My thanks to Bellroy for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Bellroy is a new company that specializes in creating slim, stylish, functional wallets — like the Slim Sleeve, the ultra-compact Hide and Seek, and the Travel Wallet.
Bellroy’s wallets are a great example of the adage that design isn’t how something looks, it’s how it works. These wallets are very functional. They sent me a Slim Sleeve (in Cocoa), and the pull-out tab for infrequently-used cards is very clever. Looks and feels great too — best wallet I’ve ever used.
Crystal Collection for Samsung Galaxy S5 ★
Even I’ll admit, Apple can’t innovate like this.
‘Mobile Safari Creator’ ★
Andrew Cunningham, regurgitating for Ars Technica Brian Chen’s interview with former Apple engineer Francisco Tolmasky:
Today, the New York Times Bits Blog ran an extensive interview
with Francisco Tolmasky, the developer responsible for the first
version of mobile Safari, and he shared some additional details
about the creation of the very first iPhone apps.
Judging by my inbox, an awful lot of coffee was spewed in Cupertino today upon reading Tolmasky’s self-aggrandizing description of his role in Mobile Safari’s creation. There’s a difference between “the developer responsible for the first version of mobile Safari” and “the developer who claims he was responsible for the first version of mobile Safari”.
Update: Said one long-time trusted source: “He definitely was NOT the lead on the project and several other engineers made far more significant contributions.”
Update 2: Ars has changed the headline and appended an update to the article which begins:
This article originally stated that Tolmasky was the leader of
Apple’s Web team; he contacted us to tell us that he was just one
of its five members. The original headline also referred to
Tolmasky as mobile Safari’s “creator,” and Tolmasky made clear to
us that each application was the combined work of multiple people.
Former Apple Engineer Francisco Tolmasky on the Creation of Mobile Safari and iOS ★
Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:
“Each one of these things is basically one person,” said Mr.
Tolmasky, while tapping his finger on some of the app icons on
the packaging for the first iPhone. While all members of the
software team worked together on the many different software
elements on the original iPhone before it shipped, each piece had
a person leading it. Mr. Tolmasky said he was the point man on
He told how several of the iPhone’s apps and key features came
to be created. The keyboard, he said, was the result of a sort of
hackathon run by Mr. Jobs. The chief executive had been unhappy
with the keyboard prototypes for the iPhone, so he assigned
everyone on the team to work only on keyboards for an entire week.
An engineer on Mr. Tolmasky’s team won the contest, and from
then on his full-time job was to work on the iPhone keyboard.
It’s certainly unusual for a former Apple employee to speak so openly and take so much personal credit for their work at the company. Most stick to the code of silence not out of fear, but because they left the company on good terms and want to keep the door open to perhaps return someday. I suspect Tolmasky doesn’t have to worry about that. (And it strikes me as highly dubious that a 20-year-old, no matter how talented, was in charge of Mobile Safari.)
Tolmasky’s new iPad game, Bonsai Slice, looks interesting, though.
Reuters: Apple, Google Agree to Pay Over $300 Million to Settle No-Poaching Conspiracy Lawsuit ★
Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:
Four major tech companies including Apple and Google have agreed
to pay a total of $324 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them
of conspiring to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley, sources
familiar with the deal said, just weeks before a high profile
trial had been scheduled to begin.
So are recruiters from Google and Apple now making offers to employees at each other’s company?
Comcast Response to Netflix ★
Jennifer Khoury, Comcast senior vice president:
Netflix’s argument is a House of Cards.
High fives all around the Comcast PR department for that sick burn.
As at least one independent commentator has pointed out, it was
not Comcast that was creating viewability issues for Netflix
customers, it was Netflix’s commercial transit decisions that
created these issues. No ISP in the country has been a stronger
supporter of the Open Internet than Comcast – and we remain
committed both to providing our customers with a free and open
Internet and to supporting appropriate FCC rules to ensure that
consumers’ access to the Internet is protected in a legally
As Peter Kafka translates, Comcast is arguing that Netflix sabotaged its own streams:
Now it’s out there, and it’s kind of amazing: If the
accusation is true, it means that Netflix shortchanged some of its
customers, for reasons that aren’t quite clear. If it’s not,
it means that Comcast, which has to be on its best behavior as it
tries to get the federal government to bless its Time Warner Cable
deal, has made a damning charge in public that it can’t back up.
(I love too how the legal disclaimer at the end of Comcast’s blog post is three times longer than the post itself.)
Welcome to Comcast Country ★
Daniel Denvir, in an op-ed for the NYT:
Starting in Philadelphia, Comcast built a hometown political
machine and turned it into a national juggernaut. In 2013, the
company spent $18.8 million on federal lobbying, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more than all but six other
corporations. The company is also a major donor, making nearly
$5.5 million in federal political contributions during the 2012
The effort to sideline concerns about consumer protection was
pioneered in Philadelphia in 1999, when Comcast was aided by
City Hall in keeping a rival company, RCN, out of the local
“Good God!” Mr. Rendell recalled telling RCN, according to The
Philadelphia Inquirer. “We have to tear up the streets so you can
come in here and compete against one of our best corporate
Forget it, Jake. It’s Kabletown.
