Week 17, 2016 - Gateways; Remote devices; Intel; Subscriptions

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It’s a very AWS heavy period, and I’ll dive into a couple of the more personally interesting announcements of last week. Then there are Intel’s recent changes, and I have some thoughts on subscription services in the wake of TextExpander’s changes.

CloudFormation supports the API Gateway

In the past I’ve mentioned how CloudFormation didn’t support the API Gateway, and that this was a reason for me to first create the Igor installation script and later Aqua. Of course, with impeccable timing, CloudFormation gained support for this the day before I introduced Aqua on this site.

I haven’t played with it yet, but looking at all the Resources and what they can do it seems to be a pretty complete implementation. Now, for most of my smaller projects I will still prefer Aqua (or other frameworks), but it’s good to see the API Gateway finally making its way to CloudFormation as it was a big puzzle piece that was missing.

Remote devices

With several AWS Summits having just finished or coming up there are a lot of new things, and I’m not going to mention them all. I might pick a couple each week, or I’ll combine them all into a single article over the next couple of weeks. That said, the other one I’d like to mention today is the new functionality for the AWS Device Farm.

The device farm was introduced as a way to automate testing of your apps on various platforms. With this latest version though it’s become possible to actually interact with these devices as well. That means if you have an app and a customer has a weird bug that only occurs on a specific device with specific settings, you can replicate this. Without the need to have all of these devices yourself. I can imagine this will be especially useful for Android developers where there are far too many different models to ever buy and test your app on. The article mentions that later this year support for iOS devices will come, and while there aren’t quite as many of those it’s still good to know that developers won’t need to buy every size iPad or iPhone anymore.

Intel trouble

Intel announced a massive restructuring leading to about 12.000 jobs being lost. That’s a large number, and about 11% of their total workforce. This follows the slowing sales in PCs, while Intel’s mobile offering isn’t great. This can seen for example by how Apple’s newly updated MacBook seems underpowered1 and why Microsoft’s flagship mobile device uses non-mobile processors.

As Intel’s lead time for new processors has been getting longer, and the performance gains lower, people don’t replace their computers as often2. It looks like this resulted in their sales having slowed to a point where this restructuring was needed. I don’t think Intel is in any danger just yet, but it is good to keep in mind that most of the chips in computing devices these days don’t come from Intel anymore.

Last month they already announced that they will no longer be using their “tick-tock” 2 phase schedule3, but instead have 3 phases: Process, Architecture, and Optimization. This was an admission that they couldn’t keep that speed up any longer (which was already known), while again providing a schedule for their clients.

Hopefully these two changes, lower costs and a schedule that better matches reality, will have good results.


If you follow the world of Mac/iOS software developers you might have noticed some commotion about the pricing structure of TextExpander. TextExpander has for a long time been the leading snippet expansion application on the Mac and also on iOS through its inclusion in many other apps as well as a keyboard4. In all the time I’ve used it TextExpander was something you paid for once and when after a while a new major version would come out there was an upgrade price available.

With version 6, Smile (the makers of TextExpander) decided to change this. From version 6 they’re going for a subscription model instead and disable the original syncing methods5 in favor of their own. These changes caused a backlash from existing users, with many saying they’re going to move to a new service. This resulted in Smile adjusting the pricing until that got in line with the previous model of upgrade pricing (for existing customers at least).

Personally, I’m not a power user when it comes to TextExpander. Most of the time that I need snippets expanded it’s while programming and the editors I use have better ways to do that. However, I still use it multiple times per day, and especially on iOS (where I do almost all of the writing for this site) the TextExpander integration is very useful to me. Additionally, there is no good alternative for TextExpander on iOS. Some applications have their own snippet support, but as I switch between writing apps constantly (usually using either Editorial, 1Writer, or Ulysses) having the snippets in one place is more useful. Because of this, I will upgrade to version 6 in the not too distant future (I’ll wait a couple of months so I won’t even notice if there ever were any initial bugs).

More interesting than a single app however, is the trend this shows. With both Apple and Google taking a 30% cut of apps sold through their products, as well as the race to the bottom in app prices, a lot of bigger companies have switched to subscription models. Prime examples of this are Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Microsoft’s Office 365.

Lately smaller companies and independent developers have started doing this as well. Password manager 1Password for example introduced their Families plan and the podcast player Overcast offers certain extra features6 for patrons. As it becomes harder to make money by selling the application itself (who wants to pay when there are free alternatives?), developers have to try out other ways of making money. In many cases this means either turning their application into a service or adding ads and if that’s the choice, I will usually prefer to pay with money.

However, a subscription service is different from a one-off payment. It’s something that will show up time and again on your bank account, making you consider if you still need it. At that point an application is no longer just competing with other applications; instead it’s competing with every other service. What would you rather have, a year of TextExpander or 3 months of Netflix?

  1. It’s still quite a bit faster than my 2011 MacBook Air though. ↩︎

  2. And of course for most people their old computers are good enough. A point we’re also starting to reach with mobile phones. ↩︎

  3. This schedule meant that one year they would introduce a new architecture, and the next they would have a die-shrink for that architecture. ↩︎

  4. Unfortunately third-party keyboards on iOS still lack a lot of functionalities due to Apple’s restrictions. For me the most annoying aspect is switching to another keyboard from a third-party one. I can’t pick which one to switch to, and as someone who switches often between languages that’s more annoying than the benefits I get from the keyboards. I’d love to see them become first-class citizens though. ↩︎

  5. As usual, Dropbox was the most common. ↩︎

  6. Currently this is just a dark theme and the ability to upload your own files, as it’s mostly a way to show your support for the developer. ↩︎

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