Linked List: January 2015

Reminder: Apple Has Never Led the Smartphone Industry in Market Share 

Dawn Chmielewski, writing for Recode:

Apple, which years ago ceded the top spot in the global smartphone market to rival Samsung, appears to have pulled into a dead heat.

It’s true that Samsung passed Apple in smartphone market share years ago, but “the crown” was never Apple’s to cede. In the years prior to Samsung’s rise in 2010, Nokia led the industry, by far, in smartphone market share. RIM, too, was ahead of Apple until 2010.

From the DF archive: “Ceding the Crown”, back in March 2013.

Update: According to IDC, Apple had a slight lead over Nokia (then falling) and Samsung (then rising) for one quarter in 2011.

Slack 

My thanks to Slack for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Slack puts all of your team’s communication in one place, instantly searchable, wherever you go. They’ve got mobile apps for iOS and Android, a Mac app, and a great web app. People are nutty for Slack — they love it. We used it for backstage communication during Layer Tennis this season, and I really don’t know how we did it before Slack.

AOL Still Makes Most of Its Money Off Millions of Dial-Up Subscribers 

Hayley Tsukayama, reporting for The Washington Post back in August:

AOL considers itself an advertising and media company. But it still relies on 2.3 million dial-up subscription customers for the bulk of its profits.

The company’s latest earnings report on Wednesday showed that while the firm pulls in most of its revenue from advertising, it still makes the most money off the division that includes those old-fashioned dial-up subscribers.

They should have kept TUAW and shut down AOL. Jiminy. (Via Jim Lipsey.)

Andrew Sullivan Hangs It Up 

Andrew Sullivan, two days ago:

But when you write every day for readers for years and years, as I’ve done, there’s not much left to hide. And that’s why, before our annual auto-renewals, I want to let you know I’ve decided to stop blogging in the near future.

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

I find this surprising, but only because Sullivan seemed so energized when he took The Dish independent two years ago. But there’s no way anyone could do this if they feel burned out.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom’s father was a coal miner. That was his career. He spent like 40 years going into dark dangerous coal mines to perform grueling manual labor every workday, and wound up dying of black lung disease. Blogging isn’t hard work in the way that coal mining is, but above all else it demands enthusiasm. There’s no other way to keep going — blogs cease when their authors run out of enthusiasm. For many people, the enthusiasm seems to run out after just a few months, maybe a few years. For Sullivan, it took a decade and a half. A good reminder that nothing lasts forever.

See also: Sullivan today, on the notion of The Dish continuing without him.

Vintage Logos From the 1970s 

Say what you want about the ’70s, but a surprising number of these marks stand the test of time. (Via Sebastiaan de With.)

Apple’s Accessibility Quality 

Marco Zehe:

In fact, with the release of both OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” and iOS 8, the quality of many accessibility features has reached a new all-time low. AppleVis has a great summary of current problems in iOS 8. But let me give you two examples.

The first problem is so obvious and easily reproducible that it is hard to imagine Apple’s quality assurance engineers didn’t catch this, and that is on the iPhone in Safari, when going back from one page to the previous one with the Back button. When VoiceOver is running, I haven’t found a single page where this simple action did not trigger a freeze in Safari and VoiceOver. This was in early betas of iOS 8, and it is still not fixed in the 8.1.3 release several months later.

The Verge: AOL Is Shutting Down TUAW 

Micah Singleton, reporting for The Verge:

There goes another one. AOL is shutting down The Unofficial Apple Weblog, better known as TUAW, sources familiar with the situation tell The Verge. The company — which is also shutting down its gaming site Joystiq — is in the midst of a major reorganization, and is cutting back on media properties it deems as underperforming. TUAW’s run comes to an end on February 2nd.

Things I learned today: AOL still exists.

File Under ‘Apple, the Camera Company’ 

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

Tangerine, a breakout hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is full of surprises. There’s the subject matter: transgender prostitutes working in a not-so glamorous part of Hollywood. And there are the characters: flinty, funny, nobody’s victim. But the story behind the camera is as surprising as what’s in front of it. Particularly because the camera used to shoot Tangerine was the iPhone 5S.

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel of Claim Chowder 

This year-ago piece by Galen Gruman for InfoWorld hasn’t aged well (headline: “No, a Phablet Version Will Not Save the iPhone”):

Everyone is telling Apple it needs a big-screen iPhone to rekindle sales — but a look at the data shows that won’t work. […]

If you want to grow smartphone sales dramatically, you need to have much cheaper models that appeal to the billions of people in poor countries who can’t afford high-end devices. That’s where the growth is — but not the profits, which is a whole other story.

iPhone sales were up 46 percent last quarter, year-over-year, and the average selling price went up, not down.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

The next few weeks on the DF RSS feed sponsorship schedule are open. If you have a product or service that you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball readers, get in touch.

And if you’re on the fence, may I humbly direct your attention to this piece by recent two-time sponsor John Saddington: “Does Sponsoring Daring Fireball Actually Work?

50 Years of James Bond in Black Tie 

Matt Spaiser, writing for his excellent site, The Suits of James Bond:

I’ve created an infographic that breaks down James Bond’s 28 black tie outfits by every part of the outfit. All illustrations are based on examples from the James Bond films.

As he quotes Vesper Lynd, “There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter.”

The Matte Paintings of the Original Star Wars Trilogy and Their Creators 

It feels weird linking to a Jesus Diaz post with nothing but joy in my heart.

Comcast Apologizes for Changing Name of Customer to ‘Asshole’ 

The Daily What:

A man in Spokane, Washington was surprised to find out that Comcast had changed his name from Ricardo Brown to “Asshole” Brown on his most recent bill.

He and his wife Lisa had been trying to cancel their cable subscription with the company, which should have been a very simple process.

‘Now We’re Cooking With Gas. Stupid, Stinky Gas.’ 

The Macalope, on how Apple’s purchase of Authentec for $350 million back in 2012 turned into this Gizmodo headline: “Your Nexus 6’s Lack of Fingerprint Sensor Is Apple’s Fault”.

No, the Prediction Was Crazy 

Devindra Hardawar, writing for VentureBeat back in April 2011:

Imagine a world where Windows Phone is more popular than Apple’s iPhone.

That may just sound like Steve Ballmer’s fantasy, but a recent Gartner report claims that it may very well happen by 2015, thanks to a boost from Nokia as Microsoft’s mobile partner.

The prediction is far from crazy: I’ve argued in the past that Microsoft will doggedly fight to reclaim its mobile relevance, and it could very well achieve that with Nokia being the premiere Windows Phone 7 device maker.

China Clamps Down Still Harder on Internet Access 

Andrew Jacobs, reporting from Beijing for the NYT:

Jing Yuechen, the founder of an Internet start-up here in the Chinese capital, has no interest in overthrowing the Communist Party. But these days she finds herself cursing the nation’s smothering cyberpolice as she tries — and fails — to browse photo-sharing websites like Flickr and struggles to stay in touch with the Facebook friends she has made during trips to France, India and Singapore.

Gmail has become almost impossible to use here, and in recent weeks the authorities have gummed up Astrill, the software Ms. Jing and countless others depended on to circumvent the Internet restrictions that Western security analysts refer to as the Great Firewall.

I can’t help but wonder if this clampdown is related to the DNS shenanigans that Craig Hockenberry has been documenting.

‘Finally’ of the Day 

CMS systems should raise a flag every time an editor or writer tries to use finally in a headline.

In this particular case — “Apple Might Finally Be Beating Samsung in Smartphone Sales”, from Time — the finally seems out of place because I’m not sure anyone expected this to happen until recently. Apple bears saw (and continue to see) Apple as doomed; Apple bulls generally understand that Apple doesn’t pursue market share in and of itself. iPhone sales last quarter were surprisingly good, and Samsung’s decline in unit sales has been surprisingly bad.

iTunes Connect Bug Logs Developers in to Other Developers’ Accounts at Random 

Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

This morning, a number of developers signed in to Apple’s iTunes Connect service only to be greeted by a list of apps that didn’t belong to them. TechCrunch has a good roundup of tweets from affected developers — it seems that whenever developers signed in with their credentials, they were being granted access to other developers’ accounts at random.

As of about noon Eastern today, Apple took the service down to resolve the problem.

Looks like iTunes Connect is back up now. If you’re a developer, I suggest logging in and making sure nobody monkeyed around with your apps while this was going on.

‘Apple May Not Have a Choice but to Release a Watch’ 

Matt Asay, writing for ReadWrite back in February 2013:

Apple is reportedly developing a smart watch made from curved glass. Does it really have a choice? With iPhone sales stalling, the Cupertino innovator is in desperate need of another hit product, and not just any product: Apple needs something that consumers will refresh every 12 to 18 months.

In desperate need. Desperate. I’m surprised they made it this long.

‘Grass Mud Horse’ 

Craig Hockenberry, following up on a mysterious and overwhelming DDoS attack on Iconfactory’s web server originating in China:

In my first post about the attack from the Great Firewall of China, I stuck to the facts. There was a simple reason for this: you don’t want conjecture when your site is down. You want to understand the problem and see suggestions on how to fix it.

This post will be different: these are my opinions and they are pointed. I’ll first note some of the reactions I received, then examine some of the technical subtleties, and conclude with speculation on the motives behind the attack.

By time you finish, you’ll also understand the odd title for this post.

Bad Assumptions 

Great post by Ben Thompson on how Apple remains profoundly misunderstood by many:

And yet, the perception that Apple is somehow hanging on by the skin of their teeth persists. I was speaking to someone about Apple’s particularly excellent China results this afternoon, and was struck at how their questions were so focused on threats to Apple — “How will Apple respond to Xiaomi” for example. This is in stark contrast to the way most think about a company like Google, where their dominance in whatever field they choose to enter is assumed, just as Microsoft’s was a decade ago. Apple, though, is always a step away from catastrophe.

