Linked List: March 2013

Rich Siegel: Our Travails With iCloud Sync 

Detailed, thoughtful piece by Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software:

Core Data syncing: This is where the rubber meets the road for database-backed applications. Core Data is the application-level database framework supplied by OS X and iOS that provides the means for applications to store items, and data about those items, in a single database. Yojimbo, our product, was one of the very first to ship using Core Data storage — we’ve used it since 2006, and it works great for storing data locally in the way that the product needs it to. Syncing database changes with iCloud, however, is a very complicated and difficult job for Core Data.

That’s really the heart of it. Core Data really does “just work” for local storage, both on OS X and iOS, but that’s not the case with Core Data and iCloud.

Squarespace 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder and hosting service, and when they say “all-in-one”, they mean it. Squarespace has everything from great-looking templates, code-level customization, domain name registration, 24/7 support, and now even built-in e-commerce. It’s easy to use, easy to customize, and easy to get started.

Best of all, you can try it for free. Go to Squarespace.com and see for yourself.

‘OK’ 

David Gelphman, on an email he got from Steve Jobs while he worked at Apple.

‘I Don’t Use a Ring of Any Kind on My Phone. This Is So That I Am Always on Offense and Never Defense.’ 

Path CEO Dave Morin: huge douchebag.

Why Mention Android at All? 

John Sherrod, on Facebook’s “Home on Android” event next week:

If that’s true, the most fascinating thing to me about this invitation is that it mentions Android at all. Lately the trend has been for companies to develop phones and tablets based on a heavily customized version of Android and not even mention Google’s OS in their press events.

Does seem strange. Makes me wonder whether they’re announcing a major new app for Android in general, not just their own device. A new homescreen/launcher replacement, perhaps?

Facebook to Reveal ‘Home on Android’ at Press Event Next Week 

Josh Constine, TechCrunch:

Rumors we’ve heard say that the project could actually be called “Facebook Home”, and its hallmark would be a heavily Facebook-ified mobile phone home screen. This could include Facebook news feed stories and data splayed out right on the home screen, along with easy access to Facebook apps.

A few thoughts:

  • I wonder if this is what Mike Matas — and the many other A-team iOS designers Facebook has hired in recent years — have been working on?

  • What does this mean for the Facebook integration in iOS?

Google Introduces Same-Day Shipping to Compete With eBay and Amazon 

This, from the company that shitcanned Google Reader because they wanted to “focus”.

Galaxy S4 Starts at $249 on Contract at AT&T 

The iPhone 5 starts at $199. Obviously, Apple needs to make a cheaper iPhone.

Hashtags Considered #Harmful 

Daniel Victor, writing for Nieman Journalism Lab:

I’ve heard before: What’s the harm? Why not at least try to include #SuperBowl if every little bit helps? Somewhat of a fair point. Using a hashtag does no harm in the same way wood paneling does no harm to your station wagon, or a misspelled tattoo does no harm to your bicep.

Here’s where I’ll join the rest in unquantifiable hoodoo: I believe hashtags are aesthetically damaging. I believe a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience).

Hear, hear.

The Biggest Problem in Technology 

Matt Buchanan, for The New Yorker:

Given the advantages of time, distance, and a rational mind, it is relatively easy to see that basically everybody involved erred (though some far more severely than others). No one emerges unscathed: Richards’ public tweet shaming the pair was disproportionate to the inherent offense in their comments; the pair should not have made an unfunny dick joke — one that has been made too many times already — at a tech conference that emphasizes its diversity and code of conduct; PlayHaven should not have immediately fired the developer for the “inappropriate comments” (even if there were other factors, the timing is poor); vigilantes should not have launched attacks against SendGrid; SendGrid should not have fired Richards (again, if only for timing, not to mention that it sends the message that speaking out is wrong); and most of all, horrible people should not have bombarded Richards with threats of death and rape.

Where in the World Are Windows Phones Outselling iPhones? 

Nick Wingfield answers my question:

According to Kevin Restivo, an analyst at IDC, the countries where Windows Phone shipments exceeded those of iPhone during the fourth quarter were: Argentina, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. A seventh “country” where Windows Phone shipments beat iPhone is actually a group of smaller countries, including Croatia, that IDC lumps together in a category called “rest of central and eastern Europe.”

Some big countries on that list. None of them Apple strongholds, though.

Why Developers Shouldn’t Use iCloud Syncing, Even if It Worked 

Brent Simmons, again:

Here’s the thing: half the mobile revolution is about designing and building apps for smartphones and tablets.

The other half is about writing the web services that power those apps.

How comfortable are you with outsourcing half your app to another company? The answer should be: not at all comfortable.

Don’t take Brent’s word for it. Consider Tim Cook’s doctrine: “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.”

The Night Steve Jobs Returned to Apple 

Great set on Flickr from Tim Holmes.

Apple Fans: Microsoft Is No Longer the Enemy 

Brent Simmons, writing at Macworld:

While I was visiting the Microsoft campus a few weeks ago—in suburban Redmond, just across Lake Washington from my beloved Seattle—I kept thinking of the old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon can go to China.”

If Microsoft is China, then that makes me Nixon in this story, I realize.

Couldn’t agree more with Brent on this one.

Lucky Number Seven 

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft:

Windows Phone has reached 10 percent market share in a number of countries, and according to IDC’s latest report, has shipped more than Blackberry in 26 markets and more than iPhone in seven.

OK, I’ll bite: which seven?

MacUpdate March 2013 Bundle 

Last day to score this deal from MacUpdate: $600 of Mac software for just $50.

Forecast 

Forecast:

About a year ago, we released a little app for the iPhone and iPad called Dark Sky, attempting to do something new and interesting for weather forecasting, a field we think had become pretty stagnant. Approaching 100k sales, it’s been fairly successful; however, we’ve been continually asked for more: international support, longer-term forecasting, an Android app, and so on.

Rather than cram these things into Dark Sky, we decided to do something grander: create our own full-featured weather service from scratch, complete with 7-day forecasts that cover the whole world, beautiful weather visualizations, and a time machine for exploring the weather in the past and far future.

Bold move.

Apple’s Broken Promise: iCloud and Core Data 

Devastating piece by Ellis Hamburger for The Verge on the calamitous state of iCloud Core Data syncing: users want it, but it simply doesn’t work reliably.

Just a Head Fake? 

Om Malik:

We have been privately musing that Apple’s iWatch might just be a head fake, a way to throw off the rivals (and even insiders at the company) and send them on a wild goose chase.

How great would this be?

Update: Although I’m not sure what the point of fooling “insiders” would be. If this watch thing is a head fake, it’s meant only to misdirect competitors.

The more likely scenario, of course, is that Apple is working on a watch or watch-like device. But some combination of Samsung, Google, Microsoft, and others will rush their smart watches to market first. Then, if Apple ships theirs (a big if — Apple scraps more projects than it ships), it will look and work like no other. Then, mysteriously, the next round of watches from all the other companies will somehow wind up looking like slightly clunkier versions of Apple’s. (Remember the “slates” Microsoft heralded at CES 2010?)

Visceral Apps 

Great piece on modern UI design by Rob Foster at Mysterious Trousers:

So here’s my theory: I believe that introducing visceral elements into an app will take it past the point of just being awesome. It will make your app speak to the subconscious, built-in affinity that humans have for the physical properties I mentioned before. I believe that even if you designed the most perfect and useful app possible, that the act of adding in these visceral elements will make people love your app on an even deeper level.

I would call this designing for feel, or maybe even designing for affection.

The Management-Free Organization 

Scott Adams:

I think the manager-free model only works for a business that has high margins and depends more on creating hits than cutting costs. The videogame business fits that model, as do many Internet businesses. And in both cases entrepreneurs can hire from anywhere in the world.

So here’s my summary: Management only exists to compensate for its own poor hiring decisions.

A Review and Comparison of the Juice Pack Helium and Air for iPhone 5 

David Chartier:

I honestly don’t understand why the Helium exists. To be clear, the Helium and Air are both great, but do enough people care so much about such a small difference in size, weight, and battery to warrant two separate cases released just weeks and $20 apart? It would be more understandable if there were more space between the two, perhaps if the Air had a 2000+ mAh battery and the necessary increase in overall size. Then again, I don’t work in the battery case industry, so maybe Mophie knows something I don’t.

I had one of these for my iPhone 4 and 4S, but I’m seriously questioning if I’d ever even use one for my iPhone 5. And like Chartier, I wish they charged via Lightning rather than micro USB; I don’t want to pack the extra cable.

‘Bozos and BlackBerrys’ 

Special guest Erica Ogg, senior writer and Apple beat reporter for GigaOM, joins me on this week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, to discuss Apple’s hiring of Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch; Apple’s PR department; the BBC running a story on a survey conducted by a subsidiary of Samsung’s advertising agency; Eric Schmidt still using a BlackBerry; Google Keep; and Apple’s significantly updated Podcasts app.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Basil — A smart cookbook for iPad.
  • Ridiculous Fishing — An iOS game about fishing with miniguns, chainsaws, and hairdryers.
So Long, Break-Even 

Horace Dediu makes the case that the iTunes Store is now a money maker for Apple.

Stanley Kubrick, ‘The Shining’, and New York City: The Filming Locations of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ 

Scouting NY:

I can imagine that Kubrick conspiracy theorists would argue that this is all intentional, adding to the movie’s dream-like feel. That by trapping Bill in the same three recurring New York streets, it’s like he’s in a nightmare he can’t escape. I could buy that to a certain extent.

But a more practical way to look at it is that Kubrick was simply doing what every filmmaker does when shooting on a set. Film sets are limited in size, and you do everything in your power to give them scope, the sense of an outside world. Also, film sets cost money, and rather than tearing down and rebuilding, you try to use them in as many different ways as possible.

The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide 

New e-book from David Sparks and Eddie Smith, jam-packed with details, tips, app suggestions, and interactive content like screencasts and interviews. $10 in the iBookstore. Have to admit, I’m a little proud about this.

Google’s Trust Problem 

Ezra Klein:

But I’m not sure I want to be a Google early adopter anymore. I love Google Reader. And I used to use Picnik all the time. I’m tired of losing my services.

All companies cancel services and abandon apps. The difference with Google Reader is that they’ve canceled something beloved.

CleanMyMac 2 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote CleanMyMac 2.

CleanMyMac 2 is a new utility designed to help you free up space on your hard drives. It finds large files, tells you how long it’s been since you’ve used them, optimizes your iPhoto library, uninstalls apps, and more. All this, wrapped in a simple clean user interface.

Try CleanMyMac 2 for free, or buy it now for 25 percent off using coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL” (valid until March 24).

Security Hole Allows Apple Passwords to Be Reset With Only Email Address and Date of Birth 

Yikes.

Eric Schmidt Uses a BlackBerry 

Shocker.

How Beer Gave Us Civilization 

Jeffrey P. Kahn, writing in the NYT:

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.

We needed beer.

Interest in ‘Skeuomorphism’ Over Time 

The graph looks exactly like you think it does.

Google Keep 

Trust your thoughts and ideas to the makers of Google Reader. Good luck with that.

Google Now Not Submitted to App Store 

Another shocker. (Via Jim Dalrymple.)

Update to Apple’s Podcasts App 

RIP skeuomorphic reel-to-reel tape deck.

Engadget: ‘J.D. Power: Average Smartphone Satisfaction Is Up, Fights Are Fierce for Second Place’ 

Further sign that Apple is in trouble: the iPhone topped JD Power’s smartphone satisfaction survey for the ninth consecutive time, but they couldn’t even warrant a mention in Engadget’s headline.

Apple Introduces Two-Step Verification for Apple ID and iCloud Accounts 

Finally.

Microsoft Backs Away From Flash Ban in IE 10 

Skating to where the puck used to be.

Journamalism at Its Best 

BBC News, “Apple Brand Less ‘Inspiring’, Survey Says”:

Smartphone rival Samsung is now seen as equally “inspiring” in the US, says the survey by consultancy Added Value.

Added Value is a subsidiary of WPP. WPP is Samsung’s ad agency. No mention of this in the story. Just reported as a legitimate unbiased survey. Stay classy, BBC News.

Update: The BBC subsequently added the following paragraph, but otherwise left the article as it stood:

AV is part of Sir Martin Sorrell’s marketing group WPP, whose clients include Samsung, Google and eBay.

The Case for a True Mac Pro Successor 

Another one from Siracusa:

Let’s talk about the Lexus LFA, a halo car developed by Toyota over the course of ten years. (Lexus is Toyota’s luxury nameplate.) When the LFA was finally released in 2010, it sold for around $400,000. A year later, only 90 LFAs had been sold. At the end of 2012, production stopped, as planned, after 500 cars. […]

The explanation for the apparent insanity of this product is actually very simple. Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota, loves fast cars. He fucking loves them! That’s it.

Self-Reliance 

John Siracusa scores the mobile industry:

So who’s winning? When pondering this, I find myself thinking about dependencies. What is each company doing for itself, and in what ways does each company rely on others? I think this balance, much more than profits or market share, is what will determine long-term success. Let’s see how the players stack up.

