Category Archives: Apple

Thoughts on Apple’s Executive Shakeup

News of Apple’s fires and promotions is unsettling and leaves many questions to answer. The Jony Ive promotion over all human interface at Apple is great. The firing of John Browett as head of retail seems good. Why should the rapidly growing and most profitable retail operation in the world get cut backs to save a few bucks? The loss of Scott Forstall, the key force in the development of iOS, is a little scary.

I want to put in a disclaimer here before I get started with my comments. I don’t know nearly enough about these guys. This is more a list of questions and guesses than solid information. I will post updates as more is revealed.

Jony Ive

Skeumorphism begone! No more bookshelves, leather stitching and horrible fonts like in notepad. Jony will see to the elimination of all unnecessary ornamentation, you can be assured of that. In its place will come extraordinary care in all manners of software design. The differences between hardware and software design will cease. Yay for that. The only questions here are:

  1. Who will lead the software and UI effort underneath Jony Ive? Is there a designer in waiting to take that role? Probably so.
  2. Will there be loss on the hardware side due to less attention there? I’m hoping the broader focus won’t dilute the secret sauce once an awesome design lead is selected.
  3. Will the elimination of conflicts and workarounds necessary to overcome the ongoing differences between Ive and Forstall free up energy that more than makes up for #2?
  4. Will there be synergy having hardware and software design under one roof? Yeah.

Scott Forstall

  1. Forstall is extremely talented or Steve Jobs wouldn’t have kept him and promoted him to top of Apple software.
  2. It’s scary to think what happens when all that knowledge in his head and passion goes somewhere else like Google or Microsoft. If he goes to a smaller venue to become CEO there, that could be a good thing for Apple.
  3. The iOS team is the A-Team at Apple software. Can Craig Federighi take that A-team higher without a dip while he and the team adjust to a new leader?
  4. Some say Scott may have been the closest to a Steve Jobs in his passion, creativity, vision and take-no-prisoners determination. Will his leaving make Apple too soft?
  5. I want to know a lot more about Federighi and his immediate reports. Will this be a plus or a minus for iOS?

Eddy Cue

  1. Who is this Eddy Cue guy anyway? I don’t like iTunes much and iCloud looks pretty great but is still in that awkward stage where we can’t be sure how successful it will be. Apple TV is still struggling.
  2. Eddy is taking over Siri and Maps and already had a full plate. We hear he is not an egomaniac and just does what needs to be done. I’m sure that makes him popular, but does that make him able to drop jaws and delight?
  3. I like Maps so far given its toddler stage so I think it will be fine.
  4. I’m not too worried about Siri. It hasn’t been great yet although it surely has its moments. Pour in the money and I think you will keep moving up that ladder. I love the dictation that’s already proving useful.
  5. Practical and pragmatic are two things that really help balance creative efforts. Apple is heavily laden with creatives, so Eddy’s practicality may be good. When Steve came back to Apple, he got really practical and we all know how well that went. Brilliantly!

Bob Mansfield

  1. Bob seems perfect in the role he’s played at Apple in hardware engineering. He comes across really practical and earnest in his videos.
  2. Apparently, Bob didn’t get along with Forstall and would probably be long gone by now if Scott wasn’t leaving. And Bob is well-liked by Jony Ive.
  3. His new Technology group should be interesting. I hear wireless and semiconductors will fall here. Those are mobile technologies that are important these days.

Craig Federighi

  1. Sr. VP, Software Engineering – OS X and iOS.
  2. I like him from his keynotes. Seems highly competent and smart.
  3. We need to learn more about this guy as his job is critical.
  4. Big job. I hope he is really, really good.

Dan Riccio

  1. Sr. VP, Hardware Engineering
  2. Yikes, I don’t know this guy – yet.
  3. The word is Jony Ive prefers Bob Mansfield.
  4. The word is the Hardware Engineering troops were grumbling after Riccio’s promotion.

John Browett

  1. He gave well-deserved pay raises to some of the retail staff. That’s a start.
  2. He cut staff hours to to try to save money. Not so good when Apple sales are through the roof and consumer expectations are that they will be treated as well as they would be at a Rolls Royce dealership. Retail pay is low. Apple has over $100 billion in the bank. This does not compute.
  3. Tim Cook selected him. Bad decision in my book.
  4. Tim has now taken over retail until a replacement is found. I’m sure efficiency will be great but that’s not sufficient.

