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My First Month with a Apple TV

Apple TV

I got my first Apple TV about a month ago, something I thought I would never buy when the Apple TV was first announced. The first Apple TV looked like a Mac Mini/Airport Express back when it first came out and it only allowed you to view iTunes content. It gave you a hard drive to store purchased content from iTunes and the ability to stream the rest. At the time, a lot of people weren’t impressed with the Apple TV. Even Apple wasn’t committed to it that much, calling it a “hobby”. The next release was a smaller, black puck design that did not have a hard drive, this generation only allowed for streaming over the internet from your iTunes library or buying/renting iTunes movies and TV shows directly from the device. The current version works and looks the same way but has a few more features. The 2 most important being that it now streams in 1080p and if you have a current Mac or iOS device, you can AirPlay your iOS or Mac screen to your TV.

via Apple.com

via Apple.com

The 2 main features of the current Apple TV is what made it desirable for me. I watch a lot of online content, like daily podcasts and online news shows, and I always wanted a quick way to watch those shows on my TV. Sure, I could have just brought a HDMI-to-lightning dongle and connect an HDMI cable to that from the TV, but Airplay is a lot more elegant and of course, wireless. I am a fan of anything wireless. I’m also starting to download more movies and TV shows on iTunes since I’m a bit of an HD junkie and it annoys me when my favorite movies or TV shows are only available on physical disc in the DVD format. It’s also cool to see my MacBook Pro’s screen on my 40” HDTV. I also love movies and it’s nice that I can easily see movie trailers and showtimes for the local theater. The interface is really nice and it makes me despise my FiOS DVR interface. One look at the remote and the interface and we can imagine what the future of TV might look like. There’s no need for a remote with 50 buttons when the OS is smart enough and is designed in a way that can be accessed with a remote that only has 4 buttons.

Remote

Of course, it isn’t all great. My biggest issue probably has nothing to do with my Apple TV but with the cheap Amazon HDMI cord I purchased. Every so often, they’ll be a burst of static, which lasts half of a second and doesn’t really bother me too much. What does bother me is those lovely HDCP errors. Due to DRM, Apple has to make sure you are watching HD content in a secure way, for some reason, they get this wrong and you get a HDCP error telling you that you are not watching the content on a display that is HDCP authorized. I fix this issue quickly by simply restarting my Apple TV and it takes care of that issue but it’s still annoying that it happens at all.

We are all waiting for the Apple television that may or may not be coming this year. If the Apple TV is any indication on what it is going to be like, well, it’s going to be a revolutionary television. The Apple TV interface is the best interface that was ever displayed on my TV. I can easily find what I want within a number of clicks, which is very different than trying to find a show on my FiOS DVR, which takes about 2 minutes and a lot of my own memory to remember what button on the remote takes me where. It’s very easy to imagine an a la carte cable package in the Apple TV interface, where every channel is simply a little square button on the home screen. I guess we’ll have to see what Apple does.

The Apple TV is not for everyone but if you are looking for an easy way to view your Mac or iOS screen on a TV and play your HD iTunes content, the Apple TV might be exactly what you need.

Interface

via Apple.com

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Kindle Fire Review

The back of the Kindle Fire

Tablets, tablets, tablets. Seems like tablets are the device that everyone is talking about. The iPad started the craze and now there are dozens of tablets to choose from. The problem is, many of them aren’t that good. Most people are familiar with the iPad since, in the most common opinion, it is the best tablet to buy. Amazonwants to change that. This week, Amazon started selling their 7 inch tablet named the Kindle Fire. I preordered one and here are my opinions so far.

The Good:

Packaging: Amazon does a great job at packaging their products. The box that the Kindle Fire comes in is also the box that it ships in. You just pull a tap on the box, lift up the top of the box and there is the device. Included with the tablet is a very small “quick start” guide and a AC power plug for charging. That’s all. The box does have the Amazon logo and the Kindle Fire logo on the side of the box, which I would think would increase theft but I guess Amazon doesn’t care.

Build Quality: I love holding this thing. At just 7 inches, it fits very well in your hand and feels like a very solid device. Compared to my Kindle, it feels hard and secure. The screen is a glossy glass touchscreen and the back is all rubber making it easier to grip. It is not as light as a normal Kindle, which weighs the same as a paper back book, but the Kindle Fire is not heavy. It has a nice size and weight which makes it a joy to hold.

