Apple's Next Mac Pro Will Require a Change in Design Philosophy

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2013 Mac Pro.

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.

Technical Evolution Can Leave Companies Behind That Caused it

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Technical Evolution

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.

The Unintended Consequences of Autonomous Cars

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Tesla Model 3

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.

Use the π Symbol on Your iPhone on Pi Day

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Today is Pi Day. While some people might say that Tau is more relevant than Pi, it’s still Pi Day. With that in mind, you may want to wish your friends a happy Pi Day. And while that’s cool, it’s even cooler to wish them a Happy π Day (OK, well, it may or may not be cooler to do this, but it’s definitely geekier!). Unfortunately, we don’t have a π symbol in emoji on iOS. So in order to send that symbol you’ll either have to copy it from the text of this article and paste it in … or you can do what we did in the first place: add the Greek keyboard to your iPhone and type it from there!

The Future of the MacBooks Looks Good. Mac Pro Not So Much

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2016 macbook pro minidisplayport

Lately, whenever a discussion of the Mac’s future comes up, there are two common themes. Apple remains enthusiastic about mobility and MacBooks/Pros. Likely the iMac as well. But concerns about the desktops, specifically the headless Mac Pro and Mac mini, have gone from dire to hopeless. Particle Debris page 2 points to two very good articles that explore the situation with the Mac line in general and also the Mac Pro’s fate in particular.

Lack of Products Means Absence of Product Vision by Apple

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MacBook-iPad side by side

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.

Apple, Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney and the Future

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Ron Johnson

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.

Returning to U.S. With iPhone? What Are Your Rights?

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Border/Customs inspection

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.

Oodles of Money to be Made Confusing the Consumer

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Confused computer user

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.

You Can Never Be Too Thin. Unless You’re a MacBook Pro

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MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

MacBook Pros have been getting thinner and thinner. From an aesthetic, handling, weight and evolutionary standpoint, thinner is better. However, when does an unhealthy obsession with thinness interfere with great engineering? Is a MacBook Pro that’s too thin get in the way of features, performance and adequate ports? Would two extra millimeters of thickness enhance battery life enough to make the pro customer smile with enthusiasm?  When does the obsession stop? John elaborates on page 2 of Particle Debris.

Apple's Tortoise Races Amazon's Hare for Home Automation Dominance

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Home automation

Apple has chosen to take a steady, if slow, approach to home automation focusing on licensing, security, and no high-profile, fixed device like Amazon’s Echo & Dot. As a result, Reuters author Stephen Nellis observes: “Still, it’s not clear whether Apple’s elaborate but slow-to-develop system will have enough advantages to overcome Amazon’s widening lead.” The discussion starts on page 2 of Friday’s Particle Debris.

When Should a Robot just Say "No!"

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I, Robot (the movie)

Should there be occasions when advanced AI’s, especially robots or androids, refuse a command by a human being?  Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (mostly) dictate the rules, assuming the robot has been programmed with that in mind.  However, there are nuances worth further discussion, and they depend some very sophisticated, nuanced thinking (and predictions) by the robot. It’s all on page 2 of Particle Debris.

 

A Broad, Consensus Critique of Apple in 2016

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Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac

At sixcolors, Jason Snell writes: “As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.”  What’s interesting about this report is that these are some of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic writers covering Apple. And the consensus grades, except for the iPhone and Apple Watch, aren’t all that great. Check it out on page 2 of Particle Debris.

Asking the Important Questions About Apple for 2017

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The Apple Crystal Ball

One can per into a crystal ball and try to predict what Apple will do in 2017. Or one can generate a wish list of things personally hoped for. Far better, however, is to ask some very astute questions about Apple going into 2017. Great questions are valuable guides for analysis as we go along. This is just what Neil Cybart has done. The discussion is on page 2 of last week’s Particle Debris.

The Artificial Intelligence Arms Race Is On

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AI concept

It’s easy to fall into the notion that Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents are intended only to speak to us, HAL 9000 style—to inform, analyze and guide via conversation.  But today, AI agents are being used for many behind the scenes activities. For example, cancer research via IBM’s Watson, autonomous cars and better human language translations. As a result of the enormous impact AI can have, in the many forms of human interactions, “Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and the Chinese firm Baidu — have touched off an arms race for A.I.” There’s more discussion on page 2 of Particle Debris.

PSA: iOS 10.2 Sets Live Photo to Always On

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Live Photo active in the iOS 10.2 Camera app

Apple’s iOS 10.2 update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch add new emojis and fix several bugs—and it also forces Live Photos to on by default. If you’d rather not go all Harry Potter with every photo it’s easy to change the Camera app’s behavior. Follow along with TMO’s tip to learn how.