Felix Salmon: ‘Apple Should Be Like Bloomberg’ ★
But here’s the thing: Tim Cook is a caretaker of a company which
is designed to be around in perpetuity. Icahn, on the other hand,
for all that he claims that “there is nothing short term” about
his intentions, still has an exit strategy: he wants to buy low,
drive the share price up through shareholder activism, and sell
high. Apple should go along with Icahn’s plans only if they
increase the long-term value of the company — and it’s pretty
obvious that they don’t: Icahn is, at heart, advising Apple to
have both large borrowings and a large cash pile at the same time.
Which is bonkers.
Easily the best piece I’ve read regarding Carl Icahn’s desire to see Apple mortgage itself, and, really, a spot-on big-picture summary of what Apple is and should be:
Debt makes sense when you need money to invest today, and can
repay that money with a substantial future income stream. Apple is
in the exact opposite situation: it needs no money to invest
today, while its long-term future income stream is quite
uncertain. So it makes sense to save up in flush years, like it
has been doing. It will continue to create amazing new products;
what’s less clear is whether any of those new products will have
the ability to become a world-conquering profit monster like the
iPhone. The job of the markets is simply to price the shares
accordingly; it’s not the job of management to change the deep
structure of the company just to make the markets happy.
Ashton Kutcher Joins Lenovo as ‘Product Engineer’ ★
Jon Swartz, reporting for USA Today:
Engineers are at a premium, yet Lenovo landed a new product
engineer and celebrity pitchman when it inked a partnership with
Ashton Kutcher on Tuesday night.
“It’s somewhat of a dual role,” Kutcher told USA Today in a phone
interview hours before a live-streaming broadcast to announce his
appointment and the introduction of the PC maker’s Yoga Tablet.
Shortly after the event, Kutcher was scheduled to fly to China to
meet with Lenovo engineers and executives.
Like my pal Mike Monteiro quipped last night, “What’s particularly sad about this is Lenovo thinks they hired Steve Jobs.”
Ben Bajarin on the iPad Air: ‘A Truly Mass Market Personal Computer’ ★
Every year, I field many questions from friends and family on
whether I can recommend that they buy an iPad rather than a new
notebook. Of course, this question has to be followed with another
question related to how they primarily use their notebook. If you
sit at a desk all day, use a keyboard and mouse to input, and run
software that requires a hard-core Intel or AMD processor then you
probably need a notebook or desktop. However, for most consumers
when they are at home or even if they don’t have a desk job, the
iPad is the ideal personal computer.
The way I see the iPad taking over the mass market from laptop PCs is subtly. I think it’s more about people hanging on to old laptops for legacy tasks, spending their money now on new iPads, and then using their old laptops less and less over time. I can tell from my email and Twitter feedback that there is much skepticism among some of you about the iPad as a full-on PC replacement, but if you’re thinking about this trend as switching cold turkey, dropping all Windows/Mac usage in lieu of iOS in one fell swoop, you’re thinking about it wrong. It’s a subtle weaning. And as I wrote in my review yesterday, this year’s A7-powered iPads are going to accelerate the trend.
Fantastical 2 for iPhone ★
Great iOS 7 update to my favorite iPhone calendar app. Looks great, works great, and now integrates iOS reminders. $4.99 regularly, but available for just $2.99 for a limited time.
AnandTech: The iPad Air Review ★
Great review by Anand Lal Shimpi. Most telling line:
I’m still vetting other SoCs, but so far I haven’t come across
anyone in the ARM camp that can compete with what Apple has built
here. Only Intel is competitive.
Remember too, that Apple has only been in the custom ARM silicon game since the A4 in 2010.
Oh, and guess who just announced they’re going to start making ARM chips?
Apple’s Quarter in Charts ★
Interesting to me: in terms of revenue, iPad is only slightly ahead of Mac. (iPod is down to just a sliver.) A year ago, I’d have expected iPad revenue to be closer to iPhone than to Mac by now.
Apple Q4 2013 Results ★
The Company posted quarterly revenue of $37.5 billion and
quarterly net profit of $7.5 billion, or $8.26 per diluted share.
These results compare to revenue of $36 billion and net profit of
$8.2 billion, or $8.67 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.
Gross margin was 37 percent compared to 40 percent in the year-ago
quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the
The Company sold 33.8 million iPhones, a record for the September
quarter, compared to 26.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple
also sold 14.1 million iPads during the quarter, compared to 14
million in the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4.6 million
Macs, compared to 4.9 million in the year-ago quarter.
It’ll be interesting to see whether iPad sales are flat because their popularity has peaked, or because people were waiting for the new models. My guess is the latter. Update: Sounds like Tim Cook thinks so too, saying on Apple’s quarterly conference call, “It’s going to be an iPad Christmas.”
‘Lazy’ Markdown Reference Links ★
This style seems a bit nutty to me, but I know the crew at TidBITS have sworn by it for years.
‘Cups of Water’ ★
Sometimes people call Apple a hardware company, but that’s not
quite right. Others have said they’re a software company, pointing
out that it’s the quality of the software experience that really
sets them apart, but that’s not quite right either. Having watched
Apple for nearly 30 years now, and having worked at 1 Infinite
Loop, I really think they think of themselves as a personal
computing systems company and always have. They sell systems that
work. Samsung, by contrast, sells hardware — they’re not as
complete in their systems ambitions as Apple.
Regarding iPhone Touchscreen Accuracy ★
Nick Arnott, regarding the results of a robot-driven test that suggested the Galaxy S3 has vastly superior touchscreen accuracy to the iPhone 5S and 5C:
I haven’t been able to find official documentation on this, but I
think this behavior is intentional compensation being done by
Apple. Have you ever tried tapping on an iPad or iPhone while it’s
upside-down to you, like when you’re showing something to a friend
and you try tapping while they’re holding the device? It seems
nearly impossible. The device never cooperates. If the iPhone is
compensating for taps based on assumptions about how it is being
held and interacted with, this would make total sense. If you tap
on a device while it’s upside-down, not only would you not receive
the benefit of the compensation, but it would be working against
you. Tapping on the device, the iPhone would assume you meant to
tap higher, when in reality, you’re upside down and likely already
tapping higher than you mean to, resulting in you completely
missing what you’re trying to tap.
There’s no doubt in my mind that iOS touch recognition is offset in this way. It is interesting, though, that the test results suggest that the iPhone has a built-in right thumb bias.
Update: A little birdie tells me they “don’t think there’s a right-thumb bias” in iOS. Could just be a problem in OptoFidelity’s testing, which is impossible to prove given the dearth of documentation provided about how the tests were actually performed.
Apple Presents Video About New Headquarters Ahead of Cupertino City Council Vote ★
Skip to around the 3:30 mark or so. Starts and ends with audio clips of Steve Jobs talking about the endeavor — to my recollection, this is the first time since his death that Apple has used his voice or image.
Exploring the New iWork for Mac File Formats ★
Interesting post by Nick Heer, looking into the new iWork document formats. The big change is that most document data is now spread across a series of small binary files, as opposed to the single XML files the iWork app used previously.
Drew McCormack, following up on Heer’s piece:
The post concludes that it is unclear why Apple would take this
apparently backward step.
I don’t know for sure, but I think I can take a pretty good guess
at why they have done it. It has nothing to do with being
malicious, or trying to stop people seeing into the document’s
format, and it has everything to do with iCloud and iOS devices.
And for good measure, Michael Tsai on the file sizes and document read/write performance of Numbers 09, Numbers 13, and Excel 2011.
How to Avoid Big International iPhone Data Charges ★
Good advice from Jason Snell.
‘Repetition Is the Death of Magic’ ★
Jake Rossen scored a rare interview with Calvin and Hobbes author Bill Watterson:
You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they
already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that
predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.
Interesting to think about that in the context of the seemingly growing spate of complaints about the familiarity and predictability of Apple keynotes.
20th Century Headlines Rewritten to Get More Clicks ★
1955: “Avoid Polio With This One Weird Trick”.
‘iPad Square’ ★
New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest Dan Frommer. We analyze last week’s Apple announcements: the event itself, the new iPads, new MacBook Pros, the controversial new iWork suite, and more.
