Old Steve Jobs email finally confirms Apple was working on an “iPhone nano”

The back of the iPhone 12 mini

Enlarge / The iPhone 12 mini. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Last year, the iPhone 12 mini flopped—a setback for lovers of small flagship phones designed for one-handed use. But as anyone who has been following Apple for years knows, former CEO Steve Jobs was an advocate for small phones. Now, thanks to an email written by Jobs in 2010, we know that Apple was at one time working on an “iPhone nano.”

This year, Epic Games and Apple have been locked in a legal battle over the future of the iPhone’s app ecosystem. During those legal proceedings, several emails sent within Apple over the years have been made public. Most of the press coverage about these emails so far has focused on various statements by Apple executives decrying sideloading, but we all knew Apple leaders’ feelings about that subject already.

Now, though, we’ve learned something about the company’s one-time product plans in an email first discovered and analyzed this week by The Verge. Jobs wrote and sent the email, which shows an agenda for an executive meeting about Apple’s 2011 product plans, in 2010. Here’s the relevant excerpt, with an explicit reference to an iPhone nano at the end:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#apple, #epic-vs-apple, #iphone, #iphone-nano, #jonathan-ive, #jony-ive, #steve-jobs, #tech

Walter Isaacson is working on a biography of Elon Musk

Walter Isaacson, the biographer who chronicled the lives of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo Da Vinci, is turning his attention to the life and career of Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO announced the project in a tweet Wednesday.

Musk said that Isaacson has shadowed him “for several days so far,” though he later added that an autobiography might still be in the cards one day. It’s unclear when the book will be released or how far along Isaacson is in the project. His biography on Steve Jobs (aptly titled “Steve Jobs) took over two years and included interviews with more than 100 of Jobs’ peers.

Musk has been the subject of a number of books, but Isaacson is the most high-profile biographer yet to take on his story. The author is currently a professor at Tulane University and was previously the CEO of the Aspen Institute and the CEO of CNN. Isaacson appeared onstage at TechCrunch’s Disrupt in 2014.

Other books on Musk’s life and work include Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, which Musk participated in; Ed Niedermeyer’s “Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors” and this month’s release of Tim Higgins’ “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century.

The comment came in the midst of a brief back-and-forth about a section of “Power Play” describing a particularly spicy interaction between him and Apple CEO Tim Cook. The conversation, which Higgins reported in his book took place over the phone, was over Cook’s purported interest in acquiring Tesla back in 2016. As Higgins tells it, Musk tells Cook he’s interested, but on the condition that he be instated as CEO of Apple – to which Cook replies, “F—you.”

Musk maintained in a tweet that he and Cook have never spoken or written to each other. Higgins replied that the anecdote came from people who reported as hearing Musk’s recounting of the conversation at the time. He added that Musk was given plenty of opportunities to comment on the anecdote. “He didn’t,” he said.

#automotive, #elon-musk, #space, #spacex, #steve-jobs, #tesla, #transportation, #walter-isaacson

Apple TV to support using HomePod Mini as speakers, among other updates

Apple didn’t announce that rumored combined Apple TV device that would combine the set-top box with a HomePod speaker during its WWDC keynote, but it did announce a few features that will improve the Apple TV experience — including one that involves a HomePod Mini. Starting this fall, Apple said you’ll be able to select the HomePod Mini as the speaker for your Apple TV 4K. It also introduced a handful of software updates for Apple TV users, including a new way to see shows everyone in the family will like, and support for co-watching shows through FaceTime.

The co-watching feature is actually a part of a larger FaceTime update, which will let users stream music, TV, and screen share through their FaceTime calls. The Apple TV app is one of those that’s supported through this new system, called SharePlay. It will now include a new “Shared with You” row that highlights the shows and movies your friends are sharing, as well.

Another feature called “For All of You” will display a collection of shows and movies based on everyone’s interests within Apple TV’s interface. This is ideal you’re planning to watch something as a family — like for movie night, for example. And you can fine tune the suggestions based on who’s watching.

A new Apple TV widget is also being made available, which now includes iPad support.

And the new support for HomePod Mini will help deliver “rich, balanced sound” and “crystal clear dialog,” when you’re watching Apple TV with the Mii set up as your speakers, Apple said.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

#apple-inc, #apple-tv, #apps, #computing, #facetime, #homekit, #homepod, #ios, #ipad, #smart-speakers, #steve-jobs, #tablet-computers, #technology, #wwdc-2021

In search of a new crypto deity

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, I wrote about tech taking on Disney. This week, I’m talking about the search for a new crypto messiah.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


The Big Thing

Elon has worn out his welcome among the crypto illuminati, and the acolytes of Bitcoin are searching out a new emperor god king.

This weekend, thousands of crypto acolytes and investors have descended on a Bitcoin-themed conference in Miami, a very real, very heavily-produced conference sporting crypto celebrities and actual celebrities all on a mission to make waves.

Even though I am not at the conference in person (panels from its main stage were live-streamed online), I have plenty of invites in my email for afterparties featuring celebrities, open bars and endless conversations on the perils of fiat. The cryptocurrency community has never been larger or richer thanks to its most fervent bull run yet, and despite a pretty noteworthy correction in the past few weeks, people believe the best is yet to come.

Despite having so much, what they still seem to be lacking is a patron saint.

For the longest bout, that was SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk who bolstered the currency by pushing Tesla to invest cash on its balance sheet into bitcoin, while also pushing for Tesla to accept bitcoin payments for its vehicles. As I’ve noted in this newsletter in the past, Musk had a tough time reconciling the sheer energy use of bitcoin’s global network with his eco warrior bravado which has seemed to lead to his mild and uneven excommunication (though I’m sure he’s welcome back at any time).

There are plenty of celebrities looking to fill his shoes — a recent endorsement gone wrong by Soulja Boy was one of the more comical instances.

Crypto has been no stranger to grift — of that even the most hardcore crypto grifters can likely agree — and I think there’s been some agreement that the only leader who can truly preach the gospel is someone who is already so rich they don’t even need more money. It’s one reason the community has offered up so much respect for Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who truly doesn’t seem to care too much about getting any wealthier — he donated about $1 billion worth of crypto to Covid relief efforts in India. A Musk-like cheerleader serves a different purpose though, and so the community is in search of a Good Billionaire.

The best runner-up at the moment appears to be one Jack Dorsey, and while — like Musk — he is also another double-CEO, he is quite a bit different from him in demeanor and desire for the spotlight. He was, however, a headline speaker at Miami’s Bitcoin conference.

Dorsey gathers the most headlines for his work at Twitter but it’s Square where he is pushing most of his crypto enthusiasm. Users can already use Square’s Cash App to buy Bitcoin. Minutes before going onstage Friday, Dorsey tweeted out a thread detailing that Square was interested in building its own hardware wallet that users could store cryptocurrency like bitcoin on outside of the confines of an exchange.

“Bitcoin changes absolutely everything,” Dorsey said onstage. “I don’t think there is anything more important in my lifetime to work on.”

And while the billionaire Dorsey seems like a good choice on paper — he tweets about bitcoin often, but only good tweets. He defends its environmental effects. He shows up to House misinformation hearings with a bitcoin tracker clearly visible in the background. He is also unfortunately the CEO of Twitter, a company that’s desire to reign in its more troublesome users — including one very troublesome user — has caused a rift between him and the crypto community’s very vocal libertarian sect.

Dorsey didn’t make it very far into his speech before a heckler made a scene calling him a hypocrite because of all this with a few others piping in, but like any good potential crypto king would know to do, he just waited quietly for the noise to die down.


(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Other things 

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Facebook’s Trump ban will last at least 2 years
In response to the Facebook Oversight Board’s recommendations that the company offer more specificity around its ban of former President Trump, the company announced Friday that it will be banning Trump from its platforms through January 2023 at least, though the company has basically given itself the ability to extend that deadline if it so desires…

Nigeria suspends Twitter
Nigeria is shutting down access to Twitter inside the country with a government official citing the “use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Twitter called the shutdown “deeply concerning.”

Stack Overflow gets acquired for $1.8 billion
Stack Overflow, one of the most-visited sites of developers across the technology industry, was acquired by Prosus. The heavy hitter investment firm is best known for owning a huge chunk of Tencent. Stack Overflow’s founders say the site will continue to operate independently under the new management.

Spotify ups its personalization
Music service Spotify launched a dedicated section this week called Only You which aims to capture some of the personalization it has been serving up in its annual Spotify Wrapped review. Highlights of the new feature include blended playlists with friends and mid-year reviews.

Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark case
Justices from the conservative and liberal wings joined together in a landmark ruling that put limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This one email explains Apple
Here’s a fun one, the email exchange that birthed the App Store between the late Steve Jobs and SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet as annotated by my boss Matthew Panzarino.


illustration of money raining down

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

For SaaS startups, differentiation is an iterative process
“The more you know about your target customers’ pain points with current solutions, the easier it will be to stand out. Take every opportunity to learn about the people you are aiming to serve, and which problems they want to solve the most. Analyst reports about specific sectors may be useful, but there is no better source of information than the people who, hopefully, will pay to use your solution..”

3 lessons we learned after raising $6 million from 50 investors
“…being pre-product at the time, we had to lean on our experience and our vision to drive conviction and urgency among investors. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Investors either felt that our experience was a bad fit for the space we were entering (productivity/scheduling) or that our vision wasn’t compelling enough to merit investment on the terms we wanted.

The existential cost of decelerated growth
“Just because a technology startup has a hot start, that doesn’t mean it will grow quickly forever. Most will wind up somewhere in the middle — or worse. Put simply, there is a larger number of tech companies that do fine or a little bit worse after they reach scale.”

