Thursday, September 06, 2007

The New iPod Touch

I think the Touch is a revolutionary device, and I frankly get in line with the those who think the negativity in today's press and blogs is ridiculous and misses the point of this amazing piece of hardware.

This is the first device that has the ability to actually have movies and music streamed to it rather than be required to be tethered to a computer to receive content. Add a fully functional browser and you have an amazing new device whose functionality will set new standards for what can and can't be delivered over the air. How about taking your high school or college class over your iPod via Wi-Fi? On-line education is red hot and this plays right into that delivery mechanism. What about Vonage and Skype video conferencing? Streaming movies on airplanes rather than being forced to watch what the airline has supplied? To build off of the Starbucks idea, how about a store offering to let you shop at a brick and mortar store and then have the item ordered on-line, in your size and/or color, then shipped directly to your home. Ditto for gift buying.

I think the bigger story here is the surprising lack of leadership, engineering and vision from Microsoft and Palm. It was no coincidence to me that Microsoft lowered the price of the Zune by $50 yesterday to get them off the shelves. Who do you think will sell more product this holiday season: Apple or Microsoft? Hmmm, let me get back to you on that!

As for the price cuts on the iPhone, I was a bit shocked to see the iPhone reduced $200 and the 4 gb version discontinued. I know that I didn't buy an iPhone because I'm a current Verizon customer and know how valuable EVDO is for web access. Without it, the browser in the phone is badly crippled when it's away from a Wi-Fi connection. In addition, by the time the monthly fees were factored in, the total cost of the phone exceeded $2,300. That's a hefty price to pay and I decided to wait for gen2 of the iPhone before I reconsider it. Now that the Touch is available, I'm glad I did.

There are plenty of examples where people pay a premium at the release date of a product only to find it greatly reduced shortly thereafter. The Pontiac Soltice was selling for $6,000 over sticker when it was first released, now dealers hardly want to stock them since the demand is so low. Welcome to marketing in America!

To the gloom-and-doom folks, get over it. This is a new device for a new age and I've already put my order in for a Touch at the online store!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Give Vista Credit When It's Due

I decided to test out a Kensington Bluetooth mouse today on a Vista machine that was not equipped with Bluetooth. I took an old CompUSA USB Bluetooth adapter, plugged it into my Vista Business AMD Dell and it was quickly recognized, installed and ready for use in about a minute. The Kensington mouse installed with the adapter as easy as pie.

I remember doing the installation of the same USB adapter on an XP sp2 installation and what a long, hard install it was to get it working. It required a whole CD worth of drivers to get it working correctly, and then the whole thing had to be upgraded since Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) had updated the driver since the manufacture of the USB adapter.

Kudos to everyone at Microsoft for getting this piece right. This installation couldn't have been easier!

The Internet Everywhere is Almost There

Last night, during a typical Florida summer thunderstorm, I lost Internet access for about 20 minutes. It brought home the fact that a computer user still can't rely on all applications being web-based. It's one reason I use Mars Edit to create entries for this blog since I can compose an entry whether or not the Internet is available.

Tomorrow, Apple is scheduled to make a product announcement that is widely believed to be the introduction of a new generation of iPods that will include wireless access to the Internet: wi-fi. This will take me one step closer to "all Internet all the time", but as long as a bad thunderstorm can takes down my home Internet, or as long as airplanes don't have Internet access, I'm toast if I try and access the web.

Pervasive over-the-air Internet access is still a ways off, although EVDO is a step in the right direction if you live in or travel to the right areas. During the active hurricane season a few years back, and with Wilma two years ago, I actually had Verizon EVDO access to the Internet as long as my laptop's battery held out. Not bad! I currently use a Sprint EVDO USB modem with my MacBook, which doesn't have it built-in, and while I think it is a great service, it has let me down in a few areas where reception was so poor that it just couldn't support a connection.

The lesson is that there are plenty of times that I can't get to the web, so I'm still keeping those apps that I count on local to my computer. My benchmark for knowing that I can live in an on-line world will be when my wi-fi Blackberry, iPhone or iPod can get to the Internet on a plane, in a subway, or just driving in my car.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Moving to a Mac

Over the last several months, I've migrated most of my day-to-day computer usage to a Mac. I am weary of the maintenance of a PC, and particularly dislike the amount of time it takes to start-up a new Windows session (ugh), or heaven forbid, restart because of an update or software install.

I won't tell you a Mac is perfect. To start with, I miss certain programs like ACDSee, which I now run in Parallels. Entourage is a poor replacement for Outlook, but it is much better behaved. (Maybe Mac Office 2008 will finally be able to read Notes and Tasks from an Exchange server.) As a crossword puzzle fan, I miss the computer version of WordWeb. Another issue with a Mac is that it is not as good a client on a Windows-based network as a PC. I understand that there would be some incompatibilities, but the inability to map a drive to a share within a series of shares (\\servername\users\username where "username" is what you'd like to map) is awkward at best. I'm not fond of the abbreviated keyboard found on the MacBook and the new wireless keyboard for the iMac leave out the secondary delete key, which makes the equivalent of CTL-Delete and CTL-Backspace difficult.

The stability of Tiger, however, outweighs everything. It boots up fast, shuts down fast, closes a hung program on the first request, and is amazingly intuitive. iPhoto is a great way to handle your photos, and iDVD and iMovie are the same in their respective genres. It does away with Windows-based DRM, an awful part of XP and Vista that is easy to corrupt and almost impossible to restore. Above all, it adds a level of beauty to the daily use of my computer that I appreciate. With Parallels or Fusion, I can run those occasional programs that are unique to a PC without having to give up the functionality of my Mac.

Would I recommend it to everyone? Not really. If you like your PC and are comfortable with its foibles, stay with what you have. If you find you want to upgrade to Vista, however, and need to buy a new computer to do it the right way, I'd strongly suggest you spend an afternoon at the Apple store taking a long look at their offerings. You'll probably pay a tad more for it, but believe it or not, XP and Vista run better under Boot Camp than they do on a new Dell or HP! Hard to believe, but true. Walt Mossberg reached the same conclusion in a recent column in All Things Digital.

I, however, opt for simplicity, stability and ease of maintenance. As a simple example of that, with OS X there is only one version of the OS for everyone, no Home Basic, Business, Ultimate, et al.

Lastly, the Mac is just a lot more fun! Great built-in software and an interface that shows real thought and design. It is definitely worth an afternoon's research at the Apple store to see if this solution is right for you!