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iPad 2 Display Prediction

December 30th, 2010

After reading this report from Digitimes, my Spidey Sense is telling me that Apple will forego a “Retina Display” in iPad 2, in order to:

  1. Achieve maximum supply volume,
  2. Place large enough bulk orders to minimize its component costs, and
  3. Sap the global 10″ LCD market of supply so that their competitors in the tablet market are forced into constrained supply situations, preventing them from competing with Apple at the iPad’s price points.

On a personal note, I’d be bummed to be right on this one; while FaceTime is quite spiffy, that Retina Display really is the killer iPhone 4 feature for me.

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Is Apple Talking With Verizon?

April 28th, 2009

BusinessWeek is carrying a story by Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl, claiming familiarity with talks between Apple and Verizon regarding some upcoming “iPhone-like” products.

From the article:

Verizon Wireless is in talks with Apple to distribute two new iPhone-like devices, BusinessWeek has learned. Apple has created prototypes of the devices, and discussions reaching back a half-year have involved Apple CEO Steve Jobs, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Interestingly, the devices are described thus:

One device is a smaller, less expensive calling device described by a person who has seen it as an “iPhone lite.” The other is a media pad that would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos, the person says. It would place calls over a Wi-Fi connection.

This seems to dovetail with predictions made by commenter Richard Monson-Haefel.

I think they’re on-point with respect to the tablet form-factor, as well as the fact that it will certainly be a fabulous platform for media consumption, and the like.

But I just don’t know about this Verizon business. My salt grain here comes from Apple’s insistence that GSM is the way to go for mobile, whereas Verizon’s networks are CDMA. Then again, that comment was in direct reference to the iPhone itself.

Read more…

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A Bit of Apple “Netbook” Follow-up

April 21st, 2009

I received a bit of feedback, on- and off-blog, about my Apple "netbook" rumor speculation, with a number of folks remarking that such a device as I’d described would essentially cannibalize MacBook sales. As reader Andrew23 puts it:

adding the finder would make it far too macbook-ey, and I think they’d want to keep that distinction [from becoming] blurry; neither a macbook nor an iPhone, something else entirely. By that token I wonder if the “hybrid mode” is realistic, since it reduces the need to have a macbook…

Now, I’d given this matter some consideration myself, but I don’t see any real danger of that.

The “iBook” [again, a name I personally resurrected for it] is clearly neither iPhone nor an iPod Touch: it’s not pocket-sized and doesn’t place or receive calls. In fact, as I thought about the iPhone in relation to this device, I wondered if maybe “tether” mode might have as much to do with this new device, as with MacBook users.

With respect to resembling the MacBooks or iMacs, this machine will be comparatively underpowered and simply won’t have the software (read: no iLife). Additionally, there will be a huge difference with respect to display; this new device will likely not offer an external display connector of any sort, either. I believe display size alone may be enough to incentivize a consumer capable of affording the extra cash towards an alternative system.

So, while it’s fair to expect there will certainly be some cannibalization, I don’t foresee it happening to any greater degree than the extent to which the iPhone cannibalized iPod sales, or the iPod Touch cannibalized iPhone sales.

And, as Steve Jobs once himself said: if someone’s going to cannibalize Apple’s sales, better that it’s Apple.

Plus, with as well as the App Store has performed for Apple, I would venture to guess that whatever they might lose in minor cannibalization will likely be more than compensated for on the app sales side of the unit purchase.

Speaking of apps, another commenter to my original post, Richard Monson-Haefel, writes:

It’s my theory – and that’s all it is – that the 10” screen will be a new video platform. Where the iPod came to dominate music players and the iPhone has become a seemingly unstoppable force in the mobile phone industry, the 10” mystery device will be Apple’s foray into a portable video game and video movie players. [...] And I tell you another thing: the 10” tablet is not intended for productivity applications any more than the iPhone was meant for word processing.

I sure have to agree with respect to the media and gaming opportunities on this thing; in fact, I’m willing to wager that games will port over from the iPhone relatively easily (at least as compared with many of the other apps), as they tend to use customized UIs largely based on CoreAnimation and OpenGL.

I must, however, disagree with the argument that a 10″ screen would be unsuitable for productivity apps, as the Eee PC 10″ models—now in its third generation—are performing well with respect to sales (and even sell units with 9″ and even 7″ screens. I’m confident that 10″—particularly with a good pixel density—will be fine for rudimentary productivity needs.

Having a Mac Pro at home, I’d personally opt to trade my MacBook in for this hypothetical hybrid device.

Relatedly, my skepticism about a June announcement may prove overly-conservative, as Apple is apparently taking bids for the manufacture of this device; that’s not something that can happen until all the hardware decisions are locked down.

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Audaciously Premature Apple “Netbook” Conjecture

April 17th, 2009

WARNING: wild conjecture ahead. Please note that all that follows is complete and utter conjecture; I do not claim to have any sources inside Apple.

That said, it seems increasingly likely that Apple will reveal a new product intended to compete in the netbook product space in the near future, with the world largely expecting an announcement at this year’s WWDC in June.