 

Again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

#analyst, #app-store, #bertrand-serlet, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #bryce-durbin, #ceo, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #digital-currencies, #elon-musk, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #india, #jack-dorsey, #king, #matthew-panzarino, #miami, #nigeria, #president, #prosus, #soulja-boy, #spacex, #spotify, #stack-overflow, #steve-jobs, #supreme-court, #svp, #tc, #technology, #tencent, #tesla, #trump, #twitter, #united-states, #vitalik-buterin, #week-in-review

This one email explains Apple

An email has been going around the internet as a part of a release of documents related to Apple’s App Store based suit brought by Epic Games. I love this email for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that you can extrapolate from it the very reasons Apple has remained such a vital force in the industry for the past decade. 

The gist of it is that SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet, sent an email in October of 2007, just three months after the iPhone was launched. In the email, Serlet outlines essentially every core feature of Apple’s App Store — a business that brought in an estimated $64B in 2020. And that, more importantly, allowed the launch of countless titanic internet startups and businesses built on and taking advantage of native apps on iPhone.

Forty five minutes after the email, Steve Jobs replies to Serlet and iPhone lead Scott Forstall, from his iPhone, “Sure, as long as we can roll it all out at Macworld on Jan 15, 2008.”

Apple University should have a course dedicated to this email. 

Here it is, shared by an account I enjoy, Internal Tech Emails, on Twitter. If you run the account let me know, happy to credit you further here if you wish:

First, we have Serlet’s outline. It’s seven sentences that outline the key tenets of the App Store. User protection, network protection, an owned developer platform and a sustainable API approach. There is a direct ask for resources — whoever we need in software engineering — to get it shipped ASAP. 

It also has a clear ask at the bottom, ‘do you agree with these goals?’

Enough detail is included in the parentheticals to allow an informed reader to infer scope and work hours. And at no point during this email does Serlet include an ounce of justification for these choices. These are the obvious and necessary framework, in his mind, for accomplishing the rollout of an SDK for iPhone developers. 

There is no extensive rationale provided for each item, something that is often unnecessary in an informed context and can often act as psychic baggage that telegraphs one of two things:

  1. You don’t believe the leader you’re outlining the project to knows what the hell they’re talking about.
  2. You don’t believe it and you’re still trying to convince yourself. 

Neither one of those is the wisest way to provide an initial scope of work. There is plenty of time down the line to flesh out rationale to those who have less command of the larger context. 

If you’re a historian of iPhone software development, you’ll know that developer Nullriver had released Installer, a third-party installer that allowed apps to be natively loaded onto iPhone, in the summer of 2007. Early September, I believe. It was followed in 2008 by the eventually far more popular Cydia. And there were developers that August and September already experimenting with this completely unofficial way of getting apps on the store, like the venerable Twitterific by Craig Hockenberry and Lights Off by Lucas Newman and Adam Betts.

Though there has been plenty of established documentation of Steve being reluctant about allowing third-party apps on iPhone, this email establishes an official timeline for when the decision was not only made but essentially fully formed. And it’s much earlier than the apocryphal discussion about when the call was made. This is just weeks after the first hacky third-party attempts had made their way to iPhone and just under two months since the first iPhone jailbreak toolchain appeared. 

There is no need or desire shown here for Steve to ‘make sure’ that his touch is felt on this framework. All too often I see leaders that are obsessed with making sure that they give feedback and input at every turn. Why did you hire those people in the first place? Was it for their skill and acumen? Their attention to detail? Their obsessive desire to get things right?

Then let them do their job. 

Serlet’s email is well written and has the exact right scope, yes. But the response is just as important. A demand of what is likely too short a timeline (the App Store was eventually announced in March of 2008 and shipped in July of that year) sets the bar high — matching the urgency of the request for all teams to work together on this project. This is not a side alley, it’s the foundation of a main thoroughfare. It must get built before anything goes on top. 

This efficacy is at the core of what makes Apple good when it is good. It’s not always good, but nothing ever is 100% of the time and the hit record is incredibly strong across a decade’s worth of shipped software and hardware. Crisp, lean communication that does not coddle or equivocate, coupled with a leader that is confident in their own ability and the ability of those that they hired means that there is no need to bog down the process in order to establish a record of involvement. 

One cannot exist without the other. A clear, well argued RFP or project outline that is sent up to insecure or ineffective management just becomes fodder for territorial games or endless rounds of requests for clarification. And no matter how effective leadership is and how talented their employees, if they do not establish an environment in which clarity of thought is welcomed and rewarded then they will never get the kind of bold, declarative product development that they wish. 

All in all, this exchange is a wildly important bit of ephemera that underpins the entire app ecosystem era and an explosive growth phase for Internet technology. And it’s also an encapsulation of the kind of environment that has made Apple an effective and brutally efficient company for so many years. 

Can it be learned from and emulated? Probably, but only if all involved are willing to create the environment necessary to foster the necessary elements above. Nine times out of ten you get moribund management, an environment that discourages blunt position taking and a muddy route to the exit. The tenth time, though, you get magic.

And, hey, maybe we can take this opportunity to make that next meeting an email?

#api, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-university, #bertrand-serlet, #crisp, #epic-games, #ios, #iphone, #mobile-app, #mobile-phones, #science-and-technology, #scott-forstall, #software-development, #software-engineering, #steve-jobs, #svp, #tc, #technology

Apple’s new iMac finally gets an actually good webcam

Apple introduced new iMacs at its event on Tuesday, outfitted with its M1 processor and redesigned inside and out from the ground up. The hardware is impressive, but one of the biggest improvements for everyone’s Zoom-heavy life might be the webcam. Apple said it’s the “best camera ever in a Mac,” which honestly wouldn’t take much, but its specs suggest it actually is a big upgrade.

The camera finally achieves 1080p video capabilities, and Apple has also equipped it with a larger sensor that should provide greatly-improved low light performance. The M1 chip has better image signal processing capabilities, and uses computational video powers to correct and improve the image on the fly, which has brought benefits to the image quality even on existing MacBook Air and MacBook Pro hardware with the same old, bad webcam equipment.

That should mean this iMac actually has really good image quality — or at least not image quality you need to be embarrassed about. The on-board machine learning processor in the M1, which Apple calls the Neural Engine, will be working in real-time to optimize lighting and do noise reduction, too.

On top of the camera, Apple touts new beam forming mics in a three-mic array that will optimize audio, focusing on your voice and eliminating background noise. All told, this should finally be a Mac that provides a videoconferencing experience that doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the early 2000s.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-spring-hardware-event-2021, #computers, #computing, #imac, #macbook, #macbook-air, #machine-learning, #steve-jobs, #tc, #teleconferencing, #webcam

Adobe delivers native Photoshop for Apple Silicon Macs and a way to enlarge images without losing detail

Adobe has been moving quickly to update its imaging software to work natively on Apple’s new in-house processors for Macs, starting with the M1-based MacBook Pro and MacBook Air released late last year. After shipping native versions of Lightroom and Camera Raw, it’s now releasing an Apple Silicon-optimized version of Photoshop, which delivers big performance gain vs. the Intel version running on Apple’s Rosetta 2 software emulation layer.

How much better? Per internal testing, Adobe says that users should see improvements of up to 1.5x faster performance on a number of different features offered by Photoshop, vs. the same tasks being done on the emulated version. That’s just the start, however, since Adobe says it’s going to continue to coax additional performance improvements out of the software on Apple Silicon in collaboration with Apple over time. Some features are also still missing from the M1-friendly addition, including the ‘Invite to Edit Cloud Documents’ and ‘Preset Syncing’ options, but those will be ported over in future iterations as well.

In addition to the Apple Silicon version of Photoshop, Adobe is also releasing a new Super Resolution feature in the Camera Raw plugin (to be released for Lightroom later) that ships with the software. This is an image enlarging feature that uses machine learning trained on a massive image dataset to blow up pictures to larger sizes while still preserving details. Adobe has previously offered a super resolution option that combined multiple exposures to boost resolution, but this works from a single photo.

It’s the classic ‘Computer, enhance’ sci-fi feature made real, and it builds on work that Photoshop previously did to introduce its ‘Enhance details’ feature. If you’re not a strict Adobe loyalist, you might also be familiar with Pixelmator Pro’s ‘ML Super Resolution’ feature, which works in much the same way – albeit using a different ML model and training data set.

Adobe's Super Resolution comparison photo

Adobe’s Super Resolution in action

The bottom line is that Adobe’s Super Resolution will output an image with twice the horizontal and twice the vertical resolution – meaning in total, it has 4x the number of pixels. It’ll do that while preserving detail and sharpness, which adds up to allowing you to make larger prints from images that previously wouldn’t stand up to that kind of enlargement. It’s also great for cropping in on photos in your collection to capture tighter shots of elements that previously would’ve been rendered blurry and disappointing as a result.

This feature benefits greatly from GPUs that are optimized for machine learning jobs, including CoreML and Windows ML. That means that Apple’s M1 chip is a perfect fit, since it includes a dedicated ML processing region called the Neural Engine. Likewise, Nvidia’s RTX series of GPUs and their TensorCores are well-suited to the task.

Adobe also released some major updates for Photoshop for iPad, including version history for its Cloud Documents non-local storage. You can also now store versions of Cloud Documents offline and edit them locally on your device.

#adobe-creative-cloud, #adobe-lightroom, #adobe-photoshop, #apple, #apple-inc, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #imaging, #intel, #m1, #machine-learning, #macintosh, #ml, #photoshop, #pixelmator, #software, #steve-jobs, #tc

Astra hires longtime Apple veteran Benjamin Lyon as Chief Engineer

New Space startup Astra, which is currently focused on commercial rockets, but which plans to eventually build satellites, too, has hired one of Apple’s key engineering leaders to head its own engineering efforts. Benjamin Lyon spent over two decades at Apple, where he worked on everything from the iPhone, to input devices and sensor hardware, to special projects: the department at Apple working on autonomous vehicle technology.

