Apple, dongles and Macbook Pro

Phil Schiller, november 2:

We are proud to tell you that so far our online store has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before

Apple, november 4:

Apple is cutting prices for all of its USB-C adapters following a week of complaints about the MacBook Pro’s inconvenient port situation.

Something doesn’t sound right here. If the demand were so high, why cutting prices?

Will the Touch Bar save the MacBook Pro?

The new MacBook Pro is (again) what we expected after months of rumors: lighter, smaller, faster. And more expensive, of course. The main argument here is the shiny new Touch Bar, a customizable touch OLED display that supposedly allow users to access certain application functions faster and easier than through traditional keyboard shortcuts or mouse control.

I tend to consider the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro as an analogy to the 3D Touch support on the iPhone: something that looks nice on a demo, but that won’t be as revolutionary as it seems in real life.

3D Touch hasn’t been mentioned much by Apple in the latest months, and the problem with the Touch Bar is similar: developers have to enable that support specifically for MacBook Pro owners, who will be just a small part of the Mac user base. I wonder if that would be interesting enough for them given the effort that that kind of support could put to the task.

I found much more compelling the fact that the new MacBook Pro is lighter, faster and better connected. I miss the MagSafe, sure, but charging through USB-C isn’t a bad choice either.

The arrival of the butterfly mechanism to the keyboard is intriguing —although the result in the MacBook has been painful for some users— but the giant Force Touch trackpad is indeed interesting.

Oh, and we still have 3.5mm connectors on the MacBook Pros. Thank god.

Smartwatches and the dream of the next big thing

We expected a lot from a smartwatch. Maybe (probably) much more than what they could do by design. The first wave of devices have fallen short of their expectations, and the industry is apparently paying that mistake:

The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it’s especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report

The numbers are tough, but this has been a year with much less announcements in the smartwatch arena. Things should improve (a little bit) in the first half of 2017, with several makers working on Android Wear 2.0 solutions.

idc

That won’t be enough, I’m affraid. Like virtual reality, smartwatches need a killer app. Becoming super-fitness bands won’t work, according to these numbers: Apple has done so with its Apple Watch 2 without much success.

The smartwatch wasn’t that smart, it seems. We’ll have to wait a little more and give those products a second chance.

Source: No One Is Buying Smartwatches Anymore

Hello Mac. Oh, and good riddance, USB and 3.5mm connector 

Apple is expected to launch the next generation of Mac computers at the Oct. 27 event that lots of users were waiting. The PostPC era has clearly eroded the relevance of these machines, but users still need a PC or a laptop to perform their work on a daily basis.

It was about time, of course: users and critics were claiming for the renewal of several Mac computers, so the new models are expected to attract lots of interested buyers in the holiday season.

Apple will probably take advantage of new Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, and besides some gimmicks —we’ll see if that OLED row everyone is talking about in the new MacBook Pro is really worth it— there’s one thing that could stand out on these new machines: the lack of traditional USB ports.

Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C ports will reportedly be part of the new machines, which won’t have “normal” USB ports. There are rumors that seem to confirm too that the traditional 3.5mm jack will also dissapear on these designs, something that makes even more sense on those laptops after watching how the iPhone 7/Plus chaos wasn’t that chaotic at all for the ones that have bought those devices.

That will be an event to watch, for sure. Stay tuned.

Why Google Pixel is not the smartphone I wanted

Vlad Savov speaks on The Verge about the new Google Pixel / XL smartphones, and he gives reasonable arguments on behalf of this Google effort:

Google’s invasion of that space is exciting, and the Pixel itself — when stripped of our constantly speeding expectations and preconceptions — is a highly advanced device with which Google can begin to disrupt the status quo.

The thing is, Google is competing with his own partners in an unfair way -Google Assistant seems exclusive to the Pixel family- and is trying to get more money on the hardware business when the new Pixel should be produced with only one thing in mid:

To show others the path. To show what Android is capable of.

