Post WWDC Thoughts

1. Very surprised that Apple has two different versions of the MacBook Pro. There’s no point behind the upgraded 15 inch old version MacBook Pro beyond the addition of USB 3.0. MoD understands that the cheaper 13 inch MacBook Pro with a media drive is probably a big seller in the education market so updating that machine for this fall makes sense. A retina display solid state storage 13 inch MacBook Pro rumored for later this year will probably start at around $1599 or higher so having the $1199 MacBook Pro entry level makes sense. But the 15 inch Pro at $1799 only has 4 GB of RAM and still has the same resolution of 1440 x 900. Upgrading it to 8 GB of RAM and to a 1680 x 1050 display puts the total to $1999, replacing the HD with a SSD takes the total to $2499 or two hundred more than the retina machine which has a much better screen and completely new architecture. It’s hard to imagine that the non retina 15 inchMacBook Pro will sell well at all.

2. The retina display MacBook Pro is priced about $400 more than I had anticipated. I need a new machine and I was hoping to stay at the 15 inch screen size. As mentioned above, the old 15 inch is a non starter. The retina display machine has great specs. The combo of Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, and HDMI should take this machine far into the future. The only real negative is that the RAM is not upgradeable post purchase (same annoying limitation as the MacBook Air). The SSD should be upgradeable down the road once the upgrade guys figure out the connector used by Apple. The retina MacBook Pro will drop in price as the components drop just like the MacBook Air did.

3. Can Apple move the retina display to the MacBook Air form factor? It’s unclear if the integrated Intel HD graphics can effectively power a retina display or if the current battery space allowed in the MacBook Air can provide comparable hours of use powering a retina. The iPad got a little heavier It’s definitely an engineering and price challenge for Apple down the road.

4. iOS 6. Apple’s in a fine tuning phase right now with a heaping bowl of FU Google. This fine tuning is also showing a level of flexibility and partnership sharing not usually an Apple strength. The integration of different services into Siri, and the system wide integration of Facebook shows an Apple willing to partner. Jobs often noted that one facet that he would like to borrow from MS/Gates was their ability to work with partners. Tim Cook seems to be taking that advice and running with it.

4. Tim Cook’s promised new hardware for professionals is not a Mac Pro with new processors, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt in the same giant cheese grater case. Take the design philosophy of the recent MacBook Pro and apply it to the Mac Pro, smaller overall  footprint and a break from the past in terms of overall architecture. I’m seeing something with a super fast processor, super fast graphics, large RAM capability, maybe as little as two internal drives one SSD, one HD as the base configuration. It will feature multiple Thunderbolt ports and channels enough to replace the PCIe bus/cards entirely. And with it a cheaper overall price as Apple has poured the bulk of the cash in to the core speed components. The only carryover tech will be Firewire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet.

Final Pre WWDC Thoughts

What’s going to happen Monday at the only real tradeshow/conference that Apple actually attends?

Stone Cold Locks

1. iOS 6 – Not that this was actually in doubt, but the banners at WWDC confirm the announcement of the new OS. In addition, iOS 6 will feature the start of the de Google-ization of the standard iOS apps with Maps being the first to fall.

2. New MacBooks of some kind. There’s some confusion over this announcement with some analysts predicting new MacBook Pros current form factor and new MacBooks with a new thinner form factor. Both will be available in 13/15 inch sizes. I just don’t see Apple making their product lineup confusing by having 13 inch Macbook Air, Macbook, and MacBook Pro. So new Macbook Pros or MacBooks but not both. And the new “MacBooks” are thinner, lighter, no CD/DVD, and SSD only. These new MacBooks will offer an retina display on some models.

3. Mountain Lion Gold Master release to developers, and release in the next 30 days.

Very Likely

1. New Mac Pros in a new case featuring Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. Apple has not updated this machine and it’s due for an update. But Apple could do something unique here with a new type of Mac.

2. Retina Display iMac in a new case. The iMac has been untouched for over 2 years as well. Not a radical redesign, but lighter and thinner.

Potentially Game Changing/Stock Skyrocketing

Apple TV SDK – new Apple TV OS and the OS for the eventual Apple TV display. This could be game breaking, the third tier for the iOS market. A serious long play product for Apple but when you have 100 billion in cash, then you can afford some longer play strategic initiatives. We will see some of the control elements via Siri? We will see how Apple TV can/will work with existing video feeds such as cable boxes? We will get to see some imaginative Apple TV Apps/Games?

