July 22, 2016

Seeking Alpha [Free reg-wall]:

For the first time, the worldwide smartwatch market saw a year-over-year decline of 32%, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Smartwatch vendors shipped 3.5 million units in the second quarter of 2016 (2Q16), which was down substantially from the 5.1 million shipped a year ago. Apple held the top rank by shipping 1.6 million watches. However, it was the only vendor among the top 5 to experience an annual decline in shipments. In fairness to Apple, the year-over-year comparison is to the initial launch quarter of the Apple Watch, which is in many ways the same product offered in the most recent quarter with price reductions.

Also in fairness to Apple, I see this as a bit of pent-up demand, the lull in anticipation of new hardware.

As I’ve said before, I am a big fan of Apple’s @AppleSupport Twitter presence. They do a terrific job guiding folks to answers when they are stuck. They also periodically post useful tips.

In this recent tweet, Apple Support embedded a video explaining how to set up Night Shift in iOS 9.3.

I found this interesting for several reasons. First, the video itself was well done, as is most Apple video. But this is the first time I’ve noticed this approach, the rolling out of an internal video via @AppleSupport.

Obviously, Night Shift is not brand new, and this video likely was made some time ago. Has anyone seen it before? If so, can you tweet me a link?

Wondering if Apple is planning on a regular series of these sorts of videos.

Interesting piece from Joe Saward, longtime Formula One blogger:

The suggestion last week that Apple may be discussing the acquisition of the Formula One group has led to a lot of interest and a lot of opinion. Traditional technology people argue it would never happen because it’s not the way Apple works. The company buys small clever companies and use the technology under the Apple brand. They don’t need the kind of advertising that F1 provides. So why would they buy it? The answer, it seems, is not to do with advertising, but rather with sales. Apple has built its empire on the iPhone and the iPad. The company has sold 800 million iPhones and, as a result, is now the biggest company in the world. But sales are slowing gradually and competition is increasing and Apple is following the Steve Jobs philosophy and looking for new ideas which reinvent the way we live.

I am relatively new to Formula One, but I am definitely a fan and totally get the attraction. The Formula One cars are attractive, fast, powerful, incredibly high tech and, at the same time, incredibly fragile. There’s big money pouring into the sport and there’s an opportunity for Apple to buy the whole thing, to funnel an entire sport through Apple TVs.

Heineken recently entered F1 believing the sport will bring it 200 million new customers. OK, it’s beer, but if Apple saw similar potential, the impact could be dramatic. AppleTVs cost $200 each, but selling 200 million of them could generate $40 billion. With such vast numbers, one could imagine Apple being willing to perhaps even consider broadcasting the sport free-to-air, and generating money only from the sale of the devices.

Fascinating read. I’d love this investment for Apple.

CNET:

Each year, FutureBrand looks at the 100 biggest companies by market capitalization, asks 3,000 consumers and industry professionals in 17 countries about them and produces a ranking of what it calls perception strength, rather than financial strength.

This year shows Apple regaining the top spot, after last year’s painfully abject slide into second place behind Google.

And:

Those of drier countenance and Android phones will realize quickly that Google is no longer one of the 100 largest companies by market capitalization. It’s now part of Alphabet, so Apple didn’t have to contend with last year’s winner.

It did, though, have to compete with Alphabet, whose self-driving car must have suffered a software malfunction — as it only propelled the company to 21st place.

Of course, this must be mostly down to the idea that many consumers might not have heard of Alphabet at all.

I still find the move to Alphabet confusing. It’s a holding company, but it was named without connection to one of the biggest brands in the world, a brand it was built to contain.

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld:

Talos found that maliciously constructed data saved as BMP, Digital Asset Exchange, OpenEXR, and TIFF image files could outwit the operating and allow code to be written and executed, including opening up a system to remote exploits. The ancient lossless image format TIFF using, however, is the worst culprit as Apple’s OSes will access a TIFF image to render a format in many cases without a user specifically opening a malicious file.

And:

The TIFF flaw affects unpatched current releases of every Apple OS: iOS 9, tvOS 9, watchOS 2, and OS X 10.11 El Capitan, as well as 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite.

Bottom line, this is a proof of concept at the moment. Apple has released protective updates for recent OSes, not yet for Mavericks or Yosemite. As always, keep your software updated.

July 21, 2016

The country’s National Center for Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) issued nine instructions to users of the mobile game, ranging from advising them not to use their real names to warning gamers over fake apps.

Be safe people.

A good article from Jason Snell, showing you where and how to see what’s associated with your Apple ID.

