Technological Tangents.

Jun 11

Dear Gamers: STFU.

image

Seriously. Just stop it.

For whatever reason, us gamers (yes, I’m going to clump myself in that broad “gamer” category, as well) like to think the world is against us. We like to believe that “The Man” is trying to ruin not only the world, but more importantly, the gaming industry. In response, we are on a lifelong mission to stick it to said man.

Read More

Mar 09

The Mysteries of the Apple Product Cycle

The announcement of the iPad 3 iPad HD new iPad has come and gone, and the overwhelming chatter on the web sounds a bit disappointed. This whole situation is all too reminiscent of the launch of the iPhone 4S. I, much like the rest of the world, was a bit underwhelmed by the iPhone 4S. I thought for having year and a half period of time elapse between the two iPhone releases, I expected more. People apparently feel the same with the release of the new iPad. Strangely (or not?), though…I am satisfied.

I’ve begun to view these mobile products in a different light than in the past. The problem with the general public right now, is that we are all expecting magical to be released on a yearly cycle. Problem with that: we already have a pretty darn good idea of what to expect, given the insane amount of rumors that are abound prior to any Apple product release. Obviously, this takes some of the magic out of a product launch.

But that is not all. Apple is the company that has revolutionized so many areas of consumer electronics. iPod. iPhone. iPad. One could even argue that the iMac changed the idea of what a ‘desktop’ is. The original launch of each of these truly was amazing and changed the entire industry. However as the fickle little consumers we are, we expect this sort of revolution each time an Apple exec takes the stage at one of these keynote events. Sorry to break it to you world…the times are changing.

When word first broke that Apple was dropping the numbering system on their iPad product line, it caught me off guard, and even confused me. I couldn’t figure out why…maybe this is a small update and the iPad 3 will come out in the fall? Who knows? But then it made perfect sense. These mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone are no different than the iMac or MacBook. My laptop is not the MacBook 7. It’s just the MacBook. When they release a “new” version, it’s still just the MacBook…only updated and better. Even when they made the major transition in their MacBook line from the black and white plastic to the sexy aluminum unibody back in 2008. It was still the MacBook! So this is exactly the path they are taking with the iPad, and presumably with the iPhone, too.

Suffice to say, we should be perfectly happy when Apple updates these products. No need to get upset that it didn’t blow your mind. It is simply an update. Naturally, some updates will be better than others, but that is how technology and business evolve. If anything, dropping the number from the tail of iPad may open the door to new versions of the iPad…iPad Mini, anyone?

Now, this article isn’t trying to say that the magic from Apple is gone. People are just looking for this magic in the wrong place. As hard as Apple may push it, these upgrades to their major product lines are not revolutionary. The first iteration was, but not the subsequent 6 versions.

That said, I’m sure Apple does have some magic up their sleeves, and it goes by the name of the iTV. This is the product that will revolutionize TV as we know it. Okay…so maybe those are lofty expectations, but that is what the world of Apple rumors is saying. We try to imagine how it may function, but until we actually get our hands on it, we can only let our imaginations run wild. Furthermore, the inevitable release of the iTV will coincide with the major new product line launch that Apple has become accustomed to every few years.

2010: iPad

2008: MacBook Air

2007: iPhone

2004: iMac 5th Gen

2001: iPod

It’s been a couple years now since a major release, and 2012 may be in line for the launch of the iTV. At this point, though, all we can do is start to embrace the upgrade…and hope to see more magic!

Feb 12

The future of the Xbox Controller

I recently came across a rumor reporting that the controller for the next Xbox (720?) will have a multitouch screen in it, along the lines of the Wii U controller. The article noted that the look of it may be more along the lines of what we see in the PS Vita and iPad. Specifically, noting it will be more sleek rather than the fun and cute feel of the Wii U.

I’m not sure what to make of this rumor. Part of me thinks this makes sense, seeing as technology seems to be trending towards multitouch devices. However, the other part of me remembers that Microsoft has put tons of time and money into developing and marketing the Kinect. Now apparently the sales of this have been pretty good. I can only assume then, that MSFT will will be ramping up their efforts of developing an even more advanced Kinect 2 for the next iteration of the Xbox.

