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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TDL Live Halloween Special

Yes, it's time for our weekly look at Apple news and rumors from around the Apple world. And, it's also time to get a little spooky with our Halloween Special. What makes it special? Pumpkins. And smoke. Lots of smoke. Enjoy:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thank You Microsoft: Netflix Comes To The Mac

I was just about to cancel my Netflix account. After all, why should I pay the same price as those using Windows computers, who are able to watch movies streaming instantly?

In another sign of the crazy times we're living in, Apple users have Microsoft to thank for making Netflix streaming on the Mac possible. Netflix will be using Microsoft's Silverlight to bring their streaming titles to the Mac. Why Silverlight? Well, one of the reasons the launch of these titles on the Mac has been delayed has been the requirements from studios to ensure copy protection of the content. On Windows computers, Windows Media Player provides an adequate level of DRM to satisfy content producers. Since Windows Media Player hasn't been updated for the Mac in years, Silverlight became the next best option. Since Silverlight is cross-platform, it will be interesting to see if all Netflix streaming is deployed via Silverlight in the future.

If it isn't already obvious, Apple's own QuickTime has stellar video quality, but lacks DRM options for third parties like Netflix. If nothing else, this may make Apple consider a subscription plan more in line with Netflix price offerings. A small portion of the Netflix catalog is currently available on any platform, but within 8-12 months, we could see some interesting competition between Netflix and Apple's own rental options.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Retail Number Not Revealed in The Quarterly Call

One big question remains regarding Apple's plans to weather the financial downturn: Will retail stores continue to open at the same pace?

Apple has plenty of cash on hand, and could easily move full speed ahead with store rollouts, and probably get some deals on rent as well. The downside though, could be for short-term investors. If the economy takes a few years to recover (however you define that), then Apple's strategy of continued store openings would pay off big a few years down the road. However, in the next 12-18 months, the stock price could be in for an even rougher ride. Analysts would be concerned about increasing operating expenses with, at least temporarily, lowered returns. And of course there's always the thought of Steve Jobs leaving Apple. Whether his health is fine or not, at some point, he'll be ready to take a reduced role in the company. He could keep going for another 40 years, or he could decide tomorrow he's had enough. Jobs seems to have been mentioning all the great people at Apple - an implication to remember the iPhones and Macs come out thanks to far more people than just him.

The situation isn't completely unlike Apple's initial retail rollout. After the U.S. financial decline following 9/11, Apple boldly moved forward with retail expansion. Doing the same now could put Apple in a position to reach a whole new market plateau in three to five years. That potential future payoff could come at the price of investor hand-wringing in the short-term.

Could Education Sales Sputter?

In Tuesday's results call, it was nearly nothing but good news as Apple had arguably their best quarter ever when looking at revenue generated across the product lines. Steve Jobs joined the call, and briefly discussed some ways in which the economic downturn could affect Apple.

He said, and rightfully so, that Apple has some of the best customers in the world, and if times get tough, they are more likely to put off a new Mac purchase until the economic environment changes, rather than buy a competing product. For retail customers, that could be very true. But there's one major market for Apple in which the almighty dollar trumps brand loyalty: education.

Tim Cook reported in the call institutional education sales in the US were down 7%. They were also down 28% in California. In an otherwise stellar financial quarter, these numbers could point to future problems. If the economy sputters through several quarters of educational purchasing, districts will feel the pressure to either purchase lower-priced PCs, or hold off altogether. This makes it all the more frustrating that sources point to an impending discontinuation (but hopefully a revamp instead) of the Mac mini.

Apple can make as many computers out of a single piece of aluminum as they want, but it doesn't mean anything to the institutional education market. Districts don't want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on adapters to attach Apple's latest and greatest to existing monitors for example.

With the educational discounts gone from the iPod, and reduced on laptops, maybe this market isn't as important to Apple as it once was.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Huge, Huge Quarter For Apple

Apple has announced it's quarterly earnings. Key takeaways: 6.9 million phones sold, and an all-time high for Mac sales at 2.6 million. Full details can be found here. Don't forget, we'll have our live video analysis show at 6PM ET / 3PM PT. I hope you'll join us, and let us know what you think via iChat or AIM to "tdllive".

