About the Apple event on Wednesday Sept 1st August 29th, 2010
Apple will have another event on wednesday. I have no insider information on what they will be talking about but we can assume that there will be a new line of iPodTouch, a new version of iTunes and people have been talking extensively about a new Apple TV running iOS.
More than a year ago when there was no iPad, no iPhone 4, no iOS 4 I wrote about how I felt that iPhone Os (that was its name at the time) was a fundamental component of Apple’s strategy for the future. I pointed out that there had been a lot of efforts put into this OS and that could not be only to produce one device (the iPhone was the only one existing at the time).
So I’m certainly not surprised by the rumor of yet another device running iOS. There has been rumors also of Apple producing a TV but if you remember Steve Jobs killed that idea with some very rational arguments during the Q&A at App Things digital. Still I’m a bit skeptical about that rumor of an iOS Apple TV.
I see 2 problems with it:
- the remote control: ok you need a remote control to interact with the device. You can use your iPhone or iPad for that but that’s a bit of an overkill. Some people mentioned a something like the magic pad that was recently released. But it sells for $70! If the new Apple TV is the $99 device that we have heard rumors about, you simply cannot have a $70 remote control, it needs to be something simple and inexpensive. a few $ no more.
So Apple has to come up with something new and creative for the remote control.
- the design of iOS: the question of the remote control directly leads to the question of how we interact with the device. Remember, iOs is a touch based OS. You do everything by touching the item you interact with. iOS has created a new direct connection between the user and the item on the screen with nothing else in between except your finger.
By the way this is exactly what a lot of people did not understood quickly enough and what makes iOS so essential. Also why it takes so long for the competitors to catch up. You don;t create a radically new touch based OS in a few months.
But back to the Apple TV, how can you create the same direct connection between the user and the item you interact with in the case of the Apple TV? This is to me the fundamental problem of an iOS Apple TV. You cannot use your finger on the TV screen! You need a way as direct as possible to point and interact with the device and right now I have no idea how that can be done!
So we will see. I’m not saying that it’s impossible. I’m just saying that I don’t see how it will be done. We already know that Apple won’t settle for a bad user experience. Actually they are so successful because they are all about the user experience, much more than anybody else in the business. So either we will see wednesday a new Apple TV based on iOS with an innovative way to interact with the device through some sort of remote control (maybe something like the Wii) or we won’t have a new Apple TV at all.
Personally I’m not sure Apple is ready yet for something like that and I’m not sure it should be their priority.
I think the iPad is more important commercially and strategically.
Let’s look at the current situation of the tablet market.
Apple itself was surprised by the success oft he device, only now they are able to catch up with the demand. Since the device was introduced they cannot make enough of it. There won’t be any serious competitor until 2011 and we don’t know yet what they will be able to come up with. So Apple can keep taking over this market segment. This is a very unique opportunity in the computer industry.
Let’s look at the last 40 years, how often did one company created a product line and dominated the market without any competitor for a significant period of time?
I can remember when HP dominated the market with its calculators in the 1970s, those were not computers yet but they were the closest you could get at the time. Apple was in that situation when they introduced the Mac, they had the only graphic user interface and it took years for the industry to come up with the Windows PC. But that’s about it.
This september event is all about the christmas buying season, let’s imagine an Apple christmas product line up with:
- iPhone 4.
- a new iPodTouch similar to the iPhone 4 with front and back facing camera and Facetime.
- a new iPad with iOS 4, a front facing camera and Facetime.
Do you need an iOS Apple TV in addition to that? Sure that would be nice but it’s not really necessary. Will Apple make more money by focusing on the existing products line, making it better, selling millions of iPad v2 and new iPodTouch, or by adding and iTV to the line up?
I’m not sure but that sure looks like a very strong product line of devices working together and very well integrated.
Anyway, 3 days to go until we know for sure.
Are they finally getting it? August 29th, 2010
USA Today announced thursday a serious makeover and reorganization.
“We’ll focus less on print … and more on producing content for all platforms (Web, mobile, iPad and other digital formats),” according to a slide show presented Thursday to USA Today’s staff.
This makeover will also result in about 130 layoffs among the 1,500 employes. USA Today is the second largest US newspaper and one of the very few really national and not local to some big metropolitan area.
USA Today was also one of the big editors present on the iPad from day 1.
So, we can only applaud this move and its realism. Let’s hope it’s not too late and they will be able to monetize their content enough to stay alive.
Overall I’m still puzzled about the press industry – what exactly were they thinking 15 years ago? That internet would only be a limited thing that would attract only a few geeks? If not – why the hell did they decided to give for free the content they have been selling until than? Because it’s not printed on paper so it’s free?
