September 1, 2015

This quote is from a post from early yesterday:

Is Apple building a news funnel where all payment for web content flows through their coffers? Will Apple steer paid ads through Apple’s mobile advertising platform, iAd?

And this is from the Wall Street Journal:

For Apple, blocking ads could be popular with many consumers, because it will enable mobile web pages to load faster and remove annoying clutter.

The move might also serve to benefit the company’s forthcoming Apple News application, some industry observers say. The app will host articles from major news publishers and also will come bundled with iOS 9. The blocking of ads in Safari mobile browsers may force publishers to put more emphasis on distributing content through apps, including their own as well as perhaps Apple’s.

One publishing executive noted the “dichotomy” between Apple’s rollout of ad-blocking and the News app, which is ad-supported. Apple will get a cut of the ad revenue when it sells ads in the app.

Several publishers, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Daily Mail and Time Inc., have agreed to distribute content on Apple News.

Remember music before iTunes? Chaos into order, with a more predictable cut for musicians, more power to package your own product, get it into the store without the middle person. In embracing this arguably better model, we have trusted Apple as the keeper of music.

This same move seems to be coming for content publishing and its accompanying ads. The ability for users to cut ads out of the stream is one thing, but to use that power to steer content publishers to a single platform truly makes me uneasy.

Is that what’s happening here? Is Apple giving users the switch so they can turn off the traditional access to advertising? Will Apple then step in and offer the News app as a white knight to save the day for bloggers who need ads to keep the lights on?

Am I wrong to feel a bit nervous about this coming wrinkle?

By popular request, bylines!

Over the next few days you’ll see bylines appearing beneath our headlines. This is a work in progress, so please bear with us as we get our CSS just so.

Hope you like!

August 31, 2015

Runeblade is a Fantasy Adventure Game tailored for Apple Watch. Stop the ancient evil threatening your world. Sharpen your blade, prepare your spells and secure your armour to fight the rising darkness!

This should be interesting.

Five Finger Death Punch: Bad Company

Great version of a classic song.

Here’s what’s happening: when customers buy our unlimited 4G LTE plan for their smartphones we include a fixed amount of LTE to be used for tethering (using the “Smartphone Mobile HotSpot” feature), at no extra cost, for the occasions when broadband may not be convenient or available. If customers hit that high-speed tethering limit, those tethering speeds slow down. If a customer needs more LTE tethering, they can add-on more. Simple.

However, these violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data.

Sounds fair to me.

Glenn Fleishman has a look at some of the early reviews, which don’t seem that good.

The Apple TV’s existing NFL Now channel was today revamped, changing the name to “NFL” and adding support for Game Pass subscriptions. Through the updated channel, NFL fans who have a Game Pass subscription can watch on-demand NFL games and live out-of-market preseason games on the Apple TV for the first time.

Lovely.

Earlier today, we posted Jean-Louis Gassee’s take on ad blocking and the bleak future for content publishers. Rene Ritchie put together this primer on iOS 9 content blocking that fills in a lot of the blanks on the whole mechanism.

Safari content blocking extensions don’t automagically identify ads and prevent them from loading. Instead, they identify elements and resources on a web page and can, optionally, hide those elements and prevent those resources from loading. The goal is to show how fast the modern web—read: Safari—really is when you remove all the extraneous code that’s been dumped on top of it. And they’re coming as part of iOS 9.

The vast majority of the time the elements and resources blocked will be those used to serve ads. Other times they’ll be things like social networking buttons, performance and audience analytics, article comments, navigation headers, “hamburger and basement” sidebars, and more.

Terrific writeup, Rene.

Apple and Cisco today announced a partnership to create a fast lane for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhone with Cisco enterprise environments and providing unique collaboration on iPhone and iPad.

“iOS is the world’s best mobile platform, and nearly every Fortune 500 and Global 500 company today has put iOS at the center of their mobile strategy,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone and iPad have become essential tools for the modern workforce and are changing the way work gets done. Together with Cisco, we believe we can give businesses the tools to maximize the potential of iOS and help employees become even more productive using the devices they already love.”

Apple is serious about the Enterprise market, or at least making sure enterprise customers have access to everything they need. Good move by Apple.