TDL Live This week: (10/20-10/27)

Get your Tuesday started right with this recap of Apple news and rumors:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interview with Grocery iQ iPhone App Creator

You may be surprised to learn that many iPhone developers are not Mac developers. Perhaps there's a new halo effect underway, bringing fresh developers to the iPhone, and then eventually, the Mac. Jason, (last name withheld to protect the day job) one of the creators of Grocery iQ, currently a top ten application in the app store, gave us a quick look at his experience with coding for the iPhone. And he's agreed to answer your questions in the comments. So feel free to post a comment if you have a question as well.

Q: Tell us about your programming background.

I've been developing software professionally for 11 years. I started out doing Windows/MFC/C++ shrink wrapped software. From there I went to work for an e-commerce startup during the Internet boom. Since I moved on from that company I've been doing component and enterprise Java development for the last 7 years.

Before starting on Grocery iQ, I'd never developed any software on a Mac or for a Mac, and I'd never used Objective-C.

Q: If someone has never programmed before, how can they learn to program for the iPhone? Would you consider this a good platform for beginners?

I don't think the iPhone is a great platform for beginners. Objective-C is somewhat obtuse. I would direct beginners to Java or C to start with.

Q: Since your background is Windows programming, now that you've written an app for the iPhone, any interest in creating Mac software? Is the work for both as similar as Apple has implied?

I am interested in creating Mac software, but at this point we have so much invested into the Grocery iQ platform, I think I will probably be working on other platforms and our sync service, so it may be a while before I get around to it. :)

Coming from Windows, it takes a while to get used to Xcode and Objective-C. I would say I wasn't truly productive in the new environment until working in it for a few weeks.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the development process?

Getting used to the Mac keyboard differences! Having never used a Mac before, I'm still trying to get used to the dang Command key!

Q: Where does the iPhone fit in as a platform from a developer standpoint: Do you approach it as a mobile phone or as a portable computer?

The iPhone is definitely the most "portable computer"-like of any of the mobile devices currently available on the market. However, it still has a lot of the restrictions common to mobile devices. The number one restriction is screen real estate. We spent a LOT of time on the UI and overall usability of Grocery iQ, and I think that really helped our product stand out as a quality, easy-to-use app.

Q: Now that the NDA restrictions have been relaxed, do you think we'll see a more open developer community?

Definitely. When the NDA was in place, many developers were averse to posting questions and code online. I think we will see an explosion of iPhone SDK discussion forums and samples on the Internet.

Q: Since developer-to-developer feedback was curtailed by the NDA, what role did Apple play in development? Did they offer feedback about your app, or did you autonomously write the program, then submit it?

We filed a couple of SDK bugs with Apple, but overall, we developed Grocery iQ autonomously and submitted it to Apple with no big problems. We didn't hear anything from Apple after the app was submitted until we received the email that said Grocery iQ was "Ready for Sale".

Q: For someone who hasn't purchased it, give us an overview of your app.

Grocery iQ helps you build your grocery list fast with the built-in 130,000+ item database. It's easy to put *exactly* what you want on your list - stop getting the wrong thing at the grocery store! Picking from your Favorites and History lets you build a grocery list in seconds. Your list is automatically ordered by aisle to help you get through the store without backtracking. Email your list to your husband so he can do the shopping!

Q: How did you arrive at the price ($4.99) for your app? Do you think developers have a grasp on what people are willing to pay for apps?

Before the app store launched, app pricing was anyone's guess. Since we didn't upload our app to the store until Sept. 7th, we had the advantage of seeing what prices our competitors launched at. We chose the $4.99 price point because we felt it was the right price for the value we were delivering with our app. I think we have a pretty good grasp on what people are willing to pay for a shopping/grocery list app. I can't speak for other app store developers.

Q: How long did it take to develop your app?

5 months of burning the midnight oil. We poured our heart and soul into it, and we hope our customers love the final product!

