The Daring Fireball Linked List

PCWorld: ‘Microsoft, Intel Join Forces on Low-Cost Windows 10 Phones’ 

Imagine going back in time 10 years and trying to convince someone that this headline from 2015 would produce nothing but yawns and eye-rolling.

Apple Found Its Newest Billboards on the Internet 

Brendan Klinkenberg, writing for Buzzfeed:

Last December, when the Bay Area had one of its rare rainy days, Cielo de la Paz took her kids out to play. She’s an avid photographer, “willing to wake up at five in the morning and hike 10 miles to get that shot of the sunrise,” and when she saw the reflection of her red umbrella on the wet concrete, she knew she had a good one.

“It took a few shots,” she said, “this was the last one I took, I was finally happy with how the wind arranged the leaves for me.”

She edited the shot with Filterstorm Neue, uploaded the picture to Flickr (she was taking part in the photo365 challenge), where Apple found it.

Then, they put it on a billboard.

On Raising the Price for Vesper 

Jason Snell asked me a few questions about our decision to raise the price of Vesper:

Instead, we want to embrace the users who are looking for the best app, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it if they think Vesper might be it. Going low didn’t work; we lose nothing by trying to go high.

I would like to see other developers follow.

What I see is that among long-time Mac indie developers, almost all of them are still making the majority — often the vast majority, sometimes the entirety — of their revenue from Mac apps. That’s good business — the Mac market is willing to pay reasonable prices for apps. But it’s a lost opportunity for iOS as a platform. I think we’re lacking for good, deep quality apps on iOS.

Jony Ive’s Newton 

Another funny bit regarding Mark Wilson’s calling the Apple Watch “Jonathan Ive’s Newton” — the actual Newton 110 was Jony Ive’s Newton.

‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ — New Book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli 

Becoming Steve Jobs is a remarkable new book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. Crown Publishing Group was gracious enough to send me an advance copy a few weeks ago, and I am delighted to be the first to announce it.

It is, in short, the book about Steve Jobs that the world deserves. You might wonder how such a book could be written without Jobs’s participation, but effectively, he did participate. Schlender, in his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewed Jobs extensively numerous times spanning 25 years. Remember the 1991 joint interview with Jobs and Bill Gates? That was Schlender. As the book makes clear, Jobs and Schlender had a very personal relationship.

The book is smart, accurate, informative, insightful, and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Schlender and Tetzeli paint a vivid picture of Jobs the man, and also clearly understand the industry in which he worked. They also got an astonishing amount of cooperation from the people who knew Jobs best: colleagues past and present from Apple and Pixar — particularly Tim Cook — and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.

The book is an accurate, engaging retelling of the known history of Jobs’s life and career, but also contains a significant amount of new reporting. There are stories in this book that are going to be sensational. (I’ve promised to keep them to myself for now.) I’ll have much more to say about the book when it comes out, but for now, take my word for it and pre-order your copy now. It even has a great cover. Becoming Steve Jobs is going to be an essential reference for decades to come.

Mark Wilson: ‘You Guys Realize the Apple Watch Is Going to Flop, Right?’ 

Kudos to Fast Company’s Mark Wilson for having the stones to predict, boldly, that “Apple Watch is going to flop”, calling it “Jonathan Ive’s Newton”. Pretty sure he has a bad read on the battery life though:

There’s only so much you can do with sapphire glass [sic] and power-efficient microprocessors. Current reports say the Apple Watch could burn out in times as short as 2.5 hours before needing a recharge. Best-case scenarios (you know, when you use it a lot less), might stretch its life to 19 hours. But a loyal user of the Apple Watch would be forced to take it off and recharge it four times during a workday. That’s absurd.

It would be absurd, which is why it’s not true. Wilson links to a CNBC report for that “2.5 hours” figure, but CNBC’s source is this original report by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac. Gurman reported:

Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use. As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode.

Battery life may well be a serious problem for Apple Watch. It’s no surprise that it was and will remain one of the hardest engineering problems on the project. But no one is saying you’re going to have to recharge it every three hours. That’s so dumb it makes one think Wilson is being willfully obtuse so as to bask in the contrarian limelight for a few days.

