Linked List: May 2015

The Talk Show: ‘He Was Sort of Anti-Golf’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest Rene Ritchie. Topics includes Jony Ive’s promotion to Chief Design Officer and the implications for Apple; the differences in Apple’s internal design culture now that industrial and user interface design are under one roof; Google’s announcements at their I/O developer conference last week in San Francisco, including Google Photos; “machine learning”; Apple replacing the much-maligned discoveryd with good old mDNSResponder in the latest Yosemite developer beta; our thoughts on the space black Apple Watch with link bracelet; and more.

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Zeldman: ‘My Website is 20 years old today’ 

Jeffrey Zeldman:

I started this site with animated gifs and splash pages while living in a cheap rent stabilized apartment. PageSpinner was my jam. I was in love with HTML and certain that the whole world was about to learn it, ushering in a new era of DIY media, free expression, peace and democracy and human rights worldwide. That part didn’t work out so well, although the kids prefer YouTube to TV, so that’s something.

Here’s to 20 more, my friend.

Apple I Discarded as Junk Sells for $200,000 

Sharon Noguchi, reporting for the San Jose Mercury News:

A South Bay recycling firm is looking for a woman who, in early April, dropped off boxes of electronics that she had cleaned out from her house after her husband died. About two weeks later, the firm, Clean Bay Area, discovered inside one of the boxes a rare find: a vintage Apple I, one of only about 200 first-generation desktop computers put together by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne in 1976.

The recycling firm sold the Apple I this month for $200,000 to a private collection, Vice President Victor Gichun said. And now, because company policy is to split proceeds 50-50 with the donor, he’s looking for the mystery woman who refused to get a receipt or leave her name.

MailChimp 

My thanks to MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their message is short and sweet: Over eight million businesses around the world use MailChimp for email newsletters, A/B testing, and marketing automation.

Great company, great product, great customer service.

Why Not Google? 

Marco Arment:

  • Apple is always arrogant, controlling, and inflexible, and sometimes stingy.
  • Google is always creepy, entitled, and overreaching, and sometimes oblivious.

How you feel about these companies depends on how much utility you get out of their respective products and how much you care about their flaws.

Simply put, Apple’s benefits are usually worth their flaws to me, and Google’s usually aren’t.

Same here. I often agree with Marco, but on this piece, it’s almost like he was reading my mind. I don’t use Gmail, DuckDuckGo is my default web search, and the only time I’ve used Google Maps instead of Apple Maps in the last year is when I need transit directions in New York — and that might be changing soon.

Conan O’Brien Says Thank You to David Letterman 

Classy.

Charlie Warzel on Google’s Ambitions Post-I/O 

I enjoyed this piece by Charlie Warzel on Google’s I/O keynote, but disagree with it. The headline, I thought, nailed it:

Google’s Quest For Complete Control Of Your Digital Life

The sub-head, not so much:

Today’s keynote suggests Google is poised to surpass Apple when it comes to mobile design.

For example, it’s pretty hard to see Google as “surpassing Apple when it comes to mobile design” when this is the current Android UI for copy/paste (“A powerful yet completely hidden feature is easy to use once you find it”), and this oddly familiar UI is what’s coming in Android M.

I think what Google’s I/O keynote was about is a post-mobile world. It’s about ubiquitous computing that is contextually-aware and identity-aware — about Google knowing who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing at all times. From your doorknob to your desktop. That’s not Google surpassing Apple at “mobile design”. That’s Google beating Apple to a world where anything and everything is a networked computing device.

But, I’m unconvinced their demos were all that impressive. The demo that most impressed Warzel was of a “Now on Tap” music player. Now on Tap is a new opt-in feature where Android apps can allow Google to know exactly what the current app on your Android device is displaying or playing. In the demo, while playing a Skrillex song, Google director of product management Aparna Chennapragada asked the device, “What’s his real name?” And a moment later, the answer came: “Sonny John Moore”. Now on Tap is what allowed Google to know the context for “him”.

It was a cool demo. But as soon as I saw it, I took my iPhone, held down the home button, and asked Siri, “What’s Skrillex’s real name?” And a moment later came the answer: “Sonny John Moore”. Allowing Google to index everything the apps you use show or play for you seems like a stiff privacy price to pay for the ability to use “him” in that query, especially when, in my opinion, “What is Skrillex’s real name?” is the natural way most people would pose the question.

Now on Tap has much more potential than this, of course. But, still. To me, this week’s I/O keynote made me more convinced than ever that Google is turning into the Microsoft of old: a company whose ambitions are boundless, who wants its fingers in every single pie, and who wants to do it all on its own. A company whose coolest stuff is always in the form of demos coming in the future, not products that are actually shipping now.

Update: On Twitter, Pavan Rajam observes, “Every Google headline on top of Techmeme now involves a “Project”, not a product: http://www.techmeme.com/150530/h1200.

IBM Now Offering Employees Macs for the First Time 

Jordan Kahn, reporting for 9to5Mac:

In a memo to employees, IBM notes that starting today all employees (not just some select developers like in the past) can pick from a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or a PC when setting up a new or refreshed workstation. The machines will include new software for security, Wi-Fi, and VPN out of the box so employees just have to connect to the internet to get started, according to the memo. IBM notes that it currently has around 15,000 Macs deployed through its BYOD program, but plans to deploy around 50,000 MacBooks by the end of the year. That, according to the memo, would make IBM the biggest “Mac shop” around, and the company said it’s sharing what it learns through the new deployment with Apple as Apple assists through its device enrollment program.

This is no surprise given last year’s enterprise partnership, and the fact that IBM got out of the PC business a decade ago. But, historically — man. This would be a hard story to get people to believe if you went back in time to, say, 1983 or so.

‘The Big News Sites Still Rule’ 

Bob Lefsetz’s harsh take on Recode:

They couldn’t make it on their own.

Walt Mossberg, one of America’s two most famous tech columnists, shot himself in the foot. He left the “Wall Street Journal.” They’re finding out in news what we already know in music, you can go it alone, the internet allows you to do this, but in a chaotic world he with the established presence wins, the major record labels figured out the internet and the big news sites still rule.

I don’t agree with Lefzetz entirely, but he makes some good points.

My take is that if you’re going to go indie, you need to stay lean and mean. You don’t have to stay as lean and mean as I have — I have no employees, and to date, no one else has ever written a word for Daring Fireball. In fact, a one-person show might be too lean to get off the ground today. But then again, there’s Ben Thompson and Stratechery.

The tidbit that stood out to me regarding Recode is that they had 44 full-time employees — plus a few contractors. That’s not lean and mean. The advantage the internet provides to new publishers is that there’s so little overhead. You can go really far with a really small talented team. 44 employees sounds like Recode was trying to go head-to-head with the Wall Street Journal on the business/tech beat. Rather than start small and grow big organically, they wanted to start big. And so to start big they took on investors, and next thing you know, they had to sell.

Matt Buchanan: ‘A Series of Wholly Unrelated Observations About Vox Media’s Acquisition of Recode’ 

Matt Buchanan, writing for The Awl:

When Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg launched Recode in 2014, NBCUniversal News Group made a “strategic investment and content partnership” in Revere Digital, the parent company of Recode and its Code conferences. Its content was distributed “across NBCUniversal News Group’s multiple media platforms,” while CNBC became “Revere’s media partner for its global conferences.”

NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC, is a division of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

Yesterday, Vox Media, which has received millions of dollars from Comcast Ventures, announced that it would acquire Revere Digital, which had received an undisclosed number of dollars from NBCUniversal News Group, in all-stock deal.

It’s Comcast all the way down.

Federal Court Serves Apple Shit Bromwich 

Joe Palazzolo, reporting for the WSJ:

A federal appeals court rejected Apple Inc.’s efforts to rid itself of a corporate monitor appointed after a judge found the company liable for conspiring to raise the price of e-books.

Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general, began assessing Apple’s antitrust compliance policies six days after he was appointed in October 2013 by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who held the company liable for a price-fixing conspiracy in a July decision that same year.

Since then, the technology company has been trying to shake him off, arguing that he began work prematurely and exceeded the scope of his mandate, and that his $1,000-an-hour fees were exorbitant.

Previously in this saga.

Google Photos 

Lots and lots of news from today’s 7-hour I/O keynote, but one that stuck out to me is Google Photos. Looks like a great, simple service:

Google Photos gives you a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device. They’re automatically backed up and synced, so you can have peace of mind that your photos are safe, available across all your devices.

And when we say a lifetime of memories, we really mean it. With Google Photos, you can now backup and store unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free. We maintain the original resolution up to 16MP for photos, and 1080p high-definition for videos, and store compressed versions of the photos and videos in beautiful, print-quality resolution.

