Why Google and Facebook are making everything else on the web more expensive

Alex Webb, Bloomberg:

Consider all the paywalls and paid services that are rolling out across the internet. News, films, music and even theatrical streaming are now available for a subscription fee. The latest example is Twitter Inc., which announced last week that it plans a paid product, dubbed “Super Follows,” where users can charge followers for “premium” tweets and other content.

Why is this?

The move is a way for the company to decrease its dependence on advertising revenue — a pot of money that’s increasingly being swallowed up by just Google and Facebook.

Not sure I agree that subscriptions are caused by the precipitous drop in advertising revenue, but I definitely agree with the premise that the drying up of ad revenue is caused by the success of Google and Facebook in swallowing up the lion’s share of the ad business.

In the past decade, however, that ad money has gone overwhelmingly to the search and social media giants. Last year, Google and Facebook hoovered up 74% of the $300 billion spent globally to advertise on the web, according to the World Advertising Research Council. That’s left everyone else who had been reliant on ads scrambling to make ends meet.

And that is harmful. It makes it harder and harder for indies to make a living, makes it harder for news outlets to cover the news objectively.

Not sure what can be done here, but something’s gotta give, or we’re all going to become plot lines in a future edition of Dark Mirror.

5G in the US: Why the network of the future has not yet delivered on the revolution that we were promised.

SpeedCheck:

The data collected from 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020 by our speed test , which measures the quality of Internet connections on millions of devices yearly, shows that 5G networks in the US did not deliver the super cellular connections that we were promised.

And:

5G download speeds across the country were only 2.7 times faster than 4G speeds. These real-world results pale in comparison with the promise of a hundred times faster connections. In some cases, 5G was even slower than 4G.

Three main reasons:

In every country around the world that has launched 5G – except the US – the C-band frequencies (that is airwaves between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz) are at the very heart of the new technology, as they offer a great combination of good coverage and high-speed connections. In the US, most of the spectrum available in the C-band (280MHz) was not auctioned until January this year, forcing the major carriers to rely heavily on lower frequencies, which work over long distances but deliver slow speeds, or higher frequencies (mmWave), which carry far larger amount of data but on short-range signals.

And:

When the US deemed [Chinese-owned] Huawei a national security risk, it caused many 5G deployments to be put on hold. Operators then had to take big steps backward and choose other suppliers for their network equipment, in a move that delayed the commercial launch of 5G in the country.

And:

The majority of the initial 5G deployments in the US were Non-Stand-Alone (NSA), meaning that the new networks were aided by existing 4G infrastructures. On NSA deployments, LTE-controlled communications shift to 5G only when a device wants to exchange, resulting in a 4G-like user experience.

A great read.

[Via 9to5Mac]

iPhone sticking with Lightning port over USB-C for ‘foreseeable future’

Hartley Charlton, MacRumors:

Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the “foreseeable future,” with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Getting a bit of whiplash here, from rumored moves to USB-C, to no port at all, and now back to square one. Take it all with a grain of salt.

Is Ted Lasso on Netflix?

OK, this might be seem the dumbest of questions, but it shows there’s an audience out there, beyond the Apple ecosystem.

The fact that this linked article exists tells us something about the wild success of Ted Lasso. There’s demand out there for an Apple TV+ product that is driven, not from the “free year” for Apple device buyers, but from the outside, from word of mouth appreciation of Ted Lasso itself.

I think this outside pull is a great sign for the potential of Apple TV+.

The Mac price crash of 2021

Robin Harris, ZDNet:

The impressive performance and battery life gains of the new M1 MacBooks have created a historic discontinuity in the normally placid resale market. Should you spend $800 for a one year old MacBook Air when for $200 more you could get a MacBook Air with several times the performance and 50 percent better battery life?

Can’t imagine the new M1 Macs aren’t cratering the used Mac market. That said, this is a once in a generation event. The M1 is a huge performance leap, one we haven’t seen in a long time, and the market shearing effect is the cost of that leap.

Apple Card disabled my iCloud, App Store, and Apple ID accounts

Dustin Curtis:

About ten days ago, when I went to update a few apps in the App Store on my Mac, I was met with a curious error.

The post shows an “Account Disabled” alert.

