Thunderbolt Displays in limited supply at Apple Stores ahead of WWDC

A reliable retail source informed us that the Thunderbolt Display has been out of stock for a month at all central and surrounding London stores, while a tipster claims that the 27-inch monitor has been pulled from sale, with stock “returned to warehouse,” at at least one U.K. retail store. A similar tip originating from Australia was received about Thunderbolt Display stock not being replenished.

MacRumors

If this is the case, I think it bodes well for an appearance of a new 5K Apple Cinema Display at WWDC plus updated Mac hardware to drive it.

At this point, we’re looking at Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C on an updated MacBook Pro or Mac Pro.

Fingers crossed!

Apple Opening Siri, Developing Echo Rival – Really?

Siri Icon

Some new information about Apple potentially opening up the Siri API for developers and working on an Amazon Echo type device.

Unfortunately it’s behind a paywall but the theme is:

Apple is upping its game in the field of intelligent assistants. After years of internal debate and discussion about how to do so, the company is preparing to open up Siri to apps made by others. And it is working on an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news headlines or set a timer.

Apple Opening Siri, Developing Echo Rival — The Information

I’m in two minds about this.

The first is yes, Apple are well overdue in making the Siri API open to developers. This will make Siri so much more useful on all of the devices we currently use it on – iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Presumably, we’ll see Siri also available on the Mac at WWDC and it’s already available to a limited fashion on the Apple TV. Perhaps this was the missing piece Apple was waiting for before opening up Siri to developers.

The second bit I’m not too sure about – creating an alternative Amazon Echo-like device?

Yes, it does seem like Amazon are streets ahead in this space, at least in the context of reliability and confidence. Pretty much everyone I know who has an Echo (we can’t get them here in the UK), effuses how reliable it is in picking up and understanding every spoken command and actioning it. Whereas Siri…

Not so much.

I’ve really had a confidence issue with Siri for a while now.

It’s really clever and has a wide range of multi lingual understanding, but it just doesn’t pick up my commands half of the time. And as for the Apple Watch, I’ve pretty much given up using Siri due to the poor responsiveness. If it doesn’t work reliably, people will stop using it.

However,  creating a standalone Apple “Echo” doesn’t seem to fit with Apple’s Siri strategy.

As far as I can determine, they don’t want you to have a single device in every room, they want Siri to follow you around on all your devices.

Why have a separate device in each room whilst you have a device that you effortlessly carry around with you from room to room? Today that’s the iPhone or the Apple Watch, but who knows what wearables they decide on in the future.

So I’m torn.

Yes I’d like to see an Apple “Echo” but I’m not sure their strategy will allow for one. They may just focus on making Siri ubiquitous, responsive and reliable.

But never say never!

New MacBook Announced

MacBookApple have announced a stealth revision to the 12” MacBook today, with the major new enhancements being an upgrade to the new Skylake chip architecture, minimum of 8GB RAM plus an hours extra battery life. Oh, and you can now get it in Rose Gold if you want.

There is no change to the camera and no structural changes to the design. It’s not really surprising that there is no major design changes as the original MacBook was only released 12 months ago, so this should be seen as a limited performance boost on the original design.

The single USB-C port remains, again, no real surprise – it supports USB 3.1but I’m a little disappointed that Thunderbolt 3 support was not included. Looks like Thunderbolt 3 is being reserved for the next MacBook Pro update.

It has been a while since the MacBook Pro has had a design refresh, so I would expect to see multiple USB-C ports including support for Thunderbolt 3 in the Summer.

So will I be trading in my current MacBook for one of the new ones?

Unlikely as the update isn’t really significant enough to make me want to upgrade. The performance of the current MacBook is perfectly adequate for me in it’s current role – that of an all purpose travel Mac.

First 24 Hours with 9.7” iPad Pro

Just some initial observations…

It’s fast and the screen is beautiful – the colours really pop.

I’m not fully convinced on the “True Tone” technology. Sitting at my desk, it makes the screen seem warmer, almost as if I’d switched the Night Shift option on. It is a little distracting when comparing to my other devices and desktop monitors that don’t have True Tone capabilities. However, trying the smaller iPad Pro compared to a normal iPad Air 2 in direct sunlight, the iPad Pro does look better and more natural. The iPad Air 2 seems more washed out and has a definite blue colour whilst the iPad Pro looks more natural. I’ll experiment further.

I’ve become accustomed to the luxury of the larger iPad Pro when couch surfing. I tried the smaller iPad Pro and it felt too small. The smaller form factor means that you tend to have to hold it to position it correctly, but the larger iPad Pro just seems to sit more easily on your lap. If you’ve never used the larger iPad Pro, this won’t be a problem for you, but sitting in front of the TV, I had to put the smaller version down and go back to the larger size. When it comes to travelling, the smaller size of the new iPad Pro will win out.

I’ve used Split View but again, the size of the small iPad Pro gives you the equivalent of two iPad minis side by side, whereas the larger iPad Pro is like two iPad Airs side by side. Might not be a deal breaker for some people, but with my eyesight, I definitely prefer the larger size.

Not yet had chance to play with the Camera.

The Apple Pencil works just fine as you might expect, and swapping it between both devices is just a matter of plugging it into the device you want to use it with for a few seconds.

I mentioned yesterday about my dissatisfaction with Apple’s pricing of accessories – I’d stumped up £55 for the Silicone Case but thought I’d be able to use one of my existing Smart Covers with the new iPad Pro.

Wrong!

It transpires that you need to buy an iPad Pro specific Smart Cover, the older iPad Smart covers don’t work as the magnet positioning is different. I’ll give Apple the benefit of the doubt here, in that due to the new Smart Connectors on the side of the iPad Pro, it probably wasn’t possible to support the older iPad Smart Covers. The older Smart Cover won’t attach to the side of the new iPad Pro.

The question is now do I stump up an extra £39 for the iPad Pro Smart Cover, or £129 for the Smart Keyboard.

I already have both a Smart Cover and a Smart Keyboard for the larger iPad Pro, and I much prefer carrying it around with just the Smart Cover – the Smart Keyboard adds considerable bulk to the larger iPad Pro.

As an aside, the larger Smart Keyboard works just fine with the smaller iPad Pro if you remove the Silicone Case, but that’s not really practical.

Small iPad Pro on larger Smart Keyboard

9.7″ iPad Pro on a large Smart Keyboard!

As I’ll be using the smaller iPad Pro mainly whilst travelling, and I’ll usually have my MacBook with me, I’ll probably stick with just the Smart Cover for now.

My general feeling is that if you’re used to using a standard iPad, the upgrade to the 9.7” iPad Pro is a no brainer. If you’re already used to the larger size, you may not want to downsize.

Unless you do a lot of travelling that is, the smaller iPad Pro is much more portable!