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ATPM 16.11
November 2010



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by Wes Meltzer,

Marco Arment’s First Impressions of the Kindle 3

Marco Arment sums up the Kindle 3, which I haven’t had the fortune to use. I thought his observation about the pricing of the Kindle was particularly astute: “We’re not competing with the iPad. You can buy both if you want.” The price has come down from $349 for the Kindle 2 to $139 for the Kindle 3, and at $139 it’s about the price of an iPod nano, which is to say, it’s about the right price for an accessory, whereas the iPad sits fairly close to Apple’s laptop price points. (Also: Did you know the Kindle 3’s Web browser is WebKit-based? That would be a big improvement, although, as he points out, you still wouldn’t want to rely on that.)

GDGT: Holy MVNO: How Apple Did the Opposite

Think back to August 2005. (I know, you say, where were you in August 2005, Wes?) Do you remember that I wrote a few columns deriding the idea that Apple would become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to get into the cell phone market? gdgt revisits this question, and they remind us that this would have been a disaster for Apple, especially when contrasted with the iPhone. If you think iPhone users hate AT&T, imagine how much they’d hate Apple if Apple were a licensed MVNO for AT&T! (I guess I should mention here that, a few months earlier, in January 2005, I wrote a whole column pooh-poohing the iPhone. I was wrong. I ate my hat.)

ATPM 11.01 - Bloggable: Rumors, Rumors Everywhere

In case you feel like watching me eat more crow, this is my original column mocking the concept of an iPhone. Here’s the graf to remember, as you use your iPhone:

[M]y bet instead is on a mid-range co-branded Motorola-Apple GSM phone with flash RAM in it that can synchronize with selected iTunes playlists from your computer. It could use Bluetooth or, more likely, a wire to sync. Three things I’m betting against: a CDMA version, unless Verizon shells out big time; proper functionality for American users, since cell vendors here cripple all the cool stuff; and more than 256 MB RAM.

(Note to potential ATPM contributors: archives have the potential to make long-time columnists look bad!)

BusinessInsider: Adidas Ditches iAds Because of Apple’s Control-Freakery

BusinessInsider says Adidas is reportedly bailing on iAds without launching a campaign, because Apple rejected three of their creative ideas. Apple’s trying to take more control over the ad platform than anyone else, and that’s resulting in friction between advertisers, creative agencies, and Apple, the story says. BI says this is the second premium brand to drop out, after Chanel.

Ars Technica: What’s Life Like With a 12-Core Mac Pro?

Ars’ Dave Girard hears a Black Sabbath guitar solo and sees the fog of the smoke machine every time he ponders the iStat Menu CPU bars on his new 12-core, 24-thread Mac Pro. On the other hand, a lot of software (Photoshop, Aperture, Photomatix, etc.) aren’t multithreaded or the support is only there for certain actions, so a lot of the time it looks like using one core at 200% and idling the rest. But, wow, talk about a lot of power! (Every time I think about it, I hear Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” Or maybe the Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius,” the intro music for the Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan era.)

Kirk McElhearn: Apple Needs iTunes Server

Kirk McElhearn suggests, in a terrific article for Macworld, that Apple would benefit from developing a server-based version of iTunes. It would store all of the content in a master library, allow user accounts on the server, sync down to Mac and iOS devices, and best of all, maybe even support a standalone device like the Time Capsule. Thumbs-up, Kirk!

PCWorld: HP: We’ll Release More WebOS Devices in 2011

PCWorld reports that HP is saying they intend to release new devices in 2011 using WebOS, the mobile operating system developed by Palm before HP bought them. If this marriage of HP and Palm results in the kind of hardware experimentation we saw during the years after Palm split into two companies, PalmOne for hardware and PalmSource for OS, that would be fantastic. HP has a history of terrific mobile devices saddled with crappy Windows software. (I loved my iPAQ but hated Windows Mobile.) But with WebOS, they could have a real hit…

Ars Technica: Microsoft-Adobe Rumors Might Make Sense for Both Companies

Peter Bright suggests in Ars Technica that both Adobe and Microsoft have a significant Apple problem in the mobile space (less so on the desktop) and that Microsoft buying Adobe might give them an edge. After all, so far Adobe hasn’t delivered a Flash player for a mobile device that’s worth using, but with Microsoft’s resources it could be integrated into Windows Phone 7. On the other hand, I disagree with Bright that the antitrust issues are insignificant. (Photoshop, Illustrator, and PostScript are market leaders with no significant competition, and the DOJ might not agree without, at minimum, a stipulation of 5–10 years of continued new development of Creative Suite for Mac OS X.) And for what it’s worth, I think the entire impetus for this move (Flash in mobile space) would require MS killing Silverlight. But, food for thought.

