Viewer Mail – Volume 2

February 14, 2007

Seems like it was time for another one of these…we’ll paraphrase some of the comments and questions we’ve gotten over the past few days and try to get some answers out to everyone…

First, is what is Apple’s plan for the daylight savings time fiasco that is coming up in March as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (spring forward a couple weeks earlier, fall back a week or so later)? Well, good news, it has been in place since 10.4.6.

Next, iPod warranty pricing…we’re told that the pricing has recently changed from $249 to $179 (or less) to replace a broken iPod…NICE. In fact, many of the prices have gone down considerably…Thanks KH for the tip!

When will the new Mac Books be released?? Sorry to say, it is looking to us like it’s going to be a little while still, maybe not until WWDC :(. We will keep everyone posted. By the way, did you notice that we NAILED the fact that WWDC was going to be in June? We had that here before anyone else did, at least, as far as we know!! Anyway, that would be both for the whole line perhaps, including the long-awaited ultraportable (which we’ve been calling Mac Book Mini around here).

iLife and iWork dates, Sky, you wanted to know…well, here’s the scoop, they are still on track for Leopard-time…why is that? It isn’t because they require Leopard (although, vice versa may be true, that Leopard may not work with older versions of iLife in particular)…they will work better with Leopard and have more features if you run them in Leopard (vs. Tiger)…one reason to hold them back is they have a lot of interface cues from the new operating system, and Apple is still trying to keep that under wraps…a bigger reason though, is that it makes sense to release them at the same time…when the Mac faithful show up to buy their copy of Leopard, it will be easy to upsell them on a copy of iLife ’07 or iWork ’07…better yet, look at it this way…if you’re going to plunk down $79 for iLife ’07 and $129 for Leopard…that’s a couple hundred bucks…suddenly people will start thinking “gee, if I put that money toward a new Mac, and put the old one on eBay…I’d come out pretty good”…Apple is no fool.

HDJ speculates on a new iPod coming in a few weeks alongside an iTunes update…we will just be honest with you and tell you we haven’t heard anything specific about it, but if anyone DOES have anything specific to share, drop us a line!

Speaking of dropping us a line, several have commented that since Apple and Google are all buddies these days, and we are using a Gmail address for tips, we must be secret agents working for Apple to catch spies…well, dangit, you got us! Seriously, put that tinfoil hat back on, and while you’re at it, better make a full tinfoil suit to go with it 🙂

And, saving the best for last, LF writes with a juicy tip…that USB2.0 port on the Apple TV…you know, that could be used to add a Blu-ray drive (or HD-DVD, but take it from us, Blu-ray is well on its way to dominating…it holds more data, and Sony is not going to give in and ship their movies on HD-DVD…whereas all the other studios are going to give in and go Blu)…that is genius! The Apple TV already has the horsepower to display HD content streamed from a computer in your home (and soon directly from iTunes!)…no reason it couldn’t do the same from a locally attached device!! And, it would be a lot cheaper than existing players, because you’d already own the bulk of the device in the form of the Apple TV itself, you’d basically just be buying the drive!!

PHEW! Lots more to comment on, but this post is already getting pretty long…you know our usual way of closing things down…comments below, tips to applerecon@gmail.com and take a few seconds to give us a…

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Apple, Inc – Record Label?

February 12, 2007

This one threw us for a loop the first time we heard it. And the second. And the third when MM (you know who you are!) dropped us a line about it. But then, Apple, Inc. settled with Apple Corps and suddenly, it seemed a lot more possible. Then, Steve came out against DRM, and now the pieces are starting to fit together.

To recap, Apple Computer (now just Apple, or Apple, Inc. if you want to call them that) and the Beatles’ label, Apple Corps, had a longstanding feud relating to Apple Computer using the Apple name in regard to music. It all started way back in the 70s, when Apple Computer was founded and was sued in 1978 by the Beatles’ label (more technically, the holding company that owns their label, but potato, potahto)…in 1981, they settled and Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business. Eight years later, in 1989, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again, this time because Apple Computer had added audio recording capabilities to the Mac…they settled again in 1991. Then, in 2003, Apple Corps came suing again, for use of the Apple Computer logo in sales of music via iTunes (among other charges), and finally, here in 2007, we have the third settlement (three strikes and you’re out?).

