Posts tagged Apple

SearchCap: Bing App Index, Apple Maps Transit, Google Shopping Ads & Nearby Businesses

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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“Virtual Rooms” For The Apple Smart Home Sound Like A Great Idea

Since Apple announced its HomeKit smart home initiative last year, it’s been mostly quiet about just how iPhones and other Apple gadgets will wrangle those connected devices. Now, however, the company may have a fancy new app in the works—complete with virtual rooms, a clever and apparently easy-to-grasp metaphor for running a smart home.

Apple’s approach, according to a 9to5Mac report, will be to launch a new “Home” app for controlling smart-home gadgets—think smart locks, sensors, garage openers, thermostats, lights, security cameras and other connected appliances. The Home app will sort gadgets by function and location into a visual arrangements of virtual rooms

The goal is to simplify the otherwise bewildering task of finding, adding and controlling smart devices and appliances from Apple and other companies.

See also: Apple TV Will Reportedly Get Siri And Apps—But There’s More In Store

Smart homes are quite likely to be collections of disparate gadgets from various manufacturers that need to identify and share information with each other as well as with a controlling “hub.” Giving users an intuitive way to grasp what’s where and who’s doing what is something this industry badly needs.

Here’s what Apple’s take supposedly looks like. 

The Kit And Kaboodle


When it comes to smart home systems, interfaces matter. Samsung’s still relatively new SmartThings division has a powerful, though complex, mobile app that it has been trying to simplify for users. Revolv, now owned by Google’s Nest division, used to offer an app with simple setup and management features, using graphical representations to symbolize connections to devices. 

See also: Apple Makes Its Move In The Smart Home With HomeKit

Apple’s version might be even easier. The app, which supposedly sports a house icon against a dark yellow background, reportedly connects to a user’s Apple TV, using that as a hub or stationary command center for the system. There’s still a big question mark over how well it works, though—the Apple blog says that in its current form, it has only basic, limited features, and so far, only Apple employees have been allowed to take it for a spin. 

The new “Home” app—or whatever it will be officially called when it debuts (possibly with iOS 9)—seems like just the sort of thing Apple would want to spotlight at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in June. But that’s only if the app’s ready for public viewing, which isn’t at all certain yet.

As 9to5Mac notes, the app might be too basic and unrefined at this point. Even if it’s not, it might be intended for use solely within Apple’s walls as a testing or development tool.

If the latter is true, then people might manage their “Apple smart home” using their Siri voice assistant to control third-party apps. In essence, that would let people talk to their iPhones, Apple Watches and likely Apple TVs to remote control their home appliances. 

Bring It On Home 

Either way, Apple will have to pick a path and fairly soon. The tech giant announced its HomeKit framework last year, and it’s been losing steam in this area ever since. Rumors of more delays prompted an uncharacteristic Apple response in which it publicly promised that its first gadgets to support HomeKit will debut next month.

When they arrive, users will have to have something with which to manage them. Otherwise, it might start looking like Apple bit off more than it could chew in the complicated smart-home arena. 

Simplicity is something this area sorely needs, if smart homes are ever going to attract broad interest. Of course, it has to be good, too. Launching an “Apple Maps bad” HomeKit initiative could ding the whole industry. It’s not hard to imagine even Apple loyalists (who are legion) walking away from a crummy experience and thinking, “If even Apple can’t make this work, then no one can.” 

If Apple does launch the new Home app soon—and if it works—its new metaphor could go a long way toward helping newcomers understand just why they’d want to equip their homes with connected, smart gadgets. In that way, you can imagine the smart-home industry at large holding its breath as WWDC opens. Next month, we’ll know if it’s ready to exhale. 

