Sentence of the Day ★
However, it’s not all bad news for Apple, added Coulling,
because it’s one of the few firms making money out of the
booming tablet market at the moment.
What percentage of all tablet profits is Apple making “at the moment”? Do tell.
‘No Taxes Paid… Just a Golden Color’ ★
Vaclav Smil, in an interview with Clive Thompson for Wired:
Apple! Boy, what a story. No taxes paid, everything made
abroad — yet everyone worships them. This new iPhone, there’s
nothing new in it. Just a golden color. What the hell, right? When
people start playing with color, you know they’re played out.
I don’t know what’s more ridiculous: the idea that Apple pays “no taxes”, or that the only thing new in the iPhone 5S is the gold color option. Combined, they put Smil on my “pay no mind” list.
Update: And why didn’t Clive Thompson challenge Smil on these points? They’re blatantly false, but stand unchallenged in the article text. What about the editors at Wired?
‘Checkin’ Out Butts With Siri’ ★
This week on my podcast, The Talk Show: special guest John Moltz joins yours truly to discuss TextExpander and changes to iOS 7, Buttsgate, Microsoft’s “Scroogled” campaign, and Apple’s R&D spending.
Brought to you by these fine sponsors:
Elementary OS ★
Love the subhead on this Wired piece: “It may look like Apple’s Mac OS X, but it’s not.”
It looks like Mac OS X if someone designed it based on verbal descriptions of OS X, circa Leopard, shouted over a bad cell phone connection, and translated through different languages a few times.
Goldieblox and the Three MCs ★
Great piece on the complexity and murkiness of copyright law by Andy Baio.
FDA Orders 23andMe to Halt Sales of DNA Tests ★
Anna Edney, reporting for Bloomberg:
23andMe Inc., the Google Inc.-backed DNA analysis company
co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, was told by U.S. regulators to halt
sales of its main product because it’s being sold without
“marketing clearance or approval.” […]
Wojcicki, who recently separated from her husband, Google
co-founder Sergey Brin, started 23andMe about six years ago to
help people assess their risk of cancer, heart disease and other
I feel obligated to point out that 23andMe sponsored my podcast, The Talk Show, back in July this year.
‘And if We Ask You to Leave, for God’s Sake, Don’t Start Yelling About Your “Rights”. Just Shut Up and Get Out Before You Make Things Worse.’ ★
Another restaurant makes a glasshole policy.
Where Americans Buy Cell Phones ★
The carrier stores are still the dominant place for Americans to get their new cellphones, but two other retailers — Apple and Best Buy — have emerged as significant channels.
Apple, of course, sells only iPhones, but accounts for about 11 percent of retail phone sales, according to a survey from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Best Buy, which sells phones from all major carriers and all the big operating systems, accounts for 13 percent of sales.
Now It’s a ‘Smartwatch Bandwagon’ ★
Juro Osawa, writing for the WSJ:
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Monday, Mr. Lv said
that ZTE’s smartwatch will offer technological features that are
similar to existing products such as the Galaxy Gear, but will
sell for lower prices as it tries to appeal to China’s
cost-conscious consumers. “We are focusing on the mainstream
market,” he said.
Could just be me, but somehow, “like the Galaxy Gear but cheaper” does not strike me as a winning strategy.
29 Dumb Things Finance People Say ★
Numbers 3 and 4 should be front and center every time Apple announces results.
Yahoo Mail and Dogfooding ★
Sam Biddle has a company-wide email from Yahoo executives encouraging all employees to use Yahoo Mail for their work email (currently only 25 percent do). Biddle writes:
Somehow, I have a feeling Google doesn’t have to resort to these
tactics to get people to use Gmail.
Or Apple with Apple Mail. The onus is on the Yahoo Mail team to make a product Yahoo employees want to use, not on Yahoo employees to use a turd webmail product and somehow magically improve it through collective complaints. If your employees are only using your own products or services because they have to, or feel obligated to out of some sort of loyalty, you’re losing.
Think back to those stories about Bill Gates’s and Steve Ballmer’s kids not being allowed to own iPods. The problem wasn’t with their kids. The problem was with the Zunes or the even worse “Plays For Sure” era Windows Media devices. If those devices were actually any good, their kids wouldn’t have asked for iPods, and they wouldn’t have had to make any silly rules. I somehow doubt Phil Schiller’s kids are forbidden from buying Samsung phones or tablets.
iCloud: My Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing Limits ★
If I’m reading this right, Apple has just completely eliminated the 1000-photo, 30-day limit on Photo Stream. Sounds like a huge upgrade to the service.
Update: Sounds like no, you can upload far more than 1000 photos per month, but the “long-term” storage limits remain the same. I should have known better; last I heard, significant improvements to Photo Stream were slated as a 2014 thing, not a 2013 thing. This should not be confusing at all; but instead, it’s confusing as hell.
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New this week: two great new apps for iOS, Squarespace Blog and Squarespace Metrics. The blogging app even includes great support for Markdown, and is a great way to update your site from your iPhone or iPad.
CNet: ‘Heads Up Apple, Here Comes 64-Bit Android on Intel’ ★
Just me, or is this headline backwards? Wasn’t it Android and Intel that needed a “heads up” a few months ago regarding 64-bit mobile computing? This thing is nothing more than a 64-bit tablet concept.
iWork for iOS and Mac Updated, Keynote Gains New Transitions ★
I like Darby Lines’s take:
I kind of hope that the small, fast application updates that we’re
now seeing from Apple is the start of a new trend.
‘One Million Times Faster’ ★
Interesting postscript regarding The Schedule Makers, the lovely short film I linked to last week about the Stephensons, the husband-and-wife team who’d made the Major League Baseball schedule for 25 years — a blog post from Michael Trick, whose computer-driven team replaced them:
I began working on baseball scheduling in 1994, and it took ten
years of hard work (first Doug and me, then the four of us) before
MLB selected our schedule for play.
