Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Will the iPhone 5 be Steve Job's "This Is It?"

When Michael Jackson died more than two years ago, the controversial but infinitely talented pop star was in rehearsals for an extended concert series that was to be billed as This Is It. Of course Jackson died nearly a month before This Is It was scheduled to open at a London theater.

Filmed footage of Jackson's rehearsals for This Is It was later edited and surfaced theatrically as a film under the same name, giving us at least a partial glimpse at what this master pop magician had in store for us at the time of his death.

Like Michael Jackson, it now seems Steve Jobs also died without being able to complete the project he was currently working on. In Jobs' case that project may have been the iPhone 5.

Tech watchers and analysts had actually been anticipating the iPhone 5's release the same week the Apple founder died. However what they got instead was the iPhone 4S, a slightly improved version of the iPhone 4, but not the full-fledged redesign and upgrade many had been hoping for.

Reports currently vary as to why we got the 4S instead of the 5. Production delays have been cited as one reason with one report stating that there had been problems integrating Siri into the new iOS. Nonetheless, the 4S has been met with pretty good reviews overall. Although reports of problems with the iPhone 4S are just now beginning to emerge.

Recent reports now suggest the iPhone 5 will be released in spring or early summer of next year. The device is expected to have been completely overhauled and sport a brand new design.

But one question that many people are asking is, just how involved was the Apple founder in the production of either of these two devices? According to one Cnet analyst, there were two separate teams heading up the production of the 4S and the 5 individually. Steve Jobs was reported to have been heading up the production team for the iPhone 5.

If that rumor proves true, or even just persistent really, the iPhone 5 could be regarded in a similar light to Jackson's This Is It: The swan song of a creative innovator who departed the world suddenly and all too soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Man Who Made Computers Human

Tech news became front page news last night as the world mourned the premature passing of a true innovator. Steve Jobs was more than just a giant of the tech world. He was a creative genius who in 56 years has certainly left as big, or perhaps even greater, a mark on the world as the Beatles, from whom he initially swiped the name for his fledgling start-up back in 1976.

A lot has already been written and will continue to be written about Steve Jobs in the coming days, weeks and months. President Obama paid him a suitably eloquent remembrance, saying that "there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented." Like many writers, bloggers and reporters around the world, I'm currently sitting here attempting to write the man's obituary on just such a device.

Steve Jobs was a bearded acid dropping hippie who was born and raised in Northern California. Like the Beatles before him, he set off to India to find enlightenment after dropping out of college in the early '70s. Upon his return he began working in the fledgling tech industry that was setting up camp in what would later be known as the Silicon Valley, a few miles south of San Francisco.

Early in his career he developed video games for Atari, including Breakout, a kind of variation on Pong, which was immensely popular at the time. He founded Apple Computers in much the same post-hippie spirit that was prevalent in Northern California in the mid '70s. Just take a look at the company's original logo, which could easily have been a playbill advertising an appearance at the Fillmore Auditorium by the Grateful Dead.

Apple was always the fly in the ointment of the staid and narrow tech world. Before Apple came along, computers were largely tools of the business world and might have remained so for much longer had it not been for Jobs and Apple.

Steve Jobs didn't invent the PC but he did a lot more to make them personal than just about anyone else. He wrestled technology from the cold grip of science and mathematics and made it feel much more like art or humanities. In doing so he laid the groundwork for much of the dot.com boom of the 1990s and the open, Internet culture we live in today.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Steve Jobs, but I can say without hesitation that I owe him a great debt for creating technologies that require the written content I earn my living producing. It's no exaggeration to say that this man created livelihoods for literally millions of people around the world.

Once while on assignment for a photography magazine I sometimes write for, I interviewed a guy who was a digital post-production tech who'd been on the photo shoot set with Steve Jobs for the cover of Time shown on the left. He told me that in between takes he'd wound up seated near Jobs, with basically no one else around. Nervous and somewhat star struck, he reflected that he was sitting across from a guy who'd basically created the technology that had enabled his entire career. Choking back his nervousness, he asked Jobs for his two cents on technology, innovation and his contribution to the world.

