Tag Archives | Macs

A Faster VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion–along with Parallels Desktop, one of the two primary ways that folks virtualize Windows into running on Macs--just got an upgrade. The version number is only jumping from 3 to 3.1, but it sounds pretty meaty for a point release: VMware says it’s 35 percent faster (with a particular boost in 3D performance), has better features for migrating a real Windows PC’s OS onto a Mac, handles USB devices more gracefully, and makes Windows apps behave even more like Mac ones (including letting you use Mac keyboard combinations).

People who want to run Windows on a Mac are blessed with a difficult choice: Both Fusion and Parallels are outstanding pieces of software. But Parallels has outperformed Fusion in recent speed tests. If VMware’s claims are realistic, Fusion just eliminated performance as a major difference between the two products.

The upgrade is free for Fusion 3 owners, $39.99 for users of previous versions, and $79.99 for new customers.

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What if the Apple Tablet is a Mac?

Over the weekend, a French blog published new “photos” of Apple’s “upcoming” tablet. They looks fishy and pseudo-Appleish at best (and if the tablet isn’t coming until next year, which is now the consensus among the smartest Applewatchers I know, they’re here awfully early). I bring this up here mainly because the image seems to show the device booting into the welcome screen you see when you start a Mac for the first time. In other words, it appears to show…a Mac. Not an oversized iPod Touch.

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Outlook is Coming to the Mac in 2010

Outlook for MacThe business unit within Microsoft responsible for Mac apps (which Microsoft likes to call the MacBU) is as old as the Mac itself, and it’s never behaved like it had been fully assimilated into the Redmondian Borg. Office for the Mac has long been a distinctly different product from its Windows counterpart–sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. One of the most striking differences has been that Office for the Mac has never offered Outlook; instead, it includes Entourage, a sort-of-like-Outlook, sort-of-different application that got great reviews when it debuted but which has also suffered from iffy compatibility with Outlook and Exchange. It’s also faced increasing competition from within OS X itself, as Apple has beefed up its Mail and iCal apps (and moved to build compatibility with Microsoft’s Exchange server directly into Snow Leopard, the imminent OS X upgrade).

Today, Microsoft announced that it’s working on a new version of Office for the Mac for release by the holiday season of 2010–and that it will dump Entourage for the first version of Outlook for the Mac OS X [there was a previous version of Outlook I’d forgotten which never made it to OS X; this is the first modern one–thanks for correction in comments, Jeff] There was a time when the fact that Mac Office users got Entourage rather than Outlook was widely considered a pro, not a con, and I’m sure some Mac users won’t be happy with this development. But despite any remaining Entourage virtues, e-mail and calendaring are by definition functions which involve working with other people, and with so many Office for Mac users being small fish in large ponds inhabited mostly by Outlook users, consistency probably makes sense. (Although Microsoft said during today’s announcement that Outlook for the Mac will be distinctly different from the Windows edition; if it follows the pattern of other Mac Office apps, it’ll likely be a somewhat simpler program with fewer hardcore business tools.)

The news about the next version of Office for the Mac confirms that Microsoft isn’t planning to discontinue the suite out of lack of interest or desire to make trouble for Apple and Mac users–which isn’t really news, but which seems to be a persistent fear in the back of some Mac fans’ heads. (I’ve heard some worry that Microsoft intended to ditch Office for the Mac once it releases browser-based editions of the major Office apps next year.)

Office for Mac Business EditionI’m still curious whether Office 2010 for Mac will include integration with the Office Web Apps, and whether it’ll adopt a full-blown version of Office for Windows’ Ribbon interface. (Office 2008 for Mac has a sort of halfway-there version of the Ribbon.) Microsoft didn’t say anything about these questions today. Me, I’d vote for a Mac Office that bore at least somewhat more resemblance to the Windows one, not just for consistency but because Office 2007’s interface is superior to that of Office 2008.

The company did announce some tweaks to the lineup of Office 2008 versions: On September 15th, it’s replacing the current standard edition of Office Mac with a new one called Office Mac 2008 Business Edition, which includes a version of Entourage with better Exchange connectivity; features to let Mac users work with SharePoint and Office Live Workspace services; and new business-oriented document templates. The Home and Student Edition is sticking around, but the Special Media Edition one that bundles its Expression Media graphics package is going away.


