Apple’s Going Green and Going Home

Posted by on Nov 8, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

At a dinner with the captains of the tech industry in February 2011, President Obama asked Steve Jobs what it would take to manufacture Apple products in the United States.  According to one dinner guest, Apple’s visionary CEO replied, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Until now, that is.  This week Apple announced that it will build a manufacturing complex in Mesa, Arizona that will create 1,300 construction jobs and 700 manufacturing jobs.  Additionally, it won’t place any burden on local power generation, as according to an Apple spokesman, “the new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”

What precisely Apple will be manufacturing at the plant is anyone’s guess, and since it’s Apple, and since it’s keeping a secret, just about everyone is willing to hazard a guess.  9to5Mac’s Steve Buscemi traveled to the site to see what he could see, and while he was only able to take pictures of the exterior and its environs, he wasn’t able to penetrate into the facility itself.  However, a New Hampshire-based company called GT Technologies also recently announced a long-term deal with Apple that included operations of “furnaces and related equipment,” and many have deduced that the plant will be producing glass…specifically, the durable, scratch-resistant sapphire glass that protects the camera and the home button on iPhones.  And while sapphire glass hasn’t proved to work terribly well for display screens big enough to fit iPhones and iPads, some are noting that sapphire glass has been used in high-end watchmaking (hint hint) for years.

Of course, this isn’t the first move Apple’s made to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.  Last month MacRumors reported that a company called Flextronics America is employing 1,700 workers to produce the redesigned Mac Pro at its facility in Austin, Texas.  If the trend continues, it will be very welcome indeed.

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Will the iPad Revolutionize Education?

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

There’s an excellent story over at NPR that delves into both the benefits and challenges of bringing tablet computers to the classroom.  More and more school districts across the country are getting on the tablet bandwagon, and the results are often promising, but also (and just as often) cautionary.

Let’s consider the benefits of bringing iPads into our schools.  First, there’s the tangible economic and environmental savings inherent in going paperless, as it were, and the fact that tablet-friendly textbooks can be updated with a download rather than with a reprint is welcome.  Second, the world is going mobile at breakneck speed, and if we truly believe in equality of opportunity, then we should do our level best to ensure that students of all economic backgrounds are equipped to face the future.  And perhaps most importantly, bringing the stores of the world’s knowledge to every student in the country who has access to a Wifi network will help them develop as creative and independent thinkers.

Of course, there are some who are leery of the notion that teachers are evolving from being the sole possessors of knowledge in their classroom to becoming facilitators of learning, but any teacher worth his salt will tell you that the goal of a good education is to teach students to think for themselves.  Unfortunately, however, there are other more substantial negatives at play here.  For one, school districts can’t and shouldn’t allow students access to certain types of content through devices they themselves provide, and as we all know, teenagers are more adept than most at getting around those sorts of obstacles.  (Consider the example of these Los Angeles students who worked out how to bypass their mobile device management restrictions and access banned apps and web content.)  Additionally, there’s the very real concern that iPads in the classroom will be more of a distraction than a learning tool, as students spend all their time on social networks rather than their homework.  And of course, once being “plugged in” becomes mandatory, cases of cyber-bullying and suicide implore us to pump the breaks.

In any event, the world is changing, and there’s no stopping the digital revolution we’re all living through.  Ultimately we believe this will bring great things to our students, even if we have to suffer a few growing pains along the way.

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What’s New With the iPad Air & iPad Mini

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

Faster, thinner, lighter, and cheaper…that just about sums up everything that can be said about Apple’s new iPad Air and iPad Mini.  While some of the anticipated features not included were conspicuous in their absence (the fingerprint sensor and the gold shell, for instance), it’s hard not to be impressed by the horsepower the new machines bring to the table.  Here are a few of the improvements:

