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Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Apple introduces iPhone

Yesterday, Apple finally introduced the iPhone. This new telephone integrates an iPod, internet tablet and telephone in one. Apple claims that this new telephone is ahead of the competition, and I think they are very right. Taking the video’s on the web site as a reference, it seems the usability of the iPhone is very good. Almost every cell phone I have used has major flaws in usability, and it is not a second to early that a company is going to improve this.
Obviously, a very large touchscreen makes it easier to create a nice user interface, but other phone companies could have done this as well. I think this is also the first telefphone which can function normally as a music player. My current telefphone, a Nokia 6230, has also the capability to play music, but the user interface is impossible to use. The same holds for my Palm Tungsten E2 (but this can be solved by installing other music player software). I predict that the iPhone is going to be a huge success.
Other strong features of the phone are the possibility to install other applications (widgets), browse the internet in a normal way (using 802.11a/b/g technology) and obviously integration with the Apple Mac. The touchscreen is also nice, because it doesn’t require the use of a seperate pen to use it; you can just use your finger to control it. The motion sensor is a nice feature, but not essential I think.

There are already people saying that this product isn’t innovative (but at the same time says Windows Vista is innovative, to I doubt I should take these people serious anyway). I do not agree with these statements. This telephone is definitely innovative because of the previous mentioned points. Current smartphones are just a collection of hardware and a bunch of software, creating the feel of a collection of stuff grabbed together instead of a integrated device. This latter is caused by the fact that telefphone companies think they should introduce a new model every three months (or something) which is in no way enough time to engineer a decent product. Even Motorola with the RAZR phone included iTunes support, but the user interface was very crappy. This caused that the phone was not a success and resulted in a missed oportunity by Motorola. I think Apple is going to make a lot of money on the iPhone, and they deserve it, because it is the first company spending time on designing a good user interface for a mobile phone. I think that I may buy an iPhone when it is available in the Netherlands and the price is not unreasonable high.

Nokia introduced earlier this week the N800, a successor to the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. With the N800 it is not possible to make telephone calls (because it has no GSM modele). The device is designed to use as a portable internet device and music player. The nice part on the N800 is that it runs Linux and uses GTK+ as the toolkit for its user interface. This is the same toolkit used by Gnome, and a lot of developers working on Gnome are also working on this Nokia device. Unfortunately, I think the Apple iPhone is more useable than the Nokia, because it has also the possibility to be used as telephone and doesn’t require a Wifi-network for using the internet part of the device.

Interesting article on Microsoft’s marketing strategies

This article is about the ‘vapour ware’ strategie Microsoft uses in order to push products from other companies of the radar. The article specifically tells the story on Microsoft’s Cairo, a product which never appears on the market. The article describes how this story resemble the current marketing buzz Microsoft is generating around Vista. Interestingly, it seems that Microsoft promised a ‘object oriented filesystem’ already back in 1993, but seems to be incapable of delevering such a filesystem even now in Vista (WinFS would be a part of Vista, but eventually was not of high enough quality to be shipped with Vitsta, according to Microsoft). When you read such an article, you’ll be almost ashamed for believing all the articles an publications on Microsoft products in the early nineties.

A ‘must read’ for Microsoft lovers and haters (I hope the first group will get to its senses after reading this 🙂 ):

Linux with Beryl: almost as good as Mac OS X

I’ve used Mac OS X almost exclusively for about 1,5 year. I especially liked the nice effects and the fact that things ‘just work’. Now, since a few weeks, I’m using Ubuntu Edgy Eft on my laptop and this week installed it on my old Athlon PC with Nvidia GeForce 4 graphics board. I enabled Compiz this week (see previous post) and now installed Beryl. This last engine is even nicer than Compiz (but according to the changelog of Compiz, a lot of the features of Beryl are also available in the latest development versions of Compiz). Beryl makes Linux almost as usable als Mac OS X. The software was already available (Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim,, Eclipse, Gvim, The Gimp, Inkscape and Xchat are the programs I use the most) but with Beryl the usability and visual effects are almost as good, and sometimes even better. Especially the Exposé emulation and the trailfocus is very nice and actually improves the usability. I also installed Beagle and Deskbar. I have Beagle installed because of the engine, and use Deskbar as my main search program. This way, the functionality of Deskbar is similar to Spotlight on the Mac, and allows you to search for documents, e-mails, programs, chatlogs, webpages and much more. Finally, there is Network-manager which makes it easier to configure your network and especially makes it a lot easier to use wireless networks with WPA en WEP encryption.