This could be an iPhone type announcement moment if Apple has something to disrupt the current TV industry. It could also be a definitive sign that Apple can continue to innovate post Steve. In addition, who introduces this new OS will be interesting to track. A major new product initiative at a keynote could set the stage for the start of the Tim Cook era.

Apple’s New iSight Camera??

While the entire Apple obsessed world both analysts and rumor sites were trying to divine any hints about the proposed Apple TV display, iLounge dropped a stealthy unique not previously suggested rumor power bomb. With so much Apple coverage, how did iLounge accomplish this feat? By suggesting a product that on the surface seems just crazy, an Apple branded camera.

Initially this rumor just seems broken, the digital camera business is currently being destroyed by the ever increasingly capable smartphone cameras. The point and shoot camera business in particular is a disaster right now. The only camera product line with some buzz right now is the micro Four Thirds thinner cameras with swappable lenses like the Sony NEX lineup. Improved future iPhone cameras are a given, but a stand alone camera just seems silly. Or does it?

iLounge does a great job laying out the argument. Here’s an image from 9TO5Mac of the article that started the rumor found in the iLounge’s great iPad User’s Guide.

iPhones/iPads will reach a limit in camera capability due to the ever increasing demands of weight, battery life (interior space for a battery), and drive to keep down thickness. In particular, the ability to optically zoom is the main issue. The thinness requirement won’t ever allow a real optical zoom lens.

In the drive to add more features and capabilities, camera OSes/interfaces are total mess of buttons and menus. Horrible GUIs and horrible navigation experience. Sounds like ripe territory for a certain company that creates ground breaking intuitive interfaces.

Cameras are still a $68 billion business. So there’s cash to be made there.

A networked camera or camera that auto syncs wirelessly with an iPhone/iPad and then with iCloud would seamlessly work with the entire Apple ecosystem of hardware and software.

Photography was always a passion of Steve Jobs. Jobs’ frequently acknowledged the influence of Polaroid founder Ed Land.  Jobs was fascinated with the new Lytro camera that works on a completely new light capture principle. Graphics have always been a key industry for Apple. So unlike a TV, this is more in Apple’s wheelhouse. It’s a classic area where art (the humanities) intersects with technology.

Apple has renewed their hold on the trademark/brand name iSight, and adjusted the trademark to cover a stand alone camera. And there are a number of job listings at apple.com related to camera technologies.

What does MoD think of this rumor which iLounge goes to great pains to point out came from an excellent source and that the device is being developed to launch after the rumored Apple TV display?

Well Apple did have a digital camera before, and it was overpriced piece of junk, so that’s certainly on the negative side of things.  Apple used to make printers too, and could probably create an excellent printer, but I don’t see Apple getting back into that business. While the camera industry is $68 billion right now, is that number just going to continue to drop leaving only the high end professional camera industry left? The high end camera industry requires a large investment in R/D to maintain market position. Is there really a significant enough delta in picture quality between what the iPhone camera will be able to do in the future and a stand alone camera in the sweet price range ($300 to $400 for the stand alone cameras).  Can Apple create something before the super Four Thirds designs eventually drop to that sweet price spot? Wouldn’t Apple’s resources be better spent on developing API s or a communication protocol to work with other camera companies in the same way AirPrint works with wireless printers?

However….

The megapixel spec war that drove the digital camera industry is becoming increasing irrelevant. Apple could develop a camera OS interface that is so easy and innovative that it gives back power to the average user to take great photos in all kinds of environments. If Apple could bury all the tech and all the specs/settings behind this GUI, then it could to use Horace Dediu favorite term “disrupt” a large part of the photography industry. Apple could even open the device to application developers. Perhaps the first camera has a power zoom lens that is not swappable, but works for 80% of the situations. It’s the iPhoto of cameras, then later maybe Apple releases the Aperture level camera with swappable lenses and perhaps partners with a major player for lens compatability. Still I’m imagining something like the Sony NEX – 3 with an iPhone type touch screen on the back.

iPhone 5 or iPhone 4LTE/Bigger Screen?