The internet is filled with stories from people whose Google accounts were locked for unexplained reasons, causing them to lose all of their data, including years of email, so I was somewhat concerned. But I’d never heard of similar cases involving Apple’s services, and I wouldn’t expect such behavior from a customer-focused company like Apple, so I figured it was a glitch and made a mental note to try again later.

The next day, Music.app stopped working.

This is definitely alarming. At the very least, it demonstrates how much we’ve grown to depend on the cloud and on those monthly fees we spend to rent storage.

Read the post. In a nutshell, this was about changing bank info and Apple Card no longer having a valid billing mechanism. Is this Apple policy? Or was this a one-off falling through the cracks kind of mistake, one we won’t see again?

No matter, this should be a wake-up call. Do you have a backup plan if your Apple ID suddenly stopped doing its cloud thing?

And to be clear, I think I am less concerned that Apple disabled Dustin’s account as I am that it took so long to address the issue. If the call to Apple customer support had made the issue clear immediately, a couple of clicks would have resolved this. As is, and if true, looks like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

How a 10-second video clip sold for $6.6 million

Reuters:

In October 2020, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost $67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online. Last week, he sold it for $6.6 million.

And:

The video by digital artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, was authenticated by blockchain, which serves as a digital signature to certify who owns it and that it is the original work.

It’s a new type of digital asset – known as a non-fungible token (NFT) – that has exploded in popularity during the pandemic as enthusiasts and investors scramble to spend enormous sums of money on items that only exist online.

NFTs are exploding. Question is, is this a bubble, rapidly expanding, but without a tangible support structure to keep prices high over the long haul?

And will the climate-cost of powering digital currency mining undermine the market?

Elizabeth Howcroft and Ritvik Carvalho do an excellent job explaining NFTs, with some high flying examples.

Is this the future of collectibles?

What Apple’s patents say about the company’s VR and AR ambitions

Dan Moren, Macworld:

Once you’ve found a way to show a user this mix of real and digital content, one of the big questions is how you interact with all this information. Is it via traditional input methods, like trackpads and keyboards? With cameras that detect where your hands go and when they’re interacting with real or virtual objects? A system that tracks the movements of your eyes? Or is it some other sort of physical controller that lets you seamlessly switch between the world in front of you and the one on your displays?

Dan’s whole writeup is fascinating, raises important questions on how Apple might see the future of augmented reality. Will Apple keep existing models, like documents and a desktop, so creators can mix their AR world with the creative tools on their Macs and iPads?

Or will Apple move to a new universe, take the opportunity to reinvent the creation language completely, without relying on old models for creating new content.

Great read.

Media analysts again suggest NFL content could come to Apple TV+

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

The report explains that the NFL is on the verge of having to renew “most if not all of its media contracts.” While it appears that the Monday Night Football package is likely to remain with ESPN, there are other deals to consider, including NFL Sunday Ticket and Thursday Night Football.

A critical piece of background here: DirecTV (now owned by AT&T) paid about $1.5 billion (with a B) a year for the rights to stream NFL games on Sundays. They are not expected to renew that deal, which expires at the end of this coming NFL season.

The door is wide open for Apple to add the NFL to Apple TV+, which could bring a huge audience to the service. Apple’s interest in adding the NFL has been rumored for years.

Apple was also said to have been involved in negotiations with the NFL for Thursday Night Football in 2016. Ultimately, the NFL ended up reaching a deal with Amazon, which was renewed for two more seasons in 2018 for a whopping $130 million.

Big money. Very interested to see how this plays out.

The NFL’s Sunday Ticket package has not been on the market for more than 15 years. Though the NFL audience has grown significantly since then, that same time has seen pushback on the game, due to raised awareness of the longterm impact of head injuries, social issues (think Colin Kaepernick and kneeling in protest), physical violence, and other issues. Have to wonder how those issues will impact Apple’s involvement with the sport.

All 270 US Apple Stores are open for the first time since March 2020

Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac:

Every Apple Store in the United States is open for the first time in nearly a year. It was 353 days ago — March 13, 2020 — that Apple closed all of its retail stores outside of Greater China.

While some Apple Stores offer in-store shopping appointments and others can accept Express pickup of online orders only, all 270 US locations are now open in some capacity as of March 1, 2021. Apple Stores in Texas around Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio were the last to reopen today.

Dare I hope that this is the last of these Apple Store forced closures?

