The King of the Jungle
The way I figure it, a sizable chunk of this month’s issue of ATPM is about the proverbial top dog, the king of the hill: Mac OS X Lion. I might as well at least give you some links to read about it, right?
If you haven’t already installed it, I’ve got material for you. And if you have…well, maybe we’ve still got some material for you! Especially if you’re trying to turn off “natural” scrolling.
Each time Apple releases a new major version of Mac OS X, John Siracusa reviews it. If you’ve read one of these reviews before, you know that they are absolute masterworks of total and complete summary, from top to bottom—and typically run to book length. If you’re an Ars subscriber, you can actually get it as a book, in PDF or ePub format. I can’t even try to summarize it in short-form length, so I will just tell you to read it, whether or not you’ve already upgraded. His reviews are worth the time you invest to read them.
Writing in Macworld, Christopher Breen offers his guide to what to do within the first 5 minutes of installing Mac OS X Lion. A few highlights: run Software Update, turn off natural scrolling, and adjust the sidebar. I found it to be a useful guide of things that you forget you have to change in the year to year and a half between OS upgrades, and a reminder of a few new Lion features. (The scrolling is the controversial one; more on that later in the column.)
Why Lion’s “Natural Scrolling” Is So Frustrating to Users
There’s been much said about the new “natural scrolling” that Apple introduced in Mac OS X Lion. I’ve already switched it off, after less than a week, because between work and home I juggle three Macs and a PC, and only one of has been upgraded to Mac OS X 10.7. Ellis Hamburger of Business Insider tried an experiment: he leaned back the display on his laptop until it was almost level with the keyboard. At that point, he said, the natural scrolling felt more appropriate—it’s when it’s divorced from operating in the same plane that it doesn’t make overriding sense (vs. the convention we’re used to) anymore.
Kirk McElhearn on How to Make Lion More Like Snow Leopard
A leopard may not be able to change its spots, but a lion? That’s the premise of Kirk McElhearn’s guide to making your Mac post-Lion upgrade act more like it did with Snow Leopard. In addition to the aforementioned “natural scrolling,” it’s got useful tips on unhiding your Library folder, getting back the Finder’s status bar, and to switch Mail to its classic two-column layout. (Me, I’m thrilled Apple finally added a built-in wide-screen layout to Mail.) If you want some of the Lion improvements under the hood without the user interface tinkering, this is a good place to start.
Microsoft Promises Support for Lion’s Auto Save and Versions in Office 2011
Two of Lion’s biggest selling points, Auto Save and Versions, are not (yet) supported by the one piece of software that would most benefit from it: Microsoft Word. On the Office for Mac blog, Microsoft promises support for those in an update it will release—but the waiting time for this will be “months.” Meanwhile, Microsoft also remind us that you can’t use Office 2004 with Lion, because Office 2004 was running in Rosetta on Intel-based Macs. (That explains a lot about its performance on my work Mac, relative to all the other software I have on it.)
iPhone From iCloud Nine
One of the most difficult-to-understand concepts going around right now is “the cloud”—and why an ordinary user should care about it. Andy Ihnatko takes a stab, by using Apple’s, Google’s, and Amazon’s offerings as a window into how the respective companies view the future of computing. He points out, for instance, that Apple and Google hold diametrically opposed beliefs about whether the future is in compiled software or Web-based software, with Amazon holding a kind of third way. It’s an interesting view: to Google, the cloud is the great front-end in the sky; and to Apple, the cloud is a connector between services that makes software update seamlessly.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals had a lively debate about what the app-store ecosystem means for various mobile platforms. It’s a solid discussion: Hansson argues that Apple nailed the 10 core apps, from Safari to Mail, and that’s all he needs on his iPhone (plus Bloomberg and Echofon). He’s arguing against the prevailing wisdom that an ecosystem is critical for a mobile OS to succeed. Meanwhile, Fried takes issue with the argument, saying that people buy a phone in part because of the possibility of the 200,000-odd apps on the App Store. Sure, each one individually doesn’t matter, Fried says, but they add up to the totality of the platform—it’s more than just the apps you use.
Horace Dediu on Radically Underestimating iPhone Sales
Our favorite analyst here at Bloggable HQ, Horace Dediu, explains in great detail how his predictions for Apple’s third-quarter financial results were pretty much spot-on—except iPhone sales. He expected that, because of seasonal shifts in production and the fact that Apple sells so many devices during the holiday season, the only thing holding down demand would be availability. And that his prediction was, therefore, that Apple’s year-over-year growth in iPhone sales would moderate, although they would still sell more this year than last. Because Apple did not announce a new iPhone in June and slow down production of the old model in advance, as they have each year before, they actually sold more iPhones than he was expecting. A lot more. Huh.
Apple Says the App Store Has Sold More Than 15 Billion Apps
Apple released a press statement on July 7 announcing to the world that they had sold over 15 billion apps. That’s a pretty impressive number, but here’s what’s under the headline: 200 million iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches; 425,000 apps and 100,000 iPad-native apps; and 90 countries. It’s always hard to play the how-much-money-is-that-worth game, but if even just 10% were paid for 99¢ and every last one of the rest were free, it would still equal more than a billion dollars in commerce. Impressive.
