Wayne Ma Confirms That Mark Gurman Scooped Him on the No-Cash Apple-OpenAI Deal 

Wayne Ma, reporting for The Information:

Neither Apple nor OpenAI are paying each other to integrate ChatGPT into the iPhone, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Instead, OpenAI hopes greater exposure on iPhones will help it sell a paid version of ChatGPT, which costs around $20 a month for individuals. Apple would take its 30% cut of these subscriptions as is customary for in-app purchases.

Sometime in the future, Apple hopes to strike revenue-sharing agreements with AI partners in which it gets a cut of the revenue generated from integrating their chatbots with the iPhone, according to Bloomberg, which first reported details of the deal. OpenAI leaders have privately said the Apple arrangement could be worth billions of dollars to the startup if things go well, The Information previously reported.

I enjoy how Ma threw in a link to his own report from two weeks ago, but didn’t link to Gurman’s scoop — posted a full day before this — at Bloomberg. Classy.

Gurman: Neither Apple Nor OpenAI Are Paying for Partnership 

Mark Gurman, writing at Bloomberg*:

Left unanswered on Monday: which company is paying the other as part of a tight collaboration that has potentially lasting monetary benefits for both. But, according to people briefed on the matter, the partnership isn’t expected to generate meaningful revenue for either party — at least at the outset.

The arrangement includes weaving ChatGPT, a digital assistant that responds in plain terms to information requests, into Apple’s Siri and new writing tools. Apple isn’t paying OpenAI as part of the partnership, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deal terms are private. Instead, Apple believes pushing OpenAI’s brand and technology to hundreds of millions of its devices is of equal or greater value than monetary payments, these people said.

Meanwhile, Apple, thanks to OpenAI, gets the benefit of offering an advanced chatbot to consumers — potentially enticing users to spend more time on devices or even splash out on upgrades.

Apple getting this free of charge, in exchange only for the prestige of showing the ChatGPT logo and credit to users of Apple devices who engage the integration, is Apple-iest negotiation in recent memory. My money says Eddy Cue, Steve Jobs’s favorite co-negotiator, made the deal. (I’d love to take Eddy Cue with me to the dealer when next I buy a car.)

During my show Tuesday night, I asked Federighi, Giannandrea, and Joswiak point blank, “So, who’s paying who in this deal?” (or something to that effect — transcript isn’t done yet), and got nothing more than smiles and shrugs in response. My read on the smiles is that they were smug happy smiles.

Ben Thompson and I recording today’s episode of Dithering — the world’s favorite 15-minute podcast — yesterday before Gurman’s report dropped, but speculating, we came to the same conclusion, that it seemed likely neither company was paying the other. It makes obvious sense from Apple’s perspective. Not so obvious from OpenAI’s. But if OpenAI’s overriding goal is to cement itself as the leader in world-knowledge LLMs — to become to chatbots what Kleenex is to facial tissues — it makes sense to agree to this just to gain users — some of whom will upgrade to paid accounts. Google, on the other hand, probably wants to be paid by Apple to integrate Gemini. But now Apple can turn to Google — and Anthropic and Mistral and whoever else wants in on this iOS and MacOS integration, like the other default search engines in Safari — and Eddy Cue can tell them “My offer is this: nothing. Not even the $20,000 for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.”

Back to Gurman:

ChatGPT will be offered for free on Apple’s products, but OpenAI and Apple could still make money by converting free users to paid accounts. OpenAI’s subscription plans start at $20 a month — a fee that covers extra features like the ability to analyze data and generate more types of images.

Today, if a user subscribes to OpenAI on an Apple device via the ChatGPT app, the process uses Apple’s payment platform, which traditionally gives the iPhone maker a cut.

Not traditionally. Always. Apple always makes a cut. One of my few regrets from my interview Tuesday night is not thinking to ask, on stage, whether iOS and Mac users will be able to upgrade from free to paid ChatGPT accounts right in Settings, where, I presume, the ChatGPT account sign in will be. If so, Apple will surely be getting their 30/15 percent slice of that. And what’s the alternative? Sending users to OpenAI’s website, where Apple would get zilch? That doesn’t sound like Apple.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and their only ostensibly substantial follow-up contained not one shred of evidence to back up their allegations. Bloomberg seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract “The Big Hack” or provide evidence that any of it was true.

‘The Shamans and the Chieftain’ 

Timothy Snyder:

The political theory of Trump’s coup attempt is that all that matters is the chieftain. He does not have to win an election, because the chieftain has the right to rule simply because he is the chieftain. Requiring Trump to win an election is thus a provocation. The claim that he should leave office when he loses an election justifies revenge. And of course retribution is Trump’s platform.

The legal theory of Trump’s coup attempt, made explicit in argument before the Supreme Court, is that the chieftain is immune to law. There is magic around the chieftain’s person, such that he need respond only to himself. The words “presidential immunity” are an incantation directed to people in black robes, summoning them to act as the chieftain’s shamans and confirm his magical status.

No issue has ever been more important in the history of the United States, and thus, in the history of democracy itself: Donald Trump lost the election in 2020 and tried, ham-fistedly, to spearhead a coup to remain in power by overthrowing the duly elected government of the nation. If he gets another chance by winning in November, the next coup won’t be as ham-fisted.

This Is Love 

What a photo. Reminds me of my own father, and the father I try to be myself. Impossible to imagine the former guy expressing such genuine love like this.

‘Apple Aggregates AI’ 

Ben Thompson:

So what is Apple Intelligence, then? To me the explanation flows directly from Strategy 101: Apple Intelligence is the application of generative AI to use cases and content that Apple is uniquely positioned to provide and access. It is designed, to build on yesterday’s Article, to maximize the advantages that Apple has in terms of being the operating system provider on your phone; and, on the other hand, what it is not is any sort of general purpose chatbot: that is where OpenAI comes in — and only there. […]

To put it another way, and in Stratechery terms, Apple is positioning itself as an AI Aggregator: the company owns users and, by extension, generative AI demand by virtue of owning its platforms, and it is deepening its moat through Apple Intelligence, which only Apple can do; that demand is then being brought to bear on suppliers who probably have to eat the costs of getting privileged access to Apple’s userbase.

It pains me to admit how great a take this is. Nailed it.

Mac Virtualization in MacOS 15 Sequoia Now Supports Logging In to iCloud 

Andrew Cunningham, writing at Ars Technica:

But up until now, you haven’t been able to sign into iCloud using macOS on a VM. This made the feature less useful for developers or users hoping to test iCloud features in macOS, or whose apps rely on some kind of syncing with iCloud, or people who just wanted easy access to their iCloud data from within a VM.

This limitation is going away in macOS 15 Sequoia, according to developer documentation that Apple released yesterday. As long as your host operating system is macOS 15 or newer and your guest operating system is macOS 15 or newer, VMs will now be able to sign into and use iCloud and other Apple ID-related services just as they would when running directly on the hardware.

Nice change. Makes me wonder if this is related to Apple’s use of virtualization to allow security researchers to inspect the OS images for its Private Cloud Computer servers for Apple Intelligence.

(Via Dan Moren.)

Arm, Qualcomm Legal Battle Might Disrupt ‘AI PCs’ 

Max A. Cherney:

The British company, which is majority-owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group sued Qualcomm in 2022 for failing to negotiate a new license after it acquired a new company. The suit revolves around technology that Qualcomm, a designer of mobile chips, acquired from a business called Nuvia that was founded by Apple chip engineers and which it purchased in 2021 for $1.4 billion.

Arm builds the intellectual property and designs that it sells to companies such as Apple and Qualcomm, which they use to make chips. Nuvia had plans to design server chips based on Arm licenses, but after the acquisition closed, Qualcomm reassigned its remaining team to develop a laptop processor, which is now being used in Microsoft’s latest AI PC, called Copilot+.

