[J]ust how important is mobile technology for the Seattle coffee retailer?
Consider this: Starbucks said today that roughly 16 percent of its U.S. sales now occur through a mobile device, with the company now handling about seven million mobile payments each week. It also controlled about 90 percent of all mobile payment transactions last year.
When I’m standing here, using the iMac, I keep thinking about how it’s all about the screen. But what’s crazy is that the screen is only half the story. Inside this iMac just so happens to be one of the fastest Macintosh computers on the planet. Take away the Retina display and you’ve still got an incredible machine. But you don’t have to take away the display. With the Retina iMac you’ve got your cake and you’re eating it, too.
Like Shawn, I’ve always had a laptop as my main machine, hooked up to an external display when I’m at my desk. But, also like Shawn, the amount of time my MacBook Air actually leaves my desk has dwindled to the point where a desktop is starting to look more favourable. The Retina iMac makes that kind of decision much, much easier. This is the first time in as long as I can remember where I’ve considered giving up the “freedom” of a laptop that I have but don’t actually exercise for a desktop. And what a desktop.
Progress. Doesn’t help that developers probably feel like they’re still on a knife-edge, though. The App Store review team desperately needs consistency, as well as a reminder of what the review process is for.
Tim Cook, in a special for Bloomberg Businessweek:
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.
You may recall this weekend’s discussion of a new mobile payment solution called CurrentC. Though it won’t launch until next year, its exclusivity agreement prohibits retailers who will be implementing it from using any other pay-with-your-phone tech, including Apple Pay.
This set off the kind of public relations shitstorm that makes me excited for blog posts like this one, from MCX — CurrentC’s parent company — CEO Dekkers Davidson. And now, akin to Weird Al, here’s an Anglicized version of this PR disaster, vaguely in the style of John Gruber.
Does MCX Require its Merchants to Only Offer CurrentC?
MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs. When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us.
Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines.
We do not consider a lack of refunds of deposits or penalty fees to be “fines”.
Back when the MCX merchants first got together, it was in response to a market that lacked a viable mobile wallet that would benefit both consumers and retailers. Today, we believe that need still exists, and our working group is getting ready to reveal a solution that is different from other mobile payment options in many important ways.
We live in a state of perpetual denial about what features are most important to consumers, and are desperately trying to convince ourselves that QR codes really took off. That’s what makes us different: we use QR codes. None of your near-field bullshit.
What Are the Facts Around Consumer Privacy?
Our Lawyers Made Us Phrase This Section Title in an Evasive and Weird Way.
Consumers’ privacy and data security are our top priorities. CurrentC will empower consumers and merchants to make informed decisions regarding how information can be shared through our privacy dashboard.
Much like Facebook, you’ll be able to see, at a glance, just how much data we collect about you. You will have very little say, however, in how that data will be used.
By the way, we noticed you recently purchased a 24-pack of Charmin and a box of Wheaties, so we hope you enjoy 10% off Glade-brand products with this coupon.
What Are the Facts About Data Security?
On the data security side, the technology choices we’ve made take consumers’ security into account at every aspect of their core functionality. We want to assure you, MCX does not store sensitive customer information in the app. Users’ payment information is instead stored in our secure cloud-hosted network. Removing this sensitive information from the mobile device significantly lowers the risk of it being inappropriately disclosed in a case that the mobile device is hacked, stolen or otherwise compromised.
In the event that our “cloud-hosted network” is breached, please take solace in knowing that it wouldn’t be just your banking information that would be compromised, but everybody’s. Everyone’s a winner.
We look forward to continuing to work hard to develop our app. There will be more to come in the weeks and months ahead and we can’t wait for the time when we can show you more about CurrentC and its benefits. Until then, we’ll stay hard at work.
We’ll keep trying desperately to pretend that Apple Pay doesn’t exist.
This is a profoundly stupid decision by Apple. James Thomson, PCalc’s developer, was apparently told that “Notification Center widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations, and the current PCalc widget must be removed.” That, despite Apple’s own app review guidelines and extension programming guide (PDF) making no mention of this restriction. The App Store editorial team must not be aware of this rule, because PCalc is currently featured as an example of iOS 8′s extensible Notification Centre feature — this is what inspired my use of the word “profound” above.
