by Bill Palmer
Any major computer operating system upgrade is going to come with its share of minor annoyances, unexpected conflicts, and grievances. So I got excited when my MacBook Pro alerted me just how that “MacOS X has a new update for you” via the cool new Mountain Lion feature Notification Center. So I hit it up right away, expecting to see the 10.8.1 update to Mountain Lion which will smooth over the most immediate concerns from users. It’s not that I’ve had any issues with 10.8, and for that matter reports appear to indicate that this is one of the smoothest operating system upgrades across the board in personal computing history. But it was a leap of faith for me to install Mountain Lion on my production machine without waiting for the x.x.1 update first, so when it popped up and told me there was an update I was relieved…
Except, oops, the App Store pops up and tells me that the “MacOS X update” I’d been alerted to is in fact an HP printer driver update. Which would be fascinating if I could even remember the last time I hit the Print button. So, sadly, there’s no 10.8.1 update today. And now, oddly enough, I have my first grievance with Mountain Lion: when something as inconsequential as a printer driver is available, it’s okay to pop up and let me know about it. But tell me that it’s something that inconsequential. Don’t label it as a “MacOS X update” in a manner which makes me think it’s an actual, you know, update to MacOS X.
Okay, end rant. I’m told that 10.8.1 is in fact on its way soon, and we’ll find out before long just what Apple has chosen to fix in this particular update. In the mean time, carry on enjoying your Mac. And if HP printer driver updates get you really excited, well today is your lucky day…
If you thought the new AppleTV would win this category, think again. While Apple’s own TV accessory does a great job with playback of iTunes content, elgato’s eyeTV functions as a DVR for your computer, allowing you to record live TV, which is what most TV viewers tell us they want from a TV accessory. And now with the eyeTV HD, you can record in HD too.
Buy now: $169 at Amazon.com.
by Bill Palmer
The Matias Folding Keyboard isn’t an iPad specific keyboard, but rather a bluetooth wireless folding keyboard suitable for travel and fully compatible with the iPad, the iPhone, and Mac computers. It comes folded in half and folds out to a full size keyboard including number pad. The keys evoke memories of the keyboard Apple used to ship with its Mac computers back in the middle part of the last decade, before Apple’s focus on minimalism kicked in. So those longtime Mac users who appreciated that era will find immediate comfort and familiarity typing on the Folding Keyboard.
When it comes to using the Folding Keyboard with the iPad, which is how I tested it for review purposes, the two products don’t physically connect in any manner, meaning you’re on your own in terms of how you choose to stand up or prop up your iPad. This is good news if you’ve already got a favored method of elevating your iPad, but those users without any such method in mind may have to invest in some kind of stand in order to make this setup work (Matias optionally bundles its own iRizer stand with the iPad).
My take on the Folding Keyboard is that it’s a quite comfortable keyboard to type on. Although it’s quite wide when fully extended, the ability to fold it in half does make it much more palpable for travel. There’s one minor oddity in which activating the Caps Lock functionality requires hitting the Function key and the question mark, but aside from that it’s a pretty straightforward typing experience. My only complaint would be that while most iPad-specific keyboards include the same iPad-specific function keys across the top as Apple’s official iPad keyboard dock, the F1 through F15 keys atop the Folding Keyboard don’t do anything with the iPad. However, the Folding Keyboard does have its own volume and mute keys, so you do at least get a partial replacement for the iPad function keys. How much you little you’ll miss not having the music playback, search, and home keys will probably go a long way toward dictating whether you this keyboard as being iPad-appropriate.
Interestingly, while most iPad-specific keyboards have internal batteries which recharge via USB, the Folding Keyboard instead runs on a pair of AAA batteries, which are included.
As as side note, although it has no relevance to iPad users, there’s also a wired USB version of the Folding Keyboard available for Mac users.
by Bill Palmer
The STM Scout is a shoulder bag intent on keeping your laptop tucked away safely inside. Offered in a choice of black, brown-ish, or green-ish earth tone colors, the Scout makes a statement right off the bat by using a two-pronged plastic latch to keep the front face flap closed as opposed the simple snap or velcro of most other similar bags. The con is that it’ll take you a second longer to get the front flap open, but the pro is that there’s no way that flap is coming open of its own accord during travel. Once you do open it, the internal laptop pocket is sealed off by a full width velcro flap of its own, meaning that your laptop still isn’t exposed at all even with the flap open.
