If this rumor is true, you should go ahead and get that iPhone this June

Of all the gadgets I’ve ever owned, my iPhone has launched the most conversations with people I meet in airports and on airplanes. (Those being the most likely places I’d use it where people I don’t know would notice and not hesitate to ask.) My iPhone starts more conversations than even my MacBook Air — which may be confusing to people because I’ve covered the Apple logo with a Hammock “H” sticker. But even after I tell people how great the iPhone is, I always recommend that they delay purchasing one. “Wait until the 3G version comes out and they drop the price,” I say. “Heck, if you can live without it, don’t purchase one until you can use it with any cell phone carrier.”

I doubt the people who really want an iPhone can wait until they are “officially” unlocked, but the 3G and price-drop may be close at hand if the report on Fortune.com proves true.


When the 3G iPhone is introduced this summer, AT&T, the exclusive U.S. iPhone sales partner with Apple, will cut the price by as much as $200, according to a person familiar with the strategy.

Saul Hansel, blogging at NYTimes.com, notes that one aspect of the Fortune report is illogical: that AT&T will only offer the $200-off deal on phones purchased at AT&T Stores, not Apple Stores. I couldn’t agree more with Hansel: there’s no way that part of the story is correct. And if that is from the Fortune’s source, does that not call into question the veracity of anything from the “person familiar with the strategy.”

With that caveat — the Fortune article contains some information that defies logic and all known insight into how Steve Jobs works — if the 3G costs less than $200 for an 8GB model, I will be changing my “friendly advice” from “a wait” into “a buy.”

Understanding what iGoogle is just became more iMpossible

Back in mid-2007, I wondered aloud why the Google Personalized Homepage was being re-branded iGoogle as the “i” prefix is so much the franchise of another technology company. Today, Google announced enhanced features for using Google on an iPhone, including better integration of iGoogle into iPhone. So, to clear up the confusion, you DO NOT need an iPhone to use iGoogle, but now iPhone iGoogle users have some special iGoogle features to make using it on your iPhone more iSpecial.

How to rip a DVD to iTunes/iPod – legally

Via PaidContent.org, comes news (I guess it’s “news” that the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting what every Apple rumor site has been saying for weeks) that Apple will announce a rental option for some video purchased via the iTunes Store. However, there’s a new twist to the report today: At least one studio, 20th Century Fox, will start adding an MPEG-4 version to DVDs it sells, allowing purchasers to easily transfer the movie to iTunes or their iPod/iPhones. According to FT.com:

“A digital file protected by FairPlay will be included in new Fox DVD releases, enabling film content to be transferred or “ripped” from the disc to a computer and video iPod. DVD content can already be moved to an iPod but this requires special software and is considered piracy by some studios.

Many people who read that last sentence will know what it means. But if you don’t know, you can find out by clicking over to this website to learn about HandBrake, an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.

For the record, in my opinion, it’s crazy to call what you do with HandBrake piracy. Converting a file is not piracy — it may violate some obscure and legally-dubious terms of usage agreement, but it’s not piracy. You can do perfectly legal things with such a file. Or you can do illegal things, like try to re-sell it. The act of trying to re-sell such a file is piracy — not the conversion of the file.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer, so what do I know? Rather than a legal confusion, mine may be merely a confusion of logic. However, I find it an intellectual challenge to understand how I can be pirating something when I purchase a digital file on a DVD and convert the file into another digital format merely for the purpose of watching it on a digital device other than my TV, like a video iPod or iPhone — or on my computer without having to lug around DVDs. I’m not selling copies or even letting others borrow the movie — something I could easily do with a physical DVD. I’m merely transferring digital media I’ve purchased to another device for personal convenience — a variation of time-shifting, which has been determined to be legal. (I guess this makes me what Fake Steve Jobs calls a “freetard.”)

With music files, the industry has pretty-much given up their efforts to turn their customers into criminals when they decide to transfer their purchase between listening platforms. Recording industry schemes like Apple’s ironically-branded FairPlay DRM are slowly going away. (I purchase DRM-free music through Amazon.com. Update: And now I can buy even more DRM-free music via Amazon according to this press release announcing that downloads from Warner Music Group’s vast catalog are available in MP3 format from Amazon starting today. My guess: Anticipate follow-up announcements from all of the other usual suspects, including Apple and Walmart.) It will take a decade or longer, but I’m sure movie studios and, if they actually become popular, eBook publishers, will go through a period of attempting to “protect” media files (translation: keep you from reading what you buy for a Kindle on any other eBook reader). Ultimately, publishers and studios will understand why it makes sense to let their customers buy digital versions of movies or books one time and then view/listen/read it on any digital platform they choose.

