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★ Scuttlebutt Regarding Apple’s Cross-Platform UI Project

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Back in late December, Mark Gurman published an intriguing report at Bloomberg regarding a secret cross-platform project at Apple:

Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware, according to people familiar with the matter. […]

Apple is developing the strategy as part of the next major iOS and macOS updates, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. Codenamed “Marzipan,” the secret project is planned as a multiyear effort that will start rolling out as early as next year and may be announced at the company’s annual developers conference in the summer. The plans are still fluid, the people said, so the implementation could change or the project could still be canceled.

I wrote an extensive piece speculating on what it might really mean.

This “Marzipan” rumor got a lot of people excited. But Gurman’s report is so light on technical details that the excitement is based mostly on what developers hope it could mean, not what’s actually been reported. The less specific the rumor, the easier it is to project your own wishes upon it. And, oddly perhaps, we haven’t seen any additional rumors or details about this project in the four months since Gurman’s original report.

I’ve heard a few things, from first- and second-hand sources. Mostly second-hand, to be honest, but they’re all consistent with each other.

The Name: There is indeed an active cross-platform UI project at Apple for iOS and MacOS. It may have been codenamed “Marzipan” at one point, but if so only in its earliest days. My various little birdies only know of the project under a different name, which hasn’t leaked publicly yet. There are people at Apple who know about this project who first heard the name “Marzipan” when Gurman’s story was published.

What Is It? I don’t have extensive details, but basically it sounds like a declarative control API. The general idea is that rather than writing classic procedural code to, say, make a button, then configure the button, then position the button inside a view, you instead declare the button and its attributes using some other form. HTML is probably the most easily understood example. In HTML you don’t procedurally create elements like paragraphs, images, and tables — you declare them with tags and attributes in markup. There’s an industry-wide trend toward declaration, perhaps best exemplified by React, that could be influencing Apple in this direction.

There’s nothing inherently cross-platform about a declarative control API. But it makes sense that if Apple believes that (a) iOS and MacOS should have declarative control APIs, and (b) they should address the problem of abstracting the API differences between UIKit (iOS) and AppKit (MacOS), that they would tackle them at the same time. Or perhaps the logic is simply that if they’re going to create a cross-platform UI framework, the basis for that framework should be a declarative user interface.

When: I’m nearly certain this project is not debuting at WWDC 2018 in June, and I doubt that 2018 was on the table in December. It’s a 2019 thing, for MacOS 10.15 and iOS 13.1 I would set your expectations accordingly for this year’s WWDC.


  1. My guess is this is all part of the updated UI for iOS 13 coming next year. ↩︎

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martinbaum
169 days ago
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Anybody else feeling like Gruber’s been cut off from the high level sources and is wandering in the Apple PR wilderness?
MotherHydra
167 days ago
He’s fallen out of favor to be sure and his “little birdies” are retail-tier employees (they all get @apple.com addresses). Essentially it is live action role-playing.
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2 public comments
tingham
168 days ago
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WPF has this and it's.. ok, I think it's crucial they keep the procedural methodology intact however; some of us like writing code.
Cary, NC
sirshannon
169 days ago
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So... XAML?

Elon Musk Memo on the State of Tesla

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Skip the Electrek summary and scroll down to the memo itself. It’s a cogent and inspiring read:

Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don’t match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That’s ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can’t work with Tesla.

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martinbaum
182 days ago
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Many seem to think Musk is the second coming of Jobs. He might prove himself worthy of that, and he might not, but Jobs shipped at scale. That’s incredibly difficult and I don’t see a Tim Cook anywhere near Tesla.
satadru
181 days ago
Shipping at scale is easy if you're willing to go to China, integrate yourself into a Shenzen supply chain, and have people on the ground to monitor and resist quality fade. I'm not sure that works for vehicles, which have much of their (much more slowly iterating) supply chain here in the US.
martinbaum
181 days ago
Very good point. But, of course, Musk has bet the company on scale with the Model 3. He can always fall back on revolutionizing space launches, though. Pretty incredible success, there.
thepyrate
181 days ago
Wasn’t Tim Cook almost singularly instrumental in the scale of distribution Jobs demanded through his decade+ managing the supply chain? You basically listed Tim Cook’s achievement and then said Tim Cook would never come near achieving that...
martinbaum
181 days ago
I said Elon Musk has no Tim Cook. By many accounts he is directing operations himself.
thepyrate
181 days ago
Ah yes, I think I read your original comment back to front
satadru
181 days ago
@martinbaum agree on space launches vs Tesla, (especially with regard to Roscosmos throwing in the towel on competing with China & SpaceX today, supposedly) but I'd also note that Musk's primary goal with Tesla, like with SpaceX was not to make electric cars and compete in the rocketry business, but to totally redefine the field and make electric cars a viable market with the goal of saving the planet. In that, he has wildly succeeded. Electric cars are no longer the micro-niche market they used to be, but high end competitors which threaten every company vehicles for prestige and which have set the goal for multiple vehicle manufacturers. (Similar to how SpaceX has always been a means to an end of the colonization of Mars via lowering the costs of taking goods and people to space from the exorbitant costs charged by legacy state-subsidized conglomerates.) The proximal goal of Tesla and SpaceX has always been to survive and push the market. That they've recently led the market is a surprise I don't think Musk anticipated. But unlike Apple (& Jobs) at least Musk seems to be willing to fail fast and try new things, without stubbornly sticking to what worked yesterday and hoping it works tomorrow. In that he's very much unlike Jobs, and amusingly, somewhat a combination of the good traits we recall in both Tesla & Edison...
martinbaum
181 days ago
I'm coming around to your way of viewing Musk, but I'd still hate to be a Tesla investor. I do think he's got a tin ear about that, as his April Fool's joke demonstrates.
satadru
181 days ago
100% I'd hate to be a Musk investor. His short term goals aren't aligned with those of investors looking to make short-term monetary gains, and frankly, I'm ok with that...
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Gurman: HomePod Sales Lower Than Apple Expected

