Linked List: March 2015

Microsoft’s New Atom-Based $499 Surface 3 

Mary Jo Foley, reporting for ZDNet:

The new Surface 3 is a 64-bit Intel Atom x7 (Cherry Trail)-based tablet that’s the new little sister to Microsoft’s flagship Surface Pro 3.

A Surface 3 tablet with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, minus the add-on keyboard, starts at $499. It ships with Windows 8.1, but will freely upgradable by consumers to Windows 10 for one year following Windows 10’s general availability (a period which will start some time this summer). The Surface 3 will begin shipping on May 5 through a variety of retailers and resellers in 26 markets worldwide.

The Surface 3 has a 10.8-inch 1920 X 1280 ClearType HD display with a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Interesting to me for two reasons: First, Intel’s Atom processors are finally starting to compete in the iPad-style tablet space where ARM was heretofore unchallenged. Second, the new 3:2 aspect ratio. Surface’s previous 16:9 is a great landscape aspect ratio, but it’s a lousy portrait one — and people use tablets in both landscape and portrait. I’d bet that portrait gets more aggregate usage on the iPad. Portrait use cases are the sort of scenarios where tablets most distinguish themselves from laptops. This is a good move on Microsoft’s part.

Worth noting, though, that 3:2 was the aspect ratio of the iPhone from 2007-2011. It would have been easy for Apple to use a 3:2 aspect ratio for the iPad. It would have allowed scaled up iPhone apps running on iPad to fit the screen exactly. But they didn’t do that — they went with an even closer-to-square aspect ratio of 4:3.

New Chrome OS Devices 

Clever idea: a $100 cigar-sized HDMI stick from ASUS — plug it into any HDMI display and you’ve got a Chrome OS computer.

Facebook ‘Tracks All Visitors, Breaching EU Law’ 

Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian:

The report, from researchers at the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT (ICRI) and the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography department (Cosic) at the University of Leuven, and the media, information and telecommunication department (Smit) at Vrije Universiteit Brussels, was commissioned after an original draft report revealed Facebook’s privacy policy breaches European law.

The researchers now claim that Facebook tracks computers of users without their consent, whether they are logged in to Facebook or not, and even if they are not registered users of the site or explicitly opt out in Europe. Facebook tracks users in order to target advertising.

Shocker.

Google Maps Easter Egg: Play Pac-Man on City Streets 

Google at its best. It’s not just a funny joke — the game is actually pretty fun to play. And I do love Pac-Man.

Tim Cook: Pro-Discrimination ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Are Dangerous 

Tim Cook, in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.

He doesn’t need to speak up like this, and throw Apple’s corporate might into the political fray, on the cusp of the most important product launch of his career. But he is.

Why the Galaxy S6 Doesn’t Have a User Replaceable Battery 

Charles Arthur:

Ever since it was announced that the Galaxy S6 wouldn’t offer either a removable battery or a microSD slot, there was all sorts of kerfuffle on tech blogs, and the comments therein: people said that they bought Samsung stuff specifically for those elements, and that those were key things which set them apart from the (reviled, in their eyes) iPhone range, which has never offered a removable battery or slot-in storage.

However, I’m pretty sure that Samsung’s move is not only idealistic — not having to make the back removable avoids all sorts of design compromises — but also driven by clear data.

If swappable batteries were a meaningful mass market selling point, Samsung wouldn’t have changed sides on this. Years behind.

Apple Watch Apps Begin Showing Up in the App Store Ahead of Apple Watch Launch 

Apple is getting their ducks in a row before we get to see Apple Watches in stores April 10.

Amazon to Remove Non-Compete Clause From Contracts for Hourly Workers 

Kudos to The Verge for their reporting on this.

SupportKit: Beautifully Simple In-App Messaging 

My thanks to SupportKit for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. SupportKit is a brilliant idea: in-app messaging for iOS apps. You add SupportKit to your app, and boom, your users will be able to message you as easily as texting with a friend. Users compose messages in a beautiful interface — without leaving your app — and their messages arrive in your inbox, Slack, or your favorite CRM. Your replies are instantly delivered back to the user in your app.

SupportKit also allows you to start conversations. You can send targeted and timely messages to your users that feel friendly, not spammy. Visit SupportKit.io to learn more and get started for free in under 10 minutes.

My Interview With ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli 

The SoHo Apple Store hosted a “Meet the Author” event last night with Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, and I had the pleasure of playing the host for the interview. Apple recorded it, and it’s now available as both video and audio. I thought it was fun and fascinating. And I’m kind of proud that it got flagged as “explicit” — but that was Bill Gates’s fault.

Slack Hacked 

This sucks, but I like the way they’re handling this.

Amazon Makes Even Temporary Warehouse Workers Sign 18-Month Non-Competes 

Spencer Woodman, reporting for The Verge:

The work is repetitive and physically demanding and can pay several dollars above minimum wage, yet Amazon is requiring these workers — even seasonal ones — to sign strict and far-reaching noncompete agreements. The Amazon contract, obtained by The Verge, requires employees to promise that they will not work at any company where they “directly or indirectly” support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for a year and a half after their brief stints at Amazon end. Of course, the company’s warehouses are the beating heart of Amazon’s online shopping empire, the extraordinary breadth of which has earned it the title of “the Everything Store,” so Amazon appears to be requiring temp workers to forswear a sizable portion of the global economy in exchange for a several-months-long hourly warehouse gig.

The company has even required its permanent warehouse workers who get laid off to reaffirm their non-compete contracts as a condition of receiving severance pay.

More gruel, please.

Mat Honan on Periscope and Meerkat 

The ability for anyone and everyone to broadcast live video is just wild. This was the stuff of science fiction even just ten years ago. I don’t know if there’s room for both Periscope and Meerkat to succeed, but Periscope’s lower latency, higher image quality, and first-party status within Twitter will probably win out. I don’t think it matters that Meerkat launched three weeks sooner.

David Sparks on Fantastical 2 for Mac 

David Sparks:

One of my favorite features with the new full calendar menu is the infinite scrolling list of events. This is largely the reason why Fantastical 2 took over on my iPhone as my main calendar application. I really appreciate the ability to scroll through future events and see what’s coming up and I think Flexibits has cracked this nut better than any of its competitors. They took a lot of those same design cues over to the Mac with this new version.

So Much for Dart ‘Rescuing Us From JavaScript’ 

Lars Bak and Kasper Lund, Dart co-founders:

In order to do what’s best for our users and the web, and not just Google Chrome, we will focus our web efforts on compiling Dart to JavaScript. We have decided not to integrate the Dart VM into Chrome. Our new web strategy puts us on a path to deliver the features our users need to be more productive building web apps with Dart. It also simplifies the testing and deployment scenarios for our developers, because they can focus on a single way to build, test, and deploy their Dart apps for the web.

CNet, two years ago: “Google: Dart Will Rescue Browsers From JavaScript”.

Matthew Weiner on the Final Season of ‘Mad Men’ 

Matthew Weiner:

TV and film, in general… some of it is designed for escape, designed to satisfy the lack of justice that we feel in everyday life. We find heroes and we get to have the wish fulfillment of, for example, a woman who has it all, who talks tough and tells people where to go and, yeah, they fail sometimes. There’s not a lot of that on the show. I give the example of how we try to make it less abstract by making it more like real life: If a young man runs into a beautiful woman at a party on Mad Men and she gives him her phone number and he writes it on a piece of paper and then he loses his coat, he will, on a normal TV show, end up figuring out how to find her. On Mad Men, he will never see her again.

This is intriguing, too:

As far as I’m concerned, seasons five, six, and seven are the sequel to Mad Men.

The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was 

Steven Levy:

In the long run, though, I believe that the disagreements about Jobs’s personality will have diminishing importance as future students of technology and culture seek to understand what Steve Jobs actually did, and how he did it. To that end, the lasting value of Becoming Steve Jobs might have nothing to do with its effort to be a corrective to the previous biography. Instead, historians will appreciate the careful documentation of Jobs’s professional evolution. The official thesis of the book is that during Jobs’ so-called “wilderness” years, between his being fired from Apple in 1985 and his return in 1997, the prodigal co-founder gained management wisdom, patience and even a measure of tact, all of which helped him take the company to unprecedented heights. Far from a novel observation, this has long been the conventional wisdom. But never has this narrative been so carefully developed as in Becoming Steve Jobs.

Bingo.

‘Much of It Was Chutzpah and Self Delusion’ 

Adam Banks, reviewing Becoming Steve Jobs for The Register:

My biggest problem with Isaacson’s biography was staying awake. With Schlender’s, it was getting through a page without stopping to note something illuminating.

16 Smartphones That Were Deemed ‘iPhone Killer’, 2008-2011 

Sweet, sweet claim chowder, how I love thee.

Yosemite: The Apple Conference With a View 

File another one under “Conferences in a Beautiful Setting I Regrettably Have to Miss Because of This Detached Retina Thing”. The Yosemite conference has a great speaker lineup and an unbeatable location. (It’s put on by the folks behind CocoaConf, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is a developer conference.)

Amazon’s Not-So-Subtle Influence on IMDB 

Keith Bradnam:

At what point should we become concerned by Amazon influencing the IMDb ratings of movies that they would rather see portrayed in a more positive light in order to sell content from Amazon.com?

Layout vs. Layout 

Mike Swanson:

Today, Instagram announced an app called Layout from Instagram. It’s described as “a new app that lets you easily combine multiple photos into a single image.” In 2012, I released an Apple Editors’ Choice app called Layout that lets you combine multiple photos into a single image. It was even named an App Store Best of 2012 app. Is it just me, or does it seem insincere for Instagram to release a similar app with the exact same name only differentiated by the inclusion of their company name? Do you think they’d be okay with me releasing an app called “Instagram from Juicy Bits?” Neither do I.

It’s not quite the same thing, since “Instagram” is a trademark and “Layout” is not, but the point stands: it’s a dick move for a company the size of Instagram/Facebook to simply take the name of an existing (and successful!) app that does the exact same thing.

Update: In case you’re experiencing déjà vu, you’re not crazy. Just last year: “Paper vs. Paper”.

Google Changes Course, Intends to Implement ‘Pointer Events’ in Blink 

That leaves Apple and WebKit as the lone holdout.

(Previously: “Why Google’s Blink (And I Think, Apple’s Webkit) Rejected the Pointer Events Spec” and “Lack of Support From Apple Scuttles W3C Pointer Events Spec”.)

Fantastical 2 for Mac 

Terrific new version of one of my very favorite apps. The first version of Fantastical for Mac was more like a widget — the whole app lived in your menu bar, and excelled at quick natural language input and giving you an overview of upcoming events. Fantastical 2 keeps all that, but adds a full-fledged calendaring UI. I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and it’s really good. I think Flexibits has nailed the way to do Yosemite-style design in a third-party app with strong visual branding.

See also:

‘Don’t Take a Flying Leap’ 

Dave Pell, on this thing with news sites agreeing to publish their work on Facebook:

News organizations should not take that leap of faith. They should not trust Facebook to deliver the news anymore than Facebook should fear their ability to build a competing social network.

Yes, Facebook has built a large and powerful network. But they do not know how to run the news business better than editors, journalists and publishers. And they don’t have the same goals.

Facebook to Host News Sites’ Content 

Ravi Somaiya, Mike Isaac, and Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYT:

Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.

To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content.

I can see why these news sites are tempted by the offer, but I think they’re going to regret it. It’s like Lando’s deal with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

From the DF Archive: Big Fan 

I don’t often post video to DF, but when I do, it’s good. (Just updated these to HTML 5 <video> elements — they were <embed> tags with QuickTime content previously.)

The Shift-Option-K Apple Logo Glyph Is Not Cross-Platform 

On the Mac, you can put an Apple logo in any text field by typing Shift-Option-K. This might date back all the way to System 1.0 in 1984. Some people use this to spell the name of products like Apple TV and Apple Watch. It’s super-common with Apple Watch, in fact, almost certainly because Apple uses the logo mark (that is to say, the Apple logo glyph followed by “WATCH” in all caps or, even fancier, small cap Unicode glyphs).

This is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, it is not a standard Unicode character and almost certainly never will be — because it is Apple’s copyrighted intellectual property. You could argue that it’s the single most valuable IP asset the company owns. This means the glyph does not render on platforms other than Apple’s own. It just shows up as a “missing glyph” box or a space.

