It’s time to revisit Apple buying Dropbox

Dropbox once told Apple’s Steve Jobs that it wasn’t for sale, but now might be a good time to change its tune.

The bottom’s dropped out of Dropbox’s market. In 2011, it was invaluable. But now, in 2015, it’s clunky — an unnecessary step that feels a bit too far removed from the dozen or so apps we use regularly. Dropbox is decently integrated, but it doesn’t feel like enough now, when we can easily send files through interoffice chat and collaboration platforms like HipChat and Slack that do much more than file-sharing. While many individuals did (and still do) use Dropbox for sharing photos and big, totally legal files, Dropbox is largely for business, used by colleagues to exchange big folders and files. In fact, Dropbox says that 60 percent of its basic and pro users use Dropbox primarily for business.

It’s vital to businesses, this service of making file-sharing easy. Unfortunately for Dropbox, file-sharing is just a portion of the connected service suite that digital work today requires. To put it simply, Dropbox is underpowered for 2015. And given it’s incredibly (read: actually insane) high valuation, that’s a big ol’ $10 billion problem.

A better solution than iCloud

While we’re on the subject of services that just don’t quite pull their weight in 2015, let’s chat about iCloud.

My mom calls me all the time to ask if a photo she mistakenly deleted is in iCloud. I tell her what I’ve told everyone else who has ever asked me anything about iCloud: “I have no earthly idea.”

I don’t know what’s in my iCloud. 22.1GB worth of miscellaneous things, apparently, but I don’t actually know what makes up all of those mysterious gigabytes (edit: I checked — it’s a lot of photos, Contacts, and maybe half of my total Reminders), and I definitely don’t know how I would go about retrieving any of that purportedly precious data in the event of a catastrophic iDevice meltdown. I’m confident that I could figure it out, but I haven’t attempted it.

I don’t use iCloud at all. And that’s because iCloud is garbage. It’s only recently graduated from “glorified landing page” to “somewhat usable interface”, but it remains a part of my Apple life that I feel no real need to interact with at all, unless something goes absolutely and horrifically wrong and I’m forced into the iCloud interface as a data Hail Mary.

To be fair, I’m glad that iCloud exists. I’m glad that Apple’s making an effort to save the data that I’m too stubborn or lazy to back up. I’m glad that it’s trying to save me from myself. Or maybe it’s just trying to save a Genius or two from having to explain to a customer that all of his photos are gone because he carelessly dropped his iPhone 6 Plus into a chocolate fondue fountain. Maybe it’s both.

Either way, the fact remains that iCloud is trash, even when it’s helpful, and that’s largely because it is so underachieving. iCloud could be better, but first it has to be useable, and maybe that’s where Dropbox comes in. Because iCloud, too, is underpowered.

When Dropbox founder Drew Houston met with Steve Jobs in 2009 to talk about Dropbox, Houston famously shut down Jobs’ approach to buy the file-sharing service. According to a report from Forbes in 2011, Jobs let Houston know that he was making something of a mistake banking on Dropbox’s service to sustain a company, telling him that Dropbox was “a feature, not a product.”

Now, it sort of feels like Jobs was right. Dropbox doesn’t feel like it’s future trajectory is up. In fact, it kind of feels like the rain has started and the Dropbox is getting soggy. Dropbox isn’t going to get much further without becoming easier, more meaningful and high-powered. Dropbox isn’t going anywhere but down as a standalone app, but if it can find a way to make itself a part of our lives the way it began to before iCloud, Google Docs, Box and the rest, it might stand a chance. And, well, if there’s one company that’s become the leading expert on making itself an essential part of daily life, it’s Apple.

Theoretically, if Dropbox were to see the soft, brushed aluminum, backlit writing on the wall and decided that it wanted to take Apple’s offer six years later, would Apple even want to buy?

Well, yeah. It should, anyway.

Tiptoeing into enterprise with iPad Pro

Apple wants a bigger piece of the enterprise pie. iPad Pro proves that. Dropbox has a very solid base of enterprise users (for now), and perhaps a more robust file sharing, synching and management platform for the super-sized tablet would tip the business scales in favor of Apple’s answer to the Surface Pro.

Furthermore, as previously discussed, Apple’s iCloud leaves a lot to be desired–bringing in the world’s most valuable cloud service is far from the worst idea Apple’s ever had (a right that I have assume is reserved for the rollerball on the Mighty Mouse). Beyond that, Apple could really benefit from something of an ecosystem overhaul. Between iPads, Apple Watches, iPhones, Apple TVs and iMac/MacBook/MacBook Pros, many people now find themselves with more than one iDevice. The better those devices communicate and sync data, files, photos, contacts, etc., the more things “just work”, as Apple likes to say.

Perhaps best of all, never again would a Genius have to try to explain what the hell iCloud actually does.

Facebook tests mobile profile redesign

Facebook is making it a little easier to stalk people through its mobile applications.
The company announced today that it’s testing a redesign of mobile profiles in the United Kingdom and California. Facebook users involved with the test will gain more control over the information shown to prospective friends, the ability to set temporary profile pictures, and other features restricted to the small test group.
Perhaps the most interesting change is a renewed focus on images. Facebook users trying to learn more about someone they just met — or, let’s be honest, stalk people with whom they’ve lost touch over the years — will be tasked with scrolling through walls of photos after they pass larger versions of the profile and background images.