Introduced in the late 1960s, the AKG BX 20 reverb was a high-water mark for AKG’s esteemed engineers. An ingenious assembly of mechanical and electronic componentry, the BX 20 offered the glorious depth and color of spring reverb without any of the limitations.

This is so nice—listen to the audio samples on the page. Another great plug-in from Universal Audio.

Jim and Dan talk about self driving cars, the Apple Watch, cutting the cord, the iPad Pro, and more.

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AmpliTube MESA/Boogie is the most comprehensive collection of officially licensed MESA/Boogie virtual guitar amps and cabinets on the market. Now you can plug in and experience legendary tone wherever your computer can take you: You get everything from the violin-like sustain of the Mark series to the aggressive, huge crunch and searing gain of the Rectifier series.

IK Multimedia has done a great job in bringing some of world’s best amps to its application. I’m looking forward to trying this out.

Music Rising is a campaign that was launched to rescue the musical culture of the Central Gulf region of the United States from the destruction caused by the catastrophic hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 by replacing the musical instruments lost or destroyed in the deluge. Co-Founded by U2’s the Edge and legendary producer Bob Ezrin along with a host of music industry partners including MusiCares, Musician’s Friend, Gibson Musical Instruments and Guitar Center Music Foundation, the organization has gone to aid thousands of musicians, students and choir members.

Jay Z-backed music service Tidal — which carried a live stream of Lil Wayne’s Hurricane Katrina benefit show this weekend — cut the transmission during Drake’s performance and accused Apple of “interfering with artistry” by not allowing the set to be streamed, a charge which has been refuted.

Drake’s own people denied the claim, yet Tidal went ahead with accusing Apple. Tidal says it has proof that Apple is behind it—show the proof or shut the fuck up.

There’s some fascinating data here from a survey iMore conducted in July.

Grantland:

As conceived, Beats 1 is the most prefab, retro pitch in Apple’s streaming service portfolio — a radio station, with DJs and songs. Beats 1, of course, has been much more than that, and sometimes a little less. A tastemaker with no genre-bound point of view, a 24-hour channel that is “always on,” and a hub for famous voices to share their loves, the station has become the surprising hallmark of Apple’s streaming bid.

Turns out people still like listening to the radio.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Beats 1 can “make a star” – if, with promotion and air play, Beats 1 can take an unknown artist to global popularity.

A quick iPhone camera science experiment

I stumbled on this yesterday, as my wife and I were working on a project involving infrared light. This is very simple, will take about a minute, and if you are even mildly into science, you might find it interesting.

Find a remote control. Any remote will do, as long as it is an infrared remote (almost all remotes are).

Aim the remote at your iPhone, press and hold one of the buttons (the volume button, for example) and take a picture with the rear-facing camera (the camera that comes out the back of the iPhone).

Here’s a picture I took:

Pic01

As you can see from the photo, there’s nothing special here. All you can see is the tail end of the remote.

Now repeat the experiment, but this time use the front facing camera (the one you’d use to take a selfie). Remember to hold down a button on the remote while you take the picture.

Here’s my image:

Pic02

Note the red dot in this second picture. That’s the infrared beam being generated by the remote. Turns out, the rear-facing camera has an infrared filter built in. The front facing camera does not have this filter.

Not certain, but I believe this filter has been in place on the rear-facing camera since at least the days of the iPhone 4.

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5mac:

Apple’s next-generation Apple TV will include a number of new features to differentiate itself from the older version, including Siri support, a new remote control, an App Store with a Software Development Kit for developers, and a refreshed user interface. As soon as next year, Apple plans to release a cable-replacing streaming TV service that bundles multiple television channels for a price as low as $40 per month, but the new Apple TV will initially still require logins to cable networks to unlock content.

I think the new Apple TV will fly off the shelves. A lot of pent up demand, built up expectations. It’ll be interesting to see what channels make it into Apple’s bundle and how that impacts cable pricing. Will the cost of internet-only packages rise to make up for lost revenue?

Rhiannon Williams, writing for The Telegraph, had the chance to interview John Sculley, the man who was instrumental in ousting Steve Jobs from Apple back in 1985.