It’s difficult to overstate just how absurd this is, but here’s my best attempt: last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% — a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter. And yet it’s Google that is feared, and Apple that is feared for.

His list of three wrong assumptions about Apple is so spot-on. Worth bookmarking. I’d venture to say that just about all wrong-headed analysis of Apple’s future prospects comes down to one or more of those assumptions. The only one I’d add to the list: Apple can’t innovate without Steve Jobs.

Apple and China 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

The company on Tuesday reported $16.1 billion in revenue from “greater China” — which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan — in its first fiscal quarter, up 70 percent from the same period a year ago. Canalys, a research firm, estimates that Apple is now the No. 1 smartphone maker in China.

The conventional wisdom just two years ago was that Apple needed to create a low-priced iPhone — not just lower-priced but low-priced — to compete in “emerging markets” like China. That would be true if Apple were interested primarily in market share. But they’re not, never have been, and never will be interested primarily in unit sale market share. Far from hurting them, Apple’s commitment to the premium end of the phone market is helping them separate from the pack in China.

An aside, on Chen’s lead:

Apple is famous for setting trends.

In China, though, Apple has found success by following one.

For years, Apple rivals like Samsung offered large-screen smartphones. Although the bigger phones sold well in China, Apple held off on releasing a similar model, and the country remained a weak spot. But Apple introduced its own versions last September, and now the sales spigot is wide open.

There’s no question that Apple was a latecomer to the bigger-display phone game, and I think few would dispute that the iPhone 6 and especially 6 Plus display sizes played a primary role in this quarter’s breakout success in Asia. The Asian market prefers bigger phones. (From Tim Cook’s remarks on the analyst conference call: “There is clearly a geographic preference difference, where some geos would skew much higher on their preference to iPhone 6 Plus than other geos. So it’s something that’s not consistent around the world.”)

But China was far from a “weak spot” for Apple prior to the iPhones 6. In the year-ago quarter Apple had $8.8 billion in revenue in China, up from $6.8 billion the year before that.

The Most Profitable Quarter of Any Company Ever 

Greg Kumparak, writing for TechCrunch:

This page charts the past record holders. Until today, Russia’s Gazprom (the largest natural gas extractor in the world) held the record at $16.2 billion in a quarter.

Apple now holds the record: $18.04 billion in profit, fiscal Q1 of 2015.

Absolutely. Insane.

For reference, that means Apple makes around $8.3 million dollars per hour in profit (24 hours a day).

Of the current Top 20 record holding earners, 15 are Oil/Gas producers — primarily ExxonMobil and Shell. The other five are all Apple, over various quarters.

Who knows how long Apple’s ride at the top will last, but this is a moment worth savoring. A toast to the value of good design.

Yes, That Was Quite an ‘I Told You So’ Moment 

One more serving of AAPL stock price claim chowder. From a March 2013 piece for MarketWatch by Quentin Fottrell:

In 2010, when Apple stock was trading at $199, Edward Zabitsky, CEO of ACI Research in Toronto, was the only analyst on Wall Street to rate the stock a “sell.” Over the next two years, shares went on a tear, peaking at just over $705 and making Apple the world’s largest company as measured by stock-market value. Today, shares have fallen by more than a third from that high. Through it all, Zabitsky has stuck to his bearish call; and while he has since been joined by a couple other pros who have sell ratings on the stock, including Adnaan Ahmad at Berenberg Bank and Per Lindberg at ABG Sundal Collier, Zabitsky retains the distinction, and in some circles the notoriety, of having gotten there first.

We spoke to Zabitsky about his wins, mistakes and what he thinks Apple AAPL should do next.

You have a $270 price target. Is that still too pessimistic?

Zabitsky: It’s formally a one-year target, but in 3 to 6 months we’re going to see that play out. The reason I started to make noise was the rise of Samsung. If you say that now, it’s not challenged.

In 2013 pre-stock-split numbers, Apple’s stock is today trading at over $800.

Sometimes the Herd Is Correct 

James Stewart, writing for the NYT in Feb 2013, presuming that Apple’s late 2012 stock drop was inevitable and correct:

By November, with Apple stock in the midst of a precipitous decline, they were still bullish. Fifty of 57 analysts rated it a buy or strong buy; only two rated it a sell. Apple shares continued their plunge, and this week were trading at just over $450, down 36 percent from their peak.

How could professional analysts have gotten it so wrong?

As I type this, AAPL shares are trading at $115 after hours. Adjusted for last year’s 7-for-1 stock split, that’s $805/share. So those 2012 bulls look pretty smart.

It may be no coincidence that the only analyst who even came close to calling the peak in Apple’s stock runs his own firm and is compensated based on the accuracy of his calls. Carlo R. Besenius, founder and chief executive of Creative Global Investments, downgraded Apple to sell last Oct. 3, with shares trading at $685. In December, he lowered his price target to $420, and this week he told me he may drop it even further, to $320. […]

Mr. Besenius based his recommendation on technical factors — as Apple hit $700, its upward momentum and trading volume were slowing — as well as more fundamental concerns about product quality and innovation, as well as growing competition from rivals like Samsung. And there were more subjective factors. Mr. Besenius said he became uncomfortable with what he deemed Apple’s arrogance. “I loved Steve Jobs,” he said. “He built a great company. But he was one of the most arrogant C.E.O.’s I’ve ever met. The way he introduced new products was one big display of arrogance. He ridiculed Microsoft as ‘Micro who?’ That’s a good reason to be cautious. A little humility is a good thing.”

Brilliant analysis there. Steve Jobs was too arrogant in product introductions so the stock deserved to fall.

‘I Give Apple a Year Until They Cave’ 

Christopher Dawson, writing for ZDNet back in 2011, on the lack of Flash Player support in iOS:

Again, as Adobe representatives put it,

Video in particular is driving demand for the plugin, as people browsing the Web on their mobile phones “want to have access to the sort of content they’re used to being able to access,” says Adobe’s Anup Murarka, Director of Product Marketing

So when will Apple finally jump on the train? If Flash isn’t a universal standard, it’s about as close as you can get for web multimedia. […]

I give Apple a year until they cave. Android tablets will just be too cool and too useful for both entertainment and enterprise applications if they don’t.

YouTube announcing today that they’re now defaulting to HTML5 video feels like a good time to cash this one in.

YouTube Now Defaults to HTML5 Video 

Richard Leider, YouTube engineering manager:

Four years ago, we wrote about YouTube’s early support for the HTML5 <video> tag and how it performed compared to Flash. At the time, there were limitations that held it back from becoming our preferred platform for video delivery. Most critically, HTML5 lacked support for Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) that lets us show you more videos with less buffering.

Over the last four years, we’ve worked with browser vendors and the broader community to close those gaps, and now, YouTube uses HTML5 <video> by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and in beta versions of Firefox.

Progress.

2013 iPhone Claim Chowder 

Remember back in 2013, when the conventional wisdom held that Apple needed to compete with Samsung on price, and then when the iPhone 5C was announced at $549 (off-contract) experts called it a mistake? Good times:

‘The bottom line for apple is that until they price match to compete with Samsung they are going to continue to fall in popularity,’ said George Charles from Vouchercodespro.

‘Consumers vote with their feet and you can have an all-singing-all-dancing, cook you dinner and say sweet things as you fall asleep phone, but punters will always, always go for the cheapest option.’

Apple today announced record-breaking unit sales and a higher average selling price for iPhones in the just-complete first fiscal quarter of 2015.

Six Colors on Apple’s Quarterly Results 

In a blowout quarter like this one, just about all the numbers look good. The one I’ll call your attention to is average selling price for iPhone, which is up significantly, despite the overall market trend being down, because the price to make a “good enough” smartphone for the low end of the market keeps dropping.

I see two clear reasons for iPhone ASP going up:

  1. The iPhone 6 Plus, which is in heavy demand and has a $100 higher price than the regular iPhone 6 and all previous new iPhones.

  2. The 16/64/128 GB storage tiering, which might be pushing people who would have bought a 32 GB iPhone 6 if it existed to spend the extra $100 for the mid-tier 64 GB model.

I still think selling 16 GB iPhones today is a mistake in the long-term, and from a branding perspective, but Apple might be laughing all the way to the bank on this.

See Also: Six Colors’s transcript of Tim Cook’s prepared remarks and Q&A session on the analyst conference call. He says they’re on pace to begin shipping Apple Watch in April.

Apple Reports Record First Quarter Results 

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 first quarter ended December 27, 2014. The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion and record quarterly net profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $57.6 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion, or $2.07 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Not bad.

The Talk Show: ‘Malaprops’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Ben Thompson. Topics include Apple’s pseudo “sabbaticals” (employees who leave the company but then return after a year or two); Google’s cultural similarities to Microsoft; the ways that Apple (and iOS users) might miss Scott Forstall; accessibility as a high priority for Apple; Instagram’s success (and how they effectively ate Hipstamatic’s lunch); a debate on just how “simple” Twitter is; Box’s successful IPO, and Dropbox’s support for Yosemite’s official Finder integration for such services; MIT economist Jonathan Gruber pissing in my Google juice; Chromebooks; Amazon’s overall strategy, and the colossal failure of their Fire Phone; and, lastly, a good chunk on Microsoft’s Windows 10/HoloLens event last week.

