The Mac, the myth, the legend: how Snow Leopard became synonymous with reliability

Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac:

Following the news that Apple had refocused their plans for iOS 12 around stability and performance over new features, many were quick to liken the move to a “Snow Leopard release” of iOS. In recent years, the phrase has reached mythological status in the Apple community, a catch-all referring to stable software and “the good ol’ days” of the Mac.

But how did this perception develop? Was Mac OS X Snow Leopard really the gold standard of software releases, an undefeated champion in the halls of computing history?

This is a fascinating look at the history of Apple and software reliability. It pairs well with the Axios story Apple delays iOS features to focus on reliability, performance and Michael Tsai’s response.

Michael Tsai:

I think the real difference is that, with more time between major releases, there was less churn, and there was time for things to settle down before the next major release upended everything again. The last few versions of each cycle got to be really good, and you could stick with them until the next version settled down. Some people stayed with 10.6.8 for multiple whole cycles. (There was also less pressure to update then.) Last fall, if Sierra was buggy for you, the choice was between sticking with a release you weren’t happy with or rolling the dice on High Sierra, which included significant fixes but also introduced new problems of its own.

Nothing is ever rock solid. But there are certainly many shades of grey between rock solid and terribly buggy. And Apple’s reputation is critical to their continued success. Apple cannot allow their brand to tarnish (or at least to become synonymous with terribly buggy). That’d be the ball game.

Apple earnings call today, and the race for $1 trillion

The tension here, as it usually is, is the balance between past sales and future projections.

Now on to the race to $1 trillion. This is all about market capitalization, or market cap, for short. Market cap is a company’s share price times the number of shares outstanding. Here’s an Investopedia article on the concept.

As of this writing, Apple’s market cap is $860B. That’s based on a price to earning ratio of 18.25. That P/E ratio is on the high end of middling, certainly a reasonable number.

Amazon’s market cap is $696B, with a P/E ratio of 364.98. Yes, you read that correctly. In effect, Apple’s stock is grounded in actual results, while Amazon’s stock is more of a flier, based on growth and the thinking that Amazon is going to eat the world.

And Alphabet? Hot on Apple’s tail with a market cap of $811B and a P/E of 39.09. Right in the middle.

Who will get to $1 trillion first? Might happen this year.

Want to check these numbers for yourself? Go to Google and type “Apple’s market cap” or just “AAPL” and Google will show the relevant details.

Phil Schiller on HomePod

Sound & Vision is an audio, video consumer products magazine. They had the chance to sit down with Phil Schiller to talk HomePod.

A few tidbits:

We think we can create a new kind of music experience in the home that sounds incredible, and is fun to interact with. That’s what’s driving us with HomePod. And it can also be the hub for your smart home. Voice technologies like Siri are also gaining in popularity with Siri responding to over 2 billion requests each week. This helps us understand how people actually interact with their devices, what they ask, and helps us create a product for the home that makes sense.

The HomePod as hub. That’s as advertised.

Siri, over 2 billion requests each week. That’s a lot of data, and a lot of network traffic. Apple has made a point to design their machine learning architecture to work on device, with zero network connectivity required. It will be interesting to see if Siri evolves in that same direction.

It’s about creating an experience that moves with you throughout the day — so the experience you have at home, is replicated in the car with CarPlay, at work with iPad and Mac, and when you’re out for a run with Watch and iPhone. You can listen to the same music, control your home accessories or ask Siri to do something for you, wherever you are.

This brings to mind Rene Ritchie’s HomePod wish list (posted yesterday). One of Rene’s wishes was for a Unified mesh Siri.

From that writeup:

Right now, there’s a different Siri for different devices, all with different capabilities. Siri on Apple TV is far more limited than iPhone or iPad, but has deep media knowledge and can even handle multi-language queries where, for example, a French speaker asks for a movie with an English title. Siri on Mac can interact with files and persist results but, frustratingly, can’t control HomeKit.

This is a definitely challenge for Apple. To me, a required next step in Siri’s evolution.

