(You're reading all posts by Leander Kahney)

About Leander Kahney

Leander Kahney Leander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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Can hardware incubator Highway1 be the new Silicon Valley startup garage?

A visit to the Highway 1 incubator in San Francisco, Ca. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

“It can be polka dots one day or an image the next,” says Lara Grant, a fashion technologist working on an LED-powered handbag at San Francisco hardware incubator Highway1. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — The iPhone has changed the way we do everything, from finding a date to finding a meal. Now it’s about to change the way innovative hardware gets made.

With smartphones manufactured in such massive quantities, basic components like chips and batteries have become dirt cheap. Smartphones also allow hardware to be dumber by providing processing power and a big screen. Add 3-D printers (which ease prototyping), crowdfunding (which has shaken up financing) and Github (for sharing software), and you’ve got a smartphone-fueled manufacturing revolution in the making.

“It’s the cellphone peace dividend,” said Brady Forrest, a former venture capitalist who heads up Highway1, an “incubator” for hardware startups that launched a few months ago here in the city’s Mission district. “So many are being made, prices for components are plummeting.”

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Google reveals its real face: unfocused, unoriginal and a little bit evil

Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Wednesday’s Google I/O keynote offers a window into the search giant’s world. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Google’s keynote presentation at its I/O developer’s conference today offered a revealing picture of the company itself: meandering, unfocused, copycat and just a little bit evil.

The two-hours-plus keynote had a lot of everything, from a new version of Android to new phones, smartwatches, TVs, cars, Chromebooks and big data — but much of it was deja vu from Apple’s WWDC two weeks ago.

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State of the Hackintosh 2014: A peek into a shadowy subculture of Apple fans

These are the computers Apple never built, and never will — a water-cooled Cube; a teeny-tiny G5; a faux Mac Pro in a trash can.

Oh wait. Apple did the trash can, but not a genuine rubbish bin with a matching toilet brush, like the purple beauty in the Hackintosh gallery above.

These homemade Macs, built from non-Apple hardware, come in a thousand different shapes and sizes, built by legions of dedicated, ingenious hackers. In the nine years since Apple switched to Intel processors, a DIY subculture dedicated to building alternative Mac hardware has steadily grown. It’s not a strictly legal endeavor — Apple’s EULA forbids OS X from running on non-Apple hardware — but Cupertino turns a blind eye to hobbyists.

“You know what? We’ve never gotten anything from Apple other than a few anonymous employees asking for help :),” said Tony, who runs Hackintosh website tonymacx86.com, in an email to Cult of Mac. “It’s clear that tonymacx86.com doesn’t sell hardware. I would think that they’d understand that we are promoting the purchase of OS X and Apple peripherals and laptops, and have zero tolerance for piracy.”

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Lifestyles of the rich and famous independent software developer

Victor Broido, COO at DigiDNA, talks about his work and lifestyle during AltConf in San Francisco June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

DigiDNA COO Victor Broido is living the dream — and talking it up at AltConf 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Victor Broido has an enviable lifestyle. He lives and works 200 yards from a sun-kissed beach. He often kitesurfs before work. Sometimes he surfs during work.

“It was my dream, as a kid, to surf for an hour before going to the office,” Broido said. “That’s my life. It’s happening right now.”

You might want to punch Broido in the face upon hearing this, but he’s the nicest, most self-deprecating guy. You can’t begrudge him anything. Plus, he worked to attain this way of life.

Broido and his colleagues run DigiDNA, an eight-person company based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a satellite office in Geraldton, a small city in remote Western Australia with a reputation for world-class water sports.

DigiDNA is one of thousands of small, independent software developers spawned by the mobile revolution. In 2013, Apple’s App Store revenues topped $10 billion, and a lot of that money flowed to small startups. There are small indies in every category, from games to databases. Lots of them flocked to San Francisco last week for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. DigiDNA was a gold sponsor of last week’s AltConf, the alternative conference that ran parallel to Apple’s event. (DigiDNA has also sponsored Cult of Mac’s Cultcast in the past.)

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Coders grapple with good and evil at WWDC’s indie spinoff

Bill Atkinson, left and Andrew Stone chat each other up at AltConf in San Francisco June 3, 2014. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple legend Bill Atkinson, left, and Andrew Stone talk Steve Jobs, drugs and the Internet at AltConf 2014 in San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — At Apple’s WWDC developer conference, there are talks about interface design, writing code and fixing bugs.

Across the street at indie spinoff AltConf, the talks are concerned with spying on users and making choices between good and evil.

