Category Archives: Mac Geek

Apple and the Great SKU Problem

I know I list problem solver as a skill in my Linkedin profile but this one’s a doozey and has been bugging me for a while now.

Apple has too many iPads.

I know it is considered sacred to not criticize all things Apple but I really believe they just aren’t doing the right thing here. Ok so hear me out…

Ever since the iPad was introduced, there have been two many over lapping iOS devices and too many choices. I know that choice is a good thing but in this case there is just too much.

Try this scenario for instance. A person, (how about Alex, sounds like a good name right?), walks into an Apple Store, presumably to replace one of those still in use old PC laptops that Apple says folks are hanging on to. Also remember Apple loves to remind us how 50% percent of all visitors to the Apple Store are new to Apple purchasers. So Alex has heard of these iPads, maybe even has a friend of two who has shown them one or let them used it before. Alex likes to look around first so politely tells the front store greeter this and then walks over to the iPad table. Alex is then presented with this lovely graphic, or at least the real world equivalent of one.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.37.43 AMRight away, Alex has five models to choose from. Apple thought of this though and offers a handy Compare button on their website. I can only hope the employees in the store have an equivalent.

However this is the comparison…

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.40.26 AM

Not exactly inspiring now is it? I see one big, two mediums, and two smalls all with the same back. Looks like it’s also in some different shades of color as well. Watching my kids watch Sesame street and I know how this game is played. Aah Aah Aah, I love to count. 1, 2, 3, … 14, 15. 15 options for iPads.

But wait, there’s more!

Alex decides to check the tech specs because hey, more numbers means it’s better right?

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.45.27 AM

Or maybe not. In fact, on the website, Alex has to scroll through 16 more comparison sections. SIXTEEN, holy buckets people. On capacity and price alone there are 25 more options. And of course not all color options are available on all configurations.

Hang on a second here, let me go ask my NASA scientist wife to do some of those white board calculations and I’ll get back to you.

Ok I’m back and we calculate there are a total of 77 Apple SKU’s in this one product category alone.

Know I am no expert here but I am pretty sure our friend Alex would but like WTF Apple? You are supposed to be the easy company. Hey I know Alex, maybe like a responsible American citizen, you set aside a specific budget for this lovely new iPad and went to shop based on price. You will see there are prices ranging from $269 all the way up to $1229. So since this is your first iPad, maybe you decide you want to be a little on the simpler side and you decide $399 is what you saw in an advertisement and thats what your friend said he spent on one. This is going to be so easy now. Just give me the iPad that costs $399.

Oh. Wait.

There are three models that are $399. Oh for frak’s sake.

Ok so everyone now see’s that maybe Apple isn’t making this easy on anyone. Maybe they could do better. Being the problem solver that I am, here is my solution.

Apple should have three SKU’s. Yeah thats right you head me. I said three and I mean three.

I present to you the new and improved Apple iPad line up.

iPad s, iPad m, and iPad L. Yup, we all know what small medium and large means. Hell we buy clothes this way, french fries this way, and even Apple has always been a fan of the good, better, best model.

The iPad s.

This is what was the iPad mini 4.

The iPad m.

This is what was the new iPad Pro 9.7 inch

The iPad L,

This is what was the new iPad Pro 12 inch.

All iPads should be have cellular. All iPads should have all the same stuff in general. All the same size 64 GB space, all in silver or space grey only, just pick one Apple. They make more money of the colored cases and keyboard cases anyways. They should all have the same chip, the same general battery life, the same quality display, cameras, Touch ID, Apple Pay etc. Software is software, it naturally should also all have the same features.

And here is the kicker, they should all only be a fixed price difference for the display difference. I’d vote for $399, $549, $699.

And ok so you want a super, whiz bang, all the features model. Fine, Apple can add one more SKU and make a 12 inch with 256 GB and some slightly faster chip and make it rose gold (or better yet, ProductRED) for all I care. Have it automatically come with the keyboard and mouse and what have you. Sell it for $999 and be done with it.