Vulnerabilities Continue to Weigh Down Samsung Android Phones 

Threatpost:

Independent Italian researcher Roberto Paleari discussed several bugs he recently found in Samsung Android phones in a post on his blog yesterday. Paleari claims that after taking some time to sit down with some of his devices, he found six exploitable bugs on older devices such as the Galaxy Tab and the newer Galaxy S3.

All of the vulnerabilities can be exploited without privilege and according to Paleari, stem from “Samsung-specific software and customizations.”

Shocker.

Learn the Ropes of Azure Mobile Services With Brent Simmons 

Cloud services for iOS developers, from Microsoft.

Why James Whittaker Left Google 

James Whittaker:

The old Google made a fortune on ads because they had good content. It was like TV used to be: make the best show and you get the most ad revenue from commercials. The new Google seems more focused on the commercials themselves.

Update: Whoops, that was a year-old post. Sorry about that.

New Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch Runs Over an iPhone With a Steamroller 

Yeah, that’s cool.

What I Mean by Bozo 

Eric Jackson:

A bozo is someone who thinks they are much smarter and capable than they actually are. They constantly over-estimate their abilities and under-estimate the risks and threats around them. They typically don’t keep an open-mind. They look instead for data that confirms a previously held bias.

Exhibit B: Defending/Denying Flash Player’s Adverse Effect on Battery Life, a Mere Two Years Ago 

I get that the guy worked for Adobe and had to play for the home team, but as CTO he backed a dying technology for years too long. In 2007 when the iPhone shipped Flash-free, that was one thing. But for Adobe to still be backing the Flash horse in 2010 when the iPad came out — they just looked silly. Flash Player had already lost. It was over. It was like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail — Flash Player had had its arms cut off and Lynch was telling us it was “just a flesh wound”.

Lynch wasn’t just an employee pushing the company line. As CTO, he was the guy who defined the company line — and his line had Adobe still pushing for Flash on mobile devices over three years after the iPhone shipped.

Exhibit A in the Case That Newly-Hired Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch Is a Bozo, a Bad Hire 

He wrote this, just three years ago:

Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device. […]

We are now on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs. Flash in the browser provides a competitive advantage to these devices because it will enable their customers to browse the whole Web.

Well, how’d that work out? Those companies and platforms are now either (a) out of business, (b) on the verge of going out of business, or (c) have abandoned Flash Player entirely.

For example, the recent Nexus One from Google will rock with a great experience in the browser with Flash Player 10.1.

Yeah, it rocked so hard Google dropped Flash Player support from Android last year.

Even in the case of video, where Flash is enabling over 75% of video on the Web today, the coming HTML video implementations cannot agree on a common format across browsers, so users and content creators would be thrown back to the dark ages of video on the Web with incompatibility issues.

And now here we are today in the dark ages of video, where we can only see by the light of the millions of HTML5 videos playing on Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and iOS mobile devices.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Dan Lyons Holds Job for Five Months 

Feels like just yesterday. Good times.

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch Leaves to Join Apple 

Lynch’s leaving Adobe is a done deal. CNBC’s Jon Fortt reports his title at Apple is “VP of Technology”, reporting to senior VP Bob Mansfield. If true, he doesn’t even make this page.

Market Share and Share Price 

Dare Obasanjo, on Twitter:

The point @gruber misses in [“Ceding the Crown”] is that Apple’s share price was based on the assumption of overwhelming market share.

That’s actually a point I wanted to make, but forgot. My misconception #1:

Apple’s lack of serious competition would, or at least might, result in an overwhelming market share advantage for the iPhone.

I think some significant amount of AAPL’s run-up was based on this notion, and when it became clear it wasn’t going to happen, all other signs of iOS’s growth and vibrancy be damned, those investors cashed out.

Thumbs and Ammo 

“Real tough guys don’t need guns, they just need a positive, can-do attitude.” (Via Aza Raskin.)

HTC One Delayed Due to Supply Problems 

Uh-oh:

The company has a problem managing its component suppliers as it has changed its order forecasts drastically and frequently following last year’s unexpected slump in shipments. HTC has had difficulty in securing adequate camera components as it is no longer a tier-one customer.

Free Works 

Marco Arment:

And we lucked out with Reader — imagine how much worse it would be if website owners weren’t publishing open RSS feeds for anyone to fetch and process, but were instead posting each item to a proprietary Google API. We’d have almost no chance of building a successful alternative.

That’s Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. (Does the shutdown make more sense now?)

Checkboxes That Kill Your Product 

Alex Limi:

Well, we have met the enemy, and he is us. In the currently shipping version, Firefox ships with many options that will render the browser unusable to most people, right in the main settings ui.

The Story of Christoph Niemann’s Petting Zoo App 

Christoph Niemann, on creating his delightful iOS app, Petting Zoo:

How do you create an experience that neither frustrates users with its complex possibilities nor bores them with repetitive dullness? That goal was made even more complicated because I didn’t want the app to use any words to explain what users should do.

PaintCode 

PaintCode is a rather amazing Mac app: it’s a vector drawing tool that generates Objective-C code. Like in the way that Illustrator is a front-end to PostScript, PaintCode is a front-end to Cocoa. And the developers, PixelCut, are eating their own dogfood — most of the PaintCode UI was created in PaintCode.

‘So Much of What Is Written About Apple These Days Is Just Horseshit Meant to Draw Flies’ 

Don Melton on the stupid rumor that Apple assigns new employees to fake projects to test their loyalty.

Typographica: Our Favorite Typefaces of 2012 

Great picks, including a couple I’ve noted here on DF, like Idlewild and Pitch.

Google’s Penetration of Android 

Benedict Evans:

It was interesting, though not terribly surprising, ​that Samsung found room in its announcement of the Galaxy S4 for a tap-dancing child and a live orchestra but not Google, and mentioned Android only once, in passing. It has been clear for a while that Samsung wants the Galaxy brand to replace the Android brand.

And Apple’s recent push — the Schiller interviews, this new “There’s iPhone. And then there’s everything else.” campaign — is about pushing the opposite notion, that a Samsung phone is just another Android phone.

I’m From Philly, and I Actually Am Angry 

Ben and Jerry’s ripped off a t-shirt by my pals at Mule Design.

Samsung’s Game Controller Looks Familiar 

A coincidence, I’m sure.

Simple Bracket 

I just linked this app up as one of the sponsors of this week’s The Talk Show, but if you’re a college basketball fan, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check it out. Useful, beautiful, and really well-designed and well-made.

‘I Don’t Want to Put Down My Drink’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest star MG Siegler. We discuss a week jam-packed with news: Phil Schiller’s Android-trashing interviews; Samsung’s bizarre introduction of the interesting Galaxy S4; Andy Rubin stepping aside (or, as seems more likely, being pushed aside) as Google’s executive in charge of Android; and Google’s decision to pull the plug on Google Reader.

