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.