Each day, we make million of updates to Google Maps throughout the world. But it’s still not enough to ensure that every single restaurant, shop or landmark worldwide has the most accurate information possible. That’s why we’ve been rolling out new, easy ways for you to help keep the neighborhoods and places where you hang out up-to-date.

Making it easier for users to update places in their neighborhood is obviously a smart idea.

[Via MacStories]

I also found my frame rates to be significantly higher than before the patch as well. For example, in certain areas I would average around 30 – 50 frames per second before the switch to Metal. After the switch I found myself getting around 70 – 90 frames per second in the same places.

You can also read the follow-up post.

Walt Mossberg, writing for The Verge:

Over the past few days, I’ve methodically deleted 165 apps from my iPhone, about 54 percent of the 305 apps I had on the phone when I started culling the herd. When I was done, I had significantly decreased the phone’s clutter: I’d gone from 15 home screens to eight, and reclaimed nearly 8GB of free space, about a 24 percent gain in my case.

And:

But this isn’t one of those columns about digital housecleaning or how to free up more space on your iPhone, valuable as those are. It’s easier to save space by offloading most photos, video, and music to the cloud anyway. No, this column is really about the fact that I think the novelty of the app itself has worn off. We’ve reached peak app.

And:

Before going on, I want to make it clear that I am not against apps as a software type. Just the opposite: I believe them crucial to mobile devices. I personally find that, for many targeted tasks, a well-designed app is much better to use on even a large phone than is a mobile web browser, even if both the app and a web page are tapping the same online services.

For instance, I’d use Facebook and Twitter much less on my phone if I had to use them through the browser, partly because they make it easy to open and close referenced web pages right inside their apps, with just a click.

And it’s still possible to create a sensation with a great app that introduces genuinely new experiences — like Pokémon Go with its augmented reality interface. But one reason that Pokémon is so newsworthy is that such blockbuster apps are rarer and rarer.

It’s easier to make a wave in a pond than an ocean, and that’s where we are now. The same is true in the businesses of movie/TV/journalism production. It is harder and harder to make content that stands out in that ocean of content that you’re competing against. That is the nature of any maturing business.

CNBC:

Needham & Co. Managing Director Laura Martin estimates that “Pokemon Go” could generate $3 billion in revenue for Apple in the next 12 to 24 months as the game expands into more countries. Since the game achieved penetration of 6 percent of the U.S. population after just 10 days, Martin predicts 20 percent penetration at maturity.

And here’s the key:

“I think the point is that while Nintendo has gone up 20 billion and they do have IP risks, Apple does not,” Martin said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” “It is hedged because the next genius that makes a hit game, Apple shares on that one too. So while this one may be transitory, Apple has an option on all future hit games over the iOS platform.”

At the core of the App Store’s business model is this risk disparity. Apple took the vast majority of their risk at inception, when they built the App Store infrastructure. Now that risk has been paid for and the current risk all lies with the developers.

I’ve looked at telephoto lens in the past, and this is a good roundup of what’s available. Ultimately, I went for the DxO One.

Graham Spencer takes you on a behind-the-scenes guided tour through the App Store’s Top Grossing chart.

From the wrap-up:

If you regularly browse the App Store’s Top Charts most of these results would likely serve to confirm what you had already assumed. Most obviously, if you were to randomly pick an app from the Top 200 Grossing charts, chances are extremely high that you would pick a free app with IAPs and it would most likely be a game. But what is particularly suprising is the degree to which free apps with IAP dominate the charts with essentially no paid apps or no apps without IAPs.

Some fascinating numbers here.

9to5Mac:

The use of an Apple ID for a perfectly legal purchase was the key piece of evidence that has enabled the Department of Homeland Security to identify the man they suspect to be the owner of the biggest pirate website on the net, KickAssTorrents.com (KAT).

Here’s the official Justice Department announcement and the complaint itself.

Ad Age:

On Wednesday, the newspaper began blanking out, for some users, a percentage of words in articles symbolizing the percentage of the company’s revenue that comes from advertising.

The proportion of words blocked isn’t scientific, and the Financial Times doesn’t break out the exact chunk of revenue that comes from ads, said global advertising sales director Dominic Good. “It’s more illustrative than specific,” he said.

The test group comprises registered desktop computer visitors who don’t pay for a subscription, about .075% of the company’s desktop traffic. Some ad-blocking members of this group won’t see any new messaging, some will be asked to whitelist the website’s ads but can still read regardless, some will see articles with many words blanked out if they won’t whitelist the site, and some will be blocked outright if they don’t whitelist the site.

The company will evaulate the results after three or four weeks.

I wonder if this is a potential move to open up the gates, allow visitors through the paywall who agree to accept advertising. Interesting to see how this plays out.

