Tag: Apple

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.

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.”


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.

Hamlet


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.

Xiaomi


Paper, continued

Wednesday, 10 December, 2014 0 Comments

“Why should I want to have a lot of copies of this and that lying around? Nothing but clutter in the office, a temptation to prying eyes, and a waste of good paper.” — John Brooks, Business Adventures

John Brooks (1920 — 1993) was a longtime contributor to the New Yorker magazine, where he worked as a staff writer, specializing in financial topics. His Business Adventures was published in 1969 and perhaps the books’s most relevant piece from today’s perspective is his account of life at Xerox. In the early 1960s, the company introduced a proprietary process that let copies be made on plain paper and with great speed. It had almost $60 million in revenue in 1961 and this figure jumped to more than $500 million by 1965, by which time Americans were creating 14 billion copies a year.

Brooks describes the “mania” for copying as “a feeling that nothing can be of importance unless it is copied, or is a copy itself.” Xerography changed the nature of text distribution more than anything since the time of Gutenberg and stoked up hopes and fears akin to those experienced in the early days of the World Wide Web. When Brooks visited Xerox HQ in Rochester, New York, he found the that the company’s biggest concern, however, was figuring out how to support the United Nations — an admirable ideal, in many ways, but not that relevant to its core business.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center were developing several key elements of personal computing, including the desktop metaphor GUI and the mouse. These radical ideas were frowned upon by the board of directors on the East Coast, obsessed with their charitable giving, so they ordered the Xerox engineers to share the innovations with Apple. The rest is history.

It’s no surprise that Bill Gates, the entrepreneur and philanthropist, finds Brooks so instructive today.


From flash freezing to social freezing

Monday, 27 October, 2014 0 Comments

One of the joys of reading Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World lies in the many ways the author riffs on the butterfly effect. For example, the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottomans marked not just the end of the Roman Empire and a huge setback for Christendom; it also led to an exodus of glass makers. Many of them found a welcome in Venice, but because their furnaces caused numerous conflagrations of the city’s wooden houses, they were exiled again, this time to the island of Murano, where they could do less damage. There, they flourished in a kind of watery Silicon Valley and came up with astonishing ideas thanks to their co-operation and competition with each other.

How We Got to Now One of these innovations plays a key role in Las Meninas, the great painting by Diego Velázquez. This Spanish masterpiece mixes reality and illusion and puts royalty in perspective by having the king and queen, Felipe IV and María de Austria, reflected in a mirror at the back of the room. The mirror was another Murano byproduct. By coating the back of crystal-clear glass with an amalgam of tin and mercury, the island’s glass makers created a shiny, reflective surface and the mirror was born.

Another example. In the chapter titled “Cold”, Johnson recounts the story of Clarence Birdseye, an eccentric American naturalist and entrepreneur, who moved his family to the Canadian wilds of Labrador in 1916. While fishing with some local Inuit, he noticed that the trout they pulled out of carved holes in the ice froze solid in seconds and tasted fresh and crisp when thawed out and cooked. He became obsessed with the puzzle of why ice-fished trout tasted better than the rest of the family’s frozen food and eventually figured out that it was all in the speed of the freezing process. Back in New York City, Clarence Birdseye created a flash-freezing food business and he sold his company for millions in June 1929, just before the Wall Street Crash. Today, Birdseye’s name is synonymous with frozen food.

The frozen food culture Birdseye created “would do more than just populate the world with fish sticks,” notes Johnson. The revolutionary thing is that “It would also populate the world with people, thanks to the flash freezing and cryopreservation of human semen, eggs, and embryos… Today, new techniques on oocyte cryopreservation are allowing women to store more eggs in their younger years, extending their fertility well into their forties and fifties in many cases. So much of the freedom in the way we have children now… would have been impossible without the invention of flash freezing.”

Seeing that companies are now promoting oocyte cryopreservation for their female employees, a more user-friendly term is needed for the process, hence, “social freezing.”

Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now is nourishing food for thought.


The eBay compromise and the hacking of Mat Honan

Thursday, 22 May, 2014 0 Comments

Having gone to the bother of creating an elaborate password for eBay some weeks ago involving a variety of symbols, digits and letters, it’s dispiriting to find that the hackers may now have my name, e-mail address, phone number and, worst of all, my “encrypted password”. The story brings back scary memories of what happened to Wired writer Mat Honan when he was hacked two years ago: Snippet:

“At 5:02 p.m., they reset my Twitter password. At 5:00 they used iCloud’s ‘Find My’ tool to remotely wipe my iPhone. At 5:01 they remotely wiped my iPad. At 5:05 they remotely wiped my MacBook. Around this same time, they deleted my Google account. At 5:10, I placed the call to AppleCare. At 5:12 the attackers posted a message to my account on Twitter taking credit for the hack.”