  1. Weight:  So it turns out that “iPad Air” isn’t just a pretty name.  Apple’s new tablet weighs in at a slender 1 pound, nearly half a pound lighter than its predecessor.  It also comes with a 43-percent thinner bezel and a 20-percent thinner profile, and is only 7.5 millimeters thick.  In spite of all that, writes Engadget, nothing about it feels cheap.
  2. Speed:  In the case of the iPad Air, thinner really does mean faster.  With the new A7 processor, the new tablet has 56 times the processing power of its predecessor that makes you feel like you’re “holding a big screen full of internet.”  The faster processor loads apps almost instantaneously, even the beefier ones.  Additionally, the speed upgrade extends to Wi-Fi; the Air will network twice as fast, and will run up to 300 Mbps, using two antennae to boost its wireless speeds.
  3. Camera:  The iPad Air comes with a 5-megapixel iSight camera that supports 1080p high-definition video.  Although many people won’t be using their iPads to take photos, the quality improvement in the camera will make services like Skype and FaceTime a much more seamless experience.
  4. iPad Mini:  In addition to the faster processor, the new iPad Mini will come with the retina display.  According to CNet, “it’s all about that screen. And given the Mini’s smaller 7.9-inch size, it looks even sharper than the full-size iPad Air. But to take advantage of the new pixel-dense screen, you will be paying up over last year’s Mini. It’s gorgeous, though, so I’d imagine the new premium will definitely be worth it to some people.

The only real question remains which one to buy.  The 16g Mini is only $100 cheaper than the 16g iPad Air, so it might be worth shelling out an extra Benjamin for the increased screen real estate.

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New iPads by November 1?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

If you’re in the market for a new iPad, then you’ll probably want to trade in your old one over the next few days before their trade-in value bottoms out.  Earlier this week Apple announced its next media event, scheduled for October 22, when Apple is expected to unveil the fifth-generation iPad and the second-generation iPad mini.

It’s been a pretty busy week for Apple, in fact.  It received unanimous consent from the Cupertino city council to begin construction of its new sci-fi headquarters and hired Ben Shaffer, formerly Nike’s lead designer of, among other things, the Fuel Band (indicating a hopeful future for Apple wearables).  But the October 22 event will see the roll-out of a number of new products that are sure to shake things up a bit.

First, the new iPad will likely come with the first major hardware upgrade since the iPad 3 appeared on the scene last year.  Rumors suggest that it will keep its 9.7 inch display, though the tablet itself will probably be 1.5 centimeters thinner than its predecessors.  And considering the success of the fingerprint scanner on the latest generation of iPhone, we can almost certainly expect that to be featured in the new tablet as well.  As for the iPad mini 2, most tech watchers are expecting both upgraded hardware and a retina display.

Apple’s presentation is also almost certainly likely to include a few non-mobile offerings as well.  We’re likely to see the roll-out of the new desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, though we’re as yet unsure as to whether Apple’s decision to move away from big predatory cats as a naming convention means anything.  There’s also the Mac Pro, a redesigned (and, quite frankly, unassailably cool) desktop that features an innovative, cylindrical heat-dispersal system.  And we’re also likely to see some beefier MacBook Pro laptop upgrades hit the shelves as well.

Of course, we’ll have to wait until next week before we’ll be able to assess what the new iPads might bring to the table for mobile app developers, so stay tuned!

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3 Reasons Why iOS 7 is Good For Business

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

Apple’s wildly successful “Mac vs. PC” ad campaign was predicated on the idea that Apple products were for consumers who were cool, youthful, and “plugged in,” while PC products were meant for stuffy, inept, unfunny business people clinging to bygone technology in a swiftly changing landscape.  In spite of the fact that the campaign seemed to target teens in t-shirts, however, the iPhone nevertheless managed to make significant inroads into the business world.

With the introduction of iOS 7, however, business-friendly innovations into Apple’s flagship platform have been showcased like never before.  Here are a few of those innovations, and why they’re becoming increasingly more attractive to business consumers:

  1. Security:  Nobody knows better than Apple how disastrous it can be when an employee leaves an iPhone behind at a bar, so the new fingerprint access is a welcome addition to the iPhone’s security regimen.  Since most users don’t bother with passcodes, a simpler method of access assures companies that the data in their employees’ phones is at least slightly more secure.  Work still needs to be done, however, particularly considering the most recent revelations that easy access to a device’s airplane mode allows thieves all the time they need to break into the phone and steal its contents.
  2. BYOD:  More and more companies are switching to a “BYOD” (“Bring Your Own Device”) policy in the workplace, meaning that they’re able to cut costs by allowing their employees to use their own personal smartphones for business.  This has caused some problems in the past, but features like the per-app VPN allow business to monitor and manage specific apps without having to control all of the hardware on a given device.
  3. AirDrop:  Features like AirDrop allow iPhone users to share files with one another, and while this has been marketed primarily as a photo-sharing feature, it allows nearly unprecedented levels of collaboration among employees in the workplace.

Of course, Apple continues to sell itself as a “cool” platform, as opposed to a “professional” one, but most office managers and in-house IT executives are excited about all that iOS 7 has brought to the table to make their lives easier.

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