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40 years of Apple: Apple’s most innovative products

Since the 1970s, Apple has been at the front of the new technology pack. Here’s a look at 18 of its most influential and impactful products.

Apple’s most innovative products
Recently TIME Magazine issued a fascinating list ranking the 50 most influential gadgets of all time. Not surprisingly, Apple’s iconic iPhone appeared in the top spot, while two other Apple products—the iPod and the original Mac—also managed to crack the top 10.

In light of TIME’s ranking, not to mention the fact that Apple last month celebrated its 40-year anniversary, we felt it was time to dust off the history books and take a look back at Apple’s most influential, impactful and important products throughout the company’s illustrious history.

While Apple today is typically associated with the iPhone, the company’s track record for innovative products stretches all the way back to the 1970s.

That said, the following slides highlight Apple’s most important and revolutionary products over the past 40 years, from the original Apple I all the way through the iPhone 6s.

Bondi Blue iMac
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the future of the company was not entirely certain. Apple was famously saddled with a convoluted and confusing product line. More than that, the company lacked direction and a true sense of purpose. As a result, there was a lot of pressure during the 1997/1998 timeframe for Jobs and Apple to deliver something special.

The original Bondi Blue iMac was the first major product released under Jobs’ second tenure at Apple, and it delivered in a major way. Released in 1998, the iMac featured an all-in-one design along with an elegant translucent blue shell. To put it mildly, the original iMac did not look like other computers, thus embodying Apple’s ad slogan at the time—Think Different.

The iMac was an eye-catching machine that quickly became a hit. More broadly, it signaled that Apple was a force to be reckoned with in the tech industry again. Notably, the original iMac shipped without a floppy drive and introduced the world to the ‘i’ product branding scheme that still defines the company’s products today.

iBook G3
Much like the Bondi Blue iMac, Apple’s 1999 iBook G3 stood out with a colorful and original industrial design. But what makes the iBook G3 such an important computer is that it was the first consumer laptop to feature 802.11b Wi-Fi networking built right in. Though most of us take Wi-Fi for granted today, wireless networking was far from ubiquitous in the late 1990s.

Without question, the iBook G3 was a forward-thinking machine that helped introduce many users to the joys of Wi-Fi. Also notable, if not downright quirky, is that the iBook G3 featured a colored plastic handle for easy transport.

Original 1984 Mac
Apple’s 1984 Mac helped usher in a computing revolution and is today considered one of the most iconic and influential products ever released. Featuring an all-in-one design, the Mac was the first mainstream computer to ship with a mouse and the first computer to introduce the world to a graphical user interface (GUI). Suffice it to say, the Mac revolutionized the way we interact with and use computers by making the entire computing experience much more intuitive and inviting. As a point of interest, Apple’s 1984 Mac was originally priced at $2,495.

Original iPod
If the Mac changed how we interact with computers, the iPod completely and forever changed how we listen to music. Much more than just an advertising slogan, “1000 songs in your pocket” was a reality that was every music lover’s dream come true.

Instead of having to lug around binders full of CDs, music fans for the first time could carry their entire music collection in one lone compact device. While initial iPod sales were somewhat modest, the device would eventually go on to become one of Apple’s most profitable and iconic products.

Over a period of six to seven years, Apple skillfully and masterfully iterated the iPod with tons of new features and form factors. It added more storage capacity, more colors and eventually video capabilities. Bolstered by creative marketing campaigns, the iPod was a money-making machine for Apple and a beloved device for millions of users for years on end.

PowerBook 520
While Apple today is primarily associated with the iPhone, the company has a long history of introducing incredible innovations in the notebook space. With that as a backdrop, there’s no question that Apple’s most legendary and innovative notebook was the PowerBook 520.

Originally released in 1994, Apple’s PowerBook 520 is one of the most important laptop releases in computer history. The sheer number of computing “firsts” associated with the notebook is staggering. Specifically, and most importantly, the PowerBook 520 was the first laptop to feature a trackpad instead of a trackball. It was also the first laptop to feature built-in Ethernet connectivity.

It’s fair to say that the PowerBook 520 effectively created a blueprint that all other laptops would eventually follow.

Original iPhone
What can be said about the iPhone that hasn’t already been said? Released in 2007, the iPhone immediately altered the technological landscape for good—and for the better. In one fell swoop, Apple showed us what the future of computing looked like, and it wasn’t long before other companies followed suit with their own iPhone copies. The iPhone remains a truly once-in-a-lifetime product whose impact is perhaps unrivaled by most every other product that has been released in recent memory.

Consequently—and unsurprisingly—the iPhone is Apple’s most lucrative device in company history, generating hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for the company over the years.

Apple II
The Apple II, originally released in 1979, helped revolutionize the world of computing as we know it. The obvious successor to the Apple I, the Apple II was famously the brainchild of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

What made the Apple II so unique is that came with support for color graphics and allowed owners to customize the machine with items such as more memory. When sales of the Apple II took off, many Apple employees quickly became extraordinarily wealthy.

More broadly, the wild success of the Apple II sparked a period of tremendous growth for Apple, as it remained the world’s top purveyor of PCs for a notable period of time.

PowerBook 100
Considered by many to be Apple’s first true laptop, the PowerBook 100 was released in 1991 and featured a trackball. While seemingly a clunky solution for user navigation by today’s standards, it certainly did the trick a few decades ago. And while the PowerBook’s 5.1-lb. frame and 9-in. display aren’t all that impressive compared to today’ svelte notebooks, it was particularly impressive back in 1991. Originally priced at $2,500, the PowerBook 100—which was actually designed by Sony—came with a 16-MHz processor and 2MB of RAM.

iPad
Following up on the success of the iPhone was no easy feat, but Apple managed to surprise everyone when it released the iPad in April 2010. While the iPad initially got off to a slow start sales wise, things picked up as Apple’s iconic tablet quickly became one of the most successful and popular consumer electronic products in history.

In a very real sense, the iPad kick-started the tablet era. While the iPad obviously wasn’t the first tablet to hit the market, it was undoubtedly the first tablet to go mainstream and quickly ushered in a wave of competing tablets from the likes of Samsung and eventually Microsoft. While iPad sales today have seemingly slowed down a bit, there’s no denying that the product will always hold a unique place in computing history.

MacBook Air
The MacBook Air was originally introduced at Macworld 2008 when Steve Jobs, who always had a flair for the dramatic, pulled it out of a manila envelope on stage to demonstrate how thin it was. Upon its release, the MacBook Air was touted as being the thinnest laptop ever developed. Additionally, the original MacBook Air is notable for being the first modern Apple laptop to ship without an optical drive, a controversial move at the time.

iPod Mini
While not the first iPod ever released, the iPod Mini was the first iPod model to be a breakout hit. Positioned as an ultra-portable flash-based MP3 player, the iPod Mini—thanks to a compact form factor and a collection of vibrant colors—became an immediate hit. It was released in February 2004, and for most iPod owners, it represented their first foray into the Apple ecosystem.

Apple I
The granddaddy of them all, The Apple I is the machine that helped put Apple on the map. Famously developed in a garage—primarily by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak—the Apple I may seem ancient by today’s standards, but back in 1976 it was somewhat revolutionary insofar as it didn’t require vast technical skills to assemble.

While users were still required to supply their own keyboards and monitors, the Apple I’s ease of use relative to other computers of the day was the forbearer of Apple’s “It just works” tagline. Extremely rare today, working Apple I machines often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions. As a quick point of interest, the specs on the Apple 1 included a 1-MHz processor and 4KB of RAM. Also interesting is that the initial price for the machine was $666.66.

App Store
While the initial iPhone was unquestionably a game-changer, the introduction of the App Store one year later pushed the value proposition of the iPhone into the stratosphere.

For the first time, lone developers had a means by which to develop their own applications and make them available to millions of users at a price point of their own choosing. Indeed, the App Store today is effectively its own economy, having earned developers billions of dollars over the years.

Aluminum iMac
In August of 2007, Apple introduced a completely redesigned iMac that thankfully utilized an aluminum and glass construction as opposed to the white polycarbonate of its predecessor. Apple’s 2007 iMac design is still in use today, though the machine has gotten noticeably thinner in recent years. Still, the original aluminum iMac was a sight to behold. In addition to a sleek new look, Apple’s 2007 iMac also introduced larger screens, as the machine was available in 20-in. and 24-in. form factors.

iTunes
Originally released in January 2001 as a basic media player, iTunes would eventually go on to become Apple’s digital hub and the means by which users hooked up their iPods and later their iPhones to their media content.

