Posts tagged Apple
In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have, and more. The Facebook Wall: Source: Google+ Android Google Glass Penguin: Source:…
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In 2001, Steve Jobs shared a vision of computing—the personal computer as a “digital hub” for organizing users’ lives—that would inform Apple’s road map for years to come. Before a Macworld audience, the late Apple co-founder explined how the personal computer was entering a new golden age “driven by an explosion of new digital devices,” all connecting to and relying on the Mac to corral and make sense of their data.
Fourteen years later, current CEO Tim Cook has officially retired Jobs’ this vision by making a new laptop with a single port—the “new MacBook.”
See also: There’s A New MacBook In Town
These days, the hub has shifted, from local computing in our machines and gadgets to the cloud. There’s no need for a beefy processor or numerous ports when online services do the heavy lifting for us. The Internet ably manages our media and other personal data, and its capacity will only grow over time, as smartwatches, homes, cars, fitness gizmos and health trackers put more of our lives online.
This is the future the new MacBook was built for, and it has nothing to do with plugging in devices.
Hub No More
Six years before he would introduce the iPhone, Steve Jobs imagined the PC as the nerve center of a user’s cavalcade of gadgets. He saw computers sitting at the center of cameras, music players, camcorders and other electronics:
We are living in a new digital lifestyle with an explosion of digital devices. It’s huge. And we believe the PC or more importantly the Mac can become the digital hub of our new emerging digital lifestyle, with the ability to add tremendous value to these other digital devices. Digital hub—key phrase.
So Apple equipped its Macs and MacBooks to serve that mission, ushering in (and out) numerous ports and optical drives. Over time, digital lifestyles changed, in large part because of products Jobs himself would later introduce.
iPods, iPhones and iPads (and their Android counterparts) reduced the pile of standalone cameras and other ancillary devices. Then online services, as well as wireless iTunes and iCloud syncing unshackled those mobile gadgets from their primitive sync cables. Users could easily keep accounts, services and data synced across devices without physically jacking in.
In that way, the new MacBook’s lone port has been years in the making. Apparently, Apple sees it as the way forward—which may explain why the computer seems ill-suited for today’s needs. It was designed for tomorrow’s. There’s a universal sense among reviewers that this “new MacBook is the future.” The Wall Street Journal calls it a “time machine,” and CNET hailed it as “the next chapter in laptops.”
They’re right, but not for the reasons they stated. Much of the hoopla swirls around the single USB-C port, a next-generation standard connecting display cables, power cords, iPhone cables and other gadgets.
The latest Chromebook Pixel also supports the new USB, but few others do yet. Apple embracing it so fully makes for an easy narrative that once more casts the company as a slayer of old tech. The company just tossed USB 2.0 onto the trash heap alongside USB 1.0, FireWire, optical drives and other standards. End of story.
But there’s something else very interesting that most everyone has overlooked: Apple finally let go of its proprietary MagSafe power connector. That opens the doors to vendors who can now, finally, offer external back-up MacBook batteries. Until now, the restrictions stymied them, or forced wacky work-arounds and hacks.
The broader view, however, is that Apple let go of proprietary chargers because it realizes that ports and cables are not the future. When everything runs and connects online, plugging in simply matters less.
The MacBook Has Become Apple’s Chromebook
Don’t think about the new MacBook like a full-fledged laptop. Think of it more like a skinnier Chromebook+, which can run applications if you absolutely need to and can come dressed in gold. (In the future, all our gadgets will be swathed in gold, obviously.)
Judging by the first wave of reviews, Apple’s cloud-first mentality even shows up in the computer’s compromises—like a less-powerful processor (by today’s standards) and the lack of a fan, an acknowledgement that most people won’t have to deal with heavy computational demands locally on their machines. This is, after all, a world where people can use Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop without ever installing software.
Unfortunately, by all accounts, the MacBook seems to suffer from slow performance, notably in activities like Web browsing. That’s a crucial issue for a cloud-oriented laptop. Fortunately, software updates could do a lot to alleviate such quirks.
On the plus side, this version is lighter and thinner than the previous version, even more so than the current MacBook Air, and it boasts long battery life. Its 9-hour longevity comes from the novel way it stacks tiered power cells, so it can use every last bit of space afforded from ditching all those ports and streamlining its internals. It’s so primed for mobility, that you can’t even power it with a desktop monitor attached. (Thanks, USB-C.)
