Linked List: February 2015

The Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle 

My thanks to StackSocial for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle, a terrific collection of apps including: ScreenFlow 5 ($99, Apple Design Winner), Things 2 ($49, Mac App Store Hall of Fame), Data Rescue 4 ($99, Macworld Editor’s Choice), ExpanDrive 4 ($49), Civilization: Beyond Earth ($49), and more. For a limited time, you get all of these apps for just $44.99. Any one of them would be a value for this price — bundled together, you’ll save over $400.

Even better: Daring Fireball readers can save an extra $5 with coupon code “ULTRA-DF5”.

Swatch Introduces Touch Zero One Smartwatch 

David Bredan, writing for A Blog to Watch:

Today, as news both expected and unexpected, Swatch has introduced what will be its first widely available smartwatch: the Swatch Touch Zero One. What we all expected to see sooner or later — preferably sooner — was a smart / notification / fitness watch to be offered by one of the Swiss watch industry giants. The unexpected part, is that there’s a direct link to, there’s no other way to put it, beach volleyball.

That’s quite a focused niche.

Google Unveils Proposal for New Mountain View Campus 

Ambitious, to be sure, and very Google-y. From the Google blog:

The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas. (Our self-driving car team, for example, has very different needs when it comes to office space from our Search engineers.) Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.

Vesper: Now With Native Support for iPad and Landscape 

Highlights of today’s update to Vesper:

  • Native iPad support.
  • Landscape support on all iOS devices.
  • iOS 8 sharing sheet support.
  • A new price that reflects the actual value of Vesper.

Yours truly, writing at the Vesper blog:

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.

Stay tuned for more.

Put another way, we’re going to charge something sane or die trying. We tried following the iOS App Store trend by pricing Vesper at just $2.99 for months. It didn’t work. Prices like that are not sane, and not sustainable, at least for well-crafted productivity apps. So Q Branch is drawing a line in the sand, and we hope other iOS developers will follow.

On Heroes: Annie Jean Easley 

Great piece by Ashley Nelson-Hornstein on Annie Easley, an amazing computer science pioneer I’d never heard of before:

Each systemic microaggression Easley faced, she met with poise and tenacity. Her motto was “if I can’t work with you, I will work around you.” When her supervisor refused to find out if NASA would help pay for her Mathematics degree — a luxury known to be afforded to other employees — Easley paid her own way. When management at NASA refused to give her paid leave like another co-worker to finish the remaining four courses of her degree, Easley took unpaid leave. When Easley was cut out of a photo taken of the six people who worked on a project, she didn’t let that discouragement affect her life.

The word that comes to mind after reading this: perseverance.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch and Retail Stores 

The Telegraph’s Allister Heath spent some time with Tim Cook in London. Their headline emphasizes Cook’s revelation that Apple Watch will eventually be able to replace your car keys, but I thought the best part of the story was Cook’s impromptu visit to Apple’s Covent Garden retail store.

(Spitball idea: If Apple uses their March 9 event to reveal changes to their retail stores to accommodate Apple Watch, it could mark Angela Ahrendts’s first onstage appearance at an Apple event.)

TypeSnippets 

Clever new iOS 8 keyboard from Nice Mohawk. You get a “keyboard” listing the snippets of text you type most frequently (e.g. your email address, frequently pasted URLs, etc.). Free to try with up to three snippets, upgrade to unlimited snippets for just $2.99. I’ve been beta testing TypeSnippets for a few weeks, and it works like a charm.

Brace Yourselves 

Citigroup analyst Jim Suva on Apple Watch:

We expect Apple to give specifics on the launch time, price, and geographic locations, which we estimate as: Launch date: April 16th; Price points: $350, $550 and $950; with a launch limited to the U.S., followed by Europe and Asia in the subsequent months.

That pricing makes no sense. People who believe this are going to shit their pants when Edition pricing is announced.

Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83 

What a remarkable career. His final tweet from a few days ago is poignant.

The Best Tesla Model S Easter Egg 

So great, I don’t want to spoil it.

A-Rod Issues Hand-Written Letter of Apology to Fans 

Alex Rodriguez returns to spring training:

I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.

I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.

25 Years of Photoshop 

Nice celebratory site from Adobe. Really enjoyed this interview with Photoshop co-creator Thomas Knoll. It’s hard to overstate just how far ahead of its time Photoshop was when it appeared.

‘Must Fix for Next Release’ 

Good suggestion from Craig Hockenberry:

I think there’s an easy way to fix these minor transgressions that would benefit both parties: add a new kind of approval with strings attached. A “Must Fix for Next Release” state where the app can go into “Ready for Sale” but the issue remains in the Resolution Center. At that point, both the app reviewers and developer know that an issue has to be dealt with before it’s approved the next time.

It would be like getting pulled over for a broken taillight on your car. You don’t need to visit your mechanic immediately to get the problem fixed. But you’ll certainly have to get things in order the next time you register the vehicle.

From the Chromium developer mailing list:

Very briefly, pointer events has 3 main drawbacks relative to the alternative:

  1. Mobile-first web: Pointer events would likely never supplant touch events on the web (especially without support from Safari). Since touch events are here to stay, supporting another largely redundant input model has a high long-term complexity cost on the web platform.

  2. Performance: The hit testing model required by pointer events imposes a non-trivial performance penalty (hit test on every movement event) that neither Android, iOS or touch events has. We’re not willing to add any feature that increases the web’s performance disadvantage relative to native mobile platforms.

  3. Richness: Pointer events requires that scrolling and event handling are mutually exclusive. This precludes some UI effects which are common on on mobile platforms (eg. pull to refresh). Recently strong developer feedback has lead us to change Chrome in the opposite direction here - enabling event handling while scrolling (see issue 293467 ).

If there’s a performance hit and a decrease in expressible UI effects, it’s no wonder Apple and Google aren’t pursuing Pointer Events in WebKit or Blink. It’s not fair to categorize Google’s decision as simply “Because Safari won’t support it”. It’s a question of performance and user experience richness on one side, and developer convenience on the other.

How John Hofsess Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ‘Barry Lyndon’ 

Speaking of Kubrick, this 1976 review of Barry Lyndon by John Hofsess for the NYT is interesting:

Eventually, Kubrick may end up in a cul-de-sac, for he is following a similar line of development — using the “grammar” of the film medium — to that pursued by James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov in fiction. There is no question that Joyce and Nabokov — more than any other writers in the 20th-century — brilliantly explored and expanded the limits of language and the structure of novels, yet both were led irresistibly and obsessively to cap their careers with those cold and lifeless masterpieces, “Finnegans Wake” and “Ada,” more to be deciphered than read by a handful of scholars whose pleasure is strictly ratiocination. It is characteristic of such careers that people keep saying, “This time you’ve really gone too far! We liked your last film or novel — but that’s it!” The price of growth is disaffection.

That wasn’t true of The Shining, but it seems remarkably prescient regarding Full Metal Jacket and especially Eyes Wide Shut.

Adam Savage Recreates the Overlook Hotel Maze Model 

Glorious attention to detail. (Thanks to Joel Irwin.)

Brikk to Sell Platinum and Diamond-Encrusted Apple Watches for Up to $75,000 

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this sort of aftermarket bling.

Lack of Support From Apple Scuttles W3C Pointer Events Spec 

Tim Kadlec:

I was willing to give the Blink folks the benefit of the doubt, because I do remember they had specific and legitimate concerns about the spec awhile back. But after reading through notes from a Pointer Events Meeting in August, I’m forced to reconsider. The Chrome representative had this to say:

No argument that PE is more elegant. If we had a path to universal input that all supported, we would be great with that, but not all browsers will support PE. If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Let’s set any opinions about Pointer Events aside. Frankly, I need to do a lot more digging here before I have any sort of strong opinion in one direction or another. There is a bigger issue here. We have a recurring situation where all vendors (save for Apple) show interest in standard, but because Apple does not express that same interest, the standard gets waylaid.

Peter-Paul Koch is even more scathing:

Apple has a huge following and essentially could do as it pleased for the past seven years or so. In order to forcibly educate Apple to become a responsible web citizen, it is necessary to create a counter-weight; to find a company that will support the open Web and has enough market share to force even web developers who’d prefer to work in iOS only to pay attention to pointer events.

That company is Google. There is no other candidate. Firefox essentially doesn’t exist on mobile, mobile IE is too small, as are the minor browsers such as BlackBerry and UC.

In that light, Google’s refusal to implement the pointer events is a victory for Apple. Now I don’t know about the high-level politicking going on, and I certainly don’t want to argue that the Chrome team intends to increase Apple’s hold on mobile web dev, but that will be the net result of their actions anyway.

Is there a good summary somewhere explaining Apple’s argument against the Pointer Events spec?

Update: There are some technical arguments against Pointer Events here and here (via Google engineer Ray Cromwell). I think, in layman’s terms, Apple objects to the way that the way Pointer Events unifies mouse, stylus, and touch events — losing the user experience differences between them for the sake of developer convenience.

Let’s Declare GPG a Dead End for Encrypted Email 

Moxie Marlinspike:

Looking forward, however, I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. The journalists who depend on it struggle with it and often mess up (“I send you the private key to communicate privately, right?”), the activists who use it do so relatively sparingly (“wait, this thing wants my finger print?”), and no other sane person is willing to use it by default. Even the projects that attempt to use it as a dependency struggle.

These are deep structural problems. GPG isn’t the thing that’s going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it’d be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990’s cryptography. If there’s any good news, it’s that GPG’s minimal install base means we aren’t locked in to this madness, and can start fresh with a different design philosophy. When we do, let’s use GPG as a warning for our new experiments, and remember that “innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1000 things.”

Any solution that isn’t easy to use and easy to understand is a poor solution. And GPG is neither.