Brought to you by three excellent sponsors:

  • Fracture: Your pictures, printed directly on glass. Use code “daringfireball” and save $5.
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Update: Overcast users may need to unsubscribe/resubscribe to the show if this episode isn’t appearing for you.

Microsoft, Apple, and Disappointment 

Gus Mueller:

Apple is your favorite aunt or uncle, who isn’t talking about crazy future ideas, but is instead showing you how to hold a pencil correctly, or a tie your shoe. Something you can do today. Apple isn’t flailing about trying to grab onto whatever it can so, yelling out for attention. Apple is solid, reliable, dependable.

And I think that is why we’re seeing so many people reacting to Apple’s software quality lately. You expect Microsoft not to deliver. But we expect Apple to. And lately, it really hasn’t felt like they’ve been doing it.

Good analogy.

I’d even throw half an Apple Watch in the list, because did you really need to announce it so far ahead of launch? Was it just to spite competitors? Or was it market pressure?

I think they announced Apple Watch 6-7 months ahead of it going on sale for one reason: so they could unveil it to the public on their own terms, rather than have it leak from the supply chain. (Back in 2007, Steve Jobs stated at Macworld that they were announcing the iPhone six months ahead of it going on sale so that it would not leak through FCC regulatory filings.)

Stanford’s ‘Developing iOS 8 Apps With Swift’ Class Now Available Through iTunes U 

Pretty cool that something like this is available free of charge.

The Shape of the App Store 

Charles Perry, analyzing App Store revenue numbers:

To provide some context to the results, you may be familiar with the Pareto distribution. It’s the origin of the classic “80-20 rule” that’s used to explain so many phenomena that obey a power law. “Twenty percent of the people in an organization do eighty percent of the work.” “Twenty percent of the population control eighty percent of the wealth.” You hear these types of statistics a lot, but they’re usually not very accurate. Often, they are useful as a first estimate at best. So I didn’t actually expect App Store revenue to obey the 80-20 rule. In fact, I expected it to be a much sharper curve, representing even greater disparity in the distribution of revenue than the 80-20 rule would suggest — maybe a 90-10 split, or even a 95-5 split. As it turns out, the revenue distribution curve of the App Store is even sharper than I imagined.

(Via Michael Tsai.)

Building Classic Mac OS Apps From Yosemite 

Steven Troughton-Smith:

With the same source file, and only a handful of #ifdefs, I could build the same app for 1984’s System 1.0 all the way up to the current release of OS X, Yosemite.

Amazing story. Brought back warm memories of MPW.

iPhone Closing in on Samsung Smartphone Unit Sales 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Samsung overtook Apple as the biggest smartphone maker in the third quarter of 2011, according to research firm Canalys. Since then, Samsung has maintained its lead — in shipments if not profits — by offering a wide range of phones.

There’s no if about it — Apple leads the industry in profits by a long shot. Apple has captured a majority share of the industry’s profits since 2011.

But Samsung’s share has been falling, hurt by lackluster sales of its flagship models and the rise of homegrown brands in fast-growing emerging markets. In the third quarter, Samsung shipped about 78 million smartphones, about 25% share of the global market, down from 34% a year earlier, Canalys said.

Enter Apple’s new bigger-screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which went on sale in September. Analysts polled by Fortune forecast that Apple sold 66.5 million iPhones in the quarter ended Dec. 27, up 30% from a year earlier. Some analysts expect iPhone sales to eclipse 70 million units in the quarter.

“It’s going to be closer than it’s ever been since Samsung took the lead,” said Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys.

The story line” continues to change. The key point to take away here is that raw unit sale market share is often, maybe even usually, undeserving of the obsessive focus it gets from investors and business reporters.

Procreate Pocket 

My thanks to Procreate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Procreate Pocket, their beautiful, amazing new illustration app for iPhone. It’s from the same team behind the Apple Design Award-winning Procreate for iPad.

I’ve been railing against arguments that iPhones are only for content consumption, not creation for years. Procreate Pocket takes creativity on the iPhone to a new level. It is simply remarkable. The UI is brilliantly simple, but offers a rich set of features. AirDrop and iCloud Drive support make it a pleasure to continue your artwork on your iPad. Procreate Pocket is an amazing app at an amazing price: right now just $2.99. Check out their website for more information and a gorgeous video of Procreate in action.

Fast Company: ‘The Real Story Behind Jeff Bezos’s Fire Phone Debacle and What It Means for Amazon’s Future’ 

It’s a couple of weeks old, but I just now got around to finishing Austin Carr’s detailed and incredibly well-sourced story on the making of Amazon’s Fire Phone. Scathing take on Bezos’s involvement:

And team members simply could not imagine truly useful applications for Dynamic Perspective. As far as anyone could tell, Bezos was in search of the Fire Phone’s version of Siri, a signature feature that could make the device a blockbuster. But what was the point, they wondered, beyond some fun gaming interactions and flashy 3-D lock screens. “In meetings, all Jeff talked about was, ‘3-D, 3-D, 3-D!’ He had this childlike excitement about the feature and no one could understand why,” recalls a former engineering head who worked solely on Dynamic Perspective for years. “We poured surreal amounts of money into it, yet we all thought it had no value for the customer, which was the biggest irony. Whenever anyone asked why we were doing this, the answer was, ‘Because Jeff wants it.’ No one thought the feature justified the cost to the project. No one. Absolutely no one.” […]

According to three sources familiar with the company’s numbers, the Fire Phone sold just tens of thousands of units in the weeks that preceded the company’s radical price cuts. The $170 million write-down confirmed that the launch has been a dud.

I disagree with Carr’s assessment that Fire Phone was doomed from the outset because it didn’t fit within Amazon’s brand. Carr writes:

What makes the Fire Phone a particularly troubling adventure, however, is that Amazon’s CEO seemingly lost track of the essential driver of his company’s brand. It’s understandable that Bezos would want to give Amazon a premium shine, but to focus on a high-end product, instead of the kind of service that has always distinguished the company, proved misguided. “We can’t compete head to head with Apple,” says a high-level source at Lab126. “There is a branding issue: Apple is premium, while our customers want a great product at a great price.”

Brands are the result of products and services, not the other way around. The problem with the Fire Phone is that it’s a shitty phone. That’s it. If Amazon had made a phone with compelling features — an iPhone-caliber phone — it would have done just fine, and Amazon’s brand would have grown. If you set out to make a premium quality phone, you have to deliver a premium quality phone.

Can You Hear Above 16-bit/44.1kHz? 

Dave Hamilton, writing at The Mac Observer:

This difference between 16-bit/44.1kHz audio and anything greater than that has been tested (a lotin double-blind tests) and we have yet to find any human that can reliably notice that difference. Bit depths greater than 16 bits and sample rates above 44.1kHz simply don’t matter as long as the data is converted properly (and our ability to do that conversion has improved substantially since those very first CDs were released at the dawn of the digital music era).

Sounds like snake oil.

On Apple’s Integration of TestFlight 

Supertop (developers of Castro and Unread):

In March last year, after a particularly frustrating few hours dealing with iOS beta device slots, I filed this bug report with Apple. I didn’t realize it at the time, but a solution to this problem was already in motion. In February, Apple had acquired a company called TestFlight. Over the next few months it integrated many of the original TestFlight features into iTunes Connect.

Shortly after iOS 8 was released, Apple opened this new beta testing service to iOS developers. When compared to the previous testing process, it is a major improvement and I am grateful to the team behind it. It is a sign that Apple cares about third party developers and about helping us improve the quality of the software we provide.

(Via Federico Viticci at MacStories.)

Former Microsoft Executive on HoloLens 

James Brightman interviewed former Microsoft executive Peter Molyneux — who worked on the Kinect — on HoloLens:

Molyneux commented, “The bizarre thing is a huge amount of effort and time and money goes into researching the tech, like the Kinect tech and scanning the bodies, and there’s always this one line that hardware manufacturers — whether it be Microsoft or anyone else — say and that’s ‘we can’t wait to see what happens when it gets into the hands of developers.’ Now if Apple had said that when they introduced the iPhone, I don’t think we’d ever end up with the iPhone! What really should happen is that they put a similar amount of money into researching just awesome real world applications that you’ll really use and that work robustly and smoothly and delightfully.

“They should spend as much money doing that rather than just on hardware tech and saying, ‘Okay developers, we’ll leave it to you.’ If you look at the cases where technology has worked well — touch is one of those, and Wii Sports and motion control; Nintendo didn’t introduce motion control until they had Wii Sports. You weren’t just playing a few demos. I just hope that for the Holo stuff that they really choose an application and make that sing.”

Bigger Than Hollywood 

Horace Dediu, on Apple’s having paid $10 billion to App Store developers in 2014:

Put another way, in 2014 iOS app developers earned more than Hollywood did from box office in the US.

Although the totals for Domestic (US) Box Office are not the complete Hollywood revenues picture, Apple’s App Store billings is not the complete App revenue picture either. The Apps economy includes Android and ads and service businesses and custom development. Including all revenues, apps are still likely to be bigger than Hollywood.

Amazing Home-Brew Pac-Man for Atari 2600 

The official 2600 version of Pac-Man was one of the most spectacular failures in video game history: incredibly anticipated, utterly disappointing. The maze was all wrong, the colors were all wrong, Pac-Man didn’t even turn his head up or down — and the sound, good lord the sound was like something you’d play to torture someone. The Ms. Pac-Man sequel largely righted all of these wrongs, and was a pretty good game.

But here, this guy has created an almost impossibly good Atari 2600 version of real Pac-Man. If Atari had shipped this in 1982 instead of the turd they actually released, it would have been a sensation, and I might never have left the house. It’s painstakingly faithful to the coin-op in appearance, gameplay, and most amazingly, sound.

