Apple’s facial recognition has spurred a number of discussions about the privacy trade-offs in the iPhone X.
Experts Weigh Pros, Cons of FaceID Authentication in iPhone X | Dark Reading – One concern about FaceID is in its current implementation, only one face can be used per device, says Pepijn Bruienne, senior R&D engineer at Duo Security. TouchID lets users register up to five fingerprints. If a third party obtains a user’s fingerprint and reproduces it, and the user is aware, they could register a different unique fingerprint.
Can Cops Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Face? | The Atlantic – Even if Face ID is advanced enough to keep pranksters out, many wondered Tuesday if it would actually make it easier for police to get in. Could officers force someone they’ve arrested to look into their phone to unlock it?
How Secure Is The iPhone X’s FaceID? Here’s What We Know | Wired – Marc Rogers, a security researcher at Cloudflare who was one of the first to demonstrate spoofing a fake fingerprint to defeat TouchID. Rogers says he has no doubt that he—or at least someone—will crack FaceID. In an interview ahead of Apple’s FaceID announcement, Rogers suggested that 3-D printing a target victim’s head and showing it to their phone might be all it takes. “The moment someone can reproduce your face in a way that can be played back to the computer, you’ve got a problem,” Roger says. “I’d love to start by 3-D-printing my own head and seeing if I can use that to unlock it.”
Secondly, it will only be a matter of time before criminals either work out how to do it themselves, or co-opt mobile carrier staff. Two factor authentication that depends on SMS is already compromised. This allows it to be compromised and undetectable.
The Apple Watch 3 may have royally screwed us all.
- Plaza – public private spaces outside the store if possible, interesting implications on future store placements – probably less in malls
- Forum – open plan internal space
- Boardroom – private space focused on developer relations, was probably the most interesting push. Stores are being given a stronger push as embassies for developer relations.
- Creative Pro – Apple genius for the creative apps, probable mix of amateur and professional audiences addressed
- Today at Apple – driven by Creative Pro staff to focus on creating more usuage of key offerings i.e. photo walks – think Nike Running Club. Also includes teacher outreach
- Genius grove – the genius bar but with plants presumably to try and break up the overall store noise
- Avenues – wider aisles that products are on
- 50% yearly growth – the series 2 fixed many of the hygiene factors wrong with the first version
- 97% customer satisfaction – health seems to be driving this
- Apple TV now supports 4K, unsurprising hardware upgrade and includes high dynamic range – Apple is following the TV set industry’s lead
- More interesting is the amount of content deals Apple has done with studios, in particular keeping the price point of 4K HDR content the same as was previously charged for HD content.
- Interesting TV partnerships but no major UK TV stations only Mubi
- Emphasis on easy access to sports on the Apple TV would wind up cable companies further
- Apple TV was also positioned as the control interface for HomeKit smarthome products. There was no further update on HomeKit in the presentation
- Wireless charging with glass back. The steel and copper reinforcement of the glass is probably to help with the induction charging
- Incremental improvements in picture quality. Bigger focus on AR including new sensors.
- Positioned as future direction for iPhones. Biometric face ID is clever but has issues. I wonder how it will work with facial hair or weight gain – Apple claims that it will adapt. Apple also claims to be able to detect photos and masks. It’s also used for face tracking in AR applications with some SnapChat lens demos.
- As with Touch ID, there is a PIN code if your face doesn’t work. I have found that Touch ID doesn’t work all the time so you need that PIN back up.
- The notch at the top poses some UX / design issues and the industrial design implies case free usage which will be a step away from usual iPhone usage.
- What isn’t immediately apparent to me is the user case for the iPhone X versus the iPhone 8 plus?
- Includes new integrated GPU for machine learning and graphics. This explains why Imagination Technologies are in trouble
- New image sensor processingThe A11 processor has a hardware neural network on the chip for the iPhone X – unsure if its also usable on the 8
I’ve been a big fan of Christina’s work for a while and this presentation is a great example of his work. Bookmark it; watch it during your lunch break its well worthwhile.
Great examples of online to offline (O2O) interaction in processes and services that are continually expanding. Interesting points about the lack of social norms or boundaries on the usage of online / mobile service in the real world. I’ve seen people live their online life in the cinema there are NO boundaries as Christina says.
Wearables as a category has not met the (perhaps unfair) expectations of the technology sector. Smart home products have had issues and consumers have rightly been concerned about the implications of ‘cloud with everything’. Here is what some of Silicon Valley think
Communities have marked time in different ways. It used to be marked by the bells of a church or the clock on a local factory. At that time, it didn’t matter that the clock told the precise time, but that it was consistent. This meant that different ‘time zones’ existed in areas separated by little distance.
The amount of reference time pieces expanded as mechanical clocks were installed in churches, farm estates and early factories. In the case of factories the change of shift was often punctuated by the blast of a fog horn.
I can remember this being the case even during my early childhood at the nearby Unilever factory. The change of shift signal marked my walk to infant school.
Over the centuries canals sprang up throughout the country as the first mass transport link, facilitating the movement of heavy goods such as coal and iron ore in a more efficient manner. Canals were transformative, but the boats still only moved at the speed of the horse. Railways broke the ‘horse speed’ barrier. This was transformative because it suddenly shone a light on inconsistent time keeping across the country. Railway timetables couldn’t incorporate all the variations in time zones between stations, so it became the arbiter of accurate time.
Over time radio and television played their part, audiences could set their watch by the start of key news programmes, for instance the time pips in the run into BBC Radio 4’s today programme or the Angelus chimes on RTE Radio 1.
The telephone came into play when looking for an exact time (to reset a watch or alarm clock) outside the broadcast schedule.
The popularity of mobile phone networks didn’t have as much of an impact as one would have thought. NITZ (Network Identity and Time Zone) was an optional standard for GSM networks. It has an accuracy in the order of minutes. A competing standard on CDMA 2000 networks used GPS enabled time codes that were far more accurate.
