Using data, market research, and analytics to improve your apps and better allocate your time, so you can have more time to listen to podcasts like this one. Under 30 minutes, as always.
(Transcript also available.)
The rumored new MacBook Pro, Apple and services, and a hybrid Apple-Google world.
Time and time again, we’ve been told that the company is working on making things better for targets of harassment. What we see, however, are half-baked enhancements designed to make the service more appealing to advertisers and attempts at enticing new users. Many people have suggested changes they could implement to curb abuse. For example, Randi Lee Harper’s list of suggestions from earlier this year is still on-point.
I needed a hat.
I didn’t want an attention-grabbing design, but I’m not boring enough to wear a blank hat. (And I’m really boring.)
Normal people wear hats displaying the logos of the sports teams or companies or places they care about. But I don’t care about sports, I don’t feel that strongly about New York, and I don’t like most companies enough to be a billboard for them on my head.
So I had to ask myself: What do I really, truly care about that would be appropriate on a hat?
Apple? Sure. But I’ve already gone through two Apple hats.
The internet? Well, we have a love/hate relationship.
What transcends it all?
Before the iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry was the king of smartphones. They seemed unstoppable, because by most accounts, they were the best and most successful at what most smartphones were for at the time: email and phone calls.
When the iPhone came out, the BlackBerry continued to do well for a little while. But the iPhone had completely changed the game — it changed what smartphones were for, from basic business-focused email devices to entire consumer personal computers with desktop-class operating systems and rich app ecosystems.
The BlackBerry’s success came to an end not because RIM started releasing worse smartphones, but because the new job of the smartphone shifted almost entirely outside of their capabilities, and it was too late to catch up. RIM hadn’t spent years building a world-class operating system, or a staff full of great designers, or expertise in mass production of luxury-quality consumer electronics, or amazing APIs and developer tools, or an app store with millions of users with credit cards already on file, or all of the other major assets that Apple had developed over a decade (or longer) that enabled the iPhone.
No new initiative, management change, or acquisition in 2007 could’ve saved the BlackBerry. It was too late, and the gulf was too wide.
Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.
If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.
Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do, despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they won’t be able to catch up.
Amazon, Facebook, and Google — especially Google — have all invested heavily in big-data web services and AI for many years, prioritizing them highly, iterating and advancing them constantly, accumulating relevant data, developing effective algorithms, and attracting, developing, and retaining tons of specialized talent.
Saying Apple is “bad at services” in general isn’t accurate — they’re very good at services that move data around in relatively straightforward ways at a very large scale, such as iMessage, push notifications, and the majority of iCloud.
Where Apple suffers is big-data services and AI, such as search, relevance, classification, and complex natural-language queries.1 Apple can do rudimentary versions of all of those, but their competitors — again, especially Google — are far ahead of them, and the gap is only widening.
And Apple is showing worryingly few signs of meaningful improvement or investment in these areas. Apple’s apparent inaction shows that they’re content with their services’ quality, management, performance, advancement, and talent acquisition and retention. And they may be right — they may be fine.
But if Google’s right, there’s no quick fix. It won’t be enough to buy Siri’s creators again or partner with Yelp for another few years. If Apple needs strong AI and big-data services in the next decade to remain competitive, they need to have already been developing that talent and those assets, in-house, extensively, for years. They need to be a big-data-services company. Their big-data AI services need to be far better, smarter, and more reliable than they are.
And I just don’t see that happening. Becoming a major big-data AI services company doesn’t happen completely in secret and suddenly get released to the world, completed, in a keynote. It’s a massive undertaking, spanning many years, many people, and a lot of noticeable interaction with the world. It’s easier to conceal the development of an entire car than a major presence in AI and services.
Google is extremely well-placed for where they think the puck is going. They could be wrong — these AI services could be a socially awkward fad like Google Glass or a tonedeaf annoyance like Clippy. Google launches a lot of weird, geeky, technologically impressive things that go nowhere.
If Google is wrong, and computing continues to be defined by a tightly controlled grid of siloed apps that you poke a thousand times a day on a smooth rectangle of manufacturing excellence, Apple is fine. They’re doing a great job of what computing is today, and what it will probably continue to be for a long time.
But if Google is right, that’s a big problem for Apple.
This was originally titled “Avoiding BlackBerry’s fate”, but I changed it to better reflect my angle of “If this happens, it’s bad,” rather than “This is what will definitely happen.”
