Tag Archives: apple

About The Mike Daisey Thing

I have not seen Mike Daisey’s show, nor have I listened to the This American Life episode that featured him before it was retracted. But even without having directly heard the monologue, it’s been impossible to avoid in the drumbeat about Apple over the last quarter.

The coverage following the retraction has been fascinating. Clayton Lord’s apology to audiences shows the conflict in the theatre community over what Daisey hath wrought. Brendan Kiley said “I told you so“, pointing back to his review. Adrian Chen explained how the press was taken for a ride.

But it is perhaps John Gruber’s breakdown of the non-apology this afternoon that nails why lying in the service of a greater truth doesn’t work in this case:

> Daisey told an entirely different story. Daisey’s story was this: Not only did those things happen, but they are all ongoing problems, right now, today, and they are so rampant, so commonplace, that a big white American wearing a Hawaiian shirt — a man who’s never before been to China and speaks neither Mandarin nor Cantonese — can simply travel to Shenzhen China and stand outside the Foxconn gates with a translator for a few shifts and he will find workers as young as 12, 13, 14 walking out. Any day, every day. That in the course of a single six-day trip, that same man could encounter a man who lost the use of a hand while assembling iPads, a group of workers poisoned by n-hexane, and that a man would drop dead after working a 34-hour shift. Just another week at Foxconn. That was Mike Daisey’s story — and it bears no resemblance to anything anyone else has reported.

My One Good Steve Jobs Anecdote

A few hours ago, [Apple announced that Steve Jobs had passed away](http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/).

While I had the opportunity to see Steve present seven keynotes – two MWNY, five WWDC – the one anecdote I have is about what didn’t happen at one of those keynotes. (It’s admittedly second-hand information and I never personally verified it, but I subscribe to the Tony Wilson/24 Hour Party People notion of choosing between the truth and the legend.)

People who have been reading this blog for ages will remember that in January of 2004, I traveled to Macworld San Francisco to work the Freeverse booth; the main title we were pushing was ToySight, our somewhat-ahead-of-its-time camera controlled minigame collection. It won Best Of Show, and many hours were spent flapping my arms to show the game off to people.

Despite the long-standing belief that Apple has never given a damn about games on the platform, they did – slightly. To that end, there was an Apple Games team, focused on developer relations, and at the time run by Rich Hernandez. (Rich was a great guy, and has since moved on to Microsoft.) Rich really liked ToySight, and wanted to see what he could do to see if it could be included in the keynote that year.

So Rich started trying to get it up the chain, showing it to his bosses, and their bosses, and their bosses still. Everyone loved it. It eventually reached the top tier – being reviewed by Steve for inclusion.

After being shown the game, or at least told about it, Steve’s reaction was apparently one of full interest, on one condition: that Phil Schiller be the one to demo it on stage. Long time Apple fans may recall Phil having to jump off a ledge holding an iBook to demonstrate the build quality, so I suppose this was part of Steve’s general love of making Phil look silly on stage.

Phil, regrettably, refused. The demo slot instead went to Aspyr for a Tony Hawk port. And so we grumbled and silently cursed Phil under our breath for denying us our brief shining moment at the keynote. But I love that thought of Steve: so ready to find ways to rib his team and push them out of their comfort zone.

(Thanks to Bruce Morrison for reminding me of this story.)

In all the rush to label him with titles like “this generation’s Edison”, I think people have missed half of Steve’s worth. He certainly brought innovation after innovation to the marketplace, showed the world that the conventional wisdom for how the tech industry “had” to run was flawed, and rebuilt a company on the verge of bankruptcy into the biggest technology company in the world. But just as importantly, he has served as a hero, a role model, and inspiration to a tremendous portion of the technology sector (myself included). It’s not just the products Apple brought to market under Steve’s leadership that will be felt for generations to come, but the products of the people he inspired.

It goes without saying that I will miss him greatly.

Some other reactions worth reading: [Walt Mossberg](http://allthingsd.com/20111005/the-steve-jobs-i-knew/), [Pat Kiernan](http://www.patspapers.com/blog/item/remembering_steve_jobs_my_first_apple/), [Brian Lam](http://thewirecutter.com/2011/10/steve-jobs-was-always-kind-to-me-or-regrets-of-an-asshole/).

