Menu

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Repost: Phil Schiller on Twitter

Favicons on tabs in browsers

John Gruber:

With many tabs open, there’s really nothing subjective about it: Chrome’s tabs are more usable because they show favicons.

Like John, I’m currently a Safari user. I switched to Chrome for a bit due to the Developer tools being a bit better at the time but, as you may know, I’m trying to go all in on Apple. Safari is just better all around when on the Mac, iPhone, or iPad*.

I totally agree, though, with everything John says in his piece. Go read the entire thing.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned in his piece though is Safari’s “Show all tabs” view. If you have a ton of tabs open it can be very useful to use the Show all tabs button to view them all and find the one you’re looking for. This feature alone will not pull Chrome users over to Safari but at least it is something.

* Currently iCloud tabs are not working at all for me on the Mac. But I’m guessing that may be due to me using the iOS 11 betas on both iPhone and iPad and I am not using a beta of macOS High Sierra.

Tim Cook on ARKit

Tim Cook, in a recent quarterly earnings call for Apple, on ARKit:

One of the most exciting and most promising announcements from WWDC was ARKit, a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps. It’s still early in the beta period, but it’s clear that ARKit has captured the imagination of our developer community. We think ARKit will help the most creative minds in the industry tap into the latest computer vision technologies to build engaging content. We believe AR has broad mainstream applicability, across education, entertainment, interactive gaming, enterprise, and categories we probably haven’t even thought of. With hundreds of millions of people actively using iPhone and iPad today, iOS will become the world’s biggest augmented reality platform as soon as iOS 11 ships.

And, later:

I could not be more excited about AR, and what we’re seeing with ARKit in the early goings. To answer your question about what category it starts in, just take a look at what’s already on the web in terms of what people are doing — and it’s all over the place. From entertainment to gaming, I’ve seen what I would call more small business solutions, I’ve seen consumer solutions, I’ve seen enterprise solutions. I think AR is big and profound. This is one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it. I think that customers are going to see it in a variety of ways. Enterprise takes a little longer sometimes to get going, but I can tell you there’s a lot of excitement already in there. I think we’ll start to see some applications there as well. It feels great to get this thing going at a level that can sort of get all the developers behind it. I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I feel the same way. ARKit is a foundational technology and the applications of it are going to be far reaching. And, no, my app isn’t based on ARKit.

See also.

Less apps is more

Tim Nahumck:

I always try to reduce the number of apps that I use at any given time and cutting the reliance on multiple services when and where possible.

This sounds a lot like my repeated attempts to consolidate around Apple’s default applications.

I like Tim’s use of Slack as a personal center of information. I have Slack open all day as well and pushing just about everything into that would eliminate the need to have other apps open. I may look into this.

/via Colin Walker.

I can work on anything I want

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on your own project is that there is so much to do. That may seem strange, why would I want to have so much to do? But if you look at it a different way it becomes a much more enjoyable experience.

Whenever I sit down to work on my pet project, a new iOS app, I can choose what I’m in the mood to work on. Perhaps I’m in the mood to work on the branding, editorial, licensing, or marketing? Or, would I prefer to hunker down into some Swift programming and refine the datastore, algorithms, animations, speed, etc of the app? Or perhaps I’d like to identify key strategic partners for my product launch or look through beta user feedback or do some artwork?

You see the point? Yes, there is a lot to do. And it can seem overwhelming if you allow it to be. But, no matter what type of mood I’m in I can make some progress on the project nearly every single day. And I’m having a ball so far.

Observations on using the iOS 11 Public Beta

The iOS 11 Public Beta is the first beta OS I’ve installed from Apple. I did so in part because I want to help improve the OS by providing feedback and analytic data, but also because I wanted to test my aforementioned app that I’m building, and lastly I’ve wanted driving mode since very early iOS days.

I waited until the second developer beta (which was the first public beta I believe) was released before I updated my iPad. And I waited until the next developer release (or, second public beta release) before I updated my iPhone. I waited in hopes that there would be a great enough improvement in these builds that I didn’t have to worry too much about my iPad or iPhone not working at all.

