To iPad or Not to iPad

Apple iPadTHE IPAD. Everyone’s talking about it, the preorders are already rolling in and as far as gadgets go, it’s one of the most anticipated releases of 2010. I feel I should be drawn to it straight away, but somehow that’s not the case.

I’m a gadget fan, no doubting that. From carrying multiple smartphones to iPods, iPhones, recording equipment, 3G this, WiFi that, GPS watches and more, I find myself yearning for the latest gadgets and toys. But for some reason, I can’t seem to find a want in me for the iPad.

As it stands, I carry an iPod touch with me on the road, a 3G iPhone in my pocket, a MacBook Pro in my bag and there’s a 24″ iMac sitting on my desk. All taken into consideration, I’ve a feeling that the iPad may well not be targeted at me and if I was pushing it in a shop, I’d be hitting the new home broadband users, the “silver surfers” or even the school kid generation.

It’s not going to do anything for me that I can’t already do. Sure enough, it will carry the apps I use daily, it will allow me to check mail and surf away to my hearts content, but that’s all achievable with the iPhone. I like the flexibility to use 3G access as opposed to WiFi when I’m out and about, something which I would have to fork out a lot more for on release of the European models of the iPad. It won’t make phone calls and won’t pack a video camera for the first generation, so video conferencing is out – though discoveries in the latest iPhone SDK may suggest different.

Yes, it bridges the gap size-wize. In the hands of an very young or elderly user, it’s not so small that you can’t read the names of apps on the screen or have difficulties in viewing the on-screen text when flicking through the New York Times or your latest eBook addition. The interface, as with that of the iPod / iPhone is quite simple to navigate and apps have made web access all the more easier for folk. Want weather? Tap here. Want news? Tap here. View photos? Tap here. Read email? Tap here.

With family connections coming and going from the US over the next few weeks, the question has come up again and again… “can I bring you anything home?”, quickly followed by “what about those ipad yokes?”.

While it would be very easy to say yes, it’s something I genuinely cannot (at least with what we know about the first generation model) justify in buying. It’s not so much the price (I was happy to go and shell out for a pre-paid iPhone 10 months ago rather than take one on contract), just the use, and potential lack of. I can’t carry it in my pocket and at the very most I reckon it could be used for some bedside browsing but then again, the iPhone and laptop take care of that.

I can’t even find a good reason to buy one for the office outside of demoing developments on-site but even that would be scraping the bottom of the reasoning barrel.

To iPad or not to iPad? I think not.

Am I Getting Closer To An iPhone?

iPhone 3.0 OS

I managed to remain reasonably disconnected over the weekend thanks to the multitude of other things happening in the real world but did get to catch up with the announcement of the 3.0 version of the iPhone OS. I can usually be found with three mobiles on my person at any one time, plus my iPod Touch, and an O2 broadband dongle not far behind either. My primary handset (N95) is due an upgrade in the next few weeks and I’m starting to wonder am I getting closer to picking up an iPhone.

The N95 is a workhorse of a phone, for me in particular. The 8 gig internal memory is chock full of photos and videos thanks to the 5MP camera within. Every few months I clear 2-3 thousand text messages. Every now and again I fire off a QIK video. But it’s the browsing that lets me down. I’m just not fond (outside of QIK) of using data applications on the N95 which, for the most part, surrounds the likes of Twibble (for twitter) and the mobile browser. Where possible (read: in a wifi area) I’ll switch to the iPod and pull my mail, tweets and everything else there.

The ideal situation is to pick up an iPhone and have it unlocked, jailbroken, call it what you like. It would need to juggle a few sim cards but out and about act as the holder for my O2 data sim, in the process saving me from hitting three different sims with three different data charges.

So with a new spotlight, the ability to copy and paste without a third-party app, 3G tethering for using the iPhone as a modem, a landscape keyboard, added Bluetooth A2DP support, MMS (welcome to the party, Apple), push notification for IM apps and a whole lot more.

Of course, I’m not surprised to see Apple charging $9.95 for iPod Touch users to get the OS (hell, they charged us for the MacBook Pro firmware upgrade for wireless N) but when the OS lands, I’m guessing I’ll be another step closer to picking up an iPhone.

Check out details of the iPhone 3.0 SDK here.

iTunes To Go DRM Free?

