Yesterday, the 14th of October 2008, Apple had an event titled “The spotlight turns to notebooks”, where they unveiled a refresh of the MacBook Pro, a new version of the MacBook in aluminium and a new Cinema Display.
All of these announcements were already confirmed and leaked days before the event, Apple can’t or won’t, contain the leaks, and the new strategy seems to be to use the leaks to drive the hype.
Remembering how secretive Apple events used to be, I sort of, expected Steve Jobs to pull something out of the sleeves of his turtleneck, “one more thing”, but he didn’t, or did he?
One more “thing” One notable thing about the event was that Steve shared the stage to such a high degree. This is a trend that has been going for some time, especially when it comes to events that focus on the Mac, it’s a bit like Steve isn’t that passionate about computers.
Luckily others are, and at this event Jonathan “Jony” Ive shined – and I’m not referring to the reflections from his shaved head.
It was simply a thrill to see this low-key, soft-spoken, man talk about the manufacturing process involved in producing the new MacBooks, the attention to detail, the months spend refining the new trackpad etc. etc.
Over the years, speculation as to who might take over the position as CEO of Apple after Steve Jobs, has been growing, and my first reaction was that I’d love to see Ive in that position, he’d be a natural.
But really that would be such a shame, so I’m convinced that Ive will stay in his current position, and there’s many more iconic designs hidden in that shiny bald head of his.
So watch the video where Ive talks us through the manufacturing process of the new MacBooks, it’s simply breathtaking.
Risky strategy? The MacBooks themselves? To me they ooze quality. Apple has obviously decided that they will not address the current trend towards cheap notebooks, aka. netbooks, when asked Steve called it a “developing market”.
The strategy is risky, it defies the market, but I welcome it, and it will only mean that Apple will grow it’s market share in terms of revenue, instead of units moved. With these new notebooks, there’s no doubt that Apple owns the high-end market, and that’s where it’s the most fun, and profitable, to be.
The old MacBook product line has been plagued by quality problems, hopefully the new MacBooks addresses this, I’ll bet that this is the case, these are, to me, the first true Intel based notebooks, designed from the ground up for the Intel chips.
I’m tempted by Ive’s new industrial sculpture
The picture of Jonathan “Jony” Ive, that accompanies this article, is a frame from the video issued by Apple for the launch of the MacBook Aluminium, it’s Copyright Apple Inc. I hope that my use here is considered “Fair Use”.
Currently the video is available on the Apple Website here, it’s likely to be moved, and it’s a good guess that it’s already on YouTube. The video is produced much like a documentary, really professional marketing on Apple’s part.
Welcome to ICT Mythbusters Episode Two – this time we’ll be investigating the myth that Microsoft is just copying Apple. The post is indeed subtitled “Attack of the Clones”, but bear with me, I have to take a detour to the world of digital typography, before returning to the real topic, so if you’re the impatient type (pun intended), just proceed to the end of the article.
Among Apple Macintosh faithfuls, it’s considered common knowledge that Microsoft, with Windows, just made a bad copy of the Apple Macintosh, but who’s copying who?
What triggered me to revisit this myth, that I’ve covered in detail before, was the screening of the great documentary, Helvetica, that I went to yesterday.
In the Helvetica movie Apple Computers was very much the supporting actor, and Apple was indeed mentioned in the credits. More prominently one of the Gurus of Type design, Erik Spiekermann, stated, as a fact, that Microsoft Windows was nothing more than a clone of the Apple Macintosh.
Spiekermann’s statement sounded just like the Apple marketing hype, and the fact that it was being stated by a very influential person in the industry, triggered me.
Firstly: I was somewhat surprised to hear this in a documentary about type. There’s no doubt that all the graphic designers interviewed for the documentary were already using Apple hardware, but I found it strange that Spiekermann’s statement didn’t end up on the cutting floor.
