Right-Wing National Center for Public Policy Research Pitches Hissy Fit ★
I enjoy how these clowns aptly use Comic Sans.
Apple Offers More Details on iMessage Security ★
Greg Kumparak, writing for TechCrunch:
So if Apple never has your private key, how do messages arrive at
all of your devices in a readable form? How do your private key(s)
get from one device to the other? Simple answer: they don’t.
You’ve actually got one set of keys for each device you add to
iCloud, and each iMessage is encrypted independently for each
device. So if you have two devices — say, an iPad and an iPhone
— each message sent to you is actually encrypted (AES-128) and
stored on Apple’s servers twice. Once for each device. When you
pull down a message, it’s specifically encrypted for the device
‘Do Not Retweet the Band-Aid’ ★
This week’s episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Joanna “AC Adapter Review” Stern. Tablets as laptop replacements, the appeal of large-screen smartphones, the nascent wearables market, and more.
Brought to you by:
- Hover: The best way to own and manage domain names.
- PDFpen: The all-purpose PDF editor for Mac and iOS.
- An Event Apart: The design conference for people who make websites.
- Squarespace: Everything you need to build exceptional websites.
Facts and Figures From Apple’s Shareholder Meeting ★
Daniel Dilger, reporting for Apple Insider:
Cook added that Apple now has 800 million iOS users and has
handled over 16 trillion push notifications, with 40 billion new
ones occurring every day. Apple also delivers several billion
iMessages and FaceTime requests every day. Cook added that iPad
now accounts for 78 percent of all tablets used throughout the
These numbers were conflated by some people — I saw tweets saying Cook had claimed 40 billion iMessages per day, not push notifications in general. But still, that’s a big number. Push notifications are messages, so in a sense, Apple’s platform is operating at a scale very close in size to WhatsApp (which claims 50 billion messages per day), but distributed across thousands of different apps.
800 million iOS users is an enormous number as well.
Update: Jon Anhold makes a good point on Twitter:
@daringfireball I bet a fair number of those push notifications ARE WhatsApp.
Tim Cook Soundly Rejects Politics of the NCPPR, Suggests Group Sell Apple’s Stock ★
Bryan Chaffin, reporting for The Mac Observer from Apple’s annual shareholder meeting:
Mr. Cook didn’t directly answer that question, but instead focused
on the second question: the NCPPR representative asked Mr. Cook to
commit right then and there to doing only those things that were
What ensued was the only time I can recall seeing Tim Cook angry,
and he categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s
advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because
they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was
not the primary consideration on such issues.
“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he
said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.” He said that the same
thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas
where Apple is a leader. […] He didn’t stop there, however, as
he looked directly at the NCPPR representative and said, “If you
want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of
Tim Cook does not suffer fools gladly.
‘Why the Nokia X Family Is Bad for Everyone’ ★
Jerry Hildenbrand, writing for Android Central:
Does Nokia want its Android legacy to be this shiny pile of lag
and fail? Of course not. But chances are it will be. That’s not
fair to the engineers, the fans of the brand, or the company
itself. But does anyone really think Microsoft will let Nokia
build a phone that rivals the latest and greatest from LG or
Samsung? Of course they won’t, because that won’t drive Windows
phone sales. As a business, they have to do what is best for their
The problem with the Nokia X is that it indicates a profound lack of focus. These phones are of no strategic value to Nokia. Samsung, in contrast, can afford to experiment with Tizen because they’re in a position of strength — the only handset maker other than Apple making any money. And it is in Samsung’s strategic interests to reduce its dependency on Google.
It makes no sense for Nokia, which is losing money, to reduce its dependency on Microsoft.
Tidbit From Today’s Apple Shareholder Meeting: Apple TV Generated Over $1 Billion in Revenue in 2013 ★
Getting harder and harder to keep calling it a “hobby”.
Sure, $1 billion is not significant to today’s Apple, but who else in the set-top market is doing $1 billion a year in revenue? Xbox and PlayStation, maybe?
‘The Government’ Is Not a Single Entity ★
The argument that we don’t want “such a dysfunctional government”
regulating broadband is weak: “the government” isn’t one big
coordinated bogeyman that can’t be trusted with anything. That’s
just rhetoric that politicians use to avoid regulation so
corporations can make more money at the expense of the citizens or
environment. In practice, governmental regulation works so well in
most cases that it’s taken for granted and too boring for most
people to even think about.
Consider the FCC’s 2011 decision to block AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile — T-Mobile is universally hailed today as shaking up the entire U.S. mobile industry to the benefit of consumers.
User Interface of the Week: Password Engine ★
Previous winner back in 2009, now updated for iOS 7.
(And yes, I see the irony in posting this right after the last item.)
The Empathy Vacuum ★
Splendid piece by Greg Knauss:
Which is pretty much the Internet in a nutshell, isn’t it? Exposed
to the entire spectrum of human enthusiasms, it’s basically
impossible not to judge. Our empathy overloads and gives up and we
sit, staring at the screen aghast, that somebody, somewhere might
actually believe that what they’re doing is OK, is acceptable,
is even appropriate.
Everybody is somebody else’s monster.
Opting Out of Dropbox’s Arbitration Clause ★
Tiffany Bridge, on Dropbox’s new terms of service:
Allow me to summarize what it means when a company wants to handle
all disputes in arbitration:
No matter what they do (delete your data, privacy breach,
overcharging, whatever), you don’t get to sue. Instead, THEY get
to choose the arbitrator according to whatever criteria they want,
and thus any dispute is decided by someone they’re paying.
Also, you can’t join a class-action suit against them. Which
sounds like no big deal, but when a company takes advantage of a
bunch of people all in the same small way (incorrectly assessing a
service charge, for example), class action is how companies are
made to clean up their act en masse, instead of waiting for
thousands of people to call them up and demand their $20 back or
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that opting out is in your best interests. I did.
Hands-On With Samsung’s Tizen OS ★
Ron Amadeo, reporting for Ars Technica from MWC:
The OS runs on “prototype” hardware that very closely resembles a Galaxy S4. Tizen is a Linux-based OS primarily developed by Samsung, and, the theory goes, Samsung’s grand plot is to eventually turn Tizen into a drop-in Android replacement, own the market with an OS of its own making, and never have to deal with Google again. So far, Tizen seems a pretty accurate Android clone, but it’s shocking how far along it is. On the surface, it seemed just as capable as a TouchWiz Android device. Samsung has done such a good job of replicating the Android interface that there is very little to write about—everything looks and works similarly to the way it does on Android, just without any kind of ecosystem.
Get the popcorn.
Yahoo Webcam Images From Millions of Users Intercepted by GCHQ ★
Spencer Ackerman and James Ball, reporting for The Guardian:
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a
surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images
of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases,
regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence
target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam
imagery — including substantial quantities of sexually explicit
communications — from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts
There’s no other way to describe this than Orwellian. Government agencies spying on and collecting images of innocent citizens. Outrageous.
Tablets, PCs, and Office ★
Benedict Evans, in a piece that pairs well with the previous item:
This brings us back to the mouse and keyboard that you ‘need for
real work’, as the phrase goes. Yes, you really do need them to
make a financial model. And you need them to make an operating
metrics summary — in Excel and Powerpoint. But is that, really,
what you need to be doing to achieve the underlying business
purpose? Very few people’s job is literally ‘make Excel files’.
And what if you spend the other 90% of your time on the road
meeting clients and replying to emails? Do you need a laptop, or a
tablet? Do you need a tablet as well as a smartphone? Or a laptop,
or phablet? Or both?
Joanna Stern on Tablets as Laptop Replacements ★
Joanna Stern, writing for the WSJ:
My iPad is with me every night when I doze off to sleep, it
entertains me on long flights and keeps me informed during my
morning commute. But when it comes to real work, the tablet
If I’m writing long emails or working on office documents, I want
a larger screen, a roomy keyboard and the ability to easily juggle
programs. The iPad doesn’t cut it, though there are tablets that
are literally standing up to the productivity challenge.
The thinking woman’s take on consumption-vs.-work — she spent time trying to use four tablets (iPad Air, Galaxy Note Pro, Surface 2, and Lumia 2520) as full-time laptop replacements.
Netflix, Comcast, and Apple TV ★
Dan Rayburn, in a Comcast/Netflix piece for Streaming Media Blog:
In a little known, but public fact, anyone who is on Comcast and
using Apple TV to stream Netflix wasn’t having quality problems.
The reason for this is that Netflix is using Level 3 and Limelight
to stream their content specifically to the Apple TV device. What
this shows is that Netflix is the one that decides and controls
how they get their content to each device and whether they do it
via their own servers or a third party. Netflix decides which
third party CDNs to use and when Netflix uses their own CDN, they
decide whom to buy transit from, with what capacity, in what
locations and how many connections they buy, from the transit
provider. Netflix is the one in control of this, not Comcast or
Interesting; I live in Kabletown and watch almost all my Netflix via Apple TV, so this explains why I never encountered a problem.
Warner Bros. Logo Design Evolution ★
(I love that Argo used the Saul Bass logo, which was period correct for 1980.)
On Prompting for App Reviews in Release Notes: It Works ★
Asking politely at the end of your release notes is an effective
way to encourage users to leave you a review without compromising
the user experience within your app.
Project Ara: Inside Google’s Modular Smartphone ★
For instance, when Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 this week, its
headline improvements included a better camera, a fingerprint
scanner and a heart-rate monitor. In a world of modular phones,
you might be able to pick any or all of those features and add
them to the phone you already have. You’d even be able to pick
among multiple cameras, or choose quirky features not meant for
the masses. (Eremenko’s playful example: an on-phone incense
I’ll believe it when I see it, where by “it” I mean “a compelling commercial product based on this”.
Sure, Samsung put a fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S5. But look at how Apple did it: with an integrated secure enclave that required a custom designed A7 SoC. How does this have any more mass market appeal than building one’s own PC? And with mobile devices, size and weight matter more than ever, and reductions in size and weight can only come through integration.
Apple Releases iOS Security White Paper ★
The very first sentence:
Apple designed the iOS platform with security at its core.
Makes for an interesting contrast with the previous item.
Malware Is Freedom ★
Sundar Pichai, speaking at Mobile World Congress:
We cannot guarantee that Android is designed to be safe, the
format was designed to give more freedom. When people talk about
90% of malware for Android, they must of course take into account
the fact that it is the most popular operating system in the
world. If I had a company dedicated to malware, I would also be
addressing my attacks on Android.
The old Windows line of defense: Android is so popular of course it has all the malware. For some reason, though, that’s the only sort of software where Android leads iOS in third-party developer support.
(Also: Android doesn’t account for 90 percent of mobile malware. It’s 98 percent. Update: According to this report from Kapersky Lab, “A total of 99.9% of new mobile threat detections target the Android platform.”)
Update: More context on Pichai’s remarks, including several statements in which he claims, apparently with a straight face, that Android is in fact “far more secure”.
