It’s a curious world. For a long time, it was clear that Apple would not deliver a combo tablet/note-book, the sort of things you see in PC land, because the form factor made little sense. Tim Cook considers it similar to trying to mix a toaster oven with a refrigerator. And the chuckles begin.
Now there’s a published report suggesting that Apple might be ready to do just that. The discussion is focused on a 13-inch version of the iPad, or 12.9 inches according to one report, which may arrive next year. Such a beast may already be under test, which explains rumors, not confirmed of course, from the supply chain.
Even if an iPad Pro or whatever it might be called, is in the cards, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a convertible or hybrid note-book of some sort. It may very well be littler more than a larger iPad, with essentially the same form factor. But it’s also true that people already connect keyboards to their iPads, so that might be a distinction without a difference. Apple will clearly not be influenced by the failed Microsoft Surface.
In any case, on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, we discussed what Apple might introduce when the next generation of iPads is unleashed later this month. Will the 9.7-inch model be slimmer and lighter? What about adding a Retina display to the iPad mini? You’ll also learned more about iOS 7, the future of Apple TV, Microsoft’s prospects with the Nokia handset acquisition and Windows Phone, the tragic fate of BlackBerry, and a whole lot more.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present another “shop talk” episode, in which we give you our views about the most important topics being discussed in our forums, the state of UFO/paranormal research, and even the state of the world. We answer your questions about a possible “Pro” or “VIP” version of the show with extra content, and the prospects for a Paracast UFO/paranormal conference in the near future.
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.
Some of my colleagues have been using iOS 7 since the first betas arrived from Apple in June, but I actually didn’t start until September 18, the very day it was released as a free download. Since then, the number of users has reached the hundreds of millions, signaling the fastest upgrade of any mobile OS — ever!
While every iOS release has arrived with an assortment of bugs, they seem more numerous with iOS 7, since it’s, visually at least, a sea change from previous versions. The slim and elegant text puts off some, because it may not be quite as readable. Others are freaked over the parallax effect from the few dynamic backgrounds Apple provides, or the constant zooming effects.
In fact, some people claim to have gotten dizzy or suffered from motion sickness over the special effects, and thus crave for a way to minimize or eliminate them. Now some of this is already possible. There are Accessibility options to reduce motion and contrast, which help some. You can also switch to bold type, which helps if visibility is an issue.
Getting rid of zooming, however, is not an option, although I suspect Apple might want to consider that choice if lots of people are confronting vertigo or other nasty symptoms. It’s not that it’s easy or possible to downgrade to iOS 6. If you just bought a new iPhone 5c or 5s, it can’t happen.
Now obvious bugs will ultimately be fixed. There are reports of an iMessage bug where the messages you send may not reach their intended recipients promptly, or ever. This is something that Apple is reportedly working on. Some have used the General>Reset>Reset Network Settings to fix the problem. Of course, this means having to redo the logins to your chosen Wi-Fi networks, for example, but it’s a fairly trivial process, so it might be worth trying. But that assumes a fix isn’t coming real soon.
If you have the oldest model on which iOS 7 is supported, the original iPhone 4 from 2010, prepare for somewhat slower performance. This is not unexpected on older hardware with a new OS, but the differences appear to be minor according to some online tests, where it seems that apps may take somewhat longer to launch. You may not even notice the symptoms all that much unless you’re running something that taxes the system. Some even suggest that switching off the Background App Refresh feature might speed things up. I suppose it’s possible Apple will optimize performance on older iPhones in a maintenance update, but don’t bet on it.
Unless your iPhone 4 is a recent purchase, it may be time to consider buying something newer. If it’s too early to qualify for a low-cost upgrade by your wireless carrier, I suppose you might make up some of the difference by selling it. There’s still high demand for older iPhones.
As you might expect, there are some complaints of reduced battery life, and that’s not unusual for a new iOS upgrade. Sometimes restoring the phone, or just turning off the Background App Refresh feature, might help some. Or just tolerate the situation for a while, assuming Apple will get to it. And if it’s a widespread problem, they will.
The really curious complaint I read in one blog was all about security and the iPhone 5s. Because Apple addressed a lock screen issue with the iOS 7.0.2 fix, the theory goes that there’s still reason to be concerned. Touch ID? Well, it’s possible to make a 3D print or cast to trick the fingerprint sensor into letting you in, but faking the passcode would seem to be a simpler solution. But that’s no different from the present state of affairs. It’s not that other smartphones are more secure, right?
