29 September 2005

Mac vs Windows by Winn Schwartau

This has been a great series to follow - a renowned security expert gets "mad as hell" and switches his whole company to Macs. He blogs about the experience over 16 episodes (all of which can be found at the site). This is the finale posting in which he also provides 2 documents for download.

IMHO he has done a really thorough job of providing both a qualitative rationale AND a quantitative one (a pretty decent 3 year Total Cost of Ownership model) which can be found here and here.

It is no point looking at the spreadsheet without thoroughly reading the pdf explaining it (and the qualitative view). But the great thing about the spreadsheet is it gives anyone the ability to put in THEIR own numbers based on THEIR estimates of how much time they spend doing things, what they have to buy (hardware and software) and what the cost of THEIR time is.

I won't spoil the fun by revealing the difference, but let's say it's pretty compelling.

Winn has a unique style which you may or may not like. There are a few things he has not been happy with along the road to Damascus, but he's managed to see the forest through the trees very clearly. This has been really excellent work and anyone considering a new computer for Home or for small office/small enterprise should seriously read this.

If you've got issues with his analysis, I suggest you go to Winn's site (above) and add your comments there.

28 September 2005

iPod nano screen issue FUD

This post sums it up nicely as far as I'm concerned.

Of course (before you criticise) it doesn't particularly address screen cracking per se (it concentrates on scratches etc). But I think we have to accept Apple's explanation so far. Based on 6m iPod's shipping per quarter (at the last count), they would probably have shipped AT LEAST 1m nano's in the first month. So even 1,000 screen failures would represent 1 in 1,000 (1/10 of 1% in fact). Assuming the failures happen early in the life of course!

27 September 2005

Blu-Ray or HD DVD

Anyone following this topic from the remote sidelines (like me) could have been forgiven for thinking this format war was essentially won. Blu-ray seemed to be getting all the minds behind it. Talks between Blu-ray group (primarily Sony) and HD DVD group (primarily Toshiba) had broken down. All publicity that I read seemed to indicate that Blu-ray was the superior technology and that essentially it would be the one to win out.

Now in the space of a day, I've had my mind changed, and all bets are at least off for the time being (well, I'm not a betting man anyway).

1. From Ars Technica a great article on the economics of the two formats.

2. Microsoft and Intel announce their support for HD DVD (this one from the Register but many other articles on this topic).

I have to say article 1 makes very compelling reasons why HD DVD is just fine, and Blu-ray will not make economic sense. There is still little question about the superiority of Blu-ray in terms of capacity. Maybe from the consumer perspective it won't matter too much if combined players come out. HD DVD is far from out for the count. I wonder if Sony will have backed the wrong horse again?

26 September 2005

Ed Zander doesn't get it does he?

"Screw the nano. What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?" Zander said. People are going to want devices that do more than just play music, something that can be seen in many other countries with more advanced mobile phone networks and savvy users.

Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola. Obviously a bit irked that the nano has taken all the positive publicity from his first (real) foray into music. His comments betray a lack of understanding about why these things are so popular. Not surprising Motorola got it wrong. Here's what I'm amazed they didn't do:

1. Use USB 2.0. Why, why, why use slow USB 1.1? All current devices support USB 2.0. This phone is crippled right away, irrespective of the 100 song limit. One of the great attractions of every iPod to date has been that it can be filled up very quickly. That means people dock it and update their collections more often. And, because of that they continue to use their device.
2. Allow for larger cards to have larger libraries. Did Apple really insist on a 100 song limit? I doubt it.
3. Put these features in a phone that looked a bit more exciting!

It's not as if this was a last minute reaction - it has been planned and talked about for ages which I'm sure is why people are so disappointed (Victor Keegan of Guardian being a notable exception).

A Razr would be a better bet (and is supposedly coming), but you know just doing a simple checklist of comparable features would have told anyone that this phone was too little too late.

I just wonder though if some of the goodwill between Apple and Motorola will have disappeared with this. It's a pity, the Nokia N-series music phone has been delayed until after Xmas due (apparently) to more DRM work. A good opportunity has been missed.

22 September 2005

NetNewsWire and RSS

According to FeedBurner stats as recent as early 2005, NetNewsWire was the most popular desktop newsreader on the market. Not surprised? Read that sentence again. That's right, it's the most popular desktop newsreader on any platform. Somewhat astonishing when you consider NetNewsWire is a Macintosh-only program.

That quote of a quote comes from Ars Technica in a review of RSS Readers for the Mac platform (a very good article with a predictable conclusion!).

