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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

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

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

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

Gallery of iPhone 6 Photography 

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to 2007.

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

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

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


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

Brian X. Chen scored a few Apple Watch scoops:

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

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

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

The Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle 

My thanks to StackSocial for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their Ultra-Premium Mac Bundle, a terrific collection of apps including: ScreenFlow 5 ($99, Apple Design Winner), Things 2 ($49, Mac App Store Hall of Fame), Data Rescue 4 ($99, Macworld Editor’s Choice), ExpanDrive 4 ($49), Civilization: Beyond Earth ($49), and more. For a limited time, you get all of these apps for just $44.99. Any one of them would be a value for this price — bundled together, you’ll save over $400.

Even better: Daring Fireball readers can save an extra $5 with coupon code “ULTRA-DF5”.

Swatch Introduces Touch Zero One Smartwatch 

David Bredan, writing for A Blog to Watch:

Today, as news both expected and unexpected, Swatch has introduced what will be its first widely available smartwatch: the Swatch Touch Zero One. What we all expected to see sooner or later — preferably sooner — was a smart / notification / fitness watch to be offered by one of the Swiss watch industry giants. The unexpected part, is that there’s a direct link to, there’s no other way to put it, beach volleyball.

That’s quite a focused niche.

Google Unveils Proposal for New Mountain View Campus 

Ambitious, to be sure, and very Google-y. From the Google blog:

The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas. (Our self-driving car team, for example, has very different needs when it comes to office space from our Search engineers.) Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.

Vesper: Now With Native Support for iPad and Landscape 

Highlights of today’s update to Vesper:

  • Native iPad support.
  • Landscape support on all iOS devices.
  • iOS 8 sharing sheet support.
  • A new price that reflects the actual value of Vesper.

Yours truly, writing at the Vesper blog:

Now that Vesper supports all iOS device layouts, we’re raising the regular price for the app to $9.99. With fast, reliable, unlimited sync, we think that’s a great value. But for a limited time, we’re making this version available for just $7.99. And it’s a free update for everyone who’s already purchased any previous version of Vesper, all the way back to 1.0.

Stay tuned for more.

Put another way, we’re going to charge something sane or die trying. We tried following the iOS App Store trend by pricing Vesper at just $2.99 for months. It didn’t work. Prices like that are not sane, and not sustainable, at least for well-crafted productivity apps. So Q Branch is drawing a line in the sand, and we hope other iOS developers will follow.

On Heroes: Annie Jean Easley 

Great piece by Ashley Nelson-Hornstein on Annie Easley, an amazing computer science pioneer I’d never heard of before:

Each systemic microaggression Easley faced, she met with poise and tenacity. Her motto was “if I can’t work with you, I will work around you.” When her supervisor refused to find out if NASA would help pay for her Mathematics degree — a luxury known to be afforded to other employees — Easley paid her own way. When management at NASA refused to give her paid leave like another co-worker to finish the remaining four courses of her degree, Easley took unpaid leave. When Easley was cut out of a photo taken of the six people who worked on a project, she didn’t let that discouragement affect her life.

The word that comes to mind after reading this: perseverance.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch and Retail Stores 

The Telegraph’s Allister Heath spent some time with Tim Cook in London. Their headline emphasizes Cook’s revelation that Apple Watch will eventually be able to replace your car keys, but I thought the best part of the story was Cook’s impromptu visit to Apple’s Covent Garden retail store.

(Spitball idea: If Apple uses their March 9 event to reveal changes to their retail stores to accommodate Apple Watch, it could mark Angela Ahrendts’s first on-stage appearance at an Apple event.)


Clever new iOS 8 keyboard from Nice Mohawk. You get a “keyboard” listing the snippets of text you type most frequently (e.g. your email address, frequently pasted URLs, etc.). Free to try with up to three snippets, upgrade to unlimited snippets for just $2.99. I’ve been beta testing TypeSnippets for a few weeks, and it works like a charm.

Brace Yourselves 

Citigroup analyst Jim Suva on Apple Watch:

We expect Apple to give specifics on the launch time, price, and geographic locations, which we estimate as: Launch date: April 16th; Price points: $350, $550 and $950; with a launch limited to the U.S., followed by Europe and Asia in the subsequent months.

That pricing makes no sense. People who believe this are going to shit their pants when Edition pricing is announced.

Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83 

What a remarkable career. His final tweet from a few days ago is poignant.

