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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On the Apple Watch Interaction Model and the Digital Crown

Steven Berlin Johnson finds the digital crown button convoluted:

If you press this button, these are the potential events that will transpire on your Watch’s screen:

  • You’ll be taken to the “watch face” view.
  • You’ll be taken to the “home screen” app view.
  • You’ll stay in the “home screen” view, but it will re-center on the “watch face” app.
  • You’ll move from a detailed view of a notification back to the notifications summary.

His proposed solution:

Fortunately there is an easy fix for this confusion, which is to streamline the Digital Crown so that it focuses exclusively on the Watch’s two homes. Pressing the Digital Crown should simply toggle you back and forth between the “watch face” and the “home screen.” (Its other functionality could all be achieved through other means; for instance, you can already re-orient the “home screen” simply by dragging your finger across the Watch’s screen.) That’s still more complicated than the iPhone home button, but it’s the kind of thing most users would pick up in a matter of minutes using the Watch. And it has a conceptual clarity that is sorely lacking in the current design.

His whole piece is worth reading, because it aptly describes, almost exactly, how I felt about Apple Watch after using it for just a few days. Several of his complaints, which I would have agreed with in my first few days of Apple Watch use, I no longer consider problems.1 And even now, with seven weeks of daily Apple Watch experience under my belt, when I first read his suggestion for simplifying the digital crown button, I was nodding my head in agreement. But when I sat down to write about it, I realized there’s really only one small thing I would suggest Apple change: the last of its four roles noted by Johnson — its function as a hardware “back” button while looking at the detail view for a notification.

Otherwise, I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:

  • If the watch display is off, pressing the crown wakes it up.
  • If the watch is showing your glances or notifications, pressing the crown takes you back to the watch face.
  • If the watch is displaying your watch face, pressing the crown switches you to the home screen showing all your apps.
  • If you’re using any app, pressing the crown takes you back to the home screen, with the view centered on the app you just left.
  • If the watch is on your home screen and the clock app is not centered, pressing it will re-center.
  • If the watch is on the home screen, centered on the clock, pressing it will switch you to the watch face.

That looks more complicated than it is. And I’m even leaving out at least one other scenario: when you’ve put your home screen into edit mode — where you can delete and rearrange the installed apps — pressing the crown takes you out of editing mode.

Here’s a better way to think about it — and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.

You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.

Watch mode:

  • Shows your watch face by default.
  • Swipe down for notifications.
  • Swipe up for glances.
  • Tap a complication — date, weather, activity — to launch its corresponding app.
  • Tap a glance to open to the corresponding app.
  • Force tap to switch or edit watch faces.

App mode:

  • Shows your home screen, centered on the clock app, by default.
  • No notification list or glances.
  • Tap an app to open it.
  • Long-tap on the home screen to open editing mode.

Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.

If you think about Apple Watch as having these two modes, the role of the crown button is clear:

  • From the “default” view of either mode, the crown button switches you to the other mode.
  • From anywhere else, the crown button takes you to the default view of the current mode. (There’s a slight exception here in app mode: if you’re using an app, pressing the crown first takes you to the home screen centered on the app you were just using, and you have to press it again to center the home screen on the clock app.)

Consider: What happens when you press the digital crown button while in, say, the Weather app? The answer is: It depends how you got there. If you start from the home screen and tap the Weather app icon, the digital crown button returns you to the home screen. If you start from the watch face, though, and launch the full Weather app by tapping the Weather glance, then the digital crown button returns you to the watch face.

This sounds confusing. And if you’re expecting Apple Watch’s digital crown button to work like iOS’s home button, it is not the expected behavior. But in practice, I think it works very well. I suspect this arrangement wasn’t designed in advance but was instead the result of many months of play-testing by the designers on the Apple Watch team.

Again, I agree with Johnson that if you’re looking at a notification detail view, the crown should take you all the way back to the watch face. You have to tap on screen to get into a notification detail view, and they all have a large “Dismiss” button at the bottom if going “back” is what you want. “Back” just doesn’t feel right for the digital crown button. It should simply mean go home in the current mode, or, if you’re already home, switch to the other mode.

I don’t mind the “re-center and re-zoom on the clock app” extra action for the digital crown button. To me, it’s directly analogous to the way the home button takes you back to the first home screen in iOS. More importantly, you don’t have to go back to the watch face (or, as I’m referencing it here, watch “mode”). That just happens automatically when you lower your wrist and stay away from the watch for 30 seconds. You don’t have to “clean up” and go back to the watch face manually. It just happens automatically when you stop using the watch. A few special apps behave otherwise — Workout and Remote, so far — but in both of those cases that makes sense. And, yes, there is a setting (General → Activate on Wrist Raise → Resume To) that allows you to always return to the last-used app, but I don’t see why anyone would use that unless they stubbornly insist upon treating their Apple Watch like a miniature iPhone. Another way to think of this option is as a toggle between treating “watch mode” and “app mode” as the primary mode.

Another insight: the side button exists outside either mode. It behaves the same way no matter which mode you’re in, no matter what you’re doing. One press of the side button brings up your Friends circle. A double-press initiates Apple Pay. In either case — Friends circle or Apple Pay — pressing (or double-pressing) the digital crown button dismisses the side button mode you entered. 

