Linked List: January 2013

Brian Lam on the New BlackBerry Phones 

Brian Lam:

You should not buy this phone unless you have emotional and cultural reasons to love Blackberry, or some arcane enterprise reason I will not pretend to understand. Tim Stevens agrees, saying, “I think the Z10 is a really nice device, and I think that BB10 is a really nice OS. The problem is it just isn’t a standout in any regard. But, and this is an important but, I think BB10 will make those stalwart BlackBerry fans very happy, and will keep them faithful.”

I don’t mean to be dismissive of Blackberry’s efforts as a company but I know where my loyalties are, and it’s not with android or apple or any company. It boils down to this–I would never ever tell anyone I care about to consider these phones. So, that’s what I think about Blackberry’s new stuff.

“Good enough” is not good enough when you’re way behind. You need to make a great leap ahead to make a big comeback.

Nintendo Cuts Wii U Sales Projections 

Speaking of the console guys getting rolled:

But Nintendo doesn’t think it can keep that momentum up. Back in October, the company said it expected to sell 5.5 million Wii U units through the end of March. That number has now been cut down to 4 million, meaning Nintendo expects to sell fewer than a million systems worldwide in the first three months of 2013.

Gabe Newell: Steam Box’s Biggest Threat Isn’t Consoles, It’s Apple 

Griffin McElroy, writing for Polygon:

“The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform,” Newell said. “I think that there’s a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?”

Can you imagine making this argument — that Apple could “easily” beat the console systems — five years ago?

Chinese Hackers Infiltrate New York Times Computers 

Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.

After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.

The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Crazy story, enough to turn anyone into a paranoid.

‘iCloud, App Stores, and Other Things to Fear: Has Apple Forgotten Power Users?’ 

Macworld Expo starts tomorrow, and I’ll be appearing on this panel at 1p, along with Paul Kafasis, Rene Ritchie, Matthew Panzarino, and Lex Friedman.

BlackBerry Names Alicia Keys ‘Global Creative Director’ 

This strategy has worked wonders for Polaroid.

BlackBerry Announces the End of BlackBerry 

John Herman, BuzzFeed:

BlackBerry 10 is a all-or-nothing play, a fact emphasized by RIM’s decision to rebrand as BlackBerry — unlike Microsoft, which has cash cows in Windows and Office and enterprise, the Canadian company has nothing else to fall back on. This is it.

Almost every BlackBerry review will end the same way: The phone is good, but is this too little, too late?

To understand where BlackBerry stands right now is to understand that this is a rhetorical question. It would have been too little, too late two years ago.

I would love to see BlackBerry pull this out. (And I even like calling the company BlackBerry instead of “RIM”.) But if Windows Phone has failed to get traction after starting two years ago, how will BlackBerry 10 get traction starting now?

The optimistic scenario is that they’ve still got a lot of fans out there who want to buy a BlackBerry. I don’t think the math adds up on that, though. Smartphone market share comparisons are irrelevant, because back when BlackBerry had its peak market share, there were far fewer total smartphones being sold. Here’s an article from their 2008 heyday announcing a record quarter, including the addition of “well over 2 million net subscriber accounts added in a single quarter for the first time”. 2 million new customers in a quarter doesn’t even register as a blip in today’s market. Selling to their old customers who’ve left for iPhone or Android isn’t enough. They need new first-time smartphone buyers. Good luck.

Netflix’s Goal: To Become HBO Faster Than HBO Can Become Netflix 

Nancy Hass profiles Netflix for GQ. Talking to Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos:

He hopes to make at least five new shows a year, he says, leaning back on a sofa in his Beverly Hills office in an anonymous-looking suite. His dream project: a Netflix series created by Warren Beatty. “He’s great in long form,” Sarandos says. “His only problems have been when he’s constrained.” Sarandos is also warming up Jodie Foster, who directed an episode of Orange Is the New Black. “The goal,” he says, “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” His seductive pitch to today’s new breed of TV auteurs: a huge audience, real money, no meddlesome executives (“I’m not going to give David Fincher notes”), no pilots (television’s great sucking hole of money and hope), and a full-season commitment.

(Via The Verge.)

The Amazing Amazon 

Matt Yglesias:

That’s because Amazon, as best I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers. The shareholders put up the equity, and instead of owning a claim on a steady stream of fat profits, they get a claim on a mighty engine of consumer surplus. Amazon sells things to people at prices that seem impossible because it actually is impossible to make money that way.

A Lip Reader Deciphers the Umpire-Manager Arguments of 2012 

So great. But I love this interchange between Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly and umpire Tom Hallion:

DM: No, it’s only to wake up, wake the fuck up!

TH: You can’t say that, Don!

DM: I can’t say ‘wake up’?

TH: You didn’t say that.

DM: [Obscured] What’s the difference in ‘wake the fuck up’ and ‘wake up’?

‘Who Needs a 128 GB iPad?’ 

Todd Haselton:

So I guess I’m curious. Who really does need a 128GB iPad, aside from those who just have tons of videos, music and photos?

I think Apple’s PR announcing it answers that. Professional users:

iPad continues to have a significant impact on business with virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploying or testing iPad. Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad. The over 10 million iWork users, and customers who rely on other incredible apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system, or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.

Back to Haselton:

I think most consumers will be better off either buying a full featured laptop, such as the MacBook Air, or for portability, the Surface with Windows 8 Pro.

For some users, sure. But a lot of people — most people, even? — would rather have an iPad than a MacBook Air, no matter the price difference. People like working on the iPad not because it’s cheaper (or at least not only), but because, for them, it is better. (And specifically for people who are looking for a device with more storage capacity than a 64 GB iPad, the Surface Pro seems like a poor choice.)

Anyway, the fact that Haselton thought to write this makes me even more convinced that Apple’s timing of this announcement is no coincidence.

500px Returns to the iOS App Store, Now Rated 17+ 

Darrell Etherington:

Toronto’s 500px got its popular photo sharing iPhone app back on the iTunes App Store today, following a takedown that Apple said stemmed from multiple user complaints about pornographic material. The app returns with an age-gate warning, advising that the content in the app is for 17+ audiences, and also adds a new “Report Photo” button to help users quickly tag things they find offensive for potential removal from the network.

The app still has a category for “Nude” photos for logged in users, however, which is an impressive allowance on Apple’s part. Perhaps the company is realizing that it should be rethinking how its no-porn policy works in the wake of Vine’s unfortunate “Editor’s Pick” incident, and the general porn problem that network faces.

Or perhaps nothing has changed, and 500px could have avoided the problem by rating the app 17+ from the start. I’m no fan of capricious App Store rejections or censorship, but the hubbub over Apple’s removal of 500px from the store has struck me as misguided. The app has a built-in “Nude” category — the surprise to me is that it was ever not rated 17+.

I do have a few questions for Apple, though: If the rating was the only problem, could Apple have not just changed the rating and left the app available in the store? Was the new “Report Photo” feature essential to 500px getting back into the store?

Amazon Misses Estimates on Earnings, Revenue, and Guidance 

And the stock has jumped up 10 percent after hours. I need a drink.

Loose Grip, All Right 

Poornima Gupta and Noel Randewich, writing for Reuters, “Apple’s Grip on Carriers, Suppliers Loosens”:

Asked whether carriers are now in a better position to negotiate lower prices with smartphone makers such as Apple, Fran Shammo, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, said having four strong platforms - Apple, Android, Windows and BlackBerry - is leading to more competitive pricing.

“The more operating systems we have to compete in this area the better the competition,” he told Reuters.

Yet Verizon’s just-reported quarter showed the iPhone accounting for 63 percent of all smartphone activations, outselling Android about 2-to-1. Those numbers are higher than ever for Verizon. 84 percent of smartphones sold by AT&T were iPhones. And Reuters is saying these numbers show Apple is “losing its grip”?

Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium 

Microsoft:

The new offering includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications; works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs; and comes with extra SkyDrive storage and Skype calling — all for US$99.99 for an annual subscription, the equivalent of US$8.34 per month.

That’s a good deal, and the student deal is even better: $80 for a four-year subscription — just $20 per year.

(Why does their video try to get me to install Silverlight? They have an HTML5 H.264 alternative, because that’s what I get on iOS. Why not serve that version to everyone?)

Surface Pro Available Storage Space 

Ben Gilbert, Engadget:

That 64 GB, $800 Microsoft Surface Pro you plan on buying next week? Maybe you should temper your storage expectations a bit, as the base model actually only allots 23 GB of that space for use. The larger 128 GB version offers a bit more space at 83 GB, but is still losing a massive 45 GB of space to the full Windows 8 operating system and various included applications.

There’s no such thing as “no compromise”. Every design decision involves some element of compromise.

Regarding the Idea of an iPod Touch ‘3G’ as Apple’s Low-Cost iPhone 

The Verge forums, “Crunkfish” makes a suggestion that I see on Twitter and in my email frequently: that Apple should make an iPod Touch with cellular networking.

It’s a fine idea, but without carrier support it wouldn’t work, and I don’t think any major carrier would support it. Data-only connections and VOIP for all “phone calls” are surely the future, but they are not the present.

Records From Miami ‘Aging’ Clinic Implicate Major Sports Stars in PED Scandal 

Blockbuster report from Tim Elfrink of The Miami New Times:

The names are all included in an extraordinary batch of records from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic tucked into a two-story office building just a hard line drive’s distance from the UM campus. They were given to New Times by an employee who worked at Biogenesis before it closed last month and its owner abruptly disappeared. The records are clear in describing the firm’s real business: selling performance-enhancing drugs, from human growth hormone (HGH) to testosterone to anabolic steroids.

Interviews with six customers and two former employees corroborate the tale told by the patient files, the payment records, and the handwritten notebooks kept by the clinic’s chief, 49-year-old Anthony Bosch.

Among the implicated: the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.

Update: A-Rod denies the whole thing.

iOS vs. Android Version Adoption 

While we’re comparing iOS and Android, Doug Hamlin compares version adoption numbers:

Meanwhile, I was reminded via Timehop yesterday how much I hated the Android Honeycomb emulator two years ago, which got me wondering where Android version (specifically that two-year-old Honeycomb) adoption sits. Turns out, according to Google’s own numbers, that Gingerbread, the version prior to Honeycomb is the undisputed leader of the market with a 47.4 percent share.

Nothing new here, but an inconvenient truth for the “Android is winning” crowd.

Akamai Mobile Browser Stats 

Mikey Campbell, reporting for AppleInsider:

According to Akamai, during the third quarter of 2012 there were more Google Android Webkit browser users accessing content over cellular data networks than those using Apple’s Safari. However, by expanding the data to include all networks, not just those designated as “cellular,” Safari was shown to have dominated the mobile browser market with slightly more than a 60 percent share. Using this same scope, Android users accounted for about 22 to 23 percent of the total.

So Android devices outsell iOS, but they’re used for cellular networking about evenly, and iOS devices are used for Wi-Fi so much more than Android that, in terms of overall network consumption, iOS devices consume almost triple what Android devices do. Still haven’t seen a reasonable theory explaining this from the “Android is winning/the Apple bubble is popping” camp.

Blu-Ray Claim Chowder: Shaw Wu 

Speaking of Blu-ray, here’s some five-year-old claim chowder:

In a report issued to clients early Thursday morning, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu cited sources who say the Cupertino-based Mac maker, which already occupies a seat on the Blu-ray consortium, is set to begin shipping some of its computers with support for the next-generation DVD format. […]

However, Wu hedged his bets somewhat, saying there is “a smaller chance Apple may use a combo Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive to ensure full compatibility and not get involved in the format wars.”

Philips Exits Consumer Electronics Business 

Robert Van den Oever, reporting for the WSJ’s The Source:

“Our consumer lifestyle business was margin dilutive to the group, so it was time to decide to move away from consumer electronics,” said Frans van Houten, Philips’s chief executive. “Since we have online entertainment, people do not buy Blu-ray and DVD players anymore,” Mr. Van Houten said.