In 2003, when Apple added the iTunes Music Store, Apple forever changed the way we listen to and purchase music. These days, iTunes is a popular target for critics who call the software bloated, clunky and dated. While such proclamations are perhaps true, iTunes in the early 2000s provided a clean and intuitive interface that helped make using an iPod such a frictionless joy. It also made burning CDs a breeze.

More than that, iTunes—and the accompanying iTunes Store—demonstrated that consumers were more than willing to pay for TV shows, movies and music if doing so is easy and affordable.

Aluminum PowerBook G4
Apple’s PowerBook series began in 2001, but it wasn’t until the Aluminum PowerBook G4 was released in 2003 that we truly saw a desktop-equivalent laptop from Apple hit store shelves.What also made the PowerBook G4 so special is that it helped inform the industrial design of future Apple laptops for about five years.

iPhone 5s
While some iPhone models have been incremental upgrades, the iPhone 5s—thanks to the inclusion of Touch ID—was a real step forward in mobile innovation. In a world where most people didn’t use passcodes, the iPhone 5s introduced the world to Touch ID, instantly and seamlessly making our phones more secure in the process.

In short, the iPhone 5s brought advanced fingerprint technology recognition to the mainstream, thus prompting other device manufacturers to follow with their own implementations. Since the iPhone 5s, Apple has built on Touch ID with the release of Apple Pay.

Original MacBook Pro
In addition to being Apple’s top-of-the line notebook, the 2006 MacBook Pro is noteworthy for being the first Apple laptop to ship with an Intel processor. If you recall, Steve Jobs’ June 2005 announcement that Apple was transitioning away from the PowerPC platform ruffled more than a few feathers. That said, the transition to Intel was rather seamless, and current CEO Tim Cook is often given a lot of credit for that. No doubt helping matters was that consumers absolutely flocked to the original MacBook Pro in droves.

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5 dead operating systems, and what their ghosts can tell us

We conduct a séance of sorts to call forth the souls of operating systems past—not so we can gaze upon their ghastly interfaces, but to learn from their tragic demises.

Tremble, mortals! Halloween is upon us. Ghosts, ghouls, and other undesirable creatures are prepared to slink out of their domains and into ours—it’s said that even the dead can rise on Halloween.

In that spirit, let us light some candles, cover the mirrors, and conduct a séance of sorts to call forth the souls of operating systems past. Not so we can gaze upon their ghastly interfaces, but to see if we can learn anything from their digital carcasses and signs of a life well-lived—or not. Who knows, perhaps they bring secrets from beyond the grave.

Windows XP
Windows XP proved to be a hit since its inception. Sure, it took Service Pack 2 to create the operating system we call XP today, but at the operating system’s launch in 2001 the basics were already there. It’s a good thing too, as Windows XP was destined to live long past its shelf life.

Windows XP’s extended life started with Microsoft’s Sisyphean effort on project ‘Longhorn,’ which included ambitious hopes for new features. As due date after due date slipped for Longhorn, more people became invested in the familiar and near-universal XP, and to disdain change of any kind.

When Longhorn finally emerged from its 5.5 year development in 2007 as Windows Vista, users were shocked and appalled by Microsoft’s proposed XP replacement. It took another two years of development and the release of Windows 7 before Windows XP would finally begin to lose ground. Yet it was another four to five years (depending on whom you ask) before Windows 7 would replace XP as the most widely used operating system in the world.

Today, four iterations of Windows after XP, the 14 year-old OS still claims more than 12 percent of online PC usage worldwide, according to Net Applications. This is despite the fact that Microsoft ceased delivering security updates for XP in April 2014—a year and a half ago.

Lesson learned: Don’t let your software live on too long, or it will grow up to be a dangerous zombie.

Windows RT

When Microsoft announced Windows RT, originally known as Windows on ARM, people were excited about the possibility. Finally, the energy-efficient ARM processor architecture—ubiquitous on mobile devices—would earn its own version of Windows.

What became Windows RT, however, was a terrible joke of an OS. Like Windows 8, RT offered a dual-identity desktop interface and modern UI. The desktop was hobbled, because it couldn’t run any other traditional Windows software—just Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. Windows RT users didn’t have much to do on the touch-friendly side of Windows either, due to Microsoft’s poor efforts to convince developers to build Modern apps for the Windows Store.

Toward the end of its life, RT was no better than a glorified web browser with a smattering of ho-hum apps. Meanwhile, Intel’s Atom chips quickly closed the gap with ARM’s energy efficiency, leaving little reason to opt for Windows on ARM.

Microsoft was never clear enough on what it wanted to do with Windows RT. The result was a poorly thought-out ecosystem that led to death by indifference. Windows RT tablets aren’t being upgraded to Windows 10, and even Microsoft’s own budget Surface line ditched Windows RT for Windows proper in its third iteration.

Lesson learned: Ghosts of Windows RT linger on in Windows 10’s universal apps and Windows Phone compatibility, but Windows RT was nothing short of a disaster with consumers—understandably so, given its radical new interface and limited software capabilities. Even if you’re trying to move an ecosystem forward, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Mac OS in all its graphical interface glory.
One of Apple’s founding principles is that PCs—and technology in general—should be a delightful, even magical, experience. That vision came to the fore with the original Macintosh operating system. The first Mac OS was a revelation that popularized the visual PC interface and mouse navigation for home users.

The downside, however, is that a lot of what made Mac OS so magical required technological trickery and clever solutions to help a constrained system perform beyond what was expected. Original Macintosh users were forced to constantly swap out disks constantly because of RAM restrictions.

It was a pain to do—sometimes literally—but many people didn’t mind because the user experience on the screen was simply so much better than anything else out there.

os2box
During the early days of computing, IBM was a dominating force with its line of personal computers. When the company began producing the operating system OS/2 with Microsoft, the plan was to use the new OS to push even more sales of IBM hardware. That worked for a while, but the end of the line for OS/2 took shape once Microsoft produced Windows 3.0. After that, Microsoft ceased co-development of OS/2 to focus on Windows, and IBM was chasing Microsoft ever after. Pundits still argue over whether early Windows or OS/2 was better.

Regardless, OS/2’s undoing was that Microsoft outflanked IBM at every turn.
Microsoft bundled Windows with all kinds of hardware, as it does today, while OS/2 was sold separately and designed to push IBM machines. That approach just didn’t work when faced with the juggernaut that was Microsoft—it also didn’t help that Microsoft cheated. Once Windows 95 came out, OS/2 was all but done. IBM’s operating system faded out by 2000, but just like with Windows XP, you can probably find the odd ATM or small business inventory system still running on OS/2.

Lesson learned: Even juggernauts can fall. Adapt—which is exactly what Microsoft’s trying to do with Windows 8 and 10—or die.
The ghosts of Linux past

In 2015, we officially bid goodbye to Mandriva, a once-popular Linux distribution. This version of Linux started out life as Mandrake until the company running the distro merged with Conectiva in 2005 to become Mandriva. Many veteran Linux users cut their teeth on Mandrake or Mandriva, including PCWorld’s own Linux watcher, Chris Hoffman.

Get it? A penguin skeleton?
Mandriva lost its spot as the “easy Linux” distro after Canonical’s Ubuntu appeared in 2004. Seven years later, development ceased. Mandriva is just one of the many Linux distributions that have faded into oblivion—CrunchBang, supported by a single developer, is another one we recently covered.

Linux may be a force in the server world, but it has never succeeded at winning over masses of desktop users. Its openness encourages many developers to create their own Linux distributions and then fight with the hundreds of other distros for a slice of a tiny user base. Unsurprisingly, there’s a healthy amount of churn among distributions, even the popular ones.

Lesson learned: Like your Linux distro, but don’t fall in love. You may wind up leaving the party sooner than you think.

That’s the end of our ghoulish walk through the graves of operating systems past. Now we close the PC crypt for yet another year…until the ghouls of dead PCs past rise again.


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Review: Apple shines up OS X with ‘El Capitan’

In Mac OS X 10.11, most of the improvements are under the hood

Apple’s new Macintosh operating system, OS X 10.11 “El Capitan,” is named after a prominent rock formation in Yosemite National Park. That’s fitting because the new OS is designed with rock-solid stability in mind. El Capitan is the 12th iteration of the OS powering Apple’s desktop computer lineup, and as the name implies, it on the shoulders of its predecessor.

Just as iOS 9 was built on the foundation laid by iOS 8 for mobile devices, El Capitan improves on the many changes introduced in 2014’s Yosemite — which included new features such as Continuity and a smarter Spotlight search tool. El Capitan adds more polish than features, though there are quite a few of those to explore, as well.