Why were we successful in 2004 and not in 1994? At the core,
technology changed. The computers we used in 2004 were 1000 times
faster than the 1994 computers. And the underlying optimization
software was at least 1000 times faster. So technology made us at
least one million times faster. And that made all the difference.
Since then, computers and algorithms have made us 1000 times
faster still. And, in addition, we learned quite a bit about how
to best do complicated sports scheduling problems.
Clumsy Ninja Finally Hits App Store ★
Phil Dzikiy, writing for iLounge:
Clumsy Ninja, which was featured in last year’s Apple media event
for the fifth-generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, has finally made
its way to the App Store as a free download. One of two
high-profile game demos from Apple last year — the other being
Infinity Blade Dungeons, which was shown at the third-generation
iPad event in March 2012 and later canceled — Clumsy Ninja’s
release was delayed for more than a year without explanation.
If you scored an onstage demo at the September 2012 introduction of the iPhone 5 and don’t ship the app for another 14 months, I think you deserve a non-sarcastic finally.
I think one of the few truly weird things about Apple today is how they occasionally pick obscure third-party products to demo in their high-profile events. Clumsy Ninja looks like a cool game, but why would Apple choose them to demo if it wasn’t soon going to ship. And remember Anki, the toy race cars at the WWDC keynote this year? How’d they get picked?
Update: Whoa, check this out — Clumsy Ninja’s entry in the App Store has a video preview instead of static screenshots. So not only did they get an onstage demo a year ago, this year, they get to launch a major new App Store feature. (Thanks to Neven Mrgan.)
Update 2: In a recent TV interview with Bloomberg, Anki co-founder and CEO Boris Sofman, when asked how they got picked to be on stage during the WWDC keynote, said “One of our investors introduced us to Apple, and originally we started talking about being in their stores, but they got excited about the product and how we were using their product ecosystem.”
18 Months ★
Denise Calnan, reporting for Independent.ie:
The ‘book to e-book’ move was deemed a disaster following major
technical issues with the majority of the HP Elite Pad tablet
“The HP Elite Pad has proved to be an unmitigated disaster. We
have met with HP representatives on a number of occasions to
address the issues. To ensure stability and continuity of
education I have ordered a full set of books for all the
Students experienced problems such as tablets failing to switch
on, tablets spontaneously going into sleep mode, devices looping
while performing automatic repairs, system board failures and
issues with wi-fi.
Principal Gleeson said it was “an informed decision” to choose the
HP Elite tablet. “A year and a half’s worth of research was put
into choosing the right device for us.”
If you spend a year and a half researching tablets and wind up choosing the HP Elite, you might want to reexamine your research skills. (I’m reminded of CBS News’s claim that they spent a year researching their discredited Benghazi report that was in fact a hoax.)
Jury Orders Samsung to Pay Apple $290 Million for Patent Infringement ★
Not sure if this litigation is ever going to end.
Samsung Executive Defends Galaxy Gear as a ‘Small Green Tomato’ ★
Samsung executive David Eun, on stage at Business Insider’s Ignition conference:
“What we’re dealing with is small green tomatoes,” he said of the
Gear’s first-generation growing pains. “And what we want to do is
take care of them and work with them so they become big, red ripe
tomatoes. And what you want to be sure of is that you don’t pluck
the green tomato too early and you want to make sure that you
don’t criticize a small green tomato for not being a big, red ripe
That’s a tough spot, speaking on stage in front of an audience. What’s he going to say? That the Gear is a huge turd? He has to defend it.
But, calling it a 1.0 doesn’t hold water. If you’re taking real money from consumers for the product — and the Gear costs $300 — you owe them a product of that value or greater. There are no points for being first to market with a bad product.
Galaxy Gear Rumored Sales Figures: El Stinko ★
According to the related industry sources on November 14, Samsung
Electronics released the curved smartphone Galaxy Round on
November 10, but the product currently shows daily sales of under
100 units. Its cumulative monthly sales fall under 10,000 units.
Also, on September 25, Samsung Electronics released the Galaxy
Gear in time for the wearable computing generation. Yet this
product has cumulative sales under 50,000, with daily sales of
only 800-900 units. These low sales values for the Galaxy Gear are
far below the initial expectations of the industry.
Sounds about right, given the almost universally terrible reviews the Gear garnered.
A day after the Business Korea report — which admittedly has no named sources — Samsung executives fired back, telling Reuters they’ve “sold” 800,000 Gear units, calling it “the most sold wearable watch available in the market place”. (As opposed to unwearable watches?) Anyway, turns out this is from the Department of Shipped Not Sold — the 800K figure is the number of Gear units Samsung has manufactured and shipped to resellers. That doesn’t put the lie to Business Korea’s claim that they may have only actually sold 50K of them so far.
VoodooPad Changes Hands ★
The great folks over at Plausible Labs have taken over development
Both VoodooPad and Acorn have grown over the years into much more
than I can handle as a single developer. And because of this one
of my two apps was going to be neglected, and obviously VoodooPad
has gotten the short end of the stick lately.
This isn’t fair to my customers, it isn’t fair to VoodooPad, and
it was driving me insane. I use VoodooPad every single day, and I
love it to death. I want it to grow, and that wasn’t happening so
something needed to be done.
Good news for a great app.
Trent Reznor FaceTimes With Ill Friend Live on Stage ★
I would not have pegged Trent Reznor as a white iPhone man.
Update: Great piece from Consequence of Sound on the poignant story behind this friendship.
Google Fined $17 Million in Multistate Settlement Over Tracking of Consumers ★
Google Inc will pay $17 million to settle allegations by 37 states
and the District of Colombia that it secretly tracked Web users by
placing special digital files on the Web browsers of their
The deal, announced Monday morning, ends a nearly two-year probe
by the states into allegations that Google bypassed the privacy
settings of customers using Apple Inc’s Safari Web browser by
placing “cookies” into the browser. […] The Safari Web browser
used on iPhones and iPads automatically blocks third-party
cookies, but Google altered the computer code of its cookies and
was able to circumvent the blocks between June 2011 and February
2012, according to the states’ allegations.
