Despite FileMaker, iWork is baseless

If Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices group (responsible for Xbox, Zune and Surface computing) is a little Apple within Microsoft, than, FileMaker, Inc. is probably the closest thing to a little Microsoft within Apple. It is a traditional — and profitable — software company developing a mature and well-regarded (by users if not professional database developers) cross-platform application for the Mac and Windows.

FileMaker, following some tricky version names early in its history (FileMaker 4 preceded FileMaker II — don’t ask), is now in its ninth major version. It is the last remains of what was once Apple’s in-house and almost spun-out software company Claris. In the early ’90s, Claris offered, among other products, the MacWrite Pro word processor and the Resolve spreadsheet, a revamped version of the presentation-friendly WingZ. FileMaker has long found an audience among Windows users who find Access cold and technical compared to its friendly layout-driven approach.

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Mix and Macs

So, the sleeker new iMacs are here and the 17″er has faded into the history, replaced by a 20″ model that is less, as the car commercials put it, “nicely loaded.” The “chin” has not disappeared, but the black border around the screen minimizes it somewhat. The new keyboards are striking and I had some fun holding the wireless one like a chopping knife; it’s that thin. However, while the iMac is itself now as much of a juxtaposition of black and aluminum as the iPhone, the keys and underside of the keyboard are an homage to the white flat-panel iMacs of yore, as is the Mighty Mouse, which has never saved my day.

I suppose the good news is that the scores of third-party mice from Logitech and Microsoft will now match the iMac’s color scheme a bit better, but it would be great to see something made of the same materials. It will also be interesting to see if third-party keyboard makers include support for the Expose and Dashboard keys that Apple has added.

Incidentally, I’ve been writing enough here about PCs per se to add that as a fixed category as at least a stopgap til we get some proper tags around here.

FoolHD

No, I’m not impersonating Fake Steve impersonating Bono, I’m referring to Hitachi’s upcoming Blu-ray camcorders that the company describes as recording in “full HD.” This was surprising to me as consumer camcorders do not record in progressive scan and other companies, such as Sony, have used that term to refer specifically to 1080p. Now the question is whether Hitachi and other plasma TV companies will call 1080i sets “full HD”. That ship has probably sailed as they’re now planning to bring margin back into the business with their own 1080p sets, trying to beat LCD  at its own game, but more confusion will reign.

Trying whatever Works

According to Reuters, Microsoft will try offering an ad-supported version of its entry-level Works package as a counter to Google Docs, which I have written just about every column in for at least the past six months. However, Microsoft will distribute the software only through OEMs, which is somewhat strange as it limits the broad audience that Web distribution could bring.

Works may be more popular overseas, but we still see PC vendors bundling the far more functional if often just as ignored WordPerfect Office here in the U.S. and I suspect more companies will start looking to OpenOffice over time. It’s been especially challenged since the “student” version of Office became the standard consumer one for all intents and purpsoes.

It would be great to see Microsoft remake Works as a deluxe version of LiveWriter. For example, it could be a lot simpler to put a simple table or calculation in a blog post. Also, as ThinkFree is showing, much of the client value of software in an AJAX world is about seamless offline work and synchronization.

In any case, I remember when the future looked brighter for integrated packages, at least on the Mac, where there was once at least five integrated software programs including Microsoft Works, ClarisWorks, and the very obscure HandiWorks, Ragtime and ClarisWorks-like BeagleWorks. I did a comparative review of them eons ago in what must have been one of the sunset ssues of A+ Magazine.

After bringing the rebadged AppleWorks to OS X, though, Apple scrapped it in favor of iWork, which seems to be in a kind of limbo. Pages reminds me of the elegance of MacWrite II and Pro, but Keynote is just geared toward a different kind of presentation than PowerPoint — arguably a better kind of presentation but simply not how businesses communicate today.

Sub-$200 laptops easier said than sold

In a belated followup to my post last month on the EEE’s price creep, Engadget reports on possible delays for the EEE and a larger-screened Linux-based laptop from Swedish vendor Medison. Donald Melanson blogs, “The company also said that the laptop will not be its primary source of income, with it instead expecting to make most of its money from advertisements on its website (mainly from accessory-makers and the like).” That strategy didn’t work very well for Buy.com when it launched, almost driving it into bankruptcy.