More from Phil:

Using advanced software and the A8 chip, HomePod intelligently beams center vocals and direct energy away from the wall while reflecting the ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for dispersion into the room. The end result is a wide soundstage with a feeling of spaciousness and depth.

And:

Every time you move HomePod, it uses the built-in accelerometer to detect a change in its location and continues to make sure the music sounds great and is consistent, wherever it’s placed.

And:

HomePod uses advanced machine learning techniques including deep neural networks (DNNs) optimized for the hardware to detect “Hey Siri” in challenging environments. The detection of “Hey Siri” happens on the device, so nothing is being sent to Apple until that trigger is detected and the Siri waveform lights up. At that time, the request is sent to Apple using an anonymous Siri ID, and of course that communication is all encrypted. We’re able to do this because we designed audio technology, advanced software, and Siri to work together as one system.

Lots of great stuff here. You can see how much Phil loves what he does, how passionate he is about HomePod. Can’t wait for next Friday!

Here’s how HomePod will handle future software updates

Guilherme Rambo, 9to5Mac:

HomePod runs a special version of iOS, which means it gets new updates alongside iOS. The latest software publicly available for it is iOS 11.2.5, which will likely be the version installed on HomePods delivered on February 9th.

Software updates for HomePod will be managed through the Home app. The app will alert users when a new software update is available and will show an interface similar to the one used for iOS updates. Users will have the option to enable automatic updates, although it’s unclear how those will be managed. Updates can be installed on a single HomePod, all HomePods in the home or to specific stereo pairs (stereo pairing will not be available on HomePods running different software versions).

Interesting to me that there are a number of different update models at work here, all of them involving a satellite piece of Apple gear. Apple TV tends to update directly on device, Apple Watch has its own directly paired iOS device hosted Watch app, and now HomePod, which is part of the Home mini-ecosystem.

Seems to me like an opportunity for Apple to simplify their interface, make it a bit easier for beginners to master.

This 1983 demo says so much about Apple’s past, present, and future

[VIDEO] Harry McCracken, FastCompany:

On the evening of January 26, 1983, as a technology-smitten Boston University freshman, I attended the monthly meeting of the Boston Computer Society, which included a demo of Apple’s brand-new Lisa system. Though I know that I came away enormously impressed, I don’t exactly recall the event like it was yesterday. Actually, just one element was permanently etched onto my brain cells: the moment when the Lisa’s bitmapped, proportional, user-selectable typefaces flashed on screen. It was a mind-bender given that other PCs–like my beloved Atari 400–were capable only of displaying a single fixed-width font of no elegance whatsoever.

And:

What I didn’t realize until I watched the video is that seeing the meeting all over again wasn’t just an act of personal nostalgia. Between them, the IIe and Lisa, and the way Apple explained them to us BCS members, are full of lessons that remain resonant in the era of the iPhone.

First, read Harry’s article, it’s terrific. Then check the video of the meeting itself, embedded in the main Loop post. It’s a charming time capsule capture of a real moment in time.

The iPad lost years for Apple’s media partners

Shira Ovide, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is revamping its digital bookstore in another attempt to take on Amazon’s dominance. I can’t help thinking: What if?

This is a reference to this article, about Apple remaking the iBooks Store and the iBooks app, simplifying both and making book reading a better experience.

More from Shira:

The missed opportunity was for Apple’s business partners, particularly newspaper and magazine companies, which Apple persuaded to turn themselves inside out to take advantage of the iPad. It turned out that Apple was leading those partners to a dead end.

This is a bit of a curmudgeonly statement, but there is truth at its core. A number of publishers went all in on the iPad, with visions of a simple path from print to digital, with subscriptions intact.

The eighth anniversary of the iPad’s introduction was on Saturday. Allow me to take you on a trip back to that time. Steve Jobs set off on a sales pitch to media companies that he hoped would make the new tablet computer more useful. Jobs was a true believer that the iPad would be an amazing opportunity for books, newspapers and magazines to reimagine their products, capture readers and patch up their ailing business models.

All-in-all, a fascinating read.

iOS 11.3 brings final fix to Calculator app

[VIDEO] As a reminder, the Calculator app hit a bit of a stumble back in October.

