Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October 29th, 2012

Bubble Wrap

A few weeks ago, the incomparable Shawn Blanc had a mini garage sale to clear out his old iPhone and related accessories (and his shitty speaker). I spotted an Olloclip for half price, which he was selling because it doesn’t work with the iPhone 5.

It arrived today in what can only be described as an overwhelming amount of bubble wrap, in a box that could hold perhaps 20 Olloclips:

Shawn must have also realized how ridiculous I’d find this, because he enclosed a note:


Nick —

Would you believe me if I told you this was the smallest box I could find. Seems like overkill. Oh, well.

— SB

P.S. I figured I might as well go nuts with the bubble wrap so long as I’m at it…

Well, at least the bubble wrap ensured an absolutely safe journey.

Olloclip sample


John Gruber on the headline for today’s Cook-canning (“Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services. Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi Add Responsibilities to Their Roles”):

… I think that headline, euphemistic though it is, tells the plain truth: Forstall was an obstacle to collaboration within the company. Now he’s gone, and his responsibilities are being divided between four men who foster collaboration: Ive, Mansfield, Cue, and Federighi.

As Gruber notes, there’s no quote from any of the executives in the press release, either. I don’t think Wall Street will be taking this well, but it’s for the best in the longer term.

Shaking Things Up

I’m going to be quoting a lot from this press release because nearly every paragraph is huge:

Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

Forstall is out. Despite the Maps PR shitstorm, I was not expecting that. The guy was responsible for much of Mac OS X in the early years before moving over to run the iOS team. He’s been one of the few people steering the direction of the look-and-feel of Apple’s operating systems and their integrated applications for the past ten years.

Forstall’s Businessweek profile painted an unflattering portrait of a man deliberately trying to ape Steve Jobs. He’s clearly talented, though. I can’t wait to see where he goes now.

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design.

This certainly sounds promising.

Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, placing all of our online services in one group.

Good start. Cue’s direction of online services is, for the most part, excellent (with the obvious exception of iCloud, but then, I am basing that on my total lack of knowledge of how much data they process which, I assume, is a lot given the amount of down time it has).

Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X. Apple has the most advanced mobile and desktop operating systems, and this move brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology and user experience innovations to both platforms.

Hair Force One is in the house. The totally smooth Mountain Lion launch proved Federighi’s competence, and I can’t wait to see what this means for iOS. I suspect it’s good news.

Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization, fostering innovation in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future.

Remember when Bob Mansfield was retiring? And then Tim Cook played the part of Ashton Kutcher to say “just kidding”? Now he’s running Apple’s most vaguely-named group. This combination of areas makes sense, though: hardware design, hardware engineering, and software engineering and design. Three big groups to make Apple’s entire lineup. How to sell them?

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. A search for a new head of Retail is underway and in the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Tim Cook.

Guess they didn’t like his cost-cutting at all costs approach. No surprises there.

Huge news. It’s going to be an interesting morning on the NASDAQ, provided it’s open, of course.

Update: The stock exchange won’t be open until Wednesday at the earliest, which gives a day of thought for all investors. The uncertainty will likely see Apple’s stock drop.

Windows Phone 8 Review

Calgary is an interesting city. We have the second-largest land footprint of any city in North America, just behind Los Angeles. For a city of little more than a million people, this means that the vast majority of the city is very low-density. Downtown, for example, isn’t highly populated. At around 5:30 on a weekday evening, barely anyone is wandering around, and most of the shops are shut for the day, and won’t be reopened until the following morning.

The stores close early because there are few people living and shopping downtown. There are few people living and shopping downtown because there are no amenities to support it. It’s a cycle.

This is the problem Windows Phone has. People aren’t warming to it because their favourite apps aren’t on the platform. And their favourite apps aren’t on the platform because developers don’t want to put a lot of time and money into porting their app for a platform few use.

Like Calgary’s downtown core, there’s so much to love, but it’s marred by its lack of liveability.

The Predictive Future of Search

Introduced with Android 4.1, Google Now is seeing some major improvements in 4.2. It’s a product that I find myself wanting, but with a better privacy policy than what Google offers. I can’t square that circle, unfortunately; to want something as wonderfully predictive as Google Now requires crossing a chasm of privacy, and that’s something I simply cannot do.

Nexus 4, 10, Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is a real bitch, and managed to preempt Google’s Big Announcement Day by bringing her storm to New York. It’s like a movie, except real. Stay safe.

Two items of note were announced in an uncharacteristically low-key manner today: the Nexus 4 and 10. The 10 is Google’s answer to the new iPad. No, the other new iPad. The 10″ 2,560 × 1,600 pixel display looks stunning but, as usual for Samsung, the body is made of cheap-looking plastic. It also includes a shitty-sounding front cover:

You can attach a special cover to the tablet: the back has a removable panel at top that can be replaced with another one with a built-in cover. With the unit we tried, that panel was a little finicky to remove, though. Also, though the cover automatically woke and slept the device, it’s not segmented like the smart cover on an iPad, so it’s not likely to be especially useful as a stand.

So if you want to temporarily remove the cover while it’s on your desk at work, then put it on again for the commute home, you need to carry around your spare plastic back panel. Sounds wonderful.

The Nexus 4 is Google’s new phone, made by LG. What it has is less interesting than what it doesn’t have: LTE, an SD card slot, or capacity above 16 GB. But it’s cheap, at just $299, or $199 on contract. This explains why Google is dancing around the LTE issue a little.

Joshua Topolsky got a sneak-peek inside the development process of both products, and it’s worth reading for no reason other than to see what shirt Matias Duarte is wearing. There’s also this rather blunt explanation of what Google is, in the words of Andy Rubin:

“If you look at how Google evolved, it’s an ad company, so the thing that’s funding everything in this building is ads. As long as we’re competitive in the services that we’re offering and people love us, the ad business works.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard any Google executive be as straightforward as this regarding what Google really is.