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Jun 2011

Five ways to tell you’re Apple-addicted.

Posted in Technology | 2 Comments »

It would appear that the Apple iPhone 5 is well on-course for a September release date, and it looks very shiny indeed. I own a Macbook Pro, and I absolutely love the thing, but I stop short at iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches simply because I know that they’re a lot more restrictive and overpriced than Apple would have me believe. I’m sure the latter is also the case for my computer, but it’s also got one of the best keyboards in the world and an incredible OSX, so I find those two features help somewhat, although OSX could be out the window soon if Jobs and co. have their way.

So are you Apple-addicted? I thought I’d offer five ways in which you can tell. Feel free to use this list to identify addicts when you’re out and about – believe me, some of them are that easy to spot.

1) You will pay literally any price. Some iProducts are priced at a level that renders them inaccessible to most. People will sign phone contracts with gigantic monthly charges just to own an iPhone 4. The Macbook, I feel, is a justifiably expensive machine, but a smartphone that can’t multitask worth a damn or a tablet computer that can’t even run Flash? No, I don’t think so.

2) You will upgrade every time you can. There are people out there who own every generation of iPhone. I don’t mean the 3GS and the 4, I mean the three that came before those models, too. My Macbook is now one generation behind, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to replace it before the Olympics, if not later. If it works and it runs the latest OS, keep it.

3) Everything Steve Jobs says sounds like honey flowing down your ear canal. Jobs is a lovely bloke, and I feel no ill-will towards him whatsoever. But sometimes he’s a little arrogant, and those that can’t stop talking about how great his presentations are are blind to the self-important commentary he provides every time a comparison-bearing slide mentions Microsoft. He’s a brilliant technological innovator, but it’s not just him there are many others working with him. People forget this about Gates, too, who isn’t even the CEO any more. Must irk Steve Balmer to no end.

4) You continue to use your barely-paid-for iPhone with a cracked screen. Look – just get it repaired! If you can’t afford an iPhone, that’s not your fault – that’s theirs. They overprice the iPhone to the degree where it’s hard to buy one on launch day, let alone repair it a week later once you drop it and crack the not-actually-shatter-proof glass screen. There’s a desperate quality to these people, attempting to play Angry Birds or write important business emails through the haze of spider-web fissures and shame.

5) You’re feeling uncomfortable right now. I’m a fan of Apple products, and I’m open about it – a lot of people tend to back-track fairly rapidly when confronted about their unabashed love for everything with a metallic casing and an Apple logo somewhere on it. Chill out. I’ll argue the benefits of Mac OSX and my Macbook Pro till the cows come home, because any writer knows that the keyboards they supply are the best on the market, and that combined with an efficient OSX and good hardware means I don’t have to justify the purchase.

Hopefully that should help, but in the meantime, enjoy The Oatmeal’s fantastic Apple comic; I feel it really captures the whole experience of being an Apple addict.

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Jun 2011

Four reasons why iOS for Macs would be a huge mistake

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

So, there’s a rumour floating around that iOS, the operating system for the iPod Touch, the iPad and the iPhone, might be heading towards Apple’s line of laptop and desktop computers. I cannot express how much I dislike the idea of sacrificing a working, incredibly well-designed OS (currently OSX Snow Leopard, soon to be OSX Lion) for what looks like a box of colourful chocolates.

1. I bought a computer, not a phone. I don’t want my computer to run on the same icon-based, simplistic system someone would use to ring people and quickly check their Twitter feed. A computer’s operating system has the room, nay, the screen real-estate to handle large program windows and the Dock. Why change it?

2. iOS is designed for touch-screen hardware. I don’t have one. Why? Because it’s a laptop and I have a keyboard and trackpad. Why force me to upgrade my hardware just to match an undesirable OS?

3. I don’t want an iPhone. Why? Android is more widely accessible, has a more open market, and you can get an Android phone without forking out hundreds of pounds. Mine also has a bigger screen, but I wouldn’t be running Mac OSX on it, and I wouldn’t want Android running on my Macbook Pro, either.

4. It could force people away from new Apple products. An iOS Macbook is not going to appeal to a significant portion of the market, however eagerly we eat up every single announcement Jobs makes. Mac OSX has the space to allow people to change their backgrounds, organise folders on the desktop, use the dock, install widgets, and keep a lot of space clear. Change that to a rigid-looking grid system and it doesn’t flow any more.