F.C.C. Votes for Net Neutrality, a Ban on Paid Fast Lanes, and Title II 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to enforce net neutrality rules that prevent Internet providers — including cellular carriers — from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

The most controversial part of the FCC’s decision reclassifies fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, with providers to be regulated as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This decision brings Internet service under the same type of regulatory regime faced by wireline telephone service and mobile voice, though the FCC is forbearing from stricter utility-style rules that it could also apply under Title II.

An amazing turnaround for net neutrality, which looked dead just one year ago.

Tim Cook at the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Israel 

Tim Cook is in the midst of a European tour. This photo from his tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum caught my eye. You can feel the solemnity.

WSJ: ‘YouTube: 1 Billion Viewers, No Profit’ 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for the WSJ:

The online-video unit posted revenue of about $4 billion in 2014, up from $3 billion a year earlier, according to two people familiar with its financials, as advertiser-friendly moves enticed some big brands to spend more. But while YouTube accounted for about 6% of Google’s overall sales last year, it didn’t contribute to earnings. After paying for content, and the equipment to deliver speedy videos, YouTube’s bottom line is “roughly break-even,” according to a person with knowledge of the figure.

Shows just how hard it is to make money from a “give something valuable away for free” model, even at YouTube’s massive scale and with Google’s advertising expertise.

Apple Announces Media Event for March 9 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invites for a special event to be held on March 9, 2015. The event will be held in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a venue that Apple has used many times before for special events.

It is widely expected that Apple will use the event to give more details about the Apple Watch, which was introduced last September.

I’ll eat my hat if this isn’t largely — maybe even solely — about Apple Watch.

Farhad Manjoo Interviews Dick Costolo 

Interesting interview:

Q: You recently sent a memo to employees saying, “We suck at dealing with abuse.” And you said that you lose users because of it.

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of all the emails I’ve ever sent to the company, that’s probably the first one where I said “we suck at” instead of using more eloquent language. My parents aren’t delighted about that. But I meant what I said. One of the reasons I was so blunt about it was that I wanted to really send a wake-up call to the company that we’re going to get a lot more aggressive about it, and it’s going to start right now.

Q: For years people have called on you to do more. So why did you need that wake-up call?

A: Well, it’s a complex issue. By way of example, in the wake of the news of that internal memo going out, I’ll get emails from people that say, “I agree, and here’s a great example of someone being harassed on the platform” — and it’s not at all harassment, it’s political discourse. And, in fact, fairly rational political discourse. So you know these things have lots and lots of varying degrees: Was that really harassment and abuse? Or is that discourse?

Google Plans New Headquarters 

Conor Dougherty, reporting for the NYT:

Google owns or leases about 7.3 million square feet of office space in Mountain View — roughly equivalent to three Empire State Buildings. That includes most of the property around its headquarters on the north side of the city near Highway 101, which cuts the length of the valley, according to Transwestern, a commercial real estate brokerage.

“Three Empire State Buildings” really puts their holdings in scale. For comparison, Apple’s new spaceship campus will have about 3.5 million square feet of office space.

Mountain View, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, has close to 80,000 people; with its strip-mall thoroughfares and streets of single-family homes, it looks like a sleepy suburb. But since hiring has boomed, the city’s roads swell with commuters during the morning and evening rush.

The Times used a brief video instead of a still photo to illustrate rush hour traffic in the area. A great idea that works very well.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch Water Resistance 

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors on this report from French-language iGeneration (Google translation to English) about Tim Cook’s trip to Germany:

While on a trip in Germany to visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet with a few German-based Apple staff members, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Apple Store employees in Berlin that he wears his Apple Watch constantly, “even in the shower”, according to iGen.fr.

The new piece of information from the Apple CEO could mean the company’s been working on adding more water resistant features to the upcoming wearable, since at its early-September reveal event the company warned off wearing the device in the shower.

Good news, if this means Apple is going to officially describe it as water resistant.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know 

Jeremy Scahill, reporting for The Intercept:

Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

To say security experts are skeptical is an understatement:

“Gemalto learned about this five-year old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Matthew Green, a cryptography specialist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, said, “This is an investigation that seems mainly designed to produce positive statements. It is not an investigation at all.”

Paging Auric Goldfinger 

Josh Centers does some back-of-the-envelope math to estimate how much raw gold Apple might need for Apple Watch Edition production:

There are two conclusions we can draw from this scattering of data. The first is that Apple is about to take over the world. Not only will it be the most valuable company on the planet, but it will also be bidding for a third of the world’s annual gold supply, wreaking havoc on gold prices and doing who knows what to the global economy.

The alternative is that the esteemed Wall Street Journal is off on its Apple Watch Edition sales by an order of magnitude (or more). That would put the number at 100,000 per month, which seems more plausible.

I think the WSJ’s sources are deeply suspect on these production numbers. There’s no way Apple is planning on selling one million Edition models a month. That’s just nutty. Rolex sells only 600,000 watches a year.

Profit Margins and the Apple Car 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

There are dozens of ways in which Apple’s apparent effort to build an Apple-branded car could go wrong, but there’s one argument against the idea that I’m hearing a lot of that really doesn’t make sense. From Henry Blodget to former GM CEO Daniel Akerson to the LA Times to Yahoo Finance people are saying this won’t work because the car industry is a “low margin” business in contrast to the fat margins Apple is used to earning most of all on its workhorse iPhone.

The misperception here is that Apple earns high margins because Apple operates in high margin industries. The truth is precisely the opposite. Apple earns high margins because it is efficient at manufacturing and firmly committed to a business strategy of sacrificing market share to maintain pricing power. If Apple makes a car, it will be a high margin car because Apple only makes high margin products. If it succeeds it will succeed for the same reason iPhones and iPads and Macs succeed — people like them and are willing to buy them, even though you could get similar specs for less.

Bingo.

The Apple Watch Edition’s Upgrade Dilemma 

Serenity Caldwell, writing at iMore:

Apple could solely go after the high-end fashion market, say “These customers have no qualms about paying $15,000 every two years,” and be done with it. Or the company could invest in some sort of long-term support for its Edition customers. And even after writing all this, I’m still no closer to figuring out which one the company will pick. The former model favors Apple’s traditional business model, just at a much higher income bracket. The latter feels more like an Apple move, to support its customers and give them the best experience possible.

I hope Apple Watch — at least the Edition models — is upgradeable. I would bet that it’s not. The single most frequent question I’ve received this week is how can Apple justify $10,000+ prices for a watch that will be technically outdated in a few years. The simplest answer is that it’s for people who don’t care.

I say I’d bet against upgradeability simply because it’d be so unlike Apple. But, the whole idea of a solid gold $10,000 watch is also unlike Apple. We’re in new territory here. And I do wonder why Apple called out the modular design of the S1 on their technology page. Why does this image exist? An “upgrade” would probably require new sensors and antennas and battery too — more or less replacing everything inside the watch case.

Apple Car: Three More Thoughts 

Good column from Jean-Louis Gassée on the idea of Apple making cars:

I would love to be wrong about the AppleCar — I join the choristers who would love to see what Apple could do with a car — but we’ve heard a bit too much about Apple’s ability to design an interesting electric vehicle and not enough about the industrial part, about the machine that makes the machines.

Useful Mac 

New website by Garrett Murray. Already a winner by introducing me to this gem of a Safari extension.

Pebble Time 

Blow-out Kickstarter campaign to launch the second-generation Pebble watch: $6 million and counting on the first day. Looks far more compelling than the first-generation model, with a microphone for input, a color (but still e-paper) display, and a new timeline-centric UI paradigm. They’ve also gone back to a more utilitarian design, wisely abandoning the direction they went with Pebble Steel.

I found wearing an original Pebble Watch to be more annoying than useful, but it’s hard not to root for a small independent company with original ideas going head-to-head against Apple Watch and Android Wear.

The Talk Show: ‘12 Hours a Day’ 

New episode of America’s favorite three-star podcast, featuring three-and-a-half-star guest John Moltz. Topics include Apple Watch; rumors that Apple is working on a secret car project; our love of old Mac hardware; and a long discussion on Ian Parker’s extraordinary New Yorker profile of Jony Ive and his design team at Apple.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

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When the iPad Was Rumored to Start at $1,000 

Back in January 2010, the Wall Street Journal ran a report by Yukari Iwatani Kane and Geoffrey Fowler that contained this nugget:

Yair Reiner, an analyst for Oppenheimer & Co., said in a research note last month that the tablet would be priced at about $1,000, citing sources. One challenge: Apple’s MacBook laptops start at $999.

They bought the “about $1,000” part hook, line, and sinker, tweeting:

Exclusive: Apple to unveil a 10- to 11-inch tablet later this month for about $1,000. Shipping in March. http://on.wsj.com/70I9XL

When the iPad was unveiled, its actual starting price was half that, just $499.

In the wake of my piece last week on Apple Watch pricing, a few DF readers have emailed or tweeted to ask if that might not be what’s going on with the prices for the steel Apple Watch and gold Edition models. I don’t think so. Mainly because we already know Apple Watch’s starting price: $349 for the Sport model.

From what I’m hearing, I guessed pretty good last week: about $1,000 for Apple Watch, and $10,000+ for Edition. (I’m still thinking $749 starting price for the steel Apple Watch with Sport Band — roughly twice the price of the aluminum Sport model.)

Battery Life vs. Phone Thinness 

Christopher Mims, writing for the WSJ:

Survey after survey reveals there is one thing consumers wish manufacturers would change about their gadgets. And year after year, gadget makers make only tepid gestures toward giving it to us.

It’s better battery life. […]

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a simple enough solution. It requires a company brave enough to persuade users that one of the things we’ve come to expect from phones and other gadgets — that every year, they become thinner and lighter — is a trend that has outlived its usefulness.