It’s not the rules themselves that are necessarily a burden on app developers. It’s Apple’s store, so they get to set the rules. But it’s seemingly-arbitrary stuff like this that makes developers lose sleep at night. Thomson clearly spent a great deal of time and care building this extension, and now that’s gone to waste with unfortunately characteristic indifference from Apple. And it’s not like PCalc was rejected outright — Apple allowed it in the store for the past month and a half before pulling it for violating a rule that doesn’t even exist.
It can’t be that Apple doesn’t want interaction in widgets — Strava’s widget allows you to start and stop a session. It can’t even be that calculations aren’t allowed, unless it only pertains to iOS for inexplicable reasons, as Yosemite includes a calculator in its default Today widget bundle. If it’s either of these things, Apple ought to better explain their expectations before developers waste hours doing stuff that’s allowed, only to be summarily rejected for new and unwritten rules.
The latest report from the research firm IHS, due later today and shared exclusively with Re/code, shows that the base model of the iPad Air 2, the 16 gigabyte Wi-Fi version, which sells for $499, costs $275 to build, exactly one dollar higher than the previous base model. The top-end model, the 128GB LTE version, which sells for $829, costs $358.
Why is this being reported as though it were factual? These reports do not factor in research and development, nor do they account for software. Anyone worth their analysis salt knows that these reports are, at best, a rough estimate.
Update:More from Nick Arnott at iMore. There’s nothing about CurrentC that’s designed in the users’ best interests; there’s a lot about it that seems designed to be in the interests of retailers and creepy advertisers.
And the reason they don’t want to allow Apple Pay is because Apple Pay doesn’t give them any personal information about the customer. It’s not about security — Apple Pay is far more secure than any credit/debit card system in the U.S. It’s not about money — Apple’s tiny slice of the transaction comes from the banks, not the merchants. It’s about data.
They’re doing this so they can pursue a system that is less secure (third-party apps don’t have access to the secure element where Apple Pay stores your credit card data, for one thing), less convenient (QR codes?), and not private.
CurrentC notes it may share info with your device maker, app store, or developer tool makers. Oddly, it will collect health data. Precise location information is used to verify you’re at the retailer where you’re making a transaction, and if you opt in it can be used for marketing or advertising. CurrentC notes that you can opt in to be able to capture and store photos in the app for a hypothetical visual shopping list or other features down the road.
After his investigation of the app, Aude told me “CurrentC borders on the creepy line” due to it pulling health info. He also that found that its Terms Of Service leaves high liability for fraud to the user if someone else is able to get access to a user’s phone and make CurrentC payments.
Let me get this straight: a group of retailers — including Michaels, Lowe’s, and Target, all of which have had significant security breaches in the past year — are trying to launch a payment system based on QR codes and a steady hand, and want to access significantly more data so your purchase history can be sold to advertisers. Good luck with that.
Samsung phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S4, are shipped with a preinstalled version of Samsung Knox. Samsung advertises Knox with the following:
“KNOX Workspace container improves the user experience, providing security for enterprise data by creating a secure zone in the employee’s device for corporate applications, and encrypting enterprise data both at rest and in motion. KNOX Workspace container provides users with an isolated and secure environment within the mobile device, complete with its own home screen, launcher, applications and widgets for easier, more intuitive and safe operation. Applications and data inside the container are separated.”
Searching around the internet to find specific information about Samsung Knox were not satisfying, as Samsung Knox is not open source. This was the reason to investigate Samsung Knox a little bit and lead to this analysis. Also today I read an article that the US government certified the use of Samsung Knox for their work and this was the reason to publish my analysis.
Right now, a collective of Internet archivists and programmers is trying to do the impossible: save more than 800 million pictures uploaded to the Twitter photo-sharing service Twitpic before they disappear down the memory hole after the company’s scheduled shutdown on October 25.
For this group of digital librarians, saving a bunch of stranger’s pictures is about keeping alive a key piece of our digital culture.
