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The Surprising Place Where Apple Is Succeeding

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - by Stephen Green


There’s one place where Apple is kinda-sorta-nearly competing somewhere adjacent to the low end, and that’s in the market for sub-$1000 laptops. The company’s 11″ MacBook Air got a price cut last year to “just” $899 retail, and that seems to be paying off:

Apple sold a record 5.75 million Macs in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, an increase of 19% that beat the overall industry by a wide margin, IDC said Monday.

In a preliminary estimate, IDC pegged Apple’s sales for 2014′s fourth quarter at 5.75 million, a record for a three-month period. According to IDC, Apple sold 4% more Macs than the previous quarter, currently the record.

If U.S. retail sales are any guide, the Mac’s jump came primarily from its lower-priced laptop, the MacBook Air. “Apple had about a third of all notebook sales below $1,000 in the 14 weeks of the fourth quarter,” said Stephen Baker, analyst with the NPD Group, another research firm. “That number was only 8% in 2013.”

When a company can swoop into the highest-price segment of the low-price market and immediately grab a third of it, then they must be doing something right.


cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Next Microsoft Is…

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Stephen Green


…Google? Let’s read what Katie Benner has to say about that:

For all of its innovation, best captured by Eric Schmidt’s “How Google Works,” Google is a 55,000-person behemoth, and it’s nearly impossible for any company to move quickly and creatively at that size. Among tech giants, only Apple has managed to innovate after becoming so big. Hewlett Packard? Nope. IBM? No way.

Despite all the talk about Google’s much vaunted moonshots – self-driving cars and Google Glass, internet-connected balloons and drone deliveries – the company is still basically a purveyor of cheap online ads that it sells at massive volume against the things that we search for online. Advertising accounted for $51 billion of the company’s $56 billion in revenue last year.

The most valuable thing that the official moonshot incubator, Google X, has produced isn’t innovative products that will maintain Google’s search dominance. It’s good PR. It codified the idea that Google is always trying new stuff and failing because that’s what true, crazy, bountiful innovation looks like.

There’s much more to Benner’s argument, so you might just want to read the whole thing.

I’d argue that’s what Benner describes at Google is exactly what innovation doesn’t look like. Successful innovators imagine and iterate new products with exactly one thing in mind: Pleasing their customers with something new which they might not have even known they wanted. It’s a focused approach to creativity.

Wireless communications are one example. It turns out, hardly anybody really wanted a large and expensive satellite phone which could only be used outdoors, and which required a constellation of multimillion dollar satellites in orbit in order to function. It also turns out that almost everybody wants a touchscreen computer which they can fit in their pocket and access most any kind of data from most anywhere. Iridium is still around, focused on a very few, very special customers — but its parent company Motorola has since been twice orphaned. Meanwhile, perhaps more than 1.5 billion-with-a-b people own an iPhone or an Android lookalike.

Google’s approach might very well produce a gem — someday. But the way they go about “innovating” makes the next Iridium much more likely than the next iPhone, and worst of all, doesn’t allow Google to tell the difference in advance.

See: Google Glass.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Google Glass Chief: Google Glass 4X Too Expensive

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Green


That’s from the man himself, Astro Teller, head of the company’s Google X lab:

Wearables, from Glass to smartwatches, also need to be cheaper — a lot cheaper — before they go mainstream.

“Every time you drop the price by a factor of 2, you roughly get a 10 times pick up of the number of people who will seriously consider buying it,” Teller said in an interview at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. That means “two more rounds of halving in price” for most wearables before they’re an attractive buy.

For certain products, like $30 or $40 pedometers, a big price cut probably won’t make much of a difference, he said. “But for a $200 watch, or Glass, or anything in between, I think it’s sort of fair.”

For Google Glass, which costs $1,500 today, cutting the price in half twice would mean a drop to $375 — though the company said it couldn’t comment on a price target or timeline for any cut. But Google, which generated almost $60 billion in sales and $13 billion in profit last year, could absorb the cost cut — if it did want to make Glass a mainstream gadget rather than a novelty.

More than the price, Google needs to do something to reduce Glass’s Creep Factor,


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Can You Guess Which Smartphone is Easiest to Hack?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

finspy A leaked Gamma Group study indicates which smartphones are the easiest to hack with FinSpy spyware:

Among the major mobile platforms cited in a chart in the document, all of them were susceptible to FinSpy. The spyware was able to bully its way into Android (all versions from 2.x.x to 4.4.x), BlackBerry (versions 5.x, 6.x., and 7.x), Symbian, and Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 (Windows Phone 8 is not yet supported by the software). And what of iOS? Apple’s mobile OS did make the list but only in jailbroken mode.

