Tag Archives: apple

It’s nice to be nice, but it’s better to be Steve Jobs.

Who cares if the Apple co-founder was a volatile man who was difficult to deal with? Sometimes that’s the price of genius

Michael Fassbender, playing Steve Jobs, stares into the foreground, an iPhone interface reflected in his round, frameless glasses

Can a great man be a good man? This is the question posed by the trailer for Steve Jobs, a biopic of the late co-founder of the world’s most valuable company (and, the film suggests, not always a good man).

The film is (extremely) loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs, written over two years with the cooperation of Jobs himself and hurriedly published in the wake of his death. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, likened the worldwide outpouring of grief in the wake of his death to that following John Lennon’s murder.

The plot revolves around the minutes before three major product launches in 1984, 1988 and 1998, but its driving force is an unflinching examination of Jobs’ relationship with his first daughter Lisa, whom he denied the paternity of for many years.

“I’m not your father,” he tells her, before stalking off to bully and threaten his staff into adhering to his exacting high standards, from quite literally taking the shirt of an unsuspecting man’s back so that Jobs could pull a floppy disc from its breast pocket, to snarling at former fellow co-founder Steve Wozniak, ”You’re gonna have a stroke, little buddy.”

None of this, unless you’ve been living under a rock, is exactly new information. The notoriously secretive Apple, which is extremely protective of Jobs’ legacy, has rallied against Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s biopic for years, with chief executive Tim Cook describing it as “opportunistic”and chief design officer Jony Ive saying he didn’t “recognise that man at all. It’s heartbreaking”.

But it’s not just the company’s top brass who have turned their backs on the project. Steve Jobs made a paltry $7.3 million (£4.8m) during its US opening weekend, ahead of its UK release on November 13, and has only taken around $16 million since the end of October, despite costing around $30 million to make.

Michael Fassbender, who plays the titular role, by his own admission doesn’t “look anything like him”, with Apple observers criticising the plot’s many factual inaccuracies and how some characters,particularly in the case of Wozniak, have undergone full personality overhauls.

Jobs was, by all accounts, one of the rarest kind of people insofar as he was uncompromising in his obsessions, ruthless to the point of cruelty when it came to getting his own way, which the film wrongly attributes to the lack of control he felt at being put up for adoption as a child (Jobs himself said knowing he was adopted meant he “always felt special”). A people-pleaser he was not.

The question in my mind is not so much whether it’s possible to be decent and gifted at the same time, as Wozniak tersely tells Jobs it is, but rather, who cares? Jobs was a gifted leader and marketer, and his tenacity and dedication to his work should be praised, rather than vilified. It should also be noted that he reconciled with Lisa and apologised many times for his behaviour, which is more than many other children of absent fathers get.

The most rewarding teachers are often the ones who are hardest on you, as this year’s academy award-winning Whiplash demonstrated so beautifully. Jobs, volatile though he may have been, knew how to get results, whether that was through cajoling, manipulating or outright insulting. He once told Ive he was “really vain…You just want people to like you.” “I was terribly cross,” recalled Ive, “Because I knew he was right.”

The desperate desire for acceptance many of us feel so acutely is exactly that, a vanity. Jobs’ complete disregard for the opinions, and on occasion, feelings of others freed him from the crushing weight of expectation and consequent risk of disappointment to focus with a laser-like precision on exactly what he wanted, in his own words, “to make a ding in the universe”.

Yet there is no doubt Jobs was admired, revered and deeply loved, as the glowing testimonials of those who knew him best show. It is nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice, or so the saying goes. Maybe it’s more important to recognise that not being a people-pleaser is nothing to be ashamed of.

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To infinity: How Pixar brought computers to the movies

“Toy Story,” the first full-length computer-animated movie, turns 20 this month. Behind Woody and Buzz are a bunch of computer graphics geeks who, with help from Steve Jobs, changed movies forever.

Ed Catmull’s office could be a window into the brain of Pixar.

Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, sits at a round wooden table at Pixar’s whimsical headquarters in Emeryville, California. To his right, the walls are filled with items that inspire creativity. There’s a plaster mold of his left hand: the star of the first computer-animated short he made in 1972 as a graduate student at the University of Utah. There are also toys galore, a collection of old watches, and trinkets that look like they were picked up at souvenir stands around the world.

To his left, though, it’s all business: a dual-monitor Mac, two elegant gray armchairs and a row of framed, understated drawings from Pixar movies, featuring friends like Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

The room is a metaphorical manifestation of the cerebral hemispheres — fitting for the co-founder of a studio that melded computer algorithms with art in a way no one had ever done before.

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Twenty years ago this month, Pixar ushered in a new era in cinema with “Toy Story,” the first full-length feature film created entirely with computers. Critics praised the animated film, with Roger Ebert calling it “a visionary roller-coaster ride of a movie.”

What stands out for Catmull is that nearly all of the critics devoted only a sentence or two to its breakthrough computer animation. “The rest of the review was about the movie itself,” Catmull recalls. “I took immense pride in that.”