In front of the laptop pocket is an open full-width pocket, a pair of half-width pockets in front of it, and a zippered pouch wedged in between. The shoulder strap is highly comfortable thanks to the padded shoulder area. My only complaint would be that the hand strap is significantly smaller than those found on most other shoulder bags, meaning that you’ll have to wedge your four fingers in there a bit if you have larger hands and you want to carry the bag in your hand. Then again, they call it a “shoulder bag” for a reason, so the undersized handstrap is less of an issue here than it would be on an actual handbag.
Overall there’s a lot to like with the STM Scout. It’s a sturdy bag, keeps your laptop tucked away nicely, and if you don’t mind living with a single color design, looks attractive. It comes in ten inch, thirteen inch, and fifteen inch sizes (I only tested the fifteen inch), at $49, $59, and $69 respectively.
buy now: $49-$69 at STMbags.com.
by Bill Palmer
The Nuo Eco-Friendly Canvas Messenger Bag takes a traditional laptop bag form factor and adds a splash to via an interesting combination of earth tone colors. It’s also, as Nuo has made clear via the product’s name, manufactured in an environmentally conscious manner. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Canvas Messenger is that unlike a lot of other messenger bags which employ some degree of semi-hardshell structure to their bottom and/or sides, this bag could be more accurately described as being floppy, which is to say that when empty, you can scrunch the entire bag up in your hands. But don’t get the wrong idea, as it’s a well made bag; it’s just more flexible than a lot of others which adopt the same form factor.
The front flap, which covers nearly the entire front face of the bag, opens with a snap. Inside is a semi-velcroed laptop pocket which is aimed at fifteen inch laptops but Nuo says it also works with some seventeen inch laptops such as the seventeen inch MacBook Pro. I can’t vouch for the latter, as I was only able to test the bag with a fifteen inch MacBook Pro. But based on eyeballing it, I’m inclined to take their word for it. In front of the laptop pocket is another full width pocket with a pair of half-width velcro pockets inside. Interestingly, the front exterior of the bag (under the front flap) offers holders for three pens as well as a see-through ID holder. This could come in handy for those travelers who are looking to keep their ID handy as they’re wading through airport security.
If I had a minor criticism of the Nuo Canvas Messenger, it’s that the laptop pocket is only partially sealed off by the velcro, meaning that as soon as you open the main flap, parts of your laptop’s top edge are exposed. Not an issue for careful travelers, but in these days of TSA lunacy, I like my laptop to be under as many layers of protective material as possible for when they start manhandling things. But that’s a minor at most.
Overall, I like this bag because it feels well built, it’s got styling that’s interesting without being outlandish, and because it feels lightweight and comfortable during use.
buy now: $59 at Nuo-Tech.com.
by Bill Palmer
The days of using a “laptop” computer on your lap are falling by the wayside thanks to the increased processing power of today’s laptops and the resulting heat which gets applied directly to your lap if you’re not careful. Logitech’s Lapdesk N700 attempts to resolve that and in fact goes whole hog with additional features. The product is close to two feet wide, with a hard plastic top surface and upholstered on bottom, designed to sit over your knees. It’s as large as it is because of what it’s also got built in.
Attempting to correct another widespread laptop deficiency in the form of cruddy built-in speakers, the Lapdesk has speakers built into it, which are powered by your laptop via a built-in USB cable, no electrical outlet involved. The speakers sound pretty good, significantly better than any built-in Mac or PC laptop speakers I’ve heard. They don’t measure up to the best $79 standalone computer speakers on the market, but that’s to be expected considering the nature of the product. On board volume controls allow you to adjust the volume of the speakers independent of your laptop’s volume. That’s redundant if your laptop has easily accessible volume controls of its own, but no harm done in that case.
Also built into the Lapdesk is a fan, which is nice because I found it to be completely silent with my laptop sitting on top of it, and it prevented my laptop’s own built-in fans from coming on, which do make noise when they run. The fan can be toggled on or off.
The verdict? From a usability standpoint, it’s a fairly comfy product. It is on the large side, however (there’s also a smaller model, the N550, not tested). Basically, you’ve got to be looking to take advantage of the speakers for the product’s size or price tag to be worth it, as otherwise there are plenty of lapdesks out there that are less bulky and less expensive that don’t have speakers built in. But if the feature set of the Logitech Lapdesk N700 meets your needs, you could get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it.