My point here, is that those good folks over in Redmond, WA have focused on building a console and interface around that. Just look at the new Xbox Dashboard. While I don’t have a Kinect, I get the feeling that just talking to your Xbox is a pretty cool thing. Assuming Microsoft has, in fact, been working hard on developing the Kinect 2, we are sure to see some major improvements, which should reflect in future games, too. That said, why would Microsoft need another input such as multitouch when they have such a natural input like speech or movement?

Now don’t get me wrong, I do see the draw to multitouch (I do have an iPad, myself), and I can imagine how it would be implemented in a console, but I’m just not so sure it’s really what Microsoft needs, now that they are pushing the Kinect.

I suppose at this point all we can do is wait patiently. I expect that we will be hearing some more details by the time E3 rolls around this summer.

Feb 04

“Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around … That’s the radio. If you really want to hear it, let’s make it available, let them hear it, let them hear the 95% of it.” — Neil Young

Feb 03

Coursekit: the future of online course management.

                                 

For those of you who don’t know, I’m very interested all things technology. In terms of career goals, I see myself helping a tech company brand themselves. While I’m finishing up my undergrad degree, though, I figured I should make the most of it. I’m currently taking a very cool class called Software Startups. The premise: we form groups with students from all backgrounds and are given the job of essentially building a business from the ground up. It’s a pretty cool concept for a university course, if you ask me.

After much deliberation, my group chose to create a simple, social, and streamlined online course manager. For those of you who are students, we’ve seen the likes of Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT (now bought out by Blackboard), and several others. The problem with all of these? They’re a pain to use. They’re clunky. Maybe this is being nit picky, but they simply look bad.

My Software Startups group thought it would be great if we could somehow create a unified experience where students and professors alike can come, connect, and learn together. Yeah yeah…that’s all flowers and rainbows, but it’s true. We can do so much better than these platforms! The reason we don’t is because us students (the end-user) have grown complacent, and have simply accepted the garbage these huge companies like Blackboard and Moodle give us.

So as you can imagine, at this point I was pretty pumped up to change the world of online education! While doing some research, I came across something quite interesting, though…

This group of guys from the University of Pennsylvania actually had the same idea as me, and set off to build a company called Coursekit!

The slight difference between us though: they actually had a working product, whereas I just had an idea and some wishful thinking. All jealousy aside, I was extremely impressed with the product they had put out! However, I only got a taste of the demo, seeing as the majority of the professors at my school are still stuck using Moodle (which we happened to just switch over to). But even from my glimpse into the world of Coursekit, I could tell these guys had not only come up with an awesome idea, but implemented it slickly.

It has countless features including a calendar, course syllabus, peer contact info, and even a chat feature! My favorite aspect of it has be the interface. It is so clean, with everything you could possibly need just right up in front of you. No more digging around looking for today’s class notes. Just hit up the resources and you’re there. Have a question for the rest of the class? Don’t have a hernia looking for the forum…simply post something into the course stream.

If I may go out on a limb, I would say that Course Stream is mildly reminiscent to that of Facebook. This design choice, though, is brilliant. What is the one website that 99.99999% of the students go to when they’re “studying”? Myspace. (Edited in 2006) Facebook! So why not make the interface very transferable from a website that everyone is already comfortable with.

However, if I were to say that the Coursekit Stream is the equivalent to that of Facebook, I’d be selling it short. The filter features that Coursekit offers turns this into more than just a stream of your friends’ updates about what they did last night. It’s a whole new way to interact with your peers and your instructors. Say you remember your professor uploading a video all the way back in November, and you want to access it again. You don’t have to scroll through to try to find it. Just click a few filters and it narrows it down as easy as that!

I could go on and on trying to explain all the great features of Coursekit, but that would do no good. I recommend you take the demo out for a test run for yourself! Unfortunately my time in undergrad is coming to a close, but I hope that for the future students, professors adopt this up!

Coursekit has a really neat product here, and a real opportunity to change the way students get involved with their eduction. This would be one exciting company to be a part of going into the future!

