Soon after the first iPhone was launched, it was fairly easy to see that it would, by its design, eventually subsume the iPod. We watched it coming and expected iPod sales to wither. But in the case of the iPad and the Mac, the progression isn’t so clear. In these uncertain times, Apple could do a lot, with marketing and product rollouts, to provide warmer fuzzies about the roadmap (without spilling any secrets). Page one of Particle Debris set up the discussion, and page two cataloged some cases about how Apple’s lack of messaging, via product design, is creating customer angst.
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Jason Snell is one of the best known Apple technical journalists. He’s the Editor-in-Chief of the Apple focused website Six Colors, and he told me the intriguing story about how that name came to be. Previously he was Senior VP and editorial director at IDG, publishers of Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive. Jason always knew he wanted to be a journalist, and he told me the story about, as a kid, standing on his back porch in a rainstorm and pretending to do a live TV weather report. In 1991, he created InterText, one of the first online fiction magazines. Today, Jason writes and podcasts about everything Apple. In our show, Jason shared his thoughts about many of the most timely and pressing topics related to Apple today: the Mac and iPad futures and the Apple TV.
Like the rest of the tech industry, Apple is a company that is in constant change. Sometimes the change is celebrated, and sometimes the change is uncomfortable. In other words, Apple always has its eye on the ball. It just may not be the same ball we’re accustomed to watching.
Recently, Blancco published a report on the performance and health of iPhones and Android smartphones. A key finding was that iPhones are less reliable than Android devices. It created quite a stir, and the report intrigued John, so he asked for a copy of the report and looked into the findings. Here’s what he found.
NASA’s Apollo 11 space capsule “Columbia” took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to lunar orbit and safely back home in July 1969. The fiftieth anniversary of that trip is coming up soon, so the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is going to put the 13,600 pound capsule on display in four major U.S. cities starting late this year and continuing into 2019. This article at NPR has the story, the cities and the dates. (Image credit: Smithsonian.)
We’ve known for some time now that Apple has an interest in Augmented Reality (AR). What is it, and why does the iPhone need it? Is AR just another gadget to keep us in an upgrade frame of mind? Or is it fundamental to the evolution of the device we call an iPhone? It’s all so very logical, as John explains.
Ron Johnson was the Apple VP of retail sales, and sales were booming. Then, in 2011, he took the offer to be the CEO of J.C. Penney. He tried to bring the modern concepts he learned at Apple to JCP, but “people there were entrenched and resist[ed] him.” He was let go in 2013. Now, J.C. Penney is going to close 140 stores. Did Mr. Johnson push JCP too hard, too fast? Can the company ever commit the resources it needs to go toe-to-toe with modern online retailers? Will JCP survive? It’s all in Particle Debris page 2.
David Katzmaier is a CNET Senior Editor and TV reviewer, something he’s been doing for most of his career. He started at a small review website in New York and, later, a friend went to CNET and brought David on board where he’s been since about 2000. David is an expert on TV technology, and so we delved into the Retina effect, generic High Dynamic Range (HDR), Dolby Vision, 10-bit color, TV brightness levels, color gamuts, Hybrid Log Gamma, edge lighting (with light guides) vs. local dimming, the pros and cons of OLED vs. LCD, H.265 compression, 120 Hz refresh sample and hold, 4K streaming standards and the best time of year to buy a new TV. Phew! If you’re into UHD/TV tech, you’ll love this grand tour of today’s state-of the-art.
Siri started out with a female voice exclusively, but now it can be changed to male. Alexa uses only a female voice. Cortana’s voice, for now, is strictly female. Why is that? Is it sexism? Is it for better intelligibility? John looks into the matter.
Recently, John Martellaro took a philosophical tour of the idea that Apple might well want to discontinue some products that we’ve become fond of. The pros and cons. One reader asked what the pros would be to sending the Mac Pro into extinction. John tries to answer that question.
It seems that there is just as much fuss about Apple products that seem to be on the verge of extinction as there is about exciting new products. John looks at the economics and psychology of Apple dropping beloved products like certain Macs, Airport base stations, displays and other devices that we’ve come to depend on. Are we on the verge of a new age of Apple?
