January 30, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Definitely Not A Bond Film

I don't know much about the two movies that are overseeing wide release this week (although Princess and the Frog is getting released on February 2 in the Philippines), but all I know is one of them's definitely not a Bond film.

From Paris With Love
While not a Bond movie, it's still definitely a bit of a spy movie in the loosest sense.

And when I mean loose, I mean really loose.

When you have John Travolta playing a bald, mustachioed 'agent' who has fighting chops, it's gonna be quite hard to take seriously. Then again, the movie seems to be marketed as a bit of a B-movie, so that's easily forgiven.

Anyway, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers stars as a low-level intelligence operative who is assigned to do some field work despite his unwillingness due to inexperience. He is paired with a wisecracking John Travolta and they're sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack.

There is a bit of fun in the trailer, but I'm still not quite convinced that I'll enjoy it.

Next is a movie of much more sentimental value:

Dear John
Some of the most bizarre trends in Hollywood (for me, anyway) include the fact that studios are probably hell-bent on getting Nicolas Sparks movies out probably more or less than twice every year.

And this movie lies in that very category along with "The Last F**kin Song"... just throwin' it out there.

Starring Channing Tatum as John and Amanda Seyfried as Savannah, this relatively sad romance is about a soldier who falls for a college girl.

And at this point, I can only say, "Meh". Still, the women will love this. If only for Channing Tatum and his body. It always sells.

January 28, 2010

iPad revealed + event coverage

Apple just revealed the much-rumored tablet device, and the name isn't iSlate, iTablet or iTabulaRasa, but iPad.

Essentially a bit like a 10 inch iPod touch, this Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G enabled device does a lot of things: music, videos, e-mail, photos, and even iPhone apps.

It comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models and will start at an amazingly high (but kind of low) price of $499.

In addition, it also has an app called iBooks, designed to compete with the Kindle, et al.

First thing that comes to mind: Delicious Library. Only, with book reading capabilities. No text to speech however so it could be said that it's not quite there yet...

Still the firmware has been detailed to have support for external displays (plug that bitch to your TV!), file sharing (woot), and universal apps (iPad and iPhone optimized apps).

It is slated to come in March (WiFi models) and April (3G models). June or July for other countries.

And now, per usual, here's my "live blog but not live" transcript... now chock full of pictures!


"We want to introduce a revolutionary product today."


But before that, Steve will have to go through the fundamental roadblock of announcing sales figures. You know, for the stockholders.

250 million iPods sold, admittedly made me woah there for a moment. Then it's retail time. 284 retail stores around the world, hmm, and 50 million visitors last quarter, that's quite high. Anything else high, Steve?

Yeah, you took that literally with that frigging aerial shot of that new NYC store near Broadway. Fine, fine. I have to admit, it is a beauty.

More figures: 140 thousand App Store Apps, 3 billion downloads, and aww, nostalgia shot. 1976 was the inception of Apple, and after a few decades, they ended the fiscal first quarter of 2010 with $15.6 BILLION dollars of revenue. WOW.

"Even I don't believe that," remarks Jobs.

And now, Apple sort of admits its expertise in the portable market: laptops, iPods, iPhones... the iMacs and Mac Pros apparently don't sell as much. Yeah, please the stockholders.

"Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it."
- The Wall Street Journal

After those 5 minutes of stockholder ass-kissing, Apple finally cuts to the chase... but with a little history lesson first. Powerbooks set the standard for laptops, iPhones set the standard for smartphones, and now Apple wants to find some middle ground.

"[In order for us to create a third class of portable devices,] it has to be far better at doing some key things- better than a laptop or a smartphone. Otherwise it has no reason for being. Some people have thought, 'that's a netbook' but the problem is, netbooks are not better for anything. So they're not even better than laptop, they're just cheap laptops and not even worth a new category of device."

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Jobs finally shows the name of their new device: the iPad.

Steve gets it out of his armchair and... it just looks really nice. Cue wolf whistle from the audience.

