In this week’s podcast: Final Cut Pro X, the pro-software market and transition periods, the Mac Pro’s future, the HP TouchPad, tablet responsiveness and fun, the 80-20 fallacy applied to app markets, and Google+.
In this week’s podcast: Final Cut Pro X, the pro-software market and transition periods, the Mac Pro’s future, the HP TouchPad, tablet responsiveness and fun, the 80-20 fallacy applied to app markets, and Google+.
As John Gruber notes at Daring Fireball, how (and if) we credit our sources communicates a lot about how much we respect them, their sites, and our sites.
On this week’s show, we discussed Amazon’s Appstore problems, Google+’s member limits, Google’s compiled HTML and CSS versus publicly meaningful class names and structure, when and why you should stray from UIKit, and a special bonus episode extension on the practicalities of the MacBook Airs and other Macs.
I’ve read a bunch of rumors about upcoming iPhone and iPad releases. The most credible and sensible rumors indicate:
These are both so plausible and backed up by so many writers’ anonymous sources that they’re not really worth arguing about. I’ll assume for the rest of this post that these are true.
Recently, we’ve also heard:
(As usual, we’ve also heard other crazy rumors that I think are too far-fetched to discuss.)
Usually, the credible-sounding rumors (especially when published by major publications such as Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal) are based in truth, but have often been distorted or misinterpreted along the way.
We also know:
I’ve heard nothing first-hand, but based on the rumors, past behaviors, and a healthy dose of baseless imagination, here’s my own speculation:
The rumored thinner, lighter iPhone could be the very-low-priced model, closer to the iPod Touch in appearance and component quality, with lower specs, less storage, and an unsubsidized price of around $300.
To satisfy the low-price requirement, they might also just continue to sell the 3GS at an even-lower cost. I think this is less likely: they can probably achieve lower costs and higher manufacturing volumes by designing a new model specifically to achieve those goals, rather than simply selling a previous year’s flagship model at a lower cost.
I do not believe that they’ll change the screen size to conserve cost or physical size. A screen-size change would incur too large of a cost in software and the app ecosystem.
There probably won’t be a new iPad this fall. It’s just too soon, and Apple is still having trouble keeping up with demand for the iPad 2. (I’d love to be proven wrong on this, since the bulk of Instapaper’s business is on the iPad and I’d love using a Retina iPad, but it just doesn’t seem very likely.)
There would also be a lot of inventory issues: Apple already ships 18 different iPad 2 models, which is part of the reason they’re so hard to get reliably in stores. (You can usually get an iPad 2, but not necessarily the one you want.) A Retina iPad added mid-cycle to the lineup would probably be an additional product, not a replacement to the current iPad 2, multiplying the number of stocked iPads even further and making the supply chain even more complex.
We’ll see what happens. I’m wrong a lot with Apple predictions.
Internet personas are a wacky thing: Some of my favorite people IRL also happen to be among some of the most disliked people online — and I totally hated them before meeting them, too. I’ve learned over the past two years that you absolutely cannot judge a person’s personality, motives, or intelligence based on what they do on the internet.
We’re all playing parts here.
Great article by Matthew Panzarino on the rumored iPhone and iPad updates, especially regarding the iPod Touch (which I completely ignored in my speculation).
Considering the iPod Touch a bit more thanks to this article, I think my guess is even more likely that the rumored “thinner iPhone” is the low-end model, not the flagship.
One factor I hadn’t thought of when I wrote the speculation post is the camera thickness: it’s pretty difficult to make a device significantly thinner than the iPhone 4 that contains a good camera today.
It’s possible that the next flagship iPhone could be using a significantly thinner camera sensor, but it’s far less likely to happen quickly than other component advances. High-end, variable-focus embedded cameras like the one in the iPhone 4 contain moving parts and need room for a big sensor and some basic optics. The iPhone 4’s is almost the full thickness of the phone.
I love link posts because I don’t feel pressured to write a coherent conclusion.
Amazing. (via Ben Brooks)
Starting this coming Sunday, July 17, the iriver Story HD e-reader will be available for sale in Target stores nationwide and on Target.com. The iriver Story HD is the first e-reader integrated with the open Google eBooks platform, through which you can buy and read Google eBooks over Wi-Fi.
