Yesterday some developers who have access to Apple’s beta applications started showing some videos of how well Apple’s upcoming iTunes Match service will work. It is one of those ideas that are brilliantly simple, yet one does not know how Apple pulled it off.
iTunes Match works like this – you have your music library (which you might have gotten very various sources, they do not all have to be purchased through iTunes), and then Apple goes and scans your library. Once Apple has these tracks it matches it to their massive iTunes catalogue, and then makes that catalogue available to your from any of your other authorized machines with iTunes, and all your authorized iOS devices like iPod, iPhone and iPad.
The other great part is that once the library is scanned it does not go along and upload all those gigs of music – the matching service makes iTunes 256kpbs AAC files available to download on the other devices. Have some bad 96kpbs track you ripped a long time ago? You can now get the “matched” file with iTunes match in good quality.
With all the recent health scares of Steve Jobs, it was only matter of time before the world’s most revered CEO would have to step down.
Steve Jobs is of course the co-founder of Apple, and after being fired from Apple in the late eighties in a power struggle, returned to Apple in the late nineties, effectively saving the company from bankruptcy. A few years after Steve’s return Apple started its move towards more consumer level technology with iPod and iTunes, the superb iMac and later on the cellphone industry was completely revamped with the release of the iPhone. Steve Jobs has always had a very hands on approach in Apple, in everything from marketing to design, so his vision of the company will hopefully not dither away once he leaves. He will be replaced by Tim Cook, who has been COO until now – and has also ran the company in the recent times when Steve took time off due to illness.
Steve Jobs will however remain as chairman of the board. Find the official Apple press release below.
Tim Cook Named CEO and Jobs Elected Chairman of the Board
CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apple’s Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, and the Board has named Tim Cook, previously Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, as the company’s new CEO. Jobs has been elected Chairman of the Board and Cook will join the Board, effective immediately.
“Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”
“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s Board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”
“The Board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO,” added Levinson. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.”
Jobs submitted his resignation to the Board today and strongly recommended that the Board implement its succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO.
As COO, Cook was previously responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Get out your tinfoil hats, for a speculative ride into the future of Apple!
As you might already know, Mac OS X Lion launched recently with a lot of the new features taken straight from Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The Launchpad looks like the iPad, application state-saving, inverted (natural?) scrolling, full-screen apps and an app store amongst other features. There are subtle interface changes that give hints to what Apple are planning.
When you turn on Lion for the first time, you will be faced with inverted scrolling. Scroll up on the trackpad and the scrollbar goes down. Why Apple why? Why break something that is not broken? Let me tell you why. Imagine you have a long piece of paper in front of you. As you start reading, at some point you need to move the paper to read the bottom part. How do you do it? You do it, by moving the paper… up: think Star Wars intro text. Apple is telling you: forget about the screen, just look at the data: that is what is important. As Rian vd Merwe puts it: “Apple wants us to remove the current abstraction from our data (the file system and the ‘window’), and instead focus on and interact with the data itself”. With iOS, this came naturally, as there was only a touch interface. You directly interacted with your data. On tablets and smartphones, this is how you scroll: you move the data around, not the viewport/window.
Pic from Macstories.net
An interesting design choice was removing colour on interface elements and going for a monochrome feel. While Lion’s monochrome feel (gone is the aqua bars as well) seems dull, there seems to be a good reason for it. Apple claimed that its goal is to de-emphasize irrelevant (surrounding user interface) parts and through that, emphasise your content which is more important. This makes sense in addition to the change in scrolling: your data is what is important. They are going even a step further and introduced full-screen applications. Gone is the dock and top bar: it doesn’t matter.
What is with the skeuomorphs?
Skeumorphs are designs that aim to look their previous counterparts in order to create a familiar environment for new users. On the iPad, Apple introduced a calendar that looks like it’s real life counterpart.
As you can see, Lion’s iCal took tips from iPad‘s iCal. It also has a skeuomorphic design. Why include a skeuomorphic design only now? Everyone who has used iCal on previous OS X versions are familiar with iCal’s design. Why change what does not need to be changed? Is it to further emphasise the idea of working with your ‘content’ instead of a screen and your application? Maybe, but I think there might be another reason, answered by asking:
So, why all the iOS?
Apple is betting on changing the way we look at our computers. With the success of iOS, Apple wants us to think anew; changing the user interface that hasn’t changed for more than a decade. Are they trying to be that bold, or is there another part to the story? There might be some clues in the numbers.
Apple’s best-selling products for 2010 was the iPhone and iPad. This wonderful visualisation gives you the best clue. Almost 50% of Apple’s revenue for 2010 came from the iPhone. This is all very well, except the massive Android gorilla looming above the iPhone. Android is now serving almost 50% of the smartphone market and shows no sign of stopping. Now you know why Apple are suing HTC, they are protecting their most valuable asset.
