Apple Music Events: They’re Not Just for iPods Anymore

Apple recently hosted their yearly “music event”. As expected, they introduced new iPods. However, this particular event had a lot of little nuggets of tantalizing information. Now that I’ve had some time to digest it all, I’ll be writing a series of articles on these nuggets. However, I thought I’d quickly touch on a few topics.

Steve Wozniak was in attendance. Steve Jobs seemed genuinely surprised and delighted. Does this have any significance? When was the last time Woz attended any official Apple events?

It’s interesting that Apple introduced printing into the upcoming iOS 4.2 update for November. My guess is they got enough complaints about the iPad not being able to print, especially from business users, that they added it into this update. I felt that by not including printing originally, Apple was trying to make a point that the iPad was in many ways a replacement for paper. Perhaps the world just isn’t quite ready for that yet.

Steve Jobs made it a point to emphasize that an iPod Touch is an iPhone without a contract. Why would he do this? If he was simply trying to make clear that the iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone, it seemed like overkill. It also seemed like he slowed down and wanted to really drive this point home. Was Steve taking a jab at AT&T? Or was he swinging at the entire wireless industry? Or perhaps he was foreshadowing something else altogether.

Apple finally revived the Apple TV at this event. Which is somewhat interesting because Apple calls this their yearly music event. Everything else discussed at this event was music related, yet the Apple TV is obviously geared towards movies and TV shows. It simply could be the fact that this was good timing for Apple to release an updated Apple TV prior to the holiday shopping season. But it could also be a sign that Apple has finally figured out how they want to position the Apple TV. And maybe they feel the mainstream market is now ready to receive the Apple TV in earnest. The next few weeks and months should tell if Apple is really ready to take the Apple TV out of “hobby” status.

Steve Jobs also took a subtle swipe at competing devices. While discussing what consumers have taught them about the Apple TV thus far, he said, “They don’t want a computer on their TV. They have computers. They go to their widescreen TVs for entertainment, not to have another computer. This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand. But it’s really easy for consumers to understand. They get it.” This is a good point that I believe has relevance beyond the home media market.

When Netflix announced their app for the iPhone a few months back, I was a little surprised that Apple allowed it, since it seemed to compete with their iTunes movie service. So you can imagine my surprise when Apple themselves announced Netflix support in the Apple TV. Suddenly it seems Apple is very cozy with Netflix. What could this mean?

Finally, there seems to be some tension between Apple and Facebook over Apple’s new Ping social network. I noticed during Steve Job’s speech that Ping showed that you could log in with your Facebook ID. I even mentioned to my wife that this was a great move on Apple’s part. Yet the next day I read reports that this feature was not available. Sure enough, this feature was not available, even though it still mentioned FaceBook on Apple’s web site. Something interesting is going on behind the scenes and I can’t wait to find out what that is.

So stay tuned as I tackle some of these topics in more depth very soon.

Getting Twitty Wit It

In my articles about the iPad, I’ve mentioned the old world/new world computing paradigm that I gleaned from another author. Today I read an article, 120 is the new 140, that got me thinking about this paradigm in a different arena – that of social networking and some differences between Twitter and Facebook. Basically, I think that ease-of-use is an issue that way too many people undervalue, but one that may make or break the future of social networking services.

The basic use of Twitter is very simple. Post something to share it with others. I think that is why Twitter became so popular. From there, though, Twitter has started to get a bit more complicated. Firstly, you must keep your post under 140 characters. Many people wonder why 140 characters? That’s because SMS text messages from cell phones can only be 140 characters and posting from text messages was how Twitter got started. But in today’s world, is a 140 character limit really necessary?

But the 140 character limit is honestly just a nitpick. What I am really more concerned with is the increasingly complicated lexicon of Twitter. Some days it is a chore to check Twitter because so much of what is written is broken up by hash tags #, at symbols @, RT, HT, OH, and short URLs Reading it is one thing. A non-technical user trying to keep up with all these terms and concepts can be downright daunting. Referring to the article I mentioned, as social networking continues to grow, will non-technical users continue to put up with needing to manipulate their posts in such ways?

