My recent review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet stirred up a dreary and inevitable round of OS advocacy and such, with both Apple and Android lovers baying like wounded members of persecuted religious minorities, arguing about which OS is most worthy of our love and devotion.
For me, no love or devotion is due to an operating system or a gadget.
I’m enough of an old technology hand to know that any love we harbour for our gadgets is unrequited and generally tragic – not least because you are not destined to have a long-term love-affair with your gizmos, as they will be semi-obsolete in a year or two.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that some devices, apps and systems can work well – that is, they can make it easier to do something that was hard, or possible to do something that was impossible. That’s why we all use this stuff. But I think that how well a system works is only half the picture: the other half is how badly it fails.
Because technology fails all the time. Networked, general-purpose computing devices have so many different failure modes that they can hardly be counted. Your phone or tablet can have problems coping with something as abstract as bad Maximum Transmission Unit sizes in its network connection, or as concrete as being dropped and trodden on by your toddler.
A program that runs flawlessly one day can be derailed by another program, or an OS update, or a mysterious configuration problem – hence the old “Rename your preferences folder and restart” diagnostic procedure.
The general state of technology is to be broken; which is not so different from other complex systems, like technology’s users. You might have lost a pre-beach holiday stone thanks to diet and exercise, only to get a spot on your cheek, bad traffic on the way to the airport, a row with your spouse, and a jammed knuckle from your suitcase handle. Human beings who can soldier on and stay happy and functional in the face of adversity are said to be “resilient,” which means that they fail well.
After all, it’s no good being the world’s happiest, best-adjusted, nicest person if you fall to pieces the minute you get a paper-cut. And that goes double for interpersonal systems: any couple can be happy when everything is going right, but no marriage can survive unless both of its participants are capable of soldiering on when things are going pear-shaped.
I don’t use Android tablets and phones because I hate Apple; I most certainly don’t use them because I love Google. And I don’t prefer Android to iOS because it works better than Apple — in some aspects, it does, in some aspects it doesn’t.
I use Android because I don’t trust Google. Sure, I trust and like individual googlers, and admire many of the things the company has managed – but I don’t for one moment think that Google’s management is making its decisions in order to make me happy, fulfilled and free.
I think there are good days when Google’s management might believe that helping me attain those ends will make it more money, but if it were to believe that making me miserable would enrich its shareholders without alienating too many of its key personnel and partners, my happiness would cease to matter in the slightest.
So why use Android? Because it requires less trust in Google than using iOS requires that you trust Apple. iOS has one official store, and it’s illegal in most places to buy and install apps except through this store. If you and Apple differ about which apps you need, you have to break the law to get your iPhone or iPad to run the app that Apple rejected.
Jailbroken iOS devices have sometimes been targeted by Apple security updates that render them inoperable, and jailbreakers have a reputation for not keeping their devices up-to-date.
By contrast, Android allows you to run apps from any store you choose. Google still rejects plenty of apps submitted to its store, but if you don’t like Google’s choices, you can decide to make some of your own.
That’s failing well.
More of the internal workings of iOS are secret than their equivalent workings in the Android world. Apple’s operating system runs more DRM processes that are intended to allow code to run that treats you as an untrusted adversary and refuses to accept your commands. Not least, Apple has to run all those processes aimed at stopping you from choosing to use an app that Apple hasn’t blessed (and collected its 30% commission on).
I prefer Android because it’s relative openness means more people can and do inspect its workings to ensure it is doing what Google claims it is doing. I prefer Android because when Google decides to leave out a feature that users might want – such as tethering – the people making alternative OSes for the platform stick that feature in, and shame Google into adding it in subsequent versions.
My mobile phone can track where I go. It can record my voice and image, and the voices and images of those around me. It can leak email, voicemail, texts, and passwords. In the time since I’ve gotten a mobile phone, each passing year has meant that I rely on my phone for more things, and I don’t expect that will change.
Android and iOS will both fail their users in the years to come. Not a lot, but often enough, and dramatically enough, that it’s worth ensuring that those failures are as minimal as possible.
