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Something unusual in the online Apple store

In lighter news, I was on the Apple store main page page today, and saw something I never thought I'd see from Apple. Ever. Right there at the top of the page is the iPhone "From $0." Sure, in last week's iPhone 4S event, it was briefly mentioned that AT&T would have the iPhone 3GS for "free" (with two-year contract) but I never thought we'd see the day where the $0 price point would appear on Apple's site.



Farewell, Steve

                                                 1955 - 2011


Five interesting notes from today's Apple event

As you may have heard, today Apple introduced the world to the new iPhone 4S along with iOS 5. (Although neither of those should really come as a surprise.) There were some other key items/observations from today's event, and as luck (or our predilection for lists) would have it, here's a look at five of them:

1. This is Tim Cook's company now. Sure Steve Jobs will always play a role in the DNA of Apple, just as "Woz" has for many years, Tim Cook looks quite confident, and perhaps relieved to be out of Jobs' shadow. If any investors had jitters about his ability to present/sell products as well as Jobs, today should make those jitters go away. There's a lot more to running a company than putting on a good presentation, but at Apple, it has always been a key to success.

2. Cards? Among the odder announcements, was the introduction of the Cards app, which will allow you to select and send a physical card from your iPhone to "anywhere" in the world. I guess this is for those moments when just sending an email seems cold or uncaring, but going to pick out and actually sign a card would be too much work?

3. Find your friends. While I'm not really big on sharing my location with the world every minute of the day, (kinda ruins the secret lair vibe I'm going for) I can appreciate this new feature from Apple, especially because you can turn it on temporarily for friends trying to find you. It will be great at a concert venue or crowded park.

4. The iPhone 4S is a camera too. It will take while for consumers to catch on, but with the speed/color/quality improvements on this iPhone, it is truly possible to ditch your point and shoot camera. This model is a camera. Period. It's not just an image sensor tacked on to a phone. Unless you really need the ability to zoom, this will become the only camera you need to pack for most day-to-day adventures.  

5. Is the world ready for voice recognition?  Over the past three months, I've been having a blast using Siri, the voice recognizing personal assistant app, which was purchased by Apple last year. Today Apple showed how it would be integrated into the iPhone 4S and iOS 5. It was a great demo, and that's just the thing: when I said I've been "using it" the last three months, I've rarely used it for more than a quick demo of what it can do. Perhaps a dozen times I've used to for something useful like finding where a movie was playing in an unfamiliar town. Consumers could be slow to start using the technology. Not that that's a problem for Apple: they are just offering it, and whether you use it or not is up to you.

 And in case you missed the key dates/ info, the iPhone 4S will be available beginning Oct. 14th, with pre-orders starting this Friday. The iPhone 4S starts at $199 for the 16GB model. The iPhone 4 lives on at $99 (8GB), and even the iPhone 3GS (8GB) continues as a free option. All pricing is with a new contract.


Retro Tech Tuesday: Think You Can Run a Computer?

Today we buy a computer, rip it out of the box, and start using it immediately. But let's turn back the clock to 1964. Several trucks have just unloaded an IBM 360 mainframe with its 4K (as in kilobytes) of internal memory at your house (if you happened to live at NASA). Before you can fire up the computer, get your film projector ready for the.. training film. Through the magic of YouTube, here's a look at the first few minutes of the IBM 360 "Control Program of Operation" film. It's wild to see the juxtaposition of a man at a chalkboard explaining how something as high tech as a computer works. Also note the early use of "bricks and mortar" to reference how the different layers of programming work together:


Book Review: Teach Yourself Visually: iPad 2

Writing a book about the iPad 2 can be a tricky task. After all, your audience might be someone brand new to computing, someone who's spent ten years in the Apple ecosystem already, or maybe a hacker looking to make the device do a thousand things Apple never intended.

With Teach Yourself VISUALLY iPad 2, author Lonzell Watson has created a book aimed at a tightly defined portion of that potential audience. While the full-color visual style is particularly useful to new users, extended sections on email setup, and explanations of different wireless connectivity options will appeal to the user who has a grasp on basic computer concepts, but also wants to use the iPad 2 to the fullest extent.

Unfortunately part of the problem of writing a book about a something in the technology world is some information becomes outdated: Chapter five is devoted to explaining how to sync your iPad 2 to the computer, while Chapter nine goes into detail on the soon-to-be-discontinued MobileMe.

Still by breaking most iPad 2 activities down to 3-5 steps with simple visual explanations, and tons of screenshots,  Teach Yourself VISUALLY iPad 2 is a great companion for the casual, but competent iPad owner.