Google Photos 

Lots and lots of news from today’s 7-hour I/O keynote, but one that stuck out to me is Google Photos. Looks like a great, simple service:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

And when we say a lifetime of memories, we really mean it. With Google Photos, you can now backup and store unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free. We maintain the original resolution up to 16MP for photos, and 1080p high-definition for videos, and store compressed versions of the photos and videos in beautiful, print-quality resolution.

You can use it from the web, and from native apps for Android and iOS. Obviously, it’s a lot like iCloud Photos in terms of functionality and scope, but storing “unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free” sure is different. It also sounds like Google is doing more AI-backed / “machine-learning” image analysis for things like face detection and identifying things like snow or a beach.

See Also: Steven Levy’s interview with Bradley Horowitz, Google’s “vice president of streams, photos, and sharing”, is a good read. Horowitz calls it “Gmail for photos”, which is a pretty compelling three-word pitch. Horowitz:

We heard from our Google Plus photo users that we had great technology, but they didn’t want their life’s archive brought into a social product, any social product. It’s more akin to Gmail — there’s no button on Gmail that says “publish on the Internet.” “Broadcast” and “archive” are really different and so part of Google photos is to create a safe space for your photos and remove any stigma associated with saving everything. For instance, I use my phone to take pictures of receipts, and pictures of signs that I want to remember and things like that. These can potentially pollute my photo stream. We make it so that things like that recede into the background, so there’s no cognitive burden to actually saving everything.

Avie Tevanian Was Named Chief Software Technology Officer in 2003, Left in 2006 

This completely slipped my mind when I wrote about how few C-level executives Apple has had in its modern era (which I loosely define as starting when Steve Jobs took the “interim” CEO title):

July 8, 2003 — Apple today announced that Avadis “Avie” Tevanian Jr., Ph.D., will become the company’s chief software technology officer and Bertrand Serlet will be promoted to senior vice president of Software Engineering. In his new role, Tevanian will focus on setting company-wide software technology directions, and Serlet will now report directly to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and lead the company’s OS Software Engineering group.

Tevanian left the company three years later, in 2006.

So, there is some precedent for an Apple senior executive getting a promotion to a C-level title on their way out the door. One notable difference between the two situations, though: Serlet reported directly to Jobs; Apple’s new vice presidents of UI design and industrial design (Alan Dye and Richard Howarth) report directly to Jony Ive.


On Jony Ive’s Promotion to Chief Design Officer

Ben Thompson’s take, published yesterday, makes several interesting points. He astutely observes that Ive’s newly-promoted lieutenants, Alan Dye (UI design) and Richard Howarth (industrial design), both were featured prominently in recent feature articles granting access to Apple executives:

The message again, is clear: when Ive took over software, Dye was there.

Indeed, taken as a whole, this entire episode is a masterful display of public relations: plant the seeds of this story in two articles — ostensibly about the Watch — that provide unprecedented access to Apple broadly and Apple’s design team in particular, and happen to highlight two designers in particular, neither of whom had any public profile to date (kind of — as John Gruber and I discussed on The Talk Show — Dye is a polarizing figure in Apple circles). Then, after a presumably successful Watch launch, announce on a holiday — when the stock market is closed — that these two newly public designers have newly significant roles at Apple.

A “masterful display of public relations” feels exactly right. With one exception, though: clarifying the degree of Ive’s ongoing involvement in Apple’s design work.

[A brief interpolation on Alan Dye as a “polarizing” figure within Apple: It’s not about his personality (a la Scott Forstall, or maybe even Tony Fadell), but rather Dye’s background in branding and graphic design. The Dye-led redesigns of iOS 7 and OS X Yosemite — and the new design of the Apple Watch OS — are “flat” in large part because “flat” is how modern graphic design looks. Suffice it to say, there were (and remain) people within Apple who consider this trend a mistake — that what makes for good graphic design does not necessarily make for good user interface design, and often makes for bad user interface design. Another way to look at it is that when Ive consolidated UI design under his purview, he and Dye more or less assembled a new team. This sort of thing invariably ruffled feathers from the prior UI designers in the company — especially those who worked under Forstall on the iOS team.

Anyway, personality-wise, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Dye — that he’s anti-political, pro-designer, and easy to get along with. End interpolation.]

There are two basic ways to read this news. The first is to take Apple at its word — that this is a promotion for Ive that will let him focus more of attention on, well, design. That he’s delegating management administrivia to Dye and Howarth, not decreasing his involvement in supervising the actual design work. The second way — the cynical way — is that this is the first step to Ive easing his way out the door, and that his new title is spin to make the news sound good rather than bad.

In short: is this truly a promotion for Ive, or is it (as Thompson punctuated it) a quote-unquote “promotion”?