So thats it. Four SKUs. No more of this 77 choices thing. What do you think? Doesn’t three, okay now four, choices make for a lot simpler experience. I’m sure that first time customer Alex would love it and I know I would.

Product Analysis 101

Fun times at work Ahoy!

We made a little trek to the Apple Store this week as the new iPad mini has arrived and our dev teams needs them for testing. So a few of us from work went on down and picked up a bunch. Then after a tasty lunch at HRD we headed back to work, and the first thing I did was to promptly tear open the package and began playing with it. Ah the perks of working in IT. Anywho, it was actually quite a surprise, as my first immediate thought was “Oh hey I want one of these.”

It is really small and hard to believe kind of light weight. To me it felt about as heavy as my iPhone 4s with a case on it. It then occurred to me after having played with a Surface RT ( and I’m still looking forward to getting one of those as well) that Microsoft, Google, and Amazon still have quite a way to go. For Apple it has always been about the slightest detail in hardware and it really shows. I handed the iPad mini to a few folks and even our lead product guy. After only a few seconds of holding it said “Well fuck, there goes $300. Now I have to go buy one.”

I am planning on posting a detailed product analysis comparison of both the Surface IT and a iPad side by side once I get them both so stay tuned for that. In the mean time don’t go to the Apple store and play with one of these unless you have a desire to part with  your paycheck this weekend.

OS X Lion Tip & Trick #1 (updated)

This is actually more of an annoyance then anything but I will point it out anyways. Apple has introduced a new version of scrolling in their latest operating system. It is designed to mimic the scrolling on the iPad. This is fine except for 2 reasons. Reason #1 is that they turn this behavior on by default. You would think after 20 something years of people scrolling the other way they would leave that the default and give you the option to turn it to the new way. Reason #2 is that if you are using a third party mouse on your Apple desktop, say like a Microsoft or Logitech with a few buttons on it; there is no way to turn this new scrolling off. Yup thats right. Apple has made a programing change to the operating system that requires you to have an Apple branded mouse or tack pad in order to change the settings. Since I just so happen to have had an Apple mouse, (that I had to dig around to find as it was in the garage) I did find that once you turn the scrolling behavior back to it’s normal default you can then un plug the Apple mouse and continue to use the mouse of your choice. Still this is really annoying.

 

Yeah see the part that says “Move content in the direction…”

Mouse System Pref Pane for Lion
It doesn’t show up unless you have a Apple mouse plugged in.
Way to go Apple. (sarcasm)
I will have a more thorough review of Apple later so stay tuned.


UPDATE: After poking around on a few forums and talking to some others it appears as though this is a random incident depending on how old your mouse is. Some folks are reporting that their Logitechs are working just fine. So your mileage may very.

Mac Media Event Afterthoughts

Well what can I say… I was wrong on a bunch of stuff. But not completely.

The 11 and 13 inch MacBook Airs didn’t kill the MacBook line. But they are going too. Most folks are already predicting huge sales os the new machines and Steve JObs on stage even said this is Apple’s vision of the way Laptops are going. The fact that they don’t come with 4 GB of ram standard is kind of silly but ah well.

They finally brought back the timeline editing in iLife 11. That is about the only reason I would consider upgrading to it. However I will have to wait and see if they ever release the new version of Final Cut which is supposed to be “simpler.”

Other then that it was rather a disappointing event. It seemed more like a Beta event in the fact that everything they announced was either have finished, not very well thought out, or a this will be better later on. Of course since this is Apple I’m sure they will sell boat loads of new laptops and everyone will be very excited and speculative for the next 10 months or so.