Steve Jobs, back in 2008:

“Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt.”

‘Why the Imminent Release of a 128 GB iPad Is Unlikely’ 

Didn’t take long for this claim chowder from Adrian Kingsley-Hughes to cook.

That Didn’t Take Long: Apple Announces 128 GB iPad 4 

$799 for the Wi-Fi model, $929 for cellular. Timing-wise, note that Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which goes on sale in a week, starts at $899 for 64 GB model. That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, tech-spec-wise, but I think half the problem Microsoft faces is that most people don’t understand the difference between Surface and Surface Pro.

Oxo Responds to Rip-Off Accusation From Competitor 

File under “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.

HP to Announce Its First Chromebook Next Month? 

Could be a worrisome trend for Microsoft.

Courier Prime 

John August, introducing a new typeface he commissioned from Alan Dague-Greene:

Today, we’re introducing a new typeface designed for screenwriters. It’s called Courier Prime.

It’s Courier, just better.

Better numerals and punctuation (e.g. the parentheses), real italics, a better bold weight. Oh, and it’s free of charge.

iOS 6 Adoption 

From Apple’s PR this morning, announcing iOS 6.1:

“iOS 6 is the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, and with nearly 300 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices on iOS 6 in just five months, it may be the most popular new version of an OS in history,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

300 million devices in five months seems pretty good.

Roger Moore on the Best James Bond 

Speaking of James Bond and Roger Moore, Glen Levy has a nice interview with him for Time.

James Bond Portraits by Ross Burt 

Terrific work; all six are flattering, but I think I like the Roger Moore one best.

Chrome OS in the Real World 

Ian Betteridge:

Even if Chrome OS devices had accounted for 10% of all computers sold in the last year (which no one would claim, as they’re not even available in many markets), that would still amount to a tiny proportion of the total number of installed computers worldwide. Neither shipments nor sales tell you the story of installed base, and installed base is what visitors to a site is a measure of.

I should have been clearer. When I pointed out that Chrome OS accounts for just a wee sliver — 0.04 percent — of DF web traffic, I didn’t mean to imply that that number should correlate to monthly sales. I was simply pointing out that if Chrome OS devices are starting to catch on, it’s still early days.

Betteridge points to a Dixons employee who claims Chrome OS devices (well, to be precise, “Google products”) account for 10 percent of their notebook sales in stores with dedicated “Chrome Zones”.

‘Design Cannot Cover the Mistakes of Bad Management, but Styling Can’ 

Massimo Vignelli on American Airlines’s new identity.

A 128 GB iPad 4? 

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac:

With developers finding code in the soon-to-be-released iOS 6.1 that points to 128GB iOS devices, and with recent findings of 128GB references in Apple’s recent iTunes 11 release, speculation naturally points to Apple releasing a 128GB iPad in the very near future.

Seems a little weird, insofar as I could not recall Apple adding a new storage capacity midway through the product cycle of an iOS device. But I had forgotten about the 16 GB original iPhone and 32 GB original iPod Touch, both introduced in February 2008. (I had also forgotten that the iPod Touch used to have larger storage capacity than the iPhone.)

If this 128 GB iPad 4 thing is true, I take it to imply that the iPad 5 isn’t coming until later in the year, and that this is a way for Apple to make a little news, keep the lineup fresh, and raise the bar on tablet storage capacities.

J.J. Abrams to Direct New Star Wars Movie 

I think he’s a good pick. Two of my favorite aspects of the original trilogy, both sorely lacking in the second trilogy, are camaraderie and mystery. Abrams does both those things well. To that point, as well, is good news on the writing front: the screenplay is being written by Michael Arndt, who wrote the excellent (and camaraderie-rich) Toy Story 3.

(The worrisome part of this announcement isn’t who Lucasfilm has chosen to make the movie, but the “kick-started with dynamite” headline. Who wrote that?)

Nilay Patel Reviews the Pebble Smartwatch 

Lots of potential, not much there yet. Interesting contrast between the iOS and Android experiences.

Acer and Chrome OS, Sitting in a Tree 

Tim Cuplan and Debra Mao, reporting for Bloomberg:

Chrome-based models accounted for 5 percent to 10 percent of Acer’s U.S. shipments since being released there in November, President Jim Wong said in an interview at the Taipei-based company’s headquarters. That ratio is expected to be sustainable in the long term and the company is considering offering Chrome models in other developed markets, he said.

Sounds like Chrome OS is starting to get some traction, but I do wonder if actual sales match the “shipments”. Looking at my stats here at DF, Chrome OS accounted for 0.04 percent of traffic over the last four weeks.

“Windows 8 itself is still not successful,” said Wong, whose company posted a 28 percent drop in fourth-quarter shipments from a year earlier. “The whole market didn’t come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that’s a simple way to judge if it is successful or not.”

Gone are the days when PC OEMs feared Microsoft’s wrath.

iOS 6.1 Released 

Minor update to Apple TV, too.

Imagining a 5-Inch iPhone 

Rene Ritchie:

If Apple considers a screen size of 4.5- or 4.8- instead of 5-inches, the basic premises stay the same. Either way, if Apple stays at 2x, interface elements wouldn’t be blown up as much at 4.5- or 4.8- as they would at 5-inches, nor would density decrease as much. At 4.5-inches the current 1136 × 640 display would be 290ppi, and at 4.8-inches it would be 272ppi. 3x would be 435ppi or 408ppi. 4x would be a silly 560ppi or 543ppi.

3x or 4x isn’t happening any time soon. The most likely scenario for a bigger-display iPhone would be to keep the same pixel count as the iPhone 5 (1136 × 640) and use the 264 ppi density of the retina iPad. My arithmetic is a little different than Ritchie; I got 4.9 inches diagonal for a 264 ppi 1136 × 640 display.

Think about what Apple did when they made the iPad Mini. They kept the pixel dimensions the same as the non-retina 9.7-inch iPads, and used a display with the exact same pixel density (163 ppi) as previous devices (the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and 3GS). From an operations standpoint, they’d be re-using a component they’re already familiar with. From a software standpoint, existing apps would just run, and everything would just look bigger on screen.

I haven’t heard even a whisper about such a device actually being in the works (but Jeremy Horwitz has), but if it is, that’s how I think Apple would do it.

‘Mr. Market Is Not Impressed With Apple (And Why He’s Wrong)’ 

Jesse Felder:

We all know that the market is a discounting mechanism so what really matters is what Apple does over the next twelve months and beyond. The current valuation suggests to me that investors believe the company is already in decline like Microsoft and Radio Shack, as I mentioned above. Think about that: even if Microsoft were to acquire Radio Shack to have a retail presence to compete with Apple stores would you take that bet? Not a chance. There’s no way in hell those two could come close to generating an 18% sales gain let alone free cash flow margin of 28.8% like Apple just did in this last quarter. (Microsoft just announced a 2.7% sales gain and 16% free cash flow margin, in fact. Radio Shack’s numbers are worse.)

‘Buy High, Sell Low’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring very special guest Marco Arment. Topics include Apple’s quarterly earnings and resulting stock price dive, Marco’s new podcast, and the original cocktail, the Old-Fashioned.

Brought to you by two outstanding sponsors:

  • Tonx — The best coffee in the world, delivered right to your door.
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Typekit 

My thanks to Adobe for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Typekit.

“The easiest way to use real fonts on your website” — short and sweet, that was the entirety of their sponsorship message for the feed. It’s hard to top that, but I will point out that in addition to being easy to use, Typekit also offers an unbelievably wide and deep catalog of great typefaces to choose from.

Report: Aaron Swartz Didn’t Face Prison Until Feds Took Over Case 

Declan McCullagh, writing for CNet:

State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.’”

We all know Ortiz isn’t the only prosecutor to act like this. But a prosecutor “sending a message” is an outrage. It is a plain violation of the accused’s rights for their punishment to be increased because of people unrelated to their case. The more I learn about this case, the more heartbroken and furious I get.

HTC Mini: A Second, Small Phone to Make Up for the Awkwardness of Its Big-Ass 5-Inch Smartphones 

They headed off in the direction of stupid and came all the way around the world back to dumb phones. All this thing needs is a telescoping antenna.

Marissa Mayer on Yahoo and the Shift to Mobile Computing 

On stage interview at the World Economic Forum with Marissa Mayer by Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker. Very smart take on where Yahoo needs to go. (Sure seems like a tighter partnership with Apple could be mutually beneficial to both companies.)

Parent Company CBS Bans CNet From Reviewing Aereo 

This is untenable. CBS either needs to give CNet editorial independence or sell them to someone who will. As it stands, they’re grinding CNet’s reputation and brand into worthless powder.

Original Mac Lego Model 

I’d buy this kit in a heartbeat.

Nobody Goes There Anymore, It’s Too Crowded 

Why Scott McNulty dreads visiting an Apple Store:

Given the crazy amount of foot traffic Apple stores get, someone decided that the designated cash registers had to go. Now any Apple Store employee on the store floor can check you out (plus there’s an app for that). It’s an amazing idea—in theory.

Here’s the thing, though: All the Apple Store employees are overwhelmed helping the myriad folks browsing and asking questions. When I walk in with a mission to purchase a Lighting cable, I must push my way through the crowds to the corner of the store and grab the cable. Now the fun begins: I need to track down an Apple store employee who isn’t engaged with a customer. In the past I’ve actually abandoned the whole thing and left the store without buying the cable.

Ideally, you wouldn’t have to wait. But if you do have to wait, it would be better to wait in a proper line.

Update: Lots of readers emailing to point out that you can check yourself out for most items, using Apple’s iPhone app. That is cool, but I don’t think it’s a solution for everyone. What percentage of customers (even just counting only the ones who already own an iPhone) even know you can do this?

And the “How do I pay for this?” question is just one aspect of McNulty’s main point: the stores are just too crowded and busy.

On the Implications of Amazon’s Low Margin Strategy 

Eugene Wei:

A lot of folks, especially Apple supporters, like to characterize Amazon as irrational, even crazy, for its willingness to live with low margins. It must be frustrating to compete with a company like that. But to call their strategy irrational or to believe they want to be a non-profit is a dangerous misreading of what they’re all about.

I, for one, don’t think there’s anything irrational about Amazon. I admire them greatly, and think they’re a devilishly clever company. Who I think is irrational are the Amazon investors who support Amazon’s continuing lack of profits.

‘Any Color But Purple’ 

And speaking of my friends appearing on Mule Radio podcasts, Jim Coudal is on the latest episode of Glenn Fleishman’s The New Disruptors.

‘Running Down the Street, Screaming at People’ 

Speaking of Kottke, he’s the guest on the latest episode of Dave Wiskus and Lex Friedman’s Unprofessional.

McWorld 

Jeb Boniakowski, writing at The Awl, has an amazing idea:

I figure if a bunch of nerds on Facebook can get Betty White onto “Saturday Night Live,” together we can make my McDream a McReality. I would like to introduce you to a concept I call “McWorld.”

The details of how I imagine McWorld have changed over the years, but there are a few constants:

  • McWorld is a giant McDonald’s flagship store.

  • McWorld serves food from all the different McDonald’s menus from around the world.

  • McWorld is located in Times Square.

Via Kottke, who is totally sold on the idea.

Louie Mantia on App Icons 

Louie Mantia:

Instead of focusing on what your app does, focus on what your app is. This will help your personal brand show through, which will be more unique and more recognizable.

Apple CFO Jerry Seinfeld Addresses the Shareholders 

Who better to give the last word on Apple’s quarter?

84 Percent of AT&T Smartphones Last Quarter Were iPhones 

Dark times for Apple.

