October 5, 2011 will go down as one of the most bittersweet moments in technology history. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs passed away at 56, a sad end to a magnificent careeer.
Jobs wowed us. The man is the Walt Disney of the technology space – funny, in a way, as he's also Disney's largest shareholder. Apple, Pixar, Disney – three technology icons synonymous with magic.
I can't claim to have known Jobs personally. What I, and we, have seen of him, has been in carefully managed stage appearances over the years, with Jobs rolling out product after product that defined and launched industries, and prompted countless imitations. The Chinese even copied Apple's stores.
I remember how incredibly annoyed I was at Computex, wandering the halls and seeing row after row of candy-colored hardware, virtually everything that you could think of. I remember complaining to the guy who was on the stool next to mine at the hotel bar. Seriously, I said, is this the future? Watermelon-colored computers? And this Taiwanese guy, not even in technology, said something that's stuck with me: "Only until Apple invents whatever's next."
The iPhone 5 will be revealed in under an hour. In all likelihood, it won't be called that—that's just the general name people are calling the device, since it will technically be the fifth iPhone model from Apple. As with any iPhone launch, there have been the obligatory predictions, analysis, and mountains of rumors, but this launch is different from previous ones in a big and obvious way: Apple is unveiling the next iPhone in the fall instead of summer. Why?
It used to be there was a kind of unwritten agreement between Apple and its customers. Apple didn't say word one about any of its products until they were on the verge of general release. On the other side, customers and observers—the whole world, really—could rely on an extremely regular product release schedule: iPods in the fall, iPads in the winter/spring, and iPhones in the summer. It was so predictable you could plan vacations around it.
I've been a TiVo fan for many years, and a subscriber for about ten of those years. I've had various TiVo machines and have been happy with the performance of my HD TiVo. But like any tech-geek, I'm always interested in what's new.
The TiVo Premiere, released last year, intrigued me because of its HD interface, improved UI, larger storage capacity, and 1080p support. The specs sounded great and I was ready to upgrade my system, but as it approached time to pull the trigger, I began hearing stories of sluggish UI performance. Threads posted on TiVoCommunity.com indicate that the second core of the dual-core processor is disabled for stability reasons, thus crippling its Flash-based interface.
This week, TiVo announced the Premiere Elite ($499), which features four tuners and 2 terabytes of storage. Will it have a better processor that will take advantage of the HD UI or will it be more of the same? Unfortunately, I have a hunch that it will be more of the same.
In 2009, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs stepped down unexpectedly – for the first time.
Now, Tim Cook, Apple's new chief executive, is in the same place as he was before, being asked to lead a company that's associated, in many minds, with Jobs himself.
In 2009, I asked Marshall Goldsmith, the author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There, and 23 other books, and a columnist for the Harvard Business Publishing Web site what he thought Cook should do. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
Let's talk about Tim Cook. What sort of problems does he face, taking over for an iconic CEO like Jobs?
Big problems. Its not any fault of his. His problems are not that something's wrong with him. His problems are that he's replacing an icon. I was at UCLA when John Wooden was the basketball coach. The next coach was Gene Bartow, who got fired for winning 90 percent plus of his games. He wasn't John Wooden. It's incredibly difficult to replace someone who has seen as an icon.
The only thing I don't think people don't understand about good leaders is that they're both good and lucky. A lot of it is timing. If Jack Welch was still the CEO of General Electric, he wouldn't nearly be the icon he is today. The timing was good. General Electric's stock would have tanked whether he left or if he had stayed. But he happened to leave at the right time and so he came off as an iconic, do no wrong figure. But he was lucky. I'm sure he was a great CEO, but the thing is you can be a great CEO and the corporate results can tank.
I was just wondering what Google was going to do to prevent getting shut out of the mobile phone business. It was as if Google was down 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Google stepped up to the plate and hits a walk-off home run, with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.
This scenario is fascinating for a number of reasons. First of all, somewhere along the line, both Apple and Microsoft took a terrible dislike to this Android nonsense. First, Microsoft cozies up to Nokia to subvert Android (to no avail). Then Microsoft, Apple, and others pulled a trick play to get the Nortel patent assets in an effort to develop a patent portfolio to screw Google.
So Google knows it’s toast if it doesn't do anything. But what would it do? Did anyone call this one? Certainly, not me.
Let's face it, when it comes to mobile phone patents, Motorola easily has as many or more than Nortel, which is more into fiber and other comm patents. Google is now one up on the rest of these folks.