Screenshots courtesy of Apple, captured by ReadWrite

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Apple Public Transit To Go Live With iOS 9, Also Making Indoor Mapping Push

As has been reported several times previously, Apple is getting ready to launch public transit data with iOS 9 according to sources that spoke with 9to5 Mac. It was originally supposed to launch in iOS 8 but apparently was pulled at the last minute. The transit data will apparently include bus,…



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SearchCap: Google Search Console, Apple Maps & Panda & Penguin Speed

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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Pebble CEO To Google And Apple: Keep Your Platforms Open

Pebble founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky has a message for tech giants like Apple and Google: Keep your platforms open unless you want to crush innovation and disserve your customers.

Here’s what Migicovsky said at Wearable World Congress, a San Francisco conference put on by ReadWrite’s parent company:

We’re building on top of other people’s platforms. In this world where everything is interconnected, and you see devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Nest and other connected devices that are using the Android, using the iOS platforms, it’s kind of a time for these entrenched, kind of old school, mobile-generation [companies] to make sure that they’re keeping a fair and open environment for newcomers who are building on top of these platforms.

It would be crazy to think of Apple blocking an app like Misfit, or Jawbone, or Fitbit even because they make products that compete with the Apple Watch.

In the same way you look at products like Nest, and you see that Nest hasn’t bought into [Apple’s] HomeKit SDK. Should they be blocked from selling apps or selling their hardware that works with the iPhone? I think it’s crazy to think that. I think it’s an important thing that Apple and Google need to be aware of as we move into the next generation of devices that work with the existing devices that you have.

Some history here. Not that long ago, Apple body-blocked Fitbit by booting it from the Apple Store—perhaps coincidentally after Fitbit declined to sign onto Apple’s HealthKit system for sharing health and fitness. There have also been recent reports of Apple’s App Store rejecting Pebble apps simply because they explicitly offered support for Pebble—now a competitor with the recently launched Apple Watch. 

“There was an issue a couple weeks ago where Apple was misidentifying Pebble apps as being non-compliant,” Migicovsky said. “They fixed that—Apple made a statement to the world that that was a mistake on their part.”

Migicovsky also firmed up his company’s plans to launch the Pebble Time in retail locations this summer, shortly after backers receive the first batch of units to roll off the assembly line. When exactly we might see that happen, however, is still a mystery. I’ve reached out to Pebble for more clarification and will update this post if I hear back.

Lead image by Michael O’Donnell

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Apple Renews Maps Agreement With TomTom, Will It Buy The Company?

Reuters reported this afternoon that publicly traded TomTom is up on news that its mapping-data contract with Apple has been renewed. Rival HERE (Nokia) is currently for sale and may fetch as much as $4 billion dollars. There aren’t many global mapping data vendors available; and…



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Why Apple Just Wasn’t Feeling It For The TV Set

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we now know that Apple really was working on its own television set before it ditched the idea over a year ago. The project got shelved, Gene Munster has said his mea culpa, and we can all move on.

It puts a different perspective on the tech rumors of today: Even when they’re right they can be wrong. In other words, speculation about an upcoming product might be spot on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll ever see the light of day. Apple Car, anyone?

The Simple Reasons Apple Bailed

In retrospect, it’s not difficult to see why Apple canned its idea for a TV set to call its own. As one commenter at 9to5Mac put it:

As expensive as they are, TV screens are a commodity. Selling different sizes and features would be a nightmare, and so would lugging one into the Genius Bar for warranty support.

In other words, televisions are bulky pieces of equipment that tend to last a lot longer than the rapidly obsolete electronics you’d expect in a smart TV. Margins are slim and making a profit is hard, as LG, Sony, Samsung, Philips and others have all discovered in recent years. Buyers wouldn’t be upgrading very often, and Apple wouldn’t make much money when they did.

These are all points that have been repeatedly made down the years. No doubt they played some part in Apple’s thinking.

But Wait, There’s More

But aside from the practicalities of TV engineering or the realities of the marketplace, Apple’s decision also suggests it just couldn’t figure out a way to put its own distinctive mark on the screens that fill our dens and bedrooms.

By contrast, Apple had no problem green-lighting its smartwatch. Whether the Apple Watch goes on to be a roaring success or not, it’s certainly distinctive, premium and disruptive. Could any television set Apple might have come up with have made the same impact? It’s doubtful.

