Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Apple announces TV, phone... really!

I cannot even remember how long rumors of an Apple phone, iPhone, have been going around — buzzing within tech circles where Apple is an increasingly popular company and brand (innovation pays off!). One surprise: Apple has just today released a television device and a phone, another surprise: they are actually named Apple TV (iTV) and iPhone (respectively). For once, in iPhone's case, a rumored product is actually named what the rumors were calling it! Both products were released at the Macworld Expo San Francisco 2007, an annual Apple event full of surprises and goodies for techies.

Overall, while I think Apple TV is cool because it symbolically tightens the gap between television entertainment and computing, while having Apple’s own twist on it, the iPhone is amazing in its design and features. iPhone: a widescreen iPod with core phone functionality and a touch screen… and it runs Mac OS X? Very cool; about time! Once they get rid of the too-restrictive license with Cingular and find a way to make it more universal (even though I use Cingular), it may just be the best out there. Lookout Blackberry, and, Windows Mobile, hide behind your cubicle, the iPhone is coming.

Macworld article on the Apple TV:

During Tuesday’s Macworld Expo keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave the set-top box that streams multimedia content from your computer to your television a new name. Introduced last September under the iTV code name, the new Apple TV allows consumers to watch content from the iTunes on a television, bridging the gap between the computer and home entertainment system.

However, users will have to wait a bit before trying out the Apple TV for themselves. Jobs announced the $299 device would be available in February, though the company has begun taking orders.

Apple TV sports connections for USB 2, Ethernet, HDMI, component video, and optical audio connections. The device also supports three popular 802.11 wireless standards—802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n—allowing users to wirelessly stream content from Macs or PCs running iTunes 7 to a TV. An IR remote control comes with Apple TV.

Apple TV connects to your TV via an HDMI port or component video and audio ports. Its wireless capability automatically syncs your iTunes library to any Mac or PC in the house. Any changes made to the iTunes library are automatically reflected on Apple TV. It also can access and control music and photo libraries from up to five computers.

Apple TV stores recordings on a 40GB hard drive, capable of storing up to 50 hours of movies and TV shows, 9,000 songs, or 25,000 pictures according to specs provided by Apple. The Apple TV also features an Intel processor “so it has the kind of user interface we like to do,” Jobs said. In addition, Apple TV delivers up to 720p high-definition resolution.

Macworld article on the iPhone:
After more than two years in the making, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today announced the company’s intention to enter the mobile handset market, unveiling the new Apple iPhone. The iPhone brings together several features of the iPod, digital camera, smartphones and even portable computing to one device, with a widescreen display and an innovative input method.

Featuring a new input technology called “Multi-Touch” the iPhone features only a single “home” button, and is controlled by sliding a finger across its touch-sensitive 3.5-inch, 160 pixel-per-inch display.

The iPhone, which runs Mac OS X, has full iTunes integration and can also seamlessly sync data with a desktop, including music and videos from iTunes, contacts, calendars, photos, notes, bookmarks and email accounts.

The 11.6-millimeter thick device also sports a 2-megapixel camera, headset jack, 3.5-millimeter audio jack, SIM tray, a “sleep-wake” switch, speaker, microphone input and an iPod dock connector. The quad-band GSM + EDGE phone also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 capabilities. Jobs noted 3G capabilities will come in the future.

Three smart sensors also help control the iPhone’s behavior.

“We want to reinvent the phone,” Jobs said. “What’s the killer app? The killer app is making calls! It’s amazing how hard it is to make calls on phones. We want you to use contacts like never before.”

A Visual Voicemail feature allows users to skip directly to voice mails they want to hear. An easy-to-use conference call feature lets users connect two calls with one touch of the screen. Text messaging on the iPhone is similar to iChat, user dialogue is encased in bubbles, and a touch keyboard appears below.

The iPhone uses its Wi-Fi and EDGE capabilities to automatically connect to the Internet. Internet connectivity includes HTML-capable email that works with any IMAP or POP-based email service. Jobs also announced that Yahoo! will offer for free push-IMAP email—similar to the email system on a Blackberry—to iPhone customers.

Apple also included its Safari web browser, and the phone can use its Internet capabilities to view standard web pages, rather than WAP versions of pages. Integrated Google Maps functionality lets users look up a business and drop its phone number directly into the dialer. The iPhone also supports Dashboard widgets, starting off with weather and stocks.

The iPhone’s photo management features are equally interesting.

The iPhone will come in two versions, a 4GB $499 model, and an 8GB $599 model with a two-year contract. Both will be available beginning in June. Cingular will be the exclusive U.S. carrier. Jobs said Apple anticipates bringing the iPhone to Europe in the fourth calendar quarter of 2007, and Asia in 2008.

For me, at first glance the iPhone looked like more of my thing, but the expense and the fact that I already have both a phone and an iPod and do not wish to get a data plan from Cingular until I need it (it's expensive!). Apple TV actually sounds interesting. I currently have a 'basic cable' and a Tivo, no fancy television (13-year-old; decent size), but then again, why do I really need Apple TV either [at this point]? Maybe in my next generation tech life — about three years to go from a average four year cycle — both the Apple TV and iPhone will be more of a technological necessity — like iPods and good mobile phones are today. Obviously not in the way packaged foods are, but you get the gist. In around mid-2009 or late 2008 I will probably get a new computer, iPod, phone, etc. so, we will have to see.

As soon as I find good photos I can post of the iPhone and Apple TV, I'll do so.

Three big iPhone problems: Cingular contract, battery life, and hard-drive size. Price is also a factor, but since it's brand new it would be unfair to pick on the initial price. If an iPhone is made with good battery life, universal phone service options (no strings attached license for provider), a 30 GB or so hard-drive all for a decent price, I will bite. Hopefully that will be in time for my next tech cycle. (Apple computer and software, Apple phone, Apple music device, Apple television device, Apple entertainment service... they've got us wrapped around their finger.)

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