If Apple Gets Into AR or VR, It Should and Probably Will Be a New Platform ★
Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is
We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an
interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect
attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most
have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in
iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re
looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based
competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even
been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about
Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The
pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report
doesn’t say one way or the other.
What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re
blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS
This isn’t how Apple typically approaches new human-computer interaction technologies. They don’t just retrofit their existing platform for the new technology. That’s what Microsoft does with Windows. The iPhone didn’t run the Mac OS. The underlying core OS, yes, but everything user-facing was done from scratch, specific to the nature of a touch screen. Apple creates new platforms for new interaction technologies.
I strongly suspect that’s what Apple would do for AR or VR. It could piggyback on the iPhone for network connectivity, as the Watch does, but it’d be its own software platform.
I suppose it’s possible that Apple could use AR just to impose a big virtual display in front of the user. That wouldn’t work at all with iOS’s touch-based paradigm. It could work with the Mac’s mouse pointer and keyboard paradigm. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I don’t think it would be better than a non-virtual big display on your desktop, and I don’t think toting around a bulky pair of goggles would be better than the built-in displays on MacBooks. It just seems incredibly short-sighted to treat AR or VR as an output for traditional desktop computing.
The Problem With AMP ★
The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ
from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing
difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some
https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the
AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the
canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL
is. This usually involves removing either a
from the URL to get to the actual page.
Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to
keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like
you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are
displayed prominently in Google’s news carousel. This is their
response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of
which are designed to keep users within their respective
ecosystems. However, Google’s implementation of AMP is more broad
and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google’s
implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn’t limited to just
an app like Facebook or Apple.
Back in October I asked why websites are publishing AMP pages. The lock-in aspect makes no sense to me. Why would I want to cede control over my pages to Google? AMP pages do load fast, but if publishers want their web pages to load fast, they can just engineer them to load fast. Best answers I got were that it wasn’t really strategic — publishers are going with AMP just because their SEO people are telling them to, because Google features AMP pages in search results. I suppose that is a strategy, but ceding control over your content to Google isn’t a good one in the long term.
As Schreiber points out, with things like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, the canonical URL for each story remains on the publisher’s own website. With AMP, from the perspective of typical users, the canonical URL is on google.com.
Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview ★
This document gives an overview of how security is designed into
Google’s technical infrastructure. This global scale
infrastructure is designed to provide security through the entire
information processing lifecycle at Google. This infrastructure
provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data
with end user privacy safeguards, secure communications between
services, secure and private communication with customers over the
internet, and safe operation by administrators.
Quite a few interesting bits in this document, including this:
A Google data center consists of thousands of server machines
connected to a local network. Both the server boards and the
networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. We vet
component vendors we work with and choose components with care,
while working with vendors to audit and validate the security
properties provided by the components. We also design custom
chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being
deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to
securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at
the hardware level.
FTC Charges Qualcomm With Monopolizing Key Semiconductor Device Used in Cell Phones ★
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission:
Extracted exclusivity from Apple in exchange for reduced patent
royalties. Qualcomm precluded Apple from sourcing baseband
processors from Qualcomm’s competitors from 2011 to 2016. Qualcomm
recognized that any competitor that won Apple’s business would
become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from
working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm’s
I wonder who brought this complaint to the FTC — Apple, Qualcomm’s competitors, or both?
The Commission vote to file the complaint was 2-1. Commissioner
Maureen K. Ohlhausen dissented and issued a statement. Both a
public and sealed version of the complaint were filed in the U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of California on January
Ohlhausen’s dissent is quite brief, and worth a read.
The Pipe Dream of Ara ★
How far out in the weeds was Google’s modular “Project Ara” phone concept before they finally pulled the plug on it? This far out, according to Harrison Weber’s report for VentureBeat:
Imagine the modules developers might dream up. There were the
obvious ideas, like specialized cameras and high-end speakers. But
modules could get stranger, wilder, too. One module idea, in
particular, frequently derailed meetings inside ATAP’s walls, as
studio leaders strained to picture a module gold rush akin to
Apple’s App Store.