The new Force Touch Trackpad, a static slab that can still sense how hard you tap, mimics the Apple Watch’s Force Touch feature, may be tricky to use, but at least it gives people a consistent input experience across devices. Spoiler alert: Force Touch will probably show up in a future iPhone before long.
Like its mobile brethren and Chromebook rival, the new MacBook does not come off as a productivity tool, per se. It features a flat keyboard and Apple’s so-called “Retina Display” high-definition screen. Put them together, and you’ve got a laptop that seems more suited for looking at beautiful Instagram photos and streaming HD videos than banging out documents.
The Road Ahead
From high atop its perch in the mobile market, Apple saw how phones and tablets gave rise to ubiquitous computing, and how the Internet powers it for all devices, including computers.
The company crammed Facebook and Twitter into the heart of its iOS and OS X platforms, and bought Beats, a headphones maker with a popular music streaming service. It also put more of its applications online, including its iWork suite. But there’s still one gaping hole: the company’s own cloud strategy, or lack thereof.
Apple has started patching its flaws, particularly by rolling out iCloud Drive last year, but it offers a measly 5GB free level, costly upgrades and iCloud security concerns that, in general, look like a hot mess. If Apple sees its future in the cloud, then it can’t ignore these and other issues.
It likely won’t. Right now, Cook and his team command an army of initiatives—including HealthKit, HomeKit, ResearchKit, CarPlay, the Apple Watch and a new, smarter Apple TV, not to mention possibly virtual reality gear and driverless cars. The cloud will tie many of those efforts together, and not just any cloud. Apple wants it to be their own.
Fourteen years ago, Jobs called the personal computer a digital hub. But it’s losing its grip as the command center of our digital lives. Some people have no choice but to rely on smartphones as their only computing device, while others simply gravitate to mobile devices more than computers.
Either way, the PC is no longer our hub. It’s a spoke, one of many that reach out over the Internet, where we live more and more of our lives. Google embraced this reality with the Chromebook. Now, Apple has as well with its new MacBook.
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The long-awaited Apple Watch finally became available for pre-order on Thursday—and within about six hours, according to 9to5Mac, all models of the wearable were sold out through June.
As great as that sounds for Apple’s business, it’s not much of a surprise. The Apple Watch is the company’s first new product release since the iPad in 2010, so anticipation among the devoted is understandably high.
See also: Apple Watch Reviews—The TL;DR Version
But there’s another reason it’s not surprising: it’s entirely possible that there were never going to be enough Apple Watches to meet day-one demand.
Big Piece, Small Pie
Let’s turn back the clock to September 5, 2014. That’s when Motorola sent out emails to announce that the Moto 360, the company’s first smartwatch and easily the most anticipated Android Wear device, would be available for purchase in just a few hours’ time. Later that day, it was completely sold out—gone from Motorola’s website, the Google Play Store, and Best Buy’s retail locations.
It sure looked like a massive hit for Motorola. Then a few months later, Canalys reported that only 720,000 Android Wear devices shipped in the entire year. Motorola’s smartwatch was the “clear leader among Android Wear vendors,” but even a big piece of such a small pie doesn’t really mean much.
The odds are excellent that Apple has sold way more than 720,000 Apple Watches. But chances are equally good that Apple didn’t set its April launch date with the firm expectation of filling all orders for the smartwatch. (Apple supposedly ordered 5 million units from its suppliers to cover April-June sales, although that still doesn’t tell us how many were available today.)
For starters, a device as small and complicated as the Apple Watch—with its sapphire crystal display and other premium materials—isn’t necessarily as easy to manufacture as some of Apple’s bigger devices. Throughout 2014, there were repeated reports of Apple production snags that pushed the device’s release to its current April 24 date. The Apple Watch is a tiny, extremely high-performance device, and it seems easy to screw up on a production line.
A 9to5Mac reader apparently got a reply from Tim Cook on this very very issue:
A number of units will be delivered on the 24th but it is unlikely every unit ordered tomorrow will be delivered on the 24th. This depends on how many units are ordered for a specific SKU compared to the supply we have of that specific SKU. This isn’t different from other new products. Sometimes demand exceed supply for a period of time. I can assure you we are working around the clock to get as many units to customers as fast as possible.
There will be an order limit of 2.
