Thoughts on the connected future.

Back to the future

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This is what the iPhone 6 will look like, based on reports from Macrumors and Feld & Volk. The design harkens back to the original iPhone, which was my favourite industrial design of the iPhone. 

My money, Apple. Take it.

Apple + IBM

Apple and IBM today announced a partnership to help the companies deploy business-specific apps and devices to corporate business.

How times have changed since Apple’s famous 1984 ad when the company famously called out IBM for becoming Big Brother. Ofcourse since then, IBM have moved away from the consumer tech business almost completely and are now solely focused on corporate solutions.

This also puts the final nail in the coffin for Blackberry, just in case there was someone that thought they still had any chance to regain marketshare.

App Store “Optimization”

App Store Optimization: The act of fiddling with two arbitrary strings of text in order to rank higher in searches in the Apple App Store.

Dark Sky played around with their app name and the keywords field to improve their app’s discoverability in search.

Changing our title from the nice and simple “Dark Sky” to the ungainly “Dark Sky - Weather Radar, Hyperlocal Forecasts, and Storm Alerts” had a big effect. Look at those juicy keywords!

When they complicated their app name and pumped up their keywords field, the referrals from the App Store search shot up considerably. Regardless, they’ve had a lot of success in the App Store even before engaging in the above ‘optimization’ to game their search ranking.

This shows that Apple still has a lot of work to do to improve app discoverability within the App Store. Improving your app, top 10 lists, blog posts and reviews don’t matter, if you can game the keywords field you can get results.

This is broken and Apple should take App Store search more seriously. It’s been 5 years without any major changes.

Changing tune

Apple today announced their purchase of Beats for $3 billion, with a focus on growing the Beats Music streaming service as a separate service to iTunes digital downloads business.

Apple has long resisted streaming music, Steve Jobs was famously in favour of direct digital downloads as opposed to subscriptions. However as shown in Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet trends report released today, digital music download sales are falling while streaming is booming. Digital download sales fell 6% in 2013, while streaming music in the US grew 32% in 2013. 

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In the early 2000s music was synonymous with iPod and iTunes, but over the past few years anyone that is truly interested in music owns a Spotify or Rdio subscription. Spotify itself grew 51% in revenues in 2013 according to the IFPI.

This is a big problem for Apple. If I have purchased a Spotify subscription, that is one less barrier for me switching to Android or Windows Phone as Spotify apps are cross-platform.

Selling individual songs and albums is a dying business and Apple can’t afford to keep ignoring that. Even though Spotify is a venture-capital backed business and is not yet profitable, the masses have shown this is how they want to pay for music. Someone needs to crack this model, and make it profitable.

$3 billion buys Apple a profitable headphone business which is nice for them. However there are two reasons why they are really buying Beats: Dre and Jimmy Iovine. These two have developed products that have entrenched themselves into the cultural psyche of music-listening youth, replacing the infamous white earbuds. They have deep connections to the music industry and can replicate some of the reality distortion field that Apple lost with Steve Jobs passing.

Mostly, buying Beats allows Apple to quickly enter the subscription music space, with content deals already in place. 

This deal shows that Apple is changing their tune on music downloads, and they have to if they want to remain relevant in the content distribution business. This is highly lucrative for Apple in its own right, as well as vital to selling more iPhones, iPads and future hardware products.

Hands-on with Apple's CarPlay

Jalopnik have a hands-on video with Apple’s new Carplay feature in a Volvo, that combines native iPhone apps together into a new Apple-designed UI for your car’s dashboard display.

Ofcourse, it only works with 2014 model cars from certain manufacturers, so it’s going to be a while before this gains any significant proliferation. It’s nice to see an Apple designed solution in place of the usually horrible UI found in many car dashboards.

However I wonder how well this will work since Apple is only designing the software, not the hardware. Many touch screens in cars are nowhere near as responsive as the iPhone’s or iPad’s screen.

Maybe when I upgrade my car sometime in 2018 I can make use of this.

Apple Said to Plan TV Box Amid Time Warner Cable Talks

Adam Satariano and Edmund Lee:

Apple Inc. is planning to introduce a new Apple TV set-top box and is negotiating with Time Warner Cable Inc. and other potential partners to add video content, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

There has been a lot of smoke about a revamped Apple TV, and it looks like early this year we will see a new device. This doesn’t look to be about a ‘revolutionary’ interface Steve Jobs reportedly talked about in Walter Isaac’s book. Rather, it’s about content.

The big scoop in this article is about integration with Time Warner and Comcast cable. One device that can control all content including free to air, cable and on demand content will be the ‘halo’ device we’ve all wanted.

And no, it’s not going to be an actual TV. 

Apple Predicted to Release Ultra-Slim 12-Inch MacBook

Macrumors:

We expect the unprecedented 12” model will boast both the portability of the 11” model, and productivity of the 13” model. The high resolution display will also offer the outstanding visual experience of the Retina MacBook Pro. The offering will likely be lighter and slimmer than the existing MacBook Air to further highlight ease of portability in the cloud computing era. We think the form factor will showcase a much improved clamshell structure, and that it will redefine laptop computing once again following the milestone created by the MacBook Air.

An entry level 12 inch Macbook, and then pro machines at 13 and 15 inches makes perfect sense. Right now you can buy three different Macbook’s at 13 inches, this complicates both the consumer buying decision and also Apple’s production lines.

Apple will also want to increase floor space for iOS products and future post-PC devices, a good way to do that is decrease the amount of traditional Macs that they sell.

Steve Jobs loathed Google at the time of his death

Brad Stone:

At the time of his death, Jobs had come to loathe Google, which he felt was copying features of the iPhone while withholding a key feature of Google Maps that allows smartphones to dictate turn-by-turn directions aloud. Jobs also discussed pulling Google search from the iPhone, but figured that customers would reject that move, according to two former Apple executives.

We knew that Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Google, but Stone provides some insight on just how far he was prepared to go to nix their services completely from the iPhone.

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