Apple’s Loose Ends

While Apple has been releasing fancy new products recently, like the iPad and the iPhone 4, this last week something brought my thoughts back sharply to some products that have been languishing for some time without an update. There are a number of products that Apple has let sit for too long and badly need some attention.

The top of this list would probably be the Apple TV, but recent rumors of an imminent refresh of the device, perhaps built on iOS, has bumped the “hobby” project in favor of some other devices and features that are waiting for a little love from Apple.

Airport Express

The Airport Express was last updated in March 2008 when Apple added 802.11n capabilities. The Airport Express was the first device to sport AirTunes remote speakers so you could play iTunes audio in another room, but it is the last device to still have 100baseT ethernet. When 802.11n can hit transfer speeds of 150-300 megabits, it seems silly to be bottlenecked at 100 megabits on the ethernet side. The Airport Express would also benefit from AirDisk support in addition to the printer facilities it currently provides through the USB port. Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi as found in the Airport Extreme would also be a nice update.

30″ Cinema Display

[inline-ad align=”right”]A lot has already been said about the lack of updates to the 30″ Cinema Display, introduced in June 2004. The 30-incher is still a great display, but the newer 24″ LED Cinema Display sports a lot of upgraded technology that needs to make its way into the 30″ model too. The 30″ is crying out to be updated with LED backlighting and Mini DisplayPort inputs. I know it is a bit un-Apple-like, but I would really like to see multiple HDMI and Mini DisplayPort inputs so that the next 30″ display could be connected to a MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and/or a Blu-ray player, game console, etc. While we’re at it, both displays could use an upgrade to a higher resolution iSight sensor and Firewire 800 connectors.

Front Row

Front Row is not exactly a product, but this feature of Mac OS X provides a 10 foot interface for your iTunes content. Unfortunately, it has not been updated since Mac OS X 10.5 in November 2007. Front Row does not even understand newer content like iTunes U or iTunes Extras. The new interface on the Apple TV introduced with version 3 would be a good place to start, but frankly the whole thing could be redone. Adam Jackson pointed out to me that a new Front Row would be great for the Mac mini because the new HDMI output makes it the perfect Mac to connect to an HDTV — where you actually need an interface that you can use from across the room with a remote.

Apple Remote Desktop

Speaking of remotes, Apple Remote Desktop is supremely useful for managing large numbers of Macs in a school or enterprise setting. But the last major update was April 2006 and has only seen three minor updates since then, the most recent coming out last summer which consisted of bug fixes and sending function keys to the remote machine.

Apple TV

OK, I know I said I was going to leave this alone since the Apple TV update is rumored to be coming soon. Still, I love my Apple TV and I have to point out a few things that need updating in the next release. Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n at 5GHz, 1080p video,  HDMI bitstreaming of advanced audio codecs, and support for iTunes U are a few of the features that I really want to see in the next Apple TV.

Other Thoughts

  • I know the Finder has been a frequent contestant on these lists of things to be updated but I am never sure if anyone really knows what needs to be done. Most of the Finder wishlists I have seen look like notes from the Norton Commander fan club, but there might be something here.
  • iTunes Home Sharing should evolve into a more general iTunes content server.
  • It is great that iBooks 1.1 lets you read ePUB and PDF files on your iPad and iPhone, but iBooks for Mac is still missing and publishers cannot submit PDF books to the iBookstore.
  • Geoffrey Goetz wants to know why you can control presentations on your Mac with Keynote Remote, but not presentations on your iPad.
  • Andy Boothe wants key rebindings for every feature in Mac OS X.
  • Chris Ryan wants consistent features across the iPod lineup — cameras from the nano, voice over and speech from the shuffle.

What Else?

I have probably only touched the surface of Apple products and features that have been languishing. What products or features do you want to see Apple update this year?

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