Month: October 2013

I got a lot of things right — dammit, I nailed that iPad pricing — but here’s what I got wrong:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see nods to new Thunderbolt accessories and a demo of an updated Final Cut Pro during [the Mac Pro] segment.

They included only testimonials of the Mac Pro and descriptions of Thunderbolt and Final Cut, not full demos.

I don’t think [Mavericks] will be free — Apple doesn’t use that kind of accounting for Mac sales — but I think it might be in the $20-30 range.

I was (quite happily) wrong about this. Free it is. You can download it now.

[iPads] available in “space grey”, silver, and (probably) gold.

No to the gold, yes to the other two colours.

I initially thought that Apple might simply put a standard A7 in [the iPad Air]. However, while the graphics performance is double that of the A6, the A7 therefore equals the graphics performance of the A6X of the fourth-generation iPad. I think Apple’s still going to push that performance farther, espcially for the gaming advantage. I also think it will receive the M7 for the same reason.

This seems incorrect. Apple claims that the iPad Air contains the A7 chip, but they also claim it has double the graphics performance of the A6X in the fourth-generation iPad. My bet is that it’s a derivative of the A7 with higher graphics performance, but under the A7 name. However, it’s a wrong call until it is proved otherwise.

iPad Mini: I anticipate that there will be a model which receives a spec bump, with a die- shrunk A6 processor and availability in space grey, silver, and gold. I’m not as sure that this will receive the M7.

The (non-retina) iPad Mini received no upgrades today.

iPad 2: I think this is the year it might be entirely dropped from the lineup.

It lives on at the $399 price point. I don’t understand why someone would buy this instead of a retina iPad Mini for the same price.

iPod Classic: The day after the event — October 23 — will mark twelve years since its introduction. I think it might be dropped this year.

The iPod Classic remains. I believe Charlie Chaplin had a similar model.

Thunderbolt Display: In-line with the Mac Pro news, a Thunderbolt Display with the same thin, laminated display as the 2012 iMacs might be in store. And, hey, it might have a 4K display (though I doubt this — those panels are still monstrously expensive).

No new displays today.

Not a bad grade, all told. Not great, but I’m very pleased that I got the iPad pricing call correct, and I’m quite pleased to be wrong about the Mavericks pricing, too (along with the now-free iWork and iLife suites).

Aside from the name — which sounds like a codenamed chemical weapon — and the timing — who announces a competing tablet on New iPad Day? — this looks awfully nice. The inescapable truth, though, is that hardware isn’t the biggest problem with Windows 8-based tablets.

Also new from Nokia today is the enormous Lumia 1520, the first six-inch Windows smartphone. It’s so big that if you drop it in San Francisco, it will start an earthquake. I’m not sure if that’s true.

As with select other events in previous years, Apple will be live streaming today’s. What’s really interesting is that the homepage contains a giant splash link for this live stream. I’m fairly certain that they have never put a media-only event on the home page ever before. In fact, I’m fairly certain no other event of any kind has been on the home page of Apple’s website prior to the event. This is exciting.

Update: It turns out that Apple has done this before; my mistake. In 2008, just before Macworld, Apple posted a “There’s something in the air” banner. But they haven’t done anything like this since, and it was a rarity even then. This might be big.

In the previously-linked article on the myth of Android-first apps, Steve Cheney posits that there are so many variables for Android developers that it makes quality assurance a nightmare:

All of my conversations over the past year with Android developers, 3rd party dev shops, more mature startups developing on both platforms and investors confirm a simple hard reality: building and releasing on Android costs 2-3x more than iOS. This is due to a multitude of reasons: less sophisticated tools, generally more cumbersome APIs, fewer exposed advanced features, enormous QA issues brought on by fragmentation, etc.

One of the ways in which this could be mitigated is if Google took much greater control of the platform. And, indeed, they are. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica:

If a company does ever manage to fork [the Android Open Source Project], clone the Google apps, and create a viable competitor to Google’s Android, it’s going to have a hard time getting anyone to build a device for it. In an open market, it would be as easy as calling up an Android OEM and convincing them to switch, but Google is out to make life a little more difficult than that. Google’s real power in mobile comes from control of the Google apps—mainly Gmail, Maps, Google Now, Hangouts, YouTube, and the Play Store. These are Android’s killer apps, and the big (and small) manufacturers want these apps on their phones. Since these apps are not open source, they need to be licensed from Google.

There are effectively two Androids. There’s the Android which is open source and can be downloaded by anyone, compiled, and put on a flash drive which — paired with the appropriate hardware — can be a smartphone. Then there’s the Android that people actually use. This is related to the other Android insomuch as it is also named “Android”, and that it shares the same underpinnings. But third-party manufacturers and Google themselves have used all that open source code to build a platform which is becoming increasingly closed.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that Android is closed in the same way that iOS or Windows Phone are. But flagship features like Google Now and Google Maps — otherwise known as the reason people buy Android phones — are all closed source, and are only available to end users because of contracts between OEMs and an increasing-controlling Google.

