Tag: Apple

WeChat is the world in China

Saturday, 6 May, 2017 0 Comments

Ben Thompson writing on Wednesday about Apple iPhone sales in China distills the challenges into one word, one app: WeChat. Here’s how he puts it:

“The fundamental issue is this: unlike the rest of the world, in China the most important layer of the smartphone stack is not the phone’s operating system. Rather, it is WeChat. Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz tried to explain in 2015 just how integrated WeChat is into the daily lives of nearly 900 million Chinese, and that integration has only grown since then: every aspect of a typical Chinese person’s life, not just online but also off is conducted through a single app (and, to the extent other apps are used, they are often games promoted through WeChat).”

The piece by Connie Chan referred to by Thompson is the must-read for anyone wishing to learn about the WeChat phenomenon: When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China. And for those who don’t get the revolution that WeChat represents, this paragraph by Ben Thompson is sobering:

“There is nothing in any other country that is comparable: not LINE, not WhatsApp, not Facebook. All of those are about communication or wasting time: WeChat is that, but it is also for reading news, for hailing taxis, for paying for lunch (try and pay with cash for lunch, and you’ll look like a luddite), for accessing government resources, for business. For all intents and purposes WeChat is your phone, and to a far greater extent in China than anywhere else, your phone is everything.”

WeChat


Appleology and Renishaw

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017 0 Comments

In the grim days of the Cold War, the expression “Kremlin Watching” had relevance. It referred less to the specific building, the Moscow Kremlin, than to what it represented: the Soviet Government. This was an institution that people had good reason to watch with care as the smallest signal might offer an indication of what was happening and what might be expected next. Out of “Kremlin Watching” grew “Kremlinology”, which persists in the English language, being used figuratively to decrypt the actions of large, powerful, opaque institutions.

Apple is one such institution and Apple Watching has become a survival skill for those who wish to understand how modern fortunes are made and lost. Back at the beginning of last month, investors woke up to the news that shares in the UK chip designer Imagination Technologies had plunged more than 60 percent after Apple said it would end a deal to use its products. Apple uses the chips in its iPhones, iPads, and iPods under a licensing agreement and its royalty payments account for about half of Imagination’s revenues. The company’s shares promptly fell 165 pence to 103 pence, valuing it at about £250 million – down from about £765 million before the announcement was made. Why? Apple Watchers revealed that Apple is developing its own chip technology.

But for every downside there’s an upside and that’s very good news for investors in Renishaw Plc. Who? “We are a global company with core skills in measurement, motion control, healthcare, spectroscopy and manufacturing,” says the Gloucestershire-based firm. But there’s more to the story than that. In a recent note to clients, Stephen Swanton of the research firm Redburn pointed out that while Renishaw has never explicitly said Apple uses its technology, a Renishaw probe was shown in an iPhone promotional video as the device’s casing was being machined. Such are the fleeting signs that Appleologists must be alert to.

“The iPhone is now made to a level of precision not far away from that at which Rolls-Royce operates with aero engine fan-blade manufacturing,” said Swanton in a display of the finest Appleology that was subsequently quoted by Bloomberg.

The iPhone 8 is predicted to launch by September, 10 years after the original iPhone premiered. Expect lots and lots of Appleology between now and then.


Expressive video, says Apple

Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 0 Comments

Cupertino, California — “Apple today introduced Clips, a new app that makes it quick and fun for anyone to create expressive videos on iPhone and iPad. The app features a unique design for combining video clips, photos and music into great-looking videos to share with friends through the Messages app, or on Instagram, Facebook and other popular social networks.”

That’s how yesterday’s PR release from Apple about its new Clips app begins. The word “expressive” does not appear anywhere in the Clips text so the curious reader has to search further for enlightenment. Is expressive video like immersive video? Or is it a format like FLV video, MP4 video or AVI video?