I thought I’d jot down some observations during my use:

  • So far the “biggest” problem I had was charging my iPad. During the first public beta the only way I was able to charge my iPad was by first plugging the lightning cable into the iPad first and then plugging that cable into a power outlet. Weird, I know. But the next public beta has seemingly fixed that.
  • While there are minor UI niggles that could be easily pointed out, I’m going to refrain since they seem to be cleaning up the loose ends very quickly. This last public beta build fixed a slew of issues.
  • Driving mode is beginning to work very, very well. I’ve had trouble starting a song via Siri via Apple Music after a podcast episode in Overcast is finished playing – but perhaps that will get fixed in an upcoming release. Overall, this feature is going to be a lifesaver.
  • The style and controls aesthetic are much better in my opinion. Previous releases of iOS attempted to be too “elegant” (unsure if this is the term I’m looking for) by being overly thin and translucent. This latest release of iOS brings some sanity to the UI. Also, as I get older I’m beginning to appreciate the larger text sizes throughout.
  • The new App Store should prove to be a huge improvement over the previous versions. It remains to be seen whether or not Apple’s team will keep up with the editorial (since they’ve yet to update any content in there) but I’m hoping they’ll do this part great when the time comes.
  • Though I use iCloud Drive, Dropbox, and other file sharing platforms I’ve not put the Files app to the test just yet. Perhaps I don’t see the need for it as much as others will. I’ll report back after I’ve used it more.
  • The Notes app is incredibly good at this point. I switched to it from Simplenote and I’m loving it.
  • iOS 11 shines on the iPad.
  • The new keyboard on the iPad is particularly cool. You essentially pull down slightly on a key as you type if you’d like the letter you’d usually get by holding down the shift key modifier. Great idea.
  • Oddly enough, the new multitasking capabilities on iPad don’t work as well yet for me as the old way. I’m sure I’ll figure it out and get used to it but the “dock” and dragging icons out of it, etc. does not work for me very well. It could also be that apps haven’t yet been released with support for that feature.
  • iOS 11 has “broken” a ton of my apps. Not beyond usability but I’m guessing that developers are scrambling to get new iOS 11 builds ready. Some of the oddities could be very difficult to fix.
  • coreML and ARKit are incredibly cool.

While I don’t yet recommend updating to iOS 11 Public Beta for most people – if you’re willing to deal with a few hiccups the driving mode feature may save your life. I can’t imagine going another day with out it. Apple can not get this version of iOS out soon enough in my opinion.

Apple Machine Learning Journal

Apple:

Welcome to the Apple Machine Learning Journal. Here, you can read posts written by Apple engineers about their work using machine learning technologies to help build innovative products for millions of people around the world.

The first post Improving the Realism of Synthetic Images is already live.

Observations on building my first iOS app in Swift

In early June I decided I wanted to learn iOS app development using Swift.

I’ve made a lot of progress over the last month, building two apps that I can use on my own phone, and one app that I’m now in beta testing via TestFlight with a few friends. Over the last month I’ve made some observations on the process of building an iOS app, the Swift programming language, Xcode, iOS frameworks, and the various other bits needed to make an app. I thought I’d take the time to jot those down.

These are in no particular order:

