Tag Archives: apple

Swift 3 churn

Back in July, I posted this to my microblog, which was cross-posted to Twitter for some additional discussion:

Not shocked that Swift classes won’t be subclassable by default. But it underscores Swift’s priorities. And for that reason, I’m out.

The “I’m out” was meant as a Shark Tank reference, and not to be taken too seriously. But I was serious about taking a break from Swift until version 4, when it would at least be more stable. Daniel and I followed up that week with a more in-depth discussion on Core Intuition 242.

A few days ago Craig Hockenberry posted about how the rapid pace of improvements to Swift can get in the way of learning the language and using example code:

It’s gotten to the point where every time I come across some information written in Swift, especially on Stack Overflow, I cringe. I know that I’m going to have to not only figure out the code, but also which version was used for the answer.

I have absolutely no regrets sticking to Objective-C. As Swift 3 was wrapping up, it seemed that the churn around syntax changes was even worse than I feared. From an Apple dev forums thread at the time:

For the expected quality of software in a third-generation project in late Beta, Swift 3 has become a trainwreck of Microsoftian proportions–at least in terms of process and expectation. Many of us devs are spending 90% of our time not developing our app, but babysitting Swift and trying to understand so many unvetted changes.

That settled down with the final Swift 3 release, but I expect many developers won’t upgrade from Swift 2.3 until Xcode forces them to. There’s even a whole book by Erica Sadun on migrating code.

I still consider Swift a beta language. I just hope that the Swift team and community recognize that this level of instability isn’t acceptable forever. A programming language is not an iOS or macOS release. There shouldn’t be a new major version of Swift every year.

Core Intuition 267

This week on Core Intuition, Daniel and I talk about the halfway point to my Kickstarter campaign, running ads, and more:

Manton talks about marketing for the Kickstarter, how many people watch the video, and how to transition from marketing the passionate philosophical backers, to making a case for the sheer utility of the product. They talk about modern advertising technology that allows hyper-focused delivery, and follow up on Chris Lattner’s departure from Apple, and the exciting opportunities he will likely have at Tesla.

The last segment of the show is about Chris Lattner going to Tesla. We recorded before we listened to the latest ATP, but our conversation still holds up as pretty relevant. Hope you enjoy it.

MLK on Apple.com

Apple dedicated their home page to Martin Luther King today with a photo and quote:

Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.

When Apple does this sort of tribute, it’s a reminder of why we expect the best from Apple, and why we complain when they fall short. We hold Apple to a high standard because they’ve set the bar high for themselves, not just by building great products, but by not being afraid to stand for something.

Core Intuition 259 transcript

Daniel and I covered a few topics on Core Intuition 259 yesterday, but the closing segment about the Apple design book — and indirectly, the election — was particularly interesting to me. I decided to transcribe part of the conversation. Here it is, lightly edited.

Daniel:

Alright Manton, I know what a fan you are of lavish Apple products designed for the rich. [laughter] I know therefore you have probably already placed a pre-order for the Apple Book Edition.

Manton:

Is the Edition the $300 one?

Daniel:

Yeah, the $300 one is the Edition. The $200 one is the Edition Lite. [more laughter]

Manton:

So Apple announced this book yesterday, and I believe orders are being accepted today. It’s just this very beautiful, well-produced “we worked 8 years on this” book of essentially product photos.

And I think there’s an introduction with Jony Ive. There’s a video from him that is a classic Jony Ive video about a product.

I’ve blogged about this a little bit, and actually talked about this on my microcast, Timetable. Red flags are going off for me with this product for a few reasons.

The first is, we’re a week out from the election. A lot of us are bummed out and trying to make sense of the world, and Apple releases a book of product photos. It seems out of touch. I don’t understand why they did this right now.

And the other thing, I just hit on something that bothered me about this book. I have a lot of books in this house. Bookshelves and bookshelves full of books. My wife hates the fact that I have every book that I’ve ever bought. I have a lot of books and I have a lot of art books. In a previous life I wanted to an artist, an animator. I have a lot of art books.

And so this is right up my alley, right? I love old stuff. I love art books. Why don’t I want to buy this?

