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  • Macworld Expo #2: The Almost Non-Mac Keynote

    January 10th, 2007

    How times have changed. Not so many years ago, Apple used a Macworld Expo keynote to unleash the latest and greatest Mac hardware. Certainly last year was a prime example, with the introduction of the first crop of Intel-based computers, and an assurance that they’ll all be called Mac from now on. Thus ended the use of such trade names as iBook and PowerBook.

    It was very natural to expect great things all over again for 2007, particularly with the lavish promises visited upon us by Apple. Depending on your expectations, you may regard the keynote as amazingly great or a huge disappointment.

    All we heard about Macs, officially at least, was the fact that 50% of all computers purchased were bought by people new to the platform, and how quickly the Intel transition was completed.

    On the surface, nothing more about the Mac was said, not even the expected details of new iLife and iWork versions, or a Mac Pro with a pair of quad-core processors. But, believe it or not, a new computer was actually introduced, but it’s not called a Mac, although it does run Mac OS X and even the Safari browser.

    It’s a particularly unique computer, because it masquerades as a smartphone, and it uses a name not immediately identified with a potential Mac: Indeed, it’s the iPhone.

    Understand that the name iPhone doesn’t even officially belong to Apple as of the time this article is written. The trademark is owned by Cisco Systems, which means Apple has to license it, and it is reported they’re doing just that. Or otherwise the iPhone will be known by another name when it comes out in June.

    So why is this a Mac? Well, as I said, it does run a slimmed down version of Mac OS X, and it is capable for more than making phone calls, storing contact lists and listening to your iTunes music library. The touch screen also includes a standard keyboard feature, in addition to the normal telephone keypad, so you don’t have to send your text messages via a mysterious lingo that only young people seem to have mastered with any fluidity.

    Courtesy of Yahoo, there’s support for POP and IMAP email, and Google provides maps and other stuff. Indeed, perhaps only Steve Jobs could have gotten these well-known rivals to provide features for the same product.

    Some of you might even regard the iPhone as the Newton’s reincarnation, and certainly, had the latter continued in production, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it turn into this very same device.

    Now it’s certainly not as powerful as today’s Macs, but look at the Macs of just a few years back, and you may be surprised what this little gadget might be capable of. You’ll also want to take a look into the near future, where more and more powerful processors that’ll survive in such low-power surroundings appear on the scene. You can bet the iPhone, and its successors, will gain more and more computer-like capabilities.

    However, this doesn’t mean that the convergence between mobile phones, music players and personal computers will signify the end of the Mac, at least not right now.

    The big question, of course, is how much of a market can Apple build for such an appliance. As wireless phones go, smartphones constitute a fairly small percentage of sales, primarily among businesspeople and — surprisingly enough — students.

    However, it’s also true that the user interfaces of these devices — Windows CE or otherwise — have been nothing to write home about. I can’t say for certain that the iPhone although the setup seems visually arresting, is going to turn the business on its ear, but there’s potential there.

    My main quibble is the choice of wireless provider. You see, according to Consumer Reports and other surveys, Cingular isn’t exactly the best service in the business. In fact, it ranks near the bottom of the barrel. Even fellow GSM provider T-Mobile is superior. Verizon Wireless and Alltel rate best, but they use CDMA technologies, which argues against a world phone, which is just what the iPhone happens to be.

    That means that if you want to use your iPhone with another provider supporting the GSM standard, you just change the SIM card.

    So where does this put Apple, which has, at the same time, removed the word “Computer” from its name?

    Well, it’s clear Macs will persevere for quite some time to come, even if some of them are reduced to pocket size.



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    7 Responses to “Macworld Expo #2: The Almost Non-Mac Keynote”

    1. Tero says:

      “It’s a particularly unique computer, because it masquerades as a smartphone, and it uses a name not immediately identified with a potential Mac: Indeed, it’s the iPhone.”

      Similarly, Nokia calls their multimedia smartphones multimedia computers, because that is what they are. No, they don’t run Windows, and that is exactly why Microsoft has no presence in this business, as Nokia single handedly dominates the global multimedia-phone-computer market.

      Phone or computer? Who cares: the product matters. But if Apple’s focus is shifting into this direction, then this is a sad, sad development. I though my next computer would be a Mac, but add to this the bad joke that Leopard has thus far been, and one can see the writing on the wall… is Mac being phased out or what??

      “So why is this a Mac? Well, as I said, it does run a slimmed down version of Mac OS X, and it is capable for more than making phone calls, storing contact lists and listening to your iTunes music library. The touch screen also includes a standard keyboard feature, in addition to the normal telephone keypad, so you don’t have to send your text messages via a mysterious lingo that only young people seem to have mastered with any fluidity.”

      It is not a Mac. Period. It is a mobile phone, or a smartphone. When you can replace your iMac or MacBook or whatever with it, then you can call it a Mac. Some day in the future, but not today. And if the real Mac siffers due to the resources put into this, then this is not only a non-Mac, but anti-Mac.

    2. Tero says:

      There was a typo: real Mac siffers -> suffers

    3. Robert Pritchett says:

      The naysayers seem to be in full-court press this morning regarding the “iPhone” and they dis it. We saw a prototype, nothing more. And Cingular could have done a much better job instead of being a poorly executed, overblown and underdone AT&T commercial on stage.

      I hope Apple is listening about technologies and carirers. I hope so…and we will see how soon the “iPhone” gets on shelves, once the FCC approves the device.

      Interesting how we have allowed the US government to dictate how and what we buy, isn’t it?

      (That would be a ParaCast topic.)

    4. john Fallon says:

      Apple had a prior relationship with Cingular, and I’m sure Cingular is subsidizing the price, in hopes of gaining market share. But a multi-year agreement to exclude 75% of the American cell phone market isn’t such a great idea. People willing to spend $600 for a phone want a reliable network and high-speed wireless access.

    5. Apple had a prior relationship with Cingular, and I’m sure Cingular is subsidizing the price, in hopes of gaining market share. But a multi-year agreement to exclude 75% of the American cell phone market isn’t such a great idea. People willing to spend $600 for a phone want a reliable network and high-speed wireless access.

      In theory, you could take this phone, replace the SIM card with one from T-Mobile, and it would work there. But Cingular might be offering special features that would otherwise be unavailable.

      The other two major players in the U.S. wireless market, Verizon Wireless (best in service and support, such as it is!) and Sprint, use a different technology, CDMA. That technology doesn’t make it as a world phone. Besides, Cingular is the number one provider in this country, although the margin isn’t large.

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. Tero says:

      “Apple had a prior relationship with Cingular, and I’m sure Cingular is subsidizing the price, in hopes of gaining market share.”

      With a phone this expensive one does not gain or lose market share. Market share is made with low- to mid-end phones and products. That is true for carriers and manufacturers alike. High-end products can help with profit margins, image, branding etc. Rarely do they affect market shares in any significant way.

      I’d like to know what is the price they’re going to sell this in Europe. If the predicted schedule (4th quarter) is true, then I’m afraid this will be a tad outdated by that time, at least without major price cuts. Four quarters is like eternity in the mobile industry.

    7. Robert Pritchett says:

      I’m surprised nobody said it yet, so I will, just to be “punny”. Apple just gave thwe whole cellphone industry “the finger” with its touch technology implementation. And I think that is why everyone in tech seems to be so giddy about it right now. I’ve seen an awful lot of people toss those expensive cellphones away for the “next great thing”, simply because they keep having lousy experiences with the “last great thing”.

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