Show some love for the Mac
First there’s no doubt that Microsoft, and Bill Gates always has been great fans of the Apple Macintosh, as the clip below documents:
To create a new standard, it takes something that is just not a little bit different, it takes something that is really new, and really captures people’s imagination, and the Macintosh, of all the machines I’ve seen, is the only one that meets that standard
Case closed: Bill Gates just admitted that Windows is nothing more than a cloned stormtrooper.
Now wait a minute…As you might notice the clip is quite old, and at that time Microsoft was working on creating one of the key selling points, even to this date, for Apple hardware, the Excel spreadsheet.
Excel was originally developed for the Macintosh, and it wasn’t released for Windows until the the dying moments of the 1980ies. In fact, Microsoft has done more for the proliferation of the Apple Macintosh than any other software manufacturer, and you could argue that the commitment to the Macintosh platform that Microsoft guaranteed at the famous MacWorld keynote in 1997, was a pivotal turning point. Steve Jobs even declared:
We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to loose. […] The era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft, as far as I’m concerned that is over.
And then Jobs went on to establish the fact that Apple and Microsoft, together, is the standard with a combined market share of 100%. Whatever Apple and Microsoft does is the standard.
Well I’m sure the $150 million investment by Microsoft, and the televised image of Bill Gates in the background, had something to do with it, but Steve Jobs was just saying exactly what the stockholders and board-members wanted to hear.
What’s your type?
The market for Apple Macintosh was very much created by the fact, that the Macintosh Computer was the first desktop computer capable of doing print quality design, this revolutionised publishing.
Really it wasn’t so much Apple’s technology that helped create this market, as it was the PostScript technology developed by Adobe.
Until PostScript, all fonts used by desktop computers were so called bit-map fonts, it meant that the fonts were digitised to a specific resolution, and they looked horrible if you tried to scale them to a different point size than the one that was provided with the operating system.
Another problem with the bit-map fonts was that they required a lot of storage, laser-printers use a resolution of 300 DPI (dots per inch), a point in typography is 1/72 of an inch, meaning that 12 point X roughly requires 50 x 50 pixels = 2.500 pixels, and you needed that matrix for all 256 possible characters in the character sets used until the 90ies, a rough calculation yields 640.000 pixels, in bytes that is 80.000, meaing that you’d need approximately 80KB to represent a 300DPI bit-map font. Multiply that by several factors, because the italic and bold versions need their own representation as well, and that should once again be multiplied by the number of fonts installed.
Today this doesn’t sound like much, but remember that the first Macintosh came with only 128KB of RAM, and NO harddrive. In those days a Linotype typesetter had a resolution that was a factor 16 higher, so Houston we have a problem.
Mathematics to the rescue
The PostScript technology used mathematics to describe the fonts (quadric BézÃer curves), making them scalable to all sizes, and a special “hinting” algorithm that reduced the processing power needed when rendering the types.
The technology is known as Adobe Type 1. Adobe had also secured licensing deals with Linotype, the dominant player in the type-foundry business, and owner of a huge share of the mainstream fonts.
The fact that that you could do close to print quality proofs on the desktop, and then simply send the PostScript files to the Linotype typesetter, for print quality, and be confident that the result would look the same as the proof, was nothing short of a revolution.
Fight the power – TrueType this
So heavenly bliss, we had scalable fonts of “infinite” quality, and thanks to the software Adobe Type Manager (ATM), type 1 fonts also worked on the screen, delivering the holy grail of desktop publishing, true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).
So what was the problem with this? The problem was the exorbitant licensing fees that you had to pay Adobe to use the technology and Linotype for the use of their copyrighted fonts.
One of my favourite parts of the Helvetica documentary, is in the scene where we’re taken to the “holiest of holy”, deep below the HQ of Linotype, where they keep the original Hass designs for Helvetica, it’s their “precious”.
Another problem with Adobes technology was that it was very processor intensive, making the screen rendering of the fonts quite slow. Anyone that has ever used ATM on early 90ies hardware will know what I’m taking about.