In the past two decades, Pixar has become a celebrated art house, with other groundbreaking films to its credit, including “Monsters, Inc.,” “Up,” “Wall-E” and, most recently, “Inside Out.” (Pixar will release its newest film, “The Good Dinosaur,” later this month.) But Pixar’s achievement hasn’t just been a game changer for animation; it’s been course-altering for all of film.

“Toy Story” wouldn’t have been possible without groundbreaking software from Pixar. Called RenderMan, the program let animators create 3D scenes that were photorealistic. The idea: Generate, or “render,” images that look so real you could put them in a movie alongside live-action footage — and no one could tell the difference.

Pixar, which licenses RenderMan to other film studios, boasts that 19 of the last 21 Academy Award winners for visual effects used the software. They include “Titanic,” the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Avatar.”

But film experts point to three movies from the mid-’90s that signaled the sea change for digital moviemaking: “Toy Story,” “Jurassic Park” and “Terminator 2.” RenderMan had a part in all of them.

“Before those three movies, the idea of making a movie with a computer was ridiculous,” says Tom Sito, chair of animation at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “After those movies, the idea of making a movie without a computer was ridiculous.”

Still light-years away

Things might have turned out very differently.

In 1975, Catmull hired Alvy Ray Smith, a charismatic computer graphics pioneer from New Mexico, to join his new Computer Graphics Lab at the New York Institute of Technology. The lab was based on Long Island, not far from the environs of Jay Gatsby, the fictional millionaire from “The Great Gatsby.” Catmull and Smith’s research was bankrolled by their own eccentric multimillionaire, the institute’s president, Alex Shure. From the beginning, Catmull and Smith had a specific goal: Make the first computer-animated feature.

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If there’s one striking thing about how Pixar came to be, it’s that there was always a rich guy keeping the dream alive. After Shure, it was George Lucas, fresh from the success of “Star Wars” in 1977. Lucas poached the team to start a computer division at his production studio, Lucasfilm. Then Steve Jobs — down and out after being ousted as CEO of Apple — stepped into the picture as he was looking for a comeback. Jobs bought the team from Lucasfilm for $5 million. Catmull, Smith and Jobs co-founded Pixar in February 1986.

white-cover.jpgBack then, Pixar wasn’t in the movie business. Instead, the company was hawking computers specifically for visual effects. Pixar created short films — and honed its animation skills in the process — to show potential customers what its computers could do.

But the company was sinking. The technology just wasn’t advanced enough to produce full-length films. During the early years, Jobs put in $50 million, a significant chunk of his fortune at the time, to keep it afloat. “The only reason we didn’t officially fail was because Steve didn’t want to be embarrassed,” recalls Smith.

When it came to making short films, though, the team was world-class. There were two reasons for that success. First, Catmull and Smith put John Lasseter — a young, visionary animator the company picked up while still with Lucasfilm — in charge of Pixar’s creative process. (Where the office of Pixar’s technical maestro Catmull has only one wall of toys, Lasseter’s bursts at the seams with them.)

The other reason was RenderMan.

Pixar developed the software with one simple goal: Create images good enough for Lucasfilm to use, says Catmull. At the time, animators could only cram about 500,000 polygons onto the screen when creating a scene. In computer graphics, a polygon is a flat, two-dimensional object drawn with at least three sides. Adding more polygons lets artists create more realistic-seeming 3D objects.

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Catmull’s goal was 80 million polygons.

“Nothing could really handle the complexity of what we were trying to do,” says Rob Cook, one of the original authors of RenderMan. “We were setting the bar.”

They were so successful that in 2001, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors honored Cook, Catmull and Pixar engineer Loren Carpenter with an Academy Award of Merit “for significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering.” It was the first Oscar awarded to a software package.

“The thinking was, ‘If we could control this, we could make animated movies the way we think they should be made,'” says Jerry Beck, a historian of animated films.

The big break

Back in Catmull’s office, we stare at my iPad. I’ve asked him to take me through “Tin Toy,” a 1988 Pixar short about a marching-band toy trying to escape a slobbering baby. “You look at it now and it looks really crude,” he says. (Even cruder than normal. We’re watching the short on YouTube, and Catmull, ever the perfectionist, remarks that the upload quality has degraded the picture.)

He rewinds the video to a scene of the baby waving. The animators deliberately blurred his hand in motion, so it would look more natural to the human eye. That, he said, was a breakthrough.

For sure, “Tin Toy” was a milestone: It won the first Academy Award for a computer-animated short. But its role in movie history is bigger than that. “Tin Toy” inspired that other Pixar movie about toys.

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When Pixar started pitching projects, Catmull didn’t think the team was capable of creating a whole movie. Instead, he pitched a 30-minute TV show. And because it had to do with toys, the show would be a Christmas special. Peter Schneider, the Walt Disney producer responsible for hits like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” thought better.

“If you can do a half-hour, you can do 70 minutes,” Catmull recalls Schneider saying. “So I thought about it for about one nanosecond — like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.'”

“Toy Story” was released November 22, 1995.

It was the first of many milestones. Pixar’s CTO Steve May says RenderMan delivered another breakthrough for the 2001 film “Monsters, Inc.” when it allowed animators to render individual strands of Sulley’s blue hair. Chris Ford, Pixar’s RenderMan business director, thinks the studio will raise the bar again with the water scenes in “Finding Dory,” the “Finding Nemo” sequel due out in 2016.

