eXtensions - Saturday 2 March 2024

Weekend Review: End of Titan; Anticipating New Macs and iPads; Vision Pro Returns and Cracks

By Graham K. Rogers


Apple shocked the tech press and about 2000 of its personnel when it cancelled the $10b (so far) Titan Project: EVs are so passé. Anticipation for new products increases as we enter March. Apple's Foundation Series 3 has had a shaky few weeks, but then it was announced that William Gibson's Neuromancer is to be produced: exciting. Netflix has some great movies and series too, but paying for the subscription is to change. Despite shock headlines, the number of Vision Pro headsets returned was only about 1%, however, cracks are appearing on some. A fix is expected.


The middle to end of February was quite busy for me at the office, hence no online postings. The Friday that Invent for the Planet began (16-18 Feb) I also had to make a presentation on writing to Year 3 engineering students who were about to write proposals for their Senior year projects. A few days later, I had the first of two Wednesday afternoon presentations to students (graduate and undergraduate) on Writing. During that first week, several of the Year 3 students asked me to check their outlines: even these basic texts need advice as the students have problems writing in their own language, so English is much harder. They may be taught the rules of grammar ad infinitum, but they are not taught how to use them.

Invent for the Planet
Invent for the Planet

This week I thought about a speech I had been asked to check for the Dean. He had spoken at the opening of Invent for the Planet quite smoothly, but when he had to make a prepared speech in English, he faltered. I know his English is good and wondered about this. Academics do not understand the difference between writing a journal article and oration. The speaker has to breathe. When I checked the next speech he was to give, I also prepared a version with pauses, but the Department asking for the revisions declined to use this.

Plum Amazing - SpeechMaker - partial screen shot

If a speaker is given a text with a small font just before the event, that is asking for problems. I looked at software to deliver text on an iPad. I already use SpeechMaker from Plum Amazing, which has features to enlarge the characters and mirror the text for use with a teleprompter. I also had a look for teleprompters online and presented all this information to the Dean, who now wants one of these.

Just as I finished I was summoned to help a group of academics who were preparing a document for an education organisation in the USA that had to be sent the next day (today). This needed more than a light touch and I was there for a couple more hours than usual. Needless to say, my evening plans were in shreds. Although I read and collected much information that I wanted to use in the last couple of weeks, the chances of writing it down in a cohesive manner were limited.

Death of Titan

Early this week I saw a note online about Apple's Project Titan cancellation, and shrugged my shoulders. That has burned a lot of money ($10b), but the situation with EVs now is not the same as when the project began. As I went through the news, as usual the first source I saw was MacRumors and an article by Juli Clover. Despite several years of work and multiple patents, not to mention the numbers of people who had worked on the car, Apple has decided, probably wisely, that it was not a viable project. They still have all the technology, but in an industry fraught with problems even on a good day, the company has walked away. Lewis Wallace (Cult of Mac) was clearly a little depressed about it: all that work; all those people; all that potential. All that risk. Some think that maybe Apple should have walked away a lot sooner.

Model car

Although Gene Munster thinks that Apple could buy Rivian, MacDaily News is negative on this, "the writing is on the wall". Apple left the business for real reasons. The way the electric car industry has changed in the last couple of years means that the profits were never going to be there (but Apple still have the patents). The decision was announced to Project Titan employees who were caught completely by surprise, although as they look back, maybe they should not have been. Its lingering life had all the marks over the years of a project that never found its feet properly.

Product and OS Announcements

As we enter March I am becoming more edgy and excited about the rumored updates to the iPad line, particularly the iPad Pro. My current, M1 11" version (the Goldilocks size for me) has become my main work device, replacing my MacBook Pro in terms of use priorities. Although there are potential updates to the Macs rumored, it is the iPad Pro I am really waiting for.

Reading several sources online daily, as I do, it is noteworthy that that basic rumors about this update have hardly changed in months. That never precludes an Apple surprise of course. I am keen also on the rumored case. The folio case I have now was part of the switch to the iPad Pro as far as my work processes are involved, but in the 2 years I have had it, carrying it around most days, the outside has seen a fair amount of wear. My devices are worked hard. That is what I have a case for. It is the keyboard, however, that is the most significant for me as the iPad Pro uses the same key commands (mostly - as far as I can detect) as the Mac. Anyone who has used a Mac for a while will understand how these, rather than menu access, speed up the work.

iPad Pro
Hard-worked M1 iPad Pro

I have noted over the years that, apart from all the rumors, a fair guide to the arrival of a new product is what is happening to the old or current versions. I noted a couple of weeks ago that a friend was able to pick up an M2 MacBook Pro (with the TouchBar) at a discount when he went in looking for a MacBook Air. Online, however, it is worth noting that prices of iPads are tumbling. Time to clear the decks. New stuff on the way. There could also be some Macs according to some rumors, including the MacBook Air, and I am also looking forward to new Watch bands, which often appear early in the new year. Joe Rossignol (MacRumors) has a look at possibilities for the expected event and notes the dates in previous years that Apple has held events: 2 near the start of the month, and 3 close to the end.