Nov 22

[video]

Nov 18

Predictions for Next Gen Consoles

It’s hard to believe that we are only a few days away from the Xbox 360’s 6 year birthday! In fact, the other day was the 10 year birthday of the Xbox product line (from the release of the original Xbox). Congrats, Xbox! I think it’s safe to say that this piece of hardware has had its fair share of failures over the course of its life. Yet, it has also rebounded nicely, and has consistently beat out Sony’s PS3 in the console wars over the course of this current generation. It is interesting to see how the Xbox 360 product has evolved from being an expensive, high-end gaming console targeted at moderate to hardcore gamers. Today, I think it’s safe to say that while it does garner a large portion of that segment of consumers, it has done a reasonably good job of taking some of the wind of Nintendo’s sails by going after those consumers who will use a console as a family device. The $199 starting price point matches that focus, as does the new emphasis on Microsoft Kinect. All in all, Microsoft has done a fine job of reaching out to all sorts of consumers: those who will enjoy bustin’ some grooves on Dance Central, and those who will enjoy bustin’ some brains in Gears of War.

On the other side of things, Sony had to make up some lost ground from not only a year long lag time after the release of the 360, but also an high launch price, starting at $499 for the base 20GB model, and reaching $599 for the 60GB unit. Undoubtedly, this was a more advanced system than the 360, and was thus geared towards the more hardcore of gamers. Because of that, Sony truly had some issues playing catch up. Nevertheless, they have done a commendable job of really creating value for this product. Also not to forget one of my favorite ad campaigns of all time:

I must say, while I am an avid Xbox 360 user, Mr. Butler had a pretty good smack on the Kinect at 0:49. I also must add this: after having a chance to give both the Kinect and the PS Move a try (at Best Buy), I must confess that I had a better experience on the PS Move. Granted, both were a very limited sample.

So that was a look at this current generation of consoles, but now begs the question: what comes next? There has been plenty of online chatter and speculation about what might show up in the next iteration of both of these consoles. Rather than taking stabs in the dark about the exact specifications, I’m going to take a more broad approach, and look at how both of these companies may try to follow up their recent success.



'Microsoft Xbox 720'


Name

First up, the ‘Xbox 720’. While there has been no leaks from Microsoft, the name that is being tossed around the web is naturally the ‘720’, considering it is the next step after the 360. While logical, I am not so sure this is the way they are going to go. Lately, it seems that there has been a shift from creative product names, and instead moving to “safer” names focused on the product line, itself. Some examples of this include Apple’s iPhone 4(S) and the Playstation 3. Even Microsoft has done this with their operating system, already announcing the successor to Windows 7 will be Windows 8. Keep in mind, this is after they tried out a creative name in Windows Vista. In addition, there have been rumors that the next Xbox will have some sort of Windows 8 running on it, but I will touch more on that later. If my hunch is right, the name to the next version of Microsofts video game console will be the Xbox 3. But as I write that…part of me is not so sure. First off, it doesn’t look good, nor does it roll of the tongue as smoothly as something like the Playstation 3. Also, it might be a bit too similar to the 360…simply dropping off two digits from the name. Then again, Microsoft could go back to the drawing boards and come up with something creative. I’ll leave that up to them to decide.

Hardware

The next aspect I will address is what sort of performance this console will have. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not about to go into details of the hardware, but take a more relative stance. Considering Microsoft’s current target market, they are going to try to keep the price within reach of every type of consumer. To accomplish that, they are not going to be stuffing this console full of the next great technology, much like what they did with the 360. At the time, it was a very good piece of hardware, but nothing to blow the roof off. They will likely take the same route this time around (it seemed to have worked last time).

Appearance

What will the device look like? Well…it appears that Microsoft is making a shift towards darker tones, both in their hardware and their software. The Xbox 360S made a jump to only being available in black (matte and glossy). I expect that the Xbox 720 will have a similar color theme, however the shape of the device is entirely up in the air. I expect that they will try to make it relatively thin, but not so thin that the air circulation isn’t sufficient. We are all well aware of the issues that caused, and I am sure that the Microsoft engineers won’t let it happen again. I don’t expect the 720 to be as insanely thin as some of these UltraBooks, but I would hope that they would trim some significant size off of the console.

