Al Gore uses Keynote NOT Powerpoint!

June 7th, 2006

Apple has posted a case study on its site about how Al Gore used Keynote to run the presentation with which which he has spent the last few years travelling the world and scaring the bejeesus out of anyone willing to listen to him.

The case study tells how Gore started out out with a carousel of slides and a flip chart, before his wifie, Tipper, suggested that he should use a laptop. As an Apple board member, a PowerBook was the natural choice. It also describes how Keynote is at the heart of the film, based on Gore’s presentation, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.

What’s particularly interesting, not to say amusing, is that in practically every press article I’ve read about Gore and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, the presentation is described as a ‘Powerpoint presentation.’ Now, I know it’s too much to expect the mainstream media to get technical details correct, and I alos realise that the term ‘Powerpoint presentation’ has become a generic term that trancends the actual software used, much like ‘Hoover’ in the vacuum cleaner market. And ‘Sellotape’ in the sticky tape market. But given Gore’s well-kown tech credentials, and the fact that he is a member of the Apple board, you’d think that most big media outlets would have made an extra effort to get it right, wouldn’t you?

How to Choose the Perfect Mac

June 6th, 2006

So, the transition to Intel is almost complete. Unless you’re dead set on a Pro Mac, you’re probably sifting through the Apple Store looking at the iMac, Mac mini and MacBooks longingly, trying to decide which to buy. Which is the right Mac for you?

Well, this neat little tool can help. It’s based on a decision matrix and asks you a series of questions in order to determine which Mac best suits your needs and wants. the idea is to find out which Mac you really want, as opposed to the one you may think you want. It’s a great tool which can be used for just about any decision that involves choosing from a number of options.

The company that makes it, SiteSell uses its Web business product, SiteBuildIt as an example to show how it works. If you haven’t heard of SiteBuildIt before, it’s worth checking out, particularly if you are interested in building a web-based business, promoting on offline business online, or making a few extra dollars on the Internet. I have couple of SBI sites and have been using it for four years. I constantly surprised at how much there is to it. It’s the only web business tool that I’ve found which more than lives up to its promises.

Anyway, I digress. Back to finding the perfect Mac. Try it here

Dvorak Calls Steve Jobs ‘Sugared Water Salesman’

May 25th, 2006

You can pretty much guarantee that whenever John C. Dvorak sets his keyboard to opine on Apple and its products that the result will be entertaining. Utter nonsense. But entertaining nevertheless. That would be fine in a tabloid newspaper, or the The Onion, or even The Register, but on a serious platform like MarketWatch, there’s a concern that some people may take Dvorak as seriously as he and the site take themselves.

His latest missive boils down to this: Apple’s announcement of a tie-up with Nike amounts to little more than a fashion statement, just like most of what Apple does these days. As a result, Jobs has become more of a ‘cultural tastemaker’ than a CEO and Apple is on the verge of becoming just another ‘fashion and accessories company’. See what I mean?

At various stages he describes the most popular consumer electronics product this century as ’sugared water of a different sort’ and its design as a ‘cliché.’

He goes on a riff about Apple fashion accessories and a range of women’s clothes and says ‘the iPod moniker — without the “I” — has potential for women’s wear. “Put your bod in a Pod — the cool clothes for the ladies. Grrrrruf!”‘ You couldn’t make it up, except that he did.

He even ponders the idea of a Steve Jobs branded perfume.

Like I said, in The Onion, written by someone who understands satire and humour, it would have been funny. But this is a financial news site fer chrissakes.

To compound his mistakes, he misses the central, critical point about the whole deal: that two of the world’s biggest, most successful brands have teamed up to find a new, relatively inexpensive way to add functionality to their products and market them to a large and relatively high-spending group of people. That’s the point that MarketWatch should have been making. Not this drivel.

Steve Jobs / Lance Armstrong Dream Team Launches iShoe

May 24th, 2006

It’s the product that no-one saw coming. While all the attention was focused on the MacBook and the New York store, and all the rumors centred around stories of an iPhone and media center, Apple pulled a rabbit out of the hat and announced a deal with Nike to produce shoes which will connect wirelessly to an iPod nano.

“We’re working with Nike to take music and sport to a new level,” said
Jobs “The result is like having a personal coach or training partner motivating you every step of your workout.”

Our first thoughts were that it would be a clever way of matching the speed at which you are running with the tempo of the music playing on the iPod, by employing some method of matching the rhythm of your steps to the beats per minute of the tracks on your nano. But no, it seems that the idea is to provide information about time, distance, calories burned, and pace on the nano’s screen. There will also be ‘audible feedback’ through the nano’s headphones, though quite what this feedback is hasn’t yet been revealed. A virtual coach yelling at you when you slow down perhaps?

Armstrong, who is preparing for his first New York marathon, said it would take training to a ‘whole new level’. Also present at the launch was UK marathon runner and women’s world record holder, Paula Radcliffe. She said: ‘I listen to faster music if I am doing a workout in the gym to just get the best out of myself, but I also use it to help me relax in the buildup to a big race’

Whether the shoes sell as well as Apple and Nike would like or not, this is another coup for Jobs. It wasn’t that long ago that Nike was selling its own MP3 players, now it’s the latest big brand to put its considerable marketing weight behind the iPod. And from the details we have available, it seems to be a rather nifty and innovative use of the screen on the iPod.