The Law of Large Numbers 

Also worth a re-link, this year-ago piece by James B. Stewart in the NYT:

If Apple’s share price grew even 20 percent a year for the next decade, which is far below its current blistering pace, its $500 billion market capitalization would be more than $3 trillion by 2022. That is bigger than the 2011 gross domestic product of France or Brazil.

Put another way, to increase its revenue by 20 percent, Apple has to generate additional sales of more than $9 billion in its next fourth quarter. A company with only $1 billion in sales has to come up with just another $200 million.

Update: Yes, yes, what Stewart is talking about is not theLaw of Large Numbers”. But terminology aside, his piece is looking prescient.

‘When They Should Have Gone for Market Share, They Went for Profits.’ 

Worth a re-link, regarding the iPad Mini and Apple’s profit margins.

‘Apple’s Profit vs. Amazon’s Promise’ 

Mark Gimein, writing for The Market Now:

Since 2003, the first year in which Amazon earned a profit, through the end of 2011, Amazon has reported a total of $5 billion in earnings. Amazon has not yet reported results for this year; it lost money in the last quarter, but is expected to turn a profit for the year.

Think of it this way: if Bezos had started the company himself, still owned all of it, and had taken out every penny in profit, his bank balance would be less than one-quarter of what his shares are worth. Or think of it another way: Apple’s profit for the last quarter alone is well over twice Amazon’s profit over its entire entire existence.

Apple’s Stock Price Has Always Been Irrational 

From a year-old piece by Abdel Ibrahim at The TechBlock:

The stock market sell-off of 2007-2009 bears out this cautionary approach. During that period, Apple released its original iPhone, followed by the iPhone 3G, the iPod touch, the MacBook Air, and a variety of updates to their Mac line. They were seeing record earnings quarter after quarter, not missing a single beat, yet the stock dropped from roughly $202 to $78 in that period. Why? Because stocks react to people, not analysts.

In hindsight, everyone should be able to agree that this was crazy.

Via email, here’s the take from DF reader Gregory Ley:

As Apple grew like crazy the past 10 years it never traded like a “growth stock”. Always had low valuations (infamously low P/E ratios relative to peers, especially Amazon). Now that growth is somewhat slowing (profit-wise, at least… not revenue or units — those are still growing +20% year over year) the stock is “falling back to earth” except it was never overvalued to begin with. That’s the best explanation I can come up with. AAPL, the stock, has almost become disassociated with Apple, the company. The same craziness that seems to overvalue Amazon also undervalues Apple.

Apple’s Implicit Earnings Forecast for Next Quarter: A Drop 

Smart analysis by Mark Rogowsky at Forbes:

A lot of people are confused and think Apple didn’t provide EPS guidance. They most certainly did, but it requires math. Fortunately, I’ve done the math for you. If you take all the numbers above and assume the share count stays constant (it actually fell by amount 1 million shares over the past quarter), you get a range between $9.25 and $10.50 per share.

Add it all up and you get higher expenses, much lower gross margin and not enough revenue to keep earnings per share from falling from last year’s $12.30.

So the predictions that the just-reported holiday quarter would be Apple’s first year-over-year earnings drop since 2003 were wrong, but next quarter — at least by Apple’s guidance, which they now claim is what they really expect, not sandbagged — the range of Apple’s revenue guidance works out to $9.something billion in net income. Even at the high end of that range, close to $10 billion, that would be a significant drop from the year ago Q2 2012’s $11.6B.

Rogowsky’s explanation for the drop is compelling:

Clearly, iPad is significantly more seasonal, but it’s also becoming a much less expensive product thanks to the popular Mini. If you compare to last year, iPad unit sales are up 50% in the holiday quarter. If you take them down sequentially by the 20% seen last year, you’d lose about 4.5 million units at $469 — a revenue shortfall of about $2 billion between the quarters. But if you also take down the average price another $25, you lose another $4.5 billion in revenue (over 18 million iPads).

Update: David Barnard points out that Rogowsky’s math doesn’t add up there: $25 times 18 million units comes to $450 million, not $4.5 billion. “Sammy the Walrus IV” argues it’s simply about margins: last year Apple’s margin for Q2 was 47 percent; their forecast for Q2 this year is 38 percent.

The Apple Paradox 

Benedict Evans:

As an investor, therefore, are you buying a company with high growth and continued high profits, slowing growth and the same high profits, or the same growth and (due to cheaper products) lower profit? It really isn’t clear. More cynically, this is a catch 22: high numbers mean saturation (bad), and low numbers mean slowing growth (bad).

Finally, Apple has got to the point where all news is bad news.

The paradoxical demands of investors: they want Apple to add a new lower-cost iPhone and think the iPad Mini is too expensive, but, they don’t want Apple’s profit margins to drop. Can’t have it both ways.

‘Go for Broke, Use Up Everything You Have, and We’ll Deal With It Later’ 

Speaking of Mad Men, season six starts with a two-hour movie April 7.

Microsoft Has a Heart 

“Child of the ’90s” — a nostalgic, fun ad from Microsoft for IE.

Via email, one DF reader compared it to Don Draper’s epic “Carousel” pitch on Mad Men. I wouldn’t go that far — this isn’t that good — but in that pitch Draper describes nostalgia as “delicate, but potent”, and I think that does apply here. (Maybe I’m one decade too old for this to really hit home, though.)

Tim Cook on Apple’s Quarter 

Excellent, as usual: Macworld’s consolidated transcript of Tim Cook’s statements during the analyst conference call.

‘Apple’s Semi-Soft Quarter in Charts’ 

Dan Frommer charts Apple’s quarterly numbers.

No Guidance for Earnings Next Quarter 

Brian Chaffin, writing at The Mac Observer, points to some actual disappointing news in Apple’s results today:

Accordingly, Apple offered guidance of revenue between $41 and $43 billion. Consensus estimates for revenue were sitting at 45.4 billion. In the old days, Apple’s guidance of $41-$43 billion would have been perceived as being roughly in line with that consensus number, but in the new era of a “we’re not sandbagging” Apple, that represents a guidance miss. […]

Notably — and this could also be having an after-hours affect on $AAPL — Apple didn’t offer guidance for earnings.

I wonder about the lack of guidance on earnings too. Revenue growth was just fine for the just-reported quarter — it’s earnings that disappointed. Update: Apple didn’t mention earnings, but given the numbers they did provide, you can work it out, and it’s a drop.

Dan Lyons on Apple’s Quarter 

I wanted an Apple bear’s take on today’s results and the market reaction. I think Dan Lyon’s piece for ReadWrite was actually pretty reasonable. No hysterics, no grave dancing. But it kind of falls apart at the end:

Still, it seems Apple has hit a wall. It’s not just about sales and earnings, but also about innovation. It’s been years since Apple did something truly revolutionary. Rumors of Apple getting into the TV market continue to swirl, but so far it’s all just rumors.

iPod, iPhone, iPad. That’s the sort of Big New Thing that Lyons — and many others — are talking about. Only Steve Jobs could do those things, Tim Cook can’t. But look at the timeframe: iPod 2001, iPhone 2007, iPad 2010. Even during the era of innovation Lyons is pointing to, Apple spent six years between the first iPod and first iPhone. Again, why is it only Apple that’s expected to invent a time machine?

(Worth pointing out too, that Lyons didn’t see the original iPad as a breakthrough: “Jobs and his team kept using words like ‘breakthrough’ and ‘magical’, but the iPad is neither, at least not right now.”)

Bad News: Apple Is the Most Profitable Company in History 

Mike Beasley, 9to5 Mac:

Apple today posted its earnings for the final quarter of 2012, which was “disappointingly” the largest corporate earnings year in human history by a tidy margin, causing many investors to panic as Apple clearly circles the drain in what will be the first step in a short road to the demise of the most valuable company in the world (If Exxon hasn’t indeed surpassed it tomorrow morning).

Apple’s 13.1B in earnings this quarter was the 4th largest of all time according to the same metric.

Exxon previously held the top three spots for annual profit. So, to reiterate, Apple just reported the most profitable year of any company ever, the fourth-most profitable quarter of any company ever, and the stock tanked after hours.

After Hours 

After reporting record-breaking revenue, profit, and iOS device sales, Apple’s stock is down over 10 percent in after-hours trading (which is often more volatile than regular trading), which makes sense because, uh…, because after hours investors are a bunch of idiots? I give up.

For perspective on how much 10 percent of Apple’s market value is, Tom Gara tweets:

Apple’s market value has fallen by the combined market value of two Nokias plus two RIMs in the hours since its results came out.

Apple ‘A Broken Company’ 

Bruno J. Navarro, CNBC:

Apple stock is headed to a level of $425 per share this quarter, DoubleLine CEO Jeff Gundlach said after the company reported disappointing earnings Wednesday.

“I think this is really a broken company that is over-owned,” he said on “Fast Money.”

Record-breaking revenue. Record-breaking profit. Over 75 million iOS devices sold in the quarter. Totally broken.

Apple Q1 2013 Quarterly Results 

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its 13-week fiscal 2013 first quarter ended December 29, 2012. The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $54.5 billion and record quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.81 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $46.3 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.87 per diluted share, in the 14-week year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38.6 percent compared to 44.7 percent in the year-ago quarter.

Average weekly revenue was $4.2 billion in the quarter compared to $3.3 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Records all around. But even accounting for the 13- vs. 14-week quarters, profit growth has slowed considerably. That said, it was just three years ago that Steve Jobs boasted that Apple had become a $50 billion company in annual revenue. Now they just reported $54.5 billion in quarterly revenue.

The Company sold a record 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, compared to 37 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple also sold a record 22.9 million iPads during the quarter, compared to 15.4 million in the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4.1 million Macs, compared to 5.2 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 12.7 million iPods in the quarter, compared to 15.4 million in the year-ago quarter.

That’s a significant drop for Mac sales. Part of that might be that the new iMacs weren’t available until December, but I think it’s more about the post-PC transition. Cars are in, trucks are out.

‘I’m Sure You Realize the Asymmetry in the Financial Resources of Our Respective Companies’ 

That’s from a stone cold 2007 email from Steve Jobs to then-CEO of Palm Ed Colligan, regarding Palm’s recruiting of Apple employees to work on what became the Pre and WebOS. The man did not beat around the bush. Could be legal trouble for Apple (and a bunch of other companies), though.

‘Can Siri Go Deaf, Mute, and Blind?’ 

Kontra:

What happens to Apple’s design advantage in an age of objects performing simple discreet tasks or “intuiting” and brokering our next command among themselves without the need for our touch or gaze? Indeed, what happens to UI design, in general, in an ocean of “interface-less” objects inter-networked ubiquitously?

Form Follows Function 

Amazing HTML5 experience demos by Jongmin Kim.

‘What It’s Really Like Working With Steve Jobs’ 

Glenn Reid, who helped design iMovie and iPhoto, in a year-ago remembrance:

Not only did he know and love product engineering, it’s all he really wanted to do. He told me once that part of the reason he wanted to be CEO was so that nobody could tell him that he wasn’t allowed to participate in the nitty-gritty of product design. […]

Steve’s magic recipe was that he was a product designer at his core, who was smart enough to know that the best way to design products was to have the magic wand of CEO in one of your hands.

If he knew he was right, he didn’t have to explain or justify a decision. A designer with carte blanche.

A Close Look at How Oracle Installs Deceptive Software With Java Updates 

Ed Bott:

Congratulations, Oracle.

Java is the new king of foistware, displacing Adobe and Skype from the top of the heap.

Oracle only does this with their Java installers for Windows, but there’s nothing stopping them from doing it with their Mac OS X installers eventually. Well, except for Java’s inexorable slide into obsolescence as a desktop technology.

Peter Cohan, Still a Jackass 

Remember this guy, who argued back in October that Apple’s board should fire Tim Cook? Still banging that drum. This is the type of nonsense Forbes runs.