And what can FinSpy do? Read:

FinSpy is “designed to help Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies to remotely monitor mobile phones and tablet devices.” FinSpy can gain full access to phone calls, text messages, the address book, and even the microphone via silent phone calls. It can also trace a device to determine its location. Used by law enforcement and government agencies, FinSpy has earned a reputation for itself as a powerful but controversial tool for sneaking into mobile devices.

Scary stuff. If you need Android’s openness, there’s probably no better alternative. But the vast majority of Android buyers don’t need open — they aren’t even really smartphone users. They buy Android because it’s inexpensive and it’s good enough and it works on their carrier. But what those buyers really are is feature phone users. They’d probably be better off, and they’d certainly be more secure, sticking with simpler Symbian devices.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Not to Wear

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
Not an actual smartwatch.

Not an actual smartwatch.

Who wears Android Wear? Not Steve Kovach:

I used one of the new Android Wear smartwatches, Samsung’s Gear Live, for several hours Thursday, and my wrist hasn’t stopped buzzing since I synced the device with my phone.

New email? Buzz. New text? Buzz. The thing won’t shut up. I’m one of those guys who obsessively checks his phone, but this is too much for me. Plus Android Wear ties in with Google’s digital assistant service Google Now, which attempts to help you out by notifying you about stuff it thinks you want to know about like upcoming flights or package deliveries.

So there are even more things to look at.

This isn’t the answer. Instead of solving the problem of whipping my phone out several times a day, Android Wear makes me nervous and anxious from all this hyper-connectivity. If I’m to ever go all in on a smartwatch it needs to be simpler than this.

The problem is that Gear Live is too simple — that is, nobody at Samsung put any effort into what a smartwatch should actually do, and what it shouldn’t. So instead of being a smart watch, it chirps at you with absolutely every little detail, like when my older son is showing off his latest LEGO scorpion creation.

That’s cute in an eight-year-old kid; less so in something you wear on your wrist during, say, a business meeting. Or when driving your car.

A smartwatch should be simpler, yes — but creating simplicity requires sweating out every detail and a lot of hard design choices by the manufacturer. So when Kovach says that the copycats at Samsung did neither of those things in their rush to bring a craptaculent product to market, I’m not at all surprised.

Supposedly Apple will introduce an iWatch this fall. Maybe once Samsung has somebody to crib off of, they’ll do a better job.

(H/T, Gruber.)


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Apple Going After Search?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Stephen Green


While users will still look to Google when searching in their web browser, the role of search in the modern operating system is more than the browser. It can be evoked in almost any application, and global search is generally a key-press or a touch gesture away.

For Apple this means Spotlight. In the new versions of their operating systems, Google results will be removed from Spotlight and replaced with Microsoft’s Bing. Of course Apple is going to offer searches through iTunes, the App Store, Apple Maps, iBooks, and more, but the prize of web searches in Spotlight now goes to Redmond.

One of the features of OS X Yosemite due out this fall is how much Spotlight has been moved front and center — literally — and how much more power it’s been given. I’ll likely be opening up far fewer search tabs in Safari, and I suspect that’s exactly the point.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Censoring Google?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green


Here’s the first result of that recent EU court decision on search engines:

Google is starting to accept requests from Europeans who want to erase unflattering information from the results produced by the world’s dominant search engine.

The demands can be submitted on a Web page that Google opened late Thursday in response to a landmark ruling issued two weeks ago by Europe’s highest court.

The decision gives Europeans the means to polish their online reputations by petitioning Google and other search engines to remove potentially damaging links to newspaper articles and other websites with embarrassing information about their past activities.

I’m not being facetious when I ask, “What’s a search engine for?” Embarrassing or not, we expect to get our search results, all the search results, and nothing but the search results. We don’t expect Google to deliver instead what amounts to hagiography of some politician best known for graft or having his pants around his ankles.

Government should have no authority over the web.



But that wouldn’t suit our betters now, would it?


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via shutterstock / Lightspring

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How to Kill Internet Piracy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


Maybe the Germans have a word for something which amazes you without shocking you.

The end of the report also stuck out:

Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.

File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine’s first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.

Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.

So it turns out, if you make movies and TV shows readily and easily available at a decent price, people don’t pirate them nearly so much.

Go figure.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Don’t Be Evil or Whatevs

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

Dont Be Evil


Google is facing a backlash over plans to put people’s faces and comments about products and places into adverts.