The issue was that the keypress animation for one key took long enough to complete that the follow-on keypress was missed. Apple fixed the problem by eliminating the animation.

The video (embedded in the main Loop post) shows the fix, with the animation back in place.

Apple sells a record 22 million iPhones in USA during 4Q17

Counterpoint Research:

According to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Pulse program, the US market sold-through 51.2m smartphones during the holiday season quarter of 2017. Apple sell-through during this period was a record 22.39 million smartphones. Apple was able to grow their sell-through market share from 37% to 44%. This is the highest ever market share for Apple in its home market.

Commenting on Apple’s growth story here, Research Director Jeff Fieldhack stated, “Apple shipped a record 22 million iPhones for the first time ever in a quarter in USA and is note-able and impressive feat because the Q4 promotional season was not nearly as aggressive as previous years. In addition, upgrade rates are slightly lower year-over-year as smartphone subscribers are holding onto phones longer. Apple was able to grow their sell through 20% in a market that only grew 2% compared to last year. This means Apple has been successful to take share away from Samsung in the premium.”

Note that this article is referencing the 4th calendar quarter and not Apple’s 4th fiscal quarter (which ended September 30th).

During Q4 2017, all the three new iPhones were strong sellers—the three were the top three selling phones in the US market. However, since its launch on November 3rd, the iPhone X outsold the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus by a 2:1 margin . What this means is the super-premium segment (above $800) has grown from almost 0% in previous years to 25% share of the total smartphones sold in USA during Q4 2017, which speaks volumes for the potential of USA market and the US consumers’ buying power.”

It’ll be really interesting to compare these results to those one quarter from now. Will the iPhone X peel even further away from the iPhone 8/Plus, sales-wise?

What makes this song so great?

[VIDEO] If you are a songwriter or musician, take the time to watch this video (embedded in the main Loop post). It’s the second entry in Rick Beato’s excellent series, “What makes this song great?”

Even if you are a music theory beginner, you’ll find this easy to follow and full of insight.

This particular song? Everything She Does is Magic, by The Police. I’ve heard this song hundreds of times and never once saw any of the special that Rick Beato reveals. Great, great video.

[H/T Steven Woolgar]

Rene Ritchie: Five things I want to see in HomePod 2

Some terrific food for thought. Just to whet your appetite, here’s the list:

  • Apple TV magic
  • SiriKit for media… and more
  • Unified mesh Siri
  • Voice ID and deep, personal context
  • HomePod mini

There are some great ideas here, some obvious, some not so obvious. The thing I love about most of these is the fact that Apple can implement them with an update (sorry HomePod mini).

Apple, their move to custom chips, and Macs with Apple-built processors

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Steve Jobs long believed Apple should own the technologies inside its products rather than rely on mashups of components from other chip makers, including Samsung, Intel and Imagination Technologies. In 2008, the company made a small but significant step in that direction by acquiring boutique chip maker P.A. Semi. Two years later, Jobs unveiled the iPad. The world focused on the tablet’s giant touchscreen, book-reading prowess and creativity apps. But the most ground-breaking technology was hidden away inside: the A4, Apple’s first processor designed in-house.

And:

Apple’s push into the complicated and pricey chips business makes sense so long as the company is selling 300 million devices a year.

An interesting read. Lots of solid reasons for Apple to roll their own chips. Cost savings, for sure, but there’s also self-reliance. They can control chip production and act quickly if and when a flaw/vulnerability is discovered.

But most importantly:

So far, only two Mac lines include custom Apple processors: the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and the iMac Pro. Apple is working on at least three updated Mac models with custom co-processors for release as soon as this year, including updated laptops and a new desktop, according to a person familiar with the plan.

Well, that’s pretty big news. And a logical next step, if true.

Will we see a Mac Pro this year based on Apple silicon? How about a MacBook Pro? Can’t wait.

Songwriters score streaming services pay hike

Bloomberg:

Songwriters will get a larger cut of revenue from streaming services after a court handed technology companies a big defeat.

