Apple's Intel Sticker Mystery, SCO's Impact, Product of the Week
It is sometimes interesting what people get excited about, and the Apple loyalists evidently got really excited about a question, which some thought I had asked, surrounding why there is no "Intel Inside" sticker on Apple Notebooks (I wasn't actually there, and I already knew the answer).
I think the real answer to that question is actually kind of interesting, so we'll touch on that. We'll also spend some time looking back on SCO and the unintended positive impact it had on open source, and a belated "thank-you" from me to the open source leadership.
Finally, as always, we'll look at our product of the week. This week it is a true alternative to the iPhone that folks who can't use an iPhone today might love, but folks who love their iPhones probably wouldn't consider.
The Apple "Intel Inside" Sticker Controversy
The week before last, Apple launched the new iMacs and, as most of you know, I was disappointed because I thought Apple was capable of much more. What many who aren't Apple people don't realize is that many Mac users base their opinions with regard to what Apple brings out on what Steve Jobs says.
In other words, if the CEO of Apple says it's great and promotes it, it must be! End of conversation.
For us Windows users, life isn't that simple.
I had a chat with one of the local CTO ex-Apple folks I know the other day, and he explained the following event to illustrate how Apple loyalists think: A few years ago Apple came out with a laptop that was promoted as having an upgradable processor. A lot of folks bought it thinking they could and would upgrade. However, it had a serious problem and Apple had to rush out a firmware update that permanently disabled the upgrade capability.
Lucky It Was Apple
Had this been Dell or HP, they likely would have been blasted or, worse, sued. While a few folks complained, most sucked it up and expressed the concern that if they made too much noise, Apple might be hurt and be unable to build future products.
Apple loyalty runs deep, which is why so many Mac sites and Apple bloggers went south when Bob Keefe (it really wasn't me) asked why Apple didn't put an Intel sticker on its products.
Bob doesn't write for an Apple fan site. He writes for Cox and a general audience, and his question actually goes to the heart of one of Apple's value propositions. It's one worth talking about, because right now the market is clearly moving in the other direction and the third-party brands appear to be mating and multiplying.
The reason there is so much "crapware" (little free trial applications we find incredibly annoying) and lots of stickers on non-Apple PCs (particularly laptops) is because it represents advertising revenue for the vendors.
Ads Make It Cheaper
The more stickers a vendor puts on its product and the more "crapware" it bundles, the more money it gets from the related vendors. That translates into a lower price to you or more margin for them.
Athletes and racers sell advertising on their bodies or vehicles for much the same reason. I can't think of another product that currently has as big an advertising subsidy except Google. Google is working toward free cell phones and free computers paid for by advertising, which would likely make the current use of stickers and "crapware" seem very conservative.
Apple's path is clearly more consistent with most of what we have been buying in that it only features its own brand. Apple's products are less cluttered and have virtually no "crapware."
Most of you are voting with your dollars that you would rather have the stickers and "crapware" than pay a little more for a PC. When Google does it for free, I expect this trend toward clutter will become more pronounced.
Computer by NASCAR
I don't think you are making this vote consciously and, were it me, I'd prefer an uncluttered machine like Apple provides over one that is so covered with stickers and filled with "crapware" because this results in not only butt-ugly hardware, but often systems that don't even run.
So, rather than making fun of Bob, I think the Apple loyalists should have used this opportunity to point out one of the big reasons why an Apple box is worth more. It has less crap on and in it, and I'd personally like more vendors to follow Apple's lead here.
So, thanks for asking the question, Bob. It is interesting that Apple loyalists think talking about one of Apple's biggest advantages is stupid. Remember most also thought moving to Intel for PCs and flash MP3 players were stupid moves as well. Maybe that's one of the reasons Apple has only a 3 percent market share.
SCO: Unintended Benefits
Going into this decade, Linux was largely something that geeks talked about. No one really had anything like a marketing budget, and while it was making progress in the enterprise, few outside of loyalists thought it had much of a chance against a focused vendor, and Sun was clearly not focused at the time.