[H/T The caustically cantankerous Not Jony Ive]

July 20, 2016

Apple did not buy cloud-based music provider Omnifone

There has been some speculation today that Apple purchased cloud-based music provider, Omnifone. According to my sources, that’s not the case.

Clearly with my interest in music, and Apple Music in particular, I began checking around as soon as I saw the report. While the report indicates a “mystery buyer” did purchase Omnifone’s tech business and assets, that buyer is not Apple, my sources said.

Omnifone worked with a number of companies, including LG, Samsung, Vodafone, BlackBerry, and Sony, to launch music services. However, it appears the company has not been doing well financially of late.

With Plex for Sonos you can now browse and play your entire Plex music collection on any Sonos device, right from the Sonos app.

Great news.

Ocean Ramsey and a whale shark

It’s not often you can say the pretty woman in the bikini is the second most beautiful and graceful thing in a video but I can honestly say it’s true in this case. I’d love to go diving with these amazing creatures.

Kottke:

Rebroadcast of Cronkite’s coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing starts in 10 minutes here.

If you are too young to have seen it live, watch it here. Or, relive the incredible memories of this day, 47 years ago, when mankind first stepped on the moon.

UPDATE: “it was originally posted in 2009”. Dammit. Never mind.

Mashable:

Sometimes, displaying our most beloved books on a shelf just doesn’t cut it. And when it comes to doing justice to the extent of our bookwormery, loud and proud is the way forward.

Pippa Branham of Liverpool, UK, decided to go all out with her love of books and paint her staircase with her and her husband’s preferred reads.

This is really cool. If I had any painting or design skills or even stairs, I’d give this a try.

ChefSteps recently introduced Joule, a small and easy-to-use sous vide tool, the first of many of the products planned by Young and his team of over 50 chefs, scientists, photographers, writers and engineers.

It’s not often you hear of a person with this combination of attributes. Interesting interview.

One of the two oldest methods of applying color to web pages, named colors remain very useful in web design and development today. Consisting of 149 distinct keywords (shown above, with their hexadecimal equivalents) CSS named colors have a few special features

The decision to drop a paywall can provide insight into how a news organization’s “values intersect with its commodification strategy, its technology design, and its brand identity” as outlets of all stripes are still deciding how much their reporting should cost.

This discussion has been going on for two decades.

Modi’s cabinet on Wednesday is likely to approve a three-year exemption on local-sourcing requirements for foreign single-brand retail companies with “cutting-edge technology,” according to the people, who asked not to be identified due to rules for speaking with the media.

This is great news, although I’m not sure what happens after the three-year exemption.

Scientific American:

Jim Papadopoulos has spent much of his life fascinated by bikes, often to the exclusion of everything else. He competed in amateur races while a teenager and at university, but his obsession ran deeper. He could never ride a bike without pondering the mathematical mysteries that it contained. Chief among them: What unseen forces allow a rider to balance while pedalling? Why must one initially steer right in order to lean and turn left? And how does a bike stabilize itself when propelled without a rider?

As kids, we “counterbalanced” by instinct. When I was learning to ride a motorcycle, the explanation of “steer right, go left” confused the living daylights out of me.

Macworld:

There’s no shortage of word processing software in the world, but few have the cult following that Scrivener does. Long available for OS X and Windows, it’s finally ready to be downloaded by anyone who owns an iOS device for $20.

I’m not much of a writer so I’ve never used Scrivener but many of the writers I know swear by it and have been waiting impatiently for this app for their iPads.

No matter how you look at it, that’s impressive.

Until now, that blue checkmark next to your Twitter account name could only be awarded by Twitter, using a mysterious internal award process.

Now that’s changed. For the first time, people can apply for that blue checkmark themselves.

Interested? Start here.

Reminds me of The Sneetches (skip to 48 seconds in – that’s where the great Dr. Seuss writing kicks in).

UPDATE: Be sure the “Why” field has less than 500 characters and does not contain a link. Tripped me up.

This is a bit hard to follow, but it is a pretty ingenious scheme. In a nutshell, the scammer sets up a pay phone line, a phone number that people have to pay to use. They then use that number as a verification number with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. and take an action which causes that number to be called.

By automating the process, they bring in a nice little wave of money. That’s the theory, anyway. This was pieced together by a security researcher who raised the issue to get companies to put barriers in place to prevent this hack.

20 years ago, Steve Jobs buys an airline ticket through a custom web app

Steve Jobs showing off NeXT WebObjects, buying an airline ticket on the web, something that was a brand new experience at the time.

My favorite part is when Steve calls United Airlines to verify his purchase. Ever the showman!

[H/T Steve Hayman]