Google Backs Away From Requiring Android Lollipop Devices to Be Encrypted by Default 

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

Last year, Google made headlines when it revealed that its next version of Android would require full-disk encryption on all new phones. Older versions of Android had supported optional disk encryption, but Android 5.0 Lollipop would make it a standard feature.

But we’re starting to see new Lollipop phones from Google’s partners, and they aren’t encrypted by default, contradicting Google’s previous statements. At some point between the original announcement in September of 2014 and the publication of the Android 5.0 hardware requirements in January of 2015, Google apparently decided to relax the requirement, pushing it off to some future version of Android.

Ars’s guess as to why is performance, which seems likely. It just shows how hard it is for Google to move the state of the art forward with Android — everything takes a year, or longer, before hitting the market.

Gallery of iPhone 6 Photography 

So many great photographs in this new collection from Apple. (Note, though, that nearly all of them were taken outdoors. Low-light indoor photography is the next frontier for iPhone cameras.)

Update: Apple is going to use these photos in an upcoming ad campaign. Great idea, and must be a real thrill for the photographers. Also interesting to note just how many of them were edited using VSCO Cam.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 ‘Looks Like the Love Child of an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6’ 

Dan Seifert, reporting for The Verge from MWC in Barcelona:

Hallmarks of Samsung’s phones, such as removable batteries, microSD card slots, and waterproofing are nowhere to be found on the S6 or S6 Edge.

Welcome to 2007.

That will likely upset some die-hard users and Samsung loyalists that relied on those features, but it’s clear that Samsung prioritized the phone’s design and its look and feel over things that appeal to a smaller segment of its customer base. Samsung also trimmed back the software features, claiming that there are 40 percent fewer features in the Galaxy S6 than the S5.

A sign of just how bad Samsung is at software: they’re now bragging about removing a huge number of “features”.

It’s easy to see where Samsung took its inspiration for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge: the design is strikingly similar to the iPhone 6 in many places, and the features that Samsung did focus its efforts on are all things the iPhone has had for years. Look at the S6 from certain angles and you’d immediately think it’s an iPhone. Put your thumb on the home key and the phone unlocks almost instantly, just like an iPhone. Even the camera mount protrudes out from the rear of the phone, preventing the S6 from lying flat on a table, just like an iPhone 6. (The flat S6 looks like the lovechild of an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6, while the S6 Edge is a little more distinctive.) Samsung has be known to copy Apple’s design before, which led to record sales and record-breaking lawsuits. It’s hard to say if the Galaxy S6 will bring about any lawsuits, but the similarities between it and the iPhone 6 are undeniable.

Shameless.

Apple Employees Speak to Brian X. Chen Off-the-Record Regarding Apple Watch 

Brian X. Chen scored a few Apple Watch scoops:

Inside Apple, members of the team that worked on the watch product, code-named Gizmo, say it was a difficult engineering challenge. Three employees briefed on the project agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. […]

Apple has said the watch battery is estimated to last a full day, requiring a user to charge it at night, similar to a smartphone. The company also developed a yet-to-be-announced feature called Power Reserve, a mode that will run the watch on low energy but display only the time, according to one employee.

Apple will release the watch a bit later than it had hoped because of technology challenges. It probably didn’t help that several important employees jumped ship. Nest Labs, the smart appliance maker that was acquired by Google last year, poached a few engineers who were the very best on the watch team, according to two people. Among them was Bryan James, Apple’s former director of iPod software, who became a vice president for engineering at Nest in early 2014, these people said.

The Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle 

My thanks to StackSocial for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle, a terrific collection of apps including: ScreenFlow 5 ($99, Apple Design Winner), Things 2 ($49, Mac App Store Hall of Fame), Data Rescue 4 ($99, Macworld Editor’s Choice), ExpanDrive 4 ($49), Civilization: Beyond Earth ($49), and more. For a limited time, you get all of these apps for just $44.99. Any one of them would be a value for this price — bundled together, you’ll save over $400.

Even better: Daring Fireball readers can save an extra $5 with coupon code “ULTRA-DF5”.

Swatch Introduces Touch Zero One Smartwatch 

David Bredan, writing for A Blog to Watch:

Today, as news both expected and unexpected, Swatch has introduced what will be its first widely available smartwatch: the Swatch Touch Zero One. What we all expected to see sooner or later — preferably sooner — was a smart / notification / fitness watch to be offered by one of the Swiss watch industry giants. The unexpected part, is that there’s a direct link to, there’s no other way to put it, beach volleyball.

