Linked List: April 2012

Microsoft Partners With Barnes and Noble on E-Books 

Carl Franzen, reporting for TPM:

Looks like Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have been doing some reading of ancient proverbs, perhaps specifically: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” […]

Announced Monday, the new partnership is called “Newco,” for the time being (Barnes & Noble says they haven’t settled on the name). It sees Microsoft investing $300 million for a 17.6 percent equity stake. The remaining 82.4 percent will be owned by Barnes & Noble, and the company itself will be worth $1.7 billion in total.

Screenshot Journal 

New $1.99 app for iOS UI designers from my friend Bryan Bell. Great idea.

Roger Ebert: The Greatest Films of All Time 

A surprise (but worthy) choice at the end.

Stop the Presses 

Joy of Tech details a New York Times story meeting.

A Definitive History of Android Version Adoption 

Android Police:

That’s right, it’s not your imagination, Ice Cream Sandwich adoption is going very, very slowly. You’ll notice update percentage gets progressively slower with each new version, but keep in mind the Android ecosystem is also getting progressively larger. Ice Cream Sandwich has to deal with many, many more models than Éclair did.

The shame of it is that Ice Cream Sandwich is so much nicer than previous versions of Android.

The Phony Sony Parallel 

It amuses me to no end that Jean-Louis Gassée — the man who might’ve kept Steve Jobs from returning to Apple — is today one of the most consistently insightful Apple observers in the world.

Air France Flight 447: ‘Damn It, We’re Going to Crash’ 

Gripping, heartbreaking reporting by Nick Ross and Neil Tweedie for The Telegraph:

As forward thrust was lost, downward momentum was gathering. Instead of the wings slicing neatly through the air, their increasing angle of attack meant they were in effect damming it. In the next 40 seconds AF447 fell 3,000 feet, losing more and more speed as the angle of attack increased to 40 degrees. The wings were now like bulldozer blades against the sky. Bonin failed to grasp this fact, and though angle of attack readings are sent to onboard computers, there are no displays in modern jets to convey this critical information to the crews. One of the provisional recommendations of the BEA inquiry has been to challenge this absence.

User-interface design is, in some cases, life or death.

The Illusion of Value 

Nick Bilton:

“It serves the interest of the investors who can come up with whatever valuation they want when there are no revenues,” explained Paul Kedrosky, a venture investor and entrepreneur. “Once there is no revenue, there is no science, and it all just becomes finger in the wind valuations.”

When small start-ups I’ve spoken with do make money, they often find it difficult to recruit additional investment because most venture capitalists — and often the entrepreneurs they finance — are not interested in building viable long-term businesses. Rather, they’re interested in pumping up enough hype and valuation to find a quick exit through an acquisition at an eye-popping premium.

Apple Retail Stores Replace iMacs With iPads for Kids 

You can’t fool kids — they know what’s cool.

‘The Escalators Only Go One Way’ 

For your weekend listening enjoyment, this week’s episode of The Talk Show. Topics include the nearly-instant WWDC sellout, analyst estimates and Apple’s earnings, Google Drive, and more. Brought to you by Squarespace and Sourcebits.

Opera Confirms WebKit Prefix Usage 

The de facto standard is now the standard.

10 Years of Panic Touts 

Nice trip down memory lane.

Audible.com 

My thanks to Audible.com for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider of spoken audio entertainment, with over 100,000 titles to choose from across nearly every genre, including top titles from your favorite bestselling authors.

Daring Fireball readers who sign up today get a 30-day free trial.

‘Insanely Simple’ 

Advertising executive Ken Segall’s behind-the-scenes book about working with Steve Jobs and Apple. The emphasis on simplicity rings true.

Can’t quite come to grips with this bit, though, excerpted by Eric Slivka at MacRumors:

Steve’s idea was to do a Willy Wonka with it. Just as Wonka did in the movie, Steve wanted to put a golden certificate representing the millionth iMac inside the box of one iMac, and publicize that fact. Whoever opened the lucky iMac box would be refunded the purchase price and be flown to Cupertino, where he or she (and, presumably, the accompanying family) would be taken on a tour of the Apple campus.

Steve had already instructed his internal creative group to design a prototype golden certificate, which he shared with us. But the killer was that Steve wanted to go all out on this. He wanted to meet the lucky winner in full Willy Wonka garb. Yes, complete with top hat and tails.

ComScore: Amazon Kindle Fire Accounts for 54 Percent of U.S. Android Tablets 

Electronista:

Amazon’s Kindle Fire now makes up the absolute majority of the Android tablet platform in the US, comScore found in a fresh study. The e-reader and tablet crossover represented 54.4 percent of all Android tablets sold in the country. At second place, the entire Samsung Galaxy Tab lineup comprised just 15.4 percent of Android slates.

No other manufacturer got above 10 percent, with Google’s reference tablet, the Motorola Xoom, stopping at seven percent.

No word from ComScore, though, on what the Fire’s share of the overall tablet market is. Clearly, though, Amazon is Apple’s top competitor. Makes me wonder how long it would take for a Kindle phone to become the number two phone in the U.S. Also makes me wonder what the Android tablet market looks like outside the U.S., where the Kindle Fire has no distribution.

Sidenote: ComScore’s report also contained an interesting bit on tablet screen sizes:

Analysis of page view consumption by screen size found a strong positive association between screen size and content consumption. Specifically, 10-inch tablets have a 39-percent higher consumption rate than 7-inch tablets and a 58-percent higher rate than 5-inch tablets.

Horace Dediu on Apple’s Astounding Q2 Operating Margin 

It boggles the mind that any hardware company, even the world’s most profitable one, could achieve higher margins than Microsoft or Google. (Via MG Siegler.)

Fun With Headlines 

Inside Social Games: “Zynga Reports Highest Ever Bookings for Q1 at $329M”.

Same facts, different headline from Reuters: “Zynga Reports $85 Million Quarterly Loss”.

Funnily enough, the pro-Zynga headline is right from Zynga’s own press release.

Good Quarter for Amazon 

Revenue is up year over year, although profits were down. This caught my eye:

“I’m excited to announce that we now have more than 130,000 new, in-copyright books that are exclusive to the Kindle Store – you won’t find them anywhere else. They include many of our top bestsellers – in fact, 16 of our top 100 bestselling titles are exclusive to our store,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

So 16 percent of bestselling titles are exclusive to the Kindle Store — and the Department of Justice is investigating Apple’s iBookstore. Got it.

Samsung Hires Mob to Protest Outside Apple Store 

Embarrassing.

Correction 1 May 2012: Ends up it was put together by RIM, not Samsung.

Android in Early 2007 Looked Very Different Than It Does Today 

Reminiscent in some ways of Windows Mobile 5. Doesn’t remind me at all of Android as we know it.

Why does this matter? Let’s forget about any sort of argument about whether Android is a rip-off of the iPhone. Of course it is. Put aside any sense of justice or righteousness. How could the Android team not change course and copy the iPhone after they’d seen it? Steve Jobs, quoted in Wired magazine back in 1996:

I saw a very rudimentary graphical user interface. It wasn’t complete. It wasn’t quite right. But within 10 minutes, it was obvious that every computer in the world would work this way someday. And you could argue about the number of years it would take, and you could argue about who would be the winners and the losers, but I don’t think you could argue that every computer in the world wouldn’t eventually work this way.

What the mouse/windows GUI was to computing, the iPhone touchscreen is to mobile computing.

What’s more interesting to me is the technical story. It’s no wonder Android has struggled to match the smoothness, touch responsiveness, and high-frame-rate graphics of the iPhone, given that this is where they were in 2007. They’ve come remarkably far in five years.

Google Expected Android Honeycomb Tablets to Have 33 Percent Marketshare in 2011 

Nilay Patel, with more juicy stuff revealed during the Google-Oracle trial:

According to a presentation given by Andy Rubin in July 2010, Google expected to sell some 10 million Android tablets a year in 2011 and 2012 and capture up to a third of the entire tablet market.

Reminds me of Eric Schmidt’s prediction that Google TV will be on half of all new U.S. TV sets this summer, and that mobile app developers will soon write for Android first.

Must be some good weed in Mountain View.

‘I Will Legally Change My Name to Yours for a WWDC Ticket’ 

I don’t think this is a joke.

The Original ‘Google Phone’ Presented in 2006 

Juicy stuff from the Google-Oracle trial:

The baseline specs required two soft menu keys, indicating that touchscreens weren’t really in the plan at all.

Wonder where they got the idea to emphasize touchscreens?

Shorting Apple Long-Term 

George F. Colony, writing for Forbes:

When Steve Jobs departed, he took three things with him: 1) singular charismatic leadership that bound the company together and elicited extraordinary performance from its people; 2) the ability to take big risks, and 3) an unparalleled ability to envision and design products.  

Colony’s pessimism is, unlike most Apple bearishness of late, perfectly reasonable. Apple did not fall to pieces when Jobs died, but no one with a clue expected it to. But Tim Cook and the remaining leadership team have yet to prove themselves in the long run. I’m not saying I agree with Colony (I don’t), I’m just saying his argument is reasonable. Apple is untested in these regards.

Apple’s momentum will carry it for 24-48 months. But without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company, with a commensurate step down in revenue growth and product innovation. Like Sony (post Morita), Polaroid (post Land), Apple circa 1985 (post Jobs), and Disney (in the 20 years post Walt Disney), Apple will coast, and then decelerate.

Disney is the comparison I like best. And he’s right, Disney sputtered a bit in the ’70s and ’80s, post-Walt. But look where they are today: the leading family entertainment company in the world, right where Walt left them. Apple should be so lucky 40 years hence.

The big difference is that The Walt Disney Company was in no way prepared for life after Walt. Apple, I think, was.

Shorting Apple Near-Term 

Thomas H. Kee Jr., writing for the WSJ’s MarketWatch:

Not more than a couple short months ago I recommended to investors that they sell Apple. That call was early, I did not anticipate the euphoria that overwhelmed the stock for the past couple of months, but the premise for my recommendation has not changed.

This time Lucy isn’t going to yank the football away, I swear!

Underlying problems at Apple is a competitive environment that has caught up to it. Products from Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola are now direct competitors with the iPhone for example, where a few short years ago they were well behind the curve.

Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola were the leading handset makers before Apple entered the market.

In addition, mobile operating systems like Android from Google are actually dominating the mobile market.

Android is just one example of these dominating mobile operating systems.

Without a doubt, Apple led the way, and they deserve the reward of being first to market with these innovations, but technology catches up fast, and unless Apple continues to innovate at the same pace it did before, it will not stand out from the crowd on a technological basis for long.

Exactly!

