Hearts & Minds
(First published on 6/13/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)
The Cavs had heart, but they didn’t have Kevin Durant. To me, that’s what it boiled down to watching these NBA Finals. Yes, the Cavs probably should have won Game 3 in Cleveland (I was there, and I’m still sort of dumbfounded that they didn’t win that game), but, if I’m being honest, I still think they lose the series 4–2 if that’s the case.
In fact, I think if they played this series 10 times, the Warriors would win all 10. The fact that the Cavs were able to keep a few of these games close simply shows that they’re the second best team in the NBA (as the Playoffs clearly showed). But they’re pretty far from the first. Without Durant, it’s a different story — as it was last year! — but a Warriors team which won an NBA-record 73 games last year, added a player who seems to be playing better basketball than anyone on the planet at the moment — including, perhaps, LeBron James. How do you beat that? You don’t.
Which leads to the obvious follow-up: how on Earth does anyone compete with the Warriors next season? It will be fun to watch the handful of teams that are close (and maybe the Lakers, who are not) try. Basically, it seems like everyone will try to raid the Clippers for parts — and the Clippers will try to leverage Steve Ballmer’s money to persuade other superstars that they’re more than happy to pay whatever luxury tax is necessary to win (though that didn’t ultimately work this year for the Cavs, of course).
LeBron is locked into the Cavs next season. But in two seasons, he’s a free agent once again. While he’s given no indication that he would leave Cleveland again, the expectation seems to be building that he will in order to try to have one last shot of building upon and extending his legacy — and such talk points to the now Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers, of course. So the Cavs may only have one more year to make a run… I like Kevin Love, but he looked awful last night. Just saying…
The Spurs are closer than their sweep by the Warriors would seem to indicate due to the Kawhi Leonard injury. But it still feels like they would need to add one more piece… The Celtics, who were the second-best team in the East, have the number one overall pick…
Still, Vegas is Vegas for a reason. The rest of the NBA may just have to hope Klay Thompson decided to take his talents elsewhere in a max deal in a couple years. Even then… What an insane team. I didn’t think it was likely, but when Durant was a reality, the result was as expected.
Thanks for indulging the sports talk. Now a bunch of Apple links.
Great round-up of the best of iOS 11 (so far) by Juli Clover. A few I’m particularly excited about:
Customizable Control Center — Apple showed off the new single-page revamped Control Center on stage during the keynote, but what wasn’t mentioned is that the Control Center is customizable. Users can select what’s displayed in Control Center using the Settings app, and there are a huge range of options including Low Power Mode, Notes, Text Size, Wallet, Screen Recording, and more. There’s even a new option to add Apple TV Remote controls to Control Center. Layout can’t be changed, though.
The customization is great news. There are so many things I used on a daily basis that are buried in Settings. No longer. Though this will make me long for third-party widgets here as well — maybe iOS 12…
AirPods settings — AirPods can now be customized with separate double tap gestures for the left and right AirPod. One can be set to access Siri, for example, while another can be set to play the next track. In iOS 10, double tap settings are applied to both AirPods.
As much as I love the AirPods, I basically never use the double-tap element. This will make it quite a bit more useful.
GIFs In the Photos app, GIFs saved in the Camera roll now animate when opened. In the main album view, they are still, but will work properly when tapped.
Check out 9to5 Mac’s video walk-through of many features as well.
Huge news out of WWDC as relayed by Jason Snell:
The other big news out of today’s session is for podcasters (and presumably for podcast advertisers): Apple is opening up in-episode analytics of podcasts. For the most part, podcasters only really know when an episode’s MP3 file is downloaded. Beyond that, we can’t really tell if anyone listens to an episode, or how long they listen — only the apps know for sure.
Apple said today that it will be using (anonymized) data from the app to show podcasters how many people are listening and where in the app people are stopping or skipping. This has the potential to dramatically change our perception of how many people really listen to a show, and how many people skip ads, as well as how long a podcast can run before people just give up.
Given how big of a business podcasts have become for many, it’s crazy how the entirely industry runs on so little data right now. That will start to change with these changes — we’ll see how that changes the business of podcasting… Peter Kafka has more screen grabs from the WWDC session.
Another big, if subtle change for Apple, as reported by Josh Constine:
This means developers can add tipping features without fearing repercussions from Apple, as long as they’re willing to give the giant 30%. The grey area had kept tipping out of some popular apps who sought to avoid any tension with Apple. Now app makers can offer and promote tipping features with confidence.
