Apple’s priorities in their eyes

From everything John Gruber has said about Apple, one idea is a particular stickler. I think it’s John’s best punditry — Apple’s priorities in their eyes. In decreasing order, they are: Apple, Apple’s customers, Apple’s developers. Think about that for a while; it’s gold. (I wish I could find the appropriate piece — it was an episode of The Talk Show, if memory serves — to link to.) If you ever need to understand anything about the company or, in some cases, even predict their actions, these priorities are a solid guideline. Apple, with their iPhones, wants to provide its customers with the best possible experience and charge as less as possible without compromising its margins. Similarly, if internal resources need to be allocated towards the betterment of either the customer’s or the developer’s experience, the customer takes the cake. But I see further ingenuity in this hierarchy — each group also feeds off and benefits from the one below it. Developers use Apple’s platform to create an experience that makes a user happy. A happy customer is, generally, a loyal customer — making Apple more money. It works like a perfect system. Is there more of a point I’m trying to make here? I don’t think so. (I tried seeing the hierarchy as a chain but that doesn’t work. Apple’s benefits aren’t passed on to developers unless it’s to enhance the customer experience.) I just think it’s too good an idea to not spread.

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Google’s cases for its Nexus smartphones

Google gave Marques Brownlee an exclusive first-look of its new case program for modern Nexus phones. You select a picture (or upload one), customise it to your liking, see your customisation on a model Nexus through a web-app (you can rotate it around in all its JavaScript goodness) and then have it shipped to you. Here’s the odd part: the program — or the case — is called Google Live Cases. When I saw Marques’ video title in my YouTube feed, I expected the case to somehow be akin to a screensaver, refreshing its rear-graphic at a fixed interval. It isn’t. Unless you’d like to call the process of customising the image on the back of your phone in a web-app ‘Live’, there’s nothing Live about it. I’ve long thought that Google sucks at naming things. This is a +1 to the list of reasons why.

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3/4 employees would pick a Mac if they could

Jonny Evans, Computerworld: Apple is now the platform of choice across the enterprise. […] A few highlights from the report (available here): 75 percent choose Mac over PC, with “ease of use” cited as the top reason for this choice (43 percent) 79 percent choose iOS as their mobile device operating system of choice, with “ease of use” cited as the top reason (41 percent) Further: Some argue that offering employees the choice of which platform to use is unnecessary, insisting workers will do as they are told. This authoritarian position is utterly irrelevant to the needs and expectations of today’s incoming workers (so-called Millennials). A PwC report confirms millennials, “expect the technologies that empower their personal lives to also drive communication and innovation in the workplace.” […] 72 percent of employees getting to choose the devices they want to use are more productive. I agree completely. My job allows me to use my personal MacBook Pro. Id’ have a learning curve if I were made to use, say, a Mac Mini with a mouse. I’m that accustomed to using a trackpad (appart from the tiny customisations I’ve made to suit my needs). I wouldn’t even think about getting a job where Windows was forced upon me as my work machine. Further: “When given a mobile device choice, nearly 80 percent of all age groups select iOS compared to just 18 percent who choose Android,” I’ve long thought that a huge portion of people using Android (or Windows Phone?) are ones who find iPhones too expensive. It’s a question of price — or perceived price — not user-experience.

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TextExpander’s Adjustments

Greg Scown: To some of you it may seem we don’t care about our individual customers any more and only care about business use. We care about both, and in the changing software world a single focus is not a viable long term strategy for TextExpander. We did not make these changes easily or lightly, but for the long term life of the product so we can all enjoy it and engage with it for many years to come. This confirms John Siracusa’s speculation of TextExpander’s decision over the past episode of ATP. TextExpander’s increase in price was a concious decision for Smile to want to sell to the upper segment of their user-base and extract more profit from a reduced number of customers – the ones that consider TextExpander irreplacable. What Smile didn’t expect, is the intensity and scale of the backlash from the other segment of its customers (the one that makes up the majority), not the backlash itself. Evidence: We will apply a lifetime discount of 50% off the Life Hacker pricing to customers of any past version of TextExpander. That amounts to just US $20 per year. In our initial rollout, we offered the discount for the first year only, and that was a mistake. We value our long-term customers, and it’s important for us to demonstrate that in our actions. Thanks for bearing with us as we sorted this out. John Gruber’s take on a certain segment from Smile’s statement: We will continue to sell and support TextExpander 5 for OS X and TextExpander 3 + Custom Keyboard for iOS for those who need it. Some of you can only use Dropbox and/or iCloud at work. Some of you cannot or will not purchase subscription software. You’ve told us that it’s important to serve you in this way, and so we shall. This seems untenable in the long run. How long are they going to keep developing TextExpander 5 in parallel with 6? It’s hard enough to keep one version of an app up to date, let alone two. And TextExpander 5 won’t be generating any revenue. Plus, these sort of system-wide utility apps often need significant work when major new versions of MacOS ship. I have no first-hand experience with the monetisation of apps or pricing models – or TextExpander, for that matter – but it’s worrying to see a lot of developers (including Marco, with Overcast and David Smith with Activity++) trying different payment models to try and sustain their business and almost always meeting with criticism – not the constructive kind – of varying degrees. At which inflection is an indie developer’s payment model labelled ‘sustained’ and what are the platform-vendor’s responsibilities towards that goal?