‘The Critical Juncture’ 

Re: the previous item, on expanding the iPad market with the $399 iPad 2, recall this analysis from Steve Jobs, in a 2004 Newsweek interview with Steven Levy:

If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, too. Once a company devises a great product, he says, it has a monopoly in that realm, and concentrates less on innovation than protecting its turf. “The Mac user interface was a 10-year monopoly,” says Jobs. “Who ended up running the company? Sales guys. At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits. They made obscene profits for several years. And their products became mediocre. And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95. They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.”

Apple seems to be having it both ways with the iPad, but I suspect they’d prefer to err on the side of maximizing market share than maximizing profits.

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I ponder the idea of a $249 7.8-inch iPad.

The $399 iPad 2 Is Selling 

The ever-astute Matt Richman noted yesterday that average selling prices are down for both the iPhone and iPad:

The $399 iPad 2 must be selling very well for it to make iPad ASP drop more than 8 percent in one quarter.

Tim Cook, during yesterday’s conference call:

On iPad 2, with the change in the entry price to $399, we’re actually thrilled with the results that we’ve seen; although as Peter said, it’s only been a few weeks and so it’s too early to come to a clear conclusion. But from what we are seeing, this unlocked some education demand — that is, probably a more price-sensitive customer — also in several other countries there was a marked change in demand at that price point. And so on the early going, we feel great about it.

In other words: the $399 wasn’t intended simply as a way to get people in the door to be upsold to higher-priced new iPads. It was meant to sell, to expand the iPad user base in price-sensitive markets.

WWDC 2012: June 11-15 

Three years ago it sold out in a month. Two years ago it took a week. Last year it took 12 hours. So, if you want to go, I wouldn’t fuck around.

Update: Sold out in two hours, before the U.S. west coast even woke up.

Tim Cook Spells Out the Rapid Growth of Apple’s iPad 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT Bits blog:

Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, more than double the number it sold last year. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, helped put this in perspective during the company’s earnings call. “Just two years after we shipped the initial iPad, we sold 67 million,” he said. “It took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, and five years for that many iPods, and over three years for that many iPhones.”

Love This Karl Denninger Guy 

Remember Karl Denninger? The guy who back in September 2010 called for shorting AAPL and going long on RIM? He had a well-timed piece this morning:

That’s called market saturation and it was inevitable. Even with the “4S” the spurt was short-lived and now it appears the fanboi game has run its course. Worse is that it appears that only 21% of AT&T’s activations were new customers.

Apple is due to report this afternoon and if you can find the math that supports the expected numbers on iPhone sales given the reports from the two carriers in front of their numbers I wish you luck. Apple is “expected” to sell ~35 million iPhones this last quarter.

Well, we have 7.4 million between the two largest US carriers reported thus far.

Where did the other 27.6 million sales come from?

Hmm, let me think about this. Boy, this is a real head-scratcher. Wait, almost got it… tip of my tongue…

Oh, yeah. The entire rest of the world. That’s it.

HTC Posts 70 Percent Profit Drop 

The AP:

Taiwan smartphone maker HTC Corp. reported a 70 percent drop in first quarter profit as it faces keener competition from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. HTC said Tuesday that profit amounted to 4.5 billion New Taiwan dollars ($152 million) from revenue of NT$68 billion in the three months through March. Revenue was down 35 percent from a year earlier. […]

HTC chief executive Peter Chou said the company’s biggest challenge has come from Apple’s iPhone 4S launch that took up the lion’s share of leading U.S. mobile operators’ handset purchases.

Man, imagine how much trouble HTC would be in if the iPhone 4S weren’t such a disappointment.

11.8 Million iPads Sold ‘Something of a Disappointment’ 

Ina Fried, writing for some website:

But, when it comes to Apple, those sales were actually something of a disappointment. On average, Apple was expected to sell closer to 13 million iPads last quarter, the first in which it has sold the New iPad, as the latest model is known. […]

Apple sold three million new iPads in just the first weekend. That led some analysts to conclude Apple might be able to sell as many as 12 million of the new models during the quarter.

So on the one hand, we can consider that 11.8 million iPads sold is an increase of 151 percent year-over-year. 151 percent growth in a product segment in which every major player in the industry — from Amazon to Google to Microsoft to Intel to Samsung — is racing to gain as big a foothold as they can.

But on the other hand, we can compare 11.8 million iPads sold to the guesses of a bunch of Wall Street analysts. Let’s do it that way.

Apple Q2 2012 Results 

Apple PR:

The Company posted quarterly revenue of $39.2 billion and quarterly net profit of $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $24.7 billion and net profit of $6.0 billion, or $6.40 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. […]

The Company sold 35.1 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 88 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, a 151 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4 million Macs during the quarter, a 7 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 7.7 million iPods, a 15 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.

Decent growth for the biggest company in the world. Net profit is up 94 percent from a year ago. Not bad.

Neue Haas Grotesk 

Speaking of type design history.

The Design of a Signage Typeface 

Ralf Herrmann, on the design of his (excellent, to my eyes) signage typeface Wayfinding Sans Pro:

So I set off, driving thousands of miles across Europe to explore the legibility of these signs and typefaces, first hand. Once I even ended up in a holding cell at the border crossing to Norway, because the customs officers just wouldn’t accept that someone would drive all over Europe simply to take photographs of traffic signs.

Skype for Windows Phone Is Basically Useless 

Matthew Miller, ZDNet:

Skype 1.0 for Windows Phone lets you make Skype video and voice calls over 3G and WiFi, search for and add contacts, and make calls to landlines. However, no one can call you via Skype unless you have the app open and running on your phone. Unlike Android and iOS, Skype needs to be your active app in order to receive calls as there is no background functionality at all in the app.

Microsoft should just buy Skype so they can make sure the Windows Phone version is top-notch.

What? Oh, yeah

Tor/Forge E-Books to Go DRM-Free 

Tor:

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

Hope this is the start of a trend.

iPhone Sales Numbers From AT&T 

Eric Slivka, reporting for MacRumors on AT&T’s quarterly numbers:

Consequently, AT&T’s 4.3 million iPhone activations likely corresponds to approximately 75% of its total smartphone sales of 5.5 million units for the quarter.

Even more impressively, the continued trend toward smartphone adoption means that the iPhone is representing a growing proportion of total phone sales (smartphone and non-smartphone) at AT&T. The carrier notes that smartphones represented more than 78% of its total phone sales to postpaid customers, meaning that the iPhone accounted for roughly 60% of AT&T’s total phone sales to those customers during the quarter.

The iPhone accounted for a majority not just of AT&T smartphones sold, but all phones.

Estimates for Apple’s Q2 2012 Financials, Coming Later Today 

Estimates are all over the map on iPhone sales.

Microsoft Comparison Chart of Cloud Storage Services 

Has any company in history had more of a love affair with feature checklists than Microsoft? These must appeal to some people, but the appeal of post-PC computing is ease-of-use and obviousness — a feature checklist can’t convey any sense of these things.

(You’ll never guess which cloud storage service gets the most checkmarks in the list.)

Introducing Google Drive 

Sure, I trust Google to index the contents of all my files. Why not?

Light Table 

Speaking of cool Kickstarter projects, here’s one that can use your help to reach funded status — Chris Granger’s Light Table IDE:

Light Table is based on a very simple idea: we need a real work surface to code on, not just an editor and a project explorer. We need to be able to move things around, keep clutter down, and bring information to the foreground in the places we need it most.

Watch the video to get the gist of the concept. Granger aptly compares it to a drafting table:

Towards the end of my time on the Visual Studio team, I came to the conclusion that windows aren’t a good abstraction for what we do. Other engineers have large tables where they can scatter drawings, tools, and other information around. A drafting table is a much better abstraction for us. We shouldn’t need to limit ourselves to a world where the smallest moveable unit is a file — our code has much more complex interactions that we can better see when we can organize things conceptually.

The Wrath of Grapes 

Timothy Egan, writing for the NYT Opinionator:

Sobriety, laudable in many respects, does imply rigidity of thought. The best presidents were open-minded, and generally open to a drink. The nondrinkers, at least over the last century or so, were terrible presidents.

(Via Josh Clark.)

The Unofficial 5by5 Soundboard 

Fun.

‘We Can’t Treat Newspapers or Magazines Any Differently Than We Treat FarmVille.’ 

L. Gordon Crovitz, writing for the WSJ:

‘I don’t think you understand. We can’t treat newspapers or magazines any differently than we treat FarmVille.”

With those words, senior Apple executive Eddy Cue stuck to his take-it-or-leave-it business model of a 30% revenue share payable for transactions through the iTunes service. Despite my arguments to Mr. Cue in Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., offices last year on behalf of news publishers seeking different terms, to him there was no difference between a newspaper and an online game.

It was a sobering reminder that traditional media brands have no preferred place in the new digital world. It also should be the defense’s Exhibit A in the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Apple and book publishers: The 30% revenue-share model is Apple’s standard practice, not, as alleged by the government, the product of a conspiracy.

This is one of my biggest questions about the DOJ’s suit against Apple. Why are books any different than music or apps or periodicals? (And, if Apple loses this suit, does it mean their App Store and Music Store 70/30 pricing models are at risk too?)

Update: Via email and Twitter, several readers point out the key difference between the iBookstore and Apple’s other media — the “most favored nation” clause Apple required from the publishers, which forbids the publishers from selling e-books at another store for a lower price than the iBookstore.

Microsoft’s Mobile Comeback Is Looking Terrible 

Dan Frommer:

One troubling sign: Even now, more than a year after Microsoft started shipping Windows Phone 7 devices, U.S. mobile customers are getting rid of Microsoft devices faster than they’re buying new ones.

In the three months ending in February, Microsoft’s share of U.S. smartphone subscribers was 3.9%, according to comScore. That’s down from 5.2% last November and 7.7% last February.

One complication with Frommer’s analysis is that it’s based on “smartphone share”, not “mobile phone share”. The smartphone category has simply exploded over the past few years. It’s possible that Microsoft is selling more total Windows Phone devices but still losing smartphone share. But, still, no matter how you look at it, this isn’t good.

Update: Via Twitter, Dan Frommer says the raw number of Microsoft-powered phones in the U.S. is in fact in decline:

If you multiple smartphone share by number of smartphones, their total number of devices is shrinking.

He estimates 4 million in February 2012 versus 5.3 million a year prior.

A Game of Sounds 

John Teti, remembering Dick Clark:

Last week, Clark did the only thing that he would ever do, or could ever do, to besmirch that legacy of Always Being Dick Clark. He died. Most remembrances have placed the focus foremost on his music-related projects, and rightly so. When I heard the news of Clark’s death, though, my thoughts went to the Lyman twins. For me, as I suspect for them, Clark’s legacy is felt most deeply with Pyramid. There may be no such thing as the perfect game show, but Pyramid is the closest anyone has ever come, in no small part because for 15 years and almost 4,000 episodes, it had the perfect host.