Second, the name of the product is “Apple Watch”. Even Apple spells it out like that in prose.

Third, as Nevan King points out, it could be misinterpreted as the Klingon Mummification Glyph. You wouldn’t want that to happen.

On the Apple Watch Display 

Craig Hockenberry:

I’ve always felt that the flattening of Apple’s user interface that began in iOS 7 was as much a strategic move as an aesthetic one. Our first reaction was to realize that an unadorned interface makes it easier to focus on content.

But with this new display technology, it’s clear that interfaces with fewer pixels have another advantage. A richly detailed button from iOS 6 would need more of that precious juice strapped to our wrists. Never underestimate the long-term benefits of simplification.

Apple hasn’t officially stated that Apple Watch uses an AMOLED display, but it’s sort of an open secret. The other thing is, regardless of the underlying display technology, iOS 6-style skeuomorphism would’ve felt downright gauche on the watch. I don’t think iOS or OS X needed to eschew skeuomorphic textures, but Apple Watch did.

The Making of NHL ’94 

Great feature by Blake J. Harris on the early years of EA’s sports franchises for Sega Genesis, culminating with their masterpiece, NHL ’94:

Even without featuring logos and teams from the NHL, Brook thought, there were other ways to improve the realism of this game. For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team’s organist played different songs. ‘That’s not a problem, actually,’ explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), ‘I can do that.’ True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn’t just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA’s sound studio he asked:

‘The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?’

‘Definitely the way she plays it!’ Brook answered, after a laugh.

(Via Kottke.)

It’s Time for Baseball to Forgive Pete Rose 

Christopher Caldwell, writing for the WSJ:

On Monday, Rob Manfred, the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, got a chance to extricate his sport from a deepening moral quandary. Pete Rose, the disgraced onetime star of the Cincinnati Reds, petitioned Mr. Manfred’s office to be reinstated in the sport from which he was barred in 1989 for gambling.

Agree completely. Pete Rose has been punished enough.

Peak Cable 

Horace Dediu:

Paying for TV has been a curious consumer phenomenon. There was a time when TV was free to consumers. It was delivered as a broadcast over-the-air and paid for either by commercials (US mostly) or by taxes on viewers (Europe mostly). The consumers were delighted with the idea as it was far better than radio and radio was delightful because it was far better than no radio. […]

And so over a period of about 40 years, watching TV went from free to quite expensive. More expensive even than a family’s communications costs (i.e. telephone service.) That’s quite an achievement at a time when technology diffusions caused huge price reductions in other goods and services. Consider that the TV set used to watch the programming improved dramatically while decreasing in price over the same period.

The Billionaire’s Typewriter 

Thoughtful piece by Matthew Butterick regarding Medium:

As a writer, the biggest potential waste of your time is not typography chores, but Medium itself. Because in return for that snazzy design, Medium needs you to relinquish control of how your work gets to readers.

Tempting perhaps. But where does it lead? I fear that writers who limit themselves to providing “content” for some one else’s “branded platform” are going to end up with as much leverage as cows on a dairy farm. (A problem at the core of the recent Hachette–Amazon dispute.)

Bushel 

My thanks to Bushel for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Bushel is a simple, cloud-based solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure company email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

In short, Bushel turns IT from a career into a task. They have a great deal for you — Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. No contracts.

Úll 2015 

A few tickets are still available for this year’s Úll, coming up at the end of the month. I don’t hesitate to call Úll my favorite conference of the year, and it breaks my heart that I can’t make it this year. They’ve got a killer lineup of speakers, and the event is being held at a beautiful venue in Killarney, Ireland. But the best thing about Úll is the attendees. It attracts an amazing, diverse group of good people doing fascinating work. If you can swing it, you should go. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

(I’ve spoken at Úll each year since it started, and I was set to return again this year, but had to cancel a few weeks ago. Long story short, I suffered a detached retina, and part of the procedure to repair it involves a gas bubble injected in my eye to hold the repaired retina in place. It’s dissolving, slowly, over the course of two months, but until it’s fully dissolved, I cannot fly. You know when you take a bag of chips on a plane, and it puffs up like a balloon when the air pressure changes? That, but my eye.)

The Talk Show: ‘All of Us Assholes in Journalism’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Serenity Caldwell. Topics include last week’s “Spring Forward” Apple media event; the new Force Touch Trackpad for MacBooks, and the prospects for force touch in future iOS devices; and of course, Apple Watch.

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Dan Frommer: ‘Why Swiss Smartwatches Have No Chance Against the Apple Watch’ 

Dan Frommer, Quartz:

Ironically, if the Apple Watch is successful — and has any negative impact in Switzerland — it will be because Apple as a company follows the same tight, vertical integration that the Swiss watch industry does for its core product, mechanical watches.

Since the 1990s, watch companies “have been making increasing efforts to in-source as many steps in the production process as possible,” ranging from individual watch components to retail distribution, according to a Credit Suisse report on the Swiss watch industry. “The manufacturers’ objective is to have the greatest possible control over the entire value chain and to decrease their dependence on external suppliers.”

The Mystery of Lê From Hop Sing Laundromat 

This month’s Philadelphia Magazine has a good profile by Jason Sheehan of my friend Lê, the man behind what I honestly believe to be the world’s best cocktail bar, Hop Sing Laundromat. Worth checking out just for the gorgeous, evocative (and unprecedented, given Lê’s reticence) photographs by Justin James Muir.

Nick Bilton Shits the Bed With Pseudoscience-Laden ‘Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?’ New York Times Column 

NYT public editor (translation from NYTese to English: ombudsman) Margaret Sullivan eviscerates Nick Bilton’s scaremongering column on wearable devices and cancer. Bilton’s column has since been given an “addendum” that pretty much walks back the whole piece. I think the addendum should be at the top of the story, though, not the bottom.

‘Swiss Horologists Are Well Positioned to Out-Apple Apple’ 

Leonid Bershidsky, writing for Bloomberg:

Swiss watchmakers haven’t really slept through the wearable-tech revolution. They’ve been watching as others did their market research for them. They can afford to wait: Export sales of high-end watches last year totaled 13.8 billion Swiss francs compared with just 3.1 billion francs in 2000. The industry has time to ponder strategies, play with designs and selectively choose from the new functions the Silicon Valley giants develop.

In other words, Swiss horologists are well positioned to out-Apple Apple. They are beginning to introduce new products after their competitors jumped in first. Swiss attention to detail can only be good for the emerging wearable industry, which, even with Apple on board, is still flying by the seat of its pants.

I don’t get this at all. Swiss watch companies may well be positioned to succeed with smartwatches, but it won’t be by “out-Appling Apple”. They have nothing that Apple brings to the table. They have no operating system. They have no developer platform. They have no expertise in semiconductors. If “Apple” is a verb, it means to own the whole widget, to “own the key technologies”, as Tim Cook said just this week. TAG Heuer partnering with Google for an OS and Intel for semiconductor design could not be less Apple-y.

The truth is that no other single company can do what Apple is doing with Apple Watch. (Maybe Microsoft, now that they own Nokia’s handset business? But even that seems like a real stretch.)

Apple Grants ‘Good Morning America’ Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Access to Secret Health and Fitness Lab 

Expect a steady drip of such pieces for the next month, as Apple builds a crescendo of momentum for the Apple Watch launch.

Reviewing Apple Watch Without Having Used It 

Christian Cantrell on the Apple Watch for ReadWrite, “The Apple Watch Looks Great — But It’s Going To Disappoint Lots Of Users”:

Another key issue: Apple lists an 18-hour battery. In the real world, that likely translates into about 14 hours — especially when the device is new and people want to show it off as much as possible. […]

The watch’s complexity will also challenge some early customers. Instead of the app grids and folders iOS users are accustomed to, early adopters will face clusters of tappable dots that are, at first, easy to miss with your finger. You can use the “digital crown” (i.e., the scroll wheel) to magnify them, but it’s not obvious, intuitive or convenient. Users also have to acclimate to new inputs and interactions, including long-look notifications, glances, apps, taps, force presses, and when to use the digital crown button versus the side button.

Some users will deal with the learning curve, but others used to Apple’s typical simplicity will likely find the watch overly confusing.

That’s an awful lot of judgment — battery life, usefulness, complexity — for a device that he’s never actually used. The kicker:

I still plan on pre-ordering an Apple Watch along with millions of other people. But I can’t be at all sure how long I’ll stick with it.

Google Ad for Android Wear 

No functionality demoed whatsoever. The emphasis is on the variety of different watches available for Android Wear, and varying personal styles of the dancers in the ad. The slogan makes the target clear: “Be together. Not the same.” I’ve seen the same slogan on an ad for Android phones too. The message: Apple = conformity. Apple is The Man. Hilarious that Apple Watch is over a month away from shipping and Google is already painting it as the watch of conformity.

I don’t think this is going to be effective, but it’s interesting in the grand scheme of Apple’s history to see their products portrayed this way.

Paczkowski: ‘New Apple TV Set Top Will Debut This Summer With App Store, Siri’ 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the subscription internet TV service Apple’s been trying to get off the ground since 2009 appears to be finally headed to market. And now sources familiar with the company’s plans tell BuzzFeed News that a successor to its dusty and recently discounted Apple TV set top box is headed to market as well. Apple intends to show the device off at its annual World Wide Developers Conference in June along with a long-awaited App Store and a software development kit to help developers populate it.

Sources say Apple’s new Apple TV is a significant overhaul of the device, one intended to undergird Apple’s vision of what the TV viewing experience should be, and to raise the table stakes in a set-top box market cluttered with barely differentiated devices from Amazon, Roku, and others.

The “Starting from $69” slide announcing last week’s price cut was an unusually obvious (for Apple) hint that new hardware was coming.

(Point deduction for BuzzFeed for decorating the article with a purely speculative artist’s rendering. Let’s put an end to this — it’s misleading, and adds nothing. Why decorate a factual scoop with fantasy artwork? Update: BuzzFeed has changed the artwork to a shot from Poltergeist — deducted point now restored.)

FTC Report Shows How Google Skewed Search Results 

Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins, reporting for the WSJ:

In a lengthy investigation, staffers in the FTC’s bureau of competition found evidence that Google boosted its own services for shopping, travel and local businesses by altering its ranking criteria and “scraping” content from other sites. It also deliberately demoted rivals.

For example, the FTC staff noted that Google presented results from its flight-search tool ahead of other travel sites, even though Google offered fewer flight options. Google’s shopping results were ranked above rival comparison-shopping engines, even though users didn’t click on them at the same rate, the staff found. Many of the ways Google boosted its own results have not been previously disclosed. […]

The report’s findings are at odds with Google’s descriptions of its search practices. Then-Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, now executive chairman, told a Senate panel in 2011 that “he was not aware of any strange boosts or biases” in Google’s results. “I can assure you we’ve not cooked” the results, Mr. Schmidt added.

Typographica: ‘Our Favorite Typefaces of 2014’ 

Always a good read; lots of interesting work from small indie foundries this year.

Bumpy Pixels 

Kyle VanHemert, writing for Wired, on haptic feedback as the new frontier in user interface design:

Apple showed its eagerness to explore this potential earlier this week, with an incremental upgrade to iMovie that adds haptic feedback for a handful of interactions. As explained in the release notes, “When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.”

So much potential here.

‘I Can’t Tell You Where I Work, and I Can’t Tell You What I Do, but I Need to Talk to You’ 

Daniela Hernandez, writing for Fusion, “The Inside Story of How Apple’s New Medical Research Platform Was Born”:

He was closer than he thought. Sitting in the audience that day was Mike O’Reilly, a newly minted vice president for medical technologies at Apple. A few months earlier, Apple had poached O’Reilly from Masimo, a Bay Area-based sensor company that developed portable iPhone-compatible health trackers. Now, he was interested in building something else, something that had the potential to implement Friend’s vision of a patient-centered, medical research utopia and radically change the way clinical studies were done.

After Friend’s talk, O’Reilly approached the doctor, and, in typical tight-lipped Apple fashion, said: “I can’t tell you where I work, and I can’t tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you,” Friend recalls. Friend was intrigued, and agreed to meet for coffee.

Great story. This is the best piece on ResearchKit that I’ve seen.