A $17 million fine will really teach Google a lesson. It takes them almost two hours to generate that in revenue.
Apple’s Clean Energy Infrastructure in North Carolina ★
In an unprecedented move — and one that hasn’t yet been repeated
by other companies — Apple spent millions of dollars building two
massive solar panel farms and a large fuel cell farm near its data
center. These projects and are now fully operational and similar
facilities (owned by utilities) have cost in a range of $150
million to $200 million to build. Apple’s are the largest
privately-owned clean energy facilities in the U.S. and more
importantly, they represent an entirely new way for an internet
company to source and think about power.
The photos really show the scale of this endeavor.
NFL team logos reimagined as European football club badges.
Scientists Invent Self-Healing Battery Electrode ★
Could be a huge advance in battery durability.
‘I Wouldn’t Compete With “The Elements of Style”; I Would Complement It.’ ★
Also related to this week’s The Talk Show, a re-link from 2009: William Zinsser on keeping On Writing Well up-to-date. It’s my (and Merlin’s) favorite book on writing.
Touch ID and ‘Require Passcode: Immediately’ ★
For people used to the iOS passcode lock, the fingerprint scanner
on the iPhone 5S, which Apple calls Touch ID, comes with a
significant drawback: with Touch ID enabled, it’s no longer
possible to set the amount of time since the screen last turned
off before the passcode — or, now, Touch ID — is required to
unlock the device.
I like his proposal for how Apple could improve this:
So what’s the solution, then? The Require Passcode setting should
be separated from Touch ID. The previous timed options should be
restored, but, true to the setting’s name, the timer should
determine solely whether the passcode keypad appears or whether
the phone unlocks immediately when the user slides to unlock.
Touch ID, meanwhile, should remain operative on the lock screen at
all times, even when sliding to unlock would be sufficient.
(Via Michael Tsai.)
The Great Discontent: Merlin Mann ★
Speaking of Merlin Mann, Tina Essmaker has an interview with him at The Great Discontent. Very thoughtful, very funny.
This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring very special guest Merlin Mann. We discuss presentation slides, the new iPads, the making of the Major League Baseball schedule, and Malcolm Gladwell.
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Microsoft Axes Its Controversial Stack-Ranking HR System ★
Good move by Microsoft; this system was just poisonous. But it’s a curious decision to be made while the company’s senior leadership is in flux. And the sign-off on the company-wide memo from HR chief Lisa Brummel struck me as a little cultish:
There is nothing we cannot accomplish when we work together as One Microsoft.
Polygon’s PlayStation 4 Review ★
Well-written, well-considered, and splendidly designed review of Sony’s new console. Dig those animated vector illustrations.
Why Apple Released the Retina iPad Mini Softly ★
By soft releasing the iPad Mini Retina, Apple achieved three crucial things.
Apple’s biggest fans got theirs first. Who knew about this
first? The people who follow the Apple blogs and digerati.
Judging by Twitter, this worked perfectly.
The grey market queueing for the iPad Mini Retina was going to
be immense. By going online the incredibly poor optics (the
front of Apple lines, which attracts a lot of media, was full of
people who were not fans but paid to be there) are mitigated.
The last thing Apple wants is hundreds of customers turning up
everyday to be disappointed in a store which is meant to be a
happy place — Apple does not want their stores to be associated
with disappointment and frustration!
Bingo. It sucks that the new retina iPad Mini is severely supply-constrained, but given that it is constrained, the best way to put it on sale is quietly. They’re going to sell them as fast as they can make them for the foreseeable future, no use queueing people up to be disappointed.
WSJ Reports That Snapchat Rejected $3 Billion Buyout Offer From Facebook ★
Mobile messaging startup Snapchat rejected an acquisition offer
from Facebook Inc that would have valued the company at $3 billion
or more, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday.
Facebook representatives reached out to Snapchat in recent weeks
to discuss the all-cash deal, which would have been Facebook’s
largest acquisition ever, the report said, citing anonymous
It wasn’t too long ago that Facebook was on the other side of such a decision.
Overheating Chargers Lead to HP Chromebook Being Pulled From Market ★
If a Chromebook gets pulled from the market, but no one was buying them anyway, does it make a sound?
Verizon Admits Network Faces Traffic Pressure in Big Cities ★
Roger Cheng, reporting for CNet:
The carrier said it is facing pressure to deliver increased
amounts of bandwidth in big cities such as New York, San
Francisco, and Chicago. In a rare admission on Tuesday, Verizon
Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo admitted the rapid growth in
traffic was starting to hamper the quality of the service.
“There are certain pockets where we’re absolutely going to
experience that down tick from the LTE network down to 3G because
of capacity constraints,” Shammo said during an investor
I was in New York yesterday, and saw this firsthand. Verizon LTE has gone to shit in Midtown Manhattan.
Update: On Twitter, reader Rory Berger reports, “I work in Midtown East and I turn off LTE all day. Verizon 3G is much more reliable (although still shit).”
And Carl Peluso asks an intriguing question: “Is Verizon finally feeling the pressure of iPhone on their network like AT&T in past, or is that [an] invalid issue nowadays?”
Put another way: How much of the pressure on Verizon’s LTE network in these big cities is from the iPhone in particular?
One More Gem From the Bloomberg iPhone Claim Chowder File ★
Argin Chang, writing for Bloomberg back on July 17 of this year:
Apple Inc. may delay the introduction of the iPhone 5S until the
end of the year after the design was changed to feature a bigger
4.3-inch retina display screen, the Commercial Times reported.
It’s based on a Commercial Times report, but it was Bloomberg’s decision to pass it along, despite the fact that the 5S going to a 4.3-inch screen made no sense whatsoever, and that Apple making design changes like this in July for a product slated for October defies belief.
Apple can do things like removing a camera at the last minute; the size of a display, on the other hand, is decided over a year in advance.
