'The Disappearing Computer'

The retiring Walt Mossberg published his final weekly column this week:

This is my last weekly column for The Verge and Recode — the last weekly column I plan to write anywhere. I’ve been doing these almost every week since 1991, starting at the Wall Street Journal, and during that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the makers of the tech revolution, and to ruminate — and sometimes to fulminate — about their creations.

Now, as I prepare to retire at the end of that very long and world-changing stretch, it seems appropriate to ponder the sweep of consumer technology in that period, and what we can expect next.

The man has had one helluva career. I'll miss you, Walt.

Some Global Accessibility Awareness Day Follow-Up

I tweeted this last night:

That tweet was received very positively. Although the disappointment remains, I was happy to learn today about a (non-tech) podcast, Autastic, whose hosts did cover Apple’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day efforts last week.

Autastic is hosted by comedians Graham Kay and Kirk Smith, both of whom have family members on the autism spectrum. The hosts dedicated a special three-part series of interviews—episodes 89–91—to celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day with an Apple flair.

In the first episode, Smith interviews Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Senior Manager of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. Herrlinger describes Apple’s mission statement for supporting accessibility, describes some accessibility features, and shares how she became interested in assistive technologies.

The second episode features an interview with Sooinn Lee, CEO of Enuma. Enuma is a company that, according to its website, “designs exceptional learning tools to empower children—including those with special needs—to be independent learners." They develop several education-oriented apps for iOS and Android, including Todo Math and Todo Telling Time.

The final episode features Andreas Forsland, maker of the Smartstones app. What Smartstones does is help people with limited or no verbal communication skills communicate via simple physical gestures. The app is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. In addition, Smartstones works with switch-like headsets from Emotiv for users with limited or no movement.

As someone whose background is in special education and autism, I found these interviews to be really great. If you’re someone who cares about accessibility and apps, give these episodes a listen. They’re short in length, and well worth your time.

TJ Miller Leaving 'Silicon Valley' Ahead of Season 5

Joe Otterson, reporting for Variety:

“The producers of Silicon Valley and T.J. Miller have mutually agreed that T.J. will not return for season 5,” HBO said in a statement. “In Erlich Bachman, T.J. has brought to life an unforgettable character, and while his presence on the show will be missed, we appreciate his contribution and look forward to future collaborations.”

This is bad news. I recently got into Silicon Valley on HBO Now, and enjoy it immensely. Bachman is one of my favorite characters. It'll be interesting to see how producers write him out of the show, and how things will look after Miller's departure.

Lauren Kern Named First Editor-in-Chief of Apple News


Morning Media has learned that Apple has given the job — a new position at the Cupertino-based company — to Lauren Kern, one of New York magazine’s most high-ranking editors and a former deputy editor at The New York Times Magazine. It’s unclear what exactly the role will entail, and Kern declined to comment.

I tweeted this morning that I recently moved the News app to the Home screen of my iPhone and iPad. I enjoy it—it looks nice and the reading experience is highly accessible.

(via Stephen Hackett)

Safari Versus Chrome on the Mac

Astute observation by John Gruber:

For many people on MacOS, the decision between Safari and Chrome probably comes down which ecosystem you’re more invested in — iCloud or Google — for things like tab, bookmark, and history syncing. Me, personally, I’d feel lost without the ability to send tabs between my Macs and iPhone via Continuity.

In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices.

Apple HR Head Moves to Diversity & Inclusion VP Role

Jordan Kahn, reporting for 9to5 Mac:

Apple’s head of Worldwide Human Resources Denise Young Smith will now run diversity programs for the company under a newly created VP position, according to sources familiar with the move. The executive shuffle will see the creation of a new VP role for Apple’s Inclusion and Diversity team with Smith reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. Sources say Smith has long had a passion for diversity initiatives at the company and the newly created position reflects an increased focus on the company’s efforts.

Smith’s new role going forward at Apple will officially be Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity. She confirmed the new title today on her LinkedIn profile and the change has also been made officially at Apple internally.

Sources say the position will mean Apple will be without a permanent VP of HR as Luca Maestri, the company’s SVP and CFO, steps in to fill the role temporarily.

Update: Kahn updated his story with a statement from Apple. “Our inclusion and diversity efforts are critically important to Apple’s future. Denise’s years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area,” Apple said.

Nike Announces 'Day to Night' Apple Watch Bands

Per Nike's press release:

The "Day to Night" collection celebrates runners whenever they choose to run – at twilight, sunset and everything in between. Each of the colors is inspired by a shade of the sky, from dawn to dusk, and allows runners to – for the first time – make a statement by matching their Apple Watch Nike+ bands to their footwear.

These bands will go on sale on June 1 for $49. These look great; I'll definitely be getting one. I have a Nike+ band and like it a lot, so these new ones are exciting.

