More Amazing Xiaomi/Apple Design Coincidences ★
Posit: Xioami (a.k.a. “Mi”) poses a serious threat to Samsung because:
Xiaomi is more shamelessly willingly to blatantly copy Apple, down to as many details as they’re able.
They’re better at it. Xiaomi copies with some degree of taste; Samsung has no taste.
Xiaomi operates only in countries with weak IP laws and culture, further enabling and protecting them re: points 1 and 2. (This third point was first brought to my attention by Ben Thompson, when he was my guest on The Talk Show a few weeks ago.)
Apple Q3 2014 Results ★
The most interesting numbers to me: iPad sales were down about 9 percent year-over-year, but Mac sales were up about 18 percent.
OS X Yosemite Public Beta Arrives Thursday ★
On Thursday, fall will come early for hundreds of thousands of
Mac users when Apple releases its first public beta of OS X
Yosemite. The public-beta program, announced during Apple’s
annual developer conference in June, lets regular users download
and test pre-release versions of OS X. Apple says the first
million users to sign up at the OS X Beta Program website will be
able to test Yosemite before the OS is released to the general
public in the fall. […]
When Yosemite is finished, users will be upgraded to the final
version automatically, also via the Software Update feature within
the App Store app.
Just as a reminder, OS X Yosemite is still software that is under
development, so apps and services may not work as expected some
(or all) of the time. It’s always wise to back up your Mac before
installing, and you should seriously consider installing Yosemite
on a Mac that you don’t use for day-to-day operations just in case
something goes wrong.
Good advice. Judging by the developer betas, Yosemite is in good shape for a beta, but that is not the same thing as being in good shape for production use.
Making It Easy ★
Remember that phone call last week, where Veronica Belmont and Ryan Block simply could not get a Comcast “Retention professional” to cancel their account? Consumerist obtained an internal memo from Comcast COO Dave Watson, which reads in part (emphasis mine):
That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not
surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our
customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I
know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous
admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for
customers to choose to stay with Comcast.
That is literally just another way of saying that their job is to make it difficult to leave Comcast. It’s somehow more obnoxious though, that he phrases it so euphemistically.
The History of Autocorrect ★
Gideon Lewis-Kraus, writing for Wired Gadget Lab:
On idiom, some of its calls seemed fairly clear-cut: gorilla warfare became guerrilla warfare, for example, even though a wildlife biologist might find that an inconvenient assumption. But some of the calls were quite tricky, and one of the trickiest involved the issue of obscenity. On one hand, Word didn’t want to seem priggish; on the other, it couldn’t very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer. Microsoft was sensitive to these issues. The solution lay in expanding one of spell-check’s most special lists, bearing the understated title: “Words which should neither be flagged nor suggested.”
Mi 3 Product Page Rips Off Aperture Icon ★
Scroll down on the Mi 3 “features” page and you’ll see this image, named “detail-camera.jpg”. (Cached version, for when Mi pulls the original.) Take a good look at the camera in that image, then look at the app icon for the current version of Aperture. (Cached.) It’s a simple copy-paste-skew job of the lens, and not a very good one. Two panels down on the page, they use it again, horizontally flipped. (Shockingly, they cropped out the “Designed by Apple in California”.)
Now re-read this.
Digital Tattoo for Moto X ★
Is this a joke? This is a joke, right?
Microsoft Misses on Earnings Due to Nokia ★
I don’t think anyone should be surprised by this — if the Nokia acquisition is going to work out well, it’s going to take a while. Still looking like a very big “if”, though.
Mi Too ★
Vlad Savov, The Verge:
Barra is only a year into his job as leader of Mi’s
internationalization efforts, but he’s already “sick and tired” of
hearing his company derided as an Apple copycat. He sees Mi as “an
incredibly innovative company” that never stops trying to improve
and refine its designs, and the allegations of it copying Apple
are “sweeping sensationalist statements because they have nothing
better to talk about.”
This was apparently said with a straight face by an executive from the company that put up this slide at the end of a product introduction event today.
Speaking of Beautiful Dented and Scratched Machines ★
Everyone is calling this “the new X-Wing”, but I’m not sure the wings open into an X. Looks cool though, and it’s great to see them going back to practical special effects.
Update: It’s definitely an X-Wing. Here’s a tweet illustrating how the S-foils open. Even better, this new X-Wing hews closely to Ralph McQuarrie’s original design. Awesome.
