Linked List: November 2011

Facebook and Privacy 

Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate:

The only sure way to keep something private on Facebook is not to post it to Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg would never acknowledge this, but I think it will ultimately benefit both his site and its users if we adjusted our expectations about “privacy” there. You should approach Facebook as cautiously as you would approach your open bedroom window. However restrictive your privacy controls, you should imagine that everything that you post on Facebook will be available for public consumption forever. If you follow this simple rule, you’ll never be blindsided.

The article’s sub-head is a bit unfair, though:

You’re as much to blame for the site’s privacy woes as Mark Zuckerberg.

People are confused about Facebook privacy settings because Facebook wants them to be confused. It’s deliberate. That’s all on Facebook.

Speaking of Shit-Ass Websites 

MG Siegler on Business Insider’s practice of breaking articles — articles — into 12-page-view “slideshows”.

Shit-Ass Websites 

Jim Dalrymple:

It got me thinking about some of the other sites I visit, so I did some tests loading the homepage of each site and here’s what I found. There are three stats for each site — the number of http requests, the size of the page and how long it took the page to download.

Send me a “Get Off My Lawn, You Goddamn Kids” t-shirt if you want, but I say web pages should still be measured in kilobytes, not megabytes. Especially when the megabytes are almost all for ads.

(The Loop is moving to a new web host tonight, so just in case you can’t access the site at the moment, here it is in Google’s cache.)

And the Bidding for Yahoo Begins 

Geoff Duncan:

Yahoo’s current strategy seems to be offering a minority stake of just under 20 percent of the company using PIPE transactions — Private Investment in a Public Equity. If Yahoo keeps the proportion of the deal under 20 percent of the company, Yahoo’s board of directors can approve the deal without putting it to a shareholder vote. PIPE transactions are generally considered the province of less-than-reputable companies: they’re essentially a strategy that allows major changes in company ownership without shareholder approval. If Yahoo conducts such a transaction, it’s almost certain to further alienate its investors — unless it can generate tremendous amounts of cash from the sale.

Ignominious.

Who Needs Competition? 

Linda Loyd, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D., Pa.) has urged the chief executive officer of US Airways Group Inc. to rescind the airline’s fare hike planned for flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in early January, when only US Airways will fly between the two cities.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that when Southwest Airlines Co. drops its flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Jan. 8, the price for a US Airways round-trip ticket will jump from $118 plus tax, to $698 plus tax.

What a dick move.

Imagine If It Were Apple 

John Brownlee, writing for Cult of Mac:

Once logged, Carrier IQ then sends all of this data to its own servers. That’s incredible. One privately held company that almost no one has ever heard of has the complete logs of every email, phone call, web search and text message ever sent or received by millions of Android, Blackberry and Nokia users.

I don’t think that’s an accurate description of what we know at this point. This stuff gets logged on the device. And Carrier IQ claims that their portal software gives “customers” (a.k.a. phone carriers) the ability to look at this stuff. But I don’t think anyone has shown what gets phoned home.

Even worse? There’s no way to opt out of the Carrier IQ “service.” On Android phones, your only choice is to root your phone and replace the operating system with one without the software pre-installed.

This is absolutely insane. Apple was practically crucified over LocationGate, which was just a cache of GPS locations stored on user’s home machines. Meanwhile, almost every Android phone out there is reading people’s emails and logging their passwords, while no one bats an eye.

Apple’s location brouhaha wasn’t even about GPS data — it was only a cache of cell tower locations. The problem isn’t that the news media aren’t sensationalizing this Carrier IQ story. The problem is that they would if it involved Apple.

What Is Carrier IQ? 

Trevor Eckhart’s report on Carrier IQ:

From training documents found we get an insight to the Carrier IQ Portal. Devices are displayed to the portal operator by individual phone Equipment ID and Subscriber IDs. The “portal administrator” can put devices into categories and see devices in California that have dropped calls at 5pm.

The down side to all of this is the “portal administrator” is also able to “task” a single phone with a profile containing any combinations of metric and trigger. From leaked training documents we can see that portal operators can view and task metrics by equipment ID, subscriber ID, and more. So instead of seeing dropped calls in California, they now know “Joe Anyone’s” location at any given time, what he is running on his device, keys being pressed, applications being used.

From what I can see, Eckhart’s picture of exactly how Carrier IQ works is incomplete. But I’m pretty sure he’s onto something here. The best-case scenario he paints is still rather alarming. The worst-case scenario is that people working at your phone carrier, using Carrier IQ’s portal software, can watch what you’re doing on your phone as you do it.

Eckhart’s report clearly touched a nerve at Carrier IQ. They sent him this preposterous cease-and-desist order (PDF), which you really need to read to believe. Eckhart, with legal support from the EFF, stood his ground and forced Carrier IQ to retract the cease-and-desist.

Carrier IQ 

David Kravets, reporting for Wired Threat Level:

Though the software is installed on most modern Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones, Carrier IQ was virtually unknown until 25-year-old Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut analyzed its workings, revealing that the software secretly chronicles a user’s phone experience — ostensibly so carriers and phone manufacturers can do quality control.

But now he’s released a video actually showing the logging of text messages, encrypted web searches and, well, you name it. […]

The company denies its software logs keystrokes. Eckhart’s 17-minute video clearly undercuts that claim.

I’ve been reading about Carrier IQ all afternoon, and what they’re logging is simply breathtaking. It’s not clear to me, though, just what is being sent from the devices to Carrier IQ’s servers. What’s being logged on the device is one thing. What’s being sent over the air to Carrier IQ’s servers is another.

Felix Salmon on Apple’s Valuation 

Felix Salmon, commenting on Andy Zaky’s piece on Apple’s stock price:

All of which raises the obvious question: why is Apple trading at such a seemingly depressed level? I have a few ideas, none of which are particularly compelling.

By the way, a few readers have asked whether I personally own Apple stock. Good question. I do not. I don’t own stock in any companies that I cover regularly here on DF. I do own shares of an S&P 500 mutual fund.

Apple: The Most Undervalued Large-Cap Stock in America 

Andy Zaky:

In late 2007, Apple traded at $200 a share after reporting $3.93 in EPS on $24.5 billion in revenue. Turn the pages to 2011 and it’s an entirely different company. In just four years, Apple’s earnings have grown 600% to $27.68, and its revenue skyrocketed 341% to $108.2 billion. That’s the most explosive 4-year growth rate of any large-cap company on the entire S&P 500.

Yet, one wouldn’t know this given the stock’s very sluggish performance, extremely depressed valuation and the media’s permanently negative sentiment on the stock over the past few years.

Zaky makes a compelling, data-backed case that Apple’s stock price is severely undervalued.

Jon Gold on the Nokia Lumia 

Jon Gold:

The flip side is I have to keep questioning myself and what I believe in. Cellphones should not prompt an existential crisis. It’s just a phone. But I keep having to ask myself whether I want Apple to win, or I want better to win. As a designer I hope I always go for better. Metro is undeniably gorgeous but I still can’t form an objective opinion about whether the phone as a whole is good enough to replace my iPhone.

The facts say it’s good enough. My heart says no.

I’ve been testing an HTC Titan for a few weeks, and that’s pretty much how I feel about Windows Phone 7 too.

Windows Phone Demo 

Web-based demo of the Windows Phone 7 interface, meant for use on other mobile devices. Well done.

David Foster Wallace’s Syllabus 

“If you are used to whipping off papers the night before they’re due, running them quickly through the computer’s Spellchecker, handing them in full of high-school errors and sentences that make no sense and having the professor accept them ‘because the ideas are good’ or something, please be informed that I draw no distinction between the quality of one’s ideas and the quality of those ideas’ verbal expression, and I will not accept sloppy, rough-draftish, or semiliterate college writing. Again, I am absolutely not kidding.”

That’s from one of Wallace’s syllabuses. Katie Roiphe, writing for Slate:

Of course, this is not the part of teaching that most people pour their hearts into. It’s just a syllabus! Wallace is bringing to the endeavor rigorous Salingerish standards of not lying, or not being phony, that would reproach other more ordinary people if these standards did not border on parody, and were not expressed in such a good natured and honorable way.

Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t accept dogma. Look for ways that you might be wrong, don’t look for ways to prove you’re right. Think. Express your thoughts with as much precision and care as you can muster.

That’s why Wallace’s work serves as a beacon, a yardstick, for my own.

Roger Black on How Crappy Advertising Is Destroying the Web 

Roger Black:

Problem two is the look and feel of advertising. Web publishers have fallen into the Gresham’s Law of the Web: Crappy advertising drives out the well-designed.

What we have now is the ugliest advertising in the history of the media. I used to say that web sites looked like the walls of a third-world futbol stadium, but that was unfair to the stadiums. Most content sites look so bad they actually repel readers rather than attract them.

Regarding TheNextWeb’s Shit-Ass Website 

Joshua Cody tweets:

Need a warning when @gruber links to @thenextweb — 452 HTTP requests, 3.12MB, 1 minute to load, repeated Badgeville (what?!) errors.

Funny, I actually hesitated before linking to Matthew Panzarino’s Lumia review at TheNextWeb, because I dislike their website. It’s a good review, but I hate reading stuff on TheNextWeb. Even scrolling feels janky. But Cody’s numbers seem ridiculous. Why in the world would a web page require 452 HTTP requests and over 3 MB?

But lo, I measured a few of their articles using Safari’s web inspector, and Cody wasn’t exaggerating. One article at TheNextWeb weighed in at over 6 MB and required 342 HTTP requests. 73 different JavaScript scripts alone. Absurd. I did a reload on the same page a few minutes later and it was up to 368 HTTP requests but weighed “only” 1.99 MB.

Compare that with The Verge, a site in the same design genre as TheNextWeb — comments, like buttons, multiple ads per page, etc. Typical articles at The Verge take about 110 HTTP requests, and weigh about 500 KB. That’s heavy compared to, say, Daring Fireball, but in my opinion quite reasonable given The Verge’s design.

How long it takes to load the page is part of the reading experience. Bandwidth is not free, and not universally fast. People are using 3G for chrissakes. If every article on the web weighed 3 MB, you’d eat through a 2 GB data cap by reading only 20 articles a day. Not watching video — just reading.

Million Unit Week for Xbox 360 

Microsoft:

Entering the seventh year of its lifecycle, Xbox 360 just closed the biggest sales week in the history of the hit digital entertainment system, selling more than 960,000 consoles in the U.S. during the week of Black Friday.

750,000 Kinect sensors sold, too. Amazing how popular a closed system — where the hardware and software are designed by a single company — can be.

Jeff Carlson on Lion’s Duplicate Command 

Jeff Carlson, last month:

And I will admit that, when working within a document, duplicating and then saving it later does make some conceptual sense. But why the delay between creating the duplicate and saving it to disk? Why doesn’t choosing Duplicate open the new window and automatically, quickly, let you choose how to save the document?

I think it’s because picking a file name and choosing a location in your folder hierarchy are chores. Better to let you procrastinate on these things than to force you to deal with them immediately — that’s my guess as to Apple’s thinking on this. In the pre-Auto Save world, it was dangerous to work on an as-yet-unsaved document, because a crash would destroy whatever work you’d done. That’s not a problem with Auto Save.

Matthew Panzarino Reviews the Nokia Lumia 800 

Matthew Panzarino:

This device’s brilliance isn’t limited to the hardware either. Windows Phone Mango is really, really good. Nearly nothing about Microsoft’s OS works anything like iOS, while still feeling very fresh and accessible. It’s exactly the opposite of the way that Android normally feels, which is an uglier and slower version of iOS.

He really likes it, and says he’d switch from his iPhone if not for the dearth of high-quality third-party apps.

Noted for Future Claim Chowder 

Leonid Kanopka says “the Apple bubble is ready to burst”:

Apple is a great company with wonderful products, but its run is up. It seems to me that innovation is beginning to run dry, and the stock price is overinflated. The stock has begun to fall already dropping from its $426 high. If the economy does not pick up and the company does not cushion its freefall [sic], we could see new lows into 2012 — maybe $85.

Apple Pulls iTether From App Store 

Their website is down at the moment. Looks like it was only in the store for a few hours.

A Hack to Get Back ‘Save As’ 

Shawn Blanc:

A common workflow for me was to open a previously saved document and use it as my template for a new document. I would make changes to it and then save it as a new document. To Save As meant you took the document you were working on and saved it as a new document in its current state while discarding those changes from the original and leaving that original document as it was. I used Save As all the time.

