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Articles: techwatch

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Apple Watch: 2017 Predictions
Tuesday, 2017 January 3 - 2:14 pm
A few days late. Happy New Year, everyone. Here's my annual Apple predictions post.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: 2016 Predictions
Friday, 2016 January 1 - 12:46 pm
Ah, the old blog. I guess you can't really rely on me to post consistently about much these days, but I'll at least come around once a year to write my Apple predictions. This is more for me than for anyone else... kind of a mental exercise.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Thoughts on the iPad Pro
Friday, 2015 September 18 - 3:27 pm
So, one of my predictions about the Apple Event last week was way off. Apple did indeed announce a bigger, heavier 13" iPad Pro, complete with an optional keyboard and an optional fancy stylus (the Apple Pencil). There are multiple reasons why Apple may have come out with this device.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Event Predictions
Tuesday, 2015 September 8 - 9:34 pm
There's a big Apple event scheduled for tomorrow, with the new iPhone a near-certainty. But there's also a lot of speculation about what else might be coming.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: 2015 Predictions
Thursday, 2015 January 1 - 12:42 pm
Happy New Year everyone. Here's my annual list of Apple predictions.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Um, Apple Watch
Wednesday, 2014 September 10 - 12:59 pm
I've always called my Apple posts "Apple Watch", but now there's an actual Apple Watch so maybe I should call them something else.

So the big Apple event was yesterday... here's a brief recap and my opinions.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Apple Acquires Beats for $3 Billion
Wednesday, 2014 May 28 - 5:36 pm
Apple today announced that they will acquire Beats Electronics and Beats Music for a total of $3 billion, confirming rumors that have been flying around for the past few weeks. Apple will spend $2.6 billion up front and another $400 million over time. This is slightly less than the original rumored amount of $3.2 billion.

There's been a lot of speculation about the reasons behind the acquisition, and why Apple was willing to spend so much money. Here's a roundup of some of the possible reasons.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: SmartHome Rumors Brewing
Tuesday, 2014 May 27 - 12:36 pm
A large number of Apple-related sites are buzzing about the possibility of a "smart home" (or "connected home") system to be announced at the upcoming WWDC in June. I had speculated about this back in 2011... it does seem to fit with Apple's philosophy of taking an existing technology with a terrible user experience and making it better.

Let's consider what an Apple-based system might look like.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: 2014 Predictions
Wednesday, 2014 January 1 - 3:57 pm
The annual ritual continues... here are my Apple predictions for the year.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple News
Monday, 2013 October 28 - 10:05 pm
I'm a bit behind on Apple news, so let's catch up.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Announcements Coming Tomorrow
Monday, 2013 October 21 - 11:26 pm
Some last minute predictions for Apple's media event tomorrow.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Samsung Galaxy Gear
Thursday, 2013 September 5 - 7:14 am
Samsung announced several new and updated products; the one that's garnering the most attention is the Galaxy Gear wrist device.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Microsoft Buys Nokia's Phone Unit
Tuesday, 2013 September 3 - 10:56 am
Microsoft announced today that it is purchasing Nokia's devices and services unit, which most notably includes the mobile phone business, Nokia's Lumia series that runs the Windows Phone 8 operating system. Nokia was really the only successful Windows Phone vendor; HTC, Huawei, and Samsung were far behind.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Viacom Signs Deal with Amazon Prime
Tuesday, 2013 June 4 - 12:38 pm
I've always told my friends that if Comedy Central and ESPN were available over the Internet instead of exclusively on cable, that would be enough for me to ditch my cable subscription and "cut the cord".

I think we're getting there.

Viacom and Amazon today announced that a number of shows from Comedy Central (and Nickelodeon) will now be available on Amazon Prime. It strikes me that Amazon and Netflix have become the pioneer "networks" on a new broadcast medium: the Internet. Existing content providers will have to evolve to compete, just as the broadcast networks had to become cable networks in order to survive thirty years ago.

My prediction is that some time in the next couple of years, the ABC/Disney/ESPN empire will either partner with one of these outlets or create their own paid streaming service. CBS will follow next; NBC (owned by Comcast) and all the Time Warner-owned stations will come around last. Then we'll finally have an open television market where the cable companies don't have a stranglehold on the terms of distribution, and content providers can negotiate subscription prices directly with consumers. This is how a free market is supposed to work; what we have now is effectively a monopoly.

