Apple Acquires Dark Sky Weather App with its API

Dark Sky Blog:

Today we have some important and exciting news to share: Dark Sky has joined Apple.

Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy.

There is no better place to accomplish these goals than at Apple. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach far more people, with far more impact, than we ever could alone.

Dark Sky Weather app to this day remains the longest third-party weather app I’ve used on iOS. What drew to me to Dark Sky was its rich collection of meteorological conditions and granular custom notifications that enables you to receive down-to-the-minute alerts on various weather change patterns. For example, users can set a custom notification as follows; notify me at 7 pm if the temperature falls below/rises above 10° at any time/during the day/overnight.

I’m excited about such functionalities coming to the native iOS Weather app which hasn’t seen any significant improvements since iOS 7. This is good news as I continue my shift to using native apps on iOS and iPadOS.

Fortune’s 100 Iconic Designs of Modern Times Features Eight Apple Products

Fortune Magazine is celebrating the 60th anniversary of putting together a project aimed at discovering and listing the 100 best-designed products of the ‘modern era’ by recreating the same survey in 2019. The survey, according to Fortune, took over a year to complete, again partnering with the IIT Institute of Design (ID) to compile the list of the top 100 iconic designs of this modern era.

Top of the list, is yours truly, the original Apple iPhone (2007):

“An iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator” was how the late Steve Jobs announced the iPhone to the world in 2007. At the time it was an impressive claim. Now it seems like a massive understatement for a device that changed how we live.

Followed by the Macintosh (1984) in second place:

Apple started the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, but the Macintosh defined the category.

“The Macintosh was not the first personal computer, nor was it the first one with a graphical user interface, but it was the first complete product that took all these ideas and more into a complete package. It became a computer one could understand and interact with using both language and vision, typing and drawing. It changed the way we relate to a computer.” — Johan Redstrom, professor, Umeå University.

The rest of the Apple products featured on the list are scattered but all remain in the top 65:

  • Original iPod (2001)
  • MacBook Pro (2006)
  • App Store (2008)
  • iOS (2007)
  • Apple Watch (2015)
  • Apple Pay (2014)

You can see the full list from the source below.

Source: Fortune

WWDC2020

WWDC 2020 ‘All-new Online Format’

Image Credit: Apple Newsroom

Apple Newsroom:

“We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world. We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead.”

As expected, Apple joins the ever-expanding number of tech companies cancelling planned live interpersonal events this year. The current measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID–19 of the novel Coronavirus outbreak inevitably made holding its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in its usual standard format an impossibility.

Giving the vagueness of the announcement with more details to be revealed in the ‘weeks ahead’, seems to me work on the new format is still an on-going process. I’m intrigued to learn more about how exactly Apple will present this ‘all-new online format’, and how it will compare to the efficacy of their live in-person events. The success of this ‘all-new online format’ will no doubt fuel the discussion on the necessity of WWDC being a live event going forward.

Project Connected Home over IP (CHoIP)

Apple Newsroom:

The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The planned protocol will complement existing technologies, and working group members encourage device manufacturers to continue innovating using technologies available today.

When companies take a step back from their efforts to cement their different standards and protocols as the best in-class and work together for the greater good to provide a universal standard, then consumers reap the benefits. This project undoubtedly will help the growth and stability of home automation and eradicate the current levels of shoehorning solutions to make platforms compatible, which is a massive deterrent for many potential adopters.

I hope to see more of these kinds of collaborations from tech giants going forward. It’s a win for everyone.

Blockbuster new Product Expectations from Apple

Walt Mossberg, The Verge:

The pressure was on for Cook’s Apple to bring out the next beautiful, premium, innovative product to maintain Apple’s streak, its margins, and its growing ecosystem of devoted users.

Cook’s first big all-new product was the Apple Watch, which was released in 2015. But it took until the third generation of the Watch in 2017 for Apple to find the right hardware, software, and functionality. It was essentially a reboot.

The other major hardware success under the Cook regime has been AirPods, the wireless earbuds released in 2016 that seem to be everywhere, looking like white plastic earrings.

Respect to Mossberg. A calculated fair assessment from a seasoned veteran with a solid understanding of the consumer tech industry.