  • Swift is growing on me rather quickly. The idea behind Swift has always interested me, but I hadn’t really given it a try until now. Like any new language you need to work with it for a time before some of the things that you may not like about it, you end up seeing the wisdom in.
  • I’m very glad I waited until Swift 3 before trying it in earnest. The tutorials I’ve come across for earlier versions make it clear the language has matured in a short period of time.
  • Using Storyboards in Xcode is not intuitive whatsoever. I know many people avoid them altogether (from what I’ve seen on YouTube). Unless you watch someone build a Storyboard you’d likely never, ever just figure it out.
  • iOS frameworks are bulky. It is no wonder so many apps are so big. Just including one or two frameworks for my very simple first app ballooned the app to over 15Mb.
  • That being said, iOS frameworks are very useful. With just a few lines of code you can get something working quickly.
  • Playgrounds are very useful to learn Swift.
  • The Playgrounds compiler can become stuck rather easily. Especially if you paste in a bunch of code from your project to mess around with and get it to work. I’ve had to restart Xcode several times.
  • Xcode has crashed on me a few times over the last month. Crashes on macOS (and also most Apple apps) are very rare. So to be working on something so fragile seems out-of-character. Especially with how simple my apps are currently.
  • Auto Layout baffles me still. I have a working UI for one of my apps that works across multiple device screen sizes. But it is far from what I’d want to ship with. I’ve watched a lot of videos on how to use Auto Layout but I still can’t make heads or tails of it. I’m waiting for the moment it clicks.
  • The connection between labels and buttons and other UI elements in your Storyboard and your Controller class is far too fragile. You should be able to rename things, delete things, move them around without completely blowing everything up and starting over. Example: If I CNTRL+Drag a label onto my Controller and create an Reference Outlet for it… I should be able to rename that Outlet without needing to CNTRL+Drag again. I don’t know how, but somehow.
  • Did I mention that Auto Layout baffles me still?
  • Building and deploying an app to iTunes Connect in order to add to the App Store or Test Flight is an entirely un-Apple-like experience. There is no Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 type of workflow. Similar to Storyboards it is not something you can figure out – you must watch or read to learn. It feels like it was never designed by a Product person.
  • Building an app that resides on a device like the iPhone is an amazing experience. While I’ve always been able to load my web apps on a phone, and I’ve built some apps that use a WebView to deploy across multiple platforms, this is the first time I feel like I’m touching my app when I use it. There is nothing that comes close to native UI.
  • Also, building an app that requires no connection to the web has been really fun. It is so fast! I’d like to move forward by trying my best to keep HTTP request at zero or as low as possible.
  • The amount of information an iOS device knows at any given time is pretty amazing. It can know (with the user’s permission) where it is, what altitude it is at, which way it is pointing, how many times the person’s heartbeat that day, what it is looking at, etc. etc. Amazing to play with these features.
  • The Xcode IDE is really incredible to use. You may not remember a framework’s properties but you can just begin typing a reasonable word and expect that Xcode will figure out what you’re trying to accomplish. Also, if you happen to write older syntax because you’re following an out-of-date tutorial, it will automatically convert it to the most recent syntax.

Overall I’ve had a positive experience learning to build an iOS app on my own. Going from having an app in TestFlight to shipping an app feels like preparing to cross a desert on foot. But, I’m enjoying my experience so I’m going to trudge forward to do so.

I hope to ask for public beta testers of the app in a few weeks or a month.

Their own technology

Garrett Sloane for AdAge:

Apple News will let top media partners use their own technology to fill the ad space in their content, becoming more of an extension of the publishers’ own websites than the walled-off island it is now, the people said.

At first I thought those that were linking to this have this wrong. But, the way it is written it appears that Apple is going to allow publishers to embed their own ad technology within their content to allow them to sell their ads within content that appears in the Apple News app.

I cannot believe Apple would allow this. This is a leak, of course, so the details are thin. But I can see it only going a few ways.

In one scenario, the leak is wrong (or poorly written) and Apple will allow publishers to use their own technology (meaning Apple’s) to sell ads. So, they can use Apple’s own ad platform to sell the ad inventory found within their own content within the app. This totally makes sense.

In another scenario, the leak is somewhat right in that Apple will allow publishers to use their own technology (meaning the publisher’s) to sell ads but with a ton of restrictions. This wouldn’t be ideal but I’m sure publishers would appreciate having a lot more control. Apple has stated multiple times how they are committed to privacy so they cannot allow the same tracking scripts in use on today’s web within their app. And, I can’t imagine they’d want to rely on outside dependencies – like the myriad of ad platform infrastructures – that could diminish the responsiveness of their app.

In the last scenario, the leak is 100% correct and Apple News will become a cesspool.

Since I use Apple News every single day, multiple times per day, I hope it is the first scenario.

/via Daring Fireball.

WWDC 2017 recap

I wanted to take a few moments to jot down a comparison between my wish list for this year’s WWDC and what was announced. Also, towards the end, some quick thoughts on the surprises that were announced.

Here are my wishes, in order from the previous post, and whether or not we got them.

