I'm writing this from the new MacBook Pro with the Retina display. It's a thing of true beauty. I'm watching myself type these letters and I can't believe they're this crisp. It's like I'm professionally printing these words in realtime.
Anyway, this isn't a review of the new MacBook Pro. I'm in the middle of playing around with it and I'll write my full thoughts sometime later this week. Instead, I simply wanted to think out loud for a bit about the future of the Mac, and my future with it.
For the past couple of years, I've been a full-on MacBook Air guy. I have a three-year old iMac that sits on my desk and is my media hub, but the vast majority of my traditonal computing is done on a 13-inch Air (and I say “traditional”, of course, because I actually use my iPhone and increasingly my iPad more than any of my Macs — but that's another topic). In many ways, I view it as the pinnacle of personal computing. It's thin, light, powerful enough, and the battery seems to last forever. This is the computer I dreamed about just 5 years ago. It's a reality. And I love it.
That made today interesting for me. During the WWDC keynote this morning, Apple showed off the aforementioned MacBook Pro with the Retina display. It's not just the screen. It's the power. The battery life. The new technology inside (USB 3, faster flash drive, faster RAM). I'm now very, very tempted to buy one to use as my everyday machine (the one I'm typing on is a loaner).
I'm at a crossroads: do I stick with the Air or go back to a Pro (which I used as my primary machine before the Air)? And it actually seems like Apple's entire Mac division (which has been driven by the laptops for some time now) is at a bit of a crossroads too.
For example, why do the non-Retina MacBook Pro models still exist? There are technically four non-Retina models: two 13-inch versions and two 15-inch versions. Apple updated each of them today while at the same time quietly killing off the 17-inch version. But why?
John Gruber argues that it's about the price. The entry-level MacBook Pro is $1,000 cheaper than the entry-level Retina MacBook Pro. But one is 13-inches and one is 15-inches. A more fair comparison is the 15-inch entry-level Pro versus the entry-level Retina Pro. Here the price difference is only $400.
That's still a lot of money, but with it, you get the incredible screen upgrade, a substantially slimmer and lighter machine, a much faster (though smaller capacity) hard drive, twice the amount of RAM, and twice the amount of video RAM. It's a good deal.
Sure, you lose an optical drive, but that's meaningless — they're all but dead at this point. In my mind, the 15-inch Retina MBP versus the 15-inch non-Retina MBP is a no-brainer.
Likewise, on the other end of the spectrum, the 13-inch MacBook Pro models versus the 13-inch MacBook Air models also seem like a no-brainer in favor of the Air. The two models of each are perfectly aligned in price. With the Pros, you get faster chips. But with the Airs, you get significantly thinner and lighter machines with much faster flash hard drives. And the screen is actually higher resolution on the Air.
Again, it's a no-brainer for most consumers. Go with the Air in that situation.
So why did Apple make the moves it made today? My best guess is that they're in an awkward evolution mode. Obviously, the Retina displays are going to spread across the entire line. But they had to start somewhere. And the 15-inch MacBook Pro was the obvious choice.
The current Air models are more than fast enough for most consumers. And I’m not sure why anyone would buy a 13-inch Pro unless they really want that optical drive.
Maybe it’s time to separate the Pro line by doing something like a super high resolution screen and maybe insane battery life (10+ hours).
Or maybe the 15-inch thin MacBook is meant to be a hybrid of a Pro and an Air. Maybe it has more ports, better battery life, and a higher price — but loses the optical drive. It’s dead anyway.
I was wrong about the battery life, but the rest was essentially correct. This Retina screen is certainly a way to distinguish the Pro line.
But again, this makes the move to also update the non-Retina Pros all the more confusing. I would have guessed that we'd see a 15-inch Retina, the end of the 13-inch Pro, and a mild upgrade to the 17-inch Pro (until it was ready to get a Retina display down the line). Such actions would cede the (literally but not in terms of sales) smaller part of the market to the Air. A more natural evolution, no?