Price: $69 • Logitech.com
FaceTime is coming to the Macintosh computer platform, says Apple CEO Steve Jobs. FaceTime is the company’s video phone call software which was originally launched for Apple’s iOS4 devices earlier this year. FaceTime for Mac will allow Mac users to make video calls with iPhone and iPod touch users. FaceTime for Mac is being released as a standalone app in beta-test form today via apple.com. The tool has been the focus of the majority of Apple’s television commercials for the past several months.
Apple has also announced the new “Lion” verzion of MacOS X, which includes a Mac themed App Store similar to the iOS App Store. Although Lion won’t be released until summer 2011, the Mac App Store will launch on the current MacOS Snow Leopard within ninety days.
Microsoft is considering buying Adobe Systems, say the headlines. It’s an odd move, considering that Adobe’s twenty-first century innovation most closely resembles that of a rotting corpse; the company inexplicably thinks it can build the embarrassingly obsolete technology known as Flash into some kind of platform of the future, while the company’s near monopoly in creative pro software markets like Photoshop and Dreamweaver is the only reason it still exists. Microsoft has a nearly limitless amount of cash on hand, so buying Adobe (currently worth about fourteen billion on the open market) would be easy enough. But even Microsoft isn’t crazy enough to bet on Flash as being anything other than the bane of internet users everywhere, meaning that Microsoft is only after one thing: the creative pro market.
And it all makes sense: while Apple’s Macintosh marketshare has been growing significantly each quarter for the past several years, Windows still has majority marketshare in every single user category, except one. When it comes to creative professionals, Macs rule the market and always have. Even stodgy corporations with strict Windows-only policies elsewhere in the company still typically have a graphic design department full of nothing but Macs. But these users rely on Adobe products first and foremost, and the one surefire way to make them think twice about continuing to do their work on a Mac would be to cripple or even take away entirely their ability to use said Adobe products. Even as much as Adobe and Apple seem to hate each other these days, Adobe would never consider pulling the plug on the Mac versions of its core products, because the financial impact on Adobe would be nothing short of devastating. But if Adobe were to become a mere (financially) small subsidiary of Microsoft, ditching the Mac versions and throwing away sales to Mac users in the process wouldn’t be anything more than a rounding error in Microsoft’s bottom line.
Assuming Microsoft really is eyeing Adobe for the sake of trying to force the creative market onto Windows, rather than the insane notion of wanting to be the owner of the boat anchor known as Flash, Apple would do well to block the move at all costs – even if that means Apple buying Adobe itself. Based on market capitalization, Apple is nearly twenty times the size of Adobe, so a buyout would certainly be possible even though it wouldn’t likely be entirely in cash. Such a move would allow Apple to seize control over Adobe’s creative apps, perhaps even burying the Windows versions. With Apple consistently demonstrating a better understanding of software design than Adobe, apps like Photoshop would benefit from the polish of being in Apple’s hands, while Apple could finally kill off Flash (and win the adoration of internet users everywhere for being the one to put it out of its misery). On the other hand, there’s the question of whether killing off the Windows versions of Photoshop and Dreamweaver would be wise, as doing so would create a vacuum for competitors to thrive in when it comes to corporate environments in which creative professionals are being forced by policy to do their creative work on Windows PCs. As such, Apple might end up having to not only spread its resources thin to maintain the Mac versions of Adobe apps, but also invest resources in maintaining the Windows versions – a complete waste of time for Apple.
Still, Apple can’t allow Adobe’s creative apps to fall into the hands of rival Microsoft, even if the latter promised to continue development of the Mac versions (knowing Microsoft, they’d be crippled in one deniable manner or another). Although apps are looking like the future of computing, and desktop software is increasingly looking like the past, this is one instance in which Apple might have to invest in the past to protect itself in the present.
Twitter has previewed a new Twitter.com interface, which is good news for me because it’s still how I use Twitter when on my Mac. And yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that. Having long ago shifted over to a real app on my iPhone (after trying a bunch I settled on Tweetie, and so did the folks at Twitter), I’ve never found a third party desktop Twitter app that I considered usable. I know a lot of folks love TweetDeck, but it’s so busy it makes me feel like my house is on fire. And while Tweetie for Mac shows potential, that’s all it’s ever showed, as there’s just too much about it that doesn’t work for me. So here I am, one of the biggest proponents of shifting everything beyond basic reading out of the pitifully-outdated concept known as the web browser and into real desktop apps, both on my Mac and, if you want, on your PC (but that’s another conversation). In fact pretty much all I do through a web browser these days is read articles, as everything from email to chatting to music shopping are conducted in nicely done desktop apps. With the exception, of course, of Twitter and Facebook. And so today’s revamped new Twitter.com makes me both happy and sad.