Users will also be able to choose up to five photos they wish to highlight underneath their biographical information. Profiles used to be dominated by text, given their focus on showing users’ most recent status updates, but now they’re going to place much more emphasis on allowing Facebook users to view each others’ photographs.
“People love seeing photos and mutual friends when viewing the profiles of friends or someone they’ve just met, so those are easier to see now on profile,” Facebook said in its announcement. “Photos and friends are right at the top, making getting to know someone and seeing the world through your friends’ eyes as easy as scrolling.”
Facebook will also give its users the ability to “film a short, looping video clip that will play for anyone who visits your profile.” These are basically animated GIFs that promise to let you “show a part of yourself you couldn’t before” and “add a new dimension to your profile.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s new Live Photos, which are based on a similar concept, were converted for use as these profile videos.
Many of these changes introduce a customizability that didn’t exist on Facebook before. It’s not quite as noticeable as the custom backgrounds and music playlists that used to be tied to people’s MySpace accounts (let’s all agree not to discuss the bad choices we might have made back in those days) but it’s freer than before.
Facebook explained some of the reasoning behind these changes in its blog post. “People visit Facebook profiles more than four billion times per day,” the company said, “and we’re continually looking for ways to make profiles the best place for people to curate their online identities and connect with others.” The profile, which became an afterthought when the News Feed debuted, could now be relevant again.
It’s not clear when this update will be available to the public — Facebook said only that it’s testing the new features with a small number of users, and it will be “rolling them out to more people soon.” Given how big this change is, it’s hard to blame the company for waiting to roll this out instead of quickly giving it to a billion people.

Apple to automatically issue refunds for ad blocking app ‘Peace’

Apple is refunding consumers who bought Peace, the short-lived content blocker that rose to the top of its list of paid software before it was removed from sale, without requiring them to complain about the app’s quick demise.
Peace developer Marco Arment said in a blog post today that Apple will automatically issue the refunds to anyone who bought his app. He previously advised users to individually request refunds from the App Store, and said he granted 13,000 refunds between the app’s shutdown and Apple’s decision from this afternoon. This could be one of the first times Apple has issued such a mass refund to date, as typically requests are handled on a case-by-case basis, as Arment explained.
Arment said he struggled with deciding what to do with the money drawn from Peace sales. Now that decision has been taken out of his hands — and he’s glad:

Today, Apple made the decision for me, in a way that I didn’t even think was possible, and I’m actually happy — or at least, as happy as someone can be who just made a lot of money on a roller coaster of surprise, guilt, and stress, then lost it all suddenly in a giant, unexpected reset that actually resolves things pretty well.

I reached out to Apple for comment on its decision but have yet to hear back. This post will be updated if the company responds. In the meantime, here’s some more background on Peace, in addition to questions for the company that provided the database used to determine what content the app should block.

Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program has potential for massive disruption

Rather than a product announcement, three words, briefly mentioned toward the end of Apple’s event last week could change the wireless industry as we know it.
The words? “Apple Upgrade Program.”
That may seem crazy, considering all the shiny new gadgets that were on display, but an iPhone upgrade program from Apple– the manufacturer itself is a huge game changer — one that could help cut costs for customers, save money and boost loyalty for Apple,  and eventually force the wireless carriers to rethink how they’re doing business.

How Apple will beat current carrier realities

Mobile device consumers are rarely confronted with the total cost of their smartphones. iOS devices, and the iPhone in particular, are toys that come with a pretty hefty price tag. Right now a 64GB iPhone 6 costs $650 unlocked via the retail site. Add Apple Care Plus and a two-year protection plan and you’re looking at just under $800 for a mobile device that’s already considered old, having been released a year ago.  The technologically comparable Nexus 5 retails for $375. Traditionally, carriers hide this price tag. You, the consumer, give them $200 to $400 for a phone up front — with the remaining amount being recouped in instalments attached to the service contract.
Apple’s Upgrade Program offers a different path by allowing consumers to buy the phone directly from Apple with instalment pricing. The iPhone 6S can access “23 LTE bands” which is tech-speak for the fact that it can talk to nearly any 4G LTE network available today. That, in turn, means consumers no longer need to buy the Verizon (CDMA) or AT&T (GSM) version of the phone. Instead they get their phone from Apple and take it to whichever carrier they want. Without a contract, wireless consumers can switch from one carrier to another as they see fit, carrying their phone with them the entire time.
The plan is simple but the potential for disruption is absolutely huge. Let’s look at the business implications.
iPhone Pricing

Killing the long-term contract model

During the last several years, long-term contract plans have been dying off in favor of devices that allow you to prepay the service fees through a no frills wireless carrier. While large players like Verizon and AT&T continue to battle for the top spot in post-paid consumer wireless contracts, they’re also chasing the little guy. Let’s not forget that low cost carriers like Cricket, Boost Mobile, Virgin and Metro PCS have been gobbled up in the last few years by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (respectively), as these 3 of the big 4 carriers have sought to grow their wireless subscriber numbers.
Apple’s upgrade program allows users that would have normally renewed a contract with the big carriers to go off-contract, and seek the best deal they can find with their iPhone. Without being able to lock consumers into contracts for the hottest new phone, carriers will need to compete with one another on the speed and amount of wireless data offered (Imagine that). As we’ve seen in so many industries, that sort of competition on commodity services could very well lead the carriers toward a race to the bottom.

