July 28, 2014

Businessweek:

Microsoft today began taking orders for its new game console from online retailer JD.com Inc. (JD:US) via Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s (700) mobile-messaging applications. The pair of Chinese Internet companies hold exclusive rights to pre-sell the locally made Xbox One until July 30, JD.com said in a news release. The console is slated to ship nationwide in September.

Important market expansion for Microsoft and the Xbox team.

On the other side of the coin, there’s China’s issues with Windows 8:

Less than two weeks later, the mainland’s state-run broadcaster CCTV aired a strongly critical programme in which experts suggested Windows 8 was being used to grab information on mainland citizens.

July 26, 2014

Brooklyn Botanical Garden:

In the 19th century, apples came in all shapes and guises, some with rough, sandpapery skin, others as misshapen as potatoes, and ranging from the size of a cherry to bigger than a grapefruit. Colors ran the entire spectrum with a wonderful impressionistic array of patterning—flushes, stripes, splashes, and dots. There was an apple for every community, taste, purpose, and season, with winter varieties especially prized. Apples were used for making cider, baking, drying, eating out of hand—even as livestock feed.

Compare all of this to the 90 or so varieties grown commercially in North America today, or to the handful of shiny cultivars on display at the local supermarket, and you are immediately faced with a pomological conundrum: How could Americans grow 14,000 different apples in the 19th century, and a hundred years later be conversant with only a few varieties, most notably, ‘Red Delicious’, ‘Golden Delicious’, and ‘Granny Smith’?

Really interesting article on how we got to where we are, apple-wise.

Slate:

Last year, Eric Chemi of Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out the amazing fact that Apple’s iPhone sales alone were larger than the revenues at 474 of the companies in the S&P 500 stock index. So I thought I’d ask: If Apple’s product lines were their own companies now, which corporations would they stack up against?

No one is suggesting Apple would break their products out into separate companies but it’s fascinating to see how the “APPLE IS DOOMED!” crowd ignores the simple hugeness of Apple’s business.

Jalopnik:

LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) to fly the last F-14 Demonstration before the Tomcat’s final demise in 2006. Commander Ruzicka took the time to sit down with Foxtrot Alpha to talk Tomcats and share his amazing experiences and lasting impressions of being part of one of the most competitive, demanding and rewarding cultures in American history- the F-14 Tomcat community.

My bucket list will sadly go unfinished because one of the things on it was to get shot off of a US Navy aircraft carrier in an F-14 Tomcat.

July 25, 2014

And this is why BlackBerry and Dell can’t do anything right.

Bose alleges that Beats has infringed on 50 years’ worth of research, development and engineering of noise cancelling tech, and that its current lineup of these devices incorporates “at least 36 U.S. patents and applications,” broken down into 22 granted patents and 14 applications currently undergoing review. Beats products named as having infringed upon Bose’s IP include the Beats Studio line, which include the new Studio Wireless Bluetooth headphones.

I wonder if Apple and Beats saw this coming?

Things cats do that’d be creepy if you did them

I laughed out loud several times.

Headquartered in San Francisco, which also serves as its debut market, Fixed first launched this January, allowing residents to snap photos of their tickets using an iOS device. Afterwards, Fixed checks for common errors before proceeding to write a customized contest letter on your behalf, which is sent to the city.

Seems the city of San Francisco are being dicks about this.

If you are considering signing up for the Yosemite beta, first make sure you make a complete backup of your hard drive, then take a few minutes and read this excellent walk-through by Macworld’s Dan Frakes that’ll take you through the process of creating a bootable install drive of the Yosemite beta.

You did backup your hard drive first, right?

Noisey:

Marcus Haney has never paid to go to a festival. He makes replica wristbands, sneaks past security guards, and walks with confidence. Sure – he gets chucked out. But often he ends up on the main-stage, hangs out with bands, and captures unique views with his camera.

In the space of four years Marcus has been to almost fifty festivals around the world. Along the way he’s made friends with bands like Mumford & Sons, found himself clinging underneath festival cess-pits, and and hanging out with people called Acid Chris. This is not his day job – he shoots for stations like HBO and creates music videos. But somehow, between hitch-hiking across the United States and being one of the most sought-after photographers in music, he’s found time to compile his four-year festival experience into a documentary.

Marcus Haney is following his passion in a way that few people do. He’s got that rare inner voice, that bright burning vision, that guides him.

Follow the headline link to read the interview. Watch an early, leaked trailer for his documentary, a work in progress, below.

Good on ya, Marcus.

July 24, 2014

Brianna Wu released her game for iPhone and iPad to the App Store this week. I’ve been following her progress for about a year and really like what I’ve seen. You can download the game for free or you can watch a trailer first.

This could be interesting, but I’d still use the Uber app. I don’t use Facebook Messenger, but I can see the benefits for both companies.

You’re a free spirit. You don’t like rules. You expect to be asked about your trophy beard.

The main purpose of this book is to help product managers who work specifically with digital projects build better — less complex, more focused, less long-winded and more intelligent — products. By featuring lessons learned from real-life projects, the book provides a structured framework for strategic product management — to help build the right products, at the right time, for the right people with just the right amount of process involved.

I have a lot of respect for Rian van der Merwe, the author of this book. You should have a look.

Pedro de Noronha, managing partner at hedge fund Noster Capital, who says Apple “might become obsolete in two-to-three years.”

I’m an engineer at heart. I love creative solutions to problems, even if they turn out not to be practical. I’ll leave it to the vinyl experts to decide if this process works better than a commercial record cleaner, but I give this video an A+ for clever.

Quartz:

While Apple reported a mostly ho-hum quarter on July 22, the company’s growth in China was an unexpected bonus. “China honestly was surprising to us,” CEO Tim Cook said. “The unit growth was really off the charts across the board.”

Revenue from Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, grew 28% to $5.94 billion, as buyers snapped up iPhones, iPads and computers at much faster rates than in the rest of the world. Chinese iPhone sales were up 48%, Mac sales were up 39%, and iPad sales (which were down 9.2% globally), were up an impressive 51%.

One point I pulled from this article: The Chinese smartphone market is maturing, moving from a jailbroken wild west to a market that appreciates aesthetics and is willing to spend more for a better experience.

Yes, China is awash with cheaper homegrown smartphones, but affluent buyers still love iPhones. Of the country’s 700 million smartphones at the end of 2013, more than a quarter were high-end phones that cost more than $500, according to a recent report from Umeng.com, which tracks apps and mobile use in China. Of those, 80% are iPhones, Umeng estimates. Many analysts criticized Apple for pricing the iPhone 5c too high, but that may have been the whole point—the high price tag is an asset for aspirational Chinese consumers.

Apple is holding the line here, playing the long game. And it’s working.

Scorching.

Businessweek:

Apple has 423 stores, as of March, and it makes more money in sales per square foot—$4,551—than any other U.S.-based retailer, according to EMarketer RETAIL. The stores’ success has a lot to do with their design, a fact not lost on Apple, which has patented its distinctive store layout, glass cube, and floating staircase in the U.S. The company recently won permission to apply for trademark protection in the European Union.

I talked recently with 8’s Tim Kobe—the designer who worked closely with Jobs to create the computer store’s iconic look—about how Apple changed the retail landscape. From that conversation, five lessons emerged as to what businesses can learn from Apple’s then-outlandish example.

The article itself is interesting, touching on some of the core reasons why the Apple Store is different and why it succeeded so wildly.

But also interesting is the work done by Tim Kobe and 8 Inc., the design studio that worked with Steve Jobs on the iconic design of the Apple Store. Here’s a link to the 8 Inc. web site. And here’s a link to 8′s Apple Store sub-site.

July 23, 2014

GigaOm:

Yes, the quarterly sales are down from the prior three months and the year-ago period. Apple sold 16.3 million iPads in the first three months of this year and 14.6 million in the fiscal third quarter of 2013. Look at the iPad sales data since Apple’s tablet debuted and you can see a broader view of the same thing: The iPad sales growth rate overall has slowed of late.

I don’t think this is cause for alarm. Expecting iPad sales growth to mirror that of the iPhone, which is still on a relatively stronger upward direction, is unreasonable for a number of reasons.

People are slowly coming to the realization that maybe, just maybe, the sky isn’t falling.

TechHive:

Apple’s M7 processor, currently in the iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and iPad mini with Retina display, collects data from the device’s sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass) and then provides that data to the apps.

But how accurate is an M7 processor at counting steps? To find out, I downloaded six popular step-counting apps on both an iPhone 5s and an iPhone 4s, and then carried both phones to track my steps over a few weeks. Then I took (a lot) of walks, including a few where I literally counted each step in order to compare results.

Here’s the breakdown of each app’s features and flaws.

I’ve used some of these and quickly found out something crucial – I don’t walk nearly enough.

TUAW:

Apple just ran a TV ad showing just how amazing your MacBook can look with a little bit of vinyl applied.

If you saw something you liked on that fast-moving ad, you’re in luck because I did the legwork of searching for every funky sticker that made an appearance. Well, ok, not every sticker — I ignored the section of the ad with the generic music stickers — but every sticker you probably care about. All 71 of them.

I’m glad somebody did this. How about you? Do you put stickers or the like on your laptops?

Kottke:

In racing video games, a ghost is a car representing your best score that races with you around the track. This story of a son discovering and racing against his deceased father’s ghost car in an Xbox racing game will hit you right in the feels.

What a lovely but sad story.