Brought to you by these outstanding sponsors:

  • Things — Elegant task management for Mac and iOS with cloud syncing.
  • Pixelmator — Amazingly powerful and beautiful image editing app for the Mac.
  • Simple Bracket — New iPhone app from Studio Neat for filling in March Madness brackets.
‘The World Has No Room for Cowards’ 

Harrowing tale by Brian Krebs:

It’s not often that one has the opportunity to be the target of a cyber and kinetic attack at the same time. But that is exactly what’s happened to me and my Web site over the past 24 hours. On Thursday afternoon, my site was the target of a fairly massive denial of service attack. That attack was punctuated by a visit from a heavily armed local police unit that was tricked into responding to a 911 call spoofed to look like it came from my home.

MacUpdate Spring Bundle With Parallels Desktop 8 

My thanks to MacUpdate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their spring Mac software bundle. It’s a great deal: for a limited time, you can get over $600 worth of Mac software for just $49.99. Included in the bundle: Parallels Desktop 8 ($80), DEVONthink Pro 2 ($80), Prizmo 2 ($50), MotionComposer ($149), 1000 OpenType fonts ($99), DiskAid 6 ($30), and Mac Internet Security 2013 ($74, 3-Pack).

These are great apps, and if there’s even one of them that you’ve had your eye on, buying it through the MacUpdate bundle is like getting all of the other apps for free. You can’t beat this deal.

Knobfeel 

“Reviews based purely on the feel of the knob.” Brilliant. (Via Coudal.)

Apple: ‘There’s iPhone. Then There’s Everything Else.’ 

New iPhone page on Apple.com. Marketing team is fired up.

‘Post Around 8:20’ 

Bizarre story from China — a coordinated campaign by state-run television network CCTV to get celebrities to post anti-Apple remarks to Weibo after the network ran a segment on Apple’s warranty replacement policies in China.

Help Us, Obi-Wan 

Lorraine Luk, reporting on the Galaxy S4 for the WSJ:

“The only hope for Apple and its suppliers is the possible launch of a low-cost iPhone later this year, which may help the U.S. company to gain market share in fast-growing emerging markets such as China,” said Capital Securities analyst Diana Wu.

Their only hope.

Bitsplitting: Episode 1 

Speaking of new tech podcasts featuring good friends of mine, Daniel Jalkut has just launched a new one, Bitsplitting. His first guest: Guy English. It’s good.

Google Reader Still Drives Far More Traffic Than Google Plus 

My own referrer logs look the same as Buzzfeed’s — lots from Google Reader, almost none from Google Plus. But I don’t know that that means Google made a mistake by shutting down Reader. I don’t think they want to drive traffic to other sites. Google Plus is like the late-’90s portal mania all over again — they want you to stay on their site, not go elsewhere.

Accidental Tech Podcast: Episode 5 

In between the time they launched and I thought, “Hey, cool, a new tech podcast with John Siracusa, Marco Arment, and Casey Liss, I should link it up because DF readers will love this” and me getting around to doing it, they’ve somehow already gotten up to episode five. Hurry up and subscribe before they get to episode 10 next week.

What Else Google Is Shutting Down 

Brent Simmons:

One of the interesting ones: the CalDAV API will be removed for all but whitelisted developers. CalDAV builds on WebDAV and is an open standard. Instead you’d have to use the Google Calendar API.

Open always wins, and Google is always open. Right?

Bloomberg: Surface Tablets Selling Like Crap 

Ian King and Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. has sold about 1.5 million Surface devices, people with knowledge of the company’s sales said, a slow start in its bid to crack the fast-growing tablet market to make up for slumping personal-computer demand.

Microsoft has sold little more than a million of the Surface RT version and about 400,000 Surface Pros since their debuts, according to three people, who asked not to be named because sales haven’t yet been made public. The company had ordered about 3 million Surface RTs, they said.

Not good.

Photolettering 

Fantastic — and free — new iPhone app from the typographic masterminds at House Industries.

Dropbox Acquires Mailbox 

Mailbox:

Rather than grow Mailbox on our own, we’ve decided to join forces with Dropbox and build it out together. To be clear, Mailbox is not going away. The product needs to grow fast, and we believe that joining Dropbox is the best way to make that happen. Plus, imagine what cool things you could do if your Mailbox was connected to your Dropbox…

Should be good news, as it’s not an acqui-hire (ugh, sorry, let’s say talent acquisition), but a simple product acquisition. Dropbox wanted the product, not merely the team.

Rene Ritchie on RSS, Post-Google Reader 

Rene Ritchie:

RSS is the file-system of news, in a post-file system world. It’s fantastic infrastructure, but the front end needs to evolve beyond traditional reader apps.

Great analogy.

Mat Honan: ‘The Samsung Galaxy S4 Is Completely Amazing and Utterly Boring’ 

Samsung has run into the same perceptual problem that Apple did several years ago: at a certain point, each generation of your device is an evolution, not revolution — but the critics crave constant revolution.

Tesla Is the New Apple 

Steven Johnson:

The question is whether Tesla is the Apple of 1985 or the Apple of 2005.

Google Removes Ad-Blocking Apps From the Play Store 

David Ruddock, Android Police:

According to Android developer Jared Rummler and a number of other sources, Google has begun purging known ad-blocking software from the Play Store today.

You don’t say.

New Samsung CEO Says There Is ‘Lackluster Demand’ for Windows Tablets and Phones 

You don’t say.

Browett Says He ‘Didn’t Fit’ With Apple 

Russell Lynch, reporting for The Independent:

The retail veteran John Browett struck a humble note over his brief six-month stint with the consumer electronics giant Apple yesterday as he said he “just didn’t fit” with the business.

You don’t say.

Samsung’s ‘Tone-Deaf and Shockingly Sexist’ Galaxy S4 Launch Event 

Molly Wood, writing for CNet:

The comically alcoholic one, DeeDee, then proceeds to demo how eye tracking can pause a video when you look away from the screen… as she looks away at a hunky gardener type who proceeds to take off his shirt.

“While the women are cooling down,” says the emcee, “why don’t you tell us about S Health?”

By then, it’s almost too easy to have there be a joke about marrying a doctor and then the one about eating too much cheesecake ohyeahthatoneIshouldhaveseenthatcoming. Of course those jokes are in there. Why would those jokes not be in there? We already had a tap-dancing tow-headed kid and a hot Brazilian girl.

I’d say they went right over the line from sexism to outright misogyny. You really have to see this thing, especially the second half, to believe it.

An Unforced Error 

Phil Schiller, in an interview yesterday:

“And that extends to the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old,” he said. “Customers will have to wait to get an update.”

But it ends up the S4 is — to Samsung’s credit — shipping with Android 4.2.2, the latest available version. Not sure why Schiller would speculate on something like this based solely on rumors.

