Day 10, and it's difficult to wonder where nearly two weeks went. Yet here I am with iPad Pro, and more settled than last weekend, when griping about how the tablet frustrates me.
I want to start by discussing Apple's Smart Keyboard, which is a $169 accessory that I recommend for everyone who doesn't plan on using fingers and Pencil as primary, ah, utensils. Typing is amazingly smooth and accurate. The keys present terrific travel, without requiring too much force while still giving plenty of tactile response. Shocked best describes my reaction to the experience. Sometimes what's missing brings something more: Ommission of the trackpad, which either is brilliant conception or Apple chief designer Jony Ive and team getting goddamn lucky.
Day 5 morning, and I am close to returning the iPad Pro to T-Mobile. There are too many quirks that reaffirm my contention in this series' second post: Apple's big-ass tablet is a proof-of-concept device that's ready, or so I thought, for few users (digital content creators) but not the masses. Now I wonder if the thang is ready for anyone.
Setting up Apple Pencil should be as easy as pulling off the rear cap, inserting into Lightning port, and acknowledging Bluetooth connect request prompt. But there is no response from the tablet, after a half-dozen attempts, so I Google for solutions. No luck there, and I check Bluetooth settings, where the device doesn't appear. Disconnect my Harman Kardon speakers. No change. Turn off and on Bluetooth. Nope. Detach Pencil, try again. Success! Device shows up, pairs, then disconnects, and stays that way until I try again, and then it's "Groundhog Day" time. I'm Bill Murray reliving the same moment over and over without progress.
"Look up, waaaaaay up" is a phrase familiar to Canadians of a certain age, who watched "The Friendly Giant". The kids program aired from 1958 to 1985 on CBC, which our TV antenna grabbed from the local affiliate across the border in New Brunswick (I'm from Northern Maine). There's something about iPad Pro's enormity that makes it feel more like something the Giant would use.
My question this fine Friday: Is iPad Pro too big? For the majority of potential buyers, my answer is unequivocally yes. I don't see a product made for the majority. Whatever Apple's post-PC ambitions, iPad Pro is more a proof-of-concept for future laptop replacement. However, for the few -- creators looking for larger digital canvas -- iPad Pro offers much. For the many, the first version will work out the kinks, such as getting the app platform placed, for mass-market successors. Warning: Embracing the expansive tablet may make switching to something smaller nearly impossible. Size matters, and sometimes larger is better.
There is collective head-scratching across the InterWebs about a Wall Street Journal report that Amazon will open as many as 300, or even 400, stores selling books. The company's massive success selling ebooks and the cost and selection advantages of warehousing their physical counterparts make the concept seem nonsensical. I contend that it's brilliant.
Amazon is in process of expanding online services into the purview of local retail, which biggest competitive advantage is immediacy. In conjunction with the $99-per-year Prime program, the online retailer offers faster shipping; same day, and within hours, in some locales. The company increasingly contracts its own carriers, as well. Immediacy requires presence. What better location than a bookstore that also warehouses other goods and provides customer service operations? That's all without considering the branding opportunities, which, as Apple Store demonstrates, can be huge.
The first thing you notice about iPad Pro is the size. The tablet is ginormous. Its 12.9-inch screen lays before you like a chalk slate -- a blank canvas demanding typed text or drawings made with Apple Pencil. Yet something also feels wrong about the thing. During the so-called Steve Jobs era, refined designs were smaller -- like iPod nano. Apple is no stranger to larger; 27-inch iMac today or 17-inch MacBook Pro of yesteryear are examples. Perhaps. But there's big, and BIG.
The giant tablet arrived around 2:50 p.m. PST on Groundhog Day 2016, marking a bold computing adventure for February: Using iPad Pro as my primary PC, and hopefully only one. Perhaps you read my recent obituary to Apple love lost and might wonder why buy anything Apple? I like to experiment and am paid to try out new things (so you won't have to). By sheer size, PC replacement -- not companion -- is the only sensible use for iPad Pro. Can it meet the demands? I want to find out.
Over the weekend, my 94 year-old father-in-law asked what I would do to assure that every American who could vote would do so. That was an unexpected question, but one I addressed gingerly. This post is my answer restated for a public venue.
Simple answer: Smartphone. According to PewResearchCenter, nearly 70 percent of Americans own one of the devices, but the number among voting age adults tops 80 percent, according to other estimates. Surely a program could be in place by the 2020 Presidential race, and if lawmakers were truly serious about universal suffrage, a Manhattan-like project could make it happen by the next Mid-terms.
Three questions buzzed among investors and around the Interwebs ahead of today's Apple fiscal first quarter 2016 earnings report: Would iPhone momentum remain; how big could be revenues; and what would be guidance for the quarter in progress? Wall Street consensus was 76.54 million handsets sold and $76.582 billion in sales. Actual: 74.78 million iPhones and $75.872 billion revenue. More unsettling: Apple forecasts its first sales decline in 13 years; guidance is lower than analyst estimates.