Modern timekeeping for the smartphone toting average person goes back to NTP; one of the earliest protocols in for the early internet that was created some time before 1985.
Back in 2001 when I installed the earliest version of macOS (then known as OSX 10.0 ‘Cheetah’) the date and time settings made reference to Apple owned NTP servers that were used to calibrate time on the computer. This infrastructure has since provided time to Apple’s other computing devices such as the iPhone and the and the iPad.
We are are now living on the same time. Time synchronisation happens seamlessly. We tend to only realise it when there is a problem.
Last week has seen people looking back at the launch of the iPhone. At the time, I was working an agency that looked after the Microsoft business. I used a Mac, a Nokia smartphone and a Samsung dual SIM feature phone. At the time I had an Apple hosted email address for six years by then, so I was secure within the Apple eco-system. I accessed my email via IMAP on both my first generation MacBook Pro and the Nokia smartphone.
Nokia had supported IMAP email for a few years by then. There were instant messaging clients available to download. Nokia did have cryptographic signatures on app downloads, but you found them on the web rather than within an app store.
At the time BlackBerry was mostly a business device, though BlackBerry messaging seemed to take off in tandem with the rise of the iPhone. The Palm Treo didn’t support IMAP in its native email application, instead it was reliant on a New Zealand based software developer and their paid for app SnapperMail.
Microsoft had managed to make inroads with some business users, both Motorola and Samsung made reasonable looking devices based on Windows.
The iPhone launch went off with the characteristic flair you would expect from Steve Jobs. It was a nice looking handset. It reminded me of Palm Vx that I used to have, but with built in wireless. Whilst the Vx had a stylus, I had used my fingers to press icons and write Graffiti to input text. It looked good, but it wasn’t the bolt from the blue in the way that others had experienced it.
But in order to do work on the Palm, I had a foldable keyboard that sat in my pocket.
By the time that the iPhone launched, I was using a developer version of the Nokia E90 which had an 800 pixel wide screen and a full keyboard in a compact package.
I had Wi-Fi, 3 and 3.5G cellular wireless. I could exchange files quickly with others over Bluetooth – at the time cellular data was expensive so being able to exchange things over Bluetooth was valuable. QuickOffice software allowed me to review work documents, a calendar that worked with my Mac and a contacts app. There was GPS and Nokia Maps. I had a couple of days usage on a battery.
By comparison when the iPhone launched it had:
- GSM and GPRS only – which meant that wireless connectivity was slower
- Bluetooth (but only for headphone support)
- No battery hatch – which was unheard of in phones (but was common place in PDAs
- No room for a SD, miniSD or microSD card – a step away from the norm. I knew people who migrated photos, message history and contacts from one phone to another via an SD card of some type
I wasn’t Apple’s core target market at the time, Steve Jobs used to have a RAZR handset.
As the software was demoed some things became apparent:
- One of the key features at the time was visual voicemail. This allowed you to access your voicemails in a non-linear order. This required deep integration with the carrier. In the end this feature hasn’t been adopted by all carriers that support the iPhone. I still don’t enjoy that feature. I was atypical at the time as I had a SIM only contact with T-Mobile (now EE), but it was seemed obvious that Apple would pick carrier partners carefully
- There was no software developer kit, instead Apple encouraged developers to build web services for the iPhone’s diminutive screen. Even on today’s networks that approach is hit-and-miss
- The iPhone didn’t support Flash or Flash Lite. It is hard to explain how much web functionality and content was made in Adobe Flash format at the time. By comparison Nokia did support Flash, so you could enjoy a fuller web experience
- The virtual keyboard was a poor substitute for Palm’s Graffiti or a hardware keyboard – which was the primary reason that BlackBerry users held out for such a long time
- The device was expensive. I was used to paying for my device but wasn’t used to paying for one AND being tied into an expensive two year contract
- Once iPhones hit the street, I was shocked at the battery life of the device. It wouldn’t last a work day, which was far inferior to Nokia
I eventually moved to the Apple iPhone with the 3GS. Nokia’s achilles’ heel had been its address book which would brick when you synched over a 1,000 contacts into it.
By comparison Apple’s contacts application just as well as Palm’s had before it. Despite the app store, many apps that I relied upon like CityTime, MetrO and the Opera browser took their time to get on the iPhone platform. Palm already was obviously in trouble, BlackBerry had never impressed me and Windows phone still wasn’t a serious option. Android would have required me to move my contacts, email and calendar over to Google – which wasn’t going to happen.
There was a mix of hardware and software updates. Apple put a lot of focus on virtual reality, augmented reality and prepping their operating systems for handling larger amounts of data. There was work done to further optimise video and photo usage on device.
The event offered bad news for online advertisers and a number of consumer electronics manufacturers. Online advertising using retargeting or autoplay video is going to be blocked in Safari. The new HomePod speaker took aim at ‘casual hi-fi’ like Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins and Bose.
Apple is working very hard to try and understand user intent, which is one of the first pieces it needs to put in place to develop the experience of a truly programmable world. What do I mean by a programmable world? A ‘web of no web’ where device intelligence behaves as if it understands user intent like a good valet. It is moving in a stepwise manner towards this.
What was more surprising is how Apple has gone big on VR and AR creation and consumption. Whilst video post-production houses probably have the most to complain about when it comes to Apple’s Pro equipment, they are not name checked. Apple has started to move to address their concerns. The external graphics support in macOS implies that a furture Mac Pro will have the software to match hardware.
More details by platform:
The name High Sierra implied an OS update that might seem incremental to consumers, but has major technology changes under the hood.
