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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

Will Apple buy a content company? The clock’s ticking.

If you didn’t know, I co-host a weekly podcast with Tim Goodman, chief TV critic at The Hollywood Reporter. We’ve been talking on the podcast about Apple’s increasing presence in the television world for more than a year now, and today he’s written a piece at THR about where Apple goes next:

There are still so many questions surrounding tech logic vs. TV logic when it comes to Apple. But at the moment, it’s hard to imagine that the delay in acquiring some other content provider is related to a different operating system rather than a matter of A) Apple secrecy and B) Nobody has sold anything yet, even if it seems that everything is for sale. Apple has been rumored to have been circling Viacom for at least two years but nothing ever happened…

But if you’re watching these mega-mergers happen right in this very instant of court-approved monolith-making capitalism run amok, then you are a little more dubious about where Apple will end up when the musical chairs anthem runs out on their Beats. Will they own Sony? Will they own MGM? Will the CBS-Viacom battle have become defined enough that Viacom is on the market and able to be snatched up by Apple? Is there something else out there that makes sense to Apple — Lionsgate? Are there a series of tiny acquisitions — Crunchyroll? — about to be strung together?

Apple does its own thing, and I kind of believe that if it had its druthers, it would assemble its own slate of content. That said, the AT&T-Time Warner merger ruling is about to set off an enormous feeding frenzy in the entertainment world, and Apple has a fat wallet. It might not want to buy a few large entertainment companies, but if the alternative is that its competitors buy them all, it may not have the luxury of sitting things out.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple announces MacBook keyboard service program

It’s a longstanding tradition to slide out bad news on a Friday afternoon, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s Friday afternoon. Apple has announced a special program to support repairs on bad keyboards in MacBook and MacBook Pro models:

Apple has determined that a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge. The type of service will be determined after the keyboard is examined and may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard.

The program covers all laptops that use Apple’s new low-profile “butterfly” keyboard design, including all models of MacBook (2015, 2016, 2017), and all three MacBook Pro models (13-inch without Touch Bar, 13-inch with Touch Bar, 15-inch) released in 2016 and 2017. The program is in effect for four years after the first retail sale of the units, so if you bought a MacBook the day it went on sale in March 2015, you’re still covered through March 2019.


Dan Moren for Macworld

Where oh where can the Mac updates be? ↦

Even before Tim Cook took the stage, there was little expectation that this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference would focus on anything other than software. But now, with it in our rearview mirror and a new iPhone announcement likely not far down the road, questions have turned to the future of Mac hardware.

Rogue Amoeba co-founder Quentin Carnicelli stirred up some discussion this past week by examining Apple’s current Mac lineup, and pointing out that, with the exception of the new iMac Pro, none of it has been updated in over a year. (The most egregious case being, of course, the Mac mini, which is closing in on four years without a revision.) That’s prompted some clamor that Apple should commit to yearly updates of its computer platform, just as it does with the iPhone.

There are a few things that have probably conspired to bring the state of Mac hardware to the point that it’s at now. Perhaps what we’re seeing is a perfect storm: a confluence of events, any one of which might impact a model or two in Apple’s product line, but which, when combined, put us in the current situation.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 192: They Can’t Make Something Out of Nothing

The show’s back with a full crew as we take turns adding value to the show. We discuss the current state of Mac hardware, the ergonomics of touchscreens on iPads and Macs, and neither Lex nor Dan can figure out how John hasn’t played Pocket Run Pool yet.

Episode linkMP3 (38 minutes)


By Dan Moren

AirPower, AirPower, wherefore art thou?

AirPower

One thing missing from Apple’s WWDC keynote—and from the March education event before that—was any news about the company’s AirPower wireless charging mat, first announced at a media event in September of last year with a release date of sometime in 2018.

Writing today for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman says that the accessory may finally appear in September, and chalks the delays up to technical problems:

An executive at an Apple partner that manufactures third-party wireless chargers for iPhones, who asked not to be identified, said that the multi-device charging mechanism is challenging to build because it likely requires different sized charging components for the three types of devices, which would all overlap across the mat.

