Technologizer posts about PCs

My new TIME.com Technologizer column is up–it’s a quick look at the pros and cons of Macs and PCs as of late 2010. As always, I’m agnostic rather than partisan.

I talk a little bit in the piece about pricing issues, but they deserve a story of their own–the pricing comparisons I’ve done in the past are all woefully out of date.  (I’ve often found that Mac pricing is reasonable compared to truly comparable PCs, but it seems high at the moment–it’s been a while since Apple has done its periodic CPU/RAM/disk bumps on most models. Time to do the math again.)

Posted by Harry at 9:40 am

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Hey, I See What They Mean About Apple Computers Being Pricey

By  |  Posted at 1:03 pm on Friday, November 12, 2010

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Christie's Apple-1

British auction house Christie’s has a precious heirloom up for bid: an original 1976 Apple-1, the first Apple computer. It says its estimated value is $161,600 -$242,400. That’s nearly ten times higher than the Apple-1 market value of $15,000-$25,000 I came up with when I wrote a story on collectible computers back in 2007. But this sounds like one of the best examples of the machine you’re likely to find, with the original box, cassette interface, documentation, BASIC on cassette, and a letter from Steve Jobs.

Christie’s listing says that the Apple-1 was a landmark personal computer because it was the first sold in assembled form rather than as a kit that required the buyer to solder components onto a motherboard. This seems inaccurate to me. For one thing, as this photo shows, Apple shipped the Apple-1 as a board without a case, keyboard, or video interface; it was still more of a nerdy hobbyist project more than anything else. (1977′s Apple II, Radio Shack’s TRS-80, and Commodore’s PET 2001, were the first major ready-to-use consumer PCs.) And the Apple-1 wasn’t the first non-kit computer, either: 1975′s MITS Altair was best known as a kit, but was also available in pre-assembled form.

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A Wire-Free Way to Dock Your Notebook

By  |  Posted at 10:06 pm on Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Altona Technologies AT-PCLink

Price: $169

Want to dock your laptop so you can use a big monitor, comfy keyboard and mouse, and external speakers? How about doing the job wirelessly–even if your notebook is up to thirty feet from the peripherals? Altona’s KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch lets you make the connection via Ultra Wide Band (UWB) and provides a USB adapter for your PC. Resolutions up to 1440 by 1050 are supported. And yes, it works with Macs as well as Windows PCs.



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Join Me for Live Coverage of Apple’s Mac/OS X Event Next Wednesday

By  |  Posted at 5:57 pm on Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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Apple is holding a media event next Wednesday at 10am PT at its headquarters in Cupertino. Its invite is–for Apple–relatively non-cryptic: The event is called Back to the Mac, and Apple promises a look at “what’s new for the Mac…including a sneak peek of the next major version of Mac OS X.”

I’ll be in the audience that morning liveblogging my heart out. You can join me at technologizer.com/macfuture, and I hope you will.

Meanwhile, we have  a week to muse about what the future holds for Apple’s operating system. It’s been almost exactly three years since OS X 10.5 Leopard was released–back in a very different era for Apple. (The iPhone had just barely shipped and wasn’t yet a platform for third-party apps; the iPad as we know it may not even have been a glint in Steve Jobs’s eye.)

Last year’s 10.6 Snow Leopard was almost entirely about modernization below the surface, not new features. And if past Apple practice holds true this time around, it’ll be well into 2011 before Lion, or whatever it’s called, shows up. So the time would be right for a major upgrade–one which aims to keep the Mac relevant for a long time to come. That’s what I’m rooting for, anyhow, and I’ll share my wish list before the event happens.

Mac users, what do you want to see in a big new OS X update?



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What If the Mac Were Invented Today?

By  |  Posted at 12:41 pm on Tuesday, October 5, 2010

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Over at Techland (where I’m guestblogging a couple of times a week–come visit!) I wrote about the tendency of lots of pundits to assume that the smartphone wars will inevitably repeat the PC wars, with Apple’s tightly-managed iPhone getting trounced by the widely-dispersed Android ecosystem. In the Techland post, I explain why I don’t think that’s a given. One big reason why is the existence of the Internet–if all phones end up being portals to an open-standards Net, there’s no particular reason why multiple platforms can’t thrive.