One reason for skepticism is the odd way the story was announced, via a feature profile of Ive (and to a lesser degree, Tim Cook) by Stephen Fry. It was an odd article and an even odder way for Apple to announce the news. One line from the article caught many observers’ attention (boldface emphasis added):

When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”

“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”

“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”

I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”

“Yes!”

Jony will travel more, he told me. Among other things, he will bring his energies to bear — as he has already since their inception — on the Apple Stores that are proliferating around the world. The company’s retail spaces have been one of their most extraordinary successes.

From my own first take on the news:

Part of the story is that Ive is going to “travel more”, which I take to mean “live in England”.

That seems like an odd jump to make — from “travel more” to “live in England” — but it was based on two factors: the news being announced in a London newspaper, and the widespread speculation that Ive and his wife had been thinking about moving to England with their children since 2011. That speculation is entirely based on this Sunday Times piece on Ive’s compensation — behind a paywall, alas, but the Daily Mail summarized the Times’s report thus:

However, despite the ‘rock star’ status Essex-born Ive has in the design world, with his work lauded by peers and used by millions around the world, the newspaper said his desire to ‘commute’ from his £2.5million manor house in Somerset was being opposed by bosses at the technology company, who want him to stay in the U.S.

He and wife Heather, who met while they were studying at Newcastle Polytechnic, are said to want to educate their twins in England.

Ive, like all of his colleagues in Apple senior management, is intensely private. Neither he, nor Apple, to my knowledge have ever said a word confirming or denying the Times’s claim that he wanted to spend more time in England and send their children to school there.

[Update: I failed to remember this bit from Ian Parker’s recent New Yorker profile of Ive:

Ive told me that he never planned to move: he and his wife bought the house for family vacations, and sold it when it was underused. But he also connected the sale to what he called inaccurate reporting, in the London Times, in early 2011, claiming that Apple’s board had thwarted his hope of a relocation; he did not want to be shadowed by gossip.

So he has refuted it. File it under spin if you will, but it doesn’t make sense to me for Ive to say this to The New Yorker if his true intentions were to take steps to do just the opposite a few months later.]

Having thought about this some more, though, today, in 2015, we can maybe call bullshit on this aspect of the Times report. His twins are now 10 years old. They’re already being educated — in California. He’s clearly not bolting from Apple any time soon — even if this is a precursor to him leaving eventually, we’re talking about a few years down the road. And “a few years” from now his children will be even older. Again: Ive may be winding down, and he may, someday, return to England. But the time is running out — if it hasn’t already — that his family would return to England to raise their children there. I don’t ever expect Jony Ive to drop the “aluminium”, but he and his family are Californians.

A simpler way to look at this would be to see Ive having been promoted to, effectively, the new Steve Jobs: the overseer and arbiter of taste for anything and everything the company touches. One difference: Jobs, famously, was intimately involved with Apple’s advertising campaigns. Cook, in his internal memo, wrote: “Jony’s design responsibilities have expanded from hardware and, more recently, software UI to the look and feel of Apple retail stores, our new campus in Cupertino, product packaging and many other parts of our company.” But, still, it’s hard not to read Cook’s description of Ive’s responsibilities as pretty much matching those of Steve Jobs while he was CEO.

Lastly, a title can just be a title, but Apple has only had three C-level executives in the modern era (excepting CFOs, whose positions are legally mandated): Jobs (CEO, duh) Cook (COO under Jobs, now CEO), and now Jony Ive (CDO).1 It’s possible this title is more ceremonial than practical, but Tim Cook doesn’t strike me as being big on ceremony. Apple doesn’t exactly throw around senior vice-presidentships lightly, either, but a new C-level title is almost unprecedented.

[Update, 28 May 2015: Here’s a big exception I’d forgotten about: Avie Tevanian.]

I can see Cook-Ive as a sort of titular reversal of the Jobs-Cook C-level leadership duo. Cook oversees operations and “running the company”; Ive oversees everything else. So they created a new title to convey the authority Ive already clearly wielded, and promoted Dye and Howarth, his trusted lieutenants, to free him from administrative drudgery. I could be wrong, and we’ll know after a few years, but that’s my gut feeling today. 


  1. One small oddity. As of this writing it’s been over two days since Ive’s promotion was announced, but Apple’s “Executive Profiles” page still hasn’t been updated. Usually Apple has things like this staged and ready to go. Update: A few readers have suggested that Apple legally can’t update this page yet, because the new titles aren’t effective until July 1. Makes sense. So maybe file this entire footnoted “oddity” under “never mind”. ↩︎︎


‘The Ultimate Mobile Device’ 

Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams, in a rite of passage for Apple executives, appeared on stage with Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference in California:

Though Williams spent most of the time talking about Apple Watch and the supply chain, he also did coyly refer to Apple’s interest in other areas, noting that “the car is the ultimate mobile device isn’t it?”

