Linked List: April 2013

The McDonald’s Theory of Bad Ideas 

Jon Bell:

I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s.

Does Anyone Know Why Google Bought Motorola? 

Nope.

What Happens When Game Pirates Play a Game Development Simulator and Then Go Bankrupt Because of Piracy? 

Hilarious and sad at the same time. (Via Jeff Atwood.)

Steven Soderbergh: The State of Cinema 

Whole thing is great:

Speaking of meetings, the meetings have gotten pretty weird. There are fewer and fewer executives who are in the business because they love movies. There are fewer and fewer executives that know movies. So it can become a very strange situation. I mean, I know how to drive a car, but I wouldn’t presume to sit in a meeting with an engineer and tell him how to build one, and that’s kind of what you feel like when you’re in these meetings. You’ve got people who don’t know movies and don’t watch movies for pleasure deciding what movie you’re going to be allowed to make. That’s one reason studio movies aren’t better than they are, and that’s one reason that cinema, as I’m defining it, is shrinking.

Still on Offense, Never Defense 

Stephen Kenwright:

When I was asked about inviting people to Path as I installed the app I said no, and without entering much in the way of personal information Path decided to text my entire phone book for me the day after I uninstalled it from my Android.

From The Verge:

Kenwright fell victim to user error, representatives from Path said, and the messages are a feature, not a bug.

Headline of the Day: ‘Samsung’s Mediocre S4 Reviews Are Bad News for Apple’ 

Not making this up. That’s the actual headline.

BlackBerry CEO Questions Future of Tablets 

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, in an interview with Bloomberg:

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”

Serious question: Five years is a long time in tech, but does anyone else in the world think the above is true?

Mike Beasley Watched ‘iSteve’ So You Wouldn’t Have To 

Mike Beasley:

Funny or Die (and everyone involved) should be ashamed of this garbage. There are two ways you can go with a film like this. You can either stick to the facts, or you can make something funny and exaggerated. This is just exaggerated. There is nothing funny here. This movie is not worth the nearly eighty minutes that you will hopefully decide not to spend watching it.

‘To a Boy of the 1970s, the Line Between Comic Books and Real Life People Was Hopelessly Blurred’ 

Joe Posnanski, writing about Mets phenom Matt Harvey, compares him to Mark “The Bird” Fidrych of the 1976 Detroit Tigers:

He was like a superhero in a Detroit Tigers’ uniform. I’m semi-serious about that. You have to understand that to a boy of the 1970s, the line between comic books and real life people was hopelessly blurred. Was Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, real or fake? Fake? Well, then, how about Evel Knievel jumping over busses on his motorcycle? Oh, he was real. The Superman ads said, “You will believe a man can fly,” and Fonzie started jukeboxes by simply hitting them, and Elvis Presley wore capes, and Nolan Ryan threw pitches 102 mph, and Roger Staubach (who they called Captain America) kept bringing the Cowboys back from certain defeat, and Muhammad Ali let George Foreman tire himself out by leaning against the ropes and taking every punch he could throw. What was real anyway?

Yes yes yes to all of the above. I’ll toss in Reggie Jackson hitting four home runs on four consecutive swings of the bat in the 1977 World Series.

‘Up to the Creepy Line’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest John Moltz. Topics include Apple’s quarterly results, the asinine idea that Tim Cook’s job is possibly in jeopardy (or as Moltz put it, “how many days Tim Cook has left”), Google Glass, and more.

Brought to you by two great sponsors:

Super Monster Bros by Adventure Time Pocket Free Games 

Why does Apple allow this sort of garbage in the App Store?

Update, 2 May 2013: Looks like the game has been removed from the App Store.

NBA Center Jason Collins: ‘I’m Gay’ 

Jason Collins, in a Sports Illustrated cover story:

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

The Latest Knock on Apple: Too Many People Buying iPhones Other Than the 5 

Chris O’Brien, writing for the LA Times, “Consumers’ Shift to Older iPhones Raises Concerns on Wall Street”:

How strange to think that Vicki Macchiavello’s decision to buy an iPhone after years of using a BlackBerry could be bad news for Apple. And yet, because the Oakland resident opted to buy a cheaper, older iPhone 4 rather than the latest, pricier iPhone 5, she represents a trend that has become a growing concern on Wall Street.

In recent months, such an unusually large proportion of consumers are opting to buy older iPhone models that some analysts have begun to wonder whether Apple has lost its ability to create new versions that have enough dazzle to justify their high prices.

Framed this way, Apple can’t win. If they only sold the iPhone 5, they’d get dinged for not addressing the middle and lower tiers of the market. In fact, even now, with the iPhone 4 and 4S on the market, Apple is frequently criticized for not having an even cheaper iPhone — something for the no-contract market.

But so now when people buy the iPhone 4 and 4S, it’s a sign that something is wrong with the iPhone 5? If selling the iPhone 4 and 4S to new customers were bad for Apple, they wouldn’t sell them. It’s not complicated. Read the article — it’s quite obvious that if the iPhone 4 were not available free-with-contract, this woman would have bought something other than an iPhone that was. She wasn’t going to spring for a $199 iPhone 5.

Wikipedia’s Sexism 

Amanda Filipacchi, in an op-ed for the NYT:

Early last week I noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appeared that, gradually, over time, the volunteer editors who create the site had begun moving women, one by one, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. […] Many female novelists, like Harper Lee, Anne Rice, Amy Tan, Donna Tartt and some 300 others, had been relegated to the ranks of “American Women Novelists” only, and no longer appeared in the category “American Novelists.”

‘You Cannot Copy High Quality’ 

Interesting piece for Fast Company by Danielle Sacks, on Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons’s leadership at J. Crew:

After two days of reviewing the entire product line, Drexler told Lyons to get on a plane to Hong Kong and design new pieces to fill all the holes. He also asked her where she wanted to source the company’s cashmere. A more expensive mill, she said. He told her to call them. This move marked the beginning of Drexler’s turnaround strategy — a bet on quality. “You cannot copy high quality, and it takes a long time to get a reputation for quality,” he says. Lyons credits this first encounter as both formative and telling of their future together. “Honestly, I think it was because I didn’t bullshit him,” says Lyons. “His bullshit-dar is insane.”

No surprise that Drexler sits on Apple’s board of directors.

Laugh It Up, Fuzz Ball 

66 behind-the-scenes photos from The Empire Strikes Back.

Beautiful Text on iOS 

Great tag-team session by Chris Clark and James Dempsey from the Renaissance conference. Clark covers an overview of good type design; Dempsey gets into the nitty gritty of getting the best possible type rendering out of iOS 6.

Dell’s Pitch for Tablets 

Good luck with that.

Update: Julian Lepinski tears this white paper to shreds.

Macminicolo Forever Promo 

My thanks to Macminicolo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Mac Minis make great servers, and Macminicolo is a high-end data center dedicated to hosting them. There are a bunch of good reasons to host a Mini server with them, but here’s just one: the developers of Day One — a great journaling app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac — are using a hosted Mac Mini as a development build server.

Macminicolo’s “Forever Promo” is a special offer for DF readers, with a low rate, no contract, and inexpensive rental options.

Eric Schmidt Says Talking to Glass Can Be Weird, Inappropriate 

Aaron Pressman, Reuters:

Talking out loud to control the Google Glasses via voice recognition is “the weirdest thing,” Schmidt said in a talk on Thursday at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

People will have to develop new etiquette to deal with such products that can record video surreptitiously and bring up information that only the wearer can see, Schmidt said.

“There are obviously places where Google Glasses are inappropriate,” he said.

Weird and inappropriate. Perfect product for Google.

Smartphone Platform Loyalty 

John Paczkowski, on a report by Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe:

So, Android’s seemingly inexorable ascension over the iPhone? Not quite so inexorable anymore. Apple’s smartphone continues to gain share over devices running Google’s mobile OS in the U.S.; so much so that, according to the Yankee Group, iPhone ownership in the U.S. will exceed Android ownership by 2015. The reason: Platform loyalty.

Bold projection.

The Sad State of MLB’s Blackout Policy 

Linus Edwards:

Thus, as long as I am standing in Carlisle, PA, I can’t watch Phillies broadcasts. However, if I go a half hour to the west in Chambersburg, PA, Phillies games are not shown on television, but also are not blacked out in the packages. If I go a half hour to the east in Harrisburg, PA, Phillies games are blacked out in the packages, but shown on local television. Therefore, this tiny strip of land in Central PA is the only spot in the entire country that one can not legally watch Phillies games. It is purgatory for a Phillies fan.

