Sad news for the Mac automation community: Sal Soghoian, Product Manager of Automation Technologies since 1997, has left Apple. Details from Soghoian himself:
Q. I hear you no longer work for Apple; is that true?
A. Correct. I joined Apple in January of 1997, almost twenty years ago, because of my profound belief that “the power of the computer should reside in the hands of the one using it.” That credo remains my truth to this day. Recently, I was informed that my position as Product Manager of Automation Technologies was eliminated for business reasons. Consequently, I am no longer employed by Apple Inc. But, I still believe my credo to be as true today as ever.
Soghoian's work on AppleScript and other macOS automation, scripting, and accessibility technologies has always been inspiring – we wouldn't have apps like Workflow today hadn't Soghoian pushed the boundaries of user automation at Apple.
I don't know what this means for automation on macOS going forward, but it doesn't feel like a good sign to me. I love his determination, though:
Q. Are you still upbeat about the future of user automation?
A. Absolutely. The need for user automation is a constant. I've seen the benefits and power of individuals being able to automate critical and repetitive tasks. Solution apps are great, emojis are fun, but there's nothing like really great automation tools. I have faith in this community, and that makes me optimistic about what we can do together.
More than ever before, I'm going to keep an eye on Soghoian's website and future projects.
See also: the transcript of Soghoian's WWDC 2016 session on using macOS dictation to perform specific actions (unfortunately, Apple's session video URL doesn't seem to be working anymore).
The current MacBook Pro line is a little bit of a mess. Even after brushing aside the last-generation machines that are still for sale, the current offerings are confusing. Both 15-inch models come with the Touch Bar, but only two of the three 13-inch models offered do.
That $1,499 non-Touch-Bar-but-still-in-the-new-skinny-case 13-inch MacBook Pro is what I'm typing on right now. It's a great little laptop. The screen is gorgeous, battery life is great and it's more than fast enough for what I need when I'm not in front of my 5K iMac.
It's a weird machine, though. I'm sure Apple left the Touch Bar — and two Thunderbolt 3 ports — out solely to hit the price point, which is already higher than the model it replaces.
My guess is that this MacBook Pro will either drop in price or be replaced in the future as the Touch Bar trickles down.
Until then, it's in the ranks of some other modern-era Macs that were caught between other products or different eras of hardware design. Let's look at some other examples.
CNET spoke with Craig Federighi after last week's keynote, and one of the questions they ask him is whether there will be a touchscreen Mac (around 2:30 in the video):
Craig Federighi: At Apple we build prototypes around all sorts of ideas. So we certainly explored the topic deeply many years ago and had working models, but we decided it really was a compromise. For a device you hold in your hand like a phone or tablet it is very natural to rest your hand on the tablet and work that way. We think touch is at its best and we wanted to build, and have built, a really deep experience around a multi-touch first user interface. Grafting touch onto something that was fundamentally designed around a precise pointer really compromises the experience.
Those were carefully chosen words by Federighi. He does not say that there won't be a touchscreen Mac, instead he notes that the simple addition or "grafting" on of a touchscreen to the Mac would be a compromise. Importantly, the compromise that he refers to is not one related to ergonomics, but rather the fact that macOS is currently designed around an interaction model driven by a precise pointer.
I agree with Federighi. I certainly wouldn't want to see a Mac with a touchscreen bolted on, with no adjustments to the UI of macOS. But as someone who regularly uses the iPad Pro in a laptop-esque configuration with the Smart Keyboard, I see the value in having a touchscreen on a Mac, provided that there are also UI changes to macOS. I don't expect this any time soon, but I do think it will happen.
Jonathan Zufi, author of ICONIC, a coffee table book that celebrates the history of Apple products through beautiful photography, uses the October 27th Apple event to challenge a comment by Phil Schiller in 2012 that Apple is ‘focused on inventing the future, not celebrating the past.’
Although Steve Jobs shut down Apple’s internal Apple museum in 1997 and transferred its collection to Stanford, Zufi points out that Apple has begun honoring past products more often in recent years, especially where doing so highlights the innovations of current products. As Zufi observes:
People love reminiscing about the past, and there are still many Apple fans who love to celebrate the company’s rich product history — its successes and its failures. I’ve heard from readers who simply loved the fact that they sat down with [ICONIC and] a glass of wine and lost themselves for hours reliving these old machines, where they were in their lives when they first came across them, and how much has changed.
That’s why Phil Schiller’s comment about not celebrating the past always bothered me and I’m going to disagree with Phil on this — I’m certain Apple will continue celebrating their past as they blaze the future.