DRM sign, Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan.JPG
Creative Commons License photo credit: gruntzooki

It looks like iTunes is possibly going (completely) DRM-free? Great news for music lovers but whether or not it actually materialises is another thing. There are plenty of alternatives in the marketplace for DRM-free music downloads but according to this BBC article, it looks like Apple (who already sell DRM-free tracks from the EMI label) are about to sign off on a deal with the rest of the big four including Sony, Warner and Universal which would see all DRM copyright restrictions lifted from the iTunes store.

It might also bring about a change in pricing on the iTunes store – more for recent tracks, less for older tracks, but Apple’s pricing is a whole other kettle of fish.

We all knew it was going to come around eventually, right?

Update: TUAW has the details on price changes for 2009.

Save EUR250 On An iMac

iMac
Creative Commons License photo credit: KnOizKi

You can save €250 on a brand new 24″ Apple iMac.

How?

By not buying from the Apple store, funnily enough. While I love the Apple store online, and enjoy walking around the physical properties as well, you can’t argue with a saving of €250.

In January of this year I told myself that by the end of the year I would add an iMac to the family. I’m looking for something to handle my workload and free up the MacBook Pro for home use. After saving a few pennies I figured I would go for the 24″ iMac.

Yes, one could stop at the 20″ model but I’d set my mind on the 24″ 2.8Ghz model, retailing on the Irish Apple Store at €1599 or €1316 ex VAT.

I loaded up the cart, hovered, hovered, hovered, and walked away.

Coming back, I said I’d try Dabs for the craic to see if they sell Apple goodies, which they do. Low and behold on Dabs4Work.ie they have the same 24″ iMac, brand spanking new, at €1065 ex VAT. Like apple, they also offer same-day / 24-hour dispatch. At a saving to me of €250-odd Euro.

After a slight delay in trying to verify the address of my office, everything is on the way. The way the Euro vs Pound is working now, it certainly makes more sense to buy from Dabs as opposed to Apple.

Case in point (as highlighted on Twitter yesterday) – you can buy an Apple iPod Touch (8Gb) on the Irish Apple Store for €219. The same piece of hardware is £165 on the UK Apple Store, now the equivalent of €175 (with the Euro trading at STG 0.9411 at time of writing).

If you’re buying Apple this Christmas, at least for the moment, take the time to shop around online. A €250 would pretty much pay the tax on my van for 12 months, well worth it.

Tracking The Apple WWDC

A quick spy on TechCrunch this morning shows that Twitter have partnered with Summize to provide tracking of the Apple WWDC running in San Francisco until this Friday.

If you’re interested, you can follow the Summize output for ‘WWDC’ by clicking here or get the all encompassing feed of ‘WWDC, Apple, iPhone and Steve Jobs’ by clicking here.

The Australian Macintosh Community has live coverage available on MacTalk Australia while you can also track Macworld’s coverage here.

Though the event was sold out well in advance, Apple will be publishing sessions videos from across the week for purchase via iTunes. You can of course check the official Apple Developer Connection site for more on the WWDC.

Say Hello To 3G iPhone In Europe

If word is to be believed, we’re getting closer to the launch of the 3G iPhone in Europe, or at least the announcement of it. Of course, we’ve all known it’s been coming for months.

Engadget Mobile reports via Reuters that this Monday or Tuesday will see Italian mobile carrier TIM announce the availability of a 3G model of the iPhone, certainly something more suitable at present for potential Irish users.

Though I would be quite happy to bag an iPhone without 3G capability, the addition of the 3G service would certainly push me closer to picking one up as a second phone (yes, a *second* phone as I love my N95 a bit too much), with the option of running the iPhone as a strict data phone only.

Touch.net (translated from Italian) are reporting the launch date to be June 9/10, following an announcement from the US, presumably at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference being held in San Francisco next week.

Quadband GSM, triband HSDPA and GPS are all said to be a runner (see here) on the new model of the phone, along with a stylish new black design (black is the new black don’t you know) and a fwe aesthetic modifications.

Let’s wait and see what happens on Monday, shall we?

Convert DOCX To DOC On A Mac (OSX)

One of the developments of Microsoft Office 2007 was the introduction of the Office Open XML file format for Word Documents (extension is .docx), presentations etc. One of my clients has apparently upgraded in recent days as the new attachments I receive are all .docx, unreadable on the Mac in Office 2004, OpenOffice, any way you look at it.