In short, iOS might be all hunky-dory for calling people and messing around on your daily commute, but imagine trying to write a report, or design a website, with an OS that doesn’t even yet support more than one app running at a time. Yeah, you go think about that.

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Mar 2011

Has eBay given up on being eBay?

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

Two-point-four billion dollars. The highest purchase eBay’s ever made, and now GSI Commerce is theirs, they’ve got access to a mind-numbing amount of brands, in an ongoing attempt to transform themselves from the site that’s sold everything from your old wardrobe to one person’s virginity and someone else’s blackness, to something more similar to Amazon.

Sadly, it’s not going to work. If you found yourself on the principles of an open market, an auction house that allows anyone to sell almost anything, and find success beyond your wildest dreams, you have one main advantage: your service tends to make Amazon’s Marketplace look fairly bad.

A crisis meeting may have been called. Evidence that Amazon Marketplace is, in fact, very reliable, was probably shown to company directors. And of course, most eBay users do not log on to buy anything from eBay itself.

In their new direction, I think this may be what eBay are missing – they are not an online shop to most people. They are the site where people sell their stuff, nothing but a middle-man. To start selling products out of their own garage is going to throw people, slightly. I’ve seen their brand pages, and even after getting over my aversion to eBay a wee while back (my old argument being it’s being run by anonymous users with infinitely less accountability than corporations – incorrect, I know), I wouldn’t touch them with a tent pole.

It’s worth asking what makes me feel that way, and I guess the answer would simply be that they’re not a company I buy things from, just a site I use to buy things from random people around the world. I’d stick with that angle, because no one’s ever going to out-do them.

Competing with Amazon, even if you’re just as big, if not even bigger, is a fairly silly idea. As is Microsoft’s attempt to rival Google’s eponymous engine with Bing. It begs the question of why, exactly, companies this large haven’t yet realised that they are their own brand. Amazon is “buy new stuff, at a shop on the web.” eBay is “bid on auctions”. They all have their unique angles, and bar Apple and Google, no one’s done that well by attempting to branch out.

Arguably, the range of brands is impressive, with GSI Commerce having deals with everyone from Ralph Lauren to Hewlett-Packard. The problem this raises is that sellers are now going to need to slash their prices.

It’s a buyer’s market – if I know eBay’s doing a Ralph Lauren polo for £80, I can guarantee someone’s selling it, with postage costs included, for £75. It looks like a bizarre eventuality, of eBay competing in a price-war with its own users. Then again, if it wasn’t going well, it wouldn’t be expanding, so we’ll wait and see.

Still getting my new stuff from sellers and Amazon, though. For now.

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Jan 2011

Will the Mac App Store benefit small businesses?

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

Yesterday, the Mac App Store finally arrived, and millions of people rejoiced as Angry Birds finally became available for people who didn’t want to drop hundreds on the latest Smart Phone, or for those who didn’t fancy using an archaic download system or waiting for physical copies of classic Apple software, such as iLife.

However, a small few – namely small businesses who develop software for the Mac – were celebrating the fact that Apple have just given them their biggest window into their target market in the operating system’s entire history. Now, you can hit front page on a program that comes with every version of Snow Leopard from 10.6.1 onwards. Astonishing news, and ignoring the fact that hackers have already started pirating the downloadable software, I was content to fling small cartoon birds at buildings housing nasty green pigs well into the evening.

It’s a big step forward for the company, as they’re finally throwing their arms wide to admit that yes, their operating system doesn’t run the vast majority of popular software and yes, that means they do need a means of allowing people to download their niche Mac-friendly programs instead of having to traipse down to the closest Apple Store and fork out a higher price for a physical copy. Digital distribution through Apple also means the same thing for developers of business software that Vale’s Steam for Mac platform meant for games programmers – they needed nothing more than a good bit of code and graphics, a cover image, and some copy for the Store blurb.

But if you’re looking for a time to get into developing for the best brand-name in small applications, then do it now. The issue with new sales platforms is that dominance comes quickly and is never released by the few programs that nail the market’s interest within the first few hours. If Angry Birds comes off the top ten at any point this year, I’ll be surprised, unless it’s been usurped by a sequel. In fact, Angry Birds 1-10 would still be a feasible top-of-the-market list.

