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What is Apple Stage Manager and how is it used?

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If you use an iPad, Mac, or both to get things done, you’ll be looking at Stage Manager when it ships this fall. It’s Apple’s latest attempt to improve multi-tasking on iPads and is available on Macs running macOS Ventura. You enable and disable Apple Stage Manager in the Control Center on Mac and iPad.

What is Apple Stage Manager?

Introduced at WWDC 2022, Stage Manager shows Apple is attempting to create a more harmonious interface between Macs and iPads. Stage Manager is a multitasking feature designed to organize your desktop better. The idea is that the things you are doing can be up front, while all the other applications you need access to are easily available.

It’s just one way Apple is attempting to help you stay focused, including the recently announced Focus Modes, upcoming improvements to single sign-on and more.

For me, Stage Manager is best when used with Universal Control, as it enables you to have multiple open apps across your Macs and iPads, which makes it much easier to migrate between apps while having a unique overview of what you are doing – while using the same keyboard and mouse to handle them all.

What does Stage Manager do?

Open windows are shown at the left-hand side of the display in the form of small screenshots, which will seem familiar to anyone who uses Spaces on the Mac.

The idea is that the window of the app you are working with is displayed in the center, with other open apps and windows arranged on the left in order of recency. This makes it easier to dip in and out of other apps while maintaining a visual sense of what is there.

On iPads, users can create overlapping windows of different sizes in a single view, drag-and-drop windows from the side, or open apps from the Dock to create groups of apps for faster, more flexible multitasking. Stage Manager also unlocks full external display support with resolutions of up to 6K; this lets you arrange the ideal workspace, working with up to four apps on iPad and four apps on the external display.

[Also read: Review: Apple’s M2 MacBook Air]

How to enable Stage Manager on a Mac

Stage Manager is enabled by default on Macs running macOS Ventura, but you can switch it on and off using a toggle in Control Center. You are also able to change which apps are shown in Stage Manager, though you only get two choices: Show Recent Apps, which will show recently used apps on the left side, and Hide Recent Apps, which hides those apps until you bring your mouse to the left side.

(My observation after using my preferred “Hide Recent Apps” state: if you already use Hot Corners and Universal Control you may find this extra contextual load a little taxing, but it is worth persisting until it becomes habitual.)

You can also add Stage Manager to the Menu bar: Open System Settings>Control Center>Stage Manager and check Show in the Menu Bar.

How to use Stage Manager on a Mac

Launch the applications you want to use once you have enabled Stage Manager. Depending on your Recent Apps setting (see above) you’ll either see small icons depicting those apps appear to the left of your display, or will be able to invoke them by moving your cursor to the left edge of the screen. You can then drag the app you want to use along with your existing primary app from the left to the center.

The two apps are now grouped and available side by side in the Stage Manager window. They are also visually represented as two apps in the view.

To open a different app or pair of apps you must tap the icon in the Stage Manager view.

How to enable Stage Manager on an iPad

You also use Control Center to activate Stage Manager on an iPad – just swipe down from the top-right of the screen and tap the Stage Manager icon — it looks like a box with three dots to the left of it. Tap it again to switch it off. Once enabled, the apps you’re using will appear at the center of the screen with a left-hand section showing all your currently active (but unused) apps.

Another benefit for iPad users is that once you have enabled Stage Manager, you can resize windows by dragging the curved white line at the bottom right corner of an app. To close, minimize and find other options to handle an active app, just tap the three-dot icon you find a the top-center of the app; this is also the control you’ll use to ungroup apps, just tap the last (dash) icon.

How to use Stage Manager on an iPad

As with a Mac, you can set Stage Manager to show or hide Recent Apps and see which of your applications are currently active. To open a new app, or pairing of apps, just tap the icon in the Stage Manager view.

What do you need to run Stage Manager?

To run Apple’s Stage Manager UI you’ll need to be using a Mac or iPad running macOS Ventura or iPad OS 16. The feature is compatible with any Mac capable of running macOS Ventura, but is only available to iPads equipped with an Apple ‘M’ processor. That confines it to the current iterations of iPad Pro (11-in. and 12.9-in.) and the recently introduced iPad Air.

Macs that support macOS Ventura:

  • iMac (2017 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2017 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later)
  • MacBook (2017 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2019 and later)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac mini (2018 and later)

If your iPad lacks an M1 chip or your Mac is not included in the above list, Stage Manager will not work.

A work in progress

Stage Manager is beta software, which means how it works or the features it provides could still change before the feature appears, in or after new operating systems ship in early fall. Drop me a line if anything changes and I’ll revise this guide.

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

Copyright © 2022 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

PixieBrix: A crafty tool that lets you tailor any website for your team

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This wacky ol’ World Wide Web of ours has plenty of good things going for it, but customization isn’t exactly its core strength.

For the most part, the web is what it is — a take-it-or-leave-it sort of affair. And especially when your business leans on lots of browser-based tools and services, as so many companies do these days, that can really limit how useful and efficient of an experience you and your teammates can have.

That’s precisely the problem a startup called PixieBrix set out to solve. PixieBrix lets you take total control of the web and make it work any way you want. That means you can simplify common website interfaces to eliminate distractions and optimize your environment, for one — but even more powerfully, it means you can add elements into websites and turn any standard site into your own custom, company-specific workspace.

Sound wild? It is. And we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what this thing can do.

A whole new way to work online

At its core, PixieBrix is a browser extension that integrates deeply with Chrome and allows you to mix and match a variety of “bricks” — or building blocks, in a sense — to change the way virtually any website looks and works. Each brick performs an action, anything from highlighting elements on a page to creating a prepopulated email. Many of the bricks automate tasks and/or integrate with popular business services, too, such as Asana, Google Workspace, HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zapier.

It’s a lofty concept to wrap your head around, and it’s easiest to understand with concrete examples. So let’s get right into the fun part and explore some of the specific ways PixieBrix could work for you — starting with some of the service’s premade “blueprints” that make website customization especially easy:

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

There’s still a role for small business servers

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I’m a cloud expert. No, really! Onalytica lists me in its 2022 Who’s Who in Cloud. But that doesn’t mean I always recommend the cloud for every business. Sometimes, servers in your office make the most sense.

When? Here’s my checklist for when to turn to local servers instead of the cloud.

Costs

The big promise of the cloud was always that it would save you money.

But it’s never that simple for all the talk of the cloud’s operational expenses (OPEX) inherent advantage over in-house capital expenses (CAPEX).

To realize those savings, you must know exactly what you’re doing and need the cloud’s ability to quickly and easily provision computing power.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Review: Apple’s M2 MacBook Air

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I’ve spent some time using one of the new M2-based MacBook Air laptops introduced at WWDC 2022. It delivers everything Apple promises — and if you’re looking for a notebook, but don’t need the horsepower of a MacBook Pro, you still get plenty of power and performance in this Mac.

Ending an era in bright silence

The MacBook Air (a review model from Apple) dispenses with the classical (and hugely popular) wedge shape that helped define the range. Apple’s newest machine is slim (0.4 inches high), occupies 20% less volume than before, and sports a design that very much brings it into line with the aesthetics across Apple’s range – rounded corners, thin, rectangular. I see it as similar to (but thinner than) a MacBook Pro. These design decisions matter because the MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular notebook, which de facto means it is also the company’s most popular Mac. (The assumptions is that Apple’s notebooks outsell its desktops by at least two to one.) The MacBook Air is also fanless, which means no matter what you ask it to do, it will be quieter than a whisper in the silence of the night.

The Mac weighs just 2.7 pounds. Dimensions are 0.4-in. by 12-in. by 8.4-in. The last-generation model with an M1 chip weighs 2.8-pounds and is roughly the same size, though 0.6 inches at the thickest point. (The last ever Intel model weighed 2.75 pounds and was about as thick. You’d be forgiven to see some consistency here.)

Open it up and you’ll find a beautiful self-illuminating Magic Keyboard with a full set of function keys and Touch ID. As a Butterfly Keyboard veteran, I find it a joy to use a decent keyboard with comfortable action. The screen is splendid, too — a 13.6-in. Liquid Retina display with P3 support for a billion colors at 500 nits of brightness. You get much more display, too, as the Mac has thinner bezels. The only compromise is the appearance of a notch to hold the 1080-pixel webcam and mic.

For the record, I have no problem with that notch; I quite like it — and it does add a few pixels to the 16:10 display.

While the display is not as bright as the XDR ProMotion displays in the high-end MacBook Pros, it is a big improvement over the M1 screen and a leap forward in contrast to the last-generation Intel MacBook Air.

  • M2 MacBook Air: 13.6-in. Liquid Retina display, 2560×1664-pixel resolution, 500 nits, P3 Wide color, True Tone.
  • M1 MacBook Air: 13.3-in. LED-backlit with IPS, 2560×1600-pixel resolution, 400 nits, P3 Wide color, True Tone.
  • Intel MacBook Air: 13.3-in. Retina display, 2560×1600-pixel resolution, 400 nits, TrueTone.

While it’s tempting to simply compare this Mac with the last available model, the truth is that with millions sold, it’s going to be MacBook Air users still on Intel chips who are likely to be the biggest cohort purchasing these machines. They get a larger, brighter display and a processor that delivers a major increase in performance. If they use Photoshop, they’ll see huge performance benefits from a move to Apple Silicon.

MacBook Air M2

How’s the M2 chip’s performance?

I opened 27 Safari tabs (I refuse to use Chrome unless I must); an 18-track GarageBand project; watched an Apple TV show in picture-in-picture mode; played a YouTube video in Safari; had Apple Music playing; and used Pixelmator to render a series of effects on an open 10GB image (with Mail open and while working on an 18-track GarageBand project).

Usually, that’s more than enough activity to make an Intel Mac stutter, certainly after 20 minutes. (If you need a Mac to handle more intense computational tasks such as professional image or movie editing, programming, or data analytics, then a MacBook Pro likely makes more sense.) But the M2 MacBook Air I tested didn’t struggle at all. It didn’t even get warm, meaning it’s equal to any task most of us would throw at it.

Oh, one more thing — if you don’t push the Air to the limit, you can expect up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing and 18 hours of video playback on a single charge. Even with all the work I asked the Mac to do, the battery held up. You can use the Air all day and still have enough left in the tank to watch a movie in the evening. When you do, the four-array speakers provide a beautifully balanced and detailed sound at a decent volume, though I doubt you’ll get complaints from the neighbors.

M2 MacBook Air test data

Attempting to quantify the performance, I ran a series of Geekbench 5 tests; these returned results in line with the aggregated data published on that site: Single Core performance, 1,882; multi-core, 8,696.

In very broad strokes, that means you’re getting performance on par with a 2019 Mac Pro with an Intel Xeon chip, faster than an M1 iMac and in the same ballpark as most M1-powered MacBook Pro systems. 

How does it compare with the last-generation Intel MacBook Air?

That system delivered single core performance of 1,053 and 2,811 multicore with the Intel i5 chip. On paper, at least, anyone upgrading from an Intel Air will see an immediate and obvious boost in performance. If you’re considering equipping your team with these machines, that makes for an immediate productivity benefit that will help keep staff happy, too.

What fast are the M2 Air’s read/write speeds?

There have been multiple reports that the entry-level model with a 256GB drive uses a single SSD chip, which makes for slower read/write speeds. The MacBook Air in hand was not that model; it offers 1TB of storage, so this limitation is not reflected in my test results.

However, it is important to note that the 256GB model will deliver slower read/write speeds, so I recommend you upgrade to the 512GB or 1TB alternatives instead.

So, what did I experience? Blackmagic disk speed tests showed a write speed of around 4145MBps and read speeds circa 2627MBps at 1GB stress. At 5GB (maximum load), writes fell to around 2400MBps, while read speeds held steady. That’s in a test suite, of course, and in my experience actual performance remains faster than I’ve experienced with the M1 Macs, which frankly blew me away.

Your experience may vary, of course, and I do suggest that anyone needing really fast read/write speeds for work may well be running tasks more suitable to one of Apple’s Pro series.

Memory bandwidth for the Unified Memory has reached 100GBps in the M2 Air, up from 68.25GBps in the M1. That’s a nice improvement, but don’t neglect that the M1 Pro chip offers 200GBps. So if memory bandwidth matters to you, you might need to go Pro. For most of us, the air beats expectations.

Apple's M2-powered MacBook Air Apple

Apple’s newest MacBook Air is powered by the new M2 chip.

What M2 MacBook Air model did I test?

I tested an 8-core Air with a 10-core GPU equipped with 16GB of memory and the aforementioned 1TB flash storage. This is not a standard model; both the storage and memory are upgrades. As tested, this Air I sells for $1,899 — $700 more than the entry-level M2.

Apple’s decision to loan me this particular configuration for review suggests that if you are in the market to buy one, it makes sense to pay for the extra RAM if you want equivalent performance. Eagle-eyed readers will note that the $1,899 price means the cost falls just $100 short of the 14-in. MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip. Of course, getting the 10-core CPU in the Pro will cost an additional $600 for a total $700 additional spend.

Confusing, isn’t it?

Apple now offers Macs in so many build-to-order configurations that the actual price structure has become opaque. This makes it harder to decide what you need and always leaves just enough temptation to spend a little more.

Apple makes great computers, but is also very, very good at creating upsell opportunities, which is what I think is happening here.

Are there any M2 Air problems?

As I write this, reports are emerging to claim these Macs get scratched easily. I can’t comment on that as I’ve not experienced it. But it’s worth considering when choosing from the four available colors (Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight). In general, dark aluminium shows blemishes more.

Another complaint is that the Mac will only run a single external display, albeit at 6K.

The inclusion of just two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports could be a dealbreaker for some, though for me this pain is compensated for by the addition of a braided cable and MagSafe 3 port. MagSafe, of course, is a charging port that should automatically decouple from the Air in the event someone trips over the power cable.

The value of that protection is not lost on anyone who has ever dropped a Mac. Displays make such a remarkable sound when they hit the floor — though it’s usually hard to hear above your own screaming.

And that brings me to the FaceTime camera. It’s great that Apple has upgraded this to 1080p, at last. It’s an improvement that should have taken place a long time ago, but does mean that remote and hybrid workers will come across better in the next team meeting, warts and all.

Who should buy the M2 MacBook Air?

If you already have an M1 MacBook Air, you probably don’t need to upgrade to the M2. If you’re running an Intel Mac of almost any kind, however, you’ll achieve an immediate performance boost when you move to Apple Silicon.

Always get the best Mac you can afford. When you do, accept that Apple will introduce a better model of what you just acquired years before you are ready to upgrade. You should also pay for additional memory, as this is one of the best ways to boost performance and future-proof your device.

Don’t neglect that Apple still offers the M1 MacBook Air for just $999. This is an excellent price for an also excellent machine, and if you’re looking for a second Mac, or a machine to make available as a resource to desktop-based teams, that may well be the way to go. Yes, the M2 model is better, but the M1 remains a huge improvement above older laptops, including Intel-based MacBook Pros.

In general, if you’re looking for a notebook to become your regular ride, for most users the M2 MacBook Air’s fanless design, fantastic battery life and clear bright screen — and its impressive performance per watt — add up to a machine you’ll use happily and productively for years.

No wonder Mac share is increasing in both consumer and enterprise markets.

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

Copyright © 2022 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

NetApp’s Spot PC: a foundation for a new desktop paradigm?

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After I wrote about NetApp’s Spot PC last month, I had a surprisingly nice call with Spot PC’s general manager, Jeff Treuhaft. He reminded me that this is still a very young offering and, given that, it makes more sense to focus on the product, not the channel or the brand. So, while Treuhaft didn’t disagree with my thoughts, he suggested NetApp has a plan to deal with issues once the Spot PC has proven itself in a few initial deployments. 

Given that the plan isn’t yet in place and because of confidentiality about the move, Treuhaft couldn’t share more. So, I want to focus on what it could be and how it could transform the PC experience into something less aggravating and closer to what users say they want.

Currently NetApp sells Spot PC through an existing channel of managed service providers (MSPs).

Partnering or merging to create a new class of PC company

The world we live in is very different than it was even a few years ago. Rather than working in the office being the norm — and working from home the exception — we seem to be locking down on either a solid work-from-home model or a hybrid of work from home and office. Some of the reports I’m seeing from companies that demanded employees return to the office indicate that this forced march is resulting in unsustainable levels of resignations and that employees are migrating en masse to competitors who promote aggressive work-from-home policies.   

But work-from-home has significant support problems. You can’t cost effectively send out techs at scale and, given that support is also likely remote, you also can’t always assure that user problems are addressed timely. Thus, the focus must be on reducing the number of problems any user — particularly a remote user —must deal with.

The Cloud PC, which is the latest iteration of the Thin Client, would seem to be an ideal path; it tends to be more flexible (you can specify you just want an instance with more performance), more secure, and potentially less expensive, both initially and over time due to economies of scale.  Particularly for those at home, it’s better, faster, and cheaper than a traditional PC approach.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

3 little-known location tricks for Google Assistant on Android

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our favorite virtual helper is losing some of its location-sensing smarts.

Yes, oh yes: For reasons unknown, Google’s in the midst of quietly pulling back Assistant’s ability to handle reminders based on your physical location — y’know, the “remind me to do something when I get to this place” sorts of commands that have long been possible on Android. It’s part of a broader confusion campaign realignment of Google features that seems to be placing more emphasis on the company’s Tasks service and its integration with other Google apps.

Blah, blah, blah — yadda, yadda, yadda. We can yammer on all day about the silliness of this shift and the comedic gold of Google’s never-ending flip-flop habit. And let’s be honest: We almost certainly will, one of these days. But not today, gersh dern it.

Today, I want to turn our focus to some little-known location features Assistant still has in its grasp — ’cause while it may be losing that one location-related option, Assistant still possesses some powerful ways to interact with our whereabouts. It’s just up to you to realize they’re available and then remember to use ’em.

Ready?

Assistant location trick No. 1: The self-location spell

We’ll start with the simplest command of the bunch but one that can be surprisingly helpful in the right situation. Clear your throat, practice your finest fancy-person voice, and say the following to your favorite Android phone:

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple reads the room, looks to slow hiring in ’23

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Apple seems to have confirmed what we already knew: times are tough, and while the company will continue to invest in product development, it will be freezing investment in some of its departments, according to Bloomberg.

Showdown for the slow down

We don’t know which parts of Apple’s business will be affected. Bloomberg simply says the company will no longer increase headcount in some departments next year. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other tech firms are also slowing recruitment in response to unyielding economic headwinds.

That’s not the same as eliminating jobs, of course, and, at least in Apple’s case, the freeze is not company-wide, affecting only some parts of the vast business. Tesla, meanwhile, has laid off hundreds of workers and closed at least one research facility.

What parts of the company may be hit?

It’s reasonable to think that in the context of recession Apple may decelerate the rate at which it opens new stores. Having said that, it’s  worth remembering that Apple opened its first two retail stores in May 2001, just one year after the dot-com bubble burst in early 2000. In other words, Apple has in the past succeeded with more long-term bets laid against prevailing market headwinds.

We’ll find out what impact those headwinds have had on Apple’s business in the current quarter on July 28, which is when the company next reports its financial results.

We do know that there’s been an expectation sales will slow as consumer demand softens. During its last fiscal call, Apple did warn of a bumpy quarter with sales down by as much as $8 billion, quarter-on-quarter.

Beneath the hype

Despite these potential points of pain, there have been some positive insights in the last 13 weeks. Macs are gaining market share in the declining PC market. iPhones remain popular in China — Apple’s share of the market continues to increase. Some supply chain problems seem to be improving. But what isn’t improving is consumer confidence as we face the veritable four horsemen of insecurity: disease, increasing food and energy prices, pestilence of the environmental kind, and war.

Apple’s reported actions simply confirm that when the horsemen ride out, the going gets tough. Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann told CNBC that while some tech companies may not make it through the next chapter, “the fundamental trends will remain, that technology and digitization will be important, new business models.”

[Also read: Apple (almost) says, ‘If you want to collaborate, stay apart’]

While analysts have cut current targets on Apple stock in response to the headwinds, the company seems well-poised for further growth atop those new emerging business models.

Where the puck is going

Not only has its move to Apple Silicon given the company’s Mac sales a big impetus in enterprise markets, but its focus on making technology that is both personalized and private (such as its health products) continues to give the company a strong argument as its products become essential components of the connected future Lehmann envisions.

This digital transformation is driving — and will likely continue to drive — strong growth for Apple in the enterprise and for companies providing services to support such use.

In other words, even in a potentially recessionary market, Apple still has strong opportunities for growth. The Bloomberg report makes it clear that Apple intends to chase that growth. It even specifically notes the company has no plans to slow its product announcement cycle, and we anticipate it will launch a completely new AR Glasses family in 2023. Apple innovated its way through the dot-com bust and will continue to use the same strategy this time around.

Meanwhile, Apple’s installed base is generating additional opportunities for services income. Apple’s services business has now become a bigger business than IBM, which shows how shrewd Apple management was to diversify its business mix to make it less reliant on pure hardware sales than before.

Analysts at Evercore recently predicted Apple’s services would generate $100 billion in revenue by 2024.

“While the nervous market backdrop is creating a fearful environment for tech stocks, we believe Apple’s growth story remains well intact despite the shaky macro. Apple remains our favorite tech name,” wrote Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives.

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

Copyright © 2022 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

How to stay smart about Android app permissions

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When it comes to Android and privacy, we’re accustomed to seeing things move in a certain direction.

It’s simple, really: With each new Android version, it usually gets easier to manage your privacy and understand how your information is being used. And we typically get more front-facing tools and under-the-hood improvements that allow us to handle that stuff intelligently. Obviously, right?

Of course right. And that’s precisely why it’s so puzzling to see the latest change Google’s rolling out to the Android privacy picture — a change that feels like backwards progress and a real disservice to those of us who care about being fully aware of what we put on our phones.

In case you haven’t heard, Google just introduced an update to its Play Store interface that removes the long-standing option to see exactly which permissions an app requires before you install it. I noticed it the other day and thought I was losing my mind (which, to be fair, is always a distinct possibility) — but then code-sleuthing superstar and Esper Senior Technical Developer Mishaal Rahman confirmed that the change was, in fact, actually happening and not just a figment of my imagination.

The shift appears to be connected to the launch of the Play Store’s new Data Safety section, which Google introduced a while back but is making mandatory for all apps as of today. Which, I mean, okay — I get it. Most average Android-owning organisms probably don’t look at the more detailed and technical breakdown of app permissions all that often, and Google’s undoubtedly got oodles of data that influenced this decision.

But even so, removing the ability for all of us to see that sort of information and have an easily accessible objective overview of everything an app wants to do on our devices sure seems like a step in the wrong direction.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Mobile convergence accelerates as ‘Tap to Pay’ dings US retail

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It’s been 15 years since the iPhone gave rise to the modern smartphone, and mobile now sits at the center of almost every thing we do. So it matters that US shoppers will soon find retailers prepared to take contactless payments using iPhone’s new Tap to Pay feature.

The retail experience is a mobile experience

One of the biggest US payment services providers, Adyen, has officially commenced support for Tap to Pay in its merchant networks and retailers.

Based (we think) on technology Apple purchased with Mobeewave in 2020, Tap to Pay lets retailers accept payments using an iPhone XS or newer from iPhones, contactless cards, and digital wallets from any provider choosing to support the system. Realistically, this represents the latest evolution in the mobile transformation of the retail customer journey we’ve been experiencing since Apple’s Steve Jobs climbed the stage in 2007 to show us a mobile phone that could also play music and had a real web browser.

Apple’s moves into retail have never been particularly disguised. The company runs its own global network of highly profitable retail stores and has used them to try out its ideas.

Mobile transformation of everyday life

Even before your iPhone became your wallet, consumers used the devices to check prices while in a shop (“Showrooming”), to source discount codes, and engage with manufacturers. Apple has simply moved with these demands, introducing supporting tools such as Maps, Apple Business Chat, Apple Pay, ARKit, and (in iOS 16) an expansion of tools to create and use indoor maps.

The company may have been mocked when company retail chief Angela Ahrendts introduced a new approach to retail in which stores became “town squares” and Jony Ive designed attractive pots to contain forests of indoor trees in Apple retail stores.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

The future of work is a tech (and management) challenge

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Even Apple must surely now see that the future of work is a technology challenge. Solving that challenge will demand new generations of office equipment designed to support much deeper experiences of remote and hybrid collaboration, and solutions must reflect the needs of employees.

Searching for a collaboration superstar

Corel offers up fresh insights from its Collaboration Survey, which polled 2,027 office workers in the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. It found that 54% of enterprise employees believe poor collaboration tools are a problem and 70% believe they limit productivity and waste time.

So, what’s the state of play?

Reading between the lines, businesses need to think much more deeply to ensure the tools they supply are appropriate and sufficiently good that workers will use them. They need to provide ease of use and functionality, and people need to be properly trained in how to use them.

Corel’s data shows:

  • 27% claim businesses aren’t investing in the right tools.
  • 25% agree that collaboration tools have poor functionality.
  • 22% of employees say they aren’t using the tools at their disposal.
  • 21% of employees state they aren’t trained to use the tools.

What are the characteristics of a good collaboration solution?

Corel’s data suggests that tools must be platform agnostic, must work across every device, and should enable multiple people to work on the same project at the same time. They needs to support people working asynchronously, be simple and intuitive, and improve the employee experience.

Because those tools that get used most effectively will inevitably be those that employees like using. (Here are six virtual collaboration tools you might want to try.)

We’ve always known this, of course. Think back to the pre-pandemic years, when the twin mantras of employee choice and employee experience taught us that no business should insist workers use poorly designed software. There has long been a reactionary belief that work-related products should be hard to use because they are used for work, but the advent of the iPhone and BYOD should have ended such thinking.

No modern business should rely on an interface that’s not developed with employee experience in mind — particularly when Corel’s survey shows 41% of workers have left, or would consider leaving, their job because of poor collaboration at work.

It is also worth noting a recent MindGym survey; it showed the transformation of the workplace is also taking its toll on managers, 70% of whom feel burnt-out as they struggle to get a grip on these changes.

Business leaders must recognize their employees need help at senior and junior levels.

Relevance is a business challenge

While simplicity is a design challenge, relevance is a business challenge. That’s why employers seeking collaboration tools should speak to their teams first, engage with them to find out what challenges they face, and work to identify and select the most appropriate solution for that unique set of needs. That’s how Volvo improved its own field services teams.

That’s not to say that every firm will find a one-fits-all solution. But employee engagement and collective decision-making can at least help optimize success. You aren’t investing in autonomous decision making (a vital quality to remote work) if you insist on forcing people to use ineffective tools chosen in the boardroom.

At the front end of your business, the employee experience is your business, not ancillary to it, which means your choices impact how workers experience their day.

[Also read: Enterprise tech? Don’t forget to make it human]

It’s not rocket science.

Shiny happy people holding hands

A happy employee will use the tools you provide and boost your bottom line. Tools that don’t get used because you’ve forced them onto your employees are far less likely to achieve success.

That’s true across in-person teams, but is far more an issue for remote teams, which need high degrees of loyalty and engagement to succeed.

And yet, despite these realities, some managers insist on hierarchical approaches to remote work. That’s why 78% of employees say leadership could be doing more to boost collaboration.

“Respondents reported issues with their company failing to invest in the right tools (27%), current tools lacking necessary functionality (25%), a complete lack of access to collaboration tools (22%), and lack of training on the tools they do have access to (21%),” Corel’s survey says.

Employees say they need videoconferencing, remote access, and instant messaging, of course. But they also seek tools for mind mapping, concept creation, and direct collaboration such as design and review.

Where tomorrow shines

The jury has already returned its verdict on remote and hybrid work. Since the pandemic struck, we’ve learned that hybrid and remote working can be productive, but having the right tools helps maximize that opportunity. Even Apple knows this, which is why it continues to try to find its own new models for work.

Corel’s Chief People Officer, Scott Day, said in a statement:

“This survey underscores the alarming cost of inadequate collaboration tools and highlights that organizations of all sizes are limited by the quick fix solutions that were implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Rather than improving employees’ ability to be productive, these stop-gap solutions are frequently a barrier to getting work done and can significantly impair hybrid and remote workers’ overall productivity. Listening to employees, creating an environment in which people want to work, and investing in simple and intuitive collaboration tools is what will set businesses up for success in 2022.”

Meet me in the crowd

The future of work is a technology challenge. Understanding what that means requires a close collaboration both within and across teams. It may also necessitate conversations with key partners to ensure systems interoperate effectively.

And don’t neglect to consider the lessons of Shadow IT – which is how your employees are already asking for help to get work done.

Corel’s Collaboration Survey Report 2022 is available to download.

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

Copyright © 2022 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

Drop, crack, d’oh! My broken Android phone epiphany

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Man, I had one hell of a streak.

All these years — approximately 7,967 since I first started using and writing about Android — and somehow, rather miraculously, I’d never outright broken a phone.

Impressive, I know. But don’t let yourself get wrapped in awe yet, my fellow drop-dreading denizen: My streak of impeccable Android phone protection has officially come to a crashing halt.

Now, I didn’t technically drop my phone, mind you. And I didn’t technically break it myself, either. But it was definitely broken. And it happened on my watch.

While the experience isn’t one I’d recommend to anyone, it provided a powerful reminder that even the most obsessively cautious Android-appreciating animals among us are bound to slip up and run into an unfortunate situation like this sooner or later. (For some Android phone owners — hi, honey! — these sorts of butter-fingered mishaps seem to happen with almost shocking frequency.)

And more than anything, it forced me to think through some smart steps we should all keep in mind to keep our information safe whenever our precious Android companions crash and tumble.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Q&A: Marketcircle CEO on leadership in tomorrow’s workplace

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Across digital transformation efforts, recognition is growing that communication and collaboration are increasingly important — even as some processes become automated. More and more, developers are looking for ways tech can boost teams in a hybrid age.

With that in mind, I spoke with Alykhan Jetha (AJ), the president and CEO at Marketcircle, to get his views on the leadership qualities the future of work will need.

A little Daylite on the future workplace

Marketcircle’s Daylite is a CRM solution for Apple products. It’s built for collaboration, both externally and within internal teams. The software itself integrates customer relationship management, scheduling, contact, sales, and project management into a single Ma-c, iPhone-, or iPad-native application.

Over the years, the company has enhanced Daylite to maximize the value of customer connections, including the capacity to hold useful data on historical interactions. Most recently, the company updated the sync system Daylight uses so it keeps more users and larger quantities of data synchromized.

At its most basic, some see Daylite as an Apple-only alternative to Salesforce. It’s because the company already creates tools for hybrid teams that Jetha’s insights into the future of work will be valuable to other enterprise professionals. This Q&A offers up some of the insights he had to share.

What are the three most important qualities for leadership when managing remote teams? “Having the right people in the right place is essential, but how do you get there?

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple MDM industry outlook: M&A on the way

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Apple device management is the beating heart at the center of the mobile hybrid enterprise, and vendors that support Apple’s MDM (mobile device management) platform are investing as they seek to build for future growth. At this stage in the evolution of the Apple device management industry, it appears we are on the edge of an M&A frenzy as players in that space seek to build unique identities designed to foster future growth.

Industry activity is intensifying

Jamf, arguably one of the biggest firms in the Apple MDM business, has been investing deeply in companies and services to extend the tranche of security and device management tools it can provide to its customers. These extend to powerful content monitoring, zero trust, and endpoint management.

Jamf CIO Linh Lam recently noted the acceleration of Apple’s enterprise market status, predicting: “The way the demand is growing and the expectations of younger generations joining the workforce, Apple devices will be the number one endpoint by 2030.” 

More recently, we’ve begun to see entities from outside the Apple device management space begin to seek a way in. VMWare’s $1.17 billion acquisition of AirWatch in 2014 showed what was coming. Ivanti in 2021 purchased MobileIron. More recently, GoTo is in the process of acquiring cloud-based cross-platform device management provider Miradore. And arguably one of the larger illustrations of this kind was Apple’s 2020 acquisition of MDM vendor Fleetsmith, whose solutions have now been rolled inside Apple Business Essentials.

Elsewhere, Hexnode has entered a partnership with Keeper Security; JumpCloud in February acquired MYKI to expand its cloud directory platform; Kandji continues to attract investment capital as it plays its own long game; Addigy is working with Acronis (the latter also works with Jamf); and Mosyle recently closed a $196m funding round and introduced new solutions for enterprise customers.

The irresistible force

This activity has purpose, of course. As enterprises become increasingly digitized, the value of the device management market is expected to reach $28.7 billion by 2027.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Accused of ‘unfair’ practices, Apple faces App Store court battle in UK

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Depending how you look at it, Apple is gaining a fresh opportunity to explain why the charges it levies at the App Store are fair, or regulators are getting the chance to decide what the future shape of online business will be by defining what constitutes an acceptable profit margin in digital sales.

In either case, these decisions set precedents which can, presumably, be applied against other forms of business and retail. After all, if regulators define acceptable profit margins for one line of business, then they must adopt a consistent approach that can be applied across all industries. Right now, Apple seems to believe that for most transactions, the fair figure is zero or 15%, with those with the broadest shoulders paying more to support others.

Two sides to every story

What’s happening is that the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has decided to permit a Collective Proceedings Order (CPO, basically equivalent to a class action) to go to trial.

The action was brought in May 2021 by Dr. Rachael Kent, a lecturer in Digital Economy and Society Education at King’s College, London. It argues that Apple is engaged in unfair business practices by forcing developers to use its own payment systems and taking up to 30% commission. If the case succeeds, approximately 19.6 million UK customers who have purchased apps from the App Store will get a share of up to £1.5 billion compensation. More information concerning the background to this case is available at the UK Apple App Store Claim site.

At its simplest, the allegations are that the company breached the law by excluding competition and charging an unlawful level of commission on digital purchases in the App Store. These allegations boil down to a combination of three charges:

  • Unfair pricing (the 30% commission)
  • Unfair tying (by requiring app purchases use Apple’s own payment systems)
  • Exclusive dealing (by only supporting App Store purchases on its platforms)

Apple had attempted to get part of the claim that alleged unfair pricing withdrawn but was prepared to challenge allegations of exclusive dealing and tying in the court.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple slaps hard against ‘mercenary’ surveillance-as-a-service industry

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Apple has struck a big blow against the mercenary “surveillance-as-a-service” industry, introducing a new, highly secure Lockdown Mode to protect individuals at the greatest risk of targeted attacks. The company is also offering millions of dollars to support research to expose such threats.

Starting in iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura, and available now in the latest developer-only betas, Lockdown Mode hardens security defenses and limits the functionalities sometimes abused by state-sponsored surveillance hackers. Apple describes this protection as “sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.”

In recent years, a series of targeted spyware attacks against journalists, activists, and others have been exposed. Names including Pegasus, DevilsTongue, Predator, Hermit, and NSO Group have undermined trust in digital devices and exposed the risk of semi-private entities and the threat they show against civil society. Apple has made no secret that it is opposed to such practices, filing suit against the NSO Group in November and promising to oppose such practices where it can.

“Apple’s newly released Lockdown Mode will reduce the attack surface, increase costs for spyware firms, and thus make it much harder for repressive governments to hack high-risk users,” said John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

“We congratulate [Apple] for providing protection to human rights defenders, heads of state, lawyers, activists, journalists, and more,” tweeted the EFF, a privacy advocacy group.

What does Lockdown Mode do?

At present, Apple says Lockdown Mode provides the following protections:

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

10 next-level tricks for your Pixel Clock app

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Google’s Pixel phones are practically overflowing with useful stuff. And some of the best options of all are things you’ve probably never even noticed.

That’s true for the Pixel’s core Android software as well as its Google-made apps — everything from the excellent calling-related features in the Pixel Phone app to the expanded array of advanced options in Google Assistant on Pixels.

It’s even true in apps that seem so basic and utilitarian, you’d never think they had anything interesting lurking in their dusty virtual corners.

Today, it’s time to explore one such app — the seemingly mundane Pixel Clock app that came preinstalled on your phone. The Clock app may appear to be a simple spot for setting a timer or alarm, but don’t let yourself be fooled: Beneath its second-ticking surface, that unassuming part of your Pixel has some powerful options that’ll make your life a whole lot easier.

Oh, and if you don’t have a Pixel, by the way, don’t worry: While the Clock app is the default time-keeping tool on Google’s self-made phones, you can actually download it on any Android device and get the exact same experience even outside of the Pixel universe.

All right — ready to see all the cool stuff your phone’s Clock app can do?

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Hard times inside Apple’s forgotten App Store

Are you one of the many iOS users that ignores the row of apps at the bottom of the message composition window?Once the appeal...