- Data – Apple File System as default (many features similar to Sun Microsystems’ ZFS). Faster for file swaps and giving a faster computer experience
- Video – better quality video algorithms with smaller file sizes and integration with
- Graphics – upgraded Metal API – Apple had been using it on machine learning applications within the OS. Metal 2 has been used to accelerate system level graphics and provides access to app developers. There is OS support for external graphics accelerators. The external graphics developer kit is based on AMD Radeon card.
- MacOS supports VR through Metal for VR. Steam, Unity and Unreal supporting VR on the Mac. Apple seems to believe that VR and AR content is the desktop publishing of the 21st century, they have gone hard on making the best creators platform that they can
- Autoplay blocking – which will impact advertising network video views
- Intelligent tracking prevention – positioned to target advertising retargeting and cross-site tracking
- Uses machine learning to improve searching and photo recognition and integration with photo-editing
- 50 media partners integrated into TV app
- Amazon is coming to Apple TV. Interesting move of detente between Apple and Amazon
- Machine learning APIs – to help adoption of CoreML on device for third party apps
- ARKit – to aid AR in apps. Clever work done on scaling and ambient light. This about providing a market for the content which which would be created on the Mac
- Chinese specific features: including support for QRcodes, SMS spam filtering. Chinese users have a particular set of contexts and these innovations could become popular in the west
- Interface tweaks in control centre and the lock screen.
- Improving discoverability of app stickers and apps – much needed
- Automatic synchronisation of Messages across devices, delete once, delete across all devices
- Person-to-person payments as an iMessage app. Obvious competitor would be WeChat in China and PayPal in the west
- Improved expressive nature of the voice.
- Follow-up questions, presumably to improve context
- Provides translation services
- Siri integration into a wide range of apps including WeChat and OmniFocus They’ve tried to use on-device learning to try and improve context and being helpful. Siri knowledge is synched across devices. Uses web history to improve Apple News and custom dictionary spellings
- Indoor navigation for airports
- Better image compression to save space on device. New depth API that can be accessed by 3rd party apps
- Video autorotates a la Snapchat / Snap glasses
- Apps now reviewed in less than 24 hours
- First app redesign in nine years. Tweaks to improve discoverability and merchandising of apps including in-app sales
- The biggest feature in watchOS 4 is the Siri-powered face. The Siri-powered watch face provides contextual information on the ‘home screen’. It takes into account past habits, time, location etc. Apple’s language around this was interesting, they described it as an ‘Intelligent proactive assistant’.
More details by hardware
- iMac – improved displays, brighter and support for 1 billion colours. Moving to Kaby Lake Intel processors. Up to 64GB of RAM on the iMac and 2TB SSD. Discrete Radeon graphics cards on larger iMacs. – big focus on VR development.
- MacBook – Kaby Lake processors. Pro machines get updated graphics as well. The MacBook Air gets a processor boost.
- iMac Pro – single piece machine with workstation specification including 10Gbit Ethernet. Presumably as an interim measure until the Mac Pro arrives next year. How upgradeable would the iMac Pro be, which is a key consideration for workstations
- iPad Pro – 20% bigger screen, 120Hz screen refresh rate. Doubling default memory sizes up to 512GB
Every Day Carry (EDC) is a movement that’s sprung out over the past few years. It fetishes the artefacts of everyday life and often features over-engineered products.
It covers a wide range of analogue real world items that people (usually men) bring with them when they leave the house (and it might include a bag). There is a whole other post on why its real world products, but thats for another time.
If the concept of every day carry was brought over to the smartphone what would it look like?
What would be the ten must have apps on your phone beyond the default installed apps?
Mine, in no particular order:
- Accuweather – pinpoint weather information that’s a step up from BBC weather or the default weather app on the iPhone
- Buffer – app for social media publishing
- CamScanner + – a document scanner for your iPhone
- Citymapper – better for getting around London than Google (or Apple) Maps
- Newsblur – a subscription based RSS reader by Samuel Clay. It learns what you like over time
- Pinner – a client for Pinboard.in social bookmarking service
- TravelWise Ireland – The Irish foreign ministry has an app providing background, safety information and emergency contact details for countries around the world
Just over 11 years ago I watched Charles Dunstone talk about Carphone Warehouse and the state of the industry at the LSE.
I came across the post by accident the other evening and wondered how well Dunstone’s view held up over the past decade or so.
On VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol)…
I think that the difference between Europe (particularly the UK) and the US is that VoIP will be very big in businesses, in residential homes you can’t have broadband without having an exchange line: that’s the way the regulator has decided it wanted to make sure that BT can make a living. If you’ve got broadband, if if you don’t want it, if you pick your phone up you’re going to get a dial tone that you can make a phone call from. Once you’ve got broadband unbundling, once you’ve got a connection from the exchange to the home it doesn’t cost you anything to connect a call whether its over broadband or you pick the normal phone up.
So suddenly a normal phone has the exact same economics as Skype, so I think what will happen, what you will see people like us do is offer VoIP-priced services on your normal phone at home without you having to put a headset in your PC or mess around and do all that kind of stuff. There are some people who will find reasons to do it and things that they want to do within it. The majority of people with a fixed-line are people with a family, over 30 years old, 50 per cent of it is there home alarm and ring people, 50 per cent of it is that they want to be able to ring the fire brigade if the house catches fire in the middle of the night. You won’t get them to use their mobile or use VoIP as they want to sit by their bed, get a dial tone and dial 999.
So I think in residential its not going to have a massive impact, in businesses its a different thing, with VoIP you can have multiple lines over one exchange line and that’s going to completely revolutionise business telephony.
Vonage is already more expensive than we are for your phone service and we’re not even using an unbundled broadband line on it. The economic difference is very different here than it is in the US.
Dunstone clearly didn’t have an idea about rise of wi-fi and devices using Skype as a client, though he clearly saw the business case of Skype for business. This made sense as by the late 1990s UK call centres were using VoIP complete with integration with customer records. Just under just over a year later 3 launched its dedicated Skype handset and Skype became available on the Symbian mobile operating system for download. There was resistance to OTT VoIP from T-Mobile in particular.