Google’s Quarterly Results 

The AP:

Google earned nearly $2.9 billion, or $8.62 per share during the final three months of last year. That compared to net income of $2.7 billion, or $8.22 per share, at the same time last year.

Revenue surged 36 percent from the previous year to $14.4 billion.

Revenue way up, profit only up slightly.

Asymconf 

Horace Dediu’s Asymconf next week in San Jose still has a few seats open. I can’t make it, but sure wish I could.

iPhone Activations on Verizon 

Yoni Heisler, writing for Network World:

All told, Verizon activated 6.2 million iPhones, with nearly half of them being the iPhone 5. Put differently, the iPhone accounted for 63.2% of all of Verizon’s smartphone sales this past quarter. That figure represents the highest proportion of iPhones sold in any previous quarter. […]

Last quarter, Verizon activated 3.1 million iPhones, which accounted for approximately 46% of their total smartphone activations. […] During the holiday quarter of 2011, Verizon activated 7.7 million smartphones, 4.2 million of which where iPhones. That translates to the iPhone accounting for 54% of all smartphone sales on Verizon for the quarter.

Year-over-year, Verizon smartphone activations were up 27 percent; iPhone activations were up 48 percent. iPhones outsold Android phones about 2 to 1. This, on the carrier that owns and promotes the “Droid” brand.

On their analyst conference call, Verizon said “about half” their iPhone activations for the quarter were for the iPhone 5. I’m betting the “free” (with contract) iPhone 4 played a big part in that — this is the first quarter Verizon has been able to offer a “free” iPhone, because the 3GS was GSM-only. Which in turn is a good reminder that Apple already has a low-cost iPhone — the two-year-old iPhone 4.

Theories on AAPL’s $500 Close 

Nick Summers, Businessweek:

Take a look at the option chain data for Apple, for those bets expiring Jan. 19. (Monthly options expire on the Saturday after the third Friday of the month.) There were more than 66,000 contracts at $500, more than twice as many than at any other price.

“People are correlative animals,” says Lipkin. “They tend to see things that are patterns. But what they don’t see are the probabilities.”

The conspiracy, if you will, is not that AAPL closed at precisely $500.00 Friday. The conspiracy is that those who stood to profit from Apple closing at or under $500 have been spreading pessimistic bullshit for months to drive the stock price down.

‘It Might Not Get Weirder Than This’ 

Fascinating, insightful, well-illustrated trip report by Sophie Schmidt, who accompanied her father Eric to North Korea.

On the Future of the Mac Mini 

Kasper Jade, AppleInsider:

Therefore, it comes as little surprise that sources, for whom AppleInsider holds the utmost respect, are now pointing towards the mini’s impending demise. […]

Ladies and gentlemen, AppleInsider believes in all sincerity that the Mac mini is dead.

I’d be worried if this article weren’t from 2007.

Indie Film Shot Guerrilla-Style Within Disney Theme Parks 

Steven Zeitchik, reporting for the LA Times from Sundance:

About three years ago, Randy Moore, a struggling screenwriter living in Burbank, had an out-there idea: What if he took a tiny camera and, without asking permission, began shooting a narrative movie at Disney theme parks?

(Via Aaron Cohen.)

MacStories Interview With John Siracusa 

John Siracusa, in a wide-ranging interview with Federico Viticci at MacStories:

Simplicity is great, as iOS has shown. But there’s a difference between conceptual simplicity and visual simplicity. Just hiding controls does make things appear simpler, but it doesn’t actually make them any simpler. The complexity is now just hidden. Similarly, removing features that few people use is a good idea, but like any good idea, it can be taken too far. At a certain point, you’re just making your application worse for everyone, even new users.

You can’t always tweak or refactor an existing application into the beautiful thing you’re envisioning. Sometimes the only way to achieve true simplicity is to start over with a new concept for the whole app.

What Does Google Need From Android? 

Benedict Evans:

Someone (sadly, I forget who) described Android to me as an unguided missile: very powerful but spiraling semi-randomly with no clarity on where it would land. There is the fragmentation issue, and the weakness of most of the OEMs. There is the threat of Amazon or Samsung forking the platform. But there is also the threat that an increasing number of Android devices might have no more connection to Google than does an iPhone.

‘One Strategy, One P&L’ 

John R. Moran:

For a coherent strategy to work, then, the organization executing it must be measured as a whole, rather than as parts. In other words, if a company is to have a single strategy, it must be driven by a single P&L.

This may sound like an extreme position. Yet some of the world’s most successful companies operate this way. Apple famously has only one P&L, for which its CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, has direct responsibility. And while each of its major hardware product lines is priced to make a significant profit, it bundles in all its key software upgrades, products, services, and platforms for free. […]

It’s Apple’s single-company mindset that lets it give away industry-leading software and cannibalize its own products, which in turn has led to its unprecedented success.

Astute.

iPhone Math, Indeed 

Brightwire, translating a report from the China Times:

Apple will announce three new iPhone models in 2013, and two of them, the 4-inch iPhone 5S and 4.8-inch iPhone Math (both featuring 8-mega-pixel cameras), will hit markets before the end of June, China Times reported citing Taiwan-based Commercial Times.

Red flags:

  • This is an English translation of a Chinese newspaper report whose source was a Taiwanese newspaper report.

  • Apple’s supply chain partners do not know product names. Every iPhone just says “iPhone” on the back. (Same for iPads; I knew a lot about the iPad Mini before it was announced, but I didn’t know its name.) Many are raising an eyebrow at the “iPhone Math” moniker because it sounds like a terrible, nonsensical name — I say take a step back and question any purported source from the supply chain who claims to even know an upcoming iPhone’s name. Even Apple engineers in Cupertino don’t find out product names until they launch. (That said, “iPhone 5S” is a pretty reasonable guess for an upcoming phone with the same physical dimensions as the iPhone 5.)

  • I disregard any report of an upcoming iPhone with a bigger display that doesn’t include precise pixel dimensions. Anyone in the supply chain who knows the size of the display should also know the pixels. It would be nice, too, to hear an explanation of Apple’s software plans for the display size. When rumors of the iPad Mini became credible, they were accompanied by pixel dimensions (1024 × 768) and an explanation for how software would accommodate the size.

Citing Apple’s suppliers, the report added that the third model, which has not been exposed, will be launched before Christmas. The model will feature a 12-mega-pixel camera.

Three new iPhones in calendar 2013. Does that make sense to anyone? Why bother with the June 5S in this scenario?

Update: “iPhone Plus / iPhone+”, mangled in translation, is a good guess for the root of this “iPhone Math” name. But, again, it makes no sense that a supplier would have heard the name of such a device.

Stan ‘The Man’ Musial Dies at 92 

“Put him in the outfield and see if he can hit.”

Jackass of the Week: Eric Mack 

Eric Mack, CNet:

Just to be clear on what I’m saying, my best educated guesses are that we will see a new iPhone this summer, and it will be an iPhone 5S with mostly iterative updates, a choice of colors, and perhaps the lower-cost model of the latest rumors. But the real question is: then what?

My gut tells me the iPhone as we know it will be done at that point. I have a hunch there will never be an iPhone 6, because Apple will be forced to move into a significantly different form factor to keep people interested and compete with the movement toward bigger phablet-like thingies and emerging wearable electronics (lots of us have fat thumbs, after all). Or, there will be an iPhone 6 and it will disappoint.

For context, the iPhone 4S was the best-selling smartphone in history, the iPhone 5 appears set to sell even better than the 4S did, and Apple currently reaps upwards of 70–75 percent of all profit in the handset industry. So Mack thinks they’ll make one more, it’ll disappoint, and that’ll be that and the iPhone will move into the Home for Retired Apple Product Lines, down the hall from the Newton. OK.

TSA to Remove Invasive Body Scanners From Airports 

Ron Nixon, reporting for the NYT:

After years of complaints by passengers and members of Congress, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday that it would begin removing the controversial full-body scanners that produce revealing images of airline travelers beginning this summer. […]

Not sure if this is good news, or no news, given this:

The removal of the Rapiscan scanners does not mean that all full-body scanners will be removed from airport security checkpoints. A second type of full-body scanner does not produce revealing images. Instead, it makes an avatar-like projection on security screens.

Privacy is a genuine concern, but so too is safety. Are these “avatar-like projection” machines still using x-rays? Update: Apparently the remaining ones use millimeter wave technology.

Colugo 

My thanks to Riot9 for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Colugo, their photo sharing app for the iPhone. Colugo emphasizes simplicity — both for organization and for sharing. No gimmicks, no complicated “magic” albums or location-based sharing. You just put photos in albums, and then choose who you want to share those albums with. When you choose to follow someone else’s album, you can get notifications when new photos are added. That’s it — you’re in complete control of the privacy of your photos. And Colugo is a good-looking app, too.

Colugo is a free download in the App Store.

AAPL: $500.00 

Remember the piece I linked to earlier this week, wherein Joe Springer pointed out (all the way back in November) that large institutional investors who’d sold options on Apple’s stock back in the summer stood to profit by billions if AAPL closed today at $500 or under? It closed at $500.00.

I still have that bridge to sell you if you don’t think the fix was in on this.

Enable Quick Look for Markdown Files 

I linked to QLMarkdown a few years ago, but it’s worth a re-link. Great project.

‘The Mac Faithful’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest John Moltz. Topics include Apple’s battered stock price, just what it is about Apple that makes so many people lose their damn minds, the pace of innovation, and the goofy suit Steve Jobs wore for the introduction of the original iMac.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Infinite Refrigerator — The kid- and kitchen-friendly app for archiving and sharing childhoods.
  • Tonx — The best coffee in the world, delivered right to your door.
Samsung Galaxy Fonblet Rumor: 5.8-Inch Display 

I’ll play devil’s advocate here, and suggest that at a certain point, it’s better to think of these things as small tablets than big-ass phones. Pair it with a Bluetooth headset so you don’t look like an ass while talking on the phone, and you’ve got one device to carry instead of two. There’s a pocket-ability problem for someone like me, but not for men who wear jackets and women who carry handbags. The biggest problem I see is that so many Android apps are designed for phone-size displays, not tablet-size displays.

I sure hope “Fonblet” isn’t what they’re actually going to call the thing, though.

‘Every Empire Crumbles’ 

A gem from John Moltz.

‘Swallowed Whole’ 

The Macalope, quoting Byte’s Larry Seltzer:

If anyone’s the leader in the smartphone market now, it has to be Samsung, which just announced that the Galaxy S3 has sold 40 million units in 7 months. In 2 years and 7 months since its launch, the Galaxy S line has sold over 100 million. Wow.

Larry, when coming up with that statistic, did you pause to think for even one second how many iPhones Apple’s sold over that period? Because it’s more than twice that. FYI.

Wow, indeed.

The NRA’s Successful Campaign to Prevent Firearms Research 

Michael Luo, reporting for the NYT back in 2011:

Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?

The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there is a reason for that. Scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off money for such work.

“We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was for about a decade the leading source of financing for firearms research.

They don’t want pesky facts getting in the way of their “more guns will make us safer” argument. So: no science.

The Success of the Australian Assault Weapons Ban 

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard:

In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate. The Australian Institute of Criminology found that gun-related murders and suicides fell sharply after 1996. The American Law and Economics Review found that our gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74 percent. In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.

The other thing about the success of Australia’s gun laws is that studies have shown there was no offsetting increase in other forms of homicide. More guns, more killing, that’s what the data shows. President Obama isn’t pushing for anything more than restrictions supported by Ronald Reagan. Reagan.

The Big Web Show 

The one and only Jeffrey Zeldman was kind enough to have me as the guest on his podcast this week. I think you’ll like it.