  1. For example, the idea that you should be able to swipe up from anywhere — not just from the watch face — to see glances. A lot of people seem to have this complaint early on. The thought had occurred to me, too. But it clearly wouldn’t work. In other contexts, swiping your finger up on the display scrolls the content, including the home screen, where you need to pan around to see all your apps. Apple would only enable glances globally if they forced you to use the digital crown for scrolling, or, if they enabled glances only as a swipe up from the very bottom edge of the display. Notification Center and Control Center work that way on iOS, which allows them not to conflict with regular old scrolling and panning. But I’m nearly certain that the watch display is too small to make that distinction. You’d find yourself scrolling when you wanted to bring up Glances and bringing up Glances when you wanted to scroll. It’d be maddening. The Watch OS “back” shortcut — swiping from the left to go back in a view hierarchy — is an edge gesture, but that’s OK because if you miss the edge, nothing happens. ↩︎

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.

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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.


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.”

Facebook Introduces Instant Articles

Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

A few thoughts:

  • This looks beautiful. Clearly it’s built by the team that did Facebook Paper, with things like the way you tilt the phone to pan around large photos. The knock against Paper is that it only “works” if your friends and family post beautiful, well-crafted content to their Facebook feeds, and, well, that’s not the case for most people. Instant Articles, on the other hand, is all about professionally-produced content.

  • I’m intrigued by the emphasis on speed. Not only is native mobile code winning for app development, but with things like Instant Articles, native is making the browser-based web look like a relic even just for publishing articles. If I’m right about that, it might pose a problem even for my overwhelmingly-text work at Daring Fireball. Daring Fireball pages load fast, but the pages I link to often don’t. I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.

  • There’s also a convenience advantage over per-publication native apps. People are already checking Facebook many times a day on their phones. When they encounter these Instant Articles, they’re one tap and a moment away from reading them. People just don’t check many apps — check the New York Times, check National Geographic, check BBC News — that just isn’t how people use their phones. At best, standalone per-publication apps can get our attention through notifications, but notifications are bothersome in a way that something scrolling through your Facebook feed is not. And an aggregator of content from multiple sources — like, say, Flipboard, to name one obvious competitor — is asking users to check an extra app every day. There are only so many apps people will check for “new stuff” every day.

  • Like Paper, Facebook Instant Articles is iPhone-only, and from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t said a word about Android support. (Paper is even North America US-only — Instant Articles are supported worldwide.) Many are presuming it’s forthcoming, but Paper remains iOS-only. For the moment at least, Facebook isn’t really treating “mobile” as their first-class target platform — they’re treating the iPhone as their first-class target platform. (Instant Articles isn’t even available on iPad yet.)

  • I’ve been skeptical about this whole thing from the publishers’ angle. Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook. But it sounds like the business aspects are very favorable. Publishers can use their own ads and keep 100 percent of the money; if Facebook sells the ads, they use a 70/30 App Store-style split of the money. And there’s no exclusivity. 

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.

On the Long-Term Viability of Apple’s Customer-First Strategy

Great piece by Jason Kottke, “Asking ‘Who’s the Customer?’”:

This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but “who’s the customer?” got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they’re located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that’s a big problem for consumers.

This is my biggest long-term concern regarding Apple. They’ve gotten to this pinnacle by focusing on making great products for us, their customers. I believe Tim Cook and his executive team are consciously aware that they need to maintain that focus — that maniacal focus on great products and doing right by their customers is the foundation of the machine. And while the profits continue to grow, “the market” seems to agree that for Apple, this product-driven customer-first focus is aligned with shareholder value.

But eventually they’ll hit a dry spell. Slumps are inevitable. And I worry that eventually, during such a slump, “the market” will put irresistible pressure on Apple’s future leadership to start acting more like a typical company — one that only pays lip service to creating great products and putting customers first. For just a small taste, consider all the 2013 pieces, written at the time with straight faces, about Samsung “out-innovating” Apple.

Apple University exists to perpetuate Apple’s product- and customer-driven culture. I think it’s a wonderful idea, one of the smartest things that company has ever done — a signal of institutional self-awareness that Apple’s success, no matter how large, is fragile. But it’s only a way to strengthen the company’s focus internally. External pressure, from investors and “the market” — is outside the company’s control.

The best example I can think of is the airline industry. With few exceptions, airlines are set up to please investors ahead of passengers. Perhaps the most depressing business news in the last year was JetBlue succumbing to investor pressure to add baggage fees and reduce legroom in their cabins. It wasn’t because JetBlue was unprofitable, it was because they weren’t profitable enough to satisfy their investors.

No one but a fool would argue that Apple is not profitable enough today. But as soon as they stop growing, the chorus will start. And someday, inevitably, Apple will find itself in a slump such that the chorus will grow loud.

We can still laugh at reporter Bob Keefe asking Steve Jobs why Apple doesn’t booger up its computers with “Intel Inside” promotional stickers back in 2007, but silly though it seems, those stickers are sort of like airline baggage fees. As noted by John Siracusa at the time, Jobs’s final line in his answer to the question was telling:

“We put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and say, what do we want?”

Apple’s leadership still understands that this customer-driven focus is what drives their exceptional success. But it would be better for the company’s long-term prospects if everyone else — Wall Street in particular — understood this too. It’s not a luxury Apple can afford because it’s insanely profitable; rather, it’s the reason why the company is insanely profitable. 

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