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Opinion: Apple Has The Finest Lineup of Products Ever

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With or without Steve Jobs, Apple has the best lineup of hardware and software it has ever offered.

All in all, the WWDC keynote showed that Apple is paying attention to all the right things. It’s got a great line-up of affordable hardware that’s fast, feature-packed and environmentally friendly. The software loaded on top is designed for user-freindliness and ease of use. And Apple is no longer alone: it has thousands of partners in software and hardware who will push Apple’s platforms in new directions.

And while Apple is making a stealth enterprise play by supporting Micorosft Exchange, it’s not devoting features or resources to taking on Microsoft head on. Instead, Apple is concentrating on its core market: home users. And it’s got a killer lineup for consumers, especially in software.

* The new iPhone 3GS is a killer device. The speed bump, better camera and digital compass (which will enable a raft of amazing location-based services) will tempt iPhone users to upgrade in droves. The iPhone is becoming finally a true mobile computer, and no one has anything that comes close.

* The $99 iPhone is the Palm Pre killer. Who now will pay $199 for an iPhone-imitator on Sprint, when the original costs less than half the price?

* The new MacBook Pro laptops running Snow Leopard are the best laptops on the market, bar none. Even if other laptops have good hardware, Microsoft’s Vista is their Achilles heel. With a great built-in battery, memory-card slots and the return of firewire, MacBooks will sell like hotcakes. Netbooks be damned. The real computing market — and most of the money — is in laptops, and Apple’s got the best available.

* Snow Leopard looks like a great upgrade, despite the lack of whizbang new features. Instead, it will offer upgrades in all the right areas: Web browsing, better multimedia, easy of use and speed. Snow Leopard has tons of little touches that will add up to an extremely polished, consumer-oriented operating system that focuses on the things consumers do — browse the Web, watch videos, and communicate with friends. That’s why things that seem small and minor — like today’s WWDC demonstration of easy video editing and uploading in QuickTime — really counts. Apple is focused, as usual, on improving the user experience. And unlike Vista, Snow Leopard delivers.

* Green. The new MacBooks are rated EPEAT Gold — the highest standard of energy efficiency, green production and recyclability.The importance of being green can’t be understated. There’s a huge shift in consumer attitudes, especially among Apple’s educated, upscale demographic, who are demanding environmentally-friendly products. Being green is a huge selling point, and Apple now offers some of the greenest hardware.

Opinion: Apple Makes Its Best Enterprise Play Yet

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Image credit: MacRumors

If there’s any reason for a business to shun Macs and the iPhone after Monday’s upgrade announcements at WWDC, it’s got to be because the IT department is on the take or it simply doesn’t want its employees to use the best computers and smartphone on the market.

Perhaps flying under the radar among major announcements of upgrades to the company’s notebook computer line, Apple offers with OS X Snow Leopard — and the new iPhone OS 3.0 — significant improvements to a few areas of special interest to business customers that should enable Apple’s devices to make greater inroads to acceptance in the enterprise market.

Chief among them, of course is new seamless integration with Exchange, the Microsoft mail/contacts/calendar service used by the vast preponderance of enterprise customers today.

The WWDC demo by Craig Federighi, VP of Mac OS Engineering Monday showed how easy it is to add an Exchange account using Snow Leopard, with the OS supporting auto-discovery of Exchange servers, with all email/folders/to-do lists being automatically populated and Spotlight immediately able to search all data. Quicklook even lets users preview MS Office documents through Mail, even when Office isn’t installed on the Mac.

Event invitations can be accepted or denied right through Mail. iCal and Address Book automatically have all appropriate data once Mail is setup. One or more contacts can be dragged & dropped into iCal to automatically create a meeting and Calendar events support resource allocation, including people’s schedules and room availability.

What more does the IT department want?

How about data encryption for the iPhone, the ability to locate a user’s mobile device on a Google map using the new Find My iPhone service on MobileMe and remote secure data wipe for phones that are truly lost?

Apple has always been looked upon by enterprise interests as a maker of things for creatives and other ‘unserious’ users, but Monday’s announcements surely throw down a gauntlet in the matter of those who are serious about their computing and communications going forward.

Huge Keynote Line Forms Before Dawn; Fake Twitter Sightings of Steve Jobs

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CC-licensed picture by Luca Bartolletti

The line for this morning’s Schillernote at WWDC was already several blocks long before the first light of dawn. See the pictures on Flickr and reports on Twitter. Compare to this unintentionally hilarious collection of pre-dawn Palm Pre lineup photos.