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Up to 40% thinner Apple Watch 2 could be announced at WWDC

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors: White predicts that the Apple Watch could be refreshed within the next two to three months. He believes that a 20% to 40% thinner Apple Watch 2 could be unveiled by June, possibly at Apple’s annual WWDC, which could take place between June 13-17 based on scheduled availability at Moscone West, the San Francisco convention center where the developer event is typically held. It isn’t hyperbole when I say I control myself everyday from going out and irrationally buying myself an Apple Watch Sport. The obsession of trying one for myself is getting to a point where I aimlessly watch lengthy, low-production-value Watch videos. I call such a purchase ‘irrational’ since I don’t consider buying one, right now, worth my money; even if the ‘Watch 2’ releases during the second half of this year. I assume significant advances in the next Watch iteration.

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The Verge reviews the L.G. G5

Vlad Savov in his review of the L.G. G5, for The Verge, talks about the G5’s ‘Friends’ — extra modules of functionality that bear one of the worst names: To attach either one, you have to pull off the G5’s bottom, extracting the battery in the process, move the battery to the relevant Friend, and then slot that new combo back into the phone. You have to reboot the phone each time you swap an accessory, but that usually takes no more than 15 seconds so it’s not a huge issue. A much bigger worry is the battery itself, which has a pair of hooks that attach it to either the G5’s bottom casing or the incoming Friend; I have sincere doubts that those will survive very long when subjected to a daily routine of swapping parts. And you complain the iPhone setup process is complicated? (I chuckled over The Verge’s decision to throw in Lego blocks with the G5 in the feature image. My previous coverage on the G5: The Lego phone)

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Google Now’s creepy condolences

Dave Mark, The Loop: Reddit post by user Barney13: I was playing around with the ‘OK Google, show me some of my photos from…’ So I tried some places I had recently visited, San Francisco worked perfectly. Then Spain, all good, this is awesome! Then I get emotional. Google made me cry. I went for ‘OK Google, show me some of my photos from Nice, France’. She came back saying this to me: “According to Gmail, firstly let me express my deepest sympathy to you, your mum and the whole family at your loss. Your dad was a fantastic man, as I am sure you already know.” […] It turns out she read out a snippet from an email I received from a family friend soon after my Dad’s death. But the fact that she knew to say it was pretty staggering, it was in the 3rd paragraph of an email sent to me back in December 2010. I find this creepy beyond belief. But also amazing. But creepy. Do I want Siri to know all my personal details, my pet peeves, secrets vented in anger? Let’s get this out of the way: this is an engineering marvel. It really is shocking that humans have come this far. Now for the creepy aspect — I wouldn’t even want a human being to approach me with such condolences, let alone any computer that has all my emails — that too from a company that makes money off of knowing me better. What if I simply don’t want to reminded of the fact that I lost a loved one five years after the tragedy? Pardon the grim narrative. Instead, allow me an analogy: You and a friend speak a second language, Italian, say. You’re at a cafe in England debating the price of a sandwich in front of the person at the counter — an Englishman — who awaits your order. The price isn’t acceptable to you and you don’t want the Englishman to know that. You converse with your friend in Italian, instead of English: ‘Fancy the price for sticking some chicken and cheese between slices of bread?‘. Your friend responds, ‘Exactly, for a sloppy place like this?‘ The Englishman interjects, in Italian — ‘May I suggest the pasta instead?’. That’s what it feels like to me. This isn’t a violation but it sure feels like invasion of an assumed personal space. Sure the informed Google Now user knows their email is being processed to know more about them but would they like it to go this far? (Incidentally, Facebook can predict when you are about to break-up with your partner before you do. But does it choose to show you that information?) Lastly, I want to touch on the ‘human’ element in AI. If I absolutely must have an AI know about my personal life in this manner, I’d rather have Siri or Cortana handle the task. Apple and Microsoft have tried hard to add personality to their AI. This adds more empathy in their condolences than the dry, text-to-speech implementation in Google Now. (Siri and Cortana are human-esque names too). John Gruber’s thought on Google’s April Fool’s day prank is relevant: Exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Google’s company culture — they are institutionally socially inept.

