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The Information on Apple’s iWatch

Jessica Lessin has a nice little scoop on the putative Apple iWatch

Apple appears to have run into some challenges with the screen technology, according to two people close to the company. Toward the end of last year, Apple considered going in a different direction with the screen due to some battery issues, one of these people said.

Jessica is one of those people who have really good sources, so this story is almost certainly legit. But what it means is something a little different: Apple will release its much-talked about (but completely unseen) wrist-based device1 when it's ready, not before. Too much rides on this one for it to be the kind of buggy dud that other companies would hurl out.


  1. No really – don't call it a watch. 

HTC Bravo head-to-head with Google Nexus One?

When I predicted that Google wouldn’t launch its own phone, one of the reasons I believed it was unlikely was that everything pointed to it being a rebadged HTC Bravo (otherwise known as the HTC Passion). While I was wrong about Google launching its own phone, I was right about the rebadge job – and it seems that it may be the Bravo, not the Nexus One, which is heading into the UK retail market.

The HTC Bravo, of course, will feature the company’s Sense UI, as featured on the HTC Hero (video below).

As I said prior to Nexus One’s launch, the one thing that Google can’t do is offer a phone which has “better” Android software on it, which means that its partners get to offer customised and in some cases better UIs. This is the problem that Google faces: Unlike Apple with its iPhone, it doesn’t own the hardware and software.

The rumours are that the HTC Bravo will launch in the UK on Orange with others to follow. Certainly, I’d expect more Bravo’s to be sold than Nexus Ones.

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CrunchGear catches the TechCrunch bullshit bug

Apparently, Apple is now responsible for via killing hardware innovation throughout the industry, at least according to John Biggs.

Remember when Apple bought up all the Flash memory? Well, Apple has also cornered the market in touchscreens. A few months ago I spoke to one inventor who had a horrible time trying to grab capitative touchscreens for a project, even at the smaller electronics markets. Manufacturers knew that something from Apple was about to drop so they drove up prices, resulting in a standstill in innovation.

By pricing the iPad at about $500 on a good day, Apple has forced Asia’s hand. The company clearly did plenty of deals with Foxconn and the rest of the suppliers down the line and while folks like LG are making a mint on screens and other components, they have essentially closed the spigot overseas leading companies like Asus and Acer to announce that they won’t try to compete.

This also explains why other companies just couldn’t get past the resistive touchscreen for so long. Suppliers knew that Apple was sniffing around and so they kept prices high. As a result we had almost two years of me-too garbage coming out of Samsung, Sony, and Nokia until – at long last – the smaller touchscreens are ubiquitous.

First: Where’s the actual evidence that Apple ever bought up all the flash memory? Sure, there was a rumour they had bought a vast amount of supply. But as I remember it, other manufacturers seemed to have no problems shipping the hundreds of products which also feature flash memory. And prices for flash devices as a whole came down.

Second: high quality capacitive glass might well be in short supply. Apple might well have bought up a lot of supply from key manufacturers. And John’s friend who wanted 100 or 1,000 panels for whatever his project was might well have found it hard to buy them in those numbers.

But do you seriously think for one second that if Nokia or Samsung (who MAKE panels) or any other major player wanted to launch a product and went to a manufacturer with a potential order for 10 million panels, they wouldn’t find a way to get what they wanted?

If Nokia went to a manufacturer of capacitive touch screens and said “Hey, we’d like to buy lots of them. By the way, we sell three times as many phones as Apple” who do you think that manufacturer would make first in line for supply?

Sure, it might take some time to make it happen. But the biggest customers get the best deals, and in LCDs Apple is by no means the biggest customer.

Third: Apple is a master of supply chain management. One of the main characteristics of the Steve Jobs era is that, thanks largely to terrific work by Tim Cook, it does not hold much inventory. And that includes inventory of parts. The idea that Apple is buying up a year’s worth of any kind of part is laughable.

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Translating Google

Jeff Jarvis fires off a couple of questions in an apartment in Davos to the Googlers. Here are Eric Schmidt’s answers, with some handy translations from Google-speak.

Schmidt:

Phones: Will they have a tablet? “You might want to tell me what the difference is between a large phone and a tablet,” Schmidt said.

Translation:

You bet. No way will we allow those fuckers in Cupertino to leverage Quattro Wireless into our turf. No fucking way.

Schmidt:

How will they make money on phones? “Not to worry,” Schmidt said. “We do not charge for Android because we can make money in other contexts.”

