MWSF 2009

This post is going to be a bit shorter than previous years. There’s really not that much to say here. I’ve been following MacWorld for the past decade or so, even before coverage was very good (now pretty much everything is live). Overall I’d rate this one a 5.

Phil Schiller

Phil did a decent job filling in for Jobs. It did sound slightly like the script was either written for Jobs, or he was trying to sound like Jobs. I’m not sure which. Overall he did pretty good. He’s not Steve Jobs, and expecting him to live up to that is not practical. He did better than most executives do at these events. It was obvious he worked with people who assist Jobs, and likely even got input from Jobs.

Software

A lot of software was released: iLife ’09, iWorks ’09. A few things impressed me, most of it was really not that remarkable. The camera stabilization stuff in iMovie will be welcomed by many, assuming it performs as well as it’s demoed. They didn’t say how well it will do with sub-SD (below standard definition) cameras like cell phones which are becoming increasingly popular. Facial detection in iPhoto is also pretty cool. The precision editor is also something that many people will be happy to see. I never saw GarageBand as more than an novelty app, so I’m not to wowed by the changes.

I’m not sure what to think of this Mac Box Set. The price is decent, but I think almost anyone who is interested in upgrading iLife and iWorks already has Mac OS X 10.5. Those that don’t either don’t care about the latest and greatest features (that’s most of them), or can’t because they use something else that doesn’t work with 10.5. Regardless, I’m not sure how many will really appreciate Mac OS X 10.5 being in the bundle.

17″ MacBook Pro

The 17″ MacBook Pro was obvious since it was a glaring omission last time Apple released the new MacBooks. I’m curious to see the dissection pictures that someone will post over the next few days to see that battery up close. While not “removable” I hope it’s “serviceable” so that you can buy a 3rd party battery online and install it yourself if you don’t want spend so much money and time having Apple do it. Don’t let 1,000 charges fool you. 1,000 charges is actually pretty good, many laptop batteries don’t fair to well at that amount.

The $50 anti-glare option is totally worth it. It’s a shame they don’t offer that on the other models. I think it would be a popular upgrade. I’m not a fan of the glossy displays as I find the matte displays much easier on the eyes.

iTunes

DRM free finally. That’s not a free upgrade though, it will cost you $0.30 per song. No word what percentage of that Apple gets, and what percentage goes to the record labels.

Pricing is now tiered to $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29. Lastly you can now download music over the 3G network on the iPhone. You can also download over EDGE, but that’s unadvertised. I presume the 10MB limit doesn’t apply to purchased music as it does to podcasts and apps, but I’m not sure.

Missing iPhone Firmware Update

Apple promised push messaging would launch in September 2008. Now January 2009 and there’s no word on a completion date. I previously suspected Apple would at least comment on this delay in hopes of keeping customers and developers from getting to go nuts. Push messaging was being seeded to select developers in the summer. It was originally in the iPhone OS 2.1 beta update but pulled before it went final. It’s allegedly still in the works. John Grubber notes that there haven’t been betas of 2.3, which suggests that the next version will be iPhone OS 3.0. That could still be months away. This could get interesting.

MacRumorsLive.com Hack

It was obvious they got hacked ASAP. It was also pretty obvious that it was some folks at 4chan pretty quickly.

Overall

Lots of software, predictable hardware. This was an evolutionary keynote rather than a revolutionary one. There’s a lot of stuff Apple is overdue to update including the Mac Mini which is painfully outdated, Apple TV, iPhone OS among other things. There’s also Snow Leopard which hasn’t been shown off to much yet.

It wasn’t the keynote itself that was a bore, it was the product lineup wasn’t that of previous years. It’s not to say they are bad products, but that they aren’t revolutionary must-have products.