Now FaceTime, Skype, WeChat voice-and-video and Google Hangouts are ubiquitous. The voice call has been replaced by visual and text messaging on OTT services similar to the instant messaging clients of yore.
On where mobile phones are going…
I don’t have a clue where things will be in ten years. A few predictions on mobile phones, it is a unique device because the last 15 years have changed the world, more than it had changed for 500 years before that. 15 years ago, no one left their home without their money and their keys, now no one leaves home without their keys money and mobile phone and its taken a part in peoples lives that no other product has for hundreds and hundreds of years.
That relationship is so powerful that if a producer wants to gets content to you, they can guarantee it if they can get it to a mobile phone, so that’s why we see cameras, now everyone carries a camera and a mobile phone. Soon everyone will be an iPod and a camera and they’ll keep getting better and better. By next Christmas you’ll be able to buy cameras with flashes, zoom all this kind of stuff. I think that video is going on mobile phones, I think that payment is coming, payment systems is coming onto them and Carphone Warehouse is the largest retailer of digital cameras in the UK by accident. We didn’t mean to sell one of them, they just come in the products that we sell as standard and its just that everyone else’s business is morphing into ours because of the unique relationship the product has.
My final prediction on phones on the next year to two is that fashion is about to become a big thing in phones, at the moment they are driven by technology. We had an extraordinary experience this Christmas with a pink V3 we brought out. We’ve done some analysis that absolutely blew us a way, you’re starting to see the manufacturers talk to the big brands about putting things into phones and people spend stupid money on pens and watches and shoes and clothes. I think that all that madness is also going to end up in mobile phones as its such a public personal accessory.
Dunstone smartly limited his predictions to the next few years rather than looking forward a decade and his view of the camera as a key function driving purchase is still proved right. At the moment the intra-Android handset feature battle on premium handsets is fought on camera technology. Huawei and its Leica partnership, LG and Samsung with their respective double cameras and Sony with their powerful sensors.
The iPhone 7 is also sold in a similar way as Apple’s Shot on an iPhone marketing campaign shows.
Dunstone also saw the smartphone as a media device and for many years content has been side loaded on to phones. Sony Ericsson had launched the Walkman-braned W800 the previous year. As SD card capacity increased, it wasn’t too much of a leap to assume that the mobile phone could replace lower end flash memory MP3 devices.
Nokia would be launching its multimedia focused N-series phones just a month after this talk. I remember seeing Christian Lindholm in the lift at Yahoo! with a Nokia N93. The phone looked like a chimera between a flip phone and camcorder.
Ten years later and video recording and editing technology is available across both Android and iOS handsets. One of the last projects I was involved in at Yahoo! was co-launching the N73 with Nokia which featured the Flickr photo app on the phone as standard. 11 years later and my iPhone still has flickr on it.
Dunstone believed that the phone would become a fashion item. At the time LG had partnered with Prada. Vertu had been established seven years previously by Nokia. Today premium handsets have established themselves as as fashion items. TAG Heuer has experimented with its own smartphone, Porsche Design worked with BlackBerry.
On the flip side smartphones have become commoditised; Android manufacturers have seen their margins hollowed out. Huawei made a big push into the premium space with its P series phones yet sees declining handset prices as the medium tier handset segment eats into premium sector sales.
Dunstone’s predictions about mobile payments were too optimistic. There were various technology options explored by mobile carriers. Handset mobile payments did take-off in Japan. SMS based payments took off in East Africa. Smartphone hosted wallets have developed slowly however. Card payments are still pre-eminent in the western world at the moment.
On the competiton…
I’ve basically got two types of competition: people like Phones4U and The Link who are trying to do what we do and we just get up early and try and do it better and try and beat them up every day. And we have a team, we meet at 8 am every single morning and look at everybody else’s prices and reprice based on what happened that day its that brutal. We fight, fight, fight.
My other competition is the network stores which is a combination of wanting to have some direct impact with customers and a certain amount of vanity about wanting their brand on the hight street. They don’t compete with us in terms of the volumes of sales that they do, as the market gets more fragmented I think that its less likely that the customer is going to say I just want to go and see the world according to Orange today, rather than even going to one of my normal competitors. In reality it will be let me go and compare Orange with everybody. I think that its going to change but there’s not a very strong economic rationale for them in the first place.
Dunstone didn’t seem to realise how precarious the independent mobile phone shop was as a business. Network shops are now showrooms and service centres for when things go wrong as consumers go to the web. Carphone Warehouse adapted by becoming a triple play carrier in its own right as well as selling other networks mobile plans. Dunstone’s peer John Caudwell had the good sense / luck to sell Phones4U on to private equity providers just six months after this interview.
The mobile carriers didn’t have it a lot easier; O2 was spun out of BT in 2002 and bought by Telefonica of Spain just prior to this interview. T-Mobile and Orange merged their UK operations to form EE. EE was then acquired by BT, some 12 years after BT had spun out O2. 3UK has made an unsuccessful bid for O2, the UK competition authority shut the bid down.
On the transition of phones to computers…
Absolutely they’re changing into computers, they start to have bugs, they start to have all kinds of usability issues. Our job is very simple and I think the worst thing that could have happened for me is that there could have been one mobile phone network and one really simple phone and the people understand it so that they did not need anyone to help them set it up and work out which one to buy. So we absolutely love complex markets as this gives us something to offer and something to do we have to keep changing. I just watch in delight as Microsoft come into the marketplace because that’s not going to work is it? Its going to have lots of bugs and crash and do all these sorts of things that needs tons of support. Lots of competing systems Symbian and others, so its another level of complexity alongside all the complexity of the operators, all the complexity of the tarrifs – Bring it on.
