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IOS APPS ON MACS? GEE, THAT FEELS FAMILIAR…

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Well, gang, it’s official: Cross-platform convergence is now both magical and revolutionary.

Apple, in case you haven’t heard, is taking a serious step toward bringing its mobile and desktop platforms together: At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference adjective-shouting extravaganza this week, the company announced a plan to let developers bring iOS apps onto MacOSstarting next year. So, yes: That means the Apple faithful will soon be able to run iPhone-like software on their regular ol’ keyboard-packin’ computers.

Pretty spiffy idea, right? Mobile software, on the desktop! Just think of the possibilities. But wait: Why does something about this seem so eerily familiar?

Oh, right — because it’s exactly what we’ve been watching take shape with Android and Chrome OS over the past several years.

Now, before you grab the nearest suit of armor and novelty foam sword, hang on: I’m not here to play a game of “Who Did It First?” Let’s be honest: That kind of talk is pretty tired at this point. Some years, Apple borrows heavily from Google; some years, Google borrows heavily from Apple. Sometimes, the inspiration-lifting is for the better, and sometimes, it’s for the worse. I’m not an intellectual rights attorney (thank goodness) — and from a normal user’s perspective, the arguments over who copied whom are equal parts boring and irrelevant.

What I do want to discuss is how much Apple’s move validates the approach Google’s been pursuing for some time now — and, at the same time, how its implementation of the idea is both similar and simultaneously different.

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Apple, Google, and the tale of converging platforms

We’ll start with Google. The move to bring Android apps to Chrome OS began in earnest in 2016. (Yes, the work technically started two years earlier, with the beta-wearing “App Runtime” project — but that was basically just a test, with significant limitations and nothing even close to a polished or mainstream-ready experience.)

For Google, the notion of bringing two platforms together was nothing short of transformational. Chromebooks had traditionally been cloud-centric computers — a model that provided some enticing advantagesover traditional PCs but required you to rely mostly on web-based software like Google Docs and Office Online. Realistically, that sort of setup was more than sufficient for the vast majority of modern-day computer users, but it also left a fair number of gaps in what a Chromebook was able to do.

By allowing anyone to install and run almost any Android app while still maintaining Chrome OS’s security, simplicity, and speed-related advantages, Google accomplished several significant things: First, it redefined a Chromebook’s possibilities and limitations, making the devices more compelling and feature-complete for an even broader array of users. (On a smaller and much more specifically targeted scale, the current move to allow Linux apps on Chrome OS serves a similar purpose.)

Beyond that, it essentially created a whole new category of device — the Chromebook/Android mashup. That’s something we’ve seen progress considerably over the past couple years, as the hardware has slowly caught up with the software and convertible Chromebooks have effectively become the new Android tablets.

And last but not least, it created an ecosystem like no other. Developers could build and publish a single app and have it be available to the world’s largest mobile platform and the world’s increasingly dominant desktop computing environment. As long as the apps are built with responsive design and with a handful of form-specific optimizations in mind, it’s a single, streamlined process with minimal extra effort involved.

Significant as those first two points may be, we can’t underestimate the value of that last one — the ecosystem expansion. Remember, Chromebooks are hugely popular, particularly in schools. And developers tend to go where the users are. For the first time, Google could actually overcome its chicken-and-egg problem and have an existing audience that’d entice developers to craft large-screen-optimized apps — apps that, by their very definition, would straddle the lines of two overlapping ecosystems and benefit Android and Chrome OS alike.

Apple’s approach is a bit different. Unlike Chromebooks, Macs already run traditional desktop software. Unlike Google, Apple already has a successful tablet platform. And unlike Google, Apple doesn’t currently offer touch-enabled Macs — another one of those classic “it doesn’t work” declarations from Steve Jobs, way back when — and even if the company does eventually come around to rethinking that stance, it doesn’t seem likely that it’d look to phase out or de-emphasize the iPad anytime soon.

What Apple does share with Google, however, is the ecosystem part of the equation. Apple is all about the ecosystem, in fact, and it has been for a very long time. Google is the relative newcomer to that kind of focus.

So Apple, like Google, stands to benefit by aligning its platforms (a familiar phrase, no?) and making them more similar from a user’s perspective. It’s no secret that people adore their iPhones and the apps associated with them. Making MacOS follow iOS’s lead in some ways and allowing users to run familiar mobile apps within it will make the Mac feel more consistent and connected with the iPhone — and thus could make it more appealing both to current users and also perhaps to those who don’t presently own a traditional laptop or desktop computer.