I also imagined Apple dropping the “Air” appendage and resurrecting the “MacBook” brand once again in the name of simplicity. But that clearly isn't happening either. At least not yet.
So the Mac line, like myself, is in this awkward in-between stage. I love my Air, but I want this new Pro. Meanwhile, I need to replace my iMac, and based on the rumors, I thought I was going to be able to do that today. But, well, nope.
Maybe I ditch my iMac in favor of this new MacBook Pro. I like the idea, but I will miss the larger monitor. I could buy a Cinema Display but — incredibly — it's actually lower resolution than this new Pro screen. What would be the point of that? (And you know that upgrade is coming down the line as well.)
It sounds like the iMac may not get an upgrade until next year now. And the Mac Pro? If there's a Limbo in the tech world, it's in it.
I get asked all the time by people what MacBook I would recommend to buy. It used to be an easy answer, but it got a lot more complicated today. (Aside from everything I said above, do you dare buy a new Air when a Retina one must be in the works?) That's not necessarily a bad thing, we just happen to be at the beginning of a transition of the Mac into its next phase. In some ways, this is a mid-life crisis.
Nick Bilton weighs in on the “HBO is a slave to cable” debate. I'm actually getting sick of talking about this. There are those of us in the camp that believe HBO is foolish, and there are those who think we're foolish for thinking HBO is foolish. There's clearly a big disconnect here. And it boils to this:
I fully understand why HBO will not make this content available now. It's purely a business decision. And on June 11, 2012, every piece of evidence suggests that this business decision makes sense. $12 million a month in revenue from those signing online petitions? Ha. That would not even cover the rumored budget of the first season of Game of Thrones — one show.
My point is simply that on June 11, 2013, that math is going to be a little more complicated. On June 11, 2014, it will be more complicated still. And so on.
By not acting now, and getting out in front of the situation, HBO is playing a very dangerous game. They believe they can flip the switch when they need to, but it may not be that simple. As Bilton writes:
But technology doesn’t wait. People keep finding new ways to get what they want.
It's not about stealing. It's about access. The cable companies currently control that access — to the point where HBO will not sell their own content for nearly a year after it has aired. But they could. I'm currently downloading the season finale of Mad Men, which aired earlier tonight. I'm (happily) paying AMC (via iTunes) for that access.
“But. But. But. HBO is premium content! It's expensive to make!!” It doesn't matter. You think Mad Men isn't expensive to produce? Think again (see #12).
The only thing that matters is that over the next five years, the number of kids now entering college that are willing to pay for cable television will continue to shrink. In ten years, we'll look back at this debate like those silly “the iPhone must add a physical keyboard” debates.
Those kids could end up paying the cable companies for Internet access (we'll see — I'd bet on wireless), but they won't be paying for television service. No one seems to want to admit this truth.
Cable television is going to be AOL's dial-up business dining on the ignorance of the elderly as both sides slowly fade away.
HBO thinks they're making the right call. And they've tricked plenty of others into thinking they're making the right call. But they're not making the right call. They're making the wrong call disguised as the safe call.
The window to correct that mistake is ever more rapidly closing.
You want to know how I know that Google is very concerned about the forthcoming launch of Apple's own mapping product for iOS? I simply followed the Google Maps press conference today.
The mere fact that Google decided to hold a press conference just five days before WWDC (where Apple's mapping product is widely expected to be unveiled) said pretty much all you needed to know. When it was announced last week, it seemed like it may have been thrown together at the last second to pre-empt Apple's event. Now we can be positive that it was.
Everyone came to the same conclusion because it was the only conclusion to come to. Even the new products that Google did manage to unveil today have vague timelines for launching. And one has actually been out there for some time. They wanted to make sure to note that new 3D technology was coming soon! Can't imagine why.
Google threw this thing together at the last second and the press could smell it. We all know the adage: “if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.” Google just spawned a more obvious sibling: “if you don't have something to say, don't say anything at all.”
