2008年3月号 新しいMac Pro,そしてiPhoneに思うこと

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Treo Death

I knew that my Treo was suffering from age-related weaknesses, but I felt a twinge of sadness when it finally gave up its ghost and passed on to that graveyard of yesterday's technology. Although it still powers on, it presents me with its stylus calibration screen, requiring that I tap an X in one corner, then an X in another, and finally an X in the middle of the screen. Unfortunately, although I tap the X's it returns to the initial screen and tells me to try it again. I expect it is a hardware problem, somewhere within its touch-sensitivity equipment, possibly the screen itself. I lost some pictures that my daughters had drawn, but there wasn't much I could do about that because the software they used did not let me export their pictures. I installed a drawing app on the iPhone which lets you export its pictures to the iPhone photo application, but my youngest daughter remarked that she missed the wide variety of colors on the Treo app. A bit more disappointing with the loss of my Treo is the loss of some passwords. That's still one of the major missing apps on the iPhone, even a simple authentication storage system for Safari. However, 1Password lets you export your passwords into a bookmarklet, which is most of what I am looking for. Once Apple releases its SDK, I am confident that 1Password or another app will provide greater functionality.

New Macs

Apple continues to lead the way with performance, with Quad-Core Xeon processors running up to 3.2GHz. Very impressive. Unfortunately, it still has a rather blah selection of video cards, with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT the default card. It isn't even the GDDR4 model either, just the 256MB GDDR3. Apple does offer the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT with 512MB of GDDR3 as an option (US$200 more), which is a good card, or an NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600. But why nothing more recent than late last summer? Why not offer 8800 Ultra, GTX, or GTS options? It could be that Apple just doesn't want to spend the resources on drivers, and I must admit that I can't judge how much work that would take, but I would think that Apple has a good relationship with nVIDIA. Couldn't they handle at least one of the top-end cards? Perhaps it is because the options they offer are just "good enough." Perhaps Apple just doesn't think it needs to offer anything better. If so, that's a pity.

One other disappointing thing: no word about HD DVD or Blu-Ray support. It looks like Blu-Ray is taking the lead, with Warner Brothers now throwing its support behind that format (good for Sony and Phillips, not so good for Toshiba and Hitachi), and Apple has been on Blu-Ray's Board of Directors for some time. Perhaps we will hear something at MacWorld about it, but then, why announce and ship new Mac Pros with no mention of Blu-Ray? Perhaps Apple is reserving such devices for consumer-oriented machines, or perhaps a home entertainment machine. We will soon see, if Apple announces something in a couple of weeks. But whether or not Apple announces support for one system or the other, we the consumer will still suffer. Both Blu-Ray and HD DVD include highly restrictive copy protection processes designed to protect the entertainment industry but interfere with flexible use of the movies we buy. The High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection system (HDCP) requires and end-to-end encrypted channel to play back high definition content, and if any device in the chain isn't compliant, the best it will play is DVD quality. In order to play one of these high definition discs, you need an HDCP compliant player and HDCP compliant display. From my perspective, I am quite content with regular DVD quality, and transcoding my discs to, for example, DiVX or recompressing them into simply smaller MPEG-2 format is fine for now.

iPhone iPod

I must admit, having used the iPhone for a while now, the iPod function in it is dreadfully bad. Yes, it plays audio and it plays video, but most everything else about it is simply bad. I find the navigation flow between albums and songs awkward. Scrubbing inside songs is downright painful--unlike my iPod nano with its ring control, I cannot skip forward or back just a little bit. I end up jumping way ahead or way behind where I want to be. Terrible! And am I the only person who thinks that Cover Flow is awful? On a computer in iTunes, it isn't bad. I can see some pretty pictures and beneath it are my songs. But that's not what I see on the iPhone. In Cover Flow, what you see are the album covers, and you only see a list of the songs if you tap a small icon in the upper right of the screen. And even then, you only see the number of the song and its name. In iTunes, you see a host of information, and you can customize it as you wish. When looking at podcasts, I cannot tell which ones I have heard before. Useless! The problem is the screen size, really. Although large for telephones, the iPhone cannot compare to a regular monitor, and so Apple decided to sacrifice functionality for coolness. If it just replicated the interface of my nano, I would at least be satisfied with that. Perhaps the next version will improve things.