I started off the week with dueling events: the Apple WWDC, where they talked about Snow Leopard and the second generation iPhone, HP’s massive product announcement, and Microsoft’s TechEd, where I learned more about Unlimited Vista (Windows 7).
I was taken by the fact that Apple missed with the iPhone with the product coming late, incomplete and blatantly copying Microsoft Mesh. For HP, they brought out the best non-Apple all-in-one, a better MacBook Air-like product, and the most incredible gaming desktop I’ve ever seen. Much of the Microsoft event I spent hearing from big Microsoft customers why they loved the company and didn’t like firms like Oracle, which was really fascinating. We’ll talk about that this week.
As we close, we’ll once again showcase my product of the week — the HTC Touch Diamond, which is the best Microsoft Mobile Phone I’ve ever not actually wanted to use myself. (Spoiler: I need a keyboard and am waiting patiently for the HTC Touch Pro, which will have one.)
Apple iPhone 2.0 Misses
As always, I provide a lot of background on Apple events and I was honestly expecting Steve Jobs to slam another home run with the second-generation iPhone. We already knew it was going to cost a lot less, have a vastly improved and much faster radio, and be able to work with enterprise e-mail systems like Microsoft Exchange natively, removing all of its major shortcomings but one (it wasn’t expected to have a keyboard and didn’t get one).
However, as I watched the keynote unfold, I realized Apple had not only not exceeded expectations but missed them badly. They were so expert at telling the story, though, that few picked up on the miss.
First, the phone wasn’t even ready yet and wouldn’t be until more than a month later. Then, when it becomes available, two major features will still be delayed. The first, MobileMe, is a blatant and limited copy of Microsoft Live Mesh, which is currently in early beta (Apple will beat the product to market but only because they aren’t going to beta test it).
The second is its highly anticipated IT support and that doesn’t show up until September or after, when both the RIM Bold and Thunder will be available in market.
In addition the US$200 price reduction was actually a $40 price increase. Yes, they cut the retail price by $200 but they increased the monthly fee by $10 and required a two-year commitment, which amounts to an extra $240 — and that is $40 more than the amount cut from the initial purchase price.
Don’t get me wrong — this phone is worth $40 more, but treating folks as if they are stupid would have bad implications if this were any company but Apple and I wonder if even Apple can get away with this. With people already being hit hard by higher gas prices, I wonder how many won’t have a sense of humor when they realize Apple played this trick on them.
Now also realize that with smartphones, companies typically pay the service charges and employees buy the phones, but I’ll bet IT buyers won’t be fooled by this at all. In fact, ironically, Apple itself is known for being squeaky tight when it comes to expenses and firing people for a lot less than this, making you kind of wonder what the heck they were thinking.
No wonder Apple’s stock dropped nearly 10 points in after-hours trading — professional traders were having a “holy crap” moment.
HP’s Big Bang
HP is clearly still going after Apple with a vengeance, and three products it announced from Germany on Tuesday showcase this fight. I should also mention HP launched the first line of notebooks using liquid metal, which photographs really badly but looks like polished steel with the weight of plastic.
The most interesting of the three was the new TouchSmart 2.0 all-in-one computer, which sports a 22″ display and starts at around $1,200. This is the first desktop PC that uses a multi-touch interface, and HP beat both Apple and Microsoft to market by at least 14 months (probably closer to 16) with this capability.
This offering is night-and-day better than the first generation and can be wall-mounted for those folks who can live on a touchscreen alone. With all of the media center capability and more advanced than the iMac — well, it is a much newer design after all — it represents the likely future of the desktop computer.
The Voodoo Omen desktop, on the other hand, represents the future of gaming towers. With a fit and finish that would make Apple proud, this product has options that are unmatched in the PC space. These include massive active water cooling, which includes all major components, including the power supply.
Also included is a top wiring channel, which not only puts all of the ports on the top of the tower (making them vastly easier to work with) but also conceals most of the cabling to create the most pristine back of any current tower configuration. Able to handle up to eight processor and four graphics cores, this is one of the most powerful gaming machines ever created and probably one of the most expensive.
The Voodoo Envy MacBook Air alternative is an amazing laptop computer. Much more advanced than the limited MacBook Air (solid carbon fiber, including the chassis), this product will likely eventually come in colors and would look stunning in color-morphing paint (which is my vote).
With a replaceable battery, full-performance processor and integrated graphics capability, this laptop should also significantly outperform the MacBook Air, and only the Lenovo X3000 will give it a run for the money. This product also will quick boot into an embedded OS providing mobile Internet device (MID) functionality long before the MIDs come to market and, like the MacBook, this laptop is one of the first with a multi-touch touchpad.
This would ideally be wedded to the AMD/ATI XGP external graphics system we chatted about earlier this month, but that capability isn’t announced. All of this made HP’s new products lust central last week. Check out the launch video to see both of these products.
Microsoft’s Customer Love Fest
TechEd is where IT folks go to learn about Microsoft’s products and where I learned more about the follow-on to Windows Vista I’ve started to call “Unlimited Vista.” Rumor is that this product is being groomed to make a solid run against Snow Leopard, and just as Snow Leopard is being enhanced for IT, Unlimited Vista is being enhanced for the user experience.
One area is integrated virtual machine capability allowing applications and other OSs to run transparently and open just like any other window. You have to see this to get it, and the result is amazing and far from traditional Microsoft.
Another thing was that in my conversations with two companies, Pella Windows and Premier Bank Card, it was clear why Microsoft was doing so well in the face of companies like Oracle and initiatives like open source. Their stuff was, in fact, cheaper and it worked as advertised.
Working against Oracle was what was seen as excessive prices and overly aggressive sales people, and against open source was the perception that the offerings were more like kit projects and not complete solutions, putting too much pressure on under-resourced IT departments.
One really interesting thing was how oil prices appear to be driving a massive increase in networking capability and telepresence. With Cisco and low-cost telepresence vendor LifeSize potentially getting the biggest benefits behind Microsoft’s own Office Communications Server.
Finally, there was this really great demo showcasing how an open source offering from WS02 could be seamlessly dropped in to replace a Microsoft component or VMware could be seamlessly used with Hyper-V, with the Microsoft admission that VMware is actually better for some things. This was far from traditional Microsoft, and the customers seemed to like that most of all.
Product of the Week: HTC Touch Diamond
Speaking of non-traditional Microsoft, the HTC Touch Diamond is the first Windows Mobile-based smartphone to come close to the ideal set by Apple’s iPhone. Smaller, lighter, but with similar capabilities and strengthened touch interface (though still not multi-touch) this is arguably one of the most attractive phones on the market.
With built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) and motion sensing, this made for both good navigation and the included marble game (with realistic physical feedback that actually makes it feel and work like you really have marbles in the phone) is amazingly addictive.
While I’m still waiting for the much more capable HTC Touch Pro (because it has a keyboard), this is the best iPhone alternative I’ve seen so far. Therefore, the HTC Diamond Touch is my product of the week.
Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.