Arm said the current design planned for Microsoft’s Copilot+ laptops is a direct technical descendant of Nuvia’s chip. Arm said it had cancelled the license for these chips.

My initial reaction when I see reports of legal disputes like this is “Eh, they’ll settle.” But look at the Apple-Masimo dispute over blood oxygen sensors — that’s still dragging on as we head into summer.

Also: Is there any company that Qualcomm hasn’t gotten into a knock-down, drag-out legal battle with over licensing or patent issues? It’s like, of course Qualcomm is trying to stiff Arm on licensing fees. That’s how Qualcomm rolls.

Casey Newton: ‘Apple’s AI Moment Arrives’ 

Casey Newton, Platformer:

The question now is how polished those features will feel at release. Will the new, more natural Siri deliver on its now 13-year-old promise of serving as a valuable digital assistant? Or will it quickly find itself in a Google-esque scenario where it’s telling anyone who asks to eat rocks?

Impossible to answer at this point, given that none (or almost none?) of the Apple Intelligence features or the ChatGPT integration are enabled in the developer betas. But it feels like the answer is yes, Apple’s new AI features will err on the side of caution, at the risk of feeling pedestrian, rather than turning the “Wow” dial to its maximum setting and delivering glue-on-pizza recipes.

Sandwich Launches Theater for Vision Pro (and Will Livestream The Talk Show Tomorrow) 

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

Earlier this year, Sandwich Vision introduced its first-ever app with the debut of Television. The app lets you watch content on a range of virtual TV sets that you can pin in your real-world environment through Vision Pro.

Television supports viewing your own video files as well as content from YouTube. You can even watch Television with friends synchronously over spatial FaceTime on Apple Vision Pro.

Sometimes, though, you just want to enjoy a film in a proper movie theater setting. What if you could do that for every movie? Enter Theater: the new Apple Vision Pro app that transports you to the perfect venue for movies.

Theater will let you experience the theatrical cinema release feeling (even if the original Star Wars film isn’t showing at your local movie chain). Want to watch a movie at the same time with friends or family who can’t be together in person? Spatial FaceTime makes that possible in Theater.

You know the immersive theater environments in Apple’s own TV app and Disney’s VisionOS app? Theater is like that, but for any video. It’s like watching YouTube on a 100-foot screen from the best seat in a cinema. I’ve been testing it, and it’s so great. I love it. And:

Sandwich is collaborating with the duo at SpatialGen, Michael Butterfield and Zachary Handshoe. See their expertise on display as they produce the first-ever stereoscopic livestream of The Talk Show Live.

The studio is also collaborating with SpatialGen to livestream John Gruber’s The Talk Show Live in stereoscopically-captured 3D video using high-end cameras and lenses. [...]

“I started to think ‘what if John’s audience that can’t be at the California Theater could join us anyway?’ That’s when I pitched the idea to my co-developer, the genius Andy Roth,” Adam [Lisagor] says. “He loved it, he found SpatialGen, and I pitched them the idea. And we had roughly 8 weeks to make this happen, and I can’t believe it all came together.”

Live-streaming an event and making it look good in realtime is hard enough. But doing it in 3D video? That’s new territory, especially considering Apple Vision Pro was just previewed at last year’s WWDC and launched in the United States in February.

“Gruber was fascinated by the idea but a little skeptical it could work — it just seemed too ambitious,” Lisagor adds. “The world’s first livestreamed 3D video event? In an immersive theater environment? Admittedly seems like a pipe dream. But nope, it’s real.”

To be clear, the exclusive way to watch the livestream will be through Theater on Vision Pro. Murphy’s Law willing, it should be pretty cool. We’re still shooting the event with traditional cameras, for a traditional version on YouTube, which will go up later this week.


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring DF last week. Kolide’s Shadow IT report found that 47% of companies let unmanaged devices access their resources, and authenticate via credentials alone.

Even with phishing-resistant MFA, it’s frighteningly easy for bad actors to impersonate end users — in the case of the MGM hack, all it took was a call to the help desk. What could have prevented that attack (and so many others) was an un-spoofable form of authentication for the device itself.

That’s what you get with Kolide’s device trust solution: a chance to verify that a device is both known and secure before it authenticates. Kolide’s agent looks at hundreds of device properties; their competitors look at only a handful. What’s more, Kolide’s user-first, privacy-respecting approach means you can put it on machines outside MDM: contractor devices, mobile phones, and even Linux machines.

Without a device trust solution, all the security in the world is just security theater. But Kolide can help close the gaps.

MKBHD Visits Apple’s iPhone Stress-Testing Lab 

Fascinating stuff. I could watch the super slo-mo footage of iPhones being dropped onto various surfaces for an hour. Also, an interesting brief interview with John Ternus on the tension between making devices more durable vs. making them more easily repairable.

Gurman’s Epic Pre-WWDC Leak Report

More regarding Gurman’s Friday-before-WWDC report at Bloomberg. But before I start quoting, man, his report reads as though he’s gotten the notes from someone who’s already watched Monday’s keynote. I sort of think that’s what happened, given how much of this no one had reported before today. Bloomberg’s headline even boldly asserts “Here’s Everything Apple Plans to Show at Its AI-Focused WWDC Event”. I’m only aware of one feature for one platform that isn’t in his report, but it’s not a jaw-dropper, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was simply beneath his threshold for newsworthiness. Look, I’m in the Apple media racket, so I know my inside-baseball obsessions are unusual, but despite all the intriguing nuggets Gurman drops in this piece, the thing I’m most insatiably curious about is how he got all this. Who spilled? By what means? It’s extraordinary. And don’t think for a second it’s a deliberate leak. Folks inside Apple are, I assure you, furious about this, and incredulous that one of their own colleagues would leak it to Gurman.

So: don’t follow the link to Bloomberg and don’t continue reading this post if you don’t want to see a bunch of spoilers, several of which weren’t even rumored until Gurman dropped this. It’s astonishing how much of what we supposedly know about Apple’s WWDC keynote announcements is entirely from Gurman. If he switched to a different beat we’d be almost entirely in the dark; as it stands, he’s seemingly spoiled most of what’s coming Monday.

First, he says yes, Apple’s going to do a chatbot, powered by OpenAI:

The company’s new AI system will be called Apple Intelligence, and it will come to new versions of the iPhone, iPad and Mac operating systems, according to people familiar with the plans. There also will be a partnership with OpenAI that powers a ChatGPT-like chatbot. And the tech giant is preparing to show new software for the Vision Pro headset, Apple Watch and TV platforms.

A question Gurman’s report doesn’t answer is where this chatbot will be. Is it going to be a new app — a dedicated AI chatbot app? What would that app be called? “Siri”? Or will it live within Spotlight, a system-level UI you dip in and out of temporarily, not an app? Spotlight works today because you more or less can only ask one thing at a time; a chat app is something with persistence, that you can Command-Tab to and from.

Or would Apple make Siri a persona you can chat with in Messages? I don’t think Apple would put it in Messages, but if they do, will we be able to include it in group chats? That seems like fun on the surface (and it is, in Wavelength) but a privacy problem on deeper thought. When I’m talking to Siri one-on-one I expect Siri to know about me. If Siri/Apple AI/whatever-it’s-going-to-be-called were in a group Messages chat it would have to be private, which would make it a different Siri/Apple AI/whatever than you get in a one-on-one context.

There are a lot of questions even if the answer is that it’s a new standalone app. Will the conversations sync between devices? If so, how does that jibe with on-device processing? If I start a chatbot conversation on my Mac can I continue it on my iPhone? How does that work if the conversation pertains to, say, files or data that’s only on my Mac? Or vice-versa, if it pertains to content in an app that’s only on my iPhone? On-device processing raises questions that don’t exist with cloud-only processing.

