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My Dreams Just Came True – Amazon Kindle App for iPhone

I’ve been waiting for this moment almost since I heard about the Amazon Kindle (affiliate link). I dreamed of a simple app they could write for the iPhone that would sync with my Amazon account, to let me download and read my Kindle books on my iPhone, sync my place between the two devices, so I could hop back and forth as much as I wanted, and basically turn my iPhone into a little “mini Kindle”. Even though I take my Kindle most places I go, there are times when I forget it, and want to read something. Since I’m never without my iPhone, I usually just read feeds or something, but now, I have my whole world of ebooks, at my fingertips across multiple devices, stored and synced on the cloud.

Tonight, my dream came true.

I noticed (on Twitter, or FriendFeed, I don’t remember) someone wondering how page turning should work on the iPhone Kindle app. “Is that out?” I asked myself. A quick Twitter search for iPhone and Kindle revealed that yes, in fact, it was available in the App Store. After one super excited tweet, I was off to download it.

I’ve taken screenshots of most of the interface, and tested logging in and downloading at least one of my books. Here are the screenshots, with descriptions. I’m sure I’ll post more thoughts after I’ve used it for a while, but so far, it works perfectly, just like I hoped and thought it would. Major kudos and thanks to everyone at Amazon and Apple who made this happen! You’ve made me one happy bibliovoracious geek! :-)

Kindle in the App Store:

iPhoneKindle1.jpg

Kindle App Splash Screen:

iPhoneKindle2.jpg

“Archived Items”, things in your Kindle account but not downloaded to your iPhone:

iPhoneKindle3.jpg

Downloaded books show on the “home” screen:

iPhoneKindle5.jpg

Reading a book – the main interface. Haven’t used this much yet, but I was super impressed that it knew exactly what page I left off reading this book on my Kindle, and too me right there:

iPhoneKindle4.jpg

How to Get Books. Basically, you have to browse and buy on a Mac or PC (or a Kindle, of course), though that link will take you to…

iPhoneKindle6.jpg

The desktop version of the Kindle Store web page in Mobile Safari. This works, but is obviously not optimized for the iPhone. Last time I tried, you couldn’t browse or buy Kindle books in the iPhone version of Amazon.com, or using the Amazon iPhone app. Maybe that will change.

iPhoneKindle7.jpg

The Options Screen. Pretty basic, only real option is to deauthorize your iPhone from your Kindle account (important to remember, since you have a 5 device limit).

iPhoneKindle8.jpg

In conclusion? This is awesome, long awaited news, and I can’t wait to play with it some more. Am I going to read less on my Kindle and more on my iPhone? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll likely end up reading more in general, now that I can access my Kindle books (and my saved place!) on my iPhone, and I can’t wait.

One interesting thing this opens up: now, people can download this free iPhone app, and spend money buying Kindle books from Amazon, without ever buying an actual Kindle.

What you do think about this news? Do you have a Kindle and an iPhone? Or no Kindle at all, but willing to try Kindle books on your iPhone? Post a comment and let me know! :-)

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Blog

iStat for iPhone, Remotely Monitor Macs, Too

iStat is a popular app/Dashboard widget for Mac OS X users that shows you things like how much your CPU cores are being utilized, how much memory you have free, network traffic, etc. Now, Bjango brings us an iPhone version that shows you similar things on your phone:

iStatiPhone.PNG

Nifty, but not incredibly useful. Although it is a handy way to find out things like your cellular AND wifi IP addresses, MAC addresses, and other stuff that’s hard to dig out of the iPhone OS itself.

iStat for iPhone also has nicely done Ping and Traceroute features, but what really makes it stand out, in my opinion, is the ability to remotely monitor a Mac computer. There’s a little free server app you have to install and run on the machine to be monitored, but after that, you can add it to iStat on your iPhone and monitor it remotely (even over the internet, if you set up port forwarding on your router).

So if you’re the kind of nerd that cares how much physical memory you have free at any given time, and what your CPU core utilization rate is (obviously, I am this type of nerd), you’ll probably get a kick out of iStat for the iPhone. It’s on sale for $1.99 in the App Store (normally $2.99). If you’re a Macminicolo user, they’ve got a special deal for you.