Thicker than I expected though, but not as huge. And the browser looks like... wow. Now that Steve emphasizes it, I like the idea of a whole web page displayed on screen (sadly, STILL no Flash). Of course, accelerometer rotation, that's a given. and e-mail... HUGE.

Hell, I like the touch Apple does with the Inbox. It doesn't occupy the whole screen, it's a pop-up, just the way it somehow should be... for me anyway.

But the iPad will definitely have to have some hitches, and that's the keyboard. Tried and tested on the iPhone, but how about a bigger screen? Jobs claims it to be near life-size, but I'm still not convinced as to how accurate it is. Theoretically, you can just lay your palms and type as you would on an actual keyboard, but seriously now, not too ergonomic. Still, Jobs says it's "a dream to type on". A bit of a stretch for me to believe. For now. Oh, and how about Portrait keyboard? Surely typing won't always need a rotate to landscape?

And of course, it's gotta have the thing it's bound to be used for: a digital photo viewer. Truly, it looks like a frigging digital photo frame. Devices like this are definitely meant for photos. Videos though? Hmm... I'll need to see the actual thing to believe it.

Still, Calendar, Maps and Contacts look awesome, even the Music app is very much overhauled to look like the actual iTunes app (although to be honest, the button design looks like crap from afar). Even YouTube looks frigging awesome.

Hello, print ad:

So OK, we're literally watching Steve Jobs browse the web. And check his e-mail. And somewhat struggle to type e-mail (alas, auto-correct saves the day).

Next up, the photo viewer. Yawn, swipe through photos, categories... and then!

When I saw the photo gallery, I thought, "you should be able to pinch the thumbnails to reveal the photos but I doubt Apple will put that in till iPad 2.0". Alas, I was proven wrong!

And yes, there are slideshows, but there's something new... Origami? What transition is that?

Well, hokey country music and some photos. And then they fold. And they fold nice. Won't take long before iPhoto gets this.


The iTunes Store thankfully fares better aesthetics wise. But wait, no iTunes LP?

But the calendar just looks beautiful.

Also the contacts.

The movie browser is excellent, IMO. (I also love Star Trek)

OK, I'm convinced about videos.

Going to the hardware side, Apple has included its own homemade processor the Apple A4, and it comes in 16GB-64GB iterations... kinda like the iPod touch. All housed in a 10 inch IPS display.

It also has WiFi 802.11n, and Bluetooth. It also has accelerometer, compass, speaker, mic, and the iPod USB connector, so no USB ports for your other devices. Sorry creative dudes and dudettes. You can't mount your camera and import photos from the iPad.

But more unbelievable, 10 hours of battery life. For a device positioned to take on the tablet and the netbook markets, that's pretty decent, especially for a huge screen. It also has a month of standby time. Put it in sleep mode for a month and it won't die.

So how about apps? Well, Steve Jobs summons Scott Forstall for this and the first thing he mentioned was out-of-the-box compatibility with existing iPhone apps, which will be able to run in its original resolution, but also with an inflated resolution without app modification. That's pretty good for consumers, I have to admit. But how about game performance especially in the larger resolution display?

HELL, how do you even play Tap Tap Revenge, or, I don't know, LABYRINTH with this huge device? Wouldn't it hurt? I don't know.

Well, looks like racing games don't get affected by the resolution inflation. The Sims 3 would run VERY well on this, I have to admit, but an inflated one would be much more appreciated.

Apple will also be releasing the SDK today, and it will even include an iPad simulator, which will definitely be welcomed by developers.

Now Scott goes on to highlighting some iPad-specific apps this time, all developed in 2 short weeks.

Gameloft has rewired NOVA to be more user-friendly for the iPad gamers.

They've added a mini-map, control customization and even a shortcut to throw grenades. Heck, there's even "simultaneous target shooting" which is actually kind of cool to be honest.

Still, ain't the controls gonna be awkward?

New York Times:
This was certainly a given. I mean, huge screen equals a pretty nice display for news reading.

Includes iPhone syncing too.

Brushes is a cool app that has spawned some pretty amazing works of art. And with the iPad, Brushes just seems like an undoubtedly great fit.

Apparently, iPad OS is iPhone OS 3.2, thus the weird delay between OS firmwares.

