(You're reading all posts by Leander Kahney)

About Leander Kahney

Leander KahneyLeander 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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Mysterious Apple minivans are mapping vehicles, experts say

What are the LIDAR units doing on this Apple van? Photo: AppleInsider video

What are the LIDAR units doing on this Apple van? Photo: AppleInsider video

The mysterious Apple minivans roaming the roads in California, Florida and elsewhere are generally assumed to be self-driving cars, but they are not. They are almost undoubtedly collecting data for maps.

They are “almost certainly a mapping vehicle,” said Paul Godsmark, chief technology officer with the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, who examined photos of the mystery vehicles at Cult of Mac’s request.

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It’s time to rewrite Apple history — with more Jony Ive

Is this "the best book about Apple so far"? Read it and find out!

It’s time for Jony Ive to get the credit he deserves. Photo: Portfolio/Penguin

People are calling The New Yorker profile of Jony Ive the most important thing written about Apple in quite a while, and I’d have to concur.

Not only is it full of fascinating details, it puts Ive at the center of Apple, where he belongs. As the piece’s author, Ian Parker, writes: “More than ever, Ive is the company.”

This is something that’s been true for a couple decades, but still isn’t apparent to most people — even veteran Apple watchers. Such is the company’s secrecy, and the tendency of the public to equate everything Apple does with Steve Jobs, that the true story has yet to be told. Ive has not gotten the credit he deserves.

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Meet the Mercedes tech guru who defected to Apple

Johann_Jungwirth Credit: Merceds Benz http://next.mercedes-benz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/PUX_Vorschau.jpg

Johann Jungwirth used to head up Mercedes’ R&D lab in Silicon Valley. He now works for Apple on Mac systems engineering. Yeah right. Photo: Mercedes Benz

Johann Jungwirth is a new Apple employee with one of the world’s most unbelievable job titles.

Until the middle of last year, Jungwirth headed up the big Mercedes-Benz R&D facility in Silicon Valley that, among other things, is responsible for the futuristic self-driving car you see below. (The astonishing Mercedes F 015 is very real, BTW).

Jungwirth was hired by Apple last September and given the title of “Director of Mac Systems Engineering,” according to his LinkedIn page. The title appears to be total hogwash. Jungwirth spent his entire 20-year career working on connected cars, not computers.

Apple is famous for obfuscating about its new hires to throw off competitors and journalists, and the company is reportedly working on a top-secret electric car. If Apple is interested in the stuff Jungwirth has worked on, it’s going to be a wild ride.

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Secret R&D facility suggests Apple might actually make a car

Ford_021C_concept_car_Mark_Newson

Is Apple designing a car? Maybe that’s the real reason it picked up designer Mark Newsom, who created this concept car for Ford in 1999. Credit: Mark Newsom/Ford

Apple has set up a top-secret automobile R&D lab and is recruiting experts to possibly build a car, the Financial Times reports.

The lab is in a secret location away from Apple’s HQ. Apple recently hired the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit, and has staffed the new lab with “experienced managers from its iPhone unit,” the Times says.

“Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” said one of FT‘s sources. “Today I think it’s a car.”

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Apple car? Cupertino’s got the design talent to transform another industry

BMW_Gina_concept_car

One of the designers in Apple’s Industrial Design Group helped create this shape-shifting fabric-covered car for BMW. Photo: BMW

As rumors that Apple is making a self-driving car rev up, a peek under the hood of the company’s famed Industrial Design studio reveals a crew of talented automobile designers.

An interest in futuristic cars is embedded deep within the DNA of Apple’s vaunted design team. Working under Jony Ive, Apple employs designers who worked on several fantastic concept cars, including a fabric-covered BMW that shifts shape depending on speed.

Ive has long been obsessed by cars. (He has quite a stable.) As a teenager, Ive wanted to be a car designer. He visited a U.K. design school that specialized in automotives with a view to studying there, but he found the other students too weird. They were making “vroom vroom” noises as they sketched. Instead, he went to Newcastle Polytechnic (which has since been renamed Northumbria University).