International roaming fees? No thanks

As discussed, Apple’s Upgrade Plan for the iPhone 6S means wireless customers have phones that are truly unlocked. Not only can they choose a new carrier month-after-month in the U.S., they can also take their phone abroad — and, rather than pay for a costly international mobile data package, they can buy a local sim card to take advantage of cheap prices for local data. With AT&T currently charging $100 for 30 days access to unlimited messaging and 800MB of international roaming data, Apple’s Upgrade Plan allows savvy consumers to completely circumvent a profit center for the big carriers.

Creating Apple-focused rather than carrier-focused mobile customers.

Buying an iPhone in an Apple Store has been a regular practice for consumers since 2008 when the iPhone 3G debuted. Over time, however, the consumer’s link to their contract carrier meant walking into the AT&T or Verizon store from time to time to adjust or upgrade their plans. But once within the walls of a carrier store, consumers were susceptible to up-sells to non-iPhone devices, accessories and more. Users interested in Apple’s Upgrade Program will only be able to take advantage of the deal in Apple retail stores, where they’ll be enticed by Apple watches and other premium goods on those infamous wooden tables and white-washed shelves. The carriers could very well see a significant source of incremental retail traffic dry up as the Apple Store becomes the only store that consumers frequent for their wireless needs.
iPhone 6S - Rose Gold Selfie

Goodbye grey market

Typically, when a consumer is interested in upgrading early, they sell their previous iPhone on a site like Ebay or make use of one of several online businesses that will pay the user for their old phone and then flip that phone by selling it overseas or elsewhere online for a profit.
But with Apple’s Upgrade Program, the hassle of recouping the cost of an old phone is completely removed for consumers. While the program itself is designed to leave users with a fully paid iPhone after 24 months, those who wish to get their hands on the new iPhone can renew their obligation to Apple every 12 months. That means there’s no need to list the device on Ebay or Craigslist, get it appraised by a third-party purchaser (like Gazelle), or deal with the logistics of shipping. Consumers hand over an old device to the manufacturer, the manufacturer hands them a new (better) version.
In this way, the Upgrade Program allows Apple to better maintain the supply of iPhones on the open market, which means Apple has better control on resale value and pricing. Apple has more access to refurbished products, which it can sell to emerging markets at costs that may actually be lower than what third-party resellers would pay.

From cradle to grave: Vertically integrated efficiency

Finally, there’s huge potential upside for Cupertino if the the Apple Upgrade Program takes off: Recycling.
It takes a lot more work (read: resources, energy, money, time) to scout, mine and refine 7000 Series aluminum than it does to recycle it. Let’s get back to that logistical machinery. Tim Cook didn’t rise to the rank of CEO because he was some MBA that looked good in a suit. You may recall that Cook ran Apple’s worldwide operations for more than a decade; first as an SVP and then as COO, before assuming the top job at Apple. Regardless of his title, Cook’s role was to determine how to most efficiently build and source the necessary materials. The Apple Upgrade Program falls directly in line with that mission.
When the iPhone 7 comes out, presumably in fall of 2016, Apple’s Upgrade Program consumers will have the opportunity to turn in their iPhone 6S devices and walk away with Cupertino’s new hot toy. Apple can choose to refurbish and repair these older devices, or send them to factories where they can be dismantled — at an incredible scale– using the parts and materials for future iPhone 7s, iPhone 8s, iPads, Macs or any other devices that can take advantage of them.
Remember– “Apple products are made in the most environmentally free way possible,” which means not only being free of harmful toxins like mercury and beryllium, but also being made of “highly recyclable” materials like aluminum and glass. Let’s not forget that all smartphones and other popular electronic devices depend on hard-to-find elements known as rare-earth metals like Neodymium, which are always in short supply. Apple can produce newer devices more cheaply, using discarded devices to source these materials. Such action could keep costs down while continuing to move margins up.

Is leasing/early upgrading the future of Apple’s iPhone business?

As is the case in Hollywood, the technology industry loves a sequel. The iPhone, of course, is no exception. As Apple debuted their ninth iPhone, the iPhone 6S, it became clear that while the device was compelling to consumers, Apple’s leadership team has become laser focused on squeezing as much revenue as they can out of their flagship product. Whether it’s driving users to their store with the promise of cheaply accessible gadgets via a lease model, or recycling the valuable materials within the phones, Apple is in the business of making money by optimizing the way they not only build, but sell devices.

iOS 9 reveals Apple’s bold, beautiful anti-web vision

Apple’s iOS 9 is here! In case you hadn’t heard. (Spoiler: yes, you should download it. Just go to Settings > General > Software Update.) And while the new operating system may not look much different than the previous version, under the hood there are several noticeable improvements.
More importantly, iOS 9 is the fullest realization yet of Apple’s intention to reduce all of the Internet to just one more app. Changes to Spotlight, Siri, News, and Maps all point to Apple’s inexorable move away from the gritty, glorious, ad-driven, sponsor-riddled, open and often-scary Internet. Think of it like being at a Starbucks, but for your entire digital life.
But, first, the nuts and bolts.