And I think the reason is, unlike most art books, which are about… They’re about the artist as much as the art. And this book is just photos of iMacs.

This isn’t about the designers. And maybe there’s something in the book that I’m missing. That when I hold it I’ll say, “Oh, this book is amazing.” But I feel like this book is not quite right. It’s not about the designers.

I want to know about the designers at Apple, and why they made their choices. I don’t need this well-lit photo of the inside of a Mac Mini. There’s something missing with what they’ve done here.

Daniel:

You know, I agree with you. What you said just now is interesting to me in a few different ways. One of them is — and I know people are going to think I’m crazy for even imagining that this could possibly happen in the wake of a U.S. presidential election — but one of my instincts the day after the election, believe it or not, was actually going to Apple.com to see if Apple had some kind of commemoration or acknowledgement.

And I realized… That’s my passionate, emotional side. Because Apple has been that company on so many issues of national or global importance.

And I get it. Even if I see it as a catastrophic thing for the country and for the world, I get it that it is seen as a partisan issue, and that a lot of people would agree it would be not only poor business, but maybe poor taste to take a stand on Apple.com.

But that’s the kind of feeling I’ve had from this company over the years. I wasn’t surprised not to see something there, but that sensitivity to the current state of affairs in the world, while maybe not driving them to put something on their home page overtly in support of one direction or another… I can see how they could maybe have made an effort to come up with something that somehow spoke to the issue without taking a side. They could have done that.

And I’m not faulting them for not doing that. But your comment about the possible poor timing of releasing this right after the election, it drives it home for me that doing something like that with the home page would have reflected a level of consciousness about what’s going on — their being sympathetic or even empathic to the situation.

Releasing a self-gratifying, expensive art book certainly does not speak to sensitivity about the national and global implications of the election. Nor should it have to. But by doing it the very week of the election, it does sort of tip the sales toward insensitivity.

Manton:

Right. So we had the election. A lot of people are trying to make sense of it. Like you said, you went to Apple. “Is Apple going to say anything?” Reload, reload. No, they’re not going to say anything. “Is Apple going to say anything next week?”

The first thing they said, not about the election but the first thing they publicly said was, “We have this beautiful book.”

Yes, they didn’t mean it that way. They didn’t mean it as a reaction to the election. They’ve had this thing planned for years. But it doesn’t feel right.

I don’t want to take away anything from the designers at Apple and the people that worked on this book, because they do great work. The products in this book are amazing. They do deserve to be celebrated and talked about. But the timing does not feel right.

And like I said before, I think the substance of this book is also wrong. I want to be careful not to criticize too much, because I’m sensitive to this. I don’t want to just bash this book. It doesn’t feel like the book we need about design at Apple. Because there’s no text in it!

It celebrates objects and machines but it doesn’t celebrate people. The people are one of the most important things about design at Apple. It doesn’t seem right.

I had never thought after the election, “What would Apple say? Would they put something on their web site?” I hadn’t thought of that until you just mentioned it.

Tim Cook did send a letter to Apple employees, an email. It wasn’t really partisan, but it was kind of saying, “We know some of y’all are having trouble.”

I don’t know how he phrased it. But the sense of it was, “We’re moving forward together. We’re going to be together. That’s how we get through everything as a company.”

That was private to Apple employees. They didn’t say anything publicly. To say something publicly would have been difficult. This is kind of a cheat, but I’m just going to say it: it would have taken courage to say something about the election publicly. I’m using that word very deliberately.

Come on, Apple. Forget about the stupid headphone jack. If you want to be courageous, take a stand on something you believe in. Do it.

Timetable 27

Today I published a new episode of Timetable. It’s about Apple’s new design book but also about how social networks are broken, with a hint of what I think we can do about it. It’s just 3 and a half minutes long.

As I’ve written about before, Apple no longer needs us to defend the company. On the other hand, many good people work on Apple’s products and so criticizing the company can easily come across as criticizing those people. That’s not my intention, but I sometimes get that balance wrong.

I own dozens and dozens of art books, but I won’t be ordering this new Apple design book. It looks overconfident instead of nostalgic. It looks like it celebrates objects instead of people. It looks like a beautiful book for the wrong time.