Add to this news today’s rollout of the new Johnson & Johnson one-shot-and-you’re-done vaccine, and I feel like this never-ending nightmare might actually be coming to a close.

A hot take on the Apple TV remote

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge:

Even over half a decade after its introduction, it stands as one of the most reviled pieces of hardware around.

The failings of the Apple TV remote don’t just stem from a bad touchpad (and don’t get me wrong: it is bad) but from a larger misunderstanding on Apple’s part of what makes a good remote and the fundamental purpose of those devices.

Amazing to me that Apple has stuck with this design after all this time. I do appreciate the elegance of the solution, but the functionality continues to fall short and fail, both in its accidental upsidedownness, and in the frequent miscues of the touchpad.

With the explosive growth of new streaming services, I’m finding problems with the remote growing proportionately, as different services offer their own special spin on interacting with the remote. This is especially problematic watching shows that force ads into a stream, where an accidental wrong remote press can force you to endure a replay of a non-skippable full minute of ads.

I really hope there’s a new Apple TV in the works, and a redesigned remote along with it.

How to find your pointer

OK, this is silly, but fun and worth trying. Best on your Mac, but even works on your iPhone/iPad, as long as you keep your finger on the screen.

Hometown — Shot on iPhone

Apple:

In honor of Black History Month, 32 of the country’s most visionary Black photographers show us their hometowns. Phillip Youmans, the youngest ever director to win at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows a number of our image-makers as they each celebrate the Black experience, Black excellence, love, and imagination.

Set aside a few minutes when you can both watch these videos, but also listen to the compelling stories these artists are telling. Big fan of this work.

Jason Sudeikis wins Best Comedy Actor for Ted Lasso — Golden Globes 2021

TVLine:

That son of a biscuit actually did it! Titular Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis scored Best Actor in a Comedy Series honors at Sunday’s 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards for his work in the Apple TV+ comedy.

That son-of-a-biscuit!

Best part of the night, for me, was Jason’s acceptance speech, embedded below. Everything about this felt so 2021.

Steve Jobs stories, told by the folks who were there

The Computer History Museum pulled together a Clubhouse visit with some Apple luminaries, all on the occasion of Steve Jobs birthday:

Chris Fralic, Steven Levy, Esther Dyson, Mike Slade, John/Diane SCULLEY, Seth Godin, Andy Cunningham, Dan’l Lewin, Doug Menuez, Regis McKenna, Andy Hertzfeld, and Steven Rosenblatt share their “Steve Jobs Stories” in honor of what would have been the Apple cofounder’s 66th birthday.

That’s quite a list.

Watch the avatar outline to get a sense of who is talking.

Target to open mini Apple shops inside 17 stores in latest move to woo customers

Melissa Repko, CNBC:

Target wants to give shoppers another reason to skip trips to the mall: It’s adding mini Apple stores to some locations, with more space devoted to iPhones and other popular gadgets.

The retailer said Thursday that the shops will open in 17 Target stores this month, and it plans to expand to more locations in the fall. Target already sells Apple merchandise, but the shops will double the tech company’s footprint inside of each store, include more accessories and have staff with specialized training from Apple.

Interesting experiment, reminiscent of Apple’s BestBuy partnership.

Also, take a look at Apple’s new Target web site presence.

Why Ted Lasso became the hit that put AppleTV+ on the map

Emily VanDerWerff, Vox:

Ted Lasso is way more than just a (quite good) cult TV show. It’s also a window into a handful of pop culture trends that have swirled together into one unassuming little package. Ted Lasso isn’t just a show about a coach who cares about his players more than wins and losses. It’s also a show about the way we wish the world would be.

And:

I would argue “comfort food TV” goes beyond shows that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, because it’s relatively easy to pour on the saccharine sweetness and much, much harder to evoke the feeling of safety that comfort food TV inspires.

The phrase “comfort food TV” captures Ted Lasso perfectly. And Ted Lasso succeeds brilliantly in a category that is incredibly difficult to pull off.

But Emily’s article dive’s much deeper than a discussion of comfort food:

Ted Lasso also presents an idealistic view of how the powerful rich white cis straight men who our American system so privileges could and should carry themselves. Ted Lasso overcomes everybody’s resistance through being a genuine and nice man. But that, perversely, speaks to the privilege he has within the system he is part of.

