I make no bones about the fact that I’m an Apple fan, and have been for years. I don’t claim to be objective when talking about them, or about tech in general. However, I know enough to take a step back from time to time. There is a difference between being a fan of a company and their products, and being a shill.
Sure, I can stray too far over that line at times, as many tech bloggers do. It is easy to be a fanboy, at times. However, I understand one very important fact that keeps pulling me back where I need to be: There is nothing to be gained from blind love and devotion to Apple, because they don’t love me back.
The demise of the Apple’s AirPort WiFi Router has been like watching something fade away in slow motion. The AirPort line hasn’t been updated since 2013, which is an eternity in the tech world and Apple actually disbanded the team that worked on these products back in 2016. Based on those facts alone, I’m kind of surprised that Apple let the line linger this long.
While this a bit off the beaten path here at iPad Insight, a discussion about Google is still fitting anywhere technology is covered. Never mind the fact that Apple and Google are head-to-head rivals in many areas, but there are still many iOS users who take advantage of multiple Google services on their devices. Despite pulling back in some areas over time, I still use a few myself.
Photo Source: CNBC
So Apple made a bit of a splash out of nowhere this week. Google originally released a statement that John Giannandrea, their former Chief of Search and AI, would be taking a step back, but still working on some projects for them. However, it wasn’t long after when Apple turned the tables and announced that they had actually hired Mr Giannandrea to head up their machine learning and AI efforts. It’s a high profile and MUCH needed win for a company that has faced continuous challenges in this space.
I have never engaged in substantive political discussion here on the site, and its not something I plan to make a habit of. I only bring this issue up now, since the current re-awakening of the gun control debate has curiously intersected with Apple in a way that I doubt they ever would have foreseen.
In case anyone either wonders or cares, here is my baseline- I am not a Republican or a Democrat. In fact, I absolutely loathe the modern incarnations of both mainline political parties and the weak and pathetic candidates they routinely trot out. If that offends you, then you should probably stop reading now, because I am not sorry for it. I am a card-carrying Libertarian, and I am a Conservative by the classic definition, not the strange and decidedly not Conservative Republican one.
As for guns, I will say this for the record. I am a lifelong gun owner and shooter. I have hunted with my Dad since I was a kid. I received a lot of valuable instruction on how to handle and respect firearms while I was young, so I know what they are capable of and handle and use them accordingly. I still own many guns, but none of them are what you would call “assault weapons.” I am not an NRA member because I don’t approve of their use of fear tactics to hold a hard and unrealistic line on gun control.
With the HomePod showing up on my doorstep next Friday, I’ve been doing some thinking about Siri lately. Why is the overall impression of Apple’s digital assistant so negative? There are recent surveys and tests showing it as being competitive with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana in some areas. There is real evidence that many “normal” users aren’t as dissatisfied with it as we in the tech community and the “Apple bubble” are. So what is the problem? Where is the disconnect?
[Update: The HomePod did NOT go on sale at 12 AM PST as most Apple news outlets and I expected, breaking the usual iOS-based device release mold. Apple didn’t shut down the online Apple Store last night and the HomePod still isn’t available for preorder. Apple has not made any official statement, but it has been mentioned by several people on Twitter that Apple does an automatic refresh of their website at 6:01 AM PST every day. It is now expected that the link to preorder the device will show up then, but who knows? It’s also possible that Apple is running a massive social engineering experiment to see how well it has conditioned its fans to get up at odd hours to preorder devices. If so, then based on the number of comments I saw on Twitter early this morning, I say well played, Apple. Well played.]
[Update 2: I was able to order the HomePod with launch day delivery. I’m not sure when exactly it hit the Apple Online Store for preorder, but I know it was before 8 AM CST because I checked while stopped in rush hour traffic on the way to work, and there it was. I completed my order around 8 AM CST, but it was released between 10 to 30 minutes before that I hope Apple avoids being this random with future preorders, but it is what it is.]
HomePod preorders begin in a little over four hours [nope], so if you live in the Eastern or Central Time Zones and are planning to get up super early, it might be a good idea to turn in early, or at least catch a nap if you can [a nap sounds somewhere between good and necessary today]. With this new hardware finally coming into clearer focus, now is a good time to recap some of the additional information that has come to light since the countdown to release started ticking earlier this week.
I used a Chromebook several years ago and I actually really enjoyed the simplicity of it. It was a super fast, super easy barebones computing experience. Few bugs. No viruses to worry about. No fuss. It shared the same instant on capability of the iPad, but it was even more to the point without the all the apps. That can be both a positive and a negative, but you might surprised by how much you can do in a browser until you actually try it.
If you haven’t been keeping up, Apple and Qualcomm have been waging quite the slap battle across the globe. Apple sued Qualcomm. Qualcomm countersued for patent infringement. Qualcomm called for a ban against iPhones in China covering both sale and production, which would cripple Apple. Qualcomm then asked the ITC and US District Court to all ban imports of iPhones.
Since then, Apple has fired back and sued again with allegations that Qualcomm’s business model of double-charging for their technologies is illegal, which would be severely damaging to them. Qualcomm countered. Again. Apple filed a THIRD suit in US and then sued Qualcomm in China for an additional 145 million.
This week marks the birthday of two great services that I love and use heavily on my iPad and elsewhere: Evernote and Google+.
Evernote has been a stalwart for me since back in 2008 – on the iPhone and Mac, clipping from the web, and just about anywhere I’ve needed it. To say it’s a powerful and feature-packed notes app is still not coming close to doing it justice. I’ve seen Evernote spoken about as a ‘second brain’ sort of service and I have gotten that sort of benefit from it over the years. It remains a fixture for me across all my devices and is still constantly improving and adding features.
Google+ is only two years old, and it feels like that time has flown by, as they say. I was lucky enough to get an invite from +Louis Gray on the first night the beta became open to invites and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of Google+ ever since.
Yes, I’ve read all the reports of Google+ being a ghost town, and I think they’re complete nonsense. It has become easily my favorite social network. It is superb for lively and intelligent discussions on just about any topic under the sun, has a great range of topic-specific communities where you can focus in on areas of interest, and Hangouts for connecting via video with anything from one to hundreds of people. I have lots of good discussion every day via my personal profile and the iPad Insight Google+ page.
Here’s wishing both of these great services many happy returns.
The Google+ app for iOS has had a minor update this week, to Version 126.96.36.1994 (oh those hilarious Googlers and their numbers).
The only notable new feature in this update is support for resharing. Other than that the change list only mentions bug fixes and performance improvements.
Oh, and there’s still no support for iPad – no upgrade to a universal app. That’s a shame.
In the meantime, I’m using the iPhone app in 2X mode on the iPad. For any of you who are Google+ users, how are you accessing it on the iPad, if at all?