The rumor mill has been churning again. But for a pleasant change of pace, we’re hearing about changes to Apple’s software instead of some leaked internal screen connector for a forthcoming iPhone 5S. If you are a feed subscriber, you’ve probably noticed there hasn’t been much writing happening here lately. Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about smart watches and Apple TV sets that seem imminent on odd numbered days, and anybody’s guess the rest of the time.
If you have an ear turned to the Apple news beat, it seems as though new hardware product launches are all anyone cares about. While actually, software is responsible for an overwhelming majority of our experience using Apple platforms. This fact has been deemphasized by the Apple community over the last few years as we rush to see the next new device for our pockets, and it’s about time software gets its share of the attention.
Honestly, what more can we expect out of Apple’s hardware in the short term? Are we really as excited about NFC chips and thumbprint technology as this guy (turn your speakers on) who almost lost his morning latte over the gyroscope? We’d all like to see improved battery life, but do we need a higher res camera? Photos already take up too much space on my phone. Does it really change your life if you can use your phone to pay for gas instead of your debit card?
Software is the real frontier on our new mobile platforms. Apple’s new hardware breakthroughs come on the order of decades, not years. Yes, I’m judging iPhone and iPad as a single line of innovation, because that’s how it really shakes out. Do the platforms serve different needs, yes, but they come from the same core ideas and design compromises. If you’re waiting for a watch to come change your life, you might as well buy Google Glass (is that supposed to be plural, I can never tell) and get it out of your system.
iPhone and iPad are becoming mature platforms, and as with the Macintosh we’re going to see the real advances come in the software. Feel free to keep linking to articles about some new leak from a parts vendor, and I will keep not clicking on them. My bet is on software to make the most meaningful developments to our technology for the next decade or two.
Two announcements in a short span of hours.
Sony announces the Playstation 4, a product with an established segment of consumer interest. However, they don’t show the product, details are scarce, and it’s not available for ages.
Google, announces a new high-res laptop with touchscreen, and in a departure from usual industry announcements, it’s available for order today! However, it’s an expensive machine with confusing hardware features, limited utility, and no reasonable expectation for a meaningful customer base.
Good tries though.
Our newest app just went live on the App Store. ColorView is a utility to let you quickly record colors using your iPhone camera.
Simple. Fun. There’s not much to say beyond that.
Unfortunately, you need to prepare to engage in some of the mess if you want to make a difference in the world. You have to let go of your control, become vulnerable to all sorts of circumstances that make you uncomfortable because you’re not sure what will happen next or what people will do to you or expect from you — yikes.
My awesome brother Ben, on getting messy and helping people.
Usage statistics are far from proportional to sales and activation statistics. iOS users use more WiFi, generate more web traffic, and even make Google more money than Android users. Even considering similar iOS and Android platform adoption.
Despite outperforming industry growth for more than 20 quarters, Macs still represent a tiny portion of the PC industry relative to the success of iOS. Yet anecdotally, easily more than half of the laptops I see being used “in the wild” are Macs. This would seem to suggest that Mac customers are using their computers far more than their Windows counterparts as well.
Apple is a leader in building devices that people use.
One of the coolest looking Kickstarter projects I’ve seen. Shaun Inman et al. are busting out six retro style games in six months. They’re definitely a capable team. Back ‘em up!
John Browett the new(ish) VP of Retail is out. Also, Scott Forstall will be out next year, and will be filling in as an advisor to Tim Cook in the meantime.
Let the speculation begin.
The developer of our dearly departed Tweetie is back with an awesome new game for iOS.
This is some crazy juggling like you’ve never seen before. (via Joshua Blankenship)
This is what Newsstand needs. Solid apps built by proven developers with good content.
Last Friday afternoon, while waiting for the UPS man to show himself, a number of first impressions were rolling in about the iPhone 5. Most common among these were comments about how lightweight it is. The weight is one of the first differences to notice, but the change was repeatedly overstated by people. While it is 20% lighter than its predecessor, it is far from feeling “hollow” as many exclaimed. It has an even weight distribution, and the heft is quite justified given the thinness and new materials.
What was more unexpected was the size of the Lightning connector. The marketing images don’t quite do justice to how small it is, and the size isn’t the end of the improvements. Plugging in my phone at the end of the day, usually in the dark, is no longer replete with fumbling and second guessing the orientation of the connector while snapping it in place. And snap it does! You couldn’t be more convinced that your cable is properly seated. There is some pain in no longer having a handful of extra cables lying around, but I’m doing fine with just one so far. I haven’t built up a decade worth of iPod accessories that I’m dependent on either, though this change will likely frustrate people who have.
The home button has a strong click that is very satisfying. And while I’m glad to have such a responsive button for handling so many important functions, many of my previous iPhone home buttons felt quite clicky initially as well. I’m wondering if it might be something that settles into a softer click over time. In general, the build quality is up to Apple’s usual standards, but unifying the steel frame and glass back from the iPhone 4 into one piece of aluminum certainly helps this phone feel that much more seamless. No one will miss the previous mesh speaker and microphone grills that are now bored directly into the casing, and the “chamfered” edges throw beautiful glints of light from time to time that really lend the phone a high level of polish.
As for the color, I’ve unintentionally been on an alternating pattern: white 3G, black 4, white 4S, and now, a black iPhone 5. The black bezel blends nicely with the screen when its dark or off, and having anticipated dealing with letterboxing for a while, it was surprising how quickly nearly all of my frequently used apps were updated. It certainly hasn’t been as painful of a transition as the switch to the Retina display. My wife got the white model. I had worried that the silver back would too strongly contrast against the white glass transceiver windows, but it is a very bright silver that blends surprisingly well. Also, the back of the white model looks like it will hide scratches better than the black one, but both make for sharp looking phones.
During the iPhone 5 announcement, the slides detailing battery life were a bit of a disappointment. Not that the numbers are poor, but the hope was for a good increase over the 4S. As of the start of the iOS 6 betas, battery life was getting more painful on the 4S. About once a week my phone would die or need to be plugged in before its usual charging time at the end of the day, and it was often a conscious effort to stay on top of preserving power. Despite the quoted numbers the iPhone 5′s charge has been lasting longer in a normal day than its predecessor. I left work every day this week with a charge of at least 80%, and it has reported above 50% almost every night before plugging it in. Maybe the difference is in comparing a brand new battery to the one in a year old 4S. However, thinking back, this level of battery life still outweighs my experience with the 4S when it was new.
