Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October, 2013

Freedumb

This story emerged far too late for today’s Macalope and, while the beast may still cover it, I feel compelled to respond. Update: Turns out that this was first published on October 23, but I suspect even the Macalope has standards for what inanity the beastly one will touch.

“Why Apple’s Mac software isn’t really free,” proclaims Quentin Fottrell of MarketWatch (a Wall Street Journal co-brand). Let’s start with this chart:

Marketwatch chart

There’s so much wrong with this chart alone. There’s the nonsensical footnote, “2002 Jaguar was first version for Mac”, and the fact that they completely miss the free upgrade between 10.0 and 10.1. Then there’s the ridiculous Snow Leopard price, which they explain as if the user upgraded from Tiger, without mentioning that it was $29 if you upgraded from Leopard, not to mention the completely incorrect $69 price for Lion (it was $29 for a single user license).

That’s just in one chart.

Then there’s editorialized crap like this throughout the article:

“Today, we’re going to revolutionize pricing,” said Craig Federighi, who heads up Apple’s operating systems said of the new OS. Mavericks, as the software has been dubbed, will be faster and use up only the amount of battery the task requires, but—critically—it will keep computer users within Apple’s ecosystem.

As opposed to if Mavericks cost $19, and if users didn’t upgrade, they’d be permanently ejected from the Apple ecosystem like someone with a highly-contagious disease.

Though users can cheer the free operating system now, the move also gives Apple more leeway to charge premium prices for its upcoming gadgets. The iPad Air, launched Tuesday, costs between $499 and $929, depending on the model.

Which happens to be exactly the same price range as the fourth-generation iPad which the iPad Air superseded. Fottrell also neglects to mention the iPad Mini’s price reduction of $30, making it the least expensive price for a new iPad ever.

Nice little bit of hack writing to start the weekend, though.

Re-Re-Re-Revisiting This Big iPhone Thing

In his overview of the October 22 Apple event’s new products, John Gruber relates the iPad sizes to the MacBook line, and adds this:

This, in turn, gives me hope regarding any potential move Apple might make next year with regard to a larger-display iPhone. What I don’t want to see is a single iPhone 6 with a larger display (and correspondingly larger physical size). What I’m hoping for is that, if Apple produces a larger iPhone, that it debuts alongside a 4-inch display iPhone with the exact same specs — same A8 processor, same better-than-the-5S camera, same storage capacities. Same everything, except for the size of the display.

If Apple can do this with the iPad, why not the iPhone too? The only complication I can think of is that with the iPad Air and Mini, both sport the same pixel count, 2048 × 1536. I’m not sure that an 1136 × 640 display at a bigger display size will satisfy those who desire a physically larger iPhone.

If a larger iPhone is, indeed, in store, I hope for a choice of sizes. But, once again, I don’t see the point of a larger-sized iPhone which can’t display any additional content on account of being equipped with a same-resolution display. While the proportional difference between a 4- and a hypothetical 5-inch iPhone is 20% — the same as the difference between the 8-ish-inch iPad Mini and 10-ish-inch iPad Air — the differences in what can be done in that space is not scalable in the same way. That is, while an iPad app can work on both display sizes with an identical interface, an iPhone app at five inches simply looks like a jumbo-sized version of the same app.

Perhaps I simply don’t get the appeal of a bigger iPhone, but I would think that its existence would be justified by more than an additional inch of physical area.

Exploring the New iWork for Mac File Formats

Many of us have been desperate for an iWork update for a long time, and Apple certainly delivered that this week. The updates to each of the apps haven’t been without controversy, as you’d expect, but the apps are now simpler, easier to use, and therefore have the foundations for a better suite of software. For those of us who keep track of these things, a major update to iWork is likely to come with a modification of the file formats for each application. And, indeed, that’s the case this year.

Why are file formats important? While it’s unlikely that applications will be wiped off the face of the earth, it might be important for you to ensure that any document created now is readable in the future. If your document is written using an app which saves files in a byzantine proprietary format, you may not be able to recover it in a few years’ time without having access to that same application.

