Week 30

Apple

Apple’s Q3 earnings reveal a company powering ahead largely off the back of rejuvenated iPhone sales:

Precise numbers of Apple Watch sales weren’t provided but according to The Verge from examining the financials “it seems like a safe bet that Apple Watch revenue was over $1 billion” suggesting that they “already took 75 percent of the smartwatch market“.  Benedict Evans reckons this equates to around 2-3 million units sold:

[Apple Watch] launched during the quarter, but indicated that revenue was well over $1bn, which suggests unit sales of 2-3m, possible higher (Apple also explicitly contradicted an estimate that’s been going around claiming watch sales had declined since launch)

Apple themselves preferred to focus on the overwhelmingly positive customer sentiment for their newest product:

Bajarin Apple Watch 2

The company now has a scarcely conceivable $203 billion cash in hand and remains set to be dominant for years to come with key suppliers like LG prepared to invest billions to support their product range:

LG Display on Thursday announced plans to devote almost $1 billion towards building a fourth OLED factory, one that could potentially be instrumental in keeping up with demand for products like the Apple Watch.

Apple have performed particularly well in China over the last year where their products have a luxury cachet:

chinaApple

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the scale of Apple’s influence in China is perhaps best reflected in the sheer extent of the fake iPhone trade:

Chinese police have cracked down a Beijing-based company which allegedly made more than 40,000 fake iPhones worth about 120 million yuan (19.6 million U.S. dollars) this year.

Devices and Manufacturers

As part of the strategic review, Qualcomm will implement an “aggressive” cost-cutting plan to reduce annual costs from its fiscal 2015 levels of $7.3 billion by approximately $1.1 billion. The cost initiatives will come from layoffs, streamlining and reducing the number of offices, the company said.

  • Engadget pass a cynical eye over Ubuntu Phone in a hard-hitting review suggesting that despite years in incubation it is still a long-way from a consumer grade proposition to compete with low-cost Android and lacking a directive hardware partner:

Despite years of development, Ubuntu Phone still feels like an early beta, and I think Canonical needs to think long and hard about the implementation of Scopes and bump native apps up the agenda. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be different, but there’s a reason Android/iOS are so popular. Ignoring the headway they’ve made in refining the mobile experience is, in my mind, setting yourself up for failure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • WSJ is reporting that a German auto manufacturer consortium will buy Nokia HERE for €2.5billion.

Google and Android

9% of the visits to our interstitial page resulted in the ‘Get App’ button being pressed. (Note that some percentage of these users already have the app installed or may never follow through with the app store download.)

69% of the visits abandoned our page. These users neither went to the app store nor continued to our mobile website.

“three years after its inception, Streamus is dead. It’s been removed from the Chrome Web Store after Google revoked its API key. … Sean Anderson, a 25 year old developer based in California bet everything on his tiny, but incredibly useful Chrome extension.”

Apps and Services

The following year, due to popular demand, Heinrich, released “I Am Rich LE,” a more affordable version priced at $9.99; it’s still available for purchase today. This time around, the app even houses a few features  … To date, the app has 67 reviews, and holds an average 2.5 out of 5 stars rating, though most of the one-star ratings are due to the fact that the app actually contains something useful. “Can you please make this app so it does absolutely nothing like the first one?” implores one customer. “I didn’t buy this app to get my money’s worth.”

According to Silversurfers, the most popular type of Facebook posts for the over 50s are nostalgia, human interest, and handy tips.

users communicate with self-destructing videos recorded by placing their phones on their hearts. … Beme offers no chance to review or edit videos: they’re just sent straight to users’ feeds, which are themselves minimalist lists of recent uploads. Users click and hold on a video to watch it, and once it’s been seen it’s “gone forever.”