After the closing Bell, Apple answered these questions. Revenue rose 2 percent year over, while net income climbed the same to $18.4 billion from $18 billion. Earnings per share of 3,28 nudged ahead of $3.23 consensus estimate. Gross margin reached 40.1 percent, up from 39.9 percent a year earlier.
There is no shortage of online blabbers making predictions about the future or bloggers pining pageviews with rumors about the next thing (usually from Apple). I rarely join the chorus of new year prognosticators—and won't now. Instead I make a wishful what-if aimed squarely at Google. Watching the blizzard blast the Washington, D.C. metro area, once my home and for most of my adult life, I got to thinking: Wouldn't a live feed, something like Google Drone Street View, be fantastic way to experience the storm?
Why shouldn't this be the next wave in drone deployments? If not from Google, then from newscasters? The low-flyers could go where snow would stop motorized vehicles; and, connected in real-time to Google Maps, provide contextual viewing experience. You can be there, too, even if living one-thousand kilometers distant. Newscasters could use drones to give a more immersive watching experience.
My Apple love-affair started with the allure of hardware—the original Bondi Blue iMac in December 1998—but stayed true because of software. I found Mac OS 8.5.1 to be substantially more satisfying than Windows Me and to support broader range of applications than NT 4. The experience carried forward, particularly during the iLife era and priority placed on content creation that matters to most people. The company caught the transition from documents to digital media as main content created by most people
Over the past couple years, Apple apps and operating systems feel stuck in the last decade. They're directionless. But as 2016 slowly advances, i see hopeful hints that software innovation will rise to the standard set by the company in the early 2000s. Fresh example, which is but a curiosity to some, foreshadows much: Music Memos; released yesterday.
Idiots will flame this post "clickbait". It's how they draw attention to themselves, to inflate their egos; others mistakenly will assign motivation to my writing—e.g., for pageviews, when I couldn't care less about them. But I do care about Apple, as a longstanding customer (starting in December 1998). As a journalist, I developed a reputation for hating the company (I don't) so long loved because my stories aren't kiss-ass fanboyism. What's that saying about being hardest on the ones you love most? Kind I am not.
Today's theme isn't new from me and repeats my analysis that Apple has strayed far from the path that brought truly, disruptive innovative products to market. In 2016, the company banks on past successes that are not long-term sustainable. We will get a glimpse after calendar fourth quarter 2015 earnings are announced on January 26th. You will want to watch iPhone and international sales, particularly emerging markets. For analysis about that and more jump to the second subhead; the next one is for idiot clickbait accusers.
John Legere waved his magic spin-control wand today, following accusations from Google and the EFF—that's Electronic Frontier Foundation to you, Bud—that the cellular carrier throttles video streams in violation of Net Neutrality rules. In a video, T-Mobile's CEO calls the throttling accusations a "game of semantics" and "bullshit".
"We give our customers more choices, and these jerks are complaining?" Legere blasts. "Who the Hell do they think they are? What gives them the right to dictate what my customers or any wireless consumer can choose for themselves?" I wonder, too.
This morning I asked someone stomping around the Consumer Electronics Show: "Will your team survive CES? Will anyone?" She answered: "Survival rates still TBD". True that. Today is officially Day 1, but that's a meaningless designation. Major announcements started Day -1, and there were even more on what I call Day 0 because the opening keynote is that evening. Acer shot its wad on January 4th, for example. The 5th brought major announcements from Casio, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, and, among many, many, many, many more vendors.
CES is such a cacophony of product announcements early is the only way to assure news coverage. Hehe, if any. With so many of vendor mini-events already completed, one could contend that the Consumer Electronics Show is over before the first day ends.
For about a fortnight, I have used Google's Pixel C as my primary tablet. I like the 10.2-inch slate much more than anticipated, particularly after being negatively influenced by some rather lukewarm techsite reviews before FedEx delivered the tab to my door.
Google designed and produces Pixel C, which is by far the best Android tablet you can buy anywhere. Like Nexus smartphones, which debuted in January 2010, the tablet is meant as a reference design for OEMs and developing Android apps appropriate for larger, but still mobile, screens. I primarily will focus on the hardware this round; apps and Android will come next year in my full review.
As the New Year approaches, and I contemplate 2016, my online social space surely will change; my like-affair with Google+ draws close to an end. Nearly six weeks ago, the service "reimagined", as a "fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and center".
Since then, my Google+ engagement has dropped by more than 90 percent. I don't find as many posts to Plus-one, to share with others, or on which to comment. Similarly, I see shocking decline in the number of responses to my posts—not something I actively seek so much as by which to judge interest in what I write and also to interact with other Plusers. After years of misguided critics calling Google+ a ghost town, the tumbleweeds roll.
Here we are, days before Christmas, and you're thinking about last-minute stocking stuffers. I've got an eclectic selection of things I would want to get or give for December 25th. Some of them will demand rushing online to take advantage of last-minute shipping offers. Others require no shipping at all, like music subscription services. Confession: Some items will require a larger stocking but no wrapping.
I present the list alphabetically, and in no order of preference.