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☍ iPhone 2.2 Update Brings Street View, OTA Podcast Downloads

New IPhone 2.2: The iPhone OS 2.2 Rumor Round Up

069FCA1E-4C62-42D2-A278-612B366F946A.jpg

OK, so we all knew that the iPhone 2.2 update was bringing Google Maps Street View and walking directions (about time, too). But Gizmodo says it will also include over-the-air podcast downloads. First I’ve heard of this, but a welcome feature that people like me and Dave Winer have been clamoring for from the beginning.

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And it suddenly makes a lot more sense why Apple rejected the “Podcaster” app (which downloads over the air, too) for “duplicating iTunes functionality”. At the time, we scratched our heads, because the iPhone had no such capability.

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Flickr’s new iPhone web interface = AWESOME (with screenshots!)

Saw word from John “Daring Fireball” Gruber tonight that Flickr finally launched an iPhone optimized web interface. Finally! :-)

Of course, I had to check it out right away, and I agree with John – it’s great. Possibly the best iPhone web interface I’ve seen. Really nice. There’s no way to upload photos from the site (though they do point out that you can upload via email, which I’ve been doing from the beginning from my iPhone, and it works really well). But that’s about the only thing I can see that’s missing.

Update – What Doesn’t Work: The things that work on the desktop but don’t work on the iPhone version are basically the parts of the site that use Flash – the Uploadr, the Organizr, the Map, and Video playback (you can still see video pages and their comments, you just can’t play the videos). Oh, and Slideshows. Everything else works. I see this as one big benefit of all the work Flickr did a long time ago to move as much of their interface as possible into Ajax and javascript, and away from Flash (which doesn’t work on the iPhone, and likely never will).

To check it out yourself, go to m.flickr.com on your iPhone or iPod Touch. I’m sure the other methods you can use to trick sites into thinking you’re using an iPhone will work, too. There’s even a nice iPhone Home Screen icon if you want to save a bookmark to it there, and launch it from the Home Screen.

I took a bunch of screenshots. Here they are, in no particular order:

Flickr iPhone Interface - HomeFlickr iPhone Interface - Activity
Flickr iPhone Interface - My PhotostreamFlickr iPhone Interface - Single Photo with Comments
Flickr iPhone Interface - Recent from ContactsFlickr iPhone Interface - My Favorites
Flickr iPhone Interface - Contact ListFlickr iPhone Interface - More
Flickr iPhone Interface - SearchFlickr iPhone Interface - Explore/Interesting
Flickr iPhone Interface - CollectionsFlickr iPhone Interface - Home Screen Icon

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Best way to upload photos from an iPhone, and preserve location information (or: review of Flickup for iPhone)

I use Flickr to store my photos online. You can “geotag” your photos on Flickr, to show where, exactly, they were taken (on a map). I’ve geotagged most of the 4000+ photos I have on Flickr. By hand, dragging them to the correct location on the map. What a pain.

The iPhone, with the new 2.0 software, can take pictures and tag them with your current location (if you have an iPhone 3G with real GPS, this location information is usually MUCH more precise). Suddenly, the dream of being able to get photos from the iPhone to Flickr, WITHOUT having to manually geotag or othewise manipulate them, seemed to be within reach.

So close, yet so far away.

Right now, there are a few ways to get photos from an iPhone to Flickr. The easiest, I think, is to setup the “upload by email” feature on Flickr. This gives you a secret email address that, when sent a photo as an attachment, uploads the photo to Flickr for you. This is how I get iPhone photos onto Flickr 99% of the time. The downside is, the photos get sent at a much smaller size (640×480) than they were taken at (1600×1200). On top of that, all of the “EXIF” metadata (what make and model camera took the picture, what exposure settings were used, etc.) gets stripped off of the photo when it’s emailed. This includes the geotag/location information. So it arrives at Flickr shrunken and lobotomized and unaware of where it was taken. So sad.

Once the App Store launched, Flickr uploader apps started appearing in droves. AirMe seems to be a popular one, but I tested it, and it didn’t preserve the geodata, (and I think it shrunk the photos, too). So I deleted it.

