Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Macworld Predictions

Here are my realistic expectations for MacWorld. These are speculative only. Don't make stock buying decisions or wait on purchasing an Apple product because of these. Only Apple really knows what they're going to do.

No 3G yet. Not until AT&T gets better coverage. Fact is, iPhone browsing works very well compared to other phones because it has a fast processor to render the web pages. I would expect announcements regarding third party application and possibly, Microsoft ActiveSync licensing which would speed up adoption amongst business users as a response to the overwhelming request for better Exchange support. Watch for a sizable bump in flash storage, and new features enabled as the device evolves. Maybe even something like an iChat client.

MacBook Pro
New processors - maybe the new 45 NM Penryns for faster processing, longer battery life, cooler operation. Same case. Perhas an additional feature here or there but mostly evolutionary. A built-in flash drive to speed up boots and to extend battery life would be great.

I'm thinking evolutionary improvements here. Expect the new LCD screens. With the move for the iMac to aluminum and glass to be more environmentally friendly, the case of the MacBooks really are a sore thumb. An aluminum keyboard surface so you will have a white/aluminum or black/aluminum look would be very cool.

Slim Book
I know a lot of people are talking about a flash driven, no optical drive notebook for $1,500. A flash drive that would work in conjunction with RAM to reduce hard disk swapping for extended battery life (and hard drive life too) and for faster booting is more plausible. But flash only? No way.

We are at the cusp where optical drives can be dropped just as similar to the time when Apple dropped the floppy disk for the iMac. I'm betting that most of us don't use an optical drive for daily usage anymore. With being able to download most applications you buy or movies, having a low usage device take up so much internal space doesn't make sense anymore. Plus, it's one more mechanical thing that can go wrong which increases the cost of warranties and servicing.

I would expect it to be part of the MacBook Pro line which is typically purchased by the more experienced and affluent user who would gladly trade the additional cost of an external DVD drive for better aesthetics. Look of amazement by those around the conference table when you pull out your ultra-thin notebook compared to the bricks and anchors

Here's wishing for HD video content that would look nice on my 42" LCD.

Needs an update to drive adoption. Maybe HD content from iTunes will help. Also, if it could record from TV like a DVR it would be a lot more meaningful device. But, keep it at $299 and put a Blu-ray player in it (I prefer HD but Disney's stuff is on Blu-ray) and it would fly off the shelves. Or make it a Blu-ray/HD combo for $399. Now you're talking long lines at the checkout counter.

The AppleTV then becomes a device that drives iTunes, iPod, and Mac adoption. Sort of a tail-wagging the dog thing like what the iPod did.

Bigger flash memory in the iPod touch with similar third party application support as the iPhone. I would think iChat with voice support over Wi-Fi would be great, but don't expect it.

Besides these products from Apple, look to see Microsoft Office being officially announced, as well as some other application that takes advantage of Leopard technologies.

Well, that's my prediction list. Now we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Do You Want in Entourage 2008?

The feature set in Entourage 2008 is done. All we're waiting for is the announcement and to get our grubby virtual fingers on the feature list.

But it won't stop my from ruffling my feathers which I need to do from time to time as I get frustrated as the lone Entourage user among over 400 Outlook users.

Out of Office - you know how many times I come back from a trip and forget that out of office is on, only to be questioned by a customer or another user as to my status? Let me turn it on or off from Entourae and warn me when it's on.

Entourage Today - is there a simple way that I can see my InBox, appointments, and tasks in a single view. And let me add new tasks with one click. And while you're at it, make sure the tasks sync with Exchange too.

Faster Syncing - is there a better way to sync so that it doesn't have to check all my subfolders all the time? Maybe the universal version will just work better for this. I don't know.

Better certificate handling - why do I have keep clicking through root certificate errors when my PC brethren launch and load without any problems?

