What goes around comes around. In fact, the 1990s called and want their browser suite back.
Vivaldi, one of the boutique browsers that fight for scraps left on the floor by Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge, has turned to a strategy reminiscent of Netscape Navigator, the world’s first dominant web browser.
Vivaldi 4.0, which launched earlier this month, added an email client, calendar, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader to the already-available browser, creating the 21st century version of Netscape Communicator, an all-in-one kitchen sink released in 1997. That collection ranged from the browser and email client (Netscape Messenger) to calendar and an HTML editor (Netscape Composer).
The successor to Netscape Communicator was, for those with long memories, the Mozilla Suite (later called the Mozilla Application Suite), which began with the former’s code base.
Vivaldi’s makers have to be hoping for a better ending than Netscape saw; that company not only lost its No. 1 spot to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer but inside of a decade had effectively disappeared from the browser playing field.
Big Tech, bad tech
Vivaldi’s co-founder and chief executive Jon von Tetzchner pitched his grab bag as the answer to Big Tech, the words initial-capped to mimic headline writers referring to the largest firms, like Google and Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, that are facing scrutiny from regulators worldwide. “The era of blindly trusting Big Tech is over,” declared von Tetzchner. “A growing movement of people worldwide is looking for reliable, functional alternatives to the tools offered by the tech giants. We are building Vivaldi to meet that need — and more — with an expanded set of integrated features that give you more control of your data and your workflow.”
It’s an interesting approach, if only because it runs counter to the demise of integrated software, like Netscape Communicator, Apple’s AppleWorks, Microsoft Works, Lotus Jazz, and others.
The Vivaldi browser remains the cornerstone of the new construction. It also remains what von Tetzchner debuted five years ago: a wildly customizable browser that very much went against the grain of austerity that Chrome pioneered, and every major rival adopted sooner or later. Vivaldi’s settings pane is still overloaded with options of all kinds, to the point that those accustomed to the minimalism of the biggest browsers may feel more lost than comfortable.
First-timers are given a helping hand during the browser’s opening moments, when they’re asked to choose between three layouts, essentially how much of Vivaldi 4.0’s new features to surface. “Fully loaded,” for instance puts everyone in the UI (user interface), including the email client and news reader, in view. Users can later add elements from the Settings/Preferences pane, although Computerworld struggled to find the options and had to resort to Vivaldi’s support pages to come up with an answer.
The big add to the browser itself is integrated translation, provided by the Cypriot firm Lingvanex. The translation engine, though, is hosted on Vivaldi’s servers — not Lingvanex’s — which are located in Iceland.
But the trumpeting of Vivaldi 4.0 was loudest about the expansion beyond the browser, notably to the email client, less so to the RSS reader and calendar. All were labeled as betas by Vivaldi.
The client can render both POP3 and IMAP email, and has some skill — Gmail excepted because of Google’s somewhat-self-serving rules regarding non-Google applications and security — at automatically inserting the correct settings to pull messages from third-party providers. Not surprisingly, the email client cannot grab mail from an Exchange server, whether on-premises or on Microsoft’s Azure servers. The end result is a webmail creature with the usual skills, although writing a new message in another tab, rather than have it open in a new window atop the browser, is something others should copy.
Likewise, the reader and calendar will be familiar to users of other online rivals. Neither can match a stand-alone app, but that’s not really the point: If users pick Vivaldi’s suite, it’s because they’re willing to give up something (functionality, feature set) to get something (a centralized experience).
It’s a good idea to remember that Vivaldi characterized the emailer, reader, and calendar as beta projects, meaning that more may well come before they’re dubbed production readyand that the company has an easy excuse when things don’t work properly.
Following CEO Tim Cook’s statements on security at a recent conference, Apple has come out fighting to protect the security of its App Store distribution model, publishing a white paper that argues enforced side-loading of apps would make the platform — and its users — far less secure.
Security isn’t simple
It’s an argument that makes sense. Anyone involved in enterprise security already knows that the biggest security problem in any business is the people in the business. Humans make mistakes, and today’s generations of hackers and crackers have become pretty good at identifying and attacking individuals to help create cracks in the security of larger targets.
Apple’s argument – that permitting unconstrained side-loading of apps from third-party stores would create a new attack surface – makes complete sense. However, legislation currently under consideration in the EU and elsewhere proposes to make side loading mandatory.
It really shouldn’t happen.
What about the Mac, though?
Some argue that this is no different than the security model on the Mac, which permits app installs from a variety of sources. We know the platform has become an increasingly attractive target as its adoption grows.
Apple doesn’t agree that the Mac should be seen as a template for iOS app distribution. It argues not only that the iOS platform is 10 times larger than the Mac, but that there’s a difference in how we use these platforms:
iPhone users download apps on a regular basis, which extends the size of the attack surface.
Mac users tend to install only apps they need.
It also points to the vast stack of uniquely personal data smartphones gather in the event security is compromised. Location, connections, contacts, website searches, documents, data, banking details, and every other fragment of life is gathered on these things.
The nature of this data is both personal and wide-ranging, exceeding the information gathered on Macs. It means that those who manage to take your data from your mobile device can build a complete picture of your pattern of life.
“I believe that what we’ve built and what we’re offering users now is uniformly better, because we can focus in on that smaller attack surface and our stronger protections to help keep users safe,” an Apple representative said.
At the same time, the company has said it sees Mac security in its present form as a problem.
What the App Store model provides
With a goal to protect the user and the ecosystem, Apple’s App Store delivers automated malware scans, vets app descriptions and features for mistruths, and reviews data accessed by the apps. It also makes sure software aimed at children meets a higher standard of protection.
Critics point to Apple’s errors as evidence it doesn’t always get this protection right, but in so doing they also prove the extent of the problem that does exist. If Apple were not policing its platforms, what would the situation be?
Fortunately, we already know the answer.
Android, while moving to adopt more Apple-like security, has 15 times more infections from malware than the iPhone. In part, this is because Android apps can be downloaded from multiple sources.
Apple’s white paper cites research that shows pirated apps published on third-party sites cost developers billions in revenue each year. But distribution of pirated apps isn’t the biggest business to rely on lax platform security models. Those shadowy firms selling iPhone unlocking solutions to law enforcement are making big money from their exploits, but even their bonanza is dwarfed when it comes to the money to be made in malware.
Apple’s data reflects the scale of this. The company has expelled 470,000 teams from the Apple Developer Program over fraud. It has also rejected 205,000 dodgy enrollment attempts.
Another facet of modern Apple crime sees app reviews used to help build trust in apps that may be fraudulent or criminal in intent. Reflecting the scale of this, Apple said it deactivated 244 million customer accounts due to fraudulent and abusive activity, including fake reviews. It also rejected 424 million attempts to create new customer accounts due to what it terms, “fraudulent and abusive patterns.”
The significance of all this data should be clear. It isn’t about looking at what Apple has done to protect its customers and its platforms but is about illustrating the scale of the tide its bulwarks already protect us against.
What happens if…?
In the event sideloading on iOS platforms became mandatory, there would be an instant business opportunity for tens of thousands of malicious developers to create fraudulent apps designed to steal your data, bolstered by millions of fake reviews.
“Malicious actors would take advantage of the opportunity by devoting more resources to develop sophisticated attacks targeting iOS users, thereby expanding the set of weaponized exploits and attacks – often referred to as a “threat model” – that all users need to be safeguarded against,” said Apple.
We know this will happen because it already does happen: Security on every platform is under attack and insisting a platform become less secure by design will unleash havoc on every single company going through digital transformation.
History is not a template
After all, merely because other platforms permit sideloading doesn’t mean that’s the correct decision. It reflects the app distribution models that existed in a far less networked age, when software shipped in packages, on CDs, and on floppy disks.
I can recall at least one incident when a magazine publisher inadvertently distributed a cover disk containing software demos that also contained malware. The relatively recent evolution of Internet distribution of apps reflected those distribution models, but is this really a viable approach when billions of users become vulnerable to being hoodwinked into downloading malicious apps?
I’d argue that side loading of apps should be seen as an inevitable historical anomaly. It reflects a time when the risks were lower, markets smaller, and the information gathered by devices more limited. The scourge of malware on every platform that permits this should be proof enough, and it won’t stop as platforms continue to proliferate.
Today, you have a choice
As things stand, you have a choice. You can choose platforms that permit sideloading, with all the risk that entails. Or you can choose Apple’s curated platform, which is the right choice for anyone who wants the best privacy and security. It’s certainly the appropriate choice for security-conscious enterprise users.
Weakening those models with sideloading will amplify risk across the mobile enterprise. Because humans are the weakest link, and even if every company mandates official app download sources there will be one or two who ignore that advice.
And when it comes to infecting your enterprise systems with worms, trojans, or tiny backdoors to enable data exfiltration, it only takes one successful exploit to undermine perimeter security.
What happens if sideloading is enforced?
If governments force Apple to support sideloading, you can rest assured that bad actors will use every tool in their arsenal to exploit the opportunity. Their creative approaches will span highly targeted phishing attacks, fake app download sites and malware-infested development environments, all bolstered by a network of genuine-seeming reviews designed to reassure suspicious users that these travesties are safe.
The extent of these attacks would be so vast that people will look back to the insane explosion of malware that impacted Windows and Internet Explore in the late 90’s as a golden age of app security. It wasn’t.
Apple will respond, of course, but the damage will be done and the result will be that no user, no business, no government, and no industry will ever be quite as secure again.
Who benefits from that? No one.
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One of the best parts of using a Pixel is the way tasty little specks of Google intelligence get sprinkled all throughout the experience. Those small but significant morsels show off the value of having Google’s greatest ingredients integrated right into your phone’s operating system, without any competing forces or awkwardly conflicting priorities at play.
And Goog almighty, does that make a world of difference. The features in question may not always be the most eye-catching or marketing-friendly advantages, but they’re incredibly practical touches that can make your life easier in some pretty powerful ways.
Today, we’re gonna zoom into an especially possibility-packed area of the Pixel’s software setup, and that’s the Android Overview area. The simple-seeming interface for switching between recently used apps is overflowing with advanced actions on a Pixel phone, and once you discover (or maybe just remind yourself) what’s there, you’ll be saving time and flyin’ around your phone like nobody’s business.
So as a supplement to my popular Pixel Academy e-course — a totally free seven-day email adventure that helps you uncover tons of next-level Pixel treasures — join me for this tour of outstanding and out-of-the-way Pixel Overview gems. Check ’em out, try ’em out, and then come sign up for the course for even more super-practical Pixel awesomeness.
(Note that most of the possibilities on this page require Android 11 or higher to work. That means if you’re still hangin’ onto a first-gen Pixel phone, they won’t be available for you, unfortunately. But don’t despair. You can still find lots of other worthwhile goodies in my Pixel Academy!)
Pixel superpower No. 1: The quick text copy
We’ll start with a simple but supremely helpful feature for copying text from practically anywhere in a snap. You can use it to snag words from something like a web page or a document, sure, but you can also use it to highlight and copy anything from within an image, a screenshot you’d previously saved, or even an area of Android that wouldn’t typically let you select and copy text — like a specific screen within the system settings, for instance.
As long as your phone is running Android 11 or higher, you should see the text in question get selected. And you can then slide your finger around as needed to expand or refocus the selection. If you want to select all of the visible text on the screen, you can also use the relatively new “Select” command at the bottom of the Pixel Overview interface. Either way, once your text is selected, all that’s left is to hit the “Copy” command in the menu that comes up and then do a spritely little jig of celebration.*
At that point, you can head into any other app or process you want — an in-progress email draft, a messaging app, or perhaps a note-taking tool of some sort — and press your finger down in any text editing field to pull up the “Paste” command and send your freshly copied contents wherever they need to be.
* Spritely jig optional but highly recommended.
Pixel superpower No. 2: The speedy text share
In addition to copying and pasting text from anywhere, the Pixel’s Overview interface allows you to share text and send it directly into other apps and processes on your phone. It’s an even easier way to beam the info you need directly to the place where you want it, especially if the final destination is a new email, note, or message (as sharing will typically place the info in question into a new item instead of a draft you were already working on).
Performing this feat is quite similar to pulling off our first bit of Pixel sorcery: Once more, you’ll open up the Overview interface and then press and hold your finger onto whatever text you want to copy within the preview of any recently used app. The only difference is that this time, you’ll select “Share” from the menu that comes up, and then select whatever app you want to send the text to from there.
If what you require is context, you can also select “Search” instead of “Share,” and your Pixel will send the text into a new Google Search instance faster than you can say “Aw, shucks, Siri sucks.”
Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Pixel superpower No. 3: The language-translating genie
Here’s a Pixel power you’d probably never know existed: If you highlight some text within your Pixel phone’s Overview interface that isn’t in your native tongue, your phone will automatically offer to translate the text on the spot for you.
Pixel superpower No. 4: The smooth text operator
This is probably my favorite tucked-away Pixel possibility — ’cause once you get in the habit of using it, it can really be a major step- and time-saver. So here it is: Anytime you’ve got a bit of text that’s associated with an action on your phone, you can highlight it in your Pixel’s Overview interface (using the same process we’ve used in our first few superpowers) and then find a specific option for acting on it in whatever way makes the most sense.
Let’s think through some concrete examples, shall we?
If you highlight a phone number within Overview — in a web page, an email, even a screenshot you captured of something six months ago and just pulled up in the Photos app — your Pixel phone’s Overview spirit will summon up the option to call that number with a single fast tap.
Highlighting an address in Overview will give you the option to beam it over directly into a Google Maps navigation — no copying, pasting, or fussing required.
If you have any ride-sharing apps like Lyft on your phone, you should also see the option to send any addresses directly into them for easy and immediate processing. Those sorts of options are often tucked away within a three-dot menu icon that shows up alongside “Copy,” “Share,” and the other more standard choices, so be sure to look closely to see if they’re available.
When you select a word within the Overview area that your Pixel phone thinks you might not know, you’ll see an option to get a definition for it on the spot.
Hey, Google: Give a guy a little credit, would ya?!
Pixel superpower No. 5: The instant image extractor
This next one’s cool: When you’ve been looking at anything involving an image in an app — a web page, a social media feed, even a screenshot that had photos within it — you can press and hold the image inside your Pixel’s Overview area and then pull it out of the preview for simple sharing or saving.
It’s a spectacular way to save anything you encounter anywhere — even in places where you can’t usually extract images easily — and then zap it over into a note, email, message, or anywhere else you might need it.
Pixel superpower No. 6: The intelligent image searcher
You know how much I love Google Lens, right? Well, you’d be forgiven for forgetting (or maybe failing to notice in the first place!), but Google’s excellent image intelligence technology is built right into your Pixel phone’s Overview area for super-easy searching within images in any apps you’ve been using.
This one’s pretty wild: Just pull up your Pixel’s Overview interface and press and hold any image you see within an app’s preview. That should make “Lens” pop up as an option. And if you tap it, Google’s almost eerily smart system will do a number of different things, depending on the context:
It’ll identify a landmark, a painting, or even a plant or an animal, if one is pictured, and then offer up additional info about that object.
It’ll show you images similar to the one on your screen within Google Image Search along with information and links related to what’s pictured — including even shopping-related links so you can compare prices and purchase the item in the picture, when relevant.
It’ll scan a barcode or QR code for you — no futzing around with third-party software required.
It’ll offer to read text within an image out loud to you.
It’ll offer to send text within image over to a computer where you’re also signed in (in Chrome) for hassle-free cross-platform copying.
And all of that’s just the start of what Lens is capable of doing. Remembering that it’s always standing by and available in your Pixel phone’s Overview area is one of the most efficient ways to tap into its magic.
Pixel superpower No. 7: The simple screenshot machine
Android’s always allowed you to capture screenshots with a quick press of a phone’s power and volume-down buttons, but that key combo isn’t always convenient to activate — at least, not without some serious hand yoga involved.
So make yourself a mental note of this: You can always capture a screenshot of anything by sliding your way over to your Pixel’s Overview area. Ergonomics aside, that gives you the advantage of getting a completely clean and neat image of whatever’s on your screen, without all the usual system interface elements (the status bar, the navigation bar or buttons, and so on) around it.
Just march your way back into that Pixel Overview area and look for the “Screenshot” command at the bottom of the screen.
Tap that bad boy and tap it good, and you’ll be staring at a static image of whatever you last had open by itself, without any extra gobbledygook above or below it.
Pixel superpower No. 8: The app info shortcut
Ever find yourself needing to head into an app’s information screen — maybe to adjust its notification behavior or permissions or even to open up its Play Store page so you can search for an update or revisit some introductory info?
The swiftest way to get there while you’re using an app is to open up the Overview area on your Pixel, tap the app’s icon at the top, and then select “App info” from the menu that comes up.
Fast, easy, and fuss-free. Yes, please.
Pixel superpower No. 9: The speedy screen-splitter
One of Android’s most overlooked features is the system-level option for splitting your screen in half and viewing two apps at the same time. It isn’t something you’re likely to need all that often, but when the right occasion comes along — working on a document while simultaneously referencing a web page or email, for instance, or maybe peeking in at a spreadsheet whilst also staring at photos of Gary Busey (as one does) — good golly, it sure can be handy.
And guess what? That same sweet Pixel Overview area of ours is the key to tapping into that magic.
Just glide your fancy person-feet back into Overview, tap the icon of the first app you want to use in your split-screen setup, and then tap “Split screen” in the menu that appears. That app will move up into the upper area of your screen, and you can then select the second app you want to complete the picture.
Pixel superpower No. 10: The app-pinning possibility
A handy but hidden Android feature I always forget to use is the software’s app-pinning system. Once activated, it lets you lock one specific app or process to your screen and then require a pin or passcode before anything else can be accessed.
The idea is that you could pass your phone off to a friend, a co-worker, or some manner of rabid jungle bird — maybe so they can see a document, look at something on a website, or peck out a quick call while their own tiny bird-phone isn’t handy. And since you proactively pinned whatever app was relevant to that purpose to your screen, you can rest easy knowing the rest of your stuff will remain secure and inaccessible until the phone’s back in your hands.
To get this one going, you first need to fire up the feature within your Pixel phone’s settings:
Swipe down twice from the top of the screen, then tap the gear-shaped icon to open up the system-level settings.
Tap the Security section.
Tap the “Advanced” line at the very bottom of the screen, then tap “App pinning.”
Make sure the toggle at the top of that screen is in the active and on position, and make sure the secondary toggle (“Lock device when unpinning” or “Ask for unlock pattern before unpinning,” depending on your Android version) is also active.
Got it? Good. Now, with that option active, hop back into your Pixel Overview area, tap the icon of any app you want to pin, and look for the aptly named “Pin” option in that adorable little menu.
Tap that, say “Ooga, booga, gherkin, workin’!” for good measure (and for my own personal amusement), and ta-da: That app will be locked in place. To get past it and into anything else, you’ll first have to swipe your finger up from the bottom of the screen and hold it in place for a few seconds, then provide whatever manner of unlocking authentication (PIN, pattern, password, appendage, 14 drops of blood from your pinky toe, etc) is appropriate to continue.
If you’re still using Android’s old three-button nav system, you’ll instead press the square-shaped Overview button to get to the Overview interface, and you’ll press and hold the Back and Overview buttons together from there when you’re ready to unpin.
Pixel superpower No. 11: The pausing power
This next item is another oft-overlooked Android option. It lets you temporarily pause an individual app, which means the app’s icon will get grayed out and the app won’t be able to send you any notifications until either you unpause it or the day ends — whichever comes first. It’s a fine way to give yourself a reprieve from the horrors of social media, the humans of your workplace Slack channel, or whatever other force is demanding too much of your attention during your (allegedly) off-work hours.
The app-pausing power is always just two taps away in your Pixel’s Overview area: Get to that Overview interface, touch your favorite phalange to the icon of whatever app you want to pause, and then press the “Pause app” option. If you decide you want to unpause the app before the day’s done, just find and tap its icon within your home screen or app drawer, and your phone will prompt you to undo the deed.
Pixel superpower No. 12: The fresh start flick
Last but not least in our Pixel Overview superpower collection is an option that’s widely misunderstood and probably used more often than it oughta be. But it’s certainly worth being aware of for the right sorts of situations.
So here ’tis: Whilst viewing any app within your phone’s Overview area, you can flick its card upward to dismiss it from the list. That’ll also dismiss the app out of your phone’s active memory and cause it to start up fresh the next time you open it instead of picking up where you left off, as it normally would.
Despite what some folks believe, there’s really no need to do this as a matter of habit. Android automatically manages its active memory and removes stuff as needed. Because of that, constantly closing everything out as a form of compulsive “cleaning” is both unnecessary and often even counterproductive (since the system will automatically restart anything that needs to be running, which then leads to even less efficient use of resources). But when an app is acting funky or for some other reason requires a reset, this one-two flickeroo is a fine Overview tool to remember.
And remember, too: There’s lots more where this came from. Come join my completely free Pixel Academy e-course for seven full days of delightful Pixel knowledge — starting with some camera-centric smarts and moving from there to advanced image magic, next-level nuisance reducers, and oodles of other opportunities for advanced Pixel intelligence.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time, it’s that here in the land o’ Googley matters, there’s always something new just waiting to be discovered.
Apple introduced Focus at this year’s WWDC. This is likely to be a quite useful tool for any iPhone, iPad, or Mac user attempting to get things done, or trying to put some space between work and personal life.
What is Focus?
Focus is a nuanced version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb tool. It combines the ability to block out unwanted interruptions with contextual awareness and granular controls in a way that Apple hopes will help users remain focused on the tasks at hand.
The tool aims to help people disconnect from digital interruptions, such as work emails during the family meal, messages during a conference call, and all the other intrusions that squander our precious attention during daily life.
Focus is also smart. It uses on-device intelligence to suggest an appropriate Focus setting suitable to your context. When it does so, it will also suggest people and apps that are allowed to reach you once a focus is set.
What does Focus do?
The Focus mission is to optimize your Apple device to be useful wherever you are and whatever you are doing. So, when you are coding, you might need access to email, Xcode, FaceTime, and Safari; when reading, you might prefer no interruptions at all.
Focus also lets you curate customized pages of applications for use in different Focus states (Home, Work, Gym, Driving, etc.)
Does Focus understand time, location and events?
Yes. Focus is also responsive and will apply settings it thinks are appropriate in response to the time of day, on when you enter or leave a location, or to reflect events in your Calendar.
You might have a meeting Focus in which no interruptions are supported; they will automatically begin when you enter a meeting in your Calendar.
Your Home Focus may launch when you arrive at your house.
Or perhaps you have a Lunch Focus that enables Apple News.
Focus lets you customize how and when you want to receive notifications. You may choose to only be notified by family members, colleagues or via apps such as Mail or Slack.
How is Focus smart?
Since Focus is trying to help you separate your work time from personal time, you’ll be presented with different Focus options late at night than you might encounter during the day. In other words, Focus attempts to be smart enough to figure out what you are doing and to suggest appropriate notification and app settings for that use.
Focus will also automatically suggest groups of apps to include (or exclude) from a given focus.
What about Notifications?
Focus ties in well with Apple’s improved Notifications. These have been made easier to read than before and now feature contact photos and larger app icons so you can more swiftly seek those you are most interested in.
Apple has also created a new daily notifications summary that combines all your notifications together inside one intelligent view, with the most important items gathered at the top of the screen. This puts you in control of when you handle your notifications. Notifications also now have new classifications ranging from low to critical.
What about Do Not Disturb?
Apple has integrated Do Not Disturb into iMessage so others can see your status there. Focus is a more nuanced version of Do Not Disturb and also provides a status indicator in Messages to show others you are unavailable.
Where will we find it?
The new Focus settings will be available in System Preferences/Settings. Tap this to find Do Not Disturb alongside Sleep, Personal, Work and other Focus pre-sets, each of which can be adjusted by the user. You’ll also see a Share Across Devices toggle, which must be enabled if you want your current focus to proliferate across all your devices
What about urgent messages and apps?
You’ll still receive messages from those you have told the system you want to hear from. You can define people and apps you want to hear from in the Focus Status and Phone Call settings, which let you choose which apps and people can grab your attention no matter which Focus you have enabled.
What about time-sensitive notifications?
Inside each focus it’s possible to choose which apps can send notifications when the Focus is turned on and the capacity to allow time-sensitive notifications, such as a message to let you know your delivery is about to arrive. I’d think this should be an option you can control in Control Center.
Do I have to set a Focus on every Apple device I use?
No. When Focus is set on one device, it automatically works across all your other devices, so long as they use the same iCloud ID.
What about developers?
Apple has made a couple of Focus-related APIs available — the Status and Time Sensitive APIs. Status lets third-party apps know if they are active in the current Focus, while the Time Sensitive API will deliver time-sensitive notifications and override your Focus settings to do so if required.
When will we get it?
Focus is part of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 and macOS 12 and is expected to ship in Fall.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Apple has made several attempts that nod in the same direction as its new SharePlay service, announced at WWDC 2021. Looking back, you’ll see that Apple has made attempts in what became the social media space, with Ping the most widely known failure.
Of course, Apple’s failures in social media now look like success, given the corrosive impact some services have had. “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has said.
But Apple hasn’t lost interest in finding some way to make use of casual, person-centered, and networked computer communications. That’s the space it’s exploring with SharePlay.
What is SharePlay?
Apple describes SharePlay as a set of tools you can use to share music, TV, movies, and more with other people in real time using FaceTime. The company is climbing aboard a set of trends here, as shared listening and movie watching parties became popular across some age demographics during the pandemic.
These are the primary ways Apple is offering up sharing across its apps in SharePlay right now:
SharePlay supports screen sharing, which becomes a “simple and super effective way to help someone out and answer questions right in the moment,” said Apple SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.
A Shared with You tab makes content such as images, websites, news links and so on available in the relevant apps. You may see an image you recently received in a Messages thread in the Shared with you Tab in Photos, for example.
For Apple TV, SharePlay provides shared playback controls so all participants can play, pause, or jump ahead.
In FaceTime, users can share music, TV, movies, and more with others in real time.
FaceTime calls also extend beyond Apple devices for the first time — anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser on Android and Windows devices.
What about the developers?
Apple has also created an API so developers can build support for their own apps into FaceTime. Right now, the API seems focused on media sharing, which is why the likes of Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, and Twitch are implementing support for SharePlay.
Netflix isn’t, but this seems to be the nature of the times we are in, as hundreds of channels on our cable subscription are replaced by hundreds of digital channels that all want our fee.
Apple’s social media problem
This lack of support for creative collaboration is Apple’s Achilles heel when it comes to social media. Ping’s big problem wasn’t the lack of music or lack of support from artists, it was that Apple made it near impossible to leave any personal content on there. That lack of personality meant Ping lacked personality, which is why it failed.
With SharePlay, Apple has gone a little further toward a personal touch. You’ll be able to interact with people while engaging in shared experiences, though this remains a transient form of sharing when compared to other social networks.
The benefit (for Apple) is a massive reduction in the need for content moderation, while the wider benefit is that troves of the kind of data abused on other social media services does not exist; the cost is a lack of stickiness and engagement.
The popularity of other social media services tells us people like to leave footprints in the sand, which is why they like to share thoughts and ideas in a more permanent way. Without a reason to become deeply engaged, SharePlay (like Ping) risks becoming a service people won’t use, though I think TV/movie listening parties will be popular.
To make SharePlay more interesting, Apple needs to change its mindset. Rather than leaning into consumer markets with this, it should lean more deeply into productivity.
Think how SharePlay might be woven into productivity apps. I can see the value in creative users collaborating on Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, or Logic X projects from within a FaceTime call, for example, just as I can see Office users benefiting from personal interaction while working on projects (which is what Skype and Teams already do).
What needs to happen
If Apple gets a grip on building APIs to exploit SharePlay from within creative apps, the service has a chance to do quite well. It needs to consider the extent to which the world has changed — even in the last 12 months.
After all, just as BYOD and mobility consumerized the enterprise, so too have consumer markets become professionalized. We use the same tools for work and for play, and within that context a product such as SharePlay needs to straddle both enterprise and consumer markets, as the division between both erodes and the categories themselves now reflect a reality increasingly visible in the rear-view mirror.
In today’s connected, distanced, and remote world, we are all consumers, just as we are all professionals. The most successful companies, tools, and services will embrace that reality.
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Just when I thought the G-team had made its messaging service strategy as convoluted as humanly possible, Le Googlé has managed to inject even more messy confusion into its suite of messaging products.
This, my fellow earthlings, deserves some serious recognition. Achieving levels of perplexity this high is a rare feat, and you’d better believe it ain’t easy.
Our latest confounding twist comes courtesy of an announcement earlier this week that Google Workspace — the recently rebranded identity for the entity formerly known as G Suite — will now be available for everyone, whether you’re using a paid company-connected account or a free individual Google account.
With that announcement comes a host of incoming changes to the communication services you know and love and even some changes to the core Gmail interface. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and my own Gmail inbox has been overflowing with questions from bemused and befuddled Google users.
In an effort to answer those inquiries and make sense of Google’s increasingly comical messaging service situation, I thought we’d think through some questions together — questions that’ll help us get to the bottom of what’s actually going on with all of this and what it really, truly means for us as humble Google-using hominids.
So sharpen your fingernails and prepare for some intensive head-scratching: It’s time to get inquisitive.
All right, let’s start simple. What exactly is Google Workspace?
Excellent question, Mr. Watson! Best I can tell, Google Workspace is now the name for all of Google’s productivity apps — Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and so on. With this week’s announcement, that name now applies to anyone using said services, whether you’re a paying business customer or just a regular ol’ individual-account-owning schmo.
Got it. So what exactly is changing, then, Mr. Wizard? Aside from the name?
Here is a screenshot to illustrate what’s on its way to an inbox near you:
Wait, that’s Gmail? My head hurts.
Mine does, too. But that isn’t a question.
Um, okay — so what the fluff is going on there?!
What you’re seeing in that screenshot is a conversation in the Google Chat group messaging system, which used to be called Rooms but is now getting renamed to Spaces, in which multiple people are talking about a spreadsheet from Google Sheets and then working on said spreadsheet right there in the Gmail inbox.
Wait, what? My head hurts.
Again, not a question.
Right. So what exactly is Google Chat again?
Google Chat is the new-ish messaging system connected to Google Workspace. It had previously been available only to paying Workspace customers, but starting now, everyone will be able to use it.
Got it. And what messaging service was in Gmail for individual users right before this?
Most individual Gmail users are still using Google Hangouts, which is the universal messaging service that debuted in 2013 and was meant to simplify Google’s messaging strategy. It launched with the promise that it’d become the “the single communication app” all Google users would rely on.
I see. So Google Chat will handle texting, too, just like Hangouts?
Nope. It’s just for messaging with other people who are also using Google Chat. For SMS-based texting, you’ll want to use the Google Messages service.
Doesn’t Google Messages also have a messaging feature called Chat?
Yes — yes, it does.
Chat is the brand name for the next-gen messaging option available in Google Messages, which relies on the Rich Communication Services, or RCS, standard. It lets you chat with other Google Messages users who have Chat enabled and enjoy a modern-messaging-app-like experience, with active typing indicators, read receipts, end-to-end encryption, and other such niceties.
But the Google Chat feature in Google Messages is unrelated to the Google Chat app?
What the hell is Hangouts Chat, then?!
Hangouts Chat was what Google originally called the Google Chat service (the standalone service that’s getting integrated into Gmail, not the RCS messaging feature within the Google Messages app) when it first launched in 2017.
Wasn’t it supposed to be an enterprise-only tool at that point?
Yes — yes, it was.
So what happened?
That sensible-seeming setup clearly wasn’t confusing enough, so Google changed its mind at some point and turned Chat into an all-purpose, available-to-everyone sort of tool.
When am I supposed to use Google Chat as opposed to Google Messages?
You use Google Chat on days with odd numbers of letters in their names and use Google Messages on days when the nearest visible grass has grown to a length that’s between 1.4 inches and 7.62 centimeters.
Very helpful. Okay, so what’s this stuff about Spaces, again?
Spaces is the new name for Rooms, which is the group messaging feature available within the Google Chat system (which, remember, is now available to everyone within Gmail).
Why is Google changing its name already?
Because Google wants to make sure no one ever fully understands its messaging service strategy and which product is being used at which time.
Wasn’t there already a Google service called Spaces?
Indeed, there was! What a memory you have in that disturbingly moist brain of yours. Google Spaces was an app introduced in 2016 that was supposed to simplify group sharing. It let you create Spaces (get it?) with other people and then share messages, links, videos, and angry koala photos and view all that stuff right then and there in that one interface.
What happened to that?
It was killed less than a year after it launched. Charges are still pending.
Oookay. So what’s going on with video now? Some new video chatting thing is coming into Gmail, too?
Yup — Google Meet, which is Google’s group video conferencing service. It’ll be available in the Gmail website sidebar as well.
Wasn’t Google Meet originally meant only for enterprise use?
It was! But now it’s meant for anyone and everyone to use.
How is Google Meet different from Google Duo?
Well, Google Duo lets you have calls either one on one or with as many as 32 people. Google Meet lets you have calls either one on one or with as many as 100, 150, or 250 people, depending on your Google Workspace plan, and it has some extra presentation-related and work-oriented conferencing options. Google Meet is also more fun to say, because people never know if you’re talking about a video conferencing service or some strange new beef product.
So for video calls involving two to 32 people, which one am I supposed to use?!
You said something about Docs and Sheets and all of that also coming into Gmail. Whaaaat?
Yeah — with the new Workspace setup, you can open documents, spreadsheets, and presentations right within Gmail when someone shares one of those with you in a group chat Room (soon to be known as a Space).
But I can still open those in the usual Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps, too?
What happens if I open something in both Gmail and Docs at the same time?
The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum and destroy the entire universe.
Wait a minute. What’s Google Voice?
Google Voice is a Workspace-related service that acts as a virtual switchboard for your phone number so that you can make and receive both calls and messages on any number of devices.
How does it tie into all of this?
It doesn’t, exactly. It’s just its own separate thing.
So if I’m using Google Voice, can I still use Google Chat?
You can! Google Chat has nothing to do with your phone number, so the two services are totally unrelated.
What about Google Messages and the RCS Chat system within it? Can I use that with Google Voice, too?
No, Google Voice doesn’t support the RCS-based Chat system as of now.
Wait — what?! Why not?
Oof. Okay, back to Workspace. If Workspace is available for everyone with a Google account now, does that mean everyone has to pay for it?
No. Businesses and schools can opt to use a paid Workspace setup, but for regular folk with standard individual Google accounts, everything’s still free — like always.
Cool. At least that’s relatively easy to understand.
Well, I should probably also mention that Google’s now offering a new paid Workspace Individual option for anyone who has an individual Google account but wants to use the business-level Workspace features.
What exactly are those business-level Workspace features?
According to Google’s announcement, they will let anyone with a small business “get more done, show up more professionally, and better serve their customers.”
Can you elaborate any more on that?
Sure! Google also says the Workspace Individual plan will let subscribers “easily manage all their personal and professional commitments from one place with access to Google support to get the most out of their solution.”
Oh, and it gives you a neat Calendly-like scheduling feature.
How am I supposed to know if I need the Workspace Individual plan or if a regular free individual Google account is good enough for my needs?
Sigh. So, okay, is all of this going to show up in Gmail for me right away?
No, silly. The Google Chat integration in Gmail will show up only if you go into the Gmail settings on the website, click the “Chat and Meet” tab, and change the “Chat” setting from “Classic Hangouts” to “Google Chat.”
What will happen to all my old Hangouts info if I do that?
Any messages sent after June of 2020 will show up there automatically. Any messages sent before June of 2020 will appear there at some unspecified future date. Until then, they’ll presumably exist in a virtual vortex that’s closely guarded by a robot named Keanu.
So can I talk to anyone I used to chat with on Hangouts in Google Chat?
No, you can only talk to other people who have Google Chat enabled and/or installed on their various devices.
Outside of people using Chat within a company, how many people that I know are actually gonna be on it?
The number will vary based on how many Google employees you communicate with on a daily basis, but for most average users, I suspect the number is presently somewhere between zero and two.
What about the Docs and Sheets integration in Gmail? Is that available to me now?
Yes! If you switch over to Google Chat, using the setting we mentioned a second ago, you’ll be able to open up documents, spreadsheets, and presentations anytime someone shares one into a Google Chat Room.
Wait, don’t you mean a Google Chat Space?
No, the change from Rooms to Spaces won’t happen until sometime “this summer.”
What are the odds that Google will have introduced at least one other new messaging service by that point?
If I don’t want to use any of this stuff and just want Gmail to be Gmail, can I avoid it?
You can! Just make sure the option for “Chat” in the “Chat and Meet” section of the Gmail website’s settings is set to “Off” and make sure the option for “Meet” in that same section is set to “Hide the Meet section in the main menu.”
What about on mobile? Can I get rid of all the extra tabs Google added to the bottom of my Gmail app?
You can! In the Gmail Android app, just tap the three-line menu icon in the upper-left corner, find and select “Settings” from the menu that comes up, then tap the name of the Google account you want to adjust. Uncheck the box next to “Chat,” say “Expelliarmus!” for good measure, and that entire bar should disappear.
What’s the difference between using Chat and Meet within the Gmail app and using Chat and Meet within their own standalone Android apps?
There is no difference.
So I could conceivably chat with someone in Google Chat within the Gmail app while simultaneously chatting with them in the standalone Google Chat app and also messaging them with the Chat feature in the Google Messages app?
You could, yes, but that’s a fine way to lose a friend.
Hang on a sec. What ever happened to Google Allo?
It was merely a figment of your imagination. Google Allo never actually existed.
Okay, one last question: Is there a service called Google Meat?
If only, my friend. If only.
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With iOS 15, Apple will allow users to upgrade to the new OS or stick with iOS 14 for security updates. At the same time, features in iOS 15 could position Apple for success even after the iPhone becomes irrelevant. Macworld Executive Editor Michael Simon and Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis join Juliet to discuss what it all means.
Apple has indeed been thinking about introducing its own healthcare service backed up by real doctors, the Wall Street Journal confirmed, though plans appear to have stalled.
An Apple a day keeps the doctor in pay
Apple’s interest in the sector goes back years. “Health is a huge issue around the world and we think it’s ripe for simplicity and a new view,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told a May 2016 conference.
Speaking in 2013, Ovum’s then-lead Healthcare & Life Sciences analyst Charlotte Davies told me: “More and more care will be delivered outside hospitals and clinics… mobile devices — from smartphones to monitoring devices — will become increasingly important as the number of patients cared for at home or in sheltered accommodation or other community centers increases.”
Suggesting the scale of the company’s ambition, Cook told the Time 100 Summit in 2019:
“I do think there will be a day when people looking back will say Apple’s greatest contribution to the world was healthcare.”
Cook has consistently returned to this promise ever since.
The company began work on the plan in 2016, when I wrote this.
The subscription-based offer would include provision of access to Apple doctors at health clinics. (I see this as a little like Babylon Health.)
As part of the work, Apple has spent time assessing how data gathered by Apple Watch can be used to improve healthcare.
The plan also included continuous health monitoring, which I imagine would extend to remote healthcare monitoring systems.
The initiative seems to fall under the wing of Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, and is currently managed by Dr. Sumbul Desai, of Stanford University.
We were already aware that Apple controls health clinics near Apple Park. It uses these to test new products, and is also apparently testing its services from there.
Apple has discussed its clinics before, saying they exist as initiatives for internal employee health, and the WSJ report cites Apple’s response to the claims as maintaining that line. The report reveals a secret Apple app called HealthHabit. This is offered to employees to provide chat-based contact with clinicians and to set and meet health challenges.
This combination of remote medical support and gamification of health targets doesn’t appear to have hit the sweet spot, at least, not yet — the report claims low use of the app. Employees just haven’t developed the habit, or so it appears.
It’s also important to consider the necessity of digital transformation in healthcare in order to deliver care on a planet with a growing population and insufficient trained medical staff. The idea here should be that routine tasks can be automated to enable practitioners to handle bigger patient workloads without impacting the quality of care provided.
In practice, of course, it probably just means Big Healthcare will use these efficiencies to maximize gross revenue. The global health insurance market is worth more $3 trillion, which is a tempting market for any company.
Not yet ready for prime time?
The Wall Street Journal seems to believe the effort to create an Apple-branded health service has stalled, but I’m inclined to reject that assessment. My hunch is that for the project to bear fruit, challenges around network coverage and regulatory approval must be resolved, along with Apple’s growing recognition that it treads an increasingly fine balance in which it must avoid over-extending its market power or face regulatory action.
At the same time, Apple’s efforts in privacy, continued sensor and software development, and its network of high street retail stores could all come into play in the event it decided to offer such services.
I expect we’ll see more work emerge as 5G networks proliferate and new health sensors appear. Because in the end, I’m convinced that Apple Watch and other connected wearables will indeed become your personal physician.
Though until access to these solutions is made universally available, health, like privacy, will remain a premium service meant for the many but accessible only to a few.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Google has called quits on the notion of truncating URLs in Chrome, according to a note from earlier this month in the Chromium project’s bug database.
“This experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it,” Emily Stark, a staff software engineer on the Chrome team, wrote in the June 7 entry.
Android Police first reported on Stark’s note June 10.
Stark’s notification, which referred to what Chromium — the open-source project that produces code for Chrome and several other browsers, including Microsoft’s Edge — called the “simplified domain” experiment, put a end to efforts designed to abridge what shows in the browser’s address bar.
In August 2020, Google announced — Stark was one of the trio of engineers who penned the declaration — that it would run trials with some Chrome users that would hide much of a site’s URL. The idea, Google said, was to foil phishing attacks.
“Our goal is to understand — through real-world usage — whether showing URLs this way helps users realize they’re visiting a malicious website, and protects them from phishing and social engineering attacks,” the engineers said.
The trials began with Chrome 86, which launched in early October 2020.
Rather than display all of an URL, Chrome instead condensed it to what Google called the “registrable domain,” or its most significant part. If the full URL for, say, a Computerworld article was https://www.computerworld.com/article/3082024/google-android-chrome-os-flip-flops.html, then the registrable domain — and the only bit that would show in the address bar — would be computerworld.com. By doing so, the thinking went, URLs that tried to obfuscate the domain by padding the actual address with — sticking to the same example — computerworld.com elsewhere in a long string, would be exposed.
Throughout the various versions of Chrome from 86 on, users could enable the URL shortening through settings in the chrome://flags option page if they had not been selected by Google to participate but wanted to see the change for themselves.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the modification was damned by some; long-time users of any browser often take up torches and pitchforks whenever any long-held UI (user interface) or UX (user experience) element is on the change or chopping block.
As of Chrome 91 — which launched May 25 — the browser only drops the https:// from the URL, and the optional settings at chrome://flags no longer exist.
Other browsers, notably Apple’s Safari, continue to use the short, domain-only URLs that Google has now spurned. Edge, however, never adopted the test produced by Chromium, and has continued to turned out full addresses (even including https://).
We reached a big milestone in 2020: Cloud services revenue finally surpassed enterprise spending on data centers, according to the Synergy Research Group. One of the longest-running trends in IT – moving to the cloud – has been turbocharged, driven in part by a pandemic that pushed enterprises to avoid the logistical challenges and capital expense of deploying on prem.
But the endless capacity to add horsepower without provisioning your own infrastructure isn’t the biggest draw. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have become launchpads for the latest technology innovations, which developers can jump on to build innovative new applications. Machine learning libraries? Globally distributed databases? IoT platforms with all the bells and whistles? The big three clouds have ‘em all – ready, waiting, and API-accessible. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’d bother to build and maintain your own datacenter.
That’s exactly what Brunswick, a recreational boating company, wondered. In “Cloud or bust: IT leaders go all in on cloud computing,” CIO contributor Mary Pratt reveals that it took Brunswick a decade to get there, but the company’s IT estate is now 90% in the cloud, using a combination of IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS offerings that has enabled the decommissioning of two data centers. According to Pratt, Bain & Company, DeVry University, and the University of California, San Diego, are all at similarly advanced phases in their cloud journeys. As UC San Diego CIO Vince Kellen says, “cloud is a necessary and eventual transition that just about every organization is going to make.”
Clearly, the pace of that transition kicked into high gear during the pandemic. In “From legacy to the cloud: The 3 stages of enterprise modernization,” UK Group Editor Scott Carey cites Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier’s estimate that, for his customers, the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption by five years. Last year’s great migration to working from home drove a new spike in SaaS adoption, with videoconferencing and other cloud applications enabling remote work. The second and third phases involve embracing the cloud native model and migrating legacy apps to the cloud.
Shifting to the cloud at scale is never easy. Cloud migration means applications must be refactored, cloud costs need to be monitored and optimized, and obtaining cloud expertise requires internal training and/or hiring expensive talent. For companies that use multiple clouds, security is a particularly knotty area, because each of the big three clouds has a different security feature set, increasing the risk of configuration errors. CSO contributor Neal Weinberg digs into the details in “AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Azure: How their security features compare.”
Even something seemingly as simple as moving from an on-prem Exchange Server to one hosted by Microsoft has its challenges. Contributor Jonathan Hassell offers a step-by-step guide born of experience in “Migrating to hosted Exchange: Do’s and don’ts.” It’s a must-read for anyone facing this laborious task.
Rich arrays of pre-provisioned services like these highlight the potential of the cloud to offer platforms for building the future. No, the cloud will never completely replace the data center. But after this past year, the updraft is stronger than ever, as limitless scalability and endless assortments of new services make the cloud increasingly irresistible.
I’ve already focused on some of the bigger announcements made at WWDC this year; here’s a look at some of the smaller (mostly iOS) improvements Apple told us about last week.
Easier iCloud iPhone updates
If you don’t have a great deal of iCloud storage, but want to backup all your data while upgrading to a new iPhone, Apple has made things a little easier. In the future, when you purchase a new device, you’ll be given as much storage as you require to create a temporary backup while moving to the new phone. (The space will be available for up to three weeks.)
This should really help anyone stuck with Apple’s paltry 5GB of iCloud space, and will likely help many enterprises pros in the upgrade process.
You won’t be forced to upgrade
When iOS 15 ships this fall, Apple will give users a choice in the Settings app. You’ll be able to choose between updating to the latest version of the new OS on release or continue to use iOS 14 and all subsequent updates to that OS until you are ready to upgrade.
This is nice to have in terms of consumer choice, but necessary to enterprises — particularly those who must run any software update through rigorous compliance testing before it is installed. Believe it or not, some enterprises need to stay a step or two behind, though most make an exception for security updates.
I don’t think it got a mention during the WWDC keynote at all, but Apple is adding the capacity to create verification codes in Passwords in the Settings app. Made available on sites and services that offer support for this form of verification, this task has been handled by third-party apps until now.
Apple hopes that, by making this a system feature, the use of such codes will be made a lot easier, particularly as they will autofill when you sign into a site. This should be quite useful to enterprises attempting to convince employees to use this kind of protection. Passkeys in iCloud Keychain will also let you replace passwords with Face ID, Touch ID, or a security key.
Find My (switched off) thing
One welcome improvement in Find My (other than the growing AirTags ecosystem) is that the network will now help you find devices that are switched off or out of power. I’m not certain yet how this works and imagine the system will simply show you the last known location of your device before it goes offline.
One more thing: The Hello screen of a device still locked to your Apple ID will show that your device is locked, can be found and is still owned by you. That should make selling stolen Apple devices a little harder.
This should make it much easier to migrate and should help ensure document integrity when making the switch.
Make text bigger
You’ve been able to change text size on your display using a Control Center tool since iOS 14, but these changes are applied system wide and don’t always look great. In iOS 15, Apple has streamlined the process so you can apply this change to a specific app.
So if you find you’re squinting when using an app, you can set the iPhone to make the text larger only in that app. This appears as a small slide bar at the bottom of the Text Size controller. Many may also welcome the gentle return of the text magnification loupe which makes it easier to see where the cursor sits when you press your finger against the screen. You can also customize bold text, contrast. and colors Settings on a per-app basis.
A trick Apple didn’t miss
Despite now enabling Apple users to speak with people on other platforms (inside a browser), FaceTime is unlikely to ever regain the space it lost to others in video collaboration as a result of not being a cross-platform tool. That decision was and will always be a mistake.
That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t have other good ideas, of course – and that’s certainly what the Mute warning that appears on your screen when you try to talk while muted during a FaceTime session seems to be. If only every video collaboration service had something similar.
How many times have you joined a chorus of everyone in your Zoom or Teams meeting to shout the now immortal words, “You’re muted!” This is one others should adopt.
This could be useful. Starting in iOS 15 you’ll be able to enter coupon codes in the Apple Pay. While I think customers will welcome this, it also means B2C enterprises focused on Apple’s ecosystem may want to consider whether there’s an opportunity for loyalty and marketing in this support.
Apple continues to impress when it comes to backwards compatibility. iOS 15 is no exception, as the company has exceeded expectations and will make the system compatible with every iPhone that runs iOS 14, including the iPhone SE and iPhone 6S. What I find remarkable about this is that it means Apple has massively extended the support window; I can still recall when Apple support for the iPhone SE with iOS 13 was significant. True, not every feature will work on every device, but it does mean iOS 15 will work on systems up to six years old. No one else can offer this.
A Mail widget (that could improve)
A new Mail widget is introduced in iOS 15. This provides a glance at your latest incoming email from one of your mailboxes on the Home screen. My take? While I welcome this as a way to stay on top of what’s happening using your iPhone, I think this would be more useful as a widget that acted as a gateway to your VIP emails, which would ensure the messages you see are those most important to you.
Fingers of fun
You can now drag and drop a file between apps using the App Switcher and you’ll be able to copy images, documents, and files between apps.
To do so, just long press on the item and use a second finger to open another app and let go of the item you’re bringing so it drops into the new app. You can also long press on content; it will appear to stick to your finger and as you drag it around you’ll see cues to show what you can do.
I’ve a feeling this will be useful to people who have been saving items to Files to open and edit in different apps, as many do.
All of these improvements are coming later this fall.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Make no mistake: moving from an on-premises Microsoft Exchange deployment to Exchange in the cloud is a gargantuan undertaking. Earlier this year, I explored the major issues you’ll need to consider and decisions you’ll need to make when moving to hosted Exchange.
But for most folks, further guidance is necessary. What are some of the gotchas to watch out for? What are some best practices to factor into your planning? Here, I’ll take a look at several important do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting your organization into Exchange Online.
Note: This story focuses on migrating from Exchange Server on-premises to some version of Microsoft’s hosted Exchange service (under an Exchange Online, Office 365, or Microsoft 365 subscription), or to a hybrid configuration with the “365” apps in the cloud and Exchange remaining in some fashion on-premises in production. It is not intended to apply to migrations to other providers’ services.
Don’t underestimate the time it will take to move all of your data over.
Depending on a number of factors, including how many users you have, how much data each mailbox has stored, bandwidth constraints, and more, migrating email to the cloud can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. One unexpected slowdown may come from Microsoft itself: a non-obvious protective feature of Exchange Online is that it throttles inbound sustained connections in order to prevent a small number of bad actors from overwhelming the system.
Once you’re up and running and fully in the cloud for production, you will come to appreciate this defense, which works for the benefit of the general subscription base. But when you are trying to ingest data you will see transfer rates sometimes slow to a crawl. There’s unfortunately little you can do about this other than simply endure. Be sure to include this in your planning, as moving hundreds or thousands of multi-gigabyte mailboxes into Exchange Online may take a lot longer than you might expect.
Do use a delta-pass migration.
Reduce the time pressure on yourself, if you can, by using a delta-pass migration rather than a strict cutover migration. With delta-pass migration, multiple migration attempts are made while mail is still being delivered on-premises. The first pass might move everything from Sunday, May 1 backward, for example, and then another pass is made later in the week to move the “delta” — or changes — from Sunday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 4, and then another and another until essentially the mailboxes are up to date.
This is a useful technique, as each successive migration batch is smaller than the last. Typically over a weekend, your last delta batch will finish in a few minutes, and then your moves are complete and you can throw your MX records over to Exchange Online. Your users never experience missing historical mailbox data, because until the mailboxes are identical, they use the mailbox that already holds their data.
Don’t forget to configure edge devices and intrusion detection systems to recognize Exchange Online as a trusted partner.
Any performance issues the tool finds will almost certainly have a negative impact on the speed of your migration attempts and passes. Solving or mitigating any issues you find will speed up the entire project.
In a hybrid environment, do use the EAC in Exchange Online to initiate mailbox moves.
If you choose a hybrid model for your deployment, then you will by definition have some mailboxes on-premises (at least for a time) and some in the cloud. In this scenario, it can be tempting to trust your old go-to Exchange Management Console to do all of your mailbox move work, shifting mailboxes to and fro. Don’t give in to that temptation; it’s best to pull mailboxes into the cloud from the web-based EAC in the Microsoft 365 administration center, rather than using outdated on-premises tools.
Don’t forget about Outlook client version updates.
Updating an office suite across a large enterprise is no easy task and takes a while, which means there’s often a prevalence of older copies of Outlook among your users. When you control your Exchange deployment, that’s fine, because you control the timing of your moves.
But one of the “side gotchas” that comes with using the cloud is that someone else gets to decide the baseline level of software that will work with its services. Microsoft is really pushing everyone toward the subscription-based Office suite (Microsoft 365 or Office 365) and away from the old per-user perpetual volume licenses with the year attached (Office 2013, 2016, or 2019, for example).
So don’t forget about developing a plan to update your clients to Office 2016 or beyond, or move to a subscription license and deploy those apps instead of the volume license editions.
Do plan to implement two-factor authentication.
One of the biggest advantages to moving to Exchange Online and Microsoft 365 is the ability to use all of the new security features available in the cloud, the most important of which by far is the ability to turn on two-factor authentication. 2FA reduces your attack surface significantly as soon as you turn it on, and since Microsoft has done all of the rewiring of the directory and Exchange security model on its servers to make it work, all you have to do is flip the switch and show your users where to plug in their mobile phone numbers.
In a hybrid environment, don’t remove your last Exchange Server.
One cardinal rule of operating a hybrid Exchange environment is that you must keep at least one Exchange Server running on premises in order to manage users. There exists a way to continue to use the Active Directory attribute editing functionality to manage recipients, but it’s not really supported — and if it breaks, you’ll have to file a ticket with Microsoft, wait three days, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll come back.
It is much easier to use the Exchange admin console of your on-premises server to manage recipients in a hybrid environment, and you can’t do that unless you leave an Exchange Server running in your on-premises deployment. Microsoft has repeatedly said it’s working on a solution to this issue of having to have an existing licensed server on-prem with hybrid deployments, but even after several years there’s been little progress toward solving that problem.
The last word
A transition time is always challenging, and that’s certainly true when migrating your organization to Exchange Online. By factoring in the advice and warnings above, you’ll make that path smoother and reach the finish line more quickly.
One of the biggest surprises of WWDC 2021 was Apple’s introduction of iCloud+, an upgraded version of its existing service available at no additional charge that provides secure emailing and VPN-style security for users.
iCloud just became a useful business tool
The introduction of these features will transform iCloud into a very useful remote business tool, though it will be interesting to see whether all these features will be available to enterprise folks making use of Managed Apple IDs for their business tools. For the present let’s assume they will, given the deep value they promise to those in that sector.
These new tools mean iCloud-using employees:
Won’t see email opening activity tracked by invisible pixels as explained here with Mail Privacy Protection.
Will be able to sign-up for mailing lists using fake email addresses.
Gain access to a built-in VPN with iCloud Private Relay.
Can create domain-based email addresses.
A game of cat and mouse
Apple will continue to invest in these protections. Apple’s Crag Federighi, vice president of software engineering, confirmed that Apple sees cybersecurity as an ongoing challenge, telling Fast Company:
“The incentives for ‘innovation’ in the exploitation world are high, and so there is a lot of advancement in the art of tracking; a lot of advancement in the arts of security exploits. And so, in both areas, we think there’s going to continue to be a cat and mouse game. We think we bring a lot of tools to that fight, and we can largely stay ahead of it and protect our customers. But it’s something we recognize as a battle we will be fighting for years to come.”
In a sense, Apple’s decision to secure its platforms reflects the reality that it is becoming a more viable target as its place in the enterprise grows.
“As a result of its growth in the enterprise, Apple devices are now a bigger security threat target,” Jamf Senior Manager Garrett Denney writes.
“This, coupled with remote work and schools accessing sensitive cloud resources, enhanced the demand for even greater Apple platform security. And with enhanced security comes the need to balance data privacy protections and the end-user experience across a number of contexts. New privacy-centric features like Hide My Email and Private Relay put user privacy at the forefront, enabling privacy protection regardless of where devices are being used.”
Star of the show: iCloud Private Relay
Private Relay is a built-in internet privacy service that exists inside iCloud. It is designed so that you can connect to and browse the web using Safari in a highly secure way, protecting both the site requests you make and the places you visit from being identified.
This encrypts traffic (such as web destinations) leaving your device, making the requests unreadable, even by Apple or the network provider.
It works like this:
When you make a request, it is encrypted and then sent through two separate internet relays;
The first Apple-operated relay provides you with an anonymous IP address that maps to your region, but not your actual location.
The second relay, owned by a third-party, decrypts the web address and forwards you to that destination.
The magic here is that by splitting the information up in this way, no one can see both who a user is and which sites they choose to visit. Apple can only see the IP address you request from, while third-parties can only see the website you request.
The system raises the bar for personal security by hiding who is browsing and where the data is coming from; it effectively means you now have a free VPN in Safari.
In a WWDC presentation, Apple explained that Private Relay will also include DNS queries and some traffic from apps.
What will work with iCloud Private Relay?
Apple says iCloud Private Relay will work with:
All Safari web browsing;
All DNS queries as users enter site names;
All insecure HTTP traffic.
What won’t work with iCloud Private Relay?
Apple also said iCloud Private Relay will not work with:
Local network connections;
Private domain name queries;
Internet traffic via proxy;
Anyone pretending to be in a different region.
Federighi says that classic VPN protection means you must put trust in your provider.
“And that’s a lot of responsibility for that intermediary, and involves the user making a really difficult trust decision about exposing all of that information to a single entity.”
In other words, Apple’s system may be better than a VPN, as while VPN providers know who you are and what you see, Apple doesn’t have that information. Such protection seems a necessary step, given the number of unsavory and untrustworthy VPN services that seem to exist.
At its simplest, it makes targeting an Apple user much harder, which also makes doing so far more costly. This should reduce the overall risk environment, though one should never take security for granted.
You’ll use Hide My Email
Loosely built around Sign in with Apple, Hide My Email lets you share unique, random email addresses that forward messages to your personal inbox, rather than sharing your actual email address. This tool, which is built-in to Safari, iCloud Settings and Mail, is far better than the ad hoc alias system we’ve used until now that’s controlled in iCloud online. It also lets users create and delete as many addresses as required.
Put simply, it means you and your Apple-device-wielding employees now have an unlimited supply of burner email addresses you can use when security matters.
We don’t have much detail on this yet, but it will be interesting to see whether this extends (or can subsequently be extended) to managed Apple IDs for use in business.
The Digital Legacy tool
Do you remember the old day when in the event a senior employee passed away it might have been impossible to get the strategy document they were working on off their device — even with help from their grieving family?
This shouldn’t be a problem anymore with Digital Legacy. This lets users appoint relatives or friends as people permitted to access digital data such as photographs and other personal data left in a person’s iCloud account after they pass away.
To set the feature up, a person must specify who can access the account in the event of their death. These Legacy Contacts will then be able to access that account, though they will have to go through a verification process of some kind, details of which are not currently clear.
We think there will be a lot more to learn concerning iCloud+. After all, the notion of a “plus” service means there will still be a basic service, and I can’t help but wonder whether that might see the free 5GB service maintained but slightly enhanced.
There are also some useful changes in the recovery feature, which will now permit you to assign friends or family members who you can trust to receive security codes on your behalf if you lose your device.
The prices remain the same: 50GB storge with one HomeKit Secure Video camera (99 cents per month), 200GB with up to five HomeKit Secure Video cameras ($2.99 per month), and 2TB with an unlimited number of HomeKit Secure Video cameras ($9.99 per month).
The number of cameras used to max out at five, and the storage for those cameras no longer counts against your iCloud limit. Existing iCloud users (presumably those on paid tiers) will be upgraded to iCloud+ this fall when iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey ship.
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