5.30.2006 

Analysis story on Nike & Apple deal up at Macworld

I have an analysis piece on the Nike + iPod Sports Kit running at Macworld today. As I mentioned before, I'm really excited by this. And I think it's a great move by both companies, especially in light of the recently announced deal between Adidas and Polar to roll out a line of shoes and clothing that talk to Polar devices. Get ready for the era of smart clothing.

5.27.2006 

Here Comes My MacBook

(It's here.... And boy are those maps slow)

5.26.2006 

The nine minute waxy widget

Picture 5
So unless you either live in a tree in Borneo with a smelly but lovable orangutan, or are not a big nerd, you probably already know that some MacBook Pros have been shipping with a widget creation app called Dashcode. I downloaded it and played around with it a bit the other day, and was absolutely blown away by how easy it was.

Though, truth be told, my Frank Chu auto-gibberish widget went nowhere.

But today I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to see ow long would it take me to build a widget, with custom art, with a feed from one of my most frequently-visited sites (and the only one I know of maintained by a former Kids Incorporated telemavision star), waxy's links. The answer? Less than seven minutes, from launching Dashcode to exporting it to my desktop. I did go back and tweak the layout a bit, and changed the default number of items from 5 to 10, but even that took less than two minutes.

So, check it out, it's yours to download, the nine minute waxy widget:


5.25.2006 

Dvorak calls Nike + iPod Sports Kit "Nutty"

John C. Dvorak, professional curmudgeon, thinks the new Nike + iPod Sports Kit is a lot of hot air ina bag:
Apple has teamed up with Nike to produce an odd tennis shoe that will allow, among other features, the music to change on the user's iPod to better match their specific jogging requirements.
In other words if you are headed up a tough hill the music selection will change to some motivational music to get you over the top.
Does this sound a little nutty to anyone else but me?
I'm certain that in the category of "who needs it?" this product will sell like hotcakes because right now Apple has the Midas touch. But this Midas touch may be leading in the opposite direction of the Macintosh computer the way I'm seeing things. I've already lamented about the over-emphasis on the iPod gizmo over the substantial Macintosh computer, but I could be missing the point altogether.
Steve Jobs has by now surely admitted to himself that he is more of a cultural tastemaker than any sort of high-tech computer executive. He's not about management. He's about taste.
Dvorak, who, um, how to say this politely.... let's try: doesn't exactly look like he gets much exercise, is missing the point: this is a neat gizmo that will help Apple make money. Money which will be re-invested into making the best computers in the world.

Dvorak's got his cadoodles all noodled up because it's not a computer. Except for one thing: it is a computer. An itty-bitty one, called an iPod. But more to the point, sure, Jobs is all about digital lifestyles now. But he has been for a lone time now, (Hi, 2001!) and it's worked pretty damn well. He's made Apple a damn profitable company, and secured the future of the Mac for as long as can be reasonably foreseen.

And the other thing is, not only is the Nike + iPod Sports kit going to sell sneakers and iPods, it's going to sell Macs. Maybe not thousands, or even hundreds, but certainly dozens, and from there, who knows. Everyone who uses a Mac running OS X eventually gets someone else to try one out. The kit is going to drive people to iPods, the iTunes Music Store, and ultimately, perhaps, Macs themselves.

And besides, coupling your company with one of the best-known brands in the world never hurts. If that's nutty, call me an almond.

 

Apple and France: Still not BFF/TLFAA

I wrote a piece for Macworld on the future of DRM in France. Contraty to some previous reports, the issue has yet to be completely resolved, and the two versions of the law passed by the different legislative bodies must be reconciled. I interviewed Michel Combot of the French Embassy for my story, a gracious and extremely helpful source to whom I'm indebted. In any case, you can read it here.*



*Link goes to Macworld UK version of the story because I'm hella transoceanic like that.

5.24.2006 

SmackBook Pro

Following Matt Haughey's YouTube moment, here's another that also relies on the motion sensors built into Mac laptops. Erling Ellingsen posted instructions for switching between virtual desktops by smacking the side of your MacBook:



He posts instructions for doing this yourself on his site. Via the inimitable Waxy.

 

Nike + iPod: TLFAA

There hasn't been nearly as much buzz about Playlist: the new Nike+iPod Sport Kit as there normally is with the rollout of a new Apple thingamabooble. My gut feeling is that this is due largely to the sedentary lifestyle that all too often is a characteristic of those of us in the tech community. Or it could just be because at it's heart, the Sports Kit is really just yet another iPod accessory.

But I'm excited about it, even though I'm not a runner.