Jobs' answer was as simple and as brilliant as much of what he introduced to the world. "I just build it," he said. "You guys fill it up with stuff."

Thanks for building it Mr. Jobs. I'll try and do the best I can when it comes to filling it up with stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alas, Poor Apple

Okay, granted feeling sorry for Apple is a relative thing, kind of like feeling sorry for superstar tennis player Andy Roddick

Oh, poor Roddick with his Sports Illustrated swimsuit model wife, multimillion dollar jet-setting lifestyle and all-American good looks. Did we lose a little game while playing tennis? Did some reporter ask you a not nice question?

Apple, like Andy Roddick, needs our sympathy about as much as a hole in the head. And while you'd have to go a long way to call either the superstar tennis player or the billion dollar computer company beleaguered, you could argue that neither is having the greatest week.

Roddick was eliminated in the first round of the China Open by South African Kevin Anderson. In a tense press conference held after match, Roddick told a Chinese reporter who asked him if he should retire, "I think you should retire," and then stormed out of the press room.

Meanwhile Apple has done a kind of bait and switch by hyping a new iPhone only to unveil a slightly enhanced version of the current model iPhone to almost universal indifference. The iPhone 4S is pretty much just like the iPhone 4 except it has a better camera, it's a little faster and can sync remotely without being connected to a computer.

Granted, these aren't bad improvements. But the tech world had been waiting with baited breath for the iPhone 5 and when they didn't get it, there was disappointment all around. Apple's stock tumbled five percent in the immediate aftermath of the 4S's release.

Of course Apple and Roddick are both suffering from what could be called champagne problems. Roddick remains a former world ranked no. 1 married to a model/actress and Apple still has a substantial edge over Microsoft as the current leader in the tech field.

Apple will continue to dominate in the gadget market and there will soon be an iPhone 5 that is likely to meet, if not exceed the public's expectation, as Apple products are wont to do. At 29 years of age, Roddick also has more than a fighting chance to bounce back from his most recent setback and can expect to compete at the top level for some time to come.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The iPad Comes Under Fire?

Since its release back in April of last year, the iPad has enjoyed a virtual stranglehold on the tablet computer market. Many would-be rivals have attempted to at least jostle the popular Apple-made device, nestled atop its perch. Thus far none have succeeded. The iPad has performed like a team on a winning streak that's carried over from last season, selling some 29 million units all in total. However as has been anticipated, Amazon has unveiled what analysts predict could be the iPads biggest competitor.

Enter the Kindle Fire.

While it had been predicted that the Kindle tablet would be available for cheap, previous estimations had it in the range of $250-300 dollars. However at the unveiling in New York on Wednesday, the Kindle Fire was introduced for the astronomically low price of $199, some three hundred dollars below even the most stock iPads and a whopping seven hundred bucks below the most tricked out models.

In addition to its attractive price, industry watchers say what will most appeal to consumers about the Kindle is the amount of filmed, literary and musical content users will be able to readily access through Amazon. But make no mistake, the Fire is far more than just a Kindle Reader with email. It's a fully-functional tablet computer that runs on the Android operating system and can do much of what an early model iPad is capable of. Not only that, but with it's seven inch screen, it's also half the size of the iPad.

However unlike many tablets nowadays, the Fire has no camera or microphone. Nor does it come equipped with a memory expansion slot. The Fire is capable of connecting to WiFi networks but not cellular networks unlike some iPads and many other Android tablets.

But one area in which the Fire will arguably be superior to the iPad is in its ability to read Flash. The iPads incompatibility with Flash has been one of the main criticisms leveled against the multimillion selling tablet.

So can the Kindle Fire really give the iPad a run for its money? Yes and no. Speaking to Associated Press, Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, considers the Fire the only credible competitor to the iPad.

Of course, in the same AP article, it was reported that analysts at Gartner Inc. predict that three out of four tablet computers sold this year would be iPads. So perhaps words like "credible" and "competitor" are all relative when it comes to the Apple iPad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cyber-Security Goes Mobile

Computer security giant McAfee have launched a new service application that will provide a blanket net of security that can be cast over all of your computers, tablets and mobile devices. McAfee All Access has been engineered as a "single solution," that protects both Macs and PCs as well as smartphones, laptops and tablet computers, otherwise known as . . . iPads.

All Access offers users a coordinated security apparatus that can be specifically configured to protect any array of devices a typical user may reasonably own. All Access is available at $99.00 for individual use and $149.00 for a family sized package.

McAfee of course also issued the results of a global study this week, because. . . well, that's kind of what they do. That report noted that the average valuation of an average person's digital assets, including photos and music libraries is $37,438. So I guess the implied message is that with almost 40 grand's worth of media on your devices, $99 bucks a month is money well spent.

But it's true that hackers are now looking into smartphones and tablets as a potential growth market for the new year. With many households fielding an array of devices that contains both Macs and PCs, an all-inclusive program like All Access potentially represents one of the best security options available in the increasingly perilous cyber climate we live in.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Amazon Mounts a Challenge to iPad's Dominance with Kindle Tablet

Many have tried, but none have succeeded in their efforts to gain ground on the Apple iPad in the tablet computer market. Since it's release in April of 2010, the iPad has sold some 29 million units worldwide and taken up residence at the top of the tablet computer market like Manchester United in an English Premier League standings table.

This is not to say there haven't been at least somewhat reasonable alternatives to emerge in the eighteen months since the iPad's release. Sure there's been the Samsung Galaxy, the Motorola Xoom and the HP TouchPad. All of which are perfectly adequate tablets that can do most of what the iPad can do and in some cases, more. However thus far, no tablet has succeeded in capturing the imagination (and the money) of the tablet buying public like the iPad.

Until now that is maybe, at least according to analysts.

According to a report from Reuters, Amazon is making ready to release the Kindle Fire Tablet, which will be an affordably priced alternative to the iPad that insiders are predicting will resonate with consumers. Writing the for the blog TechCrunch, MG Siegler revealed that the Fire will be a seven inch backlit tablet that will resemble the Blackberry PlayBook, run on Android and feature a touch screen.

However there is one feature in particular that analysts think will enable the Fire to heat things up for the iPad in the tablet market: it's price.

Currently rumors are floating that the device will be available for between $250 and $300 dollars, which either way, makes it a couple hundred dollars less than even the cheapest iPads.

In addition to it's competitive price, analysts estimate that users will also be drawn like moths to the Kindle's Flame due to the enormous amount of movie, television and music media services available from Amazon. Part of the alleged angle on Amazon making the Fire available for so little, is the company's ability to be able to recoup on cloud and content services marketed to Fire users.

Of course as of now, it's anybody's guess what the outcome will be of Kindle entering the tablet market. The Samsung Galaxy is selling poorly and HP just announced that they would be discontinuing their tablet. So whether the Fire will actually succeed in turning up the heat on Apple or wind up as just another also-ran, struggling in the middle part of the tablet table, only time will tell.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Heidi Klum Dangerous?

Heidi Klum dangerous? That may not come as big news to the legions of fledgling fashionistas who've been dispatched by the German model's icy "Auf wiedersehen," but the Klum threat apparently runs deeper than that.

Computer security giant, McAfee has issued it's annual report on the most dangerous celebs to search for online and Mrs. Seal (Klum is wed to the English soul singer) has topped the list, edging out last year's number one, Cameron Diaz. Other celebs to have broken into the upper half of McAfee's table include Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Mila Kunis, Katherine Heigl and rather unexpectedly, Piers Morgan.

It's common practice for hackers to imbed attack commands and other forms of malicious software into photos,videos and other forms of content. Dangling the suggestion of racy photos of someone like Klum or Diaz (Piers Morgan perhaps?) is intended to titillate Web users into downloading the software.

Once the scantily clad pics of Heidi, Brad or Piers hit your hard drive, the fun really begins as the Trojans emerge and hackers take control of your machine gaining access to passwords, personal information and financial records or using your computer as part of a denial-of-service attack.

According to McAfee if you Google search Heidi Klum and use qualifiers like "hot pictures," or "racy screen savers," there is a one in ten chance that you'll come across content that is spiked with malware.