Some of the criticisms are mostly about taste. If you’re used to previous versions of iOS, the visual changes are drastic. Sure, it’s not hard to get used to the modest functional changes. Maybe Apple went a little overboard on the visual impact, though, although some of that could be dealt with by adding a setting or two to turn a few things off.
On the whole, however, it appears that the largest number of iOS 7 users become accustomed to the changes fairly quickly. The few ragged edges are fixable, and I expect Apple will deal with some of the issues in ongoing maintenance fixes.
Besides, if you choose, instead, to go Android out of dissatisfaction with the new iOS, consider the tradeoffs. To folks who simply want things to work reliably, Google’s OS is not necessarily a better way.
I suppose you could call this a return to the past argument. In the very early days, getting a Mac OS upgrade cost you exactly nothing. You were free to download a copy from one of those pay-per-hour online services, such as CompuServe, make a copy from a friend, get a copy from a Mac user group, or convince your nearest Mac dealer to make a set of floppies for you.
In the early 1990s, Apple opted to ape Microsoft and made it impossible to get anything other than maintenance releases free of charge. At $99 per license, the Mac OS was still cheaper than Windows, but some felt Apple had betrayed their trust. With OS X, the price went up to $129, except for the $29 Public Beta.
But things changed with OS X Snow Leopard in 2009. Apple presented it as essentially a plumbing-related upgrade, with few visual changes. Yes, there were enhancements, more or less, but unknown to most Mac users at the time, the $29 purchase price was just the start of a trend.
With OS X Lion, meant as a “full” OS X upgrade, the download price was $29.99. There was also a physical USB stick alternative, at $69.99, for those who couldn’t manage the simple steps required to make your own with a $7 flash drive. So you assumed that OS X upgrades would, henceforth, stay at that level.
Until OS 10.8 Mountain Lion arrived a year later at $19.99 with no USB stick option. Evidently people weren’t lining up to buy the physical rather than digital version. But at what point does it make sense not to charge anything for an OS X upgrade? After all, getting a new iOS is free. Certainly the number of changes in iOS 7 is probably in the same range as the changes in OS X Mavericks. So…
According to published reports from reliable sources, Mavericks went GM or Golden Master, on October 4. That’s the version that, barring any show-stopping bugs, will be available for download. So you can expect to see the official release announcement in the next week or two. Some suggest it’ll happen during the expected October 22 iPad media event, but there is no reason to think it wouldn’t occur earlier, perhaps in tune with a press release announcing some more Mac hardware refreshes.
Indeed, talking about Macs at an iPad event would likely dilute the message. Besides, other than the initial launch of a new version of OS X, and news of the forthcoming Mac Pro upgrade, most Mac upgrades are being announced via a press release. There’s little reason to think that playbook won’t be followed. It’s not as if customers are lining up around the block to buy a new Mac these days. In large part, Mac revisions tend to be fairly modest, though the much longer battery life on the Haswell-based MacBook Air did provide in a major advantage over previous models.
But if you look at the benchmarks for the Air and the recently refreshed iMac, the actual performance boost wasn’t so huge. Haswell does have far better integrated graphics than previous Intel chips, but otherwise is designed to favor longer battery life over superior number crunching.
As to OS X, yes a modest charge will provide a few hundred million dollars in revenue, assuming at least half of the current Mac user base (estimated at 72 million) buys user licenses. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and certainly it would more than cover Apple’s presumed investment on building a new version of OS X.
Bear in mind, though, that Mavericks reportedly runs on pretty much the same hardware as Mountain Lion. The best way to encourage developers to make their apps Mavericks savvy is to guarantee a large and growing user base. There are, indeed, some Mac users with eligible hardware that have yet to leave the confines of Snow Leopard and Lion.
Making Mavericks a free download will really speed the adoption rate. Within days, most Mac users with compatible hardware will likely upgrade. The exceptions would include people who are stuck with Snow Leopard because they need to run apps that aren’t compatible with Intel hardware. Apple ditched the Rosetta compatibility app when Lion arrived, to the consternation of a number of Mac users.
As to developers: Well, they got copies of the developer betas of Mavericks in early June. They’ve had more than four months to get with the program. Unless building those upgrades represents a serious problem of one sort or another, you expect they will be finishing their work about now. There have already been upgrades that are said to support Mavericks.
So at the end of the day, there is actually a reasonable possibility that Mavericks will be a free upgrade, and not just to people who buy new Macs after it goes on sale. Apple has already shown they can give software away. Consider copies of the iWork apps for iOS that are free downloads for anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next round of new Macs, which will probably accompany the release of Mavericks, will also come with free copies of iWork. And what does it cost to upgrade a PC to Windows 8? Take that Microsoft!
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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