(Via Dave Dribin.)

Yamaha Introduces New Mixer Aimed at Podcasters and Gamers 

Jim Dalrymple:

Usually when I write about Yamaha at NAMM, I’ll talk about new guitars or keyboards, but today the company introduced a new mixer it said was designed specifically for webcasting, podcasting, gaming and music production.

It’s a sign of just how popular podcasting and video game recording have gotten that a company like Yamaha would start building hardware for them.

MacBooks Used by the Press at Microsoft’s Windows 10 Event 

How times change. When I first started attending Apple keynote events, around 2006 or so, it struck me that a majority of the media were pecking away on Windows laptops. Now, a majority of the press at Microsoft events are using MacBooks.

(Those seats sure look comfortable. The seats in Apple’s tiny Town Hall are more cramped than coach on an airplane.)

Obsidian 

New from Hoefler and Co.: a decorative typeface with algorithmically defined 3D effects. Gorgeous.

See also: Margaret Rhodes’s story for Wired: “An Ingenious New Typeface Inspired by Old Maps, But Made With Algorithms”.

Microsoft Is Pulling an iMessage With Skype in Windows 10 Messaging App 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

The new Messaging app works by integrating Skype, allowing you to chat to Skype contacts or initiate video / audio calls. All the conversations are synced between PCs, tablets, and phones, and the new app looks like a lightweight version of Skype. It’s also identical to the Messages app on OS X, with the same two-panel interface and circular UI for contact photos. Microsoft has started linking Skype usernames with mobile numbers to make it easier to find friends who are using the service without having to know their user ID. That makes this whole approach a lot more like iMessage, allowing Skype users to chat to friends easily on the service. The main difference is that Skype is cross-platform so you can chat to friends on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and more, while iMessage is limited to Apple’s platforms.

I know that iMessage syncing is one of those “functional high ground” issues some people are still seeing, but for me, it’s been working great. Seamless hand-off and continuation of conversations across devices. Seems like a no-brainer for Microsoft to go this route with Skype and Windows 10.

Not sure how Google can follow it, with Android being so beholden to the whims of carriers in the mass market.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen Advocates for ‘App Neutrality’ 

BlackBerry CEO John Chen:

Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple’s iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level.

Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system.

So Apple should be forced to build a version of iMessage for BlackBerry (and, presumably, Android and Windows Phone), and Netflix should be forced to stream movies to BlackBerrys. Good luck with that.

The Web Back-End That Handled Kim Kardashian’s Back-End 

Remember that thing with the nude photos of Kim Kardashian in Paper magazine a few weeks ago? Ends up long-time friend of the Internet Greg Knauss is the guy who engineered their server setup to handle the influx of tens of millions of page views. Paul Ford:

Hosting that butt is an impressive feat. You can’t just put Kim Kardashian nudes on the Internet and walk away — that would be like putting up a tent in the middle of a hurricane. Your web server would melt. You need to plan.

The Return of the Remaindered Links (Sort Of) 

Jason Kottke:

Sites like Reddit, Digg, and Hacker News and services like Facebook and Twitter are so much faster than this one man band… trying to keep pace is like racing an F1 car on roller skates.

Michael Tsai’s Roundup of Commentary on Apple’s Software Quality 

This month’s debate, collected in one place. I thought I’d read it all, but there were a few interesting pieces Tsai links to here that I hadn’t seen.

Rewatching How Microsoft Sold Us on the Kinect 

Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon:

We’re not saying the HoloLens is just smoke and mirrors, it’s just worth taking a step back and realizing that what they’re showing right now is a huge leap from any technology that has existed before. How the hardware will eventually work in our homes, and at what price, are still open questions. Also, heck, it could be smoke and mirrors.

The Difference Between Microsoft and Apple 

Dan Frommer:

There, executives showed off what seems like Microsoft’s big bet — or at least one of its many bets — on the future of computing: HoloLens, a virtual reality headset that responds to hand gestures and voice controls. It looks technically impressive, and Microsoft’s demo went about as smoothly as something like this could have. This could become a big deal someday.

But it’s hard to get over how strange someone looks using it. And it’s hard to imagine Apple doing something like this any time soon, whether or not it’s the future of computing.

Microsoft hasn’t given up on phones and tablets, not by a long shot — a big chunk of today’s event was about all the new Windows 10 features for phones and tablets. But HoloLens (and Surface Hub — a huge 84-inch 4K touchscreen) are the right idea: trying to find the next big thing.

From the DF Archive: The Type of Companies That Publish Future Concept Videos 

HoloLens is a big step in the right direction for Microsoft: an attempt to wow us with an actual product, not a concept design. I suspect it’s Microsoft’s cultural affinity for pie-in-the-sky concept videos that led them to oversell HoloLens’s graphical fidelity in their product intro video.

Microsoft HoloLens 

Impressive announcement from Microsoft today — a set of goggles that projects 3D rendered images into your field of vision. No pricing or shipping date announced, but CEO Satya Nadella claimed it would ship “in the Windows 10 timeframe”, whatever that means.

A few thoughts:

  • HoloLens is like the anti-Glass. Google proposed Glass as something you’d wear everywhere, making you look weird and creepy. HoloLens is clearly something you’ll only wear in private, while working or playing. And, by virtue of being so much bigger and more obtrusive, HoloLens is far more powerful and capable.

  • Microsoft’s two-minute product intro video is a cheat. Compare the fidelity and precision of the projected elements in the product video with the video of the actual on stage demo. Let me be clear: the actual demo is very cool, and I would love to try this out. But it’s nowhere near as cool as the downright Minority Report-quality effects they show in the product video. Under-promise and over-deliver is the way to introduce new technology.

Today’s Announcements From Microsoft: HoloLens, Surface Hub, a Smarter Cortana, Universal Apps 

Lori Grunin, writing for CNet:

Microsoft is now viewing Windows as a service, one that it wants “people to love on a daily basis,” and frames its goal as not building apps but creating “harmonizing experiences.” Touting its new open development strategy, the company’s representatives spent some time thanking the 1.7 million members of its Windows Insiders program for their feedback.

We were expecting — nay, hoping! — good news about price. And Windows 10 will be free, for some. During the first year after Windows 10 ships, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 users get a free upgrade, as will Windows Phone 8.1 users. Microsoft also claims that it won’t cut off Windows 10 support — support will last for the life of the device.

There was all sorts of pie-in-sky banana pants stuff at the end of the event, but making Windows 10 free of charge is a big deal. Post-Ballmer Microsoft is indeed a new Microsoft.

The End of Trickle-Down Technology 

Ben Thompson on how the phone market has upended conventional wisdom about how technology expands in the market:

If indeed Apple has broken through with conservatives, this has powerful implications for all kinds of companies: smartphones are the tip of the spear when it comes to the spread of technology into every part of society, and what Apple may be demonstrating is that there is real money to be made amongst late adopters if the user experience is demonstrably superior. To be sure, Apple’s powerful brand and reputation is hard to replicate, but the iPhone’s continued success offers hope that customers will pay for true differentiation, not trickle-down technology.

The Onion: ‘Unsold Google Glass Units to Be Donated to Assholes in Africa’ 

The Onion:

“We are committed to positively impacting the lives of poverty-stricken smug pricks by distributing the surplus inventory of Google Glass to self-important fucks throughout sub-Saharan Africa,” a statement released by the company read in part, adding that the program will provide the optical head-mounted technology, as well as professional training sessions, to destitute communities of conceited dicks from Sierra Leone, to Somalia, to Botswana.

Due 2.0 

Four years ago I wrote a short entry about a then-new iPhone reminder app called Due. I’ve been using it ever since — I don’t think a day’s gone by since then that Due hasn’t been on my first home screen. The all-new 2.0 update is an improvement in every way, both functionally, cosmetically, and audibly (it has a bunch of new alert sounds to choose from). Interesting pricing scheme too: Due costs $5 for new users. Existing users get the new version for free, but have to pay $3 to unlock all the new features. A bargain for something so thoughtful and well-made.

See also:

Audio Hijack 3 

Gorgeous new interface in this major update to Rogue Amoeba’s venerable audio recording app. This is one of the best takes on Yosemite-style design I’ve seen.

See also: Jason Snell’s take on the app and interview with Paul Kafasis.

Apple, the Camera Company 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

For a show overrun with various visions of smart drones and smarter homes for the future, the present of CES was remarkably uniform. I saw more iPhones in the hands of CES attendees than I did Android phones across the countless exhibitor booths. From the biggest keynote event to the smallest stall on the show floor, everything was being documented with Apple’s latest smartphone, and it all looked so irritatingly easy. I don’t want an iPhone, but dammit, I want the effortlessness of the iPhone’s camera.

I’ve been spending time with a new Moto X this month, and the camera is definitely one of the sore points. It’s not about image quality, but the overall camera experience. Jumping over to the Android side of the fence shows you just how far ahead Apple is in this regard.

‘In Hindsight, I Think Everything I’ve Made Stinks’ 

Terrific interview with Loren Brichter at Objc.io:

So for a goal, I’ll just say “build tools to make us more enlightened.” I mean “enlightened” in a Carl Sagan sense, where we are the universe trying to understand itself. And we’ve long hit the limit of what we can think with our naked brain, so we need to augment it in some way with mind tools. But the tools right now are so complicated that it takes all your mental energy just to try and “hold” them, so you have nothing left to actually do something interesting. Or at least they’re too complicated for me. I’m not that smart.

Personally, I’m tired of the trivial app stuff, and the App Store isn’t conducive to anything more interesting. I think the next big thing in software will happen outside of it.