The first week wasn’t without a bout of poor battery performance however. Leaving work Thursday with 80% charge remaining, I went with some coworkers to watch the UW Huskies beat Stanford. After the hour and a half car ride through Seattle traffic during which I was steadily browsing, networking, and reading (I was a passenger), my battery had already dropped to 55%. It didn’t fair any better once we got to the stadium either. By 10:30, charge was in the single digits, and I stopped using the phone altogether except for responding to incoming messages. The main difference between this and the rest of the nights this week was a prolonged lack of WiFi access, which leads me to guess that the thorn in the side of the iPhone battery is our new friend LTE.
AT&T brought LTE to Seattle within the space of two or three days prior to the iPhone 5 launch. It wasn’t something I was banking on when I ordered my phone, but it was a pleasant surprise when it rolled out. It will take some time before LTE’s effect on battery life is predictable, but it appears that what is lost in battery life is gained in speed. Apple wasn’t joking around in comparing LTE to WiFi speeds. At my home, where I’m typically stuck with 2/5 bars of signal, I was getting between 10 and 15 Mbits/second download bandwidth. Which prior to upgrading to FiOS recently, was faster than any home broadband connection I’ve ever had. And in stronger areas, I’ve seen closer to 25Mbits/second. These numbers are tangible too. It’s almost shocking to see data load this fast when you’re on the go. If there is one top selling point with the iPhone 5, this is it. Which is funny considering the iPhone is late to the LTE party. iPhone is the only device many of us have with ubiquitous internet connectivity, and LTE speeds make for an even bigger improvement than 3G had over Edge. In other words, this speed on a mobile device is a game changer.
Apple dropped in a new custom A6 chip and boosted the RAM to a 1GB module. The new tech has been holding up very well under the usual benchmarks. Some typically slow processing tasks get a good boost, but in day to day usage, the speed increase isn’t something I notice very often. Why would Apple build improvements that do seemingly little to improve the overall experience? Remember, Apple is probably going to have this phone on shelves for three years. There is likely a software roadmap in progress that will need this kind of power down the road. These processor improvements are generally incremental, but always welcome. It’s pretty safe to say the iPhone 5 architecture will have a few years of life in it.
The camera has been improved again, although a bit more modestly this time around. Same 8 megapixel resolution, same number of lens elements, but with a slightly improved sensor. The biggest difference shows in low-light performance, which is quite exceptional. Brightness, contrast, and color are all better in low-light compared with previous iPhones, and this will be the difference between a blurry mess and a usable picture more than a few times.
The new screen sports a taller 16:9 aspect ratio, but the change isn’t that startling. Within the first few hours, this felt like the new shape of the iPhone, leaving the previous models looking slightly squished. As someone with small hands, reaching across the screen hasn’t proven to be much of a problem. The reduced weight of the phone allows you to loosen up your grip slightly and get a bit more mobility out of your thumb. The reservations that some of us had that a new screen size might cause painful fragmentation issues for developers was shown to be mostly unjustified as evidenced by how quickly many apps were able to adapt to the change, most without access to a device to test on. By changing only the vertical dimension the majority of apps simply display more content than before. Some games may have a harder time adapting, but this is clearly not fragmentation on the order of the Android ecosystem.
My first week with the latest incarnation of the iPhone wasn’t without its misgivings, but it’s not too early to affirm the marketing rhetoric. This is indeed the best iPhone yet.
…the 8 percent reduction in the top chipmaker’s revenue outlook was much more severe than expected.
They knew this was coming, but they didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
Yesterday John Gruber linked to some comparisons between Apple devices and products from Braun.
This is the subjective line between homage and rip-off. The old joke is that homage is when you copy someone else; a rip-off is when someone else copies you. But to me, it’s about the difference between drawing inspiration to create something new, versus slavishly copying to create something derivative.
John’s post is great, but he makes his point seem more subtle than the reality. Apple’s products aren’t even in the same industry as the products from Braun. They certainly pay homage to the aesthetic of Dieter Rams work, but not only are there decades between the products, they serve different functions entirely.
Samsung has been making “rip-offs” of Apple’s products today, that compete for financial profit, in some instances, on the very same shelves. That’s more than a subjective difference.
Today at Tagboard we pushed our beta search utility live! It’s a place to view an aggregate of hashtags across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and App.net.
It’s merely one piece of the puzzle, but we’ve been having fun with it. Check it out and let us know what you think!
This is a sad bit of news, but not entirely unexpected. It’s been more than a decade since I considered a magazine to be a good source of news concerning video games. On top of which, the traditional console and handheld gaming market is increasingly being overshadowed by iPhone/iPad offerings.
I first heard about DigiPen, my alma mater, in an issue of Nintendo Power (the one with the Virtual Boy on the cover). It was subsequently the reason I moved out to Seattle.
It’s sad to see you go Nintendo Power, but thanks for the good times.
I’m pleased to announce that I have accepted a position at Tagboard, a young startup building new tools to facilitate real-time conversation. The team is passionate, dedicated, and fixed on skating to where the puck is going to be. I couldn’t be happier about this new role, and look forward to collaborating on some exciting new products.
Expect to see cool things from us shortly. Keep tabs on the latest happenings on Twitter.
Shaun Inman’s latest Flip’s Escape – The Last Rockect Side Story was released today. No brainer. Buy it now.
Twitter just put some hefty limits on developers. Third party clients like Tweetbot can no longer grow beyond 200% of the users they currently have. That may seem like a lot, but it’s not. It’s a fixed point down the road beyond which they can’t grow, or make money. They’ve been effectively rendered unprofitable by Twitter.
Here is something I wrote a few months back about the Facebook IPO. Just a few bracketed changes make it pretty relevant to the discussion about Twitter today.
Someone could be building something right now, in secret, that could obsolete [Twitter]. Software is ‘soft’ for a reason, it can change fast. [Twitter] could easily get overtaken by an upstart. Why do you think they’re so eager to [push out] anything that resembles competition? Remember when MySpace was a behemoth? Everyone forgot about MySpace in a short span of months. Microsoft and Apple have endured as software companies because of the complex and substantial connection they have to hardware platforms. The software behind [Twitter] is not quite trivial, but don’t forget, there are other smart kids in college dorms all over the place.