The demo looks promising, but that’s a relative term. The new overhaul appears to do or Twitter.com what Gmail did for webmail, which is to take a concept that should have never, ever been attempted in something as lame as a web browser, and has always been a needlessly crappy experience because it’s bound in a web browser, and basically make it less crappy – but still very much on the crappy side. I say “appears” because hey, I’ve got to be fair and use it before passing any real judgment. But the idea that the good folks at Twitter have somehow managed to be the first entity in history to pull off a not-crappy experience within a web browser is, well, skepticism-inducing at best.
But still, less crappy is a good thing, and so I’m happy about the new Twitter.com. Here’s why I’m every bit as sad, though: the folks at Twitter finally figured out this year that apps are the only proper way to use Twitter, at least on the mobile side. There’s now an official free Twitter app for iPhone, iPad, and every other major smartphone out there. That’s the good news. The bad news is that that particular revelation hasn’t yet sunk in on the desktop side, as Twitter is still clearly investing a lot of resources into revamping its Mac and PC web browser interface when in my opinion those resources should have instead been almost wholly dumped into producing real desktop Twitter apps for Mac and PC.
Maybe that’s coming and we just don’t know it. After all, the future of Tweetie for Mac in the wake of Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie for iPhone (and its sole developer) is still not entirely publicly clear. And I know that Twitter will probably say they’re focusing their resources on the web browser interface because it’s what most people use to access Twitter on their computers anyway. And that’s true. But imagine if, back in the 1980′s, Apple had said it was going to continue to put most of its resources into the Apple II because that’s what most Apple customers were using, even though the new concept called the Macintosh had just rolled out and was clearly the future. Wait, actually, come to think of it, that’s exactly what Apple did when it fired Steve Jobs in 1985 and continued to push the Apple II on the public for several more years while treating the Mac like a niche. And as a result, Apple lost the desktop wars by focusing on yesterday’s technology, simply because it’s what most of its customers were using at the time.
If it’s any consolation to the folks at Twitter, the much-better-funded Facebook is making the exact same mistake. Oddly enough, the only one who’s getting it right is Apple with Ping, by building it into the iTunes desktop app for Mac and PC rather than having launched it as yet another sadly outdated browser-based social network. True, most folks are conditioned by now to do things through a web browser when they’re told to, no matter how crappy it is. But then again, iTunes has a good ten times the marketshare as AmazonMP3, despite the latter’s generally lower prices, with the only real difference being that iTunes is offered through a real app and AmazonMP3 is crippled by the confines of a web browser, thus offering a user experience that no one but a geek could love.
So I’m glad there’s a new and improved Twitter.com, as it’s what I’m still (humiliatingly, regretfully) using for all of my Twitter activities on my Mac, even here in 2010. But the way things are going, “Where’s my official desktop Twitter app?” is about to become the next future-woe refrain along the lines of “I was told there’d be flying cars.”
Apple has announced its revenue figures for the quarter that just ended on June 30th. The company says it made $15.7 billion in revenue during that span, which represents a sixty percent increase over the year ago quarter. The quarter included just the first seven days of sales of the new iPhone as well as the first few months of iPad sales. However the revenue increase was not merely the result of new product launches, as sales of Macintosh computers were up thirty-three percent over the year-ago quarter. According to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, “It was a phenomenal quarter that exceeded our expectations all around, including the most successful product launch in Apple’s history with iPhone 4,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPad is off to a terrific start, more people are buying Macs than ever before, and we have amazing new products still to come this year.”
Just landed on my desk this afternoon: elgato’s new eyetv HD, a high definition DVR box aimed at bringing live television to your computer screen, and like all good DVRs, allowing you to record shows so you can watch them later. The eyetv HD acts as a bridge between your cable TV box or satellite TV box and your computer, plugging into your Mac’s USB port (sorry PC users, like so many other great products, this one is Mac-only). etetv HD comes with software which allows you to perform HD duties via your Mac’s screen.