‘People Who Have Been Briefed on the Plans’ ★
Another gem from the Bloomberg iPhone claim chowder file, this one reported by Peter Burrows and Gregory Bensinger back in February 2011:
Apple has considered selling the new iPhone for about $200,
without obligating users to sign a two-year service contract, said
the person who has seen it. Android phones sell for a range of
prices at AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and other carriers, and
typically come with agreements that include a fee for broken
contracts. The iPhone 4, sold in the U.S. by AT&T and Verizon
Wireless, costs $200 to $300 when subsidized by a contract.
While Apple has aimed to unveil the device near mid-year, the
introduction may be delayed or scrapped, the person said. Few
Apple employees know the details of the project, the person said.
Apple often works on products that don’t get released. The
prototype was about one-third smaller than the iPhone 4, and it
had no “home” button, said the person, who saw it last year.
None of this is actually wrong, technically, given the “introduction may be delayed or scrapped” dodge — but none of this came to pass. None of it.
From the Annals of Bloomberg iPhone Punditry ★
Matthew Lynn, writing for Bloomberg back in January 2007:
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it matters. The big
competitors in the mobile-phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and
Motorola Inc. won’t be whispering nervously into their clamshells
over a new threat to their business.
The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal
to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry,
the iPhone is less relevant. […]
Likewise, who is it pitched at? The price and the e-mail features
make it look like a business product. But Apple is a consumer
company. Will your accounts department stump up for a fancy new
handset just so you can listen to Eminem on your way to a business
Horace Dediu: The Innovator’s Curse ★
I somehow missed this Horace Dediu piece from back in August (even though I linked to and commented upon his follow-up piece):
But just like Disruption Theory is beautifully illustrated through
the ageless David vs. Goliath parable, The Innovator’s Curse is
but a retelling of this fable:
A cottager and his wife had a Goose that laid a golden egg every
day. They supposed that the Goose must contain a great lump of
gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it.
Having done so, they found to their surprise that the Goose
differed in no respect from their other geese.
Even if the cottagers were naive enough to have faith in the
replicating miracle of golden egg laying geese, wise men would
quickly advise them to kill it and get the gold more quickly. The
Goose is doomed no matter what.
The regularity of the goose in the parable makes its owners seem more obviously foolish.
Imagine instead a goose that lays golden eggs not every day, but only every once in a while, with an unpredictable and irregular periodicity. That’s Apple.
What Google Lost When Apple Dropped It From iOS Maps ★
Charles Arthur, in The Guardian:
But a year on, a total of 35m iPhone owners in the US used Apple’s
maps during September 2013, according to ComScore, compared
to a total of 58.7m Google Maps across the iPhone and Android.
Of those, about 6m used Google Maps on the iPhone, according to
calculations by the Guardian based on figures from ComScore. That
includes 2m iPhone users who have not or cannot upgrade to iOS 6,
according to data from MixPanel.
The inherent advantage of the built-in Maps app over any app that has to be downloaded from the App Store. The App Store makes downloading third-party apps easier than ever, but nothing can beat the convenience of an app pre-installed with the system.
Apple Maps has gotten to the point where it’s pretty good, and it continues to get better.
WSJ: ‘Apple Finds Surprising Growth Market in Japan’ ★
Why is the word “surprising” in this headline:
Sales got another boost in late September when NTT DoCoMo Inc.,
Japan’s largest wireless carrier, began offering the iPhone for
the first time to its 61.8 million customers. Even before that,
the iPhone was Japan’s best-selling smartphone, with a 37% market
share in the six months ended Sept. 30, according to Tokyo’s MM
Research Institute. That’s comparable to the iPhone’s 36% share in
the U.S. in the third quarter, according to Kantar Worldpanel
The iPhone was already the best-selling smartphone in Japan, before it was available on the country’s largest carrier, and somehow it’s “surprising” that Japan is a growth market?
Design Project Z ★
How Nissan designed the Datsun 240-Z in the mid-’60s: full-size high-quality clay models.
Update: Hand-drawn styling analysis of the 240-Z from the April 1970 issue of Road and Track. (Thanks to Joe Clark for both of these links.)
One Advantage to Concave Displays for Smartphones: Reducing Reflections ★
Display expert Raymond M. Soneira:
Introducing a slightly curved cylindrically concave screen is a
very important and major innovation in Smartphone display
technology — very far from being a marketing gimmick as has been
widely reported. The Galaxy Round screen curvature is very subtle,
just 0.10 inches away from flat, which is similar to the slight
curvature in a handheld magnifying mirror. But that small
curvature is the key to a series of optical effects that result in
significantly reducing interference from reflected ambient light
by a large factor. It substantially improves screen readability,
image contrast, color accuracy, and overall picture quality, but
can also increase the running time on battery because the screen
brightness and display power can be lowered due to the reduced
light interference from ambient light reflections.
But that’s for a concave display. Bloomberg’s report regarding Apple’s supposedly forthcoming displays describes “larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges” — downward sounds like convex, not concave. It’s possible that Bloomberg’s source is describing a design where the display is flat but the glass surface above the display tapers at the edge of the device.
‘Anti-Elop Bias’ ★
On the latest episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, I’m joined by special guest Paul X. Kafasis to discuss planned obsolescence and Apple, Stephen Elop and Nokia, the Twitter IPO, and more.
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About That Bloomberg Report on Next Year’s iPhones ★
Tim Culpan and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg yesterday:
Apple Inc. is developing new iPhone designs including bigger
screens with curved glass and enhanced sensors that can
detect different levels of pressure, said a person familiar
with the plans.
Two models planned for release in the second half of next year
would feature larger displays with glass that curves downward at
the edges, said the person, declining to be identified because the
details aren’t public. Sensors that can distinguish heavy or light
touches on the screen may be incorporated into subsequent models,
the person said.
With screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, the two new models
would be Apple’s largest iPhones, the person said, and would
approach in size the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 that Samsung
Electronics Co. debuted in September.
