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  • 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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