Category: News

Changes at Apple may mean a whole new look to iOS, Mac OS

Could the current look of iOS be headed for a major overhaul?

Today, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced two major departures from the company’s senior management.
SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall will be leaving the company sometime next year, as will SVP of Retail Operations John Browett who had only recently joined the company, replacing the man who pioneered the Apple Store and Genius Bar concepts, Ron Johnson.

While Browett’s departure likely won’t signify big changes for Apple’s products since retail is a secondary focus for the company, Forstall’s influence has been significant.

Forstall was the person behind the development of the iPhone’s software – now known as iOS – software which powers the vast majority of the products that Apple sells from a revenue point of view. If you’ve ever swiped, tapped or downloaded an app on one of Apple’s iPhones, iPods or iPads, you’ve experienced Forstall’s work.

And though there’s no question that iOS has been an unqualified success, lately there has been a certain amount of criticism that its user interface is stuck in the past, supposedly suffering from its reliance on skeuomorphism. That is the $100 word which designer-types use to describe software elements like icons, which resemble their real-world counterparts. One famous example is the faux leather-and-stitching that is visible around the border of Apple’s Calendar app. This skeuomorphism has been a hallmark of Apple’s software design language for years, and the practice can be credited with giving all of Apple’s technology a friendly, approachable look that places people immediately at ease, thereby reducing any stress or anxiety that might come as a result of using an unfamiliar gadget. This success notwithstanding, it has been reported by some sources that this element of graphic design is not viewed by everyone at Apple with the same enthusiasm.

Some tech bloggers, most notably Sam Biddle at Gizmodo, have openly criticized Apple’s ongoing use of skeuomorphism, while his colleague Jesus Diaz, suggested that Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, Sir Jony Ive, was no fan of the practice either.

Forstall’s exit from Apple could signify a victory of sorts for Ive. According to GigaOm’s Erica Ogg, he will “become responsible for a new Human Interface.” Of course, there’s also a chance that Fortsall is being made to pay a hefty price for the decision to launch Apple’s in-house Maps app, before it was ready-for-primetime.

Here is the full press release from Apple:

Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services

Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi Add Responsibilities to Their Roles

MARKHAM, Ontario—October 29, 2012—Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

“We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The amazing products that we’ve introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.”

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.

Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, placing all of our online services in one group. This organization has overseen major successes such as the iTunes Store, the App Store, the iBookstore and iCloud. This group has an excellent track record of building and strengthening Apple’s online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers.

Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X. Apple has the most advanced mobile and desktop operating systems, and this move brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology and user experience innovations to both platforms.

Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization, fostering innovation in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future.

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. A search for a new head of Retail is underway and in the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Tim Cook. Apple’s Retail organization has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level who will continue the excellent work that has been done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services for customers.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Could this be the start of a whole new look to Apple’s software, on all of their devices? It certainly looks that way.

Sync readers, do you feel it’s time for a change in Apple’s software, or are you happy with the current look & feel?

 

 

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One year later: Apple remembers Steve Jobs

steve jobs

Revere him or revile him, there’s no denying that Steve Jobs was one of the most influential people of his generation. The mark he made on computing, consumer electronics, music and film was enormous and his influence will likely be felt by all of these industries for years to come.

Today is October 5, 2012, one year since Steve Jobs passed away from complications relating to his fight with pancreatic cancer.

As a tribute to their fallen leader, Apple has created a fitting memorial in video form – a highlight reel of Jobs’ biggest accomplishments during his time at the company he founded, accompanied by some of his more memorable quotes and a hauntingly beautiful cello soundtrack performed by one of Jobs’ favourite musicians, Yo-Yo Ma.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO since Jobs’ death, added his thoughts to the Apple.com homepage today:

Steve’s passing one year ago today was a sad and difficult time for all of us. I hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place.
One of the greatest gifts Steve gave to the world is Apple. No company has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for itself. Our values originated from Steve and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. We share the great privilege and responsibility of carrying his legacy into the future.
I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing, delivering products that our customers love and dreaming up new ones that will delight them down the road.
It’s a wonderful tribute to Steve’s memory and everything he stood for.
Tim.

[Video/photo credit: Apple Inc.]

iPhone 5 selling at a record pace

Early predictions for the iPhone 5 were nothing short of miraculous, with some analysts going on record with a sales target of 10 million units sold in the first 30 days. Others went so far as to suggest the mighty iPhone would contribute a whopping 0.5% to the entire U.S. GDP. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a phone here, an expensive one at that, and thus not a necessity for anyone. I agreed that there was pent-up demand for Apple’s latest device, but these numbers seemed liked hype and not reality.

