Gruber on The New App Store – Subscription Pricing, Faster Approvals, and Search Ads

John Gruber:

“We’re doing something a little different this year. We’ve got a bunch of App Store/developer-related announcements for WWDC next week, but frankly, we’ve got a busy enough keynote that we decided we’re not going to cover those in the keynote. And rather, just cover them in the afternoon and throughout the week. We’re talking to people today for news tomorrow about those things, in advance of WWDC, and then developers can come and be ready for sessions about these things, with knowledge about them before the conference. We haven’t done this before, but we figured, what the heck, let’s give it a try.”

So started my phone call with Phil Schiller yesterday. Doing something a little different, indeed.

These changes and improvements to the App Store — or App Stores, if you prefer, because they all apply to iOS (and thus WatchOS), Mac OS X, and tvOS — are no little things. These changes fundamentally change the App Store, for users and especially for developers.

A quick summary:

App Store review times are now much shorter. These changes are already in place, and have been widely noted in recent weeks. Apple is today confirming they’re not a fluke — they’re the result of systemic changes to how App Store review works.

Subscription-based pricing was heretofore limited to specific app categories. Now, subscription-based pricing will be an option for any sort of app, including productivity apps and games. This is an entirely new business model for app developers — one that I think will make indie app development far more sustainable.

Changes to app discovery, including a smarter “Featured” tab, the return of the “Categories” tab, and, yes, as rumored, paid search ads.

Looks like there are some interesting app stores changes coming up shortly… The subscription-based pricing is especially interesting.

Nest’s time at Alphabet: A virtually unlimited budget with no results

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

It’s hard to argue with the decision to “transition” Fadell away from Nest. When Google bought Nest in January 2014, the expectation was that a big infusion of Google’s resources and money would supercharge Nest. Nest grew from 280 employees around the time of the Google acquisition to 1200 employees today. In Nest’s first year as “a Google company,” it used Google’s resources to acquire webcam maker Dropcam for $555 million, and it paid an unknown amount for the smart home hub company Revolv. Duffy said Nest was given a “virtually unlimited budget” inside Alphabet. Nest eventually transitioned to an Alphabet company, just like Google.

In return for all this investment, Nest delivered very little. The Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke detector both existed before the Google acquisition, and both received minor upgrades under Google’s (and later Alphabet’s) wing. A year after buying Dropcam, Nest released the Nest Cam, which was basically a rebranded Dropcam. Two-and-a-half years under Google/Alphabet, a quadrupling of the employee headcount, and half-a-billion dollars in acquisitions yielded minor yearly updates and a rebranded device. That’s all.

Say what you will about Tony Fadell’s leadership style, I don’t see how anyone could deny that Nest has nothing to show for its time as an Alphabet subsidiary.

Nest is still the same thermostat / smoke detector company they were before Google bought them, and they still have the same products they had before their purchase, and nothing new to show for it since then.

Chili Lime Broiled Avocado

Avocadoes… the things you can make with them are incredible or just slice them and eat them as is.

This is a fun recipe that is pretty basic, but tasty.

What you need:

  • 1 Avocado (pitted)
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 tsp Chili powder
  • Sea salt (to taste)

How to Make it:

  1. Preheat oven to high heat.
  2. Drizzle the avocado halves with the honey and lime juice.
  3. Lay on a baking sheet and broil for 5-6 minutes, until avocado flesh begins to blister.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chili powder and salt. Serve warm.

Microsoft tricking users into upgrading to Windows 10

Paul Thurrott:

Frankly, this entire episode has been indefensible, with Microsoft introducing a non-stoppable, non-hideable advertisement on several hundred million PCs from around the world. And then upgrading that advertisement to thwart those who do seek to remove or hide it. It has changed the language of the ad, made no clear cancel choice available, and jammed it into the “recommended” updates that auto-install via Windows Update. …

This time, it actually changed the behaviour of the window that appears so that if you click the “Close” window box, you are actually agreeing to the upgrade.

I stopped being a Windows user years ago due to user-hostile behaviour like this.

Why big apps aren’t moving to Swift (Yet)

Ben Sandofsky:

I strongly believe Swift is the future of iOS development. It’s only a matter of when, and the blocker is the breakneck speed it evolves. For smaller apps, Swift is good enough. For big apps, it’s at least a year away.

[…]

If you’re working in a smaller app, stop reading. The benefits of Swift 3.0 probably outweigh the risks. If you’re curious about the challenges of large companies, large codebases, and complex dependencies, this post should explain why big projects are holding back.

We’re in the run-up to WWDC, and in the wake of this announcement from Chris Lattner a week ago, that certain features slated for the upcoming Swift 3.0 have been postponed, I expect to see a ton of pieces on Swift and dynamic programming.

Sandofsky’s article is a great overview of why it might not be practical — arguments over dynamism aside — for big apps to move to Swift yet.