The Best Tesla Model S Easter Egg 

So great, I don’t want to spoil it.

A-Rod Issues Hand-Written Letter of Apology to Fans 

Alex Rodriguez returns to spring training:

I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.

I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.

25 Years of Photoshop 

Nice celebratory site from Adobe. Really enjoyed this interview with Photoshop co-creator Thomas Knoll. It’s hard to overstate just how far ahead of its time Photoshop was when it appeared.

‘Must Fix for Next Release’ 

Good suggestion from Craig Hockenberry:

I think there’s an easy way to fix these minor transgressions that would benefit both parties: add a new kind of approval with strings attached. A “Must Fix for Next Release” state where the app can go into “Ready for Sale” but the issue remains in the Resolution Center. At that point, both the app reviewers and developer know that an issue has to be dealt with before it’s approved the next time.

It would be like getting pulled over for a broken taillight on your car. You don’t need to visit your mechanic immediately to get the problem fixed. But you’ll certainly have to get things in order the next time you register the vehicle.

Why Google’s Blink (and I Think, Apple’s WebKit) Rejected the Pointer Events Spec 

From the Chromium developer mailing list:

Very briefly, pointer events has 3 main drawbacks relative to the alternative:

  1. Mobile-first web: Pointer events would likely never supplant touch events on the web (especially without support from Safari). Since touch events are here to stay, supporting another largely redundant input model has a high long-term complexity cost on the web platform.

  2. Performance: The hit testing model required by pointer events imposes a non-trivial performance penalty (hit test on every movement event) that neither Android, iOS or touch events has. We’re not willing to add any feature that increases the web’s performance disadvantage relative to native mobile platforms.

  3. Richness: Pointer events requires that scrolling and event handling are mutually exclusive. This precludes some UI effects which are common on on mobile platforms (eg. pull to refresh). Recently strong developer feedback has lead us to change Chrome in the opposite direction here - enabling event handling while scrolling (see issue 293467 ).

If there’s a performance hit and a decrease in expressible UI effects, it’s no wonder Apple and Google aren’t pursuing Pointer Events in WebKit or Blink. It’s not fair to categorize Google’s decision as simply “Because Safari won’t support it”. It’s a question of performance and user experience richness on one side, and developer convenience on the other.

How John Hofsess Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ‘Barry Lyndon’ 

Speaking of Kubrick, this 1976 review of Barry Lyndon by John Hofsess for the NYT is interesting:

Eventually, Kubrick may end up in a cul-de-sac, for he is following a similar line of development — using the “grammar” of the film medium — to that pursued by James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov in fiction. There is no question that Joyce and Nabokov — more than any other writers in the 20th-century — brilliantly explored and expanded the limits of language and the structure of novels, yet both were led irresistibly and obsessively to cap their careers with those cold and lifeless masterpieces, “Finnegans Wake” and “Ada,” more to be deciphered than read by a handful of scholars whose pleasure is strictly ratiocination. It is characteristic of such careers that people keep saying, “This time you’ve really gone too far! We liked your last film or novel — but that’s it!” The price of growth is disaffection.

That wasn’t true of The Shining, but it seems remarkably prescient regarding Full Metal Jacket and especially Eyes Wide Shut.

Adam Savage Recreates the Overlook Hotel Maze Model 

Glorious attention to detail. (Thanks to Joel Irwin.)

Brikk to Sell Platinum and Diamond-Encrusted Apple Watches for Up to $75,000 

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this sort of aftermarket bling.

Lack of Support From Apple Scuttles W3C Pointer Events Spec 

Tim Kadlec:

I was willing to give the Blink folks the benefit of the doubt, because I do remember they had specific and legitimate concerns about the spec awhile back. But after reading through notes from a Pointer Events Meeting in August, I’m forced to reconsider. The Chrome representative had this to say:

No argument that PE is more elegant. If we had a path to universal input that all supported, we would be great with that, but not all browsers will support PE. If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it?

Let’s set any opinions about Pointer Events aside. Frankly, I need to do a lot more digging here before I have any sort of strong opinion in one direction or another. There is a bigger issue here. We have a recurring situation where all vendors (save for Apple) show interest in standard, but because Apple does not express that same interest, the standard gets waylaid.

Peter-Paul Koch is even more scathing:

Apple has a huge following and essentially could do as it pleased for the past seven years or so. In order to forcibly educate Apple to become a responsible web citizen, it is necessary to create a counter-weight; to find a company that will support the open Web and has enough market share to force even web developers who’d prefer to work in iOS only to pay attention to pointer events.