Q: Why would someone want to use Grocery iQ instead of a paper list?

Your iPhone or iPod touch is always with you. Whenever you think of something to add to your grocery list, pull it out of your pocket and enter it right away. Grocery iQ orders your list automatically to match your store - this keeps you from backtracking in the store, trying to make sure you got everything on a paper list. We have multiple reports and reviews from users saying that using Grocery iQ has cut 30 minutes out of their shopping trip - it helps keep them more organized and makes them more efficient in the grocery store.

Q: Explain the aisle feature.

The Aisle feature in Grocery iQ lets you add, delete, rename, and reorder the aisles. The reordering is the most important aspect, as it allows you to order your Grocery iQ list to match the layout of your store. With multiple store/list support in 1.1, you will be able to store an aisle layout per store/list.

Q: It feels like the level of specific product detail is really intended for the super organized, yes?

Not at all! It may seem that way in the 1.0 release, but our original vision will be fully realized in the 2.0 release with the addition of the Grocery iQ Sync service. One common example is your wife sending you to the store on your way home from work. She will be able to add *exactly* what she wants you to get to the list (down to the brand and exact product size). When you open Grocery iQ at the store, the list will sync, and you can be sure you are getting the right things. This scenario applies not only to married couples, but anyone who needs to collaborate on a shared shopping list: college roommates, restaurant managers, etc.

Q: Can you talk about any future features?

Version 1.1 is nearing completion. It will have support for multiple stores/lists. This is the #1 most requested feature from current customers. Version 1.1 should ship before the end of October.

Version 2.0 is well underway as well. Version 2.0 will be the launch of the Grocery iQ Sync Service. This will be a free upgrade to existing customers. It's a free hosted service, powered by Grocery iQ servers, that allows multiple iPhones or iPod touches to share the same lists and aisle layouts. Pricing support may also make it into this release. We are targeting a late November release for 2.0.

Beyond version 2.0, we plan on expanding to other mobile platforms and the web, among other top-secret world domination plans.

Q: Without giving away your secrets of the app, can you explain where/how you get your shopping item info?

We contracted with several zoos throughout the USA to have several hundred monkeys bang on typewriters for the last few months.

Q: Do you plan on creating other iPhone titles?

Not at this time. We are focused solely on making Grocery iQ better.

Q: Your app was featured by Apple. How did that affect acceptance of Grocery iQ?

Being Apple's App Store Pick of the Week was huge for us. It increased our sales by an order of magnitude. It gave us the foundation we needed to move into the Top 10 Paid Apps. We're currently #8!

Green Apple: Credit Where It's Due

We are quick to point out shortcomings with Apple's latest products. However, I wanted to take a minute to give them kudos on a solid decision. After many years in the middle of the pack, it looks like Apple is poised to be a leader in environmentally sound production. Granted, there are no announced plans to add solar panels to factories, or wind turbines in Cupertino, but Apple is making steady progress on the toxicity and impact of their computers.

We won't go point by point here, especially since Apple has done the job for us with this information page.

Suffice to say, the steps to remove arsenic from glass for example, may not sell you many extra computers, and while there's a PR value to making your product for environmentally sound (just ask us) the actual expense involved probably far outweighs any marketing advantage. So kudos Apple, for doing the right thing, maybe even when it wasn't the best thing to do financially.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top 5 things disappearing from the Mac

With the new MacBooks revealed, and a few people here at TDL being riled by the loss of firewire on the MacBook, we figured it was a good time to look at our top five features/concepts that have disappeared, or are beginning to disappear from Apple products. Here they are, in no particular order.

5. Simplicity. The once so-easy-grandma-can-do-it iPhoto has become a patchwork of menus and heads-up displays. We're not saying these aren't improvements, but if you want to make an Adobe Elements competitor, do it. Don't eliminate the simplicity that's brought so many people to Apple products. And don't even get us started on what's become of iMovie.