You can use it from the web, and from native apps for Android and iOS. Obviously, it’s a lot like iCloud Photos in terms of functionality and scope, but storing “unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free” sure is different. It also sounds like Google is doing more AI-backed / “machine-learning” image analysis for things like face detection and identifying things like snow or a beach.

See Also: Steven Levy’s interview with Bradley Horowitz, Google’s “vice president of streams, photos, and sharing”, is a good read. Horowitz calls it “Gmail for photos”, which is a pretty compelling three-word pitch. Horowitz:

We heard from our Google Plus photo users that we had great technology, but they didn’t want their life’s archive brought into a social product, any social product. It’s more akin to Gmail — there’s no button on Gmail that says “publish on the Internet.” “Broadcast” and “archive” are really different and so part of Google photos is to create a safe space for your photos and remove any stigma associated with saving everything. For instance, I use my phone to take pictures of receipts, and pictures of signs that I want to remember and things like that. These can potentially pollute my photo stream. We make it so that things like that recede into the background, so there’s no cognitive burden to actually saving everything.

Avie Tevanian Was Named Chief Software Technology Officer in 2003, Left in 2006 

This completely slipped my mind when I wrote about how few C-level executives Apple has had in its modern era (which I loosely define as starting when Steve Jobs took the “interim” CEO title):

July 8, 2003 — Apple today announced that Avadis “Avie” Tevanian Jr., Ph.D., will become the company’s chief software technology officer and Bertrand Serlet will be promoted to senior vice president of Software Engineering. In his new role, Tevanian will focus on setting company-wide software technology directions, and Serlet will now report directly to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and lead the company’s OS Software Engineering group.

Tevanian left the company three years later, in 2006.

So, there is some precedent for an Apple senior executive getting a promotion to a C-level title on their way out the door. One notable difference between the two situations, though: Serlet reported directly to Jobs; Apple’s new vice presidents of UI design and industrial design (Alan Dye and Richard Howarth) report directly to Jony Ive.

‘The Ultimate Mobile Device’ 

Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams, in a rite of passage for Apple executives, appeared on stage with Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference in California:

Though Williams spent most of the time talking about Apple Watch and the supply chain, he also did coyly refer to Apple’s interest in other areas, noting that “the car is the ultimate mobile device isn’t it?”

Same conference where Tim Cook said “I think the wrist is interesting” two years ago.

U.S. Justice Department Indicts FIFA Officials 

Stephanie Clifford and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for the NYT:

With billions of dollars at stake, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa jockeyed in 2004 for the privilege of hosting soccer’s most prestigious tournament, the World Cup. The outcome hinged on a decision by the executive committee of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and a single vote could tip the decision.

And at least one vote, prosecutors said Wednesday, was for sale.

Jack Warner, a committee member from Trinidad and Tobago, shopped his ballot to the highest bidder, federal prosecutors said. In early 2004, he flew to Morocco, where a member of that country’s bid committee offered him $1 million. But South Africa had a sweeter deal, offering $10 million to a group that Mr. Warner controlled, prosecutors said. He voted for South Africa. South Africa got the World Cup. And Mr. Warner got his $10 million payout, much of which prosecutors said he diverted for his personal use.

There’s a certain irony in this case being pursued by the government of the United States — one of the least soccer-crazed nations on the planet. Absolutely jaw-dropping tale of corruption. Really makes me wonder about whether matches were fixed, too.

Jawbone Accuses Fitbit of Stealing Information by Hiring Workers Away 

Michael J. de la Merced, reporting for the NYT:

Close to what should be one of the biggest events of Fitbit’s life — its initial public offering of stock — the maker of wearable health trackers is facing an unexpected challenge: a lawsuit from one of its biggest competitors.

Jawbone sued Fitbit in California State Court here on Wednesday, accusing its rival of “systematically plundering” confidential information by hiring Jawbone employees who improperly downloaded sensitive materials shortly before leaving.

“This case arises out of the clandestine efforts of Fitbit to steal talent, trade secrets and intellectual property from its chief competitor,” lawyers for Jawbone wrote in the complaint.

I’ve often wondered how much “corporate espionage” takes place simply via hiring key employees from a rival.

‘Bookerly’ — New Default Font for Kindle on iOS 

In addition to the new font (which looks OK to my eyes — not great, but better than the old default font, Caecilia), they’ve also added some other long-needed typographic niceties. From the release notes:

Drop caps, text, and images that automatically adapt to always look great no matter what your screen or font size. Print-like layout dynamically adjusts for any combination of screen size and font setting.

Vox Media Acquires Recode in All-Stock Deal 

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, announcing the deal:

We are thrilled to announce that Re/code’s parent company, Revere Digital, is being wholly acquired by the highly respected digital-native media company Vox Media. This is the next big step in our mission to bring you quality tech journalism, because our work will now be amplified and enhanced by Vox Media’s deep and broad skill set.

We want to assure you that this combination is designed to bolster and enrich Re/code, and that we will continue to publish under the same name and leadership, with editorial independence. We will also continue to hold our signature Code conferences, and even add new ones, again with the same core team and the same philosophy.

Not sure what to make of this. Feel like I’ve felt that way about a lot of news the past few days.

This bit from the NYT report on the acquisition surprised me:

ReCode said it had 44 full-time employees and three contract employees. They were expected to join Vox, though Vox would not elaborate on potential staffing changes.

44 full-time employees sounds crazy for Recode.

Apple Drops discoveryd in Latest OS X Beta 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Looking at Activity Monitor on OS X 10.10 seed 4, discoveryd is no longer loaded by the system — instead relying on mDNSResponder. The ‘new’ process is really the one Apple used to use pre-Yosemite and did not have these problems.

It is still unclear why the change in the networking stack was ever made given that the old process worked so well and the new process had so many issues. There has been some speculation that the new stack is related to AirDrop and Handoff functionality although testing showed that these features still worked when the system was reverted back to the old process.

The saga of discoveryd is baffling to me. I would love to hear the backstory on how it shipped. And I still haven’t heard a plausible theory on what Apple was hoping to accomplish with it in the first place. What was the point of it?

And now to go back and abandon it after all this time? Someone at Apple is eating a lot of crow.

Filling the Green Circle 

Marco Arment:

Ever since getting the Apple Watch, not only have I been getting more consistent exercise, but I’m pushing myself further. I take more walks, and I walk faster and further than ever before. I’ve been walking Hops around the same streets for four years, but now I’ve been discovering new streets and paths just to extend our walking distance and try to beat my previous walks.

I’ve never cared before, but now, I care.

Seth Weintraub on Jony Ive’s Move to Chief Design Officer 

Good take from Seth Weintraub:

New position. Get two subordinates to handle the day-to-day operations and pack your bags? Not quite that easy. If Ive left Apple, he’d be betraying Steve Jobs and abandoning his power as the most influential designer in the world. But he also can’t run the iOS UI and hardware design teams over FaceTime. You simply can’t just ‘call in’ such an important role.

So there’s this compromise. Ive gets two subordinates to run his two incredibly important programs, then gets to spend a reasonable amount of time in the UK with his kids who then aren’t forced to grow up talking like Americans and pronouncing ‘aluminum’ like animals.

The Reverse Crown 

Craig Hockenberry:

Luckily, I had spent some time digging around in the settings in the Apple Watch app and remembered seeing some odd settings in General > Watch Orientation. The wrist selection is obvious enough, but being able to change the position of the digital crown had no obvious benefit. That is, until I tried it.

I like the default position of the crown, but I can see why Craig (and others) prefer it reversed.

Recode: ‘Twitter Has Held Talks to Acquire Flipboard’ 

Not sure how this acquisition would help either company — sounds like a deal just for the sake of making a deal.

Update: Here’s a loose theory, formed after reading a few very thoughtful emails from readers that were all along the same lines. Facebook is killing it — they’re thriving in every way that anyone would want them to. Twitter is measured against Facebook, and they come up (far) short both financially and in terms of active users. Twitter feels compelled to “do something, anything” over and over to ignite growth. And so blowing a billion dollars on the world’s best-looking, slickest-designed RSS aggregator is their next “something”.

Tim Cook’s Memo Announcing Jony Ive’s New Role as ‘Chief Design Officer’ 

Howarth I’m not as familiar with, but Dye — he’s been enormously instrumental in the designs of iOS 7, Yosemite, and Apple Watch. Curious that this is the sort of thing they felt the need to announce on a holiday while the stock market was closed.

Jony Ive Levels Up 

Stephen Fry, writing for The Telegraph:

Until now, Ive’s job title has been Senior Vice President of Design. But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple’s Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him.

