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Apple’s message for everyone: Keep up

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Three weeks after Apple unveiled its new MacBook Pro laptops, orders for virtually all models still extend out for weeks — as they have pretty much from the start. If you didn’t order right away on Oct. 18 or manage to snag one in an Apple store after Oct. 26, you’ll be waiting a while.

Supply chain issues are part of that problem, but the long-awaited transition from Intel’s chips to Apple’s custom ARM-based system-on-a-chip also highlighted the built-up in demand for true pro-level hardware. And make no mistake, the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are pretty much everything Apple users would have wanted, sporting both high-performance/high-efficiency cores, up to 64GB of RAM, a variety of GPU core options, and benchmarks that basically shout Apple’s underlying message to the industry as a whole: keep up.

There’s a reason the Apple event was called “Unleashed.”

The performance/power problem

For years, there were rumblings that Apple execs weren’t particularly happy with the power/performance ratio of Intel’s processors. The performance-per-watt ratio was never quite good enough. Intel chips that ran cool enough to use in a MacBook Air, for instance, were never considered high-performers. And the company’s more powerful chips consumed too much power and generated the heat to match. (That’s a bad combo for laptops.) Each chip from Intel forced a compromise Apple engineers had to design around, leading to Apple’s own foray into chip design.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max improve on the already impressive M1 chip that debuted last year in the 13-in. MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. (Apple still sells the smaller MacBook Pro, but it lives in the shadows now of its big brothers.) The new 14-in. and 16-in. MacBook Pros are meant specifically for business and power users and offer more than just multi-core SOCs: there’s also the 16-core Neural Engine, ProRes hardware accelerators (for high-end video editing), 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of unified memory, up to 8TB of high-speed storage, mini-led ProMotion displays, and a battery that can last the entire workday.

That’s just the hardware side: Because Apple wrote macOS Monterey specifically to take advantage of the custom hardware, the MacBook Pros deliver performance at unprecedented efficiency. And while there are still computers that are technically faster, there aren’t any that can match Apple’s performance-per-watt. These new Macs seem to defy logic and the age-old expectation that more power always means more heat and less battery life.

Intel couldn’t keep up, and so it’s been left behind. Now, it’s up to macOS developers to make sure they’re not left behind, too. They have to keep up, too.

Developers have work to do, too

Since Apple Silicon is an entirely different hardware architecture, existing applications need to be recompiled, at best, or rewritten, at worst, to fully take advantage of what Apple has delivered. Apple offers Rosetta 2, a compatibility wrapper that enables most x86 Mac applications to run seamlessly on Apple Silicon. Most end users won’t (or at least, shouldn’t) notice; their apps should just work as-is (and some will actually run faster on Apple Silicon, even with the Rosetta 2 translation layer). As developers bring their software fully in line with the M1 chips, their apps should see substantial performance gains.

There are limits to the Rosetta 2 compatibility. Not everything will run; virtual machines and apps designed around kernel extensions won’t function properly, or at all. That’s why software developers can’t rely on Rosetta 2 as anything more than a stop gap; it’s not a good idea to leave your users hanging for too long. Big players such as Adobe and Microsoft are already making the transition to Apple Silicon; many others have pledged support, and the stragglers will get there eventually — or they’ll be replaced by alternatives. Given the speed with which Apple is innovating on the hardware side, I wouldn’t wait long if I were a developer.

Apple learns some lessons

The last time Apple released a new notebook, I remember being disappointed as both a longtime Apple user and as a Mac admin. I wanted to want one, but I didn’t. The updates Apple offered in the previous generation of MacBook pros didn’t fit my needs. I was never a fan of the Touch Bar technology, thought the butterfly keyboard serviceable, didn’t like losing the MagSafe connector, and really didn’t like that Apple eliminated all of the port options that put Pro in MacBook Pro. While that MacBook Pro line sold well, the complaints persisted. That’s why all of the changes in the new models are so welcome.

It’s why, unlike the last model, I very much want one of these. And I keep wondering: if Apple can get this much performance out of the MacBook Pro, what’s the desktop Mac Pro going to be like?

Get busy, admins

Mac admins also have to keep up, too: these new laptops mean MDM solutions and business-critical apps need to be tested to make sure they play well with macOS Monterey. And the arrival of the M1 Pro and M1 Max models means admins have another set of hardware to test compatibility for. While any Mac admin worth his or her salt should have been testing for Monterey compatibility since WWDC, the process of ensuring Apple Silicon hardware is compatible with existing deployments can no longer be ignored.

Reminder: it’s no longer possible to purchase a MacBook Pro with an Intel chip.

And while Intel Macs will be supported for many years to come, Apple Silicon is here, and it’s the future — ready or not.

No change is without pain, and while Apple’s transition to a new chip architecture will cause issues in some production environments, these are good problems to have. The hard part for chipmakers, hardware rivals, developers and Mac admins will be keeping up with Apple now that it is, indeed, unleashed.

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Jamf CEO welcomes Apple Business Essentials

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Apple arguably jumped inside the rapidly evolving Apple device management space when it introduced Apple Business Essentials this week. But how do people in the industry feel about the company’s debut?

Jamf CEO welcomes the opportunity

“When Apple innovates, Jamf celebrates,” Jamf CEO, Dean Hager said, on learning about Apple Business Essentials. “We believe this expected announcement is good news and presents Jamf with a terrific opportunity.”

Analyst Horace Dediu notes that the addressable market is effectively about 212 million businesses worldwide, with around 31 million in the US alone. Most of these smaller entities run their IT in a fashion that’s more like consumer markets than enterprise, notes Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Milanesi thinks Apple’s entrance into the market may be a problem for Apple MDM vendors such as Jamf, but sees opportunities for them to enhance Apple’s basic offer in other ways. That’s also what Hager thinks.

Jamf, which announced an impressive set of Q3 results Nov. 11, has always existed alongside Apple. Hager noted several times during the last decade when industry watchers thought Apple moves might damage his business: Once when Apple introduced MDM in 2010, again in 2011 with Profile Manager, later with Apple Configurator, and more recently with Apple Business Manager.

Bridge the gap

Hager argues that in each of those cases Jamf’s business grew as it worked to bridge the gap between what Apple offers and the sometimes more specialized needs of enterprise customers.

Speaking during the fiscal call, Hager shared some information concerning larger clients, some of whom moved to Macs on the strength of Apple’s M1 chips. These examples also included large-scale deployments, such as 100,000 devices in use in the airline industry and the iPads used during the recent SpaceX space flight.

It is arguable that these deployments represent more specialized requirements that become typical in businesses once they grow beyond a certain level and need more complex solutions than Apple, at least presently, provides.

Hager also thinks his company’s growing portfolio of security and education-focused products gives it extra ammunition to help businesses using Apple products. Jamf has also built market-tested solutions for zero-touch deployment, support for Microsoft Azure, and more.

It wasn’t a surprise

Apple’s move wasn’t a huge surprise. The company had been expected to introduce something of this nature since it acquired smaller MDM provider Fleetsmith in 2020.

Apple had to improve its business management offer, argued Hager. Business users needed an entry-level tool, and Apple needed a more equal footing with other solutions aimed at businesses of that size.

The company’s existing Apple Business Manager can be seen as a little too complex for small businesses, he said. Apple Business Essentials will make it easier, which should help further accelerate SMB adoption of Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV.

Apple’s move also gives it a more equal footing in contrast to Surface and Chromebook when it comes to remote wipe of business data. Hager cited (but did not share) first-hand Jamf data that shows some small businesses resist moving to Apple systems because of challenges of that kind.

“These problems needed to be solved,” he said. “This is going to raise Apple’s profile in business. The weakest spot for Apple in business has always been for the small businesses who just want to get started.”

Addigy also sees opportunity

Addigy CEO Jason Dettbarn also seems positive about Apple’s move. “This announcement demonstrates Apple’s commitment to Apple at work and heavy investment in the robustness of MDM protocol for Apple MDM vendors like Addigy,” he said. Business Esssentials “provides a great jumping off point for customers to adopt Apple” and then move to more sophisticated systems as they need them.

Apple is arguably striking the market at a pivotal moment.

Leading from below

The move to hybrid working has put employee choice even higher up an agenda in which most new employees now prefer Macs. This has driven big investment in Macs for business. IDC claims that in Q3 Apple shipped more Macs than in any quarter in history with a growth rate double that of the industry. This is a sustained pattern, making Mac the fastest-growing computer over seven quarters, a growth rate approximately twice the industry.

Moving forward, nothing has changed, said Hager.

“We are going to fill the gap between what Apple builds and the enterprise requires,” he said. “We see Apple Business Essentials customers as a new market of new small business coming up, and we will ensure our additional products sell well into that base and add extra value. We’ll give them a path forward into more robust and scalable solutions.”

In the event Apple’s moves help generate continued growth for its platforms in enterprise markets, then business users now enjoy a feast of integration providers capable of supporting that migration, with Apple supporting the smallest operations, and bigger partners such as Jamf, Addigy or SAP, helping to support platforms that had almost zero enterprise market share 10 years ago.

Things have changed since 2010.

“I don’t believe you can be a credible provider of enterprise software if you’re not part of the Apple ecosystem today,” says Jeetu Patel, general manager and executive vice president, Cisco security and collaboration.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

A handy hack for the Pixel’s new shortcut system

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All right, Pixel pals: We’ve talked about plenty of buried treasures you can dig up on your oh-so-Googley phone, thanks mostly to Android 12’s arrival. But there’s one fancy new feature you can make even more useful with a quick bit of crafty customization.

I’m talkin’ about the Quick Tap system introduced on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro last month and also now available on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.

Quick Tap, in case you haven’t yet discovered it, is a splendid new shortcut system connected to physical presses of your favorite phalange. Once you set it up, you can simply tap twice on the back of your Pixel’s body to trigger a specific action on the phone.

Nifty, no? I sure think so. It’s a smart time-saver and a fantastic way to create your own fast-access shortcut to whatever function you want. The problem is just that the list of available options is annoyingly limited as of now, and what’d be the most practical and logical shortcut for that setup — especially for those of us with the new Pixel 6 models — is missing in action.

As with most things on Android, though, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I’ve come up with a super-simple method for enhancing the Pixel’s Quick Tap feature and making it do the one obvious, impossibly helpful thing it won’t do now.

[Psst: There’s lots more Pixel magic where this came from. Check out my free Pixel Academy e-course to uncover tons of advanced intelligence lurking within your current Pixel phone!]

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

How Pixel users can get the most out of Android 12

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Computerworld | Nov 8, 2021

By rolling out some Android 12 features exclusively to Pixel users, Google can separate its own devices from the rest of the Android pack. Plus, Android 12 and the new Pixel 6 both purport to have privacy-centric changes. Computerworld Managing Editor Val Potter and Contributing Editor JR Raphael join Juliet to discuss Android 12 and how it performs on the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Review: The new 16-in. MacBook Pro is Apple to the core

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Apple’s new MacBook pro laptops were unveiled just three weeks ago, and have been in users’ hands for only two. Having spent a week using one of the 16-in. versions, I can say it represents a huge leap for Apple’s computer platform by tying together all of the elements of the company’s computing vision.

How the MacBook Pro performs: the TL;DR

  • Performance data confirms Apple’s launch claims; it’s fast.
  • Battery life and performance mean you can achieve much more with these Macs.
  • You effectively end up with a reference monitor in your backpack.
  • You’ll hardly ever hear the fan; these Macs run cool.
  • Desktop performance on the go that’s as effective in the office as in the field.
  • An overall triumph of design and execution, from the processor to the OS.
  • Apple’s move to M-series processors raises the status of its entire Mac fleet.

Astonishing performance

I’ve been working with the mid-range 16-in. model equipped with an M1 Pro chip that has a 10-core CPU, 16 GPU cores, and 16GB of unified memory. It costs $2,699 (and is available to the same specifications in a 14-in. model for $2,499).

Cast your mind back to the late 2019 MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i9-9980HK chip; it yielded Geekbench scores of 1,087 (single-core) and 6,823 (multi-core). Then recall the M1-based 13-in. MacBook Pro from last year; it achieved 1,706 (single-core) and 7,385 (multi-core) scores. (The M1-based MacBook Air hit similar numbers.)

I couldn’t quite believe the data I generated with Geekbench testing on this MacBook Pro: On average across five tests, the new Mac hit 1,755 (single-core) and 12,547 (multi-core). That’s as good as a late 2017 iMac Pro or an entry-level late 2019 Mac Pro — in a system you can carry under one arm.

This performance boost reflects how Apple configured the cores on these chips. As part of Apple’s processor evolution, it turned an additional two cores on these systems into high performance cores. That move is reflected in these results.

You’ll get work done faster

What that performance means is significant. Put simply, if your work involves using computers at peak performance to get development, design, video, or scientific research calculations done, these new Macs will help you get work done faster. On an individual basis, that’s significant, but if your company runs fleets of machines, you may well see significant cost savings and productivity increases over time if you deploy these.

At least one developer said his company will see these Macs pay for themselves in terms of productivity benefits within three months of deployment. Many developers are deploying these Macs because they are significantly more capable than existing laptops. I’ve also seen reports that claim significant application speed increases on these Macs. (Developers can also now use Apple’s TestFlight to distribute application betas to Macs.)

Apple and others have published numerous statistics to explain the performance advantages.

  • If you work in post-production or video, you’ll benefit from 1.7x the rendering speed when working in 8K video.
  • Software developers migrating to these Macs are seeing Xcode compile and project building speeds double.
  • 3D artists claim 2.5x faster rendering using Redshift.

There are other statistics available, but what these three have in common is that each represents  professional tasks in which the speed of the Mac makes a real difference in how quickly a project moves forward. These machines reduce the inherent productivity constraints put in place by the time it takes your computer to accomplish tasks.

Shhhh. Quietly goes the work

I still haven’t heard the MacBook Pro’s fan. To push it, I’ve created 500 loops (basically the same loop copied over and over) of audio in Logic, tried out some video editing and transitions in Final Cut X, and  pretended to compile sample code in Xcode. I’ve used email, opened multiple Safari windows, and left all the creative apps running in the background. I even considered running Chrome, but since that browser probably hasn’t yet been optimized to play nice on these Macs, I held off. I tried all these things together along with downloading a movie, watching “Foundation” and making a Facetime call to my partner. (She was in the room next door and told me to stop being weird.)

No fan noise.

I am certain it is possible to make these fans start up. I’ve certainly read about it. But I couldn’t make it happen myself. I even opened System Preferences > Battery and enabled High Power Mode.

macOS Monterey Battery System Preference Apple

The Battery System Preference in macOS Monterey allows you to choose how much power the CPU devotes to tasks.

I’m guessing if the late CEO Steve Jobs is watching from the afterlife, he’ll feel pretty good, given he always aspired to fanless Macs; in this configuration, Apple is providing close to that even while doing computationally demanding tasks.

This is also reflected in energy consumption. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 99.6-watt-hour-lithium-ion battery held up. What I’ve learned suggests that if you are a video professional and you take one of these Macs outdoors to work on a project, your computer will probably hold up for a day. Apple claims 21 hours of battery life. Again, that will change depending on what you are doing. Photographer Austin Mann describes the battery life as putting these Macs on “a radically different planet.” He believes it’s so good that pro users like himself will begin to use their Macs to do tasks in the field they would have avoided unless connected to power. Not only will the tasks you already do on battery power get done faster, but you’ll begin to do more tasks because the battery lasts longer.

While previous MacBook Pros delivered better performance when connected to power, there is no performance difference in these models when running on the battery alone. Apple published a series of charts to show you can expect maximum performance for less battery life, and says you’ll match the GPU/CPU performance of any 8-core PC chip while using 70% less power on an M1 Pro Mac.

Think about that.

Anyone running a fleet of PCs could see significant reductions in their energy expenditure after a move to Apple Silicon. Larger companies may also unleash measurable reduction in carbon emissions. I have spent time attempting to clarify just how much energy the Mac consumes to estimate the impact of that but haven’t found the data yet. The reason this matters is that the M1 Mac mini is significantly cheaper to run than preceding Macs. I see no reason to think this will not be the case here, though energy consumption does reflect use. Apple will likely publish energy consumption data soon.

A reference display in my backpack

Have you ever watched a movie at a 90-degree angle to the screen on your Mac? Now you can. The 254ppi XDR display on these Macs is phenomenal. Essentially, it’s a reference monitor you can carry with you. This is a great experience for any user, but if you use your Mac for color correction, film, design, photography, or other creative tasks, it’s going to vastly improve your working life with its color accuracy. Those 7.7 million pixels add spark to anything you see on screen.

You might not notice the 120Hz refresh rate, not because ProMotion doesn’t add anything to the experience but because you won’t be aware it is there. What I saw is that items on the display seem smooth when you scroll through them, images are finely detailed, and I enjoyed deeper blacks, brighter whites and colors that bounced off the screen. The Liquid Retina XDR display is rated at 1,600 nits, which is bright, and offers a million-to-one contrast ratio. This is a nice to have for most people, but is a thing of brilliance and wonder to creative professionals working with fully optimized content — particularly video, architecture, or medical imaging professionals. (Your spreadsheets will also look better.)

The display also has built-in reference modes that make grading HDR content seamless.

Notch a problem?

I’m completely unconcerned about the notch at the top of the screen on these machines. While I appreciate that a very small number of the professional users who need one of these Macs may use multiple Menubar icons, I don’t believe many will run into a real problem. I also appreciate that some applications may not yet be optimized to handle the notch, but the ones pros use probably soon will be, and Apple has a setting to help manage that. In my opinion, the fact that the notch has become the primary criticism of these new Macs shows us what a supremely limited palette of criticism exists.

14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 notch

Of course, the notch is only one aspect of these Macs. We also get the welcome return of a full-sized, proper keyboard that seems much more substantial than the butterfly keyboard it replaces. While I liked the Touch Bar, I had missed keys that work reliably much more. This swap — and the mood-matching backlit keys — make the MacBook Pro a more reliable system. That we at last have a 1080p FaceTime camera and better Wi-Fi connectivity just sweetens the deal.

(Apple has also created some machine vision intelligence algorithms that mean you get a better image in low light conditions with less graininess and more detail in the shot.)

Some may recall the praise heaped upon the built-in mic and speaker system in the 2019 MacBook Pro. All of this remains in the new edition and has been improved with more bass output across a wider range of frequencies, with clearer sounding audio in the mid- and high range. That means this Mac delivers real “oomph” for audio playback, supports spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, and has a three-mic array that’s  sufficiently sensitive to pick up even quiet voices. If you make podcasts, this portable production studio will see you through.

One note: It weighs a substantial 2.1kg, slightly heavier and thicker than the model it replaced.

Connecting it up

MagSafe is another welcome improvement, if you consider not tearing your Mac apart when someone inevitably trips over the power cable a good thing. For me, MagSafe remains one of Apple’s most useful notebook innovations. I can still recall the horror I felt when I accidentally ripped the power input from my clamshell orange iBook, which then tumbled tragically to the stone kitchen floor.

You can still charge up the laptop using one of the standard USB-C ports. Given that you can charge the battery up to 50% in 30 minutes using the included MagSafe charger, though, why would you want to use USB-C?

16in macbook pro ports IDG

The I/O on offer is improved. The SD card slot is back, along with three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack — along with the ability to run two external displays at up to 6K. I imagine pro video editors will maintain a hub connected to a host of peripherals at their desk and simply plug their MacBook in when not in the field.

For me, at least, it’s as simple as one cable connected to my powered Elgato hub. While your experience may vary, it’s hard to ignore that what’s happening here is that these Macs effectively give you the equivalent of an entry-level Mac Pro you can tuck under your arm.

No wheels are required.

In praise of Apple’s whole widget strategy

Apple acquired PA Semi in 2008. When it did so, the acquisition likely reflected a strategic decision the company had already made, possibly even before the introduction of the first iPhone.

That decision was almost certainly inspired by the poor results of the PowerPC processor plan, which stymied Apple’s efforts for years. The move also hints that the use of Intel chips in Macs was — on some level, at least — seen as a temporary stop-gap before Apple could build its own processors.

Throughout the years Apple worked with other people’s chips, the company sought to optimize application and system performance via the operating system, some of the software, and by designing the hardware. While limited by what its chosen third-party hardware components could achieve, Apple worked closely with some vendors to find optimizations and produced a system that still impressed despite those hardware compromises.

Apple doesn’t have to make the same compromises any longer. It can now design the operating system, the hardware, the processor, and some of the software, bringing that work together to realize a fully optimized experience on all its products, including Macs.

We’re only really at the beginning of the Mac processor part of this new journey. But as we reach a moment when performance enhancements on any platform depend on on-chip optimizations and the kind of software and hardware design decisions Apple has already been making, Apple is well set for the future.

With TSMC, it seems likely that the first mass-market PCs in the industry to run on 3-nanometer chips will have an Apple logo. But as we move toward 1nm chips it’s going to become more cost-efficient to optimize how chips work rather than the process used to make them.

It is in that context I believe Apple’s brand-new MacBook Pro combines all the benefits of the company’s many years of strategic innovation. It’s a remarkable testament to the company’s determined approach, though doesn’t explain the years during which Apple seemed to show little interest in Macs.

Must or miss?

If you need this kind of power (or the expansive 16-in. display), the MacBook Pro is a definite must. This model combines all that made its predecessor great, addresses all the criticisms people had, and underpins everything with a chip that performs like no other. And yes, next year’s model will be better again, but this model is already better than what was once seen as best.

While I would like for the Apple logo on the lid to light up, I consider this MacBook Pro to be a triumph at every level, from the years of work on the internal processor to the OS and display. Such compromises as do exist (like that notch), really only serve to show how far Apple has knocked this particular ball out the ball park.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

11 advanced Assistant tricks you should really remember on Android

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Fancy new features are fan-frickin’-tastic. But let’s face it: We aren’t all carrying Google’s shiny new Pixel phones. And we don’t all have Android 12 in front of our shiny faces just yet.

With all of that in mind, I thought now would be a fine time to turn our attention to some of Android’s many buried treasures — phenomenal time-saving and productivity-boosting possibilities built right into the software on our existing phones, no matter who made ’em or how old they may be (within the realm of reason, anyway; if you’re still totin’ around a phone with Froyo, sorry pal, but you’re on your own).

Specifically, I want to think our way through some incredibly useful advanced features connected to Google Assistant — the friendly if sometimes slightly sassy virtual companion that’s always standing by and ready to lend a helping hand (and/or voice).

The best part about these Assistant-associated gems is that they’re every bit as beneficial with a three-year-old LG jalopy as they are with a high-end 2021 flagship. But since Assistant commands are inherently invisible, they’re all too easy to overlook or forget.

So without further ado, I give you 11 advanced Google Assistant commands you should really remember to use on Android — no matter what Android phone you’re carrying or which Android version it’s running.

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

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple introduces Business Essentials service for SMBs

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Apple today took a major step into enterprise technology provision, unveiling a new service called Apple Business Essentials — adding yet another strong argument to support enterprise deployment of its products.

What is Apple Business Essentials?

The service combines an array of services for small and midsized companies within one Apple-friendly MDM management tool. It is aimed at businesses with up to 500 employees.

Apple Business Essentials is available now in beta and is set to launch for real in spring 2022. It provides tools including iCloud+ for Work, AppleCare, 24/7 Apple support, device and application management and automated setup using Collections and Smart Groups.

Apple said the service will be available in the U.S. initially,  with prices ranging from $2.99 a month per user to $12.99 a  month per user depending on number of devices and storage levels. (More info below.)

The company also introduced a new Apple Business Essentials app that employees can use to install apps assigned for work and to request support.

Apple Business Essentials promises easy setup, onboarding, backup, security, support, repairs and updates, and 24/7 on-call tech support.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Podcast: How Pixel users can get the most out of Android 12

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By rolling out some Android 12 features exclusively to Pixel users, Google gave itself an opportunity to further differentiate its own devices from the rest of the Android pack. New updates, like the Material You interface, give Pixel owners the chance to redesign the look and feel of their phones. Plus, Android 12 and the newly launched Pixel 6 both purport to have privacy-centric changes. So, how does the Pixel Android 12 experience compare to the experience of Galaxy user? Computerworld managing editor Val Potter and contributing editor JR Raphael join Juliet to discuss new Android 12 features, including how it performs on the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro versus other Android devices.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend

Apple’s silicon teams want to make chips greener

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With COP26 just days away, Apple has joined a new chip technology program as it works to improve its environmental sustainability in product design. It’s a move that reflects what is hopefully a growing understanding that every enterprise must mitigate the environmental consequences of doing business.

An obsession with detail

The Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems (SSTS) scheme will take a deep look at how future processors are made in order to help reduce the environmental impact of making these chips. It’s a detail-based approach that may benefit from the critical successes Apple’s product designers can sometimes achieve. The program is being put together by Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre and aims to “anticipate the environmental impact of choices made at chip technology’s definition phase.”

What that means is the group hopes to develop models to help chip designers reduce the ecological footprint of the processors they create. It’s an overt attempt to align processor development with the fight against climate change.

From design to manufacturing

The challenge isn’t just ensuring that chips themselves are designed with environmental consequences in mind: it’s also about developing better manufacturing processes.

While it’s no secret that processors are small, they are becoming increasingly numerous. The number of devices that use processors is growing exponentially, which means the consequences of manufacturing them are great.

Processor manufacturing is characterized by high energy consumption and makes extensive use of chemicals, rare materials, and water. It also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas.

Where Apple fits in

Apple’s chip manufacturer, TSMC, uses almost 5% of Taiwan’s entire electricity production. It used 63 million tons of water in 2019, and generated controversy during this year’s drought.

It’s not just Apple, of course: A single Intel factory in Arizona produced more than 8,000 tons of hazardous waste in just three months this year, The Guardian reports. In fact, some say the manufacturing of the processors used in our devices accounts for the majority of the carbon output from electronics devices, with The Guardian citing a Harvard study.

Those powerful M-series Apple chips may have turned Macs into the cream of the PC industry crop, but manufacturing them has consequences. We know Apple takes this stuff seriously, so it shouldn’t be a surprise the company has joined SSTS.

Doing so reflects Apple’s growing understanding that the environmental consequences of product manufacturing must be considered from the beginning of the design process. That’s why, if my sources are correct, (which I think they are), Apple’s environment-focused teams now have a big say in new product design.

They explore how designs can ensure that raw materials can be separated, recycled, and reused. They also work to identify where materials replacement could reduce the ecological footprint.

The decisions concerning new product design and manufacturing are also in line with the company’s long-term hope that it may create a circular manufacturing system that eliminates the need to consume further resources.  

Towards a green new deal

Apple aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2030 across its supply chain and products. It has convinced 175 of its suppliers to transition to renewable energy, and continues to invest in projects and resources (such as managed forests and wind farms) to help meet these targets.

“Every company should be a part of the fight against climate change, and together with our suppliers and local communities, we’re demonstrating all of the opportunity and equity green innovation can bring,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook recently. “We’re acting with urgency, and we’re acting together. But time is not a renewable resource, and we must act quickly to invest in a greener and more equitable future.”

The Apple leader understands that building this green new deal is an opportunity.

“Climate action can be the foundation for a new era of innovative potential, job creation, and durable economic growth. With our commitment to carbon neutrality, we hope to be a ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change,” he said last year.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

5 Android 12 features you can bring to any phone today

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Google’s Android 12 software is packed with interesting treasures — but unless you’re using one of Google’s own Pixel phones, it’s still a ways off from actually landing in your hands.

The tortoise-like pace of most Android updates is another subject for another day (as is the tortoise named Rupert who I’m pretty sure is responsible — that slimy-shelled rascal). Today, I want to explore some creative solutions for bringing a small but significant smidgeon of Android 12’s goodness onto any device this minute.

This minute, you say? Why, yes, Mr. Giggles! With a touch of creativity and an optional pinch of platypus magic, you can experience a handful of select Android-12-inspired treats on any Android device, with any Android version — and with very little effort — right now. All you need is the right app and a few minutes of setup, and some scrumptious Android 12 flavors will be ready and waiting for your ingestion.

To be clear, these aren’t the biggest, most earth-shifting changes Android 12 has to offer. When it comes to elements like the Material You system theming engine or the engine-room-level Android 12 privacy enhancements, nothing short of the operating system update itself can deliver the goods. But outside of those foundational features, Android 12 has some delightful experience-enhancing delicacies — and those are the ones you can emulate most anywhere.

So grab the nearest bib, get some grape soda standing by and ready to wash all this deliciousness down, and let’s dig in.

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

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

From zero to hero? Hexnode’s CEO on Apple in the enterprise

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Hexnode, a cross-platform unified endpoint management firm, is recognized by both Forrester and Gartner as an enterprise mobility solutions provider that since 2013 has worked with business clients to lock things down. I recently spent a little virtual time with Hexnode CEO Apu Pavithran to talk Apple in the enterprise and the future of work.

Pavithran recounted how much change enterprise IT has seen in the past decade, and where things may be going now with Apple as more of enterprise player.

A decade of change

Think back to 2010Mobile hardware in the workplace was heavy on BlackBerry, ThinkPads, and a smattering of mobile devices. Apple’s iPhone was certainly the consumer smartphone of choice, but the BYOD wave hadn’t yet hit business.

As consumers quickly embraced smartphones in their day-to-day life, they also began insisting on using them at work. “This movement paved way for Apple’s enterprise evolution,” said Pavithran.

Since then, Apple has paid increasing attention to the needs of enterprise IT. Apple Push Notification Services, Apple VP, Apple Business Manager, the Fleetsmith acquisition, and critical partnerships with the likes of SAP, IBM, Jamf, Deloitte, and Cisco.

Those efforts have paid off. “Previously trying to manage applications, titles, device settings, program licensing, and federated AD logins were nightmares for the IT department. The introduction of these services, and especially the Apple business manager (ABM), made things easier for IT admins,” said Pavithran.

“Mac adoption in the enterprise saw tremendous growth and iOS devices slowly became the mobile industry tool of choice.”

His comments echo those of Cisco’s general manager and executive vice president Jeetu Patel, who told me recently: “I don’t believe you can be a credible provider of enterprise software if you’re not part of the Apple ecosystem today,”

On the competition

The Hexnode CEO doesn’t think Apple is ahead on everything. He points to some recent Android enhancements as being advantageous, but notes that  Cupertino is only slightly behind.

“Apple’s hardware and software are spot on and it does deliver in performance, security, and [reducing] the attack surface within an enterprise. They also do meet the checklist when it comes to managing corporate-owned devices, COBO or Kiosks for that matter. But for a full-fledged BYOD, User Enrolment still falls short of Google’s Work Profile.”

Microsoft, of course, remains in the game, too. From a multi-platform perspective, Pavithran sees the company’s move to offer Windows as a subscription represents as noteworthy, though it is limited by price.

“From a business standpoint ,paying $31/user/month for a basic dual-core remote PC when you can get a sizable business laptop with pre-installed Windows on a lease at costs less than $10/month — the math doesn’t make sense,” he said.

On employee choice

As the Great Resignation intensifies, businesses are transforming the workplace to tempt and retain good staffers. Hybrid work is rapidly becoming a must-have option, and employee choice remains critical. “When employees are comfortable with the system, then their work gets easier,” Pavithran said.

As a result, it makes sense for IT to “automate everything that can be automated so people can spend time on tasks that actually matter.”

Reflecting Apple’s argument around consumer satisfaction and brand appeal, he said: “[Employees] are happier when you provide them with a Mac or an iPhone. One recent U.S. survey showed that 71% of people prefer Mac over any other for their work PC. It’s true that Apple devices cost a bit more initially, but in three to five years they offer better value for money than a regular PC as they offer regular OS and security updates. Bundled with AppleCare for maintenance and pretty good buyback offers, it is lighter on the wallet.”

Incoming technologies and emerging challenges

Apple and Facebook/Meta will be battling in augmented reality in the next few years. Is there a real enterprise opportunity to be had there? Hexnode’s boss thinks so. “AR in the enterprise could be absolutely amazing in the next five years,” he said.

Retailers are already using the tech, though Pavithran voices some concerns – which will probably be echoed by every enterprise: “Although on AR glasses, It is indeed fun and there is a ton of functionality, …I am still not sure how much privacy and data security they will offer.”

Meanwhile, the downside of the move to hybrid workplaces includes the rapid proliferation of threats to security. “Phishing/ransomware incidents are rising at an alarming rate. If we look at cybersecurity news on a regular basis, there is at least one major cyberattack each month,” he said. 

In the remote/hybrid age, with people working in living rooms or from anywhere they please, the risk becomes more serious. “Enterprise security often gets overlooked and it is crucial for businesses to take necessary measures to safeguard their data.”

How to secure your endpoints

Given Hexnode’s business is around endpoint security and management, it’s not a big surprise its CEO evangelizes solutions of that kind. But the biggest challenge remains the hardest to solve: humans are the weakest link in tech security. “Some general suggestions would be to avoid using public Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services since threat actors can exploit vulnerabilities,” he said.

Pavithran also says it’s good practice to avoid using personal devices for work, though data separation may help reduce the risks of bleed between corporate and personal digital data space.

From zero to hero: Apple in the enterprise

Hexnode’s clients include Volvo, Lowes, Target, Swatch and others and the company says it can support Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV alongside Windows and Android systems — all using the same management tools.

That flexibility reflects just how rapidly Apple continues to grow in the enterprise technology space. In the last decade, it has made a major transition. It is no longer an also-ran in enterprise tech, it has become a respected peer. At a time when tech itself – and the nature of the workplace – is also engaged in rapid transition, means big opportunities for those who surf the wave.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Corel Painter shows the big picture for Apple Silicon performance

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Corel Painter, one of the world’s leading creative applications, runs twice as fast on M1 Macs as on Intel-based machines, which hints at even better performance on the latest M1 Max and M1 Pro MacBook Pros.

Painter’s big Mac picture

That’s according to Corel, which told me today that introducing a fully Apple Silicon-native version of Painter 2022 unlocked “significant” performance gains. These are particularly noteworthy when you consider what the application does – since the early ‘90s it has striven to be the digital equivalent of artistic tools; it’s already in most digital creatives’ tool bags.

Corel said artists upgrading to Painter 2022 on M-series Macs will see “significant brush engine performance improvements, and we’re excited about what these boosts will mean for artists who work and live by deadlines.”

Corel, which tested its software on an entry-level 2020 MacBook Pro with an M1 chip and an Intel-based 2019 MacBook Pro, highlighted two key metrics:

  • Users can expect overall brush engine performance that is up to 4.7x faster on Macs with M1 chips compared to running on the same Mac using Rosetta 2.
  • Users can also expect the software to run twice as fast when compared to Intel-based Macs.

That’s significant, but potentially much more so for digital creatives considering an investment in an all-new MacBook Pro. Apple has told us what to expect from those machines, which are equipped with M1 Pro and M1 Max processors.

With a 30-year history on Mac, Painter is one of those unique applications to have gone through three major processor transitions with Apple. It was on the original AIM Alliance Macs, made it to the Intel Macs, and now it’s running on M-series Macs. That shared story means you can consider it a barometer for Mac performance.

(I’m lucky enough to be working with a new 16-in. MacBook Pro at present, and while I’m not ready to write the review, I can say the battery life and computational performance it is delivering is phenomenal.)

Performance machine, Apple’s ‘big beast’

We’ve also seen some additional benchmark figures leak that suggest the kinds of speed and performance benefits Apple professionals can expect from these machines.

Most recently, we saw Passmark place Apple’s M1, M1 Pro and M1 Mac chips in the top four positions of its performance benchmark charts. Prior to this, Geekbench data revealed the big advantages of these new chips, which compete with high-end gaming PCs, but require far less energy and deliver across a far wider gamut of need.

Apple’s silicon development teams appear to have figured out how to make those billions of transistors work for you.

Corel’s claims aren’t surprising, of course. Apple made its own sets of similar claims when it introduced the new Macs, claiming the 16-core GPU in M1 Pro and 32-core GPU in M1 Max (in the 14-inch MacBook Pro) provide:

  • Up to 9.2x faster 4K render in Final Cut Pro with M1 Pro, and up to 13.4x faster with M1 Max.
  • Up to 5.6x faster combined vector and raster GPU performance in Affinity Photo with M1 Pro, and up to 8.5x faster with M1 Max.
  • Up to 3.6x faster effect render in Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio with M1 Pro, and up to 5x faster with M1 Max.

The 16-in. models deliver even higher performance, including up to 1.7x faster Final Cut Pro rendering and up to 4.9x faster object tracking in the 16-core chip.

Apple also cited battery life enhancements, which means third-party apps should work faster and last longer on one charge.

More improvements in the pipeline

We already know Adobe Creative Cloud applications run twice as fast on M1 Macs, and that performance achievement will only increase on the new M-series chips on MacBook Pro. With Apple reportedly plotting a path to introduce the new processors in a 2022 iMac Pro and with anticipation around the subsequent release of an all-new Mac Pro— perhaps with multiple processors — this seems to be a really good time to be a creative pro using a Mac.

I’d be interested to learn more about the level of computing performance other key application developers are experiencing as they migrate to Apple Silicon – particularly on Apple’s latest MacBook Pro. Anyone for whom time is money will certainly want to look into this.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Finally! Adobe rolls out Photoshop and Illustrator for DaaS users

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For years now, we’ve been moving from a PC-centric IT world to Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) models. It’s been driven by the rise of working from home, companies wanting to secure their end-users, and the convenience for IT of centrally managed user end-points. There was only one hitch: A handful of popular programs were only available on PCs — chief among them, Adobe Photoshop.

Now, finally, Adobe is bringing not just Photoshop but Illustrator to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) users. The company unveiled its plans last week at Adobe MAX 2021.

You might think, “What’s the big deal? Hasn’t Adobe been releasing its programs as SaaS for years as Creative Cloud?”

Actually, no. Adobe Creative Cloud is neither a cloud nor a SaaS; it’s a software rental licensing business model. True, you can share files using its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) storage, but you could always do that with network file-sharing or third-party cloud services such as Dropbox.

So, if you thought Photoshop’s been available in the cloud all along, you thought wrong. This more is a case of cloud-washing: Slapping a cloud coating on essentially the same old program.

To use Creative Cloud Photoshop, or Creative Cloud Anything, you had to download a fat client to use it. Despite the name, it’s not a SaaS offering. Today, if you want to run Creative Cloud Photoshop, you need a high-powered Windows PC or macOS Mac.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 new hidden Pixel treasures to find in Android 12

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Android 12 may seem like old news to those of us in the land o’ Pixels at this point, but hold the phone: Google’s latest software has some pretty phenomenal features that are lurking beneath the surface and all too easy to overlook.

We explored a dozen such treasures the other day, but there’s even more juicy goodness where that came from. So here now are seven more spectacular hidden gems you’ll absolutely want to dig up in Android 12 on your Pixel phone — regardless of whether you’re packin’ the new Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro or one of the older Pixel models.

Check ’em out, get yourself in the habit of using ’em, and then come sign up for my free Pixel Academy e-course to uncover even more hidden Pixel magic.

New Pixel trick No. 1: Fast link-grabbing

Android’s Overview area — y’know, the card-driven app-switching interface you see when you swipe up from the bottom of your screen and then hold your finger down, using the current Android gestures system — has gotten some seriously cool superpowers on Pixels as of late. And with Android 12, your favorite Googley phone has another tucked-away time-saver to discover there.

So here it is: Anytime you look at Chrome in your Overview area, you can grab the link of the currently open page with one quick tap — without ever leaving Overview or opening the app. And from there, it’s just one more press of your precious fingie to copy the link or share it anywhere else on your phone.

How to find it

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

How Apple’s iCloud Private Relay creates a shadow IT nightmare

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One can make the argument that Apple created the phenomenon of shadow IT when it introduced the iPhone and the App Store. Suddenly managers and individual users had the ability to source their own business software and services, bypassing IT departments completely. And they could do so with devices not connected to a corporate network, preventing IT from even realizing shadow IT was happening in their organizations.

Apple did step in a couple of years later, providing an enterprise mobile device management (MDM) platform that allowed IT some control over devices in their organization. But to be effective, IT still needs to partner with line of business managers and individual users. After all, users can simply use devices not enrolled in MDM if they choose.

Fast forward a decade from the introduction of MDM, and Apple is again creating a potential shadow IT nightmare in the form of iCloud Private Relay.

What is iCloud Private Relay?

iCloud Private Relay is a new privacy feature in iOS 15 (available today but still in beta) for users with paid iCloud accounts, now known as iCloud+ accounts. And it is generally a good consumer privacy protection system.

How to use Shortcuts in macOS Monterey

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Available on iPads and iPhones since iOS 13, Shortcuts are now available in macOS Monterey. These automations are designed to simplify repetitive tasks, but do you know how to use them?

Get familiar with the Shortcuts app

If you’ve used Shortcuts before, the user interface should seem familiar — particularly if you’ve used them on your iPad. The application window uses Apple’s now customary left-hand side bar with buttons to take you to Gallery, All Shortcuts, Quick Actions, Menu Bar, and a Folders section.

All Shortcuts combines all the Shortcuts you may already have created on an iOS device, along with a very short collection of Starter Shortcuts. These starting points are selected on your behalf by Siri and reflect what it has learned about how you use your devices.

That’s useful, but what is shown may not reflect the tasks you want to get done on your Mac – even Apple’s powerful new M1 Pro and M1 Max Macs, which arrive today. That Shazam shortcut makes more sense on your iPhone than it does on a new M1 iMac, for example; to get to the productivity enhancement tools, you’ll ned to click Gallery.

Gallery provides a wide array of pre-built shortcuts organized into selected groups, including Siri-related shortcuts and shortcuts to get things done, and a variety of essentials, including accessibility. You can combine one of more of these pre-made Shortcuts to make new ones, or combine any of the many single actions supported by the application to create completely new shortcuts for you.

How to build a Shortcut

Say you want to create a Shortcut to automatically open two specific apps to run alongside each other in Split Screen mode:

  • In the Search Gallery, input at the top right of the Shortcuts app type ‘Split Screen 2 Apps’ until the relevant Shortcut appears.
  • Tap this to get to the description page.
  • You’ll find that this Shortcut lets you set up two apps to work side-by-side, and works with Apple Watch. That  means you can ask Siri on your watch to open Safari and Mail alongside each other (once you define those apps).
  • Click Add Shortcut to customize it — in this case to choose the two apps you want to use in Split Screen.
  • Once you’ve set the Shortcut, you can drag it into the Menu bar by taking it from the Gallery view into the Menu folder to the side of the application.
  • You can also double-click the Shortcut to edit it, and then in its Settings icon choose Keep in Menu bar.

Creating Quick Actions

You can create Quick Actions that you can access from anywhere in the Finder. Open the Shortcut, click its Settings icon, and then choose “Use as Quick Action” and either Finder and/or Services menu.

The Settings item also lets you select Add Keyboard Shortcut. When you enable this, the item becomes a Quick Action and is also made available as a Service. You will then need to create the keystroke command you want to use to run that Shortcut.

How to run a Shortcut

You can run a Shortcut in multiple ways, though you may need to enable the Shortcut to appear in some of these (as a Quick Action, Menu item, etc.):

  • Tap it to play it in the Shortcuts app.
  • You can pin some to your Menu bar. This consists of a Shortcuts icon, below which you’ll find a drop-down list of all available Shortcuts.
  • You can ask Siri to run a shortcut, so long as you’ve named it and enabled it.
  • You can keep the Shortcuts app in your Dock. When you right-click that item in your Dock, you may find the shortcut you need in Open Recent or Run Shortcut.
  • You can also right-click an item (an image, for example) to run any available Shortcut via the contextual menu. You need to make it a Finder Quick Action first.
  • You can run them as a Keyboard shortcut (see above).
  • You can also add a Shortcut to run as a Service in the application menu.

What about third-party apps?

Some developers are offering up Shortcuts for their apps. One good example of this is Pixelmator Pro 2.2, which has introduced 28 of its own shortcuts actions along with its recent macOS Monterey update. These include color adjustments, auto-cropping, rotate and resize, mask image, ML Match Colors, ML Super Resolution (an amazing feature, by the way), and file format conversion shortcuts.

Pixelmator has also put together a couple of new Shortcuts-exclusive features, including automatic background removal for photos of people. It means that you can simply select an image using Control-Click to apply a shortcut and your Mac will do the rest.

What about my old workflows?

If you’ve already used Automator or Apple Script, you may be wondering what will happen to that work. Apple says Shortcuts is the future of automation on its platforms, but has also made it possible to import Automator workflows into Shortcuts. The company also says AppleScript and Automator will continue to be supported on the Mac for some time yet.

To import Automator workflows into Shortcuts, either right-click the Automator flow in the Finder and open it in Shortcuts, or click and drag the item into the Shortcuts app. You may find that some Automation scripts won’t work because they rely on workflow routines Shortcuts doesn’t yet possess, though this may change over time.

Apple Script, Java Script, and shell scripts are supported in Shortcuts; just paste the script into the provided Shortcut actions for running those scripts. You will also need to open the Advanced tab in Shortcut application preferences to enable scripts.

Apple offers extensive information on running Shortcuts on a Mac. But, for me, the deepest look into how they work is always available at MacStories. They love this stuff.

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

Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Canadian auto workers pick Ford as potential strike target

Canadian auto workers pick Ford as potential strike target

DETROIT -- The union that represents Canadian auto workers has picked Ford as a potential strike target in contract talks this year. The Unifor union's contracts with all three Detroit automakers ex…