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Apple announcements good but incremental


Conference news not earth shattering, but maybe something waits in the wings


'Net Insider By Scott Bradner , Network World , 06/10/2009


Apple's upgrades to its laptop and iPhone product lines this week were no game changers but strengthened already strong offerings. I do wonder if Apple still has something up its sleeve, but it's clear from what also happened this week that AT&T does not.


Being an Apple user is no longer a lonely role. An Apple vice president announced at the company's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that there are 75 million of us -- triple that of two years ago when the first iPhone debuted. It's taken most of that time for the first smartphone products to emerge that actually compete with what Apple showcased in January 2007.


Apple has not stood still, but it is no longer two years ahead, and in some areas is not ahead at all. The lack of multitasking in the soon-to-be-released iPhone software update is quite puzzling. I'm not sure why Palm decided to release the Pre a few days ago when it's publicity was bound to be overwhelmed by Apple's show, but at least the Pre has multitasking.


Apple's upgraded and reduced price laptops are now even more attractive. And the extremely tardy -- but finally here in September --  new Mac OSX release with real support for Microsoft Exchange should make the laptops better corporate citizens. In my travels, Mac laptops are no longer an unusual sight. Recently geek-heavy meetings that I've attended have started to be majority Mac. With the Exchange release I would expect to see the same trend in not so geeky meetings.


The pre-WWDC meeting pundits were not all that accurate this year. I did not see any real predictions of the across-the-board update and price reductions for the Apple laptop line. The few predictions in this space of adding 3G interfaces to laptops were not fulfilled. The iPhone predictions were closer to the mark, but even there the range of memory sizes and features were not that close.


Apple CEO-on-leave Steve Jobs was not a surprise guest (contrary to some predictions) and there was no "one more thing" that defined a whole new concept of technology as Apple did with the iPod, iTunes store, iPhone and Appstore in years past. Apple is maintaining that Jobs will be back on at the helm on schedule later this month. It would be a bit of a surprise to me if Apple does hold a special event in the next month or two to reintroduce him and to let Jobs drop another concept changer on the world. Maybe the long wanted and predicted Apple tablet (see "Apple's next mold breaker?").


AT&T has gotten almost as much press since Apple's announcement of the new iPhone and its features as Apple has, but for all the wrong reasons. Apple announced that the iPhone operating system would support multimedia messaging (MMS) and tethering (using the iPhone to connect a computer to the Internet). But AT&T was notably absent from the list of carriers supporting these features. AT&T later said it was only a matter of time before it would support these features -- the carrier hinted that it was not technically ready to support MMS but did not even hint at the reason to not immediately  support tethering.

Speculation centered on AT&T not yet deciding how much to gouge its customers for the features as being part of the reason for the delay.


AT&T is also getting a lot of bad press for having already decided how much to gouge anyone who wanted to upgrade to the new iPhones. The carrier seems to have an image that its phone subsidy does not get paid off over time but stays constant until a certain date, then goes to zero. In all there seems to be a mole in AT&T who wants to strengthen the argument that federal regulations should be adopted to prohibit carrier lock-in in the United States. (See "AT&T's Exclusive Deal Impedes iPhone Innovation".) Such regulations exist in other parts of the world where iPhones are sold and it does not seem to reduce the enthusiasm. Few people accuse AT&T of looking after its long-term interest, so maybe it is not a mole, but just a short-sighted penny pusher.


Disclaimer: In this economy, penny pushing is even seen at a place like Harvard but I trust it will be not quite so shortsighted. In any case, there is no university opinion on the quality of the new Apple offering or the non-quality of AT&T's, so the above is my opinion.


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