A few weeks ago, an article by Charles Stross circulated which proclaimed that Microsoft Word must die. One of the reasons cited, among many, was its document format:

The .doc file format was also obfuscated, deliberately or intentionally: rather than a parseable document containing formatting and macro metadata, it was effectively a dump of the in-memory data structures used by word, with pointers to the subroutines that provided formatting or macro support. And “fast save” made the picture worse, by appending a journal of changes to the application’s in-memory state. To parse a .doc file you virtually have to write a mini-implementation of Microsoft Word. This isn’t a data file format: it’s a nightmare!

The iWork suite has typically been a little bit better at future readability. Sure, it’s no plain text format or HTML file, but it’s not too bad. To explore that in more detail, though, it’s necessary to travel back five years to iWork ’08. A document created in Pages was a package with the .pages extension, and it looked something like this:

buildHistoryVersion.plist
/Contents/
    - PkgInfo
index.xml.gz
/QuickLook/
    - Preview.pdf
    - Thumbnail.jpg
/thumbs/
    - PageCapThumbV2-1.tiff
    - PageCapThumbV2-2.tiff

These files are pretty self-explanatory. There’s your usual OS X Package garbage in the way of the plist and /Contents/ directory, your QuickLook previews (in both a super-nice PDF format, and a super-compressed JPG file), and some thumbnails. The action takes place in a gzip-compressed XML file, which looks something like this:

<sf:section sf:name="Blank" sf:style="section-style-0"><sf:layout sf:style="layout-style-20"><sf:p sf:style="paragraph-style-32">This is an extremely <sf:span sf:style="SFWPCharacterStyle-7">exciting</sf:span> Pages document. It&#x2019;s set in black 12-point Helvetica, which happens to be the default for Pages. <sf:span sf:style="SFWPCharacterStyle-8">This sentence is bold.</sf:span></sf:p></sf:layout></sf:section>

Please note that I’ve truncated about 250 KB of preceding XML definitions, and a little bit of end-of-document information.1 It’s not the easiest format to read, but it can be parsed without too much trouble. This format stayed very similar from the time Pages launched through iWork ’08, and Apple even documented it (PDF).

In 2009, iWork ’09 changed to a very slightly different format. The .pages file was really a .zip archive; unarchiving the file would produce a folder which was almost identical to the Pages ’08 hierarchy, except the XML file was not gzipped. The format of the XML file was unchanged, retaining backwards compatibility. In fact, it was possible to produce Pages ’08-compliant documents from Pages ’09 under the Save As… dialog:

Pages Save As dialog

But this completely changes in the new versions of each iWork application. The new Pages format is, once again, a package, but it looks like this:

/Data/
    (empty)
Index.zip
/Metadata/
    - BuildVersionHistory.plist
    - DocumentIdentifier
    - Properties.plist
preview-micro.jpg
preview-web.jpg
preview.jpg

Looks pretty similar to the Pages ’08 format so far, right? Let’s unzip that Index.zip file:

/Index/
    - AnnotationAuthorStorage.iwa
    - CalculationEngine.iwa
    - Document.iwa
    - DocumentStylesheet.iwa
    - Metadata.iwa
    /Tables/
        - DataList.iwa
    - ThemeStylesheet.iwa

Despite appearances, this is exactly the same document as the Pages ’08 copy above. And .iwa files? I haven’t seen those in well over a decade.2

They’re not actually IBM Writing Assistant files, though. They appear as straight binary data of no known type:

$ file /Users/nickheer/Desktop/iWork-Docs/Pages13.pages/Index/Document.iwa 

/Users/nickheer/Desktop/iWork-Docs/Pages13.pages/Index/Document.iwa: data

Just “data”. These files are pretty small, too: the smallest in this document, AnnotationAuthorStorage.iwa, is just 22 byes; the largest, ThemeStylesheet.iwa, is 32 KB. For comparison, the XML file in the Pages ’08 document is 294 KB (remember: it’s exactly the same document). Overall, though, the new Pages document is 112 KB, while the Pages ’08 version is 69 KB.

