By Shadoe Huard

MG Siegler, over at Techcrunch, talking about future Thunderbolt enabled iPhones.

When I wrote about Thunderbolt the other day, it struck me that the most obvious way for Apple to push Thunderbolt adoption was through it’s stable of highly successful iOS devices.  It’s inevitable, but I don’t think the rollout will be as fast as Siegler thinks it will be.  

Assuming that Apple has figured out the engineering issues such as whether the iPhone hardware  can support a Thunderbolt bus(and what costs might be associated with that), there just aren’t enough Thunderbolt enabled computers to take advantage of the technology.  Nor is the adoption rate of new Macs likely to be anywhere close to that of iOS devices.  To wit, Apple reported sales of iPhones and iPads to the tune of 18.6 and 4.6 million units, respectively, versus just 3.7 million Macs.

Sure, going Thunderbolt only on the next generation of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches might force some early adopters to upgrade but more likely, it would leave millions, if not billions, of potential sales on the table.  

Instead, I expect Apple to rollout future iOS devices with 30-pin dock connectors capable of both USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt (No USB 3.0)  In the box, you’d get the standard USB 30-pin cable you get today. If you’d want to use a faster Thunderbolt connection instead, Apple would be more than happy to oblige with a “sold separately” Thunderbolt cable.  

How many people would be willing to upgrade their computers just to take advantage of a Thunderbolt enabled iPhone? 

Posted at 11:39am and tagged with: Apple, iPhone, iPad, mac, thunderbolt,.

My hunch is that we will hear something from Apple later this year about Thunderbolt use with iPads/iPhones. Perhaps during the iPhone 5 unveiling in the fall. Now that the technology is out there on two of their most popular devices (MacBook Pros and iMacs) and probably pretty soon on another one (MacBook Airs), Apple will have to address this.

May 4th 2011

Re: What Would You Buy First?   

Great idea for an experiment over at the Brooks Review, asking us in what order we’d purchase the apps we already use if we had to start over from scratch. I’m more than happy to oblige with mine:

1. Mobile Me (Technically a service, but it’s the first thing I arrange on every new computer and iOS device I purchase and I use it each day.)

2. Mars Edit

3. Dropbox

4. Windows 7 (I use it , with bootcamp, like I would an app)

5. Adobe LIghtroom

6. Photomatix Pro

7. Photoshop

8. BB Edit

9. iWork (1.iWork 2.Keynote 3.Numbers)

10. Disk Warrior

11. Daisy Disk

12. Aperture

13. Facetime

Also, honorary mention to both Transmission and Handbrake.  Althought technically free, they would be right up there at the top of the list.

Fun, simple little thought experiement, you should give it a try.

Posted at 10:31am and tagged with: apple,, mac, pc, windows, photoshop, dropbox, mars edit, apps,.

May 3rd 2011

Es-tu Thunderbolt?   

New iMacs today, some sporting not just one, but two whole Thunderbolt ports, presumably, for the monitor jockeys in all of us.  At least until there’s actually something else to attach it to.

With this kind of push, it’s clear Apple (and Intel by association) is going for broke with this.  With a tiny footprint, and a tech spec sheet reading like any power user’s ultimate fantasy I/O device, it’s not hard to imagine Apple doing away with every port save the magsafe and as few thunderbolt ports as needed on some future ultra svelte Macbook.

If only USB 3.0 didn’t stand in the way. While not as technically proficient, the latest USB spec does have a few advantages, namely broader OEM support and lower manufacturing costs.  To the latter point, some agree with me:

“Mind you: daisychaining can be a good thing … if you’re a user: it saves you the cost of buying a hub. But it only transfers that cost to the device OEM. And when there’s another more established connectivity standard out there that’s “fast enough” and cheaper to implement, the OEM’s going to choose it instead. Another ironic downside of daisychaining is that because it exists, the incentive for developing hubs is sharply reduced. Ever seen a Firewire hub? Neither have I. This means that peripheral OEMs either absorb the cost of an extra port or ship a 1 port device that severely limits the utility of the end user’s PC Thunderbolt port.”

