MacCentral Week in Review
By David Leishman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks before Apple Expo Paris, rumors of The Next Big Things have begun to circulate on the Mac web. A G5 iMac leads the pack, despite reports of problems with IBM's ability to produce the chips necessary to fill pre-existing orders for high-end Power Macs.
The next-generation iMac is purported to look like an LCD with the "guts" of the computer housed on the rear of the display, and presumably it would offer wireless keyboard/mouse input.
This sort of "look ma, no computer" design, combined with Apple's recent European design trademark filing for what the Register calls a "handheld computer," has also resurrected chatter about a possible Apple portable tablet. Although this concept has been denied and denigrated many times by Steve Jobs, it seems like a natural fit in Apple's product line.
The potential uses are evident and varied. When one stops thinking of it as a portable computer and starts thinking of it as a walkabout access point, its power quickly becomes apparent. And storage weight needn't be a problem; for data, just plug in your iPod.
"eyePad" as a home music system remote control is an obvious first step, and roaming video would seem to be a perfect accompaniment. Wireless keyboard/mouse/stand stations (and the stylus) would enable you to take notes in the kitchen, on the downstairs phone, or even in the bathtub.
Although it's too big (eight inches on the diagonal, say) to fit the current idea of a cell phone, add a mic and an embedded iSight and you've got a portable phone/video conferencing unit. With your iPod for voice/video recording storage.
And, of course, it would make for a great PDA and a chance for Apple to highlight its Inkwell handwriting recognition technology.
But enough of the obvious. Does this idea have legs? The short answer is "Yes, but it depends on the eyes."
Apple has proven it can succeed with attention-grabbing products. And its digital hub implementations, especially the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, have given it a nascent foothold in distributing products that require digital rights management (DRM).
But I think reading is the real "killer app" that will make tablets fly off shelves, make for truly committed publishing partners, and strengthen its share in the DRM market.
Ebooks haven't caught on because the "players" aren't yet up to the task. PDAs and phones are too small and laptops are too big, and neither has the pixel depth to make long-term reading easy on the eyes. But an eight-inch tablet equipped with a 200 pixel-per-inch screen (ppi) would overcome both sets of problems -- and greatly reinforce Apple's role as the world's most innovative commercial technology company, while making it a leading source for multi-purpose DRM.
Yes, it would be a little expensive, at least near-term. IBM's 22-inch, 207 ppi T221 monitor -- designed for "critical visualization in technical settings," -- lists for more than $8,000. But if Apple could massage size and quantities expertly, perhaps an "eyePad" could list at $1200. The ayes would have it and the eyes would love it.
Analysts from Prudential Equity Group and UBS warned this week that longer than expected G5 delays from IBM are the near-term "key risk" for Apple. Both firms are concerned the delays could be longer than originally expected.
RealNetworks will tout its new Windows-only Harmony technology, which allows files from its music store to be played on Apple's iPod, in a series of print, radio and online advertising placements, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. In addition, Real will hold what it calls the biggest music sale in history selling songs for US$0.49 and albums for $4.99.
Griffin Technology has introduced RoadTrip, a 3-in-1 device that provides an FM transmitter, charger and cradle for all dock-capable iPod and iPod minis. The transmitter broadcasts music on any FM frequency on a car stereo, with a backlit display that shows which frequency is in use, while the charger keeps your iPod's battery at full capacity.
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Project administrators of Chicken of the VNC released version 2.0b1 on Wednesday, adding new features and fixing many bugs. The VNC client allows you to interact with a remote computer using a graphical user interface, and features automatic server discovery via Rendezvous, Keychain integration, an auto-scrolling full-screen mode, and native multi-button mouse support.
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Around the Web
RealNetworks music price reduction must have seemed like a great way to storm Apple's iPod fortress, but Macworld UK reports that the battle isn't going well for the company. "RealNetworks has seen the first fruit of its self-declared war against Apple Computer - declining stock values and a deluge of anger from Mac, iPod and iTunes fans."
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