Apple Dramatically Expanding Capacity Of Its CDN Network

1 August 2014

Dan Rayburn:

From ISPs I have spoken with, they tell me Apple has put a massive amount of capacity in place, with many saying that Apple has more than 10x the capacity they are using today, all ready to go.

Based on my calculations, Apple has already put in place multiple terabits per second of capacity and by the end of this year, will have invested well more than $100M in their CDN build out.

I don’t believe Apple expands capacity by an order of magnitude merely for future-proofing reasons. Adjustments to user growth happen gradually, not in one burst. My guess would be that this is for video content tied in with some new Apple TV (or iTunes Movies) initiative. Bitrates for high-definition video content are high enough to explain such increases in CDN bandwidth potential.

Jared Sinclair Discusses Unread's Earnings

28 July 2014

Jared Sinclair:

Unread for iPhone has earned a total of $32K in App Store sales. Unread for iPad has earned $10K. After subtracting 40 percent in self-employment taxes and $350/month for health care premiums (times 12 months), the actual take-home pay from the combined sales of both apps is $21,000, or $1,750/month.

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.

You have to be efficient with your time to make good ROI’s on the App Store. I think that is a much more important than what app pricing model you choose.1 Betting on apps of incredibly large scale means you bear proportionately more risk, with the possibility of no return whatsoever. If you want to maximise your profitability, make small apps that do a few things well. The amount of effort you put into an app has very little to do with how much of the market will buy it. This means that making big apps exposes you to substantially more risk, which is not fairly counterbalanced by significantly higher earnings potential.2

In my opinion, you make money on the App Store by selling small things — it’s very nature is a bitesize marketplace. This is how you maximise your effective hourly wage. This doesn’t mean you have to turn around crap. You can still output quality pieces of software. Pour your heart into something for a short while (a month, maybe three), then ship it. Make your easy money (the first couple of weeks of sales). Iterate until interest dies away. Work on something else. Repeat. If something becomes a smash hit, then by all means develop it.

Unread is the complete opposite of this, it’s a beast of an app. It took Sinclair a year of development time. As a result, Unread faced massive risks when it finally shipped. Recouping months of development time is a lot more painful than recouping weeks of work. Sometimes you will get lucky, often you won’t.

I made Writing Aid in under a month, on and off. Thankfully, it sold well and produced a fantastic sales to hours ratio. Imagine a scenario where it didn’t do that well. I would have essentially wasted a month of work … but that is a hell of a lot better than wasting a year of work. You hedge your bets by moving fast and moving on.

1 To date, every app I have shipped to the store for myself costs money up front. I am yet to resort to In-App Purchase.

2 Sinclair is annoyed that he formed a band and made a (well received) album that doesn’t earn enough for him to live a life as a rock star. I think indie devs should make songs, not albums.

Apple Acquired Book Analysis Company Earlier In The Year

26 July 2014

TechCrunch:

TechCrunch has learned that Apple has made another acquisition, one that it is using to boost its e-books effort and “beat Amazon at its own game.” It has bought BookLamp, a startup based out of Boise, Idaho, that developed big data-style book analytics services.

I’m not quite sure what ‘beating Amazon at its own game’ entails, but from the outside, iBooks has always seemed like a runt in the litter.1 Apple pays as much attention to books as they do podcasts, yet they push iBooks as a mainstream operating system feature. Crucially, books costs money. Users expect more from stuff that they pay for and today Apple doesn’t really deliver.

1 Up until about September 2009, the iPad wasn’t even going to ship with an iBooks app. It became a focus very late in the cycle.

Kamcord SDK Now Used In More Than 340 App Store Titles

24 July 2014

9to5Mac:

Kamcord, the SDK that lets iOS developers offer gameplay recording and sharing functionality, is today launching a redesigned community iOS app while announcing some impressive new milestones for the service.

Kamcord’s Eric Edelman tells me the company is doing “greater than 1% of YouTube’s upload volume now,” which means it’s uploading more than 1 hour of gameplay videos every minute. In total the platform is now at 14 million videos uploaded by users accounting for a 4x growth in share rate and up 9M videos since May. It’s also now in over 340+ mobile games, up from 200 mobile games in February when it launched official integration for Unreal Engine developers on both iOS and Android.