That’s quite a focused niche.

Google Unveils Proposal for New Mountain View Campus 

Ambitious, to be sure, and very Google-y. From the Google blog:

The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas. (Our self-driving car team, for example, has very different needs when it comes to office space from our Search engineers.) Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.

Vesper: Now With Native Support for iPad and Landscape 

Highlights of today’s update to Vesper:

  • Native iPad support.
  • Landscape support on all iOS devices.
  • iOS 8 sharing sheet support.
  • A new price that reflects the actual value of Vesper.

Yours truly, writing at the Vesper blog:

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.

Stay tuned for more.

Put another way, we’re going to charge something sane or die trying. We tried following the iOS App Store trend by pricing Vesper at just $2.99 for months. It didn’t work. Prices like that are not sane, and not sustainable, at least for well-crafted productivity apps. So Q Branch is drawing a line in the sand, and we hope other iOS developers will follow.

On Heroes: Annie Jean Easley 

Great piece by Ashley Nelson-Hornstein on Annie Easley, an amazing computer science pioneer I’d never heard of before:

Each systemic microaggression Easley faced, she met with poise and tenacity. Her motto was “if I can’t work with you, I will work around you.” When her supervisor refused to find out if NASA would help pay for her Mathematics degree — a luxury known to be afforded to other employees — Easley paid her own way. When management at NASA refused to give her paid leave like another co-worker to finish the remaining four courses of her degree, Easley took unpaid leave. When Easley was cut out of a photo taken of the six people who worked on a project, she didn’t let that discouragement affect her life.

The word that comes to mind after reading this: perseverance.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch and Retail Stores 

The Telegraph’s Allister Heath spent some time with Tim Cook in London. Their headline emphasizes Cook’s revelation that Apple Watch will eventually be able to replace your car keys, but I thought the best part of the story was Cook’s impromptu visit to Apple’s Covent Garden retail store.

(Spitball idea: If Apple uses their March 9 event to reveal changes to their retail stores to accommodate Apple Watch, it could mark Angela Ahrendts’s first on-stage appearance at an Apple event.)

TypeSnippets 

Clever new iOS 8 keyboard from Nice Mohawk. You get a “keyboard” listing the snippets of text you type most frequently (e.g. your email address, frequently pasted URLs, etc.). Free to try with up to three snippets, upgrade to unlimited snippets for just $2.99. I’ve been beta testing TypeSnippets for a few weeks, and it works like a charm.

Brace Yourselves 

Citigroup analyst Jim Suva on Apple Watch:

We expect Apple to give specifics on the launch time, price, and geographic locations, which we estimate as: Launch date: April 16th; Price points: $350, $550 and $950; with a launch limited to the U.S., followed by Europe and Asia in the subsequent months.

That pricing makes no sense. People who believe this are going to shit their pants when Edition pricing is announced.

Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83 

What a remarkable career. His final tweet from a few days ago is poignant.

The Best Tesla Model S Easter Egg 

So great, I don’t want to spoil it.

A-Rod Issues Hand-Written Letter of Apology to Fans 

Alex Rodriguez returns to spring training:

I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.

I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.

25 Years of Photoshop 

Nice celebratory site from Adobe. Really enjoyed this interview with Photoshop co-creator Thomas Knoll. It’s hard to overstate just how far ahead of its time Photoshop was when it appeared.

‘Must Fix for Next Release’ 

Good suggestion from Craig Hockenberry:

I think there’s an easy way to fix these minor transgressions that would benefit both parties: add a new kind of approval with strings attached. A “Must Fix for Next Release” state where the app can go into “Ready for Sale” but the issue remains in the Resolution Center. At that point, both the app reviewers and developer know that an issue has to be dealt with before it’s approved the next time.

It would be like getting pulled over for a broken taillight on your car. You don’t need to visit your mechanic immediately to get the problem fixed. But you’ll certainly have to get things in order the next time you register the vehicle.