New iPhone Commercial: Every Day 

Good one.

Marco Arment Sells Instapaper to Betaworks 

Marco Arment:

I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold a majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. We’ve structured the deal with Instapaper’s health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.

Twitter Updates Twitter for Mac 

Includes retina display support. They’ve been sitting on this for a long time, glad to see it released. Now, if only they would let Apple open this app instead of the twitter.com website when you get notifications through OS X’s built-in Twitter support.

Listen to Alexander Graham Bell’s Voice 

Sounds like he’s on AT&T.

WWDC Sells Out in Two Minutes 

Might have even been quicker than that. Not sure anyone got a ticket if they didn’t get one in the first minute after they went on sale.

(Remember that guy a few days ago who claimed developer interest in iOS and OS X is waning?)

iPhone Tipping Points 

Benedict Evans:

There are fewer and fewer new high-end buyers coming into the market and the ones you sold to in the past may increasingly be tempted by ever improving cheaper phones. So a high-end phone maker risks losing sales if it stays at the high-end, or losing margin if it makes cheaper phones, or both.

In case it isn’ t obvious, this is the essence of the bear story for Apple. There’s lots of froth and nonsense swirling around as well, but this is a perfectly coherent and intelligent story. It isn’t that Apple is losing sales to Android (it isn’t, at least not yet) - it’s that the high-end market itself may be close to tapped out.

Smart analysis. One thing Evans neglects to address, though, is that the above is not really the bear story for Apple, it’s the bear story for the iPhone. The bear story for Apple is that they’ll never have another hit to take the iPhone’s place. Go back a decade, and it was the same with the iPod.

But Apple already has the next big iPhone-sized hit: iPad. That’s where the crazy year-over-year growth remains.

Jim Ray on Twitter Music 

Jim Ray:

The Popular pane is useless to anyone over the age of 17. Emerging seems to simply be the inverse of Popular and is therefore equally hopeless. Swipe over to Suggested and we’re finally getting somewhere, save for the fact that the secret sauce of what makes an artist “suggested” is completely opaque. I have no idea what I should do to improve the algorithmic guidance or what the fuck @beth_orton is doing in there.

Tellingly, you can’t get to a musician’s tweets from within the app to decide whether you want to follow them based on the content of their stream, you’re just supposed to follow all of your favorite musicians and be in awe of their celebrity, I guess.

So he really likes it, I guess.

Apple’s New Pitch to Investors 

Felix Salmon:

Apple is trading at an astonishingly low valuation, with a p/e ratio in single digits, because it has now become that animal investors like least: a slow-growing tech stock. Either one is fine on its own, and both slow-growing stocks and fast-growing tech stocks can support much higher multiples than Apple is seeing right now. But conservative investors, who like slow-growing stocks with high dividends, are constitutionally uncomfortable with the volatility inherent in the tech world. And technology investors, who are happy taking that kind of risk, want to see substantial growth. Apple, notwithstanding the fact that it’s one of the most valuable companies in the world, is falling through the capital-markets cracks.

The New US $100 Bill 

I find it depressing how our currency keeps getting uglier and uglier.

Charity Auction: Coffee With Tim Cook at Apple Headquarters 

$28,500 and counting. Proceeds benefit The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Update: A few hours later and it’s up to $160,000. (!)

Nintendo Makes Second Consecutive Annual Loss as Wii U Misses Expectations 

Now this is a bad earnings report. Really hope Nintendo figures a way to pull itself out of this spiral.

BlackBerry Q10 

Andrew Cunningham reviews the new Q10, the first BlackBerry 10 device with a hardware keyboard. I don’t fault BlackBerry one bit for making this device — if anyone has a die-hard base of hardware keyboard-addicted users, it’s them. But serious question: if there remains serious demand for a phone like this, why are there no top tier Android devices in this form factor? The Android phones I see suggest that hardware keyboards are on the cusp of extinction.

WWDC 2013 Announced: June 10-14 

Apple:

“We look forward to gathering at WWDC 2013 with the incredible community of iOS and OS X developers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Tickets don’t go on sale until tomorrow at 10 am PDT. In previous years, tickets went on sale immediately after the dates were announced. Two years ago it sold out in 12 hours. Last year it sold out in 2 hours. Tomorrow’s going to be something.

(By the way, you should follow me on App.net. You’d have known about this a few days ago if you did.)

The Verge’s Galaxy S4 Review 

David Pierce:

I don’t like holding this phone, and I can’t overstate how much that informs the experience of using it. It makes an awful first impression, slippery and slimy and simply unpleasant in your hand. My white review unit is completely smooth and glossy, with a subtle checkered pattern that looks textured but is neither grippy nor textured anywhere on its body. Even the silver band around the sides, which is obviously supposed to look like metal, is plastic. Everyone I showed the GS4 to frowned and wrinkled their nose as if it smelled bad, before rubbing their fingers on the back of the phone and then handing it back to me — that’s the opposite of the standard reaction to HTC’s One, which everyone wants to ogle and hold.

Sounds great.

Includes a 10/10 rating for the display, despite this description:

The GS4’s 5-inch, 1920 × 1080 display is big, beautiful, and seriously eye-catching. The latter is partially a bad thing: the S4 uses a Super AMOLED panel like many of Samsung’s phones, and like many of Samsung’s phones it displays overly contrasted and vibrant colors. Those colors may not be accurate — reds and oranges absolutely explode off the screen, whether they should or not — but they certainly catch your eye.

This Really Says It All 

From Joanna Stern’s review of the Samsung Galaxy S4:

Many people will find the phone’s sheer number of features to be overwhelming and hard to find. For instance, I really like the multitasking feature that lets you stack apps one on top of another — i.e. e-mail on the top of the screen and a browser on the bottom — but it isn’t obvious how you actually can set that up. For real smartphone beginners, Samsung has added an Easy Mode, which simplifies the entire phone, with a stripped-down homescreen and settings menu.

The iPhone has an easy mode too. It’s called “Using the iPhone”.

Macworld’s Transcript of Tim Cook’s Remarks on Today’s Earnings Call 

Tim Cook:

Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can’t wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014. We continue to be very confident in our future product plans.

Translation: no new iPhone or iPads until fall. Pretty unusual thing for Apple to forecast publicly. Clearly, they’re seeking to adjust expectations regarding WWDC in June. Another one getting some attention (emphasis added):

We will continue to focus on the long term, and we remain very optimistic about our future. We’re participating in large and growing markets. We see great opportunities in front of us, particularly given the long-term prospects of the smartphone and tablet markets, the strength of our incredible ecosystem which we plan to continue to augment with services, our plans for expanded distribution, and the potential of exciting new product categories.

Tablets, phones, and computers are “product categories”, in Apple parlance. So he’s not talking about a new iPad or iPhone, he’s talking about an entirely new leg on the stool.

Volkswagen 2014 iBeetle 

Benjamin Preston, writing for the NYT Wheels Blog:

The world has seen plenty of cars equipped with iPhone connectors, but vehicles incorporating iPhone features into the car’s infotainment system are still pretty rare. Volkswagen said that its 2014 iBeetle, to be unveiled at the Shanghai auto show this weekend, is the company’s first model offered with a built-in iPhone dock, custom Beetle app and smartphone functions intertwined with the car’s onboard electronics.

Volkswagen said it collaborated with Apple to create the iBeetle, making it possible to use an iPhone to listen to music, navigate, make hands-free calls and even monitor the car’s engine functions.

Sounds cool. Hope it’s not the Volkswagen Rokr.

Just How Did Apple ‘Journalism’ Get This Bad? 

Ian Betteridge destroys the latest nonsense from long-time Apple jackass David Gewirtz.

Which Drugs Actually Kill Americans 

“Hint: not pot.”

Apple Increases Stock Buy-Back and Dividend 

Apple:

“We are very fortunate to be in a position to more than double the size of the capital return program we announced last year,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We believe so strongly that repurchasing our shares represents an attractive use of our capital that we have dedicated the vast majority of the increase in our capital return program to share repurchases.”

Pretty much exactly what Warren Buffett recommended.

Update: Initial reaction in after-hours trading has the stock up over 4 percent. Update 2: As the dust settles two hours later, the stock is simply even in after hours trading.