Tesla Can Now Resume Car Sales in New Jersey 

Matt Burns, writing for TechCrunch:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just signed a law that will allow Tesla to start selling its vehicles again to residents of the state.

About a year ago, New Jersey started enforcing a law that required vehicles to be sold to consumers through dealerships. Tesla doesn’t play nicely with dealerships. It sells its vehicles directly to consumers through company-owned showrooms instead of independently owned and state-certified dealerships. So about a year ago, Tesla stopped selling cars in New Jersey and the company’s two showrooms were unable to offer test drives or discuss sale information.

Nice outcome to this year-old piece.

Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google 

Fascinating look from the WSJ at a 2012 FTC staff report that recommended filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google:

In discussing one of the issues the FTC staff wanted to sue over, the report said the company illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon to improve its own websites. It cited one instance when Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items. It also copied Amazon’s reviews and ratings, the report found. A TripAdvisor spokesman declined to comment.

When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, Google threatened to remove them from its search engine.

“It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect,” the report said, “which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down.” The company also sent a message that it would “use its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations.”

The FTC revealed this report to the Journal by mistake:

The Wall Street Journal viewed portions of the document after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The FTC declined to release the undisclosed pages and asked the Journal to return the document, which it declined to do.

“Unfortunately, an unredacted version of this material was inadvertently released in response to a FOIA request,” an FTC spokesman said in a statement to the Journal. “We are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again,” the statement said.

Google Reportedly Preparing Android Wear App for iPhone and iPad 

A few readers have asked about this, regarding my comments earlier today regarding the lock-in advantage Apple Watch has for iPhone owners. An Android Wear app for iOS could definitely be a thing — look no further than Pebble. But the integration between an iPhone and an Android Wear device would be limited by the constraints of what iOS apps from the App Store are capable of. Apple Watch integration is built into iOS itself.

Jason Snell, who’s worn a Pebble for two years, writing for Macworld a few weeks ago:

Unlike all the Android Wear watches out there, Pebble’s watches have always claimed iOS compatibility. That’s true of the Pebble Time, too. But in the past two years as a Pebble user, one thing has been abundantly clear: My Pebble’s relationship with iOS has been fraught with difficulty. I had to fiddle endlessly with Notification Center settings to get alerts to properly display on my watch, and since the release of iOS 8 I’ve found that more often than not my Pebble has just silently lost its connection to my iPhone — or the Pebble app says it is connected, but it doesn’t actually send any notifications. Except when it does.

Meanwhile, Pebble keeps announcing new features that work pretty well with Android.

Apple Watch and the World Wide Web 

Paul Canetti:

The point is, if Apple announced a computer with no web browser, or a new version of iOS with no web browser, or I don’t know, a new MacBook with no ports, people would freak out. Like the way they freak out about everything Apple has ever removed ever.

And yet the lack of reaction, or even acknowledgement, that there is no Safari on Apple Watch, leads me to believe that not only is Apple right to not include it, but we are actually ready to accept it: a wearable world with no web browsers.

I disagree with Canetti’s headline — “Apple Watch Doesn’t Have Safari And You Didn’t Even Notice”. I certainly noticed, and I think many others did too. But I didn’t give it much thought, because it made no sense for me for there to be a web browser on a watch-sized display. But now that I think about it, it is interesting — the HTML/CSS/JavaScript web has no place in the wearable world.

Gucci and Will.i.am Unveil Wearable Tech Collaboration 

Alessandra Codinha, Vogue:

The musician has joined forces with Gucci Timepieces on a “smartband” that is completely standalone, which is to say untethered from any existing smartphone or mobile device. What makes it so smart? Well, it has the ability to make and receive phone calls; send and receive text messages and emails; hold music, maps, and your calendar; track your fitness; and even possesses a “sophisticated personal assistant” activated by voice command. “Wearable technology and smart devices represent a new frontier for the fashion industry. It is very appropriate that Gucci is leading the way through this collaboration with will.i.am, as innovation has always been such an important part of our DNA,” wrote Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri in a statement.

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge back in November:

The Puls is a fully independent smartwatch — it has its own SIM card and doesn’t rely on being connected to a smartphone to work. Will.i.am introduced it to the world on a stage at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last month in front a bunch of devotees to CRM.

I got a chance to use an early production model earlier today. It’s objectively the worst product I’ve touched all year.

Good luck with that, Gucci.

Gene Munster Claims Apple Has Augmented Reality R&D Team 

Mikey Campbell:

Citing sources within the virtual and augmented reality industry, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a report published Wednesday that he believes Apple is fielding a small team tasked with experimental work in the AR space.

Consumer oriented AR systems are likely ten years out, the analyst said, but Apple’s purported involvement suggests it is already plotting out the next evolution in computing. Munster suspects AR technology could be as transformative to the tech landscape as the smartphone.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard about people getting hired for something like this at Apple. But it would be more surprising to hear that Apple isn’t doing any R&D regarding augmented reality than to hear that they are. Of course they’re looking into this.

Unscrupulous Website Ads Again Redirecting Some Users to App Store From Safari 

Benjamin Mayo, on a rash of web ads that are redirecting people to App Store links:

This is Apple’s problem to fix, not an attack on the websites shown. All of these websites use third-party networks that are outside of their control — it’s not their decision to cause the redirections. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the issue.

Bullshit. If you publish a website with ads, and those ads do scammy things via JavaScript, that’s your responsibility. Of course Apple should close whatever hole these dirtbags are exploiting, but publishers are responsible for the ads they serve.

Update: Mayo’s demo video includes Jason Snell’s Six Colors, the only ads on which are from The Deck — and The Deck, rest assured, is not serving scammy JavaScript redirects. It’s not even possible. So something else is going on here. Seems more like a man-in-the-middle attack — a compromised network or router.

Update 2: Here’s a piece from last week from AraLabs explaining how this hijack works.

Update 3: Jason Snell, “Ad Networks, Redirects, and Assumptions”.

A ‘Real Watch’ 

John McCarthy, reporting for The Drum:

Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of TAG Heuer told Reuters at Baselworld, a watch industry event in Basel, that his firm’s entry will heavily resemble the Tag Heuer black Carrera: “People will have the impression that they are wearing a normal watch,” he said.

TAG has some great-looking watches in the Carrera collection, but most of them are decidedly masculine. Unsung among Apple’s achievements with Apple Watch is that no one else has a smart watch even close to the size of the 38mm Apple Watch — and most dwarf Apple’s 42mm model.

“Apple will get young people used to wearing a watch and later maybe they will want to buy themselves a real watch.”

This is how watch collecting works. You get hooked, and start buying more watches. And then you choose between them based on your mood or the occasion. Not so easy when one watch is tied to Android and the one you already own is tied to iPhone. The best hope for existing watch brands is for people not to like wearing Apple Watch, because if they do like wearing Apple Watch, they’re not going to switch.

Google, Intel, and TAG Heuer Team Up on Luxury Smartwatch 

Bloomberg:

In his announcement at the Baselworld watch expo today, LVMH watches chief Jean-Claude Biver said this was his “biggest announcement ever” in his 40 years of working in the industry. He predicted the device would be the “greatest connected watch.” David Singleton, the head of Android Wear development for Google, added: “When I think about the watch, it’s always been a marriage of beauty and utility. We’re going to do that with our partnership.” TAG Heuer is set to handle design and manufacture, while Intel will provide an SoC platform and Google will lend its Android Wear platform and help develop software. The watch is set to be launched by the end of the year, at which point price and functions will be announced.

No details as to what the watch looks like. Not even clear they’ve started designing it. Smart though, not to let Google be involved with the design.

“The difference between the TAG Heuer watch and the Apple watch is very important,” Biver said. “That one is called Apple and this one is called TAG Heuer.”

TAG Heuer is a great brand, no argument about it. But there’s another difference: only one of them is going to work with iPhone.

PC Makers Mock New MacBook 

Three thoughts:

  • There’s no clearer sign that Apple now rules the PC industry. A decade ago, it was Apple that was the underdog, mocking PCs. Now, the tables are turned.

  • Note the completely bogus scaling factors on the thinness comparisons from Lenovo and Asus. Shameful.

  • None of these PC makers have been able to make a trackpad as good as Apple’s (now) old multitouch trackpad. Now Apple’s blown their own work away with the Force Touch Trackpad. Good luck copying that.

‘Director of Moonshots’ Astro Teller on Google Glass’s Failure 

Taylor Hatmaker, writing for The Daily Dot:

“I’m amazed by how sensitively people responded to some of the privacy issues,” Teller explains, expressing frustration about the backlash against Glass in public, given the prevalence of mobile video. “When someone walks into a bar wearing Glass… there are video cameras all over that bar recording everything.” If it were around a year ago “they’d be Meerkatting,” Teller joked.

That he was “amazed” by people’s visceral reaction to Glass is all the explanation necessary to explain why Glass failed. It started right at the top.

‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ Authors Interview Tim Cook 

Tim Cook, in a great interview with Becoming Steve Jobs authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli:

There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.

Later:

Q: Many people seem to have a hard time imagining the usefulness of the watch.

A: Yes, but people didn’t realize they had to have an iPod, and they really didn’t realize they had to have the iPhone. And the iPad was totally panned. Critics asked, “Why do you need this?” Honestly, I don’t think anything revolutionary that we have done was predicted to be a hit when released. It was only in retrospect that people could see its value. Maybe this will be received the same way.

Rene Ritchie on Apple Pay Security FUD 

Rene Ritchie, writing at iMore:

It’s important to keep saying that because publications keep making it a point to link Apple Pay and “fraud” in their headlines. It’s important because those publications are spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Apple Pay, which makes mobile payments more accessible and secures the very data often used to actually commit fraud, to the people for whom it is most beneficial. That’s why, as the FUD keeps coming up, we’re going to keep addressing it.

The Verge: ‘Microsoft Is Killing Off the Internet Explorer Brand’ 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

While Microsoft has dropped hints that the Internet Explorer brand is going away, the software maker has now confirmed that it will use a new name for its upcoming browser successor, codenamed Project Spartan. Speaking at Microsoft Convergence yesterday, Microsoft’s marketing chief Chris Capossela revealed that the company is currently working on a new name and brand. “We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10,” said Capossela. “We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is codenamed Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.”

As a lifelong Mac user, my thoughts on “Internet Explorer” run to the Mac version. It was a lifeboat back in the late ’90s — a browser with reasonable performance and high-quality rendering and strong support for web standards. But it would sometimes wedge your entire machine. It was like browsing with a stick of dynamite that could go off at any moment. And remember the pre-Safari days on Mac OS X? The days of bringing down the whole system were over, but good lord was that thing ugly.

‘IP Box’ – Hardware Device Unlocks iPhone PINs by Brute Force 

MDSec:

Although we’re still analyzing the device it appears to be relatively simple in that it simulates the PIN entry over the USB connection and sequentially bruteforces every possible PIN combination. That in itself is not unsurprising and has been known for some time. What is surprising however is that this still works even with the “Erase data after 10 attempts” configuration setting enabled. Our initial analysis indicates that the IP Box is able to bypass this restriction by connecting directly to the iPhone’s power source and aggressively cutting the power after each failed PIN attempt, but before the attempt has been synchronized to flash memory. As such, each PIN entry takes approximately 40 seconds, meaning that it would take up to ~111 hours to bruteforce a 4 digit PIN.

Dastardly clever attack. This only works with 4-digit numeric PINs, but that’s what most iPhone owners use.

The Steve Jobs You Didn’t Know 

Heartbreaking excerpt from Rick Tetzeli and Brent Schlender’s upcoming book, Becoming Steve Jobs:

One afternoon, Cook left the house feeling so upset that he had his own blood tested. He found out that he, like Steve, had a rare blood type, and guessed that it might be the same. He started doing research, and learned that it is possible to transfer a portion of a living person’s liver to someone in need of a transplant. About 6,000 living-donor transplants are performed every year in the United States, and the rate of success for both donor and recipient is high. The liver is a regenerative organ. The portion transplanted into the recipient will grow to a functional size, and the portion of the liver that the donor gives up will also grow back.

Cook decided to undergo a battery of tests that determine if someone is healthy enough to be a living donor. “I thought he was going to die,” Cook explains. He went to a hospital far from the Bay Area, since he didn’t want to be recognized. The day after he returned from the trip, he went to visit Steve. Sitting alone with him in the bedroom of the Palo Alto house, Tim began to offer his liver to Steve. “I really wanted him to do it,” he remembers. “He cut me off at the legs, almost before the words were out of my mouth. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ll never let you do that. I’ll never do that!’ ”

If you read nothing else today, make it this.