A look at other key members of Apple’s design team, and at a super-secret research-and-development facility planned for the company’s new campus, offers a few clues about how Cupertino might go about producing innovative and unconventional cars.

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Design firm Ammunition takes top honors for innovation

A $3,000 Octovo surfboard is just one creation of design firm Ammunition. Photo: Fast Company

A $3,000 Octovo surfboard is just one creation of design firm Ammunition. Photo: Fast Company

San Francisco design firm Ammunition beat out Apple and others to be named Fast Company’s top “Innovative Company in Design.”

Co-founded by Robert Brunner, the former head of Apple’s industrial design studio who hired Jony Ive, Ammunition is most famous for designing the Beats Electronics headphones. Ammunition was named most innovative not just for the string of hit products it’s helped bring to market but for taking an equity stake in the companies with which it works.

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Petite and powerful: PicoPro projector puts a movie theater in your pocket

PicoPro projector. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

PicoPro projector. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Like most things that come in small sizes, pico projectors have always been a big disappointment.

Called “pico” because of their portability and battery power, the diminutive projectors in this class have typically been underpowered and underwhelming. Almost by definition, projectors need to be big and bright enough to throw a lot of light at the screen.

So it’s a big surprise that Celluon’s new featherweight pocket-size PicoPro is a heavyweight champ. I was prepared for it to suck — but was surprised and delighted when it turned my living room wall into a 150-inch cinema screen.

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How sloppy security exposed Apple’s super-secret product plans

This login screen for a Quanta Computer database led to sensitive documents containing details on upcoming Apple products. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

This login screen for a Quanta Computer database led to sensitive documents containing details on upcoming Apple products. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


Incredibly sloppy security at one of Apple’s key suppliers exposed some of Cupertino’s most closely guarded secrets to anybody who could conduct a simple Google search.

For months, one of Quanta Computer‘s internal databases could be accessed using usernames and a default password published in a PowerPoint presentation easily found on the Web.

Quanta, based in Taiwan, is the world’s largest notebook manufacturer. In addition to Apple, Quanta assembles laptops and ultrabooks for dozens of companies, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sharp and Sony. The company is also supposedly assembling the upcoming Apple Watch and the long-rumored iPad Pro, though no official announcements have been made.

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How the iPhone enhances ReSound’s hip new hearing aids

ReSound's LiNX hearing aid is the first controlled by the iPhone. Pairing with the iPhone adds a surprising amount of useful functionality. Photo: ReSound

ReSound’s LiNX hearing aid pairs with iPhones to add surprisingly useful functionality. Photo: ReSound

LAS VEGAS — Hearing aids aren’t sexy, so a lot of journalists here at International CES breezed right by ReSound’s booth.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 The Danish company has been in the hearing aid business for 75 years, and launched the first iPhone-connected hearing aid at CES last year. Now the company is a back with a full lineup of iPhone-compatible LiNX hearing aids. The devices address the whole range of hearing loss, from the mild to severe.

As I approach 50, I’m wondering if I need a pair myself, so I went to check them out. I was impressed. Connecting a hearing aid to an iPhone adds a lot of very useful functionality.

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HP Sprout is a fun Franken-puter with wild tricks up its sleeve

HP's Sprout touchscreen computer scans objects and run them into 3D files. It's fast and fun. Credit: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

HP’s Sprout touchscreen computer scans objects and turns them into 3-D files. It’s fast and fun. Credit: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — Of all the amazing technology on show here at International CES, the most surprising so far is Hewlett-Packard’s weird Sprout, a multitalented Franken-puter that looks like a ton of fun.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 The HP Sprout is a touchscreen computer married to a multitouch pad, with a projector/camera/3-D scanner peering overhead. It looks like a bad prop from a Lego version of War of the Worlds.

I’d seen the press releases when it launched last October and had pretty low expectations. It just looked too weird. But I was genuinely delighted to see it in action.

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