Matthew Panzarino on the ‘Stickers’ Ad ★
Bangs and dents mean these things get used. It emphasizes the
reliability of the MacBook Air by showing that some of them have
scuffs and scrapes. It’s rare in that it shows Apple products in a
non-retail-box condition. The only recent personalization example
I can find is iPhones in cases, which are shown in its ‘Powerful’
ads — but those don’t show any actual ‘damage’. The way Apple
products look after customization and ‘real world’ use isn’t often
represented in Apple ads. As Jeff Carlson points out, these are
likely someone’s real machines.
Scrollbar History ★
Speaking of the old six-color Apple logo, some interesting UI design history from Jack Wellborn at Worms and Viruses:
While watching the video, I couldn’t help but notice two snippets
at the 7:36 mark from 1982 about scroll bars. First, an Apple
engineer shows how scrolling works in the Lisa, followed
immediately by a similar demo from Xerox. This juxtaposition
immediately struck me as interesting because Apple detractors are
quick to reference Xerox Parc when dismissing the graphical
interface innovations of the Lisa and Macintosh. While there is no
denying Xerox’s influence, these two snippets perfectly illustrate
massive amounts of design and refinement championed by Apple
during that era. Read for yourself.
People who think UI design is easy might think the differences here are trivial; those who know that UI design is difficult know otherwise.
New MacBook Air Commercial: ‘Stickers’ ★
Fun commercial, but the thing that really grabbed my attention is that this is the first time in recent memory — a decade? maybe longer? — that Apple has used their classic six-color logo, even if only briefly. Nice to see it.
People have been decorating their laptops with stickers and decals ever since they became consumer products. (You didn’t see many stickers on them when they cost $5,000.) And I don’t think we need to commission a demographic survey to state that younger people are more likely to do this than older people. It’s no coincidence this spot is debuting in back-to-school season.
In the old days Apple didn’t have to worry about conformance. Just owning a Mac made you stand out from the crowd. But what happens now, when everyone you know has a MacBook, and every MacBook looks the same? Something like this commercial is what happens. It’s all of a piece, along with Apple’s Beats acquisition and the market for iPhone cases: self-expression.
‘Count to Ten When a Plane Goes Down’ ★
John C. Beck:
Just a little under 31 years ago, I played a key role in a conspiracy theory that grew up around a passenger plane downed by a Russian missile. Trust me, I did not mean to be involved.
Podcast Players: The New UI Design Playground ★
Nice post from Supertop, the duo behind the excellent Castro:
By making Overcast free with in app purchase, Marco has lowered
the barrier to trying a third party app. From our perspective, a
user trying any third party app is good for all third party apps.
If a user is persuaded to download one alternative they should be
more likely to consider others in the future, especially given the
variety of apps that are available. Marco referred to this
diversity in his Macstories interview:
With a podcast app […] there are tons of big and small design and
priority decisions that each developer makes along the way. These
decisions add up to radically different apps — I can’t point to
any two podcast apps in the store today that are very similar to
each other in actual use.
I encourage you to try Overcast. In fact, if you really love
podcasts, I encourage you to try all the others too. If you spend
hours listening to podcasts every week, it’s going to be worth
your while to find the app that suits you best.
Back in 2009 I wrote a piece titled “Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground”:
There are several factors that make Twitter a nearly ideal
playground for UI design. The obvious ones are the growing
popularity of the service itself and the relatively small scope of
a Twitter client. Twitter is such a simple service overall, but
look at a few screenshots of these apps, especially the recent
ones, and you will see some very different UI designs, not only in
terms of visual style but in terms of layout, structure, and flow.
I’m not saying it’s easy to write a good Twitter client. In fact,
that’s the point — that it is not easy to write a good client for
something as small in scope as Twitter hints at just how hard it
is to write a good app for anything, let alone something truly
Less obvious is the fact that different people seek very different
things from a Twitter client. TweetDeck, for example, is clearly
about showing more at once. Tweetie is about showing less. That I
prefer apps like Tweetie and Twitterrific doesn’t mean I think
they’re better. There is so much variety because various clients
are trying to do very different things. Asking for the “best
Twitter client” is like asking for the “best shirt”.
I think the same is true of podcast players today.
