Adam spots a Google job ad, and makes the link to Google doing some sort of Tivo rival. Well why not? They seem to be taking on everyone else.
Down in the comments section to my previous post on how Microsoft isn’t copying Apple I mentioned that you just didn’t see very much anti-Mac FUD these days. The old myths and nonsense just doesn’t seem to have the same bite to it – and it’s more often than not the Mac users who are doing the FUDing.
Someone seems determined to prove me wrong, and that someone is Rob Enderle. It should be noted, for the record, that I enjoy what Rob writes, and there are occasions when he’s right about Apple. But in his piece on Windows Vista: The Final Countdown Begins, Rob spouts what can only be described as "a load of nonsense" about the impact of Vista on Apple.
In 1995 Apple was nearly shut down by a product that wasn’t as visually exciting as Apple’s on hardware that was a pale image of what Apple had on the market.
In 1995, Apple made a profit of $424 million, which is an interesting definition of "shut down". The point that Rob is trying to make is, of course, about the years immediately after, when Apple went into something of a spiral, not returning to profit until 1998.
But the problem wasn’t that Apple was suddenly eclipsed by a better competitor: it was that Apple was making a particular expensive and crappy bunch of products, in an exceptionally confusing product line. During 1995, the company released no fewer than 36 different models of Mac. In 1998, it had cut that number to 5 – and the key one was the all-important iMac, which, alongside the PowerBook G3, revived Apple’s fortunes. Unsurprisingly, the company returned to profit that year, and has really not looked back since. It’s even, recently, started growing its market share.
That’s not to say that Windows 95 wasn’t better than Windows 3.1 (it was, considerably). It undoubtedly cost Apple some sales, because for some people it was "good enough". But to say that it "nearly shut Apple down" is overblown, at best.
But Windows 95 had more application support and where it lagged Apple the vast majority of buyers found it to be good enough. For this round Vista in many ways is equal to or better than Tiger or more advanced, relatively speaking, than Windows 95 was during its beta period.
There are, undoubtedly, areas where Vista leapfrogs Tiger (and, given that this means increased competition, that’s no bad thing). However, since the Windows 95 Vs Mac OS 7 era, the two companies have diverged in terms of how they release operating system updates, to such an extent that you’re now comparing Apples with, erm, Oranges.
In the System 7 era, both Apple and Microsoft worked on the "big, occasional release" system. Every four or five years, the companies would update their OS’ with a large "1.0" release that changed virtually everything. On the Mac side, we moved from System 6 (released in 1988) to System 7 (1991). Windows went from Windows 3.0 (1990) to Windows 95 (1995). Between times, there really wasn’t much in the way of major updates going on.
Today, however, things are different. Although Microsoft still favours the monolithic update system, where the OS changes radically every few years, Apple has shifted to a "Significant 0.1" update cycle, where every new 0.1 update – from 10.1 to 10.2, for example – brings significant new features. For example, Mac OS X 10.2 – Jaguar – added a complete new graphics subsystem (Quartz Extreme), Rendezvous, a revamped Finder, Sherlock, and CUPS. Combine the updates, and it effectively means that every couple of years you’ve been getting a vastly changed operating system.
Why does this matter? First, it means that another release of OS X – Leopard, probably to be known as 10.5 – will hit the shelves a little before Vista does, allowing Apple to regain the ground that it otherwise might have lost. But more importantly, it means that around a year after Vista’s release, there will be another release of OS X that pushes it further ahead. And 18 months later, another release. And so on.
Of course, Microsoft could itself change to this model. But I have yet to see any indication that it will, and – it could be argued – it might be impossible for it to do so. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has many thousands of combinations of hardware on which to test its OS. It has desktops, laptops, tablets; a vast range of graphic chip sets, processors, and motherboards; it has 32-bit and 64-bit machines; and so on. Attempting to move to an 18-month major upgrade cycle would be ambitious at best, and a recipe for disaster at worst.
I’m really looking forward to Vista. I think it will be great news for Windows users. But to think that it will be ahead of Mac OS X – at least for long – is to willfully ignore the history of Windows and the Mac, and of Apple and Microsoft.
