use of the MacBook Air.
As a Tablet user I am always espousing the flexibility and choice offered by the form factor but recognise they are not for everyone. I am also painfully aware that they took a while to become decently spec'd devices. The same with UMPCs. Both of these form factors were fabulous ideas that didn't fulfil their promise straight away.
I believe the same can be said of the MacBook Air. This is Apple's shot at establishing a new product with new goals but, while it is an attractive device, it is not perfect. The Air will develop with alter revisions and I feel we have to forgive it's shortcomings. It is just a shame that Apple's shortcomings are so public that they are akin to a national disaster
MacBook Air - revelation or disaster waiting to happen?
Now that the dust has settled, the frenzy has died down and the web is back in working order (it's crazy how a keynote can bring things grinding to a halt) the initial gadget lust is making way for considered opinion.
The talk is no longer about how thin and sleek the MacBook air is, or it's 2GB of RAM out of the box, or it's specifically manufactured processor. No, the talk is now about it' potential shortcomings.
Watching the web post keynote yesterday I noticed a steady flow of posts and articles all along the same lines: "yeah, it's thin but..." so let's have a look at some of the buts:
· Only one USB port
· No LAN port
· Optical drive has to be purchased separately
· Fixed RAM - non-upgradable
· Non-consumer replaceable battery, just like the iPhone
The question we have to ask here is: are these show-stoppers or merely compromises we have to make in order to get a super thin MacBook? I would argue that these are merely compromises with the possible exception of the battery.
Look at first revision Tablet PCs or UMPCs and you will see a parallel; any time you want to do something different AND keep the price down to a reasonable level then something has to give. In the case of Tablet PCs and UMPCs it was performance and the onboard optical drive. With the MacBook Air it is the flexibility of the configuration.
Yes, you can change the processor for a slightly more powerful one (although I don't think you'd notice much difference) or pay the premium for the 64GB SSD but that's as far as you go but, is it such a bad thing? Not necessarily.
The Air is a Revision A product which, let's face it, will grow with subsequent revisions and, if the iPhone model is to be a guide here, not before too long. Things change over time and you can fully expect the MacBook Air 2/Pro/Plus/Extreme to go beyond this first generation device while still keeping the size down.
The one problem I can see with the Air is the non-replaceable battery. Consumers have put up with it in the iPod and iPhone (just) because they are small, relatively cheap devices but the Air is a different prospect. Yes it claims to offer 5 hours of battery life to keep you going but we all know that battery performance degrades over time and it will, eventually, need to be replaced. Rather than just being able to buy a new one and slot it in (keeping the original as a spare) you will be force to take it in to Apple and be charged a small fortune to have it replaced, and you just know that Apple will retain the original.
Despite this, the MacBook Air will sell and sell big. A lot of those who buy one while it is still a Rev A product probably won't care about the battery as they will have upgraded by the time I needs replacing - they are more interested in keeping ahead of the curve in as much style as they can. The Mac may be becoming more popular with those who had previously never considered buying one but the cult of Apple still reigns over a degree of common sense.
I would have to disagree with Devin Coldewey over at Crunchgear.
There is no need to lug an external optical drive around with you, it is quite rare that you really need one on the road - you just load up before you leave.
This is not Apple crippling a notebook but opening up choice. It's all about the compromise. The photoshoppers of this world will not buy an Air, they will stick with their MacBook Pros, but a lot of people will as it suits them.
The Air is not out there to catch the MacBook Pro power users but may well cause a lot of Windows users to make the switch. They needn't worry about the fixed RAM when using parallels as you can just dual boot with Boot Camp and run Vista on some very sexy hardware.
How much is that SSD in the window?
We all know that solid state drives (SSD) come in at a premium but you first think "are Apple for real?"
If you're going to want to spice up your new MacBook Air with an SSD drive instead of the 80GB iPod drive then you're looking at a price difference of around $1000.
The prices for the MacBook Air in the US break down as follows:
- 1.6GHz, 80GB MacBook Air - $1,799.00
- 1.6GHz, 64GB SSD - $2,798.00
- 1.8GHz, 80GB MacBook Air - $2,099.00
- 1.8GHz, 64GB SSD - $3,098.00
Criminal, I hear you cry!
When you think about it, however, it's not that bad. Apple customisations are normally pretty costly when compared to buying the parts on their own or comparing them with their PC counterparts so I had a quick look around the web.
This, however, is on a system with only 1GB of RAM meaning you then need to shell out an extra $100 to match the MacBook.
With any luck, this mainstream adoption of larger SSD's should help drive the price down.
It's enough to make you switch.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm about as Microsoft as they come but the new MacBook Air is enough to make anyone move over to Apple.
These things are seriously impressive:
- 1.6 Core 2 Duo as standard (1.8 optional)
- 2GB RAM standard
- 80GB hard drive standard (64GB SSD optional)
- 13.3 inch widescreen
- screen is LED backlit to save power
- backlit keyboard
- trackpad with multi-touch and responds to gestures
- 5 hour battery life
- and to top it off it's only 0.76 inches thick at it's WIDEST part (thinest part is 0.16 inches)
The base price in the US is $1799 (I wonder how much that will translate to in the UK) which is pretty darn reasonable for these specs.
How did Apple make it so small? Well, they're using the same hard drives as in iPods and they got Intel to shrink the size of the Core 2 Duo by 60%. Wow!
Imagine Vista running in Parallels on this baby!
UPDATE: thanks to Adam in the comments, the Air will start at £1199 in the UK.
Opinion: Further thoughts on the new EU anti-trust cases.
Many people are picking up on the two new EU anti-trust cases and with different opinions ranging from "it's about time" to "not again!"
The problem Microsoft will always have is scale; because they are in a monopolistic position any actions they take affect such a vast proportion of the population that it is deemed in the public interest to have a look. Despite the changes over the last few years (transparency, willingness to cooperate, working with third parties) there still seems to be a culture in place to punish success.
