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Mac Bloggers Rock Out, Ponder iPhone Data Dams, Dream of Tethering

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 5, 2008 4:00 AM PT

This week, the Apple-focused blogosphere has been whipped into a frenzy over next week's super-secret special announcement. Select journalists received invitations to a Sept. 9 media event, which has fueled speculation over Apple's next big product launch.

Mac Bloggers Rock Out, Ponder iPhone Data Dams, Dream of Tethering

As if that weren't enough to keep everyone busy, another disgruntled iPhone 3G user has filed a lawsuit over 3G data speeds in San Diego, while the East Coast saw a major, though brief, service failure in AT&T's 3G and EDGE-based wireless networks.

While some minority of iPhone users are nonplussed by service issues, others are just hoping for an official iPhone tethering option that will let them turn their iPhone 3Gs into a traveling modem.

'Let's Rock'

For weeks, speculation has been running rampant over a likely September announcement from Apple, and the company did little to rein in the hopes and dreams of Mac bloggers when it sent out its special event invitations to journalists. The spare note simply says, "Let's Rock," and notes the date, time and location. Oh, one more thing: The invitation shows a silhouette graphic of a dude listening to an iPod.

Obviously, the invitation seems to imply some sort of music-related announcement, which directed most of the blogging speculation to focus on Apple's iPod lineup and iTunes music store.

Cult of Mac blogger Lonnie Lazar noted that one unnamed East Coast-based journalist actually got a phone call from an Apple PR person, who urged the journalist to fly out to California for the event because it's a big deal.

"The call is unusual for Apple's PR department, which rarely gives clues to the import of its press events," wrote Lazar.

The MacRumors.com post on the subject kicked up a flurry of reader comments, some of which bemoan the likely music-only focus.

"I don't want to rock. I want to compute -- on a new laptop," commented Detlev on the post.

In previous weeks, many have speculated -- and hoped -- that Apple would be announcing new form factors and updated internals of its MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup, among possible iMac updates and the like.

Who Leaked the iPod nano Dimensions?

Music device megasite iLounge.com snagged some purported iPod nano drawings that seem to show the dimensions of the new iPod nanos, which may return to the rectangular shape of the previous generation of nano.

"Images of the supposed new iPod nano show a device that measures 90.75mm tall by 38.75mm wide by 6.08mm deep, compared to the second-generation nano's measurements of 90mm by 40mm by 6.5mm. These numbers suggest that the device will be the thinnest and narrowest iPod nano yet released, though almost imperceptibly so, while also just a hint taller than the original and second-generation models. An oval-like body shape will be similar to, but apparently more pronounced than the one on the second-generation nano," Charles Starrett reported for iLounge.com.

The drawings were rapidly picked up by various bloggers. The drawings seem to match the cases already being sold by XSKN and a Hama iPod nano case that was spotted in the wild at a Spanish trade show. Readers argued over the size and shape, then settled into speculation over the guts -- would the nano have a WiFi feature built-in?

"The only reason I feel confident about the new Nano having wifi (and it's a low risk prediction on my part, obviously) is that it was just re-designed around a completely different conceptualization: to make it smaller and easier to put in your pocket. The minute I saw the alleged new design, it seemed to me that the only reason to make it so long is to accommodate a wifi antenna," commented dennis on the engadget.com post on the subject.

Digg.com founder Kevin Rose picked up some scoops of possible Apple announcements, including a possible new music recommendation feature that'll be built into iTunes 8, which has also been called a "genius playlist" feature that could generate cool playlists based on the type of music embodied by a particular song. Plus, iTunes 8 might also get "a stunning new music visualizer."

Rumors have also soared and crashed over an iTunes subscription service -- the reality of which is still anyone's guess.

According to IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian, IDC certainly expects to see updated form factors of the iPod line -- even though Apple already had a major overhaul only a year ago.

"Going into next week, some things we would look out for include an updated iPod touch that would reflect the updates to the iPhone platform, and potentially a new form factor," she told MacNewsWorld.

"We're also looking for updates to the iTunes store -- it hasn't had an overhaul for a few years, even though Apple has been adding new content. The look and feel could be in line for a refresh," she added.

A subscription-based iTunes service wouldn't surprise IDC, though the actual model is definitely up in the air. "We think a subscription based iTunes service could really make sense for consumers," Kevorkian said, noting that the actual rollout of such a service would be quite interesting in light of Apple CEO Steve Jobs' previous stance against subscription-based services.

In any event, Tuesday will bring the answers.

Is the iPhone Overwhelming the Wireless World?

AppleInsider.com reported that iPhone customer William Gillis was so upset with his data services that he filed an 18-page complaint and lawsuit against both Apple and AT&T. The complaint reportedly alleges that AT&T and Apple both knowingly oversold the iPhone 3G and promised fast speeds that were bogged down by a glut of customers.

Most commenters scoffed at the lawsuit.

"This is like someone suing GM because they promote a car as being fast, but the purchaser gets caught in rush hour traffic and thus cannot drive the car at the speed advertised. This is one of the most idiotic suits that I have ever heard of. Suing just AT&T could be somewhat logical, but suing Apple because of AT&T's network problems? Give me a break," noted commenter mknopp on the AppleInsider.com post on the subject.

Still, while the West Coast generated a new lawsuit, the East Coast saw AT&T falter with a 3G and EDGE service disruption that persisted for 10 or 12 hours. Some speculated that lots of iPhone users were to blame for overloading AT&T's data networks.

"I would like to see RIM melt down a wireless carrier," commenter aplnub joked on the AppleInsider.com post on the subject.

AT&T, of course, fixed the problem, and identified it as a "routing issue." Still, might the routing issue have been exacerbated by heavy iPhone data usage?

Nope. The issue "had nothing to do with the iPhone," Mark Siegel, executive director of media relations for AT&T, told MacNewsWorld.

What about the glut of iPhone users in San Diego?

"As a matter of policy, we don't comment on pending litigation," Siegel noted.

More iPhone Data Options, Please

While some can't seem to get the data speed they want from their iPhone 3G units, others just want to use it as a conduit for their computers. Basically, the iPhone could be used as a modem if it could be tethered to a computer via WiFi, Bluetooth or a cable. A short-lived application on the iTunes App Store, NetShare, proved it could work, though it apparently violated AT&T's terms of use service agreements in the United States.

"I've railed against the 3G iPhone's lack of tethering abilities in the past. Seems I am not the only one. A customer e-mailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs about the issue, and Steve e-mailed him back. What did he say? 'We are discussing it with AT&T,'" writes Cnet.com's Over the Air blogger Eric Zeman.

Other smartphones already have the ability to tether to laptops, so what gives with the iPhone? Some suspect that iPhone users really might overload AT&T's networks with just such an ability.

"Before I use my iPhone for tethering AT&T needs to solve their network coverage and throughput problems. Sprint consistently outperforms AT&T by 2X for speed and coverage. For example, in downtown Palo Alto with 5 bars on each, My Sprint EVDO rev A card gets 850Kbps download vs 195 Kbps for my iPhone," commented Jamie on the Over the Air post on the subject.

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