So, let’s crack these files open. If you try to open one of these .iwa files in a plain text editor, you’ll be greeted with this dialog:

Danger!

Despite this being a plain text editor (in this case, TextMate), it simply refuses to let me open this file. It’ll let me open images, but not this.

Fine. Let’s do this the old-fashioned way:

$ nano Document.iwa

It’s not exactly readable, but you can make out the document text and, for some reason, the fact that I have an Epson printer. I also tried a hex dump with the same file, which makes the following much clearer:

  • Country and language settings (en_CA, en-GB)
  • The paper size (“na-letter-fullbleed”)
  • The template used (Blank)

Of course, that’s only the contents of the document itself, not its formatting. I did hex dumps of the rest of the files, producing very little of interest: the files are quite self-explanatory in their naming scheme, even if their contained data isn’t human-readable. And, obviously, this new format is not backwards-compatible.3

As I noted above, this matters for future compatibility. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to read your eighth-grade paper on Brazilian economics again, but legal contracts might need to be referenced in the future. Over time, we’ll likely create new and better ways of storing whatever data we create, but it should be possible for us to open things we’ve created in the past.

There’s the potential for lock-in with these files, too. While it’s no worse than Word’s lock-in, the ubiquity of Word has meant a lot of applications now read the .doc format, including Pages. But very few non-Pages applications read the Pages format, and with this new format, that’s unlikely to change.

These new applications are iMovie ’08 all over again. They’re fresh starts, and are not without their hiccups. I can see a lot of progress in these apps. I use Pages and Keynote extensively, and I’m thrilled that I don’t have to hunt for the Inspector.

I think the new file format is a regression, though. I would love to know the justification for these obfuscated data files, and what advantages they bring over the previous XML-based format. I’d love to be able to tell you what advantages they bring, but they’re unreadable. This isn’t yet a problem for end users, aside from the lack of backwards compatibility, but it might be in the future.

Last weekend, I finally got around to watching “Side By Side”, a documentary which explores the transition from film to digital video. There’s a part near the end where a few filmmakers discuss the importance of archival mediums, and they state that this is a bigger problem for digital video than film. However, they also point out that things which are important to us will be recoverable, should they be important enough. I entirely agree, but that’s not reason enough for yet more proprietary file formats to exist.

Update Oct. 28 A hot tip confirms that this new file format uses Google’s Protocol Buffers:

Protocol buffers are a flexible, efficient, automated mechanism for serializing structured data – think XML, but smaller, faster, and simpler. You define how you want your data to be structured once, then you can use special generated source code to easily write and read your structured data to and from a variety of data streams and using a variety of languages. You can even update your data structure without breaking deployed programs that are compiled against the “old” format.

Very clever. This supports the theories that this file format may support more efficient syncing. It’s not for nought.


  1. And, yes, it’s entirely on one line. It turns out, by the way, if you open a single-line 250 KB XML document, it will make most text editors cry. Both TextMate and Coda hung when I tried opening this. ↩︎

  2. I wasn’t alive when IBM Writing Assistant was released, but I briefly used it in the late nineties. I was a real cool kid, let me tell you. ↩︎

  3. Pages ’09 files weren’t exactly backwards-compatible with Pages ’08, but if you unarchived the file, gzipped the XML file, and appended a .pages extension, you could approximate the Pages ’08 format enough that it would open it. It’s a hack, but I recall it working. However, I cannot check this out, as I don’t have a copy of Pages ’08 anywhere. ↩︎

LinkedIn Introduces Insecurity

On Wednesday, LinkedIn introduced a product called Intro, which adds a LinkedIn profile directly in the default iOS Mail app. Impossible, right?

Not exactly. It moves all of your email accounts through a proxy which LinkedIn controls. The proxy injects the LinkedIn profile card, and sends it to the default Mail client. Installing it is made possible by way of an iOS configuration profile. Clever, right?

Bishop Fox:

Once you install the Intro app, all of your emails, both sent and received, are transmitted via LinkedIn’s servers. LinkedIn is forcing all your IMAP and SMTP data through their own servers and then analyzing and scraping your emails for data pertaining to… whatever they feel like.

