New Mac Pro has decent CPU, insane graphics

Far Too Much Analysis Of The Alleged New Mac Pro Geekbench Score:

The new Mac Pro is also extremely power-lopsided: it will initially max out at 12 cores (almost certainly this exact CPU), which is upper-midrange by Xeon standards, but it comes with a ridiculous amount of GPU power. This is overkill to just be about future desktop Retina Displays — clearly, Apple’s pushing for pro and scientific apps to shift more of the heavy lifting to OpenCL.

Also perfect for professional photo/video editing and graphic designers. To be honest, I almost wish I had a reason to buy one of these bad boys. Maybe I’ll get one for doing continuous integration with Xcode Server when my projects start involving more people.

Nathan Schneider thinks that this NSA scandal will make people move to Linux

Nathan Schneider: Macs No More: After Edward Snowden, Time to Come to the Penguin:

The personal computer is political. The time for liberation has kind of come.

So what happens when you load up that new, quasi-user-friendly Linux flavor — maybe Mint or Ubuntu — onto some old machine you have lying around? At first, maybe, keep the Internet handy on your shiny Mac, because there might be glitches to look up. But chances are it’ll mostly work out of the box, and the rest can be figured out over time. Everything’s harder, but in a good way — like a digital fixie. It’s more fun if you do it with a friend.

What’s interesting is how different the glitches feel from how they felt on a corporate OS. When the thing crashes, as it might somewhat frequently, it’s less aggravating. One actually starts to get more philosophical about the glitches; we’re not quite there yet as a society, as a species. They’re the people’s glitches — the temporary byproduct of democratic and collaborative processes among autonomous geeks, pursuing their own obsessions and curiosities. You don’t have to yell at the screen because, in a lot of cases, you can just write to the people making the program, and someone with an amazing amount of time on their hands will write back long, detailed replies. Someday, with hard work and better self-organizing chops, the glitches will go away. Like veganism, the more people join in the easier it will be.

Look everyone! It’s finally the year of Linux on the desktop!

Right.

People don’t want to fiddle with their computers. They want to use them. We’re never, ever going to reach a point where people will want to switch to glitchy programs that will be better “someday.”

Apple made Intel make better graphics chips

AnandTech | Intel Iris Pro 5200 Graphics Review: Core i7-4950HQ Tested:

Looking at the past few years of Apple products, you’ll recognize one common thread: Apple as a company values GPU performance. As a small customer of Intel’s, Apple’s GPU desires didn’t really matter, but as Apple grew, so did its influence within Intel. With every microprocessor generation, Intel talks to its major customers and uses their input to help shape the designs. There’s no sense in building silicon that no one wants to buy, so Intel engages its customers and rolls their feedback into silicon. Apple eventually got to the point where it was buying enough high-margin Intel silicon to influence Intel’s roadmap. That’s how we got Intel’s HD 3000. And that’s how we got here.

It’s amazing how Apple has influenced the tech industry over the last decade from the logistics side of things. Everyone knows (well, everyone but the most diehard Google fans) that the iPhone is what made Android go from this to this and that ultrabooks wouldn’t  be a thing without the MacBook Air.

How many people know that Intel decided to make chips actually capable of playing and editing high-definition video and playing PC games with decent frame rates because Apple made them to it?

Airmail for Mac is awesome

iMore:

Airmail for Mac is a new third party mail client that not only supports a plethora of account types, but is also one of the most visually appealing email apps for Mac I’ve ever used. For users who are still clutching onto Sparrow while waiting for a viable alternative, you may just find your solution in Airmail.

Having been a user of Sparrow, I’ve been meaning to switch away ever since I realised that the app was probably going to meet its ends soon enough, having been acquired by Google. The problem was that the only viable solution was to switch over to Mail.app. To me, Apple’s Mail.app feels so bloated and horrible that the two week stint where I switched everything over was basically like living in hell.