The investigation in to Internet Explorer has been instigated after a complaint from rival Opera and is based around the inclusion of IE with Windows and the "willingness to not comply with standards" in order to force people to stick with a proprietary solution.
In a piece in the New York Times
Dennis Oswell, managing partner of a Brussels law firm specialising in antitrust cases, is quoted as saying:
"the fact that the commission would find something to go after Microsoft does not surprise me ... But the fact that they have acted so quickly on a complaint from a small company without clout is surprising".
I don't find this is surprising at all. Ever since the whole Microsoft v Netscape soap opera people have been looking for additional ways to get IE out of Windows in the "interests of competition". The EU having actually received a direct complaint on this must be like music to their ears, especially after the success they achieved in getting Windows Media Player removed for Europe (not that it had much of an effect).
What remains to be seen is how far the EU will take this in light of the developments coming with IE8. Having now passed the Acid 2 test
it will be hard to take a punishment on interoperability too far when change is (relatively) just around the corner. The real issue here is going to be the bundling of IE.
Over at the 22hundred.net blog a post says:
"Just a little point to remember, Linux is bundled with Firefox and Leopard is bundled with Safari. What's the difference?"
Whilst I agree with the sentiment in the statement the difference is that word I mentioned earlier: scale. Smaller companies can get away with so much more as the impact is far less; could you imagine the outcry if Microsoft made a phone and then forced draconian agreement on to carriers if they wanted to sell it?
Scale is why I always say that it would not be in Apple's best interests to become truly competitive with Windows and PCs. At present, they may be growing, but Apple is a small fish not really seeming to offend anyone but if they approach a similar market share to Microsoft things may change. Apple always like to retain full control over everything and, while this may be okay for iPods, a few alarm bells may start to ring in relation to Macs. Having one company make the hardware and software and bundle them together may not look so appetising once the numbers get bigger.
The larger you are the bigger target you present and few have as big a target as Microsoft. Don't expect these to be the last cases we here about.
2007, the year in review: October - December.
Also see: January - March, April - June, July - September.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
As mentioned before, I had to remove beta 1 of Vista SP1 from my PC due to issues but we soon had the first build of Windows XP SP3 to keep us occupied.
Acer bought rival OEM Gateway in October and I immediately wondered what impact that would have on Gateway's line of Tablet PCs seeing as Acer had already axed their own previously. Luckily, things turned out okay with some Tablets being retained and others now being sold by MPCCorp.
The Queen described 1992 as an "annus horribilis" in her speech that year, well November was our bad month. Chloe developed Meningococcal Septicaemia and ended up in hospital on a course of intravenous antibiotics. Things were touch and go and if we had delayed any longer it could have gone in to full blown meningitis. We were all deemed at risk until a second round of blood tests came back negative. We were given the all clear but 10 days later we were involved in a car accident when a woman lost control the other way and hit us head on. Luckily no-one was injured too badly - bruising, whiplash and a good dose of shock all round. They say bad things happen in threes: our third thing was the main desktop PC dying and needing the motherboard, CPU, memory and graphics card replaced - wonderful!
As expected, the iPhone came to the UK on November 9th which prompted me to run a series of posts called "2G for a day" in which I turned off my high speed connection on the phone to see what difference only having GPRS would make - not as much as you would imagine.
On the beta front Vista SP1 hit a Release Candidate Preview build and Windows Messenger 9 was released to testers but then leaked within 48 hours.
One positive thing to come out of November was for me to reach my 4th anniversary blogging. The blog has been through a number of incarnations and most of the posts before June 2006 no longer exist on the web, although I have recreated the most common old items elsewhere on the site.
The PC failure meant I had to reactivate Vista and I then started experiencing a number of issues with Vista SP1 but I originally put these down to the hardware issues I had experienced. It wasn't until a lot of other people starting reporting the same problems that I realised the issue was actually with the SP1 RC Preview build AND the actual RC build itself. Bugs were being closed on Connect as "won't fix" without any explanation so I posted about the issues and accused Microsoft of sweeping the problems under the carpet. It turns out that the RC builds were causing problems with activation so Vista was entering "Reduced Functionality Mode" despite Microsoft saying that this would be removed from SP1 - obviously not yet.
In December Dell finally entered the Tablet PC arena but were immediately slated for releasing a product which was far too expensive. They're response? We're dearer because we're better - hmmmmm.
HTC announced that the long suffering Shift would be delayed further with mixed reports as to why (software, hardware, battery life) causing people to cancel their pre-orders in the fear that the Shift may never see the light of day or, when it does, be obsolete. Let's see what UMPCs come out of CES 2008. Problems also confronted Windows Home Server with reports that certain types of files were corrupted when stored on a WHS machine - defeats the purpose when you have to take a separate backup as your backup solution doesn't work properly.
Aside from all of this December was unfortunately dominated by the tragic loss of Marc Orchant who died a week after suffering a massive heart attack and never regaining consciousness. Marc had a big impact on anyone who came in to contact with hmi and is a big loss to the tech community and the world at large. Rest in peace, Marc.
2007, the year in review: July - September.
Also see: January - March, April - June, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very Good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Looking back, July seems to have been a quiet month. There was our wedding anniversary, my birthday and the day that the Tour de France came to town. This was a great day when the community came together for a party - it's a shame that life Isn't like that more often.
July did see the start of the Windows Live OneCare v2 Beta which introduced some great new functionality (I'm still using this as my anti-virus/anti-spyware solution now).
The big tech news was that Windows Home Server RTM'ed - it was great fun testing it and it's a real shame there are now some concerns over it's reliability.
August gave us the Performance and Reliability patches for Windows Vista which gave us a number of improvements to Microsofts' much maligned flagship. These were very well Received and did actually make a difference to how Vista runs - can't be bad.