Apple, like Google, could also benefit from energizing its desktop software ecosystem and giving developers added incentive to focus on that form. It may not be entirely comparable to Google’s Chrome OS situation, but the idea that development on the desktop side of Apple’s ecosystem is stagnating compared to the mobile side is a pretty common theme of discussion these days. Bringing iOS-like apps onto Macs could go a long way in reversing that view.

Perhaps most critically, aligning the ecosystems provides yet another piece of ammo for the famous “lock-in” weapon: You’ve got the environment you know and love and the apps you know and love on your iPhone and/or iPad — and now on your Mac, too. Just like Google is aiming to accomplish with Android phones and Chromebooks, our investments in these ecosystems are more expansive than ever — which, of course, means we’re more likely than ever to stick with whichever ecosystem we choose and continue to buy its associated products year after year.

Interestingly, Apple and Google also share the same persistent view from pundits that “the two platforms must be combined!” — a view that no level of adamant denial or ongoing evidence to the contrary seems able to extinguish.

Converging platforms, diverging paths

One thing the two companies don’t fully share is the specific approach to bringing mobile apps onto the desktop. Google, fitting with its general ethos, has established a bit of a free-for-all with Android apps on Chrome OS: By default (unless a developer explicitly disallows it or an app is inherently incompatible due to hardware requirements), most any Android app can be installed on a Chromebook. The Play Store you get on a Chromebook is quite literally the same Play Store you get on a phone.

So everyone is in, more or less — and it’s then up to each developer to optimize an app and make it excel in the large-screen, keyboard-and-trackpad-using form. Or not. Most apps work well enough on a Chromebook out of the box, and in some scenarios, it’s clear a developer went the extra mile to really make the experience shine. Either way, you can find plenty of useful titles that add meaningful value to the Chrome OS environment.

But you can also find plenty of apps that clearly weren’t made to run on that type of hardware — where even the most minimal amount of effort is painfully lacking — and those apps, while technically compatible with a Chromebook, are incredibly awkward and unpleasant to use. (Hi, Instagram!)

From the sounds of it, Apple is taking the exact opposite approach: The door will be closed by default — and the MacOS-iOS collection will consist only of apps optimized for the traditional computer form. That’s why Apple is releasing only its own iOS apps for the Mac to start and will be working with developers to optimize their apps for the desktop over the months ahead.

“There are millions of iOS apps out there, and some of them would be great on the Mac,” Apple Chief Shirt Unbuttoner Craig Federighi noted during yesterday’s announcement. The emphasis there is mine, but the message is clear: The entire App Store won’t — and, in Apple’s view, shouldn’t — be coming to the desktop.

Apples and oranges

So which approach is better — Apple’s or Google’s? The reality is that each seems to have its own set of pros and cons, and it’s tough to label either one as a definitive “winner.” Google’s implementation brings a massive number of new applications into the desktop environment and then puts the onus on the developers to make the experiences shine. The result, as we’ve established, is a bit of a mixed bag: You have tons of possibilities, many of which are valuable (with or sometimes even without form-specific optimizations) — but you also have apps that are just plain clumsy and out of place.

Apple appears poised to offer a more strictly curated selection of apps, allowing only those with form-specific optimizations into the mix. That should create a more consistent level of quality and experience, which is obviously a good thing, but it’ll also mean some apps that might be more mobile-specific and not likely to be optimized probably won’t become available.

Who cares? Well, consider one example: Apps like Netflix and YouTube are readily available via the web and don’t seem like the types of titles that’d receive the full desktop optimization effort or the Apple stamp of “great on the Mac” approval. But running the mobile apps on the desktop gives you the unique advantage of being able to download videos from those respective services for offline viewing — a handy little loophole crafty Chromebook users have certainly come to appreciate.

When you stop and think about it, the differences here are very much analogous to the differences in the two companies’ broader approaches to mobile app distribution: With Apple, you get a more closely controlled selection, which forces developers to comply more closely with guidelines and (in theory, at least) creates a more consistent experience. With Android, the less closely controlled gates mean more variance in the level of experience within — but that also means the door is open to more advanced and interesting types of creations that wouldn’t make their way past Apple’s gatekeepers.