Compared with Facebook, Twitter can seem like using a 1980’s DOS computer. Twitter has been trying to make things simpler and many of the third-party Twitter utilities also can attempt to simplify things. But that also speaks to another point of confusion with Twitter. There are so many third-party Twitter tools out there that it can be confounding just trying to understand which tool to use. Non-technical users are going to give up quickly. Facebook is basically Facebook. The vast majority of users interface with Facebook from a web browser. Most mobile Facebook apps come from Facebook themselves, so even that experience is fairly consistent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like a lot of things that Twitter does. But I fear that Twitter may have its roots too engrained in the old world of technology. Due to ease-of-use issues, I’m not sure Twitter will be able to transition into the new world as well as a service like Facebook. What does that mean for you? Maybe nothing for the short-term, but for those planning long-term social networking strategies, it may be something worth paying attention to.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Grow a Pair

This guy doesn’t post a whole lot to his blog (Technology is Broken), but when he does, it is always worth the read. Follow the link below for a good example:

Twitter Down, FaceBook Frustrated, Conan Tounge-Tied

So the big news of yesterday was that of Twitter’s and FaceBook’s problems. It seems that rouge hackers launched a politically motivated denial-of-service (DOS) attack against one particular blog. The fact that Twitter and FaceBook were affected was “merely” a side-effect.

What is really revealing is just how big of a deal this was. I read a good article talking about how people were freaking out during the event. This wasn’t 9/11 we were talking about, it was “the day Twitter was down”! A quote from that article I think sums it up quite nicely.

What may prove more lasting about the day social networking suffered its first major blackout is the degree to which people cared. Near-panic erupted in some corners of the Internet as people lost cherished links to their online friends, family members and news feeds.

I’ve said it a few times, but the speed in which social networking has grown in the last year is phenomenal. No way this event was as big of a deal two years ago or even one year ago.

During his monolouge tonight while commenting on the Twitter and FaceBook situation, Conan O’Breien kept saying “FaceBox” after a joke involving Sarah Palin and an X-Box. No word on if he was hacked.

NFL Teams Look to Tackle Tweeting

I heard an interesting segment on a sports radio program today where a member of the media was commenting how NFL teams are unhappy that the media and fans are using Twitter to post comments about things they are observing during the current NFL pre-season training camps. Various NFL teams are attempting to stop the unrestrained tweeting by employing methods ranging from simply requesting the media not use Twitter to banning Twitter usage by fans during practices. Some teams are also trying to ban media members from using Twitter on their cell phone while on the sidelines for the upcoming regular season.

I just thought that this was a very interesting revelation as to how social media has grown so quickly over the last year. The Twitter “problem” was absolutely non-existent during last year’s NFL training camp yet it seems to be on the minds of every team’s management this year.

One More and We’ve Got Steak Sauce

I was checking my e-mail this morning and saw I had a message from one of my friends on Facebook. As usual, I click on the link within the e-mail to take me directly to that message on Facebook’s site. However, this time my web browser didn’t open up to Facebook. It took me to some strange site with a numeric address. After a few seconds I realized I had been the victim of a malware attack. Lucky for me, I use a Mac so the attack was useless on my computer. I noticed that a Windows EXE file had been downloaded, so out of curiosity, I scanned the file using ClamAV for Mac and it identified it as the Koobface worm. A little research on Google found that a new variety of the Koobface worm had just started making the rounds the day before. One article stated that this was the 56th variant of the Koobface worm. An astute commenter noted that one more and we’d have 57 varieties, just like Heinz. Heinz 57, of course, is their famous steak sauce.

More importantly, this latest example of a Windows vulnerability highlights just how risky it is to use a Windows-based computer in today’s world. If my computer were running Windows, I could have easily gotten infected this morning. It would have depended on whether or not my anti-virus software was completely up-to-date and/or if other security measures in place were able to stop this worm. Apparently, enough users out there aren’t well protected enough for this worm to be spreading like it is. Those that consider themselves technical “elite” will chide me for falling for this e-mail, and I probably should have noticed that the message was a little suspiscious. But honestly, why should I have to ensure that my computer has constantly updated multiple layers of security and always be viligant that the next e-mail message I open may hold impending doom? I shouldn’t – and long ago I made the conscious decision to not put up with it.