What Google actually unveiled today is their own vulnerability in the space. Beyond a few tiny leaks, no one knows what Apple's mapping product will be like. Google has by far and away the best mapping product on the planet. But they still felt the need to hold this meaningless press conference today. That's fighting down, not up. And it's a big mistake because it conveys the opposite of what Google was trying to convey: concern, not confidence.
Even before today's non-event, I had been thinking more about Apple's move into mapping. When the news broke, everyone knew it was a big deal, but I actually still think it's being underplayed. It could be a massive deal.
I say that with the biggest caveat possible: again, no one knows much about the Apple maps product yet — it could very well suck. Mapping is not easy. And Google has been at it for years. Pulling off a product that can reliably replace Google Maps seems almost impossible — it's that good — and maybe it will prove to be.
But Apple clearly believes they can do it. You might argue that they need to do it, and you'd be right. But they needed to do it a few years ago. They weren't ready yet. Now they feel that they're ready. We'll see soon enough.
And if they can pull it off, it will fundamentally alter not just the mapping landscape, but the entire mobile landscape. Maps are obviously now one of the absolute must-have features on a phone. But beyond the obvious, maps are also woven into the fabric of nearly every mobile app out there these days.
My main question after hearing a tiny bit about Apple's maps product was if it would be included in the SDK right away for iOS developers to use, replacing Google Maps? It appears it will be. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Maybe Apple starts forcing developers to use their maps instead of Google's or maybe they don't. Or maybe they deprecate Google Maps over time. One thing you can be sure of is that it will be more seamless to implement the Apple maps inside of iOS apps, and so that's what most developers will end up doing (again, assuming the product is good enough).
Such a move would suddenly push Google Maps from the de-facto standard to simply the market leader in maps. And if Android/iOS run about 50/50 of the market going forward, the map market share could follow suit.
It seems unlikely that Apple would do a web version of their maps, but who knows. Meanwhile, even before all of this iOS maps talk started, Google began doing everything in their power to push away large Maps partners on the web. Regardless, mobile is where maps really matter going forward
For Apple, this matters because they like to be in control of all the technology in their products as well as the end-to-end experience for consumers. But for Google, this matters a lot more because maps are a key part of the mobile monetization strategy. And mobile is increasingly a key part of the overall monetization strategy. If half that market suddenly gets shut off…
That's undoubtedly why Google felt like they needed to hold their event today. Done in such a hurry, they mangled it, and it made them look sort of silly. But the fact that they felt the need to do something suggests their heads are in the right place (or at least facing the right direction). They know what's coming and what it might mean.
Make no mistake: the forthcoming mapping wars are a really big deal. There's a chance Apple won't get it right and Google can rest easy. But there's also a chance that the opposite happens and half of Google's market disappears.
Update: Just to clarify one point, iOS doesn't actually include a Google Maps SDK, but rather MapKit, which happens to use Google Maps data right now. That can and probably will change with iOS 6. The question remains if Apple will allow apps to continue to integrate Google Maps on their own, and how easy that will be to implement…
A couple weeks ago, I switched up the look and feel of my ParisLemon blog. Over the next several days, I got hundreds of messages along the lines of “What did you do?!” “You fucking idiot!” “Change it back immediately!” “My eyes are bleeding demon tears.” Etc.
It turns out that I wasn't just screwing with everyone, I did have a plan. You see, I started to notice that I was losing Tumblr followers. Quite a large number, actually. Not quickly, but slowly, over time. And because I don't monetize that site and generally hate the pageview game (which I played for many years), “followers” is a metric that I actually keep an eye on. I want the people following me on Tumblr to be happy that they're following me. And if they're unfollowing me, they're clearly not happy.
So I switched things up. I began using Tumblr in a way that I felt was more natural to the network — quick sharing, lots of re-blogging, lots of images, etc. That's what the new theme was all about — it seemed best suited for that type of usage. Meanwhile, I knew I was going to move more of my straightforward writing over here, on Svbtle.