Low power mode

iOS 9 Low Power Mode

A screenshot showing off the new setting in Apple’s iOS 9 that allows you to reduce the power consumption needs for iPhones and iPads.

Apple suggests most iOS 9 users can expect up to an additional hour of service on a full charge. My mileage using the beta version was, frankly, never this good, though beta versions rarely hit the benchmark.  The big improvement, however, comes when using the new “Low Power Mode” — and it reveals some serious software-hardware programming chops.
Turn low power mode on and your device will limit how often it checks for mail or refreshes apps, and will limit automatic downloads. Brightness and some visual effects are also reduced or turned off completely. Bottom line is that you will notice a major improvement in battery life.
(The yellow battery icon tells you the device is running in Low Power Mode.)
Caution: this will make your device seem much slower. You may wish to turn Low Power Mode on only when you absolutely need to keep the device running for as long as possible. Luckily, Apple has cleverly designed this feature so that you are alerted to turn it on when your device is at 20 percent power, and again at 10 percent power.
Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode

Content blocking

While numerous tech bloggers have already opined on the disruptive and revolutionary impact of ad blockers that iOS 9 now supports, I am less convinced. Ads on smartphone screens are already far less common than on laptops. Plus, iPhone users have Safari, whose cleverly labeled “reader view” feature removes ads and other fluff. My fear is the new raft of ad blockers, which will now be offered via the App Store, will only encourage more sponsor-based content — ads and promotions masking itself as news.
The one area where ad blockers will definitely improve life for iOS users is in making for significantly faster page downloads. Before you download an ad blocker, you’ll need to enable the service.
Settings > Safari > Content Blockers

iOS 9 - Spotlight SearchiOS 9 makes Spotlight more useful. It also further reveals Apple’s intent to keep us inside our device, and not out on the open web. Swipe right to bring up the Spotlight search box. Type or dictate a search and Apple will pull information not just from the web but from your messages, email, calendar, Wikipedia, and all your apps.
It’s a bit disconcerting realizing there is so much information locked inside your device. No worries. You choose exactly which apps to include in your search.
Settings > General > Spotlight Search

A more proactive, faster, & better Siri

When you swipe to search, you’ll notice another big change. Siri will offer up favorite restaurants, news headlines, even contacts that it thinks you may wish to access based on prior usage. These change based on time, location and usage.
Siri on iOS 9 certainly seems faster, and it’s definitely less prone to errors. This is particularly so when used in conjunction with Apple’s pre-installed apps. For example, using Siri to set reminders, create a note, or add a calendar alert are now to the point where it becomes second nature — and far easier than typing.
Plus, Siri has gotten smarter. It will now know who to call when you ask it to “call Mom,” for example. It also makes great use of the geotags in your photos (e.g. “show me pictures from my 2014 trip to the Grand Canyon). Siri is like Microsoft’s vision of Bing, but on a device that 500 million people carry with them all the time.
Lastly, Siri recognizes your voice — a hint that Apple intends to put Siri on all its devices, maybe even select third-party devices. It takes just a few seconds to set up. This should limit errors when more than one person shouts “hey, Siri.” No, it probably won’t matter for your iPhone, but for more “communal” devices like iPad and Apple TV, it should prove helpful.
Settings > General > Siri 

Wi-Fi Assist

We’ve all experienced this far too many times: The app doesn’t refresh because iPhone insists on trying to use a Wi-Fi connection that just isn’t available. Of course the device should automatically jump to LTE, but it refuses.
iOS 9 aims to fix this with Wi-Fi Assist. If the Wi-Fi network is out of reach, say it’s your home network but you’re enjoying a lovely beverage out on the deck, iPhone will now jump to cellular data.
Spoiler: it failed for me more often than it succeeded. This is still a huge improvement.
Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Assist

Is that a back button? Yes! And it’s not an error. Nor is it an Android device.
As you shift from app to app, iOS 9 now includes a “Back to” link at the top left of the screen. Click a link inside Twitter that takes you to Safari, for example, and now you can click “Back to Twitter” instead of exiting Safari and opening up Twitter again. It’s a small time-saver, and long overdue.

iPad Split Screen

With iOS 9, iPad users now have true split-screen, multitasking functionality. The new “Slide Over” and “Split View” functionality let you have two apps open at the same time.
Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 4.15.38 PM
There’s also a new “Picture in Picture” feature lets you play a video on part of the screen. Unfortunately, picture in picture does not yet work with Netflix, Hulu or a host of other video players, so for now it’s value is limited.
Also note, all these features only work on the new iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad Mini 4, and not at all on iPhones.


Apple Maps continues to improve. The iOS 9 version includes transit data within the app that incorporates multiple stops and multiple mass transit options (e.g. bus, subway, walking). This is probably the best new feature of Maps. Unfortunately, for now it’s available only in select cities.
There’s also a Yelp-like ” feature where you can click on “food” or “shopping” icons within the Maps app and it directs you to nearby options.
These new features are quite useful. However, if you want me to say it’s now the equal of Google Maps, I can’t.