Same conference where Tim Cook said “I think the wrist is interesting” two years ago.

U.S. Justice Department Indicts FIFA Officials 

Stephanie Clifford and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for the NYT:

With billions of dollars at stake, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa jockeyed in 2004 for the privilege of hosting soccer’s most prestigious tournament, the World Cup. The outcome hinged on a decision by the executive committee of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and a single vote could tip the decision.

And at least one vote, prosecutors said Wednesday, was for sale.

Jack Warner, a committee member from Trinidad and Tobago, shopped his ballot to the highest bidder, federal prosecutors said. In early 2004, he flew to Morocco, where a member of that country’s bid committee offered him $1 million. But South Africa had a sweeter deal, offering $10 million to a group that Mr. Warner controlled, prosecutors said. He voted for South Africa. South Africa got the World Cup. And Mr. Warner got his $10 million payout, much of which prosecutors said he diverted for his personal use.

There’s a certain irony in this case being pursued by the government of the United States — one of the least soccer-crazed nations on the planet. Absolutely jaw-dropping tale of corruption. Really makes me wonder about whether matches were fixed, too.

Jawbone Accuses Fitbit of Stealing Information by Hiring Workers Away 

Michael J. de la Merced, reporting for the NYT:

Close to what should be one of the biggest events of Fitbit’s life — its initial public offering of stock — the maker of wearable health trackers is facing an unexpected challenge: a lawsuit from one of its biggest competitors.

Jawbone sued Fitbit in California State Court here on Wednesday, accusing its rival of “systematically plundering” confidential information by hiring Jawbone employees who improperly downloaded sensitive materials shortly before leaving.

“This case arises out of the clandestine efforts of Fitbit to steal talent, trade secrets and intellectual property from its chief competitor,” lawyers for Jawbone wrote in the complaint.

I’ve often wondered how much “corporate espionage” takes place simply via hiring key employees from a rival.

‘Bookerly’ — New Default Font for Kindle on iOS 

In addition to the new font (which looks OK to my eyes — not great, but better than the old default font, Caecilia), they’ve also added some other long-needed typographic niceties. From the release notes:

Drop caps, text, and images that automatically adapt to always look great no matter what your screen or font size. Print-like layout dynamically adjusts for any combination of screen size and font setting.

Vox Media Acquires Recode in All-Stock Deal 

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, announcing the deal:

We are thrilled to announce that Re/code’s parent company, Revere Digital, is being wholly acquired by the highly respected digital-native media company Vox Media. This is the next big step in our mission to bring you quality tech journalism, because our work will now be amplified and enhanced by Vox Media’s deep and broad skill set.

We want to assure you that this combination is designed to bolster and enrich Re/code, and that we will continue to publish under the same name and leadership, with editorial independence. We will also continue to hold our signature Code conferences, and even add new ones, again with the same core team and the same philosophy.

Not sure what to make of this. Feel like I’ve felt that way about a lot of news the past few days.

This bit from the NYT report on the acquisition surprised me:

ReCode said it had 44 full-time employees and three contract employees. They were expected to join Vox, though Vox would not elaborate on potential staffing changes.

44 full-time employees sounds crazy for Recode.

Apple Drops discoveryd in Latest OS X Beta 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Looking at Activity Monitor on OS X 10.10 seed 4, discoveryd is no longer loaded by the system — instead relying on mDNSResponder. The ‘new’ process is really the one Apple used to use pre-Yosemite and did not have these problems.

It is still unclear why the change in the networking stack was ever made given that the old process worked so well and the new process had so many issues. There has been some speculation that the new stack is related to AirDrop and Handoff functionality although testing showed that these features still worked when the system was reverted back to the old process.

The saga of discoveryd is baffling to me. I would love to hear the backstory on how it shipped. And I still haven’t heard a plausible theory on what Apple was hoping to accomplish with it in the first place. What was the point of it?

And now to go back and abandon it after all this time? Someone at Apple is eating a lot of crow.

Filling the Green Circle 

Marco Arment:

Ever since getting the Apple Watch, not only have I been getting more consistent exercise, but I’m pushing myself further. I take more walks, and I walk faster and further than ever before. I’ve been walking Hops around the same streets for four years, but now I’ve been discovering new streets and paths just to extend our walking distance and try to beat my previous walks.

I’ve never cared before, but now, I care.

Seth Weintraub on Jony Ive’s Move to Chief Design Officer 

Good take from Seth Weintraub:

New position. Get two subordinates to handle the day-to-day operations and pack your bags? Not quite that easy. If Ive left Apple, he’d be betraying Steve Jobs and abandoning his power as the most influential designer in the world. But he also can’t run the iOS UI and hardware design teams over FaceTime. You simply can’t just ‘call in’ such an important role.