“We have had a hand in creating one of the most dystopian and undesirable societies imaginable,” said Andrew Stone, a veteran programmer who once worked with Steve Jobs, during a talk entitled “What Have We Built Here?”

It’s not the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear at a developer’s conference, but in an age of widespread government spying and cynicism about corporate slogans like “Don’t be evil,” AltConf highlights that programmers are often presented with moral choices. There’s a growing awareness in the coding community that although the activity of programming is benign, what’s created can be used for evil. Take Maciej Cegłowski’s talk last month in Germany, which has been widely discussed on the Web. Cegłowski argues — convincingly — that the utopian ideals of the early internet have been thoroughly corrupted, and the entire industry is “rotten.”

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Why Apple’s WWDC keynote was its most important in years

Photo:

Craig Federighi stalks the stage at WWDC 2014. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Monday’s fantastic WWDC keynote was the most significant product introduction since Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPad in 2010. But this time, the revolutionary product wasn’t hardware — it was software.

The surprisingly well-executed event demonstrated two things:

1. Steve Jobs’ greatest product wasn’t the iPad or the Macintosh, but Apple itself. He created a company that can very clearly innovate without him.

2. Although there was no new hardware (for now), Apple’s trajectory is clear: It’s getting into some very big things.

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How Apple can rekindle the magic of the Stevenote

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

How can Apple craft a successful sequel to the Stevenote? Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Nearly three years after Steve Jobs’ death, Apple’s keynotes have become pale imitations of their former glory. The last major keynote — November’s introduction of the iPad Air and Retina mini — was a major international snoozefest.

Utterly devoid of excitement, it served only to stoke the pervasive rumors of Apple’s lack of innovation after Jobs (which aren’t true, but nonetheless).

It’s time for Jony Ive to take over.

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Wood works magic in Grain Audio’s amazing walnut speakers

Chris Weir

Grain Audio designer Chris Weir is serious about sound. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Designer Chris Weir is dismissive of products that take a Swiss Army knife approach to features. He thinks a speaker should be a speaker — and nothing else.

“It’s a speaker, not a speakerphone,” he says.

He’s talking about his Packable Wireless Speaker System, a diminutive Bluetooth speaker he designed for Grain Audio, a hot audio startup. Weir resisted all temptation to add a microphone (for phone calls) or the ability to charge phones from its internal battery. It’s just a speaker, and a surprisingly good one at that.

In a market crowded with dozens of unexceptional, me-too products, Grain Audio stands out. Not only are all of its products made of wood (solid walnut, not wood veneer), Grain’s products do one thing, and one thing well: Pump out sound.

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The future of headphones — streaming music built right in

Matthew Paprocki, cofounder of the audio company Soundfreaq, suggests Apple may turn Beats into next-generation, music-everywhere streaming stereos.

Matthew Paprocki, cofounder of the audio company Soundfreaq, suggests Apple may use Beats to create next-generation, music-everywhere streaming stereos.

At the giant Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, the exhibit halls were packed with wireless audio products. It’s all thanks to the mobile revolution. These are the listening devices of the future.

But future speakers and headphones will be quite different, predicted Matthew Paprocki, co-founder of Soundfreaq, a Southern California company that makes a range of critically acclaimed speakers.

Paprocki’s predictions may have implications for Beats, which Apple is rumored to be buying for $3.2 billion. Beats, of course, makes headphones and has a subscription based music streaming service, but Apple’s plans are unclear.

“They could take all the ingredients that Beats has and bake it into a new cake,” Paprocki said.

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With Beats, Apple buys the unobtainable: street cred

If and when Apple enters the wearables market, its biggest problem will be persuading people to wear the technology. A big part of that will be attracting the right early-adopters.

If Apple enters the wearables market, the biggest challenge will be persuading people to wear the technology. Attracting the right early adopters will be key to Apple’s success.

If the rumors are true, Apple’s forthcoming purchase of Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion is all about one thing — making wearable technology fashionable.

Apple is poised to introduce a line of wearables that likely goes beyond the long-rumored iWatch. While the technology Tim Cook’s team is cooking up might be amazing, getting people to wear it — especially cracking the crucial mass market — will be one of the biggest challenges Cupertino has ever faced.

Injecting style into wearable tech notoriously difficult. Even Nike got flustered and discontinued its FuelBand fitness tracker. So far, no company has really cracked the code and turned gear into a fashion statement for the cool kids, with one giant exception: Beats, a phenomenally successful wearable technology brand that dwarfs the rest of the industry because it’s pulled off the hardest trick in the book.

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