Interestingly, as a part of that settlement, Apple Computer now owns ALL of the trademarks related to “Apple” (at least, all the ones that they or Apple Corps owned) and will license a limited set of those trademarks back to Apple Corps! This ended the feud, and should, once and for all, put the whole mess behind everyone.

Of course, the rumor mill has been active with the concept of Apple now doing a deal with the Beatles, making a yellow-submarine iPod, or selling Beatles songs exclusively through iTunes, and bla, bla, bla. It was going to be announced during the Super Bowl, they say, and now it’s going to be announced on Valentine’s Day (good thing we only have a couple days to wait, huh?).

Well, THIS rumor mill has something bigger up its sleeve, and that is Apple’s plan to distribute music directly on iPod/iPhone, allow for pre-loading of songs via select retail outlets (Apple retail stores) but best of all, allow artists to distribute their music directly through iTunes, WITHOUT DRM and WITHOUT a record label. Now, mind you, we understand that we’re not quite there yet…iTunes isn’t quite dominant enough that it alone can bring new artists onto the scene and promote them enough to break them into radio airplay and the charts (not to mention the payola involved in actually getting an act on the air and in the stores is crazy, exactly why no one has tried this before). However, for EXISTING artists, that are already big names (like for instance, U2…we all know how close Bono and the boys are to Apple), having music that is iTunes exclusive, can’t be bought in stores, is going to be a huge business for Apple. It will sell more iPods, too (and possibly other MP3 players if the acts decide to distribute their music without DRM).

What is also really interesting about the U2 angle is that U2 happens to be on the Interscope Records label…Interscope Records is owned by Universal…Universal has cozied up with Microsoft already and gotten paid by them for each Zune sold…and they want Apple to do the same thing (here’s a little article about it). Funny how they would be so vocal about it, and funny that U2 happens to be one of their acts…does anyone want to think about what it’d do to them for U2 to jump ship to Apple, and shout from the rooftops that they make FAR more money with Apple as their label than they ever did with Universal?? Could it be the end of the RIAA Cartel?? And if Apple does this, without DRM, won’t everyone else look pretty damned stupid? Add the Beatles to the mix, and suddenly you have two pretty huge acts with broad appeal making tons and tons of money and the RIAA is left right out in the cold…

Now we need to go change our names and go into witness protection, as we’ve just implied the end of the RIAA…pretty soon they’ll be suing our dogs and deceased grandparents!

What do you think? Send us your thoughts, comment below, and…aw heck, you know what we’re going to ask, so we won’t bother…

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Our take on Steve’s Thoughts on Music

February 8, 2007

Well, the gloves have come off between Steve and the labels…advocating sales of digital music without DRM is pretty close to crazytalk in most circles still. In fact, despite the record companies lofting a few trial balloons with a few tracks here and there, DRM is still king of the hill.

For those that live under a rock, you can read Steve’s “thoughts” at the Apple site.

Our question to you is do you think Steve’s thoughts on music also apply to movies? Considering he’s a large shareholder in Disney, personally, where’s the post advocating the same thing on the moving picture front? Frankly, movies are less likely to be pirated than music, as the file sizes are just pretty inconvenient (even with BitTorrent and similar). So, where’s the posting on movies?

As much as we love Steve and all the gang at Apple, we have to call a spade a spade on this one…if it was really a rant against DRM and about taking a stand here, we’d be talking about more than just music. What this comes down to is a way to put some pressure on the music labels (which Apple is in a much better position to do than with Hollywood, as the studios are still very cautious about getting into bed with Apple), and to take some pressure off from the European regulators (which, by the way, is a goal that so far isn’t being achieved).

Another interesting observation that we will throw out there is that if this move by Apple does force the hand of the music industry, you can bet that will further alienate the already paranoid motion picture industry. Unless the music industry’s move to DRM-free music really did turn out to be a huge win for them, you can bet that DRM will be staying on your copy of Cars for the long haul.

