MaCinJay’s Musings

another case of inverse vandalism

Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jobs

Updates to iPhone, iPod touch

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On the eve of the Macworld Expo I speculated that Steve Jobs might announce a 3G iPhone during his keynote but it was not to be. However today Apple announced that it would be releasing a 16 GB version of the iPhone, as well as a 32 GB iPod touch. Both will cost $499. I’m sure that this will please consumers with large media libraries or those that prefer lossless playback.

Existing owners of these devices will be looking forward to the SDK, which is due for release this month. It’s going to be really interesting what third-party developers will come up with, especially considering the incredible variety of iPhone applications that have been developed without Apple’s support.

Written by macinjay

February 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm

iPod touch update

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Following Steve Jobs’s keynote at last week’s Macworld Expo I made the observation that international iPod touch owners (or at least those without iTunes Stores in their countries) had been left high and dry because they were unable to buy the upgrade that he announced. In fact though there is a workaround, albeit a convoluted one.

A while back I tried to open an iTunes account but was stymied because I didn’t have a US credit card or address. After that I read somewhere that you could also make purchases from the iTunes Stores using iTunes vouchers but never bothered to look into it further. My interest was rekindled after Jobs’s keynote – I wanted that upgrade.

I learned that iTunes vouchers were available for purchase on eBay and bought a $25 voucher with a $4 markup using PayPal. All that remained was to find a suitable address in the US so that I could redeem the voucher under “Quick Links” in the iTunes Store.

Once all that had been done I was able to buy the upgrade. Even better, I’ve bought a few songs and downloaded the pilot to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for free!

I still have to question Apple’s wisdom here though. While it may be convenient for the company to leverage off the iTunes Store to sell these type of upgrades, it doesn’t make much sense from a distribution standpoint. In countries like South Africa distribution rights for music content are jealousy protected, which is presumably why there is no iTunes Store here yet. But Apple is free to sell its software anywhere in the world, so why restrict sales unnecessarily and leave people to resort to complicated workarounds?

Surely Apple should have come up with a more appropriate platform.

Written by macinjay

January 24, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Macworld Expo Keynote

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I concluded my last post by predicting that Steve Jobs would have a few surprises in store for us. For the first time since I’ve been following the Macworld Expo though I can honestly say that I wasn’t actually surprised by anything revealed in his keynote!

There was no new iPhone announced. Jobs compensated by talking about the new features and enhancements included in its latest firmware update. Not exactly earth-shattering though by Apple’s standards, especially considering that these had been leaked to the rumour sites weeks ago. The update will also be available to iPod touch owners but they will have to pay $20 for what their iPhone-owning counterparts get for nothing – go figure. Also the upgrade is only available via the iTunes Store, which leaves a lot of Apple’s international clients, including me, out in the cold.

The rumour sites were also spot on about Apple’s new ultra-portable, even getting the name right – the MacBook Air! Thin enough to make your average supermodel green with envy, it’s a small engineering marvel that Jobs was able to fit into a manila envelope. Very nice, only it doesn’t have an optical drive and sports slower processors than the less-expensive MacBooks. By leaving out the optical drive Apple seems to be prematurely consigning another technology to the scrapheap, like they did with the floppy drive and dial-up modems. From a connectivity standpoint the Air is limited to USB, WiFi and Bluetooth. It isn’t all about aesthetics; the Air shares the iPhone’s Multi-touch technology for zooming images and rapid scrolling using its generous touchpad and there is a flash-based version that should improve boot-up times. But I have to wonder if the Air is going to find a market considering all the design compromises that had to be made so that Apple could market it as the “world’s thinnest laptop”. Time will tell but I’m certainly not regretting buying my MacBook Pro now.

Jobs also announced a wireless storage and networking solution to work hand-in-hand with Leopard’s back-up utility Time Machine called, aptly, Time Capsule. I may actually consider buying one of these for back-ups and to provide a wireless connection to my printer, as plugging and unplugging cables into my MacBook Pro everytime I need to move it has become a chore. Still, not really a headline-grabber.

As predicted, Jobs revealed that movie rentals were coming to iTunes. He also detailed related changes to the Apple TV, which will allow users to view, rent or buy media directly from the device instead of having to synch it with their computers first. The upgrade will also enable high-definition content. No doubt this will address criticisms of the original product. (The improvements will be available to existing Apple TV owners as a firmware update.)

That was the meat of it; of course there was the usual padding about how many billion songs had been downloaded from iTunes and all the rest. But this is not what keeps Mac fans glued to their computer screens for updates from the Expo blogs. Sadly I fear this year’s Expo will leave many of them disappointed.