The Copyright Royalty Board ruled that songwriters will get at least a 15.1 percent share of streaming revenues over the next five years, from a previous 10.5 percent. That’s the largest rate increase in CRB history, according to a statement from the National Music Publishers’ Association.

The decision is a major victory for songwriters, who have long complained they are insufficiently [compensated] by on-demand music services like Spotify and YouTube. Streaming services account for the largest share of music industry sales in the U.S., while global streaming sales jumped 60 percent in 2016, according to the IFPI.

Obviously, a big deal for artists. Question is, will this force a change to the pricing of Apple Music and other services?

Steven Soderbergh says he only wants to shoot his movies on iPhones

IndieWire, on Soderbergh’s upcoming movie, Unsane:

Taking a page from Sean Baker’s “Tangerine,” Soderbergh shot the whole movie on an iPhone. While Baker has said he used a phone instead of traditional cameras due to budgetary constraints, Soderbergh said he was so impressed with the quality of iPhone cinematography that he would likely continue to use phones to shoot his movies going forward.

And:

“I think this is the future,” he said. “Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.”

The filmmaker has experimented with digital cinematography for years, going back to 2002’s “Full Frontal,” but found that the iPhone offered unparalleled quality. “People forget, this is a 4k capture,” said Soderbergh, who was long a passionate advocate for the high-end RED cameras. “I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet. This is a gamechanger to me.”

Soderbergh doesn’t need to scrimp and save on his movies. He’s had enough big box office success (Erin Brockovich, Oceans 11/12/13) that he can do pretty much as he pleases. The fact that he can get what he wants from iPhone says a lot.

It kind of blows my mind to think that a director of some renowned would choose to film using his phone. How far we’ve come.

HomePod: An hour in the hands of an audio engineer

Reddit user WinterCharm, an audio engineer who got an hour to play with a HomePod:

Fucking hell this thing is TINY. It’s really surprising to see it in person. Hefting it is odd, too. The fabric is soft but firm. It was also lighter than I was expecting. It’s also very pretty. Aside from the single cord coming out the back, there is no idication that it has a particular side/front. It’s built to blend into whatever space it’s in, rather than stand out.

And:

Having heard it side by side with The Sonos Play One and Google Home Max, A single HomePod is already much better than both in terms of sound quality.

And:

The first impression was the neutrality of the speaker. The HomePods are tuned for an as-true-to-recording sound. When the song calls for it, there is bass. When the song turns to crystal clear highs, they are reproduced faithfully. What really was interesting is the instrument separation in the room. At about 45% volume, the HomePod FILLED the room I was in with some great sound. When you walked away from it, the sound gets quieter, but not as quickly as you’d expect. All the details were still there, just softer. there was no feeling of walking out of the sweet spot that you get with a normal speaker. And that’s when it hit me… Apple really has done it.

Looking forward to technical reviews once people get their own HomePods and can spend some real quality time, along with access to their home environments.

Read the rest of the Reddit thread. If you can avoid the comparison trap, consider HomePod on its own, strictly as an Apple Music audio machine. Apple has really achieved something special here.

Alexa lost her voice

[VIDEO] Pretty solid teaser (embedded in main Loop post) for Amazon’s upcoming Super Bowl commercial.

Two new Animoji ads

[VIDEO] Saw these spots (embedded in the main Loop post) over the weekend, timely marketing push coinciding with Apple Music’s big presence during last night’s Grammys.

I loved both of these ads, though that second one hit me twice. First, I love the Animoji, animation, and music combination. But I also love that this is Childish Gambino, who is really actor Donald Glover.

Good stuff.

iOS App Store vs Google Play Store in two charts

From App Annie’s quarterly analysis of the iOS App Store and Google Play revenues.

Chart 1 shows app downloads for each store, in billions:

As you can see, Google Play has about 2-1/2 times the number of downloads as the iOS App Store.

Now let’s look at revenue:

The conclusion from this chart? Customers for the iOS App Store spend almost twice as much as Google Play customers.

That’s a pretty big swing.

