Monday, March 24, 2008

Is the Apple product line up complete?

Let's look at the desktop Macs.

  • A low end class called Mac Mini
  • A middle/consumer class called iMac
  • A proffesional class named Mac Pro

There three products here and it has stated that way for some years.

The Next most oldest category is the Laptop:

  • An consumer class called MacBook
  • A feature full class called MacBook Pro
  • An utra-light class called MacBook Air
There are tree produce here as well, though the last one is still fresh.

Next are the iPods.

  • An utra small one called iPod Shuffle
  • A feature full middle class called iPod Nano
  • A high capacity one called iPod Classic
  • A touchscreen one called iPod Touch
Four products. It feels a bit redundant it will make sense to reduce your product line to 3 models again. But which one will fall out. The oldest model in the line up is the iPod Shuffle. However it is still in its first generation. Morever it is extremely practical and affordable, and so it is likely to stay. Besides it is too small to incorporate a touch screen.

The iPhone Nano is a full featured iPod that has got video playback in it last generation. It is incredibly small and features a 204dpi display. It still looks good and appart from a memory upgrade or a price drop, it is likely to stay. The iPod classic is just like the iPod nano but with slightly larger display and 40 times the capacity. This is because it contains a hard drive. The HDD's are however a more unreliable and power hungry compared to a Solid State Drives. The HDD are old technology and are being replaced with SSD in ultraportable devices. At a certain point the memory size stops to matter and other factors become important, like the size of the screen or the funtionality.

The iPod Touch is the newsest iPod model. This device is essentialy an iPhone withouth the phone and camera. It is similar in size to the iPod classic but it so much more capable exept for memory size and battery life. It is the future of pocket entertainment

The first two product lines differed in 3 categories:

  • size
  • features
  • price

In the iPod line up the iPod Classic has similar featured to the much more affordable iPod Nano and the price of the much more capable iPod Touch. And so it is likely to drop out of the line up.

What of the iPhone?
If there there is any logic so far it makes sense to have 3 iPhone models. We could see a more affordable phone from Apple called iPhone Nano and we could see a a high end one called iPhone Pro.

The rest of the products offered by apple can also be arranged to fill the 3 consumer types categories, save for one.  The Desktop Controller.

The Keyboard and Mouse and the devices that have seen some of the least amount of inovation in resent years. Granted, they are simple devices but even here Apple may introduce a innovative and advanced product. If anything, the past two years have seen Apple emerge as the leader in Multi-Touch displays and controls. These have been introduced into the MacBook Air and the  MacBook Pro but are still looking for the their carrier device in the desktop environment. 

It's interesting but the Mighty Mouse does feature some touch control already. It's just not multi touch. Possible upgrades for the keyboard include backlight buttons or the entire concept can follow the Optimus Maximus keyboard.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Was the lack of 3G iPhone a failure so far?

One of the most criticized aspect of the iPhone is the lack of 3G. That's like living in the city and someone telling you that you don't have a 4x drive or something. Ignoring fuel consumption is similar to ignoring battery life.

Yet Nokia headsets had 3G for quite some time now. Apple has stated its main reasons for omitting the 3G chip for now being battery performance and popularity. It quite remarkable by how much battery life the iPhone outperformed other the 3G phones with browsers. At the end of the day, what is more important to you? Having a fast phone or having a live phone?

I only have to look into the 3G/Edge coverage map in my country to see the logic behind Steve Jobs second argument, popularity. I basically have 3G only inside the major cities and not along the roads.

The EDGE coverage is complementary equal to that of GSM save for the mountains and sparsely populated areas. In practice i can have access to countless WiFi spots in the main cities. Too bad that most of them are locked.

Another good argument against 3G at the moment is the different standards of US and Europe, forcing companies like Nokia to develop region specific handsets.

iPhone EDGE on the other hand works everywhere in the world and does not affect your battery life as much.

A recent statistical survey show iPhone to claim over 70% of mobile browser usage in the US! Everybody else, including the 3G phones adds to less than 30%. Wow, it seams there was another barrier than a speed barrier to have the internet in your pocket. In Europe, the picture is different but iPhone still has the second place, not that far behind ALL of Nokia headsets put together, 3G and 3.5G included.

We all know the reason for these results: The phenomenal user interface and its reliable operation. The full Safari browser on the iPhone has actually shown to almost negate the speed advantage of other 3Gcellphones That's at least to a test shown on youtube and performed in Germany.

If ones think about it, the reason we actually wish for faster speeds on the iPhone is because the experience is so much like on a desktop that we forget that this is not one. With other headsets with clumsy web control, it more difficult to appreciate the extra speed of 3G.

So at thispoint I prefer to have a service I can use on the iPhone at all times without having to switch it off due to power consumption concerns, like the WiFi. Besides, imagine the monthly traffic and bills if you had such a capable internet device in your pocket. The prices are simply not there yet.

Was the lack of 3G a failure for the iPhone? Not at all. It was a well balanced choice made by Apple, reflecting the need of the fast majority of people. That is to have and iPhone that holds up to a day of heavy use.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is the iPhone's hardware upgradable ?

It is not a secret that iPhone was designed as a software platform. The ability to adapt to different task just by a change in programming is similar to that of a personal computer.

To make a hardware design that could last trough numerous updates in the future, fulfilling ever larger variety of roles is not an easy challenge. Too keep such a design on the top for more than a year constitutes and outstanding achievement. To have a mobile phone to continue to inspire awe and excitement even 12 months after its announcement is plain groundbreaking.
Yet, the iPhone has done it and by the looks of it will continue to do so.

What are the secrets that bring it such long life? Well, there is the advanced software and there is the well designed hardware.