I spent the weekend watching hours of old Pyramid shows on the Game Show Network. Teti nails it.

Cargo-Bot: First iPad Game Made on an iPad 

Two Lives Left:

Cargo-Bot was developed by Rui Viana using Codea. After creating an initial prototype he spent several months polishing and perfecting his design. The completed Codea project was then imported into the Codea Xcode Template (to be released soon) and published as a native iPad application.

A glimpse of the future.

Kickstarter Raised Over $119 Million in Its Third Year 

Benjamin Jackson, after doing some screen-scraping to estimate Kickstarter’s financials for the past year:

The results are awe-inspiring. In the year since Kickstarter reported its numbers, the company helped raise a total of $119.6M for successfully-funded projects. That’s almost three times as much as the amount raised during the company’s first two years. Taking into account Kickstarter’s 5% commission, we can estimate that the company took home just shy of $6M in commission revenue in its third year. And it’s not the only one cashing in: with Amazon’s commission of 2.9% plus 30¢ per transaction, the online retailer pulled at least $3M in fees during the same period.

Pebble E-Paper Watch Kickstarter Project 

You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t, check it out. The watch itself is a very cool idea; I’m in as a backer, and looking forward to playing with one. But more interesting is the success they’re having raising money through Kickstarter. They sought only $100,000; as of my typing this they’ve raised over $6 million and still have 25 days to go in their campaign.

Kickstarter is one of the most amazing, inspiring, empowering things I’ve ever seen.

Jay Yarow: ‘Android Is Suddenly in a Lot of Trouble’ 

Good piece by Jay Yarow at Business Insider laying out the case against Android. But I disagree with the headline. It’s not that Android is suddenly in a lot of trouble — it’s that a lot of people are suddenly realizing that Android has been in trouble all along. Nothing here is new. The fragmentation, the lack of traction on any devices other than cell phones, the tension between handset makers and Google — these problems have been around from the get-go. The only thing that’s actually news is Verizon’s signaling that it plans to make a push behind Windows Phone.

Verizon Signals Windows Phone Push 

John Paczkowski:

During Verizon’s first-quarter earnings call Thursday, CFO Fran Shammo voiced the carrier’s support for Microsoft’s mobile OS, saying it’s “hoping to do the same thing” with Windows Phone that it did with Android.

This is probably the best news Microsoft could hope for.

Adobe and HTML 

Leading-edge web standards work on advanced design layout capabilities and more.

Grading on a Curve, Engadget Edition 

Sean Buckley, writing for Engadget on the GPS dongle for the Asus Transformer Prime:

We did encounter a snag using it however, our tablet would randomly reboot every few minutes while the dongle was attached, though a sticker on the kit’s front implores users to update their slate before use. Our tablet is up to date, of course, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a compatibility fix in the coming weeks. Despite matching our Prime’s color profile, the dongle is a little on the ugly side, facing its screws towards the user, rather than hiding them on the tablet’s back. Hiccups and eyesores aside, the attachment works, plain and simple. It isn’t as elegant of a solution as we might as hoped, but at least it’s free.

Yeah, at least it’s free. What’s not to like?

I’d Get a Super Yacht 

This week’s episode of America’s most award-winning podcast, The Talk Show. Topics include iOS text editors, Pinboard, the as-yet-still-unannounced WWDC, Windows phone and Nokia, and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels going exclusive to Amazon in the U.S.

Sponsored by Hover, FreshBooks, and the One More Thing Conference.

Printopia 

My thanks to Ecamm Network for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Printopia. Printopia is a terrific Mac utility that makes any printer connected to your Mac available to apps on the iPhone and iPad. In short, it brings AirPrint to all printers. Plus it lets you send files to your Mac instead of printing them. See Dan Frakes’s five-mouse Macworld review of Printopia, and download the free demo.

Amazon’s Knock-Off Problem 

Stephen Gandel, reporting for Fortune:

There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Fifty Shades of Grey, the steamy romance novel that has created buzz around the world, is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon. Also available on Amazon: Thirty-Five Shades of Grey. Both books are written by authors with two first initials — E. L. James and J. D. Lyte — and both are the first in a trilogy about a young girl who falls for an older, successful man with a taste for domineering sex. The publisher of the bestseller Fifty says the book is “a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” The author and publisher of Thirty-Five, which came out in early April, apparently believe that description fits their book as well, word-for-word. Also selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

Classy.

Forbes: ‘What Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Visit to Valve Means’ 

Uh, it means you don’t believe unsubstantiated crap from Apple Insider.

Valve Co-Founder Gabe Newell Says Meeting With Tim Cook Never Happened 

Kate Cox, quoting Newell from a podcast interview:

We actually, we all sent mail to each other, going, “Who’s Tim Cook meeting with? Is he meeting with you? I’m not meeting with Tim Cook.” So we’re… it’s one of those rumors that was stated so factually that we were actually confused.

No one here was meeting with Tim Cook or with anybody at Apple that day. I wish we were! We have a long list of things we’d love to see Apple do to support games and gaming better. But no, we didn’t meet with Tim Cook. He seems like a smart guy, but I’ve never actually met him.

I am shocked — shocked! — that Apple Insider would publish complete bullshit.

Oracle v. Google: The Show So Far 

Andrew Orlowski:

“Please don’t demonstrate to any Sun employees or lawyers,” Rubin warned an engineer in 2008, as he prepared to take Android on the road.

Insert “Android is open” joke here.

Apple Airs New iPhone Commercials Featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel 

I’ve been thinking about these two spots all week, and something about them doesn’t sit quite right with me. It says something that there was speculation at first that they were AT&T-produced spots, but they’re not — they’re from Apple.

I think the point is to elevate Siri to celebrity status, to make sure everyone knows what (who) she is. But I think they play more like run-of-the-mill celebrity ads — more like just, Hey, Sam Jackson has an iPhone.

iPhone Again Accounts for Over Half of Verizon’s Smartphone Sales 

As MG Siegler quips:

Android is still winning by some metric, I’m sure.

How America’s Oldest Teenager Outlasted Them All 

Alex Pappademas, remembering Dick Clark at Grantland:

In that Bangs piece, asked how he felt about hipsters who disdained him, he said he understood himself to be “a good institution to play games off of,” but avowed that he’d outlast his detractors in “the underground press … I’ll be here longer than you will, is my attitude.” And he was. He outlived Lester Bangs. He also outlived Don Cornelius, and Solid Gold, and Club MTV, and Total Request Live.

Karl Denninger Claim Chowder 

Karl Denninger, in September 2010:

Seriously considering either an outright short on Apple or a pair trade — short AAPL, long RIMM.

Since then, AAPL is up 113 percent and RIMM is down 71 percent. Can’t win them all, I guess.

Dick Clark Dies at 82 

He was, of course, most famous for American Bandstand and his New Year’s Eve broadcasts, but I loved his $100,000 Pyramid game show. It was the perfect mix of smart, clever, casual fun. Clark was simply perfect on camera.

Apple Stores Have Seventeen Times Better Performance Than the Average Retailer 

One more from Horace Dediu:

The data shows Apple leading by a significant margin. It’s more than twice as efficient as the second place Tiffany and Co. It’s also more than seven times the median of the top 20 and seventeen times better than the average mall retail space.

Extraordinary is the word.

Moltz Nails It 

Perfect postscript to today’s burst of links on the sustainability of Apple’s margins.

Horace Dediu on Apple’s iPhone Profit Margins 

Horace Dediu:

The question should be: How is this possible? What does this product have that gives it such a pricing advantage? Note the the ratio was preserved through the three years shown and has persisted for nearly five years.

And in a separate piece:

However, a casual observer would be stumped by a comparison with competitors which cannot come near the profitability Apple enjoys. How can the same bundle of components (admittedly mostly off-the-shelf) be sold at triple the margins?

It comes down to software. Apple has a monopoly on iOS and OS X and charges for it through its hardware. That’s a very valuable monopoly. It’s worth at least $1 billion per quarter.

A serious mistake Apple bears (such as the aforelinked Karl Denninger) make is to assume that any hardware product has a natural or fair profit margin of no more than around 10 percent. That might be a good rule of thumb for a commodity market, but Apple doesn’t make commodity products. Compare Dell vs. HP Windows PCs, or Samsung vs. HTC Android phones, and one might reasonably argue, “Eh, what’s the difference?”, and thus profit margins are squeezed because they have to compete with each other on price. Apple’s products have unique differences that people are willing to pay for.

The fair price for a product isn’t cost-of-goods plus (say) 10 percent. The fair price for a product is what people are willing to pay for it.

The Argument That Apple Cannot Keep Growing 

On the flip side, Karl Denninger, writing for Seeking Alpha:

Apple formed its business case on single-source iron-fisted control over operating margin by having “the one” that it stirred up an iFanboi brigade to support, using that to drive bargains that were good for Apple but terrible for everyone else.

I bet a lot of you have instituted a de facto “once you pull out fanboy, I tune you out and close the browser tab” rule, and in general such a rule serves you well. But I think Denninger’s argument, though wrong, is representative of the Apple bear position. So, uh, bear with him.

This works right up until someone else analyzes your business model and costs, then figures out how to build something at least as good as what you have but 30% cheaper and gets that into the marketplace. Then the bubble-style valuation model you have built, claiming “it’s not a bubble!” through distortions in the ordinary course of business (e.g. hardware margins three times that of historically-normal levels) is exposed and suddenly your stock doesn’t look so cheap any more.

Profit margins on hardware are very difficult to sustain over 10% for long periods of time. Someone always comes after you and this is not going to be an exception to that rule.

I agree with one thing: sustaining high profit margins is difficult. But where Denninger goes wrong is in assuming that competitors can easily or quickly copy what Apple is doing. His argument is no different than the dire predictions for the iPod a decade ago. Yes, Apple’s hardware margins are extraordinary. But Apple is an extraordinary company. They have an unparalleled retail presence, a top-shelf brand, and a loyal, large, and growing customer base. They write and design their own entire software stack, have incredible third-party developer support, and, by selling very large quantities of a relatively small number of hardware products, attain astounding economies of scale.

I’m not saying Apple’s continued success is assured. But there’s no sense in an argument based on the supposition that Apple is in any way a typical hardware maker.