What I'm really excited about is the wireless transmission system, tied to iPod data collection. Though today it's just for running and walking, and tied to a pair of Nike running shoes, there's no reason the same technology couldn't incorperate other gadgets. First up: hiking boots. Next? Bike computers. HRMs. Altimeters. Even GPS devices. There are all sorts of possiblities that are opened up by having your iPod act as, essentially, a wireless data receiver. And they aren't even limited to sports.

Yet all of the above are clearly areas Nike can exploit. Unless they blow it (and they might have, I haven't seen the interface) Nike can do for portable sports data what the iPod did for portable music players. And training, today, is purely data-driven. Wanna be like Lance? You need data.

Also, having used one of those Nike / Philips MP3 players in the past, this was a good move for the Oregonian Odysseus. The iPod nano is the best sports player I've tried by a wide margin--and I've tried a lot of sports players. And the genius part is, not only does it boost Nike's accessory sales, but it's going to drive shoe sales as well. I expect to start seeing a lot more swoops in the Park within the next 60 days.

5.23.2006 

A Whole Lotta Sumthin'

Matt Haughey + MacBook + MacSaber =

5.18.2006 

How To: Back up your iTunes library

My Playlist story from the June issue of Macworld is online. It looks at different strategies for backing up your iTunes library. I really learned a lot writing this article, as it forced me to explore avenues other than just relying on Apple's Backup.app, which is useful but extremely limited compared the flexibility and range of options Automator can give you. Don't fear the Automator.

5.17.2006 

Hi, I'm a, um, nevermind

 

Apple closes down OS X to development

Tom Yager has an interesting story on the de-OpenSourcing of OS X:
Thanks to pirates, or rather the fear of them, the Intel edition of Apple's OS X is now a proprietary operating system.

Mac developers and power users no longer have the freedom to alter, rebuild, and replace the OS X kernel from source code. Stripped of openness, it no longer possesses the quality that elevated Linux to its status as the second most popular commercial OS.

The Darwin open source Mach/Unix core shared by OS X Tiger client and OS X Tiger Server remains completely open for PowerPC Macs. If you have a G3, G4, or G5 Mac, you can hack your own Darwin kernel and use it to boot OS X. But if you have an Intel-based Mac desktop or notebook, your kernel and device drivers are inviolable. Apple still publishes the source code for OS X's commands and utilities and laudably goes several extra miles by open sourcing internally developed technologies such as QuickTime Streaming Server and Bonjour zero-config networking. The source code required to build a customised OS X kernel, however, is gone.
continue reading

5.16.2006 

Farmer Steve vs. Farmer Sim

Sour grapes all around

 

endo reviewed

My endo review is up at Macworld. As I say in the review, it's "a good choice for feed addicts with a lot of subscriptions, especially those who are also bloggers or who download lots of media files." In fact, it's replaced NetNewsWire 2.0 as my feed reader of choice--largely due to its ability to track comments I make on Flickr, delicious integration, and the like. However, I have yet to run NNW 2.1, and I expect it to be chock full of great new features. In any case, it's amazing to me that the Mac has--and has had--the best feed readers available on the market.

 

MacBook!


Apple rolled out a bad-ass black MacBook today, replacing the iBook and 12" PowerBook. Jim Dalrymple has all the details:
Apple Computer on Tuesday unveiled its much-anticipated MacBook, the company’s replacement for the iBook and the 12-inch PowerBook. Featuring the Intel Core Duo processor and a new 13-inch glossy widescreen display, Apple says the MacBook is up to five times as fast as the iBook it replaces and four times faster than the 12-inch PowerBook.

The new MacBook is available in three configurations that range in price from $1,099 to $1,499. Apple is offering a 1.83GHz and 2.0GHz MacBook in a newly designed white enclosure and a 2.0GHz MacBook in a new black enclosure.

"Most exciting to a lot of our customers will be the special model we made with a black finish," Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, told Macworld. "The black is extra special — we designed this for our customers coming from the PowerBook and iBook."

Continue reading
I've been waiting for two things to upgrade to Intel 1. Leopard There's nothing I hate more than buying a computer and then needed to upgrade my OS 3 months later (hi, Panther!). But more importantly 2. A 13-inch portable. Call me crazy, but I believe portables should be, well, portable. I lugged a ginormous Dell Inspiron all over Asia with me (which, at the time I got it was lighter than any of the PowerBook or flourescent toilet-seat model iBooks on the market) for six months. Upon returning to California, I bought a 12-inch iBook, and liked it so much, I then went out and got a 12-inch PowerBook. When I need or want a large screen and keyboard, I hook it up to my desktop system (oh, how I need a KVM switch!).

