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by Jehuda Saar
Tuesday
Sep272011

Happy & Sweet

 

Two anouncements will surround the Jewish New Year: tomorrow morning, hours before the start of festivities, Amazon will anounce their new touchscreen media consuming iPad competitor believed to be called the Kindle Fire, and a couple of days after the holiday, Apple are set to anounce on October 4 what is expected to be the next iPhone, believed by some to be called the iPhone 5 and others the 4s (or will it be both ?). A great number of tech luminaries feel very strongly that if there ever was a company capable, and well enough positioned, to give Apple a run for its money, it is Amazon. And I tend to agree with that opinion. Both companies will have the hardware and the content, and in essence will control their entire eco-system, which is exactly what HP, RIM and countless other tablet manufacturers, be they android-based or otherwise, were not bringing to the table.

Our inclination would be to believe that Apple and Amazon are going to butt heads in this business. Interestingly enough their approaches are diametrically opposed. Of course both companies are looking to make this a succesful business, but each of them are looking to sell something else entirely. Amazon will in fact sell a tablet, but they are not looking to make money on the tablet. Amazon are in the business of selling content, of driving customers to their online store for stuff, be they bits or widgets. Their tablet(s) are just a means to an end. Apple, however, do sell content, but only as a means to sell more tablets. They offer the content as an enticement, to justify laying out the big bucks for the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPhone. I would not be surprised if at some point certain Kindle models are given out for free. As is, the current Kindle3 is sold at slightly over $100. Apple regularly offer free stuff on the iTunes store. Why not, if it means you'll be more eager to buy their hardware.

And so it is clear that things are about to get a lot more interesting in the world of Tech. Which leads me to wish us all a happy, sweet New Year.

Friday
Sep092011

Don't Mess With Apple

Hilarious video portraying what happens when you steal an iPhone prototype and won't give it back.

Thursday
Aug252011

Tim Cook's first email to Apple employees as CEO

 

Team: 

I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I've ever made and it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve's optimism for Apple's bright future.

Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve's ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that-it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.

 

Tim

Thursday
Aug252011

Guest contribution: Rafi Saar on Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple Inc.

 

Sometime around 3:30 AM Israel time, just as news of Steve Jobs' resignation hit the airwaves, Rafi sat down to write the thoughts that were going through his mind.

 

Just a few thoughts: 

1) Why did Steve Jobs resign?

a - because his health doesn't allow him to continue - in that case, even as Chairman we cannot expect him to stay for too long

b - in order to make the unavoidable move in a time of success and prosperity for the company so as to minimize the negative effects of such a move. That would show that there is a clear succession, he remains somewhere at the helm, and all is good. Also, leave enough time before the next keynote.

 

2) AAPL: I expect it to fall and then rise again when a) people will realize that the company is still a great one and b) when people will start re-buying the stock at a "bargain" price which will drive its price back up.  If the next products will continue to be bestsellers and quarterly results will be as before then there's no reason it wouldn't be less good than any other company if not, of course, much better.

Regarding buying AAPL stock, I was always worried about the day Steve Jobs will pass.  But I didn't expect him to resign before.  So now this unfortunate event is still something to come, even after his resignation.  So if his role as chairman will still give him a heavy weight in the company's decisions then his passing may still cause yet another stock fall.  Otherwise, the stock should not be too much affected by it.

Let's just hope Steve will continue to live for many more years and have a lot to say at the company so that we, the customers, will continue to enjoy from their great "magical" products.

 

3) What will change?

I think that's really the most interesting question of all. Steve has instilled his managerial ways into the company. Apple operates according to certain rules which will certainly continue to exist. Steve even created a course to learn "his" ways of managing the company. So I'm assuming that in the big picture we won't see too many changes.

I think it's not clear to us how much influence he really had in different areas of the company. He was clearly involved in everything, but did he come up with all these ideas? Certainly many different engineers came up with bright ideas, but Steve was probably the one to decide "which idea would live and which idea would die" or which should be changed (that option is missing from "Unetane Tokef") Could someone else make those decisions as "correctly" as Steve? And by "correctly" I mean his knack for knowing what the customers really need or what the customers would really prefer.

