Graham Spencer

872 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan 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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Apple Announces Q1 2016 Earnings Call for January 26

Apple's Investor Relations website was yesterday updated to note that Apple's earnings call for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 (October, November and December 2015) will be held on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. As is usual, Apple will provide a live webcast of the conference call on the day.

Apple's guidance for the first fiscal quarter of 2016 is revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion, gross margin between 39 percent and 40 percent and a tax rate of 26.2 percent. But as is illustrated above, Apple's guidance in the past has often underestimated the actual numbers by quite a significant degree.

As we have for previous earnings calls, MacStories will cover the conference call on our site’s homepage on January 26 starting at 2 PM PT, posting charts of the results, collecting key quotes from Apple executives and highlighting interesting Tweets from others.

Apple’s 2015: Year In Review

2015 was a big year from Apple, arguably its biggest yet. Over the course of the past twelve months we've seen Apple release the MacBook, Apple Watch, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, iPad Pro, new Apple TV, refresh the MacBook Air and iMac, and even release updated iPods. Then there's all the new software from iOS 9 to OS X El Capitan, to watchOS 2, and even the unveiling of tvOS.

In assembling this story, I thought about how I could present the information in a way that wouldn't be overwhelming and would hopefully be unique from everyone else's "year in review" stories. As you can see below, I choose to display it in an interactive widget. You'll be able to see at a glance which months were significant for Apple, and for what reason (iPhone, Mac, TV, etc). Then you can dive into a particular month and swipe across to get summaries of the big stories from Apple. If you want to learn more about a particular story, there's a link that'll take you to the full story.

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VLC Update Adds Support for iOS 9 Split View

The VLC app for iOS was yesterday updated to version 2.7.0, adding support for a number of iOS 9 features, as 9to5 Mac reported:

The latest update includes an updated watchOS 2 app for Apple Watch users and several new iOS 9 features for iPhone and iPad.

VLC now supports system wide search through Spotlight, Split View for side-by-side apps on the latest iPads, and Touch ID unlocking on iPhones and iPads with fingerprint scanners.

A solid update to VLC, with new features and adding support for iOS 9 and watchOS 2. But I must admit, I was surprised to realize that although they added support for iOS 9's Split View, VLC still doesn't work with iOS 9's Picture in Picture mode.

The initial release notes incorrectly stated that the update added an Apple TV app for VLC – in fact it does not. But the VLC Apple TV app is coming, and soon.


60 Minutes: What’s Next for Apple

60 Minutes (the US edition on CBS) today had an in-depth feature on Apple. 60 Minutes' correspondent, Charlie Rose, spoke to a number of Apple Executives including Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Angela Ahrendts and Phil Schiller.

Apple is one of the most interesting business stories in generations and it finds itself at the heart of some of the biggest issues facing American companies today: the way terrorists may be using encrypted technology to plot attacks, the battle over the corporate tax rate, and the challenges of working in China. We talked about all of that with Apple CEO Tim Cook as part of a journey through the world's biggest and richest company.

There wasn't a huge deal of new information in tonight's program, but Rose's interview with Tim Cook, particularly regarding encryption and corporate tax rates makes it well worth a watch. Although perhaps more interesting is the brief look at a new design for Apple Retail Stores with Angela Ahrendts, as well as a look inside Apple design's studio with Ive (complete with cloth-covered tables).

If you're in the US, you can watch the 60 Minutes segment on Apple on their website. You can also read a transcript of the program here.


Apple Partners with China UnionPay to Bring Apple Pay to China in 2016

Update (18 December): iMore has a quote from Eddy Cue which lists some of the banks that will support Apple Pay in China; Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Bank of Guangzhou, Bank of Shanghai, China Construction Bank, China Ever-bright Bank, China Guangfa Bank, China CITIC Bank, China Merchants Bank, China Minsheng Bank, Industrial Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ping An Bank, Postal Savings Bank of China and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

Apple today announced a partnership with China UnionPay, which will see Apple Pay available to Chinese customers as soon as early 2016. China UnionPay operates the Chinese inter-bank network and develops the UnionPay Card network – and its role in China is somewhat analagous to that of Visa and Mastercard.

“China UnionPay is dedicated to promoting payment innovations and providing secure, convenient mobile payment experiences for its hundreds of millions of cardholders, aligning multiple parties in the industry,” said Chai Hongfeng, executive vice president of China UnionPay. “We’re very excited to offer Apple Pay among a diverse set of innovative payment options that work with China UnionPay QuickPass.”

Apple says that it is working with China UnionPay to launch Apple Pay with 15 of China's leading banks, but provides no firm date apart from saying it will available as "soon as early 2016". According to Apple, the service needs to go through "tests and certification required by Chinese regulators". At this stage it is unclear which 15 banks will be supported.

China UnionPay cards are issued by over 165 financial institutions and can be used at more than 26 million merchants, 1.9 million ATMs and to date over 5 billion UnionPay cards have been issued. Today's announcement will likely make China the fifth country to support Apple Pay, with Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong also getting limited support for Apple Pay sometime in 2016.

“Apple Pay has revolutionized the way millions of people pay every day with their iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience.”