Translation:

We will leverage our massive monopoly in online advertising to cross-subsidise mobile handset development. By the time the DoJ notices what we’re doing, hopefully the competition will be dead and we’ll rule. There’s no way we’re giving Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else the chance to undermine our ad sales. I studied the Microsoft playbook, and it worked for them for 20 years. Why not for us?

Schmidt:

“In the last year, Chad managed to figure out a way to make money using partners and their video content on YouTube,”

Translation:

Chad’s going to charge for content and stick it behind a paywall. You can do that if you have premium content. That’s What Google Would Do, Jeff, we just forgot to tell you that bit before you wrote your book.

(Photo by World Economic Forum)

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The iPad and me

There’s a million posts around about the iPad today, and there will be a  million more tomorrow. My reaction is simply that I’ll be buying one, because I’m a geek, and that’s what I do.

As for whether it’s good or bad, game-breaking or Apple-breaker, that I’ve yet to learn.

I learned with the iPhone never to judge Apple products until I’d  had them in my sweaty paws. As a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user, there was not way I was going to get an iPhone. Not a chance.

However, as a general nerd, I felt duty-bound to experience the interface – so I bought an iPod touch. Within two weeks, I’d bought an iPhone. Having used the interface  on the touch, there was simply no way that I was going to not have that lovely interface on my phone. It made my perfectly-good BlackBerry feel like something from the 19th Century.

So, till I actually have one in my hands, I’ll refrain from too much comment. People who judge Apple products by looking at the spec sheets simply don’t get it.

(Image by MarketingFacts)

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Why I’m willing to bet this rumoured iPad ad is fake

Nowhereelse has dug up what it claims is an ad for the forthcoming Apple tablet, dubbed “iPad”. Watch for yourself…

So why do I think this is fake? Simple: Apple wouldn’t lead off an ad with a line like “After 10 years of development…” Apple ads are all about feeling, and what you can do with something. The “10 years of development” sounds like something they would have done in 1994, not now.

So I’m calling this one a fake.

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Moodagent – a great tool for playlists

Once you start to have thousands of songs on your iPod or iPhone, if you’re anything like me you tend to find that you listen to the same few songs over and over again. It’s almost like you’re paralysed by having too much choice.

Apple’s Genius mixes are one way around this, but they tend to be rather one-dimensional. Because they work principally on the basis of genre, they can sometimes bounce between up-tempo and slow, dark songs with sweetness and light.

Moodagent (iTunes Link) is a method of creating lists of songs which match your mood. The way it works is simple: it analyses your library, matching each track against an online database of “moods”. This can take a few minutes if you have lots of songs – around ten minutes for the 3,000 or so songs on my iPhone.

You then express what “mood” you’re in by playing around with five sliders, representing five mood aspects: Sensual, Tender, Joy, Aggressive and Tempo.

The app then creates a playlist of 25 songs which match that mood. When I tested it, it produced some really good quality playlists, which managed to mix up different genres while retaining a definite theme amongst the songs.

There’s one drawback, though. Although Moodagent plays songs using the iPhone’s built-in player, it can’t (yet) save the playlists you create back to iTunes. You can, however, save the playlists within Moodagent, so your carefully-crafted list can always be retrieved.

Moodagent is free, and at that price who could argue? But if it actually cost a couple of pounds, I’d still thing it was worth it.

(Image by Parislemon)

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Five things Apple could do to make MobileMe great

One thing that hasn’t been talked about in connection with the (presumed) launch of Apple’s tablet on Wednesday is how MobileMe fits into the picture. There’s a good reason for this: MobileMe is one of Apple’s “forgotten products”. Used by many, but rarely talked about, mainly because it has been upgraded only slowly and has never really had any groundbreaking, compelling features.

In comparison to the cloud-based services of Google and others, it often feels like something of an also-ran. I’m hoping that Apple will do some fun things with MobileMe on Wednesday, tying it deeply into how the product works. However, even if MobileMe isn’t a core part of what the tablet is it deserves an upgrade. So here’s my five suggestions of ways that Apple could turn MobileMe from an also-ran to an essential.

1. Turn iDisk into a real file sync engine, with cloud-based Home folder

With more and more of us owning multiple computers, and more devices like the iPhone capable of using files, keeping all of your documents in sync is becoming incredibly important. MobileMe has a sync engine, in the shape of iDisk. Only one problem: it’s slow, and works only with Macs. Compared to services like DropBox (which I also use) and SugarSync it feels like a product straight out of the dark ages.