Video streaming quality: I am an Amazon Prime member ($80 a year, free 2-day shipping, free video streaming, free Kindle book loaning). All Kindle Fire’s come with a free month so you can start using the free streaming video. The Instant Prime streaming  library doesn’t have the library of Netflix but it surprisingly has some pretty good stuff. The internet where I am currently living is pure crap and the streaming video still looked pretty good. It only buffered twice. I cannot comment on the streaming HD quality since my internet speed does not allow me to view anything in HD.

The screen: The screen is very clear and vibrant. I watched an HD video that I transferred to the Kindle Fire from my Mac and it looked awesome. Amazon says that they design their products to become invisible when you are reading/watching something on it and this is true. You forget that you are holding the device in your hands when you are looking at the screen.

The Bad:

Lack of buttons: The only buttons on the device is the power button, which is located at the bottom of the device. No volume button, no home button, no orientation lock, nothing but an on/off/sleep/wake button. This gets annoying when listening to music or watching a video. You need to turn the device on, unlock the screen, click the little gear icon on the top right corner to bring up all the controls (brightness, volume, orientation lock). On the bottom left of the screen is the home button which will get you back to the shelf-like homescreen. Usually, just a tap will bring up these controls but in some cases, for some apps, you need to click a little arrow to bring up these controls. I’m not sure why sometimes a simple tap brings up the controls and why something a little arrow in the middle of the screen does. It’s a inconsistent experience.

The Keyboard: I’m an iOS guy and I feel the keyboard needs a bit of work. I always find myself typing “p” instead of the backspace. The space bar is also pretty small so when I think I’m pressing the space, I’m actually pressing the period key.

The homescreen: This is really different from all the tablets out there. The homescreen isn’t just a grid of icons, instead we get a shelf which displays EVERYTHING on your Kindle in a cover-flow like way. All your books, magazines, videos, and apps are on this cover-flow shelf. It’s not a bad design, however, a lot of unnecessary stuff ends up there. Watch 2 seconds of a video, it’s cover appears on the shelf. A screenshot of the website you are looking at also appears on the shelf. There is no way of deleting anything that appears on your shelf. So if you downloaded a trashy romance novel, be prepared to be forced to look at the cover every time you turn on your Kindle Fire.

Lack of USB cord: The Kindle Fire does NOT ship with everything you need. If you want to transfer content from your PC/Mac to the Kindle Fire, you need a Micro USB cord. This cord does not come with the Kindle Fire. It does, however, come with their other Kindle products. I have to say that if I didn’t already have this cord from my eInk Kindle, I would have sent the Kindle Fire back. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants content from their computer, that wasn’t purchased from Amazon, to be on their tablet, especially when that tablet is made for content consumption.

The So-So:

The volume: The volume of the device seems pretty low. In a moderately noisy location, the sound from the speakers are barely audible. I assume that’s why it has a headphone jack.

The browser: While the browser isn’t horrible, it isn’t awesome either. I’m used to the iPad’s Safari browser which is pretty good. The pinch to zoom is either way too fast or way too slow. The loading doesn’t seem to be noticeably faster most of the time, though Amazon said it would be. It does play flash which is nice but I noticed some problems on full sites, like YouTube for example. Some pages aren’t formatted correctly and it just creates a some what of a mess on the screen. It works well most of the time but it isn’t the ideal experience. Hopefully Amazon will fix this with a software update.

The apps: Compared to iOS, the Amazon App Store doesn’t have nearly as big of a selection. Finding apps is easy but good luck finding the ones you want. I suspect this to be an Android problem since I had similar experiences on Android phones when it comes to finding an app that does what I want, it just doesn’t do what I want well.

Reading: The Kindle Fire is not an eReader, or at least it shouldn’t be. If you want to read, buy a normal Kindle since normal Kindle’s still have an eInk display which is much, much better to read on. The glare and LCD screen of the Kindle Fire makes reading books a pretty bad experience. Magazines, however, are fine to read. Since magazines are mostly glossy pages with color pictures, the Kindle Fire’s glossy, color screen really fits the magazine format. It’s also better when the publisher takes the time to optimize the magazine for a tablet. GQ, for example, formats for the screen and includes videos and links on where to buy the clothes. DETAILS magazine is basically a PDF, which sucks.