Samsung Launches Galaxy S4 

Nice rundown by Danny Sullivan.

OS X Mountain Lion Update 10.8.3 

Finally.

Just Making Stuff Up 

BBC News, on the launch of the Galaxy S4:

With Apple suffering from a dipped share price, and a few recent missteps with product launches, the time is perhaps ripe for Samsung to pile pressure on the iPhone-maker.

What “recent missteps with product launches”? The iPad Mini is the best-selling, best-regarded small tablet in the world. The iPhone 5 is the most profitable and best-selling smartphone in the world. The iPad 3/4 is the best-selling tablet in the world, and is single-handedly transforming the entire PC industry. Retina MacBook Pros — best laptops in the world. MacBook Airs? Better than ever.

The one and only recent product launch you can point to as a “misstep” is Apple Maps, and even there, there is now a free Google Maps app available to all iPhone users, and it has seemingly had no ill effect on the sale of iOS devices. Most companies would do well to have Apple Maps be their worst “misstep”.

Google, Destroyer of Ecosystems 

Aldo Cortesi:

The truth is this: Google destroyed the RSS feed reader ecosystem with a subsidized product, stifling its competitors and killing innovation. It then neglected Google Reader itself for years, after it had effectively become the only player. Today it does further damage by buggering up the already beleaguered links between publishers and readers. It would have been better for the Internet if Reader had never been at all.

Photos of Children From Around the World With Their Most Prized Possessions 

Really sweet. And then you get to the kid from the Ukraine.

(Stolen, with no shame, from my wife.)

‘No Kind of Work for a Grown Man’ 

This week’s The Talk Show won’t record until tomorrow, but if you’re in the mood to hear me on another show, Glenn Fleishman was kind enough to have me as his guest on The New Disruptors, to talk about how I turned DF into a career.

Eight Years Later 

Fascinating before/after comparison of St. Peter’s Square in 2005 vs. 2013.

Google Reader Lived on Borrowed Time 

Om Malik, interviewing Google Reader co-creator Chris Wetherell:

“When they replaced sharing with +1 on Google Reader, it was clear that this day was going to come,” he said. Wetherell, 43, is amazed that Reader has lasted this long. Even before the project saw the light of the day, Google executives were unsure about the service and it was through sheer perseverance that it squeaked out into the market. At one point, the management team threatened to cancel the project even before it saw the light of the day, if there was a delay.

Thanks for telling us now.

MG Siegler on Phil Schiller’s Interview Yesterday With the WSJ 

Different take on it than mine, including the keen observation that Schiller’s derision was aimed only at Android at a whole — he never mentioned Samsung specifically, even though the interview was clearly timed to take some air out of today’s Galaxy S4 launch. (MG is my guest on this week’s The Talk Show; we’ll talk about this for sure.)

Called It a Few Months Ago 

I was at least half-joking with this tweet, but I’ll take credit anyway.

‘Next Time, Please Pay a Fair Price for the Services You Depend On’ 

Dave Winer on the Google Reader shutdown.

Google to Shut Down Google Reader 

Alan Green, on the Google Reader Blog:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

Brent Simmons (who knows a thing or two about feed readers), one month ago:

Part of learning to focus is learning how to shut things down. Google has done well at that — but I’m surprised that Google Reader hasn’t been shut down yet. Better a clean shut-down than an ungraceful end.

See also: this piece from Brent all the way back in 2011.

‘Leapfrogged’ 

Speaking of Android-vs.-iPhone and the WSJ, here’s their story on Andy Rubin stepping down from Google’s Android division (emphasis added):

But Mr. Rubin also leaves with Android at a high point. Android has leapfrogged Apple’s iOS mobile operating system to become the most widely used smartphone operating system worldwide. Manufacturers shipped 497 million Android-powered smartphones last year, or 70% of the global smartphone market, up from 246 million in 2011, or 49% of the market. Apple shipped 136 million iPhones last year, or 19% of the market, up from 93 million in 2011, which also accounted for 19% of the market.

They do show that iPhone sales are continuing to grow at a pretty fast clip year over year, but that second sentence rankles. It creates the perception that iOS was previously “the most widely used smartphone operating system worldwide”. I don’t believe that was ever the case.

Take a look at this chart from Wikipedia, based on numbers from Gartner. Just talking about operating systems, it’s clear that the OS that Android “leapfrogged” to become the most-used in the world is Symbian. iOS has never even been close to being the market share leader for smartphones. Look at this chart from Horace Dediu showing handset sale numbers and you get an even starker picture of how “market share” isn’t a relevant measure of the iPhone’s success or position in the market, at any point over the last five years.

Phil Schiller Interview With WSJ 

Ian Sherr and Jessica E. Lessin, writing for the WSJ (headline: “In Rare Move, Apple Goes on the Defensive Against Samsung”):

Apple Inc. is on the defensive.

In a rare interview a day before Samsung Electronics Co. announces a new flagship smartphone in New York, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller on Wednesday played down the expected competition from the device and discussed how believes such products — which run Google Inc.’s Android software — are inferior to Apple’s iPhone.

He shared data on the iPhone’s popularity and said Apple’s own research shows that four times as many iPhone users switched from Android than to Android during the fourth quarter, according to company research.

Three observations:

  • It says more about the WSJ than Apple that they call Schiller’s interview and statements here “defensive” rather than “offensive”. I don’t know that either word quite applies, but I’d say his statements were more of an attack than a defense.

  • Those switching numbers are pretty striking. Take them with a grain of salt, given that they come from Apple’s own research, but, if true, it suggests the iPhone is still — dare I say it — winning.

  • It’s clearly no coincidence that Schiller granted this interview the day before the Galaxy S4 launch in New York, and it is an unusual thing for Apple to do. (Usually, when they want to deflate attention from a competitor’s announcement, they do it by releasing a minor update to an existing Apple product.) Perhaps that’s what the Journal deems “defensive”, but I’d say it’s more “taking the S4 seriously”.

Roku 3 Review at The Verge 

David Pierce, The Verge:

Go to the Roku home screen, select “Search,” and enter in whatever you want to watch (again, your phone keyboard comes in handy here). Up comes a list of where you can watch it, and how much (if anything) it costs. A search through my channels for 500 Days of Summer let me know I could rent it from Amazon, Vudu, or Blockbuster, for between $2.99 and $3.99. Searching for Jiro Dreams of Sushi brought up the same results, plus the option to stream for free on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The more channels you add, the more options you’ll get, and search is impressively well integrated across Roku’s most popular channels, from Vudu to Netflix to Crackle.

Sure wish Apple TV had search like this.