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How Times Change ★
An excerpt from John Buck’s Timeline, on the announcement of QuickTime at WWDC in 1990:
Casey announced that QuickTime would allow the Macintosh to be the
premier platform for digital media, and in doing so pre-empt
Microsoft’s release of multimedia extensions to Windows 3.0.
In his own summary at the conference, John Sculley promised:
…the next generation of breakthrough applications will be on
Sculley did not mention that work on QuickTime had not even
Announced with just a name.
With iWork, Apple Walks It Back Before Moving Forward ★
Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:
Lots of folks are getting all worked up about iWork being “dumbed
down,” but it feels like a reset to me. I can see this playing out
pretty much like Apple’s recent Final Cut Pro X re-thinking. That
app was introduced in a radically simplified and streamlined form
that caused immediate outcry. Over time, Apple has steadily added
back features that were missing from the early dramatic redesign
of the pro video-editing suite. A handful of mishandled decisions
like pulling the old version of FCP too soon caused unnecessary
friction there, but recent updates to FCPX have made it a very
viable choice for professionals again.
The most telling thing about Apple’s expectations for this version of iWork: when you upgrade, it leaves your existing copies of the iWork 09 apps in place.
Copiously detailed and illustrated review. Here Viticci sings the praises of one of my own favorite new features:
Now, whenever you follow a link, a web view will be opened and
confined to the tab it’s been launched from. If you open a link
from your timeline, you can switch to the Mentions tab and do
something else; if you open a link from a DM, you can go back to
the timeline and read tweets while the page is loading.
This change to the app’s navigation makes for an incredibly more
convenient workflow for people who, like me, deal with links every
day and found it cumbersome to be forced to wait for a page to
load, act on it, then close it. The “multitasking” experience
inside Tweetbot is much improved because of this change and, in
comparison, the old app’s way of handling web views looks silly
now. For me, this has been particularly handy when receiving DMs:
I get a lot of direct messages every day, and with Tweetbot 3 I’m
no longer forced to close a webpage I’m reading if I have to reply
to a DM immediately.
‘They Are the Featurephones of Tablets’ ★
Great piece by Benedict Evans:
But there’s also another proposition, a $75-$150 black generic
Chinese Android tablet, half the price of a Nexus 7. That
proposition is also selling in huge numbers, but it appears to
come with a very different type of use.
Why are people buying these? What are they being used for? They’re
mostly in China (that’s the pink bar above) and emerging markets
and in lower income groups in the west. And it seems that they’re
being used for a little bit of web, and a bit of free gaming.
Perhaps some book reading. And a LOT of video consumption. In
fact, one might argue that for many buyers, these compete with
TVs, not iPads, Nexuses and Tabs. But regardless of what they’re
being used for, they’re not being used the way iPads are used. In
effect, they are the featurephones of tablets.
If this theory is correct, it suggests that Apple’s $300 Mini
really isn’t a competitive problem, because the iPad doesn’t yet
face a strong competitive threat (quite unlike the iPhone).
Rather, there are actually two quite different markets: the
post-PC vision, where Apple is dominant, and a ultra-low margin
product that’s also called a tablet but which is really a totally
In short, Apple’s share of the overall “tablet” market is shrinking, fast. But the part of the market where the iPad is not dominating is nothing at all like the part where it is.
That sense of joy permeates the app, with subtle animations and
wonderfully redone audio cues. Everything is lighter, brighter and
more readable overall. Within a couple of days of using the new
app it was nearly impossible for me to look at the old version of
Tweetbot for any extended period. It felt dark, static and very,
very old. Part of this is the natural effect that iOS 7′s ‘shock
to the system’ has had on all apps, but a lot more of it is a
careful re-evaluation of what makes Tweetbot work.
Former Spy Chief Overheard Giving Off-the-Record Interview From Train ★
Tom McCarthy, reporting for The Guardian:
The former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden ended up on the
wrong end of a surveillance stakeout on Thursday afternoon when,
while riding a commuter train, he was overheard “disparaging” the
Obama administration. The over-hearer was a private citizen — Tom
Matzzie, an entrepreneur who previously worked for MoveOn.org and
John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Hayden was aboard an Acela train outside Philadelphia and talking
by phone with a reporter when Matzzie, who was sitting nearby,
recognized him. Matzzie heard Hayden insist to the reporter that
he be quoted anonymously, as a “former senior administration
Then Matzzie began live-tweeting as the nation’s former top spy
badmouthed the Obama administration, apparently in connection with
the revelation hours earlier that NSA had monitored the phone
calls of at least 35 world leaders’ telephone lines.
It’s like a scene from a modern day sequel to Dr. Strangelove.
Lots to like in this iOS 7 update to Tapbots’ acclaimed Twitter client. I’ve been beta-testing it for a few weeks, and can’t imagine going back to the old version. Tapbots painted themselves into a corner with their previous look and feel — they were the ziggyest thing going, but with iOS 7, Apple zagged. They’ve figured out a way to drop the zig but still maintain a very distinctive character in the app. $3 launch price, but soon to be $5 (and yes, existing users need to pay again for the new version). Recommended.
iWork 13 is the New iMovie 08 ★
David Pogue, six years ago:
Most people are used to a product cycle that goes like this:
Release a new version every year or two, each more capable than
the last. Ensure that it’s backward-compatible with your existing
iMovie ’08, on the other hand, has been totally misnamed. It’s
not iMovie at all. In fact, it’s nothing like its predecessor
and contains none of the same code or design. It’s designed for
an utterly different task, and a lot of people are screaming
Or, if you prefer, consider the brouhaha over Final Cut Pro X two years ago. The bottom line: Apple tends to value simplicity over functionality.
Carl Icahn Demands $150 Billion Buyback in Letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook ★
The artwork attached to this post from John Paczkowski says it all. Perfect.
Whither iWork? ★
The fact that iWork on the Mac has lost functionality isn’t
because Apple is blind to power users. It’s because they’re
willing to make a short-term sacrifice in functionality so that
they can create a foundation that is equal across the Mac, iOS,
and web versions. It will take time to bring these new versions of
iWork up to parity with what the Mac used to have. In the meantime
all platforms have to live with the lowest common denominator.
This is what I think, too. Doesn’t make it any easier to stomach if you relied on features that have gone away though. And let’s see how long “short-term” is.
Glide and the Rebooted Loop Magazine ★
As you tap into the issue and the article, as you scroll through
the words, as the images zoom in and out, as you swipe to the next
article, and as you pinch back to the issue or the rack of issues,
it’s all fluid, it’s immersive. It’s an amazing confluence of
technology and media, and one that very much sparks that same
childlike sense of wonder Apple strives for in their products.
I got a sneak peek at the updated Loop Magazine app from Dalrymple the other day. Very impressive — far more interactive and, for lack of a better word, app-y.
See also: Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch.
The Value of Zero-Priced Software ★
I believe the logic for Apple is that usage of the products
determines their value and therefore placing powerful software in
the hands of more users means they will value the entire system
more. This leads to the notion of greater “stickiness” or
“lock-in” but also to higher satisfaction and loyalty, rate of
upgrades and even more third party purchases and yet more usage.
The Globe and Mail: John Sculley Considering BlackBerry Bid ★
Steven Chase and Iain Marlow, reporting for The Globe and Mail:
John Sculley, the former Apple Inc. CEO who famously clashed with
Steve Jobs, is exploring a bid for beleaguered BlackBerry Ltd.
with Canadian partners, sources have told The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Sculley said he could not comment on the matter, but noted
“I’ve been a long-time BlackBerry fan and user.”
Taiwan FTC Fines Samsung $340,000 for Fake Online Comments ★
A $340,000 fine will really teach Samsung a lesson. They’ll only have $4 billion left in their ad budget.
Google Testing Huge Banner Ads in Search Results ★
Barry Schwartz, writing for Search Engine Land:
In 2005, Google promised that banner ads would never come to web
There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search
results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads
flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.
Eight years later, it seems Google may be ready to break that
That 2005 blog entry promising no banner ads in search results was written by Marissa Mayer.
