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‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ 

Richard Hofstadter, in his seminal 1964 essay:

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. […]

Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

Written 56 years ago, or written yesterday? You make the call.

I, for one, take solace in knowing we’re not seeing something new.

Growl in Retirement 

Chris Forsythe:

Growl is being retired after surviving for 17 years. With the announcement of Apple’s new hardware platform, a general shift of developers to Apple’s notification system, and a lack of obvious ways to improve Growl beyond what it is and has been, we’re announcing the retirement of Growl as of today.

It’s been a long time coming. Growl is the project I worked on for the longest period of my open source career. However at WWDC in 2012 everyone on the team saw the writing on the wall. This was my only WWDC. This is the WWDC where Notification Center was announced. Ironically Growl was called Global Notifications Center, before I renamed it to Growl because I thought the name was too geeky. There’s even a sourceforge project for Global Notifications Center still out there if you want to go find it.

What a great open source project Growl was. It proved itself as a feature that should have been built into MacOS — and then it was. Growl arguably defined “notifications” as we know them, not just on Mac, but iOS and Android as well.

Peter Hosey:

One thing that working on Growl helped shape in me: A militant respect for people’s attention as well as what they do and do not want their tools to do.

Long after the official end of @GrowlMac, I will always have that.

Cheers to that. Growl respected the user — it served the notifyee, not the notifier, and that made all the difference.

Isaac Asimov on the ‘Cult of Ignorance’ 

I meant to re-link to this quote from the great Isaac Asimov last month, but it remains as relevant post-election as it was pre-election:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.

Update: Here’s Asimov’s original column for Newsweek, from January 1980.

David Brooks: ‘The Rotting of the Republican Mind’ 

Good column from David Brooks over the weekend:

For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important information most people do not have. For those who feel powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject “experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.

Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. […]

What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact, reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those without a college degree.

“You can’t argue people out of paranoia” nails the deep dark conundrum we face. A good example, from his NYT op-ed page colleague Maureen Dowd, who for years now has turned over her Thanksgiving column to her Republican brother, a supposed conservative. This tradition of Dowd’s drives many readers nuts, but I have always enjoyed — well, no, not enjoyed, but appreciated — it for the insight into how a large group I’m not a part of, and generally disagree with, thinks. This year, Kevin Dowd revealed himself to be well on his way to Kookville:

The Democrats remain mystified by the loyalty of Trump’s base. It is rock solid because half the country was tired of being patronized and lied to and worse, taken for granted. Trump was unique because he was only interested in results.

Yes, yes, Trump’s base remains united behind him because they’re … tired of being lied to. That’s it. It’s certainly not that they’re tired of being told truths they do not want to hear.

A word of caution to Fox News: Your not-so-subtle shift leftward is a mistake. You are one of a kind. Watching the quick abdication of Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum following the election (joining an already hostile Chris Wallace) was like finding out my wife was cheating.

This treachery that Kevin Dowd equates to his wife cheating on him was acknowledging that Joe Biden soundly beat Donald Trump in the election. That’s not a leftward shift. It’s a statement of fact. A truth, inconvenient or not.

‘Now Has Stories’ Is the New ‘Jumped the Shark’ 

Kris Holt, writing for Engadget:

If you’re in the festive spirit and you’re already listening to seasonal music, you might have noticed Spotify’s Christmas Hits playlist is looking a little different. […] If you open it on the iOS or Android app, you may get a peek at Spotify’s Instagram-style stories.

Stories are popular and engaging, so we should add stories.” This year’s featuritis fad.

Also: demerits to Engadget for calling them “Instagram-style”, rather than “Snapchat-style”. That’s like calling the Mac a “Windows-style” graphical user interface.

Kandji 

My thanks to Kandji for sponsoring last week at DF. Kandji is an Apple device management (MDM) solution built exclusively for IT teams at organizations that run on Apple platforms. It’s a modern, cloud-based platform for centrally managing and securing your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV devices, saving IT teams countless hours of manual, repetitive work with features like one-click compliance templates and 150+ pre-built automations, apps, and workflows.

Earlier this month, they announced release-day support for new MDM features in MacOS 11 Big Sur. Request access to see a demo and get access to an optional 14-day free trial.

Om Malik on Tony Hsieh 

Om Malik:

Nick Swinmurn started Zappos in 1999, raised $500,000 in funding from Tony & Alfred. It was originally called Shoesite.com Tony later became CEO in 2000. Swinmurn left the company, in 2006. Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009.

“Shoesite.com” is adorable. The name alone captures the ethos of that late ’90s “dot com” era. Of course the original name was just “shoesite.com”. And of course it still redirects to Zappos.

“I believe that getting the culture right is the most important thing a company can do.” —Tony Hsieh

I wrote about LinkExchange for Forbes, even though I never met Tony or Alfred till much later in life. My startup was housed in the same office as LinkExchange in SOMA through some strange twist of fate. I later got to know Tony socially through non-tech friends. Quiet, kind, quirky, but always open to the impossible.

With Tony’s passing, I feel something special has ended. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe a certain innocent aspect of the early possibilities of the Internet. Maybe I feel the contrast of those days to a now that is more mercenary, less friendly, and more polarized. Whatever, without knowing Tony as well as I should, I mourn him deeply.

“Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” —Tony Hsieh

The outpouring of love and admiration for Hsieh from those who knew him is just remarkable.

About the Rosetta Translation Environment 

Nice high-level overview from Apple’s developer documentation team. One pedantic note worth emphasizing (I made this mistake in my M1 MacBook Pro review) — Rosetta is translation, not emulation, and technically that’s a big deal:

To the user, Rosetta is mostly transparent. If an executable contains only Intel instructions, macOS automatically launches Rosetta and begins the translation process. When translation finishes, the system launches the translated executable in place of the original. However, the translation process takes time, so users might perceive that translated apps launch or run more slowly at times.

The system prefers to execute an app’s arm64 instructions on Apple silicon. If a binary includes both arm64 and x86_64 instructions, the user can tell the system to launch the app using Rosetta translation from the app’s Get Info window in the Finder. For example, a user might enable Rosetta translation to allow the app to run older plug-ins that don’t yet support the arm64 architecture.

Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh Dies at 46 

James Hagerty, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Tony Hsieh, who became a frequently quoted and studied management guru by persuading millions of people to buy shoes online through Zappos, died Friday at the age of 46, one of his companies, DTP Cos., said.

Mr. Hsieh died from injuries he sustained in a house fire on Nov. 18 in New London, Conn., said his attorney Puoy Premsrirut.

In response to questions about Mr. Hsieh’s death, Thomas Curcio, chief of the New London Fire Department, said firefighters were called to a burning waterfront home at 3:34 a.m. Nov. 18 for a report of someone trapped. Firefighters forced entry, removed the victim and started CPR, Chief Curcio said.

The victim, suffering from apparent burns and smoke inhalation, was taken by ambulance first to a local hospital before being flown to the Connecticut Burn Center in Bridgeport, Conn., officials said. The Connecticut state fire marshal’s office is investigating.

Just an awful tragedy.

NRA Admits Its Executives Are Crooks 

Beth Reinhard and Carol D. Leonnig, reporting for The Washington Post:

After years of denying allegations of lax financial oversight, the National Rifle Association has made a stunning declaration in a new tax filing: Current and former executives used the nonprofit group’s money for personal benefit and enrichment.

The NRA said in the filing that it continues to review the alleged abuse of funds, as the tax-exempt organization curtails services and runs up multimillion-dollar legal bills. The assertion of impropriety comes four months after the attorney general of New York state filed a lawsuit accusing NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and other top officials of using NRA funds for decades to provide inflated salaries and expense accounts.

The tax return, which The Washington Post obtained from the organization, says the NRA “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.” The 2019 filing states that LaPierre and five former officials received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses when officials have enriched themselves at the expense of a nonprofit entity.

The Republican Party no longer stands for conservatives; it stands for corruption and incompetence. The NRA is squarely on the corrupt side. I would recommend LaPierre get in line for one of the many pardons President “I Won Bigly” has started issuing, but alas for LaPierre (and the president and his family), federal pardons are no good against state charges.

‘Slack Shares Soar Following Report of Possible Salesforce Acquisition’ 

If there’s anyone who knows how to make great apps and artfully-crafted user experiences, it’s Salesforce.

Email a Dumpster Fire 

Important work from the Hey Email Research Lab. (It’s harder to set fire to incoming emails than you think.) Cheat code for Hey users, which only seems fair.

Apple Security Chief Maintains Innocence After Bribery Charges 

Timothy B. Lee, reporting for Ars Technica:

A grand jury in California’s Santa Clara County has indicted Thomas Moyer, Apple’s head of global security, for bribery. Moyer is accused of offering 200 iPads to the Santa County Sheriff’s office in exchange for concealed carry permits for four Apple employees.

