iTunes and the Nokia N91

There’s a rumor going around that Apple and Nokia are going to partner and produce a mobile iTunes application for the Nokia N91. Nokia is denying it, but the phone’s still months away from its launch, so there’s plenty of time for things to change.

As I see it, there are sort of three levels of iTunes integration for portable devices:

  1. The device syncs with iTunes and can play encrypted iTunes Music Store .m4p files. Right now, this is pretty much just the iPod, although the long-rumored Motorola iTunes phone will join it once it’s released.
  2. The device syncs with iTunes and can play MP3s and maybe unencrypted AAC files. Before the iPod took off, most MP3 players fit into this category, but I don’t know if Apple has continued supporting their competition.
  3. The device and iTunes don’t know anything about each other, and the user is stuck looking for third-party tools.

I suspect that the N91 will fit into the second category–just plug it into your computer using a USB cable and iTunes will copy things over. It’s possible that we’ll need a bit of glue code, but that shouldn’t be too hard to write. Worst case, it should only take a few hours to write something that can read through iTune’s XML database and copy playlists to the N91.

Posted by Scott Laird Thu, 18 Aug 2005 14:07:19 GMT

More dual-core PowerMac G5, PowerBook, iPod, and Mac mini rumors

The Mac Observer has a report from an investment analyst predicting near-future Apple hardware upgrades:

  1. The PowerMac G5 will be upgraded with dual-core 970MP chips, giving Apple effectively a quad-processor system at the top of their line.
  2. The PowerBook will be upgraded to around 2 GHz, using the 7448 that I discussed last week.
  3. The PowerBook will get a HD screen.
  4. The Mac mini will get a G5.
  5. The iPod mini will get a color screen.
  6. There will be a video iPod.

Some of this seems pretty obvious–the color iPod mini has been rumored for almost a year, and it’s a pretty obvious direction for Apple. I don’t think anyone doubts that it’ll happen, it’s just a question of when. Similarly, the dual-core PowerMac G5 is Apple’s only available upgrade path for the G5 systems–if they’re going to upgrade them at all before they get dropped for Intel systems, then Apple’s going to use the 970MP.

The PowerBook upgrades are a bit more of a mystery to me. I can see a simple upgrade that swaps the current 7447 CPU for a 7448–they’re basically pin-compatible. The 7448 has a slightly faster FSB, which will help since the G4 suffers from a painfully slow bus, but it’s basically just a continuation of the current G4 line. The problem is that several rumors say that the PB G4 is moving to DDR2 memory, and that confuses me. It suggests that Apple’s building a new north bridge, which seems kind of expensive for a product that will only be on the market for 9-12 months.

The DDR2 change would make perfect sense if Apple was really swapping the current 7447 for a MPC8641 and using the MPC8641’s on-chip DDR2 controller, but as far as I can tell, the MPC8641 isn’t supposed to ship in quantity until early next year.

Engadget hinted last week that the DDR2 move was really a power-saving move, not a performance move. Since moving to DDR2 wouldn’t help performance a whole lot when even PC2100 RAM is faster then the 7448’s FSB, power savings make as much sense as anything. I don’t know enough about laptop power budgets to know if dropping 5W on the CPU and a few more Watts on the memory is enough to really extend the laptop’s battery life by a significant margin, but it suggests that Apple may be aiming for 6-7 hours, rather then the current 4-5 hours that most PowerBooks currently get.

Back to the rumored Mac mini G5–I can’t see this happening at all:

  1. Cost. The G5 is supposed to cost more. The Mac mini is Apple’s most price-sensitive Mac. Even a $50 price bump would probably be unacceptable.
  2. Cooling. The dinky little Mac mini case has many of the same cooling problems that G5-based laptops would face. Battery life isn’t an issue, but getting rid of 30W of waste heat is.
  3. Lineup. If Apple speeds up the mini, then it’ll have to either drop the eMac or upgrade it too. It could also cannibalize iMac and iBook sales. Those wouldn’t be a big deal if Apple could upgrade either model and get more performance, but they’re basically stuck with both of them. I guess they could build a dual-core iMac G5, but they have cooling problems with the iMac, and adding a hotter CPU probably wouldn’t help with that.

I don’t know about the video iPod–I can see a 5th generation iPod that’s capable of playing videos on the 2” display while still being optimized for audio playback, but I have a harder time seeing Apple producing an iPod with a huge display. I don’t feel really strongly either way, I guess.

