Page 2 – The Tech News Debris for the Week of September 26th
The New Apple Echo Chamber

The Echo.

The Echo. Image credit: Amazon

Bloomberg (Mark Gurman) is reporting that, according to people familiar with the matter,

Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant….

Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects.

As Mark Gurman explains it, Apple engineers were surprised at the Amazon Echo and its success. But how would Apple differentiate itself from the Echo? Part of it would be a more advanced microphone and speaker system. Another element would likely be a more advanced version of Siri, one that better understands its users.

The issue for Apple may well be that the Amazon Echo has a clear-cut business model: help customers buy the things they need more easily. Apple, on the other hand has struggled with its leadership in home automation. Customers haven’t yet seen compelling, consistent, secure home automation systems that fit into their current lives and make sense for the whole family.

The spectre of being locked out of the house or being spied on, with or without the developers knowledge, and the technical overhead it takes to develop an automated home is beyond the reach (or desire) of many. Meanwhile, the Amazon Echo just sits there and attends to its simple tasks: music, news, information queries, to do lists, timers and alarms, and help with placing Amazon orders.

By way of contrast, the Bloomberg article cites an extensive (and perhaps depressing) list of services Apple is experimenting with. Could it be that Amazon’s Big Data analysis of its customer habits is more effective than Apple’s engineering research? Just a thought.

And that may be the dilemma for Apple. What do customers really want to do, and how can they do it easily and non-technically? Surging beyond the Echo into new technical arenas, without a Amazon-like product inventory and/or a much more advanced Siri could take Apple down an uncomfortable, intractable technical path. On the other hand, limiting the Apple product to what the Echo can do today would seem like a limited, me-too effort.

And let’s not forget what Google is doing. “A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer.”  It’s a high-stakes endeavor for all.


More Debris

Macs in Chemistry has compiled a list of scientific apps that run under macOS Sierra. Plus there’s a link on that page to previous lists for Yosemite and EL Capitan. This is a nice, focused counterpart to the more broad Roaring Apps, a broad, crowdsourced database of Mac apps compatible with each OS X/macOS release.

The New York Times asks a good question. “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” It’s a good discussion.

Driving while texting.

Back in 2014, I discussed an Apple patent that could block drivers from texting while driving. “Apple Plans to Block Drivers with iPhones From Texting.” At the time, I bet our Bryan Chaffin that Apple would bring this technology to the U.S. in two years.

I lost that bet.

Apparently the technique Apple uses to encrypt iOS backups is less robust than the one used in iOS9? A programming oops? Or a surreptitious attempt to appease the FBI? No one knows. See: “iPhone Hackers Say Apple Weakened Backup Security With iOS 10.” Forbes continues…

This article was updated … to include Apple’s statement that it was planning to address the weakness.

Finally, TechCrunch published a very good article on the federal policy for how “self-driving cars are developed, regulated, and policed in the U.S.” See: “Federal policy for self-driving cars pushes data sharing.” This includes a robust mechanism for access and analysis, by the NHTSA, of data collected from a crash.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

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Oh, it’s an old, old thread. Never mind.


iOS is a jailed limited toy. Mac is a full computer. Intel x86 compatibility is a must. Or else, switch to Windows. A shame for all.


@Old UNIX Guy: Agreed.
@Andrush: True but Apple is about high profit margins which means squeezing standard vendors ( Intel, TSMC, AMD etc. ) for major price concessions. To secure price concessions, Apple avoids vendors selling items they won’t discount because they aren’t made is mass quantities. Virtually all knowledgeable folks agree it’s technically possible but a lot of factors suggest it won’t happen anytime soon ( read prior posts for some ideas ). Brian


Hey Guys,: Heavy duty hardware vendors are already building devices to put ARM chips into Data Centres:

It’s only a matter of time. How much time? Who knows? Perhaps Apple?

Old UNIX Guy

It doesn’t matter what CPU Apple puts in future Macs if they don’t reverse the downhill slide they’re on with the quality of their software. If it’s not iOS or watchOS they clearly don’t care. Switching to ARM CPUs isn’t going to help that. Dumping Craig Federighi and bringing back Betrand Serlet might (along with letting Jony Ive be the CDO for stores, $10K watches, and $100K cars ONLY)…


If they get an ARM processor to be anywhere close to the performance of a decent Intel processor (i.e. not the processors in Airs or the MacBook Retina), then I might care.

If Apple moves to ARM without getting their ARM processor performance drastically better, it’s not a viable option for me.


