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.

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iPhone/iPod touch SDK On The Way

Readers know I’ve been big on Apple opening up the iPhone/iTouch to developers since the beginning. Apple finally came through announcing a SDK will be made available, though not until early next year. It specifically noted Apps will work on the iPod touch as well. About time. All of a sudden these devices went from being cool, but not really worthwhile to having massive potential. Still missing on the iPhone is 3G, but that’s coming, and likely in an ’08 refresh of the product line.

Gizmodo has an interesting banner on top of their coverage of the announcement. Notice the positioning of the Firefox logo. This comes pretty soon after the announcement of the Firefox Mobile effort. Provided the SDK provided is good enough, I think there’s a pretty good chance we will see a Gecko product on the iPhone in the not too distant future. For quite some time it will likely be Minimo based and very simple, not the more robust plans which require Mozilla 2.

On a side note, I’m surprised nobody has managed to get Linux running on the iPod touch yet. I thought that would have happened by now. The iPhone would be somewhat pointless since getting the phone functionality to work would be a real battle.

Some sort of simulator/emulator to aid development would also be interesting, though I don’t think that’s very likely.

Overall it’s great news. Lets see that SDK already!

Below is what was posted on Apple’s site today

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Apple On iPhone/iPod touch Development

So it appears Apple is neutral on development for the iPhone/iPod touch platform. That’s according to Apple’s Greg Joswiak. He also confirms the lack of Bluetooth on the iPod touch. Interestingly he also notes the two devices are practically the same platform. Which makes me wonder: why is the iPod touch crippled? It doesn’t seem to make sense. I guess we’ll learn more once hackers get a hold of it and start tinkering. I’m sure someone will compare the two and see what’s different.

iPod touch Is Read Only

According to Gizmodo (boy I’m linking to them a lot lately) the iPod touch doesn’t have an add button for calendar. It runs the same software, so it was most likely just disable to persuade people to get an iPhone. Bluetooth likely removed to keep cost down. As I said yesterday it’s critical to keep that price in range.

Hopefully someone will hack together a fix, or Apple will realize this product is to crippled to be fun. If they didn’t disable features it would have been a PDA killer. Now it’s a tiny overpriced iPod with a big screen.

Engadget has the story as well. Comments are also interesting. It seems lots of people are very disappointed by this.

iPod touch 2nd Generation?

There’s been a storm of news about the new iPod lineup, and of course the iPhone price drop (and refund). Some interesting things have been said. I think Gizmodo has put it best. “iPod Overload Offers Up Hard Choices, No Clear Winning Device“. Between expense, poor provider (AT&T), lack of 3G, and being new, people are hesitant to move to the iPhone. Price and a mere 16GB is keeping people away from the iPod touch. The Classic and Nano feel pretty outdated for what they cost. The shuffle could put you to sleep.

Gizmodo’s title is pretty accurate, because it illustrates the problem with this lineup. There’s no easy choice, just a lot of concessions for most people. I’m guessing a few things will change in the first half of ’08

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Apple iPod touch – Applications Wanted

So Apple unveiled the new iPod today – iPod touch. I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen thus far. It’s pretty much the iPhone without the phone. The other big Apple news today, dropping the smaller iPhone was no big surprise. In all honesty not to surprised about the price drop either. They are ramping up for a big push.

It’s no secret that I’m interested in a replacement for my aging (4 year+) Sony Clie. It’s battery life is miserable, no WiFi, software is hard to find and buggy, and it doesn’t even compare to what’s out there now. Palm OS 4 was great for 2002, but doesn’t stand a chance in 2007. This might be what I’m looking for.

iPod touch

I don’t really care about the mp3 player (it’s not 2001 anymore), video could be cool, but I wouldn’t use it an awful lot either. I’d likely load a few things on there before going on vacation, but not much more than that. What I care about what’s under the hood, Mac OS X. And the hardware that runs it (awesome display, battery life, WiFi).

That said, before I’d take out the credit card, I want to see a few things:

  • Hack-ability – I want to see that third party apps can be hacked to run on it. If I can get terminal going, and run ssh, nano, vim, or emacs, and pine I’ll be very happy.
  • Mail – Someone already wrote an Apollo IM, an app for the iPhone based on libPurple (Pidgin/Gaim). If similar desire causes someone to write an email app, I’m golden. Webmail is survivable, client application is awesome.

If I see these things emerge in some form… I’ll be thrilled. That pretty much would make the sale. If I can add applications to it it will rock. If I’m limited to Apple’s offering, then I’d think twice, since I love the browser functionality, but want some power tools that a browser just can’t handle. It’s still a great device at a great price, but not living up to it’s potential as it is out of the box. Mac OS X is designed to be built on top of.

Also on the wants list, but wouldn’t hold me up:

  • Offline Web BrowsingGoogle Gears would be most useful to have Google Reader on the go.
  • Calendar – Could be either a basic iCal clone, or just Google Calendar with Google Gears. Either would rock.
  • Address Book – Won’t take long for this to surface. Cell phone can handle it anyway. In the mean time a text file and terminal will do just fine. grep anyone?

They really should just open the platform up. Even if it’s “at your own risk” with a big warning every time you run something for the first time. Firefox on this thing would just rock. Would also be a step closer to Google Gears at that point (since it currently doesn’t support Safari even on the desktop, much less Apple’s new handheld product line).

Update [09/05/2007 @ 11:13 PM EST]: According to Ars Technica the iPod touch does have an address book and calendar! Come on third party apps!