Napkin 1.0 

Also new (and currently featured as the Editor’s Choice) in the Mac App Store: Napkin, an elegant simple utility for making diagrams and annotating images, from my pals at Aged & Distilled. There’s some really clever stuff in Napkin — to draw a shape — rectangle, circle, or a line — you just draw it on the canvas, and the app figures out what shape you want. The app is just chock full of nice details, including a really nice help system that guides you through discovering all those nice details. $40 in the App Store, worth every cent.

See Rene Ritchie’s piece on Napkin at iMore for more, including a video showing a bunch of cool features.

Kaleidoscope 2.0 

Fresh out of beta — Black Pixel’s unparalleled file comparison app for the Mac. Shows the differences between text files, folders of files, and, most amazingly, images.

How Apple Sets Its Prices 

Marco Tabini, writing for Macworld:

Both iOS devices and Macs seem to be impervious to the discount game. In fact it’s so rare to find a significant price variance between retailers that, when it does happen, the event usually draws considerable press coverage.

With so many laws regulating competition among retailers, how does Apple pull off this amazing feat? It turns out that the company uses a fairly straightforward strategy, known as price maintenance, that takes advantage of the popularity of its products and exploits a quirk in the way retailers are allowed to advertise their merchandise.

Newsstand ‘Read Them Here First’ Titles 

Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple today quietly launched a new feature for Newsstand, whereby publications by partner Hearst (covering their entire catalog) will now be available to subscribers days before they come to print, or other digital editions. Hearst’s library includes a number of top titles, including Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Seventeen and Harper’s Bazaar among many others.

The ‘Apple Needs a New Hit Product Now’ Argument 

On the flip side of the coin from the preceding item by Dan Pallotta, we’ve got this one by (the coincidentally similarly surnamed) Therese Poletti. There’s nothing in it I haven’t seen before, repeatedly, and don’t agree with any of it, but it serves as a good rundown of the general consensus of the Apple pessimists.

What gets me is her main point, that Apple “needs” a new product of the disruptive scope of the iPhone or iPad. I don’t get it. Sure, it’d be great — for consumers and for Apple — if they were to soon unveil some major new initiative. New stuff is great. But why would you think they needed to? Why just Apple? Why does no one argue that Samsung “needs” to unveil a major new disruption? What harm would Apple suffer if they spent the next five years refining and growing the products already in their stable? They’re already the most profitable technology company in the world, and their three major platforms — iPhone, iPad, and Mac — are all growing. They don’t need to change a damn thing.

The Market Wants Apple to Unveil a Time Machine 

Dan Pallotta, writing for the Harvard Business Review:

The critics that are screaming right now are intellectually lazy. They’re throwing temper tantrums instead of looking at the big picture. Like two-year-olds, they don’t really know what they want. And they’re not happy when they get it, anyway. Apple could unveil a new car and they’d say Apple’s days are over because it’s just bet its future on an industry it knows nothing about. Not unlike, say, Apple’s entrance into the mobile phone industry. I bet that if Apple did unveil a time machine, they’d claim it wasn’t fast enough.

Spot on.

Apple’s Churning of the Gut 

Elia Freedman:

I honestly believe people read their gut and say it can’t be possible therefore it isn’t. Apple can’t be this successful. It’s not possible. And I know that because my gut tells me so.

I had lunch today with one of my old college professors and his attitude was almost “about time.” Apple had its day in the sun, it did well for a while, but it’s time for market realities to catch up to the company. Apple has been a fad for a decade now — since the iPod launched in 2001 — and it is time for it to fade into the sunset like some hokey 1950s western.

Great piece. I’ve made an argument along these lines on The Talk Show, in the context of early impressions. A lot of people formed their impression of Apple in the 1990’s, and to them, that’s what Apple will always be: a niche hardware maker that insists on doing things the wrong way (closed instead of open, etc.) in the name of control. To these people, everything that’s happened with Apple in the past decade has been a fluke, an aberration.

For Amusement Only: The Life and Death of the American Arcade 

Sit back, relax, and savor this incredible piece at The Verge by Laura June.

CES: Worse Products Through Software 

John Siracusa:

But it’s not just TVs. Who really likes the “software” in their car, microwave, or blu-ray player?

All of this software is terrible in the same handful of ways. It’s buggy, unresponsive, and difficult to use. I actually think the second sin is the worst one, especially when it comes to appliances and consumer electronics. Dials and knobs respond to your touch right now. Anything that wants to replace them had better also do so.

Amen.

‘By the Way’ 

First episode of Jeff Garlin’s new podcast. His guest: Larry David. The result: very funny.

Stay Curious 

Aaron Swartz, in a 2009 interview with Ronaldo Lemos:

When I was a kid, I thought a lot about what made me different from the other kids. I don’t think I was smarter than them and I certainly wasn’t more talented. And I definitely can’t claim I was a harder worker — I’ve never worked particularly hard, I’ve always just tried doing things I find fun. Instead, what I concluded was that I was more curious — but not because I had been born that way. If you watch little kids, they are intensely curious, always exploring and trying to figure out how things work. The problem is that school drives all that curiosity out. Instead of letting you explore things for yourself, it tells you that you have to read these particular books and answer these particular questions. And if you try to do something else instead, you’ll get in trouble. Very few people’s curiosity can survive that. But, due to some accident, mine did. I kept being curious and just followed my curiosity.

(Via Dave Winer.)

Hard to Fool, Eh? 

Jay Yarow:

Apple has gone from being a sure-thing rocketship to a train wreck, as far as stocks are concerned. Some people want to cry “stock manipulation,” but the stock is down 30% since the end of September. It’s hard to totally fool the market. Something is amiss with the company.

Hard to fool the market? In the long run, arguably. In the short run, that’s laughable.

As for Apple specifically, maybe “something” is, indeed, “amiss with the company”. But the WSJ and Nikkei reports yesterday claimed something very specific about what’s wrong. Apple’s stock was at $520 over the weekend; then the WSJ ran their “due to weaker-than-expected demand” story on the front page; today, the stock closed at $486. If this weak iPhone 5 demand report turns out to be the complete bullshit it looks like, how is this not proof that the market is easily fooled?

Why the WSJ Got the ‘iPhone Demand Is Crashing’ Story All Wrong 

Fantastic analysis by Mark Rogowsky at Forbes. Best piece I’ve seen regarding yesterday’s “weaker-than-expected demand” iPhone 5 report in the WSJ, as well as an astute take on the competitive positions of Apple and Samsung:

Similarly, Cnet was very excited about Samsung’s announcement that the Galaxy S phone line had crossed the 100 million mark in total sales. The phone is so desirable, “Sales of the flagship Galaxy S3 reached 30 million units in 5 months, and 40 million in 7 months, with average daily sales of about 190,000 units.” You’d think that it’s the hottest thing going with those numbers. Of course, as we were just discussing above, in the quarter just ended, Apple will have sold about as many iPhone 5′s as Samsung has sold Galaxy S3′s in 7 months! This is what the “experts” are already calling trouble and they haven’t seen the numbers yet.

Now, of course, Samsung is also selling the prior generation S2, which Cnet tells us, “…is described as a steady bet after recording sales of over 40 million in 20 months.” So that’s about 2 million a month for that model to go with the 17 million S3 phones Samsung apparently moved in Q3. In other words, if we just compare the last two generations of phones, Apple sold somewhere around 35-45 million last quarter while Samsung moved about 23 million. It’s certainly true that Samsung has a number of less-expensive entry models and will outsell Apple in raw numbers. But when one looks at “profit share” and wonders why Apple will continue to earn more of it in smartphones than Samsung, those numbers tell the story.

Read the whole piece, it’s spot-on.

Jim Cramer Explains How the Stock Market Is Manipulated 

Via Rene Ritchie, in this Branch thread.

Bobo, the Accidental Hit App 

Claire Atkinson, reporting for The New York Post:

Bob Tedeschi, the Times’ Gadgetwise columnist until last June, who covered the app world, went undercover in 2010 to develop an app — and helped create “Bobo Explores Light,” an award-winning best-selling iPad app, The Post has learned.

Tedeschi undertook the project using the pseudonym Craig Fusco so Apple wouldn’t give him any unwarranted favorable or unfavorable treatment. In a recent interview, he said he was moved from the tech beat after telling his editors of Bobo’s success. “I was floored by how well it did,” Tedeschi told The Post. […]

Ironically, Tedeschi’s app creation was first discussed with a Times editor as a possible story that would address how hard it was to make a living developing apps. The story assignment was eventually dropped — but Tedeschi continued pursuing the idea.

Makes you think The Times wasn’t looking for the answer to whether it’s possible to make a living developing apps, but rather only wanted a story that concluded you can’t.

So Google got into social networking with Google Plus, and now Facebook is getting into search. Here’s Danny Sullivan’s take.

If You Lose Your Cellphone, Don’t Blame Wayne Dobson 

GPS glitch with Sprint is pointing “Find My iPhone” results in North Las Vegas to this guy’s house:

Dobson’s misadventure started in 2011, with a knock on the door around midnight on a weekend. He opened the door and found an upset young couple demanding that he turn over their phone. Dobson was confused.

“I’m standing there and I’m thinking, ‘What are they talking about?’ ” he said. “They might as well have said, ‘Give me my horse back.’ “

Now a Bunch of Analysts Are Saying iPhone 5 Demand Remains Strong 

This is how far we’ve sunk: I’m in complete agreement with Shaw Wu.

Corporate Silence 

A 2001 CNet article by Sergio G. Non:

For years, publicly traded companies have been citing rules from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as reasons not to discuss almost anything related to corporate operations in the weeks preceding a quarterly report. “SEC-mandated quiet period” often becomes a boilerplate phrase for public-relations personnel when earnings are less than a month away.

Yet it’s not even an SEC rule.

“The quiet period phenomenon is a matter of practice rather than regulation,” SEC spokesman John Heine said. “You’re not going to find a regulation that says ‘you have to be quiet for 30 days’ or something like that. However, there are provisions in securities laws that lead people… to be careful in how they handle certain types of information.”

Via Virtual Pants. Whether it’s a matter of choice or their interpretation of legal requirements, Apple says nothing in the month leading up to quarterly results — and everyone knows that. So I don’t think the timing of yesterday’s WSJ report of “weaker-than-expected demand” was a coincidence.

Suppressing AAPL 

Compelling piece by Joe Springer on Apple’s stock price, from back in November:

So here is our logic to being patient. It is threefold:

  1. Apple had an enormous amount of call options speculation related to its Summer surge

  2. A huge share of this was calls with a strike of around the current price of $550 and higher that expire January 19 2013

  3. The institutional money managers that wrote those call options and bought common stock to cover will make a lot of money if a) those options expire worthless, and then b) Apple runs after that expiration date

Billions of dollars at stake if AAPL stays near or under $500 a share until January 19 and then makes a run after that. No tinfoil hat required to see the motivation here. (Via Loren Brichter.)

Strong iPhone Sales at Verizon (and AT&T) 

One last bit for the day on this “iPhone 5 demand is lower than expected” thing. Last week, Verizon made a preliminary announcement on its holiday quarter:

Verizon this morning said in a filing with the SEC that its Verizon Wireless unit expects to report Q4 retail postpaid subscriber net adds of 2.1 million, with 9.8 million smartphone activations, and “a higher mix of Apple smartphones”.

Now, it’s possible that:

  • The iPhone 4S could be cannibalizing iPhone 5 sales. Verizon said “Apple smartphones”, not the iPhone 5 in particular. It’s possible that “iPhone” sales are up but that iPhone 5 sales are disappointing.
  • Verizon could be an outlier. Seems unlikely, given how hard Verizon pushes its own Droid-branded phones.
  • AT&T is reporting “best-ever quarterly sales of Android and Apple smartphones”, so maybe it’s the U.S. that’s the outlier, and iPhone demand is weak elsewhere around the world.

But I don’t think any of the above are likely. Keep in mind that Verizon’s statement is in a legally binding filing with the SEC. The WSJ’s report of “weaker-than-expected demand” for the iPhone 5 was from “people familiar with the situation”.