That company is Google. There is no other candidate. Firefox essentially doesn’t exist on mobile, mobile IE is too small, as are the minor browsers such as BlackBerry and UC.

In that light, Google’s refusal to implement the pointer events is a victory for Apple. Now I don’t know about the high-level politicking going on, and I certainly don’t want to argue that the Chrome team intends to increase Apple’s hold on mobile web dev, but that will be the net result of their actions anyway.

Is there a good summary somewhere explaining Apple’s argument against the Pointer Events spec?

Update: There are some technical arguments against Pointer Events here and here (via Google engineer Ray Cromwell). I think, in layman’s terms, Apple objects to the way that the way Pointer Events unifies mouse, stylus, and touch events — losing the user experience differences between them for the sake of developer convenience.

Let’s Declare GPG a Dead End for Encrypted Email 

Moxie Marlinspike:

Looking forward, however, I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. The journalists who depend on it struggle with it and often mess up (“I send you the private key to communicate privately, right?”), the activists who use it do so relatively sparingly (“wait, this thing wants my finger print?”), and no other sane person is willing to use it by default. Even the projects that attempt to use it as a dependency struggle.

These are deep structural problems. GPG isn’t the thing that’s going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it’d be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990’s cryptography. If there’s any good news, it’s that GPG’s minimal install base means we aren’t locked in to this madness, and can start fresh with a different design philosophy. When we do, let’s use GPG as a warning for our new experiments, and remember that “innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1000 things.”

Any solution that isn’t easy to use and easy to understand is a poor solution. And GPG is neither.

F.C.C. Votes for Net Neutrality, a Ban on Paid Fast Lanes, and Title II 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to enforce net neutrality rules that prevent Internet providers — including cellular carriers — from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

The most controversial part of the FCC’s decision reclassifies fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, with providers to be regulated as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This decision brings Internet service under the same type of regulatory regime faced by wireline telephone service and mobile voice, though the FCC is forbearing from stricter utility-style rules that it could also apply under Title II.

An amazing turnaround for net neutrality, which looked dead just one year ago.

Tim Cook at the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Israel 

Tim Cook is in the midst of a European tour. This photo from his tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum caught my eye. You can feel the solemnity.

WSJ: ‘YouTube: 1 Billion Viewers, No Profit’ 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for the WSJ:

The online-video unit posted revenue of about $4 billion in 2014, up from $3 billion a year earlier, according to two people familiar with its financials, as advertiser-friendly moves enticed some big brands to spend more. But while YouTube accounted for about 6% of Google’s overall sales last year, it didn’t contribute to earnings. After paying for content, and the equipment to deliver speedy videos, YouTube’s bottom line is “roughly break-even,” according to a person with knowledge of the figure.

Shows just how hard it is to make money from a “give something valuable away for free” model, even at YouTube’s massive scale and with Google’s advertising expertise.

Apple Announces Media Event for March 9 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invites for a special event to be held on March 9, 2015. The event will be held in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a venue that Apple has used many times before for special events.

It is widely expected that Apple will use the event to give more details about the Apple Watch, which was introduced last September.

I’ll eat my hat if this isn’t largely — maybe even solely — about Apple Watch.

Farhad Manjoo Interviews Dick Costolo 

Interesting interview:

Q: You recently sent a memo to employees saying, “We suck at dealing with abuse.” And you said that you lose users because of it.

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of all the emails I’ve ever sent to the company, that’s probably the first one where I said “we suck at” instead of using more eloquent language. My parents aren’t delighted about that. But I meant what I said. One of the reasons I was so blunt about it was that I wanted to really send a wake-up call to the company that we’re going to get a lot more aggressive about it, and it’s going to start right now.

Q: For years people have called on you to do more. So why did you need that wake-up call?

A: Well, it’s a complex issue. By way of example, in the wake of the news of that internal memo going out, I’ll get emails from people that say, “I agree, and here’s a great example of someone being harassed on the platform” — and it’s not at all harassment, it’s political discourse. And, in fact, fairly rational political discourse. So you know these things have lots and lots of varying degrees: Was that really harassment and abuse? Or is that discourse?

