Companies have to be careful about grand projects that don’t serve as a foundation, change rapidly, and sometimes incur legal difficulties. This week’s Particle Debris looks at how Google Book Search foundered from a lack of commitment and legal troubles, VRML morphed into purer VR, the strained evolution of tvOS, cute robots putting laborers out of work, the rapid evolution of self-driving cars, and how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to keep his company from a slow, painful demise. These are examples of how technical evolution can double back on the very companies that spawn it.
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Jonny Evans is a self-admitted Apple Holic who lives in the UK and writes terrific analysis of Apple for Computerworld. He has a lot to say, and so he also has his own blog called Apple Must. Jonny is one of the most insightful technical journalists to cover Apple. His articles are always compelling and well researched. Amazingly, Jonny started off as road crew for rock & rolls bands. Pretty soon he was organizing and promoting events. The leaflets got more and more sophisticated, and that led him to realize his passion for writing. One day, a writing job opening at Macworld UK appeared, and he landed the gig. In the second segment we covered everything Apple, and Jonny’s informed perspectives really came out. You’ll want to hear what he has to say.
The education market is very price sensitive. Three players are in a pitched battle for the right-priced personal computer: Apple (iOS), Google (Chrome OS + Android), and Microsoft (Windows 10 Cloud). These OSes and their implementation on hardware, plus the right kind of marketing and staying power, could determine which company seizes the hearts and minds of schools and students.
Several things have become clear regarding AIs in our lives. There is little regulation. AIs can be manipulated in clever ways. Small devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo have very indirect business models so that they can be priced for the middle class, but have hidden drawbacks. John wonders where all this will lead with family service robots if Apple doesn’t step in and do it right.
There will be many challenges for Apple as it designs the next generation Mac Pro. It will have to present with Apple’s unique design language, but the form will also have to follow the function as a modular device. For the practical minded user. The low end will have to be affordable, but it will also have to support the very best CPU/GPU/ and bus architecture. Here’s a concept video that pays homage to the (2008-2012) Mac Pro, has a modest desktop footprint, and still looks like it would be big enough to contain kind of power we drool for. Amazingly, it reminds me of HP’s Z2 Mini as well.
This special edition of Particle Debris looks a teenager addiction to the iPhone, what might be in store for the next iMac and Mac Pro, thoughts on the greatest Mac ever made and what Apple may be up to with its next iPads.
Stephanie Stricklen has been a career-long KGW TV Portland, OR News Anchor. She tells the story about how when she was younger, it wasn’t her plan to be in front of a camera. “It just worked out that way.” But the seeds were there. She became the EIC of her high school’s newspaper and decided on print journalism as a career. In college, via internships, she discovered the “adrenalin inducing” experience of TV news. Stephanie has covered the Olympics for KGW, and that took her to Salt Lake City, Greece, Italy, China, Canada and Russia. A tech nerd and Apple fan, she’s also into aviation and has flown with the Navy’s Blue Angels. Today, she works with Digital Trends as a host and still anchors with KGW. Amidst all that? Raising a daughter with her husband.
Back in January, during CES, TMO wrote up a news story about Sony’s new XBR-A1E BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV. At the time, the product was not yet shipping, and we didn’t know what the prices would be. As a recap, Sony has embraced the OLED technology for its new line of 4K/UHD TVs, a market previously held only by LG. Now we know the details from the official press release for the two smaller models. For 55-inch: US$4999.99. For 65-inch: $6499.99. Sony says these TVs will be “available in stores beginning in April 2017.” OLED displays consistently win the picture quality battle against any kind of LCD, and so it’s important and timely for Sony to enter this market. No doubt, prices will be lower for the 2017 holidays.
From time to time, we hear about an organization, enterprise or government, that makes a seemingly bizarre decision. There are many reasons for that, but a notable one in the technology world relates to how humans make decisions. And the classic OODA loop. John explains with examples from Apple.
By now, you’ve read the news. Apple’s Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and John Ternus briefed five technical journalists on plans to develop a new Mac Pro, likely to be delivered in 2018. John Martellaro noted that Apple’s Phil Schiller used a very important word, twice, vital to this new Mac Pro. John’s analysis follows.
