Apple Music rumored to receive WWDC overhaul →

Bloomberg:

Apple is altering the user interface of Apple Music to make it more intuitive to use, according to people familiar with the product who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Apple also plans to better integrate its streaming and download businesses and expand its online radio service, the people said. The reboot is expected to be unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The changes will be accompanied by a marketing blitz to lure more customers to the $10-per-month streaming service. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

I don’t think there’s much denying that Apple Music is a bit of a mess. It’s hard to tell where the lines are between it and iTunes Match. The UI is confusing in places, and iTunes is … well … iTunes.

While I don’t use the service anymore, the UI in Music.app has been so infected by it, I’ve switched to using Cesium to play my local music on my iPhone. I hope Apple can reboot this thing and make it good. The company has such a long track record of good music products, it makes Apple Music even all the more painful to consider.

Apple updates MacBook line →

The Apple PR Machine:

Apple today updated MacBook with the latest Intel processors, improved graphics performance, faster flash storage and an additional hour of battery life, making the thinnest and lightest Mac better than ever. Featuring an all-metal unibody enclosure, MacBook is now available in four aluminum finishes — gold, silver, space gray, and for the first time on a Mac, a gorgeous rose gold. With a stunning 12-inch Retina display, highly responsive full-size keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, versatile USB-C port and all-day battery life in a design that is just 2 pounds and 13.1 mm thin, MacBook is the future of the notebook.

Early 2016 MacBook

It’s hard to tell from the specs page, but hopefully this processor bump will be enough to push the MacBook closer to the mainstream.

Speaking of mainstream notebooks, the MacBook Air survived today’s update, but the only change is that the 13-inch models all come with 8 GB of RAM as default.

Siri spills the beans on WWDC dates →

Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac:

Although the Apple website has not been updated with any new info, Siri is proudly proclaiming that WWDC 2016 will indeed be held in San Francisco from June 13th to June 17th. Although Siri didn’t explicitly say, it is almost certain that WWDC will once again be held at Moscone West, simply because it’s the best choice of venue for an event like this in San Francisco.

So either someone on the Siri team got excited, or something happened to delay the official announcement. While those dates have been rumored for some time, for those trying to plan a trip to San Francisco, Apple’s last-minute announcement each year is a point of stress. Siri leaking it may be funny or cute, but I think the company would do better by its developers and community to announce the dates earlier than mid-April each year.

The Mac Product Grid 

The other day, I published this image, which was Apple’s approach to the Mac product line for several years after Steve Jobs came back:

Grid of 4

Of course, that isn’t how things are shaped now. A couple of readers wrote in suggesting something along these lines, which had been rattling around in my brain as well:

Grid of 6

At first pass, I though this Grid of 6 explained the Mac lineup pretty well, but it really breaks down in the details.

(We’ll get to those asterisks in a few moments.)

In broad strokes, I think this reflects what Apple is doing with the Mac. There are three products in both the desktop and portable lines.

Within each family, there are variations on the products — the two sizes of MacBook Air, iMac and MacBook Pro — but for the most part, things have their place.

The categories are where things get more interesting. This approach loses the old “Consumer” and “Professional” labels, blurring the lines a little bit more into what I’ve clumsily named “Miniature,” “Mainstream” and “High-end.”

The categories aren’t perfect, though. This is where the Grid of 6 breaks down. As I wrote in that piece the other day, this is most evident with the iMac, which can span from a rather mediocre machine for a home office all the way to being the heart of an audio or video studio. The Mac Pro earns an asterisk for still being considered the high-end desktop machine, even though the 5K iMac is nipping at its heels.

Then there’s the MacBook Air, which I’d bet money on going away at some point in the next year. As the MacBook gets faster and the 13-inch MacBook Pro gets thinner and lighter, the Air will simply get squeezed out of the product line altogether.

That’s the problem with grids like this today. Apple’s product lines are just too complex and too nuanced to sketch out on the back of a napkin.

I’m not convinced this is a problem for the company, though. When Jobs came back, he had to tell the story that Apple was on top of its game, and a large part of that story was straightening out the mess the Mac line had become. With four main computers, it was easy to understand what Apple had for sale.

Today, the world is more complicated, and consumers want more options. Some want the most powerful notebook possible, while others value lightness and thinness above all other things. There’s a Mac for almost everyone now, and that’s a good thing, even if it’s a little harder to capture in a simple graphic.

On the iMac’s place in the world 

iMac timeline

Since its groundbreaking introduction in 1998, the iMac has been at the heart of the Macintosh line. Even as notebooks have consumed most of the market, the iMac holds its ground, outlasting the PowerMac and having a heritage richer than that of the Mac mini. While the 12-inch Retina MacBook may be a wonder of engineering, the iMac is still the spiritual leader of the Mac family.

It wasn’t always this way. While the iMac helped bring Apple back from the brink in the late 1990s, it was just one machine. For years, it was easy to understand the iMac’s place in Apple’s grid of products: it was the consumer desktop machine:

Grid of 4

Of course, things have changed over the last 18 years, and not just in regards to the technology packed inside the ever-thinning iMac.

The Grid of 4 is no more. The Mac mini was introduced below the iMac, making the Mac more affordable than ever. On the high-end, the PowerMac and Mac Pro towers are gone, replaced by the current Mac Pro that is more marginalized than ever.

