Apple and Google are launching a joint COVID-19 tracing tool for iOS and Android

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

The project was started two weeks ago by engineers from both companies. One of the reasons the companies got involved is that there is poor interoperability between systems on various manufacturer’s devices. With contact tracing, every time you fragment a system like this between multiple apps, you limit its effectiveness greatly. You need a massive amount of adoption in one system for contact tracing to work well.

At the same time, you run into technical problems like Bluetooth power suck, privacy concerns about centralized data collection and the sheer effort it takes to get enough people to install the apps to be effective.

Apple announces online-only WWDC 2020 due to coronavirus spread

Apple has announced that this year’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference will be held online due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. Scheduled to be held on an unspecified date in June, it will feature a “completely new online experience” that includes both Apple’s traditional announcement keynote and developer sessions.

This June, WWDC20 brings a completely new online experience to millions of talented and creative developers around the world. Join us for a fully packed program — including Keynote and sessions — to gain early access to the future of Apple platforms and engage with Apple engineers. Dive into an exciting learning experience and discover how to create your most innovative apps yet using the latest Apple technologies.

Stay tuned for details on the web, by email, and in the Apple Developer app.

Not really surprised at this point as everything is getting cancelled thanks to covid-19.

Google Cancels Google I/O 2020: “Due to Concerns Around Coronavirus”

Corbin Davenport, writing for Android Police:

Google I/O takes place near Google’s headquarters in California every year in the early summer, aimed at helping developers with their work and announcing new products. The 2020 event was scheduled to take place on May 12-14, but now Google has canceled it due to safety concerns.

Google is sending out emails to registered attendees, explaining that the company decided to cancel I/O due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus. “All guests who have purchased tickets to I/O 2020 will receive a full refund by March 13, 2020,” the message reads. Also, guests who registered for the event will automatically enter the drawing for I/O 2021 tickets next year, and Google is pledging to give $1 million to local small businesses and schools for STEM research and coronavirus protection.

Google I/O is the latest in a string of events to be canceled due to the coronavirus, joining Mobile World CongressGDCFacebook’s F8 developer conference, and others. It’s a shame for anyone who planned to attend I/O, but as governments around the world are struggling to contain the virus, bringing together thousands of people from many different countries might not be the best idea at the moment.

Wonder if Apple will go ahead of WWDC?

HQ Calls Game Over

CNN Business:

The company behind the once-popular live mobile trivia game is shutting down, CNN Business has learned. HQ will part ways with 25 full-time employees. When HQ launched in 2017, its first game HQ Trivia quickly attracted millions of people across the world who stopped whatever they were doing twice a day to play the game on their smartphones. The company was profiled by The New York Times and its original host Scott Rogowsky became a household name, appearing on programs like NBC’s “Today” show. 

But over the next year, the game’s popularity faded and its parent company was hit with a series of setbacks.

The company grappled with internal turmoil, including the death of HQ cofounder Colin Kroll, who died in December 2018 from a drug overdose. CEO Rus Yusupov said in a company-wide email on Friday that “lead investors are no longer willing to fund the company, and so effective today, HQ will cease operations and move to dissolution.”


Yusupov also disclosed that the company had hired a banker “to help find additional investors and partners to support the expansion of the company.” He said the company had “received an offer from an established business” and was expected to close the deal on Saturday, but the potential acquisition fell through. 

In recent months, HQ tried to expand its audience by launching new products, including a photo challenge game in December called HQX. 

“Since Colin and I founded the company, we really set out to develop this network of live interactive shows on mobile phones,” Yusupov told CNN Business at the time.HQ generated millions in revenue through brand partnerships and in-app purchases — a feat few young consumer tech companies could boast of in their early years.

It worked with big-name brands such as Nike and Google and partnered with NBC, ABC and CBS to promote their programs. HQ’s sponsored show for Warner Bros’ “The Lego Movie 2” was nominated for an Emmy. (Warner Bros. and CNN are both owned by WarnerMedia.)But HQ wasn’t immune from financial woes.

The company laid off employees in July 2019 and other staffers left. HQ raised $15 million at a $100 million valuation in March 2018. The company had previously raised $8 million.