I only had this device for a day and time will tell if I decide to keep it or not but as of now, I like the device. For what I want to do with it, it’s fine. It’s not an iPad killer because the iPad can do so much more. If you want to sit back, watch a movie, read a magazine and browse the web without having a heavy, big laptop on your lap, than the Kindle Fire is a good option. If you want to create your own content and want something that is a big bigger (and heavier), I would go with an iPad. Either way, you really can’t go wrong with a $200 tablet.

Pictures:  Click to enlarge. 1st image: Kindle Fire box. 2: Inside the box. 3: Tiny Quick Start guide. 4:Power plug. 5:Kindle Fire startup. 6:Lock screen. 7: Streaming video (The Tudors)

Steve Jobs is dead

Steve Jobs Steps Down as Apple’s CEO

Steve JobsEarlier today, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs has resigned from his CEO position. Below is the letter he published to announce the news:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Of course, the tech community is shocked since Steve’s reign as CEO was by far a memorable one. Jobs basically brought Apple back to life in 1997 when he came back to the company as CEO. It is easy to say that with Jobs in power, Apple has had the most successful years in the history of the company. Now, will this change impact the future of the company? We don’t know but I think we can all expect Apple’s stock to drop tomorrow as the general public reacts to this news.

To think rationally, Apple as a company will succeed. They are a very rich company and many people are familiar with the products. For Apple to fall off its throne, they need to come out with some horrible products and make some pretty big mistakes. If you look back into the history of the company, when Steve was not in charge, things certainly went down hill but I believe everything will be fine. I guess we will all find out in the upcoming months.

Apple Releases Lion Into the Wild, updates Mac hardware

Mac OS X Lion

Today, Apple released the latest Mac operating system, Mac OS X Lion (10.7) via the Mac App Store which is the first time that Apple has released an OS which is only available on a digital download format.

Mac OS X Lion makes the Mac OS feel a bit more like iOS with the same scroll bars, multi-touch gestures, a very iPad-like way of scrolling though and opening applications and new ways of saving and restarting applications.

When I downloaded Lion at about 12:00pm eastern time, the download took about 20 minutes to complete (about 3GB total) and about 30 minutes to install. Thankfully, everything went by smoothly.

Users will find a change in the UI right away, with less glossy progress bars and a new slick log-in screen, with a new animation. There is also a new “spring” animation when launching new applications and whenever a dialogue box pops up. The “lights” on top of each window are now smaller and less shiny.

Problems: I’ve only been using Lion for a few hours and while the problems I ran into haven’t been huge, they are still worth mentioning. Finder looks quite different now and in my opinion a bit cluttered. You can now also no longer see your hard drive capacity on the bottom of the Finder window. The Finder also lost a bit of color since all the icons are now grey, similar to the latest version of iTunes. Mail looks quite a bit different but familiar if you use an iPad. This new Mail will take a bit of getting used to on the Mac. Full screen apps work perfectly, for native apps. There is a “full screen” button for Chrome which goes into full screen fine but you cannot get back to normal size until you quit Chrome. I’m assuming this will be fixed when Google updates the browser.

By default, the indicator lights under open applications on the dock are turned off and scrolling is similar to iOS where you push the content, not the scroll bars, in the direction of the scroll. I changed both of these settings back to the way they are in Snow Leopard.

Lion is a decent upgrade and for $30, it’s pretty cheap. As long as you are running Snow Leopard, you should be fine to upgrade.

Other Updates: Apple killed the white plastic MacBook. Now, the entry-level Mac is the MacBook Air at $999. Speaking of the MacBook Air, it was also updated with Sandy Bridge processors, a backlit keyboard and a Thunderbolt port. The Mac Mini also received a Thunderbolt port and Sandy Bridge processors but lost it’s optical drive. Just like the MacBook Air, the only way to get software on these machines is digital download. The Mac Mini starts at $599. The Cinema Displays got a name change to Thunderbolt Display. The 27 inch display has a 2560 x 1440 resolution, an LED backlit display and a FaceTime HD camera. These new displays will cost you $999.

WWDC 2011

WWDC

Today, Steve Jobs and co. took the stage in San Francisco at WWDC to show off some new software coming to Apple devices. Lion, the new operating system for Macs, iOS 5, the new OS for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad’s and finally Apple’s new cloud service, iCloud.

