Checkmark was just updated to 1.1. Among other things, Checkmark can now do recurring reminders. It’s a great app I use often. Highly recommended if you’ve got little tasks you need to be reminded about.
Checkmark was just updated to 1.1. Among other things, Checkmark can now do recurring reminders. It’s a great app I use often. Highly recommended if you’ve got little tasks you need to be reminded about.
Today, Apple announced a retina 13-inch Macbook Pro, brand new iMac, updated Mac Mini, and, of course, the iPad Mini. That’s a lot to announce, and I think this was one of Apple’s best events in the last few years.
It’s exactly what was rumored: a retina 13-inch Macbook Pro at $1699. It looks like an excellent computer. Last week, I asked how the new 13-inch Macbook Pro would fit with the Macbook Air, since it is a thin and light device. After all, the 13-inch Macbook Air weighs nearly 3 pounds and is 0.68-inches thick at its thickest point, and the retina 13-inch Macbook Pro would, I thought, be roughly comparable. My guess was that Apple would keep both of them separate because the 13-inch Macbook Pro would still be too expensive.
It turns out that while they are roughly comparable (the Macbook Pro weighs 3.57 pounds and is 0.75-inches thick), “roughly” is the key word there. The Macbook Pro is a little bit bigger, but has a much better display, two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports and HDMI. Moreover, it’s faster, starting with a 2.5 GHz i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.
Perhaps, when the Macbook Air gains a retina display (which could be a while, for performance, battery life, and price considerations), there will be less of a distinction between the two. For now, though, my speculation came too soon.
While there were rumors Apple might announce an updated iMac at today’s event, as far as I can tell, Apple kept the new design a secret. And the new design is incredible—it’s ridiculous that there’s a computer in something so thin. It’s a beautiful, beautiful computer.
The new iMac also has a hybrid flash and hard drive disk which Apple calls a “Fusion Drive.” OS X treats it like a single disk, and it will move applications and files between flash storage and the hard disk depending on how often they are used. Apple says that the result is that it’s almost as fast as SSDs, but has the storage of regular hard drives. It’s a configurable option, and as far as I can tell there’s no indication how much it will cost yet.
The new iMac is the Apple I love. Incredibly-designed and beautiful computers that seem a little impossible, and unique features like the Fusion Drive that aren’t there for the sake of making a feature-list one item longer, but because they genuinely make them better computers for regular people.
When introducing the iPad Mini, Phil Schiller spent a significant amount of time explaining why the iPad Mini is different than competing 7-inch tablets. His argument is that those tablets, both because of the smaller screen size and the software they run, use what amount to scaled-up phone applications. The iPad Mini, though, is large enough to use iPad applications without difficulty—so it’s a real iPad, but at a smaller size.
Earlier this year, I speculated that a near 8-inch iPad could not comfortably do everything the full-sized iPad can, and therefore it would be a risk for Apple to release a smaller iPad now. After writing the article, Joel Bernstein convincingly argued that not only could such an iPad run scaled-down iPad apps, but it would do so without much compromise. The screen would be large enough, he argued, for tap targets on the regular iPad that follow Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines to be the same size as they would be on an iPhone—something none of us have a problem with. In other words, not only could an iPad Mini run regular iPad apps, but it could do so without compromising what the iPad is capable of.
Bernstein was absolutely right, and that’s what Apple has done. My speculation was incorrect; if it works as well as it appears to, the iPad Mini will be basically as functional as a full-sized iPad.
I’m glad I was wrong, because the iPad Mini looks like a terrific device. While it’s a bit disappointing that it isn’t a retina display, it is incredibly light—just 0.68 pounds. For comparison, the plastic, 7-inch Kindle Fire HD tablet weighs 0.86 pounds, and the Kindle Paperwhite weighs 0.47 pounds. The iPad Mini is going to be very, very good for casual use, and especially for reading. I use my iPad more than my Mac, because I read the New York Times on it each morning, read RSS feeds, Instapaper, and iBooks. For all of those uses, the iPad Mini will be a much better device.
I think that’s going to appeal to a lot of people. It does everything the large iPad does, but does it in a size that’s much easier to hold and easier to bring around with you. It also does it at a cheaper price—$329 for the 16GB version.
I am a bit surprised by the price, though; I expected $299, because that seems like a significant psychological price barrier to break through for the iPad. $329 is a bit of an odd price, too, especially for Apple. I think it indicates that they’re pushing the bounds of what they can do at the low-end while still maintaining the same level of quality. This is an iPad just as well designed and beautiful as the iPhone 5, but for less than $350. That itself is incredible.
