Event Update: iPhone 8, iPhone X, Watch 3 & Apple TV

Apple held an event this evening to launch a number of new products. Here is a quick update on what was announced:

iPhone:
The biggest news came with the iPhone. There will be two new ranges of iPhone-


iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus:
These new models will be the successors to the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. The main changes are the better camera, faster A11 chip and more storage included, starting at 64GB. The iPhone 8 can also be charged wirelessly- where you can place the phone on a mat-type device and it charges through the back of the phone. The new retina displays are "true-tone", which means they adjust depending on the light, which should help to make them easier to read in the sun!
Other changes include the new glass-back design and a new gold colour.

Overall the iPhone 8 is a steady, yearly improvement over the 7, if not revolutionary. The main selling points are the better camera and the extra speed.
Prices start at €829 / $699 (|iPhone 8) or €939 / $799 (iPhone 8 Plus)

iPhone X:
The very revolutionary iPhone X (“ten”) comes on the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. This is a very different design, with the screen almost covering the entire front surface of the phone. There is no home button either, and the device unlocks using the new Face ID, which will scan the contours of your face when you look at it. According to Apple, Touch ID (fingerprint) has unique security of 1 in 50,000 people, whereas Face ID is at 1 in 1,000,000. Face ID projects 30,000 dots onto the surface of your face to ensure a high level of security and accuracy.

The facial recognition technology also extends to emojis! You can make a facial expression and turn it into your own emoji, called an animoji!
The new OLED screen is what Apple calls Super Retina, with better colours and more pixels per inch, making it the highest resolution screen Apple have produced.
The camera is also improved, with portrait mode photos available on both the front and rear cameras.The camera is also Augmented-Reality-ready, something Apple has bene pushing for new games and apps.
Overall a very new look for an iPhone and, combined with Face ID, it has many cutting-edge technologies packed in here.
Prices start at €1179 / $999 (this phone is not intended to be cheap- this is the flagship model)

Apple Watch:
The big change to this year’s Apple Watch Series 3 is a version which comes with a mobile/cellular chip, meaning you could take a Watch out and still get calls, texts, use Maps and Siri. Apple announced that you can use Apple Music on the cellular Watch, so combined with Bluetooth headphones, the Watch will be a streaming music device. Great for people who like to go for long walks, run or cycle. No need to take your iPhone out to play music!

Only catch- the cellular version will not launch in Ireland just yet. Apple are likely to have to agree deals with local mobile companies, so expect this to arrive in the next few months. Adding your Watch to your data package is likely to add around €10 / $10 extra per month to your bill.




Apple TV:
With what may seem to be a minor change to the Apple TV lineup, Apple announced the new Apple TV 4K, which can play high quality 4K movies. If you have a 4K TV this is big news as the quality will be quite dramatic. But you will need a 4K TV to get the most out of this.

Apple have got the major studios on board and they will be selling and renting 4K movies. Amazon Prime is also coming to the Apple TV in the next few weeks.


Software:
A couple of dates for the diary:
September 19th: iOS 11 will be released for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
September 25th: macOS High Sierra will be released for the Mac
Both are free downloads- please backup your data first!


The State of the Mac (Desktop)

Over the last few weeks I can't help but think that Apple have seriously dropped the ball on Mac desktop updates. The obvious example is the Mac Pro. Apple have admitted that they made mistakes with the Pro and have now needed to go back to the drawing-board, to redesign a Pro desktop model. Other than this month's minor tweaks, the cylindrical towers were last upgraded back in 2013, which is a crazy gap for any technology product, let alone the powerful Mac which is supposed to demonstrate Apple's cutting edge abilities in desktops.

But even with the iMac, updates have been slow in arriving. Apple updated the aluminium iMac every year from 2007 to 2015; then nothing in 2016. So the updates this year, mentioned as "coming" in 2017 in the Apple press briefing, means they are long overdue. Any revisions should really have arrived towards the end of 2016 at the latest and the fact that they are likely to arrive in late 2017 means that there are many iMac users out there hanging on, and will simply have to sit and wait through patiently.