Mocast 1.0 ★
New $2.99 iPhone podcast player by Frank Krueger. By bizarre coincidence, it launched the same day as Overcast, so it might have gotten lost in the Overcast shuffle. It’s a different take. Krueger writes:
I wrote Mocast because I was unhappy with the iOS podcast app
selection. While there are almost as many iPhone podcast
players as there are weather apps, I find that they all have
two fatal flaws.
First, they take downloads way too seriously. Most UIs
differentiate downloaded vs. not downloaded episodes and bifurcate
their interface along those lines. This is silly to us
podcastistas who aren’t the greatest at planning ahead.
Second, they take new episodes too seriously. Whole apps seem
built with only new episodes in mind as they hide away the back
catalog. I don’t know why this is. My favorite podcast, The
Incomparable has an amazingly rich back catalog of episodes that
I love to listen to. It’s nice when a new episode arrives but
there’s no need over-emphasize them at the cost of the full
Interesting technical note, too:
As with all my apps, I wrote Mocast in C# using Xamarin.iOS. She
came out to be about 8,000 LOC with about 60% of that code lying
in the UI layer.
George Orwell: ‘Politics and the English Language’ ★
One more follow-up regarding the connection between clear thinking and clear writing: Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask
himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say?
What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it
clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he
will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not
obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply
throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come
crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even
think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need
they will perform the important service of partially concealing
your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the
special connection between politics and the debasement of
language becomes clear.
I’ve read this essay numerous times, and it never gets old.
‘Mission Statement’ ★
As if right on cue given my aside last week on Satya Nadella’s business-jargon-laden company-wide memo, here’s a new song (and cool video) from Weird Al Yankovic.
(Another new song from Yankovic, “Word Crimes”, is also apt.)
Taligent and the Ignominious History of Apple/IBM Alliances ★
It somehow slipped my mind yesterday, but Bill Campbell’s departure made me recall Taligent, the ill-fated “universal operating system” boldly promised and jointly developed by Apple and IBM back in the early 1990s. (Campbell had nothing to do with it; he re-joined Apple as a board member in 1997 after the NeXT reunification. Taligent was one of several pie-in-the-sky fiascos that left Apple in such desperate straits that they had to buy NeXT.) Wikipedia:
Pink was then spun off from Apple as a joint project known as
Taligent. The original Apple team was expanded with the addition
of a very small number of IBM engineers, as well as a new CEO from
IBM, Joe Guglielmi (apparently to the distaste of many of the
“In 1992, the earth shook: IBM and Apple clasped hands and
pronounced themselves allies. From this union sprang Taligent, a
small Cupertino, California, company that’s now developing nothing
less than a universal operating system.” —Macworld, 1994
During its first year, IBM persuaded Taligent to replace its
internally developed object-oriented microkernel, called Opus,
with the microkernel that IBM was using as the base for IBM’s
Workplace OS. The change in underlying technology had both
positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, Pink would
become a personality on top of the IBM Workplace OS. This would
create easy migration paths between OS/2, AIX, Mac OS, and Pink
by allowing any combination of operating system personalities to
run simultaneously on a single computer. On the negative side,
this created issues over how to integrate Taligent’s
object-oriented device-driver model with Workplace OS’s
procedural device-driver model.
The “positive side” was a total pipe dream.
The other previous Apple/IBM collaboration that springs to mind is the PowerPC platform. That was no fiasco, and even saw some good years, but ultimately ended badly. Just two years after Apple’s grand announcement of the G5 CPU, Apple announced it was switching to Intel processors.
Tim Cook Tells WSJ He Does 80 Percent of His Work on iPad ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting yesterday on the Apple/IBM team-up:
Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook says he does 80% of the work
of running the world’s most valuable company on an iPad.
“There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be like that,” Mr. Cook
said in an interview, explaining why Apple struck a partnership
with International Business Machines Corp. to develop
applications catered to big businesses, or enterprises. “Imagine
enterprise apps being as simple as the consumer apps that we’ve
all gotten used to. That’s the way it should be.”
I’m sure “80 percent” is a rough guess, perhaps even somewhat exaggerated in the iPad’s favor, but there’s a dogfooding aspect to Tim Cook being a heavy iPad user who uses it for actual work.
Here’s my question (prompted by this thread on Twitter): Does IBM CEO Ginni Rometty use an iPhone? I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker if she doesn’t, but I do think it matters if she does — it’s an “actions speak louder than words” thing. Commitment and vision start at the top.