Kapeli’s suspension is a test for Apple

Since my post yesterday about what I viewed as the unwarranted smearing of Kapeli’s reputation, I’ve received a lot of good feedback. I’ve also seen many comments from developers who had an incomplete view of the facts. This isn’t surprising, since Apple’s own statement to the press seems to have left out details, either for privacy reasons or to make a stronger case.

I’m not an investigative journalist. I know a lot about what happened, but not everything. I’m not going to try to “get to the bottom” of the truth. Kapeli developer Bogdan Popescu emailed me yesterday after my post had been published, and as tempting as it might have been to ask him more questions, ultimately this is between him and Apple. I’m a blogger and podcaster, so I’d rather stick to the larger themes.

How do we move forward as a community? Two points:

  1. We must err on the side of defending indie developers, even when it looks bad. Apple’s a big corporation and they don’t need our help.
  2. We should hold Apple accountable when they overreach, even when they have the best intentions. I agree with Rene Ritchie’s post that despite such a bad situation, it’s still within Apple’s power to fix this.

Matt Drance had a series of tweets that get to the heart of how we react as a community. If it turns out that Bogdan did submit fraudulent reviews, then okay. But if Apple eventually reinstates his developer account, I want to be able to say I stood up for his side of the story, even if I risked being wrong.

It’s easy to defend someone who is obviously innocent. It’s harder when they make mistakes, but in areas unrelated to the crime. In that way, this App Store “rejection” is unique. It may be the most important test we’ve seen of Apple’s power in the store.

Kapeli’s reputation

I’ve been using Dash more and more over the last month, but I realized with all this controversy that I had never actually bothered to pay for the app. Whoops! The trial reminds you every once in a while, but otherwise it’s pretty usable without paying, and I’m lazy.

Kapeli’s iOS revenue has vanished, but the developer still has his direct Mac sales. So I set out to finally buy a copy of the Mac version.

And then during checkout, sending him my name and contact info, I hesitated. Do I trust this developer? Is he trying to do the right thing for customers, as every indication from his public blog posts and tweets about Dash show, or is he a scammer, conducting fraudulent activity in the App Store as Apple accuses?

That’s the damage Apple has done in going to the press and smearing him. They’ve destroyed the goodwill he had in the community from his well-respected app. I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, yet I hesitated.

At the Çingleton conference in 2013, Christina Warren talked about building a reputation for herself. One of the slides will stick with me for a long time: “All I have is my name,” she said, so she couldn’t risk attaching her name to something she didn’t believe in.

Kapeli developer Bogdan Popescu has made some mistakes. There’s a lot of smoke, but I still believe there’s no fire, no actual fraudulent activity orchestrated by Bogdan himself. That hasn’t stopped Apple from burning his reputation to the ground.

As long as Apple has so much control over app distribution, so much power over an iOS developer’s business and reputation, then Apple’s treatment of and communication with developers has to be perfect. Michael Tsai covers some of the ways Apple mishandled this. The fallout in the developer community has been more severe than is warranted from the incomplete and misleading facts in Apple’s statement.

I finished checking out and paid for Dash. It’s a great app.

Apple apologists

The hardest transition for fans of Apple Computer from the 1990s is realizing that Apple no longer needs us to defend the company. If I’m sometimes critical of Apple, both here and on Core Intuition, it’s because they’re the largest tech company in the world.

I will always hold Apple to a very high standard of excellence. They’ve earned it. When airline flight attendants tell passengers to turn their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones off along with the usual warnings about oxygen masks and life vests, we shrug and laugh because it’s Samsung. From Apple, we expect higher quality and attention to detail, not shortcuts.

Steve Jobs has been gone for 5 years, but the spirit of building insanely great products is well-rooted at Apple. Apple employees are doing incredible, passionate work.

And yet the company itself hardly resembles the struggling computer maker of 20 years ago. Apple is a giant corporation now. Unlike its employees, who have the best intentions, giant corporations are by default selfish, arrogant, and rarely courageous.

