On this episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode welcome The Verge’s Nilay Patel to talk all about the latest Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. This year, Apple’s announcements — usually confined to software — ventured into hardware, including new iPads and a totally new category for Apple: A home speaker called HomePod. The three take listener questions about Apple’s plans.
You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode.
Lauren Goode: I’m Lauren Goode, senior tech editor at The Verge.
KS: You’re listening to Too Embarrassed to Ask coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m actually at the Vox Media headquarters in New York, so I can say that even louder. This is a show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech.
LG: It could be anything like, “What’s the best laptop to buy right now?” There’s so many new ones out there. “Why is this smart home still sort of dumb?” “What’s going on with Uber right now?”
KS: A lot of things.
KS: Let’s move on from that disaster.
LG: We’ll talk about that in a bit. “How many bitcoins does Kara have and how much are they worth?” That’s what I really want to know.
KS: None. No bitcoins.
LG: I thought you had a bitcoin.
KS: I don’t have a bitcoin. I might have one. I might have a single bitcoin. In any case, I don’t know why I have it or how I bought it or how to do anything with it, but there you have it.
LG: You should give it to Mossberg for his retirement.
KS: Yes, I should ask a bitcoin expert. Send us your questions. We really do read them all. Find us on Twitter or tweet them to @Recode or to myself or to Lauren with the #tooembarrassed.
LG: We also have an email address. It’s TooEmbarrassed@recode.net, and a friendly reminder that embarrassed has two Rs and two Ss.
KS: We are done with the 2017 Code Conference, which means I’m on the road again and calling in remotely and away from you, Lauren.
LG: From the Vox Media Podcast Network.
KS: HQ. I’m in HQ. It’s a fancy studio here they have.
LG: I would hope so.
KS: We operate out of a closet in San Francisco, but it’s nice here.
LG: I would hope that with a name like Vox Media Podcast Network it would be a fancy studio.
KS: Yeah, it is a fancy studio.
LG: I miss you. It was fun hanging out with you at Code last week. It seemed the Recode team put on a fantastic event.
KS: It was good.
LG: We’re going to tell you in a little bit where you can find all of the content from that event. While we were there, we also taped a Too Embarrassed podcast with Walt Mossberg who is retiring, and we sent him off in style. We had a lot of great question from top tech executives. We surprised him. He had no idea this was coming and people like Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman. A lot of people called in with questions and we got some great responses from Walt, so you’ll want to check out that episode.
KS: It was a Walt-a-palooza.
LG: It was.
KS: We did nice stuff. We did an interview with Dick Costolo. We did a whole bunch of things and we also had other people like Hillary Clinton and Steve Ballmer and Andy Rueben, all kinds of people. It was pretty great.
LG: That’s right. Laurene Powell Jobs, Senator Kamala Harris. Really just a lot of low-level executives and local politicians, if you will. It was a great show. Today on Too Embarrassed to Ask ...
KS: We move along to new things that have happened, correct?
LG: Yeah, we’re back to consumer tech. We’re talking all about Apple today, which just held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. It was in San Jose. Normally it’s up in San Francisco. After 15 years they moved it back to San Jose. Now this is normally a software focused event. It’s the annual event where Apple makes a bunch of operating system changes and software changes and really tries to appeal to its app developers, since the app economy is pretty important to Apple and pretty important to iPhones and other devices. This year though — we wrote this earlier today on The Verge — it really became a hardware event. It was one of the most hardware focused software events ever.
We’re going to talk about all of that and answer all of your questions in the second half of the show.
KS: Joining us to talk about all this is Nilay Patel, the editor in chief of The Verge. He’s right here with me. Hi, Nilay.
Nilay Patel: Here I am. Hello.
KS: How you doing?
I’m super excited to be on the show. With Lauren on The Vergecast all the time. This is like my big debut on this show.
LG: Yeah, this is Nilay’s first time on Too Embarrassed to Ask.
KS: How exciting.
LG: He was going to come on at one point last year and then there was big breaking news, and we called an audible and changed topics last minute. Nilay, thanks so much for coming on.
I’ve been crying ever since.
KS: You were not at the Apple event. I didn’t see you down there.
This is like the first time in, I don’t know, eight, nine years I haven’t gone to an Apple event.
KS: Why was that? You did it remotely, right?
Yeah, I was here. The Verge is very big and very busy. Had to stick around for some things. We have a big live show with Walt on Friday, so had to prepare for that.
KS: You do? Can you talk about that show that you’re doing?
I would love to plug the show on another show.
KS: Please plug that show.
Walt Mossberg and I do a show called Ctrl-Walt-Delete! It is ending.
KS: He’s going to retire.
He’s going to retire.
KS: Unless you hire someone named Walt, right?
I’m in the market. You can tweet at me. I’m @reckless, if your name is Walt, but only if your name is Walt. On Friday we’re taping our last live episode of that show here in New York, so if you can, if you’re in New York.
KS: Where are you doing it?
The School of Visual Arts Theater.
KS: Great. It’s like an event. It’s a whole thing.
It’s an event. I think there’s going to be 300 people.
Yeah, there’s a VIP reception. I’ve never been a VIP. No one has ever received me, so I’m excited for that experience. All that means, I wasn’t at WWDC, but Lauren was there, a bunch of Verge people were there.
KS: Yeah, they were.
KS: Great coverage. There’s a bunch to talk about. I saw a bunch of the executives at an event and stuff, and it looked pretty full of stuff and they were very excited to talk about them, about the AI, around all kinds of stuff. Let’s start with the software, the iOS 11. Why don’t you go through pretty much everything and then we’ll go through piece by piece.
I’ll go through everything.
LG: Every single thing.
The problem with everything is it is a lot this year.
KS: Yeah, it was.
I would say with iOS 11, Lauren you were there, I’m sure you have many thoughts as well, but the big part of it to me, the most important piece of it to me is how much attention they lavished on the iPad. They started off with a bunch of little things that will make your iOS life better if you have a phone. Control center is better. You can turn off the mobile data without killing your Bluetooth on a plane, which is great if you have Bluetooth headphones or if you’re on the plane. It’s the only feature I actually wanted.