Price crEEEp

Engadget points to another preview of the Asus EEE, which notes in its conclusion:

Asus had initially said that the Eee PC would start at $199, but they’re thinking now is more like $250 for the 8GB flash drive version

It looks like those who have said the $199 price was too good to be true may be vindicated. The otherwise positive preview also dings the EEE for a cramped keyboard.

‘Book of the week

Robert Scoble is clearly a man obsessed with Facebook. He’s mentioned it in posts every day from July 8th to the 15th and 27 times in this post. I can understand the excitement around the applications capability, the so-called “anti-MySpace”, that Facebook is creating, but I have mixed feelings about cracking the cover of Facebook due to my mixed experiences with social networking sites.

Probably the earliest one I joined was Ryze, founded in the dreary days of the dotbomb aftermath. I also joined Friendster in response to an invitation from my younger cousin, but I eventually removed my profile from both. I liked the open access of Ryze, but just became beseiged by invitations from people who seemed to have nothing better to do than build “friend” (don’t get me started on that word) networks all day, like there was some kind of prize for it.

I was skeptical of LinkedIn (my profile) at first, but while I can’t say it’s been a perfect or even necessarily very rewarding experience, it has enabled me to track down some old friends and stay current with others, maybe even learning of some interesting opportunities that didn’t necessarily go anywhere. Scoble praises Facebook pages for listing someone’s e-mail address and phone number, but LinkedIn will also provide an email link if you are connected to someone. One of my pet peeves about LinkedIn is that it defaults to listing concurrent roles chronologically rather than letting the user designate which should come first.

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Fake Steve Jobs’ fake Apple store experience

Once again, I have to disagree with the man in the mock turtleneck (or is that fake turtleneck?). Sure, lines at Apple stores can be long, but overall the Apple store provides one of the best PC buying experiences in the industry as the millions of satisfied customers and the incredible success of the stores prove. FSJ is often spot-on, but sometimes you’d think he doesn’t even work at Apple, much less not run it.

Evolving TiVo’s terrible triangle

For years, TiVo seemed caught in a struggle trying to serve three masters that often had conflicting interests — its customers, broadcasters and cable and satellite companies. In the past few years, it has probably de-emphasized working with broadcasters, but it has stepped up efforts with advertisers and its main Internet video partner Amazon. 

As Multichannel News reports, the move from Web-based to TV-based movie ordering from the Internet may ruffle the feathers of potential TV service providers as well as its most important cable partner today, Comcast. However, realistically Amazon Unbox and cable VOD are not direct competition yet. There’s still a significant delay before movies are downloaded although the movie selection is much greater, there’s still a fair amount of especially VOD content (particularly from premium channels like HBO).that you can’t get from Unbox. At least for now, you can think of VOD as Amazon Unbox for the masses.

And, hey, you FiOS customers, I heard today from a reliable source that Verizon is working on having 9,000 movies available on demand in the near future. That’s the equivalent of almost four video rental stores.

Congratulations, Jim, Lance and Veronica

I intentionally don’t spend too much time talking about people here at The Box, but just picked up from NewTeeVee that Jm Louderback will be leaving PC Magazine and Ziff Davis to rejoin former TechTV colleague Kevin Rose at Revision3. I’m sure Jim will be happy to be more fully back in the video space.

Jim brought me to Ziff Davis in a freelance role in 2003 to launch and run Ziff Davis’s Wireless Supersite (eventually folded into eWEEK) and is a one-of-a-kind fusion of consumer technology expertise and marketing savvy. This is a great loss for Ziff Davis. That said, I congratulate Lance Ulanoff, who is taking over the helm at the venerable PC publication, and wish him well in his new role.

Finally, congratulations to Veronica Belmont, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at CTIA, on her new host post at Mahalo. She’s going to bring a great level of excitement and value to the human-powered search site.