TwitPic was huge for the first years of Twitter’s life, until the official image hosting service was launched. Its shutting down has been a botched affair; it deserves better. Another valuable contribution to history from the Archive Team.
Concerns about the amount of information transmitted to Apple in standard usage of Yosemite first surfaced a few days ago. To be fair, it looks like a lot of stuff that Apple is collecting: an analytics ID, kinds of email addresses, Spotlight searches, and so forth. Sounds pretty scary. But Russell Brandom of the Verge and Michael Tsai have both done a great job of reducing the amount of FUD in these claims. Brandom:
Cook frames it as Apple not needing your information because it isn’t monetizing it, but there are definitely cases where having more information would help Apple improve the user experience—at the expense of privacy. It is not always possible to maximize both.
Also of note: the fact that this Washington Post article even got published. If it were nearly any other company, an article like that probably wouldn’t be warranted. That’s not because the Post wants to target Apple or anything, but because Facebook, Google, and others collect this kind of information routinely. Apple is one of the few Silicon Valley companies to care to such an extent about user privacy. Any breach of that is considered noteworthy. By contrast, the expectation of most other tech companies is that they will take as much analytics and user data as they can get away with.
Perhaps I was a little unfair in calling the iPad Air 2 an iterative update. Gruber’s review is convincing me otherwise. The combination of big upgrades, like to the SoC and display, and little enhancements, like the thickness and Apple SIM, are much greater than the sum of their parts:
I think the sort of person who prefers the Mini form factor is less likely to be using their iPad in the ways that the iPad Air 2 is improved. (Anecdotally, most iPad photographers I see in the real world are using 9.7-inch iPads, not the Mini.) And the sort of iPad users who are pushing the performance limits of the platform are the sort of people who’ve preferred the 9.7-inch models all along. In short, I think the Mini really is more of a pure consumption device, and the Air is more of an alternative to a MacBook.
That’s a big claim, but there’s probably enough in the Air 2 to warrant it. It’s a pretty impressive update on the hardware, all things considered.
But, despite the great hardware, the iPad lineup is aching for software improvements. Last year’s iPads can do everything that this year’s iPads can, with the exception of Touch ID and Apple Pay. Yes, the Air 2 has a better user experience — it’s faster and much nicer to hold. It’s certainly a much better product than the iPad 3 or 4, which is a more appropriate comparison for most people who will upgrade. But I can’t help but wish for far greater capabilities to go with the far greater hardware.
Speaking of Apple’s quarterly results, how about those Mac sales figures? The iPad may be weak right now, but never have so many Macs been sold in a single quarter.
This is fascinating, especially when you consider that Macs — particularly the MacBook lines, which have traditionally been the strongest sellers — haven’t really been updated this year. Both received only relatively minorspec bumps and pricing adjustments. The back to school promotion was also the same this year as it was in previous years. I can’t think of a specific impetus for such a surge; the surge simply exists. As I said: fascinating.
Even better, Apple doubled the iPad’s RAM, which should mean that you’ll be able to keep more than three Safari tabs in memory at the same time.
In all seriousness, the embargo has lifted and the early reviews are very positive. Nilay Patel, the Verge:
Pick up an iPad Air 2 and you’ll immediately understand why Apple pursues that thinness with such single-minded zeal. It’s so, so thin: 18 percent thinner than the older Air, and even slightly lighter. It’s hard to believe that there’s a computer back there, let alone a computer as powerful than the laptop computers of just a few years ago. If there is anything magical about this new iPad it is this, this feeling of impossibility. The Air 2 makes the original iPad look and feel archaic, like a horrible monster from a long-forgotten past.
It’s decidedly iterative, but the display seems to be significantly improved. It’s now laminated, which I’m sort of surprised hasn’t happened before.
What’s different about the iPad Air and Mini this year is that they are different. Last year, Apple made a big point about how the Air and Mini were identical aside from the size of the display.1 This year, the Mini simply gets a gold model and Touch ID. That makes the $299 iPad Mini 22 the bargain of the century. Touch ID is really, really nice, but it isn’t worth $100 to me. You may disagree.