In my tests I’ll be looking to see how easy the setup is, whether the DVR software is as easy and capable as that of a traditional DVR (or hopefully better), and as this product is being advertised as High Definition, picture quality will be quite important as well. I’m also interested to see how TV playback will coexist with the rest of what’s happening on my Mac at the time. Now I’m off to watch some television as part of my, ahem, testing duties. I’ll come back with a full review for you once I’m done.
General Motors has informed its employees that when referencing its Chevrolet line of cars, they should no longer use the “Chevy” nickname in any capacity. In a memo to its employees, GM (no word on whether the company no longer wants to be referred to as “GM”) stressed the consistency of branding, according to the New York Times (also known as the NY Times). In the memo, GM said it wants the Chevrolet brand to benefit from the same consistency which other iconic brands like Coke and Apple receive. No word on whether GM sees the irony in the fact that “Coke” is a nickname for Coca-Cola; in doing so, GM pointed to the success of a brand which is more often referred to by its nickname than its official name as a reason why Chevrolet should not be referred to by its nickname. Apple may be an even stranger reference point, as its products are increasingly popular despite the fact that even its users consistently confuse the company name “Apple” and the product name “Mac” and that the company’s retails outlets are branded simply by a symbol with no wording at all.
No word on whether GM executives plan to drive their Chevrolet to the levrolet (sorry, we had to go there).
It’s not the time of year for kids to go off to college (that’s in the fall), nor is it the time of year in which Apple would usually be preparing to introduce a new iPod touch model (traditionally the second week of September), but Apple is indeed looking to pawn off some iPod touch inventory on some college kids by offering them a free one along with the purchase of a Mac. The deal is offered through Apple’s online education store, which also offers students modest discounts. While the June timing of a college promotion does seem odd, it turns out the offer is valid through September 7th – putting it right in the date range of when Apple does typically update its iPod lineup. In any case, between now and then, students can get their hands on a free iPod touch, which would normally set them back two hundred bucks, if they buy a new Mac from Apple.
Google is abandoning the Windows platform internally for what it says are security failures, making the search giant the latest in a string of corporate entities leaving Windows behind. More interesting, however, is that Google plans to shift not merely to its own experimental Chrome operating system and the open source Linux platform, but also the Macintosh platform which comes from its rival Apple, according to a PC World report. Google’s (partial) move to the Mac internally comes at a time when Apple itself is reportedly considering abandoning Google as the default search tool for its Safari browser on its iPhone and iPad in favor of a Microsoft product, the oft-scoffed Bing. While Google has made no official announcements regarding its internal choice of operating systems (nor is there reason to believe that the company ever will make an official announcement one way or the other), the report states that Google employees have been informed that they’ll need approval from a higher up if they feel they need to continue using Windows while at work. The fact that Google is set to partially rely on the operating system of an increasingly bitter rival in Apple, rather than fully committing to its own Chrome operating system, suggests that Chrome OS isn’t nearly as far along or as tenable of an option as some geek pundits have proclaimed.
RadTech announces four new colors for their form-fitting laptop cover the STM Glove. These covers fit any Apple and most PC laptops to provide individuality to a reliable and durable product. The STM Glove fits most laptops like, well, a glove. It protects your computer from dust, spills, and more. Whether youíre on the go or just stepping away from your notebook for a while, the STM Glove steps up to protect your investment. Choose from orange, blue, red, pink, or original black to match your personality. For $24.95, it comes with a lifetime warranty for true peace of mind.
iSkin unveils a new line of laptop bags that mix functionality with style. The new silo line includes three styles: silo Slim, silo Tote, and silo Messenger. There are also five different prints for the bags, consisting of Ami, Happy Friends, Karl the Ninja, Royal, and Digital Camo. Each fits up to a 15 inch laptop. The silo Slim is minimal and has a small pocket to carry goodies, while the silo Tote has two extra accessory pockets and two mesh pockets. The silo Messenger is for those busy individuals who take a lot of necessities with them. The bags range in price from $140 to $150 at www.iSkin.com.
Note: I wrote this back in late 2003. In light of recent news out of Apple that Macintosh sales have jumped yet another thirty-three percent this quarter, I thought it might be a good time to look back at a time when being Mac user typically meant having to be on the offensive, and how some of my thoughts on the matter back then may or may not apply today…
Apple’s “Switch” campaign failed, right? Tens of millions of PC users didn’t rush to Apple Stores and purchase enough Macs to have any noticeable effect on worldwide marketshare, so let’s just label the whole thing a flop and move on. Well, wait a minute now…did we miss something?