Also makes me wonder what the point of an OpenAI-powered Apple chatbot is when OpenAI makes very good ChatGPT apps for both iOS and Mac. Their new Mac app is quite sweet — written in AppKit and SwiftUI, not some turd of a web wrapper like most such AI chatbots.

One feature that will likely get a lot of attention among Gen Z — and perhaps the rest of the population — will be AI-created emoji. This will use AI to create custom emoji characters on the fly that represent phrases or words as they’re being typed. That means there will be many more options than the ones in the standardized emoji library that has long been built into the iPhone.

This sounds like Memoji, but for anything? Will it be exclusive to Messages or something system-wide, in the emoji picker?

The Messages app is getting some non-AI tweaks, including a change to the effects feature — the thing that lets you send fireworks and other visual elements to the people you’re texting. Users will now be able to trigger an effect with individual words, rather than the entire message. There will be new colorful icons for Tapbacks, which let you quickly respond to a message with a heart, exclamation point or other character (they’re currently gray). And users will have the ability to Tapback a message with any emoji. There’s another frequently requested feature coming as well: the ability to schedule a message to be sent later.

Not sure what the difference is between “colorful Tapbacks” and “Tapback a message with any emoji”, but this one gets a legit finally.

Safari in macOS 15, codenamed Glow, is getting some changes, but it seems unlikely that Apple is going to unveil its own ad blocker — something that’s been reported as a possibility. Advertisers already pushed back heavily against Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, or ATT, in iOS 14 a few years ago, and the company doesn’t need another privacy-related headache.

Built-in ad blocking in Safari wouldn’t be a privacy headache; blocking ads can only increase privacy. It would be an antitrust/regulatory headache. The argument from ATT opponents is that it steers advertisers toward purchasing ads in the App Store, where the ATT rules don’t apply. Apple doesn’t track what users do within apps, of course — which is the legitimate privacy issue ATT attempts to address — but as the operator of the App Store, it does know which apps a user owns and uses. So Apple can, say, recommend game C because you play games A and B, even if A, B, and C all come from different developers. 

‘Apple Intelligence’ 

Daniel Jalkut, writing on his Bitsplitting blog one year ago:

Which leads me to my somewhat far-fetched prediction for WWDC: Apple will talk about AI, but they won’t once utter the letters “AI”. They will allude to a major new initiative, under way for years within the company. The benefits of this project will make it obvious that it is meant to serve as an answer comparable efforts being made by OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. During the crescendo to announcing its name, the letters “A” and “I” will be on all of our lips, and then they’ll drop the proverbial mic: “We’re calling it Apple Intelligence.” Get it?

Apple often follows the herd in terms of what they focus their efforts on, but rarely fall into line using the same tired jargon as the rest of the industry. Apple Intelligence will allow Apple to make it crystal clear to the entire world that they’re taking “AI” seriously, without stooping to the level of treating it as a commodity technology. They do this kind of thing all the time with names like AirPort, AirPlay, and AirTags. These marketing terms represent underlying technologies that Apple embraces and extends. Giving them unique names makes them easier to sell, but also gives Apple freedom to blur the lines on exactly what the technology should or shouldn’t be capable of.

Was a decent prediction a year ago, but looking even better now. Mark Gurman, today:

The company’s new AI system will be called Apple Intelligence, and it will come to new versions of the iPhone, iPad and Mac operating systems, according to people familiar with the plans. There also will be a partnership with OpenAI that powers a ChatGPT-like chatbot. And the tech giant is preparing to show new software for the Vision Pro headset, Apple Watch and TV platforms.

While we are guessing names, my prediction is they call the new Siri “Siri AI”. I don’t think they’ll abandon the Siri brand, but I think they need a name to say “This is an all-new Siri that is way better and more useful and definitely not so frustratingly dumb.” And what Apple likes to do with names is append adjectives. MacBook Pro. M3 Max. AirPort Extreme (RIP). iChat AV. “Siri” = old Siri; “Siri AI” = new Siri, and when you’re talking to it, you still just address it as “Siri”. That’s my guess. Otherwise I think they just stick with no-adjective “Siri” and swear up and down that it’s actually going to be good this year.

Getting Closer: Tickets for The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2024 

Still available, but edging each day toward selling out:

Location: The California Theatre, San Jose
Showtime: Tuesday, 11 June 2024, 7pm PT (Doors open 6pm)
Special Guest(s): Yes
Price: $60

At least one fun surprise is in store.

NYT: ‘What Ukraine Has Lost During Russia’s Invasion’ 

Marco Hernandez, Jeffrey Gettleman, Finbarr O’Reilly, and Tim Wallace, with reporting and imagery for The New York Times:

Few countries since World War II have experienced this level of devastation. But it’s been impossible for anybody to see more than glimpses of it. It’s too vast. Every battle, every bombing, every missile strike, every house burned down, has left its mark across multiple front lines, back and forth over more than two years.

This is the first comprehensive picture of where the Ukraine war has been fought and the totality of the destruction. Using detailed analysis of years of satellite data, we developed a record of each town, each street, each building that has been blown apart.

The scale is hard to comprehend. More buildings have been destroyed in Ukraine than if every building in Manhattan were to be leveled four times over. Parts of Ukraine hundreds of miles apart look like Dresden or London after World War II, or Gaza after half a year of bombardment.

To produce these estimates, The New York Times worked with two leading remote sensing scientists, Corey Scher of the City University of New York Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University, to analyze data from radar satellites that can detect small changes in the built environment.

A staggering, sobering work of journalism and data visualization.

Nvidia Hits the $3T Market Cap Club, Passing Apple, Trailing Only Microsoft 

M.G. Siegler, writing at Spyglass yesterday:

Today, NVIDIA hit the $3T market cap mark and passed Apple in that same metric. NVIDIA is now the second most valuable company in the world, only behind Microsoft. At this rate, they’ll catch them by Friday, just ahead of their 10-for-1 stock split.

The stock run-up has been totally and completely insane. The price is up over 200% in the past year. Over 150% in the past six months alone. Five years ago, NVIDIA’s stock was trading at $36/share. Today it closed at $1,224/share.

Is this sustainable? I mean, no. And it’s not because NVIDIA isn’t a great company. This run is just almost meme stock-like in its frenzy, with shades of Tesla, of course. It has just transformed into this sort of index bet on AI. And while AI is also real, it also can’t sustain the current investment hype surrounding it forever.

But for now, founder Jensen Huang should enjoy this moment.

He should, but one of these companies is not like the others:

’23 Revenue’23 Profit’22 Revenue’22 Profit
Microsoft$212 B$72 B$198 B$73 B
Apple$383 B$97 B$394 B$100 B
Nvidia$61 B$30 B$27 B$4 B

Ming-Chi Kuo on X, claiming some Being Right Points™ for predicting this three months ago:

The prediction from three months ago has come true. This is not just a comparison of Nvidia and Apple’s stock prices but a contrast between the strong growth trend of AI and the innovation challenges faced by consumer electronics.

One man’s “strong growth trend” is another man’s “hype bubble”. And what exactly are the “challenges faced by consumer electronics”? Even with Nvidia’s exhilarating growth in the last two years, Apple generates over 6× Nvidia’s revenue. Apple’s numbers have not been growing, yes, and that’s a legitimate concern for investors. But Apple’s growth stopped not because interest in phones has slowed but because everyone in the world who can afford one has one. That’s a problem, but that’s a good problem.

(Apple and Nvidia both dipped back under $3T today, for what it’s worth.)

How The Wall Street Journal Fell Behind in the ‘Apple Is Behind on AI’ Arms Race 

Aaron Tilley, writing for The Wall Street Journal under the headline “How Apple Fell Behind in the AI Arms Race” (News+ link):

For those who saw them, the demonstrations inside Apple earlier this decade of a revamped Siri offered a showcase of the amazing capabilities a powerful AI voice assistant could have.