I think most reasonable people would agree that Google could stand to gain some of Apple’s quality control and ability to get developers to follow its lead, while Apple could stand to loosen things up at least a little and allow some different types of tools into its closely walled garden.

Neither scenario is perfect, but both serve to accomplish the same goal — one that, in this wild new cross-platform world, seems both sensible and inevitable, regardless of which ecosystem you prefer.

 

 

 

 

Source: Computer World

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Mobile Platforms

APPLE LOOP: NEW IPHONE XS HANDS ON REVIEW, TIM COOK CANCELS IPHONE BATTERY OFFER, IPHONE XR DELAYED

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Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes all the news from the Apple launch, the launch of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, hands-on reviews of the new iPhones, the stunning Apple Watch 4, this missing MacBooks and iPads, changes to Apple’s battery replacement program, and why Tim Cook can’t keep a secret.

Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).

The new Apple iPhone Xs (L) and iPhone Xs Max (R) are displayed during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple’s 2018 iPhone Portfolio Revealed

The traditional September launch event dominates Apple Loop this week, so let’s get started on looking at the news and the initial thoughts. First up is the refresh of the iPhone X family, with the reveal of the 5.8 inch screened iPhone XS and the 6.5 inch screened the iPhone XS Max.

Echoing the design of last year’s iPhone X (which has been removed from the main portfolio), the two models have the new A12 chip, FaceID, OLED displays, and introduce Dual-SIM capability for the first time. Both sport dual cameras and Apple was keen to show off the software used to process the raw images:

iPhone Xs continues to bring innovations to photography, things not possible before iPhone. Capabilities like advanced depth segmentation using the Neural Engine, Smart HDR creating photos with high dynamic range and great image detail, advanced bokeh quality in Portrait mode photos and dynamic depth of field that is user adjustable in the Photos app, are all huge improvements in state-of-the-art photographic techniques that everyone can use.

Introducing The iPhone XR

Also announced at Apple’s event was the iPhone Xr. This will be the ‘entry-level’ member of the iPhone X family, on sale at $749. Sporting the A12 chip, the same wide-angle camera as the XS, and the use of FaceID to unlock and gesture controls replacing the home button mark it out as the ‘future’ of the iPhone, even though the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus units that it arguably replaces are still listed in Apple’s portfolio. From the press release:

iPhone XR brings the powerful A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, the TrueDepth camera system, Face ID and an advanced camera system that creates dramatic portraits using a single camera lens.

More details at Apple.com.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, introduce the company’s newest smartphone, the iPhone Xs (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Pricing And Pre Ordering Details

Preorders for the iPhone XS and XS Max opened today (Friday 14th September), with a retail releases starting on Friday 21st September in the US – other territories may vary. Unlike last year, the more expensive handset is on sale first, and the cheaper iPhone XR will be open for ordering in the following month, with pre-orders beginning Friday, October 19 and in stores beginning Friday, October 26.

While production delays on the LCD are expected to be the practical reason behind the XR delay, last year saw the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus go on sale before the iPhone X, which potentially depressed sales of the more expensive handset. That situation is reversed this year.

Hands On With The Technology

What can you expect from the handsets? Forbes’ David Phelan was invited to The Steve Jobs Theatre and was graciously allowed to touch one of the mythical new handsets:

The question mark over just how big the iPhone Xs Max would feel was quickly answered: just fine. If you can handle the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone Xs Max feels the same, though a little more high-end thanks to the shiny stainless-steel frame instead of the aluminium one found on the 8 Plus. The notch was less dominating because the 6.5in display is bigger so the camera element proportionally smaller.

But although it’s the same physical size as the iPhone 8 Plus, the edge-to-edge screen means your fingers and thumbs have bigger distances to travel than ever.

But What Does It All Mean?

Reading the runestones of an Apple event used to be difficult. The launches used to debut new ideas, trajectories, and services. Now, they are very much more of the same, handsets with iterative updates, and Apple quietly ratcheting up the pricing. This year’s September event? It’s all about resetting definitions.

That could be the definition of what it means to be an edge, so you can sell a phone with an edge-to-edge display that has acres of bezel on it, or it could be redefining what a mid-range handset price is. I took on the former, while Andrew Orlowski examined the latter:

Yesterday Apple discontinued its budget iPhone SE and unveiled new models costing £1,500. Since relatively few people switch between platforms, Apple’s growth relies in part from making more money from people who already have an iPhone.

