Sunday, December 31, 2006

The next 12 inches?

As I've said before there are really only two demographics when it comes to the laptop market. The road warriors, who would kill for another half hour of battery, or half a kilogram less of laptop, and the power users who desperately want another couple of inches of screen real estate, and another hundred gigabytes of hard drive.

I definitely fall into the road warrior category. I spend half my life in airports hunting for power sockets, and on airplanes, carefully hoarding every last minute of battery life.

So what do I want out of a laptop? I want it to be small, not having those couple more inches of screen really don't bother me that much. I want it to be light, run the length of Charles de Gaulle or Frankfurt airport once or twice and those couple of extra pounds of laptop you're lugging around suddenly seem important. Finally I want battery life, enough for a trans-Atlantic flight, so that means eight hours or more.

What am I willing to trade off to get what I want? Money. I'm quite willing, and expect to have to, pay through the nose for my new laptop. Most road warriors will be because in the end "the company" is paying, the new laptop won't cost much more than throwing me onto a plane and lobbing me across the Atlantic once or twice. Anything that makes me even marginally more productive while I'm travelling is probably, in the end, more than worth the money.

However I'm betting you think it isn't possible, that you can't get a laptop with a 12-inch form factor and decent performance and make it light enough that I'd be willing to admit it that this is something "much cooler"...

Ditch the optical drive, I don't use it anymore. If people are really worried about shipping a laptop without one, throw in an external USB drive. Get rid of the hard drive, and replace it with flash memory. Finally get rid of the LCD and replace it with a colour EPD like the new Motorola F3. Even after throwing in 802.11n, Bluetooth, GPS and a built-in 3G modem I still reckon you'd have an eight hour battery life and a 12-inch form factor. After all, its the display and the hard drive which are the main power drains on a modern laptop, and without the optical drive there will be plenty of room to fit in the GPS and 3G chipsets which will make this the killer laptop for the road warrirors.

Fresh rumours of a hyper-portable are now starting to float around in the lead up to Macworld in San Francisco in January 2007. Of course there are many other rumours floating around as well, so who knows what's going to happen...

All I know is that I need something to replace my ageing 12-inch Powerbook, and I know what I want. The only question now is whether Apple is going to provide it?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Having an Apple Christmas?

On my way back south from visiting relatives over the festive season I dropped by the Meadowhall Centre to do some post-Christmas sales shopping, and of course to pay a visit to one of the few Apple Stores in the UK outside of London and Manchester.

Posted via Flickr by aallan
The Apple Store in the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield

I've only been in two other Apple Stores before, the Pasadena store in California and the Ginza store in Tokyo, and they provided very different experiences. The five storey Apple cube in Tokyo came as a surprise following the small high street atmosphere in Pasadena, but I wasn't really expecting to be surprised again by the store in Sheffield.

But I was, it was tiny. With only half the square footage of the Pasadena store, the Sheffield store felt far more crowded than either of my pervious Apple experiences. It lalso ooks like not everyone was having a merry Apple Christmas as there was a pile of "refurbished" products sitting next to the Genius Bar in the store. Presumably these were all post-Christmas returns the store was trying to sell on?

Posted via Flickr by aallan
A pile of post-Christmas refurbished products...

I knew that Apple offered refurbished products on its online store, but this is the first time I'd seen anything of the sort in one of their bricks and mortar stores. In typical Apple style, the discounts were fairly small. However amongst the pile was a Mac mini with £50 off which I was on the verge of impulse buying, until my wife returned from elsewhere in the mall and put a stop to that sort of thing. Oh well, must be quicker next time...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fallout from the Linksys iPhone?

Well we'd pretty much all guessed it wasn't going to be an Apple announcement as the weekend drew to a close and nobody has really heard anything that would have indicated that two years of waiting was finally at an end. It turns out that the iPhone trademark has been owned by Cisco since 1996 and today was the day they finally chose to release something under the brand name.

So now we have the Linksys iPhone, and its arrival even made it into the mainstream media purely on the strength of Apple iPhone hysteria.

CREDIT: Linksys
One of the Linksys iPhone models released today

The main question that seems to be bothering people is what Apple is now going to call their phone. What phone? What hard evidence apart from a great deal of rumour and speculation do we actual have that Apple is planning to release a phone? It looks like this joke by Gizmodo has backfired quite badly for them, and for many it's the straw that breaks the camel's back. They don't care anymore, and you know what? I don't blame them...

Update: Scoble is claiming that the release of the iPhone by Linksys is a publicity coup for them, and a kick in the teeth for Apple. I'd argue quite the opposite, nobody cares about the Linksys product. The most common reaction was indifference, and then the inevitable question as to what Apple will call their cellphone now? I also don't think the iPhone's release strategy was a clever manipulation of the blogosphere, unless it was by Brian Lam on behalf of Gizmodo rather than by Linksys itself, don't look for conspiracy where the facts can equally well be explained by incompetence.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The iPhone, not what we expected?

So what are we supposed to make of Gizmodo's latest rumour?
Gizmodo Knows: iPhone Will Be Announced On Monday. I guarantee it. It isn't what I expected at all. And I've already said too much... - Brian Lam, Gizmodo
A joke? Real insider information? It doesn't look like anyone else knows what's going on, and the timing seems really off the wall. I guess we'll find out on Monday, although if there really is pre-release hardware circulating amongst the great and the good no doubt we should see some leaked pictures before then, surely?

Update: So Matt Hickey over at CrunchGear has apparently been hearing mutterings that hints that Gizmodo might not have entirely lost its mind. This is starting to look interesting...