Apple Q2 2013 Results 

Revenue up year over year, but earnings (as expected) down, due to margins dropping from 47 to 37 percent:

The Company sold 37.4 million iPhones in the quarter, compared to 35.1 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple also sold 19.5 million iPads during the quarter, compared to 11.8 million in the year-ago quarter. The Company sold just under 4 million Macs, compared to 4 million in the year-ago quarter.

iPad growth remains tremendous, but iPhone sales are up only 6.5 percent.

The Paris Time Capsule Apartment 

Messy Nessy:

The owner of this apartment, Mrs. De Florian left Paris just before the rumblings of World War II broke out in Europe. She closed up her shutters and left for the South of France, never to return to the city again. Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91. It was only when her heirs enlisted professionals to make an inventory of the Parisian apartment she left behind, that this time capsule was finally unlocked.

Android and Security 

Chris Nerney, CITEworld:

So security is the main reason why Android trails Apple’s iOS in the enterprise mobile market, even as it dominates in the consumer space, and clearly Google bears the greatest responsibility for Android’s vulnerabilities.

Zero evidence of this assertion in the article. Zero. And where by “dominates in the consumer space” he means “accounts for 30 percent of handset profits, all of that going to Samsung”. What I see is that the enterprise has money. And just like consumers with money to spend, enterprise buyers are more likely to choose the iPhone and iPad. Android’s unit sale market share dominance stems from price-sensitive buyers.

Would be good for Android to get that malware situation under control though, that I agree with.

SpaceX Grasshopper 250-Meter Test Flight 

Amazing video; so good and so cool it almost looks fake.

19-Year-Old Entrepreneur Who Claimed to Have Sold 10 Percent Stake in Her Future Salary Looks Like a Hoax 

Taylor Soper, GeekWire:

But soon after publishing, we became suspicious.

Pretty sure that’s the wrong order.

Identity Crisis, Indeed 

Jessica Lessin, writing for the WSJ. Headline and sub-head: “Apple Has an Identity Crisis: Is It a Hardware Company or a Software Firm?”

It’s not Apple that is confused. It’s investors. They could have run this headline/subhead at any point in the last 37 years.

Unbiased Source, Right There 

Third paragraph from Jungah Lee’s report for Bloomberg, “LG Display Profit Misses Estimates on Stalling Apple Sales”:

“Apple is losing dominance and will likely delay launching a successor to the iPhone 5 until at least September,” Harrison Cho, an analyst for Seoul-based Samsung Securities Co., said before the earnings release. “LG Display might have to wait until the third quarter to see strong profits as Apple’s new devices are mostly expected to be out in the second half.”

Samsung Securities. That Samsung. Jiminy christ.

Ads on iPhone Worth More Than Ads on Android, Film at Duh O’Clock 

MarketWatch:

The iPhone monthly ad share grew 12 percent in the first quarter of this year and now accounts for more than 50 percent of mobile ad spending, according to the report released Thursday by MoPub, a mobile ad exchange that allows app publishers and advertisers to engage in bidding for advertisements. As a result, the cost-per-thousand views is 40 percent higher on iOS than Google’s Android.

Why are Apple users bombarded with more ads than those who own rival devices are? Experts say the user base is considered a more upwardly mobile demographic. “Apple has more desirable customers,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, senior analyst at Forrester Research. Cheaper Android phones reach more people than the iPhone, she says, but around 15 percent of Samsung smartphone customers get free Android smartphones that come with wireless contracts. “These accidental customers are in the lower third of income earners in the U.S.,” she says. “They’re not necessarily the customers that advertisers care most about reaching.”

But iPhone users are not “bombarded with ads”. I almost never see any ads other than those on web pages, because I can (and do) buy ad-free apps rather than use “free” apps that show ads. Also, the MarketWatch piece conflates ad revenue with the number of ads users see — I highly doubt that iPhone users, even those who only use free apps, see more ads than their Android counterparts. They just see more expensive ads.

The Death of Upcoming.org 

Andy Baio:

So, Yahoo’s finally decided to close Upcoming.org, the events community I started nearly ten years ago. And, in Yahoo’s typical fuck-off-and-die style, they’re doing it with 11 days notice, no on-site announcement, and no way to back up past events. […]

In hindsight, selling Upcoming to Yahoo was a horrible mistake. Selling your company always means sacrificing control and risking its fate, and as we now know, online communities almost always fail after acquisition. (YouTube is the rare exception, albeit one with billion-dollar momentum.) But Yahoo was a particularly horrible steward for the community.

It Can’t All Be True 

Min-Jeong Lee, reporting for the WSJ:

LG Display Co. swung to a net profit in the first quarter as tablet screen sales to Apple Inc. increased, and analysts said the South Korean display maker’s fortunes this year will be closely tied to demand for the U.S. company’s gadgets.

But here’s Miyoung Kim, reporting the same news, for Reuters:

LG Display Co Ltd reported its smallest profit since it returned to the black in the second quarter of last year, as demand for iPhone and iPad screens from Apple weakened amid concerns the U.S. company is losing its luster in the mobile device market.

Perfect example of just how crazy reporting on Apple has gotten. (Via MacDailyNews.) Best advice, listen to Tim Cook from three months ago, and stop trying to extrapolate Apple’s sales numbers from those of its component suppliers:

Let me make one additional point on this: I know there’s been lots of rumors about order cuts and so forth, and so let me just take a moment to make a comment on these. I don’t want to comment on any particular rumor, because I would spend my life doing that, but I would suggest it’s good to question the accuracy of any kind of rumor about build plans. And I’d also stress that even if a particular data point were factual, it would be impossible to accurately interpret the data point as to what it meant for our overall business, because the supply chain is very complex, and we obviously have multiple sources for things. Yields might vary, supplier performance can vary, the beginning inventory positions can vary, I mean there’s just an inordinately long list of things that would make any single data point not a great proxy for what’s going on.

ExitJunction: Scumbags Who Hijack Your Back Button History 

Real shocker that TG Daily, the site that publishes Rob Enderle’s jackassery, would embed JavaScript in their pages from a company that hijacks your Back button. Reminds me of Tynt, the copy/paste jerks.

A solution for Safari users: Drew Thaler’s JavaScript Blacklist extension. I’ve been using it for years. My blacklist:

tynt.com, intellitxt.com, snap.com, kontera.com, AdGardener.com, apture.com, wibiya.com, doubleclick.net, getconnected.southwestwi-fi.com, d1.openx.org, meebo.com, addthis.com, serving-sys.com, po.st, cdn.taboolasyndication.com, exitjunction.com

New Yahoo Weather App for iPhone 

Yet another really nice weather app, and a clever use of Flickr. I’d say synergy if the word hadn’t been co-opted by dumb people trying to sound important.

Jackassapalooza 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt on the “Apple should fire Tim Cook” nonsense being floated:

Make no mistake, the people who want Tim Cook’s head on a spike are not friends of Apple. As far as I know, he still has the deep respect of the analysts who know the company best and — most important — the confidence of the board of directors who granted a million restricted shares of Apple as an incentive for him to stick around for at least a decade.

For the record, Apple is still trading higher today that it was when Cook replaced Steve Jobs. The forces that drove the stock up to over $700 and then down to below $390 seem to me to have more to do with a dysfunctional securities market than anything Cook has done as CEO.

The Apple bears have gone from irrational to hysterical.

Iconic Bites 

Susan Kare, still at the top of the pixel-art game.

Chum, All Right 

Dan Lyons:

I’ve also spent the past few years writing “articles” that were less and less interesting — they were basically just SEO chum thrown out onto the internet in hopes of catching traffic.

No shit.

Philly Turns Skyscraper Into Video Game Screen for Tech Week 

Zack Seward, writing for NPR’s All Tech Considered:

Frank Lee is the man behind this gigantic version of Pong. He’s a professor at Drexel University and the co-founder of the school’s Game Design Program.

Spectators gathered about a half-mile away to watch from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Eyes fixated on what was about a 400-foot-tall “screen,” a lattice of LED lights on a wall of mirrored glass serving as the “pixels.”

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

May is nearly sold out, but a few last-minute scheduling changes have left this coming week next week still open. If you have a product or service that you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball’s audience of smart, good-looking readers, please do get in touch.

Jackass or Genius? 

Do me a favor. Read Rob Enderle’s latest column. Think about it. Serious question: Is he really this much of an idiot, or, is he a sublimely masterful troll? I honestly can’t tell.