Phil Schiller

  1. Sr. VP of Worldwide Marketing.
  2. Nothing here to see except Phil did run the whole keynote pretty much when the iPad mini and all the rest was introduced.
  3. It’s obvious that Phil is really bright and no pushover. He’s going to help keep the ship aright. Without Steve, his voice is louder.
  4. He’s not just a sales guy. He has a lot of input into products too.

The iPhone 5 is a Great Piece of Tech

Updated Sep 16. I like the new iPhone 5 a lot. The 4 was a museum piece and 5 takes it to a new level of design goodness.

Apple is about simplicity. The features race is for the guys chasing the leader. What Apple does is make really good technical choices. They don’t go early on unbaked technology. They have the best volume pricing and availability of any phone maker so have their choice of exotic technologies. Their profit margins allow them to do whatever they want. We get incredible tech for the price.

To break it down, what stood out to me in the announcements, hands on reports and Apple’s iPhone 5 video.:

1. Feel. The feel of the device is extraordinary. Jony Ive says so and shows how they’ve done it. [Apple Video] People who’ve had hands on the device claim you will buy it if you hold it for 10 seconds. The fit and finish, texture, shape — these are subtle things and certainly hard to convey in a presentation. Gene Munster, who had hands on with the 5, calls it “a Rolex Among a sea of Timexes”. []

2. Size. The 4″ vs 3.5″ screen real estate is an 18%-sized chunk taller. I would probably be willing to sacrifice one hand use for a bit more real estate, but I’m satisfied with the improvement this time around. It is 18% thinner. 20% lighter. 12% less volume. Right – it is a smaller device overall than the iPhone 4S.

3. Museum Quality. People in the art and architecture world think about how great art and design elevate the human experience. The best iPhones so far from this point of view are the first, the 4 and now the 5. I haven’t had hands on the 5 yet, but the 5 should elevate us to a whole new level. I love carrying such a useful device that alters me at the same time. [Apple’s iPhone 5 Design page].

4. Speed. was very pleasantly surprised by how big a speed bump Apple put into the iPhone 5. Up to twice as fast as the 4S. They didn’t think Apple would put in a new A6 chip loaded up with dual ARM Cortex A15 cores (correction, Apple is doing something custom in the A6 so Anandtech now (Sep 15) isn’t sure what is in there exactly). Double the RAM too (1 gb). Technology mavens know that an increase in speed increases the size of the playing field for creativity. Developer resources just shot up again and more is possible. The app marketplace will be inspired to find new and better applications for iPhone 5. [Anandtech on custom A6]

5. Better Screen. Anandtech reports the screen of the iPhone 5 is noticeably better than the 4S even in the very challenging lighting conditions in the demo room. 44% more color saturation compared to 4S. I can’t wait to see what a screen better than the amazing 4S screen looks like.

6. “Less but Better“. We know Jony Ive is and Steve Jobs was a big fan of Dieter Rams, the great industrial designer for Braun. Tenth of his famous 10 Principals of Good Design:

Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Chasing specs and new technologies is for the Samsungs of the world. Apple moves on these technology opportunities and new materials when the time is right. That doesn’t make them less innovative. Throwing tech up against the wall to see what sticks isn’t all that desirable. [David Chartier] [Apple’s iPhone 5 Features page]

7. The Apps. Apple’s ecosystem is ahead here and that lead is showing staying power. There is little profit on the Android Google Play app store. Windows Phone bombed in the marketplace. Windows 8 isn’t out yet. A few apps like Evernote are on Android in good form, but so many are markedly inferior or missing. Unless you are gung-ho for Android or buy multiple phones, I wouldn’t be straying from iPhone any time soon. My home screen showing the apps I use most is at left.

8. Thunderbolt and Lightning. The new small 8 signal iPhone Lightning connector won’t work with old docks but is overdue for an upgrade. Not going with the standard micro USB connector gave Apple the chance make it the best connector ever and to future proof it. Luckily, Apple’s track record and less is better attitude means they’ve thought this through and we’ll be happy with the end result. [MacWorld]

Should you upgrade? I have a 4S and I’m going to upgrade on day 1, but that’s no surprise.  I can trade my *old* 64gb iPhone 4S in for ~ $350 and buy a new 32gb iPhone 5 (with a new contract) for $299. I’m switching from AT&T to Verizon and paying the $215 cancellation fee. It is worth it to me to pay the extra charge to take advantage of this exquisite tool. If you get good use out of the the computer in your pocket and are a knowledge professional eligible for a full upgrade, why not upgrade?