I've just got 2 things to say on this:
1. NetNewsWire is an application that has done more for my personal productivity than any other application I can think of in recent memory. I really, really like it (and the concept of RSS). I have just 2 wishes - that it's memory problems (which I think are really Webkit memory problems) get solved and that we can move to some form of efficient Realtime RSS so we don't poll sites every interval but get the notification as it happens.

2. What does this stat mean though? At its simplest it could just be that there are many more RSS readers on the Windows platform with no dominant player. AFAIK there are only a few popular packages though, so that's not the whole story. It implies to me that Mac's market share among early adopters (journalists, media people, IT users, high-end professional people?) is considerably more than it's current ~5% of US PC market. It was the same sort of early adopter phenomenon that led to iPod take-off. While it may not be right to talk about "early adopters" in the mature world of PC's, it still seems to me that Apple has some building blocks to really make inroads into the Windows world if it executes well. I don't mean 70% market share of iPod, but I do think it could easily move towards 10-15% quite quickly. My anecdotal reports of friends buying macs (switching back or switching for the first time) makes me more confident that this isn't just wishful thinking.

21 September 2005

Le Nano est arrivée

...in my greasy palms that is. (Headline in French because it sounded better and in honour of MacWorld Paris Expo!)

Less than a week after ordering it, I received a 4GB Black iPod nano today, which I had tracked since leaving Shenzen on Friday! The black nanos (esp 4GB) are much in demand, and I'm pleased I didn't wait longer till ordering. Free laser engraving means it has to come from China anyway I think, so 5 business days is not bad at all.

Anyhow, you've all seen pictures by now, but if you've not seen enough here are mine - boxed, next to phone, and thin vs phone. But really until you have one in your hand you just can't appreciate its petiteness. When I opened the box, I at first thought I was looking at a photo of it, before realising it was the real thing. It knocks on the head the idea of convergence because it's just so inobtrusive, you may as well choose your phone as a phone and carry one of these around too. It synced very quickly to my mac mini. But I haven't dared take the plastic film off yet!

For the active user, this is the best iPod yet. Next step is a car kit and I will start to listen to podcasts properly.

Tea with Japanese friends

Tea with Japanese friends
Originally uploaded by Hobflickr.
Sue and I were delighted to host Masa Yamaguchi (right) with Wakana, Yasuko and Noby from Masa's laboratory at Kyoto Institute of Technology (KIT). Sue spent 6 weeks with Masa's group in 2003 and they continue to collaborate and exchange ideas in the field of DNA replication, via their study of Drosophila (Fruit flies to you and me). Masa's lab is 20 strong, although that does consist of undergrads who may spend up to 1 year assigned to a lab. Contrast that with science education in this country (how many hours are spent in a lab on experiments as an undergrad?). Wakana and Yasuko will be here for another 2 weeks working in Sue's lab. Masa and Noby have already returned. We hope they all enjoy(ed) their first visit to the UK, and their first experience of scones.

And as for the other labels...

In the previous post on Sony, I said that we might "perhaps" have more sympathy if the statement had come from another (major) label. But I didn't actually mean it.

The major labels must be the only companies in the world to think that higher prices = greater overall profitability. And you would think after the experience of Amazon (which has done more to raise sales of CD’s than anything else), they would have seen the light. If they don’t think Amazon’s model is bad, then surely Apple is equally to be applauded? And, in the case of Apple, we’re talking about a different distribution model. Amazon didn’t re-invent the relationship between user and artist – it was still basically a CD thing. Online models offer many more possibilities. And as usual, the labels would rather stop the party than get on and make it a roaring success.

There are many innovative ways to build on the online model and develop new streams of revenue and boost the take. The labels are not thinking different(ly) and the artists will suffer (more so I would guess the artists who are no longer actively managed by a label).

As Steve says, if they get away with this, ultimately everyone is a loser. And, if the labels think it won't get worse, it will. I will not buy any CD that has copy protection. Stifle the music lover and see what happens then.

Music Label Propaganda

Just read this statement for a second (from Reuters):

On the other hand, Sony BMG CEO Andrew Lack said at a Reuters gathering earlier this year that Apple is benefiting from two revenue streams, sales of both the iPod devices and song downloads, while the music industry has only one.

This is from someone at SONY. The company that has the following revenue streams the same as Apple's:
1. MP3 players
2. Music Store
3. Computers and accessories
and also owns a lot of the movie industry, gets revenue from sales of hardware for CD, DVD and other audio/video playback, to say nothing of it's TV's. And it also is responsible for more than 1/4 of the world's music output through the Sony/BMG label. As a company it makes considerably more revenue in one quarter than Apple does in one year!