Apple’s News app

Apple News app
With iOS 9, Apple adds another app that’s nearly impossible to get rid of — News. Unlike many of the other default apps, however, News is super useful. Also, the app’s design is as pretty as it is fast.
While it probably won’t cause any long-time Zite or Flipboard users to switch, for most newer users News is likely to become the first and possibly primary source for where they read the day’s news. Again, it’s all about preventing users from venturing onto the web.
With the addition of News, Apple has forged a new strategy aimed at publishers — one that’s far more likely to succeed than the Newsstand app, Apple’s failed attempt at revitalizing the business of digital magazines.

Why don’t you have iOS 9 yet?

A better battery, a better Siri, and faster performance, all in a free upgrade. That’s huge. iOS 9 is a clear improvement over whatever version of iOS you’ve been using, and there’s still more to it than all that’s covered here. There are more sharing options, improvements to notes, a keyboard that actually tells you when you have the shift key on — I know! — and fun new emoji. Oh, wait. Apple pulled the emoji at the last second. But everything else is better.
For those of you worried about hard drive space, that shouldn’t be a problem. iOS 9 is just over 1GB, far less than iOS 8 which clocked in at over 4GB, over 25 percent of the total space entry-level iPhones came with.
If you’re not sure your device will run on iOS 9, Apple has all the details here.
Oh, and do remember to backup your device first. Not doing so before installing an OS update is never wise.

Ad blocking is not enough: 3 challenges Apple will face in pushing iAd

Gilad is the founder and CEO of Moburst. 
Back in 2010 when Apple first launched its advertising platform, the company made the festive promise to capture 50 percent of the market. Today, Apple admits to a somewhat misguided vision and iAd’s position in the mobile advertising field can thus be summoned in two words: unfulfilled potential.
Apple’s recent decision to block ads from iOS 9 allows the company to force mobile marketers to place advertisements through its own network. This decision follows a series of moves made by the company in the past year that are all meant to promote iAd. Such steps include introducing programmatic iAd buys for iTunes Radio, a collaboration with Rubicon and AdRoll for ad automation and retargeting, launching iAd in over 100 countries and integrating Apple Pay to allow for direct purchasing.
These steps are beneficial if Apple’s goal is to make the most out of iPhone advertising, but they are no way near enough if the company is interested in taking over the mobile marketing field as a whole, and as we know, Apple is not one to settle for second place.
And so, before we announce Apple as the new dominant force in advertising, we must first consider the company’s corporate DNA and values, the inevitable clash between them, and what it takes in order to make it big in this arena. The following list presents three interesting challenges that Apple is expected to face on this new path, and how dealing with these challenges would affect app developers and marketers.

Keep your enemies closer

On Apple’s way to become a force to be reckoned with in the mobile advertising field, the company will have to go behind enemy lines. Android devices make up over 80 percent of the market and ignoring Android is more than just giving up a market share – it’s basically giving up. If Apple will decide to bring iAd to the competing OS, it will require more than a few adjustments for the company to succeed where we least expect it.

Battle of the giants

Apple is entering a field that is not only ultra-lucrative, but also extremely competitive, which happens to be dominated by Google – the queen of advertising. The competition between the two will now reach a new level and get very real and even more brutal. The two titans are joined by Facebook and the result is a gladiator’s match, with developers and marketers as the crowd.

Getting personal

For mobile marketers, the real goldmine in iAd is access to users’ personal data. The company could provide advertisers with a way to reach customers far more precisely, and get unique and sought-after value. The problem here is that Apple is known for being very protective of its users’ privacy, poking fun at Google for turning the users into the product. Before Apple can make such a drastic change, though, the company will first have to get off its high horse.
Apple will have to loosen up its tight grip on user data for this advantage to go from potentially great to great. Even if such a move will cause a certain level of antagonism on the users’ side, for marketers and developers this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The said challenges are never simple, and in this case Apple’s size could interfere with making drastic changes that require flexibility. It’s not easy for Apple to stop being… well, Apple. Despite the worries surrounding Apple’s latest move, mobile marketers can also feel the anticipation and excitement in the air. The mobile arena is never boring, but things are about to become more intense and interesting than ever.
Gilad Bechar is the Founder & CEO of Moburst, a global mobile marketing agency helping first tier startups and brands grow their mobile business. 

Gaming isn’t Apple TV’s priority, and that’s okay

We’ve been told a hundred ways to Sunday that Apple TV is coming for consoles.

Plenty thought that yesterday would be the day that Apple would make the big gaming announcement that would strike fear into the hearts of Microsoft and Sony’s console teams. But that’s not exactly what happened.

Sure, games are coming to Apple TV. In fact, the way in which games are coming to Apple TV is pretty cool. But Apple TV is not a gaming-first platform, and it’s not a console killer.

Apple TV is a set-top entertainment platform with apps and gaming capabilities, not a gaming-first app-enabled console. And that’s an important distinction. It’s not about to threaten consoles or gaming PCs, and probably not even gaming on iPhones. If Apple TV is going to capture any portion of the gaming market, it will be casual gamers and even then, inspiring those  who game to put down their phones and pick up the Apple TV remote to play may be a tall order. Apple TV may very well upset the likes of Fire TV and micro consoles, but it’s difficult to see it posing much of a threat to robust gaming systems when it itself is very much…not.