None of the online converters I tried seemed to be working (one wanted a “lifetime” fee of US$5 to access to a conversion tool). Microsoft, on the other hand, released a beta converter for OSX that will convert your unreadable .docx documents to DOC / RTF format allowing them to be opened and edited. Via Microsoft…

Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac 0.2.1 (Beta)

This version of the converter extends the expiration date for this beta release.

This version of the converter can convert the following Open XML file formats:

  • Word Document (*.docx)
  • Word Macro-Enabled Document (*.docm)
  • PowerPoint Presentation (*.pptx)
  • PowerPoint Show (*.ppsx)
  • PowerPoint Template (*.potx)

The converter is a Beta release, and might be unable to convert all the data in Open XML files. After you convert a file, you should review the file carefully to make sure that it contains all of the information that you expect. For a complete list of known issues, install and open the converter, and then on the Help menu, click Office Converter Help.

This Beta release expires on December 31, 2008.

As converters go, it does exactly what it says on the tin. It installs with ease into your Applications folder then works on a drag-and-drop basis i.e. drag your unreadable document onto the app window and presto, one readable and workable document. You can find it by clicking here.

Antitrust To Cost Microsoft Another €899m

MicrosoftFour years ago Microsoft were fined €497m (as in million) by the European Commission, the company at the time ordered to release key parts of it’s Windows code to other developers. In 2006, the company were fined a further €280m. Today it emerges they’ve been stung for a staggering (in lay mans terms) sum of €899m, the EC finding Microsoft guilty of not handing over code and breaking an EU anti-trust ruling.

The sum equates to $1.4bn which works out at what, around 3.5% give-or-take of the total offered in Microsoft’s proposal to take over Yahoo? At the very least it would pay for a B2 bomber.

Whatever way you look at it, it’s still a huge chunk of cash to pay out, though I’m certainly interested in where this €899m will wind up. How about €899m worth of free software for schools in Europe?

In the press this morning, however, one might draw the idea that Microsoft would be challenging the imposed fine as they see it relating to issues resolved in the past.

We are reviewing the Commission’s action. The Commission announced in October 2007 that Microsoft was in full compliance with the 2004 decision, so these fines are about the past issues that have been resolved,” the company said in a statement. As we demonstrated last week with our new interoperability principles and specific actions to increase the openness of our products, we are focusing on steps that will improve things for the future,” the company said. (via)

You think the EU could step in and ask Apple to check their currency conversion rates at all?

This morning’s press release attributes the €899m fine to Microsoft having “charged unreasonable prices for access to interface documentation for work group servers“.

Check here for history on the antitrust case with Microsoft.

New MacBook Pro Rolls In

MacBook Pro 15″ ModelThe Apple store is getting a bundle of new products and price cuts of late – the arrival of the 32gb iPod Touch, the price cuts to the iPod Shuffle (1 gig model now available for €45 online) and the arrival of the MacBook Air. Now it’s the turn of the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

I’ve been a MacBook Pro user since December 2006 (seems like a lifetime ago now) and of all the laptops I’ve owned and used over the years I have to say it’s the best piece of computing kit I ever put money into. That said, if I was in the market for a new laptop, then the new MacBook (or Pro) models would be my first port of call.

In the Irish Apple Store you’ll find the MacBook starting from €999 while the MacBook Pro starts from €1799. Though if you want my advice, buy foreign… it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.

The 15 inch MacBook Pro model (of which I’m using) now comes with 200gb HD space as standard, processor upped to 2.4GHz (I’m on 2.16) and NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics with 128MB SDRAM.

Move up to the next model (2.5GHz 15 inch) and you’ve got yourself an extra 50gb HD space and your graphics card gets bumped up to 256mb (extra 400 euro). The real sweetness is in the new 17 inch model, busting out a screen resolution of 1680 x 1050, 250gb HD, LED backlit screen option and graphics bumped up to 512mb on order.

The MacBooks too have some nice new additions, again with processor, HD and graphics all getting a boost.

Each model ships with 2GB RAM as standard and multi-touch (via MacBook Air) has also been added.

Check here for MacBooks
and here for MacBook Pros on the Irish Apple store.