SCO's very public and divisive attacks -- first on IBM and then on masses of Linux users -- raised the image of Linux dramatically. People were surprised to learn just how widespread its use was and in how any places it was successful.
SCO's actions forced people to look at uncomfortable topics like IP (Intellectual Property) protection early, and allowed firms to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of the GPL (GNU General Public License) leading to better decisions and better protected decision makers.
It also showcased the ugly side of open source as supporters appeared to resort to broad-spectrum DoS (denial of service) and personal attacks against SCO, its supporters and a broad spectrum of folks they disagreed with.
A Belated Thank-You to the OSS Leadership
This got to the point where I became concerned that someone could get hurt, or worse, killed. Some sites were actively fanning the hate for a variety of reasons including financial (page hits).
A number of the top Linux leaders stepped up, and without admitting guilt, asked that people tone it down and the DoS attacks almost ceased overnight, as did the threats of physical violence. I never thanked them for that and want to take this moment to thank Bruce, Richard and Linus for stepping up and possibly saving a life (likely my own).
I think my recent experience at LinuxWorld, where people were clearly more interested in solving real business problems than in talking Linux dogma or ranting on Microsoft, showcases this benefit.
In my view -- and this forms the basis for my historic objection to open source and Linux -- the problem with both was that too often people started with the solution and then backed into the problem. Now, it is increasingly clear that people are starting with the problem and using open source software (OSS) more and more often where it actually addresses that problem more effectively.
So, in the end, I think SCO actually had a positive benefit on the industry. It probably won't help keep that company alive, but it is something to think about. I'm just happy I can talk about this stuff without worrying about my health and well-being anymore. So, once again, I want to thank the OSS leadership for that.
Product of the Week: HTC 7501X
This is as much a change from the iPhone as it is an amazing technology showcase. Costing nearly US$900 unlocked, the HTC 7501X has everything we complained that the iPhone did not.
For those iPhone users on AT&T, I get the sense that they would pay more than $200 to get off of the old Cingular network and stop getting bills as long as paperback books.
It comes with more than 8 GB of storage and you can expand the storage with a 2 GB MiniSD (mini secure digital flash memory) card. It has a removable battery, it is a full 3G phone (finding a US 3G network is still a problem), it has full GPS navigation, it has a real keyboard that attaches magnetically and also protects the glass screen. It will sync with Microsoft Exchange native, and run Goodlink to sync with Lotus Notes. It has a VGA dongle so you can use this with a projector or external monitor if you want. It has a really good speaker and speaker phone, but if you try to hold this device to your head, you'll likely knock yourself out.
A Unique Look
Because of the e-mail support, you should be able to expense the phone plan more easily and get IT to support it in your company (though the IT guys may not give it back), and it is really distinctive. Users actually get a lot of, "what the heck is that?" questions. I actually think some people could leave their laptops at home or work and take this instead.
Battery life is good for a day of phone/mail/Internet/music, but if you are going to watch movies, you'll need a spare battery or an external power source, as movies really pull down the power.
It is a lot bigger than an iPhone -- you'll only use a wireless headset with it. It doesn't work with iTunes native, but rather it sports Microsoft Windows Media Player's Plays for Sure certification. The navigation isn't as wonderful, but on a 5-inch screen the Microsoft navigation actually isn't that bad, and it really needs a belt pouch. Also, the phone does not have vibrate mode.
Also, I tried a number of Bluetooth headsets with this, and the best -- because it had a vibrate mode to signify an inbound call -- was the Jabra BT5010 under $60, with tax.
This is a better solution for me than the iPhone, but then my needs are more business- than entertainment-oriented.
In short, I'm having a ball with this thing, and it's worth checking out if you aren't happy with the smartphone you have, or have simple needs and don't want to carry a full-on laptop.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.