Among the changes made to apps and sprinkled throughout the operating system are better security and a move to Apple’s Metal graphics technology (which debuted in iOS) for the system and apps. (Metal replaces OpenGL.) El Capitan also cements in place the adoption of Apple’s home-grown programming language, Swift, which allows developers to write apps with smaller latency and more efficient performance.

Like other recent OS X releases, El Capitan is a free download from the App Store. The system requirements are 2GB of RAM and 8GB of available storage. El Capitan will run on Macs that date as far back as mid-2007. (If you’re still using a Mac from 2007, though, you should really look into upgrading your hard drive to an SSD for more 2015-like performance.)

But while older Macs can run El Capitan, those systems can’t take advantage of all of its features. For instance, although El Capitan is designed to take advantage of both the CPU and the GPU for processing power, only Macs with modern graphics cards — basically, those released since 2012 — will be able to utilize this feature. (More on this below.)

Metal and Swift

The addition of Apple’s Metal graphics technology is good news for gamers and other users. Metal is a set of application program interfaces (APIs) designed to supplant OpenGL. The Metal API is actually an Apple-designed combination of OpenGL and OpenCL, which debuted last year in iOS 8. (OpenCL is used to take advantage of every processor on a computer, CPU and graphics card included.)

Metal was designed for efficiency — a requirement for mobile devices that need long battery life — and is a much lighter API for graphics compared to OpenGL, letting the graphics card be used more effectively and freeing up the CPU for other tasks. For desktops and laptops, Apple rewrote OS X system software (like the Graphics stack) to take advantage of Metal, resulting in a 50% improvement in rendering performance system-wide and 40% better efficiency (the latter will help laptop users by prolonging battery-charge life).

Apple boasts that El Capitan is 1.4 times faster than previous OS X versions for app launching, twice as fast at switching apps and four times faster at opening PDFs. At the same time, Apple claims a 70% reduction in CPU usage compared to apps written using OpenGL.

Adobe representatives on stage during Apple’s September 9th event claimed an eight-fold improvement in using the Adobe After Effects graphics software. Users should find that their systems are more responsive with smoother animations and faster application launches. There is also the promise of future improvements for games and other apps; however, those games and apps must first be rewritten to take advantage of Metal.

Another under-the-hood technology available to developers is Swift 2.0, which is designed to simplify coding (relatively speaking) while making it easy for OS X software to take advantage of the built-in hardware — such as using the graphics card for data processing when possible. I’m not a programmer, but anything that allows developers to streamline their software is a good thing.

Not everything in El Capitan is behind the scenes and waiting for developers. There are some user-facing features as well.

The first thing astute users may notice is that El Capitan uses a new system font: San Francisco. This font is designed to make text more legible for Apple’s high-definition Retina displays. It works as intended, but the difference will probably be overlooked by any but the most fastidious font fanatics.

OS X gets a new enhanced-for-Retina system font: San Francisco.
The updated Finder builds on Yosemite’s improvements by applying a new split-screen app mode in addition to the full-screen mode that debuted in Yosemite. The split-screen mode can be enabled in a couple of ways. First, you can drag a Finder window to the top of the menu bar and then drop that window on an existing full-screen app space in Mission Control. Or you can press and hold the green button on an app window — doing so will make that app fill up half the screen and any open windows display in miniature, letting you select one to fill the other side of the screen.

A clear divider separates the two apps, and each operates independently. The divider can be dragged from side to side to adjust each app’s window size. The menu bar at the top of the display automatically changes to accommodate the front-most app, which is normal app behavior Mac users are accustomed to.

It’s an elegant solution, one I like a lot, but it’s not necessarily obvious to new users. Of course, it’s also very similar to Microsoft’s implementation in Windows 10.

Managing windows via Mission Control also received attention in El Capitan. Any window dragged to the title bar will activate Mission Control, which lets you move apps to different virtual desktops. Dragging an app window into any existing Space automatically places the window there; dragging the window into a Dpace occupied by a full screen app activates a split-screen view; and dragging a window to the upper right of the display creates a new Space with that window in it.

Spotlight, now with more Siri

Spotlight receives some really useful upgrades in El Capitan. Yes, you can move around the search field and results window; they’re no longer locked in place at the center of your display. There’s also added functionality in search results: Spotlight can check sports data (such as information about favorite athletes or scores, team schedules and standings); it can check weather conditions and forecasts; and when you search for a company’s ticker symbol, it can look up stock prices.

The biggest improvement comes in the form of queries, similar to the ones you can ask Siri on iOS. Spotlight now supports natural language search, which generally means Spotlight is as useful as Siri, even though the searches have to be manually typed rather than spoken aloud as you would with an iPhone.

At the iPhone 6S launch event, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, demonstrated this function by typing a search for emails from Phil Schiller that had been ignored. The search results showed unread messages from Schiller. I’ve used Spotlight to search for documents and videos created during certain time periods, as well as to search for New England Patriot game scores and standings.

There is one minor caveat: When you type a Spotlight search query, you can’t press Enter; you have to wait for the results to display after you finish typing them in, even if that takes a while. While this is taking place, there’s no obvious indicator that a search is in progress. It’s a little annoying, because many users will be inclined to press the Enter key to make sure a search is in progress. That effectively selects the first result and closes the Spotlight search window. That could result in, say, an app launch you didn’t intend. Big deal? No. Annoying? Usually.

For developers, Apple has designed a new API that can display search results of in-app content, which means better search results when developers incorporate this feature in their apps.
Apple app changes

Safari gets a number of useful additions this year, but they’re mostly tweaks, such as pinned sites, audio muting and — Apple TV users will welcome this — built-in AirPlay support for videos.

About that last feature: Videos will now get an additional control icon; tapping the AirPlay icon lets you choose any Apple TV in range so that the video plays through it instead of in the browser window. Previously, this was only possible via third-party plugins, such as ClickToFlash.

While the built-in functionality lacks advanced features found in third-party plugins (ClickToFlash lets you download content instead of simply playing it, for instance), Apple’s addition to Safari is stable and works well enough for most people who just want a no-fuss way to stream content to Apple TV. Safari also supports HTML 5 picture-in-picture to enable custom controls for HTML 5 videos and streaming of FairPlay content.

Pinned Sites, which keeps a small, active tab of any website you wish to keep in the Tab section of the app, just to the left; these tabs stay open, yet out of the way, for quick access to frequently visited sites.

A load-blocking API for extensions, which lets Web developers block content from loading from a large collection of sources, using minimal resources without hindering Safari performance — and perhaps actually improving it.

Force Touch mouse events support, which will enable developers to add interactivity based on the amount of pressure exerted in a tap on supported laptops, as well as haptic feedback.
And better audio/video content control: You can now easily silence sudden audio/video from a background or foreground tab, such as when a video or ad loads that you didn’t really want to play/hear. From within the Web address bar, clicking on the speaker icon will instantly mute all Safari content. Then Safari will show you which tab has the offending content when you click and hold on that speaker icon. Super simple and super useful.

Mail snags a feature from iOS by gaining more gesture support in the Mail list; the gestures perform different behaviors, depending on whether you swipe left or right with two fingers. These gestures can trigger events like deleting, flagging or marking mail as read (without actually opening the message).

Mail also fixes a problem inherent to full-screen apps that require multiple windows. In Yosemite, when a new message was created while Mail was running in full-screen mode, it wasn’t possible to view other messages; they resided in the main window behind the message being composed. In El Capitan, it’s now possible to minimize the message window and access other emails and mailboxes; and if you’re writing more than one email, they show up in tabs, similar to tabs in the Safari browser.

While iOS 9 offers improvements aimed at predicting what a user will do or what information will be needed, there are now aspects of Mail in El Capitan that offer this, too. For instance, data detectors have been improved, offering suggestions at the top of an email body when they detect phrases in a message that could yield calendar entries, like “Let’s go out for dinner at five.” This is called suggested events; the same proactive behavior also accounts for potential contacts.

Notes

Notes has been updated to bring feature parity with its iOS 9 counterpart, including instant checklist creation, support for inline video and images, and URL snippets with preview. There’s a new button that triggers an Attachments view, which organizes attachments from across all of your notes into one area, split into categories like Photos & Video, Sketches, Map Locations, Websites, Audio and Documents.

All of the new Notes features are accessible via the app’s toolbar. And beyond the Notes app itself, there is now an extension in the Share button of supported apps that lets you add content from within that app to a new or existing note. Of course, any addition, subtraction or modification to your notes is synced across every device signed in with that Apple ID.

