Apple Car or Apple Street View?

February 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

An Apple rumor tornado tour through the tech press a couple weeks ago when a camera laden minivan spotted driving around Silicon Valley was determined to be registered in the company’s name. This tornado sucked up all kinds of stupid ideas one of which was the theory that Apple was secretly designing its own electric car to compete with Tesla. The Internet loves to assume that Apple is going to jump into totally unfamiliar product categories and I assumed that the much more tame, if boring, explanation was that Apple is actually trying to collect their own Street View data; it’s one area where their Maps App remains woefully inadequate in comparison to Google’s.

Fast forward two weeks and the Wall Street Journal is claiming that Apple is indeed working on an electric car and when it comes to the Journal and Apple leaks it’s a good idea to listen.

Apple has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. They said the project, code-named “Titan,” has an initial design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of these people said.

Couple this with the news that Apple has hired the former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development, Johann Jungwirth, and these crazy ideas are starting to sound a little less crazy.

(via Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac)

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Leaked: iPhone 6 Sapphire Screen

July 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I was skeptical of the rumors that the new iPhone display would be made of sapphire crystal but this part leak looks pretty authentic. Not only is the clarity amazing but wait until he tries to scratch and bend the paper thin display. Vow!

Here is another impact test where they go a bit further.

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12 Basic Principles of Animation

May 23rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The illusion of life does a lovely job of laying out 12 guiding principles developed by some of the original animators at Disney in the 1930’s.

The illusion of life from cento lodigiani on Vimeo.

There is something about this that reminds me of Apple. These guys took the time to find the subtle details that add an emotional connection to animated material. I watched the video without knowing it was related to disney but seeing the little box obey these rules I was immediately reminded of old school Disney animation. None of the rules are required to make animation, but without them you end up with the Android equivalent; flat, emotionless and ultimately unsatisfying.

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Memories of Steve

May 5th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Don Melton recalls some of his memories of Steve.

I have no plans to watch that new movie about Steve Jobs. As I have no plans to read Walter Isaacson’s biography of him.

It’s not because I think those efforts are somehow not worthy of his memory. It’s just that I have my own recollections of the man. And I’m very jealous in guarding them. I don’t want those few and fleeting memories fractured and confused by other people’s interpretations.

Consider that a fair warning, because I’d like to recount a few of my own stories about Steve here. Not only for you, but for myself. Because maybe in the process I can remember him better.

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Will a fingerprint sensor be Apple’s next hit?

August 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Geppy Parziale, who pioneered an innovated touchless fingerprint recognition technology, has a great post explaining the various types of fingerprint sensors and lays out why we haven’t seen them implemented in widespread use. It’s detailed yet engaging and I recommend checking it out. For the tldr; crowd here is the conclusion.

Unfortunately there is no existing solution to this. Manufacturers can only try to make the fingerprint sensor last longer, but sooner or later that device will stop working properly. This is also why Apple cannot provide a fingerprint sensor for payments. And if they do, they are making a huge mistake, because the surface destruction process explained above introduces the most dangerous problem in fingerprint recognition: false acceptance, when after a while somebody else can be granted access to your device.

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Customer vs. Commodity and your grandmother’s underwear

June 27th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Most of the major internet companies have been releasing statements playing down their involvement in the NSA Prism scandal that broke couple weeks ago. For their part I think these companies would like nothing more than to not be involved with the NSA but since warrants are involved they don’t really have much choice. This has lead to some non-denial denials saying that they have not given the NSA unfettered access to their servers. If the scale of access ranges from zero to complete we are left hoping it was closer to zero but we will probably never know.

The problem, in my opinion, is not how much access these companies gave to the NSA. The problem is the fact that they store the data in the first place. Companies that make their money from advertisers (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, basically any company that provides “free” web services) have no choice because the more personal data they have about their users the more they can charge advertisers. Their users are the commodity and advertisers are the customer. Contrast this with a company who’s users are also their customers and you have a very refreshing statement about the NSA’s spying program.

An excerpt Apple’s commitment to customer privacy:

For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

Apple is not doing this because they are morally superior to the Googles of the world. They are not doing it because of some mealymouthed corporate tagline about not doing “evil”. They are doing it because it’s in the best interest of their customers just as Google is storing massive amounts of personal data in the interest of their customers.

