Starting today, customers around the world can access the Amazon
Prime Video app on Apple TV to stream award-winning and critically
acclaimed titles including Prime Original Series and Movies. Also
starting this week, the Apple TV app — a unified place for
iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users to discover and start watching the
best shows and movies — supports live sports, giving fans in the
US a simple and seamless way to keep track of their favorite teams
and games in real time. Participating sports apps in the Apple TV
app include ESPN and the NBA, developed in partnership between the
NBA and Turner Sports, with more to be added soon. Starting
tomorrow, Prime members in the US can enjoy Thursday Night
Football on the Apple TV app for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
I’ve heard there is indeed a good story behind this delay. I don’t know the story, or even what the story is about (although my guess would be revenue-sharing politics, not software) — I’ve just heard that there’s a good story.
Update: Now that I’ve had a chance to install and try the app on my Apple TV 4K, I’m seriously wondering if the holdup was technical, not political. (Or technical in addition to political.) Justin Williams:
I’m half convinced that Apple granted Amazon an entitlement to
access a tvOS web view to get Prime Video on the Apple TV. It
looks and behaves nearly identical to the HTML5 / Smart TV app
that is deployed everywhere.
I have zero evidence of this. Just my dumb conspiracy theory.
I don’t know if it’s a webview, but if it is, that would have required a special entitlement from Apple because the tvOS SDK does not have a webview. Netflix, HBO, and Hulu all have Apple TV UIs that seem a bit alien, eschewing tvOS standard UI elements for custom branded UI elements. But this Prime Video app takes it to a new level. The UI doesn’t even play sound as you move the selection around — I’ve never seen that in an Apple TV app. The Prime Video app for Apple TV doesn’t just look alien, it feels and sounds alien too. I think it’s a web app. And if it’s not, Amazon’s engineers went to extraordinary lengths to make UIKit on tvOS look and feel like a web app.
Update 2: Steven Troughton-Smith poked around the IPA:
TL;DR it’s no wonder Amazon took so long in porting their app to
tvOS; it’s a giant, [presumably] in-house web-based multi-headed
hydra designed for a hundred different devices and consoles that
probably needed a new UI glue layer for tvOS (but probably doesn’t
I find it hard to believe that getting this custom cross-platform monstrosity running atop tvOS was less work (and would be easier to maintain) than just writing a goddamn native tvOS app. I can see why Amazon doesn’t want to create a new app from scratch for every single “smart TV” platform, but Apple TV is a big market.
Prime Video is, without question, the worst Apple TV app I have on my Apple TV (taking the crown from Hulu).
Mike Klein, reporting for Chess.com:
A little more than a year after AlphaGo sensationally won against
the top Go player, the artificial-intelligence program AlphaZero
has obliterated the highest-rated chess engine.
Stockfish, which for most top players is their go-to preparation
tool, and which won the 2016 TCEC Championship and the 2017
Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, didn’t stand a chance.
AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72
draws, and zero losses.
Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry
humans, you had a good run.
That’s right — the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the
DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine
learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly,
AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That
means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no
complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between
center pawns and side pawns.
Marco Arment has released a public beta of Forecast, a Mac app for podcast producers. Among a slew of other great features, Forecast is hands-down the best MP3 chapter editor I’ve seen. If you’ve noticed the chapter support in The Talk Show that started earlier this year, that’s thanks to Forecast. Forecast is free of charge, too.
See also: Jason Snell’s review of Forecast at Six Colors:
There’s also a perceptual trick that Forecast uses to make
encoding seem quick: When you add a file to be encoded, encoding
begins immediately in the background. By the time you edit your
file’s metadata, the encode may have already completed in the
background. The first time I used Forecast, I thought something
had gone wrong — because when I typed Command-S to save the file,
it just saved. There was no wait. The file had already encoded — it was waiting for me, the slow human, to finish typing in episode
titles and show descriptions.
Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:
Which is why, when someone tells me that it’s stupid for there to
be an iOS laptop because it wouldn’t run Xcode and couldn’t be
used by professional developers or pro video editors or power
users who have spent a decade building up productivity-boosting
workflows based on macOS, I don’t have much of a response for
them. The iBook wouldn’t be for those people. It would be for
people who don’t need all of the features and flexibility that
macOS brings. It would be one in an array of products Apple makes — iPhones, iPads, desktop Macs, laptop Macs — that appeal to
different users with different needs.
There are simply some use cases where a laptop is the best form factor. An iPad with a keyboard cover is laptop-ish, but not a laptop. If you prefer to use iOS in a scenario that calls for a laptop, you’re stuck between making a go of it with an iPad with a keyboard, or using a proper laptop and another OS.
You could throw this right back at me — and my firmly held belief that MacOS should not support touchscreens — and point out that there are other scenarios where a tablet is the best form factor, and if you prefer MacOS, there therefore ought to be a Mac tablet. I don’t think that argument holds, though. The difference is that I think iOS could work in a laptop form factor (especially if Apple added support for a trackpad, in ways like Snell suggests, but even if they don’t), whereas the Mac interface as it stands would not work well with touch, and changing the Mac interface to work well with touch would (I say) ruin it for use with a mouse pointer.
Peter Bright, writing for Ars Technica:
This ability to upgrade is particularly important because the new
Always Connected PCs are different from Microsoft’s previous
Windows-on-ARM attempt, Windows RT. Windows RT was a version of
Windows 8 for ARM processors, and it too could only run
applications from what was then called the Windows Store. But
Windows RT had two constraints not found on these new systems:
there was no facility to unlock it, and run non-Store apps, and
there was no facility to run existing x86 programs. On Windows RT,
not only did software have to come from the Store, it also had to
be compiled specifically for ARM processors.
That’s not so with Always Connected PCs. They contain an x86
emulator that will enable most 32-bit x86 applications to run
unmodified. This includes x86 applications in the Store and, when
upgraded to the full Windows 10 Pro, arbitrary desktop
applications. Full details of the x86 emulator haven’t been
disclosed yet, with the performance in particular currently
unknown, but we do know some broad elements of its design.
The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of
x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is
cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to
be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the
program should be faster, as they can skip the translation).
Moreover, system libraries — the various DLLs that applications
load to make use of operating system features — are all native
ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling
them “Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables” (or “chippie” for
short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a
way as to let them respond to x86 function calls.
A few years ago I would have wagered a small sum on Apple shipping ARM-based Macs before ARM-based Windows PCs arrived. (It could still happen, I suppose, given that these PCs aren’t set to arrive until spring.) What’s interesting to me is that these ARM CPUs are fast enough to emulate x86 software. If that’s true for a Snapdragon CPU, then Apple’s even-faster ARM chips are certainly more than capable of doing the same.
As I reported at the time, under terms of a contract, whoever
acquired Yahoo was required to pay Mozilla annual payments of $375
million through 2019, even if it does not think the buyer was one
it wanted to work with and walked away. It was Mayer who struck
the deal in late 2014 to become the default search engine on
the well-known Firefox browser in the U.S.
Mozilla switched to Yahoo from Google after Mayer offered a much
more lucrative deal that included an unprecedented term to protect
Mozilla in a change-of-control scenario. It was a scenario that
Mayer never thought would happen, which is why she apparently
pushed through the problematic deal point.
According to the change-of-control term, 9.1 in the agreement,
Mozilla had the right to leave the partnership if — under its
sole discretion and in a certain time period — it did not deem
the new partner acceptable. And if it did that, even if it struck
another search deal, Yahoo was still obligated to pay out annual
revenue guarantees of $375 million.
That was... not a good deal for Yahoo.