DeNA, the Company Making Mobile Games With Nintendo, Specializes in Free-to-Play 

Mike Fahey, writing for Kotaku:

This is a company the owners of beloved properties trust with their brands. Why? Because DeNA knows how to make free-to-play work.

Look at those two screenshots. Every one of the games there is free-to-play. Every one of them features in-app purchases. Several of them have been among the top-grossing free-to-play games in the world.

Many of DeNA and Mobage’s most popular games rely on collectible card tactics to make revenue, building on rampant success of Rage of Bahamut. Players are given certain items for free — trading cards, Transformers, G.I. Joe squad members — and can play though a large portion of each game using them, but to be competitive they must purchase a chance at a rare item using real money.

Sure hope Nintendo has the wherewithal to pursue this in a balanced, non-scammy way.

Update: Steve Lubitz captures my skepticism:

“Nintendo games on mobile” is to “games with Nintendo IP on mobile” as Assistant Regional Manager is to Assistant to the Regional Manager.

Nintendo Commits to Creating Mobile Games With New Partner DeNA 

Emily Gera, reporting for Polygon:

Nintendo finally confirmed today it will be making the leap to mobile game development as part of a new partnership with DeNA.

According to a statement released by the companies today, new Nintendo IP will be developed for smart devices and specifically optimized for this platform. In other words, rather than porting games created specifically for the Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS you can expect entirely new titles on mobile.

Here’s Nintendo’s announcement of the deal. I’m not sure if it’s a Japanese-to-English translation issue or just dense corporate-ese on the part of Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata, but I found it difficult to parse.

Not sure what to make of this yet, but it sounds like they’re doing what I suggested back in 2013 (part one, part two). As I concluded then:

It’s a choice for Nintendo between playing the actual hand they’ve been dealt, crummy though it may be, or playing the hand they wish they held.

Strategies for Beats 

Larry Sukernik:

The more competition exists, the more bargaining power the music labels have over steaming services. Since it is unlikely Apple will convince the labels to a lower price tier, Apple must find a different way to grow the Beats brand into the next iTunes. Here are some strategies I would advise Apple to partake with Beats (preferably more than one).

Serious question: How big a problem is it for Apple that they haven’t yet gained any traction in streaming music? For a decade, they were the undisputed leader in digital music. In the new world of subscriptions/streaming, that’s no longer true.

The Miniature Models of ‘Blade Runner’ 

So great.

App Submissions on Google Play Now Reviewed by Staff 

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:

According to Purnima Kochikar, Director of Business Development for Google Play, Google has been working to implement the new app review system for over half a year. The idea, she says, was to figure out a way to catch policy offenders earlier in the process, without adding friction and delays to the app publishing process. To that end, Google has been successful, it seems — the new system actually went live a couple of months ago, and there have been no complaints. Today, Android apps are approved in hours, not days, despite the addition of human reviewers.

“We started reviewing all apps and games before they’re published — it’s rolled out 100%,” says Kochikcar. “And developers haven’t noticed the change.”

For comparison, Apple’s App Store approval times are currently running at around seven days.

Streaming TV Service From Apple Rumored 

Keach Hagey, Shalini Ramachandran, and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

The technology giant is in talks with programmers to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks this fall, according to people familiar with the matter. The service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox and would be available on Apple devices such as the Apple TV, they said.

For now, the talks don’t involve NBCUniversal, owner of the NBC broadcast network and cable channels like USA and Bravo, because of a falling-out between Apple and NBCUniversal parent company Comcast Corp., the people familiar with the matter said. […]

Some media executives said they believed Apple was aiming to price the service at about $30 to $40 a month.

Interesting, but I suggest taking it with a WSJ “people familiar with the matter“-sized grain of salt.

Android Taxonomies 

Benedict Evans:

“Android” means lots of different things, and there’s a lot of confusion about forks, Xiaomi, China and AOSP, as well as “the next billion”. So this is how I try to think about this. First, there are actually (at least) six types of “Android” in the market today.

Meeting the Target Market 

Jack March:

The new Macbook Stealth is not a compromise, it’s just meeting its target market. The people who buy the MacBook Air need it because it’s incredibly lightweight, not for performance or productivity. If they want that then they should buy a MacBook Pro.

Right now the MacBook Air has lots of competition, it’s not the thinnest laptop in the world anymore and that’s losing them sales. The Primary USP of the MacBook Air is how thin it is, and that should be Apple’s main objective.

Prescient, given that March wrote this all the way back in January.

(My only quibble: Everything in design is a compromise. Of course the dearth of peripheral ports on the new MacBook is a compromise. What March is saying, and I agree with, is that it’s a smart, forward-thinking compromise.)

‘SPECTRE’ Teaser Poster 

Nice watch strap.

Google Asking Firefox Users to Switch Their Default Search Engine 

Matt McGee, writing for Search Engine Land:

Why would Google give up the top two-plus inches of its search results page like this? It goes back to the November announcement that Mozilla was dropping Google in favor of Yahoo as the default search engine in its Firefox web browser. Even as the No. 3 browser with about 16 percent market share (according to StatCounter), Firefox still drives a substantial number of searches.

Apple and China 

Om Malik:

Apple’s revenues went up from $12.7 billion in 2011 to $29.8 billion in 2014. At Goldman Sachs’s conference, Cook is rumored to have said that he has been studying China for 30 years and that “I think we’re still not too far from the surface” in opportunity terms. That should be good news for the company since the year-over-year growth in its two major markets — Americas and Europe (where the revenues are already large) is starting to moderate, but China is going strong and picking up steam. Analysts estimate it is only a matter of time before China becomes bigger than Europe.

I think Om’s headline — (Now) Apple Is All About China — is a little strong, but only a little. China is a top-tier target for Apple, and for the foreseeable future, every major undertaking the company takes will surely have an eye on the Chinese market.

The New MacBook and the Original MacBook Air 

Dylan Tweney, writing for VentureBeat, thinks the new MacBook is underpowered and needs another USB port:

Cult of Mac writes that the MacBook is a down payment on the future of laptops. Other PC makers may mock the MacBook today, but in a year or two, Apple will address some of the more glaring flaws (maybe adding a second USB-C port), drop the price, and mop up the competition. It followed this playbook with the initial MacBook Air, which was ridiculously overpriced and limited when it first came out, but which is an affordable workhorse today.

If Apple is indeed moving towards a more tablet-centric future, I have a suggestion: Make that Retina screen into a touchscreen, and make the keyboard detachable.

The key to understanding the new MacBook is that it didn’t replace any existing models in Apple’s lineup. In fact, the 11- and 13-inch Airs and the 13-inch MacBook Pro all got speed bump updates last week. If you need more ports or better performance, or if you frequently need to work while your MacBook is plugged into a power outlet, this machine is not for you, today. That’s why it didn’t (yet) replace anything in the lineup.

I thought Tweney almost had it, in the first of the two paragraphs quoted above. The original 2008 MacBook Air was slow, expensive (based on specs), lacked storage, only had one USB port, was the first Apple notebook without an optical drive, etc. It was not for everyone. It was not for most people, in fact. But some people loved it. The new 2015 MacBook is the same thing — some people will love it today, and it shows us Apple’s vision for the future of the notebook form factor.

Apple Watch Polling in Line With 2010 iPad Polling 

Abdel Ibrahim:

Given that the wearable is the first new product category to come out of Cupertino since iPad in early 2010, I thought it would make sense to look at some of the old online polls about that launch to better understand what kind of reception is indicated for this one.

What a disaster it’ll be for Apple if Apple Watch is only as popular as iPad.

On ‘Hating’ Apple Watch 

The Macalope:

Maybe — maybe — what you hate is not the Apple Watch, but your human frailty.

Glass Half Empty 

Alexei Oreskovic, in a report for Reuters headlined “Apple Watch Not on Shopping List for 69 Percent of Americans”:

Apple Inc’s new smartwatch may be a tough sell, with 69 percent of Americans indicating they are not interested in buying the gadget, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. […]

One-quarter of respondents said they were interested in purchasing the Apple Watch, but 69 percent said they had no desire, and 6 percent said they were unsure.

One out of four respondents is interested in buying a brand new product — so new that none of them have seen one in person, and no one outside Apple has used it extensively — and Reuters’s conclusion is that Apple Watch “may be a tough sell”? OK.

Esquire’s Escalating Scale of Drunkenness 

Esquire:

The thing about one drink — a glass of liquor we’re talking about, hopefully a stiff pour — is that it doesn’t involve enough alcohol to make anything stop working. Your eyesight, your natural grace, your moral compass — they’re all left intact. Because one drink doesn’t compromise anything. It enhances. You have one drink and your world becomes slightly better. The bar is a slightly better bar. Your dog is a slightly better dog. Your work is slightly more brilliant. And for that, you pay no price.

So good.

The Four Horsemen 

Fast-paced insightful talk by Scott Galloway on Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. Particularly keen regarding Apple.

Apple’s Role in the Creation of USB-C 

Seth Weintraub, 9to5Mac:

It appears that USB Type-C was initially submitted in 2012, the same year Apple announced Lightning. If it was Apple that invented this, it would have gone through a lot of testing and iterations by the many companies listed on the PDF by the time it was made a standard last year. And when Apple invents something, they aren’t shy about sharing that fact with the world, especially if it will help their customers adopt the technology — see Firewire, Thunderbolt (aka LightPeak), etc.

If Apple did indeed “invent” USB Type-C, it would be very strange that Nokia would have announced a product with it last year (the N1 Android tablet, pictured above). While Apple was the first to announce a laptop with the standard, Google’s Chromebook Pixel 2 was announced hours later, and is the first laptop to ship with the spec, landing in reviewers’ hands last week. It is strange, however, that Google seemingly held their announcement back until after Apple announced the MacBook.

My comments on The Talk Show about Apple’s role in the creation of USB-C were somewhat hyperbolic. It was a brief aside. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that no other companies contributed to the final spec. Only that from what I’ve been told, Apple ought to be getting (and taking) credit as the leading company behind USB-C’s innovations. Not that they “invented” it, but that they “basically invented” it. I completely stand by that. But there are a lot of politics involved. One reason Apple isn’t taking more public credit for their role: they truly want USB-C to see widespread adoption; a perception that it’s an Apple technology might slow that down.

I’ll also point out that USB-C is a very Apple-like design. It is reversible and thin; because it can handle power, high-speed data transfer, and video, it (obviously, given the new MacBook) allows for a significant reduction in ports on a laptop. Every aspect of USB-C fits Apple’s design goals. You can’t say that about any previous USB port.

Twitter Plays Hardball With Meerkat 

Mat Honan, writing for BuzzFeed:

Twitter is cutting off Meerkat’s ability to port people’s social networks over from Twitter to its own service — the so-called social graph. That means when new users come on board, they will no longer be automatically connected to the other people they are already following on Twitter. This comes not long after Twitter purchased a competing live streaming service, Periscope, and just as the South by Southwest festival is getting underway in Austin.

Sucks for Meerkat, but I can’t blame Twitter.

There’s definitely something going on here — live-streaming video from a mobile device to dozens/hundreds/thousands of your followers is clearly going to be a thing. Meerkat is already existence proof. It’s kind of neat. But they have some serious technology problems. Right now, Meerkat video is on what feels like a 30-second buffer, so the ability for an on-air personality to respond to the comments from viewers suffers from really high latency. It’s like communicating with someone on a spaceship headed to Jupiter. Periscope, from what I’ve heard, only has a few seconds of latency.

Tuft & Needle 

My thanks to Tuft & Needle for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Tuft & Needle provides a new way to shop for a mattress that is honest and hassle-free. The Tuft & Needle Mattress is #1 rated on Amazon with over 600 reviews. By cutting out the middlemen, gimmicks, and sales tactics, Tuft & Needle offers an American-made mattress at a revolutionary price point. Their mattresses start at just $350, come with a 10-year warranty, and ship free directly to your door.

No confusing choices, either — their slogan is “One mattress, made perfect. Not too hard, not too soft. Just right. And don’t worry about buying a mattress without having tried it in person, either — Tuft & Needle offers a risk-free 30 night trial.