Glassdoor Reviews of Working for Samsung in San Jose ★
Sounds like a fun place to work.
Android Police Shows Early Prototype of Google Watch Made by Motorola Last Year ★
Yikes. No wonder they sold the company.
The Fingerprint Scanner on the Samsung Galaxy S5 Will Be Accessible by Developers ★
Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch:
It’s not yet clear exactly how Samsung stores and transmits its
own fingerprint information to apps and services, but even opening
up use of the scanner itself and fingerprint activity to
third-party devs already marks a considerable departure from
Apple’s approach. Samsung already announced a partnership with
PayPal to allow fingerprints to enable payment verification for
making purchases, and even that offers a fundamentally different
philosophical take on how to use biometric information.
Maybe this is the right way to go. But how come so many people lost their shit over the clearly more-secure iPhone fingerprint sensor, and there’s not a peep about Samsung’s? Where’s the letter to Samsung from Senator Al Franken?
The Right Way to Ask for an App Review ★
So not only is Threes an amazing iPhone game, they prompt for App Store reviews in a classy way too. Let’s reward this.
Where Did Mt. Gox’s Bitcoins Go? ★
Joshua Brustein, writing for Businessweek:
How did the once-largest Bitcoin exchange lose hundreds of
millions of dollars’ worth of the digital currency?
Two words: transaction malleability. A hacker can tinker with the
code that makes a Bitcoin transaction happen, so that it looks
like it didn’t go through. The person who was supposed to receive
a payment then asks again and, in Mt. Gox’s case, is paid again
automatically. Mt. Gox has acknowledged this was happening. It
seems that someone has been slowly bleeding it for months, leaving
it without the funds to pay out legitimate withdrawals. But with
the company being pretty tight-lipped about it for now, that’s
only the best theory.
Like I tweeted last night, you’d be better off just flushing hundred dollar bills down a toilet — at least you’d understand what’s going on.
Samsung Reportedly Tried to Suppress a Film Critical of Its Safety Record ★
Catherine Shu, writing for TechCrunch:
The film, which premiered earlier this month at the Busan
International Film Festival, is a fictionalized story about Hwang
Yu-mi, a 23-year-old Samsung plant worker who died from acute
leukemia in 2007. The film’s lead character, based on her father
Hwang Sang-ki, wages a legal battle against a large tech
conglomerate called “Jinsung” that very closely resembles Samsung
(the film’s title is based on one of the company’s mottos). The
names in the film were changed in part to avoid legal action by
Samsung. A South Korean court ruled in his favor, finding that
Hwang Yu-mi’s leukemia may have been caused or exacerbated by
continuous exposure to hazardous chemicals at Samsung’s
On Feb. 5, online newspaper NewDaily Biz posted an article about
Another Family. As reported by The Verge, the publication’s
president, Park Jung-kyu, allegedly then told NewDaily Biz’s
editors to delete the piece and ordered them to text apologies to
the Samsung executives who had complained.
Steve Perlman Demonstrates and Explains pCell at Columbia ★
Compelling demo, that’s for sure.
File This One Under ‘No Shit’ ★
Salvador Rodriguez, reporting for the LA Times:
Following Facebook’s acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp
last week for $19 billion, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he would
not hesitate to sell his company’s messaging service for that
“I work for the shareholder. Standard answer. If somebody comes to
me with $19 billion, I would definitely sell it. I would recommend
to the board to take it,” Chen told CNBC.
That’s like asking someone, “If you won the lottery, would you cash the ticket?” (BlackBerry’s market cap is about $5.5 billion.)
Reuters: Google Lobbies to Allow Google Glass While Driving ★
Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:
Google is lobbying officials in at least three U.S. states to stop
proposed restrictions on driving with headsets such as Google
Glass, marking some of the first clashes over the nascent wearable
Some eight U.S. states are considering regulation of Google Glass,
a tiny computer screen mounted in the corner of an eyeglass frame.
Law enforcement and other groups are concerned that drivers
wearing the devices will pay more attention to their email than
the road, causing serious accidents. […]
Google Inc has deployed lobbyists to persuade elected officials in
Illinois, Delaware and Missouri that it is not necessary to
restrict use of Google Glass behind the wheel, according to state
lobbying disclosure records and interviews conducted by Reuters.
How could it possibly be safe to use Google Glass while driving a motor vehicle?
‘That Is Totally Going to Happen in Real Life’ ★
Mike Wehner cooks up some fresh day-old claim chowder on the Samsung Galaxy S5. (Via John Moltz.)
Adventures in the Use of the Present Tense ★
Agam Shah, writing for PCWorld, “Qualcomm Overtakes Apple With Eight-Core, 64-Bit Mobile Processor”:
Qualcomm has leaped ahead of Apple in 64-bit mobile chip
development with its first eight-core Snapdragon 615 chip for
mobile devices, which has integrated LTE and 4K video rendering
capabilities. The Snapdragon 615 will go into high-end smartphones
and tablets, which should become available in the fourth quarter,
a Qualcomm spokesman said in an email.
Apple Files Appeal in E-Book Antitrust Case ★
Deepti Hajela, reporting for the AP:
Apple filed papers on Tuesday telling a federal appeals court in
New York that a judge’s finding it violated antitrust laws by
manipulating electronic book prices “is a radical departure” from
modern antitrust law that will “chill competition and harm
consumers” if allowed to stand.
Josh Ong, reporting for The Next Web:
Many of you have been following with interest Naoki Hiroshima’s
tale of how he was extorted into giving up his valuable @N
username on Twitter. The good news is that Hiroshima is back in
control of the account.
As for why it took so long for Twitter to return the account to Hiroshima, what I’ve heard is that they didn’t want to interfere with the investigations by legal authorities. It feels like a “finally” situation, but real investigations take time and need to go by the book.
Stephen Wolfram’s Introduction to the Wolfram Language ★
Mind-bendingly impressive. I’m a big fan of Wolfram Alpha; this seems like a big step forward.
Mail Improvements in OS X 10.9.2 ★
Joe Kissell, writing for TidBITS:
I’m pleased to report that the new version of Mail in 10.9.2
(version 7.2, build 1874) is far better than its predecessors,
about which I complained mightily in “Mail in Mavericks Changes
the Gmail Equation,” (22 October 2013) and (to a slightly
lesser extent) “Mail in Mavericks: Is It Safe Yet?,” (11
November 2013). That meant I was able to delete quite a few
paragraphs from my book detailing bugs and other infelicitous
changes. But, to keep this in perspective: Mail is now at the
point where it should have been when Mavericks was released.
Google Announces Project Tango ★
Google is starting to remind me of Apple in the ’90s: announcing more cool R&D prototypes than they release actual cool products. Even the R&D team names are similar — Google’s is called “Advanced Technology and Projects”; Apple’s was called “Advanced Technology Group”.
One of the first things Steve Jobs did upon taking the helm in 1997 was kill ATG.
Nilay Patel: ‘The Internet Is Fucked’ ★
Great piece by Nilay Patel at The Verge:
American politicians love to stand on the edges of important
problems by insisting that the market will find a solution. And
that’s mostly right; we don’t need the government meddling in
places where smart companies can create their own answers. But you
can’t depend on the market to do anything when the market doesn’t
exist. “We can either have competition, which would solve a lot of
these problems, or we can have regulation,” says Aaron. “What
Comcast is trying is to have neither.” It’s insanity, and we keep
lying to ourselves about it. It’s time to start thinking about
ways to actually do something.
Netflix paying Comcast is the canary in the coal mine.
Economic Demographics of U.S. iPhone Buyers ★
One third of Apple’s U.S. sales in 2013 were to Americans making
more than $100,000 a year, and of that group, Apple’s share was
65%, according to NPD (which did not provide a spreadsheet
supporting that number).
The bad news is that the cream of the U.S. market is also the
segment that is growing most slowly — only 4% year over year
according to NPD.
The fastest growing segment — people making under $30,000 a year
— grew at 42% a year, double the industry rate. Only 20% iPhone
sales went to that segment of the market, compared with 35% for
I’d say it’s rather impressive that so many people making under $30,000 a year bought an iPhone. Samsung’s phone lineup includes a slew of low-priced, low-margin models. Apple’s does not. (Via Hey Cupertino.)
Mostly automated links to new posts on DF, but it’s also where I post notifications about updates to previous items.
‘Price Is What You Pay; Value Is What You Get’ ★
Fortune has an excerpt from Warren Buffett’s upcoming annual shareholder letter:
In 1986, I purchased a 400-acre farm, located 50 miles north of
Omaha, from the FDIC. It cost me $280,000, considerably less than
what a failed bank had lent against the farm a few years earlier.
I knew nothing about operating a farm. But I have a son who loves
farming, and I learned from him both how many bushels of corn and
soybeans the farm would produce and what the operating expenses
would be. From these estimates, I calculated the normalized return
from the farm to then be about 10%. I also thought it was likely
that productivity would improve over time and that crop prices
would move higher as well. Both expectations proved out.
I needed no unusual knowledge or intelligence to conclude that the
investment had no downside and potentially had substantial upside.
There would, of course, be the occasional bad crop, and prices
would sometimes disappoint. But so what? There would be some
unusually good years as well, and I would never be under any
pressure to sell the property. Now, 28 years later, the farm has
tripled its earnings and is worth five times or more what I paid.
I still know nothing about farming and recently made just my
second visit to the farm.
CNet: ‘Google, LG Working on Smartwatch to Be Unveiled in June’ ★
Roger Cheng, reporting for CNet from MWC in Barcelona:
Google is set to unveil plans for its smartwatch-centric operating
system in March, likely in a blog post, according to a person
familiar with its plans. The actual smartwatch itself will make
its debut at its Google I/O conference in June, the person said.
This could be fun, given that this year’s I/O is going to be at the end of June, a few weeks after Apple’s usual schedule for WWDC.
New York Post: ‘Hipster Wannabes Get Facial Hair Transplants’ ★
How in the world did I link to this before Jim Dalrymple?
Apple Releases OS X 10.9.2 With Fix for ‘goto fail’ SSL Vulnerability ★
If you haven’t already, drop what you’re doing and update now.
Update: Sounds like there are some significant fixes for Mail in this update, too.
Update 2: There’s a software update for Apple TV, too.
Roger Ebert on ‘Groundhog Day’ ★
“Groundhog Day” is a film that finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself before you see how good it really is.
A Thousand No’s for Every Yes ★
Worth a re-link, in the wake of that last item — and for anyone who thinks Facebook buying WhatsApp or any other distraction implies some sort of missed opportunity on Apple’s part.
This short film, first shown at the opening of the WWDC 2013 keynote, is not empty marketing rhetoric or pap. It’s one of the most honest pieces of communication I’ve ever seen from Apple. This is what the company believes. And insofar as it is about feeling as much as thinking, it requires more than prose to express. It requires cinema.
And also insofar as it is about feeling as much as thinking, it sails right over the heads of the Vulcans who populate much of the tech and investor commentariat.