Google Plans New Headquarters 

Conor Dougherty, reporting for the NYT:

Google owns or leases about 7.3 million square feet of office space in Mountain View — roughly equivalent to three Empire State Buildings. That includes most of the property around its headquarters on the north side of the city near Highway 101, which cuts the length of the valley, according to Transwestern, a commercial real estate brokerage.

“Three Empire State Buildings” really puts their holdings in scale. For comparison, Apple’s new spaceship campus will have about 3.5 million square feet of office space.

Mountain View, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, has close to 80,000 people; with its strip-mall thoroughfares and streets of single-family homes, it looks like a sleepy suburb. But since hiring has boomed, the city’s roads swell with commuters during the morning and evening rush.

The Times used a brief video instead of a still photo to illustrate rush hour traffic in the area. A great idea that works very well.

Tim Cook on Apple Watch Water Resistance 

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors on this report from French-language iGeneration (Google translation to English) about Tim Cook’s trip to Germany:

While on a trip in Germany to visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet with a few German-based Apple staff members, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Apple Store employees in Berlin that he wears his Apple Watch constantly, “even in the shower”, according to iGen.fr.

The new piece of information from the Apple CEO could mean the company’s been working on adding more water resistant features to the upcoming wearable, since at its early-September reveal event the company warned off wearing the device in the shower.

Good news, if this means Apple is going to officially describe it as water resistant.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know 

Jeremy Scahill, reporting for The Intercept:

Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

To say security experts are skeptical is an understatement:

“Gemalto learned about this five-year old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Matthew Green, a cryptography specialist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, said, “This is an investigation that seems mainly designed to produce positive statements. It is not an investigation at all.”

Paging Auric Goldfinger 

Josh Centers does some back-of-the-envelope math to estimate how much raw gold Apple might need for Apple Watch Edition production:

There are two conclusions we can draw from this scattering of data. The first is that Apple is about to take over the world. Not only will it be the most valuable company on the planet, but it will also be bidding for a third of the world’s annual gold supply, wreaking havoc on gold prices and doing who knows what to the global economy.

The alternative is that the esteemed Wall Street Journal is off on its Apple Watch Edition sales by an order of magnitude (or more). That would put the number at 100,000 per month, which seems more plausible.

I think the WSJ’s sources are deeply suspect on these production numbers. There’s no way Apple is planning on selling one million Edition models a month. That’s just nutty. Rolex sells only 600,000 watches a year.

Profit Margins and the Apple Car 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

There are dozens of ways in which Apple’s apparent effort to build an Apple-branded car could go wrong, but there’s one argument against the idea that I’m hearing a lot of that really doesn’t make sense. From Henry Blodget to former GM CEO Daniel Akerson to the LA Times to Yahoo Finance people are saying this won’t work because the car industry is a “low margin” business in contrast to the fat margins Apple is used to earning most of all on its workhorse iPhone.

The misperception here is that Apple earns high margins because Apple operates in high margin industries. The truth is precisely the opposite. Apple earns high margins because it is efficient at manufacturing and firmly committed to a business strategy of sacrificing market share to maintain pricing power. If Apple makes a car, it will be a high margin car because Apple only makes high margin products. If it succeeds it will succeed for the same reason iPhones and iPads and Macs succeed — people like them and are willing to buy them, even though you could get similar specs for less.


The Apple Watch Edition’s Upgrade Dilemma 

Serenity Caldwell, writing at iMore:

Apple could solely go after the high-end fashion market, say “These customers have no qualms about paying $15,000 every two years,” and be done with it. Or the company could invest in some sort of long-term support for its Edition customers. And even after writing all this, I’m still no closer to figuring out which one the company will pick. The former model favors Apple’s traditional business model, just at a much higher income bracket. The latter feels more like an Apple move, to support its customers and give them the best experience possible.

I hope Apple Watch — at least the Edition models — is upgradeable. I would bet that it’s not. The single most frequent question I’ve received this week is how can Apple justify $10,000+ prices for a watch that will be technically outdated in a few years. The simplest answer is that it’s for people who don’t care.

I say I’d bet against upgradeability simply because it’d be so unlike Apple. But, the whole idea of a solid gold $10,000 watch is also unlike Apple. We’re in new territory here. And I do wonder why Apple called out the modular design of the S1 on their technology page. Why does this image exist? An “upgrade” would probably require new sensors and antennas and battery too — more or less replacing everything inside the watch case.

