Week in review March 5 – 9

Apple’s Big Week

Phew, what a week. Apple shared several major and minor announcements on March 7, including:

1. A new Apple TV with an updated OS and support for 1080p movies and tighter Netflix integration.
2. A software update for previous-model Apple TVs.
3. iOS 5.1.
4. A new iPad with a Retina display, A5X chipset, and 4G LTE connectivity and voice dictation.
5. Price drop of $100 on the iPad 2.
6. iPhoto for iPad and iPhone 4.
7. Updated Mac apps: iTunes, iPhoto, GarageBand and Xcode.
8. Updated iOS apps: Remote, the iWork Apps, iBooks, Find My iPhone, GarageBand, iMovie.
9. New iOS app iPhoto ($4.99, universal).
10. New Mac app (free) Configurator.
11. Over-the-air App Store download maximum has been bumped to 50 MB.

Apple’s Big Numbers

CEO Tim Cook also revealed impressive numbers on the 7th. The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch accounted for 76% of Apple’s revenue in 2011. Also, there are now 362 Apple Stores open around the world, which received 110 million visitors in Q4 2011. Twenty-five billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store, and there are now 585,000 apps available. I think the most startling statistic revealed on Wednesday was, “[Apple] sold more iPads in the last quarter of last year, than any PC maker sold of their PCs,” according to Tim Cook. Wow.

All Eyes On Tim Cook

Photo by Flickr user Kevin Hiscott, used via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC license

This was not the first time Tim Cook led a post-Jobs product announcement, but it felt like it. You’ll remember that Cook revealed the iPhone 4S after Jobs stepped down as CEO. While Cook did the talking, one could assume that Jobs still had a hand in the presentation.

Not this time. The new iPad presentation was all Tim’s and he did a fine job. He has was steady, confident and in control. It “felt” like an Apple event, more or less.

It wasn’t long before Apple-watchers shared their opinions of Cook’s performance. The Washington Post largely praised Cook, noting that “Jobs’s onstage persona will be difficult for Cook to match,” and that Tim’s “easy demeanor and obvious knowledge of the products” instilled confidence in investors and customers.

There were detractors, too. Bloomberg said that the event “lacked the build-up and drama of a ‘Stevenote'” and I agree. Cook moved quickly through the event. The Apple TV reveal was especially abrupt; Jobs typically built anticipation in such situations. Also consider how little time was spent on iOS 5.1.

Finally, The Chair was missing. Jobs sat in a beautiful leather chair to demonstrate the iPad, leaning back, legs crossed in a pair of Levis, exuding casual cool. I noticed it was gone right away and I missed it.

But you know what? That’s fine. Comparing Tim Cook to Steve Jobs isn’t fair, because Tim Cook isn’t Steve Jobs. I can’t even compare my kids William and Grace in that way, because Grace is not William and William is not Grace.

The Trend Toward Monochromatic Mac UIs

KT at Literate and Latte, developers of my beloved Scrivener, published a response to these mock-ups of an alternate UI for Scrivener. After praising the designer’s talent and effort, KT complained about a current trend in Macintosh UIs: monochromatic icons.

“…since installing Lion, I spend a lot more time poring over the sidebar in the Finder and the icons in Mail’s toolbar looking for something I could find at a glance in earlier versions of OS X. I thought I’d get used to it, but I haven’t. Even a year later, I often click on “Get Mail” instead of “New Message” in Mail. In the Finder, I have found that I no longer even look at the icons in the sidebar: because my brain can process the words more quickly than it can the colourless icons, I just read the items in the list instead. The same in Mail – but with multiple email accounts resulting in the same titles in different places, I frequently find myself in the “Sent” list when I meant to be in the “Drafts” list. Before Lion, quickly finding the sidebar folder I wanted in the Finder was easy: I subconsciously found the Downloads folder by looking for a splash of green, the Documents folder by looking for mostly white, the Applications folder for sticks of brown. I didn’t consciously look for a colour: I just looked at the sidebar and my eyes were drawn towards the icon I was looking for. I didn’t know it was the colour that guided my eyes until after the colour had been removed and I found myself having to read the titles.”

I experience exactly this on my Lion machine all the time, especially in Finder windows. Where I used to move to exactly what I want, now I must stop and look carefully to find the icon I’m after. Yes, monochromatic icons are tidy, but for me (and apparently KT), they don’t always work.

Apple’s Job Creation Claims

Last week, Apple published a web page touting the jobs it has recently created or supported.

“…we’ve created or supported more than 500,000 jobs for U.S. workers: from the engineer who helped invent the iPad to the delivery person who brings it to your door.” Apple arrived at the figure by combining jobs within the company with those in related fields, like component manufacturers and iOS developers.

Days later, several economists questioned those numbers. MIT economics professor David Autor told The New York Times,

“[The] entire business of claiming ‘direct and indirect’ job creation is disreputable because most of the workers Apple is taking credit for would have been employed elsewhere in the company’s absence. ‘But of course, they might not have been as well paid or gratified with their work,’ Mr. Autor said. ‘We’ll never know.'”

Economists will debate this for years, but I say, a lot of people are working at a time when a job is not easy to find. Good on Apple.

Notable App Releases

Other than the new goodies from Apple, a few notable iOS apps and app updates were released this week, including:

1. Square Register. This solution provides everything you need to run a small business using your iPad and a Square credit card reader as a point-of-sale solution. Really neat.
2. Frames. The first app from Studio Neat, makers of the fantastic Glif, offers stop-motion animation to iPhone owners. I can’t wait to try this out with my kids.
3. iA Writer for iPhone. The great text editor for Mac and iPad has migrated to the small screen. I can’t imagine typing with those bitty keys for any length of time, but I know many do. The reviews I’ve read have been positive.
4. Path 2.1. My beloved Path got a nice update with version 2.1. It now supports workouts logged with Nike +, as well as new cameras and music recognition.
5. Angry Birds Space. Rovio got a real NASA astronaut to introduce Angry Birds Space while orbiting earth in the International Space Station. That’s just cool.

Thank You Members

Finally, a big thank-you to the new members who singed up this week. I appreciate it very much, and I hope you’re enjoying the podcast, 52 Pickup. Look for more goodies next week.

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