Today's Apple Pay announcement is a big deal after a rather lackluster year for the service outside of the US. After launching in the US on October 20, 2014, Apple Pay finally expanded beyond the US in July this year when it lauched in the UK. But the UK launch was a bit of a shambles with just eight banks supporting the service at launch and just one of the "big four" – worsened by one of the banks delaying their support by a couple of weeks at the last minute. Then in late October this year Apple announced a partnership with American Express to bring Apple Pay to Australia and Canada, which it did in mid-November. Apple was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to make a deal with local banks – with numerous reports which say there was a deadlock between Apple and the banks over how much Apple should be paid from each transaction made using Apple Pay. The same limited, American Express only, Apple Pay support will roll out to Spain, Canada and Hong Kong starting in 2016.

Apple and IBM Partnership Surpasses 100 Enterprise Apps

In July 2014, Apple and IBM announced a partnership which would see the two companies collaborate to deliver specialized enterprise apps. Today, the two have announced that they have produced more than 100 iOS apps, as Ariel Bogle of Mashable reports:

Katharyn White, vice president of the Apple and IBM partnership at IBM Global Business Services, told Mashable the company was excited to hit the 100 app milestone, but said the number was secondary to the achievement of having an impact across 14 industries and 65 individual professions, from travel to telecommunications and healthcare.

"It's even more powerful to see these are coming through amazing use cases," she said. "Whether nurses or insurance agents, manufacturing managers or retail shop workers."

Although they're not revealing total customer numbers, some of these specialized enterprise apps have been deployed by companies including Coca-Cola Amatil, Japan Post and Scandinavian Airlines. As Gartner analyst Van Baker told TechCrunch, the appeal of this partnership to enterprise customers is that it "combines the dominant enterprise device vendor with a dominant enterprise software vendor".

In 2016, the Apple and IBM partnership aims to add more apps to the suite as well as more users, she said, but also to add value to existing apps as their analytics improve. IBM is also developing products to take advantage of the iPad Pro's larger screen size and multi-tasking capabilities.


Slack Launches an App Directory and $80 Million Fund for Slack Integrations

Casey Newton from the Verge, reporting on the new Slack App Directory and investment fund:

Slack is wrapping up a breakout year with a set of announcements designed to press its advantage as a next-generation productivity app. The team-communication app, which now has 2 million daily users and 570,000 paying customers, has established an $80 million fund to invest in companies who build Slack apps and other products that rely on integration with the company. (The fund is backed by Slack along with venture capital firms Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Spark Growth, and Social + Capital.) Slack has also set up an "app directory" where administrators can browse the 150 integrations that are now available — Twitter, Dropbox, Trello, and Google Drive among them — and install them on their team's Slack instance.

We use Slack behind the scenes at MacStories and really enjoy using it – out of all the group messaging services we've used, it's easily the best. Part of what makes Slack so great is the way you can integrate third party apps and services with Slack, and as you might imagine, Federico has a lot of fun with that. Which is why this latest announcement from Slack is exciting to us. Slack integrations are now easier than ever to find with the Slack App Directory, and there's now another incentive for companies and developers to build Slack integrations with the introduction of the investment fund.

If you want to learn more, be sure to read The Verge's report, or alternatively the announcement on Slack's official blog.


How Adobe is Reimagining Photoshop for the Mobile Era

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company:

What wasn't instantly obvious, however, was exactly how to translate Photoshop into an experience that made sense on the iPad and other mobile devices. In 2011, Adobe released three "Photoshop Touch" iPad apps—Eazel, Color Lava, and Nav—which were complements to Photoshop in its full-strength form rather than stand-alone tools. Then in 2012, it introduced an app called Photoshop Touch, which took a smallish subset of desktop Photoshop’s features, stripped out most of their advanced features, and rejiggered the interface so it worked with touch input.

This year, the company started all over again. It discontinued development of Photoshop Touch—which was available for iPhones and Android devices as well as iPads—and announced that Photoshop's future on the iPad and other mobile devices would henceforth involve smaller, specialized tools rather than anything that retained Photoshop's traditional everything-and-the-kitchen-sink flavor.

Adobe has done a rather phenomenal job in its transition from boxed software to the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud, as its latest quarter's record revenue figures clearly demonstrate. Over that same period, Adobe has also invested substantially in developing apps for mobile devices, and most significantly, the iPad. In fact earlier this year in May I looked at the number of iOS apps developed by Adobe, and at the time they had 50 apps in the App Store that had been updated within the last year (another 59 had been pulled from sale or not been updated in over a year).

As McCracken's story makes clear, Adobe's strategy for mobile devices isn't about slimming down their flagship desktop products so that they can run on mobile devices. Instead, Adobe has focused on creating apps for specific tasks, whether it be Photoshop Fix for retouching photos or Photoshop Mix for combining and blending images and layers together. In that way, Adobe claims that they can offer a better mobile product, that can in some ways offer a better experience than on the desktop.


Craig Federighi Discusses Swift on The Talk Show

Episode 139 of The Talk Show with John Gruber:

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi joins the show for a wide-ranging half-hour discussion about Swift — Apple’s new programming language that just went open source.

Next, John Siracusa returns to the show to follow up on Federighi’s segment on Swift. Other topics include Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6/6S, and our mutual (and perhaps futile) desire to head into this week’s premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens knowing as few spoilers as possible.

A great episode of The Talk Show, ready for your morning (or evening) commute. It is fantastic (and kind of amazing) to hear an Apple Executive discuss what can be a deeply technical topic, outside of WWDC. There's also a transcript of the Federighi segment for those of you who would prefer reading the discussion.