The release of “Toy Story” also fulfilled an early goal of the team that developed the software. “We wanted to make it so people everywhere could use it,” says Pat Hanrahan, the former Pixar engineer who came up with the name RenderMan. In 2015 Pixar started offering the noncommercial version of RenderMan for free. (The paid version is about $500.) The number of people using the free software is in “seven figures,” says Ford.

It’s been more than 40 years since Catmull made one of the world’s first computer-rendered films, starring his left hand. Before I leave his office, he shows me the mold under a glass-domed cylinder casing, kind of like the rose from “Beauty and the Beast.” Two of the fingers have broken off.

Time has been more forgiving to “Toy Story” than it has been to Catmull’s plaster mold. He hopes Pixar will continue to age gracefully. “As you bring people into a successful company, you have different kinds of challenges,” he says, then pauses.

“They can’t make the first computer-animated film over again. How do they do the first of something? And how do they own that?”

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So many Apple devices now! What’s an app maker to do?

In the old days, developers only had to make apps for the iPhone and the Mac. The situation is trickier these days with multiple versions of software and devices, including the new iPad Pro.

Apple, known for keeping its products simple and elegant, may be getting away from the simple part, at least when it comes to developers.

It wasn’t so long ago that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs liked to point out Google’s Android “fragmentation” problem, with developers forced to make multiple versions of their apps to support the varying Android devices. It turns out Apple may have a fragmentation problem of its own, thanks to a product lineup that’s a lot more complicated these days.

Along with three iPhone screen sizes and features specific to each generation of its iconic smartphone, Apple now offers different size tablets, a smartwatch with its own software, a streaming-media player that supports apps, and nearly a dozen Macintosh computer models. Starting this week, the Cupertino, California-based company adds a third tablet size with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which offers an optional stylus and a detachable keyboard. The lineup is a big change from the days of Jobs when Apple offered a much more streamlined group of devices and stuck with a standard iPhone screen size for the first five generations of the smartphone.

The new multitude of products — as well as the four different software systems running them: iOS for iPhones and iPads, Mac OS X for desktop and laptop computers, tvOS for Apple TV and watchOS for the Apple Watch — forces developers to pick and choose which apps to create first. The iPhone, which makes up about two-thirds of Apple’s sales, captures the most developer attention. But the increasing fragmentation of products and platforms means you may not find your favorite app on the new iPad Pro or the Apple Watch, or at least not a version of the app that can fully take advantage of the gadget’s unique capabilities.

If it sounds familiar, it’s a problem Google has dealt with since the early days of Android. Device makers released phones and tablets in myriad screen sizes, and developers weren’t sure which version of the operating system to build apps for. That led to early growing pains for products such as Android-powered tablets. Fragmentation continues to be an issue. Only a quarter of Android devices run the year-old release of the software called Lollipop. But Google has worked to mitigate the issue by pushing for apps that work well across the various versions of Android.

This is a dilemma that Apple is just starting to face. As CNET’s Scott Stein noted in his iPad Pro review, “At launch, very few apps are currently optimized to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s full potential.” The Apple Watch faces the same issue. Of the 13,000 Apple Watch apps available at the end of October, only 10 percent use watchOS 2, which lets apps run directly on the smartwatch instead of working as limited, iPhone-app extensions. The low percentage persists even though developers have had access to the newer smartwatch software since June.

Apple declined to say how many iPad Pro apps will initially be available for the device. The company has 850,000 tablet apps available in its App Store today.

Setting priorities

Apple has “just had so many great things come out at once or over the past couple months that we have to prioritize what will hit the majority of our user base and nail those cases,” said Jamie Hull, vice president of mobile product at note-taking app Evernote.

Evernote delayed making an updated Apple Watch app based on watchOS 2 in favor of building an iPad Pro app and adding support for the new stylus called Apple Pencil for the first day they hit consumers’ hands. The iPad Pro is priced starting at $799, while the Apple Pencil costs $99 and Apple’s Smart Keyboard retails for $169. The products went on sale Wednesday on Apple’s websiteand will hit shelves at Apple stores, authorized retailers and some wireless carriers in more than 40 countries later this week.

Evernote has no plans right now to create a new Apple Watch app, Hull said. “Our watch users are very, very active,” she said. “But it’s just a small population today.”

Apple has tried to shore up the number of apps available for its new products by giving developers early access to its devices. It has also released software long before devices launch to give developers time to tinker. For instance, Apple gave developers access to watchOS in November 2014, five months before the smartwatch hit the market. For the iPad Pro, software companies including Adobe Systems, Autodesk and Microsoft got time to play with the tablet before it became available to the broader market.

For startups with limited resources or less access to Apple’s newest devices, though, it’s far more complicated to develop for Apple products than it was just a few years ago. And not many developers have the knowledge to take advantage of every new aspect of every new Apple product, like the 3D Touch feature on the iPhone 6S, said Orta Therox, head of mobile development for startup Artsy, which helps people buy and sell fine art.