Moyer’s attorney says that he did nothing wrong, and notably Apple is standing behind its executive. “We expect all of our employees to conduct themselves with integrity,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “After learning of the allegations, we conducted a thorough internal investigation and found no wrongdoing.”

Good to know. I look forward to finding out what the scuttled donation of 200 iPads to the sheriff’s office was really about. Perhaps all just a big coincidence.

The Ars piece is worth it just for this clause, one of the most Silicon Valley things I’ve ever heard: “the conspirators then allegedly met at a San Jose Jamba Juice”.

Trump Fears His Campaign Legal Team Is Composed of ‘Fools That Are Making Him Look Bad’ 

Dan Mangan, CNBC:

Trump is worried that his campaign’s legal team, which is being led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is composed of “fools that are making him look bad,” NBC News reported Monday.

That group, which has unironically called itself an “elite strike force team,” to date has failed to win any legal victories that would invalidate votes for Biden, the former Democratic vice president, even as they tout wildly broad claims of fraud for which they have offered no convincing evidence.

The Trump legal team unceremoniously parted ways with attorney Sidney Powell, who, just last week, explained how the election was rigged by Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013.

Trump worrying now that his legal team is a bunch of crackpots making him look bad is like the moment when the captain of the Titanic, already half submerged, said, “Hey, I’m starting to think this ship is not unsinkable.”

Facebook Still Ruled by Sociopaths, News at 11 

Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac, and Sheera Frenkel, reporting for The New York Times:

Typically, N.E.Q. scores play a minor role in determining what appears on users’ feeds. But several days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gave to N.E.Q. scores to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The change was part of the “break glass” plans Facebook had spent months developing for the aftermath of a contested election. It resulted in a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said.

It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like. Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook.

Facebook shouldn’t need to inject emergency doses of truth and reality into their newsfeed. It should be the norm, full stop.

In the past several months, as Facebook has come under more scrutiny for its role in amplifying false and divisive information, its employees have clashed over the company’s future. On one side are idealists, including many rank-and-file workers and some executives, who want to do more to limit misinformation and polarizing content. On the other side are pragmatists who fear those measures could hurt Facebook’s growth, or provoke a political backlash that leads to painful regulation.

This is a good report from the Times, but calling the one side “idealists” and the other “pragmatists” is a disservice to both sides. Those who want to limit misinformation and polarizing content are good, honest people. There’s nothing “idealistic” about that. And the other side, who are on the side of pushing misinformation and polarizing content, despite knowing how harmful it is, are not “pragmatists”.

Sociopath is the word. The definition fits to a T: a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. There’s no better word to describe Facebook’s leadership:

The company had surveyed users about whether certain posts they had seen were “good for the world” or “bad for the world.” They found that high-reach posts — posts seen by many users — were more likely to be considered “bad for the world,” a finding that some employees said alarmed them.

So the team trained a machine-learning algorithm to predict posts that users would consider “bad for the world” and demote them in news feeds. In early tests, the new algorithm successfully reduced the visibility of objectionable content. But it also lowered the number of times users opened Facebook, an internal metric known as “sessions” that executives monitor closely.

Facebook knowingly pushes polarizing misinformation, particularly to conservatives, because it’s addictive and despite knowing exactly what they’re doing and why it’s wrong and that it’s making the world worse.

Mark Zuckerberg is a sociopath. A real-life Bond villain.

The Vintage Beauty of Soviet Control Rooms 

Some of these would make for some sweet video conference backgrounds.

The Talk Show: ‘A Craptastic Craptacular’ 

Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

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The News Site of Record 

Ben Thompson has a good column at Stratechery on Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein departing Vox in very different, but very on-personal-brand ways.

Thompson ties in the Vox talent exodus with BuzzFeed’s acquisition last week of HuffPost, which leads him to the following comment regarding BuzzFeed chief Jonah Peretti’s curious claim, in an interview with Peter Kafka at Recode (a Vox sub-site!), that the Times’s paid-subscriber-focused strategy somehow puts them at odds with their longstanding mission to serve as the paper of record:

At the same time, it is worth noting that the New York Times has, contrary to Peretti’s implication, never been a newspaper for the masses. Sure, its subscription model is by default exclusionary, but only being available in printed form, mostly in New York, was far more exclusionary. The point about subscriptions driving a particular point of view is a valid one, but then again, it is not as if BuzzFeed has been shy about its political preferences either. The reality is that the implication of the Internet is that ideas are in abundance, and people will seek out what they already agree with, as opposed to accepting what is delivered to them.

Paid-subscriber focus or no, the New York Times today is far more accessible to far more people, free of charge, than it ever could have been in the pre-web era. The quality of the work the Times publishes will continue, more than ever, to be the foundation upon which its reputation stands. There was a time not so long ago when upstarts, like Peretti, saw the Times as old and slow. Not any more. Well, old, yes, but not slow. Joining forces with HuffPost feels like the stodgy media move of the month.

Ezra Klein Follows Matt Yglesias Out the Door at Vox 

Edmund Lee, writing for The New York Times:

Ezra Klein, a founder of the popular website Vox.com, is leaving the publication to become a columnist and podcast host at The New York Times, the latest high-profile departure from Vox Media during a wave of change in the digital media business.

This follows fellow Vox founder Matt Yglesias, who left to start his own subscriber-based weblog, Slow Boring, on Substack 10 days ago.

Jim Bankoff, the Vox Media chief executive, said the company was now in a position to withstand the loss of key employees. “All the Vox Media brands are well past the point where they are about individuals,” he said in an interview. “By themselves, each site is a massive, mainstream, modern media brand that touches tens if not hundreds of millions of people across every conceivable platform.”

Yeah that’s just great for Vox that their best-known and most-talented writers have flown the coop.

Not So Fast on That Washington Post Report That Apple Is Lobbying Against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act 

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who reports on China for Axios, on Twitter:

According to sources I have spoken to with knowledge of the matter, this Washington Post story does not accurately characterize Apple’s position on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

It is not accurate to say that Apple’s aim is to water down key provisions of the bill, and it is not accurate to characterize Apple as lobbying against the bill.

(And no, the sources I am citing are not a strident email from Apple’s PR department).

Reed Albergotti, the Washington Post reporter for the story claiming Apple is lobbying to “water down” the bill, has long seemed to have an axe to grind against “big tech” companies, and Apple in particular, so I’d take his report with an extra grain of salt now that Allen-Ebrahimian has thrown cold water on it.

Apple Is Not Backing Down on Postponed App Tracking Transparency Feature in iOS 14 

Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy, responding to an open letter from privacy advocates disappointed that Apple delayed iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency feature:

Advertising that respects privacy is not only possible, it was the standard until the growth of the Internet. Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets. Privacy-focused ad networks were the universal standard in advertising before the practice of unfettered data collection began over the last decade or so. Our hope is that increasing user demands for privacy and security, as well as changes like ATT, will make these privacy-forward advertising standards robust once more. […]

By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.

Go SMS Pro, a Popular Android Messaging App, Exposed Millions of Users’ Private Photos and Files 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

When a Go SMS Pro user sends a photo, video or other file to someone who doesn’t have the app installed, the app uploads the file to its servers, and lets the user share a web address by text message so the recipient can see the file without installing the app. But the researchers found that these web addresses were sequential. In fact, any time a file was shared — even between app users — a web address would be generated regardless. That meant anyone who knew about the predictable web address could have cycled through millions of different web addresses to users’ files.

Go SMS Pro has more than 100 million installs, according to its listing in Google Play.

TechCrunch verified the researcher’s findings. In viewing just a few dozen links, we found a person’s phone number, a screenshot of a bank transfer, an order confirmation including someone’s home address, an arrest record, and far more explicit photos than we were expecting, to be quite honest.

Not what you want from an SMS app.

Apple’s Chief Security Officer Indicted for Bribing Santa Clara Sheriff in Gun Permit Scandal 

Sue Dremann, reporting for Palo Alto Weekly:

A grand jury issued two indictments ​on Thursday, Nov. 19, against Undersheriff Rick Sung, 48, and Capt. James Jensen, 43, who are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms licenses, also known as CCW licenses. Insurance broker Harpreet Chadha, 49, and Apple’s Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer, 50, are accused of offering bribes to receive the permits, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a press conference on Monday morning.

The two-year investigation by the district attorney’s office found that Sung, who was allegedly aided by Jensen in one instance, held up the distribution of CCW licenses and refused to release them until the applicants gave something of value. […]

Sung and Jensen allegedly held up four gun licenses from Apple employees and extracted from Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the sheriff’s office. A donation of 200 iPads worth nearly $70,000 was ended at the last minute after Aug. 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned that the district attorney’s office had issued a search warrant seizing all of the sheriff’s office’s CCW license records.

Not a good look.