“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a
tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little
tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a
microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades
and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the
tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade
module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app
on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up
close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design,
and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and
was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of
what developers could create.
Crowdsourcing Is No Way to Design a Phone (Or Anything Else for That Matter) ★
Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:
ZTE’s crowdsourced phone has already had quite a journey. After
the phone’s concept — an eye-tracking, self-adhesive device —
was voted on by ZTE users, the phone was put on
Kickstarter. Now ZTE is giving us a clearer idea of what to
expect specs-wise. […]
Although it has the hardware specs down, ZTE told me at CES that
they haven’t totally figured out the phone’s software, like how to
get it to eye track. The company also didn’t divulge any details
around the self-adhesive case, so we have no idea how the phone
will stick to different surfaces. Still, Hawkeye costs $199 on
Kickstarter if you feel like preordering and waiting for more
details to trickle out. ZTE could use the help too; it has only
raised $32,000 out of its $500,000 goal.
Good luck with that.
The Talk Show: ‘Now Banned in China’ ★
Jim Dalrymple returns to the show for the first episode of 2017. Topics include New Year’s Eve, Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant, Apple’s aging AirPort and Mac Pro lineups, the future of desktop Macs, Apple Watch battery life, and rumors of upcoming new iPads.
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Yahoo Leftovers Will Be Called Altaba, Marissa Mayer Will Not Be on Board ★
10 years ago, Yahoo was important enough to get its own on-stage segment during the iPhone announcement.
Merlin Mann Interviewing Jason Snell and Yours Truly From Macworld Expo 2007 ★
Five minute interview wherein Jason Snell very closely predicts the App Store. That whole Expo was so damn exciting. It’s an overused phrase, but that iPhone debut was an instance where it really did feel like we’d been given a very clear glimpse of the future.
Merlin’s audio for the file was hosted at Odeo (remember them?), but Jason has a copy hosted at The Incomparable.
The Thing About Trucks ★
While Brooks and others are arguing that iPad will eventually
replace the Mac, Gruber is arguing there will always be a need for
macOS — specifically a desktop operating system. Despite what
my aforementioned dalliance with iPad might suggest, I’m firmly in
Here’s the thought experiment, which I used to inform my opinion:
If you could take only one device with you, which one would you
take? Ben Brooks or Federico Viticci would almost certainly
choose an iPad.
However, I’d take a Mac. Exactly the 11-inch MacBook Air, which
I’m using to write this article.
If I could only use one device, it’d be a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bet a lot of people would pick an iPhone, though.
The Ten Year Anniversary of the Apple TV ★
There is, though, one more lesson, and that comes from the Apple
TV: none of us ultimately know anything, including the late Steve
Jobs. There’s no question that Jobs knew that Apple was on to
something — he said so in the keynote, when he analogized the
iPhone to the Mac and iPod. And yet, had he truly known that the
iPhone would be exponentially more consequential than either, the
Apple TV would have not made an appearance.
The truth is that dents in the universe are only observable after
they have occurred; this is why their continued creation is best
induced by the establishment of conditions in which risk-taking
and experimentation are rewarded. The temptation is to adopt the
mistaken mindset that all there is to be invented — and, more
pertinently, to be adopted — already exists.
I like Apple TV a lot, and use it for just about all my TV watching other than sports, but it’s been a very different 10 years for Apple TV than it’s been for the iPhone.
Daring Fireball Live at Macworld Expo 2007 ★
Here’s a fun bit of history. Macworld magazine used to have a stage on the Macworld Expo show floor, and in 2007 I hosted a “Daring Fireball Live” show, with Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser as my guest. We went on stage at the end of the day on Tuesday, the day of the iPhone keynote. We weren’t even sure yet whether or not there was going to be an SDK for native apps.
This was so long ago, it was six months before the first run of The Talk Show started.
Update: Photo, courtesy Patrick Gibson.
How the World Reacted to the First iPhone 10 Years Ago ★
The Telegraph has assembled a fine collection of vintage original iPhone claim chowder, including this gem from John Dvorak:
Now compare that effort and overlay the mobile handset business.
This is not an emerging business. In fact it’s gone so far that
it’s in the process of consolidation with probably two players
dominating everything, Nokia and Motorola. […]
The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as
well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast
enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless
Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even
if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.