In terms of the controller, I expect that we won’t see any major changes. One upgrade will be the D-pad, however. While I am not a regular user of the D-pad (considering I don’t play too many of those side-scrolling fighter games), I have heard enough upset users online. Apparently so did Microsoft, as they introduced a controller with an upgraded D-pad specifically for those types of players. I don’t expect them to use that twist-up technology from the new controller, though. Instead, I expect that they have been hard at work on developing an entirely new D-pad that won’t frustrate users.

On the User Interface side of the console, I am predicting that Microsoft will continue to push their Metro UI, as seen on Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. There are rumors that the Xbox 720 may incorporate Windows 8 into the Dashboard, and this seems like a logical choice by Microsoft. They have already confirmed that it will be used on the mobile phones, tablets, and desktops…adding the Xbox to the repertoire of Windows 8 only makes sense.

Kinect

Considering Microsoft has put lots of money into developing and marketing the Kinect peripheral, I think it’s a safe assumption that it will make its way to the next version, in some way or another. Having it built into the device would clean things up, but not it’s not likely, as there is no one standard place to put video game consoles. Maybe they will sell TVs or monitors with it built in? Again, a cool idea, but highly unlikely. Instead, we will likely be stuck again with a separate bar that we put on top or below our TV. Kinect has been out long enough that Microsoft has surely worked out some of the kinks, and will be releasing an updated and more advanced version with the next console. Similar to how they sell the Kinect now, I’m sure they will have Kinect-specific bundles that will cost probably about $100 more than the base console. I’ve questioned myself over whether they would make this peripheral necessary to play the next console, and my guess is no. While they have done some neat things with it, the accessory has not been picked up by enough big game developers, and there have not been enough big games to warrant making everyone purchase it. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more high quality games utilizing Kinect not only for the Xbox 720, but also for the 360.

Question Marks?

One big question is whether this device will support Blu-Ray. Microsoft attempted to shift the HD movie standard to HD-DVD back in the day, but that didn’t work. I’d say that the 360 suffered for that decision with some graphics heavy games such as LA Noire, where the game is split up onto 3 separate discs! That is a bit absurd, and Microsoft I’m sure will try to avoid that. But is Blu-Ray really worth investing in? With the recent focus on streaming movies, even of HD quality, physical discs may be a thing of the past…but not quite yet. While I’m sure Microsoft will ramp up their downloadable content section (included new full games) for this next console, they will surely still sell physical copies of the games. That said, Microsoft will take the jump and add a Blu-Ray player to the Xbox 720.

The next question, is whether this console will be 3D-ready. While I don’t necessarily see 3D as a necessity, its tacky capabilities seem to be catching on to some extent, and it appears to be the next step (be it, a minor one) to viewing content on your TV. Considering the PS3 already has it this generation, it is quite likely that Microsoft will add this feature on.

Pricing

How much will this device cost? Well when the 360 was first released, it was available starting at $299 for the Core model, and $399 for the Pro. I think both of those price points are reasonable to expect yet again, based on their current offering of the Xbox 360. My first instinct is that the lower-priced model will be the bare bones - enough to just let you play games. But the more I think about it, I realize they will likely include some sort of a hard drive in the bundle. I’m expecting downloadable content (including full new games) will be at the forefront of this next generation of video game consoles, and having a hard drive will be key. When the PS3 was originally released, 5 years ago, it even included a 20GB hard drive. It would be silly (considering the low low cost of hard drives these days) to not include some sort of storage capabilities on a device. On the high-end, that version will surely come bundled with a large hard drive, probably no less than 160GB, but probably closer to 250GB or even 500GB. While that seems like a lot, hard drives are getting increasingly cheaper, meaning Microsoft may splurge a little. On top of that, the increasing downloads and streaming of HD video content will make a bigger hard drive more of a necessity.

Based on the overall success of the Xbox 360, I expect that Microsoft will take a very similar stance with the next version of their popular console. Their focus will be on the moderate video game player, as well as the family. They will push Kinect heavily, make the user experience seamless from Xbox to phone to computer, all the while keeping the price reasonable.