Inside the fabled design studio (cloths over the long tables hiding the exciting new prototypes from prying eyes like mine) Jony has two people with him. They too have been promoted as part of Ive’s new role.

One is Richard Howarth, English as Vimto. “Richard is going to be our new head of Industrial Design,” says Jony. “And this is Alan Dye, the new head of User Interface.” Dye is a tall, amiable American.

This is a difficult story to digest. Why give the scoop to Stephen Fry, for example? (My guess: Ive picked him.) Part of the story is that Ive is going to “travel more”, which I take to mean “live in England”. But I do not believe that he’s taking a figurehead position or a ceremonial role — I think he truly is taking a serious C-level role as CDO. But this is definitely different and new.

The Talk Show: ‘The Move to Frisco’ 

Special guest Dan Frommer returns to the show. Topics include David Letterman, iPhone docks, the space black steel Apple Watch, whatever happened to the Edition collection, San Francisco as the new system font for iOS and Mac OS X, and more.

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Direct Mail for OS X 

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Apple Watch and Continuous Computing 

Ben Thompson:

That’s not to claim ignorance: I read voraciously, including reviews, talk to as many “normal” people as I can in as many places as I can, and think I have a sense for where various categories are at. And given that, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the Apple Watch is being serially underestimated. Nor, I think, is the long term threat to Apple’s position being fully appreciated.

Marco Arment Bought a New MacBook 

Marco Arment:

I hate typing on it, I hate the trackpad, it’s slower than I expected, the screen is noticeably blurry from non-native scaling to get reasonable screen space, and I don’t even find it very comfortable to use in my lap because it’s too small.

I hate returning things, but I’m returning this.

Wish he’d just tell us what he really thinks instead of always sugarcoating it like this.

Keith Olbermann: A David Letterman Appreciation 

Keith Olbermann:

So I’m a fan on all levels, and on the human one, I’d like to be as decent a man as Dave, if-or-when I grow up. Which leaves me with only one complaint: that after May 20th he’s not doing the show any more. It really is like watching Babe Ruth quit.

Layers Design Conference 

Layers is a great idea: a conference for the iOS and Mac design community that coincides with WWDC, just two blocks away from Moscone in San Francisco. WWDC week is a great week to be in San Francisco — as Jason Snell noted last month, it’s become the heart of the Apple world’s annual calendar. (Layers’s main programming runs Tuesday and Wednesday — no one’s going to miss the WWDC keynote.)

The venue looks cool, and the speaker lineup is terrific — headlined by design legend Susan Kare. (I’ll have the privilege of interviewing her on stage.) Through end-of-day Friday (midnight PDT), Daring Fireball readers can save $50 with the code “daringfiresale”.

Gurman: iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11 Are Switching to San Francisco for System Font 

Mark Gurman:

Apple is currently planning to use the new system font developed for the Apple Watch to refresh the looks of iPads, iPhones, and Macs running iOS 9 “Monarch” and OS X 10.11 “Gala,” according to sources with knowledge of the preparations. Current plans call for the Apple-designed San Francisco font to replace Helvetica Neue, which came to iOS 7 in 2013 and OS X Yosemite just last year, beginning with a June debut at WWDC.

Kind of weird that Helvetica Neue only got one year as the Mac system font, but truth be told it’s never sat right with me in that role for Yosemite. Note too, that Apple is also using San Francisco for the keycaps on the new MacBook keyboard — Apple seems to moving toward using it for the “user interface” both in software and hardware.

Jason Snell on the ‘Utility’ Apple Watch Face 

Jason Snell:

Utility works for me as a more minimal face, but it also works as an information-dense one. It’s adaptable and beautiful. What I’m saying is, Utility has quickly settled in to be my favorite Apple Watch face.

Same here.

‘Finally’ of the Day, iPhone Dock Edition 

G. Keenan Schneider, writing at No Octothorpe on the widespread description of today’s new iPhone dock from Apple as the first in the Lightning era:

It’s obnoxious enough to have the inane insertion of the word, “finally,” into the headline, but tech blogs have decided that’s the new goto when they want to subversively neg Apple. What’s even more obnoxious is that this story isn’t even factually correct. Apple did release a Lightning dock with the 5c and 5s. I have one. It’s great.

Gene Munster Gives Up 

Also on CNBC:

For years Piper Jaffray’s closely followed analyst Gene Munster proclaimed that Apple would soon launch a television set. On Tuesday, he offered a mea culpa after a report surfaced that the company gave up on the project more than a year ago.

“This is a tough day for me. It’s a hard reality to accept, and I think that is the reality of it: the TV is on hold,” Munster told “Squawk Alley.”

He continued to say, “It’s a small consolation that they were aggressively looking at this. At the end of the day, I was wrong.”

$10 says he doesn’t stop asking about it on the quarterly analyst calls.

Carl Icahn Still Thinks Apple Will Make TV Sets 

Appearing on CNBC, to discuss Daisuke Wakabayashi’s aforelinked WSJ report claiming Apple has abandoned plans to make TV sets:

Moreover, Icahn still thinks there will be an Apple TV. “I read the article,” Icahn said, “not what Tim Cook said or didn’t say, but the whole thing is ridiculous … I’m not backtracking in anyway. I believe they will do a TV. That’s my belief.”

The timeline:

  1. Icahn posted a rather rambling “open letter” to Tim Cook, reiterating his belief that Apple will release an “ultra high definition television set” in 2016 and an electric car in 2020.

  2. Wakabayashi reported that Apple has given up on plans for a standalone TV set, according to “people familiar with the matter”.

One way to read it is that Apple gave Wakabayashi this scoop in order to throw cold water on Icahn’s speculation — they’re not doing a TV set and they want everyone to know it, so that when they announce a new Apple TV box at WWDC next month (I know nothing about that other than that it’s widely rumored) everyone will understand that there is no TV set coming next year to wait for.

WSJ: Apple Shelved Plans to Make TV Set 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Investor Carl Icahn said he expects Apple Inc. to introduce an ultra-high-definition television in 2016. But after nearly a decade of research, Apple quietly shelved plans to make such a set more than a year ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said.

Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn’t consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software.

The most surprising thing about this, if true — and with Wakabayashi and “people familiar with the matter”, that’s a big if — is that Apple was still pondering their own TV sets as recently as a year or two ago.

Making boxes that connect to TVs — like Apple TV as it stands today — that makes sense to me. Making actual TV sets, though, I’ve long been skeptical about. Years ago, I thought, “Why should Apple settle for selling a $100 box connected to a $2000 TV instead of just selling the $2000 TV set with the box built in?” The problem, though, is that TV set prices have dropped dramatically, and people don’t replace their TV sets that frequently. The only way to build a large TV-based platform is to make boxes that connect to the TV sets people already own. There has to be a standalone Apple TV box. In theory, Apple could make an actual TV set, too, but I’m unconvinced that makes strategic sense.

The Dalrymple Report 

New podcast, co-hosted by Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann. First episode is mostly non-tech (unless you consider electric guitars to be “tech”). Good stuff. Here’s a shortcut to subscribe in Overcast.

Apple Introduces New iPhone Lightning Dock 

Truly curious about the timing on this — why not unveil it back when the iPhones 6 came out last year? I like using docks for my phone, and for years I used Apple’s. Ever since I switched to the iPhone 6 last year, though, I’ve used two third-party docks, both of which I like very much.

On my desk I use a black Twelve South HiRise Deluxe. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but that’s because it’s adjustable to perfectly fit any iPhone or iPad Mini. It doesn’t block the home button, keeping the phone completely usable while docked. It’s lightweight, but it’s still easy to undock the phone one-handed. (Be sure to get the the HiRise Deluxe, not the regular HiRise. I have one of those, too, and the Deluxe model is definitely better. Twelve South should just discontinue the regular one.)

On my bedside table, I have a black and walnut Spool Dock from Quell and Company. The Spool Dock covers the home button (mostly), so it’s not a good option for my desk, where I sometimes actually use the phone while it’s docked. But I love it as a bedside dock. The “micro-suction pads” on the bottom really work — it never moves, and it’s easy to dock and undock the phone one-handed.

One thing both the HiRise and Spool Dock have in common with the new dock from Apple: they’re designed to work with iPhones of any width and thickness — past, current, or future.

Apple Watch OS 1.0.1 

Finally, support for the new emoji on Apple Watch.

Here’s Apple’s support document with instructions for how to install it. The first-ever software update for a new product always gives me pause, but it went just fine on my watch.

Barack Obama Joins Twitter 

“Via Twitter for iPhone”. Bill Clinton is an iPhone user as well (although he used the Twitter web client to send this amusing reply to Obama).