Netflix: The Case Against ISP Tolls ★
Ken Florance, vice president of content delivery at Netflix:
In sum, Comcast is not charging Netflix for transit service. It is
charging Netflix for access to its subscribers. Comcast also
charges its subscribers for access to Internet content providers
like Netflix. In this way, Comcast is double dipping by getting
both its subscribers and Internet content providers to pay for
access to each other.
It is true that there is competition among the transit providers
and CDNs that transport and localize data across networks. But
even the most competitive transit market cannot ensure sufficient
access to the Comcast network. That’s because, to reach consumers,
CDNs and transit providers must ultimately hand the traffic over
to a terminating ISP like Comcast, which faces no competition. Put
simply, there is one and only one way to reach Comcast’s
subscribers at the last mile: Comcast.
And conversely, for many of us, there is only one way to get high speed internet access at home: Comcast.
The Upshot on Apple’s Stock Split ★
Neil Irwin, writing for the NYT’s new sub-site, The Upshot:
But there’s another way of looking at it. Warren Buffett, the
legendary investor, has avoided splitting shares of his Berkshire
Hathaway so resolutely that each one now trades at a whopping
$190,800 per Class A share. (He has bowed to practicality — and
the fact that most people can’t invest nearly $200,000 for a
single share of a stock — by introducing Class B shares that now
go for a more reasonable $127 each).
Mr. Buffett’s logic has been that trying to game the market by
doing stock splits attracts the wrong type of trader: people
looking to trade in and out of a stock, rather than buy and hold
it as a long-term investment. Interestingly, his logic for not
splitting Berkshire stock for all these years matches precisely
the findings of Mr. Dhar and his colleagues. It’s just that Mr.
Buffett would prefer not to have that extra liquidity in Berkshire
stock if it means dealing with shareholders who are looking for a
With its split decision, then, Apple is effectively choosing its
own shareholders — and not the ones who are most likely to stick
with the company when it encounters bad times.
I’m curious too, why Apple chose a 7-for-1 split. As per Apple’s own FAQ, the company’s three previous stock splits were all 2-for-1.
Matt Yglesias speculates that one factor might be Apple’s desire to be part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Update: From an email from DF reader ET:
Neil Irwin claims Apple’s move will attract the wrong crowd, but
by almost every metric Apple doesn’t seem to be properly valued:
so is that the “right” crowd? Who needs enemies when you have
friends like that!
Apple Reports Second-Quarter Earnings ★
Dan Miller, reporting for Macworld:
iPhone sales were up 17 percent compared to the second quarter
last year (43.7 million phones sold versus 37.4 million the year
before). Revenues from the smartphones were up, too, from $22.95
billion to $26.06 billion, an increase of 13 percent. The iPhone
now accounts for fully 57 percent of Apple’s overall revenues (up
from 53 percent last year).
In his comments, Apple CEO Tim Cook said demand for each of the
three current iPhone models (the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone
4s) has been stronger than predecessor (a pointed rebuke, perhaps,
to those who have proclaimed the 5c to be a failure). He also
pointed out that phone sales were particularly robust in Asian
markets, particularly Japan and China (where the addition of China
Mobile as a carrier and iPhone 4s pricing led to an all-time sales
iPad sales were effectively flat, year-over-year; Mac sales were slightly up (which is impressive, given the continuing decline of the overall PC market).
A few other tidbits from the analyst conference call:
FCC, in ‘Net Neutrality’ Turnaround, Plans to Allow Fast Lane ★
Edward Wyatt, reporting for the NYT:
The new rules, according to the people briefed on them, will allow
a company like Comcast or Verizon to negotiate separately with
each content company — like Netflix, Amazon, Disney or Google —
and charge different companies different amounts for priority
That, of course, could increase costs for content companies, which
would then have an incentive to pass on those costs to consumers
as part of their subscription prices.
Proponents of net neutrality have feared that such a framework
would empower large, wealthy companies and prevent small
start-ups, which might otherwise be the next Twitter or Facebook,
for example, from gaining any traction in the market.
Some claim chowder from 2007, “Obama Pledges Net Neutrality Laws if Elected President”:
The question, selected through an online video contest, was posed
via video by small-business owner and former AT&T engineer Joe
Niederberger, a member of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org.
He asked Obama: “Would you make it a priority in your first year
of office to reinstate Net neutrality as the law of the land? And
would you pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support
open Internet principles like Net neutrality?”
“The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of
He went on to explain the issue briefly: “What you’ve been seeing
is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various
portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet
should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to
different Web sites… so you could get much better quality from
the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom
and pop sites,” he went on. “And that I think destroys one of the
best things about the Internet — which is that there is this
incredible equality there.”
‘Far, Far Away From Your Parents’ ★
Speaking of HBO Go, these new commercials are brilliant. (Via John Moltz.)
Amazon Gets Rights to Stream Old HBO Shows ★
That means Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to see shows that
have already run on HBO, like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.” And
they can also watch older seasons of some shows that are still on
the air, like “Girls,” three years after they air.
It’s the first time HBO has offered access to its catalog via a
streaming video service that’s not its own HBO Go. And it gives
Amazon an important bragging right/differentiation point as it
tries to gain ground on rival Netflix.