The Argument That Apple Can Keep Growing 

Yoni Heisler, writing for Network World:

As Apple continues to set new records for revenue and profits seemingly every single quarter, it’s become common for analysts and Apple observers alike to say that Apple’s tremendous growth can’t continue because the company is quickly running into the law of large numbers. Here’s why they’re wrong.

I agree with Heisler. What’s remarkable about Apple’s revenue and profit growth is that it’s happened with product categories — phones and computers — in which Apple still has single-digit market share. It’s more useful to look at the iPad’s share of portable computers than its share of the “tablet” market, and it’s more useful to look at the iPhone’s share of the mobile phone market than the “smartphone” market. All phones will soon be what we now call smartphones; and it may well be that most portable computers will soon be what we now call tablets.

Andy Ihnatko on Switching to the iPad as His Main Mobile Computer 

Andy Ihnatko, writing for Macworld UK:

No, I no longer wish I had an 11-inch Air. What I have here — a third-generation iPad and an Apple Wireless Keyboard — is better. I have better-than-good native iOS apps to handle almost all of my mobile needs. When only a desktop app will do, I have VNC, and/or the wonderful OnLive Desktop service that allows me to run Microsoft Office on a virtualised Windows 7 server.

Shawn Blanc, a few days ago:

My MacBook Air is now my “desktop” and my iPad is now my “laptop”.

Default Email Signature for New Samsung Phone 

This is a joke, right? Right?

‘Forest Service May Blow Up Frozen Cows’ 

It’s early, but I’ll go out on a limb and call this the headline of the day.

(Thanks to DF reader Ricky Irvine.)

The Best Bond Book Covers 

Worth a re-link: Michael Gillette’s pitch-perfect book covers for Penguin’s 2008 hardcover re-issues of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. See also: fan site MI6’s interview with Gillette.

Ikea Getting Into the TV Set Business 

I don’t expect this to be a major disruption in the industry, but I think they’re on the right track.

Amazon vs. Best Buy: A Tale of Two Retailers 

The first chart pretty much says it all.

Amazon Buys Rights to Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels 

Amazon:

Amazon.com, Inc. and Ian Fleming Publications Ltd today announced that Amazon Publishing has acquired a ten-year license for North American rights to the entire list of James Bond books by Ian Fleming in print and ebook.

So does this mean you won’t be able to buy even the print edition of these books in the U.S. from anyone other than Amazon? Sure hope Amazon does a better job with the cover designs than they’ve done with the current Kindle editions.

Penguin’s new paperback editions have great covers, and some of these classics from the ’60s are even better.

Will Existing Windows Phone Devices Get Software Update to Next Major Version? 

Dieter Bohn, The Verge:

Earlier today, a developer evangelist for Microsoft was quoted as saying that all Windows Phone devices would get an upgrade to the “next major version” of the operating system. Now, a trusted source close to Microsoft tells us that is absolutely not the case, that instead there will be no upgrade path from Mango to Apollo.

Glad to see they’re all on the same page up there in Redmond.

‘Apple iPhone Will Fail’ 

MG Siegler has some vintage 2007 claim chowder.

Just Do It 

Shayndi Raice, Spencer E. Ante, and Emily Glazer, reporting for the WSJ on Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram:

Companies generally prefer to bring in ranks of lawyers and bankers to scrutinize a deal before proceeding, a process that can eat up days or weeks. Mr. Zuckerberg ditched all that. By the time Facebook’s board was brought in, the deal was all but done. The board, according to one person familiar with the matter, “Was told, not consulted.”

Mobile Carriers Unconvinced by Nokia’s Revival Bid 

Leila Abboud and Georgina Prodhan, reporting for Reuters:

Four major telecom operators in Europe, where the phones have been on sale since before Christmas, told Reuters the new Nokia Lumia smartphones were not good enough to compete with Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Ouch.

Twitter: Innovator’s Patent Agreement 

Adam Messinger, VP of engineering for Twitter:

However, we also think a lot about how those patents may be used in the future; we sometimes worry that they may be used to impede the innovation of others. For that reason, we are publishing a draft of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, which we informally call the “IPA”.

The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.

Bravo.

David Carr on Amazon and E-Book Pricing 

David Carr, writing for the NYT:

The Justice Department finally took aim at the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry. So imagine the shock when the bullet aimed at threats to competition went whizzing by Amazon — which not long ago had a 90 percent stranglehold on e-books — and instead, struck five of the six biggest publishers and Apple, a minor player in the realm of books.

That’s the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead.

He makes a good point regarding competition:

Remember that it was only after agency pricing went into effect that Barnes & Noble was able to gain an impressive 27 percent of the e-book market. Now Amazon has the Justice Department as an ally to rebuild its monopoly and wipe out other players. If the decision to charge the publishers was good for competition, why had the stock price of Barnes & Noble dropped more than 10 percent since Wednesday?

Microsoft Announces Windows 8 Editions 

Much simpler than it used to be, and it looks like I was right about Windows on ARM: it’s Metro-only.

Update: In the product matrix, Windows RT (the version for ARM-based notebooks and tablets) has the “Desktop”, but it does not have “Installation of x86/64 and desktop software”. So maybe it’s fairer to say I was half right. You’ve got “the desktop”, and built-in desktop apps like Windows Explorer and the Office suite, but you can’t install any third-party desktop apps.

Oracle Pondered Buying RIM, Palm in Phone Move 

Reuters:

Oracle Corp Chief Executive Larry Ellison said the software maker had considered building its own smartphone to compete with Apple Inc and Google Inc, but decided it was a “bad idea” after a weeks-long cost and market analysis.

Probably the right decision, but it sure would have been fun to watch.

‘Design Is a Job’ 

Running a design service is hard. Most fail, be they agencies or individual freelancers. They fail to consistently satisfy clients, and they fail to function financially. (Trust me, I know.)

When someone actually gets one off the ground and finds a way to keep it up in the air, they know that they’ve got something rare and valuable, and so they keep their strategies and practices secret. What makes this new book by my friend Mike Monteiro unique is that it plainly and honestly describes how a successful design shop actually works. I’d have killed for this book when I was doing freelance design.

iTextEditors 

Comprehensive comparison, to say the least. If you thought there were a lot of iOS text-editing apps out there, you’re right. (Via Merlin Mann.)

File Under ‘Imagine if Apple Did This’ 

“Free Dongle!”, they proclaim, like it’s a good thing.

‘Publishing With iBooks Author’ 

Speaking of iBooks Author, O’Reilly has a new free e-book about it, by Nellie McKesson and Adam Witwer.

FoxTrot for iPad 

Speaking of e-books, FoxTrot author Bill Amend is trying the self-publishing route:

I’m calling them FoxTrot Pad Packs, because I like the metaphor of collectable cards and how you build up your collection via booster packs. I made them myself using Apple’s free iBooks Author software. Each $1.99 book contains 100 strips, some old, some new, some story lines, some stand-alone jokes, some black and white dailies, some color Sundays. The idea is to create mini books that take maybe 20-30 minutes to read and which aren’t bogged down with a ton of outdated references, as happens with my older, chronologically arranged print books.

Jordan Weissmann: ‘The Justice Department Just Made Jeff Bezos Dictator-for-Life’ 

Jordan Weissmann:

In other words, Amazon will have two years to consolidate its hold over the fast growing eBook market by offering virtually any sort of discount it pleases — a marketing strategy it can afford thanks to the volume of business it already does. The question, then, is what happens after that time is up? Will there be any company that can challenge Amazon in the digital market? Maybe not. Thanks to the use of DRM technology, most eBooks can only be read on a propriety device. Amazon’s eBooks can only be read on a Kindle, or a Kindle app. Barnes & Noble’s books can only be read on a Nook. So the larger a library any one customer builds with a single retailer, the less likely it is they’ll ultimately switch.

Weissmann’s argument is along the same lines as Scott Turow’s, who wrote, “The irony of this bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.”

FCC Hits Google With $25,000 Fine Over StreetView Wi-Fi Spying 

Why fine them at all? I bet Larry Page could find $25K in his seat cushions.

In Praise of Apple’s Original Extended Keyboard 

Speaking of classic Apple keyboards, Thomas Brand argues that Apple’s short-lived original Extended Keyboard is superior to its successor. We had a few at my college newspaper, and it definitely had a different feel and sound, but I never preferred them.

As for Brand’s speculation regarding substandard key switch tomfoolery being at the heart of my slight preference for my first Extended II over the replacement I’m now using, I’m nearly certain that’s not the case. I think what I liked about my first one is that it was broken in — I think the key switches get better with age (until they break). I’ve since obtained another near-cherry Extended II, and I don’t like the feel of that one as much as this one, and this one is starting to feel more like my beloved original one with the broken E key.

My Favorite Keyboard 

Remains unchanged since 1992: the Apple Extended Keyboard II. I wore my first one out in 2006 after 14 years of daily use; I’ve been using my second since then.

Justin Williams Reviews the Das Keyboard for Mac 

Justin Williams:

Every key press is substantial and satisfying. The keys have a slight inset to them that allows your finger tips to rest comfortable in them. As you push down on the keys, you are greeted with the classic “click-clack” noise of the keyboards of yesteryear. At first the amount of noise coming from my keyboard was incredibly distracting. Working around others it also made me a bit self conscious about my typing. As the week progressed, though, I started to notice the noise less and less. Das Keyboard does make a quieter version of their Windows keyboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar Mac variant made its way to market someday.

I used one for about a month, and rank it as my second-favorite keyboard.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Comcast and Net Neutrality 

Reed Hastings:

For example, if I watch last night’s SNL episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn’t use up my cap at all.

The same device, the same IP address, the same wifi, the same internet connection, but totally different cap treatment.

In what way is this neutral?

35th Anniversary of the Apple II 

Harry McCracken:

Thirty-five years ago, on April 16 and 17, 1977, more than twelve thousand proto-geeks flooded into San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium. They were there to attend a new event called the West Coast Computer Faire, and the room brimmed with excitement over a new, futuristic gizmo known as the “personal computer.” The throngs packed the aisles, marveling at microcomputers and related gizmos from tiny startups such as Cromemco, IMSAI, Northstar, Ohio Scientific and Parasitic Engineering.

One of the tiny startups benefited from having an especially slick booth located in prime real estate near the entrance. The company was called Apple Computer, and a handful of its employees, including founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, were demoing an unreleased machine they called the Apple II.

Exploded iPhone 4S T-Shirt 

New, from the gang behind the original exploded iPhone t-shirts: a gorgeous new t-shirt and poster design by Garry Booth, of an exploded iPhone 4S. $19, or get three cool Apple-related shirts for just $43.

Accept no imitations.

Charlie Stross on Amazon’s E-Book Strategy 

Great piece by Charlie Stross on the DOJ’s e-book price-fixing lawsuit:

DRM on ebooks is dead. (Or if not dead, it’s on death row awaiting a date with the executioner.)