Maps

Like Notes, Maps has been improved in El Capitan to create functional parity with iOS 9. Specifically, you can plan routes using public transportation with Transit view, which supports walking directions as well as subway, train, ferry and bus information. Like iOS 9’s Maps, Transit data has been surveyed so that Maps shows you the most efficient routes, exits and drop off stops to get to where you’re going. As before, you can send those directions to the iPhone from your Mac.

Security

Behind the scenes improvements include security additions, with the most important one in El Capitan called System Integrity Protection (SIP). At its core, System Integrity Protection is a security policy that is applied to every running process. This process protects system files and only allows modifications from the system’s installer app and software updates. Code injection and runtime attachments to system binaries are no longer permitted.

What this basically means is that SIP does not allow unauthorized manipulation of important system files, which should help prevent security breaches.

Bottom line

There’s a wealth of new features in El Capitan that seem minor — until you need them. (You can, for instance, find a lost cursor on the screen by shaking your mouse back and forth rapidly, and you’ll be able to eventually download extensions to the Photos app for manipulating your images.)

These may not be ground-breaking changes to apps and the operating system, but this collection of small additions makes using El Capitan a little faster, smoother, easier and better. And the under-the-hood technologies lay the groundwork for richer apps down the road. It’s these usability iterations found throughout El Capitan that make the biggest difference.

As with any major software upgrade, make sure your apps are supported before moving to El Capitan. If you’re hesitant about upgrading, it isn’t a bad idea to hold off a while and see if any major bugs are discovered. But because this version was vetted throughout the summer with a public beta program, I’m not expecting any showstoppers now that the final version has arrived.

In a nutshell: El Capitan does what it is designed to — streamline OS X across the board, making it more efficient to run and flat-out easier to use. It’s free, it runs well and I recommend it.

Installation advice

If you’ve decided to take the OS X 10.11 plunge, make sure to back up your system before upgrading. Apple’s built-in Time Machine feature works well — all you have to do to turn it on in System Preferences and plug in an external hard drive; the Mac will automatically ask if you want to use it to start a backup. (Alternatively, there are other third-party utilities like SuperDuper that offer more control if you’re more technically minded.)

This is also a good time to run a diagnostic on your Mac’s file system. To do this, restart your computer holding down the Command and R keys at startup and then use Disk Utility to check for unseen problems. You can also use Alsoft’s DiskWarrior, a much better third-party alternative. My feeling is that DiskWarrior is the rare piece of software that should be in everyone’s arsenal, regardless of experience level.

OS X 10.11 installer

Once backups and diagnostics are out of the way, El Capitan can be obtained from the Mac App Store and will download to your Applications folder. To manually install it, double-click the installer icon, enter your username and password and select your target destination. The installer does the rest.

Here’s an important point: If you have more than one Mac in your home and/or limited bandwidth for downloads, you can use the same installer on multiple machines. Copy the file from the Applications folder to another Mac via AirDrop in a Finder window or transfer it to an external disk. Just sure to do this before running the El Capitan installer. If you don’t, when the installation is complete, the Installer will delete itself.

 

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New Jobs movie: A quieter, more authentic portrait

This isn’t an actor’s portrayal; it instead relies on archival footage and interviews of people who knew Jobs personally.

This October, Michael Fassbender will join Ashton Kutcher among the actors to have played Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin’s movie adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography is one of many dramatizations of the life of Apple’s co-founder, who died in 2011.

This week sees a quieter yet more authentic release in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, available Sept. 4 in theaters and on iTunes from Magnolia Pictures. Rather than offering a straight biography, Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney sets out to answer a question: Why were so many people so moved by the death of someone who he describes as “ruthless, deceitful, and cruel”? If we loved products that came from someone also described as incapable of love, what does that say about the man?

To solve that mystery, Gibney narrates as he investigates Jobs and the people whose lives he touched directly. Unlike more dramatic films, this movie’s Steve Jobs is played by Steve Jobs courtesy of such archival footage the 1995 “lost” interview, his 2008 deposition about issues related to the backdating of stock options, his Stanford commencement speech and his many MacWorld and WWDC appearances, including his last in June 2011.

Balancing these familiar reels are original interviews with employers and colleagues such as Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and 1984 commercial mastermind Regis McKenna, former lover Chrisann Brennan and travel buddy Dan Kottke, pop culture expert Sherry Turkle and reporters from Gizmodo and Fortune. Absent are the most well-known Apple employees Tim Cook or Jony Ive, or co-founder Steve Wozniak, and family, including Laurene Jobs and Lisa Brennan-Jobs (although an actor reads an excerpt of the latter’s “Confessions of a Lapsed Vegetarian”).

It wasn’t just his customers, but his friends and family, who fell under Jobs’ spell. Bob Belleville, director of engineering for Macintosh, 1982 -1985, was the most emotional of Gibney’s guests. Describing Jobs as a cross between James Dean, Princess Diana, John Lennon and Santa Claus, Belleville reflected, “It’s easy to make chaos, and if you’re comfortable with it, you can use it as a tool [as Jobs did] to get other people involved in his schemes. He’s seducing you, he’s vilifying you, and he’s ignoring you. You’re in one of those three states.” The demands of launching the Macintosh cost Belleville his wife and children, but in hindsight, it seems a price he was willing to pay: “It was a life well and fully lived — even if it was a bit expensive for those of us who were close.”

Jobs, who believed simplicity was the ultimate sophistication, fell short in this area as well, but the film does not shy from moments of subtlety. When playing an old interview with Kobun Chino, an early mentor of Jobs’, the film makes a one-time transition from live action to animation, using simple black-and-white line art to depict master and student. This sequence is both surprising and elegant: it stands out for being so different from the rest of the film, yet the transition to and from this sequence and its slower, simpler pace represent something Jobs never achieved. It dovetails with Brennan’s observation that Jobs sought and attained enlightenment yet retained his ego. “He blew it,” she sighs — referring not to his commercial or design success, but to his humanity.

Jobs didn’t seem willing or able to connect with humanity, his own or others’ — so he instead created a company that connected with people, and which helped them connect with each other. Said Jobs, “People sometimes forget that they’re unique. The whole computer industry wants to forget about the humanist side and just focus on the technology. Can we do more than just spreadsheets and word processors? Can we help you express yourself in richer ways?”

It’s almost as though Apple were a proxy for something Jobs lacked in his own life: If consumers loved Apple, then it’s almost as if they loved him. Said Kottke, Apple employee number 12, of Jobs being adopted at birth, “That was clearly a very defining image in his life: both that he was rejected and he was special.” That dichotomy would resonate throughout Jobs’ 56 years.

Retellings of Jobs’ life often omit details of his 12 years away from Apple; after all, “Apple was a 30-year sitcom, and Steve was the main character,” said McKenna. Likewise, except for a brief interview with NeXT engineer Michael Hawley, The Man in the Machine glosses over that era and how it affected Jobs. We instead return to Apple, where Andy Grignon, senior manager of the iPhone, paints Jobs as a Godfather-like figure one crossed at one’s own peril.

Yet for all these damning recollections, the film is balanced by letting Jobs speak for himself. Whether he’s enthusiastically introducing the iMac to a reporter, presenting the iPad to a crowd, speaking candidly with Walt Mossberg, or being interrogated for a deposition, he never comes across as wicked or vile or cruel. Throughout his life, he’s passionate, dedicated, and driven; near the end, he seems tired, even a bit scared. Even if the facts of the film were familiar to me, perhaps Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field extends from beyond the grave, as I felt I saw a side of Jobs that was hitherto unknown to me.

In the last 30 minutes, this two-hour documentary hits upon Apple’s many scandals and outrages in rapid succession: The antitrust suit with Google; backdated stock options; suicides at iPhone manufacturer Foxconn; and the iPhone 4 leak to Gizmodo. It’s almost as though the director wanted to end on a low note, with Jobs’ life petering out in ignominy. In reality, this lopsided view of Jobs’ Machiavellian qualities underscores the gulf between the man and our adoration of him.

Gibney’s conclusion was that our love for Jobs originated not with the man, but what he gave us — which was more than a product. Devices like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone were personal, helping us to connect not just with each other, but with ourselves. Says Gibney: “Jobs’ genius was in how he sold the iPod. It wasn’t a machine for you; it was you.” When Jobs died, a bit of ourselves died with him.

That’s not something I think we’re likely to find in Michael Fassbender.
 

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Twitter may turn to Apple to help distribute tweets

Twitter may turn to Apple to help distribute tweets

Tweets might appear in Spotlight searches on Apple devices, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says

Soon, when you do a search on your iPhone for someone’s contact info, a recent tweet from them might also pop up.