People familiar with the deal say HBO did not shop the catalog to
Netflix or other potential Amazon rivals.
In short: you still need HBO Go to watch new shows, and the only way to get HBO Go is to pay for HBO with your cable service. But Fire TV is getting HBO Go, too, “targeting a launch by year-end”.
We all know the rule for “a” versus “an.” […]
So the sentence “I read a Guardian article” is straightforward.
But what about on Twitter? Any time you mention someone in a
sentence, you use their handle. Which means every name on Twitter
starts with @, a vowel sound. Do we count it? We tried to figure
that out this morning.
I say no — even if you’d say the “at” aloud verbally, in writing you should choose a/an based on the first letter in the Twitter handle, not the @ character. Tricky question though.
Appreciating Albert Pujols ★
ESPN’s Jayson Stark, on the newest member of baseball’s 500 Homers Club:
So the moral of this story remains the same: Lots of men have hit
baseballs over many, many fences. Only the greatest hitters who
ever lived have been the all-around offensive forces that Pujols
has been. And that’s a fact. […]
But suppose we take all those other numbers out of this and focus
just on batting average — which isn’t a measure of power at all
but merely of a man’s ability to hit baseballs where nobody with a
glove is standing.
At .321, Pujols has the fourth-highest average in the entire 500
Homer Club — trailing only those same three men from the previous
list: Williams (.344), Ruth (.342) and Foxx (.325).
Matthew Carter: ‘My Life in Typefaces’ ★
Matthew Carter, speaking at TED, on constraints and compromise in design.
iOS 7.1.1 Now Labels Apps With ‘In-App Purchases’ in Top Charts and Featured Sections ★
Sort of like putting a (deserved) asterisk after the word “free”.
OS X Beta Seed Program ★
New program from Apple:
Join the OS X Beta Seed Program and help make OS X even better.
Install the latest pre-release software, try it out, and submit
Previously, you had to be a registered developer to get access to OS beta seeds.
Update: I was wrong. The Apple Seed Program for non-developers isn’t new — it’s been around as long as Mac OS X has. What’s new is that it’s now open for anyone to join. Until now, it was by invitation only.
Greg Christie on the Creation of the Original iPhone ★
Speaking of Greg Christie, I neglected to link to this fascinating piece by Daisuke Wakabayashi for the WSJ last month. It’s a very rare behind-the-scenes look at Apple’s design process. My favorite tidbit: they simulated the iPhone’s performance by using a then-years-old G3 Mac to run the software while it was in development.
Apple made Christie available to Steve Henn of NPR’s All Things Considered, too. To me, that Apple chose Christie for these profiles is a telling sign that his upcoming retirement from Apple is on nothing but the best of terms. The intention was to let Christie — who is extremely well-liked personally and highly-regarded for his work within the company — go out on top, with well-earned credit where credit is due.
This Week on The Talk Show: Mark Gurman ★
Special guest Mark Gurman from 9to5Mac joins me on my podcast for a discussion of Apple journalism, rumors surrounding upcoming Apple products, and UI design chief Greg Christie’s upcoming retirement.
Brought to you by:
Beats Music Starts Selling In-App Subscriptions on iOS ★
Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:
Beats CEO Ian Rogers says the decision to sell within the Apple
app was fairly straightforward: More than half of Beats users use
iPhones, and it’s very hard to get an iOS user to subscribe if you
don’t sell in-app.
Two other music subscription services — Rhapsody and Rdio — have
also agreed to sell subscriptions within Apple’s app, though Rdio
raised the price for in-app subscriptions from $10 a month to
$15 a month to accommodate Apple’s tariff.
But Spotify, which is much larger than all three of the services,
hasn’t made the move. Spotify does have a free, ad-supported tier
available on its mobile app.
So Apple is making money on music subscriptions even though iTunes itself doesn’t (yet?) offer them.
Photographs of Golf Balls Cut in Half ★
Surprisingly beautiful photos by James Friedman.
On the Leveling-Off of iPad Sales ★
Jean-Louis Gassée, on the widespread expectation that year-over-year iPad sales have leveled off:
Despite the inspiring ads, Apple’s hopes for the iPad overshot
what the product can actually deliver. Although there’s a large
numbers of iPad-only users, there’s also a substantial population
of dual-use customers for whom both tablets and conventional PCs
are now part of daily life.
I see the lull in iPad sales as a coming down to reality after
unrealistic expectations, a realization that iPads aren’t as ready
to replace PCs as many initially hoped.
In short, Gassée is arguing that tablet sales have hit a wall, and that the iPad needs to grow more Mac-like capabilities for advanced tasks.
Gassée’s piece spawned an interesting thread on Twitter, in which Benedict Evans argued:
Posit: slow iPad sales are worse news for the PC market: implies
phones can take the greater share of PC use cases.
I find that compelling. We might have overestimated the eventual role of tablets and underestimated the role of phones — and the whole argument is further muddled by the industry-wide move toward 5-inch-ish phone displays.
The Decline of Compact Cameras ★
Eric Perlberg has a chart shown at Photokina 2014, showing the rapid decline of standalone point-shoot-cameras. No surprise, of course: mobile devices equipped with cameras have taken over (and revolutionized) the casual photography market.