The iterative iPad improvements this year combined with several lacklustre quarters for the product aren’t going to give investors much confidence in its future, but I still think there’s a place for it. The hardware improvements in the Air 2 will hopefully make way for powerful software enhancements in the future. It’s not going away any time soon; Apple has just had its priorities elsewhere for the past year, and it shows.
Though, reviewers found the display gamut of the Mini to be much, much lower and the SoC to run slightly slower, but never mind that. ↩
Apple sorely needs a better way of differentiating iPad models, especially if they do, indeed, launch the large 12.9″ model next year. Imagine a lineup in 2016 that consists of iPad Mini 3, 4, and 5, iPad Air 2, 3, and 4, and iPad Air Plus 1, 2, and 3. Maybe they’ll give people a free aspirin when they enter a retail store to make their selection. ↩
Federico Viticci of MacStories really doesn’t like the new iTunes’ UI:
I don’t understand most of the changes that went into the iTunes 12 interface: from the lack of a sidebar to the new tabs for navigation and separation of media types and iTunes Store, I feel completely lost using the new iTunes.
Of all of the complaints people had about iTunes… is anyone ever asking them to dramatically revamp the window layout and hide everything?
I, oddly, disagree. I actually think the new iTunes UI is extremely effective. I think the separation of views based on media type makes a lot of sense, and that the sidebar was never really a great idea in such a complex app. When you’re browsing through movies, for example, you probably don’t need to see your music playlists. The two live in separate realms.
Of course, the tenability of having so many media types shoehorned into iTunes over the years is a different matter altogether. I’ve previously argued — and I stand by this — that the all-in-one solution is the least worst option for iTunes. It’s not the best, but it would be more convoluted to have separate apps for managing music, movies, apps, and podcasts, for buying all of those things, and for syncing them. That’s too many things. The isolation of iBooks into its own app in Mavericks is a good illustration of just how confusing this is: iTunes syncs books, but you buy and manage them in iBooks. Confusing.
I’m still going through to see how many of the (many) bugs and feature requests I’ve filed in the past year have been taken care of, but Federico Viticci’s post on the update also pointed out that the apps have gained a new file format again:
Apple’s iWork apps for OS X had been criticized in the past for removing power user functionalities and introducing incompatibilities with their new file formats, and today’s updates confirm that Apple has been listening to its user base. The OS X updates to iWork feature various AppleScript and file format improvements – notably, files generated by the apps should play nicely with Dropbox and Gmail now.
In truth, it’s not actually a new format; it’s simply a zipped version of the previous format:
Looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? This is pretty familiar — the difference between iWork ’08 and ’09 formats was pretty much the same thing. The big difference this time is that it still uses the totally impenetrable protobuf-encoded .iwa files.
Update: Because this iWork update isn’t available for Mavericks users, iWork files created on Yosemite are backwards incompatible. There is a setting to change this, but then you lose Dropbox compatibility.
In introducing Time Machine at WWDC 2006, Scott Forstall made a really great point about how he doesn’t want to lose his most precious memories:
When I look on my Mac, I find these pictures of my kids that, to me, are absolutely priceless. In fact, I have thousands of these photos. If I were to lose a single one of these photos, it would be awful. But if I were to lose all of these photos because my hard drive died, I’d be devastated. I never, ever, want to lose these photos.
Forstall then talks about how Time Machine solves this by automatically backing up all your photos, along with everything else you keep on your hard drive. And that sounds great for eight years ago.
But it’s 2014 now; everything has migrated to “the cloud”. Sure, if you’re a bit controlling, you might feel a little uncomfortable that you don’t have the backups right next to you. What you lose in control, though, you gain in redundancy and offsite goodness.
If this is implemented well, it feels flawless and enables users to trust their most precious memories to it. But iCloud is so flawed so much of the time that nobody should realistically trust it. And that’s a problem in 2014.
Nate Boateng just experienced this first-hand by simply signing out of his iCloud account on his phone. Luckily, he has many copies of these photos; if he didn’t, he’d probably be crushed.
