Automattic is a company to watch. They don’t typically garner headlines, but they make great web services and products and every once in a while acquire companies that are doing neat things.
The Initial Charge Linked List
The developers of Threes speak on all of the recent rip-offs of their iOS game. I can’t imagine how it would feel to work for over a year on an iOS game, only for it to be cloned en masse and for some of those clones to be more popular than the original.
HBO put the first episode of Silicon Valley on their YouTube channel earlier this week. I finally had a chance to watch it last night and it’s very good. This is the kind of show that makes me miss having cable.
Microsoft’s CarPlay competitor. I’m not sure why car manufacturers would build this into their vehicles when Windows Phone only takes up about 3% of the market.
Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:
According to documents obtained exclusively by The Verge, Google is about to launch a renewed assault on your television set called Android TV. Major video app providers are building for the platform right now. Android TV may sound like a semantic difference — after all, Google TV was based on Android — but it’s something very different.
Everybody’s in the set-top box business.
Microsoft has been playing a lot of catch-up lately.
(Via Daring Fireball.)
Dave Smith reviews the Amazon Fire TV for ReadWrite:
Unfortunately, the device doesn’t live up to its own hype. Perhaps Amazon’s homegrown solution was a bit premature and its ambitions too lofty, because while Fire TV can do almost everything, little of it is done right.
Dave wasn’t happy with the device. He talks about how quick the user interface is but also points out that the voice search functionality only works for Amazon’s own video content.
Perhaps it was rushed to market.
Mark Gurman, back in January, details updates to the Apple TV that his sources expect to see this year. Mark also points to Phil Dzikiy’s reporting on iLounge that games will be coming to the Apple TV. At the time Phil believed that the release for such an update would come in March or earlier. But, it would make more sense for an announcement such as this to take place at WWDC where they’re speaking to developers interested in making games for the device.
Maybe Amazon pushed the Fire TV out the door because they knew Apple was going to be announcing something big for the Apple TV soon.
Required reading for anyone even mildly interested in where wearable computing could be going.
Andrew Kim, taking a trip down memory lane:
It was 2006. Apple was dominating the mp3-player market and so far ahead of the competition that it wasn’t funny anymore. Apple pulled a classic Sony move and introduced the unbelievably compact iPod nano a year before. To annoy everyone even further, they also launched what is arguably the best iPod in history, the 5th generation iPod. So what was there to do for Apple? Build a speaker for the iPod of course.
There’s some beautiful photography in this piece talking about the iPod Hi-Fi — one of Apple’s few blunders over the past decade. Like Andrew, I’ve always had a fondness for the device. I never owned one — it was a bit too expensive for me — but I always wanted one. I even spent a brief period of time contemplating buying a used one on eBay after they were discontinued.
Every barcode scanner device reminds me of the CueCat. The Dash does seem a lot more useful, but I can’t help but wonder if this is really more convenient than searching for and ordering the item on your smartphone.
Apple is changing the way they’re selling WWDC tickets this year:
Developers can apply for tickets via the WWDC website now through Monday, April 7 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, and tickets will be issued to attendees through random selection. Developers will know their status by Monday, April 7 at 5:00 p.m. PDT. There will also be 200 Student Scholarships available, giving students around the world the chance to earn a free ticket.
From the press release:
Crackle and NBCUniversal Television & New Media Distribution today announced an exclusive, multi-year content licensing deal to stream feature films from NBCUniversal’s rich film library on the free, ad-supported streaming service. Beginning today, Crackle users will instantly have access to several new premium library feature films, with more than 140 new library titles rolling out over the next three years.
It’s always a good when more good quality content becomes available to cord cutters.
Amazon has entered the streaming media box market today with their newly announced Fire TV. Watch streaming video from many of the same sources available on the Apple TV and Roku headlined by Amazon Instant Video.
The Fire TV includes an Bluetooth remote with a built in microphone to make use of the Fire TV’s voice search feature. Amazon is also selling a gaming controller to pair with your Fire TV to play a library of 100+ titles available at launch including Minecraft, Asphalt 8, and The Game of Life.
