Jeff Jimerson Singing "O Canada"

Last night the National Hockey League paid its respects to the people of Ottawa, which experienced a devstating terrorist attack on Canada's National War Memorial and its Parliament Building by playing the Canadian National Anthem at all games, which is not normally the protocol.

During the playing of O Canada at the Pittsburgh Penguins - Philadelphia Flyers game at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, I noticed the Penguins were using small LCD displays on the neck of the microphone that Jeff Jimerson was using during his performance.

I had never seen these small video displays in use before, possibly because the National Anthems are not often shown on television broadcasts of major sporting events any more.

These video screens were showing the contents of the main scoreboard over center ice, which was showing the Canadian Flag, and was totally appropriate for the moment.

I am interested to find out how many teams in each major sport in North America use these small displays as part of their National Anthem presentations.

If you haven't read Jean-Louis Gassée's post called BlackBerry: The Endgame, I'd really recommend reading it. The article talks about the missteps that Research In Motion / BlackBerry Limited took since the introduction of the iPhone that have lead to a spectatular loss in the value of their business.

.... In reality, RIM was much more than three years behind iOS (and, later, Android). Depending on whom we listen to, the 2007 iPhone didn't just didn't stand on a modern (if incomplete) OS, it stood on 3 to 5 years of development, of trial and error....

.... All other factors that are invoked in explaining BlackBerry's fall -- company culture, hardware misdirections, loss of engineering talent -- pale compared to the fundamentally unwinnable software battle....

Gasée is right. But, what I've learned over years of watching the technology industry is that Apple's current value resulted from decisions that put Apple's most successful products at risk:

  • Macintosh switching from PowerPC CPUs to Intel.
  • Macintosh switching from a proprietary operating system (OS 7/8/9) to UNIX (OS X).
  • iPhone canibalizing the iPod by incorporating the entire iPod feature set on Day 1.
  • iOS 7 completely changing its UI and abandoning the skewmorphism of iOS up to that point.
  • Apple shifting the focus of its sales and marketing to Apple Stores while computer stores and electronics retailers were still strong distribution channels.

I believe that the key difference between Apple and companies like BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, and Microsoft has been Apple's willingness to make huge bets on new game-changing products that disrupt their own best sources of revenue at the time.

Yesterday I talked about the Chinese regulatory delays that created the conditions necessary for a gray market in iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices to flourish. I felt like this information added context to Casey Neistat's film, and was worthy of a full blog post here.

Some other prominent bloggers agreed. For instance, my post was discussed in a full article on The Loop. This greatly helped get the ideas I expressed into the larger discussion about Neistat's film, which I greatly appreciated.

I think you can raise issues like the delayed network access license in the People's Republic of China without criticizing Neistat's film for being racist or somehow shortsighted. If he hadn't made that film, I would never have known that the lines at New York City Apple Stores had so many people in them who were buying multiple unlocked iPhones with the intention of immediately re-selling them.

Furthermore, I was also only write my article and get it noticed because Neistat focused so intently on the fact that a lot of these purchasers were elderly Asian people. So my reaction, when Casey Neistat contacted me later was to thank him, rather than directly criticize him:

Sometimes a newsworthy event occurs, and it isn't possible for the people on the scene to put everything they see into full context. That doesn't mean that we should criticize the final product, or go back and insert every possible contextual angle to a larger story.

People who have the foresight to get out their cameras and be a witness to history for us deserve our thanks.

Casey Neistat created a 6 1/2 minute film called Black Market Takes Over the iPhone 6 Lines that shows portions of what happened at the Apple Store SoHo and other Apple stores in Manhattan on the day before and the day of the iPhone 6 release.

The film focuses on a number of people of Asian descent who do not appear to speak English waiting in line to purchase iPhones. The purchase pattern illustrated was that these buyers bought iPhones (presumably unlocked models) for cash and then, almost immediately and in the vicinity of the Apple Store, apparently sold these phones to other people for cash.

The film says that the purchasers are agents representing resellers in China who will resell these phones. Presumably, most of these resales will occur before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus officially go on sale in the People's Republic of China.

I think what's important to note about this film is that the issue is not Apple's worldwide product release method at all. At most, the resale activity Neistat depicts represents a side-effect of the failure of the Chinese state regulatory agencies to approve the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in a timely manner. These regulatory agencies include agencies like the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and collectively function as the equivalent of our Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and perhaps our Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Underwriter's Laboratory (UL):

The Ministry said in a statement that four models of iPhone 6 -- A1586, A1589, A1524 and A1593 -- have passed 3C (China Compulsory Certification) certification and won approval from the State Radio Regulation of China.

China's 3C certification, similar to the European CE system, is a mandatory certification system that inspects and approves various products to be sold in the Chinese mainland market.

But iPhone 6 still needs to obtain a key network access license before it can enter the Chinese mainland market.

-- Apple iPhone 6 wins two regulatory approvals in China, Xinhua, September 18, 2014

I would argue that, in an effort to show that they control the Chinese smartphone market and Apple does not, these agencies delayed approval of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus beyond Apple's planned worldwide release date. By doing so, they created a situation where a graymarket of epic proportions could redevelop overnight. This graymarket may now be exploited in the fashion described in the film.