“You can’t do it alone at a level of quality that people accept with these apps,” Therox said.

Appetizer Mobile, a development company that makes apps for customers like Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, hasn’t fielded any client requests for iPad Pro apps so far, said Appetizer Mobile CEO Jordan Edelson.

“It will be more of a niche development request or niche applications…likely stemming from the enterprise,” he said. “I don’t think the average consumer app or startup is going to go straight into iPad Pro.”

As Apple’s newest devices and features gain more traction with users, more developers will create apps for them. If you’re still looking for the biggest selection, though, you’d better stick with the iPhone.

For developers, “some of the products, like the Apple Watch and even Apple TV, right now are worth trying,” said Maximo Cavazzani, CEO of Etermax, creator of popular game Trivia Crack. “But, of course, it’s always something small compared to the iPhone. Our main priority is the iPhone.”

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That used iPhone? Here’s what happens before you buy it

When it came time for Caleb Gonsalves to buy a new iPhone earlier this year, he didn’t run to the nearest Apple store. Instead, he headed to the website of reseller Gazelle to search for a used iPhone 6, saving himself money and the pain of waiting another year for his wireless contract to end.

“The idea I could just sell back a phone [an iPhone 5S]…and put the money to a new phone that was discounted…was amazing,” said Gonsalves, a 27-year-old executive at a tech startup based in Boston.

He ended up trading in a 32-gigabyte iPhone 5S for $216 and applied the cash to help pay for a used 64GB iPhone 6 from Gazelle that cost $401. At the time, a new version of that phone would have cost $749.

Gonsalves isn’t alone when it comes to buying and selling used phones online.

As the US wireless market moves away from traditional two-year contracts, more consumers are upgrading their phones at a faster clip, while looking for ways to do it on the cheap. Device resellers like Gazelle are benefiting from that trend by offering affordable alternatives in used smartphones. Since the iPhone 6S hit the market in late September, about 100,000 iPhones have been traded in to Gazelle, a level in line with the typical trade-in number during “S” generations, the company said. Apple tends to do major redesigns every other year, opting for more subtle changes in the off-year denoted by the “S” in the product name.

Most of Gazelle’s business revolves around the iPhone, but it also buys and sells Android devices. And it’s not the only company in this market. eBay, uSell and various other companies also have businesses related to used mobile devices.

Gazelle, based in Boston, got its start offering consumers a place to sell their old or unwanted electronic wares. Last year it opened up an online storefront to sell them back to you, and it has since moved 50,000 iPhones.

“As subsidies have been taken away from carriers, folks are realizing their iPhone habit is a $650 habit, not $200,” Gazelle Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Welch said. “There has been an explosion in demand for high-quality used phones.”

To see what happens to those iPhones before they reach new buyers’ hands, CNET visited Gazelle’s facility in Louisville, Kentucky, for a behind-the-scenes glimpse.

To sell a smartphone, consumers go to Gazelle’s site and describe the phone’s condition as “broken,” “good” or “flawless” and then receive an estimate for its value. The company then sends a prepaid box to the consumer, who has 30 days to return it with the phone to the Louisville facility. The long window allows sellers to lock in a high price before the newest iPhone is announced, but gives them time to upgrade before sending off the old phone.

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Apple could be prepping a new 4-inch, A9-powered iPhone for 2016

New iPhone rumors are a dime a dozen, but this one is both counter-intuitive and yet makes plenty of sense once you think about it. A prominent analyst from KGI Securities — Ming-Chi Kuo — says that Apple is prepping a 4-inch iPhone to join the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in Apple’s lineup, and that it would replace the existing iPhone 5s.

By the time next October rolls around, the iPhone 5s will be three years old, and it’s next in line to be axed if Apple’s prior track record is any indication. The 4.7-inch iPhone 6s and 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus are each second-generation versions of what were the first larger-screen iPhones Apple brought to market. Designing a new, hopefully higher-end 4-inch model, as opposed to another side-grade like the plastic iPhone 5c, would cater to people still looking for a smaller handset that’s easy to hold in one hand.

This has been a perennial issue particularly with regards to the Android market. Something I’ve never quite understood is the apparent stampede of Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC, and other Android handset vendors to outdo each other with larger screen sizes while abandoning smaller-but-still-high-end phones entirely. Sony, Huawei, and ZTE have also gotten in on the fun. Numerous times over the years, I’ve asked company representatives about smaller-screen, but still powerful handsets that can be used one-handed while holding onto a subway pole or a newborn with your other hand, only to be told point blank that journalists are the only people who ever ask about them, and that the market wants giant phones.

SwiftKey on iOS 8 on an iPhone 5S

I’m certainly willing to believe that — I also build my own PCs, and not everyone does that anymore either. And I myself am a phablet convert; I own an iPhone 6 Plus right now and have my eye on the Nexus 6P. But if Apple can sell bazillions of iPhone 6 and 6s handsets with 4.7-inch screens and top-of-the-line A9 processors, why can’t an Android vendor step up and do the same without crippling it with a midrange SoC and camera sensors? Time after time, we’ve been disappointed with promises of high-end specs across handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the HTC One A9, only to find parts that aren’t best-in-class once they’re actually released. And here on the iOS side, not only is Apple selling tons of 4.7-inch iPhones, but it’s also considering going back to 4 inches for an entirely new design.