But in Lion, the ability to Save As is gone. Sadly, Command+Shift+S gets you nothing.

In place of “Save As”, we now have “Duplicate”.

His solution is a Keyboard Maestro macro that replicates the behavior of Save As. I’ve been irritated by the new Duplicate thing, but I can’t tell if it’s because I actually prefer the old Save As workflow or simply that the new Duplicate workflow is going to take some time to get used to. I suspect it’s the latter, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Update: Good point from David Chartier: perhaps the biggest problem with Duplicate is that Apple didn’t give it a standard keyboard shortcut. I’m going to assign Duplicate the old Shift-Command-S shortcut, and see if that helps.

Last Call for Daring Fireball T-Shirts 

Today’s the last day I’m taking orders for this round of DF t-shirts. We only do print runs large enough to fulfill the orders placed in advance, so, as they say on TV, act now.

My thanks to everyone who’s already ordered. Sounds corny, but it means the world to me when readers directly support Daring Fireball.

Juicy Bits 

Fun story by Mike Swanson, on how he left his job as a developer evangelist at Microsoft to be a full-time iOS app developer.

It’s Time 

Splendid two-minute short film about marriage.

Dumb Analyst of the Day: Roxy Wong 

Jonathan Standing and Clare Jim, reporting for Reuters on HTC’s woes:

But investors are concerned that HTC, one of few Taiwanese firms with a global brand, is not changing radically enough.

“Its industrial design hasn’t changed for almost two years. Unless it launches a really different phone, it’s hard to sell the product at a premium price,” said Roxy Wong, analyst at Mirae Asset Management in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, here in the real world, the two best-selling smartphones in September 2011 were the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS — phones that debuted in June 2010 and June 2009, respectively. Keep in mind that the 3GS features an industrial design that’s almost completely unchanged since the iPhone 3G in June 2008, and that Apple is taking in a majority share of the industry’s profits. Oh, and Apple’s newest best-selling phone, the 4S? It shares the industrial design of the 17-month-old iPhone 4.

The problem with HTC is not that the industrial design of their phones isn’t new enough. It’s that their phones aren’t good enough. What Apple shows is that if a phone is actually great, it will sell for years.

‘A Tech Blog’ 

From a Fortune magazine cover story by Miguel Helft and Jessi Hempel:

Consider this: In October a tech blog reported that several top Google officials, including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman, had not even set up their own accounts on Google+. A few days later Schmidt’s account quietly appeared on the site.

That would be Michael DeGusta, who reported this on his weblog The Understatement in early October. Fortune doesn’t credit DeGusta by name, refers to his website only as “a tech blog”, and doesn’t even have the courtesy to include a link. Shameless.

Henceforth, Fortune is “some business magazine”.

WSJ: Sharp to Supply LCD Panels to Apple for Next iPad 

Juro Osawa, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. is adding Sharp Corp. as a maker of screens used in the next-generation iPad, people familiar with the situation said Thursday, as the U.S. consumer electronics company moves to diversify component suppliers for its products.

One of the people familiar with the matter said Apple’s next iPad is expected to launch next year, and Sharp’s Kameyama No. 2 plant in central Japan will manufacture LCD panels for the device.

Samsung’s loss is Sharp’s gain. As for the iPad 3, it’s double-resolution 2048 × 1536 or bust.

The Readable Future 

Brent Simmons:

And people don’t get fired for measuring things. People don’t often get fired for continuing to do things the same way they’ve always been done. But people do get fired for taking risks that don’t pan out.

This is why you need people in charge who, first and foremost, love the product.

Om Malik on 10 Years of Blogging 

Good advice from Om Malik:

Being authentic in your thoughts and voice is the only way to survive the test of time.

Fliers Still Must Turn Off Devices, but It’s Not Clear Why 

Nick Bilton:

I’m not arguing that passengers should be allowed to make phone calls while the plane zooms up into the sky. But, why can’t I read my Kindle or iPad during takeoff and landing? E-readers and cellphones can be easily put into “Airplane Mode” which disables the device’s radio signals.

A Look at Apple’s Spot-the-Shopper Technology 

Brian X. Chen on the internal app used by Apple Store employees to locate customers who’ve purchased items using the Apple Store app on their iPhone.

Quote of the Day 

Isaac Asimov:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.

Charles Arthur on Misleading ‘Analysis’ of the So-Called Tablet Market 

Great piece by Charles Arthur at The Guardian:

So Context is telling us that Apple sold more tablets in western Europe in September. Well, why not say so?

Perhaps because there’s a feeling that telling the same story — “Apple still dominates tablet market” — is a bit boring for them to put out on press releases. But this also leads to the faintly misleading releases that don’t actually reflect how the market actually is. Which, at the moment (as has been said before) is much more like the iPod market, where Apple dominated for years with a market share above 60%, than the smartphone market, where Apple is one among many players, with no single vendor dominating. (Android dominates at present, but no single vendor has more than 20%).

I’d say these press releases are more than “faintly” misleading.

Apple’s U.S./International Revenue Split 

Regarding my guess last week that of the 25 million total iPads Apple sold in the first nine months of calendar year 2011, 10 million were sold in the U.S. — a few readers have asked for any factual basis for that guess. Apple doesn’t release the international split for individual products, but they do announce their total split for revenue. During those three quarters — Q4, Q3, Q2 for financial year 2011 — international sales accounted for 63, 62, and 59 percent of the company’s revenue, respectively.

I see no reason to think the iPad would stray far from this roughly 60/40 international/U.S. split. If anything, the iPad 2 was on sale first here in the U.S., and international revenue is, I believe, tilted somewhat toward iPhone sales. So I think it’s fair to say that 10 million was a conservative estimate for Apple’s U.S. iPad sales over those nine months.

RipIt 

My thanks to The Little App Factory for again sponsoring the DF RSS feed to promote RipIt, their award-winning DVD ripping app for the Mac. RipIt is my go-to app for DVD ripping, and a great way to get movies from DVDs onto an iPad or into iTunes for use with Home Sharing.

Even better: use coupon code “DARINGHOLIDAY2012” to buy RipIt and save 20 percent.

DF T-Shirts 

Another reminder that Daring Fireball t-shirts are currently available, but only for a limited time. We’ll take orders through the end of the weekend or so, and then do a print run to fulfill those orders.

Fortunes Change Quickly in Mobile 

Tim Culpan, reporting for Bloomberg two days ago:

HTC Corp., the largest seller of smartphones in the U.S., cut revenue forecast as much as 23 percent as the global economic crisis and rising competition from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. dent demand. […]

“Wow, it finally happened, the sales growth streak has come to an end,” said Bonnie Chang, who rates HTC “hold” at Yuanta Securities Co. in Taipei and may amend her recommendation after the forecast cut. “HTC doesn’t have the same sparkle, lacking both the design and marketing of Samsung, while they’ve declined to go into the low-end phones which are popular in China.”

Here’s Paul R. La Monica, writing for CNN Money, just five months ago:

But even Apple hasn’t had that great of year. The stock is up only about 4%. That leads me to the best-performing smartphone maker, one that you may not be as familiar with because it doesn’t trade in the United States: HTC. […]

According to a consensus of analysts that follow HTC’s Taiwan shares, earnings are expected to increase at an average of nearly 30% a year over the next few years. Compare that to Apple, whose profits are expected to grow at a clip of 21% annually.

TellMe vs. Siri 

Brutal.

Here’s what Microsoft executive Craig Mundie told Forbes about Siri:

People are infatuated with Apple announcing it. It’s good marketing, but at least as the technological capability you could argue that Microsoft has had a similar capability in Windows Phones for more than a year, since Windows Phone 7 was introduced.

“Good marketing.”

The Bifurcation of Reading on the Web 

Rian van der Merwe:

I’m worried that the wells of attention are being drilled to depletion by linkbait headlines, ad-infested pages, “jumps” and random pagination, and content that is engineered to be “consumed” in 1 minute or less of quick scanning — just enough time to capture those almighty eyeballs.

As advertising clickthrough rates continue to drop, the ads become more desperate and invasive, and readers are starting to notice and do something about it.

‘I Skip the Turkey’ 

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a new episode of The Talk Show, America’s favorite holiday-themed podcast? Topics this week include: the divergence in reading experience between corporate and independent web publications, advertising, the beginnings of Daring Fireball, the tablet market, and, most importantly, daylight saving time.

Brought to you by MailChimp, United Pixelworkers, and Woot.

Apple Removed Subscription-Based Game App From App Store 

Follow-up report from Adam Satariano for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. removed Big Fish Games Inc.’s subscription service from its App Store, reversing a move that would have given iPad users access to dozens of video games for a monthly fee.

“We were notified that the app was removed,” said Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish, a game publisher in Seattle. The app had been available since Nov. 18, he said. “We’re trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened.”

I suspect the headline on this report is incorrect: “Apple Removes Game Subscription Plan”, and that there was no such plan to allow for subscription games. The app was there earlier today, but I think whoever at Apple approved it did so incorrectly.

Patent Office Highlights Steve Jobs’s Innovations 

Brian X. Chen, who I only just now noticed is reporting for the NYT Bits Blog:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va., recently unveiled an exhibit of 30 giant iPhone-like models honoring the inventions of the late Steve Jobs.

Each iPhone model displays patents that list Mr. Jobs as inventor or co-inventor. Altogether about 300 patents are on display, giving exhibit attendees a visual tour through Apple’s history of design and innovation.

Nice.

Microsoft Says Windows Phones Have Had Siri-Like Functionality for Over a Year 

Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider:

In an interview last week with Forbes, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie said that Siri’s capabilities are not Apple-specific, and notes that Windows Phone’s similar “Tellme” technology has been functional for over a year.

“The Tellme facility’s been in the Windows 7 phone for more than a year,” Mundie said. “So I mean I just think people are infatuated with Apple announcing [Siri].”

That’s a curious thing to say. As Jean-Louis Gassée notes on Twitter:

If true: We’re imbeciles
If false: We’re imbeciles.

I’ve played with Tellme on Windows Phone 7 and I’d say it’s a lot like Voice Control on iOS. Similar in scope, and at least as accurate, if not better. Not bad at all — but not Siri.

About Those Subscription Games in the App Store 

I’ve been thinking about this since that Bloomberg story broke yesterday. Does anyone else find it unusual that Apple hasn’t issued a statement about this? Haven’t all previous changes to App Store policy been announced by Apple? Not a single report on this story has a statement from Apple, and as far as I can tell, the subscription-based app from Big Fish isn’t yet available in the App Store.

Update: The app was available for download from the App Store earlier today, but no longer is. Curiouser and curiouser. (My theory: the app was approved by an App Store reviewer who didn’t realize it was contrary to the App Store guidelines.)

The Formosa Plastics Group 

Christian Zibreg, writing for 9to5 Mac, on the relationship between HTC and VIA Technologies, the current owner of S3 Graphics:

Both VIA and HTC share the same owner, Formosa Plastics Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate whose diverse interests include biotechnology, petrochemical processing and production of electronics components. The entity is owned by the Wang family. The wife of VIA Technologies’ CEO is Ms. Cher Wang, chairperson and co-founder of HTC. In July, VIA Technologies, the original owner of S3 Graphics, won a lawsuit against Apple over infringement of two of S3 Graphics’ patents in Mac products.

So an acquisition of S3 by HTC would really just be moving it from one part of the parent company to another.

HTC to Conduct ‘Holistic Re-Evaluation’ of Its Planned Acquisition of S3 Graphics 

Embarrassing.

The Pummeling Pages 

Brent Simmons, bemoaning the horrendous-and-only-getting-worse reading experience of many websites:

I worked on TapLynx for about two years, and this meant working closely with a variety of publishers. And most had these things in common:

  1. No money.

  2. No idea where the money’s going to come from.

  3. An unswerving faith in the supreme value of analytics.

  4. A willingness to try anything as long as it’s cheap or free and has analytics. Unless they’re paranoid and afraid for their jobs, which they almost always are, given #1 and #2.