Ominous undertones aside, this is potentially disastrous for all of the reasons that Bishop Fox lists: it’s creepy that LinkedIn stores all your email, their privacy policy is vague, and in the wake of the potpourri of NSA revelations, it’s probably not advisable. I’ll add one more, though: LinkedIn has a poor history when it comes to email. Their notifications are spammy, often irrelevant, and difficult to opt out of. Why would I want them going anywhere near my email?

App Store Inconsistencies, Continued

After yesterday’s reports that trial, pirated, or non-App Store versions of Apple’s apps were being updated in the App Store, an Apple contact of MacTrast’s J. Glenn Künzler reached out to him:

Rather than maintain separate updates for these in addition to the Mac App Store versions of each app, Apple has decided to eliminate their legacy software update system for apps entirely. Instead, when Mavericks discovers legacy apps installed on your Mac, it provisions them as a Mac App Store purchase using your Apple ID. It saves us a lot of time, effort, and bandwidth. After the provision is complete, it will appear in your Mac App Store history as though you have purchased the Mac App Store version of the app.

Golly, I bet a lot of third-party developers would love to be able to do that.

There is some humanity in this, though. Künzler’s source, continued:

While we are aware that this enables piracy of our apps for unethical users, Apple has never taken a strong stance or action against piracy in the past. We like to believe that our users are honest, even if that belief is in vain.

Kudos.

Human After All

Federico Viticci reviews Tweetbot 3:

Tweetbot 3 isn’t a Twitter client that adopts Apple’s default new iOS 7 look without making its own adjustments to the interface and feature set: Tweetbot 3 is already full of subtle and more visible details that contribute to giving the app a very peculiar feel and flow. The animations and transitions that Haddad and Jardine implemented are elegant, apt, and playful; the core features that have been changed, such as web views in tabs and text highlighting in the Compose screen, make for a more flexible Tweetbot that outclasses the rigidity of Tweetbot 2. Tweetbot 3 is a better app because of its layout and design changes.

This is a beautiful app, and well worth the $3 to upgrade. My only complaint with it so far is that there’s no way to adjust the size of the text without using the system-wide Dynamic Text feature. The default size is a bit large for my liking. As far as complaints go, that’s tiny — this is an excellent update to my favourite Twitter client for my iPhone.

The most interesting aspect of Tweetbot 3, for me, is its interface. All other apps from Tapbots have a trademark aesthetic; Tweetbot 3 looks a little like Twitterrific, or like many of the other apps being updated for iOS 7. As Viticci points out, it’s customized and tweaked, but it still feels like it uses native UIKit components. That’s not a bad thing at all, but it’s interesting.

It reminds me a lot of when apps were being updated from OS 9 to OS X. Most apps used default OS X UI components initially, including those from Apple. Over time, though, designers began experimenting with new ways to take the interfaces they were creating. I think a similar path will be taken by iOS designers. Expect a lot of apps to use mostly default-looking components and colours. Slowly, though, designers will find new ways to customize the interfaces of their apps.

iPad Mini or iPad Air?

Since the new iPad Mini with retina display is pretty much the same as the iPad Air in every way apart from display size, this is good advice from David Sparks:

For those who are not certain, I’d ask you to look at the ways in which you use your iPad. If you primarily use it for consumption, such as reading websites, books, and other basic computing tasks, you should look closely at the iPad mini. It’s great for those tasks. If on the other hand you’re working on documents, using the on-screen keyboard a lot, and doing tasks that are more content creation focused, you may want to look at the iPad Air.

Apple Pulls Some Disney and Pixar Titles From iTunes Store

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

According to the customer who noticed the missing titles, Disney elected to remove the content from the iTunes Store, preventing customers who have purchased the movies/TV shows from re-downloading the content via iTunes in the Cloud, which allows users access to previously purchased content.