On a work note I left the site I had been working at for Nearly two and a half years as I felt it was time to move on and things had stagnated. That's the one good thing about working for an outsourcing company - you can move Between clients without having to get a new job.
Now that Windows Home Server had RTM we could all look forward to what offerings the OEMs would have to tempt us But some initial offerings failed to excite. I remarked that Some OEMs seemed to be forgetting what WHS was all about - reliable backup and storage. When you have multiple hard drives installed in WHS you can enable folder duplication Which mirrors your data accross these drives thus adding Redundancy. Some OEMs, however, were shipping units with only one drive - pointless if you ask me.
The end of August finally saw the announcement of the eagerly anticipated Windows Vista SP1 beta and my invite duly turned up. Microsoft changed the way they worked with Vista, putting out more updates via Windows Update rather than have customers waiting for the next Service Pack but businesses especially don't buy it and are still adopting the "don't touch it until SP1" stance.
A backlash against the HTC Shift started in September. What everyone initially thought of as the perfect UMPC started showing it's true colours causing a lot of potential buyers to rethink their position.
It was announced later in the month that the iPhone would be coming to the UK on November 9th with a nice hefty price tag and a minimum 18 month contract but still without 3G. It was bound to sell in reasonable numbers regardless but Apple's insistence on full control leaves a sour taste in the mouth in a country where we are used to a lot of freedom when it comes to our mobile phones.
Beta 1 of Vista SP1 finally hit in September but had to be removed very shortly afterwards due to a few show stopper bugs including not being able to connect my Windows Mobile device.
Fourth quarter to follow.
2007, the year in review: April - June.
Also see: January - March, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
April saw more Windows Home Server goodness with a CTP build. Ed Bott over at ZDNet wrote a really good overview
of what WHS does which is still worth checking out now.
The best news in April, however, that my article entitled "Microsoft: Fried or Foe" was published in Micro Mart magazine - you can read it here
if you've not seen it. The article garnered some mixed responses on the Micro Mart forums but I was generally accused of being a Microsoft fanboy due to my view that MS have been treated unfairly at times just because of who they are. The article was called a "gag inducing ode to Bill" and that it essentially said Microsoft = good and Mac = bad - not the case at all. At least I achieve my goal in getting a conversation started.
May saw Tabby (my old Acer Tablet PC) come home to roost after spending a long time with my father in law and, while we're on the subject of Tablets, Dell finally announced that they were going to be releasing a Tablet PC. Despite Dell being perhaps the most recognisable consumer brand of PCs they were determined to focus on education, healthcare and business - I feel they really missed the mark.
June came and went with the new TouchFLO interface from HTC and the release candidate of Windows Home Server while I introduced a new feature on the blog: posts called "From the front line" where I would relay specific issues working in the IT industry and resolutions where appropriate.
And then came June 29th - iPhone day. Will the iPhone change the world?
Third quarter to follow.
2007, the year in review: January - March.
Also see: April - June, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Let's get started with the first quarter:
January saw me open the year with my "open letter to Micrsoft" which was a plea for MS to lead the way in the UK and actually try to get technology to the masses. UK tech adoption always seems stunted - we don't have the major OEMs with a presence here, there are no opportunities to get hands on with new devices etc. - so I thought that MS would be in a perfect position to start partnering with OEMs or even retailers to get the technology out there by way of road shows, demos, decent retail opportunities etc. Some great products have come our way from the MS stable (Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and now Windows Home Server) but even the best products fall flat without the marketing to support them and this was sorely lacking, and still is.
January was also dominated by CES and MacWorld with two big announcements. Firstly, Windows Home Server was officially announced and got a lot of people (myself included) very excited about what was to come. Next, however, came the big one - the story that took over the web: Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone at MacWorld and I ran some initial thoughts about the device.
We also saw a report from Forrester Research giving details that companies were finding the move to Office 2007 harder than expected and having to invest in more training for the new "Fluid Ui" than first thought. Around the same time we caught a first glimpse of an add-in being developed internally at Microsoft called "Scout" which would help users migrate to the new UI but this failed to materialise. A big shame.
The start of the year witnessed an explosion in the Vista/Lexmark saga that began at the end of 2006. The issues that I, and many others, experienced with Lexmark printers drivers on Windows Vista were indicative of the problems faced by many when OEMs did not do a good enough - or quick enough - job of getting their drivers out of the door in time for Vista to go RTM. In my case there were repeated delays in releasing a driver for my printer and when they finally did materialise they wouldn't work. Not only that but an uninstall utility from lexmark trashed my system! Lexmark printer driver issues on Vista are probably the single biggest reason people find my blog in search engines.
January ended on a low note, on the 30th we were burgled and had our keys, wallet/purse stolen which meant we had to cancel cards etc. and get the locks changed on the car so that the thieves couldn't come back and steal it. This coincided with the RTM launch of Windows Vista which meant I obviously had far more important things on my mind than blogging about the launch of the new OS from Microsoft.
After the Vista launch the tech press was full of "should you, shouldn't you" articles which all seemed to be saying the same thing: that it just wasn't worth the upgrade yet. One particular magazine which caught my eye was Micro Mart here in the UK running the cover story "Is this 2007's most pointless upgrade?" I blogged a knee jerk reaction
not having read the actual article (bad form I know) but felt incensed that customers would get a wrong impression. In response to my post I was contacted by the editor of Micro Mart about writing a piece for them so it all worked out okay in the end.
February included the beginning of the Windows Home Server beta program on Connect
. I was lucky enough to have been contacted when it was invite only but the program was opened up and people registered in their thousands - 40,000 by the end of Feb to be exact, with 10,000 invites being sent.
I finished my article for Micro Mart and now just had to wait for it to be published but March was HTC Shift month. The news about HTC's UMPC offering was everywhere and, having both Vista and Windows Mobile 6 on board, really captured the imagination. The Windows Mobile 6 side of things turned out to be a cut down offering called SnapVUE and there are concerns over battery life - even now the device still hasn't made it to production.
