Five Easy Pieces

You want wheat toast, but you have to order a chicken-salad sandwich to get it. So it is with iTunes and the iPod: there many things you can’t do, as they break some rules. But here are five easy pieces for the Mac, five easy pieces for Windows, and a few for the road, that won’t leave you holding your iPod between your knees.

For Mac

Awaken (version 3.1.5, $12.95) brings some of that wonderful iPod functionality to your Mac (for Mac OS X 10.3.9 or newer, and iTunes v6.0 or newer) — an alarm clock that wakes you up to your iTunes music, or any of the built-in alarm sounds. You can also fall asleep listening to your music with the built in sleep timer.

VoodooPad from flyingmeat, for OS X only, offers hypertext notepadding that can export to your iPod’s Notes section. Built like a wiki, VoodooPad lets you save linked pages as Word documents, Rich Text Format files, or HTML to view wiki in a web browser. Once inside iPod Notes, VoodooPad linked words show up for you to click on, and you can go from page to page just like you were using VoodooPad, only with an iPod scroll wheel instead of a mouse.

iPodDisk for OS X is described as “just another tool that enables you to copy your own music from your iPod” but what it actually does is make your iPod act like an iDisk drive, so that other applications to access it to copy files and music. You can browse, drag from, or even play music directly on the drive, with a convenient hierarchy structure well organized by artists and albums. Rather than burden the program with features such as search, the developer integrated it with Finder so that Spotlight works fine for searching. You can even use command-line tools.

Audiobook Builder v1.0.7 for Mac OS X from Splasm Software is a $9.95 alternative for importing audio book CDs (or any audio files) and converting them to be recognizable in iTunes as audiobooks so that they are stored in the proper Audiobook section and are easy to find. It lets you join audio files, set chapter stops, and save book construction projects.

TiVoDecode Manager (version 2.1, free) for Mac OS X rivals the commercial Toast 8 Titanium in offering one-click transfer and conversion of TiVo videos into iPod- and iTunes-ready files. It can find your TiVo on a home network, and can create 640×480 videos in MPEG-4 format that transfer properly to the iPod. However, it does not do H.264 encoding.

For Windows

Soundcrank is a free program for Windows (Mac OS X coming soon) that helps you find album artwork and lyrics for your iTunes library and see what other Soundcrank friends are listening to in iTunes.

The winamp ipod plugin (aka ml_ipod) is a plugin for Winamp (for Windows) that lets you manage your iPod from within the winamp media library. It supports all models of iPods, from the classic first generation to the iPod mini, photo, nano and shuffle. Since iPod support is built into Winamp version 5.2 and newer, ml_ipod is an alternative for this built-in iPod support lacking.

EphPod (freeware) is a Windows application that can copy music to and from an iPod quickly — it takes under 30 minutes to transfer 1,000 songs to an iPod with a FireWire connection. EphPod supports standard WinAmp (.M3U) playlists, includes playlist creation features, and can synchronize an entire music collection with one click. It also imports Microsoft Outlook contacts and lets you create and edit your own contacts. EphPod can also be used to download the latest news, weather, e-books, and movie listings to an iPod.

XPlay 2 ($29,95m free trial version) unlike other applications for organizing music on your iPod, runs as a system service, integrating your iPod’s music database into Windows Explorer — plug in your iPod and it appears like any other hard drive or storage device. XPlay 2 allows you to use a Mac-formatted or Windows-formatted iPod on your Windows ME, 98SE, 2000, or XP system. Inside the XPlay music folder your songs are arranged just as they are on the screen of the iPod, and you can browse by playlist, albums, artists, genres, composers and songs. You can drag-and-drop songs from your PC to the XPlay Music folder to copy them to your iPod, and copy music files from your iPod to your PC.

TVHarmony AutoPilot (freeware) can keep track of what’s on your TiVo and automatically download shows you are interested in. You can also download and convert videos from YouTube and automatically convert videos into formats for iPods, PSPs, Palm and PocketPC devices, video capable mobile phones, XBox 360s, and Linux devices like the Neuros and GP2X. It requires a networked Tivo with TivoToGo capability, at least 10GB of hard drive space, a P4 or equivalent CPU, and Windows 2000 or Windows XP.


