By Jeffrey Allen
Every January the Mac faithful face West and look to Steve Jobs to tell them what new products Apple has come up with for the new year and what changes Apple will make to its product line. Jobs delivers that message to the faithful at the annual MacWorld show in January. Although Jobs managed to raise some eyebrows in the past, this year, Apple’s announcements actually caused the news from MacWorld to overshadow the news from the much larger Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Photos courtesy of Apple
As usual, Apple has several things going on in product development. The release of the new Airport Extreme based on the WiFi “N” (802.11n) standard will certainly improve the quality of wireless networking for Mac users. The Airport Extreme works with both Mac OS and Windows-based computers and allows networking at speeds up to four times as fast as the 802.11g standard based wireless networks. The new Airport boxes will handle up to 50 connections and distribute a signal over approximately twice the area of the 802.11g devices. The N standard devices come with backwards compatibility, allowing them to work with older devices using the 802.11a, b, and g standards.
Apple also has announced that it will move farther into your living rooms with Apple TV. The initial hardware will hold up to 50 hours of video programming. Apple TV will let you use your widescreen television to watch your choice of TV shows, movie trailers, and photos; play music; or look at podcasts from your iTunes library through a wireless connection. Apple TV takes the digital media available on your Mac OS or Windows OS computer and makes it available for viewing on your television. Apple TV will automatically update when you add something to iTunes.
The Piece de Resistance: The most newsworthy part of Apple’s announcements related to its expansion into another industry—telephony. It came as no surprise to many of us that Apple announced the iPhone. The iPhone does not yet exist, but Apple is working on it and expects to release it around mid-2007. Apple has already entered into an exclusivity contract with Cingular for distribution of the phone, which, because of the Cingular agreement, will operate as a GSM device. Apple has already modified its web site to set up an iPhone tab so that you can get additional information about it and start to develop a craving for the newest Apple on the block: http://www.apple.com/iphone/.
As you may recall, some time ago Apple made a deal with Sony, which had a deal with Ericssen. As a result, Apple will design the phone to operate on the Cingular system. The specifications provided by Apple indicate a quad band GSM device with built-in Bluetooth, WiFi (802.11 b/g), and Edge (Cingular’s high-speed option) compatibility. In the iPhone, Apple plans to release a converged device combining a new mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and an Internet communications device. The phone will include a 2.0 megapixel camera.
The 3.5-inch iPhone screen will sport a 680 x 480 resolution. The screen can display in the portrait or landscape (widescreen) mode, depending on your needs. The 4.8-ounce device will have dimensions of 4.5 x 2.4 x .46 inches (about the same as the current versions of the full-sized iPod. It will use the Mac OS and come with 4 or 8 GB of built-in storage. Apple asserts an expected battery use life of up to 5 hours per charge for telephone, video, or browsing uses and up to 16 hours per charge for audio playback. Note that Apple’s website indicates that the FCC has not yet approved the device and that its technical specifications may change before release.
The iPhone will use a Safari browser to access the Internet via WiFi or Cingular’s Edge system. It will automatically sync bookmarks from a Mac or a Windows computer. It also multitasks so you can, for example, do a search on the built-in Google search engine while downloading your email in the background. The iPhone will access most mail servers using IMAP or POP technology. You can download mail and attachments and read text as well as view graphics.
As a telephone, the iPhone has all of the features you would expect a top-of-the-line phone to have. You can put one call on hold to answer another and then merge the two calls into a conference call. It has a built in speakerphone. You can connect a headset to it through Bluetooth technology. It also includes an SMS application for text messaging; the SMS application uses the software QWERTY keyboard.
The iPhone will provide access both to Google Maps. Using the included Maps application, you can get maps, look at satellite images, and even get directions and traffic information. The iPhone will also incorporate the “widget” technology used in OS X to allow inclusion of additional features, such as a calculator, clocks, weather, traffic, stock reports, and so forth.
As you may have noted from the pictures, the iPhone has no physical keypad for data entry or telephone dialing. You can dial the phone by selecting an established contact or by using a virtual keypad and the touch screen technology used in the iPhone. You won’t have to key in the numbers, as the iPhone will sync to contact information on your Mac or Windows computer. For text, the iPhone will provide a software-based QWERTY keyboard on the touch screen. It will also employ predictive technology so that the keyboard will make an educated guess as to what you intended to type, which can save you some typing.
Cost projections for the iPhone come in at the $500–600 range, making it one of the most expensive cell phones converged devices on the market. Cingular traditionally offers some discounts on the purchase of a phone device for new customers or for existing customers with contract extensions. Those discounts usually come in the range of $100 or $200.
The iPhone promises to get a hot reception when it comes out. It has the promise of setting a new standard in communications technology. Presumably the marriage of Sony’s camera and computer expertise and technology, Ericsson’s telephone technological expertise, and Apple’s computer expertise will produce a device that many will view as a “must have.”
Other Mac-related news worth noting: Apple recently upgraded its computers and now uses the Intel Core 2 Duo processor in all of its computers except the Mini, which still uses the Intel Core Duo processor. The new version of the operating system (10.5) will likely be available by April. Parallels is working on some significant upgrades. The beta versions are nearing release. It already has compatibility with the Leopard and Vista operating systems. Microsoft announced the expected release of Microsoft Office 2007 for the Mac OS late this year. It will be a universal application so that it will run native in the Intel machines. Hopefully, the release estimate will be closer than Microsoft was with Vista….
Jeffrey Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a general practice in Oakland, California. His firm, Graves & Allen, emphasizes real estate and business transactions and litigation. He is a frequent speaker and author on technology topics and the Editor-in-Chief of the GPSOLO Technology & Practice Guide and the Technology eReport.