Apple iMac

Apple have hinted that the iMac upgrade will be more than a simple speed bump and it is possible that something big is coming in the design as well as the speed. Maybe the long wait will be worth it, but surely they could have revised the chips and graphics in mid-2016 as an interim step?

The other Mac left to the sides is the Mac mini- to the point that I had questioned if it would ever be upgraded? It was updated annually between 2009-2012, then once in 2014. A three year gap is worrying for a Mac. Apple mentioned the mini at the recent meeting, and said it was still an important part of their range, but otherwise I would have assumed that it was on the way out. The hint of a possible update is welcome and I really do hope that it receives some attention before the end of 2017.

The question I have is how did we get to this point with the desktop Macs? The mess that is the Mac Pro lineup is not simply a matter of Apple revising its ideas on the Pro; for me they completely stalled on this line and are now reacting to the situation very late. If they had only decided it was not serving their customers correctly, that would be one thing, but they took so long to reach this view that it shows they had lost their focus on the desktop Pro. The same seems to be true for the iMac and this is the most disappointing part for me. Over the years the iMac has been such an important product for Apple that it deserved far more attention during 2015-2017. Any update coming in late 2017 will be welcome but I hope that this signals Apple will give the desktop Macs regular attention and not result treat them in a stop-start manner in the future.

Using the New Apple AirPods

I have been using the new Apple AirPods for a while now and they are one of those Apple inventions which moves things forward. They have many pros and cons, but from the start you can't fail to be impressed by their design. From the easy method of pairing them to your iPhone, by simply opening the lid, to the simplicity and lack of buttons, the AirPods are beautiful to look at and have a quality feel.

Firstly, what works well. The design of the AirPods is amazing. The small case, which reminds us of a dental floss or a tac-tic box, is a small battery-charging device which makes a huge difference to the Bluetooth experience. In the past, when I used Beats Bluetooth headphones, they would run out of battery or I would realise that I had forgetten to charge them in advance. With the Apple AirPods case, once the buds are placed back in, they are changed from the cases's internal battery. So far since getting my AirPods, I have never run out of battery. Being free of wires is also great as I always found cables hanging from my ears to be uncomfortable and awkward.

When in place in my ears, the AirPods are comfortable. They are not as heavy as they might seem, and a good balance between being light enough to wear on long walks and heavy enough to stay in place. They are smooth and comfortable and the sound quality is good (although I'm not sure I would be the best expert in assessing sound quality).

One concern is the fit. I had issues with Apple headsets in the past, as the wired versions which came with new iPhones and iPods never fitted my ears. The AirPods are different and do fit well. But I have dropped one of them on two occasions. I do feel a little nervous walking near drains and grates on the road or when walking over a bridge, as a dropped AirPod may not be retrievable!

In terms of the drawbacks, the functionality of the AirPods is limited. They play audio from my Watch or iPhone and they do this very well. However I haven't used Siri that often and it is disappointing that I must to use Siri to play/pause tracks. I would prefer a few shortcuts, such as the ability to use taps to control my music.Yes I can ask Siri to "play" or "pause", but speaking instructions out loud is not always convenient. Siri does work well- it recognises my instructions and is an impressive technology. But I still don't like having to talk and speak in public when a series of taps would be far more subtle. Maybe Apple will expand the use of taps, such as a double-tap on the left AirPod to play/pause and a double tap on the right AirPod for Siri? Changing the volume level is also messy, and it is far simpler to take the iPhone out of my pocket and use the volume buttons on the side. In terms of the taps, I almost always mis-tap when walking, and have to give it a second go until Siri kicks in.

But overall the AirPods are one of the most impressive products from Apple in years. They are a classy product, simple to use and good value for Bluetooth headphones. They feel good, sound good and with some limitations, are a pleasure to use. Being able to load music on my Apple Watch and then walk with just the Watch and AirPods is a very stripped down way to use technology and I feel a sign of the future from Apple.

Connecting a MacBook/MacBook Pro 2016 to an Apple LED Cinema Display

One of the challenges in moving to the new MacBook Pro was finding a way to link to my older Apple LED Cinema Display. This display has a MiniDisplayPort connection, something not supported by the new Apple adapters, such as the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter.