While I don’t espouse Judah Richardson’s overall pessimism towards Thunderbolt, I do share his questions about daisychaining:

“Did I mention how hard it is to troubleshoot a daisychain? With USB, disconnecting a device means severing only the connection between it and the host PC or it and the hub. With a daisychain, unless the device in question is at the end of the chain, you have to disconnect 2 cables and then connect the other devices that were ahead of and behind the troublesome device to each other. 3 times the effort.”

How are regular people supposed to use daisychaining without falling into a mess? You have to presume that Apple wants you to use this feature rather then them including a bevy of ports on future Macs. Yet, beyond just the troubleshooting woes, it seems like it would be a chore to manage anything beyond two devices linked together.  Devices like hard drives aren’t so bad since you don’t have to move them often but for things like cameras, iPods(or equivalents) or any other mass market consumer electronic you need to use often, it seems so counter-intuitive. Imagine the caucophony of plugging and unplugging going on as a family tries to orchestrate all their devices on a single Thunderbolt enabled computer.  Ugh.

And, just like in war, there is no room for two winners.   While thunderbolt is clearly the superior technology, both it and USB 3.0 are vastly superior to anything existing right now, and it’s not clear that there’s a mass market need for such thoroughput speed, even in the forseable future.  Not everyone is doing such extravagant things in their everyday life.

If Apple and Intel’s plans work out like they plan, all the better.  Like I said: power user’s fantasy.

Just saying we should excecise some cautious optimism here.

Posted at 5:40pm and tagged with: Apple, thunderbolt, macbook, air, pro, mac, usb, firewire,.

October 28th 2010

Living in a Netbook World   

On the new 11” Macbook Air living in a netbook world:

Ben Brooks:

“Here is a scenario that keeps popping into my head, and seems to make a lot of sense. A stay at home mom wants to get a computer that she can use when the kids are gone, and when she is waiting for them and working on her various projects – in other words, light computing needs in short spurts. She has been turned off by the iPad because she has been told it is not a ‘full’ or ‘real’ computer, so instead she has been looking at a cheap Net book. Most likely playing with them at Costco and Best Buy, but the MacBooks keep catching her eye. Now she sees there is a Net book sized MacBook, that, while more expensive than all other Net books, really looks good. So she walks over and starts playing with the 11 and talking with the Apple Rep about it. She eventually says forget it – the price is way too high, and she just doesn’t need it.

Now what happens when she goes back to the Net books? She is going to find herself waiting for things to open. All of a sudden the 11 doesn’t just look like a sexy little over priced Net book, but instead a really, really, small computer. That is powerful, being able to draw a consumer in that would not normally look at your computers (in this scenario a stay at home mom) and give the a compelling reason that is hard for competitors to compete with – flash storage.”

Anand Lal Shimpi & Vivek Gowri :

Apple won’t call it a netbook, but that’s exactly what the 11.6 inch MacBook Air is: a netbook with much better hardware. You get a full sized keyboard, an old but faster-than-Atom processor and a great screen. If you’re a writer, the 11-inch MacBook Air is the perfect tool just at an imperfect price.”

It doesn’t matter whether you consider to new 11” MBA to be a netbook or not.  It matters that for many consumers, that’s what they’ll be comparing it with.   It must be a scary time if your a netbook maker not named Apple.

Posted at 5:45pm and tagged with: netbook, apple, macbook, macbook air, mac, review,.

October 27th 2010

How are you supposed to pick?   

With benchmarks for the new Macbook Air quickly making the rounds, it’s becoming quickly apparent that for alot of people, it can be their goto machine( At least in the case of the 13 inch MBA). 

If your shopping for a entry level mac notebook right now, your choices are:

1. 11” Entry model Macbook Air: $999

2. 13” Entry model Macbook: $999

3. 13” Entry model Macbook Pro: $1199

4. 13” Entry model Macbook Air: $1299

With performance being relatively equal across the whole bunch (Save perhaps the 11” if you need to do anything more than browsing/writing), how are you supposed to pick?  If you don’t care for expandability, firewire or storage, then really, how are you supposed to choose?  Sure, you might need a DVD drive, but probably not.  About the only software people still buy on a DVD are anti-virus softwares and Office.  Either model of the Air offers so much advantage in size and battery life with so little compromise on power and price that unless you have a real specific need that only the Macbook/Macbook Pro can solve, there’s never any reason to pick anything but the new Airs everytime.  