Why Google’s Blink (and I Think, Apple’s WebKit) Rejected the Pointer Events Spec 

From the Chromium developer mailing list:

Very briefly, pointer events has 3 main drawbacks relative to the alternative:

  1. Mobile-first web: Pointer events would likely never supplant touch events on the web (especially without support from Safari). Since touch events are here to stay, supporting another largely redundant input model has a high long-term complexity cost on the web platform.

  2. Performance: The hit testing model required by pointer events imposes a non-trivial performance penalty (hit test on every movement event) that neither Android, iOS or touch events has. We’re not willing to add any feature that increases the web’s performance disadvantage relative to native mobile platforms.

  3. Richness: Pointer events requires that scrolling and event handling are mutually exclusive. This precludes some UI effects which are common on on mobile platforms (eg. pull to refresh). Recently strong developer feedback has lead us to change Chrome in the opposite direction here - enabling event handling while scrolling (see issue 293467 ).

If there’s a performance hit and a decrease in expressible UI effects, it’s no wonder Apple and Google aren’t pursuing Pointer Events in WebKit or Blink. It’s not fair to categorize Google’s decision as simply “Because Safari won’t support it”. It’s a question of performance and user experience richness on one side, and developer convenience on the other.

How John Hofsess Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ‘Barry Lyndon’ 

Speaking of Kubrick, this 1976 review of Barry Lyndon by John Hofsess for the NYT is interesting:

Eventually, Kubrick may end up in a cul-de-sac, for he is following a similar line of development — using the “grammar” of the film medium — to that pursued by James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov in fiction. There is no question that Joyce and Nabokov — more than any other writers in the 20th-century — brilliantly explored and expanded the limits of language and the structure of novels, yet both were led irresistibly and obsessively to cap their careers with those cold and lifeless masterpieces, “Finnegans Wake” and “Ada,” more to be deciphered than read by a handful of scholars whose pleasure is strictly ratiocination. It is characteristic of such careers that people keep saying, “This time you’ve really gone too far! We liked your last film or novel — but that’s it!” The price of growth is disaffection.

That wasn’t true of The Shining, but it seems remarkably prescient regarding Full Metal Jacket and especially Eyes Wide Shut.

Adam Savage Recreates the Overlook Hotel Maze Model 

Glorious attention to detail. (Thanks to Joel Irwin.)

Brikk to Sell Platinum and Diamond-Encrusted Apple Watches for Up to $75,000 

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this sort of aftermarket bling.

Lack of Support From Apple Scuttles W3C Pointer Events Spec 

Tim Kadlec:

I was willing to give the Blink folks the benefit of the doubt, because I do remember they had specific and legitimate concerns about the spec awhile back. But after reading through notes from a Pointer Events Meeting in August, I’m forced to reconsider. The Chrome representative had this to say:

No argument that PE is more elegant. If we had a path to universal input that all supported, we would be great with that, but not all browsers will support PE. If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Let’s set any opinions about Pointer Events aside. Frankly, I need to do a lot more digging here before I have any sort of strong opinion in one direction or another. There is a bigger issue here. We have a recurring situation where all vendors (save for Apple) show interest in standard, but because Apple does not express that same interest, the standard gets waylaid.

Peter-Paul Koch is even more scathing:

Apple has a huge following and essentially could do as it pleased for the past seven years or so. In order to forcibly educate Apple to become a responsible web citizen, it is necessary to create a counter-weight; to find a company that will support the open Web and has enough market share to force even web developers who’d prefer to work in iOS only to pay attention to pointer events.

That company is Google. There is no other candidate. Firefox essentially doesn’t exist on mobile, mobile IE is too small, as are the minor browsers such as BlackBerry and UC.

In that light, Google’s refusal to implement the pointer events is a victory for Apple. Now I don’t know about the high-level politicking going on, and I certainly don’t want to argue that the Chrome team intends to increase Apple’s hold on mobile web dev, but that will be the net result of their actions anyway.

Is there a good summary somewhere explaining Apple’s argument against the Pointer Events spec?

Update: There are some technical arguments against Pointer Events here and here (via Google engineer Ray Cromwell). I think, in layman’s terms, Apple objects to the way that the way Pointer Events unifies mouse, stylus, and touch events — losing the user experience differences between them for the sake of developer convenience.