One More for the Road

YamiPod (Yet Another Manager for iPod, version 1.7b3, freeware) lets you copy music files freely from your iPod to your computer and vice-versa. It can copy playlists, RSS news feeds, and podcasts, and synchronize your iPod with computers running Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux. You can run it directly from your iPod.

Lots of free stuff is available in the iTunes Store but Apple only highlights the most recent offerings. Most of the older stuff is still there — a treasure trove of free music and other stuff. Check out Get Free iTunes Store Downloads for links into the store.

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Apple Bakes Macs While Microsoft Fakes Flacks

It’s official: the Apple Mac is by far and away the most popular alternative to Microsoft Windows. Mac shipments were up 34% during the last quarter, the most successful period of computer sales ever for Apple. Overall, Apple sold 2.2 million Macs, 400,000 more than the previous record for Mac sales set just last quarter.

Despite press reports of the “halo effect” of people buying Macs because they like their iPods and iPhones, more Windows users are switching to Macs because their Windows PCs are out of date and Vista is just not that popular. Besides, people have finally figured out (after about a decade of it being true) that there is no penalty in switching from Windows to the Mac. Superior design, high-profile marketing, and the switch to the Intel common-denominator processor platform did far more to boost Mac sales than anything else.

Security is also a major reason. The worm, Trojan horse, and bot combination known as Storm has become the most successful piece of malware to date, having infected nearly 50 million PCs worldwide. It has been around for nearly a year (see Bruce Schneier’s report in Wired) and the anti-virus companies are powerless to stop it. While Storm has been associated with some pump-and-dump stock scams, not much has happened yet in the way of criminal activity, but rumors are circulating that Storm is only in a “phase 1” implementation and that “phase 2” will be spawn outrageously high criminal activity because Storm is already, or will be, leased to criminal organizations and perhaps terrorist groups.

This is not a joke, and it’s not going away. Scams designed to steal identities, data and ultimately money are on the rise. And of course, like all other malware, Storm affects Windows PCs; the Mac OS X seems to be immune, even as the Mac’s market share grows.

Blackfriars’ Marketing points out two security features of the new version of OS X (Leopard) that make it more secure than anything else on the market: tagged applications, and signed applications. Before OS X runs an app for the first time, it asks for your consent and displays when it was downloaded, what was used to download it, and what URL it came from. This run-time validation, combined with signed applications that ensure integrity, make OS X more secure than Windows.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working overtime to outflank the press with its flack onslaught about how “open” Microsoft is becoming. Microsoft’s supposed capitulation to the European Union is really a case of Microsoft dragging the legal fight out to its bitter end. The EU had already smacked down Microsoft’s appeal and the company really had run out of legal options.

Microsoft is now supposed to offer free and unfettered access to the Microsoft work group server protocols that will benefit open source developers. But patent lawyers are the only winners: Microsoft can still engage in patent litigation and can still collect royalties (though the royalties are a fraction of what they were before). As reported in the blog walking with elephants,

A careful parsing of the Commission statement makes clear, however, that the Commission may have obtained access to the protocol documentation from a copyright and/or trade secret standpoint, but the same cannot be said on the patent front. Noticeably missing from the Commission statement is any affirmation that open source software developed to implement the protocols will be free from patent concerns.

The net effect is that Microsoft has turned an unruly enemy — the European Union — into an unwitting PR flack. With the continued use of “open source” throughout the EU’s statements and help of the business press, Microsoft can now continue to insist it is open-source friendly when in fact it is not. The company essentially dragged out the legal process long enough to serve its PR purpose.

Imagine if Microsoft spent all that legal money on researching and developing better products.

So you want to develop open source software that interoperates with Microsoft’s protocols? Good luck with that.