When asked if he ever feels frustrated at how Jobs is presented, or misrepresented, in popular culture, Sculley pauses. “Misrepresented in what way?” he asks, tersely. People tend to draw on the more tyrannical aspects of his personality, I venture.

“I don’t think that’s fair. I think…” He pauses again. “People exaggerate, it’s simple to summarise and exaggerate. I found Steve, remember – at the time we were friends, we were incredibly close friends, and… he was someone who even then, showed compassion, and caring about people. “Didn’t mean he couldn’t be tough in a meeting and make decisions, and sometimes they seemed, y’know, overly harsh. But the reality was, the Steve Jobs I knew was still a very decent person, with very decent values. So I think he was misrepresented in popular culture.”

And:

The pair worked in harmony together on Apple’s 1984 Ridley Scott-directed Super Bowl television advert, but cracks began to appear when Sculley disagreed with Jobs’ plans to drop the price of the Macintosh and direct a large proportion of the marketing budget from Apple II to the Mac in the wake of the poorly-received Macintosh Office network, which later became Desktop Publishing.

“I said ‘Steve, the only cash for the company is coming from the Apple II, and we can’t do that,’” Sculley recalls sadly.

The working relationship between the two descended into a desperate struggle for power. The increasingly-erratic Jobs tried to lead an unsuccessful rebellion against Sculley in May 1985 with the goal of replacing him with Jean-Louis Gassée, then Apple’s director of European Operations. Gassée informed Sculley of the coup, who confronted Jobs at an executive committee meeting and demanded those present choose between the two men as to who they thought best to run the company. They backed Sculley, and Jobs fled the room.

Note that this is the same Jean-Louis Gassée who wrote so eloquently about ad-blocking in our previous post.

In his mind, however, Jobs remains “the greatest CEO ever”. “Steve Jobs taught us many, many lessons, and he was brilliant, but the reality is most of us aren’t Steve Jobs,” he says. “You’ve got to assemble an incredibly great team, and what most people overlook with him and I know, because I was with him, is that he was brilliant at being able to recruit talent. And he did it by his charismatic ability to tell a compelling story with metaphors and poetry in ways that got people to do things they never thought they were capable of.”

Jean-Louis Gassée, writing or Monday Note:

When finite advertising budgets are divided by an almost infinite number of Internet billboards, the revenue per ad tends to zero. As revenue from print ads continues to decline, Web ads aren’t picking up the slack.

We now have a race to the bottom where publishers use tricks (some say fraud) to generate advertising revenue. This leads to pages that are overloaded with ads that publishers no longer control, combined with the collection of the most minute crevices of user behavior, information that’s then pimped to advertisers who are constantly looking for more finely-tuned methods to target their ads.

Enter Apple’s content blocking APIs.

The good news: We’ll soon have ways to streamline our browsing experience and avoid being pimped to advertisers.

The bad news: Marginally profitable Web sites, which is most of them, will lose advertising revenue and plunge into the red. The big guys that have paywalls in place, sites such as The New York Times, Financial Times, or Le Monde, will be much less vulnerable. (More on the Web publishing landscape in the postscript.)

The whole piece is a thoughtful and worthwhile read. It paints a dark portrait of tough times ahead for content publishers. Where will the revenue come from? As ad blocking becomes standard practice, will mobile ads simply dry up and, eventually, disappear?

Is Apple building a news funnel where all payment for web content flows through their coffers? Will Apple steer paid ads through Apple’s mobile advertising platform, iAd?

What about sponsorships? Will those sorts of ads be blocked as well?

Interesting times are coming.

August 30, 2015

NASDAQ:

German luxury car giant Bayerische Motoren Werke AG or BMW Group is looking to go all-electric over the next 10 years due to the upcoming stricter carbon emission laws. Virtually every BMW model would be converted to electric drivetrains, including range-extending engines and plug-in hybrids.

The transition will see even the company’s top-selling 3 Series sport sedans turned into plug-in hybrids.

The company is weary of the stringent European Union regulations that greatly reduce the average carbon emissions permitted from road vehicles. They are said to be tougher than either North American or Chinese emission levels.

Some are calling this the “death of the internal combustion engine”. That is unlikely to happen any time soon but electric is the future. BMW is just getting out ahead of it.