So Apple was developing a competing technology, TrueType, and later Microsoft and Apple worked together to create an alternative to type 1. Microsofts work included the introduction of replacements for the predominant fonts of the day, Helvetica became Arial, Times Roman became Times New Roman and Courier became Courier New.
Microsoft has contributed a number of major enhancements to TrueType, mainly ClearType, which is an anti-aliasing technology to improve the readability of screen fonts. The technology, which is bundled with Microsoft Reader, has failed to make to much of an impact, but anti-aliasing of screen fonts is the standard today.
Back to the real topic – who’s stealing from who
Oh well, this was a long talk about type, fonts and technology, and proof that the competition between Microsoft and Apple mostly takes place in the minds of the faithfuls (devotees?) of the “Church of Steve Jobs”.
Why is it that neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs really want to talk about copying, well it’s because Windows AND Mac OS both are clones.
The work that is the foundation of all graphical user interfaces was done at the Palo Alto Research Center of XEROX, but XEROX being a hardware company, also developed hardware, and the XEROX Documenter or XEROX 8010 Star that really was the first modern computer.
The Star was introduced on April 27th in 1981, several months earlier than the IBM PC. The Macintosh, Windows and GEM shipped 4 years later.
Despite the fact that it wasn’t until the introduction of the NeXT computer, that the mainstream computer industry delivered anything remotely akin to the Star, XEROX failed to make the Star a mass-market product
Attack of the clones! MYTH BUSTED!
Today most people are oblivious of the fact that the Imperial clones were ordered by the agents of the Empire, the ICT equivalents of Count Dooku and Palpatine: Apple and Microsoft. The praise for creating the fantastic tools we have in our hands today should go the XEROX, the Palo Alto Research Center and the amazing people that worked there, for instance Alan Kay, whom Steve Jobs often quotes.
The picture of the real myth busters, Adam Savage and Jamie Heyneman, actually is a banner add, but I make ABSOLUTELY no money from it, if you click it and make a purchase, all proceeds go to the Jamie, Adam and of course Café Press. I hope this will settle any copyright issues with them.
The picture of Erik Spiekermann above, is a still from the Helvetica film, and it is copied from the official site of the Helvetica film. The picture is copyright Gary Hustwit, but I consider my use here to be fair use.
The picture of the XEROX 8010 Star is copied from the wonderful DigiBarn website. The picture is copyright DigiBarn, but since it is under a CC-NA-SA license, I can use it – the wave of the future!
The MYTH BUSTED picture was copied from the webiste of MARIJNBOSCH.COM, there’s no copyright notice on the site, and I consider my use here to be fair use.
Friday I went to the Science Fair – dubbed Science After Dark – that was held at Copenhagen City Hall Square (Københavns Rådhusplads), and I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I read that there would be live electronic music, I knew that I was going.
The first thing i noticed was that attendance, despite the location, was disappointingly low. I feel that it was because the venue looked quite uninviting, due to the fence, and the rather closed looking pavilions.
I also got the feeling that the PR for the Science Fair had been less than satisfactory.
ConDio – Controlling Audio
Anyway, the first thing that grasped my eye was the ConDio, Controlling Audio. The ConDio is a device with which you can control the playback of sound, simply by moving physical bricks around on a table surface. The ConDio uses pattern recognition to determine the position of the different blocks, which translates into a specific function, for instance one brick changes the track that is being played, others applies filters.
It’s remarkably simple, efficient and intuitive to control a computer in this fashion, and it was a real crowd puller.
The ConDio has been developed by the medialogy branch of the University of Aalborg, and It was really great talking to the students that were responsible for the project. They were really feeding from the enthusiasm of the people that were looking at it.
I’m really envious that the students of today get to play with technology like this, to quote Haladjjan, the founder of Violet (manufacturer of the Nabaztag intelligent WiFi bunny):
â€œle début de lâ€™internet a été une aimable kermesseâ€¦ Maintenant les choses sérieuses commencentâ€ – (translation: â€œthe beginning of the Internet has been a friendly festivalâ€¦Now the serious stuff beginsâ€.