Unfortunately, most of these tools are not installed by default on Ubuntu Edgy Eft, however, Feisty Feist (version 7.04) of Ubuntu, will include most of the stuff I mentioned in this post. At least there will be 3d desktop acceleration, beagle, network-manager and (I assume) Deskbar. As a bonus, the Ubuntu developers aim to improve the multimedia support in Ubuntu. I think this last point will make Linux even more usable for the average person than ever.

Ironically, I stumble across the news that Gartner thinks that Mac OS X is more attractive for businesses as a desktop operating system than desktop Linux. While I have the opinion that both Mac OS X and Linux are more usable than Windows as desktop operating system, I’m not sure that one of them is better than the other. Both are based on Unix, and as such have some obvious advantages over Windows (most notably a better command line shell and better security model), but I think they have both their specialties. Mac OS X is more suited for people who work with proprietary software, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and MS Office, while Linux is a better platform for developers (although Mac OS X could be used for this as well, but requires some more fiddling because of the lack of an integrated package manager such as RPM/Yum or dpkg/Apt/Synaptic.

Apple news

Yesterday, the WWDC opened its doors with a keynote speech of Steve Jobs introducing the new Mac OS X version called Leopard and the anticipated Mac Pro systems. Additionally, the company also introduced new versions of is Xserv server systems and Leopard for the servers.

The innovations in Leopard are not very spectacular in my opinion, or at least I was not waiting for them. The most important innovations according to Apple are Time Machine and Spaces. Time Machines enables user to take a snapshot of the system (stored on an external harddisk or a Xserve) and revert to these snapshots whenever one wants. Unfortunately for Apple, they’re not the first one shipping such a tool, as Miguel points out. Dirvish provides identical features.

Another ‘innovation’ according to Apple is ‘spaces’, which enables the user to keep sets of applications for a given task instantly available. Wow, this sounds very similar to virtual desktops – what an innovation. Ok, I have to admit that I did not see this feature working yet, so probably it is a little more polished than most virtual desktop implementations, but it is not very unlikely that the possibilities are similar. According to the article at AppleInsider, Spaces includes the possibility to preview the various desktops in tumbnial format – probably similar to the working of Exposé. Well, at least is is more useful than the new features (uh, which features?) in Microsoft Vista, whith the difference that Vista contains a lot more changes ‘under the hood’ (at least, I think it does). Ok, so far not a high-priority upgrade.
Obviously Leopard does have more improvements. For example, there are PhotoBooth effects available for Mail (nice, but not something I was waiting for) and provides facilities to store notes and todo lists and aggregate RSS feeds. That could be useful, but there are already tons of e-mail applications which provides these features, and Mac OS X already contained applictions like iCal and sticky notes which fullfill these tasks.
Another thing to mention is the new application Xray, which enables developers to debug applications and do some profiling. According to Calum Bensom, Xray is based on DTrace, which is created by Sun and open sourced under the OpenSolaris project. The implementation of Apple will probably be very nice and the use case they provide in their promotional material confirms this assumption. But while I still didn’t do any development for Mac OS X, I think I will not use it. There are more improvements, but the other improvements in Leopard are mainly bug fixes and small features which in fact doesn’t require a complete new operating system. Currently, I don’t think I will spend money on Leopard, because it doesn’t provide features I will need very much.

Ok, so far on Leopard. Apple also announced a new Mac Pro system. As expected, this system contains two dual-core Xeon processors based on the Woodcrest core (which is in fact a similar core to the Core 2 Duo cores Intel recently introduced). This is a very powerfull system for (considering the features) a resonable price of 2500 dollars. Apart from new processors and the obvious upgrades (new videocard, more memory, faster and bigger harddisks), the system is similar to its PowerPC predecessor. If I had the money, I think I would like to have such a system, because it has so much power that the coming years, upgrades are not very necessary. It is like buying a Ferrari – much faster isn’t available.

