Apple Publishes Mobility Data

Apple published an interesting visualization of data they have on the number of times Apple Maps users looked up directions and how the frequency has changed during the pandemic.

The Mobility Trends Report is not only a great way to show the value of Apple’s aggregate data but also an opportunity for the company to explain it’s privacy policies.

Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values, so Maps doesn’t associate your data with your Apple ID, and Apple doesn’t keep a history of where you’ve been.

This data is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions in select countries/regions, sub-regions, and cities. Data that is sent from users’ devices to the Maps service is associated with random, rotating identifiers so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches. The availability of data in a particular country/region, sub-region, or city is based on a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests per day.

Apple – Our Commitment to Privacy

Apple Design Extends to Process

Like everyone else I too read through 17,000 word profile of Apple Design chief Jony Ive. It’s extensive and well worth your time if you want to get a sense of the scope of Apple’s vision and how they think about design.

What struck me most was the passage below which shows you just how much of a lead Apple has when it comes to it’s intellectual property. It’s not just the idea, it’s not even the physical design of their products, the materials or dimensions. Apple design IP extends to how their products are made, the speed and force with which the tools cut the metal.

“Years ago, you thought you’d fulfilled your responsibility, as a designer, if you could accurately define the form”—in drawings or a model. Now, Ive said, “our deliverable just begins with form.” The data that Apple now sends to a manufacturer include a tool’s tracking path, speed, and appropriate level of lubricant. Ive noted that the studio’s prototyping expertise creates the theoretical risk of beautiful dumb ideas.

Those other headphones look like medical equipment

This interview with Jimmy Iovine on the eve of the announcement of Beats Music goes a long way towards explaining how Beats and Apple might work together. Appreciation of sound and the ability to call bullshit on existing music recommendation engines (at 23:00),

I put in the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan as my two favorite groups and asked for 10 songs.

What I got back were 3 John Entwistle solos, 1 Keith Moon solo record, 1 Mick Jagger, 1 Moby Grape, and 1 John Lee Hooker record.

What am I going to do with that? That’s the math solution.

“iTunes is great but it needs a step forward. . . most technology companies are culturally inept. . . we’re trying to marry math with emotions.”

So it begins – iOS CarPlay

Announced at last year’s WWDC, Apple revealed today that CarPlay, the integrated iOS platform for in-dash entertainment and navigation will be shipping in 2014 models by Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Notable in its absence was Tesla.

The ecosystem will limit apps to approved partners so it’s Siri for voice and Apple Maps for navigation. Music is open to 3rd party alternatives to iTunes with icons for Spotify, iHeartRadio and the newcomer Beats Music. Missing at today’s launch is Pandora.

While a touchscreen launches each app, Siri is now front and center as the main way to interface with each application. I’ve been using Siri to text short messages to my wife while driving and have been pleased with the results.

Automakers have largely failed to open up their APIs and create any sort of developer ecosystem around applications that interface with their cars. The Prius had a healthy hacking community but it was mostly fringe forum chats about hidden menus and easter eggs. People seem reluctant to brick their Teslas.

Will the app ecosystem play into which car you’ll buy next? We all wait for Apple’s entry into the battle for the living room but the opening shots in the battle for the dashboard have just been fired.

Apple and Storytelling

Apple’s latest installment of their storytelling marketing campaign is on their home page today. Your Verse (link broken – see embed below) features Robin Williams who narrates Walt Whitman and invites you to stop watching and start making.

Poetry, Beauty, Romance, Love – these are what we stay alive for.

That the company that has produced one of the best media consumption devices ever made is now inviting its customers to begin to produce content, no, art, on these devices points the way to how Apple will expand the market for all the new converts to the Apple platform.

From the original Macintosh to the latest Mac Pro (“Built for creativity on an epic scale”) the premium customers of Apple’s products have been the creative class. By inspiring all those new customers with iPhones and iPads to delve into creating new media, Apple will nudge these customers toward the upgrade path to new devices and software that bring them deeper into the Apple ecosystem.

It’s cinematic in an age where advertising has stepped a bit too far on the wrong side of literal and clever. It’s not about specs and stats. It’s not about the devices at all. It’s about how you can use the devices. How these devices are both approachable and aspirational. And oddly, just as with the best cinema, the feeling you’re left with is one of nostalgia.

MG Siegler
Apple Verse

Life on an iPad showed how others use the iPad to do things, how the iPad was integrated into our life to get things done. Your Verse is an invitation to create. Once again, Apple is changing the game.

That powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Update from 2018: Apple now forwards /your-verse to /ipad. Thanks to YouTube, the great VCR for the internet, I found the video.

Japanese Maps a Unique Challenge

The New York Times has a piece pointing out that the new iOS 6 cartography woes that Apple is experiencing are amplified in Japan which presents it’s own unique mapping challenges. Mainly because they are trying to jam a global mapping paradigm into Japan which has its own challenges.

