5ish Links

The Vaporware Mac Pro

(First published on 4/4/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

So. Apple did a curious thing yesterday. They held a meeting with reporters to acknowledge a mistake. That mistake being the most recent iteration of the Mac Pro.

Well, it was as close as you’re going to get to Apple admitting they made a mistake. There’s still a lot of equivocation and defensiveness in their statements on the matter. But the very fact that they called the meeting says all you need to know.

This is an Apple mea culpa.

The only thing I can recall that was similar was around the “Antennagate” situation several years ago. Apple also summoned a small group of reporters to talk about that — I was one of them at the time — and also held it in a Apple building meant to showcase all the work they do behind the scenes on their devices. But that was a very different event. That was Apple defiantly showing off their advanced testing machinery to prove that nothing could possibly be wrong with the iPhone. This was… a chat.

And it seems pretty clear why they did it. Apple was on the verge of rolling out some updates to the Mac Pro. But they’re so ridiculously minor that the blogosphere would have thrown an absolute shit fit if Apple didn’t try to get ahead of the news cycle by previewing what is to come — something Apple never does.

It’s: pay no attention to these Mac Pros. The real ones are coming! Also professional iMacs! And stand-alone retina displays! Oh my!

Of course, those “real ones” are coming… in 2018. Which is presumably why Apple bothered with the current Mac Pro spec bump at all. We’re a ways away.

And so Apple just released the Mac Pro, Osbourne Effect edition.

So weird. No, Apple isn’t doomed. But this is very, very weird. Why did it take them so long to realize and make the moves to correct this mistake? And I’m still not convinced the correct move here wasn’t to just kill off the Mac Pro line entirely, as painful as it may have been for a small but vocal contingent. They’ve basically already taken that hit. And it would presumably help maintain focus within the company. As John Gruber notes:

What struck me about this is that Apple was framing a discussion in which the big news — the whole point, really — was their pre-announcing a “completely rethought” next-generation Mac Pro by emphasizing that most of their pro users use MacBooks and most of the rest use iMacs — and that they have big plans in store for the pro segment of both of those product lines. It’s exactly what I would have expected Apple to say if they were breaking the news that the Mac Pro was going away: We’re dropping the Mac Pro because its time has come and gone — all but a small percentage of our pro users have their needs met by MacBook Pros and high-end iMacs.

Multiple times, Apple went out of their way to note that many of the would-be “pro” users are now using iMacs instead of the Mac Pro. And then pre-announced they would be releasing an iMac to better serve those users in the future. It will stand alongside this vaporware Mac Pro. Because of course that makes sense.

Having the cake and eating it too. Not very Apple-like.

5ish Links

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31bloomberg facebookjumbo

Climate Progress, With or Without Trump

Great, succinct op-ed by Michael Bloomberg:

A week before President Trump signed the executive order to begin rolling back the Clean Power Plan, Moody’s Investor Service released a report concluding that wind power could displace up to two-thirds of coal-fired power production in 15 Midwestern states. The reason? The average cost of wind power has dropped to $20 per megawatt, compared with the more than $30 cost per megawatt for electricity from many coal plants in the region. Why would consumers pay more for a power source that may kill them?

Worth repeating: regulation didn’t kill coal power plants, progress did. Therefore, regulation won’t bring them back. Only a fool — or someone being disingenuous — would believe otherwise.

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20170325 brp003 0

All change: The new £1 coin is claimed to be the most secure yet

The Economist on the current state of coinage in the UK:

As counterfeiters have got better at producing copies, the number of fakes has grown to one in 30 coins in circulation, the mint reckons. One manager thinks it might be closer to one in ten.

That’s an insane number.

The new coin’s first lines of defence are its bimetallic composition (a gold-coloured nickel-brass outer ring and silver-coloured nickel-plated-alloy middle), its 12-sided edge, evoking the threepenny bit, and tiny lettering cut into the inside rim. It also boasts a hologram-like “latent image” that changes from a pound symbol to a “1” when the coin is tilted.

Whoa, part 1.

Then there is what the mint calls “covert” security: a layer embedded in the coin which is understood to respond to signals of different frequencies (the mint is understandably saying little about it).

Whoa, part 2.

Authenticity can be verified by scanners at banks and in vending machines. To take advantage of this new feature, Britain’s half a million or so vending machines are being refitted with electromagnetic-signature detectors. Supermarkets have been replacing coin slots in trolleys.

Counterfeiting is clearly a massive issue (as noted above) if they’re going to all this trouble…


Airlines Make More Money Selling Miles

Justin Bachman:

“Airlines are earning upwards of 50 percent of [income] from selling miles to a credit card company, which we believe is a great business to be in,” DeNardi wrote on March 20, boosting his target prices on American and United Continental Holdings Inc. by $30, raising his outlook for Southwest Airlines Inc. by $15, and adding $10 for Delta Air Lines Inc. shares. He cited the likelihood that airlines will begin disclosing more information over the next year or two. Stifel also upgraded its target share price for Alaska Airlines’ parent to $145. That stock traded at $93.66 on March 30. DeNardi argues that more transparency about loyalty plans would also pressure airline executives to further improve profits in their core business — namely flying.

Love that: “namely flying.” The airlines are about to tip into being financial vehicles — quite literally — rather than transportation vehicles. Fascinating.

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20170311 blp504

“The game is not for children, it is for me.”

The Economist’s Prospero blog on the history of The Legend of Zelda:

Mr Miyamoto wanted you to get lost. The propulsive, unidirectional energy of “Super Mario Bros” was a holdover from the era of coin-gobbling video-game arcades. By contrast, “The Legend of Zelda” rewarded stoic perseverance, frequently leaving the player puzzling over what to do next. The aspirations of “The Legend of Zelda” had less in common with the feverish spirit of the arcades than of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The inspiration for this style of gameplay was Mr Miyamoto’s own childhood memories from the countryside of Sonobe, Japan: combing rice fields, scaling hillsides, fishing lakes. One foundational experience he had as a child was stumbling upon a cave, which he eventually mustered the courage to enter by the light of a homemade lantern “The game is not for children,” he would later say, “it is for me.” Link, like Mr Miyamoto, is left-handed.

Love this. All-time greatest video game series by far, in my book.

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How to Build a Button

Speaking of professional Macs, here’s Michael Lopp on the new MacBook Pro (the Touch Bar one):

It’s called a Mac Book Pro. Pro. For professionals. I’ve worked under the assumption that professionals were interchangeable with developers. After multiple weeks of usage, I can’t see how a developer or a writer would choose the Mac Book Pro.

My own thoughts on the matter are below…

Quickish Hits

Twitter will start selling pre-roll ads ahead of Periscope videos

So Twitter is all about live, live, live! Except, sit through this ad first.

Live with a delay. Makes perfect sense and sounds like a great user experience. 🙄

Jeff Bezos gives sneak peek at Blue Origin’s spaceship (and flight suits)

Star Trek-y uniforms. Capsule looks great. This actually looks like a compelling — if terrifying — experience.

Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions

“That comma would have sunk our ship,” David G. Webbert, a lawyer who represented the drivers, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Why is this still a debate? Use it!

Our Dishonest President

Well, the LA Times is leaving little doubt where they stand on President Trump (good for them). Hard to see now, but history will smile upon those on the right side of this madness.

A Crazy Chart:

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Bottled water. Bigger than Pepsi. And Coke.

500ish Words


The Great Laptop Stagnation

Some thoughts on the new(ish) MacBook Pro. Finally.

(First published on 4/4/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

Writer turned investor turned investor who writes. General Partner at GV. Writer at 500ish. I write to think. 🍻

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