Tag: Apple

DF: What if Flash Were an Open Standard? 

Gruber, in discussing the current blogstorm over Apple's continued non-support for Adobe Flash in iPhone OS, touches on why Apple—who certainly have no problem with proprietary technology so long as it's theirs—are being such champs about keeping core internet technologies like WebKit free and open source:

It’s indisputable that Apple seeks large amounts of control over its products. So it’s a reasonable question to ask whether Apple sees the web itself, which they have no control over, as a problem. I don’t think that’s the case at all, though. The web, as a whole, is arguably the single most entrenched computer technology ever created. So where Apple seeks control with regard to the web is in the technology to render it — HTML, CSS, JavaScript. No one can tell them what to do with WebKit; they wait for no one to shape and bend WebKit to suit their needs.

It's tempting to reduce everything to some kind of strategic play, but I think the reason Apple open-sources their technology, and embraces open formats like AAC, H.264 and ePub, is because that's just how things are done on the Web. Microsoft tried building a wholly proprietary Web back in the IE monopoly days, and that just left them sitting ducks for competitors offering faster, more open alternatives.

WebKit is the finest Web engine in the world, faster and more compliant than Gecko at rendering markup. And for JavaScript, WebKit developers have their choice of two amazing interpreters—Apple's Nitro Engine and Google's V8—both of which are open source.

Standards evolve, and they do so in the open, and Apple can't control that. WebKit is Apple's way of ensuring that whenever the Web goes next, they will be there.

All About ePub 

The upcoming iBooks app/store on The Tablet the iPad is, like all of Apple's content offerings, based an open standard with a sprinkling of proprietary DRM. The ePub format Apple's using is a free, open, international standard that's also used by Sony's Reader devices, and the popular Stanza iPhone app.

Note that Amazon has hedged their bets pretty well: while their Kindle devices/apps can't read ePub content, the company not too long ago acquired Lexcycle, the company that makes Stanza. The vast majority of e-books sold today are for the Kindle, but with both Apple and Sony supporting ePub that's poised to change, and Amazon's already positioned themselves for when/if that happens.

Jason Calacanis Says Apple Gave Him A Tablet 

Calacanis says it has an OLED screen, a solar panel for recharging, an HDTV tuner and a DVR built-in. He also says there's a Farmville app for the Tablet, that Steve Jobs himself is going to demo it onstage today, and it's "insane." (Note to future fake rumormongers: Steve Jobs never demos third-party apps, and companies that aren't household brands like EA or the New York Times are never given early access to Apple SDKs.)

When someone's either delusional or lying, you need to ask: qui bono? What do they stand to gain from the lie? If this were true, it doesn't matter how much he loves the device: Apple will never, ever give Jason Calacanis access to them again. And if it's not, we'll all know it in a few hours and he'll look like a liar, if not insane.

Update: @shanev answers the question of why Calacanis would pull a lame stunt like this.

In which David predicts Wednesday’s Apple Event.

When writing about things I'm passionate about, such as Apple products, I tend to be long-winded in a misguided attempt to demonstrate just how much I know about the subject at hand. This usually results in me spending days crafting a perfect post, which I either publish (and come off looking like a crazy know-it-all) or don't (because it's just not perfect enough).

So, knowing this, I'm going to try to keep this predictions post short.

I've been watching Apple for a long time, and feel like I have a handle on what kind of company they are and what they will and won't do. I also have been following Apple rumors for a long time, and while most of what people write about the company is bullshit, there are sometimes patterns of bullshit that, parsed correctly, can point towards the truth.

This should be obvious, but even so it bears repeating: when the Wall Street Journal acts like a rumored upcoming Apple product is real, then it's real. Papers like the Journal don't run stories without confirmation, and the timing of their article stinks of a planned leak by Apple itself.

In other words, the Apple Tablet exists, and it will be demoed on Wednesday.

When you hear scuttlebutt that Steve Jobs considers the Tablet "will be the most important thing [he's] ever done," you really should stop to think about what that means.

In particular, think about the products Jobs has had a hand in creating: the original Mac, the iMac, the iPhone. They all have one thing in common: they're basically all screens with computers attached. For 25 years, Jobs has been trying to make a computer that is pure software, something a user can just interact with without the mediating presence of a keyboard and mouse.

I think he's finally nailed it: the Tablet will be Apple's first step toward user experiences that are entirely software-driven — that are just a screen, nothing else. It won't be perfect; it'll be 1.0. But eventually, the Tablet and its successors will change how we think about computers (not to mention media) forever.

With an intro like that, it seems almost ridiculous to think about specs. But before this thing can be a watershed moment in the evolution of technology, they've gotta make it, and we've gotta buy it. And so:

  • The One Screen to Rule Them All will be a 10-11” LED-backlit LCD (not OLED), framed in a gorgeously minimalist case made of Jobs and Jonathan Ive's favorite materials, aluminum and glass.

  • There won't be cellular networking of any kind. Amazon's offering "free" 3G with their tablet-like device is quickly turning into a clusterfuck for content producers and developers, and Apple's relationship with AT&T has been a clusterfuck for users. The Tablet will have Wi-Fi only, for now.

  • There'll be an App Store, which will be the only way to get third party software onto the device. But there will be apps on day one, and I expect the Tablet to use a substantially less crippled version of the iPhone OS and SDK.

