Archive for June, 2012

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.