'Sony Playstation 4'

Name

Of all the predications I am making in this post, this one is probably the easiest one to make. Since the release of the original Playstation, Sony has followed with the Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and what can only be assumed to be the Playstation 4. This console is founded on the brand that it has built up over the years, as being one of the premier home entertainment consoles on the market. It would be highly unlikely for Sony to stray away from that.

Hardware

This is a tricky one. Nobody will argue that the Playstation 3 wasn’t the better console compared to the Xbox 360. In fact, it blew the 360 away. It had wi-fi built in, has a Blu-Ray player, and came ready to roll with HD graphics. When 3D starting gaining popularity again, Sony was quick to make it available on their console, further differentiating itself from the more casual-gamer focused Xbox 360. There is no question - this console was geared towards hardcore gamers who wanted the best home entertainment video game console on the market. Still not quite at the same level as a high-end gaming computer, but it can definitely hold its own in the hardware department.

However, the issue for the Playstation 3 was not with the hardware…it was that the price was simply a bit too steep for the average gamer. I will go more in depth regarding the pricing strategy later on, but the fact of the matter is that Sony has a major decision to make, with two main avenues they can take. 1) Make the Playstation 4 another high-end console that will dominate (in terms of its hardware) for foreseeable future, and be at the leading edge of console gaming. This would call for top of the line hardware specifications, and a high price, like that of the original Playstation 3. Or option 2) Make the Playstation 4 more geared towards the casual gamer, along the lines of the the Xbox 360’s strategy in this current generation. Specifically, the hardware will be solid, but nothing out of this world (but definitely a spec bump on what we already have with the Playstation 3).

I am having a very tough time picking which direction they may go, but I am actually leaning towards Option 2. While Sony did make up some market share ground over the past several years since the original release of the Playstation 3, they dug themselves in a big whole simply based on having a premium pricing strategy. It goes to show that having the best physical product is not the bottom line…gamers simply did not want to pay that much. That said, it appears lately that their marketing efforts have been focused on the casual gamer. In some of those other PS3 commercials, it shows a grandfather and a child playing PS Move together. Of course, they will still have their exclusive games such as UnchartedResistance, and  Little Big Planet, to name a few. The trend I am seeing, though, is that while there are hardcore gamers that still play on consoles, there has been a rebirth of extreme players who settle for nothing less than top of the line Alienware computers to get their video game fix in. Ultimately, though, these are not the users that Sony or Microsoft will be going after. They are both clearly trying to make a stake in the family and casual gamer market that Nintendo solidified with the Wii.

Appearance

I expect that the PS4 will look very clean and sleek. Sony has always done a good job of that with several of their product lines, most notably the VAIO. I expect that it will be dark, much like the current PS3. I was actually a fan of the buttonless PS3, and it is possible that they may mimic that for the successor. The same goes for the built-in disk tray, with no tray that actually comes out.

Much like the naming of the PS4, the same can be said for the controller. Sony has used nearly the exact same controller for every single iteration, and I dont forsee them changing it. Personally, I prefer the controller of the Xbox 360, but that of the Playstation gets the job done. I’m sure they will work out a better way of including some form of SIAXIS and the rumble pack.

Playstation Move

Considering its steady adoption, I expect that Sony will continue to push this peripheral into the next generation, much like Microsoft with the Kinect. Undoubtedly, they will make hardware updates to this device, but overall, it is actually quite accurate and responsive as of now.

Okay…I am going to make a bold statement. PS Move will in some way incorporate the main Playstation controller. Maybe this doesn’t make sense from a profits point of view, because they’d be missing out on the sales of an entire new set of controllers, but part of me thinks it’s worth it. So many more people would play with the PS Move because they already have the controllers! That would lead to more sales of Move-enabled games, and Sony would make up some potentially lost profits.