I don’t understand the bit about “glass that curves downward at the edges”. Downward how? Sounds like they’re saying the display would be convex, and I can’t imagine why that would be desirable. (I don’t see the point of concave displays either.) And it also seems rather curious that Apple would introduce two new displays sizes at the same time. Apple has only introduced one new iPhone display size since 2007, but they’re going to introduce two at the same time next year? That smells fishy to me.
And whither the 4-inch display? I would like to see any report of next-generation iPhones with larger displays explain Apple’s plans for the existing 4-inch size. Would it be relegated only to the second-tier C-class model? Or would they continue to produce top-tier models at that size as well? A person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to explain this.
Update: Another thing I’d like to know about future iOS device displays sporting new physical dimensions — the pixel counts. Will they be like the iPad Air and Mini (same pixel count, different pixels-per-inch resolution)? Or will they introduce new pixel dimensions? Again, any person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to answer that.
On Gestures ★
Tim Carmody, writing for the new publication STET:
Touchscreens typically register just points of contact: they don’t
register the pressure with which the device has been touched, the
angle and articulation of the hand, or velocity of movement.
Interaction, Buxton says, is about both look and feel, but most
multitouch systems overwhelmingly emphasize look over feel, sight
Related: Bloomberg reported over the weekend that Apple is working on pressure-sensitive touchscreens.
Felix Salmon: ‘How Money Can Buy Happiness, Wine Edition’ ★
I, for instance, am absolutely convinced, on an intellectual
level, that the whole concept of “super-premium vodka” is
basically one big marketing con. Vodka doesn’t taste of anything:
that’s the whole point of it. As such the distinction between a
super-premium vodka and a premium vodka is entirely one of price
and branding. And yet, it works! The genius of Grey Goose was that
it created a whole new category above what always used to be the
high end of the vodka market — and in doing so, managed to create
genuine happiness among vodka drinkers who spent billions of
dollars buying up the super-premium branding. But if someone asks
me what kind of vodka I’d like in my martini, I still care, a bit.
And if I my drink ends up being made with, say, Tito’s, I’m going
to savor it more than I would if I had no idea what vodka was
What’s more, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on
first-growth Bordeaux for this to work. You just need to spend a
little bit more than you normally do — enough that you consider
it to be a special bottle of wine. That’s it! When you sit down
and pop it open, probably with people you love, in pleasant
surroundings, everything is set for a very happy outcome.
An awful lot of “Twitter killers” over the years.
Apple Releases Mavericks Mail Update to Address Gmail Compatibility Issues ★
Everpix and Everyone ★
First, it’s incredibly hard to build a service that unseats an
incumbent as entrenched as the iPhone’s Photos app. That is
essentially what Everpix was doing with its own iOS app, which
looked very much like a photo browser. Worse, what Everpix was
actually competing on was superior cloud storage, putting it in
the same game as iCloud, which of course is also free. So it was
never immediately apparent to the average consumer why one would
need Everpix if one had the Photos app and iCloud. Never mind that
Everpix offered a stark advantage by backing up every photo you
have while iCloud only backs up the last month or so; the
distinction between the two services was fuzzy for those who
barely understand cloud computing to begin with. (As an aside, I
personally found iCloud and Everpix to be highly complementary,
but then again I think a lot about having redundant backups.)
I hate to say this, because it’s glib and ignores numerous complexities that would ensue, but: I wish Apple had acquired Everpix.
Update: One of the glib things a simple “I wish Apple had bought them” statement glosses over is that I have zero idea whatsoever whether Everpix, which worked great for me — a terrific, reliable, fast service and great apps — would work just as well, or even at all, going from tens of thousands of users to tens of millions. Could be that Apple took a look at Everpix and deemed it unfeasible for the massive scale they would need.
Another possibility is that Apple’s executives don’t see the need for something like Everpix as a part of iCloud. That’s almost outlandish though. The utility of having your entire photo library in the cloud is so obvious, and so perfectly aligned with the entire stated purpose of iCloud, that it’s unimaginable that Apple’s leadership doesn’t see it. My hope is that it’s something Apple has a team hard at work on, and simply as yet unfinished.
‘So I Could Keep All My Shit Like Papers and Notes’ ★
Erin McCarthy, writing for Mental Floss: The History of the Trapper Keeper. A seminal product from my grade school days.
Thoughts on the Google Nexus 7 From the Perspective of a Longtime iOS User ★
During my first few days with the device, I kept some detailed
notes on what I saw that I liked, as well as what I didn’t. I
present these notes now for your consideration. I’m not going to
pretend that this is any sort of a review; I don’t use enough
different tablets to be a capable judge. It’s just my personal
take after a few days of intensive use, from the perspective of a
long-term iOS loyalist.
The Knock Against Snowfalling ★
David Sleight, writing in A List Apart, on “Snow Fall“-style experiments in web design:
As overdue experiments in art direction and editorial design for
the web, these things are important. They’re also polarizing.
People either love ’em or hate ’em (or hate on them, anyway). So
more than a year after it joined the common news parlance, the
question remains: is “snowfalling” worth it?
The biggest knock against “Snow Fall”–style pieces is that they
seem to take a lot of time and effort to produce. Now, last time I
checked, plenty of things worth doing take time and effort. But
let’s give this argument its due. These stories can take a lot
of time and effort to produce — at first. The more attempts, the
better and more robust the tools become and the smarter
organizations get about building them efficiently.
To me, the biggest knock against “Snow Fall”-style designs is that they make the article harder to read. I didn’t actually read much of “Snow Fall”. I spent a lot of time on the page and was certainly impressed by the design, but as a reader I felt lost.
I’m in complete agreement with Sleight that experiments like “Snow Fall” are important. I’d rather see failed experiments than no experiments. But I think it’s essential to keep in mind that the primary purpose of any story design is for it to be read.
Andy Ihnatko Reviews the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 ★
But the best features of the HDX are the ones that make it a
Kindle. No other tablet — the iPad included — is so keenly tuned
to the needs of content consumption.