Apple Bringing Universal Apps, Enabling a Single Purchase for Mac, iPhone, and iPad Apps

9to5 Mac:

With the latest beta releases, Apple has added the ability for developers to create unified purchases across Mac and iOS.

This means that a developer can list an iPad app in the App Store and a Mac version in the Mac App Store. When the customer buys either version, it automatically unlocks for all platforms. Previously, developers could only offer separate independent purchases.

This feature is clearly designed with Mac Catalyst in mind but the unified purchase capability can be applied to any Mac app.

The developer simply has to change their Mac to use the same bundle identifier as the iOS app, and the App Store handles unifying the purchases. For developers with existing independent Mac apps, migrating to a universal purchase model might e difficult.

Apple is automatically enabling unified purchases for new Mac Catalyst applications created with the just-released Xcode 11.4 beta. Existing apps will have to change their bundle identifiers if the want to switch to unified purchases.

It’s not just paid up-front apps that can benefit. In-app purchases can also be shared across iOS and Mac fior the first time, if the core app is unified.

Nintendo Switch overtakes SNES with more than 52 million sold

Sam Byford, for The Verge:

Nintendo had its strongest Switch quarter ever this holiday season, moving 10.81 million units to reach a total of 52.48 million sold as of the end of 2019. That means it’s now overtaken the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to become Nintendo’s third best-selling home console of all time behind the Wii and the NES. The 16-bit SNES was released in 1990 in Japan and the following year in North America, achieving a total of 49.1 million units sold worldwide.


Nintendo’s Switch hardware sales are up about 15 percent year-on-year, which the company attributes partly to the launch of the cheaper Switch Lite while also noting the December launch in China — though that’s unlikely to be a major factor yet. The 3DS, meanwhile, is now officially a non-factor with just 260,000 consoles sold even in a holiday quarter.

The “Tragic” iPad

Ben Thompson, writing at Stratechery:

Steve Jobs stepped onstage 10 years ago today to introduce the world to the iPad. It was, by his own admission, a third category of device that sits somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop. Jobs unveiled the iPad just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show ended in Las Vegas and at a time when netbooks were dominating personal computing sales…

Apple had an answer to the netbook: a 9.7-inch tablet that allowed you to hold the internet in your hands…Apple was also looking to create a third category of device that was better at certain tasks than a laptop or smartphone. The iPad was designed to be better at web browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and ebooks. “If there’s going to be a third category of device it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone, otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Jobs.


It’s tempting to dwell on the Jobs point — I really do think the iPad is the product that misses him the most — but the truth is that the long-term sustainable source of innovation on the iPad should have come from 3rd-party developers. Look at Gruber’s example for the Mac of graphic designers and illustrators: while MacPaint showed what was possible, the revolution was led by software from Aldus (PageMaker), Quark (QuarkXPress), and Adobe (Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat). By the time the Mac turned 10, Apple was a $2 billion company, while Adobe was worth $1 billion.

There are, needless to say, no companies built on the iPad that are worth anything approaching $1 billion in 2020 dollars, much less in 1994 dollars, even as the total addressable market has exploded, and one big reason is that $4.99 price point. Apple set the standard that highly complex, innovative software that was only possible on the iPad could only ever earn 5 bucks from a customer forever (updates, of course, were free).


The situation has improved slightly since then, primarily with the addition of subscription pricing for apps. Still, that is far inferior from a customer perspective to the previous “Pay for Version 2” model that sustained developers on the Mac for decades; we never did get upgrade pricing or time-limited trial functionality for regular paid apps.

Instead, as Apple is so wont to do, it tried to fix the problem itself, by making the iPad into an inferior Mac.


To be fair, would that we all could “fail” like the iPad; it was a $21 billion business last fiscal year, nearly as much as the Mac’s $26 billion. That, though, is why I did not call it a failure: the tragedy of the iPad is not that it flopped, it is that it never did, and likely never will, reach that potential so clearly seen ten years ago

Go read the rest of the post, Ben covers quite a lot and makes several good points.

Google’s End of an Era

Alan Murray, writing for Fortune:

Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from running Alphabet, leaving the company to Sundar Pichai. This likely signals the end of an era, when Google tried to solve a vast array of human problems under Alphabet’s broad umbrella—but pretty much failed to turn any of them into a profitable business. The notion then was that Google was not just an awesome search and advertising business, but rather a whole new way of doing business. (See Jeff Jarvis’ book, What Would Google Do?) With the founders’ departure, it once again becomes just an awesome search and advertising business.