It doesn’t matter whether Macmillan wins the price-fixing lawsuit bought by the Department of Justice. The point is, the big six publishers’ Plan B for fighting the emerging Amazon monopsony has failed (insofar as it has been painted as a price-fixing ring, whether or not it was one in fact). This means that they need a Plan C. And the only viable Plan C, for breaking Amazon’s death-grip on the consumers, is to break DRM.

I think he’s right, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. DRM is a religion for old-growth media executives. Rational thought could lead them to this solution, but won’t, because they’re starting with an irrational bedrock assumption: that there can exist a technical solution to defeat piracy. Their belief in DRM is a matter of faith, not logic.

If I’m wrong though, and the publishers see the light of day and start selling DRM-free ePub books, I think that’d be a win for Apple, in the same way that dropping DRM from music has helped, not hurt, Apple’s music business. Amazon is the one whose Kindle devices and apps do not support DRM-free ePub books.

iCloud’s First Six Months: Developers Weigh In 

Federico Viticci surveys iOS developers on the iCloud storage APIs:

The general consensus among developers is that, while users “love” iCloud when it works, iCloud integration has also quickly become the #1 source of support requests over the past months. When iCloud doesn’t work, users are frustrated, annoyed, and there’s little developers can do without proper debugging tools and detailed error messages.

Is iCloud better — for either developers or users — than Dropbox? I’d say “not yet”.

Aspect Ratios and 4-Inch iPhones 

Dan Provost on two different paths Apple could take to an iPhone with a 4-inch diagonal screen. Keep the 3:2 aspect ratio and make the device a little wider, or, switch to a longer-screen aspect ratio (say, 9:5, which is very close to 16:9) and keep the phone width the same. Where he goes wrong, I think, is with the mockup that assumes the longer-screen idea would necessarily increase the height of the device itself. I doubt Apple wants to make the device itself bigger in any dimension. The existing iPhone has a significant amount of non-display surface area — plenty of room for a 4-inch display.

How Sony Fell Behind 

Hiroko Tabuchi, writing for the NYT:

The company still makes a confusing catalog of gadgets that overlap or even cannibalize one another. It has also continued to let its product lines mushroom: 10 different consumer-level camcorders and almost 30 different TVs, for instance, crowd and confuse consumers.

“Sony makes too many models, and for none of them can they say, ‘This contains our best, most cutting-edge technology,’” Mr. Sakito said. “Apple, on the other hand, makes one amazing phone in just two colors and says, ‘This is the best.’”

Focus is harder than it looks. I’ve seen Sony executives talking about Apple-style product-line focus for at least a decade, and they haven’t gotten any closer to replicating it.

Google’s Open Web 

Ian Katz interviewed Sergey Brin for The Guardian:

The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry’s attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms. […]

“There’s a lot to be lost,” he said. “For example, all the information in apps — that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”

The assumption here is that the only way to search is through Google, and that the “open Internet” is only what Google can index and sell ads against.

Everyme 

My thanks to Everyme for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Everyme is a new social network with an emphasis on sharing not with the world, but rather between your own private “circles”. An Everyme circle is a private news feed between you and a group of people. Everyme for iPhone is a free download from the App Store. It’s a simple concept and a nice app.

See what others are saying about Everyme — MG Siegler, The Next Web, and Liz Gannes. One key feature is that everyone in a group doesn’t need the app — they can choose to send and receive messages using email or SMS.

Why Can’t Zach Phillips Use His Phone Number on Messages.app? 

Another one from the “you can’t please everyone” file. Zach Phillips:

It would only take one feature to make Messages on iPad and Messages.app useful. Allow me to use my phone number as my iMessages account.

I’m sure there are others who feel like Phillips does, but that would drive me nuts. When you send an iMessage to my phone number, you know it’s going to my phone and nowhere else. You, the sender, know that it’s going to my phone, and so you know not to badger me with half a dozen messages one after another like you might do if you thought it were going to the IM-style Messages app on my Mac.

iMessages, as an enhancement to SMS, should never use email addresses.

Apple could, I think, grant Phillips his wish and allow the use of your phone number as an Apple ID. But they have to let you use your (email address) Apple ID for iMessage, because they want to allow iMessage for all iCloud users, not just iPhone owners.

In Defense of iTunes as It Stands 

Scott P. Hall:

Like I said above: Apple is choosing to use one app to manage our digital lives, excluding photos. I wonder how many would scream if they had to use, say, four apps instead. One for music, one for movies, one for iOS sync…you get the idea. That would be a mess.

You can’t please everyone, but it sure seems to me like there are more Mac users who wish Apple would break iTunes into a set of smaller tighter-focused apps (like on iOS) than there are iPad users who wish the Music, Video, App Store, and iTunes Store apps were combined into a single app (like on Mac and Windows).

iTunes’s Ball and Chain: Windows 

Allen Pike:

Except that they can’t split iTunes into multiple apps because many, if not most iOS users are on Windows. iTunes is Apple’s one and only foothold on Windows, so it needs to support everything an iOS device owner could need to do with their device. Can you imagine the support hurricane it would cause if Windows users suddenly needed to download, install, and use 3-4 different apps to sync and manage their media on their iPhone? It’s completely out of the question.

Just tossing an idea out there, but what if Apple broke iTunes apart into several smaller apps on Mountain Lion (iOS-style), and kept the monolithic iTunes for legacy users on older versions of Mac OS X (Lion, Snow Leopard, Leopard) and Windows?

‘Here Comes the Pizza!’ 

My friend Paul Kafasis buys a brick at Fenway Park.

Apple Releases Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 

Apple:

This Java security update removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware.

This update also configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application. If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets.

Apple Denies E-Book Collusion 

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr, in a statement to All Things D:

The DOJ’s accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.

The ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Lego Sets That Never Existed 

Including a six-foot long, nearly 4,000-piece model of the Discovery. (Via Jim Coudal, of course.)

Instarchive 

Great idea:

Sign into your Instagram account and we’ll send your photos down to your computer in a convenient zip file. It’s quick and easy, we hope you like it.

The San Carlos Hotel 

Remember that list of working titles for Dr. Strangelove I linked to last week? Sharp-eyed DF reader Matthew Marshall noted that Kubrick had written an address on that sheet: “150 East 50th St.” That’s The San Carlos Hotel, which if you search the web for along with “Kubrick”, brings you to the Eyes Wide Shut screenplay, which contains a reference to it.

‘Don’t Geotag Your Junk’ 

I want every episode of The Talk Show to be good, but like anything, some are better than others. I love how this week’s turned out. Topics range from the Flashback malware to Instagram to 4-inch iPhones to The Dukes of Hazzard. Plus I reveal the three simple steps to indie Internet success.

Brought to you by Everyme and Harvest.

Fixing Messages for OS X 

Scott Allen has an idea:

If Messages is running on my Mac, and my status is Available, any iMessage I receive should only alert me on my Mac. The messages should still go to my other iOS device(s), but without an alert.

If Messages is not running on my Mac, then everything should function on my iOS devices as it does currently.

Not a bad idea, but the important thing is that Allen is focused on the actual problem, which is that with the current implementation, people are getting badgered with too many unwanted alerts on iOS devices for incoming iMessages from buddies who are treating it like IM. Dan Moren’s aforelinked suggestion that Apple break it into two apps is, perhaps, a throwing-out-the-baby-with-the-bath-water solution.

BBEdit Celebrates 20th Anniversary 

Jason Snell:

I’m sure there are other apps not published by a gigantic company that have managed to last as long, but I’m not sure that any app has changed with the times and remained as relevant as BBEdit. As someone who has written hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of words in Bare Bones Software’s flagship product, let me take this opportunity to praise and reminisce.

There aren’t many apps from companies of any size that remain so utterly relevant after 20 years.

Watch an iPad Get Made From the Foxconn Factory Floor 

Rob Schmitz — he who exposed Mike Daisey as a fabulist — reports from China with a behind-the-scenes look at Foxconn’s iPad assembly line.

Josh Clark vs. Jakob Nielsen 

Josh Clark:

Nielsen is confusing device context with user intent. All that we can really know about mobile users is that they’re on a small screen, and we can’t divine user intent from that. Just because I’m on a small screen doesn’t mean I’m interested in less content or want to do less.

Stripping out content from a mobile website is like a book author stripping out chapters from a paperback just because it’s smaller. We use our phones for everything now; there’s no such thing as “this is mobile content, and this is not.”

Agreed wholeheartedly.

Fanfare for the Comma Man 

Nit-picky discussion on the use and placement of commas? Yes, please.

Lift Off: The Last Rocket Development Diary 

Shaun Inman:

The Last Rocket was an experiment with two goals: make an awesome iOS game and document the process to better understand what goes into making an awesome game. Lift Off is the resulting document. Less “how to”, more “what have I done!”, this Development Diary is just that, a diary, consisting of equal parts enthusiasm, and introspection.

$10 no-DRM e-book. Sold.

Nest Fires Back in Honeywell Suit 

Lauren Goode:

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nest, maker of a “smart” thermostat and target of a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by industrial giant Honeywell, has submitted a formal response to Honeywell’s claims.

The start-up has also brought Richard “Chip” Lutton, a 10-year Apple Inc. veteran who managed the company’s patent portfolio, on board as vice president and general counsel.

iMessage and Instant Messages Deserve Different Apps 

Speaking of Macworld editors making good arguments against overloaded Apple apps, here’s Dan Moren:

On the face of things, instant messaging and text messaging are technologies that seem pretty similar: They both involve sending text and images over a network to a conversation partner or partners. Then again, you could say the same thing about instant messaging and email, and I think many of us would look askance at having our email accounts folded into Messages — or, for that matter, iMessage incorporated into Mail. So why do iMessage and IM need to occupy the same space?

Jason Snell on iTunes 

Jason Snell:

Apple has packed almost everything involving media (and app) management, purchase, and playback into this single app. It’s bursting at the seams. It’s a complete mess. And it’s time for an overhaul.

Is there anyone who disagrees with this?

How Samsung Beat Nokia 

Horace Dediu:

Samsung was able to convert its portfolio to smartphones while Nokia failed to do so.

Macmillan to Fight Price-Fixing Suit 

Macmillan CEO John Sargent:

It is also hard to settle a lawsuit when you know you have done no wrong. The government’s charge is that Macmillan’s CEO colluded with other CEO’s in changing to the agency model. I am Macmillan’s CEO and I made the decision to move Macmillan to the agency model. After days of thought and worry, I made the decision on January 22nd, 2010 a little after 4:00 AM, on an exercise bike in my basement. It remains the loneliest decision I have ever made, and I see no reason to go back on it now. […]

I hope you will agree with our stance, and with Scott Turow, the president of the Author’s Guild, who stated, “The irony of this bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition. This would be tragic for all of us who value books and the culture they support”.