As for hardware, unlike 1995, the hardware OEMs not only cover a broader range with companies like Voodoo and Alienware in the mix, but historically staid companies like Gateway, HP, Acer, and even Dell are much more aggressive on design today, often surpassing Apple, which was preeminent in this area in the 90s.
Anyone who thinks that Apple no longer has the edge on design is either deluded, or really likes ugly boxes. Machines like the Mac Mini still lead the pack, both in terms of the daring of their design and the attention to detail that marks out truly great designs from mediocre imitations. Apple designs and designers win awards (like Jonathan Ive’s designer of the year gong from 2003) not just for their adventurous nature, but because almost no one else in the computer space is doing anything that’s anywhere near as good.
While this design parity clearly hasn’t impacted the iPod market
yet it is incredibly evident in the PC space.
I’d love to know where. A Dell XPS M170 still looks nothing like a patch on a PowerBook (even though the Dell is by far the better computer in terms of performance). Alienware’s machines, powerful as they are, still look like they were designed by a 14 year old boy with a fixation for cars. And anyone who thinks that the Area 51 5300 is as good looking as a Mac Mini needs to report to their nearest eye hospital, pronto.
Apple will have to improve its game sharply to compete. However, given the strength at the back end, strength that Apple has never had, the exposure now goes well beyond Apple’s available resources.
Apple’s available resources, it should be mentioned, include:
- An advanced operating system based on open source code that’s more reliable and more secure than anything Microsoft currently has.
- The best industrial design team in the computer world.
- Domination of the portable music player market, with a brand that’s so strong that the biggest danger it faces is genericization.
- The dominant share of the market for music sold online – so dominant, in fact, that some have called for its investigation as a monopoly.
- $8 billion in the bank. In cash.
Yes, Microsoft has huge reserves of strength. But it also has to spread that strength across many markets, from server operating systems and back-end systems to the Xbox. Yes, Gates is a genius. But, as the past few years have proved, he’s having to spread his attention across a lot, and it spreads very thinly. With the iPod, Apple has proved that Microsoft can be beaten, just as Google has done so in Internet search. Even with its huge resources.
This means Apple will have to partner to avoid what may be the most damaging competitive threat the company has ever faced. While possible, Apple’s one prevailing weakness has been their inability to partner and unless that changes we should be able to call the outcome of this competition relatively easily — and it isn’t positive for Apple.
Here, I think, is the only point that Rob makes that’s actually correct. Apple is, and always has been, a lousy partner. But even so, that hasn’t doomed it so far – and I see no evidence that it will in the short-term future. Come on Rob, if you’re going to argue Apple is doomed, at least give us some decent arguments!
Giles Turnbull has a vent over the sad lack of decent email clients on the Mac. Personally I haven’t had many problems with Mail, but plenty of people I know can’t stand it.
One decent option is PowerMail. I haven’t tried version 5, but version 4 was an excellent option – more than I needed from a mail client (hence my return to Mail) but very good for the power user.
David Mery’s story of being arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist is profoundly depressing for anyone with even the vaguest care for civil liberties.
What is of most concern is the fact that it’s farily obvious that the police realised early on that he was completely innocent, but proceeded anyway because they wanted to make it look like they had reasonably grounds to detain him in the first place. The odd addition of various "facts" (that he was fiddling with a wire, despite the fact he had nothing that could be construed as a wire on him), the searches, the apparent desperation to find anything that might mean they were justified in arresting him. It all smacks of a system gone mad.
The fact is that Mery should simply have been released once searched. The fact that he wasn’t indicates that something is going wrong with the system – and that the police are wasting valuable time and resources chasing dead ends.
Link: PowerGramo 1.0 ships.
by Phil Wolff.
European aeroplane passengers will be able to make cellphone calls during flights as early as 2006, with wireless internet following closely behind
Protected Mode helps to eliminate the silent install of malicious code through Windows Vista’s User Account Protection (UAP) technology by blocking writes outside of the Temporary Internet Files (TIF) folder. Protected Mode also leverages UAP’s User Interface Privilege Isolation (UIPI) to help prevent Window messages from being sent to higher privilege processes.