PowerMac replaced by Mac Pro

According to AppleInsider Apple has registered the trademark ‘Mac Pro’ in the US. This seems to confirm the rumours that Apple wants to get rid of the word ‘Power’ in its productnames, because it is very probable that Mac Pro will be the new name for the current PowerMac productline. Earlier, the name of the PowerBooks was already changed by ‘MacBook Pro’. The next major update in the PowerMac productline is expected in about a half year. The expectations are that the current PowerPC cpu will be replaced by an Intel processor, probably the Conroe, which is set for introduction this summer. I think Apple do not want to confuse customers by using the word ‘power’, because it may be considered as a pointer to the PowerPC cpu.
I am curious if Apple is also going to change the design of the Mac Pro or that the company stays with the current design, as they did with the MacBook Pro and the iMac. I also think we can expect some updates to the Cinema dislay’s when the new Mac Pro is introduced. While the 30″ and 24″ Cinema Displays are unmatched in their design, the price is relatively high compared to the Dell widescreen displays in 24″ and 30″ format, while these display use the same panel. Only the backlight and the design of the screens is different, but I do not think it justifies a prices difference of several hundred euro’s. The current Cinema Displays are quite a while unchanged, so that gives even more arguments for an possible update.

Three OS’es on MacBook

The Dutch site has a videon online which shows a MacBook (the black edition, so it is a 2,0GHz version) which is running both Mac OS X, Windows (Vista?) and Ubuntu Dapper Drake (beta) on the same time. In order to achieve this, the virtualisation software from Parallels is used. In the video also a virtual desktop application is used, in this case Virtue, so it is possible to run every os full screen on its own desktop. It looks pretty fast on the video and certainly faster than using VMware or something on a Pentium M (which I have in my laptop). Probably this is caused by the Virtualisation Technology from Intel which is build into the Core Duo processor in the MacBook. I think it would be very nice to run Mac OS X and Linux at the same time at almost native speed… The Gimp for example is on Linux a lot faster than on Mac OS X, in my experience.

Apple introduces MacBook

Apple today finally introduced the successor to the iBook G4: The MacBook. Not very surprising, because there were rumours about this system for weeks, and the new MacBook is exactly as it was announced by the various Apple rumour sites: a 13″ widescreen display, build-in iSight camera, Intel Core Duo processor, MagSafe powerconnector and the unit is available in both black and white – which is new, because the iBook was only available in white. The cheapest MacBook costs 1099 euro (1099 dollar also) and ships with a 60GB harddisk, 1,83GHz Core Duo processor, build in wireless network and 512MB memory. The display resolution is 1280×800 pixels and has a glossy coating which makes pictures and movies clearer according to Apple, but makes the screen also more sensitive to reflections I suppose. The most expensive MacBook contains a 80GB harddisk and a 2,0GHz Core Duo processor. This system also contains a superdrive and build-in Bluetooth, things which are missing from the cheaper models. I think it is a very nice system for its price – nice design, exelent operation system (Mac OS X) and it is even thinner than the iBook (only 1,08″). The addition of a black version makes it also intersting for people who do not like the white systems, but I think the white version is nicer than the black one. When I had to buy a new laptop now, I would take this system seriously into consideration. However, I think I would wait a few months, because then Intel will introduce the successor to the current Core Duo, the Core 2 Duo. This new processor adds 64-bit support and will probably be faster while the energy consumption will be reduced. The Core 2 Duo is based on the ‘Merom’ core for the laptop version and the ‘Conroe’ core for the desktop variant – yes, Core 2 Duo is both a laptop as a desktop processor.

New MacBook (black)

The real Vista

Today I came across a weblog post which is rather funny in my opinion, and also points out how ‘not-innovative’ Microsoft actually is. The weblog has some video’s (I think Quicktime) of Mac OS X with the audio of Microsoft’s keynote speech at CES in San Fransico this month. I already said to many people (but I think I didn’t wrote about it on my weblog, only this is touching the problem slightly), but Vista doesn’t contain very much ‘new’ features when one compare it to existing operating systems, such as Mac OS X, but also Linux. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who is noticing this, and maybe it will make people think about their software (probably not, but everyone has to keep dreaming 🙂 ).
The main problem is that Microsoft has become a to large company with to few really good developers (one could argue if they ever had good developers, but that’s another discussion). Luckily for the shareholders, the marketing deparment of the company is decent (but the company has to do it without a really good chaiman, such as Jobs, who actually can make people believe that nobody can live without Apple products).