Windows Azure Mobile Services 

My thanks to Microsoft — yes, that’s right, Microsoft — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Windows Azure Mobile Services. Mobile Services is a quick and easy way for developers to store iOS app data in the cloud, authenticate users via Twitter or Facebook, and send push notifications.

It’s simple and easy enough that you can be up and running within minutes. Sending a push notification is as simple as uploading your developer certificate, typing push.apns.send, and then specifying the payload. Configuring Facebook auth only requires copying over your App ID and Secret. Creating a scalable SQL database for your data takes two clicks and selecting a name.

They’ve got a bunch of videos featuring Brent Simmons walking you through the Azure Mobile Services features, and showing you how to hook them up to an iOS app. Check it out and claim 10 free Mobile Services today.

Horace Dediu Takes Henry Blodget to the Woodshed Regarding Verizon iPhone Sales 

Enjoy.

Bono on Jony Ive 

Writing for the Time 100:

What the competitors don’t seem to understand is you cannot get people this smart to work this hard just for money. Jony is Obi-Wan. His team are Jedi whose nobility depends on the pursuit of greatness over profit, believing the latter will always follow the former, stubbornly passing up near-term good opportunities to pursue great ones in the distance.

It’s more than just Apple’s competitors who don’t understand this.

(Via Matthew Panzarino.)

More Facebook Home Ads 

Josh Elman, writing on Medium:

Facebook is celebrating all the wrong things. It advocates tuning out the people around you to see what else is happening that must be more interesting elsewhere. It foments FOMO. And it makes Facebook Home look like the best possible way to be the least present.

What I find interesting is that the “people first” interface of Facebook Home follows a trail blazed by Microsoft with Windows Phone. But Facebook’s ads promoting Home are 180 degrees apart from Microsoft’s for Windows Phone. Microsoft’s ads promoted the idea that with Windows Phone, you would — and should — spend less time looking at your phone. (My comments here.) Facebook’s ads take the opposite approach, and flat-out encourage you to tune out of your surroundings — at home, at work, everywhere — and pay attention only to what’s going on in Facebook on your phone.

Pretty Sure Twitter Didn’t ‘Forget’ Anything 

“Kellex”, writing for Droid Life, “Twitter Launches Music Service, Continues to Forget That Android Exists”:

Twitter made their new music service official this morning with an announcement and then release on…iOS. As you can tell, and should be no surprise if you look at Vine, Twitter still doesn’t realize that Android is just as, if not more important than iOS in the mobile game these days. Then again, with iOS you don’t have as many devices to develop for and should be easier to launch with, but I digress.

Triage: Federico Viticci’s New Favorite Email App for iPhone 

Federico Viticci, writing at MacStories:

If I find myself wanting to use an app without making an effort to remember I have to use it, then I know that app has “clicked” for me. That’s Triage.

US Smartphone Sales at Verizon and AT&T 

Benedict Evans:

The implication is that there is an ongoing base of sales that goes to Android, and to some extent iPhone as well, that totally ignores product launches, and just buys a phone. Then, there’s a base of people who wait to buy the new iPhone (and of course come off their 24m contact in another launch quarter, eager to buy). And this latter base is getting bigger every year, and indeed driving all of the growth.

So actual numbers show that the iPhone is thriving at Verizon and AT&T. Yet we get headlines and stories like this hot mess yesterday from CNN Money.

Spot the Error 

John Moltz:

That pretty much sums up the current state of reporting on Apple right there, doesn’t it?

Chitika Pegs iPad’s Tablet Web Usage Share at 82 Percent 

Yet another sign Apple is doomed.

Mat Honan on Twitter Music 

Mat Honan, writing for Wired Gadget Lab:

And finally, there’s potential for this to just plain work as a way to help you find new music. It’s already abundantly clear how important social is to music discovery. The social aspects of Rdio and Spotify are some of their strongest features. Facebook has become, by way of those two services, something akin to a pop chart of your friends favorite songs. Likewise, Ping’s poor social implementation explains why it never went anywhere.

The app is really good — useful for its intended purpose of helping you find new music, and full of interesting interaction design elements. This is obviously what Apple was shooting for with Ping, done right.

Despite Slumping PC Industry, Microsoft Profit Rises 19 Percent 

Nick Wingfield, reporting for the NYT:

For its fiscal third quarter, which ended March 31, the company reported net income of $6.06 billion, or 72 cents a share, up from $5.11 billion, or 60 cents a share in the same period a year ago.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $20.49 billion from $17.41 billion.

I, and others, often wonder how Ballmer has held onto his job as CEO. Here’s the answer: he knows how to make money.

Samsung Probed in Taiwan Over ‘Fake Web Reviews’ 

BBC News:

Fair-trade officials in Taiwan are looking into reports that Samsung paid people to criticise rival HTC online. Samsung is alleged to have hired students to post negative comments about phones made by Taiwan’s HTC.

Samsung, based in South Korea, said the “unfortunate incident” had gone against the company’s “fundamental principles”.

Shocker.

Taking Apple Private: Makes Sense but Nobody Has the Money 

Matt Yglesias:

The current trajectory Apple is on, in terms of both share price and management strategy, is toward some kind of eventual management buyout scenario. But we’d need to walk another several hundred billion dollars down this road before that became feasible.

Yours truly, back in February:

Before Cook initiated the dividend last year, in the back of my mind I always wondered if “going private” was not the reason for Apple’s plan to just hoard its profits. Sort of “fuck you” insurance against Wall Street. (Even with the dividend, though, their cash continues to grow at an impressive rate. It’s sort of a token dividend.)

Legally, I think it’s impossible. A pipe dream. But culturally, Apple as an institution does seem better suited to being a privately held company.

According to Yglesias, I was wrong that it’s a legal problem. It’s simply a matter of time, if Apple continues to accumulate massive amounts of cash and its stock price remains so depressed on a P/E basis. (How low has Apple’s valuation dropped? As of today it’s lower than Dell. Wall Street thinks Dell has a brighter future than Apple.)

Headline of the Day: CNN Money: ‘Verizon iPhone Sales Tumble 33 Percent’ 

True, comparing this quarter to last quarter. But last quarter was the holiday quarter, and the iPhone 5 was brand new. Year-over-year, Verizon iPhone sales grew by 25 percent.

First Real-World Usage Figures Suggest Chromebooks Are Struggling 

Ed Bott:

In its first week of monitoring worldwide usage of Google’s Chrome OS, NetMarketShare reported that the percentage of web traffic from Chromebooks was roughly 2/100 of 1 percent, a figure too small to earn a place on its reports.

The first Chromebooks went on sale in June 2011, nearly two years ago. In the run-up to the launch, ZDNet’s own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols called the Chromebook a “Windows killer”, predicting that “Microsoft is facing real trouble” in the market for desktop PCs.

My take all along: Who wants a computer that runs nothing but a web browser?

What a Windows 8 U-Turn Will Mean for the PC 

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:

Many PC OEMs are dissatisfied with what Microsoft has done with Windows 8 and the way the company has handled the negative response to the operating system. Privately, one OEM source told me that Microsoft is “destroying” the PC industry, while another claimed that Windows 8 has “handed over millions of customers to Apple.”

Other than that, though, how do the OEMs like Windows 8?

‘Amazeballs: Live From Úll 2013’ 

Recorded in front of a live audience at last week’s Úll conference in Dublin Ireland, this week’s episode of The Talk Show features very special guest Michael Lopp. Topics include: Ron Johnson’s stint as CEO at JC Penney, Apple’s lack of new products so far this year, the design of tech conferences, and the toughest job in Las Vegas.

Brought to you by two great sponsors:

Triage 1.0 

Triage is an iPhone email client (iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, and generic IMAP) by Southgate Labs, meant for just one thing: flipping through your inbox and marking messages as either (a) done with it, don’t need to see it again, archive it; (b) I can just peck out a quick reply right here on the phone and be done with it; or (c) I’ll deal with this one later, leave it in my inbox marked unread, but don’t show it to me again in Triage. It’s a perfect name for the app.

I got a sneak peek at it back in February when I was in New Zealand for Webstock, and started beta testing it soon thereafter. Since I’ve been using it, I’m more caught up on my email than I have been in years. A bargain at just $1.99.