The only thing I'm really sorry about with respect to this film is that the filmmaker chose to highlight the Chinese people standing in line in New York as if they're victims being exploited by criminals from China who are referred to as "Chinese mafia". (Some people also call use of the term "Chinese mafia" racist.) I imagine that the people who waited in line made enough of a profit on resale of the iPhones they purchased to justify their time standing in line.

In this case, one person's criminal is another person's street-level entrepreneur.

"Hey Siri" Settings

Let's say we are in a room full of iPhones.

If "Hey Siri" could be enabled by default without a constraint like having the phone plugged in to power, when one of us said, "Hey Siri," all of the iOS devices in the room would start listening and responding at the same time.

It may be true that the "Hey Siri" feature in iOS 8 is primarily configured the way it is in order to not kill the user's battery. But, that configuration works well in several use cases:

  • In the living room of an iPhone user's home..
  • In the car where there is only one (or two) charging points.
  • In someone's office.

iPhone 4s Performance Under iOS 8 is Good

Messages With Keyboard Showing QuickType on iPhone 4s

Some of you may know that I am using an iPhone 4s temporarily because I broke my 5s about a week ago.

I upgraded the 4s I'm using to iOS 8 this afternoon, and the performance of the 4s feels about the same to me under the new operating system as it did under iOS 7. It is not quite as fast, but it is still definitely usable.

Overall user experience is better, because there are new features of iOS 8 that are accessible by 4s users. Examples are:

  • standard iOS 8 keyboard with QuickType,
  • the "Hey Siri" feature,
  • Notification Center widgets,
  • Recent and Favorite contacts in the App Switcher.

I think the best illustration of limited iOS 8 functionality on the 4s is the Messages app screenshot I published at the top of this article. Although the keyboard looks good, and QuickType works, there really isn't enough room for text entry and display of the current message thread.

If you get in this situation on a 4s, send your message quickly so you can see what your friend / relative / colleague is saying.

Tim Cook on Privacy

Update: This article was published about 12 hours before Apple published A message from Tim Cook about Apple's commitment to your privacy.

Here's Part 2 of Charlie Rose's interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook:

I thought that the most interesting part of the second part of this interview was right near the beginning, about 3 minutes in, where he talks about privacy of customer data.

I believe him when he says:

How do companies make their money? Follow the money. And if they are making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data. And companies should be transparent about it.

But I think a lot of the biggest concerns that leaders of many Silicon Valley companies have with the way the NSA and CIA monitor communications is that they do not want the same scrutiny that people want to apply government surveillance to fall upon their companies.

In other words, I think some of these Tech Company CEOs want to be able to say, "Well our views on the value of your personal data are reflected in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy," and change the subject as quickly as possible.

Kudos to Tim Cook for saying, "Our business is based on selling these. {He gestures off camera to the iPhones on the table.} Our business is not based on having information about you. You are not our product." I wish every company in our industry could operate that way.

One of the first things that my son Jimmy asked about when he saw the film previewing the Apple Watch was, "Will I be able to use it?" Jimmy is left-handed.

My reaction was to say that you can probably turn the face 180 degrees, and swap the top and bottom connectors between the Watch and the Watch's strap, and it would work on your right wrist.

This was confirmed by John Gruber, in a tweet from last night:

Maybe you were blown away by Apple's announcements yesterday: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch. Wait, what?

We were ready for the introduction of a wearable device. Some people were sure it was a watch. Some people thought it was the iWatch. It turned out to be the Apple Watch.

What do you think of it? Here's what I think:

The two sentences above are all that fits in a single tweet. The truth is that we don't know a lot about how the Apple Watch is really going to work that can make it worth or not worth the price.

For instance, if I can use an Apple Watch in place of my iPhone with RunKeeper and listen to a playlist from my iTunes library on wireless headphones, that would be worth the cost of an Apple Watch to me.

Great post this morning by Dave Mark on The Loop called iWatch speculation, where he cites James Gill's Why Would Apple make a watch? Gill said:

Not long after Tim Cook took over as full time CEO, he made a promise: "We're going to double down on secrecy." A few years on from that comment, it seems, as with most of Tim's public comments, that it was more than just empty marketing speak. From the completely redesigned iOS 7 in 2013, to the launch of a whole new programming language, Swift, at this years WWDC, to the announcements that are about to be unveiled, Apple are tighter lipped and appear to be more controlled than ever.

To which Mark added:

So much has been written about the iWatch, but have you seen even one leaked image? If Apple does indeed announce an iWatch tomorrow, full credit must go to Tim Cook's ability to keep his "double down on secrecy" promise.

What if Tim Cook's quip, "We're going to double down on secrecy" turned out to be a brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed corporate plan?

Doubling down on secrecy probably didn't mean that everything would be kept secret.

Perhaps Tim Cook's approach to secrecy is pragmatic: really try to keep secret the things that don't involve the supply chain, and not worry so much about the details leaking on stuff that other companies are manufacturing in mass quantities. If that's the case, he may be succeeding beyond the wildest dreams of his fans and his critics.

What will be most interesting to me is if there are reveals tomorrow about aspects of things previously discussed at WWDC that they managed to keep secret while third-party developers were working with the announced aspects of the APIs.

Don't be surprised if a few developers had access to some of these previously-hidden API or internal hardware details, and will have been working with them under lock-and-key on the Apple campus somewhere.