Apple Matters Interview: Peter Rojas
It’s pretty fair to say that if something has been released in the technology world is has come across Peter Rojas’s desk. As the editor of one of the most popular blogs on the web with a monthly readership of over 4 million, Engadget.com, he sees it all. We caught up with Peter recently after he returned from a blogging marathon at CES to get his thoughts on the Apple TV, and (of course), on the iPhone. Apart from being the editor-in-chief at Engadget, Peter is also the Chief Strategy Officer for Weblogs, Inc, the worlds largest blog network.
Hadley Stern: Starting off on the Apple TV, it seems like there is this funny thing going on where you have Blu-ray, etc on one end, and people watching movies on their iPod on the other….do you think the Apple TV will be high-resolution enough for all those people with flat panels now?
Peter Rojas: Good question, so I think it’s not going to satisfy anyone who wants a proper HD experience. You’ll want either HD DVD or Blu-ray, but I think Apple TV is about one piece of the puzzle. It’s about getting some online content from the computer to the TV and it’s just a matter of how much people want to to watch downloads of The Office on their big screen rather than their PC or iPod. I think it addresses a problem not many people feel like they have right now.
Hadley Stern: This is the part of the product I don’t get, it seems like people are willing to sacrifice some audio quality when they buy music from iTunes, but it doesn’t seem like it would translate to DVD content, I guess the market will answer! So, if it isn’t resolution, what gets you excited about Apple TV?
Peter Rojas: To be honest, I’m not very excited about it, there have been boxes for streaming content for years now and there are boxes that support far more codecs and standards than Apple TV. Having a box that supports DivX is a way better option for me personally since that’s the prevailing standard for BitTorrent TV shows
Hadley Stern: Onto the iPhone. You’ve obviously seen probably every mobile device out there or close to it, is this the quantum leap, the revolution that Steve Jobs would have us believe?
Peter Rojas: Yes and no. The iPhone is most definitely a much-needed fresh take on what a phone can and should be especially in terms of the user interface. But the iPhone doesn’t do anything that new, it just does old things in new ways and that’s what is exciting. It does fall short in some interesting ways. No 3G is odd especially since they’re pushing it as having a rich web experience—any way you slice it, EDGE is too slow for that and WiFi is not ubiquitous. I’d kill for it to have a proper QWERTY thumb board since typing on a touch screen isn’t the same and I know since I’ve tried it on other devices like the Nokia N800.
Hadley Stern: In many ways I think the story here is less about a phone, but more about the fact that is a video iPod that is a cellphone too.
Peter Rojas: Yeah, I think it’s also interesting as a web tablet, and not just as a cellphone, I wish that they’d offer a cell radio-free version or a cell version with a keyboard for power users…they could have the keyboard slide out to the side like the Cingular 8125. It wouldn’t take away from the form factor at all. So I could see this as a new platform—a new mobile OS for Apple and a new iPod with 100GB and WiFi that uses this.
Hadley Stern: The Mac has, give or take, 5 percent of market share, the iPod, something like 60 percent. Steve Jobs said his target was 1 percent of the iPhone in 2007, do you see the iPhone being a 10 percent player in the five years? 20 percent?
Peter Rojas: Well, the phone market is really tough, there are already five very strong competitors globally not to mention smaller players like RIM and Palm and local players in Asia. Unless they offer a bunch of very affordable, lower-end models that are available on multiple carriers it’d be hard to get 10% or 20%. Most phones sold are very inexpensive, low-end phones.
Hadley Stern: Was a lot of attention at CES paid to the iPhone, or was it just background noise?
Peter Rojas: It was definitely a hot topic, for sure
Hadley Stern: What was the first Apple product you owned?
Peter Rojas: I had a Powerbook 160, got it back in 1992 I think.
Hadley Stern: Are you a Mac user now? Is it your primary machine?
Peter Rojas: I use both Mac and PC but I’ve been tending towards PC lately for a variety of reasons but I like and use both and Ubuntu, too! I just love technology and gadgets.
Hadley Stern: I suppose, in your job, a love of tech and gadgets is required, as well as an open mind.
Peter Rojas: Yeah, I think it’s healthy to see the good and bad in any new device.
Hadley Stern: Now that the iPhone is out what is it you would most like to see Apple do next?
Peter Rojas: That’s easy: I want to see that ultralight 12-inch MacBook Pro there have been rumors about. I have an ultralight Dell PC that I love, but that is getting on in years and I’d love to get something super light and small with great battery life.
Hadley Stern: Given all the technology that comes across your desk, do you think Apple makes things that much better than anyone else?
Peter Rojas: I think that they pay more attention to little details than most other companies, but there are a lot of companies doing great work that never get the spotlight…that’s the biggest thing in Apple’s favor. There too many manufacturers who just rush stuff out and think they can get away with products that are sub-standard or just not that well thought out.
Hadley Stern: In running Engadget is there ever a tension concerning covering Apple too much, or can readers simply not get enough?
Peter Rojas: Good question. So at Engadget we cover as much stuff as we find interesting when Apple launches a new product or products we cover it and we cover it a lot because there is a lot of interest but we also cover every other gadget, big or small, that we find interesting. so I never worry too much about our amount of coverage since it’s just what we’re personally interested in writing about. If the CEO of Sony did keynotes to announce products every three months or so we’d be there, too
Hadley Stern: You must come across some hard-core technology lovers in your audience. Yet, there isn’t really any such thing as the “Sony web” or the “Nokia web” but there is this thing called the mac web, with sites like Apple Matters, TUAW and countless others. Is there any equal in the tech market for the passion of Apple users?
Peter Rojas: There are enthusiast sites that cover other brands, but none have the following of Apple, that’s for sure.
Hadley Stern: Does Apple Matter?
Peter Rojas: Well, if they don’t matter, it’d be hard to find a company that does even if you hate Apple, you can’t ignore them. Which is sort of the most important thing about the iPhone even if you don’t buy one it will force everyone else to make better phones so it will affect people who would never buy one.