Question Marks

For me, the big unknown with the Playstation 4 is not if, but how it will incorporate the Playstation Vita, Sony’s successor the the PSP. It is an impressive little mobile gaming device, and should provide many opportunities for Sony. While they didn’t integrate the PSP with the PS3, I could see them doing something this time around. My big reason of “why?” comes back to their goal of taking market share back from Nintendo. With the Wii U, users will have that touchscreen device as an extra peripheral to interact with while playing. Sony could swing the Vita in a very similar way, which would open up the door for more sales. If kids saw how much cool stuff they could do through their Vita onto their PS4, you can bet they will be begging for this device come Christmas time. It will surely be interesting to see how Sony handles the integration between these two upcoming devices.

Pricing

As I touched on earlier, there are two possible routes Sony can take with the PS4. Considering I am predicting that they will go down route #2, targeting the casual-moderate gamer, they will try to match the price to that of the Xbox 720. So, I will go off the prices I previously mentioned, and those that were used for the initial release at the start of this current generation of consoles. The PS4 will be offered with at least two separate options. The lower-end model, somewhere around $299, will again be a pretty basic model in terms of its hard drive space. However, I expect that Sony might try to offer a bit more than Microsoft, and that may bump up the price to $349. Much like how the PS3 currently comes with at least a 160GB hard drive for $249 compared to the base Xbox 360 with a 4GB hard drive space for $199, they may try to do the same this upcoming time around. Sony is walking a fine line, though…trying to capture both the casual gamer and more moderate-hardcore gamer. They have to be careful, so as to not confuse their customer. It may be more beneficial for them in the long-term to pick one or the other, but only time will tell how this decision pans out (assuming my aforementioned price points are even accurate).



Conclusion

All in all, this is my take on what to expect for the next round of video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony. This generation has been a long, hard-fought ‘console war’, and I expect that we will see much of the same this next time around. I can only hope that we get to see more of Kevin Butler for the Playstation 4!

Nov 09

An Apple Keynote Worth Forgetting…and Revisiting

Dear Readers,

I must begin this post with a warning: I initially wrote this article directly after the iPhone 4S keynote. As you may come to see, my emotions were raw, as I was slightly disgruntled, to say the least. Nevertheless, I wrote and wrote, until suddenly, I decided to stop and breathe.

Count me in as somebody who fell for all of the iPhone 5 rumors that have persisted since…well…the iphone 4 was released nearly a year and a half ago. As I followed along with some of the live blogs at today’s Apple keynote, I was extremely surprised and disappointed when all that I got was an iPhone 4S.

Let me start my rant with a pretense: the iPhone 4 is a great phone. Even with the release of the new iPhone 4S, the 4 will remain one of the most popular phones in the history of mobile phones (aside from maybe the Razr). Internally, a great phone. Aesthetically, very pleasing. Economically, on par with comparable phones. All in all, the iPhone 4 was fantastic.

Now…the new iPhone 4S. Clearly, an iPhone 4 on steroids. It puts up some great specs that allow it to throw down with some of those other big boys bedazzled with ‘4G’ speeds. That in itself, is worthy of a new phone. In terms of its external design, it went identical to the iPhone 4 (more specifically, for the CDMA version). Again, a solid choice given how beautiful a device the 4 was. Alright so beautiful exterior? check. Crazy fast interior? check. Awesome OS? check.

Well this all sounds fine and dandy and worthy of a new phone, right? Wrong.

When Apple revamps their existing products (see: Macbook Pro), they don’t add an ‘S’ to it simply because they made it faster. These sort of updates happen all the time, but that’s all they are…updates. What makes this iPhone 4S so much better that it receives an additional letter behind its name? I was never a fan of the name of the iPhone 3GS, and now the same can be said here. Adding an ‘S’ seems like a pretty cheap way out. What does it even stand for? Apple claims ‘speed’. Okay…great. You made a faster phone. So what? That is EXPECTED of you. As time goes on, components get cheaper, and so you replace older, slower components for newer, faster ones all while keeping the price the same. That seems like a pretty common theme in technology, yet for some reason you deem it appropriate to call something entirely new, when it simply is just an update.

As I continue to write this and think more and more about what just happened today, I am realizing something. I’m not frustrated with the product itself. It is a great product through and through. What really frustrates me is the huge opportunity that Apple has missed.