This seems like an unsustainable strategy (even more so with Google’s recent buyout of Motorola Mobility), which leads to the most speculative conclusion: Apple wants to move iPhone (iOS) users to their other products. An iOS user will be familiar with an app store, resuming of apps, the scrolling, the launchpad look and the skeuomorphic designs of the native apps. This idea is further cemented with the addition of iCloud. This way, when you buy Apple, you buy into the ecosystem. Now that Apple has sold so many iPhones, they want them onto the other platforms before Android does too much damage.
What do you think? Do you think Lion‘s interface changes are justified? Do you think iOS’ movement to OS X (and desktop/laptop operating systems) is revolutionary: a breath of fresh air to the decade old interface?
Despite the terrible market performance in the last few days, there has been one very interesting shift. The uncertainty in the market has driven down the cost of oil, which in effect has driven down the cost of Exxon Mobil, which has been up until now the most valuable company in the world. Exxon’s stock fell to $67.43, which means that its market value is now $327.9 billion. And that means someone else has beat them…
Apple‘s stock price rose almost 5% to $369.89 on the Nasdaq, reaching a market capitalization of $342.9 billion. Apple’s recent success with iPhone and also the iPad has resulted in a 42% return in the last year, something which many people believe they will not sustain. However, recent sales figures show that iPad is starting to eat into the laptop market, which might lend some creedence to Jobs’s “truck vs car” metaphor, which he spoke about the D8 conference.
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farms.” Cars became more popular as cities rose, and things like power steering and automatic transmission became popular.
“PCs are going to be like trucks,” Jobs said. “They are still going to be around.” However, he said, only “one out of x people will need them.”
Clearly people are starting to vote with their dollars, and it seems we might be really approaching the Post-PC era, now that the most valuable company in the world makes most of its money from these post-PC devices. Just to put it into perspective – there is currently 222 million iOS based devices out there, and in the last quarter alone they sold more than 9 million iPads. They are selling one every 3 seconds (probably more by now).
What makes this phenomenal growth even more amazing is that in the middle 90′s Apple was almost bankrupt. Luckily they managed to convince Steve Jobs to return, and eventually take the helm. When Jobs returned to Apple, the share price was around the $6 mark…
If only I had a time machine.
The release of Apple’s OS X Lion is old news now (in tech time), and I have resisted the urge to immediately upgrade to the latest operating system because, frankly, I have no real reason to. Snow Leopard caters for my needs perfectly in that I don’t even realise it’s there. Everything just works. However, as a technophile and one with friends who have already upgraded, you quickly start thinking of all the enhancements and how it has the potential to not, on the surface, dramatically change the user experience, it would definitely augment the experience. And lets be honest $29 for a new operating system, ensures that it is not much of a budgetary decision for most Mac users. But alas, as South Africans, we have to always consider our bandwidth constraints before lauding moves towards a cloud based software/ computing environment.
For super users with unlimited data packages, this is obviously something that does not require any consideration, but for the majority of us ‘medio-users’ we have thoughtfully selected a data plan based on our usage/ budget. Downloading a 4Gb operating system is not something is a once off that most of us never considered. Furthermore the constraints involved with downloading large files , is another consideration. I recall numerous attempts at downloading iOS 4.3.1 when it was launched before deciding to rather just download the file (ability to resume download after losing connection) and update manually via iTunes. I dreaded the thought of how I was going to download the mammoth Lion file.
Whilst researching the problem (thanks Google!) I discovered the rather simple solution. Apple in the US and Canada are inviting users who have purchased Lion but have data caps and connectivity issues to use the WiFi at their official Apple Stores to download the OS. Awesome. That sounds infinitely better that the ridiculous option of a $69 USB memory stick loaded with Lion. So, the main gist of my article is not SA’s bandwidth constraints or any of the awesome new features in Lion, but rather the response from our local iStores.
At my next visit to the mall, I stopped at the iStore to enquire on whether this is an option here. There response was that it wasn’t, but instead I could purchase it from the Appstore, stop the download as soon as it begins and bring the receipt to the iStore. They will then give me a DVD with Lion installed. Awesome right! Because surely they only have to download it once, and then just burn the image onto DVD’s or they must have recovery disks they need should a machine not be working. WRONG! Once I purchase Lion form the Appstore for $29, I then need to pay them a further R150 (approx $22). At least with the aforementioned nonsensical USB option you get a cool Apple USB stick!
I would honestly have been comfortable paying, say R50, for the Lion DVD even though I know what the cost of a recordable DVD-R is. And I know that I am therefore really just upset about R100. But it is not just the R100. It is the principle. The Apple users in South Africa are just as passionate about Apple products as those in the US. If you cut us, do we not bleed! If you launch a new iPhone, do we not rush off to buy it! In fact, it could be argued that we are more so, considering the premium we pay for the same hardware. The move to the cloud promises us salvation from this unfair-ness, well at least for the software, but until we resolve our bandwidth constraints, the cloud still seems some distance away.
