And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
The Ugly: I think any rational person would agree that Safari, Notes, and Maps all have pretty terrible icons in this regime. Safari is just astoundingly bad. Anything else would be preferable. And at least the little idiotic wooden newsstand showed me some (albeit tiny) tidbits of information. Let’s replace that minor utility with white space. Huzzah!
The Bad: Settings is change for change’s sake and, again, not a change for the better. Photos makes no sense in the abstract, other than as an additional abstraction of the previously nonsensical flower icon.
Flattening does no favors to Phone, Messages, Videos, iTunes Store, App Store, Mail, and Music. The gradients on the latter five are, uh, poor choices to my eye. People’s animus against (boredom with?) gloss seems to have metastasized into these flat gradients. Hope you’re happy with that. Camera now inexplicably looks like an SLR of some kind. The essential nature of the thing is far closer to the current icon, Jony. Which looked like an iPhone camera.
The Good: I guess Calendar is pretty good. Weather does the job. Passbook also looks like the work of a modern master in comparison to the rest of this lot. Clock is essentially unchanged and Compass looks fine.
But, hey, at least we got rid of leather, felt, and stitching. Right? After all, Game Center is now a totally sensible collection of randomly colored blobs of various sizes. Where else would you visually decide to click for your Game Centering needs? Big usability and interpretability win there. Right?
All the semi-transparency in the demos did nothing to allay that old sinking feeling. Officially worried the unwinding is upon us.
"What Apple understands and its critics did not (and still do not) is that many people, from all walks of life, simply appreciate nice things. They accuse Apple of pretension and elitism, but it’s they, the critics, who hold that the mass market for phones and tablets is overwhelmingly comprised of tasteless, fickle shoppers who neither discern nor care about product quality. That Apple’s lead in these categories is simply because they were first out of the gate in them, not because their products are so good."
— John Gruber writes what must be his most incisive, accurate paragraph in years. And he happens to write a lot of good paragraphs. There’s a lot more than a few thoughts about Apple in here; many, many segments of Our World could take a lot of useful advice by refiguring this conceptual framework into their own purview. Looking at you, Democrats. The great unwashed are a hell of a lot smarter, more engaged, and just plain interested than you ever give them credit for. Start acting like it.
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
Nice try, pal. So long as anyone can find any problem or even a variance in the mapping dataset, Apple is doomed, DOOMED I SAY. And how dare you offer me five free options, one of which is a passable version of what was in there before? It’s amazing they aren’t all in jail. That’s California for you.
The report also noted that [Apple Retail VP John] Browett said Apple’s retail outlets need to “learn to ‘run leaner’ in all areas, even if the customer experience is compromised.”
During fiscal 2011, Apple’s retail stores generated $14.1 billion in revenue and $3.1 billion in profits. The chain has operated at around a 22 percent profit margin over the past five years
Were Steve Jobs alive and running the company, this guy would be gone before he got back from lunch. These sorts of paper gains that put the long game in hock to better favor a slight quarterly bump, all just ahead of what would appear to be the biggest, most important launch in the company’s history? Utter lunacy. You should be adding employees, my friend. The money involved is completely and utterly beside the point at your margins (and, no: forget Apple’s margins for the moment, I mean just the margins of the Store). Would the cuts even cover your own salary? Will they help you at your new job? I certainly hope so.
But here’s some unsolicited advice: the Apple Store isn’t a store like Best Buy. It’s equal measure retail operation and, critically, brand identity. The experience of it needs to be every bit as delightful as the latest iDingus. If it’s not, you’ve damaged the brand. And once that’s gone, it ain’t coming back at any price. I feel certain Apple would operate the store at break-even or as a slight loss leader; it’s more valuable as an icon and an experience than it is as a raw profit center churning out new doodads for the masses. Apparently Browett didn’t get the memo. Time will tell…but I’d say the Store is now officially the leading indicator for the company. As it goes, so goes Apple. When it starts seeming like Best Buy in there, sell short.
"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
Predictably thoughtful take from John Gruber on the broader tablet strategy that Amazon is taking up in light of the new Kindle/Kindle Fire product line. You should read the whole thing, but a couple of points really stand out. First:
Apple’s primary business is selling devices for a healthy profit, and they back that up with a side business of selling digital content for those devices. Amazon’s primary business is as a retailer, including as a retailer of digital content. They back that up with a side business of low-cost digital devices that are optimized for on-the-fly purchasing of anything and everything Amazon sells.