I had the rare opportunity to interview Larry Page at the very beginning of the Alphabet age, at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco in 2015. When people ask me to name my favorite CEO interview, I often cite this one—mainly because Page’s answers were so remarkably unrehearsed.

My favorite part of the conversation was this:

Me: Is there any company out there you look at and say, “That’s kind of what we want to be”?

Page: Mmmmm…No.

To cut down on bugs, Apple is changing how it develops its software

Ars Technica:

The initial release windows of both iOS 12 and iOS 13 saw users complaining about a plethora of bugs both major and minor. Apple has plans to mitigate this problem when iOS 14 launches next year, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg.

People familiar with the shift told the publication that a major factor contributing to iOS 13’s rough launch window was the fact that many Apple developers were making daily or weekly commits of new features at varying levels of readiness and quality, and those features were enabled by default regardless of their readiness. This meant that test builds were often unusable for stretches of time due to one problematic feature or another, which limited the amount of time testers spent with the software.

Under the new methodology, new test builds of Apple’s future operating systems will turn certain features deemed to be buggy or to cause usability issues off by default. Testers will be able to opt-in on a feature-by-feature basis in many cases, reducing the likelihood that they will be working with “unlivable” builds.

Bloomberg’s sources provided some insight about how Apple assesses the reliability and state of its own software features, as well. From the report:

Apple measures and ranks the quality of its software using a scale of 1 to 100 that’s based on what’s known internally as a “white glove” test. Buggy releases might get a score in the low 60s whereas more stable software would be above 80. iOS 13 scored lower on that scale than the more polished iOS 12 that preceded it. Apple teams also assign green, yellow and red color codes to features to indicate their quality during development. A priority scale of 0 through 5, with 0 being a critical issue and 5 being minor, is used to determine the gravity of individual bugs.

The change in approach was directed by Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, and was announced during an internal meeting. And this would also apply to Apple’s other operating systems such as macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and iPadOS.

People familiar with Apple’s internal operations have said that Apple is also considering postponing some features from iOS 14 to a later update, possibly iOS 15, in order to put the magnifying glass on performance and stability. However, iOS 14 would still likely have as many new features as iOS 13 shipped with.


The report also says that Apple “privately considered” iOS 13.1 to be “the actual public release” and that the company expected only die-hard fans would update to iOS 13 within the short week between its initial release and the iOS 13.1 update. This is a surprising expectation, given that the company often publicly boasts of how quickly its users adopt new software updates compared to competing platforms.

Apple is currently working on iOS 13.3, another major feature release. Bloomberg’s sources suggested that the company has been happier with the stability and quality of its software releases this cycle since iOS 13.2, despite a background multitasking bug that needed to be fixed with a minor update recently.

Microsoft delays its new Surface Earbuds launch to spring 2020

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft had been planning to launch its new Surface Earbuds “later this year,” but the company is now delaying the wireless earbuds to spring 2020. “Product-making is about the relentless pursuit to get all the details right, which takes time… sometimes more than we planned on,” explains Microsoft’s chief product officer, Panos Panay, in a tweet today. ”To ensure we deliver the best possible experience for you, our fans & customers, Surface Earbuds will now launch worldwide in spring 2020.”

Panay hasn’t revealed exactly why Microsoft is delaying the Surface Earbuds, but it’s clear testing or manufacturing didn’t go to plan for a December launch. Microsoft is now planning to release the Surface Earbuds in the spring in both grey and a new white color. Microsoft originally revealed the Surface Earbuds at a special press event last month, alongside the new Surface Pro 7Surface Laptop 3, and Surface Pro X that are already on sale. 

The $249 Surface Earbuds are tuned for both music and voice performance, and have a fairly divisive design with large and circular earbuds. Microsoft has even included dictation for use with Office apps, and it’s pitching them at workers and consumers. Each earbud has two microphones built in, which aid in noise reduction when you’re using them for calls. Both of the earbuds also have touch areas that can be used with tap and swipe gestures to control music or other audio.