Apple Media event Oct 20th Predictions

Apple will kill the Macbook line and drop the MacBook Air in both 11 and 13 inch models in its place. This is to further cement the place of people moving away from traditional notebooks and into either iPads or the higher margin MacBook Pros.

iLIfe 11 ( preferably int he new 64 bit variety ) or whatever they call the next version will only have one significant change and that should be int he iWeb MObile me integration and publishing. Otherwise the big news will be iLife for iOS which will include some versions of all the iLife Apps for the iOS. This isn’t so much of new apps as it is renaming the apps on the current platform and adding some small features. For example

Photos – iPhoto – and and some edits like one touch effects, crop, redeye remove, and social network integration sharing.
iPod – iTunes – merges the store and the media playing app into one, similar to iBooks.
Voice Memo – Garageband – adds line in recording, podcast quick session recording, still does memos, and again social network integration publishing.
iMovie – is already there and as a reminder iMovie was the first iLife App as well and nobody thought it was all that cool as well, at least not until YouTube came around.
iWeb – I would really like to see Apple push forward with Ping and make it a more robust platform for all of your iLife sharing needs, and make iWeb into a Ping platform app.

Mac OSX 10.7 Lion – I would really like to see them integrate the iPad as a full multi touch controller interface for the OS. Not really a needed feature but more of a hey this is cool and it’s where we are going, without having to give up too much in terms of the familiar OS and how it functions. I would really like to see some more in terms of customization options, like themes and everything that Tinkertool does. This one is a bit tough because everything is so focused on iOS right now and no one has any real major complaints about how Snow Leopard is working. There are always bugs to be worked out but feature wise it seems to be just fine.

I would also really like to see Apple make a push into the “cloud computing” area that wasn’t a half assed effort. Believe me, after working for Google for awhile I can tell you Apple doesn’t have a clue about the “cloud” as it were and really needs to get the ball rolling on this. These kind of platforms take a long time to get right and lets face it, so far nothing Apple has done has been a success in this area. iWork.com is still a beta of which I know of no one who uses it. MobileMe is alright but has never sold really well, never seems to do everything you want it to do, and is marketed so poorly that most Apple Store employees don’t even know how to describe it as anything other then cool email and online storage. And of course they just introduced Ping, the social music network that is off to a rather shaky start. It’s almost as though Steve Jobs said, ‘Oh I don’t care about this Facebook thing, it is useless” and since then no one has bothered to tell him about the emerging market. More realistically though Apple has always been a hardware company that happens to come with great software. Other then iTunes they really don’t have a clue about services. Well maybe with the continuing success with the iOS App Store, they really won’t need to. After all they can let the rest of the world do all the hard work developing and they can still make boatloads off selling cool hardware.

The problem with this is that eventually other manufacturers will start selling decent hardware and cheaper most likely running on Windows or Android. Apple really does have the best mindset for making great customer experiences which is why they could dominate this market. More importantly, they can bring the Apple level of quality associated with their other software and make a platform that people don’t complain about every time it changes something. More often then not when Apple does change something most people embrace it whole heartedly.

So that about wraps that up and we shall see how I do.

Well I was a quarter right

So about those Apple Media Predictions, I was wrong. I realize I started to think more about what I believe Apple should be doing with their product lines as opposed to what they will be doing.
I sent a email to Steve Jobs about how disappointed I was in the new iPods so we shall see if he responds but then again I’m not the CEO so…
Here is the email I wrote in case anyone was interested. I am more curios to see if he responds then anything else.

“To Mr Steve Jobs and Apple, Inc.

        Thinner and lighter isn’t always better. At the September 1st media event you introduced a new iPod touch. You made it with a rear camera, a front facing camera for video chat, the A4 chip, and the retina display. And of course as always, you made it thinner and lighter.

        However nobody I know or have read about online said they wanted a thinner and lighter iPod touch. Customers have said what they wanted, in no particular order would be, more battery, more storage, a batter rear camera for stills, LED flash, vibration motor, GPS unit, and more. I am willing to bet that it would mean increasing the thickness of the iPod by a millimeter or even two as opposed to reducing it by a millimeter, then most people would be more then happy for the tradeoff.

        I do understand these feature would increase the cost of the unit, but I believe decreasing the size of the unit also comes with a cost. That of forcing your company to create an inferior product that doesn’t live up to Apple’s standards for innovating and pushing the envelope in terms of design and quality products.