I’ve heard the same story from others, particularly last year, in the aftermath of my piece “Tynt, the Copy/Paste Jerks”. That’s the thing where, when you copy text from a website, Tynt’s JavaScript code appends a bunch of unwanted junk. Why do publishers use stuff like Tynt? After publishing that piece, I got a few emails from rank-and-file staffers at some websites that use Tynt. They all told the same story: everyone hates it except the executives, who don’t care about the user experience and who, like Brent says, will try anything that comes with “analytics”.

‘The Next Steve Jobs Will Totally Be a Chick’ 

Louis C.K., talking to Fast Company:

The next Steve Jobs will totally be a chick, because girls are No. 2 — and No. 2 always wins in America. Apple was a No. 2 company for years, and Apple embodies a lot of what have been defined as feminine traits: an emphasis on intuitive design, intellect, a strong sense of creativity, and that striving to always make the greatest version of something. Traditionally, men are more like Microsoft, where they’ll just make a fake version of what that chick made, then beat the shit out of her and try to intimidate everybody into using their product.

(Via Peter Cohen.)

Samsung Galaxy S Ad Goes After iPhone 

It’s a tacit admission that they’re (at best) number two, but this isn’t all that different from the sort of humor Apple used for years in the Hodgman/Long “Get a Mac” campaign. The deft touch in Apple’s campaign is that it was the PC that was a buffoon, not PC users. A fine line, and many PC users felt Apple was mocking them, not their machines, but Apple wasn’t trying to convince all PC users to get a Mac — just the ones who were on the fence. This one from Samsung is more “people who buy iPhones are image-conscious fad-following idiots”.

Headline of the Day 

From Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle, a piece headlined: “Apple’s Pro-Censorship Software Alliance Backs Down”:

The Business Software Association, which includes tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Intel, has reversed its stance on the controversial (and awful!) Stop Online Piracy Act: now it doesn’t like it. Good.

Is it fair to call the BSA “Apple’s”? No, of course not. But this is what happens when you’re the new sheriff in town. The BSA used to be “Microsoft’s” when it supported something stupid or wrong, now it’s “Apple’s”.

Apple to Allow Subscription-Based Gaming on App Store 

Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg:

Big Fish Games, a Seattle-based game publisher, won approval from Apple to become the first to offer users access to dozens of titles for $6.99 a month. Until now, games have only been available one at a time, requiring users to download individual applications.

You download one Big Fish app, and the games are all available within that app. Like what the Netflix app is for movies, the Big Fish app is for games. This is an interesting change in policy from Apple, to say the least.

iPhone 4S Becomes Second Most Popular Cameraphone on Flickr 

The top four camera phones are all iPhones, and the top camera period is the iPhone 4.

How to Take Screenshots With Kindle Fire 

22 easy steps.

Four Keys to Apple’s Success 

Greg Joswiak, speaking at an event in the U.K. at Cambridge last week:

If you can’t enter the market and try and be the best in it, don’t enter it. You need that differentiation. At Apple if we can’t be the best then we are not interested in it.

What Ron Johnson Learned Building the Apple Store 

Ron Johnson, writing for Harvard Business Review:

People forget that the Apple Store encountered some bumps along the way. No one came to the Genius Bar during the first years. We even had Evian water in refrigerators for customers to try to get them to sit down and spend time at the bar. But we stuck with it because we knew that face-to-face support was the very best way to help customers. Three years after the Genius Bar launched, it was so popular we had to set up a reservation system.

If you know it’s a good idea, stick with it.

Occupy Flash: The Movement to Rid the World of the Flash Player Plugin 

And on the flip side: Occupy HTML.

The World’s Finest T-Shirts 

Available now for a limited time: Daring Fireball t-shirts, including a new no-name design.

AnandTech Reviews the iPhone 4S 

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Boy, I sure wish someone would dig in and write a really technical iPhone 4S review,” this is the link for you. “Comprehensive” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

MG Siegler on the Facebook Phone 

To me the big question regarding Facebook is what they’re doing with all those A-team interface designers and developers they’ve been hiring/acquiring. Is it all about this phone, or something else?

A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage 

Fantastic piece on the McRib — seriously — by Willy Staley for The Awl:

The theory that the McRib’s elusiveness is a direct result of the vagaries of the cash price for hog meat in the States is simple: in this thinking, the product is only introduced when pork prices are low enough to ensure McDonald’s can turn a profit on the product. The theory is especially convincing given the McRib’s status as the only non-breakfast fast food pork item: why wouldn’t there be a pork sandwich in every chain, if it were profitable?

Andy Ihnatko Reviews the iPhone 4S 

Andy Ihnatko:

I’ve been pondering a bunch of questions ever since seeing the iPhone 4S unveiled and then getting my hands on one. I’m not sure that any of them has puzzled me more than this one:

Has the world lost its damned mind?

See also: his standalone review of Siri.

Occupy Wall Street as Pong 

As good a metaphor as any. (Via Laughing Squid.)

Viewing the UC Davis Pepper Spraying From Multiple Angles 

Andy Baio:

I was stunned and appalled by the UC Davis Police spraying protestors, but struck by how many brave, curious people recorded the events. I took the four clearest videos and synchronized them. Citizen journalism FTW.

Batons, pepper spray, guns, and body armor on one side. Peaceful protest and cameras on the other. Fascinating dynamic. Peaceful protest can be powerful. Check out this video of UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi — under pressure to resign in the aftermath of the pepper-spraying — walking to her car, surrounded by utterly silent protestors. Profoundly effective.

Not a Joke 

Study shows that Fox News viewers are less informed on major stories than people who neither watch news shows nor read newspapers regularly.

‘Arrested Development’ Set to Return as a Netflix-Exclusive Show 

Exclusive content is what makes HBO worthwhile, and Netflix is smart to follow. How long until Apple and Amazon follow?

What Is Sony Now? 

Interesting profile of Sony by Bryan Gruley and Cliff Edwards, for BusinessWeek:

Stringer drew up a plan to streamline Sony by creating marketing, software, and other platforms common to all the businesses. Progress was slow. He finally determined it was because he wasn’t really in charge of electronics; Chubachi, the president, was. “President” can be a powerful title in Japan, connoting the day-to-day authority typically commanded by a chief operating officer in the West. “I didn’t know I wasn’t [in control],” Stringer says, a hint of sheepishness in his voice. “I just thought it was a natural part of Japanese companies to be consensus-driven and I had to spend a lot of time trying to achieve consensus.” He lost a year.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that when it takes the new CEO a year to figure out he’s not in control of the entire company, that’s a problem.

Stamped 

New social network/recommendation engine, which, like Instagram, is debuting with but a single interface: a native iPhone app. The premise is simple and ambitious: you “stamp” things that you enjoy and recommend. There aren’t different types of stamps. There’s no rating from 0-5 or anything like that. Just stamped. What kind of things can you stamp? All sorts of things: restaurants, places, books, movies, music.

Stylish, distinctive, nice-branded UI, too.

Kindle Annotations Lost in Book Update 

Michael Tsai:

This is, I think, the only time Amazon has failed me in the last 15 or so years.

Fray Issue 3 

Good writing, good design. Resize the window, and try it on your phone.

Readable 

My thanks to Readable for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Readable has everything you’d expect in a great reading app for the iPhone and iPad: clean, crisp typography, article layouts that eliminate all the distracting junk, caching for offline reading, and integration with services like Read It Later, Google Reader, Delicious, and more.

And it has a gimmick: face detection. Turn it on and it scrolls the current article automatically, pausing when you are no longer looking at the device. I was skeptical, but in practice it’s damn clever. “Look, don’t touch” is the slogan they used in their sponsorship ad earlier in the week. It’s worth 99 cents just to play with this feature alone.

Speaking of Malcolm Gladwell Losing His Touch 

He’s now working for Bank of America.

About Today’s DF Outage 

A rare bit of downtime for DF today. The site was unavailable for a little over an hour, but seems to be back to normal now. According to Joyent, it was a router problem at their east coast co-location facility.

Sorry about that. My goal is nothing short of 100 percent uptime.

Josh Topolsky’s Year-Old Nexus S Review 

Thinking more about Josh Topolsky’s enthusiastic review of the new Galaxy Nexus, I went back to read his review from last year of the Nexus S. He correctly flagged big problems I saw with the Nexus S and Android 2.3, like this:

Well, let’s be clear — Google still has major issues with text selection and editing on Android devices. The first striking problem is that there is not a consistent method of selecting text on the device. None. At all. In the browser, you long press on text to bring up your anchors, then drag and tap the center of your selection — boom, copied text. In text editing fields, however, in order to select a word you must long press on the word, wait for a contextual menu to pop up, and then select “select word” — a completely counterintuitive process. In the message app you can long press to select only the entire message, and in Google Reader? You can’t select any text at all. Even worse, Gmail has a different method for selecting text from an email you’re reading, and it’s far more obnoxious than any of the others. There, selecting text goes from being mildly annoying to downright silly. Want to grab some text out of an email? Here’s your process: hit the menu key, hit “more,” hit “select text,” and then finally drag your anchors out. Funnily enough, a little cursor appears when you start selecting — a holdover from Linux? To have this many options and discrepancies over something as simple as copy and paste should be embarrassing to Google. What it mostly is, however, is a pain to the end user.

That Topolsky has no major gripes like this about the Galaxy Nexus makes me think Android 4.0 might really be the first good version of Android. Which in turn makes me think Steve Jobs wasn’t far off at the 2007 iPhone introduction when he claimed the iPhone was five years ahead of the competition.

‘The Possibilities Are Calling’ 

Really good commercial from Google for the Galaxy Nexus. Looks good, love the song, and it shows people using cool features on the phone.

Siri Argument 

Truly funny spoof from College Humor.

The Rise of Digital Omnivores 

Interesting usage data from ComScore. Check out the graph showing which devices are used at which hours of the day — “tablets” skew heavily toward morning coffee and after-dinner usage. And by “tablets” they mean the iPad:

Although tablets have yet to be widely adopted, they already contribute nearly 2 percent of all U.S. Web browsing traffic, driven almost exclusively by the iPad, which currently accounts for more than 97 percent of all tablet traffic. More notably, iPads have also begun to account for a higher share of Internet traffic than iPhones (46.8 percent vs. 42.6 percent of all iOS device traffic), despite accounting for only half of the number of iPhones in use.

‘HD’ 

David Pogue:

Then, on the “Learn More” page, there are nine more references to the Nook Tablet’s ability to play high-definition video. “HD videos stream smoothly.” “Enjoy HD Video.” “The best in HD entertainment.” “Netflix and Hulu Plus pre-loaded to instantly watch HD movies.” “Streaming HD videos and more.” “Supports HD content up to 1080p.” And so on.

Hmm. Well, I don’t know about you. But if I read all of this, I might come away with the impression that the Nook Tablet can show high-definition video!

Well, guess what? It can’t.

Marco Arment Reviews the Kindle Fire 

Marco Arment:

I’ve read part of a book, three magazines, and a newspaper. I’ve played two games and watched four TV shows from two sources. I’ve also taken far too long to set up my email, failed to find a good RSS reader, turned a lot of pages accidentally, repeated taps that did nothing the first time, and crashed a few apps and the Fire itself.

Scathing.

iPhone 4S Demand 

Greg Bensinger, reporting for the WSJ Digits weblog:

Verizon Wireless customers may have to wait more than three weeks for the device, according to the carrier’s website. That compares with as much as 21 days at AT&T and up to 14 days at Sprint Nextel. While some tech blogs have suggested Apple’s manufacturing isn’t keeping pace, the carriers point to unexpectedly strong demand for the handset.

Apple Removes ‘Texas Hold’em’, Its Only iOS Game, From App Store 

I suppose it was starting to show its age, but why not update it? It was a pretty good game.

WTF Mobile Web 

Nice collection of shitty mobile web experiences, curated by Jen Simmons and Brad Frost.

Josh Topolsky Reviews the Galaxy Nexus 

He likes it:

I want to note that moving around all of these screens is buttery smooth. There’s no lag, no stutter. Animations are fluid, and everything feels cohesive and solid. It’s like Ice Cream Sandwich is more “there” than previous versions of Android. Additionally, there are repeated motifs that really work, such as the concept of swiping left of right through panels of an app to get at different pieces or layers of content. That’s used throughout the OS now, and it makes a lot of sense.

If you’re like me, you’re skeptical about this, because every time a new Nexus phone has arrived (along with a major revision of the OS), the initial reviews have been along the lines of, “Hey, Android finally got its act together”, but then when the excitement wears off it turns out the whole thing is still a jumbled mess and second-rate (at best) experience and we’re really supposed to wait for next year’s Android.