Yet again, the people who actually pay for content are getting screwed. Meanwhile, if you rip a DVD (grey area or illegal, depending on the country in which you live) or download other people’s rips (illegal), your copy of “The Lion King” will be available to play anywhere, any time. I don’t condone doing either of those things, but when someone with access to Handbrake and an internet connection shows more respect to their “customers” than the industry does to paying customers, paying for content is substantially less enticing.

How Not to Design a Great Race Track

NASCAR (ugh) driver Parker Kligerman, for Jalopnik:

I said, having not studied the track, that I could tell him what the layout [of the Circuit of the Americas] was. “I bet it goes something like this: A long pit straight leading to a tight 70 degree left hander, there will be a series of meaningless esses, then there will be at least one decreasing radius corner and lastly another long straight with a tight 180 degree hairpin at the end.”

My friend then started to laugh uncontrollably and exclaimed “My God, I think you just described the race tracks in China, India, New Hockenheim, New Nurburgring, Bahrain, Circuit of the Americas and Malaysia.”

How Apple Makes the Mac Pro

Let’s say you’re like me. You’ve watched Apple’s video showing how they make the Mac Pro a dozen times, but you have no experience with manufacturing. Therefore, you have no idea what the hell is going on.

Well, Greg Koenig decided to annotate every step of this process because he does know what the hell is going on:

What makes Apple fascinating is not that they are using some wiz-bang alien technologies to make things – even here in Portland, Oregon, all the technologies Apple shows in this video are in-practice across numerous local factories. What makes Apple unique is that they perform their manufacturing with remarkable precision and on a scale that is simply astonishing, using techniques typically reserved for the aerospace or medical device industries.

Fascinating stuff. Watch the video again, then read this. This is yet another example of Apple building stuff to last.

Samsung Fined for Paid Comments

Adam Pasick, Quartz:

…Samsung executives in Taiwan, HTC’s home country, were still concerned enough that the company’s local marketing agencies hired students in April to write anonymous web comments praising Samsung and disparaging HTC. In response, Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission slapped a T$10 million ($341,300) fine on Samsung on Thursday, along with a smaller fine for two of its marketing agencies.

A pittance, really. Is this a deterrent? Probably not; if Samsung knows it’s going to cost them a few million Taiwan dollars for comments which might be generating sales (only Samsung knows this), it might be worth the cost (and the legal embarrassment).

Another Entry in the App Store Inconsistency Diaries

Scott Buscemi, 9to5Mac:

For those with boxed/retail versions of iWork, Apple is slowly rolling out the ability to upgrade for free. Keep checking your “Updates” tab in the Mac App Store.

Apple’s own apps are allowed to crossgrade. Non-App Store apps are allowed to upgrade to App Store equivalents for free, with no end-user hassles. Think that functionality is available to third-party developers who would like it? (Hint: no.)

Rite of Passage

Remember how Apple issued an apology for its warranty process in China? Seems like the rite of passage for success in that country is being taken by Samsung. Here’s Paul Mozur, with the Wall Street Journal:

Samsung apologized to Chinese consumers Wednesday, offering free repair and extended warranty on some smartphone models following a broadcast on CCTV Tuesday where China’s state-run media singled out the Korean electronics maker for a problem with the memory chips in some models of its phones, including the Galaxy Note. The report then detailed how the problem was not covered by Samsung’s warranty and often cost users well over $100 to fix.

So, to summarize:

  1. Non-Chinese company begins to be successful in China;
  2. State broadcaster CCTV tries to find some fault or irregularity with that company’s products;
  3. The company issues an apology; and,
  4. The company is now “blessed” to sell products in China.

Bizarre.

Apples and Oranges and Sour Grapes

MG Siegler responds to Frank Shaw:

But it’s hard to get riled up about such posts any more. Given Microsoft’s position in the tablet space, this whole thing just reads as sort of sad.

It’s pretty clear that iWork doesn’t have the cachet of Office. It’s also pretty clear that Microsoft is worried about this, judging by their response. I think we’ll know the extent to which Microsoft is worried if they start bundling Office with the Surface Pro (which, by the way, I think they should: it’s the “professional” one, after all).

