I once got a call from Steve Jobs, really – out of the blue – the phone rings, and the voice on the other end says “Hi this is Steve Jobs.” I didn’t dream it, it actually happened.

Dave Winer

It’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

Thoughts on iOS 7 on the Eve of WWDC

I just finished listening to the pre-WWDC episodes of The Talk Show and ATP and wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on what I think Apple will and should announce in iOS 71 on Monday morning.

First, I think the hardware will be related to the little bit that has leaked. That means new, Haswell-based Retina MacBook Pros, probably a bump to the non-retina side of the lineup, and a MacBook Air refresh. A while ago I thought we’d get a new Mac Pro too, but there haven’t been any leaks along those lines, and hardware almost always leaks. So now I don’t think Mac Pros will be part of the presentation.2 There will be no iOS hardware at all.

With respect to iOS 7, it’s much harder to guess. The rumors have been swirling for months that some kind of visual overhaul is in the offing, and it’s rare that there’s that much smoke but no fire. However, I don’t think a visual overhaul should be the most important component of iOS 7 (I said should be, not will be). It’s mainly journalists and other techies who live and breathe mobile operating systems that are “bored” with the look and feel of iOS. I don’t think regular users of iOS are bored. My mom or my sister aren’t looking at, say, Mail in iOS and thinking “Wow, I wish they’d just tone down these gradients.” Of course regular people do enjoy and can appreciate visual refreshes, and do subconsciously register visual elegance even if they can’t articulate it. I’m not saying that a visual refresh has no value. I just think it has less value than addressing some of the other deficiencies in iOS.

iOS is a very young platform. The Mac has had, cumulatively, 29 years of iterative refinement to arrive at where it is. iOS has been around for 6 years, and on the iPad it’s been around for only 3. There is a lot that can be done in terms of refining and improving workflows.

Here’s an example from my daily life. I used to host this blog on Tumblr. Tumblr has a nice bookmarklet that will let you post the page you’re viewing to your blog. It tries to be smart about guessing content types, meaning that if you have text highlighted, it pre-populates the form fields for a quote post. If you’re viewing a page on Flickr or YouTube, it pre-populates the post fields for a photo or video post, respectively. I’ve used this bookmarklet on my Mac almost daily since I joined Tumblr in 2008. It’s simple and fast and works great.

What if you want to do the same on iOS? I’m often reading on my iPad at night and would like to post the page I’m reading. I have the bookmarklet installed on Safari, and I have iCloud bookmark sync on, so I can make it work almost as easily as it does on my Mac.

What if I didn’t have the bookmarketl? Let’s consider creating a quote post using the iPad Tumblr app. First I copy the URL to the clipboard, then I switch to the Tumblr app and create a draft quote post and paste the URL. I switch back to Safari and copy the text I want to quote, then switch back to the Tumblr app to paste the text. I then switch back to Safari again so I can copy the page title, because I want the attribution to be correct. I switch back to Tumblr and paste it into my post. Now I can actually add my own text from the Tumblr app’s post editor. I’ve switched back and forth between Safari and Tumblr 5 or 6 times by the time this is all done. It’s incredibly tedious, so tedious that if I didn’t have the bookmarkelt in Safari I doubt I’d ever bother to make a post on iOS. I’d just email myself the link and do it later from my Mac.

Consider another scenario, using only Apple’s built-in apps. I’m reading a website on Safari, and I get an iMessage. I see the notification at the top of the page, tap it, and I’m dropped into the conversation. Great. I type my reply and hit send. Now what? I have to switch back to Safari, which can be done in one of three ways. One option is to hit the home button, then tap Safari, potentially needing to swipe between home screens in the process. This is what 99.5% of iOS users do. The second option is to double-tap the home button and use the application switcher. This is what 0.44% of iOS users do. Or, if I have multitasking gestures turned on, I can use a four-finger swipe to swtich. This is what .01% of iOS users do.3 Regardless of method used, the process is slow. If you’re having a conversation, and iMessages are coming in with any frequency, you’re doing this over and over and it quickly becomes frustrating.

Consider a third scenario: you want to use Photo Stream, but you have no idea what Photo Stream is4. Or you have some photos synced onto your iPhone or iPad, and you’d like to use iPhoto on iOS to edit them. You do so, but then those photos are synced off your device. Why can’t you see them in iPhoto? What happened to your edits? Who knows? Or maybe you made a project in iMovie for iOS, and you want to get the video off. You can… email it to yourself.