“When I’ve looked at what to do next at Apple, it has always been this combination of ‘What is the most impactful thing that I can do for humanity?’ – the iPhone was very much one of these,” Lyon told me in an interview. “Phones were awful [at the time], and if we could fundamentally come up with a new interface, that would completely change how people interact with devices.”

Creating a mobile device with an interface that was “completely flexible and completely customizable to the application” was what seemed so transformative to Lyon about the iPhone, and he sees a direct parallel in the work that Astra is doing to lower the barrier of access to space through cheap, scalable and highly-efficient rocketry.

“Astra me feels very, very much like redefining what it means for a phone to be smart,” Lyon said. “I think the Astra vision is this magical combination of fundamentally taking the rocket science out of space. How do you do that? Well, you better have a great foundation of a team, and a great foundation of core technologies that you can bring together in order to make a compelling series of products.”

Foundations are the key ingredient according not only to Lyon, but also to Astra co-founder and CEO Chris Kemp, who explained why an experienced Apple engineer made the most sense to him to lead a rocket startup’s engineering efforts.

“We did not want anyone from aerospace – I’ll just I’ll say that out of the gate,” Kemp told me. “Aerospace has not figured out how to build rockets at scale, or do anything profitably – ever. So I found no inspiration from anyone I talked to who had anything to do with with any of the other space-related companies. We do feel that there are people that are at SpaceX and Blue Origin who are really good at what they do. But in terms of the culture that we’re trying to establish at Astra, if you look back at Apple, and the things that that Benjamin worked on there over many decades, he really took on not only designing the the thing, but also designing the thing that makes the thing, which was more important than the thing itself.”

Kemp’s alluding to Apple’s lauded ability to work very closely with suppliers and move fundamental component engineering in-house, crafting unique designs for things like the system-on-a-chip that now powers everything from the iPhone to Macs. Apple often designs the processes involved in making those fundamental components, and then helps its suppliers stand up the factories required to build those to its exacting specifications. Astra’s approach to the space industry centers around a similar approach, with a focus on optimizing the output of its Alameda-based rocket factory, and iterating its products quickly to match the needs of the market while keeping pricing accessible.

And Astra’s definition of ‘iteration’ matches up much more closely with the one used by Silicon Valley than that typically espoused by legacy aerospace companies – going further still in questioning the industry’s fundamentals than even watershed space tech innovators like SpaceX, which in many ways still adheres to accepted rocket industry methods.

“You don’t do the iPhone X at iPhone 1 – you start with the iPhone 1 and you work your way to the iPhone X,” Lyon told me. “You’re going to see that with Astro as well, there’s going to be this amazing evolution, but it’s going to be tech company-rate evolution, as opposed to an ‘every 20 years’ evolution.”

That sentiment lines up with Astra and Kemp’s approach to date: The company reached space for the first time late last year, with a rocket that was the second of three planned launches in a rapid iteration cycle designed to achieve that milestone. After the first of these launches (Rocket 3.1 if you’re keeping track) failed to make space last September, Astra quickly went back to the drawing board and tweaked the design to come back for its successful attempt in December (Rocket 3.2) – an extremely fast turnaround for an aerospace company by any measure. The company is now focused on its Rocket 3.3 launch, which should only require software changes to achieve a successful orbit, and put it on track to begin delivering commercial payloads for paying customers.

Astra’s rocket production facility in Alameda, California.

Astra’s rocket is tiny compared to the mammoth Starship that SpaceX is currently developing, but that’s part of the appeal that drew Lyon to the startup in the first place. He says the goal of “design[ing] a rocket to match the application,” rather than simply “design[ing] a rocket to end all rockets” makes vastly more sense to serve the bourgeoning market.

“And that’s just the beginning,” he added. “Then you’ll take the next step, which is if you look at the technology that’s in a satellite, and a bunch of the smart technology that’s in a rocket, there’s a tremendous amount of duplication there. So, get rid of the duplication – design the rocket and the satellite together as one system.”

Eventually, that means contemplating not only launch and satellite as a single challenge, but also managing “the entire experience of getting to space and managing a constellation” as “a single design problem,” according to Lyon, which is the level of ambition at Astra that he views as on par with that of Steve Jobs at Apple at the outset of the iPhone project.

Ultimately, Astra hopes to be able to provide aspiring space technology companies with everything they need so that the actual space component of their business is fully handled. The idea is that startups and innovators can then focus on bringing new models and sensing technologies to Astra, worrying only about payload – leaving launch, integration and eventually constellation management to the experts. It’s not unlike what the App Store unlocked for the software industry, Lyon said.

“We’re trying to do something that’s never been done before in aerospace, which is to really scale the production of rockets, and also focus on the overall economics of the business,” Kemp explained about additional advantages of having Lyon on board. “As we become a public company, in particular, we have very aggressive EBITDA targets, and very aggressive production targets, much the same way Apple does. We also want to have a new rocket every year, just like [the iPhone] and so to some degree, we found every aspect of Benjamin’s ethos aligned with our values, and the culture that we’re creating here at Astro of relentless, constant innovation and iteration.

#aerospace, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #astra, #astro, #blue-origin, #chris-kemp, #engineer, #input-devices, #ios, #iphone, #mobile-device, #mobile-phones, #smart-technology, #smartphones, #space, #space-technology, #spacex, #steve-jobs, #system-on-a-chip, #tc

Apple reportedly planning thinner and lighter MacBook Air with MagSafe charging

Apple is said to be working on a new version of the MacBook Air with a brand new physical case design that’s both thinner and lighter than its current offering, which was updated with Apple’s M1 chip late last year, per a new Bloomberg report. The plan is to release it as early as late 2021 or 2022, according to the report’s sources, and it will also include MagSafe charging (which is also said to be returning on Apple’s next MacBook Pro models sometime in 2021).

MagSafe would offer power delivery and charging, while two USB 4 ports would provide data connectivity on the new MacBook Air. The display size will remain at its current 13-inch diagonal measurement, but Apple will reportedly realize smaller overall sizes by reducing the bevel that surrounds the screen’s edge, among other sizing changes.

Apple has a plan to revamp its entire Mac lineup with its own Apple Silicon processors over the course of the next two years. It debuted its first Apple Silicon Macs, powered by its M1 chip, late last year, and the resulting performance benefits vs. their Intel-powered predecessors have been substantial. The physical designs remained essentially the same, however, prompting speculation as to when Apple would introduce new case designs to further distinguish its new Macs from their older models.

The company is also reportedly working on new MacBook Pros with MagSafe charging, which could also ditch the company’s controversial TouchBar interface – and, again according to Bloomberg, bring back a dedicated SD card slot. All these changes would actually be reversions of design changes Apple made when it introduced the current physical notebook Mac designs, beginning with the first Retina display MacBook Pro in 2012, but they address usability complaints by some of the company’s enthusiast and professional customers.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-silicon, #computers, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #intel, #m1, #macbook, #macbook-pro, #macintosh, #magsafe, #steve-jobs, #tc

Apple said to be planning new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with MagSafe and Apple processors

Apple has planned new upgraded MacBook Pros for launch “later this year” according to a new report from Bloomberg. These new models would come in both 14-inch and 16-inch sizes, with new and improved Apple Silicon processors like those that Apple debuted on the new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro model late last year. They would also see the return of Apple’s MagSafe charger, a magnetic dedicated charging port that would replace USB-C for power, and they could potentially do away with the Touch Bar, the small strip of OLED display built in to the keyboard on modern MacBook Pros.

Bloomberg’s report suggests that these MacBook Pro models will have processors with more cores and better graphics capabilities than the existing M1 chips that power Apple’s current notebooks with in-house silicon, and that they’ll also have displays with brighter panels that offer higher contrast. Physically, they’ll resemble existing notebooks, according to the report’s sources, but they’ll see the return of MagSafe, the dedicated magnetic charging interface that Apple used prior to switching power delivery over to USB-C on its laptops.

MagSafe had the advantage of easily disconnecting in case of anyone accidentally tripping across the power cord while plugged in, without yanking the computer with it. It also meant that it kept all data ports free for accessories. Bloomberg says that the revitalized MagSafe for new notebooks will also offer faster charging vs. USB-C, in addition to those other benefits.

As for the Touch Bar, it has been a topic of debate since its introduction. Pro users in particular seem to dislike the interface option, especially because it replaces a row of dedicated physical keys that could be useful in professional workflows. The report claims that Apple has “tested versions that remove the Touch Bar,” so it seems less clear that Apple will finally unring that particular bell, but I personally know a lot of people who would be excited if that does come to pass.

Finally, Bloomberg says Apple is also planning a new redesigned MacBook Air. That was updated most recently just a couple of months ago, and the report says it’ll only follow “long after” these new MacBook Pros, so it seems unlikely to arrive in 2021.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-keyboard, #computers, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #macbook, #macintosh, #magsafe, #oled, #steve-jobs, #tc, #touch-bar

Apple reportedly testing Intel-beating high core count Apple Silicon chips for high-end Macs

Apple is reportedly developing a number of Apple Silicon chip variants with significantly higher core counts relative to the M1 chips that it uses in today’s MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini computers based on its own ARM processor designs. According to Bloomberg, the new chips include designs that have 16 power cores and hour high-efficiency cores, intended for future iMacs and more powerful MacBook Pro models, as well as a 32-performance core top-end version that would eventually power the first Apple Silicon Mac Pro.

The current M1 Mac has four performance cores, along with four high-efficiency cores. It also uses either seven or eight dedicated graphics cores, depending on the Mac model. Apple’s next-gen chips could leap right to 16 performance cores, or Bloomberg says they could opt to use eight or 12-core versions of the same, depending primarily on what kinds of yields they see from manufacturing processes. Chipmaking, particularly in the early stages of new designs, often has error rates that render a number of the cores on each new chip unusable, so manufacturers often just ‘bin’ those chips, offering them to the market as lower max core count designs until manufacturing success rates improve.