MWSF 2009 Predictions

I play this game every year. I’m having some trouble with predictions this year since Apple has been somewhat scatterbrained lately. Regardless, here’s my list for MacWorld 2009:

  • The usual pep-rally – iPhone App Store is a success, lots of iTunes music download, iPod touch sales strong, Mac sales solid. Users happy. (Probability: 100%)
  • iTunes DRM Free Content – More DRM Free Music. Much less likely is video. (Probability: 85%).
  • 17″ Unibody MacBook Pro – It’s missing from the lineup. (Probability: 85%).
  • iPhone OS 2.3 – Despite a lack of rumors on the iPhone OS 2.3 unlike previous versions which were more publicity tested I still think we will see an announcement on this front. Apple promised push notification back in September. It’s way overdue. If it’s not ready to ship today, I expect Apple will at least give a preview and a date. I also suspect at least one other headliner feature. I’m hoping for Copy&Paste. (Probability: 80%).
  • Steve Jobs Health – It’s the elephant in the room. I suspect whomever holds the keynote will mention it. Assuming Steve Jobs himself doesn’t mention it either by video conf. or in person. (Probability: 80%).
  • Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Preview – Apple will give us another taste of what’s to come. I also expect to see a release timeline at least down to a quarter, if not an exact date. My guess is it won’t go GM until at least WWDC. Demo is very possible. (Probability: 75%).
  • Revamped Mac Mini – The Mac Mini is overdue for a makeover. The case has been the same since 2005. The internals are getting old. I see a modest speed bump, a refreshed design and NVIDIA chipset. (Probability: 70%).
  • Updated iMac – The iMac is about a year old at this point and also still offers an ATI graphics chip in some models. I see that disappearing and NVIDIA taking over. This is in preparation for Snow Leopard who will want more GPU. (Probability: 68%).
  • iPhone Nano – I know 2 manufacturers claim to be making cases for it. I still suspect it won’t happen, at least with the iPhone OS we all know. I figure this because it will be hard to use the OS on a screen smaller than the iPhone. That said, Apple may be working on a slimmer cell phone focused more as a music player than an application platform. Think iPod + Phone. Rather than iPhone. (Probability: 51%).
  • Updated Apple TV – Mixed feelings on this. Until Apple has a vision for it, I’m not sure they will keep dumping R&D time into this product. (Probability: 50%).
  • Random Price Drops – Throughout the keynote, expect prices on low end of each product line to drop compared to current pricing. New slimmed down products to tickle the fancy of those in conservation mode due to the economy. (Probability: 85%).
  • iTouch Tablet – I think it will happen eventually, but I don’t expect an announcement soon. I think earliest is 3Q 2009 (TechCrunch suggests the same). More likely at some point in 2010. I think it will replace the MacBook Air and be a slim tablet style notebook borrowing heavily from the Air. I don’t think Apple has the cost-saving chops to produce an oversized iPod touch at a price consumers would go for. (Probability for MWSF: 20%).

There you have it. Those are my guesses. Now lets see what happens.

Thunderbird Sync With iPhone/iPod touch

I’ve gotten quite a few emails over the past several months from people who want to know how to sync their iPhone (or iPod touch) with Thunderbird. Quite a few are disappointed to find mozPod doesn’t support these newer devices. It’s not quite my fault as I’ve yet to see any indication that it’s practical to implement.

I should note I do not own either device, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t matter. Hopefully by 2nd or 3rd generation when I’m on the market Apple will have come to their senses.

The problem is that Apple hasn’t provided a good method for anyone to provide sync with the iPod. Even on older devices it wasn’t pretty, but it was workable. There is no real sync API outside of iSync, which is Mac only and not a public API. Instead what was done is mount the iPod file system and send it your data. While not awesome, this has been workable and provided many Thunderbird users with mobile data.

On the iPhone and iPod touch it’s not even possible to easily mount the filesystem. The best method I’ve heard of is hacking it so you can mount your phone using sshfs with something like FUSE. I know myself and some Linux and Mac users (horray for MacFUSE!) could manage, but I wouldn’t dare try to explain to someone how to do that. From what I’ve read the iPhone manages data using SQLite 3. Therefore it seems possible to use mozStorage to interface with it. Perhaps someone with more experience with mozStorage and db’s generated outside mozStorage would know better about any potential compatibility issues.

Calendar:
/var/root/Library/Calendar/Calendar.sqlitedb

Address BookL
/var/root/Library/AddressBook/AddressBook.sqlitedb
/var/root/Library/AddressBook/AddressBookImages.sqlitedb

Seems to me Apple could turn this into an API pretty easily by re-creating the old iPod style USB storage device mounting and give us access to these files.

In my mind the ideal implementation would be for Apple to just have a iTunes embed a mini web server locally accessible (obviously) and create a REST api to work with all data on the device. That would open up a whole new way of interacting with the device. Essentially you would interact with 127.0.0.1:[port#] and GET/POST your way through the interface. Perfect for Calendar, Address Book, Notes, or whatever else Apple comes up with.