MoD has been suggesting over the last year that due to the massive scope of Apple’s current business especially iPhone and iPad that there’s no real way for Apple to keep the new designs under wraps completely for the product launch event. The supply chain is so long and only getting longer that there’s going to be a leak or two with hundreds of thousands of hardware kits and repair kits being built.

Once again, this leaky section has delivered images of the next iPhone.  9to5Mac is the source of the images and 9to5Mac lately has been doing a great job of getting “good” scoop and rumors about Apple hardware. In addition, the repair part source is the same one,iFixyouri, that accurately indicated to 9TO5Mac that iPad 2 would come in white back in 2011.

From 9TO5Mac the best image of a white  and black new iPhone, and the second image is of the front cover with a new screen size.

   

Several striking things about these repair parts.

1. The parts seem to be supporting the new 4inch tall iPhone display. Seeing it in a potential design, while I’m sure that I’ll appreciate the additional vertical room, I’m really wishing for some more horizontal room for browsing. I’m really interested in a 4.5 inch screen device.

2. Apple appears to be adding a metal band to the back of the case while still keeping two color options, white and black. While white looks good, the black design seems off with a gun metal grey back band instead of a silver metallic band. It just doesn’t look very good in this image at least not in comparison with the striking contrast of the white version. In addition, the repair supplier is indicating two other colors?

3. The new smaller dock connector is going to drive folks crazy, but it seems to allow for greatly increased speakers. With voice command being doubled down according to Tim Cook, increasing the speaker volume/clarity for Siri just makes sense.

4. Apple appears to have moved the headphone jack to the bottom of the device. Having a hard time coming up for a reason for that move other than shifting components around to create more battery room or a better configuration overall for more room in general.

5. It looks like the same overall design as the iPhone 4. For all the claims of a redesigned iPhone it looks like we’re getting the same overall design with a slightly bigger screen and reworked internal components and internal configuration. It’s not a new design but more like a reworked new model year than a true new car design. For that reason alone, MoD can definitely see these devices being called just the new iPhone. It’s like a new Porsche 911. It looks just like the old one. Unlike the iPad where Apple may have the perfect form, I think  there’s room for change with the iPhone.

6. It’s been suggested that these are “mules” for the real design. Assuming that the images are legit, they seem more refined and finished than mule devices.

7. Looking back in the past to the iPhone 4 launch leaks, it looks like repair sites got hold of actual front screen examples in late Februrary, 3 months before the June announcement of the iPhone 4 at WWDC. Based on that data as an example, the iPhone 4LTE/Bigger Screen is probably looking at a late August/early September release date and not October. If anything MoD could see Apple try and push up the US launch date as early as late July due to the iPhone 4′s lack of LTE ability will become a serious issue since AT&T and Verizon will have their sales staff pushing LTE devices exclusively. Once the US is launched, Apple could scale the rest of the launches as inventory builds up.

Could This Picture Resemble the iTV/Apple TV Display

The Apple TV Display is the second white whale that the Apple Rumor Web is tracking (mini iPad is the other one).

The rumor like most Apple rumors has been percolating for about 12 months with denials and confirmations from Wall Street analysts just about every week.

This week we got three interesting rumors about the actual white whale.

Rumor one comes from Cult of Mac. They claim that the device looks like a large Thunderbolt Display and has Siri like abilities for control. Cult of Mac indicates that the device will feature Airplay (kind of a given) and Facetime for living room video chat. And they are claiming that their source has actually seen the device which is a first. Usually the rumors have been total speculation, but now we have someone who has seen the white whale.

Rumor two comes via rumor China Daily by way of MacRumors. Apparently a Foxconn executive confirmed that Foxconn would be building the Apple TV Display and has begun preparations to build the elusive Apple TV Display. Now, the reliability of these rumors is pretty low. But lately rumors of partnerships between Foxconn and Sharp have been flying around as well. And the Chinese production pipeline is generally

Rumor three comes from Appleinsider. Appleinsider is claiming that Apple will purchase German TV manufacturer Loewe. Loewe makes a line up of high end flat panel TVs. Here are some sample images including a prototype clear TV that is very cool.

Looking at the first image it’s easy to see how Jonny Ive would be impressed by the minimalist design and sleek lines. The transparent prototype also looks like a TV design Apple would offer. And Jonny Ive and Steve Jobs have always acknowledged the influence of the design aesthetic of German electronics giant Braun. Loewe certainly seems to embody that philosophy in their TV designs. Loewe is involved in both advanced LCD and OLED design efforts, so the technical skills are there for future advanced TV designs.