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Toxic Hysteria

A report from Greenpeace hit the press recently (Apple Faces Legal Threat Over Toxic iPhone is just one of many articles) claiming the iPhone contains many toxic materials. Buried in the detailed reports are tests that indicate there may be some toxic materials in Apple’s earbud cables, but certainly not enough to cause any alarm. It turns out that many of these materials are found in everyday food packaging and consumer products. However, the Greenpeace report is right in pointing out that Nokia and other manufacturers have taken steps to or already have eliminated such hazardous materials as vinyl plastics and brominated flame retardants.

Just yesterday (as reported in Macworld) a chemical industry group came to Apple’s defense, claiming the report is unfair. The group noted that the brominated flame retardants used in the iPhone are commonly used in electronics products from all manufacturers, as they provide a high level of fire safety — essential in devices like laptops in which batteries randomly catch fire.

While it’s a true story that an iPod set a man’s pants on fire, I’ve had an iPhone in my pants for months now, and I can prove that I’m not sterile and have no sexual dysfunctions, but we won’t get into that. Fact is, there are plenty of dangerous substances around us every day. Scientists studying indoor exposures are a lot more concerned about formaldehydes from cleaning products than something like this. Even peanut butter has a potent cancer agent, aflatoxin. And you get far more toxic dioxin from a grass fire than from a bonfire of earbuds — though I don’t recommend smoking them.

What this story illustrates is how hysterical, and hysterically funny, people can be when confronted with a product they don’t like that is as successful as the iPod and iPhone. On the one hand, you can’t get enough of the press coverage that accompanies your attack on the popular product. On the other hand, the press coverage helps sell more product. It’s frustrating to be a curmudgeon!

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Microsoft’s Brand on the Run

The Microsoft brand is getting pummeled overseas, in the music industry, and in the server market. Can you even estimate how much good will has been lost? Gates and Ballmer must get indigestion every morning as they scan the headlines on their pocket PCs:

The European Union has reaffirmed its “No” to Microsoft, siding with regulators in an antitrust case. The ruling could force Microsoft to change its business practices in Europe, but more importantly, embolden antitrust regulators to pursue Microsoft in other countries. All over the world, national and local government agencies, institutions, and corporations are considering alternatives to the Windows and Office monopolies. While its business practices are still relatively safe in the U.S. due to the U.S. Justice Dept. decision in 2002, Microsoft has had to spend vast sums to settle issues brought up at those hearings with many of the competitors (such as RealNetworks and Sun Microsystems).

Microsoft’s effort to make its Office XML format a standard has been delayed for another six months after a “no” vote in the international standards committee. Microsoft Office continues to sell at a record pace, but the freely distributed OpenOffice.org package is keeping up with the Office feature set (now at version 2.2) and increasing its market share, while online services such as Google Docs are providing a free alternative for individuals and small businesses. Office is already a has-been on the Mac platform, with Apple’s own iWork replacing it.

Microsoft’s Zune is faltering, having lost the online music war to Apple’s iPod without even a skirmish. Prior to Apple’s announcements of new iPods in early Sept., Microsoft cut the price by $50 — the 30GB Zune now sells for $199.

Vista is not as successful as the company hoped it would be. Vista in retail form is being outsold nearly 2 to 1 by the older version, Windows XP. Contrary to Microsoft’s plans, XP version will remain a standard for many years, replaced only as people buy new PCs preloaded with Vista.

Vista is also not as secure and failure-proof as Microsoft would have you believe. The company’s stealth updates and bug fixes for Vista — performed without user knowledge or approval, and even when automatic updating was turned off — have raised many more questions than Microsoft answered when it admitted doing it this week. For example, is this silent update capability a security vulnerability that could be exploited by others?

As confidence in Vista falls, Microsoft’s dominance of the computing industry is eroding slowly. Vista is seriously challenged by Linux and the Mac, and by technologies such as virtualization. With companies like VMware and XenSource leading the charge, virtualization is moving directly to the hardware — enabling a computer or server to run several operating systems simultaneously. This is a battle over the layers that control the hardware. Microsoft does not want to cede its monopoly position of providing the foundational software and is therefore trying to make virtualization a feature of the operating system — where it isn’t as effective in providing the benefits of virtualization (one of which is to be able to move an active system from one server to another without interruption). Bottom line: the virtualization technologies that map directly to hardware will win. VMware and XenSource just announced products that run from flash memory built into a server instead of being installed on the hard drive, and embedded virtualization technology is the reason why VMware has partnerships with IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Fujitsu.

