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AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud

AWS today opened its re:Invent conference with a surprise announcement: the company is bringing the Mac mini to its cloud. These new EC2 Mac instances, as AWS calls them, are now available in preview. They won’t come cheap, though.
The target audience here — and the only one AWS is targeting for now — is developers who want cloud-based build and testing environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a fully-featured Mac mini in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all kinds of other use cases …

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Apple eyes the TikTok generation with an updated version of Clips

Apple is today rolling out an update to its video creation app, Clips, which brings much-needed support for vertical videos, allowing for sharing to TikTok and the “Stories” feature in other social apps. The addition is one of several arriving with the release of Clips 3.0, which also introduces support for horizontal video, as well as HDR for iPhone 12 users, along with other smaller changes, like new stickers, sounds and posters, for example.

Apple’s Clips was first launched in 2017 with an eye on being a first stop for video creation before publishing to Instagram. But the app’s support for only square-formatted video has since become outdated. Casual social videos today are often now published to newer video-centric social media networks, like TikTok and its short-form rivals, including Triller, Dubsmash, Instagram Reels, and others.

Meanwhile, Stories — like those found on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and soon, Twitter — have become a key way that today’s users publish content to social media.

Apple, in fact, says that support for vertical video had become its No. 1 request from users since Clips launched.

Clips 3.0 introduces supports both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, in addition to the square format. When the app is opened on iPad, it will default to the landscape format, which can be particularly useful in educational scenarios where teachers are using the app in the classrooms with students.

On iPad, Clips users can also interact with the app when their iPad is in a case, like Magic Keyboard for iPad and others. It also supports use with a mouse or trackpad, and allowing users to write text in text fields using Apple Pencil.

Image Credits: Apple

The new app will also now support recording HDR video footage with the rear-facing camera on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

Clips’ overall user interface has been refreshed, too. You’ll notice a redesigned record screen that floats on top of the viewer when shooting vertically or horizontally, which could help to address some user complaints of the app feeling “slow.”

Users will also be able to more easily view and access the various Effects options, their Clips Projects and other media.

The tweaks to the user interface also feel a bit like a nod to TikTok. For example, you can now swipe up on the Effects to see a full-height card that shows you the available stickers and text labels to add to your videos. This format of a pop-up card filled with effects is similar to TikTok — though there it’s opened with a button tap and not a gesture.

Image Credits: Apple

The update also brings more content options, including 8 new social stickers (like “Sound On” for Instagram Stories), 24 new royalty-free soundtracks (bringing the total library to 100), and 6 new arrows and shapes. From the new Media browser in Clips, you can pull in your own photos and videos or toggle over to a Posters section to pick from 70 customizable, animated full-screen title cards that can be added to your video.

There are also updated filters, Live Titles and Selfie scenes available.

When your project is complete, you can easily share the resulting video to social networks from an updated sharing screen that includes quick access to destinations like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat, in addition to standard options like iMessage or saving the file locally.

Though Clips hasn’t had as much attention as some of Apple’s other apps — its last update was 6 months ago, for instance — it has gained a following. Apple says that users create “millions” of Clips projects per day, and it sees higher usage in the U.S., U.K., and China.

This year, Clips usage increased by 30%, Apple noted — a change that could have been brought about by the shift to virtual schooling which saw teachers in need of tools for creating digital content.

Image Credits:

With its expanded focus on vertical video, Clips has the potential to reach a much broader audience.

Today, many users prep videos for Stories or TikTok on third-party apps, like InShot, Prequel, Splice, PicCollage, Canva, VSCO, Funimate, KineMaster, Magisto, CapCut and others topping the App Store charts. But Clips, until now, couldn’t compete because it didn’t include vertical video support at all.

The new version of Clips is rolling out today to users worldwide.

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Microsoft Office gets mouse and trackpad support for the iPad

As promised, Microsoft announced that it has added full trackpad and mouse support for the iPadOS version of Microsoft 360. That includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, marking another important step in Apple’s longstanding push to blur the line between tablet and desktop, making iPads more well-rounded productivity machines.

Apple laid the foundation back in March, with the release of iPadOS 13.4. Announced alongside the latest iPad Pro, the technology introduced the ability to pair a trackpad or mouse with the tablet, bringing an on-screen cursor. Romain breaks it down more fully here. Along with the new tablet and operating system upgrade came a new (pricey) keyboard sporting a built-in trackpad.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Today’s upgrade from Microsoft builds on that, offering a more desktop-like experience when using its productivity tools on the latest iPad, iPad Pro and iPad Air. It can be used for standard Office things, like highlighting text, selecting range cells in Excel and resizing graphics. Stuff that was possible before, but will definitely benefit from an approach more familiar to anyone who’s used to doing these things on a laptop/desktop.

The update brings a handful of other additions, including a clearer interface and newly organized menus. All should be rolling out to users “within a couple of weeks,” per Microsoft.

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