Update: Perfect counterexample: Google chairman (and long-time CEO) Eric Schmidt admitting to still using a BlackBerry — a BlackBerry! — last year.
Update 2: Horace Dediu: “I received confirmation that she uses iPhone, iPad and Mac and has for several years.” So there we go: the CEO of IBM apparently uses iOS devices and a Mac.
Sue Wagner Joins Apple’s Board; Bill Campbell Retires ★
“Sue is a pioneer in the financial industry and we are excited to
welcome her to Apple’s board of directors,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s
CEO. “We believe her strong experience, especially in M&A and
building a global business across both developed and emerging
markets, will be extremely valuable as Apple continues to grow
around the world.”
“We conducted an exhaustive search for someone who would further
strengthen our board’s breadth of talent and background, and we
are delighted to have identified such an outstanding individual,”
said Art Levinson, Apple’s chairman. “I’m confident that Sue is
going to make an important and positive impact on our company.”
Makes me wonder if the Beats deal is the start of a trend toward larger acquisitions by Apple.
Bill Campbell’s relationship with Apple dates back to 1983, when
he joined the company as vice president of Marketing. Next to
Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula, Campbell is the
longest-serving board member in the company’s history.
“Bill’s contributions to Apple are immeasurable and we owe him a
huge debt of gratitude. On behalf of the board and the entire
company, I want to thank him for being a leader, a mentor and a
friend,” said Cook. “When Bill joined Apple’s board, the company
was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive,
but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable
back in 1997.”
Apple share prices hovered around $0.80 (split-adjusted) in August 1997, when Campbell joined the board. They closed today at $93. Not a bad run for a board member.
Trip ‘Claim’ Chowdhry Prediction of the Week ★
Famed analyst Trip Chowdhry, two days ago:
IBM is only 2 days away from their earnings announcement, while
AAPL is only 1.5 weeks away from their earnings announcement. The
timing of this announcement makes us feel that IBM will very
likely miss their revenue expectations and probably Apple may also
miss their revenue expectations.
IBM’s actual results, today:
International Business Machines reported a second quarter boost in
net income and revenue that topped Wall Street forecasts.
IBM reported non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $4.32 off
revenue of $24.4 billion. Both numbers beat analyst estimates
compiled by Bloomberg.
(Thanks to Brian Resac. Also, no surprise that Trip Chowdhry thinks Apple is going to report a miss this quarter: he’s on the record as predicting that they’re going “to disappear” because they didn’t release a wristwatch last month.)
‘Hello There’ ★
Amir Mizroch, writing for the WSJ:
While layoffs at Microsoft were expected for some time, the size
of the job cuts announced Thursday took some by surprise. Another
surprise: the salutation of an email to all staff from Microsoft
Executive Vice President Stephen Elop, outlining the rationale for
“Hello There,” started Elop’s email to employees.
Hello there? Critics on social media seized on the opening as
Anyone else feel like maybe Stephen Elop should be one of the 18,000 layoffs?
Blogger Fined by French Court Because Negative Restaurant Review Was Too Prominent in Google ★
Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land:
Doudet could appeal the decision but has decided not to
because she did “not want to relive weeks of anguish,”
according to the BBC.
There are two contexts in which this story can be analyzed: 1) the
futility of trying to use the courts to attack or quash negative
reviews and 2) European courts’ increasingly bold attempts to
blunt the impact of or censor specific search results that are
perceived to cause harm (whether or not the information at issue
is truthful or factual).
On the first point the restaurant has gained much more unwanted
attention for itself through the action and subsequent coverage.
I wouldn’t be surprised now if it went out of business. However,
the food and service appear to be mediocre; so perhaps it’s
To my American ears, this sounds absolutely crazy.
Mini-Microsoft: ‘Cut Once, Cut Deep, Cut Quickly’ ★
Mini-Microsoft on today’s Microsoft layoff announcement:
That’s why I hope that Cut Quickly happens. Without it, we’re
back to our first layoff experience. If anything broke the back
of this blog, it was the first big Microsoft layoff back in
2009. How? How could the realization of a step towards
Mini-Microsoft do that? Because it was implemented so poorly,
with constant worries and concerns and doubts about engaging in
new ideas due to expectations those would be the easiest to trim
during ongoing cut-backs. When was it over? When was the “all
clear” signal given?
