January 19, 2018

Ahead of the promised “early 2018” launch of the HomePod, Apple has received official FCC approval for the smart speaker. Now that FCC approval has been obtained, Apple is free to begin selling the device at any time.

I can’t wait to try out the HomePod.

CBC:

“If I go to Canada and visit some of my wife’s relatives, and I come back … they [can] say, ‘We want your laptop and your phone and your pass code.’ And I say, ‘Well, do you have any reason?’ They say, ‘We don’t need one.’ Is that correct? They can do that?”

“Welcome to America,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy added sarcastically.

Agents can demand a password to open your phone, without probable cause, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed during the hearing.

This is a concern not just for non-US citizens but also for US citizens arriving back into the country. Know your rights and know what to do and what not to do.

GameZebo:

Universal Paperclips is part clicker, part resource management, part incremental game that has a definite “ending,” but is played over time at a pace you can set based on your style. You begin by simply pushing a button to make a paperclip yourself, which is then sold at a price you set, at a speed determined by the current demand. The lower the price, the higher the demand, but your demand early on will be very low no matter what, and your profits minuscule.

Just like a paperclip, Universal Paperclips is boring to explain…at least at first.

I got sucked into this game from a tweet by Rob Griffiths. I ended up creating 30 septendecillion paper clips. The game is best described as “a little odd” but definitely addictive for me. You can play it from your browser or via the iOS app.

The price of the monthly Prime membership for new members increased from $10.99 to $12.99 on January 19, 2018.

I know a lot of people that have Prime and seem to love the benefits.

This is great news for fans of Rock and Def Leppard. Turns out, some changes at the music labels led to the band’s music being available on many streaming services today.

65% of Apple devices are on iOS 11

Apple’s iOS 11 has proven to be very popular among its users, according to new data the company released on Friday.

Apple said that 65% of devices are now on the latest operating system, iOS 11, which is built specifically for its mobile devices. In addition, 28% of devices are on the last generation operating system, iOS 10, and 7% are using an earlier version of the operating system.

These numbers are even more impressive when you consider what Apple’s main competition is doing. According to Google’s own numbers, only 0.7% of its devices are using the latest version of Android, dubbed Oreo. Google says 26.7% are using the last version of Android, called Nougat, and 28.6% of Android devices are using an operating system three generations back, called Marshmallow.

This is great data from Apple. More people in the iOS ecosystem have access to the latest features and security updates than their Android counterparts. That may not matter to some users, until it does.

Macworld:

This is not a computer designed for the masses—a new iMac Pro starts at $5,000 and you can pay five figures for a high-end model. If you aren’t sure if you need the power of the iMac Pro, you almost certainly don’t. If, on the other hand, you are hungry for multi-core performance and a powerful GPU that will let you crank through intense tasks—in video editing, software development, photo and audio processing, science, graphics, and similar applications—this is the new Mac Pro you’ve been looking for, albeit in the shape of an iMac.

The reports of the power of this iMac make it not only droolworthy (I wish I could justify getting one) but it gets me thinking – how incredible will the promised 2018 Mac Pro be?

Sanjay Mathur, Silicon Valley Data Science’s founder and chief executive officer, joined Apple as part of the move. He leads “strategy and analytics initiatives for a group at Apple,” according to his LinkedIn profile. About 20 data scientists from the firm joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles. They’re working on analytics for ad-related initiatives, which may include optimizing App Store ads.

I’d be interested to know what data Apple is going to use to improve its products. Is it actual data that will improve the iPhone on a personal level, or is it general data from its customers to improve its services?

A new version of Microsoft Office 2016 just shipped (release notes here).

What really caught my eye was this tweet from Microsoft’s Erik Schwiebert:

As Erik says, that is a massive code realignment. My 2 cents, this is good news for all Mac Office users. The Office experience will now have more consistency across platforms, and there’s more of a chance for new features to make their way to the Mac at the same time as they appear on Windows.