LG: You just tweeted that last week, too. You know, someone just rushed to make that feature when you tweeted that.
That feature isn’t wired up. It’s just a Photoshop template just to make me happy. They changed some things about how iMessage works so your phone doesn’t fill up because people sent you pictures. They store it in the cloud now. All that’s great. I think it’s little refinements around the edges.
KS: Which one did you like the most?
I ride a lot of planes, I know you take a lot of planes. Being able to turn off the cell radio without killing your wifi or Bluetooth is actually a meaningful improvement in how my phone works. I’m excited about that. There’s AR Kit. Apple’s obviously very excited about AR.
KS: Yeah, they seem to be.
They did a bunch of demos. I look at the demos of things like AR, and I wonder why would I want to play a game by holding my iPad up at eye level three feet away from a table for several hours. That stuff all is enabling technology for developers. I think it’s really important, we probably will talk about AR at length, but that’s like on the phone side. On the iPad side, they actually did a lot of work to make it much more like a Mac, and that is a huge change for Apple. It is kind of the fulfillment of a promise that they’ve been making with the iPad for so long, to make it a useful product that you might use instead of your laptop. It feels like the things they’ve added, like really good multitasking. I think you can do up to three apps now. They’ve added a dock. There’s drag and drop.
They’re all things we take for granted on our laptops. They’re things that you’ve not been able to do on an iPad, and I think this is the beginning of them bringing the Mac and the iPod closer and closer together. I know Lauren, you were there. What do you think?
LG: The iPad was the thing that I actually made the beeline for when the event was over. There’s usually a demo area where we can play with stuff, and I went straight for the iPad because I wanted to see some of these changes that are going to be coming up in iOS 11 on iPad. By the way, it happened to be new iPad hardware, but we’ll get to that too. Nilay’s totally right. The software to me felt more like this is what I do on a Mac. This is how I manipulate apps and use things and drag things into files and stuff on a Mac. I have always said that I think one of the biggest constraints of iPad as a computer is not that it’s not powerful, they’re actually amazingly powerful and this one had a new chip too, but just that ability to say I’m going to throw something on the “desktop.” I’m going to put something on the home interface.
I can throw a file there and then I can grab it later when I want. I can just do things in a way that I want to. To a point, I mean Apple believes, the company has said this since the beginning of mobile basically, that the mobile interface should still be somewhat constrained. People shouldn’t be able to mess up or clutter their desktops in a way that we do on our laptops. A lot of people have very messy laptops, and Apple thinks that’s too much of a mess. And listen, when you’re on an iPad or on an iPhone, this is the app icon arrangement, you can only do so much. There’s a little bit more manipulation here that I thought ...
KS: Right, for people that ...
LG: It’s really good. I really like it.
What’s exciting to me at a remove is these are small features but they present in some an actual vision for the future of the iPad as a product, which Apple’s been lacking.
KS: Talk about that, the idea of it beyond that. Then I do want to get to peer-to-peer payments on the phone.
Who doesn’t love peer-to-peer payments?
KS: I love peer-to-peer pay payments.
LG: Kara, we say P2P on this podcast. We use industry jargon as much as possible.
KS: Okay, well you know what, there’s actual normal people who listen to it, so let’s try to ... AR by the way is augmented reality, if you need a definition.
If you listen to this show and you don’t know what AR is, I don’t know what you’re doing.
KS: Talk about overall, when you’re talking about, how is that? What is this theory, the Patel theory?
The Patel theory. I think Apple, I think everyone would agree, is an exceptionally well-run company.
KS: Yes, they’re adults.
They are adults. They know what they’re doing. They execute on whatever it is they decide to do extraordinarily well. They build a billion iPhones a year. From an execution standpoint, I think they’re unmatched maybe in any industry. From a “what the hell are we going to make” perspective, I think there has been some questions about what their product line is going for. You can see them across time starting to answer those questions. The Apple watch came out and then they completely rebooted the interface of the Apple watch.
The thing that they announced at the big event with Bono and the tent that they built, all of that is kind of gone and the product is much more focused on being a fitness tracker. They updated the interface for the watch again. They got a little bit away from the Mac, and then yesterday they put a ton of emphasis back on the Mac in response to the criticism, and that product line appears to have some momentum and clarity in it.
KS: They had a lot of criticism.
They had a lot of criticism. The iPad has basically been a declining asset. The sales haven’t grown. It has felt more like a big iPhone than the future of computing for a little bit too long, and you can see that they are heavily investing in what is the future of this product as its own product as opposed to, well, laptops are broken, so you’re just going to use this larger iOS tablet. I think they’re starting to get some clarity about what their products should be, and that’s really important for them.
LG: Could I make one more note about the iPad too? It’s also worth noting that the vision of the iPad that we saw on Monday after the keynote, it’s not the same as Microsoft Surface line, but it’s not dissimilar ...
It’s super close.
LG: ... from what Microsoft had envisioned years ago with the Surface RT, which had a mobile processor, is a tablet that is supposed to be a computer and comes with an accessory keyboard. Tom Warren from The Verge actually pointed it out first so I can’t take credit for it, but that vision maybe for Microsoft was a little too early and maybe that wasn’t the best implementation of it, but it’s all kind of going that way now.
KS: Yeah. Peer-to-peer payments?
Apple has Apple Pay. I think they’re very proud of it. I think it’s one of the more successful kind of things that they’ve made.
KS: Yeah, the Venmos of the world.
They haven’t been in that space. The way they demoed it works great. You text a friend, say, “you owe me money,” and then it pops up on their screen and then you can just put your thumb on the fingerprint reader and send them money. I am a little bit concerned that the way that you trigger that is by saying the words, “You owe me money.” Seems very aggressive to me. It’s cool.
KS: What’s wrong with, “You owe me money?”
At the end of dinner, you’re like, “Well that was a great dinner. Hang on a second, you owe me money.”
KS: That’s how you do it.
LG: No, no, no, I think that there’s that little tiny icon in the tray that looks like the pay icon.
I like to end all of my social interactions by just demanding money directly from people.
LG: “Hey, it was great seeing you.”
KS: I just say, “Give me the money, you cheap bastard,” that’s what I say.