I’d like an official Android version without the DRM, with complete source code, and with generally greater transparency into the device and its ecosystem. I like the alternative Android OS, CyanogenMod, because it has many of those things. Functionally, a CyanogenMod Android phone and a stock Android phone work in much the same way, but CyanogenMod phones fail better.
Our relationship to technology is this: We’ve jammed ourselves into the cockpits of supersonic jets that are being constantly redesigned as they hurtle around the planet, in dangerously close proximity to everyone else’s supersonic jet. It’s good to pay attention to how fast our jets go, and how comfortable the upholstery is, but the thing we really need to keep our eyes on is what happens when they crack up, when their navigation systems go awry, and when they get a bad upgrade.
When you’re moving that fast, with that much at stake, failure is much more important than success.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
The invite alone sent pundits into a wild tail spin when it was sent out last Wednesday. From 6pm UK time, Apple will fully reveal the impetus behind the peeking lion.
A look at Mac OS X 10.7? Possibly – we’ve heard it from reputable sources – but then it could be a little premature. At the very least, we’re expecting a peek at Apple’s forthcoming operating system.
Apple’s big number is to be a new MacBook Air, so says the received wisdom. (And this MacBook Air-related discussion on Apple.com.)
Stay with us as we liveblog what’s going down in Cupertino. In the meantime, let the perennial question linger: What Will Apple Announce? Join in below.
5.45pm: Some light reading. Silicon Alley Insider has pinned its flag to the mast with 10 things we can expect from Apple today. They’d love the click-throughs, so go have a gander, but here’s the top five:
1. A refresh for the MacBook Air – 11-inch and 13-inch screens, longer batter, faster boot time and a lower price tag.
2. Mac OS X 10.7
3. The next desktop OS could be more like iOS
4. An improvement to Mac Mail
5. A refresh for iLife
6.03pm: The store is being updated; soft jazz waves over the Cupertino auditorium. All is well in Apple world.
A reminder: you can stream video of the conference to your Apple device, though here’s the rules:
"Apple will broadcast its October 20 event online using Apple’s industry-leading HTTP Live Streaming, which is based on open standards. Viewing requires either a Mac® running Safari® on Mac OS® X version 10.6 Snow Leopard®, an iPhone® or iPod touch® running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad™."
(Is anyone else’s iPad showing just a black rectangle where streaming should be?)
6.06pm: We’re kicking off with some figures about the state of the Mac. There are currently 600,000 Mac developers, growing at a rate of 30,000 a month.
The US market share of the Mac is 20.7% and the machine makes up 33% of Apple’s revenue. 13.7m Macs sold in the 2010 financial year, bringing its revenue to bn.
6.12pm: Steve Jobs on iLife: "[iLife is] widely regarded as the best suite of digital lifestyle apps in the world. You can’t do this on any other computer. We improve it every year or two, coming out with a new version.
Announces iLife 11. A refresh for iPhoto – you can now live screen – and enhancements with Facebook, making it easier to share photos, as well as added slideshows.
6.14pm: Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Apple, on iPhoto update: "You see pushpins on the map from every place I took photos. I can hover my mouse over any pin, I can click on it to go right to my photos, or I can say ’show photos’ and that’s every photo from around that place."
6.18pm: New iPhoto also pulls in images from Flickr, and adds ability to share via email from inside the application. "This is kind of interesting," says Schiller. "It auto-arranges your photos, you know, naturally."
6.22pm: Schiller on iPhoto-Facebook integration: "Here you can see friends on Facebook and what they responded back after I posted it. So that’s sharing photos. Well what if I want to create one of these new books?"
And iPhoto takes on-board the iBooks bookshelf display of photo albums.
6.26pm: Ah, here we are – an iMovie 11 update:
• New audio editing
• One step effects
• People finder
• News and sports themes
• Movie trailers
Randy Ubillos, chief architect of video applications at Apple, takes to the stage.
6.31pm: iMovie 11 will include a realtime preview of audio effects when editing, and you can now select segments of audio, ‘effect macros’ – grouping a number of edits to apply all at once, 15 movie trailers – get a trailer outline sheet to fill in requirements and, hey presto, a home movie is born.