NYT on the iPhone 5 Component Thing 

Brian X. Chen, reporting for the NYT:

Apple does appear to be cutting back on orders for its latest iPhone from its manufacturing partners, as Nikkei of Japan and The Wall Street Journal reported earlier. Paul Semenza, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch, a research firm that follows the display market, said that for January, Apple had expected to order 19 million displays for the iPhone 5 but cut the order to 11 million to 14 million. Mr. Semenza said these numbers came from sources in the supply chain, the companies that make components for Apple products.

The reduction in orders for screens could be related to excess inventory, or because consumer demand for the iPhone 5 just was not as strong as Apple had predicted, Mr. Semenza said. “Certainly, demand from Apple to the display makers seems to have been corrected pretty significantly,” he said.

A few differences between this report and yesterday’s from the WSJ and Nikkei (all in the NYT’s favor):

  • Specific numbers.
  • A named source.
  • A range for the drop, which, even in the worst case scenario, is not “half”.
  • No assumption that the drop is definitely attributable to lower than expected consumer demand for the iPhone 5. It could be, but might be inventory or something else.
Bloomberg: ‘Dell Said to Be in Buyout Talks With Private-Equity Firms’ 

“I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Apple Can’t Respond to Rumors of iPhone 5 Cuts Even if It Wanted To 

Jim Dalrymple:

I’ve been asked a lot today why Apple hasn’t responded to the Wall Street Journal article saying that there have been massive cuts to iPhone 5 orders. The simple fact is, they can’t.

SEC rules prohibit Apple from talking publicly about the company. This is known as a quiet period and all publicly traded companies must adhere to these rules.

Aaron Swartz’s Lawyer: Prosecutor Stephen Heymann Wanted ‘Juicy’ Case for Publicity 

The Huffington Post:

In a phone interview Monday, Swartz’s attorney Elliot Peters accused Massachusetts assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Heymann of pursuing federal charges against Swartz to gain publicity.

Heymann was looking for “some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron’s case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill,” Peters said. Heymann, Peters believes, thought the Swartz case “was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper.”

Despicable. A betrayal of the word “justice”.

Passing It Along as Established Fact 

Eric Zeman, writing for Information Week, states the WSJ’s and Nikkei’s unattributed stories that iPhone 5 component orders have been slashed as fact:

Apple, responding to weak market demand, has sliced orders for iPhone 5 parts by as much as 50%.

One way or the other, there’s going to be a lot of crow to be eaten come two weeks when Apple releases their holiday quarter results.

The design of the iPhone 5 may be quite good, but Apple has handicapped itself by offering only one new phone each year. Samsung, by way of comparison, offers dozens of models each year. Samsung covers every price point, every screen size and every feature.

Whether or not Apple has in fact cut orders for iPhone 5 parts, it may need to step up the number of devices it introduces each year if it wants to continue to compete against Samsung in particular, and Android in general.

Sure, makes total sense that the company that has been generating more than two-thirds of the entire industry’s profits is the one that should consider acting more like its competitors.

The ‘New iPhone in Early 2013’ Theory 

Michael Grothaus, writing for TUAW:

Do the component cuts, if true, mean iPhone 5 demand is weak? It’s possible. But it could also hint at another number of things. Apple usually reduces component orders when they are getting ready to ramp up for a new product. There have been rumors that Apple will move to a six-month release schedule for its iOS devices to keep up with competition. The lower component orders could signal that an “iPhone 5S” can be expected sooner rather than later.

But an iPhone 5S would almost certainly use the same display as the iPhone 5. The previous “S” iPhones — the 3GS and 4S — used not only the same display as their non-S predecessors, but also sported the same form factors.

If Apple’s component orders for the iPhone 5 really were cut by half, there’s no way to see it as anything but weak demand for the iPhone. My skepticism is all about that “if”.

The Strange Math of Apple’s Purported Massive iPhone 5 Component Cuts 

Tero Kuittinen, writing for BGR, says exactly what I thought when I saw the WSJ’s story last night:

So if the most likely number of 4-inch screens Apple is reasonably expected to sell in March quarter is around 30 to 40 million units, why did Nikkei publish a report stating that Apple had halved its display orders for the quarter from 65 million units? Nikkei was quite specific about the 65 million number. And it clearly tied it to iPhone 5 component orders, not total iPhone or iPhone 5 and iPod touch orders.

In what world did Apple expect to order components for 65 million iPhone 5 handsets in the seasonally soft March quarter?

Perhaps the weirdness of the math is why the current version of the WSJ article no longer cites the 65 million unit figure. Sometime between Sunday at 8:00 p.m. EST and Monday at 7:00 a.m., the Journal decided to drop the number from its article. But if the 65 million number is not right, is the estimate for halving March orders correct, either?

The reports claiming 65 million displays for next quarter make little sense; the reports that claim component orders have been “halved” but without any specific numbers can’t be verified three months from now when Apple reports its actual iPhone sales for the coming quarter. In the meantime, of course, Apple’s stock took a beating today on these reports. If you don’t smell stock manipulation here, I have a bridge to sell you.

The Truth About Aaron Swartz’s ‘Crime’ 

Alex Stamos:

In short, Aaron Swartz was not the super hacker breathlessly described in the Government’s indictment and forensic reports, and his actions did not pose a real danger to JSTOR, MIT or the public. He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.

Greg Sandoval Resigns From CNet 

With his talent and integrity, I bet Sandoval is already fielding offers from CNet competitors.

CBS Forced CNet Staff to Recast Vote After Hopper Won ‘Best in Show’ at CES 

Josh Topolsky, reporting for The Verge:

Apparently, executives at CBS learned that the Hopper would win “Best of Show” prior to the announcement. Before the winner was unveiled, CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin informed CNET’s staff that the Hopper could not take the top award. The Hopper would have to be removed from consideration, and the editorial team had to re-vote and pick a new winner from the remaining choices. Sources say that Larkin was distraught while delivering the news — at one point in tears — as he told the team that he had fought CBS executives who had made the decision.

Apparently the move to strike the Hopper from the awards was passed down directly to Larkin from the office of CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves. Moonves has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Hopper, telling investors at one point, “Hopper cannot exist… if Hopper exists, we will not be in business with (Dish).”

Disgraceful. This, from the company that was once the pinnacle of journalistic integrity.

Defining the Gram 

The Economist:

Science moves on. Time is now defined by readily available clocks that use caesium atoms as their pendulums, while distance is specified in terms of the speed of light in metres per second (the caesium atoms having already provided the value of a second), and these days that speed can be measured with great accuracy using easily purchased equipment. Mass, however, remains stubbornly stuck in Paris, under three concentric glass lids (pictured) strangely reminiscent of cheese covers, which are intended to stop it either absorbing or shedding matter and thus changing in value.

Unfortunately, the cheese covers have not worked.

Star Wars: Machete Order 

Speaking of Star Wars, this essay by Rod Hilton is one of the best and most insightful pieces I’ve ever read regarding the relationship between the two film trilogies.

ABC to Look at ‘Star Wars’ Live-Action Series 

I have a bad feeling about this.

Remember Aaron Swartz 

Includes a touching, moving statement from his family and partner.

Harvest 

My thanks to Harvest for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Harvest is a terrific time-tracking system for the web, Mac, and iPhone — designed for creative professionals, with an emphasis on ease-of-use and productivity. Well-designed software makes it easy and convenient to track your time and manage projects, and when you’re finished, you can send a professional invoice right from Harvest.

Check it out, then give Harvest a spin with a free 30-day trial.

‘The Administration Does Not Support Blowing Up Planets.’ 

The White House responds to a petition for the U.S. to build a Death Star.

A Day in the Life of Hunter S. Thompson 

“Midnight — Hunter ready to write.”

The New Disruptors 

Speaking of podcasts, my colleagues at Mule Radio have been busy. My favorite among the newest shows is The New Disruptors, hosted by the one and only Glenn Fleishman.

‘Unsolved Forever’ 

Beautiful tribute to Aaron Swartz from Cory Doctorow.

Lawrence Lessig on Aaron Swartz 

Lawrence Lessig:

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide 

Aaron was a friend and a brilliant mind. He was my only beta tester for Markdown back in 2004, and frequently offered keen feedback on my work here at DF. He had an enormous intellect — again, a brilliant mind — but also an enormous capacity for empathy. He was a great person. I’m dumbfounded and heartbroken. Good thoughts and best wishes to his family and those who were truly close to him.

The Elements of Typographic Style: Version 4.0 

Updated 20th anniversary edition of Robert Bringhurst’s masterpiece; hailed by no less than Hoefler & Frere-Jones as “the finest book ever written about typography”.

‘Inappropriate Outfits’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Dan Frommer. Topics include CES 2013, the disparity in display size between the iPhone and all of its competitors, and Dan’s new endeavor, City Notes.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Boom — A simple volume booster and equalizer for your Mac.
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Suggested Instagram Feed: Jethro Mullen 

Gorgeous work. (Via Dooce.)

The Verge Best of CES Awards 

The Oculus Rift virtual reality thing sounds amazing. Interesting too how many of the hardware products are from small startups rather than big established companies.

Apple Blocks Java 7 Plugin on OS X to Address Widespread Security Threat 

Eric Slivka, Mac Rumors:

Apple has, however, apparently already moved quickly to address the issue, disabling the Java 7 plug-in on Macs where it is already installed. Apple has achieved this by updating its “Xprotect.plist” blacklist to require a minimum of an as-yet unreleased 1.7.0_10-b19 version of Java 7. With the current publicly-available version of Java 7 being 1.7.0_10-b18, all systems running Java 7 are failing to pass the check initiated through the anti-malware system built into OS X.

Most recent Macs probably don’t even have Java installed, but it’s pretty clever that Apple can blacklist vulnerable versions remotely.

Film Crit Hulk vs. Tom Hooper and the Art of Cinematic Affectation 

The most insightful thing composed entirely in all caps you’ll read this week.

Safari’s Announcement 

Don Melton, on watching Steve Jobs announce the first version of Safari:

Most of the time during those rehearsals, Ken and I had nothing to do except sit in the then empty audience and watch The Master Presenter at work — crafting his keynote. What a privilege to be a spectator during that process. At Apple, we were actually all students, not just spectators. When I see other companies clumsily announce products these days, I realize again how much the rest of the world lost now that Steve is gone.

And:

KHTML may have been a bigger surprise than Apple doing a browser at all. And that moment was glorious. We had punk’d the entire crowd.

Nokia Decrypts HTTPS Data 

David Meyer, GigaOM:

Nokia has confirmed reports that its Xpress Browser decrypts data that flows through HTTPS connections — that includes the connections set up for banking sessions, encrypted email and more. However, it insists that there’s no need for users to panic because it would never access customers’ encrypted data.

Seems like a huge privacy violation. I don’t see how there’s any way Nokia can justify this. (Compare and contrast with Amazon’s Silk, which uses a proxy server for regular HTTP traffic but doesn’t touch HTTPS traffic.)

Olloclip for iPhone 5 

One of my favorite accessories, now available for the iPhone 5.

How About AutoRip for Books? 

Paul Kafasis:

Still, AutoRip is painfully close to something I’ve found myself pining for since starting to use a Kindle e-reader: free Kindle copies of purchased physical books. Unlike CDs, there’s no way for book purchasers to create their own digital copy, so an “AutoRip for Books” would provide much more benefit.

That’s my holy grail of book-buying. I still buy many of my books — particularly ones I really care about — in print, because I remain as uncomfortable today as I did in 2007 about “buying” books with DRM.

Update: Dan Frommer: “How About An Amazon AutoRip For Books?

‘Focusing on Certain Segments’ 

This “Apple should make a cheap iPhone” thing reminds me of the “Apple should make a cheap netbook” argument from four or five years ago. Remember this quote from Steve Jobs in 2008?

