Tag Archive for: apple

Microsoft’s New Zune Phone

Not to be outdone by Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft announced that their next generation Zune would also be a mobile phone.

You can see a video on the new Zune phone here.


As expected, Apple introduced the iPhone today. A device which combines cellular, digital audio, and internet connectivity using an OS X operating system. And, as expected, the design is stunning.

Given that apple.ca is not highlighting the iPhone, I guess Canada will be left out of the ruckus for now. The apple.com site is highlighting the iPhone here.

I have a few observations about the unit. Aside from a very cool form factor, I wonder how practical the device will be given the inherent issues with battery life. Apple claims a battery life of up to 5 hours talk time/video playback/internet browsing and up to 16 hours of audio playback. I’ll be interested to learn if those values hold in everyday use.

Touch screens are just messy. I have yet to use a touch screen interface that works as well as tactile. Too many false hits. And greasy fingers lead to a dirty screen. I wonder how easy it will be to browse and select embedded links on web pages using a finger on a tiny piece of screen real estate.

Interesting that the iPhone runs OS X but I’m not sure what that means. Is it like a Windows CE port? A small FreeBSD kernel with some networking and UI components?

Storage maxes out at 8GB. I currently run a 30GB iPod and it is almost full.

Nonetheless, it is a great example of superlative design.


iTune Sales Plummet

The National Post headline read: Sales Cut In Half: Revenue plummets 65% as consumers lose their appetite for Apple iTunes.

And with that news, spread broadly across the mainstream media, Apple stock dropped 3%.

The problem? The story is simply not true.

From the National Post:

Since January, 2006 the number of monthly iTunes transactions has declined 58%, while the average size per purchase declined by 17%, leading to a 65% overall drop in monthly iTunes revenue, U.S. market research group Forrester said in a survey among North American consumers.

National Post took the story from Reuters. Faced with numerous questions on the validity of the research, Forrester made a post on their blog to clarify their report. Here is an excerpt:

What an interesting couple of days it’s been. What follows is a case study in how information — and misinformation — spreads on the Net.

We put out a simple little report about iPods and iTunes based on credit card transactions and publicly stated Apple data. And for those who aren’t Forrester clients, I blogged the highlights. In case you are wondering, we ran the report by Apple, and they declined to comment.

Since then: – The New York Times ran a little fairly balanced pieced on the research. This got us on the media’s radar screen. Then . . . – A UK outfit called The Register and Bloomberg decided to dive in and highlight one finding of the report — that iTunes sales had dropped in the first six months of this year. We got treated to wonderful headlines about iTunes sales “collapsing” and “dropping” and “plummeting” and so on.

Now for the record, iTunes sales are not collapsing. Our credit card transaction data shows a real drop between the January post-holiday peak and the rest of the year, but with the number of transactions we counted it’s simply not possible to draw this conclusion . . . as we pointed out in the report. But that point was just too subtle to get into these articles. – Apple’s stock actually did plummet — 3%.

I started getting calls from hedge fund managers. Apple’s spokesman called and, although they refuse to go on the record with any facts, they’re clearly upset. And I also heard from the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times, Financial Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, thestreet.com, etc. At this point I was trying to get people off the “65% drop” idea and onto some of the more interesting ideas in the report, with mixed success.

Now, you can’t unring the bell. But I will try to focus you on the truth here, which is this: iTunes sales are leveling off, the Journal did an article about it last Friday with data from Soundscan. Apple is not in trouble — it makes its money mostly from iPods, and iTunes is just a way to make that experience better. It’s the music industry that has to worry, since the $1 billion a year or so from iTunes, globally, doesn’t nearly make up for even the drop in CD sales in the US, which are now down $2.5 billion from where they were.

The researcher from Forrester got another point wrong. This was not a case study on how information and misinformation spreads on the Net. This was a story that leaped over to the mainstream media. And, in the spirit of diligent journalism, the papers simply grabbed a news feed and printed it for effect. No validation. No investigation.