Transcript of Tim Cook’s ‘Surprise’ On-Air Phone Call to Jim Cramer 

I don’t believe for a second this phone call was in any way a surprise to Cramer, but it’s interesting to me how well Cook does in scenarios like this. His good-bye is just perfect. His public persona is unique: hard-charging, hard-nosed, fantastically successful businessman; but humane, honest, and genuinely caring.

Add The Economist to the List of Apple Watch Doubters 

The Economist:

Yet in spite of Mr Cook’s bouncing optimism, Apple seems unlikely to turn its watch into the next big must-have gadget. Certainly, the watch will not match the success of previous products, such as the iPod or iPhone.

It’s ignorant to lump the successes of iPod and iPhone together. iPod was indeed successful — for its time. But iPhone’s success is at least an order of magnitude — maybe several — greater. And oddly enough the “Revenues by Product” chart that The Economist uses to illustrate this very article shows just that. Compared to iPhone, iPod’s peak revenue just wasn’t that great.

If you don’t think Apple Watch can at least match the iPod’s success, I think you’re nuts. I’m going to run out of claim chowder pantry space.

Here’s their explanation for this pessimism:

This is true for two main reasons. First, Apple’s newest creation replicates many of the functions that the smartphone already makes so seamless, such as checking e-mail, receiving calendar alerts and communicating with friends. People are unlikely to want to shell out a sum between $350 (for the most basic model) and $17,000 (for the fanciest version) for something with so few extra functions. Second, the Apple Watch is dependent on a nearby smartphone, which means that users will just be adding another device to their growing menageries instead of replacing one. This is not unlike selling someone a wristwatch that requires a pocket watch to work.

The Apple Watch’s current reliance upon a tethered iPhone is much like the way early iPhones required wired syncing to a Mac or PC for everything from music to contacts to calendars. Apple Watch will be an independent cloud client device eventually.

Apple Watch may or may not be a compelling device. The fact that it requires an iPhone companion will not determine that.

Photoshop Experts Revisit Photoshop 1.0 

I remember all of this. Even the ancient convention of putting the app’s version number in its file name. Great nostalgia. (Via Faruk Ateş.)

The Talk Show: ‘A Tube of Lubricant for Your Life’ 

Special guest Matthew Panzarino joins the show. After some brief chitchat on Meerkat and monocular vision, we get into the obvious topic this week: Apple’s “Spring Forward” media event in San Francisco. Sub-topics therein: ResearchKit; FaceTime and open standards; accessibility and Tim Cook’s refusal to measure the ROI of such things; Jeff Williams’s first onstage appearance at an Apple keynote; Angela Ahrendts; the new single-port MacBook; San Francisco as the new keycap font on the MacBook keyboard; the Taptic trackpad; the timing of this event; and more.

Oh, and something called “Apple Watch”.

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Prejudice: ‘Preconceived Opinion That Is Not Based on Reason or Actual Experience’ 

Timothy Egan, in his column for the NYT:

I hate the new Apple Watch. Hate what it will do to conversation, to the pace of the day, to my friends, to myself. I hate that it will enable the things that already make life so incremental, now-based and hyper-connected. That, and make things far worse.

He seems oddly certain for someone who’s never used one. Why form an opinion without having used it? I don’t get it.

How Apple Makes the Watch 

Fantastic analysis from Greg Koenig of Apple’s manufacturing videos of the Apple Watch:

Jony Ive often speaks of care. It is an odd word to use as it doesn’t imply the traditional notion of “craftsmanship” in the classic, handmade sense. Nor does it imply quality or precision in the way a Japanese car manufacturer or German machine tool maker would. “Care” implies a respect for the raw materials and end result, with little concern about what it takes to link those two ends of the production chain together, and we see that highlighted with the Watch. Apple could very easily have forgone forging to create stainless steel cases, just like everyone else. Hardening gold alloy with cold working could have been eliminated, putting them on par with the rest of the industry. Nobody will see or feel the inside pocket for the microphone on the Sport, yet it has been laser finished to perfection.

I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed. This isn’t a supply chain, it is a ritual Apple is performing to bring themselves up to the standards necessary to compete against companies with centuries of experience.

Koenig has been a fantastic follow on Twitter regarding Apple Watch.

‘All the iPhone Apps You Can’t Delete Are There for Rich People’ 

Loved this brief piece by Casey Johnston.

Mat Honan on the Whisper/Guardian Fiasco 

Mat Honan, writing for BuzzFeed:

In the somewhat confusingly written clarification, Guardian US yesterday stated that it was “happy to clarify” that IP address data is “a very rough and unreliable indicator of location,” that Whisper had drafted changes to its terms of service before Guardian US contacted it, and that it did not share personal information with the Department of Defense.

One of its central claims that it did not walk back, however, was that Whisper was looking at location data of users who had not opted in to having it tracked. Nor did it retract a disputed quote, allegedly made by one of Whisper’s executives, claiming it would track a certain lobbyist for the rest of his life.

The bottom line is that the “clarification” did more to muddy things than it did to make them apparent. Still, for Whisper’s management, apparently this represents “good enough.”

Letters From Old Yankee Stadium Up for Auction 

Note to my wife: no harm done buying my Father’s Day gift a few months in advance.

ResearchKit Off to a Good Start 

Michelle Fay Cortez and Caroline Chen, reporting for Bloomberg:

Stanford University researchers were stunned when they awoke Tuesday to find that 11,000 people had signed up for a cardiovascular study using Apple Inc.’s ResearchKit, less than 24 hours after the iPhone tool was introduced.

“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country,” said Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health. “That’s the power of the phone.”

Emotion as the Primary Selling Point 

Great piece by Neil Cybart at Above Avalon:

The contrast between the BuzzFeed and The Verge demo videos are noteworthy, demonstrating the much bigger trend in technology: personalization. While there is still demand for videos that go into a gadget’s specs, the momentum is clearly found with videos that simply discuss the emotion behind the product and if it is something worth people’s time to learn more about. Gadgets are becoming extensions of ourselves and that is only intensified with wearables. While some may be interested in the assumptions included in stated battery life claims, many more will be mesmerized by an animated Mickey Mouse watch face.

Incidentally, Apple has been placing emotion ahead of tech specs in its marketing campaigns for a long time. We saw this once again at Monday’s keynote where the takeaway message was to drum up interest in the Watch and not focus on specifications or even how the Digital Crown works. This makes the Apple online store that much more important as a source of information, in addition to brick-and-mortar retail establishments.

Rob Griffith’s All-in-One Apple Watch Spreadsheet 

I’m slightly baffled by the weight difference between Sport Band colors. Why is white so much heavier than black (47 vs. 37 grams)?

New Chromebook Pixels Use USB-C, Too 

Ed Baig, writing for USA Today:

Arguably the most significant difference compared with the first-generation Pixel is the addition of two compact USB Type-C ports, conveniently placed on each side of the machine. USB Type-C can handle power, data and video, all in one.

It does seem convenient to be able to power the device from either side. Every once in a while you wind up in a spot where it’d be more comfortable to plug the adapter in on the other side of the laptop.

The timing seems like it can’t be a coincidence. There must have been some sort of backchannel embargo, allowing Apple to announce the new MacBook as the first USB-C-equipped laptop.

As for Baig’s description of the new Pixels as being for “power users”, I think that’s off the mark. I think David Pierce, at Wired, has a more apt description of the target audience:

Google really still intends the Pixel for its hardest of hardcore fans: the people who live in Google products all day, or who develop apps for those products.

Apple Watch Glances and the Watch Face 

Pavan Rajam, on Ben Thompson’s confusion from Glances only being available from the “watch face”:

I think issue here is the term watch face. The traditional meaning of clock/watch face, per Wikipedia, “the part of an analog clock (or watch) that displays the time through the use of a fixed-numbered dial or dials and moving hands.” On the surface, this sounds analogous to the Apple Watch’s display.

Apple’s copy, on the other hand, seems to define watch face as the watch face UI in the Clock app, not the Watch’s display.

I think Rajam is correct. Something that occurred to me yesterday is that Glances only being available from here might also have something to do with the watch face UI not being scrollable. The elements are all fixed. That means when you swipe up on the touchscreen, it can only mean one thing: you want to see your Glances. If Glances were available system-wide, it could get all screwy with swipes that intended to scroll a list, or pan around on the home screen. The watch might well be too small physically to allow for “you have to swipe from the very edge of the display” distinctions like we have in iOS for Notification Center and Control Center.

Rajam:

If anything, this tells me that many of the interactions we take for granted on iOS won’t necessarily translate to the Watch. Pinch to zoom is one of these, Notification/Control Center is another.

Pinch-to-zoom is definitely out. Apple Watch is not multitouch.

Update: I don’t know why people are pushing back on this multitouch thing. It’s not multitouch. It’d just be a waste. The display is way too small for meaningful multitouch interaction — that’s why Apple added force touch and the digital crown.

From the Department of Jumping to Conclusions, Patent Edition 

Stephen Pulvirent, opining for Bloomberg Business:

Some people will think the gold is beautiful; the yellow doesn’t photograph well, but looks better in person. (I personally prefer the look of the fake gold on the new Macbook.) There’s also rose gold, and both make the watch much heavier and less practical for daily wear. Compared with the aluminum Apple Watch Sport, it feels like a brick. Sure, you’re not running a marathon with the thing, a la Christy Turlington, but you don’t want your wrist to tire before the battery.

Apple is careful to point out that the 18k gold used is a proprietary alloy that’s between two and four times harder than typical gold. According to a patent filed last June, this special gold is created by impregnating a gold matrix with ceramic particles for added toughness. In the same patent, Apple also alludes to future cases made of silver and platinum, so this might not be the only Apple Watch Edition we see.

Yes, Apple Watch Edition is made from a custom 18-karat gold alloy. Yes, Apple filed that patent last year. But it does not follow that the gold in Apple Watch Edition is the gold described in that patent. If you watch the “Gold film” on Apple’s Edition page, Jony Ive says, “It begins at the molecular level, where precise adjustments in the amount of silver, copper, and palladium in the alloy result in very specific hues of yellow and rose gold.” Those metals are the only ingredients Apple has talked about. Maybe there is ceramic mixed in there, too, but maybe not. We don’t know.

Apple, like all major tech companies, files patents on everything that they think is patentable, whether they plan to use it in actual products or not.

I’ve also seen comments from the peanut gallery alleging that Apple Watch Edition doesn’t contain much actual gold, based on this same patent filing and the typical peanut gallery conspiratorial fever dreams. If it’s heavier than the stainless steel models — and it is — that means it contains a significant amount of actual gold.

Details on USB-C 

Good piece by Seth Weintraub running down the details on USB-C. As for this question:

By next year, I would expect all new Macs to have USB Type C. I would expect Apple displays (if they keep doing displays) to be USB-Type C based. I would expect Lightning cables and most of the industry to move that direction too. The question in my mind is: Will Apple keep Lightning or are you looking at the next iPhone connector as well?

I think the answer is probably “No, Apple is not going to switch the iPhone and iPad to USB-C”. I think Lightning is a more elegant design, including being slightly thinner. And I think Apple likes having a proprietary port on iOS devices.

But, if they did move iOS devices to USB-C, then you could charge your iOS devices and MacBook with the same cable. And within a few years, all phones and tablets from all companies would charge using the same standard.

Khoi Vinh’s ‘How They Got There’ 

New book from Khoi Vinh:

Fourteen amazing interviews with designers of all stripes, each one full of brilliant insights into how great careers are made in digital media.

Read tales of hard work, odd coincidences, fortuitous timing, personal networks — and dumb luck.

Vinh set out to write the book he wished he’d had when he began his career, and he succeeded. I read an advance copy, and it’s good. Recommended for anyone working in design, and highly recommended for anyone starting a career in design.

Apple Stores as the New Mall Anchors 

Suzanne Kapner, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple draws so many shoppers that its stores single-handedly lift sales by 10% at the malls in which they operate, according to Green Street Advisors, a real-estate research firm. That gives Apple the clout to negotiate extremely low rents for itself relative to its sales, while creating upward pressure on prices paid by mall neighbors who might not benefit from the traffic.

In the past, malls typically operated according to a straightforward bargain. Department stores that anchored the ends of the malls either owned their own stores or paid almost nothing aside from fees to maintain common spaces in exchange for drawing much of the traffic, while specialty retailers in the smaller spaces between the anchors typically paid the bulk of a mall’s rent.