Just Do Something ★
Eric Jackson, writing for Forbes in the wake of Facebook’s $16B acquisition of WhatsApp:
For the longest time, I’ve sat back nodding in quiet agreement
with the Apple bulls who say: “We need to have faith in Tim Cook
even though he’s been so reluctant to do any M&A because we don’t
know what Apple is working on in its labs.”
No longer. Apple needs to start playing offense.
Apple needs to start picking off strategic assets as if their life
depends on it, rather than continuing on with a plodding attitude
that doesn’t match the speed of their competitive environment.
This is the worst sort of advice, suggesting a complete ignorance of everything Apple stands for. (Jay Yarow loves it, of course.) Just buy something. Spend, spend, spend. Acquire. Buy all the spaghetti, throw it against the wall, see what sticks. Wrong. Apple’s model is about focus. Apple wasn’t joking about “a thousand no’s for every yes” — that’s really how they think, what they believe. That’s the DNA.
Only one thing Jackson suggests makes any sense: Apple perhaps acquiring Tesla. I don’t think that’s likely, but I think it’s possible, for two reasons: First, Tesla could be integrated into Apple’s core business — selling high quality, well designed products that work well together. If you can imagine Apple making a car (and I can), then you can imagine Apple acquiring Tesla to jump-start the initiative. Second, Apple and Tesla share a fundamental engineering problem: batteries.
But other than Tesla, who else would it make sense for Apple to acquire for billions of dollars? No answers come to mind. Certainly not WhatsApp — as I wrote last week, Apple already has exactly the messaging platform it wants: iMessage, with hundreds of millions of users.
Conglomeration may well work out well for Facebook. General Electric has done well with that model for over 100 years. But it would be a disaster for Apple. Apple makes acquisitions for integration. Exhibit A: PA Semi — a chump change $278 million acquisition that laid the groundwork for Apple to become the leading mobile semiconductor company in the world.
Microsoft Is Wrapping Mobile Websites and Calling Them Apps ★
Blair Hanley Frank, reporting for GeekWire:
The new Redfin app for Microsoft’s Windows Phone promises to
deliver the core features of the online real estate service,
including the ability to search for homes to rent or buy, research
neighborhoods, and find an agent. But unlike Redfin’s 4.5-star
apps for iPhone and Android, this app gets a 2.5-star rating, and
a string of negative reviews.
“Mediocre experience at best,” says one reviewer. “Please get the
As it turns out, this isn’t a native Windows Phone app — and it
wasn’t made by Redfin. It was developed by Microsoft, by packaging
up Redfin’s mobile website in the form of an installable app. In
fact, the existence of the Redfin app for Windows Phone was a
surprise to Redfin.
Samsung Unveils Galaxy S5 ★
The perfect phone for people with no taste. Garish design — both hardware and software. The gold version (shocker) is exactly what made people cringe when the gold iPhone was first rumored.
Water-resistance is a legitimate step forward in the state of the art, though. I know there’ve been other water-resistant phones, but none that will sell as well as the S5. This is one area where Apple is behind. A good solution to this problem, though, has got to involve something better than a flap over the USB port.
Claim chowder-wise, so much for the reports a few weeks ago that it would sport a 560 ppi display.
Harold Ramis Dies at 69 ★
So many great movies — both as a writer and director. Among my favorites, the ones that hold up the best: Caddyshack, Animal House, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But his masterpiece was Groundhog Day, which I consider one of the most underrated movies ever made.
Worth Waiting ★
Speaking of Steve Jobs’s birthday, Tim Cook tweets:
Remembering Steve on his birthday: “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”
That’s Apple in a nut.
Begging for App Ratings ★
Speaking of The Loop magazine, I agree almost entirely with this piece from Wil Shipley, on “Rate This App” prompts in apps:
So good sense is required here. Part of the problem is that Apple
hasn’t provided developers with any APIs to tell if users have
rated our apps, or to make it possible for users to rate apps
inside the app itself. This would obviously make it less intrusive
Since Apple resets apps’ ratings with every tiny release,
developers find themselves wanting to ask users over and over for
ratings, since they get wiped out all the time. But no customer
should be asked to rate an app twice — it’s like that clueless
waiter asking a customer to tip twice.
After months of debate on this, my stance is mostly unchanged. But it’s worth clarifying what the problem is. The problem isn’t asking for a review (although it is a little uncouth, even once). The problem is asking repeatedly, with every single new version of the app. The correct solution is to put a “Rate This App” button or link next to your contact and support links, and but if you do prompt the user for the review with a dialog box, do it once and only once.
And as Shipley ably describes, the root problem is with Apple’s App Store design. It’s the App Store that resets an app’s ratings with each and every release. And it’s the App Store that makes ratings so essential to success. They’ve created a system that is easily gamed, and so, inevitably, some developers are gaming the system.
The Loop Magazine: Memories of Steve Jobs ★
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Steve Jobs and
everything he did in his life, so I wanted to put together an
issue of The Loop Magazine dedicated to Steve and his
accomplishments. What better day to publish it than on Steve’s
Worth it for the stories from Don Melton alone, but the whole issue is good.
John Dingell to Retire After Nearly 60 Years in Congress ★
Ashley Parker, reporting for The New York Times:
Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan and the
longest-serving member of Congress in history, announced on Monday
that he would not seek re-election at the end of his current term.
Mr. Dingell’s retirement, first announced by Detroit newspapers
and confirmed by Democratic leadership aides, will come at the
end of this year — the end of his 29th full term — and
represents the end of a historic tenure in the House that began
in 1955. That year, Mr. Dingell, at the age of 29, succeeded his
father after he died.
Think about that career: he started in Congress during the first term of the Eisenhower administration. This short video interview is good too, albeit rather depressing regarding his views on the ever-growing influence of money in politics.
Update: Philip Klein on the span of Dingell’s career:
Dingell was elected in the year Marty McFly visited his parents
and final term ends in the year McFly travels to the future to
save his kids.
Flappy Bird for Commodore 64 ★
An Event Apart ★
My thanks to An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day learning session for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference for you.
An Event Apart has events this year across the U.S., including Boston, San Diego, Washington D.C., Chicago, Austin, Orlando, and San Francisco. I’ve attended a few times over the years, and in every regard — content, presentation, venue, food, even the design of the badges — An Event Apart is simply top-notch. Highly recommended.
WWE and Apple TV ★
Nick Paglino, writing for Wrestle Zone:
When the WWE Network launches on Monday, WWE will be offering a
free one week trial of the Network, and it should be noted that
customers who are interested in the free trial will still have to
provide credit card information. The actual Network subscription
fee will be charged to the card you provide if you do not cancel
the subscription before the trial period ends.
In related Network news, The Wrestling Observer is reporting one
of the main reasons why it’s not being made available via the
Apple TV is because Apple is demanding a 50% cut from all Network
orders placed, whereas other streaming devices such as XBox and
Roku are only taking a 30% cut.
Background (via DF reader Brian Papa): The Wrestling Observer is a highly-regarded long-standing subscriber-only newsletter; much of what they report is then re-reported by free sites like Wrestle Zone.
This strikes me as ominous, if it’s accurate. Apple has steadily stuck to a 70-30 split for digital content. That’s how they split music sales, apps, in-app purchases, and books. Why press for 50-50 on Apple TV? Especially since WWE could, presumably, launch an iPad app that uses AirPlay to stream to Apple TV. A native Apple TV channel is just a convenience for the user, not a reason for Apple to press for a bigger split.
My gut feeling is that there’s something wrong about this report.
Update: I missed this MacRumors story on February 3:
WWE Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson did,
however, say that the service would also be available on “a
connected device I am not allowed to mention at this press
conference,” presumably alluding to the Apple TV. Attendees at
the service’s introductory event were also given Apple TVs to
I think the confusion here stems from a confidentiality agreement that prevents the WWE from saying anything about Apple TV until the channel actually launches in an Apple TV update — presumably sometime in the next few days.
Update 2: The WWE channel appeared in a software update for Apple TV on Monday, 24 February. So yeah, the report was wrong.
Harry McCracken on iOS’s App Advantage ★
The current situation seems to me to be a largely happy one for
both iOS and Android users. They’re two great platforms, each with
some unique strengths and access to vast quantities of apps. But
it’s not the scenario long predicted by the market share ūber
alles crowd. And there aren’t even any isolated incidents that
should set off little alarms in Apple’s head — a hot app or a big
company announcing that it’s decided to go Android-first.
It’s a good piece, but the headline — “The Smartphone App Wars Are Over, and Apple Won” — oversells it. Nothing here is “over”. The point is, though, iOS continues to be the leading mobile developer platform, despite years of predictions of impending market-share-imposed doom. A better headline would be this line from McCracken’s piece: “Android’s gain has not been iOS’s loss.” That is the central fact that market share fanatics can’t get through their heads.
Look at PCs. Windows still has an overwhelming monopoly-sized market share. Mac OS X has better apps. iOS has way more users than Mac OS X has. If apps on the Mac can thrive in the face of Windows, apps on iOS can thrive in the face of Android. These Church of Market Share fanatics act as though the Mac died in 1997.
Most developers who want to make artistically great mobile apps make them for the iPhone; users who want artistically great apps buy iPhones. Back in 2002, my colleague Brent Simmons wrote the following on why he was writing Mac apps despite Windows’s market share:
One of the reasons I develop for OS X is that, when it comes to
user interface, this is the big leagues, this is the show. That’s
probably what Joel would call an “emotional appeal” — and to call
it that, that’s fine by me.
TestFlight Owner Burstly Acquired by Apple ★
Speaking of Apple and small acquisitions:
Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet provided the following, which is
as close to a confirmation as Apple ever gets: “Apple buys smaller
technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not
discuss our purpose or plans.”
In a shocking development, TestFlight shut down support for Android earlier this week.
Tim Cook on Big Acquisitions: ‘We Have No Problem Spending Ten Figures for the Right Company’ ★
Re: the previous item, here’s Tim Cook just 15 days ago:
WSJ: Apple has never made a billion-dollar acquisition. Google is
snapping up everyone including your old friends at Nest. Does this
alter how you think about bigger deals?
Cook: We’ve looked at big companies. We don’t have a
predisposition not to buy big companies. The money is also not
burning a hole in our pocket where we say let’s make a list of 10
and pick the best one. We’re not doing that. We have no problem
spending ten figures for the right company that’s the right and
that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.
But we’re not going to go out and buy something for the purposes
of just being big. Something that makes more fantastic products,
something that’s very strategic — all these things are of
interest and we’re always looking regardless of size.
So maybe my pointing out that Apple has never made a big acquisition like WhatsApp is irrelevant. Cook makes very clear that Apple would if it wanted to, if it were “very strategic”. I think my point stands though, that iMessage and FaceTime have Apple’s interests covered strategically.
Perhaps a better example based on observation of Apple’s history: I can’t recall Apple ever buying a competitor just to eliminate the competition. Facebook is taking an “If you can’t beat them, own them” approach. Apple doesn’t do that. They only make acquisitions that integrate.
