I’ve spent the last few weeks delving into the world of cryptocurrencies and lo and behold, there might be something to it. Part of the problem is that I rarely feel an innovation that revolves around the inevitability of people making a lot of money. Instead, I notice something that might be bubbling up, like a new chip from Apple or a series of chips that create a new market opportunity. The M1 series was such a development; it provided a palpable layer of power that changed the equation of how I use computing. As with Tesla, market conditions evolve as chip production is incorporated.
The iPhone and iPad were transformative for Apple and the tech industry. The obvious things were the touch interface, the app ecosystem, and the decoupling of the great PC era. Before, computers represented a way of leveraging software as an agent of change for our daily lives. I learned the interfaces of Office, then the underlying structure of the operating system’s services, and then the point of connection to the network. In a way, it was like the structure of cinema: the skeleton that was the plot, the scaffolding that was the dialogue, the narrative that was the connection between the characters and the situation, and the rhythm that was the product of montage and off. -set. screen context. The latter was more stealthy in its revelation, but the key to the humour, the music, and not just what you see and hear, but what you infer.
iPhones were famously how Steve Jobs perceived the iPad. The target was personal and business communications, easier to market than a PC replacement. There were the entrenched operators, who held to the perception that price was driven by physical distance. Today, we don’t think about the concept of local versus long distance. Our friends and family are equidistant from us and from each other. Our policy remains governed by historical measurement. The electoral college maintains the distribution of power in the upper house regardless of population; the smallest and largest states each receive 2 senators. Power flows and is measured by the fractured structure of gerrymandering and filibuster.
Before the iPhone, video conferencing was limited to corporate links between hubs and satellite offices. After the iPhone, each new entrant to the network was endowed with the effective unlimited bandwidth of the first carrier domino to fall – AT&T. By signing an exclusive deal with one carrier, Apple effectively held a gun to the rest of the industry. The essential disruptive feature of unlimited access was only possible with a single network. Any other operator has reduced the feature set of the innovative hardware. On the iPhone, audio has become a first-class citizen. With IP calling, the cost limitation of the previous generation of POTS was eliminated. As other networks moved towards broadband, the iPhone gained new ground, with video conferencing and the application ecosystem.
Even today, third-party apps like Facebook Messenger are often used more often than the iPhone’s built-in iMessage. The Facebook app builds on audio, video, messaging, screen sharing and the beginnings of e-commerce – across international borders, proprietary phone systems, video standards and wireless devices via Apple’s Airplay WiFi grid. The phone has become the center for watches, AirPods, exercise bikes, telemedicine and iPads. What started out as a small form factor iPad has now absorbed its bigger brother as a peripheral replacement for the PC. Take care of the M1.
Once the iPhone/iPad iOS operating system could run on M1 Macs, it seemed likely that the app ecosystem would migrate to the Mac. Notifications seem better supported on the Mac than previously, but there is no real sync between the two platforms. Some video production apps, like LumaFusion, run on the iPad and M1 without modification, but I was happy to use the iPad as a staging machine for editing and the M1 for transcribing conversations and interviews. The iPad was recently upgraded to use M1 chips, but for now I’m so happy with the Mac Book Pro that I’d rather take most of my computing off the iPad and split between the iPhone and Mac M1. I didn’t expect this, but the pandemic and its acceleration of work from anywhere has been the engine.
As video conferencing has become a core service of the new office, the M1 has changed my media consumption in important ways. Streaming tools like Restream and Zoom’s cross-platform ubiquity make it trivial to produce a video chat across multiple platforms. Airpods allow us to work on multiple streams and edit projects on multiple iPads and M1s, with an elastic subscription model that reduces total costs by up to 10-1 monthly. Screen sharing via Zoom will soon be atomized as APIs open to allow live editing and audio smoothing to be rolled out to iPads, while M1s (a Mac Book Air and Pro) produce text and manage releases of social media. Zero fan noise makes the M1s ideal for live production use. And when travel and events return, the entire studio comes along for the ride. Blur mode maintains a consistent visual feel.
Then there’s the live audio trend, which sits on top of the same tools, plus an emphasis on the iPhone. The two main platforms have distinct personalities: Twitter Spaces leverages the social graph, while Clubhouse seems more aggressive in adding features to keep up with larger, more corporate competitors. Twitter’s tools for downloading recordings are clunky; the 30-day limitation on replays needs to shift to a more producer-centric perspective. Over time, the two sets of features should meld together like notifications did on Apple and Android. The horse racing aspect of the creative economy may attract media interest, but the most tangible impact will emerge in the iterative wave of what David Weinberger called small, loosely knit pieces.
The Clubhouse’s new Shared on Clubhouse tool feels ear-first, quantity over influence. You can broadcast a comment to followers by expanding the social graph to receive not only live participation but especially Replay listeners. These notifications appeal to more organic groups of room-sharing and interests that exist outside of more traditional journalist interviews and other celebrity-focused events. Share stats promote a sort of interactive guide on top of shared rooms, and listeners become 1st class citizens with the ability to comment and aggregate their findings to the same middle tier that retweets powered Twitter’s viral social graph. It’s clear that Twitter or LinkedIn’s adoption of these tools will succeed in their larger lakes. If crypto fans prove to be prescient, decentralized open standards could facilitate a real use case for an alternative to centralized replacements for first-party and third-party cookies.
None of this suggests that these networks will become an important part of our work or social life. Keeping up with the news regularly is a frustrating exercise for those more used to legacy platforms like newspapers and magazines, or what some call the new landline — cable. when large swaths of the country refuse even the simplest actions, like vaccines, as some kind of political conspiracy. The characteristics of a repeat economy can become more significant than the mills of disinformation that social networks grapple with.
the most recently Gillmor Gang Newsletter
The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, January 14, 2022.
Produced and Directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
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