But let’s also remember that scarcity—intended or otherwise—has worked pretty well for Apple. As we’ve discussed before, there are few better ways to boost a product’s attractiveness than by making it hard to get. Exclusivity and specialness is part of Apple’s brand appeal, so if the highest-profile Apple release in years is extra rare, Tim Cook probably won’t be crying in his soup.
Apple Watch images courtesy of Apple; Moto 360 image courtesy of Motorola
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Developers are the new kingmakers, and nowhere will this resonate more than in the growing Internet of Things market. In fact, the easiest way to pick winners in this emerging field is to look for Internet of Things companies with the biggest developer populations.
The hitch, however, is that Internet of Things companies don’t always label themselves as such.
So while IBM, Cisco, Jasper or Sierra Wireless like to position themselves as leaders in the field, the reality is very different. Again, with developers in mind, the big winners so far appear to be Apple and Google, as a new VisionMobile report concludes.
And The Developers Shall Inherit The Earth
As I’ve written, to flourish the Internet of Things market needs millions of developers by 2020. Fortunately, the market is actively minting new developers each day, with the global Internet of Things developer population set to top 4.5 million by 2020:
A significant percentage of those developers live in the Asia-Pacific region, as I’ve noted before. But the reality is that many Internet of Things developers don’t yet self-identify as such. They’re just mobile developers, waiting to be transformed into Internet of Things developers.
And Apple and Google are in the pole position to do so.
Developers, Developers, Developers
As VisionMobile Q1 2015 Developer Economics survey data reveals, 53% of mobile developers are already actively working on Internet of Things projects. The top two markets within the field are smart homes (37% of relevant developers are working in this area) and wearables (35%).
But the real story isn’t how many developers are working on Internet of Things, but how many are getting paid to do so.
According to VisionMobile’s survey data, most developers working on these projects do so as a hobby (30%) or as a side project (just under 20%), even as they continue their day jobs building mobile apps. A further 12% are independents.
With roughly half the Internet of Things developer audience doing so on the side, the platforms that attract them will be those that require the least investment in learning new skills.
Which means an Internet of Things specialist like Sierra Wireless or PTC is at a disadvantage against a mobile generalist like Google or Apple.
To The Victor Goes The Spoils
After all, Apple (HomeKit, Apple Watch, etc.) and Google (Nest, Android Wear, etc.) already offer significant tools specific to the Internet of Things. But as important as these are, it’s even more important that they’re raising a generation of developers to prefer their mobile platforms, generally.
In an earlier report, VisionMobile concludes, “The only way to make a profit in the Internet of Things is to build a network of entrepreneurs who create unique value on top of commodity hardware, connectivity and cloud services.” Those entrepreneurs, in turn, are fueled by developers, and Google and Apple command fealty from millions of developers.
Over five million of them, combined.
As VisionMobile’s latest report argues:
Established technology companies like IBM, Cisco or GE, and incumbent IoT specialists like Jasper, PTC or Sierra understand the enterprise [Internet of Things] market very well. But they are not specialists in connecting developers with users.
The company with the most developers wins. Google and Apple have amassed the most Internet of Things developers, positioning them to dominate the market for years. It’s that simple.
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You won’t be able to get an Apple Watch yourself for another couple of weeks, but the early reviews—from publications ranging from the New York Times to CNET and the Verge—are in.
The bottom line? Apple’s much-hyped wearable is stylish and has lots of promise, but also falls short on several fronts. In particular, the watch has a limited battery life and, uncharacteristically for Apple, issues with responsiveness and user friendliness.
We’ve distilled some of the highlights from four major reviews by Nilay Patel at The Verge, David Pogue at Yahoo Tech, Scott Stein at CNET and Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times—some 18,000 words in total by our count. You can thank us later.
There seems to be little doubt that Apple has put together another stylish, well-crafted, beautiful bit of gadgetry. Stein calls it “beautifully constructed”; Patel describes it as “a masterpiece of engineering.” Everyone has good things to say about the build quality.
It also sounds like a watch that’s compact enough to look unobtrusive on the wrist. At 2.9 ounces (with a leather band), it’s heavier than the Moto 360 but not as hefty as some of the heavy duty luxury men’s watches on the market. In terms of looks, Apple has apparently succeeded.