Moltz on Those Nexus Tablet Sales Numbers 

John Moltz, regarding the fact that his own 10-month-old Nexus 7 suffers from audio interference and a battery that doesn’t hold much of a charge any more:

It shouldn’t be that surprising that a $200 device isn’t built all that well. What should be surprising is analysts and pundits who automatically assume a low price means a winner.

One thing we seldom get are reviews of products after they’ve been used for an extensive period of time, a year or even further out. Nearly all of the product reviews we read (and the ones I usually write, personally — I’m not pointing fingers) are about devices that are only a week or two old.

Nexus Tablet Sales: Not Many 

Benedict Evans:

I’ve modeled active Android users (excluding China) based on interpolating between Google’s announcements: my model says there were 680m Android users at the end of March. Assuming equal Play use across the base (a big assumption), that would imply:

  • 6.8m Nexus 7s in use (consistent with the Asus number)
  • 680k Nexus 10s in use

Ouch.

A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip 

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious.

The 56 senators who voted in favor of the new legislation represent 76 percent of the nation’s population; yet the 44 who voted against it succeeded in blocking it, as it needed 60 votes to break a filibuster.

‘As One Does When in Cuba With a Cold Beverage and Camera in Hand’ 

As ever, great photos from James Duncan Davidson.

‘88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the Future’ 

Both an interesting story on the design and evolution of Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters, and a great use of HTML5 design elements.

Strength in the Face of Evil 

My friend and Bostonian Paul Kafasis:

Just as they must have been more than two centuries past, people today are frightened and concerned. But now, just as it was 238 years ago, Boston is defiant.

The Default Narrative 

Really enjoyed this piece by Watts Martin:

“Apple is Big Brother” has become a default narrative about the company. Apple stands for closed systems, proprietary everything, and a level of control over the way their customers use their products that would send us all fleeing for the hills if we had any common sense.

At first glance this is a baffling take. If there’s something I could do with OS X 10.6 that I can’t do with OS X 10.8, I haven’t found it yet. My software all still works. The Unix shell is still there. AppleScript is still there. I can still use utilities like LaunchBar and Keyboard Maestro that are so absurdly powerful that I giggle like a Japanese schoolgirl when some yoyo spouts off with the old “Macs are just toys” trope.

Google Glass Developers Prohibited From Charging for Apps or Displaying Ads 

Declan McCullagh:

Google, which relies on advertising for some 95 percent of its revenue, doesn’t want ads on its hotly anticipated Google Glass eyewear.

The blanket prohibition came in the fine print of a policy made public this evening, which says “Glassware” developers may not “serve or include any advertisements” and they “may not charge” users to download apps for the device.

Sounds like a shit sandwich to me, but perhaps these restrictions are only for the here and now, while Glass is still a developer preview. (I’ll also point out that prohibiting third-party apps from showing ads is not the same thing as not displaying ads period. Could be that Google is reserving all Glass advertising for itself.)

MLB.com’s Bob Bowman on Apple, Android, Samsung, BlackBerry 

Peter Kafka:

Some details from Bowman’s chat with Walt Mossberg at D: Dive into Mobile today:

  • His user base, which used to split 80/20 in favor of iOS over Android, has now moved to 70/30. “The Samsung phone is quite a good Android phone,” Bowman said.

  • But the uptick in Android users, he said, doesn’t track with revenue. That still splits 80/20 in favor of iOS users. “Maybe even 85/15.”

Not all customers are created equal.

Who’s Winning, iOS or Android? All the Numbers, All in One Place 

Harry McCracken:

Really, though, it’s silly to obsess over any one data point. If what you’re after is a clear idea of how the world’s two dominant mobile operating systems are doing — rather than an excuse to make bold proclamations and/or cheer for your favorite — you want to consider lots of data points.

So that’s what I’m doing in this post. I’ve rustled up results from a bunch of studies, focusing on information that’s relatively fresh.

Great work, and his conclusion seems perfect:

Android if you’re talking about market share; iOS if you mean financial success. So far, this is a strikingly different market than the PC business back in the 1990s, when market share translated directly into financial success.

Black Annex 

New “isometric corporate sabotage and infiltration game”. Written in QBASIC. Yes, QBASIC. (Via Paul Ford.)

Using Quartz Composer to Recreate Facebook Home 

Useful video demonstrations (and corresponding Quora and Branch threads) by David O’Brien, showing how to recreate the Facebook Home lock screen using Quartz Composer.

Having Conversations 

Jon Erlichman and Brian Womack, reporting for Bloomberg:

After debuting the software, called Home, for Google Inc.’s Android operating system earlier this month, the operator of the world’s biggest social-networking service is speaking to Apple and Microsoft Corp. about expanding to other platforms, Adam Mosseri, director of product at Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said in an interview on Bloomberg West yesterday. The talks are in progress and nothing has been finalized, he said.

Where by “in progress and nothing has been finalized”, he meant “not going to happen”.

Netbooks Claim Chowder 

Rik Myslewski, writing for The Register last week, “Netbooks Projected to Become Extinct by 2015”:

Proving yet again that fame and fortune are fleeting — even for computer hardware — the analysts at IHS are projecting that the netbook, the New Hotness just a few short years ago, will disappear completely by 2015. […] In a new report entitled “Compute Electronics Market Tracker”, IHS analyst Craig Stice puts the blame for the netbook’s demise squarely upon the shoulders of the tablet market — and specifically Apple’s iPad.

Rik Myslewski, writing for The Register back in 2009, “Apple Loses Students to Netbooks and Windows”:

And these days, customers - especially the proverbial starving students - are seeking low-cost computing devices that will allow them to take notes in class, check their email, write papers, and surf the web, all without straining their backpack bedecked backs as they tote them around campus.

Namely, netbooks.

It was just over a year ago when Apple edged out Dell as the laptop-of-choice among college students. The rise of the netbook may have made that victory a short-lived one.

New York Times on Ron Johnson’s Stint at JC Penney 

Stephanie Clifford, reporting for the NYT:

By early fall 2011, Mr. Johnson was tackling Penney’s pricing, which he thought used too many discounts. He ignored a study Penney had just completed on customer preferences, and gave merchants a one-sheet grid explaining what prices they could use.

“Ron’s response at the time was, just like at Apple, customers don’t always know what they want,” said an executive who advocated testing. “We’re not going to test it — we’re going to roll it out.”

17 months was not long enough to turn around a brand as deep in the hole as JC Penney, but it sounds like slumping sales forced the board’s hand.

Hell of a Name to Drop 

Mike Matas:

Really excited to have @lorenb helping my team out at Facebook.

Boston 

Such a great city. My best thoughts to everyone there.

Motion as an Aspect of Interface Design 

Julie Zhuo, product design director of Facebook Home:

It’s no secret that many of us on the Facebook Design team are avid users of QuartzComposer, a visual prototyping tool that lets you create hi-fidelity demos that look and feel like exactly what you want the end product to be. We’ve given a few talks on QC in the past, and its presence at Facebook (introduced by Mike Matas a few years back) has changed the way we design. Not only does QC make working with engineers much easier, it’s also incredibly effective at telling the story of a design.

Physics engines are becoming essential to modern user interface design.

WSJ: Microsoft Working on Smart Watch 

Of course they are.

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed. Pixate asks a simple question: What if styling apps were as simple as styling websites? Pixate does just that. It includes styling, keyframe animation, transitions, and even Twitter Bootstrap. But it’s entirely native mobile code for iOS and Android, not embedded webviews. Purchase Pixate for iOS now and you get the 1.1 beta immediately, the Android beta soon, and an Android license when it ships later this year. Use coupon code “DARING10” and save 10 percent.

On Teens and iPhones 

High school senior Alex Guyot:

Overall, Apple has simply done an amazing job at entrenching themselves in the minds and hearts of teenagers. Despite the results of any studies or articles saying otherwise, I can easily assert that the demand for iPhones from the teenage audience is in no way waning. In fact, more teens seem to want iPhones than ever before.

Piper Jaffray Grain of Salt 

Nice catch by John Moltz regarding that Piper Jaffray survey on teenagers’ interest in the iPhone.

Berlin Airport Fiasco an Embarrassment for Germans 

Kirsten Grieshaber, reporting for the AP:

German media have tracked down a list of tens of thousands of technical problems. Among them: Officials can’t even figure out how to turn the lights off. Thousands of light bulbs illuminate the gigantic main terminal and unused parking lots around the clock, a massive energy and cost drain that appears to be the result of a computer system that’s so sophisticated it’s almost impossible to operate.