Side note: Office 365 subscriptions give you the opportunity to keep up with the latest version of Office at no extra cost. A license to a specific version of Office does not. When Office 2019 is released (presumably, later this year), Office 2016 users will have to pony up for a new license. Office 365 subscribers will have the opportunity to upgrade as part of their subscription.

First look at Nintendo Labo

I am intrigued. This feels like something Google would have come up with. If you’ve got kids, this is a reason to buy a Nintendo Switch.

Start off with the video embedded below. It’ll give you the basic idea.

The Telegraph’s Tom Hoggins got the chance to play with one. Here’s his review, Hands-on with the Switch’s brilliant and barmy cardboard toys.

Can’t wait to get my hands on a set!

It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on this page over time, to see if any cities are added or deleted. Fascinating to compare this process (with it’s public auction feel), to Apple’s much more closely held process.

A criminal complaint? Really? Yeesh.

Jason Cross, writing for Macworld, pulled together a nice summary of Apple’s TV ambitions. Good to see this all in one place.

Looking forward to this series from Kristen Wiig.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

Apple today has rolled out a major redesign for the App Store web interface. The new redesign replaces the dated and clunky interface that previously housed the App Store on the web

The new redesign takes cues from the all-new App Store in iOS 11, which offers larger images, a focus on curation and reviews, and more. On the new webpage, you’ll see a larger app heading, preceded by “This app is only available on the App Store for iOS devices.”

To see this for yourself, here’s a link to today’s iOS app of the day, MUBI. Open the link on your Mac.

As Chance points out, there’s now a big warning towards the top of the page (blue background) telling you you have to go to the iOS App Store if you want to buy the app.

While the refreshed look is nice, it still feels like a broken marketing link, forcing me to switch devices (from my Mac to my iOS device) and type in the name of the app in an iOS App Store search field to find the app and make a purchase.

And this, from Craig Grannell, in a post entitled Apple’s App Store Preview needs to steal some ideas from Google Play:

It’s 2018. Apple has Apple Pay. If I’m sent to An App Store Preview page after reading an article about an amazing new iOS app, I should be able to buy it there and then, and send it to my iOS devices. Likewise, if I’m on my iPhone, I should be able to buy and send an iPad-only app to my iPad (or vice-versa). I shouldn’t have to remember it later, by sending myself an email or note.

There’s clearly a reason Apple is doing this. But to me, it’s just as clear that this is adding friction to the purchase process.

Benedict Evans, from a terrific read entitled TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses:

When Sears and Macy’s go bust, how many malls do they take with them, and how many other retailers that might have been doing fine on their own will go or lose a lot of their footprint because of that? And, where were those retailers advertising? What was their TV budget? How much of this is self-reinforcing – the more you buy online, the more you buy online?

And:

Suppose you go on eBay and buy the last ten years’ of Elle Decoration and drop it into Google Brain, and then wave your phone at your living room and ask what cushions or lamps you would like?

And:

Suppose I put a bunch of HD cameras in the right parts of Berlin and Brooklyn and track what people are wearing, entirely automatically, and then see what of that shows up in middle America in a year, and then apply that pattern matching to what people are wearing in Berlin now?

And:

There’s a famous Jeff Bezos quote that ‘your margin is my opportunity’ – right now Amazon is building a billion dollar ad business in its own search results, but I suspect he also looks at the $500bn that’s spent every year on advertising and the further $500bn that’s spent on marketing and sees money that should be going to lower prices and same-day or 1-hour delivery.

The mechanics of retail are changing. Margin (simplistically put, what Apple charges for an iPhone minus what they pay to create that iPhone) is critical to a company, necessary for them to prosper, grow. The slimmer the margin, the thinner the ice on which that company skates.

In “your margin is my opportunity”, Bezos sees disruption in large margins. He does not need to advertise products. The company that creates the product pays for the advertising/marketing out of their margins. An opportunity indeed.