What a great time in history to be alive in.
Kim Bach – The failed scientist
I also enjoyed visiting the Bio Chemistry tent, where I had a discussion about how to bring science to the public (“videnskabs formidling”). The scientist in charge asked me it I’ve heard about Jens Martin Knudsen – and the regular reader would know that I just posted a tribute to him – we need more like him – since he was able to bring across complicated matters in lay-mans terms – we also discussed the great Richard Dawkins.
What I really hope is that someone could take up the reins from Jens Martin Knudsen, because we need those positive role-models from the scientific community to teach us the importance of understanding our world.
I also had a chance to redeem myself. I label my self a “failed scientist”. I’m really a product of the inspiration of the space program and the lunar missions, and when I was a kid, I desperately wanted to become a scientist – but “something” happened along the way – and it’s too complicated to talk about here – but I basically got fed up with boring educational system.
But it does seem like I have some basic scientific intuition, and I got some high marks from “the teacher” for thinking like a scientist, when I was observing the strange creature the Daphnia.
It was also interesting talking to the students from the Nano technology line. They’re looking into how to produce solar arrays that are less harsh on the environment, it turns out that you can use fruit juice from black berries as the base of a solar cell, instead of silicon – amazing.
Bend my circuits
But what I really enjoyed the most, was the tent dedicated to audio, which also included live performances from Dødskuglen, Rumpistol and Bjørn Svin (who I missed).
In the tent some interesting and simple demonstrators were set up, one was a Theremin that was controlled by a plant. You could actually play music by touching the leaves of the plant – very entertaining. Another was a tube with a number of nozzles from which gas could escape, and be lit, if you then played music, the sound-waves would modulate the flames – Daft Punk’s Robot Rock looked quite good “going up in flames”.
Dødskuglen plays with circuit bending, and they had gutted a lot of electronics with audio capabilities, for instance a couple of Furbys, that now looked – and sounded – like mean birds, and when you hooked them up to a keyboard, they were capable of making some wonderful noise.
Dødskuglen has their name from a dome shaped device, that is the center-piece of their show. According to them it’s filled with gutted electronics from Happy Meals and the like – I’m not surprised.
We also got a live demonstration of how to circuit bend – don’t try this at home – you might hit the AC power-supply and die – but if you’re careful, just take a cheap electronic keyboard apart, and try to apply some wire patches live – it was amazing to hear how the standard drum-machine suddenly went into a completely different state, and sounded completely different, only to return to it’s standard loop after being reset.
Kim Bach – The failed musician
After Dødskuglen, Rumpistol took the stage, and he’s using his computer in combination with analogue synthesisers to produce great electronica.
Besides being a failed scientist, I also consider myself a failed musician, but with the simple technology being showcased here, that is so much more fun and intuitive to control than a traditional instrument, I might be able to express myself – I know that I have some music in my head – maybe I can finally make some music – I know that I want a copy of the guitar simulator for the Nintendo DS called Jam Sessions.
A child’s mind
There’s a strange unifying synergy between science and music. When doing science and music, you really need to have a child’s mind, and like to play. That’s something I still, I’d say increasingly, possess – so I might still become a scientist/musician. It’s also noteworthy that a number of my heroes for instance RMS (Richard Stallman) and N (Peter Naur), actually play music themselves.
I went home after having had a great time, with renewed faith in our educational system, it seems to be producing playful scientists – I wished someone had told me that science was about playing, when I was a student.
I hope that Science After Dark will become a recurring event.
Show your <3 for science – make some NOIIIIISSSSSEEEEE!!!
I did, however, hear some rumours the Science After Dark has been frowned upon from the established scientific community. Come down from your ivory towers, Science is FUN and NOISY. Show your <3 for Science – make some NOIIIIISSSSSEEEEE!!!
I knew that there would be a market for “gadget jewellery”, but this bling-iPod shuffle from the Norwegian Jeweller Thomas Heyerdahl in Oslo is just a bit over the top, being priced at â‚¬31.000/US $41.000. The shuffle is adorned by a total of 430 diamonds, with 312 used for the player and 118 used for the earbuds.