Of course, this could end up opening the flood gates, if even one of the big labels could be convinced to do this, and was successful at it, it could mark the beginning of the end for the DRM arms race. This would serve Apple’s goals quite nicely, because they have yet to invest significant R&D into DRM, unlike their pals up in Redmond. You can bet that Apple would like nothing more than to see DRM get scrapped and leave the Microsofties holding the tag for billions in R&D and integration into their operating system that no one would end up using.

All in all, there’s nothing immediate to be gained or lost here, it will spark some debate and conversation, could become a game changer, or could be just another footnote in the history of computing. But, it does give Apple more exposure, further sets them up as “the good guy” in the industry, and as any marketing wonk will tell you, any press is good press.

A little bit of linkage for you all, the Economist, which is a fantastic publication, has a decent piece up about all of this here.

Finally, we’ll go off-topic here for a minute and apologize for the apparent hiatus this week, no excuses or made up stories about being sick or anything like that, we simply have had other life priorities (work, family, etc.) that have kept us away from the site.

Apple Recon is, and will remain, a labor of love for the editors, that we work on when we have time, and we apologize to the reader (hehe, the one of you we have left) if that isn’t okay with you. It is what it is. The comments section is always open, and to echo the sentiments of many that have posted out here, we do appreciate the intelligent discussions that go back and forth with many of the posters. We will never censor you (even when you bitch us out for not posting more stuff, hey, we agree with you there!), and always want to encourage that kind of open sharing of thoughts and ideas here, about all topics Apple. Until next time, all the best…


Juicy Mac Book Details

February 6, 2007

Over the last few days, we have received recon about the future of the Mac Book (the consumer version) and we felt it hot enough to warrant its own article. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the future, with all the glory that “Santa Rosa” will bring to Apple’s consumer platform.

First, the code name, for those that aren’t familiar, Santa Rosa is the code name of Intel’s newest mobile platform…it has several interesting new features for potential Mac Book buyers:

  • Integrated 802.11n (yeah, we know, we already have that, but this is built into the platform, like 802.11b/g was built into Centrino)
  • MUCH faster graphics (using Intel’s GMA X3000)
  • 800 MHz frontside bus (faster memory, more data, blablabla)
  • Support for Flash Memory (huge power savings, faster boot times, etc.)
  • Dual HD support (we don’t anticipate seeing this in the Mac Book any time soon, but perhaps in a 17″ Mac Book Pro in the not too distant future…can you say hardware RAID in a laptop??)

Second, as you’ve come to expect from Apple Recon, not just the boring tech specs, but the analysis of what this all means. We’ll start with the 802.11n being built in…that alone is pretty huge, considering power savings and reducing components that Apple needs to purchase…802.11n fits well into the new Airport Express devices that Apple announced at Macworld, too. The new 800 MHz bus should give a nice improvement in overall system performance (roughly a 20% increase in raw memory speed, along with faster processors, should give the new Mac Book a 15-20% edge right out of the gate compared with the current generation).

Couple those things with flash memory built right in to the platform (not into proprietary hard drives like Samsung and some of the others are doing), and you get some great performance. A quick aside on the flash memory in the hard drive thing…many sites were down on the idea that Apple had turned down the Samsung drives…we are not one of them…what kind of dumb move is it integrating the flash into the hard drive? You’ve already got cache in the drive itself (most ship with 8 or 16 MB now), and the last thing we need is to build a couple gigs of flash into the damned thing, that we then throw out if/when we upgrade to a bigger drive! Apple has definitely taken the right path there going the path to integrate it right into the system, rather than using glorified hard drive cache.

Finally, however, a word about the graphics card. The X3000 is no slouch (mind you it isn’t a $400-500 card either) and it is plenty fast. The great thing about it is that it supports all the stuff that the GMA950 didn’t (which currently powers the Mac Book), including hardware T&L, OpenGL 2.0, a hardware vertex shader, and more than a 50% increase in core clock rate (667MHz vs. 400MHz). Oh, and it also supports 384MB of video memory as opposed to the paltry 128 with the 950. Finally, the graphics support of the Mac Book will be solid (not spectacular, but a lot better than today’s offering).