Mac OS X Lion:

Being a Mac user, my favorite Apple product will always be the Mac since, in my opinion, the Mac is and always will be miles ahead of the PC. Lion widened the gap between Mac and PC even more.

Lion doesn’t look much different than the latest Mac OS, Snow Leopard, but it does have some new features which are sure to become things that I use everyday. Lion has 250 new features but Apple only showcased 10. I’ll summarize these 9 of these features since the Mac App Store isn’t a huge deal.

New Multi-touch gestures: All new MacBook/MacBook Pros and MacBook Air’s come with a multi-touch trackpad allowing the user to do iPhone/iPad-like gestures on the trackpad to either zoom, move windows around, or to trigger Mac OS X features like Exposé. Don’t have a Mac notebook, you can get the Magic Trackpad to use this gestures on an iMac. Nothing drastically noteworthy here. It’s sure to save time but nothing to really write home about.

Full Screen Apps: I like this a lot. In Snow Leopard, there are some apps that can be viewed full screen (iPhoto and Pages, to name a few) but in Snow Leopard, all native apps will get this feature. Developers will also get the chance to add this to their own applications. Safari will definitely be something I will be using full screen all the time. It’s basically viewing apps the way they are viewed on iDevices. Nothing getting in the way between you and the content.

Mission Control: It’s Exposé on steroids. With a single gesture, you can view everything that is opened on your Mac, including full screen apps, and you get the option to group these windows neatly into it’s own little stack based on application. You can also move windows into their own space (Spaces is a Leopard feature allowing you to have multiple workspaces/desktops). It basically combines Exposé, Spaces and App Switching into one powerful, and useful feature.

Mission Control

Mission Control in Lion. Credit: Apple

Launchpad: I’m not sure if I will be using this all that much. Launchpad displays your apps in an iOS sort of way. It basically turns your Mac screen into an iPad screen and you get to view, create folders and open apps the same way you would in iOS. I understand that Lion is all about bringing features from iOS into Mac OS X but I don’t see how this could be a very useful feature, especially with Finder staying the same way that it is now.

Resume: LOVE this feature. Once again, think of multitasking on iOS. You launch the Facebook app, go to a friends profile and then close down the application to write a text message. When you go back to the Facebook app, you are right back on your friend’s profile, exactly where you left. This is what Resume does on your Mac. When you close a program on your Mac, you will be greeted by the same windows that you left when you re-open the program. Additionally, when you have to restart your Mac, say when you have to do a Software Update, you no longer have to close down all of your applications and start on a blank desktop after the updates are installed. Everything will stay exactly as you left it.

Auto Save: We’ve all been conditioned as computer users to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! We all know what happens when you are typing up that 15 page paper for class and you either close the word processing program you are working in without saving or something happens to your computer and all your work is gone. In Lion, that won’t happen. Now, when you are working in an application, let’s say Keynote, the application will auto save during every pause and every 5 minutes while you work. Lion does not save the entire document, only the changes you created (saving disk space). You have the option to revert to last saved, incase you hate the changes you created, or lock the document if you do not want an accidental save-over. When you close a document, you will never get the window promoting you to save, Lion takes care of that for you.

Versions

Versions interface. Credit: Apple

Versions: In addition to Auto Save, you now have the option to go back and look at all the versions of the document you are working on.  You can look back on your progress and make revisions to your work. If you started off with a really good paragraph which didn’t make it to the version of the document you are working on now, you can easily go back to an older version of the document and get that paragraph back. Think of it as Time Machine (an hourly backup on Mac OS X) for your individual documents.

AirDrop: Ever wanted to send someone a file but it’s too big to be emailed and you didn’t have a USB flash drive with you? Of course you have. With AirDrop, all you need is a wireless internet connection and a Mac. Now, in the Finder, there is a window for AirDrop, once selected, it will scan the surrounding area looking for users who are also using AirDrop, once you see the person you want to send a file to, you just drag the file onto their picture and they get a notification that you want to send them a file. Once approved, the file will be downloaded to their downloads stack. No wires, no USB drives. Instant and wireless. If only I had more friends who used a Mac. Oh well.

Launch Pad

Launch Pad in Lion. Credit: Apple

Finally, Mail: Being a Mac user, I can say this: THE MAIL APP ON MAC OS X SUCKS! It’s always doing odd things, it’s a pain in the ass to control and is the one native application on the Mac that I wish would just go away or get better. Hopefully, this new version makes it somewhat useable. Mail looks a lot like the way it does on the iPad with pretty much the same controls. The newest feature is Conversations view, threaded emails, if you will. Not something I really wanted but whatever. We’ll see how it works.