But there aren’t many buts in Topolsky’s review of the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0.

Half-n-Half 

This week’s episode of America’s favorite podcast. Topics include: the new AIM for Mac app, Muji gloves, the Kindle Fire, the imminent revamped Netflix “tablet” app, and further discussion of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography.

Brought to you by Shopify and Squarespace.

Visualization of the Day 

Scroll down a bit to see every phone sold by Apple and Samsung in the U.S. today.

Glenn Fleishman Reviews the Kindle Fire 

Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Economist:

Early reviewers carped that the Fire was sluggish, and its web performance poor, especially compared to the iPad 2. That Babbage did not share this impression may be thanks to a last-minute operating system update that was required when first powering up the device. Once updated, the Fire was not perky, perhaps, but nor was it painfully slow. Some on-screen buttons did not respond unless tapped right in the middle and firmly, and swiping and dragging have a noticeable delay compared to an iPad. But that delay, even after hours of use, did not niggle as it does on other Android-based tablets.

Perhaps some of the performance/responsiveness gripes from Mossberg, Topolsky, et al were due to prerelease software.

I Just Want to Say One Word to You. Just One Word. 

Interesting 8-minute video from Nokia on the design of the Lumia 800, their first flagship Windows Phone.

I got to spend a few minutes playing with a Lumia last night, and speaking of nothing other than the hardware, how it feels in your hand, it’s an exquisite device. The only other phones that I’ve used that feel as nice in hand are the original iPhone and iPhone 4(S). Nokia seems to be shying from calling the material it’s made out of “plastic”, because plastic so often feels cheap. They’re calling it polycarbonate, and they probably should, because it has the opposite of a cheap feel — it feels like a premium product. Good texture and a palpable sturdiness. (The plastic of the iPhone 3G(S), in contrast, always felt a little cheap.) The curves of the Lumia’s sides and back are an interesting contrast to the iPhone 4, too — the Lumia is curved where the iPhone is angular, and the iPhone is curved where the Lumia is angular. (See Edward Tufte’s aforelinked criticism of the iPhone 4’s “aggressive edges”.)

I saw at least a half dozen new Windows Phone devices, but the Lumia stood apart, in my mind. The other thing that struck me, looking at so many devices at once, is that Apple has only shipped three iPhone hardware designs, total. Three.

Touchscreens Have No Hand 

Edward Tufte:

There is no such hand in touchscreen computer devices. The touchscreen has no texture variation, has no physical surface information, is dead flat, reflects ambient light noise, and features oily fingerprint debris when seen at a raking angle. Also the elegant sharp edges that encase many touchscreens require users to desensitize their hands in order to ignore the physical discomfort produced by the aggressive edges. Last year in Cupertino, I yelled at some people about touchscreens that paid precise attention to finger touches from the user but not to how the device in turn touches the hands of the user (and produces divot edge-lines in the flesh).

Beautiful little essay, but it’s pretty clear Tufte is not a fan of the iPhone 4(S) hardware.

The Rise in Android Malware 

Jim Dalrymple:

Android is definitely winning… the race for the most malware, that is.

According to a new study from the Juniper Global Threat Center, malware on Android rose an incredible 472% since July 2011. That’s only a few months.

Let me take the devil’s advocate position here. Of course Android has more malware than iOS. For the same reason that Mac OS X has more malware than iOS: they’re open to unsigned, un-reviewed apps from anywhere. The question should not be whether malware for Android exists, but whether it’s a real problem for typical Android users. If you shop for and install apps only from, say, Google’s own Android Market and Amazon’s Appstore, how likely are you to encounter it? If you went out and examined 1000 Android phones in the real world, how many of them would have some sort of malware on them? Those are the questions that matter, and this report doesn’t answer them.

Google Music Launches 

Seems pretty well integrated with Android. No Warner Music, but they’ve got the other three majors, and exclusive content from The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Busta Rhymes, Shakira, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews Band.

I bought this exclusive Stones album, and it went pretty well until it came time to download the album to my Mac. There’s no way to just download the whole album — you’ve got to do it one song a time, three clicks per song. 45 mouse clicks just to download the 15 songs I just bought. (Pretty clear they want you to keep your music on their servers, not on your computer.) Good concert, though.

Update: Apparently it’s a lot simpler to download multiple tracks/entire albums if you install the (arguably misnamed) Google Music Uploader app. Fair enough, given that you can’t buy music from iTunes without installing the iTunes app. But if Google is going to let you buy albums via the website, it seems obvious they should let you download the whole album from the website, no?

Update 2: Google Music is U.S.-only, believe it or not.

Walt Mossberg Reviews the Kindle Fire 

Walt Mossberg:

To be clear, the Kindle Fire is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level $499 iPad 2. It has a fraction of the apps, a smaller screen, much weaker battery life, a slower Web browser, half the internal storage and no cameras or microphone. It also has a rigid and somewhat frustrating user interface far less fluid than Apple’s.

But other than that, how’d you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

EU Bans Airport X-Ray Scanners Over Health Concerns 

Julia Whitty, reporting for Mother Jones:

Citing health concerns, the European Union banned from European airports this week the same kind of X-ray scanners used by TSA in airports across the US. Here’s the EU’s wording:

In order not to risk jeopardising citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorised methods for passenger screening at EU airports.

Must be nice.

iOS 5.0.2 Coming Soon? 

John Brownlee, Cult of Mac:

According to German Apple blog Macerkopf, an Apple engineer hard at work in the iOS division tells them that Apple has finally licked the battery problems, and will release the fix no later than the end of next week, bringing all iPhone 4Ses up to a standard 40 hours of standby and 10 hours of use.

Anecdotally, it seems like 5.0.1 was two steps forward, one step back, battery-wise. I’m sure 5.0.1 fixed some of the egregious battery-is-draining-really-fast bugs people saw in 5.0.0, but it seems like battery life under regular conditions — with no glaring bugs — has gotten worse. It’s not dramatic, but I’m getting noticeably worse battery life with 5.0.1, as is my wife, and as is Dan Benjamin.

Windows Forever 

Matt Rosoff, reporting for Business Insider from Microsoft’s shareholder meeting:

The questioner asked what Microsoft thought about the contention that we’re in the “post PC era.” Ballmer started off in his usual enthusiastic fashion: “We are in the Windows era — we were, we are, and we always will be.”

Is he telling us that, or telling himself?

TPM OS Usage Share 

Josh Marshall:

Only 56.81% of visits to TPM (November 2011) come from devices or computers using the Windows operating system.

For points of reference that number was 75% in Nov. 2007. And it’s fallen steadily each year since. By most standards that’s a pretty precipitous drop.

Not indicative of the web as a whole, of course, but a trend nonetheless. See also: TPM’s recent browser share numbers. Combined, they tell the story of the dissolution of the Windows/IE hegemony.

HP Envy 15 and 17 Press Photos 

They got the name right.

Georgia Pro and Verdana Pro 

May sound funny coming from a typography-obsessive whose website has used Verdana as the text face for its entire nine-year existence, but I just don’t care much for Verdana for anything other than use on relatively low-resolution displays at small sizes. (E.g. Verdana’s uppercase I and J. Ugh.) Interesting expansion of the two families, though.

Tumblr on Internet Censorship Legislation 

Tumblr:

Congress is considering two well-intentioned but deeply flawed bills, the PROTECT-IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

As written, they would betray more than a decade of US policy and advocacy of Internet freedom by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.

That really is an accurate assessment of this legislation. Hats off to Tumblr for bringing so much attention to this — they’ve changed their dashboard interface to direct all Tumblr users to this page.

Stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation 

The EFF at its very best. If you haven’t been following the saga of this SOPA legislation, here’s some background on just how dreadful it is. It’s a power play from big corporate media companies — the sort of legislation that nearly everyone strenuously opposes but which might pass because the money is on the wrong side.

Dave Winer on Serving Special Layouts to the iPad Browser 

Dave Winer, on Google’s “tablet”-optimized layout for search results on the iPad:

Designers really need to hear the following, loud and clear: The iPad browser is fully capable. It doesn’t need you to treat it differently. You’re fighting with users when you get fancy. Just stick with what works on the desktop.

I agree, but Google’s search results are not best example here. At least the layout is “tablet”-optimized. The worst are sites that detect the iPad and serve phone-optimized web pages. The iPad display is small by PC standards, yes, but Mobile Safari’s scaling and zooming are so seamless that almost all desktop web layouts work remarkably well — and certainly better than phone layouts meant to look best on 3.5-inch displays. (I suspect the problem with Google’s “tablet” layout is that it’s meant for 7-inch 16:9 aspect-ratio Android tablets — and their not-as-nice-as-Mobile-Safari browsers — just as much as for the iPad.)

Worse than the worst, of course, are sites like the NY Post, that refuse to work on the iPad period, telling you that you need to download their app from the App Store. The iPad is a wonderful web browsing device. To ignore that, or treat it as a crippled browser, is folly.

NPD: iPhone 3GS Outsold Every Android Smartphone in Q3 

Let’s be clear though, NPD also shows Android phones, combined, outselling iPhones, combined. What’s interesting here is just how different a game Apple is playing than every other company in the racket. The company with a majority share of the industry’s profits makes just one phone per year — and the gap between the 4 and 4S was 16 months — and yet their model that debuted in June 2009 remained the second-best-selling handset in the country as late as last month.

Sniper rifle versus a bunch of guys running around with shotguns.

Tough Questions, Indeed 

A “the sky is falling in Cupertino” piece by Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider:

One reason Jobs was so good at selling was that his product demonstrations were, for the most part, grand reveals of closely held secrets. Apple secrecy has made for great theater. Great theater makes for an excellent brand.

Our source close to Apple employees says that with Jobs gone, some of them are starting to loosen up about what they’re working on.

“Everybody has kind of dropped their guard,” he says.

OK, what have they “loosened up about”? Do tell.

Crickets.

The Chairman 

Board of director news from Apple:

Apple today named Arthur D. Levinson, Ph. D. as the Company’s non-executive Chairman of the Board. Levinson has been a co-lead director of Apple’s board since 2005, has served on all three board committees — audit and finance, nominating and corporate governance, and compensation — and will continue to serve on the audit committee. Apple also announced that Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, will join Apple’s board and will serve on the audit committee.

The Parable of the Stones 

Re: the previous item, on ideas being merely multipliers and the real value of anything being in the execution, here’s a terrific excerpt Philip Elmer-DeWitt pulled from Robert X. Cringely’s 1995 interview with Steve Jobs:

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 percent of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. […]

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

Ideas Are Just a Multiplier of Execution 

I’ve linked to this short 2005 piece by Derek Sivers once before, but it’s worth a re-link today, in the context of assessing Steve Jobs’s accomplishments:

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

So succinct, so accurate, so widely misunderstood.

Hypercritical, Episode 42: The Wrong Guy 

After finishing Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, I was disappointed overall, but didn’t take the time to completely formulate why. John Siracusa did, though, and his multi-faceted critique of the book is simply devastating. I went into this podcast knowing that I thought the book was flawed, knowing that Siracusa did too, and expecting to be nodding my head in agreement with him throughout the show. But it’s worse than that. Isaacson blew it, a one-time opportunity forever squandered. Jobs picked the wrong guy.

‘I’m Really Sorry About This, but I Can’t Take Any Requests Right Now.’ 

I got this yesterday afternoon, trying to use Siri. Seems like Apple has added a bit of self awareness regarding Siri’s online availability — if the problem is on Siri’s end, she’ll tell you so.

New Netflix ‘Tablet’ Experience 

Netflix:

Today we’re excited to let you know that we’ve launched a fully redesigned experience for our free app on all Android tablets including the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet. […]

This experience will be ready for the iPad in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. We listened to you, revamped our design, and hope you’ll enjoy it.

“(iPad Coming Soon)” is a phrase you don’t see often. Anyway, the current Netflix iPad UI really is pretty lame. Interesting spot they’re in — Apple has its own tablet, Amazon now has its own tablet, but Netflix instead relies solely on apps they’re creating for use on its competitors’ tablets. Apple and Amazon both offer end-to-end solutions, Netflix doesn’t, and I don’t think ever could.

How Much Affection? 