  • I have no idea how text input will be handled on the Tablet, and neither do you. But I remember how no one had any idea how copy and paste would work on the iPhone, and Apple nailed that one. I have faith.

It's reasonable to expect Wednesday's announcement to be primarily about the Tablet (just as the 2007 Macworld keynote, where the iPhone was announced, was mostly about the iPhone). But the Tablet's hardly the only rumor out there. So here's a quick rundown, with predictions:

  • iPhone OS 4.0: The Tablet's gotta have software, and there are dubious reports that the fourth-gen iPhone OS is already being field-tested. This year I think the big iPhone stories will be multitasking (in some form; I doubt we'll ever get full background processes, but Apple may have come up with a reasonable compromise) and resolution independence (since the Droid and Nexus One have such gorgeous high-res screens).

    It doesn't make sense for Apple to devote precious keynote time to announcing a new developer SDK, so either it'll be announced separately later in the first quarter, or they'll give a quick summary during the event and post the rest of the details online.

    If they do announce a new OS, I hope it supports multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts. Google's CalDAV implementation is really starting to piss me off.

  • iLife and iWork: I think new versions will be announced soon (though perhaps not Wednesday), and I'm very curious to see how Apple updates the products to help people organize and share the kinds of videos they're shooting on their iPhones and iPod nanos.

    I also hope they improve the social networking features in both iMovie and iPhoto. The "album syncing" feature in iPhoto is almost useless, and more and more people I know are using web photo albums as their primary place of keeping their snapshots. (Want to send someone that picture you took last year? Just send them a link to your Flickr profile!)

    iPhoto is one of my favorite Apple apps, but I haven't used it in months. It's just not as powerful as Lightroom, even though it's much better at organizing my shots. I want Apple to make it great again, though I'm not holding my breath. It's possible that iLife's time has passed.

  • New MacBook Pros: New, quad-core MacBook Pros are coming soon; they may not be announced at the keynote, but if not they'll be on apple.com that same day. As much as your narrator would love a 13-inch quad core laptop he could carry around in his backpack, the new processors will probably only be in the 15- and 17-inch models for now.

  • MobileMe: Don't hold your breath for changes. They might start offering more storage space, or add some new syncing services designed to work with The Tablet. But for the most part it'll still suck, will still be overpriced, and will still be the best/only way to sync your personal info with an iPhone so I'll still renew the fucking thing.

  • The coming Apple/Google war. Um, no. Both companies are still making tons of money together, and Google launching their own smartphone has not changed that. Plus, users prefer Google. I would expect Bing to replace Yahoo! as the number two search option in Safari, but nothing more (yet).

  • New iPhone/iPod hardware: Absolutely not.

  • New versions of Aperture, Final Cut Express, or any of the other software products Apple seems to have forgotten they sell: Absolutely not.

  • Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO, and naming my fellow steely-haired Alabama native Tim Cook his successor: Absolutely not (yet).

Show and Sell: The Secret to Apple’s Magic 

Joel Johnson:

Outwardly Apple's showmanship is competent, workmanlike. Jobs-as-performer wears an understated uniform that does not distract from the act. His humor, when it exists, is subtle. The closest an Apple keynote gets to pomp are pie charts that look like wooden logs.

Yet when Jobs reveals the company's next product, there's a critical difference: It exists. When possible, it is available for retail purchase the same day. There are few maybes or eventuallys tempering the presentation: "Here is the tiny miracle we've created. We want to sell it to you today."

I've always wondered when someone would finally figure this out.

Apple Sees New Money in Old Media 

The WSJ:

Apple has recently been in discussions with book, magazine and newspaper publishers about how they can work together. The company has talked with New York Times Co., Condé Nast Publications Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers and its owner News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal, over content for the tablet, say people familiar with the talks.

Apple is also negotiating with television networks such as CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, for a monthly TV subscription service, the Journal has reported. Apple is also working with videogame publisher Electronic Arts Inc. to show off the tablet's game capabilities, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Amazon has pre-announced a Kindle SDK. 

Naturally, this being Amazon, it all sounds way more complicated than it needs to be:

Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Your active content can be priced three ways:

  • Free – Active content applications that are smaller than 1MB and use less than 100KB/user/month of wireless data may be offered at no charge to customers. Amazon will pay the wireless costs associated with delivery and maintenance.
  • One-time Purchase – Customers will be charged once when purchasing active content. Content must have nominal (less than 100KB/user/month) ongoing wireless usage.
  • Monthly Subscription – Customers will be charged once per month for active content.

Active content applications have an upper size limit of 100MB. Applications larger than 10MB will not be delivered wirelessly but can be downloaded from the Kindle Store to a computer and transferred to the user's Kindle via USB.

Compare this with Apple's pricing structure: apps can be any size you want, priced however you want, with Apple always taking a 30% commission on sales. Of course, neither Apple nor iPhone OS developers have to pay for their customers' wireless usage.

They also pre-announced a new, more-Apple-like royalty split for publishers: where they currently get just 40% of sales, they'll now get 70% minus delivery costs, and only if they agree to certain other criteria (like enabling Kindle Text-to-Speech).

Sony and Barnes & Noble already have competing e-readers out, and Amazon hasn't blinked. Now Apple is merely rumored to be just announcing, not shipping one next Wednesday, and suddenly everything changes.

Next Wednesday is gonna be awesome.