Why John Biggs Is Still Wearing His Apple Watch 

John Biggs, an avid watch collector, writing for TechCrunch:

There is something magical about the purely mechanical, an object so complex that it takes an expert a lifetime to master the steps needed to build it. In an era of commodity hardware and easy interactivity, that means something.

But even Gibson, that cybernetic seer, couldn’t foresee the rise of another, far more enticing Tamagotchi. The Apple Watch doesn’t quite respond to love in the same way — it is cold and calculated — but instead engenders love through a weird melding of design and desire, of technology and fashion, of unity and connectedness. And those meldings are exactly why Switzerland needs to watch out.

Over the weekend, I went back to a mechanical watch for the first time since March 30. I caught myself swiping it a few times, but the main thing is that I kept glancing at it to see the temperature outside. Also, I felt a vague nagging guilt about the inevitable gap in my fitness/activity history.

Mark Gurman: Third-Party Watch Complications Coming 

Mark Gurman, writing at 9to5Mac:

Besides working on allowing developers to build native, full-speed apps for the Apple Watch, Apple is working on allowing third-party watch face “Complications,” according to our source. Complications are the small widgets indicating activity levels, battery life, alarm clocks, upcoming calendar events, and the current temperature on many of Apple’s included Apple Watch clock faces. Our source says that Apple is currently testing a new version of Watch OS that notably includes a set of Twitter Complications. For example, a small Complication could display a count of unread Twitter mentions, while a larger view could show the text of a recent Twitter mention.

Just based on my own gut feeling, third-party complications feel a lot more likely than third-party watch faces.

Om Malik: ‘On Mobile, Slow Speeds Kill’ 

Om Malik:

Whatever you might think about Facebook Instant Articles, they have refocused our attention on the importance of architecting apps and experiences with network performance and speed — something Google made us aware of 11 years ago.

CJR: ‘The Media’s Reaction to Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Scoop Has Been Disgraceful’ 

Trevor Timm, writing for the CJR:

Hersh’s many critics, almost word-for-word, gave the same perfunctory two-sentence nod to his best-known achievements — breaking the My Lai massacre in 1969 (for which he won the Pulitzer) and exposing the Abu Ghraib torture scandal 35 years later — before going on to call him every name in the book: “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” “crank.” Yet most of this criticism, over the thousands of words written about Hersh’s piece in the last week, has amounted to “That doesn’t make sense to me,” or “That’s not what government officials told me before,” or “How are we to believe his anonymous sources?”

While there’s no way to prove or disprove every assertion Hersh makes without re-reporting the whole story, let’s look at the overarching criticisms one by one.

Must-read piece.

Peter-Paul Koch: ‘Radical Simplification’ the Answer for the Mobile Web 

Peter-Paul Koch:

The web’s answer to the native challenge should be radical simplification, not even more tools.

It’s more than just layer upon layer of tools. It’s everything that makes web pages slow — slow to load, and/or slow to use. Business development deals have created problems that no web developer can solve. There’s no way to make a web page with a full-screen content-obscuring ad anything other than a shitty experience.

CleanMyMac 3 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote CleanMyMac 3, their utility for cleaning up the unwanted junk taking up space on your hard drive. CleanMyMac frees up space on your Mac’s system, iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, and more. If you’re skeptical, check out the reviews from sites like iMore and MacStories. The latest version even has a great Yosemite-style interface.

Even better, they’re offering Daring Fireball readers 30 percent off through May 20.

The Incomparable: Monkey Cam 

Speaking of podcasts, Jason Snell put together an excellent episode of The Incomparable devoted to David Letterman’s career and imminent retirement. It’s not a panel discussion, but rather a very well edited series of interviews with Andy Ihnatko, Tim Goodman, Philip Michaels, Aaron Barnhart, and yours truly.

The Talk Show: ‘Workin’ in Pajamas’ 

This week’s episode of my award-winning1 podcast, The Talk Show. Joining the show for the first time David Sparks. Topics include “power users”, Markdown, Apple Watch, the new MacBook, iCloud Photo Syncing and the new Photos for Mac, WWDC, and wearing slippers as “work” shoes.

Brought to you by these excellent sponsors:

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  1. Has never actually won any awards, and, let’s face it, isn’t as good as it used to be back in the ’80s. ↩︎

Apple Support: ‘If You Forgot the Passcode for Your Apple Watch’ 

This answers my question yesterday as to whether the ability to reset the watch without entering the passcode is a feature or a bug — it’s a feature, in case you forget the passcode.

I really don’t get the hysteria over this as an invitation to thieves. This is no less secure than every single other wristwatch ever made. Certainly, in the future, there could be an option to require the passcode no matter what, but I’m not persuaded that should be the default.

Update: Remember, with Activation Lock on iPhone, you have to enter your iCloud password. How would you enter that on the watch? And the feature can’t rely on your paired iPhone for entering the password, because what happens if you lose or break your phone? Could be we’re just waiting for Apple to figure that out.

IDC’s Vintage 2011 Claim Chowder for 2015 Smartphone OS Market Share 

Four years ago:

The research firm contends that Android will have 45.4 percent market share in 2015. It will be followed by Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform with 20.9 percent market share. The compound annual growth of Microsoft’s platform over the next four years is expected to be 67.1 percent, IDC said. Apple’s iOS and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform will own 15.3 percent and 13.7 percent of the smartphone market, respectively.

Debug 64: Horace Dediu of Asymco 

Speaking of Horace Dediu, I much enjoyed his appearance on Guy English and Rene Ritchie’s Debug podcast, recorded a few weeks ago in front of a live audience at the Úll conference. Great stuff.

iPhone, Killer 

Horace Dediu:

In reality, the killers seem to have all faded away while the iPhone continues. We could just shake our heads and move on, but a deeper analysis is possible. Take a look at the graph above. Note that iPhone’s (and hence Apple’s) ascent has not caused decline in its nominal competitors. When seen in the context of the graph above, the success of the iPhone has in fact been complementary to those companies who would be its killers.

Interesting point. Obviously Apple has profited the most from iPhone, but it’s pretty clear that it’s led to a boom in the whole industry.

‘Upon This Wrist’ 

Speaking of “a week or so with Apple Watch” reviews, I much enjoyed Craig Mod’s:

Very few notice the thing on the wrist. That makes me happy. But some do see it. Once they see it they say, Oh is that the thing? And I say, Yes it is the thing. And they ask, Has it changed your life? And I shrug. And they are so disappointed. They want me to say, Yes. Yes it has changed my life. The wrist thing. It’s made me a better man, a stronger man, a more thoughtful man. But, no. This is what I say: I say, Look, it shows maps. And they Ooooo. And I show them the remote camera and they Ahhhhh. And I say, look — my heartbeat. And they say, Wow, you have a high resting heart rate. And I sigh and say, I know. Oh, how I know.

Longtime Pebble User Stephen Orth on Apple Watch 

Interesting “one week with Apple Watch” piece by Stephen Orth:

However, to get back, you must tap the tiny on-screen navigation button in the upper left corner (much like the standard navigation controls in iOS). This seems weird to me. I find myself wanting an actual physical button on the upper-left side of the watch that takes me back (much like the Pebble, or even one of my beloved Casios.) What I think could have really worked is if Apple had placed the “friend” or Side Button on the upper left side of the watch instead of below the Digital Crown — the functionality could be the same — if you’re viewing a watch face and you press the friend button, it works exactly as it does today. However, if you’re deep in an email, or an iMessage, or a Yelp review, you merely hit the friend button a couple of times to get back to the app screen and maybe once again to the watch face.

A hardware Back button at the top left is an interesting idea, but, I think, a bad one. I do agree about the problem though: those tiny on-screen back buttons are too small to tap reliably. I’ve found that swiping from the left edge is a far better way to go back on Apple Watch — so much so that I never actually try to tap those back buttons any more.

For one thing, putting a button directly across from the digital crown would lead to the same problem some people have with the iPhones 6: when they try to press the power or volume up buttons, they accidentally press the wrong one, because they’re right across from each other, and the natural way they hold the phone is with a finger on one of the buttons and their thumb on the other.

William Zinsser, Author of ‘On Writing Well,’ Dies at 92 

Douglas Martin, writing for the NYT:

William Zinsser, a writer, editor and teacher whose book “On Writing Well” sold more than 1.5 million copies by employing his own literary craftsmanship to urge clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 92. […]

His advice was straightforward: Write clearly. Guard the message with your life. Avoid jargon and big words. Use active verbs. Make the reader think you enjoyed writing the piece.

He conveyed that himself with lively turns of phrase:

“There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough,” he wrote in “On Writing Well.”

I’ve mentioned Zinsser and On Writing Well a few times over the years. I could not recommend that book any more highly. Everyone could benefit from reading it — and, every few years, re-reading it. A classic for the ages.

