Five years of iPad

This week five years ago, the original iPad was introduced. While the core experience of the iPad is more less the same today, the hardware had come a long way in half a decade:

Specification: 2010 iPad: iPad Air 2:
Height: 9.56 in 9.4 in
Width: 7.47 in 6.6 in
Depth: 0.5 in 0.24 in
Weight: 1.5 lbs 0.96 lbs
Rear Camera: N/A 1.2 MP
iSight Camera: N/A 8 MP
Battery: 10 hours 10 hours
Resolution: 1024x768 2048x1536
PPI: 132 ppi 264 ppi
Clock Speed: 1 GHz 1.5 GHz
Cores: 1 3
RAM: 256 MB 2 GB

Having an original iPad next to an iPad Air 2 shows just how far Apple's come. While the numbers above show the weight and thickness changes, the difference in the bezels alone make the original iPad feel older than it is.

While the iPad Air 2 is a good bit thinner than the original iPad, becuase of the original's curved back, it's only apparent when the devices are photographed face-up. In fact, the entire iPad Air 2 is as thick as the sidewall on the original iPad.

Thickness and weight aside, the basic recipe for iPad hardware hasn't changed much. Sure, the 30-pin Dock Connector and rotation lock switch are gone and the iPad picked up TouchID last year, but looking at these two devices side-by-side, it's hard to believe there have only five years have passed between them.

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A return to the App Store

Several developers have recently shared information about their sales, including the company behind Saved, a budget tracker for the iPhone.

While Saved's numbers are far smaller than some recently shared figures, Allen Ding's bit about the first version of app jumped out at me:

Just one problem. We just didn't make any money. The conversions sucked. The app sucked. The business model sucked. I don't really know. And I was still answering all these support emails. In multiple languages. I tried everything. Hundreds of emails to friends. Display Ads. More Ads. Sponsorships. But nope. Nada. There just wasn't any traction.

That moment when you open up your sales figures after launch day and see that you've made $2.10 on the first day, and $6.40 on the second – that is when your world comes crashing down. You've never seen an App Store spike this blunt.

Depsite that, the team recently launched version 2.0 of the app to a level of success not enjoyed by the initial app.

When I think about the App Store, it's easy to just think about the hits — the apps that make good money off the bat and are enjoyed by a wide user base. The truth is, however, that the App Store is full of people working really hard to see their dreams fail to take flight the way they were hoping. It's sobering, but I think it should make the victories all the sweeter.

Amazon's Prime focus problem

With Amazon Prime on sale today for just $72, I realized just how much the service has been in the news recently, and how hard it can be to explain to someone just what Prime is.

The core of Amazon Prime is made up of five features:

The list of five above isn’t everything that comes with a Prime membership. There’s also Amazon Lightning Deals, Prime Pantry, Amazon Elements and more.

There’s also Amazon Mom which is basically a Prime Membership with 20% off diaper subscriptions, 15% off baby registery items and member-exclusive coupons.

Then there’s Amazon Student, a Prime membership aimed at college students who are looking for deals on textbooks. Notably, it comes with a six-month trial period, far beyond the 30-day trial for normal accounts.

The company also has a tendency to throw in a membership with devices like the Fire Phone. Since the Fire family of products has a tendency to be not-so-good, the fact that they basically exist to get people to join Prime is painfully transparent at times.

It’s all very confusing, and my guess is that most users are like me and basically only use their Prime membership for the shipping benefits.

This confusion is made worse when Amazon adds or pulls features from the Prime without much warning. Recently, the company canned its mobile wallet program and its Amazon-branded diapers. Prime members can get $100 off the Amazon Echo, if they are granted an invitation to purchase it.

The confusion around Prime is a symptom of a larger problem, I believe. Amazon’s device lineups are clear enough, but they way they are presented can be confusing. (Hell, just look at the URLs I’ve linked to in this article. Even finding them all was a pain.)

These devices all exist to further the Amazon ecosystem, and at the heart of that is Prime. In some ways, the service feels like Amazon’s main product, with everything else it does revolving around it.

If that approach sounds familiar, it should, as its taken from Google’s playbook. Google’s core business may appear to be search, but their money comes from display ads on those search results. While the company has services that don’t show ads (think Google Drive), all of them work in tandem to keep consumers in the Google ecosystem, where ads can be shown.

(I’m not judging Google on this point, mind you. This website and my business make their money on advertising. I don’t have a problem with ads adjacent to content.)

Amazon isn't an advertising company, but they do sell Prime will the same vigor as Google pushes its ads. The company is trying to make it add value to every other product it other offers. There’s nothing Amazon offers that isn’t made better by a Prime membership.