I’ve been watching the development of an app called Flickup with interest. The author, Martin Gordon (@kodachrome22 on Twitter), is someone I kind of know from Ars Technica. But most importantly, the feature list of Flickup looked promising – it can upload photos and preserve the geotag/location information. It’s not free ($1.99), so I waited a little longer to try it than I would have otherwise, but try it I have, and I’m pleased (if not 100% ecstatic) with the results.

First of all, Flickup DOES preserve the geotag information of the photos it uploads (with a caveat):

Flickup Geo Test


This is a photo I took from within the Flickup app, and uploaded straight to Flickr. The app asked me for permission to use my location (like all location-aware iPhone apps do), which I granted, et viola! The photo appears on the map where it was taken (to the best of my iPhone’s knowledge). Click on the photo then click “map” to see it – I can’t figure out a way to direct link to a single photo on the map on Flickr.

Even better, for photos taken from within the Flickup app (as opposed to uploading saved pictures from the Photo Album), the photos go up to Flickr in their full 2 megapixel 1600×1200 glory.

If you’re looking for an app ONLY to take pictures, and send them directly to Flickr, you can stop reading here. Flickup is perfect, and does everything you’d expect it to (you can edit the title, description, and tags of the photos, etc., too).

So what are the caveats? They have to do with uploading saved pictures from the iPhone’s Photo Album.

First, when you upload a saved photo from the album, it goes as a shrunken 640×480 version. Martin says this has to do with some limitations in the iPhone’s APIs (which I believe). He also says that the API is the cause of all the other EXIF metadata being stripped from the photos (which is probably what makes this such a problem in the first place – fix your stupid APIs, Apple!) Don’t count this against Martin or Flickup.

Second, when you upload a saved picture from the album, Flickup WILL geotag it, but it appears to grab your CURRENT location (it asks), rather than use the location data stored in the photo. In other words, it will geotag the photo with the location of where it was UPLOADED, instead of where it was TAKEN. Martin acknowledges this is sub-optimal.

Flickup from Photo Album Test


(A photo uploaded from my Photo Album, but geotagged at the time of upload.)

If what Martin says about the Apple APIs stripping out EXIF metadata (and again, I have no reason not to believe this is true), then there’s probably no way for Flickup (or any other photo uploader app) to preserve a photo’s ORIGINAL location information. The best we can hope for is how Flickup works – tag it with the location at the time of upload. If you take photos and upload them immediately, then there’s really no difference. But it’s super annoying that Apple comes SO CLOSE to making this work the way it should, yet falls short in the home stretch.

So, is Flickup worth the $1.99 in the App Store? If you’re a Flickr user that cares about a) uploading pictures at full size instead of 640×480, and/or actually preserving all that fancy location data that your iPhone can tack onto your photos, then yes, absolutely. Flickup is the way to go for full size geotagged Flickr uploading goodness.

There’s still room in this field for perfection. But it seems that it will depend on Apple making changes to the photo and location APIs on the iPhone, or some really clever developers figuring out ways to get around those restrictions. Guess which one I’m betting on happening first? ;-)

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WordPress 2.6 “Press This” Bookmarklet Works Great on iPhone

I’ve become a bit obsessed with blog editors lately. I’m a long time fan of MarsEdit on the Mac, which, all other things being equal, is my favorite way to write a blog post (in fact, I’m using it right now). But I’ve been exploring options for other platforms, where I can’t use MarsEdit (the ScribeFire plugin for Firefox is my second favorite, because it runs everywhere Firefox does, including my little Eee PC 901 that runs Linux).

For the iPhone, there’s the WordPress iPhone app, available for free from the App Store. It’s actually a really great app, and I highly recommend you get it and use it if you have a WordPress-based blog. Even my self-described non-techy wife Rachel loves it, and uses it all the time to post pictures to our family blog. But of course, I can’t help but explore other options.

One of the cool new features in the recent WordPress 2.6 release is the new, revamped “Press This” bookmarklet. It’s a bit of javascript in a bookmark that lets you create a new post, and easily add photos or embed videos from whatever page you were on when you click “Press This”. Since it’s just javascript in a bookmark, it should work in pretty much any browser.

