Well it seems my predictions were coming true… at least until Steve Jobs stopped early.

As I thought they went into more details about the iTV and they announced the iPhone! They also utilized that multi-touch functionality of theirs in a creative and useful way (for the phone). It seems to work very similarly to that video I linked to in my previous blog, in particular in how it handles pictures and how they can be sized.

Also as I predicted the phone included some unexpected features… It is fully touch screen compatible and comes with a number of sensors (including a proximity sensor) as well as means to prevent accidental touches. It makes calling and conference calling incredibly easy (you can touch the screen to add people to a call), and so on. This phone is going to drastically raise the bar and this is going to provide a solid kick in the ass to the other phone companies who have been very lackluster in terms of innovation (i.e. they haven’t innovated archaic things such as voicemail at all). And I don’t mean innovation as in adding new things, I mean innovation as in revamping and improving upon how things are already done.

Not to mention this phone carries the undeniably powerful iPod name, it comes with a version of OS X (which is an interesting way to get the OS in more people’s hands – often those who experiment with OS X switch shortly after), full fledged internet capabilities, comprehensive video and music capabilities, 2 megapixel camera and so on. This thing will make an impact for certain.

I’m even considering going back to Cingular even though we did not part on the best of terms (they gave me a whole bunch of BS fees when I switched to Verizon).

However that’s where the conference ended. Jobs and Co. brought John Mayor on stage for a few songs, concluded it simply, packed up and left. There wasn’t even the trademark “oh and one more thing…” this time around.

So which of my predictions didn’t see light?

– No new Leopard info

– No iSight or new monitor

– No iWork or iLife announcements

– No Tablet (though the multi touch in the iPod suggests we will see one)

We did however learn that Apple Computer Inc. was changing and shortening its name to Apple Inc. I suppose they’re dropping the “computer” to be more in line with their ever expanding electronic products. They are changing their horizons and taking on more avenues of the electronic market… They even showed a comparison graph which showed video game console sales. Is Apple planning on getting into the video game console market at some point? I actually hope not.

With all the crazy new stuff they’re coming out with, I hope they keep their emphasis and specialty on building great computers and fine tuning their operating system.

Peace,

Mike

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Well Apple has rolled out the big hype guns on its main page in preparation for Macworld coming up next week. I’m sure some people may dismiss the bold teaser as fuel for the hype machine, but the last time Apple did this was in 2002, where they went on to announce the flat paneled iMac, the 14″ iBook, iPhoto, OS X as standard boot, and more. Essentially they roll out the Macworld hype carpet only when they have some major changes to announce and I expect Apple is unveiling the big guns this time around because they really plan to deliver.

So here are some of the things I’m expecting to see, or at least hoping to see.

Leapord: Arguably the star of the show will be the full reveal of Apple’s new, updated version of OS X. Last September we were privy to many of its upcoming features but we were told there was still much that was top secret (for fear of Microsoft imitating them I believe was the stated reason). We can expect many of the same updates/software to be shown again here, perhaps updated or improved a bit. Spaces, time machine, the updated iCal, Address Book, and so on all look to be included and worthwhile. I’m particularly fond of the iChat modifcations, including the ability on video chat to show pictures and video live. I think iTunes 7 is indicative of some of the things we can expect from Leopard both visibly and functionally.

Most applications on Leopard have undergone a graphical overhaul, with Finder being a notable exception… Indeed Finder still carries that brushed metal look, and for this reason I expect that we will be given an updated Finder. I’m hoping it has tabbed browsing, and I hope they allow a form of Quick Look for the Finder to browse through picture files. The one thing I still like about Windows is that you can click on a picture and browse all of them in the folder by pressing the left or right keys, if Apple including something to that effect it would be fantastic.

Macbook Tablet: I may be alone in the blogging world on this, but I do think we will see a Tablet mac computer announced, if not demonstrated, at this upcoming Macworld. However, rather than just announcing a tablet computer I believe Apple will take steps to innovate the tablet computers and redefine what they’re capable of. Back in 2002 Steve Jobs dismissed the (then brand new) tablet concept as being the same thing except you could draw on it. With some of the touch screen patents and properties owned by Apple, I expect a tablet Mac to do things like this multi-touch demonstration (Apple evidently owns this technology) which will immediately set it apart.

iPod: May we finally be getting that touch screen video ipod? Might we see a model where the entire side is a video screen that you touch? I don’t know but that would be excellent. If nothing else I imagine there will be some iPod updates which include longer battery life, brighter screen, more interface improvements, and so on. Since there were some pretty substantial upgrades in September I’m not sure how much new we’ll be seeing on this front. I really don’t think the iPod shuffle can stand to get smaller without issues of losing it easily.