But I have worked out two neat solutions for the Apple LED Cinema Display:

1/ Hyper: there is an accessories company called Hyper which sells a "USB Type-C Hub with Mini DisplayPort", and this works with the new MacBook and the new MacBook Pro (2016). This is a very neat solution and provides a few extras along with the MinDisplayPort connection, such as two USB 2.0 A ports and a micro SDXC slot. It costs $59 from their website. At the time of publishing they are sold out but they say they should have stock back in soon. I bought one of these in December and it has worked very well:

2 /the second option is to combine cables for a MiniDisplayPort-only solution. I bought two cables from Amazon.co.uk:

- "KiWiBiRD® USB 3.1 Type C THUNDERBOLT 3 to DisplayPort 4K Adapter" (approx GBP £10) [link]

- "StarTech 6 inch DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort Video Cable Adapter - M/F" (approx GBP £7) [link]

The combination of the two cables also works great and provides a cheaper solution. It is not as pretty as the Hyper hub, but it provides the straight connection between the display and the Mac at a low price.

In fact the cost of these two cables is less than the price of some Apple adapters (such as the Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter). So if you can live with the look it is a great solution.

Many shops don't have solutions and finding the right cables can be difficult. I hope this helps out other Apple LED Cinema Display and MacBook Pro owners.

Loving the New MacBook Pro

I have been through a few Apple laptops families over the years. I started with a black PowerBook G3 in the mid-90s and then moved to a titanium PowerBook G4. I didn't move to an iBook, even when they became sleeker with the white plastic design, but instead stuck with PowerBook and MacBook Pro until the MacBook Air emerged. This finally encouraged me away from the top-of-the-line models, as the slim and yet powerful MacBook Air offered me the flexibility of a thin laptop, but with enough power to drive an external display and complete all the tasks I needed. I generally boosted the processor, such as the i7 in my last model, so the size, weight and engine matched my needs.

However this October, Apple launched the new range of MacBook Pro and I was left with a choice. The MacBook Air family looks dated with no Retina display, so my choice this year was a new sleek and thin MacBook or to jump back up to the top of the line MacBook Pro. I decided on a 13" MacBook Pro for two reasons- the screen size (13" vs the MacBook's 12") and the new TouchBar technology.

After one week of use, I have no regrets. The display is crystal-clear and it is only after you have worked for a while with these displays that you realise you can't go back. Like the iPhone and iPad Pro, the text is smooth, images are clean and elegant on this screen. I also enjoy the extra space compared to my old MacBook Air's 11" screen.

But the real headline here is the TouchBar. Part of this is its existence, and part is its use. The existence of the TouchBar just makes the laptop feel new and feel more sophisticated compared to the MacBook Air and the previous MacBook Pro. It is a whole new way to interact with the laptop and that makes it look and feel like a new generation and not just a minor upgrade. Along with the black trim and thin bezel around the display, the TouchBar makes the MacBook Pro look new and fresh, and the MacBook Air by comparison looks "old" and quite outdated.

In use, it is smart and intuitive, even if it is a work-in-progress. For example in Mail, the Touch Bar offers suggestions on where you would like to file emails. If you select an email in your inbox, it knows which mailbox you normally place emails from that person, and files the message in one tap. The change, after years of dragging and dropping emails, is astonishing. I still only use about 30% of the buttons in the TouchBar and it may be that over time I customise them more, but what I do use I love and it makes a difference to my speed. This is especially true with the Touch ID sensor at the end of the TouchBar: unlocking the Mac and using my 1Password app is so much quicker.

I am also positive on the ports and possibly even hostile to all of the noise over Apple's move. The ports make complete sense. Four USB-C ports, no longer requiring me to look at the end of the cable to ensure I am about to plug it in the right way, just shows how bad the old USB standard was. USB-C is the way forward and we jut need to get on board. Yes I have bought a few adaptors, but so far I have used a USB-C to USB adapter twice for about ten minutes, used to plug in a USB stick and back up my iPhone.

About the only thing I don't like is the USB power adapter. It seems to have had less thought put into it. It is a shame it is so big and the USB-C cable which runs from the adapter to the laptop is thick and slightly clumsy. But overall, this is a minor concern.