Responsiveness And Interface
Several reviewers are reporting a lag in the responsiveness of the Apple Watch, particularly whenever a GPS signal from the iPhone is involved. This is the sort of software bug that later updates will presumably fix (as Apple is apparently promising), but it’s still inauspicious out of the gate.
Unlike most other smartwatches, the Apple Watch screen isn’t on constantly. And in an effort to eke out as much battery life as possible, the first generation Apple Watch appears to be a little underpowered. Its screen takes a split-second to activate, while regular apps also take their time to display information.
By and large, reviewers reported a steep learning curve for the watch’s interface—so steep that the phrase “steep learning curve” earns a place in the headline of Manjoo’s NYT piece. It’s not always easy to work out what to do next, or how to get notifications back, and so on.
Apps And Alerts
The apps on the Apple Watch (and there are a lot more on the way, of course) proved something of a mixed bag. The fitness apps got high marks across the board, but more than one reviewer questioned the usefulness of having regular apps—like Twitter—beeping away on your wrist.
“The Twitter Glance is set to display top trends, but by the time it loads I could have pulled out my phone,” Patel writes. The watch faces, meanwhile, come in for high praise (they’re “stunning,” in Pogue’s words).
Reviews were much more mixed regarding the watch’s emoji and heartbeat messaging options Apple has talked up over the past several months. But the watch’s specially developed “taptic feedback” engine—which buzzes your wrist in different patterns for various notifications—won praise as a useful way of getting alerts and distinguishing between notifications without having to look at a screen.
Battery life proved to be one of the biggest problems for most reviewers. As we expected, the Apple Watch just about makes it through a day’s worth of use, but that’s it—you’ll be searching for your charger by the early or late evening.
David Pogue was alone in finding his Apple Watch lasted until the second day of use—though even in that scenario you’re still going to want to charge it every night.
TL;DR verdict for the TL;DR summary: The Apple Watch is unquestionably a nice device, but it hasn’t answered the question of why you need it. And if you decide you do, you might consider waiting for the second generation device.
Photo courtesy of Apple
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Facebook unit Instagram has open sourced a coding library to GitHub that could make it much easier for programmers to develop for Apple Watch.
The company said its library, called IGInterfaceDataTable, “makes configuring tables with multi-dimensional data easier.” For instance, a developer might need to organize a set of watch-app actions into an easy-to-use, yet sophisticated, contextual menu. The Instagram library aims to simplify that process.
For developers of large and complicated apps, this could become a valuable resource for bringing their work to the Apple Watch.
“We’re really excited to be one of the first apps on the platform, and were able to build some solutions that we think will help other people build their apps more quickly and easily,” Instagram engineer Ryan Nystrom told VentureBeat.
Learn By Doing
There are plenty of tutorials, books, and podcasts for learning to build iOS apps on Apple’s expanding ensemble of devices. But when it comes to something as new as the Apple Watch and its WatchKit SDK, sometimes it helps to learn from the pros.
You can install IGInterfaceDataTable onto a new or existing Watchkit project using just one line of code, as outlined in the project’s Readme file. Once it’s in place, developers can begin importing and organizing multi-dimensional data.
Instagram is encouraging developers not only to download and utilize their library, but to contribute code and bug fixes, as well. Since Instagram is a part of Facebook, the company notes that contributing a fix could even lead to a reward in Facebook’s bug bounty program.
As the Apple Watch has yet to be released until later this month, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the device. Downloading Instagram’s library offers a close look at what one of the major companies on the platform believes are best practices for Apple Watch apps.
Lead photo courtesy of Apple
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Apple Maps has relied solely on Yelp reviews for hotels in the past, but one Apple Insider user has found several instances of Apple relying on other sources for recent hotel searches.
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Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.
The post SearchCap: Facebook Search On Android, Apple Maps Adds TripAdvisor & Content Ideas appeared first on Search Engine Land.
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TripAdvisor and Booking.com reviews now appearing in search results.
The post Apple Maps Adds New Review Sources, Replacing Yelp Outside US In Many Cases appeared first on Search Engine Land.
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Maybe Apple didn’t mean to insult other companies in Wired’s feature story on how it developed the Apple Watch. Nonetheless, some of the details that came out of the conversation between writer David Pierce and his subjects—Apple’s Kevin Lynch and Alan Dye—seem to throw a little shade at wearable tech competitors and even developers.