Written by macinjay

January 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

iWoz Apple

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One thing I love about the holidays is that I get to catch up on my reading. I was browsing in a bookshop the other day when I came across Steve Wozniak’s autobiography iWoz. Wozniak is, of course, the guy who invented the first Apple computers that were instrumental in bringing computers into everyday households.

I was interested to get an insight into his relationship with the man he co-founded Apple with and its current CEO, Steve Jobs. Wozniak relates how they met through a mutual acquaintance and formed an instant connection based on their love of electronics and their shared admiration of Bob Dylan’s music. Later on when Jobs was working at Atari he approached Wozniak for help in creating the game Breakout. The problem was that there was a very tight deadline and the two had to go without sleep for several days to meet it, becoming ill from fatigue in the process. In any event Jobs received payment for developing the game from Atari and paid Wozniak his share. Some time later though Wozniak found out that Jobs had actually shortchanged him, having received significantly more from Atari than he had let on.

After that Wozniak designed the computer that would become the Apple I. Both he and Jobs had been attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley, which had inspired Wozniak to design the Apple I in the first place. Jobs got the idea to produce and sell printed circuit boards based on Wozniak’s design to other members of the club. He reasoned that they did not have the patience or skill to make the circuit boards themselves from Wozniak’s schematics, which were handed out at the meetings. Wozniak was skeptical whether the scheme would succeed but liked the idea of starting a business with Jobs. (Presumably he didn’t know that Jobs had shortchanged him on the Atari deal at this stage!) Jobs also came up with a name for the new company: Apple Computer. Ironically considering subsequent events Wozniak was concerned that there would be a possible trademark conflict with Apple Corps but the name stuck because they couldn’t think of anything better.

This combination worked well for the company in the early part of its existence – Wozniak’s brilliant engineering brain and Jobs’ astute business and marketing skills. Almost as soon as the Apple I was complete Wozniak started work on the Apple II, which was ultimately the first personal computer to sell more than one million units. According to Wozniak his design for the Apple II led to his first argument with Jobs. The design included eight expansion slots but Jobs wanted to reduce these to two in order to keep production costs down. Wozniak won that argument but Apple’s next computer, the ill-conceived Apple III, would have fewer expansion slots. (To this day Apple favours simplicity of design over providing Mac users with more versatility, at least as far as its consumer machines go.)

By 1980 the success of the Apple II culminated in an initial public offering that was (at that time) second only to that of the Ford Motor Company. Wozniak and Jobs became rich beyond their wildest dreams. But Wozniak wasn’t comfortable with the direction Apple then took; the Apple III (and later the Macintosh) received greater priority than the Apple II, even though the Apple II was still the company’s biggest selling computer. He also found that his work was being affected by other commitments outside Apple. Eventually he left Apple’s full-time employ (although he apparently remains on Apple’s payroll on some sort of consultancy basis to this day) to start up his own company making universal remote controls. By this time it seems Wozniak had grown so distant from Jobs that he didn’t bother to inform him of his resignation. This may explain why Jobs apparently ordered the plastics company Wozniak hired to produce the casings of his remote controls to stop doing business with him, throwing one of the prototypes against a wall in the process. The company obeyed, not wanting to alienate Apple, which was one of its biggest accounts, and Wozniak had to find someone else to make his cases.

Wozniak though does give credit to Jobs for doing such a good job at turning Apple’s fortunes around when Jobs returned to the company in 1997.

Besides this there is a lot of other interesting stuff in the book. Wozniak loved to pull pranks on people and he relates many of these. My own favourite is one involving his use of a self-made device that he used to interfere with people’s television signals, which if I recall correctly was mentioned with some fondness by Steve Jobs during his last Macworld keynote. Wozniak developed another device, called a “blue box”, to hack telephone networks in order to make free calls. This episode doesn’t altogether gel with Wozniak’s vision of himself as an ethics-first type of person, although he does his best to justify his actions. I was also fascinated to read about the plane crash Wozniak was involved in that temporarily damaged his short-term memory. His experiences reminded me of the film Memento, in which the hero is unable to remember events from one day to the next.

On the downside the writing style of the book is almost childlike in parts. Presumably the intention here was to reinforce Wozniak’s image of himself as a do-good kind of guy but it comes across as a bit cheesy. I was also a little surprised by the opportunistic use of the ubiquitous lower-case “i” in the book’s title. After all Wozniak hasn’t had any direct involvement with the development of products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone etc. But these are really small quibbles; overall iWoz is an excellent read.

Written by macinjay

December 24, 2007 at 11:24 am