(via Dan Frommer)
And it looks…
Hmm. I don’t want to hurt its feelings.
But appearance aside, I’m not sure why a significant number of buyers would choose this over the Kindle 3, which is effectively identical or better in nearly every way.
This paragraph in Marshall Kirkpatrick’s Why I’ll Never Redirect my Personal Blog to Google Plus scared me a bit:
Google Plus doesn’t have RSS feeds, or email subscription options. Both are important to me; I want to speak to my readers however they want to be spoken to. Some day, we’ll be able to write to and read from any platform in any other platform, just like we can call one phone network from inside another phone network now.
I hope he’s being clever here, because we had that. (And I think we still have it.)
It’s interesting that so much online publishing is moving into a small handful of massive, closed, proprietary networks after being so distributed and diverse during the big boom of blogs and RSS almost a decade ago.
In many ways, we’re better off now: publishing online is far easier, less time-consuming, and more accessible than it has ever been, which has brought content, voices, and consumers online that wouldn’t have been otherwise.
But all of these proprietary networks that want to own and hold in your content are reversing much of the web’s progress in some other areas, such as the durability and quality of online identity.
If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.
You might think your
@gmail.com address will be fine indefinitely, but if I used a webmail address from the best webmail provider at the time I broke away from my university address and formed my own identity, it would have ended in
@hotmail.com. And that wasn’t very long ago.
I’ve always built my personal blog’s content and reputation at its own domain, completely under my control, despite being hosted on many different platforms and serving different roles over the years. It has never been a subdomain of any particular publishing platform or host.
Tumblr respects this. From day one, David and I gave it free custom-domain support, full HTML control, and no forced branding or advertising. But Tumblr is a hybrid of a blog-publishing platform and a social network that seems truly unique — the “pure” social networks aren’t nearly as willing to allow you to own your identity there.
Locking your identity in won’t prevent a major social service from succeeding. Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.
But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.
Google’s getting slammed by patents recently. They’re especially a threat to Android’s success, which Google seems to care about.
Google has very few patents relative to other large technology companies, and their dismissive behavior at the Nortel patent auction implies that they don’t think much of them.
And it’s starting to cause them a lot of trouble.
Google also has some U.S. legislative lobbying power, and a history of moderate lobbying for issues that matter to them. But most of their previously lobbied issues haven’t been as potentially disruptive to their business as a barrage of patent-infringement lawsuits.
Google is also run by geeks, and geeks generally find software patents extremely offensive.
The best thing to happen to software-patent-disliking geeks might be for Google to get their ass kicked a bit by patent litigation so they’re motivated to challenge the patent system more seriously than any of us ever could.
On this week’s podcast, we discussed user expectations with Lion, TextMate’s apparent abandonment, knowing when to use Google+ and hitting the notification wall, app pricing, the mechanics of advertising and why iAd seems to be failing, Dan’s hot closet, Mac Pro and MacBook Air rumors, and followup on the tradeoffs in the Apple laptop lineup.
I was optimistic about the iPad 2’s Smart Cover and got the red leather one with my iPad 2 on launch day.
It mostly works as described, but I’ve been disappointed in a few areas.
The leather doesn’t have a high-quality look or feel. In retrospect, I feel like an idiot for paying $69 for this. Part of the lack of perceived quality might be the design: leather’s best visual and tactile qualities are lost if it’s bonded to a hard, flat surface like the Smart Cover’s rigid plates.
I knew going into it that the back of the iPad 2 would be unprotected by the Smart Cover. In practice, I find that I’m overly paranoid about it getting scratched by grit on flat surfaces, such as a grain of sand on a table, so I don’t feel comfortable setting it down on most such surfaces. (And I can’t put it face-down, because then I’d scratch the Smart Cover much more easily and noticeably.) And not having the back covered means that the iPad 2 can’t share a bag pocket with anything else without a risk of being scratched.
I can’t think of many situations in which a Smart Cover provides enough protection to be worth carrying and using for people who care about the aesthetic condition of their iPad. I thought I’d be able to ignore my gadget-preservation instincts in this regard, since it’s “only the back”, but I can’t. (There are other reasons to use it, like the prop-up features, but general protection isn’t one.)