Sure you did, if you’re of the camp who can’t see beyond the immediate-term, and who can’t step back and see the long-range benefits that Apple has reaped by choosing to run its “Switch to the Macintosh” campaign when it did. I want to highlight four key areas in which I believe that the Switch campaign has helped Apple — whether it originally planned it that way or not:
iTunes Music Store marketing
Before you can get Windows users to boldly download anything from Apple, even for free, you’ve got to at least get them believing that Apple is still a viable company that makes a viable product. The Switch campaign notified Windows users everywhere that a) Apple is still in business, b) the Mac is a platform that someone somewhere must still be using, and c) Apple is proud enough of its computers to dare suggest that Windows users try one out. So even those viewers who didn’t take enough away from the Switch campaign to actually buy a Mac, were still presented with ample evidence that Apple is still a player. Ask yourself: are you more likely to download music store software from a company that you mistakenly believe is about to give up the ghost, or a company who has the guts to recruit you as a user?
Power Macintosh G5
Rather than Apple simply coming out of nowhere claiming to have developed the world’s fastest personal computer, Windows-using viewers were first presented with a cast of characters who had switched to the Mac for reasons other than pure speed. In other words, Apple first said, “hey, switch to the Mac, it’s easier and better,” and then later came back and added, “oh, by the way, now we’re the fastest on top of it all.” It’s a one-two punch that might not have had the same impact if the order had been reversed. Windows users more bent on speed than usability might simply have tuned out the G5 commercials if they hadn’t been softened up by the Switch commercials first.
Waking up the sleepy Mac users
Unbelievable as it may seem, there is no shortage of Mac users out there who still have no idea about MacOS X or the iApp revolution. I’ve come across one too many users who bought their iMac primarily because they liked the color or the shape, and are still plodding along on MacOS 9 (or 8.6 even) and, being the type who pays little attention to the latest developments within the world of personal computing, has no idea what Apple has been up to, or how much they’re missing out on. Unfortunately, these are the types that Apple faces losing to Windows, for reasons every bit as valid as, let’s say, the Dell Dude. Although the Switch campaign was officially targeted at Windows users, it did just as good of a job of getting the message out to sleepy Mac users who out of their own ignorance, aren’t enjoying more than a fraction of their Mac’s potential.
Call to arms
Many a Mac user has long wanted to knock down the door of everyone they know, and proclaim the superiority of the Macintosh, in the hopes of getting them all to move to the Mac. Well, Apple’s Switch campaign has finally made it socially acceptable to do so. Now, Mac users who can’t shut up about their platform choice are looked at by Windows users as evidence that the Switch ads are true, not simply as oddballs who made a strange computing choice for some strange reason. In other words, Apple declared open season on every Windows user who has a Mac-using friend, family member, co-worker, or acquaintance. As anyone who’s “helped” a friend Switch to the Mac can attest, for most Windows users it’s a long process in which several layers of misconception, fear, uncertainty, and doubt must be peeled away one at a time. Apple’s Switch campaign was the catalyst that started the process in so many of these cases.
in other words…
PC users who make up their mind to Switch to the Mac but own a six-month old PC aren’t likely to buy that Mac until they’ve used up a little more of their PC’s useful life, or finished paying for their PC, or both. I can personally think of a number of PC users who are 100% certain that their next computer will be a Mac, and are simply waiting until the time is right for them. And from what I’ve seen around the net, there are a significant number of users currently in this “holding pattern.” So although they haven’t bought their Mac and added their purchase to the statistical gods, the Switch campaign has already succeeded in converting them.
In addition, journalistic outlets worldwide appear to be full of self-proclaimed Switchers who are all too happy to share their experiences with their viewers and readers. The impact that this “first wave” of Switchers will have on those who are generally followers when it comes to computer decisions, well that remains to be seen. Let’s face it, most people who own a particular brand of PC purchased it because someone else told them to. And most of them who Switch to the Mac will do so because someone else told them to, as well.
But one way or another, I believe that the effects of Apple’s Switch campaign are only now surfacing, as it has breathed legitimacy into Apple’s subsequent ad campaigns, and it has given Mac users everywhere the go-ahead to become active Mac advocates within their own circles. Although “Switch” will never get the credit it deserves, it helped to get the party started in various ways.