One can argue the AirPods and Apple Watch could’ve been the blockbuster new products of the past decade considering how they’ve dominated their respective categories. What they lacked, perhaps, is Steve Jobs’ mind-blowing marketing gasconade that would’ve elevated them beyond their current status. Tim, isn’t a product guy, as Uncle Walt describes him. Jobs, as he was known, was an astute salesman. And perhaps that’s one of the missing puzzle pieces why none of the new product categories released in the past decade had the same blockbuster effect as say, the iPhone.

I’m not the least worried about Apples ability to produce another blockbuster product in the coming decade. What I’d rather see first and foremost as we enter that period, is stability across the board; from company culture to products and services.

Bill Atkinson on Joining Apple Computer 40 Years ago

There’s a lot of fine nerdery in this story reflecting on his 12 years spent at Apple Computer ‘making tools to empower creative people’. The story started with the recruitment process:

Toward the end of the day, Steve took me aside and told me that any hot new technology I read about was actually two years old. “There is a lag time between when someting is invented, and when it is available to the public. If you want to make a difference in the world, you have to be ahead of that lag time. Come to Apple where you can invent the future and change millions of people’s lives.”

The part I also find fascinating is Steve Jobs’ ability to cap off a lengthy recruitment day with a visual analogy in helping persuade him. Bill flipped from his initial staunch desire to finish off his PhD in neuroscience, to dropping ten years of college education and joining Apple Computer:

Then he gave me a visual: “Think how fun it is to surf on the front edge of a wave, and how not-fun to dog paddle on the tail edge of the same wave.” That image persuaded me, and within two weeks I had quit my graduate program, moved to Silicon Valley, and was working at Apple Computer.

Very reminiscent to the more commonly known story about recruiting John Sculley. Steve, also painted a visualisation that made Sculley take a more in-depth look into the level of fulfilment his current job offered him: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Steve’s ability to tactfully deliver soul searching closing questions and remarks during the recruitment process was admirable.

I love reading these types of stories.

Source: Michael Tsai.

Genius

Apple to Expand Authorised Repair Service Network

Genius
Image Credit: Apple Support

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorised Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

Upcoming Changes to Siri Privacy Protection

We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading. We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.

Following the suspension of using human contractors to listen to Siri audio snippets for its Siri grading program to improve Siri’s effectiveness in providing accurate responses to queries, Apple have now temporarily terminated the program and offered its apologies for failing to live up to their high ideals and upholding the level of privacy its users are accustom to.

However, the practice will resume in-house when upcoming software updates are released, and a few evaluation process changes have been made:

First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.

Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.

Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.

I’m glad to see Apple continue to take ownership of its responsibilities in addressing the situation, offering its apologies, and putting forth changes that align with their strong privacy stance and the respect it has for its users. I will be sure to opt-in to help with improving Siri.

Source: Apple Newsroom.

Apple Suspends Siri Data Analysis by Contractors

In a statement to TechCrunch:

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

Despite the delayed response to the criticisms of potential privacy concerns surrounding the use of contractors to analyse and grade Siri search query data – a concern made more prominent by The Guardian’s reporting of the situation – am glad to see Apple take action nonetheless.

Albeit, only a suspension of the program worldwide and not a total cancellation, probably due to needing time to assess better operable options in how to continually process such data without the need of contracted human helpers.

It is great to see Apple take ownership of its responsibilities and holding themselves accountable.

Siri Data Analsysis by Humans

“Often masqueraded under the thin veil of ‘anonymous data collection to improve your experience’, every tech company is susceptible to using data in ways users might not be fully aware of, we are, after all, in a digital age of ubiquitous data harvesting. Whether users tolerate the unethical amassing of data to be sold off without consent is a decision a user should regularly review.”

– Excerpt from a post on Privacy published on Chambyte on 22 July 2019.

A week or so after publishing a post about Apples Privacy Stance in which I stated the reason why I trust the tech giant in defending our right to privacy, UK publication The Guardian published an article about how Apple contractors ‘regularly hear confidential details’ on Siri recordings.

Apple Acquiring Intels Smartphone Modem Business

Acquiring majority of Intels Smartphone modem business is a massive step towards the goal of owning and controlling the primary technologies that are core to the operation of its product lineup that utilises modems, even more so for future products.

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make.”

Tim Cook

During the 2009 Earnings call to investors, Tim Cook reiterates Apples long term goal of being the sole proprietor of primary technologies that are the heart and soul of its products:

Apples Privacy Stance

“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.”

Tim Cook