Monday, December 18, 2006

Deal with it: Apple's cellphone is still coming

Gizmodo, like, so totally pwn3d everyone with its "clever" iPhone teaser story. When the online rag finally revealed what it had known all along, i.e. that the iPhone was going to be a Cisco product, the author of the original prank even added a half-assed apology:

P.S. Macheads--including those from Macrumors, Think Secret, TUAW, and Cult of Mac--know Apple likes to release gear on Tuesdays. So they didn't expect an Apple iPhone Monday. If you did read into my original post and feel like I misled you, sincere apologies for the discomfort.
Well, jackass, you went out of your way and added an "Apple" label to the story (see Google's cache for proof), and removed it after your joke played off, so this was a pretty obnoxious, childish trick for sure.

But let's move on. In the wake of the Cisco announcement, two new types of commentary have appeared all over the blogosphere, even at Daring Fireball, that piss me off.

This is the first: How could anyone have thought Apple would call its cellphone iPhone if Apple doesn't even own either the trademark or the iphone.com domain name?

My comment: hindsight, Watson, is always 20/20. But thanks for noticing. Yet there's more to it than that. Maybe Apple has sought a deal with Cisco about the iPhone name all along, and talks have broken down only recently. Or what the hell, maybe they haven't, and Cisco even allowed Apple to also use the name (without any announcements, of course). Maybe Cisco just wants to ride Apple's publicity a bit. Anything is possible, as far as we all know.

By the way, Apple does own iphone.org.

But in any case, it's just a name. Remember when Steve Jobs introduced iTunes? About half a dozen times, he accidentally called it "iMusic." My guess is that Apple had fought over that name with someone – and lost. (As an aside, I still think iTunes sounds awful. Especially with a British accent.)

And that leads us to the second type of comment that has reared its head today. Namely: How do we know that Apple will ever release a cellphone?

This one is easy. I'm quoting Bloomberg News (via seattlepi.com):
"We don't think that the phones that are available today make the best music players -- we think the iPod is," Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said in a conference call Wednesday. "But over time that is likely to change, and we're not sitting around doing nothing."
This is the absolutely most direct way imaginable in the universe in which an Apple exec can hint at a future product (unless it's being given away like the iTV).

Phones aren't good music players.

But that will change.

Apple will be part of that change.

How can you infer from this anything but a crystal-clear indication that Apple will create a music-playing phone?

Never mind the rumors, the analysts' reports, the whole thing. This single statement alone confirms the iPhone – whatever it's going to be called.

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No offense to Daniel Craig, but…


Finally, I realized why the new Bond looked so damn familiar.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time's Person of the Year: You, using an iMac

Time's Person of the Year title goes to "You," i.e. anyone browsing the web. The cover art features a photo illustration with a reflective surface, where each reader can supposedly see his or her reflection.

Notably, the silvery surface is placed over the graphic representation of a web video widget, running on what appears to be a post-2005 iMac. (The screen area is magnified so the computer isn't really visible, but its stand and keyboard give away the Mac.) Looks like Time's love affair with Apple is still on.

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Why Apple can't let carriers subsidize the iPhone

Brian Tiemann wonders if Apple can orchestrate a brilliant strategy of convincing mobile carriers not to subsidize the iPhone, and thus protect its baby from the fate of Nokias and Motorolas, where marketing and pricing is in the hands of telcos rather than phone makers, devaluing the product into a mere commodity, and even defacing it with huge, unsightly logos.
But really, Apple has no other choice. As a Think Secret report explains, the iPhone will be "an iPod with phone capabilities," and if it were havily subsidized by carriers, it may end up being (relatively or even absolutely) cheaper than a comparable iPod, adversely affecting the latter's perceived value – and even its sales. I think Apple has enough of a superstar status to play hardball with yet another industry. But we'll see, some say as early as tomorrow.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

OK, Apple really needs to fix the Mighty Mouse scroll ball

The Mighty Mouse is just perfect. The way it implements right-clicking is probably the best possible way: it will still let you left-click with your entire palm, not just your first two fingers, reducing the chance for repetitive-stress injury. Right-clicking may be a bit tricky, what with remembering to lift your fingers off the left side, but in the last few months, I haven't had a single missed right-click.

And don't even get me started on scrolling. It's absolutely indispensable. In the past, I've bitched about what I call "dumb scrolling" (and what Apple called "smart scrolling back then), i.e. having both scroll arrows on one end of a scroll bar. I still insist that the only way that makes sense from a usability point of view is having both arrows on both ends. However, today, I simply no longer care. Who needs scroll arrows when you have the Mighty Mouse?