What it indicates, too, is that Apple thinks the iPad is a very different kind of device than the cheap Android tablets or the Kindle Fire. Those other devices are literally larger phones, with software that is not very different. Those devices are, at best, for browsing the web, playing games and maybe reading books, but they don’t do any of those things particularly well, in Apple’s eyes. Schiller’s talk about how much better equivalent applications are on the iPad versus the Nexus 7 made that argument. Instead, in Apple’s view, the iPad is today’s PC. It can browse the web better than those devices, play better games better than them, and read books in a more enjoyable way, but it can also do much more. It’s a device for students to use in the classroom, for doctors to use in the office, for writing, for creating art. Apple doesn’t think they need to strictly compete on price because they have not only a better product, but an altogether different product that people want.
That’s excellent positioning, and I think Apple needs to make that absolutely clear in how it presents the iPad to people. They should not only show that it you can browse the web and play games and read books with it, but show it being used in the classroom by students. Show how doctors are using it. Show how artists are using it. Show how regular people are using it every day to replace their PC. By doing so, they will make clear that the iPad is not just a tablet like the small, cheap competitors. It’s much more than that. And if that’s what people think, being in the same ballpark with price will be acceptable.
Apple appears to be thinking along the same lines with the iPad Mini’s first ad. In it, a person is playing the piano on the iPad Mini, using Apple’s Garageband. What it shows is that the iPad is capable of much more than browsing the web or playing games. That’s only the beginning. Whatever application you use, it becomes that application. It’s a very good ad.
Apple fully believes that the iPad is the next PC, and while they want to make it as affordable as possible, they also don’t want to compromise what it’s capable of. The iPad Mini seems to fulfill that, while making it more capable in some ways because of its size and weight. And with a smaller price, too, I can’t see this being anything but a success for Apple.
I don’t think the Surface ad is as effective as Apple’s were, however. It’s not because the spot is bad — I actually think it’s pretty damn clever. But Apple went with the brand building after it had introduced the world to the iPod. People knew what white headphones meant in 2007. I’m not sure people know what a keyboard case is about in 2012 quite yet.
Just look at the very first iPod ad Apple aired. It showed a guy dancing around with his white earbuds, but only after he had the thing hooked up to his iBook to transfer music to it.
Stephen makes a good point. Apple’s first iPod ad showed precisely what the iPod does—you sync your music to it, and then you can have all of your music wherever you go. A thousand songs in your pocket. Microsoft’s Surface ad, by comparison, is introducing a very new kind of product as well, but it doesn’t do much to explain what it does and what’s unique about it.
The ad does, though, show that it’s a tablet by Microsoft, and the center of the ad is the keyboard case—which I suppose is what Microsoft thinks is what’s unique about Surface (the convenience of a tablet and the power of a PC). Perhaps that’s enough; the ad is engaging, so that might be enough to get it stuck a bit in people’s minds and push them to look up what Surface is.
I think what this reflects is the confused purpose of Surface. In reality, it’s a nicer PC with a touch interface, which doesn’t exactly make for a good tagline. Apple’s intent for the iPod was singular and focused, so “A thousand songs in your pocket” stuck. It was blazingly clear what it did and why it was unique. From the way Microsoft positions Surface, though, it looks like a nicely-designed PC in a tablet form-factor. Is that it? Is that the sell?
The software company, based in Redmond, Wash., said net income for its fiscal first quarter which ended Sept. 30, dropped 22 percent to $4.47 billion, or 53 cents a share, compared to $5.74 billion, or 68 cents a share, for the year-earlier period.
Windows revenue dropped 9 percent and revenue from the division which is responsible for Office dropped 2 percent. IDC reported that PC shipments dropped by 8.6 percent in the same quarter.
Some of this is absolutely due to Windows 8′s impending release, but it’s also clear that the PC market is in decline and Microsoft’s revenue and income is along with it.
Microsoft is releasing Windows 8 and Surface from a position of weakness. It must be a success, because while the traditional PC will continue to sell well for years, there’s no growth left in it. It’s hit the high water mark. Growth, today, is in mobile—smartphones and tablets—and Microsoft’s smartphone business is terrible. They’ve been left behind and now they have to catch up.
