February 24, 2015

Tim Cook posted this tweet today. I still miss Steve. He would have been 60 today.

The car was from 1999, but Marc has designed a lot of transportation vehicles. Just another interesting point.

Medium:

(Apple is) in a lot of ways the story of a technology company hanging around, making interesting things, and waiting for the world to actually need what they wanted to build.

But also something to remember: narratives are bullshit. It’s the people who show up and build and keep going who ultimately write the stories that last.

Many don’t remember or know just how bad off Apple was in those days. It’s path has got to be considered the most remarkable story in the history of business.

In my previous post, I speculated that the high end Apple Watch Edition model would be priced between $3,400 and $6,800. This was purely an educated guess. Regardless of the price, the Edition models will certainly set you back a pretty penny.

Serenity Caldwell, writing for iMore:

I understand the justification of replacing an iPhone or a Mac when they’ve become too slow or outdated for their task — at most, I’ve spent $2000-$3000 on such a device, and its cost-per-year averages out to something where I don’t feel wasteful in replacing the machine.

Watches are different. They’re jewelry. They’re as much a fashion accessory as they are a device. And watches can have a long lifespan, if treated properly. Watches have people trained in the art of repair, keeping someone’s $20,000 timepiece from becoming a useless paperweight.

Once Apple jumps into that price point and that industry, should it expect that users will pay $10,000 again 18-30 months down the line to replace their watch? Does the advent of digital mean we’re expected to replace our heirlooms now, rather than pass them down? I really don’t know. Maybe the Edition is truly just meant for those who look at $5000 cost-per-year of ownership as no big deal on their bank account. Companies like Vertu have made a living off those customers; why shouldn’t Apple?

But I’d like to believe Apple is better than that. If they truly want to command the watch industry, they might take another page from watch-makers: repairability.

Read the whole article. Serenity lays out the premise of a replaceable core, an inner working that can be drag and drop replaced. Rather than laying out for a new Apple Watch every few years, is it possible that Apple will make the Apple Watch repairable/upgradeable? A solid idea.

Some Apple Watch pricing math

There’s been a lot of speculation about potential pricing for the highest tiered Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Edition line. John Gruber has been writing about Edition pricing on Daring Fireball. He initially thought that $5,000 was a ceiling for the Edition entry model, then moved his target up to $10,000, even suggesting that $20,000 was not an impossible price.

Personally, I think $5,000 is the right number for the Edition model. The highest end watches tend to start at about $3000 and move up into the stratosphere. The next tier down tends to run from $1,000 up to $8,000. My instinct is that Apple Edition will fit in that latter space, more aligned with Tag Heuer than with Rolex.

There’s no traditional model to draw from, as the Apple Watch is a brand new kind of animal, but my instinct is that the cost to Apple will be between $1,000 and $2,000. Multiply those numbers by a price/cost ratio of 3.44 and you end up with a nicely marked up price of $3,400 to $6,800. Why 3.44? Here’s the math:

The consensus seems to be that the high end iPhone 6 costs about $247 to make, including parts and labor. Without a contract, that same iPhone 6 sells for $849. That’s a price/cost ratio of about 3.44 (the price of the phone is a bit more than 3 times the cost).

Apply that same model to the Apple Watch, and you get a price ranging from $3,400 to $6,800. Obviously, this depends on the actual cost of labor and materials. One estimate on the gold in the highest end Apple Watch places the price of the gold alone at about $800. I can’t imagine the cost of everything else being more than $1200.

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5mac:

This Concierge program, spearheaded by Retail Senior Vice President Angela Ahrendts, moves away from the classic appointment model. Instead, a customer describes the issue to an Apple Store employee, who inputs the issue into an updated iPad application. Using a special algorithm, the application provides the customer a wait time based on issue priorities. For example, a customer seeking an iPhone screen replacement will automatically be placed higher in the queue than a customer seeking help with a minor iCloud issue.

Once you are in the queue, the new process will send you a sequence of three iMessage/SMS notifications:

• An initial text message confirming the Genius Bar request and providing the wait time
• A text message telling the customer to start heading back to the Apple Store
• A final text message telling the customer that their technician is ready to help and where they can be located in the store

Given that the vast majority of Apple Stores are in malls or adjacent to high traffic shopping areas, this would give you the chance to walk in, get on the queue, then take care of other nearby errands.

For the time being, Apple Store Genius Bar appointments that are booked online will remain mostly unchanged and will not gain the text message-based system that will replace walk-in appointments.

Question is, will a timed, online appointment place you at the front of the queue if you arrive on time?