January 18, 2018

Discord has been around since May, 2015, and was built as a platform for gamers to chat. It features, text, audio, and video chatting, and can be tweaked to attain very high sound quality with zero extra noise. Discord is also built such that it can be used entirely inside a web browser, meaning your interview guests don’t have to download the Discord app. In fact, there’s a way to set it up so that your interview guests don’t even have to sign up for a Discord account.

This looks like an interesting solution for those that hate Skype.

The Dalrymple Report Podcast: Rene Ritchie on iPhone sales, FBI, TV shows

Subscribe to this podcast

Rene Ritchie joins me this week to talk about a variety of topics including iPhone sales this quarter, reports on television shows that Apple wants to produce, and Apple’s relationship with the FBI, among other things.

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These are beautiful. Not necessarily practical, but absolutely worth a look.

Apple Insider pulls together the details on what’s new with Safari 11 on both iOS and macOS. Don’t miss the video embedded at the top of the Apple Insider post.

Marco Arment:

Having attended (and sometimes spoken at) many of these conferences over the years, I can’t deny the feeling I’ve had in the last couple of years that the era of the small Apple-ish developer-ish conference is mostly or entirely behind us.

And:

It’s getting increasingly difficult for organizers to sell tickets, in part because it’s hard to get big-name speakers without the budget to pay them much (which would significantly drive up ticket costs, which exacerbates other problems), but also because conferences now have much bigger competition in connecting people to their colleagues or audiences.

Marco digs into the why’s of this change. Good read.

If you are in the market for a smart thermostat, this is a solid read. The Ecobee4 and 3rd generation Nest are editor’s choices.

Taipei Times:

Inventec Corp, one of the two assemblers for Apple Inc’s HomePod, has started shipping the US company’s long-awaited “smart” speaker with an initial shipment of about 1 million units, industry sources said.

I’m really interested in learning what features will ship with this first version of HomePod.

Obviously, the music capabilities will be first and foremost. But how much of Siri will be available? Will HomePod’s Siri be limited in any way? Will HomePod’s Siri domain be more detailed when it comes to music?

How will updates be handled? Will HomePod be linked to my iPhone, with a HomePod app for handling settings/updates like my Apple Watch?

How will HomePod distinguish itself from existing products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home? What is the value proposition here? How would a consumer justify the extra cost?

I’m very much looking forward to getting one, seeing all this for myself.

Tedium:

So, as it turns out, before the virtual bowling alley borrowed something from the trackball, the inventors of the trackball borrowed something from the actual bowling alley—specifically, the Canadian variation of it, called 5-pin bowling.

And:

The [trackball] is Canadian through and through, a project formulated at the behest of the Royal Canadian Navy by Ferranti Canada, as part of a much larger project—a military information system called Digital Automated Tracking and Resolving, or DATAR.

And:

“Think about the state of play in the computer world in 1952. There were only a handful of operating computers in the world. Almost all were unreliable. There was no common software language… pulse rates were only 50-100kHz. The idea of using a ball to control a cursor which could intervene and change program execution was a million miles ahead.”

This is a terrific look back at a device that changed the path of computing. [Via The Overspill]

Tim Cook talks new Apple site, tax repatriation, battery kerfuffle, and more

Watch the videos embedded below, two different takes on the same interview. If you only watch one, watch the second. It’s a bit more detailed, longer stretches of Tim talking.

One takeaway from all this: Tim is earnest. When he talks about Apple’s intentions regarding the battery snafu, I believe he means what he says, and I believe what he says is true.

January 17, 2018

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) will open a new campus as part of a 5-year, $30 billion U.S. investment plan and will make about $38 billion in one-time tax payments on its overseas cash, one of the largest corporate spending plans announced since the passage of a tax cut signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

This is in addition to Apple giving employees $2500 bonuses today.

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. told employees Wednesday that it’s issuing a bonus of $2,500 worth of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law, according to people familiar with the matter.

The iPhone maker will begin issuing stock grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The move comes on the same day Apple said it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, funding an additional technical support campus, data centers and 20,000 new employees.

Good to see these bonuses are also being given out to retail and part-time employees.