Washington Post: Apple’s Lobbying Group Seeks to ‘Water Down’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act 

Reed Albergotti, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would require U.S. companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where academic researchers estimate the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into internment camps. […]

The staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with the company took place in private meetings, said Apple was one of many U.S. companies that oppose the bill as it’s written. They declined to disclose details on the specific provisions Apple was trying to knock down or change because they feared providing that knowledge would identify them to Apple. But they both characterized Apple’s effort as an attempt to water down the bill.

“What Apple would like is we all just sit and talk and not have any real consequences,” said Cathy Feingold, director of the international department for the AFL-CIO, which has supported the bill. “They’re shocked because it’s the first time where there could be some actual effective enforceability.”

Not a good look.

Update: Axios reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian says Albergotti is wrong on Apple’s lobbying efforts here.

Secret Amazon Reports Expose Company Spying on Labor, Environmental Groups in Europe 

Lauren Kaori Gurley, reporting for Motherboard:

A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas. […] The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also reveal, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives — from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities — to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

Not a good look.

John Siracusa, Adam Engst, and Yours Truly on the Best Mac Ever 

So many reviews of breakthrough Mac hardware in the past week, but the best one is this episode of Jason Snell’s “20 Macs for 2020” podcast, wherein Siracusa, Engst, and I explain why the SE/30 was the best ever.

Tara AI 

My thanks to Tara AI for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. They first sponsored DF a few weeks ago to promote their 1.0 release; they’re back this week to unveil Tara AI for teams.

Tara AI is a simple yet powerful Jira alternative, designed for developers and teams who are moving rapidly. Tara AI is fast, with minimal setup. This means built-in views once your Git repository is synced, and one-click sprints. They make running agile easy, and it is designed for development teams — the focus of the platform is to help teams ship early and often, with documentation, tasks, and sprints synced to pull requests and commits.

Tara AI’s Github sync and Gitlab integration are now live. DF readers can sign up and use Tara AI for free, with no user limits.

Samuel Axon Interviews Federighi, Joz, and Srouji on the M1 Macs for Ars Technica 

Just a splendid, insightful interview. Here’s Federighi, on the big picture:

“The Mac is the soul of Apple. I mean, the Mac is what brought many of us into computing. And the Mac is what brought many of us to Apple. And the Mac remains the tool that we all use to do our jobs, to do everything we do here at Apple. And so to have the opportunity… to apply everything we’ve learned to the systems that are at the core of how we live our lives is obviously a long-term ambition and a kind of dream come true.”

This from Joz:

“This is about what we could do, right? Not about what anybody else could or couldn’t do. Every company has an agenda. The software company wishes the hardware companies would do this. The hardware companies wish the OS company would do this, but they have competing agendas. And that’s not the case here. We had one agenda.”

And Srouji:

“We want to create the best products we can. We really needed our own custom silicon to deliver truly the best Macs we can deliver.”

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data From Ordinary Apps 

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard:

The U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps, Motherboard has learned. The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide. Others include a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a “level” app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom.

Through public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis, Motherboard uncovered two separate, parallel data streams that the U.S. military uses, or has used, to obtain location data. One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, bought access to Locate X to assist on overseas special forces operations. The other stream is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the military.

Matt Drance:

Developers: Read this thread and please, please push back on growth hackers telling you to put random ass libraries in your apps.

There’s a whole seedy industry of location/data harvesting companies who pay the developers of popular (or even just semi-popular — anything with users) apps to include their frameworks in their applications. This is especially true for apps that ask for location permissions for legitimate purposes — things like weather or dating apps. If you, the user, grant the app location access, you’re granting it to all the frameworks embedded in the app too. That’s how this company X-Mode collects, packages, and sells the location data for untold millions of users who’ve never heard of X-Mode. They’re like privacy permission parasites.

X-Mode, specifically, isn’t the scandal — the scandal is the whole industry, and the widespread practice of apps just embedding them for the money without looking at what they do, or disclosing these “partnerships” to users.

BBEdit 13.5 Has Been Updated for Apple Silicon for Over a Month 

Bare Bones Software, back on October 15:

BBEdit 13.5 now runs natively on Apple Silicon, and introduces a Markdown Cheat Sheet, internal performance improvements, support for “rescuing” untitled documents, and numerous additions and refinements designed to improve efficiency. In all, version 13.5 includes more than a hundred new features, refinements to existing features, and fixes to reported issues. At present, only the BBEdit 13.5 application available directly from Bare Bones Software is Universal, while all applications in the Mac App Store currently remain Intel-only.

“Over the last 30 years, millions of people have turned to BBEdit to get the job done when the going gets tough,” said Rich Siegel, founder and CEO of Bare Bones Software, Inc. “That’s why we make sure BBEdit is first in place on day one: first on PowerPC, first on Mac OS X, first on Intel, first on the Mac App Store, and now first on Apple silicon. You can use BBEdit to make quick notes, write code, and do all the basics, but you can also use BBEdit to sift, process, and transform multi-gigabyte files, crunch through hundreds of thousands of files, and transform text in a truly dizzying variety of ways.”

If I recall correctly, BBEdit’s initial PowerPC update was a plug-in that ran inside the 68K app, just to speed up text transformations. It would have been surprising if BBEdit had not been first out of the gate to support Apple Silicon.

Here’s a BBEdit story. I was several hundred words into my iPhone 12 review last month, went to get another cup of coffee, came back, and boom, the MacBook Pro I was using had kernel panicked. This machine hadn’t kernel panicked in years. It hasn’t kernel panicked again since. Murphy’s Law was trying to screw me.

I hadn’t saved what I’d written yet. Now, it was only a few hundred words, but they were an important few hundred words, the ones that got me started. The words that got the wheels turning, that got momentum going.

Rebooted. Took a sip of coffee. Logged in.

Looked at BBEdit. There it was. Right where I left off.

That’s BBEdit.

Google Chrome Updated for Apple Silicon, in the Most Confusing Way 

Jim Salter, writing for Ars Technica:

Google presents Chrome for download as either an x86_64 package or an M1 native option — which comes across as a little odd, since the M1 native version is actually a universal binary, which works on either M1 or traditional Intel Macs. Presumably, Google is pushing separate downloads due to the much smaller file size necessary for the x86_64-only package — the universal binary contains both x86_64 and ARM applications, and weighs in at 165MiB to the Intel-only package’s 96MiB.

The Intel binary of Chrome running through Rosetta on M1 Macs wasn’t slow, but the native version is, unsurprisingly, a lot faster. Salter ran a bunch of benchmarks, though, and Safari is still faster than native Chrome on MacOS 11 Big Sur on M1 Macs.

Google is definitely doing this wrong, asking users to navigate this before downloading. Chrome is supposedly for everyone, not just nerds. Plus, if you already have the Intel-only build installed on an M1 Mac, Chrome’s weird auto-update feature isn’t updating to a native Apple Silicon build. Google has trained Chrome users for years not to do anything, to just trust that Chrome will automatically keep itself up to date, but typical users with the Intel build installed are going to be running at half speed through Rosetta.

Here’s a detailed discussion on the Chromium developer forum discussing the pros and cons of simply shipping a universal binary. The basic gist is that Chrome is so large, doubling the compiled binary footprint for a universal build was deemed problematic for all users. Why make the majority of Mac users still on Intel-based Macs download a version twice as large? I’d say the problem is that Chrome is too bloated. They should ship a universal binary to everyone and get to work slimming Chrome’s footprint. Maybe some work on that would help Chrome catch up to Safari performance-wise.

Pixelmator Pro 2.0 Updated for Big Sur and Apple Silicon 

Pixelmator:

The Pixelmator Pro editing engine is powered by high-performance Metal code, so we can take advantage of the unified memory architecture of the M1 chip to bring you much speedier and much more responsive image editing. Machine learning tasks like ML Super Resolution are now up to a staggering 15 times faster on the new Macs. And, as a Universal app, Pixelmator Pro 2.0 runs natively on both M1 and Intel-based devices, so we’re completely ready for the new era of Mac.

I can vouch for that — I was using Pixelmator Pro 1.8 through Rosetta when I initially started testing the M1 MacBook Pro last week. It worked fine, and felt comparable to running it on an Intel Mac. But ML Super Resolution — a truly mindbendingly cool feature — went from a “worth the wait” type of feature running the old version via Rosetta, to a “wait, is it really that fast now?” feature running version 2.0 natively on the M1 MacBook Pro.

Most of the M1 Mac benchmarks we’ve been seeing are testing the CPU and GPU, because that’s something we can compare head-to-head with Intel Macs and Windows PCs. But ML features that run through the Neural Engine are new territory. 15 times faster sounds too good to be true, but it’s true. And Pixelmator Pro’s ML Super Resolution feature isn’t some weird esoteric thing — it’s the sort of feature anyone who ever upscales photos might want to use.