Twitch announced a competing SDK in March, although it doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the adoption that Kamcord has attained. It’s just another example of mobile being an equaliser for new entrants and incumbents. Twitch may be the largest video streaming platform for desktop games, but it hasn’t been able to translate that into mobile streaming dominance.

Apple Launches New 'Stickers' Advert For MacBook Air

22 July 2014

Apple:

With up to 12 hours of battery life, an incredibly thin and light design, and fast all-flash storage, what’s not to love?

This is a really cool video. It’s closer to an iPod commercial from a decade ago than anything Apple has done recently. I think part of the brilliance stems from the fact that the ad focuses on the stickers, an accessory Apple doesn’t even sell. The laptop is almost an afterthought, a given. It states ‘we are on top’, in a way that doesn’t feel boastful or brash.

Prevent Widows In UIKit Text Using NSString

21 July 2014

A widowed word is where a single word wraps onto a new line at the end of a paragraph. A lot of designers and typesetters do not like how this looks and will work to avoid it in documents. Although this is usually done by hand, for iOS development, the process needs to be automated. At first glance, UIKit views do not give this level of character-by-character control.1

However, through some understanding of Unicode and string manipulation, it is actually possible to prevent widowing using Foundation string processing alone. The key is using a non-breaking space. These characters are treated like dashes, so that two words are ‘connected’ and wrap together, but are drawn to the screen like normal whitespace. I use non-breaking spaces in my blog code to prevent titles from having widowed words. The same technique can be applied to UIKit labels and text views, as follows.

@implementation NSMutableString (RemoveWidows)

- (void)removeWidows {
   NSString *nonBreakingSpace = @"\u00a0"; // the unicode representation of a non-breaking space

   // enumerate substrings by paragraph
   [self enumerateSubstringsInRange:NSMakeRange(0, self.length) options:NSStringEnumerationByParagraphs
      usingBlock:^(NSString *substring, NSRange substringRange, NSRange enclosingRange, BOOL *stop) {

      // search for last normal space in paragraph
      NSRange range = [substring rangeOfString:@" " options:NSBackwardsSearch];

      if (range.length > 0) { // exists if range has a length
        // offset range by substringRange.location
   	NSRange adjustedRange = NSMakeRange(substringRange.location + range.location, range.length);

        // replace character with non-breaking space
   	[self replaceCharactersInRange:adjustedRange withString:nonBreakingSpace];
      }
   }];	
}

@end

A non-breaking space is expressed in a string literal as \u00a0. Using Foundation’s superb string processing algorithms, the script evaluates each paragraph of an input string separately, replacing the last occurrence of a normal space character with a non-breaking space.

This is implemented as a category on NSMutableString, converting characters in-place. However, it should be obvious that a ‘remove widows’ category for NSString is then easily derived.

@implementation NSString (RemoveWidows)

- (NSString *)stringByRemovingWidows {
   NSMutableString *outputString = self.mutableCopy; // make a mutable copy
   [outputString removeWidows]; // perform the transformation

   return [NSString stringWithString:outputString]; // return back as a new immutable string
}

@end

The method makes a mutable copy of itself (a string), calls the removeWidows method defined earlier and returns an immutable version, to match the interface definition.

The result can be seen in the screenshot at the top of the page. The first sentence has a widow. In the second sentence, however, the last words wrap cleanly as a group, so that a word cannot be left alone on a line. It’s a cool technique. Download the full source here.

1 You could use Text Kit, but doing so is unnecessarily time-consuming for basic UI work.

Apple Launches Passbook Pass For Managing iTunes Credit

15 July 2014

9to5Mac:

To substitute for a physical gift card, iTunes Pass installs a new pass inside of the iOS Passbook application. The Apple Store employee can scan the pass in order to immediately apply the credit to the Apple account. Users can install the iTunes Pass feature in Passbook on the main screen in the iPhone iTunes Store app. This enhancement is Apple’s second first-party use of Passbook. Apple previously opened up the ability for Apple Store gift cards to be stored in Passbook.