The idea that Twitter is a behemoth that can’t be overtaken is shortsighted. They shouldn’t be afraid of upstarts, but not because upstarts aren’t threatening. The reason they shouldn’t be afraid is that they should already be pushing toward what’s next. They should have a vision for what the future of communicating and sharing looks like, and be building it.
But from the looks of it, they aren’t. They’re just trying to protect what they’ve already built. That’s always a losing position… Always.
The iPhone not happily handling transitions between WiFi and cellular networks has bugged me forever. Something I’ve mentioned (complained about) before:
The iPhone always assumes a WiFi connection is faster than cellular, which makes for a terrible experience when that assumption is false.
Thankfully The Verge reports that Apple has included a feature in the latest beta to alleviate this problem.
the latest beta of iOS 6 contains a new “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular” networking option that will allow apps to automatically fall back to a 3G connection if Wi-Fi proves unresponsive
I couldn’t be happier that they’ve acknowledged this problem, which I run into multiple times daily. Now to find out if it really works.
(Hat Tip: Sean Sperte)
Hot on the heels of Comic Con and the subsequent announcement that the Hobbit will indeed be split into a trilogy, there is a new trailer out. Not a terrible amount of new footage, but there are a few interesting clips.
In case you were on Mars yesterday, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, OS X Mountain Lion shipped. There are a number of reviews of varying lengths out there. But if you’re not interested in the long-reads (who has a few hours to tuck away reading about a new OS update), Shawn Blanc has some nice coverage both technical and philosophical.
Notably, Mountain Lion is the first release where iCloud has a real strong presence on the Mac. The Notes and Reminders apps are fantastic, and their inclusion adds value to the iOS versions. iCloud tabs may be one of my favorite features, and it will really show its value when iOS 6 drops this fall. But I don’t have much to add to what has already been said. It appears to be a very stable release out of the gate. There is much smoothing of Lion’s rough edges, and a number of niceties that just make for a more delightful experience, the standard fare from Apple.
Yesterday, Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels and Bartending fame announced a new publication called System Extension.
I’m happy to announce System Extension, the new monthly magazine companion to 512 Pixels. System Extension includes bonus content, an inside look at what I do here on the site, tips, tricks and more.
This initial edition is free to everyone, with future versions being reserved just for members.
His plan for distribution was to ship in the .ibooks format that runs natively in iBooks on the iPad. This first edition is excellent, and it reiterates the great potential of iBooks Author as a content creation tool. If you have an iPad and haven’t checked it out yet, you really should. The experience is more fluid and engaging than nearly all of the magazine content I’ve looked at in Newsstand.
Unfortunately he ran into a problem with Apple’s terms that he outlined on his site today. It boils down to the following restriction:
Can I distribute works created with iBooks Author as part of a product or service that charges a subscription-based fee?
Yes. If the work is provided in a format other than the .ibooks format (such as PDF or ePub), you may distribute such works as part of a subscription-based product or service outside of the iBookstore.
This is a rule many of us came across when iBooks Author was getting its first critical look after launching. But at the time, we hadn’t seen the tool generate any relevant content yet to put things into context. There are two main issues I have with this rule:
Firstly, it seems to be practically unenforceable. If you are the author of the document, you have agreed to the Terms of Service set forth by iBooks Author, but how can a recipient of the file be obligated to terms they’ve never agreed upon? If a free copy of this file were distributed to someone (as allowed by the terms), what prevents that person from selling access to the file directly, or as part of a subscription. I’m not aware of any file format that has ever made an attempt at such a restriction, and I can’t imagine a sound way for Apple to enforce it without limiting .ibooks files to only loading directly from the iBookstore.
Secondly, this rule does little to help Apple. Apple isn’t losing any money from someone who wants to distribute these files independently on a subscription basis. Apple would neither host these files or manage the subscription, and in fact, they don’t even offer a legitimate way to do so. There is no method for processing subscription payments through the iBookstore with .ibooks files as the objects of delivery. Newsstand offers apps for sale with periodical content, but they’re still apps, which require a much higher investment for a content creator to build and maintain. Perhaps Apple would be okay with an app that delivered iBooks content periodically through In-App Subscriptions, but that’s a lot of overhead for someone to manage, just to pass out some files.
As it stands, Stephen might be stuck shipping a lesser product (.pdf versus .ibooks) for a rule that provides little value to anyone. If you still haven’t read the first edition of System Extension, go download it now and take a look. Compare it to your experience with other magazine content on the iPad, and see if you don’t find it favorable.
Maybe it is Apple’s plan to offer hosting for subscriptions to this type of content eventually, but that would seemingly conflict with Newsstand. If they aren’t, they have nothing to gain by enforcing this rule, and very little to lose by eliminating it. How can having great periodical content out there, only available on iPad, hurt their bottom line?
We’re still months out, but I see Apple’s fall announcements shaping up to be substantial. Tim Cook finished off the new iPad announcement with the words “across the year, you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation, we are just getting started.” Since then, we’ve seen a new Retina MacBook Pro as well as some moderate updates across the MacBook line. But Cook seemed to really be driving home that this year has a lot in store.
We’ll be seeing a new, likely taller iPhone. It is probably going to resemble the ETrade Supply part. A taller screen, redesigned dock connector, Nano-SIM, LTE, and NFC chip are the most commonly rumored features. Keep in mind, this won’t be the only iPhone. Expect Apple to maintain the $0 and $99 subsidized price points that have yielded lots of growth since October. I would imagine the iPhone 4 will be replaced by the 4S, but as to whether the 3GS stays at the bottom or gets replaced by the iPhone 4 is another question. The lower resolution screen and plastic back likely make the 3GS still much cheaper to manufacture. It will be interesting to see where the lineup settles.