“Sophisticated” is the wrong word for a system like this.

How the Banner Ad Was Born 

Brian Morrissey, Digiday:

Back in the fall of 1994, Bill Clinton was nearly midway through his first term, Ace of Base was at the top of the charts, and the Web was in its infancy. Businesses were just waking up to the power of the Internet as a commercial platform. In California, the staff at Hotwired — the Internet offshoot of Wired — contemplated how exactly to pay the writers it hired.

The Disruptive Potential of Native Advertising 

Felix Salmon:

In that sense, TV ads are truly native; the way you consume a TV ad is the same as the way you consume a TV show. Similarly, long copy print ads are native, for the same reason. And the ultimate native ads are the glossy fashion ads in Vogue: in most cases, they’re better than the editorial, and as a result, readers spend as much time with the ads — if not more — as they do with the edit. […]

In stark contrast to the increasing sophistication of web publishing, however, the overwhelming majority of web advertising is still based on standard IAB ad units which were introduced in 1996 and haven’t changed much since. We’ve all learned how to tune such things out, either mentally or technologically, with ad-blocker software. Banner ads are never engrossing, they’re never shareable, and insofar as they attract your attention they do so in an evil way, by animating or blinking or otherwise distracting you from whatever it is you are trying to read.

Eschewing traditional web advertising is the best business decision I’ve ever made.

David Pogue on Facebook Home 

David Pogue:

And there’s a more troubling question: Why?

The Facebook apps for both iPhone and Android are outstanding. They’re full-featured, beautifully designed, extremely popular. What does Home add, really? Yes, the ability to see incoming posts on your Home screen; you save one tap. But is it worth losing widgets, wallpaper, app folders and the Android status bar in the process?

Then there’s the weird new phone that comes with Home preinstalled — the HTC First. What’s the deal with this phone? It’s plastic, dull, uninteresting. It’s so generic, it should come in a plain white box that says PHONE on it.

From a practical standpoint, it seems very weird to me not to be able to check your battery life from the home screen.

See also: Om Malik’s review.

WSJ: Microsoft Plans 7-Inch Tablet 

Lorraine Luk, Shira Ovide, and Eva Dou, reporting for the WSJ:

One person familiar with Microsoft’s product plans said the 7-inch tablets weren’t part of the company’s strategy last year, but Microsoft executives realized they needed a response to the rapidly growing popularity of smaller tablets like Google Inc.’s 7-inch Nexus, which was announced last summer, and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini introduced by Apple Inc. last October.

Raise your hand if you think Surface’s problem has anything to do with screen size.

Crickets.

A Venture Capital Partnership for Google Glass Apps 

Look at those glassholes.

IRS Claims It Can Read Your Email Without a Warrant 

Declan McCullagh:

The ACLU has obtained internal IRS documents that say Americans enjoy “generally no privacy” in their e-mail messages, Facebook chats, and other electronic communications.

IDC: PC Shipments Post the Steepest Decline Ever in a Single Quarter 

People just aren’t buying trucks like they used to. Cars are the way of the future.

Piper Jaffray: 48 Percent of U.S. Teens Have an iPhone; 62 Percent Plan to Buy One 

Martin Fichter, HTC America president, back in 2011:

Always interested in opposition research, Fichter asked why these kids weren’t clutching the Apple phone (apparently Apple hasn’t totally lost the kids — MacBook Airs were hot). They told him that their parents carried iPhones and they didn’t want the gadgets their parents carried. “The iPhone wasn’t cool. I mean, would you want what your parents wanted?” he asked the audience. “I wouldn’t.”

Microsoft’s Office for iOS, Android: Not Until Fall 2014? 

Mary Jo Foley:

Also on the roadmap for fall 2014 is what’s listed as iOS/Android support for Office. One would assume this is the expected and widely rumored Office for iPad release. It could, however, be Office for iPhone and Android phone, given that it’s not listed on the roadmap as being tablet-specific.

I see what they’re thinking. Wait, and give Windows RT and 8 a chance to gain traction. But, the longer they wait to bring Office to iOS, the more it seems like Office is no longer relevant, period.

The Comic That Apple Did Not Ban But Got Blamed for Banning Anyway 

David Steinberger, ComiXology CEO:

Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.

After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

Lot of retractions due on this one. How exactly did anyone think Apple was banning a content update to an app that was already in the Apple Store?

Apple’s Ouster of AppGratis Is Just the Start of an App Store Crackdown 

John Paczkowski:

The company also worries that such apps undermine the integrity of the App Store by cluttering it with alternative storefronts. As one source described it to me, some of these discovery apps create a scenario that’s similar to walking into Nordstrom and seeing a Walmart inside.

Panic Status Board 

I’ve been beta testing this; it’s as cool and as fun as it looks. Status Board is the most Panic-y app Panic has made in years.

Microsoft, Nokia, and Oracle File Complaint With European Commission About Google Android Dominance 

Madeline Bennett:

“Google achieved its dominance in the smartphone operating system market by giving Android to device-makers for ‘free’. But in reality, Android phone makers who want to include must-have Google apps such as Maps, YouTube or Play are required to pre-load an entire suite of Google mobile services and to give them prominent default placement on the phone,” the group argued.

There’s nothing “must-have” about these apps. They’re want-to-have. The ease of producing and existence of un-Googled Android forks (Kindle Fire, all those phones in China) refutes the premise. These companies are just whining because they’re getting their asses kicked.

Google Fiber in Austin 

Milo Medin, vice president of Google Fiber:

Also, as in Kansas City, we’re going to offer customers a free Internet connection at 5 mbps for 7 years, provided they pay a one-time construction fee. We’re also planning to connect many public institutions as we build in Austin — schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. — at a gigabit for no charge. If you live in Austin and want to sign up for more information, please visit our website.

Google at its best.

What’s Really Great About Fantastical 

Dr. Drang on Fantastical’s as-you-type animations:

This is not just eye candy. The animations are providing instant feedback on how Fantastical is parsing your words and, more important, they’re teaching you Fantastical’s syntax. This is tremendously useful because, despite the wonderful flexibility of NLP, there’s always a syntax and you need to learn it if you’re going to use the product. This lack of instant, incremental feedback is what makes Siri impenetrable to some people; you have to give Siri an entire command and wait to see how she interprets it.

Lukas Mathis follows up:

Seeing interpretation errors immediately allows you to fix them in your current context. You don’t want to enter an appointment in a natural language user interface, switch to a different mode with a different user interface, and then check your appointment and fix mistakes in that mode’s UI.

Ron Johnson Out at JC Penney 

I’m with Moltz and Panzarino; they shouldn’t have hired him if they weren’t going to give him more time to turn it around.

Regular Audio Human 

Michael Lopp reviews some headphones.

Stockpiling the Nuclear Weapons of Design War 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Om Malik. We talk about Facebook Home and the potential for an eventual Facebook mobile OS, Andy Rubin’s ouster as leader of Android, Apple’s challenges with iCloud, and more.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Name Mangler — Easy-to-use OS X utility that can rename thousands of files in seconds.

  • Audible.com — 100,000 audio books, 30-day free trial.

Don Melton on Debug 

Best podcast episode I’ve heard in a while is this interview with Don Melton by Guy English and Rene Ritchie. Some great insight into the history of Safari and WebKit, and a lot of other Apple history too. (E.g., Melton reveals that Scott Forstall was the champion of the Carbon strategy, and sold the idea up the chain to Bertrand Serlet, Avie Tevanian, and Steve Jobs. I did not know that.)

On Being There First 

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft VP of corporate communications:

I tuned into the coverage of the Facebook Home event yesterday and actually had to check my calendar a few times.

Not to see if it was still April Fools Day, but to see if it was somehow still 2011.

Because the content of the presentation was remarkably similar to the launch event we did for Windows Phone two years ago.

C:\ONGRTLNS.W95

Commercial for Facebook Home 

Seems to emphasize the intrusiveness of Facebook Home, but maybe that’s just me.

NPD: Wii U Sales in Trouble 

Gamasutra:

We’re told by someone with access to the NPD’s data that sales for January were “well under” 100,000 units. By our estimates, sales were somewhere between 45,000 and 59,000 units for the month, which is lower than any of the three previous-generation home consoles sold in their worst months, with the possible exception of a recent performance by the original Wii.