Saving ‘You Bet Your Life’ 

Great story by Andy Marx, Groucho’s grandson, writing at Boing Boing:

As Nicholson began telling everyone about his latest movie, “The Last Detail,” which would be released in a few months, the phone rang and my grandfather, never one to have his lunch or a good story interrupted, asked me to answer it.

I walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.

“Is Mr. Marx in?”, the voice at the other end said.

“Who’s calling?” I asked.

“I work at the NBC storage warehouse in Englewood Cliifs, New Jersey,” the man said. “We’ve got several boxes of 16mm reels of film from ‘You Bet Your Life’ and we were wondering if Mr. Marx wants any of it. If not, we’re going to destroy all of it tomorrow.”

Brian Sanders On-Set Illustration Work for ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Sanders is the illustrator behind the striking poster for the new season of Mad Men I linked to the other day.

Update: More here.

Regarding That Quartz Report Yesterday 

Yesterday I linked to a story by Gina Chon at Quartz, reporting that Apple is planning on a stock buyback and/or paying more dividends, and remarked that I was surprised to see the story break in Quartz rather than the WSJ or Businessweek. Ends up Quartz recently hired Chon away from the WSJ.

Andy Rubin No Longer Leading Android; Replaced by Chrome Exec Sundar Pichai 

Larry Page:

Having exceeded even the crazy ambitious goals we dreamed of for Android — and with a really strong leadership team in place — Andy’s decided it’s time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google. Andy, more moonshots please!

Going forward, Sundar Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps.

Interesting news, but I’m not sure what to make of it. Are Chrome and Android converging?

Amazon Lowers Prices for Kindle Fire HD 8.9; Expands Sales to Europe and Japan 

The expansion to more countries is the bigger deal here; until now, the Kindle Fire has been mostly a U.S.-only product/ecosystem.

Quartz: Apple Stock Buyback or More Dividends Likely Coming This Spring 

Gina Chon, reporting for Quartz:

Apple’s zeroing in on a dividend or buyback was in the works before Einhorn made his complaints public in February, although some of the sources say Apple increased the size of its plan after Einhorn’s comments. And although Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called Einhorn’s lawsuit a “silly sideshow,” the company found his idea of preferred shares “interesting,” sources said. If it decides against a share buyback, Apple could either raise its existing dividend, which the company started paying this year, or issue a special dividend.

Interesting story for Quartz to get the scoop on — I’d have expected this to leak to the WSJ or Businessweek first.

IDC Tablet Share Projections 

Reuters put a “this is bad news for Apple” spin on their story about these projected numbers, but isn’t the real story about how bad these numbers look for Microsoft? If tablets are the future of personal computing and IDC’s projections are even vaguely accurate — big ifs, admittedly — Microsoft is going to be out of the game.

Nicholas Carlson: ‘Android Owners Aren’t Real Smartphone Owners’ 

The headline is extreme, as mandated by Business Insider’s house style — intended to provoke Android enthusiasts who are real smartphone users — but the gist of his theory is what I’ve thought all along about the seemingly odd discrepancy between Android’s market share and Android’s usage share.

App Store Approval of the Week: HiddenApps 

Christian Zibreg, writing for iDownloadBlog:

HiddenApps by David Goelzhaeuser, a 15-year-old German iOS developer, is one such example. The whole point of this free application is to let you hide Apple’s stock apps from your Home screen, like Passbook, Newsstand or Stocks – no jailbreak required.

It can also disable Apple’s iAds altogether and give you access to a Field Test mode which gives you precise readings of your cellular signal strength. You better download as it’s going down in 5, 4, 3, 2…

It’s already gone from the App Store, of course, but what a great story. I don’t know what’s funnier: that someone at Apple approved this, or that Goelzhaeuser submitted it to the App Store in the first place.

Google Admits WebM Infringes H.264 Patents 

Marco Arment:

Looks like we’re establishing a clear pattern: Google clearly (and often willfully) infringes on someone else’s IP, can’t believe that it’ll ever have any repercussions, and claims they’re doing it to be “open” or some bullshit. It betrays a culture at Google’s highest levels of arrogance, entitlement, and dishonesty.

Shocker.

The Small-State Advantage in the United States Senate 

Everything that’s wrong with U.S. politics, in one picture.

2005 iPhone Prototype 

Great find by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica.

‘Mad Men’ Season Six Poster 

Randy Kennedy, reporting for the NYT:

But as the show prepared for its new season, which begins April 7, its creator, Matthew Weiner, inspired by a childhood memory of lush, painterly illustrations on T.W.A. flight menus, decided to turn back the promotional clock. He pored over commercial illustration books from the 1960s and ’70s and sent images to the show’s marketing team, which couldn’t quite recreate the look he was after.

“Finally,” he said, “they just looked up the person who had done all these drawings that I really loved, and they said: ‘Hey, we’ve got the guy who did them. And he’s still working. His name is Brian Sanders.’”

Perfect.

When Ian Fleming Picked Justin Rowlatt’s Grandfather to Steal Nazi Secrets 

Justin Rowlatt:

In essence what Fleming was proposing was a team of authorised thieves and looters — mavericks who would operate ahead of the forward troops and who were instructed to do whatever necessary to capture enemy intelligence, equipment or personnel.

Xamarin 

My thanks to Xamarin for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their iOS developer tools.

Xamarin blends the iOS and C# worlds together in the only way that seasoned iOS developers accept — raw access to every iOS API combined with all of C#’s great features like functional-style programming, language integrated query, and seamless processing of XML, JSON, and web services. Check out their Xamarin Studio IDE to see how it works, and take a look at Rdio’s apps to see great examples of Xamarin in action.

‘Apple’s Actual Problems’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Guy English. We talk about the gaping holes in the “Apple is working on a watch” rumors and the actual problems and risks Apple faces during the next few years.

Brought to you by two great sponsors:

  • Squarespace: everything you need to build exceptional websites.
  • Audible.com: 30 day trial and choose from 100,000+ audiobooks.
Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi Device Stats 

Gogo:

Apple devices are still reigning above the clouds, following the tablet trend with the iPad being the device of choice. Among all mobile devices being used to connect through Gogo, 84 percent carry Apple’s iOS operating system while 16 percent carry the Android operating system. If you look only at the smartphones our customers are using, the iPhone makes up 73 percent and all Android devices make up 26 percent, with Blackberry and Windows based devices each making up less than 1 percent of devices being used in air.

iPhone and Android users are not the same.

How Disney Bought Lucasfilm 

Funny tidbit from Devin Leonard’s story in Businessweek on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm:

Jobs also became a Disney board member and its largest shareholder. Periodically he would call Iger to say, “Hey, Bob, I saw the movie you just released last night, and it sucked,” Iger recalls.

Regarding casting:

Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison — or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

Better not forget Billy Dee.