iLife: I think iLife 07 will be announced and demonstrated. I imagine iMovie will get some cool new features, making it an even more potent video editing software. iPhoto is liable to get a couple added features, along with Garage Band… the latter may get some new loops and interface changes making it even more convenient and easy to use. While many of the changes to these programs may be minimal, they will be welcome frosting on the leopard cake.

iWork:

iWork 07 ought to make an appearance with some updates as well. The main bonus to this version seems to be the alleged inclusion of a spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft’s Excel but naturally easier and more intuitive to learn and use. While still a rumor, there is some pretty solid backing to this. For one spreadsheets are a good thing to have and it would be a major selling point – especially to those who’d like one less reason to have the MS Office Suit

ThinkSecret has released this screen capture of the iWork Spreadsheet program:

The screen of iWork's new feature.

Now it could be fake, but Think Secret tends to be quite a reliable source. In any event I look forward to seeing what they do with iWork. Keynote is certainly superior to powerpoint, Pages is debatably better than Word, and I’d hope the iWork Spreadsheet winds up being more potent or useful than Excel.

Monitor with iSight camera built in: With the iSight apparently discontinued, there will be a lot of Mac Mini and Mac Pro users without the ability to engage in video chat (missing out on those new iChat features) or take pictures with photobooth… To deal with this I think future Apple monitors will have the iSight included as an incentive to choose those monitors over a cheaper Dell or Acer equivalent.

As for the singular iSight camera, I hope they are improved and reinstated. There were advantages of the iSight as a separate entity, such as the ability to maneuver the camera around and point it at different people and differnet directions, also the cord allowed some small measure portability… An iSight trapped in a monitor loses the maneuvarability and options afforded by the stand alone iSight, and a camera at the top of a large monitor may prove troublesome as it’s above the head of the user or the monitor would have to be otherwise adjusted.

iTV: This was quite the surprise last September, and I think we will see much more of it next week at Macworld. However I don’t really suspect it will be released until later in the spring, maybe in February.

Apple Phone: Saving the biggest (and most “controversial?”) for last, the oft rumored iPod phone. This seems to have been the major topic of bloggers and speculative articles on websites such as digg or cnet. There are so many rumors and speculation I don’t know where to begin. Will it have two batteries? Will it be touch screen? Will it interface with the computer easily? Will it play iPod games? Can it connect to the internet? Can you do run video chat on it? etc.

Now I can’t say for certain whether we will see this or not, but I am leaning towards a “big revealing” of a phone that will impress us with features nobody expected. I may be labeled an apple fanboy for this (and probably will be anyway for this whole article) but I think the Apple phone could be a big deal, particularly if the price point is indeed a mere $250 (which is significantly cheaper than many well featured phones)… The prospect of a phone that can play music/videos only partly appeals to me, but the notion of a phone that can interface easily with a computer (and, in the case of a Mac, sync with Address book, iCal, and others) and run a video chat conversation would be awesome. Hell, I’d buy a video cell phone just for that.

In any case, I’m looking forward to the news and announcements of Macworld 07 and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. If Jobs and Co are true to form there will be something coming out of left field, some crazy new idea or technology. At the last bit Steve Jobs will do his, “oh and there’s one more thing” and go on to announce something interesting. More than anything though I am a bit curious to see what those top secret Leopard features will turn out to be…

-Mike

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Well, as if the wiretapping wasn’t bad enough… Evidently President Bush quietly added a signing statement to a recent postal reform bill which grants him the authority to open American mail without a judge issued search warrant. This naturally flies in the face of every existing law and judicial precedent on the matter and contradicts the very bill itself which specifically reinforces the protections against unwarranted search and seizures.

Now this is an extension of presidential power that gives him leverage to violate some of our rights prescribed by the constitution. That he used “exigent circumstances” troubles me a bit, that’s a broad and vague requirement and open to any manner of interpretation. Basically it’s like saying he can look at our mail whenever the situation demands it… He can construe this to basically mean “anytime” seeing as the threat of terrorism is ever-present and we are locked in an unwinnable war against a concept.