Second quarter to follow.
What's to come for Exchange and the iPhone?
As you no doubt already know, Apple recently advertised for an "iPhone Windows Outlook/Exchange QA Eng" but does this actually mean that they want to get the iPhone synching natively with Exchange Server?
As the role will be for testing Exchange and Outlook functionality with the iPhone perhaps we will see full, native synchronisation with Outlook via iTunes. With regards to directly synching with Exchange, however, there is no guarantee.
As we already know you can grab your mail from Exchange via IMAP but this requires configuration on the server side which your admins may not want to do and for you to manually poll for your mail. So, what are the options? If we are not looking at a full Exchange ActiveSync experience with Direct Push then maybe Apple could be trying to tap in to the RPC over HTTPS architecture that Outlook uses to connect to Exchange across the internet. Would this be possible on an iPhone?
Would the sensible suggestion be for Apple to license Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft and implement it on the iPhone, or would this be considered sleeping with the enemy?
Whatever happens, I think 2008 will be an interesting year for the iPhone especially once we have a 3G model.
Using an iPhone with Exchange?
Mark Wilson has posted
how iPhone users can get there devices working with Exchange Server. No, it's not Direct Push but he is setting it up to use IMAP.
To quote Mark, he says "there’s been a lot of talk about how it can’t work with Microsoft Exchange Server - either blaming Apple for not supporting the defacto standard server for corporate e-mail or Microsoft for not being open enough". No-one denies that just about any mail client (iPhone included) can use IMAP but the main criticism pointed at Apple is that they have not licensed the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) technology which will allow Direct Push to function.
IMAP requires manual synching or periodic checking to keep it up to date and involves extra ports being open to the web thus making your server a larger target. As Mark himself points out "Many organisations will not allow IMAP access to servers, either due to the load that POP/IMAP access places on the server or for reasons of security" so don't hold your breath that yours will open this up for you.
Mark does, however, note that the iPhone has an additional mail account setup option called "Exchange" which requires OWA, IMAP and RPC over HTTP to all be enabled (also see this post
over at iphonetopic.com).
Also note that IMAP will only get you your mail and not calendar or contacts - along with other goodies - like EAS (see here
2G for a day - in conclusion.
I've been sat here browsing on the phone this evening with it still set to use 2G and it has not felt like the phone is struggling at all. It says something when I've not felt the need to switch to wireless.
I will definitely now be leaving the phone set to 2G and only switching to 3G/HSDPA when I really need it.
My two main concerns over the iPhone were the lack of 3G and Exchange synchronisation. Switching to 2G for a full day has shown me that I can live without 3G quite comfortably - that leaves the issue of synching with Exchange.
Even if the iPhone supported Direct Push (either natively or via installing an application) I would not want to pay £269 and be forced to switch my provider and be tied to that new provider all the time I wanted to keep the phone.
I'm currently 14 months in to an 18 month contract as it is so I know it's a bit nasty being tied in for that long. The difference is, however, that I can take my current Windows Mobile phone with me to another provider should I want to once my current contract is finished.
Whilst you are signing up to an 18 month contract with the iPhone, if Apple will never let you unlock it, then you are effectively locked in for life if you want to continue using that phone - not a could position to be in and no wonder this issue has been at the centre of the criticism of the iPhone.
The journey home
More browsing and not too many issues. Only sites like jkOnTheRun
made me wish I was on a better connection as they both have a lot of images.
In conclusion I think that I may be tempted to leave 3Gg off most of the time to help conserve power and only turn it on when I need to.
I never thought I'd admit it but the lack of 3G on an iPhone would not be as bad as I expected.
Before I get started with my 2G experience I just wanted to recount what Steve Jobs said when the iPhone was launched. When asked why it was 2G only and not 3G he answered:
"When we looked at 3G, the chipsets are not quite mature, in the sense that they're not low-enough power for what we were looking for. They were not integrated enough, so they took up too much physical space. We cared a lot about battery life and we cared a lot about physical size."
I have noticed a significant increase in battery life when I have turned off 3G in the past (mainly enforced due to network problems) but 2G also has the advantage of stability over 3G. If you are permanently on 2G the phone doesn't have to fail back to 2G if a 3G signal is not available.
With these thoughts in mind let's have a look at the 2G day.
The average weekday starts with using the phone on the train to work to check mail, run through my RSS feeds via Bloglines and catch up on the news on the BBC website.
2G has little impact on Exchange Direct Push as I'm using Exchange 2003 so don't get HTML mails. I have the phone set to automatically download attachments under 250KB so even that won't take too long even with 2G speeds.
Bloglines has a very good mobile site which loads really quickly. I was concerned that switching to 2G could have an impact loading individual feeds where the posts include a lot of images but luckily this has proved not to be the case - page loading is surprisingly snappy.
The BBC has both a PDA specific site (which I normally use) and a WAP site. I had a feeling that I would be forced to switch to the WAP site for my morning news fix but this was not the case; the PDA version of the site seemed to load just as fast as it would on 3G.
So far so good for the 2G test but we'll see what happens when I visit some heavier sites at lunch time.
The iPhone cometh (to the UK)
Today is iPhone day - at 6:02pm it will be available on the O2 network (hence the seemingly odd launch time).
A queue is reported to be forming at the Apple store in London as the die hards want to grab their shiny new device, and it is a good looking phone you can't argue with that.
The 8GB model is on offer for £269 on an 18 month contract with tariffs ranging from £35 to £55 depending on how many inclusive minutes you want. Of course, as with all iPhone specific tariffs, it comes with unlimited data but subject to the obligatory fair use policy.