Dunstone realised that smartphones would bring complexity to the mobile phone industry. He seemed to think it would be closer to the PC industry in terms of complexity. He saw what I suspect was a different opportunity in that – particularly building client relationships. In retrospect, he underestimated this disruption.
Having slept a few naps contemplating Apple’s new MacBook Pro. I have been a Mac user since it was the mark of eccentricity. I am writing this post on a 13″ MacBook Pro and have a house of other Macs and peripherals.
Apple launched a new range of Apple MacBook Pro’s on October 27, 2016. This was a day after Microsoft’s reinvigoration of its Surface franchise. Apple ignores timing and tries to plough its own furrow. But comparisons by journalists and market analysts are inevitable.
Microsoft has done a very good job at presenting a device that owes its build quality to the schooling that Apple has given to the Shenzhen eco-system over the past two decades.
The focus on touch computing feels like a step on a roadmap to Minority Report style computing interfaces. Microsoft has finally mastered the showmanship of Apple at its best.
Apple’s presentation trod a well-worn formula. Tim Cook acts as the ringmaster and provides a business update. Angela Ahrendts sits at a prominent place in the audience and appears on a few cut-in shots. Craig Federighi presented the first product setting a light self-depreciating humour with in-jokes that pull the Apple watchers through the fourth wall and draws them inside ‘Apple’. Eddy Cue plays a similar role for more content related products. In that respect they are interchangeable like pieces of Lego.
Phil Schiller came in to do the heavy lifting on the product. While the design had some points of interest including TouchID and the touchpad the ports on the machine are a major issue.
Given the Pro nature of the computer, Apple couldn’t completely hide behind ‘design’ like it has done with the MacBook. So Phil Schiller was given the job of doing the heavy lifting on the product introduction.
There was the usual Jonny Ive voiceover video on how the product was made with identikit superlatives from previous launches. It could almost be done by a bot with the voice of Jonny Ive, rather than disturbing his creative process.
It all felt like it was dialled in, there wasn’t the sense of occasion that Apple has managed in the past.
Many people have pointed out that Microsoft’s products looked more innovative and seemed to be actively courting the creatives that have been the core of Apple’s support. In reality much of it was smoke and mirrors. Yes Apple has lost some of the video market because its machines just aren’t powerful, in comparison to other workstations out there.
The touch interface is more of a red herring. Ever since the HP-150 – touch hasn’t played that well with desktop computers because content creators don’t like to take their hands too far from the keyboard when work. It ruins the flow if you can touch type; or have muscle memory for your PhotoShop shortcuts.
Apple didn’t invent the Surface Dial because it already had an equivalent made by Griffin Technology – the PowerMate. In fact the PowerMate had originally been available for Windows Vista and Linux as well, but for some reason the device software didn’t work well with Windows 7 & 8.
I can see why Apple has gravitated towards the touchpad instead. But it needed to do a better job telling the story.
Regardless of the wrong headedness of Microsoft’s announcements, the company has managed to get much of the heat that Apple used to bring to announcements. By comparison Apple ploughed exactly the same furrow as it has done for the past few years – the products themselves where interchangeable.
The design provided little enthusiasm amongst the creatives that I know, beyond agitation at the pointless port changes and inconvenience that conveyed.
While these people aren’t going to move to Microsoft, the Surface announcements provided them with a compare and contrast experience which agitated the situation further. To quote one friend
Apple doesn’t know who it is. It doesn’t know its customers and it no longer understands professionals.
Apple’s design of the MacBook Pro shows a good deal of myopia. Yes, Apple saved weight in the laptops; but that doesn’t mean that the consumer saves weight. The move to USB C only has had a huge impact. A raft of new dongles, SD card readers and adaptors required. If like me you present to external parties, you will have a Thunderbolt to VGA dongle.
With the new laptop, you will need a new VGA dongle, and a new HDMI dongle. I have £2,000 of Thunderbolt displays that will need some way of connecting to Apple’s new USB C port. I replace my displays less often than my laptop. We have even earlier displays in the office.
Every so often I transfer files on to a disk for clients with locked down IT systems. Their IT department don’t like file transfer services like WeTransfer or FTP. They don’t like shared drives from Google or Box. I will need a USB C to USB adaptor to make this happen. Even the encrypted USB thumb drive on my ‘real life’ key chain will require an adaptor!
I will be swimming in a sea of extra cables and parts that will weigh more than the 1/2 pound that Apple managed to save. Thank you for nothing, Apple. Where interfaces have changed before there was a strong industry argument. Apple hit the curve at the right time for standards such as USB and dispensing with optical drives.
The move to USB C seems to be more about having a long thing slot instead of a slightly taller one. Getting rid of the MagSafe power connector has actually made the laptop less safe. MagSafe is a connector that is still superior to anything else on the market. Apple has moved from an obsession with ‘form and function’ to ‘form over function’.
The problem is one of Apple’s own making: it has obsessed about size zero design since Steve Jobs used to have a Motorola RAZR.
Price versus Value
So despite coming with a half pound less mass and a lot of inconvenience, the devices come in at $200 more expensive than their predecessors. It will be harder for Apple customers to upgrade to this device unless their current machine is at least five years old. I don’t think that this laptop will provide the injection in shipments that Apple believes it will.
A quick word on displays
Apple’s move away from external displays was an interesting one. There can’t be that much engineering difference between building the iMac and the Apple Display? Yet Apple seems to have abandoned the market. It gives some professionals a natural break point to review whether they should stay with Apple. Apple displays aren’t only a product line but a visible ambassador of Apple’s brand where you can see the sea of displays in agencies and know that they are an Apple shop. It is the classic ‘Carol Bartz’ school of technology product management.