Even cooler: the iPad version of the Brushes app is also able to playback the actual painstaking process of drawing the actual picture!

Electronic Arts:
Need for Speed Shift is being demoed and it looks quite pretty.

EA has also added some new gameplay mechanics, and it can even go hyperspeed. Phew.

I'm not a fan of Major League Baseball, but apparently, it is a popular sports app in the US, so okay.

Go stats-happy while you watch a video highlight.

Scott Forstall leaves and Jobs comes back. And he introduces the big elephant in the room, the e-book reader called iBooks.

It looks very good, and you can even look at two pages at once without the disturbing flashes of e-ink displays.

And Apple has also developed an e-book store exclusively for the device called the iBooks Store, with 5 major publishers on board.

Now Jobs demoes the buying process, and it's pretty much similar to iTunes. It is simple, but visually stunning to look at, lol.

And to think that Steve Jobs once said, "People don't read books anymore."

Flipping pages is like flipping the page of an actual book. As in swipe. One of the subtler touches include font switching, font size changing, and even the option to just stop flipping the page halfway, as if you're readying yourself to get to the next page while you finish up that last sentence.

Apple uses the ePub format, which is NOT proprietary. -insert smiley here-

Next iPad app: iWork.

Apparently, there was a bit of apprehension when the idea first came up, since iWork was pretty intensive.
However, they pulled it off, and... WOW. This is killer.

Phil Schiller will be speaking about this one though, but whatever. I want to see this thing in action!

Hello new Keynote.

Hello new Pages.

Hello new Numbers.

They look sick. You simply need to see this in action...

Multi-touch wowsers. There's even a few effects, even Magic Move. Microsoft Office Mobile does not hold a candle to this.

Next up, Pages.

Excellent page navigation, and even word wrap. This... this is awesome.

Lastly, Numbers.

Sheets are displayed in tabs on top, and there's even a data entry keyboard which gives access to formulas and commands. And yes, there are a lot of functions built in.

I'm not even a big fan of Numbers nor Excel, but this just looks like... fun.

iWork is basically the iPad's killer app. Color me wowed. They'll only cost $9.99 each too and even have compatibility with the Mac versions and connect to projectors!

The iPad will apparently be also able to restore from your iPhone backup too, not a surprise. Now Jobs switches to the topic of wireless networks.

OK, there's WiFi obviously.

But there's also 3G.

The plans: 250MB per month for $15, and unlimited data for just $30. Alas, it's AT&T powered over there, but I'm optimistic that Globe will be able to handle this device as well.

But the great thing is that the 3G need not be activated through a computer, and the contract is prepaid so there's NO contract.

And now, there's international plans, and hopefully, Apple gets those deals done by June. So, iPad models sold here will NOT come with any sim, any sim can be inserted for use with any iPad sold in the Philippines, and that is unprecedented... AND AWESOME.

All in all, the things that wow me include: iWork and always-on 3G. E-books? Hmm...

Now Jobs talks pricing. "If you listen to the pundits, we're gonna price it for a thousand dollars, which is code for 999. When we set out to develop the iPad, we not only had ambitious technical and user interface goals, but also an aggressive price range because we want to put it in the hands of many people. We have met our cost goals."

The iPad will start at...

FOUR HUNDRED NINETY NINE DOLLARS. That is 23 thousand pesos. A pretty fair price considering.

But 16GB? And $130 additional for the 3G model? Err...

Still, the iPad will also be available in 32 and 64 gigabyte models, but that's an even bigger bag of hurt.

Next: Accessories.

There's gonna be a dock that'll both charge your iPad and even make your iPad a digital photo frame.

However, there's also a keyboard dock.

And there's even a functionally fashionable case that also serves as a great dock for video and typing.

Next, a video for the iPad starring Jonathan Ives.

"Do we have what it takes to carve a third product category? Well, I think we've done it. The iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price."

Phew, that was quite the keynote. In his last remarks, Steve invites the media for the hands-on and for the Q&A. And the event is over.

More thoughts on the iPad, tomorrow.

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