Jason Snell on CarPlay 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

So is CarPlay worth it? Right now, I’d have to say no. I’m encouraged by the potential here, but it feels slow and seems buggy. Though I’ve got this Pioneer CarPlay unit right here, I’m not planning on installing it in my car… at least, not yet. An Apple-designed interface in my dashboard sounds like a great idea, but until there are more third-party apps — and until third-party apps actually work well — maybe it’s just as well that CarPlay devices are still few and far between.

If You See That ‘If You See a Stylus, They Blew It’ Quote, They Blew It 

The Macalope, on people making hay over Steve Jobs’s 2010 “If you see a stylus, they blew it” quote and rumors that Apple is going to unveil an optional iPad stylus:

In 2010 following the launch of the iPad, Steve Jobs famously said “if you see a stylus, they blew it.” His comment targeted earlier tablet products that relied on styluses for input as opposed to focusing on finger input.

True! And guess what? He was right. If you need a stylus for the general operation of a tablet, it’s junk. Is a stylus good to have in certain use cases? Oh, guess what again, that’s a different question.

Expect this to come up about a thousand times if Apple really does unveil a stylus.

Ming-Chi Kuo Predicts 12.9-Inch iPad to Ship With an Optional Stylus 

Eric Slivka, reporting for MacRumors:

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is back with another report outlining his belief that Apple will launch a stylus as an optional accessory for the company’s rumored 12.9-inch “iPad Pro”. With the new iPad’s larger screen, it will likely prove popular with enterprise and creative users who tend to have more need for a stylus and Kuo believes Apple will fill that need with an in-house solution. […]

Kuo believes the stylus will be an optional accessory rather than included standard with the new iPad, as the relatively expensive stylus would drive the base cost of the iPad too high.

Worth noting because Kuo has a remarkable track record — I don’t think anyone has better sources in the Asian supply chain.

The Verge Leaks Their Own Super Bowl Ad 

Estimated cost for a 30-second spot: $4 million.

The spot feels generic to me, like 30 seconds of stock video footage, and oddly, doesn’t even include The Verge’s logo. If you’re going to drop all that money on a Super Bowl ad, I say run an ad that people will remember.

Update: The NYT reports that it’s an attention ploy:

The Verge, a technology website owned by the online media company Vox, said on Tuesday that it would be airing a Super Bowl advertisement, before revealing that it would in fact be spending just $700 on a regional spot in Helena, Mont.

Great job getting everyone to watch a crummy milquetoast commercial.

Good Timing 

Andy Boxall:

Less than a month ago, I purchased Google Glass. What I didn’t realize was that as a “Glass Explorer,” my journey of discovery would be a relatively short one. Google has announced it’s to stop selling Glass to the general public — which presumably foreshadows an end in support — and will concentrate on a new, as yet unseen version of Glass.

Buying Google Glass a month ago should have triggered a trap door under Boxall’s chair.

Another One Bites the Dust: MacUser U.K. Closes 

Are there any mass-market Mac magazines still printing?

BiteMyApple.co 

My thanks to BiteMyApple for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. BiteMyApple is a retail website offering a wide range of accessories for the iPad, iPhone, and other Apple devices — every one of which is a successful Kickstarter project. It’s a fascinating premise for a store, and a great selection of elegant well-designed products.

Back to the Nimitz 

Speaking of the classic Mac era, Zac Bir has rediscovered the joy of the greatest keyboard ever made, the Apple Extended Keyboard II:

I quickly came to the realization that the Model M and the CODE were right out. The Model M because of its 101-key layout. I didn’t want to have to do too much training to figure out where and how I’d fit in an affordance for the Option key, and the CODE, while ostensibly supporting a Mac layout via DIP switches, felt a little bit like capitulating to a default-Windows-world. I quite like the WASD v2 with the available Mac layout (and I encourage you to play with their online keyboard designer. Colored keycaps! Fonts! Layouts!), but the price was a bit off-putting. I looked (very) briefly at the Unicomp, and quickly closed my browser tab. The aesthetics left more than a little to be desired. So I found myself back in the 90’s, looking for an Apple Extended Keyboard II. After reading an article about making your own USB adapter for the AEKII, the bug was planted, and the deal was sealed.

Building your own USB-ADB adapter isn’t necessary, of course — I’ve been using a Griffin iMate ever since Macs went to USB. What’s funny is that the translucent Bondi Blue iMate now looks more dated than the AEKII.

About Boxes From Vintage Mac Applications 

Nice collection from Riccardo Mori. One of the gems: a prerelease beta of ResEdit that solicits bug reports by postal mail.

Paul Thurrott Launches New Site 

Paul Thurrott:

Hi, I’m Paul Thurrott. You may remember me from such web sites as Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows and Windows IT Pro, and from podcasts like Windows Weekly and What the Tech. And with that Simpsons reference out of the way, I’d like to welcome you to my new web site, thurrott.com. If you enjoyed the goings-on at the SuperSite, you’re going to feel right at home here.

Here’s Thurrott saying goodbye to SuperSite for Windows, which he founded by himself 16 years ago:

Sixteen and a half years ago, I hopped on a plane in Phoenix and headed off to a Windows NT 5.0 Reviewer’s Workshop in Seattle. Little did I know that this event would forever change my life: It led to the creation of what I thought would be a one-off web site first called the Windows NT 5.0 SuperSite, which of course then grew into something much bigger. But today, I’m saying goodbye to the SuperSite and heading off on a new adventure.

Déjà Vu All Over Again 

Ars Technica back in 2004, looking like Ars Technica, “Apple to Slow Down the Pace on Mac OS X”:

Tevanian conceded that Apple’s current annual upgrade schedule “is not a sustainable rate. But you’ll still see us going really fast,” he said [and] rebutted comments that Apple had alienated some of its customers with the rapid pace of Mac OS X upgrades.

Overcast’s 2014 Sales Numbers 

Marco Arment:

Nobody ever wants to talk about money.

But current and prospective indie app developers could really use more information on the subject. […]

I’ve decided that the potential educational and market-research benefits to others of adding Overcast to the mix will be greater than the risk of people thinking I’m an asshole for doing so. I hope this is helpful to anyone researching the indie iOS market or thinking about entering it.

The best news is that slight uptick on his revenue curve at the end of the year. That’s a sign of sustainability.

Monument Valley in Numbers 

Fascinating look at the download and revenue numbers for Ustwogames’s fantastic game, Monument Valley. iOS positively dominates Android in terms of sales and revenue.

Touché, Xiaomi 

Ben Thompson noted Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun mocking the iPhone 6’s camera bump during his introduction of the bump-less Mi Note. Ouch. (The Mi Note is 6.95mm thick; the iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1mm thick.)

I’d wager a handsome sum the iPhone 6 Plus takes better photos than the Mi Note, but it’s rare for Apple to leave an opening like this for design mockery.

See Also: Thompson’s full live event coverage.

Amazon Debuts 13 New TV Show Pilots 

Speaking of Amazon Instant Video, Jacob Kastrenakes reports for The Verge:

Riding off of some huge news — its first Golden Globes win and a major commitment from Woody Allen — Amazon is debuting its next set of TV pilots for viewers to watch and vote on. As usual, there are a lot of options here and a lot of big names. The favorite so far appears to be an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate-history Nazi novel The Man in the High Castle, which has Ridley Scott producing. The Civil War drama Point of Honor is another interesting pilot, with Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse behind its script. The other immediate standout is The New Yorker Presents, which is a mixture of fiction, documentary, and poetry all mashed up that tries to replicate the experience of reading the magazine.

Amazon Instant Video and Apple TV 

Jenelle Riley, writing for Variety: “Golden Globes Winner Amazon Is Hollywood’s ‘New Best Friend’”:

With two major wins at the Golden Globes, Amazon Studios is now a contender in Hollywood. The digital network earned its bona fides as a competitive force in TV by landing trophies for best comedy for its critically praised “Transparent” and actor for series star Jeffrey Tambor.

Like its SVOD rival Netflix, Amazon has been surprisingly quick to field awards-bait fare. The ecommerce giant only ramped up its original programming activities in late 2013 with the launch of comedies “Alpha House” and “Betas.”

“Transparent,” which bowed as a series in September after its pilot debuted in February, has been the most talked-about and critically praised entry from Amazon so far. Tambor’s no-holds-barred portrayal of a transgender person ensured the show would get attention at a time when transgender issues are gaining prominence in mainstream media.

With their just-announced untitled project by Woody Allen, Amazon is set to have an even better line-up of shows. Which makes me think about how Amazon Instant Video is conspicuously missing from the “channels” on Apple TV. I realize Amazon is one of Apple’s corporate rivals, but so too is Google, and YouTube is on Apple TV. You can watch Amazon Instant Video on Apple TV over AirPlay, but that’s a second-rate experience.

I had no idea. I had been under the impression for years that “Google Now” was the catch-all name for all of Android’s “talk to your phone” stuff, much like how “Siri” encompasses things like dictation.

Google Glass ‘Graduates’ From Google Labs 

Google Glass:

As we look to the road ahead, we realize that we’ve outgrown the lab and so we’re officially “graduating” from Google[x] to be our own team here at Google. We’re thrilled to be moving even more from concept to reality.

As part of this transition, we’re closing the Explorer Program so we can focus on what’s coming next. January 19 will be the last day to get the Glass Explorer Edition. In the meantime, we’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)

What would they have had to do to flunk?

Mobile Platforms and Technical Debt 

Another solid piece by Benedict Evans (he’s been on fire recently):

But the underlying philosophies remain very different - for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched. Meanwhile, the next phases of smartphones (messaging apps as platforms and watches as a dominant interface?) will test all the assumptions again.