Russell Holly, writing for Geek.com:
Android is not a household brand. Google is but, despite having a significant portion of the global marketshare, their smartphone OS is not. And as long as hardware manufacturers are allowed to design their own user interfaces for Android, it’s going to be very difficult for the average consumer to look at a Nexus 5, an HTC One M8, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 and know that they are all running the exact same operating system. Google is hoping to change that, and one method the company has started to use is mandating that the phrase “Powered by Android” be present during the boot animation on new phones.
Android isn’t looking any better to me. And, I can’t imagine Android is looking any better to smartphone manufacturers. Google continues to enact new policies that don’t seem to fall in line with the way Google wants users and manufacturers to perceive their brand. Stuff like this doesn’t make me want to buy an Android phone, it makes me want to avoid them.
On a side note, why do websites like Geek.com think it’s a good idea to have these floating navigation bars along the top and/or bottom of their webpage? It doesn’t look good and I see less and less of your actual content — content that I came to your website to see. And, it’s especially annoying on smaller screened devices like tablets, smartphones, and smaller-screened laptops. Cut it out.
(Via Daring Fireball.)
Jim Dalrymple on Microsoft’s recent release of Office for iPad:
Microsoft is about four years late in solving a problem for users. The suite of apps should have been released near the introduction of the original iPad in order for it to have a full impact. Unfortunately, the delay gave—or forced—users to find an alternative. And they did—iWork.
Microsoft is too late to the party to make any waves. Four years is an eternity in software development — people have moved on and found alternatives and I doubt Microsoft is going to convert anyone other than large companies that are already invested in the Office ecosystem.
Charlie Sorrel and I must be on the same wave length, because I was having a conversation with my girlfriend last week thinking about the possibility of Apple’s iWatch not even being an actual watch. Which is to say, what if it was a developer program that allowed other companies to interface their hardware with Apple’s Healthbook app.
I’ve never really understood the iWatch hype — mostly because I couldn’t imagine what the killer app would be that could convince me to actually wear a watch. Not a single smartwatch manufacturer has figured it out yet either. But I suppose if anyone can do it, it’s Apple. I can say, though, that I would be much more likely to purchase an “iWatch product” if dozens of manufacturers had a chance to make one that best fit my tastes.
Peter Kafka, writing for Re/code:
Amazon’s entry into the set-top box world, which has been delayed for months, is coming next week, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.
The e-commerce giant has invited reporters to gather for an “update on our video business” in New York next Wednesday, April 2.
I don’t expect this new streaming box will change anything in my living room. But, I’m anxiously awaiting this announcement.
The source of the rumor is a forum poster on WeiPhone that has leaked some rumors in the past that have been found to be true. The current rumor is a 12-inch model without a fan assembly or a mechanical button in the trackpad.
Can’t say I’m surprised.
Google introduced Android Wear a few days ago. Android Wear is Google’s initiative for Android in smartwatches.
I’m still not convinced that smartwatches are going to be successful, I still don’t see any killer apps that will make me need a smartwatch. The user interface design is nice, but the hardware itself is a bit clunky. I’m anxious to see how the shipping hardware pans out when it actually gets in peoples’ hands.
My analog watches are my reminder that utility exists apart from an internet connection and usefulness doesn’t require the latest software.
I don’t wear watches, but I can appreciate them in this context. I never understood why anyone would want a watch when they have a “pocket watch” on them at all times. This is the reason.
The folks at The Sweet Setup put together a massive list of all of their favorite apps broken down by category. There’s a lot of gems in here.
I’ve wanted a new iPad for a year or so, but haven’t been able to actually put the cash on the counter for one. Part of the reason for this is that spending another $500-600 on a tablet isn’t something I want to do right now. The iPad 2 was something I considered but ultimately decided against because of how much slower it is than other iPads available. The iPad 4, though, is much more intriguing.