Well, unfortunately, you do when your mouse stops scrolling. My pet peeves are silent failures: any minute, your mouse can just lose its scrolling functionality. At least, this failure is "silent" in a good way: the artificial clicking sound the mouse emits while scrolling will also go away, letting you know that it's your mouse that's failing (again), not some software problem.

Apple is aware of the problem, and details how it recommends you clean the ball when that happens. (Turn the mouse upside down, and roll the ball vigorously with a clean, moist, lint-free cloth.) A Google search will also yield useful tips, like blowing pressurized air inside the assembly.

Unfortunately, these tips solve the problem only temporarily. In my case, it has come to the point where I'm rubbing my mouse's scroll ball after every three to fifteen minutes of use. I'm going to have my mouse replaced under warranty, and I hope Apple will fix this flawed design as soon as possible. Public acknowledgment of the problem would also be nice, though that might easily cost Apple actual money in class-action lawsuits, so I'm not holding my breath.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Rampant speculation forces early iPhone announcement? Speculation

Gizmodo "knows" that iPhone will be announced on Monday, and it won't be what they expected at all. People usually assume Monday means this next Monday, December 18, and hope that it won't be about, say, a product called IP-hone, a device for, erm, sharpening your IP address, or something.

In any case, this would certainly be a surprising development. Not just that it's announced days before Christmas, when people have already bought their gift mobile phones (if any), but even more uncharacteristically, because it's not a Tuesday.

Or maybe Apple's just sick and tired of the outrageous speculation and rumormongering going on about the product, even affecting the company's stock price, and wants to clear up the picture by saying, "Here's your iPhone, dammit! You can get it in March! Now leave me the $%^£! alone, will ya?!"

And then Apple can go on about its business, announcing new Leopard and iTV features, iLife 2007, a retooled dot-Mac service, and other business-as-usual stuff at Macworld.

Looks like Jobs just won't let the Mac Web ruin his Christmas. We're sorry, Steve.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vista's 157 thousand new PR jobs

A 14-page IDC report (download PDF here), commissioned by Microsoft, says that Vista will create "157,000 new jobs."

Mac fans could (and do) take cheap shots at this number. "Yeah, right. Vista will suck so bad that you'll need 157 thousand people to answer tech support calls."

But these shots would miss the point. They would imply that someone seriously investigated how exactly Vista would effect the IT job and spendings market. Instead, here's what the study does.

  1. It forecasts that IT spendings, thus also the IT job market, will grow in 2007 in the United States.
  2. It then predicts that the ratio of "Vista-related" spending* (thus also jobs) will grow.
  3. As a result, 157 thousand out of the 400 thousand new jobs will be "Vista jobs."
  4. Then it concludes that all these jobs would be single-handedly created by Vista.
Never mind that Vista will be bundled with just about every new PC sold, so Windows market share will continue to be determined mostly by license agreements with PC vendors. Therefore, any overall growth in computer hardware sales will likely result in a growth of Vista's perceived job market share, especially since IDC classifies anything that "runs on or supports Vista" as a "Vista job."

If you buy a Dell, erase Vista from it, and install Linux, IDC says you'll still contribute to Vista spending. If a company replaces all of its five-year-old PCs with new ones, it will contribute to IDC's idea of Vista spending. If you're a software vendor, and your software happens to be compatible with Vista, you're contributing to Vista spending, and if you increase your sales, even more so, according to IDC.**

But it gets better. According to the report, "For every dollar of Microsoft Windows Vista revenue in the U.S., IDC expects $18.00 to be generated in revenues by other companies in the Microsoft ecosystem. " A graph shows that these 18 dollars are made up of $9.75 in hardware sales, $4.60 in software sales, and $3.65 in services.

Here's the deal. You buy a PC, it will have Vista installed, and you'll pay a hidden charge for it. If you're IDC, you'll interpret it as wow, a one-dollar income for Microsoft has just created a ten-dollar hardware sale. But then in IDC's world, gas spendings probably lead to car purchases, just as hangovers lead to parties.

But there's another approach. How about, "for every ten dollars of hardware sales, Microsoft receives a one-dollar tax"?

Because, you know, I'm sure all that hardware would run something, even if Vista, or Heaven forbid, Microsoft weren't around at all.

Well, IDC's gig as Microsoft's court poet must have blurred its vision:
While it is easy to think of Microsoft as simply the world's largest software company, it is more than that. It is an economic force that has a direct, positive impact on the countries in which it operates.
Full disclosure: this blog has never been sponsored by Microsoft.

*IDC must have meant to say Windows market share here, as most versions of Vista haven't even shipped yet, so it would be pretty bad for Microsoft if Vista's current, virtually non-existant market share grew one percentage point between now and a year from now.