As the UK is a 3G country the fact that the iPhone is still only 2G is causing a lot of criticism to be thrown it's way. To mitigate this a deal has been done allowing iPhone users unlimited free access to thousands of wireless access points operated by The Cloud - again subject to the fair use ogre.
I am a big user of data on my Windows Mobile phone so I thought I'd run an experiment to coincide with the UK iPhone launch: I'm having a 2G day. That's right I'm turning off my 3G completely and will only use 2G speeds or wireless where available (read at home).
I'll report on my findings throughout the day and give an overall summary either tonight or tomorrow.
Good luck all you iPhone grabbers, I hope it's everything you want.
iPhone coming to the UK on 9th November.
So, it's official
: O2 have the UK exclusive on the iPhone and it will be launched on the 9th November.
The figures are better than was originally expected with it costing £269 on an 18 month contract (not the two years deal that was originally anticipated) with unlimited data. But the downside is that this isstill the same EDGE device as being sold in the US.
If reports are to be believed then only 30% of the country will be covered by EDGE on the O2 network which means that you're going to be running on a very slow connection most of the time. O2 and Apple may have agreed free WiFi for iPhone users from Cloud hotspots
but (if a search near my address is anything to go by) these are mostly in pubs and restaurants - not much use when you're out and about.
The iPhone is bound to sell in reasonable numbers, even if it's just people who like the idea of a convergence device and will treat it as a new iPod with the ability to make phone calls and send text messages but it certainly doesn't tick all the right boxes.
The web is full of commentary on the new iPod Touch
and price drop for the iPhone so I'm not going to say much about it except this:
Microsoft really dropped the ball on the Wi-Fi front.
Wi-Fi in an MP3 player? Genious! As soon as it was announced that the Zune would include Wi-Fi so that you could "squirt" tracks to friends everyone immediately thought that full Wi-Fi capability was the way to go and wondered if Microsoft would be able to unlock the functionality in a firmware release.
Whether or not they can is now largely irrelevant: Apple have blown them completely out of the water with full Wi-Fi including the ability to download music from the iTunes Wi-Fi Store and use the onboard Safari browser to surf the web.
The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone. So, not only does it have more functionality than you can shake a stick at but it looks good too!
So far I've been dismissive of the whole iPod phenomenon an have seen no reason to even want one, let alone buy one. The iPod Touch is changing my mind.
iPhone style keyboard for Windows Mobile.
are linking to a great iPhone-alike keyboard for Windows Mobile which really rocks.
The Pocket CM Keyboard
is a pretty faithful reconstruction of the feel and functionality of the iPhone keyboard but (now in version 0.5) with one key difference: it has built in copy and paste which shows just how easy it would have been for Apple to implement.
Just as with the iPhone keyboard characters are submitted when you lift your finger enabling you to move to the right letter if you don't hit it first time. It also includes the same auto-complete and word suggestion features as the iPhone. The word suggestion is great as it will prompt with the right word even if you hit the wrong keys. If you wanted to type "phone" for example but hit ohonw by mistake it will suggest the word phone based on pattern recognition.
There is a video of the keyboard in action on YouTube .
The best thing about this is that it's free, so go on give it a try.
This is how the iPhone SHOULD be.
Remember when I said that my one lasting impression of the iPhone was the total absence of any copy/paste functionality.
It appears that others are also in wonderment about the lack of this functionality. So much so that someone calling themself "lonelysandwich" has created a "proof of concept" demo video showing how the iPhones multi-touch ability could be used to copy and paste text.
Check out the video over at Engadget Mobile.
Loren Heiny wonders
if the iPhone developers are having a Homer "Doh!" moment but I would imagine it's more of a "How can we get rid of this video as it shows us up" moment.
My one lasting iPhone impression.
I've been reading a number of the iPhone reviews currently doing the rounds and the one thing that has really struck me is the absence of a copy/paste feature.
What's up with that?!
I can't believe that this is an over-sight. Do Apple think that the keyboard is so good you don't need it?
Will the iPhone change the world?
So, today is iPhone day and at 6pm local time people all over the US will be getting their hands on the first run of devices - even Scoble is in line at an Apple store.
Since the success of the iPod Apple is in a very good position with consumer electronics but it is undeniable that they have got to that point by doing two things better than virtually everyone:
The iPod is such as success as it looks good, is small and sleek and (in the words of a TV advert here in the UK) does exactly what it says on the tin. The interface design was innovative and really caught the imagination and, once the device was proven to work well it became the de facto standard for portable music players.
The same attention to design was employed with the iPhone - the flood of blog posts about the device after it's official unveiling at MacWorld (mine included) showed just how much interest the device had garnered. And, let's face it, no-one does a better job of getting people enthused about something than Steve Jobs.
Despite all of this, is the iPhone going to change the world (or at least the mobile phone market)? Does it herald a new wave or will it be just another phone in an already overcrowded market?
The iPhone has already caused change. After the unveiling we had a spate of other manufacturers reveal plans for "iPhone clones" adopting a similar, sleek look in order to cash in on the buzz.
Unusually, despite all the hype, there hasn't been a full clarification of the full functionality of the device. We are on the day of release and it hasn't been confirmed if the rumours are true that Apple have licensed Exchange ActiveSync and that the iPhone will therefore be able to sync with your Exchange account and be a viable device for the enterprise.
I have no doubt that the iPhone will be a success in the long term but we may have to wait for a 3G option before it really takes off. Apple fanboys and style gurus will want one "just because" and there may even be a backlash against Windows Mobile from the MS-haters but, just at with the iPod, real world experience from the early adopters will go a long way to convince the fence sitters that this really is the way to go.
The i's have it - iPhones that is.
After a lot of gesturing and 'puffing out of chests' it looks as though Cisco and Apple have kissed and made up by settling the dispute over the iPhone name. And the result? They're both going to use it.