Initial thoughts on Windows 8 | renaissance chambara
Size Zero Design | renaissance chambara
Why I am sunsetting Yahoo! | renaissance chambara
Apple just told the world it has no idea who the Mac is for – Charged Tech – Medium
Apple (AAPL) removed MagSafe, its safest, smartest invention ever, from the new MacBook Pros — Quartz
How Apple’s New MacBook Pros Compare To Microsoft’s New Surface Studio | Fast Company | Business + Innovation – a subtly cutting article on the new MacBook Pro
New MacBook Pro touches at why computers still matter for Apple | CNet
Apple’s new MacBook Pro kills off most of the ports you probably need | TechCrunch
Jean-Louis Gassée has been at the centre of the technology industry for at least the past 30 years. He worked at Apple though the early Macintosh years, founded Be Inc. – a now forgotten OS and workstation company that focused on multi-media prowess and was chairman at PalmSource.
He recently published a meditation on why Palm, BlackBerry, Nokia and Microsoft failed in the smartphone sector – it makes a really good read, I have linked to it under more information. But there a few details missing, I suspect for the ease of storytelling. I’ve added them below as additional accompanying notes for his essay.
Reading David Wood’s ‘biography’ of Symbian makes you realise how from the early years the OS was kludged together into something fit for purpose. Moving Symbian on was a major issue, one that Nokia knew they faced. It was perplexing why Nokia couldn’t get Maemo right. I had used a developer model Nokia N950 and it was an impressive piece of kit – a symbol of what could have been.
A second part of Nokia’s problems were hardware related. Nokia Networks and phones had thrown their lot in with Intel on WiMax for 4G, rather than LTE championed by Siemens, Ericsson and NTT Docomo.
That put them in the wrong camp to do business with Qualcomm and its SnapDragon processors for modern smartphones. Nokia’s engineering brain trust had been completely wrong-footed. It also explains why valuable time was lost merging Nokia’s next generation mobile device OS with Intel’s similar project. Ironically, this operating system now powers Samsung smartwatches – which is a testament to its ability to squeeze real-world performance out of extremely low powered devices.
Texas Instruments a long-time Nokia supplier, pulled out of the mobile embedded processor market in 2012, which would have had implications for Nokia’s much vaunted supply chain, in particular chip pick-and-place machines. One could see how these operational problems would have rippled through the engineering organisation.
Nokia actually had a prototype iPhone-esque device running by mid-2004, but were afraid to make a leap of faith
“It was very early days, and no one really knew anything about the touch screen’s potential,” Mr. Hakkarainen explained. “And it was an expensive device to produce, so there was more risk involved for Nokia. So management did the usual. They killed it.”
I had used touch screen devices since 1999, but it is hard to explain how transformative a responsive capacitative touchscreen interface was in comparison to everything that had gone previously.
By 2002 Palm had acquired Be Inc. presumably because they realised that mobile computing needed to have a modern OS for its underpinnings. Palm had previously looked at moving its OS over on Symbian as by 2000 the PalmOS was creaky. PalmOS at that time ran on a low power version of the Motorola 68000 series processor that powered the first Macs in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. The OS was migrated to an ARM processor for use on mobile devices.
Its PalmSource subsidiary was spun out of the business to better build an eco-system of licensees. The work of Be Inc. made it into a modern version of Palm OS called Cobalt in 2004, but this was not used by Palm or anyone else. Cobalt covered multi-tasking, better security and better multimedia.
PalmSource acquired a Chinese mobile Linux company in early 2005. PalmSource was sold to ACCESS of Japan.
ACCESS Linux offered the Palm interface running on top of a Linux micro-kernel and functionality for mobile networks etc. ACCESS Linux was ready to go in 2006 prior to the launch of the iPhone. While there was collaboration with NEC, Panasonic and NTT Docomo there hasn’t been an ACCESS Linux powered device launched.
Instead Palm launched its WebOS in 2009. WebOS was slow and sluggish to use. Part of this was because the device was under-powered compared to competitor products. So despite having an interface which had many of the pieces in place Palm had at least three gos at the software and still failed badly in terms of execution.
Gassée rightly points out that Google giving away its OS left Microsoft’s business model for Windows Mobile disrupted.
However, truth be told Google did a poor job of signing all the disparate Chinese manufacturers onboard and fully legit on Google. Many Chinese handsets had not gone through official channels for compatibility testing (CTS) and do not have a Google Mobile Services (GMS) license. Google historically hadn’t bothered to scale to address the international aspirations of Chinese tier two and tier three handset makers.
Building a partner eco-system in the west would have been challenging. Microsoft had too many skeletons in their closet and their partners didn’t do too well.
- Nortel was a historic Microsoft partner in wireline telecoms prior to going bankrupt in 2009. Where companies have PC / phone integration it is built on the knowhow Microsoft gained with Nortel on VoIP PBXs
- Motorola had a Microsoft Windows Mobile-powered smartphone the Motorola Q. That worked out sufficiently well that Motorola abandoned it and focused on Android devices
- Sony when it was co-branded Sony-Ericsson used Windows Mobile for its Xperia phones for two years as it recognised that Symbian had reached the end of the line. Eventually Sony-Ericsson moved over to Android in March 2010, the company has struggled to remain relevant in the mobile market
- Sendo was a start-up founded in 1999, they signed an agreement with Microsoft to be the company’s go-to-market partner for their Smartphone 2002 mobile operating system. The deal gave Microsoft a royalty-free license to Sendo’s designs if the company went insolvent. There was a legal dispute when Microsoft used Sendo’s designs to create the first of the Orange SPV phones made by HTC
- After making Windows phones from 2009 to 2013, LG said that there was no demand for Windows Phone devices and moved its portfolio exclusively over to Android where it competes with a respectable performance against Samsung
Microsoft’s name in the telecoms industry is mud. To add insult to injury its Skype VoIP application is a direct competitor to carrier voice minute businesses on both wireless and wired connections.
Years ago I read an article which talked about the collective memory of London’s financial district being about eight years or so. Financiers with beautifully crafted models in Excel would be doomed to make the same mistake as their predecessors.