(Source: Original (in Japanese), and translated.)
Apple on Environmental Responsibility ★
Interesting choice of narrator.
WSJ: ‘Mobile-Payments Startup Square Discusses Possible Sale’ ★
Square recorded a loss of roughly $100 million in 2013, broader
than its loss in 2012, according to two people familiar with
The five-year-old company paid out roughly $110 million more in
cash last year than it took in, according to two people familiar
with the matter. Over the past three years, the startup has
consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it has raised
from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009, two
people familiar with the company’s performance said.
I’m sure they can make it up on volume.
CNet: Nike Fires FuelBand Engineering Team; Set to Exit Wearable Hardware Market ★
Nick Statt, reporting for CNet:
Nike is gearing up to shutter its wearable-hardware efforts, and
the sportswear company this week fired the majority of the team
responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, a
person familiar with the matter told CNET. […]
There’s increasing competition in the market for wrist-worn
fitness trackers, and Nike’s digital app ecosystem, Nike+, has
grown less reliant on wearables as smartphone sensors have
improved. In other words, it makes less and less sense for Nike to
stay in the hardware race when its physical wearables are not
bottom-line needle movers, especially as companies like Apple and
Google prepare to join the fray.
Interesting, particularly when you consider that Tim Cook sits on the Nike board — and that he wears a FuelBand.
Update: Nike issued a sort of non-denial denial to Recode.
My thanks to JetPens, one of my favorite companies in the world, for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. JetPens offers an incredible selection of the best pens, pencils, and office toys from around the world. A few of their latest items:
My personal favorite for years now is the Zebra Sarasa 0.4mm retractable clip pen (in black, of course). Place an order $25 or more through this link and JetPens will include a free Zebra Sarasa.
If you have any interest in pens and stationery and haven’t looked at JetPens before, you’re in for a real treat.
Typekit Practice ★
Tim Brown, Typekit:
Fonts are great, but using them well can be hard. Volumes have
been written about typography, yet every good designer will say
there are no rules; there is no magic formula for success.
Typography simply takes practice. Typography is a practice.
So today, we’re launching a new website: Typekit Practice, a place
where novices and experts alike can hone their typographic skills.
We hope it will help students learn, help teachers teach, and help
professionals stay sharp.
Bloomberg: Apple to Bake Shazam Song Recognition Into iOS 8 ★
The company is planning to unveil a song-discovery feature in an
update of its iOS mobile software that will let users identify a
song and its artist using an iPhone or iPad, said two people with
knowledge of the product, who asked not to be identified because
the feature isn’t public. Apple is working with Shazam
Entertainment Ltd., whose technology can quickly spot what’s
playing by collecting sound from a phone’s microphone and matching
it against a song database. […]
Among the ways it can be used will be through Apple’s
voice-activated search feature, Siri. An iPhone user will be able
to say something like “what song is playing,” to find out the
tune’s details, one person said.
Sounds like a great feature. (Why not just acquire Shazam, though?)
Update: Interesting theory from Sean Heber:
Maybe the Shazam/Siri rumor is based on a Siri API integrating
existing Shazam app. No need to acquire in that case
I’d love to see Siri open up with an API for third-party app integration, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.
As for why Apple doesn’t “just acquire” them, as I glibly suggested above — ends up Shazam is shooting for an IPO this year with a valuation of $500 million.
iOS 7 Tint Color Misuse ★
It has been nearly a year since the first iOS 7 beta, and
something about tint color still bugs me. In fact it bothered me
enough at the time of the early betas that a filed a bug on it
with Apple, something I very rarely do. The problem isn’t so much
in the concept of tint color, which I like; having a consistent
color for buttons and links, especially now that buttons are so
understated, makes a lot of sense. The problem is the
implementation in apps that use tint color anytime they want to
highlight something, whether it is tappable or not.
Too many buttons that don’t look like buttons — that’s my single biggest gripe about iOS 7.
Lens Blur in the New Google Camera App ★
Carlos Hernández, writing for the Google Research blog:
Shallow depth of field makes the object of interest “pop” by
bringing the foreground into focus and de-emphasizing the
background. Achieving this optical effect has traditionally
required a big lens and aperture, and therefore hasn’t been
possible using the camera on your mobile phone or tablet.
That all changes with Lens Blur, a new mode in the Google Camera
app. It lets you take a photo with a shallow depth of field using
just your Android phone or tablet. Unlike a regular photo, Lens
Blur lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo
is taken. You can choose to make any object come into focus simply
by tapping on it in the image.
Interesting idea. Like filters, it’s another way to use software cleverness to work around the physical limitations of the small cameras in mobile devices.
Misunderstanding Innovation ★
But there is another form of ignorance which seems to be
universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of
innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term
and the inability to discern the difference between novelty,
creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to
understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence
the conditions that lead to economic growth.
This is a step toward understanding why so many people get Apple so very wrong. If you don’t understand what innovation really is, you’re not going to understand an innovative company.
Bloomberg: How Americans Die ★
Both the data itself and the visualizations of it are fascinating.