Steven Soderbergh’s Paean to ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ ★
So what’s wrong with it? George Lazenby, but not for the reasons
you might think. I actually like him — a lot — and think he
could have made a terrific Bond had he continued (allegedly he
decided before the shoot was over he would only play the part
once). What seems obvious to me, though, is no one was helping him
during the shoot or the edit (they won’t even let him finish a
fucking sentence onscreen). It feels like everyone was so focused
on what he wasn’t (Sean Connery) that they didn’t take the time to
figure out what he was (a cool-looking dude with genuine presence
and great physicality). For instance, they should have known that
a lot of the one-liners that would have worked with Connery don’t
work with Lazenby. This isn’t because he’s bad, it’s because his
entire affect is different, less glib. This, to me, is a lack of
sensitivity and understanding on the part of the filmmakers and
not a shortcoming of the lead actor, because Lazenby has one thing
you can’t fake, which is a certain kind of gravitas.
Makes me want to watch it again. Also makes me want to see a Soderbergh-directed Bond movie.
Burger King Commercial Admitting They Rip McDonald’s Off ★
After yesterday’s piece on Burger King’s “Big King” ripoff of the Big Mac, a few readers pointed me to this 2010 Burger King Commercial. The honesty is refreshing. (How long until Samsung starts running ads like this?)
Also: McDonald’s Big Mac is itself copied from Bob’s Big Boy sandwich.
About the New iWork for Mac: Features and Compatibility ★
New Apple support document:
In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were
not available for the initial release. We plan to reintroduce some
of these features in the next few releases and will continue to
add brand new features on an ongoing basis.
They go on to list “features in upcoming releases in the next 6 months”.
I’m reminded of this short piece I wrote back in 2011.
Update: I’m also reminded of this piece, just three days ago:
I wouldn’t hold my breath, though, waiting for Apple to explain
its plans for restoring lost features to the iWork apps.
Happy to be wrong on that one.
Football Great Tony Dorsett Diagnosed With Signs of Brain-Damaging Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy ★
Really sad story about one of my boyhood idols. Getting hard to enjoy football knowing what the players are doing to themselves.
Analyst Claims Microsoft Earns $2 Billion Per Year From Android Patent Royalties ★
Jay Yarow, writing for Business Insider:
Microsoft is generating $2 billion per year in revenue from
Android patent royalties, says Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund in a
new note on the company. He estimates that the Android revenue has
a 95% margin, so it’s pretty much all profit. […]
Sherlund says that if you back out the Android profits, Microsoft
is probably losing $2.5 billion on Skype, Xbox, and Windows Phone.
Of that, $2 billion in losses are attributable to the Xbox
Take all of this with the usual grain of salt for anything attributed to an analyst, but if it’s all true, it’s rather stunning — both in terms of how much money Microsoft is making on Android’s back, and in terms of Xbox being a sinkhole. (If it’s true that Xbox is losing billions of dollars per year, it certainly puts Sony’s and Nintendo’s console struggles in a different light. It’s hard to compete against a rival that is willing to lose billions year after year after year.)
‘Fuck These Guys’ ★
Recently Brandon Downey, a colleague of mine on the Google
security team, said (after the usual disclaimers about being
personal opinions and not speaking for the firm which I repeat
here) - “fuck these guys”:
I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made
these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it’s no
different - GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA. […]
Thank you Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most
interesting revelation all summer.
Burger King Rips Off McDonald’s Big Mac With Lookalike ‘Big King’ ★
Just shameless. For chrissake even the name is a rip-off. If they wanted to do something interesting, they should have tried ripping off the superior quality of a chain like Five Guys or In-N-Out. (Via Farhad Manjoo.)
‘The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders’ ★
Alex Buono on the making of a very funny SNL short film. Great story.
Apple: ‘Report on Government Information Requests’ (PDF) ★
Interesting information, and glad to see Apple publishing it. Looks like they reject many requests for customer information.
This bit jumped out to me on the first page:
Perhaps most important, our business does not depend on collecting
personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal
information about our customers. We protect personal conversations
by providing end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime. We
do not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any
Also interesting: the U.S. government only permits Apple to report account-based requests in increments of 1000. Update: And here’s Apple’s amicus brief with the U.S. FISA court, arguing to allow the disclosure of the exact aggregate number of national security requests. A rare dispute these days where Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all on the same side.
Update 2: Another interesting nugget: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.” The ACLU has a good rundown on the odious nature of Section 215. If Apple had been served with an order under Section 215, they would not be permitted even to say that they’d received it. So the clever bit here is that if such a statement (that Apple has not received any orders under Section 215) does not appear in a future version of this report from the company, we can assume that they have been served with such an order.
Actors Recast in Different Roles in James Bond Movies ★
I knew about a few of these (Anthony Dawson, Charles Gray, Maud Adams, Joe Don Baker), but most were news to me.
‘Out of the Picture: Why the World’s Best Photo Startup Is Going Out of Business’ ★
Splendid narrative journalism by Casey Newton for The Verge:
The immediate concern in the room was a forthcoming bill from
Amazon Web Services, which hosts the 400 million photos stored
with Everpix; the team estimated the bill would be about $35,000.
“Our AWS bill is going to be due on the third. We’re not going to
be able to pay,” said Pierre-Olivier Latour, who had the idea for
Everpix four years ago after a vacation left him struggling to
organize the hundreds of photos he took on the trip. Behind him, a
poster advertised San Francisco’s minimum wage of $10.55 an hour,
which he had been paying his employees for the past month. “Amazon
is going to reach out to us saying, ‘Your card doesn’t work.’” He
paused. “So that’s going to be fun.”
In two short years, Everpix has gone from a dream shared by two
French graphics experts to one of the world’s best solutions for
managing a large library of photos. It attracted 55,000 users and
earned enough each month to cover the cost of the service, if not
Everpix Shutting Down ★
It is with a heavy heart we announce that Everpix will be shutting
down in the coming weeks.