Marketers make the same mistakes, not being able to draw on the lines of universal human behaviour when it meets technology. Today’s obsession with the ‘dark social’ of OTT messaging platforms is very reminiscent of the culture that grew up around the Danger Hiptop. The Hiptop drove a use of instant messaging platforms (Yahoo!, Aol and MSN) in a similar way to today’s use of Kik, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp by young people.
Danger was started back in 1999, by veterans from Apple, Philips and WebTV.
Back then mobile data was very primitive, email was slow and the only people I knew who used mobile phones on a regular basis were press photographers, sending images back from early digital SLRs using a laptop connected up to their phone. At this time it was still sometimes easier to bike images over. 3G wireless was on the horizon, but there wasn’t a clear use case.
Apple was not the force it is now, but recovering from a near death experience. The iMac, blue and white G3 tower units and ‘Wall Street’ laptops reignited belief in core customers. Mac OSX Server 1.0 was released in March that year and pointed to the potential that future Macs would have.
WebTV at the time was a company that felt like it was at the apex of things. Before the internet took off, companies like Oracle and BT had tried providing interactive TV services including CD ROM type experiences and e-commerce in a walled garden environment. This was based on having a thin client connected to a TV as monitor. WebTV took that idea and built upon the internet of the mid-1990s. It wasn’t appreciated how commoditised the PC market would become over time. They were acquired by Microsoft in 1997, later that year they would also buy Hotmail.
At the time, Philips was a force to be reckoned with in consumer electronics and product design. The company had a diverse portfolio of products and a reputation for unrewarded innovation including the compact cassette, interactive CD media and audio compact discs. Philips was the company that the Japanese wanted to beat and Samsung still made third-rate televisions.
Some of them were veterans of a failed start-up called General Magic that had spun out of Apple. A technology super-team of engineers and developers came up with a wireless communicator device that failed in the market place. It’s name became a byword for a failed start-up years later. Talent was no predictor of success. General Magic was the silicon valley equivalent of Manchester United getting relegated and going bankrupt in a single season. So it is understandable that they may have been leery of making yet another wireless device.
The Hiptop was unapologetically a data first device. It was a thick device with a sliding screen which revealed a full keyboard and four-way directional button to move the cursor. On later devices this became a trackball. The screen was a then giant 240 x 160 pixels in size. It became available in colour during the device’s second iteration, later devices had a screen that was 854 pixels wide.
I was large enough provide a half decent browsing experience, read and write messages and email. It was held in landscape arrangement and the chunky frame worked well in a two handed hold not that different from a games console controller, with thumb based typing which worked better than the BlackBerry keyboard for me. Early devices allowed you to move around the screen with four-way rocker switch. Later devices had a trackball. This keyboard rather than touchscreen orientation made sense for two reasons:
- Touchscreen were much less responsive than they are now
- It enabled quick fire communication in comparison to today’s virtual smartphone keyboard
Once the device went colour it also started to have LEDs that lit up for ringing and notifications, providing the kind of visual cues enjoyed by Palm and BlackBerry owners.
The Hiptop had a small (even by Symbian standards) amount of apps, but these were held in an app store. At the time, Symbian had signed apps as a precaution against malware, but you would usually download the apps from the maker’s website or the likes of download.com or TUCOWS and then side load on to the device from a Mac or PC.
The Hiptop didn’t need the mediation of a computer, in this respect it mirrored the smartphones of today.
When Danger was launched in 2002, carriers had much more sway over consumers. The user experience of devices was largely governed by carriers who usually made a mess of it. They decided what the default applications on a device and even the colour scheme of the default appearance theme.
Danger’s slow rise to popularity was because it had a limited amount of channels per market. In the UK it was only available via T-Mobile (now EE).
In the US, the Hiptop became a cult item primarily because IM had grown in the US in a similar way to SMS usage in Europe.
Many carriers viewed Hiptop as a competitor to BlackBerry and refused to carry it in case it would cannibalise sales.
Danger was acquired in 2008 and that is pretty much when the death of the Hiptop set in as Microsoft acquired the team to build something different. An incident with the Danger data centres losing consumers data and taking two months to restore full service from a month-old back-up didn’t help things. It was a forewarning of how dependent on cloud services that users would become.
Danger held much user data and functionality in the cloud, at the time it made sense as it kept the hardware cheaper. Danger devices came with a maximum of 2GB internal memory.
Even if Microsoft hadn’t acquired Danger it would have been challenged by the rise of both Android and iOS. Social platforms like Facebook would have offered both an opportunity and a challenge to existing messenger relationships. Finally the commoditisation of hardware would have made it harder for the Hiptop to differentiate on value for its millennial target market.
Despite millennials and social networks email is still the killer app of the web. But all is not good with email. I look at friends home screens and see thousands of unread emails in their inbox. They use search to find what they need.
It gives me heart palpitations just looking at the photo above. It was apparent for years that something needed to be done for email. Identity for e-commerce and social platforms still hinges on email addresses. For networks like Quora and LinkedIn, much of your interaction is driven in response to email prompts.
Email is a mature technology that works across a range of platforms and generally does a good job. It’s searchable, it has a permanence. Alongside the address book app, its a database to many aspects of your life from concert tickets, friend’s news or interaction with the government.
Apple’s iOS 10 and MacOS Sierra have tweaked the email experience on their default mail.app.
Apple has managed to detect the unsubscribe function in many email newsletters and give users control over their subscription at the top of each email.
Using the beta version of Sierra and iOS10 I found that I unsubscribed from many marketing emails. This seems to hold out in some of the anecdotal feedback I’ve heard from friends as email campaigns have reported a surge in unsubscribes since it rolled out from beta to general availability. This has been the same on both b2b and b2c clients.
However many of these people will be unengaged subscribers who hadn’t gained sufficient momentum to cancel without Apple’s assistance. Google takes a different approach, Gmail masks these emails in a separate folder – out of sight, out of mind.