4. Firewire. Sure firewire's still hanging on, but it's nowhere to be found on the new MacBook, and firewire 400 ports have disappeared from the Pro models as well. Millions of DV and HDV cameras use firewire exclusively for connectivity. Many of those cameras were sold to people buying into Apple's digital lifestyle pitch. Sure people now use a lot more cell video, flip cameras, and still cam video capabilities, but there's still millions of people with Firewire devices. Manufactured by companies who would've probably opted for USB to begin with, if not for Apple (and to lesser extent Sony) championing the connection. Any way you slice it, it's sad that a five year-old iBook, or even older Powerbook is better equipped to edit DV video than the newest MacBook. Why even put iMovie and iDVD on these machines?

3. The Apple Key.Perhaps the least important change on the list from a functionality standpoint, but from a lineage and marketing standpoint, we hate to see it go. Having people use the name of your company every time they give a shortcut: brilliant. Despite the "start" button, no one will ever say press Microsoft-N to open a new window.

2. Cutting-Edge Disc Support. There was a time, not so long ago, that creating DVDs was only the work of the big studios. Then a little computer company came along, and decided to change things. Apple was on the cutting edge when it introduced the superdrive, and iDVD/DVD Studio Pro. Suddenly any average Joe who could pony up for a Mac tower could author and burn their own DVDs. Now, Blu-Ray is the talk of the town. Rather than sit on the cutting edge, allowing Mac media creators to unleash the power and flexibility of this format, Apple has decided the "complex" nature of licensing the technology means it isn't worth it. While far less innovative computer companies have been able to figure it out, and despite the fact Apple can create a laptop out of a block of aluminum, licensing is just too difficult for them. Then again, when Apple introduced the Superdrive, there was no iTunes music store, let alone HD video downloads. As Apple expects you to get all media from the iTunes store, perhaps that makes them a little more hesitant to support a competing HD format like Blu-Ray.

1. Common Standards Support. To call Apple a supporter of standards can be a stretch, or an understatement depending on the subject at hand. When it comes to things like wifi and h.264, Apple has been a champion of common standards. When it comes to ports, especially for displays, it's a mixed bag. Apple Display Bus: non-standard. VGA: standard. Apple display connector: non-standard. Full DVI: standard. The latest announcements brought a new connector to the world: the mini DisplayPort. While the display port may indeed catch on in the years to come, it seems silly to switch ports simply because it's smaller. Technically, there's nothing this port does that can't be done by HDMI. And let's not forget there are millions of VGA/DVI monitors out there. Monitors that will now require an expensive adapter to be used with Apple's newest products. If you don't like the connector though, wait a few years: it's bound to change again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Notebooks Announcements

Well the Spotlight on Notebooks announcement just ended and we came up with a quick list of the good and the bad.

Things We Love

-The new eco-friendly aluminum enclosures. White plastic was so 2001, and the iMac like black border looks surprisingly good.

-Multi touch trackpad has us excited, but we wonder if "switchers" will miss the mouse button?

-The Revenge of the Graphics Card! Macbook users can play games too! Now we just need some games.....

-User replaceable hard drives all around.

Things We Hate

-Where is the affordable pricing that was rumored for so long. The $999 Macbook is last years gimped model. Kinda like when Apple sold a $799 Snow iMac G3 after the G4 was introduced. No one will want this model.

-Pricing all around was poor. $899 for a display, even one with snazzy Mag-Safe connectors is too much in today's economic climate. The base model of Macbooks went from $1099 to $1299. Somehow Steve decided this was a $700 SAVINGS?!?!

-The lack of options for Bluray or HDMI. Despite what Apple may think, these technologies are mainstream. Steve mentioned licensing issues with Bluray in his Q&A. HP and DELL has managed to work it out.

Overall we'll give today's announcement a C+, but we get the feeling Apple is slightly out of touch with today's consumer when it comes to pricing. Are they now the John McCain of computers? Steve doesn't own seven houses right? Or does he.

Is Apple Tone Deaf To The Economy?

With today's announcements, the price for the low-end new MacBook increased $200. Increased. In recent days, analysts have expected a low-cost option from Apple. Something in the $800-900 range to stoke demand, and open new markets. Given the global economic situation, it would seem to make sense to offer something more attractive at a lower price for consumers.