Mixed AppleScript Signals ★
As for spreadsheets and presentation software, the only
competition I’m aware of is Excel and PowerPoint from the MS
Office suite. I’ve never used PowerPoint and haven’t used Excel in
almost 20 years, but David Sparks says their AppleScript
support was better than iWork’s even before the purge. Now Apple
is essentially pushing its power users toward Microsoft. It’s a
Pierre Igot on Pages 5 ★
Dear oh dear. They really have done it, haven’t they? They have
taken what had evolved into a rather decent word processor / page
layout application and have eliminated so many useful features
that it effectively is now a piece of useless junk, and I honestly
have no idea for whom this latest version of Pages is intended.
Tell us what you really think, Pierre.
Siracusa’s Review of OS X 10.9 Mavericks ★
According to Apple, Mavericks has a dual focus. Its first and most
important goal is to extend battery life and improve
responsiveness. Secondarily, Mavericks aims to add functionality
that will appeal to “power users” (Apple’s words), a group that
may be feeling neglected after enduring two releases of OS X
playing iOS dress-up.
24,000 words, not bad.
Why Android First Is a Myth ★
While in theory Android provides a very modern platform for mobile
development, the realities around Android-first are quite
different. Startups simply cannot afford to bypass iOS and go
Android out of the gate. One could even argue the gap is widening.
iWork 13 and AppleScript ★
Here’s the bad news. They won’t work now. Effectively Applescript support is gone. Numbers doesn’t even have a dictionary. And Pages has had nearly everything removed.
Update: Fireballed; cached here.
Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw:
The Surface and Surface 2 are less expensive than the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively, and yet offer more storage, both onboard and in the cloud.
… come with full versions of Office 2013, including Outlook, not non-standard, non-cross-platform, imitation apps that can’t share docs with the rest of the world.
I don’t want to argue about Shaw’s whole piece; overall, he makes a clear argument for Microsoft’s vision of tablet computing. But that second bullet point quoted above is a doozy. There’s nothing “standard” about Microsoft Office, and there’s nothing “imitation” about the iWork apps. Microsoft Office certainly remains the most-used office software in the world, but its ubiquity makes it no more a standard than Windows itself. But most interesting to me is the accusation that iWork is not “cross-platform” — what then, is the iWork for iCloud web app version of the suite?
I’m not sure how this is going to play out. Could be that iWork isn’t going to do much more than put a small dent in the Office hegemony. But Apple seems to be aiming much higher than that. Any gains in iWork usage are just icing on the cake for Apple — but any corresponding loss in Office usage (or perhaps better put, Office dependency) is very bad news for Microsoft.
Betting against the iPad as a device on which people can work, for any meaning of “work”, is a bad bet in the long run. Shaw though, is doubling down on just that bet.
How Apple Makes the Mac Pro ★
Nice insights from Greg Koenig into the processes Apple is using:
What the Mac Pro video puts on display is Apple’s unique talent
for bringing together disparate manufacturing technologies to
produce incredible precision at extremely high volumes. Sure,
having $140B in the bank and the ability to bring a mind boggling
number of zeros to a purchase order has its benefits, but plenty
of resource rich product companies would never think of combining
processes in the manner that Apple does routinely (see: injection
molding, machining, polishing and coating an iPhone 5c case). With
the Mac Pro, Apple has elevated a relatively
low-precision/low-tolerance process (deep draw stamping) used to
make my dog’s water bowl and toilet brush canister into the
creation of an aerospace grade piece of desktop jewelry.
Whither Liberal Arts? ★
Ben Thompson thought something was off in yesterday’s Apple event. I don’t agree with his take, but it’s an interesting view. No doubt though, whether you think it’s for better or worse, Apple is a different company without Scott Forstall and it shows.
Motorola, Google’s Money Pit ★
Ben Popper, writing for The Verge, after Google announced that its Motorola division is on pace to lose over $1 billion this year:
Does a money pit like Motorola have a major impact on Google’s
bottom line? In a lot of ways, the answer right now is no. Despite
the losses, Google is profitable overall, and its cash on hand has
grown steadily. But if Motorola continues to slide, Google may
eventually be forced to write down the cost of the $12.5 billion
acquisition — and its investors could clamor for the company to
scuttle what has so far been a painful experiment into the world
of mobile hardware. “Looking at the purchase I’m still
scratching my head about why they did it,” says Avi Greengart, the
research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, “and
how they see it playing out going forward.”
Almost $13 billion in the hole to start and still digging.
Big-Three Credit Bureau Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service ★
An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers
license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on
millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian,
one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy
investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.
Netflix Passes HBO in Paid U.S. Subscribers ★
Cliff Edwards, reporting for Bloomberg:
Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, reports third-quarter
results today after markets close. Already the world’s largest
subscription-video service, the company probably reached 30
million paying U.S. customers as of Sept. 30, according to Needham
& Co. HBO, Time Warner Inc.’s premium cable-TV network,
has about 28.7 million, according to researcher SNL Kagan.
Reed Hastings knows what he’s doing. If you’d told me five years ago this would happen in 2013, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Update: Ends up Netflix added over 1.3 million new U.S. subscribers, for a total of over 31 million.
Marissa Mayer Announces David Pogue’s Hire ★
Wait, she’s not using the exclamation mark after “Yahoo” either. Did Yahoo finally drop this nonsense?
Siegfried and Roy, 10 Years Later ★
Great profile by John Katsilometes for the Las Vegas Weekly:
Hip-high rails have been constructed along those winding
sidewalks, so Roy Horn has something firm and steady on which to
lean as he makes his way around, visiting Little Bavaria’s
animal kingdom, which includes horses, mini-donkeys, black swans,
exotic chickens, African cranes, royal turkeys, canines and
assorted cats, big and small. Siegfried Fischbacher ordered those
rails built, once more providing support to his friend, life
companion, performing partner and co-founder of a Strip show that
entertained more than 25 million fans for more than 35 years.
Siegfried also enforced the construction of a new house outfitted
to offset Roy’s physical limitations, suffered a decade ago when
he was dragged offstage by a white tiger named Montecore during a
performance at the Mirage. October 3 marked the 10-year
anniversary of that incident, which Siegfried and Roy alternately
refer to as “the accident” or “the thing,” as in, “When
the thing happened …”
But they hardly speak of it, and only when asked.
Why Microsoft Word Must Die ★
I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning, fiery passion. I hate Microsoft Word the way Winston Smith hated Big Brother. Our reasons are, alarmingly, not dissimilar …
David Pogue Leaves The New York Times for Yahoo ★
But 13 years is a long time to stay in one place; we all thrive on new experiences. So I was intrigued when Yahoo invited me to help build a new consumer-tech site. Actually, “site” doesn’t even cover it. I’ll be writing columns and blog posts each week, of course, and making my goofy videos. But my team and I have much bigger plans, too, for all kinds of online and real-world creations.
Now, listen: I realize that Yahoo is an underdog. I’ve given them a few swift kicks myself over the years. But over the last few months, as I’ve pondered this offer, I’ve visited Yahoo headquarters. I’ve spent a lot of time with its executives. And what I found surprised me.
This is a company that’s young, revitalized, aggressive — and, under Marissa Mayer’s leadership, razor-focused, for the first time in years. Since she took over a year ago, Yahoo has regained its position as the #1 most visited Web site on earth. She’s overseen brilliant overhauls of several Yahoo sites and apps, and had the courage to shut down the derelict ones.
I try not to write too much about the comings and goings of who’s writing for whom in this racket, but, Pogue leaving The Times is a big deal — especially since it comes hot on the heels of Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher leaving The Wall Street Journal. Raises a couple of questions: Who replaces him as The Times’s technology columnist and product reviewer? Who is he recruiting for this new thing at Yahoo? How long can he hold out omitting the silly exclamation mark at the end of “Yahoo”?
So I’ll be starting there in a few weeks. (I’ll still keep up my NOVA specials on PBS, my “CBS Sunday Morning” stories, my Missing Manual books, and my Scientific American column.)
Hard not to admire Pogue’s prolificacy.
Great story about Apple’s (current) campus from Landon Dyer.
NSA Accessed Mexican President’s Email ★
The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years. It hacked into the president’s public email account and gained deep insight into policymaking and the political system. The news is likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico.
You don’t say.
NSA Surveillance on France ★
70 million phone calls per month, according to Le Monde:
Amongst the thousands of documents extracted from the NSA by its ex-employee there is a graph which describes the extent of telephone monitoring and tapping (DNR – Dial Number Recognition) carried out in France. It can be seen that over a period of thirty days – from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70,3 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data were made by the NSA. This agency has several methods of data collection. According to the elements obtained by Le Monde, when a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target – or the meta-data.