… cities like Tokyo are changing fast: its 80,000 restaurants, for example, open and close at a rapid rate amid cutthroat competition. Navitime, another map app that has benefited from Apple’s map problems, updates its data every eight hours, and replaces a third of its seven million data points every year.

The photo up top is a common site in Tokyo outside of most every train station or at the top of every subway exit. The city is changing so quickly that hand drawn maps, often annotated with side notes, are the best indicator of the what is where for the dis-oriented visitor. The back of most Japanese business cards are often helpfully annotated with carefully drawn maps giving directions to the establishment’s location with instructions like, “veer 30 degrees left and head past the large Coca-Cola billboard and take the next left at the noodle shop.” Navigating the back streets of Tokyo is more akin to orienteering through the woods than walking the streets of a well organized city.

But the real kicker for anyone trying to enter the Japanese market is that Japanese love maps and mapping services have gone to great lengths to provide the most detailed maps they can offer. Navitime, mentioned in the NY Times article, provides maps that tell you how to get from one place to another when it’s raining and you don’t have an umbrella (through office towers, underpasses, by shopfronts with awnings). Below is a screenshot from one vendor showing different ways from point A to point B. The route on the right is how to get there if you have a baby carriage.

The Western mind boggles at the complexity of the Japanese mapping services. Fundamental aspects of mapping break down in Japan. In Japan, they label the addresses by blocks, not street names. As Derek Sivers says in the Ted video below,

“Blocks don’t have names, streets have names. Blocks are just the unnamed spaces in between streets.”

Think different Apple. Think different.

Will Sony Get Back it’s Original Mojo?

When Steve Jobs first visited Sony, he had huge respect for the company and it’s founder. He emulated many aspects of the company and even tried to convince Apple employees in California to adopt Sony’s famous grey ripstop nylon vest uniforms.

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson

Sony today is not the company it was back then. I would argue that Sony’s ownership of Columbia records distracted them from focusing on the customer. I’m sure greedy music executives insisted on copy protection on Sony mp3 players in order to protect revenues and what resulted was a proprietary MagicGate DRM and Memory Stick technology that confounded users and drove the simple, welcoming arms of the Apple iPod. This was a market that was Sony’s to lose and they did.

There are other stories of a company tripping over itself. A Race to a New Machine chronicles the race between Sony and Microsoft as they each were developing their next generation gaming consoles. Co-authors David Shippy and Mickie Phipps take us back to those days in 2001-2002 when Sony was developing the Playstation 3 and Microsoft their first version of the Xbox 360.

The tale is a painful one. Sony kicked off development of a next generation chip, investing $400 million and partnering with IBM and Toshiba with both Sony and Toshiba sending teams to live in Austin, Texas where they would work side-by-side with IBM engineers targeting to get the new chip ready for release in 2005.

In order to make the partnership compelling for the two other parties, Sony acquiesced to allowing the chip to be sold to other companies, even other console manufacturers. From a review of the the book in the Wall Street Journal,

But a funny thing happened along the way: A new “partner” entered the picture. In late 2002, Microsoft approached IBM about making the chip for Microsoft’s rival game console, the (as yet unnamed) Xbox 360. In 2003, IBM’s Adam Bennett showed Microsoft specs for the still-in-development Cell core. Microsoft was interested and contracted with IBM for their own chip, to be built around the core that IBM was still building with Sony.

All three of the original partners had agreed that IBM would eventually sell the Cell to other clients. But it does not seem to have occurred to Sony that IBM would sell key parts of the Cell before it was complete and to Sony’s primary videogame-console competitor. The result was that Sony’s R&D money was spent creating a component for Microsoft to use against it.

Mr. Shippy and Ms. Phipps detail the resulting absurdity: IBM employees hiding their work from Sony and Toshiba engineers in the cubicles next to them; the Xbox chip being tested a few floors above the Cell design teams. Mr. Shippy says that he felt “contaminated” as he sat down with the Microsoft engineers, helping them to sketch out their architectural requirements with lessons learned from his earlier work on Playstation.

While it’s bad enough that Microsoft was able to essentially “draft” off of Sony and Toshiba as they broke trail on a revolutionary new chip design, the salt in the wound came later when the Xbox 360 was able to launch almost a year earlier because of delays in Sony’s supply chain. Outflanked by Microsoft? Ouch.

I’m happy to learn that Sony has announced a top to bottom re-organization that breaks down the barriers between the professional and consumer product divisions. The focus on core strengths in digital imaging and gaming is a welcome move and taking full control of the Sony-Ericsson mobile phone venture is a good first move. Sony has also put a renewed emphasis on UX which they’ll need as they have launched the Vita OS as a way to connect multiple screens and devices around the living room as Apple.

Taking on Apple is a huge undertaking but if anyone’s going to give it a shot, Sony’s in the best position to do so. Even if the new Sony Style stores popping up at a mall near you seem a tad derivative of the Apple Store experience, remember that what’s old is new and if that means the master is now learning from it’s disciple, that’s ok too.