Susan Prescott, Apple’s VP of Apps Product Marketing, has the answer: “Clips gives iPhone and iPad users a new way to express themselves through video, and it’s incredibly easy to use.” Ah, so obvioius. And it’s incredibly easy for Apple to create new video categories. After expressive video, we can expect communicative video, indicative video, demonstrative video and assertive video, no doubt.

The most interesting aspect of Clips is what Apple calls “Live Titles.” This feature lets users create animated captions and titles using their voice. Effects include speech bubbles, shapes and posters. The captions are generated automatically, as you speak, appearing on screen synced with your voice and you can change them by adding your own text, punctuation or emoji.

Live Titles supports 36 different languages and the Clips app will be available for free in the App Store at the beginning in April. Over to you, Samsung.

Clips


Brexit: What would St. Patrick do?

Wednesday, 15 March, 2017 0 Comments

St. Patrick Background: St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Where exactly is a matter of debate. Claims have been made for England, Scotland and Wales as his birthplace. According to the Confession of St. Patrick, he was captured by a group of Irish pirates at the age of 16, enslaved and then held captive in Ireland for six years. Good Christian that he was, he forgave his captors and the Irish in general. He then set about converting them and his success rate was a remarkable 99.9%, it is said.

What Patrick could not do, however, was help the Irish to understand that they needed to stay on good terms with their neighbours in Britain. The Irish of the fifth century saw the “big island” as place to plunder or to dispose of their excess people and problems and little has changed since.

Foreground: The Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973 on the same day as the United Kingdom and this was no coincidence. Dublin depended greatly on food exports to the UK and being outside the EEC zone would have meant tariffs and quotas affecting its most important market. It was a pragmatic decision, therefore, but there was an element of romance as well in that many in the Irish establishment hoped that the deal would weaken the Anglo-Irish relationship in favour of Europe. And it all turned out for the best in the end. Ireland got lots of lovely subsidies from Brussels, local politicians upgraded to luxury junkets, inward investment from the USA flowed like champagne at Cheltenham and the benefits of Britain were untouched. Note: Irish citizens living in the UK are treated as British citizens in all but name.

St. Patrick But all this changed, utterly, with the Brexit vote. The cat is now among the doves, as peace-loving Patrick might have said. Once Article 50 is triggered by the UK government, Ireland will have to face the fact that it depends on the US and UK consumer so much that almost two-thirds of it goods and services will go to markets outside the remaining EU 27 members. Paddy is now confronted with the conundrum that while he’s commercially and culturally part of the Anglosphere, he’s told by his elites that he should feel closer to Brussels than Boston and it’s giving him headaches. Then, there are the bills.

In 2014, Ireland became a net contributor to the EU. Dublin paid €1.69 billion to Brussels and got €1.52 in return. After the UK leaves and the EU needs to pay those bills, Ireland will be expected to put more in the pot. Then there’s last year’s EU decision against Dublin’s cosy tax arrangement with Apple that could cost €13 billion. If all those giant US companies in Ireland are no longer able to dodge tax and if their companions in London are no longer able to ship their UK turnover across the Irish Sea to be taxed at a much lower Irish rate, the luck of the Irish might run out. But there’s more.

Much of Ireland’s exports are transported through British ports on the west coast, then across the mighty motorways that Paddy helped build before leaving British ports on the south and east coasts for EU destinations. When the UK is outside the Single Market and Customs Union there will be serious administrative and financial challenges to getting goods to their EU markets without quicker and cheaper alternative routes. And the combination of being outside the Schengen Agreement and the Common Travel Agreement means that the Britain’s borders will begin at Ireland’s ports and airports.

Tricky.

People scoffed recently when Lord Kilclooney wrote in the Belfast News Letter that Ireland needs to consider its positon in the EU, but his advice should not be dismissed so lightly. He concluded: “The two alternatives are for the Republic to get special status within the EU or for the Republic to exit the EU the same day as the UK — that would mean there would be no problems at the border and would eliminate the damage now being caused to the Southern Irish economy.”

Paddy doesn’t want to hear this, of course, but Saint Patrick would whisper in his ear what Louis MacNeice once said: “World is suddener than we fancy it.”