The article, “iPhone Killer: The Secret History Of The Apple Watch,” describes the long path Apple took in creating a new type of arm-based experience. The company tried various things, accepting some and rejecting others—which is normal for a tech company creating a new gadget and software. But in this case, those inadequate cast-offs happen to resemble efforts put out by Pebble and a budding crop of watch app makers.
Take these as learning lessons or subtle, disguised barbs. Either way, Apple and its executives won’t be mincing words if the watch becomes a hit. So for now, let’s read between a few lines.
In one section, the Wired story reveals that previous versions of the Apple Watch software took a chronological approach, setting information in a timeline. But the concept was tossed aside early on for Short Looks, which prioritizes info based on whether or not you engage with it, and Glances, which offer a unified place for fast news and updates.
“We rethought the UI,” said Lynch, formerly of Adobe and now Apple’s vice president of technology. “We rebuilt the apps—messaging, mail, calendar—more than once, to really get it refined.” There was apparently no place in the refinement process for chronology—although the concept did find a home at Pebble.
When Pebble founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky told me about his revamped smartwatch software in February, he described a system that presents data based on chronological importance. “Instead of having individual apps, we’ve extracted the information from those apps that are relevant to you in your normal day,” he said. Pebble users can bring up activities that just happened, future appointments or data that’s important right now by hitting assigned buttons on the watch.
All that “button mashing” can be a turn off for some folks, but apparently not enough to derail Pebble’s new device and platform. Consumers also don’t seem to think a time-based approach is inadequate for a watch: Pebble’s second Kickstarter trounced its first $10 million record-breaking campaign, doubling the funds raised and setting another record. More than 78,000 people pledged more than $20 million to Pebble Time and its new software. Within a day of launch, the campaign was fast approaching the halfway mark, suggesting iPhone-worthy levels of interest.
Here’s some context: Sales for the latest iPhones, the models 6 and 6 Plus, together sold $10 million in their first weekend. If the Apple Watch sells as well as its smartphone counterparts, Apple would be thrilled. If it doesn’t, perhaps the company needs to reconsider whether a time-based concept for a watch is all that wrong-headed after all.
The Watch As A Cure For iPhone Obsession
Speaking of iPhones, our obsession with it and other smartphones is apparently what led Apple to create the Apple Watch.
We spend a great deal of our lives staring at glass displays, and more of us are coming into the fold. According to Pew Internet And American Life Project, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone. Apple feels responsible for this problem. And, writes Pierce, “it thinks it can fix it with a square slab of metal and a Milanese loop strap.”
The Apple Watch was designed to liberate people from their phones by giving them convenient, but subtle access to data and faster ways to respond to it, if they choose. A lot of that hinges on the interface, which is Alan Dye’s domain.
Dye’s story must be fascinating: He was a graphic designer in the marketing division who helped design product boxes. Now he’s leading Apple’s human interface team.
One thing he doesn’t want is for people to get too involved with their watches. The thought of people uncomfortably holding up their wrists for more than 30 seconds appalls him. “We didn’t want people walking around and doing that,” Dye told Pierce. Ultimately, Apple settled on the idea that watch interactions shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 seconds.
But tell that to the burgeoning ranks of developers, now free to swarm the app admissions process with their best watch wares. Productivity apps, finance apps, social apps, news apps, and more are gearing up to make a play for our wrists. Based on what we’ve seen so far, some seem guaranteed to blow through the 10-second rule and give us the sore arms Dye wants to avoid.
Knowing what the company focused on in creating the device and software should shed light on the experience it ideally wants watch apps to deliver. For instance, Apple spent a year figuring out what a tweet should feel like when translated as vibrations through the “Taptic engine.” Does the company expect others to put as much effort into their apps? Probably not initially, especially since WatchKit hasn’t even been out that long. But even if it were, Apple’s ramping up for the device’s launch now, and it wouldn’t want to squelch developer interest in a new technology that, frankly, not everyone is sold on.
So enjoy Apple’s learning lessons or whatever shade it may want to throw for now. The company won’t be beating around the bush later, especially if the Apple Watch takes off. Because if there’s one thing Apple knows, it’s how to take dead aim when it feels emboldened.
Apple Watch photos courtesy of Apple; Pebble Time Steel photo courtesy of Pebble; iPhone photo by Hadrian via Shutterstock
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