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Lifehacker Condones Software Piracy

It always infuriates me when large tech blogs have seemingly innocuous posts on how to get "free" applications or violate EULAs (like CrunchGear did back when Leopard was released by telling advising readers to split a copy of the OS to get it for half off).

It happened again yesterday when Lifehacker linked to an article instructing users on how to get the apps included in the iPod touch's $20 January update for free. Whether or not you agree with Apple's decision to charge $20 for apps that came for "free" on the iPhone, stealing the apps is wrong. If you don't feel $20 is worth it, you aren't entitled to get the apps for free. It's as simple as that.

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Apple Bumps iPhone, iPod touch Storage

In a stealth update this morning, Apple introduced new models of the iPhone and iPod touch with increased storage. Both lines received new models priced at $499, the new iPhone having 16GB of storage (double the previously available 8GB) and the new iPod touch having 32GB of storage (double the previously available max of 16GB). None of the other specifications have changed.

Introducing new models with increased storage space seems like a logical move on Apple's part. The new models have practically no R&D costs and might bump up demand for the devices while Apple prepares the 2nd generation iPhone, which many speculate will be released this summer. Of course, Apple hopes that the 8GB iPhone will go the way of the 4GB iPhone. That is, that almost everyone will be willing to spend the extra $100 to double the capacity of their phones.

Something interesting to note is that the iPod touch now has the same storage capacity as the low-end 5G iPods that were discontinued last September (albeit at double the price) and that the price points and storage amounts echo that of the 3rd generation iPods, which came in at 10/15/30 GB for $299-$399. Given another doubling of storage and the iPod touch will be closing in on the iPod classic's storage capacity. Meanwhile, Apple has kept around the $299 8GB iPod touch, most likely in an effort to hit all types of iPod buyers and signaling that the touch is definitely set to become the mainstream iPod sooner or later.

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Jailbreakers Fix iPhone TIFF Exploit

Enabling third-party applications on your iPhone has never been easier. Just visit jailbreakme.com on your iPhone/iPod touch (hereafter "iPhone"), and thanks to a TIFF exploit in MobileSafari, the website will jailbreak the phone and install Installer.app. As an added bonus, the process will patch the exploit it used to hack your iPhone in the first place. And who said all hackers were bad?

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iPod touch Jailbreak: A sign of things to come?

Erica Sadun, TUAW's resident iPhone hacker/developer, reports on the difficulty of jailbreaking the new iPod touch. An iPhone update is expected sometime soon to add iTunes WiFi Store functionality, most likely a few of the UI niceties present on the iPod touch, and hopefully some long awaited applications (Tasks and iChat, I'm looking at you).

If the iPod touch's (or perhaps OS X 1.1's) ability to be jailbroken is any indication, then iPhone owners should enjoy their third-party apps while they can. Now, there may be a technical reason for the new sync scheme that prevents jailbreak, but a more likely culprit is a political reason: AT&T is upset. First, by introducing the iPod touch, Apple offers a way to bypass a cell contract for those wanting most (but not all) of the iPhone's features. Second, Apple's inability to keep the iPhone locked down for any significant amount of time (whether intentional or not) has paved the way for software unlocking, providing yet another way to get iPhone features without an AT&T contract. Depending on how large a fee (if any) Apple collects from AT&T for new iPhone contracts, Apple is largely indifferent as to whether they sell an iPod touch or an iPhone. It is unlikely that Apple would lock down the touch but not the iPhone and it's not unreasonable to conclude that our time spent sipping on Cocoa will soon come to an end.

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Thoughts on The Beat Goes On

Despite being a day late, I still want to comment on the iPod announcements made yesterday.

iPod shuffle
New colors and no storage bump on the shuffles gets a huge yawn from me.

iPod nano
The actual nano looks much better than those leaked shots that were floating around a few weeks ago. There was no storage upgrade for these guys either, only price drops to $149 and $199 for the 4 and 8 GB version, respectively. Video finally comes to the nano, but with such a tiny screen I wonder how useful it will actually be. Still, having the nano hooked up to a TV via video out makes for a very portable DVD player replacement.

iPod classic
80 GB storage for $249 (and 160 GB for $349) makes the 6th Generation iPod (or 1st Generation iPod classic?) quite the monster. The standard iPod form factor has become, as the name suggests, a classic and I'm glad Apple stuck with it instead of forcing everyone to the touch screen.

iPod UI
The new iPod UI is an incremental upgrade, with the most notable feature being Cover Flow (which I don't find much use for personally). The new UI also marks the first time that the nano and classic have reached software feature parity (video on the nano also means complete feature parity), so it'll be interesting to see if Apple considers the nano/classic "complete". Prior to yesterday's announcement, it had been two years since both devices saw a significant upgrade, and I wonder if it'll be just as long before we see the next big change for these two lines.