MacBook Pros, iMacs, iPhones—these bits of kit are compelling and iconic in a way that you can’t really envisage a television set being, even with the best efforts of Sir Jony Ive.

Ultra-high resolutions are already here, as are super-slim bezels, curved screens, integrated apps, gesture control and lots more. How would Apple’s version have stood out? Or stood out enough to make the endeavour worthwhile?

Indeed, it’s the things that would have made an Apple TV set truly compelling that are being built into the Apple TV box that it actually does sell: smart home control, live TV streaming, Siri integration, access to the App Store, and so on.

The Real Apple TV

It’s perhaps no coincidence that the real Apple TV is getting a lot more love and attention since the theoretical Apple TV bit the dust. Maybe Tim Cook and his team realized that all the best parts of their new project could be added to the one they had under their noses all along.

And look at the competition: Google, Microsoft, Amazon… these companies are all building boxes to go under your living room TV, without worrying about the actual sets themselves.

Ultimately, a TV is simply a window into something else, plus a small package of extra smarts, and Apple has realized putting those smarts in a separate puck-shaped black box gives it the flexibility it needs to do something that can really make an impact.

Lead image courtesy of Apple

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Apple TV And The Apple Watch Are Both About To Get Smarter

The Apple TV is reportedly in line to get its first software-development kit, or SDK, which will for the first time give developers the tools to code apps and more for the tiny black box of entertainment tricks.

This news comes by way of a “proven source” speaking to 9to5Mac, who also told the site that the Apple Watch is in line for its first major software update—also via its SDK.

The Joy Of SDK

While SDKs don’t usually get consumer pulses racing, they’re enormously important to the coders who build the apps that end users will eventually get to play with. An Apple TV SDK, for instance, will give the device third-party app support that hasn’t previously been available.

Based on 9to5Mac’s information, the new tools will introduce a Find My Watch feature for the Apple Watch, enabling users to locate lost timepieces in the same way they can hunt down lost iPhones. It may also include a ‘Smart Leashing’ feature where an alert is sounded if iPhone and Apple Watch lose connection with each other.

Health and fitness software components are in line for an upgrade too, although a planned heart rate warning system may not see the light of day due to regulatory concerns. Sleep tracking and blood pressure monitoring are said to be on the way, a rumor we’ve heard before.

Apple has promised developers will eventually be able to create standalone apps on its smartwatch, and that looks to be a likely upgrade in the next SDK. Access to Complications—the small widgets available for watch faces—is also said to be on the table.

Apps And More For The Apple TV


The Apple TV, set for an upgrade

With the Apple TV in prime position for a refresh at WWDC at the start of June, it makes perfect sense that an SDK would also be imminent. In addition to adding support that will let users control the Apple TV with an Apple Watch, the new coding tools are apparently going to add Siri to the Apple TV.

See also: What To Expect From Apple’s June 8 WWDC Keynote

Many industry watchers are also expecting some kind of cord-cutting ‘Live TV’ service on the Apple TV, and the new SDK will reflect that. 9to5Mac’s sources say the service won’t arrive until after the new hardware, however.

Then there’s third-party app support, opening the doors to Apple TV for everything from Facebook to Candy Crush. Gaming is another important area of potential growth, with the hardware box set to be larger and more powerful than the current version.

We’ve had no official confirmation from Apple, but it would be a surprise if it wasn’t planning these kind of software upgrades in the near future. The approaching arrival of Windows 10 is a reminder that we’re living in an increasingly multi-device world, and getting Apple Watch and Apple TV up to speed is crucial (especially with HomeKit finding its feet).

Lead photo by Kārlis DambrānsApple TV image courtesy of Apple

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SearchCap: Google Buy Now, Cortana & Apple Coherent Navigation

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google Buy Now, Cortana & Apple Coherent Navigation appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Uber Teams Up With Baidu For HERE Maps, Apple Buys More Coherent Navigation

HERE mapping unit could fetch more than $4 billion in new bidding war.

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