So there’s this compromise. Ive gets two subordinates to run his two incredibly important programs, then gets to spend a reasonable amount of time in the UK with his kids who then aren’t forced to grow up talking like Americans and pronouncing ‘aluminum’ like animals.

The Reverse Crown 

Craig Hockenberry:

Luckily, I had spent some time digging around in the settings in the Apple Watch app and remembered seeing some odd settings in General > Watch Orientation. The wrist selection is obvious enough, but being able to change the position of the digital crown had no obvious benefit. That is, until I tried it.

I like the default position of the crown, but I can see why Craig (and others) prefer it reversed.

Recode: ‘Twitter Has Held Talks to Acquire Flipboard’ 

Not sure how this acquisition would help either company — sounds like a deal just for the sake of making a deal.

Update: Here’s a loose theory, formed after reading a few very thoughtful emails from readers that were all along the same lines. Facebook is killing it — they’re thriving in every way that anyone would want them to. Twitter is measured against Facebook, and they come up (far) short both financially and in terms of active users. Twitter feels compelled to “do something, anything” over and over to ignite growth. And so blowing a billion dollars on the world’s best-looking, slickest-designed RSS aggregator is their next “something”.

Tim Cook’s Memo Announcing Jony Ive’s New Role as ‘Chief Design Officer’ 

Howarth I’m not as familiar with, but Dye — he’s been enormously instrumental in the designs of iOS 7, Yosemite, and Apple Watch. Curious that this is the sort of thing they felt the need to announce on a holiday while the stock market was closed.

Jony Ive Levels Up 

Stephen Fry, writing for The Telegraph:

Until now, Ive’s job title has been Senior Vice President of Design. But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple’s Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him.

Inside the fabled design studio (cloths over the long tables hiding the exciting new prototypes from prying eyes like mine) Jony has two people with him. They too have been promoted as part of Ive’s new role.

One is Richard Howarth, English as Vimto. “Richard is going to be our new head of Industrial Design,” says Jony. “And this is Alan Dye, the new head of User Interface.” Dye is a tall, amiable American.

This is a difficult story to digest. Why give the scoop to Stephen Fry, for example? (My guess: Ive picked him.) Part of the story is that Ive is going to “travel more”, which I take to mean “live in England”. But I do not believe that he’s taking a figurehead position or a ceremonial role — I think he truly is taking a serious C-level role as CDO. But this is definitely different and new.

The Talk Show: ‘The Move to Frisco’ 

Special guest Dan Frommer returns to the show. Topics include David Letterman, iPhone docks, the space black steel Apple Watch, whatever happened to the Edition collection, San Francisco as the new system font for iOS and Mac OS X, and more.

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Direct Mail for OS X 

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On the Apple Watch Interaction Model and the Digital Crown

Steven Berlin Johnson finds the digital crown button convoluted:

If you press this button, these are the potential events that will transpire on your Watch’s screen:

  • You’ll be taken to the “watch face” view.
  • You’ll be taken to the “home screen” app view.
  • You’ll stay in the “home screen” view, but it will re-center on the “watch face” app.
  • You’ll move from a detailed view of a notification back to the notifications summary.

His proposed solution:

Fortunately there is an easy fix for this confusion, which is to streamline the Digital Crown so that it focuses exclusively on the Watch’s two homes. Pressing the Digital Crown should simply toggle you back and forth between the “watch face” and the “home screen.” (Its other functionality could all be achieved through other means; for instance, you can already re-orient the “home screen” simply by dragging your finger across the Watch’s screen.) That’s still more complicated than the iPhone home button, but it’s the kind of thing most users would pick up in a matter of minutes using the Watch. And it has a conceptual clarity that is sorely lacking in the current design.

His whole piece is worth reading, because it aptly describes, almost exactly, how I felt about Apple Watch after using it for just a few days. Several of his complaints, which I would have agreed with in my first few days of Apple Watch use, I no longer consider problems.1 And even now, with seven weeks of daily Apple Watch experience under my belt, when I first read his suggestion for simplifying the digital crown button, I was nodding my head in agreement. But when I sat down to write about it, I realized there’s really only one small thing I would suggest Apple change: the last of its four roles noted by Johnson — its function as a hardware “back” button while looking at the detail view for a notification.

Otherwise, I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:

  • If the watch display is off, pressing the crown wakes it up.
  • If the watch is showing your glances or notifications, pressing the crown takes you back to the watch face.
  • If the watch is displaying your watch face, pressing the crown switches you to the home screen showing all your apps.
  • If you’re using any app, pressing the crown takes you back to the home screen, with the view centered on the app you just left.
  • If the watch is on your home screen and the clock app is not centered, pressing it will re-center.
  • If the watch is on the home screen, centered on the clock, pressing it will switch you to the watch face.