Steve Jobs, when asked if Apple was going to release a television set:
No. TV is a terrible business. They don’t turn over and the margins suck.
Things do change. But, this one is unlikely to. I’ve been skeptical of the Apple Television idea from the get go and I haven’t seen anything that’s changed my mind about that.
Speaking of Amazon’s streaming media box, an image of what has been rumored to be the gaming controller that Amazon would sell alongside their media box appeared online a couple of days ago. Hopefully it’s just a prototype.
Wouldn’t it be something if Amazon’s recent increase in Prime pricing was all about this new streaming box? What if every Amazon Prime customer got one of these streaming boxes for free with their Prime subscription?
Developers target iOS first (as United did with their in-flight video streaming offering) because there are only a few iOS devices to support between the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It might sound good from a consumer standpoint that Android has a large variety of hardware options, but from the perspective of developers it’s a nightmare. Not to mention the lag between Android software releases and widespread adoption of that version of the operating system among users.
Marco Arment on Amazon’s recent increase in Prime pricing:
Amazon making its retail business worse to prop up another part of its ecosystem shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Amazon doesn’t want you to be only a retail customer anymore, and they’ll keep making it harder to be.
He believes that the increase in pricing is due to Amazon’s decision to push their Instant Video service onto Prime customers.
I’ve never been an Amazon Prime customer. Although I consider ordering Prime every few months, the truth is I just don’t order enough from Amazon to make it economically viable. And unfortunately for Amazon, this $20 price hike is likely to push me further away from the possibility of ever ordering it in the future.
Looks like Pioneer is distancing themselves from their recent comments while Scott Caswell, marketing manager for Kenwood, tells AppleInsider that CarPlay won’t be in any of their products set for release in 2014.
According to a MacRumors reader, who spoke with a Pioneer customer service representative, Pioneer is looking into implementing CarPlay into existing and future products.
I’m not sure if I’d actually be willing to go through the trouble of installing an aftermarket head unit. But, if the price was right and I knew that the installation would go smoothly, I’d be awfully tempted.
From the video description on Vimeo:
Font Men, gives a peek behind the curtain into the world of Jonathan and Tobias. Tracking the history of their personal trajectories, sharing the forces that brought them together and giving an exclusive look at the successful empire they built together.
(Via Nuclear Bits.)
Apple has released Apple TV software update 6.1 today, which alongside some security fixes allows you to easily hide applications from the main menu.
From the main menu, simply press and hold the select button on your remote and then press the play/pause button with the unwanted application selected. You’ll be given a dialog box with the option to hide the app.
If you’d like to unhide the app later, you can do so by navigating to the Main Menu section within Settings.
iOS 7.1 is packed with interface refinements, bug fixes, improvements, and new features. Apple CarPlay introduces a better way to use iPhone while driving. And you can now control exactly how long Siri listens and more.
Looks like a great update.
Nicholas Carlson writing for Business Insider:
The reason it feels like Apple has stopped innovating to so many people is that the last time it tried to do what it does best — perfect a technology that allows humans to interact with computers — it failed. And that was two and a half years ago. The last time it succeeded was 2006 — eight years ago.
He’s referring to Siri as Apple’s last innovation and mentions data showing that it only works about 79% of the time.
It’s a strong argument. Apple hasn’t really announced anything with quite the whiz-bang that Siri has in quite a while. There has been some innovation — small software improvements and things like Touch ID — but nothing on the same level as Siri. But again, not only does Siri fail a large portion of the time, I don’t know anyone that actually uses it very often. From my experience the only time anyone actually uses Siri is when they’re trying to get Siri to react in a funny way and not when they’re attempting to get any actual information from it.
Cult of Mac points to a chart from MacPlus showing the growth of iPhone models. The iPhone 5c isn’t doing so hot. But, everyone fails to realize that by iPhone standards (which are incredibly high standards) the iPhone 5c is a flop, but I bet if you compared the iPhone 5c to all smartphones (not just iPhones) the chart would tell a different story. A story you wouldn’t expect given the negative press that the 5c has been getting.
