(You're reading all posts by 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.
About Leander Kahney
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every year at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, a million and one business cards get handed out. Most end up in a desk drawer or, worse, the circular file. But last year one card stood out.
This glass business card is made from an actual iPhone screen, sourced from Foxconn’s factories in China. The lettering is laser-etched into the hardened Gorilla Glass — a very complex process.
The card belongs to an Apple engineer, who hung it on a lanyard around his neck. Everywhere he went, people pawed at it.
“Everyone was grabbing it asking him, ‘How the heck did you do that?'” said the card’s creator, who made a batch of 10 for the engineer.
The first question we had when we got our hands on one was, where do we put in our order? Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen.
Although it looks like a vanilla PC in a boxy case, the machine pictured above is a high-performance, custom-built Hackintosh.
Roughly comparable to a Mac Pro costing $3,500, the P280 was assembled from off-the-shelf PC parts costing just over $2,000, including a water-cooling system to chill its chips. The Hackintosh runs Apple’s OS X Mavericks and, according to its builder, bests a similarly configured Pro on many benchmarks.
It has none of Jony Ive’s industrial design magic, of course, but that’s not the point. This is a DIY rig that’s as badass as it gets.
Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Take every penny you own and invest it in Apple stock, because the company is about to go gangbusters.
The big news from yesterday’s earth-shattering earnings call is that this is a company that is extremely confident about its financial future.
Apple has come under fire recently for not innovating. You’ve heard the whining: Apple’s lost its mojo. There have been some nice updates to existing products, but Apple’s done nothing lately to realign the universe. It’s been four long years since it’s last biggie — the original iPad. Where’s the latest product that reshapes the modern world?
To many observers, it looks like the company has been treading water in the two-and-a-half years since Steve Jobs’ death. Android is seating Apple’s lunch, and Apple’s got nowhere to go but down. Apple’s over.
But that narrative is nonsense. Wednesday’s earnings call — and the gobsmacking 7-to-1 stock split — clearly telegraphs that Apple’s executives have something huge up their sleeves. Maybe a couple of things. Maybe a lot of things.
If you’ve been paying close attention to the news and rumors, 2014 looks like it’s shaping up to be Apple’s biggest year in decades.
The newly discovered Heartbleed bug is being called the Web’s worst security bug ever.
It allows hackers to steal passwords and login details when users visit vulnerable sites — undetected. That’s the bad part: affected sites probably have no idea they’re vulnerable. The bug is subject to an emergency security advisory. Some experts are estimating that up to 66% of the Internet’s servers could be affected. Each server has to be fixed manually. So it could take a while.
In the meantime:
- Don’t log into any sites until you’ve officially been given the all clear.
- Change all your passwords for websites and email. Especially for sensitive sites like banks, credit cards and webmail. However: wait until you know a site has been patched before changing passwords. Sites like Tumblr and Yahoo sent out warning emails earlier today telling users to change their passwords.
- Apple.com and iCloud appear to be unaffected, according to this (unofficial) list on Github.
- Install the Chromebleed Checker for Google’s Chrome browser — it pops a warning if a site is vulnerable (Cult of Mac is not. See screenshot below).
We’ve reached out to Apple’s PR department for comment. No reply yet. We’ll update if Apple makes any statement or issues an advisory.