Apple’s M1 system on a chip.

Regardless of whether next-gen Apple Silicon Macs use 16, 12 or eight-performance core designs, they should provide ample competition for their Intel equivalents. Apple’s debut M1 line has won the praise of critics and reviewers for significant performance benefits over not only their predecessors, but also much more expensive and powerful Mac powered by higher-end Intel chips.

The report also says that Apple is developing new graphics processors that include both 16- and 32-core designs for future iMacs and pro notebooks, and that it even has 64- and 128-core designs in development for use in high-end pro machines like the Mac Pro. These should offer performance that can rival even dedicated GPU designs from Nvidia and AMD for some applications, though they aren’t likely to appear in any shipping machines before either late 2021 or 2022 according to the report.

Apple has said from the start that it plans to transition its entire line to its own Apple Silicon processors by 2022. The M1 Macs now available are the first generation, and Apple has begun with its lowest-power dedicated Macs, with a chip design that hews closely to the design of the top-end A-series chips that power its iPhone and iPad line. Next-generation M-series chips look like they’ll be further differentiated from Apple’s mobile processors, with significant performance advantages to handle the needs of demanding professional workloads.

#amd, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-silicon, #computers, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #imac, #intel, #ipad, #iphone, #m1, #macbook, #macintosh, #nvidia, #steve-jobs, #tc

AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud

AWS today opened its re:Invent conference with a surprise announcement: the company is bringing the Mac mini to its cloud. These new EC2 Mac instances, as AWS calls them, are now available in preview. They won’t come cheap, though.

The target audience here — and the only one AWS is targeting for now — is developers who want cloud-based build and testing environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a fully-featured Mac mini in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all kinds of other use cases for this as well.

Given the recent launch of the M1 Mac minis, it’s worth pointing out that the hardware AWS is using — at least for the time being — are i7 machines with six physical and 12 logical cores and 32 GB of memory. Using the Mac’s built-in networking options, AWS connects them to its Nitro System for fast network and storage access. This means you’ll also be able to attach AWS block storage to these instances, for example.

Unsurprisingly, the AWS team is also working on bringing Apple’s new M1 Mac minis into its data centers. The current plan is to roll this out “early next year,” AWS tells me, and definitely within the first half of 2021. Both AWS and Apple believe that the need for Intel-powered machines won’t go away anytime soon, though, especially given that a lot of developers will want to continue to run their tests on Intel machines for the foreseeable future.

David Brown, AWS’s vice president of EC2, tells me that these are completely unmodified Mac minis. AWS only turned off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It helps, Brown said, that the minis fit nicely into a 1U rack.

“You can’t really stack them on shelves — you want to put them in some sort of service sled [and] it fits very well into a service sled and then our cards and all the various things we have to worry about, from an integration point of view, fit around it and just plug into the Mac mini through the ports that it provides,” Brown explained. He admitted that this was obviously a new challenge for AWS. The only way to offer this kind of service is to use Apple’s hardware, after all.

Image Credits: AWS

It’s also worth noting that AWS is not virtualizing the hardware. What you’re getting here is full access to your own device that you’re not sharing with anybody else. “We wanted to make sure that we support the Mac Mini that you would get if you went to the Apple store and you bought a Mac mini,” Brown said.

Unlike with other EC2 instances, whenever you spin up a new Mac instance, you have to pre-pay for the first 24 hours to get started. After those first 24 hours, prices are by the second, just like with any other instance type AWS offers today.

AWS will charge $1.083 per hour, billed by the second. That’s just under $26 to spin up a machine and run it for 24 hours. That’s quite a lot more than what some of the small Mac mini cloud providers are charging (we’re generally talking about $60 or less per month for their entry-level offerings and around two to three times as much for a comparable i7 machine with 32GB of RAM).

Image Credits: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

Until now, Mac mini hosting was a small niche in the hosting market, though it has its fair number of players, with the likes of MacStadium, MacinCloud, MacWeb and Mac Mini Vault vying for their share of the market.

With this new offering from AWS, they are now facing a formidable competitor, though they can still compete on price. AWS, however, argues that it can give developers access to all of the additional cloud services in its portfolio, which sets it apart from all of the smaller players.

“The speed that things happen at [other Mac mini cloud providers] and the granularity that you can use those services at is not as fine as you get with a large cloud provider like AWS,” Brown said. “So if you want to launch a machine, it takes a few days to provision and somebody puts a machine in a rack for you and gives you an IP address to get to it and you manage the OS. And normally, you’re paying for at least a month — or a longer period of time to get a discount. What we’ve done is you can literally launch these machines in minutes and have a working machine available to you. If you decide you want 100 of them, 500 of them, you just ask us for that and we’ll make them available. The other thing is the ecosystem. All those other 200-plus AWS services that you’re now able to utilize together with the Mac mini is the other big difference.”

Brown also stressed that Amazon makes it easy for developers to use different machine images, with the company currently offering images for macOS Mojave and Catalina, with Big Sure support coming “at some point in the future.” And developers can obviously create their own images with all of the software they need so they can reuse them whenever they spin up a new machine.

“Pretty much every one of our customers today has some need to support an Apple product and the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or  Apple TV, whatever it might be. They’re looking for that bold use case,” Brown said. “And so the problem we’ve really been focused on solving is customers that say, ‘hey, I’ve moved all my server-side workloads to AWS, I’d love to be able to move some of these build workflows, because I still have some Mac minis in a data center or in my office that I have to maintain. I’d love that just to be on AWS.’ ”

AWS’s marquee launch customers for the new service are Intuit, Ring and mobile camera app FiLMiC.

“EC2 Mac instances, with their familiar EC2 interfaces and APIs, have enabled us to seamlessly migrate our existing iOS and macOS build-and-test pipelines to AWS, further improving developer productivity,” said Pratik Wadher, vice president of Product Development at Intuit. “We‘re experiencing up to 30% better performance over our data center infrastructure, thanks to elastic capacity expansion, and a high availability setup leveraging multiple zones. We’re now running around 80% of our production builds on EC2 Mac instances, and are excited to see what the future holds for AWS innovation in this space.”

The new Mac instances are now available in a number of AWS regions. These include US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Singapore), with other regions to follow soon.

#amazon-web-services, #apple, #apple-inc, #asia-pacific, #aws-reinvent, #bluetooth, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #david-brown, #developer, #europe, #ipad, #iphone, #ireland, #mac-mini, #macintosh, #ohio, #oregon, #singapore, #steve-jobs, #tc, #web-hosting

Yeah, Apple’s M1 MacBook Pro is powerful, but it’s the battery life that will blow you away

Survival and strategy games are often played in stages. You have the early game where you’re learning the ropes, understanding systems. Then you have mid-game where you’re executing and gathering resources. The most fun part, for me, has always been the late mid-game where you’re in full control of your powers and skills and you’ve got resources to burn — where you execute on your master plan before the endgame gets hairy.

This is where Apple is in the game of power being played by the chip industry. And it’s about to be endgame for Intel. 

Apple has introduced three machines that use its new M1 system on a chip, based on over a decade’s worth of work designing its own processing units based on the ARM instructions set. These machines are capable, assured and powerful, but their greatest advancements come in the performance per watt category.

I personally tested the 13” M1 MacBook Pro and after extensive testing, it’s clear that this machine eclipses some of the most powerful Mac portables ever made in performance while simultaneously delivering 2x-3x the battery life at a minimum. 

These results are astounding, but they’re the product of that long early game that Apple has played with the A-series processors. Beginning in earnest in 2008 with the acquisition of PA Semiconductor, Apple has been working its way towards unraveling the features and capabilities of its devices from the product roadmaps of processor manufacturers.  

The M1 MacBook Pro runs smoothly, launching apps so quickly that they’re often open before your cursor leaves your dock. 

Video editing and rendering is super performant, only falling behind older machines when it leverages the GPU heavily. And even then only with powerful dedicated cards like the 5500M or VEGA II. 

Compiling projects like WebKit produce better build times than nearly any machine (hell the M1 Mac Mini beats the Mac Pro by a few seconds). And it does it while using a fraction of the power. 

This thing works like an iPad. That’s the best way I can describe it succinctly. One illustration I have been using to describe what this will feel like to a user of current MacBooks is that of chronic pain. If you’ve ever dealt with ongoing pain from a condition or injury, and then had it be alleviated by medication, therapy or surgery, you know how the sudden relief feels. You’ve been carrying the load so long you didn’t know how heavy it was. That’s what moving to this M1 MacBook feels like after using other Macs. 

Every click is more responsive. Every interaction is immediate. It feels like an iOS device in all the best ways. 

At the chip level, it also is an iOS device. Which brings us to…

iOS on M1

The iOS experience on the M1 machines is…present. That’s the kindest thing I can say about it. Apps install from the App Store and run smoothly, without incident. Benchmarks run on iOS apps show that they perform natively with no overhead. I even ran an iOS-based graphics benchmark which showed just fine. 

That, however, is where the compliments end. The current iOS app experience on an M1 machine running Big Sur is almost comical; it’s so silly. There is no default tool-tip that explains how to replicate common iOS interactions like swipe-from-edge — instead a badly formatted cheat sheet is buried in a menu. The apps launch and run in windows only. Yes, that’s right, no full-screen iOS apps at all. It’s super cool for a second to have instant native support for iOS on the Mac, but at the end of the day this is a marketing win, not a consumer experience win. 

Apple gets to say that the Mac now supports millions of iOS apps, but the fact is that the experience of using those apps on the M1 is sub-par. It will get better, I have no doubt. But the app experience on the M1 is pretty firmly in this order right now: Native M1 app>Rosetta 2 app>Catalyst app> iOS app. Provided that the Catalyst ports can be bothered to build in Mac-centric behaviors and interactions, of course. But it’s clear that iOS, though present, is clearly not where it needs to be on M1.