        I would recommend instead that if you want a lower cost of entry to the iPod line that you keep the current generation of iPod touch as it was and reduce it’s sell price on the entry model and then sell a newer iPod touch at a higher price, mush like you have done in the past and as you do with the iPhones. I believe this would also have been better then introducing a rather unusual new iPod nano that is both a upgrade, and downgrade at the same time. Instead you could have made a higher quality iPod music only device and got rid of the shuffle and nano altogether.

        I suspect you will in fact be doing most of this next year or even the year after that. I suppose what really bothers me about it is that it seems Apple has grown comfortable dominating the portable media / handheld computer market and doesn’t feel the need to push itself or it’s designs to make them better. By better I don’t mean thinner and lighter.

Thanks,
Sam Bryson”

Apple Media Event Predictions

So I know I’m kind of an Apple guy but hey, speculation is fun.

In a post just a bit ago I described how I though Apple would make the Apply TV just an App for the iOS and pair it with a new specialized docking station.  I’m sticking by this. I’m not really sure when they would do it but it still makes the most sense to me. It occurs to me this would also be a great way to showcase developing the iOS devices into other functions with the use of the dock connector and the appropriate programs

Now on to the wild guesses.

Apple will kill the entire iPod line as it stands. Instead the iPod Touch will now be known as simply the iPod. The new device with the small little touch screen will be a whole new class of device called the iPod Music. It will effectively combine the Shuffle and the Nano and retail for probably 79 dollars and of course come in 5 fruity colors.

Yes the new iPods ( ie the iPod touches ) will have retina displays and cameras and do facetime but only on the higher two models. The cheaper model will be as it is and drop to 149. Therefore making the higher end models with camera 249 and 349 respectively.

I would like to see them further this new branding by getting rid of the iPod App on the iOS and combining it with the iTunes Store App, and simply calling it iTunes for iOS. This makes sense because the iBooks app is both reader and store together so why not have the iTunes app be like it’s desktop counterpart and have iTunes both play and buy music and movies.

The Social iTunes cloud thingy. Well I’m not to sure on this one. Yes Apple obviously will do cloud streaming of content you bought to whatever device you want, for a price that is. I think it is interesting how we would come full circle of Apple basically doing what Microsoft has done in the past with the Zune Subscription pass and then pay to own it on top of it. But this is not a new concept. I think the only differences would be that you can use your preexisting library of media. I would really like to see apple buy Shazaam and incorporate that into iTunes for iOS as well but thats just wishful thinking.

What I would want/ like to see is if Apple is going to make a push into the social scene then let them start it on the Mac first. Rebrand Mobile me as just me and let the basic service be free. You can charge for premium features for more space, no ads, and what not. But I think a real tight integration with the iLife Suite. I mean if Apple is going to distinguish itself in terms of the social network space do it by really making yourself a content publisher.  Then of course have publishing to you ‘Me” account direct from your iOS device and all is well.

So that about covers it for now and next weeks predictions.

Recap – New iPods, new Apple TV App plus special dock, Streaming cloud iTunes with a subscription price.

Wishful thinking – new social network based off publishing content to your free “Me” account

Oh and of course the iPad will finally get iOS 4

Which means the new lineup will be the cheap stripped down iPod Music, then simply the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Apple’s Magic Trackpad

So it seems a lot of the tech world is all uppity because Apple releases a desktop track pad and they are saying it is the End of the Mac OS as we know it. Well I believe they are half right as always. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Apple is an evolutionary company. They learned a long time ago to think way ahead and then take the baby steps to get there and wait for the consumers to catch up.

Apple will incorporate touch into Mac OS X eventually. But it will probably not be in the way most people think. Touching a desktop display never makes any sense because users arms get tired and looking at smudgy displays drives a lot of people nuts. Just look at the iPad and iPhone users. Almost everyone automatically wipes down the display after every other use.

If however you add a secondary display that is meant to be touched then it works perfectly. You get to keep all the added benefit of a huge clear display for viewing what you are working on and then use a multi touch trackpad to get more functionality. Lets look at my idea of where this is heading in terms of logical evolution.