St. Patrick


The rise and rise of the femme bots

Wednesday, 22 February, 2017 0 Comments

Joanna Stern, writing in The Wall Street Journal: Alexa, Siri, Cortana: The Problem With All-Female Digital Assistants. Snippet:

“You get the point: The virtual assistants popping up in our lives sound overwhelmingly female. ‘I’m female in character,’ Amazon’s Alexa responds if you ask her if she is a woman. In their own clever ways Google, Apple and Microsoft’s voice assistants will tell you they’re genderless…in unmistakably womanlike voices.

As femme bot after femme bot has invaded our phones , speakers, cars, TVs — even our refrigerators — I’ve been left wondering: Where the man bots at? And why do these hunks of plastic and electronics need to be assigned a gender at all? My Amazon Echo doesn’t have any reproductive organs.”

Apple’s Siri, by the way, is the only one of this bunch of bots with a male voice option: “Siri may default to a female voice in the U.S. but Apple provides both male and female voice options for iPhone and iPad users to choose from. In fact, on iPhones where the language is Arabic, French, Dutch or British English, Siri defaults to a male voice.”

Men and women may prefer female voices for their digital assistants, @WSJ writes, but adds, “it’s about time we had more male options.”


Netflix does design

Tuesday, 24 January, 2017 0 Comments

“A chair is the first thing you need when you don’t really need anything, and is therefore a peculiarly compelling symbol of civilization. For it is civilization, not survival, that requires design.” — Ralph Caplan

The art of design is the theme of Abstract, an documentary series from Netflix that starts on 10 February. The eight episodes will profile a designer at the top of their discipline: architect Bjarke Ingels, automotive designer Ralph Gilles, illustrator Christoph Niemann, interior designer Ilse Crawford, graphic designer Paula Scher, photographer Platon, stage designer Es Devlin and shoe designer Tinker Hatfield.

“So that’s our approach. Very simple, and we’re really shooting for Museum of Modern Art quality. The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: ‘Let’s make it simple. Really simple.’ Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.'” — Steve Jobs

NEWS: Apple’s Mac Pro, Touch Bar MacBook and original Air designer, Matt Casebolt, will now be designing Teslas.


iPhone: It was ten years ago today

Monday, 9 January, 2017 0 Comments

“iPhone is an essential part of our customers’ lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

On this day in 2007 in San Francisco, Steve Jobs casually took out of his pocket a product that would change how millions of people communicate. Everyone knew it was going to be a phone, but no one outside Apple had any idea what kind of phone. The “respected” technology commentator John Dvorak had this to say in response to the presentation of the iPhone:

“Now compare that effort and overlay the mobile handset business. This is not an emerging business. In fact it’s gone so far that it’s in the process of consolidation with probably two players dominating everything, Nokia and Motorola…

…The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.”

And Nokia and Motorola phones today? Exactly. And Apple? In Cupertino on 27 July last year, Tim Cook announced that the company had sold its billionth iPhone.

iPhone


Apple and Tesla at Trump Tower

Thursday, 15 December, 2016 0 Comments

Here’s the context: “After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Cook of Apple and Mr. Musk of Tesla stayed at Trump Tower to meet privately with Mr. Trump.” It’s a small detail but the Wall Street Journal has it and none of its rivals, either by omission, commission or lack of access, does.

At the start of yesterday’s meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, the “tech titans” introduced themselves individually in a breaking-the-ice ceremony. “Larry Page, Alphabet and Google, probably the youngest company here,” said Larry Page.

Donald Trump: “Looks like the youngest person.” [Laughs]

Mr. Page: “Really excited to be here.”

Larry Page is 43, so one can understand his boyish enthusiasm. The CEO of Apple is 56 and less excitable, however. “Tim Cook, very good to be here. And I look very forward to talking to the president-elect about the things that we can do to help you achieve some things you want.”

As many have pointed out, he was the only leader who didn’t say what company he worked for. But when the others had left, Mr. Cook of Apple and Mr. Musk of Tesla stayed at Trump Tower to meet privately with Mr. Trump.