Joanna Stern and Yours Truly on CNBC’s Squawk Alley, Talking M1 MacBooks 

The webcam discussion is a side point, to be sure, but my footage here on CNBC from this morning is a good example of what you can get from the new MacBooks’ camera.

NYT Report on Apple’s New 15 Percent App Store Commission for Smaller Developers 

Jack Nicas, reporting for The New York Times:

The move, which will have little impact on Apple’s bottom line, is an abrupt change from the company’s public intransigence over its fees. For 12 years, the App Store has helped fuel Apple’s remarkable growth, and the company has appeared reluctant to do anything to tamper with it.

What would make this change not “abrupt”? And I don’t think it’s fair at all to say Apple hasn’t changed its policies surrounding commissions in 12 years. The 85/15 split, for all developers, for subscriptions after the first year was a huge change.

The change will affect roughly 98 percent of the companies that pay Apple a commission, according to estimates from Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. But those developers accounted for less than 5 percent of App Store revenues last year, Sensor Tower said. Apple said the new rate would affect the “vast majority” of its developers, but declined to offer specific numbers.

I don’t know how much we can trust Sensor Tower’s figures, but that sounds about right.

Apple said in a statement that it had made the change because 2020 was a difficult year for many small companies.

The publicity and regulatory scrutiny surrounding the App Store had nothing to do with it, I’m sure.

App Store Small Business Program Will Reduce Commission to 15 Percent for Developers Earning up to $1 Million Per Year 

Apple, announcing the new App Store Small Business Program:

While the comprehensive details will be released in early December, the essentials of the program’s participation criteria are easy and streamlined:

  • Existing developers who made up to $1 million in 2020 for all of their apps, as well as developers new to the App Store, can qualify for the program and the reduced commission.

  • If a participating developer surpasses the $1 million threshold, the standard commission rate will apply for the remainder of the year.

  • If a developer’s business falls below the $1 million threshold in a future calendar year, they can requalify for the 15 percent commission the year after.

The App Store’s standard commission rate of 30 percent remains in place for apps selling digital goods and services and making more than $1 million in proceeds, defined as a developer’s post-commission earnings.

This isn’t going to make everyone happy, but it’s a good change for everyone involved. But with the structure Apple has announced, there are some counterintuitive incentives for developers whose earnings would fall right around the $1M threshold.

Let’s say a new developer enters the program (and thus qualifies for the 15 percent commission) and their apps are on pace to generate $1.2M in sales. At 15 percent, $1.2M in revenue would generate $1.02M in earnings — putting them over the threshold, so their entire earnings the next year would face a 30 percent commission. If their sales remain flat the next year, the same $1.2M in revenue would earn them only $840K at 30 percent. They’d have to generate $1.5M in revenue to earn the same profit that $1.2M in sales brought them the year before. Basically, if the end of the year draws near and a developer in the Small Business Program has revenue approaching $1.2M, they’re incentivized to pull their apps or reduce their prices to keep from going over the threshold.

These odd incentives could be eliminated if Apple applied the commission more like marginal tax rates, where you never lose money by earning more income. I would suggest tweaking these rules so that each year, developers who qualify for the program would get the 15 percent commission until they reach $1M in revenue, then get charged 30 percent for sales over that threshold. Let developers stay in the Small Business Program even as their sales grow.

We won’t know the details until December, but I think this system where developers need to apply and get approved to enter the program is just about a vetting process to prevent fraud (e.g. a developer with 10 apps setting up 10 different shell companies to try to get them all commissioned at the 85/15 split).


The M1 Macs

Better necessarily implies different.

That’s one of my favorite axioms. It’s both intuitively and undeniably true. But it gets to the heart of a certain universal cognitive dissonance inherent in mankind. We yearn for everything to be better. Yet we are resistant to change.

Apple’s new Macs based on the M1 system on a chip, the first Macs based on Apple Silicon, are that sort of mind-bending better. To acknowledge how good they are — and I am here to tell you they are astonishingly good — you must acknowledge that certain longstanding assumptions about how computers should be designed, about what makes a better computer better, about what good computers need, are wrong.

Some people will remain in denial about what Apple has accomplished here for years. That’s how it goes.

None of these Macs look different from their Intel-based predecessors. I’ve been using an M1 13-inch MacBook Pro for the last week, and it is all but identical on the exterior to its Intel-based counterpart. Same exact size and shape, down to the millimeter. (The M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro is 0.1 pounds lighter than its Intel-based counterparts, however.) Same keyboard (it’s good), same trackpad, same aluminum color options (Silver and Space Gray).1 Same exact display. Apple never went for those “Intel inside” stickers, and they’re not changing their stance for the M1 just because it’s their own chip. There’s no marking anywhere on the exterior to tell this apart from an Intel MacBook Pro other than the very small print product number on the underside: “A2338”.

Which is to say that the most exciting new Macs from a technical perspective since 1994 don’t look new at all. You either know that the A2338 model number designates an M1 MacBook Pro or you have to turn it on to know it’s different.

I call these the most exciting new Macs, technically, since 1994 (when the first PowerPC Macs shipped, marking the start of the transition from Motorola’s 680x0 architecture), not 2006 (when the first Intel Macs shipped, marking the start of the transition from PowerPC) because while those Intel Macs were exciting insofar as they were new and completely different for the Mac, they were not different at all, system architecturally, from other Intel-based PCs. Intel-based Macs would never be better or worse than the PC state of the art. Strategically, it was a bet that Macs could be sufficiently differentiated by the MacOS software platform and Apple’s hardware designs around the base Intel system architecture.

It was the correct bet, clearly. Intel-based Mac sales started strong and have stayed strong ever since. The Mac gained converts switching from Windows then, and continues to gain converts from Windows now. In its most recent quarter — the last quarter ever during which the only Macs sold were Intel-based Macs — Apple booked more revenue from Mac sales than it ever had in any previous quarter in company history, and it wasn’t even close. The Mac has never been more popular. The Mac’s previous two chip transitions, from 680x0 to PowerPC in 1994 and from PowerPC to Intel in 2006, were made out of necessity. The old architectures, in both cases, had fallen hopelessly behind the Intel/x86 state of the art.

The logic behind Apple’s transition then to Intel boiled down to another old axiom: If you can’t beat them, join them.

The logic behind Apple’s transition now to Apple Silicon is this: If you can beat them handily, do it.

The M1 Macs are such better machines than their Intel-based predecessors it’s hard to believe. Apple’s battery life braggadocio is warranted. The battery just lasts and lasts and lasts. I’ve been using this MacBook Pro almost exclusively on battery power all week, doing both all my normal work and running benchmarks and performance-stressing tasks, and I can’t come close to depleting it in a full day of work.

It never gets hot. In normal use, it doesn’t even get warm. Maybe, sort of, when running a fully-taxing test like the Cinebench multi-core CPU benchmark, it heats up to just past room temperature above the Touch Bar, but it bears no resemblance thermally to a taxed Intel-based MacBook Pro.

It has been noted that the primary performance difference between this M1 MacBook Pro and its sibling MacBook Air is thermal headroom — that the MacBook Pro has a fan, and the MacBook Air does not, thus allowing the MacBook Pro to run faster longer. The two machines are equivalently fast in a sprint, but the MacBook Pro will win a distance race. But Apple doesn’t call it a “fan”. They call it an “active cooling system”. That sounds like a marketing euphemism, but it’s not fair to call this a “fan”. It is something else altogether, and nothing at all like the cooling systems in any previous Mac laptop.

I’ve never once heard it in an entire week.

Never. Not once. Not a whisper.

I presume it has engaged at times when I’ve taxed the system. Again, the Cinebench multi-core CPU benchmark taxes every available CPU core for 10 minutes. But if the active cooling system has kicked in, I never heard it. I’ve never felt any air moving out of the vents, either. This is nothing at all like the fans on Intel-based MacBooks, which, if you’re not familiar, you can definitely hear, to say the least.

Apple, in its keynote last week, emphasized that the M1 MacBook Air has no fan. (Intel-based MacBook Airs most definitely do. The defunct 12-inch no-adjective MacBook was Apple’s only fanless Intel Mac.) Apple’s point there was to brag that the M1 runs so cool that a high-performance MacBook could be designed without one. Some Mac users, I think, mistakenly took this to mean that the Air had an advantage over the M1 MacBook Pro, in that the fanless Air would always run silently, if sometimes slower. I think this assumption was wrong: the M1 MacBook Pro is, to my ears, always silent as well. Whatever its active cooling system is doing, it isn’t making even a whisper of noise.

No Intel-based laptop with vaguely comparable performance to these machines can possibly match that silence. If you care about noise, the game is already over.