  • Shared iCloud Photo Libraries. Nope. It doesn’t appear so. I think if they had finished this they would have announced it.
  • iCloud data Family sharing. Yes! And, they gave us 2TB for the price of 1TB. So, a very good update here.
  • An all-new Mac App Store. Kinda? While they didn’t show this off, Phil Schiller did hint at it during John Gruber’s live interview with him and Hair Force One.
  • App Store demos. Nope. While the new iOS App Store looks very nice (and it getting great reviews all over the web) it didn’t include this.
  • App slimming. Not sure. I’ll wait for the public betas of iOS and macOS to determine if they’ve done any work in this area.
  • More Camera app filters. Yes! While the camera app may not have more filters built-in, the Photos app has tons of updates in this area. I’ll take it.
  • Apple Prime. Nope.
  • Rename iCloud Photo Library? Nope. But, not a big deal.
  • Apple Watch Series 3. Nope. Not yet. And the watchOS updates that were featured were lackluster. But, I think they were holding back for the event they’ll have in the fall.
  • Apple Photos improvements. Yes. Tons. I’ll wait until I get my hands on it to do a direct comparison with my wishes.
  • More iOS Extensions. Nope. I didn’t see much in this area mentioned, but I think they made up for it with the drag/drop features.
  • Siri. Nope. Read Manton’s post on this. He wrote what I was thinking.
  • Apple Maps accuracy updates. Nope. Not a single mention about Apple Maps that I saw. So, again, I’ll have to wait and see with the betas.

My last minute wish that I threw in was for driving mode. And that is a huge yes!

If we’re keeping score that’s like 8 nopes, 1 kinda, and 4 yeses. Which doesn’t seem like a good score but somehow I was very impressed with WWDC overall. I think we’re in for a great year of software updates coming from Apple.

Now, onto some of the surprises.

  • HomePod. While not a total surprise HomePod looks interesting. As a piece of hardware I really like it. As a device that allows you to access Siri I’m less excited because of how poor Siri is still. For example: Ask Siri “how far is New York City” compared to “Driving directions to New York City”. How can’t Siri answer the first question if it can answer the second? I refuse to believe that Apple isn’t staying up late nights to bolster Siri’s offering so hopefully we’ll see a massive improvement in Siri within calendar 2017 or 2018.
  • iMac Pro. What an incredible computer! My first Mac was an iMac and I bought Eliza an iMac somewhat recently. I really love all-in-one computers I just prefer to have a notebook myself due to working remotely, at work, in coffee shops, at a client’s, etc. If I were to buy a desktop computer for myself the iMac Pro would be it.
  • Macbook updates. I got my new Macbook Pro with Touchbar somewhat recently. But, these updates aren’t enough to make me regret my upgrade. They look solid though.
  • ARKit. As I’ve already noted, this will be huge.
  • New iPads Pro. The updates to the iPad (both software and hardware) are very, very good. Makes me wish I needed to upgrade.
  • iPad iOS features. Though it appears some of these could come to iPhone (or, perhaps the 10-year anniversary iPhone) – these features are amazing like drag and drop and the dock, etc. Pretty cool.

There are of course many things I haven’t mentioned but ll-in-all a solid week of Apple updates.

One last thing; recently Tim Cook has been quoted as saying that Apple is focused on autonomous driving (which we knew) but that they are focused on it as a category rather than a feature. Apple finds autonomy as an interesting area moreso than simply self-driving. I’m very interested to see how this idea manifests itself in future products.

Back to Apple, again

Each year WWDC week gives us new and updated Apple software that is easier to use and more tightly integrated. As a result, each year I find myself wishing that I used Apple software exclusively instead of using third-party applications.

Forgive me, but I’m about to quote an entire post that I wrote in June 2014 as to the pros and cons of using as much Apple software and services as possible. Stick around, though, because at the end I’ll fill you in on how I’m feeling today and what I’m doing to use more Apple software and services.

There are hundreds of thousands of third-party apps that you can use on your computer, phone, and tablet. Some of them are amazingly good and far better in a number of ways than what ships with these devices by default.

By using third-party apps, however, you sometimes give up a level of seamless integration between all of your apps in how they share data and function across multiple devices.