It’ll happen soon. Consider laptops — for years, battery life on a laptop was somewhere around 4 or 5 hours, at best. It was a struggle to use one throughout a cross-country flight. Today, you could probably fly coast to coast roundtrip with a MacBook Air on a single charge. But laptops got thinner and lighter before they got better battery life.

The Entrant’s Guide to the Automobile Industry 

Horace Dediu:

Like a siren, it calls.

The Auto Industry is significant. With gross revenues of over $2 trillion, production of over 66 million vehicles and growing[1] it seems to be a big, juicy target. It employs 9 million people directly and 50 million indirectly and politically it must rank among the top three industries worthy of government subsidy (or interference). Indeed, in many countries–the US included–government interference makes it practically impossible for a producer to go out of business, no matter how poorly it’s managed or how untenable the market conditions.

But this might be the tell-tale sign that danger lurks.

A simple question: Will there ever be a major disruption in the auto industry?

YouTube Kids 

New app for Android and iOS. I predict massive success.

The Economist on Apple and the Auto Industry 

The Economist:

In a pessimistic forecast, the Boston Consulting Group reckons demand for cars with even limited self-driving features will never exceed 25% of sales, and fully autonomous ones will account for just 10% of sales by 2035.

Perhaps technology firms can accelerate the future of the car. But whatever happens, this is a difficult business to break into. Google would like the carmakers it hopes eventually to supplant to help seal their doom by building its vehicles under contract. Unsurprisingly, none seems too keen on this. Apple’s cash pile of $178 billion is more than enough to set up a carmaking division and tool up its factories. But the technology firms have no manufacturing culture, and the skills needed to market, distribute and provide after-sales service for cars is unlike anything they are used to.

This whole piece strikes me as awfully shortsighted. Even the illustration that accompanies the article is bad.

Marketing and Loyalty 

William Anderson ably pooh-poohs this goofy HBR piece by Alexander Jutkowitz, in which Jutkowitz argues that Apple is proof that “loyalty” has killed marketing.

Dieter Bohn on the Sony SmartWatch 3 

Dieter Bohn:

Of course, “but it works” is a very low bar. It’s hard to escape the feeling that Android Wear is in a bit of a holding pattern until we see how people respond to the Apple Watch. Or maybe we’ll see some big updates at this year’s Google I/O developer conference.

This photo says it all.

‘So, Let the Learning Continue’ 

Martin Scorsese-narrated iPad ad, airing during tonight’s Academy Awards.

Meet the Tweet-Deleters 

Speaking of Twitter, Kevin Roose reports on an interesting sub-culture:

Like most media workers, Matthew Lazin-Ryder, a Vancouver-based producer with CBC Radio, spends a fair amount of time on Twitter. When he tweets, his messages are seen by some percentage of his 3,470 followers. They retweet, favorite, write pithy replies. And then, a week later, his tweets disappear.

Lazin-Ryder is one of a number of Twitter users who are using homegrown methods to make their tweets self-destruct. He says that having his tweets disappear automatically makes Twitter feel more conversational and casual, and less like a professional pressure-cooker.

Twitter’s Dilemma 

Good piece by Matthew Panzarino on where Twitter is and where it’s going:

At times (quite a bit) the way that Twitter has chosen to roll out features and products has felt schizophrenic. And that’s no wonder, really, as the company now serves two masters. Its users and its shareholders. And while those interests may sometimes align, there is no question which is the more important to please for a public company. This has led to rocky times when it comes to external, and even internal, perceptions of Twitter’s directional confidence. […]

And I’m also not convinced that the market understands, or will ever understand, the reason that Twitter exists. This puts Twitter’s leadership, including its product team, in the unfortunate position of having to continue to perform product prestidigitation to serve both masters.

Igloo 

My thanks to Igloo — the intranet you’ll actually like — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Most intranets suck. Igloo doesn’t. Igloo lets your team or company put everything they need for collaboration — sharing news, organizing files, coordinating calendars, managing projects — in one place. Read receipts are a new feature that let you see whether essential people have seen important information. Simple and easy to use, just like the rest of Igloo.

Sound too good to be true? Sign up now and try Igloo yourself — completely free of charge for up to 10 team members.

The iPhone and Modularity 

Good piece from Ben Thompson last week:

From this perspective — the hardware perspective — the iPhone is quite modular. Apple has 785 different suppliers, and while not all of them contribute to the iPhone, the vast majority do, making everything from screws to memory to camera lens assemblies. In fact, while I don’t know how many suppliers are in the Samsung supply chain, I’d wager it’s fewer than the iPhone’s, simply because Samsung itself is a component manufacturer. In other words, from a pure hardware perspective, it is Samsung that is more integrated than Apple.

Proposal to Change App Store Revenue Split to a Progressive System 

Jeff Hunter:

Therefore, please consider changing the App Store 70% / 30% revenue split to a tiered rate, where Apple takes less of the developer’s first revenues. For example, perhaps Apple could take nothing from the first $100K in annual revenue for a developer, and 30% after that. Or maybe Apple could take 10% from the first $100K, 20% from the next $100K, and 30% after that.

This change would be a shot in the arm for Apple’s independent developers, and would allow more people to work full-time on creating software for Apple platforms.

Interesting idea, and I think Hunter is right that this wouldn’t cost Apple much dough. But I think Apple is locked into the simplicity of the 70/30 split.

9to5Mac Reveals Members on Apple’s Electric Car Team 

Impressive reporting by Jordan Kahn and Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac. Something is going on. The big tell, to me, is Lauren Ciminera:

Lauren Ciminera (new hire). Joining Apple back in September, Lauren Ciminera is likely playing a role in recruiting employees for Apple’s project after leaving a position as Tesla’s Lead Recruiter to join the company. Before joining Apple, Ciminera was responsible for hiring manufacturing and mechanical engineers globally at Tesla.

Why poach Tesla’s lead recruiter unless you were building an electric car?

See also:

I’ve been pretty skeptical about this Apple car rumor, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And all of a sudden there is a lot of smoke in the air on this one.

Lenovo Is Breaking HTTPS Security on Its Recent Laptops so They Can Inject Adware 

The EFF:

News broke last night that Lenovo has been shipping laptops with a horrifically dangerous piece of software called Superfish, which tampers with Windows’ cryptographic security to perform man-in-the-middle attacks against the user’s browsing. This is done in order to inject advertising into secure HTTPS pages, a feature most users don’t want implemented in the most insecure possible way.

I don’t know how anyone at Lenovo thought this was a good idea, let alone how it actually got approved and put into use. This has to result in a serious class action lawsuit, right?

See also: This piece by Robert Graham at Errata Security, explaining how he decrypted the software and extracted the certificate.

Neener Neener, You’re Making Gobs of Money. Oh, Wait. 

Leo Kelion, writing for BBC News:

Jony Ive appeared to attack the Moto Maker scheme in an interview in which he criticised the idea of giving consumers huge choice over how their handsets were made to appear.

Rick Osterloh, president of Motorola, told the BBC his company had a “different philosophy”. And he criticised Apple in turn, calling its prices “outrageous”. […]

Mr Osterloh of the scheme: “Our belief is that the end user should be directly involved in the process of designing products. And frankly, we’re taking a directly opposite approach to them [Apple].”

Directly opposite results, as well.

The Rumor Spiral 

Amanda Schupak, writing for CBS News:

Apple is ditching the health tracking functions of the Apple Watch, which is going to start shipping in April.

Why? “They sorta had to,” said CNET senior editor Jeff Bakalar. “Because it’s not working.”

Apple touted a new health and fitness app when they first announced the Apple Watch back in September. Since then it’s remained a highlight of what to expect, and it was evidently still a part of the plan when details of the watch leaked in January.

“They were going for some super groundbreaking and innovative health tracking stuff,” said Bakalar. “Heartbeat tracking, stress monitoring. In their testing it wasn’t filling that sort of void that’s in the market for fitness apps right now.”

This is ridiculous. Nothing has changed about Apple Watch’s health and fitness features since it was announced. They have a web page explaining just which fitness tracking features it has.

Stephen Foskett: Why the Gold Apple Watch Edition Must Cost $10,000 

Stephen Foskett, who writes about watches at Grail Watch:

My prediction is that the 42 mm Apple Watch Edition will retail for $9,999 with the 38 mm Apple Watch Edition retailing for $7,999. This covers the cost of the gold case, the internals, manufacturing, sales, and profit, and yet does not leave Apple subsidizing the world gold market by selling at a discount or cheating with a too-thin or plated case. I will be shocked if the price is $4,999, but I suppose it’s possible with some finagling and if that’s the smaller model. And it will not be any less than that.

This is the perspective of a serious watch guy. I’m not saying he’s right or wrong, but if he’s right — if — there’s no way Edition is going to account for 17 percent of the Apple Watches sold. It still might account for a majority of revenue and profit, but there’s no way one out of five watches they sell will go for $10,000. I’m starting to think the WSJ was smoking the funny stuff when they reported that.

The Great SIM Heist 

Blockbuster report from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley, for The Intercept:

American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data. […]

With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

At this point we pretty much have to assume anything we do on a phone can be monitored.

Norm Macdonald on SNL’s 40th Anniversary Special 

Great behind-the-scenes look at writing for SNL:

It was always difficult to fit in that final celebrity. We never wanted a celebrity to be dumb, although many, even within the show, thought that was the idea. The idea was for Connery to be abusive and Burt to be dismissive. Sometimes people ask me who the funnier character is, Connery or Burt.

The funniest character in Celebrity Jeopardy, by far, is Alex Trebek as played by Will. Without Will’s perfect take on Trebek, maddened by the outright hostility of Connery, the faraway uninterest of Burt, the sketch is nothing. Nothing but Rich Little nonsense. It was always the third podium that was hard to find a man to stand behind. It would inevitably only be an impression, nothing but an empty showcase. The best to do it was Hanks, playing dumb Hanks. Hanks always got it. And Alec too.