Best in Class, Built to Last

Shawn Blanc says it perfectly and simply, as you’d expect:

One of the reasons I spend my money on Apple products is because they’re innovative, cool, capable, and delightful. But also, they hold their value and their usefulness for a very long time.

My iPhone 4S is over two years old. It’s never been in a case, and I carry it everywhere. I am usually careful, but two years of constant use has subjected it to drops on tile, hardwood, stone, and even a brief dunk in a stream. While it doesn’t look brand new, I don’t think you’d expect this abuse. It works perfectly, and that’s a valuable quality.

The State of Maps

I agree with everything Cody Fink says in this article, but there are two big things which I wish to highlight:

The nice thing about a native Maps app is that gestures just work. Zooming and panning around the Map doesn’t feel like a chore. It feels natural and accommodating — you don’t have to think about it. And it’s more convenient clicking on the icon in the dock than doing a web search, then clicking the link for the maps service, then doing a search, etc.

Yes, absolutely. All in-browser maps services are jarring and unpredictable to control. If you’re in Street View, for example, and your cursor leaves the Flash viewer area, you have lost control. It’s a terrible experience (and one of the things which felt so right on the iPhone). I didn’t think I’d use a desktop maps app much, but I do, and regularly; it’s mostly for this reason.

The reality of the situation is, no matter how good Apple’s mobile and desktop apps are, they’re not useful if the data they provide isn’t on par with people’s expectations. That’s a sticking point, which is why I spent a lot of time revisiting previous complaints. Apple’s provided maps matter a lot more than the apps themselves when you get down to it.

On one hand we have a desktop app that’s superior to using a web interface. On the other hand the maps it spits out aren’t great.

I’ve written at length about Apple’s lacking mapping data, but I’ll add one more: search is still weak. Minor variations in the formatting of an address can result in pins being dropped in wildly different places. Each of these are addresses which, from my perspective, should result in pins being dropped in exactly the same place:

  • 350 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY 10118
  • 350 5 Ave. New York, NY 10118
  • 350 5 Avenue. New York, NY 10118

The pins do not land in the same place, however. The first is correct; the second address is on the correct block, but in the wrong place; the third address is out in Brooklyn.

I’ve tried this for addresses in various other cities with different formats, and it’s a crapshoot every time. While it’s unsurprising that Google’s search is much, much better (it gets that all three of the above address formats are the same location), it’s frustrating how poor Apple’s search remains.

The Price of Free Software

Asymco’s Horace Dediu on Twitter:

I estimate the drop in OSX and iLife/iWork prices means about $450 million foregone software revenues for Q4.

It’s similar to the lack of serial numbers required for almost all of their software: Apple is aware that there will be piracy, but the user experience of precisely entering a serial number sucks. It doesn’t cost Apple nothing to make their software free, but the end user experience is entirely worth it.

Apple’s Free Apps

Austin Carr, Fast Company:

Apple products are usually seen as expensive if not out of reach for average consumers; rarely are they associated with being free. But today the company took a big step toward changing that perception at a splashy event in Cupertino. “For the last several years, we’ve been on a mission,” Apple SVP Craig Federighi said on stage, “[and] today we’re going to revolutionize pricing.”

And revolutionize, they did: Mavericks, iLife, and iWork all became free, though the latter two require the purchase of a new Mac or iOS device for that price. But, while Carr (and others) are focused on how this compares to Microsoft’s pricing strategy for Windows and Office, note too that this competes favourably with Google’s free offerings. But while Google offers products for free in exchange for targeted and tracked advertising, Apple’s able to make enough money by selling real, physical products that they can offer their software for free, or for a nominal price. That’s a pretty good deal.

Brian White is a Really Shitty Analyst

Note, November 8: In hindsight, this post should have been titled “Nostradumbass”, but I was not that clever at the time.

I harbour a measured amount of disdain for most analysts. I find them lacking in reliability while maintaining the guise of being reputable. People make real decisions using real money based on the advice of analysts who rarely admit to wrongdoing.

