Fact-checking Network World

I don’t know if you’ve seen this piece from Network World titled What the IoT Industry Can Learn from Apple’s Revival of the Mac. I’m sure the author has some great points to make, but those points are baseless when rooted in blatant misinformation. I’m not going to deconstruct the whole article — just the two paragraphs that John Gruber called, “maybe the dumbest two paragraphs about the Mac I’ve ever read.

Here are the paragraphs in question:

In 2007, the Mac was on life support. Consumers and companies bought Windows XP and Vista machines instead of Macs. The Mac had been very proprietary up until then. The hardware platform was based on the Motorola 6800 family, which came in third behind Intel and AMD and the PowerPC. It ran a proprietary OS with components of FreeBSD Unix, but it was not Unix compliant.

The Mac transitioned that same year. It had been a proprietary device running a proprietary operating system, with a beautiful proprietary user interface (UI) in an elegant ergonomically designed enclosure. Apple pivoted by shifting to the Intel platform and FreeBSD Unix, complying to the Single UNIX Specification (SUS). The Mac today is a PC running an open-source operating system with beautiful proprietary UI in even more elegantly designed enclosures. FreeBSD influenced the evolution of the MacOS. Since the transition, many FreeBSD Unix components were rewritten and many APIs were added.

So let’s take this a bit at a time.

“In 2007, the Mac was on life support.” Apple was moving over 1.5 billion Macs per quarter in 2007. It’s nothing compared to today, but it was far from life support. If you want to talk about life support, you have to jump back to the 1990s.

“The Mac had been very proprietary up until then.” If by proprietary, you mean using the same wireless standard as the rest of the industry, using widely adopted ports like USB and HDMI, having an operating system built on UNIX, a browser built on the open source WebKit, and using the standard x86 architecture in all of their computers, then sure. Apple today is arguably more proprietary than the Apple of 2007.

“The hardware platform was based on the Motorola 6800 family…” Oh my. It hurts. First, Apple used PowerPC processors from 1996 to 2006. Prior to that, they used Motorola 68000 processors, not 6800. By 2007, the year at the beginning of the article, Apple had entirely transitioned to Intel processors.

“The Mac transitioned that same year.” Nope on all counts but one. 2007 is the year Mac OS X complied with the Single UNIX Specification. But the operating system had been based on FreeBSD since 2001 (really since the 90s if you count its NextStep roots); Apple had transitioned to Intel in 2006.

“The Mac today is a PC running an open-source operating system with beautiful proprietary UI in even more elegantly designed enclosures.” Today’s macOS is really no more open than it was when it came out in 2001. If the author had been comparing today’s Macs to those of 1996, this might make sense, but he’s not.

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Maybe It’s a Piece of Dust

The Outline: The New MacBook Keyboard Is Ruining My Life

I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer’s black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn’t respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken — it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice.

“Maybe it’s a piece of dust,” the Genius had offered. The previous times I’d been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem — a misbehaving keyboard — Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn’t believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. “Hold on,” I said. “If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don’t you think that’s kind of a problem?”

In every other computer I’ve owned before I bought the latest MacBook Pro last fall, fixing this would have begun by removing the key and peering around in its well to see if it was simply dirty. Not this keyboard. In fact, all of Apple’s keyboards are now composed of a single, irreparable piece of technology. There is no fixing it; there is only replacing half the computer.

While I’m very excited about the direction of iOS — even to the point of considering an iPad as my next laptop — the Mac is concerning. Laptops are not supposed to be disposable devices. Computers, particularly ones that will cost well north of a thousand dollars, should be reliably long term investments.

Except for one MacBook Pro, all of my Macs have lasted over five years, and two have gone as long as seven. That second-generation MacBook Pro, my shortest-lived computer, still broke four years. I’d be nervous that one of the new MacBooks would do as well.

 

iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

Austin Mann: iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

From what I hear, the Pixel 2 has an excellent camera too. The arms race in technology used to be about raw speed. Now that we’ve moved to more convergent mobile devices, I’d say the camera is the new and most exciting battlefront.

The Definitive iOS 11 Review

iOS 11: The MacStories Review

If you’ve ever read any of John Siracusa’s incredibly detailed OS X reviews for Ars Technica, that’s what you are in for whenever Federico Viticci reviews an iOS release. So save this for when you have some time on your hands. Then brew a pot of tea, get comfortable, and enjoy.

One quote:

iOS 11 shows that perhaps we’ve been looking at the iPad’s trajectory from a distorted angle – guilty of framing our expectations with an iPhone model that the iPad can’t follow. Maybe the iPad doesn’t need to be in the same lane as the iPhone, advancing at the same speed every year. As iPad users, maybe we shouldn’t expect the future to be reinvented on an annual basis.

More than a follow-up to iOS 9, iOS 11 feels like a reintroduction of the iPad seven years after its launch. It would have been easier for Apple to take what worked in iOS 9 and smooth it out around the edges, releasing a spiritual “iOS 9.5”. A lot of iPad-only users would have been satisfied with such a release.