Lion comes out via the Mac App Store ONLY, in July for $29. Now, here is the problem. You need a Mac running Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor (basically any Mac that is less than 5 years old) and you need Snow Leopard first. So if you are running Leopard, you will need to spend $60 to get Lion. $30 for Snow Leopard to download the $30 Lion. Stupid and a complete pain for any Leopard user but this is how Apple decided to do it.

2nd, iOS 5. Apple played catch up today with iOS 5 and sadly, there is nothing NEW to report and by new I mean new to the phone industry.

iOS 5

Credit: Apple

Notifications Center: FINALLY, Apple gets rid of those annoying, crippling, pop-up style notifications and goes with a simple notifications bar which lives at the top of the screen and houses all of your notifications. So while I’m trying to watch a video podcast, I will no longer have a huge pop-up come across my screen, pause my video and basically yell at me “YOU HAVE A TEXT MESSAGE!”, instead, a simple bar will fold out on top of the screen and go away a few seconds later. The lock screen is also changed greatly to allow you to swipe right into an application if you have a notification. So let’s say that I have a text message, it will display on the lock screen the name of the person and a small snippet of the text. I can now slide the messaging icon across the screen which will take me right into the messaging app where I can respond. Pretty cool and useful stuff.

Notifications

Notifications in iOS 5. Credit: Apple

iMessage: It’s BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) but for iDevices. I can now send a message to anyone using an iDevice, WiFi or 3G, without it being counted toward my text messages or email. I can see when it is being read or when the person is typing back to me. I can also send pictures, video, contacts and location data. If you know what BBM does, than you already know what iMessages is. It’s a nice addition and I’m sure I’ll use it and it will probably replace texting in most cases.

Newsstand: You can buy magazines in the iBookstore now but since you don’t use the iBookstore, why even go into detail about this?

Reminders: It’s a to-do list. Yeah. Can’t say much other than…it’s a to-do list. The only little nugget of coolness here is that you can get a reminder based on location. For example, I can set a reminder to say “Call mom when you get to SoHo” and once I get to SoHo, my phone will alert me to call my mom. Location based reminders, not bad.

Twitter: Twitter is integrated into iOS 5. Not sure why…it doesn’t do anything the Twitter app cannot do.

Camera: In another “FINALLY!” moment, there is now a camera icon on the lock screen allowing you to access the camera and take a picture without having to unlock the phone and launch the camera app. There is also built-in red-eye reduction and auto focus/auto exposure lock. You can also use the volume up button on the iPhone 4 as the shutter button.

And…DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. The feature every single iDevice user has been waiting for:

WIRELESS iTUNES SYNCING!

That’s right! After all these years, you no longer need to connect that damn white USB wire to your computer to sync your iTunes content. Applications and OS updates will sync wirelessly and all your iTunes content will sync wirelessly as long as your iDevice is plugged into a power source and you are in the general area of your computer.

iOS 5 is NOT compatible with the iPhone 3G or the first and 2nd generation of the iPod Touch. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch 3rd and 4th gen, iPad and iPad 2 are all fine. iOS 5 will be out in the Fall and I ASSUME it will be free. Why the Fall? That’s when the rumored iPhone 5 will come out. History shows us that Apple always releases a major update to iOS around the launch of new iPhone hardware.

Now here is the confusing part: iCloud. I consider myself a nerd and I have a very hard time understanding what iCloud is and I am not the only techie with this problem.

iCloud

Credit: Apple

iCloud is NOT a streaming service and it is not a digital locker. What it is is kinda pointless.

iCloud syncs your data across your devices. For example, I can work on a Keynote presentation on my iPad and when I get home to my Mac, the presentation will be exactly the same as on my iPad. The issue however, is you still need to buy Keynote (or any application you are working on) on all of your devices. These are not web apps. To be able to get your document, you need to have the application installed on the device you want to use. Thankfully, this service is free because who would pay for this? iCloud syncs calendars, contacts, mail, apps…all that good stuff.

