Samsung to End Plasma TV Production

Nilay Patel:

The death of plasma is an incredible success story for LCD technology, but it’s also a sad reminder that disruption doesn’t always meant the best products win: no LCD TV has ever looked as good as the best plasma TVs. Just go down the list: Pioneer’s Kuro plasmas were so amazing that CNET still uses them as a review reference years after they were discontinued in 2008. Pioneer couldn’t make any money and sold the Kuro technology to Panasonic, whose high-end plasmas were widely considered the best until late last year, when the company stopped making them in favor of LCDs. (The remaining stock is in high demand; used 55-inch sets are selling for $3,000 and up on Amazon six months later.)

I’ve owned an LCD television for about eight years and although it was the best I could afford at the time (back when 42-inch HDTVs were around $1500) I always expected that at some point I would upgrade to a plasma television.

Now my options are dwindling, and I don’t expect I’ll be able to plunk down the cash for a new television any time soon. It’s sad that plasma is dying while it remains the best technology for picture quality, but I suppose all the misinformation about burn-in and the need to “refill the plasma” was just too much for the technology to overcome.

Apple Adds iTunes Extras Support to Apple TV

Just under four years after the second generation Apple TV was released, Apple has finally added support for iTunes Extras. I can’t imagine what took them so long — especially considering the original Apple TV already supported Extras — but I guess late is better than never.

Interestingly my girlfriend discovered the feature without knowing of its release. She sat down to watch a Harry Potter movie before I came home from work and discovered that the extra features were available. She spent the next half hour watching behind the scenes extras on the making of the movie.

I can’t say that iTunes Extras will ever convince me to purchase a movie on iTunes, but it’s certainly a nice value-add for movies I’ve already purchased or might purchase in the future.

The Official Swift Blog

The Swift Team:

This new blog will bring you a behind-the-scenes look into the design of the Swift language by the engineers who created it, in addition to the latest news and hints to turn you into a productive Swift programmer.

A little disappointed that they chose to use “blog” rather than “weblog,” but I suppose I’m one of the few holdouts.

Apple clearly thinks that Swift is the future of programming for their platforms and this is another step in the right direction towards convincing developers to adopt it.

Trust in Your Imagination and Instinct

Ron Johnson has a wonderful conversation at Stanford in which he talks about getting his start in retail, working with Steve Jobs, and his time at JCPenney.

App: The Human Story

Speaking of how apps are made, here’s a new documentary about the people behind the apps by Jake Schumacher and Jedidiah Hurt. With 23 days left for the Kickstarter they’re nearly half way to their goal of $100,000 for the film.

A lot of well-known personalities in the application development community are involved, including John Gruber, Marco Arment, Adam Lisagor, Lisa Bettany, and many more. I can’t wait to see how the finished film turns out.

How are Apps Made?

Craig Mod:

The more you question the more you can refine. The more you can refine, the more potential for delight. And if not to delight — through knowledge or navigation or entertainment or communication — then why make? Why toil?

The Internet’s Own Boy

Before heading out to watch a local fireworks display, I decided to watch the Aaron Swartz documentary that was released last week. I heavily recommend it to anyone and everyone.

The documentary is available to rent and buy through the aforelinked TakePart webpage. But as it is licensed under Creative Commons, it is also available to stream and download from the Internet Archive.

Seven Years of iPhone

Ben Brooks:

I’ve owned every iPhone since then, and I still have them all. My original iPhone is gone, but we still have Erin’s original iPhone. All the iPhones still get used everyday except that old original phone.

I remember calling my mother the night before the iPhone launch to get her advice about whether or not I should spend $599 on a cell phone. I should have expected her response — “you’re going to buy it anyway, might as well get it on the first day” (paraphrasing, of course, it has been seven years).

I ended up at my local Cingular store at 11:00am and waited in line seven hours to buy my first iPhone. I’ve purchased an iPhone every other year since then and don’t expect that habit to change for many years to come.

New Channels Added to Apple TV

ABC News, AOL On, Willow, and PBS Kids.

The Verge Details the Honeywell Lyric Thermostat

Honeywell’s answer to the Nest thermostat looks very good. For Honeywell’s sake I hope it didn’t take too long for them to make it to market.

‘Too slow to really get anything done.’

Michael Mulvey points out the problems with The Verge’s product reviews.

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon’s newly announced smartphone, starting at $199 and shipping on July 25. It’s biggest landmark feature being 3D head tracking that Amazon’s calling “Dynamic Perspective” that allows you to look around object on the screen by tilting your head or the screen. It’s a neat piece of technology, but I don’t think any of the implementations are that compelling. I don’t see anything about Dynamic Perspective that makes me want to use it.

Also, I find it very difficult to look at a product/link scanning feature without thinking of CueCat. And, we all know how that ended.

