Dammit, Apple. When we all hoped that the idea behind iPadOS was that it’d permit differentiation between the platforms, this was not what we had in mind.
Yes, it’s an incredibly trivial, even frivolous, feature and yes, other platforms have had similar visual effects for years so it’s not as if Apple have led personal computing towards some new frontier here. The point – as with last year’s failures to expand on widget placement on the iPadOS homescreen and bring the App Library to iPadOS – is that it looks as if creating iPadOS meant formalising the iPad’s place one step further back in the queue for features than iOS.
Not that anyone was in any doubt that was the case, but formalising the ranking of the platforms like this two years running is just depressing. This is a rare case of Apple adding some old-fashioned quirkiness to their platforms again, and it’s astonishing that the iPad misses out on it. I’d be amazed if there was some deep technical reason why this app couldn’t be brought to iPadOS at the same time as iOS, and even if there is one I suspect ultimately it’s driven by Apple choosing not to expend the time and effort to make it happen on iPadOS.
So, For All Mankind dropped the season 2 finale and gave us another end-of-season peek at what’s to come in the next season: someone’s going to Mars.
Despite some YouTube commenters being convinced that that’s a Soviet boot treading the Martian surface a decade on from the season 2 finale I think that’s wildly premature. Given how season 2 ended with US-Soviet relations getting so bad yet ending on an optimistic note1 I think that next season’s story of establishing a Mar colony will involve an international collaboration.
Maybe that was a Soviet spacesuit’s boot in the closing shot from Mars, but perhaps if they’d held that shot for another ten seconds the foot of an American (or Indian, or Japanese, or German) suit worn by a crewmate would step into that view? The different space agencies insisted on retaining their own suits because that makes the multinational nature of the project visible in every group shot, but everyone’s travelling in the same ship and using the same comms system. And yes, carrying their own nation’s brand of weaponry, if they must, but they’re all using the same rounds and firing mechanism because the economics of mass manufacturing overrode the need to boost national pride by wielding your very own make of firearm.
One thing I do ask: can we please not have more than one recurring character from season 2 be part of the crew in that Mars expedition? I get that it’s tempting to think that the expedition will be led by one of the astronauts from the first two seasons who will turn out to be the old hand2, commanding a crew including a couple of the younger characters who ended season 2 all set to pursue careers leading them into the space program and are now at the height of their careers.
The thing is, after it turned out that Star Wars ended up with most of the important characters being part of the same family it’d be nice if this story didn’t go that way. If the program professes to be any sort of meritocracy – leave to one side for a moment the bad taste real-world uses of the term leave in the mouth, and that the term itself has its’ roots in a criticism of the concept – there should be little prospect that relatives keep on showing up in the Org Chart down the years.
If we have to see our existing characters in the third season, how about Admiral Ed Baldwin (USN, retired) as the cranky advisor to President Biden3 who keeps on trying to buttonhole NASA Administrator Margo Madison4 with his thoughts on the need to beat the Soviets to the Solar System’s high ground by colonising Callisto. Or how about our seeing Aleida Rosales5 being chief engineer of the first Mars colony?
Bottom line is that they can’t just have season 3 be a repeat of the working-towards-having-a-colony-on-new-world-is-hard story from season 1. Given a choice between that and a let’s-spend-a-decade-overcoming-suspicions-about-soviet-spies story, it’d be funny if that boots-on-the-surface-of-Mars-a-decade-on scene came in season 3, episode 2.