Apple Removes AppGratis From App Store 

John Paczkowski:

Apple declined further comment on AppGratis’s ouster, framing the move as a standard response to guideline violations. But sources close to the company say it was more than a little troubled that AppGratis was pushing a business model that appeared to favor developers with the financial means to pay for exposure. “The App Store is intended as a meritocracy,” a source familiar with Apple’s thinking told AllThingsD.

In other words, app-discovery platforms built on paid recommendations aren’t going to fly with Apple.

Matt Drance on Facebook Home 

You hear that crumpling sound? That’s me throwing out the notes for the column I was going to write on Facebook Home. Just read Drance’s take instead.

Roger Ebert’s Final Movie Review: Terrence Malick’s ‘To the Wonder’ 

Sometimes I believe in fate.

Secure Incremental Store Framework for Core Data 

My thanks to Stoeger IT for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their Secure Incremental Store. It’s a developer framework that allows you to build data encryption right into your Core Data based apps for iOS and OS X, just by changing a few lines of code. Stoeger’s background is in banking software, so they’ve got the experience to do this sort of thing right. See for yourself by downloading it and trying it yourself. Then use coupon code “DARING20” to save 20 percent buying a license.

Microsoft’s Mobile Comeback Isn’t Happening 

The numbers just aren’t there.

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man 

Worth a re-link: Chris Jones’s profile of Ebert for Esquire back in 2010:

Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess.

See also: Ebert’s thoughts on Jones’s piece.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Invests in Henry Blodget’s Business Insider  

This makes sense somehow, I’m sure. Give me a minute, here, I’m thinking.

Nope. I got nothing.

I need a drink.

New Leaked Picture of the BlackBerry R-Series Smartphone 

Had to check the year on this one before linking it. Thought it might have been re-blogged from 2007.

Roger Ebert Wins The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest 

“Now watch how I lift my tray table to its original and upright position.”

Yoni Heisler on Facebook Home 

Yoni Heisler:

For instance, Facebook writes of its chat heads feature:

With chat heads you can keep chatting with friends even when you’re using other apps. When friends send you messages, a chat head appears with your friend’s face, so you see exactly who you’re chatting with. Messages reach you no matter what you’re doing - whether you’re checking email, browsing the web, or listening to music.

Is that a feature or a threat?

Here’s the thing about apps, and on a larger scale, technology that people love — no matter how much someone is into something, they don’t want it thrust in their face 24/7.

That’s exactly why I described Facebook Home as a “nicely-designed phone interface that I would personally never want to use”. I don’t want photos from other people on my lock screen or as my home screen wallpaper. But given that they’re putting it into the Play Store, Facebook obviously thinks many people do want this. We shall see.

Neophilia as a Form of Hiding 

Seth Godin:

But when we’re discussing our goals, our passion and the way we interact with the culture, it seems to me that what works is significantly more important than what’s new. Racing to build your organization around the latest social network tool or graphics-rendering technology permits you to spend a lot of time learning the new system and skiing in the fresh powder of the unproven, but it might just distract you from the difficult work of telling the truth, looking people in the eye and making a difference.

The same is true of design trends. Many — not all, maybe not even most, but many — of the complaints I see about iOS, for example, boil down to it being familiar. It no longer scratches our itch for new. Apple needs to scratch that itch for us eventually or someone else will, but it’s essential that they find something new and better, not merely new and different.

Sergey Brin Wearing Google Glass Driving a Pink Tesla Dressed Like a Batmobile 

Remember, smartphones are emasculating.

Ebert on Twitter 

Roger Ebert, back in 2010:

My rules for Twittering are few: I tweet in basic English. I avoid abbreviations and ChatSpell. I go for complete sentences. I try to make my links worth a click. I am not above snark, no matter what I may have written in the past. I tweet my interests, including science and politics, as well as the movies. I try to keep links to stuff on my own site down to around 5 or 10%. I try to think twice before posting.

When Cancer Took Roger Ebert’s Voice, Twitter Gave Him a New One 

Nice piece by Mathew Ingram for PaidContent.

Who’s Going to Buy the Facebook Phone? 

Smart theory from Dan Frommer.

Apple’s iMessage Encryption Trips Up Feds’ Surveillance 

Declan McCullagh and Jennifer Van Grove, reporting for CNet:

Encryption used in Apple’s iMessage chat service has stymied attempts by federal drug enforcement agents to eavesdrop on suspects’ conversations, an internal government document reveals.

An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, “it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices” even with a court order approved by a federal judge.

A win on the privacy front.

Why Facebook Home Bothers Om Malik 

Om Malik:

And most importantly it is Facebook, a company that is known to have played loose-and-easy with consumer privacy and data since its very inception, asking for forgiveness whenever we caught them with its hand in the cookie jar. I don’t think we can be that forgiving or reactive with Facebook on mobile.

Hands-On Demo of Facebook Home on HTC First 

Clean, beautiful design, and what looks to be the smoothest and most organic animation and playfulness on Android ever.

Put a Burger in Your Shell 

Best Unix tip ever.

13 Things Roger Ebert Said Better Than Anybody Else 

“What I believe is that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: curious and teachable.”

Deconstruction in the Dark 

I was there for this. So great.

Roger Ebert Dies at 70 After Battle With Cancer 

So it goes.

ComScore: Apple Widens Its Lead on Samsung in the U.S. 

Looking forward to the WSJ’s take on this report.

Facebook Home: Replacement Home Screen for Android 

Nicely-designed phone interface that I would personally never want to use.

(They’re embedding Helvetica rather than using Google’s crummy Roboto. And, looking at their messaging app, I suddenly wonder why the iPhone Messages app doesn’t use avatars. Or, perhaps the better question: why don’t iMessage accounts have avatars?)

Chromium-WebKit History 

Maciej Stachowiak, one of the leaders of Apple’s Safari/WebKit team, in an interesting Hacker News thread on the announcement of Blink:

As long as we are recapitulating history — the main reason we built a new multiprocess architecture is that Chromium’s multiprocess support was never contributed to the WebKit project. It has always lived in the separate Chromium tree, making it pretty hard to use for non-Chrome purposes. Before we wrote a single line of what would become WebKit2 we directly asked Google folks if they would be willing to contribute their multiprocess support back to WebKit, so that we could build on it. They said no.

They’ve been on separate paths for a while.

Úll 2013 

Just over a week away in Dublin Ireland:

Úll is a conference for designers and developers who want to learn about the cutting edge of mobile and desktop, native and web alike. But it’s more than that. Úll is an attempt to create a shared experience that will leave you with the will to build amazing products, knowing the tools to build them and the people to share them with.

It’s an A-list speaker lineup, including Horace Dediu, Michael Lopp, Jennifer Brook, Michael B. “Dr. Wave” Johnson, and a keynote address from yours truly. And if memory serves from last year, Dublin is warm and sunny in April. They’ve only got a handful of tickets remaining.

Apple Has to Think Different About China 

Erica Ogg, writing for GigaOM:

Apple apologies are rare. Especially ones that come from the CEO.

Alex Russell, who works on Chrome for Google:

Blink gives developers much more assurance that when they change something, it’s only affecting the things they think it’s affecting. Moving without fear is the secret of all good programming. Putting your team in a position to move with more surety and less fear is hugely enabling.

Yes, there are losses. Separating ourselves from a community of hugely talented people who have worked with us for years to build a web engine is not easy. The decision was wrenching. We’ll miss their insight, intelligence, and experience. In all honesty, we may have paid too high a price for too long because of this desire to stay close to WebKit. But whatever the “right” timing may have been, the good that will come from this outweighs the ill in my mind.

Basically, according to Russell, the WebKit project has grown unwieldy, and the Chrome team decided it was time to spring clean and cut dead weight.

Big news in web rendering from Google:

However, Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects. This has slowed down the collective pace of innovation - so today, we are introducing Blink, a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit.

How Far Is It to Mars? 

Fun website-as-infographic by David Paliwoda.

Mozilla and Samsung Collaborating on New Web Browser Rendering Engine 

Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich:

Servo is an attempt to rebuild the Web browser from the ground up on modern hardware, rethinking old assumptions along the way. This means addressing the causes of security vulnerabilities while designing a platform that can fully utilize the performance of tomorrow’s massively parallel hardware to enable new and richer experiences on the Web. To those ends, Servo is written in Rust, a new, safe systems language developed by Mozilla along with a growing community of enthusiasts.