Selling the past short isn’t a prerequisite to embracing the future. Apple’s newfound willingness to look back feels like the mark of a mature company that’s as confident with where it’s been as it is with where it’s going.
The MacBook Pros introduced by Apple last Thursday no longer chime on startup or when NVRAM is reset. First discovered by Pingie.com, Stephen Hackett dives into the details on 512 Pixels, including a new Apple kbase article on resetting NVRAM.
The end of the startup chime is a small thing, but as Hackett observes:
…the startup chime is ingrained into the experience of having a Mac, I’m sad to see it go. A Mac without the chime feels broken, even if I know it isn’t. I don’t power down my machines often, but I liked hearing the chime when I power them back up.
It’s like losing the Happy Mac all over again.
It makes me a little sad and nostalgic to lose the Mac’s familiar chime too. It’s not a big deal, but it’s one more link to the Mac’s origins that is gone, which feels like a loss.
512 Pixels has some great links to the history of the startup chime that are a good read while you’re pouring one out for the Mac’s familiar sound.
Interesting findings by Steve Troughton-Smith: the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro appears to be running on a variant of watchOS under the hood, with the T1 SoC handling security (primarily) for Touch ID as well as the bridge between macOS and the Touch Bar (over a USB connection).
This lines up with what I heard ahead of the event – that Apple would embed a SoC reminiscent of the Apple Watch S1 in the new MacBook Pros – but the implications of what Apple did with the T1 chip and the Touch Bar run deeper than I expected.
For one, macOS can now leverage years of security that went into honing the Secure Enclave and Touch ID on iOS – all while working with an ARM architecture inside the MacBook Pro instead of x86. And it even seems like the T1 is driving the iSight camera (for security purposes) and that it may render certain UI elements on the Touch Bar directly instead of delegating that to macOS (again, for security). And when macOS isn't running, watchOS alone can render UI on the Touch Bar (likely for Boot Camp).
It's fascinating to think that part of watchOS (which has been optimized for low power consumption and lightweight touch UIs) is being used to power a marquee hardware feature of the new MacBook Pros. And even more intriguing is the idea of watchOS and years of investment in iOS security helping make Macs more secure – it's not too absurd to imagine that future T-series chips may drive security of other Mac input methods.
I collected some of the most interesting tweets about this below, so you can read the technical bits for yourself.
At yesterday morning's Hello Again keynote event, Apple announced the long-awaited update to their professional laptop line. The new MacBook Pro comes in two sizes and features a thinner body and upgraded internals. It also comes equipped with Apple's brand new Touch Bar, a Retina touchscreen display which replaces the row of function keys atop the keyboard, and a Touch ID sensor.
These new machines mark the first significant spec advancements for the MacBook Pro since they moved to Haswell processors in 2014, and the first notable hardware changes since going Retina in 2012. As such, it's no surprise that the new MacBook Pro is an improvement in nearly every way over previous models. This is truly the next generation of Apple's flagship laptops.
As first reported yesterday by Ina Fried at Recode, Apple announced a media event for October 27 at 10 AM San Francisco time. The event will be held at Apple's campus in Cupertino. As shared by Jason Snell at Six Colors, the invitation simply reads "hello again".
Recode's article and other recent speculation suggests that this media event will be primarily dedicated to unveiling new Mac products, many of which are well overdue for an update. In particular it is expected that the MacBook Pro laptop line will receive a significant update with a new touch screen strip that replaces the function keys, a thinner design, improved performance, and potentially Touch ID.
It is also expected that the iMac line will be refreshed. Less likely, but still plausible, are updates to the Mac Pro (last updated in December 2013), MacBook Air (last updated March 2015), and Mac Mini (last updated October 2014).
It is also possible that Apple may announce a ship date for the new wireless AirPods that were announced last month at Apple's iPhone 7 keynote. At the time, Apple said that the AirPods would be available in "late October". The iPhone 7 Plus' new Portrait mode, which creates a depth-of-field effect, has been in a public beta of iOS 10.1 since late September and its official release date could also be announced at this event.
It's hard to capture exactly what OmniGraffle 7 is. Sure, it's a vector drawing and diagraming tool, but the power of OmniGraffle lies as much in the flexibility of its tools as anything else. By giving users the ability to tweak virtually any property of a shape, line, or other graphic element on its canvas, OmniGraffle works equally well for prototyping an iPhone app as it does for laying out an addition to your house or creating a corporate organization chart. With Version 7 of OmniGraffle, The Omni Group plays to its strengths, further extending the power, adaptability, and ease of use of those tools in what adds up to an outstanding update.