Apple Car: Three More Thoughts 

Good column from Jean-Louis Gassée on the idea of Apple making cars:

I would love to be wrong about the AppleCar — I join the choristers who would love to see what Apple could do with a car — but we’ve heard a bit too much about Apple’s ability to design an interesting electric vehicle and not enough about the industrial part, about the machine that makes the machines.

Useful Mac 

New website by Garrett Murray. Already a winner by introducing me to this gem of a Safari extension.

Pebble Time 

Blow-out Kickstarter campaign to launch the second-generation Pebble watch: $6 million and counting on the first day. Looks far more compelling than the first-generation model, with a microphone for input, a color (but still e-paper) display, and a new timeline-centric UI paradigm. They’ve also gone back to a more utilitarian design, wisely abandoning the direction they went with Pebble Steel.

I found wearing an original Pebble Watch to be more annoying than useful, but it’s hard not to root for a small independent company with original ideas going head-to-head against Apple Watch and Android Wear.

The Talk Show: ‘12 Hours a Day’ 

New episode of America’s favorite three-star podcast, featuring three-and-a-half-star guest John Moltz. Topics include Apple Watch; rumors that Apple is working on a secret car project; our love of old Mac hardware; and a long discussion on Ian Parker’s extraordinary New Yorker profile of Jony Ive and his design team at Apple.

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On the Pricing of Apple Watch

After the gala announcement event in September at which Apple introduced Apple Watch and whatever last year’s iPhone was, I ran into SlashGear editor-in-chief Vincent Nguyen in the private hands-on area Apple had set up for select members of the media. I’ve known Vincent for years from various Apple events, and I always enjoy his perspective. I was actually looking around for him this time, though, because I really wanted to hear his take on Apple Watch. Vincent is a watch guy — he knows the watch industry, and his taste is excellent.

We greeted each other, walked in, and started staring, close-up, at the lineup. When we got to the Edition models, Vincent said, with some excitement, “This is going to cost $20,000.”

I’d already started thinking that the Edition models would cost thousands, plural, but $20,000 struck me as a price from Bananas Town. Vincent’s reply was something to the effect of, “Try to find a good 18-karat gold watch for less than $20,000. You won’t.”

Here’s what I wrote back in September, in my initial thoughts regarding Apple Watch:

In short: hundreds for Sport, a thousand for stainless steel, thousands for gold.

Most people think I’m joking when I say the gold ones are going to start at $5,000. I couldn’t be more serious. I made a friendly bet last week with a few friends on the starting price for the Edition models, and I bet on $9,999.

The more I think about it, and the more I learn about the watch industry, the world of luxury goods, and the booming upper class of China, the better I feel about that bet. I don’t think I was wrong to place a friendly late night bar bet on a $9,999 starting price. I think I was wrong to guess just $4,999 in my ostensibly sober published analysis.

I can see which way the wind is blowing. For months I’ve been asking friends who might know — or know someone else who might know, or even know someone who knows someone who might know — whether my guess of $5,000 is too high for the Edition starting price. The answer has always been “No”. But the way I’ve been told “No” has given me the uneasy feeling that I’ve been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking if $5,000 is too low.

I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000. I was off by a factor of two, and my friend Vincent, I think, nailed it back on the day Apple Watch was introduced.

It’s All About the Bands

Louie Mantia helped clarify my thinking on this by publishing this seemingly sparsely populated table of Apple Watch collection/band combinations. Study that for a few minutes, and you should come to a few surprising — to me at least — conclusions.

One of the selling points Apple emphasized in September is that bands are easily interchanged on Apple Watch. You just press a button underneath and it’s released; slide a new one in and it securely clicks into place. And they showed a wide variety of bands: Sport, Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese Loop, and Link Bracelet. Six different styles, all of them — other than the Milanese Loop — in multiple colors.

I walked out of the event under the assumption that all of these bands would be available to purchase as accessories, like iPhone cases. So that one could, say, buy an Apple Watch Sport with a white sport band, and buy a Milanese Loop or one of the leather bands to make it dressier.

I am no longer certain that’s going to be the case. And if it is the case, the non-Sport bands are going to be expensive — in most cases, even more expensive than the Apple Watch Sport itself.