1. Add multi buttons to mouse – Most PC users have appreciated this for decades and Apple finally dived in a few years ago.

2. Add a touch panel to top of mouse. – starts to mimic some of the ideas of the track pad but still gives users that mouse around feeling.

3. Add trackpad option. – Gives users the option of using a trackpad that functions the same as the one on their laptop.

Now on to future stuff

4. Make the trackpad standard for all shipping computers.

5. Attach trackpap to keyboard to make it a single device.

5.5 Make iPad app that can act like trackpad and do the same as below.

6. Make trackpad a display like iphone – can be used to display widgets and is programmable with infinite number of functions. Is demonstrated but iLife apps that replace keyboard with sliders, knobs, buttons etc. Is also opened up to developers to do with as they please.

7. replace keyboard and trackpad with larger display track pad that doubles as keyboard and trackpad when needed.

Etc etc

You see where this is going.

Also on a related predictive note. I don’t think Apple will replace the Apple TV. I think Apple is going to make the Apple TV an App for the iPhone and iPad. It will require the iPhone 4 or iPad and also a special dock that has etherent, remote, and hdmi output. to the Big screen TV in your living room. But it will allow these device to act as what is now the Apple TV hardware. And probably the App will only work when docked in the special dock which will be about 60 to 90 dollars. But this way you can use the Ethernet in the dock or the devices built in wifi to stream files from iTunes directly, or your home based network. And then immediately if you need to get up and go just take your portable device with you and continue where you left off.

Think about it. If Apple really wanted to make a massive push into the TV market why not just convert the already massive market you have. It makes consumers feel as though they get more out of the device they already have without having to but a whole separate device. And it would require little to no training because the user interface would be similar to the current iTunes and Apple TV interfaces already.

Anyways those are my two predictions for future Apple products.

Crazy Mac Theorists

I still think the best rumor I ever heard about Apple was going to be the iPod that hovered 4 feet off the ground and doubled as a beer coaster. Well at least it would have a purpose.

Which brings us to this ever growing rumor about a Mac Tablet like device.

Okay so lets look at some history first. Tablets as you see them now have never really sold well. These are the machines that the display swivels around and becomes a tablet otherwise the rest of the time it;s a normal looking laptop with keyboard. Beside the obvious structural flaws in these designs, it really is just a matter of available market. Who are the consumers buying these things? Well the classic argument is that artists who want to draw on the screen directly as well specialized fields like doctors offices and construction sites. ( think Panasonic tough book ) Do general consumers really want a device like this… well not really. 

Okay so lets fast forward a little bit and look at today’s smart phone market. Touch screen are everywhere and the iPhone has had a noticeable impact on this trend. Okay so we get the idea that people think touch screens are cool and people obviously want to use them. So what is the difference between one of those previously mentioned tablet laptops and a touchscreen smart phone? Well Apple already spelled this out when they introduce the iPhone. First and foremost the ditched the pen device in favor of the finger as a pointing device. Works pretty good. But they also completely redesigned the user interface to match the finger pointing. As with most cases concerning Apple, it’s about both the hardware and software working together. 

Well so that brings us to the latest and probably the longest running rumor for Apple and that is to make a new market for tablet devices. Well lets think about this for a moment shall we…

Form factor = keyboard… Don’t think you’ll type that much; just walk into any computer store and notice the first thing people do is play with the keys.

Most people – this device should have a 6 – 10 inch screen and be totally flat, no physical keyboard. Basically looks like a big iPod Touch. 