This feels like something Passbook should start with. Everyone with an iOS device has an iTunes account, so everyone can get some form of utility out of this pass. It would stop Passbook from being empty by default.

Kuo's Latest Report On The iWatch

11 July 2014

9to5Mac:

“We have pushed back our estimated time of iWatch mass production from late-September to mid-/ late- November. We also lower our forecast of iWatch 2014 shipments by 40% to 3mn units,” Kuo wrote in today’s report. The analyst claims the push back is due to more complex hardware and software engineering in this first generation Apple product category.

Kuo also provides some tidbits as to what he is expecting the device to feature:

  • Flexible AMOLED display
  • Sapphire coated display cover
  • Higher waterproof standards
  • New system-on-a-chip components

Kuo is probably the most accurate ‘analyst’ there is for Apple’s product pipelines. Although the headline of this report is about timing (mid November rather than October), I’m more interested in what Kuo has to say about iWatch features. The release window is basically known at this point: September, October or November.

As such, I am happy to see that Kuo thinks waterproofing is a focus for the product. For me, I want to be able to do washing up without having to take the watch off my wrist for fear of it breaking.

Health Utilises The M7 In iOS 8 Beta 3

8 July 2014

9to5Mac:

Apple has made significant enhancements to its upcoming Health application for iOS 8 in the latest beta of the new iPhone operating system. Most notably, the Health application can now utilize the iPhone’s own M7 motion tracking hardware for data sourcing.

The Health app’s Steps counter tab can now report steps without connecting to any third party applications or hardware devices. Because this feature likely uses the M7 processor, an iPhone 5s is required to get the steps data directly from the device.

Although this helps to justify the app’s permanent existence on the Home Screen, rather than a deletable option, Health still remains an obtuse mess. Everything isn’t very human. It’s confusingly technical.

You click on the Steps chart, for example, and it takes you to a table view of individual step entries. What is this purpose of this screen for end-users? Users can’t parse that list into anything meaningful.

Moreover, every nutrition category has an ‘Add Data Point’ option. This is equally stupid. People don’t know this information. Humans need sensors to tell this information. Having a manual input option is useless and only encourages cheating: I can tell Health.app that I walked a billion steps and it doesn’t complain. In fact, even the label of the option (“data point”) is uninviting and unnecessarily technical.

Right now, Health.app feels like a backend portal for iWatch debugging rather than the consumer-facing fitness and wellbeing dashboard it should be.

Apple Hires Two Key Nike FuelBand Engineers

8 July 2014

9to5Mac:

Indicating that Apple’s future wearable technologies will go head-to-head with the likes of offerings from Nike and Fitbit, Apple has hired a few world experts in fitness and behavior-tracking technologies.

As Nike winds down its development of FuelBand hardware, engineers from the team have begun seeking new jobs and landing at companies like Apple. We’ve discovered via LinkedIn that Apple has hired two key hardware engineers that worked on the FuelBand.

… And yet Cook still sits on Nike’s board, with no signs of that changing. I really don’t get how this continues to be.1 If this was the other way round, if Nike was hiring key Apple engineers to directly compete with them, Apple would have kicked Nike off of Apple’s board in a heartbeat.

1 I suppose it helps Nike’s core business isn’t its fitness bands, but still …

London Buses Stop Accepting Cash As Payment

6 July 2014

BBC News:

Cash can no longer be used on any of London’s buses in a move that Transport for London (TfL) says will save £24m a year.

Passengers will need a prepaid or concessionary ticket, Oyster card or a contactless payment card to travel.

TfL said only 0.7% of all bus journeys were paid for with cash and that tourists were unlikely to be affected.

First buses go cashless, what next? It’s no wonder Apple (and everyone else) is scrambling to dominate mobile payments.