To me, all of these rough corners are the result of having a brand new operating system with completely new modes of working that simply hasn’t yet had an opportunity to address every single use case that Macs and PCs, with their 30 years of development behind them, support today. If I’m Tim Cook and I have engineers who can spend time fixing one of these workflows or can focus on visual changes, but not both, I would pick the former every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I think an iOS 7 whose main tentpole feature is a new coat of paint but that addresses neither some of the longstanding workflow issues nor some of the broken mental model issues with sync and iCloud is getting the priorities wrong.

  1. I don’t have the first clue of what’s going to be in OS X 10.9, so I’m not even going to venture a guess. 

  2. However, whenever Mac Pros are announced, I don’t think they’re going to feature any of the wild speculation that’s been floating around. I think more likely is just a bump of all the internal components to the latest and greatest, probably with a new case design. 

  3. I personally like the gestures, but have them turned off because I have kids and they use my iPad and they frequently accidentally invoke the four-finger gestures. 

  4. Almost my entire family now use iPhones, and most also use Macs and iPads, and none of them know what Photo Stream is. 

The Premium From a College Degree

More data reinforcing the fact that in today’s economy, a college education is the smartest money you can spend:

The so-called college wage premium – economists’ fancy way of saying how much more workers with a college degree are paid than other workers without one – has widened over the last three decades. Degree-holders earn more than 80 percent more than their peers with just a high school diploma, up from about 40 percent more as of the late 1970s.


The rate of return on that investment in school “exceeds the historical return on practically any conventional investment, including stocks, bonds, and real estate,” find the scholars, Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone, who also is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Via David Leonhardt.

A $5 App Isn’t Expensive

Lex Friedman revisits the well-worn territory of the “race to the bottom” in App Store pricing:

I’m neither an economist nor a psychologist, but it strikes me that too many iOS device owners fail to act in their own best interests—both in the immediate near term and in the long term—when they scoff at the thought of spending money in the App Store. Here’s how customers who spend lavishly on iOS hardware punish themselves by skimping on apps.

Customers aren’t to blame for low App Store prices. They’re simply responding to basic supply and demand economics. There are over 700,000 apps in the App Store. There is just no way most people are going to pay $5 for an app when there are tens, and possibly hundreds, of acceptable free or very cheap alternatives. And Apple wants it this way.

The reality of the App Store is that it’s a hit-driven marketplace, and in that way closely resembles the mainstream music or movie markets. For every Lady Gaga, there are hundreds of struggling indie bands. For every Angry Birds, there are thousands of games priced just as cheaply as Angry Birds that go nowhere.

Steve Jobs himself addressed this topic broadly at the D8 conference in 2010. When asked about the pricing of ebooks, he discussed Apple’s general strategy for pricing digital content this way: “Price it aggressively and go for volume.” He went on to say that whenever Apple hasn’t followed that approach, they’ve seen more “attenuated success.”

Further, when iAd was launched, Jobs pitched it as a way to help developers make money despite the realities of selling mostly free or extremely cheap apps:

A lot of those apps are free, and the rest of them are really reasonably priced. We’ve got apps for free, for $.99, for $1.99. And we like that. Users like that. But these developers have to find a way to make some money, and we’d like to help them.

Doesn’t get much more explicit than that.

Given the extraordinary supply of iOS apps, and given that Apple prefers that the vast majority of apps be free or extremely cheap, no amount of complaining is going to drive prices up. Low prices are here to stay.

Some Thoughts on Mobile

Chris Dixon:

Fans of Apple and Google have been arguing lately about which company is winning mobile. Apple has more profits, but Android has more users. But what really matters is when and if developers switch over to developing for Android first, or even Android only. For now, iOS users tend to monetize much better than Android users, more than making up for the smaller user base. (Emphasis mine.)

I couldn’t agree with this more. I often see Apple people citing profit share as a primary defense against people who claim Google is “winning” at mobile. But what matters isn’t how much profit Apple makes. It’s how much “mind share” they continue to hold with developers, and developers don’t give a shit about Apple’s profits. Right now most developers perceive iOS to be the platform where it’s easiest to build the best looking apps, where it’s easiest to make money or gain traction with users, and where it’s fastest to build and ship an app. As long as that remains true, I’ll consider Apple to be “winning.”

The switch to Android first hasn’t happened yet, but at least based on conversations I’ve had with entrepreneurs, it seems likely to happen in the next year or two.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but if it is, this is what I’d worry about if I were running Apple.