6.35pm: iMovie 11 also allows you to adjust frames-per-second speed and use face detection and close-up technology. Pretty smooth.
6.41pm: Jobs announces Garageband 11: "It has some great new features to help you fix timing in your music, something called flextime, more effects, and new piano and guitar lessons."
Xander Soren, product marketing head at Apple, is next up to walk us (slowly) through the new Garageband. Apparently it’s for bands that can’t play (automatic groove correction): "It’s like an automatic spell checker for bad rhythm."
6.47pm: Flextime for Garageband allows the dragging of waveform lengths, making notes longer or shorter.
New built-in Lessons, doing what it says on the tin – and keeping a record of your past lessons, if you so wish.
6.51pm: So that’s iLife 11, available today – to upgrade your Mac.
Next: FaceTime. Jobs: "The number one request we’ve gotten is, can we please do FaceTime calling with these devices and the Mac? We’re introducing FaceTime for the Mac today."
6.53pm: Mr Schiller is back, sort of. "We’re really excited by this," says Jobs. "So let me give you a demo. On my Mac here we have our FaceTime logo. I double click on it. I go to favorites and here’s Phil Schiller. Hey Phil!"
Released in beta today.
(Oh, and there’s no UK price yet for iLife 11 – the UK store is still down.)
6.54pm: The next Mac OS X will be called Lion!
6.55pm: Jobs: "What is the philosophy about Lion? That’s where Back to the Mac comes from. We started with OS X and we created a new version called iOS – it’s now used in the iPad as well. We’re inspired by some of those innovations. And we want to bring them back to the mac. Mac OS X meets the iPad."
6.58pm: Jobs: "So what have we learned and become inspired by on the iPad? Multitouch gestures… the App Store… why not the Mac too?
"[...]Apps on the iPad auto save, you don’t have to bother saving your data. And when you launch apps, they auto resume… that’d be great on the Mac too. We want to bring some of this stuff back to the Mac."
This from Charles Arthur: "argh! The App Store for the Mac! Terrified some people in April, but multi-touch could be cool. Interesting about multi-touch on computers – nobody thought it could work on vertical surfaces."
7.02pm: Seven billion downloads from the app store so far, Mac OS X Lion will have an app store.
Jobs: "So there’s one other thing we’d like to show you today. We have these four cool things we do in OS X. Expose, Dashboard, full screen apps, and spaces…"
"This is great, but as we’ve added fullscreen apps, you know we have four of these things. Wouldn’t it be great to unify these? And we’ve done that in something we call mission control."
7.07pm: (Charles Arthur taking over..) There are some odd glitches, so if this is behind then it’s because it’s jumped back to catch up on streaming. Onward!
7.08pm: Craig Federeighi, who looks like one of the Winklevoss twins from The Social Network, is demoing "LaunchPad" (basically, folders without having to have folders) and now "Mission Control". Let’s hope this isn’t Apollo 13.
It’s a sort of Exposé that might work wonderfully on a giant screen with a superfast machine. Less sure how it will go on a laptop with a 12" screen. They should really demo them on that. But that wouldn’t be awesome waiting for the CPU to grind through, would it?
7.09pm: First thoughts on the App Store for the Mac: lots of developers are going to KILL AND BRIBE to get their apps into prominent places. It’s going to murder sites which let people download stuff.
Then again, it’s on 10.7, but given that Apple users upgrade pretty fast, that’s likely to be quite fast.
Plan is to release Lion "Summer 2011". Much more that could be shown but which he hasn’t yet. Saving it up for… when?
7.11pm: Oooh hang on – Mac App Store going to open within 90 days, will work on Snow Leopard, devs can go there to find out today, and accept submissions from November.
7.12pm: Jobs reiterating that Mac is a third of revenue (but how much of profit?), consumer retail market share in the US has topped 20.7% (how on earth is that measured???), bn business.
"iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband "even cooler things", FaceTime on Mac so the tens of millions of Mac users can FaceTime with mobile devices, and Lion coming this summer."
7.13pm: "So these are the things we wanted to share with you today… but there is… one more thing."
7.14pm: "We talked about this virtuous circle, where OS X inspires.. brings some of that back to Mac OSX… but just like that philosophy has benefit in our software, it can also have benefit in our hardware.. what if a MacBook met an iPad?"
7.14pm: "iPad has instant-on, great battery life, amazing standby time, solid state storage, no optical or hard drives, and it’s thinner and lighter. These are some great things for notebooks. So we asked ourselves what if an iPad and a MacBook hooked up?" Weird machinima dreams.
7.15pm: "It’s our new MacBook Air and we think it’s the future of notebooks. It’s like nothing we’ve ever created before." I dunno, looks like a laptop to me.
Bevelled keyboard downwards. O.68" thick down to 0.11" at thinnest at the front, weighs 2.9lb.
7.16pm: Aluminium unibody construction – don’t tell the Hungarians – with a glass trackpad.
13" LED, 1440×900. More than on the 15" MacBook Pro. Core2Duo "fast for this class of machine" (huh?), NVidia GeForce 320m GPU.
7.17pm: No optical drive, no hard drive. It’s Flash storage. Why? "Because we know the benefits from the iPad. Up to 2x faster than hard drives. More reliable especially in a mobile environment. And 90% smaller and lighter."
(OK, so now show off 10.7 running on that. See how your big screen works there.)
"Silent… battery life: wireless web 7hrs, standby 30 days." (Wow, they should use it for phone calls.)
"PC industry battery test sometimes don’t reflect real-world results. We’re moving to more stringent tests." (Which will favour us?)
7.19pm: Old Macbook Air only got 5 hours, this is now 7.
Now dissecting it. Oh, there are wires flying everywhere. Oh, the robotocity.
Actually not. Basically lots of battery storage. Four big chunks of it. SSD is a tiny thing. Without the battery it would be a single board. "We’ve taken everything we learned about miniaturisation from the iPod and applied it to the Mac."
But it has a younger brother too…
7.21pm: weird – 11.6", 2.3lbs younger brother MacBook Air – is this the netbook everyone talked of? Not quite since that’s a bigger screen. 1366×768 pixels, more than the MacBook Pro at present.
5 hours of wireless, 30 days of standby.
Now doing prices…
7.22pm: "We think all notebooks will be like this one day."
9 for the 11.6" model with 64GB; 99 gets 128GB.
13.3" 128GB costs 99; 256GB .. missed it.
(Jobs is breathing a bit heavily, occasionally; sounding out of breath. A reminder that he’s been very ill, once.)
7.24pm: Both available from today. 2GB of RAM.
Intriguing question is: while it’s pretty much indisputable that in time laptops will only have Flash storage, is it definite that they won’t have optical discs? Is it all going to move to the cloud?
Of course this is the classic "computer as appliance" approach – it will be interesting to see if you can change the hard drive, expand the RAM. You’d need to but it’s tricky on the existing MBAs.
7.29pm: Playing one of those self-congratulatory videos about the new MBAir. Music by Elbow ("Beautiful Day"), so there you go – two successful British exports: Jonathan Ive and the lads from oop north. (How much money have they made from licensing that song?)
Questions unanswered: is Apple going to move to some sort of cloud-based products so that not having an optical drive won’t be a problem?
7.30pm: Winding up – those who made the plane ride will get to fondle the machines. "Thanks very much." Jobs is done. Music a la Mad Men pipes in.
7.31pm: So there we go.
What do we think?
• iLife – that was fairly easy to predict. Plus Phil Schiller demonstrating it: I was worried for a moment that I might live an entire year without hearing Phil Schiller say "Now this new iPhoto feature is really cool, if I just click here…"
• FaceTime for Mac – there was a lot of demand, and the fact it used Wi-Fi to work must have made it relatively easy to do. That’s going to drive a lot of use, though.