Ars Technica Reviews The $1099 iMac

5 July 2014

Ars Technica:

The new iMac makes much more sense at scale. Many schools and businesses don’t need fast computers, they just need many computers with current warranties and support agreements that can perform basic tasks for a few years until they’re replaced. You only save $200 on one of these systems; you save $20,000 if you’re buying 100 of them. That’s why Apple has, in the past, offered these cut-down, cheaper iMacs primarily to educational institutions—they’re one of the few places where these make any economic sense (one could also argue that buying standard PCs would save even more money, but Macs and OS X are often preferred or required in higher education).

I get the ‘bulk-buy education cost-saving’ argument. There’s nothing wrong with Apple offering an iMac at cheaper price points. What I think is wrong here is that Apple was too stingy; the $1099 configuration has disproportionately poorer performance for the cost savings it offers.

Mike Beasley On New iPod Touch Pricing

27 June 2014

Mike Beasley, 9to5Mac:

The first and most obvious point that comes to mind in this debate is that Apple has now admitted that there is no real need for the $100 gap other than to pad profits. There’s no technical reason that doubling the storage capacity of an iPhone should cost $100, and Apple, one could argue, is now willing to concede the issue.

This is definitely the most interesting implication of the ‘new’ iPods. I think it’s impossible to infer what the new iPhone pricing will be from this alone, but it does signal that something is changing with regard to internal iOS storage.

I think its almost certain that 32 GB becomes the default. That’s what I think they have to do, at least. Anything more is a nice bonus. If they still charge a $100 premium to get a 64 GB iPhone 6, I wouldn’t be upset (even though I know I’m getting ripped off). I care much more about iCloud storage pricing, than the costs of local storage.

Google Introduces A REST API For Gmail

26 June 2014

Google Developers:

The Gmail API gives you flexible, RESTful access to the user’s inbox, with a natural interface to Threads, Messages, Labels, Drafts, and History. From the modern language of your choice, your app can use the API to add Gmail features like:

  • Read messages from Gmail
  • Send email messages
  • Modify the labels applied to messages and threads
  • Search for specific messages and threads

Gmail has already distanced itself from web standards in order to differentiate and offer significant functionality improvements over its competitors, with labels being the obvious example. This API simply exposes these features to third-party clients, like Microsoft did with Office 365 earlier this year.1

Although right now Google is adamant that ‘full-fledged’ clients should continue to use IMAP, the writing is on the wall. Google doesn’t need to cut off IMAP support in one swift action. At some point, Gmail will outgrow IMAP so much that integration through the API is the only viable option for alternative email clients to be competitive with web Gmail.

I don’t think people should be upset that Google is abandoning standards email. It’s just like how browser vendors move faster than the W3C. This is how the world gets better, pushing beyond the stagnant slow-moving standards bodies. Be thankful that Google is offering third-parties any access to the proprietary layers at all.

1 Obviously, no one cares about Microsoft’s email API.

Samsung CFO Comments On Upcoming Earnings

25 June 2014

Wall Street Journal:

“It doesn’t look too good,” Lee Sang-hoon, Samsung’s chief financial officer, told a group of reporters at the company’s Seocho headquarters, when he was asked about second-quarter results. A company spokesman confirmed the remarks.

A CFO doesn’t say something so blunt this haphazardly. How bad can Samsung’s performance be?

HTC Investors Complain The Company Didn't Give Them A Free Phone At Annual Shareholder Meeting

19 June 2014

Wall Street Journal:

Nearly 2,000 HTC shareholders packed into a ballroom at a three-star hotel 30 kilometers away from capital Taipei, to attend HTC’s annual meeting. The turnout was unusually high: Hundreds of them had to stand in aisles or outside the ballroom while shareholders took turns venting their frustration at the beleaguered smartphone maker.

Many of them said they were expecting a free cellphone, as HTC gave them out last year. Instead, each of them were given a free thermos, fruit juice and some bread.

This is literally the stupidest thing I have ever heard. As a company, when you are successful, you get blasted for being too maniacal and dictatorial. When you’re coasting, you get dinged for not growing quick enough. But, you definitely have it worst at the bottom: you get absolutely screwed by so much managerial crap to deal with.

« Older