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.

Antenna-Gate Heating Up

Just the fact that it has been given a “-gate” moniker shows that the publicity regarding the alleged antenna flaw with the new iPhone 4 has reached widespread proportions. Already this week has been hot and heavy with iPhone 4 antenna-related news and today seems especially heavy.

It all started on Monday with Consumer Reports stating they can’t recommend the iPhone 4, even though it is their highest rated smartphone, because their testing shows there is a reception problem. This started off a renewed wave of interest in the story and the next few days were full of articles and bloggings giving opinions, suggested fixes, speculation on the possible problem, as well as conspiracy theories. On Tuesday Consumer Reports stated that they believed Apple should fix the problem for free, which then triggered outcries for Apple to recall the iPhone 4. There were even bookies giving odds on the probability of Apple actually doing a recall.

Today’s news is that an Apple engineer warned of a possible problem with the antenna early in the design phase. As well, reports are that current shipments of the iPhone are delayed possibly due to Apple deploying a manufacturing fix for the problem. Other reports are that iOS 4.01 may be released today, containing the signal strength indicator fix that Apple has promised. Finally, Apple has called a press conference for 10AM Pacific Time Friday morning. This of course, is just sending the press into a frenzy as they try to guess what might be talked about at this press conference.

As much as has been made of this problem, based on my reading I believe that there may actually be a problem – but at the same time it is likely being blown out of proportion.

Firstly, while there are many reports of the problem, there seem to be just as many people who are not reporting any problems. Of course, with the sheer volume of iPhones sold, even a small percentage of problematic phones could be a very large number. So the question is how many iPhones are actually affected? It will be interesting to find out the answer, if we ever do.

Consumer Reports’ testing seems to prove there is a significant signal loss, which they believe could cause dropped calls, if the phone is held in a certain way. Consumer Reports tested 3 different iPhones, which they claim they bought all in New York City, albeit at different stores. Of course, if those 3 phones were made in the same factory, then it could be that they found a flaw coming from a manufacturing flaw in a particular factory. It will be interesting to hear how Apple responds to Consumer Reports’ claims.

Finally, even with all the bad publicity, Apple is still selling the phones like hotcakes. Apple’s stock has taken a small hit, but many analysts are claiming that this is simply an opportunity for investors to get in on Apple stock while the price is down. There is the saying that “there is no bad publicity” and as long as Apple deals with the situation correctly, perhaps that saying will hold true this time as well.

It's All About the Touch

Now that the same operating system that is used on the iPhone and iPod Touch will be used on the iPad, I officially declare that Apple must name the operating system something besides “iPhone OS” – which itself was never an official name. Up to this point, to be completely correct, we have had to refer to the OS as the iPhone/iPod Touch OS, or something along those lines. This was quite awkward. And it will be quite a bit more awkward if we now need to say iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad OS.

Therefore, I suggest that Apple use “Touch OS” for all their touch devices. I think this makes sense because the defining feature of all these devices is the touchscreen interface. From this point on, I will refer to the OS as the Touch OS and I suggest that all authors do the same. If you think this is a good idea, spread the word and let’s see if we can make it stick! Be sure to leave a comment as well.

When I came up with the idea, I did a quick search to find out if anyone else had this idea or if the name was already taken by another operating system. I did not find that the name was already in use, nor did I find that anyone had the exact same idea. I did find that someone had a similar idea almost two years ago. They suggested “Touch OS X” at the time, because the operating system was derived from Mac OS X. So to be fair, I thought I’d give them props here.

State of the … iPad?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Apple today introduced their tablet computer, the iPad. I am researching everything about the iPad and will have a write up soon, so stay tuned.

Until then, ponder this. Today is also the State of the Union address. I wonder which media event will have generated more buzz by the end of the day: Steve Jobs and the iPad announcement or Barrack Obama and the State of the Union address. It will certainly be an interesting barometer on the state of technology (and Apple) in our society.

A Major New Product

Apple reported yet another record-setting quarter today, which you can read all about at this link on Apple’s web site. While impressive, one quote in particular should be noted. Says Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, “The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we’re really excited about.”

So whatever is released on Wednesday, we can be sure it is going to be a significant announcement. Add to this the findings by an analytics firm of an unknown hardware device that runs the as yet-unreleased iPhone OS 3.2 and it seems likely that the new product is a mobile device of some sort. The analytics firm reports that they believe the new device is a tablet, citing in part that the applications being tested on the device are falling in line with what is expected the rumored tablet to feature, showing a strong tendency towards news, books, and media consumption.

I would suggest that if you are considering a purchase of a laptop, netbook, or some sort of mobile device, wait at least until the dust settles at the end of this week. I’ll certainly be posting more after I’ve had time to analyze whatever is announced on Wednesday.

It Might be a Paintball Gun?

Apple has officially confirmed a January 27th event, 10 AM Pacific time. They have sent out invitations with a paint splattered theme, sparking speculation over exactly what that could mean. The invitation, pictured below, doesn’t exactly say “tablet computer” to me. But if Apple is releasing a tablet computer, maybe there’s going to be some sort of “finger painting” app that shows off pressure-sensitivity features or something. Or maybe they just wanted a visual representation of the “creative process”. Like I said before, tablet or not, all evidence points towards something really big, so pay attention on the 27th.


January 27th … Don't Miss It!

All evidence available leads to the conclusion that Apple will be hosting a “media event” on January 27th. What exactly they will be promoting at that event is still not clear, but all signs point to something very big. Internet rumor sites are buzzing loudly about an Apple “tablet” computer of some sort. Certainly, this could be the next big thing from Apple, so don’t stray too far from your computer, phone, or TV on that day. You may want to tell your kids or grandkids where you were when Apple made their announcement on January 27th … or not 🙂

Mac-berry at Last!