I’m puzzled, I’m really are! You have one entire industry that has been producing and selling content (news) for decades and all of a sudden they decide that this content is available online for free. But newspapers have always competed for scoops, they have always wanted to be the first to report on major events, so they start updating their websites 24/7. To be the first to talk about something. They add to the mix some advanced delivery technique like RSS feeds for syndication, e-mail alerts, content selection and personalization. And what happens? The paper becomes irrelevant! How surprising?
Why would you read on a crappy paper that will leave ink all over your fingers, some news that you already received in your e-mail last evening.
And it took them 15 years to realize that and take the appropriate measures? Kudos to USA Today for doing it now but what took you so long guys. And what are the others waiting for?
In a few years the newspapers will stop fighting to printing newspapers, they will want to make sure that you go to their website or you launch their app on your iPhones or iPads or whatever new device we will be using in the next few years.
Circulation will soon be irrelevant as a measure of success, the number of times your app launches on a device will matter much more.
I guess photographers will have to adjust to that new situation.
4 New Nikon lenses August 20th, 2010
Wednesday Nikon released 4 new lenses, I did not had a chance to actually test them but I wanted to comment on those new and interesting products.
Official Nikon links
- Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G lens
- Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens
- Nikkor AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens
- Nikkor AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens
I’m not really interested in the 55-300 as it is a DX lens but I’m sure it will be a nice lens to include in a kit instead of the current 55-200mm..
The 24-120mm is an update of the existing lens with constant aperture instead of the previous f/3.5-5.6 version.
The new 85mm has been rumored for a long long time now.
The 28-300mm is the FX version of the very popular 18-200mm DX that got released a few years ago (same time as the D200 if I remember correctly) and is probably the most remarkable part of the release.
When Nikon released the 18-200mm this lens stayed in short supply for months (maybe as long as a year). I actually got mine in Hong Kong when I was traveling there. It is a very nice lens. The price at the time was around $750, the build was reasonably good and the optical performance was correct given the versatility of the lens. You cannot expect the performance of a prime lens in a 11x zoom. But if you travel and want a very versatile lens, the 18-200 was a perfect compromise.
So I’m looking forward to test the new 28-300 as it will provide the same wide range and hopefully the same versatility for FX format cameras.
Even better, the new lens has IF so it’s internal focusing, that means it will autofocus without changing the length of the lens, retaining working distance throughout the focus range. That was not the case with the 18-200mm and actually this lens had an annoying tendency to extend by itself.
I will put my order in today and report with a field test once I receive it.
About the new 85mm.
I’m rather disappointed with the new 85mm f/1.4. I own the previous one that I got a few years ago and I was looking forward to the updated version. This is probably my favorite lens but there is one thing that I really bothers me with this lens and it’s the focusing distance. You have to be at least 3 ft away from your subject to be able to focus and often when you want to do close-ups 3 ft is just too much.
So when the specs for the new lens got released I look at this particular point… to find out that the new lens has exactly the same focusing distance. Bummer.
Ok, maybe I ask too much but I’m just a bit disappointed and I will wait until somebody gives me a really good reason to update my 85mm. And that bring up my last comment about those new
releases – price.
The price of the new products
When I see the price of the new lenses I’m a bit scared and I wonder how those products will sell. Let’s take a few examples.
- I paid $5,000 for my AF-S VR 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED, when the VR II version got released and the lens got updated a couple of months ago the price went up to $6,300.
- I have the ‘old’ AF-S VR 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED and I paid around $450 for it. The new lens released today will cost $1,300.
- I paid $900 for my AF 85mm f/1.4D IF, the updated version is priced at $1,700.
We are talking about some really serious price increase here, not just a few percents.
So, what can justify this?
- The 85 is AF-S so it will probably focus much faster and it has the Nano coating. Is it enough to double the price.
- The 24-120 was a ‘toy lens’ (all plastic). I got mine only because I had to send my 24-70 f/2.8 to Nikon for repair and I needed something in the meantime, otherwise I would never have bought it. The new lens is probably more professional, it will compare to the other f/4 recent lenses. But the price is also much more ‘professional’.
- At $1,050, the 28-300 is certainly the most affordable and interesting product. I’m sure Nikon will sell truck loads of those and I bet they will be in short supply for months.
Note that Canon has a similar product for $2,400 and Tamron makes (cheap) a 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD II Aspherical IF for $600 with Nikon mount.
Overall the design of lenses created in 2010 is better than what Nikon was able to produce 10 years ago. We have to keep that in mind. How much better? Well, there are a lot of testers around who will let us know about that through very scientific tests. I leave that to them as my reports are more practical.
My point is – few photographers can afford to increase their prices to the extend Nikon has raised the price of their recent lenses, so I see a possible issue here.
I certainly won’t blame Nikon for releasing professional products. For a long time we were actually complaining about a product line that was focused mostly on mid to low range DSLR, it’s nice to see some serious FX format high quality lenses.