Steve Cheney lays out the case for why apps still go iOS-first in 2013:

All of my conversations over the past year with Android developers, 3rd party dev shops, more mature startups developing on both platforms and investors confirm a simple hard reality: building and releasing on Android costs 2-3x more than iOS.

Insightful, but damning.

Jeff Atwood (emphasis his):

The Surface Pro 2 has a 42 Wh battery, which puts it closer to the 11 inch Air in capacity. Still, over 11 hours of battery life browsing the web on WiFi? That means the Air is somehow producing nearly two times the battery efficiency of the best hardware and software combination Microsoft can muster, for what I consider to be the most common usage pattern on a computer today. That’s shocking. Scandalous, even.

BlackBerry seems very proud to be bringing BlackBerry Messenger to Android phones and iPhones. So proud, in fact, that they tried to launch it a month ago, then retracted it a few hours later, and then pre-announced it earlier today (emphasis mine):

In the next few hours, people will start seeing BBM in Google Play, the App Store and in select Samsung App Stores – where it will be free to download.

If you download the app, you’re greeted not with setup instructions, but a box for you to type your email address, because there’s a waiting list. BlackBerry claims this is due to high demand, but they also claim they’ve reached about two million Android and iOS BBM users. The waiting list screen shows an app which lacks retina-ready images and full iOS 7 compatibility in its status bar, which is odd for a company which brags that “amateur hour is over”.

Given that there are twenty-one other SMS-replacement apps available, is there a market for people who absolutely require this SMS-replacement service?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer:

I am thrilled to announce that award-winning columnist, best-selling author, and TV host David Pogue will be joining Yahoo. David will lead a major expansion of consumer tech coverage on Yahoo and will publish columns, blog posts and video stories that demystify the gadgets, apps and technology that powers our users’ daily lives.

David Pogue also posted his own statement on Tumblr. Thirteen years is a long time to be at the Times; in that time, Yahoo’s clout has dropped precipitously. But they’re on their way back up, so this will be an intriguing new beginning.

Pogue will likely be working from Yahoo’s swank New York office which, ironically, is the former office of the New York Times.

An Apple Retail employee has been writing the occasional article for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency under the “J.K. Appleseed” moniker. Their first column described their experiences at the store; this edition is about the iPhone 5S/C launch:

I’m not the kind of guy who camps out for tickets or iPhones, but I recognize tidal waves. I haven’t figured out if I hate or love my place in them. I just look forward to regular time, whatever that means—days that aren’t just before nor just after some crazy thing. Blessedly in-between days, I guess.

The talks from this year’s XOXO Festival — held between September 19 and 22 in Portland — are slowly making their way onto the internet. Cegłowski’s talk is easily one of my favourites from all of those which have been posted so far. Among other things, I learned how to pronounce his name. If you don’t like watching videos, he’s posted a transcript of what he said. I urge you to watch it, though, because it’s truly funny, interesting, and insightful.

Marko Karppinen:

The folder-like design in iOS 5 and iOS 6 has been replaced with an opaque app icon. The end result is so horrible that it’s hard to avoid thinking it was done maliciously: if someone was tasked with hiding away a set of unwanted apps, they would be likely to come back with a design that was something very much like the iOS 7 Newsstand.

There is a disconnect that exists with the non-descriptive, never-changing iOS 7 Newsstand icon that does not exist with iBooks. Both are comparable in concept, but there’s something about Newsstand which makes those apps feel forgettable. This is not true for iBooks, however. Perhaps it’s a difference in the amount of immediacy that we expect from periodicals that we do not expect from books.

Molly Osberg, the Verge:

Fine art, unlike other media industries, pushes prices this high in part because of the perceived rarity and unique, unquantifiable quality of each individual work. Music, film, and publishing have been forced to adapt as their products became more numerous and often instantly accessible. For many, that’s meant making the physical experience of the work more valuable, from 3D movie premieres to limited-edition vinyl pressings. But art, grounded as it is in the practice of paying vast sums for a single irreplaceable object, never faced quite the same challenge. So it can be difficult to market artwork that’s impossible to really own, in the “hanging an original Picasso in your antechamber” sense.

It’s a good — and timely — question: just what is a digital artwork worth? Or, more broadly: where do digital works sit on the spectrum of art?

I’m part of a group show next week, and one of my pieces — a collaboration with Joel Farris, Jack Michielsen, and Teresa Tam — seeks to explore this. It’s called This is for you, when it loads. (punctuation and capitalization as intended). Each of us typed a phrase relating to our practice into Google and captured a screenshot of the autocomplete suggestions, which — to some extent — reflect the broader public’s view of the content of each of our practices.

My contribution to the collaborative piece This is for you, when it loads.
This is for you, when it loads.

According to Google’s suggestions, digital art is “hard”, “not art”, “cheating”, and “not real art”. I’d add one more to that: “nearly impossible to sell”. I’m not talking specifically about this piece, but digital art in general. It’s the same challenge photography faced in its earliest hundred or so years, and I don’t see the public’s perception of digital artworks changing much in the near future.