Using the default apps — whether they’re built by Microsoft, or Apple, or Google — you can end up losing some of the personality, the extra niche features, and the one-on-one support that you get from third-party app developers.

So, there are pros and cons to making the choice between using an app that was built by the makers of the device and or operating system or by choosing to buy a third-party alternative.

Over the last several years I’ve acquired a stockpile of third-party apps on all three of my devices. I’ve been using third-party apps for everything, even the most basic of tasks like email and calendaring and listening to music. While most of these apps are extremely good, and I had no trouble paying for them, I’ve been missing that seamless integration. I’d get into work and I couldn’t pick up where I’ve left off listening to music or a podcast episode in the car. My mail clients on Mac and iPhone don’t know how to work together (in my case, Airmail and Mailbox respectively). And so on.

So I’ve decided to double down on Apple apps and services. I want that seamless integration back. I want my mail box to look the same across all devices, I want to see my podcast subscriptions on my Mac be exactly the same as on my iPhone, and I want all of my photos in one spot, etc.

OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 seems like a huge step forward to making it even easier for third-party apps to work better together across both operating systems and all devices. So perhaps this issue will get easier and easier to manage in the future. But today, I’d like to manage and learn less apps and get more work done.

I started to make the transition back to Apple late last week and over the last few days I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at the progress Apple has made on their apps. It has been like an entirely new experience.

This week Apple announced macOS High Sierra and iOS 11. And, again, it is a big step forward. So I found myself preparing for these updates in the fall by moving away from third-party services and using more Apple products and services.

This week alone I’ve put more data on iCloud (so it was nice to see the storage bump), I’ve moved from Simplenote to Notes, moved back to Safari from Chrome, subscribed to Apple Music’s family plan and ditched Spotify.

When I made this adjustment in 2014 I didn’t do a good job of following up with how it all worked. So I’m making a mark in my calendar to do so two weeks after macOS and iOS ship this fall.

WWDC 2017 wish list

It has been an exciting year for developers so far. Facebook is making the camera a platform, Microsoft is making cloud computation happen with two clicks of a mouse, and Google is doing everything that everyone else is doing plus a billion more things.

WWDC is next week. So what are my wishes? Since I use Apple products far more than Facebook, Microsoft, or Google products, I tend to want more specific things from WWDC.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