The iPod family is traditionally updated in the September timeframe. There are some rumors of a new iPod Nano which looks at least plausible. Notably, by this fall it will be two years since the iPod Touch has had any significant changes. The iPod line in general is a decreasing slice of Apple’s revenues, but the Touch in particular seems like an important device strategically. It’s the lowest price point, no-contract iOS device. It’s a big Christmas device for kids. It’s a device that helps maintain their strong position in the handheld gaming market. I would expect at least another minor update, and we might see some pricing changes, especially if…
A 7.85-inch iPad rumor has been trending up and down for the last several months. It seemed highly improbable when Steve Jobs denounced the form factor at an earnings call after some early Android tablet announcements. But keep in mind, Steve Jobs has been known to shut down speculation on possible product ideas in the past, famously, the video iPod. It’s a shrewd business practice to downplay rumored products that are months or years from being introduced in favor of driving sales to products on the market today.
Android tablets have been settling on the 7-inch size for one main reason. It’s the only way they can ship a tablet that is price/value competitive with the iPad. Apple has a stranglehold on components for building portable devices, and they aren’t shipping a 7-inch model right now. Amazon and OEMs building Android tablets can leverage this to ship these smaller tablets at a low starting price point. Given their powerful supply chain relationships, Apple could sell a small tablet at or under the cost of these Android tablets. However, Apple is more likely to target a price close enough to the competition to lure potential buyers, but with enough of a premium to maintain a healthy profit margin. I would expect the smaller iPad to fall between $249 and $299.
It’s true that we saw some new Macs just last month. But the Retina display is clearly coming to the rest of the line over time. We probably won’t be seeing Retina in desktops for a while as the projected display sizes butt up against current Thunderbolt transfer speeds, though there is still a rumored non-Retina iMac update coming soon. Also, there has been some evidence pointing to a 13-inch counterpart to the new Retina MacBook Pro, as well as rumors that they’ll be arriving this fall. The roll-out of Retina displays will likely take a while, so seeing it show up in a model or two at a time doesn’t seem out of the question.
We all want Apple to make an awesome TV, but this rumor has been stale lately. This might just fall under “doubling down” on product secrecy, but if Apple is going to release a physical TV, it’s hard to imagine it being just a flat panel running the current Apple TV software. That isn’t a big enough bet for Apple, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Steve having “finally cracked it”. Pre-Christmas would be a great time to release a TV, but my gut says this one’s not fully-baked yet.
And the rest
Apple has been dismantling complicated things a lot lately. On the Mac, reminders have been pulled out of Calendar into their own app. Notes received similar treatment being pulled from Mail. Just recently on iOS we saw Podcasts get their own app signaling an expected removal from the Music app. This trend is likely to continue in other crowded apps. Is it possible that this is the year for iTunes dismemberment? Probably another longshot, but a guy can hope.
We always major on getting excited about hardware and operating system announcements, but sometimes other software announcements are just as interesting. We haven’t seen a lot of major changes to iWork or iLife lately on the Mac, and there are always some surprises that can come out of left field. Like Ping!
Speaking of Ping, it seems likely to get shut down at or before this fall. It is admittedly not the thriving network Apple had envisioned, and with Apple bringing new integration with Facebook, it’s hard to imagine Ping being with us much longer.
Even half over, it looks like 2012 still has “a lot to look forward to”. Just a few of these things would make for an incredible event this fall. If they both come through, the new iPhone and 7.85-inch iPad are likely to steal the show, but all the little things will still add up. After all, it’s how Apple handles all the little things that makes the company so great.
Today Tapbots announced a public alpha for their much anticipated Tweetbot for Mac. Check it out here.
They’ve been dropping pseudo-subtle hints in screenshots and posts for a number of weeks. As the alpha can’t be made available through the App Store, iCloud features such as their custom timeline syncing aren’t available. That said, as is, the app is already a worthy competitor to the official Twitter client for Mac (formerly Tweetie) which has grown quite stale.
Get it. Got it? Good.
Word has been spreading about a possible Amazon smartphone. To which my reaction is, ‘what?’
The Kindle Fire was a pretty obvious move. Amazon has great partnerships and content deals. Content seems to be a driving force in tablet sales, especially in smaller tablets, and they already had built a successful Kindle platform.
Earlier this week in reference to the first iPhone announcement Louie Mantia said:
“A phone, an iPod, an internet communications device.”
We cheered at the first two, but we use our iPhones for the third part most.
With the Fire, Amazon believed they could grab a meaningful chunk of market share by leveraging the content that people want to access on tablets, but that content—the ‘iPod’ part of the iPhone—is a smaller piece of the puzzle on a phone than it is on a tablet. How many books, movies, and tv shows are you consuming on your phone?
The greatest strength behind iOS is the software—the ‘internet communications device’ part of the iPhone. Not only the incredible stuff Apple puts out year after year, but also boatloads of third party apps from developers excitedly working on today’s cutting edge platform. Software gives these new platforms their value, and Apple is way out in the lead.
Amazon has yet to prove it can play this game. By nearly all accounts, the Fire’s software is one of its weakest points. And Amazon hasn’t exactly been trumpeting the success of their own app store. It would be easy for them to release a smartphone to join the throng of Android handsets, but it’s going to go nowhere unless they have positive software differentiation from the other Android phones that are out there. From today’s vantage point, I can’t see that happening.
The iPod’s success fooled almost everyone (including me) into thinking that Apple’s entry into the phone market would be similar. The iPod was the world’s best portable media player; the “iPhone”, thus, would likely be the world’s best cell phone.
But that’s not what it was. It was the world’s best portable computer. Best not in the sense of being the most powerful, or the fastest, or the most-efficient to use. The thing couldn’t even do copy-and-paste. It was the best because it was always there, always on, always just a button-push away.
This is the preeminent insight shared by everyone who “gets” the computer industry and how it’s changing. It is exactly what we’ve been trying to articulate over the last five years.
Apple leaves behind drives and ports at a breakneck pace, always looking to the future. With the Retina MacBook Pro they’ve even traded in screws for glue and solder in a number of instances. Apple has come to be known for this driving attitude in hardware innovation.
It happens more slowly and seldom with system software, but we have seen it before. We saw it with the transitions away from the classic Mac environment and Carbon. We see it in APIs, like the move to ARC and the deprecation of garbage collection. And we’re seeing it now with Gatekeeper and Sandboxing.