Marco Arment had a great analogy for how he treats a customer’s personal data. He was talking about accessing a user’s contact book from Instapaper and he compared it to his grandmother’s underwear drawer. To paraphrase Marco

Imagine your grandmother is in the hospital and she needs you to get an important document from her house. The only problem is that it’s stored in her underwear drawer. You are, of course, going to do what your grandmother asks but you are going to do it as quickly as possible. Open the drawer remove the document and, if possible, leave the rest of the contents untouched.

He made this comment in the wake of the Path address book controversy but I think it should be an attitude shared by all developers. Apple doesn’t store your iMessages because they don’t want the liability. Google reads your jabber messages so they can get a better sense of who you are and what ads you are more likely to click on. To abuse the analogy they would be happy to catalog your grandmother’s underwear drawer for you. BTW, she might like this special offer from JC Penney’s.

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Apple’s security strategy: make it invisible

June 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

As a security guy Rich Mogull was perplexed by his invite to attend the recent WWDC keynote. With the announcement of Keychain and Activation Lock he understood why he was invited and is impressed by Apple’s approach to tackling real world security problems.

The consistent thread through all these advances is Apple attempting, wherever possible, to use security to improve the user experience and make common security problems simply go away. By focusing so much on design, Apple increases the odds users will adopt these technologies and, so, stay safer.

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All the Apple News (In Brief)

June 11th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A great overview of what happened yesterday at the WWDC keynote. Even though I caught most of the keynote I still found it informative. The author also doesn’t digress into opinion beyond a few NBD (no big deal) comments.

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Why Nobody Can Copy Apple

February 28th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Harace Dediu recently wondered why Apple’s competitors are not moving quickly to mimic the vertical integration that has served them so well over the past decade1. For the first two decades of the PC revolution Microsoft was largely successful because they let OEM’s fight over who could build the cheapest hardware while they collected Windows licensing fees from all of them. Economists call this commoditization and while it steadily drove the price of computers down it doesn’t always produce the best devices. By controlling both the hardware and software Apple has been able to produce products that are more stable and have a higher degree of polish. Clearly it has worked out well for them.

While it would certainly be a big undertaking for Microsoft or Google to take full control of their hardware it’s not a task that requires the company to pivot away from its core focus. In the 80’s IBM had to pivot away from building computers and start focusing on software to save itself from obsolescence. Instead Google and Microsoft can continue to make software while a new division starts to make hardware2. The Nexus and Surface product lines show that these companies are capable of making hardware just not very committed to it.

Charlie Kindel posits that this has more to do with Apple’s focus on the consumer than anything else.

In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.

I feel strongly that this is a key reason Microsoft’s products are often good, but not excellent; the consumer ones and the business ones. This is why Google will never be able to beat Apple at Apple’s game: Google’s customer focus is split between the advertiser and consumer.

  1. Meaning that they not only build the software but they also design and build the hardware that uses their software. []
  2. One could even argue that doing so will make software developers lives a little easier as they will be able to spend less time worrying about the myriad of hardware configurations that plague the Windows & Android ecosystems. []
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Counting stool legs

February 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The always thorough and insightful Horace Dediu argues that iTunes, which includes the App Store, is no longer a “break-even” business and is becoming one of the primary pillars upon which Apple rests; Dediu calls these stool legs.

There are several observations we can make:

  1. iTunes now becomes a steadily and rapidly growing business. Growth over the previous two years averages well over 30% and is consistent across seasons.
  2. The absolute revenue number is substantial: $13.5 billion for 2012 (up from $10.2 billion in 2011).
  3. Assuming a gross margin of 15% to 17% yields contribution of $2 billion in margin in 2012 and $1.6 the year before.
  4. iTunes is now Apple’s fourth largest business, having overtaken the iPod in revenues two years ago
  5. iTunes growth relative to the Mac means that it could become the third largest business during this year.

To put this in competitive perspective:

Indeed, if seen in isolation, iTunes+Accessories combined is a bigger business in terms of revenues than any of the other phone vendors except Samsung

At a recent Goldman Sachs tech conference Tim Cook added more evidence to the pile:

And we’ve built a great ecosystem that is also fueling a developer industry..we’ve now paid out over $8 billion to them.

As Gruber points out if you add in the Apple’s 30% cut the app store take in $11.5 billion in revenue with $3.5 billion in profit for Apple. That’s one health ecosystem.

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