If Prime’s goal was to bring the masses to Amazon’s door, its done its job. While the company doesn’t release numbers, estimates have Prime reaching between 20 and 50 million members. This has led to some problems, however. Here is Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen, discussing Prime’s price increase in 2014:

Even if Amazon does raise Prime’s price to cover those increased costs, it may still lose money. Shipping losses are growing by a rate of nearly one-quarter year-over-year, and Amazon is spending almost twice as much on shipping as it charges, writes Colin W. Gillis, director of research at BGC Financial. The proposed Prime price hike won’t cover that deficit, Gillis predicts. “While raising Prime pricing and pitching ‘drone delivery‘ solutions make good headlines, shipping losses remain a burden on profits.”

If that’s true, I don’t begrudge my Prime Membership jumping to $99 a year, as I save more than that in shipping each year.

And that’s the point of Prime, I suppose. To keep me looking at Amazon first when it comes to shopping. While that makes sense to me, Prime is so much more than shipping, and at the end of the day, I think Amazon should be doing a better job at pitching that. The shotgun approach currently in use leads to confusion and can be downright overwhelming at times.

However successful Prime has been for Amazon, I think clear communication about what it offers would only be beneficial to the company and its users.

A change in Apple retail

Editor's Note:This is a guest post by Joe Caiati. Joe works as an IT professional in New York City. He maintains a weblog called dot info and calls Twitter his second home.

Apple has gone through a cultural change. Yosemite and iOS 8's tight integration was a large indicator of that. When Forstall and Browett were ousted, Apple promised an increase in collaboration throughout its teams. Many didn't know exactly what that was going to be, but it's become clear that Tim Cook wants less compartmentalization and more interactivity between all Apple channels -- including retail.

I used to work in a flagship Apple Store in New York City as a Mac Genius. I started there during the Cook era and have seen the ways Apple corporate has changed their interactions with its retail employees. Many of my co-workers, who had been there longer than I, didn't have much to say about Jobs and retail. He'd occasionally visit a store or two, but those visits were brief and he didn't address employees in a manner that Cook has. There are some Apple retail positions that afford you the opportunity to spend time in Cupertino, but you are explicitly told not to interact with Apple's top-staff unless they approach you. During my time at Apple, corporate came to us.

There's enough stories out there to know that if you were able to meet, let alone have an encounter, with Steve Jobs then you were one of the lucky few. In one instance, Jobs asked someone I knew to pass him a fork at Apple's Cafe Macs in Cupertino and that person will never forget it. That allure has carried over to Cook, but now that he has settled in as Apple's CEO, the differences between him and Jobs have become more defined. Cook seems more comfortable with the press' attention focused on him.

In Cook's short time as CEO, he's done a number of appearances for the media and Apple employees. His on-screen interviews with Brian Williams and Charlie Rose are among the many off-screen interviews he's given to the press. He isn't afraid of talking about himself either.

Cook has paid unannounced visits to the store I worked in more than once. One night in November 2012, he and Phil Schiller walked right through the front doors and started touring the building (my store had three floors). Little did we know, they were touring the NYC stores looking at shooting locations for Cook's interview on Rock Center. I wasn't working that evening -- which bummed me out -- but a few days later when they shot the interview, they decided to use my store for the sit down portion. I'm glad I was there because that was the day I met Tim Cook.

Instead of sneaking out the back entrance after the interview concluded, Cook was kind enough to walk back down the spiral staircase and throughout each floor. I remember my encounter with him vividly. I was in the back section of the first floor and I saw him walking down the staircase to leave. He then stopped to greet some employees and customers towards the entrance.

I flat-out ran over to him, kind of interrupted his conversation with a customer (oops) and said, "Tim!" He looked to his right, we shook hands and I said "It was an honor" to meet him in which he smiled and said something to the effect of "It's so nice to me you." in his slow southern accent. Minutes later, Katie Cotton shuffled him off to a black SUV parked outside. It was a small interaction, but one I'll always remember.

Since then, Cook has gone on to do more employee meet and greets, but he hasn't been the only one. Angela Ahrendts has paid visits around the world to retail stores. Weeks before I left Apple, she came into my store (she's really tall in person.) Having her spend as much time in the retail environment is key. I'd wager Cook has been a big encourager of that. After the Browett debacle, Apple can not afford another leadership fault.

While Apple retail has been stronger than ever over the past years, there is a big challenge ahead. The stores keep getting busier and the Genius Bar wait times are getting longer. The introduction of a new product category -- the Apple Watch -- will require a fundamental change in their retail layout and processes.