That doesn’t just mean more phones with a higher margins – but selling peripherals like AirPods and Watch, and upselling Apple services. The latter now generates almost £10bn a quarter, growing a third year-on-year, which offsets stagnating hardware unit sales.

… iPhone revenue is up 20 per cent year-on-year with unit growth of just 1 per cent. A quarter earlier, we saw the X effect as ASP rose from $628 to $728.

Apple COO Jeff Williams discusses Apple Watch Series 4 during an event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California (Photo: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

The Real Story Is The Apple Watch

If you wanted any sort of technological wow moment at the Apple event, you had to turn to your own wrist, and the launch of the Apple Watch 4. A larger display, louder speaker, and improved cellular reception were all solid updates, but the real news was the inclusion of an FDA-approved ECG monitor. Nicole Nguyen reports:

Apple’s newest touchscreen smartwatch also introduces built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality, which uses electrical signals for heart rate monitoring. It’s the first over-the-counter product to offer ECG to consumers.

Users open the app, put their finger on the watch’s digital crown, and after 30 seconds, you will receive heart rhythm classification. The app can classify signs of atrial fibrillation, which can be followed by a stroke.

Yes we saw the next iteration of the iPhone, the life-saving benefits of the latest Apple Watch, and even a nod to the HomePod (summary: it’s not dead, please buy it). But what about the expected updated to the iPad, MacBook and Mac ranges? Missing? Going loco down in Acapulco? Jeremy Horowitz has some ideas:

Apple has provided a clue that you won’t have long to wait. Back in August, it abruptly removed a tentpole feature called Group FaceTime from its iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, saying that it “will ship in a future software update later this fall.” That’s an atypically specific tip of the hat for Apple — and a perfect time to show off how multiple users’ faces, including Face ID-dependent Memoji, look on big iPad Pro and Mac screens.

So get ready for another Apple media event — and new point release updates to iOS and macOS — shortly after the dust has cleared with the new iPhones and Apple Watches. It’s going to be a busy run-up to the holiday season this year, but an exciting one.

Macbook, March 2015 (image: Apple PR)APPLE PR

More Expensive Batteries Sneaked Out

With all of the new products taking up the Apple oxygen, it was a good day to sneak out some news on the battery replacement costs. Apple is raising the prices on January 1st 2019 for out of warranty battery replacements. Chris Welch has more.

Walking into your local Apple Store and getting a battery replacement for your iPhone is pretty cheap at the moment. Just $29. But when 2018 comes to a close, that temporary pricing — introduced in response to last year’s throttling controversy that affected iPhones with aging batteries — will be going away.

…Apple has updated its battery page with the new rates that will begin on January 1st. In 2019, out-of-warranty battery swaps will cost:

More at The Verge.

And Finally…

Why can’t Apple keep a secret any more? Anyone who has been following the chatter online will have every iPhone announcement this week. From promotional shots discovered early, to mistakes with web server files, has Cupertino lost its touch in keeping quiet? Chuck La Tournous Investigates:

In truth, Apple’s secrecy was never quite as ironclad as legend suggests. The “Luxo” iMac, the G4 Cube, the infamous case of the lost/stolen iPhone 4 . . . the list of products that were accidentally pre-revealed goes on and on. Still, these leaks were mostly speculation based on snippets of information, fuzzy images of prototypes, or product pages, and magazine covers that went live a bit too soon.

Today’s leaks are different. They’re much more consistently accurate and come with fair regularity from reliable sources. Does that mean Steve Jobs was better at running a tight ship than Tim Cook? Probably not.

Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.

I am known for my strong views on mobile technology, online media, and the effect this has on and communication will have on the public conscious and existing…MORE
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Mobile Platforms

WHATSAPP CONFIRMS THAT MESSAGES BACKED UP ON GOOGLE DRIVE ARE NOT ENCRYPTED

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WhatsApp has been advertising their encryption policy for a while now. The company has left no stones unturned to make sure users understand that the messages are end-to-end encrypted and can’t be intercepted by anyone. However, it looks like the same can’t be said for Google Drive backups.

Recently, the company announced a partnership with Google to exempt WhatsApp backups from Google Drive free quota calculations. Previously the WhatsApp backups stored on Drive used to count within the 15 GB free space that a Google account offered. With the new partnership, WhatsApp also confirmed that the data stored on Google Drive is not encrypted. The company confirmed this in a blog post update about Google Drive- “Media and messages you back up aren’t protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive”.