Anatomy of a Final Image: ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Great post at The Final Image. (Thanks to Satish Viswanath.)

Peter Bright: ‘Windows RT Is a Lemon’ 

I don’t quite agree with Peter Bright’s suggestions for how to fix it (macros?), but I think he’s right that it’s not taking off.

The FBI Is Spying on Google Users 

Kudos to Google for pushing to reveal as much about these investigations as it can.

ComScore: iPhone Taking Share From Android in U.S. Smartphone Market 

Waiting for the Wall Street Journal to explain how this is bad news for Apple.

CallingVault 

Great new service, sort of like Google Voice but private. CallingVault provides you with a new phone number that you have complete control over. You get call forwarding, SMS, voice mail, etc. — but the main appeal is that you get the freedom to give this number out to just about anyone and everyone, because CallingVault gives you the ability to filter and block calls from unwanted numbers. Like most of you, my only phone today is my mobile phone, and I never feel comfortable using that number when, for example, ordering products online. CallingVault provides you with a number you can distribute freely.

The website is great too, really well designed. Plans start at just $3.25/month — cheap.

Update: A bunch of readers have asked how CallingVault is better than Google Voice. For me: privacy (from Google), and a general discomfort with “free” services. I also think the interface is better.

I’m Sure Someone Can Explain This to Me 

Mozilla general counsel Harvey Anderson last May, regarding the restrictions of Windows RT that prevent a native Firefox app:

Unfortunately, the upcoming release of Windows for the ARM processor architecture and Microsoft’s browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices.

Why does this matter to users? Quite simply because Windows on ARM — as currently designed — restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation. By allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform. This matters for users of today’s tablets and tomorrow’s PCs. […]

The prospect that the next generation of Windows on ARM devices would limit users to one browser is untenable and represents a first step toward a new platform lock-in.

But Mozilla’s own Firefox OS offers no browser choice. This is something other than rank hypocrisy how?

2010 Microsoft Wrote Some Checks That 2013 Microsoft Can’t Cash 

Hope you’re hungry, because this is some hearty claim chowder.

Why Andy Ihnatko Switched From iPhone to Android 

Andy Ihnatko:

People whom I know, respect, and even consider to be friends have dismissed large phone screens as a cheap marketing gimmick that targets gullible consumers in the showroom, and which doesn’t offer any practical benefits.

Yikes. That’s so incorrect, so far out of whack with reality as I experience it every day with the Samsung Galaxy S III, and with other flagship Android phones, that I can’t even mount an argument against it. I can’t think of anything to say other than “Nope. Wrong.”

Most surprising thing to me is the phone he switched to — the Galaxy S3, not the Nexus 4.

Jon Stewart Taking Hiatus from ‘The Daily Show’ to Direct Feature Film 

Mike Fleming, reporting for Deadline:

Stewart has written the script, and will direct Rosewater, an adaptation of the book Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival. Published in 2011 by Random House, the book is Maziar Bahari’s harrowing ordeal of leaving London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential elections. With a pregnant fiancée left behind, the BBC journalist expected to be away for a week. Instead, he spent the next 118 days in Iran’s most notorious prison being brutally interrogated by a man he knew only by one thing: he smelled of rosewater.

How Miguel de Icaza Ended Up With the Mac 

“Linux just never managed to cross the desktop chasm.”

Rene Ritchie: ‘iPhone 5S Planned for August, Next iPads May Debut as Soon as April’ 

Ritchie’s track record on this sort of stuff has been impeccable.

Matt Groening’s Pre-Simpsons Artwork for Apple 

Love that they needed a booklet titled “Who Needs a Computer Anyway?” And as the post-PC era evolves, how long until the Mac needs to answer that question again?

‘Telepod’, ‘Mobi’, ‘iPad’, and ‘Tripod’ 

Some of the names Apple considered but rejected for the original iPhone, according to Ken Segall.

Five-for-Six, Not Five-for-Five 

So Andy Zaky’s “buy” call on Apple stock last May indeed made him five-for-five at the time, but, he made another “buy” call on October 10:

History has repeatedly taught us that the best time to buy Apple is when the bearish sentiment in the stock has reached the pinnacle of extreme pessimism. When every guest on CNBC is calling for the imminent demise of Apple, when every headline is making a case for why Apple has peaked, and when the stock continues to slide by over a 2% a day right in the face of a market rally, that’s when you know it’s time to buy.

AAPL was trading around $630 that day, and soon sunk to $500 and today is down around $430, so Zaky’s streak on buy calls ended there.

Malware, Too 

Dave Winer:

Back to 2005, the first thing I noticed about the white Mac laptop, that aside from being a really nice computer, there was no malware. In 2005, Windows was a horror. Once a virus got on your machine, that was pretty much it. And Microsoft wasn’t doing much to stop the infestation. For a long time they didn’t even see it as their problem. In retrospect, it was the computer equivalent of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl.

So many factors, all of them in the Mac’s favor.

That Whole Internet Thing 

Smart piece by Mike Arrington (I swear) on Apple’s comeback from its 1997 nadir.

If Only Google Set Its Sights on TV, Look Out 

Warren Ellis starts with a spot-on complaint about iOS — Apple’s Podcasts app doesn’t do the obvious things that it should: download podcasts automatically and sync the state of what you’ve listened to across devices — and then wonders whether Android wouldn’t work better:

In fact, in many respects, I’m getting the sense for the first time that I may have backed the wrong mobile-OS horse. I am looking particularly at Google’s hires of late, and the appearance that they seem prepared to spend their money. I wonder what happens when Google decide to look at TV interfaces, long expected to be an Apple focus going forward.

I bet if Google tried that, half the TVs on the market would have Google TV built in by, uh, last summer.

Apple’s Reality Distortion Field Relocates to Wall Street 

Ben Bajarin, writing for Time:

So to recap: Apple is the most profitable company, can’t make enough products to meet demand and is the most admired by its peers. Yet Wall Street and media fanatics are claiming Apple is doomed. The reality distortion field is in full effect.

Apple has a lower P/E ratio than Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and now Dell, to name a few. I find this baffling and I would challenge any analyst to articulate to me how Apple is not healthier and stronger, competitively, in the long-term than many of those companies.

The Rise and Fall of Andy Zaky 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Andy Zaky, whose work I’ve long appreciated:

As Apple’s share price climbed and Zaky’s fame spread, investors clamored to get in. In June 2012 he opened his newsletter up to a flood of new subscribers, charging the members of this group $200 a month. At its peak, Bullish Cross Pro had 700 subscribers and a lively bulletin board where Zaky would often field more than 500 comments and questions a day.

Meanwhile, he was onto something even bigger. In late 2011 he’d launched Bullish Cross Capital L.P. — basically an Apple-only hedge fund — with a handful of subscribers. By the spring of 2012, the fund’s investor rolls had grown six fold.