Marco Arment Looks Over the New MacBook Air

As a user of the old MacBook Air, Marco Arment is definitely the right person to ask about the new model. He says that good things should come from getting rid of a lot of its limitations (low resolution screen, slow hard drive, one USB drive). In fact, the screen resolution on the 13″ is the same as the 15″ MacBook Pro. But, he says, some of its limitations (no wired Ethernet, no FireWire) are still going to be annoying. And he doesn’t think the 11″ model is going to be all that useful, even in most travel situations, with the exception of airplane seat-back trays. (For what it’s worth, I disagree with this last point: the 11″ MacBook Pro is 1.5″ shallower, an inch narrower, and half a pound lighter than the 13″ model. Those extra dimensions can be a world of difference when you’re traveling a lot.)

Macworld: Apple to Stop Bundling Flash Player With Mac OS X

At the big Back to the Mac event, Apple announced that the MacBook Air would not have Flash preinstalled. Apparently this is going to be spread to the rest of the Mac line, as soon as their inventory of existing Macs with Flash preinstalled clear out. They are not blocking you from installing it yourself, but they’re putting the burden of getting security fixes on you and Adobe, so they will no longer provide them using Software Update. With some of the Flash Player security holes that have been exposed lately, this seems like a good idea to me.

Computerworld: Mac App Store Will Be “Bad for Retailers,” “A Net-Positive for Almost Everyone [Else]”

In Computerworld, Gregg Keizer has a host of analysts and developers concluding that the Mac App Store will be good for basically everyone except retailers. “Who is it bad for? It’s bad for the retailers, both brick-and-mortar and the online resellers, that have been the distribution channel for Mac software. Why? Because a lot of people will switch to the App Store,” Keizer quotes Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner. And Scott Schwarzhoff, Appcelerator’s vice president of marketing, says of the traditional retail distribution model, “Where’s Blockbuster [today]?” The lingering question is whether there will be a chilling effect on non-Apple-facilitated software distribution, something I’ve worried about myself: will it be harder to sell your software over the Internet without using the App Store? Will the terms allow you to sell via both channels? How does Apple’s cut compare to, e.g., Kagi? Still: “frictionless” commerce should be a net benefit to consumers and developers both.

Macworld: The Devil Will Be in the App Store Details

Dan Frakes continues a theme I’ve considered myself: what happens with the guidelines for the Mac App Store? Some of them are unclear or need revision—you’ve got to be able to have trial versions of software for the desktop market—but some of them essentially exempt whole categories of software, or tether developers to Apple for good. You’d have to maintain a forked version of your own codebase to sell your own software on the App Store and on your own Web site, and they couldn’t interact at all, i.e., putting up a Chinese firewall between license and possibly plug-in management. Take a read and drop me a line, telling me what you think.

The Economist: Anatomy of a Successful Kickstarter Project: the $20 Glif iPhone Stand

Glenn Fleishman writing in The Economist deconstructs a successful Kickstarter project that has raised $70,000 on $20-$50 pledges for purchase of a molded-plastic tripod-style iPhone stand. Kudos to the creators: when was the last time you saw a consumer-goods project succeed on less than $100,000 in funding, from two guys working in their spare time? And this is so much less demeaning than going on QVC!

NYT: Some Components of HTML5 Spec May Be Bad for Privacy

The New York Times headlines a really interesting story about HTML5 (in particular its persistent data-storage features) and whether there are negative privacy implications to it.

This raises some really interesting questions. I’m not sure what to make of it—I don’t have a broad technical understanding—but it seems like the crux of the matter is that the persistent storage makes it easier to embed cookies deeply and harder to remove them.

Personally I’m much more worried about the possibility of a direct attack using SQL injection. After all, most browsers are using SQLite for their persistent data stores, and I’d be much more worried that someone would steal my e-mail and mine it for personal info than that an advertiser will embed a cookie into my persistent data store.

But maybe the W3C could humor the NYT, and require applications to ask for permission before they write into the data store?

