“Microsoft’s Windows Phone team posted today a rather cringe-worthy Windows Phone video on YouTube that mocks Apple and its recent iPhone announcement. Titled ‘A fly on the wall in Cupertino?’, it depicts what some might believe to be Apple CEO Tim Cook and Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive in separate meetings to go over the various color options and other features for the iPhone 5c and 5s.”
Fuck me, guys. Dear advertising people, this shit isn’t that hard. And MSFT has a real natural jibe to poke at Apple.
All you have to do is:
Show a video of Windows mobile, with it’s flat, non-skeumorphic aesthetics and vibrant colors. Then show the old iOS with stitched leather backgrounds and linen, and then show iOS 7 fading in, and then you say something like:
“Dear Apple: Congratulations on joining Microsoft in the future of interface design. We look forward to ‘collaborating’ more in the future. -Microsoft.”
I say this as an Apple household (iPad mini, iPhone, MacBook Air, I am in the kool aid, yo), there are way easier ways to snark than digging up a Steve Jobs look alike and doing something that would have worked in middle school.
You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on? In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became. Staff brought out surge protectors and extension cords with 10s of iOS device adapters so people could charge their phones & pads and contact their loved ones. Even after we finally had to close 10pm, crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the wifi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world.
A lot of people call Apple customers ‘fanatics’ or blinded by a reality zone. But I can’t help but like companies who act like this, whether in crisis, or during down times.
I went down with a friend for the first time and stood in line for a product launch of Apple’s, the iPad 2, last Friday. I did it because I’ve never done anything like that before (not Black Thursday, not the iPhone, not the original iPad), and because my friend was going to do some coverage of the event as a journalist.
But as we sat outside in the 30 degree weather, Apple employees passed out blankets and hot coffee and were generally warm and welcoming. Yeah, on the one hand, it’s a stunt and they’re told to. On the other hand, they seemed to genuinely be having fun, the people in line were having fun, and it was warm fuzzies all around.
So many corporations and companies work hard to become as cold and mirrored as the buildings they inhabit. Companies claim the legal protection of personhood, but they usually act like straight up pyschopaths.
Is it any surprise people flock to any company that shows a hint of humanity and feel strong feelings about it?
The question isn’t: why are there so many people who feel like they have a personal relationship with this company, but why are so few companies building any sort of relationship with humanity at all?
The new Mac App store just went live, and I downloaded the system update and installed a free app as a test. When the announcement went out, I observed to my friend tech journalist Josh Smith that the usual tech observers would howl in protest. Phrases like “walled garden” and “controlled environment” would be used to say that it would a) cause failure and b) be bad for you and that it’s more proof that Apple is locking you down and oppressing you, you poor digital serf.
I predicted that customers would fucking love it.
And here’s why:
In ten minutes I’ve already a) spotted a program I’d like to download that I never even would have known to look for, purely while looking for another app in its category. And, I’m already seeing some lower prices in the store due to the fact that programs are now stacked next to each other.
I’ve also found a program that I knew existed, but couldn’t find online because search kept popping up clutter.
Before, I’d have to search online, look for reviews, try to find competitors, and make a call. Now there’s a whole app marketplace for my laptop available at a click. Furthermore, app updates are all handled in a central place.
Yeah, *nix nerds are going ‘package manager’ but I’ve never found one that works simple, graphically easy to navigate, and without *fucking* dependencies driving me up the wall.
No, this is point and click simple, easy to browse, and it will drive people to try a lot more software on their computers than they otherwise would have. I’ve been comfortable downloading 3rd party apps like crazy to extend the usefulness of my laptop for years now. But I’ve noticed many people are wary of 3rd party software and tend to stick to a few basics, particularly recent converts to the platform.
That in turn will encourage more 3rd party software experimentation, as ease-of-discovery moves up. The ecosystem expends.
This is a good thing for consumers.
And that, to a lot of experts’ dismay, is what we are. Something they tend to gloss over or forget in favor of counting processor cycles or arguing over closed or open systems, things that customers really actually don’t give a shit about.
Often people disparage Apple products by saying ‘fanboys’ will ‘buy anything’ Apple sells. Never mind that since Apple stores opened to let people see product themselves that 50% of sales are to first timers, I used to point out the Apple TV as an example of an Apple product that people just didn’t take to.
I can’t do that anymore. The new Apple TV is becoming a sleeper hit and part of Apple’s general media strategy that the tech yapperati aren’t paying too much attention to (the faltering Google TV has them hard right now), but will now that a big number has been released.
