(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
Tim Cook traveled to China for the third time in as many months to seal a blockbuster deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier. Apple is now available on all of China’s largest cell phone networks, opening up a market of mind-boggling proportions. Cook, in a rare TV interview with the chairman of China mobile, said he was “incredibly optimistic” about Apple’s prospects.
People underestimate how big a deal China will be in the next 10 years. The West still thinks of it as a poor country, but within a decade more than three-quarters of the urban population will be middle class, according to McKinsey. By next year, China will account for about 20 percent, or $27 billion, of global luxury sales, according to another McKinsey report. Whether shopping at home or abroad, Chinese consumers are snapping up pricey cars, jewelry, clothes and watches. This is a tidal shift in an enormous economy. The pundits who say that Apple should be making a low-cost phone to compete with low-cost Android phones have got it wrong. Apple will end up selling every top of the line phone they can make and then some.
There are a few seeming contradictions to these trends. China may be known for its massive commerce of counterfeits, but middle-class consumers there are primed to pay a premium for the genuine article. Apple’s iPhones and other goods have clear status value, and middle-class Chinese consumers will buy them en masse.
Luxury car sales already prove this point: Jaguar sales were up 157% in China in 2013, nearly three times the growth in any other region. Growth is so strong, Jaguar Land Rover is shifting sales from Europe and the US to China, it’s now their primary market. Mercedes and Lexus are selling so many cars in China at a huge markup they’re not even bothering to export them. Even low-end retailers are adjusting their wares to suit these upscale tastes: Wal-Mart is also aggressively expanding in China, where they’re targeting the upper-middle class with suburban stores that require a car to reach and the shelves are stocked with pricey merch.
Japan in the 80s had a reputation for cheap shoddy knock-offs, now it’s the world’s third largest economy. Korea went through the same transition, thanks in large part to Samsung and other global conglomerates. China’s next. But now there’s a difference is scale: Tim Cook’s giddiness is due to the fact that the next decade, China will become a vast middle class economy with hundreds millions of consumers who want Apple’s products.
The essential Apple product will stay the same. I predict that Apple’s response will be much like that iconic American chain, McDonald’s. In addition to clogging arteries with Big Macs and fries from Norway to Lebanon, the local restaurants give a nod to local traditions. In France there are high-end pastries, there’s the Maharaja Mac of lamb or chicken in India and rice burgers in Hong Kong. It’ll be fascinating to see what Apple will offer in the way of “local menu” items in China.
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.
Thanks To iPhone, The Revolution In Home Automation Is Nigh! (No Really, This Time It is) [CES 2014]
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.
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:
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.
A few years ago I bought a cycle computer to help me train for the Death Ride, a single-day, 130-mile bicycle ride through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It was a top-of-the-line GPS-equipped device from Garmin. It had digital maps and turn-by-turn directions and every feature under the sun. It measured speed and performance, including things like cadence (pedaling speed) and climbing rate.
I bought it mostly to use with a heart-rate monitor, which fellow riders advised me to use to modulate my effort. If you keep your heart below a certain threshold, you can pretty much ride all day. All the other members on the team (The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. Fantastic, btw) had the same high-end models. We all had different bikes, but the same Garmin computer.
At first I didn’t much care for most of the measurements it took. But as I got fitter, I got faster, and I started to look at my average speed over those long-distance training rides, which were often 100 miles or more. Every week the average speed crept up, even though the rides got longer and harder.
Oddly, because I wasn’t expecting it, that one simple number proved to be a huge motivator. Every weekend I’d look forward to a 120-mile ride through the hills of the Bay Area just so I could add 1 or 2 MPH to my average speed.
Proselytizers of digital fitness gadgets pitch the “quantified self” as the best way to take control of your health; know thyself through your data.
I’m not an A-Type personality by any means, someone who sets goals and measures my performance. I’m the opposite, in fact. I mostly avoid all the numbers in my life — my bank balance, the traffic to the Cult of Mac website, sales of my books. Because if the numbers aren’t good, I get depressed and I can’t function for a day or two. Better to avoid the numbers altogether.
I’ve suffered from depression since I was a kid. It’s not a big deal, but once a month or so I need to withdraw for a couple of days. It’s a physical thing, regular as clockwork. As I’ve grown older, a couple of days can sometimes stretch into several days, and sometimes, very rarely, into weeks.
For me, the best cure for depression is exercise. It doesn’t actually cure depression, because I can’t exercise when I’m into the deep blue. I can’t force myself to do it. But it does keep it at bay. If I exercise regularly, it don’t get depressed as often. Trouble is, work and life too often get in the way.
More recently, I’ve started wearing a Jawbone Up wristband, which I bought mostly out of curiosity. I had the idea I’d use it to get fit, but I really didn’t like it at first. I was exercising only sporadically, and the graphs just showed how sedentary I was. They were clear, graphic representations of chronic inactivity. I was flatlining. Again, instead of motivating me to get off the couch, I simply stopped looking at it.
Then I started running regularly at the gym. I uploaded the Jawbone once a week or so, but didn’t pay it much mind. But again, as I slowly got faster and better at running, I started to pay more attention to the data. The graphs would show a huge spike of activity in the day when I exercised, making me feel slightly guilty, even anxious, on the days that I didn’t.
The feedback started to become a motivator. It wasn’t the main motivator — that was the running itself. I started to look forward to the run. The graph at the end of the day was just the icing on the cake.
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)?
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:
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:
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.