I think we all saw that coming and it looks as though Apple have finally given Cisco what they were after: to guarantee the exploration of "wide-ranging 'interoperability' between the companies' products in the areas of security, consumer and business communications" - whatever that means.
Just because it's never happened...
The BBC website is running a story
today saying that Mac users are "still lax on security".
The article refers to both the current ad campaign (I'm a PC, I'm a Mac) and the Month of Apple Bugs
(MOAB) website which was set up to demonstrate a different bug/exploits in Mac software every day for one month.
There seems to be quite a blasé attitude with regards to security in Mac OSX because, as the article says, "Mac experts have pointed out that none of the exploits have ever successfully been used to hijack an Apple computer" but this has obviously started a very important conversation.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog
(TUAW) shows that this issue is being taken seriously by virtue of having a post tag called "moab
" which you can use to find all posts related to bugs on the list and those patches that have been released to fix them.
Despite all of this Mac advocates seem unwilling to acknowledge the potential problems that may arise. Just because it's never happened doesn't mean that it never will!
Windows is targeted by hackers as it is the predominant operating system in use around the world; any virus or worm will have a larger impact just by the law of averages. All it would take, however, is a few hackers to devote their attentions to the Mac and I'm sure it would be a different story.
Don't take anything for granted. Regardless of the OS you run always make sure you are completely protected.
Windows Vista vs Mac OSX - the debate.
He's only gone and done it and in a BIG way! There have been 2 hours of video posted. WOW!
Robert McLaws posted a very thought provoking rant
in which he compared the relative "merits" of Microsoft and Apple. What really triggered it was Steve Jobs justification as to why the iPhone (or whatever it will end up being called) should be a closed system: to prevent a badly written 3rd party app from bringing down the phone network.
Like that's ever going to happen!
"Microsoft is in business to further their profits by creating ecosystems by which smaller companies can create their own systems on top of" whereas "Apple is only in business for the betterment of Apple" and "they want as much control over everything as possible".
Now this got me thinking.
Apple firmly set out there stall at Macworld when they dropped "Computers" from the company name in order to reflect the changing emphasis of their products. Computers and their associated peripherals are no longer the bread winner for Apple.
In order to stay competitive it was decided to change the architecture of a Mac - components such as add-on cards can now be freely inter-changed with a PC and we had the move to Intel x86 processors rather than the RISC based ones they had been using for so long.
With the huge growth of Apple in other areas (iPod) could we extrapolate this and see Apple drop computers from their product line as well as their name and just become a consumer electronics company? It might anger some people in the short term but could make a lot of business sense.
Despite the whole MacOS v Windows flame war it is not in Apple's interests to actually compete with Microsoft for dominance of the home/business computer market.
Microsoft (as the name implies) make the software and leave OEMs to build the PCs whereas Apple do both. If, by some strange quirk of fate, the computer industry was turned on it's head and Apple had the dominant market share then they could well be taken down the same route as IBM and broken up. Why would Apple really want to risk that?
If nothing else, they would suddenly become the focal point of just about every governments wrath just as Microsoft are today.
I certainly hope that Apple do continue to make PCs and continue to improve the MacOS for a long time to come as it helps to keep Microsoft on their toes, constantly striving to make better products. Remove the competition (no I'm not forgetting about Linux) and the market - despite the best will in the world - starts to stagnate if their is no real driving force.
Following on from the news that Other World Computing are releasing an OSX based Tablet PC solution (note: not an official Apple product) the ModBook has now been officially unveiled and The Unofficial Apple Weblog
has a slew of pictures.
Let's hope that a bit of competition has a healthy affect on the market.
points to a first look at the ModBook over at Arstechnica
. It appears that at present you can only use the device in landscape mode but rotation will be supported when the next version of the Mac OS (Tiger) is released.
An interesting comment in the article compares the ModBook to a ThinkPad X41: "The ModBook feels better. I'm impressed" but "the handwriting recognition seems better on the X41".
What a difference a day makes.
The initial Wow factor has died down and people are started to take a closer look at the iPhone and coming to the conclusion that there is not enough substance behind the glossy facade, and it's not just the small guys.
Cingular are the sole carrier for the US and will have apparently rebranded as AT&T by the time the iPhone is available. They are working on rolling out HSDPA coverage for high speed data but, as said before, there is no UMTS (3G) or HSDPA on the phone - rather short sighted don't you think? As I said to one of my colleagues at work yesterday, this really should have had GPS included out of the box. Apple have missed a trick on that.
If you're using the iPhone for video then you're going to need to charge it pretty regularly or it's going to give out on you and then you've got no phone. Apple claim 5 hours of battery life for solid video but we all know that claims tend to fall short of the mark and as the battery ages it's ability to retain charge diminishes. This is a big factor for the iPhone as the battery is NOT removable.
Okay, it's only a first generation device but with a bit of thought it could have been a complete market killer. Instead, you can't help but feel disappointed, perhaps even cheated.
Despite initial rumours that Apple and Cisco were happy bed fellows it seems that Apple haven't played nicely and Cisco are suing them over the iPhone name which they have owned the trademark for since 2000. See the Cisco Press release here: Cisco Sues Apple for Trademark Infringement
. According to a report on the BBC website
an Apple representative has said that the ;awsuit was "silly" and that Cisco's trademark registration was "tenuous at best". They are also quoted as saying "We are the first company to ever use the iPhone name for a cell phone, and if Cisco wants to challenge us on it we are very confident we will prevail".
Now that's fighting talk!
Cisco's SVP Mark Chandler has responded
to the whole affair and explained the lawsuit in a post on the Cisco Blog with quite a scathing attach. Scoble says that he has "never seen a blog used like this
Chandler states that Cisco and Apple were in lengthy discussions about the iPhone name but Apple went ahead and made the announcement without reaching an agreement and says their attitude essentially amounted to saying that they were too busy to talk.