It gets more confusing when you get to Photo Stream. Photo Stream allows you to take a photo on your iPhone and have it be on your Mac/PC/iPad without having to sync. This is pretty neat, however, you need to move those photos onto your computer within 30 days or those photos will get deleted off of Photo Stream and will only be on the device you took them on. God forbid if you delete the photo on the original device. This is not a cloud service. A cloud service stores your content FOREVER and allows you to access it on all your devices for the lifetime of the service. This is wireless syncing but still puts the burden on the user to make sure they sync their device to their computer before they lose their content.

One more thing: iTunes in the cloud. Well, not really.

iCloud

Credit: Apple

If you brought all of your music on iTunes, ALL OF IT, than you are fine. Apple will sync all of your purchased iTunes music to all of your devices. Wait, what? You are trying to tell me that people might have music that are ripped from CD’s, pirated or maybe even purchased from other legal online stores? Well, if you DARE leave the Apple world to get your music, prepare to pay a “HOW DARE YOU USE CD’s” tax.

For $24 a year, you can use iTunes Matching, which will scan your iTunes library and match it with songs in iTunes which will sync to your devices. $24 a year only because you did not buy every single thing in iTunes.

Steve Jobs suggests, if you don’t want to pay $24, to just sync your music via iTunes sync in iOS 5 or to just buy the songs you REALLY, REALLY want in iTunes. Pay…again, for songs you already brought, in iTunes…just so they can be wirelessly synced. No thanks.

To end this VERY long post, I was very pleased with Lion and it was nice to see iOS catch up to everyone else and give me a feature that is much needed. However, I don’t understand why anyone would use iCloud. Sure, it’s free (if you live only in iTunes) but if you don’t, are you really going to pay $24 a year just for the convenience of having your music be on all your devices without having to sync? I’d rather save my money and sync with my computer. At least I don’t need that wire anymore.

iCloud 3

Apple comparing iCloud to the other cloud services out there today. Credit: Apple

Apple Plays Catch Up – Shows Off iPad 2

 

iPad 2

Credit: Apple.com

So Steve Jobs took the stage on March 2nd and showed off the new magical device. Magical being the word they used. I for one don’t see the magical-ness of this product upgrade.

I should say that I have the iPad and had it for pretty much a year. I no longer use it as much as I used to since I don’t have a true use for it (no one does). I posted a blog post on here before discussing the HP TouchPad that impressed me and caused to me consider dumping my iPad. Being a bit of an Apple fanboy, I was hoping that Apple would show off the iPad 2 today and blow me away.

iPad 2

Black and white models. Credit: Apple.com

The iPad 2 now comes in white, which Jobs made an effort to point out that it would be available on launch. Apple has struggled with getting the white iPhone 4 out the door, in fact, it’s almost a year since Apple released the iPhone 4 and there is still no white iPhone 4 on the market. The iPad 2, in my opinion, looks horrible in white. It kind of looks cheap and I would imagine the white being a distraction. Thankfully, it also comes in black. Besides the colors, it has two cameras for Facetime calls, comes with a Photobooth app which is just like the app that comes on Macs, and has the option to purchase iMovie and GarageBand for $4.99 each (more on that later). The hardware is stepped up to match the competition. It now has an Apple A5 chip/dual core with advanced graphics. As I write this, there is little known of the actual specs since Apple’s website is being rather vague on the details. There is still only one port on the iPad, which is the Apple 30-Pin connector. There is an adaptor you can buy for $39 which allows you to connect the iPad 2 to a HDMI screen via a HDMI-out port. It also has the same 10 hour battery life.

Thankfully, the iPad is now thinner and lighter and made out of an unibody encasing. It is thinner than the iPhone 4, which is saying something.

GarageBand on the iPad

GarageBand on the iPad. Credit: Apple.com

Let’s talk about apps: iMovie and GarageBand. The original iPad was a media consumption device. You read on it, watched videos on it, listened to music on it but you never had the chance to really create your own content on it. Apple changed that. If you pay for the app, you can have  powerful video

iMovie on the iPad

iMovie on the iPad. Credit: Apple.com

editing software right on your iPad. iMovie on the iPad looks very similar to iMovie on the Mac. If you ever used iMovie, you know that it is a powerful program for consumer needs that is simple to use. That type of power on a tablet is rather impressive. GarageBand looks interesting but since I am not a musician and I don’t care about creating my own music, I didn’t pay much attention to the GarageBand demo.