iPod touch
I couldn't make up my mind over whether I thought Apple would actually release a phoneless iPhone this soon. On the one hand, pricing would have been tricky - either it would be priced too low to cannibalize iPhone sales or priced too high to make it a terrible value. On the other hand, there was only so much further Apple could take the iPod classic before it had to enlarge the screen (thereby necessitating removal of the click wheel). I personally dislike the design of the device. The chrome border is gone in lieu of either a matte metal or plastic (hard to tell from the shots) and the iPhone's scratch-resistant matte back is gone for the iPod's iconic scratch-prone shiny metal back. Further, the upper bezel looks disproportionate without the earpiece and the WiFi antenna's plastic covering makes the back of the device asymmetric. Other minor things I noticed (and am apathetic about) are that the sleep/wake button has switched sides and that the headphone jack is on the bottom of the device.

iTunes WiFi Store
Apple is ever slowly creeping into tablet/UMPC space and the touch was the second step in that direction. Instead of working down from the desktop, as Microsoft has done (with limited success), Apple has worked up from the iPod. It's apparent from the name: this isn't a MacBook nano, it's an iPod touch. Unveiling the iTunes WiFi Store and partnering with Starbucks is a small step into building Apple's mobile eco-system, something other device makers have either not attempted or have been unsuccessful at. This will be the touch/iPhone killer feature, and perhaps the future of mobile advertising - truly contextual advertising and services that supplement a brick and mortar's main operations. It's not the device that will reach out to the world, but the world that will reach in to your device.

That said, I don't see myself using the WiFi Store that much since I don't use the iTunes Store much to begin with. However, if the WiFi store allows for over-the-air podcast downloading, then I'll be all over it.

Ringtones
I'm tech-savvy enough to not need iTunes to walk me through making ringtones, but I would argue against those complaining about the price. The extra $.99 is something I see as AT&T having a hand in. Still, $2 for both the song and ringtone is a good deal compared to the $2-$3 one might pay for a ringtone-only otherwise.

iPhone at $399
Though Apple announced during their last earnings call that margins would be lower this season, no one saw this coming. The market is interpreting it as a sign that iPhones aren't selling as well as Apple would like. The original 5 GB iPod dropped 25% five months after introduction (from $399 to $299), so large cuts aren't completely out of the ordinary for Apple. I see the price drop as something Apple planned all along as a way to aggressively go after market share after milking early adopters for an extra $200 and as a way control demand during launch.

Am I upset that I paid $599? Absolutely not. I was perfectly paying that amount and the price drop doesn't change that. I don't see Apple owing me anything much more than I see BMW paying me for the depreciation of my car when the 2008 models come out (in fact, I'm paying them for the depreciation). Price drops and technology progressing are facts of life. The only thing that I might be upset about is that the cost of entry to the iPhone Club has gone down and iPhone owners who felt a sense of superiority and exclusivity as a result of ownership just dropped a few rungs on the social ladder now that the iPhone is accessible to "regular" people. I am not in that group. I see adoption of the iPhone (or Mobile OS X platform in general) a good thing for users, both in terms of a greater demand for new software features or an increased pressure on other device makers to make better devices.

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Vista out in 6 flavors, iPod shuffle in 5

To counteract the media frenzy Microsoft is unleashing to coincide with today's release of Windows Vista, Apple has quietly introduced 4 new flavors of iPod shuffle - blue, green, pink, and orange. Also new with this release is the inclusion of the new headphones that are standard with the 2G nanos and 5.5G iPods (the original shuffle came with the old-style headphones).

This marks the first time Apple has released an iPod in orange, and it's the color that has gotten the most talk in the online Mac community today, although it could be because AppleInsider was the first to have shots of the new shuffle and it happened to be an orange one.

The left side of my Apple in-ear headphones died again (that's the 3rd time) and I need to get them replaced. Hopefully Apple will replace them for free, but if not, a new shuffle is only a $30 upsell from the $40 in-ear headphones (or $40 from the regular headphones). That's not too bad, however unnecessary a shuffle might be at the moment…

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iPhone: The Day After

I was sitting in court yesterday fighting a speeding ticket as I read about the death of the greatest rumor ever thanks to MacRumors' excellent play-by-play coverage. This phone is simply amazing; lucky for me my Cingular contract is up in May, so while I'd rather have an iPhone tomorrow, the timing isn't too bad. Others have picked up on something curious though: How does 2 months of FCC approval equal a June release date?

Steve's made friends
Partnering with Yahoo for email and Google for maps is a great way to not piss anyone off. Only Steve Jobs can bring Eric Schmidt and Jerry Yang on stage within minutes of each other to talk about something they're working on together (at leas indirectly). The iPhone is revolutionary and for Apple, Yahoo and Google this is a win-win-win.