How Bright Do You Keep Your Notebook Screen?

(Here’s another guest post by Pat Moorhead, Vice President of Advanced Marketing at AMD. Pat’s postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies, or opinions. You can find Pat at Twitter as @PatrickMoorhead.)

The current defacto standard used by PC makers to measure notebook battery life is MobileMark 2007 (MMO7). This piece takes a look at the basic facts behind the notebook brightness settings recommended by MM07, comparing that to some typical home electronics devices and the average settings some consumers are using for their notebook displays.

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Microsoft's "Apple Tax" White Paper–Let's Try That Again!

Last week, Microsoft sponsored a white paper that expanded upon the mantra in the company’s “Laptop Hunters” ads that Macs are overpriced computers that impose a price penalty based on an ethereal, needless “cool factor.” Said white paper featured charts involving Mac configurations that no longer exist, and calculations of the long-term cost of being a Mac user that seemed questionable at best and nonsensical at worst. I detailed some (but not all) of the issues in this post.

The white paper’s author, Endpoint Technologies’ Roger Kay, blamed some of the data problems on production gaffes by Microsoft. Microsoft has posted an updated version of the paper with updated specs and at least one clarification (it now makes clear that the $149 copy of MobileMe it’s talking about is the Family Pack version). Strangely, Microsoft hasn’t updated the inaccurate chart in the blog post that links to the white paper.

I said in my original post that I didn’t think Kay’s conclusions would be different if the white paper had gotten the specs correct, and I was right: They haven’t changed. And even though the tables now seem to have their specs right, there are multiple places where the math behind his calculation of the “Apple Tax” remains more partisan attack than honest attempt at analysis. Can anyone explain to me, for instance, why he he adds a hefty $750 to the Mac setup for five years’ worth of MobileMe for two computers when MobileMe, which is available for both OS X and Windows, is simply no more mandatory on the Mac than it is on Windows?

Oh, and the paper still has one relatively minor cost attached to the Mac setup–a $99 charge for the iLife Family Pack–which I think is simply indefensible no matter how partisan you might be. Kay doesn’t factor the cost of creativity software into the Windows PC setup in the first place–the theory is that the imaginary family in his scenario has already paid for it for an older computer–but he also doesn’t tack the cost of an upgrade on. Apparently the fact that he has his Mac-owning family upgrading their software after two years but not their Windows counterpart doing so constitutes part of the “Apple Tax.”

I can’t imagine that many people who actually reads the white paper (even in its new, more accurate form) who might consider buying a Mac instead of a Windows PC are going to take the case it makes very seriously. And those people who wouldn’t consider buying a Mac don’t need convincing in the first place.

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt has theorized that Microsoft’s Mac attack constitutes a trap, and “the Apple press” (of which I don’t wanna be counted as a member) is taking the bait by responding and carping about it. Given that Microsoft is pouring so much money and resources into arguing that you can buy Windows PCs for a lot less than Macs–a point which is obvious to anyone who steps foot inside a computer store, and which helps to explain why Windows’ market share remains huge and the Mac’s continues to be quite small–I wonder whether it’s Microsoft that’s fallen into a trap. I mean, responding to the anti-Windows taunts in Apple ads in kind probably feels really good, but I’m still not sure just who Microsoft’s current round of Apple-bashing is meant to address.


Is Apple's 17-Inch MacBook Pro Expensive? Round 2: The Competition Goes Consumer

Is the MacBook Pro Expensive? Round 2Last week, I tried to conduct an objective price comparison of 17-inch Apple’s MacBook Pro and similarly-equipped Windows laptops. After I did, my friend Steve Wildstrom of BusinessWeek pointed out one basic problem with such comparisons: They’re impossible. By which he meant that there’s no way to do one that’ll strike everybody as sensible and fair. No matter how hard you try, you can’t configure a Windows PC to precisely match a Mac’s hardware. No two people will ever agree on the relative worth of the multitude of features you examine. Hardware comparisons like the ones I do intentionally ignore the enormously important question of the relative quality of Windows and OS X. Some folks will even contend that any analysis of PCs-vs.-Macs is incomplete without discussion of resale value.