Apple does a lot of good for the world. I doubt there’s another company even approaching Apple’s size that does as much, from renewable energy to safer materials to workplace diversity. But that good doesn’t absolve them of criticism.

Wanting an open voice assistant platform

I’ve owned an Amazon Echo since it first shipped and it’s great. I also use Siri and like it, though I use it less often for the kind of random questions I might ask Alexa. But after watching yesterday’s Google I/O keynote, I can’t help but feel that eventually Google is going to be far ahead of Amazon and Apple in this space.

Here’s John Gruber writing at Daring Fireball about the keynote:

Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right.

The problem with a voice assistant is that the better it gets, the more you want it to do. You continue to ask it more complicated questions, pushing at the limits of the assistant’s capabilities.

Only Google has the expertise in web services and the massive amount of data to keep going beyond basic questions. I expect both Siri and Alexa will hit brick walls that Google will get past, especially in conversational queries that let the user drill down below the most popular, superficial facts.

That is, unless Apple can open up Siri. Not just plugging in new trigger keywords like Alexa’s “skills” API (which would be a good start), but maybe a complete way to extend Siri with third-party code that feels seamless to the user. Surfacing voice-enabled apps automatically through natural queries might be on the same scale of app discoverability as we saw when the App Store launched.

As Ben Thompson lays out well in today’s essay, Google faces a different internet than the open web on which they built their search engine. The default for all these new platforms — from Facebook to Siri to the App Store — is to be closed. There’s a narrow window, right now, for someone to take the lead on creating an open voice assistant standard built on the open web.

Paid search and App Store profit

Reacting to a Bloomberg article about Apple adding paid search results in the App Store, John Gruber writes:

This sounds like a terrible idea. The one and only thing Apple should do with App Store search is make it more accurate. They don’t need to squeeze any more money from it. More accurate, reliable App Store search would help users and help good developers.

The Bloomberg article almost makes it sound like there’s a 100-person team working on paid search. I doubt that’s true. More likely, there’s a team working on several improvements to the App Store, including better search.

Daniel Jalkut is also very skeptical:

It’s hard to see how paid placement would consistently benefit either Apple or its direct customers. It’s unlikely that paid listings would be used to highlight apps that are in line with Apple’s other goals for the store.

He rightly points out that making money from the App Store is Apple’s secondary goal. It’s more important to have an ecosystem of apps that make the iPhone itself indispensable. As I argued in a blog post in 2011 about free apps and distribution, I don’t think the App Store should be a source of significant profit for Apple at all.

And if we’re keeping score with old posts where I write not what Apple should do but what I wish they’d do, see “I hope iAd fails” from 2010. iAd is shutting down in June.

I just can’t believe Apple would prioritize paid search over all the other App Store feature requests that developers have. So I prefer to ignore the paid search rumor and instead take away from this article just the good news: Apple has a new team focused on improving the App Store.

Patience and impatience in the tech industry

There’s a great line from an iPad Pro article by Ben Brooks, where he’s discussing how Steve Jobs was always conscious of shipping only Apple’s best work:

The key difference between Gates and Jobs isn’t the vision, it’s the patience, or if you prefer the unwillingness to ship something which isn’t great.

I’ve been thinking about the time just before the iPad was announced. We didn’t know what form it would take, how much it would cost, or even what OS it would run. At the time, I even wanted it to run Mac OS X. From one of my blog posts in 2008:

The primary market for a Mac tablet is the millions of people who look at the Wacom Cintiq and drool. An Apple tablet has to run full Mac OS X because it has to run Photoshop, Acorn, and Painter.

It’s easy in hindsight to say how wrong I was, that of course it should run iOS. And today I’d agree; iOS 9 on the iPad is great. But I thought a tablet would be particularly good for artists, and basing it on the Mac would be the only way to hit the ground running with a stylus and mature graphics software.

That brings us back to patience, and how Apple rolls and iterates. It has taken 6 years from the original iPad introduction to the iPad Pros we have today that fulfill what I had hoped a tablet could be. Was it worth the wait? Yes. But that’s a long time, and a more impatient company might’ve taken a different path to get here, and they wouldn’t have been wrong.