Those products will stay in Nikon’s catalog for many years and will still be there when the current recession will be over (if that ever happens) but you need to have a real professional use of those lens or to be an affluent amateur to justify buying it.
Studio Lights Setup – There is an app for that! August 19th, 2010
Today I found an interesting new iOS app for photographers – SLR Studio Light Rigger.
Your studio lighting setups in your iPhone.
The purpose of this app is to allow you to create and save your studio lighting setups. The app pretty much does what I have been doing on paper for a long time. Every time I find a nice setup in the studio I make a drawing of it in my notebook. This app let you do exactly that but in addition provide an interesting way to also create a setup and simulate it’s effect. Something that you certainly cannot do on paper.
Let’s have a closer look at the functionalities.
First the app opens with a generic screen and you can either bring back a setup (rig) that you already created or create a new one.
The creation process place you in the traditional environment with a backdrop, a model and the camera. The default view is from the top which is the classic way to draw a lighting setup. Given that this happens on a computer and not on paper, an elevation or a side view would be nice. From there you can add as many items as you want (there is a comfortable limit at 70 items) from a library of lights and modifiers included in the software – reflectors, soft boxes, snoot, etc. You can place them on the scene and see right away the effect it will have on the lighting of your subject. The lights can be directed at the model or at the background and you can adjust their height.
When you are happy with your setup you can add notes to the scene and save it.
Overall the app is nice and can really be used to draw and save a studio setup but a few things are missing or could be easily improved:
- There is 3D rendering of the model (it looks like the wood articulated puppet used by painters) but it keeps spinning on itself and I find that rather annoying. In real life a model does not move constantly and you adjust the light for a given pose. Having the option to stop the spinning in a particular position would be nice and probably not too difficult to implement.
- Even better would be the possibility to see the end result of your lighting from the camera.
- Notes can be added to the scene but the input uses a non standard method with a keyboard that appears inside the screen of the app (not in a superimposed view controller), this is pretty weird (I’m even surprised Apple did not object to this). So it looks like the developer ported this app from another environment or used some sort of SDK which is not very standard. Overall the user interface is not very iOS like and it shows.
- You can capture the general layout of the lighting but the details are missing. How high are the various lights sources or modifiers, what are the lights power settings, what is the aperture, ISO and speed setup of the camera. You can add all this in the notes but it would be nice to attach those informations directly to each items.
- Given that you cannot adjust the power of the light (only the elevation can be changed) all the lights produce the same effect on the model. To compare with a real life situation, it is like your studio strobes have a modeling light but that light is set at 100% all the time. No way to see the real impact on the model of each light. For that reason the rendering of the modeling light is not really useful because it is not accurate.
The app cost $5.99 which makes it pretty affordable. We have to keep in mind that such an app has a limited target audience so it cannot be as cheap.
Overall I would say that it’s a very descent version 1 and it can be used as it is. The modeling light feature is nice but not really useable due to the lack of custom setups for each lights but it is very promising. We will see how committed the developer is to add new functionalities and improve this tool.
Net Neutrality, Google, HP, Blackberry and Smartphones August 19th, 2010
A few interesting events happened over the last few days and I feel like commenting on it. So this post will be in no particular order about the HP CEO firing scandal (sort of), the big ‘net neutrality’ controversy, the new Blackberry Torch and to finish a very interesting chart about the smartphones market.
Let’s start with 2 beautiful examples of how corporate america is capable of producing the most stunning examples of total bullshit.
Yes, I’m talking of the first two items on my list. Although they are fundamentally different they certainly share the characteristic – they are perfect example of how some big companies think they can make us believe whatever they want and assume that we are just stupid (you will notice that I blame the corporate america but politicians are a close second).
All the bits are equal – except for Google and Verizon
… but they want you to believe otherwise and they are really good at bullshit. If you want the perfect example of what a communication department can produce to make us believe in the good intentions of a company, Google and Verizon performance last week was certainly outstanding. Unfortunately for them it did not really worked like they expected. It probably fooled the category of journalists who consider that their job consist in extracting a few quotes from a press release and producing an article that just repeat what they are instructed to say. But fortunately there are still a few real thinkers and they were prompt to notice the great danger we would found ourselves into if this kind of proposal ever turned into reality. Actually the reaction was so strong that Google had to add another layer of hypocrisy a few days later.
I think we definitely have to save this one and study it in communication school, the use of circumnvoluted sentences is so great that once you finish a sentence you don;t even remember what they are talking about.
Now we also have to consider the reality of our world. Verizon is a carrier, they are here to sell their network and make the most out of it. Don’t be fooled, they will charge as much as they can and if they can get more money by selling us ‘additional services’ (that’s how they call their super-internet), they won’t hesitate to do so.
This is certainly true for Verizon but it’s not the case for Google and I think they are venturing into a very dangerous territory. I think that Google has been so successful lately that they tend to forget that if we want to replace them, it is actually very easy.
Google provide a lot of services, mostly for free, but there are lots of free alternatives. Bing is a good search engine, there are many free e-mail solutions, Vimeo is an (probably better) alternative to You Tube. Seriously we can get rid of Google in no time and I’m not sure they realize it.
Google acts a little bit like Microsoft used to. Like they own us and we absolutely have to use their products. It is probably true for Microsoft because once you buy a PC you have very little viable alternatives to Windows (unless you are a geek of course) but honestly we can move away from Google in no time.
And honestly I really don’t feel like using the services of a company that is capable of selling its core values like they did last week. They simply have no excuses for what they did.
How to get rid of your CEO? Just a touch of sex and you can go away with it – A great example of a really courageous board of directors.
Yes, I’m talking about HP. We got a great example of a really courageous board of directors and they really believe that we are stupid and they can go away with their fake story.
I won’t recount the entire story but simply put a few facts in perspective:
- a woman contractor file a complaint for sexual harassment against Mark Hurt HP’s CEO.
- it turned out according to both of them they never had any sort of intimate relationship.
- the matter is settled between them for an undisclosed amount.
- HP investigates and find out that there was no ground for the complaint but the CEO cheated on… his expense reports and he is fired for that… and they want us to believe that crap.
So let’s get a few things in perspective.
- Why did this woman filled a complaint for sexual harassment if she admitted a few days later that nothing happened? Why is she filling a complaint now knowing that she does not work for HP any more, has not done so in months?
Why? maybe because someone talk her to do so for some ulterior motives.
- So nothing happened according to both parties involved and also according to the internal HP investigation, than why did Mark Hurt felt the need to settle the matter out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. If there is no case than why a settlement?
I have no answer to that except that maybe their relationship was real but not sexual and I leave up to you to imagine what it can be.
- Why does HP need to investigate its CEO expense report in relation with a fake sexual harassment case?
Who will believe that a CEO of such a big company has time to fill his expense reports himself. He has a staff for that. Those expenses are certainly significant because in such a role you are constantly representing the company and you basically live on expenses.
Mark Hurt got paid close to $70 millions last year. Who can believe that he needs to get a few thousands more by cheating on expense reports? He did not became CEO by being so stupid.
So, why all that? Because if you want to get rid of a CEO cheating on an expense report is certainly not a good enough reason but if you add to this just a little touch of suspicion of sexual misconduct you have a winner. In the good puritan America of 2010 the suspicion of anything sexual is enough to justify anything.
So, please HP stop bullshitting us with that kind of stories about moral conduct. If you don;t like your CEO just fire him for a real reason. Maybe that way he won’t go home with a $50 millions package.
Anyway it took only a few days for some good journalists to do their job and to find out that HP CEO was highly unpopular inside the company and even if he did beautiful job at bringing the company back on track financially he achieved that result through very questionable decision. A lot of people now wonder to what extend the future of the company has been compromised by those decision. For example HP’s budget for research and development was cut so low that it is now at a ridiculous level and that might explain why after many months HP still has no answer to Apple’s iPad and probably won’t have one until next year.
Blackberry Torch goes down in flame and Apple collects the profits of the smartphone industry.
To conclude the day I want to put into perspective a few facts and numbers that got published recently.
First this graph (just below)
is probably the best illustration of what happened in the smartphone industry over the last 3 years. We are talking about the smartphone, not the entire cellphone industry (so basically the devices that can connect to the internet for browsing and e-mails). This graph compares the profits generated by company 3 years ago and now.
So 3 years ago Nokia was making 63% of the profits and is now down to 22%, in the meantime Apple grow from 1% to 48% and RIM from 6% to 17% (EBIT in the financial lingo stands for Earnings Before Interest and Taxation, so the real money that you make from selling the devices).
Few conclusions in view of this chart:
- Very few markets have seen such a revolution in such a short period of time. We are talking about a significant size market here. Very seldom we see a newcomer capturing half of a market in just 3 years.
- It explains why Nokia’s share price cannot stop to go down. Even if the company sells a lot of devices and is still #1 in unit shipped, this is a decoy. Nokia has been kicked out of the segment of the market that is the most profitable and will not come back any time soon.
- There has not been any real response to Apple’s iPhone. Every few months a new device come out and is supposedly ‘the iPhone killer’… until 2 weeks after it gets released and nothing happens. Last example the Blackberry Torch. RIM made a big buzz when they launched the device. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that they sold around 150,000 units and today RIM announced that they are cutting the price of the device from $199 to $99. Another nice try, another failure.
Next time I will discuss who can challenge Apple and RIM and prevent them from dominating this market.