Instead, Apple is keeping around the old Mac Book at $999. You can buy last year's model for more than analysts expected the entry point of the new one to be.

The only saving grace here is there's an old saying it's always easier to drop the price. I would expect to see a price drop on these units before the holidays. Otherwise, Apple will be squandering a chance to open an entirely new budget market. Then again, maybe that's not where they want to go at all.

The Obligatory Apple Store is Down Post

Title says it all, as the kids say. Well, the kids in 2006. At any rate, the Apple Store is now down, so it looks like, gasp! something could be announced today. Don't forget we'll have a live video recap at 2PM ET /11AM PT

While We're Waiting For The Apple Announcements

Looking for something to tide you over until Apple announces the shiny new products of the day? Well, here's your chance to get caught up on all our logical, and illogical (Apple Store within a Store at Walmart) prognostications for today's announcements and beyond:

Just a few hours to go

Apple's latest stop-the-tech-world, we have something to say event kicks off at 1PM ET /10AM PT. We will have live reaction and take your iChats (tdllive) at 2pm ET.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whatever Happens Tomorrow, the Air's Days Are Numbered

Will the "brick" revolutionize laptop production? Will it dramatically lower prices? Will it simply be an incremental upgrade to existing MacBook line? Whatever we see tomorrow, one thing is increasingly clear: The MacBook Air's days are numbered.

That's not to say there's anything inherently wrong with the Air as we know it today. The fact is though, at some point, (perhaps even this week) the features, weight, and thinness of a full-fledged Apple laptop with DVD drive and full array of ports will rival the portability of the Air.

Apple has previously patented a system of folding ports, which would seem to address the issue of offering more peripheral functionality in a smaller space. And at a time when the 1.8" drive used in the iPod is being produced at up to 250GB, and the cost of solid state drives continues to fall, there's no reason a full-features MacBook can't be thinner than it is today.

The MacBook Air is a transitional product, It is able to fill a gap in the product lineup until technology catches up, and allows for far more computing versatility in a smaller space. It's demise might just be a lot sooner than any of us realize.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Demo back in the day...

As the guys here at TDL like to tease me about, I was geeky enough in 2000 to work a few Apple Demo days, happy to be a representative of my favorite brand, Apple Computer. I was so excited to be "working for Apple". It was not all stars and sunshine unfortunately.

The basic premise and set up was simple enough: encourage hesitant PC users wandering through Sears to check out an iMac. They mailed me a software pack, an iMovie tee shirt, and a few simple forms to fill out at the end of each Demo day.

I left for the mall my first day with such optimism. I was going to convert PC users to the Mac! After arriving at Sears and finding the frazzled electronics department manager to sign me in, I went to work. Once I installed the MS Word disc and a few other pieces of software on the main demo iMac, I hovered by the three demo iMacs they had, hoping for contact. After about a half hour, the only people I saw or talked to were the two teenagers working the Sears electronics department. They sort of sneered at me, "oh, you're here to sell those macs". Sigh. I thought I was. As lunchtime approached, I did have a few interested people- how does this thing work? It looks neat! It can run Word?! I heard it can't open any files from a PC...etc etc. I tried my best to correct all of the misinformed shoppers. I even did a quick demo of iMovie for a family with a teenage daughter that was looking to buy a computer. Unfortunately they decided the iMac was too expensive.

After 6 hours, no takers on my beautiful little iMacs. At the end of the day, I had the manager sign off that I was there, and asked him a few questions. "How many iMacs do you have in stock?"I asked. "3" the gruff reply. Um, what? I thought Apple was partnering with Sears to get a retail connection with the consumers- and apparently, if three of the people I talked with actually bought a computer, they'd be plumb out of them. Something smelled fishy about that. I tried to find out if they had just run out of stock, or if that was all they could get. He was fairly unresponsive, basically saying that was all the stock they needed.