Podcast App Playback Speeds ★
Speaking of podcasts and Marco Arment, it ends up that playback speeds like “½×” and “2×” may not mean what you think they mean.
‘One for the Pedants’ ★
New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest Marco Arment. Topics include speculation regarding what Apple will and won’t announce at next week’s special event in San Francisco — iPads, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, iPods, Apple TV — jailbreaking as a reason for holding on to iOS 6, and Microsoft’s coolness (or rather, lack thereof).
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CSS Transforms: An Interactive Guide ★
New e-book for iBooks by former Safari technology evangelist Vicki Murley. Deeply interactive, and self-referential — the CSS transformations she defines and explains are shown in live examples. Well-designed and clearly-written, too. A steal at just $4.
Siri, Now a Real-Life Pokédex ★
Mike Wehner, writing for TUAW:
The massive information engine Wolfram Alpha just added a whopping
649 pokémon to its database. For fans of the games, that fact is
pretty cool all on its own, but if you happen to own an iPhone or
an iPad with Siri, it’s even more awesome. You see, thanks to
Siri’s ability to search Wolfram Alpha for information, your
iDevice is now as close to a real-life Pokédex as you’ll probably
See also: Announcement from Wolfram Alpha.
In iOS 7, the Final Straw for Newsstand ★
For years, I’ve argued that choosing Newsstand is the best thing
— the right thing — to do when publishing periodical content
within the Apple ecosystem. But with the redesigned app, and with
automatic content downloads no longer a being a Newsstand
exclusive, the balance has finally shifted.
We think publishers should skip Newsstand and publish their iOS
apps as regular non-Newsstand apps instead.
1946–47 Sporting News: Sketches of Major League Parks ★
Splendid work by Boston Globe cartoonist Gene Mack, during a tour of major league ballparks in 1946–47. They don’t make them like the Polo Grounds any more. (Via Coudal.)
8-Bit Cinema: The Shining ★
Kubrick’s classic, retold in the form of an 8-bit video game. (Via Golan Klinger.)
Elon Musk to Make James Bond Submarine Car a Reality ★
Peter Valdes-Dapena, reporting for CNN Money:
When the car-turned-submarine from the 007 classic “The Spy Who
Loved Me” was sold at auction in September for nearly a million
dollars, the identity of the buyer was kept secret, as it usually
is in collector car auctions.
Thursday night, a Tesla Motors spokeswoman confirmed that the
submarine, modeled after a Lotus sports car, had been bought by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Musk plans to take the movie prop and turn it
into an actual car that transforms into a submarine, the very
thing it was built to portray in the movie.
What Tim Cook Said Back in April Regarding ‘New Product Categories’ ★
I’ve been fielding a few questions from readers who seem under the impression that earlier this year Tim Cook promised an entry into a “new product category” by the end of this year, and what I expect that product to be. Here’s the thing though, I don’t think Cook promised any such thing. From Macworld’s transcript of Apple’s April 23 quarterly analyst call, here is what Cook said in his opening remarks:
We will continue to focus on the long term, and we remain very
optimistic about our future. We’re participating in large and
growing markets. We see great opportunities in front of us,
particularly given the long-term prospects of the smartphone and
tablet markets, the strength of our incredible ecosystem which we
plan to continue to augment with services, our plans for expanded
distribution, and the potential of exciting new product
Take the smartphone market, for example. IDC estimates that the
smartphone market will double between 2012 and 2016 to an
incredible 1.4 billion units annually. And Gartner estimates that
the tablet market is growing at an even faster rate, from 125
million units in 2012 to a projected 375 million by 2016.
Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software,
and services that we can’t wait to introduce this fall and
Those two phrases I’ve highlighted in bold aren’t necessarily related. Cook said Apple sees opportunities in new product categories, and had new products lined up for introduction in the fall of this year, but it doesn’t follow from his words that Apple has a product in a new category to introduce in the fall of this year.
It’d be great if Apple does have something altogether new to unveil next week, but if they don’t, it won’t contradict what Cook said in April.
Regarding Nike’s Decision to Forgo Android Support in New FuelBand ★
Roger Cheng, writing for CNet, “Nike’s No-Android Stance on FuelBand Is a Huge Mistake”:
It’s a glaring omission that Nike still doesn’t offer support for
Android, which is the undisputed mobile platform champ with 80
percent of the global market. At a time when more developers are
looking to expand the number of platforms they are on, Nike has
stubbornly clung to its comfort zone and stayed with iOS.
600 words into the article:
Bluetooth support is also an issue. The new FuelBand SE also runs
on the newer Bluetooth 4.0 standard, which hasn’t really yet been
embraced by the Android community and was only recently officially
supported by Android in version 4.3.
In comparison, Apple’s iPhone 4S and later all support the
standard, which allow for simpler, longer, and more
power-efficient connections between devices.
So even if you want to argue on market share alone (which is a terrible idea, but let’s go with it), Android may well account for 80 percent of the world smartphone market, but it accounts for only a small slice of the Bluetooth 4.0-capable smartphone market. Cheng is effectively arguing that Nike should have: (a) used magic to make the new FuelBand work with most Android phones in use; or (b) designed an entirely different device that could work with most Android phones in use; or (c) spent the effort to support the Android phones that do support Bluetooth 4.0. None of those options suggests that keeping the FuelBand iOS-only is a “huge mistake”.
The Verge Reviews Windows 8.1 ★
Microsoft ties together its visual changes and features with a new
set of built-in app improvements, centered more than ever around
SkyDrive. Microsoft’s cloud-based storage system really powers
Windows 8.1 this time around. The sync engine is built directly
in, and Microsoft has made some smart improvements to the way that
files sync to Windows 8.1 PCs. Instead of pulling down the entire
SkyDrive storage to a local PC, it loads icons, and just enough
information required to identify the file. When you open the file,
it downloads it on the spot. You can set folders and files to
download fully so they’re available offline, or just set an entire
SkyDrive instance to remain offline on the PC.
The end result is that all your settings, files, and apps are
stored in SkyDrive. This makes it incredibly easy to log in to any
other Windows 8.1 PC and start loading apps and documents as if it
was your own machine. Like so many things about Windows 8.1, sync
seems like a logical update, but it’s one of the most significant
improvements to Windows 8.1.
Sounds like a great feature. Effectively, system-level Dropbox.
Update: Regarding Warren’s overall review of Windows 8.1, keep in mind that he gave Windows 8.0 a glowing review (and 8.8/10 score) in his review last year.
David Pogue on Windows 8.1 ★
The fundamental problem with Windows 8 hasn’t changed: you’re
still working in two operating systems at once. You’re still
leaping from one universe into another — the color schemes, fonts
and layouts all change abruptly — and it still feels jarring.
There are still too many duplicate programs and settings, one in
each environment. And you still can never live entirely in one
world or the other.
The more you work with Windows 8, the more screamingly obvious the
solution becomes: Split it up. Offer regular Windows on regular
computers, offer TileWorld on tablets. That way, everyone has to
learn only one operating system, and each operating system is
suited to its task.
Microsoft PR chief Frank X. Shaw, on Twitter:
Dear David Pogue, what a classic Pogue piece. Funny, inaccurate,
opinionated in the skewed way only you can bring.
I haven’t seen Windows 8.1 yet, so I can’t comment on it in particular. But the fundamental flaw in the “two worlds” approach of Windows 8 has been obvious to me from the get-go. A big part of the appeal of iPads (and even Android tablets) is that they are so much less complex than Windows or Mac PCs. Complexity is a turn-off. Windows 8 is inherently more complex than even Windows 7, because it includes all the complexity of traditional Windows plus the new Metro layer.
Study Claims Facebook Ad Return on Investment 18 Times Higher on iOS than Android ★
John Koetsier, writing for VentureBeat:
The study is by Nanigans, one of the biggest buyers of Facebook
ads, and it focuses on retailers, saying that in the past year on
Facebook’s desktop ads, clickthroughs are up 375 percent and
overall return on investment is 152 percent.
But it’s when the report focuses on mobile advertising that the
really surprising numbers pop up.
