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GTD with @taylorswift13

Monday, 22 June, 2015 0 Comments

“I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music,” wrote Taylor Swift on Saturday in a Tumblr post titled “To Apple, Love Taylor.” Key Apple watcher, John Gruber, found her arguments reasonable and remarked, “Not sure what the solution is here.” But before the ink was dry on that, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Software and Services, found the solution.

One would not call Cue the most active user of Twitter. So far this month, he’s posted just three times: on 8, 14 and 17 June. “Tough Warriors loss last night, but exciting day today! #WWDC15” he wrote on 8 June. Not a man for commenting on current affairs, is Eddy Cue. And then, three tweets in the last two hours!!!

Twitter is clearly the new way of GTD. All power to social media. Compare this with how long music rights deals take to negotiate. Not to mention the endless haggling involving Greece and the euro. Anyway, Taylor Swift responded swiftly:

Changing its policy in public is a big story, but it’s not a big deal for Apple as the royalties involved are almost trivial, given its vast resources. When you have $200 billion in cash, some decisions are easier than others. But the move raises an important question: How will Apple ensure that the labels will pay their artists?

BlackBerry vs. iPhone: beauty matters

Monday, 25 May, 2015 0 Comments

When the iPhone first appeared in 2007, senior management at RIM were convinced that their customers valued the iconic BlackBerry keyboard far more than the innovative Apple touchscreen. The mobile business was about security and efficiency instead of novelty and entertainment, they believed. In the Wall Street Journal, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff examine this fatal shortsightedness in The Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry. Snippet:

‘By all rights the product should have failed, but it did not,’ said David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer. To Mr. Yach and other senior RIM executives, Apple changed the competitive landscape by shifting the raison d’être of smartphones from something that was functional to a product that was beautiful.

‘I learned that beauty matters… RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing,’ Mr. Yach says.”

Did video really kill the radio star? Tech historians still debate that question, but they are less divided by this fact: The inability of RIM to combine seamless internet access with an aesthetically pleasing experience mortally wounded the BlackBerry.


The Curse of the jOBS Film

Monday, 18 May, 2015 0 Comments

It’s been two years since the film Jobs, in which Steve Jobs was portrayed by Ashton Kutcher, hit cinema screens. It was not very well received and the unflattering reviews continue to echo: Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post wrote, “Although I think I could watch a whole movie called Woz and not grow tired, Jobs eventually begins to suffer from an ailment common to many biopics: milestone fatigue.”

But two years is a long time in Hollywood and the deciders there reckon that the world is ready for for another movie based on the life of Apple’s co-founder. This time round, though, there’s more film/tech cred on offer. The screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin, it’s based on the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and the director is Danny Boyle. Should be a winner, right? Actually, the omens are everything but propitious.

Sony acquired the rights to Isaacson’s book in 2011, but according to the e-mails found among the gigabytes of data leaked by the Sony Pictures’ hackers late last year, the road has been rocky for all involved in the adaptation. First, the lead star Christian Bale backed out. Then, Sorkin wanted Tom Cruise to play the part and he protested vehemently that he didn’t even know Michael Fassbender when he was cast as Jobs instead. Original director David Fincher dropped out due to financial and creative disagreements with Sony and the deeply troubled project was sold eventually to Universal. Still, Steve Jobs might have more luck than Jobs did. As the blues singer and amateur astrologist Albert King put it: “Born under a bad sign / I been down since I begin to crawl / If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

Stand up!

Monday, 20 April, 2015 0 Comments

The haptic sensor in the Apple Watch sends pulses to remind the owner to stand up every hour, along with a text message. “You’ve been sitting for a while. Take a minute to stand up,” a sample text reads.

“If I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” says Tim Cook, the Apple CEO. Cancer is a disease; sitting is a behaviour, but the point is taken. So, stand up today and take a walk. The London-based Art&Graft design studio shows how it’s done.

The Apple Watch as worn by John Gruber

Thursday, 9 April, 2015 0 Comments

Joanna Stern has written a detailed review for the Wall Street Journal: “The Apple Watch makes you look good. But the next one is bound to make you look even better.”

Joshua Topolsky offers a thorough tour d’horizon at Bloomberg: “In some ways, it can be more distracting than your iPhone, and checking it can feel more offensive to people around you than pulling out your phone. The watch wants and needs you now, as its insistent taps make painfully clear.”

Nicole Phelps presents a fashionable appreciation for STYLE.COM: “I came to think of it as a filter instead, bringing what’s essential or pleasurable to me closer to me and editing out the rest.”

But for wannabe insiders, the only analysis that matters in the end is the one offered by John Gruber. While the New York Times enthuses “Bliss, but Only After a Steep Learning Curve“, in typical Gruber style, his review is titled simply The Apple Watch. Snippets:

Time telling is where Apple Watch fares worst compared to traditional watches. That was inevitable. The primary purpose of traditional watches is telling time. Apple Watch is a general purpose computing device, for which telling time is an important, but not primary, use.

In short, I think Apple Watch might be a tougher sell to current watch wearers than non-watch wearers. Non-watch wearers have an open wrist, and if they cared about the glance-able convenience of an always-visible watch dial, they would be wearing a traditional watch already. Watch wearers, on the other hand, already have something on their wrist that Apple Watch needs to replace,3 and the reason they already have a watch on their wrist is that they care about telling time at a glance — something Apple Watch is (and only ever will be, I suspect) merely OK at, not great at…

…The quality of Apple Watch simply as an object is meaningful. When you wear something, it matters how it feels, and it matters how you think it looks. And much like with time-telling as a feature, Apple Watch may well appeal more to those who aren’t currently watch wearers than to those who are.

