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Tired of Waiting for Apple

Last updated Feb 25, 2005.

When I have some free time and spare cash, I like to play Texas Hold’em. One of the traits a poker player needs to be successful is patience. You must be able to sit at the table—sometimes for hours—waiting patiently for the right combination of cards, position, and opponents to coalesce into an advantageous situation before throwing in your chips. I like to think the lessons I’ve learned at the poker tables are applicable in real life, but I must admit that Apple has been trying my patience. Read this week’s column to see what I’ve been waiting for Apple to produce so that I can throw some coin Cupertino’s way.

Improve iLife

What did Macworld Expo San Francisco 2004, 2005, and 2006 all have in common? That’s where Apple launched new versions of iLife, its award-winning suite of digital lifestyle applications. After getting us hooked on annual updates, Apple left us all jonesing for a fix when it failed to deliver any new software as expected back in January. Half the year has already gone by, so it’s beginning to look unlikely that Apple intends to launch a product by the name of iLife ’07. I’m pretty happy with most of the components in iLife, but I don’t want to bother entering keywords into iPhoto until it can export metadata for use in other apps, and iWeb is in desperate need of a major update. I’m still holding out hope for iLife ’07-Q4.

iPhone with 3G and GPS

Without a doubt, the iPhone is an amazing new product, but I’ve resisted buying any mobile phone to date, and as tempting as the iPhone is, I’m not buying one just yet. What will push me over the edge? Dump AT&T’s relatively slow Edge wireless data network and pump up the performance by using the much faster 3G instead. Better yet, build both into the phone and switch between them and Wi-Fi to get the maximum speed and coverage wherever you are. Throw in a GPS chip and tons of really compelling new location-based services become possible.

iPod based upon iPhone ID

Take the iPhone, forget the phone stuff, nix the net, and just give me the iPod music and video capabilities on that gorgeous 3.5-inch widescreen display. I have absolutely no "need" for such a device, but I’d definitely run out and buy one of these to replace the perfectly functioning second-generation iPod that’s been serving up my music for years now. If it retains the iPhone’s Wi-Fi connectivity for seamless synching with iTunes, so much the better.

New Industrial Design

It’s been almost a year since Apple completed its transition to the Intel platform with the release of the Mac Pro, and since that time Apple has failed to release a single new Macintosh computer (minor speed bumps don’t count). I’m not asking for Apple to break out of the matrix of portables and desktops aimed at consumers and professionals. While it might be interesting to see what Apple could do if it decided to tackle tablet computing, I’m just eager to see what Jonathan Ive and the rest of the industrial design team can do to make our beautiful boxes even more stunning and useful.

Bring Back the Modem

One thing that would make for a more useful Mac is to bring back the built-in modem, a cheap component that penny pinchers at Apple dropped in recent years. Granted, it’s been a very long time since I’ve relied upon a dial-up connection for net access, but sometimes that’s all that is available when you are on the road. However, a modem can do so much more. It can double as a fax machine, which still comes in handy when dealing with much of the world. Combined with innovative software, a modem can also turn your Mac into the world’s ultimate phone. Imagine receiving a call on your Mac, with the caller’s photo and Address Book record popping up automatically. Or if you’re not home, your Mac could record voicemail and forward the file to you via email. With autodialing, wrong numbers are a thing of the past, as are awkward silences since a Dashboard widget could pull up local time, weather, and news reports so you can easily make small talk.

Macintosh TV

Telephony tricks like the ones described above probably aren’t sexy enough for Apple, now that the company has gone Hollywood. So if Apple wants to be a media mogul, how about giving us the tools to control our television? The Apple TV is a neat piece of hardware with a nice interface, but lets face it, with less than 500 titles for sale, Apple’s efforts to lure movie studios into the iTunes Store have flopped like "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" (thankfully not available for download). Movies on demand are definitely the way of the future, but in the here and now, television can provide more free content than you’ll ever be able to digest. For less than $100 in component costs, Apple could build a TV tuner and video capture device into every new Mac. Bundle it with a slick piece of software to display program guides and manage your recordings, and suddenly your Mac is the TiVo-like heart of your home entertainment center, streaming content to the Apple TV, or playing it in a window while you work in Word.