The famed assistant, one of the last projects Apple co-founder Steve Jobs worked on before his death, had been given a total overhaul. Capable of running on an iPhone and without an internet connection, the new Siri impressed people with its improved speed, conversational capabilities and the accuracy with which it understood user commands. Code-named Project Blackbird, the effort also imagined a Siri with capabilities built by third-party app developers, according to people familiar with the work.

Yet a competing project won out in an internal contest ahead of the 10-year anniversary of Siri’s launch. Known as Siri X, the more-modest upgrade involved moving more existing Siri software onto iPhones from remote servers to improve the voice assistant’s speed and privacy. The Siri X enhancement was unveiled in 2021.

Tilley is the WSJ’s Apple beat reporter, and one gets the feeling he was tasked with filing a report with the above headline already written. These opening three paragraphs are the only interesting ones in the entire story. But there’s nothing actually new in them.

Here’s Wayne Ma, reporting for The Information in April 2023 under the headline “Apple’s AI Chief Struggles With Turf Wars as New Era Begins” (archive):

In some cases, Giannandrea’s new hires have run into seemingly impenetrable bureaucratic obstacles. In one example, he in 2019 recruited another close friend, Arthur van Hoff, to explore a project to rewrite Siri from the ground up. Code-named Blackbird, the effort involved creating a lightweight version of Siri, which would delegate the creation of more functions to app developers, said five former Siri employees. The software would run on iPhones instead of in the cloud, which would improve Siri’s speed and performance while enhancing user privacy, they said. Demos of Blackbird prompted excitement among employees on the Siri team because of its responsiveness, they added.

But there was a problem. Blackbird competed with the work of two longtime senior Siri leaders: Alex Acero and Robby Walker, who were responsible for two important teams that helped Siri understand and respond to queries. Acero and Walker pushed for completion of their own project, code-named Siri X, for the 10th anniversary of the voice assistant, which aimed to move the Siri processing software onto the device for privacy reasons.

However, Siri X’s goal was simply to reproduce Siri’s existing capabilities without the more ambitious targets of Blackbird, the people said. Despite that, Acero and Walker won. They assigned hundreds of people to their effort, which subsumed and killed Blackbird. Most of their project was completed in 2021.

Same story, but Ma’s version from 13 months ago included the names of the engineers in charge of the dueling projects.

Back to Tilley’s report at the WSJ yesterday:

Apple has long prided itself on perfection in its product rollouts, a near impossibility with emerging AI models. While OpenAI systems have dazzled more than 180 million users with their generation of writing, images and video, they are prone to occasional errors, often called hallucinations. Apple has had limited tolerance for such issues.

“There’s no such thing as 100% accuracy with AI, that’s the fundamental reality,” said Pedro Domingos, a professor emeritus of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. “Apple is not compatible with that. They won’t release something until it’s perfect.”

How does this square with the state of Siri as it works today? Does Tilley think today’s Siri, though limited in scope, is “100 percent accurate” and “perfect”?

Don’t know about you, but that’s not my experience.

1Password and Safari 

Speaking of password management and WWDC, Mitch Cohen, product manager of 1Password, wrote a nice thread a few days ago on Mastodon:

Next week is WWDC, so it’s a good time for a thread about the 1Password browser extension for Safari, its history, challenges, and the future — both what we’re working on and what we’d like to see from Apple, Safari and the web platform at large.

I don’t envy them. They need to deal with bugs, missing APIs, and other complicating factors, and all the while need to be extra careful due to the extraordinary sensitivity of the data users put in 1Password. But while I sympathize, many of the complaints levied against 1Password 8, especially on the Mac, are self-inflicted choices.

The New York Times: ‘How the Humane AI Pin Flopped’ 

Tripp Mickle and Erin Griffith, with a “not what Humane needed the day after announcing their charging case is a potential fire hazard” report for The New York Times:

Days before gadget reviewers weighed in on the Humane Ai Pin, a futuristic wearable device powered by artificial intelligence, the founders of the company gathered their employees and encouraged them to brace themselves. The reviews might be disappointing, they warned.

I realize this is only a passing summary of the meeting, but I would hope that everyone at the company was aware of the AI Pin’s shortcomings. They’re the ones who were most familiar with it! However much trouble Humane is in, they were comically doomed if their own employees needed to be told the AI Pin was not a good product just days before reviews dropped. One would think the real topic of this all-hands was to explain why they shipped what they shipped and what the plan was to make it good.

About a week after the reviews came out, Humane started talking to HP, the computer and printer company, about selling itself for more than $1 billion, three people with knowledge of the conversations said. Other potential buyers have emerged, though talks have been casual and no formal sales process has begun.

I’m going to be insufferable if they sell to HP.

Its setbacks are part of a pattern of stumbles across the world of generative A.I., as companies release unpolished products. Over the past two years, Google has introduced and pared back A.I. search abilities that recommended people eat rocks, Microsoft has trumpeted a Bing chatbot that hallucinated and Samsung has added A.I. features to a smartphone that were called “excellent at times and baffling at others.”

The above paragraph exemplifies the sort of catch-22 corner the media is trying to portray Apple as having been painted into regarding AI. It’s just stated as fact that Apple “has fallen behind in the AI arms race” (that’s from yesterday in the WSJ) but the AI features from the companies Apple has supposedly fallen behind are, on their own, described with words like unpolished, embarrassing, hallucinating, untrustworthy, and even baffling. Like I wrote two weeks ago, isn’t “behind” where you want to be when those who are ahead are publishing nonsense? What is Apple behind on, embarrassing itself and confusing its users?

Many current and former employees said Mr. Chaudhri and Ms. Bongiorno preferred positivity over criticism, leading them to disregard warnings about the Ai Pin’s poor battery life and power consumption. A senior software engineer was dismissed after raising questions about the product, they said, while others left out of frustration.

Mr. Chaudhri said his company, which had 250 employees at its peak, encouraged workers to offer feedback. The departures were a natural consequence of transitioning from creating a new device to sustaining it after its release, which he said appealed to “a different type of person.” [...]

In January, Humane laid off about 10 employees. A month later, a senior software engineer was let go after she questioned whether the Ai Pin would be ready by April. In a company meeting after the dismissal, Mr. Chaudhri and Ms. Bongiorno said the employee had violated policy by talking negatively about Humane, two attendees said.

It is the kiss of death for any endeavor, creative or technical, to have a culture where brutally honest internal criticism is not welcome, especially when it goes up the chain. In fact it needs to be the expectation, if you’re pursuing excellence. This is probably one of the reasons why Chaudhri, in particular, is not remembered fondly in Cupertino. The key is to always remember to critique the work, not the person. It’s never personal; it’s always about the work.

From the beginning, current and former employees said, the Ai Pin had issues, which reviewers later picked apart. One was the device’s laser display, which consumed tremendous power and would cause the pin to overheat. Before showing the gadget to prospective partners and investors, Humane executives often chilled it on ice packs so it would last longer, three people familiar with the demonstrations said. Those employees said such measures could be common early in a product development cycle.

I’ll bet “Ice Ice Baby” is within Humane’s budget to license, even pre-acquisition.

Gurman Reports Apple Is (Finally) Breaking Passwords Into a Standalone App for the Mac and iOS 

Mark Gurman:

Apple Inc. will introduce a new homegrown app next week called Passwords, aiming to make it easier for customers to log in to websites and software, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

This isn’t an all-new app, but rather it’s breaking the Passwords panel out of the Settings app sidebar and into its own proper standalone app. I’ll bet Apple introduces new features, too, but Gurman doesn’t describe any. The Passwords panel in Settings, including the system-wide integrations with Safari and WebKit, already has the scope and breadth of an app. I’ve personally been all-in for many years on using iCloud for my own passwords, authentication codes, and now passkeys. For me it’s proven robust and trustworthy.