My parents picked up an Apple TV a month ago. I took a look at it to compare it to my Roku Box a couple weeks ago.
The menu was more fluid and visually arranged in a more navigable manner. Not surprising.
Even better, all this time using the Roku to buy Amazon On Demand Videos and use Netflix, I’ve been frustrated by a simple lack of previews. Often I’d use my phone or laptop to look up what a movie was like outside of the one sentence description to make a decision. The Apple TV has a preview button that shows you the usual trailer for the movie you’re thinking of buying right there. Small thing, but it makes the experience!
In addition, the streaming on the Apple TV seems better.
All in all, it’s a more polished and easy to use looking system and it seems to work slightly better. I was impressed.
And I gather my parents are getting me one for a gift this year, so when it arrives I will compare it side by side to the Roku (which I like for HULU Plus, though the interface to that is just awful).
Well, I documented the craziness of my 11″ MacBook Air experience a few days ago. I tried a base model and the upgraded version. I had both units lock up, freeze, and flicker whenever connected to an external monitor (a 24″ Acer widescreen). I have no explanation. It would seem like a monitor cable issue, however, my MacBook Pro worked just wonderful with it, as did Emily’s MacBook.
I switched to a 13″ MacBook Air, the base model (I really can’t afford the upgraded 11 or an upgrade 13″ right now), and I’m happy to report: no monitor crashes!
So, could it have been the 11″ MacBook Airs were lemons? Maybe. On the other hand, I really suspect it’s a confluence of less shielding in the 11″ combined with possibly a bad adaptor? Or picking up interference in my office somehow? However the fact that they would hard freeze really made me suspect lemon.
Either way, the problem seems non-existent with the 13″ MacBook Air, so I’m now reinstalling all my programs and have moved all my data over, and I’m back to madly catching up on work I owe.
Impressions of the 13″ MacBook Air:
It’s slightly heavier, of course, but barely noticeable. What is noticeable is that although insanely thin, it feels on handling like it’s flat but larger, like holding a similarly thin and light envelope that’s one size up. I had to set it on top of the old MacBook Pro that’s been sold and is getting packed up to ship to its new owner to convince myself that it really was, in length, the same size as the MBP, because of the thinness it actually feels thinner but wider. It’s not. It’s just the 11″ to 13″ comparison kicking in.
One of my shocks was discovering that the 11″ had more pixels in the screen (1366 by 768 pixels) than my 13″ MacBook Pro. Rather than having less screen space to work with, I had more! The 13″ Air has 1440*900 pixels, which is, if I recall, what my wide screen external monitor two years ago was.
This makes the 13″ Air very usable for two page side-by-side editing. Something I normally hook up a laptop to an external monitor to do. It also makes some other work I usually prefer to do on a monitor doable on the laptop, which means I feel a bit more untethered than before.
Speaking of untethered, the 13″ Air has a 7 hour battery. Again, that untethered feeling has increased. The keyboard on the 13″ Air (something important to a writer) has a more solid feel than the 11″.
Oh, but the 11″ is so compact and tiny. It’s purse-sized. It’s a second thought to toss it in a bag, any bag, a briefcase. And go. That was the size factor that had my attention!
So, settling with the 13″ is a slight compromise. But it’s a good one because I think it lets me take more of my work on the go to more places than I felt I could before. And it works with my monitor.
Since my MacBook Pro was only a year and a half old, it sounds a bit crazy to upgrade (well, semi-sidegrade, the Air has a slower processor, less RAM, and so forth, and I can’t afford the faster and souped up Air), but Pro held its value well and sold for a good price. The cost for to upgrade was $299. Maybe less depending on what I can get for selling the flash hard drive that I had been using.
2 GB Ram is a bit low for me, considering the way I work and the tools I use, but on the SSD hard drive, virtual memory swapping is hard to even spot (I noticed it more thanks to iStat than because it really bugged me). For ultimate performance, I’d recommend the 4 GB. I think, if I were to have a blank checkbook, I’d recommend waiting on the 11″ if you are at all a demanding user until the processor speed and battery life get bumped, and settle with the 13″ maxed out. It’s truly an amazing machine.
On Saturday you may have noticed the blog went quiet. Emily was nice enough to drive me down to Columbus so that I could return my MacBook Air with the display glitch and get a replacement.
After having used the base 11″ Air with 2 gigs RAM and the slower processor for a week, and because I know I should be getting some short story money soon, I also upgraded to the 4 gigs of RAM and slightly faster processor.