With Time Machine, you get the feeling that people at Apple truly use it to recover files when they accidentally overwrite them. It was like Scott Forstall wanted the feature so bad because something like the hypothetical situation he spoke about actually happened to him. But iCloud is the sort of product that comes across as though it’s something Apple knows it needs to have, but they’re not really that invested in it. I’m sure there are people at the company who actually care, but it comes across as lackadaisical and weak. I’m not certain anyone at Apple would entrust their photo library solely to iCloud.
Jaw-dropping. This is probably the first time I’ve considered going desktop-only (or, at least, desktop-primary) in about ten years. I do love the mobility of my Air, but this display is perfect. It’s also really reasonably priced — just $2500 to start, though you probably don’t want the base model.
My favourite part of a new OS X release isn’t OS X itself; it’s Siracusa’s review of it. As comprehensive and as hypercritical as you’d want.
A few parts of this review really stood out to me. Regarding Safari:
The new address bar looks nearly identical to the one in Safari for iOS. On an iPhone, horizontal space is so constrained that the choice not to show the full URL is understandable. On an iPad, this is less true, but there’s an argument to be made for consistency. On the Mac, however, horizontal space is abundant, and pixel-for-pixel symmetry with iOS is decidedly out of fashion.
There are at least two other reasons to bring this interface to the Mac, however. The first is security. When the full URL is shown, it’s possible to fool users into thinking they are on a familiar website when they’re actually on a phishing site. One way to do this is by using a very long domain name that happens to begin with what looks like a legitimate domain name.
Unlike some others, I was not really that upset about OS X Safari’s iOS mimicry, but I hadn’t considered this angle. Smart.
To start, Handoff is proximity-based; it only functions when two devices are near each other. So there’s no concern that composing an e-mail on your iPhone while on vacation will cause an icon to appear next to the Dock on your Mac back at the office. Devices use Bluetooth low energy (BTLE) to discover each other. If you’re not within BTLE range (a few hundred feet, at most), Handoff is out of the picture.
This stood out to me in a different way — I’ve actually seen Handoff partially working from long distances. I’ve been kilometres away from my Mac and have seen the Safari icon appear on my iPhone’s lock screen — Safari is typically my frontmost app on my Mac anyway. I also have Power Nap enabled on my Mac, so my guess is that my Mac pings my phone when it wakes up every hour or so. This must occur over WiFi, unless I have the strongest Bluetooth signal in the world. However, I’ve never actually had a successful Handoff exchange at distance.
Another oddity: my building is one of many recovering from a massive power outage. I now have power, but fibre services are still down in my area. Last night, I was tapping out a text message on my iPhone — disconnected from my WiFi network — and the Handoff icon appeared beside my dock on my Mac. I tried clicking on it just to see if it would work, but the Handoff exchange couldn’t be completed. Bluetooth was active in this case, but WiFi was not.
Handoff’s technology seems extraordinarily complex, but it’s beautifully simple and almost boring in practice, and I love that.
For starters, the actual location of iCloud Drive in the file system is carefully hidden. Command-click the window title or use the Finder’s Get Info command to try to get a real file path and you’ll see only “iCloud Drive” as the top-level location. You can’t even drag the iCloud Drive proxy icon from a Finder window’s title bar into a Terminal window to get a file path. Apple really doesn’t want people knowing where on disk the iCloud Drive data lives.
More weirdness lurks. At the top level of iCloud Drive, badged folders appear for each iCloud-enabled application. You can’t Get Info on these folders either; the Finder just beeps in protest.
As it turns out, everything is still under ~/Library/Mobile Documents/ in obscurely named subdirectories, but the careful subterfuge emphasizes Apple’s desire to keep iCloud Drive abstract. It is not just “a folder that syncs.” It’s not a folder at all; it’s “iCloud.”
Earlier versions of Activity Monitor required a tedious mouse-over-and-wait action to see the URL associated with a Safari back-end process. The new Activity Monitor in Yosemite helpfully shows the URL in place of the unhelpful “Safari Web Content” process name.