I am so glad I was there at the beginning, a Customer Service Rep before Apple even had a bricks and mortar storefront. But it really shows us now just how far Apple has come. Imagine any teenager today walking into an Apple store and expressing shock that Macs can run Word (much less Windows!) In just 8 years, I went from Sears pariah to trendy for still having my old Demo Day tee.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

iChoose for the iPhone and iPod Touch Review

Oh fate! Oh chance! Oh iPhone app creators! Is there anything you don't think of? iChoose gives you the digital equivalent of a coin to flip, dice to roll, cards to pick, and more. Any "random" situation you may have could benefit. Even if you're trying to figure out if you've found true love with a quick round of she/he loves me, she/he loves me not. Here's a look at iChoose:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

iSlots for iPhone and iPod Touch Game Review

On the heels of our video poker review earlier this week, here's a look at iSlots for the iPhone and iPod Touch. And I have to stress "look" because the look of iSlots is an impressive visual re-creation of a slot machine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Crash Landing iPhone Game Review

Can you land your spaceship in time? Even though it was free, was this app too expensive? These questions about Crash Landing, and more will be answered in this video review:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fat Free Video Poker for the iPhone Review

Show of hands, who likes to play video poker without any chance of winning something? If that's you, we've got the game for you: Fat Free Video Poker for the iPhone and iPod Touch. And just for fun, let's add in kid-friendly graphics and an occasional popup ad.

Here's a look:

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Music Royalty Board Blinked

Last year, Apple was blustering about potentially shutting down the iTunes music store. Yes, that's right... The world's largest music retailer said that an increase proposed by the Copyright Royalty Board to sweeten the cut of music track sales for songwriters from 9.1 cents to 15 cents would potentially cause Apple to cease iTunes operations. Really?

This week the Copyright Royalty Board decided to keep the rate unchanged. Whether you agree with the increase or not, the issue is concerning because of Apple's flair for the dramatic. We're expected to believe that Apple would really shut down the top-selling digital download site, which also happens to be the catalyst for iPod and iPhone sales, in the middle of an economic downturn. Stop and consider the consequences for Apple's battered stock for just a minute.

Shutting down iTunes is the closest thing to a "nuclear option" in the digital download world, and it should be used with caution. Ironically, if anything, the increase probably would've helped Apple. While most companies (amazon, rhapsody, etc.) would have to find a way to absorb the cost, Apple would more than make up for it in hardware sales. Considering there are roughly 50 tracks sold for every iPod purchased, Apple would've needed to absorb $3.00 more per iPod. I know electronics margins are close, but they're not that close.

Power in a market is a funny thing. Sometimes, once your the biggest, you actually have less freedom to do what you want to. While Apple may think users would've rallied around them if they actually went through with the threat, the reality is the lawsuits that would've sprung up, aimed at Apple, could be devastating.

Apple will never shutdown the iTunes store. Ever.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Obama Campaign Brings Politics to the iPhone

Today the Obama campaign released "Obama '08," an application for the iPhone. The app is designed to encourage Obama supporters to call their contacts, and keep track of how they plan to vote. Additionally, news about the candidate can be found on a national and local level, as well as using your location to show upcoming campaign events.

Regardless of your political stance, the app marks, an innovative and smart way to keep people enthused about the campaign. Here's a look at our quick video overview:

So You Want To Work For Apple? Part One of Many

As many of you know, this website and video network was founded by former Apple employees. Often, people ask us what it's like working at Apple. Well, that's a topic for several blog entries. Another frequent question: "What did you learn while working at Apple to use in the future?" This question usually comes from people considering a job at an Apple Store. Often, their first job out of college. Jamie and I tackled this question in a recent Root Access episode (below).

In general though, here are a few things about working in Apple Retail:
1. You don't have to work for a company because you like it. I remember before working at Apple the countless hours spent checking out the latest Apple news and rumors. A task that was much harder and far fringier in those days. Working for Apple though, certainly took away some of the magic and mystique.

2. If you have technical skills, consider your options. While Mac Geniuses are decently paid by retail standards, if you truly have a grasp of the technical side of things, you could make far more outside of Apple, or even inside Apple in another capacity.