It has been about 18 months since the release of the initial iPhone 4. One year rolled by, and not even a whimper from Apple about a new iPhone. This is a very un-Apple like move, shifting off of their standard 1-year refresh cycle. The general public was a bit confused, but life went on (barely), as people questioned what Apple had up their sleeve. Would they skip out on this entire year and push out the iPhone 5 in the Spring of 2012 (still a, yet unlikely, possibility)? Did they have some supply issues and are in turn forced to release the new iPhone a bit behind schedule? Was Apple going to completely get rid of the iPhone, stuff it inside a 7” iPad, and create that new “hook up” between the iPad and the iPhone, and call it the ‘iDo’? (Okay, that last one was a not so funny joke, but you get my point) So over this past summer, some rumblings finally starting making their rounds on the good ole’ internet.

The 'Teardrop' iPhone 5

The ‘Teardrop’ iPhone 5

The ‘Awkwardly-colored Home Button’ iPhone 5

The ‘Now you see me, Now you don’t’ iPhone 5

(aka The ‘Troubled Photoshop’ iPhone 5)

Suffice to say, people got a bit invested in all of these rumors. One very ambitious man even created his own prototype!

I must say, this was especially impressive.

Regardless, there was so much insane hype about something that we are now forced to wait even longer for.

Readers,

As I’m sure you saw while reading this, I was a bit agitated. Because of that, I stepped back and decided to wait a couple days. As I’m sure you’re aware, waiting those couple of days meant waiting until the passing of Mr. Steven P. Jobs. I was taken aback, and never got around to finishing this piece. I rejoin you now, written today, another look back on the iPhone 4S release.

So over a month has passed since the iPhone 4S’ original announcement. I will tell you this, I am just as annoyed with the name as I was before. But I will go on to finish my point.

On that October 4 day, Apple let down a lot of people by only releasing an upgrade to their existing phone, as great as it was. Personally, I thought everyone was going to be so upset that Apple would sell a total of 14 devices and go bankrupt and never make another device. I did forget one key point, though…the fact that Apple has this world in the palm of its hand. When they come out with a new device, whatever it may be, people will buy it. So yes, the iPhone 4S had a spec jump and no aesthetic changes, so people bought it! In fact, they bought A LOT.

After this keynote, I was pretty skeptical as to whether Siri would really be something useful. While I have not had the chance to try it out, the numerous videos online show that it actual is a handy voice recognition system - one which doesn’t require you to talk like a computer to communicate with a computer. I was also a bit befuddled over the fact why Siri was not part of the iOS 5 update for the iPad 2, considering it has very similar specifications (including the same A5 processor) as the iPhone 4S. Apple has also announced that Siri will not be making it’s way to older iOS devices. Why would Apple withhold such a cool new feature from so many of their users. But then it hit me…it’s because they need a reason for people to actually buy the new 4S! If they gave Siri to every user via a free download, I’m sure they would have lost a significant number of iPhone 4S sales. Although Apple has boatloads of money, this is not something they are willing to risk.

So…maybe there were some supply chain issues leading Apple to delaying the iPhone 5, and in turn releasing only an updated iPhone 4S. But with what they did have, I must say Apple has done it yet again. They created sales where sales maybe didn’t even belong.

All that aside…this still is not the iPhone 5. It doesn’t have 4G speeds. It doesn’t have a new design. It doesn’t have many remarkably new features not already available on other iOS devices. So even though the Consumer Reports recommends the iPhone 4S, I think I will be holding off on the iPhone 4S until the imminent release of the iPhone 5. And hey! I’m guessing the iPhone 5 will have Siri!

Amazon ready to light a FIRE

Well…November 15th is nearly upon us. You know what that means, right? That’s right! The very first Wendy’s restaurant was opened in Columbus Ohio back in 1969. But no, that is not the only thing coming up in a couple of days.

Amazon’s new color multitouch tablet, the Kindle Fire is going to be released! While I may not be one of the early adopters (considering I already have a competitor’s tablet…see: iPad), I am simply excited to see how it does out on the market! The early reviews of the device tout it as being iPad killer. I don’t see it quite the same way.

