The Best Thing About Blogging

There are many great things about having a personal blog and consistently posting to it. And none of the great things are about trying to be a “thought leader” or personal brand. After blogging (more-or-less consistently) for 17 years, I’ve discovered that much of what I write is like jotting down a note to the future me.

RexBlog on Jan. 9, 2007

Like today. Ten years ago today, I was in San Francisco. I was on about the 20th row when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Because I blog, I can go back and read what I said that day and said a few days afterward.

In the past decade, I’ve blogged tens of thousands of words about Apple products.

But there’s something great about reading what you first thought about something that later turned out to be more (or less) significant.

It makes you feel like you were clueless…or insightful. But that you had any opinion at all makes you feel connected to an event in some way.

The headline of the post where I wrote my response is, “The least impressive thing about the iPhone is that it’s a phone.”

Ten years later, I think I nailed it.

What else happened on this day, ten years ago.

Looking at other posts of the day, I see that was going to be purchased by Yahoo. Later, that would be as disastrous as most Yahoo acquisitions were.

AppleTV was released.

While I didn’t blog about it, ten years ago today was the first time I ever used Twitter. I had set up an account a few months earlier (in the year 2006), but MacWorld was the first time I used it. Why? The media center (I had press credentials thanks to a friend in high places), encouraged reporters to follow their posts to Twitter (“tweets” didn’t exist yet) to learn about changes in the MacWorld schedule or other updates. This was back when it was far easier to understand what Twitter was (a group text messaging thingee) than it is today. (However, for months, I continued to think it was a method for PR people to distribute text messages.)

My first voice-recognition question for Google’s new iPhone App

The NYTimes is reporting that Google researchers have added sophisticated voice recognition technology to the company’s search software for the Apple iPhone. The new feature will be available as early as today.

It works like this: You ask a question and the sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine. The concept of a spoken-word interface with Google is not new. A service called Google 411 has been around for a while and can be used with any phone. (And other spoken-word or voice-recognition services exist, including one of my favorites, Jott, that converts a 15 second message into an e-mail or other text document.)

However, here’s the new, new thing today, as described in the Times:

“An intriguing part of the overall design of the service was contributed by a Google researcher in London, who found a way to use the iPhone accelerometer — the device that senses how the phone is held — to set the software to “listen” mode when the phone is raised to the user’s ear.

So, here’s my first question:

“Why would Google, which is in the midst of supporting the launch of its own mobile phone platform appearing first on the G-1 from T-Mobile, release an awesome feature that provides a marketing advantage to a competitor of the G-1?”

The T-Mobile G-1 includes an accelerometer (with noted limitations). Unless the same app-feature is released for the G-1 simultaneously, I think T-Mobile there are some marketing folks at T-Mobile who have the right to be fuming this morning.

Confessions of a MacBook Touch rumor monger

Alan Kay (who I’ll get back to in a moment) is credited with a great quote: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

I’ll add to what Alan said: The second best way is to keep predicting it until someone else gets around to inventing it. And the third best way is to predict something and then spread every rumor possible that is remotely related to that prediction.

When it comes to one of the oldest Apple rumors I can recall, I have clearly done all I can to do the third best thing I can — to echo-chamber it. The rumor is that Apple will one day offer a device that is somewhere between a MacBook and an iPod Touch/iPhone. The device, now being labeled “The MacBook Touch” by the rumorosphere, has once again taken center ring at the Mac Rumor Circus. (Some latter-day rumorists are calling it a “Tablet Mac,” but that’s a rumor of a different color. Steve Jobs will never chase the tablet laptop market for reasons so obvious — even John Dvorak could figure out why.)

A couple of years ago, I posted a list of “All the Apple rumors you’ll ever need.” Of everything on the list — including the iPhone — the only one I’ve ever really craved is “Rumor #3”:

A device that is sort of like an 8″x10″ iPod that does everything a computer does but it won’t be called a tablet computer or an iPod.”

Strangely, for the past two years, if you Googled the phrase, “Rumor #3,” the #1 result has been a link to that list. To you, it might be called a MacBook Touch. But to me, it will always be Rumor #3. For past rumor posts, I’ve even Photoshopped up a version of what a Rumor #3 could look like (right).

But I have a deep, dark confession to make: I’ve never really thought Apple will come out with the product. It has been more wishful thinking than anything else whenever I echo-chambered such reports as this “patent” post on My “rumor” posts have been more fantasy and speculation and desire to have the product I have called an iPod Touchbook (and here), than belief that Apple will offer such a product. Even today, I’m quite cynical and, frankly, don’t believe that such a product is going to be announced anytime soon. (Or, perhaps, I’m tired of being disappointed when these rumors I help spread never pan out, and I’m taking a new tact.)


My lust for a MacBook Touch
started with a 1987
video about a concept product called
the the Knowledge Navigator.