To get a vCard for someone:

  GET /contact/vcard/?last_name=Jones HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3

vcard can also be done as xml (ooh DOM parsing for iPhone!), so there’s lots of possibilities.

To add a contact:

  POST /contact/add/ HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3
  Content-Length: 450
  Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

  fname=John&lname=Doe&address=1%20Large%20Road...

Though it would likely make sense to go with a more vcard like naming structure.

For calendar iCalendar or vCalendar would make most sense:

 GET /calendar/ical/?start=1-1-1970&end=1-19-2038 HTTP/1.1
  Host: localhost
  User-Agent: mozPod/0.3

You get the idea. Dead simple access. You could then use something likecurl to manipulate the iPhone’s address book via your existing application. It would be only accessible locally, so it’s as secure as your system. It would actually make things more secure since it would be one less reason for tinkering on the actual device, and it would open up a whole new market of iPod/iPhone software to go with all those accessories that have helped boost Apple’s market share. SyncML is cool, but SyncML is also a beast and reminds me of SOAP, WSDL etc.

MacWorld SF 2008

Another year, another great day of news coverage. I’m obsessed with watching it evolve and monitor several sites throughout the keynote. As expected this was a pretty big one. I suspect this year will contain the most product announcements of any year for Apple. They have a lot of products due for a refresh and announcements expected. Even Steve himself said:

All of this in the first two weeks, and we’ve got fifty more weeks to go.

In all the keynotes I’ve followed, this was the most aggressive agenda. 2008 is going to rock for Apple products.

Continue reading

MacWorld SF

It’s MacWorld tomorrow. I’ll be watching the net closely to see what the almighty Steve announces. I’ve got the following predictions:

  • Mac OS X 10.5 Announced (99% Chance) – That means I get to be a geek and preorder from the Apple store.
  • More Video/Movies On iTunes (95% Chance) – This will be a big focus since Apple really wants this market.
  • .Mac Overhaul (80% Chance) – Don’t really care about this one personally since I don’t use the service.
  • iTV (72% Chance) – I doubt it’s ready. Either an announcement to expect summer delivery, and/or a more detailed preview. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they are ready.
  • Incremental Bumps For Various Computers (70% Chance) – Rather lame and generic for a prediction, but I think at least 1 computer line (most likely iMac, and Mac Pro) will see a speed bump. For the Mac Pro it would make most sense, since Intel just announced Quad Core Xeons.
  • Airport Extreme 802.11n Edition (68% Chance) – The rumors exist, and I think there is a decent shot. They likely need it for iTV.
  • Phone (60% Chance) – If it is, it will be the fabled ‘iPhone’, though likely under another name. Only reason I give it 60% odds is because of all the press. Otherwise I’d put it down to 25%. I don’t think it’s extremely likely, but there is to much press to ignore. Then again, I’m still waiting for my Apple PDA (ended up being the iPod).
  • New iPod (51% Chance) – I’m going out on a limb here. Despite pretty much no press, I think it’s time for the full screen iPod, with a true chipset designed for the purpose of video. I mentioned this before.
  • Software Upgrade(50% Chance) – Very likely some software, either an iWorks upgrade, or iTunes version.

So there are my predictions. I do believe it will be a very busy MacWorld with more announcements than usual. I expect volume to be one of the more notable things. A lot of things on all fronts. Not so much of a war on Microsoft, but a big grab at the “digital lifestyle”.

Lets see how I pan out this year.

Airport Express 2.0? iTunes Movies?

Oh there’s so much to talk about. Next week (on Tuesday of course) Apple is supposed to reveal some new products and/or services.

  • Apple sent out a notice saying “It’s Show Time“… just smells like a movie service is coming.
  • Apple just updated the iMac line, and just released the Mac Pro, so desktop hardware doesn’t seem to likely to be a big focus.
  • iPods haven’t been updated in a long time, likely in part because Apple has been redoing them to use a Samsung chipset (Apple already uses Samsung SDRAM) rather than the PortalPlayer chip. Rumored to have a touch screen. Which I mentioned a while back (with a mock-up).
  • Apple’s also rumored to reveal a new Airport Express with support for video.
  • A cell phone is still said to be in the works (iPhone), but that’s not due until 2007.