2. Beef up the web email client

MobileMe email really only comes into its own when you use it with a desktop client, and in particular Apple Mail. If have to use the web client, you’re going to feel like you’re using free Yahoo! email circa 1998. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just… basic. Server-side filtering? Not a chance. Server-side spam handling? Nope. Threading of conversations? Integration of IM? Forget it. Unless you really want to avoid your email, it’s just not good enough.

3. Make “personal domains” more powerful

Personal domains are a simple idea for making better use of the lovely little sites you create with iWeb. Essentially, you can set up your MobileMe web space so it appears to be at a proper personal domain, such as ianbetteridge.com. Only one problem: Unlike equivalent services from Google and many others, it ONLY works with web sites. If you want your email from (say) [email protected] to automatically go to your MobileMe address and – importantly – the replies to come from that email address too, you’re out of luck.

4. Music, videos and apps everywhere

Apple has already started to take steps towards allowing you to have all your bought music and videos available everywhere. Since the last version of iTunes, you could set things up so that libraries connected with the same Apple account shared content automatically – a great help if, like me, you have multiple Macs. But the next step is to take this further: make any music, video or app I buy that’s associated with a MobileMe account available on every Mac, PC and iPhone that’s attached to that account, via a web page or (if they must) through iTunes. I should be able to stream any track that iTunes knows I’ve bought, even if it’s not in the library of the machine I’m using. For machines with limited storage – like a tablet – this would be a great option.

5. Bring Galleries into the 21st Century

I’m one of the few people who seems to like putting my photos up on MobileMe’s galleries. I like its simplicity and its clean interface. What I don’t like about it is that it lacks “discoverability”. Unless I tell people where my galleries are, they’re very hard to find. Why? Aren’t Mac users social people?

None of these things are rocket science for a company like Apple, but all of them would immeasureably improve MobileMe. At the moment, even for Mac users, I have great difficulty in recommending MobileMe as an essential purchase – change these five things, and it would be a lot easier.

(Photo by Dekuwa – http://flic.kr/p/4UH8s7)

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Good to see Grey London continue the fine tradition of originality in ads

Update: In what I’d describe as “a result”, Grey London’s MD has been in touch with Meg – see her blog for details!

Advertising. It’s all about creativity, originality, possibly bean bags, yeah?

So let’s compare this image, taken by my chum Meg Pickard in 2006, to this scene from Grey London‘s new ad for Horlicks:

Grey Holicks ad
Oh dear.

Sure, everyone creative takes inspiration from other people’s work. I know I do, all the time. But Grey could have taken the idea of a book in front of a face and done something interesting and creative with it. Instead, they did a shot-perfect copy of the entire thing, even down to the on-a-train location.

And yes, it’s only a single, tiny scene in the ad. But given that the shot is pretty much the only one in the entire thing which has any spark or originality (ha!) about it, it’s the one thing that lifts the ad above yet another mundane “lots of shots of kettles from odd angles” 30 second clip. It’s slap-bang in the middle of the ad, which means it’s the conceit around which the whole thing turns.

Pinching ideas isn’t a bad thing per-se. But if the only truly original element in your work is a shot-perfect recreation of something you found on Flickr, you ought to take a serious look at yourself and consider a career which doesn’t depend on creativity.

UPDATE: Meg’s response is on her blog.

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Tumblr is Apple, Posterous is Google

Why Tumblr is kicking Posterous’s ass « PEG on Tech:

“The answer is as easy as it is counter-intuitive: Tumblr is a New York company and Posterous is a Silicon Valley company.

Or, to put it another way: Posterous is an engineered product, while Tumblr is a designed product.”

This perfectly encapsulates the difference between Apple and Google’s approach to design. At Google, product development is engineer-led, as you can see from the spartan search page, the crazy experiment that is Google Wave.

At Apple, product development is design led. Engineering is beautiful, but it serves the design rather than being pasted on top of the design.

I’m a massive fan of the approach to design and blogging that Tumblr takes. If I was starting to blog today, what I’d start with would look an awful lot more like Tumblr than WordPress.

(Incidentally, if you want to follow me on Tumblr, you can do so here. What I tend to post are shortcuts, small quotes, pictures… the kinds of things which don’t merit a full post here, but which I think are worth drawing attention to because they are interesting, or lovely.)

(Photo by laurenmarek)

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