The article also refers to the upcoming update to iOS (17.4) and the point that Apple must update some of its OS to comply with EU regulations, including side-loading. Side advice from me, Don't. Others are also referring to this date in speculation for a product announcement. It is running tight for any invitations to the dance. The updates and new products are often linked but this is not always the case, so Apple could release the new iOS version and then a week or two later hold an event for any new products, including (fingers crossed) an M3 iPad Pro.

TV - Good and Not so Good

With Series 3 of Apple's Foundation apparently seeing some production problems over budget and latterly personnel changes, I was pleased to see that Apple is to take up Neuromancer. I read the book by WIlliam Gibson in the early 1990s and was deeply impressed. In the work he coins the term "cyberspace" although I remember the Cybermen from early Doctor Who episodes. The book, as John-Anthony Disotto (iMore) reports, citing several movies, was hugely influential. I can hardly wait to see this.

Considering the work already done in Series 1 and 2 of Foundation, this could be another Sci-Fi winner on AppleTV, where I am currently watching the disturbing (in a good cinematic way) Constellation. David Snow on Cult of Mac notes that Gibson is an executive producer on the show, although as the author explains, he does not have veto power. Gibson seems to be OK with that (so far) as he also comments that the series is not the book. This is so for many other works turned into movies or series, particularly works like Dune.

Part 2 of the Villeneuve movie is being released now and although Part 1 was a good interpretation, it misses some of the original, not that this particularly spoiled it for me. There have been a number of movie and TV versions, notably by David Lynch in 1984. Few critics, however, mention the 3-part series broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel in 2000 and 2003, with William Hurt as Duke Atreides and a wonderful performance by Ian MacNeice (Bert Large in Doc Martin) as Baron Harkonnen. This is available on YouTube. I read the whole Dune Series of 6 books and wonder how any film maker would produce the last of the 6 (in which Leto II, son of Paul Atreides, has turned himself into a hybrid worm). The movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings, completely cut the character Tom Bombadil for example with the director feeling that his inclusion would not advance the story fully.

Grim Leicester street scene - August 2016

I rather enjoy what Netflix puts out although this is hit and miss. If you want to dig around, however, there are some unusual gems hidden in the listings. For example, I just found The Lost King there after reading news reports on how the lady who started the hunt for the grave of Richard III was allegedly eased out of the kudos by a Leicester University academic, who is suing the film makers and others for his weaselly portrayal (Catherine Shoard, Guardian). However, I was disturbed to hear earlier in the week that Netflix is changing its subscription plans. No longer will some users be able to pay using the Apple Store, but will have to pay directly. This will complicate billing for most users: instead of having all services under one roof, there will be multiple subscriptions, although Netflix will not be alone in this.

Users in several countries are being told that they must change their payment methods. A look at the "How to" from Netflix which was either badly written, unnecessarily complex (or both) was quite depressing. A quick read of the online document made me want to give up Netflix completely: why should the subscriber have to go through this mess? I won't stop subscribing, but if (when) the changes come here - there is no announcement for Thailand yet - I am not looking forward to this.

False Panic

Sometimes buying a just-announced product may not work. Many think that waiting a few weeks or months after an Apple product is released is wise. I generally don't hold with that and my last Macs and iPad Pro models were ordered as soon as they were announced (or as soon as the Buy button became active). Buying from Apple has that advantage that returns are allowed in the first two weeks for any reason (as long as the device is not damaged). Most years there are headlines (mainly to generate hits, I feel) about why a writer is returning the iPhone that was recently purchased. Millions do not of course.

Vision Pro
Vision Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

However, this year, the latest device from Apple is a little more expensive and has a lot more going for it, so even if someone sneezes while wearing it, that could be worth a headline or two. The Vision Pro costs more than I would be wiling to pay for a top of line DSLR or mirrorless camera. The Verge put out a headline-grabbing article on returns, suggesting it was a huge problem for Apple, which is always guaranteed to give more hits. It now seems that, despite the anguished headlines, those returns were hardly significant at about 1%. There have, however, been some cracks on a few units. Speculation suggests that "this may be a heating issue when charging the Vision Pro in the case or with the cover on" (Victoria Song, The Verge). With this being something of a niche product (we are not going to see kids in the streets with these), Apple needs to widen the markets the Vision Pro is available in and soon.


Happy birthday to MacRumors, one of my favorite sources, mainly because they are often first in my RSS feed application and for the clarity of the writing. There was a suitably brief article celebrating the event which also noted that last weekend would also have been the 69th birthday of Steve Jobs.

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 X (@extensions_th)


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