Me – Okay so the real deal here is what are the reasons to do this? You could basically take a iPod touch and zoom in and scale it up to make everything bigger. That benefit would make everything bigger and might make typing on it a bit easier. But lets look at typing for a moment. Solution 1 would be to lay it flat on the desk. So everyone try that for a moment. Look down at your keyboard straight on. Unless this devices display had the most amazing viewing angle ever, your neck would get pretty tired of this. You could slant the device up at a more appropriate viewing angel say somewhere between 45 and 75 degrees. Now if you think that is going to work then take that same keyboard of yours and try sticking 6 or so dvd cases under it at an angle and then type. Yeah that didn’t really work for me either. So this brings us to the ever formidable thumb typing that people do on smart phones. Well assuming that one of the advantages of making the bigger screen is to have a bigger keyboard to make typing easier then thumb typing is a bit of a mute point. Now lets talk about one more issue with typing. Remember all those great popular netbooks running around out there right now? I tried one and  I think most people will agree the number one complaint about them is that those keyboards are really cute and all but pretty lousy to work with. Not to mention that retraining you hands to type is not the easiest of things to do, nor the quickest. Also lets look at keyboard size while we are at it. You are either going to have a small keyboard in the phone range, a in between size like those of netbooks, or a full size like the one on a desktop computer. If the small keyboard on the netbooks is bothersome to learn and the point of a bigger display is to make a bigger keyboard, then why not make it full size? Well because now we would be having a fairly large screen, at least 10 inches if not bigger. 

So all of that just for the keyboard, huh… doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Screen Size = Resolution independence 

Apple has mentioned this neat little trick to developers but it appears as though overall programmers are just starting to get the idea and aren’t quite there yet. 

Specs – Bigger is better and worse

People just pretty much assume ( still? come on people ) that bigger must mean better. So if this supposed mac tablet has a bigger screen then it must be faster, or have more thingamajiggers or better battery right… right? In reality probably not, Even if Apple got of it’s high horse and decided to actually make a device thicker then 2 cm or something else ridiculously thin, then maybe they could put in a bigger battery that lasted longer, but probably not much longer. 

Marketing – Who is gonna buy it?

Even though “Everyone” on the Internets says this would be the holy grail and the coolest thing since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; I just don’t see that many people diving head first into it. People say they want portability. This is obvious by the fact that laptop sales have out paced desktops by a ton in the last few years. The question really is wether or not the portable device can do all of the things a laptop can do sufficiently to replace the laptop? There seems to be some debate about this because it rather closely mimics the debate over current netbooks. Consumers seem to be deciding either they hate them because the don’t do everything their respective laptop or desktop can do, or they don’t really need those features or can live without them until they get back to their main machine at home or work. The thing is that the current iPod Touch or iPhone actually do the things a netbook can do, or more in some cases, except for that whole typing thing we discussed earlier. 

Okay so now here is what I propose Apple do to address the need for people who want a portable device that they can truly type on. 

The answer is don’t. I think the iMac G4 presentation said it best, Make each aspect independent of itself. If you are gonna type then sit at a real keyboard and type, otherwise wait and do it later. Need to type that much while portable, then get a real laptop. 

Now What I would really like to see them do is combine the concept of the Mac mini which was bring your own keyboard display and mouse, over to the iPhone and Touch. Imagine is you will a keyboard that has a docking station for an iphone or touch that lays flat. This keyboard can have video out to a display or HD TV and a USB port. You would use the iphone itself as the CPU/User folder/multi touch mouse pad. 

Apple has had this approach in the past with the Duo Laptop models. It sort of worked then and most people do have something resembling a type of docking station for laptops. I think this would be different because while the phone or touch is undocked it can run the iPhone version of the OS and truly be a good portable solution. When docked it would run a slimmer version of OSX but still more closely resemble the Finder we all know. 

In order for this work though a few things would have to happen…

1. More CPU and RAM in the iPhone itself or augment it with a Basic CPU and RAM in the keyboard dock station. 

2. Proper marketing for this would be to bill it as a work companion, other room setup, TV computer, something showing how this can be used in addition to your regular CPU. Or if the add on CPU is powerful enough, then as a replacement for your desktop. In my sales experience i have found the few people truly use the laptop for it’s portability sake other then to move from the desk to the couch or bed. They mainly want it because it is small. 

 

OKay well that about sums it up. I don’t think Apple should make a tablet, but at the most make a slightly larger ipod touch ( 5 inches maybe ) and use it as the basis for a portable CPU and don’t forget to BYOKDM.