Eddie Cue on Apple TV and Apple Music

Eddie Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about Apple TV and Apple Music. In response to questions aimed at understanding Apple’s place in Hollywood and its media ambitions, Cue focused primarily on media distribution and the role Apple can play to improve it for consumers:

The problem with it is the way that we end up consuming it — generally a cable box. A satellite receiver is, to me, nothing more than a glorified VCR. And so I think there's huge opportunities in that space because people now want to watch on their phones, they want to watch on their iPads, and they want to watch on their TVs.

Cue also threw cold water on the notion that Apple is getting into the business of creating TV shows like Netflix, Amazon, and HBO do:

We're not in the business of trying to create TV shows. If we see it being complementary to the things we're doing at Apple Music or if we see it being something that's innovative on our platform, we may help them and guide them and make suggestions. But we're not trying to compete with Netflix or compete with Comcast.

Finally, in comments reminiscent of the interviews with playlist curators at Apple Music published by BuzzFeed yesterday, Cue explained that Apple Music:

… can't be about a service that's just providing the songs, because anybody can do that. It starts by the level of integration that we have within our product. Second of all, we do a lot of curation. Third is radio.

As a hardware manufacturer first and foremost, Apple’s approach to Hollywood content makes sense and reminds me in many ways of its approach to third-party app developers.

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The Enormity and Precision of Apple Campus 2’s Glass Structures

The scale of Apple Campus 2 is hard to comprehend. Built on 176 acres in Cupertino, California that was previously owned by Hewlett-Packard, Apple Campus 2 will have a circumference of one mile and accommodate around 13,000 employees.

Just as hard to grasp is the level of precision and detail that has gone into building Apple Campus 2. Apple Insider takes a look at the thought and care that has gone into one aspect of Apple Campus 2 – the glass.

The vast glass façade panels surrounding the exterior Spaceship Ring are 46 foot (14m) long and more than 10 feet (3m) tall, while the interior, courtyard-facing panels are just under 36 feet (11m) long. Both sets of panels are precisely curved to form the iconic building's cylindrical glass curtain.

Apple Insider explores the process by which sedak, a German glass manufacturer that has worked on projects like the glass staircases in some Apple stores, built hundreds of giant curved-glass panels to within 0.8mm of Apple’s specifications, which is a substantially closer tolerance than standard glass panels. Once completed, each panel weighs up to 2 tons and was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and then trucked to Cupertino in 20 ton bundles.

While the story behind the enormous glass installation at Apple Campus 2 is impressive in its own right, I agree with Apple Insider that:

Apple's ability to design and implement products ranging from the microscopic A10 [chip] to the massive Campus 2 to the human scale of Mac Pro—and its ability to partner with both leading, global giants and groups of smaller, local businesses—suggests incredible potential for the company in other new markets, ranging from clean energy to automotive to new cloud services and advanced new computing devices.

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Profiles of Playlist Curators at Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play

BuzzFeed has a fantastic feature post by Reggie Ugwu that goes inside the teams that create playlists for Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play.

Ugwu explains that:

In the two years since the Beats acquisition, three of the largest services, including Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music (and smaller ones like Tidal and Rhapsody, too), have increasingly relied on these playlists to accomplish two important goals at once: 1) helping users inundated by a catalog of more than 30 million songs more easily find the ones they actually want, and 2) creating difference in a market where everyone has more or less the same goods.

That’s a tall order. Discovery of digital media, whether it’s music, apps, or something else, is tough when many people are browsing vast media collections on their phones. Early attempts to curate music focused heavily on algorithmic solutions, but increasingly, streaming music services have invested in building editorial teams of music experts to create hand-picked playlists for subscribers.

One of the earliest champions of curated playlists was Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Beats Music, which was acquired by Apple in 2014. Scott Plagenhoef, head of Apple Music’s editorial team of about a dozen employees, explains Apple’s Iovine-inspired approach to music curation:

“It’s not about us projecting our personal opinions on people, it’s about us kind of being good shepherds and stewards and cutting through this entire vast catalog,” he says. “What’s important isn’t just the most popular artists, or the sort of soft center that’s going to be palatable to a lot of people. It’s finding the artists people are going to either love or have intense reactions to, the ones that are going to mean the most and have the biggest impact.”

Music fans, Plagenhoef argues, echoing Iovine, can smell the difference between a service where much of the product is dictated by algorithms or charts and one that is guided by more knowledgeable but equally passionate versions of themselves. By building its house on a foundation of experts, Apple Music has bet that it can be marginally more trustworthy to users than the competition, and that that margin could make a tie-breaking difference.

As a life-long music fan, I don’t find this as particularly surprising, though maybe I would if I were approaching music curation from a purely technical standpoint. There are lots of clever things you can do algorithmically to group similar songs, but the human element makes a difference.

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Camera+ for iPad 2.0 Includes Enhanced Editing and New Design

After releasing the eighth iteration of hit app Camera+ for iPhone last month, developers tap tap tap are back with version 2.0 of Camera+ for iPad.

The most notable change is a major redesign – Camera+ for iPad now matches the design language of its iPhone counterpart. If you're already a user of the iPad app, the transition from skeuomorphic buttons to a modern design is worth going to the App Store and upgrading immediately.

Version 2.0 also takes a big step forward in its editing prowess with improvements to The Lab, Camera+'s suite of photo enhancement tools. On iPad, you're now able to use your finger or, for more precise input, an Apple Pencil to brush filters and make edits. To enable brushing, move the effect slider to your desired location in The Lab and tap "brush".

By wrapping up the improvements with multitasking support, Camera+'s update pushes the app past mediocrity and into a serious photo editor.