There are exciting new technologies coming with 4K/UHD TVs. But the basic problems persist in the connection, operation and content selection amongst all the different kinds of sources and boxes. The TV industry and parochial interests, even Apple’s, haven’t made things better. It’s going to require an independent company, deep thinking and brillant engineering to solve the problem. Caavo may be it.
When returning to the U.S. from travel, border agents may select you for various reasons for a more detailed questioning. Your smartphone may be requested. You may be asked to unlock it for agents to inspect. What are your rights in this case? Two interesting articles at The New York Times and ars technica go into considerable legal detail about what might happen if you refuse to cooperate. The links and more are on page 2 of Friday’s Particle Debris.
Jordan Hubbard, the co-founder of FreeBSD, spent a dozen years at Apple bringing coherence to the UNIX core of Mac OS X. Apple calls it macOS today, but in the early years, there were lots of rough spots integrating the partly FreeBSD core into a viable consumer Mac OS X. Jordan was also instrumental in modernizing Mac OS X with features like MacPorts, Launchd, Grand Central Dispatch and application sandboxing. Today, his work complete at Apple, Jordan is an open source developer. We talked about the early development of Mac OS X derived from NeXT and even the earliest BSD origins. Along the way, we also chatted about Jordan’s childhood memories as an 8-year old being an electronics geek with Radio Shack as his Mecca. If you love macOS, don’t miss this insightful historical tour.
The Amazon Echo family of devices shouldn’t be underestimated. We talk about how it appears to be a device for casual questions, weather, music and shopping. But the underlying technology is going after something much bigger. Moreover, Amazon’s lead over Apple in AI and home automation may be unstoppable. John looks at two articles that provide insight into what Amazon is after in the long run.
The Apple TV has taken a beating lately. The current model is barely state-of-the art. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and Roku have leapt ahead of Apple in 4K/UHD, leaving the Apple TV in 4th place amongst customers. Now we know why, thanks to a Bloomberg report. The question is, can Apple fix the product and make it a winner again?
According to Home Media Magazine, “The free Movie of the Day app on Apple TV gives consumers a 24-hour window to buy some of the most popular movies from the Fox catalog for $4.99 to $9.99 — up to 75% off. Fox reports the app, previously launched for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, boasts a loyal following of close to 90% of monthly users returning and engaging with the app daily.” Upcoming dates and titles: Feb. 15-Deadpool; Feb. 16-Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters; Feb. 17-Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Feb. 18-Epic. Feb 14th launched with Kingsman.
From time to time, we’ve seen scenarios related to how the Mac/macOS and the iPad/iOS might evolve as personal computing platforms. We know about the declining sales of the iPad and Apple’s seeming inattention to the Mac line as whole in 2016. In turn, that has created some discussion about their respective future developments. John catalogs the likely and not-so-likely roadmaps for these products.
At least one TV maker collected and sold your viewing habits. The secure operation of a modern smartphone baffles many. Secret assaults on our systems are cloaked in deception. It’s a full-time job keeping up with the latest invasions of privacy. One way to perpetuate that process is to keep people busy with videos and fully distracted while staying under regulatory radar. Friday’s Particle Debris opens with Vizio’s collection of viewing data and continues with links on page 2 about how ignorant people are of browser tracking.
Dr. Christine C. Moran is an astrophysicist who specializes in computational astrophysics, high performance computing and big data visualization. She’s interested in the gravitational force, which she’s described as the most beautiful and mysterious of all of nature’s fundamental forces. In her undergraduate life, she studied both physics and philosophy, great background for her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Zurich. Along the way, she’s also worked for, notably, SpaceX and the M.I.T. Media Lab. She’s also a Mac user and iOS app developer. We talked about her interest in gravity, computation, and hobbies: flying and martial arts (Kung Fu). Also, in November, 2016, she returned from the South Pole (radio) telescope where she did research on the Cosmic Microwave Background. Come take a cosmic journey with John and Christine as she tells her story.