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Mac Spending Up Despite Consumer Downturn




Another survey seems to confirm Apple products are immune from the general economic malaise hurting consumer spending. Consumers planned to buy more Mac laptops and desktops for the back-to-school period as well as over the next 90 days, according to a a survey by ChangeWave released Monday.  This compares to the No. 1 PC maker, which consumers said they would buy fewer.

Also, the August survey found the release of Apple’s iPhone 3G is having a “halo” affect on other products. ChangeWave found 17 percent of consumers said the new iPhone made them more apt to buy a Mac.

Eight percent of the 4,416 mostly-U.S. consumers said during the critical back-to-school season they would buy an Apple product online compared to four percent who said they would buy less from Apple’s Web site, for a four percent overall gain for the Cupertino, Calif. company. 

Consumers said, in general,  they planned to spend less on electronics over the next three months. ChangeWave found 34 percent of consumers said they would spend less on electronics, compared to 15 percent  that indicated they would spend more on electronics. The findings are 13 percent lower than a year ago.

Confidence in Apple products differs from overall PC buying plans.  Desire to buy an Apple laptop rose two points (34 percent) with plans for an Apple desktop rising by three points to 30 percent. This contrasts with a decline in plans to buy a PC.

When it came to the top two PC sellers – HP and Dell – the retail reticence was pronounced. Plans to buy a Dell laptop within the next 90 days fell 4 points while future desktops rose by 3 points. U.S. consumers said they would buy fewer HP laptops and desktops, compared to July.

It should be noted that much of HP sales are coming from outside the United States. On Friday, Gartner analyst Alfonso Velso told Cult of Mac that Apple was particularly susceptible to any economic downturn that affected consumer spending. However, only recently had the research firm detected rumblings of any blowback from the economy. Gartner placed Apple as the sixth-largest PC maker. MetaFacts had earlier said Apple ranked fourth in laptop sales.   

‘Welcome to Mac’ edges to DVD



A film that looks at the evolution and culture surrounding the Macintosh has been selected to the shortlist of the 2008 Naperville Independent Film Festival which takes place next week.

This is the first time the film, a documentary called, ‘Welcome to Machintosh’, has been screened in the US since new interview footage with original Apple co-founder Ron Wayne was added to the movie. Click here to watch the trailer on YouTube.

That exclusive interview was added just before the movie’s European premiere at the Globians Documentary Film Festival in August. The documentary mixes history, criticism and Apple idolatory into an exploration of the early years of Apple as seen through the eyes of Apple employees, engineers, resellers and supporters.

Google Chrome sets sights on Safar… Windows?!?



While there has been much speculation about webkit powered Chrome and the possible implications for Apple’s Safari browser, we think the shot Google fired last week was across a different bow altogether.

Follow us after the jump where we discuss how Chrome has it’s sights set on Windows and why Apple couldn’t care less if there’s ever a Safari  v4.0.

Was Spore Worth the Wait?



For a while Spore seemed to have gone the route of Duke Nukem’ A game often hyped, frequently shown, and never delivered, but Sunday September 7th I finally got my copy of the God of God Simulators. Follow me after the jump to see if it was worth the 3-year wait.

Bad behavior



I don’t often read Windows sites, let alone link to them, and even then not when I think they’re rightly criticising Apple or Mac OS X. But in this case, I think it’s justified.

Ed Bott got a surprise when he upgraded to iTunes 8 on his PC running Windows Vista. Not only did he get iTunes 8, he also a QuickTime update – and that’s fine, because the installer told him that was going to happen, and he continued with the upgrade knowing what to expect.

Or so he thought.

But on further investigation (see the annotated gallery), it turned out that the upgrade process also installed a bunch of other things: Apple Mobile Device Support, Bonjour, and Mobile Me. And on top of those, a couple of drivers, one of which is a known cause of serious crashes.

Ed’s post isn’t a complaint about the software itself (although the crash-causing driver is a pretty annoying problem). What he’s most annoyed about is the manner in which it was installed. If Apple wanted to install all this extra stuff, it should at least have the courtesy to tell him so first.

This is precisely the sort of behavior that Microsoft, Real, and many other Windows software companies got into trouble over back in the 1990s and early 2000s. I can remember people getting hugely angry with Windows software that tried to sneak its way into your computer.

Perhaps Apple is doing it this way because it thinks Windows users are accustomed to it. But think how you’d feel if, next time you ran Software Update on your OS X Mac, it told you there was one upgrade available and then started to install six different things? Wouldn’t you be suspicious? Wouldn’t you be just a tad annoyed?

iPhone 2.1 Software Update Now Available



Apple has released iPhone 2.1 firmware as promised at Tuesday’s Keynote event in San Francisco. This highly anticipated software update is supposed to fix a host of bugs and provide performance enhancements that should dramatically improve the iPhone user experience, according to Apple.