My 12-inch PowerBook is the best computer I have ever used. It's a monster in a candy-wrapper. Smalland light, yet obscenely powerful. So for months now, I've been holding my breath waiting for a similarly-sized Intel model. And now it's here.

I'm not so sure I can wait on Leopard after all.

5.15.2006 

GOPod


Who says Republicans aren't into technology and the arts? W has already jibber jabbered about his Presidential iPod. And now, apparently in lieu of competent governance, the Republican Party has decided to get in on the iPod express by giving away a special GOP-edition iPod to "the hosts of the five MyGOP house parties that raise the most money for the Republican Party through MyGOP from 10 or more friends". My Gop, that's some incentive! Let's hope that the real thing looks better than this hackey Photoshop Paint Shop Pro pen and ink shimsham job; the edges haven't even been smoothed.

And, er, does anyone else find it hilarious that Steve Jobs's wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, has already forked over more than $18,000 to Democrats in 2006 alone? No? It's just me? I made the eagle cry? Oh, I need to get out of San Francisco more often. Really I do. Finger on the pulse, Mat, finger on the pulse.

 

Analyzing the new Mac TV ads

I've got a story up on Macworld (it went up Friday but I was busy) Macworld: analyzing Apple's latest TV ads:
In heavy rotation on television channels across the country, Apple’s new commercials feature John Hodgman, The Daily Show resident expert and author of The Areas of My Expertise as a stodgy PC in a grey suit, juxtaposed with a Mac—a young, hipster in a jeans and t-shirt—portrayed by Justin Long of Dodgeball and Ed. The two banter about various things—viruses, software, slow jams—all of which are designed to show off the Mac’s strengths.

So how do the new crop of ads do? Macworld invited a panel of experts to comment on the TBWA\Chiat\Day-produced spots. Hoag Levins is executive producer of AdAge.com, the Web site of Advertising Age; Barbara Lippert is a columnist for AdWeek Magazine, and Seth Stevenson writes Slate Magazine’s Ad Report Card. We asked them for their opinions on each ad, as well as the overall campaign.

5.11.2006 

Quick Hits for 05.11

Yawn.

5.10.2006 

Uncensored


For those who complain that the iTunes Music Store is too much in the business of censorship, allow me to present Venetian Snares' album, Horse & Goat.

It's not the music that's offensive as much as it is the album cover itself which features a... a... I don't really even know where to start. A lot of stuff.

The snares are not alone, of course. The Dwarves album, The Dwarves Must Die (full disclosure: I was once Blag's editor at a webzine) comes immediately to mind.

Obviously, if Apple could use its bots to censor every album with potentially offensive artwork, it probably would. But it can't. And it leaves you to wonder why words like piss, shit, fuck, and cocksucker are edited out. They're still in the songs. And the album art that gets displayed... Well, if you aren't offended by bloody topless women nailing* a dwarf to a cross, you, my friend, are probably not writing enough letters to your Senator about the shit you see on TV.

I don't really have a point here. I am pointless, I know. I guess I just find it odd to see the word F**k censored out to protect the chilluns, immediately next to a picture of a nipple:

But maybe it's just me.



*yes, I know, they aren't actually nailing. but, hey, hyperbole! And thanks Jesse, who first noticed this

5.09.2006 

The Great Disappointment

Remember William Miller? No? He was the 19th century preacher who studied the book of Daniel and decided that the second coming was going to take place on March 21, 1843. And on March 21, 1843, when Jesus didn't come again, and Miller and his followers--the Millerites--were left scratching their heads and wondering WTF, yo until they figured out Oh yeah! There's no year zero in the Gregorian Calendar! and then everyone was all, like, duh and then they all did some more math and got ready for the big shindig in the sky to take place on October 22, 1844.

And then, came October 23, 1844. And lo, but there was a Great Disappointment.

On a completely unrelated note: Think Secret now says the MacBook's release has been postponed by a week due to "supply issues."

 

Quick hits for 05.09

Dammit! Sometimes I loathe thee, Blogger. After thinking I had posted once this morning already, I came to discover that Blogger had thwarted my attempts, sending my post to an etherial boneyard. So here we go again. And as for those new MacBooks? I'm waiting, rumor mill, I'm waiting.

5.08.2006 

Oops!