**Someone should do the same math with Tiger (as well as Leopard). Mac OS X market share has increased lately, and I'm sure all those extra users would never have bought any kind of computer had Tiger not been released.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What a week!


And it's only Tuesday.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Adding reddit links to Blogger Beta

As a gentle reminder to your readers to help popularize your blog via reddit, you can add a reddit button to each of your posts. This will give readers a one-click opportunity to boost your posts on reddit if they're already submitted, or an easy way to submit them if they aren't. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

I haven't found any literature on how this procedure works on Blogger Beta, so I had to do a bit of poking around in the less-than-spectacular Blogger Beta documentation, as well as some experimenting. It's no rocket science, but in case you were planning to do the same, and got stuck somewhere, here's how I did it.

1. Go to the buttons page on reddit, and copy the code for the button style of your choice to your clipboard. (The one this blog uses is style 1.) Paste the code snippet into some text editor.

<script>reddit_url='[URL]'</script>
<script language="javascript" src="http://reddit.com/button.js?t=1"></script>
2. Log in to Blogger Beta, and navigate from your Dashboard to Template, then Edit HTML. Click the check box which says "Expand Widget Templates."

3. Now you'll need to edit your template. I recommend that you copy the entire template file and paste it into a text editor, so you'll be able to use Find/Replace and other text editing facilities. (Like, you can have the editor speak out the entire template file for you. It's great fun to listen to.) Good ol' TextEdit will do (if you're a Mac user), but make sure you work on a plain text file, not a rich text file. (You can switch between the two formats in the Format menu.)

It's also recommended that you save a backup copy before proceeding, just in case something goes wrong.

If you think you're done with your edits, copy and paste your template back into the browser's text field, and click on the Preview button to see if it looks fine. Don't click on Save unless it really all seems OK. (Don't expect to test links in Preview mode, though. They won't work. That's normal behavior.)

In case you really messed up, and want to revert to the original code, your backup copy comes in handy. Or, you can revert to Blogger's original version of the template, but then you'll lose all your previous hacks, if any.

4. OK, now you need to find the place where you need to paste the code. This is probably the trickiest part for most of us. The natural place for the button would be in the footer of a post. However, I placed the link at the end of the post body instead, for design considerations.

In any case, if you want to find the suitable location for your button, some elementary understanding of a Blogger Beta template is handy.

The template file usually starts with some lengthy CSS declarations. Then comes the part which instructs the Blogger engine how to lay out your blog.

This is an XML file which includes XHTML tags, as well as some proprietary tags that operate the Blogger engine, instructing it to display your contents. If you want to put the reddit button in the post body, you should look for a part in the file that says
<div class='post-body'>
This is where the post body begins. Depending on your template, various bits of code follow, and finally the <\div> closing tag marks the end of the body.

I placed the code I'd got from reddit right before that closing tag. If you want to put it in the footer instead, look for a suitable place between the <div class='post-footer'> and the <\div class='post-footer'> tags instead, but as I can't walk you down that path, be sure to test your code with the Preview feature before you commit to it by saving it.

I added a <br\> tag right before the reddit script just to make it look nicer. (Don't forget the "\" , as this is XHTML.)

5. Now comes the final trick: the reddit code contains a bit which needs to be rewritten. The part where it says "[URL]" is just a placeholder, you need to replace it with some Blogger code that yields an URL for each post. So after you've pasted the reddit code, change its first line from this:
<script>reddit_url='[URL]'</script>
to this:
<script>reddit_url='<data:post.url/>'</script>
This was the part which took me the longest to figure out, as the documentation was, again, a bit sketchy. But now I've found the right syntax, and it should work a charm for you too.

Oh, and finally, a less-than-gentle reminder to my dear readers: please be kind enough to give my posts some boost on reddit… Thank you.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

iPhone shuffle revealed


Okay, it's hard to remain dead serious amidst all the unprecedented speculation and rumormongering concerning Apple's worst-ever kept secret. The iPhone has been perhaps the biggest shoe-in the history of the entire Mac rumor industry, as well as the obvious lock of the decade.

Hungarian news portal Index.hu had decided to join the mayhem, and announced a Best iPhoto Mockup contest among readers. Did the planet really need yet another iPhone mockup contest? Turns out it did.

One entry inspired by the contest might look conspicuously familiar to Mac Thought Crime readers, yet the winning enrty (or rather, the "enty that would have been a winner if one had been chosen"), reproduced here by permission, is a true gem. Kudos to fellow Hungarian Gy├Ârgy Gazics for an instant classic.