Guess what happened? My Tumblr follower count shot right back up. (Incidentally, so did overall readership and pageviews.) In other words, despite all the bitching the from vocal minority, my move seemed to please a broader majority. The numbers don't lie.
I was thinking about this yesterday after reading this post by Bryce Roberts: Everybody Hates Every Redesign Ever. It's so true. I think back to all the years covering Facebook. Just listening to the chatter on the web, everyone sure seemed to hate every little change they made. But the reality was that the majority of those changes better served a broader user base. Many of those changes kept Facebook growing towards the billion-user juggernaut it has become.
Roberts was specifically talking about Bitly — where he's an investor and board member. They recently underwent some major changes to the product and everyone seems to hate them. Maybe Bitly made some mistakes with the redesign/relaunch or maybe they didn't. Obviously, they have the data to know for sure. But again, it's not like they did it just to mess with people. They clearly had a goal in mind with the change. And you have to applaud them going for it, rather than being complacent.
Aversion to change is human nature. Most people take comfort in familiarity. But stagnation is the ultimate killer. It's excruciatingly slow, but insanely lethal. Living to die another day isn't really living.
Without change, the web, like the world, would be a very boring place.
In my former life as a reporter, I found it somewhat lame when I would get pitched a story. Believe it or not, that included “exclusives”. Gee, thanks for dropping dinner in my lap, I guess. It made me feel like a lion in a zoo.
I was a hunter. I wanted not just the feast, I wanted the kill. More importantly, I wanted the thrill of the hunt.
What I mean is that I wanted to be out there sniffing around, finding something I shouldn't find and breaking news that way. To me, there was nothing more exhilarating. It made hand-fed stories seem obscenely weak.
This lifestyle required me to stay on top of technology news in a perhaps unhealthy way. I can't tell you how many stories I tracked down simply by reading between the lines of another story. If you want to be a good reporter, read everything. Go from there.
In those days, RSS was my best friend. I subscribed to and read hundreds of individual feeds on a daily basis. Some things I would skim, but most things I would fully read. And read. And read. And read. It was exhausting. But again, important to what I did.
These days, my life is much different. If I have 30 minutes between meetings, I'll hit Techmeme or Twitter for news. But old habits die hard. Every night, I still make sure to go through and clear out my trusty old RSS reader.
But for the past ten days, I've been away from home and I've been busy: meetings, conferences, a little writing, drinking, whatever. I simply stopped checking those RSS feeds.
For a ten full days, I didn't open a reader. At first, this made me extremely anxious — it's possible that I hate unread counts more than anyone on the planet — but then it was great. And guess what I missed? Nothing.
I'm looking over my ten days worth of unread RSS items now. It's clear that I simply saved myself the trouble of reading a bunch of junk that ultimately doesn't matter. That's the thing: it's not like I didn't read the news while I've been gone — I just only read the stuff that found its way to me.
In a sense, I moved from a hunter to a gatherer.
And while I think reporters should always be hunters (someone has to hunt), it has clearly never been a better time to be a gatherer. Given my former life, I was highly skeptical that services like Twitter, Facebook, Techmeme, and the like would be enough to give me the full overview of news in any given day. But they are.
And I now try to contribute back to that system by linking to things I read and feel are worthy of sharing as well. Previously, I would have tried to hoard such bits of information like Gollum with the One Ring. Now I take pleasure in gathering and sharing them.
All of this makes me much more bullish on social sharing and curation sites and much more bearish on centralized content hubs that seem to think more is more. I can't think of one site where I read each and every piece of content they produce — no, not even TechCrunch. Nor do I ever stop at any one site anymore to see what's going on.
That's not necessarily a knock on those sites, it's just a statement on the way things have evolved. The one-stop news site is dying very quickly. Perhaps I'm late to this revelation because I've been too deep in the forest. Now I see.
The cream rises, but no longer by one centralized editor at one property. It now rises because we all lift it.
