Author Archive | Harry McCracken

Twitter Chatter: What Are We Hoping Apple Announces on Tuesday?

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

This we know for sure: Apple is having an event next Tuesday, and it will involve notebooks. Possibly sub-$800 notebooks and/or notebooks carved out of solid blocks of aluminum. But really, Apple being Apple, it could announce almost anything on Tuesday–multiple anythings, even.

So over on Twitter, I asked my pals to chime in with their what they were hoping for–and since it was Twitter, they had to do it in a maximum of forty characters.

Here’s what folks told me:

wardomatic: Affordable (yet fast) Macbooks, please.

amarvin: i hope apple announces a 13-inch aluminum macbook but keeps the current macbooks as entry-level (cheaper) models.

kellieparker: free laptops for everyone! But seriously, I think it’s a MacBook & MBP refresh

dtnick: A MacBook that doesn’t crack. Is that too much to ask from them?

randypeterman: I would like Apple to announce a Mac Basic [$799], a Mac Book+ [$1199] & a MBP Upgrade for $1799.

james_atomic: MacBook pro air?

strixus: not a laptop. New Mini.

ugadawg94: I want a 15 inch MacBook.

CallanH: I hope the $800 laptop rumors are true. I know many people who would be into that.

mikebarton: Re: Apple, I think it’s got to be sub-$800 or go home in this economy. Here come the netbooks…http://ping.fm/SUO0F

PatrickMoorhead: Would like to see APL announce laptops with integrated graphics that can actually do something more useful than web surfing. [NOTE: Patrick works at AMD.]

pcubed: really hope for a high-end netbook, like an Air for the rest of us. Somewhere in the $650 range would be optimal.

willswideweb: Nothing. I can’t afford another laptop at the moment…

Now that you’ve read this wish list for Tuesday, why not add to it with a comment? Feel free to use way more than 140 characters if you need ‘em…

And hey, if you want to follow me on Twitter, please do! I go by the cryptic handle of harrymccracken there.


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The T-List: (BlackBerry) Storm Rising

The T-Mobile G1, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, and now the BlackBerry Storm. The iPhone-like touchscreen phones are coming at us fast and furious. And while the Storm doesn’t look to be the mythical “iPhone killer” that folks like to talk about, it’s the most interesting iPhone rival from a hardware standpoint.
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Walmart.com Music “Buyers” Get a Reprieve

There’s good news–sort of!–from Bentonville: Walmart.com, which had told folks who bought copy-protected music that it was shutting down the DRM servers that let them move their tunes from device to device, has relented. At least for the moment. Ars Technica has details, along with some good background on previous instances of big companies who gave up on DRM. In almost every case, they only made an effort to make their customers happy in the wake of a consumer backlash against their original plans.

It seems to be pretty clear that this cycle will end eventually, since DRM is rapidly disappearing. At least from music, since Wal-Mart and nearly every other purveyor of music downloads except Apple, Microsoft, and subscription services such as Napster and Rhapsody have gone completely DRM-free. (Video downloads are still almost always shackled with copy protection.)

I put “buyers” in quotes in the headline for this post because every time an entertainment merchant decides that maintaining DRM servers isn’t worth the hassle, it’s new evidence of an important point: When you buy anything that can be disabled or hobbled remotely, you didn’t really buy it. You’re just leasing it for an unspecified period. Wal-Mart’s change of heart means that period isn’t ending immediately for its customers, but it will end, apparently…and when it does, I think the right thing would still be for the company to give its customers their money back.


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Zoho Mail: A Flexible (But Imperfect) New Take on Webmail

For a long time, Zoho has been the most ambitious provider of Web apps around when it came to the sheer variety of services it offered–from a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool to stuff for invoicing, HR functions, and project management. Bu there’s one app that’s so obvious that I somehow hadn’t noticed that the company didn’t offer it–and that was e-mail.

As of today, it does. Zoho Mail is live, and while the world wasn’t in desparate need of another browser-based e-mail service, it does have a few notable features. And in particular, it seems to be designed to be a Gmail alternative that’s in some ways more flexible:

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Whither the BlackBerry Bold?

