Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.
There were rumors that Steve Jobs might appear at the press conference, but no one expected him to host. Yet there he was, leading the show just as he's always done — and introducing the iPad 2. It's twice as fast, with a dual core processor. And graphics-intensive applications are up to 9 times faster. As expected, it has front- and rear-facing cameras. It's one-third thinner (even thinner than the iPhone 4), is two-tenths of a pound lighter. It now has a built-in gyroscope. The price structure is the same as before, starting at $499. And, surprise, it's available in white as well as black.
One amazing thing about Macworld was to get demos of under-the-radar apps and see how good they are. You begin to realize that there are many unheralded gems. One such demo was iFiles ($2.99). It is primarily a file manager. That in itself was impressive — seeing a hierarchical system of files like I might view in my Mac's finder. It was as if suddenly there was a new window onto the iPhone. And it lets you manage not just the files on your iOS device, but also across multiple accounts in the cloud, such as Flickr, Google Docs, MobileMe, Dropbox, Box.net, and more.
One of the stranger experiences I had at Macworld was a guy who walked into our booth and threw his iPad on the floor. I mean, he didn't just drop it — he really threw it. And thanks to the attached iBallz, it just bounced around, no harm done. Check out the video. This accessory has a lot of other uses too, as the video shows, including as a stand. If I were letting a young child use my iPad, I absolutely would not do it unless this accessory was attached.
It's fun watching the rumors about MobileMe, knowing that something is in the works, that it'll be better in marked ways, and that, just maybe, it will also be free. AppleInsider has the latest news, including the fact that Apple has discontinued the sale of MobileMe. Also, the AppleInsider report says that Apple told its shareholders in attendance at the recent annual meeting that its new $1 billion data center in North Carolina is ready to open.
The recent success of Project Watson, an IBM computer, in demolishing the two all-time most successful champions on the Jeopardy quiz show has focused attention on the coming of natural language understanding to computers — and to our iPhones. The trick has been to teach a computer not just to search databases of information but to understand natural human language. Imagine how convenient that would be: you'd never have to type a query or tap your phone's screen again.
Evan Hunt, a professional photographer, emailed me to let me know about his enormous enthusiasm for the iPhone and to point me to his project to take pictures every day with his iPhone and post them to his blog. The results are quite impressive. He also has two portfolios of iPhone photos (one and two). It's fun to see what an experienced professional can do with this device.
Rumors have been rampant lately — cheap iPhone nano coming this summer, an iPhone with a 4-inch screen, etc. And now the New York Times, speaking with anonymous sources who have been briefed on Apple's plans, says that it's not true. The next iPhone, they say, will be similar in size to the current iPhone. BUT, the NY Times bolsters the rumor that MobileMe will be offered as a free service. It will allow iOS users over-the-air syncing of their content (music, photos, etc.).