These technical challenges jibe with what I’d heard, secondhand, at WWDC. 1

What remains peculiar about this episode, however, is the fact that Apple announced this product before it was ready to ship. This has become a trend more recently with Apple: the Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, even the forthcoming Mac Pro—the company has become much more willing to pre-announce products. That’s resulted in risks, too: the AirPods and HomePod were both delayed from their original release targets.

However, the AirPower takes this to the extreme. While the AirPods and HomePod were delayed by a couple months each, likely due to either being able to manufacture the products at scale or last minute software adjustments. The AirPower, by contrast, seems to not even be in production yet, reinforcing the idea of challenges with the device’s engineering.

Nor is this a case like Apple’s software releases where the company wants to give time for developers to adopt new features introduced in releases that won’t appear for several months. There’s no software developer component to the AirPower.

So, why? Why introduce the AirPower before it was ready to ship in the first place? Apple has been selling third-party charging pads in their stores since it added wireless charging capabilities to the iPhone line last year, so it wasn’t as though there was no way to use the feature without the AirPower. Perhaps it wanted to put a stake in the ground and encourage people to wait for the AirPower? (Although with no firm release date or price point, that was going to be a hard sell.)

I don’t have a good answer to this question; this seems to be a rare misstep from Apple on a product that, let’s be honest, is hardly going to have the impact of a new iPhone or Mac. Either the AirPower team was mistaken about how ready the product was last fall (or how hard the remaining engineering would be), or the readiness of the product was misrepresented to Apple leadership. Because it’s hard to imagine Phil Schiller getting up on stage to announce an accessory he knew wouldn’t be available for a year.

We may never have a really good answer to this question. At best, you might expect an offhanded comment at its release about how difficult it was to get the execution right and how impressive the result is, but no company ever really wants to admit it made a mistake.

It will be interesting, however, to see if this has any ultimate impact on Apple’s recent strategy of pre-announcing some of its devices. Might the company be a little cagier in the future, a little more conservative? I doubt this will have any impact on a major product such as the next iPhone—Apple’s not about to take risks with its bread and butter. But it might be one reason that hardware was nowhere to be seen at WWDC: when there’s nothing ready to go, you don’t want to make any promises you can’t keep.


  1. Jason and I discussed this on a recent episode of the Six Colors Secret Subscriber Podcast. ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #246: Things That Control Other Things

This week on the 30-minute show that doesn’t have a laugh track, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Tiffany Arment and Joe Rosensteel to discuss how Apple will sell its TV service, our favorite E3 announcements, controlling smart home devices from smart speakers, and AMC’s MoviePass competitor. Plus, our favorite bagel flavors in any and all contexts.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

Imagining how Apple will roll out its new TV service ↦

It’s been almost exactly a year since Apple hired two executives from Sony Pictures Television to lay the groundwork for a new, premium Apple video service. In the intervening 12 months, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg have staffed up their operation with heavy hitters from the television programming and development world, and Apple has since bought at least 18 original series, an animated feature, and of course, an overall deal with Oprah.

It takes a long time to make TV shows, so we might not see the fruits of Erlicht and Van Amburg’s work until 2019. (Forget about “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps”, which were a product of Apple’s television prehistory, when the company was just dipping its toes in the waters rather than cannonballing into the deep end.) But because the entertainment industry is even leakier than Apple’s hardware supply chain, we learn the details of Apple’s content deals pretty much as soon as they’re made. What remains in Apple’s control is the big picture about where all the stuff it’s buying is going to live, who’s going to see it, and what it’s going to cost.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #198: The Mac Is Dead, Long Live the Mac

Apple has said that it’s not merging iOS and macOS, but that sneak peek of iOS apps coming to macOS opens up a lot of questions about just what the Mac might look like in five years. Jason’s optimistic, but Mac users may be in for the biggest changes to the platform since the introduction of Mac OS X nearly two decades ago. Also, what’s up with no new Mac hardware announcements? And just when you thought you had a handle on Apple’s unannounced video service, here comes Oprah!

