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Today marks the ten year anniversary of the launch of the iPhone. It is weird to think back to how different the mobile landscape was and is because of the iPhone.

For many people the iPhone is the first smartphone.

I know it was for me anyway.

Back in 2007 the launch of Apple’s kind of began and ended in the small backwater of the tech news section. There was no live stream or coverage beyond the handful of tech and smartphone websites.

Hell I don’t even remember how I learned about it.

Original_iPhone_event

Where I lived the big phone was Motorola’s Razr flip phone. I remember that because I had a neighbor that just kept buying them. The larger smartphone world was one in which Nokia and RIM (later Blackberry) were the big platforms in mobile. Then Steve Jobs announced a device that brought together, “Widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communication device”, into one form factor. And the world is still reeling.

The first device didn’t have an app store and was underpowered when compared to nerdier fare. See the iPhone wasn’t the first mobile phone, but it was the one to cross over. It was the first device to cross out the boardroom and power users to normal people. It opened the way for the modern computing experience we have now.

And it made Apple the Brand we know now.

The aftershocks from 2007 is still being felt. Services like Airbnb, Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber all sprang from mobile. Android was born in reaction to the iPhone. Companies like Palm and Microsoft redesigned their products to compete. It made a few companies retire. It retrained and changed user behavior and expectations. It created a whole new set of software and interface interactions.

It gave us the lines at the Apple store.

So as we wait for the inevitable event that will be the iPhone 8 let’s tip the hat to the OG iPhone.

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So I’ve been off; away from tech writing but still glued to technology. And while I have not been posting about the latest rumblings around it, I do have opinions which I now present to you. Apologies for the bad sentence structures beforehand.

 

Cook’s Apple

It’s hard to remember how positively received Tim Cook was as Apple’s CEO. His leadership was a major change of pace from the days of Steve Jobs. I’m reminded of those days again because now the chorus has changed. I’ve noticed in some of my reading around Apple a serious discontent on the part of longtime Mac users as well as professional Mac users feeling uncertain about it’s future.

The introduction of the latest MacBook Pro line has led to a bit of a social media backlash; with some seriously thinking of switching platforms or simply holding onto older Macs longer. To be honest to have such discussions being out there is weird giving the nature of Apple. Or maybe not.

Apple is no longer the company Steve Jobs founded in the seventies. It is not the company built on the back of the Apple II or Lisa. It is the Apple that he rebuilt in the late 1990s and whose fortunes can be tied back to the iPod and forward to iOS. This new Apple needs to maintain the iOS train while getting to the next big thing; unfortunately MacOS isn’t that and only exists until iOS can at least replace Mac laptops.

 

Beyond Mobile

Given how much disruption is supposed to be an underlying part of technology, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone asked what will disrupt mobile. In fact it’s hard to really look past mobile to any emerging or potential trend.

I mean tablets, smartwatches, and virtual reality have all been tied to mobile. Smartwatches are literally just there to be phone extensions. Media dongles like the Chromecast exist to extend the phone’s reach to your TV.

So what exists beyond mobile or is mobile so big we haven’t reached the edge yet?

 

Nadella’s Windows

This is something I will revisit later, but I want to start here. Satya Nadella’s time as head of Microsoft has been interesting to watch. He became CEO after what was largely a dark period for the company; maybe not in terms of profit, but in direction. Microsoft failed to successfully modernized its mobile efforts with Windows Phone and made missteps with developers. It made some moves to successfully move the company forward (Azure) and has seen success in the cloud while stumbling in the consumer market.

Much of the failings of the last decade were pinned to former chief Steve Ballmer who three years ago decided to retire and hand the reins to then Cloud head Nadella.

Now I’m not going to bore you with the overview; tl;dr of it is Nadella has been credited with a renaissance at Microsoft with new products and a rejuvenated workforce. For me the focus is on where Microsoft is going with Windows under Nadella.

Before recent reports; much of the news around Windows was about both the decline in the PC market and the innovation around Microsoft hardware. It’s weird but the PC’s decline has lead to a sort of resurgence. However for Nadella and Microsoft Windows and especially it’s mobile half are what keeps tongues wagging. And we may have an answer next year.

 

Today Apple CEO Tim Cook will once again take the stage and announce new products with the now iconic symbol of a half bitten fruit. Months of speculation will finally be answered and whatever is shown will be reported on every news site from here to over there.