A telling example: I configured this machine using Migration Assistant,2 porting my user account from a latest-and-greatest 2019 8-core Core i9 16-inch MacBook Pro using Thunderbolt 3. The 16-inch MacBook Pro’s fan ran the whole time, and it clearly got hot. The M1 MacBook Pro remained silent and cool. Just transferring data over Thunderbolt.

After running Migration Assistant, you know that “first login” experience using a new Mac or after a fresh major MacOS upgrade, when a bunch of long-running background processing tasks are running? The Photos app analyzing your entire library, Spotlight indexing your startup volume, etc. Those are tasks that have always been obtrusive, at least on MacBooks. If they didn’t make your MacBook feel slow to use, they at the very least warmed it and made fan noise. On the M1 Mac, the only way I could tell they were running — despite consuming over 200% CPU for an extended stretch — was looking for them in Activity Monitor.

I have a latest-and-greatest Intel MacBook Air here as well, a review unit from earlier this year. It got hot and the fan noisy just running Software Update to go from the last developer build of MacOS 11 Big Sur to the public release version.

The M1 benchmarks are impressive. Geekbench, Cinebench, Speedometer. Real-world tasks like compiling complex projects in Xcode, encoding video, running Pixelmator Pro’s ML Super Resolution image scaling feature. All of it runs impressively fast and yet the machine remains cool and utterly silent. I’ll leave detailed reports on the numbers to other reviewers, who, I’m sure, will conduct more thorough benchmarkings than I would.

What you need to understand is that the best aspects of these Macs aren’t benchmarkable. It’s about how nice they are. The cooling system never making any noise doesn’t show up in a benchmark. I suppose you could assign it a decibel value in an anechoic chamber, but silent operation, and a palm rest that remains cool to the touch even under heavy load, aren’t quantities. They’re qualities. They’re just nice.

It’s like trying to “benchmark” how nice a trackpad feels. Or the keys of a keyboard. That’s why Apple’s years-long butterfly keyboard fiasco was so utterly incongruous. The defining characteristic of a Macintosh computer is that it’s nice. Beautiful in the way that an elegant mathematical proof is. Apple making keyboards that were very much not nice at all was as odd as if a company whose hallmark was raw speed made something slow. One can’t imagine a single Porsche that struggles to hit the speed limit, let alone a years-long saga of Porsches afflicted with the same deficient engine. But that’s what Apple shipped niceness-wise with its butterfly keyboard.

That keyboard saga is instructive, because niceness, unlike speed, is fundamentally subjective. When your North Star can be objectively measured, you can’t bullshit your way out of a failure. Slow is slow. But when your North Star is subjective, bullshit plays. We can fix it with new materials. We can fix it with a membrane to keep particles out. Less key travel is actually better. These keyboard complainers are just a bunch of malcontents. Bullshit. Forget about the fact that the keys were prone to getting stuck or even falling right the hell off the keyboard, the fact is even when those keyboards were working exactly as designed, they weren’t nice. That’s as much a failure for Apple as Porsche shipping cars that aren’t fast. You just can’t put a number on it.

Conversely, when niceness hits — or, as in the case of these M1 Macs, exceeds — its mark, there’s no quantifiable number to prove it. You just know it when you see, feel, and hear it. (Or in the case of the M1 Macs’ cooling systems, don’t hear it.) Apple knows this. The most telling moment during the M1 keynote was in Craig Federighi’s segment, about 14 minutes in — the bit that launched a thousand memes. Talking about the fact that MacOS 11 Big Sur is Apple’s first version of MacOS ever designed hand-in-hand to run on hardware designed from the ground up by Apple, Federighi’s example was … how fast M1 Macs wake up.

Not compiling code. Not encoding video. Not executing complex ML models.

Waking from sleep.

It’s not like “my Mac wakes up too slow” is a common complaint. This isn’t fixing a problem — it’s making something that has long already been nice on Macs even nicer. This is the Apple way. The Macintosh way.

Compiling code, encoding video, executing complex ML models — they’re all faster too. But the example Apple went to first was purely about being nicer. No other company in the world would choose that example, because no other company gives a shit.3

Memory, and the Advantages of a Bespoke Hardware Architecture

One thing causing a bit of consternation is that the M1 Macs all max out at 16 GB of RAM. That was true of all Intel-based MacBook Airs, too, but Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pros go to 32 GB, and 16-inch MacBook Pros and Intel-based Mac Minis go to 64 GB. (iMacs go to 128 GB, iMac Pros to 256 GB, and Mac Pros to, I shit you not, 1.5 TB.)

So what gives? Well, these M1 systems are replacing Intel-based Macs that never had more than 16 GB of RAM. This is one reason why Apple no longer sells Intel-based MacBook Airs — the M1 MacBook Air obviates them all — but is continuing to sell Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pros and Mac Minis. For now. Apple replaced the 2-port Intel 13-inch MacBook Pros with 2-port M1 MacBook Pros; the 4-port higher-performance 13-inch MacBook Pros (that go to 32 GB of RAM) are still for sale because they’re different models. Their time is coming.

But I think it’s also the case that for most tasks for most people, these M1 Macs need less RAM to perform equivalently to, if not better than, their Intel-based counterparts. This sounds like bullshit but it’s not. It’s the result of a hardware system architecture whose design aligns with Apple’s software architecture.

First, an intriguing benchmark from David Smith, an engineer at Apple:

Fun fact: retaining and releasing an NSObject takes ~30 nanoseconds on current gen Intel, and ~6.5 nanoseconds on an M1

… and ~14 nanoseconds on an M1 emulating an Intel.

Retaining and releasing an NSObject is a low-level operation that is foundational to Apple’s programming frameworks. Just about everything is an object, and when an object is being used, software retains it, and when it’s done being used, the software releases it. This is reference counting in a nutshell: every time an object is retained, its reference count increments. Every time that object is released, its reference count decrements. When it goes to zero, the system frees the object from memory, trusting that it is no longer in use. Retain and release are tiny actions that almost all software, on all Apple platforms, does all the time.

How this works and why it’s so much faster on Apple Silicon than Intel is fascinating but beside the point. The point is that Apple’s philosophical reliance on this model of software development is not typical in the broader world. This is the way Apple thinks software should work, dating back to the origins of NeXTstep in 1989. The Apple Silicon system architecture is designed to make these operations as fast as possible. It’s not so much that Intel’s x86 architecture is a bad fit for Apple’s software frameworks, as that Apple Silicon is designed to be a bespoke fit for it.

Native code running on Apple Silicon is not 5 times faster than on Intel, generally, nor is Intel software running under Rosetta on Apple Silicon twice as fast as on Intel. But retaining and releasing NSObjects is so common on MacOS (and iOS), that making it 5 times faster on Apple Silicon than on Intel has profound implications on everything from performance to battery life. It’s almost silly how much faster this is natively, and quite remarkable that it’s twice as fast even translated through Rosetta.

Broadly speaking, this is a significant reason why M1 Macs are more efficient with less RAM than Intel Macs. It’s the combination of software and hardware designed together. You don’t have to take my word for this — this, in a nutshell, helps explain why iPhones run rings around even flagship Android phones, even though iPhones have significantly less RAM. iOS software uses reference counting for memory management, running on silicon optimized to make reference counting as efficient as possible; Android software uses garbage collection for memory management, a technique that, whatever you think of it philosophically, requires more RAM to achieve equivalent performance.

Now that Macs are moving to Apple Silicon, they can take advantage of the same thing. Cross-platform benchmarks show that Apple Silicon is faster than Intel chips, period. But Apple Silicon’s general performance advantage is increased by running software written using Apple’s platform-specific frameworks. If Bootcamp ever comes to Apple Silicon, Windows likely won’t see quite the same performance gains as MacOS on the same hardware. Likewise, if it were possible to install Android on an iPhone, it would clearly suffer to some extent from having less RAM than designed-for-Android flagships do.

Further, I/O is faster on the M1 than on Intel-based Macs. So when you do run out of free memory and MacOS needs to use swap (virtual memory), it’s faster than ever. It’s not magic, of course. If you really need more than 16 GB of RAM, you need more than 16 GB. But faking it is a lot more fun than it used to be. If you’re using more than 16 GB of memory because you have a lot of small memory allocations that add up to more than 16 GB — like say, a slew of open browser tabs, a dozen productivity apps like Mail and Notes and Photos and so forth, a big dumb sloppy Electron app like Slack, and even something like Xcode, developing a typical application — you really might not notice any hitches with just 16 GB of RAM in these Macs. I don’t. I’ve got all of the above going on right now — plus Fantastical, Tweetbot, Messages, NetNewsWire, MarsEdit, a 12 megapixel photo open for editing in Pixelmator Pro, and of course BBEdit, in which I’m writing this. Activity Monitor reports I’m using just under 7 GB of virtual memory. (This review unit has 16 GB of actual RAM.) Nothing feels any slower or different than when I have just one or two of these apps running. Hell, I just ran Geekbench’s CPU benchmark again, right now, with all this open, and its results were just a hair slower than what I got when it was the only app running.