Alas, Airmail has come along now and I love it. The review linked is basically what I think of the app as a whole, written by Allyson. The day of salvation has arrived.

Google Play Game Services to Add Google Plus Integration

Google announced today that they’re bringing a new suite of services to Google Play that will allow Google+ integration for mobile games, including leaderboards, achievements, cloud-saving, and matchmaking. The free SDK will allow developers to add these services to games released on Android, iOS, and web platforms, save the matchmaking system, which is Android-only for the time being.

Via Polygon:

Greg Hartrell, lead product manager for the Google Play game services, told us that the strategy was both user and developer focused. “It’s user focused in the sense that we’re trying to reach out to the largest number of users,” Hartrell said. “And for developers, they want to maximize the size of the audience and the quality of the audience. Both of those things drove that decision.” They also drove the decision to offer the services outside of the company’s Android ecosystem.

If you read any of my posts, you know that I’m a big fan of making good things widely available. Nobody I know uses Google+, but the fact that these services will be available on Apple devices through downloaded apps is intriguing. It’s the equivalent of Sony finding a way for the next Xbox to somehow include Blu-Ray support without Microsoft okay’ing it. Apple doesn’t have a stake in Facebook, sure, but having your mobile competitor’s social network potentially be featured in your proprietary game offerings is amusing, at least.

Why is Robert Reich calling for tighter monetary policy?

Robert Reich (A Story for May Day: The Fed, Apple, and Trickle-Down Economics):

The Fed’s policy of keeping interest rates near zero is another form of trickle-down economics.

For evidence, look no further than Apple’s decision to borrow a whopping $17 billion and turn it over to its investors in the form of dividends and stock buy-backs.

[…]

It would be one thing if Apple and other giant companies were borrowing in order to expand operations and create new jobs. But that’s not what’s going on. Apple, remember, is still sitting on $145 billion.

[…]

It’s a sump pump with the Fed on one end buying up bonds to keep interest rates low, and shareholders on the other end raking in the returns. 

Get it? Easy money from the Fed can’t get the economy out of first gear when the rest of government is in reverse. 

The reason that Apple is borrowing is that they can pay ~2-3% interest on the bonds they issue or they could pay a ~35% corporate income tax on the money they bring in from overseas. Apple is so absurdly profitable and has such an ungodly huge cash pile that it can afford to go with the first option.

Apple has become a company where the best option for its shareholders is to rack up billions in debt. 

Reich implies that Apple is somehow in the wrong for doing this for its shareholders rather than to “expand operations and create new jobs.” I fault his logic:

1. It’s not like Tim Cook and Co. are doing this because “greed is good.” In case you haven’t notice, Apple’s stockholders have taken a beating since September of 2012. Falling from over $700/share to below $400/share makes the average investor (and most “analysts” or as I like to call them, idiots) worry about the competency of the leadership of a company. Even as CEO, you can be fired. Apple’s executives have a fiduciary duty to bring value to shareholders, and this is a very mathematically sound and entirely legal way to do it.

2. Apple is a consumer electronics company that makes what are considered the best devices year-in and year-out. I get that Reich is trying to use this to talk up creating jobs, but there are only so many people qualified to work at Apple. With unemployment for software engineers at 2.2%, how many people does Reich think are out there that have the experience needed to work on the hardware and software from which Apple derives its reputation for quality? If anything, this seems like it would only cause a bidding war in an industry that already has amazing salaries and benefits at top companies – which would concentrate wealth upwards, which is exactly what Reich is arguing against.

Besides the whole Apple nonsense in the article, the underlying issue that Reich fails to address is the corporate income tax in this country. Companies like Apple would rather borrow than pay the 35% rate. Reich implies that the Fed holding down interest rates is what makes this feasible, but again, I find faults in his logic:

1. Apple borrows so damn cheaply because it’s basically the best borrower and lender could ask for – it’s predictably profitable and has $145 billion in cash. I’d trust my money with Apple over the US government any day. Tighter monetary policy wouldn’t do much to change that. If anything, it would cause lenders to move from “risky” things like small businesses that create jobs to “safe” bets like Apple. Still kind of arguing against yourself there, Bob.