Woz reveals ‘Greatest Product of our Time’

May 23rd, 2006

Steve Wozniak was interviewed by Business Week today and among the pearls of wisdom he imparted were that the Apple II is the ‘greatest product of our time’ and that the reason the iPod is so successful is that it’s a satellite to a computer. Hmmm. Most people see the fact that they have to own a computer and hook there iPod up to it to transfer music to it to be an inconvenience rather than a benefit.

To be fair to Woz, the interview is almost certainly heavily edited, and he may have been quoted out of context. The interview covers 30 years worth of his life in a few hundred words, but still manages to unearth some interesting nuggets. One of them is the fact that Wozniak wasn’t at all bothered when Steve Jobs claimed the credit and financial reward for creating the Atari game Breakout, when in fact it was Woz who had stayed up late into the night for days on end writing the code in time to meet the deadline set by Jobs’ boss. Personally, I would have been spitting feathers.

Wozniak also goes on to say that he has never fallen out with Jobs and has no idea why the Apple CEO changed his mind about writing the foreword to Wozniak’s upcoming autobiography.

Talking about his autobiography, on of the secrets it unveils, according to Wozniak, relates to the time he hilariously persuaded a guy in a University of Colorado class that he should put his hand on a TV screen and put one foot on a chair for an entire half-hour episode of Mission Impossible in order to maintain good reception. Sounds like a riveting read.

Am I being unfair on Woz? Yes of course. Without him there would be no Apple, certainly not as we know it now. And he seems like a genuinely decent, nice guy. It’s just that, well, he could do with a lesson on self-promotion and interview technique from is old friend Jobs.

Steve Jobs Gives the Game Away on Mac Future?

May 22nd, 2006

Ars Technica has picked up on an interview Steve Jobs gave to a CNBC reporter following the opening of Apple’s Fifth Avenue store on Friday. Most of the interview was pretty mundane stuff, but when the reporter asked why Apple moved to Intel chips rather than AMD, Jobs’ answer may have given away a little more than he intended.

He said: “You know AMD’s got some interesting products at the very high end of the server space, but the part of the market we concentrate on the most is notebooks and consumer desktops, and for that Intel’s got the best chips.” He appears to be saying that Apple’s focus, not just at the moment, but generally, is on laptops and the iMac and Mac mini. Now, the focus on laptops is no surprise it’s a rapidly growing sector of the market and one in which Apple has a share which is bigger than its overall share of the PC market. But, the phrase “consumer desktops” will alarm many. Is he really saying that Apple is more concerned with shifting iMacs and Mac minis than Power Macs and Xserves? Yes, and no.

Of course it’s less focused on the Xserve. Despite the fact that it is an excellent product for its niche, it’s a small niche that needs specialist teams to sell it. It will never be a big revenue earner for Apple, but is an important machine strategically because it says that Apple is serious about the enterprise market. I don’t think anything has changed there.

As for professional desktop machines, I think that Jobs comment is merely a reflection of the fact that Apple knows that until it ships an Intel pro machine and Adobe updates Creative Suite, it will struggle to sell Macs into that market sector, hence its efforts are focused on shipping machines where it can compete – in the laptop and consumer desktop markets.
Apple knows full well the importance and value of its traditional, creative professional market. It’s invested heavily in the sector in recent years with Final Cut Studio, Logic Professional, and Aperture, to name but three.

You can bet that as soon as it has a story to put a smile on the faces of Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver users it will shout loudly and you’ll hear no more talk of being focused on consumer desktops.

Windows Vista in Trouble Again as Symantec Sues Microsoft

May 19th, 2006

As if it didn’t have enough problems getting Vista out the door already, Symantec has added to Microsoft’s woes by asking a judge to halt development of the operating system.

Symantec claims that Microsoft has no right to use the Veritas storage technology which formas part of Vista. Symantec has previously asked
Microsoft to remove the Veritas technology from its products, but to no avail.

As with most legal disputes of this kind, the details are complicated and messy. Microsoft signed a deal with Veritas Software in 1996 which allowed it to use the volume management technology in its products. However, Symantec, which bought Veritas for $10.2 billion last year, contends that part of the agreement prevented Microsoft from developing products which compete with those of Veritas. According to Symantec, Vista contains technologies which breach that part of the agreement.

Microsoft disagrees. It says that that agreement in 1996 gave it the option to buy out the rights to Veritas’ code and intellectual property, something which it did in 2004. As it owns the code and IP, MS believes there can be no breach. Symantec describes the buy-out as a “whitewash.” It adds that Microsoft tricked the US Patent Office into awarding it patents based on Symantec intellectual property.

The question is: when Symantec shelled out $10.2 billion for Veritas, did it do so in the belief that it still rightfully owned the Veritas IP, and if so how much will that acquisition be worth if it loses the legal fight?

