#Apple #SurfaceBook … when you’re ready Tim

Macintosh_Classic_2I’m an Apple dude. Value proposition sold from my MacintPowerBook_G4_17osh Classic II  for my (shoddy) Comp. Sci. dissertation on the gusty streets of Edinburgh in 1994 to my first 17” Powerbook Aluminium G4 in 2003 which unbeknownst to me happened to coincide with the launch of OS X Panther. I’d already decided to switch – an upgrade to the OS was a
bonus! Overjoyed in the early days of Java when a bright young coder in my US team came to me with one of the company custom trading systems gamely running OS-agnostic on his Macbook as a holiday project. More gushing here.

Anyhoo – current Apple inventory consists of:

  • iPhone 6S+ 64Gb -64Gb schoolboy error; double it next time!
  • Mac Mini 2010 – 1st one with HDMI plugged into big arse TV – a respectable 2.4GHz with 4Gb RAM
  • Macbook Air 13” 2011 – 1.8Ghz proc with 4Gb RAM; still competitive with the latest Macbook – docked to:
    • Apple 2007 23” monitor (still going!)
    • Bluetooth keyboard/mouse, Mac on monitor stand
  • iPad Gen 1 64Gb 3G – 3G another schoolboy error – but it was the early days of tethering commercials negotiations with Telcos

macsTo the nub of the gist. I need a new computer. And I want to replace all the above bar the phone. What I need is:

  • 13” minimum touch screen
  • Detachable Keyboard
    • detachable tablet from keyboard (not fold around over keyboard design as HP Envy 2, Lenovo Yoga etc.)
    • keyboard when attached designed so it can actually be used as a laptop vs. a desktop lightweight keyboard; e.g. sitting on your knees on a train
    • screen when attached solid
  • Stylus – accurate with clickable pen controls
  • Connectivity – either on tablet or via (portable) docking station need at least
    • HDMI port – TV
    • Mini Display port – external monitor
    • USB schenanigans – USB schlep
  • Switchable OS mobile/full
    • mobile OS when touchscreen, full desktop OS when linked to keyboard.
    • Full desktop OS (with mouse, keyboard, external monitor) only going to cut it for productivity/multi-tasking. Split screen footering about on an iPad Pro? I don’t think so…

What sweeps the above almost is the MS Surface Book – albeit the fact it’s Windows, it’s microsoft-surface-book-detaching-the-screen_slideshow_mainApple-priced and with a bouncy screen when attached to the “miracle hinge”. Had a wee shot of the smaller Surface Pro in the Sydney Microsoft store which was pretty cool but non-lapable (as per iPad Pro).

Ah the Microsoft Store – always reminds me of the Sony Metreon centre in San Francisco in the early noughties with the first MS store I’d ever seen next to also the first Sony Store I’d seen outside Tokyo with a pile of very impressive shiney stuff. Take my money.

Over more recent years here in Sydney a tech retail hub has spawned around Pitt/George streets – proferring a plethora of Apples, Microsoft, Samsungs and Telstras with more incredibly bright lighting, light wood, big arse screens, jeans, valued individuals and lanyards than you can shake a stick at. Plenty distribution and more crucially (for non-Apple) marketing channels to scoop up the consumers.

iphone-macbook-pro-surface-book-2I note MS are pumping a more humble “Switch” campaign than Apple rocked out in the early 2000’s. I looked into switching and decided against the amount of conscious decoupling I’d need to do from the Apple ecosystem. Never mind the image of Balmer’s crazy eyes and sweating face I can’t get out of my head from that conference every time I see the Start button

Anyhoo – Apple wasn’t going to offer a proper hybrid with the iPad Pro –  and why would they? And canabalise their existing iPad product line?

So I can wait  a little longer whilst their hand is twisted by market forces (whilst my 5/6 year old hardware festers away) … unless they come up with another form factor you didn’t realise you needed…

Get your finger out Apple.

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Touchy Feely Skeptic

Look I’m not convinced.