I’m not actually thinking about Microsoft here, but Amazon. Amazon is so impatient not just with hardware development but everything else that even overnight delivery for their customers isn’t fast enough.

When I pre-ordered the Amazon Echo on a whim a year ago, I’m not sure that Amazon really had any idea what they were doing, whether it would flop or succeed, or if anyone would understand it. A year later, they own the market for this kind of device and it’s spread by word of mouth because the product is good. If Apple ever makes an Echo competitor it will be years from now and only because someone else proved the idea first.

Patience is good, and I’m glad that Apple has a great balance between innovating on brand new products and perfecting existing concepts. But I’m also glad that not every company is as patient as Apple. I think the industry makes better progress when some companies aren’t afraid to ship something half-baked too early.

Apple event non-product focus

Dan Moren writes for Six Colors about the structure for the 1-hour Apple event today, of which only about half the time was spent on new products:

“If the Apple-FBI fight isn’t yet about public opinion, it probably will be if the matter ends up going to Congress. So it’s no surprise that Tim Cook is going to use his bully pulpit to push Apple’s track record on the welfare of its customers and the world at large, rather than how many products it’s sold and how much money it’s made.”

I’d like to see this continue at future events. Leave the record sales numbers for the finance call, and instead focus on what good Apple is doing because they are big, not just how they are big. Even though I own some Apple stock, I do not personally care that much about the precise magnitude of iPhone shipments this quarter.

As for the new products, nothing to complain about. Since the $10,000 Apple Watch Edition didn’t get a $50-dollar price drop like the Apple Watch Sport did, guess I’ll skip that purchase and get an iPhone SE instead.

iPhone 5SE

Mark Gurman reveals at 9to5Mac that the new phone I’ve been waiting for will be called the 5SE:

“The ‘se’ suffix has been described in two ways by Apple employees: as a ‘special edition’ variation of the vintage 4-inch iPhone screen size and as an ‘enhanced’ version of the iPhone 5s. Indeed, the upcoming ‘5se’ features a design similar to 2013’s flagship but upgraded internals, software, and hardware features that blend the old design with modern technologies from the past two iPhone upgrades.”

Seems odd to keep the “5” name for a phone that more closely resembles the iPhone 6/6S except for size. But I don’t really care what it’s called. This phone matches my expectations or exceeds them. Fantastic that it even supports Live Photos.

iAd setback

I was confused at first by Apple’s iAd announcement to developers. I read it as iAd completely shutting down, but apparently it’s just the “app network”. Still, it’s a welcome setback for those of us who were never fans of iAd.

John Gruber doesn’t think Apple’s heart is really in it:

“When iAd launched, its biggest advocate among Apple’s leadership was Scott Forstall. In some ways I’m surprised it took this long for them to pull the plug. After Forstall, I don’t think anyone’s heart was in this.”

I agree. Back in 2010, I said that I hope iAd fails. It seemed at odds with Apple’s focus as a product company, not to mention hypocritical for a company with ad-blocking APIs. Apple and third-party developers should be united in encouraging users to pay for apps; iAd is a distraction from that.

A8 or A9 for the iPhone 6C

I’ve talked about my hope for a new 4-inch iPhone several times on Core Intuition, and a few times on this weblog, like here and here. The rumors keep growing, and Stephen Hackett has written out his thoughts on a potential iPhone 6C:

“The easy assumption is that the 6C would replace the aging 5S as the free-or-very-cheap option, but the recurring rumor of the 6C being powered by the A9 makes me think this may slide in roughly where the iPhone 6/6 Plus currently sits in the lineup.”

I’d love to see an A9, but I’m not counting on it. I think an A8 is fine too, mostly matching the internals of the latest iPod Touch. This wouldn’t be competitive with the iPhone 6S but it would still be a great upgrade from the iPhone 5S, which is the primary phone for anyone (like me) who still clings to the 4-inch design.

The larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch designs will remain the top of the line iPhones for years to come. The 6C doesn’t need to change that; it’s not a peer to the larger phones. It just needs to clean up all the money Apple’s left on the table from customers who want a smaller phone. I’ll buy one right away.

