My thoughts on the new Apple products

“Time Capsule”: Time Machine in Leopard is worthless for laptop users unless they use their laptop exclusively as a desktop. Apple made a new Airport Extreme base station that includes a hard drive to do Time Machine backups wirelessly. I assume (and hope) it works wired too. This is a good product since you can let several machines backup to it so you don’t need to buy an external hard drive for each computer, but it still is only a halfway solution for laptop users. Apple needs to make it possible to use Time Machine online over .Mac so you get your backups wherever you are, not just at home or the office. $299 is reasonable for the 500GB version given that an Airport Extreme without a hard drive is $179. $499 seems a bit high for an additional 500GB of storage. Note that it only works with Time Machine, you can’t even use the drive as network storage.

“iPhone update.”: This is a great update. I can now add web bookmarks to the main set of icons and create several pages of icons. There’s a few web sites I check regularly on the iPhone, so this will be very handy. The Google Maps feature seems much improved with “faux GPS”. Oddly, though, it thinks I’m in Des Moines, WA when I’m on Vashon Island. I guess my cellular service is from 2 miles away across Puget Sound.

*Movie Rentals.* The benefit of a downloadable movie rental service is that there is no physical supply problem, everyone can download the popular new movies and watch them that day. Traditional rental services never have the popular new movies available right away. So Apple’s going to take advantage of this natural benefit, right? Nope. The movies are released *30 days after* the DVD release. This is crazy, I can get any new movie from Netflix within 30 days, usually within seven days, sometimes even the day it’s released. I’m sure this is a restriction that the studios put on Apple to protect their DVD sales, but it’s a negative for iTunes compared to Netflix. For pricing, new releases are $3.99 and $4.99 for HD quality, older movies are $2.99 and $3.99 for HD quality. These prices are a bit high compared to Netflix, depending on how many movies a month you watch. I watch about 15 movies per month and pay $35/month for Netflix, so with Netflix I pay $2.33 per movie and get 48-hour turnaround time, so Netflix is cheaper and generally more convenient than movie rentals from iTunes. And Netflix doesn’t charge higher prices for HD quality. Granted, the bandwidth required to download HD quality is much higher than standard definition so Apple has to charge more for HD, but I would expect this price difference to disappear eventually. The other gripe with the service is that you have 30 days after downloading to start the movie, which is far more than necessary, but only 24 hours to finish the movie, which is less than enough. These numbers should have been adjusted. I’ve started many movies and stopped it to watch the next night, but the 24 hour limit will prevent that, which seems pointless. Give me 48 or 72 hours to finish the movie.

“Apple TV.”: Since watching movies on your computer or iPod is not ideal, they updated Apple TV to work with iTunes to rent movies without involving a computer. This seems to be a software update only, which is good so existing Apple TV owners (are there any?) don’t have throw out their boxes. And the price is lowered to $229. The problem with Apple TV is that it’s really only useful to rent movies from Apple. It’s like a DVD player that only works with DVDs rented from Blockbuster. It’ll be interesting to see if iTunes movie rentals is a success.

“MacBook Air.”: Ultra-portables fail in the marketplace because they’re slower and more expensive than regular laptops. They’re lighter, but once you accept that you have to carry a bunch of accessories that they couldn’t fit inside the laptop the total weight is the same and it’s less convenient to use. The MacBook Air is no different. It starts at $1799, has a 13.3″ screen and weighs 3 pounds. A 15-inch MacBook Pro only costs $200 more and you get a bigger screen, a CPU that is almost 30% faster, a hard drive that is 50% bigger and is only 2 pounds (66%) heavier. Maybe that 2 pounds is significant if you only carry a laptop and no laptop bag, but once it’s in a laptop bag the 2 pounds is insignificant. And it has no ethernet port, which would make it impossible to get online at hotels that don’t have WiFi (yes, there are many still in my experience), although you can get a USB/Ethernet adapter. The battery is sealed, so the laptop lasts only as long as the battery can hold a charge. You sacrifice a lot to save 2 pounds. Besides, Apple already has the best ultra-portable: iPhone. My guess is that the MacBook Air will sell as poorly as the 12″ PowerBook that Apple discontinued.

“Watch the keynote presentation”:, they even play a Belle & Sebastian song during it.

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