Tag Archives: iWork

Apple Store Personal Shopper

I just thought I’d post a few words about the Apple Store Personal Shopper service, which Apple have been plugging in their UK stores – and probably across the rest of the world too. The basic idea is simple, it’s a free service where you book an appointment slot, and for that period you get a dedicated member of staff to take you through all the products you are interested in.

On Saturday, we went with Mum off to her local Apple Store, which is in the Brent Cross shopping centre just off the end of the M1, to look about upgrading her Mac. We had a basic shopping list of what she needed in terms of software, but there were a couple of key questions – specifically over the size of iMac she wanted – 20“ or 24â€?, and she also wanted to replace her current separate printer and scanner with an all-in-one, so wanted to look at those. As with pretty well every other Apple Store it is absolutely heaving on a Saturday afternoon, but having booked an appointment with the personal shopper they had a couple of demonstration iMac’s available, and an assistant available to answer questions.

It certainly was beneficial, as Mum was able to try both the 20“ and the 24â€? models and decided fairly swiftly that the 24“ was a bit too big, from there we were also able to look at the selection of all-in-one’s they had, and opt for a Canon unit on which the store was offering a £60 cashback offer, and also pick up copies of iWork and Filemaker Bento too to cover a couple of other requirements she had for the machine.

The Personal Shopper service does seem to be very much set up for people who are new to Apple, so certainly the assistant we had was improvising slightly rather than working through what would be her usual routine as we already knew about a lot of the stuff she was going to show. Having said that there was a big advantage in that when we were talking software and printers she was pretty much immediately able to look up stock and in one case go and get a package from the store room, and then to round it all off they helped us take all the packages to the car as well.

PC Pro: The Average Home User Should Get a Mac

So six months ago they were doing their annual Mac attack, now the schizophrenic PC Pro has swung back the other way again. On the cover of issue 157, one of the headlines is “Apple’s New iMac – Run OS X and Windows on this stunning £799 systemâ€?!

Flip to the review and you’d think you were reading a Mac magazine at times:

This tightly integrated all-in-one offers plenty of performance and fabulous looks, yet it costs less than £1,000. And we can’t name a system by a PC vendor that does all of that.

The review finishes off with this paragraph and a ‘Recommended’ award:

The iMac offers some significant improvements over the old model and good value for money. We’d love to recommend a system from a Windows OEM, but until the rest of the industry takes a slice from Apple’s pie, the iMac remains the most impressive all-in-one on the market.

Later on the magazine reviews VMWare Fusion, the latest piece of virtualisation software for Intel Mac’s. This gets a recommended award, and the review even details what utility you need to download from the VMWare website to package up your old PC as a virtual image to use on your Mac.

That’s not the end of it, the very last page of the magazine has an opinion piece by Jon Honeyball declaring 7th August 2007 as the day the music finally died for Microsoft. The by-line makes Honeyball’s point clear – “With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has defined the home appliance of computing.â€?

In case you still haven’t got the significance of 7th August 2007, it was both the day that Apple revealed iWork ’08 which for the first time included a spreadsheet application, Numbers. It’s also the day that Microsoft announced that the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X would be delayed for six months. This is going to prove a point that Honeyball first made last year, that Microsoft are not oriented towards the needs of the home user.

Honeyball contends that the average home user wants to just walk into a store and get a computer in the same way as they get any other commodity like a TV or a dishwasher, and they want to take it home plug it in and it just works. Whilst Numbers is no Excel killer, it does everything the average home user does with a spreadsheet, more than that the iWork suite can open all the latest Microsoft Office better than Microsoft can under Mac OS X for at least the next six months. So the average user can walk into an Apple store, and walk out with a machine that a PC magazine describes as the most impressive all-in-one on the market, more than that it will include iLife which will allow them to work with their digital pictures, home movies and upload them to the web, and for an extra £60 they can get iWork which integrates seamlessly in with the other applications to provide Microsoft compatible word processing, presentations and spreadsheets.

With the launch of its spreadsheet, Apple has completed the circle. It’s now defined the home appliance of computing. There’s no reasonable task it can’t do out of the box or with a few extra purchases while in the shop. And it all works together in the way an appliance should.

Whilst obviously I’d agree with Honeyball, it does come as a major surprise to find PC Pro – them of the “32 reasons why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? – essentially saying that the majority of home users would be better off with a Mac!

Loads of New Apple Stuff

Typical – I’m away on holiday and totally offline for a week, and Apple launch a whole load of new stuff including iLife ’08, iWork ’08 (which has beaten Microsoft themselves in producing an application that can actually open Office 2007 documents), a speed bump for the Mac Mini, and last but by no means least, a new look aluminium and glass iMac with a brand new keyboard design – although quite how usable the new ultra-thin design will be remains to be seen.