That’s Our Apple 

Love this bit from the WSJ’s report on the e-book price-fixing case:

Amazon hailed the settlement as a victory for consumers and users of its Kindle e-reading device. “We look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books,” Amazon said.

Apple declined to comment.

Inside the DOJ’s E-Book Price-Fixing Case Against Apple 

Nilay Patel:

We just got our hands on the DOJ’s antitrust complaint against Apple and seven major publishers, including HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan, and it’s rather something: the government alleges that the publishing industry openly colluded to raise ebook prices and end Amazon’s dominance, and that Apple was a willing participant in the scheme. What’s more, the alleged conspiracy sounds like it was actually quite a conspiracy, with secret CEO meetings in private New York dining rooms and promises made to bosses up and down the chain.

I’m not sure what to think about this. Seems like the DOJ has a solid case on its hands, but before the iBookstore opened, Amazon had a stranglehold on the e-book market. Prices are higher today, but that’s because Amazon was selling those $9.99 Kindle titles at a loss.

TextWrangler 4.0 

Nice update to BBEdit’s free sibling. See the release notes for all that’s new.

Caine’s Arcade 

If this doesn’t make your day, you’re not hooked up right.

Apple: About Flashback Malware 

Apple support document:

Apple is developing software that will detect and remove the Flashback malware.

In addition to the Java vulnerability, the Flashback malware relies on computer servers hosted by the malware authors to perform many of its critical functions. Apple is working with ISPs worldwide to disable this command and control network.

Ziptastic 

Great idea:

Ziptastic is a simple API that allows people to ask which Country, State, and City are associated with a Zip Code.

The purpose for this service is to STOP the madness of having to fill those information out on webforms. If you’ve ever filled out a webform, then you have probably gotten to the address section and simply entered in your street information and then your city, state, country and then your zip code. This has always bothered me because the 3 fields prior to the zip code can be determined from the zip code!

(Via Jim Ray.)

‘Hard to Say’ 

Frederic Lardinois, writing for AOL/TechCrunch:

It’s hard to say how popular Chrome OS, Google’s browser-centric operating system, really is.

Actually, it’s quite easy. Chrome OS is not popular at all.

Instagram’s Buyout: No Bubble to See Here 

Andy Baio argues $1 billion for Instagram isn’t crazy.

Why Is Instagram Worth $1 Billion to Facebook and Zuckerberg? 

Andy Ihnatko:

Troublingly, my best theory was that Mark Zuckerberg stood to inherit a trillion dollars from his eccentric uncle, but only if he could spend a billion dollars in less than an hour without acquiring any tangible property.

I’m a sucker for a Brewster’s Millions reference.

What Happens When a 35-Year-Old Man Retakes the SAT? 

Drew Magary, writing for Deadspin:

If you’re 35 years old and you’re thinking about retaking the SAT as a kind of blog stunt, I would highly recommend you avoid it. In fact, I would recommend that no one take the SAT ever. It’s a sternly worded dinosaur of a test, graded in an arbitrary manner with outdated equipment, and it blows. The only reason people take it is because they have to. It exists only so that preppy dipshits can brag about their scores well into adulthood if they did well. I hate it. I hope the Princeton Review gets fucked by a cattle prod.

How Apple Could Make a 4-Inch iPhone 

“Modilwar”, in a well-illustrated piece on The Verge forums:

But then last week, while watching the Vergecast episode 24, came the Eureka moment. A caller named Colin (apologies if I got your name wrong) mentioned how he thought apple could increase the iPhone screen size without effecting the external form factor or pixel density. […]

Colin’s idea was to keep the shorter side of the iPhones screen the same, i.e. 640 pixels at 1.94 inches. With that in mind how much would the longer side need to increase so the that diagonal measurement was 4 inches. The answer, derived using simple algebraic rearrangement of Pythagorus’s theorem, 1152 pixels and 3.49 inches. That leaves the the diagonal length measuring a little over 3.99 inches, I’m sure Apple PR could round this 4.

For those of you who are good with numbers I’m sure you’ve noted that 1152 × 640 has an aspect ratio of 9:5 and the 1152 pixels is and increase of 192 from 960 and that’s 20% more than on the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Methinks “Colin” wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out 

Paul Ford:

Remember what the iPod was to Apple? That’s how Instagram might look to Facebook: an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly.

Brilliant.

A New Window Manager for Chrome OS 

Did you know Google was still working on Chrome OS?

Claim Chowder Check-In: Shantanu Narayen on Tablets 

Tricia Duryee, reporting from All Things D last June:

Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen debunked a myth today at D that there’s an ongoing feud between it and Apple over running Flash on iOS.

Still, he didn’t hesitate downplaying Apple’s early lead in the tablet market, saying over the long-term, he is putting his money on Google’s Android, which runs Flash (coincidentally).

How’s that working out for Adobe?

U.S. Government, Carriers Plan a National Database of Stolen Cellphones 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for the WSJ:

The nation’s major wireless providers have agreed to a deal with the U.S. government to build a central database of stolen cellphones — part of a broad effort to tame an explosion of thefts nationwide.

The database, which the wireless companies will build and maintain, will be designed to track phones that are reported as lost or stolen and deny them voice and data service. The idea is to reduce crime by making it difficult or impossible to actually use a stolen device, reducing resale value.

Another non-ironic finally.

‘Dominant’ 

Jay Yarow cooks some Fred Wilson claim chowder:

In December 2010, famed New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote that startups should invest more in Android first, and iOS second because Android was wide open and it was going to be the dominant operating system.

While he’s correct Android is the dominant operating system, he’s incorrect that it’s the platform developers should be working on primarily. Proof of that comes from today’s Instagram acquisition. Facebook paid $1 billion for a company that was iOS exclusive until last week.

I’d say Instagram’s success and high acquisition price show that iOS is the dominant mobile platform. Market share is a factor in dominance, but clearly not the only one.

Maybe Instagram would have been better served by shipping an Android port sooner. Maybe they should have had a web-based interface. But the fact remains that they built a photo sharing social network with 30 million users and over one billion photos with just one client: an iPhone app.

RIM Cutting Sideloaded App Support for PlayBook 

Sam Byford, The Verge:

RIM is removing the ability to sideload apps to the BlackBerry PlayBook in a future update of the OS, meaning owners will have to download and install software through BlackBerry App World. The move was announced on Twitter by the company’s VP of Developer Relations, Alec Saunders, who said he was “pretty sure” there would be a solution for developers who need to test their apps. Saunders said the reason was to prevent piracy, citing figures from an unknown source saying that over a quarter of Android apps are downloaded illegally, and calling Google Play a “chaotic cesspool.”

Funny how things like this and Flash Player support tend to shift toward the policies of iOS.

AT&T Finally Unlocking iPhones 

Seth Weintraub:

AT&T will now unlock your iPhone — if you are in good account standing and are done with your obligated term of commitment (including having paid an early termination fee.)

I don’t understand why they haven’t been doing this since July 2009, when the contracts for original iPhones started expiring.

Every Jump of the General Lee, Seasons 1-6 

Maybe my favorite supercut ever.

Movies From Universal Pictures Now Available Through iTunes in the Cloud 

AppleInsider:

While Universal’s films are now available through iCloud, customers looking to re-download 20th Century Fox must still wait for that content, even though HBO was said last month to have reached an agreement. The Wall Street Journal said at the time that Fox expected to have its content on iCloud “within weeks,” suggesting it may not be a much longer wait.

Update: I originally wrote “iTunes Match” in the headline, but that’s specific to music. What we’re talking about here is the new feature where, once you’ve bought a movie or song from iTunes, you can re-download/re-stream it whenever you want. The “match” in iTunes Match is specific to the idea that it works with songs no matter where you got them from.

Facebook Buys Instagram 

Mark Zuckerberg:

I’m excited to share the news that we’ve agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.

Company announcement says the deal was “approximately $1 billion in a combination of cash and shares of Facebook”. Zuckerberg says they’re going to keep Instagram independent:

That’s why we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.

Update: Blog post from Instagram.

While Apple Is Criticized for Foxconn, Other Companies Are Silent 

Nick Bilton, writing for the NYT:

In the last week I have asked Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Microsoft and others about their reports on labor conditions. Most responded with a boilerplate public relations message. Some didn’t even respond.

The answer from Barnes & Noble, the maker of the Nook e-reader, was typical. Mary Ellen Keating, a senior vice president, said only, “We don’t comment on our supply chain vendors.”

Lenovo e-mailed a general report on sustainability. Samsung, which sells more cellphones than Apple, gave no response.

As John Moltz says:

Maybe now the “blame Apple” crowd can shut their blameholes.

What You Need to Know About the Flashback Trojan 

Rich Mogull, writing for Macworld:

As Mikko Hypponen, Chief Researcher at F-Secure pointed out via Twitter, if there are roughly 45 million Macs out there, Flashback would now have infected more than 1 percent of them, making Flashback roughly as common for Mac as Conficker was for Windows. Flashback appears to be the most widespread Mac malware we’ve seen since the days when viruses were spread on infected floppy disks; it could be the single most significant malware infection to ever hit the Mac community.

Here’s what you need to know about Flashback, what you can do about it, and what it means for the future of Mac security.

Must-read piece, thoroughly and soberly reported.

Hotel’s Free Wi-Fi Comes With Hidden Extras 

Brian X. Chen, for the NYT Bits blog:

After some sleuthing, Mr. Watt, who has a background in developing Web advertising tools, realized that the quirk was not confined to his site. The hotel’s Internet service was secretly injecting lines of code into every page he visited, code that could allow it to insert ads into any Web page without the knowledge of the site visitor or the page’s creator.

Yet another reason to bring your own 3G or LTE hotspot with you when you travel.

Mike Wallace, Dead at 93 

Great remembrance by his long-time colleague Morley Safer. What a career; what a set of balls.

Asus Plans Add-on to Fix Transformer Prime’s GPS Issues 

Ina Fried:

Asus confirmed on Friday that it plans to address GPS reception issues with its Transformer Prime tablet by releasing a kit users can add to their existing tablet.

The company said on Friday that it will officially announce its plans on April 16, at which time tablet owners can register on Asus’ Web site.

A few questions: What is this, a dongle? The Transformer Prime was only released four months ago — aren’t they under warranty? Or is this Asus’s solution not just for ones they’ve already sold, but also going forward? Here’s your new tablet, hope you like GPS dongles.

