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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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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)


Linked by Dan Moren

App Store’s “free trials” are in name only

MarsEdit developer (and my pal) Daniel Jalkut has some thoughts on Apple’s addition of “free trials” to the App Store guidelines:

In summary: none of the mechanics of supporting ersatz free trials are substantially supported by the App Store. Every aspect of the solution is bolted on to a system which was not designed for, yet is somewhat admirably being used to simulate real support for free trials.

Free trials have long been a top request of app developers; they’re something that’s existed in the Mac software world for decades, and Apple has yet to really embrace them. Whether that’s because it believes it’s too complicated, or simply doesn’t think people use them is unclear, but Daniel’s post adroitly lays out why the change to App Store guidelines is a step in the right direction, but far from enough.


Dan Moren for Macworld

WWDC 2018: Apple’s counterintuitive business moves ↦

There’s a great scene in my favorite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, where a Macy’s sales manager is shocked to overhear the department store Santa Claus send a distraught mother to a competitor to buy a toy. But what starts as a fireable offense ends up becoming a marketing strategy, as Macy himself realizes that, counterintuitively, there’s a benefit to being seen as a store that cares more about its customers than its profits.

Apple, it seems, has taken this philosophy to heart. The company has always put forth the image that it cares more about surprising and delighting its customers than about cold hard cash, and on occasion it seems to make decisions that would otherwise seem counterintuitive to the capitalistic idea of simply raking in as much money as it can.

This year’s WWDC announcements were no exception: the company showed off more than a few features that seem as though they go against the grain of the company’s business model. But, as with Apple, there’s always a method to the madness.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 190: I Don’t Have Thirty Friends!

This week, on the irreverent tech show which features only one panelist in San Jose, we discuss the WWDC announcements of 2018. Moltz is happy about getting a walkie talkie on the Apple Watch, Lex isn’t thrilled about Control Center on the iPad moving, and Dan is very worried that he doesn’t know enough people for FaceTime.

Episode linkMP3 (52 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

What will the Mac be like in 2020? ↦

It was as absolute an answer as you could possibly get. Is Apple merging iOS and macOS? “No,” said Apple software chief Craig Federighi, with an animated accompaniment smashing down on the screen behind him.

And yet… Federighi made that comment just moments before he unveiled a new system, being worked on by Apple over multiple years, that will allow the developers of iOS apps to bring those apps to the Mac more easily. And first up will be Apple itself, which is using this approach to translate the iOS Stocks, Voice Memos, News, and Home apps for macOS Mojave, coming this fall.

While the Mac and iOS might not be merging, major changes are in store for the Mac and the apps it runs. It’s hard to imagine how the Mac of a couple of years hence isn’t populated with apps sourced from iOS. And yet, Apple says, the Mac will remain the Mac.

What does that mean? What will define the Mac in 2020?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Six Colors podcast from WWDC

Every week (ish) Six Colors members can hear a podcast where Dan and I discuss the issues of the week in a fun, casual format. This week we recorded outside in San Jose for WWDC and I’m making the mp3 available to everyone. If you enjoy it, consider subscribing to Six Colors! You’ll get access to the podcast feed and also a monthly email newsletter with exclusive content.


By Jason Snell

With Mojave, Apple makes changes inside and outside Mac App Store

The introduction of macOS Mojave will see Apple make some important changes to how Mac software is secured and analyzed—both inside and outside of the Mac App Store.

If you view software on the Mac as a simple binary—it’s either approved and scanned by Apple or it’s a free-for-all—you’re missing some important nuances. By default, macOS launches apps from the Mac App Store or apps that are cryptographically signed by a developer with its Apple-generated certificate. If an app from outside the Mac App Store isn’t signed, it won’t open (unless you change the security settings or override the check).

But in Mojave, the Mac App Store is getting more expansive. For example, Apps are able to ask for permission to creep out of the restrictive “sandbox” and access files more broadly across your Mac’s hard drive. The severe restrictions of the Mac App Store’s security policies were one of the reasons most frequently cited by developers who decided to bail out on the store and just go back to selling apps directly. It’s no coincidence that two notable developers who abandoned the Mac App Store, Bare Bones and Panic, were highlighted in a slide at the WWDC Keynote: That’s Apple sending a message to developers that the Mac App Store is changing and that they might want to give it a second look. I’d expect Apple to continue in this direction with the Mac App Store in the future.

Mojave also introduces a new set of security measures for apps outside the Mac App Store. The new concept is called “notarizing” apps, which is a way for Apple to digitally mark an app release that’s been signed by a registered Apple developer. To release an app (outside the Mac App Store), developers will upload their app to an Apple server, where it’s automatically scanned for malware. This isn’t anything formal like an App Store review, but it’s meant to catch obvious malware. When an app passes the scan, Apple generates a file that’s provided back to the developer. Developers don’t need to use this approach in Mojave, but down the road it seems like it will replace the current app-signing option for non-App Store apps.

The notarized-apps approach has some notable benefits, like the fact that a single rogue version of an app can be stopped without disabling every single app signed by that developer—a harsh side effect of the current approach to signing apps. But it also adds a delay in the software release, and brings Apple directly into the app release workflow. Any technical breakdown on Apple’s end could get in the way of app updates going out the door.

Still, it’s an interesting contrast: Apple is making it easier for more apps to get into the Mac App Store, while also instituting somewhat tighter security controls on apps that are released outside the store. Anyone who wants to see a slippery slope that ends up in the Mac software experience being entirely locked down will undoubtedly see it here; it’s more likely that this is Apple’s way of balancing the freedom of Mac software distribution with the need to protect Mac users from malware infestations.

As for the Mac App Store, this is great news. While the keynote showed off a fancy new App Store interface, complete with editorial content akin to what’s been on the iOS App Store since the release of iOS 11 last fall, you can’t write engaging marketing material about apps that aren’t allowed in the store. Altering policies and providing new tools for apps to ask permission, thereby returning developers like Panic and Bare Bones to the store, is what it will take to refresh the Mac App Store. And it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #244: The Smooshing of Everything

Live from WWDC in San Jose, California, it’s the 30-minute tech show that occasionally gets hijacked. This week, Dan is joined by special guest co-host Jason Snell, as well as Myke Hurley and Alex Cox to discuss Apple’s AR ambitions, iOS’s new Screen Time feature, getting iOS in your macOS, and Siri’s new Shortcuts app.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)