That’s actually a macro. You just do a three finger swipe and it says, “You fucking asshole, give me the money.”
KS: “You cheap bastard.”
LG: It’s a feature.
KS: Basically, which curse you’re going to use. Peer to peer, it’s fine, you think it’s fine.
It’s great. It’s a big step up.
KS: It’s got a social element to it like Venmo. People seem to like that weird social element.
Venmo also works across platforms, which Apple seems to never recognize is important.
KS: They’re still not quite.
LG: One thing I notice too about Apple Pay cash in very brief glimpses that I saw is that even if there’s no social element like there is on Venmo, and Kara I know you have mixed feelings about the whole social element of Venmo.
KS: I have bad feelings about the social mix.
LG: Kara hates seeing when you’re all drinking, okay, basically. Just keep it private. Keep your nefarious activities to yourself.
KS: It’s so braggy.
LG: I’m surprised you don’t want to see it. I’m surprised you don’t want to snoop on people.
KS: It annoys me.
LG: It annoys her, but the one good thing that both Venmo and Square Cash have, and Square Cash isn’t outward facing or social but you can do this, is you can describe what you are paying for. You can say, “I am paying Kara for the coffee” or “Walt’s paying me for the dozen Trentas I bought him at WWDC” or whatever it may be. Then you can go back and see a log of that. As far as I’ve seen so far, I can see I paid Nilay Patel $30 but there’s no memo functionality, which is strange.
KS: Yeah, that’s a problem, obviously. Anyway, let’s get to the hardware because I think that is also interesting. I think probably we’re going to talk about the new Macs and the new iPad Pro, but I think the focus was on the HomePod/HomePod.
The HomePod/HomePod. Yeah, this product to me, it’s more questions than answers.
KS: Let’s just hear your questions.
Okay, here are the questions. How do their speakers actually work? They’re claiming to do an awful lot of processing. I’ve listened to a lot of audio processing in my life. Some of it sounds really good, some of it sounds really bad. Does it actually work well? Who knows. What the hell is on the top of it? Is it a screen? Is it just a thing that lights up with a dimestore LED? Is it an interface? No one actually is confirming or denying anything, and there were actually two different variants of the thing there at the time. It only supports Apple music. Is Apple really building a product that has a total addressable market of 27 million or do they want a bigger market?
KS: Why’d they do it this way?
I don’t know. Like I said, more questions than answers.
LG: You can stream other things over Bluetooth.
No, it doesn’t have Bluetooth. It only has AirPlay 2. That’s another question. What is AirPlay 2?
LG: Okay, right, so then the third-party app developers have to support that.
Right, third-party app developers have to support this new standard. AirPlay as a standard has been lagging for years behind its competition. What is AirPlay 2? How does it work?
KS: I have no idea.
It’s just a lot of questions.
KS: You have many questions.
Siri, notoriously not good at actually recognizing what you say. Did they improve it? Didn’t talk about that at all. In fact, there were no demos of anyone talking to the HomePod whatsoever either onstage or as far as I could see offstage.
KS: You’re feeling not positive about this HomePod. It’s pretty.
I am feeling like this is a super pretty product. It’s Apple. I’m sure it will work well, but I think that the list of questions that remain unanswered after the event is very ...
KS: I don’t really want to buy it. I’ve got the Alexa and I didn’t buy the Google one because I didn’t want them snooping in my home, but I turn off the Amazon one a lot too. I just don’t think I want another. I do think Apple will give me better privacy.
KS: That’s what I’m kind of interested in.
On the dimensions where Apple is competitive, I’m sure they’re going to be very, very competitive. They will probably protect your privacy better. They said they’re going to encrypt it end to end. They don’t need to sell your data the way that Google wants to collate and sell your data or Amazon wants to sell you things.
KS: Yeah, that’s why I’m interested in it.
On the metrics where Apple traditionally doesn’t compete very well, it’s confusing. It’s expensive. It’s $329.
KS: Yeah, that was another thing.
The Echo is $179.
KS: Or even cheaper if get the Dot.
LG: Sony’s Play 1 is $199. Even though I know it doesn’t have a microphone and voice assistant.
Sure. That is Sony’s greatest problem. The Amazon Puck, they often discount it to $40. You can see Bezos being like, “I’m going to throw one away for free. You’re a Prime member? Here’s an Echo Puck.” Apple has that kind of, “How do we get in the market?” Then their big push is in audio quality. I am a huge nerd for speakers. I spend thousands of dollars on stereo equipment. I love things that sound great, but I don’t think everybody is like me. I think most people pick convenience and price over sound quality.
KS: Nobody is like you on many things.
That’s true. I am one of a kind. I’m the only person who buys speakers in the world.
KS: That’s a nice way of putting it. No, I agree.
I think Apple built an empire selling ...
KS: It was a weird messaging. What did you think Lauren? It was weird, I even thought and I wasn’t even there, weird messaging.
Let me just finish this one thought. Apple built an empire with iTunes selling low bitrate audio files to play over cheap white headphones and everyone loved it. It was one of the greatest moves in consumer tech history. Now saying we’re going to sell you a much more expensive speaker because it sounds better, it doesn’t even line up with their history. Lauren, go ahead.
KS: Lauren, your thoughts?
LG: Apple is notorious for jumping into a market later than everyone else. It just kind of watches other companies do its thing and bides its time and suddenly comes in and says, “Hey, we’ve done this thing and we’ve done it better.”
KS: They haven’t.
LG: That’s their value proposition. After just seeing the HomePod very briefly at WWDC this week, I’m not 100 percent convinced yet that it is in fact a better solution. There are too many questions, as Nilay said. The wireless protocol is something that we would have to play around with. We experienced the sound in a very controlled environment. I have a lot of speakers. I’m not into high fidelity audio the way that Nilay is but I have a lot of speakers here that are in that same price range, the $100 to few hundred dollar price range, and I would want to compare it at home. This emphasis on audio quality is really interesting because I think it’s because of, I don’t know, the fallibility of Siri still.