So why would Apple buy Loewe? If Apple had been working with Loewe on the Apple TV it may have simply reach a point where the shared intellectual property is so advanced/unique that Apple wants to ensure full control over the developed technology. At this point, Loewe is denying it, but everyone always denies takeover rumors. It would be unusual for Apple to buy a hardware company with over 1000 employees and even more unusual for an Apple takeover to leak. Still the hardware designs are intriguing element to the rumor.

Waiting On The New MacBook Pro – Machine Dreams

MoD needs a new MacBook either an Air or a new MacBook Pro. Our old machine died and we’ve been using a backup computer for about 6 weeks. However, due to Intel’s delay on Ivy Bridge processors we’ve been forced to wait and wait on the new MacBook Pros. Without knowing the feature and price set of the new MacBook Pros versus MacBook Air, we’re paralyzed from making a purchase decision. In fact, we’re not even sure if Apple won’t just combine the two MacBook lineups into one product series distinguished by LCD size.

While waiting and hoping to see a news update that an Apple announcement has occurred, what would be my ideal new MacBook Pro?

Screen Size: 15 inch with a resolution higher than 1600 x 1200 (retina display is probably not realistic right now)

RAM : 4 GB at least (user upgradeable to 16 GB)

Storage: Solid State drive 128 or 256. Again user upgradeable as those drives drop in price in the future.

Graphics: Dedicated video card that supports 2 external monitors.

Processor: New Ivy Bridge Quad Core processor.

Weight: the 13 inch MacBook Air just under 3 lbs. The current 15 inch MacBook Pro is 5.6 lbs. So how about the split the difference on the new design. So 4.3 lbs.

Height: current MacBook Pro is .95 inches. MacBook Air is tapered and is .65 at the thickest point. So how about a MacBook Pro that is .65 throughout the whole design.

Thunderbolt Ports: 2 (one on each side). Dual channel Thunderbolt capability. 2 x 10 Gbps channels. Basically one for storage and one for video.

Flash Card Slot: Supports cards up to 256 GB

USB 3.0 capable ports: 2 (one one each side).

No DVD/CD drive

7 hour battery life

I’d buy it tomorrow if the price for a 4 GB RAM/128 GB Solid State HD/Base line processor was $1699

Apple March 2011 Quarter Numbers

So there were 3 numbers that MoD wanted to track from the just announced numbers

1. iPad ASP  2. iPhone Sales Volume 3. Mac Sales Volume.  How did Apple do?

1. iPad ASP was $558. This number is a little lower than MoD expected. But without Apple releasing a product mix it’s impossible to tell what is the true iPad “3″ ASP. MoD will track this number down the line, and still thinks that an iPad (3) only ASP might be north of $699.

2. iPhone Sales Volume was 35 million. The pent up demand for iPhones in December 2011 Quarter and the lower numbers of Verizon and AT&T had some Wall Street Analysts scrambling. However, the international demand for the iPhone 4s continues to be very strong and Apple had barely introduced the device to their second Chinese carrier. The possible total market for the iPhone could be in the 200 million range by 2014. The only growth issue MoD can see this year is in the US where for both Verizon and AT&T by July/August timeframe the lack of LTE in the iPhone 4s will start to become a serious feature disadvantage.

3. Mac Sales Volume was 4 million. Analysts were projecting a number close to 4.3 million so on some level this was a miss by Apple. MoD suspected that the Mac number might be light. No upgraded products especially no upgraded MacBook Pros really hurt Mac Sales. If Apple can release the new laptops in May and upgrade the iMac and MacBook Air this quarter as well, there could be significant pent up demand for the new hardware. Mac Mini and Mac Pro future are also up in the air to a certain degree.

And finally it wasn’t announced on 4/24 but the following morning we now have the dates for WWDC 2012. It’s already sold out in under 2 hours (it took 12 hours last year), and will occur June 11 thru 15th.

iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion are sure to dominate the key note. Provided that the next gen iPhone is tied to the release of iOS 6, and that’s been Apple’s practice lately and that places the next gen iPhone launch window as August/September.

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