There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business
Phil Schiller on the Original iPhone’s Launch ★
Steven Levy, interviewing Phil Schiller on the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction:
Schiller also cast light on why the iPhone shipped as a closed
system. During the gestation period of the iPhone, Apple hosted a
spirited internal debate. Some advocated that the device be an
open system, like the Macintosh, and others advised a more closed
system, like the iPod. The argument was put on hold when the
engineers realized that even if the open-system adherents won the
debate, it would be impossible to implement in time for the
launch. Steve Jobs shut down the discussion, Schiller recalls. “He
said ‘We don’t have to keep debating this because we can’t have
[an open system] right now. Maybe we’ll change our mind
afterwards, or maybe we won’t, but for now there isn’t one so
let’s envision this world where we solve the problem with great
built-in apps and a way for developers to make web apps.”
A few thoughts:
- iOS is now older than Mac OS X was at the time the iPhone was unveiled.
- This was the cell phone in my pocket as I sat in Moscone West, watching the keynote.
- I just took my original iPhone out of the closet and charged it up. It’s thick and heavy, but overall feels tiny. It’s sized like a cell phone, not a pocket computer.
- Interesting that Apple is choosing to mark the tenth anniversary now, on the occasion of its unveiling. Perhaps they’ll do something again on June 29, the day we all stood in line outside Apple and AT&T stores, waiting to buy one.
Ten Years Ago Today Steve Jobs Introduced the iPhone ★
It was the Apple keynote we had always wanted: the announcement of a game-changing product that Apple had successfully kept secret until Steve Jobs took it out of his pocket. Rumors were rampant that Apple was making “a phone”, but no one outside the company had any idea what kind of phone.
Here’s video of the announcement. See you in an hour.
Tuesday, 3 January 2017
Chuq Von Rospach has a thoughtful look at the state of Apple. The whole piece is worth reading, but his comments on two particular products stood out to me. First, the AirPort lineup:
Apple has products it has let languish without any significant
update for long periods of time. If you look at how Apple’s
treated their AirPort line, you’d think Wi-Fi was a mature
technology where nothing was really changing. In fact, a lot is
happening including a big shift to mesh networks, and Apple has
seemingly ignored all of that. It used to be you bought Airports
because they were some of the best Wi-FI devices out there. Today,
the only reason to buy them is you want easy, and because it has
the Apple brand. They’re woefully out of date (and in fact, I just
replaced mine with a set of Eero devices, which are Apple easy to
use, and blow Apple’s products away in terms of performance).
Rumors have come out that Apple has cancelled future development
of these, but they’re still for sale. Why?
Something is clearly wrong with the AirPort line. Either it should have been updated long ago to remain state-of-the-art, or it should have been discontinued. Whether or not Apple should still be in the Wi-Fi router game is a reasonable argument. I think they should, but I can see the other side of the argument (that other companies do it well, and Apple should focus on areas where they stand alone). But there’s no reasonable argument for the current AirPort state of affairs.
And on the Mac Pro:
To put the Mac pro in context: This was the “Can’t Innovate my
Ass” product that Apple produced to counter criticism that it
wasn’t innovative any more and that it was letting the Mac product
line languish (hey, this isn’t a new complaint…). They came out
with something that was visually distinctive and they build a
really interesting set of guts inside the trash can.
But here’s the problem: in retrospect, what they built was a
device based around their own ego needs of proving their critics
wrong, not a device that served the purposes of their power users.
It’s not configurable, it’s not upgradeable, it’s not expandable:
It’s pretty, and full of (for 2013) innovative hardware design,
but is that really what Apple’s power users needed?
“What the hell happened with the Mac Pro?” is the most interesting question about Apple today. Because something clearly went way wrong with this product. I’m not convinced the basic idea for the design is unsound — the idea is that expansion would come in the form of external peripherals, rather than things you install inside the box. I still think that’s probably the future of “expandable” computing.
If Apple had updated the Mac Pro on a roughly annual basis, we wouldn’t be calling this a disaster. I’m sure there would still be people who would wish that Apple had stuck with the traditional tower form factor, but we wouldn’t all be saying “What the fuck?”