Rosetta 2

There is both a lot to say and not a lot to say about Rosetta 2. I’m sure we’ll get more detailed breakdowns of how Apple achieved what it has with this new emulation layer that makes x86 applications run fine on the M1 architecture. But the real nut of it is that it has managed to make a chip so powerful that it can take the approximate 26% hit (see the following charts) in raw power to translate apps and still make them run just as fast if not faster than MacBooks with Intel processors. 

It’s pretty astounding. Apple would like us to forget the original Rosetta from the PowerPC transition as much as we would all like to forget it. And I’m happy to say that this is pretty easy to do because I was unable to track any real performance hit when comparing it to older, even ‘more powerful on paper’ Macs like the 16” MacBook Pro. 

It’s just simply not a factor in most instances. And companies like Adobe and Microsoft are already hard at work bringing native M1 apps to the Mac, so the most needed productivity or creativity apps will essentially get a free performance bump of around 30% when they go native. But even now they’re just as fast. It’s a win-win situation. 

Methodology

My methodology  for my testing was pretty straightforward. I ran a battery of tests designed to push these laptops in ways that reflected both real world performance and tasks as well as synthetic benchmarks. I ran the benchmarks with the machines plugged in and then again on battery power to estimate constant performance as well as performance per watt. All tests were run multiple times with cooldown periods in between in order to try to achieve a solid baseline. 

Here are the machines I used for testing:

  • 2020 13” M1 MacBook Pro 8-core 16GB
  • 2019 16” Macbook Pro 8-core 2.4GHz 32GB w/5500M
  • 2019 13” MacBook Pro 4-core 2.8GHz 16GB
  • 2019 Mac Pro 12-Core 3.3GHz 48GB w/AMD Radeon Pro Vega II 32GB

Many of these benchmarks also include numbers from the M1 Mac mini review from Matt Burns and the M1 MacBook Air, tested by Brian Heater which you can check out here.

Compiling WebKit

Right up top I’m going to start off with the real ‘oh shit’ chart of this piece. I checked WebKit out from GitHub and ran a build on all of the machines with no parameters. This is the one deviation from the specs I mentioned above as my 13” had issues that I couldn’t figure out so I had some Internet friends help me. Also thanks to Paul Haddad of Tapbots for guidance here. 

As you can see, the M1 performs admirably well across all models, with the MacBook and Mac Mini edging out the MacBook Air. This is a pretty straightforward way to visualize the difference in performance that can result in heavy tasks that last over 20 minutes, where the MacBook Air’s lack of active fan cooling throttles back the M1 a bit. Even with that throttling, the MacBook Air still beats everything here except for the very beefy MacBook Pro. 

But, the big deal here is really this second chart. After a single build of WebKit, the M1 MacBook Pro had a massive 91% of its battery left. I tried multiple tests here and I could have easily run a full build of WebKit 8-9 times on one charge of the M1 MacBook’s battery. In comparison, I could have gotten through about 3 on the 16” and the 13” 2020 model only had one go in it. 

This insane performance per watt of power is the M1’s secret weapon. The battery performance is simply off the chart. Even with processor-bound tasks. To give you an idea, throughout this build of WebKit the P-cluster (the power cores) hit peak pretty much every cycle while the E-cluster (the efficiency cores) maintained a steady 2GHz. These things are going at it, but they’re super power efficient.

Battery Life

In addition to charting battery performance in some real world tests, I also ran a couple of dedicated battery tests. In some cases they ran so long I thought I had left it plugged in by mistake, it’s that good. 

I ran a mixed web browsing and web video playback script that hit a series of pages, waited for 30 seconds and then moved on to simulate browsing. The results return a pretty common sight in our tests, with the M1 outperforming the other MacBooks by just over 25%.

In fullscreen 4k/60 video playback, the M1 fares even better, clocking an easy 20 hours with fixed 50% brightness. On an earlier test, I left the auto-adjust on and it crossed the 24 hour mark easily. Yeah, a full day. That’s an iOS-like milestone.

The M1 MacBook Air does very well also, but its smaller battery means a less playback time at 16 hours. Both of them absolutely decimated the earlier models.

Xcode Unzip

This was another developer-centric test that was requested. Once again, CPU bound, and the M1’s blew away any other system in my test group. Faster than the 8-core 16” MacBook Pro, wildly faster than the 13” MacBook Pro and yes, 2x as fast as the 2019 Mac Pro with its 3.3GHz Xeons. 

Image Credits: TechCrunch

For a look at the power curve (and to show that there is no throttling of the MacBook Pro over this period (I never found any throttling over longer periods by the way) here’s the usage curve.

Unified Memory and Disk Speed

Much ado has been made of Apple including only 16GB of memory on these first M1 machines. The fact of it, however, is that I have been unable to push them hard enough yet to feel any effect of this due to Apple’s move to unified memory architecture. Moving RAM to the SoC means no upgradeability — you’re stuck on 16GB forever. But it also means massively faster access 

If I was a betting man I’d say that this was an intermediate step to eliminating RAM altogether. It’s possible that a future (far future, this is the play for now) version of Apple’s M-series chips could end up supplying memory to each of the various chips from a vast pool that also serves as permanent storage. For now, though, what you’ve got is a finite, but blazing fast, pool of memory shared between the CPU cores, GPU and other SoC denizens like the Secure Enclave and Neural Engine. 

While running many applications simultaneously, the M1 performed extremely well. Because this new architecture is so close, with memory being a short hop away next door rather than out over a PCIE bus, swapping between applications was zero issue. Even while tasks were run in the background — beefy, data heavy tasks — the rest of the system stayed flowing.

Even when the memory pressure tab of Activity Monitor showed that OS X was using swap space, as it did from time to time, I noticed no slowdown in performance. 

Though I wasn’t able to trip it up I would guess that you would have to throw a single, extremely large file at this thing to get it to show any amount of struggle. 

The SSD in the M1 MacBook Pro is running on a PCIE 3.0 bus, and its write and read speeds indicate that. 

 

Thunderbolt

The M1 MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt controllers, one for each port. This means that you’re going to get full PCIE 4.0 speeds out of each and that it seems very likely that Apple could include up to 4 ports in the future without much change in architecture. 

This configuration also means that you can easily power an Apple Pro Display XDR and another monitor besides. I was unable to test two Apple Pro Display XDR monitors side-by-side.

Cooling and throttling

No matter how long the tests I ran were, I was never able to ascertain any throttling of the CPU on the M1 MacBook Pro. From our testing it was evident that in longer operations (20-40 minutes on up) it was possible to see the MacBook Air pulling back a bit over time. Not so with the Macbook Pro. 

Apple says that it has designed a new ‘cooling system’ in the M1 MacBook Pro, which holds up. There is a single fan but it is noticeably quieter than either of the other fans. In fact, I was never able to get the M1 much hotter than ‘warm’ and the fan ran at speeds that were much more similar to that of a water cooled rig than the turbo engine situation in the other MacBooks. 

Even running a long, intense Cinebench 23 session could not make the M1 MacBook get loud. Over the course of the mark running all high-performance cores regularly hit 3GHz and the efficiency cores hitting 2GHz. Despite that, it continued to run very cool and very quiet in comparison to other MacBooks. It’s the stealth bomber at the Harrier party.

In that Cinebench test you can see that it doubles the multi-core performance of last year’s 13” MacBook and even beats out the single-core performance of the 16” MacBook Pro. 

I ran a couple of Final Cut Pro tests with my test suite. First was a 5 minute 4k60 timeline shot with iPhone 12 Pro using audio, transitions, titles and color grading. The M1 Macbook performed fantastic, slightly beating out the 16” MacBook Pro. 

 

 

With an 8K timeline of the same duration, the 16” MacBook Pro with its Radeon 5500M was able to really shine with FCP’s GPU acceleration. The M1 held its own though, showing 3x faster speeds than the 13” MacBook Pro with its integrated graphics. 

 

And, most impressively, the M1 MacBook Pro used extremely little power to do so. Just 17% of the battery to output an 81GB 8k render. The 13” MacBook Pro could not even finish this render on one battery charge. 

As you can see in these GFXBench charts, while the M1 MacBook Pro isn’t a powerhouse gaming laptop we still got some very surprising and impressive results in tests of the GPU when a rack of Metal tests were run on it. The 16″ MBP still has more raw power, but rendering games at retina is still very possible here.

The M1 is the future of CPU design

All too often over the years we’ve seen Mac releases hamstrung by the capabilities of the chips and chipsets that were being offered by Intel. Even as recently as the 16” MacBook Pro, Apple was stuck a generation or more behind. The writing was basically on the wall once the iPhone became such a massive hit that Apple began producing more chips than the entire rest of the computing industry combined. 

Apple has now shipped over 2 billion chips, a scale that makes Intel’s desktop business look like a luxury manufacturer. I think it was politic of Apple to not mention them by name during last week’s announcement, but it’s also clear that Intel’s days are numbered on the Mac and that their only saving grace for the rest of the industry is that Apple is incredibly unlikely to make chips for anyone else.

Years ago I wrote an article about the iPhone’s biggest flaw being that its performance per watt limited the new experiences that it was capable of delivering. People hated that piece but I was right. Apple has spent the last decade “fixing” its battery problem by continuing to carve out massive performance gains via its A-series chips all while maintaining essentially the same (or slightly better) battery life across the iPhone lineup. No miracle battery technology has appeared, so Apple went in the opposite direction, grinding away at the chip end of the stick.

What we’re seeing today is the result of Apple flipping the switch to bring all of that power efficiency to the Mac, a device with 5x the raw battery to work with. And those results are spectacular.