Let’s Declare GPG a Dead End for Encrypted Email 

Moxie Marlinspike:

Looking forward, however, I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. The journalists who depend on it struggle with it and often mess up (“I send you the private key to communicate privately, right?”), the activists who use it do so relatively sparingly (“wait, this thing wants my finger print?”), and no other sane person is willing to use it by default. Even the projects that attempt to use it as a dependency struggle.

These are deep structural problems. GPG isn’t the thing that’s going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it’d be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990’s cryptography. If there’s any good news, it’s that GPG’s minimal install base means we aren’t locked in to this madness, and can start fresh with a different design philosophy. When we do, let’s use GPG as a warning for our new experiments, and remember that “innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1000 things.”

Any solution that isn’t easy to use and easy to understand is a poor solution. And GPG is neither.

F.C.C. Votes for Net Neutrality, a Ban on Paid Fast Lanes, and Title II 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to enforce net neutrality rules that prevent Internet providers — including cellular carriers — from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

The most controversial part of the FCC’s decision reclassifies fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, with providers to be regulated as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This decision brings Internet service under the same type of regulatory regime faced by wireline telephone service and mobile voice, though the FCC is forbearing from stricter utility-style rules that it could also apply under Title II.

An amazing turnaround for net neutrality, which looked dead just one year ago.

Tim Cook at the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Israel 

Tim Cook is in the midst of a European tour. This photo from his tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum caught my eye. You can feel the solemnity.

WSJ: ‘YouTube: 1 Billion Viewers, No Profit’ 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for the WSJ:

The online-video unit posted revenue of about $4 billion in 2014, up from $3 billion a year earlier, according to two people familiar with its financials, as advertiser-friendly moves enticed some big brands to spend more. But while YouTube accounted for about 6% of Google’s overall sales last year, it didn’t contribute to earnings. After paying for content, and the equipment to deliver speedy videos, YouTube’s bottom line is “roughly break-even,” according to a person with knowledge of the figure.

Shows just how hard it is to make money from a “give something valuable away for free” model, even at YouTube’s massive scale and with Google’s advertising expertise.

Apple Announces Media Event for March 9 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invites for a special event to be held on March 9, 2015. The event will be held in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a venue that Apple has used many times before for special events.

It is widely expected that Apple will use the event to give more details about the Apple Watch, which was introduced last September.

I’ll eat my hat if this isn’t largely — maybe even solely — about Apple Watch.

Farhad Manjoo Interviews Dick Costolo 

Interesting interview:

Q: You recently sent a memo to employees saying, “We suck at dealing with abuse.” And you said that you lose users because of it.

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of all the emails I’ve ever sent to the company, that’s probably the first one where I said “we suck at” instead of using more eloquent language. My parents aren’t delighted about that. But I meant what I said. One of the reasons I was so blunt about it was that I wanted to really send a wake-up call to the company that we’re going to get a lot more aggressive about it, and it’s going to start right now.

Q: For years people have called on you to do more. So why did you need that wake-up call?

A: Well, it’s a complex issue. By way of example, in the wake of the news of that internal memo going out, I’ll get emails from people that say, “I agree, and here’s a great example of someone being harassed on the platform” — and it’s not at all harassment, it’s political discourse. And, in fact, fairly rational political discourse. So you know these things have lots and lots of varying degrees: Was that really harassment and abuse? Or is that discourse?

Google Plans New Headquarters 

Conor Dougherty, reporting for the NYT:

Google owns or leases about 7.3 million square feet of office space in Mountain View — roughly equivalent to three Empire State Buildings. That includes most of the property around its headquarters on the north side of the city near Highway 101, which cuts the length of the valley, according to Transwestern, a commercial real estate brokerage.

“Three Empire State Buildings” really puts their holdings in scale. For comparison, Apple’s new spaceship campus will have about 3.5 million square feet of office space.

Mountain View, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, has close to 80,000 people; with its strip-mall thoroughfares and streets of single-family homes, it looks like a sleepy suburb. But since hiring has boomed, the city’s roads swell with commuters during the morning and evening rush.

The Times used a brief video instead of a still photo to illustrate rush hour traffic in the area. A great idea that works very well.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch Water Resistance 

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors on this report from French-language iGeneration (Google translation to English) about Tim Cook’s trip to Germany:

While on a trip in Germany to visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet with a few German-based Apple staff members, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Apple Store employees in Berlin that he wears his Apple Watch constantly, “even in the shower”, according to iGen.fr.