I actually think we will see the changes more in the little things. My feeling is we will have less of those drastic overturns where something you were trusting for years will suddenly no longer be supported because the new way is the "right" way (floppy disks, .mac, MobileMe - just to name a few). Or iOS apps rejection rules changing all the time and angering many developers and other similar brutal rejections which you can take or leave.

Another thing we will probably miss is what he certainly does behind the scenes when closing deals with mega-companies, and by that I mean what he did with the music labels, the movie studios, and now with books and magazine publishers. Certainly he played a big role in negotiating lucrative contracts for Apple.

So let's wait and see the history unfold. It will certainly be interesting.

 Let's just hope that the way history will unfold will also still remain favorable for us, the customers.

 

Rafi

Thursday
Aug252011

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

Tough to see this headline in the news. Here is the full text of his resignation letter. He will continue on as Chairman of the Board of Apple Inc.

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Sunday
Aug212011

You say you want a revolution..



Not one, but TWO revolutions in one week. Yes, denizens of Planet-Tech, within one week we have seen one of the largest software companies in the world enter the hardware business, and one of the world's number one hardware companies get out of a huge chunk of theirs. I am of course talking about Google acquiring Motorola's mobile phone business, and Hewlett-Packard getting out of the tablet and cellphone business (and, who knows, maybe even out of the PC business altogether ) and taking the IBM-approach of software-services instead.

The Google decision must not have been an easy one. They had had no intention of getting into the phone manufacturing business, that is for sure. On top of that they will now have to do something they had foresworn years ago: provide telephone customer service. The patent debacle of the last few weeks pushed them into an impossible situation and really left them no choice. Their entire Android business was in danger of collapsing if they didn’t act quickly and got their hands on some intellectual property they could call their own. Having missed out on history’s largest sales of patents, they turned towards Motorola and made the deal that will force them to forever change the way they have been operating. They may even have to start paying attention to “design” from now on. We all love our Google products, that is for sure, but none of us are bowled over by their “pretty lines” or their industrial design. Google will be forced to “think different”(ly) from now on. It won’t all just be about functionality anymore.

The HP story actually makes me a little sad. As big a fan of iOS products as I am, I was kind of looking forward to getting my hands on some webOS products like HP’s TouchPad. Here was a credible competing operating system to iOS that looked neat, functional, effective and even pretty. And having been an early adopter of the Palm machines back in the 90’s I was happy  in 2010 to see that platform finding a home that could help it thrive and succeed. But it would appear that the hardware division of HP lacked some of the talent that the webOS software guys possessed in spades. The hardware was unworthy of the software that was to inhabit it. And so it seems that rather than first looking for a credible hardware partner to take on webOS together with HP, CEO Leo Apotheker made a drastic announcement stating that HP would terminate its webOS hardware business and most likely would spin off its PC division. 

And that’s the part that really struck home with me. Back in 1987 when I started my first job, the company I was at had no personal computers to speak of. Everyone just had a dumb terminal hooked up to some mini-computer on their desk and it was all very dreadful, especially to someone with a Macintosh Plus at home. So one day I announced that I thought we should all get Macs at work and start doing things a little differently (the Macintosh II had just been introduced a couple of months earlier). I might as well have said that I wanted to bring Barbie and Ken dolls to the office, or that I wanted to use a Lego set to get my work done. Let’s not mention the fact that, on my Mac Plus, I was using a little piece of software that until shortly before that had been a Mac-only program: a little something called Microsoft Excel. On PC’s in those days serious number crunching was achieved with Lotus 1.2.3 and very few people used Microsoft products yet beyond MS DOS. To placate me, the head of the IT department took me on a visit to the HP headquarters in upstate New York to look at some of the new PC hardware they were coming out with. Needless to say I was left staring at a screen with a command line interface flashing a C-prompt and the only “exciting” option I had was what color that C-prompt would be displayed in. I ended up with an IBM PC on my desk, one of the very first in that office, running some version of the very ugly Windows 2.x (don’t ask me what version it was, it is irrelevant, just trust me when I say it was horrific)

And here we are so many years later, and HP is getting out of that business, and Apple is going strong and doing better every day. Michael Dell even sent a tweet about the HP development that was meant to poke fun at them. The tweet read: “If HP spins off their PC business….maybe they will call it Compaq?”. Having completed with Compaq/HP for so many years, Dell was happy about this development. But Mr Dell should remember his comment from October 1997 about Apple. When asked what could be done to fix Apple, he infamously said then: “What would I do ? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders”. Chances are he has been eating his hat ever since. 