Way back last spring, when I still worked at PC World, we received a visit from RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. He showed us the company’s next-generation smartphone, the BlackBerry Bold. And I got really excited. The Bold had one of the best screens I’d ever seen–one which, in terms of dpi, offered far more resolution for its size than the iPhone display. It had an updated user interface, media apps, and a new browser. It was the first 3G GSM BlackBerry. The keyboard looked excellent. In terms of aesthetics, it was a stylin’ little gadget (except, maybe, for its “leatherette” backside).

All in all, it looked terrific–I thought it probably was the second most interesting smartphone of the year after the second-generation iPhone (whose name we didn’t know yet). And for folks who like little plastic keys, it looked like the most interesting phone. I looked forward to AT&T rolling it out–and at the time, it sounded like that would happen at roughly the same time that the new iPhone made its debut.

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Hey, Let’s Build an $800 MacBook!

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

Fact: There’s no better way to spur debate among technology fans than to start talking about whether Macs are overpriced in comparison to Windows PCs. I did that in a series of stories back in August, and they remain among the most-read, most-commented-upon pieces that Technologizer has published to date. (I found that my conclusions varied depending on which Macs I was looking at, and which PCs I compared them too…and I got feedback both from people who said I was too partial to Macs and from folks who said that I was unfair to ‘em. I took that as a sign I was reasonably balanced.)

With new Apple portables due next week, I’ll need to update my assessment. Whatever Apple announces, it’ll change the comparison at least a little–and it seems a dead certainty that any new models will sport more RAM, larger hard drives, and faster CPUs than the ones they replace.

From a pure price standpoint, the most interesting rumor about next week’s news is that it will include an $800 MacBook, which would be the cheapest Apple portable ever. (Current MacBooks start at $1099.) It’s an entirely plausible idea, and while that doesn’t mean it’ll turn out to be true, it got me to thinking about what a machine might be like.

So why don’t we try to configure it, spec by spec?

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New Apple Portables Due Next Week: A Rumor Recap and a Poll

When the crescendo of rumors about upcoming Apple products gets really deafening, it’s usually a sign that the company is about to hold a press event to unveil something (or several somethings). And it’s true again: Journalists have received invitations for an event at Apple in Cupertino next Tuesday, and to nobody’s surprise, that event involves notebooks:

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An Unblinking Look at User Access Control

I’ve just delved into a pretty exhaustive detailing of all that’s unsatisfactory about Windows Vista’s User Account Control (UAC), the security measure that’s famous for asking you if you want to perform the task you just said you wanted to perform. And the funny thing is, I did so at Engineering Windows 7, Microsoft’s official blog about the next version of its operating system.

The post is by Microsoft’s Ben Fathi, and while it’s understandably somewhat defensive about UAC–it says that it’s less obtrusive today than when Vista debuted, for instance–it also acknowledges that UAC is annoying and confusing, and that the tendency of many folks to click to allow actions without thinking about it impacts its ability to protect users against unauthorized actions.

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The Fuzzy-Wuzzy World of Tech Spy Shots

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

So Engadget has published a shot of what might be a next-generation MacBook built with an innovative manufacturing process:

The shot has several things in common with most tech-product spy shots:

1) It’s of an unannounced but eagerly-anticipated product;

2) Nobody really knows whether it’s real or not, except, maybe, for the person who leaked it;

3) It’s a horrible photo, one that’s fuzzy and which otherwise just doesn’t show the product in question in a manner that would help anyone judge its veracity.

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I’m a TWiT Next Week

WARNING! Shameless self-serving plug ahead…

I’m going to be a guest on the next episode of Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech podcast. It’ll be available for download on Monday, but will also be streamed at 3pm PT this Sunday, if you’re in the mood to catch it live.

I had loads of fun the first time I did TWiT–back in June, before Technologizer was live–and am looking forward to my return. I suspect that many of the people reading these words are already TWiT listeners, but if you’ve never checked it out, there’s no better time than this coming episode.

(Okay, was that shameless enough?)


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