On Yahoo’s Chances of Replacing Google as the Default Web Search on iOS ★
Danny Sullivan, on a Kara Swisher report that Marissa Mayer is trying to get Yahoo to replace Google as iOS’s default for web search:
The biggest challenge Yahoo has is that it lacks any solid search
technology. Sure, Yahoo has some for very specialized things. But
the core technology to sift through billions of pages across the
web and ferret out relevant results? Yahoo gave all that up as
part of its deal with Microsoft years ago. […]
Some might think that Yahoo doesn’t need to do as big a job as
Google or Bing does. Maybe it just needs to focus on answering
popular questions. That, however, overlooks the fact that if Yahoo
can’t answer virtually every question tossed at it, consumers will
get frustrated. For all the talk about mobile search, contextual
search, popular answers, predictive search, local listings, it’s
web search that remains the core foundation that everything is
built off of. If you don’t have that foundation, everything can
As Sullivan points out, after the maps switch, Apple is probably more gun-shy about dropping Google as the default web search provider than they otherwise would have been.
What’s New in Tumult Hype 2.5 ★
Speaking of great updates to my favorite Mac apps, the latest version of the amazing Tumult Hype — a professional HTML5 animation tool — has a slew of new features, including support for responsive design. Hard to believe this app costs only $30.
Screens 3.0 for Mac ★
Sweet update to the Mac version of my favorite VNC client. If you ever have the need to control a Mac remotely, you should check out Screens.
Brent Simmons on Build 2014 ★
While seeing iOS devices on a big screen in Moscone West was
normal to us, we knew you’d never see Apple feature Android or
Windows Mobile devices in their keynotes.
Nor should they. That’s not a criticism — that’s just not Apple’s
thing. It’s the new Microsoft’s thing to be cosmopolitan.
I talked to a number of Microsoft employees — on the Azure side
— and got the same sense from all of them. They’re excited.
They know they’re underdogs; they know that Amazon Web Services is
They also know that the kind of dominance Microsoft once had —
where just about everything that computed ran Windows — is gone
and will never come back.
Could just be my skewed perspective, but one thing I didn’t see much of at Build were references to Android. Like Brent notes, there were many references to iPhone and iPad development, including demos during the keynote (not to mention Q Branch’s brief moment in the spotlight). But Android, not so much.
Microsoft has in no way given up on Windows Phone or the tablet market. But the change I detect is a narrowing of their focus. They now (correctly, I say) view Android/Google as their competition, rather than “everyone”. And there’s a decided “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing going on with iOS/Apple too. I hope Apple sees the same thing.
Justin Williams on Build 2014 ★
I’m a few weeks late linking to this, but I didn’t want to let it slide. Long-time iOS developer Justin Williams, on attending Microsoft’s Build developer conference:
One of the biggest differences I noticed between an event like
Build and WWDC was in the subtle messaging. Both Apple and
Microsoft are massive companies that make billions of dollars and
answer to their shareholders. Both companies also offer
development platforms for third-parties to integrate with.
What’s different though is that it feels like Microsoft is more
interested in working with us as a partner whereas Apple has
always given off a vibe of just sort of dealing with us because
they have to. Maybe that’s a little sour grapes, but as a
developer it was a nice change.
The differences from WWDC — especially since both were held in the same venue, Moscone West — were fascinating to me. Little things, like the keynote hall being arranged sideways (wide, rather than deep), to big things, like a press room that was open all conference long. At WWDC, press passes are good only for the Monday morning keynote; at Build, invited press can stay all conference long and attend sessions.
It’s not so much that Microsoft is friendlier, but rather that Apple is distant — cooler, in several senses of the word.
‘It’s a 0.1 Update That Feels Like a 2.0 Update’ ★
Peter Bright reviews Windows Phone 8.1 for Ars Technica:
Windows Phone 8.1, therefore, has a lot of work to do. It needs to take further steps along the path toward Microsoft’s vision of a unified operating system. It needs to work better on a wider range of hardware to both strengthen its position at the low end and give it a chance of making inroads at the high end. It needs to also offer features: it needs to do things to get people talking about the platform while attracting both users and developers.
Remarkably, Windows Phone 8.1 delivers on all fronts.
When a Committee Builds a Smartphone ★
David Pogue reviews the Samsung Galaxy S5:
What is gunking up your screens is Samsung’s usual not-fully-thought-through assemblage of app flotsam. Why do you need one app for Gmail and another for other kinds of email accounts? Why do you need two photo apps — one from Samsung, one from Google? Two Settings apps? Two text-messaging apps? Two video players?
This is the dark side of the Android experience: One company makes the hardware, another makes the software. Now they’re becoming rivals, and we can already see who the loser will be: you.
My favorite part is the “one-handed mode”. And what’s the deal with all those inscrutable icons in the status bar?
‘The Pinnacle of Fitness Failure: Samsung’s Gear Fit Activity Tracker’ ★
This is a product I wanted to love, but ultimately, it just ended up being a huge disappointment. Hopefully Samsung can iterate quickly on the software, and move the platform forward to something that someone might actually want to buy. In the meantime, mine is going into my desk drawer.
What happens when Samsung doesn’t have a market leader to copy.
Cocoa for Web Services ★
The cloud is more than just a file system. It’s data plus code.