We are now pleased to announce with Samsung that together we are bringing both the Rust programming language and Servo, the experimental web browser engine, to Android and ARM.

It would be a win for everyone if Servo did to WebKit what WebKit did to Gecko.

Twenty Covers From the U.S. Space Program 

They don’t make them like they used to. (Via Jim Coudal.)

Godspeed, Roger Ebert 

Roger Ebert, announcing a “leave of presence” to fight a recurrence of cancer:

Typically, I write over 200 reviews a year for the Sun-Times that are carried by Universal Press Syndicate in some 200 newspapers. Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles. I must slow down now, which is why I’m taking what I like to call “a leave of presence.”

His prolificacy and eloquence are a constant inspiration for me.

The Patent Protection Racket 

Joel Spolsky:

What does this sound like? Yes, it’s a textbook case of a protection racket. It is organized crime, plain and simple. It is an abuse of the legal system, an abuse of the patent system, and a moral affront.

Exhibit A: Lodsys, patent troll extortionists extraordinaire, who today filed nine lawsuits against companies ranging in size from Disney to PCalc developer James Thomson’s TLA Systems. Their claim: a patent on in-app purchases.

‘Count Me in With the Second Group’ 

My review of the original iPad:

The funny thing is, the iPad, in raw CPU terms, is a far slower machine than a modern Mac. But the iPad is running a lightweight OS and lightweight apps. It’s like a slower runner with a lighter backpack who can win a race against a faster runner wearing a heavier backpack. Thus, many of the things you do are faster, or at least feel faster (which is what matters), on the iPad than the Mac.

2010 iPad Claim Chowder 

Speaking of history, the original iPad went into customer hands three years ago today. Nice time to review the initial reactions. Some real gems in here.

The Untold Story Behind Apple’s $13,000 Operating System 

Fun bit of Apple history uncovered by Daniel Terdiman for CNet.

SEC Approves Using Facebook, Twitter for Company Disclosures 

Bloomberg:

U.S. companies will now be able to post their earnings on Twitter or update their status on Facebook as long as investors have been told in advance where to look.

Stems from that Reed Hastings Netflix thing back in December.

‘Has To’ 

This tweet by WSJ reporter Jessica Lessin epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the Journal’s coverage of Apple of late:

New iPhone heads into production soon amid a new reality: Apple has to act more like Samsung if it wants to thrive.

Here’s the story. Now, if it’s true that Apple is heading into production on a new iPhone in the next few months to go on sale in July or thereabouts, it would be a change, insofar as each previous new iPhone has debuted a year or longer after the previous one. And if they unveil another new iPhone this calendar year — a lower-cost model — that would be an even bigger change.

But none of that is exactly Samsung-like, strategically. Samsung’s U.S. website currently lists 145 different cell phones. And Apple did the exact same thing with the iPad last year — a new top-of-the-line model just six months after the iPad 3, and a second lower-cost model in the iPad Mini.

As for “has to”, here are the last two sentences of the report:

Last year, Apple captured nearly two-thirds of the profits in the industry, up from 62% in 2011. Samsung’s share rose to about a third from 19%.

Poor beleaguered Apple, right?

The Man Taking on Google and Bing 

Nice profile of DuckDuckGo and founder Gabriel Weinberg by Max Slater-Robins for Neowin:

But what sets DuckDuckGo apart from Bing or Google? According to Weinberg, it’s simple: Privacy. DuckDuckGo promises to never track a user’s clicks, or use previous searchers to aid current results. They describe the practice of targeting results based on past searches as placing a user in a “bubble,” where everything is controlled based on what you want to see (e.g. if you visit Fox News frequently, results for Fox News will rank higher than those for MSNBC).

The Latest Apple Scuttlebutt 

Smart thread on Branch. Two nuggets from yours truly:

  • What I’ve heard: iOS 7 is running behind, and engineers have been pulled from OS X 10.9 to work on it. (Let me know if you’ve heard this song before.)

  • Regarding Jony Ive and iOS: Word on the street is that iOS engineers with carry privileges all have some sort of polarizing filter on their iPhone displays, such that it greatly decreases viewing angles, thus making it difficult for observers to see the apparently rather significant system-wide UI overhaul.

And regarding that system-wide UI overhaul, I hear the same thing as Rene Ritchie: “Ive’s work is apparently making many people really happy, but will also apparently make rich-texture-loving designers sad.”

Amazon Hires the Aptly-Named Charlie Kindel 

Todd Bishop:

Charlie Kindel, the Seattle tech veteran who left his job as a Microsoft Windows Phone general manager in 2011 to join the startup world, has now been hired by Amazon.com as the director of an undisclosed project inside the company.

“I’m building a new team going after a totally new area for Amazon. I’m hiring cloud and mobile developers and testers, program managers, and product managers, he writes on his LinkedIn profile, which describes the position as director of “something secret.”

Interesting, to say the least.

Post-Android, Andy Rubin Has Been Busy on Facebook 

And utterly silent on Google Plus. Read into that what you will.

Nicholas Carlson on Andy Rubin’s Ouster From Android 

Interesting piece by Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider:

The week after the news came out, we spent a few days in the Bay Area, talking with ex-Googlers and other plugged-in sources. We asked each of them about Rubin’s sudden demotion. […]

What we heard is that Larry Page doesn’t mind employing gruff types… so long as they serve his purpose. Page must have decided that the way Rubin was running Android no longer served his purpose, and that an Android run by Sundar Pichai would. So the question becomes: What does Pichai bring to Android that Rubin does not?

Some interesting speculation. The gossip echoes what I’ve heard, which is that this leadership change was not amicable. Page was “sick of the fighting” is the way I heard it. And the thing is, Sundar Pichai was the guy Rubin fought with the most — look no further than the curiously long time it took to make Chrome the default Android web browser, despite the fact that its predecessor, the plainly-named Browser, was nowhere near as good an app. Pichai may well be the last person Rubin would have wanted as his successor.

The part of this gossip that doesn’t add up, of course, is that, as announced, Rubin isn’t leaving Google, but instead is staying within the company to start something new. That doesn’t jibe with Rubin having had his baby wrested away and turned over to his archrival. So take it all with a grain of salt for now.

‘Finding Dory’ Sequel to ‘Finding Nemo’ Set for 2015 

On the one hand, I worry that Pixar is making too many sequels. On the other, I’d love to see another Incredibles movie.

Internet Jackass Day 

April Fool’s Day gags from Google: half a dozen.

April Fool’s Day gags from Apple: zero.

I suspect one’s preference for which company they admire more breaks strongly along the lines of how one feels about the above stats.

Race to the Pennant 

Great new iOS app for opening day.

Aereo Wins Major Court Battle Against TV Networks 

The Verge:

Broadcasters argued that unlike Cablevision, Aereo lacked the proper license to operate — but the court ruled that the license doesn’t matter since Aereo customers are streaming their own unique copies to themselves. The remarkably tech-savvy decision for Aereo today clears major legal difficulties for the web-television broadcaster, and will force TV networks to win an appeal either in front of the full Second Circuit or Supreme Court if they want to shut the streaming service down. “The Second Circuit stomped the broadcasters pretty hard,” said The Verge’s Nilay Patel.

I would love to try this service. What a great loophole they’ve found.

Sapphire to Replace Gorilla Glass? 

Kevin Bullis, writing for MIT Technology Review:

Sapphire, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, probably won’t ever be as cheap as Gorilla Glass, the durable material from Corning that’s used to make screens on iPhones and other smartphones. A Gorilla Glass display costs less than $3, while a sapphire display would cost about $30. But that could fall below $20 in a couple of years thanks to increased competition and improving technology, says Eric Virey, an analyst for the market research firm Yole Développement. And since sapphire performs better than glass, that price could make it cheap enough to compete, he says.

Sapphire is harder than any other natural material except diamond; by some measures, it’s three times stronger than Gorilla Glass, and it is also about three times more scratch resistant

I’d pay $30 for that in a heartbeat.

Tim Cook Apologizes for Chinese iPhone Warranty Policies 

Erica Ogg, with a Google translation of Cook’s open letter:

Turns out that a good way to get Apple CEO Tim Cook’s attention is a well-orchestrated media campaign against the company. More than a week after the first complaints about Apple’s customer service and repair policies hit the Chinese media, Cook has issued an apology and detailed response to concerns over Apple’s repair and warranty policies in the country.

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