In last week’s story, I came to the conclusion that the MacBook Pro’s pricing wasn’t out of whack with its Windows-based rivals–if there was a “Mac Tax,” it was matched by some of the other machines I looked at. Judging from the almost 200 comments on my story to date, a lot of Windows users thought I was unfair to Windows, and a lot of Mac types thought I gave the Mac short shrift. I choose to take discontent from both camps as a sign that I did a decent job overall. But I wanted to come back and address one gripe that came up repeatedly–that I compared the MacBook Pro against high-end, workstation-class laptops.

I don’t think I made a mistake by doing that. The MacBook Pro is Apple’s highest-end notebook, with specs that were similar in most respects to the Windows systems I compared it to. (And when the Windows machines outclassed it–as some did with graphics, for instance–I noted so.) Several commenters contend that the MacBook Pro is a consumer notebook, but that’s not really right: It’s Apple’s only 17-inch notebook. If you’re a business customer and want a 17-inch Mac notebook, it’s the one you’ll buy.

But the fact remains that most other computer companies divide their product lines into business and consumer lines in a way that Apple doesn’t, and that the consumer systems tend to be cheaper than the top-of-the-line corporate models. So here I am comparing the 17-inch MacBook Pro again–this time against consumer-class models. This isn’t a replacement for my earlier comparison, but a complementary piece. I’m guessing I’ll fail to make everyone happy this time, too, but Lord knows I’m trying…

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Hey, Lauren! Is Apple's 17-Inch MacBook Pro Expensive?

Is the 17-inch MacBook Pro Expensive?There’s something about comparing the prices of Windows PCs and Macs that makes otherwise cool and collected people–Windows and Mac users alike–become profoundly emotional and partisan, until steam shoots out of thefir ears and their eyeballs turn bright red. You can see this passion crop up in some of the comments on Ed Oswald’s two recent posts (here and here) on Microsoft’s new “Lauren” ad comparing 17-inch Windows laptops to the MacBook Pro. I’ve also encountered it every time I’ve tried to do the math on the Windows vs. Mac question–which I started doing within a few weeks of Technologizer’s launch last summer.

I haven’t returned to this issue since last October, but the moment Microsoft put it at the heart of a major national TV commercial last week, the blogosphere started debating it all over again. I continue to think it’s worth trying to answer the question in a very specific and unemotional way. The specific part is important because asking whether Macs are more expensive than Windows PCs is like asking whether Audis are more expensive than General Motors cars: It’s a meaningless question without context, since the answer is entirely contingent on the models you choose. And the unemotional aspect of my research tries to strip out any bias based on anything but the computers at hand. (Note that in the commercial, Lauren sets off a powder keg of controversy the moment she says she’s not “cool enough” to own a Mac–me, I want to judge computers, not people.)

In the end, those comparisons are all about collecting fresh data on the “Mac Tax”–the notion that you pay a premium for Apple computers compared to similar Windows PCs. Or, as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer recently put it, “Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment—same piece of hardware—paying $500 more to get a logo on it?” And since the 17-inch MacBook Pro is the Mac that Lauren nixes in favor of a far cheaper HP Pavilion, it’s the one I’ll look at in this story.

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Apple Upgrades Its Desktops

Apple LogoTo quote Steve Jobs, boom! Apple just did a sweeping update of its desktop Macs that involves lower prices, beefier components (especially graphics), and other improvements. And it also upgraded its wireless networking gear. All in all, it confirmed a ton of rumors that swirled through the blogosphere in recent weeks.

A very quick rundown of some of what’s new:

–The iMac line now includes an $1199 20-inch model and a flagship $1499 24-inch model with 4GB of RAM and  640GB of hard-disk space that begins at the same price as a more spartan 20-inch iMac previously did, both with the Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics that first showed up in last fall’s new MacBooks;

–rumors about a Mac Mini with five USB ports were boring but true–the new Mini has ’em, along with Nvidia 9400M graphics and both DVI and Mini DisplayPort (it now has the ability to drive two monitors at once). And Apple says it’s the most energy-efficient desktop in the world;

AirPort Extreme wireless routers and Time Capsule router/storage devices do simultaneous 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz dual-channel networking, and offer a guest login feature;

–the high-end Mac Pro line now starts at $2499 ($300 less than before), sports Intel Nehalem Xeon CPUs and Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics (ATI Radeon HD 4870 is optional), includes both DVI and Mini DisplayPort video output, and features an “updated interior provides easy access to all components within the Mac Pro for hassle free expansion.”