That looks more complicated than it is. And I’m even leaving out at least one other scenario: when you’ve put your home screen into edit mode — where you can delete and rearrange the installed apps — pressing the crown takes you out of editing mode.

Here’s a better way to think about it — and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.

You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.

Watch mode:

  • Shows your watch face by default.
  • Swipe down for notifications.
  • Swipe up for glances.
  • Tap a complication — date, weather, activity — to launch its corresponding app.
  • Tap a glance to open to the corresponding app.
  • Force tap to switch or edit watch faces.

App mode:

  • Shows your home screen, centered on the clock app, by default.
  • No notification list or glances.
  • Tap an app to open it.
  • Long-tap on the home screen to open editing mode.

Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.

If you think about Apple Watch as having these two modes, the role of the crown button is clear:

  • From the “default” view of either mode, the crown button switches you to the other mode.
  • From anywhere else, the crown button takes you to the default view of the current mode. (There’s a slight exception here in app mode: if you’re using an app, pressing the crown first takes you to the home screen centered on the app you were just using, and you have to press it again to center the home screen on the clock app.)

Consider: What happens when you press the digital crown button while in, say, the Weather app? The answer is: It depends how you got there. If you start from the home screen and tap the Weather app icon, the digital crown button returns you to the home screen. If you start from the watch face, though, and launch the full Weather app by tapping the Weather glance, then the digital crown button returns you to the watch face.

This sounds confusing. And if you’re expecting Apple Watch’s digital crown button to work like iOS’s home button, it is not the expected behavior. But in practice, I think it works very well. I suspect this arrangement wasn’t designed in advance but was instead the result of many months of play-testing by the designers on the Apple Watch team.

Again, I agree with Johnson that if you’re looking at a notification detail view, the crown should take you all the way back to the watch face. You have to tap on screen to get into a notification detail view, and they all have a large “Dismiss” button at the bottom if going “back” is what you want. “Back” just doesn’t feel right for the digital crown button. It should simply mean go home in the current mode, or, if you’re already home, switch to the other mode.

I don’t mind the “re-center and re-zoom on the clock app” extra action for the digital crown button. To me, it’s directly analogous to the way the home button takes you back to the first home screen in iOS. More importantly, you don’t have to go back to the watch face (or, as I’m referencing it here, watch “mode”). That just happens automatically when you lower your wrist and stay away from the watch for 30 seconds. You don’t have to “clean up” and go back to the watch face manually. It just happens automatically when you stop using the watch. A few special apps behave otherwise — Workout and Remote, so far — but in both of those cases that makes sense. And, yes, there is a setting (General → Activate on Wrist Raise → Resume To) that allows you to always return to the last-used app, but I don’t see why anyone would use that unless they stubbornly insist upon treating their Apple Watch like a miniature iPhone. Another way to think of this option is as a toggle between treating “watch mode” and “app mode” as the primary mode.

Another insight: the side button exists outside either mode. It behaves the same way no matter which mode you’re in, no matter what you’re doing. One press of the side button brings up your Friends circle. A double-press initiates Apple Pay. In either case — Friends circle or Apple Pay — pressing (or double-pressing) the digital crown button dismisses the side button mode you entered. 


  1. For example, the idea that you should be able to swipe up from anywhere — not just from the watch face — to see glances. A lot of people seem to have this complaint early on. The thought had occurred to me, too. But it clearly wouldn’t work. In other contexts, swiping your finger up on the display scrolls the content, including the home screen, where you need to pan around to see all your apps. Apple would only enable glances globally if they forced you to use the digital crown for scrolling, or, if they enabled glances only as a swipe up from the very bottom edge of the display. Notification Center and Control Center work that way on iOS, which allows them not to conflict with regular old scrolling and panning. But I’m nearly certain that the watch display is too small to make that distinction. You’d find yourself scrolling when you wanted to bring up Glances and bringing up Glances when you wanted to scroll. It’d be maddening. The Watch OS “back” shortcut — swiping from the left to go back in a view hierarchy — is an edge gesture, but that’s OK because if you miss the edge, nothing happens. ↩︎


Apple Watch and Continuous Computing 

Ben Thompson:

That’s not to claim ignorance: I read voraciously, including reviews, talk to as many “normal” people as I can in as many places as I can, and think I have a sense for where various categories are at. And given that, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the Apple Watch is being serially underestimated. Nor, I think, is the long term threat to Apple’s position being fully appreciated.