This is exactly right. I’d extend the idea all the way out to its limit: Amazon should buy Qwikster from Netflix.
While this move would, to Netflix, be akin to selling Babe Ruth to your direct competitor for a few grand and a bag of balls, what other company out there understands shipping better than Amazon, has a built-in pipe for selling overstocked used discs of yesterday’s blockbuster movie, could seamlessly merge the “this isn’t available to stream, shall we ship it to you right now” experience, and, most importantly, has the leverage with the content owners to actually, you know, offer a lot of content from their streaming service? Clearly the answer ain’t Netflix. It’s Amazon, who can go to content-owners and say: “Do you really want Apple to dominate your pipeline to the consumer? We have the customers, data about those customers, and the access to them. Use us a leverage against Apple and we’ll give you a marginally richer cut in exchange.” Even in an era of increasing disintermediation, the Apple model shows quite strongly that if you pile up enough content that people want, it’s ultimately easier to sell from those fewer, larger silos. Nobody wants to search ten sites to figure out which has Transformers 18: This Time It’s Personal available to stream this week only to have said stream expire mid-movie because you had to pause it at an inopportune moment. In that model, T18:TTIP pirated torrents become king. And yet this is fairly precisely the situation we consumers and our content-overlords increasingly find ourselves in. The future is most definitely not 35 separate “Apps for that,” each of which has to be painstakingly consulted on movie night. There’s room for two, maybe three, giant content aggregators. As of today, I’d say one of them is pretty obviously Apple. The other sure seems likely to be Amazon; even more likely once they’ve sold a few million Kindle Fires. Hell, since Netflix likely won’t sell a direct competitor the keys to Quikster, Bezos should just buy bothQuikster and Netflix, re-brand the sexily named “Amazon Instant Video” service Netflix and milk the Quikster “physical media” approach for as long as it makes sense to do so (as part of a broader package ultimately tied to Amazon Prime membership…which, of course, is mostly a deal-sweetening mechanism designed to drive unrelated sales for Amazon as a whole). As always: fewer choices for the consumer means more money for the provider; you draw them in with the enticing product or service, then completely empty their pockets on all the other stuff they hadn’t previously even thought of buying. It’s precisely Apple’s strategy, but attacked from the perspective of the content instead of the device.
Interesting point two:
Amazon is a data-driven company. I’ll bet the $40 premium [for a Kindle that never serves you “offers”] is based on how much money they expect to make from the ads they sell and products they promote via the special offers. Last year the special offer Kindle was only $25 less; the data must show that the special offers are worth more than $25 per Kindle to Amazon.
Taken together with the previous point, it’s clear that there’s potentially much, much more value in that premium. With Silk, Amazon will quickly have a huge dataset covering the browsing habits of their users. They already have a huge dataset on the buying habits of those users. In the user’s hand at the moment of the “offer” is a device purpose-built to grease the skids of said content purchase; just as easy to grease the skids for any kind of purchase once you know what the user wants or is looking for outside of the “content” world. And Amazon just so happens to sell that stuff, and will drop it on your doorstep quicker than seems possible with your annual Prime membership…which, oh yeah, you need because of all the content! Worth something to Amazon to be sure, but worth even more to the content owners and other potential advertisers who will presumably pay handsomely to get targeted sales…and Amazon will be able to show them exactly how well the campaign worked.
It’s simply not possible to do ad-word jiggery-pokery when an actual purchase (as opposed to a view) is the outcome metric. So I’d say it’s crystal clear that it’s in Amazon’s interest to gradually raise the heat on “offer-free” Kindles until, at some point Kindle purchases more closely resemble contract and contract-free purchases of mobile phones. That, I suppose, is when the ads start to intrude on the reading. But that’s a whole other post.
"The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t. I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time.[…] These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.
But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important."
If this is your first time reading an Ars Technica review of Mac OS X and you’ve made it this far, be warned: this section will be even more esoteric than the ones you’ve already read.
John Siracusa, writing on page 9 of his always essential and insightful Mac OS X (now at version 10.7) review. Which, oh by the way, was released today alongside the new system. Silence grips Apple deathwatch, indeed.