Talking of Twitter, there’s been several tweets saying Steve Jobs has been spotted at WWDC.

However, it looks like a false rumor that’s spreading fast. Most of the Twitter sightings seem to be a retweet of a tweet by Michael Fey, known as MrRooni, who said: “Holy damn I just saw Steve Jobs walk through Moscone! #wwdc.”

‘I’m guessing, but MrRooni’s tweet looks like a joke to me. But now the joke is spreading, and others are treating it as real.

Survey: Smartphone Users Love Them Some Apps

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Smartphone users are spending more time using native applications on their mobile devices to the detriment of other technology and media, but the mere availability of applications is not the primary driver of buying decisions, according to a report by Gravity Tank.

The Chicago-based consulting firm surveyed more than 1,000 iPhone and Android G1 users during April and May and found those users had downloaded an average of nearly 24 apps to their mobile devices, among which they use an average of almost 7 per day.

Nearly half (48 percent) of phone owners report shopping for apps more than once a week, while slightly more (49 percent) report using apps on their phone for more than 30 minutes a day.

Other technologies and media, such as gaming devices, GPS devices, newspapers and TV, all suffer in the light of app-enabled smartphones, as people reported the ability to consolidate multiple devices into one as one of the top two reasons they decided to buy a smartphone in the first place.

Leading the pack of reasons people buy a smartphone is the ability to check email and calendars (74 percent cited this). The availability of new games and applications figured into the buying decision for 67 percent of the survey respondents.

The survey results cast an interesting take on all the pre-launch hoopla and positive reviews garnered for the Palm Pre, which will be available to the public starting tomorrow.

Palm’s highly regarded smartphone entry is coming to market with a decided dearth of 3rd party apps available for it and Palm executives have been somewhat cagey regarding the timeline for development of apps for the Pre.

With Apple gearing up its own hype machine for plenty of noise beginning Monday at WWDC it may be some time before Palm is likely to catch up to iPhone’s lead in both the smartphone device and applications markets.

[New York Times]

Steve Jobs Much Better And Back on the Job in June — WSJ

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CC-licensed Steve Jobs portrait by Charis Tsevis

Steve Jobs is recovering from his mystery illness and is set to return to Apple at the end of the month, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Jobs will not however make a surprise appearance at WWDC on Monday. Instead, he’ll host a product presentation or other special event later in June, the Journal says.

“He was one real sick guy,” added this person. “Fundamentally he was starving to death over a nine-month period. He couldn’t digest protein. [But] he took corrective action.”

The story is hidden behind the Journal‘s pay wall, but is free to read on the iPhone.

(The Journal also reports that the next-gen iPhone will be unveiled during the keynote address on Monday but won’t be available until July, to coincide with the two-year anniversary of original iPhone purchases. The iPhone will have a faster processor and a better camera with video editing, the Journal says, citing someone who’s actually seen the phone).

The story also notes that Tim Cook is doing a good job in Steve’s absence — the stock is way up.

Via Tuaw.

iPhone Rumor Round Up Chart

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Kudos to Remy over at TGR for rounding up all the rumors about the next iPhone heading into WWDC with an easy-to-read infographic.

The legend lower right tells you what the probability of these changes will be from his point of view plus a source list of links for the rumors so you can decide for yourself.

We won’t know for sure until Apple’s worldwide developers conference kicks off June 8, but what do you think are the chances it’ll have a luminous logo (in this chart deemed “unlikely”),  improved camera (“very likely” ) and $199-$299 price points (“very likely”) ?

Via Device

Truphone Improves WiFi Calling on iPod Touch

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Truphone, arguably the most persistent VoIP developer for Apple’s mobile products iPhone and iPod Touch, released the 3.0 iteration of its app for the iPod Touch Monday, making a very strong case for the portable gadget as an effective communication device.

Among the improvements in Truphone 3.0 are a faster, slicker UI, improved voice quality, and native support for IM communications using Skype, MSN Messenger, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk.

Users with a stable WiFi connection will assuredly enjoy being able to IM using any of those clients from within a single app, as well as make free phone calls to other Truphone users, Skype and Google Talk users. Truphone also offers excellent rates on calls to landlines and worldwide mobile phones.