I’m not saying 16 GB ought to be enough for everyone. If you’re doing work involving discrete chunks of data that themselves are multiple gigabytes in size, you need many gigabytes of actual memory. But a lot of small things that add up to more than the sum of physical memory on an M1 system does not notably slow it down. As a well-known hoarder of open browser tabs, I was skeptical about “only” having 16 GB of RAM in a new MacBook. But having spent a week deliberately trying to tax this system’s memory limit, I’m a believer. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one of these M1 MacBooks today — at least the 16 GB configuration I’m testing — with the expectation of using it merrily for years to come.

It’s possible to make good computers with general purpose hardware and general purpose software created by completely separate teams. One group makes hardware that tries to be good for any sort of software. The other makes software good for any sort of hardware. That’s how many enthusiasts think good computers have to be made, simply because that’s how it’s usually worked. But such systems will never be as good as hardware and software designed hand-in-hand together, blurring the lines between which side is optimized in which ways to suit the needs of the other.

Battery

As I type this paragraph I’ve been working for just over three hours, nonstop, with the MacBook Pro unplugged the whole time, and the display as bright as I want it to be. The battery is at 80 percent. To say that it offers merely “all day battery life” would require me to work very long days.

Rosetta

Rosetta is a marvel — the exemplification of “it just works”. x86-compiled apps run just about as fast as they do on the most expensive Intel-based MacBook Pros, and faster, by a long shot, than on the last and best Intel-based MacBook Air. Let that sink in: apps compiled for Intel run faster in translation on the M1 than they do on actual Intel CPUs in MacBook Airs and most MacBook Pros. Here, fine, I’ll show a few benchmarks from Geekbench (single-core / multi-core):

  • 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019, 8-core Core i9): 1,160 / 7,160
  • MacBook Air (2020, 4-core Core i5): 1,050 / 2,410
  • M1 MacBook Pro (x86 benchmark running in Rosetta): 1,260 / 5,600
  • M1 MacBook Pro (native M1 benchmark): 1,730 / 7,530

You just don’t have to worry about Rosetta, period. The first time you launch an Intel app, MacOS will ask you if you want to install Rosetta. Agree, and installation flies by in a jiff — mere seconds — and after that, you’ll just never notice whether something is compiled for Intel or native Apple Silicon. You don’t have to worry about extensions (like for Safari or Finder) being matched — Intel extensions run just fine in Apple Silicon apps. Dropbox, for example, is still an Intel app but it runs just fine, including Finder integration.

Rosetta performs great and compatibility is seemingly seamless. This is a technical tour de force, a home run for Apple that will mostly go unheralded by typical users because the entire point is that they shouldn’t notice or care.

The Camera

The one spec on these new MacBooks that elicited a universal groan was the “720p FaceTime Camera”. 720p is the same resolution as Apple’s Intel-based MacBooks, whose cameras are universally regarded as craptacular. You can’t judge any camera by resolution alone, though, and Apple is billing the camera systems in the M1 MacBook Air and Pro as being improved by dint of the M1’s image signal processing. Quoting from the MacBook Pro product page:

Thanks to M1, the FaceTime HD camera can now take full advantage of our latest image signal processor — improving image quality in video conferences and pulling out more details in both shadows and highlights.

Is the camera quality very noticeably improved? Yes.

Is the camera quality now good? No.

MacBook FaceTime camera image quality was so bad that there was plenty of room for the M1 MacBook camera to get a lot better and yet still be described as “not bad” at best. Here’s an A/B comparison from a FaceTime call with my friend Adam, conducted at night, with no attempt whatsoever to adjust the lighting in my office in a flattering way. One shot is from a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro, the other from the M1 MacBook Pro. The difference is striking, even if the M1 camera remains on the whole unsatisfying. (I look oddly pleased, if not downright eager, in Adam’s capture of my image from the M1 camera, and I will get him back for this someday.)

iOS Apps

MacOS 11 “Big Sur” introduces one major new feature exclusive to Apple Silicon Macs: the ability to run iPhone and iPad apps from the App Store.

This sounds fine on paper, but in practice I don’t understand who thought this was a good idea to ship. My experience has ranged from terrible to OK, at best.

The best experience I had was using Marco Arment’s excellent Overcast podcast player. Everything worked, including syncing with my account, and Overcast’s window, when running on the Mac, is resizable like a Mac window should be. Overcast opens by default in a pseudo iPad-size layout, but I prefer using it in a tall skinny window, more like an iPhone single-column layout.

The gaming experience was meh. Games that I consider a ton of fun to play on my iPhone worked just fine but were no fun at all to play on my Mac. In the same way that games designed to work with a hardware game controller never feel right without one, games designed to be played on handheld touchscreen devices are no fun to play on a laptop.

The most inexplicable experience was HBO Max. HBO Max running as an app on MacOS is worse in every single way but one than using HBO Max’s website in Safari. The window is, for a video streaming app, tiny, and cannot be resized. Nor does full-screen mode work. You can watch video in this tiny little window or not at all. Scrolling lists with the trackpad feels like jabbing at a dead fish to slide it across a countertop — scrolling has no momentum or bounce or just plain life to it because I guess HBO coded the whole thing up in some shitty cross-platform framework. Just try getting down to “Xfinity” in the list of cable providers for signing in. (Scrolling lists via the trackpad in Overcast works just fine, full of life and momentum, because Overcast is a proper UIKit app.) The one and only thing HBO Max has going for it as an iOS app running on MacOS, that you don’t get from the website, is the ability to download videos for offline viewing. That’s it. But why even bother when you can only watch them in a tiny postcard-sized window?

It’s possible HBO will fix some of this. Just making the window resizable and enabling full-screen video playback would make the app at least useful. But even at best, like Overcast, iOS apps running in a window on a Mac feel foreign. They feel like what they are: apps from another platform. I can see how some people might think this is a good idea, but I don’t see how anyone thinks it’s a very Apple-y idea. Sure, it works, which is why most companies would just ship it. More apps are better, right?

But they’re such a crummy experience, these iOS apps. At the very best, sub-optimal. This feature exemplifies a spirit of “better than nothing, ship it”. The Apple way, typically, is “insanely great”. It’s like someone said, “Oh, you thought lazy Catalyst ports were a bad experience on MacOS? Hold my beer…”

Each of these apps has an option in the application menu: Touch Alternatives. The first time you choose that menu item, you’re presented with the following alert:

The ‘Touch Alternatives’ alert in an iOS app running on MacOS 11 Big Sur.

The ugliness of this dialog — they didn’t even capitalize “Option” for chrissake — speaks to the experience of using this feature as it stands today.

Conclusion

Folks used to say that no one gets fired for buying IBM. Similarly, no one ever won by betting against Intel and the x86 architecture. Intel always won.

Until now, that is, when it’s clear they’ve lost. Apple’s two previous Mac architecture transitions were made from positions of desperation — they were jumping the Mac from sinking ships. This transition from Intel to Apple Silicon has clearly been made from a position of overwhelming strength. Yes, we still haven’t seen the Apple Silicon chips for high-performance MacBook Pros, let alone for desktop workstations. Many technical questions remain for the remainder of this transition. But the M1 is a rousing start. Apple surely could have initiated this transition a few years ago, but they waited until the effect would be colossal, the advantages undeniable. I chatted with one Apple employee who’d been using this hardware for months, and after it was unveiled, his daughter texted him to ask if the new MacBooks were faster than hers. “Much” was his one-word response. Then he texted again: “Much much.”

You can add as many muches as you want, and it won’t convey the seismic shift the M1 represents. No one talks about not getting fired for buying IBM anymore. Soon, no one will think you always lose betting against Intel and x86.

Think different, indeed. 


  1. The M1 Mac Mini, oddly, is available only in Silver, while the Intel Mac Mini is only available in Space Gray. Perhaps so the two architectures are easily discernible in rack-mounting scenarios where there might be a mix of both? ↩︎︎

  2. Migration Assistant is simply an astonishingly good tool. If you religiously set up all new Macs from scratch, I implore you to give it a shot. If you don’t like it you can always start over from scratch. Seriously, you’re missing out if you don’t use it. ↩︎

  3. I’ve told this story on podcasts, but I’m not sure I’ve ever written it, and I think the time is right. Steve Jobs was on medical leave for the first half of 2009. When he returned in early summer, he devoted most of his attention and time to crafting and launching the original iPad, which was unveiled in April 2010. After that, he had meetings scheduled with teams throughout the company. One such meeting was about MacBooks. Big picture agenda. Where does Steve see the future of Mac portables? That sort of thing. My source for the story was someone on that team, in that meeting. The team prepared a veritable binder full of ideas large and small. They were ready to impress. Jobs comes in carrying a then-brand-new iPad and sets it down next to a MacBook the team had ready for demos. “Look at this.” He presses the home button on the iPad: it instantly wakes up. He does it again. The iPad instantly wakes up. Jobs points to the MacBook, “This doesn’t do that. I want you to make this” — he points to the MacBook — “do that” — he points to the iPad. Then he picks up the iPad and walks out of the meeting.