Which is, of course, what led me to try it on my iPhone. I’m happy to report that it works pretty darn well:

WordPress 2.6.x "Press This" Bookmarklet on iPhone


All of the functionality seems to be there – grabbing an image from a web page, or video embed code (which probably won’t work too well in practice, without the ability to copy and paste on the iPhone, although the bookmarklet is supposed to automatically grab the embed code from YouTube pages, and possibly other video sites, too). It seems to be able to do everything the full blown iPhone WordPress app can do, and even a little more (for instance, including a link to a page in your post, which is a pain in the butt without copy/paste, or including images from Flickr or any other web page without saving them to your iPhone’s Photo Album first). At the very least, it’s another option to add to your growing blog editor arsenal (what? you don’t have one of those? I do!).

I might go so far as to say that this is now the most flexible, powerful way to post to a WordPress blog from the iPhone. Yes, even better than the WordPress iPhone app itself.

There’s one small speed bump. I don’t know of a way to add the “Press This” bookmarklet to your iPhone without adding it as a bookmark on your computer first (find it on the “Write a Post” page of your WordPress 2.6.x blog), and they syncing it over to the iPhone via iTunes. Also note that each “Press This” bookmarklet is specific to a single blog – if you have many blogs, you’ll want to create a bookmarklet for each of them, and name them appropriately to avoid confusion.

What other iPhone blog editing hacks do you know of? Share them in the comments, along with any questions, enhancements, or anything else you feel like. :-)

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BitStories 2008-06-13: Josh and Brian Ride Again! iPhone 3G, Netbooks, and More

Hey, remember TinyPodcast? No? Well, Brian Jarvis and I (Josh Bancroft), two guys who happen to work at Intel, started doing a weekly podcast way back in 2004. Basically, the two of us geeked out about the latest mobile devices, cool software, and technology news and rumors, and recorded it. It was moderately popular, and some people actually complained when it tapered off…

Well, we’re back! And we’re under the Bit Stories banner now. I work for Intel Software Network, and I’ve had the idea and intention for a while now of doing a show there like Brian and I used to do. Now we’re actually doing it.

If you haven’t listened before, this isn’t some professionally produced, slick, marketing message controlled by our corporate overlords. We’re just a couple of geeks who love gadgets, phones, computers, the web, and software, talking about whatever’s new and cool. We try to make the audio sound good, but it’s always going to be a little rough around the edges, and we’re OK with that. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Come have a listen.

In this show, we talk about the following, in no particular order:

  • The iPhone 3G announcement – its features, whether Brian is finally going to cave in and get one, how AT&T is raising prices on the plans just because they can, how we can’t wait to see what comes out of the App Store, and everything else we can think of. We’re a little obsessed. :-)
  • Netbooks vs. regular laptops vs. Tablet PCs (with the tangent typing vs handwriting discussion).
  • Where we want to take the show – we don’t have grand plans – we pretty much have always played this by ear, but we’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions (or complaints!) you have, so we can keep it interesting.
  • And a whole lot more I can’t remember right now!

The show is about 38 minutes long (we try to stick to the magic 40 minute length), and weighs about 35MB (it’s a 128kbps MP3). You can download the file directly, listen using the streaming player in this post, or (BEST OPTION!!1!) subscribe to the Bit Stories podcast feed in your favorite podcast aggregator (like iTunes). If you subscribe to the feed, you’ll get each show delivered automatically as it becomes available – probably once a week or so, with the occasional bonus video or audio segment thrown in for fun. Plus, we’ll love you forever if you subscribe.

Are you thrilled that the show is back? Mad that we changed something? Think we suck for being gone so long? Just want to say hi? Post a comment, and let us know! Seriously. We crave the validation that your feedback brings. You have no idea how fragile our self esteem really is… ;-)

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Liveblogging the WWDC 2008 Steve Jobs Keynote

I’m pretty much counting on Twitter being down (or rather, turning into a smoking crater where their servers used to be) during this morning’s Steve Job’s keynote at WWDC. So I’ll be liveblogging it here. I’m not at WWDC, but will be following via various online tools, and geeking out with fellow Macheads at Intel while it’s going on. This post is mostly going to be my observations and opinions on the news, rather than actually breaking the news, so if you want to follow along as “live” as you can, check out ArsTechnica’s live coverage, MacRumorsLive’s autoupdating page, and Engadget’s live coverage. Twitter and Summize also have a page set up to track the news, but like I said, my money’s on Twitter getting obliterated (it’s already flaky this morning).