The rub, of course, is that cable companies are also Internet service providers, and may respond to this threat by jacking up Internet rates or metering the bandwidth available for competing video services. So the other part of the equation is that we need a more competitive Internet market, or municipal Internet providers.

Of course, stupid states like my own (North Carolina) have legislation to prohibit municipal Internet providers... in order to protect the anti-competitive market that exists today. Sigh. Can you imagine if Time Warner were your electricity provider? If they could, they'd charge you extra for electricity being used for your computer, if they knew you were using it to watch YouTube.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatchtelevision

Apple Watch: 2013 Predictions
Tuesday, 2013 January 1 - 7:22 pm
Time for my annual Apple predictions.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Media Event for October 23rd
Tuesday, 2012 October 16 - 12:53 pm


Apple has sent out a media invitation for October 23rd. This is 99% sure to be an iPad mini announcement, but we may get a new Retina MacBook Pro 13" announcement too... that would fit with the "a little more" theme.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: The iPhone 5
Saturday, 2012 September 22 - 11:28 am
So no, I don't have the iPhone 5. But news and reviews have been flooding in.

By all accounts, it's another marvel of engineering. It's taller but thinner and lighter; the screen looks amazing; the camera is best-in-class. It's significantly faster than the 4S. It includes 4G LTE without sacrificing battery life.

Of course there have been the usual array of complaints that Apple has not introduced any radical new features. Prior to its introduction we saw plenty of guesses about gimmicky features, like a laser-based virtual keyboard. Uh, no. What we should know about Apple by now is that they usually don't try to make radical changes within an existing product category; their innovation comes when they introduce new product categories. For existing products, Apple's process is to refine them and make them simply the best in their category.

The most noticeable omission is NFC, which was much-rumored. But I think Apple is concerned that it's a technology looking for an application; there simply isn't a widespread retail ecosystem for NFC, and there are other ways to accomplish point-of-sale solutions. I'm not saying the idea is dead; I just think Apple has other priorities.

Sales have been brisk, to say the least. Estimates are that three days of pre-orders have surpassed the monthly sales record for the 4S.

Now, there are emerging reports that the anodized aluminum finish on the black model is scuff-prone, with some people complaining that it is scuffed right out of the box. I find it strange Apple would have allowed that kind of thing to escape their design and testing processes... let's hope Apple has an answer for that soon.

Finally, a note about the new Maps app, which is an iOS 6 thing, not just an iPhone 5 thing. There's lots of criticism that it's inferior to the Google-based app it replaces, and those criticisms are well-founded. But Apple has no interest in continuing to feed precious customer location data to its biggest rival, and I think they're willing to suffer through the early criticism to get the business decision done. And to be sure, the problems with Maps are fixable; in fact, to some degree, you have to get Maps out to the public just to find where all the problems are. It's doubtful that Apple is devoting hundreds of engineers to pore over every inch of map data in the entire world.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Apple Wins $1 Billion Verdict Vs. Samsung
Sunday, 2012 August 26 - 1:29 pm
On Friday, a 9-person jury returned a verdict in favor of Apple to the tune of $1.05 billion in a closely-watched patent infringement trial against rival Samsung.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Fall Predictions
Thursday, 2012 August 9 - 10:04 pm
I usually wait until New Year's Day to make predictions, but I think there's a lot coming in the near future. Here's what I think will happen this fall.

New iPhone: 99% likely. Apple will stick to their yearly cycle and put out a phone with a taller display, 4G LTE, NFC, and a new dock connector. The rumor sites are all over the leaks from China, and I think they'll prove to be right.

iPad Mini: 75% likely. The tea leaves point in this direction... something like an 8" screen and a $300 price tag, to help reduce the "umbrella" for lower-priced products like the Kindle Fire. It makes too much sense not to be true.

New iMac: 75% likely. It's overdue for an upgrade and it remains Apple's primary desktop product. Apple won't cede the desktop market yet, especially with Windows PC manufacturers struggling so badly.

New iPods: 65% likely. It's a declining market but still important for Apple. I can see a shakeup in the lineup to help keep it relevant for the holidays.

13" Retina MacBook Pro: 55% likely. My gut says Apple wanted to have this out at the same time the 15" version came out, but supply chain constraints nixed that idea.

New Mac mini: 40% likely. It's a good entry-level product and in need of an update, but I can't help but think Apple eventually wants to do something else for the low-end market.

New Mac Pro: 20% likely. It's even more overdue for an update, but it's more of a niche product. I think a radical overhaul is coming in 2013, to replace both the existing Pro and the obsolete Server machine. Maybe a modular solution is coming.