And the thrill of the hunt has been replaced by the thrill of the find.
NYT columnist Joe Nocera talking about Splunk, which went public five weeks ago:
The offering raised $229.5 million for the company. But if the bankers had done a better job of pricing the shares — and had come closer to the $35 a share that investors were willing to pay — the company would have reaped twice as much. Putting cash in a company’s coffers is supposed to be the whole purpose of an I.P.O. Isn’t it?
The only real “losers” of the Facebook IPO so far are a select group of bankers. And that's only because they had hoped to profit from a quick stock pop which never occurred. It really is that simple. Why everyone is so confused about this fact, I have no idea.
The IPO was a massive win for Facebook, which raised $16 billion. Let me say that again: they raised sixteen billion dollars. They can now use that money on whatever the hell they want. 16 more Instagrams? Why not.
Had Facebook been priced at say, $20 a share at opening, it would have been a huge win for the bankers hoping to sell on the pop, but a huge loss for Facebook as it would have meant they did not get their maximum value out of the IPO.
Any regular trader who bought Facebook on day one and sold the next day after it didn't pop is, quite frankly, a fool. They're selling on bad news for some hype-chasing traders, not bad news for Facebook. Does Facebook have some question marks going forward? Of course. Every company, private and public, has question marks. For Facebook: mobile, ad rev, etc. But those are long-term problems. And those problems existed before IPO too. If you didn't know that, you shouldn't be investing in Facebook.
My guess is that Facebook's stance on the IPO backlash amounts to this: zero fucks given. Again, they did great. Better than great, really — the most money ever raised in a tech IPO. And they only had to give up a small portion of the company.
The fact that the story is now that Facebook may be weak as a company only shows just how many people really don't get it. Both from the perspective of knowing how IPOs work and the perspective of knowing how Facebook, the company, works.
Facebook's IPO was a massive win for Facebook. It was a win for longterm investors (who now have the option to invest in Facebook). It's only a loss for those who were looking to make a quick buck. Boo fucking hoo.
Disclosure: By way of a recent acquisition, CrunchFund owns some Facebook shares. And if I bought public stocks, I'd definitely buy Facebook — just like Michael did.
As I write this, I'm 37,500 feet above Iowa. It's slightly cold in the cabin. I can't hear a thing besides the jet engines. I (obviously) have Internet access, but it's not yet ubiquitous enough for everyone to assume that I have it, so no one is bugging me. In many ways, this is the perfect way to write.
I miss writing. The sad truth is that it's increasingly hard for me to find time for it anymore. Yes, I do a column for TechCrunch, and yes, I post rants here and there on ParisLemon. But it's usually me rushing to get something up in the fleeting spare time that I have in between meetings. That's why I enjoy long plane rides. Like this one. All kinds of time alone with my thoughts.
So I've been thinking…
Wouldn't it be great to have a new outlet where I could just focus on writing? About anything. Just writing to write — without pressure or an agenda.
While I'm very much a creature of habit, oddly enough, one of my habits is blowing things up and starting over. I love clean slates. I hate baggage. It's easy to get complacent and fall into a routine. In my experience, that can be poison for both creativity and thoughtfulness.
With those things in mind, I've been watching Svbtle with much interest. I love the simplicity with a focus on ideas and the writing experience itself. This is something I've been looking for. And so here I am.
To be clear, I'll still be doing my Apple column for TechCrunch. And I'll still be devoted to regular updates of ParisLemon. In fact, I aim to update that site more often with interesting links, quotes, images, etc — in a way that plays more to the strengths of Tumblr. For those who have been wondering why the hell I moved away from the standard reverse-chronological blog design over there, that's the reason.
As for the title of this blog, it actually comes from this — a rather brilliant parody of myself if I do say so …myself. And I think it's a good theme for what I'd like to write about: massively great things.
I've set up a specific Twitter feed if you're interested in following posts that way. Or you can find the RSS link in the left side column. Welcome!