This has led to the iMac’s territory spreading out, making it the de facto choice for more and more desktop users.

The low-end, $1099 iMac is fine for home users and schools. It’s not a speed demon with that slow spinning hard drive, but it gets the job done. Way upstream is the $2,299 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display. There was a time where to do any audio or video work, you had to buy a tower; that’s simply not the case anymore with this monster.

This spreading out has left the iMac carrying the weight of the desktop Mac experience on its shoulders. Apple has to have an offering for the masses, while pushing the entire line forward at the high-end. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it has led to some weird decisions, like the use of notebook components and slow hard drives on some models.

It also makes me wonder where Apple could take the machine in the future. Any future iMac will need to continue to meet the need of all of its users, from the budget-minded consumer, all the way up to the audio and video editors who are using them these days.

There are some obvious things that need to be done, like moving away from 5400 RPM drives and eventually the Fusion Drive, once SSD prices fall far enough.

I’d also like to see the company bring back the ability to upgrade the RAM in 21.5-inch model. With the redesign in 2012, the iMac’s RAM sockets are locked away, unreachable except on the 27-inch models. For a machine that can be used (and is supported by OS X) for longer than ever, it’s a shame that users can’t upgrade them down the road.

While I expect the “screen and foot” design to remain basically the same for the life of the iMac, reducing the size of the black bezel and aluminum chin would help modernize things a good bit. If you squint a little, the current design looks like the original aluminum iMacs from 2007.

In our increasingly mobile world, there may be some who think the iMac is built around a dated idea, doomed to go the way of the dodo. While that may be the case, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime in the foreseeable future. It’s served Apple and users well for 18 years, and is the company’s longest-running nameplate. I think it’s got plenty of life left in it.

Current iMac

Jason Snell, on his life as ‘an Apple guy’ →

Jason Snell:

I first touched an Apple product in the early 1980s. The father of my best friend in elementary school was a technology enthusiast, and when I visited their house, I got to lay hands on their Apple II+. What I remember most about it was that you could play video games on it that were more sophisticated than anything you’d find on the Atari console I had at home.

His story just unfolds from there. It’s a really enjoyable article on just how much Apple has impacted his life and career. Go check it out.

40 years of Apple 

40 years ago, Apple Computer, Inc. was born. While I certainly could wind a path through four decades of computers and products, software and services, I think that today is more about the why of all of it.

Why do we obsess over tiny design and development changes and decisions?

Why do we get into spats on Twitter about mobile operating systems?

Why do we care so much about an enormous, publicly traded company?

Why do I do talk and think about Apple for a living?

AppleI.jpg

While I was born several years after the personal computing revolution took off, I understand why it was so important. It changed the world because what Steve Jobs and others believed decades ago is still important.

Bill Gates said it well with his “a computer on every desk at work and in every home” line. He and Jobs both believed that technology should’t be kept under lock and key. People shouldn’t have to go to the High Priests of the Mainframe to experience the benefits that a computer could offer.

To truly make technology accessible, Jobs believed it should be well-designed. He gave a shit what the components that no one would ever see looked like. Hardware that looked cute and non-threatening (running software that was easy to understand) may have made some hobbyists dismiss the Mac, but it is history’s chosen sibling, not the Apple II with its command prompt and lack of a mouse.

Apple also believes in pushing boundaries and moving forward. In 1984, Apple II fans were taken aback that the Macintosh lacked expansion slots. In 1998, it was bonkers that the iMac shipped without ADB ports or a floppy drive. Today, Mac OS X users are clutching to their filesystems in a world where iOS is the company’s dominant platform.

While some of Apple’s bets haven’t panned out, the big ones often have.

QuickTake-100

This attention to detail and vision for the future is what drives so much of the conversation around Apple to this day. How many blog posts and podcast episodes have I produced over seven and a half years about esoteric minutiae? I literally pay my mortgage with articles about subtle changes to Apple’s interface design and hardware choices.

ipods-classic-family

There’s something bigger at play here, though. In addition to the detail-oriented obsessions and the idea that technology should be approachable, Apple believes in equipping its users to do great things.

How many people who are professional programmers now got their start with an Apple II or Macintosh and a magazine with printed code, ready to be reproduced and evolved?

How many photographers and designers first discovered their passion in MacPaint or Photoshop?

How many thesis papers, poems and plays have been written in ClarisWorks, AppleWorks and iWork over the decades?

How many friends have I made after connecting with them about our shared hobby of tinkering with the Mac?

apple-watch-GS

I first met the Mac in high school. A single machine — a kinda crappy PowerMac G3 All-in-One — set the course for so many things in my life. I wrote articles and designed newspaper pages on that computer, making the hardware and software to bend to my will.

I learned that I could take an idea and brute force it into the world.

And for that, Apple, thank you, from all of us.

Safari Technology Preview →

Apple:

Safari is the best way to see the sites on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Safari Technology Preview gives you an early look at upcoming web technologies in OS X and iOS including the latest layout technologies, visual effects, and developer tools so you can provide input on how they are implemented and deliver a best-in-class user experience on all Apple devices.

As Jason Snell points out, Apple previously released “nightly builds” of WebKit, but this new program looks to offer a more structured testing platform.