Today’s announcement will likely cover a new iPhone 6 variant, a possible Apple TV, and a larger iPad.

The thing about Apple announcements, at least in some circles, is they are harbingers of obsolescence for something. The announcement of the first iPhone ended the mobile phone market as it was and sent companies scrambling. The iPad was the beginning of the so called Post-PC era and resulted in companies almost killing themselves to get into tablets. The long rumored Apple TV which may show today was long supposed to be the grim reaper coming for the souls of television, cable, and gaming consoles.

And so once again we have an Apple announcement; and once again there will be companies wondering if this is the day they loose.

For me as a Microsoft fan I really dread the Apple events because I think  afterwards Microsoft will bow out and quit because X is announced. Its how most feel when discussing Windows Phone. Now the mumbling is around the Surface line.  The gist is a larger iPad with a pen and keyboard will destroy the momentum of the Surface line and especially its Pro model which has sold well.

With the Surface Microsoft’s biggest issue was they created a tablet but didn’t have the app support needed to make it really work as a tablet. The Pro line worked but only because it ran “real” Windows. And even after the success of the Pro 3 Microsoft still must contend with it not being tablet enough.

The iPad Pro according to sources will be as large or larger than the Surface Pro 3 (12 inches) and like the Surface come with a Pen stylus and keyboard. It is not known if its all bundled together. iOS 9 makes things like multitasking easier for such a large screen but the question with the Pro is the opposite of the Surface.

For all the success of the iPad it has faced the issue of declining sales. The iPad Pro is largely seen as Apple’s way of re-energizing the tablet market. And its adding features that the Surface line already had. So for me the question is does the iPad Pro kill the Surface and Windows tablets in general?

Maybe that is the wrong question to ask.

Maybe what should be discussed is how does Microsoft and others meet the challenge. How do they build up their app catalogs and feature sets. For too long we have treated Apple like this thing that can never be competed against; that was unbeatable.

That should now end.

What would happen if the Apple Watch failed as a product? I mean the smartwatch market, hell the wearable market as we know , was born on the back of a rumor that Apple was making a watch. Various companies have rushed in to make sure they had a spot before Apple stepped in. And now the Apple Watch is (almost) in stores and it got overshadowed by a MacBook. For the last few days I've gone back through the Apple presentation and the commentary around it. I've read some of the first impressions from the various bloggers and analyst and I can't shake the feeling like everyone is trying really hard to justify the Apple Watch.   The Apple Watch is the first product to be truly under CEO Tim Cook's reign. It signals whatever is supposed to be the next act in Apple's lifecycle. The watch looks to be beautifully designed with great care taken in the design and use of material. It looks like it will have apps from all the people you need to say you have apps. And yet there is something hollow in this Apple product.   I'm not going to say the Apple Watch or any smart watch is useless but they are niche. They're trinkets for gadget hounds that want more tech stuffed in more places. It appeals to the types that want smart homes and have multiple phones and devices.   The promise that this device that sits on your wrist will be transformational seems to be farcical. The phone is too burdensome and it lacks a way to quickly glance and respond, so here is a smaller device to lift this chore.     I want to believe but I don't the watch and wearable space is the market many hope it is. People are looking for the next big thing after mobile and it may not exist. I think people are looking for Apple to show them the next big market so they can go there; that's not how Cupertino works. Apple synthesizes; they meld products out of the chaos others make to create things we want.   The Apple watch is less about technology than it is about fashion. It feels like an exercise in tech as accessory which is fine as long as you know that's the goal. It's why no one has a clear reason for this thing to exist. I hate to say it but maybe the Emperor is ass naked and we're all trying to be nice.   I said all that to ask the question, what if this flops? This Watch is supposed to make a wearable market where once only Pepple, Android Wear, and Microsoft Band played. But what if the market is like the tablet market where everyone buys an Apple Watch and two-three years later doesn't upgrade and finds limited use? Or what if the worse happens and this sells but well below everyone's guesses? What if the Apple Watch comes out and it's just another smart watch but with an Apple logo? These scenarios are fine for a fashion product, but not a gadget.   I don't know. Yes in reality the Apple Watch will sell and in large numbers, but there is this nagging feeling that something just isn't there.

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So Apple revealed the Apple Watch, again, yesterday along with a price drop for the Apple TV and a new MacBook.