Hot off the virtual presses, RIM has announced that they will be releasing a Mac version of their Blackberry Desktop Manager software for the Mac in September. You can read the full announcement on the Official BlackBerry Blog.

For as long as the BlackBerry has been in the market*, the lack of Mac support has been a glaring omission. Mac users have had to resort to various 3rd party utilities to sync their BlackBerries with no support from RIM.

Two things to consider: Is RIM introducing Mac support in an effort to head off the growth of the iPhone in the ever increasing base of Mac users? And will this introduction make more businesses consider the Mac?

As more users are switching to the Mac, the lack of support for the BlackBerry could be leading to those users switching to the iPhone as well. It would be interesting to find out if RIM has any data bearing this out. By introducing Mac support, they may figure that users can keep their BlackBerries when they switch to the Mac.

In contrast, those businesses who are heavily vested in the BlackBerry platform may have been holding off on considering the Macintosh due to the lack of Mac support from RIM. Now that RIM will officially support the Mac, those businesses may now take another look at the Mac. Interestingly, I’ve read studies that show Mac users are more likely to buy an iPhone. So wouldn’t it be ironic if by supporting the Mac, RIM is opening the door for more iPhone sales?

On a related note, I wonder to what extent the complete lack of BlackBerry support (along with lukewarm support from Palm) over the years played into Apple’s decision to create the iPhone. Perhaps the moral of the story is that those tech vendors who don’t support the Mac run the risk of Apple deciding to make their own competing product.

*I have a long history with the BlackBerry. I visited the (then small) RIM production facility in Canada back in 2001 as part of an evaluation for Anheuser-Busch (where I worked at the time). This was during the time of the original BlackBerry device, which was shaped like a large pager and was an e-mail only device. However, it was very advanced for the time and in part due to the evaluation our team performed, A-B started deploying the BlackBerry across the company. When I left the company a year later, one of the hardest things I had to do was give up my BlackBerry.


June 6th, 2009 was the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of German-controlled France during World War II. It was also the day that the highly anticipated Palm Pre smartphone was released on Sprint’s network. Many people are noting the potential symbolism of this date for both Palm and Sprint.

The analogy is that the iPhone has so quickly and thoroughly dominated the smartphone market, it has been like the German Blitzkrieg of Europe. Palm, the originator and former leader of the PDA/smartphone market, has been pushed to the brink of irrelevance by its competition. Sprint, a once powerful player in the wireless industry, has fallen upon tough times lately, hemorrhaging customers over the last few years. The fact that the iPhone is only available on AT&T’s network has certainly contributed to Sprint’s troubles. The Pre will either be these companies’ last desperate gasp, or the bold attack that will lead them back into contention. June 6th may have been a D-Day for both Palm and Sprint, but unlike the Allied attack, the outcome of this battle is far from certain.

There are many detailed reviews and articles analyzing the significance of the Pre, as a quick Internet search will show. And the hype surrounding the device is causing a lot of polarization. Many are pitting the Pre against the iPhone in an all-or-nothing struggle, as if there can be only one smartphone in the market. Of course, this is silly, as there is yet plenty of room for competitors. However, perception can be reality and if the Pre does not make a big splash, the media attention the iPhone juggernaut generates could very well drown out the Pre.

My take is that the Pre is quite advanced and feature-wise can compete with the iPhone. However, as has been proven over and over again in the technology industry, it takes a lot more than good technology to make a product successful (a lesson that Apple learned the hard way and is sure to never forget). The unfortunate fact is that Palm has a lot riding on this device (and Sprint to a lesser degree). In a different time and place, one where Palm was a stronger company and where there was no such thing as an iPhone, the Pre could possibly be extremely successful, or at least appear to be much more successful with no iPhone to compare it to. However, this is 2009 and the iPhone has a 2 year head-start in this “new world” of smartphone market, one which Apple basically created. With the speed that technology has been advancing lately, 2 years is a long time for a product to have gained momentum, and few products in the history of tech have had the type of success that the iPhone has had. Add to that the strength of the Apple App Store and it will take an extraordinary level of success for the Pre to dislodge any significant share of the market from the iPhone.

An interesting subplot to all this is the timing of the release date of the Pre. Palm has decided to release the Pre two days before the keynote speech at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, where is it widely anticipated that Apple will be introducing a new iPhone device, as well as the 3.0 version of the iPhone software. At first glance, it seems unwise to release a new product only 2 days before your competition dominates the media. But some have theorized that this was actually a smart move on Palm’s part, as it allows the Pre to ride the coattails of the iPhone publicity. In effect, Palm will be co-opting Apple’s media exposure, as there will be much made of the comparison between the two devices. A different release date may have not garnered the same amount of media attention. In a kind of preemptive attack, Palm’s gamble may give the Pre the best chance of success.

iTunes 8.2 adds support for iPhone 3.0; Steve Jobs Update

Apple quiety released iTunes 8.2, which adds support for an iPhone or iPod Touch with the iPhone 3.0 Software Update. The timing of this release, given that Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) is next week, makes it seem likely that Apple will release the 3.0 update during the WWDC, likely during the Monday morning keynote (10 AM Pacific Time).

Speaking of the WWDC, according to a highly reliable source of mine, Steve Jobs will make a “surprise” appearance at the WWDC, a little ahead of schedule for his return from medical leave of absence.

… Ok, I don’t really have any inside information 🙂 …  but the source is Steve Chazin, author of the Marketing Apple blog, and former Director of Marketing for Strategic Programs at Apple. In a seemingly unrelated blog post, he quietly writes a single line P.S. stating that Jobs will make a surprise appearance at WWDC. No more, no less. Very interesting.

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