All these transitions are painful to somebody. Somewhere there was a guy who really wanted that serial port, disk drive, or that old app. It’s hard to be the one left behind. The early adopters usually manage to stay ahead of the curve, but changes catch up with all of us eventually. However, these transitions are also something we’ve come to expect from Apple. They help us to push forward ourselves, and for many Apple customers, that’s a big part of why we choose to be on this team.
iOS offered a clean break. Apple took advantage of it, and it had manifold benefits: simplicity, performance, power management, security. They demonstrated “Back to the Mac” in Lion as a collection of apps and features from iOS, but they didn’t speak much to these other benefits that are a big part of the platform’s success. Apple sees advantages in bringing some of the behind the scenes changes to the Mac as well, but it won’t come without ripping off a few of these Band-Aids.
The folly with the Sandboxing transition was that the Mac App Store was released before these rules were in place to enforce upon its apps. It would have been harder to argue against rules for a store that had never existed in the first place. But for whatever reason, Apple felt it was necessary, or at least to their benefit, to push out the store when they did.
Today we’re left with some developers stuck between a rock and a hard place. They made the jump to the store only to find themselves as persona non grata months down the road. I feel for them, and frankly I’m bummed to have to get their software the old fashioned way.
I’m hoping (as I’m certain Apple believes) that these growing pains will yield something more mature and valuable down the road. There is a reset of user expectation taking place. Apple sees a future where the boundary between apps and the system are clear to users who are mere mortals. Many more people will feel welcome in that future, as they already do on iOS. And hopefully the same revolution that the iOS App Store brought to the software industry will see rewards from the growing customer base of the Mac as well.
In the meantime, we can mourn the casualties, and do our best to push forward and make better software. Time will tell whether their loss was in vain.
Art Matsak has collected hours and hours of video surrounding the life and work of Steve Jobs. They’re organized into chapters that tie-in with the Walter Isaacson biography. Many of these I’ve never seen before, and it’s definitely worth a perusal. (via The Next Web)
In Goliath Wants David’s Market Justin Watt writes:
In enterprise, Apple is David. The Goliath in enterprise that is Microsoft wants Apple’s market in mobile enterprise. Apple hasn’t entrenched itself nearly deep enough in enterprise. Microsoft has the ability to successfully corner the mobile enterprise market just as it has with the desktop enterprise market.
There’s a big difference between the then desktop market, and the now mobile market.
Then, computers were still out of reach for the average person. Their tasks were accordingly suited to the needs that could afford them. Business productivity was king, and it won the desktop war for Microsoft.
Now, iTunes and iPod (and their progeny, App Store and iPad) have set off a boon in entertainment options on computing devices from music to video to apps. With the masses casually communicating on Twitter and Facebook with no signs of slowing, people are using computers more and more for leisure.
Apple products have always been better suited to those intent on enjoying their devices, and today people expect that from their computers. As casual gaming has outpaced hardcore gaming as a wide industry trend, so casual computing will outpace enterprise computing (if it hasn’t already). While the enterprise was poised to be the big piece of the pie in 1990, the consumer market seems poised to lay hold of the majority today.
If you think Apple’s success is about to crest, you’re still not seeing the bigger picture.
Here are a few questions I’ve come up with to try to avoid sounding like YouTube commenter. I’m preaching to myself here, because I find I have violated these far more often than I’d like. Concerning something I’m about to post online, I try to ask the following:
Is it respectful?
There are people behind companies, products, and ideas. Am I showing them respect? I should overshoot the level I think they are due. I’m not usually in a position to judge how much respect someone deserves.
Is it relevant?
This is not the same as asking ‘will this get page views?’ It’s more a question of whether this is worth talking about. Is there value in having this discussion? Could someone be better off for having read these words? Will this post still have merit, at least historically, down the road?
Is it reasonable?
Are these ideas well-conceived, arrived at through a reasoned train of thought? Have I drawn rational conclusions? Could I argue my way to this position from square one?
Is it responsible?
Am I willing to be held accountable for the results of this post? If it might hurt someone, is it still something that’s important to say? Am I contributing a net-positive?
We’re all spending a lot more time online. Communicating is foundational to who we are as people. It only seems fair to evaluate from time to time what value we are contributing to one another. I certainly can’t promise to run through this list before everything I post, but these are some guiding points I use if I’m questioning what I’m writing.
It costs just $100 to double 4GB to the maximum 8GB of RAM on any of the models that start at 4GB, and just $200 to double 8GB to the maximum 16GB supported on the Retina MacBook Pro.
If I’m remembering correctly, the RAM situation on MacBooks has never been this advantageous. People complaining about having the RAM soldered on are frankly not looking at the big picture.
There have been lots of new things to talk about since WWDC’s main event last Monday. The next generation MacBook Pro made good on the Retina update we’ve been expecting to come to Macs for what seems like ages, but the meaty topic of the keynote was iOS 6.
Some people have been weighing in with disappointment about what they perceive as minor updates in iOS 6, but it addresses some very common pain points for customers. This is a refinement release, which as far as I can tell is a big part of Apple’s strategy for development. Somewhat a reflection of Intel’s “tick-tock” strategy, Apple makes a new release with big bets and new features, following it up with a release more notable for its tweaks and subtle refinements. We’ve seen Apple display this maneuver before: Leopard and Lion made bold steps forward for OS X and gave way to more attenuated updates in Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion. iPhone 3G and 4 were radical redesigns, while iPhone 3GS and 4S simply brought those same designs a new level of polish and elegance.
This post is where I try to evaluate some of the features of iOS 6, and reflect on how they’ve affected the use of my phone after one week with the beta. Being that it is a beta, it’s not fair to discuss crashes or features apparently in progress, so I won’t. And I don’t have any secrets to share that Apple hasn’t already made public.
Clearly a big deal to Apple, the humble virtual assistant is more valuable for users than ever. First up is sports. You’re now just a phrase away from stats, scores, rosters, and schedules. I’m not qualified to comment on whether this is a strong offering of sports information, but the few questions I asked were answered as expected.
The rest of Siri’s updates have turned out to be slightly more useful to me. The assistant now has more information about restaurants, and can help you book a reservation. Booking is done through the OpenTable app though, and if I remember correctly, this feature was more integrated in the original Siri iPhone app.