Apple Launches Final Cut Express HD 3.5

May 18th, 2006

Apple has announced the latest version of its pro-sumer video editing package, Final Cut Express HD. The new version is Universal Binary and adds the ability to playback multi-stream effects in real-time, known as Dynamic RT.

Dynamic RT allows users to view multi-layered HDV video in real-time, which, according to Apple, dramatically speeds up the editing process by eliminating the need to render and re-render clips. All effects, transitions and motion parameters can now be keyframed, and special effects can be saved as favourites for use in other projects.

“Final Cut Express HD 3.5 is the total movie making package with many of the same tools the pros use at a price designed to appeal to aspiring pros,” said Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Product Marketing. “Whether it’s multiple streams of video, professional audio tools or animated text and titles, Final Cut Express HD 3.5 is ideal for anyone who is passionate about the movies they make and delivers incredible performance on Apple’s new Intel-based Macs.”

Included with Final Cut Express HD 3.5 is a new version of Soundtrack, 1.5, and a new version of LiveType, 2.1. Soundtrack 1.5 has 4,000 professional quality, royalty-free instrument loops and sound effects. Version 1.5 improves multitrack editing and recording tools.

New in LiveType 2.1 are a host of new animated graphics, including 70 new animated objects, 15 new textures and 60 new customisable preset effects for animated text and titles. With new vector-based LiveFont technology, animated text styles like Tremor, Script, Ribbon, Cool and Blueprint can be scaled to any resolution.

Final Cut Express HD 3.5 is available now for $299. An upgrade from versions 1,2, or 3 costs $99.

MacBook: Even the ports are black

May 17th, 2006

As you can see from the picture, the black MacBook has Apple’s usual attention to detail. The insides of the ports are black, and the felt on the inside of the slot-loading optical drive is also black. Unfortunately, the power adapter, remote and optional video adapters are all white.

Other points worth noting are that the feet are fixed from the inside and so can’t fall off. And there’s no latch. When folded, the screen and keyboard are held together magnetically.

The glossy screen is very nice and has an anti-reflective coating on it to stop it acting as a mirror. However, in certain lighting conditions there is more than enough reflection to be distracting.

The black coating has a matt finish and is very, very nice. However, as you can see from the picture it does mark very easily. Those treeh dark spots are fingerprints. Despite being a replacement for the iBook G4, the case is more reminiscent of the PowerBook G4 12in. for example, the speakers are on the rear and point towards the bottom of the screen bezel when the MacBook is in use, bouncing the sound back towards you.

Also worth mentioning is that the power adapter is much smaller than the one for the MacBook Pro. In fact it’s identical to the one for the iBooks and PowerBooks.

The keyboard is very nice, if a little noisy. It feels great to type on and the keys have plenty of travel. The track pad is now wider to reflect the dimensions of the screen.

And that price issue for the black MacBook? Well, Todd Benjamin, Apple’s Director of Portables, Worldwide Product Marketing told us that the black MacBook is the ‘conceptual replacement’ for the 12in PowerBook and so is both cheaper and more powerful than the machine it replaces. It’s more expensive than a similarly specified white model because it is. To be fair, it’s not just a colour change, the whole finish is different. That together with the fact that their will be fewer made and so less room for economies of scale accounts for some of the difference.

The verdict? I want one. And if only a fool would pay the premium for black one, then I’m a fool.

13-inch black 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook for as low as $35 a month.

The Black MacBook’s Sting in the Tail

May 16th, 2006

I’ve spent a while going through the specs of the new MacBook’s and have uncovered one or two interesting nuggets.

First off, the graphics chip supports spanning as well as mirroring, and you can display at up to 1920 x 1200 pixels on an external monitor, which can, if you want it to be, as large as a 23in Cinema Display. The graphics connector is mini DVI, but there’s no adaptor in the box, so you’ll need to buy it separately.

The screen on the iBook has a glossy finish, rather than the matt of previous PowerBooks and iBooks. If it’s as nice as the screens on some of the PC laptops I’ve seen, it’ll be gorgeous. Interestingly, Apple is offering the glossy screen as a no-cost BTO option for the 15in and 17in MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pros have also been upgraded to 2GHz and 2.16GHz at no extra cost.

The SuperDrive in the MacBook is the same 4x unit as the 15in MacBook Pro, rather than the 8x model in the 17in MBP. Maximum RAM is 2GB, and, like the Mac mini, it’s dual-channel and so is installed in pairs. In the standard configuration its 2 x 256MB and the other options are 2 x 512MB, or 2 x 1GB. In other words, like the mini, you can’t buy the MacBook with a spare slot to upgrade later.

The sting in the tail is in the cost of the black MacBook. The only technical difference between the black and white 2GHz machines is an extra 20GB hard drive capacity on the black model. To spec up the white MacBook from 60Gb to 80GB costs $50 and the price difference between the two machines is $200, meaning the black MacBook costs an extra $150 just because its black.

The Guardian’s Charles Arthur put that point to Apple’s worldwide director of product marketing for portables, Todd Benjamin, who seemed to imply that the fact that it is black is worth an extra $150. I guess the market will decide…

Get the 13-inch black 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook for as low as $35 a month.