(via MacStories)

Federico Viticci's iOS 11 Wishlist

Federico returns for another year of sharing what he'd like Apple to do with iOS 11. Unlike previous years, however, this year's article focuses exclusively on the iPad. As he writes:

iOS for iPhone is, I believe, at a point of sufficient maturity: aside from particular feature additions, I don't think there's anything fundamentally missing from the iPhone.1 The iPad now bears the proverbial low-hanging fruit of iOS. There are obvious areas of improvement on iOS for iPad, which is, effectively, two years behind its iPhone counterpart. The iPad's lack of meaningful software advancements allows us to explore deeper ideas; thus, in a break with tradition, I decided to focus this year's iOS Wishes exclusively on the iPad and where Apple could take its software next.

Be sure to check out the accompanying concept video. It's terrific.

Apple and Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Now in its sixth year, celebrated the third Thursday in May, GAAD seeks to “get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.” The accessibility community helps spread the word about GAAD on social media, most prominently on Twitter, to raise awareness of the importance of accessibility and how it empowers people.

For its part, Apple is actively participating in spreading the word about Global Accessibility Awareness Day and accessibility in technology. To help celebrate GAAD this year, Apple is doing a number of things to show how its products foster inclusion and empowerment for people of all ages and abilities. Supporting the accessibility community has long been a core value of the company, and these initiatives are proof they remain steadfastly committed to this crucial area.

‘Designed for Everyone’ Video Series

Apple this week posted a slew of videos to its YouTube channel, under the tagline “Designed for everyone,” that showcase people of varying abilities using Apple’s accessibility features on iOS, macOS, and watchOS for work and play. These videos, seven in total, are close cousins to other videos Apple has created for a similar purpose: to show how powerful technology fosters inclusivity and empowers people to do amazing things, regardless of ability. As usual, the production value of these films is impeccably high.

Two people featured in the films are Ian Mackay and Todd Stabelfeldt. Both men suffered spinal cord injuries and rely on Switch Control, and have told their stories in more detail to media outlets in the past. Mackay spoke with Mashable's Katie Dupere last August about how he maintains an active lifestyle in spite of his injury. Likewise with Stabelfeldt, who recently told Chiara Sottile of NBC News about how Apple's HomeKit framework and Siri make doing things around his house a more independent and accessible experience.

Tim Cook Talks Accessibility in Interviews

Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with YouTubers James Rath, Rikki Poynter, and Tatiana Lee at the company’s Cupertino headquarters. All three are known for chronicling their respective experiences with accessibility in tech. MacStories has collected these interviews in their post on the story; I highly suggest watching them. They’re terrific.

As I tweeted this morning, by watching these interviews you can clearly see Cook’s passion for accessibility. It underscores the notion that Apple supports accessibility not for “the bloody ROI,” as Cook alludes to, but because it reflects Apple’s identity. To wit, it’s not just the right thing to do in some warm and fuzzy, kumbaya sense—rather, Apple’s accessibility feature set makes their products more complete and more capable of empowering people and enriching lives. Which, if you listen to Cook speak at any and every media event, is exactly what an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch is supposed to do.

Refreshed Accessibility-Oriented App Store Collections

As the company does periodically, Apple has again refreshed their accessibility-themed App Store collections. In fact, accessibility apps have been on the Featured page of the iOS store for the last week or so. There is a collection spanning a wide range of developmental domains, as well as one for apps that work great with VoiceOver.

One of the third-party developers highlighted in these collections is AssistiveWare, makers of several excellent apps geared to accessibility including Proloquo2go.

“We as software developers should be conscious of the fact that our products might be used by people who face challenges we have not even thought of or heard about. Thinking about accessibility also tends to lead to better design, because if we make our app easier to use or support OS accessibility features such as iOS’ Dynamic Type, it will typically be a more pleasant experience for all users,” said AssistiveWare CEO David Niemeijer.

Apple Retail Accessibility Sessions

Today, Thursday, May 18, Apple is holding special accessibility workshops at its retail locations worldwide, in which people can come in and learn about Apple’s accessibility features across all platforms (iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS).

Inside the Mothership

Steven Levy wrote a splendid feature for Wired on Apple's new campus, Apple Park:

It’s probably more accurate to say that Apple Park is the architectural avatar of the man who envisioned it, the same man who pushed employees to produce those signature products. In the absence of his rigor and clarity, he left behind a headquarters that embodies both his autobiography and his values. The phrase that keeps coming up in talks with key Apple figures is “Steve’s gift.” Behind that concept is the idea that in the last months of his life, Jobs expended significant energy to create a workplace that would benefit Apple’s workers for perhaps the next century. “This was a hundred-year decision,” Cook says. “And Steve spent the last couple of years of his life pouring himself in here at times when he clearly felt very poorly.

I tweeted a little while ago about how curious I am to know which parts of the new building are ADA-compliant—and how Apple achieved them. I kinda wish it was part of Levy's story.

Michael Rockwell's AirPods Review

Nice job on the piece. This sums it up for me:

The hype was indeed warranted with the AirPods. Apple made a big bet on wireless with the launch of the iPhone 7 and these incredibly intuitive Bluetooth headphones were the payoff. I can’t imagine going back to wired EarPods now. Catching the wire on various objects throughout the house and dealing with a tangled mess every time I want to use them — I’m glad to have those days behind me.