As a photographer, I need the firewire port my 13”inch Macbook Pro has, and I’ll appreciate the ability to max out at 8 gigs of ram or have dual SSDs (removing the DVD drive).  And even still, if I was purchasing a laptop today, I’d have to seriously consider getting an Air, and adapting to it.  

The Macbook lineup, for all intents and purposes, should be either:

a. 11”/13? Macbook Air

b. 15”/17” Macbook Pro

It begs the questions: how long before they just drop the Air moniker?  Why even keep the white Macbook or the 13” Pro?

I’d be curious to find out just who specifically Apple thinks these four Macbook models cater to that justifies keeping all four SKUs.

Posted at 11:53pm and tagged with: macbook, macbook air, macbook pro, apple, benchmarks, mac, mac,.

October 25th 2010

The Mac as an IOS Device   

While there’s been lots of excitement around the newly announced Mac App Store, there’s also been a huge sense of caution in taking Apple’s closed ecosystem to the desktop.  Gizmodo spoke of a “completely controlled platform”, the coming of 1984.  Over at GDGT, Ryan Block wondered whether there’d even be enough apps to actually sell through the store proper.  While both raise legitimate concerns, I think they’re also both missing the point of what an App Store could be and who it is for.  

If we think as the Mac App Store as simply a gateway for existing applications and their ilk, it almost seems illogical since:

1. Huge productivity apps (like photoshop) are simply to complex to exist in the simple access world of the App Store.  Never mind that there is no apparent reason why big software developers like Adobe would need an intermediary like Apple to distribute their product.

3. The App Store Guidelines( well, restrictions) don’t allow for lots of the complex things we like our desktop apps to do. 

2. Revenue split:  A lot of applications for the desktop are already distributed for free or paid for through their own websites.  Why give up revenue when you can take care of the distribution yourself?

The Mac App Store is not for desktop applications as we know them.  While there will be incentive for smaller developers who can benefit from the exposure to jump onto the store, there just doesn’t seem to be any real advantage for most companies.  Unlike the Iphone and Ipad, the App Store isn’t the one and only way to get onto people’s computers and into their wallets.  

From that perspective, Block’s argument makes sense; what can you sell through the store, and just who is it for anyway? 

App developers, of course.

Apple doesn’t really want Mac OS developers to bring over desktop “applications” to the App Store.  It wants IOS developers to bring their “Apps” over to the desktop.  Again, Jobs and Co. are “taking it back to the Mac”.  While it’s easy to see how an app store for desktop applications can go awry, it’s also equally simple to see how popular IOS apps stand to be just as popular on the desktop.

Take for example Plants and Animals, available on both the Ipad and Iphone.  While it is already available on the desktop through services likes Steam, it’s popularity largely exists within the confines of the App Store ecosystem, and another outlet to that system, namely on the desktop, is nothing but upside for thousands of IOS developers.  The Mac App Store effectively transforms the Mac into another IOS device with an already huge install base, a lot of whom are probably already familiar with the App Store.

For IOS developers, staying within the Apple ecosystem (and it’s revenue split) is exactly where they want to be; it’s where the customers are.  People who want to purchase regular desktop software know that’s it’s available through the internet.  People who want to play Doodle Jump on their laptops know to shop for it in the App Store.

The Mac App Store isn’t primarily for desktop applications in the usual sense, it’s for the hundreds of thousands of original and innovative IOS applications that don’t yet have a home outside mobile devices.  

*** I’m particularly excited to see photo/image editing apps you can find on the App Store transition to the desktop.  Image editing on the desktop is a space where lots of innovation can be made, especially in terms of simplicity and ease of use.  Photoshop doesn’t have to be the only answer when you just want one specific tool for treating your images

Posted at 1:51am and tagged with: app store, IOS, mac, apple, developers, games, iphone, ipad, software, OS X,.