Speaking of reviews, here’s Stanley Kubrick:

But of course, the lasting and ultimately most important reputation of a film is not based on reviews, but on what, if anything, people say about it over the years, and on how much affection for it they have. 

The success of the iPad and iPhone is largely about consumer affection. “Affection” doesn’t get a line in the spec matrix from Consumer Reports.

Update: Kubrick, again, in a different interview:

The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good.

The Death of the Spec 

MG Siegler:

During the PC years, specs also mattered because there was one common dominant force in computing: Microsoft. Because Windows was everywhere, you could fairly reliably gauge the performance of one machine against another. But with the rise of the Mac and more importantly, smartphones and tablets, you can’t as easily stack machines up against one another performance-wise.

As our technology becomes more humanely designed, subjective factors outweigh objective ones. Subjective factors can’t be assigned neat little numbers ranging from 1-10.

Device Specs 

Drew Breunig, “Device Specs Have Become Meaningless”:

How do you measure the Kindle Fire’s and iPhone’s processing speed and storage capacity if the CPUs and disks used to deliver an experience to the user exist both in and outside the device?

According to today’s technology press, you simply ignore these complexities.

The Verge’s feature chart covers price, availability, and hardware specs. Nowhere is there content selection (all devices listed lockdown their content, so this is rather important), cloud services, or perceived speed, which despite being objective is a better indicator of performance for all of these devices.

Spec-based reviews of computers and gadgets are inherently flawed, a relic of an era that’s already gone. Movie reviews are about what the movie is like to watch. Is it enjoyable, is it entertaining, does it look and sound good? Imagine a movie review based on specs, where you gave points for how long it was, whether the photography is in focus, deduct points for continuity errors in the story, and then out comes a number like “7.5/10”, with little to no mention about, you know, whether the movie was effective as a piece of art.

But I wouldn’t argue that specs are “meaningless”. It’s just that they’re an implementation detail. Specs are something the device makers worry about insofar as how they affect the experience of using the device. Just like how focal length and lens aperture are something the cinematographer worries about insofar as how they affect what the viewer will see on screen.

Steven Levy Interviews Jeff Bezos 

Interesting take on software patents:

Levy: Some years ago, there was some controversy when Amazon got a patent for its 1-Click shopping. Now, technology patents are so widespread that they’re seen as a real hindrance to creativity and innovation. Has your thinking changed?

Bezos: For many years, I have thought that software patents should either be eliminated or dramatically shortened. It’s impossible to measure the toll they’ve had on the software industry, but on balance, it has been negative.

Levy: But without software patents, you wouldn’t have exclusive rights to 1-Click shopping.

Bezos: If that were the price of having a dramatic reduction in software patents, it would be great.

Josh Topolsky on the Kindle Fire 

Josh Topolsky:

I am confused about a number of decisions here, however. Unlike the PlayBook, iPad, or pretty much any other tablet on the market, the Fire has no hardware volume controls, meaning that you have to go through a series of taps (especially if the device is sleeping) to just change the volume. The Fire also has no “home” button — simply a small, hard-to-find nub along the bottom used for sleeping and waking the device, and powering up and down. That means that Amazon had to create software navigation for getting around the tablet, which would be fine… if the home button wasn’t always disappearing into a hidden menu. Also, I found myself accidentally pressing the power button when I was typing or holding the tablet in certain positions, causing the Fire to think I wanted to shut it down. I’m not sure why it’s located where it’s located, but it seems like a poor choice to me.

Man, do I love The Verge’s video reviews. They look great and are very tightly edited. If you’re going to skim, just jump to the bottom and watch the video.

Anyway, sounds like the Kindle Fire is exactly what you’d expect from a $199 Amazon tablet — the best parts are what you’d expect, and so are the worst.

David Pogue on the New Kindles 

The new e-ink models sound great. The Fire, though:

Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger. Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or “wait” indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery.

Magazines are supposed to be among the best new features. Most offer two views. There is Page View, which shows the original magazine layout — but shrunken down too small to read, and zooming is limited. Then there is Text View: simple text on a white background. It’s great for reading, but of course now you’re missing the design and layout, which is half the joy of reading a magazine. And Text View sometimes loses words, cartoon captions and so on.

A 7-inch screen might be great for books, but how could anyone think it would work for what we think of as magazines? Try to find a 7-inch magazine on the (non-virtual) newsstand.

The Inquirer Leaving The Inquirer Building 

Local note. Bob Fernandez, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Saying it would be part of a renaissance on East Market Street, Philadelphia Media Network Inc. will vacate the iconic 86-year-old home of The Inquirer and Daily News for new space in the renovated former Strawbridge & Clothier store.

Sad, but a sign of the times. The Inquirer Building is everything a newspaper building should be.

Microsoft on the Google ‘Admosphere’ 

The infographic is the best part. What’s interesting to me isn’t the exact message, but the degree to which Microsoft is setting its company-wide sights on Google as its primary opponent. Here’s another recent example — “Google Graveyard” — from the same Microsoft weblog. Google has put itself in a position where both Microsoft and Apple view Google as the company they want to beat. Facebook does too, really.

Siri Sends a Message 

Guy English:

I wanted to ask Blodget a few questions about this piece that he’d written for Business Insider. It appeared to me like he was talking out of his ass.

Android Sells the Smartphones; Apple Makes the Money 

Android really is winning, no sarcasm, for HTC and Samsung. But they’re fighting over the remaining scraps of profit left by Apple.

‘Robots Figure Prominently in Many of the Ideas’ 

Front-page NYT story by Claire Cain Miller and Nick Bilton on Google’s secret “Google X” lab:

Fleets of robots could assist Google with collecting information, replacing the humans that photograph streets for Google Maps, say people with knowledge of Google X. Robots born in the lab could be destined for homes and offices, where they could assist with mundane tasks or allow people to work remotely, they say.

That’s what we need to allow for a remote workforce. Robots.

Among the items that could be connected: a garden planter (so it could be watered from afar); a coffee pot (so it could be set to brew remotely); or a light bulb (so it could be turned off remotely). Google said in May that by the end of this year another team planned to introduce a Web-connected light bulb that could communicate wirelessly with Android devices.

Why was this story on the front page of The Times?

‘I Think the Most Ardent Fans of His Films Do Let the Movie “Just Wash Over Them”.’ 

Contentious — in a good way — interview by All Things Shining with Billy Weber, long-time editor and collaborator of Terrence Malick:

The million plus feet of film happens quite often now. Directors seem to shoot much more now than they used to shoot. An example would be on Days of Heaven, I think we shoot about 120,000 feet of film and The Thin Red Line over a million. In Terry’s case a lot of it comes from writing a lot of scenes and shooting them instead of censoring himself when writing the script. I think he would rather edit himself during the course of editing the movie rather than editing himself during the writing of the script.

(Via Jim Coudal, of course.)

Apple Releases iTunes Match 

Finally. (It really is two weeks late, by Apple’s own deadline.)

6th Grade iPhone App Developer Speaks at TEDx 

So awesome. Brings to mind my “The Kids Are All Right” piece from last year.

Adobe: Your Questions About Flex 

Adobe Q&A:

Is Adobe still committed to Flex?

Yes. We know Flex provides a unique set of benefits for enterprise application developers.  We also know that the technology landscape for application development is rapidly changing and our customers want more direct control over the underlying technologies they use. Given this, we are planning to contribute the Flex SDK to an open source foundation in the same way we contributed PhoneGap to the Apache Foundation when we acquired Nitobi.

Translation: “No.”

The Think of It Versus the Feel of It 

Yours truly’s keynote address from last month’s Çingleton Symposium in Montreal.

Nest and the Apple-ification of the Thermostat 

Erica Ogg on Tony Fadell’s appearance at GigaOm RoadMap last week:

Fadell looked at an industry that was badly in need of innovation. Not just in the technology under the covers, but in terms of usability and design. “Thermostats looked like PCs from the 90s: square, beige, nothing innovative, and very expensive,” he said. So when he was contemplating home heating and cooling, he wasn’t inventing something new so much as rethinking and improving an established product — much like he did with the iPod in 2001.

Here’s how he consumerized an otherwise boring, staid product.

Giving Them Some Credit 

Android evangelist Tim Bray back on October 20, replying to this suggestion that Android 4.0’s new facial-recognition-to-unlock-phone feature could be fooled by a photo of the phone’s owner:

Nope. Give us some credit.

Today, on YouTube, we can see it being defeated by a photo.

Tapfolio for iPad 

My thanks to Tapfolio for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Tapfolio is a new animated, interactive stock market app for the iPad, with a great native UI and feel. Tapfolio’s graphs allow you to swipe and pinch-to-zoom your portfolio and visualize gains/losses instantly with real-time overlays. Compare up to five stocks over any arbitrary time period with a tap, and follow stock indexes or the price of gold with another tap.

Bottom line: Tapfolio is not an iPad-wrapper around an existing web-based stocks app. It’s a written-from-the-ground-up iPad stocks app. It’s really good. On sale now for just $2.99 on the App Store.

Luma Labs Jammed By a Crummy Patent 

This is angering for so many reasons. The LumaLoop is a great product, and Duncan Davidson is a friend. But the main thing is that it’s just so clearly unfair.

Logitech CEO Says Company Lost $100 Million on Google TV 

But it was an open $100 million, so they’ve got that.

More on the Sprint iPhone 4S International Roaming Situation 

Jason Snell:

It’s unclear about Sprint iPhone 4S models purchased before November 11. They may remain SIM-unlocked forever, though it’s possible Sprint will be able to issue some sort of update that locks them.

So, if you’re a savvy international traveler who wants the option of using a foreign micro-SIM in your Sprint or Verizon iPhone 4S, now you know the deal: Keep paying your bills, and after 60 days (for Verizon) or 90 days (for Sprint), you can call and request that the carrier unlock your micro-SIM slot. Then you can buy pre-paid cards to your heart’s content.

Why make you wait for this at all? This is a huge advantage both carriers have over AT&T (which won’t unlock your GSM SIM, period, no matter what).

Sprint to Begin Locking iPhone 4S GSM SIMs Today 

Mark Hearn, writing for SprintFeed:

An internal Sprint memo states that starting on 11/11/11 “all iPhone 4S devices will have the SIM locked.” The memo also goes on to state that “the locking occurs during the activation process and is invisible to the customer.” Such statements suggest that Sprint’s iPhone 4S variant does, or should we say did ship with an unlocked SIM. But all is not lost for you early adopters, it is clearly noted that this SIM lock update will not impact any iPhone 4S activated prior to 11/11/11.

I can verify that the Sprint iPhone 4S review unit I tested from Apple was not SIM-locked. When I was in Canada for the Çingleton Symposium conference last month, I popped in a GSM SIM from a native Canadian and it worked just fine. (Popping in an AT&T SIM while in the U.S. had no effect.) Not sure what Sprint’s thinking here, but they’re removing a very useful feature that should be a great selling point for frequent international travelers.

(Via MacRumors.)

Holding Sway 

Glenn Fleishman, concluding his piece for The Economist on the demise of Flash for the mobile web:

One consequence of Adobe’s move might be to spur on HTML5. As our columnist recently discussed, the up-and-coming web standard — partially implemented in many current releases of web browsers — incorporates a number of Flash components. Browsers are becoming more sophisticated in handling animation (for games and charting), audio and video as a result. Widespread adoption of the new standard is likely to make it impossible for any one company to hold sway over online interaction. It may be too soon for Apple to gloat.

I was nodding in agreement with Fleishman until this paragraph. I just don’t get this. Remember Jobs’s “Thoughts on Music”? Jobs wrote:

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Critics called bullshit on this, arguing that Apple liked its DRM wrapper for music, because that’s what kept users locked into iTunes, and that Jobs claimed Apple would embrace no-DRM music only because he knew the major music labels would never agree to it. But when the music labels did, in fact, agree to drop DRM, Apple did exactly what Jobs said it would: embraced it. And iTunes’s success continued unabated.

I don’t see how Apple could be any more clear in its actions or words that it supports and encourages the growth of a truly open web. Apple’s goal is simply to provide the best experience, period, both with native apps (closed) and the web (open).

iCloud and Four-Letter Words 

I was a guest this week on MacBreak Weekly, with host Andy Ihnatko and fellow guests Chris Breen and Tonya Engst:

We complain a little about iCloud, predict a little about 2012, ask Siri what’s up with that, and more.