But Apple has bigger ambitions. With the tablet industry at an inflection point, iOS 11 sets the iPad on a bold, adventurous mission:

Rethinking the Mac.

Another Day, Another Vulnerability

Mashable:

The vulnerability, known as BlueBorne, was discovered by security research firm Armis. The researchers were able to infiltrate a Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy phones, an LG Sports Watch, and a car audio system by attacking Bluetooth, according to the report. The researchers were able to remotely steal data from the devices and take control of their cameras.

The researchers also noted that the other devices are at risk, including Android, Microsoft, Samsung, and Linux products, and iPhones and iPads that haven’t been upgraded to iOS 10.

We can talk all day about the advantages and disadvantages of Apple products, but as long as they are at the top of the heap when it comes to privacy and security, all of the other arguments become moot.

Advertisers Don’t Like Privacy

Adweek: Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser

Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.

Put another way, Apple’s approach to cookies is bad because it makes it harder for products and brands to stalk you online. And there is nothing “innovative” about making sure the highest bidder is always what’s most visible to consumers.

It takes a special level of evil to take something that’s universally acknowledged as bad (like perpetual online behavior tracking) and try to sell the idea that this is good for consumers. I guess it’s just marketing. This is where the ad industry is.

Unpacking Apple’s September 12 Event

This fall’s Apple iPhone event has come and gone almost exactly as expected. Still, there were a few surprising moments in the script, and some of the technology was pretty incredible to see live on stage. And that was the point. Apple’s keynotes — while not above hyperbole and the occasional celebrity walk-on — tend to be calmer affairs. They focus on the products and often let them speak for themselves.

On Retail

Apple’s big focus here is to make their stores even more of a gathering place than they already are. It’s interesting to see them pushing forward in this area despite the fact they already have incredibly successful retail locations. Our local Apple store is easily the most trafficked location in its mall, perhaps even more than the food court. Retail is the experiment that conventional wisdom said wouldn’t work, yet it has for Apple.

One of the best ways to sell an Apple product is to put it in someone’s hands. Apple retail locations offer that experience far better than any online research or big box store could. Their focus on classes and events gives people a reason to come back time and again. That they’re not resting on their past success here shows they don’t want to lose that magic.

On Apple TV

I didn’t get to see my mythical Apple TV set, but their streaming box gained 4K and the two major HDR standards. It’s also way more powerful, running the same architecture that’s in the current iPad Pro lineup. Unfortunately, Apple has chose not to compete on price. The non-4K Apple TV is starting at $149 with 4K coming in at $179.

To offset that price a bit comes iTunes movie pricing. Apple will be offering 4K content at the same price as HD content. This means no messy upgrade fees like when iTunes transitioned from SD to HD. Right now, The Lego Batman Movie is $30 for digital 4K from Google Play, but it will be $20 in iTunes. If this same pricing structure carries over to movie rentals, I see this being an advantage for Apple.

On Apple Watch

Apple isn’t the first to bring out a cellular connected watch. I believe that honor goes to Samsung. However, all evidence points to the fact that Apple Watch eclipses all other smart watch sales at this time, so this will be new to most people. It’s hard to say how much being able to make calls and texts independently from your watch may shift the mobile industry, but I think this could be a game changer for Apple Watch. Maybe Apple executives will finally start reporting sales numbers on their financial calls.

On iPone 8

It’s a faster iPhone 7. At the end of the day, had Apple retained their naming pattern, this would have been iPhone 7S. It really is just a refinement of the previous generation, which is a good thing in itself. It also features double the storage of the current iPhone 7 models on Apple’s site, but the color options have become conspicuously more limited.

If you are on the fence between an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8, the decision should come down to one factor: can you live with 32 GB of storage? If the answer to that is yes, save $150 and go with the iPhone 7. If, like me, you find 32 GB restrictive, opt for the iPhone 8.

On iPhone X

This is where the real news is. If iPhone 8 is an iteration of all that the iPhone line has built up to over the past decade, iPhone X (inexplicably pronounced “ten”) represents a break from that tradition to explore new territory. At $999, this model is going to be too expensive for many consumers who will instead pine for iPhone X while purchasing iPhone 8. I think that’s the point.

As noted by others, Apple has a scale problem. Apple usually ships over 200 million new iPhones a year. Even their biggest competitor, Samsung, may only ship a quarter of that number for their most recent flagship. This means Apple can’t include a new technology that can’t be efficiently produced 200 million times a year. Enter iPhone X. Unlike iPhone 8, Apple plans on not shipping 200 million of these, giving them the time to ramp up production on the more advanced features that will eventually trickle down to future standard models.