Why does this bug me? Because I know my history, and I know this exact pattern has been seen before. The threat of terrorism and attack has been used before to justify the invasion of privacy and rights, and the often seen “If you have nothing to fear then you have nothing to hide” defense (which is actually a fallacy of the false dichotomy by the way) has been used before… Few people are alive who remember it, but it was a very common defense in 1938 Nazi Germany… Yes, it’s important to remember that Hitler was elected to power and he slowly dismantled the democracy in the interest of national security by doing many of the same political maneuvering that the US is doing now. The Nazis began giving themselves more power and invading the privacy and infringing on the rights of the citizens more and more wielding the defense of protection and security.

I’m not necessarily likening Bush to Hitler, but I am using the example to illustrate how important it is that we are aware of the possible dangers with granting the president power to void our rights or break the law in the interest of “national security.”

In any case, I hope nobody takes their rights for granted and will actively defend them against those who’d like to take them away.

Mike

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Since there are so many conspiracy theories out there I feel almost obligated to forward another one, one that’s so ridiculous that people will HAVE to believe it. The conspiracy is simple: Saddam Hussein wasn’t really executed, it was all staged.

Of course why would they do such a thing? Well, motives aren’t all that important to conspiracy theories, so let’s just say it was some evil corporation exerting political influence and pulling strings. Let’s go with Microsoft. No, that’s too cliche and expected… given some of the negative publicity for battery explosions let’s go with Sony. Sony sounds about right.

Did I mention recent investigation revealed that the Sony battery explosions were really an elaborate terrorist plot from Iraqis to harm businessmen and boil desktop surfaces? It’s all true – why would I make it up?

On to the alleged hanging of Saddam Hussein. I had a panel of top experts examine the video and they came to some stunning conclusions. They determined that a 69 year old dictator would not have the remaining muscle strength to jerk about as he did, that the muscle reflex behaviors would be impossible for anybody over the age of 30. They also believe that he could not have landed in his own footprints without external assistance. Some point out that the death was too quick considering Saddam had such a fat neck.

It must have been an imposter – a dedicated young man probably around the age of 25… No he was 16 – that way it sounds more dramatic and messed up!

Ted Bradley, a reputable agent and disguise analyst of the CIA (using an undercover name), says that the beard the Saddam imposter wore easily obscured his face and made it easy for most, less discerning people, to know who was actually being hung.

“The beard is an old disguise,” Bradley told us, “it’s a cheap and easy way to hide your face and real identity. However in this case our analysis indicates that the jawline, beard growth, and general face structure is inconsistent with our records of Saddam Hussein.”

“There was no hanging on Saturday morning”, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Information Minister, told authories, “There hasn’t been a hanging here since the American invasion when the US soldiers hung themselves in droves.”

“I can give you the utmost assurances that mister Hussein is not only among the living, but he is in better shape than he ever has been.” The information minister continued, “He is being secretly moved away somewhere and inside sources say he may become a cab driver.”

And here’s where it all ties together: The whole event was filmed by a Sony HD camera! Sony is using this staged death for incredible publicity (everyone in the world will know that a Sony camera was used to capture the last moments of the dictator) and a chance to bolster the sales of their HD-TVs and Blu-Ray format by offering special “Saddam Bundles of Death” where you get a copy of the video in Hi-def for free with any purchase!

Some experts are now suggesting that Saddam is largely responsible for Global Warming as well as the Bird Flu and they believe action must be taken to force the Bush administration to unmask the truth and kill the real Saddam before they unwittingly unleash catastrophes and destruction on humanity and the planet.

Calling the white house number yielded no results as Bush was either unwilling to comment or was just plain busy. However some sources inform us that Bush doesn’t even know how to operate a phone, rendering that line of inquiry fruitless.

Anyway, the hanging of Saddam was obviously a conspiracy by the government working in conjunction with Sony to sell more HD-TVs.

They can’t stop the signal,
-Mike

Disclaimer: If you couldn’t tell this whole thing was facetious and not to be taken seriously whatsoever. Sony isn’t in league with terrorists, there was no panel of experts who reviewed the tape, Saddam is most assuredly dead, I’m not really trying to cause trouble just to poke fun at conspiracy theories in general. I do think a few of the conspiracy theories are pluasible, but this one is definitely a made up and a farce.

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The Console Wars…

December 28, 2006

Well my first post is going to be kind of a long-winded rant… I promise future ones won’t be this bad.

This is an issue that is probably only truly interesting to a select few – the members of the nerd patrol eagerly lapping up any technological information that comes about and/or the “fanboys” looking for reassurance of some kind. In the latter case only the Nintendo fans and so-called “Xbots” will find anything to satisfy their beliefs here.

(Let it be known that I hate terms like “fanboys” and “Xbots” as they are often recklessly thrown around too easily and readily by people who don’t know what they’re talking about or who don’t even know what the words mean).

