Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Apple Face ID FUD or How To Tell When Someone is Clueless

The Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that has surrounded Apple’s Face ID in the iPhone X since their announcement on Sept 12, is very familiar. It occurred to me that it is yet another way to tell when someone is truly clueless about technology product strategy. So let’s explore this year’s circus come to town…. Shall we….

In the history of the technology business, there are many moments, like these, that have changed things in significant ways. Some big, and some small.

Apple seems to have more of those moments than most. A lot of competitors have an acute case of innovation envy. Not to mention the jealousy of all the press Apple gets when someone from Apple so much as whispers within earshot. Then there’s all the unnamed sources and supply chain leaks that keep the Apple speculation at a fevered pitch most of the year. And since it’s that fall time of year, we all know what that means !!! The launch of new iPhones and the annual crazy race to see who can be the most clueless about Apple product strategy.

There are always a way too many people that don’t get it. The clueless. For those whom have worked hard to earn your clues, this article is for you. For the rest of you - the clueless ones - continue with caution, you might get hurt. Most likely this includes you if you were a still a Crackberry zealot and iPhone denier circa 2007–2008, or a Trump supporter today.

For those of you who want to send me letters right now, hang on, let me explain. This is a joke. This piece is going to bring more of the funny, so strap yourselves in. What makes this funny - albeit not for everyone…. OK, maybe just for me - is that it is rooted in some truth. Which is what makes it a joke, PEOPLE. If you’re not laughing or at least smiling right now, you’ve just proven my point. If it helps, you can blame all of this on The Macalope - it’s all his fault… I swear. Wait… IT’s fault ? I dunno, he’s… ah… IT’s a mythical beast… Apparently.

Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Some Fundamentals

Some grounding in history is always helpful, in times filled with out of control dumpster fires like this one. So here’s some big moments to jog the old memory of some major innovations over the last few decades. For the clueful, bear with me a sec.
  • Personal computer
  • Local Area Networks (LAN)
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Object Oriented Programming (OOP)
  • Cell phones
  • Internet
  • Smart phones

And some of Apple’s big moments:
  • Apple ][
  • Macintosh
  • iPod and iTunes
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Apple Watch

Before we get to Face ID, one of those small moments in history that will change things, let’s review some of those pesky facts that so often trip up the clueless.

Apple is the biggest and most profitable company in the known universe, in the history of… well, forever. Here’s one of many many sources from Forbes.

Apple’s iPhone crushed former giants of the cell phone biz - Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola. Wait… actually Microsoft and Google killed Nokia and Motorola pretty good all by their lonesome, without Apple’s help. But, yeah… Apple made them do it, by making competitor’s product strategies obsolete. They were awful products anyway and kinda earned it.

Numbers, logic and the sweet scent of 9,000 new trees and the native California flora wafting from the spectacular Apple Park, would indicate to most that there is something to learn from Apple. It is the clueless that choose not to learn.


How To Spot the Clueless

Now for the record here, I have absolutely no problem with anyone who chooses to be clueless – or just, ya’ know…. is. But it’s when they start spewing their cluelessness all over people, that it becomes a problem for us all. They should restrain themselves to spewing in private, in water cooler rants, or in lieu of wearing a lampshade on their heads, drunk at the office party. But please don’t publish it in articles, or base your professional decisions on it. And please don’t pretend your writing “analysis” when you’re really just weaponizing half-baked ideas, based on ill informed sources, and driving it in the clown car to Bananasburg.

Here’s some ways to spot the clueless, using Apple as a basis. If anyone uses any of these phrases or ideas, they’ve already lost the debate by resorted to simplistic and stupid clichés. Rather than facts. Here’s a starter list, including some of the classic oldies but goodies:
  • A smartphone without a hardware keyboard can’t be successful
  • Android is open, iOS is closed
  • Hardware specs matter (the implication being, specs matter more than user experience)
  • Antenna gate
  • Touch ID won’t be secure nor work reliably
  • Apple changes stuff so they can sell more dongles
  • Fanboy
  • iHype
  • Rants about no headphone jack on the iPhone 7
  • Apple Watch is a flop
  • iMessage and iTunes are evil because they are so successful that Apple uses them to lock customers in to their platforms

I could write entire articles about each of these clueless ideas, but… who… has… the time, really. Many have tried to dissuade the clueless of their delusions. But alas, it is a pointless pursuit.

