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Time to Retire That Operating System?

This writer's name is Mark Cuban. In addition to owning the Dallas Mavericks, he runs a bunch of high-definition TV channels. And he says the flag can only help those enterprises:

"They all would benefit because we wouldn't use the broadcast flag. While the big networks would create confusion and anger with their customers, our businesses could be the knight in shining armour and provide content in exactly the means consumers want it, unencumbered and available to watch, where and how they like."

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Losing Our Grip on Handhelds

Sony, which stopped selling its Clie line of Palm OS handheld organizers in the United States last June, surprised absolutely nobody by pulling the plug on the Clie in Japan as well last week.

A lot of industry analysts expect that all the tasks we once did with handhelds will migrate to smartphones such as PalmOne's much-coveted Treo 650. (Read my Treo review here.) In theory, I agree completely -- why carry two devices when one can do it all? But I think these forecasts overlook one thing: Are we sure we want to let a phone company control what technology we can carry around?

It's a rare week in which I don't get at least one complaint from somebody who wants to get a Treo 650 (or some other talked-about smartphone -- such as the Sidekick II (Read my Sidekick review here.) -- but can't without dumping his or her cell phone carrier. Then there are the complaints from people who find that vital features on their smartphone are turned off or not supported by their carrier for no apparent reason. (Here's a column I wrote about that in October.)

If smartphones really are going to banish handhelds from the face of the earth, this cannot continue.

Mac Mail Options

Two, no, three weeks ago, I'd planned to talk about e-mail programs in Mac OS X beyond the two I reviewed in my comparison of the Eudora and Thunderbird mail programs.

First, there's the Mail program built into OS X. This is my own e-mail client of choice on a Mac. It's similar to Thunderbird in some ways (great IMAP support, incomplete POP capability), but provides far, far better contacts management, since it ties right into the Address Book component of OS X itself.

Mail, however, is also way too slow at opening large mailboxes, and its search feature is minimal. Apple says it plans a major upgrade to Mail in this summer's update to Mac OS X; this release, it says, will run much faster and let you save custom searches as "Smart Mailboxes." Read the Apple propaganda.

The other e-mail contender is Microsoft's Entourage, part of its Office 2004 suite for Mac OS X. In my review of this version of Office, I described Entourage as being "absurdly simpler than Outlook" while offering all the Outlook features one might actually use at home. But I also raised some other complaints: "Unfortunately, Entourage still doesn't tie into Mac OS X's system-wide Address Book database. And its Palm synchronization doesn't support the upgraded contacts and calendar programs on newer Palm handhelds."

Oops

The mistake I made in my review of Apple's iPhoto, in retrospect, is so stupid I almost have to laugh -- when I'm not pounding my head on the desk in frustration.

Not only did I get an easily verified fact wrong (whether you can password-protect a photo album uploaded from iPhoto to Apple's .Mac Web site), I got this fact wrong about a program and a service that I use all the time. I compounded my error by harping on it for most of a paragraph. Then I needled Apple at the end of the column for letting quality slide. And in last week's newsletter I complained in advance about being nit-picked by Mac loyalists.

Sigh. Well, karma will bite you in the rear every time ...

-- Rob Pegoraro (rob@twp.com)


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