The upgrade offers improvements to in-app account management that now allow users to:

  • See rates before initiating a call
  • Display recent call history, showing the exact cost of a just-ended call, how long it lasted, with the ability to see a summary of calls made month by month
  • Top up an account balance without the need to access a browser window separately
  • Top up an account balance in variety of ways, including credit card or PayPal
  • Change calling tariffs within the application.

When Apple introduced the iPod Touch few considered the possibility it might become a communication device, but with the addition of a microphone adapter and the evolution of 3rd party applications developed for the iTunes App Store over the past year, Truphone has done a great job of employing its WiFi connectivity to give iPod Touch owners the added value that comes with being able to make VoIP calls.

Receiving calls through the Truphone app still requires a user to have it open and running, but when Apple introduces a new version of the device’s operating software next week at WWDC, the push notification it will support could change even that limitation.

What Recession? Apple Retail Goes Full Speed Ahead

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Apple’s Retail division has no plans to scale back its ambitions, according to a report Thursday in USA Today, and in fact sees opportunity in the recent economic contraction.

“We’re investing in the downturn,” said Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of retail. Apple plans to remodel 100 of its existing stores this year, adding space for customer training and room for displaying more product. The company also plans to open 25 new stores, including a fourth location in New York City, and new ones in Paris, Italy and Germany.

Stores will soon display “twice the amount” of Mac computers and other products, according to Johnson, and Genius Bars will get 50% more room to serve up free tech support for Apple products.

Beginning June 2, Apple’s One to One product training program will limit sign-ups to purchasers of new Mac computers at Apple Stores or via the company’s website, although any of the half million current One to One subscribers will be able to renew their $99 one year subscriptions .

“We originally set up One to One to get people to switch to the Mac,” Johnson said. “Now we want to expand it to make it even more relevant to people who have bought their Mac.”

Still priced at $99, the annual subscription includes personal setup, transferring of files from an older computer (Windows or Mac) and help with projects.

Previously, sessions timed out at one hour; new policy will extend the limit to three hours, but sessions could also include up to three participants.

Even in the light of his division’s expansion plans, Johnson conceded the recession has affected in-store traffic. Apple reported a 3% decline in sales during the most recently reported quarter. Traffic remains strong, he said, but has cooled off since last summer, when long lines greeted the introduction of the second-generation iPhone.

With many expecting an update to the iPhone to be announced at next week’s WWDC in San Francisco, Apple stores could well see the return of long lines and a need for all that extra space.

[USAToday]

White MacBook Gets Minor Update: Faster CPU and RAM, More Battery

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Apple’s entry-level white MacBook received a hardware update on Wednesday, possibly foreshadowing revisions to the aluminum unibody MacBooks.

For the same $999 base price, the WhiteBook now gets:

* CPU bump from 2.0 GHz to 2.13 GHz.
* Hard drive from 120 GB to 160 GB.
* RAM boost from 667 MHz to 800 MHz.
*Battery life upped from 4.5 hours of “wireless productivity” to 5 hours. And now rated Energy Star EPEAT Gold, up from EPEAT Silver.

Thanks to the updates, the WhiteBook now has a faster processor than the entry-level aluminum MacBook, and a bigger build-to-order hard drive (500GB). And it still has a FireWire port. Updates to the unibody soon?

Apple is rumored to be offering similar upgrades to the aluminum MacBooks at WWDC, and rebranding the machines as MacBook Pros to further distinguish them from the white plastic MacBook.

White MacBook tech specs.

White MacBook at Apple’s online store.

New iPhone to Get a Snappy Performance Upgrade

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With WWDC09 now just weeks away, rumors and predictions regarding what Apple may reveal at the highly-anticipated, sold-out developers conference in San Francisco are sure to spread like a California wildfire.

Anyone interested in being on the right side of such talk would do well to consider the logic and analysis out Thursday from John Gruber, the well-placed author of the blog Daring Fireball, who isn’t prone to talking about things he doesn’t know a little something about.

Citing “information from informed sources,” Gruber believes the processor in the next-generation iPhone is going to be the kind of upgrade to make people crowd around and go, “ooooh!” He looks for Apple’s processing secret-sauce to better the speed of current iPhones by 1.5 times, similar to the bump in performance experienced when Mac users got hands on machines with the first batch of PowerPCs, or PC users moved from 486 to Pentium machines.

Follow after the jump for more of what Gruber expects and how likely his expectations are to be met.