To put it bluntly, customers won’t turn up in droves to purchase Apple TV for the games; they’ll come for the interface and for the video content. For the foreseeable future, Apple TV will remain what it has always been in the eyes of the market: a set-top box for primarily Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc. Now, it’s just better. More powerful, more versatile, more searchable and stuffed with more content and apps, some of which happen to be games.

In all likelihood, people will indeed play games on Apple TV, but the gaming experience seems to be one designed around brief and social gaming, not prolonged and immersed console-style gaming. Games like Crossy Road, with its multiplayer functionality and the intentional brevity of its experiences, are well-suited for incidental social and casual gaming, and for exactly that reason, a perfect fit for a set-top box that lives in your living room. Apple TV feels very much like a platform that’s built for casual and social gaming experiences, from the simplified game mechanics to the intuitive and very uncontroller-like controller.

Apple TV’s default controller is its remote–the same remote you use to turn the volume up and down and flick through your Netflix queue. Equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope and touch surface that acts as a directional pad, the new remote is powerful and kind of makes you wonder why every other remote you own is so big when it does so little. The Apple TV remote works much like the Wii remote of yore, interpreting speed, direction, and motion as you move it around in space to do things like swing bats and steer cars.

Third party controller and Apple TV remote

Third party controller and Apple TV remote

In addition to the remote, Apple is also opening up the platform to third-party controllers in what feels like something of an un-Apple move. Whether or not third party controllers become a popular part of the Apple TV gaming experience remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that Apple would welcome third parties into a revenue stream that it thought would be significant.

There may be games that will feel faster and more fluid on controllers. There may even be games designed around the idea of the controller experience on Apple TV. But for the most part, the controller experience will likely appeal to a relatively narrow crossover audience of “gamers who are familiar and comfortable with traditional console controllers” and “gamers who will buy Apple TV with the intention of gaming on it.” And really, that gets right to the heart of why Apple TV isn’t going to be console killer or the be-all, end-all of casual gaming or much of anything at all, really, in the traditional gaming space: because so-called “hardcore gamers” aren’t going to get excited about it.

Apple TV doesn’t have the titles to draw gamers to Apple TV and away from their consoles and PCs. While bringing previously console-only titles to Apple TV is a pretty big power move, console games are still a very different animal, and it likely goes without saying that Apple TV’s specs don’t hold a candle to the consoles when it comes to graphics and performance. Apple TV’s games are casual at their core, and limited space and third party app restrictions will likely mean that they’re perpetually on the “lite” side of the spectrum.

You aren’t likely to see too many existing iOS games ported over to Apple TV in a hurry, though. As 9to5Mac points out, the restrictions Apple’s placed on developers for Apple TV with regards to the use of local storage mean that many will have to completely restructure the way in which their games load content. Here’s the clause in question from Apple’s App Programming Guide for tvOS:

There is no persistent local storage for apps on Apple TV. This means that every app developed for the new Apple TV must be able to store data in iCloud and retrieve it in a way that provides a great customer experience.

Along with the lack of local storage, the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB. Anything beyond this size needs to be packaged and loaded using on-demand resources. Knowing how and when to load new assets while keeping your users engaged is critical to creating a successful app. For information on on-demand resources, see On-Demand Resources Guide“. 

That stipulation, paired with the restriction on app size, means that developers are going to have to do some serious adjusting in order to get their games on Apple TV. For the sake of context, the exceedingly popular iOS game Monument Valley packs a 261.9MB punch, and heavyweights République and Infinity Blade both weigh in at a hefty 1GB. Putting these games on Apple TV isn’t some kind of impossible feat, but restructuring asset loading will require developers to refactor massive amounts of code in order to make their games Apple TV-compliant.

In many ways, Apple TV’s gaming functionality seems like the antithesis to console systems. It’s all about shorter, social gaming, not the prolonged and immersive experiences often found in console games. And that’s okay. Consoles and Apple TV intentionally inhabit very different spaces within the gaming world. There are many ways to be a “gamer”, and many, many gamers prefer casual gaming experiences. The big question mark is whether or not casual gamers have any real desire to take their games from their phones and tablets to their televisions.

Maybe they will. Maybe Apple will find a way to make some money on that portion of the causal gaming market. Maybe we’ll see more games cropping up around the idea of social gaming with iPhones and the “remote controller.” Maybe it’s enough to be a set-top box with games that seem more like just another feature than a selling point. But any way you swipe, tap, or spin it, Apple TV is only a casual threat in the gaming space. For now.

Why enterprise will choose iPad Pro over Microsoft’s Surface

Just two years ago, Apple chief executive Tim Cook took pot shots at the rise of 2-in-1 tablets, and claimed the iPad was a far better option for anyone seeking a tablet. Oh, how things change — Apple now has a similar product, the iPad Pro.
And perhaps surprisingly, it is the iPad Pro, not Microsoft’s Surface tablet, that will be popping up in cubicles everywhere this time next year — despite Apple’s history of ignoring the decidedly-unsexy-but-still-lucrative enterprise market.
The iPad Pro is much larger than its predecessor, and was designed to work with a new Smart Keyboard and a glorified stylus called Apple Pencil. It’s basically an SUV: not strong enough for some tasks, but packed full of useful features.