Wow – Apple Joins the Smartphone Arena

So after all the rumours, and all the predictions of an Apple mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a small form factor Mac tablet, today in his keynote, Steve Jobs announced all three – but in one device, the iPhone.

iphoneannounce.jpg

Essentially this is Apple does the smartphone as it thinks it should be done, diving straight into the market that is currently being dominated by the various Symbian models, primarily from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, and with competition from the multitude of Windows Mobile devices. Certainly it is a very competitive market for Apple to enter, so the iPhone needs to be something pretty special and stand out different to compete.

Certainly on paper the iPhone seems to be exactly that. In terms of looks it is more PDA like than phone like – being just slightly smaller than my existing Dell Axim PDA. Resolution wise the screen is only half VGA at 320 x 480 – an interesting choice as high end PDA’s such as my existing Axim have been shipping with VGA screens for a while. Like a PDA it doesn’t have an extensive number of keys – indeed like the classic Mac mouse designs, it has precisely one – on the front. This is apparently the home key, that takes the user back to the main menu.

There are a couple of other buttons on the side, but essentially the whole thing is driven by a touch-screen interface. However again, it’s a bit different from the normal. Whereas most other PDA devices come with some sort of stylus for pointing, this is an interface designed to be used with fingers.

Now whilst this is probably easier to use in some ways, the real test will be how resilient the screen is to sticky, mucky fingers – certainly a big question mark over the design.

The software is definitely more PDA like, with web browsing provided by a version of Safari, the desktop browser that ships with MacOS X. More than that, the whole device will be running a version of MacOS X too, I’d expect one without the overheads of Aqua and the rest of the full scale MacOS X on the top – but the keynote certainly highlighted that a lot of the OS is still there. So whilst you won’t be loading desktop Mac applications onto it, it has the benefits of multithreading, pre-emptive multitasking and memory protection. Alongside the phone and internet functions, the software also includes a full raft of iPod features too, including the ability to play videos in widescreen mode, and also it appears, a version of the Cover Flow interface that turned up in the most recent revision of iTunes. On top of that it also has a hookup with Google Maps, plus a photo management application.

The widescreen mode, or more specifically how the phone changes is one of the really stand out features though. Whilst my Axim, like a number of other PDA’s can operate in both portrait or landscape modes, it usually requires manually clicking a couple of options to rotate the screen. Apparently the iPhone will do it entirely automatically. If you’re holding the device in a landscape position, that is how it will display – if it is in portrait then it will display in portrait mode.

Communications wise, a surprising omission is 3G support – it is only using EDGE, an enhanced version of GPRS. However it is quad-band GSM, so should be able to roam pretty well everywhere. It also has wi-fi and Bluetooth to add to the communications choices. It can also, not surprisingly dock and sync with a desktop.

A camera is included, but it doesn’t seem that it is regarded as a major feature, and it is only 2 megapixel, putting it on a par with other smartphones, but certainly not one to get if one of your requirements is to take good pictures.

So in summary, it certainly looks like an exciting entry into the smartphone market, with a good looking interface and a number of innovative features. Although the lack of a stylus is being pushed as a plus point, I’d certainly wonder quite how resilient to finger marks it’s actually going to be. In terms of being used as a PDA, the big advantage from a Mac users point of view is that it will use the same calendar and contact database designs as the desktop iCal and Address Book so hopefully synchronisation will be much less of a pain as with other smartphones. Having said that, currently it has only been announced for the US market – quite how long we will have to wait for a UK version remains to be seen. Many of the answers probably won’t become clear before the official release in June – and thus far it seems that only David Pogue has really had that much of a play with it.

Looking at the other major announcement, the Apple TV (or iTV as it was know before) was shown – and is pretty much as expected, although there is some surprise that it can’t produce the top HDTV resolutions. Essentially it is a simple wrapper around Front Row moving it off the desktop and into the living room.

Notable by their absence however was any mention of software, for example more details of Leopard, or an overview of the ’07 revisions of iLife and iWork – more to come maybe?

Update: Time Magazine have a very good iPhone article which alongside some descriptions of functionality also has some interesting background tit-bits. For example, Apple has been working on the touch screen for a number of years in response to the Tablet PC hype, but the research ultimately went into the iPhone interface rather than a tablet Mac.

The deal with Cingular is significant, as Apple effectively forced the network to adapt to fit what they wanted to do with the phone – usually it works the other way around with the network calling the shots. A good example of this is the iPhone voicemail functionality that works through a screen based list of messages, not the audio menu that is used on existing phones.

Certainly I’m expecting a long wait for it to appear in other markets, as Apple will have to do precisely the same with every other network – force them to conform to how the iPhone works – certainly it seems that this will extend to the availability of additional software for the device too. Whilst Cingular were willing to bend to what Apple wanted, wider availability around the world will be entirely down to whether other networks will do the same, and that I suspect will come down to how well the device sells in the US. If they can see that the investment in modifying their networks to cope with the iPhone is worthwhile, then they’ll go for it – but I suspect we’ll be paying a goodly amount for the pleasure too to cover their costs.