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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Intel launched Centrino 2, but what can I do with it?

Intel Centrino 2 logo
This entry comes one week too late, but it's still relevant in the long term. I had been invited last Wednesday to a launch party for Intel's new notebook CPU, the Centrino 2. There was actually a bigger event in the day, but I couldn't attend due to other commitments. At that daytime event, bloggers were treated to a live demonstration of the CPU's features and its WiMax capability (in addition to sailing on a posh yacht).

The evening event consisted more of a hands-on demonstration by notebook manufacturers. Various notebooks were set up for us to play on. I took the chance to also mess around with Windows Vista, Windows Movie Maker and watch an Intel video on YouTube.

There were also some sales managers to hawk their wares. Aside from talking a bit about the notebook designs, they rattled off about the internal specifications and so on. It helped that they knew they were talking to a technically savvy audience, since their spiel would have been lost on mere mortals.

Which brings me to the point of this entry. Though I'd like to believe that I am "technically savvy", I've found that I've become less interested in such mundane specifications. Teraflops? Nanometre circuitry? 200 pins? I tune out when I hear such things.

(BTW I pulled out those tidbits out of the air. If you're interested in the Centrino 2's specifications, look elsewhere.)

What I was really interested in knowing was: what can I do with all of that whizbang hardware? Which explained why I fiddled with Movie Maker rather than listen to a long list of numbers and data. I had more important questions, like: how fast could Movie Maker export a two-minute movie clip with various transitions, titles and effects?

Because that's what it's like in the real (consumer) world. We want to know how this technology changes how we do things. Technology is supposed to make us more productive, and there's little evidence to refute that. The question now is: how much more productive does new technology make us?

Here's a personal example: my iMac sputters when it plays back HD video, like those trailers that Apple provides. While the audio plays, only certain frames appear every now and then. That's because the hardware can't process all of the video data that it needs to. And that spoils my HD experience.

The Centrino 2, on the other hand, (supposedly) plays back HD smoothly and clearly. Do I care that it requires 150 billion transistors (repeat disclaimer about specification) to do that? Nope. I just want to watch my film, dammit!

Here's another example, albeit an old one: which music player would you buy:
  • one that has 5GB of space, or
  • another which can hold 1,000 songs in your pocket?
I've read rumours that Apple is most certainly going to use Intel's Centrino 2 CPU in its upcoming line of notebooks. When it does, I hope that it answers the questions that consumers want to know. Not about gigahertz and parallel processing structures, but about what you can do with this additional power, like watching 1080p HD movies or completing a Photoshop script more quickly.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why I love my Apple

Apple logo
Ok, so I've missed the Nuffnang's "I love my Apple!" contest by almost a week. It sure doesn't pay to procrastinate. On the other hand, ever since I received the email about the contest, I had been thinking long and hard about my favourite Apple product.

And it came down to this: I don't have a favourite Apple product. I cannot, for the life of me, single out an Apple product that has made me -- pardon the imagery -- cream in my pants.

My Apple journey started a long time ago, with an Apple II (I think). It belonged to a relative and was the high point of my visit there. We'd play games on it. Sure, they were simple, green-on-black, keyboard-controlled games. But this was the dawn of the computer age and I found it fascinating.

I only really jumped onto the Apple bandwagon when I entered university. It was a PowerBook G3. Not just that, it was the lowest end PowerBook, which meant it had a passive matrix LCD screen! I had to look straight on to the screen to see anything. If I viewed from the side, I got a colourful shade of grey. But I bought it because it fulfilled three requirements: it was a Mac, it was a notebook, and it fit the budget.

I also bought an external floppy disk drive, which I used only a handful of times.

The computer got obsolete soon, with DVDs just arriving (it could only play CDs). And it showed its age with OS X. So when the Titanium PowerBook G4 came out, I bought one -- again, the lowest end due to monetary constraints. But it had a DVD drive. And it was sexeh.

And then CD burners came out! I was noticing a trend here. While I accepted that electronics were obsolete as soon as I bought them, this was just plain ridiculous. In the end, I saved up enough to buy an external DVD writer to compensate the loss. (It's been more than five years, and that drive still serves fairly faithfully.)

Then I decided to get an iMac. I figured I wouldn't need the portable convenience of a laptop any more. Of course, I was wrong, but the iMac G5 was cheaper too. So I bought one. But you know the story. Next thing I knew, Macs now came with Intel CPUs, including the iMac.

As you can see, my Apple life has been beset by disappointment after disappointment. That's why I didn't buy an iPhone from the black market here, nor the white one when I was in the U.S. It would be too expensive to go through the cycle again.

Yet, in spite of all of that, I still prefer the Mac to Windows. And it's not about a single product. Not even OS X, though I think it plays a big part.

It's the experience of using the Mac. Maybe it's the way the user interface is more pleasant and not as intrusive as Windows. (That explains why the first thing I do when I get a Windows computer is to change its theme to something more Mac-like.) Maybe it's how the graphical elements are laid out so that they make sense to technophobes. (I've read Apple's Human Interface design, and it's very well thought out.) Maybe it's how its features are limited so that I don't unnecessarily step beyond my bounds -- and believe me, that's a feature, not a bug!

So it's the combined experience of different products that make me love my Apple. Individually, the products would have made me switch to Windows. But the whole is much, much greater than the sum of its parts.

That doesn't mean I'll queue up for an iPhone 3G...