Apple has upended that model by using its bargaining power to pay no more than 2% of its sales a square foot in rent. That compares with a typical in-line tenant, which pays as much as 15%, according to industry executives.

The WSJ’s ‘People Familiar With the Matter’ 

Lorraine Luk and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ on February 17:

Apple Inc. has asked its suppliers in Asia to make a combined five million to six million units of its three Apple Watch models during the first quarter ahead of the product’s release in April, according to people familiar with the matter.

Half of the first-quarter production order is earmarked for the entry-level Apple Watch Sport model, while the mid-tier Apple Watch is expected to account for one-third of output, one of these people said.

Orders for Apple Watch Edition — the high-end model featuring 18-karat gold casing — are relatively small in the first quarter but Apple plans to start producing more than one million units per month in the second quarter, the person said.

This reads like utter nonsense in light of Apple Watch Edition’s now-announced pricing. A person “familiar with the matter” told them Apple expects 16 percent of Apple Watch sales to be Edition models? One out of every six is going to cost $10,000 or more, and will only be available at (quoting Tim Cook on stage this week) “select retail stores”?

Cook said at the end of Monday’s event, “There will be limited quantities of the Apple Watch Edition.” But someone “familiar with the matter” told the Journal three weeks prior to the event that Apple planned on producing one million Edition watches per month next quarter?

(Update: To put this in context, 1 million Edition watches sold per month would generate around $12 billion in monthly revenue, and about $36 billion in revenue per quarter. Their record-breaking most recent quarter included $75 billion in revenue total. The numbers from the WSJ’s “people familiar with the matter” would thus make Apple Watch Edition — just Edition — half the size of the entire company by revenue in its most recently completed quarter.)

I’d say Luk and Wakabayashi’s sources were more familiar with the view inside of their derrières than they were with Apple’s plans for Apple Watch.

Claim Chowder: The Verge on the Pricing of the New MacBook 

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

The Non-VC ‘SimCity’ Approach to Growing a Media Business 

Interesting piece by Danny Sullivan on bootstrapping a media business in lieu of venture capital:

Third Door Media started in late 2006. It never took investment. We grew our staff as our revenue grew, according to our business plans. In 2008, when the world economy crashed, we hunkered down and came through without losing people. In part, this was because we’d been careful not to over-extend, not to build a large operation beyond what it could support with native revenue.

It’s what I once called the “SimCity” model of growing. I used to often play the game years ago. I would take two approaches. One was to use the “FUNDS” cheat to get all the money I needed to build everything at once. But in doing this, I often found my cities built that way didn’t thrive. Instead, naturally growing my city slowly over time allowed it to stabilize and do well.

Rene Ritchie on Apple Watch’s Interface 

Rene Ritchie:

The Apple Watch isn’t an iPhone any more than the iPhone is a Mac. Computing has moved from the server room to the desktop to the laptop to the pocket and now onto the wrist. Every time that’s happened, every time it’s moved to a new, more personal place, those of us who were used to it in its old place have become slightly anxious, we’ve become subject to our own expectational debt.

“Expectational debt” — I love that turn of phrase. Wish I’d come up with that.

Update: Several readers peg the originals of “expectational debt” to my friend Merlin Mann. Reader Sawyer Paul points all the way back to episode 6 of “Back to Work”.

Mathew Ingram on Gigaom’s Closing 

Christopher Massie of Columbia Journalism Review interviews now-former Gigaom editor Mathew Ingram:

Q: Were there any indications that this was going to happen before Monday?

A: No.

Q: You were just totally blindsided?

A: Yeah. And I think the majority of staff were as well. We were writing right up until the announcement. We did get a new CEO [Michael Rolnick] recently, so I think people thought maybe there needed to be some changes — maybe some strategic changes — but there was literally no talk of even layoffs. There was no talk of having to cut back. There were no austerity measures. We just got a phone call Monday afternoon saying “Be on the phone in an hour.” And the CEO said they were shutting it down and we were all out of work.

Brutal.

Responding to Apple Watch 

Jim Dalrymple flagged an Apple Watch hit piece by Martin McNulty in The Guardian (headline: “Goodbye Apple Fanboy: How the Watchmaker Alienated Its Audience”) for having been written by a guy who’s the chief executive of a product marketing firm that works for several luxury watchmakers — without disclosing that. The Guardian has since amended the article to disclose this.

What I find more interesting than the undisclosed conflict of interest is the desperate nature of his argument. Knowing that he represents watchmakers, his piece comes across as scared. Dismissing the usefulness of Apple Watch is not the angle they should take. The angle for mechanical watchmakers is to double down on what they already have going for them: tradition, distinction, mechanical elegance. We’re surrounded by computing devices already. It’s nice to have something purely mechanical as a break. That’s the angle.

Arguing that Apple has “alienated its audience” just makes this guy — and his clients — look foolish. I’d be furious if I were one of the watchmakers he represents.

The Guardian Backpedals on Whisper App Privacy Violations 

Elizabeth Dwoskin, reporting for the WSJ:

The Guardian on Tuesday clarified and corrected a series of controversial articles it published late last year about Whisper, a mobile app designed to transmit messages anonymously.

The U.K. newspaper, which had alleged that Whisper violated users’ privacy, added a paragraphs-long clarification at the top of a main article in the series. It also added a link to the clarification to other articles in the series, and removed a commentary from its website.

Not a good day for The Guardian. This is a serious ding to their credibility.

Apple Engineer Explains How the New MacBook Came to Be 

It’s great that the new Apple allows engineers talk about things like this publicly.

Nilay Patel on the Apple Watch Interface 

Nilay Patel, on using Apple Watch:

After months of anticipation, we’ve finally gotten to play with a working Apple Watch…what matters today is the software, what it can do, and how it works. And it turns out it’s actually pretty complicated. […]

That feeling of not knowing exactly where you are or what’s going to happen is pretty disorienting for an Apple product — the steady iterative updates of iOS and OS X mean that it’s traditionally been quite easy to pick up a new iPhone or MacBook and understand how to use it. But the Watch is really different, in ways big and small.

This passage from Patel made me feel worse about not having been able to attend yesterday’s event than anything else, because without hands-on experience, I can’t judge this for myself. I find Patel’s reaction worrisome. The iPhone did so much more than typical 2007 cell phones. But no one was confused by it. The iPhone’s intuitiveness, obviousness, and sense of place weren’t just nice-to-have. Those aspects of the iPhone were fundamentally essential to its success.

Update: Ben Thompson, in his subscription-only (and worth every penny) Stratechery Daily Update today:

Interestingly, Patel and I struggled with different things; he complained about confusing the external buttons, while I kept having trouble with understanding what “mode” I was in, for lack of a better term. Specifically, it was weird that “glances” could only be accessed from the watch face; the watch face, though, isn’t necessarily the “home” screen — the array of apps is. But on that screen you can’t bring up glances. It’s a bit confusing.

Again: worrisome. Compare this description of the “slide up from bottom of display” Glances to Control Center on iOS. Control Center is available and works the same way (again: slide up from bottom of display) everywhere: the lock screen, the home screen, and within any app.

Why Xcode’s Integrity Matters 

Craig Hockenberry, on reports that the CIA is actively working to compromise the integrity of Xcode:

The article refers to “Xcode” generically, but as we all know, there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle: I’m going to examine a few of them below. It’s your job to think about how these things might affect your own products.

The bottom line: You can never fully trust code you aren’t compiling from source. And even when you do have the source, you’re fucked if your compiler has been compromised.

Ken Thompson: ‘Reflections on Trusting Trust’ 

A classic essay from computer science titan Ken Thompson, back in 1984, explaining how to create a compromised C compiler that would be undetectable by an examination of its own source code:

The moral is obvious. You can’t trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect. A well installed microcode bug will be almost impossible to detect.

The Intercept: CIA Campaign to Compromise Apple’s Developer Tools 

Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley, reporting for The Intercept:

Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept. […]

The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store.

The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

Researchers also claimed they had successfully modified the OS X updater, a program used to deliver updates to laptop and desktop computers, to install a “keylogger.”

To be clear, there is no indication in this report that this hacked version of Xcode has been used in the wild. To be useful, they’d somehow have to get developers to use their modified Xcode toolset instead of Apple’s, or, to somehow infect Apple’s Xcode code base with their modifications. (Imagine a CIA or NSA agent, a trained computer scientist, who joins Apple’s Xcode compiler team under false pretenses.)

But it strikes me as outrageous that a U.S. spy agency is actively working against U.S. companies like Apple and Microsoft. You expect something like this from China or Russia. Not from our own government.

MoMA Recognizes Susan Kare 

John Brownlee, writing for Fast Company:

Susan Kare — the pioneering graphic designer whose pixel art icons for the original Macintosh helped define the language of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) — is being recognized by the New York Museum of Modern Art. Her archive of graph paper drawings sketching out her ideas for the original Macintosh interface have been acquired by the MoMA as part of the new exhibition, This is for Everyone: Design Experiments For The Common Good.

Well-deserved. Kare’s work for the original Macintosh has truly stood the test of time.

Firewatch Demo Day at GDC 

Jaw-dropping attention to detail from Panic, to set up a themed public demo for their upcoming game Firewatch at last week’s GDC. It looks like the queue for a ride at Disney World.

Joanna Stern’s First Look at the New MacBook 

Joanna Stern:

Like the first Air, this is Apple’s attempt to reimagine the laptop all over, now for the smartphone and tablet age. Based on my short time with the machine, I think Apple will turn the laptop industry on its head (again), but just like with the original Air, it may be moving too fast for some.

The comparison to the first Air is perfect. There are definitely many people who are ready for this today. But it’s really a statement about the future. Ports are going the way of optical discs and hard drives. But there’s a reason this isn’t replacing any of the existing MacBook Airs today.

Gigaom Shutting Down 

Om Malik:

Gigaom is winding down and its assets are now controlled by the company’s lenders. It is not how you want the story of a company you founded to end.

Every founder starts on a path — hopeful and optimistic, full of desire to build something that helps change the world for the better, reshape an industry and hopefully become independent, both metaphorically and financially. Business, much like life, is not a movie and not everyone gets to have a story book ending.

This surprised me. Then I thought about it, searched my entries in Movable Type, and realized I’ve only linked to Gigaom once in the last six months, and four times in the last 12 months. I used to link to reporting at Gigaom a couple of times every month. They’ve been going downhill for a while.

iPad as a Benchmark for Apple Watch Success 

Charles Arthur, writing for The Guardian:

The real question is whether the watch can become an unstoppable money-maker like the iPhone rather than a shorter-term fizz like the iPad — which nevertheless generated $27.8bn in revenue in 2014.

That seems awfully dismissive of the iPad’s continuing success. Yes, unit sales are down, but they’re not collapsing, and as Arthur says, they generated $27 billion in revenue last year. If Apple Watch is as successful as iPad, that would be an amazing success story for Apple. Amazing.

(I can even imagine a scenario where Apple Watch sales taper off like iPad’s have. I think a major difference between iPad and iPhone is that phone users upgrade every two or three years — partly because of contracts and the subsidies carriers offer, and partly because phones take a physical beating. A lot of people out there bought an iPad a few years ago and they’re still using it. Apple Watch could be like that — not something you buy and replace every two years, but something you buy and just use for many years. Maybe not “many years” by the standards of mechanical watches, but “many years” by the standards of the phone market.)

Apple Watch as an iPhone Sales Engine 

John Paczkowski, writing for his new gig at Buzzfeed:

And that’s where Apple’s larger strategic vision for Apple Watch comes clear. Fine, the Apple Watch may well “empower and enrich” the lives of those who wear it. As I said, the use-cases on parade today were compelling, and I haven’t even touched on the possibilities hinted at by the debut of the associated health diagnostic platform ResearchKit. But it’s also going to power iPhone sales. It’s going to push veteran iPhone users to upgrade to new iPhones and it’s going to give folks on rival mobile platforms one more reason to switch.

Apple Watch Water Resistance 

Apple, in the small print on the Apple Watch “Health and Fitness” page:

Apple Watch is splash and water resistant but not waterproof. You can, for example, wear and use Apple Watch during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but submerging Apple Watch is not recommended. Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. The leather bands are not water resistant.