#amd, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #big-sur, #brian-heater, #computers, #computing, #enclave, #github, #intel, #ios-11, #ipad, #iphone, #m1, #mac-os-x, #macbook, #macbook-pro, #macintosh, #matt-burns, #microsoft, #ram, #steve-jobs, #tablet-computers, #tc

Apple brings back its ‘I’m a PC’ spokesman for ARM-based Mac launch event

Apple brought back actor John Hodgman for a brief cameo in today’s ARM-based Mac launch event, reprising his role as the dorky “I’m a PC” character, now tasked with poking fun at Intel-based PCs in the face of an Apple silicon future for the company.

The short slot aired following the end of Tuesday’s “One More Thing” event where they showed off their new M1 chip and new designs for their upcoming MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini. Hodgman’s character appeared in a white room amid the vintage ad campaign’s signature tune, while touching on some of the new machines’ advances in power management.

There was notably no cameo from Justin Long and it’s unclear whether Hodgman’s appearance will only grace today’s event or whether Apple has plans for a throwback ad campaign. Nevertheless, it was a fun nod to a popular campaign from Apple.

You can catch the appearance below at the 47:39 mark.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-mac-event-2020, #computers, #computing, #intel, #john-hodgman, #justin-long, #m1, #macbook, #macintosh, #mcsweeneys, #steve-jobs, #tc

Live from Apple’s virtual 2020 iPhone event

Apple’s big iPhone event is finally here – virtual, which is to be expected these day. This is already the second virtual event Apple has hosted this fall, following one in September at which it revealed the Apple Watch Series 6 and a new iPad Air. This time around, we’re going to see what the iPhone 12 looks like, as well as how many colors and sizes it comes in.

There’s also supposed to be plenty of other news, including a new smaller HomePod mini, maybe an updated Apple TV, possibly a number of different headphone products and more. Will we get our first glance at the first shipping ARM-based Mac to use Apple’s in-house processors? Probably not, but maybe!

We’re going to be following along live and offering commentary below, and you can also tune in live to the video stream right here. Everything gets underway at 10 AM PT/ 1 PM ET.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-iphone-event-2020, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #itunes, #mobile-phones, #portable-media-players, #steve-jobs, #tablet-computers, #tc

Adding an external GPU to your Mac is probably a better upgrade option than getting a new one

Apple recently announced that they would be transition their Mac line from Intel processors to their own, ARM-based Apple Silicon. That process is meant to begin with hardware to be announced later this year, and last two years according to Apple’s stated expectations, and while new Intel-powered Macs will be released and sold leading up to that time, it does mean that the writing is on the wall for Intel-based Apple hardware. Existing Macs with Intel chips will still be useful long after the transition is complete, however, and software porting means they might even support more of your existing favorite applications for the foreseeable future, which is why adding an external GPU (eGPU) likely makes more sense now than ever.

Apple added support for eGPUs a few years ago, made possible by the addition of Thunderbolt 3 ports on Macs. These have very high throughput, making it possible for a GPU in an internal enclosure to offer almost a much graphics processing capability as one connected internally. But while Apple has directly sold a few eGPUs, and natively supports AMD graphics cards without any special driver gymnastics required, it’s still mostly a niche category. But for anybody looking to extend the life of their existing Mac for a few more years to wait and see how the Apple Silicon transition shakes out, updates from Apple and key software partners make an eGPU a great choice.

Here are a couple of Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure options out there for those considering this upgrade path, and the relative merits of each. Keep in mind that for each of these, the pricing is for the enclosure alone – you’ll have to add your own eGPU to make it work, but the good news is that you can continually upgrade and replace these graphics cards to give your Mac even more of a boost as graphics tech improves.

Razer Core X Chroma ($399)

The Razer Core X Chroma is Razer’s top of the line GPU enclosure, and it supports full-sized PCIe graphics cards up to three slots wide, up to a maximum of 500 watts. The integrated power supply provides 700w of power, which enables 100w output for charging any connected laptop, and on the back of the eGPU you’ll find four extra high-speed USB ports, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port for networking. The Chroma version also comes with tunable LED lighting for additional user customization options. Razer provided me with a Core X Chrome, an AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for the purposes of testing across both Mac and PC systems.

This isn’t the smallest enclosure out there, but that’s in part because it supports 3-slot cards, which is over and above a lot of the competition. It’s also relatively short and long, making it a great option to tuck away under a desk, or potentially even held in an under-desk mount (with enough clearance for the fan exhaust to work properly). It’s quiet in operation, and only really makes any audible noise when the GPU held within is actually working for compatible software.

Most of my testing focused on using the Razer Core X Chroma with a Mac, and for that use you’ll need to stick with AMD’s GPUs, since Apple doesn’t natively support Nvidia graphics cards in macOS. The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is a beast, however, and delivers plenty of horsepower for improving activities like photo and video editing, as well as giving you additional display output options and just generally providing additional resources for the system to take advantage of.

Thanks to Adobe’s work on adding eGPU support to its Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere products, you can get a lot of improvement in overall rendering and output in all those applications, particularly if you’re on a Mac that only has an integrated GPU. Likewise with Apple’s own applications, including Final Cut Pro X.

In my experience, using the eGPU greatly improved the export function of both Adobe and Apple’s pro video editing software, cutting export times by at least half. And working in Lightroom was in general much faster and more responsive, with significantly reduced rendering times for thumbnails and previews, which ordinarily take quite a while on my 2018 Mac mini.

Apple also uses eGPUs to accelerate the performance of any apps that use Metal, OpenGL and OpenCL, which is why you may notice a subtle general improvement in system performance when you plug one in. It’s hard to quantify this effect, but overall system performance felt less sluggish and more responsive, especially when running a large number of apps simultaneously.

The Razer Core X Chrome’s extra expansion slots, quiet operation and max power delivery all make it the top choice if you’re looking for an enclosure to handle everything you need, and it can provide big bumps both to Macs and Windows PCs alike – and both interchangeably, if you happen to use both platforms.

Akitio Node Titan ($329)

If you’re looking to spend a little less money, and get an enclosure that’s a bit more barebones but that still offers excellent performance, check out the Akitio Node Titan. Enclosure maker Akitio was acquired by OWC, a popular Mac peripheral maker and seller that has provided third-party RAM, docks, drives and more for decades. The Node Titan is their high-end eGPU enclosure.

The case for the Node Titan is a bit smaller than that of the Razer Core X, and is finished in a space gray-like color that will match Apple’s Mac notebooks more closely. The trade-off for the smaller size is that it only supports 2-slot graphics cards, but it also features an integrated pop-out handle that makes it much more convenient, combined with its lighter, more compact design, for taking with you place to place.

Akitio’s Node Titan packs in a 650w power supply, which is good for high-consumption graphics cards, but it also means that another compromise for this case vs. the Core X Chrome is that the Titan supplies only 85w output to any connected laptops. That’s under the 96W required for full-speed charging on the latest 16-inch MacBook Pro, though it’s still enough to keep your notebook powered up and provide full-speed charging to the rest of Apple’s Mac notebook lineup.

The Node Titan also provides only one port on the enclosure itself – a Thunderbolt output for connecting to your computer. Graphics cards you use with it will offer their own display connections, however, for attaching external displays.

In terms of performance, the Akitio Node Titan offers the same potential gains with the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT for your Mac (and both AMD and Nvidia cards for PCs) when connected, since the GPU specs are what matter most when working with an enclosure. It operates a little more noisily, especially in terms of making a quiet, but still detectable constant hum even when the GPU is not being taxed.

The Node Titan is still an excellent choice, however, and potentially a better one for those looking for more portability and a bit more affordability at the expense of max notebook power output and a host of handy port expansions.

Bottom line

Back when more Macs had the option for user-expandable RAM, that was a great way to squeeze a little more life out of external machines and make a slowing machine feel much faster. Now, only a few Macs in Apple’s lineup make it easy or even possible to upgrade your memory. Adding an eGPU can have a similar effect, especially if you spend a lot of time in creative editing apps, including Adobe’s suite, Apple’s Pro apps, or various other third-party apps including DaVinci Resolve.

The total price of an eGPU setup, including card, can approach or even match the price of a new Mac, but even less expensive cards offer significant benefit, and you can always swap that out later depending on your needs. It is important to note that the future of eGPU support on Apple Silicon Macs isn’t certain, even though Apple has said they’ll support Thunderbolt. Still, an eGPU can stave off the need for an upgrade for years, making it easier to wait and watch to see what the process transition really means for Mac users.

#amd, #apple, #computers, #computing, #gadgets, #gpu, #hardware, #intel, #mac, #mac-mini, #macbook-pro, #macos, #microsoft-windows, #nvidia, #ram, #razer, #steve-jobs, #tc, #video-cards

Apple could reportedly announce Mac shift to its own ARM-based chips this month

For years now, analysts and unconfirmed reports have suggested Apple was working on transitioning its Mac line of computers away from Intel -based chips, and to its own, ARM-based processors. Now, Bloomberg reports that the company could make those plans official as early as later this month, with an announcement potentially timed for its remote Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) happening the week of June 22.

Apple has historically made a number of announcements at WWDC, including providing forward-looking information about its software roadmap, like upcoming versions of macOS and iOS, in order to help developers prepare their software for the updates’ general public availability. WWDC has also provided a venue for a number of Mac hardware announcements over the years, including reveals of new MacBooks and iMacs.

Bloomberg says that this potential reveal of its plan to transition to ARM-based Macs would be an advance notice, however – it would not include a reveal of any immediately available hardware, but would act as an advance notice to developers to give them time to prepare their software for ARM-based Macs to be released in 2021. The report cautions that the timing of the announcement could change, however, given that there are no plans to actually introduce any ARM-based Mac hardware for many months at least.

This isn’t the first major processor architecture switch that Apple’s Mac lineup has undergone; the company moved from PowerPC-based CPUs to Intel in 2006. That switch was originally announced in 2005, at Apple’s WWDC event that year – giving developers around half-a-year advance notice to ready themselves for the transition.