Amazon Buys ComiXology ★
Jason Snell, writing for TechHive:
Comic fans may groan about the sale — it’s always sad when a plucky, groundbreaking start-up is bought out by a corporate giant — but Amazon’s track record with purchases is actually pretty good. The company has bought Zappos, Goodreads, Woot, and Audible, all of which continue to operate more or less as they did before, rather than being integrated into Amazon.com.
Atelier Playing Cards ★
Sweet typography-centric playing card design by Robert Padbury. The Kickstarter project is just a few days old, but already fully-funded. I say we all pile on and make this project a big hit. (Bonus: the t-shirts are being printed by my pal Brian Jaramillo, who’s handled all DF t-shirts for many years.)
Friday Afternoon Taste of My Own Claim Chowder ★
Yours truly, three years ago:
Second, how is Flipboard an example of a web app? It’s a native
iOS app in the App Store. It uses HTML5 and web content views,
sure, but it’s still a native iPad app.
As I wrote in my headline this week, I’ve rethought what it means to be a web app. Flipboard is a great example of a native app that is all about the web.
Samsung Misled Investors About 2011 Galaxy Tab Sales ★
This week we learned, thanks to a February 2012 internal Samsung
document marked “top secret” and unearthed by Apple as part of its
ongoing patent infringement proceedings, that we were right and
those more credulous news outlets were wrong.
When Strategy Analytics was telling the world that Samsung sold 2
million Galaxy Tabs in six weeks, the truth was that it took
Samsung all of 2011 to sell half that many.
Shocker. But as Elmer-DeWitt points out, the blame doesn’t lie solely with Samsung or even Strategy Analytics — it lies also with the news outlets that gleefully passed along the report as fact. The reason: they wanted it to be true. iPad Continues to Dominate Tablet Sales is a boring story.
Bloomberg: NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years ★
And now, some bad (but unsurprising) Heartbleed news, reported by Michael Riley for Bloomberg:
The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years
about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive
information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it
to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the
The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national
security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over
the role of the government’s top computer experts.
For what it’s worth, the NSA Public Affairs Office tweeted a denial:
Statement: NSA was not aware of the recently identified Heartbleed
vulnerability until it was made public.
Update: Full statement from the NSA here. Doesn’t seem to leave any wiggle room.
Escape From XP ★
Yet another sign that Microsoft has turned a corner.
‘Steve Expected Excellence. Which Is Why He So Often Got It.’ ★
Wonderful remembrance of Steve Jobs from Don Melton
So Steve started the rehearsal, going through slides on the
“Switcher” ad campaign and then the Apple Stores.
At the end of the retail update, he was supposed to conclude
with something like “1.4 million visitors in the month of
December alone,” but he added, “so to all of you in the press
who doubted us…”
And then clicked to reveal his special slide — poster art I’m
sure everyone has seen before — a 1940’s-style rendering of a
grinning man holding a big mug of coffee next to his face with
this text alongside like a world balloon:
“How about a nice cup of shut the fuck up.”
And then the best part — the part we didn’t know was coming —
Steve paused, turned to his V.P. of Marketing and deadpanned,
“What do you think, Phil? Too much?”
Can You Get Private SSL Keys Exploiting Heartbleed? ★
Some potentially good news on the OppenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability front, from CloudFlare:
While the vulnerability seems likely to put private key data at
risk, to date there have been no verified reports of actual
private keys being exposed. At CloudFlare, we received early
warning of the Heartbleed vulnerability and patched our systems 12
days ago. We’ve spent much of the time running extensive tests to
figure out what can be exposed via Heartbleed and, specifically,
to understand if private SSL key data was at risk.
Here’s the good news: after extensive testing on our software
stack, we have been unable to successfully use Heartbleed on a
vulnerable server to retrieve any private key data. Note that is
not the same as saying it is impossible to use Heartbleed to get
private keys. We do not yet feel comfortable saying that. However,
if it is possible, it is at a minimum very hard. And, we have
reason to believe based on the data structures used by OpenSSL and
the modified version of NGINX that we use, that it may in fact be
And now, back to changing passwords on a slew of my accounts around the web.
Update: Sadly, the answer is yes, the vulnerability does put private key data at risk.
Scaling the Facebook Data Warehouse to 300 PB ★
Pamela Vagata and Kevin Wilfong, writing for the Facebook Engineering Blog:
At Facebook, we have unique storage scalability challenges when it comes to our data warehouse. Our warehouse stores upwards of 300 PB of Hive data, with an incoming daily rate of about 600 TB. In the last year, the warehouse has seen a 3x growth in the amount of data stored. Given this growth trajectory, storage efficiency is and will continue to be a focus for our warehouse infrastructure.
600 TB of incoming data per day is mind-blowing. I can’t fathom it. And it’s great that they’re sharing this information. There can’t be that many entities dealing with this scale of data storage, and the others likely aren’t sharing what they’ve learned. This is the cutting edge of computer science.
Meet the Bag Man ★
Eye-opening feature by Steven Godfrey for SBNation on the stream of money paid to college football recruits and players:
Remember, your job as a bag man isn’t to hide the benefit. It’s to
hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football
as the American South, there’s no real moral outrage when new cars
or clothes or jobs for relatives appear.