My personal favorite is the wealth of movie knowledge Siri has picked up. I’m frequently using my phone to look up trailers, remember another movie some actor was in, and find what’s playing in theaters nearby. Siri is now the fastest way to do these things, although my wife doesn’t generally appreciate me talking during movies.
Two little features that were glaringly omitted from Siri’s initial release were the ability to tweet and launch apps. Both are finally here and work as advertised. Of less relevance to me, but certainly great importance for the worldwide market, are the expanded languages and locales available. Notably Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese have all been added with the corresponding relevant countries. This helps Siri support a much wider global footprint.
The much rumored, widely anticipated Facebook integration has arrived. It’s unsurprisingly similar to the Twitter support introduced last year. And while I use Facebook less than Twitter, it is handy to have some native functionality onboard. Facebook goes a little further than Twitter with integration into your contacts and calendars. Note, this might be an unwelcome change for some. Facebook tends to leave you on the receiving end of event invites that you don’t necessarily need on your calendar. This was something I turned off pretty quickly. Beyond that, Facebook has tie ins with Game Center, and ‘likes’ are prominently displayed above user ratings and reviews inside the new store apps.
Speaking of the store apps, they’ve all had a good working over. Banner images are more prominent and interactive. Everything seems bigger, from the icons to the text. In the App Store, the biggest changes have happened on the app screen itself. The information is split up into multiple sections, with the initial view showing screenshots followed by the app description and notes from the latest update. My favorite addition, there is an “Update History” item that let’s you peruse the release notes from previous versions of the app. This gives good context for the activity of the developer, and is a welcome change.
As noted above, the review section shows Facebook likes from your friends first and foremost, with an option for you to like the app right here in the store (whether you’ve purchased it or not). That’s followed up with the more familiar app store ratings and reviews, which don’t appear to have undergone any significant changes. With just one week down, it remains to be seen how these changes will affect ratings, discovery, and sales for apps, but thankfully Facebook likes from your own network of friends are a great metric that’s difficult to artificially inflate. I anticipate this helping a lot of people share and discover apps.
You can now scroll the charts smoothly while apps fetch in batches of five as you near the bottom. If you’re scrolling at a reasonable pace, you never notice the loading. But perhaps the best usability change in the store is the new flow for downloading. You aren’t pushed back to the homescreen after purchasing or updating. Progress indicators show live on the app icon in the store, and once your app has finished loading the purchase/install button changes to read ‘Open’. A simple change that relives a frequent annoyance.
The Phone app has been pretty stable since its first appearance in 2007. It gets a new keypad in iOS 6, which is of little consequence. Notably, there are now additional options when receiving a call. If you aren’t able to pick up, you can quickly reply with a text, one of the problems Canned was built to address. In addition, you can leave a reminder for yourself to call back later. These are worthwhile changes, and I’m sure this is a common feature request. I don’t get more than a handful of calls per day though, so no game changers here for me.
Do Not Disturb
This is a feature that we had first seen demoed in Mountain Lion. Whether or not it was actually developed for both systems in parallel, after seeing OS X be so influenced by iOS, it’s nice to see a new development going the other direction. (Long live OS X). I had a crisis of notification overload a few months ago. I dealt with it by individually shutting off notifications for pretty much all my apps. Having a prominent switch in settings and the ability to schedule notification downtime has put the power back in my hands. I can now keep my notifications online, and shut them all down when they’re getting overwhelming. This is a simple change, but a big step in having notifications work for users.
FaceTime Over Cellular
FaceTime made video calling a practical reality for the first time. The WiFi limitation was not all that unexpected given the track record of AT&T’s support of data-heavy features, but from people testing on tethered connections and jailbroken phones, it was clear that cellular speeds were often adequate for carrying the calls. iOS 6 brings FaceTime calls over the cellular network with no tricks. This is a good boost to one of the great features of the iPhone, but only on rare occasions have I wanted to use FaceTime while away from WiFi. It doesn’t seem like the ideal way to communicate while out and about. It’s bound to come in handy sometimes, but it likely won’t come up every day.
Phone Number, Apple ID Merging
Since the day FaceTime made its debut on the iPod touch, there has been a weird dichotomy of phone numbers and email addresses as identifiers for Apple’s messaging services. It wasn’t a big deal until iMessage arrived with the promise of carrying your conversations from your iPhone to your iPad, and recently, your Mac. Most iPhone users have been texting from cell phones for years. Using phone numbers was an obvious way to let us seamlessly continue messaging as we always have, and it worked out great—on the iPhone. But when bringing our other devices into the mix, the experience has been fragmented.
I have multiple message streams going with a number of contacts. I haven’t been willing to switch whole hog to using my email address for messaging, because it’s great to have SMS as a fallback on my phone when iMessage is acting up or (heaven forbid) I’m talking to someone without an iPhone. With iOS 6, I don’t need to decide because Apple is bringing together my phone number and Apple ID. This has been the most frustrating problem behind iMessage, and although I haven’t been able to practically test it in this initial beta, it’s one of the things I’m most happy to see iOS 6.
iCloud Tabs solve a common issue for me. I’m regularly coming across sites on my iPhone that would be a little simpler to browse on my Mac. Or conversely, something comes up on my Mac that I want to pick up on the go. iCloud Tabs offer a well-considered solution to this problem.
The Offline Reading List brings a lot more value to a feature that hasn’t been too exciting by downloading your saved pages for viewing when you don’t have a data connection. While I don’t expect it will crush Instapaper’s bottom line, it may prevent casual users from looking elsewhere for a better solution.
Photo upload is a “finally” kind of feature. It’s understandable that it had been omitted due to the lack of a generic, user-controlled file system in iOS, but this is a great stop gap for enabling web uploading for the kind of files we upload most, photos. It works wonderfully, just as you’d expect.
Websites can hover new Smart App Banners linking to their App Store offering above their page. Once there is some time for site owners to integrate this, it will hopefully cause many to migrate away from ejecting you into the App Store to download an app that you aren’t interested in. However, this is already setup at store.apple.com, and it seems only slightly more elegant than some of the other techniques being used by sites to promote their apps. It’s helpful to provide a consistent solution all the same.