Making Passwords its own proper app is overdue, though. Apple tries to manage a good balance with how many standalone apps ship as part of the system on iOS. On the Mac, there’s an easier split: Apple puts a dozen or so of the system’s most-used apps in the Dock by default, and puts 46 apps in the Applications folder, and another 18 nerdier apps in the Utilities sub-folder within Applications. On iOS Apple puts some of its own apps within folders, but that still adds to the visual complexity of the default home screens. Password management is so important, and Apple’s own system is so good, that it deserves more prominence. Making Passwords its own app won’t just make it more discoverable, it will (correctly) set the perception that Apple Passwords is a serious personal security management tool that users should considering adopting.

The M4-in-iPad-Pro Sleuth 

Speaking of chip surprises in the new round of iPad hardware, here’s a post from “Jamie I” in the MacRumors forums, all the way back on April 14:

We have been expecting M3 iPad Pros for a while now but I was just browsing through some of the rumors and I noticed something interesting.

There was information from a private X account with a proven track record that shared chip identifiers for the new WiFi + cellular iPad Pros and it’s apparently using a T8132 chip. However, T8132 is not the identifier for the M3 chip which is T8122.

In fact, based on the pattern that the M series chips have been following, it seems like it’s the M4 chip.

This was exactly right. It was also two weeks before Mark Gurman’s “I’m hearing there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3” eye-opener in his Power On column.

New M2 iPad Air Has 9-Core GPU, Not 10-Core as Originally Specified 

Chance Miller, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Over the weekend, we reported that Apple had updated its website to say the new iPad Air’s M2 chip features a 9-core GPU, despite originally advertising it as a 10-core GPU. An Apple spokesperson has now confirmed this change to 9to5Mac, while also saying that all performance claims remain accurate and were based on a 9-core GPU.

Here’s the full statement from an Apple spokesperson:

We are updating Apple.com to correct the core count for the M2 iPad Air. All performance claims for the M2 iPad Air are accurate and based on a 9-core GPU.

The second part of that sentence is key. Apple is saying that all the performance claims it made about the M2 chip in the iPad Air are accurate, despite the 9-core versus 10-core GPU mix-up. For example, Apple’s claim that the M2 iPad Air is nearly 50% faster than the M1 model still stands.

This is not a big deal, at all, but still — what a surprising mistake from Apple. Really strange.

Humane Warns AI Pin Owners to ‘Immediately’ Stop Using Its Charging Case 

Wes Davis, The Verge:

Humane is telling AI Pin owners today that they should “immediately” stop using the charging case that came with its AI gadget. There are issues with a third-party battery cell that “may pose a fire safety risk,” the company wrote in an email to customers (including The Verge’s David Pierce, who reviewed it when it came out).

Humane says it has “disqualified” that vendor and is moving to find another supplier. It also specified that the AI Pin itself, the magnetic Battery Booster, and its charging pad are “not affected.” As recompense, the company is offering two free months of its subscription service, which is required for most of its functionality.

Ugh. I’m all for cracking jokes at Humane’s expense, but this news fills me with nothing but sincere empathy for everyone at the company. Hardware is so fucking hard. I’m glad that there’s seemingly no news of any actual incidents or injuries, and hope there aren’t any.

eBay Is Dropping Support for American Express 

The AP:

It’s a notable blow to American Express, whose customers are often the most attractive among merchants and spend the most money per month on their cards. But it’s not the first time merchants have voiced opposition to AmEx’s business practices by walking away, most notably the warehouse chain Costco nearly a decade ago.

“After careful consideration, eBay has decided to no longer accept American Express globally effective Aug. 17 due to the unacceptably high fees American Express charges for processing credit card transactions,” said eBay spokesman Scott Overland, in a statement.

One-off dispute, or the start of a trend?

AmEx has been on an aggressive campaign, under its current CEO Steve Squeri, to be a more universally accepted payment option across all merchants in an effort to combat the negative image that AmEx is less accepted and only available for its cardmembers for travel, dining, high-end shops or in dense urban areas. AmEx says its cards are now accepted at 99% of the places that Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the U.S., a metric it achieved in 2019.

As a longtime Amex cardholder who more or less lives through it, that’s my experience. But a few weeks ago I stopped at a Sonic Drive-In and when I tried to pay, they told me my transaction was rejected, which didn’t sound right. Turns out they don’t accept American Express, and the clerk at the window didn’t know.

Quite the Postscript 

Me, yesterday:

What’s next for Long, a spot in a Huawei commercial slagging on the Qualcomm modems in iPhones?

Business Insider in 2017:

Justin Long, the actor probably best known for his role as the “I’m a Mac” guy from Apple’s classic TV commercials, is now appearing in a commercial promoting the Huawei Mate 9 Android phone.

How about that. It’s often said of absurdities, “You couldn’t make it up if you tried.” I tried!

Now Qualcomm Went Long

At the conclusion of Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon’s keynote yesterday at Computex 2024 in Taipei, he unveiled a new ad starring Justin Long, who played the Mac in Apple’s long-running “Get a Mac” (“I’m a Mac …” / “… and I’m a PC”) campaign in the mid-2000s. The 30-second bit was seemingly removed today, by Qualcomm, from the YouTube video of Amon’s keynote, but there’s a copy of just the ad here. Warning: it’s excruciatingly awkward.

I don’t know what Qualcomm was thinking here (nor what has happened to Long’s acting career), but the most bizarre aspect of this is that Intel used Long in the exact same way just three years ago. I wrote then, of the Intel take on this dumb idea:

I find it cringey, and kind of hard to watch. It’s neither parody nor sequel. It’s an attempt at comedy from writers who have no sense of humor. The concept isn’t actually anything beyond “Let’s hire Justin Long as our new pitchman, that’ll show them.” One gets the feeling, early on, that there was an uncomfortable phone call to Justin Long from his agent that began, “Before you say ‘no’, at least let me tell you how much money they’re offering.” The concept wouldn’t really work with anyone other than Justin Long.

Qualcomm’s spot is even worse. The premise is that Long is searching the web for “where can i find a snapdragon powered pc?” because his MacBook is inundating him with a nonstop barrage of notifications and warnings for things like his printer not being found because he’s not connected to Wi-Fi (yet somehow he’s searching the web?), an app that needs to be “optimized” for his Mac, and an email from his mom asking if he’s eaten lunch yet. These supposed technical problems aren’t actually problems on MacOS, and switching to a Snapdragon-powered Windows PC isn’t going to stop his mom from emailing him.

It’s not like there’s a joke here that falls flat. There is no joke, nor even an attempt at one. It’s just “Hey look, we hired the ‘I’m a Mac’ guy.” Even the production values on the commercial are bad. How is Greg Joswiak going to sleep at night?

The core genius at the heart of the original “Get a Mac” campaign is that while Long’s Mac character was likable, John Hodgman’s PC — ostensibly the foil — was downright lovable. In lesser creative hands, the Mac character would’ve been the hero and the PC would’ve been downright loathsome — and the campaign would have consisted of a single ad that ran for one month, tops, and no one would remember it today. Instead, by making Hodgman’s PC the lovable-but-doomed-to-lose protagonist — a la Rodney Dangerfield’s genius can’t-get-no-respect comic persona — the campaign wasn’t just funny, it worked. It actually did what for two decades had seemed impossible — it convinced PC users to switch to the Mac.

In 2020, a year before Justin Long went rogue for Intel, it was Hodgman, solo, whom Apple brought back for a “one more thing” coda to the announcement of the first batch of Apple silicon-based Macs.1 Now that spot was funny, and that’s the character whom everyone remembers with abiding affection.

