Graham Spencer

689 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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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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Sandboxing Difficulties Mean Coda 2.5 Will Not Be Released on the Mac App Store


Panic announced yesterday that they will be moving away from the Mac App Store for distribution of their popular and Apple Design Award winning Coda app. Panic has been working for a number of months on a significant 2.5 update for Coda but have been struggling to resolve issues with maintaining adherence to the sandboxing requirements of the Mac App Store. Instead, Panic has decided to revert back to distribution of Coda outside of the Mac App Store so they can release the update shortly.

As we continued to work on Coda 2.5—a significant update that we’re really excited about—we continued to discover new corners of the app that presented challenges under sandboxing. Coda, to be fair, is a very complex developer tool and is something of a sandboxing worst-case scenario.

Panic makes this move despite the fact that they had a notable degree of help from teams within Apple - but it seems that ultimately it just was not enough. They write that Apple "to their considerable credit, spent a lot of energy assisting us with ideas, workarounds, and temporary exemptions we might be able to use to get around some of the issues". The move also comes more than a year after Panic successfully made the decision to change the way Coda worked in some ways so that it could be sold on the Mac App Store despite the, new at the time, sandboxing rules.

The new version, which will be available from Panic's website upon release, will automatically detect if there is a Mac App Store version of Coda installed and unlock the app for use. As a consequence of moving away from the Mac App Store, it also means the Coda can no longer use iCloud Sync and as a result, Panic have developed their own sync service - Panic Sync. This new service will be free and work across Panic's apps, including Coda and Diet Coda.

Panic write in their announcement that they will always "evaluate the possibility of sandboxing with each future release of Coda", with the hope of one day returning to the Mac App Store. Finally, Daniel Jalkut made the point on Twitter that Coda will no longer be eligible for the award it won last year, the Apple Design Award, because it is leaving the Mac App Store.


Mapping The International Availability of Entertainment Services

It is 2014 and we live in a rapidly globalizing world. Unfortunately, that is not always apparent from the technology press, which focuses primarily on developments in the US. That is not meant as a slight against others who write about technology -- it is just the reality. But thanks to our global and interconnected world, companies increasingly need to be able to do well in more than just one geographical market to succeed and grow. Additionally, customers outside the US are more aware than ever (thanks to the Internet and technology press) of new products available in the US and will place loyalty in the companies that bring those products to their country too.

It was this train of thought that led me to write a trilogy of so-called ‘Mapping’ posts in 2012 which covered three main topics: the availability of entertainment services across the world, the expansion of Apple Stores internationally and the rollout of various iPhones and iPads after their US launch. All are still available to be viewed, but as significant time has passed, please bear in mind that they are no longer current.

Today I am back to revisit the topic of entertainment services. The purpose, as was the case last time, is to see the international availability of entertainment services from Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Not only have we updated the information on all of these, but we have also added data about the availability of Rdio, Spotify, Deezer, Netflix, Hulu, Kobo, and Nook. Hopefully, with the aid of new maps and graphs included, you will get a better picture of how these entertainment services fare in catering to today's global market of consumers.

Technical notes on the interactive content

This article is a bit different to most others we run on MacStories as it includes interactive graphs and maps. Most importantly, if you are reading this from an RSS reader or read-it-later service such as Pocket or Instapaper, we would suggest you read this article in a web browser as those interactive elements form a big part of this article and will unfortunately not be visible in those services. If you are on an iPhone or iPad, don’t worry, we have made sure they work and look perfectly fine on those devices as well.

When you come across the interactive maps, there are a few things to be aware of. Firstly, they are interactive in the sense that you can zoom in (pinch to zoom on iOS, buttons in the top-left for Macs/PCs) and take the map full screen (button in the top-right corner). In order to compare the worldwide availability of various services, you simply need to click or tap on the service names that are listed directly below the map and the map will update with relevant countries shaded to indicate availability.

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Apple Refreshes MacBook Air With Faster Processor, Cuts Prices In Some Countries

Apple this morning refreshed their MacBook Air models with the latest generation of Intel's Haswell processors. The new processors give the MacBook Air a slight speed bump, taking them from 1.3GHz to 1.4GHz (and Turbo Boost from 2.6GHz to 2.7GHz). The refreshed models are otherwise the same, offering 128GB or 256GB storage, 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000. Built to order machine options are also unchanged, with upgrades of 8GB of RAM, 512GB storage and a 1.5GHz i7 Processor available.

“With MacBook Air starting at $899, there’s no reason to settle for anything less than a Mac,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Macs have never been more popular, and today we’ve boosted the performance and lowered the price of MacBook Air so even more people can experience the perfect everyday notebook.”

The four preconfigured models have all taken a $100 price cut in the United States - but those price cuts have not translated to every region, with Australia being one region where the prices of the models stay the same. But that can be explained by the recent weakness in the Australian dollar. The below graph illustrates the comparison between US prices and Australian prices, after converting the Australian prices to a 2014 average of the US Dollar and removing GST (which are included in the Australian prices).

The new MacBook Air models are available for purchase now. You can read Apple's press release here.