Let’s talk about that case. That case that Apple made a huge deal about, including it’s own video on Apple’s website. Ever since the original iPad, Apple has made it’s own branded case. The original case wasn’t bad but it was poorly made and got dirty very easily. Apple decided to create a new “case” for the iPad 2 that doesn’t take away from the thinness and design of the iPad.  The “Smart Cover” is a magnetic flap that goes across the front of the screen…that’s it. Jobs seems to love this thing but I thought it looked rather silly looking. Unless the magnetic connection is really strong, I see this cover coming loose easily. You will pay $40 for the Polyurethane one or $80 for the leather. Who says Apple is overpriced?

Smart Cover

Smart Cover used as a stand. Credit: Apple.com

Smart Cover

Smart Cover. Credit: Apple.com

Finally, let’s discuss pricing. The iPad 2 is the same price as the original, across the board. If you wanted an iPad yesterday, the price are the same today. This kills the Motorola Xoom. The Xoom is priced very high and now the iPad 2 does not differ in terms of specs as greatly as it once did. Motorola needs to drastically cut the price if they want a chance in this tablet war.

The iPad 2 also comes on Verizon’s network instead of just AT&T. So now if you want a iPad with a Verizon 3G chip built-in, you can.

HDMI iPad 2

Teacher using iPad 2 via HDMI. Credit: Apple.com

This is the 2nd iPad but I would not consider it the iPad 2. It’s more like the iPad 1.5 since it did not change anything in terms of what tablets have to offer. Apple created a new tablet market, other companies created their own tablets which 9 times out of 10 were way over powered in comparison to the original iPad and now Apple is changing that by boosting the power of the iPad to match the competition. Nothing is really new here…besides that oh so wonderful “Smart Cover”.

The iPad 2 comes out in the US on March 11th on Apple.com and retail stores. There is no pre-ordering so if you want one on launch day, prepare to wait in line.

Oh, and One More Thing: iOS 4.3 is coming out soon which gives updates to Safari and AirPlay, the iPhone 4 get’s a hotspot feature, iTunes home sharing is enabled and the iPad’s once orientation switch, now mute switch gets the option for being used as a mute or an orientation lock. Apple is allowing users to control what that switch is used for.

Facetime iPad 2

Facetime on the iPad 2. Credit: Apple.com

Apple, You Make Computers…Right?

MacBook Pro 2011

Judging by Apple’s latest actions, you would assume that they don’t.

Yesterday Apple finally updated their MacBook Pro computer line. Giving it HD graphics power, a new port to take advantage of Intel’s ThunderBolt technology, new FaceTime HD camera and the use of Intel’s new Sandy Bridge i7 chips. While the inside of the computers changed quite a bit, the outside did not.

Unless you went to the Apple website or follow any of the tech blogs, you would have no idea that Apple updated the MacBook Pro’s. There was no fancy press conference, no Steve Jobs keynote and no teasing. There was nothing changed to the Apple website other than the MacBook Pro page and the homepage. You might think ‘well, why should they? Nothing besides the inside changed’, and that’s true. It wasn’t a huge upgrade in terms of technology but think about all the things Apple has made a huge deal over in the past few months…like The Beatles a few months ago.

The day before Apple put the entire Beatles catalogue on iTunes, Apple teased on it’s homepage that tomorrow would be the “day you will never forget” with a series of clock icons displaying the times around the world when the homepage would update. This of course freaked out the tech industry with everyone trying to guess what it would be. I remember waking up at 9am, grabbing my iPhone, going to Apple.com and seeing a picture of The Beatles with huge font above it saying “The Beatles. Now On iTunes”. Not a new computer, not new software, not even a new iPod. All we got was music from the 60’s on iTunes. Non-Beatles fans didn’t care and Beatles fans already had this music in their iTunes library, so what was the point?

iPhones, iPods and now the iPad takes the front row in Apple’s eye. This is very clear. In 2007 when Apple released the iPhone they changed from “Apple Computer, Inc” to “Apple Inc” but of course we all know that Apple got it start from making computers. Apple’s most powerful (and my personal favorite) products are their computers. The sad thing is that most people, when they think of Apple think about everything besides the Mac.

Apple needs to remember where their apple tree roots (…bad pun, sorry) came from and get back to doing what they do best: Making the best computers in the world. They need to start putting the spotlight on their computers instead of being a phone and MP3 company. Hell, even the useless Apple TV got more attention than the new MacBook Pros.