August 29, 2015

Apple:

Join us here on September 9 at 10 a.m. PDT to watch the keynote live.

Many of us will be watching and, in a break from past webcasts, Apple will allow Windows 10 users to tune in too.

August 28, 2015

Those settings, which are slated to arrive when Apple launches its iOS 9 operating system in September, will require all content that arrives on an iPhone (via apps, ads or otherwise) to use an encryption setting known as “https.” The setting ensures that third parties can’t read or track what users are doing on their phones.

In a blog post this week, Google told AdMob users to get ready for the new Apple setting. But if they’re not prepared, Google said, they can use a few lines of code to override it.

Go fuck yourself Google.

Jim and Merlin talk about beta software, bass players, and how to minimize stress when traveling.

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Politico:

A private conference in Washington with the attorney general (in itself a rarity for many tech magnates) would have been unthinkable for Cook’s irascible predecessor, Steve Jobs, who actively disdained D.C. Cook, much as he sought to shirk Jobs’ shadow as CEO, had also endeavored quietly to rethink his company’s relationship with the nation’s capital, becoming a leader not only ready to engage its power brokers but challenge them openly when it mattered most.

Watching Cook in his dealings with Washington has been fascinating precisely because it’s something Steve Jobs hated and wouldn’t do. Cook seems more open and able to navigate the issues.

Lifehacker:

People say that “everyone should work retail or service at least once in their lives.” I couldn’t agree more. Like many people, some of my first jobs were retail service gigs. One in a department store, another in a bookstore. I’ve long since moved on, but I learned a lot about the nature of people—and how that battle between selfishness and empathy is something we all struggle with, every day.

I never worked long in retail but I was there long enough to know the jobs generally sucked. 99% of retail employees are good, hardworking people. Please treat them with the same respect you want for yourself.

Casey Liss, of the Accidental Tech Podcast, writes about being trolled.

Takes a thick skin to expose yourself to the public. Trolling comes with the territory, but that doesn’t make it easier to take, or right.

Not to be missed, this link to Bastard Coated Bastards with Bastard Filling (about 31 seconds in). Yup, that about covers it.

CNBC:

Apple’s mobile payments service will now work with PayAnywhere, a credit card reader serving 300,000 locations across the country. The newest version of the PayAnywhere reader will be available exclusively in Apple Stores nationwide.

Sounds like Apple will be selling the PayAnywhere reader in the Apple Store, pushing it as a blessed retail solution for Apple Pay.

Peter Cohen, writing for iMore:

A rumor surfaced this week that Apple’s excising its One to One program at its retail store in favor of expanding the free group workshops program. One to One allows owners of new Macs and other devices to purchase a year’s worth of weekly, personalized training with Apple specialists in Apple retail stores at a steal of a price: $99. If One to One does indeed go away, I can understand why. It’s very expensive for stores to do, and many customers can get effective training other ways.

And:

The retail store where I work, while not owned by Apple, is authorized by Apple to sell and service much of their gear. We’re located almost an hour’s drive by highway from the closest Apple-owned store. There are other places in the area to buy Apple gear: Best Buy, Walmart, Target. But for personalized sales and service, many people are much more comfortable coming to us.

And:

We have to offer training to keep customers, but we’re not a social welfare agency. We have to make enough money to pay employees, keep the lights on, and put enough in the owner’s pockets to make the business operation worthwhile. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for us to see it go away.

Interesting flip side of the coin. If Apple did away with the One to One program, sounds like it might be a boon for non-Apple retail stores.

From Matthew Garrahan, writing for The Financial Times:

The architect of Apple’s online radio strategy has resigned two months after the launch of its Beats1 radio service, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ian Rogers was part of the executive team that joined Apple last year when the company acquired Beats, the audio group started by Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, for $3bn.

Since the completion of the deal Mr Rogers has led the development of Apple’s Beats1, hiring Zane Lowe, the former BBC radio DJ, as a presenter and crafting an eclectic mix of shows streamed from London, New York and Los Angeles that have been well received by critics and listeners.

News of his departure caught colleagues off guard. He is leaving the west coast to work for a Europe-based company in an unrelated industry, people familiar with the situation said.

According to this ReCode article, Apple has verified his departure.