Griffin's Tech Blog
Peter Griffin on the tech universe

Valley e-diary (part 2)

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I'm in the Infinite Loop, the ring of buildings that make up the Cupertino, California headquarters of the company that has brought us the iMac, the iPhone, the iPod and iTunes.
It's an interesting time to visit Apple - the company is on a high after the phenomenal early success of the iPhone (one million sales and counting) and positive feedback to the more recent overhaul of its music player line-up, particularly the application of the iPhone's touch screen technology and Wi-fi networking to the iPod to create the iPod Touch.
The mood at Apple therefore is buoyant - notices scattered around the campus advertise a Friday night "beer bash" for all employees to celebrate the release of the new iPod line-up.
Young, casually-dressed employees enjoy a late lunch in the well-stocked canteen, tapping away on silver Macbooks as they eat. You can almost catch the scent of a company on a feverish roll, brimming with anticipation for what's yet to come.
We may gain a glimpse of what's next on Tuesday (US time), when Apple has scheduled yet another of its mysterious press conferences.
Speculation suggests it will announce the European launch of the iPhone and name a pan-European network partner - all signs point to that being Telefonica-owned mobile operator O2.
The Apple campus is a lot like Apple's products - stylish, minimalist and designed with a very particular philosophy in mind.
Some would see it as slightly sterile, especially when you compare it to the likes of Google, which has a chaotic, university campus feel to its Mountain View headquarters (I'll write about that fascinating visit in the next installment).

But Apple certainly seems to offer a pleasant working environment. The main buildings look down over a lush green commons area where rock bands regularly come to play for the staff.
Steve Jobs' office overlooks the same green - Apple's CEO isn't on the premises the day we visit. But his spirit certainly lingers.
We don't get to see much of the place - Apple values its privacy, but we are shown the Grammy and three Emmy awards Apple has won for its technology.
Later in the Apple company store, I check out the new rectangular iPod Nano, the iPhone, the 160GB iPod Classic and the biggest range of Apple software I've ever seen assembled in one place.
Unfortunately the iPod Touch, with Wi-fi and the iPhone's touch screen technology built-in, isn't on sale in the company store yet. So I depart with just an Apple t-shirt.
My travel companions are more adventurous - and well-heeled. They leave with numerous iPhones, a couple of Mac Minis an, Apple TV unit and a pile of software.
Later, out of interest, we pop into a public Apple store near Stanford University. It's 7pm on a Saturday night, but the store is packed.
A woman leaning over an entry-level Macbook orders one in white and one in black. A family snaps up several iPod Nanos. We enquire about getting an iPod Touch but are told they sell out as quickly as they arrive.
Being close to the Apple mothership and spending time in Silicon Valley brings home just how pervasive the Apple culture has become. It's a way of life for a growing number of people.
If you buy into that way of life, literally, you're signaling your desire to simplify the clutter of technology in your life, seeking a better way of organising your digital content.
That's how Apple-converts see it anyway and I'm chastised by some of them when I'm found later browsing the aisles of HP and Dell laptops at the Fry's Electrical store in Palo Alto.
I'm a PC fan from way back, but the mix of hardware and software offered by Apple is looking increasingly attractive. Just about all the advantages of the PC have been eroded - better pricing, range of software and processing power.
The iPhone and iPod Touch make the story even more powerful. If Apple has given the PC makers a run for their money in the past, it now has them well and truly on the run. How will the empire strike back and will it do so quickly enough to avoid losing consumer PC users in droves?

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