(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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Did Feud With Jony Ive Keep Tony Fadell From Returning To Apple?

Google's acquisition of Nest will allow the company to monitor you in your home, some say.

Google’s acquisition of Nest will allow the company to monitor you in your home, some say.

The big intrigue in the tech world today is why Google bought Nest Labs for $3.2 billion and Apple didn’t.

A lot of the speculation is paranoid: Google wants to track everyone offline as well as online, and Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarms give the Googleplex motion sensors right in peoples’ homes.

But wouldn’t Apple be a more natural fit for the home-automation startup? Nest was co-founded by two former Apple staffers, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Fadell was one the fathers of the iPod — a key hardware engineer who led the music player’s development over 17 generations. Rogers was one of Fadell’s top lieutenants.

With great design and easy interfaces, Nest’s combination of hardware and internet software services makes its products very Apple-like. And as home automation is poised to take off (thanks largely to the iPhone and iPad), Apple is surely interested in this potentially huge market.

So why didn’t Apple didn’t pick up the company? Maybe it’s because Jony Ive, Apple’s head designer, was responsible for getting Tony Fadell pushed out of Cupertino.

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Thanks To iPhone, The Revolution In Home Automation Is Nigh! (No Really, This Time It is) [CES 2014]

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Nexia’s Matt McGroven says his company’s app makes home automation appealing to consumers, not geeks, and soon we’ll all be controlling our homes from iPhone screens.

CES 2014 bug LAS VEGAS — We’ve heard the same story for years: the revolution in home automation is just around the corner! And yet, despite the hype, it still hasn’t arrived. But talk to vendors at CES, and they say it finally is just around the corner — thanks to the iPhone.

The iPhone finally gives ordinary consumers a bunch of good reasons to automate their homes, beyond the geeky thrill of turning on the sprinklers from the couch. For example, it can alleviate the universal anxiety of worrying about the stove when away on vacation. Paired with a connected-range (there are several on show here at CES), your iPhone can you tell you if the oven is on, and then let you switch it off.

The best evidence that home automation has arrived is that the nation’s home builders are finally including home automation technology in many new homes as standard. Lennar Homes, the third biggest home builder in the US, is making home automation standard in more than 20,0000 new homes this year, said Matt McGroven, marketing leader of Nexia, a San Francisco-based home automation company.

Nexia makes an app that works in conjunction with a Home Bridge ($60 on Amazon) and service ($9 a month). With 70% of users on iOS, Nexia controls a wide range of automated products, from nannycams to lighting, locks, thermostats, and dozens of others.

“You can do a bunch of cool and genuinely useful things,” he said.

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The Fastest-Charging iPhone Battery Packs In The West? [CES 2014]

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MyCharge president Jim Dara demonstrates the new Talk & Charge battery pack for the iPhone 5 line. Instead of attaching it to your iPhone, you just hold it next to it, which makes it easy to use with just about any iPhone case.

CES 2014 bug LAS VEGAS — The simplest solution is always the best. Take external battery packs for your iPhone, which are sometimes hard to use when you’re actually talking on the phone. Either you have to remove your case to snap in a battery case, or you have a long cord dangling to an external pack in your pocket.

MyCharge’s clever Talk & Charge ($100) is a slim external battery pack that works with any and every iPhone case on the market because it doesn’t physically attach to your iPhone; you just hold it against the back of your iPhone while talking, like an electronics sandwich. Simple.

It’s almost the same size and shape as an iPhone 5s or 5c. It boasts a 3000mAh battery (good for more than two full iPhone 5 charges) and a Lightning cable built right in, so you’ll never forget your charging cable again. It’s a nice touch.

In fact, I think all of MyCharge’s wares are thoughtfully designed. The tech is pretty good too. According to the company, they are the fastest chargers on the market. Check out their well-designed charging bricks:

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Is The TrewGrip Keyboard Really The Evolution Of Typing? [CES 2014]

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CES 2014 bug LAS VEGAS, CES 2014 – At the big “CES Unveiled” press event on Sunday night, one of the biggest draws was the TrewGrip keyboard; a funky Bluetooth keyboard for smartphones and tablets with the keys on the back of the device.

The company’s reps were mobbed by curious journalists, jockeying each other to get a better a look at the keyboard that claims to be “the evolution of typing.”

Designed for typists on the go, like healthcare professionals making hospital rounds, the TrewGrip is a unique reverse keyboard with a full set of QWERTY keys on the back.

Using it requires retraining and takes a week or more to master, but at the booth, company reps were tapping out 60-80 words a minute. Not as fast as many touch-typists on a regular keyboard, but a lot faster than pecking away on a glass screen.