The new piece of information from the Apple CEO could mean the company’s been working on adding more water resistant features to the upcoming wearable, since at its early-September reveal event the company warned off wearing the device in the shower.

Good news, if this means Apple is going to officially describe it as water resistant.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know 

Jeremy Scahill, reporting for The Intercept:

Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

To say security experts are skeptical is an understatement:

“Gemalto learned about this five-year old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Matthew Green, a cryptography specialist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, said, “This is an investigation that seems mainly designed to produce positive statements. It is not an investigation at all.”

Paging Auric Goldfinger 

Josh Centers does some back-of-the-envelope math to estimate how much raw gold Apple might need for Apple Watch Edition production:

There are two conclusions we can draw from this scattering of data. The first is that Apple is about to take over the world. Not only will it be the most valuable company on the planet, but it will also be bidding for a third of the world’s annual gold supply, wreaking havoc on gold prices and doing who knows what to the global economy.

The alternative is that the esteemed Wall Street Journal is off on its Apple Watch Edition sales by an order of magnitude (or more). That would put the number at 100,000 per month, which seems more plausible.

I think the WSJ’s sources are deeply suspect on these production numbers. There’s no way Apple is planning on selling one million Edition models a month. That’s just nutty. Rolex sells only 600,000 watches a year.

Profit Margins and the Apple Car 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

There are dozens of ways in which Apple’s apparent effort to build an Apple-branded car could go wrong, but there’s one argument against the idea that I’m hearing a lot of that really doesn’t make sense. From Henry Blodget to former GM CEO Daniel Akerson to the LA Times to Yahoo Finance people are saying this won’t work because the car industry is a “low margin” business in contrast to the fat margins Apple is used to earning most of all on its workhorse iPhone.

The misperception here is that Apple earns high margins because Apple operates in high margin industries. The truth is precisely the opposite. Apple earns high margins because it is efficient at manufacturing and firmly committed to a business strategy of sacrificing market share to maintain pricing power. If Apple makes a car, it will be a high margin car because Apple only makes high margin products. If it succeeds it will succeed for the same reason iPhones and iPads and Macs succeed — people like them and are willing to buy them, even though you could get similar specs for less.

Bingo.

The Apple Watch Edition’s Upgrade Dilemma 

Serenity Caldwell, writing at iMore:

Apple could solely go after the high-end fashion market, say “These customers have no qualms about paying $15,000 every two years,” and be done with it. Or the company could invest in some sort of long-term support for its Edition customers. And even after writing all this, I’m still no closer to figuring out which one the company will pick. The former model favors Apple’s traditional business model, just at a much higher income bracket. The latter feels more like an Apple move, to support its customers and give them the best experience possible.

I hope Apple Watch — at least the Edition models — is upgradeable. I would bet that it’s not. The single most frequent question I’ve received this week is how can Apple justify $10,000+ prices for a watch that will be technically outdated in a few years. The simplest answer is that it’s for people who don’t care.

I say I’d bet against upgradeability simply because it’d be so unlike Apple. But, the whole idea of a solid gold $10,000 watch is also unlike Apple. We’re in new territory here. And I do wonder why Apple called out the modular design of the S1 on their technology page. Why does this image exist? An “upgrade” would probably require new sensors and antennas and battery too — more or less replacing everything inside the watch case.

Apple Car: Three More Thoughts 

Good column from Jean-Louis Gassée on the idea of Apple making cars:

I would love to be wrong about the AppleCar — I join the choristers who would love to see what Apple could do with a car — but we’ve heard a bit too much about Apple’s ability to design an interesting electric vehicle and not enough about the industrial part, about the machine that makes the machines.

Useful Mac 

New website by Garrett Murray. Already a winner by introducing me to this gem of a Safari extension.

Pebble Time 

Blow-out Kickstarter campaign to launch the second-generation Pebble watch: $6 million and counting on the first day. Looks far more compelling than the first-generation model, with a microphone for input, a color (but still e-paper) display, and a new timeline-centric UI paradigm. They’ve also gone back to a more utilitarian design, wisely abandoning the direction they went with Pebble Steel.