If it had been another record company, perhaps we could have more sympathy, but I think Mr Lack's statement is a sad reflection that Sony's strategy of vertical integration has failed it dismally, and this is just time to lash out at a competitor that came out of nowhere to steal one of it's crowns. But that the statement remains unchallenged in the article I find disturbing.

Personally I think Sony needs to be pulled down a peg or two - it controls too much from content creation through distribution and is exerting monopolistic powers in places like Japan and Australia to the detriment of consumers.

New emc2 website launched

I am pleased to announce an update to the emc2 company website.

It's nothing special - a simplification of the style and navigation, while also making it a bit more succinct around what we actually do! I've also provided a direct link to this blog.

Please report any bugs to me either here or using the contact info. It's been tested on Safari, Firefox and IE 5.2 but all on a Mac. But just to do that involved a lot of faffing around! There's a javascript hack to handle png files in some browsers. It's also the first time I've used CSS in any form. I'm starting to see what that can do, but as I haven't learned the lingo yet, I've only toyed with a couple of things.

If anyone is a code monkey, they will be horrified. That's in part because I created some of the html directly from using the Pages part of iWork having created a rough layout. If it worked, I didn't change it.

I'm also pleased (and so may you) that I'm going to redefine this blog so that no post is more than 250 words long. That will be a real challenge to me! If there is a longer post to write (eg a review) I'll link to that.

Update: I tested the site with my Nokia phone and Opera browser and it worked fine, with and without logos. If anyone with IE complains, I'm afraid I'm just going to have to ignore you!

20 September 2005

New Powermac released after all

I'm indebted to my good friend Tom Jasek for this gem..

Apple Expo

I've deleted the post I put here this morning, as it was so far off the mark as to be a waste of time reading it.

(In summary, I forecasted minorish updates to Powerbook and PowerMac, which just didn't happen. I semi-successfully forecasted updates to .mac, expecting to see something around blogging. While .mac was updated, the emphasis was on a group service as well as more storage. The group service actually looks good, and I could use it as an alternative for the increasingly dreadful yahoogroups which has not evolved positively in several years. I'm pleased they've done something there, but I would have thought blog support would have been a really useful move on Apple's part, perhaps with encouragement for podcasting too).

Now, I'm left puzzled about the complete lack of new hardware at the show (the apple store was updated this morning, but nothing new seems to have arrived). Yes, we knew the keynote was cancelled - I think the nano announcement was brought forward to avoid Apple getting panned by the Motorola ROKR announcement. But surely some of the products are really looking stale now?

Nevertheless, SJ reported Mac market share as over 4.5% in the US and 3% globally, so it maybe that they are selling as many computers as they want. As long as that is the case, then let the pent-up demand for MacTel build perhaps? Nevertheless, I feel the power users (powerbook, powermac) are getting a bit twitchy.

15 September 2005

Are they serious?

Observed over at Paul Thurrott's Windows supersite:

There are apparently going to be 7 versions of Windows Vista. And that doesn't include the N versions for Europe (no media player). And, it doesn't include Server versions. I haven't read a lot of Paul Thurrott's stuff before, but I think he summarises it quite well:

The sheer number of Windows Vista versions is going to cause massive consumer confusion, and some of these versions will likely be orphaned after they prove to be targeting niche markets. That will lead to further migration confusion when the time to upgrade comes.

So, when you've just finished speccing your new Dell you get to the bit about choosing which OS you want. Just how many people will really know which one they want? Some will just turn off to get advice and (maybe) return another day. And when they find that the one they got doesn't have one feature they thought they were getting, just how will they feel?

I've seen comments on other sites which confirms that most people think this is just dumb.

I can understand the pressure a company is under when it has 90%+ of the market so can't really increase volumes by increasing market share. But I'd be surprised if the solution is to create more versions at higher prices (supposedly there will also be a higher end version of Office - yet 99.9% of people can't even understand/use most of the features today).

Is there anyone who thinks this is a GOOD idea?

12 September 2005

Richie Benaud and The Ashes

Yes, so I know, all of us who aren't REAL cricket fans have suddenly found religion, but today is a monumental day indeed.

First of all, as I write this, the final test match of this series is going down to the wire, with betting odds changing by the minute. Whatever the result, this will have been the best series ever. I may not quite feel like writing that later on, but there is little doubt that it is true. Even Americans could have come to like the game based on watching this!

Perhaps though there is a little to feel slightly melancholic about.

Today represents the last day of live coverage of home test matches on terrestrial free-to-air TV. We haven't had away matches for some years but I think it very sad that those growing up today will not be able to experience what we have all had over the years (will the next generation of heroes in the mould of Botham and Flintoff be Sky subscribers?). It is ironic that the last series should have been so good and rekindled such interest in the country as a whole.