Elon Musk isn’t the only CEO who has his eyes on reusable, commercial space vehicles. Recently, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos floated a white paper to NASA management that outlines a plan to send as much as 10,000 pounds of cargo, in a lunar lander, to the moon in a single trip. It’s called Blue Origin. The target would be near the Moon’s south pole, the Shackleton Crater, where there are sections of permanent sunlight that may also harbor ice, key to a permanent human base. It all sounds very Robert Heinlein-esque, these billionaires setting out on new commercial missions. Very cool.
Dr. Steven Lamm is a medical epidemiologist. He studies epidemics, diseases that occur much more frequently than would be expected, their causes and control. Dr. Lamm is the son of a professor, and that caused him to want to make his own unique contribution to society. He started with the idea that chemistry and biophysics would give him all he needed to know about disease at the molecular level. But the micro view didn’t work. So he moved from the microscope to the macroscope as he was getting his M.D. degree. He’s an expert in the mathematical analysis of risk assessment for various agents, like arsenic, in the environment. We had a wide-ranging chat about his research, but don’t miss the part about his fascinating investment in Google Maps back in its infancy.
Ben Rudolph is a Microsoft Chief Creative Architect. That means he’s responsible for consumer, retail marketing. In Ben’s words, “his team … builds the experience that turns shoppers … into fans of Microsoft. That involves everything about how the Microsoft brand shows up to consumers in the retail environment.” That may not have been of interest to Apple fans just a few years ago, but the arrival of CEO Satya Nadella has changed all that. Ben and I chatted about his early career interest in being a physician and the path that led him, instead to Microsoft. Then we got into the Microsoft’s Surface Studio that sent shock waves through the Apple community last year. We also discussed the refreshing new corporate mission of Microsoft under Mr. Nadella. This interview will take Apple fans where they’ve never gone before.
A long time ago in this galaxy, Steve Jobs thought the 7-inch class iPad would be a bad idea. There wouldn’t be enough room to create great apps, he said. The rest of the tablet market jumped in anyway, and Apple just had to follow. Think education. But Mr. Jobs was right. The 7.9-inch experience wasn’t that great for anything but iOS. Phablets arrived. And so, John ponders the demise of Apple’s iPad mini.
More and more, customers will find that as artificial intelligence agents embedded in smartphones, robots and cars start to make decisions for them, freedom and choices will begin to dwindle. For example, car insurance for people who want to drive themselves, instead of letting the car do it, will get a lot more expensive. Perhaps prohibitive. This is just one of the unintended consequences of autonomous cars discussed in Particle Debris. In fact, as AI’s do the thinking for us, so will the companies that make them.
Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, “covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science.” Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.
Artificial Intelligence agents started out as friendly voices that could answer some simple questions. We’re in a new phase now in which AI agents can order goods and control our home. Recently, Google tried to jump to another level when it introduced an ad into a morning briefing. We can see where this is going, and it’s not good.
We write here a lot of about small drones. Amazon wants to deliver packages with drones. Drones have taken breathtaking aerial views of Apple Park. But what happens when one of the larger drones accidentally slams into a human being? Time for the automotive crash-test dummies to step up and tell the story! Well, the instrumentation does. Bloomberg has a great story on “Crashing Drones into Test Dummies for Safety” Watch a drone disintegrate as it strikes a crash-test dummy. It’s a battle of the bots. All for human safety, of course.
Paul Hayes at Sky & Telescope has written a great tip about how to use the iPhone’s accessibility features to turn the iPhone’s entire display a specific color profile. For example, if you need to shade the iPhone’s entire display permanently reddish in order to preserve night-time dark adaption, you can do that. This technique would be particularly handy for amateur astronomers. While some astronomy apps have this feature, this tip applies to the iPhone’s display across the board. The tip is beautifully described, including an explanation of accessibility shortcuts, and also invites exploration for those who have certain kinds of color blindness. Check it out.
John has had his Apple Watch for just under two years and is loving it. He can’t imagine reverting to his old, dumb watch. As Fleetwood Mac said, “Never Going Back Again.” Here’s a list of eight things he can’t live without.