The bigger issue, though, is the practicality of actually using the iPad with the Smart Cover.
The auto-unlock is nice, and I love the minimal bulk, but it seems like it wasn’t designed to stay attached while you’re holding the iPad, because there’s no great way to hold it.
Lex Friedman’s Macworld review was on point here:
But my chief complaints with the Smart Cover relate to elements of its use that Apple doesn’t cover in the promotional video at all. My biggest grievance is that there’s just no perfect way to fold back the Smart Cover when you actually want to use your iPad in hand. The video shows iPads waking up, going to sleep, and being used on a tabletop. What about when I want to hold the dang thing?
I can’t find a comfortable way to hold and use the iPad with the Smart Cover attached. It flops and slides around far too much.
Maybe Apple intended for us to detach it from the iPad while we’re using it, since the magnets make it so easy, and re-attach it when we’re done. But that’s a bit tedious.
If that’s the intention, though, it’s subtly genius: holding the iPad 2 “naked”, without a case at all, is great. You truly appreciate the lightweight, thin form factor, and it’s less fatiguing to hold for long periods (such as when reading in bed). So it’s plausible that Apple wants to encourage naked use.
Once I decided that folio-style cases were too bulky for my taste and the Smart Cover didn’t provide the right kind of protection, I bought WaterField Designs’ iPad Smart Case (in the “pine” color).1
It’s a very nicely made, semi-rigid slipcase. The rigidity makes it easy to slide the iPad in (since you don’t need to hold it open or stretch it out, like a floppy case), and it fits very snugly and securely. The snug fit makes the soft inner felt surfaces clean the iPad’s glass exceptionally (and uniformly): much better than the Smart Cover’s leftover lines.
The iPad needs to be removed to be used, you need to put the Smart Case somewhere during use, and it doesn’t auto-unlock. But it’s a far better solution than the Smart Cover for me, and I can put it in a shared bag pocket, rest it on any surface, or even carry it by itself comfortably.
It cost $10 less than the leather Smart Cover and feels like a much higher quality item. And WaterField is a well-respected company with excellent customer service. Recommended.
Since getting the WaterField iPad Smart Case, I haven’t used my Smart Cover at all, except to give it another chance for this review. (Nope, still don’t like it.) It’ll go back to collecting dust in a nice red triangle on the back of my desk.
The Smart Case’s name isn’t a cheap attempt to capitalize on Apple’s Smart Cover name. WaterField has been selling the Smart Case under that name since the original iPad’s release. ↩
I don’t know how Twitter handles spam internally. They’re probably devoting a lot of time to fighting it.
But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to observe so much repetition in the still-visible spam techniques and conclude that Twitter is being extremely conservative about deploying automated heuristics, relying heavily on the “Report Spam” feature instead.
Spam-fighting is always a tricky balance: if it’s too aggressive and automated, it’ll prevent some legitimate messages from reaching their recipients. But if it’s too conservative or manually triggered by user reports, a lot of spam will get through.
The operators of spammable services need to decide where their priorities are on that spectrum: severely annoy a small number of your users by not delivering some legitimate messages, or moderately annoy a large number of your users by showing them too much spam.
Twitter seems to have chosen the latter. At this point, given their resources, it’s almost certainly a philosophical choice — e.g. “every message must be delivered” — and not because of a lack of spam-fighting abilities.
There are three big problems with this approach:
Fundamentally, I believe Twitter’s priorities here are wrong. Twitter needs a far more aggressive, automated, proactive, heuristic-based anti-spam system. And if someone has trouble legitimately tweeting a link with no text to 100 people in a row who don’t follow them at precise 1-minute intervals, that’s just the price we’ll have to pay.
In the meantime, I’m never using the “Report Spam” feature again, because it just seems like I’m wasting my time.
Shawn Blanc on the difficulties that magazine publishers have had bringing good reading experiences to the iPad:
Instead of trying to find that spot between print and iOS, they should leave the historical traditions of print design altogether. Instead of leaning on the perceived value of a physical printed periodical they should look to the iPad’s new value of delight, ubiquity, and instantaneous digital access. Moreover, they need to find better ways to bring their articles to their iPad readership. Magazines need to cater their layout design and interaction design to the iPad rather than attempting to fit the iPad around their previous print-tested designs.