Now I’ll fully admit that there is more than a bit of religiousness exhibited by some Apple supporters. I’d argue that a lot of it that is published by professional writers, is based in rational recognition that Apple produces products that, more than with most competitors, people love to use. Because most - but not all - things about Apple products are simply better. And Apple’s competitors know that too. Which is why so many of them copy from Apple. You know who you are…


Face ID FUD

The most recent crazy race to dump all over Apple again, really came to a hyper, white hot, flaming crescendo of crazy, immediately after (actually it started DURING) Apple’s iPhone announcement event on Sept 12. The anti-Apple pundits went ape spinning conspiracy theories of epic Apple fail, when Face ID appeared to not work in the demo done by Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. And… we were OFF to the races. It didn’t matter to the clueless that the failure stories were debunked the next day. The Apple doom engine was on full blast.

Look… I’m just gonna jump ahead to the bottom line about Apple, that defines how they approached their decision to embrace Face ID. And most everything else they do.

Apple strives to replace tech, with something better.

So, they wouldn’t dump Touch ID, if Face ID were not better. In this case, way better.

Apple obsoletes it’s own products long before their competitors do.

By design, they will build a new product that will kill an old one. An old one that still makes a lotta cash too. Apple killed the iPod with the iPhone. They built an iPad that could’ve taken a chunk out of the Mac - turned out it took a chunk out of the PC market share and practically killed the netbook (THANK….you), and the Mac grew. Apple killed the Apple ][ with the Mac - eventually. Well Jobs sought to kill it, but the inertia around the success of the Apple ][ got in his way. And the rest is…… Well, it should be well known history by everyone in the tech biz, but sadly it’s not. One of the most important stories, inside the biggest leap forward in the history of mankind, and way too many people in tech don’t know it, and some who do know it don’t understand it. Hence, the huge mistakes many make evaluating Apple. Sad really.

Apple spends years and millions on R&D before you even hear about something.

So, Face ID wasn’t rushed together because Apple couldn’t get a Touch ID sensor to work under a display. Plus, at the scale that Apple operates on (think 10X bigger than you can wrap your brain around), they don’t rush anything. They pulled the trigger on replacing Touch ID with Face ID over a year ago.

And if you read the tea leaves left by the companies that Apple has acquired over the years, it leads a path straight to Face ID. We’re talkin’ YEARS here !!!! They make years of investment before you ever hear a peep about it. Sometimes it goes nowhere and you never hear about it. If you study the origin stories of the iPhone you can learn something about how Apple does things.

Here’s what boggles my mind to no end: Why technology business professional writers, analysts and product management people don’t know this. They make a living in this area of product strategy. What’s worst, some aren’t even curious enough about it, to LEARN. THE most successfully company in the history, of history, and some of them are not only, NOT curious, they actively deny the facts that are staring them in the face !!!!

( slowly… coming down… from soapbox… )

</rant> 

( well… not really ;-D - I wish I could… sorta )

There are many more principles than these, that are built in to Apple’s DNA. These are some fundamentals that drive Apple’s product strategy, that are absolutely essential to understanding Apple and what they will do next. Yet, too many “professionals” don’t understand them. Writers, stock and financial analysts, product managers - people entrusted with your money, futures and company strategies. It’s stunning how many people profess to be “experts” that don’t understand even a few of the most fundamental ideas of the most successful company on earth.

The New Apple

But times have changed. The new Apple is fighting back against some of this non-sense. The next day after the Sept 12 Face ID demo the Face ID failure stories were debunked. Well known tech journalist David Pogue concluded:
“But did Face ID actually fail? No, it didn’t. In fact, it worked flawlessly.”
Then 2 days after, Craig Federighi replying to questions via email responded to the issue he had in the Face ID demo. Then by that Friday after the Tuesday Face ID demo, Craig was talking and sharing the real story about the demo and Face ID. In interviews with John Gruber of Daring Fireball and TechCrunch and in MacRumors.

And yet the Apple Face ID is doomed porn continued.

The real story is that Face ID worked as it is designed to - it locked the iPhone into requiring a passcode after some folks prepping the stage and equipment before the demo, accidentally restarted the iPhone X or caused Face ID to fail twice, locking it to biometric authentication. This is what Touch ID does too.

Tons of details came flowing out about Face ID. Here is just a sampling to show how soon and how well Apple responded, and the competitive advantage that Apple has with Face ID.

How Face ID Works - MacRumors, Sept 13
Details on how it works.

What really happened with Apple’s Face ID ‘fail’ onstage - David Pogue, Sept 13
Debunks the Sept 12 Face ID demo fail stories.

Face ID Feature Works With Most Sunglasses, Can Be Quickly Disabled to Thwart Thieves - MacRumors, Sept 14
Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi replies to emailed questions.

Apple’s Craig Federighi answers some burning questions about Face ID, Sept 15 Interview with Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.

Facial recognition is only the beginning: What to expect next from biometrics on your phone - Business Insider, Sept 20
Facial-recognition technology has been around for years, and is available in some phones, like Samsung’s Galaxy S8. What’s out there typically hasn’t worked well, though—for one thing, it’s been shown to be easily spoofed with something as simple as a photo of the phone owner’s face.
Anil Jain, a Michigan State University professor who studies biometric recognition and computer vision
“Having everything working on a mobile phone is quite amazing,” Jain says.
Apple’s Face ID Security white paper and support doc, Sept 27
Apple details the security of Face ID.

TrueDepth Camera Gives Apple 2.5 Year Lead Over Android Competitors - MacRumors, Oct 2
Android vendors caught by surprise, and left in the dust again ?

Face ID Turns Android Makers Away From Under-Screen Fingerprint Recognition - MacRumors, Oct 7
“…inquiries by Android smartphone vendors into 3D-sensing technologies have at least tripled since Apple unveiled its TrueDepth camera and Face ID”


No One Can Clue-Less Better Than The Professionals

A more advanced level of cluelessness comes from the “professionals” no less. The writers and analysts that way too many people listen to. The ones armed with nuclear grade dumb. They possess weapons of mass cluelessness. Even some of the good ones got some of it way wrong.

For example, there is this “professional”, who was like - you think that’s clueless, hold my beer. He decided to take cluelessness to the next level, by spinning a conspiracy theory that has Apple leaking unflattering information about Face ID to Bloomberg for an equally vapid story, in order to lower expectations. But wait…. there’s more. Just when you’re expecting the white coats to show up and take him away, he over shares with a gem about how he can’t wrap his brain around the notion that Apple could get the tech right in such a tiny package, if Microsoft couldn’t do it in a comparatively huge Xbox with Kinect. LMFAO !!!!

There are just so many things factually wrong, breathtakingly misinformed, and just plain bananas that I hardly know where to start to unravel this wingnut sundae. I’ll just leave it to the many folks WITH a clue that replied to his story. Sick burn shout out to reply posters cyrulnik, smoothbond and jdawgnoonan - but monkeyboy and ghostrider need to spin the wheel again and buy a clue.

And John Gruber’s well pointed sarcasm, to school this boneheadedness. Regarding comparing Apple to Microsoft:
Yes, how could the company that got a stripped down version of OS X running on a cell phone in 2007 ever pull this off?
And oh… by the way the highly unusual step that Apple took to debunk the Bloomberg story in the first place. This clueless stew should have never been served up.

In the statement from Apple:
Bloomberg’s claim that Apple has reduced the accuracy spec for Face ID is completely false and we expect Face ID to be the new gold standard for facial authentication.
Oh….. But wait….. There’s still more…..

For months the professional crazy snowballed out of control. Pundits feeding each others Apple doom porn, and outrageously unrealistic and ill informed guesses. John Gruber of Daring Fireball sums it up very well in Face ID FUD.

Then this one dropped directly by an Apple exec…

Apple Dismisses Rumors of Ever Putting Touch ID on Back, Side, or Under Display of iPhone X

In an interview with TechCrunch, Dan Riccio, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering, said:
“I heard some rumor [that] we couldn’t get Touch ID to work through the glass so we had to remove that,” Riccio says, answering a question about whether there were late design changes. “When we hit early line of sight on getting Face ID to be [as] good as it was, we knew that if we could be successful we could enable the product that we wanted to go off and do and if that’s true it could be something that we could burn the bridges and be all in with. This is assuming it was a better solution. And that’s what we did. So we spent no time looking at fingerprints on the back or through the glass or on the side because if we did those things, which would be a last-minute change, they would be a distraction relative to enabling the more important thing that we were trying to achieve, which was Face ID done in a high-quality way.”
BOOM !!!! (mic drop)

And…. That finally stopped it………… I'm just kidding, of COURSE the clueless did not stop.


Moral of the Story ?

There’s hype on all sides. Some is based in facts, some isn’t. Reader beware.

If you read or hear someone dismissing everything Apple just because, opting to abandon critical thinking, fighting innovation, or not learning a thing from one of the most successful company ever, then you should move on.

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