My Plans. Personally, I’m leaning towards the white/silver version although I think the black/slate is pretty hot in a darth vader sort of way. I’m still sussing things out and plan to go online before preorders start tonight at 12:01 am PST. Planning to use my iPad’s Apple Store app to place the order. (Update, I preordered the 32 gb black/slate shown here due for delivery Sep 21)

Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini

Updated Oct 23. My 16gb Nexus 7 is gathering dust. The Nexus specs are nice. The Kindle Fire HD 7 is a decent competitor to Nexus 7 for those who want content and simple not a full-function tablet. I have the old Kindle Fire but wanted a pure Android device so got the Nexus 7. Fire 2 didn’t and does not interest me because I don’t like the limitations but I’m a geek. Today’s new iPad mini with bigger 7.85 inch screen is the one to consider now.

The table above shows specs for the Nexus 7 and approximate specs for the Kindle Fire HD 7 and the iPad mini. As expected iPad mini is a narrow and light version of the iPad 2. The iPad mini wins on lightness, apps and hardware virtuosity. But the price starting at $329 is a lot higher than the comparably specced Nexus 7 16 gb at $249. I am fine paying $70 more to get better apps but I’m not sure you are. Knowledge professionals who like the Mac and iOS who are in the market for a smaller iPad that would replace a Kindle and a full-sized iPad should pay close attention to the Mini.

The Devices

TABLET MARKET TO DATE. Competitors to iPad have not had success with 10″ tablets. I attribute this most to their having to play catch up with their software. The three main iOS competitors Web OS, RIM Playbook and Android were rushed out the door with numerous bugs and interface issues. Any new device platform starts behind in apps. There were few apps available for these other tablets when released last year. RIM is on the rocks. Google-based Android is far from crying wolf. Kindle Fire’s Android variant has had moderate success.

NEXUS 7. I have an iPad 3 and a Kindle Fire and I still ordered one. It looks good and has killer specs and a great price point. The 8 gb version at $199 is the best deal if you can get by on the smaller storage. Most who expect to have the device for a length of time and want convenience will prefer the $249 16 gb version since there is no cellular connectivity allowing you to stream when outside a wifi network. Besides being fast, it runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean and has some nice bells and whistles like bluetooth. The instant response and new Google Now in Jelly Bean add to the appeal of this device.

KINDLE FIRE HD 7. The Kindle Fire released last November was a break thru Android tablet due primarily to its price at $199. It is a 7″ device that does a creditable job as a tablet due to decent specs and a simplified Amazon user interface. Kindle Fire had good sales last Christmas probably helped by Amazon’s track record and fan base with their eInk Kindles and their excellent Amazon store. Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is a geek which is a good thing. He plays big and Kindle Fire HD comes close to matching features with the Nexus 7. Your choice between the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD comes down to whether you want an all-purpose tablet like the Nexus 7 or a more focused tablet optimized around Amazon’s content offerings. The three negatives for me on the current Kindle Fire are the limited availability of apps and the dumbed down version of Android (4). As a geek, I want the latest Android OS more than I want a simplified interface. You may feel differently. One last point, right now you get twice the storage with the Fire HD vs. Nexus 7 for $200. But the Fire includes ads and requires $220 for the ad-free version.

IPAD MINI. From the beginning, many including myself, thought a smaller tablet would be appealing. Apple adamantly refused to build a smaller iPad and (Steve) said you would have to file your finger tips down to operate the buttons. It’s here now. The weight and size is going to be very appealing to anyone who compares it to an iPad 3 or 4. The price at $329 is too high to compete on price against the $249 similarly specced Nexus 7. However, anyone who trusts Apple and likes what they see in an iPad and its amazing app ecosystem might be smart to pay the premium to get the clear winner in the tablet space to date.


THICKNESS. iPad mini is 7.2 mm thick. The Nexus is 10.45 mm thick – 45% thicker. And the Fire HD is similar.

DIMENSIONS. The iPad mini is wider than the Nexus but actually slightly less wide than Fire HD. The iPad mini with a 7.85″ diagonal screen is 5.3″ wide and about 7.7″ tall. The Nexus is 4.7″ wide and 7.8″ tall. I could grab this iPad around the back at the waist and hold it with my moderately long woman’s fingers. But it would be close. I could certainly prop it up at the corner with one hand at the lighter weight and smaller size. But I would say, the Nexus wins the one hand holding contest. The iPad is a lot lighter due to its thinness (see above). All 3 will be easy to manuever relative to a full-sized iPad.