- Because the lesson of the season 2 finale’s plot was that leaving decision-making to the commanders on the spot will turn out better than following the dictates of the governments involved. Very much the line you’d expect from Ron Moore, given his background in Star Trek and the Barrlestar Galactica reboot, I guess. Just as long as the politicians back home have the good sense to spot an opportunity for a climb-down when it’s presented to them on a plate. Who knew that Ronald Reagan’s legacy in this timeline, having got to the White House four years earlier than in ours, would be to seize just such an opportunity? Wouldn’t it be ironic if his term of office was followed by the establishment of the CoDominium? ↩
- Fun thought. Molly Cobb for Mars Colony Commander. Either science has a cure for glaucoma, or, better yet, Molly finds herself wearing an ancestor of the VISOR and she’s constantly ahead of her subordinates because she’s watching all the relevant displays at once. ↩
- He didn’t bugger up his first run at the top job and got there much earlier than in our timeline, before ended up handing over to a youngster called Obama. ↩
- Whose Russian husband is working on the Mars project himself, so there’s no need for Soviet intelligence to try to exploit what they know about her anonymous contribution to the Buran project back in the day and we can nip that subplot in the bud. ↩
- Even better if they can slip in a romance for her with an Irish guy called O’Brien, so that a few generations down the line a young Starfleet noncom by the name of Miles O’Brien turns out to have some Mexican ancestry. Granted Miles O’Brien was born in September 2328 in Ireland, so that implies that one of the descendants of Jimmy O’Brien and Aleida Rosales ended up migrating back from Mars to Earth. But a few steps further into this alternate history who’s to say that couldn’t have happened, especially as a proper interplanetary economy starts up and job applicants from Mars might end up being willing to move to Dublin if the right career opening arose. So long as 24th century Dublin has excellent high-speed transporter links and decent theatres who’s to say that’s not a trade-off someone fleeing the economic impact of Martian First Minister M’Tumbe’s imposition of austerity on the Martian economy would be willing to make, especially if there was some family connection to the Dublin region of the Celtic Confederation? ↩
If it turns out that Apple TV+ has the highest-quality content out of all streaming services…
A new study reveals that Apple TV+ has the highest-quality content when compared to Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu. […]
In terms of their libraries of content, Apple TV+ has the highest percentage of “good” and “excellent” at almost 86%. But […] it has the smallest offering at just 65 titles.
… does that help make Apple TV+ a sound idea for the company?
So far I’ve greatly enjoyed several Apple TV+ shows (For All Mankind above all else, but also Calls and Mythic Quest), and found several other Apple TV+ shows (Little Voice, On The Rocks, The Banker, Little America, The Morning Show and Ted Lasso) to be decent-to-pretty-good. The thing is, I could as easily pick a similar number of really good shows from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or Now1 or Disney+. There’s not yet a distinctive ‘type’ of show that Apple TV+ is getting to be known for known for and it’s way too early to tell2 whether Apple are going to prove to be better at supporting shows long enough for them to build an audience.
I don’t doubt that Apple has sufficiently deep pockets to keep up the level of spending on content for the Apple TV+ streaming service for quite some time to come, but will they? Surely Apple are just one more potential source of finding for producers; yes, there are plenty of Apple devices out there, but Apple are as close-mouthed about audience numbers for their streaming service as everyone else, so who can say how well their shows are doing? Putting out numbers and surveys that use figures like this as proxies for audience numbers doesn’t really address the question of which shows are doing well compared to their rivals.
In this era where the streaming services are competing for a monthly subscription from their audience, how come most of these Apple TV+ shows seems to disappear from the online discussion online within a couple of weeks of their launch.3 That cannot possibly be a good sign, can it?
[Via Daring Fireball]
- Recently rebranded from NowTV in the UK, and heavily associated with the Sky TV empire. Basically, a way (with “No contract!”, as their ads emphasise) to get access to a slice of Sky TV’s library for those who don’t want to commit to the full package. ↩
- Come back after a decade and there might be sufficient data to form a meaningful picture of Apple’s track record. ↩
- Am I just looking in the wrong places, or is it just that commentary on TV shows is so dispersed nowadays that it’s a full-time job to keep on top of it? This was much better in the days of Usenet, IMHO. ↩
A full trailer for For All Mankind Season 2 has been published. Looks as if the rest of the world is set to watch the Cold War playing out a quarter of a million miles away.
