Two very interesting things happened this week. First, we heard that Apple may be making its own Siri-powered Echo-like device, to be announced at WWDC. Later in the week, we heard that Amazon will now bring its video app, Prime Video to the Apple TV. Mere coincidence? John, just for fun, imagines a recent, fictional conversation between Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook.
Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]
Apple has watched the iPad sales numbers drift downward since 2013. Apple has smart executives. The only conclusion John can draw is that in 2013 and again 2015 Apple embarked on an aggressive, multi-phase program to breathe new life into the iPad. It’s just taking some engineering time, and so during each quarterly Earnings Report, CEO Tim Cook just has to roll with the punches until it’s done. John makes his case for a big surprise in store.
During Apple’s Q2 2017 Earnings Report, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that demand for the newest MacBook Pro remains strong and that Mac revenue grew by 14 percent year-over-year. On the surface, this seems like something to crow about, but it may be simply all that glitters.
On May 2nd, Microsoft presented its latest product in the Surface family, the Surface Laptop. This is a pure laptop, in the style of Apple’s MacBook line, and has a 13.5-inch display. Notable is the low weight, 2256 x 1504 display, fabric keyboard, four available colors, Windows 10 S and a claimed 14 hour battery life.
Nowadays, it’s a real challenge to find fact-based news and solid analysis about many things, including tech companies like Apple. There are so many voices. Does a lurid article title correlate well to solid research and historical insight? Probably not. Just exactly how does one go about identifying valuable, accurate analysis when it comes to Apple? Those who have learned the ropes know that a specific, experienced author is more important than an article title, and this week, one of those special authors, Daniel Eran Dilger, proves why that’s so. It’s on Page 2 of Particle Debris.
Dave Hamilton is the co-founder, publisher and president of The Mac Observer. He’s also the co-founder of BackBeat Media. And he’s the co-host of the legendary Mac Geek Gab Podcast. Dave’s interest in computers goes back to his high school days and his family’s Apple IIc. As Dave describes it, his talent evolved from “getting into a pickle,” so he had to learn himself how to fix things. At the University of Connecticut, he studied computer engineering, but also discovered his talent and passion for music. “Everything good that’s happened in my life, I can trace back to music,” he said. And that includes The Mac Observer because that’s how he met Bryan Chaffin. Dave The Nerd tells the fascinating story of the creation of this publication with his customary boundless energy.
Recently, Facebook has suffered some difficulties that were caused by its very design. It’s clear now that one of the features of large, complex social services is that they contain within themselves the seeds of tragedy. Worse, thanks to the money at stake, there’s no remedy. Not even a tough one.
In 2008, the venerable cheese grater Mac Pro was designed for Apple customers who needed high end performance and expandability. In 2013, Apple shifted gears and saw the Mac Pro as an iconic desktop system with great performance if one shared the company’s vision for both industrial design and OpenCL. Now, it appears that Apple sees the Mac Pro as a platform that will support its future initiatives. Can Apple hold to that pattern? That abiding faith in high end computation and visualization? A new trademark filing suggests Apple now sees the light.
At first glance, the technically and logically minded person would wonder why Amazon thinks that an AI like Alexa, within the new Echo Look, peering into your bedroom and making clothing recommendations would be a hit product. But then one has to understand the psychology of the product. At that point, all becomes clear.
The iPad was developed, in the Macintosh era of maturity, as a simpler alternaive for content consumption. It nicely eliminated the headaches of PC complexity and security concerns. Today, things are radically different, and the need to be able to create content and generate personal revenue is much more pressing than when the iPad was first conceived nearly a decade ago.
Apple’s design philosophy for consumer Macs has been that of simplicity, indeed minimalism. Approachable and beautiful. But even the 2008-2012 Mac Pro, designed in the Steve Jobs era, understood the needs of technical and creative professionals. Now that Apple has had time to digest what went wrong with the 2013 Mac Pro, it’s time, according to Marco Arment, to change the design thinking from that of “no!” to that of “yes!” Versatility should rule. It’s all on page 2 of Friday’s Particle Debris.
Lauren Goode is both a Senior Editor at The Verge and the co-host of the podcast Too Embarrassed to Ask. Lauren didn’t start out as a technical person. In high school, she was into competitive basketball and volleyball. But the seeds were evident as she became an expert with a camcorder. Her interest in basketball and English led her to Clark University. There, she developed her passion for writing and soon after she was working in media via cable TV. That’s where her passion for video technology flourished. Later, at the WSJ and AllThingsD Walt Mossberg was her mentor. Today, Lauren writes for The Verge, and we discussed her specialties: wearables, smartphones and apps, and laptop technology. Recently, she’s become involved with an interesting new series about cars, “Screen Drive,” that you’ll very much enjoy.
What happens when AI machine learning becomes so sophisticated and inscrutable that humans can no longer understand how an AI came to a decision? AI processes will go far beyond simple structured code that can be debugged and audited. Will we just shrug and accept? John maps out the major issues with advanced AIs.
Here’s the blurb from Mashable: “In 2014, researchers in the UK created the darkest material in the world known as ‘Vantablack.’ Now, they’ve created a spray-on version. Vantablack is so dark that it distorts the shape and form of the objects on which it’s painted.” Absorbing 99.965 percent of visible light, this coating reflects so little, it creates new optical illusions, disguises shapes, and tricks the human eye. You’ve never seen nothing like this. Wile E. Coyote helps with the demonstration.
Recently, we learned that Apple may be seriously considering the use of a Xeon CPU in its so-called “server-grade” iMac planned for later this year. There are good technical reasons why the use of the Xeon has entered the discussion in what has traditionally been considered a consumer iMac—in contrast to the Mac Pro which has had Xeons all along. John explains.
There they are. The five tech giants: Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon. FGAMA. They’re all doing well. But if one had to predict which one won’t be around in 50 years, which one would it be?
John humbly predicts.
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.
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.