Apple Watch

The Gruber bottom line: “The single most innovative feature of Apple Watch — the most intimate feature of the company’s most personal device — will only matter if some of the people you care most about wear one too.”

Pretty much like the iPhone, then. Peer pressure and status anxiety will drive sales of the Apple Watch. In other words, it’s going to be a huge success.

Of watches and cities

Monday, 9 March, 2015 0 Comments

Apple is holding one of its famous product-presentation events in San Francisco today. The focus will be on the company’s Watch, which is a big bet for Apple as  this is its first major product launch since the iPad, five years ago, and the first one under CEO Tim Cook’s leadership. If we’re so good at making things like watches and phones, how come we’re getting worse at making beautiful cities? That’s the question posed by the London-based Swiss thinker Alain de Botton in “How to Make an Attractive City,” a new video from the School of Life.

The best cities are a mix of wide and narrow streets, says de Botton. A city should be easy to navigate for both humans and vehicles, with avenues for orientation and alleys that allow us to wander and experience a sense of mystery.

Adobe hoisted with his own petard

Thursday, 29 January, 2015 0 Comments

Background: “Matt Asay is vice president of mobile for the Digital Marketing business at Adobe, responsible for charting the Adobe’s mobile strategy and extending its lead as the mobile marketing leader.” So goes the company profile, which adds that “Asay writes regular columns for ReadWrite, TechRepublic and InfoWorld.” And it was for ReadWrite that Asay opined thus two years ago: “Apple is reportedly developing a smart watch made from curved glass. Does it really have a choice? With iPhone sales stalling, the Cupertino innovator is in desperate need of another hit product…”

John Gruber gleefully seized upon this in light of Tuesday’s Apple announcement of record-breaking results and sales of 34,000 iPhones an hour in the first fiscal quarter of 2015. In simple terms, Apple is making $8.3 million an hour in profit 24/7, which is, as Gruber put it, “Absolutely. Insane.”

Along with exposing the folly of Asay, Gruber had another go at Adobe by drawing attention to a piece from 2011 by Christopher Dawson in ZDNet about the lack of Flash Player support in iOS: “So when will Apple finally jump on the train?” asked Dawson. “If Flash isn’t a universal standard, it’s about as close as you can get for web multimedia… I give Apple a year until they cave. Android tablets will just be too cool and too useful for both entertainment and enterprise applications if they don’t.”

Exercising great restraint, Gruber linked to the sound of the final nail being hammered into the Flash coffin: “YouTube announcing today that they’re now defaulting to HTML5 video.”

“For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar”. Shakespeare gave that line to Hamlet 400 years ago. It holds true today, especially in the Apple/Adobe drama.


TAG Heuer + Xiaomi

Wednesday, 7 January, 2015 0 Comments

Silke Koltrowitz, reporting for Reuters: “TAG Heuer is pushing ahead with plans for a smartwatch to more directly compete with the likes of the Apple Watch and may make acquisitions to help drive the strategy, its head said on Tuesday.”

Matt Richman, an up-and-coming tech blogger, is not buying it: “TAG Heuer’s smartwatch won’t sell. There’s no market for it,” he wrote. His reasoning: “In order to have even a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch, then, TAG’s smartwatch will have to pair with an Android phone. However, TAG wearers aren’t Android users. Rich people buy TAG watches, but rich people don’t buy Android phones.”

But what if rich people were to buy those “Apple of China” phones? In his predictions for 2015, Fred Wilson noted: “Xiaomi will spend some of the $1.1bn they just raised coming to the US. This will bring a strong player in the non-google android sector into the US market and legitimize a ‘third mobile OS’ in the western world. The good news for developers is developing for non-google android is not much different than developing for google android.”

TAG Heuer and Xiaomi? Matt Richman points out that Jony Ive, the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, said, “Switzerland is fucked,” but China and Switzerland might not be so easy to dismiss.


Smartphone smarts: Apple vs Samsung

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014 0 Comments

Gartner: “Worldwide sales of smartphones totaled 968 million devices in 2013, an increase of 42.3 percent over a 12 month period. Perhaps most significantly, sales of smartphones made up almost 54 percent of overall mobile phone sales in 2013, and outnumbered annual sales of feature phones for the first time.”

Meanwhile, “Samsung Warns of Lower Third-Quarter Earnings.” What gives? Re/code: “The South Korean electronics giant said that while smartphone shipments increased, its operating margins fell because of higher marketing costs, fewer shipments of high-end phones and a lower average selling price for the devices.”

And how are the South Koreans reacting? “The company said it is responding with a new smartphone lineup that will include new mid-range and low-end devices, which would make Samsung’s products more competitive in markets such as China.” As commentator jameskatt points out, “The problem for Samsung is that there is NO profit in the low end of the market. Samsung is also being outcompeted in the low end by Asian tigers such as Xiaomi who don’t care much for profits. They are willing to live in razor thin profit margins and even more than Samsung, copy Apple slavishly.”

Apple wins. And it’s looking good in China, too.

Apple day

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014 1 Comment

What’s coming up later today? John Gruber has the must-read of the moment. As we wait, let’s contemplate this snippet by Walter Isaacson from Steve Jobs.

“Was Steve Jobs smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. … Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead. Steve Jobs thus became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.”

App: The Human Story

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014 0 Comments

The Kickstarter story so far: 2,054 backers, $130,000 pledged of $100,000 goal. Congratulations to Jed Hurt and Jake Schumacher!