Windows 8 is not only a transition for Windows, but it’s a transition for Microsoft as a company. This is the point where they have to move from sitting back and minting cash from the PC sales, and try to create a new future for their company.
If Windows 8 fails, it won’t kill the company, but it will raise some serious questions about what the future of Microsoft looks like. It could end up rich but invisible; important to businesses and computing and technology but not, in any immediate way, to normal people.
This is why it built Surface. It’s an “extension of Windows,” explains Panay. Windows 8 is too important to let other companies’ shitty PC hardware screw it up. Even though there are well over a billion PCs running Windows, Surface is the first PC that Microsoft has created itself in its nearly 40 years of existence.
Great piece by Buchanan that points to a problem for Microsoft: I don’t think it’s at all clear what the point of the Surface is. Is it just a more portable notebook that can be used like a tablet? Maybe that’s it, but the RT version won’t run existing Windows applications, so that doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps the Intel Surface will make good on this vision, but that version will be decidedly more expensive and will weigh 2 pounds.
Maybe a tablet device with Microsoft Office will be enough to make it a success. I don’t know. If I had to bet, though, it wouldn’t be for this release to be a huge success.
John Paczkowski reported today that Apple will announce a retina 13-inch Macbook Pro next week alongside the iPad Mini.
Exciting news for sure (especially for me, because my current Mac—a 2009 13″ Macbook Pro—is testing my patience), but I wonder how a retina 13-inch Macbook Pro, sans optical drive, will coexist with the Macbook Air. In essence, it will be a Macbook Air, so what happens to the Air? Does the 13-inch model disappear, leaving only the 11-inch? Do they ditch the Macbook Air sub-brand all together and make the 11-inch the smallest Macbook Pro? If that’s the case, why not just call the smaller MacBooks, Macbooks?
Or do the Macbook Airs stick around as we know them, and the new retina 13-inch Macbook Pro stay a little thicker and get better graphics performance and battery life? I suppose that’s a possibility, but the division between the 13-inch Macbook Air and Macbook Pro seems forced and out of step for Apple.
UPDATE: I missed the obvious possibility, which is the 13-inch Macbook Air sticks around because the the retina 13-inch Macbook Pro will be too expensive. I think that’s what’s going to happen, but at this point, the “Air” brand doesn’t mean much for the 13-inch model. Since the retina 13-inch Macbook Pro should be quite thin, the difference between the two will be screen resolution and price—which “Air” has little connection to.
Kara Swisher reports that Apple has hired Amazon’s William Stasior to run their Siri unit:
Apple has hired major Amazon exec and prominent search technologist William Stasior to run its Siri unit, according to sources.
At the online retail giant, Stasior has been in charge of A9, Amazon’s search and search advertising unit. The former AltaVista exec co-founded the independent company and has run it since Udi Manber left for Google.
Siri isn’t just a feature. It’s a strategy.
It’s simple, has a very focused purpose—get you information quickly without interrupting what you’re doing—and that’s it. Wearable computing is coming.
(Via The Beard.)
Though it will launch in the App Store under the guise of a video conferencing tool, a capability which it provides natively, MindMeld is actually an information-driven application which listens in to your conversation and attempts to understand what’s being said. Once it figures out what you’re talking about, MindMeld will try to create a model of the conversation’s context, and from that it will attempt to locate and display relevant information from many different sources. “We’re listening to the last ten minutes to predict what you need in the next ten seconds,” Tuttle told Ars. “We’re trying to make it so you never have to explicitly search for something you’ve already talked about.”
The iPhone started as a web communicator, but these mobile devices are going to be assistants.
Marco Arment released the Magazine today. Great articles delivered into Newsstand on your iPhone and iPad, for $1.99 a month.
Awesome. I’ve been hoping for something like this for a while, and Marco’s done a terrific job.
Here’s a look at Recall’s design process. I’m a sucker for these kinds of things, especially since I started working on Basil. I love seeing the thought process behind an application and the interface, because it’s very difficult to design a good interface. It has to be simultaneously simple to understand, easy to use, and not so simple that it doesn’t do enough. I love seeing how other people solved a problem.
I love these kinds of applications—ones that try to nicely solve a very well-defined problem a lot of people have. I’ve been wanting an app like this for a while, and Recall is very good at what it does. It’s fast at finding items when searching and it’s easy to add them.
My only suggestion is it’d be neat if, for movies and upcoming TV shows, it’d automatically remind you when they’re about to be released.
