Has Apple lost its mojo, or is something else going on here?

Apple had an event this week where they announced new products.  But it lacked the excitement and wow factor that we have come to expect.  Has Apple lost its mojo, or is something else going on here?

New product announcements from Apple and Google seem less impressive than they used to be.  They seem more evolutionary than revolutionary.

There could be a number of reasons for that.

Product innovation is happening at a faster pace than ever before.  Are we getting so used to that pace that we have higher expectations for innovation than before?

Is the smartphone / tablet field so mature that it is less likely to be the subject of any new revolutionary “wow” or “just one more thing” developments?

Has the prospect for revolutionary development moved from the relatively mature smartphone / tablet field to things like virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, drones, self-driving cars, wearables, and the internet of things?   (See Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.)

Many of those are in early days, and we have not yet grasped how they will impact us.  Some, such as AI, are behind the scenes, so while we have the benefit of it, its not something we can hold in our hand. And some are not as personal or multifunctional as a phone or tablet, and may never be something everyone will have.

To put that in perspective, almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet.  But it wasn’t that many years ago that a phone was considered a household or office device that you just made phone calls on – not a personal device that is basically a internet connected computer that performs a myriad of tasks.

We forget that while the ipad, for example, was revolutionary when it came out, there had been several attempts to create tablets earlier.  They failed because they missed the mark on features and useability – in part because the tech had to catch up with the concept.  Like the entertainer who is perceived as an overnight success, but has spent years as a starving artist.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Apple fights court imposed FBI backdoor order

Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a very public stand against an FBI request and court order to create a backdoor into the Apple operating system.  This arose from the investigation into the San Bernardino mass shooting last December.

See this article on ZDNet for more details.  And Read Tim Cook’s customer letter posted on the Apple website for a more complete explanation of Apple’s position.

Kudos to Tim Cook and Apple for this.

Security and privacy experts continue to point out that backdoors are a bad idea that cause far more harm than good.

See, for example, this ZDNet article from yesterday about a new report saying “European cybersecurity agency ENISA has come down firmly against backdoors and encryption restrictions, arguing they only help criminals and terrorists while harming industry and society.”

Cross-posted to Slaw

Can a tablet replace your work PC?

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said that 80-90% of his computer time is spent on an iPad.

This comment lead tech journalist Mike Elgan to wonder: “Could 80 percent of the corporate workforce do 100 percent of their work on a tablet?”  

His article sets out arguments for and against, but basically concludes that tablets would be sufficient for many.

For me personally, for what I need it for, while you would have to pry my tablet out of my hands, it is not adequate to replace my PC.  For too many things it is just not quite good enough, or efficient enough.  But depending on what one’s role is, a tablet may indeed be sufficient.

What do readers think?  Is anyone using a tablet while their PC gathers dust?

Cross posted to Slaw


iOS7 available today – install it now or wait?

Today’s Slaw post. Apple’s latest and greatest operating system is launching today.  There will no doubt be a rush for iPhone and iPad owners to install the update. Apple fans may scoff at this advice, but if you are updating anything other than a current model, it might be prudent to wait a few days before upgrading.

The odds are that all will go well, but sometimes issues appear in the real world that don’t show up in testing.  Typically those issues are more annoyances than anything – such as sluggish performance, or incompatibility with some apps. And typically they are resolved quickly.

I’m going to wait a few days and make sure no problems turn up in the tech press before doing the upgrade on my iPad.  After all, waiting a few days to get an OS update is not the end of the world.  At least Apple updates come quickly once released.  Unlike updates to Google phones that take months to get after they are released, if you get them at all.

Is Apple losing its mojo?

Todays Slaw post:

Apple revealed its latest iphone yesterday.  Or to be more precise, two new iphones – the 5C and the 5S.

The 5C is similar to the current 5, and will be cheaper to buy than the 5S (hence some references to the iPhone Cheap – although cheap is a relative term).  The iPhone 5S is the latest and greatest.  It is the first phone with a 64 bit processor, has a much better camera (Apple has suggested it is as good as a DSLR), and a capacitive fingerprint sensor to authenticate the owner.

So it is the latest and greatest, and includes some unique features.  The stock market was not impressed.

Perhaps we expect too much from Apple.  But lately Android phones are matching and in some cases exceeding iPhone features.  And many of the new features Apple has included in its new phone operating software, iOS7, are catching up to features that Android and Microsoft phones already have.

I’m not suggesting that Apple doesn’t make cutting edge products, or that they are not going to continue to sell well, or that they are going anywhere, but they just don’t seem to be knocking us over any more with innovative products.

Gadget Nirvana

My latest Slaw post:

Apple announced a new iPad mini yesterday as expected, along with upgrades to several other products. Surprisingly, an iPad 4 is now available, just a few short months after the iPad 3 was introduced. Apple is a master of innovation and marketing, and somehow manages to make evolutionary changes to its products seem revolutionary.

But they are not the only game in town.

Microsoft has an event on Oct 25 to launch its Surface tablet, on Oct 26 to launch Windows 8, and on Oct 29 to launch Windows Phone 8. Early reviews show they are solid products. I find these new Microsoft products interesting. The Surface tablet has a lot of features that will make it easier and more seamless to use than an iPad. Corporate IT departments will love them. But iPad users may be slow to switch, as many of the apps we use with the iPad are not yet available. For example, iPad users using apps like pressreader, newsstand or flipboard won’t switch until those are available for Microsoft products.

Not to be outdone, Google also has an event on Oct 29 where it is expected to launch its next generation Nexus smartphone, new tablets, and an update to its latest Jelly Bean software.