Marco Arment Bought a New MacBook 

Marco Arment:

I hate typing on it, I hate the trackpad, it’s slower than I expected, the screen is noticeably blurry from non-native scaling to get reasonable screen space, and I don’t even find it very comfortable to use in my lap because it’s too small.

I hate returning things, but I’m returning this.

Wish he’d just tell us what he really thinks instead of always sugarcoating it like this.

Keith Olbermann: A David Letterman Appreciation 

Keith Olbermann:

So I’m a fan on all levels, and on the human one, I’d like to be as decent a man as Dave, if-or-when I grow up. Which leaves me with only one complaint: that after May 20th he’s not doing the show any more. It really is like watching Babe Ruth quit.

Layers Design Conference 

Layers is a great idea: a conference for the iOS and Mac design community that coincides with WWDC, just two blocks away from Moscone in San Francisco. WWDC week is a great week to be in San Francisco — as Jason Snell noted last month, it’s become the heart of the Apple world’s annual calendar. (Layers’s main programming runs Tuesday and Wednesday — no one’s going to miss the WWDC keynote.)

The venue looks cool, and the speaker lineup is terrific — headlined by design legend Susan Kare. (I’ll have the privilege of interviewing her on stage.) Through end-of-day Friday (midnight PDT), Daring Fireball readers can save $50 with the code “daringfiresale”.

Gurman: iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11 Are Switching to San Francisco for System Font 

Mark Gurman:

Apple is currently planning to use the new system font developed for the Apple Watch to refresh the looks of iPads, iPhones, and Macs running iOS 9 “Monarch” and OS X 10.11 “Gala,” according to sources with knowledge of the preparations. Current plans call for the Apple-designed San Francisco font to replace Helvetica Neue, which came to iOS 7 in 2013 and OS X Yosemite just last year, beginning with a June debut at WWDC.

Kind of weird that Helvetica Neue only got one year as the Mac system font, but truth be told it’s never sat right with me in that role for Yosemite. Note too, that Apple is also using San Francisco for the keycaps on the new MacBook keyboard — Apple seems to moving toward using it for the “user interface” both in software and hardware.

Jason Snell on the ‘Utility’ Apple Watch Face 

Jason Snell:

Utility works for me as a more minimal face, but it also works as an information-dense one. It’s adaptable and beautiful. What I’m saying is, Utility has quickly settled in to be my favorite Apple Watch face.

Same here.

‘Finally’ of the Day, iPhone Dock Edition 

G. Keenan Schneider, writing at No Octothorpe on the widespread description of today’s new iPhone dock from Apple as the first in the Lightning era:

It’s obnoxious enough to have the inane insertion of the word, “finally,” into the headline, but tech blogs have decided that’s the new goto when they want to subversively neg Apple. What’s even more obnoxious is that this story isn’t even factually correct. Apple did release a Lightning dock with the 5c and 5s. I have one. It’s great.

Gene Munster Gives Up 

Also on CNBC:

For years Piper Jaffray’s closely followed analyst Gene Munster proclaimed that Apple would soon launch a television set. On Tuesday, he offered a mea culpa after a report surfaced that the company gave up on the project more than a year ago.

“This is a tough day for me. It’s a hard reality to accept, and I think that is the reality of it: the TV is on hold,” Munster told “Squawk Alley.”

He continued to say, “It’s a small consolation that they were aggressively looking at this. At the end of the day, I was wrong.”

$10 says he doesn’t stop asking about it on the quarterly analyst calls.

Carl Icahn Still Thinks Apple Will Make TV Sets 

Appearing on CNBC, to discuss Daisuke Wakabayashi’s aforelinked WSJ report claiming Apple has abandoned plans to make TV sets:

Moreover, Icahn still thinks there will be an Apple TV. “I read the article,” Icahn said, “not what Tim Cook said or didn’t say, but the whole thing is ridiculous … I’m not backtracking in anyway. I believe they will do a TV. That’s my belief.”

The timeline:

  1. Icahn posted a rather rambling “open letter” to Tim Cook, reiterating his belief that Apple will release an “ultra high definition television set” in 2016 and an electric car in 2020.

  2. Wakabayashi reported that Apple has given up on plans for a standalone TV set, according to “people familiar with the matter”.

One way to read it is that Apple gave Wakabayashi this scoop in order to throw cold water on Icahn’s speculation — they’re not doing a TV set and they want everyone to know it, so that when they announce a new Apple TV box at WWDC next month (I know nothing about that other than that it’s widely rumored) everyone will understand that there is no TV set coming next year to wait for.

WSJ: Apple Shelved Plans to Make TV Set 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Investor Carl Icahn said he expects Apple Inc. to introduce an ultra-high-definition television in 2016. But after nearly a decade of research, Apple quietly shelved plans to make such a set more than a year ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said.

Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn’t consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software.