  • Shared iCloud Photo Libraries. There are a few ways that Apple could do this. The simplest, in my opinion, is for me to allow access to my iCloud Photo Library to anyone in my iCloud Family Plan. All photos taken from all family members in the same library. Perhaps somehow filtered by device or person. That’s it.
  • iCloud data Family sharing. I buy 1TB for me and 50GB for Eliza. I’d like to purchase 1 set of storage for both of us and be able to share the space allotment. Not only to save the $1 per month but also to combine the accounts.
  • An all-new Mac App Store. The app store app on macOS feels incredibly dated and fragile. It doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as its iOS counterpart. This part of the OS should be rock solid and perform very well. But there are little idiosyncrasies (like how the progress bars look weird when downloading, or how the fonts look…).
  • App Store demos. If Schiller is serious about bolstering the App Stores I think it is time to bring true demos to both App Stores. I don’t have a silver bullet model (7 days, 14 days, 30 days, etc.) but I do believe this is achievable and would be a boon for app developers.
  • App slimming. Apple announced something about this a few WWDCs ago I think. And I believe it is on the developers of the apps to make their apps as small as possible. However, I think Apple can lend a hand to the most popular apps (Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.) and ask that they somehow combine frameworks or resources in order to shrink their apps considerably. Just think, every megabyte Apple can help slim from those apps would be hundreds of terabytes of data usage saved.
  • More Camera app filters. I use the Camera app a lot. Even with the numerous camera apps available (which I’ve likely bought dozens of and installed even more of over the last decade of having an iPhone) I usually gravitate to the camera that I can swipe to from my Lock Screen. Once and a while I’ll use a filter. Either in editing or even in shooting. Its fun. I’d like to see more added. Like, 50 more with me being able to select my top 12 somehow.
  • Apple Prime. Amazon Prime comes with a slew of things; music, movies, photo storage, free shipping, etc. etc. I’d like a one-payment Apple bundle that would give me iCloud space, iCloud Photo Library, Apple Music, Apple TV (or whatever their TV service will be if it ever happens), etc. Some “prime” membership per year that I can be all-in on Apple stuff.
  • Rename iCloud Photo Library? Perhaps it should just be called Apple Photos. If every app simply had an iCloud switch that allowed you to store / sync its data with iCloud we wouldn’t need separate names for things. The apps simply can have an iCloud feature.
  • Apple Watch Series 3. I’ve said since the beginning that the first Apple Watch I’d buy would likely be the Series 3. (Actually, I begged Apple not to make a watch at all. But, since they did, the first one I’d likely buy might be the next version.) My wish list for series 3 would be slimmer (less tall), no phone needed at all for it to function (network-connected with no additional plan), much, much faster, and easier to update/install apps. Essentially, a stand-alone device rather than an iPhone accessory.
  • Apple Photos improvements. Only a few of my wishes from May 2016 have been addressed. I would like to see Apple Photos get substantially better this year. However, Apple seems to improve things much slower than they used to. (Remember the iPad 1 to iPad 2 jump? I wish we saw more of that speed from Apple)
  • More iOS Extensions. Perhaps Apple’s purchase of Workflow won’t bear fruit so quickly, but I’d like a lot more Extensions in iOS. I often find myself limited in what I can do with a file on iOS. I think it should be much more powerful to send files from app-to-app or to a service or run a routine on it, etc. I think we’ll see that in future iOS releases.
  • Siri. I’ve nearly given up on Siri. My WWDC 2016 wish list still has Siri items on it that haven’t been addressed. Still, if Siri was 5% better I’d take it.
  • Apple Maps accuracy updates. Apple Maps has improved a lot since its debut. Its design is far better than it was and its feature set has grown too. But, for me, its accuracy is still terrible. Google Maps gets me to the correct location every single time. I can’t remember when it hasn’t. Apple Maps routinely gives me the wrong location when I ask Siri for directions somewhere. Somewhere around 75% of the time. Three out of four. This is not an exaggeration. So, I do not use it. With each update to iOS I give it another try. Then I go back to Google Maps. I don’t think Apple Maps needs any new design, or any new features, it just needs to be accurate. Side note: I was in Philadelphia with Eliza recently and we relied on Google Maps for all transportation. It was excellent at getting us around via Uber, walking, and driving. It was perfect the entire time.

I’ll stay away from any hardware wishes as I don’t have any needs currently. I’m all set on the hardware front. Our iPhones, iPads, MacBook Pro, and iMac are all just fine the way they currently are. And, I don’t need an Apple Home (if they release one) because I have enough terrible Siri devices laying around the house.

iOS 11 and iPad wishes from Mac Stories

Federico Viticci:

We haven’t seen something truly new, bold, and transformational happen on the iPad platform in nearly two years. It’s time for Apple to step up their game and continue pursuing the vision for the future of computing set forth in 2015. There’s so much more work to be done with iOS, multitasking, and the redefinition of computing for the multitouch era. The iPad Pro can be a computer for everything, but it needs another leap forward to become the computer for everyone. And that can’t happen without a serious reconsideration of its software.

I’ll be publishing my wishlist for WWDC before the June event and it will, undoubtedly, include some updates to iOS and the iPad. However, do take a moment to review the hard work Mac Stories has put into conceptualizing how they would enhance both iOS and the iPad. Cool video.

Google Assistant for iOS is a clunky mess

Karissa Bell for Mashable:

For starters, Assistant’s iOS app is a confusing, disjointed, mess. You’d think the Assistant would be able to easily link up with all your other Google services, but that wasn’t the case in my initial testing.

It isn’t often that I agree with an article on Mashable. However, in this case I very much agree.

Using Assistant for iOS for a bit yesterday I found myself scratching my head thinking “but, I thought I could do this, or that, or that?”. In reality, the Assistant on iOS as it stands is Google’s search with voice input on top of it. Just like Siri. Which is equally frustrating to use.