A look at the iPad Pro's Apple Keyboard attachment, which allows the tablet to double as a laptop.

A look at the iPad Pro’s Apple Keyboard attachment, which allows the tablet to double as a laptop.

The iPad Pro is a lot like Microsoft’s Surface product. Both feature displays that seem just a little too large to be convenient, both were designed with keyboard covers in mind, and both have gone to great lengths to convince people they should opt to spend between $49 and $99 on a stylus. There is one important difference, though: the iPad Pro is an iPad, and Surface products are not.
That might sound facetious, but it’s an important distinction. Apple isn’t trying to sell a new product to the enterprise customers it so obviously wants to attract with the iPad Pro. It’s trying to sell them an iPad (which many of those potential customers probably use outside of work) that was built with them in mind. Microsoft tried to establish something new; Apple is expanding a popular product — and that’s how it’s approaching enterprise.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that 70 percent of the smartphones and tablets used by enterprise workers bear Apple’s logo, according to a recent report by CompTIA . People are already using iPads for work, even though the device was designed as a vehicle for enjoying content instead of a workhorse machine. Apple’s decision to capitalize on that popularity with a new device should hardly come as a surprise.
It doesn’t hurt that analysts believe the iPad’s growth, which has slowed in recent years, will be bolstered by increasing popularity in the enterprise. Forrester Research said earlier this year that it expects business-owned tablets to represent 20 percent of the total segment by 2018; that’s a large increase over the 14 percent of the tablet market is owned by businesses this year.
All of which means that Apple products represent a large portion of a growing market segment — and that was when the company focused almost exclusively on the consumer market. If the iPad found a place in enterprise when its claim to fame was HBO Now, imagine how well it could do now that it comes with a dedicated keyboard accessory and what appears to be a rather capable stylus.
The iPad Pro is the latest example of Apple doing what it does best: waiting for its competitors to fizzle out in a market, designing a product that reinvigorates interest in the category, and then acting like those other products never even existed. The company even had a strange ally in creating that illusion: Microsoft executive Kirk Koenigsbauer, the corporate vice president of the Office division.
Koenigsbauer took the stage yesterday to show off how Microsoft’s Office productivity suite planned to support the new iPad Pro. He showed some interesting things, like PowerPoint turning doodles into presentation-worthy shapes, and expressed his employer’s excitement over Apple’s new tablet. That’s right — a Microsoft executive helped present a product that directly competes with Surface.  And since software is far more lucrative for Microsoft than hardware sales, I’m sure the company is extremely happy Apple is finally catering more toward workplaces with the iPad Pro.
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the company's new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the company’s new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

‘Apple tax’ vs. perceived value

Surface has just one advantage over the iPad Pro: its price. Buying a Surface Pro 3 with 128GB of storage, a Surface Pen, and the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover will cost at least $1,029 before tax. An equivalent iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard will cost at least $1,218. (There are cheaper options available, but these two are the most comparable, at least for our purposes.)
That’s the stereotypical “Apple Tax” that has allowed the company to make more money than its competitors. The iPad Pro will cost more, sure, but it also has access to the App Store, a bigger and better display, and other features that put it ahead of the Surface Pro 3. I suspect many people will be willing to pay extra for those features and the ability to keep everything inside Apple’s ecosystem.
There have already been jokes about Apple getting credit for something Microsoft released three years ago. (And they aren’t too far off the mark!) Apple basically just announced its take on the Microsoft Surface after it spent years pooh-poohing the idea of using a stylus or of using one device to fill various functions instead of buying an iPad, an iPhone, and a Mac for their separate roles.
Like I said, this is what Apple does best. It watches others fail, then it releases its own product and makes ungodly amounts of money on products that establish their categories in the public conscience. Before the iPhone there was BlackBerry. Before the iPad there were Microsoft tablets. Before the Apple Watch there was Pebble. And before the iPad Pro there was the Microsoft Surface. If the Pro follows the same historical pattern, it’ll probably be a knockout hit.

Apple eyes the office with new iPad Pro, its tablet workhorse

We may have known it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

Just after a quick update on Apple Watch during Apple’s live event, CEO Tim Cook announced what he called “the biggest iPad news in iPad since iPad.”

iPad Pro's screen measures 12.9 inches diagonally

iPad Pro’s screen measures 12.9 inches diagonally

iPad Pro. Apple’s Phil Schiller gave us a rundown of the new addition to the iPad line.

Predictably, it’s bigger. A lot bigger.

At 12.9 inches, the width of the iPad Pro’s display is the same as the height of the iPad Air 2’s. In fact, that kind of screen real estate brings iPad Pro’s display awfully close to that of a 13-inch Macbook Pro (obviously).


Side-by-side of iPad Air 2 and the new iPad Pro

So, what’s Apple doing with all of that room?

Well, for starters, the company is putting a new chip behind it. iPad Pro will be powered by Apple’s new 64-bit A9X processor, which is seriously quick –up to 1.8 times faster than its predecessor, the A8X. What does that mean, exactly?