The most surprising thing about this, if true — and with Wakabayashi and “people familiar with the matter”, that’s a big if — is that Apple was still pondering their own TV sets as recently as a year or two ago.

Making boxes that connect to TVs — like Apple TV as it stands today — that makes sense to me. Making actual TV sets, though, I’ve long been skeptical about. Years ago, I thought, “Why should Apple settle for selling a $100 box connected to a $2000 TV instead of just selling the $2000 TV set with the box built in?” The problem, though, is that TV set prices have dropped dramatically, and people don’t replace their TV sets that frequently. The only way to build a large TV-based platform is to make boxes that connect to the TV sets people already own. There has to be a standalone Apple TV box. In theory, Apple could make an actual TV set, too, but I’m unconvinced that makes strategic sense.

The Dalrymple Report 

New podcast, co-hosted by Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann. First episode is mostly non-tech (unless you consider electric guitars to be “tech”). Good stuff. Here’s a shortcut to subscribe in Overcast.

Apple Introduces New iPhone Lightning Dock 

Truly curious about the timing on this — why not unveil it back when the iPhones 6 came out last year? I like using docks for my phone, and for years I used Apple’s. Ever since I switched to the iPhone 6 last year, though, I’ve used two third-party docks, both of which I like very much.

On my desk I use a black Twelve South HiRise Deluxe. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but that’s because it’s adjustable to perfectly fit any iPhone or iPad Mini. It doesn’t block the home button, keeping the phone completely usable while docked. It’s lightweight, but it’s still easy to undock the phone one-handed. (Be sure to get the the HiRise Deluxe, not the regular HiRise. I have one of those, too, and the Deluxe model is definitely better. Twelve South should just discontinue the regular one.)

On my bedside table, I have a black and walnut Spool Dock from Quell and Company. The Spool Dock covers the home button (mostly), so it’s not a good option for my desk, where I sometimes actually use the phone while it’s docked. But I love it as a bedside dock. The “micro-suction pads” on the bottom really work — it never moves, and it’s easy to dock and undock the phone one-handed.

One thing both the HiRise and Spool Dock have in common with the new dock from Apple: they’re designed to work with iPhones of any width and thickness — past, current, or future.

Apple Watch OS 1.0.1 

Finally, support for the new emoji on Apple Watch.

Here’s Apple’s support document with instructions for how to install it. The first-ever software update for a new product always gives me pause, but it went just fine on my watch.

Barack Obama Joins Twitter 

“Via Twitter for iPhone”. Bill Clinton is an iPhone user as well (although he used the Twitter web client to send this amusing reply to Obama).

Why John Biggs Is Still Wearing His Apple Watch 

John Biggs, an avid watch collector, writing for TechCrunch:

There is something magical about the purely mechanical, an object so complex that it takes an expert a lifetime to master the steps needed to build it. In an era of commodity hardware and easy interactivity, that means something.

But even Gibson, that cybernetic seer, couldn’t foresee the rise of another, far more enticing Tamagotchi. The Apple Watch doesn’t quite respond to love in the same way — it is cold and calculated — but instead engenders love through a weird melding of design and desire, of technology and fashion, of unity and connectedness. And those meldings are exactly why Switzerland needs to watch out.

Over the weekend, I went back to a mechanical watch for the first time since March 30. I caught myself swiping it a few times, but the main thing is that I kept glancing at it to see the temperature outside. Also, I felt a vague nagging guilt about the inevitable gap in my fitness/activity history.

Mark Gurman: Third-Party Watch Complications Coming 

Mark Gurman, writing at 9to5Mac:

Besides working on allowing developers to build native, full-speed apps for the Apple Watch, Apple is working on allowing third-party watch face “Complications,” according to our source. Complications are the small widgets indicating activity levels, battery life, alarm clocks, upcoming calendar events, and the current temperature on many of Apple’s included Apple Watch clock faces. Our source says that Apple is currently testing a new version of Watch OS that notably includes a set of Twitter Complications. For example, a small Complication could display a count of unread Twitter mentions, while a larger view could show the text of a recent Twitter mention.

Just based on my own gut feeling, third-party complications feel a lot more likely than third-party watch faces.

Om Malik: ‘On Mobile, Slow Speeds Kill’ 

Om Malik:

Whatever you might think about Facebook Instant Articles, they have refocused our attention on the importance of architecting apps and experiences with network performance and speed — something Google made us aware of 11 years ago.

CJR: ‘The Media’s Reaction to Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Scoop Has Been Disgraceful’ 

Trevor Timm, writing for the CJR:

Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements — breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later — before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”

While there’s no way to prove or disprove every assertion Hersh makes without re-reporting the whole story, let’s look at the overarching criticisms one by one.

Must-read piece.