The developers will have to determine for themselves whether they themselves take a cut of the tips or pass the full 70% on to the content creators. Passing on 50% while taking a 20% cut could unlock paths to monetizing video where ads can be interruptive or tough to match with unpolished footage.
The 30% cut is pretty brutal. But, if it opens a whole new level of monetization for some folks… We’ll see.
Nanette Byrnes sat down with Tim Cook. On the hot-topic of AI:
Cook says the fact that the press doesn’t always give Apple credit for its AI may be due to the fact that Apple only likes to talk about the features of products it is ready to ship, while many others “sell futures.” Says Cook: “We are not going to go through things we’re going to do in 2019, ’20, ’21. It’s not because we don’t know that. It’s because we don’t want to talk about that.”
It’s a fair point — and a very Apple one. But the concern — and I acknowledge there’s an upside here despite that word — is that Apple won’t have nearly the data that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others will because of their fundamentally different stance on data collection.
My first reaction to Apple’s WWDC announcement of iOS drag and drop was basically, “Lol welcome to three decades ago.” But after watching a more in-depth technical explanation of the technology at Apple’s follow-up Platforms State of the Union, I’m starting to wonder if Apple has a new “pinch to zoom” on its hands: a technology that doesn’t just allow for multitouch devices to compete with point-and-click desktop experiences, but in a way, it surpasses them.
What makes iOS drag and drop special is that you can grab multiple things at once, and they don’t all have to be within a convenient marquee selection range. You can keep hold of the first object; navigate elsewhere in the app; grab something else, which is then added to the “stack” of stuff under your finger; and keep adding until you’re satisfied. On a desktop it’s possible to select non-contiguous items for drag and drop with shift click or control click, but I’m unaware of a system for grabbing onto multiple items from multiple views outside of fancy clipboard hacks.
Meanwhile, not sounding so great, here’s Variety’s chief TV critic, Maureen Ryan, on Apple’s first foray into “television”:
Apple’s first offering, “Planet of the Apps,” feels like something that was developed at a cocktail party, and not given much more rigorous thought or attention after the pitcher of mojitos was drained.
It’s not terrible, but essentially, it’s a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of “Shark Tank.” Apple made its name on game-changing innovations, but this show is decidedly not one of them.
Gizmodo’s Bryan Menegus is decidedly less kind:
Last night, Apple premiered its first attempt at an original TV show, ‘Planet of the Apps’, a ‘Shark Tank’ meets ‘American Idol’ unscripted series where app developers appeal to a panel of celebrity judges for outside funding. The first episode is currently available for free on Apple Music. It is also very bad.
In fact, so much can be said of the show’s inanity that the most challenging aspect of watching it is arguably knowing which part to hate the most.
Hardly surprising, but still, ouch.
Farhad Manjoo’s latest column is on the current state of Apple (a topic near and dear). On the topic of the HomePod:
Yet many of these are omissions that you’d expect in a new device, and Apple will most likely add improvements in updates. What will matter most, at first, is how reliably HomePod can perform the basics.
If you’re a longtime Siri user, your skepticism is warranted. The best thing about Amazon’s speaker is its reliability: Say something from far away, even in a noisy room, and most of the time it will at least recognize what you asked it. Once you get an idea of the kinds of requests it can handle, Alexa begins to seem like a completely natural interface to computers. It responds so quickly that it starts to seem like a helpful member of the family rather than a computer in a can.
I’ve already stated that I think Apple’s music-centric approach here is smart to start. But I also think it will position the HomePod more directly against Sonos rather than the Echo and Google Home, at least to start.
Once Apple makes a few tweaks to extend the HomePod functionality — meaning, primarily, opening it up to third-parties — we’ll see how Apple is able to do competing against the “Smart Assistants” versus the “Smart Speakers”. While there’s a lot of overlap, obviously, the positioning is a big part of the battle. Can Apple move HomePod from “music” to “general”?
Lots of great thoughts in here by Steven Sinofsky…
Jean-Louis Gassée makes the argument that Apple’s growing chip prowess is what will create their next moat with regard to AR/ML/etc.
This was obviously not talked about at WWDC, but a huge scoop by Christina Farr. A bunch of the WWDC showed off was “cool” but this could truly be life-altering…
This also didn’t come to pass at WWDC, but I do love the idea of a smart keyboard with a smart trackpad. And it’s not as crazy as it sounds within the iOS paradigm…
2,000-ish Words on the WWDC 2017 Keynote