February 23, 2015

djay Pro for Mac provides a complete toolkit for performing DJs. Its unique and modern interface is built around a sophisticated integration with iTunes and Spotify, giving you instant access to millions of tracks. Pristine sound quality and a powerful set of features including high-definition waveforms, four decks, audio effects, and hardware integration give you endless creative flexibility to take your sets to new heights. Special introductory pricing (40% off) for a limited time.

Jim’s Note: I had the opportunity to test djay Pro for Mac and loved it. I’m still using it.

A handy bit of info from Apple’s support site, just in case you ever need it.

I’ve been watching this robot tuner for quite some time. I decided to take the plunge this morning and give it a try.

The Money is Mine:

Settlements have been reached in the Canadian DRAM national class actions, totaling over $79 million.

You can get money from the settlements if you bought DRAM or electronic devices containing DRAM between April 1, 1999 and June 30, 2002.

Many of my fellow Candians qualify for this settlement and I’d encourage you to take advantage of it, even if it’s only at the $20 level. Thanks to my friend Greg for the heads up.

BBC News:

Android phones can be tracked without using their GPS or wi-fi data by studying their power use over time, a study has found.

A smartphone uses more power the further away it is from a cellular base and the more obstacles are in its way as it reaches for a signal.

Additional power use by other activities could be factored out with algorithms, the researchers found.

The key here is that a malicious app can track your movement without getting permission to access your GPS info. Just tracking your power usage can help malware track your location. [Hat tip, Rob Richman]

Filippo Valsorda:

Turns out Lenovo preloaded their laptops with adware that will intercept all your secure connections, and allow criminals to do it, too.

After investigating the Lenovo incident we found out that many other softwares – like some Parental Controls or security packages – do things even worse for your security. This test attempts to detect them all.

Send this to all your friends. Quick, simple test.

Jean-Louis Gassée, writing for Monday Note, presents three terrifically well reasoned analogies, all designed to bring home a single point: That Apple is not prepared to enter the automobile business.

Jean-Louis would love to see an Apple Car, just to be clear:

I would love to be wrong about the AppleCar — I join the choristers who would love to see what Apple could do with a car — but we’ve heard a bit too much about Apple’s ability to design an interesting electric vehicle and not enough about the industrial part, about the machine that makes the machines.

But the anecdotes make their own case. A very interesting read.

This is a fantastic collection, really gives you a sense of what the Apple Watch can do, what the actual apps will look like. [Via iOS Dev Weekly]

Apple got permission from Martin Scorsese to use excerpts from his NYU Tisch School of the Arts commencement speech, given last year, in a new ad they ran during the Oscars broadcast.

As they tend to do with new ad campaigns, Apple opened up a new section of their web site featuring the ad, titled Make a film with iPad. From the site:

iPad is the ultimate tool for independent filmmakers. It lets them chase their ambitions and dive deeper into the work they’re so passionate about. Learn how students at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts relied on the power and versatility of iPad to write, produce, shoot, score, and edit their films in a matter of days.

The Oscar ad is below. Head on over to the web site to see the student films.

From Apple’s press release:

Apple® today announced a €1.7 billion plan to build and operate two data centres in Europe, each powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The facilities, located in County Galway, Ireland, and Denmark’s central Jutland, will power Apple’s online services including the iTunes Store®, App Store℠, iMessage®, Maps and Siri® for customers across Europe.

“We are grateful for Apple’s continued success in Europe and proud that our investment supports communities across the continent,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “This significant new investment represents Apple’s biggest project in Europe to date. We’re thrilled to be expanding our operations, creating hundreds of local jobs and introducing some of our most advanced green building designs yet.”

And:

Like all Apple data centres, the new facilities will run entirely on clean, renewable energy sources from day one. Apple will also work with local partners to develop additional renewable energy projects from wind or other sources to provide power in the future. These facilities will have the lowest environmental impact yet for an Apple data centre.

And:

In Viborg, Denmark, Apple will eliminate the need for additional generators by locating the data centre adjacent to one of Denmark’s largest electrical substations. The facility is also designed to capture excess heat from equipment inside the facility and conduct it into the district heating system to help warm homes in the neighboring community.

Love that last bit.

February 22, 2015

Academy Awards are chosen using two different systems, one for Best Picture and one for all the rest of the awards. The non-Best Picture awards go to the nominee with the most votes. Simple. But the Best Picture voting is a whole ‘nother thing.

Unlike the winners of the other categories which are determined by popular vote — i.e, a voter picks just one of the nominees and the Oscar goes to the that nominee with the most votes — the winner of Best Picture is arrived at by a more complicated system. The academy uses preferential voting, as it does to determine nominees in most other races, to determine the winner of Best Picture.