When you think wearables you don’t usually think international superstar or Salesforce. Push aside that old way of thinking aside because Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am just unveiled his smartwatch the Puls at the Dreamforce conference.
Pronounced “pulse,” the smartwatch is voice controlled via a Siri type feature called Aneeda (get it? Aneeda. I need a…). It ships with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (called Twitrist. get it? Twit wrist. Puns!), and Salesforce
“Our most personal device yet” vs. “Salesforce on your wrist”. Tough call.
But, he says “this is not a watch” instead it’s a cuff . Also, he says it has four kilowatts of DAF (Dope as Fuckness).
I was under the impression that Dope as Fuckness was measured in pascals.
Anyway, think anyone at Apple is worried about this one?
Tomorrow, Apple will announce two new iPads1 and a gorgeous new Retina iMac, and launch OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.1. Apple’s been busy this year. But, as Michael Tsai’s quote roundup reveals, it hasn’t been smooth sailing — the buggy yearly iOS and OS X releases, in particular, have revealed a very rushed schedule.
This isn’t unprecedented, however. Before the first iPhone was released, Apple delayed the release of Leopard because they moved resources to finishing “iPhone OS” 1.0; when Leopard was finally released, it was a buggy mess. When they were working on the iPad, there were again significant issues in both the then-current Snow Leopard and in Lion, when it was released in 2011.
That Apple is working on yet another OS — Watch OS — isn’t a free pass for their declining software quality, however. While they were never perfect, the company has long been revered for its consistently-high quality bar. Now? Certainly not as much.
When was the last time Apple leaked one of their own products? ↩
Shortly after GT Advanced missed its February payment, the company’s CEO, Thomas Gutierrez and its Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Squiller, set plans in motion to begin selling off stock. While the timing of their subsequent sales was subject to the schedules laid out in their trading plans, it is clear those plans were established after GT began having difficulties meeting its milestones.
Gutierrez set up a pre-arranged Rule 10b5-1 sale in March, which saw him selling more than 9,000 shares of GT Advanced stock on September 8, a day ahead of Apple’s iPhone announcement. Gutierrez also sold off stock throughout the year, netting more than $10 million before stock prices faltered after it became clear Apple was not using sapphire in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Totally idle speculation on my part, but with tactics like these, I wonder if GT Advanced was juicing the rumour mill too. From the outside, this was a surprise, given GT’s well-known relationship with Apple. From the inside, though, it’s now becoming clear that the whole venture has been shaky for much of the past year.
Like its many predecessors, iPhoto Web Journals were a way of personalizing an online gallery of photos. It was like creating a digital scrapbook in the cloud. With it you could add titles, insert comments, include maps, weather and other information intermingled with your photos. Users of journals would typically spend a good amount of time personalizing the delivery of their online photos by telling a story alongside their photos.
The problem this time around is that there was very little notice and there really is no recourse or action that can be taken to preserve your iPhoto projects. And unfortunately there is no easy fix for this. According to Apple’s own support page concerning the migration, “Photo Books, Web Journals, and Slideshows are converted into regular albums in Photos. Text and layouts are not preserved.” And thats it, no more iCloud scrapbooking per Apple.
Apple is also dropping support for their printed products with Photos for OS X. My dad is a goldsmith, and he uses iPhoto photo books for his portfolio — they’re well-printed, nicely-bound hardcover books that he can lay out himself and order on demand for a reasonable price. I told him that these products would no longer be available; he’s gutted.
You’ve probably seen various Tilde.Club links popping up on Twitter over the past couple of weeks. Paul Ford started it:
It was pretty late at night. I had two pieces due for Businessweek, so I should have gone to bed right then. No one would have held me to my promise. But look. The kids were in bed. It doesn’t take long to set up computers in the cloud. You can do it even when you’re one or two sheets to the wind. I booted up Amazon’s cheapest and weakest fragment of a cloud computer. You do this by clicking buttons in a web page. I logged in to my new computer, made a few user accounts, and fired up a web server. This computer ran a Unix-based operating system. It was located somewhere in Virginia.
I went to bed. When I woke up 100 people were asking for accounts.