Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for November, 2012

Bloggers vs. Journalists

This morning, bloggers reported that Google made a $400 million pledge towards becoming an ISP by buying a major WiFi hotspot provider.

Just one small problem with that story: it wasn’t true. That didn’t stop tech blogs from trying to be the first to break the story instead of checking with their sources first, nor did it stop them from arguing with real journalists.

Reviews Are Weird

Stephen Hackett:

Opinions are what form the backbone of well-written product reviews. Yes, information like technical specs, price and release date are all vital, too, but the writer’s view and feelings of the product are what people show up to read.

Furthermore, how can anyone create a quantitative score of their opinion? Is the iPhone 5 really 0.5 better than the Nexus 4? What is that 0.5 representative of, anyway?

Microsoft Has Failed

Charlie Demerjian over at SemiAccurate argues much the same point I did (via Gruber):

Microsoft is largely irrelevant to computing of late, the only markets they still play in are evaporating with stunning rapidity. Their long history of circling the wagons tighter and tighter works decently as long as there is not a credible alternative, and that strategy has been the entirety of the Microsoft playbook for so long that there is nothing else now. It works, and as the walls grow higher, customer enmity builds while the value of an alternative grows. This cycle repeats as long as there is no alternative. If there is, everything unravels with frightening rapidity.

Not Bloody Likely

Apple’s 2012 is nearly over. With the exception of iTunes and the Mac Pro, they have refreshed every product in their lineup (and the iTunes refresh is forthcoming, don’t forget).1 Keen observers will note that Apple shifted their product strategy to a June-through-October cycle, if we assume they’re using a more-or-less annual refresh rate.2 Now, Apple won’t go nearly two full quarters without a product launch of some kind. By moving the iPad launch to the autumn, it’s likely that they’re clearing out some space for at least one major product launch in the first third of 2013. What could it be?

Jay Yarow over at Business Insider has compiled a list of every “major” product he expects Apple to launch in 2013 (linkbait warning, obviously). He sees a true Apple television launching in the spring, along with an app store for it, and some sort of Pandora competitor. None of this would surprise me, and an iTunes streaming service seems very likely, given Apple’s clout in the music industry. Yarow also thinks Apple will introduce an iPad Mini with a retina display in the spring, which is doubtful.

There’s also the curious inclusion of a cheap, “totally different” iPhone, because:

If Apple really wants to win the smartphone war it needs to introduce a cheap phone to sell in places like China and India.

Surprise! Yarow thinks Apple wants to compete with Android devices on price, which is cute because Android is a free (gratis, not libre) operating system. Apple’s not in a price war. They proved that by introducing their smaller tablet at $329, not $199, and they’re going to sell a shitload of them.

Yarow also thinks Apple is going to add transit directions to Maps in iOS 7. Not likely, given how long it’s taken Google to get access to just some of the world’s public transit services.

This list seems misguided and smells like linkbait.

  1. Update: This snarky tweet from Kontra reminded me that Apple did not update iWork or iLife this year, either. ↩︎

  2. As I’ve said before, assuming anything about Apple’s product strategy is a great way to be proven very wrong in the future. But this time, suspend your disbelief and roll with it. ↩︎

AnandTech, Gruber Doubtful on Chances for Retina iPad Mini Next Year

Anand Lai Shimpi in his iPad Mini Review:

If you’re expecting next year’s mini to have a Retina Display, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

John Gruber adds:

The iPhone went retina in the fourth generation; the full-size iPad in the third. Seems like too much to ask for the Mini to do so in its second.

I think looking to a perceived pattern of past generations is a red herring for when Apple may or may not add a retina display. Each got a retina display when it was possible at a given product’s price point.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the iPad Mini doesn’t gain a retina display next year, but I don’t think there’s a specific past pattern to predict that.

Journey Sucks

Josh Rank:

But Boston’s kickassity notwithstanding, Journey sucks. They suck. Sorry. You may think you like them, but that’s only because you’ve liked them in an ironic way for so long that you bought into your own bullshit and can’t even remember who you are or what you actually like anymore.

It’s Actually About Advertising

Owen Williams for The Next Web:

Microsoft’s core business isn’t ads. It’s Windows. But that might change very soon, as the software giant realizes that it can’t try and sell the OS at such a high price point any more and moves to try something new. Ed [Bott is] right that the system interface doesn’t include ads, and that the money does go to a different department in Microsoft, but it’s not about that. It’s about what this means going forward.

Microsoft still has a fair amount of power in the PC market (though not nearly as much as they did in, say, the late 1990s). That they’re willing to gamble the remainder of their power on advertising is ballsy, especially since they’re targeting the still-very-popular Xbox. I think it also speaks to a thin thread they’re clinging to. If they slip — when they slip — users have increasingly greater non-Microsoft options to choose from.

I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Fucking Ecosystem

Terence Eden shares my qualms with the current state of media silos:

I just want us all to get along. I want my disparate equipment to talk to each other. I don’t want to live in a house where ever component has to be made by the same company otherwise nothing works correctly. I don’t want to be stuck using a crappy product because they’re the only ones offering service X.