Even at the start of the event, not knowing 100 percent yet that this speaker was coming, there was this song by Foals playing. That’s F-O-A-L-S, Foals, and I went to ask Siri, “Who are Foals?” It was like, “What is Philz Coffee.” It responded with Philz Coffee. I said, “What are Foals?” It said, “The falls.” I was like, “No, no, no.” Granted it was a very noisy environment, but I don’t think they’re at the point yet where they can say the main value proposition here is this amazingly smart and responsive AI, so the value prop has to be the audio. We’ll see.
At the same time, I would not say that Alexa or Google Home are so far ahead of Siri. They’re just enough ahead.
LG: That’s true.
KS: They are advertising. They’re marketing.
Yeah, they’re out there.
KS: If you were going to come in from behind, you come in with something really spectacular.
Right, and Amazon Echo is not a beautiful product. The Google Home is not a beautiful product. Neither of them sound great. You’re Apple, you make a beautiful product that sounds great. Maybe a bunch of people are going to buy it.
KS: You’re going, “Eh,” and Lauren’s going, “Meh.”
LG: My question, too, is whether or not ...
We just kind of get them.
LG: ... this actually could be the hub because for a little while we were talking about the TV box as the hub. Okay, now you can talk to your TV and you can call up Siri through Apple TV and you can control your lights or you can control whatever other smart thing is connected. That’s not really realized yet. Is this speaker the hub or is this speaker a speaker?
That’s the high point of talking about it. What is the biggest thing it can do? It will take over your home. You’ll buy $10,000 worth of new light switches and then you’ll talk to this thing. The midpoint is the watch. Apple launched this watch to great fanfare. It is by far the winner in the market, but it still is whatever.
KS: It’s still, although the AirPods are great.
The AirPods are great.
KS: Let’s very quickly go through the rest of it because we have a ton of questions from listeners. We talked about the iPad Pro and how it looks. It’s nicer, better looking, improvement. The Macs very briefly, each of you.
There’s a lot of Macs. They updated the little MacBook with the new processors, which is my current product they make because it’s very small.
KS: The Pro was the real center.
They updated the MacBook Pros with new processors as well. They updated the iMacs and then there’s an iMac Pro. The iMac Pro is a really interesting product for them. They have publicly announced that they’ll be making a new Mac Pro presumably next year, but in the interim if you are a Pro user, you’ve been left behind by Apple for quite some time, your option is this new iMac Pro, which is very pretty. It’s space gray. It has Intel’s highest Xeon processors, up to 18 cores. It has crazy graphics cards. All these computers now support external GPUs, so you can plug in crazy stuff, and that means, to sum it all up, you can now do things like render VR on these computers, which you were not able to do before.
KS: Fantastic computers.
LG: You have to have some pretty deep pockets.
Apple’s just doing what they need to do and what they really need to do is put out that Mac Pro that’s modular and let people upgrade it, but that is obviously coming.
KS: Right, obviously coming. Lauren, also anything on the iPad Pro?
LG: The iPad Pro, they introduced a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is only slightly bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but they did something where they shrunk the bezels of the tablet so much that the screen actually feels a lot bigger. The thing I liked about this is I walked up to it at the demo table and I thought, “Okay, this looks like a normal iPad Pro,” whereas the reaction I had when I first walked up to the 12.9-inch one a couple of years ago was, “Oh my god, this things is ginormous,” and it’s almost laughably funny if you have ...
KS: Too big.
LG: ... normal size hands. Oh and they upgraded it with a new processor.
And the screen.
LG: The new screen. I think they said it’s the brightest screen in an iPad ever.
It has a great name.
KS: What is it? What’s the name?
The name is ProMotion.
LG: They increased the refresh rate. The refresh rate, basically it’s supposed to make everything more responsive. They showed a couple examples of applications looking a certain way, but also that impacts I believe the way that the accessory pencil that they still charge extra for feels on the screen.
KS: Wonky but important changes.
Lauren’s used it, I haven’t. Just talking to Dieter about it earlier, the way that he described it was it’s when your phone started to get a retina screen, there was no way to describe that.
KS: Right. Pretty.
When you use it, it’s obvious.
Apple’s better at making these kinds of integrated displays.
KS: Right, but there’s no weird thing at the bottom. It’s all just really ...
It’s all pretty.
KS: ... like you’re talking about the software. Last question and then we’ll get to questions from the audience. Both of you, how did this event rank compared with other Apple WWDCs, which is like the Super Bowl for you people?
LG: My sources told me before the event that I should use the restroom as much as possible beforehand because I would not be moving from a chair for many hours. That proved to be correct. Limit your liquid intake. It’s true. I think it went about two hours and 20 minutes, and that was cut down, from my understanding, cut down an hour from three hours. It was long, and they packed a lot of information in.
As I said earlier, this was definitely one of the most hardware-focused WWDCs I’ve been to. I like to spend WWDC talking to developers, the app makers, and hearing what’s going on in their world and things that are changing their world as people who do this stuff for a living. It felt to me like there was a little bit less emphasis on things specifically for the app makers, but then I talked to a lot of people who were geeking out about the hardware changes too because that enables them to do their jobs better. It enables them to make apps that can do certain things like hook into NAR kits or utilize machine learning in a way that’s different. It was a nerdier WWDC and I think that’s a good thing.
For me it was interesting not being there. I’m so used to being there. Watching it is a unique experience. To me, I will say they felt very confident and that was a good thing. It’s more like valid confidence from Apple than I’ve seen for a long time. They have a vision of these products, they’re moving them forward, but a lot of this stuff is catch-up in many ways.
KS: Good point.
The iPad Pro, a lot of the features are really innovative and super interesting but like Lauren said, a lot of these ideas have been out there. Microsoft has been pushing forward with the Surface.
KS: They’ve been doing that a lot, I’ve noticed lately. A lot of times they’re like, “Oh, people are file sharing.” I’m like, “Yeah.”
Yeah, they do that. The HomePod, they’re obviously entering a market.
KS: No, people seem to have things in their home that speak to them. We’re interested in this area.
I don’t know even know if it’s fair. What are they really going to do until there’s another paradigm shift? They’re entering the market. They’re doing it confidently. They’re doing it the way that they do it.
KS: I’m giving them a break because I love my AirPods.
It was great.
LG: It’s a little thing, literally.