The narrow form of the Nexus is good for reading a single column of text like in Instapaper or a single column eBook. The wider iPad mini & Fire HD screens will be better for notebook like productivity kinds of things and a bit better for the web due to its width. The skinny form will be better for wide screen movies.

CONTENT. Amazon wins books easily over iBooks and devastates Nexus for now. The iPad wins easily in Music and with its Apple TV and ability to put the contents of the iPad up on your HD TV, it probably wins there too. Amazon comes in second easily in Movies, TV and Music with Nexus lagging pretty far behind. Amazon has their store together, there’s no doubt about that and they have this thing called Prime which is a nice mini-version of Netflix streaming.

APPs. This is your toolbox. And, iPad wins easily far and away with the quality and quantity of apps. This is a big deal for those who want some creativity, productivity and utility in their tablet, not just entertainment. Because developers have so far chosen the iOS platform by a great margin, you have to wait longer for the best apps to appear. Since your device can languish while you wait, it is an obsolescence issue too. Amazon’s first Fire didn’t really get that many creativity/productivity apps compared to the full Android Marketplace but I expect the Fire HD to do better. It’s just now there’s a fast, cheap full Android device running Jelly Bean to lure developers away from the Fire HD. But that’s why Amazon had to be competitive with this offering.

USER EXPERIENCE. The iPad has a large lead here against even the latest version of Android 4.1, Jelly Bean but the gap is closing somewhat. The Nexus 7 and its visionary designer, Matias Duarte, are emulating Jony Ive and Steve Jobs here and they are narrowing the gap. Recent reports suggest that Jelly Bean is considerably better this way than Ice Cream Sandwich. Fire hd will runs Ice Cream Sandwich with a makeover. Their simplified Amazon store-books-media experience which is OK if you are looking mostly for content.

WIFI – CELLULAR. Only iPad mini offers a cellular option. I like the wifi only options on all 3 devices. That means I can buy one. There’s no way I can have 3 cell phone plans. However, I am now on a Everything Verizon plan for my iPad 3 and iPhone 5 so adding the iPad mini will only cost $10/mo. If this is your first tablet, you may want that extra always on connectivity. It is a little ironic to use a web-oriented device like Android without cellular but it sure is cheaper and some folks like college students are often surrounded by wi-fi. Rumors have it that a cellular option for Nexus 7 is coming maybe to be announced on Oct 29 at the big Android event coming next week.

PRICE. Amazon Fire HD 7 has a slight lead here with a $199 16gb version but it does come with ads which cost an extra $20 to eliminate. The Nexus 7 $199 model is only 8gb which is slim pickins for a non-cellular device that is good at video. The much higher priced 16gb iPad mini is not closing the gap tight enough to appeal to the price sensitive. Apple is leaving quite a bit of room for Google and Amazon to grow their 7″ tablets into something more competitive with iPad.

RETINA NOT. I haven’t seen the iPad mini yet but apparently it does have an awesome screen that is not up to the retina in iPad 3 and 4 but probably easily matches the quality in the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. Also, the screen is better than the iPad 2 which is pretty nice in itself.

MY PLAN. Since I use a Macbook Air, iPad 3 and iPhone 5, I don’t need an iPad mini. However, the synergy is awesome and this iPad mini would eliminate the need to carry the Kindle Touch or Nexus 7. I will probably decide in the next couple of days what to do. If the iPad mini was $299, I would be all over it and keep my iPad 3 around. I would probably start carrying the mini everywhere and leave the iPad 3 at home.

Related Post. My Nexus 7 has been road tested. See my July 23 post for details: Nexus 7 Hands On: Pros, Cons, Tips and Apps.

The Highs and Lows of Apple’s WWDC 2012 Announcements

World Wide Developer Conference announcements today were chock full of great things including new Macs, Mountain Lion, iCloud and iOS6. I’m going to pick my favorites and identify a few disappointments as well.

The Hardware

Slim New Retina Macbook Pro

The completely redesigned Retina MacBook Pros were the most exciting announcement today. Two new lightweight retina models with 2880 by 1800 pixel 15 inch displays are available now. These are incredible machines weighing only 4.46 lbs but packed with unprecedented power. Their dazzling 4x resolution displays still deliver 7 hours of battery life.