(Note: For those who think I might not understand the differing value of content offered in different forms, let me be clear: I’m referring to various “digital” formats of the same digital file. I’m not suggesting that I gain the right to download the movie free because I paid to view the movie in the theatre — however, I think that would be a clever marketing strategy by studios. Here’s a slogan for them: Buy it once, enjoy it forever. But unfortunately, if they did that, the writers wouldn’t have anything to strike about.)

Is that a spread sheet in your pocket? Presentation tips when using docs.google.com/m

Via the Google Docs Blog, news of the new mobile (“m”) version at docs.google.com/m. Currently, you can only view — not edit — documents (the post indicates that’s a feature on its way). I’ll be trying out the “presentation” feature later and will add a video to this post of what that looks like. If it works and there were an output-to-display “jack”/function/device (whatever?) on an iPhone, (update: see comments) I think this could one day be a road-warriors dream. In the meantime, the above shot is what a spreadsheet looks like. It’s a vocabulary list the 17-year-old and I made for SAT prep.

Later: I experimented with Google Docs presentation on my iPhone and discovered a couple of things. At least in my quick experiment, an imported Power Point presentation into Google docs was extremely slow in the mobile version. Discovering that, I tried creating a quick (as in five minutes) presentation natively in Google docs and the presentation zooms. Here’s a two-minute video of my test, using my quick presentation called: “”Six tips for a presenation you want to share via docs. google.com/m”

Not that you’d ever want to, but you can see the Google Docs version of presentation here if you don’t use Safari. You don’t have to log into Google Docs, but you’ll get a screen making you think you do.

Here are the “Six tips for a presenation you want to share via docs. google.com/m” — saving you from having to watch the video or presentation:

1. Think of a better way — like maybe talking instead of presenting.

2. Don’t use background color or fancy text or graphics or graphs. (It’s tiny and you’re doing this over the Internet so don’t add stuff that will slow it down).

3. Use really big type. (On a tiny screen, even 68 point type will be tiny.)

4. Don’t use bullet points (don’t ever use bullet points. Or numbered tips for that matter).

5. Think vertical and top-heavy. (The control pointer covers up the bottom of the screen so your presentation will look better when displayed vertically. All you need to do is leave plenty of room at the bottom of each slide.)

6. Don’t try to be funny. (Don’t ever try to be funny in a presentation unless you’re a trained professional…and then don’t.)

Dave Winer on ‘what could have been’

When I attended Macworld in February, I wrote, “The least impressive thing about the iPhone is that it’s a phone.” Several times, I’ve suggested that getting an iPod with all the iPhone features except the phone” would be a good thing. So, yes, I like what I’ve heard about the iPod touch. I guess, I’m just not a “phone” person, as I primarily use the iPhone in every way possible, but don’t really talk on it that much. Again, that may just be me.

Even better than the iPod touch or iPhone/ATT would have been the iPhone/wifi/voip device Dave Winer suggests as an alternative version of what could have happened over the past few months:

“Suppose Apple had never done the deal with AT&T and they were announcing the iPod Touch today. If they hadn’t announced a deal with Skype or their own software to connect the new iPod to the phone network through wifi, we’d all be speculating about it widely. It would be the obvious next step. And suppose they had announced it. At the same time they could have said “Okay, we know wifi isn’t everywhere yet, but 17 billion Starbucks outlets have them, and you can use your new iPod at every one of them to call anyone, for a very astonishingly low price.” So intstead of propping up the old over-priced locked-down phone system, they’d be like the runner in the 1984 commercial, throwing the torch in the face of the oppressor.

I agree with everything Dave says, except I think there are now, officially, 18 billion Starbucks.

Here’s my alternative to Dave’s alternative. Suppose that software hack that opens the iPhone actually works and someone hacks a bridge to Skype or some other VoIP provider. Since the price of an iPhone dropped to, roughly, the price of an iPod touch (16 GB iPod touch and 8 GB iPhone are priced at $399), wouldn’t that be about the same thing? I agree with Dave, however, it would have been much more elegant and radical and under-warranty had Apple done it.

In reality, for business purposes or many other reasons, some people will always want the stability and infrastructure of what an AT&T can bring to the iPhone. But for many, an iPhone/wifi might be a great alternative (for a $60 a month-savings trade-off).

Sidenote: On Twitter, @SteveRubel twitter.com/steverubel said that Apple was “horrifically rude” to drop the iPhone price $200 nine weeks after the launch. I responded, “We now know the market-value of nine weeks of iHipness.”