Resetting the Score 

Great piece by Benedict Evans, comparing the iPhone to the HMS Dreadnought, the first modern naval battleship:

The Dreadnought also created a problem. The Royal Navy had been funded since 1889 on the ‘Two Power’ rule — that it would not only be the strongest in the world but that it would also be stronger than the next two largest navies combined. Hence, the day before the Dreadnought was launched it had 32 battleships where Germany had 11 — a huge lead. The day after, it effectively only had one. It had to start again. The naval supremacy question was reset.

This is rather what the iPhone did, to both the mobile business and the entire consumer technology industry. All the existing parameters and entrenched advantages went away and the whole market was reset to zero.

The Siri Standard 

Daniel Jalkut:

A world in which every group at Apple somehow achieved the standard of apparent progress that Siri has achieved would be a very good world indeed.

Michael Tsai on Siri Reliability 

Michael Tsai:

Mostly what I have noticed is that Siri is a lot more reliable than it used to be. I had stopped using it because for years it would essentially throw away what I’d said. It was either unavailable (most of the time) or it didn’t understand me properly (less often). Now I regularly use it to make reminders while driving, and it pretty much always works.

Same for me with speech-to-text translation (which isn’t part of Siri per se, but which Siri depends upon for input). I mostly gave up on it a few years ago, because too many times, I’d dictate something, the purple spinner would spin for a few seconds, and then nothing. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me now, though — and I find myself dictating texts all the time while walking through the city.

On OS X 10.10 DNS Problems 

Iljitsch van Beijnum, writing for Ars Technica:

For 12 years, the mDNSResponder service managed a surprisingly large part of our Mac’s networking, and it managed this task well. But as of OS X 10.10, the mDNSResponder has been replaced with discoveryd, which does the same thing. Mostly. Here are some strange networking problems we’ve observed since installing 10.10:

He has a good rundown of the networking related problems people are seeing on Yosemite, and I think these bugs in the new discoveryd daemon are a common source of the recent “functional high ground” frustrations.

But his advice at the end of the article — step-by-step instructions for replacing discoveryd with the old mDNSResponder from OS X 10.9 — is insane. Or at least, you’d have to be insane to follow his instructions on a machine you want to do production work on, and which you want to work properly with future OS updates from Apple. (It’s interesting though, that he claims Handoff and AirDrop still work after making the switch.)

Swift’s Remarkable Rise in the RedMonk Programming Language Rankings 

Stephen O’Grady:

As was said during the Q3 rankings which marked its debut, “Swift is a language that is going to be a lot more popular, and very soon.” Even so, the growth that Swift experienced is essentially unprecedented in the history of these rankings. When we see dramatic growth from a language it typically has jumped somewhere between 5 and 10 spots, and the closer the language gets to the Top 20 or within it, the more difficult growth is to come by. And yet Swift has gone from our 68th ranked language during Q3 to number 22 this quarter, a jump of 46 spots. […] Given this dramatic ascension, it seems reasonable to expect that the Q3 rankings this year will see Swift as a Top 20 language.

Not sure if Swift could be gaining in popularity more quickly than this.

Advertise With Flag 

Remember Flag? It was a Kickstarter project I linked to a year ago, promising to deliver super-high-quality photo prints for free. How? By printing ads on the back of the prints. “Genius if they can pull it off”, I wrote.

Well, they’ve pulled it off, and are ready to start printing photos by the end of this month, and they’re now accepting bids for advertising at really attractive prices. If you have a cool product or service to advertise, you should check it out.

Google Plus Thread on My Siri Piece Yesterday 

Chris Lacy, who started the thread, has valid complaints about some of Apple’s worst bugs in recent months. But I don’t think any of them refute my observation that it feels no longer true that “Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services”. Google is getting better at design — Material Design is the best thing that’s ever happened on Android design-wise. But it’s not that great. And I truly believe there’s a strong case to be made that Apple is getting better at web services at a pace equivalent to Google’s improvements in design.

Most of the commenters, though, seem to jump to the conclusion that I’m positing that Apple has caught up to Google in web services. I try not to roll my eyes at accusations that I’m an “Apple apologist”, but I read this thread, and re-read what I wrote yesterday, and it’s hard not to.

(And just to toss this out there: I’d say iCloud Drive is another sign that Apple is getting better at web services. It works great for me, and I don’t see many complaints about it. (Here’s one, though.) Would you have believed it if you were told two or three years ago that Apple would roll out a Dropbox-like cross-platform feature in iCloud and that it would pretty much “just work” right from the get-go?)

‘The Whisky Cabinet’ 

I read and greatly enjoyed whisky connoisseur Mark Bylok’s new book, The Whisky Cabinet, over the holidays. Great photography, perfect typography, and it’s even printed on excellent paper. Most importantly, Bylok is a good writer who truly knows his shit about whiskies from around the world. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys whisk(e)y of any sort — especially if you’re looking to expand your palate to new varieties.

Steven Soderbergh on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Speaking of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Steven Soderbergh has released his own edit of the film (!):

maybe i was too scared to touch it until now, because not only does the film not need my — or anyone else’s — help, but if it’s not THE most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century, then it’s tied for first. meaning IF i was finally going to touch it, i’d better have a bigger idea than just trimming or re-scoring.

I’ve only watched the first few minutes so far — and as a fan of both 2001 and Soderbergh, it’s no surprise I like what I see. It feels like a recut just for people who are intimately familiar with the original through repeated viewings over the decades — more dream-like than logical. I’m saving the rest for tonight, in the dark, on my Pioneer plasma TV. Speaking of which, Soderbergh writes:

by the way, i’ve seen every conceivable kind of film print of 2001, from 16mm flat to 35mm internegative to a cherry camera negative 70mm in the screening room at warner bros, and i’m telling you, none of them look as good as a bluray played on an pioneer elite plasma kuro monitor. and while you’re cleaning up your spit take over that sentence, let me also say i believe SK would have embraced the current crop of digital cameras, because from a visual standpoint, he was obsessed with two things: absolute fidelity to reality-based light sources, and image stabilization.

I know what he means about looking “good” from Bluray on a good plasma TV, but there’s nothing like the experience of seeing it big — really fucking big, in a packed movie theater — from a 70mm print. It’s a different experience.

5,200 Days in Space 

Great piece by Charles Fishman for The Atlantic on the International Space Station:

It’s a little strange when you think about it: Just about every American ninth-grader has never lived a moment without astronauts soaring overhead, living in space. But chances are, most ninth-graders don’t know the name of a single active astronaut — many don’t even know that Americans are up there. We’ve got a permanent space colony, inaugurated a year before the setting of the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a stunning achievement, and it’s completely ignored.

(Via Michele Seiler at Coudal.)

Amazon Signs Woody Allen to Write and Direct Original TV Series 

Amazon PR:

Woody Allen added, “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price will regret this.”

More honest words have never appeared in a press release. What a great scoop for Amazon.

Dark Sky Partners With Danny Hillis’s Applied Invention 

Adam Grossman:

Now, normally when a little tech company such as ours announces an “equity event”, it’s one of two things: Either they’ve sold out to a larger company for a big ass check (i.e., “It’s been a great journey, and we couldn’t have done it without you. See yah, suckers.”), or they’ve raised money from one or more Venture Capital firms. This is different: Jay and I still retain majority ownership of Dark Sky, and we continue to be an independent company. At the same time, this isn’t simply a money injection, and Applied Invention isn’t a VC firm. They actually build stuff. And they’ll be involved in the day-to-day operations here at Dark Sky on a technical, operational, and business level.

Sounds like a great partnership. Dark Sky remains one of my very favorite apps.

GoPro Stock Tumbles on Apple Sports Camera Patent News 

Sue Chang, reporting for MarketWatch:

Shares of GoPro Inc. skidded on Tuesday, at one point tripping a Nasdaq short sale circuit breaker. The selloff was sparked by news that Apple Inc. was granted a patent for a sports camera, according to Seeking Alpha. GoPro shares fell 8.5% to $51.98 in recent trading with the stock shedding 15% so far this week.

This says less about GoPro’s viability or Apple’s future plans and more about just how knee-jerk the stock market can be. That said, I’ve long been wondering if GoPro is just the next Flip. Remember them?

See Also: Patently Apple’s story on this patent filing. I seldom pay much attention to Apple patent filings — they file many times more patents than they could ever bring to market. But as I wrote the other day, Apple is a camera company.

WhatsApp Passes SMS in Messages Per Day 

Benedict Evans:

Noted this week: WhatsApp reported that it now has 700m MAUs sending 30bn messages a day. For comparison, the global SMS system sees about 20bn messages a day.

Big numbers to be sure, but a year ago Tim Cook claimed Apple was then handling 40 billion iMessages notifications and “15 to 20 million FaceTime calls” per day (note those B’s and M’s — it’s terribly easy to conflate millions and billions in English). Those numbers must be bigger by now. Here’s hoping that it comes up again on Apple’s next quarterly analyst call.

Update: “40 billion” was the daily number for all push notifications, not iMessage texts. Cook was only as specific as “several billion” for the number of those that are iMessage texts.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron Proposes Banning End-to-End Encryption 

Andrew Griffin, reporting for The Independent:

David Cameron could block WhatsApp and Snapchat if he wins the next election, as part of his plans for new surveillance powers announced in the wake of the shootings in Paris.

The Prime Minister said today that he would stop the use of methods of communication that cannot be read by the security services even if they have a warrant. But that could include popular chat and social apps that encrypt their data, such as WhatsApp.

Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime also encrypt their data, and could fall under the ban along with other encrypted chat apps like Telegram.