“Privacy” isn’t a very good excuse. It’s possible to build tons of useful services and smarts by just using public data, like the web, mapping databases, business directories, etc., without any access to or involvement from the user’s private data. Even more enhanced functionality can be done with the limited set of personal data that Siri already uses, such as location and contacts. Google and others do these sorts of non-creepy or less-creepy services far better than Apple, too — not just the creepy ones. ↩︎
A lot of things become clearer if we decide to talk the truth, and not pretend this is a normal election. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make Donald Trump into Mitt Romney.
Wise words. Read the whole thing.
Beginning with the iPhone 6, using an iPad’s 10/12W power brick can now charge your iPhone more quickly than the little 5W brick it comes with in North America.
Ryan Jones shows the gains here on the notoriously-slow-to-charge Plus. In short, it’s a wash going from 90–100%, but the iPad brick is significantly faster going from 0–90%.
I have very few complaints about my Model S, but this is one.
Three Apple users try to explain the Google I/O announcements. (What could possibly go wrong?)
We ranked our favorite pizza toppings, interviewed a pizza expert, and taste-tested the new topping sensation that’s sweeping across Relay FM.
Special thanks to Slices Pizza in Hastings on Hudson, NY, our favorite pizza place.
Love how these turned out, thanks to Cotton Bureau’s excellent designer, Jay Fanelli.
Hurry! You only have 14 days to order them.
In less than 30 minutes: How indie developers can become more comfortable with self-promotion in the right contexts.
Also, as an experiment, David had a complete transcript made if you’d rather read it.
Friend of the show John Voorhees made a new app to quickly generate Amazon affiliate links from anywhere on iOS, either as raw URLs or Markdown links.
There aren’t a ton of people who need this, but those who do really need it.
Being the U.S. President is a multifaceted, incredibly important, unimaginably difficult job that places huge demands on temperament, judgment, foresight, resiliency, and diplomacy (both domestically and internationally). Politics aside, that’s the real job. All day, every day.
I don’t agree with all of Barack Obama’s politics, words, or decisions, but he has performed extremely well at actually doing the job every day for nearly eight years.
That’s far more important than minor political differences. Given the choice between someone who can actually do the everyday job well whose politics I don’t agree with, or a complete buffoon who tells me what I want to hear, I’m better off with the former, whether I know it or not.
And this is why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton this fall. I’m not her biggest fan, but she’s the only major candidate this year who I believe will do the actual job well — and probably very well.
* * *
Tim Cook has been under a lot of scrutiny and received a lot of criticism recently, much of which is warranted.
Being the CEO of one of the world’s biggest, highest profile, most scrutinized, and most important publicly-traded companies is a multifaceted, incredibly important, unimaginably difficult job that places huge demands on temperament, judgment, foresight, resiliency, and diplomacy (both publicly and privately).
Cook excels at doing the job. And while he’s not always doing everything exactly the way I’d like, I can’t help but agree with Apple’s former CEO, who also wasn’t perfect, that Cook is the best person for the job today.
Layers runs parallel to the first few days of WWDC in San Francisco with a focus on design and tech culture instead of code. It has a very similar vibe and size to the now-defunct Çingleton conference, much like a smaller Úll: a well-run, single-track conference with short, interesting talks that’s small enough that everyone can socialize.
I went last year and greatly enjoyed it — it’s run by people who go to a lot of conferences and know what makes a good one. The only reason I’m not going again this year is that I got a WWDC ticket.
If you’ll be in San Francisco that week without a WWDC ticket, I highly suggest you consider this. They gave me a discount code you can use for $50 off a ticket: use code MOSCONEBOXLUNCH to be reminded of what you’re missing as you eat the far better food at Layers.
How iOS development will change if the recent app-review speedup becomes permanent.
In-car purchases, podcast politics, and voice assistants ordering terrible pizzas.
This is a good one, especially the latter half.
The best discussion I’ve heard yet of John Herrman’s podcast article between two podcasters with marketing and publishing backgrounds. (My take.)
Public-only repository plans are still free.
For private use, you no longer pay based on how many private repositories you need — you can use as many as you want for the lowest previous plan’s price ($7/month), and business users pay more for other abilities that individuals aren’t likely to need.
Some businesses will presumably need to pay more now, but it’s perfect for me, an individual with a bunch of private repositories, some public ones, and some with contributors (both public and private). I’m now saving $5/month with no more repository limit.
Credit to GitHub for the smoothest transition I’ve ever seen, too: I went in to enroll myself on the new plan, and not only had they already updated me to it, but I’d also been credited for the price difference from my last annual prepayment.