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 28 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

Tim Cook, at the center of US-China relations

The New York Times’s Jack Nicas and Paul Mozur have an interesting overview of the place Apple (and Apple CEO Tim Cook) hold in the relationship between the United States and China:

Under Mr. Cook’s leadership, Apple’s business in China grew from a fledgling success to an empire with annual revenues of around $50 billion — just a bit under a quarter of what the company takes in worldwide. He did this while China was tightening internet controls and shutting out other American tech giants.

Cook has said repeatedly that China is a key market for Apple, and his frequent appearances in China show that Apple cares very much about its relationship with the Chinese government. But as the article points out, Apple also stands to be one of the biggest targets in any a trade war between the U.S. and China.


By Dan Moren

WhenWorks is a new tool for scheduling your availability

whenworks

If you’re the kind of person who constantly has to refer to their calendar whenever somebody asks if you’re free at a specific time, then the brand new WhenWorks, the latest venture from BusyMac co-founder John Chaffee, is something you might appreciate. It’s a combination app and web service that lets you easily schedule appointments with people.

When you download the app and create an account, you’ll be able to create various types of events (meetings, phone calls, lunches, etc.), setting information like how long the event is, when your availability window is, and how long you want between events. WhenWorks then generates a link to your page on their website that you can send out to your invitee and let them select a time that works with your existing calendar. (It integrates with Apple’s iCloud calendars, Office 365, Google Calendar, and Outlook.com.)

You can also add pre-event questions for your guest (such as a phone number or contact info about where to reach them). When they select a time, the event will automatically be added to the calendar of your choice.

Overall, WhenWorks is a simple idea that’s well executed in an attractive app. I’ve been playing with it for the last week or two leading up to its release. It does currently have some shortcomings, primarily among them the inability to schedule events for more than two people, but if you need to schedule a lot of one-on-one meetings and appointments, this could be a huge timesaver.

If you want to give it a whirl, you can download a 14-day fully featured free trial of the app from the App Store. After the trial expires, you can still schedule up to 5 events per month for free; a $5/month subscription unlocks unlimited events.

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Dan Moren

App Store antitrust case will be heard by Supreme Court

Bloomberg:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Apple Inc.’s bid to kill an antitrust lawsuit over the market for iPhone apps in a case that could shield e-commerce companies from consumer claims over high commissions.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of monopolizing the app market so it can charge excessive commissions of 30 percent. Apple, backed by the Trump administration, says it can’t be sued because the commission is levied on the app developers, not the purchasers who are suing.

So, I’m sure this will get misinterpreted as the Supreme Court hearing a case as to whether or not the App Store is a monopoly when in fact the issue at stake here is whether or not consumers have the standing to sue Apple on antitrust grounds. 1 So while it’s still significant for its implications, it doesn’t immediately threaten the App Store’s existence.


  1. The usual “I am not a lawyer” disclaimer applies here.  ↩


Linked by Dan Moren

Making 3D Touch more discoverable

Great post by user experience engineer Eliz Kılıç on the discoverability problem with 3D Touch on iOS, and a suggestion on how to fix it:

What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them?

3D Touch is an interesting idea, and it does help add a dimension to some aspects of iOS, but it remains problematic four years after its introduction. Not only, as Kılıç points out, is it hard to discover, but it’s hard to demo to less tech savvy folks (“No, don’t tap, press. Press harder. Harder. But then hold it!”).

It’s also still not distributed across iOS devices: the iPad line still lacks it, which means that it hasn’t become ingrained in people’s use. 1

Furthermore, I think that some of the uses of 3D Touch are poorly executed. In particular, peeking and popping used as a way to preview content rarely saves you time over actually tapping into content—particularly when the content you are previewing is a URL that then has to load, leaving you holding your finger pressed on the device, trapped, while it continues to load. Because if you let go while it’s still loading, then you need to tap on it again, so you’ve ended up losing time instead of saving time. This is a bad interaction.

Where I do think 3D Touch works is in making certain actions more convenient. For me, the gold standard is in the Music app—yes, I know! Surprising!—where you can press on a song to bring up a contextual menu that lets you do things like add it to your Up Next queue. It saves time and it makes sense, especially to anybody who’s used a contextual menu on the Mac.