The Apple TV (Briefly)

I’m not going to go through the Apple TV news except to say it’s price has dropped down to $69 from it previous $99 price tag. Apple TV is also getting HBO Now, HBO’s new steaming service not tied to cable that will run you 15 dollars a month. No new hardware or services. And that was Apple TV.

MacBook, Slim and Plain

The most interesting device to come out of yesterday’s announcement in my opinion (and seemingly others) wasn’t the watch; it was laptop. The MacBook (just MacBook) is Apple’s first fan less laptop. Apple’s says it’s a reinvention of the notebook; with a 12 inch Retina screen powered by a Intel Core M processor and littered with batteries. The new Mac is thin, thinner than the Air and weighing 2 pounds.

MacBook

The keyboard is a new design that goes edge to edge on the device and is almost like the Microsoft Type Keyboard or the Dell XPS 11’s.The MacBook also comes with a new Force TouchPad that includes a form of haptic feedback and the ability to do a force click which brings out things like definitions and maps.  The MacBook comes in three colors similar to the iPad: Gray, Silver, and Gold. The big news about the device is it has one port, and that port is the not widely available USB-C. The new Mac is like a better designed version of 1st MacBook Air (that had more ports). The new MacBook will run you $1299 before tax. Personally I can’t wait for the PC clone of this thing.

And now the not iWatch

CTB_APPL_Watch

And this is part of where the wheels go off. Let me preface this by saying I was an Apple user and I like Apple products. Many of the company’s products are lust-worthy (see new MacBook). Having said that I don’t get the Apple Watch. Apple left the Watch to the end and added two products that shouldn’t have been there to I guess pad the affair out. What we got was one celebrity endorsement in the form of model/activist Christy Turlington-Burns (who’ll be blogging about her experiences) and a demo session by Apple VP Kevin Lynch that was sort of awkward. It was interesting that the watch section of the program was the part Apple CEO Tim Cook had the most stage time.

CTB_APPL_Watch_1

He tried very hard to make the case for the Apple watch and at best it seems its to provide glancible information without pulling out your phone. The Apple watch will come in three models: Sport, Steel, and Edition (Gold). The Sport is the cheapest starting at $349 and the gold Apple Watch Edition will run $10,000 on the low. Looking at the videos showing the process of making the watches its clear they were well designed; truly lovely pieces of wearable tech. The problem for me is the Apple Watch is more jewelry than tech. Beyond this being an Apple branded device I see no point why you’d buy it. It’s use cases are limited and niche. Like someone else said this will be bought so one can say, “I bought an Apple Watch”.

Maybe its me but the presentation left me feeling what I’ve long suspected; Apple is the Nike of technology.

Apple_Watch_Steel_Casing

images: Apple

Tomorrow Apple is expected to announce its apple Watch to the world. This is largely due to the invitation to the announcement said “Spring Forward”. Recently there was also a rumor that the presentation may include a new MacBook Air with a Retina Screen (perhaps even the MacBook Air 12 since we’re speculating).

What is there to say? This is the apple Watch; the rumored device that made a number of device makers jump into making jewelry. It was announced and now it is finally here for us to covet. Out of all the gadgets dubbed the next big thing by pundits and enthusiasts, smart watches never made sense. I get the nerd-love, it’s a new technical toy to play with when the smartphone no longer tickles the fancy. Fitness monitors like FitBit, the Nike Band, and the Microsoft Band provide health information (and this is to me the big potential benefit of these digital rubber bands). However other than a niche use smart watches seem to be nerd jewelry. But hey, this is Apple the company that can do no wrong and it’s watch will sell like and it will disrupt everything again and we will all covet the timepiece whenever it goes on sale.

If you want to watch live (this requires you have an Apple device) go HERE.

image: Hardwarezone.com

So we have a few hours before we are in a new year and of course our eyes turned back to the year we are leaving behind. Now honestly I can’t remember most of 2014 (don’t ask) and this post is not going to recap the year in tech in the traditional sense. There will be some mild predictions.

Manly this is where I talk about a wide group that I haven’t had a chance to. So let’s begin.