More as it becomes available, we are still expecting a Mac Book update here in the spring, and keep an eye out for when Intel starts shipping Santa Rosa, as this is the future of the Mac Book. As always, send us your dirt at applerecon@gmail.com, sound off in the comments, and never forget to give your new favorite rumor site a little Digg:

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Slow News Day

February 2, 2007

zunePhone is a figment of the rumormill’s imagination – Sure, this isn’t directly an Apple rumor, but since most all the other Apple rumor sites are reporting how Microsoft is developing a zunePhone that is going to compete with the iPhone, we thought we’d point out that they’re WRONG. Unless it is unbeknownst to Bill Gates, he sure doesn’t agree with them, citing an article at Newsweek:

“With Xbox and Zune, Microsoft has adopted an end-to-end approach, where you write the software, design the hardware and run the services. Will Microsoft now change its mobile-phone strategy and adopt an end-to-end approach, the way Apple has with the iPhone?
No, I don’t think so. People like different styling, media storage, capability [in phones]. The benefit we get from having lots of great hardware partners is pretty phenomenal. And our software can run on any one of those things.”

Of course, Bill could also be a dirty liar, like he accuses Apple of being in that interview…the pot and the kettle, we suppose…only one of the two companies is a convicted monopolist though.

While we’re on the topic of Microsoft and Apple, looks like the iPod doesn’t like Vista much more than the Zune does according to news.com. Apple does have a support page up about it, too (but seriously, if you’re reading this site it’s not very likely you’re worried about making your iPod work with Vista, right??). But really, how can you blame either the iPod or the Zune for not liking the most bloated operating system ever created?

Guess it is all quiet before the big football game this weekend, where we’ll finally see who would win in a fight, a bear or a horse? Maybe that will bring the alleged Beatles announcement and a yellow iPod (pee-pod…pPod?) as some of our brethren have been reporting…we’re not holding our breath. Or perhaps everyone is excited about the groundhog’s prediction of any early spring? Here in Seattle, we wouldn’t mind that ourselves…

What else is going on out there in the Apple world? Color shuffles, Disney sold 1.3 million movies through iTunes (and counting), etc. Kind of a slow news day, we guess…got any dirt to share…drop us a note in the comments or an email to applerecon@gmail.com

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Apple TV 2.0

January 31, 2007

We’ve been getting a TON of recon on the Apple TV, and we know it’s not so sexy as to talk about tablets and so forth, but feel like this is worth reporting on nevertheless…you can be the judge…

Let’s paint a picture, shall we? See if you recognize this one:

  1. Introduce a new device and price it at a premium (since you know you’ll sell as many as you can make at first, anyway)…
  2. Cut the price once R&D has been recouped…
  3. Once the market penetration has started, introduce new features, services, etc. tied to the platform…
  4. Profit (okay, so it’s a four step instead of three step plan like in South Park)

Do you remember the last time we saw that formula? Yep, the iPod…which lead to the iTunes store, which lead to complete and total market domination by Apple. Recon looking forward to Apple TV 2.0 suggests a similar path in place (only this is a five-step version of the above):

  1. Introduce Apple TV, sell it for $300 (already done)
  2. Cut the price for Christmas 2007 to $199 and MOVE UNITS
  3. Macworld 2008 – Introduce a firmware upgrade that allows direct purchase of content via iTunes (no computer needed)…also other video sources, like YouTube…and also video games (complete with a wireless controller option)
  4. Introduce one more upgrade that turns your very large install base into full fledged IP TV users…tied not just to things like iTunes and YouTube, but also directly to cable providers (and potentially content providers themselves, thus cutting the cable folks right out of the business)…thus biting Microsoft in the @$$ again while they were trying to get their act together on IPTV with whatever BS they are doing with their mishmash of approaches…
  5. Profit & completely dominate this market, too.

The end? Probably not, there is even more up Steve’s sleeve than this, but we wanted to get this out there for everyone’s knowledge…to be clear, this is a combination of tips and reports, along with our usual commentary and analysis. Do you see it going another way? Sound off in the comments or applerecon@gmail.com.