Full screen mode opens up browsing a bit in landscape mode, which is a little puzzling. It’s true that webpages are cramped for vertical space in landscape, and this helps alleviate that tension. I hypothesize that the cramping would be that much more pronounced on a rumored, taller iPhone, and this might be a feature geared toward easing that issue.
Shared Photo Streams
Having just gone on a cruise with family, of whom everyone over the age of 3 has an iPhone (11 of us), this would have been a killer feature to have. It’s not going to Sherlock Instagram, as you share each stream with a unique set of users, not a consistent list of followers, but the presentation, sharing, and commenting make it highly social. On paper this is a minor feature bump to Photo Stream, but with the investment people are putting into photo sharing these days, this feels like a huge deal. My initial experiments have been exciting, and I anticipate sharing quite a few photos this way.
Mail gets some good updates this time around. They seam mostly geared at business folks. The VIP feature lets you mark select email addresses that you deem high priority. They get some special notifications, and their own separate inbox. Those of you drowning in email could find this welcome, but for my workflow it hasn’t been necessary. You can also now view password protected office documents, and set separate email signatures for each of your mail accounts. I’ve definitely taken advantage of that last one, and I imagine they’ve had tons of requests for these features.
In addition they’ve added pull-to-refresh. A slight variation on Loren Brichter’s original implementation, with a kind of silly, gummy-looking animation. Bottom-line, it works well enough. Though, if your accounts support push, you’re probably not refreshing your email all that often.
Finally, and I mean finally, you can insert a photo or video attachment directly into a message. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed half an email only to remember that I need to start in the Photos app if I plan to attach an image to my message. This ranks as one of the most significant changes for me since copy and paste.
Passbook is a bit of a strange one. To me, it’s this years Newsstand. Newsstand still sits empty on my last page of apps. There isn’t a single publication I’ve seen that has enticed me to pull the trigger on a subscription, and I haven’t seen any free content worth reading either. I can’t see Passbook being useful to me in the short term. Scott Forstall billed it as one place to store all your passes. Well, currently I already have that. The Starbucks app is the only “pass” that I’ve made any use of in practice. The airline I frequent doesn’t support electronic boarding passes, and my local movie theater doesn’t use Fandango.
As of today, it’s hard to imagine this helping me for at least a number of months if not years. In last weeks “Live From WWDC” episode of The Talk Show, John and Cabel talk about it as a “half-way point” to being able to leave your wallet behind. Maybe they’re right, but to me it looks more like an eighth-way point right now.
If you’ve seen a child use an iPad, it will be easy to “get” what Guided Access is about. Kids go straight for the home button constantly. Perhaps it’s because they know it will at least do something if an app is frustrating them. Unfortunately, they push it way too much. And if you give them any amount of time to hang out on your homescreen, they’ll end up deleting apps, moving things around, and otherwise assaulting your carefully arranged device. Guided Access lets you lock down the home button and any other possibly destructive controls in an app, so they can read their book, watch their video, or play their game while you have a little more peace of mind that they aren’t bringing your iPad to its knees. Parents everywhere, rejoice.
Maps is the update nobody asked for, but everyone saw coming. There is no question that this move is related to the decline of Apple’s relationship with Google, and this is a pretty hard blow coming from Cupertino’s corner. The new vector maps, and 3D satellite views are indeed gorgeous. But there are really only two notable changes. You can no longer get mass transit directions from the maps app, although both driving and walking directions are still intact. Apple is hoping to leverage 3rd party apps to fill that gap by promoting local solutions from within Maps.
Secondly, turn by turn directions are here, and they’re great. Driving home from the grocery store Monday night after the keynote, the turn by turn directions reminded me that my usual route is not optimal. It gives the perfect amount of notice when turns are coming up, and generally seems spot on with the timing. I expect to use this more and more. My wife is relieved to no longer need to play the role of navigator on long drives.
And The Rest
There are a smattering of other features, and I’m sure some that haven’t been uncovered yet. The clock app is coming to iPad, and you can now have alarms play any of your songs instead of the standard alert tones.
The privacy controls are much improved. If an app needs photo access, that’s what it asks for, not access to your location. Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders also have explicit permission dialogs, and they are all grouped in a privacy item inside the Settings app. The privacy settings have never been this clear and transparent.
A new Lost Mode let’s you add a phone number that someone can call if they find your lost phone, making it easier for them to be a good Samaritan and return it.
Also, there are loads of features for China that I clearly haven’t tested, but Apple assures us are a big deal.
Developers, Developers, Developers
Developers are getting a host of great API updates as well, which are not public information, so I can’t go into any details. It’s enough to say that numerous things that required custom solutions now have a standard implementations that will speed up development in a lot of key instances. Unfortunately, many of these things can’t be put to good use until iOS 6 is widely adopted by users, but with how fast that happened with iOS 5, it seems bound to transpire even faster this time around. Especially given the advent of over the air updates.
The Gripping Conclusion
While at first glance iOS 6 seems to have generally minor updates when compared with iOS 5, I’d like to point out that this post is now nearly three times as long as last years reflection on my first week with ios five. I’m frankly very happy with what I’ve seen so far, and experience tells me it will only get better as we approach the public release.
Phone part seller ETrade Supply turned up what they’re suggesting is a part from the next iPhone. This looks like a pretty convincing part, and here are a few things that stick out to me suggesting it’s legitimacy.
Firstly, it’s one part. In an interview with Jony Ive from the movie Objectified, he states that one of things they push themselves on is trying to make one part achieve the job of multiple parts. At 1:45 into the video he describes this part as looking to fulfill the functionality of both the mid plate and back cover plate that exist on the current iPhone 4/4S. This jives very well with Apple’s design sensibilities.
On top of that, the rumored slightly taller screen size, smaller dock connector, and nano sim card slot all seem to jive with rumors. The movement of the headphone jack to the bottom seems like a slightly strange choice, but the headphone jack presents problems in different scenarios no matter where it’s placed. And that change may have been required to optimize the internal space of the phone.
If this isn’t a production part for the next iPhone, it certainly looks like a real prototype.
Tim Cook at All Things D when asked about Ping:
I was carefully avoiding that. We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said “This isn’t something that I want to put a lot of energy into.”
Will we kill it? I don’t know. We’ll look at that.