Twitter is working with Apple to incorporate Twitter content and accounts into Apple’s Spotlight search feature, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday. Spotlight search is a feature in Apple’s iOS mobile system, and OS X on Macs, that generates results from content stored on the devices and from other content such as Safari Web results and mail from Apple’s Mail app.

Representatives from Twitter and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Should such a deal come to fruition, it could help Twitter distribute its content to a wider audience, which would align with the company’s larger efforts to attract new users and thus improve Twitter’s ability to serve them ads.

Apple’s Spotlight search pulls much of its data from Apple-owned products and services, but also from outside sources like Wikipedia and Microsoft’s Bing.

Tweets are already appearing in more places outside of Twitter, like in Google’s search results. Earlier this year, Twitter struck a new deal with Google to give the search giant access to Twitter’s firehose of content, making relevant tweets appear in people’s Google search results.

Tweets will start appearing in Google search results next month, Twitter’s Costolo said during the call.

Twitter reported on Tuesday it had 302 million users who log in monthly as of the end of last quarter. That’s up 18 percent from a year earlier, but still less than a quarter of the size of Facebook.

Twitter’s monthly user count is only one piece of how it views its potential user base. The company is also going after people who may not be logged in to Twitter or even have accounts, but who may see Twitter content like tweets elsewhere on the Web or in mobile apps. That’s where deals like the one with Google, or conceivably one with Apple, would come into play.

Twitter syndication efforts also include publishing tweets from advertisers in Flipboard, a mobile news app.

Twitter faces challenges in growing its ads business among people who do not hold Twitter accounts. Currently, much of Twitter’s ability to deliver targeted ads comes from the data it holds on how people use its site, and it tries to divine what they’re interested in through their activities on Twitter.


 

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Even Apple and Google can’t protect users from inherent mobile app risks

To paraphrase a phrase, there is no such thing as a free app.

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands out there that won’t cost you a cent to download. But they still extract a price. The price, at a minimum, is information about you. As more than one expert has said, “You are the payment.” And that payment is not risk-free.

The large majority of mobile apps, even those vetted through Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, are (with apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein) “getting to know you, getting to know all about you,” in exchange for helping you tune your instrument, see your way in the dark, find a new restaurant and any number of other services.

Except the goal of that knowledge is commercial, not romantic. The developers of those apps are selling information about you to analysts and marketers information that, knowingly or not, you are volunteering to give them.

That, in the view of many mobile users, is not necessarily risky if all it means is getting some targeted ads for things that already interest them. And there are apps available that are even designed to protect your privacy among them Telegram, Wickr and Confide for text messages and Snapchat for photos that delete what you sent in seconds or minutes.

But users may not be aware of how much more interested purveyors of malware are in them than they were even a couple of years ago.

The Mobile Security Threat Report from Sophos, released at this week’s Mobile World Congress, reports that while the first mobile malware appeared 10 years ago, it has exploded in the past two years, responding to mobile subscriptions now totaling about 7 billion and app downloads of about 110 billion just from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

The company, which has tracked Android malware samples since 2004, reported that they remained relatively negligible until 2012, and since then have grown to more than 650,000.

And even with apps free of malware, users may not know how deep the collection goes, and how their information (about friends and business associates, their identity and their financial transactions) can fall into the wrong hands.

Domingo Guerra, cofounder and president of mobile app risk management vendor Appthority, contends that this is a greater risk than malware right now. While he agrees that malware is “growing exponentially,” he said it remains, “a sliver of the app ecosystem. Having analyzed over 2.3 million apps for our customers, we have found that less than 0.4% of apps have malware, while 79% had other kinds of enterprise risk.

In its Winter 2014 App Reputation Report, Appthority analyzed 400 apps the top 100 free and top 100 paid for each of the two most most popular mobile platforms, iOS and Android ndash; and reported multiple “risky” behaviors, most involving the privacy of users.

Of the free apps analyzed from both platforms, 70% allow location tracking, 56% identify the user’s ID (UDID), 31% access users’ contact list or address book, 69% use single sign-on, 53% share data with ad networks and analytics and 51% offer in-app purchasing.

That last item in-app purchasing can be especially risky, and expensive. Guerra said a growing trend is for apps to, “leverage in-app purchasing to monetize. For example, Candy Crush Saga, one of the most popular free apps, is also one of the top-grossing apps.”

Guerra said Apple recently settled a case with the Federal Trade Commission about in-app purchases specifically for children’s apps. “Parents thought they were authorizing one in-app-purchase transaction, but instead authorized any transaction during a 30-minute window,” he said.

“This resulted in many ‘unauthorized’ charges, as kids used in-app-purchases to buy additional content, features, virtual goods etc. And in-app-purchases can be as high as $99 per transaction.”

That does not mean paid apps are not invasive. “While 95% of free apps exhibited at least one risky behavior, so did 80% of the top paid apps,” Appthority reported. “Developers of paid and free apps are seeking new methods of generating revenue and unfortunately, it comes at the cost of the user’s privacy.”

Security vendor McAfee reported similar findings recently. In a recent post on the McAfee Blog, Lianne Caetano wrote that company researchers, “found that privacy-invading apps are more common than ever before, and beyond violating your digital space, some even contain malware and other suspicious characteristics.”

According to the report, 82% of the apps read the UDID; 64% know the wireless carrier; 59% track the last known location; 55% continuously track location; 26% read the apps used; 26% know the SIM card number; and 36% know the user’s account information.

While some tracking is inevitable, given that users expect certain apps to guide them to specific locations, “the real question is: What are these apps doing with all of the information that they collect? … some of these apps may be oversharing that information with third parties or using it to inform more nefarious groups,” Caetano wrote.

And some of the promises made about privacy may not be rigorously enforced. Among Apple’s latest rules for developers is that they should not request a UDID as a method of user tracking.

“However, 26% of top iOS apps still make requests for UDID, and on any device that is running an older OS than iOS7, the apps are still able to get the UDID directly from the device,” said Guerra.

Beyond the privacy risks, Guerra said many apps, “are communicating without encryption, so intercepting this data in motion is also easy.” A hacker doesn’t need to hack a device to get this data; they could simply sniff the network.

In spite of such multiple warnings about both privacy invasion and malware from mobile apps, there is so far no perceptible consumer backlash about the risks of mobile apps. That may be in large measure because, as Scott Matsumoto, principal consultant at Cigital, puts it, “there is no backlash because people don’t know it’s happening.”

But Matsumoto also said data collection on users is not a black-and-white issue. Some free apps, like those from a bank, collect information so they know users’ typical habits and can tell more easily if someone is trying to impersonate them.

Dan Dearing, vice president of marketing at MobileSpaces, agreed. “The problem is complicated,” he said. “You might want apps to see your contacts, to make your life easier, but not upload them to their server. But then the policy choices that a user needs to make get too complicated.”

There are things consumers and enterprises do to improve their privacy. Among the most basic are to buy apps only from reliable sources that have been vetted by companies like Google and Apple, and to take the time to limit the amount of tracking an app can do, through privacy and/or preference settings.

“Apps are generally collecting more information than they need,” Guerra said. “Why does a flashlight app need my location, calendar, and address book? The issue this creates is that these databases are not always built securely and can become targets for criminals or governments recall NSA’s comments about using Angry Birds data to track user data.”

Strong passwords and strong encryption also help, especially with handheld devices that can be lost or stolen.

Bogdan “Bob” Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at Bitdefender, said encryption is crucial, since, “mobile phones and tablets spend the bulk of their time on unsecure, untrusted networks.”

Botezatu also said users should, “limit themselves to installing the applications they need, most of which come from trustworthy publishers. The smaller the number of applications installed, the smaller the attack surface.”


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iPhoneys: Latest, greatest iPhone 6 concepts

Moving beyond iPhone 5S and 5C, new designs feature bigger screens and more magic

The newfangled iPhone 6 models envisioned by creative designers around the world probably won’t find their way into products for the holidays this year, but at least you have the new iPhone 5S and 5C to satisfy you for now.

Here’s a rundown of the latest:
*This concept from Iskander Utebayev (video by Ran Avni) shows a smartphone with a wrap-around screen — perhaps not far-fetched since Samsung reportedly has something along these lines in the works for 2014. Questions remain about how such a device would work, such as how a user would avoid accidentally cranking the volume up while grasping the sides of the phone, but we have a feeling there’s plenty of time to work out such kinks.