Having an iPad, I will be the first to tell you it is a pretty cool device. When the original iPad was released I was skeptical whether there was even a need in the market for such a device. Low and behold, though, the late Steve Jobs (RIP) crafted that need, himself. Yes, there were tablets out on the market, but they were not geared towards the everyday consumer. The iPad redefined the mobile market, from smartphones to laptops. Now, everything now must adjust.

Amazon sat back quietly with its increasingly successful Kindle, and watched several big companies take Google’s Android operating system and try to compete with the iPad. It is clear that Apple is the dominant force in the tablet market, considering even the most hyped of these devices ended up falling flat. Questions then arise: is the Android OS optimal for tablets? Are these companies like Motorola building a quality product? Why can nobody stack up to the iPad? All of these questions are answered with the simple fact that Apple has built up one of the most high quality brand images in the world. With that brand, they came out with a revolutionary product, and defined the initial market. They captured massive initial market share, and never looked back.

This again brings us back to Amazon. What makes them think they will be any different than the existing Android tablets out there that didn’t stand a chance? Well…it’s because they realize Apple has complete control, and they aren’t even going to try to test those waters. While the iPad and Kindle Fire may look like similar products geared towards similar users, they aren’t.

We’ll start with the most basic difference: their price points. The iPad starts out at $499 while the Fire opens with a price of $199. Obviously, Amazon is opening themselves up to the potential sales of so many more new customers who are not ready to dish out 5 Benjamins for this type of device. How is Amazon able to make their product so cheap, though? Well, that leads us to the hardware side of things.

There is no way around it…the iPad is far and above the greater product based on its specifications. It’s faster, thinner, lighter, more powerful, and it’s pretty smart. The Fire, on the other hand, looks a lot like a stripped down Blackberry Playbook. Maybe Amazon did Blackberry a favor and bought off some of their components? It doesn’t have a camera, internally it’s lacking, externally, it’s nothing flashy. But the thing is, none of this matters. What it really comes down to, is what you can do with the device.

Apple targets their iPad at nearly all types of people: business people, educators and students, healthcare professionals, parents…all summed in in this delightful iPad 2 commercial.

Apple is able to swing this product any way they want. They say the iPad is so great because you can do anything on it. The truth is pretty close to that, too! Considering the myriad of apps available on the App Store, the opportunities are endless. Amazon is taking a slightly different route, and being a bit more general. They aren’t saying the product is great for teachers or doctors or anyone in specific. They are gearing this product to anyone who likes to consume entertainment. To me, that is the key difference between these two devices. Okay, maybe that sounds like both companies are trying to appeal to everyone, but hear me out. With the iPad, you have several apps made by Apple, themselves, where users can create. This includes Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, and numerous other productivity apps made by 3rd party developers. While Kindle Fire users will undoubtedly have access to these sorts of apps from the Android App Store, the device is simply built around the users consuming the things they love. Whether it’s watching a movie, reading a book, listening to music browsing the web…this device is built for all of that, and nothing more.

The reason why this works perfectly for Amazon is because they already have most of the backend framework in place. They have the Amazon mp3 store for music. They have the Kindle for reading. You can download movies and TV shows directly from Amazon. And now they have developed Amazon Silk, a project that apparently makes browsing the web smooth and fast, built specifically for the Kindle Fire. That is the great thing that Amazon is done here. They took a solid operating system in Android, tore it down, and built it from the ground up just for their won device, so that everything that a user does, is seamless. So maybe the internals are not exceptional. Well that doesn’t matter when you have engineers who designed the software to perfectly match the hardware. In a way, this is exactly what Apple does with every product. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more companies follow Amazon and make drastic modifications to the open-source Android OS.

The end result, is a product that is simple. It gives people what they want for a price they don’t mind paying. They get the product in the users’ hands, and then in turn, these users will purchase apps and movies and books and everything…sending what is expected to be INSANE profits back Amazon’s way. Ultimately, you could argue that the Kindle Fire is not going to have a shot at competing with Apple and it’s iPad. But targeting a unique and distinct segment, I expect to see Amazon reaping the benefits in the coming years.

The question now remains: how hot will Amazon’s FIRE burn?

Oct 06

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” — Steven P. Jobs, February 24, 1955-October 5, 2011