Bloomberg reported in April that Apple was planning to start selling ARM-based Macs by next year, and was developing three different in-house Mac processors based on the architecture to power those machines. Apple has made its own ARM-based processors to power iOS devices including the iPhone and iPad for many generations now, and its expertise means that those chips are now much more power efficient, and powerful in most respects, than the Intel chips it sources for its Mac line.

#apple-worldwide-developers-conference, #arm, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #intel, #ios-devices, #ipad, #iphone, #mac, #mac-os, #mac-pro, #macintosh, #macos, #operating-systems, #steve-jobs, #tc

Is Zoom the next Android or the next BlackBerry?

In business, there’s nothing so valuable as having the right product at the right time. Just ask Zoom, the hot cloud-based video conferencing platform experiencing explosive growth thanks to its sudden relevance in the age of sheltering in place.

Having worked at BlackBerry in its heyday in the early 2000s, I see a lot of parallels to what Zoom is going through right now. As Zooming into a video meeting or a classroom is today, so too was pulling out your BlackBerry to fire off an email or check your stocks circa 2002. Like Zoom, the company then known as Research in Motion had the right product for enterprise users that increasingly wanted to do business on the go.

Of course, BlackBerry’s story didn’t have a happy ending.

From 1999 to 2007, BlackBerry seemed totally unstoppable. But then Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, Google launched Android and all of the chinks in the BlackBerry armor started coming undone, one by one. How can Zoom avoid the same fate?

As someone who was at both BlackBerry and Android during their heydays, my biggest takeaway is that product experience trumps everything else. It’s more important than security (an issue Zoom is getting blasted about right now), what CIOs want, your user install base and the larger brand identity.

When the iPhone was released, many people within BlackBerry rightly pointed out that we had a technical leg up on Apple in many areas important to business and enterprise users (not to mention the physical keyboard for quickly cranking out emails)… but how much did that advantage matter in the end? If there is serious market pull, the rest eventually gets figured out… a lesson I learned from my time at BlackBerry that I was lucky enough to be able to immediately apply when I joined Google to work on Android.

#android, #apps, #blackberry, #blindtype, #bumptop, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #enterprise, #extra-crunch, #iphone, #market-analysis, #research-in-motion, #smartphones, #startups, #steve-jobs, #video, #video-conferencing, #webex, #zoom

Apple awards $10 million to rapidly scale COVID-19 sample collection kit production

Apple has awarded $10 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to COPAN Diagnostics, a company focused on producing sample collection kits for testing COVID-19 to hospitals in the U.S. The money comes from the fund that Apple established to support the development and growth of U.S.-based manufacturing, but is particularly notable because to date, the fund has been used to support companies tied more directly to its own supply chain.

The $10 million award also includes Apple employing its sourcing resources to find equipment and materials for COPAN Diagnostics, including new advanced equipment the iPhone-maker is helping design itself. Funds will also be used by COPAN to expand to a larger production facility in Southern California that can output more supply, growing its run rate from around several thousand currently, to over one million kits weekly by July, according to Apple. Apple notes that it will also result in the creation of around 50 new U.S. jobs.

COPAN is a pioneer in the diagnostics world, having previously invented flocked swabs in 2003, and it currently offers the world’s leading transport medium for virus-containing clinical specimens. The investment here from Apple is focused primarily on scale, taking the existing expertise of COPAN and making it into something that can operate somewhere closer to the amazing production volumes that Apple can accomplish, in order to help address the urgent need for more testing supplies to prevent that being the bottleneck to widespread COVID-19 diagnostics in the U.S.

Apple has redirected many of its resources, including monetary donations, protective equipment sourcing, and software development resources for both symptom-checking apps and the forthcoming partnership with Google on exposure notification software, to combatting the global coronavirus crisis. This deployment of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund is yet another example of how the company can address the pandemic in a variety of ways that are unique to its global position, expertise and relationships.

#advanced-manufacturing-fund, #apple, #apple-i, #apple-inc, #apple-store, #berkshire-hathaway, #biotech, #companies, #computers, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #google, #health, #iphone, #manufacturing, #steve-jobs, #tc, #united-states

The rise of the human-centric CEO

Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO by Ben Horowitz is one of the most commonly cited management think pieces of the last decade.

And for good reason; Horowitz surfaced a fundamental distinction in operating philosophy that is necessary for companies to survive, reinvent and ultimately win when macroeconomic environments shift. The framework is especially useful given how counterintuitive the advice is — behaviors of a peacetime CEO and wartime CEO are often on diametrically opposite sides of the spectrum; it is rare to find a CEO who can successfully emulate both personas.

While in concept it is easy to understand these principles, as with most things in life, nothing can replace the visceral comprehension that comes via learned experience. We are at the onset of enduring the most challenging startup environment of (at least) the last 15 years. COVID-19 is an indiscriminate event that is systematically wiping out businesses, whether “atoms” or “bits.”

For most startup operators, this is the first taste of true systematic adversity. The undercurrents of frothy valuations, the social milieu of early-stage investing and stores of excess capital are coming to a grinding halt as the bull market of the last 12 years is dramatically disrupted. We have an entire generation of founders/CEOs who may conceptually understand the peacetime CEO/wartime CEO ethos, but now, they’re going to actually live it. At the same time as every other founder/CEO. Brutal.

Since the onset of COVID-19, we have spoken to more than 100 founders and CEOs. Naturally, we are hearing frequent allusions to peacetime CEO/wartime CEO as a framework to help navigate the landscape. We’ve even used it over the last few months. While we believe it is a helpful framework, it is also incomplete. Further, we believe its application can lead to deeply problematic outcomes.

At a micro level, the misplaced application of peacetime CEO/wartime CEO can fundamentally change a company for the worse. A wartime CEO, as Horowitz notes, is “completely intolerant, rarely speaks in a normal tone, sometimes uses profanity purposefully, heightens contradictions, and neither indulges consensus building nor tolerates disagreements.” In the strictest application, we are seeing this align with a common false trope that has plagued the tech industry: “To change the world like Steve Jobs, I need to emulate all aspects of Steve Jobs’ personality.” A classic logical fallacy many founders/CEOs have learned the hard way — if you emulate all aspects of Steve Jobs’ personality, it doesn’t mean you will change the world like he did.

Each company is driven by its own unique culture and values — in a crisis situation, while it is important to be adept and agile, it’s equally, if not more important, to triple down on the strongest elements of your culture established pre-crisis. Many of the strongest founders/CEOs we have had the pleasure of coaching and investing in are uniquely world-class in their patience and tolerance, their ability to make the abnormal normal and their commitment to inspire with clarity. It is the adherence to these principles that will help carry their companies through this time.

At a macro level, peacetime CEO/wartime CEO conjures outdated themes that are at best inaccurate, and at worst, counterproductive. War implies “destruction, ruthlessness, blood, death;” there is an innate sense of machismo and bravado in this language reinforcing a homogeneous tech community. This type of vernacular and attitude increases barriers to a more inclusive community excluding women and underrepresented minority participation.

Now is the time for us to propagate community, resourcefulness and generosity.

One of the most common takeaways we have heard in reference to the framework is, “now is the time when real founders are made.” If Rent the Runway, ClassPass, Away, the Wing and the countless other women-led/minority-led startups that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are not able to bounce back, we highly doubt it is because “they weren’t able to cut it as real founders,” a ridiculous assertion to make under any circumstance.

The peacetime CEO/wartime CEO framework is clearly valuable — it forces us to dissect the behavioral shifts necessary to survive in a crisis. That being said, it needs to evolve. Being firm, decisive and staring down an existential crisis is not mutually exclusive with applying empathy, gratitude and generosity. You can be an intense, laser-focused and paranoid CEO without losing yourself or fundamentally changing the culture of your company.

We know dozens of leaders who are leading their companies through these challenging times without leaving a wake of carnage or damage to the foundation they have spent years building. They are leading with their heart and values and will be remembered for how they carried themselves, treated their employees and guided the company through the crisis. COVID-19 presents us with a unique opportunity as an industry. Now is the right time to retire the false dilemma of peacetime CEO or wartime CEO and empower the rise of the human-centric CEO:

  • The human-centric CEO considers and balances the needs of her organization, employees, customers and other stakeholders in good and bad times;
  • The human-centric CEO recognizes she cannot change the macro environment or competition so she focuses her effort and energy on what she and the team can control and manage;
  • The human-centric CEO internalizes his mission, vision and values in the face of difficult challenges and critical strategic decisions;
  • The human-centric CEO views and manages her company as a complex and dynamic human system with nuanced inputs and interdependencies;
  • The human-centric CEO believes employees are the single most important stakeholder — that is reflected in how the organization hires, coaches, trains, incentivizes and retains;
  • The human-centric CEO orients around decisive and bold decisions that impact employees rather than a series of micro maneuvers that damage culture and trust;
  • The human-centric CEO creates shared meaning and purpose by reiterating the mission and vision over and over and over again;
  • The human-centric CEO fosters an organization that values and cultivates psychological safety;
  • The human-centric CEO develops self-awareness and inner resilience to weather the emotional ups and downs of company building;
  • The human-centric CEO invests the time and energy to go deeper with her employees at strategic junctures and times of crisis;
  • The human-centric CEO distills and simplifies issues, strategies and tactics to help employees reduce noise and increase focus;
  • The human-centric CEO communicates frequently and articulates expectations with humility and confidence to avoid uncertainty, prevent anxiety and achieve alignment;
  • The human-centric CEO recognizes he has a range of communication mediums at his disposal and selects the most appropriate one based on the magnitude of the situation;
  • The human-centric CEO believes in the power of company rituals such as one-on-ones, exec team meetings, all-hands, stand-ups, retrospectives and off-sites;
  • The human-centric CEO expresses empathy, appreciation and gratitude for the work performed by existing, outgoing and former employees;
  • The human-centric CEO listens intensely and empathetically with her full self — ears, eyes and intuition;
  • The human-centric CEO takes out time for self-care because she understands she cannot serve others and be highly effective unless she is mentally and physically healthy.