The other end of an era as well is the retirement of Richie Benaud from broadcasting (at least in the UK). I don't think there is a test match that I have watched on TV that Richie has not commented on! He's been on our tv's for 42 years! Isn't that incredible? That is my whole lifetime (at least that I can remember) of watching cricket. He has such a great manner - so impartial, yet so incisive as well. And of course, we shouldn't forget his first career as a superb cricketer as well. Seeing him being interviewed at the lunchtime session today shows what a great guy he is. He quoted advice from his mother (still alive at over 100 today!) to "do your best but never take yourself too seriously"! It's also fascinating to see that he's stayed on terrestrial free-to-air tv for his whole career, I'm sure, foregoing the temptation of greater riches.

It is fitting he should go out from our screens on such a high note. Whether it's known in the future as the Freddie Flintoff series (or god forbid, the Shane Warne series - for this is also his last Ashes tour), it perhaps should also be known as the Richie Benaud retirement tour! Thanks, Richie and good luck for the future!

George Bush's Latest Visit to New Orleans

courtesy of friend of friend Allen Weinberg via Ray Jackson (happy to mention any copyright holder if I know who they are)

09 September 2005

rob & iain at the alma

rob & iain at the alma
Originally uploaded by Hobflickr.

Further thoughts on ROKR...

After digesting a few reviews on the ROKR including:
the ipodlounge crew
and from Charles Arthur at the

I've come to the conclusion it's a big disappointment indeed.

ipodlounge has covered a lot of issues with it. I had previously thought that the iTunes integration would be enough to make it a real contender for someone who wanted a simple candy-bar style phone with music. But really a VGA camera, triband only, USB 1.x for really slow downloads, etc are not at all compelling. There are also obvious bugs with it, which after a year in gestation is just not good enough.

As Charles points out in his blog, does it really matter to Apple? Taking a more cynical line was the introduction of the nano specifically timed to defuse the criticism of Apple with this release? Given Paris MacExpo show keynote was cancelled (plan A?), I wonder if Apple decided they had enough inventory of these devices to announce the phone and nano together. The world would focus on the nano and forgive Apple for it's (relatively small) role on the ROKR. Indeed, given the ingeniousness of the nano, Apple has showed that in fact there isn't necessarily a need for convergence after all if you can create a device that is so small as to be invisible.

It's just given the iPod another year or two until a convergent device can get it right!

08 September 2005

After the event... (iPod, iPhone revisited)

The announcement(s) are all done, and the analysts have said their stuff. So, with hindsight what have we learned?

First, let's deal with the iPod nano. It is a brave move indeed that kills off your most successful model and replaces it with something else, that appears to do a little less (less storage, slightly less battery life, incompatibility with a few accessories, etc). But, the nano really is incredible. It will certainly be a logical upgrade for Shuffle users, and most mini users would far prefer the new nano's size (many mini owners are "active" and flash is a better bet). And, for those with a larger iPod, the new nano would be an excellent second iPod. I think it will be a huge success. But most importantly, I suspect there are a lot of competitors sobbing in the corner today. They will have been caught off-guard by this announcement, and they don't have the products to compete. Competing products are considerably bigger (primarily hard disk based of course). Sony announced a new set of Walkman products today - http://playlistmag.com/news/2005/09/08/sony/index.php. According to this link, they are way off on pricing. Admittedly the article compares Yen pricing of Sony with Dollar pricing of apple and may or may not include taxes. But the differences are striking with Apple's 2GB player matching Sony's 512MB model!

If Apple's pricing has come about because of an exclusive volume deal with Samsung for the flash memory, then it is going to cause a lot of financial pressure on the competitors who are already hurting. Creative, iRiver and Sony will not be easily able to get similar pricing as their volumes will be lower. Yet, price will be the only thing they can fight back on with their current products. New products (even if they do get decent flash memory prices) will be a few months in reaching shelves at the least.

I think there will be some people disappointed with the nano - lack of voice recording capability, no photo transfer, and no photo playback to a video screen. But on balance, this is a competitor-killing move from Apple. (I'd bet a 6GB or even 8GB version will also be available just before or just after Christmas to round off the range).

Less covered, but notable nonetheless is the additional vehicle manufacturer support. Apple now has many major manufacturers offering iPod support for their cars. It is this sort of agreement that means for the consumer, buying an iPod is the only logical choice. Sure, I can find a device with a feature built-in that I particularly need, but with the iPod you know you can do that and better, even if it means buying an accessory. This interface and accessory market surrounding the iPod means an iPod can have a longer operational life. As people's usage and needs evolve, they know they'll be able to use their iPod differently. No other player/manufacturer can offer this. Sure, I'm a big apple fan, but I just can't see very many reasons why anyone would NOT choose an iPod over a competing device. The only ones I can think of are a) you are absolutely sure you need a very specific model with specific feature set that only X offers b) you are a linux user c) you hate apple/apple products for some specific reason.