Rogue Amoeba on the Mac App Store

Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba takes the long view on the Mac App Store, just announced during Apple’s “Back to the Mac” event on Wednesday. In short:

Good for sales on volume—right now, it’s very hard to reach most Mac users, but this will make it as easy as the iPhone. Kafasis says, “There’s no question about it, the Mac App Store is going to make finding and using third-party software easier than it’s ever been.”

On the other hand, Kafasis says:

For developers, however, there are quite a few cons to the Mac App Store, when compared to selling on our own. To rattle off a few of these, there appear to be no trials, no paid upgrades, no access to customer information, no coupons, and no ability to ship updates outside of the store. As well, the list of allowable software is quite narrow and the fees (Apple’s 30%) are much higher than developers currently pay to payment processors.

So there’s that.

GDGT: What’s the Long-Run Future of the Mac App Store?

Ryan Block (yes, The Tool Known As Ryan Block) raises a pretty solid point about the Mac App Store that I haven’t seen articulated as well by anyone else: what’s the long-term future of the Mac App Store?

We already could have reasoned that you weren’t going to find Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite on the App Store anytime soon, because of the 30% cut. But Block points out that there’s lots of other software the App Store’s ground rules prohibit or make unlikely: clients to free Web services and open source software (you’re distributing to the most-savvy users), software that won’t be allowed (extensions, plug-ins, SIMBL hacks, etc), software that violates the HIG (OMG, so much bad software out there).

So, Block asks, will there be enough software in the Mac App Store ecosystem to be sustainable in the long run? When you’re looking for software, will you first turn to the App Store, or to Google? Forecast is unclear.

Computerworld: MacBook Air Could Be the First Death Knell of Conventional Hard Drives

Lucas Mearian of Computerworld argues persuasively that the MacBook Air’s onboard solid-state drive is the cutting edge of the next wave of hard drives. As John Gruber often points out, only the highest-end iPods still come with hard drives—and even that’s an endangered species. Laptops are the next frontier, Mearian argues, and finds solid evidence, in the form of capacity expansion among SSD manufacturers, which should raise volume and drive down prices…and make our laptops all a fair bit lighter and more durable.

Kirk McElhearn Wonders If 2010 Will Be Like 1984

One of the concerns that developers have about the Mac App Store is the idea that users might not download software from elsewhere, that the Store could quickly become the only source for Mac software. Kirk McElhearn wonders about an even more dystopian world, where Apple might even sell a Mac that will only run approved software downloaded from the Store.

What’s the Equilibrium Between the Mac App Store and Independent Downloads?

Michael Tsai, my editor, muses about what the eventual equilibrium point between the Mac App Store and the rest of the Mac software ecosystem will be, when the dust settles. Michael notes, “Depending on how you read the guidelines, it’s possible that none of my applications would be accepted by Apple, even though I’ve worked hard to follow best practices and to avoid private APIs and sketchy behavior.” Will Apple relax the guidelines, as he suggests? And Michael also sees the same thing I mentioned the other day, that developers who want to provide software both ways will have to offer a separate App Store version that worked with the Store’s licensing. He notes that PayPal charges just 11% what Apple is charging—and suggests that the price for an App Store version might well be higher than the price for an independently sold version.

Lukas Mathis: The iPhone’s App Store Is Borderline Useless for Discovering New Apps

One of the flaws with the Mac App Store, Lukas Mathis argues, is that the iPhone App Store is already basically useless for finding new applications. Apple’s under a lot of pressure, he argues, to approve most applications for the Store, because they don’t want to be picking winners and losers among developers. Mathis wants Apple to be more selective about rejecting applications for the Mac App Store, since there are other venues for sale; he says, “I hope that the Mac App Store will serve as a showcase for the best Mac apps, rather than as a horrible mess of as many apps Apple can accept in the shortest time possible.”

Omni Group Commits to Mac App Store

The guys at the Omni Group—OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, OmniFocus, OmniPlan, etc.—were very likely the first big development house to commit to the Mac App Store. Their CEO, Ken Case, tweeted about it the day after the announcement. It’s no surprise, as they have two extremely successful iPad products. But it raises a really interesting question, because they’re probably the biggest and most prominent of the independent, Mac-only development firms: how much money is Omni Group giving up, since they run their own payment system? Are they going to make it back up on volume?

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