Stay hungry, stay foolish

Is Apple innovative?

David Hopkins on the Google+ made an interesting point

Am I missing the innovation everyone holds Apple in such high regard for? All I am seeing is reaction to what is happening elsewhere but no real drive or innovation. The latest updates are in reaction to Dropbox, user keyboards, messaging, widgets/homescreen, etc.

Apple have always been like that, even under Steve Jobs.

What they do best is take ideas from other people and make them really work well for users.

Steve Jobs famously said in 1996:

Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.


The Dynabook was first revealed in 1973, the HP TC1100 was a fantastic tablet (let down by a poor OS implementation), so when Apple released the iPad in 2010, this wasn’t innovation, this was reinvention of an existing form factor, and what they did was make it work and work well.

There were a few music download services prior to iTunes, but it was iTunes that made it mainstream.

There were many different mp3 players, from companies such as Creative, but it was the iPod which turned the mp3 player from a geeky product to a mainstream need.

The iPhone was, though innovative, most of the touchscreen phones before were clunky and didn’t work very well. What Apple did was take the touch interface to the next level, reinvention again, really.

Even Steve Jobs said reinvent when he announced the iPhone.

An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator… these are NOT three separate devices! And we are calling it iPhone! Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.

Even Steve Jobs said reinvent when he announced the iPhone.

The 11″ MacBook Air is a fantastic piece of kit, but before then we had the Asus EeePC mini-notebooks, and Sony for years were making innovative VAIO laptops.

So following the WWDC keynote where we saw Apple release their version of Dropbox, the iCloud Drive (which replaces iCloud, which replaced MobileMe, which replaced the iDisk!). The previous versions were all a bit “rubbish” in comparison to Dropbox, so it will be interesting to see how iCloud Drive works against Dropbox.

Store any type of file in iCloud and access it on any device. With iCloud Drive, you can organize your files in the cloud the way you like, create as many folders as you want, and add tags to find files faster.

This is a great example of how Apple continues to copy what others do, but also demonstrates that don’t always get it right.

Another example from WWDC is the possibility of using third party keyboards.

iOS 8 brings the biggest changes to the keyboard since the very first iPhone. Now you can tap to choose the perfect suggestion for your next word. And for the first time, third-party keyboards will be available. Typing as you know it might soon be a thing of the past.

Third party keyboards have been a feature of Android phones for a fair while now, this is another example that shows Apple rarely creates something totally new, but takes on board ideas from elsewhere.

In my opinion what makes Apple a success is they focus on the customer experience, learning from what others do and then improve it.

Lastly a quote from Steve

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

Happy Birthday Mac

Today is the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Apple Mac, so Happy Birthday Mac.

My first Mac was in 2002, and it was a Titanium G4 PowerBook. I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium in Avon, and one of the partner colleges was not happy about the support they were getting in using the shared VLE and online learning content on their Macs they used. They were using G4 PowerMacs, so in order to support them better I decided to order the “cheapest” G4 Mac I could and that was the Titanium G4 PowerBook.

Titanium G4 PowerBook

I remember thinking that if I was going to really understand the needs of the users of these strange devices I had better use it as my main device for a few weeks.

Within a week, it had become my main computer and I soon upgraded it with an Airport 802.11b wireless card so it was more useful. I remember how much I liked the fact that you shut the lid, and when you opened it, it came back on almost immediately.

It was a dual boot machine running OS 9 and OS X 10.1 Puma. It had a 500MHz G4 chip, a 10GB hard disk drive, 128MB of RAM and a DVD Drive.

It was a very different experience to the Windows 2000 PCs I was use to, and the user interface was in many ways a combination of “easy” and “challenging”. It took me a few months to work out how to drag and drop.

It lasted a few years and was eventually replaced with an Aluminium G4 Powerbook a few years later.

Since then I have had and used many Macs, including the G5 PowerMac which was an amazing computer, very powerful, various incarnations of the iMac, most recently a 27” model. With the move to Intel, I used a range of MacBooks, I really liked the MacBook Pro Retina and I am currently typing this article on an 11” MacBook Air.

Going up in the Air!

