eXtensions - Thursday 6 April 2023
By Graham K. Rogers
With the date of WWDC now announced, rumor mongers vie among themselves for the best and worst predictions. This year the favorite among some is the expected announcement of Apple Goggles. Others insist this is to be a non-starter. Developers are the glue that makes the difference. Apple may make the device and the OS, but without apps, there is nothing. As well as the announcement of a new RØDE wireless microphone, RØDE dropped a simple but useful video app for iPhone and iPad.
Before we get to the main event, Apple has announced that its next financial report, Q2 2023, is to be held on Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET, which should be about 4am here.
I wrote last time that while several commentators (including me) see the Apple WWDC logo as related to the rumored VR/AR goggles, Ming-Chi Kuo author of so many rumors that often appear slanted against Apple and carefully timed to put pressure on the share price, insisted that the device was to be delayed, maybe to Q2 or even Q3. As reported by Juli Clover (MacRumors), Ming-Chi Kuo doubled down on his comments, channeling his inner Trip Chowdhury, with "Apple's announcement event is likely the last hope for convincing investors that the AR/MR headset device could have a chance to be the next star product in consumer electronics" [my italics]. Patently Apple also comment on the comments from Ming-Chi Kuo, noting "his latest string of negative comments and sarcasm towards Apple".
For those who do not remember, in March 2014 Chowdhry claimed that - regarding the iWatch [sic] - "They only have 60 days left to either come up with something or they will disappear" (Cadie Thompson, CNBC). Apple did not; they did not disappear; and the Apple Watch has seen quite some success since it was announced in September 2015.
Gurman also doubled down on his vote of confidence and insists that this will be a major part of the WWDC hardware lineup. Some of us are sort of hoping that some Macs will be on the menu too. I think there are some specific reasons why the goggles may be announced. The WWDC is, after all, a developers' event and every year these are the first people outside Apple to have a look at the next versions of the various operating systems. Apple needs them to look at the features, the new APIs and the potential, to come up with the apps that will drive the popularity of the specific OS and of course the devices it is designed for. When the iPad first arrived, Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac) reminds us that there were some skeptics (although some comments were probably just clickbait): "Jeremy A. Kaplan at Fox News unleashed an even more scathing evaluation. "Call it the iPad or the iPlod, but the message seems clear: Apple may have lost its mojo," he wrote. And John C. Dvorak at MarketWatch dismissed the original iPad as "a giant iPod Touch."
The iPad was a bit of a blank slate: not simply a large-screen iPhone (or iPod touch), but a solution in its own right although few had ideas of how it might succeed. I saw one clue of how this might work with the advent of News Corporation's, The Daily. This was seen as a paperless version of how news would evolve, although the execution was not well done. Like a lot of newspapers that want to "do" the internet, they produce a newspaper on a glass screen. Look at falling circulation figures and the number of newspapers no longer printed on paper. What many of these publishers forgot when trying to cut costs was that the news does not write itself. Cutting the staff and the photographers, brings about its own losses and readers are less willing to pay for a product that is no more than a copy: just sourced from wire feeds. An early warning of how this would all play out is in a useful movie from 2013, Black and White and Dead All Over.
It took a while but the Daily was shut down, while other apps were being developed and making the iPad an exciting device to own. In my case I enjoy the use of several photo-editing apps as well as being able to download solutions for creating music, movies, as well as many other ways that help young and old to use the device for an easy-to-access tool that does what they want, when they want. Anyone who has ever had to book time on a mainframe would appreciate that. I also like the way, now, that I am able to download a morning's worth of RAW images to the iPad Pro (or iPad mini) and have these upload to the cloud while traveling home. I used to work hard in the 1990s for the slightest improvement in efficiency even having a program written to transfer text from an Olivetti M10 (like the Tandy M100) to my PC.