We started this company two years ago with the goals of solving
the photo mess and designing better ways for people to enjoy their
memories. We are very proud of the work we’ve done — from the
cutting-edge semantic analysis and syncing technology, right down
to every pixel on our website and mobile apps.
Everpix sponsored the DF RSS feed twice this year, which is how they first came to my attention. As soon as I tried it though, I was hooked. Everpix is how photo storage should work. Really a shame to see them close.
Back in August I linked to a great piece by Bradley Chambers, “Regular People Have No Idea How to Manage Photos on Their iPhone”, and I quoted the following:
Also, photo stream needs to be reversed. Apple should store all
photos/video taken with your iPhone and just store the most recent
1000 (or 30 days) locally on the device.
That’s how Everpix worked. All of your photos, stored online.
Acer CEO Resigns Amid Slump in PC Sales ★
Eric Pfanner, reporting for NYT Bits:
Acer is the fourth-largest PC maker in the world, but it has been
hit hard by a decline in sales of desktop computers as more
consumers and businesses turn to tablets and other devices. The
company said Tuesday that its sales in the most recent quarter
were 92.15 billion Taiwan dollars, down 12 percent from a year
ago. It posted an after-tax loss of 13.12 billion Taiwan dollars,
or $446 million, for the quarter.
The post-PC era has another victim.
Lenovo Pursued BlackBerry Bid, but Canadian Government Rejected Idea ★
Steven Chase and Boyd Erman, reporting for The Globe and Mail:
Beijing-based computer manufacturer Lenovo Group Ltd. actively
considered a bid for BlackBerry Ltd., but the Canadian government
told the smartphone company it would not accept a Chinese takeover
because of national security concerns, according to sources
familiar with the situation.
Financial Times Interview With Bill Gates ★
Wide-ranging interview with Gates by Richard Waters:
“Innovation is a good thing. The human condition — put aside
bioterrorism and a few footnotes — is improving because of
innovation,” he says. But while “technology’s amazing, it doesn’t
get down to the people most in need in anything near the timeframe
we should want it to”.
It was an argument he says he made to Thomas Friedman as The New
York Times columnist was writing his 2005 book, The World is Flat,
a work that came to define the almost end-of-history optimism that
accompanied the entry of China and India into the global labour
markets, a transition aided by the internet revolution. “Fine, go
to those Bangalore Infosys centres, but just for the hell of it go
three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no
running water,” Gates says now. “The world is not flat and PCs are
not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”
Gates fends off questions about Microsoft, though he says —
contrary to persistent speculation — that he is not about to step
back in to run it as Steve Jobs once returned to revive Apple. He
also admits that the company is taking up a much bigger slice of
his time than the one day a week to which he signed up after he
left. As chairman and a member of the committee searching for a
replacement to Steve Ballmer as chief executive, Gates says he
still holds regular meetings with some of the company’s product
groups and that he expects to spend considerable time working with
the next boss after an appointment is made.
Apple to Open Another U.S. Factory: Sapphire Plant in Mesa, Arizona ★
Jake Smith, Pocket-Lint:
“We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with
a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in
engineering, manufacturing and construction,” Apple told
Pocket-lint in a statement. “This new plant will make components
for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from
day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create
green energy sources to power the facility.”
The purpose of the factory hasn’t been named specifically by
Apple, though GT Advanced says it has entered “into a multi-year
supply agreement with Apple Inc. to provide sapphire material.”
Sapphire is used abundantly in Apple products, including the Touch
ID fingerprint sensor and camera lens in the iPhone 5S. This gels
nicely with the word about “components” Apple gave us.
Another possible use: sapphire displays. Sapphire is harder than Gorilla Glass, and thus more scratch resistant.
MacRumors had a piece over the summer regarding a Swiss news site’s interview with an executive from Vertu, who claimed Apple had investigated sapphire displays (and recruited Vertu employees with experience designing them):
According to Oosting, Apple ultimately shelved the sapphire
project because the material is unsuitable for production in the
numbers that Apple requires at the current point in time.
Could be what this factory is for.
Why Are So Many Social Media Managers Dipshits? ★
Mark Copyranter Duffy:
Today, many of the social media managers at large and important
companies are, by contrast, not very smart ad men. To say that
they regularly underestimate their customers’ intelligence would
be a great understatement. They seem to believe their customers
have the brain power of a baked potato.
I’ve collected eight recent social media posts by large companies.
Most of these updates are from the last month. To try to pick the
abjectly stupidest one would not be easy. You can go ahead and give
it a try, though.
MacKenzie Bezos’s Amazon Review of Brad Stone’s Book About Jeff Bezos and Amazon ★
If this were an isolated example, it might not matter, but it’s
not. Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find
way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over
every episode in the book. Like two other reviewers here, Jonathan
Leblang and Rick Dalzell, I have firsthand knowledge of many of
the events. I worked for Jeff at D. E. Shaw, I was there when he
wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others
represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse
closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush
distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in
the early years of Amazon’s history. Jeff and I have been married
for 20 years.
(Via Matthew Panzarino.)
Understanding iCloud Keychain ★
Jon Brodkin, writing for Ars Technica:
Unfortunately, it’s kind of a mess. iCloud Keychain does
accomplish the most basic things you’d expect a password manager
to do, but it often does so in an awkward manner. Important
functionality is hard enough to find that it may be effectively
hidden from the average user, particularly on iPhones and iPads.
Ultimately, iCloud Keychain can be put to good use if you’ve
carefully examined what it does well and doesn’t do well. It works
best as a complement to a complete service like 1Password or
LastPass, but it just isn’t convenient and robust enough to act as
a standalone password manager.
I think it’s a bit harsh to call it a “mess”, but Brodkin provides a good overview of what iCloud Keychain does. Complaining that it’s not as full-featured as 1Password is like complaining that iPhoto doesn’t do everything Lightroom or Aperture do.