Finally, on the x86 upgrade question–I’ve been wondering which Apple model will be the first to be switched, and when it’ll happen. Apple said that consumer systems would be first, and that’ll happen sometime in 2006. My personal guess would be the iMac in March or so–it’s Apple’s most distinctive system, and it would appeal to users even as a stylish Windows box. It’s not really going to be fast or cheap enough to kill PowerMac G5 sales, so that’s a safe move for Apple. The Mac mini and iBook are the two other consumer options, but I can’t see either one being part of the first wave of upgrades–they’d kill sales of the PowerMac and PowerBook. So I expect that we’ll see systems upgraded in roughly this order: iMac, PowerMac, PowerBook, Mac mini, iBook.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 17 Aug 2005 14:25:39 GMT

Canon EOS 5D camera rumors

There are a couple rumors floating around this morning about a new Canon dSLR, the 5D. Canon’s model numbering is reversed from most manufacturers–lower numbers signify higher-end models, so this would be a model above the current Canon 20D but below the 1D series.

The spec sheet that I’ve seen suggests that it’s a full-frame camera that takes 12.8 MP images at 3 FPS. It looks like a cross between the 20D (same AF and metering system) and the original 1DS (same sensor size and similar resolution). The rumors put the price around EUR 3500, which usually ends up meaning that B&H will be selling it for between $3000 and $3500. That’s a fantastic price for a full-frame camera, but personally, I’d probably rather buy the 1D mk II–it’s basically the same price, it has a slightly smaller sensor and slightly lower resolution, but it has 2.5x the frame rate, an amazingly fast SD interface, and it’s built like a tank.

So is this a rumor or yet another leak on Canon’s part? Generally, new Canon cameras don’t leak until a day or two before the official announcement, so we should know what they’re up to by the end of the week.

Update: According to TechWhack, the 5D will be announced on August 26th. They say that it can buffer *60* JPEG frames or 17 RAW frames. At 3 FPS, that’s 20 seconds of shooting in JPEG. If I was in the market for a new camera (which I probably would be, if I wasn’t also in the market for a new PowerBook and new phone), I’d probably at least look at the 5D, especially if they manage to get the high-ISO noise even lower this time around. The frame rate is kind of slow, but the massive buffer makes me feel a lot better about the camera.

Update: Canon has announced it. See my newer Canon 5D page for details.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 10 Aug 2005 14:28:50 GMT

More support for Tiger in April

When ThinkSecret announced last week that OS X 10.4 (”Tiger”) will ship in April, there was a fair amount of skepticism. A number of people suggested that there were too many bugs in the current developer seeds, and Tiger wasn’t ready to ship yet. Since then a few other reports have surfaced, including one from eWeek that seems to confirm at least the timeframe, if not the exact days that ThinkSecret listed.

Today, ThinkSecret followed up with a new report, saying that Tiger development is rapidly winding down and suggesting that many parts of Tiger are already complete and ready to ship:

Multiple sources also report witnessing at least one Tiger “wrap party” at One Infinite Loop earlier this month, and several members of the Tiger development team are presently on vacation, sources say, generally a sure-fire sign that their portion of development has been completed.

Personally, I’ve been drooling over Tiger since it was first announced last year, and can’t wait to get my hands on the new release.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 16 Mar 2005 22:48:05 GMT

Tungsten T6: PalmOS 6, finally?

(via Gizmodo) PalmAddict claims that PalmOne is going to release a new model in late April. The T6 specs provided look more like a wishlist then an actual list of features that Palm would build into one of their devices:

  • OS 6 (with scalable fonts)
  • Bluetooth
  • Wavelan
  • 1 GB Flash
  • 3 Megapixel Cam
  • New connector (ethernet included)
  • VGA resolution 640 x 480
  • Graffiti 2 plus (with voice commands)
  • Interface to iTunes (Apple iPod)
  • The device is maximum 200 grams
  • Automatic software update over internet
  • Compatibility mode for pocket Windows is built in
  • Initial price is around $400
  • Launch date approx end of April

I’d love to see this, but I just can’t see it happening. In particular, I don’t see them putting out a new connector–the just changed it with the T5/Treo 650, and it’d be crazy to do it again. Also, who wants wired Ethernet to their PDA? Wireless, sure, but I’ve never heard anyone ask for a PDA with wired networking. I’m assuming that “wavelan” means some form of WiFi; hopefully Palm has finally seen the light on this front and will stop releasing high-end models that are put to shame by low-end PocketPCs.