This is a very nice, very simple security idea. Good stuff.
I’m a Mac user, and have been for almost 20 years, since the first day in 1986 when, as a humanities undergraduate I discovered the Mac Plus’ in my college computer lab. I later worked briefly for Apple, and have made a living in and around the Mac market for ten years. My last computer purchase was a Mac – the glorious Mac mini, in my opinion one of the best designed computers ever made.
Yet I’m also a Windows user. The last time I needed a new laptop, I found that there was nothing that fitted the bill from Apple. I wanted a laptop that was small, light, and that I could write on – so a tablet from Acer (the C111) fitted my needs exactly. Ten inch screen, weighs next to nothing, and so on. It wasn’t my first Windows machine, but it’s been the one that I’ve used more than anything else – and it’s the one that’s made me learn all about the pros and cons of Windows.
The truth about Windows? It isn’t bad. There’s lots of areas where it’s not as good as Mac OS X, and it doesn’t have the sheer pleasure factor that you get from using a Mac (well, I do at least!) but it’s not the worst product in the world, and generally it works.
Given that they use the best operating system around, then, why do a certain creed of Apple fans have to try and take an axe to Windows at every point? Why do they have to constantly belittle the efforts of Microsoft to make it better? Read the Mac blogs, and you’ll find, over and over again, articles that claim that everything Microsoft does is copied from Apple, or that every Windows machine is riddled with spyware and viruses, or whatever.
It’s weird, because what the Apple sites tend to do is the very thing that they often accuse Windows advocates of doing: spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about the platform. I simply can’t get my head around why they bother, but perhaps that’s because I believe that buying something should be based on informed choices rather than prejudice.
A lot of the time, they show a combination of lack of knowledge about the history of computers, combined with a lack of knowledge about Windows, and a lot of determination to bash Microsoft at all costs. Take, for example, a piece at one of my favourite sites, The Apple Blog. The story, “Redmond, Start Your Photocopiers”. is full of half-researched comments, and it’s worth going through it to show the kind of FUD that, bizarrely, gets spread about about Windows and Microsoft.
As should be clear from the Windows Vista web site (especially this page),
Microsoft is placing great emphasis on look and feel in the new OS,
presumably given that Apple has demonstrated that this kind of thing
really does matter to user, and it appears that Microsoft has at least
been “inspired” by Apple in this area.
You can argue (and I would) that Microsoft has not done a great job of look and feel: But you can’t argue that it’s long known that look and feel is important, and that it’s been improving the look and feel of its operating system since the release of Windows 1.0 in 1985.
Consider the new display model, where all the work of slinging text and
buttons and windows onto the screen is handled by the graphics card.
Vista will have this, and Apple has been working towards it in Mac OS X
since Quartz Extreme in Jaguar (10.2). Tiger has introduced many
refinements, and whilst Apple’s system is still wholly bitmap based
(and thus resistant to easy scaling), it is here now, and it works well
on very average hardware.
This is part true, and part false. Quartz Extreme is a great system, and accelerates graphics very nicely. But the notion of passing off graphics work to the card is nothing new – Microsoft itself does it in both parts of GDI+ and Direct3D. What is great about Quartz Extreme isn’t that it’s a major innovation, but that it’s implemented very well.
A fully vector-based display model is a nice idea, make no mistake
about it (and you could call it innovative). It may well be less
radical by Q4 2006,
It’s more than a nice idea: In a world where we’re finally moving towards true resolution independence, it’s a necessity. But it raises an interesting point: if, in Mac OS X 10.5, released a little before Vista, Apple introduced a resolution independant Quartz, will people claim Microsoft "copied" Apple with this one?
but it does seem that it will leave users of older
machines out in the cold. What of the millions of office PCs out there?