How about the Macintosh retain Intel chips (until they are not profitable) and Apple introduces a new line of computers with ARM chips named after a different apple?

Hmmm…I can imagine the commercial:
Hi there, I’m a Granny Smith…and I’m a PC
Or I’m a Honeycrisp…and I’m a PC
I’m a Fuji…and I’m a PC.
I’m a Haralson…and I’m a PC

Not seeing a lot of other Apples that would sound as good.

Hi there, I’m a Braeburn…and I’m a PC


let’s see…. a MacBook with an ARM processor makes it an iPad with a keyboard, which makes its a MS Surface.


John M in #7 wrote:

Virtual Machine hardware in the ARM CPUs and an instruction translator would still allow Mac users to run VMs with Intel-based OSes like Windows and Linux.

The likelihood Apple has written ( if they didn’t start it years ago it won’t be ready anytime soon ) and will embed it in an ARM CPU is very unlikely, both technically and at a business level, IMO and there is certainly no evidence to support such an endeavor. Nice fantasy though.

John C. Welch

Virtual Machine hardware in the ARM CPUs and an instruction translator would still allow Mac users to run VMs with Intel-based OSes like Windows and Linux. From what we’ve seen, modern ARM CPUs have the horsepower to do that.

Well then, you should be able to provide a fine list of real world devices that folks here can buy to test this out for themselves. You know, a nice laptop or desktop.


That being said, Apple could surprise us all with an A12 processor that had … x86 compatibility. I think it would be a mess, but it would be an interesting one.


p.s. I note that Microsoft has dabbled in other architectures such as MIPS, itanium, and ARM, but they never abandoned x86 the way Apple abandoned 68K and PPC.


“Apple is the acknowledged expert in taking millions of customers though a major architecture change.”

Not again! 🙁

As nice as ARM may be, it’s really convenient to be able to run Windows for games and apps that need it.

One great thing about Windows is that customers haven’t had to go through these architectural switches, which are painful. As much as I prefer the Mac, I have to say that Windows definitely has better backward compatibility in terms of both software and hardware.


Those of us that work in corporate jobs that require access to Windows running well (without a crappy Wintel PC) think this is a really, really bad idea.


John M. wrote: I’m thinking about 8 or 16 modified A10s (16 or 32 high performance ARM cores)

Apple doesn’t need to switch to ARM to do this, they can simply add ARM chips in addition to the Intel chips. The software to support different processing units is already in the OS.


Scott B wrote: … the only community that would care are those with heavy computing needs, like the creative community There are lots of folks who purchased a Mac because they can run Windows applications natively ( i.e. without a VM ). They are just normal users and not necessarily the creative community. Apple would potentially lose these customers by switching to ARM. John M. wrote: I’m thinking about 8 or 16 modified A10s (16 or 32 high performance ARM cores) Good point but this would require major software changes( and many developers might be either reluctant or not skilled… Read more »


I think this line of thinking that Apple is eventually going to go ARM over Intel has further credence when one realizes that Intel announced this year they are getting out of the phone and tablet CPU business. Their ATOM line of CPU’s were cut down iCoresomething CPUs originally made for desktops and laptops and these CPU’s were being marketed and sold to device manufacturers from NAS designers to phone and table manufacturers. Particularly with the phone manufacturers Intel literally spent BILLIONS of dollars in rebates and cross-marketing in order to entice phone ODMs to start using Intel ATOM CPUs… Read more »


All the numbered points (save for #1 and #2) made by the author shows a misunderstanding of the subject matter in some cases, assumes a whole lot incorrectly, are wildly speculative or are completely wrong.

Scott B in DC

To the vast majority, nobody cares what the hardware looks like inside the box. Only the geeks care. Most users only care that their computers work, that I can run their software, and that they won’t get any viruses. Other then the kicks the only community that would care are those with heavy computing needs, like the creative community. However, their needs are being satisfied with multicore high performance graphics cards. If most of the graphics and floating point computations are being handed off to these graphics subsystems, and what difference does it make if an ARM chip has flooding… Read more »

Paul Goodwin

Not sure moving to ARM processors in Macs would be any less of a mistake than it was for Apple to move to the PowerPC. In the beginning there were all sorts of charts showing how technically the PPC chip development would far outstrip the Intel ones in speed and functionality. It never happened, and eventually the market was industrial embedded processing and about 1% of the computers sold as the Mac’s market share dwindled because of compatibility issues with the x86 world and limited software choices. There were some great PPC Macs, but eventually it proved to be a… Read more »