It was great but it wasn’t, they didn’t rock the industry to its knees. They’re just competing.
KS: I went to an event later and I was wearing them, I had forgotten them in my ears. I wear them all the time. I look like such a dork. There were all the top executives there. They’re like, “You’re wearing them.” They were so excited.
They’re so happy.
KS: I was like, “I hate them but I love them.” They’re like, “No, you love them.” I go, “No, I hate them but I love them. Leave me alone.”
They’re starting to pop up more and more in New York, but if I wear them out, people still stare.
LG: Kara, you should have said, “They’re almost as good as my Surface buds.”
KS: That’s true. I don’t look good at all, so it doesn’t really matter. It just adds to the whole veneer. I had some pictures taken today for a Vogue shoot.
LG: Did you wear them? Did you wear your AirPods?
KS: I did.
LG: No you didn’t.
KS: No, I did. Steve Dowling really owes me dinner at this point because I wore them. I just had them in and they’re like, “No, we love them.” I’m like, “Oh my god, this is so bad.” Kara’s Voguing with the thing. It’s not really the glammest photo shoot. It’s me.
You’re not spilled over.
KS: I’m literally in an army jacket, mom jeans and AirPods.
The AirPods, that’s great.
KS: And Tretorns and that’s the picture you’re going to get of me in Vogue.
That sounds perfect.
KS: Thank you very much.
LG: You know Kara, some people would argue that the AirPods are wearables and you are known for your firm stance on unwearables.
KS: I know.
LG: Is this going to change things?
KS: They’re earphones, thank you very much.
All right, we’re moving on. In a minute we’re going to take some questions about WWDC, which is the Worldwide Developers Conference for you people who are not geeks out there, done by Apple, from our listeners. First we’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. Lauren?
KS: We have to say that.
KS: You have to say it.
KS: No, that wasn’t good. Come on.
KS: It’s money for your sound, your giant sound, come on.
I’m getting a cut of this?
LG: Nilay, say it like you say, “Cut through the night.”
KS: No, you’re not getting a cut, just do it. Do it for Jim.
Ka-ching. Is that good?
KS: Nice. I like that. That was a little saucy.
We’re back with Nilay Patel from The Verge talking about Apple’s WWDC this week. Now we’re going to take some questions from our readers listening. Are you ready?
I’m terrified, but I’m here for it.
KS: All right, I think you’ll handle it just fine. Lauren, you want to read the first question?
LG: I’ll go for it. Nilay, let me just assure you, these are pre-screened.
Oh good. Direct from Twitter.
KS: I have a few. No, go ahead.
LG: The first question is from Joao Pedro Felippe who asks, “What do you guys think about the new HomePod?”
KS: We just said that.
We just went through it.
LG: We did just talk about it.
KS: Are you going to buy it?
LG: You know what we didn’t cover, what we think about it aesthetically. What do you guys think about the design?
It’s pretty. It’s an Apple product. It looks really cool. I will probably buy it. I buy everything. Like I said, it’s more questions than answers, and I hope on balance those answers are great. It looks really cool.
KS: Would you buy it?
LG: He’s going to buy it.
Like I said, I buy everything.
LG: He’s going to buy it.
KS: You do? I would not buy it. I have to say, and I buy a lot of Apple things. Maybe I’ll change my mind, who knows. Lauren, would you buy it?
LG: Someone tweeted at me that they thought, the most common thing I heard on Twitter, which take with a grain of salt, was that it looked like a roll of toilet paper.
Yeah, I saw that all over the place too.
LG: Someone tweeted at me that it looked like a tampon, which made me think that man had never seen a tampon in his life.
KS: Oh my god.
LG: Or doesn’t understand human anatomy very well. I think I like the look of it. It looked kind of soft and cozy and maybe you’d throw it around like a football at a backyard barbecue.
KS: You like the toilet paper analogy? We didn’t see it. Yes? No?
LG: Yeah, it looks a little bit like a roll of toilet paper. It’s not tubular like the Echo. It lacks the hard edges of other speakers. It doesn’t have that weird phallic shape like the Beats Pill. I don’t know, I kind of liked it. I liked its looks.
KS: You looked at it. It pleased you.
KS: Okay. Bridget McGraw, @McGrawBridget, “How do you see the HomePod impact Apple’s IOT footing? Do you reckon developers will play with HomeKit now that there’s Apple hardware?”
LG: I’m going to toss that to Nilay.
That’s a really good question. The big barrier to HomeKit is not software. It’s that Apple requires you to have authentication hardware in the devices.
KS: Explain that for the people.
What’s a good example? WeMo, Belkin has the WeMo devices. They’ve sold a lot of them. Light switches, locks. They had to release a statement a while ago saying, “We can’t support HomeKit because Apple won’t let us just update the software, the firmware in these devices. They want us to put an authentication chip in those devices.” Then there was a lot of pressure and they ended up releasing a little box with that authentication chip to control it. That is a barrier.
It’s very Apple. They care about your privacy. They don’t want things to infect all the stuff in your house. The HomePod as a device in your house is certainly a really easy way to control all that stuff. Whether or not Apple’s going to get more uptake in the industry of things is I think entirely dependent on how well they manage that requirement of actually having to put hardware in all these devices. It’s gone pretty well, but Amazon doesn’t have that requirement. Lots more stuff works with the Alexa.
KS: When you see it impacting the whole of the idea, these companies still don’t control the home yet.
KS: They still don’t. Why is that? You would think Apple would be at the forefront of that.
Apple’s really bad at understanding the difference between shared spaces and personal spaces.
KS: That’s a very good observation.
The iPad is I think the ultimate in shared devices. You often hand an iPad to somebody else or you only have one for your family and it’s still just tied to one Apple ID unless you run a school and you have that ability. The Apple TV, only one account on an Apple TV. The TV is the most shared ...
KS: No, I noticed Google’s been advertising that you can share, there’s two, a couple, they’re asking different questions about their schedule and then the lady hands off the baby to the man because his appointment’s later in the day.
Right, because a Google Home can recognize two different voices.
KS: Exactly, and have two different accounts.