Google is certainly doing that with the Pixel, but with a boastful attitude. “We can do something other companies can’t“, they seem to be saying. That discourse should change to “We can do something now you should be doing too“. The enemy here is not Samsung, LG or even HTC, the not-so-secret maker of these devices. The enemy is Apple, of course, and competing with Apple in its own terms (we control the hardware, we control the software) is quite impossible when you need the industry to keep Android where it is now.

Besides that, “really blue”? Really, Google? Really really blue?

The ‘killer app’ for the Apple Watch? Fitness.

The Verge has a good review of the Apple Watch Series 2, but everything seems to be left over when you read the first line of that text:

Let’s call it what it is: a fitness tracker.

That’s almost exactly what the Apple Watch is. I would say it’s what it wants to be first, although it can be a lot more. What it matters is that Apple seems to have found what it needed to convince people to buy this device.

You should buy it because it can help you to be in better shape. That’s it. Other makers use that reasoning to sell their fitness trackers, but Apple can at last compete in similar terms with those products while adding all the other neat options the Apple watch gives their users. Joanna Stern, by the way, has also expressed the idea in a fair way:

Still not a ‘need’, finally a ‘want’.

Not much to add after those two little sentences.

The iPhone 7 is a great smartphone you probably shouldn’t buy

That’s what most of the reviewers seem to think about the new iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, which has good features but nothing that could really justify leaving a perfectly fine iPhone 6s/Plus for these.

The differences are clearly there for iPhone 6/Plus users, but everyone seems to be not that convinced to recommend the new iPhones even though their scores are 9 out of 10 points on average. 

That doesn’t matter. Not because almost everyone misses too much the headphone connector (Ars Technica, The Verge, Mashable), but because this is the perfect transitional device

Every review seems too anxious not about the iPhone 7, but what will come with the iPhone 8

The iPhone 7 is competing with a phone that even doesn’t exist. The problem is, it will lose against our imagination everytime

Yoga Book: Going beyond the tablet

The guys at The Verge have done a fine job by discussing how the new Lenovo Yoga Book came to life. This is a hardware device that, as Nilay Patel has said over at Twitter, is the first fascinating one in a long time.

The new and impressive Instant Halo Keyboard won’t be perfect for many people, but I’m sure the trade-off is worth it. Being able to type, write and draw on the same surface is a great deal, and not many hardware makers would have thought of an option as creative and bold as this.

In fact, there’s one company everyone would think of if asked which could be responsible of that innovation. That company, of course, was Apple.

It hasn’t been that one for some time now. The problem is, this is becoming the new normal.

Apple should have done something like this. Lenovo? Not in a million years.

And here we are.

13 billion reasons for Apple to abandon Europe

uropea

The Commission can only order recovery of illegal state aid for a ten-year period preceding the Commission’s first request for information in this matter, which dates back to 2013. Ireland must therefore recover from Apple the unpaid tax for the period since 2003, which amounts to up to €13 billion, plus interest.

When Apple and other big technology firms set foot in Ireland they did for a good reason: they could use the tax system there to earn more profits. That justified the investments they made on their headquarters and the European staff working on that country.

That is no longer true: the European Commission investigation has discovered how much money the Irish tax system has lost due to this kind of management, and it’s no small money.

Apple can’t be the only one to be found guilty and pay, of course. Others -Amazon, Google, Microsoft- have been doing the exact same thing for years, so I guess this won’t be the first time we heard or read news on this front.

The problem? Those companies created European branches in countries such as Ireland for a reason. If that investment results in fines like the one we are seeing, then it makes no sense -not as much, at least- to maintain that  structure in Europe. I’d say many of them will leave those headquarters or will reduce their staff in the short term.

The new iPhone 7, on September 7th

But not at 07:00 AM, fortunately.

I’d like to say I expect a big hardware refresh here -Apple Watch 2, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, Apple Thunderbolt Display, maybe an Apple Home à la Amazon Echo-, but I really think the focus will be the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Oh. And iPhone 7 Pro with its dual cameras. Stay tuned, this will start some debate for sure. Apple can disappoint on other issues, but not on the post-news fever.