One quick note here: Google does not have the access to iOS APIs that Apple does. For this reason Assistant is neutered from the jump. However, Google does a bad job explaining that and so user expectation is pretty high when I first installed the app. Assistant on iOS will likely never be as good as the Android or Home Assistant and that should be clear.

One other quick note: I think the entire tech industry began using the term “AI” a decade too soon. “Bot” is ok. A bot can respond to a set of commands and only those commands. That feels much more accurate when describing Google’s Assistant. But calling features like Cortana, Siri, Assistant, Bixby (or whatever Samsung’s assistant is) is a huge, huge stretch of the term AI in their current states. And likely will be for a number of years to come.

The new MacBook Pro with Touchbar

Sarah Parmenter:

By the time 2016 rolled around, I was overdue an upgrade and I thought the new MacBook Pro’s were enough of an upgrade to warrant a new purchase. After all, it had been 4 years. A lifetime in hardware you use every day.

I was in the exact same boat as Sarah. I had been using a mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display every day for 4 years. (There was about a month where I tried a Surface Book with Performance Base and Windows 10 that I still have yet to write up. Short version: Apple should be very worried about losing their creative and developer community though it does not seem like they are.) Unlike Sarah I loved my computer up until the day I swapped it out for this new computer. It was easily the best laptop I had ever owned from Apple. I simply needed to upgrade for hard drive space and processor speed.

This new MacBook Pro with Touchbar is an OK machine. I would echo many of her thoughts. I’d also add:

  • USB-C seems both frustrating and clearly the future. This time in the middle is annoying but I’ll wait 12 more months before I complain.
  • The Touchbar is very cool in my experience so far but I almost never use the laptop keyboard for long periods.
  • Battery life for me is a non-issue. I’m connected to power most of the time and when I travel I don’t bring my laptop anymore. My phone suffices.
  • Having the extra hard drive space is crucial for me at this point. In fact, if Apple would make a 13″ laptop with multiple terabytes in it I’d buy it.

Reading this you’ll likely think I should have just purchased an iMac. And while I could likely get away with an iMac I like having a portable workstation to attend events, take on client meetings occasionally, and take home to work when it is snowing.

I’m happy I upgraded and I likely won’t have to think about a new computer until another 3 or 4 years pass. But, again like Sarah, I’m not incredibly impressed with this machine as I was with the 13″ MBP.

A few asides:

  • Innovation in the laptop market is likely over. The Touchbar is cool but I think the iPad is more the future of mobile computing. As components shrink and the cloud plays a larger part in both processing and storage I believe that true portables will be iPads. Which means that iPads should start docking to displays soon and run macOS. Apple and the community disagree with me on this but clearly Microsoft does not.
  • If Microsoft shipped an AR-based platform wherein I have a phone in my pocket and glasses on my phase (driven by the phone and Windows 10) I’d be the first in line for something like that to replace my laptop. Sounds insane but let me remind you that two people will be orbiting the moon next year and Stephen Hawking will likely be in orbit of the Earth.

 

 

Clips

Apple:

Introducing Clips. A new iOS app for making and sharing fun videos with text, effects, graphics, and more.

I’ve been looking for an app like this for a long time. The Verge describes how I think I’ll use this app.

My best guess is because the default camera app is still something that’s supposed to be super simplistic (and accessible from the lock screen). And I think in some ways, this is a precursor to a consumer AR app, but Apple declined to answer questions around that. Clips seems like it could be the perfect app to use when iMovie is too much and the default camera app is not enough. The question is whether it will be the necessary stop between your phone’s camera and your favorite social network.

I’ve tried to edit a personal “vlog” (that I do not publish publicly) for a long time. And I did it using iMovie. But iMovie is too much for this. What I really want is Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories in their own app. It looks like I’ll kind of sort of get that with Clips.

I don’t know why they didn’t just release it. Apple doesn’t usually announce things before they’re ready (I’m not counting operating system releases which require so much public testing). But I’ll be happy to get my hands on this next month.

iPad sales

Marco Arment posits the idea that, maybe, the iPad isn’t the future of computing based on the fact that sales are down year-over-year again. He writes:

What if, like so much in technology, it’s mostly just additive, rather than largely replacing PCs and Macs, and furthermore had a cooling-fad effect as initial enthusiasm wore off and customers came to this conclusion?

