WWDC 2020 Initial Thoughts

The WWDC 2020 “pandemic edition” is now behind us, and it was one of the better ones I’ve seen in quite some time. Apple announced a lot in the 2 hour presentation, with iOS and MacOS getting the bulk of the attention this year. What follows is a quick rundown of my thoughts after watching […]

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Apple, HEY, and the path forward

From the HEY blog (I really hate that name):

So we got down to it, and worked the weekend to get an update on Apple’s desk Monday morning. Our team did a great job implementing the product changes that Schiller asked for, and first thing this morning, right after we shipped 1.0.2 to our customers, we submitted 1.0.3 to the App Store for approval.

Glad to see some compromises are being made. I do hope this is the beginning and not the end, however. This is an opportunity for Apple to alter their rules to make the App Store better for developers and customers.

Apple’s App Store polices are bad, but its interpretation and enforcement is worse

From The Verge:

The real issue is Apple’s power, of which this whole Kafkaesque series of changing rules is a symptom. We all know the score here: Apple needs to protect the 30 percent cut it takes, and if it allows too many apps to circumvent that cut then some sort of dam may break. From Apple’s perspective, it’s not so much the money for its services bottom line but that if everybody used a different payment system, the experience on the iPhone would genuinely be degraded, if not fragmented. (The money doesn’t hurt, though.)

[…]

There’s a cognitive dissonance to calling Apple a monopolist. After all, people are free to buy an Android phone and well over 80 percent of smartphone buyers on the planet do just that. Apple’s marketshare in the US is significantly higher than it is in the rest of the world, but it’s not that high.

Ben Thompson at Stratechery has been writing about this for years — he recently pulled his 2018 article on this very issue out from behind the paywall. In it, he writes that “I don’t believe the relevant market is smartphones, but rather digital goods and services.” Indeed.

The monopoly Apple has is a monopoly over the iPhone itself, not over smartphones. And that is a very strange way to think about a monopoly. Shouldn’t Apple be free to make whatever rules it wants on the devices it sells? Is it unfair for Apple to demand a cut of all digital commerce on its platforms?

If you aren’t keeping up, HEY is a new email service that has popped up and costs $99/year. They built native apps for all of the major platforms (although wrapping their website in an electron app is hardly a native app, but I digress) with Apple’s iOS being one of those platforms. They did not include a way for users to buy a subscription to their service via in app purchases, instead sending users to the HEY.com site to sign up. Apple rejected the app, saying that they should allow users to buy a subscription in the app. Now customers who signed up for the service can’t use the mobile app and the developers have said they won’t give Apple 30% of their revenue to simply process payment.

This whole thing is such a mess. Incoherent rules and inconsistent enforcement by Apple have created a situation that is bad for consumers and developers.  Ultimately, I think a situation closer to what Google allows (any 3rd party can use their own payment system for anything other than IAP and in all games) as well as allowing for easier side loading on iOS would keep the regulators away and allow for more innovation. Would their services revenue numbers take a hit? Surely. But given most of the big players already have found workarounds, I don’t think it’d be as bad as you’d think.  I also expect more from Apple than essentially rent-seeking.

Additionally, if the argument from Apple is at least partially around providing consistency and clarity for customers, having these Easter egg hunt-style messages in apps like Netflix, Kindle and others (saying things like “you can’t buy content here. Sorry!” due to Apple’s rules around linking to external signups) makes things worse, not better. With WWDC & EU antitrust discussions looming, I’m sure this will be top of mind for the folks in Cupertino over the next few weeks. I hope Apple does the right thing and at a minimum updates their rules to be more clear. If they really want to support their developer community they need to do way more than that, though.

Sanding the Rough Edges of iPadOS

I recently bought an 11″ iPad Pro to “replace” my aging 2015 MacBook Pro. My work has provided me with a 15” MacBook Pro that’s only about a year old, so there’s no reason for me to buy a new laptop for myself right now – especially when I’m working from home every day anyway. […]

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Apple Plans to Announce Move to Its Own Mac Chips at WWDC

From Mark Gurman at Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is preparing to announce a shift to its own main processors in Mac computers, replacing chips from Intel Corp., as early as this month at its annual developer conference, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new processors will be based on the same technology used in Apple-designed iPhone and iPad chips. However, future Macs will still run the macOS operating system rather than the iOS software on mobile devices from the company. Bloomberg News reported on Apple’s effort to move away from Intel earlier this year, and in 2018.