The report says that the new 4-inch model may join Apple’s lineup even before October 2016, and may show up in the first half of the year — and not only that, but that it will have the same super-fast A9 processor as the iPhone 6s. It’ll probably lack 3D Touch, but it will likely have a metal enclosure just like the higher-end models. Kuo says Apple could sell 20 to 30 million of this new 4-inch model by the end of the year. The report also said that a tentatively named iPhone 7 will come in the third quarter as predicted, and that it will feature an A10 processor, though if you ask me, that doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to come up with.

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You can now turn your Apple Watch into a Fallout Pip-Boy

Unless you were one of the lucky few who snatched up Bethesda Games’ $120Fallout 4 limited collector’s edition, a Pip-Boy wrist-worn computer for all your post-apocalyptic needs is out of reach — unless you’re willing to shell out thousands of dollars on eBay. Thankfully, designer and developer Neven Mrgan whipped up a square-shaped interface for the Apple Watch that should satisfy any prospective members of Vault 111.

The static graphic works thanks to watchOS 2, which allows users to set any photo from their iPhone as the Apple Watch background. Mrgan designed his Pip-Boy image to resemble the interface of the device from Fallout 4, with a swath of screen space open so Apple’s placement of the date and time make the whole package look like an official design.

Follow these steps to get the watch face on your device. Download the image here to your computer and send it over to your iPhone, either through SMS or email. Make sure your iPhone is syncing its camera roll to the Apple Watch, which can be done from the Photos section of the iOS Apple Watch app. From there, hop on your Apple Watch, open up the Photos app, and press hard using Force Touch on the Pip-Boy image to see the option to create a custom watch face.

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Apple Pay warning: Storing your partner’s fingerprints is like ‘giving away your Pin’

Banks warn users of Apple’s Touch ID that storing partners’ or spouses’ fingerprints will be seen as ‘you failing to keep your details safe’

Banks have warned customers that if they store other people’s fingerprints on their iPhones they will be treated as if they have failed to keep their personal details safe.

This means the bank can decline to refund disputed transactions or to help where customers claim they have been victims of fraud.

Extract from the Ts & Cs applying to debit and credit card customers of First Direct. The same terms apply to customers of HSBC

The banks’ position, typically buried in the detail of bank account Ts & Cs, could trip up spouses, couples, parents and children, for example, where multiple fingerprints have been stored on a phone in order for it to be used by other family members.

This is because Touch ID – Apple’s process of storing encrypted finger prints – works to unlock phones, as well to authorise payments through Apple Pay.

It comes as growing numbers of consumers embrace Apple Pay to make payments at shops, bars, restaurants and on public transport.

The Apple Pay system was launched in Britain in July.

• Apple Pay: everything you need to know

When the phone is near the payment point, the user’s bank card – which has been previously set up in Apple’s electronic “wallet” – flashes up on the phone screen. The user then authorises the payment by placing his or her registered finger on the phone’s scanner.

The process takes seconds, or even less, and is thought to be highly secure, as payments will only be made where a fingerprint has been scanned and verified.

Most models of iPhone carrying the Touch ID facility allow up to 10 prints to be stored, meaning users have plenty of opportunity to register family members’ prints on their device.

But banks are effectively warning customers that if they want to use Apple Pay, other people’s prints need to be deleted.

Santander, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland customers were the first to be able to use their accounts with Apple Pay, with HSBC and First Direct joining later July, the month the system first became available.

Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers were able to use the service from September.

Barclays, which was the only major UK bank not to partner with Apple Pay, has since announced a collaboration is coming “in the future”.

Lloyds Bank said: “If Touch ID is available on your device, you must ensure you only register your own fingerprints (and not anyone else’s).”

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Steve Jobs’ legacy includes the women he inspired

Women played a key role in helping create the Macintosh. Some of the women on the original Mac team share how Jobs pushed them to extraordinary levels of creativity.

The lore of Apple’s success goes something like this. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak start Apple in a Silicon Valley garage, with the crazy goal of building the first personal computer for regular people. Eight years later, Jobs introduces the Macintosh, shocking the world with its intuitive, iconic interface and creating a cult following. After his exile from Apple, Jobs returns to reinvent and popularize the digital music player, smartphone and tablet. Apple literally changes how we interact with the world.

But that story often leaves out all the others, including dozens of women, involved in Jobs’ first big bet, 1984’s Macintosh. Like everyone else on the original Mac team, these 20-somethings put in grueling hours to create a machine that could live up to the vision of Apple’s brilliant and volatile leader.

Graphic designer Susan Kare dreamed up the Mac’s icons and created some of its original typefaces, including the Chicago, Geneva and Monaco fonts. Joanna Hoffman focused on a “user experience” that made people feel as if they could, for the first time, make the computer do what they wanted. Other women oversaw manufacturing, finance, marketing and public relations.