But I’m beginning to think the bulls were right.

TechCrunch is reporting that today, as pre-orders for the iPhone began at midnight, the demand for the iPhone 5 obliterated the previous sales records set by the iPhone 4 and 4S. Unlike the older models which took 20 and 22 hours respectively to sell-out of Apple’s first week stock, the iPhone 5 hit this milestone after 60 minutes.

Now, we need to be somewhat circumspect with our amazement, after all, only Apple knows the true number of units this represents. It’s quite conceivable that they simply had fewer units available for the September 21st launch date than with their previous models. And yet, there’s no question, despite lacking a single big “wow” factor feature, the iPhone 5 is likely going to be the most popular iPhone yet.

Update, September 17: Looks like the early reports of sell-outs weren’t just the result of low-inventory. Apple says that the iPhone 5 shattered the previous first day-sales record for an iPhone – the company sold more than 2 million units in the first 24 hours. That’s nearly double the amount of iPhone 4S units sold in the same period post-launch.

If you’re a Canadian looking to hop on the iPhone bandwagon, we’ve got good news: The $199 starting price quoted by Apple at their launch event on Wednesday is the U.S. contract price. Here in Canada, with our longer 3-year terms, the starting price is a little lower: $179 for a three-year term with all of the major carriers.

Pre-orders have begun with Bell,  Rogers and TELUS, while Fido is offering a reservation system for customers.

Apple confirms iPhone 5 launching September 12

There’s not much to say when you look at the graphic above – other than a) There is indeed going to be an Apple event on September 12th, and b) it’s a virtual lock that at least one of the product announcements will be the next generation of the iPhone – which I think we can agree based on the shadow numeral above – will be called the iPhone 5.

Will there be other announcements such as the heavily rumoured smaller, iPad Mini? Or more details on the shadowy presence of an improved Apple TV? We’ll let you know as soon as we know!

This is very likely what the next iPhone will look like

I’ve got some bad news for folks who are expecting the next iPhone – widely predicted to be launching next month – to be a total ground-up redesign of the iconic smartphone. It won’t be.

But I’ve also got some good news: It doesn’t need to be.

Take a look at these photos pulled together by Chinese repair shop iLab. They tell a story of an iPhone that is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Surprised? Don’t be. This, for the foreseeable future is going to be Apple’s approach to their existing products.

[imagebrowser id=144]

Here’s why I think Apple will be “doubling down” – to employ an over-used expression – on their established formulas instead of ushering in completely new devices.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it

The first iPhone was a surprise. Not just to the industry but to Apple as well. They knew they had created something that was different and unique, but the degree to which consumers started rabidly buying up the iPhone was a shock – even the iPod, Apple’s most successful product in terms of sales, had never enjoyed this degree of enthusiasm.

After that, the course was set. Apple’s belief in the power of an all-touchscreen device and the versatility of downloadable apps had been vindicated by consumer demand. From here on in, the challenge was to find ways to improve on that formula, without disrupting what had become the hallmarks of iPhone’s design language.

Faster chips, better screens, a sleeker case design, better software, improved cameras… each and every part of the iPhone has undergone incremental improvements while maintaining an experience that would be as familiar to an owner of a first generation device as it would to someone whose first iPhone was the 4S.

Especially when you consider that a) the iPhone 4 and 4S have been ridiculously successful despite being identical on the outside, and b) nearly every Android phone on the market is simply a variation on Apple’s design, what would compel Apple to rethink their most profitable product along dramatically different new lines?

Just Enough To Make You Want One

These photos have already garnered criticism amongst Apple die-hards. They feel the design isn’t revolutionary enough, given how similar it looks to the current iPhone. But by now, these people should know that Apple prefers to tweak successful designs instead of reinventing them. Here’s how the next iPhone will offer up improvements over the current model:

Slightly bigger screen. Apple already has one of the best mobile screens on the planet, so the trick will be to give it more real-estate without compromising the measurements of the phone itself which Apple spent a great deal of time and money developing. You’ll notice that the home button now has a little less breathing room above and below it, and the FaceTime camera has been relocated above the ear-piece speaker grille from its current side-car location. These changes, plus a slight lengthening of the phone’s body itself could yield a small but nonetheless noticeable increase in overall screen real estate. The current size is 3.5″ diagonal. A new iPhone could hit 3.9-4.0″ with the re-jigged design.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple manages to bump the specs of the screen too. Better contrast, better brightness, better off-angle viewing? All likely. It doesn’t take a lot to make a screen better when compared to an earlier model. When Apple released the iPad 2, they didn’t even mention that the screen was better than the first iPad – yet to anyone looking at it, it was obvious that they had made some improvements.