Tuesday
Aug092011

Low Tech smuggling of High Tech

Chinese and Hong Kong customs have just arrested a smuggling ring that specialized in getting Apple products across the border from northern Hong Kong into the Chinese city of Shenzen. Funny enough, these products were actually making their way back inot the country they had been manufactured in.

But what is most fascinating about the story is how they got the goods across. In essence a cable was shot across the border using a crossbow and was then suspended to a high rise building on the Chinese side. The goods were then moved using some sort of old-fashioned pulley system. 

In all 6 smugglers were arrested holding 50 iPads and 50 iPhones with a total worth in excess of $45,000. The video has no subtitles but, rest assured, you will get the gist of the story being told.

Wednesday
Jul272011

A Farewell to Optical Media

 

When Apple finally released OSX Lion last week, they also announced some new hardware. We will most likely get back to Lion at a later stage (it is starting to grow on me the more I use it) but if there is one thing that we learn from the hardware releases, one clear message Apple are sending to the public at large, it has to do with optical media. 

First of all we got the updated MacBook Airs. I happen to be a MacBook Air user myself, the 13 inch variety from late 2010, and for those of you who are familiar with that machine, you will remember that it comes with no optical drive whatsoever. When I ordered the machine I automatically included the external DVD drive in the purchase. My thinking was: I am going to need a drive to put discs in. Logical right ? Well, here's the thing: more than 7 months have gone by and I have yet to attach that drive to the computer. 

The Mac mini was updated as well. Did you happen to see that little beauty ? Great looking machine. Notice something different on this new arrival ? You got it: no optical drive.

Anyone remember the introduction of the first iMac in 1998 ? Remember what was missing from that machine ? Apple dared introduce a new computer "sans" floppy drive. Everybody said they were crazy. How could people possibly use a computer without a floppy drive ? Well, they're at it again. It is no coincidence that the new Mac mini has no optical drive. The same goes for the MacBook Air. And I will go as far as venturing that pretty soon the new MacBook Pros won't have any either (in fact I am fairly certain that the next iteration of the 15 inch MacBook Pro will look a lot more like the Air than like the current Pro). 

How have I been living without an optical drive ? Very simple really: everything gets downloaded. Between the App Store, iTunes, Amazon mp3, Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, Dropbox and soon iCloud, there is no point to burning shiny little discs anymore. Let's not even talk about more questionable methods like peer to peer services. Everything is a lot more instantaneous. Lion doesn't come on a disc. Apps get updated over the internet. And now with Lion's cool new AirDrop feature, even the old sneakernet method is "out the window". 

So my advice is: embrace this brand new world of discless machines. One day we will look back on a past in whcih we carried around these shiny little things and smile at how primitive they were.

It was so long ago. It was only yesterday.

Monday
Jul252011

Inbox Zero Revisited

 

A while ago I wrote a piece about the importance the Inbox Zero method has had in changing the way I work, communicate and generally address issues on a day to day basis. It is surprising to what extent an inbox with 10,000 messages can make you feel totally out of control of your life. You know you are addressing SOME of the issues that come up, but you also realise that there are countless matters that have been left unresolved, people who have been waiting for answers, isuees that have been left unattended. Taking control of that mess is a huge task and while the Inbox Zero method is not the perfect solution (let's face it, there is no perfect solution to a situation that can never be resolved: while you were cleaning up your inbox two dozen more messages arrived) it is the closest thing to taking control you will ever find.

It is interesting to note that a great number of tech pundits have been declaring email "dead" as of late. Whether as a result of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (my kids refer to email as something you check for homework) or simply because people tend to opt for instant messaging systems, be they on computers or smartphones, the point they are making is that pretty soon email will no longer be around. Personally I disagree, if only because of the sheer number of email messages that still come into my inbox on a daily basis and the extent to which my entire business is driven by this medium. But it is not too crazy to imagine a nearby future in which the importance of email will fade and other means of communications will take its place. Personally I just hope it won't be something like Facebook.

For those of you who are still plagued by the "living in your inbox" disease, here is another interesting piece that gives some thought to implementing "the method", with special emphasis on the fact that ultimately everyone devises their own system within the method.

