Apple News from the WWDC: What You Can Expect

Apple OS X Mavericks

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) – the conference of 6,000 that sold out in just 71 seconds – kicked off on Monday this week. From the keynote (click here for a live blog of the keynote on WSJ.com) that day we learned quite a few things about what’s coming from Apple (keep in mind, most things are not coming now and not everything is coming at the same time).

Here are some of the highlights from the first day at the WWDC:

Two new Apple Operating Systems:

  • iOS 7: iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system, the operating system for iPhones and iPads. The coming iOS7 is supposed to provide users with a cleaner, simpler design – and it looks to be a significant departure from previous releases. New iOS7 features include AirDrop, a peer-to-peer networking and file sharing feature that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; iTunes Radio (details below); multitasking (to catch up and perhaps surpass Android’s capabilities); auto-updating of apps; new camera features, including Instagram-like filters; a Control Center that puts your most-used settings in one place; FaceTime audio; and more. You can’t get iOS 7 just yet; it will go immediately to developers. The rest of us will need to wait until the next iPhone comes out, which is expected to be the fall. USAToday.com has a nice summary of iOS7 features with comparisons to Android.
  • OS X Mavericks: OSX is Apple’s desktop and laptop computer operating system. Previously named after wild cats (Lion, Leopard, etc.), OS X is now switching to a “California” theme (Mavericks is a popular surfing destination). Mavericks is supposed to deliver faster ways to multitask with Finder tabs. It will also let you put full screen apps on multiple monitors. Mavericks should deliver superior performance with a compressed memory capability. There will be a new iCloud Keychain to store all your passwords (for all Apple devices) online for security and convenient access. The Calendar, Notifications, and Maps are also getting an overhaul. For more details about the new OS X, see Wired.com. Like iOS 7, Mavericks is being delivered to developers this week but won’t reach consumers until the fall.

Two New Apple Computers:

  • MacBook Air: The laptop that ushered in the ultrabook craze (ultra-think, ultra-light, ultra-portable), is getting updated with faster chips and significantly longer battery life (reportedly 9 hours for the 11-inch model and 12 hours for the 13-inch). Graphics are also supposed to render faster, which is a big plus for gamers. Some were hoping for a new Retina display, which was not one of the upgrades. You can read a comparison of the Air and Retina Macbook Pro here on PCMag.com.
  • Mac Pro: The black, cylindrical, futuristic design of the new Mac Pro (not to be confused with the Macbook Pro laptop) is sure to draw a lot of attention. But as a “professional” desktop/workstation computer, it’s a more of a niche product than most of the other new Apple products announced. So we won’t to a spec-by-spec review here. But Roger Scoble of the Pursuitist website wrote that it was “possibly the most amazing workstation ever. And the stunning design of the new Mac Pro had Gizmodo gushing about Apple’s “Brilliant Insanity.” Read the review here.

Two New Apple Services

  • iTunes Radio: As we predicted on the EarthLink Blog last week, Apple did indeed announce a customizable, free streaming music service, called iTunes Radio. The new ad-supported service, which will be included as a feature of iOS7 and iTunes for Windows and Mac desktops, gives users access to 35 million songs (compared to Spotify’s approximately 20 million) with unlimited free streaming on multiple devices (Spotify Free is limited after 6 months and doesn’t include mobile devices). Another cool feature: you can control iTunes Radio with your voice, via Siri on your mobile devices. On the downside, iTunes Radio doesn’t let you chose exactly which tracks or artists will play; you can only specify music similar to a specified artist, listen to one of the more than 200 genre-based stations, or listen to what’s trending on Twitter. Read a review of iTunes Radio on Lifhacker.com here.
  • Siri: The famous voice control feature of iOS, called Siri, is getting a makeover in iOS7. One of the most noticed changes is likely to be the voice of Siri: not only is it going to be more natural sounding, but you’ll get to choose a male or female voice in multiple languages. The new Siri will also be more helpful, searching the Web (via Bing) and your photos for you, reading you content from Wikipedia and Twitter, adjusting controls on your device, and allowing you to hear voicemails. Here’s what Apple has to say about Siri.

There were quite a few other announcements that we won’t go into detail about here. You can click to read more about updates to the Safari Web browser, iCloud, iWork for iCloud, and more. To catch up on everything, CNET has a great roundup of articles related to the Apple WWDC.

Computer News: Shipments Down, Lenovo Up

Laptops and desktops sales downAs an ISP, we know our customers need computers to take advantage of the Internet access we offer. So we keep an eye on the computer industry, and know many of our customers do to. After all, a good computer can help you have a good Internet experience.

Just yesterday the research firm Gartner released a preliminary report about the PC industry for the third quarter of 2012.

The report showed worldwide PC shipments down over 8% compared with one year ago. In the U.S., shipments were down even more, with a decline of almost 14%. Analysts think that the coming release of Windows 8 contributed to the decline since many consumers may be waiting to buy computers after the release.

The other headline news for the computer industry was that long-time PC sales leader HP looks like it will be edged out of that position for the first time since 2006. The new #1 is projected to be Lenovo with 15.7% of the worldwide PC market compared to 15.5% for HP. Dell, Acer, and ASUS round out the top 5 for worldwide sales.

In the U.S., HP remained #1 and Lenovo was 4th in shipments. Here’s the U.S. top 5 with links to deals on laptops for each brand on myEarthLink:

1. HP
2. Dell
3. Apple
4. Lenovo
5. Acer

If you’re not yet ready to buy a new computer, remember you can still optimize your old PC for greater speed and performance.

New Products from Apple & Microsoft In the News

The two iconic companies that have long represented the personal computer industry to most consumers – Microsoft and Apple – have been making big news in the past couple of weeks, with major computer and mobile product announcements and updates. Lets take a look at what’s new and what it means for you.

Apple – New Laptops, OS X, iOS

New Macbook laptops, OS X, and iOS 6

New Mac Products Unveiled

On June 11, Apple announced updates across its line of laptops. Updates to the base Macbook Pro and Macbook Air were considered good but relatively minor. Most notably, they all got bumped up to the new third-generation Intel “Ivy Bridge” Core processors, which deliver improvements in computer speed, battery life, and graphics performance. The biggest news, however, was the introduction of the very expensive (but some say worth every penny ) Macbook Pro with Retina Display. The laptop is considerably thinner and lighter than other Macbooks (not called Air), but the headline new feature is the high-resolution 2,880×1,800 pixel “retina” display found on the latest iPads.

Read CNET’s reviews of the new Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, and Macbook Pro with Retina Display.

If you’re looking to purchase an Apple computer, prices have already gone down for the previous generation. Here’s a CNET article on how to get the best deal on a previous-generation Macbook.

Deals on the next-gen computers may take a while to materialize.

Apple also announced the July release of its next OS X operating system, called Mountain Lion  (continuing Apple’s big-cat naming convention). The new OS is supposed to be more intuitive, operating more like an iPhone. It will also have much better social network (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) integration, increased iCloud online storage integration (allowing you to seamlessly sync information from computer to phone or tablet), enhanced type-as-you-talk dictation capabilities, and other new features and enhancements. The new OS X will be available for download at $19.99 (or free if you buy a Mac between now and the July release).

Details were also confirmed about Apple’s fall release of iOS 6 for iPhones and iPads. The new mobile OS will boast many improvements to Siri (including iPad support and integration in some cars), greater Facebook integration, a totally new 3-D maps app with turn-by-turn navigation, FaceTime calls over cell networks (not just Wi-Fi), game and photo enhancements, and more. Read all about the coming new iOS 6 here.

Microsoft – New Tablet/Laptop, New Mobile OS

New Microsoft Surface tablet

This Monday, Microsoft did something it had never done before: it showcased a Microsoft branded computer, a versatile tablet called the Surface. On the surface, the Surface may look a bit like the market leader, the iPad. It is similar in size and weight. But a couple of things make the Surface stand out: it has a built-in stand and a cover that converts into a keyboard. The two features – plus the fact that it will run full productivity tools like Microsoft Office – position the Surface more as a laptop replacement than other tablets. The new Microsoft product is expected to launch along with the new Windows 8 operating system  later in the year. Read a review of the Surface by the Wall Street Journal.

And just yesterday, Microsoft a new version of its Windows Phone OS for mobile devices: Windows Phone 8. The new mobile phone OS is expected to give Microsoft a better chance to compete against rivals Android and Apple in the red-hot mobile device marketplace. The new OS is expected to be both more robust and intuitive to use, with attractive features like Live Tiles, which automatically update various kinds of information based on user customization. Another headline feature is a new mobile wallet app that will let users pay for things with their phones and also track and use coupons, loyalty cards, and other shopping information.

While these next-gen phones are getting good initial reviews, they do present one big problem: the current Windows 7 phones will not be able to be upgraded to Windows 8 when it comes out. So if you think you might want a Windows phone, you should probably wait until later in the year when Windows Phone 8 comes out.

 

Protecting Your Privacy…While You’re Traveling

We recently posted 5 privacy tips to help you prepare to travel safely. As we promised, here are 5 more tips to help you protect your privacy while you’re away from home with all your tech gadgets. So you can enjoy your trip and minimize the risks of theft or identity theft.
Privacy tips to help you prepare for safe travel with technology
1. Watch What You Post to Social Media: Just as we warned you about broadcasting your absence before you leave home, you also have to be careful while you are away. Posting vacation photos in real time and talking up the great vacation you’re on right now is fun…but it means the bad guys could know your home is vacant.

2. Look for Secure Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi Internet access is your friend when you’re on the road, but unsecured Wi-Fi at coffee shops or hotels can be your enemy. Wi-Fi hotspots are more secure if they are password protected; if the one you just hopped on didn’t require a password, then virtually anybody could be on it with you. And no matter what kind of Wi-Fi network you are on, don’t sign in to any online accounts or enter credit card or other financial information unless you see that the URL of the website you are using begins with https. The added s means secure. With https the information you enter will be encrypted for your safety.

3. Use Extra Caution with Public Computers: If you are using a public computer (i.e., not your laptop in public) that other people will use, make sure the sign in screen for any online account you access isn’t set to save your username and password. And be extra careful to sign out of any account you use (don’t just close the browser window). You should also see if your web browser has a Private Browsing mode you can activate, so it won’t store your auto-fill information and other users who follow you can’t see your browser history. Most new browsers do have this privacy option (click through the browser menus to find it; it’s in different places on different browsers).

4. Look Out For Your Laptop: Staying in a hotel? Store your laptop in the room safe or main hotel safe if there is one. Or use a lock that can attach to the lock port found on most newer laptops to secure your laptop to the desk. Whether you have a lock or not, you should also lock your laptop’s screen when you are not using it. On Windows computers you can press the Windows key and the L key.

5. Check Your Financial Accounts: If you have your laptop, iPad or another device you can use securely, you may want to regularly sign in to check your credit card and bank account activity while you’re away. Look for any charges or changes that look suspicious (e.g., money going out of your bank account or purchases back home during the time you’ve been away).

Have a good safe time on your next trip!