So, after all of Steve Job's talk at MacWorld about the 200 patents they have registered/are registering in relation to the phone it appears that it is one rule for one, one rule for another and Cisco is carrying out it's "obligation to protect its trademark in the face of a willful violation".
All this story needs now is for the FCC
to not approve the iPhone (or whatever it ends up being called) and the pantomime will be complete.
I gave in and added an Apple category to the blog. Consequently, I've been back through the recent posts and updated them accordingly so you might have a few dupes in your RSS aggregator (sorry about that).
iPhone "Love in" over already?
Sorry for three posts about the iPhone in a row (at this rate I'm going to have to add an Apple category) but it seems all is not completely peachy after the launch.
It could be just sour grapes but Nokia have expressed surprise at both the lack of 3G support and the delay in launching in Europe. The iPhone does support EDGE which (from an outsiders point of view) seems to have greater coverage in the US than 3G so I don't really see this as an issue at present. I would presume that once it comes to launch time in other markets Apple will take note of the prevalent network offerings and change the onboard radios accordingly.
Engadget have posted a few shortcomings of the iPhone (link) and perhaps the most interesting is the comment that this is NOT a smartphone in ghat you cannot install software and change it's functionality. I surmised in my previous post that you migh be able to copy widgets over from your Mac but if that is not the case then I can't help but think that Apple have missed a golden opportunity here.
We will have to wait until someone gets some decent "hands on" time and can dig in to the device.
More thoughts on the iPhone.
I wrote this post last night while watching TV but only typed it up this morning.
I've not Googled or "Lived" anything on the iPhone yet so am really working on first impressions but I decided it was time to put the initial wow factor to one side and take a look at what the iPhone means in the cold light of day.
OK, my initial gut reaction is that the phone is just a scratch fest waiting to happen. I hope they do an equally sleek line in screen protectors - remember the whole circus surrounding the iPod Nano screens? That aside, we are dealing with one of the slickest, most attractive phones going. Anyway, it's clear now why Apple got the patent on a multi-touch interface.
The OSX implementation is no doubt some form of cut-down, subset of functionality which does just what they need it to (run Widgets, iTunes integration, Safari browser etc.) but not quite just like Windows Mobile is to Windows itself. In order to run the same things as a desktop you would be looking at a similar code base, albeit of reduced abilities.
I must admit, I would have expected a higher resolution camera than the 2 megapixel one. The Apple ethos is all about quality so I find it surprising that they would let themselves down in this area, especially considering we have phones out there with 5 megapixel cameras now.
Still, do they make up for it by providing free push email via a partnership with Yahoo? Quite possibly. They are obviously try to better Microsoft here as with Windows Mobile you are normally talking about some form of Exchange account for Direct Push and those hosted Exchange accounts cost money.
Another big concern I have is the price. Is the iPhone pricing itself out of the market before even being released? That's an awful lot of cash for a phone bought with a contract. I know that it works differently in the US to over here but $599 for the 8GB version still seems too high. The European release is slated for the fourth quarter of this year and, I know I sound like a stuck record, but I really do hate to think what one of these will cost in the UK.
We are, however, living with the "iPod generation" - there is a certain love of style in our society. A colleague of mine summed this up perfectly recently when he said that he now goes for form over function when buying a new mobile phone. He's fed up with the gimmicks and just wants it to look good - the ideal target audience for the iPhone.
There will definitely be a number of people who will buy one of these: the Apple zealots who will buy one just because; the Microsoft haters who may buy one to stick two fingers up to Redmond; and then there will be the style conscious - those who are prepared to pat that little bit extra . Let's face it, that's what Apple have been about anyway: the cost of quality of build, design and usability.
There can be no doubt that the iPhone will have an impact, and quite possibly a significant one, on the mobile phone industry and for Window Mobile in particular if only because of the constant comparisons being drawn between the offerings of the two companies. You will get the traditional phone manufacturers playing copycat but little will be said until Microsoft release something similar and then they will get accused of ripping off Apple.
Personally, I think that giving the iPhone the ability to run Widgets is a master stroke. I am presuming that you can take Widgets from your Mac desktop and port them straight over. Where are the Windows Mobile devices that can run gadgets? We haven't seen the Windows Mobiles that implement Sideshow yet. The next iteration of the Windows Mobile OS, Crossbow, is already in the hands of the OEMs and the devices running this are due around a similar time frame to the iPhone but, as Crossbow is essentially just a re-working of the current version with a new coat of paint, Microsoft are being in the race already. We need the next "proper" version of Windows Mobile (Photon) to really break the mould and offer something different. OK, we have had rumours of a Zune phone but even if that does come off it is a long way off. The bar has well and truly been set by Apple.
recently posted an item on his blog from an ex-colleague, James, who doesn't have a blog of his own but needed an outlet for his thoughts. In his item "The five principles of gadget Nirvana
" James surmised that the success of the iPod was due to the simplicity of it or as he said "none of the extra features get in the way of the core function". It was, therefore interesting to see on one of the slides from Apple that the iPhone's killer app is making calls. Simple! Well, what do you use a phone for?
Interesting times are ahead but you can guarantee one thing: the whole weight of the Apple PR engine will be placed firmly behind this device just as it is with any other Apple product - consistency.
Never mind the Vista "Wow", here comes the iPhone!
When you'll see it, you'll say it! Microsoft may be using this as the tag line for Vista but I couldn't help but think of this when I caught the news about the Apple iPhone in my RSS feeds.
Engadget Mobile have posted the details - and numerous pictures - of the long rumoured phone offering from Apple and Cisco: the iPhone!
Wow. I mean, WOW! Literally. How sleek and stylish is this?
It boasts a 3.5 inch 480x320 touch screen supporting multi-touch and has a proximity sensor so that the touch turns off when you're holding it to your ear.
You want either 4GB or 8GB of onboard storage? You got it! And apparently it runs OS X...