That said, security researchers did point out that it’s not mandatory to upload backups on Google Drive so in case you’re not comfortable then just choose the local backup option.

As a WhatsApp user you have the choice to not backup your data to Google Drive,” said. They (WhatsApp) are not forcing you to backup. It is a feature. So, if you trust Google, you can enable it. At the same time if law enforcement agencies requests Google for specific user data, they have to comply.

– Sai Krishna Kothapalli, an independent security researcher

WhatsApp has always promised complete end-to-end encryption and has confirmed on various occasions that even the company can’t access the messages. While this is true because the messages are stored on the phones of the users and not on WhatsApp servers, the company says they can’t guarantee the same for Google Drive backups. If you’re not comfortable then don’t upload WhatsApp backups on Google Drive. The feature is present but is optional so if you don’t like it then don’t use it.

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Desktops

SAMSUNG’S TAB S4 IS BOTH AN ANDROID TABLET AND A DESKTOP COMPUTER

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Today, Samsung is unveiling the successor to its well-rounded yet expensive Galaxy Tab S3 from last year. The new Galaxy Tab S4 improves upon last year’s slab in nearly every way, and it should be more versatile for users thanks to included Samsung Dex software. Confined to accessories until now, Samsung Dex software lets users connect a Samsung mobile device to a monitor and then use the device as a pseudo-desktop.

The first Dex dock came out over a year ago and was designed to be used with Samsung smartphones. Users could plug their device into the dock, connect it to a monitor, pair a keyboard and a mouse, and use the setup as they would a full desktop PC. The system ran a version of Android that Samsung modified to better suit a desktop UI, which included a lock screen and a task bar area with app icons. Dex on the Galaxy Tab S4 works just like this, with a couple of extra features that leverage the power of a tablet.

When connected to a monitor, both the big screen and the tablet’s screen can be used simultaneously. In a short demo, Samsung showed how the device supports up to 20 open windows at once and how features like split screen and drag-and-drop can be used just as they would on a desktop PC. Users can launch Dex when not connected to a monitor as well, and that produces the same modified Android UI on the tablet’s 10.5-inch, 2560×1600 Super AMOLED display.

Samsung claims users can launch any Android app while using Dex, but it’s unclear how many are truly Dex-optimized to fit a larger screen and make use of keyboard shortcuts. Big players, including Google, Adobe, and Microsoft, signed up to support Dex back when the software was still new, and more developers have been optimizing their Android apps for Chrome OS devices as Google’s browser-based operating system has gained popularity. Undoubtedly, more Android apps can be used comfortably on desktop-sized screens than when Dex originally launched.

In addition to Dex, the Tab S4 supports signature Samsung features like Air Command, translate, off-screen memos, and live message. Originally confined to Galaxy Note devices, live message lets users create gifs of themselves and decorate them with pen drawings before sending them in a message to friends and family. Samsung redesigned the S Pen that accompanies the Tab S4 to be easier to hold in your hand and more like a traditional pencil, but even with those changes it still doesn’t require charging. We’ll have to test it further to determine how much better it is than the previous stylus.

The Tab S4 is slightly bigger than the Tab S3 with its 10.5-inch display, and it runs on a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of memory, and up to 64GB of internal storage with space for up to 400GB with the use of a microSD card. It has a 13MP rear camera and an 8MP front-facing camera while supporting 4K video recording at 30fps, and inside are four speakers tuned by AKG.

Samsung added a lot of heft to the Tab S4’s battery—the company claims the 7,300mAh battery can support up to 16 hours of video playback. On paper, it’s a solid improvement from the Tab S3’s 6,000mAh battery, so we’re interested in putting it through our battery tests to see if Samsung’s estimates hold up.

The Galaxy name is synonymous with Android, but the decision to make yet another Android tablet is a curious one. Android tablets are being left in the dust as Chrome OS infiltrates the tablet scene. It’s possible that Samsung will consider making a Chrome OS tablet in the future—but the Galaxy Tab S4 supports Android and Android only, unlike the company’s Galaxy Book of yesteryear that came in Android and Windows varieties.

The Galaxy Tab S4 will be available August 10 starting at $649 for the Wi-Fi version. Samsung will also sell an LTE version of the tablet through Verizon, but starting price for that model hasn’t been disclosed yet. The Book Cover Keyboard for the Tab S4 costs $149.

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