“We can only get away with whatever’s considered reasonable by the
majority of the folks in our society. That’s why it’s different in
the SEC. Maybe that’s why we’re able to be more active in what we
do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says,
‘How did you get that, poor football player?’ They say, ‘How did
they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?’”
Matthew Panzarino on Greg Christie’s Departure ★
Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:
According to multiple sources inside and outside the company,
Christie’s exit has been known for weeks — and planned for even
longer. His stepping aside has been designed to allow for a
transition of leadership inside the Human Interface group.
Christie worked under Forstall for many years, and there may have
been plenty of times he didn’t agree with Ive, but there has
reportedly been a distinct lack of drama in this transition.
If there was any ill-will between Christie and Ive, it doesn’t
appear to have taken the form of any open conflict and a flare-up
of friction was apparently not behind this exit.
Jony Ive Expands Role in Software Design; Apple Confirms Greg Christie’s Retirement ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:
Mr. Christie’s group will report to Mr. Ive, who is Apple’s senior
vice president of design, according to the email. The team
previously reported to Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief.
“Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20
years at Apple,” said a company spokesman. “He has made vital
contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a
world-class human interface team which has worked closely with
[Jonathan] for many years.”
I’ve been asking around since the news broke this afternoon. What I’ve heard, from several sources: Christie and Ive may not see eye to eye on UI design style, but his departure isn’t nearly as contentious as Mark Gurman’s report at 9to5Mac implies. The basic gist I’ve heard is that Christie is a guy who’s been in a high-pressure, high-profile job for 18 years, most of it reporting to Steve Jobs. He’s made a lot of money and is ready to enjoy it. That’s largely in line with the Apple PR line given to the WSJ, but I heard all of this from ground-level Cupertino-area pixel-pushing designers.
Interestingly, Christie’s retirement was announced internally a few weeks ago — yet it didn’t leak outside the company until today. Also interesting (and backing up the company line that his departure is not contentious): he’s staying at the company until later this year — and from what I’ve heard, it’s more like “end of the year”. If it’s ugly, why hang around?
There’s no way to spin the fact that Ive is taking more authority (or perhaps better said, consolidating all aspects of “design” under his direct authority), and surely that played some part in Christie’s decision. But from what I’ve gathered, it is wrong to think that Ive in any way forced Christie out.
Mark Gurman: Apple Human Interface VP Greg Christie Leaves Apple Over Friction With Jony Ive ★
Mark Gurman, reporting for 9to5Mac:
Following friction between top Apple Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie and Senior Vice President Jony Ive, Apple’s hardware and software design is being dramatically shaken up, according to sources familiar with the matter. After adding human interface design direction to his responsibilities in 2012, Ive will soon completely subsume Apple’s software design group, wresting control away from long-time human interface design chief Christie, according to sources briefed on the matter.
Huge deal. Christie’s influence over the look and feel of OS X and (at least pre-7) iOS cannot be overstated. Say goodbye to Lucida Grande in OS X.
Bruce Schneier on the ‘Heartbleed’ OpenSSL Vulnerability ★
“Catastrophic” is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.
The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain ★
Fantastic resource from former Genius Bar staffer Scotty Loveless. Bookmark this and send it to anyone you know complaining of problematic iPhone battery life.
Apple and the Open Web ★
Worth a re-link, as a follow-up from yesterday’s piece: yours truly on stage at the Web 2.0 conference back in September 2010. Holds up pretty well, I’d say.
New York’s Typography District ★
Tobias Frere-Jones, resurfacing after the recent unpleasantness with a new blog:
I re-read Maurice Annenberg’s “Type Foundries of America and their
Catalogs”, tracked down business directories of the period, and
spent too much time in Google Earth. But I was able to plot out
the locations for every foundry that had been active in New York
between 1828 (the earliest records I could find with addresses) to
1909 (see below). All of the buildings have been demolished, and
in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a
startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood
(I couldn’t help but take note of Frere-Jones’s own type choices for his site: Benton Modern and Interstate from The Font Bureau — both of which he designed prior to the Hoefler deal.)
Second Best Evidence From Apple-Samsung Trial: Phil Schiller Email Exchange With TBWA/Media Arts Lab ★
Schiller’s “shocked” response to this guy James Vincent is spot-on. Seems bizarre too that Vincent composes serious emails completely in lowercase letters.
Tetris Played on a 29-Story Skyscraper ★
As part of Philly Tech Week, Dr. Frank Lee’s latest creation — a
two-sided game of Tetris on the 29-story Cira Centre —
illuminates the Philadelphia skyline.
Update: More, including many technical details, in this great feature by Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica.
The Verge: ‘Why Amazon’s Fire TV Is a Guaranteed Hit’ ★
Amazon doesn’t innovate by crafting new product categories, like
Apple does. It also doesn’t make much money selling its hardware.