I found wearing an original Pebble Watch to be more annoying than useful, but it’s hard not to root for a small independent company with original ideas going head-to-head against Apple Watch and Android Wear.

The Talk Show: ‘12 Hours a Day’ 

New episode of America’s favorite three-star podcast, featuring three-and-a-half-star guest John Moltz. Topics include Apple Watch; rumors that Apple is working on a secret car project; our love of old Mac hardware; and a long discussion on Ian Parker’s extraordinary New Yorker profile of Jony Ive and his design team at Apple.

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When the iPad Was Rumored to Start at $1,000 

Back in January 2010, the Wall Street Journal ran a report by Yukari Iwatani Kane and Geoffrey Fowler that contained this nugget:

Yair Reiner, an analyst for Oppenheimer & Co., said in a research note last month that the tablet would be priced at about $1,000, citing sources. One challenge: Apple’s MacBook laptops start at $999.

They bought the “about $1,000” part hook, line, and sinker, tweeting:

Exclusive: Apple to unveil a 10- to 11-inch tablet later this month for about $1,000. Shipping in March. http://on.wsj.com/70I9XL

When the iPad was unveiled, its actual starting price was half that, just $499.

In the wake of my piece last week on Apple Watch pricing, a few DF readers have emailed or tweeted to ask if that might not be what’s going on with the prices for the steel Apple Watch and gold Edition models. I don’t think so. Mainly because we already know Apple Watch’s starting price: $349 for the Sport model.

From what I’m hearing, I guessed pretty good last week: about $1,000 for Apple Watch, and $10,000+ for Edition. (I’m still thinking $749 starting price for the steel Apple Watch with Sport Band — roughly twice the price of the aluminum Sport model.)

Battery Life vs. Phone Thinness 

Christopher Mims, writing for the WSJ:

Survey after survey reveals there is one thing consumers wish manufacturers would change about their gadgets. And year after year, gadget makers make only tepid gestures toward giving it to us.

It’s better battery life. […]

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a simple enough solution. It requires a company brave enough to persuade users that one of the things we’ve come to expect from phones and other gadgets — that every year, they become thinner and lighter — is a trend that has outlived its usefulness.

It’ll happen soon. Consider laptops — for years, battery life on a laptop was somewhere around 4 or 5 hours, at best. It was a struggle to use one throughout a cross-country flight. Today, you could probably fly coast to coast roundtrip with a MacBook Air on a single charge. But laptops got thinner and lighter before they got better battery life.

The Entrant’s Guide to the Automobile Industry 

Horace Dediu:

Like a siren, it calls.

The Auto Industry is significant. With gross revenues of over $2 trillion, production of over 66 million vehicles and growing[1] it seems to be a big, juicy target. It employs 9 million people directly and 50 million indirectly and politically it must rank among the top three industries worthy of government subsidy (or interference). Indeed, in many countries–the US included–government interference makes it practically impossible for a producer to go out of business, no matter how poorly it’s managed or how untenable the market conditions.

But this might be the tell-tale sign that danger lurks.

A simple question: Will there ever be a major disruption in the auto industry?

YouTube Kids 

New app for Android and iOS. I predict massive success.

The Economist on Apple and the Auto Industry 

The Economist:

In a pessimistic forecast, the Boston Consulting Group reckons demand for cars with even limited self-driving features will never exceed 25% of sales, and fully autonomous ones will account for just 10% of sales by 2035.

Perhaps technology firms can accelerate the future of the car. But whatever happens, this is a difficult business to break into. Google would like the carmakers it hopes eventually to supplant to help seal their doom by building its vehicles under contract. Unsurprisingly, none seems too keen on this. Apple’s cash pile of $178 billion is more than enough to set up a carmaking division and tool up its factories. But the technology firms have no manufacturing culture, and the skills needed to market, distribute and provide after-sales service for cars is unlike anything they are used to.

This whole piece strikes me as awfully shortsighted. Even the illustration that accompanies the article is bad.

Marketing and Loyalty 

William Anderson ably pooh-poohs this goofy HBR piece by Alexander Jutkowitz, in which Jutkowitz argues that Apple is proof that “loyalty” has killed marketing.

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