This is a dreadful, oppressive, ignorant idea. There is no magic way to have encryption that only “good guys” can intercept. As for the fear that is driving this, I offer the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

UIKit Engineer Jordan Breeding Dies of Cancer 

Lots of love and good thoughts for him on Twitter today. My condolences to his family and his many friends. I didn’t know him, but I sure wish I had. So many good people clearly loved him.

Consider a donation to the American Cancer Society in his name. I’m donating now.

Update: I’m collecting today’s tweets here.

Desk 

My thanks once again to Desk for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Desk is a beautiful, functional blogging app for the Mac, named by Apple as one of the “Best Apps of 2014” in the App Store. Desk’s focus is simple: it’s about writing.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a new blog or rejuvenating your existing one, John Saddington, Desk’s developer, is offering a free 10-day online workshop. It’s totally free, no strings attached.

Ashley Nelson-Hornstein on Apple Software Quality 

Ashley Nelson-Hornstein (currently an iOS engineer at Dropbox, formerly at Apple):

I forgave iOS 7 because I understood the incredible amount of work accomplished to pivot the platform in just six months. So for me, iOS 8 is my first real opportunity to be concerned about the state of the platform, and not evidence of a pattern of issues. I’ll be justifiably concerned and worried if the same software quality issues are being discussed in 10.11 and iOS 9. Until then, I’m willing to give Apple the time necessary to let their plans propagate.

A reassuring footnote, as well.

Apple, the Camera Company 

Stats from Flickr for 2014: the top four camera phones are all iPhones, and among all camera makers, Apple is now second only to Canon. I expect Apple to overtake Canon by 2016, if not this year.

The Software and Services Apple Needs to Fix 

Glenn Fleishman has done the yeoman service of delineating just what problems made Marco Arment’s “Functional High Ground” argument resonate this week:

Part of what makes these sorts of statements reasonable, though, is to enumerate the problems, whether they’re long-running or unique to Yosemite or iOS 8 (or to the last two releases of each system). Here’s a list of regularly recurring issues or fundamental problems I’ve seen supplemented by those provided by others. Post your quirks in the comments.

Traffic Sources to the Priceonomics Blog in 2014 

Priceonomics, looking back at their web traffic from 2014:

Hitting the front page of Reddit is the single highest traffic source we’ve ever seen. The second highest, in our experience, is when lots of people are sharing an article on Facebook. The third highest is being linked to by Daring Fireball.

Not a bad third place.

Regarding the quality of Facebook traffic:

On thing we gradually noticed, however, was that maintaining a Facebook page was pretty much a waste of time by the end of 2014. While Facebook sends lots of traffic to us if one of our articles goes viral, posting said article to the Priceonomics Facebook Page does pretty much nothing any more. Posting on Twitter or emailing things to our readers is much more effective for us than posting on Facebook. We can only imagine how swindled companies that spent millions promoting their Facebook pages must feel. What a monumental waste of money.

Karissa Bell Bought a Fake Apple Watch for $27 at CES 

Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable from CES:

Needless to say, the whole thing was more than a little suspicious. I had to pay cash, and when I returned from the ATM, the representative told me the watch’s price was actually $30 — not $27 as she said earlier. However, I managed to persuade her to sell it at the original “wholesale” price.

The representative, who did not remove her sunglasses the entire time we spoke, told me that Hyperdon sells its products at retail stores in the U.S and China, but did not elaborate on locations or types of stores.

Update: I agree with Paul Kafasis: This is the best reason I’ve ever seen to go to CES.

Jason Snell on the Purported Minimalist 12-Inch MacBook Air 

Jason Snell:

Meanwhile, consider the trajectory of the MacBook Air. When it was released in 2008, it was a crazy design. It threw away a huge number of what we considered to be standard laptop features in order to be insanely thin and light. In my review of the original Air for Macworld, I used the word “compromise” ten times.

No optical drive. An incredibly slow processor, compared to all other Macs. A teeny-tiny 80GB hard drive (or an even tinier 64GB SSD for $999 more!). A single USB port. And, to top it all off, a price that started at $1799.

Selling Apple Watch 

Neil Cybart:

Over the past few months, I’ve learned to change the way I explain Apple Watch to friends and family. Instead of starting out with a list of reasons why they may enjoy an Apple Watch, I now begin with a pretty simply explanation: Apple is making a watch with customizable faces and bands. I then let that person respond, and depending on their answer, I mention how Apple Watch can serve as a communication device, a health and fitness tracker, or a mobile payment facilitator. As a result, I now get a much more open response from people that want to see and learn more about Apple Watch. That is how Apple will sell Apple Watch.

Astute. When in doubt, don’t overthink.

Two Scenarios for the Smart Watch Market 

Interesting analysis from Creative Strategies’s Ben Bajarin, speculating that the smart watch market will likely break in one of two ways:

  • Like MP3 players, where Apple dominates in market share.
  • Like the phone market, where Apple owns the profitable high end of the market, but with a 20-or-so percent share of the total market.

Here’s the thing I keep thinking about. Watches and wearables are like Apple Pay, insofar as no third-party solution can compete with Apple for iPhone users. Apple Pay feels like magic because it’s built into iOS, with links to the NFC and Touch ID hardware. Third-party payment solutions can be (and have been) built apps for iOS, but no mere app can offer the experience Apple Pay does.

It’s the same with wearables. Apple Watch will have integration with the iPhone at the system level, not the app level. Other smart watches may succeed, but I doubt they will succeed with iPhone users. If you’re an iPhone user, and you want a “smart” wearable, you will buy an Apple Watch.

Conversely, I don’t think Apple Watch will ever have any appeal to non-iPhone users. This first year, Apple is explicit about it — you need an iPhone to use Apple Watch. So the question of whether the overall smart watch market winds up looking more like MP3 players or phones comes down to how many non-iPhone users will buy any smart watch at all.

(The third possibility I see: smart watches, Apple Watch included, never really become a big deal.)

Update: So is this an anti-trust risk for Apple? I think no, thanks to the advantage of not having even close to a majority market share in phones.

The 2014 Panic Report 

All sorts of interesting stuff in this year-in-review post by Panic’s Cabel Sasser, but this stuck out to me:

This is the biggest problem we’ve been grappling with all year: we simply don’t make enough money from our iOS apps. We’re building apps that are, if I may say so, world-class and desktop-quality. They are packed with features, they look stunning, we offer excellent support for them, and development is constant. I’m deeply proud of our iOS apps. But… they’re hard to justify working on.

Their unit sales are roughly 50-50 Mac/iOS, but Mac apps account for 83 percent of their revenue.

Games are a different market, but for other apps, I think iOS apps are more like websites than Mac apps. People expect them to be free to use. There are exceptions of course — successful paid websites and successful paid iOS utility apps — but as a basic rule of thumb I’m pretty sure I’m right.

The 12-Inch MacBook Air Is the New iPhone 5C 

I’m linking here to a Rene Ritchie piece from two years ago, nine months before the iPhone 5C was unveiled. Throughout the year there was a drumbeat of rumors that Apple had two new iPhones in the pipeline: a new high-end model to replace the iPhone 5, and a plastic-bodied new model.

The way a lot of people — tech writers and business analysts alike — looked at that situation like this:

  • It was finally possible to make a modern touchscreen phone at very low prices.
  • All other handset makers (than Apple) were doing so.
  • That meant Android was gaining market share against iOS among people spending, say, $100 for the phone on pre-paid accounts.
  • Thus, the new plastic iPhone must be Apple’s entry into that market.

It wasn’t. The “cheap” iPhone 5C cost over $500 unlocked.

That’s exactly the same pattern I see with The Verge’s take on the purportedly upcoming 12-inch MacBook Air. They’re looking at Apple as though Apple is a typical laptop maker.

On the Utility of MagSafe 

As enumerated earlier, I have numerous questions regarding Mark Gurman’s report that the upcoming next-generation MacBook Air does away with all ports other than two: a USB Type-C and a headphone jack.

But one that I keep thinking about is MagSafe. I can definitely see getting rid of classic USB — it’s old and thick. Thunderbolt, sort of. But MagSafe? When Apple announced MagSafe back in 2006, I knew they were solving a real problem, not an imaginary marketing problem. Tripping over power cables and yanking laptops off tables and onto floors was a real issue. I had an iBook way back when that ultimately died after one such incident too many. If anything, Apple has made MagSafe 2 even easier to pull apart, not harder. Switching to USB Type-C seems like it would take us all the way back to days when tripping over the charging cable would take your laptop along for the ride.

TAG Heuer and the Future of the Luxury Watch 

Matt Richman:

In order to have even a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch, then, TAG’s smartwatch will have to pair with an Android phone. However, TAG wearers aren’t Android users. Rich people buy TAG watches, but rich people don’t buy Android phones.

This is TAG’s dilemma. Its smartwatch will need to pair with an Android phone to be anywhere near as feature-rich as Apple Watch, but TAG wearers don’t buy Android phones.

Astute, as usual.

I think the path for luxury watch makers is exactly the one they’ve been on since their recovery after the quartz crisis: celebrate their analog nature. Compete on their own terms, doing what they do best.

‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’ 

Craig Hockenberry:

Apple would never ship a device that was missing a few screws. But that’s exactly what’s happening right now with your software products.

From the Department of Jumping to Conclusions 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge about the purported 12-inch MacBook Air that Mark Gurman reported for 9to5Mac:

This could finally be the inexpensive Apple laptop that so many have been clamoring for — cheap enough to compete with low-end Windows laptops and Chromebooks, but with hopefully fewer compromises.