In other words, the mainstream media became a parrot.

Microsoft Losing Its Way

Jim Allchin, a senior executive with Microsoft, exposes a deep secret: that he would rather buy a Mac than run Windows.

In an Iowa anti-trust trial against Microsoft, Allchin’s three-year old email was surfaced:

Exhibit 7264. Almost three years ago, on January 7, 2004, Jim Allchin, the senior executive at Microsoft, sent an E-mail to Microsoft’s top two executives, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and the subject was losing our way.

Mr. Allchin says, I’m not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers, both business and home, the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products. He goes on to say, I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.

He sets the record straight on the Windows Vista blog here. He claims he was only being dramatic. I thought he was just being rational. Using Windows can be such a tough experience. I imagine building it must have been much, much worse. This article gives you some sense of the drama.

He is unable to join the Mac brotherhood until he leaves the Empire.

Soon, Jim. Soon.

Jim Allchin

Studio Upgrades

A small window of opportunity gave me the chance to make a few needed upgrades to the studio. One was easy. The other very complex.

The easy upgrade was the addition of a new keyboard into the studio. We took delivery of a new Korg TR-88 music workstation. This unit features 88 weighted keys and an impressive sound engine. But, like most things digital, a bit of a learning curve to get up to speed with the more advanced operations. This unit replaces the trusty old Roland JV-80. In service since 1991, it was getting a bit long in the tooth. Amazingly, the JV-80 still works well so it may yet submit a few more sonic riffs in our studio productions.

The tough upgrade was moving the studio DAW to Pro Tools HD 7.1 cs10 from 6.9. This was a major upgrade which required a complete rebuild of the studio computer: new operating system, incremental builds of Pro Tools, upgrades of software plug-ins and system testing.

I am most of the way there.

The Apple G5 tower is a fabulous computer. I have a dual processor configuration running at 2GHz. The unit has 4GB of RAM and almost 2 Terabytes of online storage, two high-speed 250GB internal SATA drives and an array of firewire and USB offline storage. No need at all for me to upgrade this machine at the hardware level. I love this computer. Stable. Reliable. And high performance. Perfect for audio.

I needed to move from a 10.3.6 build of OS X to a 10.4.6 build. My Pro Tools technician highly recommended a clean install.

I did a full image backup of the old system disk and I did a clean install of Tiger 10.4.6. I had a minor hiccup in that I needed to update the firmware of the SuperDrive. The computer would not read the install disc. I know it sounds a bit odd, particularly to Windows users, but I had not updated the studio computer at the operating system level for about two years.

So, a firmware update allowed the machine to read the install disc. And, within an hour, a clean install of 10.4.6 was ready for Pro Tools.

Where to begin? Software licenses had to be registered. Pro Tools, and its related plugins, are all managed by license dongles called iLoks. I have so many plugins that I use two iLok dongles. I had to go online to register the new Pro Tools license and get it deposited into my iLok account. And I had to go to the iLok site to transfer the license to one of my iLok dongles attached to my computer.

Of course, the new install of 10.4.6 did not have the appropriate client to perform this transfer and thus began the night of a thousand downloads. iLok client, Pro Tools 7.0 software followed by 7.1cs10 and assorted plugins.

The iLok update and the Pro Tools HD updates were not bad. But the plugins? My goodness.

I had to update virtually every software plugin in my Pro Tools HD rig. I have somewhere over 100 plugins. Thankfully, some of them are suites, but nonetheless, I had to update about 70 times. Go to website. Download compatible plugins. Run the install software. Test to ensure the plugins instantiated properly by running Pro Tools and exercising the plugin.

Granted, almost all of the software manufacturers provide an unlimited software license for their plugins. Which meant that they had updated their plugins to work with Pro Tools 7.x and offered the download without charge. All but two.

Sony charged me $20 USD to download the upgrade to their Oxford EQ plugin. Okay. A minor annoyance. Waves, on the other hand, won’t allow me to upgrade my plugins without becoming current on their maintenance program.