Apple Says First HomeKit Smart Devices Coming in June 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, writing for the WSJ:

Apple said the first HomeKit-enabled smart-home devices are coming out next month, refuting a report that said delays with the home automation software platform would push back the launch until August or September.

“HomeKit [hardware certification] has been available for just a few months and we already have dozens of partners who have committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re looking forward to the first ones coming next month,” said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller.

Apple’s statement comes on the heels of a report in Fortune that said Apple’s software platform — which will allow the company’s devices to control connected home appliances — was experiencing problems and that the introduction of the first HomeKit devices were being delayed.

Update: The Fortune story, reported by Stacey Higginbotham, has since been updated to add “for some devices” to the headline, but as published originally, and until Apple gave this story to the WSJ, stated unequivocally “Apple Delays HomeKit Launch”. You can see it in the URL slug, which comes from the original headline. Fortune blew this one.

This feels like another case of the new, more open, Apple PR. They used to never respond to stories like this, or, if they did, it wasn’t with an on-the-record statement from a named company representative like Trudy Muller.

Apple Watch Can Be Reset Without Passcode 

I’m not sure whether this is a bug, or by design. But at least for now, you can force a factory reset on Apple Watch by:

  1. Locking the watch. (Take it off your wrist.)
  2. Long press on the side button to bring up the “Power Off” screen.
  3. Force tap on the “Power Off” screen.

At this point, you’ll see a new screen with two buttons: “Erase all content and settings” and “Cancel”. It’s a rather ugly layout, which makes me think this is a diagnostic feature, not something that was intended to be exposed to actual users. The only restriction on erasing all content and settings is that the watch has to be connected to a power source — you’re never prompted to enter your passcode.

(Calling this “How to Steal an Apple Watch” earns Philip Elmer-DeWitt a Clickbait Headline of the Day award. Congratulations.)

Facebook Instant Karma 

MG Siegler:

With Instant Articles, Facebook has not only done a 180 from what Mark Zuckerberg has called the company’s biggest mistake, they’ve now done another lap just to prove a point. Not only is the web not fast enough for apps, it’s not fast enough for text either.

And you know what, they’re right.

Such a stance will be considered blasphemy in some circles. But it doesn’t change the very real and very obvious truth: on mobile, the web browser just isn’t cutting it.

And:

Speaking of that “end,” it’s important to note that Facebook is, of course, still powered by that very same web. What it’s no longer powered by is a web browser. That’s very different.

I’ve been making this point for years, but it remains highly controversial. HTML/CSS/JavaScript rendered in a web browser — that part of the web has peaked. Running servers and client apps that speak HTTP(S) — that part of the web continues to grow and thrive.

Apple Intervening in RadioShack Sale to Protect Customer Data 

Joseph Keller, writing for iMore:

Apple is intervening in the sale of RadioShack, filing a motion to prevent the sale of some customer data to bidders for RadioShack’s assets. While the company doesn’t object to the sale in general, they are hoping to block the sale of the personal data of customers who purchased Apple products from RadioShack stores. Apparently selling that data would violate Apple’s reseller agreement with RadioShack, according to Law360.

Seems like they’re going above and beyond on this one.

Johnny Carson on Late Night With David Letterman in 1985 

“You will find out, after a few years, that this is the only way I can talk with anybody.”

AMC Running Marathon of ‘Mad Men’ Leading Up to Series Finale 

Rick Kissell, reporting for Variety:

AMC is going all out for the series finale of “Mad Men,” setting a marathon of episodes as a lead-up and asking its sister networks to forgo regularly scheduled programming during the acclaimed drama’s conclusion.

The network on Tuesday said that every episode from all seven seasons of “Mad Men” will air consecutively, starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and concluding with last week’s episode at 9. And then at 10 p.m., while AMC airs the series finale, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV and We TV will air a special message commemorating the series.

Probably my favorite show of all time. The Sopranos is the only one that makes it a close call.

‘The Detail in Seymour Hersh’s Bin Laden Story That Rings True’ 

Add The New York Times to the list of news agencies backing aspects of Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster expose on the killing of Osama bin Laden. Carlotta Gall writes for the upcoming issue of their Sunday magazine:

Among other things, Hersh contends that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s military-intelligence agency, held Bin Laden prisoner in the Abbottabad compound since 2006, and that “the C.I.A. did not learn of Bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S.”

On this count, my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s. Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times. (In his article, Hersh cites an article I wrote for The Times Magazine last year, an excerpt from a book drawn from this reporting.) The story of the Pakistani informer was circulating in the rumor mill within days of the Abbottabad raid, but at the time, no one could or would corroborate the claim. Such is the difficulty of reporting on covert operations and intelligence matters; there are no official documents to draw on, few officials who will talk and few ways to check the details they give you when they do.

Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset.

Drip, drip, drip.

Verizon Security Flaw Left Millions of Home Internet Users Vulnerable to Attack 

Joseph Bernstein, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Last week, BuzzFeed News received a tip from Eric Taylor — now the chief information security officer of a company called Cinder, but probably better known by his former hacking alias, Cosmo the God. Taylor and Blake Welsh, a student at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, had found a way to easily access Verizon user information by spoofing IP data. They passed along the information to BuzzFeed News on the condition that we would report it to Verizon before publishing — which we did. […]

Within a few hours of the tip, and despite having no technical background, with the explicit permission of several Verizon account holders, I was able to convince Verizon customer service to reset an account password, giving me total control of a Verizon account. It was surprisingly easily done.

So far, it sounds like no customers were actually attacked by this flaw but it’s pretty scary. Especially the social engineering angle:

Even worse, customer support gave me that reset information despite the customer having a security PIN set up. In order to get a reset when someone has set a PIN, Verizon customer support requires either that number, the amount of the most recent payment, or access to the phone listed on the account; Verizon will call customers at that number with their PIN. None of these were listed in the source code, and I obviously didn’t have access to the account phone.

So I called back, and asked for the amount of my last payment, claiming to be balancing my checkbook. Verizon happily gave it to me. Now armed with one of the requisite pieces of verification information, I called back a third time and got a friendly rep to reset the password. We were able to successfully repeat this procedure on demand.

By the Numbers: AOL Then and Now 

Jiminy.

What UberX Drivers Actually Earn 

Emily Guendelsberger, in a thorough and thoroughly entertaining first-person story for Philadelphia City Paper:

I talked to lots of drivers. But few kept a meticulous enough log of hours worked, miles driven and expenses paid that I felt comfortable using their data alone. Many drivers worried about getting in trouble, too — Uber can “deactivate” a driver for any reason. I needed someone on the record, someone whose data I knew I could trust.

So, in January, I applied to be an UberX driver myself.

Eye-opening figures on what drivers actually earn. Brutal.

Walt Mossberg Tests the Apple Watch for a Month 

Walt Mossberg:

Some commentators have complained that the Apple Watch lacks a “killer app” — the one thing that would make it irresistible to consumers. But I disagree. I think any new device like this becomes attractive when it looks good, works well, and does multiple useful things of different value to different users.

I think the “killer app” problem is a marketing issue. A “killer app” feature can help a new device or platform gain traction, because it makes it easy to write about and talk about. Apple Watch doesn’t have that problem — it’s hard to imagine how it could be getting more attention than it is.

The iPod had a simple “killer app” aspect: a thousand songs in your pocket. Boom. But it took years for the iPod to become a mass market hit, because Apple was in such a different position as a company.

Domino’s to Roll Out ‘Tweet-a-Pizza’ 

Bruce Horovitz, reporting for USA Today:

Beginning May 20, Domino’s, the pizza delivery behemoth, will roll out a “tweet-to-order” system that lets U.S. customers tweet for pizza. Domino’s will become the first major player in the restaurant industry to use Twitter, on an ongoing basis, to place and complete an order.

Even wackier: Domino’s frequent customers will be able to order by tweeting only the pizza emoji to @Dominos.

Seems like validation for the Push for Pizza guys, who’ve been doing the “order a pizza in just a few taps from your phone” thing since last year.

Also worth noting that in today’s world, “ordering online” means ordering from your phone — but without making a phone call, and in most cases without using a web browser.

What Will Verizon Do With AOL’s Media Properties? 

Charlie Warzel and William Alden, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Currently, Verizon has no plans to spin off several of the high-profile media properties within its Brand Group, including TechCrunch, Engadget, MapQuest, Moviefone, CrunchBase, and Alpha. Multiple sources inside the Brand Group unit tell BuzzFeed News they’ve also been assured that no layoffs are planned for any of those properties.

And yet it’s still unclear what the acquisition means for AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group. Earlier this morning, Recode reported that AOL has been in talks — most seriously with German media conglomerate Axel Springer — to spin off the Huffington Post as its own entity. Sources BuzzFeed News spoke to within AOL were unaware of such talks.

