The UpStream

The Jobs Era is over: Jony Ive is leaving Apple to form design firm

posted Friday Jun 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

The Jobs Era is over: Jony Ive is leaving Apple to form design firm

In 1996, two people joined the team at Apple: Steve Jobs returned from his excommunication to head the company and Jony Ive came in to help design some of the company's new products. While Jobs left the company before passing away many years ago, the era of his leadership has remained in Ive's designs. Nearly 23 years later, the Steve Jobs Era is officially coming to an end, as Apple announced Jony Ive's departure. CEO Tim Cook said,

Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple's revival cannot be overstated, from 1998's groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park, where recently he has been putting so much of his energy and care.

Jony Ive will be founding his own design firm, where he will get the opportunity to work on projects that are not Apple-based, and likely not tech-based. After nearly a quarter century working on just Apple products and projects, it will be good for him to flex his design muscle again. That's not to say that Ive will be excluded from Apple projects going forward. Cook said that Apple will engage Ive's firm on future projects, though did not go into detail.

There is no doubt that Apple would not be where it is today if it weren't for the combined efforts of Jobs and Ive. In fact, there is a good chance the company would not have survived the 90s without the products that these two brought to market. Some did not stand the test of time, while others are still considered top-notch designs. The iMac series, for example, is viewed as some of the silliest products the company has ever released. From the fruit-colored bubbles to the swivel desk lamp looking computer, the iMac has always been the joke of the industry. On the other hand, the early iPhones, especially the iPhone 4, the iPod, and the iPad, have all led the industry in their designs, for better or worse.

The problem is that the company's designs have stalled in the last few years. While the iPhone X might have introduced the notch design that many others have emulated, the phone's overall design was not a significant departure from the past decade. The iPad and iPad Pro have essentially remained unchanged for nearly a decade. The likelihood is that Jony Ive has been in a design rut because he has not been able to explore additional projects. Outside of the iterative product projects, his only real design flex has been Apple Park, the company's spaceship campus.

Hopefully, the introduction of new design ideas will energize Apple's product development teams. With someone else heading up the design efforts, perhaps Apple will be able to join the rest of the mobile industry in implementing standards, such as developer-enabled NFC, USB-C, and more. The phones might return to their origins of being ergonomic. We might even see a computer that doesn't look like a giant cheese grater. Only time will tell, however.

AT&T considers selling one media property while expanding another

posted Sunday Jun 9, 2019 by Scott Ertz

AT&T considers selling one media property while expanding another

Since purchasing DirecTV, AT&T has seen constant user loss. The loss could have been even worse than publicly reported, with a recent lawsuit accusing them of misreporting numbers. But, if we just look at the reported numbers, the company has lost 350,000 subscribers o er the past 2 quarters. Even DirecTV Now, the company's streaming service, has lost users ending in 1.5 million total. Because of this, AT&T is having to make hard decisions about the future of DirecTV.

According to reports, AT&T is considering selling or spinning off the division entirely. The most likely end result for satellite TV would be similar to satellite radio: a single company. As of now, it looks like DISH Network is interested in purchasing the company, its assets, and its users. This would make the combined DISH/DirecTV the only consumer-facing satellite television subscription service.

In reality, DISH is most likely interested in the contracts that the company has, plus their streaming infrastructure. Streaming television services are quickly creating a challenge for traditional cable and satellite television providers. Services like DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, and more, are becoming lucrative, and DISH Network might just be looking at entering that business.

If they purchase DirecTV, however, they will have one new challenger to contend with from AT&T's other media division: WarnerMedia. The service, which came to light last year, is thought to combine a number of WarnerMedia's big properties, including HBO, into a single service. A leak suggests the price will be between $16 and $17 per month.

While $17 per month might sound like a lot at first, it is important to note that HBO NOW currently runs $15 per month. If you simply add Cinemax to the mix, an additional $2 is a steal But, when you bundle in other WarnerMedia properties, such as Warner Bros. television and movies, the price gets even more reasonable. Of course, this number is just a rumor at this point, and things could change between now and the official launch of the service, which is expected in March 2020.

Cryptocurrency could soon land you 10 years in prison in India

posted Sunday Jun 9, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Cryptocurrency could soon land you 10 years in prison in India

The world of cryptocurrency has created legal and social problems across the globe. Whether it be exchanges shutting down without notice, multi-billion dollar hijackings, or defining a legal framework for what cryptocurrencies are, governments have had trouble wrapping their heads around the idea. While most countries have begun to look into regulating these currencies as investments, similar to stocks or bonds, one government is taking a different approach.

Rather than trying to regulate the industry, India is considering making the whole industry illegal. A bill making it illegal to mine, hold, buy, sell, or trade cryptocurrencies is reportedly on its way to the Parliament of India. The punishment would be a decade-long jail sentence for any and all of these "infractions."

The bill, entitled "Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2019," has been created to combat what the government sees as a technology that enables illegal money transfers, illicit purchases, and tax evasion. There is definitely a lot of reality behind the accusations. Silk Road famously made it easy to buy and sell drugs, weapons, and even people, all made possible because of Bitcoin. Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, also make interstate money transfers easy, potentially circumventing existing bank laws.

However, trying to outlaw the concept is never going to work. The technology is here and it isn't going anywhere, no matter how hard the government tries. In trying to outlaw cryptocurrency, it will not eliminate its use. Instead, it will drive it underground, where the behaviors will continue to exist without any way for oversight. Instead, the government should figure out how to make cryptocurrency legitimate within the context of the country's banking law. Unfortunately, the government had previously sided with the central bank, who has fought hard to make cryptocurrency a bad word, likely leading to this law.

Microsoft and Xbox are all about the games in 2019 and beyond

posted Sunday Jun 9, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Xbox are all about the games in 2019 and beyond

While we never know exactly what to expect from an E3 presentation, we always know we'll see new games. Microsoft decided to dedicate as much time to that endeavor as possible, exhibiting 60 games, including 14 from Xbox Game Studios, and 34 titles which will premiere on the company's Xbox Game Pass subscription service. The presentation included a number of world premieres, both from first-party and third-party studios. Plus, we got a better look at Project xCloud and the next Xbox platform.


A highly anticipated game coming into E3 was Cyberpunk 2077. Xbox showed off a very long trailer for the game, ending with the inclusion of Keanu Reeves. Immediately following the trailer, Keavue Reeves himself came on stage to discuss the details of the game. You play as an outlaw, a role Keanu knows well, in a futuristic civilization where cybernetic body modification has become not just the norm, but an obsession. The game looks both beautiful and engaging, with visuals that are simply stunning. The game, which is based on the 1980s-era tabletop game Cyberpunk 2020, is slated for release in April 2020.

One of the surprise titles was Blair Witch, obviously based on the film. The game seems to take the responsibility of the title seriously, bringing some unique gameplay and storytelling features into the game. Just like the film, it uses a camcorder to help narrate the story, as well as help the player discover not easily seen content.

The highly anticipated Gear 5, the newest game in the Gears of War franchise was also shown off. The new Escape mode is what we got to learn about, care of a trip under the stage. This new mode is similar to the popular "zombie mode" in other games, but taking place within the Gears of War universe. It is very reminiscent of Left4Dead, but only 3 survivors instead of 4. The big twist is that you can create your own hives and challenge your friends to survive. The game releases on September 10, 2019, but will release to Xbox Game Pass 4 days early.

The company also wanted to spotlight ID @ Xbox, the indie developer network at Xbox. Xbox showed off a sizzle reel featuring dozens of new indie games, all coming to the Xbox. More importantly, all of the game featured in the reel will also premiere in Game Pass on launch day, making them available to all Game Pass subscribers.

Double Fine

The newest member of the Xbox Game Studio family is Double Fine, the studio behind the cult classic Psychonauts. Personally, this game is one of my all-time favorites and is a game I go back to every couple of years. As the company's first official announcement as part of XGS, Double Fine showed off a trailer for Psychonauts 2. It maintains all of the weird, dark humor of the original while picking up the story right where it left off.

Xbox Game Pass

While tons of new games will be premiering on Xbox Game Pass for Console, Xbox Game Pass for PC is official and available in open beta RIGHT NOW. The platform is launching with over 100 titles available for play. To join the beta, simply download the new Xbox app for Windows. In addition to the solo service, the company is announcing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which includes Xbox Game Pass Console, Xbox Live Gold, and Xbox Game Pass PC for $14.99 per month. You can try the whole thing right now $1.

Project xCloud

We've talked at length about the possibilities that Project xCloud could bring about. The problem has been, how will it work, and how close is it to market? At E3 this week, Microsoft is giving the first hands-on with the platform. So, it's close to market, but how will it work? Project xCloud will have 2 modes: full cloud and hybrid cloud. The full cloud version will use hardware in a data center to stream to wherever you are. The hybrid model, however, will use your existing Xbox hardware to stream to your games to your devices. While there is no public pricing on the full cloud option, the hybrid model will be available starting in October and will be entirely free to use.

Project Scarlett

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Xbox should be the center of the living room. While that was a great goal, not all gamers were into it. The feedback has been to focus the console on the gaming experience, and that is exactly what the next generation of Xbox hardware is all about.

A new AMD-powered processor is designed to make everything run faster. It is 4x more powerful than the Xbox One X, which is already the most powerful console on the market. Adding faster RAM and an SSD allows for 8K video, little to no load times, and significantly more engaging content. Studios are already working on content for this new console, and the reviews are in: it's going to make games far better. The new hardware will be available Holiday 2020, and it will launch with the definitive Xbox title: Halo Infinite.

Apple's big day: The ups and downs from the WWDC 2019 keynote

posted Sunday Jun 9, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Apple's big day: The ups and downs from the WWDC 2019 keynote

Apple has a small collection of annual announcement events. In September, the company tends to show off consumer hardware, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook line. In June, however, the company holds its annual World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC, where they tend to show off software and professional hardware. WWDC 2019 was no different, with new operating system information, updated platforms, and a new Mac Pro model, plus a return to monitors. While the announcements received the mandatory applause from those in attendance, the general response was not entirely positive.

iOS (iPhone and iPod Touch)

The biggest change coming to iOS 13 (which is now only available on iPod Touch and iPhone), is not something that consumers will know about but is a big deal for developers: SwiftUI. SwiftUI is a replacement for the disastrous UI designer that app builders have had to contend with for the past decade. SwiftUI brings to the Apple development platform features that Microsoft developers have had for over a decade, whether building for Windows, Xbox, Android, or iPhone: a visual designer. Developers can now build interfaces and see what they will look like, and even make live adjustments directly in Xcode, which is Apple's development tool.

For consumers, the biggest change will be the addition of dark mode, another feature that has been part of the other platforms for years. For some, dark mode is an always-on feature, while for others it is a great way to ease the screen strain on their eyes in the evening. Either way, a dark background with light text is a feature that Apple fans have been asking for over the years, and they finally have it.

Another big addition that will make using iOS apps easier is multi-window support. The best example of this feature is being able to have more than one browser window open, each with its own set of tabs, or each with a single active tab. It is also a popular feature on other platforms for messaging, whether it be email or text. It will be interesting to see where Apple adds the feature, as well as where 3rd party developers see the benefit.

iPadOS (iPad)

Since its inception, the iPad has run on the same operating system as the other handheld mobile devices: iOS. Starting this generation, a fork of iOS will be used for the iPad, creatively called iPadOS. While nearly identical to the core mobile operating system, forking the development will allow Apple to more easily add features such as split screen on the iPad Pro, without having to worry about unintended consequences on the other devices. It's important to note that, as of today, it will not affect any app deployment, but it is always possible that this will change at some point in the future.


The biggest change to watchOS is the ability to use it on its own. The App Store is now available directly on the Apple Watch, meaning that you can install apps without the need for an iPhone attached. This will make the untethered mode, such as when using it on LTE, far more useful. However, the biggest benefit for Apple Watch owners is not needing to clutter up your iPhone with apps, just because you want something on your Watch. Direct app installation will mean smaller, more focused Watch apps, and less clutter on your phone.

macOS Catalina

The next version of macOS, Catalina, will bring with it some new features. The most exciting is probably Sidecar. This feature allows Mac and iPad owners to use the iPad as an additional monitor for their Mac. This is not a new capability to the platform, as there have been a number of apps that have allowed for this feature for years. However, Apple's embracing of the technology likely means better stability.

Another feature is Find My, the extension of Find My Phone onto MacBooks. While a lost MacBook probably means that you should focus more on what you're doing, having this feature is a benefit for those who can't do that. It sounds like the feature works like Tile, meaning that other devices will report encountering the laptop, when and where.

In addition, there are a number of app redesigns. As we reported last week, iTunes is dead (on Mac), being replaced instead by Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts. The Photos, Notes, and Safari have also brought about updates.

Mac Pro and Pro Display

The Mac Pro received a much-needed refresh. The new model uses Intel Xeon server processors, which is an interesting choice for a non-server device. However, what Apple has accomplished with the Mac Pro is truly impressive: rendering of 3 separate 8K video feeds at once, without the computer simply melting into a puddle is not something you would expect from a pre-built computer. However, for the estimated $45k for the top-level model, you could likely build several computers of equal or greater capacity.

The product that received the most coverage, however, is the Pro Display. This screen is equal or better than a $40k broadcast-quality reference monitor but runs only $6k. However, the real focus here has been the fact that this expensive display does not come with a stand. Instead, the company offers a VESA mount for $200, or a tabletop stand for $1000. Yes, you read that correctly: $1000 for a monitor stand, something that comes with monitors. Add to it that the monitor and stand carry with it the incredibly ugly cheese grater design of the new Mac Pro, and it has been met with a lot of negative sentiment, even from diehard Apple fans.

Ding dong, the witch is dead: iTunes is being replaced... sort of

posted Saturday Jun 1, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Ding dong, the witch is dead: iTunes is being replaced... sort of

Though theoretically a successful platform, iTunes has always been a hated part of the Apple ecosystem. It was introduced in 2001 as the legal alternative to Napster - a way to purchase and listen to digital music. It was the companion product to the first iPod devices, which were limited in capabilities and availability. As the platform grew, so did the capabilities of iTunes. Over time, they introduced podcasts to the platform, then videos. With the release of the iPhone, the company decided to incorporate all of the phone's capabilities into the same application. This has made it a very large, bloated piece of software that requires constant updates to support unrelated products and services.

Over the past few years, Apple has begun to spin out the capabilities of iTunes into individual mobile applications, like Apple Podcasts, Apple Music, and Apple TV. Unfortunately, on the computer, iTunes has continued to exist as an unwanted and necessary application. All of that is about to change, however, as Apple is expected to announce at WWDC that they have done the same to the computer that they have to mobile. There will be individual applications for Music, Podcasts, and Video, making each application theoretically easier to navigate.

When the context is lost in an application like iTunes, it makes it nearly impossible to find your way around. For example, the process of syncing music, photos, and ringtones to an iPhone are all different, despite being part of the same application. By giving each task its own dedicated context, it should make using those platforms easier. Plus, it means that adding support for a new model of iPhone, for example, should no longer require an application update, unlike today.

Some possible screenshots have leaked, suggesting that the applications will retain the ugly and outdated user interface that iTunes currently uses, though that might have been for a prototype version, a temporary launch version, or even a complete fake. We don't have long to wait, as WWDC 2019 starts Monday morning.

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