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Apple announcements: good but incremental


By: Scott Bradner


The annual Apple gathering of the faithful and supportive press is going on in San Francisco as I write this.  Yesterday Apple announced incremental upgrades to their laptop and iPhone product lines and demonstrated updated software for both.  There were no game changers announced at this meeting but in both areas Apple strengthened their already strong offerings.  I do wonder if Apple does not have something up its sleeve.  But its clear from what also happened this week that AT&T does not.


Being an Apple user is no longer a lonely role.  Apple VP of worldwide marketing announced at this week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that there are now 75 million of us -- triple what it was two years ago when the first iPhone was announced.  It took most of that time for the first smart phone products to start coming out that begin to 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 does have multitasking. 


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


The pre 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 (as was predicted he would be by some) 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 Steve 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 Steve and to let Steve to 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 that would be supporting these features.  AT&T later said that it was only a matter of time before they would be supporting MMS & tethering -- they hinted that they were not technically ready to support MMS but did not even hint at the reason to not immediately support tethering.  (see Speculation centered on AT&T not yet deciding how much to gouge their 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.  They seem to have a image that their 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 that wants to strengthen the argument that federal regulations should be adopted to prohibit carrier lockin in the US.  (see"AT&T's Exclusive Deal Impedes iPhone Innovation"  Such regulations exist other places in 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, maybe it is 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 short sighted and 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.