Now, about the ROKR phone. I have to say I was impressed with SOME aspects of this announcement. I think the phone in the flesh is not a bad-looking phone and smaller than we might have expected from the leaked photos. So, it's similar in some ways to the Walkman phone. I am really glad to hear that they have got CERTAIN user interface aspects right. For instance, pausing of music when a call comes in with easy play after, and ability to send/receive texts while music is playing. Also, it's ability to work in non-radio mode on a plane for instance is good. If the talk of partners is correct, they also seem finally to have got some good outlets. But, some things still confuse me. Personally, I would always prefer to have a separate iPod with a smaller/different phone of my choosing. The iPod nano has just made that preference even more compelling. But, lets say this is just the first of a number of devices (eg perhaps they'll get a RAZR with this too), is it any more compelling a proposition than we thought before the announcement?

Well, reading between the lines, the presence of Cingular and what they said at the announcement presents some clues here. On the surface, it's presented as a 3-way partnership. But looked at today, it's not. Motorola have presumably paid something to Apple to license the iTunes client. And Motorola and Cingular have a deal to promote the phone. But there is nothing obvious in the relationship between Apple and Cingular, except perhaps the marketing and exclusivity. The software was referred to several times as an iTunes "Client". What we don't know is whether it is essentially the same as on iPod's or a cutdown iTunes. And, I couldn't find out whether the software could be updated either. So, today, it is basically an iPod shuffle with a display, connecting only via USB. It's not a mini-iTunes that can connect over the airwaves and buy/download music directly. But the Cingular COO said some interesting things. He made reference to the value offered by the iTMS and it's market share. I would take that to mean they believe that people will logically buy their music from Apple's store at 99cents or whatever. Extrapolating that, I infer that Cingular would not try to enter the download market themselves with a higher priced model. Instead, I think they are already hard at work ensuring that there is a business model that makes sense around this phone and it's derivatives. I'm sure Apple is part of that too. I can only surmise that they haven't jumped in more seriously yet for one or both of two reasons 1) The adoption rate for high speed services is not yet there. And therefore the downloading experience for most users is just not good enough. 2) They still haven't worked out the business model for who gets what. Let's assume that Cingular goes with the 99cent price on the iTMS, then how can they make some money, and how can Apple make money (remember, Apple does not look at the iTMS as a serious money-making proposition but as a way to sell iPods. So they'll need some incentive too)? If Apple/Motorola/Cingular can deliver on a higher speed service with an iTunes client that CAN connect to the music store, then I think there'll be two ways for Cingular to make money without upping the price of the 99cent purchase. One is the data charge for transferring it. If they come up with a per song fee, or some sort of guarantee not to exceed something, then they might make a good case to a user. I would imagine that fee to be in the 20-30cent range. Given a typical song is about 4MB, then that represents a significant saving over current per MB rates from mobile operators. But it is easily doable. It also represents one of the best ways to get people using data on their phones. I have a 1GB allowance on my new Nokla Orange phone for watching TV, which eventually will be charged at £10/month. That's just 1p/MB. The other revenue opportunity is in revenue collection. A 99cent download costs Apple about 15% to the credit card companies due to minimum charging. By Cingular collecting the revenue via the monthly bill, Apple makes that much more profit per song bought this way. They'll find some way to split that saving.

There are other models too. A subscription/music trial model would allow revenue to be split, but it might also create problems with data usage which would make using a phone for a subscription model expensive. Another way is to look at charges for things like podcasts which might otherwise be free or subscription models for podcasts (eg £1/month for Wall Street Journal podcasts). It was notable that podcasts were referred to several times when presenting the ROKR phone. I am convinced that it is this market as it matures that may provide the real compelling reason to have such a phone, and to pay for such a service. There may still be those operators who think they can charge ringtone prices for music downloads, but I think most are getting real to this. It just won't happen. A high percentage of ringtone revenue already go to marketing/advertising. A nice music download store operated by a phone operator might appear compelling when $2 per song or more is mentioned. But in reality, such a store will never get the volume to make it worthwhile to setup. Far better to get 10-20cents per download for just operating the network.