Microsoft Max?

Yesterday, I saw a video on Microsoft’s Channel 9 about a new product the developers from Microsoft are working on. It is an applications for managing photo’s and eventually other media files, such as video’s and documents. The video shows an ‘innovative’ feature of the new application which enables people to share photo’s with other people. This feature uses a client-server system where it will be published that someone is sharing photos. When another person wants to view these photos, the actual files are copied using a P2P connection.
This new product will be available in the future, but is currently in heavy development. Ironically, Apple introduced a new feature for iPhoto which is called ‘PhotoCasting’. As far as I understand, PhotoCasting does the same as MS new application, but doesn’t use p2p (which is good, because if many people want to view your photos, your internet connection is probably not usable anymore) and is already available in iLife ’06. Also, the MS application, which has codename ‘Max’, uses the new userinterface features of Vista (called Avalon) which is according to the MS developers ‘impressive’, but for a Mac user ‘not very exiting’ because on the Mac a comparable userinterface is already available.

Apple introduces Intel-processor Macs

Unfortunately, my weblog was unreachable yesterday, because of a problem with my internet connection. Now everything should work again, so I’m able to write about the most anticipated IT-event this year until now: The MacWorld keynote by Steve Jobs.

Anticipated, because the expectations were that Apple would introduce the first Macs with an Intel processor – and they did. Also, there were rumours that Apple would introduce other existing products, such as a spreadsheet for their iWorks package and even a new version of Mac OS X – these rumours however, were untrue.

So, what did Steve Jobs announced? He began with some sale figures to illustrate the success of past year. He told that the Apple Stores sold for more than one billion dollars last quarter, and because he released this figure (which is information relevant for stock traders) he was forced by his CFO to tell the revenues for the latest quarter, which was 5,7 billion dollar. Steve also told that there were 42 million iPods sold over the entire lifetime of the musicplayer, and that in 2005 the company sold more iPods than every year before (32 million iPods). Of course iTunes Music Store can’t be left out when talking about numbers. Apple sold 850 million songs via IMS and is now selling 3 million songs per day, which means a market share of 83 per cent. This left you wondering where record companies have their guts from to threat Apple with not selling songs via their store, because the ‘prices are to low’ in their opinion. They seem to really don’t want to sell music at all, so they can even complain more about piracy?

After these ‘boring’ numbers, Steve announced that Apple will start selling new content via IMS. One of the new series is ‘Saturday Night Live’. While the rumours suggested a new iPod shuffle or iPod nano, Apple introduced only a remote control for the iPod which also includes a integrated FM tuner. The new accessoire is going to cost 49 dollars. Finaly he also mentiond the coorporation with Crysler, which is going to add iPod support to their cars. In order to improve the iPod sales Apple has created a tv-ad featuring the trompetist Whyton Marsalis (who mostly plays jazz, so probably not many people will know him.. actually i do)

After the iPod and music talk, Jobs starts talking about the ‘important’ stuff: computers. He starts with Apple’s new professional photography workflow application Aperture. After a short movie about Aperture, Steve continues to talk about the Widgets which were introduced with Mac OS X 10.4. He introduced a few new widgets from Apple: a Google search widget, a new Address book widget, a weather widget and a few widgets which are pretty much only intresting for US citizens. The new widgets are available with a new update of Mac OS X which has version number 10.4.4.

More software: iLife. Microsoft is currently working on new software for the upcoming Windows Vista, which includes a new music and photo applications. These applications are in functionallity almost identical to what Apple has for a few years: iTunes and iPhoto. These applications are in my opinion the most important parts which makes Mac OS more userfriendly than competing operating systems – one of the reasons I think that Linux distro’s should include Mono by default, because F-spot is the only application which comes near to what iPhoto is and Muine or Banshee are also the best music libraries for Linux.