Mashable has reached out to both Apple and the local police to confirm whether the shuttles were being shot at, and we will update this when we hear back. At the time of publication, Apple and the local police were not able to confirm what object was shattering the windows. It could, of course, be rocks — but even rocks thrown at a moving vehicle on the highway could result in tragedy.

Be safe people.

The Verge:

Unlike many automakers that offer Apple CarPlay in their new cars, BMW makes you pay for it on all of their models. That’s unlikely to change, but it may soon cut a break to those who don’t use iOS or don’t like Apple’s smartphone integration system for the car.

The automaker next year will turn CarPlay into a subscription-based service rather than treating it as a one-time option, Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, told The Verge at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show on Tuesday.

This is an interesting decision by BMW. Their logic seems solid but many people are unhappy about the subscription. I’ll never buy a BMW so I don’t have a dog in this hunt but if successful, you can bet this will move downmarket to other manufacturers.

UPDATE: I just saw this tweet:

On BMW subscription fee for CarPlay: @bmwcanada says it’s in response to Apple changing fees. Apple charged automakers lump fee to offer CarPlay, per car, for life of car. Apple cancelled that, now charging automakers per car/per year to offer CarPlay.

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times:

Tech “addiction” is a topic of rising national concern. I put the A-word in quotes because the precise pull that our phones exert over us isn’t the same as that of drugs or alcohol. The issue isn’t really new, either; researchers who study how we use digital technology have for years been warning of its potential negative effects on our cognition, psyche and well-being.

What is new is who has joined the ranks of the worried. Recently, a parade of tech luminaries, including several former Facebook employees, have argued that we’re no match for the sophisticated machinery of engagement and persuasion being built into smartphone apps. Their fears are manifold: They’re worried about distraction, productivity, how social networks alter our emotional lives and relationships, and what they’re doing to children.

And:

I got to thinking about Apple’s responsibility last week when two large investors wrote an open letter asking the company to do more about its products’ effects on children. I was initially inclined to dismiss the letter as a publicity stunt; if you’re worried about children and tech, why not go after Facebook?

But when I called several experts, I found they agreed with the investors. Sure, they said, Apple isn’t responsible for the excesses of the digital ad business, but it does have a moral responsibility to — and a business interest in — the well-being of its customers.

I am not sure I agree with Farhad’s allegation of Apple’s moral responsibility, but I think this article is worth reading. More and more, the world is stumbling around, staring at their phones and losing their connections with each other, losing touch with their humanity.

Is this Apple’s fault? I don’t think so. I think blame, in general, is not helpful, and I also think we were heading down this road as technology evolved, whether Apple was there to steer us or not.

One more quote from the article:

There’s another, more important reason for Apple to take on tech addiction: because it would probably do an elegant job of addressing the problem.

“I do think this is their time to step up,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google who now runs Time Well Spent, an organization working to improve technology’s impact on society.

“In fact,” Mr. Harris added, “they may be our only hope.”

Just me, or did this immediately spring to mind for you, too?

Megan Rose Dickey, TechCrunch:

TWiT, officially known as This Week in Tech, is suing Twitter. The audio and video media platform alleges breach of written contract, breach of oral agreement, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and trademark infringement.

As the story goes, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams had previously told Leo Laporte Twitter was simply a text-based microblogging service, the lawsuit states.

And:

As the lawsuit alleges, what happened on Twitter — short, 140-character bursts of text — was very different from the audio and video TWiT produced on its platform. In 2009, however, Laporte felt concerned that Twitter was going to move in on TWiT’s audio and video, the lawsuit states. That’s when Laporte allegedly reached out to Williams, who told Laporte “we’re not expanding to audio or video under the Twitter brand,” the lawsuit states.

This Week in Tech started as a roundtable discussion at MacWorld Expo, back in 2005. Twitter started in March of 2006. So it’s clear which came first.

That said, in all the time I’ve been aware of both, I’ve never once confused TWiT with Twitter.

And that said, it sounds like the core issue here is an alleged oral agreement. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.