Steve Jobs was famously quoted in 2008 as saying:

We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.

Indeed many pundits in the tech media have criticized Apple’s lack of a netbook offering.

A number of critics have even cited Apple’s absence from this market space as evidence of their inability to recognize market trends, or complete disconnect from the realities of consumer tastes… because there’s no company in the world with quite as poor a sense of trends and consumer tastes as Apple.

But when Apple’s COO, Tim Cook, was more recently asked about whether Apple had plans to ship a netbook, during Apple’s Q1 2009 conference call, he responded:

We’re watching that space, but right now from our point of view, the products in there are principally based on hardware that’s much less powerful than we think customers want, software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displays.

We don’t think people will be pleased with those products. It’s a category we watch, we’ve got some ideas here, but right now we think the products are inferior and will not provide an experience to customers they’re happy with.

While some critics have interpreted Cook’s statement as further evidence that Apple is altogether snubbing the product category, it seems to me instead that Tim is rather simply stating that they’re not competing in that space because they’re working on fixing everything that sucks about the products presently in the category.

And with news that Apple has placed an order for a batch of 10-inch LCD screens from Wintek, it seems like they may feel like they’re on the verge of solving these problems since nothing on their current product line utilizes that screen size.

And so I strongly anticipate a new Apple product that will occupy a slot between the MacBook and the iPhone / iPod Touch.

But what will it look like? Read more…

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Synergy: Pre’s Ace in the Hole

April 6th, 2009

I’ve been eagerly following news about Palm’s upcoming Pre smartphone. Even though I am not presently planning to pick one up for myself (for starters, there’s no way in hell I’m signing up for Sprint service), I’m quite excited about this new contender in the smartphone market.

This is the first product coming to market that will be competing with the design of the iPhone.

The rest—including the T-Mobile G1, featuring Google’s Android platform, the BlackBerry Storm, and any number of other handsets from Nokia to LG—are merely “Hey, I’ve got a touch-screen, too! Buy me!” products.

I’ve frankly chosen to look past the argument the Android platform represents something much larger, and with deeper and brighter promise than anything merely available in the G1. The future promises of a technology or platform is not a matter I’m going to mind when considering what the current incarnations of the technology offer. Frankly, the only people even looking at that platform are developers and gadget geeks. By and large, consumer reception to the G1 has been luke-warm, driven by consumers that don’t like the iPhone or love Google.

The Pre, on the other hand, demonstrates an effort to replicate implementation details that work from the iPhone, and a thoughtful attempt to improve upon those things in a smart way.

The three things that have me most excited are:

  1. the extensions and enhancements to the gestural UI implemented for the device,
  2. the “deck” multitasking metaphor, and
  3. Synergy, the Pre’s framework for interconnecting the all your data.

Synergy is the most exciting part. In fact, I believe that it’s the one feature that should most concern Apple, provided—of course—that Palm actually pulls it off properly.

But what exactly is Synergy?

Ars Technica published an article describing it back in January. From the article:

Users just make changes to their data (contacts, calendar, mail, etc.), and Palm’s webOS handles committing those changes to whatever canonical data source it is accessing in the cloud. And herein lies the most important difference between the webOS and Apple’s iPhone OS: the iPhone was originally designed under the assumption that the canonical source of a user’s data (contacts, calendar, music, tasks, etc.) is [their computer]. Palms webOS, in contrast, presumes that cloud-based services are the canonical source for your data…

Looking at someone’s contact information in the address book, you might see their phone number, three email addresses, an AIM screen name, Facebook profile URL.

Although you might largely be able to see this information on someone’s contact info on your iPhone, the information in the Pre’s address book has likely been pulled together from a number of different sources on the network. Your contacts were loaded from your GMail address book, Facebook friends list, and AIM buddy list. The key is that Synergy needs to be smart enough about figuring out who’s who, in order to properly merge the details of your friend, Kevin Smith, who appears both in your GMail adress book and Facebook friends list into a single entry in your address book.

But the idea behind Synergy is that it’s access to this data is meant to be bidirectional. That is, once you update Kevin’s email address on your Pre’s address book, Synergy would then update his address on GMail, etc.

But Synergy isn’t just for contacts.

It can manage events, too. Check out the demo in this video from Mobile Crunch, wherein the presenter is showing off and talking about the Fandango app in development. Like the website, the app’s purpose is to allow people to buy movie tickets to movies they’d like to see.

The statement that floors me occurs at 00:47:

One of the things they did interesting on it is: once you purchase a ticket, it’ll actually make a meeting request for you. So, it’ll go into [the] calendar that I have a ticket to go to the show at this time, and I can actually invite other people with that…

And you can bet that if Synergy is pulling your calendar data from your Google Calendar, the new event will show up your Google Calendar next time you login from your computer. Can you picture how this could work for concert tickets? OpenTable reservations? Travel itineraries?

Now that’s some serious wu wei.

If Palm gets Synergy right (and assuming they don’t bomb on the hardware or battery life), their Pre is going to give Apple’s iPhone a serious run for its money.

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