Whew–that’s a lot of overhauling–all of it reflecting Apple’s classic strategy of improving the specs at a given price point and doing some price cuts without going anywhere near the lowest pricetags in the Windows world. (Folks who keep guessing the company will go cheap all of a sudden should remember this: In certain respects, Apple is a profoundly predictable company.) It’s not the least bit surprising that Apple simply rolled all this stuff into the Apple Store rather than holding a press event and attempting to create maximum hoopla. Putting even Phil Schiller onstage to discuss these new desktops wouldn’t have been worth the effort.

Which brings up a question: Does this mean there won’t be any more strikingly newsy new Apple products in the near future? And the answer, of course, is who knows? We’ll presumably see a new iPhone in the not-too-distant future, and there’s a good chance that it’ll be a more notable upgrade than any of these new desktops. Apple TV is probably due to be reinvented at least a little. And the fact that Apple has recently updated all of its desktops and laptops doesn’t mean that there’s not a chance that it’ll introduce an all-new computer of some sort soon. Not a garden-variety netbook, surely…but a non-netbook that can compete with netbooks is plausible enough.

One fact about Apple product rollouts: The fact that it does a bunch of them on one Tuesday doesn’t mean it’s not saving more introductions for just a few Tuesdays into the future.

On the other hand–and here’s a bit of profound analysis–I think we can deduce that the rumors about an Apple event on March 24th to launch new desktop Macs were false.

Just for fun, I’ll end with a comparison of the backsides of the spy-shot Mac Mini that some folks rejected as an obvious Photoshopped fake and the Mini which Apple did, indeed, release today…

Mac Mini Comparison


A Consumer’s Guide to Apple Rumors

Apple RumorsThere are many unique things about Apple, Inc. And one of the oddest of all is the degree to which straightforward reporting about the company’s activities has been drowned out in recent years by a surging sea of rumor, speculation, prediction, and–increasingly—wishful thinking. Everybody, it seems, wants to spoil the surprise of Apple product launches by revealing the secrets which the company works so very hard to keep. But a remarkable percentage of the these soothsayers are just plain terrible at their chosen profession. They’ve become the Gang That Couldn’t Predict Straight.

As the quality of Apple scuttlebutt has nosedived, I’ve become more interested in the culture of Apple rumors than in most of the rumors themselves. With this article, I’m beginning a series on the Apple Rumor Game. And it makes sense to begin with a no-nonsense guide to judging those rumors as they crop up.

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Judge Breaths Life into Apple Clone Maker Countersuit


Following months of legal wrangling and a false start, Mac clone maker Psystar may finally get its day in court. A U.S. federal judge has ruled that Psystar will be given the opportunity to amend its counterlawsuit against Apple, filed after that company sued Psystar over its OS X-running PCs, to focus on alleged copyright abuses instead of antitrust law violations.

On Friday, Feb. 8, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup signed an order that will allow Psystar’s countersuit against Apple to continue. If Psystar provides it allegation that Apple misused its copyrights to block out competition, other PC makers would be free to preinstall the OS onto their machines, Judge Alsup noted.

Apple sued Psystar in July 2008, accusing it of breaking copyright and software licenses laws by preloading Intel-based PCs with Mac OS X 10.5 without its blessing. The company has also accused Apple of modifying Mac OS X to crash on non-Apple systems. Psystar began selling the Mac clones in Apr. 2008.

Psystar’s original complaint accused Apple of violating antitrust law by tying its Mac OS X operating system together with its hardware, exclusively, but the court rejected that argument in November 2008.

Intellectual property law is always tricky and controversial, so lawsuits such as these should be ruled upon to clarify uncertainty (and by the highest court of the land). Until the laws themselves are reformed, this kind of uncertainty will persist.

My take is that when a company, or individual, is granted intellectual property by the government, they are essentially given a monopoly. The question is: Has Apple abused its monopoly? I don’t think that it has.

If Apple sold Mac OS X standalone, and then modified its license or software to intentionally excludes other manufacturers, that would be wrong. Apple creates it own hardware, and software for that hardware, and there is nothing wrong with that.