Apple-branded television set: 20% likely. It's still churning around the rumor mill, but I think it's a ways out. A software update to the existing AppleTV to allow third-party apps seems like a likely short-term upgrade.



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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Google I/O News
Saturday, 2012 July 7 - 1:49 pm
You know, I have mixed feelings about Google. On the one hand, they've proven to be an innovative company that puts out lots of great ideas and products. On the other hand, they put out Android with the grandiose notion that there should be an "open" mobile operating system (but in the end, it turns out they were really just out to make money like any other company, and the way they got there was by pulling a Microsoft and slavishly copying Apple's iPhone feature-for-feature). And then there's the fact that we, the public, are not Google's customers... we are the product, with reams of our personal data being sold off to web advertisers for the purposes of extracting money from our pockets.

With that rant aside, let's talk about some of Google's new announcements. The big blockbusters: Google Glass, and Google Now.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: WWDC 2012
Saturday, 2012 July 7 - 1:09 pm
On Facebook a few weeks back, I had promised to post a full blog entry about the latest Apple news from the WWDC. Well, various vacations and things intervened and I never got around to it. I do feel a little guilty that I don't blog the way I used to, but like for so many other people, short-form status updates on Facebook and Twitter have largely supplanted long-form blog posts for me.

But still, I did want to talk about the new MacBooks and iOS 6. Read on for all of my observations.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Security
Sunday, 2012 February 5 - 3:46 pm
Amy's wallet was lost or stolen last week, when we were out at a douchey nightclub downtown (we didn't even want to be there, but got roped into it). In the wallet were a driver's license, a credit card, a bank card, and her social security card. Yeah, we know, no one should carry their social security card around with them, but an employer said they needed to see it. (They don't, by the way; the SSN can be verified by employers online.)

Anyway, that got me thinking about the antiquated mechanisms we have for identity security.

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Posted by Ken in: commentarytechwatch

Apple Watch: 2012 Predictions
Monday, 2012 January 2 - 1:39 pm
As is my New Year's tradition for this blog, I've got ten Apple predictions for the year.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Steve Jobs: I Finally Cracked It
Monday, 2011 October 24 - 11:45 pm
Much is being made of a cryptic quote from Steve Jobs in the biography written by Walter Isaacson being released tomorrow:

"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," [Steve Jobs] told me. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud." No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

Taking on the cable and satellite companies would be Apple's biggest undertaking since taking on the music industry with iTunes. (Look how that turned out, eh?) The three major hurdles for Apple:
  • The cable companies are entrenched, with long-term deals with content providers and a presence in almost every living room in the country.
  • Cable companies also provide broadband internet access for a lot of their subscribers, and they could make it tough for customers to unbundle the two services.
  • Content providers will be leery of handing control over to Apple after seeing how much control Apple gained over the music industry.
But then, look at what Apple has going for it:
  • Both content providers and customers, by and large, hate cable and satellite companies. With the never-ending rate hikes, shoddy hardware products, abysmal software interfaces, and poor customer service, customers are fed-up. Meanwhile content providers are sick of being held hostage whenever contracts are up for re-negotiation, and might prefer selling content directly to the customers.
  • Apple has a track record of making complex and poorly-designed products simpler and more appealing to consumers, and customers generally trust and like Apple products.
  • There is already a trend towards cord-cutting and Internet-available content, and it just needs a spark and a cohesive strategy to pull it together. Apple is exactly the kind of company that can provide those things.

The fact that cable companies control Internet access... that's a tough one; unless, Apple has an answer for that too, in the form of ubiquitous WiFi, a nationwide LTE network, or a partnership with a company who can provide that. Here's a super-crazy theory... what if Apple partnered with their biggest current rival to make that happen? A rival whose interests in this area perfectly align with Apple's? A rival who has been active in blanketing cities with Internet access?

What if Apple teamed up with Google to take down the cable industry?

