Graham Spencer

674 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Vying for the Hearts of Developers

[…] the mobile revolution is over, and the war is now between Apple and the Google / Samsung alliance for the hearts of developers.

That's why Apple spent fully one-third of its presentation today on new developer features, including an entirely new programming language called Swift. That's why iOS is opening up in entirely new ways, including previously-forbidden things like letting apps talk to each other and even share interface elements with the system. That's why Apple is building out the foundations of both health-tracking and home-monitoring platforms that big companies like Nike and Honeywell can tap into alongside smaller players like the smart lock maker August and speaker company iHome. And that's why Apple is adding all sorts of little features to its systems that only power users really want, like widgets in the notification shade and replacement software keyboards. Make the developers happy, and they'll stick around to write great apps that rely on the iPhone as the center of the universe.

It's been less than 24 hours since Apple’s WWDC 2014 keynote, but already there have been a wave of opinion pieces, criticisms, compliments and everything in between. But so far, my favorite article has come from Vox’s Nilay Patel (just ignore Vox's weird, almost click-bait headline). Like every opinion, not everyone will agree with it, but Patel makes some strong arguments about how Apple has now laid a really solid foundation for its immediate future. Apple wants to sell consumers on their ecosystem and in order to make that appealing to consumers, Apple is making their platform as attractive as possible for developers and other third parties such as those which provide health-tracking and home-automation products.

If Apple succeeds at attracting the very best developers and third party products to the Apple ecosystem it will make it that much more appealing for new consumers to buy in (and as Tim Cook jokingly said, have “a better life”) and that much harder for existing customers to leave the ecosystem. As someone who has invested in the Apple ecosystem in recent years, yesterday's announcements were very encouraging and restored my confidence that this ecosystem will continue to grow in convenience, utility and value. I for one can't wait to see what the developers bring us later this fall with the public release of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

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OS X Yosemite Overview

Apple today unveiled OS X Yosemite, the next major version of their Mac operating system. Introduced by Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, Yosemite brings a big new redesign to the Mac that is reminiscent of last year's iOS 7 redesign. Continuity between OS X and iOS is also a huge aspect to the Yosemite release, including a so-called 'Handoff' feature, instant hotspots, and support for making phone calls and sending text messages from a Mac. Beyond that, Notification Center now includes the 'Today' view from iOS (with support for widgets), a brand new 'Spotlight' and big improvements to Mail, Safari and the new iCloud Drive.

 “Yosemite is the future of OS X with its incredible new design and amazing new apps, all engineered to work beautifully with iOS,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “We engineer our platforms, services and devices together, so we are able to create a seamless experience for our users across all our products that is unparalleled in the industry. It’s something only Apple can deliver.”

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Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine Speak at Code Conference, A Brief Recap

Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine. Photo via Re/code

Following the news that Apple was acquiring Beats yesterday, Eddy Cue from Apple and Jimmy Iovine from Beats spoke to Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the inaugural Code Conference. We’ve run through the liveblogs from Re/code and The Verge and highlighted some interesting moments of the discussion below. If you’re interested, I’d recommend reading the full liveblogs yourself and keep an eye out for the full video of the interview (which we’ll link to once posted by the Re/code team).

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A Discussion About Apple’s Unsatisfactory In-App Purchase Policies

A couple of weeks ago the issue of Apple’s In-App Purchase (IAP) policy once again came into focus when ComiXology was purchased by Amazon and subsequently removed the ability to purchase comics within their iOS apps using IAPs. I think it is safe to say that there was quite an outcry from ardent ComiXology users and others who follow the news of the technology industry.

The reaction was mostly negative, or at least one of dissapointment. Depending on any one person’s views (or perhaps corporate allegiances), either Amazon was evil, Apple was evil, ComiXology was evil, or they were all evil and “once again” users lose out. I’m being overly dramatic here, but you get the picture: people (generally) weren’t happy with the change. If you want to read more about the specific issues at play in the ComiXology changes, I highly recommend Moises Chiullan’s article at Macworld.