Peter-Paul Koch: ‘Radical Simplification’ the Answer for the Mobile Web 

Peter-Paul Koch:

The web’s answer to the native challenge should be radical simplification, not even more tools.

It’s more than just layer upon layer of tools. It’s everything that makes web pages slow — slow to load, and/or slow to use. Business development deals have created problems that no web developer can solve. There’s no way to make a web page with a full-screen content-obscuring ad anything other than a shitty experience.

CleanMyMac 3 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote CleanMyMac 3, their utility for cleaning up the unwanted junk taking up space on your hard drive. CleanMyMac frees up space on your Mac’s system, iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, and more. If you’re skeptical, check out the reviews from sites like iMore and MacStories. The latest version even has a great Yosemite-style interface.

Even better, they’re offering Daring Fireball readers 30 percent off through May 20.

The Incomparable: Monkey Cam 

Speaking of podcasts, Jason Snell put together an excellent episode of The Incomparable devoted to David Letterman’s career and imminent retirement. It’s not a panel discussion, but rather a very well edited series of interviews with Andy Ihnatko, Tim Goodman, Philip Michaels, Aaron Barnhart, and yours truly.

The Talk Show: ‘Workin’ in Pajamas’ 

This week’s episode of my award-winning1 podcast, The Talk Show. Joining the show for the first time David Sparks. Topics include “power users”, Markdown, Apple Watch, the new MacBook, iCloud Photo Syncing and the new Photos for Mac, WWDC, and wearing slippers as “work” shoes.

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  1. Has never actually won any awards, and, let’s face it, isn’t as good as it used to be back in the ’80s. ↩︎

Apple Support: ‘If You Forgot the Passcode for Your Apple Watch’ 

This answers my question yesterday as to whether the ability to reset the watch without entering the passcode is a feature or a bug — it’s a feature, in case you forget the passcode.

I really don’t get the hysteria over this as an invitation to thieves. This is no less secure than every single other wristwatch ever made. Certainly, in the future, there could be an option to require the passcode no matter what, but I’m not persuaded that should be the default.

Update: Remember, with Activation Lock on iPhone, you have to enter your iCloud password. How would you enter that on the watch? And the feature can’t rely on your paired iPhone for entering the password, because what happens if you lose or break your phone? Could be we’re just waiting for Apple to figure that out.

IDC’s Vintage 2011 Claim Chowder for 2015 Smartphone OS Market Share 

Four years ago:

The research firm contends that Android will have 45.4 percent market share in 2015. It will be followed by Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform with 20.9 percent market share. The compound annual growth of Microsoft’s platform over the next four years is expected to be 67.1 percent, IDC said. Apple’s iOS and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform will own 15.3 percent and 13.7 percent of the smartphone market, respectively.


Facebook Introduces Instant Articles

Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

A few thoughts:

  • This looks beautiful. Clearly it’s built by the team that did Facebook Paper, with things like the way you tilt the phone to pan around large photos. The knock against Paper is that it only “works” if your friends and family post beautiful, well-crafted content to their Facebook feeds, and, well, that’s not the case for most people. Instant Articles, on the other hand, is all about professionally-produced content.

  • I’m intrigued by the emphasis on speed. Not only is native mobile code winning for app development, but with things like Instant Articles, native is making the browser-based web look like a relic even just for publishing articles. If I’m right about that, it might pose a problem even for my overwhelmingly-text work at Daring Fireball. Daring Fireball pages load fast, but the pages I link to often don’t. I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.

  • There’s also a convenience advantage over per-publication native apps. People are already checking Facebook many times a day on their phones. When they encounter these Instant Articles, they’re one tap and a moment away from reading them. People just don’t check many apps — check the New York Times, check National Geographic, check BBC News — that just isn’t how people use their phones. At best, standalone per-publication apps can get our attention through notifications, but notifications are bothersome in a way that something scrolling through your Facebook feed is not. And an aggregator of content from multiple sources — like, say, Flipboard, to name one obvious competitor — is asking users to check an extra app every day. There are only so many apps people will check for “new stuff” every day.

  • Like Paper, Facebook Instant Articles is iPhone-only, and from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t said a word about Android support. (Paper is even North America US-only — Instant Articles are supported worldwide.) Many are presuming it’s forthcoming, but Paper remains iOS-only. For the moment at least, Facebook isn’t really treating “mobile” as their first-class target platform — they’re treating the iPhone as their first-class target platform. (Instant Articles isn’t even available on iPad yet.)

  • I’ve been skeptical about this whole thing from the publishers’ angle. Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook. But it sounds like the business aspects are very favorable. Publishers can use their own ads and keep 100 percent of the money; if Facebook sells the ads, they use a 70/30 App Store-style split of the money. And there’s no exclusivity. 


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