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Google considers Swift to have a broader “upside” than Java

Nate Swanner, The Next Web: Sources tell The Next Web that Google is considering making Swift a “first class” language for Android […] Google’s Android operating system currently supports Java as its first-class language, and sources say Swift is not meant to replace Java, at least initially. While the ongoing litigation with Oracle is likely cause for concern, sources say Google considers Swift to have a broader “upside” than Java. As a budding developer learning Swift, I am happy I was sitting down when I came across this. Even if Google never adopts Swift, it’s a testament to how importantly the industry percieves it.

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iPhone SE availability tightening

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors (via. Gruber): Apple now lists a standard delivery estimate of around [two to three weeks at the time of writing] in the U.S. for the majority of iPhone SE models, while in-store stock is depleted in many major cities. Keep in mind that the components in the SE have been between 6 months to 2 years and 6 months in the making. This could imply the SE has way more demand than Apple predicted.

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Whatsapp enables end-to-end encryption

Whatsapp: From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by default, including group chats. The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation. Whatsapp is very, very popular in India and other emerging markets. I’ve even seen people — professional shopkeepers — delegating their correspondence through Whatsapp as an alternative to phone conversations. At this point, it’s just assumed that every Indian is on Whatsapp. Of course, this is good news. I await the day when ‘we’ve introduced encryption’ isn’t touted as a feature; instead ‘we don’t encrypt yet’ — or the lack of such a statement —  is frowned upon. The devil’s in the details though. As Whatsapp mentions, the person you’re conversing with should be on the latest version of Whatsapp. Seems like a tiny detail but if you’re on a group of 50 people and even one of them hasn’t updated, your messages (and those of the other 49 people) aren’t encrypted. (I, personally, don’t like Whatsapp.)

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Taylor Swift in Apple Music’s latest ad

Apple Music’s latest ad (via. The Loop) has Taylor Swift jogging on a treadmill to Drake’s music on Apple Music. She loves it so much that she’s singing it while jogging and she keeps singing even when catastrophe occurs. Here’s the thing — I don’t like this ad. It’s comical and, somehow, not in a good way — I want to laugh at it not with it. I can’t so much as talk while I’m jogging unless I want to end up by the side of the road panting like a dog on a hot summer’s day. How is Taylor (ironic, by the way) pulling off singing while jogging? Thankfully it’s featured on the Beats 1 YouTube page and not Apple’s; I suppose it would’ve been catching a lot of flak otherwise. Lacking brilliance doesn’t mean lacking popularity and money, though.

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HP’s new logo is exclusive to its ‘premium laptops’

Nick Heer: [HP] just launched a laptop named after a ruthless fictional criminal enterprise [Spectre] and have splashed that redesigned logo all over it. And I think it looks terrific. Unfortunately: HP says it’ll be using this logo solely on its premium laptops. This raises more questions than it answers. What defines a “premium” laptop? Why is HP selling non-premium laptops? Why is this branding not being used across the company? Isn’t it confusing to have multiple, distinct logos for a single brand? As of now the assumption goes that the ‘premium’ moniker is just an arbitrary tag — referenced within the company and probably loosely understood by consumers. But let’s say HP did launch a distinct, high-priced line of laptops that included the ‘premium’ moniker — the HP Premium Spectre 13 Ultrabook. What does including ‘Premium’ in a product — that is distinct from the rest of your line — imply? As Nick said, it could mean that the rest of the line is non-premium. To the human subconscious, ‘non-premium’ could associate negatively in many ways: ‘standard’, ‘un-important’, ‘left-out’ etc. I see including the ‘Premium’ moniker in your product as bad marketing. (The same applies for ‘Special’.) Look at what Apple did with the Apple Watch, instead. Their ‘premium’ line is called Edition. Sure the Edition line is clearly the extravagant model. Its extravagance compared to the rest of the Watch line crushes the Spectre’s extravagance compared to HP’s other laptops. It screams premium. Yet, its existence doesn’t make the rest of the Watch line feel neglected, standard or unimportant. As I see it, this is because the Edition is actually available in limited edition; distinguishing the premium without degrading the standard.