“Retailers are realizing significantly greater return from
audiences on iOS than audiences on Android,” the report says. “For
the first three quarters of 2013, RPC [revenue per click] on iOS
averaged 6.1 times higher than Android and ROI [return on
investment] on iOS averaged 17.9 times higher than Android.”
The report explicitly states that it applies to retail ads only, and results may be different for other categories, but the differences claimed here are so remarkable I find it hard to believe.
A Look at the iPhone 5S 120fps Super Slow Motion ★
Philip Bloom, explaining how he made this lovely short film shot using an iPhone 5S. (Via Ryan O’Donnell.)
2001: The Aliens That Almost Were ★
Fascinating, copiously researched piece by Simone Odino regarding Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s fruitless efforts to conceive a way to show alien life forms in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
(Via Scott Falkner.)
iPhone Still Growing Share at Verizon ★
John Paczkowski, reporting on Verizon’s Q3 resuls:
Of the 7.6 million smartphone activations Verizon racked up during
the quarter, 3.9 million were iPhones, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo
said during the company’s earnings call. That means that Apple’s
device accounted for about 51 percent of all smartphone
activations for the period. In the year-ago quarter, the 3.1
million iPhones Verizon activated accounted for 46 percent of its
6.8 million smartphone activations.
Siri Response Times ★
I was listening to the latest episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, and they had a segment about Apple’s seemingly institutional inability to get online services right. It made me think about this anecdote from Marissa Mayer back in 2006, as relayed by Greg Linden:
Marissa started with a story about a user test they did. They
asked a group of Google searchers how many search results they
wanted to see. Users asked for more, more than the ten results
Google normally shows. More is more, they said.
So, Marissa ran an experiment where Google increased the number of
search results to thirty. Traffic and revenue from Google
searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%. Ouch. Why?
Why, when users had asked for this, did they seem to hate it?
After a bit of looking, Marissa explained that they found an
uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to
generate. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.
Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second
delay killed user satisfaction.
If a half second difference made people search less on Google, imagine how much less people are using Siri given that its response times are often multiple seconds long. I think the single biggest improvement Apple could (and really must) make to Siri is to make it faster. And that’s exactly the sort of thing Apple has never really shown the chops for.
Gartner Projects PC Sales Down 9 Percent for Q3 ★
Tiernan Ray, writing last week for Barron’s Tech Trader:
Research firm Gartner a short while ago reported that PC shipments
in Q3 declined by 8.6% from the prior-year period, to 80.3 million
units, marking “the sixth consecutive quarter of declining
One year ago, they were saying PC sales were down because PC buyers were waiting for Windows 8.
Six months ago, they were saying PC sales were down because PC buyers didn’t like Windows 8.
The time has come to simply acknowledge that the PC era peaked two years ago, and has started to irreversibly contract. The only question is how fast.
iPhone 5S Camera Test in Patagonia ★
This iPhone 5S beats out the 5 in every camera test and in many
ways I prefer it to my DSLR. Sure it has its pros & cons… but for
the first time ever, I didn’t bring my Canon 1DX and I didn’t
regret it one bit. That’s saying a lot.
‘And Steve Said, “Fuck You Guys, Do Whatever You Want. You’re Responsible.” And He Stormed Out of the Room.’ ★
10 years ago today, Apple did something extraordinary, but it
didn’t seem like it at the time. Like the story of a butterfly
flapping its wings and eventually causing a tsunami halfway around
the world, this had a profound impact on the trajectory and
fortunes of Apple over the next decade. It’s something you don’t
often hear about, even from fervent Apple watchers, but it was the
day “Hell Froze Over.”
On October 16, 2003, Apple launched “the best Windows program
ever” — iTunes for Windows.
Square Cash ★
Walt Mossberg reviews Square’s new super-simple cash-by-email service:
Here’s how Square Cash works. Say you want to send $47.12 to your
sister. You just compose an email with her email address in the
“To” field and, in the “CC” field, you enter “email@example.com.” In
the subject field, you enter the amount you’re sending — in this
case, “$47.12.” You can leave the message body blank, or add a
note explaining you’re sending the money and why. Then, you just
If this is your first time using the service, Square will email
you a link to its service, where you’ll be asked to enter your
debit-card information. This is required one time only. In
seconds, Square verifies the debit card and checks that you have
sufficient funds, using existing, routine Visa or MasterCard
procedures, and sends an email to your sister. (Square says it
never knows how much is in your account, and it encrypts your card
Seems almost too good to be true — not least because there are no fees at all. If I send you $25.00, you get $25.00.
Regarding Supplier Rumors of iPhone Demand ★
Lots of news today about reports from suppliers that Apple has reduced orders for the 5C and increased orders for the 5S. The only sensible conclusion I’ve read regarding this was buried at the bottom of Reuters’s report:
Some analysts caution against correlating the cuts to Apple’s
supplier orders with poor sales, because of the complexity and
opacity of the company’s supply chain.
“We’ve seen this several times. There are too many moving parts in
the supply chain to draw any conclusions,” said Benedict Evans,
who covers mobile and digital media at Enders Analysis, a research
consultancy in London.
“We don’t know what other suppliers they use or what inventory
they already have.”
Or whether it’s as simple as yields being higher than expected. Tim Cook warned against reading into these rumors from Apple’s supply chain early this year, in the face of then-rampant rumors of decreased demand for the iPhone 5. And indeed, iPhone 5 sales were just fine in the two quarters following these supply-chain-rumor predictions of slower sales.
Cupertino Council Approves New Apple Campus ★
Good time for a reminder about just how enormous this building is going to be.
Spitballing Apple’s Event Next Week ★
Good slate of guesses from Nick Heer regarding what we may see from Apple next week.
Om Malik on Angela Ahrendts ★
Good piece by Om Malik:
That said, I think the biggest challenge and perhaps one that
could prove to be her Achilles heel has less to do with her
capabilities and more to do with how Apple works.
First, she is not Ron Johnson. And she is definitely not John
Browett. She is Angela Ahrendts, and she is a rock star.
She hobnobs with rock stars, hangs out with models and graces the
covers of magazines. She is the personification of a media
celebrity CEO. She is a woman who seems to have it all. She is
used to being the center of attention and being able to access
reporters and give interviews. She is not the nameless, faceless
functionary that Apple loves and makes sure that they remain
Anonymous isn’t quite the right word, but it’s true that Apple has a distinctly quiet executive culture.
Angela Ahrendts at TEDx Hollywood: The Power of Human Energy ★
Apple’s new SVP of retail and online stores, speaking at TEDx Hollywood in March this year. A bit touchy-feely for my taste, but interesting. As she says up front, what she’s talking about is difficult to articulate. Rare to get insight like this into the mindset of an Apple executive.
For Many Hard-Liners, Debt Default Is the Goal ★
Bruce Bartlett, domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and as a Treasury official under George H. W. Bush (well known left-wing radicals both):
This week, according to the Treasury Department, it will exhaust
its “extraordinary” measures to avoid hitting a hard debt ceiling.
It is not known precisely the date at which it will lack the cash
to pay interest on the national debt, but on the day that happens,
the United States will be in default.
The Obama administration and those on Wall Street have long
thought that such a prospect was so horrifying that it would
necessarily lead to resolution of the current budget impasse. What
I don’t think they understand is that there has been a movement
under way for some years among right-wing economists and activists
not merely to default on the debt, but even to repudiate it.
In other words, these right-wingers aren’t using the threat of debt default to undo the Affordable Care Act — they’re using the threat of undoing the Affordable Care Act (which they know/hope Democrats will not agree to) to get what they really want: putting the United States of America into default.
Right on Schedule: Apple Announces Special Event for October 22 ★
This one is in San Francisco, in the Yerba Buena Center. To me, that signifies that this is a bigger, more important event than last month’s iPhone 5S/5C introduction on Apple’s campus. Higher profile location, and the space holds more people.
(I think it holds a lot more people, but I’m a bad estimator of crowd sizes. The Yerba Buena Center website says their theater has 757 seats. I’d guess Apple’s Town Hall holds at most 350 people. Anyone know how many seats are in there?)
Update: A few readers pointed to this 2011 piece by Jeff Richardson, wherein he links to a 360 degree panorama of the Town Hall theater, which shows a seating capacity of about 250. But I think Apple recently put all-new seating in the room, and an anonymous little birdie on Twitter says the official capacity is now 301, which sounds about right to me.
Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to Join Apple as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores ★
Apple today announced that Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry,
will be joining Apple in a newly created position, as a senior
vice president and member of our executive team, reporting to
CEO Tim Cook.
Ahrendts will have oversight of the strategic direction, expansion
and operation of both Apple retail and online stores, which have
redefined the shopping experience for hundreds of millions of
customers around the world.
Hindsight is 20/20, etc., but the CEO of Burberry sure seems like a better fit for Apple than the CEO of Dixons.
Update: 9to5 Mac has Tim Cook’s company-wide memo announcing her hire.
Pizza Place Geography ★
Interesting visualization of the franchise chain pizza shop locations in the U.S.
All I can think looking at this map is that there’s a lot of terrible pizza out there.
From the DF Archive: ‘A Simple Explanation for Why HP Abandoned Palm and Is Getting Out of the PC Business’ ★
HP’s problem, in a nut:
- The traditional PC market is shrinking and Apple takes most of the profit in what’s left of it.
- The growth is all in smartphones and tablets.
- HP’s only OS choices for the mobile market are Windows/Windows Phone and Android, which puts HP right back in the same low-end commodity business that it wound up in with the PC market.
The irony is, HP had a solution to this dilemma: Palm and Web OS. I’m not saying it’s a sure-thing that they could have made a success of Web OS if they had stuck with it. But it would be hard for them to be in a worse place than they are now, and they would have been able to control their own destiny.
It’s just sad how far HP has fallen.
Meg Whitman Finally Sees Intel and Microsoft as HP Competitors ★
Julie Bort, reporting for Business Insider last week:
On Wednesday, [Whitman] blamed some of HP’s growth problems on
Microsoft and Intel:
“HP’s traditional highly profitable markets face significant
disruption. Wintel devices are being challenged by ARM-based
devices. … We are seeing profound changes in the competitive
landscape. … Current partners like Intel and Microsoft are
turning from partners to outright competitors.”
Yours truly, four years ago:
It’s not just that Apple is different among computer makers.
It’s that Apple is the only one that even can be different,
because it’s the only one that has its own OS. Part of the
industry-wide herd mentality is an assumption that no one else can
make a computer OS — that anyone can make a computer but only
Microsoft can make an OS. It should be embarrassing to companies
like Dell and Sony, with deep pockets and strong brand names, that
they’re stuck selling computers with the same copy of Windows
installed as the no-name brands.
And then there’s HP, a company with one of the best names and
proudest histories in the industry. Apple made news this week
for the design and tech specs of its all-new iMacs, which start
at $1199. HP made news this week for unveiling a Windows 7
launch bundle at Best Buy that includes a desktop PC and two
laptops, all for $1199. That might be great for Microsoft, but
how is it good for HP that their brand now stands for bargain
It’s not a new problem for HP that Microsoft and Intel are attempting to consume all the value from the PC industry and leave the actual PC makers holding an empty bag.
‘This Will Cause Problems for Nokia.’ ★
Helsinki journalist Lauri Malkavaara got a Nokia E51 in 2008, couldn’t figure out how to use it, and wrote a letter to Nokia. Simple perspective, but incredibly prescient.
HTML5-based recreation of MacPaint, by Martin Braun. Well done.
(Via Dave Mark.)
Piper Jaffray Poll Shows iPhone and iPad Popular Among Middle- and High-Income U.S. Teens ★
I haven’t seen the actual report, but based on this bit in AppleInsider’s coverage:
Piper Jaffray’s survey is built on interviews with thousands of
teens from high-income families (household income above $104,000)
and similar visits with more teens from average-income families
($54,000). The study had a total participant pool of 8,643.
I would say AppleInsider’s headline (“More Than Half of Teens Own an iPhone, iPad Immensely Popular”) is wrong. The description of the methodology suggests that lower-income teens were not included in the survey.
But, still. This, like previous versions of the same survey, seemingly refutes the oft-trotted-out notion from Apple competitors that teens don’t like iOS products because they’re seen as being for old people. Examples here, here, here, and, perhaps most hilariously, here:
“Teens are telling us Apple is done,” says Tina Wells of the youth
marketing agency Buzz Marketing Group. “Apple has done a great job
of embracing Gen X and older [Millennials], but I don’t think they
are connecting with Millennial kids. [They’re] all about Surface
tablets/laptops and Galaxy.”
(Also worth noting: the iPad Mini seems curiously unpopular in this poll. Seems odd given the overall popularity of the Mini.)
The Prodigal Guide Reviews the Vertu Constellation ★
Timothy Barber takes a look at Vertu’s new £4,000 (roughly $6,000 USD) Android phone (which does have one interesting feature: a sapphire crystal display):
So is it worth it? OH GOOD LORD NO, of course not. If a £7,000
phone is for people who sneeze that kind of money without
noticing, we can’t really see how a £4,000 phone isn’t. But Vertu,
which has been heavily researching a fast-changing market as it
goes through its own fast change post-Nokia, is going after a
broader market, and judging that there’s a bunch of people to be
tapped who’ll respond at the lower price point.
Remember “I Am Rich”, the $999 iPhone app that served no purpose other than as a statement that the purchaser could afford such an app? That’s Vertu.
Windows Phone 8.1 to Eliminate Hardware Back Button? ★
Paul Thurrott, regarding what he’s heard about Windows Phone 8.1:
No more Back button. Aping the iPhone navigation model, Microsoft
will apparently remove the Back button from the Windows Phone
hardware specification with 8.1. The Back button just doesn’t
make sense, I was told: Users navigate away from an app by
pressing the Start button and then open a new app, just like they
do on iPhone. And the “back stack” is ill-understood by users:
Most don’t realize what they’re doing when they repeatedly hit
the Back button.
Yours truly on hardware back buttons, last year:
When it does exactly what you expect, the system-wide Back button
is convenient. But when it doesn’t, it’s maddening.
Now That’s a Gold Phone ★
HTC mints five phones plated with 18-carat gold. Might be easier to get one of these than a gold iPhone 5S, though.
Qualcomm Backtracks From Claim That 64-Bit in A7 Is a Marketing Gimmick ★
Agam Shah, reporting for IDG:
“The comments made by Anand Chandrasekher, Qualcomm CMO, about
64-bit computing were inaccurate,” said a Qualcomm spokesperson in
an email. “The mobile hardware and software ecosystem is already
moving in the direction of 64-bit; and, the evolution to 64-bit
brings desktop class capabilities and user experiences to mobile,
as well as enabling mobile processors and software to run new
classes of computing devices.”
Qualcomm did not provide further comment.
You know it’s bad when your own PR department cashes in your claim chowder.
Capo 3.0 ★
I don’t play guitar, but if I did, I’d be all over this. Capo is an amazing tool for “reverse engineering rock and roll”, and remains a forward-looking inspiration for Mac app UI design.
John Paczkowski: Apple Will Hold Fall iPad Event on October 22, iPad Mini Going Retina and Getting A7 ★
The fifth-generation iPad is expected to feature a thinner,
lighter design akin to the iPad mini’s, and an improved camera. It
will run Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip. The second-generation iPad
mini will be upgraded with a retina display and also see the A7
incorporated into its innards. It’s not clear whether Apple’s new
iPads will feature the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that recently
debuted on the iPhone 5s, though that has been rumored.
The date seemed rather obvious, given that it coincides with last year’s announcement schedule. Apple is a company of patterns; if they held separate iPhone and iPad events on Tuesdays 11 September and 23 October last year, then held an iPhone event on Tuesday 10 September this year, it was pretty obvious Tuesday 22 October would be the date for the iPad event this year. And given that they haven’t refreshed the iPad lineup since last year’s event, it was even more unlikely that there would be no iPad event.
Interesting to me is Paczkowski’s reporting that the iPad Mini is going retina and getting the A7. The current Mini is running the A5, so if Paczkowski is right, the Mini is going to skip an entire generation. I know nothing about Apple’s plans for the Mini this year, but simply as an observer, I find that unusual.
