Editorials

Apple’s WWDC 2017 Wrap Up, Machine Learning Edition

Apple just blew through six major updates on stage at WWDC, telling us about the future of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and even the iMac and iPad. While the keynote was run at breakneck pace and went for close to two-and a half hours, the pervasive theme — besides rumours spoiling nothing — was that Apple are focusing on machine learning to power many technologies moving forward. When Cook’s update about Apple was brief and to the point — “Apple’s doing great!” — you knew you were in for a good time. Let’s break it down.

1. Apple TV

Amazon arriving on the Apple TV was the first cab off the rank, a seemingly minor update to the platform. Coming later this year, Amazon Prime Video will be good for all Amazon Prime subscribers, but less useful for those of us that live outside of the US or the UK don’t get all the advantages of Amazon Prime.

2. watchOS 4

Kevin Lynch was up next to talk watchOS 4, which features new watch faces, improvements to workouts, and the new ability for watchOS to talk to gym equipment to exchange information, so that both the watch and the equipment can share information that the other doesn’t have.

There’s a new proactive Siri watch face in watchOS 4, which tells you about upcoming things like the trip to work, upcoming meetings, and what the weather is like today. It’s powered by machine learning to understand your habits and learn about them over time, in order to tell you about what you want to know next, and the updates even change over the course of the day so they’re always showing you something relevant. The new Siri watch face joins the trippy Kaleidoscope (Apple’s version of an Apple Watch fidget spinner, to be sure) and new Toy Story animated watch faces featuring Woody, Jessie, and Buzz.

Improvements to workouts include smarts that allow multiple workouts during the same workout, workouts automatically starting a playlist of music, and some swimming-related workout improvements that can tell you how you’re doing when you take a short break at one end of the pool. Activity improvements compare you against your past self, encouraging you to move more than the previous month.

WatchOS 4 will be a free update this fall, which probably means after September.

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Good Reads for May, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a series of somewhat scrutinised — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Whether they’re commentary on Apple’s latest project, a detailed analysis of how Apple keeps itself ahead of the competition, or reflecting back on ten years of the iPhone, they’ll have something for everyone. Bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • The standout piece from May was from Steven Levy, who over at Wired had a deep dive into Apple Park. Apple Park is undoubtedly as much of an Apple product as your iPhone or iPad is, from the attention to detail to the wood that made up the walls in offices, to the workplaces designed to increase collaboration between individuals and teams. (As a bonus, Levy’s piece in Backchannel tells us the story of David Muffly, the guy in charge of the trees at Apple Park.)

It’s probably more accurate to say that Apple Park is the architectural avatar of the man who envisioned it, the same man who pushed employees to produce those signature products. In the absence of his rigor and clarity, he left behind a headquarters that embodies both his autobiography and his values.

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Good Reads for April, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a series of handpicked, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be about what Apple is doing with a product purchased by a single-digit percentage of Mac users, other times, they’ll be a critical analysis of what Apple are doing with the Mac as a whole, when the news is filled with rumours of new and shiny iPhones. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Early in April, Apple did something unprecedented and invited some select few to Cupertino to discuss the future of the Mac Pro. You can read the full transcript of the discussion over at TechCrunch, but the gist of it is that Apple knew they had made some wrong design decisions with the 2013 Mac Pro, design decisions that ultimately delayed any kind of hardware refresh to the tune of being untouched — no spec bump, much less a hardware refresh — for over 1200 days.

In the interim, we know there are a number of customers who continue to buy our current Mac Pro. To be clear, our current Mac Pro has met the needs of some of our customers, and we know clearly not all of our customers. None of this is black and white, it’s a wide variety of customers. For some, it’s the kind of system they wanted; for others, it was not.

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Good Reads for February, 2017

Each month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of jokingly jovial, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, they’ll be about how Apple has lost its way and needs to buy another big-name company to stay afloat — or not, as the case may be. Other times, we’ll be looking for replacements for macOS like this hasn’t all been done before, or wondering about what Steve Jobs had in mind for the iPad, in a post-computing world. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • A rebuttal to Ian Bogost of The Atlantic’s piece about the myth of Apple’s great design from Nick Heer of Pixel Envy, tells us about this whole “design” thing. What is “sufficiently great design”, anyway, and could you say any Apple product released in recent memory has it? If Apple products didn’t have some semblance of design, whether we’re talking about the how it looks or how it works, would the company be doing as well as they are? You be the judge.

Everything that has ever been designed has required a series of decisions based on what’s possible, what’s necessary for the final product, and what reasonable compromises can be made for everything to work correctly. “Sufficiently great design”, in this context, is also about making choices and compromises that produce a better product in typical use.

