Quite often there’s a disconnect between the subjects the media deems popular and what regular people really care about. I know, having worked for traditional news services, that it’s extremely easy to fall into this trap, but I hope that I can use my perspective to avoid it where possible.
So, for example, there’s the ongoing discussion about the impact of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. I have already covered this story to some extent, and I don’t think there’s a whole lot left to say. At this point, you’ve heard some reactions from politicians, media pundits, from Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, who will be most affected, and other industry players.
What I will say is that, after a year or so, the deal will be approved with a few token conditions imposed by the government on AT&T to make it appear as if they are standing up for the consumer. T-Mobile customers can probably look to the iPhone 6, in 2012, as the first one they can buy. Not too long after the merger is consummated, AT&T customers will probably have fewer dropped calls in the cities where T-Mobile’s cell towers have been integrated into the system. Sprint will be in trouble, but that’s nothing new, and, no, I don’t think Verizon Wireless wants them. Such a transaction would raise far more serious obstacles to overcome.
Another discussion is what sort of configurations Apple might offer with the next iMac. There are published reports that the 2011 models will ship late this spring, possibly in May, and will incorporate the desktop versions of Intel’s Sandy Bridge chips. That means more power, bringing the iMac closer in performance to the Mac Pro. I suppose it’s possible that solid state drive offerings will be cheaper as well, and there’s always Thunderbolt, the new Intel/Apple peripheral connection scheme that will ultimately mean something for professional users who need to add high-speed hard drives and other accessories.
For the regular iMac owner, you’ll probably need a stop watch to measure the speed bump, unless you’re regularly doing things that’ll tax the CPU cores to the max. More powerful graphics will likely mean superior frame rates for your favorite games. Again, only a subset of users will care, but yet the media will be talking up the next iMac’s benchmarks to fill space. Unless there are changes in form factor (inside and outside), it shouldn’t be worth a whole lot of extra discussion. Apple will probably announce the upgrade with a press release and nothing more.
I suppose the next iPhone, call it iPhone 5, will garner a fair amount of coverage, simply because it’s an iPhone. Speculation has it that some of the same parts that debuted in the iPad 2 will find their way into the next iPhone, primarily to provide superior CPU horsepower and graphics. Maybe Apple will redesign the antenna system so Consumer Reports won’t rant about the mythical shortcomings of that dreaded “Death Grip.” Or maybe they’ll find something else to complain about. You might even see cameras with more megapixels, because that represents the expected advance of technology when it comes to tiny camera sensors.
I suppose the case design might be somewhat different. Some suggest Apple will forego the extra glass and revert to a more traditional aluminum backing. But the enhancements will be mostly incremental. The real story will be all about iOS 5, and whatever new features Apple is working on.
When it comes to the iOS, any changes or improvements are ripe for discussion, because they will have a far greater impact to your experience in using an iPhone or an iPad. I would only hope that both the smartphone and tablet versions will be released simultaneously, and that iPad users won’t have to stay on the sidelines.
The other major point of discussion is Mac OS X Lion. I suppose there might be some concerns resulting from the departure of Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Mac Software Engineering. After all, Serlet has worked for Steve Jobs on operating systems since the days of NeXT, and is one of the prime movers behind Mac OS X. He’s being replaced by Craig Federighi, another software executive who has been on the front lines in both NeXT and Apple.
Don’t forget that no operating system is the work of a single software engineer. There are surely some candidates in Apple’s tightly knit crew to replace other senior executives when it comes time for them to leave the rat race and enjoy a more relaxing life. That assumes that they will be taking time off, rather than just starting a brand new company, and going through the pressures all over again.
The real discussion is all about Lion’s interface changes, which are heavily influenced by the iOS. Having similar desktop and mobile operating systems will make the learning curves easier, particularly for users who were attracted to Macs as the result of buying iPhones and iPads. The problem, of course, is whether some of this eye candy can be easily switched off. I don’t think everyone will take to these “enhancements.”
Of course there will be other stories in the tech universe that may receive more coverage than they deserve, but I’ll try to find a kernel of significance where I can.
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