If Apple were to work in a bit with Hodgman on screen in this Monday’s WWDC keynote, the crowd at Apple Park would go bananas, and the clip would go viral on social media. If they put Long on screen, by himself — which, clearly, after his serial brand betrayals,2 is never going to happen — there’d be a lot of “Who’s that?” 

  1. That Apple even had Hodgman say “one more thing” is notable. That phrase is almost sacred in Apple’s keynote ethos, because it’s so closely associated with Steve Jobs. To my recollection the only Apple executive ever to utter it other than Jobs himself is Tim Cook, and he’s used it only rarely, and with reverence. Maybe Phil Schiller used it, in one of the keynotes he hosted while Jobs was on medical leave, but if so I don’t recall it — and I think I would have, because it would have drawn awkward attention to Jobs’s absence. I think it’s just three men who’ve said it: Jobs, Cook, and Hodgman. ↩︎︎

  2. I don’t mean to imply that it’s unethical for a pitchman to take a gig from a rival company years after an ad campaign ends. It’s a business. But it strikes me as a bad idea for getting future spokesperson work to earn a reputation as someone who’ll jump to a competitor and attempt to mock the previous company’s product by mocking the original campaign. And when you think about it, Long’s new Qualcomm role isn’t just a ham-fisted slap at Apple, it’s a slap at Intel too, for whom he worked just three years ago. What’s next for Long, a spot in a Huawei commercial slagging on the Qualcomm modems in iPhones?

    (Postscript.) ↩︎

Apple Held Talks With China Mobile to Bring Apple TV+ to China 

Wayne Ma, reporting for The Information (paywalled, alas; 9to5Mac has a summary):

Apple was in talks last year to launch its Apple TV+ video streaming service in China via a deal with China Mobile, the country’s largest telecommunications provider, according to people with knowledge of the matter. If successful, the talks would make Apple TV+ the only U.S. streaming service to be available in China, one of the world’s biggest markets. The status of the talks is unknown. [...]

Under the terms of the deal being discussed last year, China Mobile would offer Apple TV+ for a monthly fee and feature Apple’s video content prominently on Mobile HD, a set-top box that is included with China Mobile’s broadband service. Apple and China Mobile would split revenue from Apple TV+ subscriptions, the person said.

Apple charges $9.99 for its video streaming service in the U.S., but it would likely have to charge less in China due to the weaker purchasing power of its consumers. For example, Apple Music costs only $1.55 a month in China, compared with $10.99 in the U.S. Video-streaming subscription services in China cost anywhere from between $3 to $5 a month on average.

Ma focuses on the business implications of such a deal. My mind wonders about the content implications. Remember this report by Alex Kantrowitz and John Paczkowski for BuzzFeed News back in 2019, with the subhead “We thought trade would bring Western values to China. Instead, it brought Chinese values to Apple”:

In early 2018 as development on Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company’s leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to remain in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country. [...]

Apple’s tiptoeing around the Chinese government isn’t unusual in Hollywood. It’s an accepted practice. “They all do it,” one showrunner who was not affiliated with Apple told BuzzFeed News. “They have to if they want to play in that market. And they all want to play in that market. Who wouldn’t?”

I wouldn’t. To hell with the money. The entire rest of the world is more than large enough. It’s a disgrace to have rules in place to avoid upsetting the thin-skinned tyrants who rule the largest totalitarian regime in the history of the world. How is it anything less than cowardice to forbid portraying China as the villains in a movie or show when the CCP is, in fact, villainous? Back in 2020 I wrote:

Ben Thompson beat me to the punch on yesterday’s edition of Dithering, observing that a rule like this about Russia during the Cold War would have blocked the entire James Bond franchise from existing, not to mention just about any lesser spy movies from the era. Or what of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? Like the Soviet Union in the decades after WWII, China is not some obscure small player on the world stage, and they systematically do things that deserve to be portrayed “in a poor light”. To take China off the table is to take much of what’s going on geopolitically in the world today off the table.

I get it, of course. I don’t agree with it, artistically or ethically, but I get it: money talks, and China is where Apple assembles most of its products and a big market where it sells them, too. But just because it’s so transparently obvious why Apple would forbid any negative portrayals of China doesn’t make it any less outrageous. [...]

Which studios or streaming services would bankroll today’s equivalent of Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Great Dictator, with Xi Jinping in Hitler’s place as the deserving target of satiric mockery? Netflix — which doesn’t offer its service in China and has no dependence on theatrical box office revenue — maybe?

What’s next, removing the Taiwanese flag emoji from the keyboard for users in Hong Kong because Winnie the Xi’s feelings are hurt that Taiwan remains staunchly independent? Oh, wait, that happened 5 years ago.

Elon Musk Told Nvidia to Ship AI Chips Reserved for Tesla to X 

Lora Kolodny, reporting for CNBC:

On Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call in April, Musk said the electric vehicle company will increase the number of active H100s — Nvidia’s flagship artificial intelligence chip — from 35,000 to 85,000 by the end of this year. He also wrote in a post on X a few days later that Tesla would spend $10 billion this year “in combined training and inference AI.”

But emails written by Nvidia senior staff and widely shared inside the company suggest that Musk presented an exaggerated picture of Tesla’s procurement to shareholders. Correspondence from Nvidia staffers also indicates that Musk diverted a sizable shipment of AI processors that had been reserved for Tesla to his social media company X, formerly known as Twitter. [...]

By ordering Nvidia to let privately held X jump the line ahead of Tesla, Musk pushed back the automaker’s receipt of more than $500 million in graphics processing units, or GPUs, by months, likely adding to delays in setting up the supercomputers Tesla says it needs to develop autonomous vehicles and humanoid robots.

The argument against one person being the CEO of multiple companies is generally about distraction/attention — that each CEO gig demands all of one’s available time. But here’s a case where two of Musk’s companies are in direct conflict with each other. Musk seemingly treats all of his companies as subsidiaries of his own personal fiefdom conglomerate, but they aren’t. And unlike X Corp, Tesla Motors is publicly traded.

Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column:

The extremely obvious answer is that you should not be the CEO and controlling shareholder of two different companies that compete for the same inputs! There is not a good answer! You can’t, like, put this problem into the Good Governance Machine and have it come out clean. The problem is that you have a fiduciary obligation to the shareholders of one company to put their interests first, and you have a fiduciary obligation to the shareholders of the other company to put their interests first, and you cannot do both. This is why one person is not usually the CEO of two different companies that compete with each other, and, when someone is, people get mad at him all the time.

I can’t recall a situation like this when, say, Jack Dorsey was CEO of Twitter and Square, or, going back further, when Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple and Pixar. In those cases it was more like an athlete who played two different sports, like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. Fans of one of their teams might argue that they could do even better in that one sport by concentrating on it year-round, but you couldn’t argue that the Kansas City Royals were competing against the Oakland Raiders. With Musk and AI, it’s like he’s playing on several competing teams within the same league.

Open Letter From AI Researchers: ‘A Right to Warn About Advanced Artificial Intelligence’ 

New open letter from current and former researchers at OpenAI and Google DeepMind:

AI companies possess substantial non-public information about the capabilities and limitations of their systems, the adequacy of their protective measures, and the risk levels of different kinds of harm. However, they currently have only weak obligations to share some of this information with governments, and none with civil society. We do not think they can all be relied upon to share it voluntarily.

So long as there is no effective government oversight of these corporations, current and former employees are among the few people who can hold them accountable to the public. Yet broad confidentiality agreements block us from voicing our concerns, except to the very companies that may be failing to address these issues. Ordinary whistleblower protections are insufficient because they focus on illegal activity, whereas many of the risks we are concerned about are not yet regulated. Some of us reasonably fear various forms of retaliation, given the history of such cases across the industry.