I dislike this, too. I’ve purchased around a hundred movies through iTunes, all of which can only be used with Apple’s portable products. Of the reasons I can’t try other devices, this is one of the biggest.

There are two ways around this: companies either have to make a player that allows playback on all devices, or have to distribute movies, TV shows, and ebooks that work on all platforms. Amazon has already subscribed to the first choice. They have a Kindle app that allows one to read Amazon’s DRM-encumbered books on a Mac, PC, or just about any portable device.

Apple isn’t the sole hold out, but iTunes is the biggest name in the business, and video products sold there don’t work with non-Apple portable products. Apple could build a player for Android, but there are a lot of great reasons for them not to, chief among which is that iTunes isn’t a massive business for them, but the iPad and iPhone are. I think Apple would be more interested in dropping DRM from their products altogether, but that’s not their choice to make.

iTunes Through the Ages

Jacqui Cheng has a visual history of all the major versions of iTunes (brushed metal represent):

We’re still waiting for the newest version of iTunes, which Apple introduced in September during its iPhone 5 media event. The makeover, which will undoubtedly end up as version 11.0 (though Apple isn’t publicly referring to it as such), consists of a “dramatically simplified new interface,” better iCloud integration, a revamped mini-player, and Facebook integration.

In all I’ve read about the new version of iTunes, I’ve never noticed that Apple hasn’t ever referred to it as “iTunes 11”. Interesting.

New Home

The announced downtime was completed successfully today as I moved the site from FatCow, my old host, to A Small Orange, my new one. Pages now load approximately 4-5× as fast as they did before. I also moved my registrar from GoDaddy to Hover. If you wish to support the site, you can use my referral link to register your domains with Hover. They made a challenging server move significantly easier.

A Tour From the Roaster

Hannah Slomp got to visit the roasting plant of local coffee gurus Phil & Sebastian:

Since Phil is an engineer, he produced a computer application that tracks the beans as they roast. The application also measures the humidity and the temperature inside the roaster. There was quite the science behind roasting the bean perfectly.

Big, Not-Yet-Public News From Mars

Joe Palca for NPR:

[Principal investigator John] Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something earthshaking. “This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” he says.

I bet they found John McAfee’s hiding place on Mars.

Apple Airs New iPhone 5 Commercials

Federico Viticci:

Orchestra is a little more peculiar. Apple wants to explain the iPhone’s background noise cancellation, which is made possible by an improved microphone design and audio system. The voice asks the director of an orchestra to lower the volume, which is similar to what happens to background noise when you make a phone call with the iPhone 5. It’s a clever and funny comparison.

I like “Turkey”, but I think “Orchestra” is one of the most clever ads Apple has done in a while. Solid ads.

A Belarusian Opera

Tim Fernholz for The Atlantic:

StatCounter, which uses data on browser usage across some 3 million websites, identifies Belarus as the only country in the world where Opera — which elsewhere is something of a niche product — commands the largest share of users.

You Can’t Say That on the Internet

Evgeny Morozov on the contrast between the ideals and the reality of the internet:

A bastion of openness and counterculture, Silicon Valley imagines itself as the un-Chick-fil-A. But its hyper-tolerant facade often masks deeply conservative, outdated norms that digital culture discreetly imposes on billions of technology users worldwide.

What is the vehicle for this new prudishness? Dour, one-dimensional algorithms, the mathematical constructs that automatically determine the limits of what is culturally acceptable.

The internet is, at once, a completely open and level playing field and a tightly-controlled platform. Intriguing.

First Impressions

Ellis Hamburger has a great interview with superlative icon designer David Lanham:

Icons are the face and branding of an app, and they set the tone and give people an idea of what to expect for an app’s purpose, quality and content. For most apps you run across, icons will be the first thing you see (sometimes before the name of the app) and a lot of people make snap judgements for exploring the app further based on how much they connect with that first impression.

Making Cents

Damon Krukowski of the band Galaxie 500 writes for Pitchfork:

Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat”, for example, was played 7,800 times on Pandora that quarter, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each. Spotify pays better: For the 5,960 times “Tugboat” was played there, Galaxie 500’s songwriters went collectively into triple digits: $1.05 (35 cents each).

I knew artists weren’t getting much from Spotify or Pandora, but that’s a pathetic paycheque.

These streaming services don’t have an analog in the analogue world, though. Radio doesn’t pay the artist for each time someone tunes in, and records can be played many times for the same flat rate. Even though this is uncharted territory, I think the one thing we can agree on is that these figures are simply far too low.

Color Labs Is Being Sued by the Cofounder

Color Labs is the gift that keeps on giving, if the gift in question is really, really shitty. T.C. Sottek has a repost for The Verge of some content from TechCrunch, but I think the Verge article is easier to understand:

In a dramatic twist to the story of Color Labs, an ex-employee and founder has sued the company and its boss Bill Nguyen over complaints that he was the victim of “an extremely hostile, unsafe, and harassing atmosphere” that included “bringing an armed crony into the workplace to threaten and intimidate employees.”

The suit also confirms the sale of assets to Apple. More importantly, it also asserts that the situation at Color — financially, in employment, and in management — was simply abysmal.