*Fuse Chicken, a smartphone accessories company, let fly an iPhone 6 design concept as part of a successfully funded Kickstarter marketing campaign for an all-in-one charger/syncer/stand/dock cable for iPhone 5/C/S. Their vision: An iPad Air-like iPhone with a 4.9-inch touchscreen, 40% thinner body than the iPhone 5S, a 64-bit A8 processor, an ultra-thin 1mm screen bezel, a 5mp Facetime camera and more.

*Not all concepts are about bigger-screened iPhone 6 models: This version from designer Arthur Reis and videographer Ran Avni shows a 4.2-inch screen with full HD display, a 12mp rear camera, a speedier A7X processor and a 2X faster GPU, and better speakers. This design shows a phone 1.1mm thinner than the iPhone 5S and 20% lighter. And yes, it would come in gold!

*This design from Set Solution boasts a 3D camera, wireless charging, 4.8mm thin body, 4.7-inch screen, plus a creepy animal/person at the end of the video.

*New gold standard from designers Martin Hajek and Steve Hemmerstoffer (of French blog www.nowhereelse.fr). This model boasts a 4.8-inch screen in a tighter package than the iPhone 5S.

iPhone 6
*This big but thin (5.3mm) iPhone 6 design from Nikola Cirkovic (out of Serbia) was posted on the site GrabCad.

* This sleek black design from Adrian Valenzuela at Gdeluxe.com conjures up thoughts of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The designer describes the phone as having a clean slate of glass, no physical buttons and a smooth edge all around. The phone would always be “juicing up energy in your hand” for wireless charging simplicity.


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Pricing a low-cost iPhone: How ‘cheap’ is cheap?

How, and why, Apple may price an “iPhone 5C”

Though still unsubstantiated, a low-cost iPhone is now widely seen as a possible product announcement in early September, along with a new high-end phone. And it’s finally possible to create a coherent explanation of why such a move makes sense for Apple in 2013.

Analyses by a range of Apple watchers and others now paint a picture of a lower-cost iPhone, often dubbed “iPhone C,” selling for under $400, and as low as $300. It would have full support for the soon-to-be-released iOS 7, but lower-end hardware and features compared to the current top of the line iPhone 5.

[Background: 5 years ago they said iPhone would flop. Now?]

Such an average selling price would put the low-cost iPhone close to the range of Android phones globally, but not at the very bottom of their price range. The price paid by consumers could be even lower through promotions, special offers, and by offering it with a two-year mobile contract.

The new phone hardware features would be contrasted with the expected high-end “iPhone 5S,” the 2013 iPhone model, which presumably will have the same starting retail price as the iPhone 5: $649 for the 16-Gbyte model. The 5S could have a more powerful processor, improved camera, and possibly a fingerprint scanner integrated with the phone’s home button, all setting it apart from the low-cost phone, and from the existing iPhone 5. By contrast, iPhone 5C can realize cost savings by using a plastic instead of metal body, possibly using the iPhone 5’s existing A6 processor (or a tweaked version of it), less memory, and having only a front-facing camera. Yet it would give the “full iPhone experience” by virtue of supporting all of iOS and its attendant cloud services.

Between these two, Apple can then discount the iPhone 5, offering just the 16-Gbyte model at $549 full retail, or lower via promotions and two-year contracts.

As Apple watcher John Gruber argues, Apple’s model for the low-cost iPhone could be the iPod Touch, which starts at $229 for the 16-Gbyte model, introduced earlier this year without the rear-facing 5 megapixel camera still found on the 32- and 64-Gbyte Touch models (but it retains a 1.2 megapixel at the front for FaceTime video chatting, and for video and still photos.

“Take an iPod Touch and add cellular networking components. Boom, there’s your lower-priced iPhone,” he writes.

Apple charges $130 to add a cellular radio to the Wi-Fi-only iPad. At that price, a cellular-equipped 32-Gbyte iPod Touch would be $429, or $359 for the 16-Gbyte Touch. But Gruber believes the $130 is a premium and the actual cost of the radio is much less.

“All told, I think Apple could build and sell an iPod Touch-caliber iPhone 5C for $399, possibly as low as $349,” Gruber concludes.

That’s a lower price point than suggested in this analysis – “How will iPhones 5S and 5C be priced?” — by Asymco’s Horace Dediu, an independent analyst who covers the mobile market.

He drew on Apple’s data on average selling price for both iPhone and iPad models, made a number of assumptions about the mix of models, and compared how the ASP tracked over time for both product lines. Here’s the diagram.

As he notes, the iPad 3 was replaced with a “’bracketed’ portfolio of the higher-priced iPad 4 and the lower-priced iPad mini. Note also that the mini reflects similar pricing to the legacy iPad 2.”

Based on this iPad bracketing, Dediu assumes that Apple will do the same with the upcoming 5S and 5C. “This means that the 5C will take up the [average selling price] trajectory of the 4S while the 5S will take up the upper bracket around $650,” he concludes.

The end result: 5S starts in the $650 range at the high end, the discounted 5 at about $550, and the low-end 5C at something under $500, perhaps close to $450.

The final price for the low-end iPhone will hinge in part on the savings Apple can achieve in hardware, and in part on how much lower a profit margin it will accept for the cheaper handset.

Apple may be willing to quite aggressive with regard to margin and price for the 5C, according to an analysis by Benedict Evans, who writes about mobile technology for, among other outlets, Enders Analysis, a subscription research service. In his own blog, Evans posted an excerpt, “Defending iOS with cheap iPhones,” from his more extensive Enders analysis.

Evans argues that the key change in the competitive dynamic between Android and iOS is not mainly the larger number of Android devices sold compared to iOS devices – raw market share. What’s really important is that Android users are finally starting to do more with their Android smartphones.

“Android has had a larger installed base than iOS since mid-2011, but [user] engagement remained far behind,” Evans writes. “Until well into 2012 publishers and developers tended to see app download rates on Android of a half to a quarter of what they experienced on iOS, in absolute terms, while payment and purchase rates were a quarter or lower of iOS rates.”

That has now changed, he says, with engagement measures rising for Android. “Hence, by the first half of 2013 Android cumulative downloads caught up with iOS (both at around 50bn), and both now see a run-rate of something around five apps downloaded per active device per month.”

“If total Android engagement moves decisively above iOS, the fact that iOS will remain big will be beside the point,” Evans writes. “This is a major strategic threat for Apple. A key selling point for the iPhone (though not the only one) is that the best apps are on iPhone and are on iPhone first. If that does change then the virtuous circle of ‘best apps therefore best users therefore best apps’ will start to unwind and the wide array of Android devices at every price point will be much more likely to erode the iPhone base.”

A successful low-priced iPhone can block that erosion. “A new, cheaper, high-volume iPhone would have the potential to mitigate or even reverse this trend,” according to Evans. “Clearly, like current low-end Android, [iPhone 5C] would sell to a demographic with a lower average engagement and purchase rate and so the average iOS rates would drop. However, it would mean that iOS’s reach would expand significantly at the expense of Android. How would a $200 or $300 iPhone sell? Easily double digit millions, possible up to 50m units a quarter.”

Clearly that projection would change if the iPhone 5C was priced higher. If Evans is right, the iPhone 5C is intended to counter this “strategic threat,” and not simply add incremental revenue and profits.

“This means that the financial value of a cheaper iPhone cannot be considered in isolation,” he concludes. “A large part of its purpose is to defend sales of the high-end model.”

Many had expected that the iPad mini would be priced under $300. Instead, Apple slapped on a $329 price tag. It’s possible the low-ball estimates for the low-cost iPhone will also prove too low. Evans himself says Android phones average $250-300 globally versus $600 for the iPhone. A low-cost iPhone for around $350 may achieve Apple’s goals.

 


 

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Will Windows Phone feel any pain after getting dumped by LG?

Claiming sales are too weak, did LG make a valid point in dumping Windows Phone, or an excuse to avoid competing with Nokia? How about both?

Ahead of a meeting between their CEOs, Korea’s LG Electronics has decided to shun any more Windows Phone products because there have yet to be “meaningful” sales.

That should get the meeting off to a good start.

The electronics manufacturer told the Korean Herald this week that Windows Phone devices are just not selling well enough worldwide to warrant continued manufacturing WP phones. Instead, LG will turn its focus to the Android platform.

RELATED: Expected Windows Phone 8 features justify Samsung’s decision to hold out

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“The total unit of Windows Phone sold in the global market is not a meaningful figure,” a LG spokesman told the Herald, adding that the company currently has no plans of rolling out another LG-manufactured Windows Phone soon.