“The bottom line is, Steve just cared if you were insanely great or not,” said Guy Kawasaki, who joined Apple in 1983 and was the Mac’s first chief evangelist. “He didn’t care about sex, color, creed — anything like that. You were either great or you’re not. You’re either great or you sucked. That’s it. That’s all he cared about.”

Apple didn’t provide a comment for this report.

The new movie “Steve Jobs” by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle hints at some of the contributions of the women of the Mac team, primarily through the character of Hoffman, who was Apple’s head of international marketing. Played by Kate Winslet, Hoffman was Jobs’ confidante and colleague, able to challenge him when no one else could.

“Joanna was the one who represented all of us in learning how to stand up to Steve,” said Debi Coleman, who joined Apple in 1981 as controller for Jobs’ Macintosh project. “That’s one of the reasons she’s a heroine to me.”

Hoffman declined to be interviewed, but three prominent women from the team agreed to talk about the movie, Jobs’ impact on their lives and what it was like working with Jobs, who died in 2011 at the age of 56. The trio are Coleman, who later became head of Macintosh manufacturing; Susan Barnes, controller of the Macintosh division; and Andrea “Andy” Cunningham who, as an account executive for the Regis McKenna public relations firm, planned what turned out to be the tech industry’s biggest PR campaign at the time.

On Monday, Cunningham hosted a panel in Palo Alto, California, where the three women talked about how Jobs challenged, infuriated and pushed them to achieve great things. They were joined by Hoffman and Barbara Koalkin Barza, a former product marketing manager for the Mac and later director of marketing at Pixar, the animation studio Jobs bought after being fired from Apple in 1985.

Jobs “made it possible for you to do anything you wanted,” Cunningham said. The women of the Mac team “had the freedom to do what we were good at doing.”

Hoffman, speaking during the panel Monday, said “what is true is that so often Steve was so enthusiastic and so brilliant and visionary and not necessary reasonable.” And Barza noted that “Steve had a laser focus on details,” which is a something she has taken to heart throughout her career.

Here are a few of their other stories.

Music’s charms

“Billie Jean is not my lover/She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one/But the kid is not my son/She says I am the one/But the kid is not my son.” — lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

Introducing a major product is a lot like planning a crucial battle. Both can succeed or fail on the campaign’s logistics. For the January 24, 1984, introduction of the Mac, those logistics included the then-unheard-of idea of “multiple exclusives,” in which Apple served up different slices of information to leading US publications.

About two weeks before the Mac’s launch, Cunningham and Jobs flew to the tony Carlyle Hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. They had reserved a suite for several days’ of one-on-one interviews and photo shoots.

There was just one wrinkle: Jobs “absolutely hated” having his picture taken and would turn “surly and kinda nasty” with the photographer, recalled Cunningham.

The soothing sounds of music came to the rescue.

“I discovered he loved Michael Jackson and the song ‘Billie Jean,'” she said. “And I discovered that when I played it on a cassette player, he became really docile and friendly and smiled for the cameraman. As soon as the song was over, he would go back to his snarling self.”

The cassette player got plenty of exercise. (His musical choice is ironic given that he was in a paternity battle with the mother of his eldest daughter, Lisa, before the Mac was unveiled.)

“While we were doing the shoot, I was constantly rewinding, rewinding, rewinding,” Cunningham said. “It calmed the waters.”

The waters had been seething since 10 p.m. the night before, when Jobs, Cunningham and Cunningham’s colleague, Jane Anderson, arrived at the hotel. For Jobs, the suite didn’t have the right vibe for the interviews.

So Cunningham and Anderson rearranged the furniture to Jobs’ liking, even pushing the suite’s baby grand piano to where he said it needed to be to create the best atmosphere for the meetings.

“Finally, at 2 a.m. he says to me, ‘I want a vase of those flowers that have the green stems, and they’re really long and at the top they’re kind of white and are very simple and flare out like this,'” Cunningham recalled. “I’d say, ‘Oh, OK, you want Calla lilies.’ And he’s like, ‘No! That’s not what I want.’ And he goes on to describe them again.”

Cunningham did find the Calla lilies that early January morning in New York.

Adult supervision

Silicon Valley joke circa 1981: “What’s the difference between Apple Computer and the Boy Scouts? The Boy Scouts have adult supervision.”

Coleman likes to recall that joke when describing her early years at Apple.

Jobs was a “tall, thin, unkempt, Jesus-freak looking guy” when she was introduced to him. The setting was The Good Earth, then one of Silicon Valley’s most popular restaurants. It’s where Coleman ran into Jobs and Trip Hawkins, an Apple employee who had been her college classmate and would later found video game maker Electronic Arts.

“Trip introduced me and told him, ‘She’s not your usual bean counter.’ With those words, Steve chased me for six months to join his team, which I did not realize was an unsanctioned project.”

It didn’t take long, though, for Coleman to discover that Apple didn’t share the famously genteel corporate culture at Hewlett-Packard, where she had previously worked.

“[Steve] would come marching down the hall or skipping down the hall, calling…’What an idiot. I can’t believe you did this stupid thing.'”

Coleman said it took her a year to learn how to confront Jobs. She credits Hoffman for serving as her teacher. “Joanna said, ‘Look him in the eye. You’ve got to stand up.’ From that point on — I’m not saying he wasn’t tough, totally demanding and totally critical — but he was totally wonderful to me.”