Here’s how preferential voting works:

Voters rank the Best Picture nominees. If one nominee garners more than 50% of the first place votes, it will win Best Picture.

If, as is more likely, no nominee reaches this threshold, the film with the fewest first place votes is eliminated, with its ballots being reapportioned to the second place choice.

Should no film cross the required 50% + one ballot threshold, the film with the fewest first place votes is again elminated, with its ballots being apportioned to the next choice still in play (i.e., if the second place choice is no longer in the running, then the ballot would be reapportioned to the third place choice and so on.)

This process of elimination and reapportion continues until one film reaches at least 50% + one ballots. That is the Best Picture winner.

Put more simply, if a film has one more than 50% of the vote, that film wins. If not, the bottom film is eliminated and those eliminated votes are recounted, going to the second choice on each ballot. Rinse and repeat.

Here are your nominees. Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting tonight. Should be a good show.

UPDATE: Fixed the voting description based on feedback from readers hdort and Irv and this link explaining the Instant Runnoff Voting (IRV) mechanism, also known as alternative vote (AV), transferable vote, ranked-choice voting, or preferential voting. Now the voting makes a lot more sense to me.

M.G. Siegler, writing for Medium:

Apple brought in around $182 billion in revenue last year. Their tech peers came in with the following: Google at $66 billion. Microsoft at $87 billion. Amazon at $89 billion. IBM at $93 billion.

You know who was a lot closer to Apple in this regard? Ford at $147 billion. GM at $155 billion. Volkswagen at $225 billion. These are now Apple’s peers in business. They’ve leveled up.

M.G. makes the case that Apple building a car is inevitable, that cars are in Apple’s DNA:

This is a very different Apple. This is a company about to dive headfirst into the luxury space with the Apple Watch. One lifestyle leads to another.

And we already know Steve Jobs wanted to build a car. Phil Schiller has said Apple thought about building a car in the past — and is a car guy. Jony Ive is a car guy. Eddy Cue, car guy. At some point, it would be almost like Apple was going out of its way not to build a car.

Interesting.

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5mac:

Apple intends to release the upcoming iOS 8.3 as a public beta via the company’s existing AppleSeed program in mid-March, according to the sources. This release will match the third iOS 8.3 beta for developers, which is planned for release the same week. Apple then expects to debut iOS 9 at its June Worldwide Developer Conference, with a public beta release during the summer, and final release in the fall.

And:

In order to maintain a higher level of exclusivity, the public beta program for iOS will apparently be limited to 100,000 people, the sources say. Apple began seeding a select group of retail employees with iOS betas for minor releases in January. In the hands of developers since last year, iOS 8.2 will not enter public beta.

Seems like a solid idea. The more eyeballs on a release before Golden Master, the better. It will be interesting to see if Apple allows you to go back to the last public release once you have a beta installed.

February 21, 2015

BBC:

On Oscar night the usually car-clogged streets of Hollywood fall silent because everyone is at a viewing party or, if they’re very lucky, sliding into a dress by Dior or slipping on a tuxedo en route to the big show.

The streets aren’t entirely empty: countless limousines are zipping all over town, then making their way to the Dolby Theatre, more than a dozen blocks surrounding Hollywood Boulevard closed to all other traffic as the purring cars patiently wait to drop off their clients.

Parking’s as difficult as a diva at the best of times in Hollywood, so where do hundreds and hundreds of limos – and their suited and booted chauffeurs – go to wait until they have to pick up again?

I never know whether that would be a cool job or not.

OS X offers different tiers of protection that have evolved over time. Chris Hoffman, writing for HowToGeek.com, walks you through these levels, explains the weaknesses at each level.

Even if your Mac is securely encrypted, anyone with access to it — for example, a thief who stole your MacBook — could enter recovery mode and use the “Reinstall OS X” option to wipe your entire hard drive. This at least protects your personal files from a thief — they’ll just have to start over from scratch. However, it means a thief can quickly wipe your Mac and start using it.

Spoiler alert, best bet is to make a reliable backup of your Mac, enable FileVault encryption, use a password everywhere you can and use a different password at every opportunity.

UPDATE: Reader Beau Baldwin suggested a link to Apple’s Find My Mac page to round out this topic. Excellent idea, Beau!

Neil Cybart, writing for Above Avalon:

As we enter the wearables era, the notification is about to undergo one of its more significant advancements in history. The Apple Watch will improve on the pager from the 1990s and position silent haptic feedback as a notification. The ability to send and receive messages via “taps” on the wrist will turn the modern notification into a communication medium. While the smartphone may have taken the notification and run a little too far with it in the wrong direction, the Apple Watch will likely put the notification on a new, more sustainable path.