The company will “continue research and development efforts” on Windows Phones. Translation: we give up, unless it takes off in the marketplace.

RELATED: The Nokia Lumia 900: Pros and cons compared to the iPhone 4s

It’s not exactly a huge loss for Microsoft. LG is getting its you-know-what handed to it by Samsung. The Herald notes that the mobile business unit’s performance has consistently failed to meet expectations, with operating losses for seven consecutive quarters. It was only when the company focused on LTE Android phones that it got back into the black

It’s not like Windows Phone will suffer as a result of this decision, either. Microsoft still has HTC, Nokia and Samsung, all of which are clobbering LG. And with all the hoopla around the Nokia Lumia 900, including raves from Steve Wozniak, it’s easy to see why LG would get its feelings hurt.

Still, it’s embarrassing PR for Microsoft to lose a mobile partner, especially one that had previously gone all in for the Windows Phone OS. Back in 2009, Microsoft and LG signed a partnership in which LG chose Microsoft’s mobile OS as its main phone platform, committing to manufacturing up to 26 Windows Phones for 2012.

So, if nothing else, the lawyers might get involved, which will do nothing to help sell phones..

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IE’s browser share recovers, Chrome down for third straight month

T

Sign of a Microsoft turnaround, or just a calculation change by metrics company?

Computerworld – Internet Explorer posted another major gain in share last month, the second in the first quarter of the year, perhaps signaling a turnaround in Microsoft’s fortunes, a Web metrics company said Sunday.

Meanwhile, every rival, including Google’s Chrome, which is usually the one stealing users, lost share.

Internet Explorer (IE) gained 1 percentage point during March, said measurement firm Net Applications, to end the month with a 53.8% share, its highest level since September 2011. Last month’s growth was the second this year of 1 point or more.

Chrome lost a third of a percentage point to close March with 18.6%, while Mozilla’s Firefox slipped by about the same to 20.6%, the open-source browser’s lowest number in more than three years.

Apple’s Safari and Opera Software’s desktop browsers also dipped, falling by two-tenths and one-tenth of a point, respectively, to 5.1% and 1.6%.

Chrome’s decline is especially notable, as March’s slide was the third consecutive month that Google’s once-hard-charging browser lost share. In the first quarter of 2012, Chrome has dropped more than half a percentage point, representing a 3% decline from the browser’s December 2011 number.

Previously, Net Applications has attributed Chrome’s skid to Google’s January demotion of the browser’s search ranking and then last month, to recalculations that eliminated the extra activity generated by Chrome’s pre-rendering feature.

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Google restored Chrome’s search ranking last month.
It was unclear whether the rise of Internet Explorer (IE) and the fall of every rival was due to a rejiggering of Net Applications’ numbers.

Like most Web measurement firms, Net Applications has more data on some nations — the U.S., for instance — and relatively small samples from others, such as China. To produce what it believes is a more accurate representation of global browser usage, Net Applications weights its Chinese data proportionally higher because that country has a greater percentage of the world’s Internet users than the U.S.

Net Applications uses online population numbers provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has regularly tracked big jumps in China’s part of the browser-user pie, and corresponding drops in the percentage of the world’s users who hail from the U.S., Europe and other developed countries. Earlier this year, a company spokesman confirmed that it would revamp its calculations with newer CIA numbers at some point.

In February 2011, after Net Applications’ last accounting change, IE’s usage share jumped an eighth of a percentage point, at that time its largest one-month increase ever.

Because Chinese users overwhelmingly rely on IE, or a modified version of Microsoft’s browser, the country can easily skew Net Applications’ share estimates toward IE as more people there access the Web.

Microsoft, not surprisingly, applauds Net Applications’ country-by-country weighting system, going so far last month as to explicitly challenge the accuracy of the data from another metrics company, Ireland’s StatCounter, which also publishes monthly browser share numbers.

Net Applications did not reply Sunday to questions about whether it revised its weighting formula last month, and if so, what impact that had on IE’s share.

Microsoft mentioned the overall gains of IE in passing on Sunday, but as it’s done for months, focused on increases of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).

“We … see great strides made against our core metric: IE9 against Windows 7,” said Roger Capriotti, director of IE marketing, in a Sunday postto a company blog.

Almost since IE9’s debut, Microsoft has ignored IE’s aggregate performance — which admittedly has been dismal until late — and instead focused on the growth of its newest browser among Windows 7 users, a combination the company has regularly claimed is the only measurement that matters.

By Net Applications’ numbers, IE9 accounts for 34.5% of the world’s browsers used on that operating system, an increase of more than four percentage points from February, and owns a 48.9% share of the Windows 7 browser market in the U.S., a jump of 8.5 points.

The browser’s global share of all operating systems, however, is significantly lower, at 15.2%, but even that was a bump of 2.6 percentage points, the largest single-month gain since IE9’s March 2011 launch.

Other editions of Microsoft’s browser didn’t fare as well: IE8 lost 2.5 percentage points to fall to 25.4%, while IE7 dropped to 4.5%. IE6, the nearly 11-year-old browser that Microsoft has been trying to bury, stayed flat at 6.9%.

StatCounter, however, told a different tale.
The Irish company, which neither adjusts its statistics for each country’s online population nor discards Chrome’s pre-rendered pages, said that IE controlled 34.8% of the browser market, down nine-tenths of a point, while Chrome grew by more than a point to end March at 30.9%. Firefox, said StatCounter, remained stable at 25%.

Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors. More browser share figures can be found on the company’s site.


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Enterprise IT likes what it sees in new iPad

Display, processing & LTE outfit new iPads for demanding users

The new third-generation Apple iPad is generally a hit with a sampling of enterprise users, based on quick reactions from half a dozen IT professionals and consultants. All like the greatly enhanced display, the graphics processing boost and 4G LTE wireless support.
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But a few were hoping for a bigger processing boost or one of several specific features, a number of which Apple seems unlikely to ever deliver (like support for Adobe Flash Web content). And several noted that the real locus for enterprise benefits, and problems, lies in the latest update to the iOS firmware (release 5.1 for the new iPad), about which Apple has had little to say publicly.

Dubbed simply the “new iPad,” Apple’s latest tablet features double the screen resolution of the iPad 2 and four times the pixels at 2048 x 1536, a slightly beefed up dual-core CPU (the A5X) with a new quad-core graphics processor, LTE cellular support, voice dictation, and a greatly improved rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. It will run iOS 5.1 and be available starting next week. Importantly, both pricing and battery life are unchanged.

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“The processor speed, 4G, and improved screen resolutions are all big pluses for the enterprise,” says Manoj Prasad, vice president of global applications and testing for Life Technologies, a biotech products company in Carlsbad, Calif., with a growing iPad deployment. “4G, the new processor speed and improved screen resolutions will allow IT to port more backend applications like Oracle, and Siebel to iPad.”

But he still thinks the tablet can’t yet substitute for laptops. “It still lacks the capabilities to completely replace laptops, making the ROI calculation for iPad difficult,” Prasad says.

Others say Apple’s priorities for the new iPad means it can be applied in entirely new, emerging areas where laptops make no sense, or at least no sense anymore.

“For an understanding of where the iPad is going it’s critical to note the focus on processing power and resolution,” says Benjamin Levy, a principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles firm that specializes in Apple and iOS deployments for enterprise customers. “The iPad is no longer an addition to existing platforms and work structures but is now fully capable on its own and will be defining new ways of working with media in the professional space.”

“The new iPad can be seen as more of a tool for digital media than ever before, able to work with high resolution DSLRs [digital single lens reflex camera images] and video, high resolution audio files, high resolution graphics files, etc.,” Levy adds.

Although lacking the quad-core CPU that many were expecting, these users see real performance gains with the new iPad.

“The combination of the retina display, the [new A5X] chip and 4G/LTE is going to make the iPad an even more productive business device,” says Hugh Owens, director of mobile at MicroStrategy, a business intelligence and analytics software vendor with an extensive iPad 2 deployment, and with iPad customers. “4G will enable users of MicroStrategy Mobile [the company’s iOS application] to pull down analytics even faster, and our native app is already positioned to take advantage of the A5X chip for faster and more compelling rendering.”

“The iPad continues to be a great business device in consumer clothing,” he adds.

“Overall, the new iPad is a significant upgrade. Apple is going to sell a boatload of these,” says Derick Okihara, IT technician at Mid-Pacific Institute inHonolulu, where he oversees the iPad and iPhone deployments. “In our environment, having a solid camera capable of 1080p video, faster graphics for apps, and the high resolution display, make the iPad that much more useful, especially for students.”