So jump onto Twitter, Facebook, start sending emails – this week is the time to be a small developer for OSX. Think of this as a friendly nudge from your small business cheerleader – I want to see you guys on that App Store by Sunday evening! The best of luck – price low, and aim high!

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Nov 2010

Has rock-star technology overtaken actual rock stars?

Posted in Online PR | 1 Comment »

At 2:59PM GMT, November the 16th, Apple fans and technology enthusiasts around the world sat waiting to hit “refresh” on Apple’s homepage. Then the clock struck twelve, and the site took a good minute or two to load on even the fastest of connections. Could it be a streaming service to rival Spotify? A Facebook partnership to push Ping onto iPhones around the world?

No, it was the Beatles back catalogue finally being released on the iTunes store.

I cannot have felt more disappointed than I did at that moment. The Beatles? I’m not sorry if I offend anyone’s pedestal-using sensibilities from here on out in this post, but the vast majority of people do not care about The Beatles. I’ll just let that sink in, for a minute. Had it been a technological announcement, a revolutionary one from the company which has churned out the iPad and a new iPhone in the past 12 months, alongside the latest model of MacBook Air, the internet would’ve combusted with the firey rush of tweets and status messages. And Jobs would be grinning once more at his balance sheet.

Music is a thing of the past when it comes to importance. The X Factor, Pop Idol, even YouTube have engendered a gradual degradation of the “musical icon”. Of course, the scale of concerts will continue to increase, and the viral nature of the web means new stars will reach global fame in decreasing time-spans. But it’s important to remember that they’re all just musicians, and we don’t place the same importance in them as the men, women and children of the Sixties placed in John, George, Ringo and Paul.

I could take or leave The Beatles. I’m aware of their significance, their contributions to the music industry as a whole. It’s not the selling box-sets that gets me, or the fact that Yoko Ono saw fit to deny the music market of an easier way of accessing her late husband’s work (but we won’t go into Yoko Ono, that’s a whole other blog post). It’s more the fact that Apple, of all companies, has made the mistake of assuming people don’t see technology as the new Beatles.

The iPhone really is their latest single, and the MacBook their reliable back catalogue. Apple are rockstars of the technology sector, and announcements about a world-famous band from half a century ago just don’t cut the mustard, especially when they’re afforded more secrecy and importance than some of their major releases. The only equivalent would be Microsoft announcing the Zune store had picked up Michael Jackson’s back catalogue – the key difference being that he’s not around to reap the benefits of royalties.

That’s all the decision is, really – money. Same with the recent Beatles Rock Band game. Things you’d never have seen Lennon put his name on are being branded by Yoko as she slowly begins to realise that holding the Beatles back-catalogue back from the iTunes store is an exercise in financial stupidity. For all the talk about peace and showing the world we’re bigger than statistics, the surviving holders of the Beatles rights aren’t hesitant to make money. But why is Apple so excited?

The money. They know they’ll be loaded in terms of album sales this week, next week, and for the foreseeable future, before the sales fizzle to a trickle. Most people gave up and bought the CDs for less money, then uploaded them – as happens quite often when it comes to iTunes and its bizarre, penny-pinching pricing regime. I’m this close to Christmas, and therefore this close to a Kindle, and found out Harry Potter wasn’t on the Kindle Store. Why? Rowling believes in only reading “real” books. So do I, but is she really expecting people to lug round thousands of pages on holiday in 2010?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Apple have disappointed people (namely me). But depending on the reaction (they’ll be trending anyway, so to hell with it, right?) we might see Apple rein in the theatrics until something truly amazing is revealed. Like a MacBook that costs less than a second-hand car.

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Jan 2010

A Move Towards the Future, Today.

Posted in Blogging, Social Media | 0 Comments

As a follow up to my post from Tuesday, we see the release of the IPad. Not for nothing, I don’t much care for the name and look forward to spoofs like the one done by Mad TV,  The I-rack.  However, the post yesterday on Mashable, “What the Web of Tomorrow Will Look Like: 4 Big Trends to Watch’, that I mentioned in my post How Far We’ve Come Since the ‘Busy Signal’ was just in time! It would appear the IPad is the first step in the direction towards our internet future. I have doubts that the first release will be worth the purchase – who wants to admit they wasted their money on the first IPod or the first IPhone – but I look forward to its potential in future (there’s that word again) releases.

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