Hello, iMessage? ★
Jessica Lessin, in her weekly column for The Information (paywall):
As Google and Facebook vie to buy fast-growing apps for billions,
I have one big question: Where is everyone else?
If Google and Facebook believe WhatsApp and messaging are
strategic enough to pay $19 billion or more to own them, what are
Apple, Amazon, Samsung or Twitter thinking? (Let’s ignore the fact
that WhatsApp may not have wanted to sell to them and think of it
from the point of view of how hard these companies should have
tried to buy the startup.)
Perhaps they see themselves as being in different businesses. Or
they think Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg are a little bit nuts.
Time will tell on the second, but I think the verdict on the first
is already clear.
I’m sure Apple never even considered acquiring WhatsApp. For one thing, Apple has never done a mega-billion-dollar acquisition. They tend to buy small companies. But for another, what could WhatsApp offer Apple? They already have iMessage, which has (I’m guessing here) at least 200 million users, and sends over 3 billion messages per day. (Sources for guesses: in June 2012, Apple claimed 140 million iMessage users; a year ago, they claimed 2 billion messages per day. I haven’t been able to find more recent numbers; if you can, let me know.) FaceTime offers video and audio calls; WhatsApp has neither. Apple has exactly the messaging platform it wants: one that adds value to its hardware products. And, with the App Store, it has a software platform that means its users also can freely use WhatsApp, Line, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM — whatever.
The other thing that struck me about Lessin’s piece: she didn’t even list Microsoft among those companies.
iOS 7.0.6 ★
Fixes a serious security flaw:
Impact: An attacker with a privileged network position may capture
or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS
Description: Secure Transport failed to validate the authenticity
of the connection. This issue was addressed by restoring missing
Cuteness Where You Least Expect It ★
John Teti, writing for The AV Club, on the design of Threes’s tutorial:
It takes confidence to soft-pedal the actual tutorial content. Too
many mainstream game studios build their opening tutorials to
leave no possibility of misunderstanding — they browbeat you out
of fear that you won’t get it. Vollmer and Wohlwend instead
designed the beginning of Threes in a way that encourages organic
understanding. The game assumes that there’s a reasonably
intelligent and playful person on the other end of the line.
Matt Taibbi Bids Adieu to Rolling Stone ★
Sign of the times: Matt Taibbi is leaving Rolling Stone to start a new publication for First Look Media. Big loss for Rolling Stone.
Chitika Reports on Chrome OS Web Traffic Share (Spoiler: It’s Minuscule) ★
New Chitika report pegs Chrome OS’s share of North American web traffic at 0.2 percent.
See previously: here and here.
J2ME and WhatsApp ★
TextIt, “Your Path to a $16B Exit? Build a J2ME App”:
That was the genius of WhatsApp really, they recognized that
messaging apps are all about network effects and instead of
focusing on the comparatively small market of the ‘developed
world’, instead targeted the other 3 billion people who don’t have
smartphones. And at that they have been supremely successful.
If you are anywhere apart from the States, WhatsApp is the de
facto standard for messaging. Here in Rwanda, it has far more
penetration than Facebook, it is used by literally everybody who
has a capable device. That came about not by having some edgy new
user interface, or by a gimmick around disappearing messages, but
by providing real value, value that can be measured in the
pocketbook of a market that is massively under served.
So the next time you are thinking about “putting a dent in the
universe”, maybe you should look a bit farther, and maybe, just
maybe you should start with a J2ME app.
I think they’re right that building apps for all phones is what got WhatsApp to 450 million users and the attention of Zuckerberg. I don’t think the lesson holds for any other sort of app. It was an opportunity unique to messaging.
(And WhatsApp didn’t start with a J2ME app — they started with an iPhone app.)
Vintage iPhone Claim Chowder ★
Bill Ray, writing for The Register in late December 2006:
Apple will launch a mobile phone in January, and it will become
available during 2007. It will be a lovely bit of kit, a pleasure
to behold, and its limited functionality will be easy to access
The Apple phone will be exclusive to one of the major networks in
each territory and some customers will switch networks just to get
it, but not as many as had been hoped.
As customers start to realise that the competition offers better
functionality at a lower price, by negotiating a better subsidy,
sales will stagnate. After a year a new version will be launched,
but it will lack the innovation of the first and quickly vanish.
Oftentimes pundits can accurately predict almost exactly what Apple will do, but are incredibly wrong about how customers will react to it. By December 2006, there were very strong signs that an Apple mobile phone was imminent, and Ray got it almost exactly right: exquisite design, exclusive to one carrier.
The rest, not so much.
Mapping Ukraine’s Crisis ★
Max Fisher, writing for The Washington Post:
Ukraine’s ethno-linguistic political division is sort of like the
United States’ “red America” and “blue America” divide, but in
many ways much deeper — imagine if red and blue America literally
spoke different languages. The current political conflict, which
at its most basic level is over whether the country will lean
toward Europe or toward Russia, is part of a long-running and
unresolved national identity crisis. Yes, it’s also about
Yanukovych’s failures to fix the economy and his draconian
restrictions against basic freedoms. But there’s so much more to
it than that, which helps make the crisis so intractable.
Benedict Evans on WhatsApp ★
Second, the winner-takes-all dynamics of social on the desktop web
do not appear to apply on mobile, and if there are
winner-takes-all dynamics for mobile social it’s not yet clear
what they are. There are four main aspects to this:
- Smartphone apps can access your address book, bypassing the need
to rebuild your social graph on a new service
- They can access your photo library, where uploading photos to
different websites is a pain
- They can use push notifications instead of relying on emails and
on people bothering to check multiple websites
- Crucially, they all get an icon on the home screen.
Any smartphone app is just two taps away - a desktop site can
crush a new competitor by adding it as a feature with a new
menubar icon but on mobile there isn’t room to do that. Mobile
tends to favor single-purpose, specialized apps.
On the second point, it’s not just that mobile apps have access to your photo library, it’s also that the device is the user’s camera. That enables mobile apps not just access to photos you have already taken, but also to photos you are taking right now, in the moment. In the pre-mobile world, you did stuff with photos hours or even days after you took them. Today, you do stuff with them moments after taking them.
Facebook as a Conglomerate ★
It’s a little like deciding to be Disney, said one source, owning
all the good content brands. If Facebook is Disney (by the way,
its COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is on the entertainment giant’s board),
then Instagram is the Disney Channel (the kids love it!) and
WhatsApp is ESPN (everyone loves it!).
This Facebook effort has stopped and started at the company, but
insiders have been saying a lot recently that the goal is now to
break out all the various functions of the whole service into big
mobile apps. Hence, Messenger. And news-reader Paper. And, of
course, the purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram for $1
billion, which now seems like a bargain.
Om Malik Steps Away From Day-to-Day Journalism ★
Living a 24-hour news life has come at a personal cost. I still
wake in middle of the night to check the stream to see if
something is breaking, worrying whether I missed some news.
It is a unique type of addiction that only a few can understand,
and it is time for me to opt out of this non-stop news life. After
five years as a “venture partner,” I am joining True Ventures as
a partner, and thus bringing an end to my life as a
As a friend, I’m happy for him. As a reader, I’m going to miss seeing his byline.
The Verge Reviews the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro ★
Watching the video, I find all of Samsung’s interface customizations impenetrable. I don’t particularly care for the standard Android UI, but it’s easy to grasp. Samsung’s implementation of multiple apps on screen at once looks like a mess. It seems more complex, by far, than Mac OS X or Windows. It seems like a worst-of-both-worlds product. The “5.9” bottom-line score is dreadfully low by Verge standards.
My guess is that the thinking behind this product went no further than “We’ve had success making high-end big-ass phones, so let’s make a high-end big-ass tablet.”
‘Ukraine Burning’ ★
Riveting, informative documentary from Vice News. 30 minutes well-spent if, like me, you found yourself woefully under-informed about the protests in Kiev and across Ukraine.
See also: This interview with Vice reporter Henry Langston, on the street in Kiev, on the escalating violence and death toll. Protestors are being shot to death by the police.
Four Numbers That Explain Why Facebook Acquired WhatsApp ★
Jim Goetz, writing on behalf of WhatsApp investor Sequoia Capital:
Jan keeps a note from Brian taped to his desk that reads “No Ads!
No Games! No Gimmicks!” It serves as a daily reminder of their
commitment to stay focused on building a pure messaging
This discipline is reflected in WhatsApp’s unconventional approach
to business. After one year of free use, the service costs $1 per
year — with no SMS charges. This can save users trapped in
expensive data plans up to $150 per year.
It’s easy to take this novel model for granted. When we first
partnered with WhatsApp in January 2011, it had more than a dozen
direct competitors, and all were supported by advertising. (In
Botswana alone there were 16 social messaging apps). Jan and Brian
ignored conventional wisdom. Rather than target users with ads —
an approach they had grown to dislike during their time at Yahoo
— they chose the opposite tack and charged a dollar for a product
that is based on knowing as little about you as possible. WhatsApp
does not collect personal information like your name, gender,
address, or age. Registration is authenticated using a phone
number, a significant innovation that eliminates the frustration
of remembering a username and password. Once delivered, messages
are deleted from WhatsApp’s servers.
The company only has 32 engineers on staff. So they have roughly 14 million active users per engineer, and the company’s acquisition price works out to $500 million per engineer. That’s simply astounding.
The article doesn’t make clear whether WhatsApp was running in the black, or what percent of those 450 million active users have signed up for the $1/year subscription. But it sounds like they’ve built a service that can profitably scale to serve everyone for just $1 per year, with no ads — through solid engineering, staying lean and mean staffing-wise, and focusing on simply making users happy through simplicity and reliability.
I don’t know if Facebook was smart to pay $16 billion for them, but bravo to the WhatsApp team for building something amazing, and cutting against the grain of the Valley’s conventional wisdom.
Facebook to Buy WhatsApp for $16+ Billion ★
Mike Isaac, reporting for Recode:
Facebook plans to acquire the messaging service WhatsApp, the
company announced on Wednesday.
The move marks the social giant’s biggest acquisition to date, as
Facebook paid $16 billion in cash and stock for the company. In
addition, the deal includes another $3 billion in restricted
stock units for WhatsApp employees, which will vest over a period
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services
that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.
That’s a lot of money.
Samsung Goes Back to Trashing Apple With Latest Commercials ★
Chris Welch, The Verge:
After some innovative advertising campaigns, Samsung’s
latest commercials once again find the company setting its
sights on Apple.
I love that “innovative advertising campaigns” link:
- The ads in question were for the Galaxy Gear watch, a product to which Apple has no competitor.
- One of the two spots was widely panned as a blatant ripoff of Apple’s “Hello” commercial that ran during the Oscars telecast.