Sounding board

In some ways, that ability to stand up to Jobs was as critical for him as it was for the person confronting his verbal abuse.

“You had to stand up to him,” Barnes said. “He knew he was forming ideals and gelling them, and you had to be able to be his sounding board.”

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Despite the insults, those who learned to interact with Jobs describe the experience as intellectually stimulating, compelling and fun.

“His real skill was knowing which buttons to push,” said Barnes. “The thing that kept me going with him was the intellectual spark. He could get so much out of you. He drove a high standard.”

“You weren’t judged as a woman,” she added. “You didn’t have to worry about what you wore and how you wore it. It was about your intellect, your brain and your contributions.”

Jobs put Coleman in charge of Mac manufacturing in 1984, making her one of the highest-ranking women in the computer industry. She later became chief financial officer of all of Apple in 1987, after Jobs had left the company. Coleman most recently served as co-founder and co-managing partner at venture capital firm SmartForest Ventures from 2000 to June 2015.

Barnes co-founded NeXT Computer with Jobs and became its chief financial officer. She went into investment banking after leaving NeXT and later served as financial chief at Intuitive Surgical. Barnes currently holds that same title at Pacific Biosciences, a DNA sequencing company. Cunningham left Regis McKenna to form her own PR firm and helped Jobs launch Pixar. She currently runs Cunningham Collective, a consulting firm.

“When you’re in an environment where you’re respected for what you do and not…your gender or age, it’s really refreshing,” Cunningham said. “That’s what Steve offered back then.”

For more on the team behind the Mac, check out CNET’s Macintosh 30th anniversary package from January 2014.

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Apple cuts $50 off Watch price when purchased with iPhone

The rare discount comes amid continuing questions about the wearable’s sales performance.

Apple is temporarily cutting $50 off the price of its Apple Watch when the wearable is purchased with a new Apple iPhone, a rare discount from the tech giant.

But don’t run to the online store to place your order: The limited-time promotion is available only through in-store purchases and only at certain stores in the Boston and San Francisco Bay areas, according to an Apple Store employee in the Bay Area. The Apple Watch Edition and Apple Watch Hermès models are not included in the promotion, which runs October 30 through November 15, according to MacRumors, which first reported the discount.

Representatives for the Cupertino, California-based company did not respond to a request for comment.

The discount comes amid continuing questions about how well the Apple Watch has sold, further stoked by the company’s decision not to break out specific sales numbers for the smartwatch. While the Apple Watch has been the highest-profile product in the category, which includes other watches from the likes of Samsung Electronics and Motorola, it’s unclear whether mainstream consumers are hopping on the bandwagon.

Apple said it wouldn’t disclose Watch unit sales because it didn’t want to offer competitors “insights” from the figures. Analysts polled by Fortune recently estimated Apple sold 3.95 million Apple Watches in the quarter.

Despite the question about how Apple Watch has sold, Apple CEO Tim Cook has remained bullish. Cook said in July that said sales of the wearable to consumers exceeded the unit sales of the first iPhone and iPad in their comparable launch periods.

Cook added that he plans to expand the channel of Watch units for the holiday season, banking on the fact that Apple’s smartwatch will be a top gift for the period.

The discount is unusual in that Apple doesn’t tend to offer sales promotions on new devices. The tech giant offers special pricing for educational institutions and cuts prices on merchandise during the annual Black Friday sales, but temporary promotions of this nature are almost unheard of.

The offer is available only at participating Apple Store locations in the Bay Area (Burlingame, Chestnut Street, Corte Madera, Hillsdale, San Francisco, and Stonestown) and the Boston metro area (Boylston Street, Burlington, CambridgeSide and Chestnut Hill). Purchase of AppleCare+ or other accessories and add-ons are not required to get the discount, MacRumors reported.

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The New Apple TV Invigorates the Set-Top Box

I NEVER imagined I would get hooked on reading comic books on a TV screen. That changed last week after I picked up a new Apple TV.

The new device, which is similar to a set-top box and brings video and music from the Internet to a television, now has an app store. So I downloaded Madefire, one of the first apps available for the new device. Madefire adds a twist to digital comics with sound effects, music and motion, bringing the panels to life on the big screen. Within minutes, I was bingeing on a series about Superman turning into a corrupt dictator.

Playing with apps is just one new feature of the revamped Apple TV, which will ship this week. It’s that plethora of innovations and apps that leads me to conclude that the upgraded $149 box is now the best TV streaming device you can get for your money.

You can trust me because after testing hundreds of new devices for nearly a decade in this line of work, I’m usually blasé about products. My editor was concerned that body snatchers had taken me when I said I was positive about Apple TV. But I reserve excitement for products that I think will make a difference, this being one of them.

For Apple, this type of reaction to Apple TV is important. The box, which made its debut in 2007, was long labeled a “hobby” by the company, and it accounts for a single-digit percentage of its revenue. With the new device, Apple is aiming to push hard into consumers’ living rooms, where it faces competition from players including the Microsoft Xbox and Amazon’s Fire TV device.