If you are ready to move into the future of Mac laptops, dive in. If you love your current (and old) peripherals, the move will be more painful and expensive. But in the end I recommend this laptop as it is a clear break from the past and a beautifully designed Mac.

The New World of Apple Laptops

After last week's keynote, here is a quick rundown on the new Apple laptop landscape.

New design:

The biggest news is the new design of the MacBook Pros, Apple’s top range of laptops. They comes in three flavours:
- 13” model with standard function keys
- 13” model with the new TouchBar
- 15” model with the TouchBar
All three are thinner and faster than previous models (more on this later), and the new screen is brighter with more vibrant colour.

READ MORE ->

Apple Event- What Happened Last Week...

The Apple press event last week brought in new products, a new version of iOS and watchOS, plus some interesting headphone news...

iPhone 7:
The new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were announced:

- iPhone 7 (smaller 4.7” screen)
- iPhone 7 Plus (larger 5.5” screen)
Photos: The iPhone 7 comes with a new A10 chip for faster speed and graphics but the big news is the new internal cameras. The standard 7 comes with a new camera capable of capturing a wider range of colours, plus a new LED flash, meaning that low-light photos are much clearer than in previous iPhones. The new 7 Plus (big iPhone) comes with a zoom lens. Although a small zoom amount compared to pro-cameras (2x optical or 10x digital), it is the first iPhone to come with any real zoom feature. Even the front camera, used mostly for FaceTime (and selfies!!), goes up to a 7 megapixel resolution (previously 5).

READ MORE ->

Apple Watch 2- Here's Hoping...

We are probably only two weeks away from the next Apple press event. I believe that there will be a new model of Watch launched in time for the Christmas season, but what can we expect in the next version?

If we look to the iPhone for the typical pattern of upgrades, it is very likely that we would see a faster chip inside the new Watch. The first version of the Watch was slow, although the release of watchOS 3.0 promises a significant speed boost. But there is still plenty of room for improvement here as the Watch, more than any other Apple device, demands speed. No one wants to spend too long looking for what they need on the Watch- it is all about quick glances and fast, short interactions.

One of the unique aspects of the Watch is its sensors, positioned under the Watch which track your heart rate. There is huge potential for expanding the fitness and health aspects of the Watch. One example is blood glucose- there are companies looking at chips which communicate with the Watch to monitor blood glucose levels. These types of live trackers for health combined with notifications to warn the user of changes can transform health.

READ MORE ->

Here Comes the Autumn... What's Next for Apple?

As the Autumn approaches (sorry, "Fall") Apple will be readying a number of changes to their product lineup. Here is what I expect to see and what I hope to see...

Expectations:

The new iPhone will arrive in September and will come with a few usual changes. Thinner design, new Ax chip inside which will be faster than the 6S, better graphics, improved camera. There has been a bit of talk about a new dual lens camera, and this certainly fits into the usual iterative updates. One question- will Apple continue to update the iPhone SE separately to the main iPhone lines? Looks likely this year as the SE is too new for a refresh in September.

The big question is the headphone socket and whether Apple will go for a lightening connection for wired EarBuds or opt for some sort of wireless option? My own view here is that this will come down to usability. Not only does the ease of connection matter, in other words how the Bluetooth or other wireless technology works, but also the battery life of any wireless EarBuds. I suspect we will see lightening EarBuds shipping as the standard and possibly new wireless versions as an optional extra. But let's hope that if Apple do go for wirelessly versions, they have got something better than the current Bluetooth technology, which is at best fiddly and normally frustrating to use.

It is possible that we will see changes to the iPad, especially as we approach Christmas. The iPad would be a good seller during the holidays and the iPad Pro (12" model) could see changes so it has the newer TrueTone display. The smaller 9" iPad Pro is less likely to change as it is less than a year old. It is also possible that Apple will leave the iPad out, given that the Pro has been changed in the last 12 months, and make any changes in the new year.

We will definitely see three updated operating systems- the new macOS Sierra to replace OS X El Capitan, the next version of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch operating system, iOS 10 and watchOS 3.0. This was set out in June at WWDC and it is likely to ship (for free) in October.