Yes, you can get a free cell phone with government assistance. If you make very little money, or you're part of other federal programs such as public housing, food stamps, SSI, or Medicaid, you can get a free mobile phone paid for by a fee on everyone else's phone bills.
This program has been around for years. According to the FCC, the government has been subsidizing landlines since 1984; the program, now called LifeLine, added mobile phones in 1997. LifeLine was enhanced in 2005 during the Bush administration, and TracFone's SafeLink, the first purely free LifeLine phone brand, started disbursing free phones in 2008.
"The telecoms haven't done a very good job promoting LifeLine, and the penetration rates have been dismal," said Jose Fuentes, Tracfone's director of government relations. TracFone operates SafeLink.
LifeLine is funded by the Universal Service Fund, which you see as a surcharge on your phone bill. Established by a 1996 law, the USF makes sure that people who live in rural and low-income areas, as well as schools and libraries can get phone service. It doesn't make a distinction between wired and wireless phones; you can get a subsidy for either, but you have to choose one.
I upgraded my MacBook Pro to Apple OS X Lion in a lunch hour. Okay, it wasn't a lunch hour—I couldn't wait that long—but even more astonishing than the expediency (30 minutes to download and 35 to upgrade) was the effortlessness of the process.
At 9am yesterday morning, I opened the Mac App Store, clicked purchase, and let the installer work its magic. When I returned to my machine, it donned a fresh new log-in screen and a new OS. As tech journalist, this ought to have delighted me. Instead, I was left hungering for more.
It's not that Lion isn't a graceful creature; Apple's latest OS adds poise to an already agile predecessor. The 250 new features—Mission Control has already changed how I work—touch every corner of the OS and surpass the 150 additions of the refinement-focused Snow Leopard. Yet I can't help feel that something important is happening—has already happened—to very concept of the OS.
Over the last few years, Apple has stockpiled cash in such huge amounts that investors often question Apple about its strategy of keeping so much money around. When asked about it, Steve Jobs and team always points out that the market is unstable and they need to have cash in place for good times and bad, as well as have money available for major acquisitions, as part of its growth strategy.
And even though this answer normally keeps its investors at bay, as Apple continues to grow its cash reserves, which currently sits somewhere around $70 billion, investors and media alike continue to tell Apple that perhaps it's time to release a dividend to shareholders. But Apple is steadfast about its position. An interesting post from an anonymous writer on Quora recently shared a fascinating view of why Apple keeps so much cash around.
Google+, the presumptive Facebook killer, shows tremendous potential. As someone who warms up to any social network with the alacrity of a Galápagos tortoise, this, for me, is saying something.
Yes, I'm one of the lucky ones who got a pre-over-capacity invite. I've tried to share a couple, but new Google+ users are only gaining entrance at a halting pace.
The service, which initially stuck me as a blatant Facebook rip-off, actually has many of its own charms, not the least of which is the useful, somewhat addictive Circles. I know this topic divides Google+ users. Some people do not like to spend time organizing their social contacts. I'm not sure I do either, but the method that Circles employs for discovery and organization (dragging and dropping people into actual circle graphics, for instance) is addictive and easily blows away anything Facebook ever developed.
Here comes the HTC Evo View 4G! And it's packing a lot of firsts for its Friday debut on Sprint: The tablet is Sprint's first 4G Android tablet to hit the market, period–that's the first tablet set up to work with the company's 4G WiMax network—around 5 Mbps downloads and 950 Kbps uploads.
Most importantly—for movie buffs—the HTC Evo View 4G is the first tablet to ship with built-in support for Netflix movie and video streaming. In doing so, it joins an exclusive club of Android devices that support the service: A sad list that's currently limited to just nine Android smartphones.
So what's the deal? Are other Android-equipped devices—both phones and tablets—just too slow to run Netflix? Not necessarily. A Sprint spokeswoman confirmed in an interview with Wired that the company performed plenty of testing to ensure that Netflix streaming would proceed smoothly across the company's network.
The more realistic answer as to why you can't yet get Netflix on, say, a Motorola Xoom tablet, is the ugly monster that often rears its head whenever Android upgrades are discussed: Fragmentation. In the case of Netflix, the company has to perform extra research and configuration to ensure that the digital rights management systems it employs work across a number of Android devices. And that's not just a work-once, works-everywhere kind of proposal.