Well, to put it simply, it means that this processor puts iPad firmly in the realm of desktop-class performance, with graphics that perform in console-class. Which is great, but also a necessity considering where Apple is trying to position this model.

It’s a 2-in-1 or “detachable” tablet, rather than the “slate” style (like every other iPad model). These 2-in-1 tablets are designed to be extremely productive devices meant to complete tasks normally outsourced to desktop and laptop computers.

In order to make iPad Pro a device that can bridge the divide between the power of a desktop computer and the portability of a tablet, Apple had to go beyond a big screen and a quick processor, though.

A big part of using a desktop/laptop computer is typing, which has never been ideal on iPad (or any other “slate” tablet). Now, iPad Pro has a full-size software keyboard, which should make typing on-screen faster, easier, and a bit more natural.

Still, typing on a touchscreen is far from ideal. So, Apple also announced the first in a handful of new accessories: the Smart Keyboard, a detachable keyboard with keys that feature the same technology unveiled in the new Macbook.


Apple’s Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro

That brings us to the other peripheral Apple announced in conjunction with iPad Pro: Apple Pencil.

An illustration of the inside of the Apple Pencil.

An illustration of the inside of the Apple Pencil.

Yeah, it looks like a stylus. But it isn’t. (No, really!)

Though it functions much like a stylus (aka a dumb pen-shaped solid object with a soft tip at one end) on the surface, Apple Pencil’s tip is full of sensors that allow greater control for applications like drawing, writing, and annotating.

A key component of iPad’s productivity boost is iOS 9 (available September 16th), which will allow you to make use of that massive screen with multitasking features like easy app-switching, the “split view” that lets you view and work in two applications at once, and the picture-in-a-picture feature that allows you to watch videos whilst you work in another app.

Though iPad Pro is big and an unprecedented kind of powerful, it remains relatively lean. The new model is just 6.9mm thick, compared to iPad Air’s 6.1mm. Though it’s considerably heavier at 1.57 lbs., iPad Pro is still extremely portable.

At a time when we’re all increasingly fed up with toting around heavy laptops and chargers, iPad Pro may prove a force to be reckoned with. While its 10-hour battery life may not hold a candle to iPhone, it’s far better than the battery lives of most laptops, and it’s much easier to haul.

Of course, that’s not to say long-time Apple fans won’t have something to say about the Pro — namely how the split screen view and not-stylus stylus (aka the Apple Pencil) are things Apple founder Steve Jobs wasn’t a fan of when it came to tablet innovation. But the Pro also isn’t intended primarily for consumers, either. It is, perhaps, the company’s most direct attempt to court enterprise customers to date.

iPad Pro will be available in November. The 32GB model starts at $800 with the 64GB model coming in at $949, and the 128GB model at $1079.

Apple CEO: ‘The future of TV is apps’

Apple today announced a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, which features a touch-sensitive remote and a shiny new user interface design that has integration with the company’s digital voice assistant Siri.
The news came during the company’s annual Fall media event, for which Siri was intended to be in the spotlight. While the event is still happening, thus far it seems like adding Siri to the new Apple TV is exactly what it was trying to hype.

Apple giving a demo of how digital voice assistant Siri functions on the Apple TV.

Apple giving a demo of how digital voice assistant Siri functions on the Apple TV.

During a live demonstration, Apple showed how seemingly easy it is to use Siri when navigating through various programming. For simple navigation, the touch-gestures should do the trick, but for more complex instructions like finding a movie or TV show to watch with children, Siri might be better. [Upon further reflection, I can understand why Apple would have difficulty getting TV networks to sign up for that rumored streaming service its planning. With the new Apple TV, you don’t really need to navigate via channel or by network. You navigate directly to the content you want, sometimes found within an app. It lessens the influence of the TV programmers, while leaving the best part (the content).]
Apple TV's new remote.

Apple TV’s new remote.

Speaking of the remote, it’s finally something worthy of the company Steve Jobs built. As you’ll see in the image above, the top of the remote is devoted to touch gestures. It maintains the simplicity of the last version of the remote with just a few buttons — Menu, Airplay, Siri/Voice control, play/pause, and surprisingly an option to adjust the volume. And to top it off, the remote has a lighting cable port at the bottom — presumably for charging (3 months per charge) and connecting to other devices.
Apple also announced that Apple TV will be running on a new operating system, tvOS — which will finally give developers the ability to create their own apps that are intended for television screens rather than mobile devices or desktops. This is something both developers and consumers have been clamoring for since at least the introduction of the Apple TV itself. Those apps will also have continuity with other existing apps on iOS and OS X, according to the company.
There were a few attempts to show how diverse the Apple TV could be with third-party applications, most notably with a new Major League Baseball app that provides easy access to stats while watching a live game. It’s also worth pointing out that with the addition of an Apple TV app store, Apple just made a play to become a console for casual gamers. This is something that Google’s Android TV platform hasn’t quite mastered, and Amazon’s Fire TV hasn’t done much better. (More on that later.)
Unlike the previous three models, Apple appears to have reversed its decision to eliminate the need for storage (probably because of its push into gaming). The new model has two options: a 32Gb version for $150 and a 64Gb version for $200. The new Apple TV should hit shelves in late October, the company says.