It also seems to be time for new Apple Watch models. Apple launched the first Watch almost 18 months ago. As we approach the Christmas buying season it seems logical that there will be new Watch models; I have always maintained that the Watch is the new iPod, for music and fitness. Maybe it is also time to streamline the range from three to two families of Watch?

READ MORE ->

New MacBooks Released

The new MacBook which was launched at the end of April might just be the model people have been waiting for. I have always said that it is a good general rule to wait for the second generation of a new Mac range, and the MacBook is a good example of this.  The recent models come with the new Intel "Skylake" chips and by all accounts offer a significant speed boost. 

One tip- for the extra €180, it is worth upgrading the processor from the m5 to the m7. The MacBook comes with Apple's slowest chips, so getting the higher speed will pay dividends over the next few years. I would also suggest people choose the higher storage, 512Gb instead of 256GB. The lower space could be a challenge for people who wish to keep some photos, music or video on their laptop.

In a world of WiFi and Bluetooth, the MacBook is a great laptop, and offers the smallest and lightest form factor of any of the Mac range. Whereas last year's model was a bit underpowered, this latest upgrade seems to have answered my biggest concern and I can see this as being my next laptop.

Apple in Peril? Do the Q2 Results Signal America's Largest Company is in Financial Turmoil?

No

Apple's March Press Event: The Highlights

Today Apple held a press event which saw the release of a new iPhone, iPad and more. Here is a summary of the details:

- Tim Cook started by talking about Apple's 40th birthday on April 1st, and discussed the ongoing security case in the US

- Lisa Jackson talked about Apple and the environment, and their ambition to use 100% renewable energy. To date 93% of worldwide facilities run on renewables and 100% in the US (people may question the purpose of this presentation but this is a big aspect of the Apple brand)

- Jeff Williams presented update on HealthKit, used in the iPhone, iPod and Apple Watch. He showed how medical research can be improved by HealthKit due to the large number of participants. He also announced CareKit, which helps to monitor patients, especially those recovering from treatments/operations

- Tim Cook reported that Apple Watch is the top selling smartwatch, and introduced new woven bands, plus new sports bands. There are also new black Milanese Loop and new leather bands

- The price of the Apple Watch also dropped to $299

- On Apple TV, from today you will be able to organise apps into folders, enter text through dictation and view Live Photos

- Greg Joswiak introduced the new low end 4" iPhone- the iPhone SE. It comes with the A9 chip, 12MP camera, ApplePay, better battery life, Live Photos. It is twice as fast as the 5s.

READ MORE ->

Reflections on the Apple Watch

Having used an Apple Watch for about 10 months now it has become part of my daily life. I still wear and use it, but maybe what I do on the Watch may be very different to what I might have expected at the start:

What I like:

1/ Notifications: for me the Watch is a Notifications device. When it buzzes I know I can turn my wrist and see what's happening. I know who has emailed or texted even if I don't have time to read the full message. This way I know if I need to act on something (problem with the kids' pickups etc) or if I can deal with it later. Just knowing what and who is so helpful, especially when I am teaching for a few hours and don't have time to take a call or compose a full reply.

2/ Rapid responses: the point above leads on to the responses. I love the ability to fire back a quick reply, such as "on my way" or "will call later". This can be done with the turn of the wrist, tap to reply and then selecting from the pre-set responses. Simple, quick and relatively non-intrusive when you are working with other people (certainly compared to unlocking the phone and typing in front of them!!).

3/ Comfort: I forget I am wearing the Watch. The standard rubber sports strap is so comfortable that I forget it is on my wrist, something which did not happen in the past with conventional watches. I always disliked leather straps and gave up wearing a watch a fews years ago before the Apple Watch came out. The only time I notice the Watch on my wrist is when I start to do a job in the garden or lifting boxes- then it gets in the way and I take it off. The Apple Watch is not the thinnest watch out there and can get knocked. In fact I cracked the edge of the screen in the first month, but thankfully the Watch has held together and it has not been an issue.

READ MORE ->

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all of our clients - and best wishes for 2016!