There are two pieces of technology that Apple would need to get there: USB Type-C and a processor that runs cool enough to help achieve a thin design without a fan.

This whole piece makes no sense to me whatsoever. None. There’s nothing in Gurman’s report about pricing, and I don’t understand why switching to USB Type-C would drastically reduce the price. Eliminating the Thunderbolt and MagSafe ports would allow for some savings — one single port must be cheaper than the five various ports in the current Airs, but it wouldn’t drop the price into Chromebook territory.

Even if the new Air does herald a drop in price, it would be more in character for Apple if that price drop was for the existing Air models, with the new models at current prices, or, if it includes a retina display (Gurman’s report doesn’t say either way), higher prices. I honestly think it’s more likely that this new MacBook Air would have a higher starting price than a lower one, if it has a retina display. If it doesn’t have a retina display, well, then maybe it will have a drastically lower starting price. But Warren doesn’t even mention that. In short, this feels like the same ignorant “Everyone else in the industry competes mostly on price, so Apple should too” punditry we’ve seen for decades.

Earlier in his report, Warren suggests that Gurman’s report is a planted leak from Apple, meant to usurp attention from CES:

Apple appears to be working towards a thinner and totally redesigned MacBook. A curiously timed report from 9to5Mac, just as the Consumer Electronics Show opens today with lots of thin and light Windows laptops, claims Apple’s next notebook will be a 12-inch MacBook Air without full-size USB ports.

First, I don’t think Apple gives two shits about what’s going on at CES this year. I haven’t seen a single announcement that matters. But even if they did, Mark Gurman is probably the last person in the Apple-centric media whom they would give an authorized leak to. Gurman is persona non grata with Apple PR, as his fascinating but in large parts misinformed “exposé” back in August made clear. An authorized leak — to any source — would never contain a detailed description of the device’s appearance, let alone contain enough detail to create realistic renderings. If Gurman’s report is accurate, I’m sure it’s angering, not pleasing, to Apple’s PR and marketing teams.

9to5Mac Shows Mockups of Purported New 12-Inch MacBook Air 

Hell of a scoop by Mark Gurman, if true. Numerous interesting changes, most especially the claim that it has just two ports: one for headphones and a lone USB Type-C port that will be used for everything from connecting an external display, power, and connecting peripherals. (I can totally see Apple dropping MagSafe, Thunderbolt, and USB 3 ports — but I don’t get why they would include only one USB Type-C port. Why not two?)

Another detail I like: the full-height keys for left and right arrow. Making those keys half-height never made sense to me.

Update: Conspicuously absent from Gurman’s report: the word “retina”.

‘A Mile Wide, an Inch Deep’ 

Evan Williams:

Most Internet companies would build better things and create more value if they paid more attention to depth than breadth. […]

If what you care about — or are trying to report on — is impact on the world, it all gets very slippery. You’re not measuring a rectangle, you’re measuring an multi-dimensional space. You have to accept that things are very imperfectly measured and just try to learn as much as you can from multiple metrics and anecdotes.

Bookmark this one.

Acronyms 

“IoT” is a terrible acronym, especially in a world where Helvetica and Helvetica-like sans serifs are so popular. Capping the “o” too would help a little — it would make it much more clear that it’s spelling EYE-oh-TEE, not ell-oh-TEE.

The Talk Show: Star Wars Holiday Spectacular 

A brief chat about the Star Wars movies, with special guests John Siracusa and Guy English.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

  • Casper: Premium mattresses at great prices.
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Brand Deposits 

Via Sean Doran, a good analogy for Apple’s recent software quality problems. Apple’s “it just works” bank account is far from bankrupt, but the balance has been moving in the wrong direction recently.

Daniel Jalkut on Apple and ‘The Functional High Ground’ 

Daniel Jalkut, with a healthy reminder that we’ve seldom been lacking for serious complaints regarding Apple’s software quality:

And now it’s 2015, and in the immortal words of Kurt Cobain: “Hey! Wait! I’ve got a new complaint.” Don’t we all. A company like Apple, moving at a breakneck speed, will undoubtedly continue to give us plenty to obsess about, both positively and negatively. I’ve been following the company closely since my hiring in 1996. Since that time, the company has consistently produced nothing short of the best hardware and software in the world, consistently marred by nothing short of the most infuriating, most embarrassing, most “worrisome for the company’s future” defects.

The Functional High Ground 

Marco Arment, “Apple Has Lost the Functional High Ground”:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future. I’m typing this on a computer whose existence I didn’t even think would be possible yet, but it runs an OS riddled with embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions. Just a few years ago, we would have relentlessly made fun of Windows users for these same bugs on their inferior OS, but we can’t talk anymore.

“It just works” was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer. We now need to treat Apple’s OS and application releases with the same extreme skepticism and trepidation that conservative Windows IT departments employ.

It’s a very astute piece, well-worth the attention it’s getting. But regarding the headline — if they’ve “lost the functional high ground”, who did they lose it to? I say no one. Marco’s cited example of Geoff Wozniak switching back to desktop Linux is an outlier, not part of any significant trend.

The second paragraph I quote above is more to the point. Apple hasn’t (yet) lost any ground in the market, but they’ve created an opportunity for that to happen, because they’ve squandered a lot of trust with their users. It’s not that Apple has lost the “it just works” crown to a competitor, but rather that they’ve seeded a perception that Apple’s stuff doesn’t work, either.

Update: “Had I known that it would go as far as it did, I never would have written it.”.

Huge Sensationalist Says Something Ignorant 

Dan Lyons, settling in at his new gig at Valleywag:

The main thing to know about passionate Apple bloggers and podcasters like Marco Arment is that Rule Number 1 is that you never say anything bad about Apple. That’s why today the world of Apple lovers has been shaken to the core — because Marco Arment has violated the prime directive, and declared that Apple’s software, well, kind of blows.

What planet is Dan Lyons from? Marco Arment complains about Apple all the fucking time. So do his ATP co-hosts, John Siracusa and Casey Liss. Siracusa complains so much that his previous (and much-beloved) podcast was named “Hypercritical”.

The difference is not between those who write critically of Apple and those who don’t. The difference is between those whose criticism of Apple is reasoned, thoughtful, and accurate, and those whose criticism of Apple is hyperbolic bullshit.

I don’t agree with Marco’s piece entirely — more on that later — but it’s resonating because he’s largely correct, and it’s an important argument. I think Lyons knows this, and he chose to frame it his way (“fanblogger”?) deliberately because trolling is his (and Valleywag’s) game. But that shows a deep disrespect for his readers. And if he doesn’t know this — if he honestly believes that “Rule Number 1 is that you never say anything bad about Apple” — man, he’s got rocks rolling around between his ears.

BBEdit 11 

My thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote BBEdit 11, the latest version of the amazing and long-standing text editor for the Mac. Where do I even start to describe my decades-long love for this app? All DF feature-length articles? Written in BBEdit. Markdown? I created it using BBEdit. I’m more familiar with BBEdit than any other piece of software in the world. I breathe BBEdit. The time I’ve invested learning its ins and outs has paid me back in spades, productivity-wise. Whether I’m writing prose, or writing code, I never feel hampered in the least by my editor.

BBEdit is scriptable, tweakable, fast, robust, and stable. You can try it for free, and buy it for just $50 — an amazing value.

Chris Pepper Responds to Paul Graham on Programming Jobs 

Chris Pepper:

The immigrants I interview and work with are not 100–1,000 times as effective as US Citizens, which is the implication I get from Paul’s article: that the US has plenty of non-great programmers, but we need to recruit outside our borders to find enough great programmers. Immigrants are not hired with an understanding or expectation that they will be twice as effective as US candidates. We hire immigrants (and employers deal with the costs and paperwork) because we need people to do lots of (often basic) jobs, and there are simply not enough qualified candidates — whether programmers, system administrators, or other tech types. […]

But be honest. H-1B visa demand is not high because companies are striving for excellence. The visas are being used to preserve the existing labor market (salary levels) rather than paying higher salaries as dictated by supply and demand.

Fred Wilson’s 2015 Predictions 

A slew of DF readers have emailed regarding Fred Wilson’s pessimistic prediction for wearables and Apple Watch in particular:

Another market where the reality will not live up to the hype is wearables. The Apple Watch will not be the home run product that iPod, iPhone, and iPad have been. Not everyone will want to wear a computer on their wrist. Eventually, this market will be realized as the personal mesh/personal cloud, but the focus on wearables will be a bit of a head fake and take up a lot of time, energy, and money in 2015 with not a lot of results.

I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s predicting “a flop” — he’s just saying it won’t be a “home run”. (Wilson, too, is annoyed by Business Insider’s headline.) But the iPod, iPad, and iPhone were all very different sorts of home runs. The iPod took years before it became a mainstream hit. The iPad started faster than any other Apple product, but plateaued far sooner than the iPhone. And the iPhone is simply unprecedented — it’s the biggest home run in the history of computing.

I don’t think it’s possible for Apple Watch to be an iPhone-type success. iPad- and iPod-like are possible, though.

I thought this was the more eyebrow-raising of Wilson’s predictions:

Xiaomi will spend some of the $1.1bn they just raised coming to the US. This will bring a strong player in the non-google android sector into the US market and legitimize a “third mobile OS” in the western world. The good news for developers is developing for non-google android is not much different than developing for google android. [Lowercase “google” and “android” all sic.]

I don’t see Xiaomi having success introducing a third mobile OS in the West, and I don’t see them having success selling hardware here, either. It’s no coincidence that to date they’re only operating in countries with weak IP laws. I’ll be surprised if Xiaomi even tries to enter the Western markets this year, and I’ll be downright shocked if they do so and succeed.

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