• "Lion" 10.7: the App Store for Mac is a bomb let off in a room of crowded developers, and it’s going to galvanise them. For some it’s going to be the making of them; the problem for Mac devs has always been the problem of discovery. Of course as it gets big, it’s still going to be a problem. But you could also see Apple working some sort of social element into it – "people who bought this also bought this", a la Ping (remember Ping?) – to make it very powerful.
That won’t obviate the existing method of downloading and installing, of course. It’s not going to be locked down. This is just an easier way of getting there – there’s already an existing form on Apple’s site, under "recommended software".
• MacBook Air only with solid state storage: the 64GB model seems a bit tight, but don’t forget that prices are roughly halving every year. If you buy a notebook in 12 months’ time, you should consider getting SSD in it, because for a notebook of any age, the SSD won’t cost that much more.
• no optical drives in any future laptops? It’s an intriguing idea. It may be that as we move to the cloud, that’s really where it does go. But that implies that your iTunes library (say) can’t live on your computer.. or maybe it can, because you’re only renting the video on your Apple TV, and your SSD drive is doubling in size every year.
The cloud question seems to me the one that, if Apple can crack it, will finally sort the whole question out. If you can get your documents, and songs, and anything else, pushed into the cloud so that you know they’re there, you won’t care that your computer is an appliance – you’ll just use it. That’s what Google is doing with Chrome, after all.
So: anyone buying a new MacBook Air? Ordering iLife 11? Gagging for 10.7? Do tell.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
When it comes to getting yourself better organised at work, there has never been such a wealth of tools and gadgets promising to ease the path of personal productivity, from list-making apps for iPhones to integrated task management systems. The need for some kind of shortcut through overflowing inboxes and overloaded voicemail is obvious. But, rather than helping, could piling more technology on to the problems caused by technology simply add a new layer of complexity or, worse, create even more ways to procrastinate?
Dave Murphy is chief executive of the Cambridge Arts Theatre and started to look into productivity systems as a way to deal with his frustration at the amount of things that were coming at him each day. “In the theatre that can range from a customer complaint to a visit from a master of one of the Cambridge colleges, or a play producer, or an actor wanting to talk to you. It’s very difficult to organise that into some coherent workflow. When you combine that with hundreds of emails and phone calls then actually making some sense of the world is very important,” he says.
Although he confesses that he would love an iPad, his solution is about as low-tech as it gets: “When a thought comes into your head, writing it down on a 3×5 index card and putting it in your briefcase is brutally effective. I can be in a rehearsal room or walking to a show and I’ve still got a basic means of capturing my ideas and worries and getting them together. Whereas whipping out an iPad in the middle of a show at the National Theatre actually doesn’t work.”
Murphy’s colleague Ollie Jordan, development assistant at the theatre, agrees. “We all work all over the place and the action of typing something into an iPhone or a laptop requires getting whatever it is out, getting it turned on, getting to the right application, getting to the right screen and all the time you can get distracted along the way.”
At the other end of the spectrum is Lee Warren, a London-based magician who does sleight-of-hand tricks at weddings and corporate events, and had a beta version of the “personal task manager” software OmniFocus on his iPhone within seven minutes of it becoming available online. “I get booked by getting a phone call or an email asking for my availability on a date and so I have to get back to them and then process a certain amount of paperwork, a contract and invoice and, of course, as a self-employed person, keep on top of the whole accounting side. The system I use has made all that automatic,” he says. “I get back to most people within an hour and do the paperwork within a matter of minutes. Before, I’d have a full inbox and a full answerphone message box and it could take me days to get back to people.”
Despite the differences in approach, what Murphy, Jordan and Warren have in common is a “trusted system” they rely on, whether they use technology to run it or not. They are all converts to Getting Things Done (GTD), an international bestselling book and methodology by time management guru David Allen.
It is simple but, its adherents say, devastatingly effective. At its core is a process of capture, organise, do, review. “Capture” is crucial and works on the principle that getting everything out of your head and “parked” somewhere you can track it leaves your brain free to get things done rather than being overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done. A full “mind sweep” encompasses everything from “I must write that report” to the niggling feeling that the car is due for a service soon. Done properly, a full sweep of work and home “open loops” could take a day or more. After that, whenever an idea occurs, it gets noted down immediately.