Coughing Up a Hairball 

Tim Higgins, writing for Bloomberg:

Dan Akerson, retired chief executive officer of General Motors Co., said Apple Inc. should steer clear of the business of making cars, though a push into automobile electronics would be a better move for the iPhone maker. […]

“I think somebody is kind of trying to cough up a hairball here,” Akerson said in a telephone interview. “If I were an Apple shareholder, I wouldn’t be very happy. I would be highly suspect of the long-term prospect of getting into a low-margin, heavy-manufacturing” business.

The car industry, with regulatory and safety requirements, is harder than people realize, Akerson said.

We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent car. Phone guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.

Chris Breen Leaves Macworld to Join Apple 

Leaving Macworld? Not surprising.

Joining Apple? Surprising. Maybe it shouldn’t be, though.

‘Designed by Comcast in Philadelphia’ 

I wouldn’t roll my eyes so hard if the remote didn’t look so much like all of Comcast’s other crappy remotes.

What’s Up With Apple Watch Edition’s Digital Crown? 

Dan Moren raises a question I’ve wondered about ever since Apple Watch was unveiled: Apple’s photos of the Edition models’s digital crowns shows them color-coordinated with their straps — red strap, red center on the digital crown; white strap, white band; etc. But then how does that jibe with the idea of easily-swappable straps?

The Price of Gold: $1,200 Per Ounce 

Every time I write about the gold Edition models of Apple Watch being priced at $5,000 to $10,000, I get flooded with emails telling me I’m off my rocker. Here’s the thing. Gold has cost well over $1,000 per ounce for the last several years. Right after the 2008 recession it shot up close to $2,000 per ounce. Apple has stated that the Edition models of Apple Watch are not gold-plated — they’re solid 18K gold. The cost of the gold alone will be several thousand dollars.

I don’t know what it’s going to cost. But if you think it’s going to cost $1,000 or less, you’re the one who’s off your rocker.

On Samsung and Design 

Mark Wilson has a long feature in Fast Company with the provocative headline, “Why Samsung Design Stinks”. It starts:

Kevin Lee calls it “Steve Jobs Syndrome.” As the former head of product strategy and user experience design at Samsung Design America, Lee watched as the $100 billion Korean tech giant wrote check after check to countless Western design firms to develop future products for the Korean company. The designers would dig in their heels, refusing to budge on their grand idea or see how it might fit into Samsung’s vast production line. And Samsung management would either discard the idea entirely, or water it down so much that the product became another meaningless SKU in the hundreds of products Samsung sells today.

I think the whole piece is misguided. Wilson is correct that Samsung’s design stinks, but completely lost regarding why. His whole piece is about Samsung and other Asian companies contracting with U.S. design shops to do design for upcoming products.

I don’t know how you can call this “Steve Jobs Syndrome” when Apple (in the modern post-NeXT reunification era) never contracted design to outside firms. The problem isn’t whether Samsung listens to these outside designers, or how much authority they cede to them — the problem is that they’re going outside in the first place. Think about the astoundingly detailed description regarding how Jony Ive’s design team at Apple works, from this week’s epic New Yorker feature profile by Ian Parker.

Look at the sources for Wilson’s Fast Company piece, and you’ll see that it isn’t describing “Why Samsung design stinks”, but rather “Why contract industrial design shops in the U.S. think Samsung design stinks”.

The truth you’re not going to hear from those sources is that Samsung design stinks because they contract out design in the first place — and that Samsung (including its U.S. subsidiary) is a horrid place to work.

‘Modern Family’ to Air Episode Shot on iPhones 

Nick Bilton, reporting for the NYT:

Over a series of late October days, camera operators working on an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” set aside their typical high-definition videocameras and picked up iPhones. The command “Action!” was followed by a tap of that familiar red button on the device’s small video screen.

The result, which will be shown next Wednesday, Feb. 25, is an episode shot almost exclusively on mobile devices, an approximation of the way that many actual modern American families (of a certain class) communicate today.

It’s not just small indie productions shooting on iPhones. In Modern Family’s case, the gimmick of the episode is that we’re watching footage from the characters’ FaceTime conversations, but still, there’s no way they would have tried this even just a few years ago.

Behind-the-Scenes: ‘Romance in NYC’ 

Short film by Tristan Pope, shot entirely using an iPhone 6.

Ian Parker Profiles Jonathan Ive and Apple’s Design Team for The New Yorker 

Astonishing, unprecedented access to Ive personally and his design team at Apple. At nearly 17,000 words it’s closer to a book than an article, and not a single word is wasted. This is a resource we’ll refer to for decades to come.

The piece is worth your full undivided attention, so I won’t quote or spoil much. But what’s clear is that Parker gets it — in stark contrast to Steve Jobs’s anointed biographer Walter Isaacson. Ive, in fact, effectively trashed Isaacson’s book:

“I’ve seen Jony deeply frustrated, but I’ve never seen him rant and rave,” Laurene Powell Jobs said, and she added, laughing, that she would not have said the same of her husband. (And it’s hard to imagine Ive using a disabled-parking spot, as Jobs often did, long before he was unwell.) Ive likes to be liked; the story seemed to be a preëmptive defense of Jobs veiled as self-criticism. It was also an indirect response to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs, which, though not hostile, included examples of unkindness. In a later conversation, Ive said that he’d read only parts of the book, but had seen enough to dislike it, for what he called inaccuracies. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he said, with unusual heat.

In addition to Ive, Parker also has honest, bracing quotes from Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield, and others. It’s just an astounding, thunderous example of the new post-Jobs/post-Katie Cotton “open Apple”, and Parker has made the most of it.

There’s much to digest, but I think the biggest takeaway is that Jony Ive is stretched very thin. The Watch is clearly his baby, but he’s also heavily involved in the supervision of Apple’s new campus and he’s working with Angela Ahrendts on a heretofore unannounced redesign of Apple’s retail stores.

WSJ Says Apple Is Working on an Electric Car 

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Ramsey, reporting Friday for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. has revolutionized music and phones. Now it is aiming at a much bigger target: automobiles.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, code-named “Titan,” initially is working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of the people said.

I don’t find it hard to believe that Apple would have a team working on an electric car. I do find it hard to believe that such a vehicle “resembles a minivan”.

Jason Calacanis: ‘Apple Will Buy Tesla for $75B in 18 Months’ 

Jason Calacanis:

Apple will buy Tesla for $75b in 18 months — it’s a lock (in my mind).

Noted for future claim chowder.

(My take: It’s a huge sum of money, but the two companies do share a commitment to excellence in design and experience. But if Apple were going to do this they’d have done it years ago.)

LG Electronics Executives Indicted in South Korea Over Damaged Samsung Washing Machines 

In-Soo Nam and Jonathan Cheng, reporting for the WSJ:

A top LG Electronics Inc. executive has been indicted by Seoul prosecutors for allegedly vandalizing several high-end washing machines manufactured by rival Samsung Electronics Co.

An LG Electronics spokeswoman said Sunday that Jo Seong-jin, head of the company’s home-appliance division, has been indicted on charges of deliberately damaging four Samsung “Crystal Blue” washing machines ahead of a trade show in Germany last September. Mr. Jo has also been charged with defamation and obstruction of business, she said.

Two other company executives have been indicted on similar charges over the same incident, the spokeswoman said.

I like to imagine Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue dropping a flaming bag of dog shit on Larry Page’s porch and ringing the doorbell.

Creative Market 

My thanks to Creative Market for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They have a fantastic bundle this month: 62 fonts, brushes, graphics, stock photos, Wordpress themes and more — over $1200 worth of design products for just $39. On sale this week only.

The Two Best Pieces of Advice David Carr Ever Gave Nick Bilton 

Nick Bilton:

After he concluded, he sat down, smiled at me in a way that only David knew how, patted me on the back, and told me to cheer up, that it would get better, it always does. It was apparent that in his eyes we were all just broken humans trying to make it through this difficult thing called life, and he wanted to do anything he could to help this broken human. He then leaned back in his chair and took a sip from his umbrella drink.

The Talk Show: ‘Rats in the Lobby’ 

Merlin Mann returns to the show to talk about movies and shit.

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Google, Yahoo, Facebook CEOs to Skip Obama Technology Security Summit 

Bloomberg:

The top executives of Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Facebook Inc. won’t attend President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity summit on Friday, at a time when relations between the White House and Silicon Valley have frayed over privacy issues.

Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt all were invited but won’t attend the public conference at Stanford University, according to the companies. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is planning to be at the event, where Obama is scheduled to give the keynote speech and have a private lunch with a select group of attendees.

I don’t get it. How do you skip an opportunity like this?

A Journalist at the Center of the Sweet Spot 

A.O. Scott, remembering his colleague David Carr:

He managed to see the complexities of digital-age journalism from every angle, and to write about it with unparalleled clarity and wit. His prose was a marvel of wry Midwestern plainness, sprinkled with phrases his colleagues will only ever think of as Carrisms. Something essential was “baked in.” Someone was always competing to be the tallest leprechaun.

That was how David would say he felt when he was singled out for praise. Not that he was modest. He knew his gifts, and was competitive in the way that many of us are — eager for the scoop, the juicy assignment, the front page or the front of the section. But no one was more generous in praise of his colleagues, or happier in their success.

David Carr, New York Times Critic and Champion of Media, Dies at 58 

I can’t say I was friends with David, but I knew him. We talked a few times a year on the phone. When he wrote about Apple he sometimes ran ideas past me. So sharp, so astute, such a good writer, and a generous, big-hearted man. What a devastating loss. My heart breaks for his family, friends, and colleagues. I miss him already.

BusyContacts 1.0 

New from BusyMac:

BusyContacts brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing capabilities that BusyCal users have enjoyed with their calendars. What’s more, BusyContacts integrates seamlessly with BusyCal forming a flexible, easy to use CRM solution that works the way you do.