So far no display glitches of any sort after an hour of typing when connected to an external monitor. I’m hoping that holds, as I really love this little machine.
I mentioned on twitter Friday that I’d gone down to Columbus, Ohio, to the Easton Mall to visit the Apple Store. My primary reason was to get a new battery for Emily’s laptop. The secondary reason was to take a look at the 11 inch MacBook Airs.
The first generation of MacBook Airs hadn’t really impressed me. Very slow, low battery life. Not really that much smaller than a MacBook Pro, although the weight savings was pretty nifty. I was sympathetic, though. My favorite laptop was the 12″ PowerBook, a laptop I had for two years until I passed it on to Emily. It was a great machine, and just the right size for me.
So the 11″ Air got my attention right away. I played with one at the Apple Store, and took one home with me. I’ll eBay my MacBook Pro tomorrow so that the sideways move doesn’t actually cost me anything.
My first impressions, while at the Apple Store, were physical: it’s small. It’s more rectangular than square, like the old 12″ inch. As a result, I was confident that while being compact, it wouldn’t slip through my lap, as the 12 was liable to do. It actually sits quite comfortably on my lap in a chair.
It’s also light. That’s obvious, but it’s still surprising to pick up. 2.3 pounds. And yet, there’s no flex. It feels solid in the hands. Nicely machined. That’s nice. Not enough to sell it to me nice, I thought while at the store. But it doesn’t feel toyish.
What impressed me right away was the crisp screen. And on the 11inch, the fact that it has 1366 by 768 pixels running, meaning I could fit all the same windows on it as the 13″ pro. I wouldn’t have to take a hit in productivity.
But could I lose horsepower? My MacBook Pro had 4 gigs of RAM and an Intel X25 solid state hard drive. It woke from sleep almost instantly and programs launched near instantly.
Could I go from a 2.4 GHz processor to a 1.6 or a 1.4?
I played around with the $999 MacBook Air with 2GB of RAM and a slower 1.4 GHz processor. I could deal, side by side, that my Pro had more horsepower. Particularly processing a video clip. But the Air was keeping up in window management, program launching, and general use.
Since I was mostly a word processor, email reader, and web browsing sort of dude, the hit was fairly minimal.
To be honest, I expected to come out of this needing the 13″ Air with the faster processor and all 4 GB of RAM (who downgrades their RAM?). But after half an hour of playing around, I became convinced I could swap out the lowest, cheapest Air for my MacBook Pro and proceed. Sure I’d notice a little bit of a performance hit, but not enough to stop me from doing it, particularly if I got the benefit of a smaller, even more portable laptop.
So I took one home. I even unboxed it on video for people on twitter who asked that I do that.
Since I’ve been home and loaded up all my apps, and plugged it into my 24″ widescreen monitor at home, my impression still stands. I’m running my usual suite of programs all at once, and it’s happy. Processing the occasional video clip for an upload is obviously slower, but that’s not my primary use. I can live.
As a writing and blogging machine, this is perfect.
The killer feature, the one that really sold me, is that it wakes from sleep so damn fast. Now, my MacBook Pro wakes from sleep really fast. It has a flash hard drive. But the Air is actually even faster than the Pro. How this is, I don’t know. But it is. It’s nearly instant on.
So what other impressions do I have? The speakers are tinnier than the Pro’s. The keyboard keys, something important to a writer, feel like they have slightly less travel before they click, which I like a little bit less than the MacBook Pros.
The fact that the Air’s body tapers down to a thin wedge by your wrists means that unlike most laptops, the top of the laptop facing you that your wrists settle on aren’t dug into. It’s far more comfortably to write on while in your lap.
The battery life is solid, and with click-to-flash running to disable flash unless I choose it as I browse and no flash churning away, seems to be offering me ~5 hours of battery life.
All in all, I suspect that this may edge slightly higher than the 12″ PowerBook in list of favorite laptops I’ve owned.
Born in the Caribbean, Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author. His novels and over 50 short stories have been translated into 17 languages and he has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. He currently lives in Ohio.
It's easy enough to contact me via the contact page but here are some common answers to frequent questions:
Advice on writing:
If you're asking me advice on how to get published, consider reading Just A Draft. It's not complete, but it contains a lot of information about what I know about becoming a writer.
Asking me for a blurb:
I take blurb requests via an agent or editor, they can contact me here. This is so I can honestly blurb (or not) without fear of awkward interactions or letting anyone down if things don't work out (for whatever reason).
Sending me books to read:
I prefer reading electronically, so I'm always happy to accept material. You can find my email on the contact me page.