Do I want an iPhone X? Absolutely, I do. Am I actually going to get one? There’s almost no chance. Here’s the trickier question: does it justify its price tag? I think it does, based on three factors:

  1. The OLED screen. There aren’t many OLED phones on the market, and that’s because the technology is still expensive. Check out TV prices at your local Best Buy, and you will notice most 55″ televisions are under $1,000. In contrast, the least expensive OLED you will find is the LG B7 at about $2,000. If you want a 75″ OLED, you’ll be paying over $10,000 as opposed to roughly $3,000 for an LED. Apple isn’t dealing with screens this size, but the transition to OLED will still be a significant factor in the price.
  2. The Facial Technology. The Animoji demo might have been overly cute, but it did demonstrate just how good Apple’s facial mapping technology is. It looks on par with what I’ve seen in Adobe Character Animator CC, which is $19.99 a month (or almost $240 a year) with After Effects. Time will tell how secure or reliable it is in unlocking your phone, but there’s no denying some expensive tech went into that feature.
  3. The Processor. This is the one advanced feature iPhone X shares with iPhone 8. Early benchmarks put the A11 processor on par with the processor shipping in Apple’s 13″ MacBook Pro.

You put those together with the build quality and other features, and, yes, you have a $999 device in your hands. Whether or not you feel a phone is worth that to you is your call, but iPhone X earns its price tag.

No-shows and Conclusion

This event didn’t talk about the Mac at all, but I was foolish to hope it would. Apple seldom mentions the Mac at their fall iPhone events. They are too focused for that. If the Mac mini is to receive an update, it will probably be a stealth upgrade on their site. As for the iMac Pro or the future Mac Pro, they will get an event all to themselves.

I was a little disappointed the iPod touch or iPad mini didn’t get speed bumps. They are clearly running the oldest architecture of iOS devices, and it’s beginning to show. If Apple doesn’t give them some love soon, I feel strongly they should simply discontinue them.

In the end, Apple made a strong showing that will spur much enthusiasm and discussion. It was an event punctuated by the past — given in the Steve Jobs theater complete with a tribute to the former CEO, nods to the evolution of the original iPhone he introduced, background music featured in ads of Apple past. It also gave us a view of the future, bringing out a phone that is as much prototype as it is product.

The last few months have been interesting for Apple, after a period of time where it felt like they were coasting, Apple seems intent on reinventing themselves again, and that’s always when they are at their strongest.

Moral Responsibility

NYT: Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for ‘Moral Responsibility’

Watching Mr. Cook over the years, I’ve been fascinated to see how he has become as animated when talking about big issues like education and climate change as he is when talking about Apple.

“I think we have a moral responsibility to help grow the economy, to help grow jobs, to contribute to this country and to contribute to the other countries that we do business in,” he said.

He added, “I think there’s still probably a more significant group that feels my sole responsibility is to Wall Street.”

To me, this is the biggest differentiator between the Jobs era and Cook era at Apple. Like it or not, Cook’s Apple is much more socially active. Under Jobs, Apple had an image of progressivism, but Cook has taken that image and made it an identity.

iPhone X Event Hopes

One of the fun parts about Apple events is to speculate about what we’re going to see. Unfortunately, this last weekend’s leak of iOS 11 has taken away a bit of the mystery. Still, here are some things I expect to see today as well as some things I’d like to see.

Expected Announcements

  • New iPhones. This goes without saying. Apple has the iPhone on a predictable schedule. I can’t add anything to this that hasn’t already been said other than my hope that the smaller iPhone SE also gets some love.
  • Apple TV 4K. This is another near certainty. I’d love to see the Siri remote get redesigned, and I’d like to see Apple TV come with a game controller by default. Beyond that, adding Amazon Video to tvOS’s app offerings will be a big gain.
  • Apple Watch. If a new Apple Watch is part of this event, I don’t expect a new form factor or anything radical — a refinement of past iterations.
  • Software Updates. iOS 11 and Siri will likely get the most attention. macOS, watchOS, and tvOS improvements will get smaller shoutouts. Also expect a focus on augmented reality.

Wish List

  • iPod touch. I’d love to get my daughter an iPod touch. Therefore, I’d love to see it get a spec bump.
  • Mac mini. It would be great to see them showing off macOS High Sierra on an updated Mac mini. I love the current form factor, but let’s see some improved internals.
  • tvOS TV. What can I say? I’d love to buy a good TV with tvOS built in.

Of course, it’s always nice when Apple surprises us in some way. I expect iPhone X (if that’s what it gets called) will be the big thing, but who knows? Perhaps we’ll get a sneak peek at the upcoming Mac Pro, a release date for the iMac Pro, or something entirely new.

Apple Officially Opposes Internet “Fast Lanes”

MacRumors: Apple Urges FCC No To Allo Internet Fast Lanes

Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet. Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider’s content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.

On the surface, of course Apple opposes lifting this ban because it would put them in a place to pay ISPs to prioritize iTunes or App Store content. On the other hand, whose pockets are deeper than Apple’s in this sector? Such rules would give them a distinct competative advantage over streaming competitors like Amazon or Netflix since Apple could easily outpay any of them.

Lifting the “fast lane” ban could, in effect, hand the streaming market to Apple while prohibiting competition from emerging or growing. Yet Apple opposes such a lift.