With bigger, traditional computers, we’re already largely there. For operating systems, the Web is a diplomatic place where it doesn’t really matter what OS you’re using as long as you’ve got a modern browser. And nearly all peripherals such as printers, cameras, and networking gizmos work equally well with Windows and Macs. It’s wildly different from the 1980s and 1990s, when the computing universe rotated around Microsoft’s platform and there were lots of things which Macheads simply could not do.

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Dell Rolls Out More Usable Inspiron Laptops

By  |  Posted at 9:03 pm on Saturday, June 19, 2010

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Dell today announced U.S. availability of the sleek new Inspiron R laptops first launched a few months ago in parts of the world such as Australia and India.

Like Dell’s existing 14-, 15- and 17-inch Inspirons, the new R models are geared to carrying out multiple roles, ranging from replacing desktop PCs, to serving up multimedia home entertainment, to acting as take-along workstations on visits to Starbuck’s. Yet the Inspirson Rs bring a cooler look and a smoother feel.

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Mac Mini Gets Nicer and Pricier

By  |  Posted at 8:57 am on Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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Last week’s WWDC keynote may have been all iPhone all the time, but there’s a new Mac this week–a heavily revised version of the Mac Mini, Apple’s teeny-tiny desktop machine.

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New HP Notebooks: Envy Updates, Posher Pavilions, AMD (Almost) Everywhere

By  |  Posted at 12:56 pm on Wednesday, May 5, 2010

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HP announced scads of new notebooks today. I’m not going to try and cover every detail on every model. But here are a few notes on items I found interesting. (I was briefed by the company and saw the new systems in person.)

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Charlie Stross’s Grand Unified Theory of Everything

By  |  Posted at 12:44 pm on Friday, April 30, 2010

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This has been an unusually eventful week in the tech world. Let’s see, we’ve had…

Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Flash

HP’s Palm acquistion

HP’s rumored termination of its Windows 7 slate

Microsoft’s confirmed termination of its Courtier concept tablet

The Gizmodo and Apple saga

Apple’s announcement of its WWDC event (and specifically the lack of awards for Mac apps)

Blogger Charlie Stross does a remarkable job of tying everything together in this post–which says that Jobs’ aversion to Flash is really about Apple, and the rest of the computer industry, facing a life-or-death struggle over the next few years as PCs get even more commoditized and even more of our digital lives move online. Apple, Stross says, is trying to reinvent itself from a manufacturer of Macs into a gatekeeper and provider of services, and it’s trying to do it while it still has time.

One striking, subtle point about Jobs’s memo: He says “Flash was created during the PC era…” In other words, he’s saying we’re no longer in the PC era. Stross says that “the PC revolution is almost coming to an end,” which seems like as good a way to describe where we are as any.

You can quibble with bits and pieces of Stross’s overarching analysis–or the whole damn thing if you want–but it’s incredibly thought provoking. Having grown up in Boston in the 1980s, where Route 128 was lined with wildly successful minicomputer companies which no longer exist, I’m certainly not discounting the possibility that PCs will cease to exist sooner than we expect, and that none of the huge companies that make them is guaranteed an afterlife.



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Why Do You Buy New Computers?

By  |  Posted at 6:44 pm on Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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Apple announced upgrades to its MacBook Pro notebooks today. As someone who bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro in 2009, I had the usual conflicted feelings about the news. Yes, I’m in favor of technological process, and it’s good to hear about worthwhile new products I might want to buy or recommend someday. But learning that something you bought fairly recently has been trumped by something radically better is never a great feeling–even though it’s one that you will have, repeatedly, if you buy tech products.