The price is a bit steep (the 4GB version will be released in the US in June for $499 on a 2 year contract) but with a phone like this you'd expect it to be.
Go, check out loads of images from MacWorld NOW, here: The Apple iPhone runs OS X.
Would a Mac Tablet kick start the market?
Many people have said that they are waiting for the day that Apple release a Tablet PC as it may help to "validate" the form factor - the same would occur if Dell started making Tablets and sold them to consumers at low prices. There is no doubt that an "iTablet" would would open peoples eyes to the possibly of Pen & Ink - especially with those who do a lot of graphics work where a Mac is usually the system of choice.
It is very interesting, therefore, to see the news that broke yesterday that Other World Computing
(in conjunction with Axiotron
) will be launching a Mac based Tablet computer solution called the ModBook
The Axiotron press release has the following to say:
"The Axiotron ModBook features WACOM Penabled hardware for true pen input and is fully compatible with Apple's Inkwell, a Mac OS X Tiger feature that provides system level handwriting and gesture recognition to all Mac applications. Drawing and writing directly on the screen provides for a uniquely intuitive user experience and its slim, slate-style form factor makes the ModBook the ultimate companion for mobile users, artists, professionals and students."
Whilst this is not a Tablet offering direct from Apple it is a significant step in the right direction and, if it takes off, may have consumers questioning why Apple have never taken the plunge themselves. If sales are high it may even prompt Apple to rethink their position on the Tablet form factor.
It remains to be seen how Inkwell will compare to the PC experience but I cannot imagine that the device would be pitched towards artists if Inkwell wasn't up to the task.
As mentioned above, the presence of an Apple based tablet in the Market will - in some peoples eyes at least - help to validate the Tablet platform. I can imagine that sales would be high (especially in the US) thus creating some healthy competition which in turn could prompt more people to have another look at the Windows based offerings. As Craig says
, this may just be the jolt that Microsoft and the Tablet PC OEMs need to initiate some proper promotion of the Windows based Tablet offerings.
As the ModBook uses Wacom hardware we could also be looking at the possibility of people running the Vista editions with Tablet PC functionality on Mac based hardware - things could get interesting.
If a Mac based Tablet solution does cause Apple to rethink their position then you can guarantee that an official Apple Tablet would be designed and marketed with the exact same attention to detail and consistency that I mentioned yesterday lodging the product well and truly in the minds of consumers. This has got to be a good thing for the whole of the tabletscape.
points to an article in the Guardian
in which David Sobotta argues that Apple would not launch a Tablet but if the ModBook shows that there is sufficient demand the whole thing is left wide open. Loren also suggests that Apple could get one over on Microsoft by acquiring Wacom: "Most Tablet manufacturers use the Wacom digitizer behind their displays. If Apple acquired Wacom, in one step most Tablets would have to then go through Apple. It would own key digitizer patents. And it would give Apple a tremendous edge in terms of developing the next generation digitizer/display combination". This is a scary thought and would completely change the face of tablet computing were it ever to occur.
We will have to wait and see what develops.
Craig Pringle (Tablet PC MVP) agrees with my thoughts
in the Open letter to Microsoft but would extend the arguments to just about the rest of the world outside of the US, and possibly Canada. He even volunteers his services to do demos if anyone wants to set up a roadshow in his area.
In a way, it's good that someone else feels the same way that I do - especially if they are an MVP who has access to a lot more resources that I do. It is also disappointing, however, that this appears to be a global problem.
James is not quite sure and raises the 'killer' app question again. He suggests that the lack of a killer app for certain business may be why Tablets haven't taken off in UK business.
Firstly, his comment focuses on the enterprise and ignores that fact that the Tablet PC can be a fantastic consumer device - just look at their use in schools in the US.
Secondly, the lack of a killer app for any particular business area may also be because of a lack of knowledge of/experience with Tablets. Unfortunately, there is a Catch-22 situation at play: developers may not target the Tablet as the uptake is too small and the uptake won't increase because the required apps aren't available.
Speak to most Tablet PC enthusiasts and they will tell you that OneNote is as good a place to start as any if you are looking for a killer application (the 2007 version is even better). Whilst not intended as just a Tablet app it really comes in to it's own once you start working in Ink.
Still, we need to get away from the idea that a Tablet is just a business machine. They need to be available via retail channels and retailers must be advised how to sell them instead of treating them as just another laptop.
With regards to my comments about the Zune James says that it doesn't "represent a huge market for MS" but, in my opinion, it's not just about the direct revenue from a particular product line; it should be about brand/product recognition and placement, and an overall concept. If you look at Apple, for example, anything they produce is treated in essentially the same way - similar and consistent marketing creating an overall brand image. We also have the Apple shops that really get the products noticed in the retail sector. OK, Apple are a bit different in that they also produce their own computers but it is the idea that is important, the whole ethos behind sales.
This could be interesting...
With the right people on board, eloquently stating their case for the OS and features of choice, the debate could get really interesting.
Both MS and Apple have been accused in turn of plagiarising ideas for the latest incarnation of their respective OSes but, as mrtn says
: OS development could become a "continuing process of less and less variation from a central 'best' design".
Also, when Paul Thurrott discussed the Windows Calendar
in Vista with the team responsible, he was told that "there were only so many ways to make a calendar application". If you are looking to meet standards then there is only so much tweaking you are actually able to do.
Users now demand a core of OS functionality so are we now at a point where the majority of things you can do is fiddle with the peripheries? (I have an urge to call it the Slartibartfast
approach to software design as he did the fjords and fiddly bits, sorry).
Yes, MS have big plans for the next version of Windows including those bits that didn't make it in to Vista (such as WinFS) but how much can you change the "user experience"? We are most probably heading to an integrated desktop/web service model (an extension of Vista Ultimate Extras which have yet to rear their head) where the lines between the OS and internet become blurred.