I initially payed close to $2,000 USD for their plugin suite in 2003. Shortly afterwards, in a controversial move, they decided to implement a maintenance program to allow owners of plugins to keep current. I am not aware of any other plugin vendor that does the same. And so you gamble. Will there be enough of a change to your existing plugin suite that the cost of the maintenance program is worthwhile? In my case no. But now I have to spend almost $600 Canadian just to allow the same plugins to work under the new Pro Tools environment.

The phrase “rip off” comes to mind. I wish I could get off the Waves plugs but I do use a number of them. And virtually all of my sessions over the past several years use them. I am between a rock and a hard place.

A huge amount of time was spent upgrading the software side of the Pro Tools rig. I have been up to about 2am over the past couple of nights getting this stuff done. And for those of you who know me, 10pm is my usual bedtime.

Oh, yes, my blog went down for several hours yesterday. I received a number of emails alerting me to this fact. My hosting service had not allowed enough space for the database service. Their issue and they fixed it relatively quickly. Thanks for letting me know.

25 Greatest PCs of All Time

PC World created a list of the 25 greatest PCs of all time. They used four factors to determine what made a personal computer great:

  • Innovation
  • Impact
  • Industrial Design
  • Intangibles

Number one on the list? The Apple II computer. This computer came out in April of 1977 and the model line continued until December of 1993. I owned one of these computers.

Number two on the list: the Compaq Deskpro 386. I was number 17 on the wait list in Canada for the original Deskpro 386. It arrived within days of my oldest son’s birth.

Number three: Xerox 8010 Information System. Never used one.

Number four: Apple Macintosh Plus. I loved this computer. It came out in 1986.

Number five: IBM ThinkPad 700C. The classic laptop. I used a 700C for over 8 years.

I am pleased that I had the good fortune to work on 4 of the 5 greatest PCs of all time. Take a look at the article and go back in time. Some great computers. The picture below is from the original marketing brochure for the Apple II. June Cleaver is preparing food and Ward is checking his stocks. Remember folks. This was the 70s. And is that picture of an apple, to the right of June, by chance?
Apple II


Apple launched its main event, It’s Showtime, yesterday. And lots of interesting developments from this company. New iPods, a new version of iTunes, downloadable movies and iTV.

Apple can create a simple and easy to use interface to television. Unlike Microsoft’s Media Centre, the iTV looks like a simple and easy way to connect digital sources from your computer to a current generation TV set.

I’m not sure how much market demand is out there for this type of platform. I will try it out but I still segregate my computer activities from watching television.

But, being able to push digital content out to my home theatre from my computer is certainly of interest. Music and photos for sure. Low resolution movies? No.

Not that it matters. Downloadable TV shows and movies won’t hit the Canadian iTunes store for a long time.


Including Your Blog

Apple recently held its Worldwide Developer Conference. The big news was the introduction of the Intel-based professional line. Steve Jobs’ keynote can be found here.

I have been running the studio on the Power-based professional line. And I thought that Digidesign might be slow in moving Pro Tools | HD to the new Intel-based Macs. Nope. From the Digidesign website:

Digidesign is expecting to release an Intel-based Mac-compatible update to its acclaimed Pro Tools HD 7.2 software in September 2006. This free update for all owners of Pro Tools HD 7.2 software will allow ICON and Pro Tools|HD users to build their Digidesign system around the new Mac Pro. Within a similar timeframe, the company expects to release compatible versions of its range of Digidesign and Digidesign-distributed TDM plug-ins, while working very closely with third-party manufacturers to help them port their plug-ins and compatible applications to the Intel Mac platform.

I am not in a hurry to upgrade the dual processor G5 in the studio. It has been an awesome computer for audio work.

The other item of interest at the Apple WWDC was a notice asking attendees to not communicate to the world about the conference proceedings, including your blogs.

The power of blogging.
Apple Blogs