The value of Microsoft Windows used to be the guarantee that you could pick and choose among standard PC components to run it. Where has that value gone, in a world where Vista only makes sense if you are buying a new, Vista-tuned PC? That value has moved to virtualization technology, where you can pick and choose among operating systems and applications. Or perhaps that value has evaporated: what people want is a consistently easy-to-manage computing experience.

For my money, the Mac provides exactly that on the desktop and laptop, while Linux provides the same on servers. Viva alternatives!

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Microsoft’s Brand on the Run

The Microsoft brand is getting pummeled overseas, in the music industry, and in the server market. Can you even estimate how much good will has been lost? Gates and Ballmer must get indigestion every morning as they scan the headlines on their pocket PCs:

The European Union has reaffirmed its “No” to Microsoft, siding with regulators in an antitrust case. The ruling could force Microsoft to change its business practices in Europe, but more importantly, embolden antitrust regulators to pursue Microsoft in other countries. All over the world, national and local government agencies, institutions, and corporations are considering alternatives to the Windows and Office monopolies. While its business practices are still relatively safe in the U.S. due to the U.S. Justice Dept. decision in 2002, Microsoft has had to spend vast sums to settle issues brought up at those hearings with many of the competitors (such as RealNetworks and Sun Microsystems).

Microsoft’s effort to make its Office XML format a standard has been delayed for another six months after a “no” vote in the international standards committee. Microsoft Office continues to sell at a record pace, but the freely distributed OpenOffice.org package is keeping up with the Office feature set (now at version 2.2) and increasing its market share, while online services such as Google Docs are providing a free alternative for individuals and small businesses. Office is already a has-been on the Mac platform, with Apple’s own iWork replacing it.

Microsoft’s Zune is faltering, having lost the online music war to Apple’s iPod without even a skirmish. Prior to Apple’s announcements of new iPods in early Sept., Microsoft cut the price by $50 — the 30GB Zune now sells for $199.

Vista is not as successful as the company hoped it would be. Vista in retail form is being outsold nearly 2 to 1 by the older version, Windows XP. Contrary to Microsoft’s plans, XP version will remain a standard for many years, replaced only as people buy new PCs preloaded with Vista.

Vista is also not as secure and failure-proof as Microsoft would have you believe. The company’s stealth updates and bug fixes for Vista — performed without user knowledge or approval, and even when automatic updating was turned off — have raised many more questions than Microsoft answered when it admitted doing it this week. For example, is this silent update capability a security vulnerability that could be exploited by others?

As confidence in Vista falls, Microsoft’s dominance of the computing industry is eroding slowly. Vista is seriously challenged by Linux and the Mac, and by technologies such as virtualization. With companies like VMware and XenSource leading the charge, virtualization is moving directly to the hardware — enabling a computer or server to run several operating systems simultaneously. This is a battle over the layers that control the hardware. Microsoft does not want to cede its monopoly position of providing the foundational software and is therefore trying to make virtualization a feature of the operating system — where it isn’t as effective in providing the benefits of virtualization (one of which is to be able to move an active system from one server to another without interruption). Bottom line: the virtualization technologies that map directly to hardware will win. VMware and XenSource just announced products that run from flash memory built into a server instead of being installed on the hard drive, and embedded virtualization technology is the reason why VMware has partnerships with IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Fujitsu.

The value of Microsoft Windows used to be the guarantee that you could pick and choose among standard PC components to run it. Where has that value gone, in a world where Vista only makes sense if you are buying a new, Vista-tuned PC? That value has moved to virtualization technology, where you can pick and choose among operating systems and applications. Or perhaps that value has evaporated: what people want is a consistently easy-to-manage computing experience.

For my money, the Mac provides exactly that on the desktop and laptop, while Linux provides the same on servers. Viva alternatives!

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What Price Controversy?