While the software side is pretty well covered by the media, the only thing that seems to be making headlines on the hardware side apart from the 16GB memory update is the lack of 3G.

The iPhone, like all Apple products is an amazing piece of hardware. It is ahead in some respects to its yet unreleased rivals, but as far as the user experience is concerned, it is unrivaled.

To create truly long lived device Apple has wrapped a set of matured components in an advanced design that is simple yet elegant and efficient. These internal components have been engineered to work flawlessly and seem to be replaceable as new one become available. What is amazing is that internal changes have happened just as seamlessly to the customer as were the software upgrades. In the 6 months before its launch on June 29 2007, Apple managed to switch to a better battery and scratch proof screen cover. Later on came the 16GB memory update and with it Apple has apparently introduced better loudspeaker into the iPhone. All these physical
changes came without any noticeable change in the iPhone appearance; only in the user experience.

Other rival Smartphone like the Nokia 95 have undergone two distinctive visual changes, the latest being the even more iPhone looking N96. The introduction of every new model making the previous ones obsolete. And while the original N95 was impressive on paper, it is far more buggy and battery drawing that the iPhone.

So what is the next hardware change for the iPhone?

Possibly a 3G chip replacing the current EDGE chip in the production line. US iPhone users will certainly benefit from the change, mostly in light of this year’s efforts by AT&T to upgrade its 3G network. If Apple had found a suitable chip for the iPhone, they are very likely to introduce it this summer, to make sure they meet there10, 000,000 sold units target bore the year is up. Alternatively they might introduce the iPhone into a lot more countries where 3G is not such a big deal by another type of business deal. A deal very different from the one they have with AT&T and the European carriers.

At the end of the day I think that more iPhone sales hinge not on the 3G chip but on availability, price and its software capabilities. After all, a native app will consume a lot less traffic than the same web app, emulating 3G speeds of information access.

Still, I believe that the answer to the question: Is the iPhone's hardware truly upgradeable? will be answered on Macworld 2009. If we do not see the classic iPhone with new appearance, the answer has been YES.

The iPhone's Near Future

What will happen this summer?

Apple may introduce the long anticipated 3G iPhone. How will that happen? Well, Apple may just replace the current EDGE chip in the production line with a 3G capable one. It may be even possible to have your current iPhone upgraded to a 3G one as an option if you send it for battery replacement. However. general iPhone statistics of internet usage show this current Wifi/Edge device to generate much more internet traffic than all others in the US combined. It also takes the second place in Europe not much behind all Nokia handsets put together, even the 3G ones. So, while not the latest tech, the iPhone in terms of overall capability has the winning mix. At the end of the day, why change something that is working so well?

What else?

iPhone will get the its second major firmware upgrade, the v2.0 or 1.2.0. This update will make the iPhone just as attractive to the businesses as it was for the average customer until now. Also, the iPhone will will get thousands of new apps! How is that? Well the iPhone SDK has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in just the first 4 days after 6th of March. Even if only 10% of those who downloaded it do only one iPhone app, that’s over 1000 apps already. Well over the icon limit of the iPhone, which is 180 apps total on the 9 home screens.

So, while Apple may ultimately postpone the 3G model for 2009, the iPhone is sure to take on the Business, Gaming and PDA handheld platform market before the 2008 is up. Combine its great platform capabilities with another 50-100 $ decrees in price and introduction in new markets and we could be looking at some 15,000,000 iPhones sold before MacWorld 2009.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will we see a flip iPhone?

Will Apple go forward and make a flip iPhine based on the recently uncovered patent for "dual slided trackpad"?

The simple idea of Apple expanding its mobile product line seams very logical. After all Nokia which is the world'leader in mobile platforms has hundreds of models, potentialy appealing to a wider group of people.

On a first glance the all historic trends, lead us to the answer of YES. However a detailed look reveals another story.

First, what are the benefits of the flip-flop form factor compared to the bar form factor of the iPhone?

  • smaller height
  • better screen protection

And the disadvantages?

  • larger thickness
  • less space efficiency
  • moving parts prone to failure
  • hampered landscape operation
  • case unfriendly design
  • modification of software

The iPhone has been a tremendous success in the mobile market in the US. Yet there are a decreasing number of featured still missing that have limited its success outside of the States:

  • lack of 3G
  • GPS-like guidance
  • Enterprise integration
  • 3rd party software
  • world wide availability

All of these are going to be addressed before the year is up, if Apple lives up to its promises.

We see that that the true iPhone weaknesses have nothing to do with the advantages of adapting a flip form factor. What it more, such a design change will add a lot more disadvantages that benefits.

Further, one has to ask itself the following question. Wouln't Apple be admitting that its present design is not perfect by introduction of a flip iPhone?

The imaginary flip iPhone design might look cool on a first glance but its just unreal and unpractical. The Photoshop artist has conveniently eliminated the portions the iPhone housing the camera, the sim card, the dock connector, the speaker, and he mike. What is more, the device will have to be held by its thinnest part according to the orientation of the displays.

Obviously this is nothing more than a fan made traffic/hype generating image.

What, of the patent then?Isn't that a confirmation that Apple is working on something? Not necessarily. Patents are about ideas, not production hardware. Apple is probably just making sure that only they can develop a design with such features if necessary.

At the end it's really more of a question whether Apple realy needs to make another phone model? Whether Apple should invest in making a larger variety rather than one extreemply high quality product? Given the logistics nightmare of larger handsets variety, I think the present situaltion is well supported by the success of the iPhone so far.

Besides , the iPhone is not just a model but rather a platform. A platform that is yet to show its full potential after the realease of the 3G chip and the 2.0 software update in June.

There is only one iPhone, and I think things will stay that way.