Sure Apple is tight-lipped about product announcements, but with how quickly copycats jump on anything they make, isn’t that perfectly sensible? The frankness with which their CEO can talk about failures like this is unprecedented in the tech community. Think about how RIM communicates about BlackBerry, Eric Schmidt’s crazy proclamations, or how any other company in the valley talks up products that don’t even exist yet. And yet Apple is so often presented by the press as harsh and uncommunicative.
I’m realizing more and more the gap between what the mainstream tech press presents and the reality of the industry. If you want to hear anything real about the state of technology you’d be better served by following a handful of select bloggers than picking up anything off the newsstand.
For years analysts and ‘industry experts’ dismissed Steve Jobs as a social engineer, confusing people into buying Apple products with the cleverness of his reality distortion field. However, after listening to his collection of appearances at All Things Digital, it seems to me his insights just gave him a firmer grasp on reality than his peers had.
In light of the current success that Apple is experiencing with it’s products, it almost looks as though his foresight was 20/20. He understood the problems facing media companies thoroughly, in 2005 he had a prescient view of the waning of the filesystem as the face of the user interface, and he knew Flash was a technology in a nosedive. Even amid the success, he was humble about the iPad. Admitting that its “magical” qualities were something he didn’t fully understand himself. Not that it was built with fairy dust, but that something in the interface made it unique and delightful to use.
I think more often than not in the last decade Steve wasn’t trying to coerce people, but rather he was a rare technologist trying to be honest and play his part to help the best ideas win.
This looks simply amazing. Remember those old Heinz commercials where they pretended it was cool that their ketchup poured so slowly? (via Daring Fireball)
[This is not legal advice.]
Copyright is a protection granted to the author of a work “fixed in any tangible medium of expression”. Meaning, something that can be recorded somehow. It extends to writing, music, painting, architecture, and many other forms of expression.
The web has transformed the ease by which we can share and copy information, and violating copyrights has become a simple act, taken for granted by many. Just ask the Recording Industry Association of America.
Copyright grants exclusive rights to reproduce your “works of authorship” to you, the author. You get these rights automatically upon creating the work, although there are some extra benefits to registering the copyright. You might have signed these rights over to an employer, sold them to a publisher, or waived some of them by releasing your work under an alternate copyright license. Otherwise, they generally last the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 years.
Specifically, writing on the web has been dancing around issues of copyright for ages. Sharing information from another site, even with attribution, could often be construed as a violation of copyright. Increasingly, services like Readability and Instapaper are taking site content out of it’s original context and making it available elsewhere. This can prevent a site owner from generating ad revenue obtained by visits to their site.
Often, these services are seen as acceptable to authors where they can increase the reach of their work, and drive more traffic to their website. The acceptance of the author doesn’t mean these uses of their content aren’t in violation of copyright protection, but if the copyright holder doesn’t enforce the protection, nobody else will.
I’m not aware of any of these services being taken to court over infringement. This leaves little in the way of legal precedent in regards to the boundaries of acceptable practices when copying written content online. It falls to writers to pursue legal measures when they feel their rights have been violated, but most online writers lack the means to prosecute a claim.
One day a line will get crossed that will make online writers take action, but until that takes place, the extent of infringement will only continue to grow.
Update: Kyle’s response to Ben’s original post gives a little more context, and his take seems representative of the impression I get of how most writers feel about this situation and these services.
A few months ago I wrote these words:
In twenty years, the computer an average human uses will look a lot more like an iPad than it does like a PC.
It’s already happening that children are having their first human-computer interactions on mom or dad’s smartphone or tablet. The obvious nature of the interface these devices have is groundbreaking. Many of us have seen the video of the child playing with a magazine after using an iPad. There was an expectation of interactivity, that the content would slide away at the command of her finger. Maybe you’ve seen a similar response from your children.
I’m not exactly sure how long it will be before print magazines become a quaint memory, like rotary phones, but I can’t imagine a child born in the past year will ever be ordering a subscription periodical printed on dead trees. In the world they’re growing up into, that idea won’t be anything less than absurd.
In the Apple community, I keep hearing things like ‘OS X and iOS will never merge’ and ‘there will never be a touchscreen Mac.’ There are other like assertions, and it’s beyond my scope to talk about them all. These assertions are firmly grounded in the environment we live in today, and such statements yield very little to imagination.
One thing though of which I’m convinced — the child confused that her swipes and pinches leave the magazine unaffected will not find it any less strange to have a laptop screen ignoring her gestures en masse.
While I fully expect the future to have keyboards and mice (or some precision pointing device), touch is already precluding the ubiquity of both in the minds of children. When the upcoming generation is running the show, we will find another absurd idea, that a computer built for human interaction will have a screen that doesn’t respond to touch.
This leaves a lot of questions, many will only be answered by the future. However, one thing the iPad has made clear, the future doesn’t request the permission of the past.
Someone could be building something right now, in secret, that could obsolete Facebook. Software is ‘soft’ for a reason, it can change fast. Facebook could easily get overtaken by an upstart. Why do you think they’re so eager to buy out anything that resembles competition? Remember when MySpace was a behemoth? Everyone forgot about MySpace in a short span of months. Microsoft and Apple have endured as software companies because of the complex and substantial connection they have to hardware platforms. The software behind Facebook is not quite trivial, but don’t forget, there are other smart kids in college dorms all over the place.
In a world where mobile computing is obviously becoming top dog, it’s amazing how poorly Facebook has executed their iPhone app. It’s reliability seems to get worse every day. A company with their resources and talent should have the premier mobile experience, but they don’t. To me that can only speak poorly of the structure of their organization. We aren’t seeing the vast measure of their talent manifest in their product, and that doesn’t seem to present a bright future.
Are a lot of people going to invest in Facebook today? Undoubtedly. Would I recommend it? Nope.
Zeldman breaks it down.
This redesign is a response to ebooks, to web type, to mobile, and to wonderful applications like Instapaper and Readability that address the problem of most websites’ pointlessly cluttered interfaces and content-hostile text layouts by actually removing the designer from the equation.
Readers should prefer to read things here rather than Instapaper/Readability/Safari Reader Mode/RSS Reader. That is the guiding point that I use to design this site, and of the sites I like best, I find that it’s universally true of them as well.