Ok lets get something straight iPad is by far the WORST name for this device. iSlate or iTab (short of iTablet) would have worked ten times better. But the name is iPad and so we will live with it.
Now personally I love the idea of tablet computing. I have been wanting it since back in the day when Microsoft was showing it off with styluses and overlays on Windows XP. Now that seems like a good idea but most people know most PC OS’s are not designed for small screens or for touch screens. Buttons are too small and data is crammed into space to efficiently for it to work out. Also may of these devices were large and clunky. Now we see the iPad which is effectively almost exactly what a Tablet should really be. The key to a tablet is it MUST be more mobile then a laptop. Sure a laptop with a rotating screen could do the same but the key there is you have an interface which is not as mobile. Its just not easy to use Windows with a touch screen. HP has spent lots of money making custom UI’s solely to make it so their touchsmart PC’s are easier to use.
Now Apple has made that easy to use interface. But there are two major issues. One which people have brought up a bunch and is unfounded and then an oddly missing issue from the discussion.
The first issue that people seem to be way to worried about is flash support. Many people are all worried about how you just cannot get a true internet experience without this. Well I am sorry but I think I would rather wait till html5 is ubiquitous then have my mobile device be as hot as a overheated breakfast burrito. One of the biggest issue with flash is that it is to be nice UTTER CRAP. On even the most advanced computers it somehow will end up pulling 100% of a CPU core to just show a YouTube video. Why the hell would I want that in my mobile device? Not to mention the most important fact that is flash NEEDED? I think we can safely say no. HTML 5 will be common place once it is approved. Safari already supports it and it can do pretty much anything flash does. If anything else we can at least think of the flash blocking as a free ad blocker. No I don’t want to punch that monkey or punch out Bin Laden I just want to read the site!
The second issue is one nobody has brought up (that I have noticed at least). Where is handwriting recognition. Sure the stylus sucks with the problem that you lose it. But please could we at least take notes using handwriting recognition? I would love to be able to just use a stylus while taking notes. It allows for a more natural experience. Personally I have never liked taking notes with a keyboard. Maybe I am just crazy with this idea. Let me point out lack of handwriting recognition is not a feature that will kill the product for me.
So what do I think about the iPad? Well I am sure nobody really cares but I will say it anyways. The iPad is the first step to real tablet computing. This is the future that pretty much any big sci-fi fan has been wanting. The device that you could bring anywhere and do pretty much anything with. This is what many thought netbooks would do but finally we see a device that is truly forward looking and not backwards like the netbook.
First shots are now being fired in the real start of the e-book wars. Many would argue that the e-book wars started a with the Kindle trying to rival the Sony Book Reader. Back then epub seemed young and weak and Amazon was the 800 pound gorilla. And this has seemed to be true for the last year or so. The Kindle was synonymous with e-book reader and pretty much every other reader went epub hoping that the “openness” would win readers over from the Kindle. Now Apple with the announcement of the iPad has showed up on the scene and if Amazon was a 800 pound gorilla, well Apple is some kind of shiny new 20 ton battle tank.
Sure we have seen Amazon king for awhile now but what is going on now? Amazon the biggest book retail just lost a deal with Macmillan! This shows that Amazon has got to be to powerful. They are so powerful the book publishers are willing to walk away to someone they know they can challenge them but will give them a better posision. Apple says it will price match Amazon well if your books are not even on Amazon what is there to price match? Jobs talks about publishers pulling out of Amazon. Apple is providing a perfect marketplace for the book publishers. They are using epub (the open standard publishers agree on) and not using mobi like Amazon. Apple never said anything at their event about DRM for the e-books but we can assume that they will start with Apple’s own version of DRM. The question though is will Apple be able to force ebooks to become DRM free as it did with MP3s?
The fact that Apple is doing epub is something many may not realize the importance of. Epub in the past has always been a format that even though its an standard and open has always been controlled by Adobe. Adobes renderer has been the bane of many people who really know the epub spec and write a document to the spec only to find Adobe’s renderer does not work as it was intended. Apple now has a chance to come in and show the true power of epub.
What we are watching right now is just a minor skirmish who knows what wonderful things we will get out of this ebook war. We may finally see affordable college textbooks that don’t break students backs economically or physically. We may see DRM be gone from another media format. Really though all to truly know at this point is it will be very interesting to watch.
Now I know this sounds completely out there. Few people think AT&T offer good service these days. Personally I don’t care about AT&T to much cause I live somewhere they don’t even cover. But lets put that all behind us as that is not what I want to look at today.
