So today the news that many have been expecting for a while came, Steve Jobs is resigning as CEO of Apple – although he is remaining as chairman. There was also the predictable nose dive in the Apple share price. But why?
Jobs has been on medical leave since the beginning of the year, indeed it is his third bout of medical leave over the past few years, but Apple has continued to grow. The news has been expected, and yes whilst it is undeniably sad news, it is perhaps more sad on a personal level for Steve and his family than anything else.
Whilst the markets may see Apple as some sort of glorified sole trader, it isn’t. Whilst the company may have been driven by Jobs, to do that he has brought together a strong team, in particular it has been Tim Cook who is credited with the efficiencies in the Apple supply chain, and Jonathan Ive who is credited with the design of pretty well every Apple product over recent years. There is also a team of dedicated software engineers who have produced MacOS X and iOS, it’s not all Steve Jobs.
Undeniably things will gradually change with Steve Jobs stepping back, but all the key team members that Jobs has put in place will remain, so Apple is not going to instantly implode just because Steve Jobs has resigned. The company will continue. This is a sad moment in the story of Apple, not the end of the story. However if Tim Cook decides to buy a software company, drops iOS and flogs off all the stock of iPhone’s, iPod’s and iPad’s at 70% discount and decides to sell of Mac production because there is more money to be made in software services…
Yesterday we headed down to the opening day of your new store in Festival Place, Basingstoke. First off I have to say that after many years having to either head into London or drive a long way to find an Apple Store it is great having two within a short drive, with you having opened a store in the Oracle, Reading just last month. We did avoid the craziness in the morning but we had a great time none the less.
I went along with my two year old daughter, who has been using Apple products for pretty well all of her life. It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of the touchscreen interface on my iPhone, iPod and iPad, indeed now she expects most devices to have such a screen and gets frustrated when they don’t. This brings me to a first suggestion, your children’s area. Whilst it is nice having a low level table, and child sized seating, the devices there are all Mac’s. Although children do quite easily pick up the concept of a mouse and pointer, my daughter is much happier with the direct interaction of a touch screen – as you have said on a number of occasions recently, we’re living in a post PC world now.
As a result we went to look at the iPad’s which do have children’s software installed, but are all on tables at a very child unfriendly height. In the end my daughter asked for a chair, and one of your excellent staff kindly obliged with a stool from the Genius Bar.
As you can see from the picture that put her on just the right height to play some games on the iPad.
Games weren’t the only thing we tried. My daughter wanted to talk to Mummy, so we thought we’d try out another of the features of the iPad – Facetime.
We have used your video calling application quite frequently at home – calling between Apple products it seems to pretty consistently produce a better quality video connection than the most obvious competitor Skype, indeed in one situation recently Facetime made a connection easily when Skype couldn’t get through at all. However as I’m sure you’re aware Facetime only works over wi-fi.
No problem of course as your stores have free wi-fi. Looking at the strength display it had a full strength signal, however it fairly obviously was not a good internet connection, the demonstration iPad struggled to produce a reasonable picture with a decidedly low quality result. It would certainly be worthwhile investing in some faster wi-fi connections for the store to enable a good demonstration of this feature.
Anyway, one last idea which comes from my daughter – she would like you to provide beds at the Apple Store so she doesn’t have to go home. The store kept her occupied and entertained for all of a wet afternoon, and she didn’t want to leave! I did eventually manage to get her out and heading home, but I am sure we will be back.
Today was the September Apple Event, when Steve Jobs stood up in front of the worlds media and showed them what Apple will be selling this festive season.
This year, as expected we got a revamped iPod range, with a touchscreen iPod Nano, an iPod Touch that picks up features from the iPhone 4, and a revamped version of iTunes. To support all of that we also have iOS 4.1 on the way, which hopefully will work a lot better on my iPhone 3G, and a preview of iOS 4.2.
But the big news was the demise of the original Apple TV.
The Apple TV was always a bit of a Marmite product, loved by some, loathed by many.
Many people bemoan it’s limited functionality, in particular the limited number of media formats it supports, and the fact that the only device that can play media from the built in 40Gb or 160Gb hard drive is the Apple TV itself. However within it’s limited parameters it does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it very well.
I have to say here that we have one of the 160Gb models, and it gets a good deal of use. It holds a large proportion of our main iTunes database including hours and hours of music, several TV series for the children, a number of digital copies of movies, plus quite a few video and audio podcasts. We’ve also on a number of occasions rented movies and watched them using the device.