Twitter Remains Broken

Aleen Simms:

Time and time again, we’ve been told that the company is working on making things better for targets of harassment. What we see, however, are half-baked enhancements designed to make the service more appealing to advertisers and attempts at enticing new users.

Many people have suggested changes they could implement to curb abuse. For example, Randi Lee Harper’s list of suggestions from earlier this year is still on-point.

Marco Arment on Apple and AI

A thoughtful piece by Marco Arment over the weekend:

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.

If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.

Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do, despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they won’t be able to catch up.

That sounds about right to me, but I’m not sure if I entirely accept the premise that the rise of AI assistants will decrease our desire for devices with screens.

iPhone and Android doomed BlackBerry because people stopped buying BlackBerries. If even we accept the premise that Google Assistant is going to be a big deal that Apple won’t be able to compete with, I’m not sure how that decreases demand for the devices Apple already makes.

The Google Play store, coming to a Chromebook near you

We launched Chromebooks for people who wanted a fast, simple and secure computing experience. Chromebooks just work – open the lid, and within seconds, you’re on your favorite sites and apps, getting stuff done. Virus protection and automatic updates are built-in, so you don’t have to manage your computer. And that’s worked great for our users. Schools in the US are now buying more Chromebooks than all other devices combined – and in Q1 of this year, Chromebooks topped Macs in overall shipments to become the #2 most popular PC operating system in the US*.

We’ve been encouraged by this growth, but our users have often told us that they would like to do even more with their Chromebooks – run more apps, use Office files more easily, connect with a variety of apps, and do more when they’re offline.

So, we’re bringing Google Play (the most popular app store in the world) to Chromebooks. This means you’ll be able to download and use Android apps, so you can make a Skype call, work with Office files and be productive offline – or take a break with games like Minecraft, Hearthstone or Clash of Clans.

The same apps that run on phones and tablets can now run on Chromebooks without compromising their speed, simplicity or security. This is good for users and great for developers – in addition to phones and tablets, they will be able to easily bring their apps to laptops. And all this is built on top of Chrome OS, so users will continue to have everything they love in their Chromebooks.

Google Play will start rolling out in the developer channel with M53 on the ASUS Chromebook Flip, the Acer Chromebook R 11 and the latest Chromebook Pixel. Over time, this will roll out to other Chromebooks in the market too. And, we’ve also been working with our partners to launch some great new devices specially designed for Play. Stay tuned for more details to come over the next few months.

It’s interesting that this will only support Chromebooks with a touchscreen first, then move onto support other Chromebooks.

Interesting, but also makes sense as they would involve the least amount of effort to support Android apps.

Apple Case Underscores Pitfalls of Doing Business in China

The New York Times:

On March 31 the Beijing Higher People’s Court upheld earlier rulings by a lower court and China’s trademark arbitration board that Xintong Tiandi had the right to use “iPhone” for products in Class 18 of the international trademark classification system, since Xintong Tiandi acquired the trademark in 2007 when the iPhone name was “not renowned” in China, the court ruled. Apple has the rights in Class 9, which covers computers and smartphones. Class 18 covers leather goods.

You’ve probably heard of that case, but here’s something you probably did not know:

Xintong Tiandi didn’t exist in 2007. A Russian company acquired the rights then and Xintong Tiandi bought the rights from it in 2011, the Chinese company’s lawyer, Xiong Zhi, said in a telephone interview. Public company filings show that Xintong Tiandi was set up in 2011.

So, a company that didn’t exist in 2007 wins the court case to uphold their trademark from 2007, despite not existing until 2011?

Google Assistant

John Gruber:

Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right. This might be like Steve Jobs’s 2007 claim that the iPhone was “5 years” ahead of anyone else.

Manton Reece:

Only Google has the expertise in web services and the massive amount of data to keep going beyond basic questions. I expect both Siri and Alexa will hit brick walls that Google will get past, especially in conversational queries that let the user drill down below the most popular, superficial facts.

Caitlin McGarry:

It’s a problem that could be solved with a Siri API for app developers, but according to a recent Reuters report, Apple’s Siri shortcomings can be attributed to the company’s stance on privacy.

The company has a trio of so-called “privacy czars” who vet every decision, even inspecting lines of code that might violate laws or company standards. When Apple bought Siri five years ago, it was decided that data on what you ask Siri would be stored separately from personal data, so Siri lacks a lot of the knowledge about you that it would need to be a truly useful assistant.

Ben Thompson:

The net result is that Google has no choice but to put its founding proposition to the ultimate test: is it enough to be the best? Can the best artificial intelligence overcome the friction that will be involved in using Google assistant on an iPhone? Can the best artificial intelligence actually shift human networks? Can the best artificial intelligence win the home in the face of a big head start?

[…]

Google’s competitors, by virtue of owning the customer, need only be good enough, and they will get better. Google has a far higher bar to clear — it is asking users and in some cases their networks to not only change their behavior but willingly introduce more friction into their lives — and its technology will have to be special indeed to replicate the company’s original success as a business.