The blog blather was rich and foamy last week as Apple introduced a new generation of iPod models on Sept. 5, 2007, with attractive enclosures and easier-to-use controls, and then hacked the price of the 8GB iPhone from $599 to $399. Those of us who paid $599 for the first two months after its introduction were paying attention, and the reaction ranged from outrage to blissful acceptance. The net result was more press coverage for Apple than any company could ever achieve by simply releasing new products.

So Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to all iPhone customers, offering a $100 rebate for those who bought one at $599. As Jobs explains, “This is life in the technology lane. If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you’ll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have a shed filled with “antique” computers and peripherals to prove it. I spent a fortune on technology over the last 30 years, and so what? You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t willing to shell out the big bucks for the best toys.

And yet, one wonders how much Jobs is getting away with. $100 million in extra profit from the 500,000 or so iPhones sold at the higher price, according to Robert X. Cringely. “It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a thoughtless mistake. It was a calculated and tightly scripted exercise in marketing and ego gratification.” Steve Jobs waited until the end of this speech on Sept. 5, where controversy gets its biggest bang, to announce the price cut. As Cringely explains it, Jobs knew it would be disruptive and controversial, but wanted to do it anyway to stimulate demand. Jobs was ready to address the outrage with the $100 rebate, essentially splitting the difference with Apple’s early adopter customers and pocketing half of this extra profit ($50M).

If so, then Apple is doing right by its stockholders to “go for it” (in the words of Steve Jobs), and Jobs is shedding an old, obsolete perception of him as not being profit-motivated. I take this as good news — that Apple is ready to fully engage the consumer electronics industry. There is great price sensitivity in electronics. The price cut enabled Apple to hit its stated goal of 1 million iPhones sold a few weeks earlier than expected (there was a considerable surge after the price cut). Apple has more clout to get better pricing from parts suppliers, driving down the cost. The company has been more successful than others in meeting demand at a time when parts shortages plague other manufacturers.

Lost in the noise about the price cut was the lack of any real reason to buy an iPod touch — yet. While it’s true that Wi-Fi and Safari turn the iPod into an innovative personal internet device as well as media player, and with appropriate Web 2.0 applications and Web services, the device can act as your travel computer, all this is true of the iPhone also… and the iPhone phones home. The iPod touch model is the foundation for future iPods, but its first generation will certainly not cannibalize sales of the iPhone. And that’s probably a good thing, as consumer electronics companies need to put forward a substantial product line with plenty of innovation.

We expect a pioneering consumer electronics company to continually introduce innovative and useful products. Compare Apple to Sony, the former heavyweight champion in consumer electronics and the inventor of portable music players. While Apple rolls out the best lineup of consumer products that the company has ever produced in time for the holiday season, Sony is toying with the Rolly, a completely unnecessary palm-size, egg-shaped digital music player that rolls, swivels, flaps its ends and flashes colorful lights in time to music (according to John Batteiger in the S.F. Examiner’s Tech Chronicles). Sony, good luck with that.

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Return of the Son of Shut Up and Play Your iPhone (Vol. 3)

After two months of Apple iPhone bliss, no glitches. Sales are currently exceeding Apple’s expectations, according to reports. And more innovations are coming, such as the Audi car interface for iPhones. The Web browsing and online services work faster where WiFi is available, so I regularly stop outside a Starbucks (where I can use my T-Mobile WiFi account) to check email, browse the Web, etc. As I don’t need a table or outlet, I don’t need to buy coffee and I can even stay outside. Besides, free WiFi is available in lots of places including many hotel lobbies and even in the S.F. MUNI subway under Market St. Drive-by WiFi is nearly automatic with unprotected WiFi nets or free services.

So don’t pay much attention to the speculation that the iPhone is not living up to expectations. By comparison, today’s crop of cell phones and smart phones look and feel like clumsy contraptions from a different era, with inscrutable menus and features that take to long to figure out how to use properly. Compared to state-of-the-art smart phones that cost the same or even more (see this review by Peter Svensson of AP and reviews in “Shut Up and Play Your iPhone, Volume 2“), the iPhone holds up well in features and in price (and even in AT&T’s service, so far the only one to work with the iPhone without hacking it). But the iPhone takes a giant leap further in interface and design; opening a new path, so to speak, to a finer universe where everything will work better. Like the original Macintosh that kick-started the graphical computing industry (including Windows). Like the iPod and iTunes combination that rocked the music world.