Verizon to Acquire AOL for $4.4 Billion 

Verizon, earlier today:

Taking another significant step in building digital and video platforms to drive future growth, Verizon Communications Inc. today announced the signing of an agreement to purchase AOL Inc. for $50 per share — an estimated total value of approximately $4.4 billion.

Consider how far AOL has fallen, and how much the media world has changed: in 2000 AOL acquired Time Warner for $182 billion, creating a post-merger company then valued at over $350 billion.

Redesigning Overcast’s Apple Watch App 

Great writeup by Marco Arment on how he completely redesigned the Overcast watch app after actually using it:

Trying to match the structure of the iOS app was a mistake. For most types of apps, the Apple Watch today is best thought of not as a platform to port your app to, but a simple remote control or viewport into your iPhone app.

My initial app was easier to conceptualize and learn, and it closely matched the iOS app. But it just wasn’t very good in practice, and wasn’t usually better than taking out my phone.

The new app is a bit weird and polarizing, and has a learning curve, but it’s great in practice if it fits your preferences. (Just like the Apple Watch.)

The original design wasn’t bad at all — it was actually one of my favorite third-party Watch apps. But the new design is clearly better.

I think every developer who started working on their Apple Watch apps before actually owning an Apple Watch would do well to reconsider their designs. It’s one thing to know you shouldn’t simply design like the Watch is a small iPhone. It’s another thing to have a sense of what makes for a good Watch app — and you have to actually use an Apple Watch to gain that sense.

Google Reveals Safety Record of Self-Driving Car Program 

Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, for Medium’s Backchannel:

If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you’re in a car or a self-driving car. Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.

Good numbers, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. “Safer than human drivers” is probably setting the bar way, way too low.

NBC News: ‘Pakistanis Knew Where Bin Laden Was, Say US Sources’ 

NBC News has a new report backing a significant part of Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster story:

Two intelligence sources tell NBC News that the year before the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a “walk in” asset from Pakistani intelligence told the CIA where the most wanted man in the world was hiding - and these two sources plus a third say that the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along. […]

The NBC News sources who confirm that a Pakistani intelligence official became a “walk in” asset include the special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI’s awareness, saying twice, “They knew.”

See Also: The Intercept points to R.J. Hillhouse, who posted this report back in August 2011 on her website, The Spy Who Billed Me. Her story, seemingly from different sources than Hersh’s, is largely in line with his report.

Update: NBC has retracted their original report. The story now claims:

While the Pakistani intelligence asset provided vital information in the hunt for bin Laden, he did not provide the location of the al Qaeda leader’s Abottabad, Pakistan compound, sources said.

Three sources also said that some officials in the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding all along.

iPhone Enterprise Share: 72 Percent 

Emil Protalinski, writing for VentureBeat:

Entering into 2015, Apple continues to rule the mobile enterprise space. iOS lost just 1 percentage point over the past quarter, dipping to 72 percent of global device activations in Q1 2015. Android device activations, meanwhile, gained the same amount to hit 26 percent of total activations last quarter.

The latest findings come from Good Technology’s Mobility Index Report, although because BlackBerry devices use BlackBerry Enterprise Server for corporate email access, Good Technology does not have insight into the Canadian company’s handset activations. Interestingly, the Windows desktop operating system appeared for the first time in the report this past quarter, registering 1 percent of activations.

Who would have predicted this sort of success for the iPhone in the corporate enterprise market back in 2007? Not me, that’s for sure.

Bob Mansfield’s Un-Retirement 

John Paczkowski, reporting back in November 2012:

Then, following Forstall’s ouster, Cook suddenly announced that Mansfield has agreed to stay with the company in his new position for another two years. As one source close to the company told AllThingsD, “The timing of Bob’s return is not coincidental.”

To begin with, Mansfield was not a fan of Forstall’s confrontational management style, and sources said he generally tried to avoid the iOS exec. Indeed, Bloomberg reported last year that Mansfield would meet with Forstall only if Cook were present to mediate. I’ve heard many similar stories.

“It wasn’t a him-or-me situation,” one source said of Mansfield’s return and Forstall’s departure. “But, put it this way, I think Bob was much more willing to commit to two more years once he knew Scott was on his way out.”

In short, Apple’s press release announcing Forstall’s departure was pretty much the straight dope: “Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services”:

Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

‘A Fraught Relationship With Other Members of the Executive Team’ 

From Businessweek’s 2011 profile of Scott Forstall (a full year before his ouster):

Some former associates of Forstall, none of whom would comment on the record for fear of alienating Apple, say he routinely takes credit for collaborative successes, deflects blame for mistakes, and is maddeningly political. They say he has such a fraught relationship with other members of the executive team — including lead designer Jony Ive and Mac hardware chief Bob Mansfield — that they avoid meetings with him unless Tim Cook is present.

Later in the article:

Then there’s the other Forstall, the one former colleagues say wielded his relationship with Jobs as a bludgeon to expand his authority, and sent other talented execs packing. These include iPod chief Tony Fadell, who they say left Apple after clashing repeatedly with Forstall, and Jean-Marie Hullot. The CTO of Apple’s application division until 2005, Hullot, according to two people familiar with the situation but who weren’t authorized to speak on the record, left the company in part because he was unwilling to work with Forstall. Hullot, now CEO of Paris-based photo-sharing site Fotopedia, declined to comment on why he left Apple other than to say he was ready to try new things.

Forstall seems to engender one of two completely opposite emotions in people that have worked closely with him. Many rave that he works tirelessly, endures constant pressure, and has a comprehensive view of what’s happening in the industry. Others have a more visceral reaction to the mere mention of his name. Jon Rubinstein, a former iPod chief who left for Palm in 2006, chatted amiably at a Silicon Valley party last month, until Forstall’s name came up. Then he turned away abruptly. “Goodbye!” he said.

I’ll add this: I know a bunch of people who worked under Forstall on iOS — engineers, designers, and managers — who loved working for him.

Scott Forstall Emerges 

Stefanie Cohen of the WSJ landed the first post-Apple interview with Scott Forstall, in promotion of the Broadway musical he’s producing:

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Forstall, who had a close relationship with Steve Jobs, was asked to leave Apple after the 2012 rollout of a new version of iPhone’s iOS contained a buggy new maps application — and after he refused to sign a public apology letter about its shortcomings.

Asked about the split, Mr. Forstall said he was “so proud of the thousands of people I worked with [at Apple] and with whom I remain friends. I am delighted that they continue to turn out great and beloved products.”

Gracious answer. Sounds like he’s having fun with the play.

(Worth repeating: My understanding of Forstall’s ouster is that it was about personality conflicts with other Apple executives, not Maps. The Maps launch certainly didn’t help, but if you want a short summary of why Tim Cook fired him, “because of Maps” or “because he wouldn’t sign the apology for Maps” isn’t it.)

The Problems With Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden Story 

Now, the chaser — writing at Vox, Max Fisher dissects Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster report on the killing of bin Laden:

Why, for example, would the Pakistanis insist on a fake raid that would humiliate their country and the very military and intelligence leaders who supposedly instigated it?

A simpler question: why would Pakistan bother with the ostentatious fake raid at all, when anyone can imagine a dozen simpler, lower-risk, lower-cost ways to do this?

Why not just kill bin Laden, drive his body across the border into Afghanistan, and drop him off with the Americans? Or why not put him in a hut somewhere in Waziristan, blow it up with an F-16, pretend it was a US drone strike, and tell the Americans to go collect the body? (Indeed, when I first heard about Hersh’s bin Laden story a few years ago from a New Yorker editor — the magazine, the editor said, had rejected it repeatedly, to the point of creating bad blood between Hersh and editor-in-chief David Remnick — this was the version Hersh was said to favor.)

My first concern when I started reading Hersh’s story was why wasn’t it published by The New Yorker? That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but clearly it wasn’t up to their standards.

The Killing of Osama bin Laden 

Drop everything and read Seymour Hersh’s astounding alternative history of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. Hell of a good read.

Review Monitor: App Store Reviews in Slack 

My thanks to LaunchKit for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Review Monitor, a great new service for any team that uses Slack and has an app in the App Store. Once you register your app, Review Monitor tracks new app reviews and automatically posts them into your team’s Slack channel, your app’s Twitter account, or your email inbox. It takes two minutes to set up.

Review Monitor is part of LaunchKit, a growing set of tools that make creating and releasing mobile apps easier. They’ve also just released Screenshot Builder, which has already been used by thousands of developers to make their App Store screenshots look perfect.