Yeah, you can put multiple accounts. You can kind of do it on the Echo. Apple, I think they can’t crack the home because the don’t have the framework and iOS in particular to what you share of devices.
KS: That’s a really good point. Next question Lauren, go ahead.
LG: I just want to add something quickly to that. It’s just not specifically about HomePod but the IOT in general and voice control in general. I think fragmentation is going to be a much bigger problem with voice control than it is right now for screens. Right now we’re all used to going up to — whether it’s our TV or the microwave or a laptop or whatever it is in your house and you’re accustomed to having these different operating systems and different interfaces and you just adjust in that moment. But when you’re walking around your home and you have to think of who to talk to, I think trying to talk to three or four different assistants is going to be problematic for people.
I think that’s why that $40, $50 Echo Dot is tremendously important. Amazon can convince you to put one of those in every room of your house. They’re cheap and they’re going to get cheaper. Apple’s sitting at $329, and they’re not going to make the $40, $50 version of this, if ever. That’s just not their move. There’s some amount of, “What is Siri good for?” You going to talk to your phone in every other room that you’re in or are you just going to start talking out loud?
KS: Right, exactly. Next question, Lauren, would you like to read it?
LG: Sure. It’s from Gareth Rossnick. “Does the HomePod have AirPlay support so that I can stream audio from my phone? #TooEmbarrassed.”
These are all good questions. Yes, it has something called AirPlay 2. Gareth, if you find out what AirPlay 2 is just let me know because I’m dying to figure it out.
KS: Nilay, you’re a famous journalist so perhaps that’s your job.
Someone has to tell me.
KS: Why don’t you lob a call into those boys. I do say mostly boys.
They are mostly boys. They haven’t made clear exactly what AirPlay 2 is.
KS: What happens when you call? What do they tell you?
The Verge is a lot techier than most publications, so we ask really hard technical questions, and Apple’s general response to us is that people don’t care about specs. Then they usually wink and they say, “But we’re sure you’re going to figure it out,” and then we figure it out.
Yeah. Like literally when we ask, “What is the clock speed of this phone or how much memory does it have?”
KS: Listen, Woodward and Bernstein, get me this answer. I’d like this answer and I’d like a story.
This is true. They always say people don’t care about speeds and feeds, they just care about experiences, and we have to figure it out on our own and we figure it out on our own.
KS: I wouldn’t put up with that. Get in there with some pissed offness. That’s what I do. I like to get people fired though. That’s my job at Recode. This is not something I can get them fired over.
I’m not getting them fired over how much RAM is in this iPhone, that’s my job.
KS: That would be funny. Not really. Matt Caruso at M whatever. “Is Siri getting any smarter this year?” You did bring this in context to where it seems they didn’t mention anything about catching up to Google Assistant. Also, from Jessica Swarner. “Seconded. I wonder how Siri compares as I’ve heard mixed feedback about Alexa’s performance.” Tell us about the Siri. I find Siri stupid as can be, as ever.
I’m interested in your thoughts too. Apple has the great advantage of having Siri everywhere you are. They just do little improvements of Siri over time. It’s happening in your pocket. Google doesn’t have that kind of space with Google Assistant. They’ve got to convince you to buy an Android or Pixel or some other, the Google Home that has Assistant on it, and that’s going to be your interaction. Amazon has to convince you to open the Amazon app on your phone to use Alexa or buy an Echo device. I think Siri can be worse but it’s going to have a higher installed based for a long time. That’s an advantageous position for Apple to be in.
LG: I think we could get in the weeds about how good the actual voice recognition and computation is relative to each Assistant, but I think that the important way to look at these assistants is not as virtual assistants to us, but virtual assistants to the companies they are made by. Each of them is doing something for the company that has created them, and they’re kind of these, I don’t know, forward-facing or consumer-facing entities for what is ultimately very powerful data processing and machine learning that is going on behind the scenes.
In the case of Google, as Nilay said earlier, you used a word that was really good, and I’m trying to remember what it was. Collates. You used “collates information” so they can serve you up ads. Amazon wants you to shop. Apple wants you to have better experiences that tie into their other hardware products and other applications. The one thing that Siri does have going for it, sometimes even though it may seem a little bit, I’m trying to be kind here, but inept keeps coming to mind.
It’s not great. You don’t have to be that kind.
LG: Right. Apple does stress privacy. It stresses that a lot of this stuff that’s happening happens on device, which means not all the data’s being sent to the cloud, which means it’s not stored in some nebulous place and being sold to third parties. There are some benefits to having what may feel like a somewhat limited virtual assistant at this point in time.
KS: Privacy’s my big thing that I would get Apple over it. Do you think these things, where do they get in a year, Nilay?
In a year?
KS: Yeah, how do they get smarter? They turn into “Her” or what happens? Where are they going? None of it seems that moving forward very quickly.
If you talk to the most optimistic people in the Valley about where these things are going, they will tell you that they are going to hit the hard limit of the fact that a general AI doesn’t exist. You can’t talk to any of these in the sense like I would talk to you or any other person because they don’t have that computation ability behind them. There’s a hard limit to what they can do, until basically the machines take over for us. In a year, I think you can see Amazon’s going to keep putting out more and more devices that depend on Alexa. They’ve put out two or three recently, the Show and the Look. Walt refers to one of them as the pervert one because it’s the camera.
They’re building out an ecosystem of those devices, and you can put them everywhere in your life. Google is just really betting on the long game with the Assistant. They know that they won in search, they think they can do the same sort of thing for their product and they’re just going to keep chugging away at it. I think Apple just really wants to prove that it can play. They haven’t been in that zone. I think a lot of people have talked to them or about Apple. You invented Siri. You were in the market five years ago.
KS: What the hell?
What have you been doing? I think they just want to prove that they’re in the mix. I think that’s their move for the rest of the year.
KS: Seems kind of weak to me, but okay.
That privacy stuff is key.
KS: That is why.
It’s a market advantage, but it’s a competitive disadvantage.
KS: I would trust the toilet paper more than I would, say, the larger tube that looks like a penis.
The shopping tube.
KS: No, I actually like my ...
LG: The shopping tube.
KS: ... Amazon Alexa. Next question, Lauren why don’t you ask it.