What seems clear to me now is that the various bands signify tiers within the three collections — particularly for the stainless steel Apple Watch models. Take a look at Apple’s page for the steel Watch collection, and scroll down to the bottom, where they present a scrolling carousel of “all 18 models in the collection”. From left to right:

  • 38mm with White Sport Band
  • 42mm with White Sport Band
  • 38mm with Black Sport Band
  • 42mm with Black Sport Band
  • 38mm with Black Classic Buckle
  • 42mm with Black Classic Buckle
  • 38mm with Milanese Loop
  • 42mm with Milanese Loop
  • 38mm with Soft Pink Modern Buckle
  • 38mm with Brown Modern Buckle
  • 38mm with Midnight Blue Modern Buckle
  • 42mm with Stone Leather Loop
  • 42mm with Bright Blue Leather Loop
  • 42mm with Light Brown Leather Loop
  • 38mm with Link Bracelet
  • 42mm with Link Bracelet
  • 38mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Link Bracelet
  • 42mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Link Bracelet

Things to note:

The “Modern Buckle” is only available for 38mm models. The Leather Loop is only available for 42mm models. The Space Black watch is only available with a single band option: the Link Bracelet.

Sport Bands are surely the least expensive. Link Bracelets, I’m almost as sure, are the most expensive. I think Apple placed these models in order from least to most expensive, going from left to right. (Including the fact that 38mm models will cost slightly less than their 42mm siblings.)

Why are there both Classic Buckles and Modern Buckles? From their descriptions, it sounds like the Modern Buckle uses a better leather, and without question it has a more advanced clasp mechanism. I conclude: Modern is more expensive. They both exist because they’ll sit at different price points.

Note too, that on the regular Apple Watch collection page, the Classic Buckle description states, regarding color options: “Available in black.” This, despite the same band being offered in Midnight Blue for the Edition collection.

So I’m thinking the regular Apple Watch will come in at least five pricing tiers:

  1. Entry: Sport Band, black or white.
  2. Regular leather: Classic Buckle, you’ll get it in black and you’ll like it.
  3. Milanese Loop.
  4. Deluxe leather: Modern Buckle for 38mm models, Leather Loop for 42mm models. Each with a choice of three colors.
  5. Link Bracelet.

You’ll pay a premium for color straps and advanced clasp mechanisms, and you’ll pay even more for the Link Bracelet.

I think the spread between these tiers could be significant, ranging from, say, $700 for the entry model with the Sport Band to well over $1,000 for the Link Bracelet. I still think the average for the steel Apple Watch will be around $1,000, but depending on your strap choice, you’ll pay several hundred less or more.

But wait. I would not bet against Apple bringing back the black tax. Remember the plastic MacBooks from 2006? Apple charged $150 more for the black one than the white one, even though they had nearly identical specs.

Note that the silver Apple Watch Sport only has four band color choices: white, blue, green, and pink. The space gray Sport edition has only one band: black. I think Apple might charge more for both the space gray Sport model and the space black stainless steel model.

Further, I don’t think any of the stainless steel bands will be available for retail purchase. They’ll sell sport bands, which you’ll be able to use on any Apple Watch, but I don’t think any of the nicer bands will be available for retail purchase. Don’t hold your breath for a space black Link Bracelet to put on your $349 Sport model. The nicer bands aren’t accessories that Apple hopes you’ll tack onto your purchase; they’re signifiers of how much you paid for your stainless steel or gold Apple Watch.

Limited Edition

Which brings me to the Edition collection’s curiously thin lineup of strap choices. There are only three for each watch size, and Apple doesn’t present them side-by-side in a carousel like they do with the stainless steel models:

  • 38mm Yellow Gold with Bright Red Modern Buckle
  • 38mm Rose Gold with White Sport Band
  • 42mm Rose Gold with White Sport Band
  • 38mm Rose Gold with Rose Gray Modern Buckle
  • 42mm Yellow Gold with Black Sport Band
  • 42mm Yellow Gold with Midnight Blue Classic Buckle

That’s the order in which the six models appear on Apple’s page. It almost certainly does not correspond to price.

Things to note: None of these leather colors are available in the standard Apple Watch lineup. These are not regular Sport Bands — they have gold clasps. None of them have metal bands.

These are (I think) $10,000+ watches, but half of them come with rubber sport bands that are nearly indistinguishable from the bands on the $349 Sport collection.

Glaringly omitted is a gold Link Bracelet. I’d place a side bet Apple withheld it in September, and will unveil it as a surprise option at the event they’ll hold before releasing the watches. If you’re going to go gold, go gold. Some people buy a gold watch simply because they like it. Others buy a gold watch because they want everyone to know they wear a gold watch. The latter group will gladly pay $20,000 for a watch with gold band.