“HomePod’s separation of sounds and fidelity to original instrumentation is astonishing”

Lance Ulanoff:

If it were only a question of quality, Apple’s HomePod, which, after a months-long delay finally ships on February 9, should be an unqualified success. Its audio quality is excellent, especially considering its size. Seven months ago, I sat is a small room and heard Apple’s 7-inch smart speaker play music for the first time. It sounded good, but the demonstration was short and lacking a key component of the smart speaker’s feature set: Siri integration.

Recently, though, I heard Apple’s HomePod again in a variety of scenarios and spaces. It sounded even better, especially when compared to larger Google Home Max and the aurally excellent Sonos One, the HomePod’s separation of sounds and fidelity to original instrumentation is astonishing.

This listening experience also added the smarts, or utility, that was missing back in June. Apple’s HomePod is, finally, a functioning Siri smart speaker.

You had me at astonishing.

I’m very curious about the sound quality, and how HomePod achieves such high fidelity, given the amount of compression in most music. Everything I’ve heard so far matches Lance’s description of his experience.

Apple in 2017: The Six Colors report card

Jason Snell & Dan Moren, Six Colors:

It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.

This is the third year that I’ve presented this survey to a hand-selected group. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote.

Lots of data to process, all based on a survey, but telling nonetheless. Read this (and check out the charts) for yourself, but one point I will note is that the biggest negative change from the 2016 report card, by far, is the rating for software quality.

Some of the comments:

In 2017, our panel’s perception of the quality of Apple’s software took a nosedive. Nobody who has been following along to Apple news and opinion for the last year will be surprised.

“Apple’s QA team has dropped the ball this year, with huge bugs in macOS, iOS, and even HomeKit, with often flawed patches for those bugs,” wrote Josh Centers. “Apple looks a bit amateurish lately,” wrote Kirk McElhearn. “It’s getting embarrassing,” wrote Rob Griffiths.”

“I don’t know how quality assurance works inside Apple, but something needs to change,” wrote Brent Simmons. Fraser Speirs wrote, “It’s as good as anyone else’s but it’s not good enough.”

“My family consists of a couple of big nerds, but mostly average users, and everyone agrees software reliability is trending down,” wrote Casey Liss.

Read the whole post. Very interesting.

Apple finally gets Cupertino’s permission to occupy parts of Apple Park spaceship building

Chris O’Brien, VentureBeat:

About one year after construction on the first phase of Apple Park was originally scheduled to be finished, the city of Cupertino has finally granted Apple a series of temporary occupancy permits that allow employees to move into parts of the main building.

According to a spreadsheet compiled by Albert Salvador, a Cupertino building official, Apple received temporary occupancy permits on December 30 for five of the 12 sections of the massive circular structure. The company had actually received a previous temporary occupancy permit back in July for one section of the headquarters that contains the restaurant and atrium.

It appears Apple is on track to receive temporary occupancy permits for all the other sections between the end of January and March at the latest, according to the spreadsheet dated January 17.

I had the impression the entirety of Apple Park was all clear, ready for move-in.

Lots more in the linked article. Very interesting.

HomePod can play purchased iTunes music, podcasts and stream Beats 1 without Apple Music subscription

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

Whilst HomePod works best with an Apple Music subscription, allowing users to ask Siri to play any of the 40 million tracks in the Apple Music catalog, it does not require a subscription to function. We have learned that the HomePod can play content purchased from iTunes, stream Beats 1, and listen to podcasts without needing a subscription.

And:

Users can continue to buy albums from iTunes and expand their collection of purchased songs associated with their iTunes Store account, and ask Siri to play those on HomePod.

But:

If you add music to your home iTunes library that was not acquired through a purchase, HomePod will not be able to access it. It appears HomePod doesn’t have Home Sharing, which would enable that kind of feature.

Judging from the huge HomePod interest on my Twitter feed, and from the volume of questions I’ve been getting on issues related to HomePod and Apple Music, I think HomePod has big potential.

In the short term, buyers might skew heavily towards folks already subscribed to Apple Music. But I see HomePod as a potential Trojan horse, bringing new subscribers to Apple Music, assuming the HomePod reviews are positive.

