Apple's WWDC

Going to toss in my $0.02. With Apple pulling out of future MacWorld’s, the annual WWDC is their one opportunity to tell you what they’re doing that’s cool.

Snow Leopard looks like a great evolution of MacOS. Still don’t get the name, there were plenty of other cats to choose from, rather than one with the same basic name as the existing OS. Everything’s faster, that’s what they touted, perhaps "Cheetah" would have been a good choice. But, naming in software is a very silly thing. I advocate giving your development releases pointless names like "red, green, yellow". Engineers are usually bad at naming, using the analytic part of the brain doesn’t give the coolest names, the artistic part does. Thus, you should have the artistic people in your organizations name your products. Nuff said…

New laptops. All nice upgrades, with the exception of removing the ExpressCard slot. Nice they added an SD slot, but removing the ExpressCard? When you can’t tether the iPhone? So, no cellular data modems that work in the ExpressCard slot. No built-in card, like some of the Dell models. And I’m not a fan of non user removable batteries. Their claimed 7 hours means hopefully 5 hours of real-world time use. Apple’s batteries have long been less impressive than they’ve touted. I’m currently using my 2 year old MacBook Pro, 15". My battery now has 40% of it’s original capacity, and with 386 load cycles, lasts maybe an hour off charge, if I’m lucky.

The best news on the laptops, besides the evolutionary changes, is the across the board price reductions. They’re still pricey, but it’s good to see the price points drop, rather than stay stable as features are added.

iPhone news? Another evolutionary change. Nice upgrades, a faster phone will be good. The 3.0 software will finally bring the iPhone software to a point where it isn’t embarrassing in comparison to 5 year old phones. Well, with the exception of video. The exhibiting iPhone can do video, 3rd parties have apps running well on jailbroken iPhones, but Apple wouldn’t approve any video-capable apps for the existing iPhones. Why? So they’d have a "must have" feature in their next evolution. Since the next iPhone wasn’t going to have a must-have feature, they’re arbitrarily making it video, and saying you need a new phone to support it. But, if you bought a 3G iPhone, you’re still under contract with AT&T, and don’t qualify for subsidized pricing, so a new phone will cost more than a new Netbook. Might be time to look into jailbreaking if you want Video, but have a 3G phone and don’t want to pay $500 for a new, marginally improved phone.

Bad news? AT&T won’t be supporting basic functionality like MMS and tethering. They’ll support it "later". Both features I had on my Nokia E61 4 or more years ago, via AT&T. What the heck? And with the subsidy limits carriers are imposing, a basic 16Gig 3G(S) will cost an existing iPhone 3G customer $417, plus tax, and I think at least one other $18 AT&T fee. $399, plus $18 upgrade fee, according to

My complaints with AT&T are numerous. The last two gatherings I went to, SXSW and the Maker Faire, AT&T data became unusable. At SXSW, even voice wouldn’t work, nor SMS. 3G was totally overloaded, but non-3G was also overloaded. So, at a conference where you need to keep in touch via a mobile phone, and there is cool software rolled out just to enable it, you couldn’t even use voice to keep in touch, much less applications that required data.

At the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA, data simply stopped working most of the day, 3G or not. Voice and SMS continued to work, thank goodness. Add to that my ongoing issue that I can’t use AT&T hotspots, even though I’m an AT&T highspeed customer, because I can’t remember my email password for AT&T, and they refuse to reset it unless I fax some random 800 number copies of personal documents, and I’m on a mission to have no AT&T services as soon as possible.

I understand AT&T is doing what it can to hold on to it’s customers, but it’s not doing so by providing them what they want in an easy way, it’s trying to do so via making it expensive to leave, and by doing what it can to indenture you to them. That’s sure way to not only loose customers, but to loose them in a way that you won’t get them back. Ever.

I do understand Sprint and Verizon also have their problems that they are equal to or greater than AT&T’s issues. Someday, we’ll have ubiquitous wireless, and the mobile carriers will go the way of the dinosaurs (or newspapers or cable TV).

My takeaway from all the announcements is compromise. That’s neither a good nor bad thing, and might be exactly the right place to be now. So now, I’ll digress into a diatribe of compromise and trying to control your customers in a desperate attempt to keep them, rather than providing them what they want, and changing your business models to make that happen. Quickly.

With the laptops, Apple’s making a reasonable bet that customers will be fine with non-exchangeable batteries. I know when I did a lot of international travel, that this would be a deal-breaker. They’re going back to more closed laptops, hoping that the capabilities they make available at purchase will be sufficient, and maybe that will work for them.

The iPhone is much more of a compromise, especially with the relationship with AT&T. Apple really needs a second carrier for the iPhone now that it’s got enough influence in the market.

Compromise is what the mobile market is about, rather than exploiting wireless technology for everything it can do. Like it or not, carriers are just that, carriers of data. They’re desperately looking for ways to lock in customers, hoping to keep them loyal to that carriers radio towers, but you can only get loyalty from having great products people want (see, for example, Apple :-).

AT&T is doing all they can with making offers you can’t refuse on mobile/home phone + TV + home internet. So is Comcast, but they don’t own any cellular bandwidth. Today, Verizon started blocking Google maps on some mobile devices, so you’d be forced to use bing or their inferior mapping products. Coercion is not a reasonable long-term strategy to keep loyal customers.

Again, since it appears we all have to keep saying it: carriers, music/media labels, movie companies, cable companies, satellite TV companies, give customers what they want, when they want it, or you will loose your place as the middlemen between the talented people that make stuff, and the people who consume what those talented entertainers produce

And in case you’re still confused, your customers want connectivity, using the services and accessing the media they choose Anytime, and Anywhere.

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