4G LTE. 4G, or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest standard in high-speed data connectivity for mobile phones. Where supported by carriers, it enabled speeds of up to 150Mbps which is significant leap over the previous 3G standard. As such, this one is the most obvious feature for the next iPhone. The new iPad already has it, and given the increasingly wide-spread availability of the new high-speed wireless standard, it’s time for the iPhone to get the new technology too.

Bigger, longer-lasting battery. Increasing the size of the case doesn’t just allow for a bigger screen, it means a bigger space for the battery too. And if the next iPhone is going to have LTE, it will need a bigger battery. LTE is fairly power-hungry technology and presumably Apple doesn’t want battery life to suffer. So while the next iPhone may last longer between charges if you restrict it to 3G, running LTE will probably result in the same life you’re used to now.

NFC. NFC or Near Field Communication is a relatively new technology which lets devices communicate with one another over very short distances, without using WiFi or Bluetooth. In mobile phones, NFC can be used to let people “tap to share” (e.g. photos or web links) or “tap to connect” (instead of needing to configure a Bluetooth speaker – just tap it), but the biggest feature of NFC is its ability to enable mobile wallet applications. This is how you can pay for purchases using nothing but your smartphone at retailers that can accept NFC payments. NFC on the next iPhone might be a long-shot, especially given that the technology has so far been very slow to be adopted at retail in North America. However, it is progressing and there’s no question that if Apple wants to play in the digital wallet space as they undoubtedly do, NFC is pretty much mandatory.

Smaller, possibly mag-safe-based dock connector. There have been far too may rumours pointing to this: The new iPhone will absolutely have a new, smaller dock connector. Yes, that will mean that all existing docks and accessories will now require adapters in order to work with the next iPhone, but the 30-pin dock connector is now 10 years old and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and AirPlay have made it largely unnecessary for anything other than charging. A smaller connector also means they can now move the audio-jack to the bottom of the phone.

Audio jack on the bottom. Why does this even matter? Well, for folks who never use the jack, it doesn’t matter at all. But those who do will have noticed that it is kind of inconvenient to stick your iPhone in your pocket with the bottom of the phone facing down. Not only do you have to flip the phone around when you pull it out, but it’s much harder to reach for the home button quickly. And given the importance Apple has placed on Siri, being able to grab that home button when you’re on the go is definitely a benefit.

A little thinner. The newest Android phones from HTC and Samsung have put an emphasis on ever thinner dimensions. The next iPhone will lose a few millimetres too. Take a close look at the photos above. They clearly show that the metal sides (which double as the phone’s antennas) will be bevelled and the front and back surfaces will sit flush to the edge. The current design is 9.3mm thick, with at least a millimetre or two of front and back surface extending beyond the metal rim. The new iPhone could easily come in at 7mm or less. Given that the world record holder, the Oppo Finder comes in at an anorexic 6.65mm, 7mm seems realistic for a new iPhone.

Another spec bump on the processor, possibly to quad-core, and more memory. This will be mostly to keep pace with the rest of the industry and because faster chips means more powerful applications – the life-blood of the iPhone post-sale revenue.

Reservations

Am I convinced that these photos are 100% what the new iPhone will look like? No. There are a few details that don’t seem right:

– The power/wake button at the top looks like it has almost no height to it at all, which would make it difficult to press.

– In picture 6, it looks as though the front face of the phone starts flush with the metal sides at the top of the phone but then progressively ramps away from the sides as it meets the bottom edge. That definitely seems out of place. It may be that the folks who assembled this mockup didn’t fit the pieces together quite right.

– There are visible seams where the top and bottom pieces of the phone meet the back plate. Given that Apple went to great lengths to make the current design nearly seamless, I can’t imagine they would now be ok with seams. But this could easily be a pre-production mockup, with the final product getting a much smoother finish.

– There is a strange, small hole sitting between the LED light and the rear camera lens. It could be a mic, and I’d place bets that’s what it is, but why is it there? The current design doesn’t employ such a visible mic so it’s hard to imagine why the new design calls for it to be so prominent.

