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ATPM 11.05
May 2005



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by Wes Meltzer,

Apple, Rehabilitated

Photoshop contests were once the province of lone gunmen, producing mock-ups and fake shots of new devices, and then e-mailing them out to everyone they know and posting them on Fark. But in a (possibly desperate) attempt to dredge up some new hits, Business 2.0 ran a feature in late March called “What’s Next For Apple?”.

It was a Mac Photoshopper’s dream, with all kinds of crazy, nonsensical devices showing in their photo essay. Everything you have ever heard on bulletin boards or crazy analysts—the iPhone, the Mac media center, the WiFi iPod—is back up for revisiting, including all sorts of other hokey things. An iPod watch? Come now. You have to be joking. You’re not? What? And you quote Rob Enderle with a straight face? Fie, fie!

I was very impressed with the artistry of the devices, though I have to admit, I was underwhelmed by their conceptions.

Apparently spring is the time for Apple to be reborn. Business 2.0 is hardly the only publication to be engaging in such a festival, what with Microsoft finally releasing details about Longhorn, and Tiger shipping, and a certain measure of Zeitgeist, everyone is looking forward to the devices of the distant future, and much of their hopes are pinned on Stevie J.

Maybe it’s because the iPod phone looks more and more elusive all the time. (No, not this one. What a fantastic joke, though.) Motorola says the carriers don’t want the phone because it’ll interfere with their ability to sell songs to people, just to play on their phones, for $3 each. Nevertheless, Moto is soldiering on, maybe playing chicken with Cingular and Verizon—but maybe they’ll sell it on their own, Engadget wonders.

And don’t forget the Unix intelligentsia getting on board with the Mac, Paul Graham says. He thinks the hacker market is influential far beyond its numbers, in that Richard Florida “creative class” sort of way. People like Jonathan Rentzsch (interviewed at DrunkenBlog recently), Nicholas Jitkoff, David Watanabe, and, well, Paul Graham. Why? “If you want to know what ordinary people will be doing with computers in ten years, just walk around the CS department at a good university. Whatever they’re doing, you’ll be doing,” he writes. And, he adds, they’re all using Macs now.

Never to be left out in any Mac-related writing, John Gruber, who is a Paul Graham of a very different niche, disagrees to a certain degree. Of course. He insists that in the GUI world, the Mac has always been the CBGB of the computing universe (my words, not his), and that “[t]he core difference between Mac OS X and the old Mac OS…[is] that it is good in (mostly) all the ways the old Mac OS was good, and but is also good in entirely different ways. It is the Mac and it is Unix…” (As a somewhat mystifying tangent, Tim Bray suggests he might switch back, even though he himself wrote that OS X is the best laptop Unix there is, three years ago. John Gruber deserves credit for catching the inconsistency, not me.)

An empirical look at just how outsized an influence the Mac intelligentsia have would be nice, too. And this month we have one, using NetNewsWire—apparently the biggest desktop aggregator and an OS X-only product—as its benchmark. Bray runs through his RSS-feed client numbers, and discovers that 22.9 percent (187,000) of his readers use NetNewsWire, with the silver; Richard McManus at Read/Write Web also finds it in second place, with 7 percent; FeedBurner says it’s second with 16.95 percent; and 17.9 percent at 37signals. Not too shabby, for 3 percent of the computer market. I am not the only person who thinks this ties into Paul Graham’s Law, that hackers are necessarily ten years ahead and right now they’re using Macs; McManus agrees with me, or rather, I with him.

Given this new influx of the computing world’s intelligentsia, Macworld wants to look ahead. “What comes after Tiger?” they ask. The answer is, well, maybe a lot, and maybe not all that much. Would you like “smart locations,” with GPS receivers, or the return of the thin-client model as “Profile”? And maybe, finally, Home-on-iPod? Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here…

Since You’re the Intelligentsia…

  • Couldn’t wait for Tiger? You’ll hate these folks! MacMall and ClubMac mailed out copies early since they had them in stock. Supposedly they had to send them back, because it was an “accident,” but we all know how these things work. (Congratulations, guys, on gaming the system for, like, five extra days.)
  • DVForge decided to up the FUD ante just a little, and offer a cash kitty of $25,000 to anyone who would write a Mac virus and infect two computers with it. Just about every Mac user on the planet shouted loudly in complaint, but I like Miraz Jordan’s reaction: “There’s nothing in the world which is totally safe and offering a reward to create something no-one wants is just sheer foolishness.“
  • Arve Bersvendsen discovers, much to his dismay, that Apple has been plagiarizing one of his CSS tutorials by including it, without attribution, in the WebCore test suite. When he contacted them, they responded by removing the pages from its servers, which he says is not really a remedy suited to documents distributed on every computer using Darwin. They won’t even talk to him about licensing it. Very interesting.
  • Remember the CherryOS saga from last month? Well, the people at Maui X-Stream are going to release it as open-source software now, they say; and, any goodwill notwithstanding, the PearPC programmers are looking for money to sue. This one’s pretty clear-cut, and could be the first GPL case tried in the US, if the SCO-IBM suit is indeed delayed till 2006. (And assuming Judge Wells doesn’t throw out SCO’s GPL argument as immaterial. They’re arguing IBM’s GPL licensing is unconstitutional.)
  • More reprises from last month: A digested (i.e., not tens of pages long) analysis of the latest developments in Apple v. Does, thanks to MacCentral and MDJ. That way you don’t have to buy a $30 subscription.
  • Apple keeps making more and more money. Profits of $290 million in three months, folks. For a company that just sells a niche-market computer and a hit portable music player (to the tune of 5.31 million last quarter). Because he’s always funny that way, Jack Miller at AtAT reminds that “the analysts were predicting $3.21 billion, and Apple said it’ll probably pull in $3.25 billion instead. Why, that’s only a piddling $40 million more than anyone expected! Never mind that Apple’s guidance for actual profit is also over $32 million higher than the analysts had been predicting—sell! SELL!!”

  • Speaking of NetNewsWire, Julio Ojeda-Zapata of Your Tech Weblog says he thinks it’s a fine RSS reader, but too expensive, especially when other tools are available free. He tried it for its podcast support, and is going back to iPodder and NewsGator.
  • Holy 802.11b range, Batman! A company called QuickerTek is selling an external antenna for any AirPort-equipped Mac, though designed just for the Mac mini, with 27 decibel-milliwatts (500 mW) RF power. A native AirPort antenna has 30 mW, or about 15 dBm. What does that get you? One million doll—err, a mile of reception!
  • You may have heard that Adobe is buying Macromedia. When two become one, I suppose; if the Mac market is still being held up by the graphic design community—something with which I think Paul Graham would disagree—this has the potential to make things either better or much worse. Jason Kottke has a vastly better round-up than I could have compiled, so I will merely send you there. Especially if you are a micropatron.

  • David Pogue, of Pogue’s Posts, gets his bacon saved by GraphicConverter. Apparently, the Canon Rebel XT he was reviewing got set in RAW mode, and nothing but GC would recognize its unique format. Go, go GraphicConverter.

And that’s April, folks. Come back next month, when you’re all sated with Tiger and soaking up the tryptophan, and we’ll talk about how the first month is going. I’ll leave the lights on for you.

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