Brilliant puzzle game that’s easy to learn and difficult to master. I’ve been playing it for a few weeks and it’s my go to game when I have a few minutes to play.
I’d also suggest you read Ben Kuchera’s piece on Polygon about the development of Threes and why it took its developers more than a year to finish it.
Jim Dalrymple on distracted driving:
Drivers are distracted. This isn’t new, drivers have been distracted since the first automobile rolled off the assembly line—people are talking, music playing on the radio, even other cars are distracting. What is new is that, if anything, drivers are becoming more distracted. Text messages, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter and many other beeps and vibrations take a driver’s eyes off the road to focus on their devices.
CarPlay isn’t any more distracting than any of the other gadgets we use in our cars. And, it’s certainly safer than using your actual phone while your driving.
I especially like this bit from the end of Jim’s piece:
We are never going to get rid of distractions in the car. What we can do is give drivers the technology they need to help themselves be as safe as possible. That’s CarPlay.
I’d feel safer if other drivers were using CarPlay rather than doing any of a number of other things that could distract them while driving.
I’m still not convinced that the iPhone 5c is a failure. I see more of them in public than I do any non-Samsung android phone (which may or may not be considered a good thing). But, I do think it’s worth noting that the type of buyers that are likely to want an iPhone 5c don’t usually buy the newest iPhone. It’s still entirely possible that the iPhone 5c will see success later in its lifespan once buyers have time to warm up to it.
Marco talks about the differences between using background fetch and server-side feed polling in regards to his upcoming podcast client, Overcast. I think Marco has it right, checking tens of thousands of feeds from one server is far better than having each user’s iPhone regularly check the 10-20 podcast feeds that the user listens to.
In the end a lot less resources will be spent if the feeds are checked server-side when you consider that many of the application’s users all listen to the same podcast. Why should they all check the feed when one server could do it for thousands of users?
I can’t say I’m happy about the prospect of full-screen ads in applications on my mobile phone. But, I am happy to say that not a single app on my phone even uses iAds, so I’m unlikely to actually see any of these ads when and if they eventually launch.
Michael Grothaus writing for Fast Co. Labs:
Lakamp wouldn’t reveal when Apple approached the company, but he says that once they did and iHeartRadio signed on, developing a CarPlay-compatible iHeartRadio app wasn’t a major coding challenge–mainly because Apple did a good job with the API allowing developers to add CarPlay support to their existing apps instead of having to make new, dedicated versions.
I doubt that Apple will open this to all third-party developers — likely only approaching developers whose applications would make a good fit for CarPlay. But if they did, it’s good to know that it’s easy to make your app CarPlay compatible.
From Apple’s product page:
CarPlay takes the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving and puts them right in your car’s built-in display. You can get directions, make calls, send and receive messages, and listen to music, all in a way that allows you to stay focused on the road.
Select cars from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo that support CarPlay will be shipping this year with models from other car manufacturers coming later in the future.
I would love for there to be third-party head units that support CarPlay in the future. I purchased my Toyota Camry a few years ago and plan on keeping it for another decade or more. And, that’s a long time to wait for device integration that’s better than my current audio cable and auxiliary-in jack setup that I’m using now.
The developers behind popular podcast client Castro have shared some numbers on their recent app review experiment. They compared the response they received after asking for reviews in their release notes. It’s amazing how many reviews they received after asking in a nonintrusive way.
(Via The Loop.)
There’s a lot of good information in here.
Jim Dalrymple sets the record straight regarding recent speculation of new Apple TV hardware prompted by Apple’s $25 gift card offer.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing various editions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. One of the key reasons that Tony Hawk games were so good is because they figured out the proper control scheme. If they manage to figure out a good way to control a skateboard on a touchscreen device this game will be very successful.
Wonderful piece by John Gruber on Apple’s approach to technology development — starting with the product and working towards the technology.