By Nathan L. Walls

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Articles tagged “apple”

OS X Naming

At WWDC this week, Apple announced a shift from naming OS X versions after big cats as has been custom since 10.0, although the naming wasn’t public until 10.2 “Jaguar.”

Now, Apple is apparently using California for inspiration with naming OS X “for the next 10 years” starting with Mavericks.

So, if I were naming future releases, what might I also use:

  • Golden Gate
  • Tahoe
  • Joshua Tree
  • Big Sur
  • Sequoia
  • Half Dome
  • Sonoma
  • Shasta
  • Morro Bay

Some names I don’t expect to see:

  • Bay Bridge Toll Plaza
  • Richmond Refinery
  • Rancho Seco
  • Folsom State Prison
  • Frisco
  • Santa Monica Freeway

John Gruber on Objectivity

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen uses the term “view from nowhere” to describe how a significant segment of America’s news media presents news, analysis and opinion. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, please go read Rosen’s explanation of what he means with the term.

I see frequent references to what ends up being false equivalence in several arenas. Political coverage is a big one, particularly around the differences between Democrats and Republicans. James Fallows has an exemplar dismantling of how the Senate minority is acting, and how the media is writing about it. Climate science, the healthcare debate and the global financial crisis all have their examples where the “view from nowhere” pervades reporting and actively obstructs a layperson from understanding of what’s actually happening. It’s also harmful to news organizations committed to the “view from nowhere”, say NPR, when their opponents are willing to leverage that policy against them.

I finished college and started my career in journalism, so I have a deeper interest that I suspect most folks might in the sausage making of reporting and commentary. So, over the couple of weeks, I’ve really appreciated how John Gruber has been trying to get a splinter out from under a fingernail regarding the claim he’s a mindlessly pro-Apple fanboy, after his appearance on “On The Verge”.

I’ve followed Gruber’s writing, with relish, for years and I’m in agreement with roughly 90 percent of what he writes. I like his sarcasm and the fact that it’s generally crystal clear if he likes or dislikes something. It’s also not hard to find when he thinks Apple is off-base. I usually go back to late July 2009, a period when Apple rejected Google’s voice apps from the App Store, but more recent examples abound.

What really clicked in my head and went, “Yes, that!” was listening to his post-appearance debrief with Dan Benjamin on The Talk Show, Ep. 71. Starting about nine minutes in, Gruber takes the “fanboy” premise and goes on a nice discourse on objectivity vs. fairness, using his appearance on the show and the rest of the show segments as examples for why the “view from nowhere” is dishonest to the audience.

If you’re familiar with tech, and you’re familiar with Gruber’s grasp of his areas of interest, listen from minute 9 to minute 30 or so and imagine where else commentary and reporting could benefit by not being watered down by false balance.

iPhone 4S and the persistence of design

It’s not hard to find someone (or some people) seemingly disappointed with Apple not releasing a redesigned iPhone 5 today. Rumors were focused on a split iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 announcement, based on leaked parts and case manufacturers looking to get a jump on a new design.

I posit that outside of Apple, a lot of assumptions about what Apple would do are made based on how other companies treat design, not how Apple has demonstrated how it treats design.

Let’s first consider that most manufacturers have multiple phone models. LG, for instance, as of this writing, is showing 120 models / variants. Apple, today, has three phones, in four different capacities in two different colors. As near as I can tell, it breaks down like this:

Model Capacity Color Network No. of Variants
iPhone 3GS8GBBlackGSM1
iPhone 48GBBlack, WhiteGSM, CDMA4
iPhone 4S16, 32, 64GB Black, White GSM+CDMA6

So, we’re up to eleven active iPhone part numbers. By comparison, the iPad 2 has 18 variants (color, capacity, networking). While the variants might create the impression of complexity, you are left with some simple decisions:

  • How much am I comfortable paying for a phone?
  • If I’m willing to pay $100 or more, what color do I want?
  • If I’m willing to pay $200 or more, what capacity do I want?

You aren’t making decisions about form factor or screen size. There’s no “gaming” or “texting” or “business” iPhone.

But, look back at the LG example. You could just as easily look at Motorola or Nokia and see that you’re making a different set of decisions, based on your presumed use of the phone. The flagship phones change frequently. They change externally. I believe they change because the companies believe users believe they have to change to be “new.”

As a counter-point to the rapid changing of a lot of feature and smart phones, let’s look at the design life of Apple’s computers:

Model Last Comprehensive Redesign
iMac 2007
Mac Pro/PowerMac G5 2003
MacBook Air January 2008
MacBook Pro October 2008
Cinema Display/Thunderbolt Display October 2008

This is somewhat cherry-picked. I’m not including the Mac mini, for instance. I’m also not including design refinements like port addition/subtraction, size variants, edge-to-edge glass or similar. This is a subjective marker of the common ancestor. Arguably, you could go further back with the iMac.