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Apple turns 40

Apple turned 40 this 1st of April. It’s an incredible moment for the company and the people that follow it. Not only is Apple one of the few companies that can boast such an age, its (for the most part) success is unrivalled. In light of this day, people have written some great pieces around the internet. Most notably, Joe Rossignol’s compilation of Apple’s timeline (via. The Loop) and Jean-Louis Gassée’s article — ‘40 Years Later: Apple 3.0‘ (via. Gruber): The list of Jobs’ “mistakes” includes killing the Macintosh clone program by canceling Mac OS licenses; getting rid of floppies and, later, CD/DVD-ROMs (mostly); entering the crowded MP3 player field; introducing iTunes and the micropayment system; the overpriced, underpowered $500 iPhone; the stylus-free iPad (ahem)… We’ve seen the punishment for these mistakes: Apple sells approximately $250B worth of iPhones every year, that’s six phones every second manufactured and delivered to more than 130 countries. But the piece that struct a chord with me on a person level — and the one that leads me to the story of my first Apple product, I guess — is Jason Snell’s My life as an Apple Guy: I first touched an Apple product in the early 1980s […] I got to lay hands on their Apple II+. What I remember most about it was that you could play video games on it that were more sophisticated than anything you’d find on the Atari console I had at home. […] There’s a joke in a 2005 episode of Doctor Who, set in the far future, where a character refers to a giant Wurlitzer Jukebox as an “iPod.” It was funny at the time because the iPod was so ubiquitous it was amusing to think of future generations categorizing all jukeboxes of every kind as “an iPod.” Sure it was a joke in Doctor Who but I actually fell victim to something similar. When I was in 8th grade my parents bought me a Sony-labelled Chinese knockoff ‘iPod’ upon my (or the shopkeeper’s — the detail is hazy) persistence that this is was an ‘iPod’. I just tried Googling it, for reference, and this knockoff is as similar as it gets. You see, back in that day, I had no idea what the internet was or that a company named Apple existed. The word ‘iPod’ just meant ‘MP3 player’. I’d like to give the shopkeeper the benefit of the doubt and say that he truly did believe he was selling me an ‘iPod’. It was a total and utter piece of crap and I hated having it gifted to me. Eventually, we moved to a bigger city and I was aboard the internet bandwagon — those were the days Orkut was still popular — and I eventually learned of the iPod. Every time, thence, whenever me and my parents used to go to an electronics store, I’d take a few moments to salivate over the iPods Shuffle and the Nano. Sometimes I’d even take a detour, just to see the 2nd generation Shuffle — clad in silver and encased in the most gorgeous plastic box I’ve laid my eyes on. I say Shuffle because the Nano was simply too expensive for me to even dream of. In my tenth grade, I finally put together enough money to rush to my nearest store and buy one for myself (my parents were unaware at the time). I was spellbound. It was easily the best gadget I’d seen in my life (this would remain so until my PS 3). It disappeared in my palm, clipped onto my shirt and communicated with me through one LED. And I understood it. Later on, I was gifted the Nano  — the one with a camera and mic — for my birthday. It was unbelievable. It’s still lying in the drawer of my table where I’m typing this on my Macbook. It’s battery life has degraded since, but the 30-pin connecter still holds, and a full charge can still serve me 30-minutes of music. I’ll switch it on someday…

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Thoughts on Creativity, Inc

In its 24th episode, Cortex hosts Myke and Grey decided Creativity, Inc — written by Ed Catmul and Amy Wallace — would be the book they’d discuss in the following episode (titled Creativity, inc). I’ve had my eyes on this book since a while and this was enough of a trigger for me to buy the book (I even listened to the audiobook). My thoughts on this book are summarised easily: a lot of people think of it as pitched at managers. That is true but managers aren’t its sole audience. I believe there’s value to be derived from this book for any person who collaborates with people and manages relationships — personal or professional. Hints of general wisdom are also thrown in the mix. Also, I love the fact that Ed touches upon the subject of Steve Jobs and how ill-represented and misunderstood contemporary (and previous) coverage on the man is. It reminded me a lot of Becoming Steve Jobs — my favourite non-fiction book, one that broadened my horizon. Some of my favourite quotes from Creativity, Inc that capture the essence of the book: If there is more truth in the hallways than in the meeting room, you have a problem. And: It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks, it is the managers job to make it safe to take them. Also: Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up. It means that you trust them when they do screw up. Lastly, Ed talks about Occam’s razor — a problem solving principle: If there are competing explanations for why something occurs the way it does, you should pick the one that relies on the fewest assumptions and is thus the simplest. If you’d like more, listen to Myke and Grey discuss the book on Cortex .

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