Split-Screen App Mode Shown in Video

It seems odd and I’m not sure how well it would interact with some application’s gestures. It seems like there could be conflicts that would cause confusion.

Amazon Launches Prime Music Service

Peter Kafka, reporting for Re/code:

Because many of the details of Prime Music have been previously reported (BuzzFeed already noted that the service won’t have songs from major labels until they’ve been out for six months; the New York Times and the New York Post have already noted that the service won’t include anything at all from Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music label) there isn’t a lot more to say.

How Apple TV Might Disrupt Console Gaming

John Gruber on a possible Apple TV with games:

I think there’ll be just one model, $99 (or even less). The only upsell for gaming would be optional controllers […]

Games are just apps. There’s no more reason to make a games/no-games split with Apple TV than there is to make an apps/no-apps distinction with the iPhone.

I think the Apple TV will remain at $99 and there will be just one model. Apple will sell gaming controllers separately for $29-49 and I expect developers would be able to develop multiplayer games giving Apple the opportunity to sell multiple controllers to each Apple TV owner.

The only question that I still have is whether Apple would decide to sell a bundled version of the Apple TV that came with one controller at a reduced price (and by reduced price I mean the bundle would cost less than the combined price of one Apple TV and one game controller). I think that Apple would manage to upsell a lot more buyers this way, but I don’t think they would like to introduce the frustration that would occur when a buyer of an unbundled Apple TV comes back in the store to purchase a controller.

Why should someone who decides they want to play games later on be “punished” by having to pay a higher price than someone who knew they wanted gaming at the initial purchase?

Kidpost

Neat new service that’s now available as a public beta. It aims to solve the problem of sharing photos with friends and family that don’t have Instagram or Facebook accounts.

Once you’re signed up you simply add the hashtag #kidpost to photos you’d like shared. Once per day the Kidpost service will send an email to your chosen loved ones so they can see all of the hashtagged photos you’ve recently shared.

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

Nintendo Announces ‘Mario Maker’

Nintendo is releasing a Mario Bros. level creator game. There was no release date or pricing announcement, but whenever it hits shelves I’m sure it’s going to sell a lot of consoles.

New Territory

Marco Arment:

The first amazing, forehead-smacking innovations with iOS 8 won’t come from us: they’ll come from people who are coming to iOS development from this point forward, never having known a world with the old restrictions.

If you’re interested in iOS and Mac development, I think there’s never been a better time to learn than now.

Amazon Likely Announcing Smartphone June 18

The teaser video shows people interacting with what is most likely Amazon’s rumored smartphone offering. Back in April, BGR published information about the device stating that it will have “a custom 3D interface unlike anything we have seen before on a smartphone.”

I’m interested. But, I don’t expect to be blown away.

JavaScript Performance in iOS 8

Vicki Murley points out on Twitter that JavaScript performance in third-party applications should get much faster in iOS 8. The new WKWebView appears to be running the same improved JavaScript engine that  Safari uses to render web pages.

Supported Devices for iOS 8 and Yosemite

Ars Technica has compiled a list of Macs that are compatible with Yosemite. Also worthy of note, is that the iPhone 4S and later are compatible with iOS 8.

Yosemite

Apple announced the next version of their desktop operating system at yesterday’s WWDC keynote — OS X Yosemite. The new OS will be released for free this fall and was made available to registered developers yesterday. Apple is also doing something different this year by making Yosemite available to select non-developers with their OS X Beta Program.

There’s a ton of new features in Yosemite and it looks like it’s going to be a solid release that everyone’s going to want to get their hands on. If you’re at all interested in the OS X Beta Program I suggest signing up early, it’s going to be very popular and is limited to the first million registered users.

Design

Apple has slowly been refining the user interface of OS X since the public beta release of OS X 10.0 in 2000. And, these refinements continue today with small changes like replacing the green zoom button in the upper-left corner of windows with a fullscreen button. I switched from Windows to the Mac in late-2006 and was always confused by the zoom button, it never did what I expected it to do (switching from Windows I expected it to work like the maximize button). It was also a button that I never use, ever. The only times that I’ve used it during the nearly eight years that I’ve been using the Mac was to see what it would actually do. I’m glad they’re making this change and I expect it will be more in-line with what users have expected the zoom button to do all along.

Windows in Yosemite have also seen some changes with translucencies being used in both the title bar and sidebar which gives users a better sense of “where they are” in the operating system. This along with a new system font (I believe it to be Helvetica Neue), new icons for system applications, and an optional dark mode gives Yosemite a distinct look that sets it apart from previous OS X releases.

But my favorite design change is the dock, which eschews the previous shelf design for a cleaner, flat look that uses the same translucencies that can be found in other areas of the operating system.