These reservations aside, I think we are looking at the next iPhone. It’s a design that is in keeping with Apple doing what they do best: Give owners of an iPhone 4 or older model a strong reason to upgrade once they’re free of their contract, while not making people who just bought an iPhone 4S feel like they’re the proud owners of obsolete technology. This iterative, evolutionary approach to their product development can be seen across Apple’s line of devices and the next iPhone will follow this model.

Now, in case you’re sitting there feeling glum that Apple won’t be surprising and delighting you with a new, magical and revolutionary product come the fall, don’t fret just yet.

There’s still plenty of reason to think that Apple will finally make good on its much-rumoured move into the HDTV space, plus we keep getting hints of a new, smaller iPad model. This may yet shape up to be one of Apple’s most interesting years.

[Source: iLab via 9to5Mac and BGR]

OS X Mountain Lion hits the App Store today

Before we dig into some of the new features in Apple’s latest update to Mac OS X, I just want to call out what has to be either the biggest coincidence in the launch of a new tech product, or a very cleverly timed piece of PR genius:

On Sunday, as reported by ABC and the Daily Mail Online, a woman in California called police 911 services in a state of deep worry over what she believed to be a mountain lion that had supposedly crept into her neighbour’s yard and then fallen asleep or perhaps died, while lying on the neighbour’s patio table.

Looking at the photo below, you can understand her concern – the animal looks like the real deal.

Turns out it was real, or at least was once a real live mountain lion. But the animal sitting in the neighbour’s yard was a stuffed animal placed there by the neighbour to intentionally prank his wife when she looked out the window.

Oddly, though the event happened on Sunday, it wasn’t reported until today – coinciding with the mountain lion story you’re hear to read. Coincidence?

Okay, now that’s out of the way…

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion seems like a bargain when you consider that for just twenty bucks, you can upgrade from either Lion or Snow Leopard and get over 200 improvements including:

  • iCloud integration, for easy set up of your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keeping everything, including iWork documents, up to date across all your devices;
  • the all new Messages app, which replaces iChat and brings iMessage to the Mac, so you can send messages to anyone with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or another Mac;
  • Notification Center, which streamlines the presentation of notifications and provides easy access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps;
  • System-wide Sharing, to make it easy to share links, photos, videos and other files quickly without having to switch to another app, and you just need to sign in once to use third-party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo;
  • Facebook integration, so you can post photos, links and comments with locations right from your apps, automatically add your Facebook friends to your Contacts, and even update your Facebook status from within Notification Center;
  • Dictation, which allows you to dictate text anywhere you can type, whether you’re using an app from Apple or a third party developer;
  • AirPlay Mirroring, an easy way to wirelessly send an up-to-1080p secure stream of what’s on your Mac to an HDTV using Apple TV, or send audio to a receiver or speakers that use AirPlay; and
  • Game Center, which brings the popular social gaming network from iOS to the Mac so you can enjoy live, multiplayer games with friends whether they’re on a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

I’m especially keen to try out AirPlay mirroring – this has been one of those features that was notable for its absence from previous releases of the operating system as it is now standard on nearly all iOS devices. Being able to send any kind of content from a Mac to an Apple TV (and thus your HDTV) is very handy.

If you’re curious to learn more about Mountain Lion before deciding to take the plunge yourself, check out these helpful reviews:

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/07/os-x-10-8/

http://techland.time.com/2012/07/25/apple-os-x-10-8-mountain-lion-review/

http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/25/apple-os-x-mountain-lion-10-8-review/

While you’re at it, you may want to revisit the minimum system specs for OS X.

So readers, are there any Mountain Lion features you’re excited about? Drop us a line in the comments, and let us know – especially once you’ve had a chance to try it out. (Or if you’ve had any of your own close encounters with convincing stuffed animals)

Video of Earth at night is better than any movie

It’s not clear to me why NASA doesn’t create videos like these themselves, but whatever the reason, dedicated space fans aren’t allowing the video vacuum to exist for long. This gorgeous timelapse video of the Earth at night as seen from the ISS, is proof that reality can be every bit as breathtaking as what Hollywood can dream up. Do yourself a favour and watch it in fullscreen mode – you’ll be glad you did.

From the creator, Knate Myers:

Every frame in this video is a photograph taken from the International Space Station. All credit goes to the crews on board the ISS.
I removed noise and edited some shots in photoshop. Compiled and arranged in Sony Vegas.

Music by John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/sunshine-music-from-motion/id297702863

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov

For more great NASA-resourced timelaspe videos, check out the NASA timelapse club on Vimeo.