Some analysts, like KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo, are fairly accurate most of the time, and can be trusted on to make these decisions. I’m not as disdainful of this group. Other analysts, like Rob Enderle, have descended into mockery and parody based on how overwhelmingly wrong they are. You wouldn’t make any financial decisions based on what Enderle says.

But the third kind is the most dangerous: analysts who retain a guise of accuracy while being anything but. Brian White is one of those.

I’ve spent a few years mentally keeping track of his predictions; several weeks ago, I started adding them to my Pinboard. It’s time to review his record.

On April 13, 2011, AppleInsider published a note from White — then at Ticonderoga Securities — which claimed that Apple was to enter the HDTV market by the end of that year:

“Our research suggests this Smart TV would go well beyond the miniature $99 second-generation Apple TV that the company released last fall and provide a full-blown TV product for consumers,” White said.

This prediction was clearly wrong. Two years later, and Apple hasn’t released anything close to what White predicted.

A little over a year later, White raised his price target for Apple:

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White, the most bullish analyst covering Apple Inc., raised his estimates after the company’s big earnings this week, predicting it will become the first trillion-dollar company sometime next year.

That is based on White raising his stock price target to $1,111 a share from the $1,001 estimate he projected earlier this month.

He estimated a market capitalization of a trillion dollars in 2013. As of the time of writing this, Apple’s market cap is well under half that amount. When he wrote this note, Apple stock was trading at $614 — a little over half his end of 2013 target.

On June 4, 2012, PC Magazine published a note from White — who moved to Topeka Capital in the interim — with predictions of what products Apple was set to launch that September:

“Regarding the widely anticipated iPhone 5, we believe a September launch is more likely than October.”

Good start. How can he mess this one up?

Even better — the Cupertino tech giant will launch its sixth-generation iPhone alongside the much talked-about “iPad mini,” White predicted. Recent rumors indicate that the scaled-down iPad will measure in at 7 inches, and be priced competitively at around $200 to $250.

And he blew it. The iPad Mini was released a month after the iPhone, measures closer to 8″, and is priced at $300.

Then, on July 5, 2012, CNBC featured him on “Fast Money”:

The senior analyst also sees plenty of upside for Apple and holds his year-end price target steady at $1,001 — roughly 18 times earnings. In other words, he says the good news hasn’t been priced into the stock yet. And with a slew of other new products in the pipeline — including the iPhone 5, a potential Apple TV and the iPhone coming to China Mobile — he thinks fall could see the “biggest consumer electronics launch in history.”

Not only has his $1,000 estimate yet to be reached, the China Mobile deal still hasn’t materialized, and neither has the Apple TV. Also, how is he “holding steady” on a target he raised a few months prior?

Then there’s White’s January 2, 2013 note to investors:

In terms of more colors, we believe the next iPhone will draw inspiration from the iPod touch that became available in multiple colors (beyond the traditional Black and White) for the first time this past October. These colors included pink, yellow, blue, white & silver, black & slate […]

In our view, the iPhone 5 unibody aluminum case is a work of art and we believe it would be even more popular with the ability for consumers to choose from a wide array of vibrant colors that only Apple can deliver.

No credit for this mess of a prediction. The iPhone 5S — the aluminum one — has the addition of a gold model and the replacement of “slate” with “space grey”. Meanwhile, the pink, yellow, and blue colours are only for the plastic-backed iPhone 5C.

There’s more from that same note:

Our checks are also indicating that the next iPhone will offer customers more choice in terms of screen size.

No.

At the same time, Apple could unveil a larger screen size compared to the recently updated 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5.

No.

BGR published additional details from that note:

“Our checks indicate that the next iPhone will have more choices for customers,” the analyst wrote. “This entails an expansion in both the color patterns and screen sizes with the next iPhone (i.e., likely called the iPhone 5S) that we currently believe will be launched in May/June with certain supply production starting in March/April.”

By April 9, it must have been clear to White that his “March/April” start-of-production prediction was incorrect, so he simply changed it in an April 9 note to investors:

However many screen sizes Apple offers, White believes the iPhone 5S will debut in July. That forecast echoes the opinion of other analysts eyeing a summer release for the next iPhone.