Maybe that's a stretch. But it would be utterly breathtaking. I would love to see the look on the faces of Time Warner executives on the day something like that was announced.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Speed-Bumps Macbook Pros
Monday, 2011 October 24 - 11:03 pm
Apple introduced "new" Macbook Pro models today, though the changes are so minor you might wonder why they bothered. Essentially all the models got a slight speed and storage bump but otherwise the specs are unchanged. I wonder what's next for the Mac line as a whole; Apple seems to be treating the product category as mature and not in need of major improvements. Given the post-PC era they're clearly promoting, maybe we've already seen the last of splashy new Mac models.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Dennis Ritchie
Thursday, 2011 October 13 - 12:02 am
class dennis_ritchie {
public:
dennis_ritchie() { create_c_language(); create_unix(); }
~dennis_ritchie() { rest_in_peace(); }
};
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Introduces the iPhone 4S
Tuesday, 2011 October 4 - 11:02 pm
Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage along to introduce the newest iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 4S". The important new specs: a significantly faster A5 dual-core processor; an 8 megapixel camera with improved sensor and optics (f2.4 aperture!); HD video recording; Siri voice-recognition assistant; dual-mode CDMA and GSM radio; and availability on Sprint as well as AT&T and Verizon.

There seems to be widespread disappointment that Apple didn't announce a radically new iPhone 5. I'm not sure I understand this. Perhaps if Apple had called it an iPhone 5 and given it a new case design, people would have been happier?

I mean honestly, exactly what features do people believe are missing? I guess some people were hoping for a bigger screen, but the cost of that would have been lower pixel density, application compatibility issues, increased power consumption, poorer display quality, or some combination of those factors. LTE? I'd rather not sacrifice the battery life for a network with limited coverage and availability. I personally would have liked to have seen a near-field radio chip, but I can see that the infrastructure isn't there to support it yet. So really, what's missing?

It's an incremental improvement on an already-great phone. It has a best-in-class camera, display, processor, graphics chip, operating system, and application ecosystem. Oh, and there's Siri, which looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie. And still people complain.

The most ridiculous complaints come from people who own the iPhone 4, saying "it's not worth the upgrade". Well you know, most iPhone 4 owners aren't eligible for the carrier-subsidized price yet anyway. No, the 4S is mainly targeted at people like me, who have the 3GS and have been waiting for this upgrade opportunity, or for first-time iPhone buyers who would have bought the 4 this summer if not for the pending upgrade. There's a big pent-up demand, and the iPhone 4S is just what we were waiting for.

I'll be pre-ordering two on Friday.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Steve Jobs Resigns from Apple
Saturday, 2011 August 27 - 2:58 pm
... but his legacy lives on.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Google to Buy Motorola Mobility
Monday, 2011 August 15 - 11:05 am
Google announced today its intention to pick up Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. In a release, Larry Page explained two reasons for the purchase: to "supercharge" the Android ecosystem, and to strengthen Google's patent portfolio.

Let's dig a little into this.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

New Mac mini, MacBook Air
Tuesday, 2011 July 26 - 8:52 pm
Here's what's new.

Mac mini

Now starting at $100 cheaper ($599), the new Mac mini no longer has a built-in optical drive; instead, you can add an external $79 USB SuperDrive.

The CPU is now a 2.3 GHz Core i5 instead of a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo; this is a big speed increase. The graphics are Intel HD 3000 instead of an Nvidia GeForce 320M; pretty much a wash. A Thunderbolt port replaces the Mini DisplayPort. It still has 2GB of RAM; memory is slightly faster at 1333 MHz, and there's an SDXC slot instead of a standard SD card slot.

Instead of a $999 Server model, there's now an $799 model (with Lion Server available as a $49 download). Hardware-wise, it has a 2.5 GHz Core i5, up from a previous 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo. It has just a single 500 GB drive instead of the two that the previous server had; it has an AMD Radeon HD 6630M GPU, which is a significant bump.

In all, this is a big performance boost for less money than before. It's a nice improvement.

MacBook Air

The Air models are largely the same as before, except they have an Intel Core i5 instead of a Core 2 Duo. All the models use the Intel HD 3000 instead of an Nvidia GeForce 320M, and they have a Thunderbolt port to replace the Mini DisplayPort. So, this is mostly a CPU speed bump with the move to the Sandy Bridge architecture. The price lineup is unchanged.

All the new computers have Mac OS X Lion. Interestingly, these models support re-installation of the OS over the Internet, even if the hard drive has to be replaced; apparently there's Internet network boot code built into the firmware. Nice.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple's WWDC Announcements
Tuesday, 2011 June 7 - 8:11 am
Steve Jobs took the stage yesterday to deliver the keynote address at Apple's World-Wide Developer Conference. The main topics: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New iMacs
Wednesday, 2011 May 4 - 10:57 am
Apple released a new line of iMac desktops yesterday. Here's the skinny.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: iPad 2
Thursday, 2011 March 3 - 9:28 pm
The iPad 2 was announced yesterday; it will be available March 11 at the same price points as the original iPad.