How to survive 75 hours alone in the ocean

Alex Hutchinson, Outside:

In February 2006, Robert Hewitt was scuba diving near Mana Island, off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Hewitt was an experienced navy diving instructor with 20 years in the service, and he told his dive buddy that he would swim back to shore himself. Instead, when he next surfaced, he had been pulled several hundred meters away by a strong current. The dive boat had moved on, and Hewitt was left alone, the tide pushing him farther and farther from shore.

And:

The most pressing challenge facing Hewitt was the water temperature of 61 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 17 degrees Celsius), well below body temperature. According to physiological models, when water is 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius), the median survival time is between 4.8 and 7.7 hours. Amazingly, Hewitt spent the next 75 hours in the water, drifting back and forth over a distance of nearly 40 miles.

And:

In general, immersion in cold water produces a four-stage response. First is the “cold shock response” that triggers “an inspiratory gasp, uncontrollable hyperventilation, hypertension, and increased cardiac workload.” If you’re not ready for it, this shock response can cause you to inhale water and drown and can set off heart arrhythmias.

Riveting, riveting read. And if this interests you, watch this video.

Video: Hands-on with AirPlay 2 on iOS 11.3 & tvOS 11.3

Andrew O’Hara, iDownloadBlog, jumped through the hoops necessary to test out the beta version of AirPlay 2 using multiple Apple TVs, each running their latest betas.

Watch the video embedded in the main Loop post. This is especially timely, given the fact that we’re just a few weeks away from our first public HomePods and the importance of AirPlay to the HomePod experience.

Apple Watch, behavior modification, and cheating

Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge:

Here’s how to cheat at the Apple Watch Stand goal: dangle your wrist by your side while you sit in a chair. I discovered this by accident — I dangle my arm during meetings — but once I found it out, I did it on purpose. I cheated while watching Thor: Ragnarok, in meetings, at brunch.

I’ll admit it. I’ve cheated my Activities taskmaster. Mostly inadvertently by, say, forgetting to mark the end of a run, then noticing that I’ve been running for 3 hours!

More from the article:

Exercise can reduce the risk of depression, help you sleep better, and even increase your chances of a long life. Seriously, it’s good for you.

And yet, only about half of American adults were meeting the recommended physical activity standards as of 2016, the CDC has found.

Yup. One of the great benefits of Apple Watch and the rewards that come from filling those rings.

Rewards, as influential American psychologist B. F. Skinner noted, are highly motivating. Rewarding a behavior is a very easy way to reinforce that behavior. Humans really like gold stars.

And:

Skinner’s big idea was basically this: you’ll do what you’re rewarded for. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a person, a cat, a pigeon, or a rat — rewards are a key part of animal behavior. The reward could be anything: a treat, some money, or just closing the rings on your Apple Watch.

And:

The Apple Watch is a behavioral intervention device that was created without consulting any behaviorists. I asked Apple directly about this — both at the original presentation around the Watch and again just before publication. I was told that Apple doesn’t use outside consultants, though it does invite researchers to come discuss their work, including those who have interests in habit formation and behavior change. Apple didn’t formally hire any behaviorists to design the Watch, either.

Whether or not the Apple Watch/Activities team built the reward system on nothing but spit and hunches, it clearly works. People’s behavior changed. So it works.

Read the article. Elizabeth really did some homework here. I found the whole thing fascinating.

What’s new in iOS 11.3? Hands-on with new features and changes

This is one of those iOS betas that bring a bevy of new features. Take a few minutes to watch the video embedded in the main Loop post. Jeff Benjamin does an excellent job walking through all the new stuff.

Of special note is the discussion about Messages on iCloud, about 2:25 in.

Google teasing I/O 2018 with series of encrypted puzzles

Google has a long history of using puzzles to tease and communicate. Their latest puzzle sequence tells you about this years Google I/O conference.

It all started with this tweet:

https://www.twitter.com/googledevs/status/956074091676688384

If you are interested in solving this, start by deciphering the image in the tweet above. If you get stuck, or just want to read through the sequence of solve steps, follow the headline link to a sequence of clues.