The “shared endorsements” policy change starts on 11 November and covers the comments, “follows” and other actions people do on Google+.

One protest involves people swapping their profile pictures for that of Google boss Eric Schmidt so his image rather than their own appears on ads.

Google said it had made it easy for people to opt out of the system.

But they’ll still collect and collate and who-knows-what your data.

Reminds me a bit of a digital version of one of the scariest moments of my life. Summer of ’84, I spent a month in Germany with our German teacher and a dozen other 15-year-old boys. We were there during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics — the games the entire Warsaw Pact (minus Romania) had boycotted in protest of… Reagan or whatever. Really it was just payback for our boycott of the 1980 Moscow games. Needless to say, tensions were high.

And there I was with my friends, getting ready to cross a Berlin Wall checkpoint to travel from West Berlin to East.

Guard towers with machine guns, soldiers with automatic rifles — the works. The worst part was sticking your passport through a slot in an otherwise blank concrete wall. You’re standing on unfriendly territory, without your passport, while people you can’t see are doing who-knows-what to it.

Every American ought to experience a police state like that at least once, although right now maybe I should be more careful about what I wish for. But I digress.

Google reminds me a bit of a much-friendlier version of that East Berlin border crossing. In exchange for free services like Google+, Gmail, and Google Docs, you surrender pretty much all your browsing information and tons more — to Google. And what are they doing with all that data and metadata you provide them?

It’s a lot like that slot in the wall in East Germany. You put your data in and Google does …stuff… with it.

Good stuff? Bad stuff? I dunno. Just… stuff.

I avoid Google’s data wall slot as best I can, by using Dogpile as my search engine, using my own, paid-for email as much as possible, and avoid signing in to Google at all. Except when I need Google Voice for conference calls or to upload YouTube videos. The rest of the time I’m signed out and using DoNotTrackMe at all times.

But I get the feeling I’m fighting nothing better than a rearguard action, and probably losing.

Crossposted from Vodkapundit

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Can Google Make You Sick?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Whatever you do, don't tell the doctor you're suffering from Housemaid's Knee.  He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

Whatever you do, don’t tell the doctor you’re suffering from Housemaid’s Knee. He might have read Three Men In A Boat.

When I was very young, reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, I came across the passage where he’s left alone with a medical encyclopedia for a few moments, and becomes convinced he suffers from every possible disease excluding only Housemaid’s knee.

Since then, and particularly in my household since I got married and formed my own family, the name for any unspecified and most likely imaginary malady of the type that prevents kids from doing homework and adults from going to work when there’s a snow storm out is “Housemaid’s Knee.”

Apparently, due to google, a lot of people are suffering the same syndrome as the main character of Three Men In a Boat.

Imagine my delight when this Telegraph article refers to precisely that passage in Three Men in a Boat:

The finest medical advice in literary history comes in the opening pages of Three Men in a Boat. The narrator recounts how, on going to the British Museum to read up on some passing ailment, he starts flicking through the pages of a medical dictionary. To his consternation, he discovers that, in every instance, the symptoms correspond exactly to his own. From ague to zymosis, via cholera, gout and St Vitus’s Dance, it turns out that the only disease he has escaped is housemaid’s knee – an omission he cannot help but find rather vexing.

In something of a panic, he visits his doctor, and informs him of this melange of maladies. He is given this prescription: “1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer, every 6 hours. 1 ten-mile walk every morning. 1 bed at 11 sharp every night. And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”

The hypochondriac impulse is universal. We don’t all take it to the extremes of a Florence Nightingale, who spent a good two thirds of her 90 years confined to her bed, convinced she was at death’s door. But who hasn’t felt the temptation to translate a fevered forehead into a full-on case of swine flu, or – if you’re Norman Baker – a conviction that the men in dark suits have finally resorted to the old polonium cocktail in an effort to silence you for good?

While there’s no doubt they’re right, and that there is a bit of hypochondriac in all of us — a reason they warn medical students of this tendency — if you’re levelheaded and scientifically literate, you can usually narrow down your possible ailments for your doctor’s consideration. On the other hand, you’d best make sure your family doctor knows you very well, or he’ll roll his eyes and think you’re suffering from housemaid’s knee.

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock © William Perugini

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Mind The Little Things… They Bite Hard if You Don’t

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson


“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Luke 16:10

Have you ever had an epiphany?