‘Ready to Go’ 

The Verge:

Google’s first foray into the tablet market with a co-branded Android device won’t be with us until July at the earliest. The current design was ready to go for May, but Google pushed back the planned release so it could tweak the device, sources close to the project said on Friday.

Not to be a dick, but if something won’t ship until July at the earliest, doesn’t that mean it was not ready to ship in May?

My thanks to Paperlabs for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Trending, their brand-new stock-tracking app for the iPhone. Trending starts with a list of stocks, sorted by biggest movers — the stocks with the biggest change for the day are at the top of the list. It’s a smart way to sort. Tap on any stock to see story tiles with articles about that stock from across the web. Beats the pants off the built-in iOS Stocks app — and Trending is available as a free download on the App Store.

See also: Paperlabs’s behind-the-scenes look at their App Store review process — including why the app is rated 17+.

F.A. Porsche on Design 

“Design must be functional and functionality must be translated into visual aesthetics, without any reliance on gimmicks that have to be explained.”

‘Rear Window’ Timelapse 

Brilliant remix of a brilliant film, by Jeff Desom.

‘Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus’ 

Shaun Usher, Lists of Note:

From one of Stanley Kubrick’s notebooks comes a list of potential titles for the 1964 movie that was eventually named, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The Worst Baseball Cards in History 

What better way to celebrate Opening Day? (Via Keith Olbermann.)

The ‘Of Course’ Principle of Design 

Good rule of thumb:

Most companies (including web startups), he said, are looking to “wow” with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an “‘of course’ reaction from their users.”

Admented Reality 

More realistic version of Google’s concept video for Glass.

A Change to Google’s E-Book Retailer Partner Program 

Where by “change” they mean “completely canceled”.

Apple Investigating iPad (3) Wi-Fi Issues, Tells AppleCare to Replace Affected Units 

Mark Gurman, 9to5 Mac:

iPads that are affected by Wi-Fi issues are supposed to be “Captured.” According to one source, “Captured” is code for the device to be immediately packed up and shipped to Apple’s engineering centers for examination and investigation. Apple employees are instructed to Capture the iPad itself and included accessories (the charging adapter and USB cord). Apple will replace affected units.

Las Vegas Gaming Chips, 1960s–1970s 

Gorgeous.

Ferdinand Porsche Dies at 76 

Chris Reiter and Alex Webb, reporting for Bloomberg:

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the designer of the original version of the iconic 911 sportscar, died today in Salzburg, Austria. He was 76.

“As creator of the Porsche 911, he established a design culture that molds our sportscars still today,” Matthias Mueller, chief executive officer of Porsche AG, said in an e-mailed statement. “His philosophy of good design is for us a legacy that we will also honor in the future.”

Arguably the most iconic design in automotive history.

iPhoto’s Mystery Meat Gestures 

Thoughtful, astute criticism of iPhoto for iOS by Lukas Mathis:

After downloading and playing around with Apple’s new iPhoto for iOS, I felt like I was teleported back to 1998. Touching and gesturing in different ways would make seemingly random things happen. I regularly unintentionally activated features, changed views, opened or closed pictures, and got iPhoto into states I wasn’t sure how to get out of again.

As he says, Apple is sailing uncharted waters with iPhoto for iOS.

Teenagers and the iPhone 

Melissa Arseniuk, reporting for The Daily:

A new survey shows that 34 percent of U.S. teens have iPhones — while another 40 percent plan to buy one within the next six months. […]

But there’s a big difference between saying you’re going to buy something, and actually following through and making the purchase. The same survey last fall showed 38 percent of respondents indicated they were going to buy an iPhone by now, but new numbers show just 11 percent of them got around to doing so.

Still, his figures found teen iPhone use has doubled in the past year, from 17 to 34 percent, and Munster expects Apple will hold 40 to 45 percent of the teen smartphone market by the fall.

Tipping point. I’m curious how big a factor the free-with-contract 3GS is in this market.

Flashback Trojan Reportedly Controls Half a Million Macs and Counting 

Jacqui Cheng, Ars Technica:

Variations of the Flashback trojan have reportedly infected more than half a million Macs around the globe, according to Russian antivirus company Dr. Web. The company made an announcement on Wednesday — first in Russian and later in English — about the growing Mac botnet, first claiming 550,000 infected Macs. Later in the day, however, Dr. Web malware analyst Sorokin Ivan posted to Twitter that the count had gone up to 600,000, with 274 bots even checking in from Cupertino, CA, where Apple’s headquarters are located.

Cheng links to F-Secure, who has instructions for checking if your system is infected. If you don’t have Java installed (or have it installed, but keep it disabled in your web browsers) you should be safe.

The weird thing to me is that if true, this sounds like the worst malware problem Mac OS X has ever seen — yet there doesn’t seem to be any hysterical media coverage about it. Hypothetical Mac security problems often get hysterical coverage; now we apparently have an actual security problem and it’s no big deal?

Update: I’m curious to hear from any readers who determine that their system’s been infected by this thing.

Update 2: Via email and public Twitter replies, I’ve seen reports from about a dozen or so DF readers who’ve been hit by this. And they all seem like typical DF readers — sophisticated, experienced, if not downright expert Mac users. It’s not an epidemic, but it’s definitely real, and insidious.

And regarding the lack of hype surrounding Flashback, DF reader Paul Hoffman (via email) has a theory:

I suspect that there hasn’t been that much hype is that the hype is normally generated by the anti-virus companies, and (from what I have heard) none of the Mac AV software caught this until yesterday. Whoopsie.

The Word Is ‘Hypocrisy’ 

Farhad Manjoo:

In other words Honan might be right that Google has violated its own definition of evil, but doesn’t it matter that every one of its rivals also routinely violates Google’s definition of evil? Wouldn’t that suggest that it’s the definition of “evil” that needs updating, rather than Google’s own behavior, which seems perfectly in line with that of its rivals? If you’re going to knock Google for its ethics, you’d have a hard time conducting transactions with any tech entity other than Wikipedia and Craigslist. You’d have an especially hard time explaining people’s crazy love for Apple.

It’s not that Google is evil. It’s that they’re hypocrites. That’s the difference between Google and its competitors.

‘Putting You Back in the Moment’ 

Joe Stracci on Project Glass:

There’s some incredible Orwellian doublespeak at work here, e.g., technology that “helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment.” As far as I can tell, it doesn’t help you to explore your world at all. It helps Google to explore your world.

Right. Let’s pretend Google could actually build and ship something exactly like what they show in their concept video. Think about the data Google is collecting about the video’s protagonist.

The Type of Companies That Publish Future Concept Videos 

Yours truly, back in November:

The designs in these concept videos are free from real-world constraints — technical, logical, fiscal. Dealing with constraints is what real design is all about. Institutional attention on the present day — on getting innovative industry-leading products out the door and creating consumer demand for them — requires relentless company-wide focus.

Project Glass 

Google’s transition into the new Microsoft is now complete: fancy-pants sci-fi concept video to promote stunningly awkward augmented reality glasses.

Analyst Claims iPhone Tops Sales Charts at Each of Its U.S. Carriers 

More iPhone carrier news from John Paczkowski:

“Our March checks indicated the iPhone continues to extend its market share gains,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Mike Walkley writes in a note to clients today. “In fact, we believe iPhones are outselling all other smartphones combined at Sprint and AT&T and selling at roughly equal volume to all Android smartphones at Verizon.”

U.S. iPhone Sales by Retail Channel 

John Paczkowski:

More interesting, however, was the breakdown of the stores themselves. According to CIRP’s data, Apple sold 15 percent of all iPhones purchased in the U.S. during the period of the survey (retail, 11 percent; online, 4 percent). Meanwhile, AT&T sold 32 percent via its online and retail stores; Verizon, 30 percent — again, online and off — and Sprint, 7 percent.

And Best Buy? The big-box retailer sold 13 percent, just 2 percent shy of Apple itself. The remaining 3 percent is “Other,” which I’m told is a combination of retailers like Radio Shack and Walmart and respondents who received their iPhone as a gift and didn’t know where it was originally purchased.

It’s interesting that Best Buy sells almost as many as Apple itself, but more interesting is how dominant the carriers remain. Most people still buy their mobile phones, even iPhones, the same way they always have — by going into a carrier store.

Yahoo to Lay Off 2,000 Employees 

Michael Liedtke, reporting for the AP:

The layoffs “are an important next step toward a bold, new Yahoo — smaller, nimbler, more profitable and better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require,” Thompson said in a statement.

That rings a bell, circa 2008:

the steps we are taking are not easy for us as a company, but as we become more fit as an organization, decision-making will be faster and it will be easier for us all to get more done and stay focused on our strategy.

Well-Intentioned Scumbags 

This week’s episode of The Talk Show. Topics include Instagram for Android, Papermill (a new Instapaper client for Android), why the Verizon iPad is far superior to the AT&T one, the Lumia 900, the Mac Pro’s future, and Readability.

Brought to you by Hover, MailChimp, and Shopify.

Bronson Watermarker 

Remember Mike Evangelist’s story about Steve Jobs and the iDVD user interface?

On the appointed day, Evangelist and the rest of the team gathered in the boardroom. They’d brought page after page of prototype screen shots showing the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with paragraphs of documentation describing how the app would work.

“Then Steve comes in,” Evangelist recalls. “He doesn’t look at any of our work. He picks up a marker and goes over to the whiteboard. He draws a rectangle. ‘Here’s the new application,’ he says. ‘It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says BURN. That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.’”

That’s what Bronson is like, except for watermarking PDF files. $10 in the Mac App Store.

The Next Wave of iOS Apps 

Erica Ogg:

Snapguide and Paper have two things in common. Both appeal to the creative side of mobile users, and both are themselves beautifully made and deceptively simple to use.

I think it’s these qualities that are going to provide a roadmap for more iOS apps to come that will appeal to the artsy, creative side of people, rather than the traditional consumption-oriented theme of what have so far been the most popular types of apps on Apple’s platform.

Josh Topolsky Reviews the Nokia Lumia 900 

He loves the hardware build quality and found battery life to be good, even with LTE, but:

Let me just put this bluntly: I think it’s time to stop giving Windows Phone a pass. I think it’s time to stop talking about how beautifully designed it is, and what a departure it’s been for Microsoft, and how hard the company is working to add features. I am very aware of the hard work and dedication Microsoft has put into this platform, but at the end of the day, Windows Phone is just not as competitive with iOS and Android as it should be right now.

Before you cry foul, keep in mind that I went into this review wanting to fall madly in love with this phone. But like a book with a beautiful jacket and a plot full of holes, I found myself wanting more. A lot more.