Instead, it takes all the data it gathers as the world’s biggest
online retailer, breaks down exactly what’s available and what
consumers want, then produces a piece of hardware that it can sell
cheaply in order to bring consumers into its ecosystem. Just as
Netflix created House of Cards to satisfy the particular tastes of
its viewers, Amazon made the Fire TV because millions of buyers
are already looking for it. To understand the Fire TV is to take
one glance at Amazon’s best-selling electronics list: two Roku
models, Google’s Chromecast, and the Apple TV are the only
non-Amazon devices in the top 10. The world’s largest online
retailer just took on all three.
(Via MG Siegler.)
Steve Jobs’s October 2010 Draft Agenda for Apple’s Top 100 Meeting ★
Fascinating email from Jobs to Phil Schiller, entered as evidence in the latest round of the Apple/Samsung patent trial. Makes me wonder, again, whether this legal fight is worth it for Apple. Far more of Apple’s internal dynamics have been revealed through this lawsuit than through unauthorized leaks in the past few years.
It does go to show, though, that Steve Jobs was keenly aware of Apple’s competitive shortcomings. They never show it in public, which leads some to perceive the company as more arrogant than it actually is, and perhaps even out of touch.
Recode has a few other interesting documents and emails that have come to light through this legal battle, but none are as interesting as this one.
Blue Bottle Buys Tonx ★
Mat Honan, writing for Wired:
It’s also a good deal for Tonx, which was attempting to raise
more money to purchase its own coffee roaster (it currently has a
contract deal where it rents one on the weekends) and open a store
front. While neither announced a price, Tonx did abandon a $4
million fundraising round it had been pursuing recently.
Presumably, the deal would be on par with that. It’s a big win
for the three year-old roaster that’s based in Los Angeles, but
lives all over the Internet.
“Tony and I were still bagging and boxing the coffee ourselves
last year, spending all day just listening to podcasts” recalled
Bauman. “Tony would go in and sometimes would take eight hours
or so of just stamping bags. We’d go and just stamp and listen
to [John Gruber’s] The Talk Show or This American Life.”
That’s good company. Congratulations to my favorite coffee roaster.
The Fallacy of Android-First ★
Dave Feldman, co-founder of Emu:
We launched Emu for iPhone on April 2, and we’ve pulled Emu for
Android out of the Play Store. We hope we’ll return to Android
someday, but our team is too small to innovate and iterate on
multiple platforms simultaneously. We’ve concluded iPhone is a
better place to be:
Our decision to build on top of SMS/MMS involved huge,
unanticipated technical hurdles.
Even when you don’t support older Android versions,
fragmentation is a huge drain on resources.
Google’s tools and documentation are less advanced, and less
stable, than Apple’s.
Android’s larger install base doesn’t translate into a
larger addressable market.
A nuanced perspective.
The Vast Discrepancy in User Demographics Between iOS and Android ★
Interesting on two levels. First, the content of the story — these maps and statistics show why simplistic market share comparisons do not even vaguely tell the story of the competitive dynamics between iOS and Android.
Second, it’s an interesting contrast in headline writing. I’m linking to a reprint of the story on Slate. Slate’s headline: “Here’s Why Developers Keep Favoring Apple Over Android”. The original, published on Business Insider: “These Maps Show That Android Is For People With Less Money”. When you look at the web page titles (what you see in your browser tab), the contrast is even more stark: “Apple vs. Android: Developers See a Socioeconomic Divide” vs. “Android Is for Poor People: Maps”.
How Politics Makes Us Stupid ★
Fascinating piece by Ezra Klein, for the newly launched Vox:
Kahan calls this theory Identity-Protective Cognition: “As a way
of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups,
individuals subconsciously resist factual information that
threatens their defining values.” Elsewhere, he puts it even more
pithily: “What we believe about the facts,” he writes, “tells us
who we are.” And the most important psychological imperative most
of us have in a given day is protecting our idea of who we are,
and our relationships with the people we trust and love.
Kahan’s research tells us we can’t trust our own reason. How
do we reason our way out of that?
This is one reason why I went to Build last week — I don’t want to fall into this trap. I want to find the best in design and technology, no matter the platform.
Amazon Fire TV ★
Like Apple TV but with games and voice search.
Cortana, Microsoft’s Answer to Siri ★
Nick Wingfield, writing for the NYT:
Cortana is named after a virtual character in Halo,
Microsoft’s science-fiction video game series, that uses her
encyclopedic knowledge about the universe to help the game’s
protagonist, Master Chief. The actress, Jen Taylor, who does the
voice for the character, also provided recordings for the phone
Two things jumped out at me regarding this story. First, that Microsoft gladly credited the actress supplying Cortana’s voice. Second, that Google and Android went unmentioned in the article.
Update: More on Cortana from The Verge.
Windows Phone 8.1 ★
Massive upgrade to Windows Phone; seems like more new features going from 8 to 8.1 than there were going from 7 to 8. Hoping to get my hands on a device running this.
And: Microsoft is making Windows free for phones and tablets with screens under 9 inches. (Insert joke here about 10-inch phones.)
Apple Updates iWork for Mac, iOS, and iCloud ★
Dan Miller on what’s new in iWork. (AppleScript improvements aplenty, too.)
‘Stampy in the Hunger Games’ ★
Special guest John Moltz joins me on the latest episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. We discuss the just-completed Macworld/iWorld conference and expo, Microsoft Office for iPad, Minecraft, and more.
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