You will most likely see some growing pains as the Apple Watch launches across retail stores. Handling how you are going sell, have people try-on and customize a (potentially) $10,000 watch will be a new initiative unlike any other of Apple's previous products. The Genius Bar's initial repair strategy for new products is to replace the device if it's defective or damaged, but I'm curious to see how they will handle issues in the future. The repairability of the Apple Watch remains to be seen, but it would seem costly to replace gold watches entirely if something breaks.

Putting the Apple Watch aside, the retail operation -- as a whole -- could use an overhaul. The stores have always felt a bit awkward to navigate. Apple used to try to give visual cues like different colored shirts to identify employee positions, but now with everyone unified in blue, you have to just approach whoever is available to try to get help -- and that person may not even be the right employee to assist you. I've seen that all-too-familiar look on customers faces who feel lost and frustrated because they have no clue how to purchase something or check-in for an appointment. A retail re-thinking would be welcomed.

Apple is facing a time where keeping their culture consistent throughout the company is paramount. Ahrendts has been communicating more often with the retail staff and Cook is making sure the divide between retail and corporate doesn't segregate. Though, with more stores always on the horizon, their struggle will be making their retail employees feel valued -- all fifty-thousand of them.

By next year this time, you may see a whole new side of Apple retail.

Connected 23: Total Dude, with His Surface Hub

I missed last night's show, but I'm glad Federico and Myke outlined my future so clearly for me before moving onto topics:

This week Federico and Myke talk about Windows 10, Windows Holographic and unsubscribing from web services.

I'd like to thank these three sponsors:

Microsoft's big day

Today's Microsoft's keynote was packed full of announcements, from previews of Windows 10 and a post-IE browser to Xbox improvements and a virtual reality headset.


Like many who have been in the Apple camp for a long time, my natural tendency to dismiss Microsoft as old and boring, reserved for people stuck in the enterprise, but the truth is that Redmond is more relevant than they have been in years, and today's event proves it in several ways.

Color me excited about what Microsoft is doing for the first time in a long time.

Windows 10

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft started on their whole "one OS, everywhere" concept, but the company had to split their OS based on what processor was under it — resulting in the much-despised Windows RT.

All that's gone now, it would seem. Windows 10 is one OS, spanning from the desktop to the smartphone. The whole OS has an interface that's smart enough to know what kind — and size — of device it is on.

Hell, even the Xbox is getting Windows 10; whatever that means.

This isn't the approach Apple's taken, of course. Apple still ships Mac OS X and iOS as separate operating systems, albeit with special versions for the Apple TV and (soon) the Apple Watch. OS X and iOS share a lot of under-the-hood bits, but they don't share much in the way of control or UI elements.

While I think Apple's way still is best, but there's no denying that Windows 10 is compelling.

Features like Cortana, Microsoft's powerful digital assistant will be on the desktop, as will smartphone-like access to things like Bluetooth and location settings.

Interestingly, it'll be free for a year for anyone who owns Windows 7 or 8. Clearly, this is in response to Apple making OS X updates free several years ago, but this is a big move for Redmond. Unlike Apple, Microsoft doesn't rely on hardware for the majority of its income, so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the company's earnings.


The upcoming version of Office falls in line with Windows 10, with one version to run on all devices. Both the OS and the office suite will change depending on input type, which seems a little crazy, but these things have to live in a world where a laptop can flip over and become a tablet, and it's good to see Microsoft realize that.

Project Spartan

While it's here to plague web developers for years to come, the end of Internet Explorer is in sight.


It's actually unclear if Spartan is just the next IE, or if Microsoft will take this opportunity to put the maligned brand out to pasture.

We know that the new browser will be powered by an all-new rendering engine, but it doesn't seem like its WebKit. This world it still doomed to having Microsoft build its own engine, but hopefully it will be as modern as the company claimed today.

On the feature side, Spartan boasts deep integration with OneNote, making it easy to mark up webpages and share them. There's also Reading List which is exactly what it sounds like.

Surface Hub

The new Surface Hub — no, not this Surface or that Surface — is a 84-inch 4K display with a built-in computer hooked up to a bunch of sensors, cameras, speakers and more.

In short, the Surface Hub can hold conference calls, serve as a digital whiteboard (powered by OneNote) and more.

Where it got real weird

The Microsoft HoloLens is a visor-based virtual reality headset that overlays holographic images on the real world.

Basically, this plus the Oculus Rift.

I don't even really know what to say about this, but this article is well-worth the read. I have no idea what this stuff is for beyond gaming, but it sure seems awesome.

White House posts State of the Union on Medium

The White House:

For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online. On Medium, you can follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes. By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.

I like it.