Some Quick WWDC 2011 Keynote Thoughts

As you may have gathered, I’m not at WWDC this year – the recent job change made the timing difficult, as I’m still trying to get through the first 90 days. Not only that, this was the first year in quite a while where I made no effort to follow the keynote as it happened – if only because it again fell on my birthday, and I had more important things to obsess over.

But, as the sort of typical post that comes out of me around this time of year, here are my fractured impressions of what Apple laid out at the keynote.

# OS X Lion

The most fascinating part of Lion for me is the new licensing model, which does a pretty good job at derailing what has been standard practice since the dawn of the PC. Most OSes are licensed on the basis of a single computer; Lion appears to be licensed per person. On the full feature list, Apple writes:

When you purchase Lion from the Mac App Store, you can install it on all your authorized Mac computers. Just sign in to the Mac App Store from each Mac and download Lion from the Purchases list.

This is great for consumers – given the five computer authorization limit, you are now potentially paying $6 a machine for a full OS upgrade. That’s pretty huge.

Of course, for IT organizations or anyone that has to worry about corporate licensing, this is a giant unknown at the moment – and there’s nothing IT fears more than the unknown. Details will undoubtedly appear soon, but for now this is a giant question mark.

The cost worth observing on its own, both for the client version ($30) and the server version ($50). OS X sales were always a big revenue generator for Apple, so I’m not sure what the driver is in bring the cost down this much (typical OS X point upgrades are $130; OS X server previously retailed for $499 or $999 depending on the user count.)

As for the rest of the bullet points in Lion itself – it seems like a pretty thoughtful upgrade across the board, perhaps lacking any particularly sexy features for the power users. I’m personally most looking forward to the auto saving, versioning, and the resume on restart (seeing as I frequently bounce between Windows and OS X for gaming).

# iOS 5

“Fall” is a very nebulous release date, but since most major iOS releases have gone through about 3 months of developer testing (usually April-June), my expectation is a September-ish release for this, hopefully with accompanying new hardware. (My 3GS is long in the tooth.)

Like Lion, I’m not feeling anything groundbreaking here, but there are features that knock out pain points for me. The notifications tray will end the parade of modal popups that make me dread Foursquare. WiFi Sync will allow me to set up a charging station that isn’t in the middle of my desk. Tabbed browsing on the iPad is welcome, as is iMessage as a way to cut down on SMS fees. And having just played around with a recent Apple TV at my parents’ house two weekends ago, AirPlay is a point of interest for me.

I think the Twitter integration is an odd piece, given Twitter’s recent spats with third party client developers – but we’ll see what it turns into and enables developers for.

# iCloud

A little over a year ago, I wrote off MobileMe:

if you’re going to provide core internet services, consider the price differential between you and your strongest competitor. If it’s a little, you only need to be a little better…$100 a year for what feels like a worse product than what’s available for free? Your business model is screwed. Start over, do better.

With that in mind, iCloud leaves me in a state that I can only describe as *meh*.

Undoubtedly Apple has nailed the price point – the majority of the service is free, and the things that do cost extra, like iTunes Match, appear reasonable in cost (without full details). MobileMe users, especially those that just renewed, may be taking a hit but I’m guessing they won’t complain about free going forward.

But the “service” itself is an amalgamation, just like most every version of MobileMe was. The iTunes version of iCloud is that you can redownload your music now, and auto-push it to your devices. That’s neat, but that’s not any particular cloud implementation for the redownloads – that’s just a licensing renegotiation that Apple finally got around to. The app re-downloads piece is even less than that – it’s just an extra screen within the App Store that they turned on as the keynote was ending.

Photo Stream seems suspiciously like the way my Sidekick used to automatically float photos up to T-Mobile’s servers. iCloud Mail is just rebranded MobileMe Mail. And so on. What’s missing is something that, like a good rug, ties the whole thing together. Maybe there are some great overlaps between the services, ones that will become more obvious as the thing grows closer to production. But from here, it just looks like nine services that happen to all be branded together – and that doesn’t strike me as very “Apple”.

S-Day

Valve, October 19th, 1999:

Given the realities of the Mac gaming market, our Mac customers were always going to be mad at us. They were always going to be second-class customers where we couldn’t invest to the same degree in the Mac version as we did elsewhere. I don’t want to be in that business. I would much rather we just eat the money we’ve spent so far than take money from Mac customers and short-change them.

Valve, May 12th, 2010:

Whether you’re a Mac or a PC, Steam has the games you want to play and a global community of gamers to play with.