Now, let’s consider the design language of the iPhone. The 3G was announced in June of 2008. The iPhone 4, in June of 2010. The design language of the iPhone 3G, carried forward with the 3GS, will be five plus years old, when a contract signed today expires. The iPhone 4 design language will be three plus years on. Suffice to say, given the context of Apple’s computers, the iPhone 4’s design is not old.

So, what’s at issue? I suspect we have two immediate markers. First, the fast design iteration of the iPhone to the iPhone 3G. Second, the fast iteration of the iPad to the iPad 2. The first versions were to 1) establish the market and 2) learn. The lessons learned were rolled into the subsequent iterations. Apple’s not afraid to make a design departure when it wants to.

But, if Apple believes the design is true, it also doesn’t feel like it has to change anything. Consider the PowerMac G5 case. It’s been iterated, heavily, internally. But the external case is still a winner. Same with the current iMac. I venture to guess we won’t see many more frequent, radical changes. I expect the MacBook Pro will at some point get thinner, akin to the MacBook Air, but then what? The iPad 2 design could likely go years, even as it adds a Retina display and simplify variants to wifi or CDMA+GSM+wifi.

Now, let’s layer on a couple of points from Dieter Rams’s 10 principles for good design:

  • Good design is long-lasting
  • Good design is innovative

At first glance, these might be contrary positions. But consider, if design can be innovative, it should be. If it can be long-lasting, it should be. Since the original iMac, Apple’s hardware designs have been innovative, but they have also been long-lasting, and increasingly so every year. I daresay design that is incorrect has been edited out. Consider: the dalmatian-spotted iMac, the buttonless iPod shuffle, the four button + clickwheel iPod.

Here’s my bet: Apple knows it has a winner with the iPhone 4 design language. Glass back, external antenna and all. It’s a beautiful and functional object. It isn’t going to change until (and not a moment before) there is something better, functionally and more beautiful. That could be next year. It could just as easily be three years from now.


Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO. Lots of prognostication already and more to come. Most CEOs could only wish to have that kind of impact. There are plenty of people who will see this as the beginning of the end or the end or something else.

But what if Jobs has some energy yet to contribute to Apple and he wants to put that energy into just contributing creative vision instead of being responsible for the executive team, creative vision and being the public face of the second largest corporation on the planet. Steve’d be a hell of a consigliere.

Open hypocrisy

I generally like Google and a love a lot of its products. Actually, better stated, I love the services Google provides and the apps that can use those services. I love Apple products. I love competition. Theoretically, I should relish Google building their own phone and tablet OS ecosystem with Android.

Instead, Google is changing the rules of the game with Android, seemingly against the ethos it has tried to establish by claiming openness in defense of Apple’s closed ecosystem.

Despite opinion to the contrary, there is no hypocrisy in pointing out Google’s current behavior is very much against the spirit of what they talked about in 2010. No one has claimed the App Store is in any recognizable way open. It is a walled garden. You want open on iOS? Build a web app.

Why does John Gruber rail at Google for doing what Apple does, namely being hard-nosed, profit-driven capitalists? Because the image that Google cultivates and promotes is very different than how it actually behaves. Apple is transparently about being a profitable business with words that (substantially) match its actions. Google, not so much.

A number of folks believe there’s something very wrong about Apple transparently acting as a business working in the interest of its shareholders (Disclosure: I own a small number of AAPL shares). How is there not dissonance when at the annual Google I/O conference, Vic Gundotra takes Apple to task for the same sort of behavior Google ends up engaging in? Google is strong-arming handset makers on how they implement Android.

It is completely dissonant to Andy Rubin’s “definition of open” when Google isn’t releasing Android 3.0 source until some point in time that is not the present. Oh, and Rubin gets to approve what handset makers do to customize Android. Maybe 140 characters can’t convey that level of nuance.

Moving to keep Android cohesive is a smart, if belated, move and I like Google’s chances of good UI better than a handset vendor. Google will at least A/B test the hell out of their interface.

If Google sought to different Android from iOS by allowing users the freedom to side-load apps, tinker under the hood, use Flash, have a variety of form factors, have more carrier choice, offer GSM unlocked phones and so on, great. But that’s not how they’ve set themselves up with Android. Instead they tried to claim the mantle of true Open Source Software, fighting the good fight against The Man.

I’m not arguing that what Google is doing to more aggressively curate Android is bad business. It boils down to this. Google’s creed is “Don’t be evil.” It very much wants people to see it as a different kind of company. But, it’s actively harmful when the words and actual behavior are in very significant conflict.

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