Display Fonts! I have to set my fonts articifically large so that Outlook users see them at human oriented sizes? If I set my fonts to 10pts, only a Vulcan can read it, or someone with a magnifying glass. I know there is a difference between Mac and PC screen resolution rates. Can't we just all get along?

HTML Display - you know how many times I get an email that looks great in Outlook but looks crappy in Entourage? Or I can't use the forward function to send an HTML email as it came to me (you have to forward as an attachment). Maybe they have this licked with the new rendering engine - I hope so!

Word formatting - no, I don't want to use Word to format my emails - but if it works great as a universal version, I can live with it. But for now, when others use Word to format their signature in Outlook, I get extra spaces between the lines. And the messages I receive don't always turn out right. All we ask is the Word and Entourage people have lunch together with their PC counterparts. Maybe a napkin agreement can put an end to this.

Stationery - I don't use stationery because it just takes up unnecessary bandwidth although once in a while, for a special occasion, it would be nice to use it. Or when someone sends me an email from Outlook with stationery, I wish it would not only look right, but when I reply to the email, it doesn't go all funky.

Colors. You know, Entourage is pretty plain looking. Although I prefer understated looks, Entourge could use a little more blush and lipstick. I actually don't mind the bolder separator bars in Outlook. Maybe add some Leopard looking pizzazz (just not spotted fur themes OK?). I'm sure you can do it tastefully without making it appear tawdry.

iCal syncing options. I need something to protect Entourage from wiping out all it's entries when you delete the synced calender in iCal. Happened to me once. And now I'm getting 4 or five copies of the same event as well. Finally, I just shut the thing off because it was a pain to manage.

Resource management - when I want to reserve a meeting room that is setup as a calendar, it works great doing it in Outlook. Doesn't work too well in Entourage. And if you set the meeting up from the meeting room calendar, your own calendar doesn't reflect the meeting.

Meeting notices - okay - when i get a meeting notice, I would like to know what my calendar looks like before accepting or declining meeting. Maybe they don't need that on Mars but here on Earth, we can't be in two or three places at once. If someone wants to double or triple book a time slot, well, they can do that. But most of us prefer to maintain saner schedules.

Well - what would you like to see in Entourage 2008 or in a service pack? And please, no cussin'. Keep your remarks intelligent, concise, and to the point. The better our responses, the more Microsoft is likely to pay attention to our needs.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

iPhone Disrupting Internet Explorer?

A number of years back, I wrote for another website that in the corporate space, one of Apple's biggest problems is the many browser-based client software requires ActiveX and Internet Explorer. This effectively shuts out the Mac as a desktop client because those apps simply won't work unless something like Citrix or virtual technology is used. So much for browser clients being truly agnostic.

And Microsoft likes it that way because it makes Microsoft money. It keeps businesses buying PC's with Windows installed. It keeps developers buying Microsoft development tools. And allows Microsoft to control the computing industry to suit its own goals. Any company in this position would likely do the same thing.

So the only way for a competitor to change this is to come up with disruptive technology. And the iPhone is exactly that.

The iPhone is a consumer device. But many stock brokers, doctors, insurance agents, realtors, corporate executives are going to buy this device. They will want this to be their primary device. They will show it to their friends. They will pull it out at meetings. They will want to access the same browser-based applications as they do on their PC because it comes with a full fledged browser. And they will be disappointed when they find out it won't work. And they will complain loudly.

And the smart software companies will respond. The dumb ones will die out or be marginalized.

As a backhanded move, Apple released Safari on Windows. I doubt that Apple thought that millions of web users will switch like they did with Firefox. Instead, it gave Apple an easy response to web application developers to make their web sites and browser client applications iPhone friendly. Which turns into Mac friendly. Which means more Macs sold in the corporate space without Apple having to launch a full frontal assault on their Redmond friendlies.

It also means that more websites and developers will embrace open standards, or at least be forced out of lock-in relationships. Which brings competition and innovation. Which plays right into Apple's hands.