Sold.

Brian Williams’s and Jon Stewart’s Common Ground 

Good column from David Carr on Brian Williams and Jon Stewart:

Both men spent more than a decade on top of their businesses for good reasons. Mr. Stewart had a remarkable eye for hypocrisy, found amazing writers and executed their work and his own with savage grace, no small feat. Mr. Williams managed to convey gravitas and self-awareness at the same time while sitting atop one of the best television news operations in the business. They were kings of their respective crafts.

But now they are both done, at least for the time being.

You won’t find a better written sentence today than this one, regarding Williams:

Perhaps he sensed that he was king of an entropic kingdom imprisoned by incontinence and cholesterol ads.

The New ESPN App 

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge:

ESPN really wants to be on your phone’s homescreen. And today, it’s taking a pretty big step to get there. The company is relaunching its core apps for iOS and Android through an update coming to the App Store and Google Play. ESPN has spent months working on a cleaner, faster experience for the millions of sports fans who’ve made opening SportsCenter part of their daily routine. But no one’s going to be doing that anymore, because the “SportsCenter” app name is being retired. It’s getting pushed out the door in favor of a simpler approach that ESPN probably should’ve taken from the beginning: the app is now named after the company itself. Not ScoreCenter. Not SportsCenter. Just plain old ESPN.

They have a website redesign scheduled to debut April 1, but as it stands today, ESPN’s app makes their website look like a joke.

The App Store and Pinterest, Sitting in a Tree 

Pinterest:

Now if you’re on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll see another kind of Pin: app Pins. Let’s say you’re Pinning workout inspiration to your Marathon Training board. If you see a fitness app that helps you reach your goals, you can download it right from Pinterest.

When you come across an app Pin, tap Install to download the app right to your iPhone or iPad without ever leaving Pinterest (you’ll only see app Pins when you’re using the Pinterest app on your iPhone or iPad).

Check out the App Store’s new profile for a collection of the latest and greatest app Pins. You can also save your favorite apps right from the App Store itself.

Interesting expansion into social media by Apple; interesting that it’s iOS-only on Pinterest’s part.

Update: Jim Lipsey tweets:

Seems like Apple is offloading app discovery to Pinterest, like they did enterprise sales and support to IBM. No more pingsperiments.

Slack Hits 500,000 Daily Active Users in First Year 

Alice Truong, writing for Quartz:

Slack turns one year old today. In its short but fascinating history, the startup has managed the remarkable feat of actually getting people excited about enterprise communication software. The company has more than 500,000 daily active users, and it’s adding tens of thousands more every each week.

“That’s our primary metric,” founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield tells Quartz. “If you’re not using Slack every single day, you’re not really using it.”

Tremendous growth.

Wishful Thinking 

Jamie Ware Billett:

So he laid out his expectations which were largely not met, but he doesn’t want to give up on those expectation yet, so he’s hoping for another big reveal closer to the time of sale. Is Apple going to have another event for Apple Watch, where they will invite all the press back and say, “Ah ha, this watch is actually a million times more incredible than we pretended back in September. Let us show you all the amazing things it can actually do.” That seems unlikely to me.

I do expect another press event before they release Apple Watch. I do not expect anything new that will be “a million times more incredible than we pretended in September”. I just expect to learn more details. More little things. More nuance. I’m far from convinced that I’m going to find Apple Watch useful. I’m convinced more by Apple’s public and private confidence in it than by what they’ve revealed so far.

Jackass of the Week: Business Insider’s Jim Edwards 

Headline: “Apple Is an Existential Threat to Android”. Every bit as jacktastic as Henry Blodget’s “iPhone Dead in the Water” was back in 2011.

Barvd: 2014 in Review 

Hard to believe Favrd died an early death and Barvd lives on, but that’s the world we live in.

How The New York Times Works 

Fantastic behind-the-scenes piece by Reeves Wiedeman for Popular Mechanics:

Dicke meets his first deadline — barely — but 9 p.m. is only the beginning. Deadline for the first local edition is 10:45, followed by another at midnight, and a final call half an hour later. When Dicke finally packs up to leave just after 12:30 a.m., Lillie Dremeaux is still plotting out the next morning’s home page and preparing to hand overnight duties to an editor in Hong Kong. In a previous era, after the last page was sent to the printer, an editor would ring a bell, walk toward the door, and holler “Good night!” to mostly no one, because there was no one left to yell at. Dicke looks around at colleagues midshift, their eyes pinned to computer screens.

“We no longer do that,” he says.

Being Green 

Paul Ford:

A few months ago my friend Edd Dumbill shared a discovery. He pointed out that if you search Twitter for the words “green bubbles” you’ll find very consistent results. People hate green bubbles.

It’s a little thing, so very little, but it matters. One small factor among many that allow the iPhone to sustain higher prices and margins.

Also, and unsaid by Ford, this phenomenon speaks to the success of iMessage as a platform.

Update: Yours truly on Twitter, back in July 2013:

Shouldn’t the Message app icon be blue? Green = SMS (gross), blue = iMessage (cool).

‘An Injury Makes You Invisible’ 

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey on his “gap” year, recovering from Tommy John surgery. Really digging the quality of writing on The Players Tribune.

Photos of a Flipped Iceberg 

Great photos and a fascinating how-he-did-it video from Alex Cornell.

Almost No One Is Buying Android Wear Watches 

Rolfe Winkler, writing for the WSJ’s Digits:

It’s been a slow start for Google’s smartwatches. Research firm Canalys says just 720,000 smartwatches powered by Android Wear, Google’s operating system for wearable devices, shipped in the last six months of 2014.

Shocker.

By comparison, Apple sold roughly 114 million iPhones over the same period. That means Apple sold almost as many iPhones each day as makers of Android smartwaches sold over the six months.

Interesting for perspective, but not exactly a fair comparison. Let’s see how the Apple Watch does.

New Rumor du Jour: Apple Is Working on a Car 

Bryan Chaffin, writing for The Mac Observer:

But what I learned is that Apple has been looking for — and acquiring — the kind of people from Tesla with expertise that is most suited to cars. So much so that I went from being a doubter to a believer almost instantly.

From another source who travels in more rarified circles than yours truly, I also learned that a lot of people at the top in Silicon Valley consider it a given that Apple is working on a car. This is circumstantial, at best, but if you’re going to crowd-source wisdom, you could do a lot worse than polling the C-suite.

I should add that when I asked one of my sources flat out to put a percentage chance on Apple working on an actual car — rather than some kind of car-related technology — I was told, “80 percent.”

I know nothing of any such project, and my first thought when Business Insider started this rumor was to roll my eyes. If you wanted me to bet, I’d bet against it. But, two thoughts:

  1. Cars are a huge industry. As with phones, just a few percent market share can lead to enormous profits, especially with a higher-end product.

  2. I know a lot of people at Apple, at all levels of the company, who love watches. I also know many who love cars.

Typeface Mechanics: 001 

Tobias Frere-Jones:

This new series of posts will explore what I call “typeface mechanics”, the behind-the-scenes work that makes typefaces visually functional. It is what placates the stubborn oddities of human perception, helps or hinders the user, and informs long-standing conventions of design.

Anti-Theft ‘Kill Switches’ in iPhones Are Working 

Sharon Bernstein, reporting for Reuters:

Thefts involving smartphones have declined dramatically in three major cities since manufacturers began implementing “kill switches” that allow the phones to be turned off remotely if they are stolen, authorities said on Tuesday.

The number of stolen iPhones dropped by 40 percent in San Francisco and 25 percent in New York in the 12 months after Apple Inc added a kill switch to its devices in September 2013. In London, smartphone theft dropped by half, according to an announcement by officials in the three cities.

(Via Jim Dalrymple.)

Transferring Games From a Nintendo 3DS to a New 3DS XL Requires a Screwdriver 

Get your shit together, Nintendo.

The Rise of RadioShack 

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company:

I’ll be sorry to see RadioShack go. But the thing is, consumer electronics retailing is an inherently fragile business. With the exception (so far) of Best Buy, every major national electronics chain has eventually collapsed, and usually a lot more quickly than RadioShack did. Its 84-year run was remarkable, especially the period that began after its first near-death experience in the early 1960s. Once the pain of the bankruptcy is over, we can go back to remembering the chain as the idiosyncratic, only-in-America success story that it once was.

RadioShack and the Decline of Leisure Time 

Christopher Mims, writing for the WSJ:

In 1963, the year his company bought a nine-store chain then known by the two-word name Radio Shack, Charles D. Tandy explained to the New York Times why it made perfect sense for a retailer of do-it-yourself leather handicrafts to buy an electronics distributor.

“Leisure time is opening markets to us,” he told the Times. “The shorter workweek, human curiosity, idle hands — all offer opportunities in this business. Everyone’s spare time is our challenge.”

What Mr. Tandy couldn’t know was that the real challenge his company would eventually face was the slow erosion of the very leisure time his company profited from by filling.

Tim Cook at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference 

Caitlin McGarry has a good summary of Tim Cook’s remarks yesterday, including news of an $850 million solar farm in Monterey County intended to supply power for Apple’s new campus.

Update: Serenity Caldwell typed a full transcript of Cook’s remarks for iMore, and Apple is hosting a recording of the session.

‘So the Opposite of Addiction Is Not Sobriety. It Is Human Connection.’ 

Compelling piece by Johann Hari, author of a new book on the war against drugs:

The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

Speaking of Anchormen, NBC Suspends Brian Williams for Six Months Without Pay 

Not sure how he recovers from this. Humiliating, but he has only himself to blame.

How Flipboard Built Their Web Version 

Michael Johnston, writing for Flipboard’s engineering blog on how and why they built their new web version:

These types of animations have always suffered from jank on the web, particularly on mobile devices, for one simple reason:

The DOM is too slow.