The new version sports a dual-core A5 processor (twice as fast as the A4, with nine times faster graphics), front and rear cameras, and a gyroscope (for better gaming control). It's 33% thinner and 15% lighter. It still boasts a 10-hour battery.

It's now available in both black and white, and can use AT&T or Verizon's data network natively. There's a clever magnetically-attached cover option. And you can attach an HDMI adapter to mirror the display to an HDTV.

All in all, it's a decent update and it raises the bar for all the copycats. We'll be getting a new one for Amy; I'll inherit her first-gen model.

Oh yeah, Steve Jobs was there to make the announcement. Rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New MacBook Pro Lineup Today
Thursday, 2011 February 24 - 12:56 pm
... as expected.

The skinny:

All Models
  • "Thunderbolt" connector. This is the copper version of Intel's "Light Peak" technology; it's a single 10GB connection that will eventually replace USB, FireWire, SATA, and HDMI. The connector is physically identical to Apple's Mini-DisplayPort connector (and it's backward compatible), so you can already use it to connect displays.
  • High definition FaceTime camera (webcam). I'm not sure what that will do to upstream bandwidth requirements; I expect most users won't be able to take advantage of the full resolution.

13" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices unchanged at $1199/$1499
  • CPU changed from 2.40/2.66 GHz dual-core Core2 Duo to a 2.3 GHz dual-core Core i5 or 2.7GHz dual-core Corei7. That's a fairly significant improvement.
  • Standard RAM is unchanged at 4GB on all models.
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 250/320 GB to 320/500 GB.
  • GPU is now the Intel HD Graphics 3000 instead of the NVidia GeForce 320M; this is a wash at best, perhaps even a slight downgrade
  • Battery life down from 10 hours to 7 hours

15" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices unchanged at the low and high end at $1799/$2199 (no more $1999 model)
  • CPU options now 2.0/2.2 GHz quad-core Core i7, instead of 2.4/2.53 GHz dual-core Core i5 or 2.66GHz dual-core Core i7
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 250/500 GB to 500/750 GB
  • GPU is now Intel HD Graphics 3000 + AMD Radeon HD 6490M, instead of Intel HD + NVidia GeForce GT 330M; pretty much a wash
  • Battery life down from 8-9 hours to 7 hours

17" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices up from $2299 to $2499
  • CPU options now 2.2/2.3GHz quad-core Core i7, instead of 2.53/2.66 GHz dual-core Core i7
  • Standard hard drive up from 500 GB to 750 GB
  • GPU is now Intel HD Graphics 3000 + AMD Radeon HD 6750M, instead of Intel HD + NVidia GeForce GT 330M; this is an improvement
  • Battery life down from 8-9 hours to 7 hours

All in all, Apple sacrificed a few things (battery life in particular) to bump the CPU performance. These will be screaming fast machines. There's no small SSD for the OS as was rumored, and everything has retained roughly the same form factor (including the optical drive).
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New MacBook Pros, iPads Coming
Wednesday, 2011 February 23 - 4:57 pm
It's being widely reported that there will be a new MacBook Pro lineup tomorrow. A German site has posted what may be the tech specs for the 13" model. Key stats: Intel Core i5 CPU at 2.3 GHz, "Sandy Bridge" chipset with Intel HD3000 graphics, and a new "Thunderbolt" connector (which is Apple's name for the copper version of what Intel calls Light Peak... it's a high-speed interface for peripherals that may eventually replace USB, Firewire, SATA, and HDMI). The new connector would only make sense if there are peripherals designed to connect to it, so keep an eye out for a new Apple Display, or perhaps external hard drive options from third-party manufacturers.

An earlier report suggested that some of the MacBook Pro models may incorporate a small (8-16 GB) SSD designed to store the operating system installation only; this would allow for fast bootup times but still allow for larger and less expensive conventional hard drives. It seems plausible but there's no hard evidence for this yet. There were also reports that the optical drive might be removed, a la the MacBook Air. This seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, Apple has a media event scheduled for March 2; it's quite obvious that this will be an iPad 2 introduction.

There's also a rumor that Apple has scheduled a secret all-employees meeting for Sunday. I'm speculating that Apple will start rolling out an iPhone-based point of sale system, but most Internet rumor sites are pointing to a new business-oriented Genius Bar concept called "Joint Venture"; the idea is that Apple would provide businesses with a paid support option that includes on-site visits.

Finally... Steve Jobs: not dead yet. He thinks he'll go for a walk.