If Apple were going to update this Mac Pro, we should have seen it two years ago. If Apple were going to scrap this design and replace it with something else (like they did with the short-lived “sunflower” iMac G4 design in 2002), we should have seen the replacement a year ago. And if they were planning to abolish the Mac Pro, that should have happened this past year — or at least we should have seen prices drop significantly on these three-year-old workstations.1
Updates to the same basic design would make sense. An all-new design would make sense. Getting out of the Mac Pro game would make sense. Selling 1000-day-old pro workstations at the same prices as in 2013 makes no sense. Whatever the explanation is, this situation is an unmitigated disaster. ★
Monday, 2 January 2017
When I was an incoming freshman at Drexel University in 1991, the school had a program, in collaboration with Apple, that allowed students to buy Macintosh computers at a significant discount. I had narrowed my choices to two: a Mac LC and a Mac SE/30. The SE/30 was significantly faster. But I wound up choosing the LC for one reason: the LC came with a color display, and the SE/30’s display was black and white. Even today, I love the original Mac’s 9-inch black and white display, but even then, just seven years after the Mac debuted, that love was nostalgic.
A color display was, for me, an irresistible draw.
The display on that Mac LC now sounds quaint. It measured only 12 inches diagonally (common for notebooks today, but the LC was a desktop), with 512 × 384 pixel resolution. A retina display it was not. And it could only display 256 colors at a time. Today that sounds ludicrous. In 1991 it sounded luxurious — most Macs were black-and-white and many PCs with color support could only show 16 colors at a time. Macs that could display “thousands” of colors cost thousands of dollars more.1
For a while, I was obsessed with a Mac golfing game. (Exciting, right?) As a computer nerd and budding designer, I noticed immediately that the game’s graphics seemed too good to be true — the scenery on the golf courses was clearly better looking than what was possible with the system’s 256 color palette. I delved into it and learned that while my LC indeed could not display more than 256 colors at a time, the OS provided APIs that allowed an app to specify which 256 colors to display.2 The golf game, for obvious reasons, used a custom palette with way more greens than the system’s standard palette. “That’s clever”, I remember thinking. I also remember thinking that 256 colors no longer seemed like “a lot”.
A few years later, after I’d immersed myself in the online indie Mac developer/power user community, I became aware of a design studio that specialized in a delightfully specific niche: software icons. Their name said it all: The Iconfactory. Soon, The Iconfactory started making their own apps, too, the user interfaces for which were just as exquisitely pixel-perfect as their icons. The Iconfactory’s developer was a very tall fellow named Craig Hockenberry.
Craig’s long been a good friend. So, when he asked me last year if I’d consider writing the foreword to a book he was writing about color management, I was honored.
Making Sense of Color Management came out last month. It is an excellent book — useful for both designers and developers who are trying to, well, make sense of the state of the art in color management. Here’s an example. You specify a certain exact RGB color in your CSS for a web page. Then you make a graphic for that web page, with the exact same RGB value for the background color. But when you put the graphic on the web page, the background colors don’t match up. But only in some browsers, on some platforms. What the hell is going on?
In this book, Craig tells us not just what to do, but why. It’s not merely a checklist of steps to follow blindly, but rather a foundation of knowledge. The famed physicist Richard Feynman believed that if he couldn’t explain a complex subject to an audience of first-year students, that meant he himself didn’t truly understand the subject. This book is proof that Craig now truly understands how modern color management works.
A few salient facts:
- It’s an e-book, and it costs only $8.
- You can read it in iBooks, Kindle, and as a PDF. You only have to buy it once.
- It’s only 91 pages long. It contains everything you need to know, and nothing you don’t.
- It’s published by A Book Apart, so unsurprisingly it’s well-edited and exquisitely-designed.
Color graphics have never been easy. As our technical capabilities have expanded (e.g. wide color gamut displays), so has the complexity involved in understanding how it all works. If you work in design or graphics, you should read this book.
See also: Craig’s blog post announcing the publication of the book, and the mini-site he created to accompany it. Last but not least, Craig and I discussed the book a few weeks ago on my podcast. ★