For the past few years I have been using a MacBook Pro 13” laptop as my main travelling, event, conference, working from home computer. The reason for the 13” was that it was small and light and had a reasonably good battery life, but also was powerful enough for audio and video editing as well as my usual travel staples of e-mail, browsing and social media.

Over the last year or so I have found that I am more and more leaving the MacBook Pro at home and taking the iPad when travelling or at events and conferences. Despite the limitations of no physical keyboard (sometimes I do carry my Bluetooth keyboard) limited power and capability to do heavy duty video and audio editing; from the perspective of doing e-mail, blogging, web browsing and social media, it is very good at what it does.

When I was given the opportunity to upgrade my MacBook Pro I did think about leaving it as is, or handing it back to be redeployed. In the end after some thought I decided to go with the MacBook Air 11” model. The 13” MacBook Pro will now go back into the staff pool to be redeployed as it is still powerful enough for how others might use it.

I went with the reasonably basic model, but did opt for 4GB of RAM as I have found in the past that OS X does perform much better with lots of RAM. I only got the 64GB SSD and am concious that this may prove problematic if and when I come to do some serious video editing on the machine. Without Firewire it’s not as though I can use an external Firewire drive either (as I have done with the old 13” MacBook Pro model).

Due to end of financial year issues this is not the new 11” model, as Apple announced it after we had placed and received our order. We couldn’t wait due to finance procedures and Apple wouldn’t exchange (as they don’t do that for institutional educational customers). As a result it doesn’t have the backlit keyboard and neither does it have a Thunderbolt port which may have then been an option. I think as a result I will be doing short videos and will have to move content off from the Mac on a regular basis to other storage.

So what of the MacBook Air then?

Well I have been very impressed with the speed of it, the original (original) MacBook Air was very underpowered, whereas this one just zips along. I did my usual test where I select all the applications in the applications folder and press Command O to open them all…. at which point the dock becomes full of bouncing icons. It handled that test really well.

The battery life is good, but is no iPad. As a result unlike with the iPad, if and when I do take the MacBook Air to a conference or event, I know I will be searching for power points. The 13” MacBook Air with its larger size has a much better battery life. I am getting three to four hours which to be honest is really good, but not like the iPad which for me lasts all day.

I do like the screen which though has quite a small resolution compared to some other Macs at 1366×768 looks bright and sharp. Yes it is a glossy screen and I know for some that means they won’t like it. I am less

It’s lovely and light and I am a bit scared it might get bent in my bag when I take it to my first conference, so need to look out for a way of ensuring that doesn’t happen.

I am curious to see if the MacBook Air will supplant my iPad in terms of travel and event usage. Only time will tell.

MacBook Air, yes please…

Finally managed to get my hands on a real life 11.6″ MacBook Air at my local Apple Store (trying to remember what I did before there were lots of these in the UK). So there I was in the shop and I touched, used and felt the weight of the 11.6″ MacBook Air, I have to admit I pretty much well ignored the 13″ model as I have see the previous version, and to be honest if I was going with a 13″ MacBook, I would go for the MacBook Pro.

So back to the smaller MacBook Air brethren. The first thing that struck me, was how gorgeous the screen was, the high resolution makes for a really sharp display. As I started Safari (very snappy) and entered an URL, I noticed how nice the keyboard was too. One of the problems I have with small laptops (and I have used  a fair few in my time) is that the keyboards can be too small for anything expect peck and touch typing. The MacBook Air keyboard felt full size and I could quite easily see myself typing up long blog posts and other things using it. I was impressed with the speed of the Air, for something that isn’t really a true powerhouse when it comes to processing power and memory.

Having lifted it up, it was lighter than I thought it was going to be. It felt much smaller and lighter than the iPad even though it is 50% heavier.

I do quite like it, would like to get one, but probably won’t as at £849 it’s a little expensive for what for me would be more of a toy than a serious workhorse.

111.6″ MacBook Air

Well the rumours proved correct with the Apple event on the 20th October with the release of iLife ’11, details of OS X 10.7 Lion and new MacBook Air models.

We got a new 13.3″ MacBook Air and a nice little 11.6″ model.

For me the 11.6″ model is a true portable Mac, almost a netbook. I really like the idea of that.

Slightly pricy though at £849 for the low end model.