Apple

I always mean to do a write up on the Cupertino hardware maker but the closest I do is the occasional post prior to a product announcement or WWDC. What can you say about Apple that hasn’t already been said. The company that once was near bankruptcy, and that Michael Dell joked about selling back shares, is now more valued than Exxon. It has a stock price in the triple digits and it remains the premier computing brand. There is no rule in business or technology for which Apple is not the exception. In 2014 the biggest news wasn’t hardware (we did get an Apple Watch but Gene Munster must continue to endure cause Apple the TV is MIA) but software. iOS hit version 8 and continued the transition to a new design started in iOS7. iOS was joined in its new flatter look by OSX which left the cats and went traveling through Yosemite. Apple tightened the connection between its devices with Continuity or users and a new programming language Swift for developers. Another change on the backend was the introduction of Metal a gaming API that let’s game developers write closer to the hardware. There were refreshes for the iPhone (big and bigger) and the iPad (so thin that had to laser a pencil). If there was one flicker in Apple’s RDF it maybe that at least on the reviewer end the company is predictable. The secrecy that once covered the California computer maker has two years in a row been cut to shreds by leakers. I think the momentum and rapid change that marked Apple’s past products has slowed and its closest competitor, Android, has caught up in phones. At this point I don’t see anything dislodging the tech company other than Apple or something way outside their control.

Google

It is said that sometimes in fighting to not be something you become the very thing you are against. This year has seen Google in many ways become the new Microsoft. Its mobile operating system Android is the major software platform. There are only two companies that don’t use it, Apple and Microsoft, and the latter is constantly rumored to be trying to use it for apps. Almost every new phone or phone maker is trying to use some part of the OS to make a mark in the smartphone business. Google’s ChromeOS is finding a niche in education displacing the once ascendant iPad because of its keyboard. Google remains the preeminent option for search. And all this cumulatively makes it’s a plump target by regulators in the European Union. The EU is looking at the search giant in much the same way the US Government looked at Microsoft; a monopolistic entity stifling competition. Google continues to be passive aggressive with Microsoft. There is a YouTube app on the Xbox One but not on Windows and Windows Phone. And the Mountain View company continues to have difficulty in acting its age and not acting like it’s still a startup premi.

Samsung

In my vicinity there are three Best Buy Samsung Experience Centers. They are well lit spots in which Galaxies, Notes, and Tabs are on view with accessories. Once upon a time there was a space where they had their PC offerings but that’s gone. The Centers are nice but they are also empty and maybe it is an apt metaphor for where the king of Android finds itself. On one end the Korean giant is still the biggest purveyor of Android phones and tablets but it is also seeing that lead eroded by an army of Chinese vendors like Xiaomi who have come in and supplanting them. Sales have been down and the company had to close its high end store in London and stopped selling PCs and Chromebooks in Europe. But at least there was no faux leather devices.

Amazon

I wish I was as enamored with Jeff Bezos and his company as everyone else in the world seems to be. That I lived and breathed Amazon Prime. I mean to me Amazon is Walmart dipped in the high gloss of Seattle. Amazon this year dove straight into hardware of various kinds from stereo’s to a phone. They also faced a number of issues at home and abroad. In the US Amazon is pushing on drones. In Europe on Unions and books. They went to war with Hatchett publishing over pricing and may ace another storm with indie writers cause of their subscription book service. They made a phone, but it didn’t set the world on fire (it just made people realize how low Amazon would go to make us buy something on Amazon).

Facebook

I use Facebook somewhat because of family. The company for me has been quiet. No one has talked about its First initiative but those efforts have been refocused into a series of separate mobile apps that seem to have more traction. Facebook and it’s associate companies, Snapchat and Instagram, continue their quiet dominance on half of social media. Carry On

Twitter

You know for a service that has easy access to people are thinking about in real time on almost a mass cell level they don’t know what to do with it. Like many a company they want to be a platform; of what is anybody’s guess.

HTC

I think there was a plan. They did a Windows Phone variant of the M8 and then a cheaper Android version of the M8. Then they made a video camera slash periscope.

Microsoft

Change, Change, Change. Nadella faced Karma. The Pro 3 proves the rule of 3. The Nokia deal went through. Windows 10. People are now making this is Sparta jokes about a browser.

Nokia

There done with phones (for now) but are going to do a tablet (well Foxconn is doing the tablet and selling it, but Espoo did the launcher and made it look like a European iPad Mini). The deal with Microsoft went through which made them look better on paper since the weight was lost. Nokia fans now sit in front of Espoo waiting on a Nokia resurrection with Android to prove it was Elop’s and Microsoft’s fault. As a Windows guy I’m kind of glad to see them go if only cause the mix of fans was toxic.

And that is that. I know there are things missing and things let unsaid. What’s not unsaid is Happy New Year and may 2015 be ever in your favor.