Talking Watches With Tony Fadell 

Fascinating interview by Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer with Tony Fadell, with a selection of Fadell’s watch collection. Love how excited he got talking about the liquid-filled, crown-less Ressence Type 3. Fadell’s comments on Apple Watch were gracious, as well.

Spotify: ‘30 Percent Is Fucking Bullshit’ 

Micah Singleton, writing for The Verge:

Regardless of the pressure, Spotify isn’t married to its free tier, according to sources, but it does strongly believe it drives users to its premium service, and currently has no intentions of giving it up. The free service also draws a significant amount of revenue — much of which goes to the music labels — and attempting to cut off a revenue stream goes against the music labels’ usual practices. “You would never dry up that revenue stream unless someone is making promises they ought not to be making,” a music industry source said.

You can never be certain with unnamed sources, but it seems pretty clear that someone from Spotify is the “music industry source”. What they seem to be doing is preemptively seeding the idea that Apple’s approach to their upcoming streaming music service is analogous to what they did when they entered the e-book market. That they’re colluding with music labels to eliminate free streaming tiers the same way they colluded with publishers to switch to the agency pricing model.

Given how that turned out for Apple, who knows, maybe there’s something to this. But this stuff about Apple’s 30 percent cut of subscriptions through the App Store is amusing:

Apple charges a 30 percent fee toward any sales through its App Store, and that includes subscription services. That means if Spotify wants to sell its premium subscription service — which usually costs $9.99 a month — through the App Store, it has to raise the price 30 percent higher to $12.99 to pull in the same revenue, while Apple can still offer Beats at a lower price. Spotify and many others in the music industry believe Apple’s App Store tax gives them an unfair advantage over the competition.

To make things worse, Apple’s rules disallow companies from redirecting users to the browser to get the lower subscription price. “Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a ‘buy’ button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected,” Apple wrote in its App Store review guidelines. That means if you tried to sign up for Spotify or Rdio or Tidal through their apps in the App Store, you would think they raised their prices, much like what happened last week. “I get that there’s some administrative burden so they should get some kind of fee, but 30 percent is fucking bullshit,” one music industry source said.

Welcome to 2008. What’s interesting to me about this line of argument is how it’s predicated on the assumption that in-app purchasing is essential. The fact that Spotify can sign up customers on the web, without one penny going to Apple, isn’t really part of the discussion because the convenience advantage of IAP is so overwhelming.

Investors Loan Rhapsody $10 Million 

Todd Bishop, writing at GeekWire:

Rhapsody, the Seattle-based streaming music service, has received new loans totaling $10 million from RealNetworks and another of its investors, according to a regulatory filing this afternoon.

Which fact is more surprising about this story: that Rhapsody still exists, or that RealNetworks not only still exists but has the money to loan Rhapsody?

‘The Remarkable Apple Computer’ 

Jim Edwards, writing for Business Insider:

After Business Insider recently published a charming set of photos taken by Apple’s earliest employees, veteran tech writer Sheila (Clarke) Craven got in touch and sent us this gem from February 1977: “The Remarkable Apple Computer,” a lengthy dissection of Apple’s launch product that Craven wrote after flying to San Francisco and interviewing founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. (Kilobaud eventually went out of business and its founder, Wayne Green, died in 2013.)

Craven says she believes it was the first article ever written about Apple. We checked with Wozniak, and he agrees.”Seems quite the way it was,” Wozniak told us. “The only thing I can note is that we were demonstrating the Apple ][ before we shipped any Apple I’s, so we knew that it was a temporary project.”

(Via Kottke.)

Windows X 

BBC News:

Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft development executive, said in a conference speech this week that Windows 10 would be the “last version” of the dominant desktop software.

His comments were echoed by Microsoft which said it would update Windows in future in an “ongoing manner”. Instead of new stand-alone versions, Windows 10 would be improved in regular installments, the firm said.

On the Primacy of Search Ads 

While researching today’s column, I stumbled across this interesting WSJ interview with JetBlue marketing chief Marty St. George:

WSJ: If you were only allowed to use one advertising vehicle, which would it be and why?

MR. ST. GEORGE: Search ads — because they fill seats. I can find people in one location who are searching for information about another city and then serve them an ad that gives them an offer to get to that city.

That the marketing chief of an airline values search ads more than anything else, even TV, speaks to the success of Google’s business model.

ESPN Is Breaking Up With Bill Simmons 

Not surprising, given what happened last year, but interesting nonetheless. It reeks to me of corporate spite — Simmons is both the best and best-known sportswriter today. He produces great work and brings a large audience. The only reason I can see for ESPN to let him go is that they just can’t abide his stridently independent voice.

No comment yet from Simmons, but I’m interested to see where he lands: another big corporate gig, or does he strike out on his own?

The Talk Show: ‘Sloppy on the Side’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast is all about the watch. That’s it. With very special guest Adam Lisagor.

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(The Comeback Kid hit career dinger 661 last night.)

Image Scaling Using Deep Convolutional Neural Networks 

Norman Tasfi, writing for the Flipboard engineering blog:

This past summer I interned at Flipboard in Palo Alto, California. I worked on machine learning based problems, one of which was Image Upscaling. This post will show some preliminary results, discuss our model and its possible applications to Flipboard’s products.

Some really impressive results.

On A-Rod and Cheating 

Wallace Matthews, reporting earlier this week for ESPN New York:

For the first time since the next potential court battle involving Alex Rodriguez became public, a New York Yankees official has gone on record confirming that the club has no intention of paying the controversial slugger a $6 million bonus for hitting his 660th home run.

“We have the right but not the obligation to do something, and that’s it,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman before Saturday’s Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park. “We’re going to follow the contract as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective.”

In other words, in the Yankees’ interpretation of the contract, they are under no obligation to pay off on a deal they feel is no longer valid due to Rodriguez’s 162-game suspension for drug violations last year.

On Twitter, people are asking how I square criticism of Brady and the Patriots with my rooting for Alex Rodriguez. It’s true, I am rooting for A-Rod now that he’s back. But, I’ll forever be disappointed and embarrassed by his cheating with PEDs. I wish he’d never done it. It will forever taint his personal accomplishments and the success the team had while he played. He’s emerged from suspension a tragic figure, who I would argue is getting exactly what he deserves.

I don’t expect Patriot fans not to root for Brady next year. But I do think they should also forever be disappointed in him for this.

Also, to be clear, I consider PED abuse to be a far more significant offense than ball-doctoring.

Remember Amazon’s Fire Phone? 

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica on a major software update for Amazon’s universally-disparaged Fire Phone:

Still, for those who have taken the plunge, Amazon continues providing software updates. Fire OS 4.6.1 includes a fair number of changes, but the largest is one Amazon doesn’t mention — it updates the underlying version of Android from 4.2 Jelly Bean to 4.4 KitKat. KitKat is still a year-and-a-half old at this point, but that’s a year newer than Jelly Bean, and it’s still the most-used version of Android according to Google’s developer dashboard.

KitKat is responsible for a bunch of the new things Fire OS picks up, including Bluetooth 4.0 support, improved accessibility, printing support, security and accessibility features, and an emoji keyboard (Amazon uses unchanged versions of Google’s emoji, the same you’d see on a Google-blessed Android phone).

Given how ubiquitous emoji have become, it’s hard to believe that Fire Phone didn’t have any support for them at all until now. And even still they’re only now catching up to a year-and-a-half old version of Android. It just goes to show how hard it is to go with a “we’ll fork our own version of Android” strategy.

I wonder too, if this update is a sign that Amazon has not given up on Fire Phone. It used to be said of Microsoft that they shipped horrible 1.0’s but stuck with it, for years if that’s what it took, until they had a winner. You can still see that today with the Surface line. Amazon might be like that, too.

NFL Report: ‘More Probable Than Not’ Tom Brady Knew Footballs Were Doctored 

John Branch, reporting for the NYT on the NFL’s long-awaited report on the Patriots’s systematic under-inflation of game balls:

A short time later, Anderson looked around the locker room. The two bags of balls were gone. It was the first time in his 19-year career as an N.F.L. official that Anderson could not find the footballs before a game, he told investigators.

McNally had taken them out of the locker room without anyone’s noticing. He turned left, then left again, walking through a tunnel toward the playing field. Just before he got there, he entered a bathroom to the left.

He locked the door and was inside for 1 minute 40 seconds, surveillance footage later showed. He left the bathroom and took them to the field. And when 11 balls were tested with two gauges at halftime, after the Colts had raised suspicions following a second-quarter interception of a Brady pass, they were all below 12.5 p.s.i. Most were substantially lower. One was at 10.5.

The text messages and phone records are damning (and funny). The report makes clear that this was an ongoing effort, not a single-game aberration. This guy McNally called himself “the deflator”.