2. Econ 101 (well, Econ 1 at Berkeley) tells us that tighter monetary policy (raising interest rates) means slowing down the economy. Are the “mere” billions in tax revenues this would bring in from companies with cash held abroad be worth the havoc this would unleash on the economy? The corporate income tax is 35% – interest rates would have to be pretty high for borrowing to look less appealing than that. Higher interest rates hurt everyone that Reich claims to be fighting for – from those struggling to afford homes of their own to small businesses trying to hire and expand. 

I think the real issue that Robert is trying to hide behind the trickle-down straw-man is that the corporate income tax is pretty high. Personally, I’d like it to be lowered to the point where it brings in actual revenue and the smart move for companies isn’t to throw away money by taking on debt.

How perceived value factors into Apple’s pricing strategy

Daring Fireball: Pricing and Profit Consistency and the Halo Effect:

The conventional wisdom is to pursue profits by maximizing market share. Apple pursues profits by specifically targeting only the high-margin segments of the overall market, and effectively forgoing market share in the low-margin segments, no matter how large those low-margin segments are.

Under Apple’s current pricing strategy, the “perceived value” of a given product line increases while the nominal price stays the same. Consider:

The previous Apple owner has had her $1000-ish white MacBook for years now. It makes funny sounds when it boots, loads a movie, or if you pick it up in a way it doesn’t like that morning. The new MacBook Air that Apple sells for about the same price seemingly weighs *nothing* and performs most of what she does 10x faster. That $1000 suddenly looks like a bargain compared to what it got you 2-4 years ago.

With this in mind, let’s look at how Apple has gone after lower margin-segments in the past:

  • Music player market: smaller, less functional, equal quality devices. 
  • Phone market: last year’s phone, new low price.
  • Tablet market: smaller, equally functional, equal (in many respects, higher) quality device.

If Apple decides to go after a higher- or lower-margin market segment, it’s going to be by releasing a higher- or lower-margin product, not by changing prices. Apple doesn’t need to chase $1,200 laptop buyers by lowering the price of the Retina MacBook Pro; there are a variety of Airs and non-Retina Pros at that range that would satisfy most users’ needs. In this way, Apple doesn’t have to settle for taking less from people who’d be willing to pay more.

PC Shipments Post the Steepest Decline Ever in a Single Quarter

PC Shipments Post the Steepest Decline Ever in a Single Quarter, According to IDC:

Despite some mild improvement in the economic environment and some new PC models offering Windows 8, PC shipments were down significantly across all regions compared to a year ago. Fading Mini Notebook shipments have taken a big chunk out of the low-end market while tablets and smartphones continue to divert consumer spending. PC industry efforts to offer touch capabilities and ultraslim systems have been hampered by traditional barriers of price and component supply, as well as a weak reception for Windows 8. The PC industry is struggling to identify innovations that differentiate PCs from other products and inspire consumers to buy, and instead is meeting significant resistance to changes perceived as cumbersome or costly.

Ouch.

Apple fared better than the overall U.S. market, but still saw shipments decline as its own PCs also face competition from iPads.

Microsoft wishes it had that problem.

iOS Uptake Ridiculously High

Unity Technologies Blog:

iOS uptake is crazy high: 98% of the market has iOS version that’s not much older than one year.

It’s unsurprising to learn that Android uptake is much, much lower. If there’s something Apple does extremely well, it’s getting people to update their systems. I seem to recall OSX uptake is at a similar level.

The blog post from Unity also notes how much more popular iOS is in the Western world and shows Android’s dominance in the East. Not surprising, but it shows just why Apple is targeting countries like China (even issuing apologies because of state-run media). The East is Apple’s route to world domination – in mobile operating system terms at least.

You can enjoy the raw mobile stats, too.