A second part of this was that I found I was prepared to take a chance on new interesting newsletter subscriptions. The content that I did have, I engaged with more because it was easier to get rid of meh content.
I think this is an exciting development, it is a palette cleanser, an opportunity for email marketers to raise the quality of content and engagement. An opportunity to get direct immediate feedback through subscriptions and cancellations. A confident email reading consumers is a fantastic opportunity for agencies and progressive clients. However this will only happen if they chose to look beyond the dip.
I watched the few hours of keynotes at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. I also read some of the resulting analysis and wondered if we’d been watching the same event.
So thought I would think about the event carefully and come up on my take of what it all meant. This is a bit later than I originally planned to publish it.
Firstly, there was no change in direction for Apple from a strategic point-of-view. Apple has been clear about its direction, it is the ‘how’ which is the mystery.
Over the past few years, Apple has focused on the integration of its devices. The reason why there isn’t one OS*, a la Windows 10, is that the different form factors have different contexts. Cross-pollination of services only takes place where it makes sense, which is why Siri has taken a while to roll out.
The first big thing is APFS – a new file system for all of Apple’s devices. This builds on upon a feature set of ZFS which was a file system developed by Sun Microsystems for its Solaris UNIX operating system. Solaris runs on large enterprise computers where the prevention of data corruption and handling a large amount of file changes simultaneously is very important. Like ZFS, APFS supports encryption, granular time stamping, fast file management and has improvements in data integrity. When it’s fully finished it should make encryption on devices easier to manage and provide the user with more control. It should also help with syncing data across devices and the cloud.
The interesting thing is how this technology will scale over time handling multiple devices and form factors working seamlessly from a common database. Like many of there other technologies this is an extension of Apple’s Continuity offering and future integration with a wider IoT offering.
When Steve Jobs launched Mac OSX 10.0 in 2001 he described it as being the OS for the next 15 years. At the time the original MacOS was showing its limits. The UI was colour but hadn’t really moved on that much since System 7.5. The operating system wasn’t multi-tasking. The internet felt kludgy even though it performed well on the hardware at that time. Looking at OSX / macOS now, the operating system it feels fresh. The tweaks and changes under the hood keep the performance hub and the features comparable with the rest of the Continuity eco-system. macOS also doesn’t seem to be seriously threatened by iOS ‘pro’ devices.
iOS 10 was important to me for its embrace of messenger-as-a-platform. Apple innovates within its own Messages apps with some UI gimmicks. More importantly, notification real estate that was once the exclusive preserve of the Apple dialer. This allows you to accept calls from the likes of Skype, WeChat or Slack from the lock screen. This follows Apple’s model of using it’s own apps to work things out and then open up the function once it is mature. Apple’s own Messages app includes a number of features including:
- Simple chat bot-like functionality
- Swipe to read on messages to prevent shoulder surfers from reading messages
- Messages app takeover emotions
- More emoji / sticker like icons
Apple Pay roll-out – continued geographic roll-out makes sense. Apple Pay isn’t about building a rival payment system a la PayPal. Instead, Apple is trying to build more touch points with the user. The level of usage doesn’t matter too much from that perspective. Geographic roll-out to Hong Kong and more European countries makes sense. The more exciting development is two-factor authentication for e-commerce payments on compatible sites using the Apple Pay infrastructure. This is big for shopping on both Mac and iOS-powered devices.
Thinking differently about intelligence. Unless you have been living under tech industry equivalent of a stone, you’ll be aware of cloud companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google or Baidu using artificial intelligence techniques to drive device function. Apple hadn’t been as visible in this space up to WWDC. The reason for this is due their rigorous approach to user and device privacy. There were two approaches to this:
Having the mobile devices GPU to perform relatively simple neural-network computing. This can learn user preferences or intent over time and be more helpful
Making Siri more intelligent by looking at the behaviour of users encrypted, salted with false data and aggregated up. Differential Security is the process of acquiring this data. In the second world war, the Allies cracked the cryptography derived from the Enigma machine. But that was only the first part of the challenge. In order for it to be useful the Enigma team used statistics to hide any usage of the intelligence hiding reactive activity in the midsts of statistically expected ‘normal’ behaviour.
Differential security is kind of similar to this. All the data is encrypted, the phone sends a mix of false data and real data. When Apple looks at aggregated data they can see the false data as being false, but can’t tell which users data is false at a given time.
Apple’s WatchOS 3 is interesting because of the performance boost it gives the wearable. The difference is really noticeable. The boost in performance is due to Apple having more memory to use than it had originally allowed for. This provides a more refined experience. Much of the UX enhancements were focused on fitness.
From a developer perspective there were a few things missing:
- Apple had no new pro-level hardware announcements
- Apple later walked away from Thunderbolt displays, saying that 3rd parties were now making great displays. This reminded me of when Apple stopped making printers, it felt permanent, though there is a lot of speculation about a forthcoming Apple 5K display – we’ll see
- Apple still needs to do more work on integrating its Swift programming language throughout its OS’
- Given Twitter’s peak in growth, Apple didn’t show how Siri would cope in a post-Twitter world
Finally the two-hour keynote was a love letter to China. At every opportunity Tim Cook mentioned the Chinese market, support for China-specific items like language and called out Chinese apps like WeChat.
* From a technical point-of-view; tvOS, iOS, and macOS all share underpinnings based on NetBSD and a Mach micro-kernel.
Apple Pay supporting banks | Apple Support Documents
Apple finally opens Siri to third-party developers | TechCrunch
Apple rolls out privacy-sensitive artificial intelligence | MIT Technology Review
What is Differential Privacy? A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering
Digging into the dev documentation for APFS, Apple’s new file system | Ars Technica
Apple File System Guide | Apple Developer documentation
Mac & iOS Continuity | Apple