Apple Is Planning to Launch a News Subscription Service – Bloomberg

Apple Inc. plans to integrate recently acquired magazine app Texture into Apple News and debut its own premium subscription offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services.

The Cupertino, California company agreed last month to buy Texture, which lets users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. Apple cut about 20 Texture staff soon after, according to one of the people.

The world’s largest technology company is integrating Texture technology and the remaining employees into its Apple News team, which is building the premium service. An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, the people said.

I’m a bit hesitant about this. Apple’s Newsstand was a resounding failure, and integrating magazines into the Apple News app might be problematic. (Though a separate Magazines app would work.)

There are two types of subscriptions Apple can offer. The first would be a basket of publications for a monthly fee, but with those publications’ articles available in the News app. This could include, for example, newspapers – like the New York Times and Washington Post – and magazines, who make their articles available on the web behind a paywall.

The second is a separate magazine-only service, like Texture. I subscribe to Readly, which gives me access to tons of magazines for a monthly price of £8. It’s practical, because I can leaf through a number of photography and computer magazines, publications that I would not buy on their own. (I did subscribe to one photo magazine, and, since it’s available via Readly, I will not be renewing it when it runs out in a couple of months.) I’m not sure how viable this is for the magazines, however; in my case, I wouldn’t have paid for two photo magazines, but I can read a dozen for about twice the price of the monthly cost of one magazine; plus the other magazines I read: news, music, literature, etc.

Of course, the problem with Apple doing this would be that it only works on Apple devices; nay, only on iOS devices. I can’t view Apple News on my Macs. If I want to see the news when I’m at my desk, I’m not going to pick up my iPhone. Apple really needs to change this; how hard can it be to port the Apple News app – which is really just an RSS aggregator at heart – to the web?

Source: Apple Is Planning to Launch a News Subscription Service – Bloomberg

Apple’s Siri Learns New Jokes – Mac Rumors

Apple appears to have recently updated Siri on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and HomePod with a slew of new jokes to tell. Based on reports on Twitter and from MacRumors readers, the new jokes started rolling out earlier this month.

When you ask Siri a question like “tell me a joke” on an iOS device, Mac, or the HomePod, Siri has dozens of fresh responses to share with you.

Apple seems to spend a lot of time honing Siri’s snark and humor, and much less time getting it to work for the things people want to use it for. It’s useless for me in playing music, because it doesn’t recognize many of the artists and albums I want to play. For many other tasks, it either fails or gets things wrong. I no longer trust it for anything other than setting reminders when I’m cooking, setting an alarm, or setting a timer. And even then, I have to check to make sure it gets things right.

Source: Apple’s Siri Learns New Jokes – Mac Rumors

Why Apple’s HomePod is Failing

In a Bloomberg article, Apple’s Stumbling HomePod Isn’t the Hot Seller It Wanted, Mark Gurman points out that Apple’s HomePod is more or less a failure. This device that was slated to be revolutionary – combining a smart speaker and “excellent” audio quality – is not flying of the shelves as Apple had hoped.

At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. “Even when people had the ability to hear these things,” he says, “it still didn’t give Apple another spike.”

The device was released later than Apple had announced, missing the important Christmas holiday season. It’s overpriced; at $349, it is much more expensive than other smart speakers, and more expensive than decent sounding standalone speakers. (Heck, you can buy a decent amplifier and bookshelf speakers for that price.) And the sound isn’t as great as Apple had advertised. The main problem is an excess of bass, and there are no equalization controls so listeners can tune the sound to their tastes, and not to Apple’s.

I immediately realized the device’s limitations, notably that the audio quality is good at times, but crappy at others. But,

I did find that, playing music from iTunes, with the Bass Reducer setting on the Equalizer, much of the music sounded better. There was less booming bass, and more subtle sounds. But no matter what, the midrange is weak on a speaker like this.

And the whole Siri thing? Trying to get Siri to recognize what music I want to hear? It certainly hears my voice, but any song, album, or artist names that are a bit obscure get converted to some weird sound-alikes, making it useless to control it by voice.

It does have some very good features, such as its variable loudness, that adjusts the bass and treble as you change the volume, and with the appropriate EQ, it sounds okay, but I’d get similar sound from a speaker at half the price. As is often the case, Apple uses a lot of buzz words to describe the technology in the device – and there is some cool technology – but these smarts don’t do much for the sound.

Apple may be hoping for a sales boost when they finally get around to releasing AirPlay 2, which is several months overdue, and which will enable the use of two HomePods as a stereo pair, but I can’t see a lot of people paying a total of $700 to have mediocre sound, without any EQ controls, and a flawed personal assistant.

Apple clearly doesn’t understand the market. They thought that they could convince people to spend more for a speaker that combines smarts and sound, but offered neither. Siri is limited and flawed, and the sound just isn’t good enough for a speaker at that price. I use mine in the bedroom, with Siri turned off, for occasional listening, and I don’t regret buying it, but I wouldn’t recommend the HomePod to anyone.

Apple System Migration Guide for macOS Server

Apple recently announced that macOS Server would be changing, “focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network.” But for many people who depend on macOS Server, this will be problematic.

Apple recently released a macOS Server Service Migration Guide that is:

designed to assist those administrators comfortable with installing and maintaining open source projects to migrate their service data to the underlying open source project that was previously bundled with macOS Server.

This guide essentially tells system administrators how to install software that will replicate the features that will be removed from macOS Server. It’s a lot of heavy lifting, but if you depend on Server, you should either read this and prepare for the changes, or not update (but, of course, that’s not a viable long-term solution).

TidBITS Gets a New Look

It’s been a long time coming, but TidBITS, one of the oldest continually published websites about Apple, has been redesigned, and it’s beautiful. As Adam Engst says:

It’s live! After years of planning and months of work with our developer, Eli Van Zoeren, we’ve finally pulled back the curtains on our new Internet infrastructure. If you’re reading this in email, head over to the TidBITS Web site to take a look and click around — all 28 years of TidBITS articles and comments are there.

Check out the new site, and make sure to check it regularly. I’ve written a fair amount for the site over the years, and my first published article about technology, arguably somewhat prescient, was published on TidBITS back in 1996: UberVista is Watching You!.