Amazon’s new healthcare company could give smaller health tech players a boost

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You can now pick up an iMac Pro in-store, for $4,999 and up

Apple’s super-powered iMac Pro hit the company’s online store just ahead of Christmas. Now those who’d prefer to pick one up in-person can do so by paying a visit to one of its various retail establishments. Availability was first spotted by MacRumors earlier today, and you can check it for yourself by entering your zip code over on the company’s site. At $4,999 and up, this isn’t check out line impulse buy territory, but the professional version of the company’s well-regarded all-in-one packs a wallop. Matthew spent some time around the machine around its official launch, calling it “a love letter to developers,” adding that the company, “decided to see exactly how ridiculous it could get with iMac performance inside what is essentially the exact same shell as the current machines — with a nice coat of color treatment and a few additional cosmetic differences.” With the Mac Pro still in a state of limbo, the company has focused on the AIO desktop form factor to deliver some crazy high-end tech specs for users looking to perform truly CPU taxing tasks like editing 4K video and creating VR content. The iMac Pro represents a sort of recommitment to the developers and creative types that have long formed a core user base — which Microsoft has been actively courting with its own Surface line. The computers appear to be pretty well seeded out there in Apple Stores, though I suspect not every location is going to have every single configuration, so you’re going to want to call ahead. Of course, if you’re not willing to make the $4,999+ commitment, there’s apparently already a ridiculously inflated second-hand market for those limited edition space gray accessories.

Study: Russian Twitter bots sent 45k Brexit tweets close to vote

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Amazon did a lot of funky stuff this year and it’s paying off

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Apple employees are reportedly walking into walls at the company’s fancy new glass office

People in glass offices should probably watch where they’re going. Collisions have been one very clear downside of Apple’s $427 million spaceship office in Cupertino, according to a story out of Bloomberg. The “people familiar with the incidents” won’t say how widespread a phenomenon all of this is, but there’s a definite potential downside to glass walls in a setting where occupants are regularly staring down at their phones. In an effort to the phenomenon, some have apparently taken to sticking Post-Its on potential hazard zones — a sort of primitive form of augmented reality. As someone who regularly runs into stuff, I can personally confirm that walls, not people are to blame in this situation, and likely the whole things is more a source of brief personal embarrassment for those involved. As the story points out, none of the collisions have warranted a post to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Transparency, after all, is the key to addressing these issues. This does, however, reflect a story from 2012, in which an 83-year-old woman filed suit against the company after injuring herself after bumping into a glass surface at an Apple Store. The suit, which was later settled out of court, claimed the company “was negligent … in allowing a clear, see-through glass wall and/or door to exist without proper warning.” Likely these reports, however, won’t result in a black eye for the company.

Why gear rental marketplace Lumoid shut down

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Apple revises its controversial guidelines on template-based apps

Apple today announced it’s amending the App Store guideline that banned apps created using templates and other app generation services. When the company revised its policies earlier this year, the move was meant to reduce the number of low-quality apps and spam. But the decision ended up impacting a much wider market — including small businesses, restaurants, nonprofits, organizations, clubs and others who don’t have the in-house expertise or funds to build custom apps from scratch. Apple’s new rule is meant to offer better clarity on what sort of apps will and will not be accepted in the App Store. Before, the 4.2.6 App Store guideline read as follows: 4.2.6 Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected. The company’s revised wording now states: 4.2.6 Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or “picker” model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event. This is Apple’s attempt to clarify how it thinks about templated apps. Core to this is the idea that, while it’s fine for small businesses and organizations to go through a middleman like the app templating services, the app template providers shouldn’t be the ones ultimately publishing these apps on their clients’ behalf. Instead, Apple wants every app on the App Store to be published by the business or organization behind the app. (This is something that’s been suggested before). That means your local pizza shop, your church, your gym, etc. needs to have reviewed the App Store documentation and licensing agreement themselves, and more actively participate in the app publishing process. Apple in early 2018 will waive the $99 developer fee for all government and nonprofits starting in the U.S. to make this transition easier. It’s still fine if a middleman — like a template building service — aids them in this. And it’s also fine if a template-building service helps them create the app in the first place. In fact, Apple isn’t really concerned so much about “how” the app gets built (so long as it’s not a wrapped webpage) — it cares about the end result. Apps need to offer high-quality experience, the company insists. They shouldn’t all look identical; they shouldn’t look like clones of one another. And, most importantly, they shouldn’t look like the web or serve as just a wrapper around what could otherwise just be the business website or their Facebook Page. Apps are meant to be more than the web, offering a deeper, richer experience, Apple believes. Above: The original version of the Official Lumineers app, built by AppMakr There is some disagreement on how extensively this rule is being enforced, however. Today, consumers may interact with one of these “templated clones” — like an app for their favorite taco place, their church, a local band, their school, etc. They don’t know that the app is one of many that look just like it, and they probably don’t care. In addition, a sort of uniformity to apps in a given space could make them easier to use, some argue. You’ll know where to find the “mobile ordering” feature, or where the menu is located when they’re not all unique snowflakes, trying to be different for difference’s sake. On the flip side, Apple sees an ecosystem filled with thousands of copycats and clones as a very bad thing. It’s unfair to developers who have custom-built their apps, and it can even crash the App Store when one tries to load some 20,000 apps published under a single developer account. While most generally agree that low-quality apps don’t deserve to be on the App Store, there’s industry concern that banning template-based apps as a whole has been an overreach. View this document on Scribd The move even caught the attention of Congressman Ted W. Lieu (33rd District, California), who told Apple it was “casting too wide a net” in its effort to remove spam and illegitimate apps from the App Store, and was “invalidating apps from longstanding and legitimate developers who pose no threat to the App Store’s integrity.” It seemed odd, too, that a company that on the one hand had argued that everyone deserved free and equal access to the internet created a rule that makes it more difficult for smaller companies and nonprofits from doing business on the App Store — especially at a time when accessing the web is more often done through the gateway of mobile apps. (See above chart — the browser is passé). At the very least, this amended language seems to offer some respite for the templating service providers. They can still act as a middleman for the smaller companies, so long as they build customized apps that don’t look like one another, and the clients publish them under their own accounts. They can even use components to build those apps, as long as the apps have variety to their interfaces and offer an app-like, not web-like, experience. The rule arguably is meant to offer consumers a better App Store filled with well-built, quality apps, but it will have a sweeping effect on small businesses and their ability to compete with larger entities. Sure, the pizza place could sell through Uber Eats — but at a steep cost. Sure, the nail salon could advertise on Yelp or the mom-and-pop could have a Facebook Page — and many do, of course. Such is the nature of the world. But that also puts the business at the mercy of the larger aggregators, while an app — much like a website — puts the business in more control over their own destiny. Recently, TechCrunch reported that many companies operating in this space were given a January 1, 2018 deadline for compliance with the revised guidelines. After this date, the App Store Review team told the companies their new apps wouldn’t be allowed in the App Store. Some apps had already fallen under the ban, and were seeing their submissions rejected. (Apps already live were grandfathered in, and could be updated. But it was unclear how long that would be the case.) Some companies had even shut down their business as a result of these changes. The adjusted language doesn’t appear to allow them to continue as they did before. Instead, they will need to develop new tools to provide clients with “customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences.” In other words, be more like Squarespace, less like Google Sites — but for apps. Above: One of these is a template-based app. You can tell, right? The affected companies weren’t all what you considered “spam” app makers. While of course some that were wrapping webpages made sense to ban, others operated in more of a gray area. They ranged from those that offered tools for small businesses that wanted their own app store presence to those that served particular industries — like ChowNow, which builds apps for restaurants that want their own mobile ordering systems, or those that build apps for churches, fitness studios, spas, politicians, events and more. These businesses told us the 4.2.6 (and sometimes the 4.3) guidelines were being cited by the App Review team when rejecting their apps. They also told us they had trouble getting clarity from Apple when discussing the matter in private, one-on-one phone calls. The former rule (4.2.6) bans the template-based apps, while the latter (4.3) is more of a catch-all for banning spam. The 4.3 rule was used at times when Apple couldn’t prove that the app was built using a wizard or drag-and-drop system, we were told. Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 3.41.33 PM Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 3.41.42 PM View Slideshow Previous Next Exit Above: the wording of the rules before today’s changes When Apple first announced the changes at WWDC, many of these template providers and app generation services thought they wouldn’t be impacted — the ban was meant to weed out the clone-makers and spammers. That’s why it came as a surprise when Apple reviewers began informing them that they, too, would no longer be allowed to publish their apps to the App Store. They didn’t think of themselves as spammers. Apple’s newly worded policy provides more clarity on the matter, but it doesn’t really change Apple’s prior intention. If the app is basically just a website, if it looks like other apps, then don’t bother; the App Store is not for you.

Inside Joymode: a subscription service saving you from buying all of the things

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Apple continues to dominate the tablet market as sales decline once again

Bitcoin and crypto aren’t the only things on the decline, sales of tablet devices once again dropped in 2017, according to new data. Figures from analyst firm IDC show that overall tablet shipments fell by...

Photosynth returns as a feature in Microsoft’s Pix camera app

Earlier this year, Microsoft shut down Photosynth, its service for stitching multiple images into panoramas and semi-3D models. When it launched in 2008, the service was extremely impressive, but it never quite caught on....

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