On a historic note, the launch of the iPod shuffle almost two years ago was orchestrated pretty carefully. Months before the product shipped in January 2005, Apple had started to hype the Shuffle feature, even making a big announcement out of putting it into the iPod main menu. Coincidence? I think not.

So, if Apple suddenly starts talking about how cool it is to just randomly call or e-mail people in your contact list; if a new minor update to Mail or Address Book offers a "Blindfold Mode" where you only have a BCC field and the recipient is randomly selected, you'll know: the iPhone shuffle is real, and coming soon.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

So iPhone equals iPod plus what?

So Digg's Kevin Rose "confirms" two iPhone models, according to Ars Technica's Mac blog. The big details are a small form factor, a separate battery for music, and two price tags of $249 and $449 for two models (4GB and 8Gb).

Ars Technica thinks the alleged separate battery will "firmly make this a music-playing device," though I'm not sure why anyone has had any doubts over this for a second since July 21, the day Peter Oppenheimer gave the secret away.

The large gap between the two models suggests more than just a difference in capacity, though it's anyone's guess what else is in the cards. The larger model may have a camera or, as rumored, some smartphone functionality as well.

The most interesting question is, though, how much of an iPod and how much of a telephone the iPhone is going to be. Did Apple focus on simply converging the iPod with a cellphone (any cellphone) so that you don't need to carry two devices? Or does the iPhone go way beyond that? And how does it affect Apple's product line-up?

Apple currently sells Macs and iPods. That's about it. With the iPhone, will a third category emerge, or will it the iPhone still be an iPod? And even if so, will it transform the iPod?


I can imagine the following scenarios.

1. The name's "iPod phone": Apple adds a so-so phone to the mighty iPod. When the iPhone emerges, it turns out to be just an iPod nano that can make phone calls. The new baby is integrated neatly in the iPod product matrix, probably called iPod phone. Phone functionality is less than groundbreaking (possibly even licensed from a third party), as Apple fears the unknown and simply wants to unify two existing kingdoms: its own, the iPod, and a foreign one, cellphones. The marriage would supposedly cement the leadership of the iPod in its own sector.

Odds: 3 to 1. Easiest to pull off, though rumors suggest otherwise.
Wow factor: 40%. "Still, Apple's making a phone! Wow."

2. Apple starts a cellular revolution with music as a Trojan: Apple adds a so-so iPod to the mighty iPhone.
What if Apple wants to take on cellphones? Having tackled music, now it wants to show the world how phones are done. However, as mobile telephony is a large and mature market, Apple's only chance for entry is by grafting iPods on its phones. In this scenario, expect true cellular innovation from Apple, with the iPod as an add-on.

Odds: 5 to 1. Harder than it sounds, and Oppenheimer's words suggest otherwise.
Wow factor: 99%. "Wow, Apple makes the best cellphones! Who'd've thunk that?!"

3. It's iPod 2.0, and it can do phones as well: Apple expands the iPod platform into a handheld computer, iPhone is just one application.
OK, imagine this. Apple doesn't stop at putting video, games, calendars and some basic contact management on an iPod. Nope: Apple takes it all the way to the next level. With a touch-screen interface, the iPod could do anything. Apple could kick new life into the PDA market it created (though it wasn't Steve). It could consummate the mission of this MP3 player of truly evolving into the Next Big Thing. Oh, and it could also function as a phone. Let's dedicate one model to that. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the iPhone.

Odds: 9 to 1. I'd put in a larger number, but this is Steve Jobs we're talking about.
Wow factor: 300%. As in, "Holy @#$^%!!!"

These three scenarios may not play out this purely, but I think one of them will definitely prevail. It'll be interesting to see which one. Do they all sound insane? You bet. But one of them will be reality soon. It's exciting to be an Apple head these days. (Just look at the Mac Thought Crime logo for proof.)

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Saying hello to Btman

So I somehow missed this… I just found out today that my old colleague at AppleLust, Brian Tiemann has a blog. It's not like it took me a long time to notice that: he's only had it for what, five years? Not only is the name of the blog truly brilliant (Peeve Farm), but the quality and quantity of his extremely opinionated writing are both commendable.

Apart from the obvious Mac coverage, his topics range from endless Lord of the Rings musings to Microsoft Schadenfreude to political affairs to growing a beard. Oh, and some priceless off-color jokes like this one:

You know... now, on top of the usual warnings against making jokes about bombs or hijackings at the airport metal detectors... kids are going to have to avoid telling each other "Your shoes are the bomb!"
I'm adding his blog link to my sidebar, and heartily recommending his blog to all my readers.

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