Are all epiphanies so simple you wonder why you could’t see it before? That’s the way mine was. It went something like this: You know how your bank account seems to leak? Just $20.00 here, and $35.00 there, and the next thing you know a hundred dollars has vanished?

Well, if that’s true, then it has to work both ways. Just $20.00 here and $35.00 there, and the next thing you know a hundred dollars has accumulated. Genius — I know.

Ok, so one man’s epiphany is another man’s “Well duh.”

The bottom line is that the little things really do matter. The old adage “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” kept coming to mind this week. Although I plugged most of the holes, at least one of my money saving strategies backfired and it cost more rather than saved.

Here’s what happened and how I fixed it.

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Will Virtual Reality Make Privacy Obsolete?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

YouTube Preview Image

As a child, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad worked for a major airline as a mechanic and I spent a fair amount of time in and around aircraft as a result.

Dad was also a big computer nerd who always had the latest and greatest personal computer in the house. Those two interests combined in the form of flight simulators. The first I can recall was Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64, a program which used simple geometry and rows of lights on the ground as reference points to indicate that you were moving. Later came Microsoft Flight Simulator in its various and progressive forms, raising the bar of realism and fidelity with each new version.

Having recently built a new computing rig, I have a renewed interest in flight simulation after many years away from it. I’m currently deliberating between the purchase of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the most recent yet dated entry in that franchise, or the more contemporary X-Plane 10.

One of the truly amazing selling points of the latter is its immersive recreation of the entire planet. X-Plane 10 utilizes terrain and scenery auto-generation built atop data obtained from OpenStreetMap to simulate your town – and every other one on Earth – with amazing fidelity. In one video demonstrating the technology, the lead developer boasts that the road system proves adequately detailed to serve as a driving simulator. Indeed, YouTube videos showing a virtual drive down X-Plane 10’s streets prove reminiscent of any given trip through any given suburb, complete with picket fences and SUVs.

YouTube Preview ImageYouTube Preview Image

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Google is Not Invincible

Friday, June 7th, 2013 - by Stephen Green


Over at FT, John Gapper is just being silly:

Who will stop Google?

My answer is: nobody, or not easily. Indeed, the best comparison for Google seems to me not Microsoft in the 1980s but General Electric in the late 19th century – the age of electrification. Like GE, Google is a multifaceted industrial enterprise riding a wave of technology with an uncanny ability not only to invent far-reaching products but also to produce them commercially.

Um… no.

Google still earns the vast bulk of its revenues by selling search-targeted ads. NTTAWWT, either — Google is the best at what it does.

But what are these other commercial products? Android? Google makes more money from searches on iOS than it does on Android. And after sinking $12 billion into Motorola trying to defend Android, it’s probably a net money-loser.

So what about Moto, aren’t they selling great Android phones for Google? Not really. Moto is an also-ran, and Samsung commands damn near every penny of profit in the market for Android-powered phones. Horace Dediu even did a study a while back that, thanks to Amazon and the weirdness of the cheap Chinese domestic market, Google’s ownership of Android is only about 60% of sales.

Google’s Nexus-branded tablets? Google won’t reveal its sales figures, so who knows. But Google not revealing its sales figures is hardly an encouraging sign.

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Self-Driving Cars Would Be A Huge Cyber-Security Risk

Saturday, June 1st, 2013 - by Becky Graebner


When I read the title of The Wall Street Journal’s newest article on self-driving cars, I said “Oh wow, here we go” out loud. And, yes, here we go. Guidelines on the future of autonomous car operation are largely unwritten; it seems people aren’t even quite sure where to start. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took its first swing at creating some rules for the self-driving car, while simultaneously raising concerns regarding cyber-security and other untested safety scenarios. The bottom line, these cars open doors that could become security nightmares.

A Preliminary Outline of Rules:

Point number one of NHTSA’s rough sketch urged states not to allow self-driving cars on public roads unless it was for testing — but NHTSA displayed a vote of confidence by  including some rules for if/when states decided to allow the self-driving cars on their roads. Points number two and three focused on future regulations for actual autonomous owners/drivers. They suggested that states should require “drivers” (are they still considered drivers?) to carry special licenses and receive extra training on how to safely operate the vehicle. I think these points are fair and necessary.

Ok, so why so serious, Becky?  It sounds like this was a good start! Well, technology still sucks.

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Google Wants You To Have a Very Revolutionary Easter

Sunday, March 31st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

YouTube Preview Image

Susan L. M. Goldberg
Matthew Yglesias
Ed Driscoll: ”Google Celebrates Easter in their Own Special Way”

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