Stay tuned for more news!
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: Tabloids Report Steve Jobs Dying
Wednesday, 2011 February 16 - 9:19 pm
Separate reports from various tabloid sources say that Steve Jobs has lost a lot of weight and is receiving chemotherapy at a cancer treatment center in Palo Alto. According to a doctor who has no connection to Jobs, Jobs is in the terminal stages of pancreatic cancer.

Also... Mariah Carey's sister is a $250-an-hour "adult escort".

Read more...
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Well Hello Blog
Monday, 2011 February 7 - 8:54 pm
What has it been, a month? Hmm, Kato No Blogging Month... Kanoblomo?

So yeah, I've been slack. My normal sources of material are dry: college football season is over; I'm not watching American Idol this year, what with Simon Cowell being gone and all; and the frozen lunch experiment is over (though I have eaten a few new ones lately; I'll post reviews of those soon). Still, there are still things going on, and I don't want this blog to go dormant. So:

In Apple news, Verizon has rapidly sold out of their initial stock of iPhones. Some surveys have suggested that up to half of Verizon's Android customers are considering switching to the iPhone. Now we'll really see what happens when there's a level playing field.

In more Apple wannabe news, there are dozens of tablets lining up to be the #1 imitator of the iPad. Seriously, doesn't anyone have an original idea any more? And here's the thing: either the tablets are significantly more expensive than the iPad ($800 for the upcoming Motorola Xoom), or they're smaller (7" screens). The brilliant thing about Apple's product lineup lately is that they've secured the best prices on components, and other manufacturers simply can't compete.

Pundits think that Google is going to follow in Microsoft's footsteps and chase Apple out of the mobile computing market, but don't forget that Microsoft had IBM as a hardware partner in the early going. Google is relying on Samsung, Motorola, and HTC. Things are not the same here. And anyway, by the time tablet manufacturers have caught up to the iPad, Apple will already have moved on to its next big thing.

I did think the Xoom SuperBowl commercial was clever, even though Motorola was setting up a straw man. It's not like Apple has really taken over the world... they've just taken over the people who have taste.

Speaking of SuperBowl commercials, I liked the Volkswagen Darth Vader, the Faith Hill "Your Rack is Unreal", and the BridgeStone "Reply to All". The Coke and the Pepsi commercials were cute. There were a lot of losers, though: the Chatter.com commercials didn't work at all. The GoDaddy commercials were lousy. And the GroupOn Tibet commercial with Timothy Hutton? Tasteless.

I give Chrysler props for their edgy pro-Detroit Chrysler Eminem commercial. But people know that Chrysler is essentially owned by Fiat now, right?

Anyway... sorry for the long absence. More blog posts will be forthcoming in the next few days.

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Posted by Ken in: commentarytechwatchtelevision

Apple Watch: 2011 Predictions
Saturday, 2011 January 1 - 6:58 pm
Happy New Year, everyone. It's time for my annual rundown of Apple predictions.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Perseverance
Saturday, 2010 November 20 - 8:18 pm
It's hard to be a Michigan football fan sometimes. It's bad enough having to watch the team lose. But the most tiring thing is explaining to people why we're losing. No one cares about how young the team is, how we've been riddled with injuries, how we're still recovering from coaching transitions... no, they just care about MOAR WINS KTHXBAI.

I find it's similarly hard to be a user of Apple products. I'm tired of defending Apple against people who say things like "Apple should cut all of its prices in half" or "Apple should let other PC makers license their OS", as if Apple had no interest in actually making profits. I'm tired of explaining how the iPhone is not doomed even if Android is enjoying some success.

And it's hard to be a Democrat. It is exhausting to refute Tea Party nonsense all the time. I'm astounded that I have to explain to people all the ways that Sarah Palin is wrong about things. And I think I no longer have the energy to tell people that global warming is a reality even if it was cold today.

But yet I am all of these things: Michigan fan, Apple user, Democrat. I am a Michigan fan even if they lose, because that's what it means to be a true fan. I use Apple products even when the company is being torn apart for overblown reports of iPhone antenna issues, because Apple simply makes better products. And I'm a Democrat even when Tea Party activists seem to be grabbing all the headlines, because there are principles that I believe in.

Michigan lost to Wisconsin today. Most people expected that outcome, but during the game, the Internets were full of comments along the lines of "OMG FIRE RICHROD NOW". But still, as a fan, I persevere.
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Posted by Ken in: politicssportstechwatch

Apple Announcement Tomorrow
Monday, 2010 November 15 - 11:14 pm
Apple put a teaser on its home page today; apparently there'll be a big announcement tomorrow at 10 a.m. EST. Apple promises it'll be a day "that you'll never forget."