And as always, don’t forget to give us a DiggDigg!


Viewer Mail – Apple Special Event

January 30, 2007

Well color us impressed!! Color iPod Shuffles…wooo…er…yawn. Anyway, while we work up the next rumor post, here’s something else we’ve been meaning to do…

Rather than try to respond to all the comments from the banner week last week here at Apple Recon comment by comment, we thought we’d take a moment and address a few of the ones that were sent through, in a post…we will regularly do a “Viewer Mail” segment here at Apple Recon, again, trying to be different from the other rumor sites that are very “one way” and never do anything like this. You can certainly expect more of this from us in the future, and yes, we will address the criticisms as well as the compliments, we’re equal opportunity offenders here at Apple Recon. We will never censor someone that just doesn’t agree with us (in fact, we’ll do the opposite, and will engage in a lively debate with you!) If that makes you hate us and want to post anonymous coward comments, well, sorry about that…but we stand for what we believe in and are doing this our way. Without further ado…

“Ben Hallert” posted a note about updated Mac Books and monitors, all being multi-touch enabled. Our take is that it is probably too soon to see that in the Mac Books (unless Apple is going to come out with a convertible Mac Book / Tablet)…and monitors would be way cool, but that size, gotta be way expensive too (probably most would opt for similar Wacom devices that do double duty as a monitor and graphics tablet).

“ding dong” and “UK Dev” both posted notes that said Leopard isn’t nearly ready yet. We don’t disagree that it could be the case, but we have yet to get any reports to that extent. All sources continue to point toward shipping on the magical March anniversary date (6 years to the day that Mac OS X was released). Even if the date does slide for the release, you can bet that Steve Jobs will be getting the 10.5/Leopard full story out into the world very, VERY soon, to take even more thunder away from Vista!

“richard trickle” (nice ;), wants bacon cooking tips…Rachel Ray, perhaps? 😉

“Cheeseburger Brown” would like to see differentiation between the Mac Book and Mac Book Pro…we think that the biggest difference is that graphics card, and while that doesn’t warrant a $700 premium, once you throw in the bigger screen, backlit keyboard, Firewire 800 and express card slot, among other things, it gets to be a better story. Perhaps we’ll see a Core 2 Quad in the Mac Book Pro sometime soon??

“Tom” was interested in a touch screen iPod with HDD storage…we completely agree with you there, that is, without a doubt, coming…only question is will it be before iPhone goes on sale, or after??

“BeJesus” asks about the top secret features of 10.5. We believe that by far the biggest top secret feature is the new interface…if you want a preview of where Apple is going, look at the colors and interface queues in Front Row, iPhone, etc…it will be dark, much sleeker and less candy-like than Aqua, and you can expect all the goodness of tabs, core animation, and, dare we say it, an updated Finder, in Cocoa!

“Philber” wants the old 12″ form factor back. We agree entirely, one of our editors actually writes all of his posts from a 12″ PowerBook G4! He has a variety of other macs, a Mac Book, Mac Mini, etc. but the 12″ PowerBook G4 is just such a road warrior…

In fact, lots of you chimed in wanting a 12″ Mac Book Pro…(or Mac Book Duo??) we believe that it is coming. Our question to you, which would you rather have, a Tablet Mac or a 12″ Mac Book Duo? Why? We suspect that for most everyone, the answer is “both”…maybe it’ll be another iPhone-like announcement (3 devices, all in one!). Can you hear Steve Jobs standing up and saying “Today we’re introducing three new devices…an ultraportable Mac Book, a Tablet Mac, and a location-aware GPS-enabled PC…all in one”? We can certainly imagine that, but sadly it’s probably a little while off still before we see all three in one…anyone that wants to dish dirt, applerecon@gmail.com…and the comments are always open.

Not that you’d want to, but we’ll give you a link to Digg us anyway 🙂 We tend to think everything around here is Digg-able, but hey, that’s just us!

A new Apple TV post is on the way next…stay tuned!