There are some customers which we chose not to serve. We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that. But we can continue to deliver greater and greater value to those customers that we choose to serve. And there’s a lot of them. We’ve seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody. So I think you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy and continue to try to add more and more value to those products in those customer bases we choose to serve.

That clearly didn’t mean Apple was never going to ship a $500 computer — in April 2010 they shipped the iPad. Hell, as of two months ago, Apple now sells computers starting at just $329. It just means they weren’t going to ship a $500 computer until they could make one that was both a good product and profitable for the company.

Their approach to lower price points for the iPhone will be the same.

Better Than Expected Quarterly Sales for Nokia, Including 4.4 Million Lumias 

Good news from Nokia:

Net sales within Devices & Services totalled €3.9 billion for the quarter. The biggest sellers were, unsurprisingly, the really low-end Series 40 phones, which sold 70.3 million units. However, the company also sold 15.9 million smartphones: 9.3 million Asha full-touch handsets, 2.2 million Symbian smartphones and a cool 4.4 million Windows Phone-based Lumia smartphones.

4.4 million Lumias compares to 2.9 and 4.0 million in the previous two quarters. Good, but still not setting the world on fire. Calling these Asha things “smartphones” shows just how nebulous a term that is. For comparison, Apple has been selling around 20-35 million iPhones per quarter the past year.

Mapping the Entertainment Ecosystems 

The one area of cloud services where Apple leads the pack, and where Amazon and Google are far behind: worldwide distribution.

Phil Schiller on Cheap iPhones 

Phil Schiller, in an interview with Shanghai Evening News:

“At first, non-smartphones were popular in the Chinese market, now cheap smartphones are more popular and non-smartphones are out,” Schiller added later. “Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple’s products. In fact, although Apple’s market share of smartphones is just about 20%, we own the 75% of the profit.”

This doesn’t mean Apple isn’t going to produce a cheaper iPhone. Schiller is simply stating what should be — but clearly isn’t — obvious to everyone: Apple goes for profit.

Apple’s Next Battleground Isn’t TV; It’s Web Services 

Smart piece by John Paczkowski:

Apple, of course, already knows this. That’s why it undertook audacious initiatives like Maps and iTunes Match in the first place. But the company clearly underestimated the effort and skill needed to pull them off with excellence. And now, with all the world watching, it can’t afford to do so again. Maps, iTunes Match, iCloud … they all must “just work.” That’s what consumers expect.

A big area where iCloud is falling short is for third-party developers. The tip of the iceberg is the out-of-the-box experience — the iCloud features supported by the apps built into iOS. Calendar, Mail, contact syncing, Safari tab and bookmark syncing. And that stuff actually works very well. That deserves no kudos, though, because everyone else’s cloud services for that stuff works well today too.

Under the surface, though, iCloud is just not there yet when it comes to being a platform for third-party developers. You know how mobile developers rave about how on iOS it’s easier to create great apps — better looking graphics, better performance, smoother animation? You hear the opposite when it comes to things like iCloud Core Data syncing. Last decade it was enough for iOS to be a platform for great native apps. This decade, iCloud needs to be a platform for great cloud syncing and storage.

Apple Now Locking Screenshots for Submitted Apps, Shutting Down Popular Scam Tactic 

Juli Clover, reporting for Mac Rumors:

Apple today announced on its Developer Portal that screenshots added to app descriptions will be locked in place once an app has been approved. […] This small but important update shuts down a widely used scam tactic, where developers would upload game screenshots to get an app approved by Apple and then switch them out with screenshots from another popular app.

Panic detailed one of these scam apps a few weeks ago. Worth noting, though, that this change is a pain in the ass for legitimate developers — any change to your app’s screenshots now requires a full submission/review process.

MLB Interview Caps 

Paul Lukas at Uni Watch:

MLB already has game caps, BP caps, Elmer Fudd caps, St. Paddy’s Day caps, All-Star Game caps, World Series caps, throwback caps, futuristic caps, G.I. Joe caps, flag-desecration caps, wild card winner caps, division champion caps, league champion caps, World Series champion caps, snap-back caps, low-profile caps, distressed caps, and probably a few other caps I can’t think of right now.

Any reasonable person surveying this headwear landscape can only come to one possible conclusion: We need more motherfucking caps.

Fortunately, the folks at MLB have taken heroic steps to alleviate this tragic cap shortage before it reaches Irish Potato Famine-like proportions. Behold what they have magnanimously bestowed upon a cap-benighted world: the interview cap.

Can’t wait to find out what the fine is for a player who conducts an interview while not wearing their special interview cap.

iTunes Turns 12 

Jacqui Cheng:

Come reminisce with us over (more than) 12 years of iTunes screenshots.

Good old Brushed Metal.

Qualcomm’s CES Keynote 

I’m not sure what’s crazier — the keynote presentation itself, or the fact that the theme is “Born Mobile” but the video doesn’t play on iOS. You really do need to watch a few minutes of this — stick with it at least until Ballmer bounds on stage.

Update: They’ve finally added a version that works on mobile devices. Still a terrible presentation, though.

Wired Gadget Lab’s Daily CES Coverage 

By far, my favorite daily coverage of CES has been Wired Gadget Lab’s. The format is perfect: a series of updates each day, most of them very brief, colored heavily by the personalities of the writers. It’s blogging informed by Twitter and Instagram. Just a series of “this is interesting/funny” updates.

Hands-On With the Imminently-Shipping Pebble Smart Watch 

I ordered one and am looking forward to trying it. But physically it strikes me as overly clunky compared to regular (i.e. non-smart) watches. And the software seems limited; if I can see a text message, I want to reply to it (which, on a watch, would mean voice dictation).

Vending Machine Dispenses MacBooks for Student Use 

Interesting idea from my alma mater. You know what would make this really useful? Dropbox.

Dropbox/Samsung Partnership 

Lucas Mearian, reporting for Computerworld:

Dropbox said the deeper integration includes several new Samsung devices, such as the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Grand smartphone and smart cameras. Samsung cameras will automatically push the photos to Dropbox’s cloud storage service.

Dropbox is available natively on the Samsung Galaxy III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, and Samsung Galaxy Camera. Users configuring the devices will be offered free 50GB of capacity when they activate Dropbox, according to Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, head of mobile business development.

Sounds like a good deal. Out of the box, you get 50 GB of cloud storage — universally hailed as best-of-breed for simplicity and syncing reliability — that works with whatever other computers or tablets you might own. It’s not an exclusivity advantage for Samsung — again, Dropbox works almost everywhere — but it might be an out-of-the-box advantage, and it may well introduce many people to Dropbox for the first time.

As an aside, the other night my third-grade son saw me okaying the latest update to the Dropbox app on my iPhone. He said his teachers are “always talking about Dropbox”. I asked him what he thought Dropbox was. “It’s how they email files from the school’s computers to their iPads.” Like I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s a linchpin in the iPad experience.

The Changing Face of Computers on Screen 

Preston de Guise, after examining on-screen computers from various science fiction films and TV shows:

What happened between the movies and TVs of the older era (mid-80s and older) and those of the newer era?

The shift was profound yet entirely subtle, something that a lot of people wouldn’t have really noticed at all — we shifted from portraying computer hardware to portraying computer software.

Pairs well with Mat Honan’s observation the other day about CES.

‘Sorry, Stela, We Need to Get Our Name Out There and It’s Your Turn to Say Something Completely Insane.’ 

John Moltz, on an analyst’s prediction that Windows Phone will overtake Android in smartphone market share — in 2013.

The Cost of Selling Galaxies 

Worth a re-link, regarding yesterday’s item pondering why Samsung has become the only successful (i.e. profitable) maker of Android handsets: they spend an astonishing amount of money on advertising and marketing. How much? At least 10 times more than Apple — and more than Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola combined.

The Perennial Less-Expensive iPhone 

Élyse Betters, writing for 9to5Mac, points out that this isn’t the first time the WSJ (among others) have claimed Apple is working on a less-expensive new iPhone model.

Show Us the Pixels 

Everyone’s favorite rumor rag, DigiTimes:

Some sources claimed that they have seen the sample of the low-cost iPhone, which will come with a larger display, meeting the prevailing trend for the adoption of 5-inch displays for high-end models. They added that the low-priced iPhone will also have a brand new exterior design.

Any story claiming a new iPhone screen size needs to specify pixel counts. Same pixel count as existing iPhone but a bigger screen? New (higher) pixel count? Makes a huge difference for developers. Color me skeptical that Apple would introduce another new screen size of any sort. Even the minimal shift from a 3.5-inch 960 × 640 to a 4-inch 1136 × 640 has taken months for developers to catch up with.

WSJ: ‘Apple Working on a Less-Expensive iPhone’ 

Jessica E. Lessin, reporting for the WSJ:

The cheaper phone could resemble the standard iPhone, with a different, less-expensive body, one of the people said.

One possibility under consideration is lowering the cost of the device by using a different shell made of polycarbonate plastic; in contrast, the iPhone 5 currently has an aluminum housing.

Many other parts could remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models.

Apple’s strategy for lower-priced phones for the last four years has been to sell one- and two-year-old models at a discount. But perhaps the glass-backed iPhone 4 and 4S (and, come next year, the aluminum-backed iPhone 5) are inherently too expensive to produce to hit certain lower price points. Maybe Apple just wants to get rid of the last remaining products using those old grody 30-pin adapter ports. But whatever the reason, this would be a significant strategic shift.

Update: I think this is a misleading way to describe Apple’s market position:

Apple now faces greater pressure to make the iPhone more affordable. An onslaught of lower cost rivals powered by Google Inc.’s Android operating system are gaining market share.

In the 2012 third quarter, Apple held only 14.6% of worldwide smartphone shipments, down from a peak of 23% in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, according to IDC.

This makes it sound like Apple’s iPhone sales peaked in 2011, but that’s not true. They continue to grow. What happened is that “smartphones” were but a sliver over the overall phone market when Apple got started in 2007, and now have reached over 50 percent of the total phone market. So Apple’s share of “smartphones” dropped from 2011 to 2012, because even though iPhone sales continued to grow, they didn’t grow as fast as the entire handset industry’s shift to smartphones (which shift, was, yes, almost entirely about Android).

Apple’s share of worldwide phone shipments has done nothing but go up since 2007. I doubt many WSJ readers are aware of that after reading this article. (Although it may well be true that Apple needs to introduce new lower-cost phones for this to remain true.)

Tradeshow Tailgating 

Nice piece of gonzo-style CES coverage by Trent Wolbe for The Verge:

The one time I let my steely gaze drift I was ambushed by a goatee’d representative for a “Flipboard competitor” with a specialized algorithm for social news gathering. Unfortunately for the rep, who was just trying to do his job, I don’t use Flipboard, I don’t think the world needs another social news gathering tool, and, worse, I’m really bad at disguising my contempt for boring new software. He could sense my heart growing colder as he pitched and, in a valiant attempt to score a new media ally, he offered me exclusive beta access to the product (I wasn’t interested) and, finally, the chance to win the Samsung LED display at his booth because it was cheaper to buy than rent it and they needed an efficient way to unload it after the event ended. While my brief relationship with the rep ended amicably, the whole thing left me feeling like a mostly-empty jar of Hellmann’s left to sour on the kitchen counter: tapped-out, tepid, and slimy. I speed-walk-of-shamed to the nearest chili bar in a hopeless attempt to cleanse my soul of the aborted hookup.

Not a Fan of the Movies 

Christopher Tolkien granted a rare interview, with Le Monde:

Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

HTC Profit Plunges 91 Percent 

Sky News:

HTC is losing the smartphone sales war, with its devices continuing to be outsold by Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy range.

The Taiwanese firm, whose phones include the Butterfly, said net profit in the fourth quarter of 2012 had missed forecasts and plunged 91% year on year.