It’s not just slow, it’s really slow. If you touch the DOM in any way during an animation you’ve already blown through your 16ms frame budget.

Fascinating, really. Flipboard more or less built their own web app framework based on the HTML5 <canvas> element, completely eschewing the DOM and traditional CSS. To me, that Flipboard went this route is a scathing condemnation of the DOM/CSS web standards stack.

Viewing the HTML source of their web version is a real eye-opener. There’s almost nothing there.

Jon Stewart Retiring From The Daily Show 

Sean O’Neal, writing for The A.V. Club:

Ending one of the most venerable and trusted careers in making a complete mockery of the news, Jon Stewart has announced that he is stepping down as host of The Daily Show. According to sources who were there (some of whom are already passing word along on social media), Stewart let the news slip at the taping of today’s episode, telling those in the audience that he’s retiring.

Confirmation from Comedy Central.

Dean Smith Dies at 83 

ESPN:

The numerical record of Smith’s accomplishments is staggering. His only losing season came in his first, and he left the game having surpassed Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp as the winningest men’s basketball coach in Division I history.

He led the Tar Heels to 13 ACC tournament championships, appearances in 11 Final Fours, five national title games and NCAA championships in 1982 and 1993. North Carolina won at least 20 games in each of his final 27 seasons and made 23 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.

“We have lost a man who cannot be replaced,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He was one of a kind, and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues.

I watched a ton of college basketball in the ’80s and ’90s. Smith’s UNC teams were always fun to watch. And no coach, ever, has been better at orchestrating last-minute comebacks.

JetBlue Becomes First Airline to Accept Apple Pay During Flights 

JetBlue:

To enable Apple Pay in the air, JetBlue will deploy iPad minis and NFC-enabled cases to more than 3,500 inflight crewmembers. In addition to the cases with Apple Pay compatibility, each iPad mini will be loaded with a custom-designed iOS app — The Inflight Service Assistant — which will give inflight crewmembers access to customer manifest and flight data to provide the best experience possible to JetBlue customers.

Seems like a no-brainer for other airlines to follow. It’s a pain to fish out your wallet while sitting in an airplane, but your phone is often already in hand. Now imagine how much easier it’ll be if you’re wearing an Apple Watch.

(Via TechCrunch.)

Charles Arthur on Q4 in the Phone Market 

Charles Arthur:

Wow. I mean, truly wow. As it says, that’s never happened before. Android shipments have always increased from quarter to quarter, both for “Google Android” and AOSP, since the platform’s first phone. (Unlike pretty much every other research company, ABI also breaks its Android figures down into “Google Android” — ie Google Mobile Services certified, carrying all Google’s services — and “AOSP” — principally, China.)

Yet here ABI is, saying G-Android shipments fell by 11.9m, and AOSP by 0.47m, a total of 12.4m. That’s quite a lot more than a margin of error.

Part of this was Apple’s monster quarter for the iPhones 6 drawing Android switchers and feature-phone upgraders, and part, I think, is that Android is already so huge. Android has already grown such that it’s the de facto standard OS for all non-iPhone smartphones. But it’s interesting that Google Android handset sales fell while AOSP sales were close to flat.

Apple World Today 

New website from former TUAW staffers Steve Sande, Dave Caolo, and Kelly Hodgkins. Off to a good start.

Apple’s Profit Monopoly 

Report from Canaccord Genuity analyst Mike Walkley pegs Apple’s share of mobile profits last quarter at 93 percent. Samsung took 9 percent, and the rest of the industry (combined) was in the red.

Jean-Louis Gassée on Apple’s Record- (and Law-) Breaking Quarter 

Good column from Jean-Louis Gassée:

Law 1: Larger size makes growth increasingly difficult.

This is the Law of Large Numbers, not the proper one about probabilities, but a coarser one that predicts the eventual flattening of extraordinary growth. If your business weighs $10M, growing by 50% means bringing in another $5M. If your company weighs $150B, 50% growth the following year would require adding $75B — there might not be enough customers or supplies to support such increase. Actual numbers seem to confirm the Law: Google’s FY 2014 revenue was $66B, +19% year-on-year; Microsoft’s was $87B, +11.5%; Apple’s $183B in revenue for 2014 was a mere +7%.

And yet, last quarter, Apple revenue grew 30%, breaking the Law and any precedent. iPhone revenue, which grew 57%, exceeded $51B in one quarter — close to what Google achieved in its entire Fiscal 2014 year.

Swift 1.2 

Lots of new language features in the new version of Swift released today. Swift’s development is moving incredibly fast.

Same-Sex Marriages in Alabama 

Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Peña, reporting for the NYT:

In major county seats like Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville, gay couples lined up outside courthouses as they opened, and emerged smiling, licenses in hand, after being wed by clerks or by the judges themselves.

At the Jefferson County Courthouse here, Judge Michael G. Graffeo of Circuit Court officiated, at times tearfully, at the civil wedding of Dinah McCaryer and Olanda Smith, the first to emerge from the crowd of same-sex couples who lined up Monday morning. “I now pronounce Olanda and Dinah are married spouses, entitled to all rights and privileges, as well as all responsibilities, afforded and placed upon them by the State of Alabama,” Judge Graffeo said.

It’s a good day.

Samsung Z1: The First Tizen Smartphone 

Ron Amadeo, reviewing the Tizen-based Samsung Z1 for Ars Technica:

On the front of the phone you’ll find Samsung’s trademark hardware home button, flanked by “back” and “menu” buttons. Tizen makes the same mistakes that Android did: it hides a bunch of options behind a menu button, with no on-screen indication that there are more options in the menu button. So if you’re looking for an option, you usually end up pressing “menu” on every single screen and hope that something pops up.

The menu button betrays Tizen’s age. It was designed circa-2012 as a drop-in Android replacement that would run on the same hardware. Back then Samsung’s Android phones used a menu button, so Tizen did too. The menu button was long seen as a poor UI choice — Google removed it from the core Android spec in 2011 — and Samsung finally joined the rest of the ecosystem and dumped the menu button with the Galaxy S5 last year. Sadly, Tizen never got the message.

The hardware is junk, but it’s a $92 phone, so what do you expect? More disappointing, but utterly unsurprising, is that the UI sucks too. Tizen is Samsung’s only chance to fix some of Android’s wrongs.

Pouring One Out for the TRS-80 Model 100 

Longtime Twin Cities sportswriter Patrick Reusse:

And then the world changed in 1983, when the TRS-80 Model 100 portable was released for sale. TRS stood for Tandy Radio Shack … the developer and the outlets where you could buy one.

Everyone called it the “Trash 80.” They were so reasonably priced that we could buy them ourselves if the newspaper balked. They weighed 3.1 pounds and could run for hours with four AA batteries.

There was no longer a class structure in the press box. The Portabubbles were gone (except for a few holdouts such as Roe). The Silent Writers were sent crashing to a well-earned graveyard.

We all were carrying Trash 80s. The question among the former underclass in the press box went from, “Hey, do you have an extra roll of paper for this piece of bleep?” to “Hey, do you have any extra batteries for our little buddy here?”

(Thanks to DF reader Jeff Feng.)

Pixate Free 

Pixate is a very cool tool that lets you visually prototype your iOS or Android apps in your browser, and then play with your interactive app in real-time, natively, without any web views, right on your mobile device. It’s a great way for designers to show their UI ideas, rather than merely explain them. Pixate now offers a free plan, so check out their website to get started or learn more.

My thanks to Pixate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed.

Comcast Customer in Chicago Area Receives Bill Addressed to ‘Super Bitch‘ 

I’m starting to feel left out that I don’t have a fun Comcast name on my bills.

Matte Shot on the Visual Effects of ‘2001’ 

“With only a single key light source and everything needing to be pin sharp, continuous camera speeds of 4 seconds per frame were usually called for, with the scenes taking from four to six hours to shoot. The mattes shots took upwards of eleven hours to shoot and complete.”

Worth every second. Simply astounding how well the visual effects of 2001 hold up today.

Tesla Has Hired Over 150 Apple Employees 

Tim Higgins and Dana Hull, writing for Bloomberg Business:

As cars become more like computers, and traditional U.S. automakers struggle to attract Silicon Valley talent, Tesla’s ability to lure people from Apple gives it an edge in developing cars of the future. “It’s almost an unfair advantage,” says Adam Jonas, an auto industry analyst at Morgan Stanley. “As software goes from 10 percent of the value of the car to 60 over 10 years, that disadvantage [for traditional carmakers] will intensify.”

Employees who have worked at Apple say their decision to join Tesla was based on its cars and its CEO. Musk has a reputation, like Steve Jobs did, for a mercurial temper and an obsessive attention to detail. A former Tesla worker who didn’t want to be named says that Musk is enamored with Apple and relishes comparisons between himself and its co-founder. Tesla, says one Silicon Valley recruiter who asked not to be named, attracts the same kind of employees that Apple does — driven, hard-charging, and drawn to a strong leader.

Cue Guy English’s three-year-old observation that retention of talent is one of the biggest challenges Apple faces.

Bill Simmons’s Super Bowl 49 Retro Running Diary 

Bill Simmons, writing at Grantland:

Super Bowl XLIX was like the last episode of The Sopranos (and I’m not the only one who thought so). I will always remember watching it, I will always be dumbfounded by the ending and I needed 48 hours to figure out what I thought happened. What was Bill Belichick doing? What was Seattle doing? What was EVERYONE doing? This isn’t a retro diary, it’s a retro retro diary. It’s time to relive, regurgitate, recelebrate and re-heart-attack the final 12 minutes of Super Bowl XLIX.

Bill Simmons at his absolute best. The insanity of the final minute made it easy to forget just how crazy and how exciting the entire fourth quarter was.