Mobile is eating the world: 2016

Monday, 12 December, 2016 0 Comments

“As we pass 2.5 billion smartphones on earth and head towards 5 billion , and mobile moves from creation to deployment, the questions change,” say Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm behind lots of successful Silicon Valley startups. He assesses the state of the smartphone, machine learning and GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) in his annual presentation.


10 Years in 10 Seconds

Friday, 21 October, 2016 0 Comments

When Apple celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year, it made a commemorative video titled 40 Years in 40 Seconds. So, will it release a 10-second video next year to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the iPhone? Steve Jobs unveiled the magical device to the public on 9 January 2007 at the Macworld convention in San Francisco, and the first generation arrived in the shops on 29 June. Ten years later, it remains the best mobile phone on the market.

One school of thought believes Apple will ignore the anniversary completely and focus on the future, while another thinks that it will names next year’s version the “iPhone 10” and turn the anniversary into a major branding event. The feeling here is that the occasion will be marked in a special way on 9 January.

“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. And Apple has been — well, first of all, one’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career.
Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.
In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry.
In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and… it didn’t just – it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry.
Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class.

The first one: is a widescreen iPod with touch controls.
The second: is a revolutionary mobile phone.
And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.

So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device.

An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it?
These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.
Today, today Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.”

Excerpt: Transcript — Steven Jobs, iPhone Keynote, 9 January 2007


Samsung up in smoke; HTC and Huawei burned

Tuesday, 11 October, 2016 0 Comments

In business schools all over the world, the Samsung Galaxy Note7 case study is guaranteed to be popular. Case studies about the fall of video-rental companies or the rise of low-cost airlines are interesting in their own way, but because so many business students have a smartphone made in Asia, this one is, like, personal.

Fire Today’s press release headline is worthy of study: “Samsung Will Ask All Global Partners to Stop Sales and Exchanges of Galaxy Note7 While Further Investigation Takes Place.” One can almost sense the trust people have in Samsung’s products going up in smoke as that was being typed, and the jokes have started: “Galaxy Note 7 — the smartphone that doubles as a lighter.”

It’s the cover-up that gets you, they say, and it seems all the initial work Samsung did to undo the Note 7 damage has been undone by its ongoing denial that the phone was still dangerous. With its aggressive, can-do culture, this world leader in electronics could not imagine making a disastrous safety mistake… Twice!

Samsung’s nightmare does not automatically mean good news for HTC, however. Google has picked the Taiwanese electronics company to assemble its new Pixel smartphone, but by becoming for Google what Foxconn is to Apple, HTC has lost status. “HTC, You Loser” wrote Bloomberg technology columnist Tim Culpan: “After spending years building its design and engineering chops, HTC has been demoted to water boy. Supplying Google with smartphones isn’t a victory — it’s an embarrassing end to HTC’s decade-long campaign to break out of that contract-manufacturing business and stand on its own two feet.”

The catastrophe at Samsung and the degrading of HTC should work in favour of Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications giant, but David Ruddock of Android Police pours cold water on that one:

“Google began talks with Huawei to produce its 2016 smartphone portfolio. Google, though, set a hard rule for the partnership: Huawei would be relegated to a manufacturing role, producing phones with Google branding. The Huawei logo and name would be featured nowhere on the devices’ exteriors or in their marketing… According to our source, word spread inside Huawei quickly that global CEO Richard Yu himself ended negotiations with Google right then and there.”

Meanwhile, Apple has brought forward its earnings report for the fourth fiscal quarter (third calendar quarter) of 2016. “Due to a scheduling conflict, Apple’s conference call to discuss fourth fiscal quarter results has been moved to Tuesday, October 25,” the company announced yesterday. It’s not clear what the conflict is, but there’s no smoke without fire. Also yesterday, Apple’s share price bounced 1.75 percent, hitting an intraday high of $116.75, the highest level since 10 December 2015.