Looking at the “diggs” this gadget is getting, it’s a great marketing stunt by Heyerdahl. The iPod is “iconic”, but I think that it would have been much more interesting if they had made an exclusive design, instead of relying on a $79 industrial design. OTOH, linking up with the hyped Apple brand is probably a smart move, and it’s unlikely that I’d heard about it, if they had done an exclusive design.
Personally I find the details about how the gadget was manufactured, much more interesting than the gadget itself.
Details about the iDiamond from the Heyerdahl website:
1 pcs. / Special edition / Not for commercial sale.
Produced for Heyerdahl by: Diaro Digital Design – Robert de Brueijs / The Netherlands / www.diaro.nl
3D production: CAD / CAM 3D design / Rhinoceros
Wax model made by: Solidcape T66Bt2 Wax printer.
Casting method: Vacuumcasting
Diamond setting: Handcrafted micro Pavè setting.
Details engraved: Laser engraved details
Details about iDiamond aren’t available on the Diaro Digital Design website, but I suppose that they’ll update their site soon.
The pictures that accompanies this article were copied from the Heyerdahl website, and are most likely copyright Gullsmed Heyerdahl A.S., I consider my use of the pictures to be fair use.
The future of the web is being debated at Reboot 9.0, a leading European grassroots technology and design conference in Copenhagen.
But…”oh-my-two-dot-oh-NO” they’re using the “two-dot-O-M-G” dreaded “two-dot-oh-YEAH” word…
The big question here for the start-ups and opinion formers is how to use Web 2.0’s focus on community to build the next generation of web tools and become Europe’s Web 2.0 poster child.
I guess I can forgive the BBC, since the feature is “more than decent” ;-), and they capture some of the spirit of reboot in this quote:
This year’s conference theme is Human? with many speakers grappling with such deep philosophical queries as what it means to be human. One session was called Humanism 101.
Understanding human behaviour and how to adapt those behaviours to technology and the web rather than the reverse is rare for technology devotees.
And Last.fm deserves all the love in the world, iTunes might never know what hit them.
However, it is no surprise as the big subject in the bars and on the grass outside was this week’s sale of London social software music service Last.fm.
Its creator Martin Stiskel, explaining why US broadcaster CBS would want to buy a music preference tool said: “They want to move from a content company to an audience company, giving the audiences control and learning from this and that’s why Last.fm was their choice.”
I’m nominating Last.fm for the price of being the “greatest service on the planet”, even though it makes it look like I have absolutely no taste in music – is it about time to get more discriminating, and start “acting my age, not my shoesize” – nah some people have actually expressed love for my personal radiostation ;-), and I get shouts like this:
Du er på alder med min far, men jeres musiksmag ligger usandsynligt langt fra hinanden. Det er meget godt klaret! Respekt herfra 🙂
(translation from Danish: You’re the age of my father, but your taste in music is unbelievably far from each others. That’s well done! Respect :)).
Missing the brainshift experienced from talking to all the brilliant rebooters? Keep the conversation going between reboots here…
It’s a good idea – that would have been even better, if it was set up, officially, through the reboot website, but because website technologies change all the time, the use of a relatively low-tech solution, like a mailing-list, is a not as bad an idea as it sounds – e-mail still is “the lowest common denominator”.
This might help to avoid the frustrations I experienced, when I learned that the “reboot 8” site had it’s URLs changed, making it appear that a lot of information from 2006, had either been lost, or, at best, made (too) difficult to locate.
“I want my Permalinks”, and I’m looking forward to the continued discussions and next year, where I suggest that the organisers make away with the “Wired style dot-oh-NO” numbering scheme, and just calls the event “reboot”!
“Reboot” is, according to the website:
[…]a community event for the practical visionaries who are at the intersection of digital technology and change all around us[…]
Reboot usually takes place end May/start June, in Copenhagen Denmark.