Goodbye Blackberry?
I think it's preemptive to start calling for the death of the Blackberry. We still don't know what kind of Office support iPhone will have, and without Exchange syncing its dead in the water for most corporate environments. Of course, with a full-fledged web browser on board, Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a viable, yet inelegant solution. Not to mention that the excellent 2mp camera might be a no-no for some corporate environments.

What of the iPod?
The iPhone has an "iPod" software app, a name that has been reserved for hardware (with iTunes being used for software), so what's to become of the iPod as we know it? While I'm a proponent of converged devices, 8GB is simply not enough to carry around even half of my music library, forgetting about any videos I'd like to watch on the gorgeous 3.5" screen. I predict we'll be seeing a real widescreen iPod with high-capacity sometime over the next few months. The iPod interface on the iPhone looks perfect, and we'll see that on the software side. The hardware I think will look like the iPhone with the top and bottom bezels cut off.

All in all, the iPhone isn't quite the "atomic bomb" that will wake up the U.S. cellular industry as some have said. For one, it doesn’t do 3G. After dealing with slow-as-molasses internet connectivity on my Treo, this is almost a deal breaker.

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Monday Links

Some from last week:

A map of soda/pop/coke popularity by county. Some interesting little pockets of "soda" in the mid-West and I didn't know most of Florida preferred Coke, but with only 120k respondents across the U.S., maybe it's not too accurate.

A McDonald's billboard features a sundial. Too bad it's McDonald's because the ad is pretty cool. Total calories consumed before 1pm according to the ad: over 3000.

Pacman for Excel. For some reason I have had this page open for a few days and have yet to download it. Weird.

The Wiimote retail box unveiled. Nintendo's Apple-like design approach has extended to the Wiimote box, which looks a lot like the new iPod nano enclosure.

Interesting coincidences while watching the 6 Star Wars movies simultaneously. Some are a bit of stretch and I doubt that any of them were planned.

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Apple Announcements Thoughts

I was going to do a regular "report the facts" post on Apple's announcements today but I was busy with submitting resumes and didn't have a chance to. So I'll just post my thoughts on the whole thing.

The 5.5G iPods are a solid upgrade, but Apple didn't really show much improvement for a the year span between the 5G announcement and their successors. Apple did let us lowly 5G owners have downloadable games (but only because they can charge $5 a pop for them) and the long overdue gapless playback, but would it really have hurt much to give us the search feature?

The new nanos look very nice and bring back a lot of memories from when the minis ruled the world. It's a great tribute to the colorful ones that'll be a whole lot less scratch-prone than the 1G nanos. With both the 8GB nano and 30GB iPod sitting at $249, it's makes the nano vs video decision a whole lot tougher. It is an excellent hedge move by Apple in that they are now that much more indifferent as to the sale of a nano vs a full-size iPod (differing margins notwithstanding).

By far the most revolutionary update is the shuffle. No longer is the iPod relegated to the pocket or an awkward armband. The combination of the clip and weight loss make it possible to carry the iPod shuffle, literally anywhere. You can carry 240 songs with you and not even notice. It's pretty amazing.

iTunes 7 saw a whole lot of improvements that will have varying effects on people's enjoyment of their media. The reorganization and segregation of different parts of the Source list make things easier to find, and the new-fangled UI theme is pretty and refined, but consistency sticklers will rag on Apple for introducing Yet Another UI Scheme™. The blue note in the icon pays tribute to iTunes 2, which also featured a blue icon. iTunes 3 had a purple icon and iTunes 4-6 had a green icon.

The iTV is interesting, and is essentially an Airport Express for video. The shots of the "enhanced" Front Row look great, but I'm wondering how well even the new 640×480 videos will look on HDTV (this also makes me wonder whether or not the 320×240 versions will get free upgrades to 640×480).

It really looks like Apple is setting up to take over the living room like they took over our ear canals. My only concern is that the whole iTV messes with my thoughts on Apple's future and makes me really wonder what kind of innovation they'll push forth on the desktop hardware side now that the Intel transition is over.

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It's Showtime!

Apple's "It's Showtime!" event starts in less than three hours. The iTunes Music Store is already down in anticipation, but the online Apple Store is still a go.

I'll be in class (but with my MacBook) during the event. As always, however, MacRumors or Engadget are the best places to go for coverage in this post-"live stream" world that we live in.

Here's a small recap of what's expected to be announced:

  • iTunes Movie Store, debuting with Disney movies going for $9.99-$14.99.
  • iTunes 7, which will add support for the Movie Store (perhaps as a seperate item in the source menu) and will hopefully improve the video playback features.
  • iPod nano with new aluminum enclosure that does better against scratches. Capacities somewhere in the 4-8GB range.
  • iPod capacity upgrades. A true "video iPod" with touch screen scroll wheel is possible, but unlikely

That is what is >90% guaranteed to be announced. Any surprise announcements are anyone's guess - we've already seen fake shots of a MacTower (smaller version of the Mac Pro), the wide/touch-screen iPod video, and even a USB -> TV device named TubePort.

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