I’m a bit biased to post this because of Shawn’s expressed preference for Instapaper, but it’s a great look at the balance of value, branding, and production costs that traditional publishers are facing.
Lukas Mathis on iOS’ increasingly modal, confusing behavior when the Home button is tapped:
If I launch an app from the fifth home screen, is it highly likely that the next app I want to launch is also on that home screen? If I launch an app from inside a folder, is it highly likely that the next app I want to launch is also inside that folder? Probably not. So why not just send me to the first home screen when I hit home? That way, I always know where I end up when I hit «home».
I’m with Lukas. I think a single tap of the Home button should always bring people to the same place: the first home screen, with no folders open.
And if you’re already there, it should leave you there (i.e. do nothing), not toggle the Spotlight search screen.
Tomorrow, Mac OS X Lion will be released. And therefore, tomorrow, John Siracusa’s massive Lion review will likely be published on Ars Technica. Since it’s a long web article, a lot of people are going to save it for reading later with Instapaper.
It’s going to be split into a lot of pages. His previous Snow Leopard review was 23 pages.
Nearly all of Instapaper’s competitors, even including Safari’s built-in Reader feature, offer automatic multi-page fetching and stitching into one long page. To date, I’ve intentionally not offered this feature on Instapaper. I’ll seek out publicly available “single page” links and automatically fetch those instead, but I don’t create a single-page view that doesn’t otherwise exist publicly on a publisher’s site.
I’ve been torn about this for a while, since I’m losing business to competitors because of it. It’s a risky move for me to even talk about it like this. But I feel like multi-page stitching is a tricky line to cross, and for the time being, I don’t feel comfortable crossing it.
Ars Technica sells Premier memberships for $5 per month that include single-page views of articles (among other benefits).
I signed up for a Premier subscription and tested saving the single-page version of the Snow Leopard review with the Instapaper bookmarklet, and it worked great. And if anything unforeseen prevents the single-page Lion review from saving properly, I’ll do my best to tweak it and fix the problem as quickly as possible.
I respect Ars Technica’s choice to keep single-page versions of long articles as a subscriber-only feature. If you want to save John Siracusa’s huge Lion review to Instapaper as one long page tomorrow, please support their business and buy an Ars Premier subscription.
John Siracusa’s epic Lion review, finally available. My favorite line:
Imagine taking a dish out of the dishwasher and then having it start flopping around like like a fish in your hand.
(I was more excited about John’s review than the actual release of Lion, since I’m in the middle of a big project and therefore don’t plan to install Lion on my main computer for at least a few weeks.)
You really should be listening to Horace Dediu’s biweekly1 podcast with Dan Benjamin.
In this episode from a few weeks ago, Horace explains in the most sensible, informed way I’ve heard yet why Apple can’t easily spend a meaningful chunk of its giant pile of cash.
He’s not just a blogger talking out of his ass like most of us (myself included). He actually knows about this stuff.
It’s especially relevant now, since the “Apple needs to get rid of some of this cash” calls have resumed in full force after this week’s quarterly earnings release.
By convention, “biweekly” should mean “every two weeks”. Unfortunately, the bi- suffix has been misunderstood so frequently to mean “twice per” instead of “every two” that “biweekly” now uselessly means “every two weeks” or “twice per week”.
The semi- prefix properly, and only, means “twice per”. Therefore, the correct word for “twice per week” is “semiweekly”. But since misunderstandings of this have ruined bi-, there’s now no English word2 that unambiguously means “every two weeks”.
I’m using “biweekly” to properly mean “every two weeks” in protest of this widespread definition-shifting vocabularly ignorance. ↩
Except “fortnightly”, which is ridiculous. ↩
On the podcast this week: Lion’s release, the possibly painful transition period of apps supporting Lion’s new features, Lion’s sandboxing and security, my AeroPress procedure, and yesterday’s updates to the MacBook, Cinema Display, and Mac Mini.
There’s a lot I want to say about the new releases that I haven’t had time to write about, so here’s a bunch of it crammed into one 79-minute podcast episode.