We will be closed until January 4th but look forward to helping out in the New Year. 

Don't forget to check out our award-winning Early Myths books for kids- great estocking fillers!

Update on Apple Press Event- iOS 9 & OS X El Capitan

Apart from new devices, Apple also announced the dates for the release of their two main operating systems-

- iOS 9 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch- to be released this Wednesday (September 16th)
- OS X El Capitan for Macs- to be released on September 30th
(for Apple Watch users, they also announced Watch OS 2.0, to be released on Wednesday)
Here is a quick rundown of the highlights:

iOS 9:

iOS 9 is the new operating system for your iPhone and iPad. Here are some of the new features announced.

READ MORE ->

Update on Apple Press Event- New Devices:

Apple held a press event last week to introduce a number of new gadgets- here is a quick summary of what they announced:


iPhone 6s and 6s Plus:
The new iPhones come in the same shape and form as the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. These models are aimed at people who are still using an iPhone 5s or earlier. Most users sign up for a two year contract and this is why iPhone 5s (or earlier) users are the target as they are now coming off those contracts. iPhone 6 users will only find marginal differences to lure them away from their current phone.
The main changes in the iPhone 6s models are as follows –
- comes with a brand-new A9 processor meaning that it is a lot faster (up to 70%) than last year's iPhones
- new 3D Touch technology which means if you press slightly harder on the screen it will bring up a pop-up menu with some different options to choose from. This is a great way to access features inside an application without having to tap through a number of screens.
- there are a number of improvements to the camera including an upgrade to a 12-megapixel sensor
- new colour- rose gold!
- faster WiFi.

Note:
- The storage options remain the same – 16, 64 and 128 GB. very few people should consider a 16 GB model as this is too small for most users.
- the new iPhones are available to order in the US and UK, but not in Ireland for another few weeks.
- in the US, Apple have launched an upgrade program in their Retail Stores. This means you can pay a monthly fee and always be on the newest iPhone- it costs around $40 per month and users get to upgrade each year to the latest equivalent model. It also comes with AppleCare+ and so gives a complete solution in a monthly fee:

iPad Pro:
The iPad Pro will be available later this year, starting in the US in November. This is a new model of iPad which is placed at the top end of the range, and will be useful for certain people who need larger screen space. The new screen is almost 13” and gives almost the same space as two iPad Airs. This is unlikely to become the mainstream model of iPad, but instead a device which will be used by professionals who need multiple applications and lots of space.

The iPad Pro can also be used with a new stylus (Apple Pencil) which will be helpful to designers and artists. The other accessory introduced is a keyboard which is built into a screen cover. This will make the iPad Pro a strong alternative to a laptop.

Apple seem to be aiming this iPad at the enterprise market. The iPad Air and iPad mini models are still available and remain unchanged.

Apple TV:
The new Apple TV opens up a whole range of new features, most notably apps and games. There will be an App Store available on the Apple TV where developers can sell a range of new apps. The look and design of the Apple TV interface has also been updated.
This positions the Apple TV as a living room multimedia device and not just for TV/Films and Music. The new remote control also acts as a game console controller.

Siri (voice-recognition) is built-in so you can ask your Apple TV questions, such as for movie suggestions, information about who stars in the film you’re watching or command it to open an app for you.
The new Apple TV will go on sale later this year.

Two other snippets:
- iOS 9 will be released this Wednesday, and will be available as a free download on your iPad and iPhone:
- the next version of OS X, "El Capitan", will be released on September 30th:

What Does Alphabet Mean for the Google Brand?

This week's news that Google is to create a new umbrella organisation called "Alphabet" raises a question about the Google brand. Splitting the Google company out into segments may well be the right corporate choice, but does it harm the values and identity of Google?

Firstly let me mention Apple (it is compulsory on this site!). Apple's brand identity and values inform so much about what it makes, how it acts and what it says. Apple rarely call it the Apple "brand" but Jobs and now Cook frequently speaks about the Apple way and how it approaches each decision in business.  Some of the recent criticism of Apple Music focussed on how the service was confusing and possibly at times very un-Apple due to the complexity of the choices and the array of services (Apple Music, iTunes Match, iTunes Store etc). 