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Walt Mossberg’s Goodbye WSJ Column Is Full of Apple Devices

Walt Mossberg’s Goodbye WSJ Column Is Full of Apple Devices

Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs at the D conference.

After 22 years at the Wall Street Journal reviewing technology, columnist Walt Mossberg is moving on. In his final column, Mossberg picks the 12 devices that had the most impact over the years.

“I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked,” Mossberg writes.

One company completely dominates the list. Guess which one it is (and what devices he chose)?

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Woah! Check Out The Beautiful Curved Front At Apple’s Refurbished Stonestown Store

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Photo by Jeffrey Lam

UPDATE: There’s no glass on the front of the Stonestown store. Earlier reports indicated the store was fronted by glass, but it’s actually wide open. It has a big metal gate that is closed at night. “Comes right out of the walls. Pretty nifty,” says one shopper who visited the store.

Apple just reopened its retail store at San Francisco’s Stonestown mall, and just check it out. It’s one long piece of curved glass. spectacular!

Here’s another shot:

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Tim Cook: How The Klan, MLK and Bobby Kennedy Shaped Me

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While accepting a lifetime achievement award from Auburn University, his alma mater, Apple CEO Tim Cook told of how The Ku Klux Klan, Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy shaped his passion for human rights and equality. “Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination,” Cook said in New York on December 10th. “Remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity solely because of the color of their skin.”

He recalled childhood memories of watching crosses burn on neighbors’ lawns in Alabama. “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain and it would change my life forever,” Cook said. “For me the cross burning was a symbol of ignorance, of hatred, and a fear of anyone different than the majority. I could never understand it, and I knew then that America’s and Alabama’s history would always be scarred by the hatred that it represented.”

You can watch the full speech below the fold:

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Who Wants a Video Tour of Apple’s Secret Design Studio?

Apple's secretive Industrial Design Studio is on the ground floor of Infinite Loop II, one of the main buildings of Apple's Cupertino campus.

Apple’s secretive Industrial Design studio is on the ground floor of Infinite Loop II, one of the main buildings at Apple’s Cupertino HQ.

Ever wanted to take a tour of Apple’s secret Industrial Design studio in Cupertino? Now you can — a virtual one, anyway — just for writing a review of my new book about Jony Ive. It doesn’t even have to be a good review!

Located on the ground floor of Infinite Loop II behind frosted glass windows, the industrial design studio is where Ive and his team of design elves cook up Apple’s awesome products.

Few have been inside — even some of Apple’s own executives haven’t seen it. Rumor has it that the former head of iOS, Scott Forstall, wasn’t allowed inside, even when he was developing the iPhone’s operating system. Only one published photograph has ever been taken inside the studio. And no, Blue Peter and the Objectified documentary weren’t filmed there, contrary to popular opinion.

Now you can take a tour. I had a 3-D model of the studio created, based on detailed descriptions and diagrams by former designers who worked inside. I used it to create a video tour of the studio, showing the layout and explaining how everything works. I think the video turned out great, and here’s how you get a sneak peek.

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Apple Blocks Historical Documents, Designer Reveals at Book Party

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is blocking the donation of 30-year-old documents to a museum, claiming they contain valuable trade secrets.

“It’s silly,” said Hartmut Esslinger, the design guru recruited to help Apple become a leader in design in the early 1980s.

Speaking at a Jony Ive book launch party on Thursday night, Esslinger explained that Apple has prevented him from donating some historical old documents to a museum.

Esslinger’s design firm, Frog Design, was hired by Steve Jobs to bring world-class design to Apple. Esslinger’s “Snow White” design language, characterized by elegant off-white plastic cases, influenced the entire computer industry for more than a decade.

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Who Deserves More Credit for Apple’s Phenomenal Success?

Steve Jobs was a genius — no doubt about that. Apple was six months from bankruptcy when he took over as CEO in 1997. Under his leadership, Apple became one of the world’s most powerful companies, the most trusted brand, and disrupted entire industries. He didn’t have an easy career. He spent many years in the wilderness, and even when Apple was bouncing back, he didn’t get the credit he deserved. It was only late in his career, after the iPhone became a smash hit, that he started to be lionized as a business genius. And after his death, he was deified.

But was it all Steve Jobs? Is the company doomed without him? What happens when one man gets all the credit? The truth is more complex. Apple wouldn’t be Apple without Steve Jobs, but it wasn’t just him. Jobs didn’t design anything, and he didn’t write any code. The creative work was done by others, though he had a hand in guiding it.

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