For the record, I use Microsoft PC’s, an iPad, and a Google Nexus phone. They are all good products, even though each one has subtle advantages and disadvantages. Each one also has its fans and detractors to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to know how realistic either positive or negative reviews are. For example, there has been some criticism that the Windows 8 surface RT tablet operating system won’t run full office software – just pared down versions. But that is the nature of the tablet beast – and is the same approach taken by Apple and Google.


Apple announces iPhone5

Today’s Slaw post:

Apple just announced the new iPhone 5. Some of the features Apple is touting:

Thinner and lighter – apparently the world’s thinnest smartphone. A bit taller than before, which give a bigger screen (close to 16:9)and better colour. Apps designed for the current screen size will be letterboxed like a TV.

It includes LTE for most major US and Canadian telcos. (Apparently no NFC, though.)

It has a new, faster, more energy efficient CPU (the A6), and longer battery life.

Of course an improved camera.

Enhanced audio.

A new, smaller “Lightning” connecter replaces the current Apple connector. (It’s about time. They will no doubt make a lot of money selling adapters.)

New iOS6 operating system, including updated Siri voice command.

Comes in black and white.

Price the same as for the 4s.

Pre-orders start Friday. Shipping on Sept 21 in US, Canada, and several other countries.

On Sept 19, iOS6 available for iPad and iPhone 4

For more detail and commentary, check out the tech press, including www.cnet.com and www.engadget.com

No doubt Apple will sell the iPhone 5 in huge numbers. But the competition is fierce, particularly with the latest Android Jelly Bean OS phones, and the new Windows 8 phones.

Just for the record, I’m sticking with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus for now – even though it is extremely frustrating that the Jelly Bean OS has not been pushed out to it it. (Apparently that is a Samsung issue, not a carrier issue.) Apple has set the expectation that new OSs will be available for existing devices at the same time they are released to new devices. That’s something that Apple’s competitors have not yet got right.

Phone & tablet wars continue

My latest Slaw post:

Apple fans will already know that Apple has scheduled an event for next Wednesday. While Apple did not specifically mention the iPhone 5, it is rather obvious from the invitation.

Rumour has it that the iPhone 5 will be available September 21.

This comes on the heels of the jury decision in the US that awarded Apple a billion (yes, that’s a “b”) dollars in damages against Samsung for violating Apple patents. No word yet on whether it will be appealed, but given the amount of the damage award, and what the decision could mean for the future of Android phones, it would be surprising if it is not.

No matter how that shakes out, though, Android phones will survive and thrive.

The phone and tablet market is not just an Apple v Android race. Microsoft’s new Surface / Windows 8 products will be a compelling choice, especially for business use. Windows 8 hardware will blur the line between tablets and notebooks. Microsoft’s goal is to bring a similar look, feel, and experience accross all devices, whether it be a phone, tablet, notebook, or desktop. Windows 8 products are coming to market in late October.

The good news for consumers and business is that competition in this market is alive and well, and the technology keeps improving. Each has its fans and detractors, and each has pros and cons for different situations – but none of these are bad choices.

Apple unveils “the new iPad”

Today’s Slaw post:

Yes, “The new iPad”, not the iPad 3, or the iPad HD, and no doubt millions of people will rush to buy one. In Q4, Apple sold 15.4 million ipads – which is more than any PC manufacturer sold of theirPC lines.

I upgraded to a Google Galaxy Nexus phone a few weeks ago – and for a short time actually had cutting edge tech for both smartphones and tablets. That is always going to be a short-lived experience.

The new iPad features a higher resolution display, quad-core processor, better camera and HD 1080P video recording (like the iPhone 4s). Has 4G LTE – including on Rogers, Bell and Telus – and apparently retains the same battery life. It has some voice support, but not Siri (not Siri??).

They have upgraded and added features to apps like Garageband, iMovie, and iPhoto.

So improved – but not such an improvement that people will be compelled to upgrade (other than fanboys). Pre-orders start today, with shipping March 16.

They will continue to sell the iPad 2 at a lower price.

For now there is no doubt that Apple is the market leader that dominates and defines the tablet space. But don’t count the competition out yet, particularly Android and Microsoft Windows 8 based tablets. These might cure the most frustrating thing in my view about the iPad, which is its insistence on controlling file management in its own way.


iPhone 4s unveiled

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows.

One thing guaranteed to get attention and create buzz is any new Apple product unveiling – whether or not one is an Apple fanboy / fangirl. Yesterday’s was no exception. It was noteworthy in part because of the absence of Steve Jobs. But Tim Cook and other Apple executives did not disappoint.

Various products were updated, but the new iPhone 4s gets the most attention. Here is a summary from the Canoe Tech blog about the 4s and its introduction in Canada. Here is a link from the Apple site that has more detail and a couple of videos.

One thing I am mystified about is that Apple stock apparently dropped a bit after the announcement based on disappointment that they unveiled the iPhone 4s, not the iPhone 5. I get that stocks are priced on anticipation, but as far as I can tell, the only thing Apple may have done wrong was to call it 4S instead of 5.

It may look like the 4, but inside it has a faster processor, better graphics, better camera with features such as image stabilization, a world phone compatible with several cell systems, better call quality, and more. It also includes Siri, an intelligent assistant that responds to natural language voice commands. For example, if you say to the phone, “do I need an umbrella today”, it will bring up the weather forecast for your location.

The improvements are enough that anyone with earlier models, especially 3 or 3G models, will feel the “need” to upgrade.