Nope. (It’s worth noting that Ming-Chi Kuo predicted July as well.)

How about the lower-cost iPhone?

“Our research is now indicating that we should not expect the price to dip below $300 and those expecting a $150 to $200 iPhone will be disappointed,” White said. “We have previously discussed an [average selling price] of $250 to $300 for a lower priced iPhone; however, a price tag of $300 to $350 now makes more sense.”

White’s guess was about $200 too low.

That same day, White claimed that a 60-inch Apple TV would be launching in 2013:

Now, an analyst says he’s learned that the set will go on sale late this year, for $1,500 to $2,500.

In a research note Wednesday, Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets says the “iTV” will be 60 inches on the diagonal, but could also come in 50- and 55-inch versions. Apple will also release a small “iRing” that fits on the viewer’s finger, allowing the user to control the screen by pointing, White says.

While 2013 is yet to come to a close, it’s extroardinarily unlikely that a 60-inch Apple TV is close to launching; there have been no “hard” leaks of it, such as parts or internal details. Furthermore, the idea that it will be controlled by an “iRing” is so fucking dumb that I’m surprised Topeka was willing to publish his report.

By October 4, it was clear to White — now at Cantor Fitzgerald — that his 2013 Apple TV prediction wasn’t likely to pan out, so he subtly changed it in a new note to clients:

“Given our contact’s position as a competitor to a potential “iTV” product, the company follows the development of this potential new product closely but indicated that he believes that “iTV” is not ready for primetime this year and expects an unveiling in 2014. This timing would be in line with our Apple initiation report published a month ago, where we indicated that we expect a full blown “iTV” by the end of calendar 2014,” said White.

Note that he doesn’t reference that he previously predicted an “iTV” by the end of calendar 2013, or previously, in 2011.

On October 8, White claimed that Apple would not launch an updated iPad Mini this month. Separately, he also claimed that Apple would not launch an iPad Mini with a retina display. He doubled down on these claims on October 21, the day before the keynote:

Finally, White believes that Apple’s iPad mini will only receive “incremental upgrades” this week. In other words, the iPad mini 2 may not be outfitted with a Retina display.

These claims are now demonstrably false, obviously. The iPad Mini is, indeed, available with a retina display.

White has made a few more predictions recently which cannot yet be verified, regarding the iPhone 6 and the much-rumoured Apple smartwatch:

“Our meeting with a tech supply chain vendor highlighted a bigger iPhone is in the works, and our contact expects a launch in the 2Q:14/3Q:14 time frame,” White said in an investors note released on Thursday. “Nearly a year ago, our research in Asia uncovered early stage work on a larger iPhone, and we indicated in our Apple initiation report dated 9/4/13 that ‘a larger screen size on the iPhone is possible in 2014 that could approach 5 inches.’ Given today’s meeting, we are confident that a larger iPhone (approximately five inches) will become a reality in 2014.”

“As an Apple supplier, our contact offered insight into the “iWatch” and described this potential new device as much more than an extension of your iPhone but as a multi-purpose gateway in allowing consumers to control their home (i.e., heating/cooling, lights, audio, video, etc.),” White said today in a research note.

I don’t understand yet how controlling your heat from your wrist is a blockbuster selling feature, or how that’s feasible in a more-or-less standalone product. If today’s smartwatches are crippled because they rely on a smartphone, imagine how lacklustre a smartwatch which relies on a Nest and a Lutron control panel will feel. Also, what problem is solved by controlling these features from your wrist that is not solved by a smartphone, iPad, or web-based app?

The iPhone prediction is plausible, but it will likely be next autumn before we know.

While these predictions have a chance of coming true, I’d place more trust in a Magic Eight Ball than in Brian White. As this track record has demonstrated, he is the worst combination of being frequently quoted, consistently wrong, and completely unwilling to acknowledge his misses. As I said at the top, people make decisions with real money based on information from analysts like White. He is one of the many things wrong with the financial industry. This clown needs no additional exposure.