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Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

During the HomePod’s first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day.

I don’t put much value in comments from Slice Intelligence or anonymous suppliers, but Apple Store employees are saying they’re only selling single digits per day, that sounds bad. (Would love to hear from any readers out there who work in Apple retail.) But I’d love some context on this. How many iPhones does a typical Apple Store sell per day? MacBooks? Apple TVs?

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martinbaum
187 days ago
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A category in search of a use case.
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Matthew Panzarino Goes Behind-the-Scenes With Apple’s Pro Workflow Team

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Matthew Panzarino got exclusive access to Apple pro hardware and tools group:

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team, and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today. The group is under John Ternus and works closely with the engineering organization. The bays that I’m taken to later to chat about Final Cut Pro, for instance, are a few doors away from the engineers tasked with making it run great on Apple hardware. […]

To do that, Ternus says, they want their architects sitting with real customers to understand their actual flow and to see what they’re doing in real time. The challenge with that, unfortunately, is that though customers are typically very responsive when Apple comes calling, it’s not always easy to get what they want because they may be using proprietary content. John Powell, for instance, is a long-time logic user and he’s doing the new Star Wars Han Solo standalone flick. As you can imagine, taking those unreleased and highly secret compositions to Apple to play with on their machines can be a sticking point.

So Apple decided to go a step further and just begin hiring these creatives directly into Apple. Some of them on a contract basis but many full-time, as well. These are award-winning artists and technicians that are brought in to shoot real projects (I saw a bunch of them walking by in Apple Park toting kit for an on-premise outdoor shoot). They then put the hardware and software through their paces and point out sticking points that could cause frustration and friction among pro users.

The big news of the day is that Apple told Panzarino that the new Mac Pro will not appear until 2019 — disappointing to many, but not surprising to me. I know that many pros want Apple to simply put Intel’s most powerful Xeon processors in a tower enclosure and call it a day. Apple clearly has something more than that in mind, and they’re not going to tell us what that is until it’s ready.

But this Pro Workflows Group idea is fascinating — and I’m surprised its existence never leaked. They’ve got real film editors, visual effects artists, and music producers working in house, right across the hall from the engineers working on their tools. And these groups are informing the design of the new Mac Pro (and other future pro hardware).

Sure, I wish the new Mac Pro were coming sooner. But overall this story is fantastic news for pro users — it shows Apple not only cares about the pro market, but that they’ve changed course and decided that the best way to serve pros is to work with them hand in hand.

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martinbaum
194 days ago
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What a colossal fluff piece. Workflow analysis for a year?
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36-Year-Old Accountant Who Has Never Played Pro Hockey Stars in Blackhawks Win

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Allyson Chiu, writing for The Washington Post:

“Among hockey’s great quirks,” as Hockey News explained, “is that it’s the only pro sport with the potential for someone not on the roster to come out of the stands and actually play in the game.” But, “it takes a very rare set of circumstances to open that door.”

This is a fabulous story, but one takeaway no one seems to be mentioning is that playing goalie in the NHL is not that difficult. I’m having trouble thinking of a another position in pro sports where this could happen. Maybe playing first baseman in baseball?

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martinbaum
200 days ago
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It probably didn't come up in interviews because that's kind of an asshole thing to say in light of this guy's big night.
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How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

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Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore, and Carole Cadwalladr, reporting for The New York Times:

Details of Cambridge’s acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

This was not a security breach. This is simply what Facebook is: a massive surveillance machine.

Maciej Ceglowski, on Twitter:

The data that Facebook leaked to Cambridge Analytica is the same data Facebook retains on everyone and sells targeting services around. The problem is not shady Russian researchers; it’s Facebook’s core business model of collect, store, analyze, exploit.

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martinbaum
213 days ago
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Must be a slow Apple week.
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