Recovering the Doves Type 

Rachael Steven, writing for Creative Review:

The Doves Type was commissioned by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson as a bespoke typeface for the Doves Press, the London printing company he co-founded with Emery Walker in 1900. A modern take on a Venetian serif, it took two years to create and was used in all of the Press’s publications, including books of verse by Shakespeare and Milton and the Doves Bible, which featured drop caps by Edward Johnstone.

After falling out with Walker, however — their partnership was legally dissolved in 1909, after the business encountered financial troubles - Cobden-Sanderson spent nine months tipping 2,600lb of it into the Thames in secret, ensuring that if he couldn’t use it, nor could anyone else. Disguised by darkness, he made around 170 trips to the Hammersmith Bridge to tip small parcels into the water at night, the splashes concealed by passing traffic, before announcing that it had been “bequeathed’ to the Thames.

A beautiful typeface, and an amazing story.

UXKit Skepticism 

Brent Simmons:

I doubt this will ever be available outside Apple as a framework that’s meant to replace AppKit.

A thought that occurred to me: Wouldn’t an AppKit replacement wait until Swift was established as the primary language? In the big picture, looking at the next decade, it would make more sense for an AppKit successor to be designed Swift-first, as a primary goal, rather than making it UIKit-like as a primary goal.

So if this UXKit is not Swift-only, I don’t think it’s something we’ll see outside Apple. And given that Photos for Mac started life inside Apple long before Swift was announced, that’s unlikely, to say the least.

Bill Carter on Covering ‘SNL’ and Lorne Michaels 

Longtime NYT TV beat writer Bill Carter, now writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

That’s one reason Michaels is given so much personal credit for the phenomenon of Saturday Night Live. He conceived a supremely effective formula, perhaps the only one that successfully could have sustained a live sketch-comedy/music show inside a landmark skyscraper, housed in a retrofitted radio studio originally built for a symphony orchestra. Even today, if you hang out in the narrow hallway outside Studio 8H when the show is in progress, you take your life in your hands from all of the castmembers, makeup artists, wig fitters, technicians and stagehands flying by, as well as the hulking sections of sets being shoved past you on dollies. And that has nothing to do with supervising the writing and performing and the periodic demands of recasting the thing. The show was, and is, a production marvel. “That’s Lorne as Einstein — the formula was his E = MC²,” says Jimmy Fallon, one of the dozens and dozens of breakout stars and writers Michaels has birthed.

And:

But if there is now a somewhat gentler version of the driven young visionary of the ’70s, that does not mean writers and performers do not still experience the intimidation factor. Tina Fey felt it. “It was like The Paper Chase,” she says. “People endowed Lorne with all this power. People wanted his approval in a personal way, but you literally needed his approval to get airtime — and many people lost their minds in pursuit of it.”

How The Times let Carter walk away is beyond me.

(Via Dave Pell’s NextDraft.)

Why Google Glass Broke (Spoiler: It Was Sergey Brin’s Fault) 

Well-reported Nick Bilton piece going behind the scenes on the disaster that was Google Glass:

From its unveiling in 2012, it was considered the Gadget, yearned after by everyone from nerds and chief executives, to chefs and fashionistas. It was the must-have toy that was going to set the gold standard for a new class of wearable computers.

It certainly captivated a lot of attention, but many people who follow technology saw it for what it was all along: early prototype hardware and software touted by socially inept nerds.

Bilton’s sources place the blame for both problems — that it was revealed far, far too early, and that it was a privacy and fashion disaster — on Sergey Brin:

At the time, unknown to anyone outside X, an impassioned split was forming between X engineers about the most basic functions of Google Glass. One faction argued that it should be worn all day, like a “fashionable device,” while others thought it should be worn only for specific utilitarian functions. Still, nearly everyone at X was in agreement that the current prototype was just that: a prototype, with major kinks to be worked out.

There was one notable dissenter. Mr. Brin knew Google Glass wasn’t a finished product and that it needed work, but he wanted that to take place in public, not in a top-secret lab. Mr. Brin argued that X should release Glass to consumers and use their feedback to iterate and improve the design.

Apple’s Promotional Page for Photos for Mac 

New (I think).

Yours Truly on Photos for Mac Back in June 

From the DF archive, back in June:

One of the things I heard at WWDC is that the new Photos app for Mac was started under the name “iPhoto X”. I think they abandoned that name because it carried too much baggage. The whole situation had gotten too complicated. iPhoto for iOS was ambitious but ultimately a failure — too complicated, too fiddly.

Post-WWDC, the way I hope Photos for Mac plays out is not that Apple offers a “pro” upgrade, but rather that extensions allow for third-party developers to improve image editing in Photos for Mac in a similar way to how they will for Photos on iOS. Photos for Mac will likely never be a true professional tool like Aperture was or Lightroom is, but it could be much, much more than a simple library. It could — and should — be something that works well for serious enthusiasts (a.k.a. “prosumers”) in a way that iPhoto never did.

No third-party editing extensions yet, but given that they exist for iOS, they’re inevitable for Photos for Mac. As for Photos for Mac starting life as “iPhoto X”, the ever-intrepid Steven Troughton-Smith found this while spelunking through the developer beta today.

Jack March on the iPhone 5C 

Jack March, responding to a segment on this week’s The Talk Show in which MG Siegler and I talk about the purpose of the iPhone 5C:

I almost feel like the 5C was meant to fail, in fact, every time it was purchased was a failure for Apple. The phone was created to encourage people to buy the phone that gave Apple the bigger margins.

The biggest victory for Apple would’ve been to sell zero iPhone 5C’s, only made as a trap to get people to buy the more expensive model, and that’s a genius business strategy.

Selling zero of them being good for Apple is (vastly) overstating things, but I think it’s almost indisputable that one reason why the 5C debuted in 2013 was to differentiate the mid-tier model from the then-new high-end model. If Apple had followed their pattern from previous S-model years (3G to 3GS, 4 to 4S), they would have unveiled the iPhone 5S and simply moved the year-old iPhone 5, unchanged, $100 lower in price. That’s the same sort of strategy that led them to this year’s 16/64/128 storage tiering instead of 32/64/128.

But I still think this year, 2015, is the year the 5C was really made for. It gives Apple a lowest-tier (typically, free-with-contract) iPhone model that looks cool but still looks like it should be cheaper than the other phones in the lineup.

What if the iPad Ran iPad OS? 

Rene Ritchie:

Imagine instead, like the Apple Watch, the iPad ran its own distinct version of iOS: iPad OS. Rather than stripped down version for smaller screens and batteries, imagine it ran an amped-up version that really took advantage of bigger screens and batteries, with a Home screen, interaction methods, and capabilities optimized for a tablet.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, but my gut feeling is that it wouldn’t be a good idea. If anything, I think the iPad and iPhone versions of iOS should become more similar, not less. (Why no built-in Stocks and Weather apps for iPad, for example? Why does the SD Card adapter only work on iPads and not iPhones?) To me, as the iPad has gotten smaller (with the Mini) and the iPhone has gotten larger (with the 6, and especially 6 Plus), iOS feels like a single software platform on a continuum of display sizes.

Why the iPad Became Federico Viticci’s Main Computer 

Federico Viticci, MacStories:

The iPad is my main computer and iOS is my operating system of choice. […]

The iPad, for me, is a product of intangibles. How its portable nature blurs the line between desktop computers and mobile. How a vibrant developer community strives to craft apps that make us do better work and record memories and enjoy moments and be productive and entertained. The iPad, for me, is a screen that connects me with people and helps me with my life’s work anywhere I am. Transformative and empowering, with the iPad Air 2 being its best incarnation to date. Not for everyone, still improvable, but absolutely necessary for me. And, I believe, for others.

Liberating. The iPad is a computer that lets me work and communicate at my own pace, no matter where I am.

For all the handwringing over the decline in sales of the iPad, it’s worth keeping in mind that iPads are, price-wise and screen-size-wise, equivalent to laptop PCs. Even selling “only” 21.5 million iPads last quarter, add in the 5.5 million Macs they sold and you get 27 million PC-class devices. Imagine going back in time 10 years and convincing someone (a) that Apple would sell 27 million PC-class devices in a quarter in 2014; and (b) that this number was a decline from the year prior. You’d get locked in a loony bin.

Viticci’s details on how and why he chooses to use an iPad Air 2 as his primary computer show the wisdom in Apple’s forked product lineup, with iPads and MacBooks as wholly separate products and software platforms. Me, I feel like a fish out of water every time I try to use an iPad to do my daily work here at DF. But the things I love about the Mac are things that would overcomplicate the iPad.

Every Frame a Painting: ‘Drive’ and the Quadrant System of Framing 

As part of his excellent Every Frame a Painting series on film analysis, Tony Zhou has a wonderful three-minute look at the framing techniques used by Nicolas Winding Refn in his excellent 2011 film Drive.

If you like Zhou’s work as much as I do, do what I just did and sign up at Patreon to kick in a few bucks for each new video in the series.

The Design Evolution of Audio Hijack 

Christa Mrgan takes us on a visual history of Rogue Amoeba’s years-in-the-making Audio Hijack 3. I love these sorts of posts.

Photos for Mac Built Using New ‘UXKit’ Framework 

Jason Snell:

For a while, iOS developers have complained that the UIKit framework they use to develop apps isn’t available on the Mac, making it harder to apply the same tools and techniques and code they build for iOS to Mac apps.

Today Apple dropped Photos for Mac via a developer release, and some developers are reporting signs that Apple has built this new app using something called UXKit, which sits above the Mac’s familiar AppKit frameworks and strongly resembles UIKit on iOS.

Very interesting.

David Pogue on the Developer Preview of Photos for Mac 

Apple is releasing a developer preview of Photos for Mac today. David Pogue got an advanced look. Seems like a good start, at least as a replacement for iPhoto.