    Steve Jobs would have fucking loved these M1 Macs. ↩︎︎


Instant Claim Chowder: Gordon Mah Ung on Apple’s M1 Performance Claims 

Gordon Mah Ung, executive editor of PCWorld:

Let me just say it out loud, OK? Apple is full of it. I’m referring to Apple’s claim that its fanless, Arm-based MacBook Air is “faster than 98 percent of PC laptops.” Yes, you read that correctly: Apple officials literally claimed that the new MacBook Air using Apple’s custom M1 chip is faster than 98 percent of all PC laptops sold this year. […]

Does that mean the new fanless MacBook Air is faster than, say, Asus’ stupidly fast Ryzen 4000 based, GeForce RTX 2060-based Zephyrus G14? Does it mean the MacBook Air is faster than Alienware’s updated Area 51M? The answer, I’m going to guess is “no.” Not at all. Is it faster than the miniLED-based MSI Creator 17? Probably not, either.

This is one of the dumbest hot takes I’ve ever read. First, the PC laptops Ung cites are almost certainly squarely in the top percent or two by unit sales. So they’d seemingly fit exactly in the difference between 98 percent and 100 percent.

Second, I wouldn’t bet against these M1 Macs.

Ung’s “Apple is full of it” take reminds me of the BlackBerry executives who thought Apple’s 2007 iPhone announcement was a fraud, that it couldn’t do what Apple said it could do.

Google Photos Is Ending ‘Free Unlimited Storage’ in June 

Dieter Bohn, writing last week for The Verge:

After five years of offering unlimited free photo backups at “high quality,” Google Photos will start charging for storage once more than 15 gigs on the account have been used. The change will happen on June 1st, 2021, and it comes with other Google Drive policy changes like counting Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets against the same cap. Google is also introducing a new policy of deleting data from inactive accounts that haven’t been logged in to for at least two years.

That “five years” link makes clear that “free and unlimited” was a big part of the appeal of Google Photos all along. And it’s not really a 5-year-old product — Google bought Picasa back in 2004, 16 years ago, and they’ve been giving away some version of free hosted photo storage ever since. And they’ve surely lost billions of dollars doing so. Even if their “free” storage costs, say, $1/user/year (which I think even at Google’s scale is way low), with one billion users, that’s $1 billion per year. It’s easy to see how this could be costing them many billions per year.

Casey Newton:

Google earned $11.2 billion in profits last quarter and uses all your uploaded photos to train its ML algorithms, which offers it other enormous competitive benefits.

Also seems notable that free Google photo storage helped to drive tons of startups out of this market — Everpix, Loom, Ever, Picturelife. Now that they’re gone, and Google is tired of losing money on Photos, the revenue switch flips.

It really is that simple.

(Everpix was a favorite of mine — so damn good.)

Apple Addresses Last Week’s OCSP Server Failure and Related Privacy Concerns 

Apple updated its “Safely Open Apps on Your Mac” support document, in response to last week’s server failure and the ensuing privacy concerns:

We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices. These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.

In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks

  • Strong protections against server failure

  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

They posted this update over the weekend.

Apple TV App Is on PlayStation 5, Too 

I mentioned two weeks ago that Apple TV was available on the new Xbox consoles — should have mentioned too that it was launching on PS5 (and going on PS4) as well. Trying to think of boxes where Apple TV could be but isn’t. Nintendo Switch?

Update: We own (and love) a Switch — so I know that Nintendo doesn’t have streaming apps from anyone, not even Netflix. Switch just doesn’t do video — Nintendo keeps it focused on games. But I’m just saying what’s out there that could have the Apple TV app that’s hooked up to TVs in households where folks might want to watch Apple TV?

Update 2: Wait, there is a streaming service available on Switch: Hulu. I did not know this! Why in the world is Hulu there and none of the others? This makes me think Apple TV and Disney+ and Netflix really could be there.

ViDL: Free Mac Utility Based on ‘youtube-dl’ 

Speaking of youtube-dl, ViDL is a proper Mac app based on it:

ViDL is a free Mac app that allows you to easily download videos from YouTube and hundreds of other websites for offline viewing.

It is based on the popular youtube-dl command line tool, but much easier to use, especially with videos/playlists that require a login (like your personal “Watch Later” list).


The HomePod Mini

This won’t take long.

That’s the thought in my head, surprisingly often, when I sit down to start reviewing a new product. I have a fundamental synopsis in my head, an encapsulated summary, and I feel like it won’t take many words to get out. I’m usually wrong. This time I’m nearly certain I’m right.

The HomePod Mini is a delightful smart speaker, and a good value at $100.

Apple sent me a pair of HomePod Minis to review a little over a week ago. I’ve used them both set up as a stereo pair in the same room, and as individual speakers in separate rooms. They’re easy to set up and sound great for the price — and to my non-audiophile ears, sound remarkable for their size.

Do they sound as good as the full-size $300 HomePods? No, of course not. But they sound really good for $100, and in smaller rooms, I’m not sure there’s a reason to worry about the difference. Music sounds great, and they do smart dynamic on-the-fly tricks to adjust to the type of music (or audio) that’s playing, just like their big siblings.

Also just like the full-size HomePod, HomePod Mini does a great job hearing and parsing your voice commands even while music is playing.

One HomePod Mini sounds really good, and while I’m not going to say it sounds like stereo, it doesn’t sound like everything is coming from a tiny softball-sized speaker. It sounds bigger. Two paired Minis — again, just like with the full-size version — sound more than twice as good. It’s really quite a thing to hear, and they’re clearly doing more than splitting audio into left/right channels. They’re working together to fill a room with great sound.

How does the sound quality compare to $100-ish smart speakers from Amazon or Google? I can’t really say. I’ve got a cylindrical Amazon Echo from 2016, and the HomePod Mini makes that sound like a tin can, but that’s not a fair comparison. If you’re looking for a “which smart speaker sounds best” comparison, this isn’t it.

What I do know is that the HomePod Mini seems like just what everyone has been asking for from Apple — a much lower-priced HomePod that still sounds great. Now, you can say, “Well wait, the new Amazon Dot is just $50.” I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to make a $50 anything. The HomePod Mini might be the nicest device Apple has ever made for $100. I don’t even know what to compare it against, price-wise — I guess the iPod Shuffle, which started as low as $99 when it debuted and dropped to $50 by the fourth and final generation in 2010.

The HomePod Mini even includes a 20W power adapter1 (which it needs — the hazy touch panel “display” on top just pulses orange if you plug it into an adapter that provides less than 20W of power). I’m not saying Apple should have even considered selling the HomePod Mini without the power adapter — I’m just saying it’s hard to imagine Apple selling it for less than $100 when the power adapter alone costs $20.

All the normal HomePod stuff works exactly like it does on the big HomePod. The big HomePod now has the ability to serve as home theater audio output for Apple TV 4K — that’s a new feature exclusive to the full-size HomePods. But in every other way, the HomePod Mini is a HomePod. (HomePod Minis can be used for audio output from Apple TV via AirPlay — just not with home theater features like Dolby Atmos or surround sound.)

I dig it.

Buying Advice: I’m guessing there are two distinct prospective customers for HomePod Mini: (1) If you’re someone who already owns and likes a regular HomePod, and are thinking about getting a Mini or two for use in more rooms throughout your home, do it. It’s exactly what you think it is. (2) If you’ve never owned a HomePod because they’re so expensive, and are thinking about getting a HomePod Mini because it’s just $100, but are worried that maybe it’s not that good because it’s only $100, you should probably buy one. HomePod Mini is one-third the price of a regular HomePod but way more than one-third the quality. 


  1. Here’s a gripe. Apple only makes power adapters in white. But my preferred HomePod color is Space Gray — the power cord for which is also dark gray. It looks mismatched plugging it into a white power adapter. Apple ought to make its power adapters in both black and white, the way they make Space Gray Magic Trackpads↩︎


One More Thing: The M1 Macs

My basic theory, since the announcement during this year’s WWDC keynote that Apple was — finally — moving the Mac platform from Intel’s x86 architecture to their own custom silicon, has been that they would not merely be using A-series chips for this. That Macs wouldn’t be sharing chips with iPhones and iPads. Apple could have gone this route, performance-wise, at least for the consumer grade devices, but the Apple Silicon segment of the WWDC keynote sounded to me like they were suggesting a far more ambitious endeavor. I was right. It’s the difference between using their amazing mobile chips in desktops, and using their chip expertise to design desktop-focused chips.

