A Fast and Dirty Look at Apple in 2011

December 10th, 2010

Before I go on, let me go on the record to state that I do not believe that Apple is planning to hold a special press conference next week to roll out a subscription program for publications (such as magazines and newspapers) on the iPad. Further, I do not expect to see the Mac App Store suddenly spring forth right away either. You can take both statements to the bank.

It’s not that I’m being hard-nosed about all this, but does it really make sense to have any of these new features or services rolled out just a couple of weeks before Christmas? Not from a marketing point of view, not to mention logic.

In saying that, I do see some interesting if not surprising things from Apple next year that I’ll cover briefly, with the ever-present reminder that I’m just making a reasonably educated guess. Nothing more, nothing less.

So that takes us to the first two topics, and I expect that, if a reasonable number of publishers are on board, we’ll see the realization of the subscription service, mostly for the iPad. Whether it’ll save the publishing industry and provide a money-making alternative for print, I can’t say. But it’ll probably happen anyway.

The Mac App Store has already been promised for some time next month, unless there’s a last minute glitch of course. The real question is whether some of the special-purpose utilities, such as the audio-capturing apps that include Ambrosia Software’s WireTap Studio, and Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro, will be allowed because they do special things with the sound hardware. The WireTap Studio installation even includes a kernel extension, a system add-on, which appears to be verboten under Mac App Store guidelines.

I would even wonder if such sprawling apps and suites, such as Adobe Creative Suite, would gain admission, because they are somewhat liberal in the placement of extra or support files. But since it hardly seems that Apple can expect loads of developers to make major changes to accommodate the new order, I expect there will be a coexistence of sorts between Apple and third-party developers and dealers.

In the end, few are taking bets that the Mac App Store isn’t going to assume a large portion of the software market for the platform. That might be a bad thing, because developers will lose control over the distribution of their products, even if there’s de facto freedom to continue to do business. On the other hand, the constraints of Apple’s setup process might make for easier installations and removals, and that’s an area where things sometimes get a little confusing, particularly for those who are not power users.

You’d think software installs on the Mac should be simple. Just double-click the Installer, select a target drive (if need be) and let it do its thing. But not all apps come with installers. Some are just meant to be dragged and dropped into the Applications folder, but the method of distribution, often a disk image file, can add to the confusion. I have run into more than a few Mac users who attempt to run the apps direct from the disk image, or end up with loads of copies of an app strewn across their hard drive.

App removal ought to involve dragging the icon to the trash, emptying it, and that’s it. But when support files and preference files pollute your Mac, that simple task isn’t simple. Some apps have removal utilities; for others, you might look to a third party alternative that may be only partly successful. With the Mac App Store, you may be able to zap your software — all of it — with a click or two. Peace at last! And if third parties want to compete on their own turf, they’ll have to make installation and removal just as seamless.

But the real big news for 2011 will likely cover other fronts. There’s little doubt that iPad 2.0 will debut at a launch party, probably in February, with shipment promised soon thereafter. Since there’s unsold stock to consider, Apple will want to align the announcement and delivery as closely as possible, and not until there’s at least a semblance of inventory on hand.

The new model will likely sport a thinner, and perhaps lighter, form factor, a revelation for those who regard today’s iPad as a little heavy for single-handed use, particularly reading. A front-facing camera is a given, considering that Apple wants every possible customer to be able to talk via FaceTime. There’s even a suggestion Apple might want to drop $100 from the price on all or most models, to really confuse and befuddle the competition that can barely match that of the current iPad.

It is also near certain that a Verizon Wireless iPhone will debut, but whether it’ll be a refashioned version of the current model with revised hardware to support the new carrier, or whether Apple will wait for iPhone 5 to sell as a unified model, only Apple, Verizon and a handful of other wireless partners know for sure.

What does also seem near certain is that there will be some sort of antenna design change, however subtle, to forever rid Apple of the specter of Antennagate. The iPhone 5 may even sport some improvements that would be sufficient for Apple to tout an innovative, more sensitive antenna sure to trump the competition, and (hopefully) get accolades from the lame reviewers at Consumer Reports magazine.

Later on in the year, there will be Mac OS X Lion. There will be lots to talk about there, but not in this column.

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5 Responses to “A Fast and Dirty Look at Apple in 2011”

  1. Al says:

    I think for established big ticket software titles like Adobe’s Creative Suite, getting listed in the Mac App Store will offer negligible benefit. They are already well known enough to the people who would be interested in purchasing them. The big benefit of the Mac App Store is app discovery which is what all those small developer shops are in great need of. Most of these sell apps in the sub-$20 range and are shareware on top of that.

  2. Dave Barnes says:

    Given that Consumer Reports totally sucks at reviewing computer-like gizmos, I find it highly unlikely that they will giving out accolades.

  3. Russ says:

    I would not be so quick to dismiss the sale of Creative Suite and MS Office through the Mac Store. While I do not expect them initially, it could be something that comes in the next version. The reason is rather simple – electronic purchase and install. Rather than purchasing a DVD, you can download the software over a high speed internet connection. Much simpler to install. The fact that Apple may eliminate optical drives from their computers would also help push this.

    From a marketing perspective, Al is correct – don’t expect the big boys to sell through the store because they are already well known. However, the dynamics of software sales could change this.

  4. Rod says:

    With the optical drive-less MacBook Air (“never had it, never will”) and the rumors that future MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops may not have an optical drive, downloading software may be the preference (as far as Apple is concerned) in the future. The Mac App Store should make this easier, as there will be one place from which to download software.

    Yesterday I set up a professor`s new 11″ MacBook Air. A (downloadable) software package that he needed required that Xcode be installed prior to it. The “software reinstall” USB device that comes with the MacBook Air does NOT have the developer tools on it (while Xcode is included in the two discs that come with all other Apple computers), requiring that I either attach an external USB optical drive (and install Xcode using the disc that I previously created) or log in using my developer account to install Xcode. This was only a minor annoyance, but Apple needs to be consistent — include Xcode on the USB device or make it easy to download without having to have a special login (which the professor did not have).

    Where Apple once included an optical drive as a requirement, they will now have to include a connection to the internet for downloading software. Not a big deal, but a change.

  5. Liert says:

    anybody used IMCapture for Facetime ( http://www.imcapture.com ) ? I heard a lot of positive reviews about this call recorder…

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