Here we go again. The clouds part, and another iPhone descends from the heavens.
What mystical secrets will be written on the device’s extra-large, 640-by-1,136-pixel Retina display? Will there be earthshaking new features? Will it contain the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything?
Not likely. Apple has entered a new phase in the evolution of its iPhone line, and you can pretty much forget about radical reinventions from now on.
The iPhone is now a mature product, and as with many mature products, the chief innovations will interest chief financial officers more than tech reporters like me: Expanding to new international markets and new carriers. Reducing dependence on sometimes-antagonistic partners like Google and Samsung. Marginal improvements to major features. Enough new features to maintain parity with chief competitors. And a few nifty extras, like rainbow colors (my favorite speculative iPhone 5 concept), to keep customers feeling special.
At this point, Apple has settled into its favorite spot: A comfortable No. 2. That’s because the company has always prioritized profits over market share and is happy to cede the latter as long as it can hang on to the former.
As everyone knows by now, iPhones and iPads are built in huge Chinese manufacturing plants where tens of thousands of people work 12-hour shifts for little money, have little privacy, and are exposed to toxic chemicals and unsafe conditions every day. We’ve been hearing similar stories across other industries for years, but this one’s on us — the tech community.
That’s right — all of us. It’s not just Apple. Motorola (whose acquisition by Google got a green light this week) and Nokia are doing it. Toshiba, HP, Dell, and Sony all use factories the New York Times reports as “bleak.”
It’s virtually guaranteed that behind every gadget stands an army of underpaid workers and polluting factories.
In Star Trek IV, Scotty picks up a computer mouse and speaks into it, trying to get the machine’s attention. “Computer! Computer!” When nothing happens, someone tells him to use the keyboard. “How quaint,” is his bemused response.
You might feel the same way in 10 years, if someone hands you a computer without a voice interface. That’s because we’re on the verge of an explosion in interactive, interpretive computer voice control.
“The technology is just beginning,” said Norman Winarsky, the head of the venture arm of SRI, a legendary Silicon Valley think tank. “This is real artificial intelligence and real technology.”
Steve Jobs, the cofounder and former chief executive of Apple, has died. He was 56.
Jobs was a visionary leader who, more than any other single person, reshaped the face of consumer technology.
He was often quoted as saying “we’re here to put a dent in the universe.” He did exactly that.
From his earliest computers, co-developed with Steve Wozniak, to the smartphones and tablets that his company developed, Jobs showed a singleminded dedication to building products that were easier to use, better-looking and more intuitively useful than what had gone before.
He liked to say that Apple’s products were “magical,” and if that’s the case, he was the marketing and technology magician behind the curtain.
And if they weren’t exactly magic, Apple’s products were certainly a sufficiently advanced technology.
Apple fans who expected an iPhone 5 today were disappointed.
Instead, all Apple unveiled was a phone that’s 2 times faster, with 7 times faster graphics rendering. It’s got a battery that’s good for a full day of talking, almost, and more than 3 solid days of listening to music. The camera is substantially improved, with a faster, f2.4 lens and an 8 megapixel sensor, and it records 1080p HD video. It’s a worldphone, meaning it will work on just about any cellular network around the world, both CDMA and GSM.
Oh, and you can talk to your phone, and it will answer your questions, thanks to a new feature called Siri.
The list of iconic designs Steve Jobs made possible is long. But his most brilliant and ambitious design may be Apple itself.
Jobs, who announced his resignation as Apple’s CEO yesterday, is rightly hailed as one of the most design-savvy executives in the electronics industry. He’s also an impressive architect of business structures.
In the coming years, with Jobs out of the leadership role, we’ll see just how well-designed the company he spent 15 years assembling really is. My guess is that it’s very well put together indeed.
Jobs has been working on this “product,” Apple Inc., for a long time.
When the final space shuttle mission launches later this year, two iPhone 4s will be on board.
The iPhones will be running an experimental app called SpaceLab for iOS, designed by Odyssey Space Research. Once the space shuttle Atlantis docks with the International Space Station, crew members will use the iPhones to conduct four experiments, using the iPhones’ cameras, gyroscopes, and other sensors.
Newly-approved Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is a Kindle user, while longtime conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wields an iPad.