The funny thing is that I was wondering yesterday when Palm was going to release their next handheld. They’ve traditionally done Spring/Fall releases, but they’ve been falling down lately. Since they’re clearly in danger of becoming irrelevant, the release of a model with even half of the features listed here could go a long ways towards regaining their mindshare. Now a Treo with half of these features would have me jumping up and down. Pity that VGA Treos with WiFi probably won’t show up until 2007 or so.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 16 Mar 2005 14:55:09 GMT Apple-Sony astroturf or just blog spam?

A few minutes ago, someone dropped a comment onto a recent post:

Sony/Apple Merger. Hollywood is buzzing about it today.

Anyone hear anything about it?

Since the comment was actually more or less on-topic, I didn’t immediately delete it as spam. I posted my usual reply to Apple mega-merger rumors–Not Likely. Then I went and read the article at the site listed, and didn’t see anything particularly interesting. It’s just idle speculation.

A few minutes after that I was reading a similar post at MacSlash and noticed a very similar comment:

Apple/Sony Merger

Hollywood is buzzing about a pending merger with Sony and Apple today.

So, is this just semi-targeted blog spam, or is it some sort of weird astroturf campaign for

Posted by Scott Laird Mon, 14 Mar 2005 21:49:50 GMT

Tiger in April?

Think Secret, apparently undeterred by Apple’s ongoing lawsuit against them, claims that Apple will officially announce Tiger, the next release of OS X, on April 1st, and start shipping the upgrade in the middle of the month. Apple is also expected to upgrade their current iMac G5s and eMacs in the same timeframe.

Posted by Scott Laird Fri, 11 Mar 2005 21:15:13 GMT

The PDA Mac rumor is back

Oh no, not again. Macrumors is running yet another palmtop/pda/tablet Mac rumor. I thought they’d all been killed off years ago. Here are the details:

Sources who claim to have see one have commented to the PowerPage that an internal planning spec details that the new machines runs a stripped-down flavor of Mac OS X. We’re told that it will finally utilize Apple’s Inkwell technology to “write anywhere” and neatly fold into your pocket - rather like an enlarged Motorola RAZR V3 mobile phone with a keyboard.

I’d probably love to have one, but I’m completely incapable of getting excited over this sort of rumor anymore.

Posted by Scott Laird Tue, 08 Mar 2005 19:07:56 GMT

PowerBook G5 HT leak

The Register has a blip today mentioning that the PowerBook G5 will apparently use HyperTransport. The story that they post is a bit dubious, but they seem fairly convinced that Apple is using HyperTransport in the new PowerBook. This isn’t surprising, because the PowerMac G5 and iMac G5 use HT to tie Apple’s custom northbridge to the rest of the system, but there was no real reason to believe that Apple’s laptops would use the same bus technology as their desktops. Laptops have a lot of special needs, and what works for desktop systems doesn’t always work well on laptops.

Hopefully this suggests that Apple is getting closer to releasing G5-based laptops. Personally, I’m guessing they’ll start to show up around August or September, but that’s a complete guess.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 26 Jan 2005 17:43:28 GMT

Is this the week for the Cingular Treo 650?

Engadget is pretty convinced that Cingular is going to release the Treo 650 this week, either on Wednesday or Thursday. As I mentioned before, I’m probably going to get a Mac mini first, but I’m still interested in the Treo. My big issue is how it’ll work for legacy AT&T customers. There’s some indication that Cingular has done testing on their own network (“orange”) and AT&T’s old network (“blue”), but I can only assume that that’s for business customers with large AT&T accounts. I just can’t see them selling them directly to AT&T’s consumers without forcing the consumer to switch to a Cingular plan.

Since I’m currently halfway through an AT&T family plan contract, I’m concerned about switching to a new Cingular plan–they’ll probably force a contract extension on me, and force me to replace my wife’s AT&T-locked Sony-Ericsson T616. In addition, there’s been a suggestion that the Treo 650 isn’t eligible for family plans because it’s a “data phone.”

I guess I’ll know the answers to these questions in a few days. There’s a Cingular store less then a block from my office; hopefully they’ll be able to answer some questions.

Update: Looks like it may have been pushed back a week

Posted by Scott Laird Tue, 25 Jan 2005 18:44:10 GMT