Steve Perlman Unveils ‘pCell’ Wireless Networking ★
Cade Metz, reporting for Wired:
Steve Perlman is ready to give you a personal cell phone signal
that follows you from place to place, a signal that’s about 1,000
times faster than what you have today because you needn’t share it
with anyone else.
Perlman — the iconic Silicon Valley inventor best known for
selling his web TV company to Microsoft for half a billion dollars
— started work on this new-age cellular technology a decade ago,
and on Wednesday morning, he’ll give the first public
demonstration at Columbia University in New York, his alma mater.
Previously known as DIDO, the technology is now called pCell —
short for “personal cell” — and judging from the demo Perlman
gave us at his lab in San Francisco last week, it works as
advertised, streaming video and other data to phones with a speed
and a smoothness you’re unlikely to achieve over current cell
“It’s a complete rewrite of the wireless rulebook,” says Perlman,
who also helped Apple create QuickTime, the technology that
brought video to the Macintosh. “Since the invention of wireless,
people have moved around the coverage area. Now, the coverage area
Google Suggests Dos and Don’ts for Glass Users ★
Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they
have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain
what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In
places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules
will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn
Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get
businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other
I’m thinking there’s a problem here, if Google needs to expressly tell people not to be creepy. Got to give them credit for embracing “glasshole” though.
(Via Nick Bilton, who got “glasshole” to run on the New York Times website, and who found the ideal photo to accompany his post.)
BlackBerry CEO John Chen Responds to T-Mobile’s Campaign Encouraging BlackBerry Users to Switch to iPhone ★
This has turned into a controversy generating lots of coverage — just look at it all. But should anyone be surprised? BlackBerry is hemorrhaging users, their bet-the-company next-generation OS is a complete flop, and the company is heading toward bankruptcy. T-Mobile is thinking, “Hey, if these customers are going to switch, let’s make sure they switch to another phone but stick with us as their carrier.”
It sucks to be BlackBerry, but T-Mobile didn’t do anything “outrageous”.
AnandTech: The Pixel Density Race and Its Technical Merits ★
While 1440p will undoubtedly make sense for certain cases, it
seems hard to justify such a high resolution within the confines
of a phone, and that’s before 4K displays come into the equation.
While no one can really say that reaching 600 PPI is purely for
the sake of marketing, going any further is almost guaranteed to
be for marketing purposes.
A few readers have pointed out the similarities to the megapixel race in the camera industry, which has thankfully subsided. Only up to a certain point is higher pixel density definitely better.
‘The Semicolon’s Breezy Informality’ ★
Matthew Kassel, writing for The New York Observer:
A period could very well have worked there, but as Ben Crair
observes in the New Republic, they often seem too severe; and
exclamation points, the kudzu of punctuation in the digital age,
might make you feel like an overenthusiastic phony. But the
semicolon’s breezy informality, for me, captures the unstructured,
colloquial nature of digital correspondence more so than any other
punctuation mark out there.
(Via Felix Salmon.)
Tinytype: A Compatibility Table Showing the Available Default System Fonts Across Different Mobile Platforms ★
If this game were golf, Android would win.
Ad Age on Apple and Amazon ★
Kate Kaye, reporting for Ad Age:
The lack of data both companies deliver is frustrating for
marketers because these notoriously opaque giants sit atop
incredible troves of information about what consumers actually buy
and like, as well as who they are and where they live. One person
familiar with the situation exec said Apple’s refusal to share
data makes it the best-looking girl at the party, forced to wear a
bag over her head.
Interesting take on Apple’s advertising initiatives, but it seems like the ad industry just doesn’t get it that Apple cares more about its customers — their experience, their privacy — than the advertisers. I also detect a sense of entitlement — not just that they want this personal information, but that they think they should have it.
‘Johnny Carson’, by Henry Bushkin ★
And speaking of Carson, I’ve devoured this book by Carson’s long-time attorney and friend, Henry Bushkin. A guilty pleasure, if ever I’ve read one. It’s on iTunes too, of course.
Jimmy Fallon Kicks Off The Tonight Show ★
Speaking of Lorne Michaels, here’s Jimmy Fallon’s first monologue as host of The Tonight Show, now broadcasting from New York for the first time since Johnny Carson moved the show to Burbank in 1972.
See also: this sharp piece by Owen Gleiberman for Entertainment Weekly: “Jimmy Fallon: More Than Jay or Dave, He Could Be a New Johnny Carson”.
In Conversation: SNL’s Lorne Michaels ★
Great interview by Lane Brown for Vulture.
Other Leaked Galaxy S5 Specs ★
The rumored display is rather astounding: 5.25 inches, 2560 × 1440 pixels, with a density of 560 pixels per inch. That’s more total pixels than a retina iPad. I know it’s AMOLED, and that means the sub-pixel count is a bit wacky, but still, that’s a ton of pixels. 2560 × 1440 is the same pixel count as Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.
At what point do you reach the point where the pixels are small enough? Apple has defined “retina display” as meaning that individual pixels are no longer discernible from a typical viewing distance. Is it worth it — in terms of cost and battery life — to shrink pixels to the point where they are no longer discernible with the naked eye from any distance? I’m genuinely curious to see this display in person.
‘VHS vs. Communism’ ★
I was raised in Romania in the 1980s, under a Communist regime
that, among countless repressions, reduced television to two hours
a day of dull propaganda, traditional music, patriotic poems and
censored films. One day when I was 6, my parents found a way to
borrow a VCR. They invited their friends, and all night they
watched grainy VHS tapes of Hollywood B-movies. I remember the
films, but more so I remember how I felt when I stepped into the
living room — like walking into a secret, magical and free world.
All the dialogue on these movies was dubbed into Romanian in a
husky, high-pitched woman’s voice. Throughout my childhood, these
films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with
blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became
ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the
most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was.
After the 1989 revolution I learned the true story, which I
present here in this Op-Doc video.
Rumor: Upcoming Galaxy S5 to Feature Fingerprint Sensor Built Into Home Button ★
The sensor itself works in a swipe manner, which means that you
would need to swipe the entire pad of your finger, from base to
tip, across the home key to register your fingerprint properly.
Also, you would need to keep your finger flat against the home
key and swipe at a moderate speed or else it won’t recognise
your fingerprint. The fingerprint sensor is sensitive to
moisture, as well. So, don’t try to use it with wet fingers
because it will, literally, give you an error and tell you to
dry your fingers first.
Swipe sensors have a bad reputation for being finicky, but we shall see. (Don’t miss the comments on this article; they’re a hoot.)
Weekend Read 1.0 ★
New screenplay reader for the iPhone from Quote-Unquote Apps. Screenplays are notoriously difficult to read on a small screen, because the format is tied to 8.5 × 11 pages. Weekend Read cleverly reflows PDF text, yet keeps in a recognizable screenplay style. Works with Fountain, Final Draft, and just plain Markdown files, too. Free for up to 4 documents at a time, $10 in-app-purchase to unlock unlimited documents. (Clever business model — a way to do “try before you buy” in the App Store.)
Beautiful Pixels on Vesper ★
Vesper is not just a minimal notes app for iPhone. It is one of
the most polished pieces of software I have ever used.
28 Days of Fame: The Strange, True Story of ‘Flappy Bird’ ★
Christina Warren, detailing the entire Flappy Bird story in splendid detail:
Much of the data surrounding Flappy Bird and its viral success
came courtesy of Zach Williams, a developer who analyzed the
numbers behind the game. […]
The game’s sheer success has led some critics to accuse Nguyen of
using shady practices — including buying traffic or paying for
fake reviews — in order to help Flappy Bird ascend the app
charts. After looking at the data that corresponds to when Flappy
Bird started to build word-of-mouth buzz, however, we can’t find
any signs of impropriety, or manipulation of reviews or ratings.
The fact that Flappy Bird wasn’t a scam — but a naturally
occurring spectacle that came out of nowhere — only makes its
triumph that much more incredible and its removal from the App
Store that much more bittersweet.
By January 25, there were 500,000 tweets per day containing “Flappy Bird”.
Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Says App ‘Gone Forever’ Because It Was ‘An Addictive Product’ ★
Lan Anh Nguyen, reporting for Forbes from Hanoi, where she interviewed Dong Nguyen:
The circumstances surrounding the interview, conducted in
Vietnamese, were as much of a soap opera as his public ruminations
about whether to take down the app. The interview with Forbes took
place in a hotel in Hanoi, with a strict condition that Forbes not
reveal Nguyen’s face. It was delayed several hours, in part
because Nguyen had a sudden meeting with Vietnam’s deputy prime
minister Vu Duc Dam — a remarkable turn of events for someone
unknown a week ago. Nguyen says his parents didn’t even know that
Flappy Bird existed, much less his role in it, until media
coverage spun out of control in the past few days.
The 29-year-old, who sports a close-cropped haircut, appeared
stressed. He smoked several cigarettes over the course of the
45-minute interview, and doodled monkey heads on a pad of paper.
(“Nguyen” is the most common surname in Vietnam; I presume the two are not related.)
‘These People Are All Crazy’ ★
Jeff Vogel, on the indie games world and the Flappy Bird saga:
For years now, the iTunes (and lately Google Play) app store has
been this gigantic, rushing torrent of infinite money, and
everyone has scrambled to grab their piece.
It’s the most soulless, joyless, metric-obsessed
market/ethics-free-zone imaginable. There is nothing that can’t
and won’t have all fun and creativity sucked out of it to earn an
extra penny from the “whales” (i.e. compulsives) who will happily
shell out a hundred bucks a month to get Candy Crush Saga to let
them play Bejeweled. (Hot tip: Uninstall Candy Crush Saga and play
all the Bejeweled you want forever ad-free for three bucks.)
So for the last couple weeks, people, when they weren’t raging
about EA’s pillaging all of their happy memories of Dungeon
Keeper, were noting the runaway success of a tiny, free,
ad-supported game called Flappy Bird.
Interesting to think about this aspect of the App Store in the context of the previous item, on the lack of alignment between Real Networks’ profits and their users’ best interests.
The Graph That Changed Jon Bell ★
Jon Bell of UX Launchpad, on his time at Real Networks a decade ago:
One day my manager showed me a horrible graph. It was pretty
simple: the graph was steady, then it dropped straight down, then
after a short period, the line shot straight back up and stayed
“That’s what happens when we do the right thing”, he said while
pointing at the drop, “and that’s how much money we lose. We tried
it just to see how bad it was for our bottom line. And this is
what the data tells us.”
“Wow,” I said, taken aback. My employer clearly had two options:
“do the right thing” or “be profitable”. That was the position
they had maneuvered themselves into through a series of bad
Once you’re backed into a corner like this, where your users’ happiness and satisfaction are no longer aligned with your revenue, you’ve already lost. It’s like the dark side of the Force — you should never even start down that path, or you’ll be corrupted.
Barnes and Noble Fired Its Entire Nook Hardware Engineering Staff ★
Jay Yarow, Business Insider:
Barnes & Noble laid off its Nook hardware engineers, according to
a source that tipped Business Insider.
The engineers were let go last Thursday, according to our source.