Matt Gemmell Rewrites Adobe’s Mobile Flash Announcement 

Matt Gemmell:

Confusing, marketing-voiced corporate communication is a terrible problem in this industry, and it’s damaging to the companies themselves. Adobe’s press release (that’s what it essentially is, even though it’s nominally a blog post) sounds sterile, aloof, disconnected and tentative — perhaps even with a note of desperation. I decided to rewrite it.

As I tweeted the other night, a lack of clear, concise, plainspoken communication is as sure a sign as any of poor leadership.

A List of Things That Web Browser Plugins Don’t Work With 

Kroc Camen:

There is no job that plugins are the right tool for. Saying that plugins “have their place” is ignorant and complacent.

Mixel: Social Collage App for the iPad 

New (and free) iPad social collage app, led by Khoi Vinh and with a pitch-perfect intro video by Adam Lisagor. Here’s Vinh on some of his thinking behind it. I’ve been playing with it for a week or so, and it’s a lot of fun. I love Mike Davidson’s description, that Mixel’s like a casual version of Layer Tennis.

My biggest gripe: that you need a Facebook account (or, as in my case, to be a friend of the people behind it) to use it.

Speaking of Kubrick 

Amazon has the 10-disc Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection on sale at a 58 percent discount: Blu-ray for $63, DVD for $31.50.

Kubrick SFF 

Danny Bowes is spending the week looking back at Kubrick’s “science fiction and fantasy” films. Interesting to me that Bowes is including Dr. Strangelove as science fiction, but not A Clockwork Orange. Oops: My bad, I skimmed the first bullet point; A Clockwork Orange is right there. Pshew.

‘Does “A VC” Have a Blind Spot for Apple?’ 

You didn’t need the benefit of today’s hindsight to see how wrong Fred Wilson was about Apple and Flash back in 2009.

Claim Chowder: ‘Does Apple Have a Blind Spot About Flash?’ 

Fred Wilson, “A VC”, February 2009:

I believe Apple is making a mistake by snubbing Adobe’s desire to get Flash on the iPhone. And I believe Apple doesn’t share in Adobe and Nokia’s vision of an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps. It seems to me that Apple is interested in replicating its iTunes/iPod strategy it used to dominate digital music to dominate the mobile web.

I don’t think that will work. In fact, I don’t think the iTunes/iPod strategy has much life left in it. […]

I think we’ll have to deduct a Being Right point or two here.

I don’t even think an app ecosystem is the long term solution for the mobile web. It’s a bridge environment that allows for rich experiences on devices that don’t have reliable high bandwidth connections yet.

But the mobile web will eventually just be the web. And a big part of getting it there is to get the tools that allow us to seamlessly consume rich media on the web onto mobile devices. To me that means Flash.

Ouch. Ten-point deduction.

PlayBook Engineers Get to Work on RIM’s Fork of Mobile Flash Player 

Amateur hour is over.

RIM Plans to Continue Development of Flash for PlayBook on Its Own 

Ina Fried, reporting for some website on how iPad rival tablet makers are responding to the Flash news:

Flash support isn’t immediately going away for devices that already have it, but it clearly has lost its luster as a selling point.

When, exactly, did Flash support have luster as a selling point for tablet computers?

RIM, for its part, says it has licensed Adobe’s source code and plans to continue supporting Flash on the PlayBook.

Good luck with that.

Progress Isn’t Always Additive 

John Nack, last night on Twitter, in response to my wondering when Adobe will discontinue desktop Flash Player too:

In fairness, when will Web standards match all that Flash can do? Adobe’s contributing code to speed that along, but it takes time.

Totally fair question. My answer: It’s like asking when the iPad will match all that the Mac can do. Sometimes the next thing does less, and is better for it — not in every way, but overall. If we never let go of old technology, we’d be buried in complexity and crushed by outdated crap.

Not Just Mobile: Adobe Is Abandoning Flash on TVs as Well 

An Adobe spokesperson, in a statement to Ryan Lawler at GigaOm:

“Adobe will continue to support existing licensees who are planning on supporting Flash Player for web browsing on digital home devices and are using the Flash Player Porting Kit to do so. However we believe the right approach to deliver content on televisions is through applications, not a web browsing experience, and we will continue to encourage the device and content publishing community down that path.”

Don’t forget that Google comes out of this looking pretty bad. They bet big on Flash over the last year or so, promoting its inclusion on Android and Google TV.

Claim Chowder: ‘Flash Player 10.1 Will Kill HTML5’ 

Fabio Sonnati, March 2010:

Flash Player, until now, might have problems because of performances on Mac and because of the lack of support in the mobile market. But now with the 10.1 for desktop and with the future diffusion of 10.1 on almost all mobile plaftorms (except iPhone) plus the new set top box rising market, where are the problems? I see only a bright future for Flash, and HTML5 not only will not kill Flash, but it risks even to remain killed itself in the competition. The scenario is clear.

I agree with the last sentence.

Speaking Gig Tomorrow at Drexel 

Local note: I’m giving a talk tomorrow at my alma mater, the beautiful Drexel University here in Philadelphia. My talk will be followed by a screening of Going National, an “entertaining and informative documentary chronicling the Microcomputer Project of the 1980s, where Drexel became the first University to require students to own a computer (the original Macintosh).”

Should be fun.

Stuck Watching the Seahawks 

I really enjoyed this week’s episode of The Talk Show. Dan Benjamin and I talk about Adobe killing Flash for mobile devices, iCloud, why there’s not yet an iTunes Match for movies, the future of TV, the curious shoplifting implications of the new Apple Store app, and, on top of all that, a long discussion about Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs.

Brought to you by Raven and Reinvigorate.

Mobile Flash Claim Chowder: ‘Why the Apple Crowd’s Completely Wrong About Flash’ 

JR Raphael, August 2010:

As the Android 2.2 upgrade makes it way to more and more devices (the Droid Incredible is receiving it as we speak and the Droid X should follow any day now), those of us who value choice in technology are getting the opportunity to experience the Flash-enabled mobile world first hand. Having spent some time using it and seeing how it performs, I have to say: Stevie J. and his legions of followers couldn’t be more wrong.

Nothing about mobile Flash from Raphael so far today.

Update, 8 pm: Here we go. Somehow he wasn’t wrong, we’re supposed to believe, despite the fact that, you know, his entire premise was wrong.

About Those Movie Poster Compilations 

Remember that thing I linked to the other day, about the 13 movie poster trends? Ends up that was a rip-off of work curated by Christophe Courtois, originally uncredited.

‘Opponents’ 

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNet on the demise of Flash for mobile devices:

But in context, the cancellation wasn’t a complete surprise. Flash has plenty of opponents, and the biggest one, Apple, also happens to be the single most powerful player in mobile computing. By banning Flash on the browser responsible for 62 percent of mobile Web usage, Apple effectively exercised third-party veto power over Adobe’s ambitions.

Opponent is not the right word. Critic, perhaps. Silverlight was an opponent to Flash. Apple didn’t favor its own proprietary plugin over Flash. There’s no QuickTime plugin on iOS either. Apple’s view was, and is, that there should be no proprietary web browser plugins, period.

And, regarding Apple’s mobile web usage share, remember that in June 2007, Apple’s share was zero. It wasn’t like they built a majority share of mobile web usage and then shut the door on Flash — every single web page ever viewed on an iOS device was done without Flash. I would thus argue that Shankland has the cause and effect backward. It’s not that iOS’s popularity for web browsing led to the death of mobile Flash; it’s that the lack of Flash — and the resulting overall improvement to speed, responsiveness, and battery life — led to the popularity of iOS for web browsing.

Maybe Silverlight Too 

Mary-Jo Foley:

Several of my customer and partner contacts have told me they have heard from their own Microsoft sources over the past couple of weeks that Silverlight 5 is the last version of Silverlight that Microsoft will release. They said they are unsure whether there will be any service packs for it, and they are also not clear on how long Silverlight 5 will be supported by Microsoft.

I have never installed Silverlight on a single computer I own.

Thoughts on Flash 

Steve Jobs, April 2010:

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.

The whole piece stands the test of time, but the above nugget is the heart of it.

Adobe Makes It Official 

The lack of plainspoken clarity in this announcement is sad. Just say it.

Everybody Wins 

Dieter Bohn:

This certainly looks like a sign that Apple has won the battle over whether Flash belongs on mobile devices, as Adobe appears to be transitioning itself to an HTML5 future.

Apple didn’t win. Everybody won. Flash hasn’t been superseded in mobile by any sort of Apple technology. It’s been superseded by truly open web technologies. Dumping Flash will make Android better, it will make BlackBerrys better, it will make the entire web better. iOS users have been benefitting from this ever since day one, in June 2007.

Adobe: The Truth About Flash 

Some real gems in this classic:

Flash Player performs as well as, if not better than, comparable multimedia technologies.

And:

Security is one of the highest priorities for the Flash Player team.

ZDNet: Adobe to Cease Development of Flash Player for Mobile Browsers 

Jason Perlow, reporting for ZDNet:

Adobe is stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile.

I’m sure every reviewer who’s ever claimed that iOS’s lack of support for Flash is a disadvantage — the result of nothing more than spite on Apple’s part — will apologize and admit their error.

Anyway: good riddance to bad rubbish.

Shop Different 

The check-yourself-out feature on the new Apple Store iPhone app seems too good to be true, no?

Facebook Acquires Strobe 

Strobe offered an “app delivery network” for HTML5 web apps, and employed the team behind the SproutCore web app framework.

WebOS Fate Remains Undecided 

Josh Topolsky:

HP CEO Meg Whitman just told a room full of Palm and HP employees that the company doesn’t yet know what to do with webOS. “It’s really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision,” she told those gathered with her on the HP campus, adding that a decision would come in the next three to four weeks. This comes as a bit of a surprise, as reports recently swirled that the computer-maker has been in discussions to sell off the troubled mobile platform to the highest bidder. “If HP decides [to keep webOS], we’re going to do it in a very significant way over a multi-year period,” she said, adding that “it’s a very expensive proposition, but HP can make that bet.”

Translation: they tried to sell it but no one was buying at a good price.

In general, I favor taking extra time to “make the right decision, not the fast decision”, but time is of the essence here. My sense is that the team is dispersing — the talent is moving on. So the longer HP waits, the less valuable WebOS becomes, because more and more of the smart and talented people behind it will have left. Same goes if they decide to keep it.

When you’re faced with a “we need to stop the bleeding” problem, you need a fast decision.

The Social Graph Is Neither 

Maciej Ceglowski:

Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers — that’s the social graph.

Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.

Khoi Vinh: On the Grid 

Brief interview with my friend Khoi Vinh on grid-based graphic design. A beautiful short film, not a mere “video”.

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design 

Bret Victor:

Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.

The iPhone is only the beginning — the first drop — of touch-based design.

‘Thirteen Movie Poster Trends That Are Here to Stay and What They Say About Their Movies’ 

Not sure about the “here to stay” part — a bunch of these strike me as flash-in-the-pan trends — but it really is striking just how derivative and formulaic many movie posters are. Update: Worth noting that the original source of these compilations is Christophe Courtois.

Adobe Announces More Layoffs 

Adobe:

In order to better align resources around Digital Media and Digital Marketing, Adobe is restructuring its business. This will result in the elimination of approximately 750 full-time positions primarily in North America and Europe.

This follows a 680-person layoff in 2009, and a 600-person layoff in 2008.

Here’s how the company describes itself:

Adobe is investing aggressively in Digital Media and Digital Marketing, two growing market areas. In Digital Media, the company is the industry leader in content authoring solutions, enabling customers to create, distribute and monetize digital content. In Digital Marketing, the company intends to be the leader in solutions to manage, measure and optimize digital marketing and advertising.

In my ideal world, Adobe would describe itself instead as follows: “Adobe makes best-of-breed tools for creative professionals.”

Add Tasks to Things or The Hit List With Siri 

Siri doesn’t (yet) offer much in the way of interoperability with third-party apps. But because iOS “reminders” are, behind the scenes, stored using CalDAV, to-do apps that offer CalDAV support can sync with them.

‘Built to Be Flexible’ 

Thom Holwerda:

However, I always recalled seeing a video where alongside the BlackBerry-esque prototype, Google also showed off a device with a full touch screen.