What a difference a decade can make.

For those of you taking the plunge tomorrow for the first time, I am more than happy to take questions and help you make heads or tails of a fantastic (yet sometimes intimidating) gaming platform. Just visit my Steam Community and add me as a friend after you get it installed. (I would do a longer post, but there’s still a lot about the launch that we won’t know until tomorrow.)

Hope to see you there.

MobileMeh

January, 2000: Apple unveiled iTools. Provided for free to anyone running OS 9, it provided a POP email account at mac.com, 20 MB of internet-based storage referred to as iDisk, web hosting space, and internet filtering software to keep the kids safe. It was 2000, I was in college, it was free. I could not argue. I took the address remy@mac.com.

July, 2002: iTools relaunches as “.Mac”. It begins to cost $100 a year. Having just graduated, and not wanting to be tied to my university email for the rest of my life, I opt to start paying in October.

October, 2003: I renew my .Mac account. I am happy with the service.

February 2004: I purchase my first Sidekick. It does not sync contacts with my phone, thus increasing the value of address book sync.

April, 2004: Gmail launches. Unable to take a name of less than six characters, I default back to “remydwd” as my user name. My .Mac email account falls out of favor, but continue to renew the account for address book synchronization.

October, 2004: I renew my .Mac account. I feel like I am getting enough out of the address book, bookmarks, and keychain sync to justify the cost, and Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account.

October, 2005: I renew my .Mac account. I still feel like I am getting enough out of the address book, bookmarks, and keychain sync to justify the cost, and Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account.

April, 2006: Google Calendar launches. Any use I had for iCal as a primary repository of my calendaring now goes out the window.

October, 2006: I renew my .Mac account. I’m not entirely sure I am getting enough out of the sync to justify the cost, but Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account.
June, 2007: The iPhone comes out. I buy one the day after release. I finally replace my Sidekick with a phone that can actually sync my address book.

October, 2007: Leopard launches, which features “Back to My Mac”. I finally have some degree of reliable screen sharing between home and the office. I happily renew my .Mac account.

April, 2008: I get an invite to Dropbox. I immediately forget about the existence of iDisk – not that I had ever used it much to begin with.

June, 2008: .Mac relaunches as MobileMe. It is largely terrible for the first few months. I don’t notice much as I’m not using the service – not even on my iPhone for over-the-air contact syncing, which blows out my address book the first time I try it. I get a three month service extension to compensate for the poor service.

January, 2009: I renew my .Mac account. Katie has switched to Gmail at long last, but Back To My Mac is still mostly useful.

June, 2009: iPhone OS 3.0 is released. “Find my iPhone” is added as a feature to MobileMe. I find it neat but ultimately useless, as I could remote wipe through a console at the office. I can now get both my work and personal calendar over the air, reliably. I refer to this as the “holy grail” around the office.

January 2010: I face reality. When you have extremely reliable, robust email from Google, cloud storage with every feature I can imagine from Dropbox, and I’m able to carry my address book with me on my iPhone all the time, I am unable to see any reason to continue with MobileMe. I decline to renew my account.

Narrative aside, there’s a lesson here: if you’re going to provide core internet services, consider the price differential between you and your strongest competitor. If it’s a little, you only need to be a little better.

$100 a year for what feels like a worse product than what’s available for free? Your business model is *screwed*. Start over, do better.

In Memory of Bruce Prevo

Bruce Prevo, the Apple Account Executive I’ve worked with for most of my time at WCMC, passed away this weekend after a difficult battle with cancer.
It goes without saying that Apple is a huge company, with a extremely large number of moving parts. Trying to get support in the time of a crisis or to fight for a discount can feel like pulling teeth, as it can with all large companies. Bruce eased this tremendously – always being willing to do his best with the corporate office on our behalf.
He will be missed.

Silently Protest This

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Apple Inc. announced that Steve Jobs would not do the keynote at the 2009 Macworld Conference & Expo. That’s okay.

They also announced that they would no longer attend the conference in the future. That’s actually also okay. Apple doesn’t run the Macworld Expo, has never run the Macworld Expo, and for years has been appearing at the event because it was the easiest way for them to get press coverage, albeit at a great cost. But Apple no longer has an issue getting press coverage, and so they have outgrown the utility of going to Macworld San Francisco, much like they did in 2002 with Macworld New York.

Some people don’t feel that’s okay. Some people are so upset, they feel that such a decision is worth staging a protest against.

