Archive for November 10, 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Apple Silicon: The Roads Not Taken


Raspberry Pi-like, “tinkerer-friendly” Mac, for under $100.


A Mac mini the size of the Apple TV, for $199, with 4GB RAM, 64/128 GB of iPhone-like storage, hardly any I/O, and probably an A12, A13 or A14.


Take the current Mac mini, make it a bit smaller and make it affordable. Again – the Intel tax is gone, and Apple, if they want to, can churn out silicon in large scales by themselves already. The first Mac mini was $499 – there’s no reason the first ARM Mac mini can’t be.


All of these products essentially are based on this: there’s an Apple that makes iPhones for $399 with industry-leading performance, and there’s an Apple that sells wheels for almost twice that price. It’s up to Apple to define what they want to sell and how they want to market it, and heading into a transition where you drop a hardware partner for your own designs is a perfect time to choose a new tack.

Sebastiaan de With:

Cool performance bump for the MacBook Pro, but today’s PC laptops have fantastic screens with tiny bezels. Face unlock. Touchscreens and pencils. 4G modems. Tons of awesome features. This looks like a faster MacBook Pro from 2015 with a tiny touchbar nobody wants.

Frank Reiff:

Perhaps the most puzzling thing is that they haven’t made a successor to the 12” MacBook. That would have been amazing. The only things wrong with it were the performance, the single port and the keyboard: all things that they could have solved with the M1.

Frank Reiff:

For those who hoped that Apple was going to use the Apple Silicon transition to course correct on issues such as ports, Touch Bar and perhaps introduce a new design language or new iOS features such as FaceID, tonight was a bitter disappointment.


Update (2020-11-20): Samuel Axon:

And FYI: we also asked if Apple plans to introduce cheaper Macs, on the assumption that using its own silicon is more economical. “We don’t do cheap—you know that,” Joswiak admitted. “Cheap is for other people, because we try to build a better product.”

The question wasn’t about Apple making Macs that were cheap, just cheaper than the current ones.

Update (2020-11-23): Tanner Bennett:

People need to stop using the word “cheap(er)” when talking to Apple execs. Ask them about affordable Macs.

One More Thing: Apple Silicon Macs

Apple (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple today announced M1, the most powerful chip it has ever created and the first chip designed specifically for the Mac. M1 is optimized for Mac systems in which small size and power efficiency are critically important. As a system on a chip (SoC), M1 combines numerous powerful technologies into a single chip, and features a unified memory architecture for dramatically improved performance and efficiency. M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an astounding 16 billion transistors, the most Apple has ever put into a chip. It features the world’s fastest CPU core in low-power silicon, the world’s best CPU performance per watt, the world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer, and breakthrough machine learning performance with the Apple Neural Engine. As a result, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning, all while enabling battery life up to 2x longer than previous-generation Macs. With its profound increase in performance and efficiency, M1 delivers the biggest leap ever for the Mac.

Apple (MacRumors: Air, Mini, Pro, Hacker News, Slashdot):

Apple today introduced a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini powered by the revolutionary M1, the first in a family of chips designed by Apple specifically for the Mac.

David Smith:

fun fact: retaining and releasing an NSObject takes ~30 nanoseconds on current gen Intel, and ~6.5 nanoseconds on an M1…and ~14 nanoseconds on an M1 emulating an Intel 😇

Rich Siegel:

After the whole “iOS 14 is shipping tomorrow” thing, macOS developers get a whole extra day!


On Apple’s Piss-Poor Documentation

Casey Liss (tweet, Hacker News, Slashdot):

For the last year or two, I’ve come to realize that the number one thing that makes it harder for me to do my job is documentation. Or, more specifically, the utter dearth of documentation that Apple provides for its platforms.


The march of progress doesn’t help, either. As my friend Adam Swinden pointed out to me on Twitter, as old APIs get deprecated, often times the new ones can’t be bothered to include documentation. Check out the difference between this API and the one that replaces it.

The number one thing for me is APIs that simply don’t work, but documentation is probably number two.


Apple Developing Web Search Technology?

Tim Bradshaw and Patrick McGee:

In a little-noticed change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple has begun to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen.

That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.

Dan Moren:

In some ways, it’s probably better to think of this as an extension of the Spotlight search technology that Apple’s been building out for the last fifteen years. It just happens to include search results for the web alongside results from your own data.


I pretty quickly turned off some of iOS 14’s new search features, because I found it annoying to have web search results pop up when I really just wanted to search for something on my iPad.

Nick Heer:

This seems to refer to Siri web suggestions that used to only display within the Safari address bar but are now in Spotlight. As far as I can tell, these are exactly the same suggestions but surfaced in a different place.


Bradshaw and McGee make no reference to having any sources at Apple, only quotes from a handful of people in adjacent businesses. Maybe they have background information from people who are familiar with Apple’s efforts, but nothing is cited in this article. The claim that Apple is, perhaps, working on a direct competitor to Google’s web search engine appears to be nothing more than speculation about what Apple could do from people who believe that it is something Apple is doing. That position seems to be predicated on regulatory pressures and recent hires[…]


Slingbox Discontinued

Walt Mossberg:

The @slingbox, which let you view your home cable TV on a PC anywhere, has been discontinued. It was an innovative, exciting product from a small startup.


Its time has now gone, but it was the very kind of small company innovation many wish for today. Here’s my review of that first Slingbox model in 2005[…]

Slingbox (via Hacker News):

Slingbox servers will be permanently taken offline 24 months after the discontinued announcement date (November 9, 2020), at which point ALL Slingbox devices and services will become inoperable.


Customer data will be handled in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Does that mean they’re going to sell it, where legal?

Nick Heer:

You’re going to think that I am taking these questions out of context on Slingbox’s FAQ but I promise you that I am not[…]

Update (2022-12-01): Dave Zatz (via Jason Snell):

Welp. It’s come to this. Slingbox servers will be shut down forever come November 9th. At which point all remaining devices will be bricked. *

As part of the original Sling Media team, initially in an advisory role followed by full-time employment, redefining media consumption was a wild and fulfilling ride. But, like the personal DVR, roll-your-own video streaming is largely transitory as we embrace our messy but largely liberated content futures.