Here’s the thing. Stating that a cheater won does not imply that he won because he cheated. Tom Brady was an elite quarterback before teams were even allowed to supply their own game balls. (Ironically, Brady himself pushed for the rule change that allowed teams to supply their own balls, subject to pre-game inspection.) He played great in the Super Bowl, a game where the league still supplies the game balls. “They would have won anyway” is no excuse — and it can’t be proven. Cheating is cheating.

Seahawks and Ravens fans might feel differently, but the harm this has done to Brady’s and the Patriots’ reputations far outweighs whatever advantages the under-inflated balls gave them.

Startup L. Jackson on Bill Maris’s ‘Bank Heist’ Line 

Captures the VC mindset perfectly.

Update: A whole blog post from Mr. Jackson, including a correction on the numbers involved.

Sonos Fights and Wins Against Patent Troll 

Craig Shelburne, co-founder and general counsel for Sonos:

In 2012, a newly formed patent assertion entity (PAE) called Black Hills Media filed a suit against us for alleged infringement of 11 patents they had acquired from defunct companies. Despite Black Hills Media being a PAE (which are sometimes labeled as “patent trolls”), we thoroughly investigated the patents before deciding our course of action. Not only were we 100% certain that we did not infringe any of these patents, but we also strongly believed the patents themselves were not valid.

We chose to fight back in court and at the Patent Office. We spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours defending our position, on the principle that you should not pay for something you do not use.

Good for Sonos.

Apple Confirms Their Web Crawler: Applebot 

Barry Schwartz, writing for Search Engine Land:

After much speculation around an Apple Web Crawler, Apple has finally posted a help document confirming the existence of AppleBot, their web crawler.

Apple said, Applebot is the web crawler for Apple. AppleBot is “used by products including Siri and Spotlight Suggestions,” the company said.

It’s the confirmation of Applebot’s existence that’s new, not Applebot itself. Developer Jan Moesen wrote about it back in November, noting that it was apparently written using the Go programming language. Looking at the logs here on DF, it’s been calling itself “Applebot” since February.

(For the curious, here’s what the last 24 hours of Applebot traffic to DF look like.)

Evolution 

Mike Isaac and David Gelles, writing for the NYT Bits blog:

After the flurry of attention and just a few months later, Secret opted to raise another round of financing, this time seeking $25 million. Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures, did not think it was a good idea and the company did not participate.

“We advised them against it,” Mr. Maris said in an interview, referring to Secret’s leaders. “We told them they didn’t need the money. And raising that much money that soon, it was going to be impossible to meet the expectations in the future.” […]

The company completed its $25 million financing led by Index Ventures and Redpoint Ventures, along with a variety of individual angel investors. In that round, the two founders each wanted to take $3 million off the table for themselves, a practice that is commonplace for more mature companies, but less so for very young start-ups.

“It’s like a bank heist,” Mr. Maris said. “That’s not how you do a start-up.”

Later in the day, in an email to Isaac he posted publicly on Medium, Bill Maris wrote:

I want to correct and amend a few things. I wanted to let you know how my views had evolved since we spoke. […] I do want to make clear that this was not a “bank heist,” and that was a poor choice of words on my part.

That implies that the founders were trying to line their pockets at the expense of others. After having a heart to heart with David, I don’t think that’s true. David rightly pointed out to me that he and Chrys worked extremely hard. They built something that captured the imagination of a lot of people and had a huge amount of users. The tone and content of my comments as printed don’t pay the appropriate respect to that fact.

I don’t know what motivated him to speak so openly to The Times, but I know which one of his views sounds more honest to me, and it isn’t the “evolved” one.

Brian X. Chen on Customer Service and Product Reviews 

Interesting piece from Brian X. Chen for the NYT:

Product reviews are broken. They are great at telling you about the speed of a computer or the brightness of a screen. But there’s a big gaping hole in evaluations of most products, from phones to computers to televisions. The product evaluations neglect to mention the quality of a company’s customer service, which becomes the most important factor of all when problems or questions related to the product come up.

I learned this lesson from a bizarre experience with a Samsung oven that I bought last year.

Oculus Rift to Ship in ‘Q1 2016’ 

Oculus VR (now a division of Facebook):

Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce that the Oculus Rift will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year.

The Rift delivers on the dream of consumer VR with compelling content, a full ecosystem, and a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality. It’s a system designed by a team of extremely passionate gamers, developers, and engineers to reimagine what gaming can be.

Apple Opens Third-Party Watch Band Program 

I’m interested to see what this market winds up looking like. Will luxury retailers like Tiffany and Louis Vuitton make bands for Apple Watch?

‘One Day They’ll Understand Apple’ 

Ken Segall:

The truth is, being wrong about Apple’s future often stems from being wrong about Apple’s past. If you can’t appreciate what led to past successes, it’s tough to see the future ones.

Evergreen material.

Craig Hockenberry on discoveryd 

Craig Hockenberry:

So, Mom, it’s time to stop reading. I’m pissed off and you know how I get when that happens.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, look at this shit. A network process using 100% of the CPU, WiFi disconnecting at random times, and names, names (1), names (2), names (4). All caused by a crappy piece of software called discoveryd.

Brian X. Chen on the Upcoming New Apple TV Remote 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

When Apple introduces its new TV box this summer, the remote control will gain a touch pad and also be slightly thicker than the current version, according to an employee briefed on the product, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the device was confidential. The touch pad can be used for scrolling around and there will also be two physical buttons, the person said. The remote’s thicker size is comparable to the remote control for Amazon’s wireless speaker, the Echo, the person added.

Might be pretty cool if it’s a taptic trackpad, sort of like the new one for MacBooks. You might be able to “feel” menu items as you navigate the UI — eyes on the TV but fingers on the remote. And you could control fast-forward/rewind scrubbing speed by the force of your touch.

Steve Kovach Reviews Apple Watch 

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:

I’ve spent over a week with the Apple Watch, and just as so many people misunderstood what iPhones, iPads, and Chromebooks were for, I can now see the same thing happening with Apple’s first wearable.

The Apple Watch is not a replacement for your iPhone. It’s not something you’re going to use for extended periods, your arm held at an uncomfortable angle while squinting at tweets and emails on the small screen.

The Apple Watch is best used as that: a watch. It’s something you check for a second or two and then put away. And in 2015, it’s nice to have a watch that can do more than simply tell time. We can carry it around with us everywhere we go, and it springs to life when it receives a notification: a text, an email, a tweet, a Facebook message. Those notifications don’t always need a response, but they are important to glance at, just like the time.

Bingo. Don’t overthink it. Really solid review overall, one of the best I’ve seen. On third-party apps:

Just about every major app, from Twitter to Instagram to Starbucks, has an app for the Apple Watch. So far, there are about 3,500 apps available, and most stink.

The Verge: Apple Pushing Music Labels to Kill Free Spotify Streaming Ahead of Beats Relaunch 

Micah Singleton, reporting for The Verge:

The Department of Justice is looking closely into Apple’s business practices in relation to its upcoming music streaming service, according to multiple sources. The Verge has learned that Apple has been pushing major music labels to force streaming services like Spotify to abandon their free tiers, which will dramatically reduce the competition for Apple’s upcoming offering. DOJ officials have already interviewed high-ranking music industry executives about Apple’s business habits. […]

Getting the music labels to kill the freemium tiers from Spotify and others could put Apple in prime position to grab a large swath of new users when it launches its own streaming service, which is widely expected to feature a considerable amount of exclusive content. “All the way up to Tim Cook, these guys are cutthroat,” one music industry source said.

Samsung ‘Designing Possible’ Ad 

As Dave Pell quipped, “Samsung is basically a cover band at this point.”

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. With Pixate, mobile designers can craft sophisticated animations and interactions for any form factor — without writing code. Full-fledged interaction designs for iOS and Android, not with web views, but with 100 percent native prototypes. Pixate is now available as a standalone app for Mac and Windows.

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660 

What a thrill and honor for the great fans of Boston to have witnessed this historic dinger from the most productive career hitter in the game today.

Speaking of Apple Products and Water Resistance 

David W. Brown, writing for The Atlantic back in 2011:

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”

How common is it for these rooms at Apple to have aquariums in them? That sounds fishy to me.

Water Resistant-ish 

Paul Kafasis goes deep (well, 1 meter deep) on Apple Watch’s water resistance:

It turns out that much like yourself, a bit of water won’t kill the Apple Watch, but four blows right to the face probably will.

The Talk Show: ‘I Touched Ron Johnson’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, with special guest John Moltz. Topics include Gruber’s retina, Apple Watch backorders and the watch itself, news from Microsoft’s Build conference, how to introduce yourself to people you’ve publicly branded a “jackass”, and more.

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