New MacBook Air???

There are rumours floating about regarding a new MacBook Air.

Macrumors says

…the new MacBook Air will offer an 11.6-inch display, down from the 13.3-inch display found in the current model.


…the new models will do away with existing options for a conventional hard-disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) in favor something described as an “SSD Card” that lacks a traditional drive enclosure and more closely resembles a stick of RAM, yet is not easily user-replaceable.

This sounds like the really portable MacBook that I expected when the first MacBook Air came out. A true Apple netbook….

Back then I said

Key new product announced at the keynote was the MacBook Air, a small light MacBook.

I do like small computers, great fan of the 10″Sony VAIO laptops, however this is slightly bigger than I would like, and I can’t see how that would survive travelling by air or train.

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s very stylish, well designed, but doesn’t meet my needs for a small portable computer for use at conferences, on the train and in coffee shops.

I also talked about the lack on built-in 3G, something that most portable laptops at the time were coming with.

However something has changed since then.

The iPad.

The iPad is now that portable computer that I take with me to conferences, use on the train and in  coffee shops. The iPad has built in 3G and has a great battery life.

What will the MacBook Air offer that can’t be done on the iPad? Well I know stuff like printing and saving and moving files for instance….

This rumoured MacBook Air sounds like the device that Apple should have released back in 2008.

Which 3G modem for the MacBook Air?

So you have finally decided (after much thought) to get yourself a MacBook Air, well its really nice, thin and though it might break it is really nice.

Now you know it doesn’t come with integrated 3G, but that doesn’t matter as you’ve got a 3G USB modem.



There’s a slight hitch, you see there’s a good chance that your USB modem won’t fit.

More on Engadget.

What no 3G?

What no 3G?

Though you may think I am talking about the lack of a second generation iPhone with 3G, no I am talking about the lack of 3G on the MacBook Air.

Yes it has 802.11n, but how many 802.11n wifi hotspots have you seen on your travels? Also from an internet perspective, 802.11n is a bit of overkill for a typical internet connection. Not everywhere has wifi hotspots, they never seem to be available when I am out and about or they fall over a lot from too many clients.

So there you are with this beautifully thin MacBook Air and either you need to use a Bluetooth to a 3G phone, which kills the battery both on the MacBook Air and the phone, and a lot of mobile phone providers in the UK now no longer allow you to use your 3G phone as a modem (or they charge you a fortune) they all now seem to want you to use a USB dongle.

Now an USB  dongle though has less of an impact on battery life on your laptop (and no impact on your phone’s battery life) is a dongle and it dangles from the beautifully styled and thin laptop you just bought!

All of this could have been avoided if Apple had provided 3G functionality with their beautifully thin MacBook Air.

I’m not the only one thinking like this, as you can see here and here.

I think Apple missed the boat on this one, though maybe they didn’t want to get into bed with another phone provider!

New Apple Stuff

Those who know me will know that I am a bit of a fan of Apple products, not exclusively, but I do like good design and stylish kit.

Yesterday in San Francisco at MacWorld Expo, Apple announced some new products and upgrades for the iPod touch and iPhone.

Key new product announced at the keynote was the MacBook Air, a small light MacBook.

I do like small computers, great fan of the 10″Sony VAIO laptops, however this is slightly bigger than I would like, and I can’t see how that would survive travelling by air or train.

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s very stylish, well designed, but doesn’t meet my needs for a small portable computer for use at conferences, on the train and in coffee shops.

No rumoured touchscreen, nor a Blu-ray drive either (actually no optical drive, though cleverly you can use your other Mac’s drive wirelessly, which is a very clever piece of software and something I would like to use with Windows UMPCs).

Nor can you can carry a spare battery, actually you can’t even replace the battery, it has to be sent to Apple to be replaced if it goes faulty.

There was also upgrades for the iPhone and iPod touch announced which provide additional applications, annoyingly free on the iPhone and a £12.99 upgrade for the iPod touch.


Probably worth it for the e-mail and notes applications which make the iPod touch a more useful.

Also announced was a new Airport Extreme base station which comes with a 500GB or 1TB drive for Time Machine backups.

On the Americans get the opportunity to rent films, here in the UK we don’t, well not for a while.