A few years ago Apple announced a minor mobile device known as the iPhone. They announced it on AT&T exclusive and everyone has complained about this for the last few years. Now how about we look back to that time and contemplate a different chain of events. What could have happend if Verizon had gotten exclusivity of the iPhone instead of AT&T? Well many times it has been reported about how much AT&T has gained in subscribers thanks to the iPhone. What if AT&T had never got these gains? Would we see these two huge companies AT&T and Verizon dooking it out on the airwaves to get our money? I have this odd feeling had Verizon gotten the iPhone deal we would be seeing once again the monopoly of one phone service. If we go back to when the deal was struck AT&T was not in the position it was not. Sure it was one of hte bigger cell phone companies but it really didnt rivel Verizon at the time. Verizon was king. Now look we got two giants fighting it out!
Now fast forward to this week. We hear that AT&T now has exclusivity on the iPad. What does that really mean though? The iPad is unlocked GSM and uses a micro-sim sure it doesn’t support T-Mobiles band of the wireless spectrum but that doesn’t matter as much as the bigger news. Apple has managed to force AT&T to not only get a lower data rate but also make it not require a contract. Do you think Verizon would have accepted that? Not right now but in a year when the next version of the iPad comes out how much do you want to bet there will be a 4G version which will support all the LTE carriers? What will that mean? Well dataplans will actually have to compete with each other instead of over who has what device.
So what is the moral of this? Well Apple has managed to do something the FCC has failed at doing. They have prevented a Verizon monopoly and actually forced a move into more reasonable rates for Data Plans. But hey lets just ignore that progress and just complain that AT&T. Sure they don’t have 3G anywhere but I can tell you Verizon 3G is nothing to write home about when it comes to actual speed.
So Consumer Reports is saying the MacBooks are best. Now remember though that this is from the users. Most though should take this as a grain of salt. I mean many of the Mac users that respond to this are the type that if Steve Jobs released a brick saying it somehow gave you telepathy some of them still might say it is the greatest thing ever. What am I getting at here? Well basically the Mac crowed will always calm they have the best meanwhile in PC land we can be more choosy about our laptops and generally people are never completely content with their laptops (unlike the Mac users who are more willing to overlook problems). So really none of this matters. I think we should just look at Consumer Reports and ignore Apple products as we know they are good quality but we should not really compare Apples to Oranges (or in this case PCs) when it comes to satisfaction.
According to a Forrester Apple remains at the top of the pack for PC manufactures when it comes to Customer Service. Of course the the 80% satisfaction rating was mostly gained from the normal reasons people seem to love their Macs. These being that is is “easy to use” and “enjoyable”. Of course what I want to know is if these customers are really enjoying it or if they just feel like they should since they just bought an Apple? Also I wonder if the rest of PC’s got low enjoyability ratings cause of all the bloatware on them. The reason Apple is ahead here is the same reason why people hate buying computers most likley. The fact that when you first open the box the user experience is never correct. Most often there is to much crap running and something is not working like it should. So of course Apple wins here they are the only ones who ship nice blank slate style computers that are expensive enough that even if you don’t enjoy your computer you feel as though you have to.
What could possibly be the first Mac botnet has been being watched by Symantec Ireland. The botnet named “iBotnet” was spread via pirated copies of iWork 09 and Adobe Photoshop CS4. For those thinking that using a Mac protects them from having to deal with Viruses and Malware should take note of this. Security through obscurity only lasts so long and the days of the Mac being completely safe are ending. As the Mac has more and more of the PC market it only makes sense that more people will begin attacking it as most Mac users aren’t protected and they even are lots of time not looking out for it. Of course it’s also not like Apple is taking the threat to mean much either as was shown in the PwnToOwn contest a month or so ago. Hopefully this will make Apple look more at security in their OS and applications.
For those that don’t know after pretty much every Apple release there is at least one article that comes out talking about the huge markups Apple charges on its iPods. This though takes the cake for even Apple. Generally the parts for a Apple device are around 40-50% of the cost but 28% is getting really low. The real interesting part is the claim that this is some of the latest technology out there that is being used in the shuffle. We may be in a recession but Apple is not letting that hurt their image. Instead they are proving they are a technology powerhouse the right way by utilizing technology that is very close to the edge. Of course I cannot though pass up this opportunity to point out the oddest thing hear. The oddest part of this price is really the fact that upon the release of the Shuffle Apple raised the price of the Shuffle. Now this is odd figuring that they could have left at its old price and still had a rather beefy margin. Does this maybe mean Apple is putting more money into the design of the product and that is what the cost is covering? Or is the Shuffle just planned to be one of their highest margin products.
So as I pointed out with the netbook article Microsoft’s Brian LeBlanc has been recently been working more as a part of Microsoft’s PR then I remember. This time Brian makes up a fake tax return to compare a Apple Computer purchase to a Mac. Now I personally would not get a Mac but this thing is just horribly setup. I am sorry Brian but I could not allow such a horribly done analogy run its toll.