Elvis Never Sang a Song About Patent-Leather Shoes
Patent-Infringement Suit Updates: Kodak vs. Apple
Lots of patent-lawsuit updates! The ITC has upheld a judge’s ruling that threw out Kodak’s patent-infringement case against Apple, according to Barron’s. (Some portion of the case has been sent back to the administrative-law judge.) The case is a little more confusing than it sounds, because Kodak released a statement saying that this is a favorable ruling to them, but hey. One patent-infringement suit down, several hundred million left to go.
Patent Trolls, Infringement,, and the Lifecycle of an Independent Developer
Craig Hockenberry, independent developer extraordinaire, takes a survey of the way that software’s distribution channel has shifted. For a time, that favored the independent developer (nimble, agile, low-cost) over the megacorporation; but the pendulum seems to be swinging back that way, with the renewed attention that patent holders, both legitimate and trolling, are paying to mobile apps. As Hockenberry points out, the dilemma for app developers is that “it’s entirely possible that all the revenue for a product can be eaten up by legal fees.” Ouch. His battle cry for patent reform, and a good one, is that the benefits of software development should really not accrue to lawyers: “Losing that kind of talent and innovation to a legal system is the real crime.”
Android Is in Serious Trouble After ITC Ruling, Florian Mueller Says
I hate to feed patent trolls, but Florian Mueller has an excellent analysis of why he thinks Android is in serious trouble after an ITC ruling that device maker HTC was infringing on two of Apple’s patents. Now, this is just what’s known as an “initial determination,” and Apple had originally complained about violation on ten patents, so eight have been thrown out—but Mueller says this is a problem because the two that are remaining are “extremely important” and “appear to be at the core of Android and infringed by all Android devices.” To be specific, the two patents cover: “system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data”; and “real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data.” Mueller’s analysis is that this is a big problem for HTC and for Android in general; Apple may not necessarily have a reason to grant a license to HTC or other device makers.
This Month in Other Devices You Overlooked
Jason Snell on the TouchPad: Good Hardware, Unfinished Experience
In Macworld, Jason Snell reviews the HP TouchPad. This is the device I really wanted, when it was announced, but it needed to come out about 9 months ago for me to buy one. (Which it did not.) He really liked the hardware, and he points out the theoretical advantage that HP has over most of its competitors: like Apple, it controls both the hardware and the OS, because it owns Palm’s WebOS. It sounds like a wonderful device, just incomplete. Snell was particularly impressed by HP’s strategy for promoting apps, what he calls an “airline magazine entirely about WebOS apps,” and it sounds like a great idea. Remember that iOS had warts when it was first released, and WebOS has a big advantage over Google’s Android: a guiding hand. I think the sky’s the limit for WebOS, if it can gain some traction.
At This is my next…, Josh Topolsky continues our month of reviews of the HP TouchPad. He, too, was impressed by the hardware, although he points out that it felt a little “cheap” in comparison to Apple’s glass-and-metal ethos. Battery life was very good, the CPU is fast, and the device as a whole is a solid one. But he really hones in on the software: WebOS has graduated from phone-sized to tablet-sized, and unlike Android’s growing pains, he finds the tradition to be a graceful one. I was impressed with the screenshots showing overlay “panels,” which is a really neat touch to have native to the OS, and with the integration of Skype calling into the WebOS. On the other hand, there was some spit and polish needed, the usual bugs to work out. He was even surprised that Flash support wasn’t bad (although not every reviewer I read felt that way).
Continuing with our theme of TouchPad reviews, David Pogue got his hands on one, too. He said that it was a beautiful tablet—and one that sounds suspiciously like an iPad—but that it’s a little late to the game and doesn’t feel like it was ready for release. After all, he points out that it has a very fast CPU under the hood, but screen rotation takes several seconds to notice, and apps take a long time to launch or have lagging performance. Considering how long it took HP to get this device done, some of the touches are really nice (the WebOS Synergy feature groups information from your online accounts together; there are multiple settings for key size on the onscreen keyboard) but it’s just not ready for primetime, even at this late date.
Matt Burns, writing at TechCrunch, argues that what’s holding back Android tablets isn’t the superiority of the iPad or iOS; it’s marketing. Everyone’s heard of the iPad. The Apple commercials that tout it don’t make a grand philosophical gesture, they just show the device in use. (Although I think he’s misunderstanding how effective the “1984” ad is, even 26 years later.) He’s right that a lot of this is marketing. If you go to a store, he points out, it’s hard to find an Android tablet. Apple pays extra for prime placement in retail outlets; for TV, newspaper, and magazine ads; and they operate their own stores. Burns says that the onus is on the device manufacturers, not Android, to step up the marketing already.
Odds and Ends
Maxwell Wessel and James Allworth, writing in the Harvard Business Review, strike up another lively debate, this time about the future of iTunes with Spotify expanding to the US. Wessel argues that subscription-based streaming music is going to beat out a purchasing-based model like iTunes, because it’s more flexible and less expensive. Allworth takes the contrary position—but I think he makes a better argument, by staying away from business school hypotheticals. He contrasts Spotify with Netflix: when you subscribe to Netflix, you don’t watch the same movie ten, twenty, a hundred times. You’re renting the movie, a model we’re very familiar with. With Spotify, if you drop after a year, you’ve spent $120 on music that vanishes when your subscription expires—and we know empirically that people listen to songs many times. (I have the same issue with Safari Bookshelf, which I recently dropped.)