The new Apple TV is a bit different. It is a massively smaller device – about 80% according to the Apple website – and they’ve done this by leaving out the hard drive totally. Essentially this is now a media extender. As now it can stream content off a networked Mac, and as a new party piece can stream content off an iPhone or iPad. You can still rent movies, and now TV shows on it, but rather than download and watch, Apple seem to think that you can watch them streaming straight off the Internet.
Now I don’t know what the broadband connection is like in Palo Alto, but my first response sat in semi-rural England is you must be joking.
We’re fairly lucky, we’re pretty close to the telephone exchange, but thanks to the lousy BT infrastructure we can get between 5 and 7.5Mbps. Our ISP is pretty good but still, watching the current HD trailers is a bit of a struggle on our connection. The idea that watching a HD movie in the same way will be in any way a pleasurable experience is laughable. Plus with the limited broadband deals that many people use the idea of “watching as many times in 48 hours as you like” rapidly wears off when you realise that it’s download the file over and over again every time you watch it – the current Apple TV downloads the file ONCE and then deletes itself at the end of 48 hours.
Granted if you live in a cable equipped urban area or are lucky enough to be in a 20Mbps ADSL area you might be better off, but still the idea of “All Streaming, No Hassle” is anything but for large numbers of people in the UK, and I suspect similar numbers of people who live outside urban areas in the USA as well.
For us, the only realistic option is to stream from another device on a local network – in our case that will be the main Mac hosting the iTunes database. That’s all very well, but it’s a total pain – the Mac has to be booted up and logged on so that the new Apple TV can access it – the new Apple TV may have wonderfully low power consumption, but it’s worth nothing if you’re having to run a Mac or PC to provide the content.
And just one final little annoyance – the new box is now so small that the connectivity choice is HDMI or HDMI – I’m using composite cables…
So, yes Steve Jobs, I’m terribly impressed by how small it is, but it’s really a retrograde step for existing Apple TV users like me. Having said that, if you’d announce a media server that could host up a central iTunes database…
Sometimes a Steve Jobs keynote is all about surprises, you go into it after a surge of rumours, but what you get on the other side is all a bit of a surprise. Yesterday it was exactly the opposite. The 3G version of the iPhone had been trailed so much it would have been a surprise if he had stood on the stage and not mentioned it. It even turned out that some of the apparently phoney leaked pictures of the new phone were genuine too.
So what did the Apple faithful actually get given? The 3G obviously gives the phone a big speed boost in terms of internet usage, and the other big new feature is the real GPS – pushing the iPhone into the realms of location based services – indeed it is already being reported that TomTom have a working version of their software on the platform. The physical design is slightly changed, but still recognisably the iPhone, and it still has the fantastic screen. In terms of disappointments, perhaps the biggest is that they haven’t done a thing with the camera – it is still the same old 2MP version, looking increasingly underpowered against the 5MP that is common in competitors phones. The iPhone is still missing the forward facing camera for video calling that competitors have – although I can honestly say that I’ve never made a video call on my current phone so it is no great loss. The new model still has limitations in some of it’s other abilities in that it still can’t do multimedia messaging, nor can it act as a modem for a computer.
The impression I get is that Apple are as always partly singing to their own tune, so they are very much focusing on what they think a mobile device should be, giving us fantastic internet browsing, but lacking some of the features that others may regard as necessary. Equally you may think that a GPS is a frivolous addition, but Apple as always are going their own way.
After the features, the big discussion seems to be the pricing.
With the significant drop in price, it is pretty obvious that the iPhone is being subsidised by the networks. However over in the USA, alongside the upfront price cut, the ongoing monthly charges have been hiked, as has the contract length, such that the total cost of ownership works out more expensive. The big news is that for once it isn’t rip-off Britain, as although in the UK we also get the price cut upfront – with the phone being totally free on some deals, we’re not getting a similar increase in the monthly cost, nor are we getting an increase in the contract length. Maybe it’s because our 3G market is more competitive than in the USA, but certainly for anybody like me who is in the market for a new phone, it is great news. Looking at my current usage and costs I can get a brand new iPhone and in addition cut my monthly cost all without having to spend out on the new handset. I don’t know about anybody else, but I know where I’m going to be going on 11th July…
Got a Flash New Laptop? Make sure you allow loads more time to get through security when you fly – as the security staff are sure to stop you to check it out in detail. Have a read of Steve Jobs Made Me Miss My Flight for the story of what happened the first time Michael Nygard travelled with his MacBook Air. Hat tip to Scoble for the link.
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.