Once captured, the method for dealing with all this “stuff” is again simple. If it’s going to take less than two minutes, you do it straight away. If not, you add it to a to-do list by writing the very next physical action you will need to do to move the situation forward. The to-do lists are organised by project (broken down into “next actions” so they seem less daunting) and by context (actions listed according to where you do them – on the phone or errands, for example), and then a weekly review process ensures that all newly captured stuff is processed, and everything is prioritised and kept moving.
Matthew Isom, senior policy executive at the British Medical Association, became an enthusiast of GTD after reading an article about it in this paper a few years ago. “It was the trigger for me getting in control,” he says. “Things didn’t fall off deadlines, I was able to complete projects to time, I was responding in a timely way to queries. It has changed the way I work and therefore the perception of me from other people who work with me, including managers.”
Isom set up his Lotus Notes email account to organise his work along GTD lines, while Kevin Eyres, LinkedIn’s European managing director, uses Outlook: “It has to be something that I will use every single day and is shareable. For me that’s Outlook. It’s the definitive place I put everything.”
For the “capture” stage, pen and paper is most practical, yet GTD apps abound. Are they necessary?
“Quite frankly, all you really need are lists,” Allen says. “You can do all this with 3×5 cards or a loose-leaf planner. That’s probably the most effective list manager you can have because it’s easy, you can see lists in context to each other, it keeps it in front of your face. It’s physical, it’s visible, it’s tangible.”
Allen’s clients have ranged from the American Red Cross to the US Navy but he has also trained teams in GTD at many of the top Silicon Valley companies, including Google. He definitely sees a role for technological tools in his system – but only if form follows function.
“If I was coaching you, I would ask what are you using and what do you want to use – if you need to keep a list of people to call, where would you like to have that? If you want it on your iPhone then you may want a little programme that transfers it to your iPhone so that when you are out and about you can look at it and see your list, so you’ll want a Mac application that was built on the GTD model, such as OmniFocus or Things. But if you like the touch and feel of paper then get a loose-leaf notebook,” Allen says.
“Just pick something and start working it,” he urges. “The main thing is that if you let your indecision about the tool prevent you from getting stuff out of your head and deciding your next actions and having a complete project list, then you’re just avoiding your life.”
It is also a fine line between indecision and obsessing over tools for the fun of it. Cross that line and you get into what is known on the web as productivity porn. GTD is big online, with entire forums devoted to the minutiae of how to implement it, from the right kind of notebook (Moleskines are popular), to the best way to tweak Googlemail to make it more GTD-friendly. Is this merely procrastinating about productivity? Merlin Mann, creator of productivity blog 43Folders, and author of Inbox Zero, believes so.
“Joining a Facebook group about personal productivity is like buying a chair about jogging,” says Mann, who had a personal epiphany when he realised that his work had become “less about finishing the tasks that mean a lot to me and more about an almost talmudic debate about how to think about those tasks”. He switched focus to emphasise the need to “make and do” as well as talk when it comes to productivity, arguing that tools matter but only once you have developed the expertise; before you get the expertise they can be nothing more than a distraction.
As he puts it: “Will an iPhone productivity app make you more productive? It will make you more productive if you’re in a position to become more productive. But better running shoes are not going to make you a faster runner if you’ve never run before – they are just going to make you a fat man with running shoes.”
Taking an even more radical approach is Leo Babauta, blogger and author at Zenhabits.net. He describes looking for the perfect productivity system as the equivalent of falling down a rabbit hole.
“I simplify the amount of things that I do and the amount of things that I focus on and then I really don’t need that complicated a system. If I say that I’m going to focus on three really important things today I can use an index card for my entire productivity system by just writing down those three things on it. Or I might decide that I’m just going to focus on one thing right now I can write down on a little slip of paper as a reminder.”
Babauta’s pared-down approach is unlikely to become a “trusted system” for most people but there certainly seems to be general agreement that tools alone do not productivity make and, at some point, effectiveness needs to take over from efficiency.