Earlier this summer, Cook actually did lose a key member of his team—and then nearly witnessed an insurrection in one of Apple’s most prominent divisions. On June 28, Apple announced the retirement of Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, who for over a decade oversaw the remarkable expansion of the Macintosh line before taking on the iPhone and iPad as well. According to three people familiar with the sequence of events, several senior engineers on Mansfield’s team vociferously complained to Cook about reporting to his replacement, Dan Riccio, who they felt was unprepared for the magnitude of the role. In response, Cook approached Mansfield and offered him an exorbitant package of cash and stock worth around $2 million a month to stay on at Apple as an adviser and help manage the hardware engineering team.
This kind of in-fighting may be worrying, but it’s going to happen at any company. What’s more worrying to me is that we’re hearing more and more of these kinds of details leaked to the press at all.
There’s been a lot written about Apple’s Maps application in iOS 6, and for good reason—it’s a dramatic shift for Apple and for customers, and in significant ways, Maps is a significant downgrade for customers.
That’s an important topic, but what I think is more interesting is why Apple decided they needed to do maps themselves. On the face of it, maps seems like a classic case where Apple should partner with someone who knows how to do it really well instead. Of course, that’s precisely what they did for five years. The problem is their partnership with Google prevented them from making the best maps application they possibly could, and could potentially compromise the platform. Google insisted that Apple insert more Google branding in the application and build in support for Google’s Latitude service, which allows people to see where their friends are, to get access to new features like vector tiles and turn-by-turn directions.
For obvious reasons, Apple doesn’t like being beholden to other companies for something that’s integral to their products, and the maps application is certainly one of them. Negotiations with Google—a company that became Apple’s biggest competitor in mobile—soured, with Google requesting things that Apple did not feel were in the interests of their platform. It’s not surprising that Apple realized how dangerous of a situation they were in; their main competitor controlled the maps data—one of the key features for mobile phones—for the iPhone, a product responsible for more than 43 percent of their sales in 2011, and they were withholding new features from Apple in return for concessions. And to make it worse, Apple’s customers were improving Google’s maps data through use, and were thereby making Android a stronger product, too.
That’s the very immediate reason Apple developed their own maps: Google was preventing them from improving the application (and keeping Apple at a competitive disadvantage), and being so dependent on your competitor is never a positive situation. So Apple built their own. That’s classic Apple.
I think there’s a bit more to it, though, and it has to do with the underlying data Maps is built on. The data is not simply map tiles and location data—it’s user data. By using Maps—by getting directions somewhere, choosing a route and following it (or diverting) to the location, there’s a lot of data created. There’s data about what route people prefer, how long it took (is there traffic? How accurate is the algorithm for estimating travel time?), whether the route chosen is still viable, et cetera. This data is useful in the aggregate and for the individual user.
Apple’s already been collecting data from iPhone users to build a real-time traffic database—that’s one example of how this data can be very useful. Another example is that, in the aggregate and over time, you can start to see how people really drive in a particular area. What routes do most people take to get somewhere? How long does it take at this time of day, under these conditions? That’s quite useful for making smart route recommendations and estimates for how long it will take.
Moreover, this kind of information builds a very detailed profile for each individual user. Where they live, where they often go, what their habits are. That kind of data is part of what allows the Google Now service, where it attempts to predict—based on context, your search history and past activities—what kind of information you want at that moment.
Apple is likely thinking about how they can build similar kinds of features for the iPhone. It seems obvious that these devices are turning into not just information sources for us, but assistants that find what we’re looking for and do tasks on our behalf. Siri is a strong step in that direction, and Passbook is, too. But user data like this is a large part of what will allow it to happen. By combining it with other profile data, it could, say, notify the local coffee shop you go to regularly you’re on the way so there’s an americano ready when you arrive, movie times for movies you’d probably like on a Friday or Saturday night (without asking), or the release of a new book from an author you love.
It’s certainly not in Apple’s interest, then, to provide this kind of data to Google, but it’s also important for them to control their users’ data. It’s only going to become more integral to the platform’s success in the future. Ditching Google Maps was certainly done so Apple could make Maps a better application today, but I also think it was so Apple can build a unique future for iOS that’s increasingly dependent on user data.
Ten One Design is shipping the Pogo Connect at the end of this month. It’s a Bluetooth 4.0-using, pressure-sensitive pen for the iPad. It looks quite good, so I’m eager to read reviews.