‘I’d Prefer Not to Talk to Anybody About That’ ★
A hacker break in at a U.S. company that brokers reservations for
limousine and Town Car services nationwide has exposed the
personal and financial information on more than 850,000
well-heeled customers, including Fortune 500 CEOs, lawmakers, and
Amateur Hour Still Over ★
Boyd Erman, reporting for The Globe and Mail:
BlackBerry Ltd. is abandoning a plan to find a buyer and will
instead raise $1-billion of new funds and replace its chief
executive and some directors, sources said.
Thorsten Heins, we hardly knew you.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere Trashes the Wireless Business Model ★
Brendan Greeley and Scott Moritz, writing for Businessweek:
In October, T-Mobile announced it would offer a small amount of
wireless data, free for life, to every customer who bought a
tablet. “These aren’t carrier moves,” Legere told reporters. “We
try to design them to be things even we can’t believe we’re
doing.” The company is also taking old tablets from customers as a
trade-in for a new iPad. Any old tablet will do. “We may take a
bushel of corn,” Legere said. He is a midway barker, promising
something marvelous if we’ll just step through the curtain.
200 MB of data isn’t much, but for people who mostly use Wi-Fi and only occasionally want cellular networking, you can’t beat “free for life”.
Tim Cook: Workplace Equality Is Good for Business ★
Tim Cook, in an op-ed for the WSJ:
So long as the law remains silent on the workplace rights of gay
and lesbian Americans, we as a nation are effectively consenting
to discrimination against them.
Update: Here’s a link that should get around the WSJ’s paywall.
Michael Dell on Carl Icahn ★
Connie Guglielmo, reporting for Forbes on Michael Dell’s successful attempt to take Dell private:
“It’s a big poker game to him,” says Dell. “It’s not about the
customers. It’s not about the people. It’s not about changing
the world. He doesn’t give a crap about any of that. He didn’t
know whether we made nuclear power plants or French fries. He
Lawrence Lessig on Apple’s Customer Communication ★
For example, if the problem I have confronted with Mail.app using
Gmail (which I describe more below) is something Apple considers a
bug, then I’m willing to live with it for a while till Apple fixes
it. If it isn’t a bug, but is a feature (insanely but whatever),
then I will spend the time (and incredible bandwidth waste) to
deal with the problem in the way the Apple volunteers suggest —
either by changing the way Gmail works, or getting a new mail
So in a line, it is indecent for Apple to sit by silently while
its customers waste thousands of hours (in the aggregate) trying
to deal with the problems its “upgrades” create, when the simple
act of describing what it intends to fix could save its customers
those thousands of hours.
The Apple Mail/Gmail thing in particular demands some sort of explanation. From the outside, it’s not possible to determine whether this new behavior is a bug or feature. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though, waiting for Apple to explain its plans for restoring lost features to the iWork apps.
Using Mavericks Mail With Gmail Accounts ★
Gmail has always been a weird service to use via IMAP, because of the way that Gmail’s message organization is designed around labels (where one message can have several labels), whereas IMAP is designed around a traditional folder/mailbox metaphor (where any given message resides in one and only one mailbox at a time). Gmail’s metaphor is superior, but IMAP is the only standard we have for email clients.
As Joe Kissel documents in this piece for TidBITS, the relationship between Apple Mail and Gmail has gotten more complicated than ever in Mavericks. I’m surprised this didn’t boil to the surface during Mavericks’s beta period.
Update 1: I am informed that Apple is aware of the problem, and has a fix for Mail already seeded to employees for testing, and they’re scrambling to ship it as soon as they can.
Update 2: See also: Kissel’s “Why (and How) I’m Saying Goodbye to Gmail” for Macworld.
From the DF Archive: More on Google and Patents ★
Yours truly, two years ago:
And yes, there are some who will argue that there are no “worthy
patents”, that the entire U.S. patent system should simply be
abolished. That’s not going to happen. Google’s blog post comes
across as whining that Apple and Microsoft (Microsoft especially)
aren’t sitting back and allowing Android to destroy their
businesses. Maybe the patent system should be killed. It certainly
should be reformed. But these are the laws we have. Google’s ace
in this fight: search revenue. Microsoft’s ace: its patent
library. You fight with what you have.
First, the dynamite in Rockstar’s suit against Google filed yesterday is that it is going after Google’s search revenue.
Second, it’s cute how even I thought, just two years ago, that Google was pursuing a mobile patents portfolio only for “defensive” purposes.
iOS 7 and the Iconography of ‘Alien’ ★
Dave Brasgalla, The Iconfactory:
It makes me smile to think that 35-year-old designs can suddenly
feel current and even trendy again. It’s tempting to say that Cobb
was ahead of his time with his Semiotic Standard, but I think the
larger point here is simply that good design is timeless.
Asymco: Advertising Budgets Over the Years for a Few Companies ★
Bookmark this chart for the next time someone tries to tell you that Apple’s success is just “marketing”.
JD Power Explains Why Samsung Beat Apple in Its Latest Tablet Study: Price ★
So I reached out to JD Power and spoke to Kirk Parsons, senior
director of telecommunications services. What he told us wasn’t
too surprising, but may help clear up some of the confusion. First
off, the ‘power circle’ chart that’s being widely circulated is
simply a visual tool, and not representative of the actual scores
given to the brands evaluated in its survey.
The power circle chart showed Apple winning handily in four
categories including performance, ease of use, physical design and
tablet features. Only one category showed a clear win for Samsung:
cost. But most folks were a bit skeptical, considering that the JD
Power report only weights cost as 16% of the overall score.
Headline from The Verge, yesterday at 2 PM: “Android 4.4 KitKat: Google’s Simpler, Integrated Operating System Designed for Every Phone”.
Headline from The Verge, yesterday at 3:30 PM: “Google Says the Galaxy Nexus Will Not Be Upgraded to Android 4.4 KitKat”.
Lucida Grande ‘Retina-Optimized’ in OS X Mavericks ★
Apple, sweating the details.