I was that soldier, racing around town trying to get the last 64Gb 3G iPad in the shop two weeks after launch date. I was skeptical at the time, then watched some mega-early adopting mates merrily swiping and gesturing, clutching that big slick tablet in their hands. The clincher was re-watching the launch vid, and hearing the big Jobs (peace be upon him) saying “gorgeous” several times and I hypnotically found myself back in iMania – racing for a bag of sand’s worth of iMyGodThat’sExpensive purchase.

It was fun while it lasted. It was great to take abroad and use as a photo store and display – “gorgeous”. I even tried a presentation at work, but the pissing around between Powerpoint and Keynote made it highly impractical. And have you ever tried authoring a Keynote press on an iPad?

Actually, have you ever tried authoring virtually ANYTHING on an iPad? Or doing any work that requires any level of dexterity or motor-neuron skills? Only apps written specifically and natively for the iPad seem to have a remote degree of usability, and even then we’re not talking a great deal of use of that screen real estate with oversized on-screen buttons for those pudgy fingers (alright, generalisation, there are some good apps out there).

OK, we all know it’s a consumer device, but just how many people purely consume content? And isn’t a fat G to leaf through websites “couch-surfing” a big damn investment?!!

I saw the proliferation more and more of iPads across most vendors I dealt with, watching them knock up notes, tapping away on the flat screen to minute meetings, then emailing the note to themselves for later.

Some even got round the lack-of-keyboard authoring issue by coming back from trips to the US, armed with the first wave of impressive thick iPad cases with built-in rubber bluetooth keyboards.

Which begs the question, why didn’t you just buy a laptop dude?

And lo, my iPad began gathering dust for a number of months. And then I realised that my iMac was also gathering dust in the study and that I needed a degree of portability plus authoring ability.

So I went new old skool, hit some eBay with the iMac, and purchased the latest MacBook Air. Which I use constantly. Love the fact I’ve got a proper keyboard, proper computer, which is actually useful. Massive difference on recent overseas trip – I could actually knock out a decent amount of emails rather than swearing constantly at a flatscreen unresponsive keypad.

Still have the iPad – and I’ve rather embarrassingly just discovered the killer app for it, FlipBoard, which does actually make the consuming rather easier, and a pleasure.

And there are some groovy uses for the device, but more in specialised industries such as manufacturing, or perhaps some funky menus handed out in trendy restaurants. But 1G for an expensive tablet used for a single app? Ouch.

It’s been done (badly) already, but waiting for the next gen laptop with:

a) built-in 3G or whatever’s after 3G

b) low-profile MacBook Air-like shell case

c) detachable touch screen

d) GPS

e) accelerometer

Basically all of the stuff in a top-end iPhone.

I’ll bet there’s some crazy stuff in development in a sealed room in Infinite Loop as we speak that’ll blow us away when the wraps (leaks) come off. Hopefully the new guy can deliver it with the same aplomb, and stamp his own wording on the device.

Until then I’ll be sticking with lightweight laptops thankyouverymuch. Contrary to the late Jobs mantra, the iPad is actually the device I didn’t know I didn’t want!

iCrap

At Bloomberg this morning for a briefing with Apple execs for their global roadshow launching the new Bloomberg Anywhere iPad application.

This has the usual groovy native-developed graphics, stock watches etc. etc. taking advantage of the design feature in the touchpad device.

BUT THERE’S MORE – a biocard-protected Bloomberg Anywhere Citrix session on the iPad giving you the actual terminal right there on your iPad.

Right.

I find it amazing that in this day and age, we still have extremely expensive Bloomberg Terminals (note the decades old “terminal”) sitting on desktops in financial institutions everywhere linked by dedicated lines with strong redundancy, top level security…. and a green-screen GUI that must be 35 years old!!!!!  (alright, there’s some colour now in the fixed-width fonts, but come on!)

The irony was not lost on the Apple dudes. Once everyone had shuffled out the door I stayed back and had a wee chat, and they were somewhat more open on their opinions on having such a cool device as the iPad looking through a Citrix window to a shitty GUI, and wished Bloomberg had developed more natively rather than the “quick and dirty” solution.

I had a wee chat about the evolution of Apple Enterprise. In 2001, whilst working in San Francisco, I popped down to Infinite Loop and met with the Head of Apple Enterprise at the time to have a wee chat about what Apple could offer financial institutions.