So much for these being hard times where no one wants to pay for a product unless it’s been discounted. Apple reported its quarterly earnings this afternoon which included $13.5 billion on overall revenue, three billion of which was profit. Compared to the same quarter a year ago, revenue was up forty-nine percent while profit was up an eye-popping ninety percent, confirming that consumers are increasingly willing to pay Apple’s asking prices for its products even in instances where competing products can be found at significantly cheaper price points.
So how did Apple pull it off this past quarter? Nearly nine million iPhones were sold, more than double the number being sold this time last year, along with nearly eleven million iPods – which represented a perhaps humorous one percent drop in year ago sales, presumably as longtime buyers of classic iPod models increasingly find their way to the iPhone instead. These sales numbers do not reflect the iPad, which went on sale after the reporting quarter had ended. Apple also sold 2.94 million Macintosh computers (desktops and laptops combined) during the stretch, representing a thirty-three percent increase over the previous year.
Referring to it as the best non-holiday quarter in the company’s history, Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked “We’ve launched our revolutionary new iPad and users are loving it, and we have several more extraordinary products in the pipeline for this year.”
These are the numbers as Apple has reported them. We’ll crunch them further to try to put them into greater context, and see if there’s any bad news hidden anywhere within what appears to have been all around good news for the company.
Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetie for iPhone (and its developer Loren Brichter) has led users of sister product Tweetie for Mac to ponder the future of the product; while Twitter has made it clear that Tweetie will serve as the basis for both the official Twitter iPhone and and official iPad app, the company made no mention of the Mac version.
As it turns out, Brichter appears to be continuing work on Tweetie 2 for Mac despite the acquisition, according to a post he made today on some Mac forums:
“Hey all – first of all I apologize for any confusion, things have been a bit crazy! I just want to says I’m blasting through the todo list to get a beta put together as fast as I can, the Mac UI stuff I’ve been prototyping is just too cool to have anything else happen to it. Sorry for keeping it short, gotta get back to coding!”
[Thanks to John Gruber – yes, that John Gruber - for spotting this.]
This question first came up when the iPhone hit the market in 2007: since the iPhone is a piece of Apple hardware that runs a (stripped down, modified) version of the MacOS X operating system, was the iPhone in fact a tiny Macintosh computer? And if so, did that mean that those Windows PC users who bought an iPhone suddenly became both a Mac and a PC user? The question got kicked around hypothetically quite a bit in the iPhone’s early days, but in the end it was generally realized that while buying an iPhone significantly increased the chances that you’d become a Mac user the next time you went to buy a new computer, it didn’t mean that having an iPhone made you a de facto Mac user; that designation remained limited solely to those who owned a piece of hardware that actually had the word “Mac” in its title.
But today, with the iPad, the question gets asked all over again – and perhaps this time the answer is not the same. The iPad, again, runs a stripped down and modified version of MacOS X. But having spent some quality time with an iPad today, it feels more like I’m using a small-ish touchscreen computer than a big iPhone (actually, the iPad’s screen doesn’t feel that cramped, despite the device itself seeming to be much smaller when in your hands than its ten inch height might have suggested). So, does a Windows PC user who buys an iPad become a de facto Mac user? There are arguments on both sides. If someone is using a device that runs signature Macintosh software like the iWork suite, it’s hard to say that they’re not using a Mac. Then again, just because a Windows PC user is using iTunes, Safari, and QuickTime on his PC every day, it doesn’t make him some kind of de facto Mac user; of course, those are Windows-specific versions of those apps we’re talking about, so maybe it’s not the same scenario.
Perhaps it comes down to each new iPad owner’s usage pattern. Many desktop PC users will his keep their desktop but their iPad in place of a laptop (in fact, for some people the iPad will be the first “laptop” they ever own). Others will find a way to put a desktop, a laptop, and an iPad to good use (or in many cases, just a laptop and an iPad). And there will be a small number of people who will adopt the iPad as their only computing device, a group whose size may well increase dramatically as time goes on and the iPad’s hardware specs grow up to rival that of today’s lower end laptops.
While these things are open to debate and we’ll surely know more once we see just how the iPad-buying public ends up putting their new baby to use, I’m going to go ahead and tentatively say that everyone who uses their iPad in a regular capacity, to do things that are meaningful to them, as opposed to just being an occasional toy, can now be referred to as a Mac user (or at least a cross-platform user) – whether the iPad-buying Windows users of the world like that title or not.