Nest Protect: A Smart Smoke Alarm ★
Steven Levy, writing for Wired:
Nest believes that voice communication boosts safety. The company
cites a study by Australian researchers that indicates children
are more likely to sleep through a standard alarm than a human
voice. But introducing language into a smoke alarm system was a
surprisingly complex step involving engineering, psychology, and
thespian prowess. Nest scripted its brief messages carefully and
auditioned its voice actors as if it were casting the next Hunger
Games movie. User experience designer David Sloo asked for a
female voice because it projects better though the device’s small
speaker. For the American English version (eventually Nest will
use a voice native to each market), he chose a 37-year-old mother
of a toddler. Somehow, Sloo felt, a maternal characteristic shone
Nest is fascinating. Tony Fadell is clearly trying to bring Apple-level design and innovation to product categories we’ve all written off as too mundane to think about.
HP Chromebook11 ★
$280 Chromebook laptop from HP. Has a fun design — white plastic with Google-colored accents — and charges via USB.
Jony Ive Helped Design One-Off Leica Camera ★
It’s a shame it isn’t going to be mass-produced.
Panic’s New Logo ★
I could spin a yarn about how new logo really represents our apps
themselves — a sharp, accurate core of precise engineering
wrapped in friendly, warm creativity — but I’d totally be making
Nice work. As a long-time fan of Panic’s work, I have a certain fondness for the old logo, but the new one definitely fits.
In Conversation With Antonin Scalia ★
Fascinating, wide-ranging interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Jennifer Senior for New York Magazine. Part of what makes it such an interesting interview is how far apart Senior’s and Scalia’s world views are. Dahlia Lithwick, writing about the interview for Slate, asked Senior to comment on the schism:
I asked Senior whether this felt accurate. She replied, “It’s
embarrassing, but the overlap between our worlds is almost
nonexistent. It explains why the left and the right both responded
so enthusiastically to this piece. Each side sees its own view,
affirmed. One sees a monster and the other sees a hero. It’s
extraordinary, actually. The O’Reilly constituents think he’s
speaking sense; the Jon Stewart vote thinks virtually everything
the guy says is nuts.”
‘OS X El Camino’ ★
New episode of Canada’s favorite podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest Guy English. Topics include the practical performance advantages of the A7 and iOS going 64-bit, Steve Jobs’s cars-vs.-trucks analogy, the future of Microsoft, and more.
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Capturing the Aura of the Scottish Highlands With the iPhone 5S ★
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson is shooting the Scotland highlands with no cameras other than his iPhone 5S. Not bad. (Via Phil Schiller. (!))
Eric Schmidt Calls Android ‘More Secure Than the iPhone’ ★
“The response reportedly drew laughs from the audience in attendance.”
Carl Icahn’s Recent Lunch With Tim Cook ★
I hope that Tim Cook, and the board of Apple, will feel free to
ignore Icahn because Icahn’s not invested in the company, he’s
only invested in the stock price, in his own greed. Sure, he might
file a lawsuit to try and effect the changes he wants, but
ultimately I think the majority of Apple’s shareholders understand
the difference between investing in a company with a future and a
stock with a price.
Doesn’t seem to me that Icahn has the best interests of Apple in mind with his recommendation of a massive $160 billion stock buy-back.
Matt Drance on Samsung’s Gear Commercial ★
Keen observation from Matt Drance:
The Galaxy Gear ad, and the Galaxy Gear itself, convey none of
this. The ad primes us with decades of fantastic expectations —
expectations which just about any review of the product you can
find will tell you have not been met. It also implicitly, and
very ironically, shows just how lacking in vision the product
itself is. The iPhone ad says, “We’re starting over.” The Gear ad
says, “We tried to make that exact thing you’ve seen on TV all
Matthew Panzarino on Samsung’s Gear Commercial ★
Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Samsung taking
inspiration from the ‘Hello’ spot. However — and this is an
important note — Samsung is a company which has had a
billion-dollar judgement against it for copying Apple’s work.
If I was a company which had gained a reputation for copying
Apple’s work, the last thing I’d want is to have my advertising
associated with anything they’d ever done.
Right. You can’t separate this single instance from Samsung’s history.
Gizmag Reviews the Galaxy Gear ★
I asked for it, DF reader Andrew Barnett found it: a positive review of the Galaxy Gear. Will Shanklin, writing for Gizmag:
Amongst a chorus of boos, hisses, and splattered fruit, we think
the Galaxy Gear is a breakthrough product. It’s imperfect, but
it’s a very strong debut, and by far the most exciting wearable
computing device that you can buy today.
When thinking about the press’ [sic] generally negative response to the
Gear, we can’t help but remember Samsung’s original Galaxy Note.
At launch, it too drew a largely unenthusiastic, lackluster
response from critics. Samsung was mocked mercilessly, especially
by the Apple faithful, for centering a lavish marketing campaign
around a giant-sized phone that uses a stylus.
But guess what? Customers ultimately voted quite differently with
their wallets. The Note sold in bunches, made the phablet a
legitimate product category, and became a surprise hit. Sure, it
had a lot of help from Samsung’s clever and well-funded marketing
machine, but so will the Galaxy Gear.
Fox News Debuts Bizarre, Giant Tablets in New Newsroom ★
Perfect for Fox News. A total sham. As Richard Dunlop-Walters points out, these advanced 55-inch touchscreens are capable of showing four tweets at a time.
Acclaim for New Samsung Galaxy Gear Commercial ★
I’m sure the similarity here is purely coincidental. It just doesn’t seem like Samsung to copy Apple.
Joanna Stern Reviews the Galaxy Gear ★
Joanna Stern, writing for ABC News:
Over the past week I have repeatedly taken the Gear off and left
it behind in meetings or on my desk at night because it just
hasn’t been comfortable to wear. In fact, it actually took me
awhile to write this review, because just keeping the watch on for
longer periods of time was a challenge.
And when I wasn’t taking the watch off because of discomfort, I
was taking it off to charge it.
Are there any good reviews of the Gear? Even just one? Pretty sure the Gear is the worst-reviewed major new tech product in a long time.
Bloomberg: ‘Microsoft Said to Ask HTC for Windows on Android Phones’ ★
Tim Culpan, Dina Bass, and Peter Burrows, reporting for Bloomberg:
Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft’s operating systems unit, asked
HTC last month to load Windows Phone as a second option on
handsets with Google Inc.’s rival software, said the people, who
asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Myerson
discussed cutting or eliminating the license fee to make the idea
more attractive, the people said. The talks are preliminary and no
decision has been made, two people said.
Any port in a storm, I guess. But what a terrible idea.
Anyway, think about how fast this industry changes. Four years ago, HTC was, by far, the number-one Windows Mobile handset maker in the world.
My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Igloo bills itself as “an intranet you’ll actually like”, which is a perfect description. Igloo offers blogs, calendars, file sharing, forums, microblogs (think: private Twitter), and wikis. Everything you’d want. It’s all modern (including responsive design for mobile devices), and all configurable.
Igloo is free to use with up to ten people — free! — so you can start building your own Igloo today.
Elon Musk on the Model S Fire ★
For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be
absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a
battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.
Really admire the way Musk and Tesla respond to incidents like this. Clear, plain language.
Behind the Scenes of the Original iPhone Launch ★
Fascinating piece by Fred Vogelstein in The New York Times on the development and launch announcement of the original iPhone, largely based on remarks from Andy Grignon, who was then the engineering manager in charge of the iPhone’s antenna systems (and who obviously no longer works for Apple; it’s rare to see the company’s code of silence broken even by former employees).
It’s hard to overstate the gamble Jobs took when he decided to
unveil the iPhone back in January 2007. Not only was he
introducing a new kind of phone — something Apple had never made
before — he was doing so with a prototype that barely worked.
Even though the iPhone wouldn’t go on sale for another six months,
he wanted the world to want one right then. In truth, the list of
things that still needed to be done was enormous. A production
line had yet to be set up. Only about a hundred iPhones even
existed, all of them of varying quality. Some had noticeable gaps
between the screen and the plastic edge; others had scuff marks on
the screen. And the software that ran the phone was full of bugs.
The iPhone could play a section of a song or a video, but it
couldn’t play an entire clip reliably without crashing. It worked
fine if you sent an e-mail and then surfed the Web. If you did
those things in reverse, however, it might not. Hours of trial and
error had helped the iPhone team develop what engineers called
“the golden path,” a specific set of tasks, performed in a
specific way and order, that made the phone look as if it worked.