But none of that matters if people can’t figure out where 3D Touch is usable without having to rely on trial and error, and that’s where Kılıç’s suggestion of having a visual cue for the feature makes a lot of sense.


  1. Imagine if only Mac laptops let you right-click on things and on desktop Macs you had to control-click. That’d be weird, right? ↩


Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple WWDC 2018: The best announcements you may have missed ↦

It’s easy to emerge from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference with your head spinning. There were so many announcements last week that it can be hard to sort through all of them—and even more of them are now coming to light as the beta versions of Apple’s next updates are installed by developers and aficionados around the world.

But I thought I’d take a moment to note my favorite small enhancements in each of the company’s four major upcoming platforms. Oftentimes, we focus on the big ticket items: macOS Mojave’s Dark Mode, or iOS 12’s Siri Shortcuts, for example. But it’s in these small features where Apple’s attention to detail is apparent, especially in how they help users save time and use their devices more efficiently.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 191: Memoji Emergency!

This week, on the irreverent tech podcast that features between two and three panelists a week, we’re still discussing WWDC announcement fallouts, but we discuss macOS’s Dark Mode, the possibility of USB-C on the next iPhone, and then—after we get rid of Lex—a weird security vulnerability recently patched in macOS. Also, what to expect from a possible fall event?

Episode linkMP3 (45 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

‘Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation’

Everything that is known about Siri Shortcuts is covered in this article by Federico Viticci today on MacStories:

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone - not just power users - can reap the benefits.

The article is in-depth, comes from one of the people most knowledgeable about Workflow (the source of Siri Shortcuts) outside of Apple, and has details that suggest that Federico spent some quality time last week in San Jose discussing these topics with people in the know.

If you want to know about Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12, this is a must-read.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #245: Guinea Pig Hate Mail

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that features its fair share of betrayals, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jeremy Burge and Jean MacDonald to discuss our favorite delightful WWDC announcements, whether Memoji are here to stay, the Apple news we didn’t get last week, and whether everyone should go a conference like WWDC. Finally, we propose our own solutions to IHOP’s rebranding nightmare.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

Would Apple ever make a convertible MacBook? ↦

We’ve heard it straight from Apple: macOS and iOS aren’t merging together. Instead, Apple is going to bring the iOS app platform to the Mac in 2019. The result will likely be a macOS platform that’s still the Mac, but with a much heavier influence from iOS. Last week I suggested that this makes me question the long-term viability of the Mac, but it’s also possible that Apple’s moves will lead to a world where I stop dreaming about a laptop that runs iOS because it just won’t be necessary. It all depends on how much all that iOS-originated software will change the Mac in the next few years.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Dan Moren

macOS Mojave’s dark side of the mode

Our pal and regular Six Colors Magazine contributor Stephen Hackett delves into the most prominent feature of macOS Mojave, dark mode:

The last point, “Dark Mode is content-focused” should sound familiar to anyone who was around during the iOS 7 transition, or who was paying attention when OS X Yosemite was introduced. Apple’s modern design language, the company is fond of saying, is made to get out of the way, allowing users’ content to shine through.

Apple has returned to that well with Dark Mode, and I think it works.

I recently realized that I use the current Dark Mode on my iMac, and the normal light appearance on my MacBook Air, in large part because it matches the respective bezels on the devices’ screens.

Stephen also runs down the addition of the new Accents feature, which finally brings different selection colors to menus and other UI elements.


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

5 Reasons Why iOS 12 Is the Biggest Upgrade in Years ↦

All the rumors said that Apple was going to take it easy this year, scaling back on the ambition of its software updates in order to focus on improved performance, stability and security. Those three items are definitely at the top of the feature list for iOS 12, due this fall, but this is anything but a snooze of an update for iPhone users.

In fact, iOS 12 may change the way we interact with our iPhones more than any previous iOS release since the App Store arrived ten years ago.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #197: Banana Royale

It’s time to reflect on WWDC week, so Jason and Myke are joined by special guest developer James Thomson. We discuss our first impressions of the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, the future of Mac apps in and out of the Mac App Store, and what new features are now at the top of James’s priority list as a developer.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 38 minutes)