IPX7 is 1 meter of submersion for up to 30 minutes. Proper waterproofing would be great, but this is far better than I feared for Apple Watch.

Apple’s Fork 

MG Siegler:

Just look at who Apple has hired in the past couple of years. This should be obvious. Not only is Apple not resting on their laurels, they’re pivoting the company in a pretty big way that’s flying under the radar to all but those watching most closely.

And it feels like a smart bet. Because Apple is at a moment of absolute strength, they can use that clout to get the talent on board to change the engine mid-flight. That doesn’t mean it will work, of course. But it sure seems better than sitting back and atrophying as more nimble opponents approach. This is when you take risks.

Agreed. I don’t know if Apple Watch is what they should be doing, but I do know what they should not be doing: standing still.

One Last Spitball on Stainless Steel Apple Watch Pricing 

Here are my “final guesses” from last night (for 38/42mm models):

  • Apple Watch Sport (all colors, with Sport Band): $349/399
  • Apple Watch, steel, Sport Band: $749/799
  • Apple Watch, steel, Classic Buckle: $849/899
  • Apple Watch, steel, Milanese Loop: $949/999
  • Apple Watch, steel, Modern Buckle (38mm only): $1199
  • Apple Watch, steel, Leather Loop (42mm only): $1299
  • Apple Watch, steel, Link Bracelet: $1499/1599
  • Apple Watch, space black steel, Link Bracelet: $1899/1999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Sport Band: $7499/7999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Modern Buckle (38mm only): $9999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Classic Buckle (42mm only): $10,999

I’ll stick with those — “final” is final. But here’s a spitball idea that moves the bottom two rungs down a bit:

  • Apple Watch, steel, Sport Band: $649/699
  • Apple Watch, steel, Classic Buckle: $799/849

What occurred to me tonight is that very few people might buy the steel Apple Watches with the rubber Sport Bands. If they wanted that look as their only band, they’d save money and buy a $349 Apple Watch Sport. And the steel ones only come with black and white color choices. The point of the steel Apple Watch with Sport Band is to set a lower number for the “Apple Watch collection starts at $_” figure. People who want a leather or metal band will buy the model that comes equipped with it, because (I think) those bands won’t be available for purchase as accessories. Instead, they’ll buy a Sport Band accessory — in whatever color they want — for, say, $79.

I don’t think Apple will go as low as $549/599 for the steel Apple Watch because they’ll want to capture sufficient value from people who plan to replace the rubber Sport Band with a leather or metal band from a third-party. And to me, $200 is not enough of a difference to establish Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch as separate collections. Also, with at least a $300 difference between collections, that leaves room for, say, $150 Classic Buckle leather bands as an add-on for Apple Watch Sport to bridge the gap.

Hublot Magic Gold 

Apple isn’t the first watchmaker to expand into custom metallurgy to produce hardened ceramic-blend 18-karat gold. Here’s a video from Hublot explaining their process.

Hublot gold watches sell for $20-50,000 on Amazon. (I went ahead and made that a referral link, just in case any of you are in the mood to drop $40,000 on a watch from Amazon today.)

HelloTalk 

My thanks to HelloTalk for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. HelloTalk is an iOS (and Android) app for learning new languages. Your teachers are native language speakers from around the world. You just pick the language you want to learn — there are over 100 from which to select — and almost instantaneously you’ll be in touch with native speakers of that language and you’ll start learning and practicing immediately. Learning by chatting. It’s clever and fun.

It’s a free download — check it out and start learning a new language today.

Apple Gold 

Fascinating piece by Dr. Drang:

Apple’s patent application is for a method that allows them to make 18k gold that has, on a volume basis, less gold than regular 18k gold.

How can this be? It’s because Apple’s gold is a metal matrix composite, not a standard alloy. Instead of mixing the gold with silver, copper, or other metals to make it harder, Apple is mixing it with low-density ceramic particles. The ceramic makes Apple’s gold harder and more scratch-resistant — which Tim Cook touted during the September announcement — and it also makes it less dense overall.

According to their patent, one of their mixtures uses just 28 percent as much gold as a standard 18-karat alloy. This, in turn, has reignited hopes that Apple Watch Edition pricing will be significantly lower than consensus estimates.

It’s fascinating that Apple is doing cutting edge materials science like this, but I do not suggest holding your breath for a sub-$5000 Edition. The price of luxury gold watches is not based on the price of the gold. Even if it were made of pure 24-karat gold, the gold might only cost $2000. If Apple is using less gold than standard 18-karat alloys, that’ll go toward higher margins, not lower prices.

Also, for what it’s worth, at the September event, it was easy to feel by hand that the Apple Watch Edition models weighed more than the stainless steel ones (and likewise that the steel ones weighed more than the aluminum ones). Some quick math suggests that wouldn’t be the case if Apple were using a composite with just 28 percent as much gold as standard.

Debug 62: On Watches 

Fun episode of Guy English and Rene Ritchie’s Debug podcast, with watchmaker and developer Jon Edwards and me as guests, talking about the Apple Watch and watch culture in general.

Astronomers Watch a Supernova and See Reruns 

Dennis Overbye, writing for the NYT:

It’s “Groundhog Day” in the cosmos.

In the 1993 Bill Murray movie, a weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. Now astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope say they have been watching the same star blow itself to smithereens in a supernova explosion over and over again, thanks to a trick of Einsteinian optics.

The star exploded more than nine billion years ago on the other side of the universe, too far for even the Hubble to see without special help from the cosmos. In this case, however, light rays from the star have been bent and magnified by the gravity of an intervening cluster of galaxies so that multiple images of it appear.

What’s wild is that the images can appear decades apart. Don’t skip the accompanying video — it’s great.

The Financial Times Profiles Jony Ive 

Jony Ive’s media tour continues, this time with a profile by Nick Foulkes for The Financial Times:

However, it was not without some trepidation that he embarked on the watch. “It was different with the phone — all of us working on the first iPhone were driven by an absolute disdain for the cellphones we were using at the time. That’s not the case here. We’re a group of people who love our watches. So we’re working on something, yet have a high regard for what currently exists.”

That’s a very interesting difference.

‘The Apple Watch Is Time, Saved’ 

Matthew Panzarino:

People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck.

One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period. That’s insane when you think about how much the blue glow of smartphone screens has dominated our social interactions over the past decade.

Great piece. I’ve been hearing similar things about Watch wearers using their iPhones far fewer times per day.

Apple, Music Labels Push Against Free Music on Spotify, YouTube 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:

Apple executives have been telling the music industry it can help them roll back the tide of free digital music by relaunching its own subscription streaming service this year. Unlike Spotify and YouTube, Apple’s service won’t offer a free “tier” of music interspersed with ads — after an initial trial period, you’ll need to pay to play.

Apple executives, led by media head Eddy Cue and Beats Music founder Jimmy Iovine, have been arguing that the music business “needs to get behind a paywall,” say people who have talked to them. Apple bought Beats last year, partly to help it gain a foothold on streaming music just as iTunes sales of digital downloads had started to drop.

Apple to Replace AT&T in the Dow Jones Industrial Average 

The Dow is a stupid index — a poor investment and an inaccurate gauge of the market as a whole, due to the arbitrary nature of its membership, and its bizarre use of price-based indexing. The S&P 500 is better in both regards. But it does seem somewhat poetic that Apple is taking AT&T’s spot in the index — Apple’s decade of amazing growth is built on the iPhone, and the iPhone came to market through a groundbreaking exclusivity deal with AT&T.

To be clear, I think AT&T did well through that agreement — the iPhone helped them narrow Verizon’s lead here in the U.S. But what’s telling is the way Apple turned the tables and maintained control over everything: handset design, software design, software updates, the App Store, pricing.

‘Google, Our Patron Saint of the Closed Web’ 

Drew Crawford, on Google’s attempt to register 100 TLDs for its own use:

Is my conclusion that Apple should get a free pass for hamstringing their web evangelists? No. Get your Safari team a blog, Apple. Let them give a talk at a fucking conference.

My point is that if you think Google is some kind of Patron Saint of the Open Web, shit son. Tim Cook on his best day could not conceive of a dastardly plan like this. This is a methodical, coordinated, long-running and well-planned attack on the open web that comes from the highest levels of Google leadership. And we’re giving Apple a free pass? Pshaw.

I don’t think Google’s desire for these private TLDs is that big a deal. I blame ICANN more than Google. But like Crawford, it’s a never ending curiosity to me why so many people think Google is a champion of “openness”.

Oracle Extends Its Adware Bundling to Include Java for Macs 

Ed Bott:

For years, Oracle has tormented Windows users by bundling adware with its Java installer for Windows PCs. Now Oracle has begun including the same adware as part of a default installation of Java for the Mac, using the same deceptive techniques.

Shitbags.

Here’s What I Don’t Get About the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge 

So Samsung introduced two new flagship phones: the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge. The Edge has a display with pronounced curves along the sides. The regular S6 is flat. Why do both of these phones exist? They’re not different sizes. Either the curved edge is a good idea or it’s not. Design is making decisions.

Marc Newson’s Watch Band Designs for Ikepod 

Many similarities between his previous designs and the new ones for Apple Watch. The Sport band, in particular, looks nearly identical to the one he designed at Ikepod. (This is an old story from September 10, but I missed it then amid the flurry of news.)

Apple Watch Diagnostic Port 

Nice scoop by Matthew Panzarino:

Would you shell out money for a ‘smart’ accessory band for an Apple Watch that added additional capabilities? More battery life, perhaps?

The reason I ask is that the Apple Watch has a port that the company has yet to show off. It’s being used for diagnostics and direct access to the Watch operating system, but it’s feasible that could be used to connect accessories in the future.

The port has a 6-dot brass contact array inside the groove for the ‘bottom’ strap connector slot. Several sources have confirmed its existence and placement to me.

He also answers a question I’ve been wondering about since September: How did Apple get around putting “Assembled in China” on the bottom of the case?

If you’re curious, the other slot has “Assembled in China — Designed by Apple in California” engraved inside.

Update: Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac:

9to5Mac has learned from sources that the port, which is actually a Lightning port being used for testing, will not be included on the product shipping to customers.

The Talk Show: ‘Retina Quality’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Paul Kafasis. Topics include the new Pebble Time watch, the imminent arrival of Apple Watch, Paul’s clever new doorbell (and unfortunate refrigerator situation), a little bit of baseball, and why I can’t attend next week’s Apple event in San Francisco.

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Why Apple Doesn’t Report Jony Ive’s Compensation 

Eric Jackson, examining a question I raised on The Talk Show a few weeks ago:

Normally, all companies have to report the pay for the CEO, CFO, and three next most important “Named Officers.” Most would assume Ive would be among the next 3. Yet, Apple reports them as Ahrendts, Cue, and Williams. Why? I agree with Gruber that it’s likely because they just don’t want to report Ive if it’s high for fear of it becoming an issue when they don’t think a public discussion is warranted.

Update: Here are the relevant SEC rules (emphasis mine):

In the annual proxy statement, a company must disclose information concerning the amount and type of compensation paid to its chief executive officer, chief financial officer and the three other most highly compensated executive officers. A company also must disclose the criteria used in reaching executive compensation decisions and the relationship between the company’s executive compensation practices and corporate performance.

So it’s not the three “most important”, but the three “most highly compensated”. Ahrendts’s large signing bonus last year guaranteed her placement on this list.

Now my question is, is Jony Ive an “officer of the company”? What is the legal difference between “senior executive” and “executive officer”? DF reader @GadgetGav speculates that Ive is not an “executive officer”, and thus not subject to SEC compensation disclosure rules.

Notch, Post-Minecraft 

Interesting profile by Forbes, including some insight on the negotiations with Microsoft:

It was June 16, 2014, and Persson bunkered in his penthouse apartment with a cold. Minecraft users had been up in arms that week about the company’s decision to start enforcing its End User License Agreement, which barred players from charging others for certain game-play features, such as stronger swords. As hundreds of tweets an hour flowed in, Persson, feverish from his cold, tapped out a 129-character outburst that would change his life forever.

“Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life?” he asked. “Getting hate for trying to do the right thing is not my gig.”

Mojang CEO Carl Manneh was sitting at home with his family when he first saw the tweet. Within 30 seconds of his reading it, his phone rang. A Microsoft executive who coordinated with Mojang wanted to know if Persson was serious. “I’m not sure–let me talk to him,” said Manneh.