Speculation is rampant. The consensus prediction is that the Beatles catalog will finally be available on iTunes. Other predictions from the media:
  • You'll be able to store your iTunes library in the cloud (using Apple's giant new data center in North Carolina)
  • iTunes will be integrated with Facebook
  • iTunes will allow 90-second previews
My personal hope is that Apple will announce content deals with all the major broadcast and cable networks for AppleTV content, such that we can all finally ditch our cable subscriptions. Or, that Apple will announce its own cellular network so we can ditch AT&T. Neither of those is likely to come true, but one can hope. Apple also has a huge hoard of cash, so a major acquisition is a possibility... but mergers are hard to keep secret, what with board negotiations and SEC reporting regulations and all.

The Beatles announcement seems the most probable; the other possibilities don't seem worthy of the hype. We'll see in twelve hours.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Pellet Mills? Really?
Monday, 2010 November 8 - 10:39 pm
So I spent today cleaning up some comment spam for "pellet mills". Really? I mean, I can understand the desire for trying to drive search engine traffic for your replica handbags and your Vytorin, but are there really that many people who are searching on the Internet for ways to make tiny pellets for their wood-burning stoves? Huh. Techmomogy is weird.

Now, I wonder how many Google searches will lead to this post? I'd better close comments on it right away.
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Posted by Ken in: site-businesstechwatch

Apple Watch: Q4 Results In; Mac Announcements Coming Wednesday
Monday, 2010 October 18 - 5:51 pm
In Apple news today: for the fiscal 2010 fourth quarter, Apple reported $4.3 billion in income on $20.3 billion in revenue. That's a 55% increase in earnings and a 66% increase in revenue. I wonder how many other companies are experiencing 50%+ growth rates during an economic downturn?

iPad sales for the quarter were 4.2 million. Analysts had expected about 5 million iPads to be sold, so they were "disappointed". Mind you, these are the same analysts who initially predicted that iPad sales would be between one and five million for the whole year.

Meanwhile, Apple has a press event entitled "Back to the Mac" scheduled for Wednesday. Widely expected: a peek at the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" release, and a revamped MacBook Air, and updates to the iLife and iWork software suites.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple News Roundup
Wednesday, 2010 September 1 - 4:03 pm
From today's event (streamed live on apple.com; the streaming held up pretty well, with only a few blackouts):
  • New iOS versions announced (4.1 now, 4.2 in November)
  • All-new iPod lineup (except the Classic)
  • iTunes 10 with “Ping” (social networking for music)
  • New $99 streaming-only, rentals-only AppleTV with cheaper TV content
Full details after the jump.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New iMac, Mac Pro models today
Tuesday, 2010 July 27 - 7:17 pm
Also: new giant trackpad for use with desktops, and a new 27" Cinema Display.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple News Roundup
Tuesday, 2010 June 22 - 1:00 pm
I'm behind on reporting about some Apple events.

Apple released iOS 4 as a free upgrade for the iPhone and iPod Touch yesterday. I won't go through all the new features; Rene Ritchie has posted a thorough walkthrough. (HT: Daring Fireball)

Apple came out with a new Mac mini last week. It's about half the height of the previous model, but a little bit wider and deeper. Impressively, it now includes the GeForce 320M GPU for greatly improved graphics performance. The bummer is that the starting price is now $699, which is starting to move it out of the "entry-level" category.

Apple announced today that iPad sales have topped 3 million. The funny thing is that a week ago, Forrester Research projected that industry-wide tablet sales for the year would be 3.5 million. They might need to revise that figure somewhat.

Apple stock is currently at $274.85. The stock was boosted last week by news of 600,000 iPhone 4 pre-orders in one day; today it jumped again on the iPad sales numbers.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

iPhone 4 in Brief
Tuesday, 2010 June 8 - 12:16 am
Quick rundown on Apple's iPhone announcements today.

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Apple Watch: New Macbooks
Tuesday, 2010 May 18 - 9:03 pm
Briefly: better battery life (10 hours), slightly faster CPU (2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo), better graphics (NVidia GeForce 320M). Still $999; still a good value. If you get it, get the 4GB upgrade for $100.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Tech Stuff
Friday, 2010 April 30 - 2:41 pm
So a brief interlude between all the lunch reviews and American Idol recaps... there are a few tidbits in the tech world that I need to comment on today.