While the previous comment was largely correct, this is simple FUD – and BAD FUD at that. First of all, it makes a classic mistake that Mac users often do when talking about graphics: The assumption that 128Mb graphics memory (the recommended amount for Aero Glass is "top-of-the-range". It’s not. The only machines you ever see these days with less than that are either dirt-cheap PCs or low-end laptops. 128MB graphics cards cost from around £25 if you don’t have one, and 256Mb cards from about £30. If you can’t afford that, you’re unlikely to be spending £100+ on buying Vista anyway.
What’s worse is that final line: "Are they all going to need top-of-the-range ATI or nVIDIA cards just to
run Word?" A quick read through any of the developer stuff about Windows Presentation Framework would tell you the answer: Of course not. If there’s no supported graphics card available, it falls back to using older display methods.
Flip 3D, mentioned below that, appears to be a take on Exposé, whose
simplicity has attracted many users, typically the less experienced
type who find shortcut keys (like Command+Tab) hard to remember. It
will be interesting to see how this manifests itself in the final
version. Thumbnailing for Alt+Tab switching too seems to have its roots
in Apple’s Exposé.
This is just nonsense, as a cursory glance at the picture of the screen grab of Flip 3D at Softpedia shows. Flip 3D is nothing like Expose: you hit Windows + Spacebar and your open Windows appear in a stacked, 3D view that has more in common with a souped-up alt-tab view than Expose. It addresses the same problem as Expose – the need to manage large numbers of open windows – but in nothing like the same way.
Oh, and finally for this bit, Microsoft Gadgets. Ho hum.
The cheap response is, of course, "Konfabulator, anyone?". Although Dashboard is based on different technology to Konfabulator, it’s clearly "borrows" the look and feel – something that the pre-existence of Desk Accessories makes no difference to. It’s certainly not the first time that Microsoft has dabbled in HTML-based small applications: Active Desktop, introduced with Windows 98, is a good example. And Gadgets owe at least as much to a Microsoft research project called Sideshow (not to be confused with the new SideShow, which is a method of displaying key information on small devices), which was first mentioned in a published paper in 2001.
Then we get on to Virtual Folders:
“New organizational concept?” Who to? By Longhorn’s release,
Tiger users will have enjoyed this functionality for over a year and a
half. It will be interesting to see if this is implemented at operating
system level, like, arguably, it should have been in Tiger (so that
search results could be accessed from the Terminal, etc.). It seems
more likely that Microsoft will adopt the same approach as Apple -
after all, why innovate when you can just copy? It’s less effort.
Virtual Folders are indeed like Smart Folders, in that they’re XML files that contain dynamically-created lists of files from a database search. However, Microsoft’s attempts to do this date back to the first demo’s of Longhorn in 2003, when they were implemented in the interface as Stacks rather than folders. This makes Apple’s "invention" somewhat lesser: The idea of implementing this as a folder isn’t exactly huge.
Internet Explorer is evidently seeing some additions too – tabbed
browsing and RSS feed access, two never-before-seen features which will
put Microsoft ahead of the game. Fair enough, Apple cannot claim credit
for tabbed browsing, which has streamlined the web browsing experience
for so many people, but Safari in Tiger is leading the way with RSS
integration. In Windows, it’s still a year off.
I believe that Firefox had RSS integration before Safari – which means, according to the rules our author is playing by, that Apple must have "copied" it – but that’s by the by. What the author ignores is that RSS integration in Vista goes way beyond the browser, and far beyond what Apple has done so far with Mac OS X.
RSS in Vista is integrated directly into the OS, and available as an API for developers to use. For example, Virtual Folders can be shared via RSS – a really smart feature. Desktop search integrates support for RSS, so you can search RSS (or Atom) feeds from the desktop. Microsoft has also made available a set of extensions to RSS that allow you to represent ordered lists – extensions that the company has made available using a Creative Commons license, in case you think it’s a case of "embrace, extend, exterminate".
The most interesting feature here is what Microsoft is currently
dubbing Metro Docs, which is a clear assault on Adobe’s PDF format and
a response to Print dialogue box PDF creation in Mac OS X.