Windows 8.1 is available as of today. It’s almost to Windows 8 what Snow Leopard was to Leopard: a refinement release, with very few new features. Unlike the $29 Snow Leopard, Windows 8.1 is free for existing Windows 8 customers. So, what’s it like?

Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press:

It still feels like two separate computers at times. Each mode has its own Internet Explorer browser. Pages I have open in one won’t automatically appear in the other. Many programs, including Microsoft’s Office, work only in desktop. I can customize the background images so both modes match, but that’s cosmetic.

David Pogue, New York Times (I took the link title from this review):

The fundamental problem with Windows 8 hasn’t changed: you’re still working in two operating systems at once. You’re still leaping from one universe into another — the color schemes, fonts and layouts all change abruptly — and it still feels jarring. There are still too many duplicate programs and settings, one in each environment. And you still can never live entirely in one world or the other.

Other reviews, however, are more positive. Peter Bright, for example, of Ars Technica:

In many ways, I think Windows 8.1 is what Microsoft should have released instead of 8.0. With the more complete touch interface and the greater concessions to desktop users, Windows 8.1 makes Microsoft’s case—that one operating system really can do it all—much more convincingly than Windows 8 did. Whatever kind of computing devices you use, Windows 8.1 will fit the needs of those devices better than Windows 8.

Having only used Windows 8, I can’t attest to whether the degree of changes made in 8.1 is substantial enough. However, Windows 8 felt to me like two distinct operating systems shoved into one. It was like using one of those crappy iOS app ports on OS X, except it was like that for the entire system.

I don’t understand this conflation on a conceptual level, either. A desktop operating system should be tailored to a keyboard-and-mouse (or -trackpad) setup, should it not? What’s the point of including two separate versions of some apps, like the web browser? Shouldn’t they “sync” with each other, so they feel less like separate apps? It still seems like an unnecessarily confusing operating system.

Update: On further reflection,the inclusion of a lookalike “Start” button which doesn’t behave anything like the Start buttons of yore (ie. four years ago) seems totally counterintuitive.

Meanwhile, there are ads in the desktop search feature, crapping on the user experience completely. Finally, if you have Windows Vista or older, you cannot migrate any data: you must start fresh and copy things over manually. That includes applications, settings, and documents. Stuff like this is a constant reminder of why I don’t miss my days as a Windows user.

Microsoft has some really smart engineers and designers on staff. They dream big and create interesting products. But, for some reason, they cannot ship anything without fucking it up first. I don’t want Windows to fail; I don’t root for the destruction of a company, or for the loss of jobs. I want great stuff to succeed, and Microsoft conceptualizes some truly great stuff. But they can’t seem to ship any of it as great.

Mark Jardine:

All of the design work that went into the Calcbot update was rendered obsolete in one keynote and so we focused our energy on updating Tweetbot for iPhone. Playing with the beta of iOS7 over the next few weeks brought us to the realization that this would not just be a “re-skin”. We really had to just start over with the new foundation and concepts of iOS7.

The apps which most successfully look like they belong on iOS 7 are those which have been completely re-thought, not just re-skinned. Tapbots is doing the right thing by taking their time to truly reconsider Tweetbot, along with their other apps. I’m very excited to see the results of this. (No, I haven’t been beta testing it.)

Alex Hern, the Guardian:

From 11 November, Google will share users’ recommendations and reviews with their friends, in what the company is calling “shared endorsements”. […]

Users can opt out of having their picture and details used by changing a setting – but the default is that people are opted in to having their data used.

But as an alternative method of protest against the changes, some users have changed their profile pictures on Google+ to that of Eric Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman and former chief executive.

Solid gold.

beeeeeeeeeep; beeeeeeeeeep; beeeeeeeeeep

What’s that noise? Why, it’s the Wall Street Journal back-pedalling on their possibly alarmist supply chain story from yesterday. (I don’t know how to turn backwards pedalling on a bicycle into an onomatopoeia, so that’s why I used a truck backup alert.)

Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider:

The article didn’t outline how many iPhone 5c models Apple had been building, or how many it planned to build at launch or throughout the quarter, or if the changes were planned in advance or in response to production yields.

Instead, the financial journal simply speculated that the undefined “reduced orders” could be “fueling concerns about weaker-than-expected consumer demand and the company’s pricing strategy.”

It seems awfully unscrupulous for a newspaper to change their story after publishing it with no acknowledgement of the changes.

Richard Devine, iMore:

So, for our $69.99, what do we get? As before, a fish eye and a wide angle lens, both are which are detachable. Beneath lies the now pair of macro lenses, a 10x and a 15x. Olloclip also promises that those improved optics will take brighter and more focused images than its predecessor.

As you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram, I love my Olloclip. I really only use the macro lens, though the wide angle comes in handy sometimes if I’m shooting tall buildings, as I’m prone to do. I’m glad to see a second macro lens in the package.

The Panic team have (finally) posted a full tour of their new (circa a couple of years ago) office. It looks like a beautiful space.

The company sure has grown since they posted this tour of an old space which, incidentally, has QuickTime VR files which don’t play on an iPad.