Jezebel:

Less than 100 years ago, people genuinely believed that there was no such thing as “menial service” to an American, that waiters could be gentlemen, and that service didn’t mean servitude. They believed the idea of tipping was a fundamentally demeaning and classist notion of which they wanted no part. Since then, we appear to have come a long way down a road paved with good intentions.

What the hell went wrong?

I’m always of two minds when it comes to tipping and appreciate those places I’ve travelled where it is not allowed or culturally frowned upon.

Polygon:

I blinked at my phone, fighting simultaneous urges to hurl my phone across the room in anger and cry. Later that day, someone texted me my address — telling me they’d “See me when I least expected it.”

I haven’t been out to my car at night by myself since January 2nd.

My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.

An awful story about a serious and ongoing problem in general but specific in this regard to the gaming industry.

Wired:

This week Wisconsin-ites were treated to a mayfly emergence. Just how many mayflies are there? Enough that they show up on weather radar.

The slippery goo created by millions of mayflies is blamed in a three-car pileup in Hager City, WI yesterday night.

Mother Nature is amazing and sometimes, disgusting.

A new book from Shawn Blanc, “Delight is in the Details” describes how to make good things great. Shawn says it’s “an audio book, eBook, and interview series for people who make things.”

Yesterday, The New Yorker magazine published “A Note to Readers,” announcing the new strategy behind its web site. The site now has a different look and feel. It will also be governed by a new set of economics, which will include putting the entire site behind a paywall. The editors write, “in the fall, we [will] move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces—and then it’s up to them to subscribe. You’ve likely seen this system elsewhere—at the Times, for instance—and we will do all we can to make it work seamlessly.”

Lots of great content to dig through, all free until the paywall is put in place in the fall. Here’s a list of suggested New Yorker reading from Slate.

And one of my favorites, this piece by John Updike, from 1960, about the love affair between Boston and baseball slugger Ted Williams and the twilight of his career. It’s called Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.

CNBC:

Microsoft posted earnings that fell short of expectations Tuesday while revenue topped Wall Street estimates.

The computer software maker earned 58 cents a share on revenues of $23.38 billion.

The company reported diluted EPS of 55 cents, but that figure included three cents worth of one-time charges. The 58-cent figure compares to analysts’ estimate of 60 cents a share, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

So much volatility, it’s hard to get any sense of direction from Redmond. A big part of this instability is the Nokia acquisition and pending layoffs.

Microsoft’s fiscal fourth-quarter revenue rose, but its profit fell, partly due to the effect of incorporating the handset business of Nokia, which it acquired in April.

And the bigger problem is morale:

“Microsoft needs to detail what their strategy is,” said Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki, which has a stake in the tech firm. “Morale is down. They are firing a ton of people. The way he did it is very harsh. Nadella has to tell us where is Microsoft going, what’s the future growth for this company.”

OS X Yosemite public beta to be released July 24

As promised, Apple is releasing a public beta of its latest Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite. Apple told me during a meeting earlier this week that the public beta would be released tomorrow, July 24.

The public beta version of OS X Yosemite is the same version released to developers on Monday, so to start off, consumers and developers will be running the same software. However, the developer version of Yosemite will be updated more often over the next few months than the public beta version. This is so developers can continue to test their software with the latest operating system available. Consumers really don’t need updates that frequently.

If you plan on participating in the public beta of OS X Yosemite, you should use a secondary Mac. I’ve been using Yosemite since the first developer release and it is very stable, but it is still in development, which means things can go wrong. Putting beta operating system software on your production machine is never a good idea. You should also make a full backup of your machine.

Since Yosemite is still in development, not everything is going to work as it will in the finished release. Some services may not work as expected, and in fact, some features require iOS 8, which is not part of the public beta program. In other words, those features are not going to work at all.

Participants in the public beta will be able to install updates to Yosemite, including the final version, through the software update mechanism built-in to OS X. I’ve done this three times so far with the developer releases and it works great.

Public beta users will also have access to a “Feedback Assistant” app, allowing them to easily submit feedback to Apple on their experience with OS X Yosemite.

The updates to Yosemite have only strengthened my keenness for the OS. The design, system font and overall usability of Yosemite is still fantastic, but it’s the details that matter—and Apple takes care of the details.

Yosemite Messages

For example, in the Messages screenshot, the translucency on the right hand side takes on the color of the content—in this case, the blue talk bubble. However, the translucency of the left side takes on the color of the desktop background.

Searches in Spotlight will automatically do conversions too, which is very handy. Type in “20 miles” and Spotlight comes back with a number of conversions while you are typing.

spotlight

Very subtle things like this make Yosemite really pleasing to use.

I’m sure many people will have a lot of fun testing out OS X Yosemite, but be sure to take the precautions noted above when working with beta software.

More information on the public beta is available from Apple’s Web site.