And:

When Parks and Recreation tried the same with Leslie Knope (a powerful and eventually affluent white cis straight woman), it always had to couch her persistence in tones of “Sure, she’s annoying, buuuut …” Ted Lasso takes a few faint stabs at “people roll their eyes at Ted!” but by the middle of its first season, he’s won over even the press that taunted him mercilessly when he took over the team. It’s a bit wild, and again, it’s clearly a fantasy. But it’s a fantasy that speaks to something people long for right now.

If you are a Ted Lasso fan, or a TV nerd (like me), carve out a bit of time to read the whole thing. Does a great job explaining the genius of Ted Lasso.

What Apple Music can do to catch up with Spotify

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Apple ignited the legal music-download revolution with iTunes, led again by dropping copy-protecting DRM from its music downloads, and in 2007 led a major upgrade in digital-music quality with the launch of iTunes Plus.

But more than a decade later, the company finds itself as a music-streaming laggard, to borrow a term that Steve Jobs used to throw around a lot. When it comes to music quality, Apple’s not streets ahead—it’s streets behind.

And:

This week Spotify became the latest music service to jump on the high-quality audio bandwagon, joining Amazon, Tidal, and other services in offering lossless audio to subscribers.

I would definitely pay extra for a lossless Apple Music. The majority of my music listening is done via my AirPods Pro and the inherently bitrate limited Bluetooth AAC codec. So lossless audio would not have real value in that particular listening mode.

BUT:

I also listen to music through my HomePod, through my Apple TV, and through my Mac speakers. Those modes are not inherently limited by codec.

No doubt, Apple knows how many people would pony up for lossless audio (they’ve gone down this road before). Question is, is there enough revenue out there to justify the expense of bringing it to market.

Interesting read from Jason Snell, especially the discussion of “Going beyond lossless”.

These are the best iPhone apps for converting images and screenshots to text

Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac:

The tried-and-true copy/paste combo is a staple of productivity but that can grind to a halt when you need to quickly grab text from the real world or existing screenshots and pictures. Read along for how to convert iPhone images to text available right on your clipboard.

This is one of those things that is a wonder once you add an app like this to your stable.

Take a look at the screenshot in Michael’s article to get a sense of how you might use something like this. It really is a nice tool to have.

A nit, but I would change the headline, since this is more of a here’s a great iPhone app, here’s a great Mac app, not so much a rundown of iPhone apps. But that aside, worth a look.

Apple Mail and hidden tracking images

John Gruber:

In my piece yesterday about email tracking images (“spy pixels” or “spy trackers”), I complained about the fact that Apple — a company that rightfully prides itself for its numerous features protecting user privacy — offers no built-in defenses for email tracking.

A slew of readers wrote to argue that Apple Mail does offer such a feature: the option not to load any remote resources at all.

And:

What Hey offers — by default — is the ability to load regular images automatically, so your messages look “right”, but block all known images from tracking sources (which are generally invisible 1×1 px invisible GIFs).

Consider Apple Mail’s nuclear option vs HEY’s nuanced, researched approach.

More from Gruber:

Apple should do something similar: identify and block spy trackers in email by default, and route all other images through an anonymizing proxy service. And, like Hey, they should flag all emails containing known trackers with a shame badge.

Great idea, fascinating read.

On the widespread reports of M1 SSDs failing: Grain of salt required here

It all started with this tweet:

https://twitter.com/marcan42/status/1361151198921826308

Took about 10 days to reach critical mass, but then off to the races, with headlines like:

Apple M1 Macs appear to be chewing through their SSDs

And:

Apple M1 Mac users face severe SSD degradation

Back to the SSDs:

In a follow-on tweet in the same thread (also 10 days ago):

Just to be clear: This is definitely a bug. It’s software. It’s macOS behavior. It can be fixed.

Folks have reported encountering the problem on Intel Macs as well. So clearly not an M1-specific issue. To me, feels more like a Big Sur issue. And it might be an issue with the reporting system, not with the SSD. Big grain of salt required.

Worth surfacing, for sure. Hopefully, Apple can address this, offer up an explanation and a patch, if required.

Fry’s Electronics. RIP.

From Fry’s updated home page today:

After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

And:

The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021.