The Web 2.0 sites and services I use most work fine on the iPhone, and I can use pop-up and drop-down menus on sites with ease and grace. The exception is Google Docs — I can edit in this comment from my iPhone using Google Docs in HTML edit mode, but I can’t edit or write very well. However, my WordPress blogs are easier to access and I can write and post blogs from the iPhone. Using a Web service in Safari on the iPhone for this is better than using the iPhone’s Notes feature, because in Safari you can tilt the iPhone to get landscape view for your display and also your keyboard — which makes the keyboard wider easier to use.

Gripes aside, I still see the iPhone as a platform and capable of leading the portable device industry into new realms and riches. And as any device that can run the game DOOM is considered a platform, the iPhone is hereby annointed with a DOOM proof-of-concept. Of course you can already play online games — check out PopCap’s Bejeweled.

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iPhone Gives Microsoft the Worried Blues

Question: What segment of the market has $600 to spend on a smart phone but hasn’t ever bought an iPod or any other product from Apple?

Answer: Corporate executives and managers, account executives, small business owners, and professionals — just about all of whom use Microsoft Windows and software. (The rest of the population that can afford one — the younger generation, consumers, and early adopters — all had iPods before the advent of the iPhone, and many are Mac users.)

Now think about the survey that found that three of 10 Apple iPhone buyers were first-time Apple customers, and 40% had never before bought an iPod. Those people are all Microsoft customers (or, perhaps, former Microsoft customers). This explains why Microsoft is worried, and why the Gartner analysts that adhere to Microsoft’s way of thinking took the first propaganda shot against the iPhone, calling it unfit for business due to lack of security measures.

Microsoft has sold an estimated four million cellphones running Windows Mobile in 2006 (up from two million in 2005). Apple’s stated goal of 10 million by the end of this year is likely to be surpassed — iPhone sales are well ahead of expectations. That puts Apple in the lead in the smart-phone industry, usurping Microsoft. Apple has blindsided the Redmond giant twice: first with the iPod, and now with the iPhone. In each case Apple has taken market share from Microsoft as its customers defect to Macs (or at least to iTunes over Windows Media Player) and now to iPhones.

As for the Gartner scare, it is conveniently vague and easily refuted. It turns out that the iPhone isn’t any more risky than a BlackBerry or Treo. iPhones can connect to Microsoft Exchange servers, so there is no need to support Blackberry or Good Mobile Messaging servers (which are mostly used as middleware for connecting with Exchange) — a deficiency Gartner cited that is pure misinformation. As for the argument that the iPhone is not supported by major mobile device management suites and mobile-security suites, the analysts conveniently forget that the iPhone is designed for Web 2.0 services, and most business software packages can do the simplest Web 2.0 things such as posting to the Web or sending email.

The iPhone’s security could even be better than other smart phones on the market due to the lack of a software developer kit (SDK). Developers may not like it, but Apple is forcing early adopters to consider using Web 2.0 technology exclusively, which shifts the burden of security to the servers and keeps strange software from doing unexpected things on an iPhone. The device is under intense scrutiny by hackers, but those who want to gain financially from malware will probably stick with infecting Symbian OS-enabled phones which represent about 50% of the world market.

Microsoft has lots to worry about and can’t point fingers at iPhone security while living in the glass house of Windows Mobile. The list of new iPhone widgets and applications is growing exponentially and the buzz will last through the rest of the year. I expect major improvements to occur this year and be available by download directly to the device. I see the iPhone as a platform despite the fact that this first version is not quite complete. With all of its workings and interface in software, the design can be easily improved with downloaded updates. With adherence to standards in video, email, WiFi, and Web 2.0 technologies, the iPhone is the first truly smart phone that can change the phone industry and take considerable market share and influence away from Microsoft.