This follows Barnes & Noble dismissing the VP of Hardware, Bill
Saperstein in January.
The Nook was its answer to the Amazon’s Kindle. Barnes & Noble
tried making a Nook e-reader, and a Nook tablet that competed with
the iPad, and the Kindle Fire. It was a bold, and aggressive
attempt to fend off the rise of Internet companies that were
Looks like it’s time for the Justice Department to go after Apple again.
How Big Is the iTunes Store? ★
On a yearly basis iTunes/Software/Services is nearly half of
Google’s core business and growing slightly faster.
The iTunes “empire” of content and services would be ranked as
number 130 in the Fortune 500 ranking of companies (slightly below
Alcoa and above Eli Lilly).
Windows 8 Claim Chowder ★
Zach Epstein, writing for BGR back in September 2011: “Sorry Apple, Windows 8 Ushers in the Post-Post-PC Era”:
Microsoft executives took to the stage at the annual BUILD
developer conference on Tuesday to give the world its first real
look at the future of the Windows operating system. The reception,
as you’ve likely read by now, has been overwhelmingly positive. In
fact, Apple bloggers were apparently so flustered by the platform
that they resorted to bombarding Twitter with jokes about cooling
fans and Silverlight instead of stopping for a moment to realize
that Microsoft is showing us the future of computing.
Apple paved the way but Microsoft will get there first with
(Via John Moltz.)
‘Ken Turns Effect’ ★
New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest MG Siegler. We discuss Microsoft’s future under new CEO Satya Nadella, its past under Steve Ballmer, the design of Facebook’s new Paper app for the iPhone, and more.
Brought to you by:
Backblaze Online Backup: $5/month. Unlimited. Unthrottled. Uncomplicated. Available anywhere.
Fracture: We print your photos in vivid color, directly on glass. It’s photo, frame, and mount, all in one.
Squarespace: Everything you need to build exceptional websites.
WSJ: ‘Nokia Prepares to Release Android Phone Ahead of Sale to Microsoft’ ★
Sven Grundberg and Shira Ovide, reporting for the WSJ:
Nokia Corp. plans to release this month a smartphone that runs a
version of Google Inc.’s Android mobile software, according to
people familiar with the matter, as it concludes the sale of its
handset business to Microsoft Corp.
Nokia engineers had been developing the Android phone when
Microsoft was conducting due diligence on its €5.4 billion ($7.4
billion) deal to buy the Nokia handset business and license the
company’s patents. The Android phone was aimed at emerging market
customers, and has been tailored in a way that won’t promote some
of the key Google-developed features that a more traditional
Android-powered phone might, these people said.
Interesting to see what this turns out to be.
Paul Thurrott on Windows 8 ★
This is not open to debate, is not part of some cute imaginary
world where everyone’s opinion is equally valid or whatever.
Windows 8 is a disaster. Period.
While some Windows backers took a wait-and-see approach and openly
criticized me for being honest about this, I had found out from
internal sources immediately that the product was doomed from the
get-go, feared and ignored by customers, partners and other groups
in Microsoft alike. Windows 8 was such a disaster that Steven
Sinofsky was ejected from the company and his team of lieutenants
was removed from Windows in a cyclone of change that triggered a
reorganization of the entire company. Even Sinofsky’s benefactor,
Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer, was removed from office. Why
did all this happen? Because together, these people set the
company and Windows back by years and have perhaps destroyed what
was once the most successful software franchise of all time.
Speaking of iPhone games, a second one caught my attention this weekend: Threes. It’s a brilliant little math puzzle game, lots of fun, very clever, and featuring beautiful visual and sound design. (Loren Brichter: “This game is fantastic.”) Also, no in-app-purchase shenanigans. You pay $2 and you get a great game, that’s all.
Writing at Polygon, Ben Kuchera has the story of how the game was designed:
“It looks like the entire time we were striving for simplicity and
minimalism, and that’s not true at all,” Wohlwend said. “That’s
just where we ended up going. The game resisted complexity because
it was such a small game, it was four by four grid, and numbers,
and just the four directions. It always wanted to be simple.”
Flappy Bird ★
I got caught up in the whole Flappy Bird thing over the weekend. I spend very little time playing games on my iPhone; Letterpress is the only game in recent memory that held my attention. But I spent an hour or so (total) on Flappy Bird over the past few days. I can’t see how anyone would deny that the game is ingenious — absurdly simple, looks easy, but is in fact devilishly difficult.
I really enjoyed and agree with this piece by Stephen Totilo for Kotaku. Something that should have been nothing but fun turned out sad.
Star Wars Reimagined as a John Hughes-ian ’80s High School Movie ★
Brilliantly imagined by Denis Medri; my only quibble is that Vader as a bully loses the whole “I am your father” angle.
Rate Your Experience ★
Penny Arcade, on “rate this app” chicanery.
On Forking Android ★
Terrific piece by Peter Bright on the notion that Microsoft should abandon Windows Phone in favor of Android:
If Android were an open platform in the way that Firefox OS or
Ubuntu for smartphones were an open platform, the forking
suggestion would make more sense. The AOSP/GMS split wouldn’t
exist. Everything would be in AOSP, so piecemeal substitution of
back-end services without having to reinvent vast tracts of code
and without any major compatibility implications would be
But it isn’t. Not only is it not this kind of an open platform,
but Google is actively working to make it functionally less open
with each new release. The result is that a forker has to make a
choice: they can give Google control and get the all the upsides
of the platform, or they can snatch control from Google and get
almost none of them.
Update: Two interesting comments on the Bright’s piece. The first, from “wffurr”, claims something I’ve seen reported before, but which I’m not sure Google has ever confirmed:
You left out Google’s licensing agreements with hardware
manufacturers, which prohibits them from shipping incompatible
(read non-GMS containing) Android devices based on AOSP code AND
GMS devices. Basically, a hardware OEM will have all GMS
applications rejected if they build an AOSP-based device for a
different software vendor. Amazon has had to shop around a lot
to find an OEM for the Kindle — it has to be an OEM with no
ambitions of becoming their own Android brand.
If true, this rule wouldn’t affect any plans Microsoft might have for a Nokia Android fork, because Nokia doesn’t make or want to make GMS (“Google experience”) Android phones. But this rule would pose a problem for a company like Samsung, if they wanted to shift away from GMS and move toward their own fork of Android. They’d have to do it all at once — they couldn’t ease into with just a few devices.
Second, this lengthy comment — an article unto itself, length-wise — from Google employee Dianne Hackborn, who works on the Android team. Hackborn took Bright’s piece as a critique of Google’s motives. I took it more along the lines of making the case for just how much work it entails to fork Android and create a top-tier ecosystem.
The Institutional Bigotry Michael Sam Faces in the NFL ★
Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, reporting for Sports Illustrated:
While none of the executives overtly condemned Sam’s decision,
their opinions illuminated an NFL culture in which an openly gay
player — from the draft room to the locker room — faces long
odds and a lonely path.
The executives and coaches were granted anonymity by SI.com for
their honesty. Their answers were consistently unsparing.
“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just
yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming
decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in
time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is
still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room
and meeting room.”
Why not print the actual slur here? It’s an ugly, jarring word, but bigotry is ugly. “To call someone a faggot is still so commonplace.” That’s the NFL. I think it’s pretty clear that it’s the NFL culture, that accepts this status quo, that is chemically unbalanced.
All the NFL personnel members interviewed believed that Sam’s
announcement will cause him to drop in the draft. He was projected
between the third and seventh rounds prior to the announcement.
The question is: How far will he fall?
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,”
said a veteran NFL scout. “There’s no question about it. It’s
human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break
Did any of these owners watch 42? Is there anyone who thinks today that the Brooklyn Dodgers made a mistake “breaking that barrier” when they signed Jackie Robinson? (The big difference of course, is that Robinson was an All-Star, Hall of Fame caliber player. He’d have been a standout in a color-blind era. Michael Sam isn’t projected to be that caliber of player.)
NFL Prospect Michael Sam Proudly Says What Teammates Knew: He’s Gay ★
John Branch, reporting for The New York Times:
As the pace of the gay rights movement has accelerated in recent
years, the sports industry has changed relatively little for men,
with no publicly gay athletes in the N.F.L., the N.B.A., the
N.H.L. or Major League Baseball. Against this backdrop, Mr. Sam
could become a symbol for the country’s gay rights movement or a
flash point in a football culture war — or both.
Mr. Sam, 24, is projected to be chosen in the early rounds of the
N.F.L. draft in May, ordinarily an invitation to a prosperous pro
career. He said he decided to come out publicly now because he
sensed that rumors were circulating.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to
tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I
just want to own my truth.”
Love this line, from Outsports:
Asked if he was nervous about the step he is taking, Sam told
people at a Saturday night dinner party at the Los Angeles home of
publicist Howard Bragman: “You all are the ones who are nervous.
I think we’ll see this more and more from young players, in all sports. They’ve grown up in a different and more accepting world. Today, we rightly celebrate this as a big deal. Soon (but not soon enough), it won’t be a deal at all.
New Relic ★
My thanks to New Relic for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. New Relic provides real-time application performance monitoring for web and mobile applications. They make it super easy to get started — you can be up and running with a free demo (no credit card required) in just five minutes. They provide a ton of data, presented in a beautiful, well-designed interface. New Relic makes it easy to spot bottlenecks and isolate bugs.
Again, you can get started free of charge, and it takes just minutes to deploy. Check it out and see for yourself.
WSJ Interview With Tim Cook ★
Excerpts from Daisuke Wakabayashi’s interview with Tim Cook:
WSJ: People want a bigger screen iPhone. Are you against that?
Cook: What we’ve said is that until the technology is ready, we
don’t want to cross that line. That doesn’t say we’ll never do it.
We want to give our customers what’s right in all respects — not
just the size but in the resolution, in the clarity, in the
contrast, in the reliability. There are many different parameters
to measure a display and we care about all those, because we know
that’s the window to the software.
“Until the technology is ready” is a very interesting answer.
WSJ: Will the smartphone market follow the PC market, where Apple
is a niche player?
Cook: I don’t view it that way. There are several reasons. If you
look back at the Mac/Windows battle that was going on at the time,
you’d find that one of the things that was the catalyst for
separating Mac from Windows share was applications. There was a
vast, vast difference in the number of applications that was
available for the Macintosh than what was available on Windows.
Over time, that gap grew and grew and grew. And in fact, the Mac
began to lose some key applications. We have over a million apps
on iOS. We have over half-million that have been optimized for
iPad. That half-million compares to 1,000 for Android tablets.
That’s one of the reasons, although not the only reason, why the
experience on Android tablets is so crappy because the app is
nothing more than a stretched out smartphone app.
I love that he used the word “crappy”.