Folks on the east coast might be wondering what this is all about. Fry’s Electronics was at the heart of Silicon Valley itself, a big box electronics retail wonderland for entrepreneurs that opened its doors in Sunnyvale, California back in 1985.

As to the cause of their door-closing, seems to me COVID-19 was the final nail, that Amazon was the driving force.

Sad to see Fry’s go. End of an era.

HomePod may detect vital signs with upgraded radar positioning system

Malcolm Owen, AppleInsider:

A HomePod could potentially help save lives without getting into contact with other people, with Apple looking into 360-degree radar systems that can detect vital signs and medical conditions of individuals.

And:

In a patent granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday entitled “Electronic device with circular radar-antenna array,” Apple envisions a system that could potentially provide more accurate positioning data, as well as other information.

This is fascinating. Not clear just how sophisticated a system this patent might yield, but definitely feels like HomePod might evolve into a sensor, providing intel to HomeKit and HealthKit.

Apple buys a company every three to four weeks

BBC News:

Apple has acquired about 100 companies over the last six years, the company’s chief executive Tim Cook has revealed.

That works out at a company every three to four weeks, he told Apple’s annual meeting of shareholders on Tuesday.

And:

Most often, Apple buys smaller technology firms and then incorporates their innovations into its own products.

And:

Measured by value, Apple’s acquisitions are actually far more restrained than those of many of its tech rivals. Microsoft paid $26bn for LinkedIn, Amazon paid $13.7bn for Whole Foods and Facebook paid $19bn for WhatsApp.

Apple’s ten largest purchases put together would still be worth far less than any of those deals.

Not big news, but if you follow the headline link and scroll, you can scan through a list of some of those acquisitions/aquihires.

A robot dog. With a paintball gun attached. Controlled by people over the internet.

Mikael Thalen, Daily Dot:

The internet will get a chance to remotely control one of Boston Dynamics’ $75,000 “Spot” robots this week thanks to a mysterious startup company. Not only that, the robot will even come equipped with a paintball gun for added mayhem.

And:

On Wednesday at 1pm ET, MSCHF will unleash Spot inside a small art gallery at its headquarters in Brooklyn. Users who visit the campaign’s website will get a chance to commandeer Spot for two minutes before another user somewhere in the world takes over.

There’s a picture of Spot with paintball gun attached via the headline link. The world wants this. I guess?

The Apple Store glossary

This is a nice little resource, built and maintained by Michael Steeber, worth a moment of your time. In a nutshell, it’s a deep dive into all the elements that make up the Apple Store.

For example, follow the headline link, tap on Boardroom, you’ll go to a page that introduces the concept of an Apple Store’s Boardroom (have you ever seen one?), with a few images, and a link to a detailed Boardroom article.

Spotify: Take a lower royalty rate, we’ll get you more plays. To me, that’s bad news for artists.

From Musically’s live blog of Spotify’s Stream On event:

Hellman talks about ‘Discovery Mode’ – the feature where artists or labels can pay to have songs surfaced in Spotify’s radio and autoplay features, in exchange for a lower royalty rate. That caused some controversy when announced, so it’s interesting to hear Hellman’s claim today: labels taking part in the tests have “been able to find new listeners and grow audiences for artists on their roster: during pilot testing, on average Discovery Mode has helped these labels grow streams by 30%, resulting in higher royalty payments for artists opted into the test”.

“Hellman” is Charlie Hellman, part of Spotify’s artist tools team.

Discovery Mode sounds like a great deal, on the surface. Take a lower royalty rate, and you’ll get more plays. Even if you get more money in the short term, this seems like a bad thing for artists.

Here’s why: As artists take the lower royalty rate, especially if they get a lot of plays, the overall royalty rate will go down. This hurts artists as a whole. And saves Spotify money. Their total payout pool for artists goes down.

And what if an artist takes the chance, opts in to the lower royalty rate, and they end up not getting more plays. Will Spotify move them back to the higher default royalty rate in that case?

One more concern here is a lack of transparency to the listener. If you are listening to a Spotify stream, will you hear a disclaimer on a playlist for songs that take the lower royalty rate for the promotion of Discovery Mode?

Apple releases three new Apple Watch Series 6 ads

I love all three of these ads, though the middle one seems familiar to me. Was that middle ad part of the September event?

No matter, all three are to the point, help paint the value of the Apple Watch in a very quick and effective way.