Among noticeable upgrades, users should see improved cellular network connectivity, significantly improved battery life, dramatically shorter iTunes backups, improved fetching of e-mail and faster installation of third-party applications. The update also adds a repeat alert up to two additional times for incoming text messages, adds an option to wipe data after ten consecutive failed passcode attempts, and adds Genius playlist creation in iTunes.

Does your iPhone seem bigger, better, faster, more with 2.1 firmware? Let us know in comments below.

Why iPod touch will never be a major gaming platform



UPDATE: One year on, and my view of the platform for gaming has changed somewhat—read Why Apple is Right to Pitch iPod touch as a Games Console to Beat the DSi and PSP Go.

The iPod touch segment of Let’s Rock was particularly notable for Apple’s attempts to position the device as a major gaming platform. “It’s the best portable device for playing games,” claimed Jobs. Apple’s website now calls iPod touch the ‘funnest iPod ever’, and talks about its ‘hundreds of games’. This emphasis on gaming, along with the demonstrations we’ve seen from various developers, appears to be positioning iPod touch alongside Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS, rather than talking about mobile gaming as though iPod touch has any relationship whatsoever to a certain smartphone and cell-phone gaming in general.

There are arguments in favor of this belief. Games have proved phenomenally popular on the App Store. They’re also cheap, relatively plentiful, and simple to get on to your iPhone or iPod touch. Also, crucially, Apple’s solution betters Sony’s and Nintendo’s by allowing updates to games—something owners of the abhorrent DS port of The Settlers no doubt wish were true of their platform.

The problem is, iPod touch is only ever going to be a niche concern in the gaming space. Find out why after the break…

Inside the iPhone thrill cult



Photography, magic and music-making. Like the iPod before it, iPhone is becoming a cultural icon with creative innovators exploring unusual diversions for the device.

Magic master

Multimedia magician Marco Tempest (he’s on TV with his ‘Virtual Magician’ series in 52 countries) was an early mover. He created a video which appeared to be software running on an iPhone and queued for ten hours to buy one the day it launched in the US. Within ten minutes he’d installed the clip, which he used to entertain the crowd with a series of illusions.

Among other visual tricks, this made it appear the device was being used as an X-ray machine and an electric razor. Watch the amazing video:

More about Marco, after the jump.

First impressions: iTunes 8



Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have failed to notice that iTunes 8 arrived to some fanfare earlier this week. I’ve been putting it through its paces, figuring out whether the new features are any good, and scoring them using our patented* rockometer.

More after the break…

* Not patented.

External Mic Makes New Apple Headphones Interesting



I was immediately intrigued by the new headphones announced at Tuesday’s “big event” in San Francisco. Initially, I was excited by the prospect of the new “in-ear” style that will retail for $79 when they begin shipping next month. I have always found the ear buds on Apple headphones quite uncomfortable, especially for wearing an extended amount of time. The new “in-ear” style seems promising, since they will feature separate woofer and tweeter drivers, which should make for a higher-fidelity listening experience than is available with the standard headphones.

The remote play/pause/skip and volume control available on these new optional accessories (a lower-fidelity version with standard ear buds, available now, sells for $29) is another handy feature, but possibly the most interesting development, which Steve Jobs and many analysts either glossed over or failed to mention entirely, lies in their built-in microphone. At yesterday’s keynote Jobs mentioned in passing that the headset mic will enable voice note recording with the new iPod Nano, which is certainly a value add to that device. But a check of the headphones’ specs on the Apple website indicates they are supported by the iPod Touch and the new 120GB iPod Classic as well.

When I got my first iPod 5 years ago, I longed for a mic/line in so I could record directly to the device and wondered why in the world Apple had passed up the opportunity to produce a cool digital recording device when it was sitting right in front of the design team from the very beginning. Has it finally come to pass?

As usual, the answer is unclear. Comments in a MacRumors forum thread suggest great interest among iPod Touch and iPhone users for the utility of an external microphone, both for the VoIP applications it could enable, as well as for the music recording possibilities (GarageBand Lite, anyone?) it creates. The company makes no claim these new headphones are supported by the iPhone, although it says that iPhone headsets (which also include an external mic) work with iPods.

Stay tuned: when the new high-end headsets become available I’ll be getting a pair to see if my dream of an Apple digital recorder has indeed come true.