“It may be very efficient to put in a particular task into your system but what really matters is whether you do the task or not,” says Murphy.
Mann agrees. “Until you have developed the mental or emotional muscles to power through this stuff, there is not a tool in the world that is going to help you out. If you’re a runner, put your shoes on, go out and run. Don’t sit there reading about lacing patterns and stopwatches. If you’re a writer, write. Don’t play with apps, write.”
Five of the best productivity tools
The to-do manager of choice for Mac-based GTDers, it’s designed to allow users to quickly capture thoughts then store, manage and process them into actionable to-do items. It’s not cheap, though, at .95 (£50).
Tool for scheduling meetings or calls with more than one other person. The free web-based app creates a simple poll and a link to email round so that everyone can mark up dates and/or times they’re available. After they vote, you can see which dates/times are the “winners”. The ad-free Premium Doodle costs a year.
Teux Deux teuxdeux.com
There are flashier list-making tools, but for minimalist design loveliness, the calendar-based Teux Deux beats them all. Online version is free, the iPhone app costs £1.79.
A tool that saves web pages to read offline. Works on Mac or PC but comes into its own with the iPhone: organise your time more effectively by downloading an unread article when you have Wi-Fi coverage, and reading it at a time when you haven’t. Basic version free, premium £2.99.
An online magic folder to transfer and sync files across computers. Works on PC, Mac and iPhone app. It is great for sharing non-sensitive data, such as project files, between two or more people, simply and efficiently. 2GB version free but more storage space costs extra.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Filed under: News
This article titled “Will Apple surpass Exxon to become the world’s biggest in market capitalisation?” was written by Charles Arthur, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 14th October 2010 21.09 Asia/Calcutta
If past trends are any guide, then some time in the next few months, Apple will become the largest company in the world by market capitalisation – passing the mighty Exxon corporation, which is presently valued at 1.2bn, compared to Apple’s 4.2bn. (Microsoft, since you ask, is valued at 9.3bn.)
Remember that market capitalisation isn’t about profit; it’s about the share price multiplied by the number of outstanding shares (which is how one reaches a valuation for Facebook, or any small company when venture capitalists buy a chunk; or for any publicly-listed company). It can be described as the market’s guess at the net present value of the total future profits of the company.
In the case of Exxon, it’s been a tough couple of years; its share price has drifted down. Meanwhile Apple, with the iPod, iPhone and most recently iPad, has been going from strength to strength. (Apple has even passed PetroChina, formerly the world’s biggest by market cap, presently worth about 2bn.)
How will we know when it’s happened? Well, Apple has 913.6m shares outstanding (issued); Exxon, 5.092bn. A quick bit of maths shows that when Apple’s share price reaches or exceeds 5.573 times that of Exxon, its valuation is also greater.
At present, it’s sitting just below the 5.0 mark – so the differential needs to grow by another 10%, though WolframAlpha suggests that that could happen by January, based on current trends. (The picture shows a “random walk” forecast based on the share prices’ previous movements.)
Exxon has of course come a long way down from its peak – in 2009 it touched about 0bn in market cap. But for Apple, it’s been an enormously long way back from 13 years ago, when it was valued at just bn in May 1997, “reflecting Apple’s loss of market share in an increasingly Windows-dominated world.”
How things change. Though of course for Apple if it does take on the mantle of the world’s most valuable company, there’s only one way to go subsequently.
And meanwhile we might wonder: if Exxon is falling, where is the new energy company – based on wind, solar, nuclear or something else – to replace it? When there’s a suitably big company that doesn’t rely on extracting fossil fuels for its revenue, we’ll know we’re in a new energy paradigm.
But for now, keep watch on that Apple/Exxon ratio. No doubt there will be some glasses raised in Cupertino if it hits 5.5. And with Apple due to announce quarterly results on Monday evening – during which it will announce how many more million iPads and iPhone 4s have been sold – it might be worth watching that ratio when the US markets open on Tuesday lunchtime.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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