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Albatross Face-Off: Microsoft Bob vs. the Apple Cube

By  |  Posted at 12:41 am on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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I promise we’ll stop commemorating the 15th anniversary of Microsoft Bob after today–and today is the anniversary of the app’s formal release–but bear with me for one last item. Bob’s great significance isn’t as a piece of software–it’s as an albatross around Microsoft’s corporate neck. Just about everyone who wants to take a swipe at a new Microsoft product finds it expedient to compare the item in question to Bob. And in that respect, it’s eerily similar to another product released five years later: Apple’s G4 Cube. Like Bob, the Cube was launched with immense fanfare but sold poorly and died after a year. And it, too, is an albatross–one that will live forever as the product people bring up when they want to predict that a new Apple offering is going to be a dud.

After the jump, a quick comparison of these unexpected soulmates, in the form of a T-Grid.

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How Long Do You Give the Desktop?

By  |  Posted at 10:38 am on Thursday, March 4, 2010

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One of the big subjects of debate on the Interwebs this morning is a big, existential technological question: Are phones on the cusp of replacing PCs?

Don Dodge (presently of Google, formerly of Microsoft) thinks so:

The future of computing is that your cell phone will become your primary computer, communicator, camera, and entertainment device, all in one. The exciting new applications are running in the browser, with application code and data in the cloud, and the cell phone as a major platform.  I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you.

So does Google Europe sales chief John Herlihy, as quoted by a Silicon Republic story:

“In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant. In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs,” Herlihy told a baffled audience, echoing comments by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the recent GSM Association Mobile World Congress 2010 that everything the company will do going forward will be via a mobile lens, centring on the cloud, computing and connectivity.

BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox basically agrees with Herlihy:

Three years — most certainly five — is not an unrealistic time horizon at all. Even if it proves wrong, Google is acting like change will come rapidly. Last month, Google CEO Eric Schmidt asserted the company would put mobile first — yes, before the PC. There is no Windows monopoly on mobile handsets to stop Google, Apple or any other would-be mobile competitor from rapidly advancing. Cloud services, whether delivered by applications or browsers, promise anytime and anywhere access to anything.

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What’s Your Favorite Tech Product of All Time?

By  |  Posted at 11:18 am on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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Over on Twitter (where I’m @harrymccracken), I asked my pals to tell me what their favorite tech product they’d ever owned was. I got scads of responses–and while this wasn’t a contest, the iPhone/iPod Touch got more mentions than any other item. Take a look at the Tweets after the jump, then chime in by leaving a comment about your most-loved gizmo, gadget, PC, software, or service…

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5Words: Watch Out For Rising Prices!

By  |  Posted at 10:04 am on Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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PCs to get more expensive?

When’s Windows 7 coming out?

Free e-mail service on airlines.

Lots and lots of e-readers.

LiquaVista’s e-reader screens do color.

Nexus One early termination: pricey?

Would you rent Windows, Office?

MagicJack’s new product is controversial.

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The Consumerist has conducted a superb, important investigation into a Best Buy “optimization” service that involves the Geek Squad pre-tweaking PCs on sale for alleged performance and usability benefits, for a  $40 surcharge. The investigation’s conclusion: The service can make it hard to buy a computer for the advertised price, and the benefits, if there are any, aren’t worth forty bucks.

It’s certainly true that many new Windows PCs aren’t as well configured as they could be–some, in fact, are so laden with demoware and other stuff that it’s downright annoying. Here’s an idea: Why doesn’t Best Buy, a tremendously powerful company in the industry, use the leverage it has to convince PC makers to do a better job in the first place, rather than trying to squeeze an extra $40 out of consumers?

Posted by Harry at 7:31 am

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When Families Were Thankful for the Blessing of Computing

By  |  Posted at 11:49 pm on Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Back in the early 1980s, it wasn’t a given that a family needed a home computer–or even that they knew exactly what a home computer was. So ads for PCs and related products made sure to show happy families–sometimes eerily happy families–crowded around the computer, enjoying the heck out of their purchase.

To celebrate the more traditional gathering of families represented by the holiday season we’re entering, vintage tech guru Benj Edwards is back with a gallery of those ads. If you were around back then, you’ll be slightly embarrassed to be reminded of the era. If you weren’t–well, you may just not understand.

View 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration slideshow.



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