Now I am not going to completely spec out the computers listed but from what I remember of dells Inspiron line I sincerely doubt that a $700 Inspiron 15 actually comes close to a MacBook. First off a MacBook at least has discrete graphics something the Inspiron 15 surely lacks. Next he compares the Mac Pro to a CONSUMER level product from HP! Not only this but HP doesn’t even list the d5100t on its site anymore there is the newer d5200t though? Could this affect the price? I bet. Now the difference of these not only has to do with we are comparing a Xeon that is comparable to a core i7 processor to a computer most likely running a Core 2 Duo if we are lucky. I am not going to spend more time on this as I could look really in depth but I don’t think I need to as Brian chose not to leave a full model information for the Dell or the HP computer.
Now lets look at software where somehow Apple manages to rack up a bill of $289 without the comparable thing for windows being looked at. First off where is this $70 coming from? I don’t see what its for since there is no comparable part in windows… Now the bigger problem. When did Windows start coming with Office 2007? Cause I would love that copy. I’ll give you a hint it doesn’t. I would at this point also like to point out Quicken does not come fro free normally though you can get it for like $50 on a new Windows computer still that is only a $20 diff not $70 like this makes it sound like. Once again this is way out of whack and most likely you will spend the same for either platform. Also unless you really need an advanced features from Microsoft Office for work or school most Mac users will probably go with the iWork package ($50 cheaper then Office 2008) or go with NeoOffice (a version of OpenOffice for the mac) also I don’t think most consumers actually use software like Quicken. That though is enough about software.
Lets now talk service and support. Here Brian cheats and pulls out $745 in a MobileMe subscription? Seriously Brian I respect you but where did you get this from? I have yet to hear of a single person actually saying someone buying a mac should get MobileMe and you list no comparative service for the pc. Instead you only list a Dell 3-year warranty. What happened to the HP? The Apple side you also miss a second AppleCare subscription if your wanted to compare that but also what is One to One Care? Is that really needed. Once again this is a service I have never seen recommended by Apple fans. So lets recalculate this cost with PC savings at $60 which who knows how comparable AppleCare and Dells 3-year really are.
Now lets look at the upgrades section. First off here I don’t know how many Mac users actually ever update iLife. I think really only hardcore Mac users even bother. As for the AirPort and Wireless Router comparison here is something that is finally fair. Sure the AirPort probably costs a bit more but it actually has some nice features Linksys lacks (thinking guest wpa accounts). Next is the hard drive upgrade which I must say I am kind confused. One is usb and I have no clue what it is. The Western Digital could have been used for either setup and since the price is not different this doesn’t really matter other then it makes it seem more thrown together without actual thought. Now what about Blu-ray? Well for the Apple yes you would need a stand alone player. I don’t know about most users but I would probably want a stand alone player in either case as it allows for direct connection with the TV and most likely the best DVD up-scaling experience. OH and what about the $80 software you MUST purchase to watch a Blu-ray in Windows? What happened to this cost? I guess Brian must have conveniently forgotten this small fact. Wait its not small it raises to the price of an internal Blu-ray drive for a desktop to about the same as a cheap Blu-ray stand-alone (which is ironic since he compares a better quality Sony Blu-ray player to a cheap Lite-On internal drive). Now comes the holy grails of mess-ups for this article. Not only does he give the wrong TYPE of ram but messes up on the graphics card choice. All current Apples run on DDR3 ram. So the upgrade he talks about is not even the right type of ram. Of course Apple computers also most likely would not need the ram upgrade as they really can run with a lower amount of ram so this upgrade is not even needed. The next is the Radeon HD 4870 which if you go to Apple’s site is not sold individually (so future upgrade price who knows) but if you were going to upgrade the HD 4870 when you bought it it would only cost $200. Also whether or not a 4870 is really a needed upgrade is up to question as a whole.
Sorry to rip the article apart so much but I believe I have ripped out at least half of the supposed Apple tax that was supposed to be shown here. I am not even an Apple fan I just really hate the FUD stream that Brian LeBlanc has been throwing at us this week.
After writing this I realized the whitepaper link. I have nothing really to say about it as I couldn’t stand reading it without most likely going insane. One thing I did notice in it though was this study was comparing the OLD MacBooks without the nvidia 9400m’s in them. This really skews the price!
Robin Harris as ZDNet posted an interesting article today looking at the Apple tax a bit more in depth. The most interesting part is the fact that when he looks at the gross margins of the two companies guess who comes out in the lead? Microsoft with move then double the margin of Apple. The real question is how much does this actually affect consumers? I don’t think as much as he is trying to make it sound like in this article. Many Microsoft products can be found a quite a discount by normal consumers and Microsoft’s main revenue stream is actually from enterprise. Now is enterprise being over charged? Possibly they generally pay to much for most things. The question though is does this justify Apple products costing more? Not really but still some interesting numbers to see crunched.