Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


What the Apple Keynote should have delivered

Filed under: — adam @ 10:08 am

Here’s the thing. The past few years have overwhelmingly delivered a whole class of Apple devices I simply want. I’ve bought a number of them. Not so for anything announced this year. Here’s what we got, and what I would have liked to see Apple have announced instead:

We got: A new super slim but otherwise really limited laptop aimed at… who exactly? Not mobile creatives, executives, or cost-sensitive casual users, given the spec and upgrade limitations.

I wanted instead: Two new laptops – a super portable Macbook Mini, and a Macbook Pro upgrade (thinner, bigger drives/battery, more RAM, higher resolution screen in the same size package). Both thin and light. Touchscreen tablet versions would have been interesting, but even upgrades to the standard laptop package would have been good. The Macbook Mini would be roughly the size of three iPhones side by side (maybe 7.5″ x 5″ or so), running full Mac OS X.

We got: A $20 software bundle for the iPod, but only for the lucky customers who paid 15 or 20 times that already for the top of the line iPod only a few months ago.

I wanted instead: to be honest, I didn’t care much about this one, not owning an iPod Touch or an iPhone. Still, if I did, I’d probably be disappointed.

We got: A software upgrade to Time Machine masquerading as completely new hardware (Time Capsule).

I wanted instead: Allow Time Machine to work with something other than locally plugged in external drives, particularly external drives attached to existing (again only months old) Airport Extremes.

We got: Overpriced limited “movie rentals” and a minor supporting upgrade to the miscast living room product that no one bought last year and which is still a hard sell because it lags behind its competitors in features and doesn’t make up for it with anything that’s great about Apple products.

I wanted instead: Remove whatever restriction is preventing Netflix from doing Watch Now on the Mac. Treat movie rentals like digital media instead of overpriced restricted analogues to going to the video store. Why the 24-hour limit?!? Give me 30 days for a video rental so I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off. Give me TV shows in HD for less than it costs to buy the disc. Let me watch whatever I want to watch on the set top box. In fact, forget the set top box and morph the Mac Mini into the set top box. Anyone watching movies on an HD screen also probably wants to do computing tasks on that screen too. That’s why I have a Mac Mini attached to my living room projector. For not too much more than the Apple TV, you could buy a used Mac Mini and get 100 times the functionality. What I want to see here is making it easier to watch more kinds of digital media on the Mac Mini in a living room setting – Front Row is just awful and limited.

Bonus: Where’s OpenDocument support in iWork?!? Come on man, don’t be like Microsoft on this one. There’s no possible way that .pages and .numbers are going to become the dominant interchangeable file formats that will make people have to buy iWork anytime this century. People buy iWork because they like your applications, not because they have to in order to read a file someone sent them. It doesn’t hurt you to support the open standards, and it helps the users.

[update: I was thoroughly shocked to discover that, of all things, reads .odt files. There's also Quick Look support for them.]

After all, ranting about this stuff is fun, and I enjoy picking it apart, but sometimes it helps to be productive too. So, those are my suggestions for things I’d actually hand over some cash to Apple for this year.

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Disappointed in the Macworld Keynote

Filed under: — adam @ 4:54 pm

I’ve become a huge Apple fan over the past two years. I think they’ve done a number of wonderful things for desktop computing interfaces, and they’ve far surpassed Windows in usability, stability, and general pleasantness. I spend a lot of time in front of computers, and I try to make as much of it as possible in front of a Mac.

But I’m disappointed with a number of items in today’s keynote.

The Macbook Air is certainly pretty, but when you look at the limitations, who’s this really aimed at? No firewire, only 2GB ram, 4200rpm disk – this rules out mobile creatives. No replaceable battery – this rules out actual mobile executives. It seems to be an upgrade for the regular Macbook users – mobile browsing, email, writing, maybe a little video and music, but it’s far too expensive for that. So, I don’t get it – who’s this aimed at?

I can understand that new hardware sometimes makes old hardware obsolete. But a few of the “hardware upgrades” announced here are really software upgrades in disguise, but which nonetheless are forcing you to buy new hardware to take advantage of the new features. The Time Capsule looks good, but it’s really just an Airport Extreme with an internal disk. Why isn’t this feature available on existing Airport Extremes with external disks?

Note to Apple: your existing customers generally love you. They love you even more when you go the extra mile and suddenly update the stuff they’ve already bought with new capabilities. This makes them more likely to buy new stuff, not less, and even much more likely to recommend that to all of their friends. Are you really going to sell enough $299 Time Capsules to make up for the hate you just scored with everyone who uses an Airport Extreme with an external disk and wants to back up their laptop to it, who now think you’re being greedy and trying to force a $300 upgrade for no reason?

Same deal with the multitouch gestures on the Macbook Air – why aren’t they being backported to the existing Macbook line? The trackpads are multi-touch capable, and this is a software update, to applications that are already running on those machines.

And then there’s the actual software update for the iPod Touch. I’m the last person to say that all software should be free (free software should be free, but that’s a discussion for another day), but these are people who just a few months ago paid a premium to buy your top of the line product, and now you’re fleecing them for a bit of extra cash.

I don’t expect a world-shattering new product line every year, but these “announcements” look like the actions of a company that’s scrambling, not one that’s innovating.

[ Followup: Some suggestions for what I wanted to see instead. ]

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Warner Bros. goes Blu-ray exclusive

Filed under: — adam @ 12:15 pm

Warner Bros., one of the big dual-format holdouts in HD video, announced yesterday that they’re switching to Blu-ray only as of May 2008, abandoning HD DVD. The format war isn’t quite “over” yet, but this is a significant victory for Blu-ray.

This leaves Paramount as the only major studio still backing HD DVD [update: oops, Universal too.].,20812,1700383,00.html

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