The second bit of this is correct: Metro serves the same purpose as PDF creation print dialogue box in Mac OS X. But just as that ability hasn’t killed Adobe’s sales of Acrobat on the Mac, so Metro won’t dent sales on Windows. In the words of Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan, "PDF is not going away. We’re solving a much
narrower set of challenges for IHVs (independent hardware vendors) and
ISVs (independent software vendors."
There’s more, but most of it is simply sniping. Ultimately, it all just leaves me a bit baffled. Microsoft is trying to improve its OS. In some areas, it will leapfrog Apple, just as Apple leapfrog’s Microsoft. That, surely, is good for everyone – as it means there’s competition, and competition drives improvement. When Apple was faced with the genuinely poor competition of Windows 3 and 95, it floundered around not improving its OS, making the disaster that was Copland. Once it had real competition, in the shape of Windows NT (which was infinitely more reliable than 95) it was forced to shape up. I for one welcome any and all improvements to Windows – and I’m not going to run around crying about them.
Update: This is a guide to the UK only. If you’re looking for a guide to US consumer law, stop off at David Barzelay’s post here.
Update: I’ve added a couple of notes on extra rights for mail order customers, plus a caution over using PayPal to pay for goods.
My friend Lou is having a fun time trying to get her Mac repaired by Apple. She’s not alone in having a bad experience with AppleCare – and Apple is by no means the only company that attempts to give consumers the run around when they have faulty goods. In fact, in my experience, treating customers badly and attempting to avoid their responsibilities under the law.
If you’re in the UK, you’re covered by some comprehensive consumer law, honed over the past few decades, that gives you some very good rights. The government actually has a good web site giving the details of what to do if something goes wrong and what your rights are, but if you don’t want to go through that, here are some points you ought to know:
- Your contract is with the seller, NOT the manufacturer. If (say) you buy a Toshiba laptop from PC World and it goes wrong, don’t be fobbed off by PC World telling you to get the manufacturer to repair it under warrenty. Legally, PC World MUST deal with the problem.
- Goods must be fit for purpose, including any purpose you specifically mention to the seller. Fit for purpose is a great phrase – always use it, as it oftens triggers escalation to the next level of service. They must also be "of reasonable quality" which is another great phrase to quote at people.
- You have the right to reject faulty goods and obtain a refund, replacement, or repair. This is up to a "reasonable" time, but reasonable is not defined in law as it depends on circumstances. For example, if you buy a new laptop but don’t use the wireless networking, only to find six months later when you first try it that it doesn’t work, you’re perfectly entitled to reject the goods and ask for a replacement. EVEN IF YOU SIGN AN ACCEPTANCE NOTE, YOU DON’T LOSE YOUR RIGHTS.
- It used to be true that if you allowed a company to repair goods, you lost your rights under the Sale of Goods Act. This is now no longer true – you gain parallel rights if something is repaired.
- Your first choice should always be a replacement. Goods which fail in the first six months are automatically presumed to have been faulty when you got them – you do NOT have to prove the fault was present when it arrived, and you should get a replacement, refund or repair as of right.
- Since the changes to the Sale of Goods Act in 2003 (the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2003, to be precise), you have new rights that allow you to choose a repair without losing all your Sale of Goods Act rights, as was previously the case. If you choose a repair, it must be done to a satisfactory condition, within a reasonable (that word again!) period of time, and – importantly – without causing you significant inconvenience. If, for example, Apple wants to take away your PowerBook for six weeks and it’s your only machine for work, that would very much count as "significant inconvenience". Claim a replacement instead, and if they botch a repaid and it’s unsatisfactory, you’re entitled to compensation too.
- Don’t worry if you lose your receipt – your rights still apply. It is, however, useful evidence of when you bought a product.
- If the goods are over £100, always, always buy on credit card (NOT a debit card). This gives you additional rights, as the credit card company becomes equally responsible for faulty goods. Credit card companies HATE this, and may apply a little "behind the scenes" pressure to the seller if it looks like the seller is being overly sticky. You also gain the advantage that, if the seller goes bust, the credit card company is still liable – so you can still get a refund or repair. However, note that buying through PayPal – even though you’re paying with your credit card – doesn’t count, as you’re paying the money to PayPal and not the supplier.
Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, you have a significant additional right if you’re buying via mail order, including buying over the Internet. This is the right to reject the goods, for any reason, up to five days after you have received them. The idea is to allow the buyer to inspect the goods, just as you would have chance to do in a shop.
To reject goods, all you need to do is write to the supplier within seven days of receiving the goods – you don’t have to actually return them within seven days. Once they have received your rejection letter, the seller must refund your money within seven days. Unless stipulated in the conditions of sale (that you must legally be provided with a copy of before buying), the onus is on the supplier to collect the goods: you simply have to make them available for them to collect. And the seller can only charge you for returning the goods if this is stipulated in writing before the sale – and either way, you can only be forced to pay the direct costs of return, rather than (say) a blanket £50 "restocking fee".
A simply guide to buying and complaining
Before you buy: Always buy on credit card if you can. Ignore any entreaties about "extended warrenties" of less than a year – they’re really worthless, as they offer you little or nothing more than the rights you already have legally.
Fault appears on delivery: Congratulations! You’re entitled to a full refund. Go get the money and buy from someone else. If you really, really want that particular model, ask for a replacement. Don’t accept a repair at this point - you want totally new goods.
Fault appears within six months: Immediately visit the place you bought the product – don’t wait "to see if the fault clears up". Ask to talk to the manager – you’re wasting your time with anyone else, as they’ll have been told to stall you. Ask, initially for a replacement. Ignore any and all mentions of "the manufacturer is responsible". Ignore any talk of warrenties – this isn’t a warrenty issue. Mention the Sale of Goods Act AND the lesser-known Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2003. Be firm, but polite. If they can’t replace the goods (if, for example, they’re out of stock) then agree to a repair but point out – preferably in writing – your rights, and especially ask how long it will take. If they can’t repair within a reasonable time, ask for a refund.
Fault appears within a year: For a computer to fail within a year, it was almost certainly NOT either of "satifactory quality" or "fit for purpose" under the scope of the law. Part of the "satisfactory quality" clause is that it should work for a reasonable amount of time, and for something like a computer this should mean at least a year. However, after six months the onus is on you to show that the fault was present or the goods weren’t of satisfactory quality when they were bought, rather than being something you’ve done to them. For a PC, if you’ve used it in a normal way, this is fairly trivial – but a laptop might be trickier, especially if you’ve scratched it or broken it.
Fault appears within two years: Trickier still, but worth a shot if you’re persistent! Here, the key will be "of reasonable quality". Most people would expect a PC to work for two years (companies typically expect them to work for three) but you will have a harder time proving it wasn’t something you’ve done to it. A little old lady who uses her PC solely for Word and hasn’t upgraded any software or added any hardware will have an easier time than a technogeek who’s plugged in 5 new PCI boards. Play it by ear.
Fault appears after two years: Unless you’re really, really sure the problem was endemic in the design of the original model – for example, it’s a common fault that lots of people have complained about – it’s not worth the hassle. You’ll almost certainly end up having to go to court, which isn’t worth the time.
One final note: All this is correct only if you’re a consumer (rather than a business) and if you’re buying new: second hand and stuff bought for a business have different sets of rules.
Since Microsoft gave PDC attendees the first look at Office 12, there’s been a slew of reports around the web accusing it of – you guessed it – stealing the interface from Apple. Jensen Harris, of the Office UI team, busts this one in a post on his blog:
The long and short of it is: what you’re seeing now is just temporary artwork and doesn’t share the visual look and feel we intend for the final product. What you can focus on is the interaction design: the controls, concepts, and way of working with the product. That is a piece we’re ready to start getting feedback on.
Having a temporary skin is a routine part of how we engineer software at Microsoft–you probably saw the "Slate" theme early in Windows Vista, and may remember that the final skins for Windows XP ("Luna") and Office 2003 both showed up close to shipping the product.
So what does the final skin look like? Not telling, but I think it looks great and it certainly won’t be confused with Mac OS X.
So let that be the end of that one!