This nugget of information appeared in a recent video clip on C-SPAN. Both justices use the devices (plus hard copy printouts) to read the vast quantities of written material they must wade through — up to 40 or 50 briefs for each case, Kagan says in the video above.
The news, however, made us wonder about something of far more pressing national importance: Is this a deep ideological divide on the Supreme Court?
Would Scalia see things differently if he read opinions on the monochrome Kindle? Does Kagan need a dose of iPad color, and maybe a round or two of Flight Control HD between court sessions?
Are Kindle-wielding Justices writing angry “Mactard” and “fanboi” comments on the opinions of their opponents, while the Mac-loving faction refuses to talk or even think about anything that wasn’t designed in Cupertino?
Apple is planning an announcement Tuesday morning regarding iTunes.
Count us among the cautiously optimistic. ITunes is one of the most successful software packages in history, installed on more than 125 million computers worldwide and used for about 70 percent of all digital-music purchases. (Exact numbers are hard to find, but it’s huge.) Its reach would seem to make iTunes a terrific platform for transforming the media landscape — if it weren’t such a bloated, hard-to-use, overloaded mess.
We don’t know what Apple will be announcing Tuesday morning (7 a.m. Pacific/10 a.m. Eastern). The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the situation,” says it will include the long-awaited coming of the Beatles catalog to the iTunes Music Store. It could be the addition of a streaming-media subscription service to iTunes. It might be an overhaul of Apple’s abortive attempt at a social network, Ping. Or it could be something completely different.
Regardless of what Apple does announce, here’s what we’re hoping for.
The iPad has touched a nerve in the geek community.
Judging by comments on Wired.com and elsewhere, many people are outraged that Apple would try to foist a less-capable, dumbed-down device on an unsuspecting public. Thanks to clever marketing, these people point out, Apple has persuaded us to spend $500 and more for something that’s less capable and more restrictive than a netbook computer costing half as much.
Those critics are right. But their rage is misplaced.
The iPad is the ultimate media consumption device: It’s just a screen. It is a more beautiful and immersive screen than photos suggest, though. You really do have to hold one in your hand to appreciate how tangible it makes the digital world. Thanks to the in-plane switching LCD and the fast processor under the hood, photos, videos and web pages all come to life, in rich, vivid colors and with a presence that I’ve never seen on any laptop.
Apart from that, there isn’t that much that’s innovative about the iPad, technologically speaking. The rest of Apple’s innovations have to do with packaging, marketing, and a retail experience that’s almost frightening in its attention to detail.
But then, good customer experience, clever marketing, and a fast, bright screen that you can take with you may be just what Hollywood needs.
Because that’s who the iPad is made for: Hollywood. And Madison Avenue, Nashville, Fleet Street, Burbank and all the other places where mass media is produced. (Why do you think Stephen Colbert was one of the first to get an iPad? And why do you think the iPad ad debuted during the Oscars?)
In short, it’s a consumption device, not a production device. Sure, you can make short comments using the on-screen keyboard, but if this were your only device for writing and publishing blog posts, you’d want to fling it out a window.
In other words, the iPad is not ideal for the kind of interactive, distributed storytelling that the web has spawned: in a word, blogging. It’s not likely to do well as a photo or video editing tool or programming device either, though I haven’t tested that hypothesis.
The very thing that makes the iPad so good as a lean-back media device — its lack of a keyboard — is exactly the thing that makes it poorly suited to banging out thoughtful essays, outraged screeds or pointed corrections.
But you know what? That might be OK.
The iPad’s not taking away my keyboard, after all; it’s just another device. Sometimes the kind of passive entertainment it affords is exactly what I want after a long day at my keyboard. While its onscreen keyboard is no great shakes, I can type out a comment or a tweet on it if I feel the need to, and I can always walk over to my laptop if I decide I need to compose a full blog post to rebut some idiot.
As an entertainment device, it’s the next best thing to television. Actually, it’s kind of like television 2.0.
After a day with the iPad, I kind of like that. It’s no more, and no less, than Apple promised. For what it is, it’s a brilliant device: fun, dopamine-releasing, immersive, and easy on the eyes.
If I were to choose between a television and an iPad, I’m pretty sure I’d pick the iPad.
Thanks to by Brian X. Chen for the photo above, and some help sorting out my thoughts in this piece.
Check out this video, where I give a 3-minute first look at the iPad’s high and low points: