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How to create your own iPhone-15-inspired ‘Action button’ on Android


If you’re reading this column, odds are, you don’t have a lot of iPhone envy.

Believe me, I’m right there with ya. But much as we may enjoy the (ahem) greener pastures here in the land o’ Googley matters, every now and then, Apple does come up with a genuinely interesting idea for its iPhone devotees.

And amidst all the magical and revolutionary blathering at last week’s iPhone 15 event, one such intriguing addition made its way to the surface. It’s a new “Action button” that sits on the side of the iPhone 15 Pro, exclusively, and is able to summon a single specific command of the phone-owner’s choosing.

It really is a clever concept — ’cause for all our focus on on-screen actions, there’s something to be said for a simple physical switch. It’s always there and available, and you can find it without any thought or effort and keep a common command at your fingertips for easy ongoing access.

And here’s a little secret: You don’t need Apple’s latest iGizmo to enjoy such an advantage. In fact, you can create a similar sort of setup on any Android phone you’re using — with even more flexibility, power, and potential in place.

[Want even more advanced Android knowledge? Check out my free Android Shortcut Supercourse to learn tons of time-saving tricks for your phone.]

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Cisco: Macs in business boost productivity and security, cuts costs


Mac adoption in the enterprise isn’t just about giving employees hardware options, according to Cisco CIO Fletcher Previn. It’s a business imperative — and many companies agree.

Previn spoke at this week’s Jamf Nation User Conference (JNUC), where he explained that migrating to Apple hardware boosts productivity, enhances security, and can trim ownership costs. And he has the evidence to back the claim up.

The former IBM CIO talked up many of the benefits of the platform following mass deployments there. Now in the same role at Cisco, his requirements have become even more security conscious — but the Apple benefits remain the same. The 12-month-old Mac@Cisco program gives 130,000 employees choice.

Previn was at JNUC to share details about Cisco’s Mac transition on the eve of Cisco’s announced takeover of cybersecurity specialist Splunk.

Cisco releases TCO tool for IT to make its own decisions

To arrive at some of these conclusions, Cisco built a tool to enumerate and assess differences between installed kit to get a credible cost of ownership figure. To help other businesses considering Mac adoption, Cisco also made its own Total Cost Ownership (TCO) Calculator available for Mac admins everywhere to download and use.

The tool will help them figure out the TCO for Mac and Windows end user computing devices such as laptops and desktops. The open-source application, built by a team with experience managing three huge enterprises, is available here.

“At Cisco, we are reimagining the Mac experience to support, engage, and empower employees to do their best work, and we appreciate offerings like Jamf Pro as we’ve rolled out our robust employee choice program to our global, hybrid workforce,” said Previn.

When given that choice, 60% of Cisco employees use a Mac today, with 24% switching to Mac from PC when they upgrade their devices. In addition to that, 88% of employees coming from companies Cisco acquires are already using Macs, he said.

Significant productivity benefits

That’s great from an employee choice point of view. At Cisco, team members using both a Mac and an iPhone had an 83% satisfaction rating with IT. It is clear that Mac adoption is growing.

But what benefits might other companies see by making the move? Previn shared Cisco data that showed sales teams using Macs outperform their PC counterparts, with 9.8% more deals created, 10.9% more bookings achieved, and 9.9% faster times to close a deal.

Software engineers generate nearly 11.5% more code when using a Mac, he said.

The existence of these benefits is not new. He identified similar benefits while leading the Mac transition at IBM, when he said: “Now, I don’t know if better employees want Macs, or giving Macs to employees makes them better. You got to be careful about cause and effect — but there seems to be a lot of corroborating evidence that says you want to have a choice program.”

The visible security benefits

Security is essential, particularly at a huge networking company such as Cisco. And Apple security tends to lead the industry. Does this show up when using Macs in business?

It does. Previn said that across the tens of thousands of Cisco employees, Mac users experience almost five times fewer cyberthreats and nine times fewer virus issues than PCs.  

Many companies face challenges convincing staffers to adopt biometric security. But once you get people working with Macs, Previn found that 89% of his employees were using that kind of security, compared to just 29% of PC users.

(He noted that Windows users described the experience of setting up Windows Hello as “complicated,” adding that people were concerned at the security of their information when they do use it. This was not a challenge with Apple’s Touch ID.)

A strong cost argument to switch

Previn has famously said that Macs are a lot less expensive in the long run, despite the initial cost. This was certainly his experience at IBM. It is also his experience at Cisco.

Previn told JNUC that a Mac is actually $148-$395 less expensive to run than a Windows PC at Cisco over three years, depending on the hardware model. What that means is that once you consider software, support, and other capital costs, the Mac works out to be a better deal, despite the feeling that they cost more to purchase.

These TCO economies are wide and reflect all the many costs that contribute to fleet management. Take software updates, for example. He noted that the process of upgrading PCs to Windows 11 across the company had to be staggered over six-months. With macOS Ventura, it took just one. That alone cuts tech support costs.

Cause and effect?

Previn also said that at Cisco, it takes 33% fewer engineers to manage the Macs.

Breaking down the prejudice

We’ve all encountered people who continue to believe there are tasks Windows PCs can do that Macs cannot. That may even sometimes be true, particularly when handling legacy applications. But most of the time this is not actually the case, said Previn.

He explained that while some people still believe the Mac won’t run the software they need, in his experience this is not the case. Just because some people still think that way, doesn’t make it true, and the benefits of migration justify the need to overcome such resistance.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Got a Google Pixel Fold or Pixel Tablet? Find this secret setting this second


Google’s Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet may not look like siblings, but the two 2023 flagship Android offerings actually have a surprising amount in common.

And i’s not just that they’re the first Pixel devices in their respective categories of folding phones and tablets, either. Nope: When you use the two products side by side, you quickly realize that they share plenty of DNA within the evolved Android setup they showcase and the overall user experience they provide. And that extends all the way to their relatively unusual unlocking mechanisms.

Both the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, y’see, rely on a power-button-based fingerprint sensor instead of the more typical in-screen sensor other recent Pixels possess or even the rear-facing sensor from Pixel phones past. It’s a fine enough system, but with one teensy tweak, it can be made immeasurably more effective.

Best of all? The enhancement will take you roughly 20 seconds to pull off — and once you do it, you’ll never actively think about the change again.

[Psst: Want even more Pixel magic? Check out my free Pixel Academy e-course to discover all sorts of advanced intelligence lurking within your favorite Pixel device!]

20 seconds to a smarter Pixel Fold or Pixel Tablet

Start the clock, my fellow Pixel appreciator — here it is:

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Jamf touts Jamf Pro 11 at JNUC, its annual Apple IT admin event


Now in its 14th year, the world’s biggest event for IT admins who manage Apple hardware, the Jamf Nation User Conference kicks off today in Austin, Texas with Apple-related insights from Cisco, Google, Microsoft, and other big names in tech management and integration.

MacPaw, Okta, Mac Stadium, and many other important vendors in the space are also on tap at the hybrid show.

Now with a new CEO

Following the retirement of former CEO Dean Hager, new CEO John Strosahl, holds true to the company mission: “We are so confident in Apple’s continued success that we believe Apple will flip the market over the next decade and be the No. 1 end-user technology used in the enterprise,” Strosahl said in a statement.

The event sees several improvements to existing products:

Jamf Pro 11 arrives

The latest iteration of the company’s suite for fleet management, Jamf Pro 11 gains an improved user interface, better accessibility tools, and support for Declarative Device Management.

It also includes new software update management workflows so IT can schedule and enforce the installation of software updates on managed devices. Jamf confirmed its system will also support Account Driven Device Enrollment, which will be available later for Macs and iOS/iPad OS devices.

Tools for Zero Trust 

In the current security environment, identity and security are even greater considerations than before. With this in mind, the identity and access management tools in Jamf Connect have been beefed up with support for Zero Trust Network Access. This helps secure access to cloud and on-premises corporate data when remote employees use Apple devices.

The idea behind this is that the security is more robust than what you get with a VPN, while also being cheaper and more secure, according to the company.

Compliance management

The company also offers Jamf Protect, which helps secure devices while also managing compliance. In the latest iteration, admins can monitor compliance across their environment at a glance. Compliance detail extends to visibility of which apps and OS version in use across those environments are impacted by known Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). Then admins can choose how to act, including through remote implementation of Apple’s Rapid Security Response routine.

You will be protected by robots

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere and Jamf expects to make use of these technologies to enhance system security. At JNUC, the company discussed how it sees AI being integrated into security products, particularly around on-spot analyses of detailed raw telemetry and security alert data.

The idea here is that AI can continuously monitor for signs of attack and will alert IT when an attack is identified. The solution Jamf is building is sufficiently smart it can suggest ways to mitigate against identified threats. The company has also introduced its first tech support bots for its admin users.

Jamf acquired some of the components for these forms of protection in recent years. In 2021, it purchased tools from cmdSecurity. Those collect and stream macOS telemetry data to security and incident-event management (or other) logging tools. In 2022, it acquired ZecOps, and introduced an Executive Threat Protection feature that makes use of such features earlier this year.

The idea Jamf is working towards combines always-on security monitoring with ease of use for the people using the devices, and privacy for their personal use.

For enterprises, this security model promises protection outside the perimeter and fast insight if systems, even remote systems, are under attack — and if those attacks may be coordinated.

Office access

The company already partners with SwiftConnect to create an employee badge tech that lets people use badge entry systems to access enterprise buildings using an iPhone or Apple Watch. This system has now been improved so IT can temporarily disable a badge if a device goes beyond full security compliance.

The ultimate mass deployment market

Education remains the biggest space for large-scale Apple device deployments. Think about the thousands of pupils entering as new intake in a very short space of time each year. The sector is home to some of the most challenging mass deployments of Apple hardware, so it’s natural that Jamf introduced a new user interface and additional features within the suite of apps it offers in that sector. These include app installers, content filtering, and support for the US StateRAMP system designed to bring districts into compliance with state and local security policy.

Expect more from JNUC

I expect lots more news for Apple enterprise professionals will emerge from JNUC during the week, particularly as former IBM, now Cisco, CIO Fletcher Previn is expected to discuss what Cisco found during its own large-scale Mac deployments.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Apple again upsells users to the iPhone 15 Pro Max


Apple once again appears to have upsold the world to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and while demand once again exceeded supply when orders began Friday, somewhere in Cupertino the bubbly was likely flowing as the company’s initial stockpile of the iPhone Pro Max sold out  in minutes.

While that’s not exactly unusual at this point in Cupertino’s growing season, what is unusual is that it shows Apple’s most important annual gamble just paid off. The company has upsold the planet all over again and figured out how to make its highest-end device the one that real human beings want most of all, and made its price feel acceptable.

Good will finding

Backtrack just a little and this is what happened: Apple announced its new iPhone less than one week ago and has successfully convinced millions of people worldwide to purchase the most expensive model in its new range.

Did this really happen? Here’s what makes it look like it did:

  • Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo cites his own industry checks that confirm robust demand for the company’s most expensive smartphone. He claims demand for the Pro Max is greater than for the equivalent model last year, though iPhone 15 Pro sales are a little weaker. More people are choosing the top-end device.
  • Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives says the “iPhone 15 Pro/Pro Max is tracking strong out the gates,” citing pre-orders on the range as up by 10% to 12% on last year.
  • Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and others seemed to agree. Many noted the range of carrier promotions (opaque as some turn out to be) to help raise interest.
  • Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman thinks Apple will exceed last year’s December quarter revenue.

You don’t need a periscopic camera to zoom in on the significance of this.

Cool hand, Tim

Not only should this reception help secure Apple’s market position once again, but in the context of a slowing smartphone sector, the company will likely continue its journey to become the world’s biggest smartphone vendor.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

iPhone 12: Fade away, and radiate?


What’s up with the iPhone radiation story? On the eve of Apple’s big iPhone 15 reveal, France demanded the company remove iPhone 12 from sale in that country because it said the product radiates too much.

Now that demand seems to be spreading across Europe.

What’s happening here?

The story so far

ANFR, the French agency that regulates these things, claims that certain iPhone 12 models emit unacceptable levels of electromagnetic radiation. The regulator subsequently ordered Apple to halt all sales of that model as of Sept. 12, pending a fix. Apple denied the claim, citing numerous radiation studies of its own, and now promises a software patch to bring the device into line with French regulations. But questions are now being asked across the EU, with Italy, Germany, and Belgium demanding a similar software patch.

With that in mind, it seems important to note that both the French regulator and Apple say there is no danger to public health from the radiation.

Which begs the question as to why a ban on sales is required.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Google’s increasingly prickly Android perception problem


Ask most Android enthusiasts for their thoughts on the eternal “iPhone vs. Android” debate, and you’re bound to hear some comically common conclusions:

  • Android is more advanced and ambitious, both in its software and especially in its hardware (hello, folding phones!).
  • Android is more customizable and conducive to productivity, thanks to all the ways it lets you take total control of your virtual environment and make it work the way you want.
  • The iPhone is bland, old-fashioned, and boring in comparison.

Apple’s iOS platform certainly has its advantages, but it’s tough to deny that Android is the more modern, powerful, and adventurous option (a juxtaposition expressed admirably in this recent video analysis by the ever-balanced Marques Brownlee).

And yet, talk to most typical, non-tech-inclined phone buyers — particularly here in America — and you’re bound to hear a very different interpretation.

It’s shaping up to be a pressing problem. And it’s something that’s increasingly critical for Google to address.

[Get fresh Googley insight in your inbox with my free Android Intelligence newsletter. Three things to know and try every Friday!]

The Android-Apple shift

You’ve seen the stats by now, right? For a while, the tides have been turning in the US and Apple’s been gaining more and more of the American mobile market.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC 2024: Is Apple on the road to Siri 2.0?


With Apple spending a lot of money on generative AI and machine learning models, is it time for us to start prepping for Siri 2.0? 

The Information says Apple has “significantly” increased spending on AI development focused on genAI capabilities within Siri. The report suggests Apple’s internal AI research thrust is pushing in three key directions:

  • Building “Ajax,” its own proprietary Large Language Model (LLM). This has already been trained on more than 200 billion parameters, which could make it more powerful than Chat GPT 3.5 when it appeared. Apple is reportedly spending millions a day on Ajax.
  • Apple continues to develop machine image intelligence, which extends to image and video generation and the creation of 3D scenes.
  • A third group works on multimodal AI, handling text, images, and video. I expect this includes features such as text scanning in images and door recognition.

On the road to Siri 2.0

It feels as though Apple may be slightly stung by criticism of its AI achievements so far. With this in mind, it wants to:

  • Improve Siri’s conversational abilities.
  • Develop useful assistant features that rely on AI.
  • Introduce support for complex tasks within Siri, such as image or text recognition, scene generation and so forth.
  • And potentially make it possible to use voice to create Shortcuts functions.

While it’s true that ChatGPT caught most everyone by surprise, Apple seemed most left behind once that chatbot appeared. The iPhone maker appears to have put these developments on the fast track and may even have these features ready to roll within iOS 18, the report claimed. Work is being led by a new 16-member team of engineers building the “Foundational Model” LLM the company will use to build models, at a cost of millions of dollars each day.

Good foundations

Building powerful LLM-based models in Siri may be complicated a little by the company’s dedication to customer privacy. That implies that whatever models it does deploy will primarily use features that already exist on its devices. That’s where better integration with Shortcuts makes sense, though the company may not be completely reliant on that. Why? Because every Apple chip also carries a Neural Engine — a dedicated space on the chip to handle machine intelligence tasks.

The problem is that Apple’s existing LLMs are quite large, which means they would be difficult to carry and run on the device. That limitation suggests the company might develop highly focused automations that can work well on device in certain domains, and used in conjunction with cloud-based systems for more complex tasks; this might undermine Apple’s environmental work, given the energy and water such machines devour.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Google defends search business in biggest US antitrust case of the century so far


The largest antitrust action since the turn-of-the-century Microsoft case is headed to trial today, as the federal government and a group of state attorneys general challenge Google’s dominance in search.

Google is specifically accused of creating a monopoly through the use of exclusivity contracts with device manufacturers and software providers — deals, in short, that make Google the default search engine for a given device or platform. The overall effect of those numerous deals, according to the government’s complaint, has been to artificially deny access to the search engine market to rivals, creating an effective monopoly.

The complaint, which was filed in October 2020 in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., further alleged that the exclusive contracts were used not just to broaden the use of its products, but to explicitly exclude competitors from chipping away at Google’s dominant market share in search.

“To preserve its dominance, Google has developed economic models to measure the ‘defensive value’ of foreclosing search rivals from effective distribution, search access points, and ultimately competition,” the government stated. “In sum, Google, deprives rivals of the quality reach, and financial position necessary to mount any meaningful competition to Google’s longstanding monopolies.”

What to expect in the Google antitrust case

To prove its case, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is likely to call witnesses from Google’s competitors, which is a common, well-worn technique in antitrust actions, according to David Olson, an associate professor at Boston College Law School.

“They’ll likely complain that the default placement of Google and the lock-in effect of that really hurt them,” he said. “And well, yeah, they don’t like Google, they’re competitors, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.”

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Message to IT: Update all your Apple devices right away


Apple has pushed out an essential security update to defend against yet another attack by an out-of-control mercenary surveillance group.

Like a bad smell, NSO Group has clawed its way back into the spotlight with yet another unprincipled attack against free speech and citizens’ rights, as revealed by Citizen Lab. The security researchers found this latest example of a sinister, yet egregious zero-click attack while checking the device of an “Individual employed by a Washington DC-based civil society organization with international offices.”

What is this attack and what does it do?

This attack, which is being used to deliver NSO Group’s Pegasus mercenary spyware, is deeply concerning as it can compromise iPhones running iOS 16.6 without requiring any interaction from the victim. The researchers explained the exploit involved PassKit attachments containing malicious images sent via iMessage. The victim wasn’t even required to look at this image.

What happened next?

Citizen Lab alerted Apple to the attack and the company swiftly published a security update for all its devices to protect against it. Both companies confirm Lockdown Mode will secure devices against such attack.

What Apple says

Apple published support notes detailing the content of the latest security updates. Warning that these attacks may already be actively exploited, these reveal that “processing a maliciously crafted image may lead to arbitrary code execution,” and that this attack was also viable against Wallet.

“We would like to acknowledge The Citizen Lab at The University of Torontoʼs Munk School for their assistance,” Apple said.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

MediaTek hints big speed boosts for upcoming iPhone, Macs


Not to say I’m obsessed with Apple’s processors, but MediaTek’s latest statement gives us some insight into what new A- and M-series chips from Cupertino may be capable of, and yes, they’ll be faster, cooler, and more performant.

MediaTek this morning tried to set its flag for business on news it has successfully developed its first chip using the 3-nanometer process technology TSMC also uses to build chips for Apple.

Is this Apple’s big advantage?

That’s good for MediaTek, but not much of a challenge for Apple, which has allegedly purchased all TSMC’s 3nm production for the next 12 months. No surprise, then, that MediaTek’s own 3nm chip won’t go into mass production before the second half of 2024, giving Apple a comfortable lead in an industry playing catch-up.

Don’t neglect that MediaTek is also one of the companies that will invest millions in Arm’s IPO to help protect access to those industry-leading smartphone processor designs. The politics of processor production aside, MediaTek’s news offers a pretty strong hint of the extent of improvement to expect once Apple’s new chips are introduced next week.

Ballpark figures

You shouldn’t expect identical results, as the processors made by both companies are different and only Apple (I think) has the deep Arm licensing to really adjust the reference design. But you can use these figures to help guide your thinking.

Here’s what MediaTek had to say (italics mine):

“TSMC’s 3nm process technology provides enhanced performance, power, and yield, in addition to complete platform support for both high performance computing and mobile applications. Compared with TSMC’s N5 process, TSMC’s 3nm technology currently offers as much as 18% speed improvement at same power, or 32% power reduction at same speed, and approximately 60% increase in logic density.

The current iPhone 14 uses a tweaked version of TSMC’s N5 process, but it is reasonable to expect similar improvements in comparison with iPhone 15.

Actual improvements may vary

The real-world extent of those enhancements may differ, depending on what Apple’s teams decided to prioritize; Apple’s chip might focus on better battery life rather than performance, for example.

All the same, the MediaTek data strongly suggests the next iPhone (and future M3 Macs) will deliver what I see as significant improvements. They will be faster by almost 20%, will use a lot less power and will be more computationally capable given the increased logic density.

In Apple’s case, given the extent to which it is placing all internal systems on the same chip, that should translate into significant performance across the system, with the possible exception of networking which will remain laggard until Apple manages to bring the 5G radio onto the same chip, perhaps in 2025.

Up to 20% performance gains?

Zooming out for a brief attempt at competitive analysis, MediaTek’s news suggests that all the devices running Apple’s future chips will gain decent (10% to 20%) performance gains. What does that mean in real terms?

Well, there is this:

  • The existing iPhone 14 Pro delivers a 6,508 multicore score on Geekbench, while the closest competing chip, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, reaches 5,199 in the same category.
  • Add just 10% to the performance score for the iPhone and you’re looking at raw performance data in excess of 7,000 – just under 2,000 points in front of the Samsung chip!

Apple seems far ahead, and that advantage is visible in its Arm-powered Macs, including the fantastic M2 MacBook Air. Apple also has the huge advantage of having booked all TSMC’s 3nm chip production for the next year, which means it will be moving to the next generation 3nm chip just as competitors catch up.

A few sleeps until Sept. 12

In a sense, it’s a little fruitless pre-(guess)-estimating what Apple is preparing to announce in its (already filmed) iPhone 15 launch event next week, but if fortune telling and tea leaf reading are your thing, then MediaTek’s announcement hints you won’t be disappointed.

This iPhone will once again be faster and more computationally performant than the last one, while Mac performance improvements will continue to blow previous expectations away.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

EU lists ‘gatekeepers’ to be regulated, opens iMessage and Bing investigations


The European Commission has published a list of so-called gatekeeper companies that will be regulated by its Digital Markets Act (DMA), simultaneously announcing it will open investigations into the arguments put forward by Microsoft and Apple that claim iMessage and Bing don’t meet the threshold for regulation.

The Commission said it had notified Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, Microsoft and Samsung of their gatekeeper status — companies with a market capitalization of at least €75 billion ($81 billion) or sales in Europe of over €7.5 billion, at least 45 million monthly users in the EU. Twenty-two core platforms operated by these companies also fall under the scope of the DMA.

These include:

  • Four social networks: TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
  • Six “intermediation” services: Google Maps, Google Play, Google Shopping, Amazon Marketplace, iOS App Store, Meta Marketplace
  • Three ads delivery systems (ADS): Google, Amazon and Meta
  • Two browsers Chrome, Safari
  • Three operating systems: Google Android, iOS, Windows PC OS
  • Two Number Independent Interpersonal Communications Services (N-IICS) or messaging services: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger
  • One search engine: Google
  • One video sharing platform: YouTube

Yesterday it was reported that Apple and Microsoft were arguing that neither iMessage nor Bing should be subject to regulatory requirements of the DMA as the platforms did not meet the threshold set out by the legislation. Both were left off the list published today.

“The Commission has opened four market investigations to further assess Microsoft’s and Apple’s submissions arguing that, despite meeting the thresholds, some of their core platform services do not qualify as gateways,” the Commission said in a statement, adding that the investigation should be completed within a maximum of five months.

An additional market investigation has been opened to further assess whether Apple’s iPadOS should be designated as gatekeeper, even though is does not meet the thresholds.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Is that a Chromebook killer in your pocket, Tim Cook?


“An iPad, a Mac, a personal productivity device, an iPad, a Mac, a personal productivity device, can you see what it is yet?”

Apple may be planning a cheaper portable Mac to rival Chromebooks, according to DigiTimes. If that claim is true, then might this device be the combined iPad/Mac system that has been speculated on, discussed, and fantasized about for many years?

Part iPad, part Mac, and all productivity, it’s a system that could be the ultimate in affordable portable flexibility within the Apple ecosystem.

A hybrid happening?

There are some signals Apple may think that, too. Universal Control, Stage Manager, the increasingly useful iCloud Drive, and the many ways in which Macs and iPads already share some of the same user interface and design principles point in this direction.

Macs and iPads also share the same processors, with M-series Mac chips inside all iPads (other than the entry-level model). Same chip, similar user interfaces — there’s a whole lot of synchronicities going on between these platforms.

Or a low-cost Mac?

A low-cost MacBook system doesn’t need to be part iPad/part Mac, of course, tempting as it is to imagine it could be. It might simply be an M-powered lower-cost system using cheaper components and low-cost screen. At introduction, it could be unveiled as the MacBook (last made in 2019), to accompany the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, filling out the “Good, Better, Best” approach the company seems to be adopting across all its products.

DigiTimes claims the system will still use a metal casing made of “different materials” and will use lower-cost mechanical components. It’s easy to imagine the materials could reflect new advances in aluminium recycling and materials science, as we know Apple is working hard on developing circular manufacturing systems.

We won’t know Apple’s approach until later, if ever.

So, why is Apple doing this?

I think the company is chasing growth. It knows that the market for consumer PCs is in decline and that the only way to achieve growth in a declining market is to grab market share from competitors.

Just as Apple already has in the enterprise computing space, where it is growing share as Windows becomes increasingly less relevant, it now wants to make a grab for consumer market share — particularly in the education sector.

It needs to. Chromebooks are in wide use across education, and Apple already knows that the computers children learn on are the systems they want to use once they leave school. Cupertino’s huge market gains since the arrival of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone reflect that reality.

The reason employee choice schemes favor Apple is because your incoming workers all grew up using Apple’s kit. To maintain that trend, Apple needs to deliver systems that compete with Chromebooks in the all-important education and consumer markets. An affordable MacBook — or hybrid iPad/Mac device — could help bring the fight there.

Apple has new tools in its chest

There’s no corroboration to the claims at the moment, so it is important to take them with a pinch of salt. Merely because Apple could do something like this doesn’t mean it definitely will. But the one grain of truth I see here suggests Apple is ready to become a lot more aggressive in its search for growth across its product range.

In contrast to even five years ago, Apple has powerful new options:

  • Not only is Apple Silicon cheaper per chip than those made by others, because Apple owns the designs, but its frugal energy requirements mean it can be deployed in a range of different products, from phones to supercomputers. That’s a gift to product designers.
  • When it comes to product sale price, Apple’s growing range of accessories and services mean the revenue it generates per user is growing. That $500 MacBook sale might generate $50 gross, but the AirPods and Apple Music subscription it also sells to that customer bump up those earnings, effectively enabling the company to play with price where it makes sense to do so. Now imagine a low cost, highly recyclable MacBook you could rent as a service.

Will Apple release this product?

We don’t know. We also don’t know if such a system would be a bona fide Mac or an iPad/Mac hybrid. But I do know that Apple Silicon and Apple services, combined with an increasingly tough business environment means the company might well try some fresh approaches.

When it comes down to it, Apple is playing hardball. Company execs don’t just want to survive the current business challenges, they want to thrive and then bounce back bigger and better into eventual recovery. To achieve this, they are going to push hard on every single unique Apple message and challenge on every front, including user satisfaction, durability, cost of ownership, privacy, and commitment to the environment.

With this in mind, an affordable MacBook makes complete sense, but don’t hold your breath. It might never happen at all. But PC market positions will shift fast when it does.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Microsoft blames Aussie data center outage on staff strength, failed automation


Microsoft has blamed staff strength and failed automation for a data center outage in Australia that took place on August 30, disabling users from accessing Azure, Microsoft 365, and Power Platform services for over 24 hours.

In a post-incident analysis report, Microsoft said the outage occurred due to a utility power sag in Australia’s East region, which in turn “tripped a subset of the cooling units offline in one data center, within one of the Availability Zones.”

As the cooling units were not working properly, the rise in temperature forced an automated shutdown of the data center in order to preserve data and infrastructure health, affecting compute, network, and storage services.

However, Microsoft said that the cooling units could have been restarted manually, which was not possible due to the unavailability of enough personnel at the data center.

“Due to the size of the data center campus, the staffing of the team at night was insufficient to restart the chillers in a timely manner. We have temporarily increased the team size from three to seven, until the underlying issues are better understood and appropriate mitigations can be put in place,” Microsoft wrote as part of the report.

In addition, the company said it is working on other major reforms, such as improving existing automation for the data center to improve restoration of services when an incident occurs.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

4 secret settings for a smarter Chrome Android setup


Hey. You. Yes, you there — the one with your overly moist eyeballs pointed at the screen. What if I were to tell you that that the browser you rely on for all of your web-based exploring on Android had oodles of extra features — top-secret settings that’d add awesome powers into your mobile browsing adventures and make wiggling your way around this wacky ol’ web of ours meaningfully better?

Well, provided you’re using Google’s Chrome browser for Android, that’s as true as true can be. And best of all, it doesn’t take much to uncover all of Chrome’s carefully concealed treasures — if you know where to look.

The four settings on this page will make your Android-based web browsing more powerful, more efficient, and generally just more pleasant. They’re all just sitting there waiting to be found, too — so really, why not take advantage of what they have to offer?

Before we spelunk any further, though, one quick word of warning: All of these settings are part of Chrome’s flags system, which is a home for under-development options that are still actively being worked on and aren’t technically intended for mainstream use. The flags system is meant for expert users and other similarly informed (and/or insane) folk who want to get an early look at advanced items. It also evolves pretty regularly, so it’s entirely possible some of the settings mentioned here may look different from what I’ve described or even be gone entirely at some point in the not-so-distant future.

What’s more, the flags system has loads of advanced options within it, some of which could potentially cause websites to look weird, Chrome itself to become unstable, or even your ears to start spewing a delightfully minty steam. (Hey, you never know.) So in other words: Proceed with caution, follow my instructions carefully, and don’t mess with anything else you encounter in this area of the browser unless you actually understand it and genuinely know what you’re doing.

[Psst: Love shortcuts? My Android Shortcut Supercourse will teach you tons of time-saving tricks for your phone. Sign up now for free!]

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Three-quarters of large US firms now using more Apple devices — survey


Accelerating enterprise adoption of Apple devices feels inevitable, with 76% of large businesses now using more Apple devices, and nine in 10 IT professionals praising the business advantages of Macs, iPhones, and iPads in the workplace.

Those are some of the findings within an extensive Dimensional Research survey that identifies trends for IT use across US enterprises. Commissioned by Apple device management company Kandji, the study sheds fresh light on how Apple hardware is now being used in business, and the benefits they bring.

It follows reports that IDC expects business use of Apple devices to increase rapidly over the coming 12 months.

The fresh data seems to confirm the momentum, with 57% of US businesses agreeing that adoption of Apple devices is growing faster than other options.

As clear as the sun

In part, that’s because of advantages, including reliability (56%) and a longer usable life (53%). Business users like machines that don’t break often and stay usable longer.

Apple’s iPad is the most-wanted tablet system across business IT; it’s requested almost three times as often as Android equivalents and — bad news for Microsoft — almost eight times as sought-after as Surface. Apple’s grip on the mobile enterprise seems to be intensifying.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant tests positive for COVID-19

Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant tests positive for COVID-19

Hawaiian Airlines announced that one of their flight attendants tested positive for COVID-19. The flight attendant originally took the test on March 18. The company said that theirs and the AFA’s paramount concern is the health and well-being of the flight …