The computer as an appliance: Moving beyond the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Siri

Over the past few decades, computing has trended towards the personal. We’ve gone from the age of desktops to the age of laptops to the age of the smartphone. And even though that newfound mobility has brought with it freedom and flexibility, it’s not without its costs.

For one thing, we are, more than ever, entranced with our own personal screens, in the same way that we don our headphones and tune out the world. Computing has become a siloed affair, with each of us involved in our own personalized experiences—even if they connect us with other people across the world, all on their own devices.

But part of me wonders if the pendulum is beginning to swing back to a model where the technology we use at home is linked to a particular location. That’s not to say such a device would supplant the smartphone or tablet, or even the laptop. But maybe the time is finally upon us when the computer becomes a home appliance.

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Why Apple’s next killer app is health

Over the past few decades, Apple has revolutionized the personal computer, the smartphone, and digital music, just to name a few. But the company’s next target might be its biggest yet: human health.

That should hardly be a surprise at this point. Those who have been paying attention have seen Apple heading in this direction since before Tim Cook took over as CEO. Probably, not coincidentally, since around the time that Steve Jobs was first diagnosed with the illness that eventually took his life.

Mortality confronts us all at some point. But, to paraphrase the old expression, nobody ever does anything about it. Apple, however, is using its broad expertise in a number of realms to push forward its health agenda.

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Why Apple’s laptops could use a little less innovation at the moment

As a company, Apple’s philosophy is often about pushing the envelope. And that’s great. It’s how we got the original Mac’s GUI, the iPhone, and other products and features too numerous to name. Apple likes to play up this revolutionary part of its history, and how it’s constantly trying to create world-beating products and not just move the needle slowly forward. It’s not to imagine the late Steve Jobs summoning forth the adage often attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Of course, the philosophy of innovation can go awry. Apple was so concerned about transforming the 2013 edition of the Mac Pro into an elegant, radical piece of machinery that it lost sight of what made that product appeal to its users. In a rare moment, the company even admitted it had taken the wrong approach.

But what about Apple’s portable Macs? With this week’s announcement of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop—of which there is very little that’s radical—it seems as though Apple’s notebooks may have missed a beat by being too focused on pushing the envelope. Maybe what we’re looking for is a faster horse.

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iOS

Why peer-to-peer Apple Pay is a great idea

Even in 2017, paying for things is still mostly terrible—even more so now that a multitude of options seem to confront us every time we step up to a register: Do I swipe? Insert my card? Enter a PIN? Sign my name?

When Apple Pay launched in 2014, it came with the promise of reducing much of that complexity. Just tap your phone or Apple Watch to the reader and you’re done. That hasn’t exactly panned out, thanks to both the fragmentation of payment methods and less-than-universal adoption of Apple Pay.

Still, given the inroads that Apple has made in paying businesses, it’s somewhat surprising that the company hasn’t yet jumped headfirst into person-to-person payments. However, if a report in Recode this week is any indication, Apple may be eyeing just such a move. And the benefits for its users could be tremendous.

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iOS

How making its iWork and iLife apps free could hurt Apple and its users

“Free” seems like a good thing, right? After all, who doesn’t like not paying for things? This week’s announcement that Apple’s productivity and creative software—namely Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GarageBand, and iMovie—is now free to all users was mainly greeted with a positive reaction from pundits and consumers alike.

I’ll agree that making these apps (which were already provided no charge to people who bought new Macs, iPhone, and iPads) free across the board is largely a positive move. But that decision does have some consequences that could be a downside for end users, developers, and even Apple.

Not-so-fierce competition

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iTunes needs to go (well, the name, anyway)

I’ve been giving some thought to the future of iTunes and I’ve reached the conclusion that, well, it probably doesn’t have one. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news and all that.

Almost two years ago, around the time Apple was rolling out Apple Music, I reasoned that it was a good opportunity to break up iTunes, the app—which, if you’re keeping score, didn’t happen. But the longer I’ve considered the matter, the more I’ve come to think that the name iTunes is due to ride into the sunset. And how about this for confirmation: Apple just rebranded iTunes Podcasts as Apple Podcasts. iTunes, your days are numbered.

What’s in a name?

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In praise of the versatile Mac mini

The Mac Pro got plenty of love from Apple this week—and about time—but the other supporting player in Apple’s desktop lineup got only a brief nod from the company’s executives.

“The Mac mini remains a product in our lineup. Nothing more to say about it today,” Phil Schiller told reporters, according to John Gruber.

The Mac mini has never been a hot topic with the folks in Cupertino. Now in its twelfth year, the little Mac that could has been infrequently updated and often underestimated. But while it may not get the limelight as often as its siblings, I think that the mini has earned its spot as the unsung hero of the Mac lineup.

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