In a Form D filed in November 2012, Zaky reported to the Securities Exchange Commission that Bullish Cross Asset Management (BCRAM) had attracted 28 limited partners with an average investment of $378,000. The minimum investment, which started at $250,000, had grown to $500,000 by March 2012.

Elmer-DeWitt cites my linking to Zaky’s “buy” recommendation on 17 May last year. I wrote then:

This is only the fifth time Zaky has issued a buy on Apple. He’s four-for-four.

Now he’s five-for-five. Apple’s share price went way up in the months after May. But Zaky wasn’t able to profit from the rise he foresaw, and got caught short when it began to fall.

Apple as Bumblebee 

James Surowiecki had a piece on Apple in last week’s New Yorker; far better than Tim Wu’s ham-fisted “open beats closed” piece, but similarly flawed in terms of baseline assumptions:

Over time, Apple has succeeded despite (or because of) its disregard for the conventional wisdom about what works in technology markets: it has built hardware and software, kept its platform closed, had long product cycles, and emphasized quality over price. It’s always been the proverbial bumblebee: it shouldn’t be able to fly but it does. A wobble in flight is all it takes for people to proclaim its inevitable crash.

Like The Macalope (who had a great column this week, go read it), I found this passage very telling. I have long argued that Apple’s business model is simple and seemingly obvious: make high-quality products that people want to buy and sell them for a profit. Yet many people continue to look at this and say, “That shouldn’t work”.

As The Macalope wrote:

The bumblebee analogy is more apt than Surowiecki details. The reason this myth started was because people tried to apply formulas to bees that weren’t apt. Just like a bee is not a fixed-wing aircraft, Apple is not a steady growth company like Johnson & Johnson, or a market-share chaser like Amazon.

Fortune: ‘Apple Most Admired Company’ 

Brad Chase, writing at Forbes regarding Fortune’s annual list of most admired companies:

Apple has been the “world’s most admired company” for five years running, and there’s a chance Fortune will defy logic and give Apple the crown once more for posterity. If Amazon somehow fails to leapfrog the bumbling Apple and the pugnacious Google this year, it’s clear the algorithm is flawed. One way or another, the drop has begun.

Fortune, a few days later, named Apple the most-admired company in the world once again. So Chase was right — the algorithm must be flawed.

How Will the New Office for iPad Work? 

Ed Bott:

Microsoft is morphing into a devices and services company. They are aggressively getting out of the perpetual license business with Office and moving to a subscription model with Office 365. So why would they deliberately build up that old-fashion license business on another platform, where they would have to pay Apple a 30 percent cut of the proceeds on every sale?

They won’t.

I’m assuming that Microsoft is going to give away its iOS app for free. Just like it’s currently giving away its OneNote apps on iOS (free for up to 500 notes, then a paid upgrade) and Android (a similar freemium model) and Windows 8. Just like it’s made its Office Web Apps/SkyDrive combo free.

Sounds right to me, but Apple doesn’t only collect 30 percent on the sale of apps — they want 30 percent of subscription revenue purchased through the app as well. So if you already have a subscription to Office 365, you could just download the Excel or Word or PowerPoint app for iOS, sign in, and start using it. But if you don’t already have an Office 365 account, what happens then?

This has been a source of conflict between Apple and Microsoft ever since Microsoft committed to developing serious apps for iOS. Unless I missed something, it hasn’t yet been resolved.

WebKit for Developers 

Great piece by Paul Irish on the similarities and differences between the ever-growing list of WebKit browsers. (Thanks to Patrick Gibson.)

White House Supports Legalizing Unlocking Cell Phones 

Responding to a petition:

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.

Fear of a WebKit Planet 

John Siracusa, responding to anxiety about the rise of a “WebKit monoculture”:

As much as I despised Internet Explorer for Windows, and what its simultaneous stagnation and dominance did to the web, I don’t think it’s the correct historical analog in this case. WebKit is not a web browser. It’s not even a product. It’s much more analogous to Linux, an open-source project that any company or individual is free to build on and enhance.

The Lightning Digital AV Adapter Surprise 

Interesting investigation from the guys at Panic; be sure to read the comments, or at least this one.

Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building 

Wright Thompson profiles Michael Jordan:

Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They’re forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph. When he walked off the court for the last time, he must have believed that nothing could ever diminish what he’d done. That knowledge would be his shield against aging.

Squarespace Commerce 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Squarespace is a modern publishing platform that includes everything you need to create a professional website in minutes. This past week Squarespace introduced a new, truly integrated e-commerce solution that makes it dead simple to start selling products — digital or physical — directly from a Squarespace website.

Try it for free today at Squarespace.com.

Spec Submission for The New Yorker’s Infographic Department 

I decided to fix the infographic that accompanied Tim Wu’s open-versus-closed piece. Think I nailed it.

iCloud’s Spam Filtering Black Hole 

Dan Moren and Lex Friedman:

Through our own rigorous testing, we’ve managed to confirm that emails containing the phrase “barely legal teen” are simply never delivered to iCloud inboxes. In fact, we found that even emails with the offending phrase contained in an attached PDF — even a zipped PDF — were blocked.

Sounds to me like an overzealous spam filter, not some sort of censorship, but the result is the same.

Name Mangler 3.0 

Great update to Many Tricks’s file renaming utility for the Mac. Great combination of power and simplicity. (And an interesting sub-story here, regarding a developer’s baseless charge of UI copying.)

The Other Google Glass Experience 

Mark Hurst:

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally — here’s where the problems really start — you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

My hope is that restaurants and bars will ban them.

Chromebook Pixel Compared to MacBooks 

Another great hardware review, this one by Ian Betteridge:

The Pixel makes me feel that Google probably took one look around its own campus at the plethora of Macs people were using, despite all of them mostly using web apps, and wondered why there wasn’t a Chromebook which could tempt its own employees to ChromeOS. The Pixel is the answer to that — and also for people like me, who wants a good quality machine and are happy to pay a premium price for it. […]

But it’s also a statement about Google, too, because it says that Google can do hardware with the same attention to detail and quality that Apple does. It’s not a shot across Apple’s bows, but more putting a flag in the ground that says “Come on Cupertino, we can do hardware — you think you can do services?”

Indeed, the Chromebook Pixel seems like another bit of evidence that Google is getting better at what Apple does best faster than Apple is getting better at what Google does best.

‘Microsoft Has a Huge Chicken-and-Egg Problem’ 

Steven Frank reviews (and mostly likes) the Surface Pro.

The Web Standards Project: ‘Our Work Here Is Done’ 

A remarkably successful activist group that changed the world for the better. Bravo, and thank you.

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