Perhaps I’m biased by my personal taste in watch bands, but at the hands-on event in September, the Link Bracelet was my favorite by far, followed by the Milanese Loop. It seems downright ludicrous to me to charge significantly more for the Edition models and not offer the best of the bands. Note too that among the Edition combinations Apple currently lists, there is but a single 42mm model with something other than a rubber Sport Band — the Midnight Blue Classic Buckle. Further, as stated above, I think the Classic Buckle is the low-end leather strap. I’m guessing Apple will offer Edition models with gold Link Bracelets for $20,000, and perhaps Milanese Loops for $15,000 and a Leather Loop for around $12,500.

Look at the Watch Industry

Don’t try to guess the price of the Edition models based on the amount of gold they contain. I did it this week, but it’s the wrong way to look at this. It doesn’t matter if the gold in an Apple Watch Edition model is “only” worth $1,000 or $1,500 or whatever. The gold in a Rolex is only worth that, too — and their gold watches sell for $20,000 and more, for the exact same movements in their $6,000 stainless steel models. The value of a gold watch is only tangentially related to the number of ounces of gold it contains. And Edition isn’t just made of 18-karat gold — it’s made of the best 18-karat gold in the world. (I don’t know that for a fact — I don’t know anything about gold — I’m just saying what Apple is saying.)

Apple Watch Edition is not a tech product, so don’t try to price it like one.

Apple Watch Edition is a luxury wrist watch. Apple’s ambitions in this arena, I am convinced, are almost boundless. They’re not entering the market against Rolex, Omega, and the rest of the Swiss luxury watch establishment with disruptive prices. They’re entering the market against those companies going head-to-head on pricing, with disruptive (they think) features.

Again I point you to someone from the watch world, Grail Watch’s Stephen Foskett, who points out that gold watches typically cost $10-15,000 more than the same watch in stainless steel — and tens of thousands more if they come with a gold bracelet. Even if I’m wrong about Apple having gold Link Bracelets lying in wait as an April surprise, I don’t think a $10,000 starting price for Apple Watch Edition is even a step out of line for the watch industry.1

Will it work? Will people actually buy these? I have no idea. But I think Apple thinks it’s going to work. 

  1. At prices like these, an Apple Watch Edition is not an accessory for your iPhone — your iPhone is an accessory for your Apple Watch Edition. 

The Artful Dodge

From a 20 June 2014 story by WSJ reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi:

Apple is planning multiple versions of a smartwatch — dubbed the iWatch in the media — later this year, according to people familiar with the matter.

So far so good.

The devices will include more than 10 sensors to track and monitor health and fitness data, these people said. Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc. is expected to start producing the devices in two to three months, they said.

Not so good. Production did not start in September, not even close. And Apple’s website lists only two sensors for health and fitness tracking: the accelerometer and a heart rate sensor.

Yesterday, Wakabayashi explained the discrepancies:

When Apple Inc. started developing its smartwatch, executives envisioned a state-of-the-art health-monitoring device that could measure blood pressure, heart activity and stress levels, among other things, according to people familiar with the matter.

But none of those technologies made it into the much-anticipated Apple Watch, due in April. Some didn’t work reliably. Others proved too complex. And still others could have prompted unwanted regulatory oversight, these people said.

That left Apple executives struggling to define the purpose of the smartwatch and wrestling with why a consumer would need or want such a device. Their answer, for now, is a little bit of everything: displaying a fashion accessory; glancing at information nuggets more easily than reaching for a phone; buying with Apple Pay; communicating in new ways through remote taps, swapped heartbeats or drawings; and tracking daily activity.

Apple declined to comment.

If we’re to take Wakabayashi’s reporting, and his sources “familiar with the matter”, at face value, here’s what we’d need to believe:

  • As of 20 June 2014, Apple planned on shipping Apple Watch by the end of the year — which means October, in order to hit the holiday season. I.e., that in June, Apple thought they were four months away from shipping.

  • In June, Apple thought the watch would contain “more than 10 sensors to track and monitor health and fitness data”, but by September they’d abandoned most of them and still didn’t expect to ship until “early 2015”. In June they expected to ship a watch with more than 10 sensors by October, but by September they’d scrapped all those sensors other than the accelerometer and heart rate monitor and moved the shipping deadline back by six months.