Apple billed yesterday’s event as “One More Thing”, and while they announced three new Macs, it really was about one new thing: the M1. The new M1-based MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini are best thought of not as three different computers, but rather three different manifestations of the same computer.

These are, by all accounts and measures, far faster machines than the Intel-based Macs they’re replacing. But the big win, and clear focus from Apple, isn’t speed but battery life. Apple’s quoted battery life times for the Intel-based MacBook Air from March of this year for “wireless web browsing” and “Apple TV app movie playback” were 11 and 12 hours, respectively. The new M1 MacBook Air pushes those times to 15 and 18 hours. The difference is even more striking with Apple’s specs for the new M1 MacBook Pro, which claim battery life of 17 and 20 hours for web browsing and movie playback. The current Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro gets just 10 hours on each of those tests. That’s very close to double the battery life. Double!

This is the sellable bullet point for the mass market consumer who has no idea what “Apple Silicon” means: battery life is now truly all-day. Charge your MacBook Air or Pro overnight, and you can use it hard all day without ever once being near a power outlet. You’re clearly intended to be able to use these new MacBooks like iPads in that regard — where charging them and using them are entirely different actions. There’s no question in my mind that Apple could have made this transition to Apple Silicon a few years ago, but they clearly wanted to wait until the advantages were overwhelming and undeniable. And nowhere is that more evident than with these figures for battery life.

The M1 really is an entire system on a chip. Everything is on the M1. The various processors, of course: the CPU cores, the GPU cores, the Neural Engine cores. But everything else is on the M1 too: the storage controller, the Secure Enclave, the memory controller, and, yes, the memory itself. The DRAM for M1-based Macs is on the package (“on the substrate”, I believe, is the technical lingo).

The downside of this design is that DRAM is not something you can configure after the fact. But this has been true for Apple’s entire MacBook lineup, from consumer Airs to high-end 16-inch Pro models, for years. But with the M1, memory isn’t just soldered onto a board, it’s integrated into the SoC — just like it has been for A-series SoCs. Apple calls this “unified memory architecture”, or UMA:

M1 also features our unified memory architecture, or UMA. M1 unifies its high‑bandwidth, low‑latency memory into a single pool within a custom package. As a result, all of the technologies in the SoC can access the same data without copying it between multiple pools of memory. This dramatically improves performance and power efficiency. Video apps are snappier. Games are richer and more detailed. Image processing is lightning fast. And your entire system is more responsive.

There’s no separate “video memory” and “system memory” — just memory. “Shared memory” and “integrated graphics” have gotten a bad name historically, because they signified cheap low-performance compromises. Apple’s chip team is really proud of this UMA system and the integrated GPU on the M1. It’s a design that increases performance and power efficiency.

These systems are, according to Apple’s stated numbers, fast. They’ve more than earned our trust on that. We know, for a fact, that the A14 chip in the iPhones 12 and new iPad Air is both faster and far more power efficient than all but the very highest end Intel and AMD x86 laptop chips. AnandTech published a detailed comparison yesterday showing just that. And we also know that Apple has promised that the M1’s high-performance cores are faster than the A14’s — and the M1 has four high performance cores, while the A14 only has two.

So if the A14 clearly outperforms all but the latest and greatest x86 laptop chips — and holds its own even against those — it would be rather shocking if Apple’s boasting that the M1 is the fastest CPU on the market is not true.

The mind-blowing part of all this is that the M1 is only being used in Apple’s less expensive consumer Macs.

Wait, wait, wait, you might be saying, the MacBook Pro is pro. But as I’ve written numerous times, pro, in Apple’s product-naming parlance, doesn’t always stand for professional. Much of the time it just means better or nicer. The new M1 13-inch MacBook Pro is pro only in the way, say, AirPods Pro are. This has been true for Apple’s entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pros — the models with only two USB ports — ever since the famed MacBook “Escape” was suggested as a stand-in for the then-still-missing retina MacBook Air four years ago.

The new M1 MacBook Pro is the same basic computer as the M1 MacBook Air, but adds:

  • Brighter screen (500 nits vs. 400)
  • Bigger battery (58 watt-hours vs. 50)
  • Fan (increasing thermal headroom)
  • Better speakers and microphones
  • Touch Bar
  • 0.2 pounds of weight (3.0 pounds vs. 2.8 — not much)

The M1 13-inch MacBook Pro will outperform the MacBook Air in sustained performance, not because it has a better CPU or GPU, but because it has a fan that allows the high performance cores to run faster for longer stretches. (The M1 Mac Mini has even more thermal headroom, because it’s a bigger enclosure and isn’t battery-powered, and thus is the fastest machine of the three. But because it isn’t battery powered, it seemingly has the fewest advantages over its equivalent Intel predecessor.) Also noteworthy: the $999 entry-level MacBook Air only has 7 GPU cores, not 8. It’s logical to conclude that this is the result of chip binning, but Apple, unsurprisingly, has no comment on the matter.

But fundamentally these are the same two MacBooks — the Pro version just has a bit more oomf thanks to its cooling system. And the M1 Mac Mini is just the same computer in a desktop enclosure.

The fact that these machines all share the same limitations, as well — a maximum of 16 GB of RAM and 2 TB of SSD storage — is not in any way an indication that Apple is regressing an iota on professional memory and storage needs. Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pros support up to 32 GB of RAM and 4 TB of storage. Intel Mac Minis support up to 64 GB of RAM. And then there’s the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which supports up to 64 GB of RAM and 8 TB of SSD storage.

The only Intel-based Macs that have been completely replaced by M1 models are the MacBook Airs — the Intel models of which have never offered specs of any kind that aren’t met or exceeded by the new M1 models. Apple continues to sell Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pros and Mac Minis. That doesn’t betray a lack of confidence in Apple Silicon; it’s simply the result of the M1 only being intended for “low-power systems or small size and power efficiency”, per Apple’s keynote. Apple hasn’t yet unveiled its professional-grade M-series chips. (I’m guessing “M1X” as the name for the first high-power Mac SoC. The “M2”, when you think about it, would be the name of the next-generation SoC for MacBook Airs and lower-end MacBook Pros and Mac Minis. And I’m thinking the Mac Pro and iMac Pro might get their own series of SoCs, say, the “X1”.)

I don’t know if the upcoming higher-end Apple Silicon MacBook Pros are going to include four USB/Thunderbolt ports — this is the company that sold a 12-inch semi-premium-priced MacBook with just one port for years — but I’m damn certain that they’ll support more than 16 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage. My sincere, and I think technically reasonable, hope is that the 13-inch high-end MacBook Pros will reach spec-parity with the 16-inch models, supporting up to 64 GB of RAM and 8 TB of SSD storage, and perhaps offering equivalent graphics performance. But 32 GB of RAM and 4 TB of storage in future Apple Silicon-based 13-inch MacBook Pros should be considered a given.

What Apple announced yesterday was an Apple Silicon-based MacBook Pro, not the only Apple Silicon-based MacBook Pro. And I would bet that future high-end configurations will have four USB/Thunderbolt ports — two on each side — as well.

Addenda

  • Initial coverage of Apple’s M1 announcement in the greater tech sphere — the cross-platform perspective, if you will — seems to tend to place the Mac’s transition to Apple Silicon in the same context as ARM-based Windows laptops. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it — and it’s only going to lead to bad assumptions right out of the gate. Apple Silicon is in an entirely different class than the ARM chips from companies like Qualcomm, with a phone-focused background. Asking if M1 Macs are going to face the same problems as ARM-based Windows laptops is like asking if Teslas are going to hit the same limits as electric scooters. ARM-based Windows PCs necessitate significant trade-offs — you get high efficiency and small form factors, but you lose performance and suffer from severely limited software compatibility. The promise of Apple Silicon is that Mac users get higher performance, longer battery life, and lots of native software and high-performance compatibility with legacy software thanks to Rosetta. It’s like having your cake, eating it too, and getting to share your cake with your friends.

  • Apple remains more enamored with the Touch Bar than many Mac enthusiasts are. There are a lot of Mac users who despise the Touch Bar, but if you want an M1 MacBook with a fan, your only choice is the MacBook Pro. There is no M1 MacBook with a fan but without a Touch Bar — and a lot of people would buy one if there were.

  • The new M1 Mac Mini is only available in Silver. The current Intel Mac Mini that remains available for sale is only available in Space Gray.

  • No touchscreen support in these initial Apple Silicon Macs, which is exactly as I both expected and hoped. However, this is a disappointment and seemingly a surprise to others. There are certainly elements of Big Sur that look more iOS-y, no question, but I don’t know why so many people think they look designed for touch. They don’t and they aren’t — and, says me, they shouldn’t be.

The bottom line is that for over a decade, iPhones and iPads have had Apple-designed chips the competition could not and still cannot match. Now the Mac does too.