I started looking at the out-of-box experience of buying a Windows PC with a new contempt. The crapware. The stickers. The anti-virus software problem where the cure is worse than the disease. The flimsy hardware. It’s not so much that I despised Windows PCs, but that it felt like Microsoft and the PC makers despised them, like they all have no respect for their own platform.
By Mike Elgan.
(via Dan Rutter)
[Monopoly] takes ages to play, suffering long action-free periods in which the players endlessly circle the board in search of the streets they need to complete a set, and lacks the interaction between players that we look for in a game. In short, it’s boring and lacks skill.
Except that it isn’t crap. Actually. You just have to play it the way it was designed to be played.
This is mostly about the property-auction rule, which I can confirm that nobody ever knows about. (They also never know about getting double rent for properties that are part of a monopoly but have no houses yet, even though it’s written on the property cards, but that’s minor.) To clarify some other often-misundestood points:
Common house rules, like getting money for landing on Free Parking, make the game significantly worse. People have added them over time to make the game more “fun”, I guess, but almost all of them artificially inject more money into the game and therefore make it take much longer — and then the same people complain that it takes forever.
But the rules aren’t perfect. Most tournaments and serious players add two very important rules that make the game far less corruptible:
And one of my house rules, if you’re so inclined:
I may have just revealed how much of a Monopoly nerd I was as a teenager.
David Smith’s interesting breakdown of, effectively, cost per GeekBench point in the current Mac lineup. (Via Shawn Blanc.)
Remember the usual disclaimers that GeekBench is a synthetic benchmark, and just one benchmark, and it doesn’t reflect overall real-world performance or applicability to your needs. This also does not keep other important performance factors constant, like RAM quantity and the presence of an SSD.
A few notes:
Making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.
— Paul Krugman
Jacqui Cheng reports:
AT&T’s throttling plan will mirror that of Verizon’s, which was implemented in February just before the introduction of the Verizon iPhone. Under that system, Verizon reduces the data throughput speeds for the five percent of customers who “use an extraordinary amount of data.” The throttling typically lasts through the remainder of the current billing cycle and returns to normal at the beginning of the next one, though under some circumstances, it’s possible for the reduced speeds to spill over into the next billing cycle as well.
Or see AT&T’s bullshit version if you speak PR.1
This is generating a lot of nerd rage that can be summarized as “AT&T sucks! I’ve held onto my unlimited data plan since the [insert old iPhone model] and ‘unlimited’ should mean ‘unlimited’! Greedy corporate bastards!”
But “unlimited” is never literally true, especially in the tech industry. It was certainly stupid of AT&T to ever advertise it as such, but nobody should be surprised that the iPhone’s explosive popularity, and the data-heavy smartphone-usage revolution it delivered to the industry over the last four years, far exceeded the data capacity that AT&T thought they’d need to deliver.
“Unlimited” really means unmetered for now, or without a publicly stated limit. Discontinuing the issuance of new “unlimited” plans was the first step of acknowledging that they couldn’t deliver truly unlimited data to everyone, and this is the next.
It’s not a great situation to be in, but they probably don’t have much choice. Next time your contract is up, if this really bothers you, switch to a carrier that offers truly unlimited data… if you can find one.
The only interesting part is the political jab at the end:
But even as we pursue this additional measure, it will not solve our spectrum shortage and network capacity issues. Nothing short of completing the T-Mobile merger will provide additional spectrum capacity to address these near term challenges.
In this week’s podcast: version numbers as marketing, Twitter’s sponsored tweets, the incredibly exciting world of home networking speeds, the baggage of browser chrome in web apps, needing to be more “fair” toward Google, and meaningless corporate entities that receive public anger and bad press at no cost to their real backers.
And therein lies the real problem of web 2.0 — whether it takes the form of SEO-driven “news” or crowd-sourced accommodation. To make money — real money — at this game you have to attract millions, or tens of millions, of users. And when you’re dealing with those kinds of numbers, it’s literally impossible not to treat your users as pieces of data. It’s ironic, but depressingly unsurprising, that web 2.0 is using faux socialization and democratization to create a world where everyone is reduced to a number on a spreadsheet.
You know it must be good if I link to a TechCrunch story by an author whose name doesn’t end in “Siegler”.