Net result at that time was, short of a few reliable RAID servers, really bugger all. Expensive hardware, compatability issues with Windows, lack of natively written Financial applications, platform independent Java still in it’s infancy were all non-infrastructure management related no-no’s to knocking out some cool silver shit to the skyscrapers.

A decade later all changed (I REFUSE to say “the game has changed” – yeuch!).  Consumerisation fuels demand for the corporate to enable the cool device (as I did with Activesync, a wee step last year). Further progress with Execs buying cool shiny stuff and saying “ok IT guy, make this work better with my X application, how much?” is further driving Apple Enterprise across all businesses.

Enterprise fleet management is greatly improving ITIL stuff looking after mobile hardware, now treated as any other device accessing the Enterprise. Larger companies are getting in-house Apple Dev teams and business is booming…

Long may it continue! Perhaps Bloomberg might like to release a new version incorporating such innovative stuff as Raster Graphics? 😉

iMania

Just had a call from a Board Member asking about a corporate iP<insert device here> application.

I’m about to put in place some new policies to enable implementation of Activesync & Outlook Web Access, and hence able to connect “cool sh*t” to the corporate network. The corporate grapevine is clearly alive and well, and like MacRumors or The Smoking Gun, the news has clearly been leaked to the scavenging besuited office wolves.

 The fish kettle and worm can are fully opened at this stage.

Let me sell you an app...

Now, the argument for the prevalence of new mobile technologies and the new business trend of “bring your own”, with associated service difficulties, opens up whole new areas of, quite frankly, IT pain.

With influential dabblers scratching the surface of possibility, where do you stop? iPhone app, screen-optimised iPad app, Android app, Windows 7 mobile app? Sod it, touchscreen designed HTML7/Flash Gordon/Web5.0 thought controlled iMind app?

Who writes these? Who maintains these as new firmware/OS updates come out? Who keeps an eye on the latest form factors to define how the app needs to be updated or rewritten for new form factors or OS? etc. etc.

And finally I suppose which of course is of least importance, what does the application actually do other than splash the corporate logo on an app store somewhere.

In addition to running a business.

Another round of jealously visiting funky offices filled with emo developers and Playstation 3’s, whilst bound up in my formal corporate uniform.

Watch this space.

iPhones and all that jazz

Well I got one. A bag of sand for something which is functionally not as good as the new HTC phone and I still have 12 months to go on my original 3GS, which eBay shall partly recover some of the cost on. What the hell was I thinking?

Erm… the display on this thing is absolutely awesome. Apple are bloody good at completely hyping their products, and antennagate or not (no issues here thus far) they were right about the screen. And the camera. And with the MobileMe suite the entire offering just works.

It’s what consultants term a “solution”. Normally applied to something like SAP, but slightly cheaper.

I’m a developer by trade, and after screwing around with Microsoft development products on PC’s all day in the corporate world you want something simple to do more social computer stuff with at home. Which is why I’ve had Macs since about 2001.

Prior to the iPhone, Sony Ericsson’s were the only model of phone that kinda almost synced properly with your Mac. Once the iPhone came out I was a deckchair-flask-of-tea fanboy outside the store to buy my solution (actually a further reason was a 10 hour flight to Hong Kong the following day with a 2 year old who required subduing with Kung Fu Panda and Wiggles videos on a portable device – worked a treat!).

At work I’m opening up our Exchange environment to multiple devices, including iPhones. I’ve had to put in a number of firewall/threat management server/SSL solutions (that word again!) to deal with this, and going through extensive UAT at the moment. I’m developing a fair policy around this which I hope to roll out in a month or so’s time.

There’s A LOT of opinion in opening up your Corporate network to every Tom, Dick & Harry’s device that can run ActiveSync, extensively covered in a CIO Forum discussion. My view is that in today’s environment the most important thing is to give staff multiple options for all aspects of IT (as in Microsoft products, where there’s multiple ways to skin a cat).

Particularly key in organisations with a disparate set of users with multiple requirements and light management structure. How diplomatic was that? ;o)

So roll on iPhones, Androids, iPads and all that jazz. Let you know how I go.