This also relates to other aspects of the company. John Gruber, recently discussing appointments to the Apple board, said that : "The company attributes its profound success over the last 15 years to the Apple Way — and rightly so, I say. I doubt Apple’s board would consider an outsider as CEO until and unless the company falters significantly and loses its way."

This idea of an Apple "way" is what I would call the brand. A brand identity does not stop at the product or service, but should extend into every aspect of the decision-making process. This is certainly true for a company like Apple, which is a lifestyle brand. Apple can be in multiple markets such as PCs, tablets, phones, watches, cloud computing because their entry and their success in that area is informed by the core Apple brand. Their approach to each category is informed by their central values- taking a beautifully designed product or service to the consumer and making it as easy as possibly to understand and use. Excellence in product execution, delivery and support crosses all of Apple's markets. Apple rarely enters new markets, but when it does it is because it feels it can contribute to this category but remain true to its values. 

Which leads us back to Google. Most of the income at Google comes from search. For me, Google is a science plan. In terms of its brand, it is clinical and accessible, but not loveable. Its values centre on efficiency and connectivity and when this is applied to search or maps they are highly effective. People use Google services because it is efficient and fast, not because they have a major loyalty to Google or feel close to its values. 

So when it comes to splitting out the parts which make up the current Google structure, it is rather like splitting atoms or engineering components. Many of the elements in the current Google mix sit alongside their counterparts like odd ends in a box. Google search currently sits next to Maps, Android, Docs, Glass, YouTube and Gmail. The organisation feels like a collection of odds and ends, packaged together but not sitting neatly like bricks in a home. There is no strong central brand which holds these parts together. 

It may well be argued by Google that they have brand values- I don't doubt for a second that they have spent time and money on this. But the brand identity is a lose collection of ideas- being unconventional, innovative and experimental all spring to mind. But does the customer care about this? Hardly. Cutting the existing Google into pieces and calling it Alphabet matters from a corporate point of view, but the consumer will continue to search and navigate with its products, almost unaware of any change.

In the end this is due to how the Google brand sits in the heart of the consumer- a change induces a shrug of the shoulders at best, mostly people won't even notice. Emotionally the brand is something of a blank canvas, an open toolbox for new concepts and products as time passes. Breaking these pieces apart would matter to Google if its brand had been developed in the way that Apple had; but this is not the case. 

So while Google can be split into its constituent parts and renamed as Alphabet due to the openness of its brand identity, the danger lies in that those parts can also be replaced by consumers and perish without the customer feeling any sense of loss. In the fast moving world of technology, Google relies on superior function to keep users interested. It certainly can't depend on loyalty or passion for its brand values.

The Future of iBooks

As a children's book author, I have been considering Apple's future options for iBooks and whether they would venture into the world of Windows or Android.  After all, iTunes runs on Windows PC and Apple Music will be available on Android this Autumn, so why not iBooks on other non-Apple platforms?

But when I look closer at Apple's use of iBooks, I don't see this happening. Books is an interesting side-show for Apple and it fits nicely into content-consumption on the iPad and iPhone but it's not a core business. The iBooks Store arrived with the iPad, as Apple touted the virtues of books on the iPad for consumers and in education. But it is not central to Apple's business and so does not receive the attention that say the iTunes and Apple Music stores receive.

Anyone who has interacted with the iBooks team will also know that the number of people behind iBooks is relatively small. The changes in the iBooks Store over the years have been gradual but not revolutionary.  

Instead, Apple see the iBooks app as an important piece inside iOS and OS X. The benefits of the iBooks app come as part of the operating system and the user experience on an iPad, iPhone or (recently) Mac, and launching a parallel experience for Windows and Android is not something Apple will do.  iBooks is key to iOS/OS X, which in turn is part of the user experience on an Apple device.  The message is- if you want to experience the iBooks app, buy an iPad, iPhone or Mac!

Adding iBooks to the Mac was a nice extra but it is a different experience to using it on an iPad and iPhone. iBooks is most at home on iOS and especially on the iPad, then possibly on an iPhone 6 Plus, with other platforms such as the Mac coming at the end. Putting it onto Windows or Android is a further step away from Apple's central aim here. 