Steve introduces iLife ’06 which includes new versions of iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, Garageband and a new application called iWeb. The new iPhoto supports more photo’s than previous versions and is faster than the older version. He demonstrates how the new applications works with full screen edition on large screens – it makes you almost want to run to the store to buy a nice 30″ Cinema display (unfortunately I don’t have the money for it and it won’t work on my Mac mini because it lacks a dual-DVI connection. iPhoto has improved support for photobooks, it addes the possibility to create calenders, postcards and features ‘photocasting’. In fact this is nothing more than uploading selected photos to .Mac, where people can subscribe to such a gallery and the photos will automatically be available in their iPhoto. Changes made by the author are automatically updated to the people who are subscribed to the album. You have to be an .Mac-member in order to ‘cast’ a photocast, but everybody can subscribe to a photocast – even if you don’t own a Mac – because it uses RSS to publish updates.

iMovie features animated themes, which enables you to create professionally looking movies with photos, video’s and music without using ugly effects or slideshows. The movie will look more like ‘one piece’. Jobs demoes some of the possibilties with iMovie, which are rather impressive. When you talk about iMovie, you also will be quickly talking about iDVD for creating a DVD of your movie. New in iDVD ’06 are widescreen menus and support third party DVD-burners, which is nice because until now it was only possible to make DVD’s when your Mac contained a build in superdrive. Also Garagaband features some minor updates, mainly focussed on Podcasting. Steve demonstrate it by creating a funny Podcast – you can easily see that this is very good prepared and probably rehearsed several times, because the timing is perfect.

iWeb is a new application in the iLife suite for publishing stuff on the web. This application will be ‘easy to use to create beautiful websites’. The app can create online photoalbums, weblogs, podcast sites and other stuff. Especially creating photogalleries was a missing part of the Mac OS operating system, because Linux has standard applications which are able to do this, such as gThumb and F-spot. According to the screenshots the pages you can create with iWeb look pretty good and will work on IE, Firefox and obviously Safari according to Steve Jobs. For the photogalleries the program uses AJAX to create slideshows which will work on the current browsers. Unfortunately the program also only works when you have an .Mac-subscription. Also a new version of iWorks is introduced.

iMac with Intel-processor and Cinema displayAfter the software, Jobs moves on to the hardware – the most interesting part of the keynote. He repeats that he announced that by june ’06 the Macs with Intel processors will be available. Then there appears an from the smoke (in a previous keynote Apple ‘burned’ these dudes) Intel-dude which says: ‘Intel is ready’, to which Steve Jobs replies: ‘Apple is ready too’. Steve thanks Paul Otelini (the Intel-dude) for their support when Apple moves to Intel processors. Then the iMac with Core Duo (Yonah-processor) is introduced, as was expected by rumours, because the design of the last update of the iMac with G5-processor wasn’t as sophisticated as the previous iMac G5. The iMac with Intel-processor is available in the same size and design as the previous iMac, so with a 17″ and 20″ iMac. The other features are identical and the price is identical – probably to emphasize that the change to Intel isn’t as difficult as it seems. The only difference is the speed, according to Steve Jobs. The processor is two to three times faster – Steve also says that this doesn’t mean the computer is two to three times faster, because the disks aren’t faster and the memory isn’t faster. Every application Apple now introduces will be ‘universal binaries’, which means that it will run both on Power PC and Intel Macs. In March all the professional software of Apple will be available as universal binary. Finally it is announced that Microsoft will ship new Macintosh products for at least five years. There is also a tv-ad for the Intel Mac which is verry ‘Applesque’.

MacBook ProAnd the last thing of the keynote is the introduction of the PowerBook ancestor, the MacBook Pro. This new laptop has obviously an Intel processor, namely a Core Duo. The powerconsumption of these processors is significantly lower than the consumption of the G4 and G5. The speed is four to five times better than the previous PowerBooks. It is the thinnest laptop from Apple and available with a 15,4″ widescreen with high brightness and iSight webcam. The laptop come with a remote control and Frontrow. Also it feature MagSave, which is a powerconnector which is magnetically held in, so when someone pulls on the powercord, it yanks right out from the laptop. This feature is ‘patent pending’ according to Steve. The MacBook Pro is available with a 1,67GHz Core Duo processor and a model with a 1,83GHz Core Duo processor.

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