Levy sees camera applications that go beyond snapshots and home videos. “The camera improvements will be very useful, especially in custom apps for data entry, bar code reading, situation reports and documentation,” he says. “Couple that camera with a decent custom app and many [enterprise] workflows can be changed for the better.”

The new iPad is now more clearly, and effectively, a platform for creating new kinds of apps, and content, exploiting images, video, high-definition audio, in new ways, according to Randy Saeks, network manager, Northbrook/Glenview School District 30, Northbrook, Illinois, another iPad site.

“What I see in the announcement today is really showing that an iPad isn’t just a consumption device but has the ability to create really rich, engaging content,” he says. “With a lot of the [new] app updates and announcements — iMovie, iPhoto, the iWork suite, as well as what is added to the hardware with a great display and improved camera — it opens the door for how they can be used in classrooms and creative environments.”

“Especially with looking at [the question of] what kinds of devices to put in the hands of our students, the value for what you can do with the new iPad and [its] associated cost is much more attractive than it was with the first iPad announcement,” Saeks says.

Most of these users agreed they see no IT-specific implications in the new iPad, at least yet. “I’m not seeing any challenges to support the new devices,” Saeks says.

“I’ll have to take a deeper dive into iOS 5.1,” says James Gordon, vice president of IT at Needham Bank, a small community bank in Massachusetts that has deployed iOS devices among a majority of its staff and the board of directors.

An enterprise consultant with a federal systems integrator, who requested anonymity, echoed that attitude. “I hope to see more with iOS 5.1 once that is released,” he says.

Apple’s decision to cut the price of the iPad 2 by $100, bringing the entry-level price to $399, may have a significant impact on deployments. “This opens up possibilities, especially in education markets with a lower buy-in price point,” says Okihara. “$100 x 1,000+ [units] is significant.”

Levy agrees. “By lowering the price on the iPad 2 while bringing advances into the new iPad, Apple is able to deliver new technology and features quickly to those who want them right away, while removing some of the barrier of entry to those who don’t yet have an iPad,” he says.

Gordon was hoping the rumors of a quad-core CPU were true. And at Life Technologies, where a lot of content is in Adobe Flash, the continued and apparently eternal lack of iOS support for that technology remains a complaint.

Prasad at Life Technologies also says he’d like to see direct video output for iPads.

“The bar for tablets and mobile computers has been set very high [with the new iPad],” says Gordon.

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Microsoft extends operator billing platform for Windows Phone apps

Microsoft has struck a deal which will make it easier for more Windows Phone users to pay for Marketplace apps via their phone bill. Payments on Microsoft Marketplace are handled by Microsoft’s new Commerce Platform, which it has now integrated with the Direct Billing Gateway (DBG) developed by Mach.

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The integration makes it easier for mobile carriers to add operator billing, according to Mach. Among the first to profit from the new arrangement will be customers of Canadian operator Telus Communications.

For users, operator billing makes the payment process easier, according to Charles Damen, vice president Mobile Billing and Payments at Mach. They can just click to buy, without having to enter credit card details or store them on the app store servers, Damen said.

Microsoft made its first connection to Mach’s gateway in January last year, but, so far, take-up has been slow. Mach says 50 operators use DBG to bill for content downloads and applications, but only two are using it to offer direct billing for Windows Phone users: Telus and Australia’s Telstra.

The growing variety of Windows Phones has increased the interest for Microsoft’s operating system, according to Damen, who expects more carriers will join Telus and Telstra this year, but isn’t willing to announce any details. Mobile carriers have also been upgrading their own systems to be able to handle the billing method, he said.

Operator billing options on Android and Windows Phone allow carriers to be part of app stores, in contrast to Apple’s App Store, which completely excludes operators from the application billing process.

Today, operators such as Vodafone, Telenor, Sprint and AT&T offer users the option to pay for apps on their monthly bill. Orange and T-Mobile have also added operator billing for Windows Phone apps using other payment platforms.


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Chrome edges Firefox, grabs second browser spot

StatCounter puts Chrome over the edge, but rival metric firm says it won’t happen until 2012

Computerworld – Google’s Chrome edged Mozilla’s Firefox last month to take the number two spot in the browser popularity wars, an Irish metrics company said today.

 

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Data from StatCounter, which tracks browser usage through the free analytics tools it offers websites, had Chrome with a 25.7% global share in November, a half-percentage point higher than Firefox’s 25.2%.

In September, Computerworld used StatCounter’s numbers to project that Chrome would pass Firefox no later than December 2011.

According to StatCounter, Chrome has gained 10.8 percentage points of usage share this year alone, vacuuming up nearly all the losses posted by Firefox (5.5 points) and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (6.3 points).

Internet Explorer (IE) accounted for 40.6% of all browsers used last month, StatCounter said.

Rival Web measurement firm Net Applications saw the Chrome vs. Firefox tussle differently. Its tracking put Chrome behind Firefox in November, controlling 18.2% of the market compared to Firefox’s 22.1%.

But if both browsers keep to their recent trends in Net Applications’ accounting, Chrome will pass Firefox in April or May 2012 to slip into second place behind IE. By that time, IE’s share will have fallen to 47%-49%.

Both StatCounter and Net Applications noted an anomaly last month: IE either gained usage share or held stable.

Net Applications, for example, had IE holding steady at 52.6%, the same as in October, while StatCounter said IE had boosted its share by four-tenths of a point to 40.6%.

IE typically loses users each month in both company’s eyes, some times in large amounts: In October, Net Applications said IE had posted a 1.8-point decline, while StatCounter had IE down 1.5 points that month.

Vince Vizzaccaro, vice president of marketing for Net Applications, did not have an explanation, only a suspicion, for the turn-around. “We believe there may be some anomalous data from last month,” Vizzaccaro said in an email reply to questions.

If the data holds up, IE’s turn-around from its precipitous decline in October will have been remarkable.

Microsoft did not address that today, but instead beat the IE9-on-Windows 7 drum one more time, citing Net Applications’ claim that globally the browser is now more popular than either Chrome or Firefox on Windows 7.

IE9 on Windows 7 passed rivals in the U.S. months ago.

Among individual editions of IE and figuring in all operating systems, Net Applications still had IE9 in second place behind IE8, with the former posting a 10.3% worldwide share and the latter 28.2%.

But IE6 — the browser Microsoft has been trying to kill for the last two years — got a reprieve of sorts in November, boosting its share by half a point to 8%. Previously, IE6 had had a years-long string of losses.

StatCounter’s take was at odds with its U.S. rival: The Irish company said IE6’s share had dropped nearly three-tenths of a point to 2.2%, a decline in its usual ballpark over the last year.

Apple’s Safari — the clear-cut No. 4 browser — remained flat (StatCounter) or lost share (Net Applications), during November. According to Net Applications, Safari fell four-tenths of a percentage point to end the month at 5%, essentially back at its September position.


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Apple second place in UK’s largest online retailers; Amazon retains top spot

Apple’s online store has become the second-most visited online retail site in the UK, beaten only by retail giant Amazon.com, according to new research.

New data from Experian Hitwise and IMRG shows that Apple has jumped six-places north of its previous slot to beat Argos as the second-place contender in the UK online retail space, with no let up in sight from Amazon, which still reigns supreme ahead of other major brands.

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But Apple is catching up, with Apple accounting for one in every 250 visits from UK web users in last month alone. In total, 14 million visits to the Apple online store were recorded, an increase of five-fold.

Between August and October, Argos who previously held second place slipped to third, grocery and supermarket chain Tesco remained at fourth place, followed by clothing chain Next, then Marks & Spencer, and then online music and video store Play.com.

The iPhone 4S launch, along with the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs, according to the research, pushed the UK web traffic to its “highest ever levels for Apple” in October. Previous to the smartphone’s launch, the increasing popularity of the iPad tablet pushed Apple’s online sales through the roof.

Tablets seem to be at the forefront of the online retail game for the upcoming Christmas festivities — the main holiday season in the UK, which does not celebrate Thanksgiving — as Amazon expects its Kindle to be one of the online giants biggest seller. “It will be fascinating to see just how influential tablets become for consumers”, Tina Spooner, IMRG’s chief information officer said.

IMRG estimates that £3.72 billion ($5.8 billion) will be spent online alone during the peak-week in the run up to Christmas, between November 28th and December 5th.

eBay recently announced it would open up a store in London’s West End during the same busy season, as part of an experiment to bring online shoppers to a retail store. Though shoppers will not walk home with any goods from the store, users will be able to browse the online auction house from in-store tablets and smartphones, and have them delivered to their front door at a later date.


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