As it turns out, my memory isn’t playing tricks on me. We’re talking November 12 2007, and Google released the first SDK for Android. Other than the keyboard-driven BlackBerry-esque style, the SDK also supported touch screens just fine. And, just as I remembered, Google showed off a reference design with a full touch screen (and, by the looks of it, it’s capacitive) — looking suspiciously similar to the HTC Dream, the first Android device — including gestures and flicks.

So in November 2007 — 11 months after the iPhone was unveiled publicly — Google demoed an Android prototype with a 3.5-ish-inch touchscreen. But watch the demo video. That prototype seemingly has no way to type, and most of the UI is driven not by direct on-screen touch but by a BlackBerry-style menu driven by a hardware D-pad and select button under the screen. Web page zooming is done with buttons on the side of the device. It’s like a BlackBerry with a touchscreen. Every single difference between this 2007 prototype and the first actual consumer Android phone a year later was in the direction of being more like an iPhone. And in the years since, Android’s evolution has continued almost solely in the direction of iPhone-likeness.

Android fans would be better-served going with the “Good artists copy, great artists steal” defense.

Back to Holwerda:

Android was never intended to run on just one form factor. Android runs on everything from candybar touch screen phones to qwerty-phones, and everything in between.

Yeah, I see all sorts of Android phones that look like BlackBerrys and candy bars. Tons of them.

Heck, there was a race to get Android running on laptops, and even before Android was well and ready for it, it was dumped on tablets.

In other words, unlike iOS, Android was built to be flexible, and run on many sorts of devices, with different screen sizes and form factors.

Have you ever read something that made you wonder if you’ve been zapped into an alternate universe? That.

Schmidt Claims Google Won’t Favor Motorola, Android Not a Rip-Off of iPhone 

Reuters:

“In general, with all of our partners, we told them that the Motorola deal will close and we will run it sufficiently and independently, that it will not violate the openness of Android… we’re not going to change in any material way the way we operate,” Eric Schmidt told reporters on his visit to South Korea on Tuesday.

Kudos for being honest: Google already favors some handset makers over others.

In response to a question on criticism by the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, that Android phones ripped off its flagship iPhone, Schmidt said, “the Android effort started before the iPhone effort.”

Kudos for being honest: Android started as a BlackBerry rip-off, then changed to an iPhone rip-off in 2007.

Apple Acquired 3D Mapping Company C3 Technologies 

Nice scoop last week by Mark Gurman at 9to5 Mac. Be sure to check out the demo video.

Obviously, Apple wants to extricate itself from depending on Google for mapping services. Recall Tim Cook’s 2009 manifesto:

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

I think mapping is a primary technology for mobile computing.

Ben Brooks on Consumer Reports’ ‘Recommendation’ of the iPhone 4S 

His URL slug says it all.

Charlie Miller Finds and Exploits a Vulnerability in iOS Code Signing Enforcement 

His app, which Apple allowed (but has, in the hours since Miller published this video, removed) onto the App Store, demonstrated a vulnerability where an app could download unsigned (and thus potentially unsafe) executable code from a remote server. No exact details on the bug until Miller gives a talk revealing it next week, but Andy Greenberg at Forbes has more info:

Miller became suspicious of a possible flaw in the code signing of Apple’s mobile devices with the release of iOS 4.3 early last year. To increase the speed of the phone’s browser, Miller noticed, Apple allowed javascript code from the Web to run on a much deeper level in the device’s memory than it had in previous versions of the operating system. In fact, he realized, the browser’s speed increase had forced Apple to create an exception for the browser to run unapproved code in a region of the device’s memory, which until then had been impossible. (Apple uses other security restrictions to prevent untrusted websites from using that exception to take control of the phone.)

The researcher soon dug up a bug that allowed him to expand that code-running exception to any application he’d like. “Apple runs all these checks to make sure only the browser can use the exception,” he says. “But in this one weird little corner case, it’s possible. And then you don’t have to worry about code-signing any more at all.”

That’s the Nitro JavaScript engine, which is faster because it uses JIT compilation, but is less secure for the same reason. I wrote about the security implications of Nitro back in March.

Also: Apple has kicked Miller out of the iOS developer program.

Nilay Patel Reviews the Motorola Droid Razr 

“Smart Actions” seem pretty cool. Neat idea.

Laptop Magazine’s 2011 Tablet World Series 

The iPad 2 lost in the first round to the Asus Eee Pad Slider, but the winner was the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. It’s like a tablet contest from Bizarro World — last year’s Tablet World Series winner was the BlackBerry PlayBook. (Via The Macalope.)

Comma 

Apple, in a legal response to HTC:

Apple denies that its correct name is Apple, Inc. The correct name of Respondent is Apple Inc.

Yelping With Cormac: The Apple Store 

“Cormac McCarthy” reviews the Apple Store for Yelp:

I figured he worked there so I asked him what the line was all about. What were all these people waitin for. He told me it was for a apple phone or some such. I said dont these folks have telephones already? He told me they all had apple phones but it was the older one. I asked him what would happen to the old apple phones.

Whole site is brilliant. Don’t miss this one. (Via Matt Killmon.)

Revolutionary User Interfaces and Disruption of the Global Handset Market 

Horace Dediu:

My hypothesis is that The Primary Cause for the shift of profits from Incumbents to Entrants has been the disruptive impact of a new input method.

You look at where the profits have gone, and numbers 1, 2, and 3 are Apple, Samsung, and HTC.

Chevrolet Speedometer Design 

Christian Annyas surveys 70 years of Chevy speedometer design. Those horizontal ones from the ’60s and ’70s are dreadful.

Siri to Mac 512K 

Things like this give me the urge to get old Macs out of the closet.

Apple, With 4 Percent of Handset Market, Captures 52 Percent of Profits 

Android is winning!

Doxie Go 

My thanks to Apparent for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their just-announced Doxie Go — a tiny, portable, wireless scanner that works anywhere and syncs directly to a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Utterly Mac-like software, and integrates easily with just about any imaginable workflow. Save scans to Dropbox, Evernote, Yojimbo, your iPhone/iPad photo roll, or keep them in the Doxie app.

Doxie Go helps you go not just paperless, but wireless. Pre-order now for just $199 — I just did.

Andy Rooney Dies at 92 

From his final on-air essay, a month ago:

A writer’s job is to tell the truth. I believe that if all the truth were known about everything in the world, it would be a better place to live.

iCloud System Status 

Re: the entry earlier today on transparency regarding Siri downtime — Apple should include Siri availability on the iCloud status page. Just a simple way to check whether an outage is on Apple’s end, before you start troubleshooting on your end.

Apple Awards Top Executives $60 Million Stock Bonuses, Vesting in 2016 

Josh Lowensohn, reporting for CNet:

The company on Wednesday doled out 150,000 shares each to most of its senior vice presidents, short of recently-minted SVP Eddy Cue, who received a slightly smaller 100,000-share bonus, and design guru Jonathan Ive, who is an SVP, but does not fall under the SEC’s section for directors, officers, and principal stockholders. That works out to just over a $60 million payday to those who got the 150,000 shares, with Cue’s cut coming out to a little more than $40 million, all based off today’s closing price.

Does that mean Ive might have gotten a bonus, but it didn’t need to be reported? Or that he didn’t get a bonus?

Update: Consensus via email and Twitter is that Ive is not a company director who falls under Rule 16 of the Securities Exchange Act.

Real Security in Mac OS X Requires Apple-Signed Certificates 

Wil Shipley:

There are three primary ways Apple increases security of applications running on the Mac and the iPhone: Sandboxing, Code Auditing, and Certification. While all these are incrementally valuable, none is perfect on its own.

The problem Mac developers are facing is that the two that Apple is enforcing on the Mac App Store (Sandboxing and Code Auditing) are implemented currently to be actively bad for developers and not particularly good for users. And the method that would provide the most benefit for developers and users (Certification) isn’t enforced broadly enough to be useful.

A thoughtful, detailed, and well-reasoned argument. Let’s hope Apple is listening.

TPM Browser Usage Stats 

Browser usage stats from a popular political news and commentary site: IE and Firefox in decline, Safari peaking, Chrome on the rise.

Fricking Lasers 

Good reporting from Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows for Businessweek:

Apple began innovating on the nitty-gritty details of supply-chain management almost immediately upon Steve Jobs’s return in 1997. At the time, most computer manufacturers transported products by sea, a far cheaper option than air freight. To ensure that the company’s new, translucent blue iMacs would be widely available at Christmas the following year, Jobs paid $50 million to buy up all the available holiday air freight space, says John Martin, a logistics executive who worked with Jobs to arrange the flights. The move handicapped rivals such as Compaq that later wanted to book air transport. Similarly, when iPod sales took off in 2001, Apple realized it could pack so many of the diminutive music players on planes that it became economical to ship them directly from Chinese factories to consumers’ doors. When an HP staffer bought one and received it a few days later, tracking its progress around the world through Apple’s website, “It was an ‘Oh shit’ moment,” recalls Fawkes.

That mentality — spend exorbitantly wherever necessary, and reap the benefits from greater volume in the long run — is institutionalized throughout Apple’s supply chain, and begins at the design stage.

Billion-dollar cash up-front deals for components. How many other companies can do that?

Promises 

Sascha Segan, writing at PCMag:

I think Apple did the right thing with the battery-life issue, but I’m frustrated by its lack of a public explanation for the Siri problems. […]

Unlike with a complex handset bug that needs lots of testing to verify, it’s relatively easy for Apple to know its servers are overloaded and issue some sort of quick statement, for instance: “The tremendous popularity of Siri has led to stress on our servers. We are adding capacity to resolve the problem, but for now, be aware the service is in beta.”

How would that make anything better for iPhone 4S users? What practical difference would it have made in anyone’s life if Apple had released a statement like that yesterday? It’s very unusual for Apple to release anything labeled “beta”, and even rarer for something labeled “beta” to be the focus of a major advertising campaign. “Beta” is no excuse for an outage — if you ship it and promote it, people should expect it to work — but it is an explanation. Until Apple removes the “beta” label, problems with Siri are explained, but not excused, by it being beta. Apple’s problem is that Siri went down, not that they aren’t talking about Siri going down.

Apple promotes its products as perfect objects produced by demigods.

No they don’t. It’s people in the news media, like Segan, who project such a message.

This marketing strategy is also why Apple’s bugs get so much more press than other companies’ bugs, by the way. When you promise perfection, any imperfection is news. When you call your products “revolutionary and magical,” that’s a high bar to set. Nobody else promises perfection quite to the extent Apple does.

My thesaurus does not list perfect as a synonym for either revolutionary or magical.

Update, 9 November 2011: Walter Isaacson’s bio reminded me of the following, from Steve Jobs, on stage during the 2010 “antennagate” press event: “We’re not perfect. Phones are not perfect. We all know that. But we want to make our users happy.”

LG Turns to Shareholders to Help Revive Android Smartphone Business 

Charles Arthur, reporting for The Guardian:

Shares in LG Electronics plunged 14% on Thursday as the company announced a 1.06tn won (£590m) rights issue which will be used mainly to fund a revival of its loss-making smartphone business.

The South Korean company’s shares have already fallen by more than 40% this year, but the decline as it announced the demand from existing shareholders was its biggest daily fall in more than three years, and knocked around £625m, or $1bn, off its market capitalisation.

Android is winning!

Hours-Long Siri Outage Today 

I got this one, while trying to dictate a text message this afternoon: “My mind is going, John… I can feel it. I can feel it.”

Nerdy Stripper 

This week’s episode of The Talk Show. Topics include the new Siri ads, the murky future of the Mac Pro, and iPhone 4S/iOS 5 battery life.

Brought to you by BBEdit 10 and MailChimp.

Clint Eastwood on Gay Marriage and Politics in General 

Clint Eastwood to GQ:

Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone. These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of. […]

They go on and on with all this bullshit about “sanctity” — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.

User Interface of the Week: FabuList for the BlackBerry PlayBook 

“Unique”, all right.

Fantastical 1.1 

Speaking of menu-bar calendars for Mac OS X, Fantastical 1.1 now includes the ability to edit events — a really nice improvement to one of my favorite utilities.

Day-O 

New simple menu bar clock/calendar from Shaun Inman. Free.

Don’t Give Your Users Shit Work 

Zach Holman:

Some people still like shit work. They can spend an hour moving Twitter accounts to special Lists, and then at the end of it look back and say “Boy, I spent an hour doing this. I really accomplished a lot today!” You didn’t. You did shit work.

