The Automation-Platform Edition Friday, March 31, 2017

The Future Of Workflow, by Federico Viticci, MacStories

I think Apple acquired Workflow with the intention of building their own automation platform on iOS. Like Siri, TestFlight, and Beats Music, I don't think Apple bought Workflow just to abandon it. I believe both Apple and Workflow saw this as the best possible solution to continue growing the app into a more powerful tool for iOS users. Whatever Apple is planning, however, it won't be ready for iOS 11 in June. I'd expect the Workflow app to remain (mostly untouched) on the App Store until Apple offers a replacement – possibly in Spring 2018 or in iOS 12. If and when that replacement becomes available, I expect it to be a complete rewrite of the app with little to no support for legacy workflows.

I also assume that Apple wants their take on iOS automation to be tightly controlled by clear user permissions, and that URL scheme callbacks won't be part of Workflow's future. Unless Apple wants to outright remove third-party app support from Workflow, I suspect the company is building "Workflow as a feature" inside iOS with a framework that developers will be able to integrate with. That "WorkflowKit" framework will enable third-party developers to offer discrete app actions that can be embedded in Workflow and other extension points. WorkflowKit will be based on groundwork laid with iOS 11 this year, and it'll tell a bigger story for Workflow 2.0 as the glue between every iOS app, service, or system feature. I'm guessing, but I'd say that all of this is at least a year away.

Apple Continues Whimsical iPad Pro Ad Series With Focus On Design & Education, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

Apple this evening has shared three new videos in its ongoing iPad Pro ad series. The new videos highlight user complaints about PCs and offer up a solution to the problems: the iPad Pro. The three new ads highlight the design of the iPad Pro, its battery, its versatility.

Apple & SAP Launch Enterprise-oriented Cloud Platform SDK For iOS, by Roger Fingas, AppleInsider

The toolkit lets developers connect apps to data stored in the SAP Cloud Platform as well as various services and functions, all governed by business and security rules. It taps into native iOS frameworks, and makes use of Apple's Swift programming language.


Apple Notes Hides Flexibility And Power Underneath A Veneer Of Simplicity, by Mike Wuerthele, AppleInsider

Free is not a reason to ignore the alternatives but Apple Notes is this strong and more than free, it's already installed and waiting for you. There are reasons to go to its rivals but Apple Notes has so much going for it that you really should try it out first, if for no other reason that to have a baseline for comparison.

IFTTT Now Connects To The iOS Calendar And App Store, by Joseph Keller, iMore

If This Than That, also known as IFTTT, a service that connects to other apps and services in order to help them work together, has added support for two more iOS-specific applets: Calendar and the App Store.

Scheduled Is A New App That Lets You Schedule Your Text Messages, by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

You first select the person you want to text from your Contacts, then write the text you want to send and select the time you want to be reminded to send the text. When that time rolls around, Scheduled sends you a push notification so you can return to the app to send the text.

In The Unsexy World Of Lab Gear, These Hybrid Microscopes Are Hot, by Mike Freeman, the San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego start-up Echo has created a new hybrid microscope that switches from upright to inverted in one device, saving life science companies money and space. On Thursday, Echo said it has raised $7.5 million in venture capital to expand its manufacturing and sales operations, as well as develop new products.

Echo’s Revolve microscope also replaces traditional eye pieces with high-resolution tablet computers.


Apple, Wal-Mart Stick With Climate Pledges Despite Trump’s Pivot, by Christopher Flavelle, Bloomberg

Many of America’s biggest corporations including Apple Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are sticking by their pledges to fight climate change even as President Donald Trump guts his predecessor’s environmental policies.

Companies say their pledges, coordinated by the Obama administration, reflect their push to cut energy costs, head off activist pressure and address a risk to their bottom line in the decades to come.

Apple To Eliminate Several Business And Event-Related Retail Positions, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

Apple is planning another shakeup within its retail stores, according to a source who shared the company's plans with MacRumors. At the end of April, Apple plans to eliminate certain retail positions, including Business Manager, Business Events Lead, Events Coordinator, and Events Lead. [...]

Employees who currently hold positions that are being eliminated have been told they can take a lower level (also lower paying in many cases) position or take two months of severance pay. "This comes as a rude awakening to employees who have always felt Apple has had their best interest," said the source.

Banks Lose Battle To Band Together Against Apple, by Mathew Dunckley, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Friday denied an application by the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank to bargain as a group against Apple and collectively boycott its payment system, Apple Pay. [...]

"The ACCC is not satisfied, on balance, that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments. We are concerned that the proposed conduct is likely to reduce or distort competition in a number of markets," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Typeface Friday

Read This Before You Ever Make Fun Of Comic Sans Again, by Lauren Hdugins, Narratively

The day my sister, Jessica, discovered Comic Sans, her entire world changed. She’s dyslexic and struggled through school until she was finally diagnosed in her early twenties, enabling her to build up a personal set of tools for navigating the written world.

“For me, being able to use Comic Sans is similar to a mobility aid, or a visual aid, or a hearing aid,” she tells me while we’re both visiting our family in Maryland. “I have other ways of writing and reading, but they’re not like they are for someone who’s not dyslexic.”

The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words. While many fonts use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a “p” rotated to made a “q,” Comic Sans uses few repeated shapes, creating distinct letters (although it does have a mirrored “b” and “d”). Comic Sans is one of a few typefaces recommended by influential organizations like the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. Using Comic Sans has made it possible for Jessica to complete a rigorous program in marine zoology at Bangor University in Wales.

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