You can find Camera+ for iPad on the App Store for $4.99.

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Spotify Launches Two New Radio Shows

Rich McCormick at The Verge:

Swedish streaming service Spotify is launching two new radio shows today, both of which feature musicians talking about the kind of music that they like listening to while they're making their art. The first, AM/PM, will feature artists like electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre and Terry Hall of ska icons The Specials talking about the music they listen to in the mornings before work, and in the evenings after a day spent creating. The second, Secret Genius, speaks to the songwriters and producers behind major songs, and features the actually-pretty-well-known James Blake, among others.

Looks like Spotify's "In Residence" radio shows which launched last year were successful enough for Spotify to commission these two new shows. The comparison to the radio shows on Beats 1 is unavoidable, but it's a good move on Spotify's part. They may not be for everyone, but those Beats 1 shows are one of the best benefits of the launch of Apple Music. Spotify's radio shows aren't live like some of those on Beats 1 are, but I don't think that makes a great deal of difference to their appeal to listeners.

Speaking of live radio and Beats 1, I'd be very interested to find out how many people listen to Beats 1 live, compared to how many just listen to the recorded radio shows when it is most convenient for them.

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Open Casting Call Posted for Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ Reality TV Show

Chance Miller at 9to5Mac:

Earlier this year it was announced that Apple was planning to launch its first original TV series about the “app economy.” Now, Apple has posted an open casting call for the unscripted reality series, which we now know is called Planet of the Apps.

The show is being co-produced with Propagate, a newly launched production company co-owned by Ben Silverman, best known for The Biggest Loser, and Howard T. Owens of MasterChef Junior fame. Will.i.am will also have a hand in producing Apple’s reality series.

The casting call is open to legal residents of the US, and it requires you to have a functioning app (for iOS, macOS, tvOS or watchOS) by October 21. The show will also incorporate elements of mentorship, marketing and promotion ("featured placement in the App Store at the end of the show"), and even funding from "top-tier VCs".

Executive producers will.i.am, Ben Silverman, and Howard Owens are teaming up for an unscripted series about the world of apps and the talented people that drive its innovation. They’re looking for developers with the vision to shape the future, solve real problems, and inspire change within our daily lives. “We can really tell their stories as we explore how apps are developed and created and incubated,” says Silverman.

If you're interested in potentially applying to be a part of Planet of the Apps, you can visit their website which contains more information on the requirements and application process.

Shooting takes place from "late 2016 to early 2017" with no official broadcast date just yet, though the website does note that the show will "reach millions of viewers around the world on Apple platforms". Also yet to be announced are the tech experts and mentors, and these will be announced in "the coming weeks".

I'm not sure why they're calling the series "Planet of the Apps", a name which appears to inexplicably riff on the "Planet of the Apes" science fiction franchise. I hope that by the time the series goes to air it has a different, better, name.

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Recapture Time with Moment

It’s easy to get lost in whatever you’re doing on your iPhone or iPad and become oblivious of your surroundings – just ask anyone who’s tried Pokémon GO. I don’t have a problem doing that occasionally to blow off steam, and the reality is that a lot of my work gets done on iOS, but there’s a time and a place for everything. What I don’t want is for my device use to take away from time I spend with friends and family.

If you feel the same way, but have a hard time putting your iPhone or iPad away, Kevin Holesh’s app Moment can help. By tracking your iPhone or iPad usage, you can get a handle on how much time you spend on each device, and even how much time you spend in individual apps. What’s more, if you purchase the Pro version of Moment, you can take advantage of its full Phone Bootcamp course and other tools that can help you find ways to reduce your device usage.

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Pokémon GO’s Spectacular Launch

Pokémon GO launched last week, and it has quickly captured the attention of millions who are now playing the augmented reality game created by Niantic in collaboration with The Pokémon Company (which is partially owned by Nintendo). After launching in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the staggering popularity of the game appeared to catch Niantic off-guard, which had to make the decision to temporarily pause the international rollout. However, there are reports today that the game's European and Asian rollout will commence "within a few days".

Despite the limited geographical rollout thus far, Pokémon GO has been a huge early success in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Across almost every publically accessible metric, across iOS and Android, the game has done incredibly well. Most notably, Pokémon GO has been the number 1 free app and number 1 top grossing app on the iOS App Store essentially since it launched.

It is early days, but given the quite spectacular launch that Pokémon GO has experienced, here's an infographic that attempts to capture its early success.


An In-Depth Look at Apple’s Approach to Accessibility

Mashable published a profile of Jordyn Castor, a 22-year-old Apple engineer on its accessibility design and quality team. Castor, who has been blind since birth, joined Apple full-time last year after interning there in college. As she explains to Mashable:

"I realized then I could code on the computer to have it fulfill the tasks I wanted it to," says Castor, whose current work focuses on enhancing features like VoiceOver for blind Apple users. "I came to realize that with my knowledge of computers and technology, I could help change the world for people with disabilities.

In addition to speaking with Castor, Mashable interviewed Sarah Herrlinger, senior manager for global accessibility policy and initiatives, who explained Apple's approach to accessibility:

a notable part of the company's steps toward accessibility is its dedication to making inclusivity features standard, not specialized. This allows those features to be dually accessible — both for getting the tech to more users, as well as keeping down costs.

Mashable's piece is a must-read for Jordyn Castro's inspiring personal story and its insight into the unique way Apple approaches accessibility. Instead of treating accessibility as a special, add-on feature that is purchased separately, it's built into the operating system itself. That, combined with the work Apple has done to make accessibility features easy for developers to adopt, reveals a pragmatic approach designed to encourage broad-based adoption, making Apple's accessibility innovations available to as many people who need them as possible.

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