There’s no way to mince words. COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the startup community. The inevitable is unfortunately occurring every day — many startups will never come back from this. As eternal optimists, however, we see opportunity in this crisis for the broader industry: the rise of the human-centric CEO. Now is the time for us to propagate community, resourcefulness and generosity. It’s the time to be ever thoughtful about employees, colleagues, stakeholders and fellow founder/CEOs in need. Individual startups may not survive this crisis, but it is our hope that an everlasting mentality does.

By no means is this list exhaustive, but it captures the behaviors and attributes from the top leaders we are working with. We believe CEOs should strive to become human-centric. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because we believe it will lead to healthier organizations and better results over time.

#ben-horowitz, #classpass, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #diversity, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #opinion, #startup-company, #startups, #steve-jobs, #tc, #venture-capital

Apple said to sell Macs powered by in-house ARM-based chips as early as 2021

Apple’s long-rumored Mac ARM chip transition could happen as early as next year, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The report says that Apple is currently working on three Mac processors based on the design of the A14 system-on-a-chip that will power the next-generation iPhone. The first of the Mac versions will greatly exceed the speed of the iPhone and iPad processors, according to the report’s sources.

Already, Apple’s A-series line of ARM-based chips for iPhones and iPads have been steadily improving, to the point where their performance in benchmark tests regularly exceeds that of Intel processors used currently in Apple’s Mac line. As a result, and because Intel’s chip development has encountered a few setbacks and slowdowns in recent generations, rumors that Apple would move to using its own ARM-based designs have multiplied over the past few years.

Bloomberg says that “at least one Mac” powered by Apple’s own chip is being prepared for release in 2021, to be built by chip fabricator and longtime Apple partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). The first of these chips to power Macs will have at least 12 cores, including eight designed for high-performance applications, and four designed for lower-intensity activities with battery-preserving energy efficiency characteristics. Current Intel designs that Apple employs in devices such as the MacBook Air have four or even two cores, by comparison.

Initially, the report claims Apple will focus on using the chips to power a new Mac design, leaving Intel processors in its higher-end pro level Macs, because the ARM-based designs, while more performant on some scores, can’t yet match the top-end performance of Intel-based chip technology. ARM chips generally provide more power efficiency at the expense of raw computing power, which is why they’re so frequently used in mobile devices.

The first ARM-based Macs will still run macOS, per Bloomberg’s sources, and Apple will seek to make them compatible with software that works on current Intel-based Macs as well. That would be a similar endeavor to when Apple switched from using PowerPC-based processors to Intel chips for its Mac lineup in 2006, so the company has some experience in this regard. During that transition, Apple announced initially that the switch would take place between 2006 and 2007, but accelerated its plans so that all new Macs shipping by the end of 2006 were powered by Intel processors.

#apple, #arm, #arm-chips, #computers, #computing, #gadgets, #hardware, #intel, #ipad, #ipads, #iphone, #mac, #macintosh, #macos, #powerpc, #steve-jobs, #system-on-a-chip, #tc

Apple’s Magic Keyboard Review: Laptop class typing comes to iPad Pro

Over the past two years, I’ve typed nearly every word I’ve written while traveling on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard Folio. For more on why you can see my iPad Pro review here.

For the purposes of this look at the new Magic Keyboard, though, you should probably just know two things:

  1. It was reliable, incredibly durable and never once failed me.
  2. It kind of stunk in every other way.

The Keyboard Folio’s plastic coated surface made it impervious to spills, but it also made the keys much less responsive. It rendered them unable to give your fingers the feedback necessary to confirm that a key had been struck, leading me to adopt a technique where I just hit every key with maximum strength at all times.

The new Magic Keyboard is as different from that device as the new MacBook Pro keyboards are from the low profile ones that dominated headlines over the last couple of years. It’s a huge jump forward in usability for the iPad Pro — and for last year’s model too.

I am very relieved I don’t have to slam my fingers onto the plastic keyboard anymore, because over long and fast typing sessions I could feel a numbness that would begin to radiate from the tips of my fingers a bit. An enervation of sorts. It wasn’t precisely painful but it was noticeable.

The Magic Keyboard offers a lovely, backlit deck that holds its own against the 16” MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air for best portable keyboards. The key travel is excellent — in between the two laptops in my opinion — and the feel is tight, responsive and precise. This is a first class typing experience, full stop.

I’ve been testing the three keyboards alongside one another for the past few days and I can’t stress enough how stable the keys are. Even the MacBook Air allows a tiny bit of key shift if you touch your finger to it and gently circle it — though the MacBook Pro is better. There’s such a small amount of that here that it’s almost imperceptible.

It’s a tad spongier than the 16” MBP but more firm than the MacBook Air, which has a bit more return and travel. In my opinion, this keyboard is ‘louder’ (due to the plastic casing being more resonant than the aluminum), than the 16” MBP, but about the same as the MacBook Air. The throw feels similar to the 16” though, with the Air being slightly deeper but ‘sloppier’.

So a hybrid between those two keyboards as far as feel goes, but a clear descendant of the work that was done to turn those offerings around.

Construction

Among my biggest concerns was that Apple would get overly clever with the hinge design, making the the typing an exercise in wobble. Happy to say here that they took the clear path here and made it as sturdy as possible, even if that was at the cost of variability.

The hinge is a simple limit stop design that opens far less than you’d expect and then allows a second hinge to engage to open in an arc between the 80 and 130 degrees. The 90 degree and fully open positions basically mimic the angles that were offered by the grooves of the Keyboard Folio — but now you can choose any in-between position that feels natural to you.

Apple has obviously put this hard stop fold out limit in place to maintain balance on tables and laps, and its clever use of counter opposing forces with the second hinge combines to limit tipping and to make typing on a lap finally a completely viable thing to do. The fact that you don’t have to hammer the keyboard to type also makes this a better proposition.

For typing, these positions should be just fine for the vast majority of users. And the solid (very high friction) hinge means that the whole thing is very sturdy feeling, even with more moving parts. I have been quite comfortable grabbing the whole assembly of the 12.9” iPad Pro plus Magic Keyboard by the deck of the keyboard and carrying it around, much in the way I’d carry a laptop. No worries about accidental floppiness or detachment.

At the same time, the new design that floats the iPad in the air allows you to quickly pop it off with little effort by either your left or right hand. This makes the Magic Keyboard take on the use case of a desktop based dock, something that never felt right with the Keyboard Folio.

The touchpad physically moves here, and is not a haptic pad, but it is clickable across its entire surface. It’s also a laptop-class trackpad, proving that Apple’s engineering teams still have a better idea about how to make a trackpad that works crisply and as expected than any other hardware team out there.

I do love the soft touch coating of the case itself, but I believe it will wear in a similar fashion to these kinds of surfaces on other devices. It will likely develop shiny spots on either side of the trackpad on the hand rest areas.

The responsive half arrow keys are extremely welcome.

Some other details, quirks and upper limits

The camera placement situation is much improved here, as you’re less likely to hold the left side of the iPad to keep it stable. The lift of the keyboard (at times about an inch and a bit) means that the eye line, while still not ideal, is improved for zoom calls and the like. Less double chin up the nose action. Apple should still move the iPad Pro’s camera on future versions.

The keyboard’s backlight brightness is decent and adjustable in the settings pane once it’s attached to iPad Pro. The unit did use more battery in my tests, though I haven’t had it long enough to assign any numbers to it. I did notice during a recent Facetime call that the battery was draining faster than it could charge, but that is so far anecdotal and I haven’t had the time to reproduce it in testing.

This is not the case that artists have been waiting for. This case does not rotate around backwards like the keyboard folio, meaning that you’re going to be popping it off the case if you’re going to draw on it at all. In some ways the ease of removal feels like an Apple concession. ‘Hey, we couldn’t fit all this in and a way to position it at a drawing angle, so we made it really easy to get it loose.’ It works, but I hope that more magic happens between now and the next iteration to find a way to serve both typing and drawing in one protected configuration.

A little quirk: when it’s tilted super far back to the full stop I sometimes nick the bottom edge of the iPad with my fingers when hitting numbers — could be my typing form or bigger hands but I thought it worth mentioning.

It’s a bit heavy. At 700g for the 12.9” keyboard, it more than doubles the weight of the whole package. The larger iPad Pro and keyboard is basically the weight of a MacBook Air. Get the 11” if weight is a concern. This keyboard makes the iPad 12.9″ package feel very chunky. The

The fact that this keyboard works on the older iPad Pro (the camera just floats inside the cutout) means that this is a fantastic upgrade for existing users. It really makes the device feel like it got a huge upgrade without having to buy a new core unit, which fits with Apple’s modular approach to iPad Pro and also stands out as pretty rare in a world where the coolest new features are often hardware related and new device limited.

At $300 and $350 for each size of Magic Keyboard, the price is something you must think about up front. Given that it is now easily the best keyboard available for these devices I think you need to consider it a part of the package price of the device. If you can’t swing that, consider another option — it’s that good.

I’d love more angles of use here and I’m hoping that they include more — that said! If you work seriously with the iPad and that work is based on typing, the Magic Keyboard is essentially mandatory. It’s the dream keyboard for all of us who found ourselves crossing the Rubicon into iPad as primary computer over the past couple of years. It’s not without its caveats, but it is a refreshingly straightforward and well executed accessory that makes even older iPads feel like better laptops than laptops.

#apple, #apple-keyboard, #computing, #foxconn, #ipad, #ipads, #laptop, #macbook, #magic-keyboard, #portable-media-players, #steve-jobs, #tablet-computers, #tc, #touchscreens