In the end, while I would like to see iBooks extended out beyond iOS and OS X, I can't see it happening. With my author hat on, it would be great to reach new audiences. But as a long-time Apple observer, it goes against Apple's aims for iBooks, which is to draw more people to buy the iPad and other hardware devices.

[Note- at time of publication, the iBooks Author page still has not been updated to show that iBooks Author books can be read on an iPhone: https://www.apple.com/ibooks-author/]

WWDC Highlights

Looking back at the WWDC keynote, it is worth reflecting on what was good and what was not so great:

iOS 9: this looks like a solid upgrade. It will be free, will arrive in the late Autumn, and should help to make the iPad a more work-orientated device. The changes to the keyboard, such as new shortcuts when working with text, are very welcome. So too is the idea of the virtual trackpad. The iPad can be fiddly when working with text- my Mac is always my preferred machine for letters and documents. But these changes should help. I am typing this post on an iPad because I love its mobile capabilities which even the MacBook Air can't match. But typing does take longer on an iPad, and so anything to help is welcome. 

The multitasking features such as the split screen looks great, but it was a pity that it will only be fully available on a new iPad Air 2. My iPad Air 1 feels a bit left out, and this may well be the inventive to drive new iPad sales (reasonably Apple's intention, given how slowly people upgrade iPads).

OS X 10.11: also looks like a slick update, with a real focus on stability and bug fixes. I love when Apple do this as it helps all users and solves a few headaches for me when teaching about the Mac. 

Music: well, that was all a bit of a mess.  It has been a long time since I groaned at the style of an Apple keynote, but this was pretty bad.  It seemed chaotic, long, and without a real focus. I am also not sure that the Music app and streaming service will appeal to me. I can see how people like Spotify and Apple wish to get in on this game, but I will have to see what it is like when launched. It does not seem to be something I will be paying a monthly fee for. The three month free trial is a good hook though as I will certainly take a look.

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Overall the keynote was way too long, and seemed to get out of control. Tim Cook started to run on and off stage towards the end and this gave the whole thing a panicked and rushed feel. It is a pity as I really liked the early part and the main iOS and OS X announcements. When it got to the Music section I nearly turned off. But overall the announcements set out an exciting set of changes for 2015-6.

WWDC 2015- What to Expect

Apple's developer conference, WWDC, is coming up next week with the keynote address on June 8th. Everyone should note that this event is geared towards developers and so some of the announcements are not focussed on consumers. Instead this event normally sets out the Apple agenda for the coming year, especially in terms of software. 

One of the main parts of this will be the announcements on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. Apple have committed themselves to a yearly upgrade schedule, and assuming this does not change, we will be introduced to a preview of the next versions. Expect to see information on items like CarPlay and HomeKit too, both aimed at the developer community. Showing off the new operating systems is key to working with the developer community. 

However we are also likely to see the launch of two other item- the first is the revised iTunes and Beats Music service. Ever since Apple purchased Beats in 2014 it has been expected that we would see a revised service from Apple, including a music streaming service. It may be that we see this announced at WWDC but this could also come later in the year, which was traditionally the event when iPods, iPads or iPhones are launched. I expect to see an announcement at WWDC if Apple can get agreements in place with the record labels. 

Apple TV will also be updated- the announcement earlier this year that the price of the current Apple TVs had dropped to a new low seemed to be a very strong hint of new hardware to come. A new Apple TV would also sit nicely next to a Beats music announcement, with a deal with other TV network operators likely. Apple announced a deal with HBO in March. 

Don't expect much change in terms of Macs; the laptops have been updated recently. I expect the iMacs to be revised later this year and so one possibility is news on revised Mac Pros, something which might be appreciated by some developers. 

Another intriguing piece of info would be the Watch OS- will Apple show off changes to Watch OS and announce new features? I expect to see Apple announce changes to attract high quality Watch apps and because this is the year of the Watch and Apple will be promoting these new features in the Christmas buying season. 

Overall is is likely to be a tech-heavy keynote, setting out the software and a few hardware bits for the rest of 2015. 

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