P.S. Check out my first impressions of the iPhone and accumulated links to reviews and news in “Shut Up and Play Your iPhone, Volume 2” on my blog, iTimes.

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Shut Up and Play Your iPhone, Volume 2

Have you looked up from your iPhone long enough to notice how the world has changed?


Activation at last…

iPhone sales are well ahead of expectations. More rumors are swirling about a wide-screen, multi-touch iPod in August (using Wintek touchscreen panels), with more memory and integrated Wi-Fi, and even with the capability to share data with other iPods and iPhones in the immediate vicinity wirelessly (as well as yet another rumor of a Yellow Submarine iPod loaded with Beatles tracks). Analysts are struggling with predictions of an “iPhone nano” vs. additional 3G capability by the end of this year. All this buzz is fueling an unprecedented increase in Apple’s stock price.

And it seems all well deserved, because, surveys tell us, people love their iPhones. Apple has extended its reach — three of 10 buyers were first-time Apple customers, and 40% had never before bought an iPod.

Of course the iPhone lacks important features and is already in dire need of improvement. Longer battery life is high on everyone’s list, but check out “25 things wrong with the iPhone” in the Apple iPhone Review. I would add to this list the inability to run Google Docs, which I use to write this blog — which means I can’t write a blog entry on my iPhone unless I use the post-by-email feature of WordPress. The iPhone version of Safari doesn’t support Java on the client side, but it does support Ajax, which is widely used now for Web 2.0 development. It also doesn’t support Flash (QuickTime is fine for movies but doesn’t provide the interactive features of Flash). My “blidgets” (blog widgets) on my blogs don’t appear on the iPhone display. But there are developers who would argue that Safari has one of the best canvas implementations of any browser — allowing you to draw arbitrary images using JavaScript and obviating the need for Flash and Java.

While these camps argue, the list of new iPhone widgets and applications is growing exponentially (I’m checking out the MuniTime Web service with transit info for San Francisco, and considering buying the iPhoneDrive application to copy files to an from my iPhone). Enterprising bloggers and reporters are already tearing apart their iPhones and discovering secret test codes. I expect major improvements to occur this year and be available by download directly to the device. Gripes aside, I still see the iPhone as a platform despite the fact that this first version is not quite complete.


In line at the Apple Store in San Francisco

It’s hard not to like something you waited in line for — in my case, six hours at the San Francisco Apple Store. Several enterprising individuals and at least one disreputable one were selling their seats, but no one was buying. The Apple Store processed us quickly and we were off into the night beaming with pride, oblivious to the fact that folks were showing up at 11 p.m. and getting their iPhones without having to wait in line. We even stayed up most of the night hoping that the automatic activation would finish (the servers were overloaded). But it was the adventure itself that was rewarding — meeting people in line, sharing food and good humor, spotting each other for coffee and bio breaks. We deserved our iPhones and we all sincerely want them to be all that they can be. Apple has pushed marketing to a new benchmark, but so what? As Randy Newman sang about L.A., “We love it!”.

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A Song for the Apple Store Line

I don’t want to add to all the hype about the Apple iPhone (if that’s possible; it seems like an infinite hype loop). However I am obviously going out to buy one on Friday, June 29, so I’m adding my bit to iPhone Humor. In preparation for my sojourn to the end of the current line forming at my local Apple Store (or for some of us, our local AT&T store), here’s a ditty that, if everyone sings along, may inspire others to join you.

We’ve Got to Have iPhones Today

by Tony Bove
(Set to the tune “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” with apologies to Lennon and McCartney)

Here I stand, head in hand
Turn my face to the door
If it’s gone I can’t move on
From the line at the Apple Store

Everywhere WiFi’s there
Synchronize every day
We can use the Web for free
And we hear ’em say
Hey! We got to have iPhones today!
Hey! We got to have iPhones today!

How can I even try
Any other service plan
Hearing songs, seeing videos
With AT&T an Apple fan

How could Steve say to me
FedEx will find its way
Gather ’round all you clowns
Let me hear you say,
Hey! We got to buy iPhones today!
Hey! We got to buy iPhones today!

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