Which brings us to the crux of this article. Increasingly, it seems more and more people are making the decision to not put up with it anymore and switching to the Mac (including, today, that poor Facebook friend who sent me the worm). After the unmitigated disaster that Windows Vista has been for Microsoft, the company has quickly moved to bring out the next version of their operating system as soon as possible. They’ve also spent a lot of money on advertising trying to distance themselves from the “Vista” name and simultaneously undo the momentum that Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign has generated for Macintosh sales.

This is curious, given that Microsoft still holds approximately 90% marketshare vs. Apple’s approximate 10%. True, Apple’s share is currently about double of their previous historical best, but the desparate nature of Microsoft’s ad campaigns seems out of place here. It’s as if they know something we don’t know and have a reason to be scared. Perhaps Microsoft feels their future hangs in the balance with the release of Windows 7. Regardless of what they really think, they are doing a great job of developing the perception that they are betting the farm on Windows 7. And as the old saying goes, perception is reality.

The problem is that as much as Microsoft tries hard to distance itself from Vista, every time a new virus or malware hits the news, it’s yet another reminder that Windows is not secure. And similarly to many political races, it could be this issue and this issue alone that determines the final outcome. Microsoft claims they are shooting for a Windows 7 release by the end of this year. So until then, we shall see …

The Dark Hallway

I heard a great quote today from a newspaper sports columnist regarding the emergence of the Internet and social networking. I was in the car at the time and couldn’t write anything down. Several hours later, I sat down at my computer and typed in as much of the quote as I could remember. Google came through and I found the columnist and an article with the same quote (apparently, he’s using it a lot!). Richard Justice is the columnist’s name, he works for the Houston Chronicle

“Right now, we’re running down a dark hallway as fast as we can go. We have no idea what’s at the end of the hallway because we have to keep trying to figure it out.”

I’ve told a few people that I don’t believe there are many true experts on social networking because the rules are still being written. How can one be an expert on something that is still changing?

Ironically I have a connection to the Houston Chronicle. Years ago my first real job was at the Edwardsville Intelligencer newspaper, which was and is still owned by the Hearst Corporation, who also own the Houston Chronicle. While I was at the Intelligencer, sometime in 1995 or 1996 the Hearst corporation gave a directive to all their newspapers which was something to the effect of “get online”. Of course, back then nobody really knew what that meant (eerily similar to the situation today with social networking, it seems). So all the newspapers basically just did what they could. For being a small newspaper, we at the Intelligencer did quite a bit for ourselves, and for a while we had a friendly competition with the Houston Chronicle, the other newspaper that got an early jump on the Internet.

Seeing how well the Houston Chronicle seems to be doing, perhaps the moral of the story is that the early bird gets the worm. Those who see the coming trends and get on board early will be in a better position than those who wait.

It’s a Virtual Life

Google news posted a story about how many Mexicans are living virtual lives as they stay indoors to keep themselves safe from the swine flu. This could turn out to be an interesting case study about how social networking could be used in the future.

What I found quite interesting are the examples of teenagers getting bored staying on the computer all day. I think this can serve to dispel the myth that social networking is going to turn us all into couch potatoes. It seems evident that social networking is simply another way to “socialize”, but it can not replace actual human interaction. Given the opportunity, I think most of us would much rather socialize in person, but when we can’t do that, virtual socialization fills the gap.

White House now on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace

If you weren’t yet aware of how big social networking is getting, this should serve as a wake-up call. The White House has now created a Facebook page, set up a Twitter account, and also created a MySpace page. Apparently, all this went on-line late last week and over the weekend. Watch for this new turn of events to ratchet up the publicity about social networking.

Read more about it at Computerworld’s site

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