For 25 years, a very feral and cultish Mac community – some call them MacMacs – have swarmed the halls of Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA to see, obnoxiously line up for, and collectively drool over the products they love. By announcing their departure from this otherwise pointless trade show (really, there is little point for most people to attending MWSF if Apple isn’t there) Apple is signaling to the entire community that people now have a chance to froth at the mouth and act personally insulted that you will no longer be able to pay to hear someone announce products.

If you’re attending the Macworld Expo keynote on Tuesday, Jan. 6, you aren’t sending a message to Apple by remaining silent during the 2009 keynote. While Phil Schiller is on the stage, if you’re sitting in the audience, even if you sit on your hands, duct tape your mouth shut, and hold your breath, you’re not sending a message to Apple.

You know how you send a message to Apple? The same way you send a message to other companies: you stop buying their products. You stop worshipping the company and/or the products and/or Steve Jobs.

My name is Dan Dickinson, and I’m tired of fanboys.

WWDC08 Keynote – MobileMe

> “Not wanting to sound like an asshole, Phil, but I use Gmail IMAP and when I read a message on my iPod, it’s read on Gmail too.”Yanik Magnan
(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)


Apple has been running .mac as a service since 2000 (when it was known as iTools), and for the first six years, the service was happily functional. But the service has languished over the past two years, with service outages and a lack of compelling reasons to chalk up the $100 a year.

MobileMe is the .mac mulligan. It’s been revamped, with a focus now on pushing data to devices rather than enriching your digital life.

From my own experience, .mac became less valuable not because of the downtime but because of strong alternatives – largely from Google. Gmail trounced .mac mail. Google Calendar edged out iCal. Google Talk has grown more useful that .Mac’s piggybacking on AIM. Flickr creamed the iPhoto integration. You get the picture – free and/or cheap services continued to pop up and outclass .mac on nearly every level.

MobileMe certainly appears to have a compelling interface, but the proof is in the service. Apple has to justify the expense of MobileMe over robust free products, and that’s no small feat, even for Apple. And nothing I read about the demo made it sound $100-compelling.

Apple has already posted a few resources for curious .mac users:

* How to prepare for MobileMe
* What will happen to my email address?
* .Mac to MobileMe transition FAQ

The FAQ reveals the features that are getting cut: Web access to bookmarks (not the end of the world), iCards (one of the very original iTools features, which I strangely loved), .Mac slides (meh), and support for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther sync (which should’ve been dropped a year ago).

It also strikes me as terribly weird to announce this, a very consumer-oriented service, at the Developer’s Conference. Perhaps there will be some sessions about hooking into it via an API – *joy of joys*. But there’s a larger elephant in the room.

While I’m sure there’s some consumers who have bought in that they absolutely *must* have push email so they can get funny forwards from Aunt Millie instantly, where an “Exchange for the rest of us” is really needed is in the (very unsexy) enterprise. Exchange is costly and cumbersome, and Microsoft is raking money in hand-over-fist in CAL fees.

Were Apple playing it smart, they’d be baking the same core technologies – push email, calendar, and address book – behind MobileMe into 10.6 Server. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced Apple is playing it smart here.

For more, Merlin Mann (like clockwork) has some good thoughts on MobileMe.

WWDC08 Keynote – Backgrounding

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)


Apple did, in their usual pretzel of logic way, address the big issue regarding application development: apps that need to function in the background.

In many ways, the proposal (a single connection to Apple’s server handles push notification from servers) does have many benefits, and I can practically recite them off of Scott Forstall’s slides. It will lead to better system performance, help save on battery life, and certainly streamline the networking.

But rewind back to the SDK announcement on March 6th. Remember this slide?

Not three months ago, Apple was touting how superior their Exchange support was to the Blackberry because you didn’t have to go through a server owned by a vendor to gain functionality.

The other shoe certainly seems to have dropped here. Apple is offering to be the intermediary for every app that needs backgrounding, much like RIM is for everyone who wants Blackberry email. With the number of issues RIM has had with their service over the last year, Apple is going to be under high scrutiny if they have similar outages.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t nearly as crippling as RIM’s reliance on their cloud servers. I’d rather lose my backgrounding for, say, an IM client than my email. But there are implications for developers, and I don’t even want to think about what this means for enterprises writing apps. I can only hope Apple makes their retention policy very clear.