Thursday
Jul142011

Just Talk To It

Star Trek fans have always dreamed of the time they could just to turn to their computer and say "Computer, tea, earl grey, hot" in the manner of Jean-Luc Picard. Those of us who are a little more paranoid will have images of HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey trying to take control of the Discovery One spacecraft while speaking in a soft conversational manner.

Talking to our computers is becoming a reality and nowhere is it more obvious then with our smartphones. Here is one example of this sort of interaction entering our daily lives. Nuance has just released Dragon GO, a free iOS app. Check out the video to see this little beauty interact with other apps on the phone to produce immediate results.

Wednesday
Jul132011

Email with Elegance

Every once in a while I get excited about a new piece of software. Email has always been very important to me so when Sparrow was announced I really got excited and I got my hands on it as soon as it was made available to the public.

Now a new piece of software popped up that has got me salivating. Once again it is an email client, but with a twist. Check out the video for Persona to get a feel for this little beauty. I am not sure how this would scale when you take into account the amount of business email I deal with on a daily basis, but I am willing to give it a whirl once the software is made available. For now I'll just follow them on Twitter until I can get my hands on the program and see for myself.

 

Monday
Jul112011

ACTION !!! .....AND...... CUT !!!

This one is of a somewhat specialized nature. Over the past couple of weeks I have started teaching myself Final Cut Pro X. That is after spending a few years trying to become somewhat acquainted with the intricacies of Final Cut Pro 7. Needless to say there has been a lot of noise about this matter, even though to people who are not involved with video editing it all sounds like a lot of gibberish. The trickle-down effect was unusual and we even saw a funny bit on Conan O'Brien about this software "upgrade". 

Then I found this funny little parody ad for Final Cut Pro X using the "I am a PC, I am a Mac" format of  a couple of years ago. I thought it was clever and decided to share with y'all, just for the fun of it.

Wednesday
Jul062011

Loop The Loop

There is no way that the result of this little exercise would be this good if one lacks the necessary talent. I won't argue that point. But this cheap little iPhone app is just seriously cool. UK-based performer DubFX uses the six track recording app Loopy to create some art. Worth watching all the way through. 

Wednesday
Jun292011

Cover Up

So what exactly are they hiding ? For those of you who have visited the one spot on earth that NEVER closes down...EVER...you might wonder what exactly is going on at the 5th Avenue Apple Store in NYC. Everyone is familiar with the glass entrance to the underground store that has become a must-see stop on every tourist's New York tour. And here we are, past 10PM on a weeknight and the glass entrance is entirely covered up (in a way that makes it IMPOSSIBLE to see what exactly is being done to it...from any angle), flatbed trucks and cranes are positioned outside, workers and labourers are coming in and out of the building, occasionally the main entrance gets blocked and people are sent to the back entrance. It is clear that something big is going to happen. And then one cannot avoid thinking: does this have anything to do with the imminent debut of Apple's new Mac operating system, Lion ? The timing is ominous. Friday is July 1st and Lion was announced for July. Also, judging by the round the clock work being done my own feeling is that they are gearing up for something maybe as early as this weekend, or at the the latest early next week. And since Lion will only be available as a download, sprucing up the store may have something to do with hardware, and one cannot help but think about the often rumoured MacBook Air update. 

A few more days and the mystery will be revealed. But I have a pretty good feeling this will happen sooner rather than later.

Saturday
Jun252011

Apple hurting those they should be thanking

 

For those of you who complain that I am just an Apple fanboy, here is the perfect example of Apple doing the wrong thing and hurting those they should instead be bending over backwards for. About a decade ago I was one of these early adopters who jumped on the company's first ever iteration of their cloud service (although we did not refer to it in those terms back then): iDisk and mac.com. They later changed it to mobile.me and of course I went along with it. During those ten or so years I produced gallery pages of movies and pictures online, created web-pages with iWeb...you name it: a significant online presence predicated on the assumption that Apple would continue to give us a home for all of this so long as we continued to pay for the service.

And now that Apple is about to introduce the iCloud service you would think that they would reward the early adopters and those who committed early on to this online endeavour. Well, surprise surprise: on an FAQ just published by Apple here they are making it quite clear that as of next year in June, we're on our own. That we now need to somehow get all that content offline, back to our computers and find other homes for it all. 

Shame on you, Apple, for hurting those of us you should be thanking. Shame on you.

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