Trying Out Portal (MacSparky Labs)

Portal, the immersive wallpaper app, recently got released for the Mac. I don’t see it as a productivity app, but it is one of the nicest examples I’ve ever seen of this type of app…

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Paul Mayne on Day One and Apple’s Journal App

Day One’s creator wrote a blog post about Apple’s new journaling app and its relationship to Day One. It’s too early to tell exactly how deep the Journaling app will go, but I doubt it matches the Day One feature set, which has been growing for years. I generally agree with Paul in that I don’t think the Journal app will “Sherlock” Day One. Indeed I could see many folks starting with the Journal app and then moving up to Date One once they get it about journaling.

Mac Power Users 695: Live from WWDC23

Recorded live at Apple Park, Stephen and I talk about some of the big announcements from WWDC23 on this episode of Mac Power Users.

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Early Vision Pro Feedback

Several journalists got to strap into the new Apple Vision Pro headset. Three of my favorite reads are from Matthew Panzarino, Jason Snell, and Chance Miller. I’ve also spoken to several others here in Cupertino that got the demo. Every person I’ve spoken to that got to try Vision Pro praises the technology. This truly is one of those “only Apple” products. There is no other company with the hardware and software expertise to pull it off. The 12-millisecond latency is something that particularly stands out.

The question that we’ll be asking ourselves is how this technology can change our lives. Looking back at the Apple Watch, Apple initially leaned into it as a fashion product but eventually came around to the idea that it is primarily a health and fitness device. I think for the Vision Pro, the killer use case will be even more stratified. Some people will want them to consume content. Imagine having an IMAX-equivalent screen you can strap on your head or watching your favorite sport virtually on the field next to your favorite players. I love the idea of creating virtual workspaces where I could journal in the middle of Yosemite or do some work while enjoying the view from Machu Picchu. I also like the idea of a seemingly 40-foot whiteboard that I could use in my 14-foot office.

The answer to how we’d use this is going to be “it depends on the person.” Can Apple continue to nail and improve upon this technology? Likely. Will this technology reach critical mass as it gets more affordable? That depends on whether there are enough good reasons for it.

Some Quick, Random Thoughts Following the Apple WWDC Keynote

Here I am at Apple Park, having spent the morning watching the keynote event on campus. It was a lot of fun and, of course, I have thoughts:

The Software

  • The software updates were more robust than I expected. I’d originally heard this year was going to be primarily bug fixes with everyone at Apple focused on Vision Pro, but that wasn’t the case. Even if they hadn’t introduced the Vision Pro, it was a good year in general.
  • Live widgets on the Mac? Yes please.
  • I like the changes to watchOS. The widgets feel like they are taking another run at the now-abandoned Siri face. I thought it was a good idea then. Hopefully they nail it this time.
  • They spoke about using a new voice recognition engine on all platforms. I’ll be testing that … soon.
  • We didn’t hear much about Apple’s productivity apps during the presentation. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out there are improvements that they didn’t discuss.
  • Messages has to be the most commonly used iPhone app (in the US at least). It makes sense that they are continuing to improve it.
  • Again we heard about gaming. I think that ultimately Apple is going to have to doing a better job of courting AAA game developers but it’s nice to see they are now actively working on it. For years it felt like they’d just given up on gaming.

The New Macs

  • The new 15-inch MacBook Air was expected, but still nice to see. It’s basically a 13-inch MacBook Air, but bigger. I spent some time with one after the event. The lack of pin-holes for speakers on either side of the keyboard makes it look strange to me because I’ve never seen a large Apple laptop look like that. On the plus side, that’s one less place for water to get in.
  • The M2 Mac Studio looks exactly like the M1 model. However, I’m pleased that it got an annual update to the M2. There were rumors that they would skip years with the Mac Studio and I’m glad that’s not the case. Now that Apple makes its own chips, I’d hope that everything gets updated with each new M-chip iteration. (I’m looking at you, iMac.)
  • The Mac Pro feels a bit of a compromise. I spoke to an Apple rep that confirmed the Mac Pro will not run external video cards. It does, however, have a lot of slots if you need more storage and I/O. I’m not sure what else it will run but I’m guessing we’ll hear about it soon.
  • The new Mac Pro has the nicest looking logic board I’ve ever seen.
  • They had some of the units on display in the Steve Jobs Theater. The crowd around them had the same vibe as the Macworld when they announced the iPhone.

Apple Vision Pro

  • When it comes to introducing a new product category, Apple remains the best company in the world to do so.
  • Speaking of messaging, Apple really was leaning into the Vision Pro as an augmented reality device, not virtual reality. I don’t recall them using the term “virtual reality” once.
  • The battery-in-the-pocket thing makes total sense given the early-days nature of this product.
  • Many times Apple explained how the Vision Pro is only a first step. There is no question that they have a whiteboard somewhere that says “Tony Stark Glasses” on it somewhere.
  • The real trick to this device will be the screen resolution and brightness. If it is going to try and trick the user into thinking they are looking through the glasses at the actual world, it needs to be convincing. This has been the downfall of VR devices I’ve tried in the past. If they can stick this, it will be game changing.
  • I think the whole way the device is aware of your surroundings and lets you phase in and back out as necessary is clever. I can’t see myself keeping the Visual Pro headset on while talking to someone for more than a few seconds, but I think they are on the right track.
  • Turning it into a 3D camera is cool, but the idea of watching my daughter blow out birthday candles with that thing strapped to my head repulses me.
  • $3,499. I was fooled. I thought they’d come in well below $3,000. With that price, this is very much an “early adopter” product.

The Event Vibe

  • Apple has the “Keynote at Apple Park” thing nailed down at this point. This year they added shade. This shade is not just a tarp, but a metal structure with footings. They’ll be doing this again next year.
  • As always, it is nice reconnecting with friends from both the media and Apple. This part makes me miss the old days of Macworld, where it was a true gathering of the tribe.
  • It is amazing at how densely Apple packs information into their presentations these days.

And now I have an appointment to light this computer on fire with a beta. I’ll see you on the other side. Below are some pictures from the event.

A Few Questions Before Watching Today’s Apple Keynote

Today, Apple is going to announce a new product category and that is always exciting. Here are a few things to think about as they announce their headset:

What’s the Technology Jump?

There’s been a lot of speculation and rumors that the new technology Apple is using will be significantly better than that before it in terms of screen resolution. If it’s true, will virtual reality get over a tipping point today where it is, feels more about the “reality“ part, and less about the “virtual“ part? If true, this could really be the jump this technology needed in order to become something more.

What’s the User Interface?

Apple always revolutionizes user interfaces. They did that on the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple Watch. They’ve been spending a lot of time and money researching virtual reality and augmented reality leading up to today. I can’t wait to see how they tackle the user interface face problem. If history is any judge, whatever they announce today will be in all competing products within a few years.

What’s the Story?

Another thing Apple is good at is coming up with a story around their technology. Assuming we do have significantly better technology, and a better user interface, how does that change virtual reality into something that’s more useful than playing VR games? What is their story behind this product? Where do they see us using it? How can it make our lives easier?

Those are the big three questions in my mind as we head towards today’s keynote. If Apple can deliver on those three questions, virtual reality is about to get much more interesting.