So, I think there is no rush into this yet until the firms know a bit more about the market (just as they haven't rushed since announcing this phone a year ago!). It's a similar reason why we've not seen the long-anticipated video iPod - the compelling use cases are not yet there. There's no rush yet either. Apple were not first with an mp3 player, and indeed they were almost LAST to market with a flash memory version. They will bide their time, perhaps experiment a bit on the outside, put a few more enabling bits and pieces into things like iTunes, mac OS X, QT, iTMS and home networking products, and be ready to pounce when they feel they can do it right.

Apple was daring where it needed to be with this announcement and boring where it could afford to be. The biggest danger for Apple (again) is that they won't be able to make enough of them.

Caitlin and John

Caitlin and John
Originally uploaded by Hobflickr.
Caitlin is the daughter of my longtime friends Tim & Barbara from California. John Meissner hails from Sacramento. They both now live in Chicago. They stopped by for a couple of nights in London on a brief European tour.

07 September 2005

It's about podcasts, not music, stupid!

I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of this before, but I think the potential in the iTunes Phone/iPod Phone/iPhone is more about podcasts than just about music. This is where the killer app is, and the real opportunity for the phone companies to start getting people to use data.

I have to confess I haven't done the economics yet (of cost to download a podcast for instance), but if via a mini iTunes app on the phone which can support podcasts (and therefore some sort of RSS effectively!), then there is a vehicle to subscribe to fast-moving stuff on the fly. This might be worth the premium. I still can't for the life of me see why people will pay $2 for a music track to their phone when they can get it for 50% on their computer and move it to a phone. Mostly, music is not that time sensitive. Podcasts however can be time sensitive, and this avenue would open up a whole new world to producing (or at least making available) podcasts for on-the-go consumption.

Podcasts give Apple, Motorola and the phone companies a win-win-win situation.

I don't know how much this will be talked about at today's announcements, and it does go against prior briefings which I believe indicated that downloads would NOT happen direct to the phone from the iTMS. But the more I think about it, the more that is the direction it has to go.

Can anyone tell me why I'm talking garbage on this one?

05 September 2005

The (impending) iPod Phone?

Or is it an iTunes Phone?

There has been so much written on this subject in recent weeks (not to mention countless articles going back almost a year since this was first mooted), that I'm not sure I can add anything insightful. And, as usual, I'm going into guess mode 2 days ahead of the announcement just to allow myself to be embarrassed after the true facts emerge. On 7th September, we'll all know.

So what are the issues here, and why has all this taken so long?

The heading and first line actually are quite important, and I'm not sure we know enough yet to say which it's going to be (or is it both?). For instance, it is possible that the device is really more iPod - you would need a computer running iTunes to manage the library (and presumably the downloads) to do anything. You would sync the phone with the computer, much like another iPod to transfer music. This would presumably be the easier choice to implement for Apple. There would be no DRM issues as long as Apple was able to count the phone as another iPod in it's agreements with the music industry. iTunes already supports multiple devices, so no real change there.

But, another possibility is that the phone will actually have the capability to manage it's own library too - in other words have some of the iTunes interface on the phone itself. Yes, you could synchronise it with your main library of music. But you could also manage music directly on the phone doing a few things the iPod cannot do today (eg playlist management). This is much harder to do, but if the phone allowed you to purchase music directly from the iTMS, then it might be a lot more attractive to the carriers for instance - they could get the data usage they so crave (if not the content revenues). We've seen rumours of Cingular (US), T-Mobile (Germany) and O2 (UK) as being on-board. This is a big change from a few months ago, when it seemed that Apple/Motorola couldn't get any carriers behind it. So, perhaps some of the delay has been about re-engineering the software to allow some more features to create a business model that Apple + Motorola + Carrier can be happy with.

Now, I also think the climate has changed a bit. Carriers have got more realistic. They thought they could do music on a $2-3 a download model like ringtones, and via their own store. They realise that the consumer is not going to go for this model. They've also seen that Sony Ericcson has introduced the Walkman phone, so this already gets around much of that business model they so craved. Given the new realism, I think they've decided to join the iTunes party rather than stay outside it. They will get either something from the download data usage, or they will get a cut of the iTMS revenue (though not very much). Or a bit of both. Those that are first will get the publicity.

For the consumer, there are attractions as well. Remember that to have an iPod today means you have to have a computer. There are still many people who don't have a computer but who would like this functionality. Or, some who just want a simple device - plug and go, no sync etc. A phone that can get it's music without connecting to the computer might be attractive for reaching a new market especially with holiday season on its way. (Now there are still problems with this model not least how to protect/backup what you own, and also how to interface your own music - which is responsible for 95%+ of music on most iPod's today. I won't deal with these issues, though they are important. I hope the announcement will). For those already with a computer (and perhaps an iPod), there are no downsides to this model unless it has extra DRM restrictions. Some extra iTunes features on the phone (eg download free podcasts) might make it attractive as a device in addition to your iPod. In fact, when I think of these sorts of features, I get quite excited!