Earlier in the fall I made a prediction and it was that the console rankings would wind up looking like this: The Nintendo Wii would quickly win a solid first place, followed by the Xbox 360 with the PS3 some distance behind. I also predicted that both formats (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray) will lose, with DVD carrying on as the standard video playing format. I still hold true to my original forecasts and I think the market has so far been shaping up precisely the way I had envisioned.

Nintendo made a brilliant move with the Wii, by going in a completely new (revolutionary) direction they’ve effectively removed themselves from the competitors and offer a unique service that is a “must have” to everyone – including a great many people who otherwise aren’t interested in videogames. Even for most people sitting on a particular side of an ideaological corporate fence during the “console war” the Wii is not seen as direct competition, even the most strident fanboys will tout “PSWii” and “Wii60” (some will even use silly abbreviations such as “FTW”). Nintendo has very cleverly sidestepped the entire issue, appealed to almost all gamers, appealed to vast amounts of regular people (including women, who before weren’t keen on gaming) and comes at an amazingly affordable $249.99!

Even the name “Wii” has caught on in an unusual way… When I first heard the name I thought the Nintendo execs had taken crazy pills, stuffed themselves with pizza, dropped a few hits of LSD and then knocked each other out with throw pillows (decorated with anime girls no less). I was one of those who despised the name and thought there was no rational way it would fly – but evidently it has. It’s fairly easily slid into mainstream usage and the sexual innuendo isn’t play on all that much anymore. All across the world people are playing with their Wiis free of guilt!

Nintendo fans, Sony fans, Microsoft fans, PC gamers, and even non-gamers are enticed to pick up the Wii, and because it’s so unique, with such surprising support and at such low cost it will easily come in first place.

The real battle, the real console war, will take place between the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Microsoft has a brilliant marketing department (denoted just by the fact that they dominate the computer industry, even with an inferior operating system [Yes I’m a Mac guy, oops] ) and they made a clever play by following the PS2 example and coming out a year earlier. Now they have gained a strong foothold, had time to flesh out the graphical capabilities, built a good library, and are far more available at this critical time. The 360 has had time to evolve and grow, becoming a force to be recogned with.

Conversely the PS3 is plagued by a host of problems and issues. It has limited offerings at launch and so far the graphics of the games are trounced by the 360. It is particularly evident in multiplatform games where the PS3 very visibly lacks in texture and graphical quality. This is a temporary setback to a system that hasn’t been fleshed out yet, but consumers won’t see it that way. They will see the 360 with Gears of War and other visually impressive games and turn to see the PS3 lacking.

What hurts Sony the most is the $600 price tag, which is a huge chunk of change. This is definitely worth it to the Playstation enthusiasts who also happent to want a Blu-Ray player to boot, but a great many people don’t want the Blu-ray forced on them and Americans reject and distrust the Sony’s trojan horse tactic. Oops!

There are other concerns only gamers and technophiles worry about – the lack of an internal scaler, not all older games are backwards compatible yet, backwards compatible games do experience terrible resolution and anti-aliasing blunders (they look like jagged hell ran over them), and several others – but by and large the PS3 is suffering due to its price and a weak launch. Demand has virtually ground to a halt on these things already, with some of them becoming available in stores and sitting there for hours or days at a time. My friends and I have seen them just sitting in Costco, Target and other retail stores. I overheard a gamestop employee saying they got in 6 and it took days to sell them all. There is a fairly high return rate as ebay sellers aren’t making the killing they thought they would and are returning the consoles! There was a strong launch with people going mad over the ebay possibilities, but it seems the hardcore buyers have already dwindled…

I originally had thought that the Xbox 360 would sell strongly because people looking for PS3s (which I presumed would be completely unavailable) would instead opt for the 360, but instead the reverse is true… Many people are ignoring the PS3s (which are occasionally available) and opting for the much cheaper 360 anyway! Though the Wii is still in ridiculously high demand and fully unavailable.

So I’ve run on long enough, so to wrap up those are my predictions. We can see how it all fares in the long run, but I think so far the market has demonstrated that my assumptions will play out predictably. As for why I think both HD formats will lose, this article sums it up nicely. However I think he is expecting too much of PS3 sales and in light of recent events it seems likely that a bunch of people won’t in fact be accidentally buying blu-rays…

Anyway in my next post I’ll probably tackle something more controversial, like evolution vs. creationism. Until then. Peace.

-Mike

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December 28, 2006

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