MG Siegler:

The Android ecosystem isn’t alive and well, the Samsung one is. Expect to hear a lot more out of this story in 2013.

Qualcomm’s Insane CES 2013 Keynote 

What is wrong with these companies?

More From the BBC on Supporting Android 

Rory Cellan-Jones, writing for the BBC:

Why, when Android devices now have a much bigger share of the smartphone market than Apple, does the iPhone get BBC apps first? Why does the iPlayer run more smoothly on the iPhone and iPad, and when will Android users get the same ability to download as well as stream programmes? These and other questions fill my inbox and my Twitterstream.

But as I said, this is not my job, so I asked Daniel Danker, the BBC’s head of iPlayer, apps and all that stuff, to explain. […]

“If you look at the amount of energy we spend on Apple, it pales in comparison to what we spend on Android. […]

“People write to us saying just that, why bother supporting older devices, why don’t you just start with - and then they insert whichever model of phone they have. But more than a quarter of our requests to iPlayer come from devices running Gingerbread. And the number one device contacting us is still the Samsung Galaxy S2, which can’t handle advanced video.”

He seems optimistic that 2013 will be a turning point for Android.

CES Is the World’s Greatest Hardware Show Stuck in a Software Era 

Mat Honan, reporting from CES:

Sure, hardware is very important. Faster processors. More and better sensors. Radios with better transmission capabilities, running on more frequencies. Pixel density. Delightful chamfers. These things matter. A lot. But the bottom line is software — or it should be. While atoms may indeed be the new bits in terms of production, bits remain king when it comes to consumption.

Even “hardware” features are defined by software, and can no longer be judged on their own. Consider, say, mobile phone cameras. The camera itself is important — the sensor, the lens, the physical size — but ultimately what matters is the quality of the images it produces, and software is a huge part of that.

1998’s Most Intriguing OS, 15 Years Later: Hands-on With Haiku Alpha 4 

Jeremy Reimer, writing for Ars Technica on the newest release of Haiku, an open source recreation of BeOS.

ReadQuick 

I read pretty well in the traditional way of reading: relatively small type laid out in pages. But I’ve long been interested in non-traditional reading apps and layouts, whether for people with low vision or whose brains work differently. There’s nothing “natural” about any sort of reading. ReadQuick offers a reading interface that struck me as crazy when I first heard it pitched, but maybe it’s crazy like a fox. It shows just one word at a time, at whatever speed you find comfortable.

It includes Instapaper account support, so you can think of it as a one-word-at-a-time alternative to the official Instapaper app.

Lenovo’s 27-Inch Tablet 

Just look at the still frame from the video of the woman lugging it around. This is nuts.

Why Buzzfeed Isn’t Attending CES 

Matt Buchanan:

By Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s reckoning, there are now four technology companies that truly matter to people: Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. None of them are at CES. Apple’s last appearance was in 1992. Microsoft, which delivered the CES keynote for years, announced — before last year’s keynote, even — that it would not return in 2013. Its keynote spot is being taken over by Qualcomm, which is mostly known for making chips for phones, and its centerpiece booth now hosts Hisense, a state-owned Chinese manufacturer you probably haven’t heard of. There probably isn’t a more precise illustration of what’s happened to CES: The booth of the world’s biggest software company is now occupied by a company mostly noted for its production of cheap HDTVs that line the shelves of Walmarts across the country.

In short, CES does seem to still tell the story of the year in consumer electronics: it’s just that it’s become a very boring story for all but the biggest companies, none of which bother to attend CES.

The Fifth Horseman: Samsung 

MG Siegler:

We all know the “four horsemen” of tech: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. These are the companies that pretty much everyone agrees will shape the foreseeable future of the tech sector. In some circles, that list makes waves for who is not included: Microsoft. But any rational thinker (meaning those outside of Redmond or anyone who hasn’t made a career as a .Net developer) knows that Microsoft simply no longer belongs on that list.

But that doesn’t mean the list is perfect. In fact, I do think there’s an omission that’s becoming a glaring one: Samsung.

There are only two companies making any profit in the mobile handset industry: Apple and Samsung. Would anyone a few years ago have expected Samsung to hold such a position? In some sense, what Apple has done is easier, or at least easier to understand: they have their own exclusive platform, iOS. Samsung has eked out a strong second place position selling a platform, Android, that was supposed to be a commodity. Why is Apple number one? Because they have a unique and superior exclusive offering. Why is Samsung so far ahead of HTC, Motorola, LG, et al? That’s a lot harder to understand.

Icelandic Air Passenger Taped to His Seat, Gagged After Drunken Rampage Aboard JFK-Bound Flight 

No word yet if he worked for RIM.

John Paczkowski on Apple’s Vacant SVP of Retail Position 

Good piece by John Paczkowski:

So who might Apple look to to fill the shoes of Ron Johnson, the chief architect of its retail strategy, who left the company last year to take the CEO job at retailer J.C. Penney? That’s a conundrum difficult enough to perplex the most skilled of recruiters; recall that it took Apple about seven months to sign Browett, and that was with the help of executive search firm Egon Zehnder International.

An easier task is to determine where Apple might look for candidates with the sort of experience needed to drive its retail ops.

The big question: do they go outside again (as they did with Browett), or promote someone from within their existing retail ranks?

The BBC Sport iPhone App 

The comments are full of the usual petulant whingeing from Android users.

Explaining Windows 8 PC Sales Over the Holidays 

Paul Thurrott:

It’s not pat to say that the Windows PC market went for volume over quality, because it did: Many of those 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month — too many, I think — went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap. Netbooks didn’t just rejuvenate the market just as Windows 7 appeared, they also destroyed it from within: Now consumers expect to pay next to nothing for a Windows PC. Most of them simply refuse to pay for more expensive Windows PCs.

1Password 4 for iOS 

My thanks to AgileBits for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote the just-released 1Password for iOS version 4.0. It’s a great update to an already award-winning app for storing passwords, bank accounts, and other sensitive data and information. Stop using the same password everywhere; get 1Password instead.

‘I Haven’t Sat Down for Six Months Now’ 

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams provides a tour of the International Space Station.

Photos From the CES Vault: 1967 to 2012 

Great collection of historic CES photos from Laura June at The Verge.

Little Techie 

Five-year-old boy who designs and recreates iOS devices. So great.

Keeping Safari a Secret 

Speaking of new blogs, Don Melton — who started the Safari and WebKit projects at Apple — has one:

I wasn’t worried about talk either. Forstall certainly trusted me — that’s one of the many things that made him a great boss. And I trusted my team — otherwise I wouldn’t have hired them. None of us nor any of the internal beta testers at Apple were going to snitch. There were too damn few beta testers, but they were above reproach.

Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist then. Nobody at Apple was stupid enough to blog about work, so what was I worried about?

Server logs. They scared the hell out of me.

Might as well clear a few minutes from your schedule and catch up on the whole thing.

Learning by Shipping 

Steven Sinofsky has a new blog:

Learning by Shipping picks up where these blogs leave off. The title comes from something impressed upon me early in my career, which is that learning as an engineer comes from the process of starting, then finishing, and iterating on products–getting products to market and putting the broad feedback loop to work. The teams and processes used to create products are critically important and fun to talk about relative to shipping and learning as we search for the best approaches to use at a given time.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Scott Forstall to start one.

The ‘Whoa’ Business Model 

Neven Mrgan:

I wonder if there’s a business to be gotten into where one shows movies the way everyone wants to see them: just the movies, from the very first second you start watching. It’s a naive thought; I understand that. But I can’t forget that when those lights went down, when that screen went up, and when that twangy riff kicked in, there were audible gasps and cheers in the audience, and someone behind me yelled out “whoa, awesome!”

‘He Now Praises the iPad’ 

Paul Kafasis, on an unusual Android bug:

For almost three months, Google’s Android project has had a very peculiar bug open in its tracker. The bug’s name alone commands attention:

Google Now, if asked “What is a Giraffe?”, finishes the description with “he now praises the iPad”.

So weird.

Hundreds 

Clever new iOS puzzle game from the makers of Canabalt. I very much like the visual aesthetic.

FTC Closes Google Antitrust Case 

Greg Sterling, reporting for Search Engine Land:

Google comes away largely unscathed from the process. Once can hear the celebrations getting started in Mountain View.

The settlement has three components. Henceforth there will be no involuntary scraping of third party content for inclusion in “specialized” (vertical) Google search results (the Yelp case). Google will also enable easier exporting of AdWords campaigns to Bing and other platforms. And Google (through a consent decree) will be required to fairly license Motorola’s “standards-essential” patents and stop using them in an anti-competitive way to block rival products.

Archos TV Connect 

I don’t know what I like better, the remote control or the dingus you attach atop your TV screen.

Shaken, Not Stirred 

The intersection of martinis and grammar nuances — ideal DF fodder, obviously.

Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish Going Independent 

I predict success, given the size and (deserved) loyalty of his audience. But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss advertising:

The decision on advertising was the hardest, because obviously it provides a vital revenue stream for almost all media products. But we know from your emails how distracting and intrusive it can be; and how it often slows down the page painfully. And we’re increasingly struck how advertising is dominated online by huge entities, and how compromising and time-consuming it could be for so few of us to try and lure big corporations to support us. We’re also mindful how online ads have created incentives for pageviews over quality content.

All true, given the advertising that is sold by sites like Time, The Atlantic, and The Dish’s current host publication, The Daily Beast. But that’s not the only way to sell advertising. DF, among other notable examples, is living proof that advertising can be quick-loading, noticeable but un-distracting, and unrelated to the corrupting influence of pageviews.

Let’s Have a Contest 

Here’s the headline and sub-head from a new piece for CIO magazine:

Why 2013 Is RIM’s BlackBerry Year

The iPhone isn’t that great and the Android OS is woefully insecure. Come Jan. 30, if mobile users take a hard look at their devices and then look at the new BlackBerry 10, RIM could be in for a windfall.

See if you can guess the writer.

Bloomberg: ‘U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service’ 

Susan Crawford, reporting for Bloomberg:

Also in 2011, six Time Warner lobbyists persuaded the North Carolina legislature to pass a “level playing field” bill making it impossible for cities in that state to create their own high-speed Internet access networks. Time Warner, which reported $26 billion in revenue in 2010, donated more than $6.3 million to North Carolina politicians over four years. Eighteen other states have laws that make it extremely difficult or impossible for cities to provide this service to their residents.

“Level playing field” — George Orwell must be proud.

Regarding Apple’s New Ad for Do Not Disturb 

Opening sentence in Chris Matyszczyk’s piece for CNet, “New Apple Ad a Bit Disturbing, as Touted Feature Reportedly Has New Year’s Hiccups”:

However walled your garden, rodents still pad around, cockroaches still shuffle.

Something is disturbing here, all right.

Apple Says New Year’s Related ‘Do Not Disturb’ Bug to Resolve Itself on January 7 

Being forced to turn this off manually reminded me just how great a feature Do Not Disturb is. Rather quickly took it for granted, and haven’t given it much thought since iOS 6 shipped. (Seems like a New Year’s tradition for iOS to contain some sort of year-change-triggered date bug.)

Ubuntu for Phones Announced 

Looks OK aesthetically, but the purely swipe-and-gesture based UI is a loser. It’s confusing. Swipe from the right takes you to the next most recently used app, but swipe from the left does something completely different (show a list of favorite apps). I’ve said before: gestures are the touchscreen equivalent of keyboard shortcuts: a convenient alternative, but almost never a good choice for the primary interface for a task. Ubuntu has designed a phone interface consisting entirely of gestures; it’s like a desktop interface with nothing but keyboard shortcuts.

I expect Ubuntu for Phones to be about as relevant as Ubuntu is on the desktop. Vlad Savov at The Verge has hands-on video of the system as it stands today, and — shocker — it’s laggy as hell.

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