So, I suspect the delay has been a bit about companies' expectations maturing, and also about developing the software that makes this a hit. If the companies together can come up with a compelling offering that mobile + iPod is MORE than the sum of the parts, then that sounds like something Apple would be behind.

Now, I also think the announcement this week - the invitations to which have made it seem as important as the original iPod announcement - will herald a FEW things. If it was just one Motorola phone which could act as an iPod and had a 25 song limit (see usual rumour sites), I think we'd be rightly underwhelmed (and would never read an invitation like that the same again). So, that's why there has to be a lot more to come out.

So let's make some wild guesses about other possibilities:
1. The 25 song limit. There is no way this phone will just do 25 songs. It may do in it's default shipping configuration. But there will be a way to have storage equivalent to iPod Shuffle devices. It might involve unlocking the phone with an iTMS account perhaps for free, for a minimum number of downloads, or for a one-off fee. A 25 song iPod is not what this announcement is about (hint: "1000 songs in your pocket changed everything; here we go again" does not indicate a 25 song phone!)
The 25 song limit (if it exists) will be to allow people to trial the music features - a lite version if you like. Remember also that Apple doesn't really make money on the iTMS - it's a device to sell iPods. So, whatever model comes out is probably going to require Apple to get money in some way other than just via iTMS purchases (which it might have to share with the carriers). Perhaps the Apple tax will be included in the phones purchase price, but maybe not?

2. Video iPod. This seems a long shot still. I think no one can agree what this device should be yet, except for something which appeals to a minority of people. Sure, the technology exists, but Apple wants the demand to be there before releasing something that wow's everyone. In favour of this rumour though is that the current fullsize iPod itself is now the oldest device in the range. Something new for the holiday season would be very welcome. Perhaps it will be in the form of bigger screens, capacity limit raised to 80GB and so on. Or perhaps some better features for playing music in the home (eg bluetooth connection to hifi or dock-to airport feature). I already find I use my computer to play music in the home, with my original iPod marginalised. More features in this regard would ensure the bigger iPod becomes THE device for music again.

3. Solid-state iPod mini. I wouldn't have believed this a few weeks ago. But I think that the rumours of Samsung's offer to Apple are very interesting. People love the Shuffle (it's size/weight etc - perfect for the gym). But it is a second iPod for many people. The lack of the screen was a clever ploy by Apple to test the market, while pricing it such that it could not be a failure. If they can get the price right, and make the iPod mini a smaller device with better battery life and a colour screen - albeit small, then I think they will do this as soon as they can (preferably before the holiday season).

The fact that Apple and Motorola have separate announcements leads me to believe that Apple's announcement will be more than about the iPod Phone, so expect something on 2 or 3 above, maybe both (though not 2 completely new devices).

Finally, I'm going to be VERY interested in the interface issues. It has been written about many times before, but merging an iPod and a mobile is not as simple as it sounds. For instance, current music phones (that I am aware of) must be paused just to read or compose a text message. That limitation must be removed. I'm also intrigued whether Apple can get the iPod scroll wheel implemented in a phone. This is still perhaps THE feature which defines an iPod (at least those with a display). I can get my Nokia phone to play music files well, but it is not something I do, because it is non-trivial. Sure, for 25 songs, we don't need a scrollwheel. But I've covered that topic above! Navigation and multi-tasking will be quite important for long-term acceptance.

Anyone else want to stick their neck on the block?

7 reasons why it's Apple-Intel not Apple-AMD.

I have seen many comments from people querying why Apple didn't choose AMD instead of Intel. So, here are my reasons why they did what they did.

I believe most of the people proposing AMD are guilty of looking at today and also of choosing just one metric. There is little doubt (from what I can research) that today's AMD chips have the better of Intel in many regards. This has been especially true in the desktop arena. It wasn't true until very recently in the laptop area (AMD's Turion I think finally got them there), where I have just seen a review that compares it well to current Pentium M laptops. However, here are several reasons why Apple didn't go with AMD. Some have been presented, some are implied, and some are my guesswork:

1. Apple went with Intel not because of what they have today, but with a high degree of confidence in what they promise tomorrow in terms of performance per watt. As far as I can see, if they deliver on these promises, they will once again have a very competitive offering. No doubt AMD can beat them in a few areas or maybe by a small percentange in most areas, but then see the next points.
2. AMD has about 10% of the market, Intel has most of the rest. In terms of production capacity, Intel can churn out chips for Apple with far less capacity strain than AMD. The AMD route would more likely (though not necessarily) give Apple the same problems suffered with Motorola and IBM in terms of supply. Great embarrassment for Apple would ensue.
3. Intel's range (going forward) is more complete than AMD's. Ranging from X-Scale through to high end multicore chips. I doubt AMD could have been the sole supplier for Apple of everything they needed. I think as convergence between PC and consumer electronics device blurs, the range of chips will become important.
4. Intel's future offerings in terms of packages are possibly more attractive than what AMD could offer. This includes things such as WiMax, 802.11n, TPM etc. SJ made mention of Intel's vision as matching apple's. Intel is talking about 6W devices and I haven't heard AMD talking about that. I think Apple could see that Intel were trying to enable the sorts of devices Apple want to make. No other chipmaker has quite that all-round vision.
5. Let's assume that Intel has some problems in the future. What's to stop Apple using AMD chips then? As far as I can see, nothing. Any restrictive clauses in an Intel contract would be invalid given current Intel near-monopoly and current spat between the two. Let's assume Apple went with AMD, and AMD couldn't quite deliver. What then? Apple having REALLY spurned Intel would have a very hard time of negotiating a favourable deal. It makes a lot of sense to start with the market leader, and see how things go. And I'm sure AMD will be very keen to attract Apple's business in the future.
6. Let's not assume that Apple just chose Intel. Perhaps it was a two-way thing. Intel has been under some pressure lately. It has been beaten at what it does in some areas by AMD, and it has played second fiddle to Microsoft, even though it was fundamental to the Wintel monopoly for many years. It's also lost out to things like Cell or PowerPC for games consoles. It hasn't got a name for building hardware and doing innovative things, and is frustrated with that position - it thinks it should have more respect. So, it teams up with a company that is great at delivering on that vision - a company that can really make the most of high performance/watt chips, and the packages of tomorrow. I honestly think that Intel was very aggressive in getting Apple's business and will have made it some very sweet deal (hopefully including low prices and waiving the requirement to put Intel inside stickers on our boxes!). It wasn't just a case of Apple going to Intel and asking what could they do.
7. Remember that Dell is 100% Intel. There is not a single Dell computer shipped with AMD chips today, and as far as I know, none are planned. Dell has perhaps missed opportunities because of this, but they're not stupid - they will have their reasons.

Finally, some have questioned whether Apple will use Intel's bog-standard chips or have something custom-made. It's pretty obvious when you look at the economics. To build a semi-conductor fabrication plant these days costs several BILLION dollars. So, when you move from 90 to 65nM for instance, you start again. Apple will be a small but influential customer, but the economics are not there for Intel to build a complete range of chips just for Apple. Instead, Apple will (hopefully) have secured early access to the best chips at a good price. But I also think it's not out of the question that some of the packages that Intel will build for Apple could be unique. If you search through the archives at ars technica and a few other highly technical sites, you'll probably find out which chips apple will likely use when.

So, that's why - IMHO - no AMD today, but who knows in the future?

The amazing Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Spotted at the weekend in the garden (though I confess I took this photo 2 years ago when I first spotted one of these), the beautiful Hummingbird Hawk Moth. When I saw one of these for the first time, I couldn't believe it. It looks EXACTLY like a Hummingbird (well to a non-ornithologist), except a really miniature version. It even seems to have adopted it's feeding method (look closely at the picture) - though again I am no expert. However, it's just about 2.5cm long or so, and when looked at closer, it is clearly more like a moth. It's certainly a case where an appropriate commmon name has been chosen for it.

I found what it was with the help of Google (of course). Turned out that year, there had been a large number of UK sightings due to the warm summer (they arrive here on warm air currents from more southerly Europe). That photo was taken in late September (sorry it's poor - it was all I could do with my little Sony). This time they're a bit earlier, so the lavender wasn't ready, and my visitor didn't hang around for quite so long - so I couldn't blog it straight from the cameraphone.

Has anyone else seen one in the UK this year?

01 September 2005

The End of Science Education in the U.S.?

Excellent article penned by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne over on the Guardian/G2 today - tagline
Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences
Of course, it does have very bad consequences for science education in the U.S. and therefore science in the U.S. But it is also another demonstration of the insidious way in which religious fanatics (choose any/all religions here) are polarising our world. The (our?) leaders are not only failing to fight this, but, as the article points out, actively promoting it.

When you see developments like these, it makes you wonder what the long term consequences are for faith schools in the U.K.

Promoting one group's ideology as fact or even theory is not just bad for science, it is bad for tolerance, mutual respect and humanity in general.