The 7 named signers are all former OpenAI or Google DeepMind employees. The 6 anonymous signers are all currently at OpenAI.

See also: Techmeme’s roundup of coverage and commentary.

Tickets for The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2024 

On sale now:

Location: The California Theatre, San Jose
Showtime: Tuesday, 11 June 2024, 7 pm PT (Doors open 6 pm)
Special Guest(s): Yes
Price: $60

Video of the show will, of course, be published at the end of the week. The California Theatre is a beautiful space, and I do so enjoy meeting the readers and listeners who attend. The enthusiasm from the audience is always palpable. All year long, as I write this website and record podcasts, I know, in the back of my mind, that I have a big audience out there. But man, when I walk out on stage at the WWDC live show, I can feel it. It’s quite a thing.

I hope to see you there.

Instagram Is Testing ‘Unskippable’ Video Ads 

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:

Instagram confirmed it’s testing unskippable ads after screenshots of the feature began circulating across social media. These new ad breaks will display a countdown timer that stops users from being able to browse through more content on the app until they view the ad, according to informational text displayed in the Instagram app.

The change would see the social network becoming more like the free version of YouTube, which requires users to view ads before and in the middle of watching videos.

The difference from YouTube is that YouTube offers YouTube Premium, which lets you pay a fair price for a no-ads experience. Meta is, thus far, seemingly only considering that for the EU.

I also can’t help but think, each time changes like this appear on Instagram, Enjoy the unsullied pristine Threads while we can. Because the ads are coming.

Dr Pepper Ties Pepsi as America’s No. 2 Soda 

Jennifer Maloney, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

There is a new contender in the cola wars, and it isn’t a cola. It’s Dr Pepper.

The 139-year-old soda brand is now tied with Pepsi-Cola as the No. 2 carbonated soft drink brand in America behind Coke. The regular versions of Pepsi and Dr Pepper are neck and neck in a spot that Pepsi has held nearly every year for the past four decades, according to sales-volume data from Beverage Digest.

Dr Pepper’s new ranking follows a steady climb over the past 20 years. Its ascent is a product of big marketing investments, novel flavors and a quirk in Dr Pepper’s distribution that has put it on more soda fountains than any other soft drink in the U.S. At the same time, consumption of regular Pepsi has fallen as its drinkers switch to Pepsi Zero Sugar or migrate to other drinks.

The overall Pepsi brand, including Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Zero Sugar, remains the No. 2 soda trademark in the U.S., though its market share has been slipping. Coke is the largest, with more than twice the market share by volume of any of its rivals.

I seldom drink sugared soda anymore, but when I do, it’s almost always either a Coke or a Dr Pepper, both of which I’ve enjoyed since childhood. (If you’re at a place that lets you pour your own fountain drinks, try mixing Coke and Dr Pepper half-and-half — delicious.) And I’ve always despised both the taste and branding of Pepsi. Dr Pepper, on the other hand, has long handled its status as the upstart in a fun way.

Via Kevin Drum, who, like me, is surprised that the no-sugar variants of these brands aren’t more popular.

Lastly, from the DF archive back in 2003: “Pop Culture”.

Tip of the Day: Long-Press the ‘+’ Button in iOS 17 Messages to Jump to the Photo Picker 

In iOS 17, Apple introduced an all-new design in Messages for adding attachments like photos or stickers. Everything you can attach — new images from Camera, old images from your Photos library, location-sharing, stickers, or iMessage “apps” — is accessed from an unusual-looking menu that opens when you tap the “+” button. Just one button, “+”, that opens a menu with everything. It’s just an unusual-looking menu. It’s simple, and while not flashy, it’s not unattractive — but it doesn’t look or feel like any other menu or scrolling list in iOS. Even after almost a year of using it (dating back to iOS 17 betas) I still think it looks ... unfinished? Like an early mockup that hasn’t yet been polished or refined. I’m genuinely curious if we will see more menus like this in iOS 18, or if this unique design only lasts one year and Apple comes up with something better (or at least more consistent with the rest of the system).

The number one complaint people have with this menu is that in earlier versions of iOS, it was easier to get to the Photo library picker, because there was a dedicated button for it. The new design is a much better presentation for the entire plethora of attachment types, but it adds an extra step to get to your own photos.

But, there’s a shortcut: long-press on the “+” button and you’ll jump right to the photo picker. (Also, you can long-press then drag to reorder the items in the menu itself.)

Apple Design Awards 2024 Finalists 

A bunch of inspiring choices, as usual, including previous DF sponsors Procreate and Copilot.

ICQ Is Shutting Down (Also: ICQ Is Still Around) 

Michael Kan, PC Mag:

On Friday, the ICQ website posted a simple message: “ICQ will stop working from June 26.” It now recommends users migrate to the messaging platforms from VK, the Russian social media company that acquired ICQ from AOL in 2010, but under a different corporate name.

It’s an unceremonious end for a software program that helped kick off instant messaging on PCs in the 1990s. ICQ, which stands for “I Seek You,” was originally developed at an Israeli company called Mirabilis before AOL bought it in 1998 for $407 million.

Perhaps no area of computing was more disrupted by the smartphone revolution than messaging. Pre-mobile, “instant messaging” had a surprising number of popular platforms. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was tops amongst my cohort, almost certainly because Apple’s iChat — the Mac-only predecessor to the app we now call Messages — started in 2002 exclusively as an AIM client. But Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ were all popular too. The list of protocols that the popular Mac chat app Adium supported was very long.

They all worked more or less the same way, and using any of these protocols was a lot like messaging today with iMessage, WhatsApp, or Signal. But there was one big difference: with the old “instant” messengers, you were only available while your computer was online. And even then, you could set your “status” — green for “sure, hit me up, I’m free”, and red for “I’m online, but don’t bother me right now”. And if you quit your messaging client or, you know, closed your laptop, poof, you were offline and unavailable.

If you wanted to contact someone asynchronously, you sent them an email. If you wanted to chat with messaging, you both needed to be online simultaneously. Modern messaging is like a cross between email and instant messaging: you can chat, live, just like with instant messaging, but you can send a new message any time you want. There is no distinction between your being “online” or “offline”. You are just an identity with modern messaging, not a presence.

You can see why modern messaging platforms took over. Always-available protocols were destined to win out over only-available-when-you’re-logged-in protocols. And the nature of how smartphones work compared to PCs made the transition swift. But you can also see why classic instant messaging platforms evoke nostalgia: it was nice to be able to go offline.


Michele Giorgi bought and restored an original 128K Macintosh, and documented the entire project in splendid fashion.

Douglas Adams on Reactions to Technology, by Age 

Douglas Adams:

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’ 

Two more on the “best decade ever” front. First a classic 2010 John Oliver segment for The Daily Show, wherein he “hopes to find the better, simpler time before America was ruined.”

Second, this 2007 Tom the Dancing Bug comic by Ruben Bolling.

The Talk Show: ‘Chockdingus’ 

Craig Hockenberry returns to the show. Topics include the upcoming Daylight DC-1 monochrome “e-paper” tablet, more thoughts on the new iPad Pros, and what we expect/hope for from Apple at WWDC. Also: a one-button keyboard.

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How to ‘Object’ to Meta Using Your Content to Train AI Models 

Tantacrul, on X:

I’m legit shocked by the design of @Meta’s new notification informing us they want to use the content we post to train their AI models. It’s intentionally designed to be highly awkward in order to minimise the number of users who will object to it. Let me break it down.

Each step of the process exhibits one or more dark patterns — and there are an absurd number of steps. Meta at its worst. This exemplifies everything untrustworthy and icky about Meta and AI itself. It’s just gross.

What’s Next for Apple’s Journal App? 