LG: Sure. It’s from Jim Gresham who asks, “Why do you think the iPad still lacks force touch aside from the expense of adding it on such a large screen, #TooEmbarrassed.” I love when people use our hashtag, by the way. It makes me very happy, because it is kind of a long hashtag, and it’s got multiple ... Anyway, you were tweeting about this recently, weren’t you?
LG: What are your thoughts on this?
I got some answers.
KS: I got to read your tweets more.
They’re not great. Some people whispered some things to me. It adds weight, so obviously it’s a large device so you got to add weight. It is awkward to use. When you’re holding a phone like this, you just can just push down with your thumb. You rarely hold an iPad like that.
KS: My mom hits her phone. She hits it with her nails. She has long nails. Click, click, click. She’s always banging on it. Anyway, go ahead. Like it’s going to open up or something.
Literally there’s just more screen real estate in iPads. They can show you the additional UI ...
KS: I see. Spent weight, why it’s hard to use.
I think it should be there. I don’t know. They’re letting the iPad become its own product. Also, force touch is not great on a phone. You’re not missing anything.
KS: No, I would agree with you. I don’t like it. It’s creepy. I find it creepy. Ben Schafer: “Does the new file manager on the iPad allow me to organize my work by projects or am I still stuck with it by program?”
LG: Ooh that’s a good question.
KS: That’s a good question.
LG: What I’ve seen so far, just by program, there will be a list of third-party cloud storage apps, Box, Dropbox, all of those, right?
Yeah, but if all you have is Dropbox or iCloud Drive or whatever, in there you can have files and folders and you can arrange those files and folders by projects. If you have a JPEG and then text document or whatever, you can put those in a folder inside of Dropbox.
LG: When you’re looking within the files’ application itself, Apple’s new files app, and the way I saw it and I had a limited glimpse of it, was that on the left-hand side of the app container there’s a list of the possible services you can send your files to, and on the right-hand side you can either look at all of your files and either some type of list view or thumbnail view or whatever it might be. I didn’t see any sort of option to create a project on the left-hand side.
It depends. This is so nerdy. It depends on where logically you think projects live.
LG: If they’re in a folder, certain files are in a certain folder.
LG: Let’s talk about it some more via audio because that seems like the best way to do it.
That’s an hour-long debate.
LG: Moving on. Next question is from Francine Hardaway who says, “Oh that @reckless.” That’s you.
LG: She continues.
Yes, I also feel bad about it.
LG: She said, “I plan to buy a new iPad. Ask him if I also need a new iMac,” and then her hashtag was Apple Dork.
KS: Okay, Apple Dork.
It depends on how old your iMac is. I think if you have a reasonably new iMac, you should just get a new iPad and be happy. I have an ancient iMac.
KS: Just give her advice there, you.
Well if your iMac is 10 years old you should get a new one. You’re missing out on a lot. You should just be in the middle of the software upgrade lifecycle for all of your devices, particularly with Apple, you’ll be relatively happy.
KS: All right. Next question, Jose Alan ML. “Why does the iMac Pro keyboard not have a touch bar?”
That is a fascinating question.
KS: Another question you have. Why is that fascinating? Explain.
Apple, if you just look at what they’re doing with their product lines, they’re bringing them closer together. The iPad is starting to look way more like the Macs. They’ve added touch to the MacBook Pro in the form of this touch bar. They don’t want you to touch the screen, but they haven’t brought it to these devices, the desktop devices, and it seems very easy to do it. I imagine that powering the processor and powering the display requires more than the little batteries they have in those keyboards, but it’s a move that they should probably figure out how to make.
KS: Another question for you, put it on the list.
Yeah. I wasn’t at the thing, so I couldn’t demand an answer to these things.
KS: You have a phone.
KS: You have a phone?
KS: You call them or text.
Well I didn’t think about that question before I was asked it.
KS: There you go. Now add it to the list, the things that Verge is going to find out for us. The next one, I’m going to do this one.
Are you under the impression that anyone in the world can get Apple to disclose their new product plans?
KS: I know you can.
Okay, just checking.
KS: I’m busy beating up on Uber. I can head over there if you need my help.
“Can you tell me about your new products? Just go ahead and let me ...”
KS: You know what, I’m going to go over there. I am busy beating up Uber but I’ll take a second and I will drive myself down there.
Find out when they’re putting out the wireless modular keyboard with a touch bar.
KS: I shall.
Okay, I’m ready for that.
KS: I know you can do it. If anybody can do it, you can do it. I have faith in you. You should be proud I have faith in you.
I’m lit up. I’ve never felt so happy with myself.
KS: Get going. I want answers, so please, let’s not fuck around here. Get the answers we need, because the geeks are waiting. I’m going to ask this because I’m going to ask both of you this. Anshul Kapoor: “I am Anshul. Why wasn’t Eddy Cue onstage this time?” I saw him later, we had a Rihanna discussion.
LG: What did he say?
KS: He was explaining to me who he was actually talking to. He has an ongoing, funny war with another lady.
Was it Rihanna?
KS: No. Rihanna was involved though. It was very complicated, and then after a while I was bored and I just was like, “Okay, I don’t care. You’re all sitting on the floor of the thing and you’re all rich people sitting on the floor and I probably couldn’t get tickets.” I was not interested. Anyway, it’s a bunch of rich people standing up and cheering on the stage, on the court.
Stage. Basketball’s generally played on a stage. Lauren ...
KS: Whatever. Why wasn’t he there?
LG: I think he wasn’t onstage because Apple talked about TV for all of two seconds and moved along. There really was a lot to pack into this event.
LG: Then I think we saw — this is now we’re taping this on Wednesday, last night was Tuesday, and the new “Planet of the Apps” show, which is one of Apple’s first forays into original content, aired last night. I think they were, I don’t know, waiting a little bit this week to make some kind of TV announcements.
KS: Why wasn’t that trotted out there? It’s not great, that’s why. Why wasn’t that trotted out?
“Planet of the Apps”?
They buried it. It’s not easy to find. They’re not making a big deal out of it. It’s just sort of out in the world. It’s worth watching. I will say Gary Vaynerchuk, I would love to have him. If I was doing a startup, I’d want that guy telling me what to do.
KS: If you like the weird downward thing.
He’s the best part of the show by far.
KS: Yes, he is.
He’s been working on that Amazon deal for a long time, and he got it, but that’s the only thing that happened on the media side for them. I think that’s just they had two and a half hours for this stuff, and then they just condensed it.
KS: All right. Well then he wasn’t there. He was somewhere else. He was around though. He was definitely around. Next one Lauren, why don’t you ask?
LG: Sure, this is from Broadcastorm on Twitter. “Do you think that the AR demo that Apple gave is any better than the currently existing Google Tango? If so, how?” I actually would like to weigh in on this because I had done a little bit of reporting, a little bit. I did a fair amount of reporting over the past couple weeks talking to people about what they were hoping for from Apple with regards to AR, different types of AR and how it works. Google Tango is an impressive platform that Google has developed, but it’s a very specific hardware and software combination in order to make the AR work. It requires a bunch of different sensors, camera sensors, depth sensors, AR sensors, and then it requires the apps to be built to those specifications.
Then you get this really cool in-depth AR experience on the phone. Because it’s so hardware specific, there is literally only one phone on the market right now that supports this technology. It’s a Lenovo phone. The experience I had is kind of clunky but it’s still early technology. There’s one other phone that’s been announced, an Asus phone that hasn’t hit the market yet. I think it’s supposed to come to market this summer.
The limitation right there is just like, okay, you can do this really cool stuff in AR on a phone, but you have to have all of this stuff in the phone itself. What Apple did at the developers conference is it did it via software basically. It said, “Okay, you’ve got iPhones right now. You’ve got the existing cameras and the existing sensors that we all are using if we’re using an iPhone right now, and we’re going to open up those sensors in a way that developers now have access to more data and more information so they can build this more depth-like AR experience on the phone.”
Arguably, that was a little bit of a long-winded answer, but arguably what Apple is doing is a little bit better because you don’t need specific hardware to do it, you can just use the iPhone.
Yeah, I had the same answer. I think also Apple owns their whole stack. That’s their huge advantage, and they’re able to say, “We’re going to do all of the AR processing for you developers. We’re going to tune it. We’re going to save the battery life. We don’t need a bunch of crazy hardware.” The fact that they’re doing it with basically their video camera is insane. That’s way ahead of what anybody else can do. They can save power that they can take away the pain from the developers. Pokemon Go has showed rebuilt on AR kit and presumably it will do better at not killing your battery permanently the way that Pokemon Go does right now.
KS: All right. Final question from someone named Mossberg.
Uh oh. I don’t like this.
KS: Can you handle this one?
I’m not ready for this, no. This is why I was terrified.
KS: I’m going to do it in his voice too. “Why is there no 3.5 millimeter headphone jack on the HomePod? I say it’s an outrage.”
LG: Nilay, I’m going to let you take this one.
Walt really caused a Twitter outrage with this one.
KS: No, you have to answer too, Lauren. It’s outrage.
I spend a lot of time thinking about 3.5 millimeter. I think it’s whatever, the headphone jack is fine, but a lot of speakers have line-ins, people use them.
KS: Yes, they do.
It’s weird that they wouldn’t have that and they wouldn’t have Bluetooth. I think if they had Bluetooth, whatever, it’s a Bluetooth speaker, you can do whatever you want. Like I said, the ...
KS: It’s ugly because it makes the toilet paper look like it has an iPhone jack head out of it, right?
Yeah, but it’s weird, the iPad has a headphone jack. All the Macs they announced yesterday have headphone jacks.
Look, they built the speaker that can only use Apple Music. They’re going to have to figure that out.
KS: Lauren, any thoughts? Are you outraged?
LG: My only thought right now, based on this question, is how much I already miss Mossberg, especially Senior Week Mossberg.
He asked that question just to troll me. I know it.
KS: Yes. Mossberg is leaving the building. You two have to get used to this.
LG: That’s it. That’s all I have to say about that.
Real sad for me.
KS: Yeah, all right.
LG: That’s really all I have to say about that.
I’m going to have a renegade podcast with him where I just call him on the phone just whenever I want.
KS: He’s going to be in the cigar store. He’s not going to be answering any technical questions.
Here’s what I think. There’s going to be a new iPhone this year, there’s a new iPhone every year. Do you think he’s going to stay away? He’s not. We’re going to get him on one of these shows. It’s going to be pretty.
KS: All right, we’ll see. I think he’s going right to the cigar store and the battlefield and you’re never going to see him again. That’s what I think. We’ll see. We’ll have to see, but you’re right, the new iPhone he probably wants to weigh in on, especially if it’s super different.
Yeah, he’s not going to stay away. He’s going to be excited.
KS: I appreciate Nilay.
Thank you. Thank you guys for having me. I’ve been looking forward to being on this show for a long time.
LG: Yes, Nilay. Thank you so much for coming on.
KS: We appreciate it. It’s lovely of you to be here at the Vox Podcast Media, whatever the hell it is, Vox Media Podcast Network. We go deep here. Deep.
It’s real in the weeds. You want to do another hour on file systems? I’ll do it right now.
KS: That’s a motto. Do you know that’s a motto, “We go deep”? Do you know that? That’s their motto.
I didn’t know that.
KS: It is. That’s their new motto of Vox Media.
Oh god. It’s better than ...
KS: I just like to keep saying it.
... the Ersatz AOL motto that we have, which is “Brands people love.”
KS: I know, “Brands people love,” but “We go deep”? Come on. Seriously, I’m going to transform into ...
I didn’t know that was it.
KS: Yes it is, and I keep saying it to Jim Bankoff in various voices and I think I’m making him turn red every time. You can start to do that too, Nilay. Just join me in the quest to embarrass Jim Bankoff.
That’s why I’m here. Do you think I haven’t already?
KS: Yes I think you will, but this gives you more ammunition. Anyway, this has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. Thank you for joining us, Nilay, again.
Thanks for having me.
LG: Yes, thank you Nilay. You can find Nilay on the Twitter, @reckless, and just send him all the information about AirPlay 2 that you possibly have.
KS: He does not know what is going on.
KS: Get to the bottom of this.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.