Timetable episode 5

I just published episode 5 of my new short-format podcast, Timetable. I’m having a lot of fun with this. Producing an episode that’s only 5 minutes long means I can experiment without investing too much time.

As I was listening to some other podcasts this week talk about the Twitter news, it occurred to me how important it is to have a good mix of podcasts, just as it is with blogging. Many of the most popular Apple-related podcasts hit the same news stories each week and have nearly the same opinion. Don’t get me wrong; I listen to a bunch of them and they’re great. But it’s a reminder to me that for Timetable, and especially for Core Intuition, not to be afraid of having a more contrarian role when it’s appropriate.

There’s nothing controversial in the latest episode of Timetable, though. Just me talking about getting some stamps to finally send out stickers.

Phil Schiller and the App Store

Apple announced some leadership changes today, including that Phil Schiller will now lead the App Store on Apple’s various platforms:

“With added responsibility for the App Store, Phil Schiller will focus on strategies to extend the ecosystem Apple customers have come to love when using their iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Phil now leads nearly all developer-related functions at Apple, in addition to his other marketing responsibilities including Worldwide Product Marketing, international marketing, education and business marketing.”

You may remember that Phil Schiller has gotten involved in controversial App Store rejections in the past, going back to 2009. See this post from Daring Fireball about Ninjawords, and another article at Techcrunch by MG Siegler.

On recent episodes of Core Intuition, and in a blog post, I’ve argued that Apple can’t just make small improvements to the Mac App Store anymore. The time for slow iteration is over; now they have to make big changes to get developers back. I’d like to believe that putting Phil in charge is exactly that kind of first big step.

Update: Less optimistically, though, there was this post in 2012 from Rogue Amoeba.

Accelerated Mobile Pages from Google

The project technical overview for AMP has the goals and basic info. In a nutshell, the new format encourages a return to more bare-bones HTML, with some added functionality for common web patterns. On the balance between bloated ad platforms and user experience:

“Embedding an ad or analytics often implies giving up control of what eventually happens to a site because they can typically inject any JavaScript they want into pages. AMP HTML does not allow this. We realize that both ads and analytics are an important element of monetization on the web, and so we need to support them: our goal is to realign monetization with great user experience.”

Instead, “tracking pixels” are used for analytics. These should be easily skipped by ad blockers, but apps that support AMP will need to use a custom web view anyway, where ad blockers on iOS aren’t allowed. This may continue to limit the appeal of Safari View Controller.

Wired covers the announcement and describes how AMP might be integrated into Twitter and other native apps:

“One surprise beneficiary of AMP may be Twitter. While it’s not a publisher per se, it’s becoming an increasingly important player in news, most recently with the launch of its Moments feature, which makes news easier to follow on Twitter by organizing Tweets in a chronological, coherent timeline. Now, Twitter will automatically load any articles that are compatible with AMP as AMP files, meaning they will benefit from the same speed inside the Twitter app.”

There’s more on GitHub. On the surface this seems like a more open approach than Facebook Instant Articles or maybe even Apple News Format (which is finally public). That WordPress is supporting AMP is a good sign.

Gravity and the App Store

Dan Moren, writing at Six Colors about the rejected app Gravity:

“Really, what Apple needs is a small group within the App Store review team to flag apps that are pushing the envelope in smart, respectful ways; work with those apps’ developers; and present overall recommendations to App Store leadership—perhaps even reporting directly to Eddy Cue.”

I love this idea. It would both minimize unfair app rejections and help innovative apps bubble up to the featured sections in the App Store.

Scott Knaster visits the Steve Jobs movie office

Scott Knaster blogged about his day advising the crew of the new Steve Jobs movie:

“Every room had things taped up on the walls. Giant blown up pictures of the different events they were going to re-create. One entire wall was nothing but ancient Mac error messages. Another was photos of buildings where different Apple events happened. One wall had pictures from the Internet of random Apple employees from the ’80s.”

Apple seems intent on downplaying this movie as inaccurate and unfair to Steve, but it’s not supposed to be a documentary. It’s promising that they asked Scott Knaster for help getting some of the everyday details right. I’m really looking forward to it.