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Good Reads for January, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of intelligently instigated reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Normally they don’t appear as part of the daily news, even though the news covered tangentially-related events, such as the iPhone’s first tenth birthday, or Apple’s 2016 in review. All I know is, you’ll need to bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • If we’re starting this edition of Good Reads off with anything, we’re starting it with a story about the history of the iPhone. The internet history podcast takes us back to 2007, when Apple Computer, Inc, was riding on a wave of iPod-related successes, and the Mac was flourishing because of that. Then the iPhone was announced, Apple dropped the “Computer” part of its name, and, well, you pretty much know the rest.

And so, a skunkworks tablet project became a skunkworks phone project. At the very least, by 2003-4, in the form of various initiatives, Apple was hard at work on some sort of portable device that would merge the iPod with a phone and become an all-encompassing unitary device.

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Good Reads for November, 2016

Every month, just when you had thought I had forgotten about publishing a new instalment of Good Reads, we’ll be bringing you a selection of highly heralded, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be interviews with prominent Apple execs on contemporary topics, or commentary on how the Apple blogosphere is increasingly cynical of the biggest company in the world. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • November saw the release of Apple’s latest and greatest. The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar divided Apple enthusiasts into one of two camps, the majority of whom thought that Apple’s vision of the future was a little too expensive, and a little too reliant on dongles for those of us still living in the here and now. The other camp pointed out that this was the first major redesign of Apple’s laptop lineup since the Retina-class machines were introduced in 2012, all at a time when we had all but thought Apple had forgotten about the Mac. Over at Medium, Steven Levy discusses the importance of bringing touch input to the Mac, with words from Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller about some of the decisions that went into making the Touch Bar a thing.

We care about the feedback but we know that the fundamental difference on where their opinions are coming is between those who had a chance to use it and those who haven’t. There are people who want us to innovate faster and when we do there’s people who say, ‘Whoa, whoa, you’re going too fast.’ That’s just a balance in the world.

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Good Reads for October, 2016

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of fashionably featured reads about the wonderful world of Apple. At times, they’ll have commentary on whether Apple’s oldest product lineup still matters, or an explanation of why Tim Cook is the new Steve Ballmer. Other times, it will be well-reasoned commentary on how Apple has no idea what its doing anymore, or an explanation of why your next iPhone won’t be made of ceramic. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • When Apple teased invites to its October event with the “hello again” tagline, it kind of set people up for disappointment. I mean, there’s no way Apple wouldn’t have known what those words meant to the Apple faithful — once the tagline of the 1984 Macintosh, to see it used for marketing what turned out to be an entirely unworthy set of updates is heartbreaking. Not only was a third of the Mac lineup updated, but updated in such a way that some are saying Apple has no idea who the Mac is for.

It’s strange — there’s nothing actually wrong with what Apple announced: USB-C on the Mac is great, a thinner, more powerful machine is intriguing and, while it’s too early to say, the Touch Bar could possibly be a gimmick, but it could be useful for helping people discover what shortcuts exist as they use the computer.
The thing is, I can’t figure out who this is for other than those who are on really old machines.

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Apple’s October 2016 Event Wrap Up, Emoji Bar Edition

Provided you didn’t have unrealistic expectations of Apple’s October 2016 event, you weren’t left disappointed. Apple announced a Touch Bar and Touch ID integration on the redesigned 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros, both thinner, lighter, and more space-efficient than their predecessors. Minor adjustments to the rest of the portable Mac lineup and a new Apple TV simply called “TV” rounded out the rest of the announcements. The rest of the news, and our full summary of the event, follows below.

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Good Reads for September, 2016

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of genuinely grandiose reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, they’ll contain speculation about upcoming Apple products, or analysis of why the latest iPhone is the worst one ever. Other times, they’ll be lengthy review of operating systems, followed up by the usual “Apple is doomed” commentary. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • John Siracusa may not be writing reviews of Apple’s Mac operating systems on Ars Technica any longer, but that doesn’t mean Ars Technica has stopped reviewing them. Now known as macOS, Sierra 10.12 adds new features in the way of bringing Siri to the Mac, as well as improvements to core OS apps such as Photos, Messages, and smarter storage management features that eschew much of traditional file management away from users. But once all that’s said and done, it’s still an iterative release that runs on ageing hardware — even if that hardware runs any task you wish to throw at it comfortably.

Sierra is a perfectly fine operating system update. Like other yearly macOS releases (and the new periodic Windows 10 releases), it makes solid improvements without pulling the rug out from under users of the current version. It cuts hardware from the support list somewhat arbitrarily, but those aging Core 2 Duo systems can’t be expected to last forever and they’ll still get El Capitan security updates for a couple of years.

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Apple’s September 2016 Event Wrap Up, Courage Edition

Here’s the summary you were looking for: the headphone jack is dead, there’s these new wireless headphones called AirPods, and Apple did their own quick-fire, 107-second wrap up of the event so I don’t have to.

Check out the iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and AirPods product pages on the Apple website, and post up a comment in the September 2016 event topic in the forums.