See also:

Geoffrey Fowler Reviews the Amazon Echo 

Geoffrey Fowler:

The Amazon Echo has a few good ideas about how voice control might be useful in our homes. But I can’t recommend the Echo to more than the curious. (Amazon makes customers join a waitlist to buy an Echo, and doesn’t let owners post reviews.)

Interesting comparison of trivia question answers, pitting Alexa against Cortana, Siri, and Google Now.

Seth Weintraub: ‘10 Reasons Why Google Should Buy the Remains of RadioShack’ 

Seth Weintraub:

In one swift move, Google could immediately have a bigger retail presence than Apple with almost 5,000 US stores, a rejuvenated workforce (at least to start with) and a somewhat lucrative business model selling carrier Android devices and accessories.

Over the first year, Google could manage continuing losses while training up current and new staff on Google products, redesigning the stores to be more inviting, and switching product lines to become more valuable. Apple and Tesla have both proven that high tech companies can prosper in retail. Microsoft and Amazon are both making efforts to get into retail as well.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and the price — $50 million — is truly pocket change for a company like Google. But I don’t see how any company could go from 0 to 4,000 retail stores in the snap of a finger. Has any company new to retail ever successfully pulled off something like that?

Getting a Social Network Off the Ground 

Speaking of The Talk Show, Bob Sherron transcribed an interesting point made by Ben Thompson on the previous episode:

“That’s what’s so brilliant about Instagram as a social network: there was a reason to use Instagram from day one even if you didn’t have any friends. That’s what’s so hard about getting any social network off the ground is just finding people, discovering people. Even Twitter today has this problem…”

In technology, this is called The Blank Slate, but it is not limited solely to screens. Anyone who has ever purchased a wallet has felt the disappointment when their sleek new acquisition bulges beyond recognition when filled with the garbage of their life. I’ve never designed leather goods but I have made a few web apps in my day, and those lessons can definitely be applied away from the keyboard.

The Talk Show: ‘How Many Keys?’ 

New episode of my podcast, featuring special guest MG Siegler, reporting from London. Topics include last week’s blockbuster earnings report from Apple, the increasingly imminent Apple Watch, phone display sizes, the impact of China on sales, rethinking the intended purpose and success of the iPhone 5C, speculation on Apple’s 2015 product roadmap, and whether Bluetooth is the future for mass market earbuds and headphones.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

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Leaked Photos of Samsung Galaxy S6 Look a Lot Like iPhone 6 

Lisa Eadicicco, writing for Business Insider:

French blog Nowhereelse.fr, which leaked several photos of the iPhone 6 that turned out to be accurate before its launch, has posted a set of images that supposedly show the Galaxy S6’s metal chassis.

If you look at the frame’s edges in the photo shown below, you’ll notice they’re slightly rounded just like that of the iPhone 6.

At the same time, sources to The Korea Times say the Galaxy S6 will “look a lot like Apple’s iPhone 6.”

Leaked photos certainly aren’t reliable, but this makes sense. Samsung rose to prominence with their iPhone-lookalike early Galaxy S models. Apple sued them and was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties. But then, as Samsung’s designs have diverged from Apple’s, Samsung has faltered in the market. So back to what worked before: copying Apple shamelessly and accepting the eventual legal losses and the public perception that Samsung is a blatant copycat as a cost of doing business.

‘Riding Light’ 

Eye-opening film by Alphonse Swinehart:

In our terrestrial view of things, the speed of light seems incredibly fast. But as soon as you view it against the vast distances of the universe, it’s unfortunately very slow. This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective.

(Thanks to Greg Plefka.)

StatCounter:

StatCounter Global Stats reports that in January, Google took 74.8% of US search referrals followed by Bing on 12.4% and Yahoo on 10.9%, its highest US search share for over five years.

Interesting results from Yahoo’s deal to serve as the default web search for Firefox:

StatCounter has also run a special report on US search engine usage by Firefox users only. Yahoo-on-Firefox usage in the US increased from 9.9% in November 2014 to 28.3% in January. Over the same period Google-on-Firefox usage in the US fell from 81.9% to 63.9%.

StatCounter says that it is only Firefox users responsible for the change in US search share. “When we removed Firefox usage from the US search data, Yahoo’s gains and Google’s losses were erased,” commented Aodhan Cullen. “This highlights the importance of the default search option and the significance of the upcoming Safari search deal for the major players.”

WSJ Pours Cold Water on Bloomberg Report of Google Developing Uber Competitor 

Rolfe Winkler and Douglas MacMillan, writing for WSJ Digits:

What might have been a budding partnership suddenly appeared to boil over into a pitched rivalry on Monday. Besides Uber’s disclosure that it will work on its own self-driving car technology, a Bloomberg Business report citing a source close to Uber’s board said Google is prepping its own car-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its self-driving car project. The report said the Uber board had seen screenshots of what appears to be a ride-sharing app being used by Google employees and that the Uber board is considering whether to ask Drummond to leave the board.

But a person familiar with the matter said news that Google is developing an app to rival Uber has been blown out of proportion. The person said a Google engineer has been testing an internal app that helps Google employees carpool to work, and the app isn’t associated with the company’s driverless cars program.

Feels like a non-denial denial to me — but perhaps I’m too cynical regarding Google’s history of backstabbing former partners.

My hunch: Google rolls out driverless cabs as soon as they’re legally able, localized at first in the Bay area. They undercut Uber pricing dramatically, with targeted ads based on your Google profile — and do things like play music you like or show you YouTube videos.

Uber and CMU to Collaborate on Self-Driving Car Technology 

Uber:

Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are announcing today a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.

Self-driving cars are coming — it feels like an inevitability. And it makes sense that Uber would want to be at the leading edge of that revolution. But it’s a little weird that it puts Uber in a position of tacitly acknowledging that the company is looking forward to replacing all of its human drivers. Their pitch to drivers is, more or less, Come drive for us while you still can.

Amazon in Talks To Buy Some of RadioShack’s Stores 

Katie Benner, Jodi Xu Klein, and Lauren Coleman-Lochner, with another RadioShack scoop for Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc., aiming to bolster its brick-and-mortar operations, has discussed acquiring some RadioShack Corp. locations after the electronics chain files for bankruptcy, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware, as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private.

This sounds like an interesting way for Amazon to dip its toes in retail on the cheap, but the problem is, most RadioShack locations are kind of crappy. Dingy little retail boxes. Every location would need a lot of work just to make it look nice. (Via MG Siegler.)

David Pogue Skewers the PonoPlayer 

David Pogue:

I’m 51 and a former professional musician. I know how to listen. But when I bought Pono’s expensive remastered songs and compared them with the identical songs on my phone, I couldn’t hear any difference whatsoever.

I got worried. Is the Pono story a modern-day “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable? Were those famous rock stars just imagining things?

There was only one way to find out: conduct a blind trial, using identical songs on identical headphones, comparing the Pono with a standard audio player — an iPhone. So that’s what I did. You can watch the process in the video above.

Serenity Caldwell on AOL’s Shuttering of TUAW 

Serenity Caldwell:

A loyal audience will follow you, trust your recommendations, and help you build something special. But they can only treat you well if you do the same in turn. Autoplay videos that grab meaningless eyeballs in an attempt to gain video marketshare isn’t respecting your blog or your audience. And shuttering a fantastic blog and trying to shove it into a bigger property will likely lose your company that loyal following, not transfer it.

Bloomberg: ‘Google Is Developing Its Own Uber Competitor’ 

Brad Stone, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google Ventures, the search giant’s venture capital arm, invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013. It was Google Ventures’ largest investment deal ever, and the company put more money into Uber’s next funding round less than a year later. Back then, it was easy for observers to imagine Google partnering closely with Uber, or even one day acquiring it. David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development, joined the Uber board of directors in 2013, and has served on it ever since.

Now there are signs that the companies are more likely to be ferocious competitors than allies. Google is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless car project. Drummond has informed Uber’s board of this possibility, according to a person close to the Uber board, and Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appears to be a Google ride-sharing app that is currently being used by Google employees. This person, who requested not to be named because the talks are private, said the Uber board is now weighing whether to ask Drummond to resign his position as an Uber board member.

Sounds familiar.

Bloomberg: ‘RadioShack in Talks to Sell Half Its Stores to Sprint, Shutter the Rest’ 

Bloomberg:

RadioShack Corp. is preparing to shut down the almost-century-old retail chain in a bankruptcy deal that would sell about half its store leases to Sprint Corp. and close the rest, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The locations sold to Sprint would operate under the wireless carrier’s name, meaning RadioShack would cease to exist as a stand-alone retailer, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks aren’t public.

Ernest Hemingway:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

Super Bowl 49 Wrap-Up 

Great analysis of yesterday’s epic Super Bowl by Bill Barnwell for Grantland. What a game.

Paying to Get Around Adblock Plus 

Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge:

Some of the web’s biggest companies have been paying to get around Adblock Plus, according to a new report from Financial Times. Microsoft’s Bing search ads and Taboola’s “recommended links” box are among the ads that are currently slipping through Adblock Plus’s filter, and FT confirms that it’s the intentional result of a paid deal between the makers of Adblock and the owners of the ads. According to FT sources, the companies have paid Eyeo (the maker of Adblock Plus) to be added to an official whitelist, which allows them to bypass the plug-in. Google has a similar deal, as has been previously reported.

How is this different from an extortion racket?

Apple to Turn Failed Arizona Sapphire Factory Into a Data Center 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. plans to invest $2 billion to build a data center in Arizona in the location where its failed sapphire manufacturing facility exists, the state announced Monday.

The company plans to employ 150 full-time Apple staff at the Mesa, Arizona, facility, which will serve as a command center for its global network of data centers. In addition to the investment for the data center, Apple plans to build a solar farm capable of producing 70-megawatts of energy to power the facility.

So does this mean we aren’t getting sapphire iPhone displays, or that Apple is going to procure them elsewhere?

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