The world is about to change. New iPhone. The iPhone App Store. And then what? New devices? OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” (here’s my prediction on what that one really means). I can’t wait! This is better than Christmas! :-)

I’m in the new JF1 “living room” area at Intel, where they have a few tables set up under a 65″ plasma TV. I’m hooked up to it, using it as my external monitor, getting ready to scour the interwebs for each new tidbit as it makes its way from the mouth of Steve. I’ve got my Mountain Dew and some Pop Tarts. I’m ready. Let’s do this thing! :-)

Josh Liveblogging WWDC 2008 Keynote

Steve’s on stage now. We’re getting the best updates from the Ars IRC channel (#wwdc on irc.arstechnica.com). Steve’s talking about the enterprise features of the iPhone 2.0 software – calendar and contact sync, remote wipe, etc. Stuff we already knew. Now he’s bringing suits out on stage, from other companies. Stuff we hadn’t heard already – capability of viewing office documents, SharePoint access, VPN and two factor authentication (as in SecurID/SoftID). Cool…

Now talking about the iPhone SDK and how many similarities it has with the “real” OS X kernel and code. APIs are the same, line for line. Location-based services, 3D positional audio, how easy it is to develop for it and debug it, etc. Showing a new demo app, “Nearby Friends”, which sounds really cool. I’ll have to go back and watch the video of this, showing how easy it is to build an application, live. Talking about how much developers love coding for this platform. Yay, look how awesome we are!

Now comes the game demos. First up, Sega, talking about Super Monkey Ball. I have a love/hate relationship with that game on other platforms. The “party” parts of the games are really fun, but the “roll the monkey in a marble across this platform surrounded by a bottomless abyss on all sides” are freaking FRUSTRATING. In the keynote, they’re saying the demo looks awesome. Full “tilt” control using the accelerometer. Will be available “at the launch of the app store” for $9.99. Not a bad price – people were speculating that iPhone apps would be a lot more expensive – $20 to $40.

Now demoing an eBay app, which sounds technically cool, but honestly isn’t very interesting to me because I don’t use eBay. Now they’re talking about an app called “Loopt” (“connecting people on the go”), which Ars is excited about, but I’ve never heard of. Sounds like “friends on a map, showing you what they’re doing”. I’m not to keen on the idea of these kinds of apps, but I guess I’d have to see a GOOD one in action to really decide.

BTW, thanks to Brent, Matt, Tod, and Jerry, who are sitting around the table, correcting my mistakes and typos as I write this. :-) Matt’s trying to listen to a live audio stream, which is sort of working, but it’s more delayed than the Ars IRC feed (which is AWESOME! FAR better than any other way I’ve done this before. Thanks Ars! :-) )

Matt listening to a WWDC keynote audio stream. Sort of.

Showing a Typepad blog authoring app, that’s going to be free at the app store launch. Yawn. Show me a generic XML-RPC compatible editor (I can has MarsEdit for iPhone please?) or something that’ll work with WordPress and I’ll be interested. I’m sure that will come soon enough. And an AP “see local news and photos based on your location” app. Sounds kind of dumb – how much news do you know of that has specific location information, more than just “Dateline: this city”? Meh.

Next up a game developer showed off a couple of games that look cool (kind of hard to get a sense of them when I’m reading text descriptions in an IRC channel – I’m sure we’ll see lots about the games soon enough). And an indie dev who works in the insurance industry made a really cool virtual musical instrument app called “Band” that he developed in 8 months in his spare time. And now talking about Major League Baseball. Woo! Not.

Now showing off a bunch of medical reference/learning applications. Talking about med students and K-12 education. I love the idea, but how many K-12 students do you know that have iPhones (or would be allowed to have iPhones by their school’s policies)? Still, very cool ideas, and it’s great that these applications are coming, and relatively easy to develop.

Enough with the 3rd party app demos. I want to know what Apple has to show us today!