  • In September, when Apple thought it was seven months or less away from shipping1, they deemed it strategic to pre-announce the Apple Watch. But in June, when, according to Wakabayashi’s “people familiar with the matter”, they thought they were only four or five months away from shipping, they did not pre-announce the watch at WWDC.

Maybe that’s exactly what happened. I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound anything like how product development within Apple works from my knowledge. I do know that up until some point, Apple expected to release the watch in 2014. I find it hard to believe they still believed that in June. I find it even harder to believe that they still planned on things like blood pressure monitoring and stress level detection as late as June while still thinking they could ship in 2014.

To be fair, Wakabayashi’s June 2014 story doesn’t say “blood pressure monitoring” or “stress level detector”, but it does say “more than 10 sensors to track and monitor health and fitness data”, and that turned out not to be true.

I also do not doubt for a moment that Apple looked hard at all sorts of sensors like those during the three-year development of Apple Watch. That’s how they develop products: come up with a slew of ideas, try the ideas that seem best, iterate and refine and change (narrowing focus) until they get to something that feels right. The iPhone, for example, started as a tablet project.

The way it reads to me is that Wakabayashi’s sources for the June 2014 story were not “familiar with the matter”, but rather were familiar with, at best, already-outdated plans to ship a more fitness/health-focused Apple Watch in 2014. And his report this week reads more like an attempt to make it look like it’s the Apple Watch that is actually coming in April that is wrong, not his reporting from last year.

The artful dodge: the rumor was actually right; it’s the shipping product that contradicts the rumor that is wrong. 

  1. Tim Cook, during January 27’s quarterly analyst conference call: “And just to clarify, what we had been saying was early 2015, and we sort of look at the year and think of ‘early’ is the first four months, ‘mid’ is the next four months, and ‘late’ is the final four months. To us, it’s sort of within the range, so it’s basically when we thought.” 

Thinking About the Split in Apple Watch Sales by Model

Lorraine Luk and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting today for the WSJ, “Apple Orders More Than 5 Million Watches for Initial Run”:

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

I would wager — heavily — that these numbers come from supply chain sources, not Apple executives. I can’t see why anyone at Apple would see a strategic advantage to leaking these numbers, especially the split between Sport, regular, and Edition models:

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

Orders for Apple Watch Edition — the high-end model featuring 18-karat gold casing — are relatively small in the first quarter but Apple plans to start producing more than one million units per month in the second quarter, the person said. Analysts expect demand for the high-end watches to be strong in China where Apple’s sales are booming.

Even in the initial quarter, 17 percent of “5 to 6 million” is 850,000 to 1,000,000 units. That’s a lot for a model that is going to be expensive. More interesting to me is that, according to this WSJ report, Apple is indeed going to assemble the Edition models in China. I have wondered, idly, whether Apple might assemble the Edition models in the U.S., like they do with Mac Pros, to further their prestige. At a million or more units per quarter, I can see why they might have to do it in China just to achieve the scale, but I believe it is unprecedented in the watch industry for a luxury model to be assembled in China.

Apple Watch Sport will start at $349. Apple hasn’t announced pricing for the other models, but Apple Watch Edition is expected to be among the most expensive products the company has ever sold, likely surpassing the $4,000 Mac Pro computer.

When I was a freshman at Drexel in 1991, there was a kid in my dorm with a $12,000 Mac IIfx. (He was an asshole who cheated at Spectre.) So the record — particularly inflation-adjusted — is pretty high.

Ancient Mac history aside, consider the numbers. If Apple actually sells 1 million Edition units per quarter, and they sell for an ASP of $5,000, that’s $5 billion in revenue per quarter — just for the gold Edition models. If the ASP is closer to $10,000, which I still think is possible, double that.

3 million Sport units at $350 comes to “only” $1 billion or so. 2 million stainless steel regular units with a $1,000 ASP would be an additional $2 billion.

So as a business — if the WSJ’s sources are correct,1 and if Apple is correctly predicting demand[2] — Apple Watch revenue will be dominated by the gold Edition units, accounting for double or more of the revenue from all the other models combined. The Edition models would thus do to the Apple Watch lineup as a whole what the iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh do to the entire phone, tablet, and PC industries, respectively: achieve a decided majority of the profits with a decided minority of the unit sales. 

  1. That’s a very big “if” for Luk and Wakabayashi, as I’ll write tomorrow. 

  2. For some quick perspective on that, Wikipedia pegs Rolex’s sales at 2,000 watches per day,  

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