Notification Center

There’s some great changes in store for Notification Center which always felt like it was tossed together on OS X and not properly thought out. The addition of the Today View is huge, as Apple is positioning it as sort of an updated Dashboard with the ability for third-party applications to extend its functionality with widgets. Today View has weather, stocks, calendar events, and more built-in, but I’m excited to see what developers think of for adding functionality to Notification Center.

I could imagine a delivery status widget being added to my Today View to keep tabs on when to expect the arrival of packages. I can also imagine a site like PucaTrade (a Magic: the Gathering card trading site) developing a “send cards” widget so I can see available trades at a glance. I really see Notification Center becoming an important part of my computing experience with the ability to see all sorts of important information in a glance-able form.

Spotlight

It’s easy to think that many other application launchers got Sherlocked with this update to Spotlight — it clearly took some design cues from other application launchers on the market. But, it doesn’t seem to have the wide range and depth of features that other application launchers have.

Andrew and Vero of Alfred have already commented on their position in the Launcher market in regards to Apple’s new Spotlight announcements:

What you have to remember is that Spotlight’s primary objective is to search your files and a small handful of pre-determined web sources. Meanwhile, Alfred’s primary objective is to make you more productive on your Mac with exceptional and powerful features like Clipboard History, System commands, iTunes Mini Player, 1Password bookmarks, Terminal integration, fully bespoke and customisable user-created workflows and much, much more.

It’s clear to me that Spotlight exists in a difference space from other launchers and appeals to very different types of users. I’m not at all worried about Alfred’s ability to succeed in a world in which Spotlight has similar functionality. Power users will continue to use their launcher of choice and new power users will still look to other launchers for functionality that Spotlight does not provide.

iCloud Drive

The triumphant return of iDisk. Not only does iCloud Drive allow you access to files saved by applications that make use of it as a data storage service, but you will also be able to save other documents and files to your iCloud storage from within Finder and organize them however you’d like.

All of the files saved to your iCloud Drive will be accessible on all of your Macs, all of your iOS devices from within an application’s iCloud file picker, and even on Windows via the web.

I’m not sure how useful I will actually find this service — I had an iDisk back in the .mac days and never used it. But, there have been more than a few times where my girlfriend needed access to a file that was saved on her Mac at home and texted me to email it to her. I think she’ll find iCloud Drive to be very useful, simply saving documents for current projects on iCloud so that she can have access to them wherever she is.

Mail

The two landmark features of Mail on Yosemite are Maildrop and Markup. Maildrop allows you to no longer worry about a mail server’s attachment size limitations. Large attachments are sent through iCloud instead of through the mail server and then rendezvous at the recipient’s email inbox. Recipients that don’t use Mail will be given a link to download the attachment from Apple’s servers.

Markup gives you the ability to annotate images and PDFs from within the compose window. You’ll be able to sign PDFs and point out specific sections of an image with arrows, circles, or text. The markups are then added to the image or PDF to be sent to the recipient.

Safari

Apple has added some wonderful enhancements to Safari under the hood allowing it to continue it’s dominance over other web browsers when it comes to speed and capabilities. And there are plenty of user-facing features as well, such as:

  • Spotlight suggestions in completion menu.
  • New sharing features with a list of most recent recipients.
  • A brand new tab view that gives you a bird’s eye view of all of your open tabs.
  • Favorites Bar favorites are now accessible when you click on the URL/search bar.

There wasn’t really a lot of “whiz, bang, boom” features in Yosemite — instead Apple showcased many smaller features that add up to a solid OS release. A lot of users are interested in big sweeping new features. but I tend to prefer OS releases like this that focus on smaller refinements that help me use my computer more productively.

I have signed up for the OS X Beta Program and hope that I’m one of the select few that receive access to it. I have an iMac in the other room that I’d love to install Yosemite on to get a feel for the new OS before it’s official release this fall.

The New Notification Center and Spotlight in OS X Yosemite

Michael Steeber from 9 to 5 Mac spends some hands-on time with Notification Center and Spotlight in OS X Yosemite.

The 2014 Apple Design Award Winners

A lot of great apps on the list of winners this year. Threes and Blek being a couple of my favorites.

Daring Fireball’s WWDC 2014 Prelude

It’s always interesting to see what John Gruber is thinking about the night before an Apple keynote. It doesn’t seem like he has much more information than any of us do regarding Apple’s announcements for tomorrow (as he reminds us, Apple’s “double-down on secrecy” seems to still be in full effect).

I’m thinking along the same lines as John on the possibility of an updated Apple TV. More because I want one than because Apple needs to release one. I agree with John that the next Apple TV is likely to have an SDK released alongside it that would allow developers to create games and media apps for the platform. And, I can’t think of a better place for Apple to announce a new developer platform than WWDC.