The base model at $2199 has a 256 gb SSD drive and 8 gigs of RAM. The top model with a 512 gb SSD drive and faster processor goes for $2799. Both models are built on the new Ivy Bridge chip architecture. If you have the new high rez iPad, you will ache for one of these new Retina notebooks. Nothing else will do.

All of the new Macs come with a coupon for a free copy of Mountain Lion when it is released in July. Before we get to downsides, I wanted to mention that new iPad Smart Cases in six colors were released today and fit the iPad 2 and 3. $49.

Disappointment #1. Bringing up the rear in the hardware race are new Macbook Airs. Although they are more powerful and offer more for your money than last year’s models, no big game changers here. But, if you are fine working on a really good normal resolution display, you’ll get more speed with Ivy Bridge processors, two much faster USB 3/2 ports and 80% faster graphics processing. You won’t be hurting carrying around and using such powerful yet light and easy notebooks. The Air 11 at 2.3 lbs is about 1/2 the weight of the new retina MacBook Pro 15.

Disappointment #2. Although I haven’t ever owned a Mac Pro, many at WWDC were disappointed to see that the Mac Pro got a very minimal upgrade that did not include Thunderbolt or USB 3 or much of a power boost after a two year wait. No mention was made of new iMacs. Not now, but they will certainly come.

OS X Mountain Lion

While we are talking about Macs, I will highlight the best new features in Mountain Lion. A license for as many personal computers as you own will be only $20 and you’ll be able to upgrade from Snow Leopard if you aren’t running Lion yet.

Integration with iPhone and iPad is the big benefit of Mountain Lion. If you own one or two of these little devices (and that’s likely at this stage), you’ll want to be able to move your data seamlessly between all three.

Mountain Lion delivers four big features via iCloud that will make things much easier. These functions become much more valuable when they are everywhere! You are going to love your Mac again. You get:

  1. Docs in the Cloud. With Mountain Lion, the Mac can take its place alongside iPhone and iPad in creating a seamless experience with your iCloud-supported documents in Pages, Numbers, Keynote and many third party apps I use like IA Writer, Byword and many more.
  2. iMessage. Your Mac gets to play well with messaging on iPad and iPhone including sending text messages. You can start a conversation on one device and continue on the other.
  3. Notification Center. All your disparate Mac notifications get the iOS notifications treatment so are well-organized and contained in a readable list that can be viewed at any time.
  4. Reminders. This popular list maker already on your iPhone and iPad is now seamlessly kept by iCloud and just as available on your Mac. Each device can keep local items but also can keep lists in iCloud where they can be shared between your devices and Macs.
  5. Notes which will be a boon to those who use Notes on iPhone and/or iPad.

Three other new features made my day:

  1. Dictation is available in every app including Microsoft Word! When you and your Mac are all alone, you’ll find this new dictation feature can save a lot of time and allow you to capture your thoughts in a new, spontaneous way.
  2. Airplay mirroring from your Mac may come in very handy for making presentations or enlarging what you are working on to share with friends, family or colleagues. TV and video might be fun too!
  3. Safari is (finally) getting it a single box for both search and URLs. Safari is faster with the fastest Javascript on any browser.

Not to be outdone, iOS 6 came through with flying colors. My favorites are:

  1. A much more powerful Siri. And it will run in full on the new iPad. Best new power is the ability to launch apps.
  2. The ability to designate VIPs in Mail so you can see what is important quickly.
  3. iCloud Safari tabs that share between Mac and iOS devices. You’ll be able to pick up where you left off switching between devices.
  4. New iPhone calling features like the much appreciated new Do Not Disturb option with silent, non-vibrating notifications and lots of ways to quickly reply or remind yourself later.
  5. Robust and beautiful 3D Maps with turn by turn directions.
  6. Seamless integration with your Mac as mentioned above with Documents, Notifications, iMessages, Reminders and Notes.

IOS6 Disappointments:

  1. The first generation iPad and third generation iPod touch won’t run iOS6.
  2. Any feature you wanted that’s not here.

There are a million and one other features in iOS 6 that I’m not going to mention here. You can see lots more about the new hardware, Mountain Lion and iOS6 at Apple’s website. I recommend the video by Jony Ive and Bob Mansfield on the new retina MacBook Pros especially. The full Keynote is available on the Apple site.

Update Best of the Web on this so far [June 12 9 am PDT]: