Microsoft is not the enemy. They never have been

There’s this common fallacy that if you’re a Mac user — at least if you’re one of those Mac users — then it follows that you must hate Microsoft.

I remember a time when that was more accurate — in the 1990s, when Microsoft had plainly beaten Apple for dominance in enterprise, and Apple was on the ropes. Boy, it was fun to hate Microsoft then.

But even then, Microsoft wasn’t the enemy.

People forget that Microsoft was one of Apple’s first third-party Mac developers. Excel originated on the Mac, after all. Microsoft has been developing for the Mac for the last 30 years, and while their interest and support for the platform has waxed, waned, and waxed again over the years, they’ve never left it.

Many folks who buy a Mac now do so because they want to get away from Windows. They’ve had a hard transition from Windows 7 or 8 to 10, or have reliability or usage problems that they blame on Windows but which often have to do with the actual devices they’re using, and how they’re configured.

Even when they get away from Windows, though, these same customers are entirely dependent on workflows they’ve developed or their employers use which require Microsoft products, like Office, in order to use.

These days Microsoft supports the Mac with its Office 2016 product, which the company thoroughly publicly tested before launching it officially. And you can get office apps for your iPhone and iPad, making it possible to create an end-to-end workflow for home and business that makes it possible for you to do your work anywhere you have a device, whatever that device is.

In that respect, Microsoft is very much like Apple: They’re trying to put your work and your productivity ahead of the user experience. Make device and app use invisible, as it were, focusing solely on getting you what you need to get your work done.

At Apple’s iPad Pro introduction this September, one of the development partners that shared the stage with Apple was Microsoft. They showed off Office on the iPad taking advantage of iPad Pro-specific features. That Microsoft was there and figured as prominently as it did speaks loads about how important Apple still thinks that relationship is.

iPad and Mac Convergence isn’t the Answer, it’s about Seamless Workflow

I recently wrote an editorial for The Mac Observer after Tim Cook reacted to the suggestion that Apple would be heading iOS and OS X towards a singular user experience.

I argue that making workflow seamless is Apple’s end game here, not duplicating the iOS experience on the Mac.

iPad and Mac Convergence isn’t the Answer, it’s about Seamless Workflow


Imac iphone

Looking for your Apple device manuals? Check iBooks!

“I like the iPhone, but I wish it had a manual I could read.”

Years ago, Apple streamlined its product packaging to only include the bare essentials, and the company decided at that point that those bare essentials didn’t include a user’s manual. After all, Apple products are easy enough to use straight out of the box, right? Why bother with bulky documentation that very few customers ever use.

I’ve actually heard this complaint from a lot of the customers who come in to the retail store where I work. So I know that this is a recurring theme, at least among a certain type of my clientele: Often older customers who are simply more comfortable with printed matter.

Unfortunately, the days of big books that come with computers and accessories is waning. It’s wasteful, it adds a lot of weight and bulk to product packaging, and the fact is that few people use them.

The good news is that there are manuals available for most Apple products. If you already have a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you have everything you need to get started. The secret is Apple’s iBooks app.

Screen Shot 2015 11 02 at 7 41 51 AM

iBooks is Apple’s electronic book reading software. It’s Apple’s alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook (apps that are also available on the App Store). It’s available for both iOS and for OS X. Here’s the link to Apple’s section on the iBook Store.

Apple periodically updates product documentation to reflect changes in new operating system releases, highlighting new features and newly exposed functionality.

The best part is that it’s all free, and you don’t even need to own the device to download the documentation. So if you’re curious about how Apple’s MacBook works,  or you’d like to know a little bit more about the Apple Watch before you drop $350 this Christmas, you can visit the iBook Store and download Apple docs to your heart’s content.

The crescent moon on the front of the iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 — not the 6s, just the 6 — is plagued with a manufacturing or design problem with its front-facing (or in Apple’s confusing parlance, “FaceTime” camera). Over time the camera itself will shift position inside the phone. It causes a distinct crescent moon effect:


I stopped in the Apple Store “near” me last weekend and finally got it fixed. They replaced the screen – under warranty, so there was no cost to me. If you have this problem, get yourself to an Apple Store. Make a Genius Bar appointment to save yourself time.

Tesla’s Autopilot is not magic, it’s just code

Tesla recently rolled out an expensive over the air firmware update for their electric cars. Among the changes in the 7.0 release is a catchy-named feature called “Autopilot,” which enables the vehicle to achieve a fair degree of driver autonomy: On a well-marked highway, the car can keep itself in its lane, change lanes when it needs to, avoid other vehicles, speed up, slow down and even come to a complete stop.

Tesla model s autopilot software 70

But it is most certainly not a true autopilot. And in introducing the new feature, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, made it clear that it’s a feature that’s still very much in development. He called it a “public beta.”

I can’t remember the last time an auto executive would have admitted that a new feature in a flagship automobile wasn’t ready for prime time, but there it is.

Still, there have been a few reports of Tesla drivers completely yielding control to Autopilot, with predictably dire results.

I’m not sure what’s more foolish: Naming the feature “Autopilot” to begin with, or being gullible enough to assume that you no longer have to drive your own car simply because some new software has been downloaded.

Years ago, I worked for a Mac software developer in tech support. I was asked to garner a list of customer requests for the next major version of an app we were working on, and presented it at the meeting.

As the list of demands and requests grew ever more esoteric, the exasperated project manager finally blurted, “You know, these people have to understand: There’s a difference between AM and FM. AM being actual machine code and FM being f*ing magic.”

Apple adds Boston transit maps

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan debuted with transit maps for a variety of North American cities, but Boston was left off the list. It didn’t take Apple too long to fix that, though. The company has updated its maps data with transit information for Boston commuters. If you plan to use the MBTA or Commuter Rail to get in and out of Boston, you can now use Maps to plan your route.

There are, of course, third party apps that have filled the gap quite nicely, like Transit. Still, it’s convenient to use built-in apps, and Handoff integration makes it convenient for you to plot your route on your Mac then transfer it to your iPhone.

You shouldn’t need to do anything to see the new content — it’s all server-side on Apple’s end.Screen Shot 2015 10 22 at 10 24 02 AM

The iPad Pro’s new Smart Connector

Almost since the iPad debuted, people have been trying to use keyboards with it. Third-party keyboard case makers have been only too happy to oblige. Over the years, there’s been a landslide of cases and other contraptions designed to make it easier to do keyboard input on the iPad.

With a few exceptions, almost all the keyboard peripherals for the iPad have involved Bluetooth. There’s no actual physical tether between the iPad and the keyboard, just wireless radio transmission.

In practice, this can create a few problems for the unsophisticated user. Bluetooth isn’t perfectly reliable — devices occasionally unsync and need to be resynced, and that’s a process that’s surprisingly difficult unless you’re familiar with the Settings app and how it works. Also, wireless devices need to be recharged, which means keeping yet another charging cable handy and remembering to do so when the battery runs low.

Ultimately, Bluetooth is a maintenance hassle and a pain point for the average user.

When the iPad Pro debuts in November, it’ll be the first iOS device to feature a new peripheral interface called the Smart Connector. The Smart Connector fixes these issues.

Screen Shot 2015 10 17 at 12 12 21 PM

The Smart Connector gives Apple’s new Smart Keyboard, another iPad Pro-specific creation, a place to attach. It’s a three-conductor interface on one side of the iPad Pro. So the new Smart Keyboard doesn’t use Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad. What’s more, it doesn’t need a separate battery for power — it will draw off the power of the iPad Pro itself.

Bluetooth remains a ubiquitous and important technology for the iPad. The Smart Connector is only on one iOS device to start, but Apple will distribute it to work on other future iPads as well.