So if this truly drags on for a year: we need a new leader. This
needs to be wrapped up by the end of July. 2014.
Charity: Waterworld ★
Did you know that almost a billion people on the planet don’t have
access to clean drinking water? Every day, 5,000 kids die from
water-related illnesses before they reach their fifth birthday.
Which is bullshit. There are simple solutions like drilled wells,
spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean
water to communities around the world.
And the good people at charity: water are helping to make those
He’s trying to raise $10,000 for a truly great cause. I’m in.
The Last Hurrah for ‘At the Movies’ ★
Great piece by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for The A.V. Club on co-hosting the final run of At the Movies, including an astute analysis of what made Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert so good at it.
Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs, Including 12,500 From Nokia ★
Satya Nadella, in a company-wide memo (emphasis mine):
Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic
alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account
for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory
Our workforce reductions are mainly driven by two outcomes: work
simplification as well as Nokia Devices and Services integration
synergies and strategic alignment. […]
We will realize the synergies to which we committed when we
announced the acquisition last September. […]
Seems like a lot of “synergies”. This style of communication is like reading a foreign language to me — I don’t understand what most of it means.
Update: Classic 30 Rock sketch on “synergy”. (Via Pavan Rajam.)
Pinboard Turns Five ★
Perspective does not make you immune to burnout. It just makes burnout less scary. I’ve gone through a few episodes since starting Pinboard, and I’m sure there will be more to come. People have been very understanding about my occasional need to flee the Internet. I find that the longer I run the site, the more resistant I become to the idea of ever giving it up, even if I need to take the occasional break. It is pleasant to work on something that people draw benefit from. It is especially pleasant to work on something lasting. And I enjoy the looking-glass aspect of our industry, where running a mildly profitable small business makes me a crazy maverick not afraid to break all the rules.
Android, iOS, and Accessibility ★
Chris Hofstader, back in September:
If a blind person, like me for instance, wants what Apple is
selling, he can purchase an iOS device and find that,
out-of-the-box, there are zero accessibility failures. A blind
person who purchases an iOS device, can make his own decisions as
to which features he wants to use as Apple provides accessibility
to 100% of the features available to people who do not self
identify as having a disability.
After posting the article yesterday, I received a lot of tweets
and a couple of emails from blind Android enthusiasts. These
people told me all of the cool things they can do with their
Android devices, including launching accessibility out-of-the-box
on some android units, something I had thought impossible when I
wrote the article yesterday. If a blind person, let’s say me,
wants what Google is selling, he will get a subset of the features
available to our sighted friends. To me, if the OS vendor does not
make 100% of its features accessible in the same way that Apple
has with iOS 7, it may be usable but it’s not accessible. At the
same time, I completely reject Google for having the hubris to
decide what blind people do and do not want.
According to Reuters, Apple is the one “feeling the most heat” from accessibility advocates.
The Power of Selective Quoting ★
Christina Farr, reporting for Reuters, “Advocates for Blind, Deaf Want More From Apple”, the gist of which is that the National Federation of the Blind is considering litigation to force Apple to require all apps in the App Store to be fully accessible:
Still, advocates of the disabled want the problem solved by the
company at the center of the app world — Apple. Rival Google
Inc, whose Android operating system drives more phones than
Apple, is also under pressure, but as the creator of the modern
smartphone and a long-time champion for the blind, Apple is
feeling the most heat.
A few things in this article stuck out to me as oddly slanted. First, in what world does the above paragraph make sense? Why should Apple be “feeling more heat” than Google on the accessibility front? Where does the article state that iOS is far ahead of Android in terms of out-of-the-box accessibility for the vision impaired? (It doesn’t.)
Then there’s this quote from Tim Cook:
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a 2013 speech at Auburn
University described people with disabilities “in a struggle to
have their human dignity acknowledged.” He said, “They’re
frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that
are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.”
That sounds odd. Jim Dalrymple transcribed the full quote from Cook’s speech (video), emphasis mine:
“People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to
have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in
the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of
empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple’s engineers
push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to
extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people
with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various
Reuters’s truncation completely changes the meaning of Cook’s words.
‘Speaking Up Every. Fucking. Time.’ ★
Elizabeth Spiers profiles (sort of) Shanley Kane, founder/editor of Model View Culture.