I don’t want to spoil the ending; it’s a great story.
The State of Cheating in Android Benchmarks ★
Anand Lal Shimpi and Brian Klug:
We started piecing this data together back in July, and even had
conversations with both silicon vendors and OEMs about getting it
to stop. With the exception of Apple and Motorola, literally every
single OEM we’ve worked with ships (or has shipped) at least one
device that runs this silly CPU optimization. It’s possible that
older Motorola devices might’ve done the same thing, but none of
the newer devices we have on hand exhibited the behavior. It’s a
systemic problem that seems to have surfaced over the last two
years, and one that extends far beyond Samsung.
Qualcomm Executive Calls Apple’s 64-Bit A7 a ‘Marketing Gimmick’ ★
Agam Shah, reporting for Techworld:
“I know there’s a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit] on their
A7,” said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and chief
marketing officer at Qualcomm, in an interview. “I think they are
doing a marketing gimmick. There’s zero benefit a consumer gets
Update: Here’s a bit more:
“Predominantly… you need it for memory addressability beyond
4 GB. That’s it. You don’t really need it for performance, and the
kinds of applications that 64-bit get used in mostly are large,
server-class applications,” said Chandrasekher, who previously ran
Intel’s mobile platforms group.
So we have an easy claim chowder test for these guys who are now arguing that the A7 going 64-bit is a “marketing gimmick” because the only significant advantage of 64-bit computing is the ability to address more than 4 GB of memory: Let’s see if they come out with 64-bit chipsets in the coming years for devices with 4 GB or less of RAM.
Lavabit Case Unsealed ★
Kevin Poulsen, reporting for Wired’s Threat Level:
In an interesting work-around, Levison complied the next day by
turning over the private SSL keys as an 11 page printout in
4-point type. The government, not unreasonably, called the
“To make use of these keys, the FBI would have to manually input
all 2,560 characters, and one incorrect keystroke in this
laborious process would render the FBI collection system incapable
of collecting decrypted data,” prosecutors wrote.
The court ordered Levison to provide a more useful electronic
copy. By August 5, Lavabit was still resisting the order, and the
judge ordered that Levison would be fined $5,000 a day beginning
August 6 until he handed over electronic copies of the keys.
On August 8, Levison shuttered Lavabit, making any attempt at
surveillance moot. He posted an oblique message saying he’d been
left with little choice in the matter.
In case you missed it yesterday, I encourage everyone to join me in contributing to Ladar Levison’s defense fund. He deserves our support.
Three Major Microsoft Investors Want Bill Gates to Step Down as Chairman ★
Nadia Damouni and Bill Rigby, reporting for Reuters:
The three investors are concerned that Gates’ presence on the
board effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would
limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial
changes. In particular, they point to Gates’ role on the special
committee searching for Ballmer’s successor.
They are also worried that Gates - who spends most of his time on
his philanthropic foundation - wields power out of proportion to
his declining shareholding.
If anything comes of this — man, what an ignominious end.
Do You Miss the ‘.com’ Button on the iOS 7 Keyboard? ★
Good tip from Kirk McElhearn. Like he says, it’s not new to iOS 7, but I bet most people don’t know about it.
Galaxy Note 3 One-Handed Mode ★
I’m at a loss for words on this one.
iOS 7 Accessibility Improvements for Switch Users ★
Christopher Hills explains the news-to-me accessibility improvements in iOS 7 for users of switches (like this one, from Tecla).
Lifting the Lid on the iOS 7 UIPicker ★
Nice dissection by Sean Woodhouse:
The inset tap area causes real problems when the picker is placed
inline within a UITableView. It’s the same old ‘scroll views
within scroll views’ conundrum developers have been struggling
with since the dawn of graphical user interfaces, but made worse
because you can easily miss the tap area within the control’s
bounds and end up inadvertently scrolling the whole UITableView.
Field Notes ‘Drink Local’ Edition ★
If I liked notebooks, Futura Bold, and drinking beer, I’d be all over these.
Tumult Hype ★
Worth a re-link, in the wake of Google’s free-but-janky Web Designer app. If you’re looking for a great tool that lets you build Flash-style animations based on HTML5, Tumult Hype does it with a terrific native Mac interface. $30, cheap!
Samsung Recruited to Join ‘MobileBench’ Consortium Tasked With Creating New Mobile Benchmarks ★
And in baseball news, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are collaborating on new tests for performance-enhancing drugs.
Support Lavabit’s Legal Defense Fund ★
Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit:
To fight for the right to keep private emails private, I’ve
created this Rally for my company, Lavabit: the encrypted-email
service said to have been used by Edward Snowden.
I’ve shut down Lavabit because I refuse to be complicit in the
crimes against the American people and the U.S. Constitution. I
wish I could say more about our situation.
What happens now? We at Lavabit have started preparing the
paperwork needed to continue fighting for the Constitution in the
4th Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me
to resurrect Lavabit as an American company.
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to
the Lavabit defense fund.
An American citizen running an American company, and he’s not even allowed to say why he’s been forced to shut down his company. I’ve already donated; if you care about true civil liberties, I encourage you to donate as well.
The Verge: Samsung Galaxy Gear Review ★
Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:
A smartwatch the Galaxy Gear is not. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly
what it’s supposed to be. Samsung describes it as a companion
device, and the Gear is indeed chronically dependent on an
umbilical link to another Samsung device, but it never left me
feeling like it was a helpful companion. The notifications are
Orwellian, the media controls are exiguous, and the app selection
has no substance to underpin the hype. Samsung’s attempt to turn
the Gear into a style icon is also unlikely to succeed, owing to
the company’s indecision about its target demographic. Trying to
please all tastes has resulted in a predictably charmless and
Seems universally panned.
Google Web Designer ★
Visual layout and animation tool for web designers, free from Google. Think: replacement for Flash using HTML5. As a Mac app it’s gross — fake menu bar within the window, and nothing but an Edit menu in the real menu bar. Poking around the .app bundle, it looks like it’s just an embedded Chrome browser running an HTML5 web app. Impressive for a web app; weird for those used to real native Mac apps.
Ars Technica’s Galaxy Note 3 Review ★
Ron Amadeo, reviewing the Galaxy Note 3 hardware:
This time around, Samsung has opted to cover the back in a plastic
faux-leather with pretend stitching around the perimeter. It
sounds ridiculous, but it actually looks great. Along with the
stylus, it really has a “Moleskin Notebook” vibe going. It doesn’t
feel like leather at all; it’s just a textured soft-touch plastic.
It’s a step up from Samsung’s usual glossy plastic, but the design
here is still disappointing when compared to the HTC One, Nexus 4,
or anything Apple has made in the last two years.
The S-Pen is still here too. While Samsung is clearly trying to
ditch the “cheap-plastic” feeling on the exterior of the phone,
they haven’t done anything to help the feel of the S-Pen. It’s
made out of the chintziest plastic imaginable. It’s so light that
it feels disposable, like something you’re supposed to throw out
after every use. I would have preferred something closer to the
nice heft of a metal pen, but this is basically a hollow plastic
tube with a button on it. It just seems odd using your $700 device
with a 25¢ pen.
Sounds about right. The fake stitches are my favorite.
Galaxy Note 3 Cheats on Benchmarks ★
Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:
We noticed an odd thing while testing the Samsung Galaxy Note 3:
it scores really, really well in benchmark tests — puzzlingly
well, in fact. A quick comparison of its scores to the similarly
specced LG G2 makes it clear that something fishy is going on,
because Samsung’s 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 blows the doors off LG’s
2.3GHz Snapdragon 800. What makes one Snapdragon so different from
After a good bit of sleuthing, we can confidently say that Samsung
appears to be artificially boosting the US Note 3’s benchmark
scores with a special, high-power CPU mode that kicks in when the
device runs a large number of popular benchmarking apps. Samsung
did something similar with the international Galaxy S 4’s
GPU, but this is the first time we’ve seen the boost on a US
device. We also found a way to disable this special CPU mode, so
for the first time we can see just how much Samsung’s benchmark
optimizations affect benchmark scores.
What a bizarre coincidence that a company as honest and reputable as Samsung would get caught doing this again.