I don’t think this is the case. I do believe the iPad, or something like it, is the future of computing. And I’m personally just as enthusiastic about it as a product as I was when I bought the original iPad. I use my iPad every single day.

As an aside: I think the Surface Book is certainly in the running to be the traditional PC replacement. This category is getting harder to define. What is a tablet? What is a laptop? The Surface Book surely fits into both. And, arguably, Apple’s own Macbook is getting more iPad-like with each release. Less ports, thinner, lighter. Laptops and tablets may become indistinguishable at some point.

Why the sales decrease? I agree with John Gruber:

The peak years (2013 and 2014) were inflated because it was an untapped market. Steve Jobs was right, there was room for a new device in between a phone and a laptop, and the iPad was and remains an excellent product in that space. But people don’t need to keep buying new iPads. I think the replacement cycle is clearly much more like that of laptops than that of phones. This was not obvious to me at the time, but it seems obvious now.

I’ve owned 3 iPads and my wife 2. In the same amount of time we’ve owned 6 iPhones each. iPads simply do not require updating nearly as often as iPhones. We both currently have iPads (iPad Air 2 for me, iPad Pro for her) and we likely won’t be updating for a few more years at least.

I don’t think sales are the right metric to track the success of the iPad but rather marketshare in tablets which, again, is an increasingly tough category to define.

Photos app updated on iCloud

Jesse Hollington at iLounge:

Apple has debuted a major update to its web-based iCloud Photos app at iCloud.com, presenting a new user interface that more closely resembles the macOS Photos app.

Major is a good word to describe this update. You’ll even notice the ‘url’ for the app is now #photos2 on iCloud.com. The app is significantly improved in every single way.

/via The Loop.

People are switching from Macs to Surface

Brian Hall at Microsoft:

More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.

I see tweets every single day from known Mac users that picked up a Surface product. Just last night I saw Sebastian de With, a well-known designer and Mac user, tweet repeatedly about his Surface Studio. He seems to like it.

Apple fans, myself included, cannot ignore this. However, Apple may. As I’ve written, and said, their move away from the pro user seems intentional and may be a very good move for their bottom line.

Removing the pro from Apple

John Gruber regarding Sal Soghoian being axed from Apple:

If they had simply fired him, that’d be one thing, but the fact that they’ve eliminated his position is another. This is shitty news. I find this to be a profoundly worrisome turn of events for the future of the Mac. I hope I’m wrong.

I noted this on Twitter without any comment. But I’m slowly seeing us pros being shown the door at Apple and Sal is just further evidence of this.

When Dan Kimbrough and I were at the Apple Store last week to look at the new MacBook Pro we were speaking to a retail store employee who, after hearing how we use computers said, “Oh, you are a ‘Pro User’“. He said it in such a way that made me think we weren’t welcome. Dan felt it too. He said so immediately as we were walking out the door.

My thinking is this; the consumer market is enormous compared to the pro market. Yes, there is a lot of money in Enterprise but Apple doesn’t consider themselves an Enterprise company. They slowly stopped chasing that dream long ago. Remember the X-Serve? Now, they are also slowly backing away from the pro market as well. Their entire business, for decades, was built on top of those that use Photoshop and Illustrator to do their work. Then, with their switch to a Unix-based OS, they picked up a ton of us that do programming for a living. But now they are removing ports and power in favor of small and thin. And they aren’t updating their beast of a computer either. And, to top of off, they eliminated a position at Apple that was arguably a very important part of why pro people could use macOS.

We keep asking Apple if they are going to leave the Mac behind. And they keep saying no. What we should be asking is if they are going to be leaving the professional users of the Mac behind.

This does not mean I think this is the wrong strategy for Apple. Apple is chasing revenue. They will sell more Macs to “normals” by making them as approachable, thin and light as possible. It just happens to not be the right strategy for me to continue using the Mac. So I’m making the jump to Windows 10. We’ll see if I’ve made the right decision in three years or so.