Please ignore this, it is a secret

[via COM]

 

Quick Hits for 05.08

5.05.2006 

Quick Hits: 05.05

Bust out the green, white and red beer, bitches. And when you hit the bottom of the bottle, don't be a wuss: fucking scarf down that eagle with the serpent in its talons in one big gulp. Trust me; you'll trip balls. That's right, it's Cinco de Mayo, miei amici, the day when St. Pancho Villa stormed the Bastille and drove the snakes out of Tijuana, thus converting King George III to Catholicism. I think. In any case, save some tequila for me.

5.04.2006 

quick hits for 05.04

What, what? where's the bytten? You know, tha allusion to apples, computers, and things already consumed? Gone! And replaced with nothing. In its place at some point I plan to institute a treatise on the nature of human suffering. But until then:

5.03.2006 

cloud.lic.io.us


Like you, I am a delicious freak. That is to say, I am both quite tasty when sauteed with a little garlic and butter and a dash of lemon, and an avid user of del.icio.us

And if you, like me, are a delicious freak---whether or not your flavor is improved by garlic and butter (oh, but it is!)--you'll probably find cloud.lic.io.us handy. It corrals your del.icio.us tag cloud into a desktop widget. Now you're just a hotkey away from your delicious links.
[via the apple blog]

 

bytten: quick hits for 05.03

5.02.2006 

Apple Cracks the Whip on the Recording Industry -- For Now

The Financial times has a piece today reporting that Apple renewed its contracts with the major record companies to continue selling songs at 99 cents apiece. While everyone will herald this as a victory for Apple and consumers--and it is--in the long run it will only exacerbate the record companies' pricing dilemma and will cause them to aggressively seek out new distribution methods over the course of the next year. In other words, the fight between Apple and the recording industry is just getting started.

But why, you might ask, isn't it a fair price? A price that the market has undeniably embraced? And isn't iTunes the sole bright spot in an otherwise gloomy market?

Well, yes, all that is true. But Apple and the recording industry are approaching the issue from opposite ends, as the FT points out:
iTunes accounts for about 80 per cent of the US digital music market at a time when the record companies are desperate to show shareholders they are replacing declining compact disc sales with new internet revenues. "The labels need Apple too much right now," one record executive said.

Online music sales surged 194 per cent last year to 352m units, according to Nielsen Soundscan, as overall album sales fell 3.9 per cent. Digital sales now account for about 5 per cent of the music majors' revenues.

The surge underlines the competing priorities for Apple and the music industry. While the record companies are seeking new ways to generate revenues, Apple generates the bulk of its music-related revenues from sales of iPod players.
The problem in a nutshell (as I argued previously on this site) is that to the recording industry, a billion dollars over the course of several years is chump change. While digital sales are skyrocketing, and those per-unit figures look pretty good, a brief glance at the recording industry's overall sales paints a decidedly different picture.

Annual sales are still down more than two billion dollars from the high water mark in 1999. Granted, the total value of digital sales in 2005 was up to $500 million. That's money--substantially more than the $183 million in sales from 2004.

But the point remains that the 99-cent single can't replace the $15 CD. And the more digital sales the record industry makes; the fewer physical sales. Couple this with the fact that the average consumer only buys or downloads four songs from an album. You're looking at an eleven dollar difference per album there.

Now, I don't know what the profit margins are for a digital vs. physical sale for the recording industry. And perhaps consumer behavior might change to the point where instead of buying, say, one CD per month, people begin to buy fifteen singles by different artists. But margins would have to be pretty high or the sales volume would have to take off dramatically in order to make up the current difference.

So what's next? That's the big question. Current subscription models are a joke. People want to own their music. Period.

Regardless of that, the 99-cent single is ultimately unsatisfying to the recording industry, and that will drive them to experiment with other distribution methods until they find one that consumers embrace yet that offers them more money than Apple does. Either that, or they'll learn to make do with less--and there are too many record company execs with outstanding Porsche payments for that to ever happen.

So if Apple is smart--and it has proven that it is much smarter than its critics repeatedly since Jobs' return--it needs to begin experimenting with other pricing models that aren't dependent on a la carte downloads, even as it continues to offer the best thing going--for both consumers and the industry--with the 99-cent download.

 

New Apple Ads Star John Hodgman



Apple launched a new series of ads aimed at Windows users. They star John Hodgman (who has been making lots of Daily Show appearances lately as the resident expert) as a bumbling PC who has a series of conversations with a too-cool Mac. As always, Hodgman is really funny, in a dry kind of way, but I can see myself getting pretty sick of these in a hurry. I thought the WSJ one linked above was the funniest of the bunch, though the virus and restarting spots probably make the point better. Judge for yourself, you can view them all here.

Eratta

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