Federico Viticci

8752 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found on his three podcasts – Connected, Canvas, and Remaster.

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Connected, Episode 120: Perennial State of Worrying

Federico is back with some new purchases in tow. Stephen published a book. Myke wants more from his Echo. Everyone has wishes for iOS 10.

On this week's Connected, we checked in with iOS 10 three months after its launch and listed the features we're liking best so far, as well as those that left us disappointed. You can listen here.

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Remaster, Episode 24: PSX and Pokémon

Federico and Myke break down the announcements from PSX, and give their review of Pokémon Sun/Moon so far.

Lots of PlayStation games on Remaster this week, plus a first discussion on the new Pokémon games, where Myke and I are taking two deeply different approaches. You can listen here.

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Spotify Adds Direct Sonos Playback to iOS App

Spotify:

We’ve teamed up with Sonos to make it easier than ever to keep the music going strong. Now Spotify Premium users can control their Sonos straight from the Spotify app using Spotify Connect. Use all the features you love about Spotify: the curation, discovery, and sharing and hear it all throughout your home in crystal clear sound. You can also access the multiroom power of the Sonos home sound system directly in the Spotify app. We’ve brought out the best of both worlds to give you the smartest and most seamless home sound system yet.

I've been trying this in beta for the past couple of months, and it has worked well with my Sonos PLAY:1. The feature is based on Spotify Connect, which is fast and doesn't route all system audio to a single device. In my experience, using Spotify Connect with a Sonos speaker has been much more reliable than streaming music to AirPlay or Bluetooth speakers.

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Amazon’s New AI Tools for Developers

Interesting announcements from Amazon at its AWS event this week: the company is rolling out a suite of artificial intelligence APIs for developers to plug their apps into. These tools are based on the AWS cloud (which a lot of your favorite apps and services already use) and they leverage the same AI and deep learning that has also powered Alexa, the software behind the Amazon Echo.

Here's April Glaser, writing for Recode:

Drawing on the artificial intelligence that powers Amazon’s popular home assistant Alexa, the new tools will allow developers to build apps that have conversational interfaces, can turn text into speech and use computer vision that is capable of recognizing faces and objects.

Amazon’s latest push follows moves from Google and Microsoft, both of which have cloud computing platforms that already use artificial intelligence.

Google’s G Suite, for example, uses AI to power Smart Reply in Gmail, instant translation and smart scheduling functions in its calendar. Likewise, Microsoft recently announced it’s bringing artificial intelligence to its Office 365 service to add search within Word, provide productivity tracking and build maps from Excel with geographic data.

It's increasingly starting to look like "AI as an SDK" will become a requirement for modern apps and services. Deep learning and AI aren't limited to playing chess and recognizing cat videos anymore; developers are using this new kind of computing power for all kinds of features – see Plex, Spotify, and Todoist for two recent examples. I've also been hearing about iOS apps using Google's Cloud Vision a lot more frequently over the past few months.

I think this trend will only accelerate as AI reshapes how software gets more and better work done for us. And I wonder if Apple is considering an expansion of their neural network APIs to match what others are doing – competition in this field is heating up quickly.

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Connected, Episode 119: Tiered Levels of Surprise

This week, Stephen and Myke talk about CNN’s acquisition of Beme before answering questions about Relay FM, self employment and Casey Liss.

Myke and Stephen (for whom, by the way, I issued an official pardon) had a fun episode of Connected without me this week. You can listen here.

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The New MacBook Pro Is Kind of Great for Hackers

Adam Geitgey:

A million hot takes have been posted about how the late-2016 MacBook Pro with USB-C is the undeniable proof that Apple doesn’t care about developers anymore. They took away all the ports! No Esc key! It’s just a more expensive MacBook Air!

But in some ways, the new MacBook Pro is the most techy and expandable laptop Apple has ever made. They are trusting their pro users to wade into murky USB-C waters in search of the holy grail of a universal, open standard for moving data and power between devices.

I’m not here to change your mind about the MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s probably too expensive and more RAM is better than less RAM. But everyone posting complaints without actually using a MBP for a few weeks is missing out on all the clever things you can do because it is built on USB-C. Over the past week or two with a new MacBook Pro (15in, 2.9ghz, TouchBar), I’ve been constantly surprised with how USB-C makes new things possible. It’s a kind of a hacker’s dream.

His examples make me wish the iPad Pro had a USB-C port to plug anything into it without having to buy adapters.

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iOS 10 and Default Apps

Kirk McElhearn, writing for Macworld, returns to the issue of iOS not having the ability to set different default apps:

We’re at iOS 10, and Apple still hasn’t allowed users to make these choices. It seems ridiculous that, with a mature operating system, we’re still locked into Apple’s default apps. It’s not rocket science to make these changes; after all, there are protocols that funnel requests to specific handlers, the same way they do on the Mac. Let us choose the apps we want to use: It’s time to let iOS users have the same freedom of choice as Mac users.

I've argued in favor of third-party default apps many times in the past (see 'Personalization' here). Clearly, this isn't a technical problem per se; I think Apple is more concerned about the strategic and security implications of default apps.

Opening up system default apps to any third-party app could result in users choosing alternatives for Apple Music, Maps, and Photos/Camera (among others). These apps are key to Apple's ecosystem of services and iPhone experience as a whole. They are essential differentiators, unlike, say, TextEdit or Calendar. The comparison between default apps on macOS and iOS only goes so far – I believe Apple sees certain iPhone apps as more important than their Mac counterparts and critical to controlling the iOS ecosystem.

Should Apple allow a third-party to replace the Health app? What about iMessage (a new platform inside iOS) or FaceTime? Bringing user-configurable default apps to iOS isn't as easy as flipping a switch – there are ramifications that go beyond opening .txt files in an alternative text editor on macOS.

I think there should be the option to set different defaults for some iOS apps, and I think we will get such feature, albeit in a limited fashion. Look at SiriKit and the rollout of a few domains in iOS 10.0; that's a good indicator of how Apple tends to tackle these problems. Different default apps would be welcome for iPad productivity (especially the web browser and email client), but I'd be surprised if Apple rolled out extensive support to change just about any default system app on iOS.

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Canvas, Episode 24: Workflow – Third-Party Apps

This week Fraser and Federico continue the Workflow series by looking at integrating Workflow with third-party apps.

In the latest episode of Canvas, our Workflow series continues with an in-depth look at third-party app integrations and several examples of our own workflows.

If you haven't listened to the previous episodes of the series yet, you'll want to go back and start from there.

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