Speaking of the Sochi Olympics and iOS Devices ★
Betabeat, yesterday: “Olympics Sponsor Samsung Asks Athletes to Cover Up Apple Logos”
Update: MacRumors reports:
In an email exchange with MacRumors today, an IOC spokesperson was
asked about athletes being asked to cover non-Samsung logos on
mobile devices. She responded saying the report was “not true”:
No it is not true. Athletes can use any device they wish during
the Opening Ceremony. The normal rules apply just as per
The Samsung Note 3 that were distributed are a gift to the
athletes, so they can capture and share their experiences at the
Games, and the phones also contain important competition and
logistical information for competing athletes.
It is possible that Samsung requested that logos be covered, but
it is not an official IOC request and athletes will not be
penalized for using or displaying non-Samsung phones.
Update 2: Samsung denies it, too.
Update 3: Three-time Olympian Dominick Meichtry (Swiss swimmer) says on Twitter that he was asked to put duct tape on his phone at the 2012 summer games in London. So it’s not exactly unprecedented.
Follow the Money ★
Ed Bott charts the revenue sources for Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
USA Bobsled and Skeleton Coaches Record and Analyze Their Athletes Using iPads ★
The love affair is over.
Dungeon Keeper Stacks Deck in EA’s Favor When It Comes to Android Feedback ★
Chris Plante, writing for Polygon:
It’s typical for an app to ask the player to submit a review after
it’s been played for a few hours. A prompt appears, pointing to
the app store, where the player can select 1 through 5 stars and
leave a blurb of text.
In Dungeon Keeper, if the player selects the “1 - 4 Stars” option,
they’re directed to a private feedback submission page. Only if
the player selects the “5 Stars” option will they be taken to the
Google Play page, where they can leave any rating they wish along
with a blurb. The system is designed to make good feedback public
and visible, and to allow EA to keep negative feedback hidden so it
can be dealt with privately, or ignored entirely.
I’ve seen screenshots from a slew of apps — including Facebook — that use similar chicanery so that only users who intend to rate the app with five stars are actually forwarded on to the store. EA should be ashamed of themselves, but they’re far from alone.
In principle, these app store user ratings are a fine idea — but only in an ideal world where all such reviews are honest and legitimate. Here in the real world, developers are gaming the system.
Unlocked iPhones, the New International Currency ★
Vernon Silver, writing for Businessweek:
I’ve been paying my bills with iPhones. Not with apps or on bank
sites — I’ve been using the Apple hardware as currency.
It started by accident in December, during a business trip to New
York. I live in Rome, where domestic work comes cheap and
technology is expensive. An unlocked, gold, 32-gigabyte iPhone 5s
that costs about $815 with tax in the U.S. goes for €839 (about
$1,130) in Italy, roughly a month’s wages for workers who do
laundry, pick up kids from school, or provide care for the
elderly. When one worker heard I was visiting the States, she
asked me to pick her up an iPhone in lieu of the equivalent cash
for work she’d done. Lining up inside the Apple Store on Fifth
Avenue, I was surrounded by shoppers speaking languages from
around the world. The salesman looked stunned when I said I wanted
an unlocked iPhone. Just one?
Love Affair ★
Zal Bilimoria, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, writing yesterday for Recode: “Our Love Affair With the Tablet Is Over”.
What I love best is that the headline says “the tablet”, not “tablets”, but then the article goes on to talk about a lot of non-iPad tablets. Tablets, in general, may well not be living up to Bilimoria’s expectations from a few years ago. The tablet, though, which is to say the iPad, is doing pretty well. Growth has slowed; in the just-completed holiday quarter, iPad sales were 26 million units, compared to 23 the year prior. But the notion that iPad usage isn’t growing — largely at the expense of Windows PCs — is silly.
This week-old tweet from Horace Dediu is as good a counterargument as any. Not just because of the data it presents, but what he used to make it.
Woz Thinks Apple Should Make an Android Phone ★
DF reader Glen Turpin brought this to my attention on Twitter, asking “Does Woz have any idea what has made 21st century Apple successful?” Bless his heart, we all love him to death, but I don’t think Woz understands what has made Apple successful since 1984.
Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in 2 Weeks ★
And Tim Cook granted an interview to Daisuke Wakabayashi of the WSJ:
Thursday, Mr. Cook reiterated that Apple plans to enter a new
category this year. Apple watchers are speculating about wearable
devices or a new television platform.
“There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it,
but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Mr. Cook said. When
asked whether a new product category could mean an improvement on
an existing product like an iPad Air, a lighter version of its
tablet computer, or new services such as mobile payments, Mr. Cook
declined to comment.
He said that anyone “reasonable” would consider what Apple is
working on as new categories.
Update: Perspective on how big a $14 billion purchase is:
Apple spent $14 billion buying 3% of itself over the past two
weeks, equivalent to roughly four Nests and a Motorola.
NBC News Runs Fraudulent Report on Network Security at Sochi Olympics ★
Robert Graham, writing at Errata Security:
Yesterday NBC News ran a story claiming that if you
bring your mobile phone or laptop to the Sochi Olympics, it’ll
immediately be hacked the moment you turn it on. The story was
fabricated. The technical details relate to going to the Olympics
in cyberspace (visiting websites), not going to there in person
and using their local WiFi.
The story shows Richard Engel “getting hacked” while in a cafe at
Sochi. It is wrong in every respect.
- They aren’t actually in Sochi (they are in Moscow).
- The “hack” happens because of the websites they visit (Olympic
themed websites), not their physical location. The results
would’ve been the same in America.
- The phone didn’t “get” hacked; Richard Engel initiated the
download of a hostile Android app onto his phone.
One of the devices was a brand new MacBook (which they opened like an animal), which was “hacked” when a website they visited told them to download some sort of malware masquerading as an antivirus utility. They downloaded it, launched it, and granted it an exception to Gatekeeper’s default rules, which would have prevented it from running. Pretty much the same “attack” as on the Android phone.
Ecosystem Math ★
Certainly, this isn’t ‘Windows versus Mac all over again’. There are now 490m iOS devices in use, but PCs only hit that number in around 2000, long after Apple lost the last ecosystem battle. Apple sold 51m iPhones last quarter - total PC sales in 1995 were 59.5m. That is, the iOS ecosystem now is much bigger than the winning ecosystem back then.
Even beyond that, all the other dynamics are different — the smartphone market is not driven by corporate buyers who demand commodity product based on bullet points and don’t care about design or user interfaces, for example. The relative market share of an ecosystem is relevant, but it’s not the only thing that’s relevant. We need also to think about value share, engagement share, and all the other dynamics that drive the viability of an ecosystem. The assertion that an ecosystem with close to 500m users now and over 800m in a few years will not be viable because there’s another that’s bigger seems pretty simplistic. It can’t be taken for granted that any ‘winner takes all’ dynamics will work like that.
The Best Photo Editing App for the iPhone ★
Nick Heer says it’s VSCO Cam. It’s my favorite, too.
How the ‘Value Trap’ Squeezes Windows PC Makers’ Revenues and Profits ★
And how profitable are Macs on their own, even without that revenue stream? Apple doesn’t break out the figure for Mac profitability. But Horace Dediu of the Asymco consultancy reckons there’s a good-enough rule of thumb: assume that Macs have an 18.9% profit margin, which fits well enough with its historical operating margins.
That metric gives a hardware per-PC profit which has dropped from $241 to $232 — an erosion, certainly, but a margin that Windows PC makers would kill for: it’s more than 10 times greater than their per-PC profit.
Keep this in mind the next time you see someone say Apple “lost the PC war”, and risks repeating that same “mistake” with the iPhone and iPad.
Amazon Acquires Video Gaming Studio Double Helix Games ★
Sarah Perez, reporting for AOL/TechCrunch:
Amazon has acquired a gaming studio called Double Helix Games, TechCrunch has learned, and Amazon now confirms. The deal was for both talent and IP, we understand. Financial terms have not been disclosed.
The Irvine, California-based company, founded in 2007 through the merger of two well-known game development shops, The Collective, Inc. and Shiny Entertainment, today employs 75 people who will now become Amazon employees and will continue to operate out of their Orange County home.
Lends credence to the rumors that Amazon is preparing its own TV console device.
Rookie: Sports Stories Told by the Players, Coaches, and Insiders ★
New sports site from the team behind Devour and Uncrate, with a novel premise: Rookie’s editors pick a topic and accompanying photo, then curate a thread of comments related to the story. Like a lot of great ideas, it’s very simple, but like nothing I’ve seen before.
(I do not want to know what it cost to score the “rookie.com” domain name.)
Microsoft Employees Fondly Remember Days When CEOs Were So Big They Took Up Entire Rooms ★
The Onion, apt, as usual. (Via MG Siegler.)
Paul Graham in 2007: ‘Microsoft Is Dead’ ★
Prescient analysis from seven years ago:
I already know what the reaction to this essay will be. Half the
readers will say that Microsoft is still an enormously profitable
company, and that I should be more careful about drawing
conclusions based on what a few people think in our insular little
“Web 2.0” bubble. The other half, the younger half, will complain
that this is old news.
I linked to this back when it was fresh, but it feels relevant again this week, and worth a re-read. Graham’s essay captures well the fear that Microsoft instilled at its peak.
Speaking of Sony Vaios ★
Sony is in talks to unload its sluggish personal computer
operations to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners, part of a
business overhaul designed to shift focus to smartphones, The
Nikkei learned Tuesday.
Under the plan, the fund will establish a new company to which
Sony will sell its entire PC business. The sale price is estimated
at 40 billion yen to 50 billion yen ($391 million to $489
Steve Jobs and Sony ★
Nobuyuki Hayashi, from an interview with Kunitake Ando, former president of Sony:
Most of Sony’s executives spend their winter vacation in Hawaii
and play golf after celebrating new year. In one of those new year
golf competitions back in 2001, “Steve Jobs and another Apple
executive were waiting for us at the end of golf course holding
VAIO running Mac OS” recalls Ando; 2001 is the year, Mac OS X
shipped and I am speculating this is Intel-version of Mac OS X,
they hid for four and half years since then. […]
Ando liked Apple. He always felt Mac and VAIO were so close in
philosophy. He especially admired the original iMac introduced in
1998. But the timing was bad for Sony, it is just about the time,
Sony’s VAIO gained popularity and it is just about the time that
VAIO team had finished optimizing both VAIO’s hardware and
software specifically for Windows platform. Because of this, most
of the VAIO team opposed asking ‘if it is worth it.’ And that was
the end of story for this Mac-compatible VAIO.
Talk about ways the last decade could have been different.
(As Hayashi notes in a postscript, the Apple side of this story was told two years ago, by Kim Scheinberg in this amazing story on Quora.)
37signals Goes All-In on Basecamp ★
We’re changing our name. 37signals is now Basecamp.
“37signals” goes into the history books. From now on, we are
Basecamp. Basecamp the company, Basecamp the product. We’re
one and the same.