  • News and feed aggregator Flipboard now has 70 million MAU and just raised $50 million in funding to “expand our engineering and sales teams as well as increase investment in infrastructure to support the growing number of readers and curators“.
  • In this long, by his standards, Benedict Evans post he surveys how the boundary between apps and messaging is increasingly blurred.  It’s also the nursery in which the next stage of evolution of workplace productivity software is occurring.  The future propositions that will break the hegemony of the Office paradigm are not going to be better Office copies, they will involve a different approach altogether that is much better suited to support modern communication-centric workflows.  For Evans, Slack is clearly a contender:

PowerPoint gets killed by things that aren’t presentations at all. The business need is met, but the mechanism changes. … Slack is effectively a networked file manager, but instead of folders full of Photoshop, Word or Excel files you have links to Google Docs, SAP or Salesforce, all surrounded by the relevant context and team conversation.

“though it’s very valuable for a Facebook or Dropbox to shoot for “stars” and build constellations, what we have seen from companies like Evernote and the asian messenger apps (LINE, WeChat) is that a “basket of apps” approach that leverages a common core resource between other apps might actually be a more scalable strategy.”

In the end, it fetched over 9.5MB across 263 HTTP requests. That’s almost an order of magnitude more data & time than needed for the article itself. … What the hell is all this stuff?

  • The answer is JavaScript to support 47 different third party sites including many “advertising and spyware” sites in the author’s view some of which he enumerates before giving up:

It finally stopped loading

“now that the Internet is increasingly mobile and companies are more sophisticated about tracking users’ history and preferences, technology is less about “pulling,” through Google searches, and more about “pushing,” through smartphone notifications that are impossible to ignore because they cause our phones to light up and go ding.”

Asia and Africa

Those investments are beginning to bear fruit, with mobile revenue accounting for 50% of total revenue in the first quarter of 2015.

  • Vietnam is a classic case of a developing nation that has “leapfrogged” into mobile through a revolution in smartphone ownership.  The same dynamic is being played out across many other parts of Africa and Asia and seems likely to fuel huge changes in social aspiration and outlook in both regions with consequences that are not entirely predictable. This mic.com article outlines the tremendous potential for mobile technology startups in Africa which “will never be cord-cutters because there’s no cord to cut“:

Security

  • Smart cars may be safer in conventional driving terms but introduce significant new attack vectors that ought to raise concern in respect of the potential for very serious zero-day (ie. unknown) vulnerabilities particularly in respect of some of the faster and looser players scrambling into a new gold rush:

In the near future, the biggest danger on the roads might not be other drivers, but some guy miles away sitting behind a keyboard, hacking into your engine.

  • It’s a theme echoed in this TechCrunch polemic taking to task WashPo for a recent editorial in which it demanded that “Apple, Google etc compromise the security of their users’ communications by building in back doors for law enforcement.”  As the author points out technology can do a lot of things but it isn’t magic:

Engineering is all about tradeoffs. Security, or “golden key” back door: pick one. You can’t have both. That bird won’t fly. It is mythical nonsense.

  • It’s an observation that a claimed 37 million nervous subscribers to legitimised adultery site Ashley Madison no doubt learnt the hard way after the revelation of a mass heist of credentials from the site.  They (or at least the subset of them that are real people vs. bots/employee accounts) would probably like to magic away the risk of having the most private of details exposed online:

The still-unfolding leak could be quite damaging to some 37 million users of the hookup service, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Cloud, DevOps and Open Source

  • James Pearce is Head of Open Source at Facebook.  He recently gave an interesting keynote as OSCON in which he outlined the company’s extensive use of OSS:

reddit

Data Visualisation

Artificial Intelligence and Humans

contextual, AI-based services will be where the biggest players in mobile — Google, Apple and others — make their biggest investments over the next few years. Users will start demanding more context-based services within the next two years. If done right, they could be a game changer for mobile devices, and will make life easier to boot.

pastry-image

Humans continues to compel us and keep us wanting more. Even detractors of sci-fi will be hooked onto the show pretty quickly. … On the whole Humans has been dodging the clichés in a genre that has been done over and over.

  • Even so, this tweet has a certain uncomfortable feel to it especially in the light of the consumerism exhibited by the real humans in Humans:

Science and Space

  • Bloomberg on the “superhumans” that have genetic mutations that make them “impervious to pain and broken bones” and the inevitable commercial race to exploit their genomes.