Update from Ed: Turns out Digicape comes to the rescue. If you show them your receipt of your Lion purchase, they will supply you with a image of Lion, for free. Talk to the guys at @digimates to get yourself sorted.
Well done Digicape.
Disclosure: Opinions by writers are just that – opinions. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Bandwidth Blog.
Now how is this for convenience. A couple of years ago a company called WiTricity showed off their wireless charging technology at TED, which does away with complicated devices large charging bases, cables, etc. The basic idea is that a user merely places his device within a 1 meter radius of a WiTricity charging area. Provided the technology is cheap enough to implement, it can potentially mean you might one day have a couple of WiTricity areas from which to charge your devices.
Now Apple has applied to patent a similiar technology which directly refers to the original research made by the original MIT team responsible for the WiTricity concept, so it is only fair that they might license it (You can see the full application here.) My basic understanding of the concept would be that a variety of larger Apple hardware devices would ship with WiTricity charging support built in, which can then in turn be used to power smaller devices like the iPhone, iPad or iPod. So just put your iPhone (iPhone 5 hopefully?) down next to your future Macbook Pro, and the magic happens. Or your future iDevice might in fact ship with a wireless charger. You can see the basic idea behind WiTricity in this diagram:
Wireless charging should not be confused with inductive charging, which requires actual contact with charging device, similiar to the Palm (or HP) Pre which had the optional Touschstone charger. While elegant, it stops charging the moment you lift it off the base, which might not be a lot more convenient than a normal dock. Wireless charging will enable the device to be charged, even when in use, as long as it is within the charging area.
Right now the technology is said to be safe, and relies on magnetic fields. But the idea of replacing my bedside charger with wireless power still makes me a little uneasy…
OK, this infographic is huge, but great for anyone who sees himself in either camp of the Microsoft vs Apple war (if there even still is a war). Made by Manolution, it tracks the timeline of the two companies, with major announcements and the change in shareprice between events. It is pretty scary to see how Microsoft’s shareprice has completely flatlined in the last ten years, despite stellar products like Windows 7 being launched. Apple on the other hand had a very shaky start, but the shareprice skyrocketed in the last few years… But enough with my interpretation, check it out for yourself. Like I said its big, so I had throw it on its own page: (more…)
There are a number of great lessons we can learn from Steve Jobs, but this week (at the WWDC 2011 conference) he has left us with arguably one of the most valuable: Do not build on rented land.
A number of startups this week are sitting around looking at one another and asking themselves what they should be doing next. They are doing this because Apple in one sweep cloned all their features into the new iOS update. Everything from Dropbox to Instapaper have now essentially been rendered redundant on Apple devices.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
In the 80′s the world witnessed the rise of the tech giant Microsoft, and by the 90′s as the web emerged as the future of technology and an essential new frontier to conquer. The web browser Netscape ran on the Microsoft platform, but to Microsoft they needed to dominate this new arena. Microsoft quickly launched the now infamous Internet Explorer, they bundled it in together with their operating system free of charge. This essentially crushed Netscape and other browsers at the time trying to compete. Microsoft was also accused of changing their API to give competition a hard time. This ordeal almost meant the end of Microsoft as the US government took them to court for abusing their monopoly.
Since the days of Bill Gates ruthlessly killing competitors in this way, not much has changed… The difference now is that it’s easier to get away with it. No longer do platform owners need to explicitly package a disc into the bag of software they sold in stores. The crime now happens through a simple download or a tweaking on their servers.
“Writing desktop software has become a lot less fun. If you want to write desktop software now you do it on their terms, calling their APIs and working around their buggy OS. And if you manage to write something that takes off, you may find that you were merely doing market research for them.” – Paul Graham (Y Combinator)
Do not build on rented land
Building on someone else’s platform at the end of the day is like building on rented land – you can find yourself having invested tons of resources into something that you do not own and ultimately have no control over. The irony is that in technology, if you are doing very well on someone else’s platform you are most in danger of getting the worst deal. Because if you do well on someones’ platform it means you are filling a gap that the platform owners have an interest in filling themselves.
It happens all the time and on all platforms, think for a second about Twitter. Look at how them launching a retweet button rendered the efforts of TweetMeme wasted and them introducing photos into the stream killed off TwitPic’s hopes and dreams for the future. Something as simple as altering the API call limit can kill off hundreds of clients and apps that depend on Twitter for their bread and butter.
Let’s wake up to the reality that ultimately platform owners are not really your friends, they are your future competitors. Start building applications that are less platform dependent and offer value above and beyond just filling a feature gap.