OK, now Forstall’s talking about the lack of a good chat platform, and how to receive notifications from your apps while they’re not running. He says the WRONG solution is background processes, because they sap battery life and performance. (And now he’s showing how Windows Mobile does this, and making fun of it! :-) ) “We have come up with a far better solution.” A push notification service to all developers. When your app is running, you’re connected to a server. When you quit, the connection dies. Apple maintains a persistent IP connection to the iPhone, and 3rd parties can push notifications through that server to the phone (badges, sounds, alerts, etc.). Alerts can include buttons to automatically launch your app (so it doesn’t have to stay running the background), and the phone only has to maintain one server connection (presumably to Apple) to make this works. Works over wifi and cellular. Coming in September. I have to admit, this seems like a really clever solution to a really tough problem. We’ll see how it works out in real life!

Steve’s back on stage, and talking about new iPhone 2.0 software features. Contact search, iWork (create and edit iWork docs – cool!), bulk delete and move in email, save images from emails, new calculator, explicit content filters, and new language support for Japanese and Chinese character input – draw them with your finger. That’s a welcome feature for a lot of people, I’m sure. The 2.0 software update will come in early July, will be free for iPhones, and $9.95 for iPod Touch owners (gouged again!).

Now on to talking about the app store. Wireless download and install, automatic updates, devs set prices and keep 70% of revenues. “We FairPlay apps” – FairPlay is iTunes’ DRM for music, so that means that apps will be locked (and presumably, cracked shortly thereafter – FairPlay has a reputation of being pretty breakable). If your app is larger than 10MB, you can only install over wifi. Enterprise apps can be deployed on the intranet, downloaded to your computer, then synced and installed via iTunes. Sounds like a good solution for corporate apps.

Now for something completely different: Mobile Me, new mobile service. Worst kept secret in the industry – this is basically .Mac done right – “Exchange for the rest of us”. Works on Mac, PC (woo!), and iPhone (double woo!). Push your contacts, email, calendar, and files into the cloud, and keep them in sync across all devices. But I do this already with Google – Gmail, Reader, Docs, Calendar. Will be interesting to see how this compares. Or maybe MobileMe will just be powered by Google. The site is me.com. Going into a demo now – I’ll check this out myself later, see if it’s worth it. It’s a cool idea, regardless. $99/year, 20GB of storage, and there’s a 60 day free trial. Expensive for what you get. I’ll probably pass. “Available with iPhone 2.0 in early July”. So, does that mean no iPhone until early July?

OK, now he’s talking about the new iPhone. “Next challenges.” 3G, enterprise, 3rd party apps, more countries, more affordable. iPhone 3G introduced today (big surprise!). Even thinner. The back looks plastic, black. Solid metal buttons. Same display and camera. Flush headphone jack (yay – no more adapters!). Improved audio. Feels “even better” in your hand.

3G = faster data downloads. Email attachments and downloads. Doing a video demo speed comparison between EDGE and 3G. 3G is faster. Duh. Comparing to other 3G phones. It’s faster. Of course it is. Tell us something new! Show us pictures! Their claiming “great battery life”, which was one of the big concerns with previous 3G chipsets (which were also too big).

Talking about location services now, and “GPS”. The question is, does it have REAL GPS (satellite-based, not tower based)? From the demos (tracking a drive down Lombard street), it looks to be the real thing. Or at least, good enough to pass for it (smooth tracking, etc.).

More countries – they’re aiming for 12 countries for the 3G launch, with a stretch goal of 25 70 (!) countries over the next several months. Hear that sound? It’s the bottom dropping out of the international iPhone resale grey market. ;-)

More affordable. It started at $599, sells now for $399. 3G 8GB iPhone is $199. Yow! Nice! 16GB is $299. And “something special” – a white one, 16GB. Same price. Saying launch in 22 countries on July 11. I wonder if the U.S. is one of those countries? Showing a new iPhone commercial. Twice.

Jobs has left the stage. No “one more thing”. Nothing on Snot Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 (though they said there will be a session after lunch to talk about it, that’s under NDA). Bummer! I still held out hope for a new hardware class of device, Atom powered. Oh well – there’s always MacWorld 2009 in Januuary!

This was fun. Ultimately, there’s no real new hardware. We all knew about the new iPhone and its features ahead of time. Kind of bummed that it won’t go on sale for a month, but that gives me more time to save up my pennies. ;-)

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