Update: More MVNO rumours from CrunchGear.

Update: The equivalent to a confused shrug by The Register. If Gizmodo really has seen hardware, then nobody else has got their hands on it yet.

Update: I think Om Malik might have it right, but if this is a wind up then Brian Lam is in real trouble. Considering the hysteria surrounding the iPhone I'm not sure people will see the funny side.

Update: So Crunch Gear is now also saying there will be an iPhone on Monday, an iPhone, just not the iPhone from Apple. Whatever that means? They link to a story from that ever reliable source Apple Insider which apparently should give us hints to what's going on, which is mostly discussing the trademarking issues surrounding the "iPhone" name. Erm, most odd...

Update: We get an iPhone all right, a Linksys iPhone. Oh well...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Apple rumours...

At the time of posting over 3,000 people had voted in the TUAW iPhone poll, and over half of them think there is going to be an iPhone released at Macworld in January. I'm not sure what that means, how can people claim to have an opinion on this? Outside the team developing the iPhone, if such a thing actually exists, there are probably half a dozen people who really know what's going on, even this late in the day it's doubtful that Apple's PR department has heard more than rumours.

It also appears that yet another round of MVNO rumours seem to be going around, we last talked seriously about this right back in January, and in an unrelated thread there are rumours of an ultra-thin Macbook Pro [1, 2] floating around. Presumably this ultra-thin notebook would be a replacement for the old 12-inch Powerbook, and fill a big hole in Apple's current notebook line up. This is something I want desperately, as my own Powerbook can't last forever. However I'm not holding out a lot of hope on that one, it just seems to good to be true. Especially with other rumours hinting at the demise of the 15-inch Macbook Pro circulating at the same time.

The really interesting thing that came up during the last Special Event in September was the iTV. It took everyone by surprise, nobody was expecting it and it hadn't been predicted. The things that people were predicting, the iPhone and the "real" video iPod yet again failed to appear. Like many I'm getting bored by these continued predictions, until it gets a lot closer to Macworld, anyone that claims they have a "inside source" isn't telling the whole truth.

Update: Apple Matters on the nine day keynote...

The AG Consortium Meeting

I don't actually work for the Astrogrid however I am involved with the Euro-VO's VOTech project, which is managed in the UK by AstroGrid, so I'm sitting in on their 11th consortium meeting at MSSL.

Which is how I've come to be sitting in the common room of a country house, which despite being about three quarters of an hour drive from Gatwick Airport, is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I think it's been at least ten years since I was last at MSSL, and it doesn't look as though the old place has changed much.

Like much of the hard science community in the UK most Astronomy groups are ghettoised into buildings constructed during the early 60's, and despite some notable exceptions, these buildings aren't particularly ergonomic or comfortable places to work. MSSL is an exception to this rule. I'm sure like all old buildings it suffers from a whole different set of ergonomic problems, and like Jodrell Bank it suffers from being badly isolated, however it does have a sense of history which is always sadly lacking in modern buildings.

I just wish it wasn't so bloody awkward to get out here...

Monday, December 11, 2006

How not to pitch...

I'm not exactly an A-list blogger, but I still get pitched by PR firms, which is presumably has more to do with demographics than anything else. However Ryan Block the managing editor of Engadget, who probably has to deal with a few more pitches than I do, is obviosuly getting tired and has published a post on how not to pitch a blogger.

I can sympathise, I recall getting called up once by an IPTV firm based in Vancouver who wanted to pitch their break through technology, and it was amongst the most bizarre twenty minutes of my life. Especially since, in that case, it was certainly not about demographics. I don't think I've ever talked about IPTV in the whole time I've been writing this blog...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Spectacular launch

In the first night launch since the Columbia disaster in 2003 the Space Shuttle Discovery sucessfully took off from Cape Canaveral in the early hours of this morning.

CREDIT: Nigel Cook/AP/New York Times (via Digg)
A shot of the launch from Daytona Beach, Florida

Friday, December 08, 2006

Postage unpaid from Apple?

This report being carried by TUAW isn't good news. Until now if you've had a problem with an Apple product in the UK, and it was either covered under Apple Care or you were willing to pay its way, Apple shipped you a pre-paid container. You packaged up your damaged, broken or malfunctioning product, it was collected by courier, repaired and shipped back to you. All without leaving the comfort of your office.

I made good use of this service when the Ethernet daughterboard on my Powerbook died while I was in Japan and was really happy about the turn around time. At least once I'd persuaded the person at the other end of the Apple Support line that there was a real hardware problem with my Powerbook, and that they really did want to look at it. If true, the demise of the service is disastrous, and a real step backwards from Apple.

However as a major customer I thought I would have heard about this directly from Apple, at least got some sort of notification before it was discontinued. I haven't, so I'm writing this off as a weird rumour until told otherwise, does anyone have any confirmation?

Update: It now looks like this might be a temporary measure brought on by the closure of Celestica's Telford facility.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

iPhone confirmed..?

Well getting off the treadmill is proving somewhat difficult, as founder Kevin Rose has gone and announced the specifications of the much rumoured iPhone in his latest podcast. This is somewhat harder to write off than your average Apple related rumour, as Kevin was the man who correctly predicted the iPod nano before its release. It very much looks like the run up to Macworld in January is going to be even more filled with rumours than normal, and the sound you are hearing is the breaks being taken off the rumour mill...

Update: Gizmodo seems convinced that the iPhone is about to ship?