Good Reads for February, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of ravishingly rectangular — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they won’t actually be reads, or about how Apple is the world’s most innovative company. Sometimes, they won’t be exactly about Apple per se, but you know what? Those ones make for the best stories. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out a video in Good Reads, and the bad news is, it probably won’t be the last. The good news is, Motherboard’s mini-documentary on how iFixit became the world’s best iPhone teardown team gives us the behind-the-scenes perspective of a company that believes in everyone being able to repair their own devices. Plus, some of it was shot in Australia, because thanks to the magic of timezones, we get the privilege of being among the first to get hands-on with new iPhones.

The most important thing that happens when a new iPhone comes out is not the release of the phone, but the disassembly of it. The iPhone teardown, undertaken by third-party teams around the world, provides a roadmap for the life of the iPhone X: Is it repairable? Who made the components inside it? The answers to these questions shift stock markets, electronics design, and consumer experience.

  • Fast Company’s interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, posted as a follow-up to their declaration of Apple as the world’s most innovative company in 2017, gives us a lot to think about why Apple continues to succeed. Even if you’re overly cynical about yet another PR piece that hides a manic-like focus on the bottom line and ever-reaching profits behind a thin veneer of making the best products and enriching people’s lives, you have to have trouble denying that Apple doesn’t continue to push the envelope of what’s possible with technology, year in, and year out.

[…] category-redefining products don’t just defy the adage that scale hampers agility and creativity–they obliterate it. During a January 10, 2018, conversation at the newly opened Apple Park (itself an impressive product launch), Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with Fast Company to discuss the overarching philosophy behind Apple’s ever-evolving universe and what unites its ambitions and endeavors.

  • Not too long ago, people were saying that the iPad had plateaued. People weren’t upgrading their tablets every year like they used to. Maybe tablets just don’t have the same upgrade cadence as smartphones. Either way, there are signs that the same thing is happening to phones, and Neil Cybart of Above Avalon explains it as the Goldilocks era for iPhones. If the writing isn’t on the wall, then there are certainly red flags.

Not too hot. Not too cold. The iPhone is entering a new era that can best be characterized as status quo. The days of huge growth are over, and fundamentals aren’t likely to improve significantly from current levels. However, underlying dynamics found with the iPhone business will likely prevent sales and revenue from dropping precipitously in the near term. We are in the iPhone’s Goldilocks era.

  • Perhaps this isn’t just a problem with sales of staple Apple products plateauing. Talk up record-breaking, industry-defying sales of Apple’s latest entrants into new product categories all you want, but make no mistake — Apple is entering middle age now, with the different sets of priorities that entails. I hear a lot of people talking about how Steve Jobs would have done this, or wouldn’t have done that. But have you ever wondered what Steve Jobs, the undisputed product and execution genius (Ben Thompsons’s words, not mine), would have done when faced with the kind of strategic decisions that face Apple today?

Cook — who repeated the sentiment later in the call — couldn’t have given a more strident example of how every company is best viewed according to the dictates of their business model. If companies are what they measure, then what matters to Apple is the number of devices sold, not the number of users. Indeed, the user is a means to the end of selling a device — and ideally more than one at a time!

  • We wrap up Good Reads this month with a great story about an audio Mac app designed to output surround sound that didn’t happen when the developer wanted it to, but was held back by licensing until pretty recently (relatively speaking, anyway). The real kicker comes at the very end of the story, but I won’t spoil it for you.

That was when I had my bright idea — I could write a Dolby Digital (aka AC-3) encoder, that took 5.1 channel audio from Core Audio in my Mac, compressed it in real time, and squirted it out over the optical interface. I managed to find the necessary specifications (not too hard, because AC-3 is part of various other published standards), and started work.

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