I’ve been trying a Lumia 800 on and off for a few months, and I couldn’t say it better myself — especially regarding third-party app design and performance, and the quality of IE compared to Mobile Safari and Chrome for Android. It’s like Topolsky took the words right out of my mouth.

(As for the hardware, I haven’t tried the 900, but I strongly suspect I’d prefer the 800. The physically-bigger 900 seems like the worst of both worlds: a 4.3-inch display that’s too big to traverse corner-to-corner with your thumb while holding the phone one-handed, but with the same exact 800 × 480 pixel count as all other Windows Phone devices to date. At least with cutting-edge big-ass Android phones, you get more pixels, up to 1280 × 720. The 900 offers two advantages over the 800 — LTE and a front-facing camera. I think I’d rather have the smaller form factor and superior battery life of the 800, if I were in the market for a Windows Phone.)

Compare 

Same scene, same filter (Amaro), taken side-by-side with Instagram using an iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus. (I think the difference is attributable mostly, if not entirely, to the iPhone 4S’s superior camera. The Galaxy S II has a better camera than the Nexus, but I don’t have one of those to test.)

John Moltz’s Very Nice Web Site 

New from the inimitable creator of the late, great CARS. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to the RSS feed now; that way you’ll know when I steal links from him, like I just did a few minutes ago.

Papermill 

Speaking of Instapaper and Android apps, developer Ryan Bateman has written a fascinating postmortem on Papermill, a well-designed Instapaper client for Android. He covers everything from the development to its financial results:

I think this unhappy end-scenario — of applications that either compromise on quality or have not had the necessary time invested in their design — is as a result of Android users not being willing to pay for an app whose focus is quality and whose price reflects this. Instead, these users opt for a free but less refined experience. This has led to a race to the bottom, with independent developers creating applications are de-facto free instead and relying on ads for profit. The quality of the design and user-experience are subsequently not a factor in their creation, as there is both no great impetus to provide it nor any expectation from the user that it will be forthcoming.

I must gently disagree with the following parenthetical, however:

While “cheaper smartphones” is an entirely valid core market to target (and one that is actually Android’s strength — while device manufacturers will always be creating mid-range Android handsets and can edge into the high-end market, Apple is highly unlikely to create anything but a high-end smartphone), the resulting user expectations, and subsequent race to-the-bottom app development, is reflected in the current general quality of Android apps.

Apple may never release a new non-high-end phone, but they do have mid-range and low-end smartphone models: the iPhone 4 and 3GS. The brilliance of Apple’s move-last-year’s-model-one-slot-down-the-totem-pole pattern is that even their low-end model is a former high-end model, just two years removed. Apple gets to hit lower retail price points while avoiding additional fragmentation for developers. And a consumer who buys a new free-with-contract iPhone 3GS today gets a phone that is of significantly higher build quality than the free-with-contract Android phones I’ve seen.

Privacy Is Not an Option 

Nick Bradbury:

Software developers need to look at privacy the same way we’ve learned to look at security: it’s not an add-on or a feature that customers have to turn on, it’s something built-in that shouldn’t be turned off.

The difference, though, is that with security, the biggest problem is a lack of attention from developers. With privacy, the biggest problem is purposeful obfuscation by developers looking to profit by having users think their information is more private than it actually is.

A Comparison of Instagram for Android and iPhone 

Nice rundown by Matthew Panzarino.

Úll 

Looks like a great conference in Dublin later this month “iOS / OSX / mobile web developers and designers.” Sounds like tickets are selling fast.

Instagram for Android 

Speaking of Android and mobile photography:

Today, we’re excited to bring you Instagram for Android. We’ve already seen more than 30 million people join Instagram to create and share beautiful photos on their iOS devices, and now we’re thrilled to offer a way for Android users to join their iOS friends on Instagram to share their photos with the world.

While using an Android phone, I probably missed Instagram more than any other iPhone-only app. The Android version looks almost identical to the iPhone version, following iOS idioms like on-screen back buttons (as an alternative to the system-wide Back button) for navigation.

Flickr’s Digital Camera of Choice: iPhone 

Speaking of usage stats, John Paczkowski:

The four most popular camera phones on Flickr currently? The iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS — in that order.

I’m sure Android phones top the list at Picasa.

Charlie Kindel: ‘Google Will Abandon Android’ 

Charlie Kindel:

Moving forward, Google will invest heavily in the Play brand. To effectively create new brand you have to mute your usage of other brands in the same space. At the most, any further use of the term “Android” in consumer marketing and branding will be relegated to “ingredient brand” status (“Certs with Retsin!”). Google will start distancing itself from the Android brand completely.

Bold prediction, but I wouldn’t be surprised by this at all. They spent $12.5 billion buying Motorola — they’ve got to start making money from this, and the current plan isn’t working.

iPhones Have Significantly Higher Rates of Wi-Fi Utilization Than Android Phones in the U.S. and U.K. 

ComScore:

A U.S. analysis of Wi-Fi and mobile Internet usage across unique smartphones on the iOS and Android platforms reveals that 71 percent of all unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks to connect to the Internet, while only 32 percent of unique Android mobile phones used both types of connections. A further analysis of this pattern of behavior in the U.K. shows consistent results, as 87 percent of unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks for web access compared to a lower 57 percent of Android phones.

Another data point backing up the theory (to which I subscribe) that a large number of Android owners use their devices just like they did their previous non-smart phone. Hence the discrepancies between device unit sales (where Android leads) and stats like app sales and Wi-Fi usage (where iPhone leads).

Wind Map 

Beautiful and fascinating.

Readability and Time-Shifting 

Martin McClellan:

Readability failed when they brought the concept of commerce for content into play.

Agreed. That’s the line they shouldn’t have crossed.

What the Betamax Case Teaches Us About Readability 

I really enjoyed Mike Davidson’s take on Readability:

The anger about the financial side of Readability seems to come from the opinion that the company is “keeping publishers’ money” unless they sign up, but I guess I look at it differently: I don’t think it is the publishers’ money. I think it is Readability’s money. Readability invests the time and resources into developing their service and they are the ones who physically get users to pay a subscription fee. It’s hard to get users to pay for content and they are the ones who are actually doing it. They realize that the popularity of their service is a direct result of content creators’ efforts so they are voluntarily redistributing 70% of it back to publishers in the only way it is feasible to: based on pageviews from publishers who register themselves.

I think Davidson accurately describes what it is that people like about Readability. My beef isn’t with the concept, it’s with the framing and execution. Michael Sippey, on Twitter:

My issue with @readability is this line: “70% of your monthly contribution is earmarked for the writers you read” https://www.readability.com/readers/register/contribute

For example, I’d be happy if 70% of my sub fees went directly to the four pubs that had registered (Awl, Dashes, Millions, Morning News).

I.e., Readability should make it clear that it’s really up to 70 percent of subscriber contributions that are paid to publishers, and that in reality it’s far less because most websites aren’t in their program. Or, they should pay 70 percent and split it only among those publishers who are registered. The way they’re doing it now is misleading at best, and arguably dishonest.

Anil Dash on Readability and Instapaper 

Anil Dash, over the weekend, regarding my calling Readability “scumbags”:

A few people have asked why I say John’s being a “bully” here. There are a few aspects, mostly related to his unique place in the Apple/iOS media realm. First, because he routes so much attention through his links, lesser blogs will compete to restate his opinions (such as criticizing Readability) ever more pointedly, in hopes of earning a link. This is already taking a place.

I think that’s a deeply cynical perspective. I suspect most people joining in my criticism of Readability’s practices are doing so simply because they disagree with Readability’s practices, not because they think I’m going to link to them. It seems beyond Dash’s ken that there are many of us who feel the same way. If it seems as though there’s a bit of piling on in the wake of my brief but sharp criticism, perhaps it’s because a lot of people were in a sort of “Hmm, am I the only one who thinks these guys are doing some sketchy stuff?” emperor-has-no-clothes situation. Even I didn’t break out the guns until A.T. Faust published his detailed critique of Readability’s shared-links-point-back-to-their-own-hosted-copy behavior.

More broadly, instead of conceding that he merely has one of the possible positions on Readability’s publisher program, he encourages his Twitter followers to believe that Jeffrey Zeldman and I are motivated by a greed we’re attempting to hide from people rather than that we come about our opinions honestly.

All I did was point out that Dash and Zeldman are Readability shareholders and advisory board members, which I believe to be relevant. It’s about perspective, not motivation. I do not believe either Zeldman or Dash are involved with Readability for the money; I think they’re involved because they genuinely believe in Readability’s stated ideals. I simply think they’re wrong.

That’s not to say that folks like John and Merlin aren’t sincere in their reasons for supporting Instapaper and criticizing Readability — I think the points they use to back up their arguments are their honest beliefs. But their motivations? It’s their wonderful, horrible personal loyalty.

“Wonderful, horrible personal loyalty” is a splendid turn of phrase, and — I’m self-aware enough to realize — apt. And indeed, Marco Arment is a dear friend. But I didn’t mention Instapaper at all in this discussion, and if Marco were to fold up shop and retire tomorrow, it wouldn’t change a bit of my criticism regarding Readability. It’s Dash and some of Readability’s other defenders who keep bringing up Instapaper.

Canada Kills Its Penny; Can We Please Be Next? 

I don’t understand why anyone thinks we should keep minting pennies. Even nickels and dimes are practically worthless.

Stamen Maps 

Gorgeous alternative map tiles for OpenStreetMap. Very cool. (Via Jason Santa Maria.)

Incremental Change 

Glenn Fleishman:

Apple makes its money over the long term not just by introducing disruption, which would mean flash-in-the-pan products that spark and then fizzle, but by seeing disruption through into stable releases, each with significant improvements that appear to be incremental to a product’s design and capabilities.

Whole article is smart, but the above sentence perfectly captures Apple’s central strategy.

The Macalope: Fools of the Year 

Imagine a conference where the speakers are all culled from this list.

So Good It Doesn’t Need to Make Money 

Brian S. Hall on Tom Krazit’s argument that Google isn’t and needn’t worry about generating profit from Android.

Mac McClelland Was a Warehouse Wage Slave 

Terrific story by Mac McClelland for Mother Jones:

The gal conducting our training reminds us again that we cannot miss any days our first week. There are NO exceptions to this policy. She says to take Brian, for example, who’s here with us in training today. Brian already went through this training, but then during his first week his lady had a baby, so he missed a day and he had to be fired. Having to start the application process over could cost a brand-new dad like Brian a couple of weeks’ worth of work and pay. Okay? Everybody turn around and look at Brian. Welcome back, Brian. Don’t end up like Brian.

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