Kepler 452 b is estimated to be 1.6 times the size of our own world, and resides in a clement, life-friendly orbit around a star in the constellation of Cygnus some 1,400 light-years away that is eerily similar to our own sun.

  • The confirmation only seems to add to the mystery of the Great Silence of the Fermi Paradox.  Namely if earth-like planets and the chemicals of life abound, why is there no intra- or inter-galactic evidence of intelligent life more advanced than our civilisation?
  • 46 years on, an amazing image of Apollo 11 being moved to its launch pad:

Management

  • Dave Girouard is a former President of Google Enterprise Apps. In this FirstRound post he underlines why speed is a habit that can be built up like any muscle through practice.  For Girouard the key to speed is rapid decision making and execution which echoes the “speed + simplicity” mantra of LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman outlined here:

What are the building blocks of speed? When you think about it, all business activity really comes down to two simple things: Making decisions and executing on decisions. Your success depends on your ability to develop speed as a habit in both. … The process of making and remaking decisions wastes an insane amount of time at companies. The key takeaway: WHEN a decision is made is much more important than WHAT decision is made.

  • The wide variability in management ability and the lack of sanction those being managed have over those that manage them seems to be the primary driver for an interesting decision at SumAll to submit all executive and leadership posts to democratic mandate.  Given the trend for assertion of democratic rights more widely right across society, it seems surprising that more companies haven’t adopted this approach.  Then again, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

When people have crappy managers and deceitful executives, they start to hate life, and things get evil quickly. … So, we came up with a solution: Let employees elect their own leaders and make all managers accountable to the people they manage; if leaders can’t earn respect and loyalty, they shouldn’t be leading a team.

Feeling Overwhelmed? You Are Far From Alone

Startups, Freelancing and Brand You

  • However, before older readers begin to get ahead of themselves, it’s worth remembering that experience can also get in the way of effective bootstrapping.  It’s an example of the need to be wary of the growing influence of the Einstellung effect (“teaching grandma how to suck eggs”) as you age.

With its fast-paced adoption rate, WordPress is the market in which you should move your entrepreneurial steps because an increasing number of users and businesses are looking for WordPress services and products.

  • This spiky and sparkling post about how to brand yourself starts by asserting what not to do.  Your LinkedIn profile should not drone on about your skills (“a made-up dogma that takes your fascinating, vibrant self and reduces you down to dust and gravel“) but instead focus on the narrative by which you choose to define yourself. Your story should explain what you care about, what you’ve accomplished, how your brain works, how you handle problems and what you’re like as a person:

You have a unique story. No one living on this planet and no one who has ever lived can tell your story — it belongs completely to you. Your story would make a great movie. It has plot twists and awesome characters. You are the star, of course! A resume is a personal document. The number one thing your resume needs is context.

Culture

men are so terrified of being emasculated that they’d rather create a hostile environment for women than let them join the field of play.

  • The annual WOMAD festival took place this weekend not too far from Bristol and Bath in the UK, coincidentally the base of a vibrant startup scene competing with London. The balance between human and technology seemed to be a theme running throughout in the surprising surfeit of electronic music best exemplified by proceedings on the Bowers and Wilkins stage.  A series of lectures and demonstrations highlighted the history of the electronic synthesiser which date back to Léon Theremin’s experiences with radio noise in WWI.  American pioneer Robert Moog built upon that work with his mighty landmark creation the Moog System 55 (below) which was showcased in its full majesty complete with oscilloscope traces outlining different VCO outputs.

MoogSystem55

  • Later on Hannah Peel played out an ethereal mix of analog and digital sounds on the same stage including appropriately accompaniment by a programmable music box with a punch card hand cut to the tune of Tainted Love:

The piece is essentially a bunch of old cap guns with servos that pull their triggers. A Raspberry Pi with an Internet connection fetches data on US drone strikes from www.dronestre.am and fires off a cap every time someone is killed. At the same time, the story version of the data is printed out in thermal paper that cascades onto the floor.