Apple’s chip-development group, led by Johny Srouji, decided to make the switch after Intel’s annual chip performance gains slowed. Apple engineers worried that sticking to Intel’s road map would delay or derail some future Macs, according to people familiar with the effort.

This has been rumored for what seems like years now, but it appears to be finally happening. This will be a huge shift, and I’m excited to see what the transition plan looks like. I’d imagine we’ll see it first hit the “consumer” lines and work out from there. A couple of questions that come to mind for me are:

  • How will this affect things like virtualization software?
  • What about cross-platform software and games? My Steam library was already decimated by the 32bit to 64bit transition. I’d imagine an ARM transition will finish it off.
  • Will iPad Pros be a test device during the transition?
  • What are the tradeoffs going to be? What are the gains going to look like?

Really excited to see what we learn in a few short weeks!

WWDC20 still lacks a schedule

With WWDC 2020 just 2 weeks away, I was kind of surprised to check out the developer site today to see the same announcement landing page that we saw a month or so ago. I’m still very curious to see what this year’s virtual conference looks like as I could imagine a hybrid model being […]

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Seven years later, I bought a new Macbook. For the first time, I don’t love it

From Carlos Fenollosa:

This computer is bittersweet.

I’m happy that I can finally perform tasks which were severely limited on my previous laptop. But this has nothing to do with the design of the product, it is just due to the fact that the internals are more modern.

Maybe loving your work tools is a privilege that only computer nerds have. Do taxi drivers love their cars? Do baristas love their coffee machines? Do gardeners love their leaf blowers? Do surgeons love their scalpels?

A comprehensive review with lots to love about the new machine, but the lows are low. While the performance, speakers, screen and build quality are exceptional as always, he points out a lot of issues with the ports, software, and the webcam quality’s complete lack of progress in the past 7 years. I’ve also heard a number of different versions of this quote over the years:

I would have paid extra money to not have a touchbar on my macbook.

I think that on balance, people are just more negative about technology these days but it’s also worth pointing out that our expectations are higher now as we depend on these devices for our livelihoods more than we did a decade ago. I appreciate experimentation and pushing the boundaries of tech but most Apple customers would prefer “it just works” to “thin, light, experimentation”.

Apple’s butterfly keyboard failed by prioritizing form over function

From Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge:

But the deeper issue isn’t that the butterfly switches often break; it’s the flawed design goals that led Apple to make a bad button in the first place. Apple chose to make an entire keyboard full of buttons that resulted in a more aesthetically pleasing design with shorter travel and a thinner overall laptop, rather than making ones that are mechanically functional. And it nearly wrecked an entire generation of Apple’s laptops.

Apple is a massive company that has a ton of stakeholders but I honestly believe that one of the biggest mistakes Tim Cook made was to give the reigns to Jony Ive with no real counterweight. With a lot of the other voices in the room silenced or gone (such as Scott Forstall), Apple leaned way too hard into form over function, and many of their products have suffered as a result. iOS 7 was a mess and many of the hardware products from 2015-2020 were also way too focused on how something looked rather than how people used them.

Ive was a visionary in a ton of ways and he’s not completely to blame for many of the issues Apple have had with their hardware and software design in the last half decade. But with strong leadership at the top, a team of rivals approach tends to get better results. Let’s hope the next 5 years are more focused on users and their needs as opposed to just making things as thin as possible.

WWDC 2020 Wishlist

WWDC is about a month away! You know what that means – wishlist time! Becky Hansmeyer has a great breakdown of her WWDC wishlist.  David Smith’s WatchOS 7 list has a ton of great nuggets too. So, in that spirit I thought I’d throw in my WWDC wishlist for iOS/iPadOS/MacOS updates. If I get even a […]

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Casting Google’s Speakers Aside

See what I did there? As mentioned recently, I have switched over to Apple Music from Spotify. Part of the decision was based on personal preferences around the 2 services, but the reason that I was reluctant to drop Spotify in the first place was the lock-in I had with Google’s Chromecast ecosystem. As it […]

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