I really like the idea of a video enabled Airport Express… I really want one already, and they haven’t even announced it yet.

Katrina Relief Online

I’ve been compiling a little list of some ways you can help online. There is a lot going on, so if you find one I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment so I can add it.

  • Flickr Auction – the popular photo sharing site is holding an auction for prints of some donated photo’s. There’s quite a few reflecting some very talented people. If you’ve got some space for a photo and want to help out, this is a great way.
  • eBay is using PayPals to collect money for United Way.
  • Amazon is collecting through it’s “Honor System” making it easy to donate to the Red Cross through your Amazon.com account. Google is pointing to this.
  • Yahoo is also collecting for the Red Cross through it’s website.
  • MSN (Microsoft) is collecting money for the Red Cross.
  • Apple made it easy to donate through it’s iTunes service (link opens in iTunes).
  • Comcast notes a dozen charities which you can donate to (some accept online, some don’t).
  • WritersCafe.net has been pushed rather extensively by Fark.com
  • Major League Baseball (MLB) will be holding collections on September 7th (or a day of a teams choosing for teams away on that day).
  • AOL is linking to a bunch of charities through NetworkForGood.com.

Feel free to add.

QuickTime 7 Disappointments

It’s not a secret that I’m an Apple Zealot. I was eagerly looking forward to QuickTime 7 since its announcement. I installed Tiger on my Mac mini, and was impressed with the H.264 codec, despite it not really supporting my mac mini (not enough CPU apparently, even though it’s rather new) and still working fairly well. When the Windows preview came out, I naturally installed it and gave it a go. At about 2:30 today I uninstalled it. In my opinion it was either released way to early (even for a preview), or a very poor upgrade. It didn’t meet the quality I expect of a public preview by a long shot. I had several issues that led me to remove it and revert to 6.5:

  • iTunes reports no CD driver is installed when QuickTime 7 is installed. Go back to 6.5 and it’s having no problems. Why an incompatibility with a fellow Apple product (and a very popular one)?
  • Sllooowww. It was significantly slower when opening QuickTime compared to 6.5. Not to mention viewing a movie in my browser was much slower thanks to the plugin needing so long to load. I want thinks fast and simple. Not slow.
  • Marketing mania. If I don’t have the pro version, just hide the menu’s and go with that minimal UI stuff that made Apple great. Don’t gray them out and shove them in my face. I like Apple products because they don’t fall for this Microsoft like marketing push. QuickTime 7 broke that trend.

Media Players stink. The big 3 are now bloated garbage. Real Player was first to become so bloated it’s useless. Then came Windows Media Player. QuickTime was my last safe haven of clean simple media. Yes I know there are other products out there, but lets face it, they aren’t as good at handling video and have their issues (especially in regards to browser plugins).

I know some Apple employees read blogs, hopefully from the QuickTime team takes a moment to realize this and look at their product from the customers point of view. It’s a great platform, great video quality, but their player is becoming bloated and slow. It doesn’t feel like a normal Apple product.

Come on Apple. Think Different. Think simple. Think clean, fast, usable applications. Go back to your roots with great Applications. QuickTime 7 isn’t the best you can do. The only good thing in there is H.264. That’s it.

YASN (Yet Another Socal Network): YUB

There’s yet another social network (like friendster, orkut, the facebook). Yub is backed by Buy.com, Target, and Apple iTunes which gives you “points” for what you buy, or persuade others to buy. You can write reviews, and if someone buys through your review, you get 1% of the product’s price in points. Which are redeemable for cash (shockingly). It’s designed as a social network, but for purchasing products.

I gave it a spin today, and found it rather good. It’s got a nice design, very usable, and it’s actually pretty informative. I can definitely see myself using it as a frontend for purchasing products.

It’s themed like a mall, and even feature’s a map. There are “raves” (topics of interest), including Firefox!

I’d recommend giving it a look. You can find my profile here. If you join, add me as your friend (if you want to be my friend that is).

Social Networks are part of life on the net now. They provide a new way of interacting unlike more archaic forums and chartrooms. This just adds the dynamic of seeing what products other people like/dislike.

I’m curious how Amazon will respond.

Hopefully they will add an web service so I can make (or find) a WordPress plugin to keep my latest reviews on this blog and a generic signup link.