Can you imagine a $250 iPhone in a year's time? There are people in multiple industries thinking of that very same prospect now and losing sleep over it.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Best Buy and Apple Mashup

I've been pondering over the depth of this joint venture and it is quite scary what the future prospects are for consumer PC vendors.

First of all, Apple's retail strategy is very strong but because they will only open stores in high rent districts, that still leaves a lot of areas uncovered. While someone on occasion may drive 80 miles to go to an Apple Store, that is not the ideal solution for most people.

Enter Best Buy. Before you remind me of the start/stop relationship that Apple and Best Buy have had over the years consider the fact that Apple has entered this having experienced incredible retail success so they know better what to ask for and demand to sell their products. Second, Best Buy is losing foot traffic from CD's and needs to increase foot traffic. The foot traffic from a Mac buyer is very welcome because they typically are willing to spend more to obtain a quality item. Third, seling PC's is a tired, me-too business. You need differentiation.

So the mashup between Best Buy and Apple seems at first glance to recreate the type of atmosphere, support, and quality buying experience that one has at an Apple Store, just on a smaller scale. With Best Buy's prowess, these types of stores could be opened up in all kinds of remote areas around the country where Apple can't justify a dedicated store front. Unlike previous efforts, Apple knows now how to train and develop staff to provide the kind of buying experience that they seek for the Macintosh.

If this is the case, you can walk into a clean, uncluttered, environment where someone is going to give you an informed presentation of Apple's products and their value proposition, instead of steering you to some low end PC box stuffed with trialware. Or confusing the customer by presenting a row of gray and black boxes and varying price points and no real way for the consumer to determine comparative value.

Done right, this parntership could be an extremely powerful combination. Certainly, Best Buy is touting this as the beginning of a change in their retail philosophy to match Apple's. Start with what the consumer really needs and then develop your products and services to solve that need. Apple's consumer driven approach has changed the music business, the retail computer business, potentially the cellular industry, and possibly the home media strategy. Why? Because it's apparent that they do things to benefit the customer. Competitors are often presented as doing things for purely profit or self-serving interests.

With the kind of reach that Best Buy has beyond Apple's own stores, we could see a significant ratchet in market share in the retail space by Christmas time. No other PC vendor can demand that kind of exclusive arrangement because they are perceived as offering a commodity item.

I just hope that my Best Buy is on the list.

Sea Change and Swatting Bugs

There seems to be a sea change in what is going on in the personal computer industry these days. The resurgence, scratch that, resurrection of Apple, Inc. is nothing short of phenomenal. Consider these confluence of independent events that is creating a momentous shift in the technology landscape.

From the top end, the technology industry elites are using Apple technology personally. These elites are often the trendsetters and forerunners that push down technology decisions. More and more companies are going through the exercise of considering Mac deployment - something that was very rare six years ago.

The iPod and Apple's educational success has contributed at the bottom end by creating a young class of Mac users that are very creative, energetic, and free spirited that are entering the work force and want to stay with the technology tools that they have become accustomed to using. This puts further pressure on businesses to accomodate these young, talented professionals. More than one business manager has been convinced to allow Macs in their organzation after seeing some of the creative results that Mac users produced using the standard tools that came with their Mac.

The middle thrust is the growth of Apple in the small to medium business market. Here, Apple has a much stronger presence than their overall 5% or 6% market share suggests. These businesses ask their software vendors for cross platform solutions. The software vendors not only have to build in Mac support, but also have to ask their integrated hardware devices for the same support. This also puts pressure on development tool suppliers to allow as much as possible, a single code-base for the core application with hooks for the various OS's that must be supported. Eventually, this may pull some developers from a Microsoft-only approach.

There are of course, deeper issues that have caused these market forces to exist in the first place. But I wanted to illustrate what is happening the marketplace. Being in a staunchly PC industry myself, I am witnessing business that used to swat the idea of Mac support like an irritating fly to actually creating and promoting Mac support.