3. Apple Retail isn't the farm league for Apple corporate. While I know many people who've made the leap from Apple retail to "real" Apple, it is a tough road, especially for those who aren't on the programming side. Initially, working for Apple will get your foot in the door, in terms of things like visiting Cupertino (if you're a genius) and yes, there are stories of potential geniuses who were snatched up, and brought on to engineering teams while attending genius training. This is NOT the norm. My rule of thumb would be, if you work at an Apple Store for 18 months and don't see a path to another part of Apple, get out. I personally know three people who ended up in Cupertino by working in retail, then taking my advice and leaving, before getting the call to corporate.

4. If you're retired, think twice. For older Apple fans, the store can look like a fun, and energetic way to spend a few days a week if you're looking to get out of the house. I would strongly advise visiting the store multiple times to get a feel for the actual demands of the store. Some stores are laid back, while others are, in nicest terms, a zoo. Just know what you're getting into.

The bottom line is, if you're looking to start a lasting career, it's nice to have Apple on your resume, but don't expect it to work wonders. And unless you want to develop a career in retail, get out at about the 18 month mark.

Personally, I worked for Apple for about three years. In that time, I was able to change jobs three times, and even helped with some special internal projects. By that time, it was clear there wasn't any sense in staying unless I wanted to continue in retail, which if that's your thing, then fine.

Also know that depending on the crew in your store, it could be one of the most entertaining jobs you'll ever have. It can be hell at the mall too, sometimes with the same people... Look for more in a future blog post.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Case For App Store Refunds

For as long as computers have had floppy drives, people have been buying software. There have been some quirks that have made buying software somewhat different from buying all other physical products. The biggest difference? The inability to return open software.

Once you open the software you can peruse the lengthy licensing agreement, and usually find a clause about returning the software for a refund if you don't agree with the terms. Of course the reality is, no one takes back open box software. And granted there's some legitimacy for that, considering you could've just copied the software, and now brought back the original to "cheat" the system.

Through the years, we've been conditioned to think this is normal, and unlike almost any other product, if we try software and decide it's awful, too bad. No refund for you.

Enter the iTunes App Store. As you know, the apps use the same fairplay DRM (technically v 2.0) found in the iTunes music store. Among other things, this DRM keeps you from sharing, or copying apps from the App Store. Without the DRM key assigned to your device/computer, the software will not run.

With the App Store, the logical reasoning behind why software can't be returned has been removed. We're all agreeing to this because its the way software has always been sold. There's no reason the store couldn't have say a 14-day return policy to match the policy of the Apple retail stores. It would be quite simple to de-activate the license key for that program, and refund the money.

I don't expect Apple to add this feature on their own. There's nothing in it for them but lost revenue. They and the developers do far better by having you buy an app without refund before deciding whether it will even do what you need it to do. We, as consumers have the power to start to look at DRM software the same way as any item in the physical world. If it is impossible to keep a digital copy of something purchased, then it should certainly be possible to return it.

If you are able to buy a Texas Instruments scientific calculator, try it, and return it if you don't like it, why should calculator software for the iPhone that cannot be copied have a different policy?

Developers, We Want To Talk To You!

Just minutes ago, word came from Apple (via MacRumors)that they are removing the Non-disclosure elements of their agreement with iPhone developers, as they apply to released software:

We have decided to drop the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software.

We put the NDA in place because the iPhone OS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don’t steal our work. It has happened before. While we have filed for hundreds of patents on iPhone technology, the NDA added yet another level of protection. We put it in place as one more way to help protect the iPhone from being ripped off by others.

However, the NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone’s success, so we are dropping it for released software. Developers will receive a new agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so. Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released

As many iPhone developers know, we've been anxious to talk apps. So send us an email: feedback@thedigitallifestyle.tv we'd love to tell everyone about what went into making your application.

Micro Labyrinth for iPhone and iPod Review

Remember those cheap little plastic toys that had the tiny silver balls that you moved through a maze? No? Then Micro Labyrinth might not be for you. If you do remember them, then this will be a trip down memory lane...

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