Amy's iPad 3G arrived today. I'll post unboxing photos and a full overview of it later this weekend. As I noted in my Facebook status: the FedEx guy asked me, "What is this thing? We've had THOUSANDS of them being delivered today." For all the naysayers who figured it would bomb... there's a web site with a running tally of the estimated number of iPads online. As of this moment: over 1.1 million. Some estimates have Apple selling 7 million in 2010.

Meanwhile, Microsoft this week admitted that it would not be releasing its rumored "Courier" device. This thing made a splash a while back when the oh-so-reliable "We Buy Stolen Prototypes" Gizmodo web site claimed that Courier was a real device, in the "late prototype" stage of development. The basis for this was a completely artificial marketing concept video. My guess is that "Courier" had never gone much past the drawing board before Microsoft's developers realized there was no way they'd ever deliver such a device.

And also meanwhile, today HP announced that they were ceasing development on their "Slate" tablet device. Remember this? Microsoftians were certain that this vaporware product, hyped by Steve Ballmer, would easily trump the iPad. Microsoft likes to talk about how they were pioneers in tablet computing... funny how that never translated into any decent products.

I hope this is a lesson for people who are so quickly dismissive of Apple: there is an immense amount of engineering effort that goes into an Apple product, and it's really not easy for other companies to copy them, much less surpass them. Next time Apple comes up with a groundbreaking new device, and you start listing reasons why you'd rather stick with your outdated Creative Nomad MP3 player, your Palm Treo, or your Dell netbook... maybe you'll look back on this week's events and you'll open your mind just a bit.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

New MacBook Pro Lineup Announced Today
Tuesday, 2010 April 13 - 10:29 am
The skinny:

13" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices unchanged at $1199/$1499
  • CPU speed bumped from 2.26/2.53 GHz to 2.40/2.66 GHz; still Core2 Duo.
  • Standard RAM is 4GB on all models (previous low-end model was 2GB).
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 160/250 GB to 250/320GB.
  • GPU is now GeForce 320M instead of GeForce 9400M (Apple says it's up to 80% faster)
  • Headphone port now supports iPhone headset
  • Battery life up from 7 hours to 10 hours

15" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices lineup went from $1699/$1999/$2299 to $1799/$1999/$2199
  • CPU options were 2.53/2.66 GHz Core2 Duo; now 2.4/2.53 GHz Core i5 or 2.66GHz Corei7
  • Standard hard drive lineup up from 250/320/500 GB to 320/500/500 GB
  • GPU is now IntelHD+GeForce GT 330M, instead of GeForce 9400M+9600M; auto-switches on the fly
  • New optional high-res 1680x1050 display
  • Headphone port now supports iPhone headset
  • Built-in subwoofer
  • Battery life up from 7 hours to 8-9 hours

17" MacBook Pro:
  • Prices dropped from $2499 to $2299
  • CPU options were 2.8/3.06GHz Core 2 Duo; now 2.53/2.66 GHz Core i7
  • GPU is now IntelHD+GeForce GT 330M, instead of GeForce 9400M+9600M; auto-switches on the fly
  • Headphone port now supports iPhone headset
  • Built-in subwoofer
  • Battery life up from 7 hours to 8-9 hours

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Punditry
Friday, 2010 January 29 - 9:17 am
I'm reading a lot of "the iPad will be a failure" articles and comments lately. It just brings to mind all the "iPhone will be a failure" comments in 2007, and the "iPod will be a failure" comments in 2001. John C. Dvorak famously argued that Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone and license it out as a reference design to Samsung. Samsung. Or there was this famous Slashdot comment on the iPod: "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." How many people nowadays even remember what a NOMAD was? (It was a bulky, awkward MP3 player from Creative Labs.)

It's true that not every Apple product has been a blockbuster success. Critics immediately point to the Newton and the AppleTV as examples of Apple failures. But the difference with those products is that Steve Jobs did not believe they'd be hits. The Newton was a product that Steve despised; he killed it as soon as he returned to Apple. He described the AppleTV as "hobby" for Apple, an experimental, a dip-your-toes-in-the-water kind of thing. But the things that Jobs predicted would be huge, the iPod and the iPhone, were huge.

And here we've got the iPad. And just like the Nomad user back in 2001, there are people all over the Internet saying things like, "No Flash. Does less than my netbook. Lame." I wonder whose comment will be enshrined in the punditry hall of shame two years from now?
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch


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