OneShot, a One Week Design Case Study 

Daniel Zarick goes behind-the-scenes on the making of OneShot, a new iOS app for sharing screenshots of article excerpts.

When I first heard about OneShot a few weeks ago, I hardly paid any attention to it. The idea of sharing screenshots — static images — of article excerpts seemed goofy to me. Twitter’s 140-character limit is a big motivator here, so I see the appeal, but it just sounded like a bad premise.

But Zarick’s design write-up (and Neven Mrgan’s aforelinked good words) made me want to try it, and I’m glad I did. The app is full of clever details, including smart use of OCR to make the text in screenshots un-static. I probably won’t use it much, because, well, I have a place where I post excerpts from interesting articles. But I can see why people use it.

Try 

Neven Mrgan on OneShot:

I’d like to see more software try to do a good job of a fuzzy task, let you help it with the last mile, and give you a fallback option. That kind of magic can be more delightful than behind-the-scenes, guess-and-stick-with-it magic we’re often promised.

I think this is a good rule of thumb.

Matt Haughey Retiring From MetaFilter 

Matt Haughey:

After 16 years of doing a bit of everything under the sun here, I’m stepping away from the day to day of running MetaFilter and moving into the background. Never fear, I’m leaving it in the best of hands and things are looking good for the future.

Godspeed, Matt. And thank you.

Update: Matt’s going to Slack. They’re hiring a lot of good people.

Unreal 4 for Animation 

Interesting not because of the film itself but the tool used to create it: Unreal Engine 4, with everything rendered at 30 FPS in real time. Via Sean Heber, who aptly notes:

It wasn’t that long ago that you’d only see this kind of quality in animated films. Now it’s realtime.

Wes Anderson’s The Uncanny X-Men 

Fun parody by Patrick Willems. (Via Josh Centers.)

How the iPhone Helped Federico Viticci Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle 

Inspiring story from Federico Viticci:

Two years after my last treatments, sometimes I still turn to my girlfriend and I tell her that it’s amazing we’re able to be together and walk and laugh and go shopping and drive and not be stuck in a hospital room that smells like aseptic plastic bags and wet floors. And I also feel like I’m not communicating this well or concisely enough — the instinct of walking and going places is so intrinsic in mankind, the joy of getting it back sounds grandiose to most people. I get it. But it still feels incredible and I want to write it.

Small steps, literally. Today I’m free and I can count steps on my iPhone. Big deal — cue sarcastic tweet. Yes. It is a big deal to me. Because every day that I open the Health app and I see a plunge in that chart or I launch Pedometer++ and I see a red bar, it’s a day that I wonder whether I’m wasting my time trying apps and workflows and being obsessed with the urgency of news instead of going out and holding my girlfriend’s hand or walking with my dad, whom I don’t call enough.

Headline of the Day 

Rurik Bradbury, writing for Trustev:

A hot and heavy headline at the Wall Street Journal, “Fraud Comes to Apple Pay,” gives the impression of some kind of security weakness in Apple’s new payment system, but it’s not justified.

What has happened is that Apple Pay itself is basically fraud-proof, so fraudsters have turned their attention to the next weakest link: credit cards before they’re added to an Apple Pay wallet.

This is classic fraud via social engineering. Criminals use stolen credit card details (which can easily and cheaply be bought on sites like Rescator.cm) and then trick banks into allowing them to be loaded onto an iPhone. Once loaded onto a phone, they can make purchases until the card is canceled.

Anything to get “Apple” into a headline at the WSJ.

Recode: ‘Sony’s $840 Smart Glasses Are Too Dorky to Be Believed’ 

Eric Johnson:

Hard as it might be to swallow, this is a real promotional video for a real product made by a real company with a $30 billion market cap. It’s the developer edition of Sony’s smart glasses, which are called SmartEyeglass (great name!) and will be available to the eager buying public in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan on March 10.

They cost $840.

I know they’re a “developer edition”, but jiminy are these things ugly. They make Google Glass look cool.

iOS 8 vs. iOS 3: Allowing Touch Input During Animations 

William Van Hecke made an interesting video showing a difference in iOS 7 and 8 from all prior versions of iOS — touch gestures are now ignored during system animations. For example, when you unlock your iPhone and the home screen animates into place. It used to be that you could start swiping between home screens during the animation. Now, you can’t.

I’d more or less gotten used to this, but now that he’s called my attention to it, it does seem rather annoying, and an inexplicable regression. A seven-year-old original iPhone shouldn’t feel more responsive than a brand new iPhone 6.

Update: I’m not sure that Van Hecke’s description of how older versions of iOS worked is quite right. I think it’s more like the old animations ended abruptly, whereas starting in iOS 7 they ease out slowly. The difference isn’t between being interruptible or not, but rather between ending quickly and ending slowly. The result, though, is what matters, and the result is that it feels slower.

PCWorld: ‘Microsoft, Intel Join Forces on Low-Cost Windows 10 Phones’ 

Imagine going back in time 10 years and trying to convince someone that this headline from 2015 would produce nothing but yawns and eye-rolling.

Apple Found Its Newest Billboards on the Internet 

Brendan Klinkenberg, writing for Buzzfeed:

Last December, when the Bay Area had one of its rare rainy days, Cielo de la Paz took her kids out to play. She’s an avid photographer, “willing to wake up at five in the morning and hike 10 miles to get that shot of the sunrise,” and when she saw the reflection of her red umbrella on the wet concrete, she knew she had a good one.

“It took a few shots,” she said, “this was the last one I took, I was finally happy with how the wind arranged the leaves for me.”

She edited the shot with Filterstorm Neue, uploaded the picture to Flickr (she was taking part in the photo365 challenge), where Apple found it.

Then, they put it on a billboard.

On Raising the Price for Vesper 

Jason Snell asked me a few questions about our decision to raise the price of Vesper:

Instead, we want to embrace the users who are looking for the best app, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it if they think Vesper might be it. Going low didn’t work; we lose nothing by trying to go high.

I would like to see other developers follow.

What I see is that among long-time Mac indie developers, almost all of them are still making the majority — often the vast majority, sometimes the entirety — of their revenue from Mac apps. That’s good business — the Mac market is willing to pay reasonable prices for apps. But it’s a lost opportunity for iOS as a platform. I think we’re lacking for good, deep quality apps on iOS.

Jony Ive’s Newton 

Another funny bit regarding Mark Wilson’s calling the Apple Watch “Jonathan Ive’s Newton” — the actual Newton 110 was Jony Ive’s Newton.

‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ — New Book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli 

Becoming Steve Jobs is a remarkable new book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. Crown Publishing Group was gracious enough to send me an advance copy a few weeks ago, and I am delighted to be the first to announce it.

It is, in short, the book about Steve Jobs that the world deserves. You might wonder how such a book could be written without Jobs’s participation, but effectively, he did participate. Schlender, in his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewed Jobs extensively numerous times spanning 25 years. Remember the 1991 joint interview with Jobs and Bill Gates? That was Schlender. As the book makes clear, Jobs and Schlender had a very personal relationship.

The book is smart, accurate, informative, insightful, and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Schlender and Tetzeli paint a vivid picture of Jobs the man, and also clearly understand the industry in which he worked. They also got an astonishing amount of cooperation from the people who knew Jobs best: colleagues past and present from Apple and Pixar — particularly Tim Cook — and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.

The book is an accurate, engaging retelling of the known history of Jobs’s life and career, but also contains a significant amount of new reporting. There are stories in this book that are going to be sensational. (I’ve promised to keep them to myself for now.) I’ll have much more to say about the book when it comes out, but for now, take my word for it and pre-order your copy now. It even has a great cover. Becoming Steve Jobs is going to be an essential reference for decades to come.

Mark Wilson: ‘You Guys Realize the Apple Watch Is Going to Flop, Right?’ 

Kudos to Fast Company’s Mark Wilson for having the stones to predict, boldly, that “Apple Watch is going to flop”, calling it “Jonathan Ive’s Newton”. Pretty sure he has a bad read on the battery life though:

There’s only so much you can do with sapphire glass [sic] and power-efficient microprocessors. Current reports say the Apple Watch could burn out in times as short as 2.5 hours before needing a recharge. Best-case scenarios (you know, when you use it a lot less), might stretch its life to 19 hours. But a loyal user of the Apple Watch would be forced to take it off and recharge it four times during a workday. That’s absurd.

It would be absurd, which is why it’s not true. Wilson links to a CNBC report for that “2.5 hours” figure, but CNBC’s source is this original report by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac. Gurman reported:

Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use. As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode.

Battery life may well be a serious problem for Apple Watch. It’s no surprise that it was and will remain one of the hardest engineering problems on the project. But no one is saying you’re going to have to recharge it every three hours. That’s so dumb it makes one think Wilson is being willfully obtuse so as to bask in the contrarian limelight for a few days.

Google Backs Away From Requiring Android Lollipop Devices to Be Encrypted by Default 

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

Last year, Google made headlines when it revealed that its next version of Android would require full-disk encryption on all new phones. Older versions of Android had supported optional disk encryption, but Android 5.0 Lollipop would make it a standard feature.

But we’re starting to see new Lollipop phones from Google’s partners, and they aren’t encrypted by default, contradicting Google’s previous statements. At some point between the original announcement in September of 2014 and the publication of the Android 5.0 hardware requirements in January of 2015, Google apparently decided to relax the requirement, pushing it off to some future version of Android.

Ars’s guess as to why is performance, which seems likely. It just shows how hard it is for Google to move the state of the art forward with Android — everything takes a year, or longer, before hitting the market.

Gallery of iPhone 6 Photography 

So many great photographs in this new collection from Apple. (Note, though, that nearly all of them were taken outdoors. Low-light indoor photography is the next frontier for iPhone cameras.)

Update: Apple is going to use these photos in an upcoming ad campaign. Great idea, and must be a real thrill for the photographers. Also interesting to note just how many of them were edited using VSCO Cam.

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 ‘Looks Like the Love Child of an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6’ 

Dan Seifert, reporting for The Verge from MWC in Barcelona:

Hallmarks of Samsung’s phones, such as removable batteries, microSD card slots, and waterproofing are nowhere to be found on the S6 or S6 Edge.

Welcome to 2007.

That will likely upset some die-hard users and Samsung loyalists that relied on those features, but it’s clear that Samsung prioritized the phone’s design and its look and feel over things that appeal to a smaller segment of its customer base. Samsung also trimmed back the software features, claiming that there are 40 percent fewer features in the Galaxy S6 than the S5.

A sign of just how bad Samsung is at software: they’re now bragging about removing a huge number of “features”.

It’s easy to see where Samsung took its inspiration for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge: the design is strikingly similar to the iPhone 6 in many places, and the features that Samsung did focus its efforts on are all things the iPhone has had for years. Look at the S6 from certain angles and you’d immediately think it’s an iPhone. Put your thumb on the home key and the phone unlocks almost instantly, just like an iPhone. Even the camera mount protrudes out from the rear of the phone, preventing the S6 from lying flat on a table, just like an iPhone 6. (The flat S6 looks like the lovechild of an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6, while the S6 Edge is a little more distinctive.) Samsung has be known to copy Apple’s design before, which led to record sales and record-breaking lawsuits. It’s hard to say if the Galaxy S6 will bring about any lawsuits, but the similarities between it and the iPhone 6 are undeniable.

Shameless.

Apple Employees Speak to Brian X. Chen Off-the-Record Regarding Apple Watch 

Brian X. Chen scored a few Apple Watch scoops:

Inside Apple, members of the team that worked on the watch product, code-named Gizmo, say it was a difficult engineering challenge. Three employees briefed on the project agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. […]

Apple has said the watch battery is estimated to last a full day, requiring a user to charge it at night, similar to a smartphone. The company also developed a yet-to-be-announced feature called Power Reserve, a mode that will run the watch on low energy but display only the time, according to one employee.

Apple will release the watch a bit later than it had hoped because of technology challenges. It probably didn’t help that several important employees jumped ship. Nest Labs, the smart appliance maker that was acquired by Google last year, poached a few engineers who were the very best on the watch team, according to two people. Among them was Bryan James, Apple’s former director of iPod software, who became a vice president for engineering at Nest in early 2014, these people said.

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