The conclusion of How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking is worth noting: “I’m angry that Amazon makes it so remarkably easy to allow someone into your account, which has obvious financial consequences. And then there’s Apple. I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can’t put a price on.”

Add eBay to the list. Onward now with with the chore of thinking up a new password.


Gass and Gaddis and Blue language

Tuesday, 25 February, 2014 0 Comments

On Being Blue by William H. Gass was first published in 1976, the year when the Apple Computer Company was formed, the Ramones released their first album and Agatha Christie died. Now, it’s being republished by NYRB Classics, with an introduction by Michael Gorras, and here’s a snippet from his appreciation of the amazing flexibility of the English language in the hands of Gass:

“Say it. Go ahead, stand before the mirror, look at your mouth, and say it. Blue. See how you pucker up, your lips opening with the consonants into a kiss, and then that final exhalation of vowels? Blue. The word looks like what it is, a syllable blown out into the air, and with the sound and the sight of saying it as one. You blew blue, though let’s pause a while before getting on to that, and try it out in the other languages you might claim to know. Bleu. But it’s just not the same, your lips don’t purse as much, the eu cuts the syllable short where the ue prolongs it, sustaining it like a piano’s pedal. Blau — that doesn’t work either, and the ow makes the mouth open too far. It’s not quite a howl, it’s a touch too soft for that, and yet it’s a blowsy sound, and untidy. As for azzurro or azul, well, those suggest something else entirely.”

Blue

“The ship’s surgeon was a spotty unshaven little man whose clothes, arrayed with smudges, drippings, and cigarette burns, were held about him by an extensive network of knotted string.” The Recognitions by William Gaddis.

While Michael Gorras pays tribute to the musical language of William Gass in his introduction to On Being Blue, Gass did something similar for William Gaddis in his introduction to The Recognitions: “I particularly like the double ts with which our pleasure begins, but perhaps you will prefer the ingenious use of the vowel i in the sentence with which it ends… or the play with d and c in the same section,” he wrote. Michael Robbins looks at “How perfectly strung-together words can delight the ear” in the Printers Row Journal.


Walt Mossberg and the art of meeting people

Thursday, 19 December, 2013 0 Comments

“This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here.” So writes Walt Mossberg in a piece titled “Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews.” The boots that he wore were so large that the Journal has picked four journalists to fill them. They are all fine writers and good people, no doubt, but it will be a while before they’ll be to bring to the table the ineffable thing that made Walt Mossberg so respected and, even, loved.

He was at the Macworld convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on 9 January 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and after the presentation the Apple CEO handed the magical object of desire to the Wall Street Journal reviewer to get his impressions. Two weeks later, Walt Mossberg was in Munich at the annual DLD Conference and there I had the pleasure of shaking the hand that had used the first the iPhone. The most memorable thing about our short conversation was that right in the middle of it two Israeli entrepreneurs audaciously intervened with an elevator pitch about their web-based product. Mossberg took their chutzpah in his stride, and in between talking to me about the iPhone he asked the entrepreneurial pair a series of short, pertinent questions about their innovation. It was a bravura performance and everybody went away from the gathering with the feeling that they had benefitted from meeting the incredibly patient, polite and informed Walt Mossberg.

The iPhone is at number 9 in Mossberg’s list of the dozen influential personal-technology products he reviewed over the past two decades: “Apple electrified the tech world with this device — the first truly smart smartphone. It is an iPod, an Internet device and a phone combined in one small gadget. Its revolutionary multi-touch user interface is gradually replacing the PC’s graphical user interface on many devices.”

Walt Mossberg is not retiring. He’s said to be working on a new online venture and rumour has it that he’s been in talks with NBCUniversal, Bloomberg, Condé Nast, Cox and The Washington Post Company. Mossberg and Bezos? That would be a potent force. The patience of Walt would be needed, though, to make it work.

This just in: Business Insider is reporting that Mossberg and his business partner Kara Swisher have hired Kenneth Li, recently of Reuters, to be the managing editor of their new venture. “They reportedly have investment from NBCUniversal for the new site which launches next year.”

Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs