Enlightenment & Apple’s Advanced Typography

yjimageAccording to Buddhist teachings, one aspect of enlightenment is freedom from dependent origination (causality). With this in mind let’s examine the journey of Apple’s advanced typography technology.

What Good Luck 1991: Apple expounds the one great vehicle QuickDraw GX to the world. Wise men in Asia comprehend the complete and profound teaching of advanced typography where all writing systems and layout directions are equal, but many westerners lack the capacity to comprehend this excellent true meaning. They become disheartened and give up seeking enlightenment. Adobe Arhats are insulted, stomp their feet and leave.

What Bad Luck 1997: Apple forsakes QuickDraw GX, the great teaching is discarded.

What Good Luck 1998: Apple expounds the lesser, easier to understand teaching of ATSUI.

What Bad Luck 1998: ATSUI is Carbon

What Good Luck 2000: The enlightened teacher Steve Jobs announces Apple Publishing Glyph Set (APGS) based on QuickDraw GX AAT at Tokyo MacWorld. Adobe Arhats are insulted, stomp their feet and leave.

What Bad Luck 2000~2006: Adobe Arhats expound many expensive Japanese font upgrades based on the Steve Job’s APGS teachings. They create Adobe Japan 1-5 and Adobe Japan 1-6 glyph sets before Japanese customers recant and spend their money elsewhere. A proposed Adobe Japan 1-7 is abandoned and dumped in a cave.

What Good Luck 2007: Apple announces the 64 bit newer-lesser teaching Core Text.

What Bad Luck 2007: Nobody uses it.

What Good Luck 2010: Apple announces Core Text for iOS 3,2/iPad and adds vertical text support to AppKit

What Bad Luck 2010: Almost nobody uses them.

What Good Luck. WWDC 2013: The easier to use TextKit layout teaching is expounded in iOS 7

What Bad Luck. WWDC 2013: Asian wise men still have to use Core Text for vertical text layout in iOS.

What Good Luck 2016: Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and Google announce the newer-lesser teaching of OpenType Variation Fonts based on older-greater teachings TrueType GX and Open Font Architecture.

What Bad Luck 2016: Wise men in Asia shake their heads remembering a greater fuller teaching but shut up and accept Adobe marketing development money. Many westerners lack the capacity to comprehend the benefits of this new teaching. They become disheartened and give up seeking development.

What Bad Luck 2017: The newly released Pages 6.1 still does not support vertical text layout. Advanced typography enlightenment seekers still have to use Microsoft Word.

What Good Luck 2017 WWDC: Advanced typography enlightenment seekers are highly skeptical and fewer than ever but await OpenType Variation Font and text framework revelations from Apple.

Buddhists have a saying: never give up on your life or your enlightenment.

PS This is not about Buddhist style enlightenment, just an irreverent look at Apple’s advanced typography journey written in the style of Senchu Murano’s classic translation of The Lotus Sutra 😃 Have a good WWDC at San Jose or wherever you may be.


The Battle of Roshi Hall: Improving Apple Maps Japanese Data

Rereading my previous post something bothered me: the newer parts of Apple Maps like Japanese public transit, are clearly the result of hard work and are well done. It is older parts from 2012 that are buggy and full of incorrect information five years on.

I assumed that all the problems pointed out in Japanese blogger Train’s post, “Mistakes are Alive and Well in Apple Maps in 2017” were the fault of bad map data from Apple Maps Japanese primary map data (PMD) supplier IPC, but that assumption was too simplistic and incorrect. Something else is going on.

Searching for Something Else
I have written about the odd, long, verbose place names and amateurish place name categories in Apple Maps Japan many times (here and here). Blogger Train lists similar problems with arcane, old-fashioned, incorrectly named places and missing data. A quick comparison of his problems reveals that IPC has correct and up to date map data… but Apple isn’t using it.

In a similar vein, I have submitted countless place name corrections via the Apple Maps problem reporting system about a particular building near my office: Roshi Hall (Roshi Kaikan). Roshi Hall is a local community facility that houses classrooms, school clubs, and a small gym for children’s gymnastics, taiko drumming and so on.

Apple Maps ignores all corrections and insists on using an incorrect name. It displays the building as “Ikegami Sports Club” which is just one of many school clubs that use Roshi Hall. IPC lists the correct place name (as do Google and Yahoo Japan Maps). A wider inspection shows that IPC place names are correct and concise in a way they never are Apple Maps.

Who Supplies the Japanese Place Names?
Clearly Apple is not using the place names offered by IPC but are using a different data source. Who? The answer is complicated.

I suspect that Apple has a primary place name data (PND) supplier that it supplements with 2nd tier information from Tabelog (restaurants, cafes) TripAdvisor (Hotels), Bookings (Hotels) and Yelp Japan (hit and miss places of interest). The PND is not IPC but I have not discovered who is.

Looking at the evolution of Apple Maps Japan product, PND and PMD are the biggest problems Apple needs to fix if they want a good service that Japanese customers want to use.

Some Fixes
Let’s keep it simple and assume that the Apple Maps team has three choices:

  1. A Japanese product that is better than the competition
  2. A Japanese product that is as good as the competition.
  3. A Japanese product that is worse than the competition.

Choice #3: keeping the status quo is the easiest and cheapest choice, cheap in the short-term but more expensive later on. No major investment to improve quality risks losing Japanese customers in the long run.

Choice #2 is not necessarily more expensive but requires a significant investment in effort and system expertise: realize that IPC will never get Japan maps where it needs to go, drop IPC and the current PND supplier and cut a deal with Zenrin. Zenrin is the premier Japanese digital map data supplier used by Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and all the top digital map services.

The Zenrin choice offers Apple an opportunity to achieve Google Maps and Yahoo Japan Maps quality with their current system without reinventing the wheel. The Apple Maps Transit team already achieved this kind of success by using Jorudan, the same Japanese transit data supplier that Google uses.

Choice #1 is the most difficult and long-term choice, it also assumes successful completion of choice #2. A few ideas come to mind: a super smart and super connected Siri, untapped Japanese suppliers such as Recruit’s Jalan, detailed and nationwide Michi-no-eki (roadside rest area) with store-in-store information featuring popular local delicious omiyage, on-route live updates for transit, improved and detailed indoor mapping.

There are many smart and hard-working people at Apple with great ideas. It will be fun watching the choices that the Apple Maps team makes in 2017.

Update: WWDC19 Apple Maps Japan Wish List and Scorecard

Hello, I am a Gross Yellow Blob

fullsizeoutput_6016Oh no, another Unicode revision is coming with even more questionable emoji additions.

At this point, with emoji the most exciting thing to happen to written communication in centuries, emoji are the only reason for Unicode revisions anymore.

Unicode 10 looks like another move to scrub away the Japanese manga heritage of emoji and replace it with things that PC obsessed westerners really care about: skin tones, yoga and junk food.

Skin variations are a decent idea but impractical; most people just end up using the gross yellow defaults. And skin variations will never get around one simple basic fact: small icons require the highest possible contrast to work at those small sizes. A light background color is always going to show the most detail. Darker skin tone, less detail. Period.

Here’s the thing about emoji, they only represent my mood, not me. That’s why Japanese guys never had a problem using a cutie-white princess emoji. Kawai! What’s the big deal anyway, it all just manga, right?

Progress is progress but I miss the simplicity, and fun, of 2010-era emoji.

The Apple Pay Japan Ad Juggernaut

Why are you so slow? Don’t you have Suica Apple Pay?

The Japanese ad blitz that kicked off for the Apple Pay New Life campaign is shaping up as something unprecedented for Apple in Japan. The closest thing in scope, frequency and reach is the famous iPod dancing silhouette campaign at its pre-iPhone peak.

This is much bigger. Think of iPod ad intensity with ten more companies each contributing their own iPod ads. Since the October 29 Apple Pay Japan kickoff, ads have wrapped Yamanote trains, plastered train stations and escalators and that was just for JR East’s Suica Apple Pay.

Now we have Apple Pay ads from Docomo iD, JCB QUICPay, ORICO, Mitsui Sumitomo, Saison/UC, View and of course Suica. Lots more Suica Apple Pay advertising than ever: more wrapped trains, station posters, ticket gate stickers and six ads featuring hot actor Ryuhei Matsuda (son of Black Rain’s Yusaku Matsuda) using Suica Apple Pay on Apple Watch, looking at the camera saying “Let’s Go!” These ads loop endlessly on the Yamanote line train info-screens.

The JR East Suica Apple Pay ads in particular feature Apple Watch Series 2 in action and are enormously effective in a way that Apple’s own Apple Watch ads are not. The Apple Pay ‘ka-ching’ sound going through the ticket gate is the one single killer feature everybody gets instantly. It’s the perfect pitch to Tokyo commuters on the go.

Enjoy the ad gallery.


Ticket Gate Stickers

McDonald’s Japan Adding Full Apple Pay Support


The new ‘World Ready’ Panasonic NFC JT-R600CR Reader

スクリーンショット 2017-03-23 11.25.45
The full spport list

Mono-News Net reports that McDonald’s Japan is adding Apple Pay support in “the latter half of 2017.” The thing is, McDonald’s already supports Apple Pay Japan payments if you have an iD compatible card loaded.

The robust support coming later to all 2,900 stores nationwide is detailed on the McDonald’s Japan press release and includes Suica, QUICPay and, surprise, NFC A/B. In short this means McDonald’s will support Apple Pay across the board for all, from abroad and Japan. It just works.

The reason? Look carefully at the picture and you will see that McDonald’s is rolling out those fancy new Panasonic NFC  JT-R600CR readers announced in February that can do it all: NFC A/B/F (FeliCa) and the accompanying payment systems.

Panasonic is gunning to capture business from the card payment infrastructure investment frenzy related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Looks like they made their first big catch.