Amazon is not absorbing, nor can it contractually subsume the 30 percent that gets paid to Apple from in-app purchases: By purchasing ComiXology what was previously ComiXology’s “piece of the pie” is now Amazon’s. That piece grows, but the publisher’s portion also grows, and therefore the amount that can be paid out to creators is larger. I asked ComiXology’s Mosher directly: Will the reduced overhead mean that more revenue can and will go to creators, whether they’re big-time publishers or independent creators? “Yes,” he said. (Macworld)

For me, the ComiXology issues once again highlighted the complexity for Apple (and others) of coming up with a policy for IAPs that is appropriate. I’ve always thought that the current policy leaves something to be desired because in a certain set of narrow (but high profile) circumstances, it results in situations that inconvenience or disadvantage the user.

So with all that in mind, I want to explain what the current policy is and the problems that it causes. Then, I will run through some potential alternative rules and highlight their respective benefits and drawbacks.
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Apple Debuts Two New ‘Your Verse’ iPad Adverts

Apple last night posted two new iPad adverts as part of their ongoing 'Your Verse' series. The two adverts feature travel writer Chérie King and composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Like Apple's previous 'Your Verse' adverts, they tell a story about how people use the iPad in different ways.

My iPad lets me share my journey with the world. Other deaf people tell me they're traveling more now because they see it's possible. (Chérie King)

In the advert with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Apple features the apps The Orchestra, Pianist Pro and Notion. Apple has also made available a live performance from Salonen free on iTunes (if you are in the US).

Meanwhile, WordPress, BabelDeck, AroundMe and Fotopedia are just some of the iPad apps featured in the advert with Chérie King.

iPad is the best tool I've seen to write down the first impulse. Those moments when your mind is open, free. And then you think, what if? (Esa-Pekka Salonen)

You can view the full adverts below or on Apple's website, where you can also read the full 'Your Verse' stories from Chérie King and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

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Pixelmator 3.2 Sandstone Update Brings New Repair Tool, 16-Bits per Channel Support, and More

The Apple Design Award winning image editor Pixelmator today received a notable update with a new repair tool, 16-bits per channel support, and a lock layers feature amongst other more minor tweaks and bug fixes. The update, dubbed Pixelmator 3.2 Sandstone, is now available for download on the Mac App Store, where it is a free update for existing customers and US$29.99 for new customers.

“Packed with incredible features, Pixelmator 3.2 Sandstone delivers the most empowering image editing experience Pixelmator fans have ever had,” said Saulius Dailide of the Pixelmator Team. “Redeveloped from the ground up Repair Tool, 16-bits per channel support and Lock Layers feature make Pixelmator an excellent image editor that is just as fun and easy-to-use as it is powerful.”

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Netflix Expanding to Six European Countries Later This Year

Reuters is reporting today, with confirmation from the Netflix Twitter account, that Netflix will expand its international availability to six European countries later this year. Whilst Netflix is already available in a number of European countries including the United Kingdom, Norway and Finland, this latest international push is significant as it includes the major markets of France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Netflix previously said it planned a substantial expansion in Europe this year but had not said specifically where. The costs of launching in the new markets will keep the company's international unit at a loss, Netflix said in an April 21 letter to shareholders.

The pricing and programming that will be offered in these new regions will be announced by Netflix at a later date. But it is reasonable to expect that the new regions will launch with all of Netflix's original content such as 'House of Cards' and 'Orange is the New Black' as well as a limited mix of licensed movies and television shows, including those from the respective local markets.

In our recent feature on Mapping The International Availability of Entertainment Services we compared the availability of Netflix to other digital movie and TV stores and streaming services such as iTunes, Hulu and Xbox Video. Included below is an updated version of our map and graph which demonstrates how this expansion will impact on Netflix's global availability. (Please note these interactive elements are only viewable in a browser and will not render in RSS or read it later services).
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