“This is the foundation of the future of TV,” Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said recently at a conference about Apple TV. “What has to happen in the TV land, it has to be brought up and modernized.”

All the extra features have now put Apple TV in a position to become a powerful apps and games console, not just a box for streaming movies and TV shows.

Even for those more basic elements, the device is better at streaming video content than less expensive products from Amazon, Roku and Google, all of which I tested over the last month. While the new Apple box has flaws, it also has a cleaner interface for finding things to watch and a niftier remote control — not to mention more compelling apps and games.

Redesigned Remote

One of the biggest changes is a redesigned remote control, which has a touch pad and a few physical buttons. It is also thicker, which is actually an improvement because the previous version was so thin that it had a tendency to vanish between couch cushions. More important, the remote includes a microphone and a button to summon Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, for finding content.

Siri for Apple TV can search for movies or TV shows across multiple streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and HBO, along with Apple’s iTunes Store, and play them right away. Pressing the Siri button and speaking the command “Find ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ ” will find that the TV show can be streamed on Hulu and iTunes; selecting the streaming service will instantly show a list of episodes.

Siri has other tricks, too. If you’re watching something and missed what a character just said, you can ask Siri: “What did they just say?” and it will rewind the video about 15 seconds and replay that portion with subtitles turned on, before switching the subtitles off.

Apple still has some kinks to work out with Siri. When I asked it to look up Nicolas Cage movies, it failed to find any relevant titles because it misspelled his first name as Nicholas (and try as I might, I could not make a silent “h” even more silent). When I tried the “What did you just say?” command, Siri occasionally failed to display subtitles for content on Netflix and Hulu. Apple acknowledged both problems as known issues and said it was working to resolve them.

Gaming and Apps

Gaming on Apple TV is off to a promising start. The remote control includes motion sensors so it can double as a game controller. The game Beat Sports relied on the remote’s motion sensors — swinging the remote makes the on-screen character whack a ball with a bat; the object of the game is to swing and whack the ball to the beat of the music.

Some other games I tried, such as Rayman Adventures and Crossy Road, relied primarily on the touch pad to control the games. The game Transistor, a role-playing title, was awkward with the touch pad and would benefit from a physical game controller, which is a supported accessory.

Gaming graphics were also on par with Nintendo’s Wii U, and some of the casual games seemed to compete directly in Nintendo’s sweet spot: lightweight, family-friendly gaming. I still don’t see players of deep action games like Halo abandoning their PlayStation 4 or Xbox One to play on an Apple TV, at least not until we see some hard-core games on the Apple device.

Other than the Madefire comic book app, other early apps on the new device make clever use of an Internet-connected big screen. The Airbnb app offers immersive pictures of apartment rooms you can rent. The Periscope app is a fascinating glimpse into what people around the world are streaming live from their smartphones (beware: Many people like to point cameras at themselves and make comments about their uninteresting lives in front of an audience of strangers, but hey, that’s better than Chatroulette).

Screen Savers

The new device comes equipped with extremely customizable screen savers. Before you yawn from boredom, consider this: A screen saver can turn a TV into a living piece of art that is constantly changing, which is a great conversation starter at parties.

For my Apple TV, I set up an Internet recipe with the site If This Then That, so that whenever I upload a photo to Instagram or “Like” a photo that my friend took on Instagram, it shows up on my Apple TV screen saver. That way, rather than relentlessly bombarding guests with selfies of my partner and me on vacation in Hawaii, my wallpaper is a window into moments captured by all the interesting people I know, not just snapshots from my life.

If that setup is too complicated, Apple offers some neat screen savers, including high-definition videos of different locations shot from the sky, including the Great Wall of China.

Buying Advice

While the Apple TV is my favorite all-around streaming device, there are some weaknesses.

Setting it up can be tedious. When you install streaming apps like Hulu and Netflix from the App Store, you type in your login credentials by swiping left and right with the remote to select letters of the alphabet one at a time — you have no option to do this by speaking into the microphone or using a keyboard on a smartphone.

The Apple TV may also not be the best streaming device for everyone because of one missing feature: the ability to stream content available in Ultra HD 4K TV, the latest high-definition resolution supported by some of the newest TV sets.

For early adopters of 4K television sets, the Roku 4, priced at $130, is a better bet. The Roku is versatile, has a nice selection of apps and has a comfortable remote control. Amazon’s $100 Fire TV also supports 4K, but I recommend against it because of its cheap-feeling remote control and less polished user interface.

Another competing device is Google’s $35 Chromecast, a miniature dongle that pulls streaming content from a smartphone. It’s a good option for people on a tight budget, but I found it unreliable — sometimes videos failed to stream from my smartphone to the device.

There are two storage models for the Apple TV. For $149, you get 32 gigabytes; $199 buys 64 gigs. In my tests, apps and games were pretty slim in terms of data size, so 32 gigs should be enough for most people. Those who plan to do a lot of gaming will probably be safer with 64 gigs.

Apple TV is on the path to turning the television set into a smarter connected screen. And though it’s the most expensive of the bunch, it will accrue more value over time as software developers expand its capabilities with more apps and games.

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