I’ll credit Apple (and in this case, the then “Apple Fellow,” Alan Kay) with first establishing the benchmark for my desire for such a device — and my willingness to serve as conduit for spreading any rumor which comes close to suggesting Apple will one day offer such a product. It started with a concept video Apple produced in 1987 that oozes with Alan Kay concepts. I’ve written about how that video describing the concept technology, “Knowledge Navigator,” set an expectation in my mind — and a generation of those of us who reside among the hyperlink-obsessed — of what one should expect to have one day. Today, now that all of the technology, infrastructure, pricing scale and marketing channels are in place for such a device, many of us are wondering: Where’s my Knowledge Navagator? (In 2003, Jon Udell posted a great item about the Knowledge Navagator concept video.)

A rumor is somewhat like abstract art — until the artist explains exactly what everything means, it can be interpreted anyway one wants. Until Steve Jobs strolls out onto the stage and explains exactly what this device is and what space in our mind it is to occupy, it will be all things to all geeks.

For me, Rumor #3 is about recapturing a little piece of 1987, when the promise of the future was not about feature sets, but about the cool things you could do if you have a device that goes with you everywhere and allows you to travel anywhere.

Note: One thing I didn’t like about the Knowledge Navigator was the “talking head” interface. I’m more of a touch interface person, myself.

Bonus link: The eBook people are finally catching on that a Rumor #3 device makes having a separate device merely to read books rather redundant.

You won’t be able to ‘tether’ your laptop to an iPhone 3G

The Important Part: Unlike with other 3G and EVDO (broadband cellular) phones, according to CNet, users of the new iPhone 3G will not be able to “tether” (connect via Bluetooth or cable) their phones with their laptops in a way that allows them to gain access to the Internet with their laptops. Rather, they must have a separate 3G device and a separate account for their laptops.

Personal observations: The other day on Twitter, I wondered aloud if this feature would be allowed with the iPhone:

When I had a Treo w/ EVDO, I could connect my laptop to it via bluetooth and access the ‘net. Will I be able to do that w/ iPhone 3G?

I got my answer today with this post on the CNet site, iPhone Atlas: AT&T says, No! (Also, thanks to the article, I now know the term “tether” is used to describe what I was trying to explain with my less-than-fluent wireless vocabulary.)

I already have an AT&T 3G account that allows me to access the Internet using a Sierra Wireless USB modem. While I think it is ridiculous that tethering is not allowed with the new iPhone 3G, I can balance my disappointment with the knowledge that a Sierra Wireless USB modem can be shared by anyone in my office — all of the username/access codes are stored in the device. In a small business environment, especially one that has multiple employees traveling often, the ability to share the USB 3G modem saves lots of access fees charged by hotels and airports. In other words, our current 3G account is shared by many people, while an iPhone account — even if it allowed tethering — would not benefit us the way our current USB modem does.

What happens when Apple responds to the Amazon Kindle?

I must say, I’m beginning to admire Henry Blodget for his unabashed willingness to ignore any irony others might see in his analytical posts about, like this one that looks at Citi analyst Mark Mahaney’s report that the Amazon Kindle could be a $750 million iPod-like franchise in a couple of years. … However, I stand by my earlier prediction — and this is where I find a flaw in Mahaney’s analysis: Apple won’t stand still and let Amazon have this market all to itself.

I must say, I’m beginning to admire Henry Blodget for his unabashed willingness to ignore any irony others might see in his analytical posts about, like this one that looks at Citi analyst Mark Mahaney’s report that the Amazon Kindle could be a $750 million iPod-like franchise in a couple of years.

Blodget does not explicitly agree with the prediction, indeed, he points out some holes in the theory. He doesn’t fully repudiate it, however.

I’m clearly not a financial analyst and so any disagreements I may have with Mahaney’s predictions have nothing to do with market-share numbers. I have no idea about the revenues or bottom-line impact of future Kindle developments. However, since some of his analysis is based on his personal experience with the device, I feel I can at least weigh in on that front.

First, let me say I use the Kindle frequently. Not quite daily, but several times a week. My review of the Kindle from last December is still accurate. I haven’t really been surprised by anything about it during the past five months. It’s still a clunky, poorly designed piece of hardware with a ridiculous interface. Yet the EVDO (digital cellular)-powered feature that allows one to instantly purchase books from Amazon for less than $10 is near magic. That price-point for books and the instant download are what make the device work for me — and, apparently, the Citi analyst, also.

However, I stand by my earlier prediction — and this is where I find a flaw in Mahaney’s analysis: Apple won’t stand still and let Amazon have this market all to itself. As I’ve written about ad-naseum, a slightly larger iPod Touch linked to eBooks distributed via the iTunes store would match and raise the game with Amazon. At that point, Amazon would be competing with the iTunes distribution channel, but with Amazon hardware that looks and feels like it was designed in Soviet-era Russia.

Also, with Apple in the game, its eBook format would be readable via the Mac or iPhone, as well. The Kindle format is locked into a Kindle device.

As I wrote last November, I’ll continue to use my Kindle until Apple comes out with something like this (even if it’s not in the next couple of weeks):