In one of those weird coincidences, an hour after writing that, a link to the April issue of IEEE Spectrum arrived in my email. In there as a sort of tail-end hobbyists' comment, Stephen Cass had written an article on "Upcycling a Tandy Model 100" (this was part II) with some interesting technical detail: the sort of thing that Scientific American had for ideas that were useful projects. Cass mentions particularly the "lovely keyboard and LCD screen".
Integration of devices, software, cloud, now comes as part of the package. We owe this not only to Apple who make, develop and improve the devices, but to the developers who produce the apps that allow users to work or have fun, and come up with some that not even Apple envisaged. Sowing confusion before a product has been announced is just gaming investors. When the developers have their hands on the goggles - or at least the OS and APIs - they can begin their part of the magic bargain.
My bet is that, like the move to non-Intel Macs, when suitable Mac minis were made available, there will be some arrangement like the Developer Transition Kit (Filipe Espósito, 9to5Mac) when Apple silicon was announced. There would have been no point switching from Intel to what became the M-series, if no apps were available. The same applies to the goggles, whatever form they take. If the developers are not on side, this will not fly.
Another rumor from South Korea started a flurry of news items concerning the low sales of M2 Macs. Indeed, the rumor suggests, these were so low that Apple suspended production of the chips at the TSMC foundry. After the excellent sales of the first Apple silicon and the further features of the M2, this had all the makings of an April Fool's story although it appeared a day or so late. The headline of Oliver Haslam's article (iMore) read, "Mac sales are so bad Apple had to stop making M2 chips".
Nonetheless several reputable sites repeated the story, apart from Dennis Sellers (AppleWorld Today) who expressed some skepticism and cites a couple of independent sources regarding sales figures at the alleged time of the slowdown. The others just quoted the report verbatim. "The tech giant may have slowed production of its M2 processors", writes Sellers, "but I'm very dubious that it completely suspended it for any length of time."
In an article on PetaPixel, Jaron Schneider outlined a new video app from RØDE. As I had one of their microphones (suggested to me by Spin9), I downloaded the app for a look. I am not really a video person and prefer photography (particularly black and white), but this app really is worth a look: it was so easy to use. It was obvious right from the start that this would be useful for vlogs with the ability to split the screen: half for the scene, and half for the presenter. There is also a picture in picture option (PiP). With the relative positions of cameras on both devices it is not always possible to center the face when this is used.
On the iPad the app works in portrait mode, but a landscape video is easy to set up. I could place my face either to left or right. As well as face to left or right, in landscape this could be at top or bottom. On the iPhone this is similar. My instincts are that all video should be landscape and I am not in favor of the trend for portrait mode video despite the popularity.
These niggles have nothing to do with the app, which is well put together. On the iPad Pro I could select magnification of x0.5, x1, x2 or x3, while on the iPhone 13 this was x1, x2 or x3. Controls to the side or top of the screen (depending on aspect) make it easy to adjust frame rate (24, 30, 60fps), output (HD, FHD, 4K) and aspect ratio (9:16, 1:1, 3:4).
A microphone icon opens a control panel for the iPhone microphone or allows a search for "Compatible RØDE mics". A media button (like a film clip) allows access to Photos. These controls are clear, obvious (no guesswork about what each is for) and work as expected. In use, the app is quite easy to operate: press and go. Stopping the video saves the clip automatically to the Photos album where the full set of editing tools is available. That RØDE microphone I have was not recognized by the app on the iPhone: it treated it as the iPhone microphone. I could not try it on the iPad Pro as I need the USB-C adapter for the 3.5mm jack (I already have Lightning adapter for the iPhone). Pressing a button that was marked for discovery of RØDE microphones, linked to a webpage.
In another PetaPixel article, Jaron Schneider outlined "a new wireless microphone that carries the advantages of the company's RødeLink and Wireless Go series but compresses them into a device that was designed to have "unprecedented" ease of use." The app therefore appears to be part of a strategy decision from the company and is to be applauded.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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