Oops, I predicted the iPhone

I’ve been going over some of my old blog posts (removing embarrassing typos, failing to remove others) and discovered I had accidentally predicted the iPhone in July 2006 (note that Apple had probably been building the iPhone for a couple of years or more at that point, there were plenty of rumors/patents of touch screen technology, and it was part of my ongoing “datastick” hobby horse).

My Newton iPhone would probably have easily replaceable batteries, an SD card slot, and the camera would point at the user (as an option at least) to allow video conferencing, but that’s about it.

The fact is, it’s not the feature set that is impressive, it’s the UI. And it’s the UI which will give Apple a multi-year lead on its competitors (just consider that the virtual keyboard can have a proper shift key).

Telstra Tells Apple To “Stick To Your Knitting”

As well as teaching me a new colorful Australian expression I hadn’t previously encountered (note: I’m an Australian living in the USA, perhaps knitting has taken on greater cultural significance in the five years I’ve been living in the US) this has given me another reason to hate Telstra (known in Australia as “a bunch of wankers|tools|drongos|galahs|English Test Cricket players”), even though I no longer have to deal with them.

Apparently, in business-speak, this phrase is akin to telling a company to “stick to its core competency”. Telstra, of course, is a phone carrier (“a mob of greedy bastards”), so its core competency is providing lousy customer service and billing. Among its core competencies, building excellent telephones and/or identifying what is and isn’t good technology don’t figure.

Anyway, apparently the key thing is that Telstra hasn’t been offered the phone and therefore instead of “whinging” they’ve decided to say the phone is “shit house”. Maybe this Telstra fellow was just “coming the raw prawn”. Or it’s just another publicity stunt (a la the wrangling over the iPhone name — anyone else got a better way of keeping iPhone in the news for the four month period between product announcement and actual availability?) Will Telstra be forced to back down owing to customer demand and then, sheepishly — in free headlines — announce that they will be offering exclusive access to the iPhone — which they’ll suddenly decide is a “little ripper” — for only the US price x the exchange rate x 2?

“Pig’s arse”, Telstra.

Yay, I got a new computer

It’s been a long time between drinks. My last new desktop computer was a 2.4GHz Dell, which is now pushing four years old. When I bought it, the fastest PC I could have gotten without paying ridiculous prices was a 3.08GHz P4. This machine matched my philosophy of buying the fastest cheap machine or the cheapest fast machine available. The other side of my philosophy is to only buy a new machine if it’s going to be at least twice the raw speed of the last one; anything less isn’t noticeable a day or two later.

The biggest leap I’ve ever made from one computer to the next was probably from my first Mac 512kE (upgraded twice from a 128kB original Mac) with its 8MHz 68000 to a Mac IIci with a 25MHz 68030, 5MB of RAM, and a 40MB hard disk. That was a simply amazing leap. (I’d gotten a Commodore Amiga 500 in between the two, but the Amiga was slower for most anything except games than a Mac, so that was not a speed boost).

My new computer is a standard config Mac Pro. So I’ve gone from a dual 1GHz G4 Mac on the Apple side and a singe 2.4 GHz P4 on the PC side, to a quad core 2.66GHz box. When you do the math, it’s actually a jump comparable to the jump from the Mac 512kE to the Mac IIci — at least on the cpu side. I can theoretically put 8x the RAM into the G5, but I can’t practically afford to!

The real beauty of this, from Apple’s point of view, is that instead of someone like me buying a Mac every four years and a PC every three years (for important productivity tools, like World of Warcraft), both Apple and its customers can have their cake and eat it. We can spend less money on computers and upgrade every 2-3 years, buy a better machine, and not split our incremental upgrades (new graphics cards, more RAM, more hard disks, nicer displays) between our two current boxes. Yes, Apple stuff often costs more (although, try buying a quad Xeon for $2500 from Dell), but it doesn’t cost as much as Apple stuff + Wintel stuff.

It’s bad news for PC hardware makers, since they’ll be losing sales to Apple, but also bad news for Microsoft, because their target audience doesn’t buy a copy of Windows with each box. Yes, the retail version of Windows costs more, but you only need to buy it every five or six years (based on the time elapsed between XP and Vista), during which time many of us would have bought two or three OEM Windows licenses. (In our household, we’ve bought four OEM Windows licenses in the last five years.)

The Macintosh Difference

Dell makes pretty good PCs, as PCs go. Here’s the Mac Pro out of box experience. You open the box. There’s a keyboard and a small black box with CDs, mouse, and such, and some cables (two video adapters, a USB extension cord, power cord). You lift up a styrofoam tray, and there’s the Mac’s handles, and it’s wrapped in thin foam sheeting. You break the seal, the Mac lifts straight out of the box. You stick it on your desk, attach power cord, keyboard, and monitor; hook up the mouse to the keyboard; plug it in, boot. You’re asked to enter a few pieces of info (e.g. your AppleID), which populates stuff like your address automatically and correctly, and then you’re good to go. Elapsed time, five minutes.

Everything, from the fact that the Mac just slips out of its box to the system pinging Apple for your customer info to minimize form-filling is an example of why Apple and Macs don’t suck.

Anyway, first impressions last, but I’ll write about my second impressions later. So far, so very very good.

So much for NDAs

So, folks at WWDC have been delving into their Leopard previews, with results like this.

When members of the die hard early adopter Vista crowd start saying that they bought a Mac after seeing this list, it makes you think that perhaps Leopard isn’t as “disappointing” as some folks have suggested.

Which harkens back to that joke I quoted a while back — What’s the difference between Vista and Leopard? Windows developers are excited about Leopard.

Microsoft to enhance Mac OS X’s Security

According to MacWindows, Microsoft just announced that it will be dropping VBScript support from the Universal version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X. VBScript is a feature of Office that almost no-one uses, wants, or needs, which comes switched on by default, and which is a favorite venue for malware under Windows and cross-platform malware (e.g. it is the mechanism that allows most mail viruses to work). If you wonder what the “script” in the term “script kiddies” is, and were maybe thinking it’s, say, UNIX shell scripts … nope, it’s VBScript. Indeed, most Mac anti-virus programs are chiefly concerned with finding Office macro viruses, since there are as yet no actual Mac viruses for them to find.

Microsoft also announced — and this has been much more widely reported — that a Universal version of Virtual PC would be too expensive to develop and is dropping it; this is hilarious since they have already have Virtual PC for Linux and Windows (which are essentially equivalent to Parallels) and so it’s a pure business decision which has nothing to do with development costs. They simply don’t want to help the rats leave their sinking ship.

Macwindows also said: “One advantage that Microsoft could offer that noone else could is a preinstalled implementation of Windows bundled with the virtual machine software.” This is actually rubbish; the only thing that Microsoft could do that no-one else can do is offer Windows at an unbeatable price. Any vendor can buy Windows, install it on an image, and bundle it with their Virtualization software.