As one of the FAQs states, this is a really unusual strategy. I’ve long admired Jason and his team’s knack for questioning conventional wisdom, for forcing themselves to look at everything from new perspectives. I never would have expected this, but now that they’ve done it, it feels right.
iCloud and Microsoft Azure ★
An old 2011 story from The Register:
But Reg sources close to Microsoft this week confirmed rumours
circulating in June that Apple’s iCloud is running on Azure and
Amazon. Customers’ data is being striped between the pair. iCloud
was released as a beta in August and is expected by the end of
Apple and Amazon did not respond to our requests to comment, while
Microsoft told us: “At this time, we don’t have any comment around
whether Apple is a Windows Azure customer.”
I’ve heard whispers that iCloud still makes heavy use of Azure behind the scenes, but nothing confirmed. Would be interesting to know.
What brings this to mind: Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella was the head of the company’s Server division, which Azure is a part of. (It’s a profitable and growing division, too.)
Kontra Visits a Samsung Galaxy Store ★
No merchandise is sold in the store.
What sense does that make?
Figure 53: David and Goliath ★
Chris Ashworth, CEO of Figure 53, has yet another twist in the increasingly ironic saga of FiftyThree and naming conflicts between larger and smaller companies:
We had one big thing going for us: we already had a registered
trademark, and the USPTO agreed that FiftyThree’s application, as
given at that time, conflicted with our mark.
In a final effort to be neighborly but also fair, we said: “Look,
we still stand by our first idea: if FiftyThree stays focused on
the kinds of things you’re doing now, that’s fine. But that
doesn’t mean we think anything you do is fine, and we sure as heck
aren’t giving permission to do anything at all.”
After that, we waited. And I did my best to forget about it, and
focus on our work, and sometimes I’d eat Tums at night.
We didn’t hear back, but we did see that they changed their
trademark application, which followed the spirit of my original
proposal of focusing on the kind of work they’re currently doing.
Paper, by MiSoft ★
iOS app developer MiSoft, in an updated description for their drawing app Paper:
When we began working on a pure, simple, inclusive drawing app, we
decided to give it the most basic of names, Paper.
We followed Apple’s Rules, that is, we went into our Developer
account and created the App “Paper”. The name Paper was assigned
to us by Apple as NO ONE ELSE was using it.
While working on the app over many months, other apps named
“Paper” came and went. How? Do to glitches in Apple’s system. A
Developer can add other words to an un-available name, or open an
account registered outside the US, create an app with the same
name as an existing US app, get the app approved for sale outside
the US, then set the app territories to make it available in the
US! They can even change the name of an older, existing non-US app
and enjoy what looks like an earlier first use.
We pointed these glitches out to Apple at WWDC 2012 and, well, the
next day another “Paper” app, one which added other words after
the name Paper so it could post in the US App Store, received an
AWARD! We felt somewhat put upon. That other app was very well
funded, money talks, and they had been out “breaking things” in
our market for a while. There are Best Practices in the Developer
world against, in Apple’s words, “confusingly similar” names. Why
didn’t that matter for these guys? Why is this not only tolerated,
but awarded? Which Rules do we follow; the posted rules, the rules
others use, the rules which work, or the rules which we believe
in? A conundrum in many areas of mobile today.
We approached the makers of that other Paper app on the floor of
WWDC after they received their award, told them our story, and
offer to discuss settling this. We even later sent a message to
their CEO. Nothing. So we’ve been considering our options.
Now we see this other “Paper” app is upset that an even larger
company has also chosen to name an app “Paper”, same trick, by
adding more words to the end.
An interesting twist on FiftyThree’s complaint regarding Facebook Paper.
Update: On Twitter, the @FiftyThree account responds:
@daringfireball Please don’t take the bait. Paper by miSoft V1 was
launched Sep 20th 2012, 5 months after us.
Claim Chowder, Post-Super Bowl NFL Edition ★
Donald Wood, grading the 2012 NFL draft for Bleacher Report:
Pete Carroll is proving why he didn’t make it in the NFL the first
time. Not only was Bruce Irvin a reach at No. 15, the Seahawks
proved they were oblivious to their madness by celebrating their
As if the day wasn’t bad enough, Seattle selecting Russell Wilson,
a QB that doesn’t fit their offense at all, was by far the worst
move of the draft. With the two worst moves of the draft, Seattle
is the only team that received an F on draft day.
Russell Wilson is now one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and the Seahawks, of course, are Super Bowl champions.
What About Bill? ★
Barb Darrow, writing for Gigaom:
In a Microsoft video posted this morning (embedded below), Gates
said he’ll devote one-third of his time to meet with Microsoft
product groups to help define next-gen products. “I’m thrilled
that Satya asked me to step up and substantially increasing the
amount of time I spend at the company,” Gates said.
Some Microsoft shareholders — institutional and otherwise — had
advocated that Gates leave the board so that the new CEO wouldn’t
have to deal with a founder looking over his shoulder. That’s
certainly not going to happen now. Conspiracy theorists would say
Gates made sure it wouldn’t by pushing for his own CEO candidate,
one who needs him, over outside possibilities like Ford CEO Alan
Mulally who was seen as Ballmer’s pick.
Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Microsoft Names Satya Nadella New CEO ★
I think he’s a great choice. My only question is why it took the board so long to decide. Nice presentation on this announcement page, too.
Inside Bitcoin’s First Big Money-Laundering Scandal ★
Great reporting by Adrianne Jeffries and Russell Brandom for The Verge:
A week ago, 24-year-old Charlie Shrem landed at JFK, home from
giving a talk about the virtual currency Bitcoin at an e-commerce
convention in Amsterdam.
The trip had gone well. Shrem’s speech made the front page of the
Dutch Financial Times, his Icelandair flight had internet, and he
was excited to be reunited with his girlfriend, Courtney. He did
not expect to be arrested when he got off the plane. But as soon
as he saw the agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and
IRS waiting for him at the gate, he knew.
Whatever the trouble was, it must have something to do with
New short film from Apple:
On January 24, 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh. And with it a
promise that the power of technology, put in the hands of
everyone, could change the world. On January 24, 2014, we sent 15
camera crews all over the world to show how that promise has
become a reality.
From sunrise in Melbourne to nightfall in Los Angeles, they
documented people doing amazing things with Apple products. They
shot over 70 hours of footage — all with the iPhone 5s.
With lineage connecting it to the original Mac commercial:
One of the first phone calls at the beginning of the project was
from Lee Clow, the ad agency creative director behind the iconic
commercial that launched Macintosh in 1984, to Ridley Scott, who
directed it. From the start, they knew the right director this
time around was Scott’s son Jake.
John Nack Leaves Adobe for Google ★
After nearly 14 terrific years at Adobe, it’s time for me to open
a different chapter of my life, and next week I’ll be joining
Google’s digital photography team.
I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that Google has big plans in the works for photography.
Two Bears, Revisited ★
Great piece by Ben Thompson:
Samsung is being challenged by lower-cost competitors; the
company’s average price per phone fell by $30 last year, and its
share of >$400 phones slipped from 40 percent to 21 percent. This
kept up Samsung’s volume — they now account for one in three
smartphone sales — but the result was their first profit decline
in nine quarters.
Apple had the exact opposite problem: the iPhone’s average
selling price jumped from $577 to $636 quarter-over-quarter, and
was only down $6 year-over year. Apple also increased its share
of the >$400 market from 35 percent to 65 percent. Growth, though,
was meager: a mere 7%, despite the addition of NTT DoCoMo and a
much earlier China launch for the iPhones 5S and 5C as compared
to the iPhone 5.
‘CSS Animation: An Interactive Guide’ ★
Speaking of designing for animation, Vicki Murley is using Kickstarter to fund the follow-up to her excellent CSS Transforms: An Interactive Guide e-book. I’m in.
How In-App Purchasing Has Not Really Destroyed the Games Industry ★
Interesting counterpoint, from Drew Crawford:
See, in the in-app purchase model actually predates phones. It
predates video game consoles. It goes all the way back to the
arcade, where millions of consumers were happy to pay a whole
quarter ($0.89 in 2013 dollars) to pay for just a few minutes.
The entire video games industry comes from this model. Kids
I think the comparison to coin-op arcade games is fair, but I’d say it only proves that some forms of in-app purchasing in games are reasonable. Clearly, some of the techniques we’re starting to see are inexcusable.
Update: Interesting thread on ADN regarding this retort; I agree with Neven Mrgan that it doesn’t really address the points in Thomas Baekdal’s original argument. One argument is about the artistic integrity of video games; the other is about how to make money.
How In-App Purchasing Has Destroyed the Game Industry ★
We have reached a point in which mobile games couldn’t even be
said to be a game anymore. Playing a game means that you have fun.
It doesn’t mean that you sit around and wait for the game to annoy
you for so long that you decide to pay credits to speed it up.
The video regarding the new mobile version of Dungeon Keeper is pretty damning.
North Korea’s Red Star OS Goes Mac ★
Not designed using Origami, I’m guessing.
Using Origami to Create Paper ★
Mark Wilson, writing for CoDesign:
Origami is a powerful counterpoint to Photoshop, just as Paper is
a powerful counterpoint to Facebook’s standard app. It allowed the
designers to mock up one of Paper’s most complex animations —
something you’d never traditionally associate with Facebook UI —
a booklet unfolding to reveal a news article. What’s important to
note is that this animation isn’t precanned in Origami. It’s truly
interactive, always anchored to your thumb and tracking it in real
time, while a 3-D lighting system adds depth to the image. Not bad
for a piece of software Facebook teaches its designers to use in
just an hour and a half.
Origami is largely the child of Walkin, along with fellow product
designer Drew Hamlin. Its development started around nine months
ago, in conjunction with their work on Paper.
Paper presents an extraordinary experience. Maybe they could have gotten the same results without Origami as a design tool, but it makes sense to me that designers can better explore animated and interactive designs using tools that aren’t based on static images. Photoshop can only give you a look; Origami can give you a feeling.
Paper vs. Paper ★
FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg calls on Facebook to rename their new Paper app:
There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same
degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name
of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone
else’s story. Facebook should stop using our brand name. […]
What will Facebook’s story be? Will they be the corporate giant
who bullies their developers? Or be agile, recognize a mistake,
and fix it? Is it “Move fast and break things” or “Move fast and
The Story Behind Apple’s ‘Think Different’ Campaign ★
Somehow this slipped my attention back in 2011, when former TBWA/Chiat/Day creative director Rob Siltanen wrote it. Great story:
Jobs was quiet during the pitch, but he seemed intrigued
throughout, and now it was time for him to talk. He looked around
the room filled with the “Think Different” billboards and said,
“This is great, this is really great … but I can’t do this. People
already think I’m an egotist, and putting the Apple logo up there
with all these geniuses will get me skewered by the press.” The
room was totally silent. The “Think Different” campaign was the
only campaign we had in our bag of tricks, and I thought for
certain we were toast. Steve then paused and looked around the
room and said out loud, yet almost as if to his own self, “What am
I doing? Screw it. It’s the right thing. It’s great. Let’s talk
tomorrow.” In a matter of seconds, right before our very eyes, he
had done a complete about-face.