Interesting list of historical notifications. I would have started the list with smoke signals, designed to send messages from one hilltop to the next. How about a knock on the door? Or the tippety-tap of Morse code? Or that famous midnight ride?

Good stuff. [Via the always excellent iOS Dev Weekly]

February 20, 2015

But the kicker here is that the Fire TV actually works. My Apple TV has been plagued by poor performance and repeated crashes—sometimes right in the middle of a show. Every time that’s happened, it’s been faster to switch inputs to my Fire TV and resume the video there than it has been to wait for the Apple TV to finish its glacial restarting process.

I found this really interesting. It’s certainly not a good sign that the Apple TV has such poor performance when watching a program. If it was caused by Dan’s Internet, then the Fire TV wouldn’t work either, but it does. I don’t have many problems with my Apple TV, except when watching the NHL station—that usually sucks really bad.

My thanks to Edovia for sponsoring The Loop’s RSS feed this week. Screens is a beautiful, yet powerful VNC client for iOS and Mac that lets you connect back to your computer from the comfort of your living room, the corner coffee shop or anywhere in the world.

Until the end of the month, we’re happy to offer 20% off Screens for Mac to the readers of The Loop. Simply use this link to save!

Jim’s Note: I’ve used Screens for Mac and iOS since they were first released. I love them both.

Top Hat quickly answers the one question that indie developers have every morning: How well did our apps do in the App Store yesterday?

Top Hat lives in the Yosemite menu bar and shows up-to-date daily sales figures for your apps. Revenue from In-App Purchases is aggregated to give you a single total for each app. Weekly figures can be inspected by holding ⌥ as you click the Top Hat icon.

A great new app from Oisin Prendiville, the man behind Castro podcasting app, Unread and Tokens. I’m buying this.

Use the Mac creative tools you know & love, like Photoshop, with the touch experience of your iPad.

Made by some ex-Apple engineers (of course). This is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a while.

Les Paul’s personal 1954 Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty” sold to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay last night for $335,500. According to the New York Times, Irsay’s guitar curator, Christopher McKinney, placed the bid at the February 19, 2015 auction held by Guernsey’s in New York City.

I would love to have this guitar. If only I had a few hundred grand laying around.

The Loop Magazine Issue 31:

Jim Dalrymple looks at the key to Apple’s success. Is it design, software, hardware? Maybe none of those things; Matt Gemmell talks about the colors of his various computer bags—It’s okay to skip safe; Darren Murph looks at where the DSLR is now that so many people are using an iPhone; Joe Caiati has a look at the origins of his writing; Steven Aquino has a wonderful story on how music and the iPod helped people with memories; With so many recordings of the same classical piece, Kirk McElhearn is still searching for the perfect recording, but does it exist?; Darren Murph looks at mobile data and how everything is being commoditized in mobile; and Tim Schock talks about the resurgence of the cassette… really.

You can download The Loop Magazine and preview the latest issue on your iPhone and iPad for free. A subscription is only $1.99 per month and you get access to all previous issues.

The-Loop-issue-31 iPad

The Smithsonian:

In 1959, Xerox released the “914”—the first easy-to-use photocopier. The culmination of more than 20 years of experimentation, it was a much cleaner, “dry” process. The copier created an electrostatic image of a document on a rotating metal drum, and used it to transfer toner—ink in a powdered format—to a piece of paper, which would then be sealed in place by heat. It was fast, cranking out a copy in as little as seven seconds. When the first desk-size, 648-pound machines were rolled out to corporate customers—some of whom had to remove doors to install these behemoths—the era of copying began.

Or more accurately, the explosion of copying began. Xerox expected customers would make about 2,000 copies a month—but users easily made 10,000 a month, and some as many as 100,000. Before the 914 machine, Americans made 20 million copies a year, but by 1966 Xerox had boosted the total to 14 billion.

We don’t give much thought to the copier many of us have daily access to but this article makes a good argument for the ways it changed the world and asks if 3D printing might do the same.

Medium:

As the 19th century teetered into the 20th, the clank of typewriter keys went from solo to symphony. They were the weapon of choice for professional writers, the business elite, people with things to say and the need to say them quickly. They unintentionally provided a passageway for women to tread into workplaces from which they had long been banished, and greatly expedited the rate at which human thought could be translated into ink. An 1867 issue of Scientific American marveled at the “machine by which it is assumed that man may print his thoughts twice as fast as he can write them.”

Using a typewriter at times feels more like playing piano than jotting down notes, a percussive exercise in expressing thought that is both tortuous and rewarding.

Great story about a dying technology and the men who still service it. While I am nostalgic about typewriters and love their look and feel, there’s no way I’d ever want to go back to using one on a daily basis.