Ryan Christoffel, writing for 9to5Mac:

However, after seeing what a new third-party autobiography app is doing with AI, I’m convinced Apple could have a blow away moment if it showed off an AI-supercharged Journal app.

The Journal app is a curious offering from Apple. It was first introduced at last year’s WWDC as an iOS 17 feature, but didn’t end up shipping to users until the end of the year in iOS 17.2. In an era where Apple is pushing cross-platform solutions like SwiftUI and Mac Catalyst, Journal debuted as an iPhone exclusive. As a result, you couldn’t (and still can’t) create or even view Journal entries on your iPad or Mac.

If you have a spare iPhone and sign into iCloud, you can see that Journal does in fact sync everything via iCloud with end-to-end encryption. There just aren’t — yet? — versions of Journal for iPad or Mac to sync to. I actually like the focused, super-simple nature of Journal a lot. But it’s damn curious to me that it’s still iPhone-only.

2024 is the Year of AI, so if there is any Journal-related news at WWDC next month, I’m sure some of that news will be about improving the AI-backed suggestions. But Journal is missing some fundamentals that strike me as far more essential:

  • iPad and Mac apps.
  • Search.
  • Import and export.

I worry that import and export aren’t priorities for Apple. Apple Notes can import RTF and plain text files, but its only option for exporting is, bizarrely, PDF — which is a file format Notes can’t import. A good system for import/export would allow for full fidelity round-tripping. You should be able to export to a file or archive format that Notes can also import, without losing any formatting, metadata, or image attachments. Notes doesn’t even try. And if Notes still doesn’t support robust import/export, 17 years after it debuted as one of the original iPhone apps in 2007, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath for Journal.

Search, on the other hand, feels like something Apple must add to Journal. What’s the point of keeping a journal if you can’t search for previous entries? I’d like to see Apple add tagging too — but proper tags, like the ones you can use in the Finder, not gross hashtags like they shoehorned into Apple Notes a few years ago. (I’d love to see Apple reverse course with Apple Notes itself, and change those gross hashtags to proper tags.)

Conceptually I think of Journal as a personal, private social media timeline. Many of my entries are just a sentence or two. I don’t think of entries as days, but rather simply as posts or items. Threads has shown how proper tagging can work with a social media timeline.


Jason Kint, on X:

As I’ve said in the past, nothing makes a statement on important news close to the newspaper front page. Across America, almost every editor went with the simple fact, “Guilty.”

Quite the collection of front pages.

Trump and his lickspittles can and will argue that the trial was unjust. The state of New York was against him. The city was against him. The judge was against him. But it wasn’t the state, city, or judge who convicted him. It was a jury of 12 ordinary citizens, chosen jointly by prosecutors and Trump’s own lawyers. That’s the beauty and power of our criminal justice system.

Trump’s not arguing that the jury made a mistake. Nor is he arguing that this trial, and this trial alone, is corrupt. He’s arguing that the bedrock of our entire system of justice is rigged. That was predictable, but it still takes one’s breath away.

Spotify’s Car Things to Be Rebranded as Car Bricks

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge, “Spotify Is Going to Break Every Car Thing Gadget It Ever Sold”:

Unfortunately for those owners, Spotify isn’t offering any kind of subscription credit or automatic refund for the device — nor is the company open-sourcing it. Rather, it’s just canning the project and telling people to (responsibly) dispose of Car Thing.

“We’re discontinuing Car Thing as part of our ongoing efforts to streamline our product offerings,” Spotify wrote in an FAQ on its website. [...] The company is recommending that customers do a factory reset on the product and find some way of responsibly recycling the hardware. Spotify is also being direct and confirming that there’s little reason to ever expect a sequel. “As of now, there are no plans to release a replacement or new version of Car Thing,” the FAQ reads.

Car Thing was initially made available on an invite-only basis in April 2021, with Spotify later opening a public waitlist to buy the accessory later that year. The $90 device went on general sale in February 2022 — and production was halted five months later.

No word in Spotify’s Car Thing bricking FAQ about when they’re dropping support for Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music. Oh, that’s right, they never supported any music services other than their own, despite having spent the last decade petitioning their home-turf European Commission to secure unfettered pay-no-commission access to platforms created by Apple and Google. It actually worked for them with Google.

Spotify and European Commission supporters are likely to respond to the above by arguing that Car Thing is totally different from the iPhone and Android. Car Thing was never popular at all, and iPhone and Android combine to form a duopoly that controls the entire market for phones. “Gatekeepers” must play by different rules to rein in their gatekeeping power, and Car Thing was by no means a gatekeeping platform.

That’s all true, but what do you think Spotify planned to do if Car Thing became a hit product? Do you think they planned to open it up to competing streaming services after it became popular? I doubt it. And if you think they not only would have opened Car Thing up to competing services, but would have done so without charging significant commissions or fees, I have a bridge to sell you.

To be clear, I think it’s fine for companies to create hardware exclusively for the use of their own services. And of course I also think it’s fine (great, in fact) to create hardware that is open to third-party software free of charge. But it’s also fine to create console platforms where third-party software is subject to fees and commissions paid to the platform owner. Spotify’s anti-App-Store rhetoric would lead you to believe that Apple only began extracting 30/15 percent commissions from in-app subscriptions after the iPhone became a dominant platform.

But that’s not what happened at all. When Apple announced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs stated that their goal was to achieve 1 percent share of the phone market by the end of 2008. At the end of 2008, they surpassed that goal, hitting a whopping 1.1 percent market share:

  1. Nokia, 38.6%
  2. Samsung, 16.2%
  3. LG, 8.3%
  4. Motorola, 8.3%
  5. Sony Ericsson, 8%
  6. RIM, 1.9%
  7. Kyocera, 1.4%
  8. Apple, 1.1%
  9. HTC, 1.1%
  10. Sharp, 1%

2008 was also the year the App Store launched, with support for free apps (no commission charged to developers) and paid apps (30 percent commission). Apple added subscriptions in early 2011, with the same 70/30 split. All of the iPhone’s subsequent success happened with that App Store commission in place, and that commission has only gone down over time — most notably, for Spotify, by dropping the commission from 30 to 15 percent for subscription renewals after the first year, starting in 2016.

The number one free download from the App Store in 2008 was Pandora Radio, a music streaming app. Other early hits included Last.FM and AOL Radio. But when Spotify announced they’d submitted their first version to the App Store in 2009, it was an open question whether Apple would allow it. Paid Content: “Spotify Waves iPhone Buzz Under Apple’s Nose” and “What If Apple Blocks Spotify’s iPhone App?BBC News: “Spotify has been called an ‘iTunes killer’ because of its ease of use and its comprehensive, free library of millions of songs.” TechCrunch: “Spotify in the iPhone App Store – Will Apple Approve It?

And my guess:

But so the big question is whether Apple will accept the app, despite the fact that Spotify is clearly a competitor to the iTunes Store. They should. For one thing, competition is good for Apple. For another, I think rejecting Spotify from the App Store could result in an antitrust investigation from the EU.

Apple did, of course, accept Spotify into the App Store. They eventually added the ability for third-party apps to play audio in the background too. I was wrong only in thinking that allowing Spotify into the App Store could avoid antitrust scrutiny from the EU.

So let’s be clear about Spotify’s position: It’s OK — for them at least — to create a new hardware platform with no support at all for third-party software, but not OK for another company that owns its own music service to create a hardware platform that offers access to any and all competing services, but charges a commission for access, if that platform becomes popular. Once sufficiently popular, it’s only fair to allow Spotify access to those platforms free of charge, despite the fact that Spotify never allowed third parties access to their own platform at all, and built their own success through access to the App Store, at a time when the iPhone had single-digit market share for phones and low-teens market share among “smartphones”. Got it.