(Via Brent Simmons.)

Brilliant Idea of the Day 

Neil Hughes at AppleInsider, on a “research report” by analyst Ben Reitzes:

He believes the appeal of the iPad could be extended to more PC users if Apple were to extend keyboard options with touchpads, in addition to the touchscreen interface on the iPad itself.

And what exactly would move on screen with the touchpad? The mouse cursor? Why take this guy seriously? This is like someone recommending to Amazon in 1996 that they should print a catalog of everything in their store.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library 

Amazon:

With Prime, Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers — as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.

You need to own an actual Kindle, though, not just use the Kindle app on another device. And, publishers need to opt-in, and none — zero — of the big six have.

Stop-Motion Music Video Shot Over Two Years With 288,000 Jelly Beans 

A lot of work for three minutes. (Via Jeff Carlson.)

David Pogue on Windows Phone 7.5 

David Pogue:

Windows Phone 7.5 is gorgeous, classy, satisfying, fast and coherent. The design is intelligent, clean and uncluttered. Never in a million years would you guess that it came from the same company that cooked up the bloated spaghetti that is Windows and Office.

Update: Fixed the link to point to a URL that shouldn’t prompt you to log in to the NYT site.

‘Skyfall’ 

We now know the title of the next Bond film, but not much else. And there’s a Twitter account. Excited to have a good director like Sam Mendes at the helm.

Update: Highlights from the press conference.

‘If You Release Shit, You Look Like Shit.’ 

MG Siegler, regarding his scoop the other day on the iOS Gmail app, which called it “pretty fantastic”:

My sources are very good. Unfortunately, they apparently do not have very good taste.

I was wondering how he got that so wrong.

Kevin Fox’s Offer to Google Reader 

Kevin Fox:

As the former lead designer for Google Reader, I offer my services to Google, rejoining for a three month contract in order to restore and enhance the utility of Google Reader, while keeping it in line with Google’s new visual standards requirements.

Is there anyone, anywhere, who thinks the new Google Reader is an improvement?

Ian Hex Compares UI Typefaces 

Interesting comparison, but fundamentally flawed. I think Hex overlooks something essential: how the fonts are rendered by the OS. Each of these operating systems uses different anti-aliasing algorithms — even Mac OS X (which uses sub-pixel anti-aliasing by default) and iOS (which never uses sub-pixel anti-aliasing). A proper comparison should show these fonts as they are rendered on each system.

His criteria are too analytical. You want to know why I think Helvetica Neue is a great UI font for iOS? Because it’s beautiful. And the problem with the font that “wins” his comparison, Droid Sans, is that it’s ugly. You know it’s ugly when even Google thinks it is.

Update: Also not considered: the displays of the devices in question: resolution, IPS/LED vs. AMOLED, etc. Apple, for example, uses Helvetica, not Helvetica Neue, as the system font on non-Retina displays. Why? Because it renders better at a lower resolution.

Defending Android’s Hardware Buttons 

Steven Van Bael makes the case for Android’s hardware Back button. Only fair to give the other side a voice.

Here’s one thing I don’t like about the Android Back button that I’ve never seen a counterargument for: it presumes that you, the user, remember the activity stack. If you turn your phone on and you’re looking at a web page in the browser, if you don’t remember what you were doing immediately before opening the web page you’re looking at, you have no idea where you’re going to go if you hit the Back button. Could be another app, could be another web page, could be the home screen. And if hitting the Back button takes you somewhere you didn’t want to go, there’s no Forward button to reverse it. It’s like leaving a breadcrumb trail in the dark — you have to remember where the breadcrumbs are because you can’t see them. Drove me nuts.

Scaling Down the Mac Pro 

Marco Arment:

It’s impossible to significantly change the Mac Pro without removing most of its need to exist.

But I think it’s clear, especially looking at Thunderbolt’s development recently, that Apple is in the middle of a transition away from needing the Mac Pro.

I concur.

Gold Standard 

Nicholas Kolakowski, reporting for eWeek on a “research note” by analyst Jack Gold:

Apple will lose its overwhelming dominance of the consumer tablet space within the next three years, according to a prediction from analyst Jack Gold.

His research note also predicts that Microsoft will own roughly 10 percent of the consumer tablet market by that 2014-2015 timeframe, beating out Research In Motion’s QNX operating system with less than 10 percent but losing out to iOS (30 percent) and Android (50 percent).

That’s the same Jack Gold who wrote the following regarding the iPhone in 2007:

Can it succeed? Frankly, and contrary to the reactions of Apple fans and the stock market, I am pretty skeptical. I don’t think this device will meet the fantastic predictions I have been reading. For starters, while Apple basically established the market for portable music players, the phone market is already established, with a number of major brands. Can Apple remake the phone market in its image? Success is far from guaranteed.

Why am I not impressed?

I don’t know, but I know why I’m not.

PlugBug Charger 

How in the world did no one think of this before?

Apple Seeds iOS 5.0.1 Beta 

Just out the door:

iOS 5.0.1 beta contains improvements and other bug fixes including:

  • Fixes bugs affecting battery life
  • Adds Multitasking Gestures for original iPad
  • Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud
  • Improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation
  • Contains security improvements

I can’t think of a good reason why the multitasking gestures weren’t enabled for the original iPad in 5.0.0.

Mark O’Connor Swapped His MacBook for an iPad and Linode 

Fascinating, really. What enables him to work solely from an iPad is that he does all his work in Vim. So it’s the fact that he’s a code-writing Unix nerd that allows him to use the seemingly least-Unix-nerd-friendly computer ever as his sole work machine.

Mobile Web Browser Market Share 

Interesting mobile web browser market share numbers from Net Applications. iOS continues to grow, now accounting for over 60 percent of mobile web traffic; Android’s share of mobile traffic is at 18 percent. BlackBerry is way down at 2 percent.

Also interesting, in contrast, are the mobile share numbers from Ars Technica for October: 40 percent for iOS, 37.5 percent for Android. So web-wide, iOS has more than three times the web browsing usage of Android, but on a site like Ars, Android shows far larger usage.

(DF’s OS share numbers for October, according to Google Analytics: 54% Mac OS X, 27% iOS (17/10 iPhone/iPad), 16% Windows, 1.6% “Linux”, 1% Android.)

Apple Confirms Battery Life Issues in iOS 5 

Apple, in a statement to Jim Dalrymple at The Loop:

“We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks.”

On the Google Reader Redesign 

Brian Shih, formerly a project manager for Google Reader:

After I left Google in July, I heard that there was renewed effort around the project and that a new team was bringing some much-needed attention to the product. I expected them to give the product a facelift, and integrate G+ — both things that needed to happen.

But killing off functionality that could have easily been built on top of G+, and missing the mark by so much on the UI… and then releasing them under the guise of improvements?

Twitter Stories 

Lovely new site from Twitter, about how we use it.

AT-AT Dog Costume 

The armor plating is too thick for blasters.

RIM’s Stock Falls Below Book Value 

Hugo Miller and Matt Walcoff, reporting for Bloomberg:

RIM fell 3.3 percent to $18.66 at 1:31 p.m. in New York, below the book value per share of $18.92 at the end of last quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Book value comprises a company’s assets including cash, inventories, real estate and intellectual property minus its liabilities.

How do Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie still have jobs?

Google’s New ‘Native’ Gmail App for iPhone and iPad 

“Native” in quotes, because the app is just a wrapper around a UIWebView — the UI is pretty much just the mobile Gmail web app. Most of the text is set using Arial, but some is in Helvetica, showing Google’s typical attention to detail. People are loving it.

Sony Forecasts $1.2 Billion Loss for the Year 

Thomas Ricker, reporting at The Verge:

When the fiscal year is done, Sony will have lost almost $8.5 billion from televisions over the last eight years. And while Sony has executed upon plans to restructure its TV business in the past, it has yet to successfully return the division to profitability. As such, there’s little reason to trust management’s latest “TV Business Profitability Improvement Plan” which aims to return the business to profitability by March 31, 2014.

How does Howard Stringer still have a job?

CNet: The Inside Story of How Microsoft Killed Its Courier Tablet 

Interesting reporting by Jay Greene for CNet, but I’m not buying it that Courier was near completion. This, to me, is damning:

When Courier died, there was not a single prototype that contained all of the attributes of the vision: the industrial design, the screen performance, the software experience, the correct weight, and the battery life. Those existed individually, created in parallel to keep the development process moving quickly. Those prototypes wouldn’t have come together into a single unit until very late in the development process, perhaps weeks before manufacturing, which is common for cutting-edge consumer electronics design. But on the team, there was little doubt that they were moving quickly toward that final prototype.

“We were on the cusp of something really big,” said one Courier team member.

One prototype that looks right, one with the right screen, one that has the right software, one that has the right weight, and one with the right battery life. Just mash them all together in a few weeks and you’re done. Sure.

Google Kills Its Other Plus 

Andy Baio on a recent change to Google’s web search — the removal of the longstanding and beloved by search nerds + operator:

Google wouldn’t disclose exactly why they phased it out, though it seems obvious that they’re paving the way for Google+ profile searches. When Google+ launched, instead of adopting Twitter’s @reply syntax, they coined their own format for mentioning people — adding a plus to the beginning of a name — triggering the future conflict with the + operator.

So not only has the push for Google+ resulted in the removal of sharing features from a mid-level Google property like Google Reader, but it’s altering the feature set of Google’s bread-and-butter flagship product: web search.

Samsung Asks for iPhone 4S Source Code 

Oonagh Reidy, reporting for Smart Office:

In Federal court today Samsung counsel Cynthia Cochrane said her client would need the source code for the iPhone 4S and agreements Apple had with major carriers Vodafone, Telstra and Optus in order to make a legal case for a ban before the court.

First Samsung wanted to see the unreleased “iPhone 5” and “iPad 3”, now they want the iOS source code and Apple’s carrier agreements. I see we’ve arrived at the “grasping at straws in desperation” part of the dispute.

iPhone 4S Arrives in Hong Kong and South Korea on November 11 

This is the soonest-after-launch that an iPhone has hit these countries.

‘Kinect Effect’ 

This is better (it’s human and emotional, with music to match), and the Kinect is a legitimate hit product, but still, read the fine print: “Depictions are visionary”. Now the coolest things Microsoft has shown us for Kinect are things you can’t actually do with it.

(Apple has fine print too, yes. In the new Siri ads: “Sequences shortened.” They make her seem faster than she really is, but show you only real things you can actually do. Today.)

Why Microsoft’s Vision of the Future Is Dead on Arrival 

John Pavlus:

What “future of” tech/design videos need is a little less Minority Report and a little more Alien. Director Ridley Scott famously told his production designers to make Alien’s spaceship and costumes look roughed-up, slightly messy, and above all, lived in. Otherwise, it just isn’t believable enough to see yourself in — which is a design problem that both horror movies and corporate promos need to solve. Microsoft’s film is probably going viral as we speak, but imagine how much more reach it would have if it dared to depict a guy stuck in a meeting that sucked, or using his smartphone in an airport that was full of noisy assholes and long lines, or searching his touchscreen-enabled smart refrigerator for a quick meal because his kids are bouncing off the walls and he’s bone-tired from a long day at work?

‘Mommy Doesn’t Wear Her Wedding Ring on Business Trips’ 

Josh Farmer deconstructs Microsoft’s “Future Visions” concept video:

There is no difference between a tap that selects, records, enters a chat, or backtracks. And no one is confused about this.

This is what I mean about making fake bullshit rather than real things. When you’re designing a science fiction UI, you can yadda-yadda-yadda over all the little details that would be involved in designing something real — a cohesive and complete system. When you’re designing a real UI, the little details are everything.

(Thanks to Joe Clark.)

‘BlackBerry Future Visions’ 

Like Microsoft, but with worse music, far less clever ideas, and more neckties.

Native Gmail iPhone App? 

MG Siegler:

Google is on the verge of launching their native Gmail app, multiple sources tell me. In fact, I believe it has already been submitted to Apple for review. If it gets approved, it should be out soon. And I think it’s going to be approved.

Apple Releases GarageBand for iPhone and iPod Touch 

Ambitious indeed.

Five Minutes on The Verge 

Related to the last: a brief interview by Josh Topolsky with yours truly.

Welcome to The Verge 

Josh Topolsky and crew launch The Verge. These kids have a chance.

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