Given where season 1 left off this was probably always going to be the sort of storyline they gave us in season 2, but I hope that we’ll look back on this in later seasons1 as the difficult transitional season that we had to get through to get to the real story.2
- Yes, this assumes that the show gets several more seasons but let’s be optimistic here. In theory Apple have the money to fund this for as long as the story needs, but how long the producers get for this show on this streaming platform is another question entirely. ↩
- Interesting to see that the IMDB cast information for the episodes – which admittedly, is pretty thin once you get beyond season 2 episode 1 – doesn’t list returning cast members like Joel Kinnaman or Jodi Balfour past that first episode. Nothing against the returning cast members, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see the story transitioning to a different main cast by the end. Against that, some returning actors we see or hear from in the new season’s trailer don’t even appear listed against season 2 episode 1 so it may just be that the IMDB’s list is, to put it mildly, a work in progress. ↩
I think Nick Heer is being much too charitable to Apple when he says that:
So, while I generally agree with Hansmeyer’s suggestions for changes, I have to wonder if these limitations are somehow deliberate, rather than something Apple has yet to change. The touchscreen-oriented interaction model of the iPad necessarily limits its software in some ways, but that does not excuse users’ more egregious workarounds. […] I have to wonder: is this a way of clearly separating the iPad and the Mac, so users do not attempt to treat one as the other? If so, what is Apple’s long-term strategy?
Apple would much rather charge users higher prices for Mac laptops than have everyone switch to iPads, and keeping such a yawning gap between the functionality of iPadOS and macOS is entirely at Apple’s discretion. Yes,there will be platitudes about expanding iPadOS to meet the needs of professional users. Perhaps next year’s iPadOS will see a more radical gap opening up between how iOS and iPadOS work that addresses some of those needs, but IMHO that’s not the way to bet.
Apple’s new M1 SoC looks to have plenty of processing power and battery life compared to the Intel models they’ve started to replace for certain low-end models, but Apple are not even coming close to passing on the cost savings to customers in the form of lower prices. 1 That they might just have several hundred million incentives to stay towards the top end of the market pricing-wise and wait and see what happens next. Sure, Apple could be brave and forge onwards into a future where they use their control of their hardware to show us all new form factors and applications that make use of all that processing power and so on, but they could probably keep to the more conservative path and spend a few years letting their shareholders reap the rewards of greatly improved profit margins on M1-powered systems.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to formally confirm that’s the long-term strategy they’re going with, not in so many words.
- Prices do seem to have this habit of going up when Apple announce new models. Granted they’re offering more bang for the buck, and Apple would argue that they want to sell customers the best computers rather than the cheapest, but that’s a strategy that works better for Apple when they don’t face a serious challenge in the tablet market nowadays. I’d love to see some future low-cost version of the Microsoft Surface Duo prod Apple into radically rethinking what a tablet OS can do and how it can do it, but I’m not optimistic (especially at Surface Duo prices) that’ll come to pass. ↩
Macs from alternate timelines courtesy of Dana Sibera.
Includes a Mac Pro Mini to die for:
I realise that it’s hardly news that the iPhone turned out to be a once-in-a-generation/once-in-a-lifetime hit for Apple, but Jason Snell’s chart of a decade of Apple growth really drives home the point.
That last chart, in the context of all the ones leading up to it. “Wow!” really is the word.
“You’re going to see things that happened in real life, but happen faster and in slightly different ways,” Moore promised. “So things like the coming of the personal computer, internet, variations on communications and email and cell phones and all that. You’ll see it in a more rapid advance. And the actual models and prototypes and pieces of technology that are being used are not exactly what happened in real history… you’ll see variations on it. We went back and looked at some of the early prototyping and different branches that some of the technology could have gone off in the ’70s and ’80s, and chose to go down some of those paths. So, you’ll have a different spin and a different feel to it. The further the show goes now, the more science-fiction it’s going to become. We’re getting more aggressively into areas that never happened.”
Sounds promising. 1
- I’m slightly disappointed that they’re sticking to Reagan ending up in the White House and being up for even more of an arms race than he was in our timeline, but I can’t deny that all the signs are that in the timeline they’re showing us politics hasn’t changed all that much so that’s not a completely unexpected turn of events. ↩
So, For All Mankind closed with a slightly loner-than-usual season finale that perhaps signalled that when next we see these characters they might have moved beyond the Apollo era.
Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene for the first season finale. I really hope that signals another jump forward in the timeline, because for all that I’ve enjoyed the course of the show’s first season I’d also been mildly worried that we were going to spend forever on the alternate Apollo programme and I really want to see this show go further along the alternate timeline than that. (I did joke about Ron Moore ending the show with an appearance from a Cylon, but one commenter over at MeFi Fanfare last week posited that the show will end with the discovery of a black monolith on the lunar surface and morph into a 2001: A Space Odyssey prequel Works for me.)
The finale revealed that the first commander of the first US base on the moon wasn’t the cold-blooded murderer we’d thought he might be last week, but I do wonder whether some time in season two someone will discover evidence that the base had been visited by the enemy and our putative hero will find himself having to own up to what went down in the preparation for his rescue mission for his rescuers. Will NASA file it under “Who cares? It all worked out in the end (except for Deke.)” or will there be a scandal when it turns out that our hero Ed (assuming he remains in the programme and ends up, say, as head of the Astronaut Office some day) realises that he recognises Mikhail, his newly-appointed opposite number on the Soviet side?
I’d still love to know whether Ron Moore’s plan is to spend seven seasons exploring how a different timeline plays out in the lifetimes of the current characters, or whether they’re going to throw in enough time jumps that we get a picture of the ramifications of a different start to the space race. Given that we’ve spent significant time following the story of Aleida, our immigrant space enthusiast in the first season, I can’t help but wonder whether her character 1 will pop up again before long, possibly after a couple more time jumps to give her time to have a reason to be in the story again. I mean, she might just show up years later as a member of the public watching what’s going on in the space programme rather than working in it, or it might be that her story was mostly a way to reveal her father’s story and how the FBI’s efforts to enhance security were mostly pointless, but I have a feeling she’s destined to be more involved than that.
I have a feeling, just given the economics of how TV casting works and the notion that it’s risky to press the reset button and demand that audiences get used to a largely new cast in a different scenario in the next season, that they’ll stick with rolling out the story covering the near future. A show that sticks with the 1970s generation of astronauts could well be every bit as much fun as the first season has been for folks like me2 but my preference would be for a show that ends up a few hundred years hence, one that reveals that because the Russians and the Americans were working in parallel on the Moon3 they ended up customarily working together and ended up extending that practice as they fanned out into the depths of the solar system. Heretical thought: might it have made very little difference, what with all the major players being basically extensions of the military powers’ armed forces and thus somewhat disinclined to cooperate with their potential enemies?
- Probably recast, so we can see her all grown up, having earned her place in the space programme on the basis of her mathematical expertise post-college. She can be in her mid-thirties, ideally having a nice reunion with soon-to-retire veteran NASA Flight Director Margo Madison when Aleida arrives to start her new job. That whole illegal immigrant thing would be a problem security-check-wise, you’d imagine, but who said Aleida had to work for NASA? Perhaps she ends up emigrating to Europe in her early twenties and finds herself working on the EU’s fledgeling human space programme and gets seconded to NASA as part of the EU’s attempt to catch up. ↩
- The sort of people who recognise which characters in the show were real people and which were folks the show’s writers made up, and which technologies were in the pipeline when the Apollo programme was wound down after the key aim of beating the Soviet Union to the moon was achieved. You know, geeks. ↩
- And the Chinese, and the EU, and the Indians, and the Saudis, in time. It’s science fiction: who can say what’ll come to pass? ↩
I completely understand that modern smartphones deliver ridiculously high-quality video recordings and that when you put them in the hands of a professional they can produce impressive results like Snowbrawl…
… but can you entirely blame me if I sit here with the thought “Dammit, those phones are expensive: be careful with them!” running through my head as I watch them capering in the snow and letting loose barrages of snowballs at one another?
Not sure how far that’s a sign of my getting old or of my getting less affluent (or both!), but it does remind me of how far I’m not part of Apple’s target market for this sort of TV ad.1
- Also, I was never all that into playing in the snow even when I was that age. Just gets in the way of a perfectly decent opportunity to dive into a good book, in my book.] ↩